Experts' blind spot

Experts' blind spot

NOW listen here, Greg Baum (" 'Now, listen here, luv' when words become weapons", Comment, 15/10). Forget your Michelles, your Lenores and all the other "politics" writers. Sometimes it just takes a "sports" writer. Even though you do not follow the Cats, my regard for your journalism grows and grows. I am back in Geelong after my mother's funeral in Brisbane last Friday where my eulogy focused on her "feisty-ness", even at 87, the age she died.

When I read your piece I thought of her years as a migrant, working-class woman, being called "Luv"in the tone you described. My reaction to the speech was like yours. After reading much of the reporting of the speech, I was taken by the irony that so many commentators who had accused the Prime Minister of having a tin ear had demonstrated not only a tin ear, but a blind spot to the visual power of her speech.

And then along comes your piece to show how it should be done. Thank you. More strength to your pen, or keyboard.

Boris Crassini, Highton

Life-denying burqa

ANSON Cameron experienced a sense of insult from his encounter with a burqa-clad woman ("How the burqa is wiping the smiles off our faces", Life & Style, 13/10). In response, Susie Latham defends burqa-wearing as a matter of freedom of choice (Letters, 15/10).

But it is, more importantly, a symbol of a set of fundamentalist beliefs, many of which are alien to our Western way of thinking and incompatible with the way of life we value. It is this that makes many of us uneasy.

Moreover, the burqa, whether chosen or imposed, is not life-affirming it is life-denying. Those women who "protect" themselves from the "lechery" of men's eyes may well feel happy with their circumscribed lives, and safe and content inside their black tents. But they are missing out on so many of the natural pleasures of living: a sense of being in tune with the seasons, for example, feeling the breeze on one's face or the first warmth of the sun on one's skin in springtime, or the joy of swimming in the sea in summer. Their menfolk can enjoy these things they cannot.

Let us enjoy trees, flowers and happy faces in our parks, not the black spectres of a negative and intrusive ideology.

Vivienne Player, Beaumaris

Hopes for 'clean coal' are irrational

IT IS perplexing that the state Energy Minister labels opposition to brown coal exports as "irrational" ("Report questions brown coal plan", The Age, 15/10).

What's irrational is believing in a technology that doesn't exist for example Michael O'Brien's fantastical "clean-coal" technology that he keeps going on about. If the government wanted to develop a rational energy policy it would stop encouraging the development of the world's dirtiest fuel, and instead start supporting our wind and solar industries, instead of constantly sabotaging them.

Wind and solar power exist, and are far cleaner than any "clean-coal" technology that may be invented in a few decades. If Mr O'Brien were rational, rather than fixated on 19th-century fuel sources, he would repeal his anti-wind laws, reverse the cuts to the solar feed-in tariff and keep the coal in the ground where it belongs.

Pablo Brait, Richmond

Premier is correct

MUCH as it goes against the grain I find myself agreeing with Premier Ted Baillieu regarding Geoff Shaw's alleged misuse of his parliamentary vehicle.

The Premier, in seeking to refer the allegations against the member for Frankston to the parliamentary privileges committee, is following due process. The office of the ombudsman is not a court of law. It is an investigatory office entitled to make findings and recommendations.

If Mr Shaw is found guilty of misappropriating taxpayer funds, consequences will follow. One may be that the matter is referred to the police. He may be charged. He may be found guilty. He may suffer a punishment that would disqualify him from sitting in Parliament.

Like Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper and any other citizen, Mr Shaw is entitled to due process. The consequences for the individual are too serious for these issues to be adjudicated in the court of public opinion.

Ken Rivett, Ferntree Gully

Bad apples protected

HENK Verhoeven (Letters, 15/10), I'm sure Linda Domaschenz doesn't seek to tar everyone involved in the Catholic Church with the same brush. Like many raised in the Catholic education system, I truly despair for the vast majority of priests, brothers and lay people who devote their lives to enrich others that they are so betrayed by their organisation.

And I agree there are rotten apples in every organisation. However, other organisations don't irrationally deny the existence of the rotten apple, nor do they systematically protect it, and constantly move it to other barrels to damage those apples as well.

John Strahan, Cheltenham

Shameful state

OF COURSE it's a disgrace that taxpayers fund Methodist Ladies College and its ilk (Comment, 15/10). The greatest shame is that so many private schools are based on religious philosophies of fairness yet simply exaggerate inequality in society.

How can parents of students attending rich schools who profess beliefs of social justice hold their heads high when their choice of education for their children is based on nothing less than entrenching privilege at the expense of others?

It is the state's responsibility to provide equality of education for all its citizens. The MLC farce is just more evidence of the weakness of our politicians who fear the power of private schools. Australia is the poorer, although the clients of such schools will undoubtedly graduate richer than most.

Peter Robertson, Coburg

Diversity holds key

KEVIN Pope is on the money ("Principal hits out at 'useless testing' ", The Age, 15/10). Having taught for 35 years in primary, secondary and tertiary education, and in government and private schools, I know that assessment is a highly complex process. Yet we are asked to believe that NAPLAN can tell parents how their children are performing, empower teachers to plan learning programs, enable policymakers to judge school performance and compare school systems.

More importantly, teaching to the test takes all the joy out of learning, stifling the potential of children as dynamic, creative learners. The Scandinavian countries that are universally acknowledged as world leaders in education shun regimes like NAPLAN.

The overwhelming evidence from history in all spheres of life is that diversity, not uniformity, produces strength and sustainability over the long term. Teachers need to be responsible for assessment for they know their students best.

Bryan Long, Balwyn

High-speed trading hits small investors

MILLIONS of Australians hold shares through their superannuation, and their retirement income depends on the value of those shares. I, for one, do not want the value of my shares fluctuating at the whim of those who want to make short-term gains ("ASX chief hopeful of solution on high-frequency trading", BusinessDay, 15/10).

Contracts for difference are a notable case. One party bets the market will rise, another that it will fall. One wins, one loses. The broker always takes a cut. Vested interests lobby the government saying what a good thing is all this activity, which is illegal in the US. High-speed trading is a way to take other people's money by clever programming.

I cannot see how any form of sharemarket betting or manipulation is in the interests of the majority of Australians. Just because it's possible doesn't make it desirable.

John Pinniger, Fairfield

A marathon effort

I HAVE just completed my 35th Melbourne Marathon. Since 1978, about 100,000 runners have participated in this event, and I would like to thank the people of Melbourne for their support over this period.

The people who line the course and tell us "you're looking good" give us a lift, even when we know they are lying. The children who high-five every runner thrill us, while the snakes, jelly beans and drinks in the final kilometres provide much-needed energy. And the girls with the sign "Tight butts drive us nuts" draw a laugh.

On hot days residents would grab their garden hose and cool us down. Chariots of Fire and Eye of the Tiger would be heard from many a ghetto blaster.

The supported charities provide not only many of the volunteers, who perform a multitude of tasks that participants take for granted, but also inspirational competitors who face far more serious challenges than most of us.

David Foskey, Malvern

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