Letters to the editor - Apr 8

Talent pool
Lismore Community Action Network would like to endorse the foresight of Lismore City Council in planning a combination new art gallery with the much- needed pool to fill a gap in the swimming facilities in Lismore. The natural solar heating is a definite advantage but can I suggest that the slide be extended to end in the library to complete the cultural experience.
Janine Wilson

Worth a smile

Good on you for the front page April Fool’s Day joke. I have heard and seen a lot over the years and that one is up there with them.
Ray Kirkland

Diverse life

Any scientist will tell you that what is most awe-inspiring about life on Earth is its immense diversity.
G. Hagen, proudly puritan and living in the Last Days (Echo, April 1) doesn’t seem to have heard of barramundi that change sex, or of male seahorses that incubate and give birth to their young, or of our close relatives, the bonobos, that enjoy a very active homosexual (as well as heterosexual) life. Are all these creatures “in rebellion against our loving beneficent creator” as G. Hagen puts it? At least 500 other species have been caught by scientists in compromising same-sex couplings. Perhaps they should all be rounded up and sent to one of those fundamentalist corrective-therapy camps that try to convert anxious Americans to Biblically-approved sexuality.
Simplistic nostrums derived from the need of a tiny, oppressed sheep- and goat-herding society to increase and multiply do not reflect nature and never did.
St Paul, seeing the need for product differentiation from the plethora of other oriental mystery cults sweeping the Roman Empire, reiterated these taboos, even though their origin was in ritual purity rather than moral injunction. This emphasis became more urgent, given the example of the emperor Hadrian (AD 76-138), described by my Everyman Classical Dictionary as “probably the most capable ruler who ever sat upon a throne”. Hadrian, while held in high regard by Christians for his humane and enlightened rule, was disconsolate after the death of his lover, Antinous (yes, a man), declared him a god and set up his statue and religious cult in all major cities. This was not seen as abnormal by anyone except the Jews and their offshoot, Christianity, but we live with their prejudices still.
In contrast to modern-day evangelists, Jesus Christ never mentioned variations in sexual expression, so they can’t have been high on his list of priorities. I do, though, recall him roundly condemning those who are ever-ready to cast the first stone.
Peter Mullins

All creation
To G. Hagen of Chapel Hill, Queensland.
You speak on behalf of the Creator, yet you give yourself the right to challenge His creation.
If God created Earth and all on it, then God created gay people.
I thought the lesson of Jesus was love and kindness: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” (or “Do not do unto others as you would not like to be done to you”) and “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. He did not include exclusion clauses.
What would Jesus have said to your bigotry that just spreads a message of pain and shame throughout the world?
Liora Claff


 In response to G. Hagen (Echo, April 1). Are you serious? While it is true that in Norrie’s case zie wasn’t born sexless and it would be more accurate to call Norrie a trans-genderless person; most people who are intersexed and non-gendered are labelled with their gender identity at birth. Therefore how can the religious right claim that God only created men and women, when intersex and non-gender people are born with their sex status? After all is it not ridiculous for   people to assert that God’s creation is an abomination? No one is saying that God got it wrong; what people like me are saying is that the religious right has once again got it wrong. I think in the eyes of most it is a bit obvious that gender minorities were created by God, after all it’s not like being born intersex or of no gender is a choice. As for the NSW Attorney General, who does he think he is to put pressure on Births, Deaths and Marriages to overturn Norrie’s certificate? Norrie got all the medical evidence needed to prove zir identity, therefore zir certificate and other documentation should recognise this and no one should have the right to violate Norrie’s basic human right. Australia is a country that opposes sexism and the sexism that gender minorities experience should be no exception.
Ben Cooper

Revenue raising
I am a stallholder at the Byron Bay markets. On Easter Sunday I arrived before 7am and parked my car with the other stallholders. Almost 10 hours later I came back to my car and drove to my home in Lismore. When I pulled up, I noticed a piece of paper tucked under my windscreen wiper. A pamphlet for someone’s business I thought, but no. As I read I was struck with absolute disbelief – it was a parking ticket! Apparently I had been parked for longer than two hours in the one spot, and fined $84. Happy Easter from Byron Council. I don’t remember ever seeing a sign. Having a parking inspector at the Byron markets on Easter Sunday is nothing more than a revenue raiser and a dog act. I wonder how many other stallholders and market visitors were also fined. It would have been a nice gift to a tourist, remember your stay in Byron, here is a parking fine. I know Byron Council wants the market moved to another area, but this is ridiculous. The spirit of the Byron market is like none other you will find, a carefree unsuppressed spirit of happiness. Thanks Byron Council, you’ve just stabbed that spirit fair in the gut!
Naomi Amber

Too much

It’s not news to McLeans Ridges residents but there is something seriously wrong with the current development proposal for a subdivision of 62 lots, which will triple the population in Camerons Road. Neither Council nor the development application provides any up-to-date and accurate assessment of the impacts this development will have on the capacity of existing road intersections or on the safety of local road network, should the development proceed. Council cannot provide any detailed cost estimates for the upgrading of the local road network and cannot identify where roadworks will need to be provided or how these will be financed.
It’s astonishing that after six years of having this development on its books, including a controversial assessment by Council which led to the rezoning of the land by the notorious six pack, some of whom regularly fell asleep during Council meetings, we learn that the source of Council’s calculations are based on a senior manager’s guesswork and that “Council would rather accept the risk of being wrong rather than determine a more reliable costing”. It’s even more surprising when it’s revealed that the senior manager’s guesswork omitted one complete intersection (the nearest to the development) and a section of road adjacent to the development, despite the RTA twice reminding Council of its responsibilities. With the developer’s road contributions fixed by their planning agreement it doesn’t take much brainpower to identify who will be paying for the upgrades.
 Noel Parker
 McLeans Ridges

Log jam
Despite months of community and inter-agency negotiations, on March 29 Forests NSW commenced harvesting timber for woodchipping and high-quality logs in Mumbulla State Forest near Bega on the Far South Coast.
It is hard to comprehend that while one arm of government has thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars to locate and document the presence of a small but healthy koala population in a region where extinction was assumed in 2004; another is prepared for business as usual in logging the very trees necessary for the population to persist.
Eighteen months ago the NSW Government released an approved Recovery Plan for the koala. Little good it has done when the government itself totally disregards what it wants and pushes ahead mega-developments like Kings Forest and Cobaki.
What’s happening in the forests down south may not seem all that relevant to our koalas and other native fauna up here, but it is, as the recently reported preliminary audit of logging operations at Yabbra State Forest for the North East Forest Alliance demonstrated.
Friends of the Koala, along with other koala campaigners and conservation groups, is calling on Premier Keneally to intervene and stop the logging of Mumbulla State Forest. We encourage you to join us by emailing your objection to the logging to premier@nsw.gov.au.
Lorraine Vass

Friends of the Koala

The world’s a stage
Have you ever wondered why our Prime Minister is always interviewed, on TV, outside church on a Sunday? And why there is always a slow pan shot of him and Ms Rein coming out of church then along the path towards the camera? Then, when it cuts to a close up shot of the PM, why the church is always strategically placed in the background?
The head of news programming for the ABC, Donald Lange, offers the following explanation; “When in Canberra, the Prime Minister usually attends church on Sunday morning and if there is an issue running that needs his comment, the most convenient moment is on his exit. That moment is usually choreographed by the Prime Minister’s staff.” Choreographed, he says? Isn’t choreography the composition of ballets and stage dances? I get his drift though, it is staged. Well then you may ask, why would a TV interview need to be staged? Is it publicity intended to spread ideas or information that will persuade or convince people?
The answer to this question can be found in your dictionary and is simply defined as propaganda.
Ken Wallbridge
Richmond Hill

Bible talks

Rob Speirs will be horrified to discover that “right-wing bible bashers” (aka people who take the bible seriously) have been meeting at Southern Cross University for at least 10 years (Echo, March 25). He will also be horrified to discover that graduates of Moore College run local churches... at the request of the congregation. The group is called “The Bible Talks” and what you get is a bible talk. Also the fact it is sponsored by the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (www.afes.org.au) is quite clear on the group’s literature, so any agenda is hardly hidden. Of course, Rob himself has no “hidden agenda” or “extremist” theology and his initial reaction certainly wasn’t an example of a “hate/fear dogma of mistrust”. Oh and Rob we have plenty of discussion, it is just that due to university time tabling it has to take place outside of the allocated classroom.
I am an attendee and not in any leadership or executive role.
James Ramsay

More than one way
To the infamous Jim Lee; I sooo knew you were going to write in to pat Robert Speirs on the back for his letter! You’re a character you are! This Robert guy, like yourself, seems to think it’s his right to talk trash about these “redneck homophobic bible bashers” who made the fatal mistake of believing something he doesn’t. You’re not wrong at all Jim, I mean how dare they write in and complain about their faith being mocked and insulted? We have absolutely no right defending our beliefs from people like you who are suggesting we’re stupid for believing in Jesus! Thanks for showing me the error of my ways!
Okay, sarcasm aside, here’s what I didn’t like about Robert’s comments: firstly, not all rednecks are homophobic, nor are they all bible bashers, and isn’t that an American term anyway? Over here rednecks would be called bogans or something. What was your point anyway? You have to be an atheist to be allowed to go to university? It’s kind of hard to take your opinions seriously when you give no reasons whatsoever for your outrage. Do they anger you because they simply just don’t believe the same things you do? So that automatically makes them sheep right? Is it alright if I go to university seeing as I believe in this “mythical” Jesus person? Man, I’ve written some pretty stupid letters to The Echo before but at least I never insult people’s religions for no legitimate reason. Ever hear of this thing called tolerance? Why not go and argue about whether Star Trek is better than Star Wars or something while you’re at it? I really don’t care if you don’t believe in the same things I do but would it kill ya to just let people believe what they want to and agree to disagree? You seem like you’re one of those people who likes being offensive just to spark a reaction for your own amusement. If this was on a website it would be called “trolling” usually done by kids with no life. Try to be a little more open minded Robert, you might like it.
Grant Armitage
East Lismore

Short memory

Mario Elba’s letter of March 25 goes all out in an attempt to say that Marxism is trying to destroy Christianity here in Australia, and that Christianity has been the saving grace of this country. Perhaps Mario has forgotten how the Christian missionaries in this country are the ones responsible for the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children. They were removed and institutionalised (brainwashed) by Christian run institutions.
During the forties, fifties, sixties and the seventies young unmarried pregnant girls were placed in Christianised institutions, demoralised, made to feel guilt ridden, and worked as slave labour during their pregnancies, and after the birth of their children, were never given the opportunity to nurse their newborn. The newborns were taken and adopted out to Christian families. Is this an example of the alleged Christian God’s love of mankind?
The inquisition, a former tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church (1232-1820) created to discover and suppress heresy.
During the sixteenth century’s reformation, the mass slaughter of Catholic and Protestants killing each other in the name of God, the witch hunts, witches are not permitted to live according to biblical sources (we all know witches don’t exist), the torture and the burning alive at the stake of those considered infidels, blasphemers, and heretics. The list of atrocity goes on and on.
Jim Lee

Common belief

John Hannaford and G. Hagen have one thing in common, despite Mr Hannford’s assertion to being somewhat different, and that is they “believe” in something, someone, some day. The underlying aspect of this shared commonality is “belief” which brooks no discourse and no challenge because it is an abstraction within the minds of whoever cares to undertake it. You see I could believe in anything yet that does not make it irrefutably so, it is just that I believe in it. Or to couch it in other terms, my ego has decided that it is special enough to warrant it exemplary behaviour that reinforces its own sense of self importance and specialness in the universe by saying to itself, “ahh, I believe thus and this” so it must be so.
As history has shown, those who think this way have always seen themselves as being above the rest of humanity with some instances where even murder was sanctioned against those who did not share their views. So called witches and warlocks were burnt to death at the stake across all “faiths” both Protestant and Catholic, in Europe and England, (with one count having this figure as high as 45 million!) and usually at the behest of an excited mob who saw their chance to revenge themselves against their sworn enemies, the “unbelievers”. Other explanations for the witch burnings in Europe and England is that many people were hallucinating on rye bread tainted with ergot, the basis of LSD. Their state of mind was exploited and manipulated by religionists (believers) to roll out their agenda, whatever it was at the time.
Sound familiar? Think religious extremism of every kind, both past and modern.
M Mizzi

Money problem

In response to Bill Sheaffe (Echo, March 25).
If Council gets grants of five million for an art centre it must have a minimum of three million of Council money to pay for total costs.
A Special Rate Variance must be based on a real need. If $800,000 SRV is so important for roads, a flora and fauna study, and business promotion, the money is there if only Council wasn’t prioritising other expenditure like the hoped-for arts centre.
With the currently proposed in perpetuity SRV, after five years, Council can spend the SRV money wherever it wants.
Three million dollars available for the arts centre pays for a limited four-year SRV while the arts centre will haemorrhage money in perpetuity.
Dr Paul Recher

Road rage

Lismore City Council is seeking a Special Rate Increase (SRI) of 3.5%, to be spent on roads ($500k), environmental protection ($200k) and business promotion ($100k).
$500k on roads buys about one km of reconstruction to current standards, standards that are no longer adequate to today’s truck weights, density of traffic and extreme weather patterns. What might have sufficed 30 years ago requires a rethink now.
We know that Lismore City Council (LCC) had a backlog of approx. $88 million for capital road work (reconstruction) years ago. $500k is about half a per cent of that. Everyone with eyes can see that the roads fall apart quicker than LCC can fix them. Those who travel on rural roads every day have patiently worn the cost of chipped paint, worn out suspensions and wrecked tyres due to a never ending litany of pot holes. To bring them up to an adequate standard that makes the road last longer than the next downpour would require at least another $50-60 million. LCC has roughly 20,000 ratepayers. If we assume that we wanted to bring the roads up to scratch over the next 10 years, just with rate revenue, every household would be slugged with a $750 rate increase for the next 10 years.
I’m sure I overlooked something in my quick calculation, but the message stands: there is no way that any affordable rate will ever bring the roads up to a decent standard – not without help from either the Feds or the State. Years of neglect cannot be put as a burden on today’s ratepayers. 3.5% doesn’t look much, but where will it stop? I could name a dozen other worthwhile “reasons” for an SRI: revitalisation of the CBD, a new art gallery, a new city hall, a city bypass, a third river crossing, relocation of the Dawson St caravan park, waste water infrastructure etc.
LCC residents already pay one of the highest rates in NSW. There is a clear limit to what many people on low or medium incomes can afford, particularly in the presence of ever increasing costs for electricity and other essential services. Rates also affect rents, as landlords pass higher costs on to tenants. Who in their right mind would want even higher rents than what many people have to pay now? Do we want retired people or asset rich/income poor ratepayers to lose their houses to big city tree changers?
Lismore, and Australia, needs an infrastructure program that can only be delivered by the Feds, and could be funded by raising taxes for those who benefitted most from years of the economic boom. Once proper roads are in place (with proper I mean roads that really last for 30 years), Council will be able to carry out repairs and reconstruction within its means. The onus is on Council to lobby for such a program and on all of us to support Council in doing so. LCC has some wonderful people in capital works, as well as among their maintenance crews. But the standard of work delivered often is not worth spending it in the first place. I have had enough of quick and cheap fixes that only last until the next rain – it’s a complete waste of money.
As for the environment and business promotion: well, I think businesses are pretty good at promotion themselves, and the best promotion is roads that visitors like to drive on. Affordable CBD rates would do more than any promotion levy. Environmentally, I believe that everything we need to know we know already – what we are lacking is not science or research data, but the will and the determination to put it into action. And that doesn’t require extra money, but smart “green” thinking in everyday decision making.
A big NO to the special rate increase! NO to band aids – what we deserve are better and safer roads. Ballina has got it, most other shires have got it – at lower rates.
Michael Qualmann

Sick hospital

Interesting to see your item about Coraki Hospital (Echo, March 18). Understandable but not at all constructive to blame the local manager for mismanagement. He’s not allowed to manage as business does, not allowed to be competent: that’s dangerous. A clear example is that governments still run on “Historical Cost” basis: no account is taken, as a good business does, of “repairs and maintenance”, or of depreciation. The result is, as seen with the nation’s whole infrastructure, that every institution extant at the end of the war or developed since (eg the last national infrastructure project, the Snowy Mountains Scheme) has deteriorated and/or become corrupted by the politics of greed and envy. The legacy to our nation’s future, mainly brainwashed as they are by Big Brother, as Orwell called “the powers that be”, is grim. But as I said long ago, people who are competent, tell the truth, warn against insanity, and become tall poppies in their field are terrorised. Coraki Hospital will not be maintained: it will not be rebuilt unless some politician gets on a mission. I mean, even Don Page has done nothing about the degradation of Ballina Hospital and the receivership of Lismore Private Hospital.
Dr Maarten de Vries

Change needed

The Australian Coastal Conference held in March at Byron Bay reminded governments to urgently address shortfalls in legislation and local planning documents relating to climate change. In clearly outlining the science of climate change, keynote speaker Dr Church explained how satellite data since 1993 shows that average global sea levels are now rising annually by 3.2mm. The average rise over the C20th was a mere 1.9mm per year. The conference learned that the science is absolutely clear about climate change, despite what the media may report. Australia’s top scientific research bodies, CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, are unanimous that Australia is warming and the seas rising. In fact predictions for sea level rise are probably understated in the recent Third Assessment Report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Professor Barbara Norman described how we are “at a tipping point in regards to managing urban growth along the coast”, and sensible coastal planning is vital. Most concerning is the issue of critical infrastructure such as hospitals and aged care facilities. It is not, for example, appropriate to build new hospitals or nursing homes in flood-prone areas. They are very hard to evacuate and maintaining their supply of electricity is critical. Being on Ballina Council, I am particularly concerned about urban planning and legal liability in regards to Ballina Island. Councillors and staff have seen recent presentations clearly demonstrating the impacts of sea level rise on the island. Continuing to approve new developments – particularly industrial ones – that will be affected by sea level rise is not, I believe, in our Council’s best interests because of future liability risks. Nor is it in the interests of the Ballina community because social and environmental risks are entailed. When these industrial blocks experience periodic future flooding – as they certainly will – this will further diminish water quality and create environmental problems in the Richmond River and its surrounding wetlands. Some prefer to see climate change and sea level rise as long- term phenomena that shouldn’t restrict the scale and location of new developments in the next few years. I see it differently. It is certainly a long-term issue but one that demands adjustments to local planning documents now. Why create even more problems for future generations to have to deal with?   
Cr Jeff Johnson
Lennox Head

Health system

Kevin Rudd’s threatened referendum on his health plan would open the way for several other health matters to be voted upon.
Very recently the state governments of Victoria, Queensland and NSW have swept across regional cities and towns ordering and enforcing water fluoridation. There has been public outcry, cleverly deflected by government authorities.
Adding chemical fluoride to drinking water supplies is a state-enforced mass medication. There is no way to avoid it unless one has abundant disposable income to organise a private water supply.
Fluoridation offends one clause of the Australian Constitution, and several international human rights and medical covenants to which Australia is signatory.
Victoria and Queensland have special draconian legislation for fluoride that is offensive to our Australian belief in fairness and freedom. For these reasons it is worthy of a referendum.
David McRae
Geelong West, VIC

Evolving attitudes

An observation was made in the newspaper to the effect how uncanny it is Buddhist attitudes seem to hold the remedy to the world’s current problems; the reason is the stage of the societal cycle is now at the same point as when Buddhism emerged circa 500BC; technological advances are making more leisure time available; then it was iron tools and the cultivation of rice as a crop; now mechanisation and the computer; it takes some time for that phenomenon to be integrated into society, which currently clings to an increasingly irrelevant pioneer ethic where work is propped up as the central meaning of life.
That coincides with the need a for a less aggressive and more considerate attitude toward the environment; global warming is raising the question whether valuing the natural world is more intrinsically necessary than exploiting it as a physical resource, the importance of mind rather than mined. This change in outlook, driven by catastrophic events, will have to be accommodated before society can evolve to the kind of highly tuned civilisation of historical Buddhism; and there needs to be awareness the higher the world population, the more calamitous those events will be.
P Griffin



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