Federal Politics


Time for Pell to confess church has its responsibilities

The recent remarks made by Cardinal George Pell in regards to child abuse cases in the Catholic Church is a typical response of an organisation which still cannot take responsibility for crimes committed by some of its members.

No one has ever questioned the likelihood that a vast organisation such as the church will have criminals in its ranks. However, what makes these cases so abhorrent is the manner in which the church hierarchy has dealt with them. It has repeatedly tried to sweep them under the carpet and never been proactive in naming, shaming and prosecuting these vile criminals.

Furthermore, in regards to his remarks, does it really matter if the overall problem has been ''exaggerated or historic''? What is important is that they happened, by predators disguised as trustworthy, loving priests who were then protected by the higher ranks.

Barney de Andrade, Farrer

Cardinal George Pell uses the argument that ''confessions are inviolate'' to absolve confessors of responsibility for what they hear. But after confession comes penance with absolution. I was always led to believe that the absolution was dependent on the penance.

For peccadilloes, the tariff was in Hail Marys, but the origins of penance were based on things such as self-flagellation and sackcloth and ashes.


It would have been easy, and still is, for the tariff for child abusers to be mandated by the church that they be required to hand themselves to the civil authorities as their penance and as condition of absolution.

Bernard McMinn, Kambah

Quite an astonishing reaction from Cardinal Pell, I thought, to the announcement of a royal commission into the sexual abuse of children. I don't think anyone believes that the purpose of the inquiry is to make a scapegoat of the Catholic Church but many would believe that but for the widespread incidence of sexual abuse within Catholic institutions there would not be such an inquiry.

I would further suggest that such behaviour within these institutions would be significantly reduced if not for the adherence to the archaic and unnatural belief that to serve God one must be sworn to a life of celibacy.

Other religious denominations seem to operate - as it would appear, quite effectively - without such a precept.

Tony May, Pearce

A front-page headline in Tuesday's Melbourne Age read ''Child abuse inquiry reaches wide''. Alas, it does not reach far enough.

Child abuse has been systemic now for decades because children have no legal rights to express who they want to be with and where they want to live. Family law has not protected vulnerable children and many have died as a result, i.e. paid with their lives for a legal system in Australia that does not give children a legal voice. Julie Gillard and Nicola Roxon need only to look at their legal system to see where they too fail the children of Australia.

Penelope Upward, O'Connor

AFP's silence puzzles

John Bell (Letters, November 13) has once again raised the issue of the ''competence'' of the AFP in relation to the David Eastman investigation. Criticism of its performance, in this newspaper over some period of time, has been damning. Why has there not been a defence of its processes? The AFP might feel there is no reason for it to do so but if any other institution had been attacked in a similar manner I am sure it would not have been allowed to ''go through to the keeper''.

Further, Gabriel Brown (Letters, November 13) questions why the AFP is not on the front foot ''to ensure that it had the 'right' man''. To my mind, the AFP has never provided an unarguable case as to why David Eastman became its only line of investigation. There were at least two other significant paths it could have explored but overnight Eastman became its man. How could it make up its mind so rapidly and then take five years to convict him, and then only on circumstantial evidence?

The DPP's office is obviously content with all of this as it appears determined to limit, if not eliminate, any questioning of the conviction. With doubt evident, can it too explain why it has such confidence in the process, the trial, the evidence and the verdict?

Chris Harris, Kambah

Hot air on climate

Your report on the government's energy white paper (''Australia could rule gas exports as energy equations change'', November 9, p1) states that 40 per cent of electricity will be generated from renewable sources by 2030, rising to 50 per cent by 2050.

The white paper also predicts (figure 3.4) that in 2030 Australia's total energy consumption will be 7000 petajoules, of which only 300 terawatt hours (1100 petajoules) will be in the form of electricity (figures 3.7 and 3.8). Thus in 2030 more than 94 per cent of our energy consumption is predicted to come from the non-renewable sources, coal and gas (see figure 3.5), dropping to something above 90 per cent by 2050.

Climate change is surely generating a lot of hot air around solar panels and wind turbines.

Les Broderick, Farrer

Turbines' ill winds

While wind developer, Infigen, appears to have held an innovative public relations campaign (''Wind run an up-close turbines experience'', November 12, p3), it doesn't in any way justify the environmental harm from wind turbines. A recently published study from the US by medical doctors Michael Nissenbaum and others in the peer-reviewed journal Noise & Health, once more finds support for the adverse event reports of sleep disturbance and ill health by those living close to industrial wind turbines.

Next time Infigen stages a similar event, perhaps they should also offer people overnight accommodation close to wind turbines. That might help people put things into perspective and dampen the marketing euphoria over wind energy.

George Papadopoulos, Yass, NSW

Buses, not trams

It was encouraging to see Dr Philip Kilby's intelligent contribution to the debate regarding trams (Letters, November 8) for Canberra. A few more along the same lines might stop our local government spending more enormous sums on pointless transport studies. It must surely be obvious that any tram system, apart from spoiling the appearance of our beautiful city, would require an expensive bus system to service the various pick-up locations.

These locations would also require parking areas for travellers who are unable to access the bus service. The parking would have to be free, of course, otherwise they might as well pay their daily $15 and drive closer to their place of employment. It makes more sense to spend the money on an improved bus service. With the lessened traffic flow it would also enable the introduction of more bus-only lanes.

Doug Meyer, Turner

A good day spoilt

Here I am in my own home enjoying retirement, a morning coffee, reading The Canberra Times with an occasional look out the window at a blue sky and enjoying the sounds of a blackbird song. Life is good. Then I open a large envelope left in my letterbox addressed to ''The Occupant''.

Without any previous hint, advice or consultation, the letter and accompanying plans advise that my neighbour has been approved to build a two-storey extension that will extend from the back of the current single-level home to within a couple of metres of the back fence. Not only will this put an end to enjoying my morning coffee, The Canberra Times, blue sky and blackbird singing, but will no doubt have a severe negative impact on the resale value of my home. Love Thy Neighbour. Yes, sure.

P. J. Carthy, McKellar

Gloom misplaced

It is extraordinary, after the praise heaped on music educator Richard Gill by this paper and others over the past fortnight, to read the apparently gloomy prognosis ''that students who graduate after 2013 will be academics, work in the music industry or be teachers, not performers'' (Letters, November 13), as if to say these careers and excellence in performance are mutually exclusive, and not, in fact (as Richard's stellar career exemplifies) nowadays deeply interconnected.

I stand by my claim about the healthy prognosis for the School of Music and also note that ''spin'' is an easy accusation for others to throw around in public, but harder to defend. A good university education, however, teaches us it is not enough simply to assert an opinion; it should be supported by reasoned argument and evidence.

Professor Peter Tregear, head, ANU School of Music

In defence of fealty

Mike Hutchinson (Letters, November 13) misses an important point on the so-called fealty issue. I declare an interest: I am now an Australian citizen after some 30 years' service as a commissioned officer in the British Army. I chose to migrate to Australia and become a citizen. My son is now a commissioned officer in the Australian Army. Neither of us sees any conflict in loyalties; we are Australians and loyal to the Commonwealth and the Queen.

If the Australian people, through their elected politicians, cannot yet agree to pass a referendum to become a republic and reject the Commonwealth ties, then, please, will Mr Hutchinson wait until such time as this happens.

Alastair Kennedy, O'Connor

Not so batty

I have long been a fan of Ian Warden's turn of phrase, botanical and other knowledge. I think Prince Charles (''To the barricades, comrades, it's de Groot again'', November 10, p3) would agree with him about Floriade and even the outrage of Big Ben and Parkes Place being renamed. I do not think the prince is completely batty.

His ideas on agriculture and architecture have much merit and on homoeopathy, a modality that attempts to encompass the complete mental and physical state as well as biogenetics, the latter now fashionable in modern thinking. Surely it deserves some credit for the longevity and resilience of his parents.

Jean Doherty, Ainslie

Need for clarity on what we want our governments to do

The article by Julie Novak (''The 50,000+ staff draining our economy, Public Sector Informant, November 6, p4) and the report of President Obama's claimed mandate to raise taxes on the rich (''Hints US may avoid fiscal cliff'', November 11, p13), in their different ways, draw attention to a vital issue: government's role in modern society and how it should be paid for.

It would seem US voters want an administration that is more prepared to regulate the marketplace, provide support in emergency situations and enhance opportunities for all, not just the few. Polling and research in this country have consistently shown the same. We want the services and functions that only governments can realistically provide.

Yet Ms Novak suggests we privatise Australia Post, the ABC and SBS, and dispense with government activity in climate change, industry policy, foreign aid, gender equity, the arts, sport, preventive health and wheat export marketing. In addition, education and health funding functions, along with agriculture, resources, infrastructure, transport and sustainability, according to Ms Novak and the Australian Institute of Public Affairs, should all be transferred to the states and territories. Leaving what for the Commonwealth to manage? Maybe taxation, commonwealth law, pensions, customs, defence and immigration?

I doubt many people would concur with this incredibly limited view of the Government's role, but there is no doubt that notions of privatisation, small government, market freedom and reduced taxes are regularly promoted by certain commentators.

Maybe it's time for a wide-ranging public debate on what we actually want our governments to do. And if we want governments to be active in the areas articulated in the aforementioned list, then we need some serious discussions about how they will be paid for.

I suggest, for starters, that tax rates for high-income earners be increased, tax loopholes be closed, family trusts and negative gearing be wound back, and we, as citizens, reduce our whinging and sense of entitlement.

Catherine Rossiter, Royalla, NSW

Omitted commission

I take exception to the review of a concert by Musica Viva in Canberra by Jennifer Gall (''Too many thrills take from soulful experience'', November 10, p20). Ms Gall is entirely within her rights to dislike both the playing and the repertoire on offer. However, the level of ignorance she displays about the state of commissioning of Australian music beggars belief.

She proposes that ''it's time for Australian concert programmers to […] at every opportunity commission and schedule full-length Australian works. To place a short Australian composition at the beginning of a program of three and four-movement classical works suggests tokenism''.

In fact, it suggests two things, but neither is tokenism. Gordon Kerry finds a duration of 10 to 15 minutes a perfect length for concert works to suit the complexity and succinctness of his musical language. He is an extremely busy composer, and only had time to compose one of the five of his works we programmed in our 2012 concert season. He had already written two extremely fine works for violin and piano, both about 10 minutes long. The performers at this particular concert chose the pre-existing work (written in 2008) that they most liked.

Our season features major international musicians performing all around the country. Every one of Gordon's five works in the season received a minimum of eight performances, and one or two national radio broadcasts on Classic-FM. It is hard to see this as tokenism in any light.

Ms Gall appears to attend Musica Viva concerts only rarely, or she would have noticed that a newly commissioned work by Gordon was featured in our Canberra concert on September 20.

Ms Gall also appears ignorant of Musica Viva's history in commissioning music from Australian composers: 127 new works since its first commission in 1964, 54 of those since 2000. Of the 60 to 65 concerts each year in our International Concert Season, 40 to 45 contain new, or recent, music by Australian composers.

Carl Vine, artistic director, Musica Viva Australia


What price peace?

Peacekeepers? Bad for business, say no more!

Bryan Cossart, Stirling

Drop the bomb on smokers

I have a solution to the people who ignore the plethora of signs, as well as common sense and basic courtesy, and smoke outside the entrance to the emergency department at Canberra Hospital. Set up a system that works like a sprinkler, only it drops water bombs on the recalcitrants. Obviously it would need to be carefully tuned so as not to accidentally hit calcitrants (ie non-smokers) but we can work on that. I know, I know, it is a bit of genius on my part but I'm offering the idea to Katy Gallagher gratis.

Phil Mayne, Fadden

Insurance premiums too high

Yes, ''Strategic security requires healthy insurance policy'' (November 12, p13) but premiums demanded must be commensurate with risk. Australian resources, and land, have been gifted to China, Korea and India, via subsidised and minimally taxed global corporations. Premiums have been paid in blood and treasure to underwrite others misadventures. These insurances have been inordinately expensive.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

'Old' is not obsolete

After reading comments in The Times about whether someone aged 67 is ''elderly'' or not, it seems to me that the word is completely unnecessary. If a reporter knows the age of the person concerned, then surely that is sufficient. Some readers will no doubt classify such a person as elderly, or old, but others as middle aged. In any case, the description adds no useful information to the story. Just get rid of all useless adjectives. We can add them for ourselves.

Jennifer Bradley, McKellar

Wires closed on medal

David Hewett-Lacon (Letters, November 14) is not only confused but clearly mistaken if he thinks that the Queen can approve the award of an Australian Victoria Cross upon advice other than from the Australian government.

Frank Marris, Forrest

The times they are a-changin'

In a discussion of the newish practice of teleworking, your editorial ''The pros and cons of teleworking'' (November 13, p8) mentioned the good old 9am to 5pm or 7pm to 3pm at the factory. The editorial opined that this eight-hour day ''has appeared to withstand profound changes in technology and work practices''. Would that it had. It's a long time since I worked an eight-hour day with lunchtime and teatime included.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor