Letters to the editor

Support for assisted dying bill

I write to support the passage of the assisted dying bill currently before the upper house of the Victorian Parliament. This is a remarkably difficult issue for the community, our politicians, and perhaps especially for the medical fraternity. We owe our parliament, and especially our local representative, a debt of gratitude for the thoughtful, courageous, and nonpartisan manner in which the issue has been addressed thus far. The bill has yet to pass the upper house. It is my view that it should. I believe strongly that excellent palliative care should be the mainstay of the end of life for our patients, and that for the very large majority, this will meet their needs well. But it is my bitter practical experience that for a small number, palliative care will not adequately relieve end of life suffering. For that small group ,access to the relief the bill offers is an option which should be available. The provisions of the bill have been carefully constructed by an expert , knowledgeable committee with extensive consultation. The bill is, by international standards, a profoundly conservative approach to the issue, with extensive safeguards. I respect the views of both my colleagues and the broader community who oppose the bill. But my heart and mind is with the small, but terribly real, group of patients who need the option it provides.

Dr Noel Bayley, Warrnambool

Saleyards competition good for farmers

It is time we called off the saleyards “war of words”. Our primary producers need the opportunity to extract the highest possible price they can extract from the market. Saleyards account for about 30 per cent of the cattle sales in the Western District and although it is a declining number, yards still play an important role in the market. There is no one more disappointed than me that the new Regional Selling Centre is not being built between Terang and Garvoc within the Corangamite Shire. I believe that would have been the best locality but for several reasons, it didn’t happen. Now that the investment is been made in Mortlake, it is time shire councils and agents act responsibly and think about why we have been calling for regional yards. I can assure ratepayers that there are no council yards in this district that run at a profit when holding costs, capital improvements and depreciation are fully accounted for. It is not about shires, towns and parochialism, it is about having the scale and aggregated numbers to attract the sufficient buyers to create the best competition. The Mortlake yards will be fully automated with much superior animal welfare and environmental outcomes than Colac, Camperdown and Warrnambool yards. I think it is now essential for the sake of our primary producers that we all get behind the Mortlake selling centre and make sure it delivers the promised outcomes of stronger competition and higher prices.

Chris O'Connor, Terang

Marine plans balanced

The implication that recreational fishing, diving and boating will be significantly impacted by the changes to the Commonwealth Marine Reserve Management Plans (Rod Graham letters, October 21,) doesn't stack up. Changes to the green zones which allow increased access to commercial fishing are mainly in waters well offshore and well beyond state waters where the majority of recreational pursuits take place. The suggestion that Australian commercial fisheries are "large scale multinational commercial operators largely paying no taxes here and employing few if any Australians" is simply incorrect. While it is good that to note that baitfish and tuna stocks have improved, none of this can be attributed to Commonwealth marine reserves. This is simply the result of good fisheries management in the region. The proposed changes do not open up marine parks to oil and gas extraction as suggested.  An examination of the management plans will show that this is a disallowed activity in most of the marine reserves, and all of the Coral Sea adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. Finally, these changes do not wind back the size of the parks at all as suggested by Mr Graham.  The outer boundaries of the reserves have remained unchanged. Perhaps the government is right in suggesting that this is a more balanced outcome - allowing for sustainable fishing while at the same time improving the protection and conservation of our offshore marine waters.

Colin Buxton, Hobart

Politics broken 

The renewable energy target (cheap energy bringing down prices) is to be replaced with a commitment to source energy from coal and gas (continuing the current problem, economically and environmentally). The state Liberal party want to remove the moratorium on drilling for gas, turning the south-west and the rest of Victoria into a gasfield. The state Labor party are throwing money into the inner-city, outside of the budget cycle in hopes of winning a byelection. Whistleblowers expose illegal behaviour from Crown Casino and the Labor/Liberal/National parties do nothing.  A $1 billion loan from public taxes is still on the table for the Adani coal mine, with evidence showing it may never be repaid and will certainly reap destruction on our land, air and water. The Prime Minister has declared the NBN a dud and is blaming the Labor party. It seems you’re either “in power” or relentlessly on the attack. There is honour in being a reasonable opposition party - but we set a higher standard for those in power to lead with responsibility to the whole nation (or the whole state). Politics seems more broken than usual - politicians consistently show corruption, little future planning, no willingness to embrace opinions outside of party dogma and there is almost no display of common sense. Next year we face a state election on November 24 - and a federal election at the end of 2018 (or first half of 2019, the date will be set by whoever is Prime Minister at the time). Let’s hope for something a little more inspiring. I should note a moment of unity across state and federal governments at a recent COAG meeting. New anti-terror laws will be able to lock people away for 14 days without charge. Unity through the erosion of our rights, did I say politics was broken?).

Thomas Campbell, Warrnambool

Hang heads in shame

Last Monday, the ABC's Q and A program had yet another session on the marriage equality debate.  While some of it made excruciating TV, I do congratulate Magda Szubanski on keeping civil throughout. Sadly, even when this whole sorry episode comes to an end and, hopefully, Australians have voted to end discrimination against LGBTQI people, the pain won't suddenly disappear. For many in the international community, this postal vote has put an extremely sharp light on Australia's dark underbelly. Despite many good people speaking out against discrimination, the debate has exposed the underlying bigotry in much of our society. What has become clear, is that we are much more moralizing than we like to believe. We like the world to think we are laid-back, easy going "crocodile dundees", one and all. The reality is that too many of us are narrow-minded, intolerant of difference, and quick to judge others while unaccepting of criticism of ourselves. Every community has its bevy of bigots. Unfortunately, under the label of "free speech", we allow ours to dominate the airwaves to make it sound as if their bigotry is normal. Australian history has shown moments where Australians can stand tall and proud: our action on the Kokoda trail; our acceptance of millions of dispossessed refugees from Europe after the war; Mabo; the Apology.  But there are other moments where we should all hang our heads in shame, and this whole postal vote episode has been one of those moments. Let's hope there is no repeat of such a unnecessary attack on a valuable section of our community ever again.

Eric van der Wal, Warrnambool

Thanks for support

I am writing to thank The Standard (Warrnambool) and the Warrnambool community for their support of McHappy Day in 2017 - the largest annual fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).

The Warrnambool community helped us celebrate 26 years of McHappy Day and raise a record breaking $4 million for RMHC. These donations equate to more than 30,000 nights of accommodation at a Ronald McDonald House, ensuring that Aussie families get to stay together while their sick or injured child undergoes treatment.

Throughout the country we saw communities, such as Warrnambool residents, help to raise vital funds for RMHC. We saw local bucket brigades, Scout groups, emergency services as well as sporting and TV personalities visiting McDonald’s restaurants, to help make a difference.

I want to personally say a big thank you to everyone in the Warrnambool community, who got involved last weekend, making generous donations that helped McHappy Day raise more money than ever before.

Fundraising efforts like this are crucial to helping RMHC continue to expand programs and services to families who need them, as many of the Ronald McDonald Houses across the country have waiting lists, and are unable to accommodate everyone who needs help.

With so many Aussie kids requiring treatment, every donation goes a long way to keep families close together in their toughest times. You can continue to support families in need by donating to rmhc.org.au all year round.

Thank you again to The Standard (Warrnambool) and the local community for all your help on McHappy Day.

Barbara Ryan, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Australia

Fallen arch

The Little Arch stood sentinel atop a sandstone promontory overlooking the Southern Ocean, it had been there a long time, slowly whittled by wind and sea into existence, was evidence of time; albeit, if left alone, to one day disappear grain by grain.

Our expansion into the environment by population and recreational desire places pressure on the natural landscape, fauna and flora. We’re attracted to our natural surrounds. Wandering at sea’s edge is one of those desires. On the cliff-top’s soft sediment some of us carve our names or initials and of those we love, sometimes a symbol for peace or death, lately we ride our bikes through fences to get closer to the edge, we let our dogs loose and they toilet on the paths, let them off the lead so they can run, we let our cats wander, or discard them to prey feral on native fauna, and we leave our litter behind. From such excursions, we can say we feel good, breathed the air, we’ve experienced beauty.

I admired the Little Arch it reminded me of good design, it was delicate but resilient in the face of fair and foul weather. Now the arch no longer spans its pillars, it was useless anyway, it didn’t do anything, didn’t go anywhere or take us to other places, though it could, it just existed, but it was beautiful. From a distance when I first noticed I had hoped it had just collapsed, tired of standing firm to the southerlies. Collapse though leaves a signature, where the arch lays is a graveyard of kicked about sandstone crumbs. Desire to destroy must have been inspired by the arch’s idiosyncratic beauty.

In our town, we’re happy to accept the environmental kudos of Odd Ball, the film about a dog who protects the penguins on the island in the marine reserve across the bay, as we should, something to be proud of. I beg though to ponder – what chance the Hooded Plover, the tiniest winged creature whose annual north south hemisphere migrations when they cease will be a sad legacy for this coast.

Those of us who live in, around and at the edges of, or use the natural environment, it is incumbent upon us to respect and protect it. To respect that each component of its system relies on all the others to exist, and when we intrude and interfere, when pieces are removed or added, things can begin to crumble. To protect our environment is a cultural responsibility, respect is a small consideration simple and easy to uphold.

In the realm of bigger things, we might think that Little Arch was meaningless, no great loss. Recently an apostle west of Thunder Point cleaved off a third of its mass and we didn’t notice, inconsequential to our lives, so why would the loss of a miniature wonder of the natural architecture raise our concern?

Mike Kibblewhite, Warrnambool

Beersheba reflection

On 31 October 2017 we commemorate the centenary of the charge of the Australian Light Horse at the Battle of Beersheba, in what is now Israel. In what is remembered as one of the great cavalry charges, Australia’s 4th and 12th Light Horse regiments rode through heavy fire and engaged the Turkish line. Australia captured more than 700 Turkish soldiers in the charge, but lost 31 of our own with another 36 wounded. More than 1,350 Australians lost their lives in the Middle East campaigns of the First World War. Today, I urge all Australians to stop and reflect on the Australians who fought and died in the Battle of Beersheba. We should reflect on the nature of service and on the courage, bravery and sacrifices that our countrymen and women make in our name. Lest we forget.

Dan Tehan, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

No-vote query

Following the amazing crack down of the No Votes latest TV ad this week and its relegation to after 8.30pm viewing, because of its explicit content and unsuitability for young audiences; and because that explicit material was taken verbatim from our Safe Schools Curriculum material; I think it is fair to ask our government. “f it is too explicit for prime time TV, how can it possibly be appropriate for presentation in classrooms in every State School in Australia?

Jenny Arms, Grasmere