Letters

No less than a royal commission will do

No less than a royal commission will do

MICHAEL Short's comment on the Victorian Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into child rape and sexual assault by clergy is perceptive and compelling ("Punishment, penance should come via a royal commission", The Saturday Age, 27/10). The committee means well but it hasn't the time, independence and expertise to conduct the rigorous and robust investigation required. It is clear from the staggering evidence already tabled that the crimes against children are so serious, insidious and widespread that the best conclusion the committee could reach and without further ado is to recommend a national royal commission. The Victorian inquiry would then be regarded as a positive first step. But Michael Short is right, it is miles off being able to handle the complexity and gravity of the problem.

Frank Golding, Kensington

Empty apology

APOLOGY? Who asked for an apology ("Tears as state says sorry for thousands of forced adoptions", The Age, 26/10)? This week we have seen yet another apology for forced adoption practices that occurred across Australia in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. The apology from Premier Ted Baillieu would have had more meaning if it addressed the exact nature of the wrongs that were committed. It was not, as the Premier suggests, the result of "health and welfare policies that condoned the forced separations". Nor was it about things being different back then or people being "misguided". It was about a rapacious, profit-driven, industry where everyone with a finger in the pie broke the laws and disregarded the suffering of vulnerable young women.

Laws were broken when agencies employed tactics that were tantamount to torture, which included administering mind-altering drugs, to obtain consent for adoption. What is an apology, without accountability, when laws were broken and lives were shattered?

Kate Howarth, Ettalong Beach, NSW

Stop bank bashing

I WATCHED with sadness the despair of Banksia Securities investors being interviewed. One said she put her savings into Banksia because she did not trust the big banks.

Our Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and his fellow parliamentarians (on both sides) should take some of the blame for their relentless bashing of the big four banks. This continuous criticism of the banks only undermines their credibility in the minds of small investors.

Every day when I read of the overseas bank problems and the amount of government bailouts, I am thankful for our profitable banks. Even with the government guarantees, they have cost our government nothing and continue to provide decent returns on superannuation and savings. Some political support for the banks and their role in Australia's stability would not go astray.

Colin McLean, Montrose

Wasted opportunity

MANY people may be celebrating Federation Square turning 10, but I am not one of them ("Common ground", Life & Style, 27/10). When the Victorian government announced that the unsightly Gas and Fuel towers in Flinders Street were going to be demolished, I rejoiced at the opportunity. I looked forward to them being replaced by a beautiful park leading down to the river that would enhance the city's access to its northern bank. I also thought at last the wonderful streetscape of Flinders Street with its beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings would again provide a welcome to Melbourne that we could all be proud of. Instead we have, what I believe is, an unmemorable piece of modernism, dumbed down to a restaurant precinct that once again does Melbourne no favours. I look forward one day to a benign future government consigning Federation Square to the wrecker's ball.

Sam Bando, St Kilda East

. . . and boring too

FEDERATION Square a black hole for traders ("Spend inside the square is traders' challenge", theage.com.au, 26/10)? Could it have anything to do with the description Barry Humphries gave to it years ago? "That pile of kerosene tins!" Why go there in the first place? I went there once, because I was made to take a group of HSC students to a dismal play in an ugly building. The only excitement about visiting that place was that I might have been arrested for lack of "duty of care" during a very boring experience. After the play and the "experience" the kids wanted to go to McDonald's. I wanted to go to Florentino. Or walk though St Patrick's Cathedral. Or both.

Phillip Turnbull, Mount Nelson, Tasmania

Try for beauty

THE vestibule of Flinders Street Station on Friday was regaled with ads for a bubbly wine. It is constantly covered with advertising. Why must this internal, public space be commercialised? Get advertising off public buildings, transport and the like. Try beauty as a substitute and lift the spirits of those who look at or use these facilities.

Conn Constantinou, Sandringham

Ensure disclosure

IT WOULD be unacceptable if voters were not told of the policies of parties and candidates before they voted for them, and it should be equally unacceptable that they are asked to vote without knowing who is donating money to those candidates and parties ("Local democracy needs greater transparency", Editorial, 26/10).

Ironically, Victoria's law that local government candidates must disclose donations within 40 days of the poll is quite "progressive" in comparison with other Australian jurisdictions. For example, under the Commonwealth Electoral Act we were not told who donated to the parties in the last weeks of the August 2010 federal election until February 2012. Australia's entire regime of campaign funding and disclosure needs reform.

Brian Costar, professor of politics, Swinburne University of Technology

No place for bribes

ACCUSATIONS of cash for access to town hall ("Doyle faces cash claims", The Age, 26/10) smear by association town planners. In the more than 1400 planning applications I handled as a town planner for the City of Melbourne from 1991 to 2007, I was never once offered any bribe or inducement, nor was I contacted by the mayor or a councillor seeking to influence any planning decision, and there is a reason why. The planning system is structured in such as way as to render pointless any attempt at a bribe.

First, a planning scheme is a transparent document (each one freely available on the web) that already states what can and cannot be done. Bribery cannot add to or subtract from it. Second, appeal rights to VCAT exist both to developer and objector alike regardless of the council's decision. Again, no bribe could provide any guaranteed result.

John Joyner, Mornington

Selective celebration

COLES reports a 30 per cent rise in pumpkin sales over the past year, due to the popularity of Halloween ("Scare tactics: Jack o' lanterns do the trick for grocers", The Age, 24/10). I also notice that more schools are allowing, even encouraging, students to dress up for this festival. Presumably, it is appropriate to observe a historical occasion through costumes, decorations and by publicly naming the event. I have to ask, therefore, whether these are the same schools that are also minimising Christmas each year, banning nativity plays or renaming it the "festive season", so as to not offend non-observers. Do we now forgo our own spiritual heritage, for the sake of importing foreign ones?

Peter Waterhouse, Camberwell

Scary history

HALLOWEEN has been an event in Europe since the 16th century. It has nothing particularly to do with celebrating the burning and hanging of women as witches (Letters, 27/10). In the US, it wasn't celebrated until after the Irish and Scots settled there in the mid-19th century. It originally marked the ending of the harvest season and entering the darker winter months. This was the time spirits and fairies were abroad and the spirit of the dead returned to visit their homes. People wore costumes so as to be unrecognised by these "undead" visitors. The burning of women was a European/English tradition which didn't cross the Atlantic. The US favoured hanging or crushing by boards weighted with rocks.

Norman Miller, The Basin

Filly fun

I WAS at the Geelong Cup. The photos of the "well-coiffed fillies" with the tattoos was a bit biased but did reflect the tone of the day ("Bolder, brighter by the bay down in Geelong", The Age, 25/10). It was easier to get a drink than to put on a bet. That said, the patrons were mostly well behaved and respectful. It was just working people having a well-earned big day out with lots of harmless fun.

Terry Kelly, Carlton North