Letters to the editor - December 22

Parking change call

Parking in Warrnambool’s CBD is in the process of seriously damaging the viability of commerce in the central area. We are all now aware of several businesses that couldn’t persist because of the Liebig Street refurbishment but I am forced to believe that the parking debacle will damage more of the businesses and drive ordinary people away into the satellite shopping areas. All the councillors promised to address the parking problems in their elections campaigns. It seems that they have agreed to introduce a scheme that many people cannot assimilate and which seems to be solely directed at gouging coins from the citizens. My conversations with many people in various settings around the town have revealed an abiding detestation of the machines which present several problems to the users: They require a steep learning curve especially for those many among us who are not tech savvy; The controls are very difficult for people with poor eye-hand coordination; The screens are very badly designed for reflections of glare which affect all users; The tickets that the machines spew out are made of non-biogradable plastic; The machines are placed in such a way that they are considerable distances from most of the parks that they control; The perception that the council is only out to grab dollars is not helped by the way that the fees have been extended to previously un-tariffed areas. The most vulnerable users are the most badly affected and the machines also have the very undesirable effect on the environment. There is only one advantage of the new system and that is that one fee can be used in any part of the CBD for the allotted time. That is an eminently sensible idea that I have espoused for many years. People are telling me that they actively avoid the CBD more than ever now and this is not a handful of people either. It seems that Warrnambool City Council is actually trying to set a new people - and trade-free - agenda for the CBD. Even if this isn’t the aim, I believe that the council is compounding a big mistake. If enough people respond to this letter I think that we could sway the direction back to sensibility through a huge public meeting to express our displeasure and make council retract the poor decisions. We need  people to say “stop this madness and set it right”.

Richard Ziegeler, Dennington 

Scheme participation

Our community has within it, people whose hearts have been broken, had their lives shattered and their dreams taken away. Some of them abuse alcohol and drugs and some self-harm. They are the survivors of child sexual abuse. They need your readers’ help. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse handed down its report. It recommends ways of helping survivors, and includes the setting up of a Redress Scheme. Governments and other institutions can’t be forced to participate but can volunteer. I urge your readers to take the time to telephone their state parliamentarian, their church or any other relevant institution to urge participation in the scheme. Their views can make a difference. It may be the best Christmas present they ever give.

Gary Foster, Maddens Lawyers

Uni cuts hurt regions

In the run up to Christmas, the Government gave regional Victorians an unexpected unwanted ‘gift’: their share of a $2 billion cut to higher education funding. It’s a cut that will impact on the future workforce in our regions - the nurses, teachers, accountants, engineers, social workers and health and science professionals who all gain their qualifications locally and go on to contribute socially and economically to our communities. The latest cuts are based entirely on capital city reasoning. The Government has looked at metropolitan lecture halls and decided they are saturated.  However, regional higher education still needs to grow; regional participation in higher education is between a half and a third of that in the big cities. Good regional development policy says that regional campuses and universities need to grow because their communities need the skills. Instead of investing in regional campuses – where teaching is more expensive to deliver, communities are being given a cut. This is a bad decision with negative consequences for regional Australia. We know that over 70 per cent of graduates from our regional campuses will stay and work in regional Victoria – and this will be similar at other regional universities. We also know that our regional graduates have a profound impact on the regional economies, pumping in almost $100 million a year to the Victorian regional and rural economy. The Government has slipped in these funding cuts just before Christmas, hoping no one will notice. We have noticed and we vehemently oppose a policy that will strike at the heart of our ethos of inclusion and hit our regional communities the hardest.

Professor Richard Speed, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Regional), La Trobe University