The Courier: Editorial

Street preacher

The decision by the Alexandrina Council to grant an enthusiastic Christian a permit to preach in the town’s central park has the potential to divide the community.
Mayor Keith Parkes used his casting vote in a deadlocked chamber to allow David Richardson a six-week opportunity to preach in the amphitheatre of the Solders’ Memorial Gardens from 10am-6pm, seven days a week.
That is an extraordinary amount of time for an individual and one which has the potential to alienate many of the park’s users.
Mr Parkes said he was swayed to support the application through a fear of litigation from either Mr Richardson or his supporters on the grounds of denying him his freedom of speech.
This relegates to a distant second the freedom of the many residents and tourists who want to use the popular park in peace.
If it is a decision based on a fear of litigation rather than what the council believes is best for the community then it is the community which loses.
The designated amphitheatre is across the narrow stretch of water from the most popular spots in the park – one which many people frequent in the summer months to enjoy a picnic and let their children feed the ducks and run around on the grass.
It is also near the public toilets where tourist  buses stop to allow their passengers to stretch their legs and give them time to take in the delightful ambience of this historic tourist town.
Street preaching is by its very nature a loud and passionate pastime.
If the council’s litigation fear was so strong then why not place Mr Richardson in a bustling section of the town so he not only has a constant stream of passers-by but will not impinge on the those seeking to relax?
If people wish to seek religion they know where to find it and need only go to a host of churches in Strathalbyn on either Saturday (Seventh Day Adventists) or Sunday.
Given the council’s decision one must wonder what the authority would do if an Islamic devotee also wanted to spread the word … or perhaps a representative from the Rainbow Flag Appreciation Society given the recent kerfuffle?
That too is freedom of speech.
Allowing a tranquil community space to be used for such purposes is not in the best interests of the wider community.

Remain united

The recent mass murders in Paris have shocked the entire civilised world.
All level-headed, reasonable and clear thinking humans – whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist – are appalled by the actions of what appears to be a few crazed individuals acting on behalf of a skewed ideology.
The response by France has been swift and forceful.
Air strikes on ISIS strongholds in Syria have escalated in a concerted effort to hit back.
Such a response is entirely understandable in the wake of almost 130 cold blooded murders. However, there is some doubt if air strikes alone can succeed.
The mess that is the Middle East just got worse. Putting troops on the ground is another matter entirely and, with no easy answer or clear way forward, it is unlikely the situation will get better anytime soon.
The citizens of Paris must be on tenterhooks.
This is not the first time such madmen have attacked the city and the murders of staff of the magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier this year as well as other civilians are still fresh in people’s minds.
Even the people of Australia have a right to be concerned.
Such covert attacks are extremely difficult to prevent and our security leaders have been honest this week in saying Australia – like much of the Western world – is not immune from a similar outrage.
One must also spare a thought for the overwhelming majority of law abiding Muslim citizens in this country who have been horrified by what happened in Paris.
Australia is the envy of the world in the way we have blended people from different cultures and religions into our society.
There have been very few religious and race-based problems that have erupted to any significant extent in recent years.
The Martin Place siege and recent murder of an accountant outside a Sydney police station was the work of crazed individual and a manipulated teenager rather than that of an organised terrorist cell.
Perhaps that is due to the vigilance of our law enforcement agencies but it is vital non-Muslim Australians don’t turn on their fellow citizens. Together we can beat this.
We must be vigilant and remain united in our common goal to live in a trusting, peaceful and tolerant society.
That is the only way.

The Payne barrier

The win of jockey Michelle Payne in last week’s Melbourne Cup was a breath of fresh air.
After a perfect race ride in which she outsmarted and outmanoeuvred the best jockeys in the world, Payne gave an after race interview that captured the nation’s heart.
She did not trot back to scale weeping into the interviewer’s microphone like so many of her male counterparts who win Group 1 races. She spoke with clarity, consideration and passion.
She was clearly thrilled with her achievement and that of her horse but was astute enough to realise she had the attention of the nation and delivered a charming rebuke to the chauvinists in the industry.
Women riders have been competing with men on an equal footing in this highly competitive and extremely dangerous sport for many years.
There is no women’s division in racing.
It’s not like tennis, hockey or golf … there are no races just for female jockeys.
They have had countless obstacles placed in their way by generations of male racing officials, trainers and owners but, little by little, have overcome those sexist perceptions to rise to the very top.
Smart trainers such as the late Bart Cummings realised the worth of female jockeys and booked them regularly for major races.
He used Michelle Payne often and the master horseman knew that getting the best out of some horses took more than muscle.
Adelaide trainer Leon Macdonald and jockey Clare Lindop have forged a partnership that has been the best in SA for many years. Lindop has won Group 1 races in Melbourne and is one of many SA female riders who fly the flag with professionalism.
So while it is possible that another woman may not ride the winner of the Melbourne Cup for another 10, 20 or 30 years, Michelle Payne has played an important part in breaking down a barrier.
The next move must surely be for racing officials to stop placing a ‘Ms’ in front of a female rider’s name in the form guide to distinguish them from their male counterparts. If officials truly believe women are as professional as men, then such a title is unnecessary. This is a simple but true test of what industry authorities really think of female jockeys.

Speed blitz

The annual summer blitz on speeding road users in the Hills has begun.
The need for hidden cameras to curb the racetrack mentality of some road users – particularly motorcycle riders – is obvious with three riders killed in as many weeks on Hills roads.
Some of the twisting roads from the city into the Hills such as Gorge Road are a magnet for riders.
They seem perfect for a weekend ride.
They are uphill, winding, usually have light traffic loads and offer a few minutes of freedom to motorbike riders looking for a bit of excitement.
Unfortunately they are also public places.
Roads are not racetracks, however ideal they might seem for a quick Sunday morning ride to Lobethal for a cup of coffee.
And herein lies the dilemma.
An 80km/h speed limit on such roads is perfectly adequate for most car drivers but an experienced motorbike rider would safely ride parts of the same road at 110km/h, perhaps more.
But the problem is that inexperienced riders get into trouble when testing their limits while experienced riders can come to grief due to unexpected circumstances such as oil spills, rock falls or other traffic.
The bottom line is the roads are not racetracks and the speed limits are set for all users.
Three families have had to deal with the grief of burying a loved one prematurely in the past three weeks.
That  heartache experienced by those left behind when a young life is cut short because of reckless behavior, is unimaginable.
The solace gained from “they died doing what they loved” surely cannot compare to the love, joy and happiness such lives would have brought to countless others had they not been killed unnecessarily.
And let’s not forget the poor CFS and ambulance volunteers as well as innocent road users who are first on the scene at these all too regular accidents.
These ordinary people have to experience the horror of the screams, the shattered limbs and shattered lives.
Cradling a dying man in your arms is something which stays with you forever.
Suddenly the Sunday morning ride isn’t fun anymore.
No, using Hills roads as racetracks is simply not acceptable.
The shocking statistics for motorbike riders on Hills roads are all too real.

Future planning

It’s really no surprise that Hills shoppers are among the biggest supporters of SA dairy farmers’ own brand of milk SADA Fresh.
This is a community still connected to its farming roots, despite creeping suburbia, and people will support local producers – if they are provided opportunities to do so.
That’s where the South Australian Dairyfarmers’ Association (SADA) branded milk scheme is an example of customer power, market forces and a touch of serendipity.
According to SADA chief executive Ken Lyons, a meeting over coffee with the head of Coles, arranged by a mutual business connection, was all it took to make SADA Fresh a reality.
His association had a plan to turn its fortunes around but nowhere to sell its product and Coles had noticed a shift in customer demand towards wanting to buy local and was looking at ways to stave off the opposition.
Now, two years after the launch of SADA Fresh, the association has sold more than two million litres of milk and raised about $400,000 for industry investment through the proceeds.
What was even better than the money raised was the publicity generated.
Dairy farmers were no longer clinging to a dying industry, they were fighting for their own future on their own terms.
It seems politicians and the business community are more willing to help those who help themselves.
SADA Fresh helped the association build stronger partnerships with the State Government and dairy food manufacturers, giving it access to more resources and business opportunities.
In April SADA Fresh became the first fresh milk to be exported from SA to China and more value-adding dairy processing plants are opening up in SA which will drive greater milk production.
SA’s dairy industry is not out of the woods yet but farmers now have hope and a strategic direction and ultimately they wouldn’t have had either without the support of ordinary household shoppers.
It might not seem like we’re making much of a difference when we elect to pay that extra $1 for local produce or food produced in a more humane way but when you add all those purchases together, households can make a huge difference to the health of our local economies.

Top of the table

Until recently it was an obscure little table in Tony Abbott’s office.
It looked like the sort of thing you’d see in an upmarket doctor’s waiting room – neatly piled with glossy magazines and a vase of fresh flowers.
But the former PM’s marble topped table has shot into national prominence after it was broken during what appears to have been a wild party to celebrate him losing the leadership.
That in itself seems an odd reason to throw a party but a gathering to blow off steam, vent a little anger and commiserate each other after a leadership spill is understandable.
The party sounds a little like a wake that became slightly out of hand.
By all accounts the Prime Ministerial drinks cabinet was opened and, as the party progressed, the PM’s shirt came off, presumably to deliver a little flesh action for the faithful in between the reported dancing on tables.
It sounds like a good old fashioned, let your hair down, don’t tell your mother, sort of party. It could be a scene from a Don Williamson play.
Everyone was having a good time … until the little table in the corner was unexpectedly shoved into the national spotlight.
Who broke the table?
Our own Jamie Briggs turned up to work the following morning in a wheelchair clutching a pair of crutches saying he’d damaged his leg on an early morning run and was adamant table-top dancing was not in his bag of party tricks.
So when news of the smashed $1000 table was revealed and that pieces of it had been taken as souvenirs by party goers – rather like their own bits of the Berlin Wall – it was understandable that the culprit turn themselves in and pay for the damage.
But, like a group of chastened teenagers caught by their parents doing the wrong thing, the silence was deafening.
Mr Abbott has offered pay for the damage but still the perpetrator has not come forward.
And that is the nub of the issue.
The table doesn’t matter.
What is important is people’s preparedness to accept responsibility for their own actions – whether it be charging the taxpayer for helicopter flights or business class holiday travel for the whole family or accidentally smashing public property.

Freeway signs

Regular freeway commuters know only too well the pitiless consequences of being caught by the speed cameras at the Crafers interchange and Mt Osmond overpass at Leawood Gardens and they watch the variable speed signs like hawks.
But even the most savvy motorists have tales of the time they got pinged doing 60km/h in a 40km/h zone that seemed to stretch forever or the time they saw some hapless driver miss the reduced 70km/h sign because they were too busy avoiding an overtaking truck.
The freeway is a busy, dangerously steep road with plenty to distract the driver.
There are signs for this and signs for that – and motorists still have to keep a watchful eye out for semi-trailers pulling out of the truck lane and cars hurtling past in the right-hand lane.
So it is no surprise that the RAA has once again called for more effective signage than what currently clutters this major corridor.
More than 17,000 motorists were fined for speeding through the Leawood Gardens camera during 2014/15, accounting for nearly 10% of total fine revenue from fixed cameras in Adelaide and the surrounding areas.
What that revenue equates to is not articulated but late last year it was reported that the two cameras had generated nearly $6m in speeding fines in their first seven months of operation.
That’s quite a windfall for a cash-strapped State Government that can take the moral high ground and blame motorists for being inattentive or deliberately flaunting the law, which is what they continue to do when the RAA points out the over-representation of the Leawood Gardens camera.
The Government says those fined represent only a tiny fraction of those who actually travel past the camera.
However, the RAA rightly points out that a significant percentage of that fraction are doing at least 20km/h over the limit which suggests they just haven’t seen the variable speed sign alerting them to the speed change.
Nowadays a speeding fine like that will set a person back $800 or more – a week’s wages for many.
The fine does not match the crime.
If a Government is going to slug a family a week’s wages, it needs to make sure the speed limit signs can be clearly seen across all lanes.

Mental health

Once stigmatised and shunned from public discusion, mental illness will be firmly in the spotlight in the Hills this month as the push continues to raise awareness about a very real health problem.
National charity SANE estimates that 20% of Australian adults are affected by a mental disorder each year and nearly half the population will experience mental illness at some time in their lives.
Those figures bring home the fact that, if it hasn’t already affected us, we will all experience mental illness at some stage, whether as sufferers or as loved ones caring for those affected.
It is encouraging then to see how far society has come in recent years in breaking down stereotypes and increasing services and support to those with mental health issues.
Stories like the one shared by Mt Barker woman Heather Nowak in today’s edition show how valuable a supportive health service and a caring community are to helping sufferers on their road to recovery.
But the alarming rate of suicide among former military personnel – a number that is on the rise – and concerns expressed by the Mt Barker RSL about the lack of support for veterans highlight that there is still much more to be done.

Wasp decision

The decision by Environment Minister Ian Hunter to discontinue the State Government’s funding towards the removal of European wasp nests is yet another example of local government being forced to do more with less.
The councils will either have to pass the cost of nest removal to the property owner or put the rates up for everyone to cover the shortfall.
Either way the buck will stop with the little guy as the State Government washes its hands of all responsibility.
The fact is that people cannot ignore a wasp nest in their backyard or their wall cavity. The wasps must be removed.
The danger is that changing the structure to make it the property owner’s responsibility might encourage people to take nest removal into their own hands.
This could have tragic consequences.
It might also encourage some property owners not to report nests thereby making the problem worse.

Bold bin decision

The Alexandrina Council’s decision to change to a fortnightly bin collection system is a bold move that could become the norm for rubbish collection across the country.

The change to move away from the traditional weekly general waste (blue bin) collection has been driven by the ever increasing cost of dumping that rubbish in landfill.

And with research showing that almost 70% of the material placed in the district’s blue bins could be recycled through either the yellow or green bins (which carry only a minor dumping fee to council), it is little wonder the authority has moved to change the system.

There will certainly be an adjustment period for some residents and business owners who may be inconvenienced by the decision to collect all three bins on a fortnightly basis as opposed to the current system of a weekly pick-up for blue bins and a monthly pick-up of the others.

But with open lines of communication and a spirit of understanding on both sides, most difficulties can be overcome. Mayor Keith Parkes has said weekly collection will be reintroduced at peak periods in the summer to help residents and holidaymakers.

What is essential is a long-running, well funded and professional public awareness campaign from the council to educate the wider community to ensure that more materials are placed in the correct bins. The 70% figure for recyclable or compostable material being sent to landfill through the blue bins is a disgrace.

Clearly too many people don’t understand the system. There will always be a small percentage of the population who don’t care and will dump anything in any bin, but most people – if given the opportunity – will try and do the right thing.

The changes will be implemented during the next financial year so the council has a long lead-in time to educate its ratepayers about the new system and make it a smooth and successful transition.

It is obvious that rubbish collection has come a long way in recent years and is a far cry from every household having a single bin into which everything was dumped and ended up in landfill. Now that the decision has been made the most important thing is to bring the community along with the change.

Vale Grant Paech

The death of Beenenberg founder Grant Paech on Monday gives us all a reason to not only celebrate a wonderful life but to also acknowledge a man who combined two rare traits – an outstanding work ethic and a sharp mind open to opportunity.
Mr Paech and his wife Carol developed an internationally recognised company from  a backyard strawberry patch in a corner of their diary farm and a roadside stall selling homemade jam.
They might have remained struggling farmers were it not for Mr Paech’s ability to both recognise and seize an opportunity to develop a business which would ultimately change the lives of hundreds of people for the better.
Now under the tutelage of his three children Robert (farm manager), Anthony (managing director) and Sally (marketing manager), Beerenberg has expanded to manufacture much more than jams – which it exports to 25 countries – and its range now includes sauces and condiments.
A story in this edition of The Courier reveals how the company is now expanding into selling exclusive high-end tableware.
It is a business that is moving forward and looking for opportunities – just as its founder would have done.
Yet despite its modern global reach and influence, its roots are firmly entrenched in the Hahndorf community.
The Paech family has been living in Hahndorf for six generations and the business has a philanthropic arm which injects money and enthusiasm back into the historic town where it reigns as a local hero.
It provides many jobs and the massive $14m expansion to develop a distribution centre, warehouse and factory upgrade, which is underway behind the current factory, is a testament to the strong ties Beerenberg has to Hahndorf.
Most households have a jar of a Beerenberg product tucked away in the pantry.
So, even though it may have sat there untouched for months, now is the time to dust off the lid and remember a man who had a massive impact on his local community, a significant impact on SA and who played an important role in helping to place Australia’s food industry onto the international stage.
So let’s toast the life of Grant Paech – with a piece of toast and a delicious jam, of course.

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