Letters to the Editor February 12

I have been brought up to respect my elders and have often held my tongue when reading Darcey Browning's commentary. I do respect everyone's rights to their own opinion but the standard you walk past is the standard you accept and l can no longer accept the diatriabe Darcey expounds. He looks at a forest and sees trees. As a timber worker they had value as wood. As a farmer, well let's just clear the land so stuff can be grown. Darcey takes pride in not engaging with Centrelink, seemingly blissfully unaware that primary producers are among the most heavily subsidised segments of our population.

Kudos to the editor who juxtaposed Darcy's letter with that of Mark Graham. An educated, erudite ecologist who sees the forests as diverse, incredible and irreplaceable ecosystems. Mark's passion for the environment we live in is palpable and it is evident from his writing that he has spent his life engaging in a continual learning curve. His words are worth reading and my sincere hope is that it is Mark Graham's voice which strikes a chord with the electorate of Cowper.

Jenny Dawson, Dorrigo

Discrimination

We Australians are increasingly fuelled by fear and anger as we try to digest what the enormity of the current continent-wide bushfires is telling us: that our exploitative practices are finally coming back to bite us. On top of this, we now have to contend with the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan,China, which threatens to grow to pandemic proportions. More and more people see the grim reality that democracy itself is under threat - at a time we most need it to be in healthy shape. With life as we have come to expect it now at risk, it is too easy to forgive the other undemocratic changes in government policy and practice that are creeping in on the sidelines to abuse the human rights of people far more vulnerable than most of us. The Coalition, with Dutton in charge of immigration, continues its barbaric policies against refugees in our name and at our expense.

Then in the SMH (Feb 1) I read on the front page that the 'cashless welfare card', first trialled in Ceduna, Kalgoorlie, Kunanurra, Hinkler and Tennant Creek in 2014, is about to be introduced more widely across Australia. This card 'works' by locking 80 per cent of welfare recipients' benefits into a card-card system which blocks them from buying alcohol and cigarettes with the stated aim of ending intergenerational poverty. The places where it has been trialled are, not surprisingly, places with predominantly indigenous populations. On this basis, the programme then even had Professor Marcia Langton (high-profile Indigenous activist) giving it her support. According to Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, this card has proved 'quite successful,' so its scope now covers all Newstart recipients, not merely indigenous ones. A 2017 enquiry into its efficacy exposed an actual increase in suicide and crime rates among these card-holders which were directly attributable to this cashless welfare card, though the Australian National Audit Office claimed the enquiry was flawed and ignored it.

The ethical problems here are many, and all pose threats to the notion of democratic ideology our country still pretends to operate within. Let me focus here on just one: the government's stated purpose is to curb the smoking and drinking habits and choices of a targeted section of the population. This is simply discriminatory and, as such, a violation of human rights. Unless they choose to target the heavy drinking and drug-taking members of the privileged professions (lawyers, medicos and, yes, politicians), this 'welfare card' has no place in a democracy. Its effect can only entrench an already-divided population.

Suzanne Ferris, Bellingen

CONCRETE PATHWAY

The people of Mylestom have chosen to live there because of its beautiful natural environment ... a village nestled between a healthy strip of Bellinger River and the ocean. The citizens are caring, thoughtful people of all ages, ranging from young active families to the elderly with their wisdom and historic knowledge of the area. They are used to sharing their beaches, riverside pool, park with amenities and picturesque riverbank with tourists, bikers, campers and visitors from near and far; although they live with a concern for bushfires in the forest behind them, and only one road in and out in cases of emergency.

The dragon boat races and the Putt Bennett Fishing Competition bring hundreds of cars and people to the area. They park and picnic on the riverbank all day during these events. There are also many family picnics and birthday parties, always with cars parked off the narrow road on the edge of the riverbank. If the proposed concrete pathway and curb and guttering go ahead as predicted, none of this will be possible anymore.

Mylestom has disability accessible pathways from the car park and picnic shelter to the toilet facilities, as well as ramps to the Mylestom Store and Post Office, Community Centre and North Beach Recreation Club. I used to take my sister to the riverbank and draw her wheelchair up next to a picnic table. She loved to sip a coffee as she breathed in that idyllic view. This riverbank will be ruined by excavating and removing trees to install a concrete pathway. For those who MUST have a concrete pathway, there is a great one at Urunga, from the Lido to Hungry Head.

Mayor Dominic King appeared on TV news the night before the recent council meeting announcing that a concrete pathway would be built here, as he strolled along the crest of the riverbank. The next day, at the council meeting we heard from two speakers for the pathway and two against, one of whom had done a door to door survey of all residents in Mylestom. The two speakers against were backed by an overwhelming majority of the residents.

Cr Jenny Fenton summarised with her opinion that we needed more concrete pathways and that everyone in Mylestom would either die or eventually acquire a mobility-related condition. These words from an elected representative of the people of our community?

Carol Halford, Repton

Pathway project

If genuine community consultation had occurred at the outset, the controversial Mylestom Pathway Project would not be dividing our small village community. How ironic considering the taxpayer funding is intended to create 'Stronger Communities'. BSC is in a difficult position of its own making, due to lack of genuine consultation. Council auspiced a proposal from a small group of residents without consultation to ensure wide community support and submitted the proposal to the state government for funding. It is not too late to turn this around. Organise valid, thorough community consultation and work with the entire community to develop a proposal without a concrete path that divides our beautiful natural riverbank and our community.

Lizzy Wilkins, Mylestom

Mayor's Column