OPINION

Hot air balloon decision is a dark day for Canberra

So, the organisers of Canberra's Enlighten Festival have banned a hot air balloon called "Black Magic" from this year's Balloon Spectacular, calling it racist and offensive ("The 'racist' balloon banned from Canberra's Balloon Spectacular", March 1).

According to the director of Events ACT, Jo Verden, "the use of words and/or visual depictions that may be considered racist and offensive by many in our community ... is not supported".

The Black Magic hot air balloon, also known as "Golly", is seen flying over Parliament House during the 2011 Canberra Balloon Spectacular. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Black Magic hot air balloon, also known as "Golly", is seen flying over Parliament House during the 2011 Canberra Balloon Spectacular. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

While I support the pursuit of respect and harmony between all members of our community, I reject entirely the proposition that an unelected bureaucrat can dictate community standards on the basis that offence might be taken by some people within that same community.

If Ms Verden and her colleagues are genuinely concerned about fostering respect and harmony within the community, they might start by treating the community in an adult fashion and occasionally consider the real sensitivities of the majority and not just the perceived sensitivities of a politically correct, anonymous, unrepresentative but vocal minority.

Ridiculous ruling

Jo Verden, director of Events ACT, is not only silly (Letters, March 1), but she is just being ridiculous.

In 1953 when I was five, my grandmother hand-stitched a "golliwog" for my birthday. She was a Christian lady without a bone of racism in her body.

I am now in my 70s and have had my "golly" on my bedside table since the day she died. Many Aussies grew up with golliwogs, with no racist association whatever.

Breathe deeply folks

Send your opinions to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au

Send your opinions to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au

One can only take a deep breath at the government's idea of raising London Circuit to increase the area of developable land in central Canberra but its plan to dump 1000 dwellings just west of Vernon Circuit, taken with the impending desecration of West Basin, leads one to wonder why Andrew Barr doesn't just up stakes and head off to the inner west of Sydney where congestion already exists and where they already have a tram, albeit one that serves a useful purpose.

What is most amazing is the language in the tender documents intended to give lip service to the continuation of the wonderful city we live in: "A uniquely Canberra look and feel", for example, which actually would suggest the area be left alone, other than, perhaps, turning it into a park. But the best of it all is this: "In partnership with the community [that would be a first], we are creating a vibrant and vital city heart [whatever that is] through a design led, people-focused urban renewal [whatever that is too]".

Say no to Nelson

No way should the ACT government countenance giving, leasing or selling part of Mount Ainslie nature reserve to provide a parking lot for Brendan Nelson's grandiose plan for the Australian War Memorial ("Paradise paved by memorial", February 25). Nature reserves are precious habitat for our native fauna and we can't afford to lose any of it.

Added to that is that the $500million dollar expansion plan for the AWM is not needed and indeed is opposed by significant sectors of the community. The money could be better allocated to other national institutions which have been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars over recent years, the ABC for example.

Whistleblowers shafted

Are we really serious about protecting whistleblowers? The opening sentence of Adele Ferguson's opinion piece "ATO insider faces six life sentences" (February 27, p21) reads as follows "There's something radically wrong with a society that allows mass murderer James Gargasoulas to be eligible for parole in 46 years, locks up serial killer Ivan Milat for 181 years and then has an Australian Taxation Office employee facing 161 years in prison for blowing the whistle on a poor culture inside one of our most powerful agencies".

Combine this with the appalling judicial over-reach in relation to Bernard Collaery and Witness K in the matter of the Australian government spying on East Timor to gain advantage over the Greater Sunrise oil and gas reserves.

Nobody is denying Australia spied, least of all then foreign minister Alexander Downer who apparently dismissed concerns because it is the responsibility of government to act in Australia's best interests. The implication is all governments do what they need to, and the only thing wrong was being caught.

Now with a very crafty Attorney-General at the judicial helm, a last-minute inclusion of a new "super closed" category of evidence has been added to the proposed orders in relation to the trial of Collaery and Witness K ("Jury could hear Collaery, Witness K case", March 1, p2).

This last-minute amendment precludes Mr Collaery from having his own copy of the brief of evidence or indeed being able to instruct his lawyers because such instructions could reveal sensitive information. It would seem indeed the law and justice are certainly not one and the same when it comes to whistleblowers.

Asylum seeker scandal

I am all in favour of Judith Erskine's suggestion (Letters, February 27) that someone organise a house swap between Bill Deane and one of the asylum seekers in their tropical paradise.

However, so he can get the full experience, he should be sent there with no idea of when, if ever, he will be allowed to come home.

My first job (in 1953) was in the Immigration Department dealing with alien (ie not British) migrants. They proved to be just like dinkum Aussies: some were rude and some polite, some were educated and some not.

It was not at all unusual to deal with people who were illiterate and had to sign their forms with a cross. Many were refugees, fleeing countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, which had fallen under Communist rule at the end of World War II. Many others, like the Dutch and Italian people, had probably come for economic reasons, or just a new life after the five years of hell they had endured. And in Australia, the land of the fabled "fair go" they were looked down on as "bloody Balts", "whinging Poms", "wogs" etc. But of course, thanks to the White Australia Policy, they were all "white".

And these are the people who changed Australia from being the isolated English colony of my childhood into a modern nation of which I am very proud and dearly love.

The refugees on Nauru and Manus are being held there by politicians desperate to hang onto their seats on the gravy train by placating the racists, which is utterly despicable.

However, it now seems the detention centres involve some shadowy organisation which is so secretive it doesn't have a proper address. This is not just despicable, it is a scandal.

Confessional defended

I beg to differ with Mike Hutchinson (Letters, March 2) on reporting matters of the Catholic confessional. First, Hutchinson argues "if paedophiles do not confess ... his [Archbishop Christopher Prowse's] claim that law-abiding priests would face 'excommunication' would fall away".

Hutchinson should acknowledge that the law then exemplifies the legal adage: hard cases make bad law, that is, lead to legislation for exceptions.

Second, he poses the doctrines of the church against secular civil law. On what basis — this controversial and arguably bad law? Anyone who has the courage to follow Catholic doctrine would shine a light on any secular civil law.

Start with Pope Francis' recent encyclical "Mercy and Peace".

Third, his statement that "the secrecy of the Catholic confessional has always been a post-biblical man-made doctrine" is a bit rich. It was treated in the Council of the Lateran (1216) and the Council of Trent (1563) refers to secret sacramental confession being "from the beginning".

Satin robes and silly hats

Prominent Catholic spokesmen continue to assert that the "Seal of Confession" is sacrosanct, that priests must be free to ignore the man-made laws of territories because priests are answerable only to a higher authority.

This very disillusioned old altar boy, choir boy and college prefect can't recall Christ having much to say about confession. The concept and the "laws" that protect it emerge from dominant men who congregate in satin robes and silly hats, and aspire to infallibility.

When I was bumbling through adolescent years, with hormones, emotions and physical development in teenage confusion, I had been conditioned to believe an omni-present Almighty was keeping tabs on all my thoughts and actions.

With the ever-present prospect of being struck dead and going to Hell, I scurried along to confession most Saturday afternoons to plead for forgiveness for any evil and lustful thoughts that had wafted through, maybe entertained, my mind. The naive respect and trust that Catholic boys and girls innocently gave to lonely men on the darkened side of the confessional probably contributed to the abominable performance of many priests.

For those who insist that confession has a cleansing purpose, government might better protect children by restricting participation to adults more than 18 years of age.

Paedophile problem

I refer to Rosalind Carew's letter "Celibacy big problem" (March 2). It is abhorrent that there are sexual predator priests in the Catholic church (as in all sections of the community) but the hard, largely ignored, fact is that most child molestation occurs in the home by men. If Ms Carew honestly believes that what she proposes (if Catholic priests were allowed to marry) this problem would not arise in the church, what is her solution for the majority of paedophiles in the wider community who are clearly not celibate?

Reconsider celibacy

I suspect that many Catholics would agree with Rosalind Carew that current rules requiring priests to be celibate should be reconsidered (Letters, March 2): the first pope, St Peter, was a married man and the celibacy rule only came into existence in the 12th century.

It would be a mistake however to blame all priestly abuse on celibacy, as the Anglican Church knows to its cost, and only the Vatican knows about the priestly behaviour that led to the need for a celibacy rule in the first place.

Rape not about sex

In suggesting that removal of celibacy from the criteria for membership of the Catholic clergy will stop priests from raping children, Rosalind Carew (Letters, March 2) is delusional. Some married men rape children. Rape is not about sex: it is about power. Appointing married men to the priesthood will not prevent the rape of children, nor will it stop the Catholic church from hiding those rapes, and the rapists, in order to protect the "good name" of the church and its bank accounts.

Name, shame builders

Twelve companies have been caught out at 17 non-compliant residential building sites in Gungahlin ("Work stopped at Gungahlin sites", March 2, p1) but consumers need the names of these companies, the ability to be informed of the quality of their actual responses to this "unusual" crack down and advice about any phoenixing that some key company personnel may pursue as a result.

The serious nature of the on-site findings also suggest that such blitzes are needed all over the city as a matter of urgency since too many building companies do not appear to be willing or able to supervise their sites and workers adequately.

Given the ACT government's development priorities for a much higher level of urban intensification across many suburbs of Canberra, such concentrated inspections and reporting surely will need to become the norm for years to come. To support the public interest, any industry or materials supplier whistleblower will also need protection.

More needs to be done to restore public faith in the ability of the government and construction industry to deliver sound building quality for the many thousands of new dwellings planned for the near future.

Defects cause concern

There can be little doubt that there are many people, possibly hundreds, who are buying properties off the plan and to whom this headline ("Work stopped at Gungahlin sites", March 2, p1) will be of great concern. It seems quite extraordinary that the companies concerned or the location of the sites have not been divulged.

The defects listed would seem to be far from minor and with the recent problem with Opal Tower transparency should be to the forefront so that purchasers are totally aware of exactly how the development of their purchase is progressing and whether they are in any way affected by this list of significant defects.

IN BRIEF

SAVOURING THE RIDE

Unlike Douglas Mackenzie I don’t mind at all the "slow" train to Sydney (Letters, March 2). It’s a chance to chill out and relax, do some reading, have a snooze and a nice cup of tea, enjoy the view and just slow down.

As for overseas visitors here on holiday, seeing the countryside, the farms, sheep, cattle, birds and kangaroos, the towns and villages along the way is a highlight.

It’s the main reason why they choose to travel by train, from the people I’ve spoken to. If we travelled along at 350km/h there’d be no way to enjoy any of this; it would all zip by way too fast, you might as well be in an enclosed capsule.

So, Douglas Mackenzie, don’t feel embarrassed for them, they’re enjoying themselves.

R. Moulis, Hackett

WHO COINED THIS?

What type of Doctor Who timeshifting is enabling sitting members not to recontest at the next election?

An election that has not yet happened. They are, in fact, not recontesting their seat, which they contested at the last election. But they can not recontest an election that has not yet occurred.

The ABC is as guilty of this Whovian concept as any.

Peter Edsor, Bungendore, NSW

A JOB FOR ABBOTT

I think Tony Abbott should retire from Australian politics, renew his British citizenship and go to England to help them fix the Brexit mess.

Mokhles K. Sidden, South Strathfield, NSW

AWAY FROM IT ALL

There seems to be no shortage of electoral candidates who want to spend less time with their families.

C. Williams, Forrest

NO PINING FOR PYNE

Who will pine for Pyne ("Reynolds promoted as Pyne, Ciobo quit) March 2, p1), a Shakespearean "slight, unmeritable man", whose main personal impact was that whatever he touched lost gravitas.

Just like Mr Bean as Inspecteur Maigret.

Leonard Colquhoun, Invermay, Tasmania

RATS FROM A SHIP

As the clock ticks closer to the election they had to have, we are seeing more and more of the government rats are or have readied themselves to get their seats in the life boats. And no doubt are ensuring there is life after politics.

D.J. Fraser, Currumbin, Qld

BANAL QUESTIONS

Much is being made of the late Mike Willesee's question to then Liberal Party leader John Hewson regarding the GST to be applied to a birthday cake. Some years later fellow journalist Ray Martin lauded his colleague's skill at such interviews, to the point of asking both John Howard and opponent Paul Keating about the cost of a loaf of bread.

Australia lost two talented men because of our adulation of banal and trite questions by revered journalists.

Greg Simmons, Lyons

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