Proof is paramount

Proof is paramount

YES, it would be terrible were our Speaker to be guilty of sexual harassment and misuse of his privileges ("New crisis engulfs Labor", The Age, 23/4). It would also be terrible if he were being targeted the way then prime minister Kevin Rudd was by Godwin Grech, or Justice Kirby by Senator Heffernan. These two cases were not based on anything resembling fact. But plenty of people fell for them because they wanted them to be true.

Innuendo is an insidious thing, and often plays on unstated prejudice for its full effect. The allegation may be true, or it may have surfaced because the opposition badly wants an election before the government's stocks improve.

Luckily, we live by the rule of law in this country. We don't punish without proof. It is time everyone remembered this.

Judy Crozier, Preston

Egg on Libs' face

PETER Slipper may well be a slight embarrassment to the government. But he seemed to have been doing the job of Speaker quite well. Surely he is more of an embarrassment to the people of Fisher, who have continued to elect him for the past 20 years as well as the Nationals and Liberals, who have been preselecting him for 20 years.

John Tait, Airport West

Test of integrity

WHILE the media focus is on Peter Slipper being a test of the government and its response, it throws into sharp relief the position of the independents. It will be a test of their integrity. None more so than for Andrew Wilkie, a politician who pursues a cause, has a consistency and integrity about him and has seen agreements with Julia Gillard amount to nothing. How will he want to be remembered in respect to his position regarding the Thomson affair, the Fair Work charade and now the speaker?

If there was a prize at the annual New England country fair for fence sitting, Tony Windsor would surely take the cake based on his innocuous responses in recent radio interviews.

Michael Potter, Melbourne

Taxpayers exposed

THE Catholic Church in Australia provides services on behalf of government to millions of our most needy and vulnerable citizens. It runs hospitals, schools, employment agencies, childcare, aged care, counselling services and more. And yet it operates without legal status other than a property trust ("Push to widen sex abuse inquiry", The Age, 23/4).

For this it receives billions of taxpayer funds, and yet it pays no taxes or rates and remains ultimately unaccountable as it cannot be sued. Its long record on child abuse and its aftermath in adult life is a siren call. It is time for government to protect all citizens from this gaping legal and moral exposure by removing the Catholic Church as its major provider of social services and instead ensure government-funded services are only provided by nurses, teachers, counsellors and so on, employed by and accountable to us taxpayers.

Jenny Warfe, Dromana

Sure, let's follow Singapore model

DEVELOPED Asian economies such as Singapore do not share Joe Hockey's enthusiasm for "You're on your own" social policy. Singapore is the Asian model for economic management, and its government-managed Central Provident Fund collects a levy on payrolls and wages ranging up to a combined 36 per cent to fund disability and retirement incomes.

Singapore's CPF not only provides pensions: it is a massive investor in Singaporean infrastructure, which is why, for example, Singapore could build an entire metro system while Melbourne struggled to even start work on a three-kilometre extension of the Epping line to South Morang. Fund contributions are not recorded as taxes, which is why Singapore can claim to be a low-tax economy but they are deductions from income all the same.

John Legge, Surrey Hills

Ratios are pitiful

VICTORIANS would no doubt have been as appalled as I was on reading in an April seniors magazine that one staff member had been on duty overnight to care for 50 aged residents in a residential facility.

Such a ratio is not surprising, however, given the paucity of the legislation regarding staffing requirements approximately 4 lines in the 379-page Aged Care Act (1997). And although aged care received a brief appearance on the front pages this weekend, the quality of care is unlikely to change dramatically while providers and the Productivity Commission view ratios as unnecessary and a "blunt instrument".

This is astounding, given that a recent report commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing found the system to be lacking with regard to the delivery of high-quality residential care for dementia sufferers, with "1600 new cases being diagnosed every week and [its prevalence] likely to double over the next 20 years."

While providers have licence to employ minimal numbers of registered nurses and a majority of minimally trained personal care workers at such pitiful ratios to residents it is little wonder that the prospect of entering residential aged care is viewed so negatively.

Glenda Addicott, East Ringwood

State's food security must come first

DATA from the 2007 Community Indicators Victoria Survey showed that about 10,500 Moreland residents (7.8 per cent) ran out of food in the previous 12 months, substantially higher than the Victorian average (6 per cent). About 7 per cent of residents in the City of Casey were food insecure.

In 2008, food imports briefly exceeded exports in Victoria. Besides land degradation, climate change, high fuel costs, and the vicissitudes of droughts and floods, high food production areas are also under threat from urban sprawl and coal seam gas mining.

If current urban growth continues, by 2021 Melbourne will have lost another 25,000 hectares to urban development.

Before Premier Ted Baillieu assumes Victoria's food-producing excess will supply "3 billion customers" in Asia by 2030, he should first ensure food security for Victorians ("Farmers told to ready for growing Asia food boom", The Saturday Age, 21/4).

Vivienne Ortega, Heidelberg Heights

A local connection

ELWOOD College, and other public schools, are not second rate (Letters, 23/4). Parents these days are seduced by superficials, much like our reality TV, sound bite-driven culture. Glossy advertising, "facilities" and extracurricular programs feed into the obsession of "scores" to enter university. Life, however, is so much bigger and more complex than that, and kids need skills to deal with a range of challenges.

Research indicates that kids will do well regardless of where they are educated, as long as they have a supportive home environment. It also suggests kids do well when they can walk to school, ending up being better connected to their community. Public schools, in my experience, equip kids with real life skills that those closeted away in private schools don't necessarily receive.

John Richardson, Elwood

All musos borrow

ANSON Cameron highlights an important truth of modern music ("To quote B.B. King: I don't think anybody steals, all of us borrow", theage.com.au, 22/4) in suggesting "all musos" learn from history. It is common to hear rhythmic or melodic patterns in popular songs that can be linked to those in other compositions. Green Day's poignant 2004 hit Boulevard of Broken Dreams contains the same chord progression as Oasis' Wonderwall, as well as musical ideas from Dream On by Aerosmith. Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher weighed in on the debate, saying: "They should have the decency to wait until I'm dead [before stealing my songs]. I, at least, pay the people I steal from that courtesy." Gallagher's comment suggests many artists borrow from and elaborate on the ideas of those before them, and that this has been happening for decades, maybe even centuries.

Alexander Darling, Hampton

Carers are cared for

SUE Goff (Letters, 14/4) inferred she was not admitted free to Sovereign Hill with her carer's card. The Victorian government recently introduced the Carer Card program, which offers a range of discounts to carers. Like many other public and private tourism organisations, we offer a substantial discount to patrons with this card, as we do to health care card holders, pensioners, returned service persons, and people with special needs and families, to name a few. Patrons with a government-issued Companion Card receive free entry.

Richard Berman-Hardman, director, commercial operations, Sovereign Hill

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