Federal Politics


Remand case shows need for mental health unit

I am delighted that Jeremy Dash-Greentree has finally been released from prison, after the best part of two years spent on remand,  mainly in the crisis support unit which was designed for extremely short stays (‘’’Stalker avoids jail time’’, January 10, p5).

There are few more compelling case studies for a secure mental-health unit than his experience.
That unit, which should have been opened at the same time as the Alexander Maconochie Centre, is still years away, and on present plans will almost certainly be built too small, so that situations like Dash-Greentree’s will continue to arise.

My heart also goes out to his main victim, and I hope she is receiving the support she also needs at this time.
Dash-Greentree’s situation also gives the lie to Shane Drumgold’s claims about the interaction between the Human Rights Act and the criminal justice system (‘‘Human right of hypocrisy’’, January 9, p13).

Application of the Human Rights Act is compromised by the services that are available inside and outside prison, with the jail unable to comply even with those parts of the act specific to it, such as segregating unconvicted and convicted prisoners.

Drumgold clearly has never visited the jail, and also seems to be unaware of the maxim that people are imprisoned as punishment and not for (further) punishment.

The fact that one-third of the ACT’s prisoners are on remand is another reason for trying to moderate the destructive effect of being incarcerated. Drumgold’s office bears some responsibility for the duration of time people spend on remand in custody in the ACT, as do indecisive judicial officers and defence teams.


Peter Marshall, former manager of the crisis support unit (from the opening of the prison until September 2012), Captains Flat, NSW

Snub? What snub?

I’ve had more birthdays than Jorian Gardner but less than Canberra (‘‘This is a 100th? I can’t see oomph, razzmatazz, fizz ...’’, Forum, January 12, p9) and I do know a little about staying the distance.

You don’t reveal all your party tricks in the first 12 days of the year when there are 353 days to go. You’ve got to make it lasting. I have a birthday month, but then I’ve not reached 100.

People have got to be nice to me in that month, shout me drinks, take me out to dinner and generally celebrate the fact that I’m around. That’s what birthdays are about. Not the other way round, where the object of the birthday is expected to do everything.

So, my family toasted Canberra on New Year’s Eve, have exhorted interstate relatives to visit during the celebrations, have scheduled a family wedding for this year and bought the T-shirts that we wear (with pride) everywhere. We have the Canberra sparkling wine and we haven’t missed an opportunity to celebrate the fact that Canberra represents a democracy forged out of agreement, and not war. There are many events being hosted by Canberra and others by various groups have been publicised  to enable citizens and visitors to celebrate.

For example, Summernats was highlighted on the Centenary of Canberra website as the No.1 event for the start of the year. Yet Gardner and Chic Henry (‘‘A street brawl brews amid claims of a centenary snub’’, January 5, p1) both complained about the lack of support. Tell ’em they’re dreamin’.

I suspect there’s a few sour grapes there. Neither has a role in the big events, but I suspect they want one.
Get out there, mates. Lead the charge in celebrating rather than bagging.

Anne Cahill Lambert, Lyneham

Water talk

I endorse Professor Peter Collignon’s remarks (Letters, January 11) about the use of treated sewage as drinking water. His moderate view is appropriate, with its balance between uncritical acceptance and unthinking opposition.

When some years ago I was shown round the latest waste-management facilities in Singapore, I was greatly impressed with the technology. Its treated sewage water was free of hormones and so pure that it was unpleasantly tasteless, and salts had to be added to make it acceptable.

Most of this NEWater is used by commerce and industry. Ever cautious and pragmatic, Singapore decided to add it only in small and then perhaps gradually increasing proportions to drinking water, hoping people would get used to it.

It is worth remembering that more than 95 per cent of the planet’s water is in the oceans, and nearly all the rest is in ground water, glaciers, and ice caps. After that there’s little left for humans, yet our numbers increase remorselessly.

Singapore, however, was faced with a severe shortage of fresh water, having to import nearly half its fresh water from Malaysia while exploring all possible alternatives, including desalination, use of reservoirs, pricing, and public education.

Canberra, on the other hand, has by no means reached that critical stage. It might one day.

Cedric Mims, retired professor of medical microbiology, Guys Hospital, London

Tenure is the rub

R.S.Gilbert (Letters, January 4) and Ernst Willheim (Letters, January 10) argue about the merits of returning leasehold in the ACT to the community, and revenue to the public purse. However, they ignore the elephant in the room that is the leasehold tenure itself.

Canberran leaseholders are subject to the 99-year provision that will eventually return the lease to the Crown.
Many years ago in Queensland, indigenous communities and the human rights lobby were in uproar when premier Bjelke-Petersen proposed granting Deeds of Grant in Trust to indigenous communities, rather than grant freehold tenancy of the land claimed.

Bjelke-Petersen argued that the lease arrangement safeguarded indigenous owners against shady entrepreneurs buying choice coastal property for a song. The human rights freehold argument won the day on the basis that leasehold meant that the Crown of the white oppressor would have kept ultimate control over indigenous land.

The downside was that in many cases involving the handover of freehold title to choice coastal blocks, the shady entrepreneurs prevailed upon the new indigenous owners and purchased the land, leaving the indigenous community to repeat a cycle of dispossession and welfare that continues to this day.

Anyone who buys property in the ACT is subject to the same ultimate Crown control. On the basis of the indigenous community experience in Queensland, Canberrans are mugs to accept this situation without protest, one would think.

John Bell, Lyneham

Mercury pollution

A United Nations report that ‘‘mercury pollution in the top layer of the world’s oceans has doubled in the last century’’ precedes talks in Geneva next week on ‘‘a new legally binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide’’ (‘‘Time for common ground on mercury’’, January 12, p11).

Mercury is the stuff in compact-vapour lamps, which have been legally mandated in Australia since 2009.
That year, a whimper was heard from the European Consumers’ Association over risks ‘‘from the high mercury content of the new bulbs’’ (‘‘Green bulbs’’, August 28, p14).

In 2010, ‘‘Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur announced a petition on the ‘toxic time bomb’’’ of the new fluorescent globes (‘‘Light bulb moment’’, February 25, p12). I waited at the Assembly reception while the publicised petition was typed up. I was the first and possibly the only one to sign it.

In the 1970s, Minamata disease appeared briefly in news headlines. It had emerged in the 1950s in the Japanese fishing village of that name and was later identified as mercury poisoning. The whole town had been slowly poisoned since 1932. That’s when a local factory began to leak mercury into the bay which Minamata residents relied on for fish and shellfish.

It is to be hoped that the Geneva talks are more effective than previous endeavours. They need to curtail vested interests across several industries and ridiculous laws across different nations which support them.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Equal pay

The thing I don’t understand about a central thesis of the equal-pay argument, as outlined by John Passant (‘‘Women must spoil for a fight to win equal pay’’, January 10, p19) and others, is that it seems to require equal pay for less-productive work.

Advocates don’t deny that most women decide to have children in their 30s, and are gone, therefore, in key years for management training. They don’t deny that, of those returning, many have eroded skills or reduced commitment to their employers’ interests, often working hours incompatible with effective management of full-time, full-day staff, thereby reducing the numbers of women available for senior management roles.

Proponents demand efficient organisations be unconcerned, as they consider promoting younger women into management roles, that the interests of the unidentifiable many such women will soon be elsewhere, hard-won skills lost and important work disrupted.

Should women really be paid as though such productivity-linked facts are irrelevant? Is ‘‘equal pay’’ a back-door baby-bonus?

Adrian Dunlop, Campbell


Grapes of wrath

According to The Canberra Times' reports on Peter Slipper's alleged winery visits (January 9 and 10), the price of Clonakilla shiraz voignier has risen from $85 a bottle to $100 in one day! It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good!

Ella Lott, Moruya, NSW

Instinctive advice

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr's statement that ''my instincts accorded with the advice of my department'' (Letters, January 12) is of concern. One would hope that a minister would apply more than instinct when deciding to accept or reject his department's advice.

Ed Dobson, Hughes

Lights a turnoff

Further to Geoff Pryor's comments on the Manuka Oval lights (Letters, January 12), when I first saw them I assumed they were props for the rescreening of War of the Worlds at the Capitol Theatre at Manuka!

Byam Wight, Jerrabomberra, NSW

I have just seen the new lights at Manuka Oval for the first time. They're hideous. My commiserations to nearby residents.

Gordon Fyfe, Kambah

Residents consulted

I wonder how many of the 24,000 inner-south residents the chairman of the Inner South Canberra Community Council consulted before complaining about the look of some new houses in the area (Letters, January 11). And I wonder how many of the 42,000 inner-north residents the deputy chairman of the North Canberra Community Council consulted before airing his complaints about development in that area.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

Seniors pitched out

It is a total disgrace to do this to such a beautiful course (''Phillip Pitch and Putt to close'', January 10, p1). The Southern Cross Club have no thought or consideration for the older people of Canberra who can't manage other sports or gyms. Shame on the club; we have no other recourse. The big golf courses are too much for some senior people. Keeping us active and healthy is obviously not a priority for the club. From a very upset Pitch and Putt player.

P. Guy, Kambah

Israel not Palestine

For a case of blind bias, Bruce Haigh accusing Israel of ''visceral hatred of Hamas apparently precluding negotiations'' beats all (''Australia can't afford to squander chance to do good at the UN'', January 11, p15). The shoe is on the other foot. It's Hamas that lives and feeds off blind Jew-hatred these 1500 years past. ''Palestine'' has no basis in fact, history or culture. The land is Israel and its capital is Jerusalem.

J. Halgren, Latham