Letters to the editor - May 27

Lies by emission
The NSW ALP government has proven itself to be morally bankrupt. I am not referring to the pathetic escapades of the former Minister for Transport David Campbell. I am of course referring to the decision of the premier and other senior ministers to declare the report on the gas emissions of the 50,000 flue-less gas heaters in the state schools to be privileged information and therefore not to be released. This government’s cynicism and lack of moral decency is threatening the health of our state’s children and knows no bounds.
Cr Simon Clough

Story straight

A lot has been said over the past few years about the rezoning and current DA Application for the Camerons Rd rural residential development here at McLeans Ridges. Unfortunately many comments have been misguided or ill informed. Firstly I would like to state that all the parties making the DA applications are landowners, some of whom have been living here since before any of the other estates were built in this area. These landowners want to remain in this area, so they would not wish to destroy it. They have signed a Planning Agreement, a legally binding document, with the current Council and Mayor, which upon development approval outlines certain requirements associated with the development of the land. A copy of this agreement was included in the documents that went on exhibition for public comment.
John Van Arendonk
McLeans Ridges

Play the game

Calling all sporting clubs in LCC area to act. I want to alert the residences of LCC that the current Operational Plan has not allocated funds to the Rural and Urban Sporting Grants. In the past there has been $200,000 allocated for sporting groups to access. The last four years there has been $684,090 given to LCC Sporting groups resulting in projects valued at $1,430,035 being completed. These were projects determined by the local groups to directly benefit the sporting group. The benefits of sport are widely documented, being physical active and the social inclusion sport creates, is great value for very little financial contribution. At a time when sporting clubs struggle to get volunteer help the LCC does not need to remove this great program. Voice your concern at Council@lismore.nsw.gov.au or 1300 878 387 before June 3.
Cheryl Amor
The Channon

True team spirit

So Jason Akermanis thinks that gay and bi footy players should just stay in the closet. His logic being that the AFL isn’t ready for openly gay players and having openly gay players in the team could “damage the fabric of the team”.
As someone who is currently playing rugby union in Sydney for a gay friendly team, I find his comments appalling. It’s people like this that make me feel that I can not join a regular rugby team and be out. Akermanis asserts that “he wouldn’t feel comfortable”, well all I have to say is “get over it”, has it ever occurred to Akermanis that people who have to hide their sexuality because of people like him that they don’t feel comfortable having to live a lie every single day of their life? Why should they have to pretend to be straight for no other reason than that you are insecure within your own sexuality?
Recently 30 AFL players came out in support of an anti homophobia campaign and held signs in support of gay people and acceptance and after Akermanis made his comments he received a lot of criticism from numerous players and officials; thankfully not everybody in the AFL shares his rather ill informed view.
Ben Cooper

Boundary rider

I challenge Lee Andresen’s statement (Echo, May 20) that no religion can produce one verse of scripture explicitly prohibiting two men or two women from sealing their love through marriage.
I quote from the Old Testament book Leviticus (18:22): “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
I quote from the New Testament book First Corinthians (6:9-10): “Neither the sexually immoral ... nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders ... will inherit the kingdom of God.”
In our free country Lee is at liberty to live in defiance of such plain commands, and to deny that God exists; but he is not at liberty to rewrite the dictionary to suit his own lifestyle.
My copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines marriage as a “condition of man and woman legally united for the purpose of living together and usually procreating lawful offspring.”
I commend the government for persisting in that definition, which is the way marriage has always been understood since time began in every country, in every culture, and in every belief system.
Yes, love has no boundaries; but marriage does have boundaries.
Don Halliday

All fair in love

I write in support of Lee Andresen’s well-argued letter outlining the tragic consequences of civil and religious discrimination against persons who prefer their own sex (‘Tolerance’, Echo, May 20).
One only has to look at the current sad case of the (now former) NSW Minister for Transport forced by societal expectations to lead a double life and was gratuitously “outed” on television by a salivating Channel Seven.
Same-sex marriage is not a novelty. Solemnisation of male-male unions is found from the Sacred Band of Thebes of ancient Greece to samurai Japan.
In the Catholic and Orthodox traditions liturgies existed for the celebration of marriages between men and between women up to the Fourteenth Century. This is described in a scholarly work The Marriage of Likeness – Same sex unions in pre-modern Europe by John Boswell (Harper Collins, London, 1995).
Such arrangements even joined Christians and non-Christians. In 1526 the then most powerful man in the Western World, the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent granted governance of the city of Buda (half of modern Budapest) to John, Count of Siebenburgen (the childless pretender to the throne of Hungary), who was his acknowledged same-sex partner.
The rabid and obsessive negative preoccupation with homosexuality as the most horrible of sins is a more recent development and it is appalling to see it being given credence by Benedict XVI, who lumped gay marriage in with abortion as “among the most insidious and dangerous challenges to society” in his address last week at Fatima, Portugal.
His Holiness, whose church connived at the public burning of homosexuals right up to the French Revolution, should read Dante for a different viewpoint. This famously heterosexual writer’s early Fourteenth Century Purgatorio (Canto 26) places sodomites in the highest rung of purgatory – just outside the gates of heaven – along with persons guilty of “too much” heterosexual passion – that is, near salvation and far above the majority of sinners in purgatory and all those being punished in hell.
One is tempted to suggest that heterosexual matrimony has become such a ragged institution in our times that it hardly constitutes a useful model for same-sex couples.
Finally, let me quote from John Boswell, the historian mentioned earlier: “Recognising that many – probably most – earlier Western societies institutionalised some form of romantic same-sex union gives us a much more accurate view of the immense variety of human romantic relationships and social responses to them than does the prudish pretence that such ‘unmentionable’ things never happened.”
Peter Mullins

Cafe gaffe
As a frequent visitor to Coraki, Lismore and points north, I write in support of the ladies, Kerry and Dianne of the River Junction Cafe in Coraki, who are endeavouring to provide the residents and visitors with quality dining facilities. Richmond Valley Council recently denied their appeal to serve BYO wine to diners seated on the footpath of Richmond Terrace, thereby inhibiting (rather than encouraging) their growth prospects as well as limiting the pleasure and comfort of diners.
It has long been common practise to allow BYO drinking facilities with al fresco style lunch and dinner on footpaths of villages and major cities.
However, Richmond Valley Council sees fit to deny its citizens (their employers) the right to enjoy civilised footpath dining at this delightful venue overlooking the river junction. Are they uninterested in attracting visitors to Coraki, or do they view this village as a backwater unworthy of their support? Once again, the desires of the majority are victim to the perceived behaviour of the minority.
Many councillors, including the mayor, apparently consider that you, the citizens of Richmond Valley, are incapable of behaving yourselves while participating in this common practise of enjoying a wine or beer at a meal with your family and friends. Are you really that occa??
If so, the boys in blue just a few doors away will take care of you. Perhaps your councillors (not all) are the uncultured, unsophisticated occas!
Perhaps their decision to deny you the pleasure of civilised BYO dining on Richmond Terrace was based on their own lack of discipline while drinking or was it simply their wowserism?
This little cafe venture is deserving of council’s full support if they are at all interested in fostering development in the district and attracting tourism through the availability of quality services.
Bob Robinson
Port Stephens

Come clean

So far Nationals candidate for Page Kevin Hogan has written two letters to this paper defending the indefensible. This week he wants to see a clean energy company, Metgasco, be protected from the market forces of the new carbon constrained economy because he wants to get a few votes in Casino promising jobs. What a load of baloney. Most of the jobs will be taken by imported specialist labour not locals and Kevin mate, gas is not a CO2 neutral clean form of energy it just a little less dirty than coal, which probably accounts for your inverted commas on the word clean. That is what the Nationals see as clean, the word in inverted commas not the reality on the ground. Sheer populist propaganda. Of course the ALP is no better with Janelle, photo opportunity Saffin also lauding this polluting energy source as somehow being clean and bringing prosperity to Casino, until the gas runs out of course. Who will benefit from all this investment? Why Metagasco’s investors of course. Metgasco, Mr Hogan and Ms Saffin would all be better off investing in solar and wind farms if they want to be seen as producers and supporters of real clean green energy. The rest is just empty duplicitous rhetoric from politicians who see that using polite and inaccurate words as their stock in trade. A little truth and honesty would really be a welcome difference when it comes to debate in this country but so far the major parties have not cottoned on to the fact that you can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. As it is Kevin Hogan is having difficulty fooling anyone any of the time. With candidates like this no wonder the Nationals are looking more like political dinosaurs heading the way of the Dodo bird.
M Mizzi

It’s the system

We are the traditional owners of this land; that is enshrined in International Law. How can we not be born with an intrinsic right to land? That would be slavery.
So here we are, the slaves of Western Democracy, desperately defending our homes from bureaucracy. For home is where our heart opens as we ground securely into our peace of mother earth, grow our vegies, craft, play, and invite our friends to stay. Way back when, we bought 100,000s of acres of unwanted farmland very cheaply, and created vibrant communities beyond the confines of the dominant paradigm. Legislation has sought ever since to extinguish this Inspiration with building codes, drug laws, and general denigration of the Love and Light.
The lore of High Cultures (as was the pure vision of the Aquarian Dreamers) is that they attract negativity which has often degraded them. So much so, that the epicentre for alternative peace change is better known as the Gunja capital of Australia.
Let’s drop all that rebellion against the System. Hey, let’s just drop the System. It can be done, because the entire System is just a legal fiction. Yup, it’s all made up, and when you know just how, you don’t have to play the game any more. That is how we can hold onto the community dreaming, instead of repeating the program of “mine” endlessly, on and on until we all get a fried chip to buy and sell. But first we must do some healing...
So I’d like you all to send some love and light to the Byron Shire Council officers who told the hippies they were gonna get them off their land coz they had millionaires waiting to buy it. Telepathically tell them they don’t have to play that nasty game. Let’s open our hearts to the pain of making people homeless, and remind those officers their karma will come back to them one day.
Lillian Rock


What are we, the people, going to do, as our rights to representation are being quickly eroded. Here I am talking about politics and the three tiered government system where we go to the polling booths and elect our chosen representatives.
After enlisting their troops to hand out for them with a bucket load of promises and standing on the soapbox at the ballot calling “vote for me”, these aspiring politicians quickly forget they have been put thereby the people for the people once they get elected. They become a clique unto their own, with many being extremely easily manipulated by money hungry developers.
Take the case of small, sleepy, heritage hamlets which are suddenly pounced upon for expansion like Catherine Hill Bay on the Central Coast or Evans Head on the North Coast. We get one chance to preserve “the natural environment”, because once it becomes “the built environment” it is gone forever.
Sadly, despite the enormous public campaigns to save these places, someone in government overrides   legislation and approves the development and expansion of these areas. Once that happens all the trees, birds, bushes and native animals disappear. All we have left is the ability to call our streets after the disappearing wildlife - Ibis Close, Fat Duck Road, Leaping Lizard Lane or Wombat Way.
What are we going to do about our quiet North Coast environment being disrupted by parachute planes endlessly climbing to 14,000ft, or helicopters with whirring turbines and blades cracking the sound barrier as they go along our beaches? Are we going to sit back and cop it, or are we going to do something about it? Someone is making a fat profit at the expense of our lifestyle when the overseas tourists arrive by stretched limo from the Gold Coast, skydive out of the plane and drive home drinking champagne all the way. But they couldn’t do it, unless one of our elected representatives sanctioned it in one way or another.
We pay our rates and taxes which funds the wages of our politicians, yet those in government do not even recognise us - except to levy more rates and taxes and like lambs to the slaughter we pay up. They sell our land from behind locked doors, and we don’t know what is going on until after the event. Is that what democracy is all about?
Tell me, where to from here?
Margaret Howes
Empire Vale

Not so special

Ballina Shire Council is poised to perpetrate a massive financial scam on the Ballina Community. Notwithstanding that the community has overwhelming rejected outright the Council’s proposed Special Rate Variation (SRV) which will increase rates by 43% over the next five years, management has recommended a reduced amount which will still result in an unacceptable increase of 38%.
The Department of Local Government SRV guidelines require a council to demonstrate that its SRV application reflects the views, priorities and objectives of the broader community. Ballina Council has undertaken an extensive public relations campaign, under the guise of community consultation, to sell its SRV to the community. However the community has seen through this rort.
The three community ward committees did not support the Council’s SRV nor did they recommend the reduced amount of 38%.
The Council’s own analysis of its four community consultation meetings demonstrates that the meetings did not support the SRV and again they did not recommend the reduced amount of 38%.
90% of the community submissions to Council have not supported the SRV.
In the overall response section of the community survey 78% of respondents have said no to the SRV, only 7% have said yes, with 15% indicating varying degrees of conditional support.
Council management in its report says ‘it is clear there is not strong support for the proposed SRV from the respondents’. This is an unprofessional interpretation of the data. The overwhelming evidence is that there is strong community opposition to the SRV.
The management report then says ‘the question that Councillors now need to answer is based on the feedback received – are the responses representative of the whole community?’ This is another example of Council’s corrupt practices. It is an attempt by Council management to manipulate the consultation process to achieve its own objectives. The Department of Local Government SRV Guidelines do not provide for Councillors to make these sorts of subjective judgments. Councillors are required to demonstrate that there is community support for the SRV. Clearly there is not.
In April this year the Councillors endorsed the SRV community consultation process. This process did not include them dismissing the findings if they did not agree with the outcome.
The community has given a very loud and clear message to the Council that it does not support a SRV in any form and in doing so has rejected the council’s financial strategies. There is now an obligation on all Councillors to vote against the SRV and to engage the community in a professional review of Council’s finances in order to develop realistic and equitable solutions to Council’s financial problems.
Vince Kelly
East Ballina

A louder voice

I believe Independent artists deserve to be seen and heard more. That Independent artists, like myself, choose to speak openly about some of positive alternatives available to all artists is aimed at encouraging a more vibrant and diverse creative community within the region.
I believe diversity, originality and independence go hand in hand. The more artists there are doing their own thing in ways that liberate rather than conform - then the greater the variety and diversity of art emerging from such a process.
Conversely, the more we attempt to regulate, administrate or institutionalise art, then the less chance or latitude there is for artists to be innovative and exercise their independence. Innovation and independence are the cornerstones of original art.
My own experience of regional galleries, arts councils and other government-funded agencies has not been a happy one and so I have sought practical alternatives to pursuing my artistic career. These alternatives centre around the question of independence and creative freedom. They are aimed at providing individual artists more control over the marketing of their art, as well as a greater share of the profit their work generates.
Rather than paying a commission on everything that sells, rather than paying entry fees, subscriptions, memberships and agent fees, rather than taking a number and waiting to exhibit – Independent artists have the freedom to deal directly with their client base and decide how, where and on what terms their art sells.
Although well intentioned, the Arts institution imposes its own culture through a raft of regulatory guidelines and processes. This culture is focused more upon the bureaucracy of art itself (galleries, budgets, staffing, policies) than upon individuals. Likewise, an art contest imposes a range of rules and limitations which artists must satisfy before their entries are deemed acceptable. Any artist who does not conform or whose work is deemed ’controversial’ is rigorously excluded or censored.
In either of these cases, artists are ’not’ at liberty to express themselves fully, nor to be seen in ways that are under their control. For any artist seeking artistic freedom in its fullest sense, independence offers an obvious and highly rewarding alternative.
RJ Poole



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