What a vote gets us
WHAT have I got for my vote? A government that warded off the worst of the financial crisis. One that has introduced a major measure to assist those with disabilities. One with the stupidity to pre-select the beleaguered member for Dobell. And to give more aid to Afghanistan, perhaps the most corrupt government on earth.
And for an opposition? A carping Christopher Pyne, and an Opposition Leader whose vocabulary is limited to "No". I wish Tony Abbott would stop doing photo opportunities and enunciate one policy so I can understand what he stands for.
Malcolm Turnbull is the only one in Parliament worthy of the title of prime minister. Will he have the ticker that Peter Costello lacked?
Dick Stratford, Portarlington
AUSTRALIANS should be ashamed of the political and social climate. Whatever the allegations hurled at Mr Thomson, there can be no excuse for the manner in which he has been persecuted by elements of the media and the opposition.
The fault lies with Tony Abbott, who shows nothing but negativity and contempt for democracy. At what stage did he reserve Mr Thomson the right to the presumption of innocence? Mr Abbott is likely to become our next prime minister with the expected annihilation of the ALP at the election. This is a man who says no to social equality. Voters should exercise extreme caution, and consider what it is they are choosing and whose rights they are voting away.
Johanna Allerton, Armadale
A sorry state
IN THE Red Queen's wonderland, all things are possible. An innocent man doesn't go to the police when he has been criminally set up but denies the accusations for years, avoids the police and then abuses parliamentary privilege to accuse individuals of serious crimes everybody else is to blame, most of all Tony Abbott.
It is just another attempt by this government to muddy the waters and dump its foul behaviour on the opposition. Sweeteners ensure the continued service of the crossbenchers. They ponder and declaim but she knows their price and will pay it. What a sorry state we are in.
Brian Meadows, Ballan
THE real problem with transport safety in this city is poor urban planning. Like Cr Ong, I was once nearly run over by a cyclist ("What's the rush? Planner demands cyclist speed limit", The Age, 19/5). However, I would be embarrassed to propose regulations using data collected from one incident. Is it fanciful to expect a process of study and consultation before a planner suggests legislation?
As a motorist I see many of the dangers on our roads being caused by bad residential and transport planning. Cyclists are a visible target for motorists who are frustrated with commuting and traffic. The aspects of Melbourne that make it liveable are the legacies of previous generations. This will continue to be the case with Ted Baillieu's cuts to cycling infrastructure.
Visiting cycle-friendlier cities has radically shaped my understanding of what is possible. Many international studies highlight the results of good urban transport planning: more cyclists on the road leads to fewer accidents, quicker commuting times and lower public health spending. But perhaps focusing on marginal issues distracts from ignorance as to what good planning actually entails?
Terry Donnelly, Fitzroy
THE Baillieu government brushed aside warnings about the impact of TAFE funding cuts as "premature". Reality has now dawned for the Ballarat community. Fifty University of Ballarat TAFE programs will be lost, along with 30 per cent (nearly 2500) of all TAFE students. Programs delivered by the UB Arts Academy will be a tragic loss, with all TAFE arts courses bar one listed to cease. These art courses date back 150 years to the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute and School of Mines and Industries Ballarat.
The second-oldest art school in Australia is about to be dismantled in a matter of months. These courses are part of Ballarat's live cultural fabric.
The loss of TAFE music, live production, visual arts and ceramics programs will badly affect our vibrant arts industries students in Ballarat and Horsham will now have no access to TAFE arts training pathways.
A private registered training organisation is unlikely to offer "contestable" alternatives at certificate and diploma level. More than a century of institutional and industry expertise will be lost. Is it ever "too late" to reverse cuts that have already gone too far?
Professor Barry Golding, University of Ballarat
Feed nation first
PETER Walsh, the Agriculture Minister, wants to double farm production by 2030 (The Age, 21/5). But state and federal governments have both cut the staff and budget to support farmers.
There's also no funding for research into ecologically sustainable food production, just when oil, phosphates, land and water are becoming more scarce, expensive and foreign controlled. We need to move from industrial farming's dependence on these diminishing resources.
Mr Walsh's focus on growing bulk commodities for export is dated and dangerous. His first priority should be the fresh, nutritious fruits, vegetables and grains that keep our community healthy and well nourished. Already more than half the fresh produce sold here is grown overseas. Who knows where and in what conditions?
Grand schemes to back the fiction of "feeding the world" with public resources while we are not even feeding ourselves are unacceptable. A new vision should give top priority to our food security and sovereignty by supporting family farmers and rural communities.
Bob Phelps, Gene Ethics, Carlton
A lifelong pursuit
ANOTHER episode of The Voice, another singing lesson spent persuading my young students to abandon what they've learnt from the show that musical mastery is an innate "gift", fully formed and ready for reinforcement with empty superlatives, with no personal growth required.
Expecting more than ratings-driven entertainment from The Voice may be naive, but its lack of musically literate feedback, coupled with an emphasis on competition, fails to teach enthusiastic young singers that musical mastery is a lifelong pursuit richer and infinitely more challenging than simply "feeling what you sing" or "connecting" with the audience.
Many colleagues have noticed a shift in attitudes of students, who seem unconvinced of the value of practice in this era of the "instant star". The misconception that "you've either got 'it' or you don't" pervades. Even our prestigious tertiary music institutions are under pressure to abandon their emphasis on mastery in favour of the business model of education.
Is this phenomenon a by-product of our collective urge for instant gratification? Has individualism the urge to find our own "voice" come at the expense of true mastery?
Tom Barton, Brunswick
Why shop locally?
CONSUMERS do need to be reminded to "shop locally" ("Shop wars are a dirty business", Forum, 19/5). Retailers are regularly asked to "sponsor" kids' football/netball teams for uniforms and sporting equipment. They "donate" to local charities but never see the representative in their shop again.
Local shops are not corporations making big profits they are local people employing local people, trying to make a living in a tough environment.
If they are not supported they will disappear, adding to the unemployment statistics. Then try asking Amazon for your next "donation" for your local school or kindergarten, or whether they will have your child for "work experience".
And when the item you have bought online needs repairing or doesn't meet expectations, don't expect sympathy from your local retailer - I'm sure that's what makes them "smile".
Judy Orchard, Traralgon
I HAVE paid my taxes over a 50-year working life, while the people of Greece too often haven't. Greek politicians fudged the nation's accounts to get into the eurozone and the euro bankers knew this but turned a blind eye. Now, the euro debt crisis has wiped $110 billion off our sharemarket and proportionately off my superannuation funds.
Am I misunderstanding the "efficiency" of the global financial system?
Brian Thorpe, Northcote
THE hand-wringing over the crisis in Europe and the loss of share value is understandable. The unfolding famine in Africa should help put our problems into perspective, however. Sadly it isn't it barely registers on our collective radar. We should hang our heads in shame.
Jane Edwards, Peterhead, SA