Letters to the editor - May 6

You made my day
I recently went into hospital because I was bordering on a stroke, and I had the most fabulous doctor attend to me. Turns out I should never have been on the blood pressure tablets I was on.
I got out of hospital and about five days later I went to the pharmacy to pay my account and I was feeling a bit shaky at the counter, and I leaned against it. A lovely girl of about 18 asked if I was alright, and I told her I wad fine and I was going home.
That night I went home to rest and then I got up and had a shower and started cooking tea. Then the doorbell rang, and normally I don’t answer the door after dark when I’m on my own, but I thought it might be my neighbour.
I opened the door and there was this little girl with a bunch of flowers for me. I couldn’t believe my eyes – I could not believe in this day and age there was such a beautiful person.
There are so many bad things happening in the world, it’s so sad, but to think that a stranger would come and bring me flowers is just the most fabulous, kindest, sweetest thing.
All I know is her first name is Jess. I just want her to know, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much. You made an elderly lady very happy.
Kay W.

Offensive behaviour

The locals of East Lismore and the community of Lismore public school have been watching with growing concern as a resident flies Nazi and neo-nazi flags from a flag pole in the front yard of his house.
Neighbours have been watching as the series of flags has become more aggressive and blatant. According to a resident it started about a month or so ago when the Imperial German Navy flag was hoisted one Sunday morning. That particular flag is known to be used by current neo-nazi organisations. Last week residents were shocked to see the Golden Eagle SS flag flying and one morning residents, staff and school students were amazed by the blatant showing of the classic Nazi Swastika flag. There were also sightings by several people of the Australian flag being flown upside down!
Residents are offended and appalled and whether it is just mischievous and attention seeking or something more sinister nobody but the flag hoister himself knows. He did take down the Nazi flag and replaced it with the Australian when he noticed that it had people’s attention.
What is even more pathetic is that these replica flags can cost up to $200 each. It certainly could be better spent elsewhere.
L Cameron
East Lismore

Call me

Why would Lismore City Council only list on its website the 13 contact phone number when in fact the old 6625 0500 is still functioning?
The reason for a 13 number is so out-of-area people pay just a local call. However wherever you live you pay 30 cents minimum for dialling 13 to reach council.
I only found out the 6625 0500 number was operating. Under my phone plan I get 50 free local calls but 13 are not counted but charged.
I just paid a needless $1.50 to Telstra for 5 x 13 calls to council whereas if I’d known the 6625 0500 number was working the same calls would have added nothing to my bill.
So why isn’t LCC letting it be known 6625 0500 is a contact number? Ockham’s razor suggests mere stupid oversight?
Paul Recher

Now breathe
To all Australian councils.
I would like all councils to think about the following... and stop being hypocritical.
Okay. Think of your own lounge room with 20 people inside, close all windows and doors. Now all the people light up a cigarette and the room fills with smoke. These people could stay in that room for many many hours, if not days, without becoming sick, ill or die.
Now think about the   same room, with closed windows and doors and the 20 people inside, now place a car with the motor running into the room. All the people in the room would now die within a couple to six hours.
Martyn Wiggins

Mother’s load

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) is celebrating National Mothering Week from May 3-9 with the theme ‘Mothering: together we do better’.
Mothering is meant to be shared, but with today’s mobile lifestyle, many new mothers find themselves far from family support. These mothers need to find a local support network such as a mothers’ group, play group or their ABA group.
All mothers, whether it’s baby number one or six, are welcome at our meetings. We share the ups and downs of mothering and learn from each other. Friendships are formed, with other mothers filling the place of distant sisters and other children the role of distant cousins. Together we share the joys of mothering and together we find solutions to mothering challenges.
If you can’t get to meetings you can still access mother-to-mother support on our 24/7 Breastfeeding Helpline – 1800 mum 2 mum or 1800 686 2 686 (without the last 6 for VOIP).
We also have email counselling and mothers forums available at www.breastfeeding. asn.au.
Local group information is available on 6689 9356. Please join us so that you too can enjoy the fact that mothering together we do better.
Ros Fleetwood
Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor


I recently wrote to Janelle Saffin, Carmel Tebbutt and Nicola Roxon asking for their assistance in keeping the Natural Birth Education & Research Centre open. This wonderful Birth Centre is located on Lindendale Road, Wollongbar (near Lismore) on the Far North Coast of New South Wales.
I am expecting my first child at the end of September this year, and I would love to have my baby there. It is such a tranquil caring environment with experienced midwives and doulas, and I know I would have a good birth experience there.
Using the Birth Centre would also stop me from clogging up the public hospital system. Lismore Base Hospital is my only other option, and Lismore Base is chronically under-funded and under-staffed. I have spent time in that hospital as a patient and I know the nurses were run off their feet. Luckily my family dropped in every day to feed me and look after me. I get nervous just thinking about having my baby there, dealing with constant staff shift changes, hospital bureaucracy, unnecessary interference and possible infections. I am not sick, I am simply pregnant. Why should I give birth in a place built for sick people? It makes no sense.
Women need more options for birthing, and it is a fact that your surroundings and your attending midwife influence your state of mind and therefore the process of your birth. Births attended by a doula in a comfortable environment tend to be quicker, easier and have fewer complications – saving the public purse in the long run.
At present the Birth Centre relies on donations and a meagre income from birthing classes and clients who birth there and use the post-natal recuperation rooms. This fantastic Birth Centre needs to be supported by the government, and it needs support NOW. It is very close to shutting down and I really want to have my baby there.
If other people feel strongly about this then please lobby our politicians. Together we will be heard.
Johanna Kempff

Champions champion
I read with interest Cr Clough’s letter in last week’s Echo (Apr 29) re Champions Quarry. It seems Cr Clough can’t focus on the big picture, just an ill informed assassination of Mr Champion.
 If he had read the Development Application he would know that, other than local deliveries, no Champions Quarry trucks will be using the Wyrallah Road/Ballina Road roundabout. His calculations indicate an annual quarry output of over 1 million tonnes instead of 250,000 tonnes.
Champions Quarry will pay whatever is considered a legal road levy, as will all quarries in Lismore City Council (LCC) area.
I thought Cr Clough stood as a Sustainable Future member at the last election. Champions Quarry is the only source of sand and sandstone needed for roads and the building industry in LCC area. Does Cr Clough think it is better for the environment to truck sand and sandstone material double and triple the distances from outside LCC area, creating much greater environmental impacts and road wear and paying no road levies to LCC?
Cr Clough has forgotten to mention LCC currently operates several large basalt quarries – two of them outside LCC area. Cr Clough has also forgotten to mention LCC received State Government approval last year for the expansion of Council’s Blakebrook basalt quarry from approximately 200,000 tonnes PA to 600,000 tonnes PA.
This all makes Champions Quarry look like a small local development compared to LCC’s quarry operations.
I think Cr Clough has a real conflict of interest when it comes to quarries. Maybe he should try to stick to basic issues such as roads. Maybe if he called for a Commission of Inquiry into LCC’s road construction methods he would be on a real winner.
T Hillbom
Lismore Heights

Out there

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking claims in a new documentary that intelligent alien life forms almost certainly exist, but warns that communicating with them could be “too risky”.
Hawking says that a visit by extraterrestrials to Earth might well be like Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas, “which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans”.
Certainly, the mathematical odds are in favour of the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, but I would disagree that we have anything to fear from any such visitors.
That is because to cover the mind boggling distances of interstellar, perhaps even inter-dimensional space, in order to get here, the visitors would need to be at a very high level on the evolutionary ladder.
They would need to be highly evolved in all aspects of consciousness.
If their moral, ethical intelligence did not match their technological intelligence, then any such life form would’ve destroyed itself long before they had any chance of visiting the far flung planets of the Universe.
In other words, their arrival here in itself would be the living proof of their intrinsic benevolence.
If anybody had any reason to think that an encounter between extraterrestrials and humans could be “too risky”, then it is the extraterrestrials.
They have probably been observing us for some time already.
They know about our values, our priorities, our ways.
They probably know that our global annual military spending tops $1.2 trillion, while over 24 000 children die every day around the world, one child every 3.6 seconds, from hunger and easily preventable diseases.
They probably also know that the first man who set foot on the Moon spoke of a “giant leap for mankind”, but at the same time the flag he raised there was not the flag of mankind, but the flag of just one of its many quarrelsome fragments.
If there is one thing mankind may be justified in fearing from an encounter with extraterrestrials, then it is nothing more, and nothing less, than Universal embarrassment.
Tom Koo

Boom or bust

Just a generation or two ago, with the post-war boom and healthy exports, Australians could usually expect to own their homes by mid-life, and set their offspring on a similar path. But this was in a capitalist system. A system of extraction of wealth for the obscenely wealthy, at the expense of the rest of society.
 When the boom took off, money was easily extracted. But that can’t last forever. The more difficult it becomes to extract money, the crueller the system becomes. More and more people drop below the poverty line, while the rich get more obscenely richer. That is capitalism.
 When globalised capitalism began to affect us, from the early 1970s onward, there were massive job losses in manufacturing, just for starters. Globalised capitalism enabled maximum exploitation of labour, and therefore maximum extraction of wealth, worldwide.
 We are now seeing the predictable outcome. The “most advanced” countries eg US, Europe, have been stripped of wealth. They are most vulnerable to “recession” , and need to borrow, mostly from China. At the moment, the U.S. continues to borrow from China to keep the economy from a disastrous collapse. China, for now, prefers to delude themselves that they need to keep other economies afloat or they’ll lose their highly profitable markets. They seem to be in denial of the reality that   capitalistic extraction is finite. That a “bust” will always follow a boom, that at some stage they’ll have to call in their loans which will be defaulted upon.
 We depend on exports to China, who depend on world markets which are being unrealistically sustained by China. We’re at the end of our boom. Our younger generations can no longer expect to own a home, or even afford rents. And things are about to get much, much worse.
 Thanks to capitalism. The system our so-called democratically elected leaders will blindly adhere to.
 But will we get an alternative?, not even in my dreams! And don’t worry about climate change ... let’s debate the price of cigarettes, eh?
Doug Burt

Moral back flip

Kevin Rudd’s total back flip on an ETS suggests that we are in fact living in a circus with all the flexibility of the contortionists of olde. Stripping over $2.5 billion of climate spending from forward estimates and shelving emissions trading until 2013 is an odd way of confronting “the greatest moral challenge of our time.” Don’t you think? So once again we are shown the finger by the government and the concerns of millions of Australians and billions across the world are shuffled into the files of the Church of Latter Day Do Nothing. Yet China, the EU, Japan and other countries are acting on climate change and investing large scale in the clean energy economy. Australia is being left behind in the development of the new economy based on clean technology and is destined to become a rust bucket economy.
M Mizzi

Poll driven
A friend of mine a number of years ago used to admire two opposing politicians, Jeff Kennett and Paul Keating. While he appreciated they were very different on the policy front, he viewed both men as leaders with conviction.
This week has shown our current Prime Minister does not fall into this category. How can a leader go from believing something is the “greatest moral challenge of our generation...and to delay would show cowardice”, to six months later doing a back flip on the issue!
Every person in the country is entitled to the answer of this question: Why is he not prepared to go to a double dissolution election on something he supposedly feels so strongly and passionately about?
This, added to him backing out of the mismanaged home insulation scheme, changing his policy on border control, (till the next election at least), shows the only thing Kevin Rudd seems to believe in, is the latest opinion poll on an issue.
Kevin Hogan
Nationals Candidate for Page

A question of space

Over the past 25 years I have staged solo exhibitions with several regional galleries and have a first-hand experience of dealing with them as a client. These experiences have revealed the Regional Gallery system to be surprisingly limited and poor at making sales.
Apart from providing me a space in which to exhibit, the Regional Gallery system showed no real interest in my art. On each occasion I took a number, I waited (sometimes for years), I exhibited, and then I took down my show – and that’s it. No interest was shown in who I was or what I was trying to express. No ongoing support or encouragement was offered by each gallery – just an empty space.
These experiences contrast sharply with my encounter of private galleries and dealers – some of whom are still showing an interest and providing marketing support to me years after exhibiting my work. I believe our Regional Gallery could provide a far better service. It could take an active and ongoing interest in the local artists with whom it deals and do far more to promote their presence within the community - particularly in a virtual sense.
In simple terms, I do not believe the current Regional Gallery system is good value for money.
If we are going to spend multiple millions on a new Regional Gallery, I believe it is reasonable for the local art community to expect a good return on such an investment. It is reasonable for local artists to expect a gallery management that is actively interested in its clients and offers more than the occasional empty space – a gallery that has a paypal enabled site and can market works like private galleries do.
If the Lismore community agrees to a new gallery, then some serious questions need to be asked about the level of service this gallery will offer to locals and how much it will reflect the culture of the region.
Will the new gallery be designed and built by local architects and trades people? Will the new gallery be managed by a member of the local art community? Will anyone from the local community find full-time employment or (like Norpa) will it be another cultural import?
Will this gallery be devoted primarily to local artists, or will it provide more space and funding to touring exhibitions from outside the region? Will a living local artist be promoted as heavily as a dead one from elsewhere? If the people who live and work in this area cannot have a direct say in the running of their own Regional Gallery, then who should? These are reasonable questions to ask at a time when our local council is poised once more to invest heavily in its own infrastructure.
The alternatives I have suggested are aimed at encouraging a stronger, more independent, ‘living’ art community throughout this region. They are aimed at supporting this region’s reputation as a place of alternate culture as well as the local people who helped create it. Rather than excluding these people from the decision-making process; I am hopeful this council can show greater faith in its own community and capitalise on the sort of thinking that goes on ‘outside’ of the box.
Before we build the Regional Gallery a very expensive box of its own, perhaps it is timely we review the system itself and how much it will grow the ‘region’ as opposed to our local council.
R J Poole

Not rated

Reasons why I don’t support a SRV. As the only Councillor opposing the Special Rate Variation (SRV) I would like to explain the reasons why I voted against Ballina Shire Council’s (BSC) decision to apply for a 4.8% SRV for each of the next 5 years. The SVR, if approved by the State Government, will provide BSC with an additional $546 000 for the 2010/11 financial year. I support the funding of the proposed works program, but believe that they should be funded through existing Council resources.
 1. BSC has over $11 million in a Land Development/ Commercial Opportunities Reserve. Most of this money has been set aside for unnecessary and risky commercial property projects. I am not in favour of Council spending millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money on these sorts of projects.
2. Council also has acquired an extensive portfolio of commercial property over the years (at the expense of investing these millions into community infrastructure and services).
3. Council is about to sell off at least seven large industrial blocks in the Southern Cross Industrial Area.
4. Part of the requirements for a successful application for a SRV is to seek the community’s support (Council made a decision to apply for the SRV in January without any community consultation).
5. BSC also needs to demonstrate that it has looked at other funding options. Clearly Council could redirect some of the ratepayers’ money that has been allocated to speculative property development and use some of this money to fund infrastructure and services.
6. I do not support the notion that conversion of commercial property capital to infrastructure provides only one off benefits. Infrastructure funding represents long term community investment to the benefit of current and future generations.
7. In a recent report to Council (Draft Delivery Program, p. 13) local Councils were compared in terms of their ability to meet current financial obligations. Ballina scored a 3.95. Other local Councils were rated 1.93 (Byron), 2.04 (Lismore) and 2.38 (Tweed). A score of 1.5 - 2 was categorised as satisfactory and “shows that a Council has sufficient liquid assets to meet its short-term commitments”. A score of 2 or greater was generally regarded as good. The average for Councils of similar size to Ballina (Group 4 Councils) was 2.31. In other words BSC has sufficient funds and does not need to apply for a SRV to fund its budget.
8. If BSC allocated rate payers money towards community infrastructure and services instead of commercial property development we would have a budget in surplus and funding for all the programs listed in the ’can only be funded through a SRV’ table. I intend to continue pushing for an increase in community infrastructure and services instead of investing rate payers’ money into speculative commercial property development. These are the reasons why I don’t and will not support the SRV.
Cr Jeff Johnson
Lennox Head

Scottish week

For Scottish Week in Sydney at the end of June this year, the Clan Chief Donald MacLaren of MacLaren, the MacLarens chief, will be attending the events. I would like this opportunity to welcome any of the MacLaren, MacLaurin and descendants to get in contact with me. Even if it’s not possible, by distance, to attend any of the events in Sydney, I would still be extremely pleased to hear from any descendants, particularly if they had any family tree information to collate a history of our Clan for the archives. There are quite a few surnames that are linked to the MacLaren Clan, I would be very happy to hear from any persons with any of these surnames: Faed, Lair, Larnach, Laurence, Laurensen, Laurie, Law, Lawrence, Lawson, Low, Lowrie, Lowson, MacFade, MacClarence, MacCrorie, MacFait, MacFater, MacFead, MacFeat, MacGrory, MacLeran, MacPatrick, MacPetrie, MacPhait, MacPhater, MacRorie, Pat(t)erson, Patrick, Peterkin, Peters, Rorie, Rorison.
I would be extremely grateful if you would publish my plea for information, we are trying to build up a huge database with all the family lines to keep for history and also to contact a great many long lost relatives, there are many thousands of MacLarens and descendants in Australia and it would be great to hopefully get together and meet the Chief during his visit and collate the Clan’s History.
Any Information, please send to trevor@ australianscottishheritage or visit www.scottishaustralianheritage.com
Trevor Smurthwaite

Extraordinary result

Lismore City Council’s Extraordinary Meeting on April 20: I have taken a lot of time to consider the 6-5 vote to make sure the Council does not spend ‘any extra’ money on roads OR the environment in the next year or two!
The way the 6:5 vote occurred (with a small group of elderly ratepayers cheering from the gallery) was reminiscent of the actions of the notorious conservative ‘Six Pack’ that almost-rued the LCC in the late 1990s and early 2000s period; it’s a disgrace to see that we have turned back the clock AND continue to ignore our once-beautiful river!
The six councillors who voted to stay conservative failed to address what one public speaker stated is the escalating debt that LCC has incurred in recent years (rising from $15 million to $35 or more million), they relied upon a non-representative sampling of largely older males – the only people (less than 1% of Lismore ratepayers) who usually go to LCC Public Consultations at the villages. Very sad that no councillor or Mayor had undertaken a representative phone survey of (say) 500 Lismore citizens!
Above and beyond all that, there exists no vision in the current Council; they are all apparently obsessed with and within the current political time span, meaning 3-4 years ahead maximum. There exists in Council with its present makeup no vision statement that gets adhered to, and still no incorporation of The Sustainable Time span’ concept, (12-15 Year plans), as advised to Council’s committees in years past. Little wonder that it is widely said (in the community and on the streets of Lismore) that the current Council is failing the city and the majority of residents – at the expense of the once great river, only to support a minority of wealthy-rich (greedy?) businessmen, and a few others!
Joe A Friend



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