Workers wanted

Workers wanted

to help sick kids

LEND Lease's decision to ban workers on its sites the joy of displaying flags to indicate how much money they raised for the Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal (The Saturday Age, 6-7/4) was discouraging and disloyal. These workers contributed out of compassion, gratitude and the knowledge that our world-class hospital is there for our kids and those from other nations. We should be very proud of them and everyone who donated to the appeal.

Lyn Uthe, Port Fairy

The secret pact

ANNE-MARIE Scully objects to the US marines arriving in Darwin "toting guns" (Letters, 6-7/4). But that is the standard tool of their trade. The more appropriate question is whether the marines should have come to Australia. Has there been a public debate around that question? Or is this merely a product of a political "mating" ritual between the political leaders of the two countries?

Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, NSW

Respect our allies

JOHN McCredie says "the best we can hope for is that too much goodwill won't be lost the first time the US invokes its status of forces agreement to protect one of their marines from criminal prosecution here" (Letters, 6-7/4). This is scaremongering. There is no evidence to suggest that the behaviour of the US military will be any different to that of our own military, or to that of the general population. Regardless of whether you support the idea of foreign troops stationed in Australia, our allies deserve more respect.

Robert Lang, Toorak

Coincidence or bias?

RAYMOND Gill writes about the popularity of the Archibald Prize (Life & Style, 6-7/4). Each year 800 to 1000 artists submit their works for the competition, with 30 to 40 finalists selected. Any critic would agree that the 11 trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales who judge the portraits are, in Mr Gill's words, "non-arts-wankers". So how is it that each year, many of the finalists come from Australia's top 100 practising artists? Also, often the majority of finalists are New South Wales artists.

Dare I suggest that the trustees are promoting our most successful artists, rather than encouraging new and emerging ones. Are the trustees worthy of judging such a prestigious competition? And are the vast number of hopeful artists wasting their time and money if they submit works?

Jeffrey Kelson, Prahran

Pride in uniqueness

VINCE Fitzgerald seems to have forgotten how superannuation works "Super unfair, says its creator" (The Saturday Age, 6-7/4). His argument that it has become inequitable partly lies on a statement that the average worker has "9 per cent taken out whether they like it or not". This is not the case. Superannuation is in addition to the wage, rather than being subtracted from it.

It worries me that Australia seems to be trying to compare itself with the rest of the world. Do not. We are unique. About the only country you can set up as being comparable is Canada. It also has universal health care, good wages and a system similar to superannuation. We do not want to become like the United States. That would be a regression. Americans do not enjoy the three points mentioned here. It is in a sad state of affairs.

Aaron Lenzing, Frankston (temporarily living in the US)

Uncalled-for attacks

HOW disappointing that two older women who are valued for their achievements should choose to be critical of our Prime Minister on the grounds of her dress sense, especially when wearing frumpy frocks themselves. Germaine Greer (on ABC TV's Q&A last month) and now Miriam Margolyes (Life & Style, 6/4) do themselves a disservice in joining in this vicious, senseless media attack which is irrelevant to Julia Gillard's performance.

Doris LeRoy, Altona

A grubby joke

AS A former detective, I know what is involved in an investigation like the one conducted by Fair Work Australia into the Health Services Union. It is not a three-year investigation. That a statutory body spent that amount of time is bad enough. That they forwarded a pile of papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions and refuse to co-operate with state police is another. That the general manager, Bernadette O'Neill, says she will not hand material to a Senate committee and needs four to six weeks to "review" the findings is beyond a farce.

This is starting to look like a case of serious misconduct within Fair Work Australia. One can only conclude there are political motives at play. The Senate must demand answers from what is looking more grubby by the day.

Douglas Potter, Surrey Hills

Truth of the big sell

I WISH to contradict a Council on the Ageing report that, at 31 meetings held by Minister for Ageing Mark Butler around Australia, "usually one or two people . . . expressed concern at having to sell their principal residence (to meet nursing home bonds), but this concern was not generally picked up and supported by the majority of the audience" (The Saturday Age, 6-7/4). I attended several meetings. I, and others, were applauded when we expressed opposition to selling homes for any care. I asked Mr Butler whether he knew of any other health area in the world where mortgaging or selling the home was a prerequisite for receiving care. He did not.

Currently many people have to sell their homes to pay an accommodation bond for low-level care. The Howard government tried to introduce bonds for high-level care, but was unsuccessful because of public opposition. There will be disappointment and anger if the Labor government introduces such legislation.

Shirley Bains, Blaxland, NSW

Learning by doing

"NO CANE, no gain in the behaviour of students" (The Saturday Age, 6-7/4) is another reminder that education is failing our children. Witness the constant refrain that academic standards are in decline and cyber bullying is rampant. There is also ample evidence in social phenomena such as hoon driving, road rage and binge drinking.

The primary-school curriculum needs to be changed. Currently there is an emphasis on academic learning, as represented by the teaching and testing of literacy and numeracy. However, physical, emotional, social and aesthetic learning are equally important. Learning occurs most successfully when children are involved in an integrated curriculum, replete with movement, music, spoken language and self-expression. They learn by doing and discovering, rather than by sitting and being taught.

Tim Mirabella, Somerville

Visionary approach

BY "REAL economic leadership" (The Saturday Age, 6-7/4), your editorial means leadership in more sustainable development. Business in Victoria is under pressure because it and governments fail to recognise the opportunity to transform our economy in ways that will serve the needs of future generations. Australia needs leaders who can respond to the world's need for more sustainable consumption, creating a vibrant economy where investment in technology, education, science and high-tech services will ensure quality of life in Australia and around the globe.

Our two-speed economy is evidence that while mining is important, it does not contribute to our long-term development. We need long-term visionaries and champions for a more responsible and sustainable approach to capitalism. Ted, come in from the dark and lead.

Rowan Dowland, Wonga Park

A global issue

IT WAS with great sadness that I read about the failure of the judiciary in Aceh to protect an invaluable, carbon-rich peat forest that has been illegally logged by a palm oil company (World, 4/4).

This spells the end for the orang-utan in Sumatra. Individuals and governments must acknowledge that such issues are global ones. Indonesians are not the only ones who will face the effects from the total destruction of its forests. The consequences of environmental destruction do not acknowledge national boundaries. It is time to put the environment above all else.

Mignonne Rawson, Paddington

Small things matter

IT IS amazing how much we could all do to save animals and habitats from destruction. By taking a few minutes to read the ingredients listed on products before we buy them, and choosing those that are palm-oil free, we will lessen the impact on orang-utans and other threatened wildlife.

Janine Clipstone, Glenelg East, SA

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