The Courier: Editorial

It’s all up to you

Picture this. You’re a parent in your mid-30s relaxing at home with your three young children on a scorching summer day.
Your partner is away with work and you and the kids are lounging around inside watching videos with the curtains drawn tight against the 40C heat.
The air-conditioner is keeping things cool enough which is just as well because the roaring north wind is causing havoc out there. Stay inside and ride it out.
At some stage during the morning you hear a siren … it’s probably the police, or perhaps it was on the video.
A while later you hear another.
You catch a whiff of smoke. That’s odd.
You part the curtains and it IS smoke. You can see it. It’s a fire!
You race outside to have a proper look and the air is choking. You can see a red glow on the next ridge pumping thick, acrid smoke into the air. It’s a raging bushfire and it’s coming your way!
Quick, get the kids. They’re panicking, you’re panicking but trying not to show it but the youngest is now crying hysterically.
Quick, get into the car and let’s get out of here. Oh, shit. I’d better grab some things – the photos, the important paperwork, the laptop, grandma’s old clock.
What about the dog … where’s the cat?
C’mon kids, hurry, hurry, into the car.
Forget all that stuff. No Samantha, we haven’t got time to get the goldfish.
But just at that moment a giant limb falls from one of the majestic gums near the driveway and blocks your exit. You’re trapped.
Quick, kids, back inside.
The smoke is now really thick and you can hear a frightening roar.
The inferno is coming.
Get the hoses. Oh, shit, shit, shit. You should fill the gutters. Where are the bungs?
Should I fill the bath?
Orange embers begin to fall around the house and the leaves in the thrashing trees are bursting into flames. The doormat catches on fire.
The kids are now all screaming, the noise is deafening and it sounds like a freight train is coming through the front door.
No one is coming to save you.
You didn’t have a plan. You weren’t prepared and will possibly pay the ultimate price.
This summer the message is simple.
Clean up your property, make a bushfire action plan and stay aware.
You must assume the CFS will not be there to help. You are on your own.

Wasteful decision

There are increasing economic and ecological reasons to reduce the amount of rubbish our society produces.
Whether that is achieved by legislating to cut the level of unnecessary plastic and other harmful packaging or improving the rate of recycling, the ball is clearly in the lap of politicians.
So the State Government’s decision to rule out even considering the possible wider implementation of the highly successful fortnightly kerbside waste collection system undertaken by the Alexandrina Council is somewhat perplexing.
The local council made the decision to move away from the traditional weekly rubbish pickup in an effort to encourage its residents to reduce their waste and embrace recycling.
The results since 2016 have been impressive – a 19% drop in the amount of waste taken to landfill, a 63% increase in green waste collection and a 31% increase in recycling.
Many Alexandrina Council households – now alerted to the many recycling options available – find they only put their blue bins (for landfill) out once a month.
The council is also reaping financial rewards for this change and has noted a 15% cut in the fees it is charged to dump rubbish in landfill.
The council’s chief executive says the move has been “nothing but a success”, but the State Government has said it has no interest in giving the change the slightest consideration for metropolitan ratepayers.
And in a galling aside, Environment Minister David Spears won’t say why.
Legislation is in place requiring metropolitan councils to collect rubbish every week and a fortnightly system may not suit all councils which have differing proportions of suburbia, high density living or industry.
But denying councils the option of exploring the financial benefits experienced by the Alexandrina Council – which has a mix of urban and rural residents – appears shortsighted.
And it is more difficult to understand coming from the Liberal Party which embraced rate capping and peppered its election campaign with numerous examples of wasteful local government expenditure.
What has become clear is that a ‘more of the same’ mentality is not going to solve our waste issues and all sensible options should be examined.Wasteful decision

Aged care issue

The ABC’s recent Four Corners investigation into aged care has shone a spotlight on some of the serious issues faced by some of our most vulnerable residents.
While the kinds of abuse and neglect raised in the program are not necessarily reflective of the care at all – or even most – aged care homes, the report has raised serious questions about the safety and wellbeing of our older population.
As a nation we have a responsibility to care for and respect our elders, many of whom have helped to shape and build our country, and the revelations of the shortcomings within the industry demand action.
Choosing an aged care home for a loved one can be a difficult and stressful task for families and one that is often done under pressure or during times of upheaval or grief.
With long waiting lists, few industry benchmarks and a lack of mandated transparency within the industry, making an informed decision can seem almost impossible.
Retirees are choosing to stay in their own homes for longer and are entering aged care homes at older ages, putting more pressure on residential care facilities to offer a higher level of care.
It’s essential that the industry – and the Government departments responsible for funding the industry – keep up with these demands and provide the kind of care and volume of staff required to meet the care and recreational needs of these residents.
It’s encouraging to see that change is slowly beginning to happen, with some initiatives, such as unannounced audits and safety checks, recently introduced.
But while that measure may prevent homes from covering up non-compliance issues, more action still needs to be taken.
The terms of reference for the Federal Government’s Royal Commission into aged care are yet to be determined, but it is essential it thoroughly examines the industry and the measures that need to be taken to make it more transparent, more accountable and safer for residents.
Any change that aids decision making for families during the difficult process of choosing an aged care home should be encouraged and acted upon as soon as possible.

ABC is important

The shock sacking of the head of the ABC has brought the direction of the national broadcaster firmly into the national spotlight.
Managing director Michelle Guthrie claimed she had no knowledge of any dissatisfaction with her performance by the board and says her dismissal on Monday came as much of a surprise to her as it did to the rest of the nation.
Like Malcolm Turnbull’s sudden exit a few weeks before, solid reasons for the drastic action have not been forthcoming.
Not all the dirty laundry needs to be aired, but the taxpayers deserve a more detailed explanation than has so far been offered.
The ABC has, like all media organisations, been struggling to reposition itself in the modern digital landscape.
It is also the only media body guaranteed an income in excess of $1 billion by a benefactor (the taxpayer), an amount which has been dropping in real terms in recent years forcing people like Ms Guthrie to streamline operations while at the same time ensuring it delivers for all Australians – metropolitan, regional and remote.
It’s a high wire act and the board obviously felt she was dangerously wobbly.
It is fair to say the ABC has endured a sustained attack from both the Federal Liberal Government and News Corp on what they perceive as editorial bias and poor value for the taxpayer dollar.
News Corp would, as the ABC is a competitor in an increasingly tight market.
It must be noted the ABC has made editorial and programming mistakes for which it has refused to or been slow to apologise.
But despite its shortcomings, the ABC remains hugely popular.
The quality of its investigative reporting through programs such as Four Corners highlights the worth of a public broadcaster not compromised by commercial considerations.
Four Corners, Q&A and 7.30 regularly set news agendas ahead of the Government (aged care, banking and Don Dale Detention Centre royal commissions) and programs such as Australian Story, Landline and Insiders are accompanied by probing radio programs such as Background Briefing, Between the Lines, Counterpoint, Ockham’s Razor, AM, PM and The World Today.
The ABC might not be perfect, but every Australian is better for its existence.

Bike track lessons

The Adelaide Hills Council’s recent decision to trial a new BMX track in Stirling is both a win for locals and evidence of what can be achieved when communities and local government work together.
The council was left in a difficult position late last year, when safety concerns raised by Crafers residents about unauthorised BMX jumps in the area left it with little option but to remove the makeshift structures and close the track.
The move, which came a few months after the same children had requested a permanent BMX track in the area, caused outcry among the affected parents and children who felt the council was working against them.
But the pro-active attitude of the impacted families and the willingness of the council to work with them to find the best solution has resulted in a positive outcome for all.
Dozens of children will benefit from the new track which, thanks to the support of parents and local businesses that have promised to help with its development, will likely come at little expense to ratepayers.
The track, which is being designed in collaboration with local children, will encourage them to keep active and spend more time outdoors, away from television, computer and phone screens.
But the process of working with the council to achieve their goals will also help to engage them with their community and council, while teaching them to take ownership of the shared spaces and resources they use.
Some concerns have been raised about the appropriateness of the memorial reserve as a location for the BMX track.
But the track is subject to a 12-month trial period, giving the BMX enthusiasts an opportunity to prove themselves by showing respect for the park, the service women’s memorial and the park’s close neighbors.
Other recreation facilities across the Hills, such as the hugely popular skate park in Strathalbyn, demonstrate the benefits that can be enjoyed when young people are engaged with their community and take responsibility for facilities.
Now is the time for local children to take this opportunity with both hands and do the right thing by the council and the near neighbors, which could result in the new facility being available for many future generations to enjoy.

Mute response

The most bizarre aspect about the removal of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull two weeks ago is that nobody in authority can give a clear reason as to why it happened.
Joe Average on the street knows the answer but that knowledge seemingly hasn’t infiltrated the plush halls of Parliament House in Canberra.
New Prime Minister Scott Morrison either can’t or won’t divulge what seems to have developed into a State secret but he has said the removal of Mr Turnbull has resolved all the problems – whatever they were – and the Liberal Party has now drawn a line under this issue and is moving on.
Exactly where they are moving to is the next question, one which seems difficult to answer – particularly if those at the pointy end of politics can’t even say where they were heading previously.
Confused?
It is understandable the public are annoyed when getting a straight answer to a simple question such as “why?” is met with more verbal twists and turns than Gorge Road.
Nobody likes sneaky, evasive and plotting politicians of any political persuasion … and we’ve had plenty in the past 10 years.
It reeks of self-interest and the ensuing stench from this latest incident has the vultures circling … with baseball bats.
The Liberal Party suffered a massive 29% swing against it at a NSW State by-election on the weekend in a result that saw them lose a seat they had safely held for the past 60 years.
Some Federal MPs have bravely held the line that the result in NSW was not influenced by the debacle in Canberra, but those same people must be more than a little concerned at the looming by-election in Mr Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth.
The Liberals now want to preselect a woman in a last-minute attempt to reconcile the massive disparity between the sexes in the Party and improve their chances to hold the seat.
The men in suits have been forced kicking and screaming to acknowledge the blindingly obvious gender issue.
Now all they have to do is resolve the bullying problem.
But watching the behavior on both sides of the chamber during Monday’s Question Time would suggest there is a long way to go.
Politicians should remember the standards they ignore are the standards they accept.

Energy efficient

Buying or building a home is usually the single biggest financial investment most people make.
And with rising energy prices becoming a real concern it makes a lot of sense to build a house which uses that expensive commodity in the most efficient manner possible.
It also makes sense to reduce the base energy needs of a home by taking advantage of the free energy provided every day by the sun.
Days like the Sustainable House Day – held across Australia on September 16 and featuring a number of Hills homes – are a great opportunity for prospective home builders or owners to educate themselves about the simple design changes they can make to a conventional home to make it far cheaper to run … and a much more pleasurable place to inhabit.
This is not the domain of the wind chime, mung bean, kaftan wearing fraternity.
The advantages of living in an energy smart house have become clear to many more “mainstream” members of the community.
The beauty is that wiping thousands of dollars off a home’s annual energy bill can cost very little.
Simple design changes such as orienting the home to face north and having large windows on that side to let in the winter sun can make a massive difference.
Other tips like not having windows facing west to avoid the blistering afternoon summer sun and allowing for significant cross ventilation from south to north to allow in the cool summer evening breezes need not add significantly to the overall building cost, but can save you plenty.
Having a solid concrete slab to absorb the energy from the sun and release it into the home as the temperature cools means entering a smart home on a winter afternoon feels like walking into a house with the heater on.
In reality it has been … but the heater is the sun – and it’s completely free.
Such advantages are available to all new home owners who are willing to spend a few hours educating themselves.
Of course, not all housing blocks are ideal to take full advantage of the sun. If so, don’t buy it.
It is important to note the resale value of an energy efficient house is likely to outstrip the initial extra investment … and they’re much nicer places in which to live.

Liberal rebuild

It is essential that all political parties engage in self analysis from time to time – to ascertain who they represent, what they stand for, their vision for the future and how they intend to get there.
When boiled down it is an exercise to establish a brand – something which voters can clearly identify with and, hopefully, support.
Last week it was the Liberal Party’s turn to spend some time in the room of mirrors and take a good, hard look at itself.
The trouble was that by week’s end there was that much blood on the walls it may have been difficult to see any reflection at all.
What eventually emerged was not what was originally intended and only time will tell if the party has achieved its goal by electing the unlikely Scott Morrison to the leadership … or if much of the bloodletting was the result of settling old scores and satisfying deep grudges.
What became immediately clear was that the dumping of a sitting Prime Minister does not go down well with the public but that was obviously a price the plotters were prepared to pay.
The Liberals, just months out from an election, have taken a massive hit entirely of their own making and Mr Morrison is now left with the unenviable task of presenting a united image. Good luck with that!
It is fair to say that parties can drift – almost unseen – into unfamiliar territory.
According to some, the Liberal ship under Captain Turnbull drifted too far to the centre of the political axis which required a significant change in course.
However, last week’s attempted correction by the conservative crew was such a clumsily handled tack that it may have upended the entire ship.
Just how far the Liberal course has changed is unclear but it was not what the plotters had envisaged with the hapless Peter Dutton left in the awkward position of having blood all over his hands but missing out on the prize he sought.
Mr Turnbull viewed the actions as a mutiny and on Friday will jump ship completely and force a by-election in his seat of Wentworth.
This will be the ninth by-election held in this term and Mr Morrison is Australia’s seventh Prime Minister in 12 years.
It is little wonder so many voters view politics in such a low light.

Waste of rubbish

The revelation that as much as 65% of waste sent to landfill by households in the Mt Barker district is reusable shows there are considerable problems in the system.
While we all recognise that there is a need to recycle and reuse – both to reduce the burden on our environment and on council finances through skyrocketing landfill levies – somehow the message isn’t getting through.
Part of that problem lies in confusion.
There is so much conflicting information around recycling that many are unsure which piece of rubbish should go into which bin.
Takeaway coffee cups are a great example.
While many place the cardboard cup in the recycling and the plastic lid in the general waste, it should be the other way round – the plastic lids are usually recyclable while the cardboard cup is waxed and can’t be recycled through the typical yellow bin stream.
It’s just one example of an at-times convoluted system that has many homeowners scratching their heads in confusion.
Added to that are the differences between kerbside waste systems in different council areas – some like Mt Barker allow food waste to be recycled through the green bin system, others do not.
Loose plastic lids can be put in the yellow bin if you live in Stirling, but not if you live in Mt Barker because the rubbish is collected by different waste companies.
Clearly there is a need for more education, especially in a growing district such as Mt Barker, where hundreds of new residents are settling each year from other council regions.
Streamlining the State’s kerbside waste systems to provide uniformity would also help minimise confusion.
The Mt Barker Council has made it relatively easy to make an environmental impact by providing the three-bin system.
Residents, however, need greater clarity over what rubbish is for what bin.
They must also accept their own responsibility for reducing the amount of waste they produce and send to landfill via the blue-lid bins.
If we don’t make a greater effort to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste, we will all end up paying for it, both in higher waste collection fees and in the cost to our environment.

Hungry students

The increasing number of Hills students being sent to school without breakfast is an issue which should alarm our community.
Kickstart for Kids (KSFK), a charity which provides food for school breakfast programs, has issued a call for donations in the wake of a significant increase in the number of SA schools needing to feed their students before lessons.
Nearly 30 Hills schools run KSFK breakfast programs, meaning hundreds of the region’s children are going to school hungry every day.
There are a number of reasons why children might be sent to school without eating – drug and alcohol abuse in the home, poverty or poor bahavior on behalf of parents or their children.
But the fact remains that the child starting the day without breakfast is the victim and it is a sad indictment that schools are having to pick up the pieces for what is a basic parental responsibility.
Breakfast need not be an expensive meal.
What it does take is a little time and some basic organisation.
Sadly, these skills must be beyond an increasing number of parents.
Poor eating patterns can impair adolescent development, while eating breakfast has been shown to improve behavior in the classroom.
A morning meal has been linked to increased feelings of alertness and motivation which can result in better academic performances.
It is well established that education is one of the keys to escaping the poverty cycle, and if a child isn’t even getting the basics at home before they get to school, they’re facing an uphill battle from the moment they wake.
It is admirable that teachers, school staff and outside organisations are banding together to help give students the best start in life – but it should not be their responsibility to feed other people’s children.
Teachers and their support staff have enough to do without adding catering to their list of responsibilities.
It would not be a surprise if some parents were taking advantage of the generosity of others and selfishly view the provision of breakfast for their children at school each morning as a reason not to bother.
The problem is not likely to go away in a hurry so if you can help either KSFK or your local school, the assistance would be greatly appreciated.