Pell's sheltered life no excuse for shocking response
It is hard to know whether Cardinal George Pell is just having a shocker, or if he is, in fact, an absolute shocker of a man (''Tackling sins of the fathers'', November 14, p1). Either way, he certainly shocks me.
Now would be the time for him to offer unqualified support for a national royal commission into child abuse allegations in the church that he leads in Australia. No ifs and buts. It is not a time for him to refer to ''significant exaggeration'' or ''general smears'' about the Catholic church by the media. Nor the time for him to see it as an opportunity for his church to be seen as not the only culprit and to clear its name.
Perhaps though, we should not be surprised at such a response from a man with such limited life experience, revered by subordinates, deferred to by his congregations, surrounded by the pomposity of church ritual and hierarchy and the great wealth of his church.
Why should it surprise us that such a life has fostered arrogance, self importance, a lack of proper understanding of the issue and how to effectively deal with it, and a marked lack of empathy?
Judy Aulich, Giralang
It is assumed that a Catholic going to confession does so to be absolved of their sins. It is possible for a priest to confer conditional absolution; for example, a murderer is given to understand that he or she must also confess to the secular authority for the absolution to be effective. If such conditional absolution is given to paedophiles then they should understand that their confession is futile unless they carry through with the penance of owning up to their crimes.
If this is not the case then paedophiles would confess to a priest who was unaware of their identity and could not report them even if he was obliged to do so by any new legislation.
You don't apply for absolution on a form giving name, address and telephone number.
D.P. Coen, Macquarie
Are there any existing circumstances where a priest is expected or permitted to break the confessional seal? For example, if someone tells a priest during confession that they have committed a murder and asks for forgiveness, is the priest required to pass this information on to the civil authorities? Which of us sets ourselves above God in deciding the relativity of sins and passing judgment? I, for one, am not prepared to rank the relativity of paedophilia and murder. Either the confessional seal is inviolate for all transgressions, or it is not.
Mark Hartmann, Hawker
Defence is a dysfunctional department with significant cultural misalignment and distrust between the public service bureaucracy and military workforces. Why?
The APS mandarins and their career-obsessed underlings have a complete stranglehold on the policy and financial landscape of the department. Note the almost 50 per cent growth in executive level and SES positions in less than seven years.
Note also the mindless application of an administrative rank equivalence with no basis in experience or qualifications that sees graduates in their late 20s touting themselves as colonel equivalents. Are Defence's significant culture/efficiency reviews addressing these systemic failings?
Bring on the cull - perhaps it will remind the bureaucrats why they have a job.
Michael Mackay, Turner
It is disappointing to read that, at least for the time being, the Council of the Australian War Memorial has decided not to include on the Roll of Honour the names of servicemen and women who died while serving as peacekeepers (''War Memorial rejects honour request for peacekeepers'', November 14, p1). In my opinion, a serviceman or woman who is killed when their vehicle hits a landmine while on peacekeeping operations overseas should be entitled to be included on the Roll of Honour. It is to be hoped that when the War Memorial council next meets it will give proper consideration to this issue so that on Remembrance Day 2013 the relatives of those killed can also place a poppy on the roll.
E.L. Fisher, Kambah
Does the War Memorial council think that including the names of Australian peacekeepers who have died in service on the Roll of Honour will somehow devalue the sacrifice of those who are already there? Do they think that those men and women would really object to sharing their wall with comrades who served this country and died trying to maintain the peace?
Bart Meehan, Calwell
The report ''War Memorial rejects honour request for peacekeepers'' (November 14, p1) raises a number of issues regarding the Roll of Honour. If, for example, two soldiers were the target of a command detonated mine in Vietnam on April 29, 1975, one being killed and the other dying the next day, only the first would be eligible for inclusion on the roll as his death occurred on the last day of the prescribed period for the war. School text books inform students that Australia lost 521 service personnel as a result of the Vietnam War. The true cost to the nation is being hidden. If those who died as a direct result of their wounds after April 29, 1975, are included, total fatalities would amount to many more. By comparison, all fatalities due to enemy action are recorded on the US Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, irrespective of the date they occurred.
There is little doubt that the War Memorial council needs to revise the criteria. At present, if someone had been killed in a car accident while on leave from service in Vietnam, they would be eligible for inclusion on the roll. Yet the person who died from their wounds on April 30, 1975 is not; nor is the peacekeeper who was shot while serving not only their country, but the world as a whole.
Bruce Cameron, Campbell
Comment not racist
Gordon Briscoe's attack on Don Aitkin (Letters, November 14) is entirely unwarranted and confused. The great majority of people identifying themselves as Aboriginal are genetically very mixed. It is their choice as to whether they want to give preference to their Aboriginal, Asian, European or Polynesian routes from Africa.
The problem correctly identified by Don Aitkin is when that personal cultural choice is such that their appearance no longer complies with the racial stereotype. A person has every right to culturally identify with any ''racial'' group regardless of the colour of their skin, but that gives no right to expect special privileges or attention for being a member of that group.
A continuing problem is that where positive discrimination is given to correct past negative discrimination to the First Australians, cultural identities are not manipulated to give unjustified advantage. The result has been essential resources have been diverted from the truly needy to those who otherwise enjoy all the benefits of the average Australian life.
The genuine concern of Don Aitkin for correctly identifying this cultural choice has no element of ''racial discrimination''.
To attempt to link this concern with a personally perceived need for compulsory Australian history is academic dishonesty.
Paul Fitzwarryne, Yarralumla
I am a resident in a small retirement village set in a quiet street in Braddon. Unfortunately our street has been discovered by those opportunistic parkers who drive into work in Civic but won't pay parking station fees. This is having a serious impact on our lives as our families, friends and carers, all of whom are crucial for our wellbeing, are having difficulty finding parking within a reasonable distance of our village and, if they park on the nature strip, run the risk of being booked.
In July I contacted a minister in our previous government to ask for residential parking to be established in our street; during the lead-up to the recent election I received a reply from a very senior official in the Department for the Environment, denying my request and citing the government's policies regarding parking management, which will encourage city workers ''…to shift their commute from private vehicles to public transport [which] will in time alleviate the sort of situation you are experiencing''. Is anyone else having visions of little pink pigs with wings? I do wonder if I or any of my senior neighbours will still be here to experience this ''alleviation''. Why do these freeloading parkers have more rights in our street than we do? Please explain!
Sheena Dickins, Braddon
Solar a safe bet
Felix MacNeill (Letters, November 14) objects to Brian Hatch's assertion (Letters, November 11) that electricity bills will quadruple by 2022 . While I agree with Felix's arguments, and I believe he would win a bet against electricity bills rising four-fold by 2022, he may be overlooking the bigger picture.
Ten years ago, people who claimed that solar PV modules would cost less than $1 per watt-peak in 10 years' time were dismissed as being away with the pixies. The jaw-dropping decrease in the price of solar has caught some people, and governments, by surprise.
I would like to suggest the possibility that in 10 years, electrical storage will be cheap enough to allow most residential customers, particularly energy-efficient ones, to disconnect from the grid.
Solar PV with storage offers end-users static and transparent electricity costs over the life of the system. Brian may not have to pay up on the bet because Felix may not have an electricity bill.
I realise this may sound a bit far-fetched, but so did $1 per watt.
Ben Elliston, Hawker
TO THE POINT
COLOUR BLIND? HARDLY
Don Aitkin admits that self-identification, not appearance, is the test of aboriginality (''Aitkin sued over alleged slur'', November 11, p3). Why then did Professor Aitkin's original comment focus on Shane Mortimer's appearance? This seems to have been an occasion when the search for a clever line - which becomes a columnist's occupational disease - overrode good sense and consistency.
David Stephens, Bruce
Media photos of Israel shelling a Syrian village this week show white phosphorus ammunition being used against civilian targets. This would usually be considered a war crime.
J.J. Goold, Mudgeeraba, Qld
Yes, E.L. Fisher (Letters, November 13), let's look at trolley buses, and trams, but let's reserve our viewing to the National Museum of Australia - in the ''yesteryear's transportation'' section. Vive le monorail!
Warren Feakes, Wanniassa
FUEL FOR THOUGHT
Two trips to Sydney in two weeks where the car was filled up for 127.9c per litre, each time returning to Canberra where the same ''discounted'' fuel was 151.9c. Does it really cost 24c per litre to transport petrol to the ACT?
John Murray, Fadden
PARKES NOT FORGOTTEN
Some comments about the new Queen Elizabeth II Terrace seem to forget there are two roads named after Parkes in the suburb bearing his name. In addition, Parkes Way on the north side of the lake is one of the most prominent roads in Canberra. I doubt the changed situation diminishes the recognition given to Sir Henry Parkes.
Tony Francombe, Hughes