Pity the vulnerable
Pity the vulnerablePLANNING Minister Matthew Guy has given Woolworths permission to build a retail complex with residential towers in North Melbourne ("Towers win Guy approval", The Age, 1/8). However, the notice of intention to grant a permit contains something much more concerning than just an extremely ugly high-rise development.He has granted a 7am-to-11pm packaged liquor licence, even though other traders in the area have more restricted hours.This licence to trade booze will operate opposite the city's poorest housing block less than 100 metres from where the sandwich van feeds homeless people, many of whom have alcohol issues and within spitting distance of men's hostels and rehabilitation centres.Residents have worked successfully for years with traders, community groups, the City of Melbourne and Liquor Licensing to restrict the sale of alcohol in a neighbourhood with a large number of vulnerable residents. At what point does the government stop talking about alcohol issues and start doing something?Peter Topping, North MelbourneUncivil societyTHE Age is to be commended for again highlighting the issues of gambling/problem gambling in Victoria and especially in those suburbs with the largest groups of low-income earners and welfare recipients ("Pokies hit city's poorest", 1/8). The high rate of losses in Greater Dandenong is made more dramatic when you realise that in neighbouring Casey and Monash local government areas, the losses are also very much higher than the state average for an LGA.Victoria can no longer be regarded as a civil society when we allow this exploitation of the poor to continue. We urgently need gambling reform - and particularly reform of the pokies sector, from which the bulk of the losses come.Graham Reynolds, MitchamDisconnected from our local areaI DISAGREE wholeheartedly with Elizabeth Proust ("Policies for a better future in Victoria", Comment, 1/8). One of the worst actions of the Kennett government was the amalgamation of councils. The reduction in rates resulted in the deterioration of services the parks in Stonnington, for example, were almost destroyed. Some public areas in Melbourne now look like they belong in a developing country. Many residents no longer feel a connection with their local council, and few can even name their councillors or mayor.I have lived in Brisbane and have experienced its lack of local facilities public swimming pools, tennis clubs and libraries. I am convinced it is caused by a lack of local interest and input. Citizens are disconnected from their local area. It's already happened here. Don't make it worse.Margery Renwick, BrightonPurely ceremonialSO STEVE Bracks thinks Victoria will be the platform for Labor to rebuild its stocks nationally ("Hawke in flight speaks volumes for book", The Age, 1/8). Such optimism in the face of the 1500 Victorian branch members who failed to renew their membership this year, following on from the 2000 who left last year.The incentives for members to abandon the ALP are there for all to see. Preselections are decided not by democratic local contests but by centrally orchestrated deals between factional organisers. This process, now on display in Scullin to replace Harry Jenkins, is dominated by union bloc votes and heavy stacking of the diminishing numbers of branch members.Bracks, John Faulkner and Bob Carr presented modest proposals for reform at the national conference in December. They were elbowed aside by the same controlling factional interests at national level. This included a proposal that the three presidential members of the national executive be permitted to vote in executive meetings. Not allowed.As a consequence, the three senior offices, and the only ones elected by direct rank and file ballot of members, are reduced to ceremonial roles. Emblematic of the role assigned to ALP members as a whole, really.Ian Hundley, Balwyn NorthTwo-way streetSID Morris (Letters, 1/8) says Australians need a leader who can "sell" his/her achievements. While I agree communication hasn't been Labor's strong suit, I don't accept it is a one-way street. Australians need to accept responsibility for our political ignorance, too we can't just sit around to be spoon-fed.Julia Gillard is acknowledged as a brilliant negotiator, a fair-minded and collaborative operator, and a forward-looking pragmatist.What Australians don't need are mere show-pony leaders, ones who are willing to pose beneath offensive signs and don high-vis vests, but who are bereft of the skills required to keep the country functioning.George Petrides, BelgraveEconomic, not just moral, imperativeTHE National Disability Insurance Scheme is not just a "moral imperative", and it is not about "welfare" ("States snookered by spin", Comment, 31/7). It is an economic imperative Australia is one of the worst countries for employment participation and bottom for poverty outcomes for those with a disability.If Australia can improve its position to just the OECD average then the scheme will pay for itself in the longer run. Add shrinking informal care and the inefficiencies of the current system and it is economic madness not to fix this. Add human rights and it is slam dunk on all counts.Tim Colebatch is correct that spin and politicking could sink or distort outcomes, which is why Canberra must legislate for an agency to run the scheme, out of the hands of COAG.He says the process started in 2008, with people getting "the ear" of Bill Shorten. Putting it this way points to lobbyists pushing a barrow. For my family, it started in 1997 with the birth of my daughter. For some, it started 60 years ago or more.Elizabeth Manning, HightonGrowth is abnormalIRRESPONSIBLE levels of population growth, encouraged by state governments, have resulted in increasing difficulties for residents, particularly in the outer suburbs ("Northern growth corridor residents driven to despair", The Age, 1/8). It is negligent in the extreme to send people to the outskirts where infrastructure is inadequate. There has clearly been a lack of foresight as to how the city can continue to function with never-ending growth.It is a no-brainer that transport infrastructure and services such as kindergartens are required before people move in to an area. If the necessities are not put in place first, the people of Melbourne will be living in a constant state of deficit of those elements that make a reasonable urban life possible. According to demographer Graeme Hugo, Australia's annual rate of population growth is more than three times the average of advanced countries. It is time our politicians and planners stopped treating this as normal.Mark O'Connor, Lyneham, ACTLocals cry for helpOUR Facebook campaign "Extend the rail line to Mernda" has attracted so many followers because our leaders have failed to cater for the massive growth they allowed in South Morang, Mernda and Doreen over the better part of a decadeIt is a cry for help from an area that has paid millions in stamp duty fees, yet has seen precious little returned in regard to basic, essential infrastructure.Rather than reinstating the former Whittlesea railway line to Mernda, the former government stopped extension seven kilometres short at South Morang, leaving many thousands with no alternative each day but to sit idling in congestion.A petition with 5185 signatures calling for the line to be extended to Mernda was tabled last month. The line must be extended before another 20,000 residents move in by 2016.Darren Peters, South Morang and Mernda Rail Alliance, DoreenA war that the US must fightTHE US might be fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it hasn't started to fight the real war to make America a safer place for Americans. Following the latest shooting rampage in Colorado, it has been reported that up to 100 Americans a day die because of gun misuse. American politicians need to show courage and be prepared to fight to protect their citizens. Sadly, it is a war US politicians seem too afraid to take on. That fight is against the American gun lobby, namely, the insidious National Rifle Association.Could you imagine the outcry if a terrorist group such as al-Qaeda or the Taliban were responsible for the deaths of so many innocent Americans every day of the year?It's time Barack Obama or his challenger, Mitt Romney, showed some courage and made a commitment to disarm the country. This is a war that needs to be fought and won.Laurie Levy, South Melbourne
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