The Courier: Editorial

Jobs creation

A shortcoming in Australia’s political system is that significant long-term projects are often ignored by political parties because the all important three-year electoral cycle takes centre stage.
The result is that worthy but distant projects are shuffled around and ultimately shelved only to re-emerge decades later at an exorbitant price when reality bites and the political pain becomes too intense.
In the meantime ‘trinkets’ are offered to voters at election times – particularly in marginal seats – with the underlying aim of achieving a political outcome for the lowest price.
But as next month’s Mayo by-election is showing, an increasing number of influential people are demanding a major project – a road and rail bypass to take traffic from Monarto, through Palmer and into the city’s northern industrial suburbs – be seriously considered.
This is a big money project.
For too long this region has been ignored by Federal governments of both persuasions but it now finds itself very much in the national political spotlight and voters are rightfully demanding attention.
The benefits of such a project to this fast-growing region are enormous.
In a nutshell:
• Removing the majority of semi-trailers from the freeway will enable it to cope with the region’s booming population and reduce congestion on Portrush Road.
• Removing freight trains from the rail line will allow the development of an efficient public transport corridor (train or O-Bahn) that could be expanded to Murray Bridge and Victor Harbor.
• A job generating transport hub can be developed at Monarto including a possible freight airport.
• This will allow intensive horticultural and associated processing industries to emerge, taking advantage of recycled water from the booming suburbs of Mt Barker.
Swimming pools and sports grounds are necessary but what this region is also demanding are commitments to develop jobs for the next generation.
The State Liberal Government has agreed to a benefit study into the bypass and what Mayo voters want to see is some serious Federal interest in the project.
Now is the perfect time for the two levels of government to work together towards securing this region’s future. Rest assured, there are plenty of votes in it.

Wake up to waste

The impact of the Chinese ban on contaminated recyclables is beginning to rear its head, demonstrating the importance of responsible waste management.
With some councils left to shoulder additional costs associated with dealing with waste, Australian ratepayers may soon find the international crisis hitting their own hip pockets.
Recyclables are a commodity that can be used to create anything from polar fleece to road surfaces.
But, as demonstrated through the Chinese ban, they can quickly become a burden when the cost of collecting and processing them exceeds the benefit gained.
The State Government has responded to the Chinese ban by introducing a support package including money to promote local remanufacturing of recyclables.
But dealing with our waste requires a multi-layered response to a problem for which we must all take responsibility.
Increasing our local capacity to deal with and reuse our own recyclables may be a long-term solution, giving our nation more control over its recycling process.
But manufacturers and consumers also have a role to play.
Every year about eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans, while only an estimated 10% of plastic is recycled worldwide.
Reducing the amount of waste we create and improving the way we deal with it are two key measures that must be addressed as we change strategy.
It may be time for the Government to consider enforcing restrictions on packaging or for Australian manufacturers to take the lead to reduce unnecessary packaging.
But perhaps the greatest power is in the hands of the consumer. With the true cost of waste management becoming clearer it is time we upped our waste game.
Information about how to recycle and the impacts of irresponsible waste management is widely available, but still many people take the easy road, sending our recyclables to landfill or leaving them too contaminated to be of much good.
Ongoing education is important but perhaps it will be the financial pain we will be forced to pay that will have the greatest impact on changing people’s attitudes towards responsible product purchasing and the resulting recycling which flows from that purchase.

Final decision

The Alexandrina Council’s decision to rezone 21ha of land on Adelaide Road near the entrance to Strathalbyn as residential rather than commercial surely brings this long-running saga to a close.
State Planning Minister Stephan Knoll must still approve the council’s resolution, but the council has backed its belief that significant commercial development outside the town centre would have an overall negative impact on the community as a whole.
The vacant land has been embroiled in controversy ever since a proposal many years ago for it to be used as a golf course to lessen the impact of planned residential development on adjacent land.
This remaining portion has since divided community opinion as to whether or not it should be transformed into a commercial hub.
The council’s decision to restrict development to within the town’s centre is sound, but the robustness of the hub debate has proven there is a definite desire for more retail and specialist services within Strathalbyn.
While coming to this decision was a struggle in itself, the challenge now facing the council is to show how it can facilitate that community desire.
The community wants more retail options, a medical centre and more aged care facilities, among others.
The council now has the motivation to drive such developments.
It must actively promote the town centre as the ideal place to set up shop by engaging business owners, developers and all other relevant stakeholders.
To do nothing is to risk economic stagnation.
The protected heritage nature of many of the town’s buildings – which are arguably the it’s strongest tourism asset – will be one of the largest issues facing developers.
However, with the right planning and co-operation, the right balance can be achieved.
Strathalbyn is a town of huge potential.
It services the smaller surrounding townships as well as the commuter population and its population is growing rapidly.
With more homes potentially springing up on the Adelaide Road site as a result of the council’s decision, there will be even more people drawn into the town’s businesses.

Uncertain future

The voters of Mayo could be forgiven for feeling frustrated at the idea of heading back to the polls less than two years after the last Federal election.
But compounding that frustration is the uncertainty of exactly when they will be called on to vote.
Like the swift and comparatively less painful removal of a bandaid, by-elections triggered by Canberra’s citizenship saga in Bennelong and New England last year and in the seat of Batman in March happened quickly.
Democracy was restored.
Not so for Mayo and the four other Federal seats left vacant by a combination of resignations over citizenship issues and personal reasons.
Instead, almost half a million electors in those five seats appear to be at the mercy of the Federal Speaker Tony Smith and a much longer, drawn-out process.
Mr Smith told Parliament on Monday that he is waiting for new regulations for the candidate nomination process to be drawn up by the Turnbull Government to manage citizenship obligations under section 44 of the Constitution.
Under the changes, which the Government wants implemented ahead for the latest round of by-elections, candidates would be forced to lodge documents that show they are not dual citizens.
This delay is likely to push the date for the by-elections out to the end of June, or even into July.
That leaves all five electorates without a voice in Parliament at a critical time of debates on substantial matters from the budget to the banning of live sheep exports.
According to the Speaker, the new system would “improve public trust and confidence” in the wake of the citizenship debacle that has steadily rolled on for close to a year now.
Given that MPs have always been required to ensure they meet section 44, yet still have spectacularly failed to do so, it is a somewhat forlorn hope that a regulation to fill in a new set of forms will improve public perceptions on the matter.
One would have thought that, given the huge amount of media coverage and dissection of the rules by the High Court over the past 10 months, aspiring pollies should by now have a sound understanding of their need to renounce any foreign citizenship well before nominating.

Battle lines drawn

Battle lines have been drawn in the fight for Mayo as the electorate faces a by-election within weeks.
Canberra’s ongoing dual citizenship saga last week claimed former Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie among its latest scalps, triggering her resignation.
With Ms Sharkie re-contesting the seat against high-profile Liberal candidate Georgina Downer, and with Labor and the Greens set to field candidates, the fight for Mayo will be closely watched.
Unlike the three other by-elections in former Labor held seats, Mayo is likely to be contested on grassroots issues and personalities, not big-picture party policy agendas.
The Liberals – who recorded a staggering 16% swing against them in the seat at the 2016 election when Ms Sharkie defeated incumbent Liberal Jamie Briggs – will be eager to win back their historically safe Hills and Fleurieu heartland.
With the party’s passion to reclaim Mayo evident, it is surprising then that there was not more competition from Liberal members for preselection and that Ms Downer was elected unopposed.
It is also remarkable that, despite the lengthy, highly-publicised dual citizenship crisis, two Liberal nominees for the Mayo preselection reportedly had to withdraw from the process at the last minute because of their own citizenship issues.
With the political clout of the Downer name and an accomplished career built in her own right, Ms Downer presents a formidable challenger for the seat.
However, the fact that she has not lived locally for some time is already being used against her by her political opponents.
Ms Sharkie, a long-term local, has built a solid reputation as a hard-working local member – both points she is hoping will count in her favor with voters.
But there can be no doubt that the political demise of her former NXT party’s founder, Nick Xenophon, and the fact she considered, even briefly, returning to the Liberals, also remain fresh in the minds of electors.
Added to the intrigue of the future of Mayo is the fact that whoever wins the upcoming by-election will enjoy a short-lived victory, with voters expected to return to the polls in less than 12 months for the next Federal election.

Calendar girls

In becoming calendar girls, the women of the Macclesfield Young at Heart Club are shining a spotlight on an important message.
Their latest venture, to strip off for the tastefully photographed fundraiser, is already doing plenty to get people in SA talking about cancer and the ripple effect it has on the lives of those affected.
The group has already raised almost $80,000 for the cause by supporting the Cancer Council SA’s Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea each year over the past decade.
Next week, in addition to the delicious spread, hot cuppas, auctions and stalls, they will launch their calendar. It’s a cheeky way of hitting back against a terrible disease that has cut short the lives of their loved ones, or left them with terrible scars.
While cancer may have united them in a push to raise awareness and funds for a cure, it has also brought them closer together, creating a much-needed support network and boosting one small community’s resilience in the face of adversity.

Branch closure

The closure of Strathalbyn’s Commonwealth Bank branch is a sign of the changing times.
From July 6, only two banks will have a physical presence in the town because, like most industries, banking is becoming increasingly digitised.
Cash transactions are dropping and branch closures are the unfortunate result of that digital shift.
For most, the ease of internet banking renders face-to-face banking redundant, but there are still many people who rely on that service.
Whether they are unable to access online banking due to lack of internet access, whether they haven’t adapted to (or refuse to trust) banking online, or whether they run a business that simply must swap bank notes for change, some people are heavily reliant on their local bank branch.
For Commbank customers unwilling to make the return trip to the Mt Barker branch, they will have little option but to swap banks.
The local post office offers some banking services but unless the Commbank can strike a deal with the local AusPost branch to offer a change service for some businesses, it will lose more of its local business customers.

Town centre win

After more than a decade of failed plans and speculation, there is now real hope the last undeveloped city block in Mt Barker’s town centre will be developed.
The land has been an eyesore and a frustration for locals, who have for years been hoping it would be transformed into something with a public benefit.
Now those hopes look set to become a reality.
The partnership between the Mt Barker Council and developer Burke Urban delivers a balance between the community’s desire for a town square and the private sector’s desire to create a commercial outcome.
Without each other, neither side would have had the money to buy the site, which was estimated to be worth $10m.
With both the council and Burke Urban committed to working together, the community looks set to gain from an integrated development across the entire site.
What that will look like is yet to be decided.
Burke Urban has already flagged the possibility of a mix of retail, offices and medium density housing.
But it is open to ideas.
So too is the council, which has proposed a town square on at least part of the land it has bought fronting Morphett Street.
Both parties have told The Courier they are keen to work with the community, prospective tenants and developers to create a masterplan for the entire site.
That is likely to deliver a far better outcome than if the land had been sold off for piecemeal development.
However, it also means the community will need to be open-minded about the future of the site.
It is unrealistic to expect that the majority of the block will be given over to community uses.
As a developer, Burke Urban will expect a return on its investment.
However, Burke Urban is also a company with strong and long ties to Mt Barker.
Its managing director, Kym Burke, told The Courier yesterday he views the development of the site as a “legacy project”.
After years of developers trying and failing to make their own stamp on the block – from a shopping centre to a childcare centre and a hardware store – it is a win for the community that its voice may now help shape the future of such a prominent site.

Anzac story

The intriguing story uncovered by Littlehampton’s Wayne Barrie about the brazen Australian capture of Boer soldiers in 1901 is even more remarkable given its links with the modern Anzac legend.
Occurring on the same date (14 years earlier), at precisely the same time and involving Australian troops with a NZ soldier, the story upholds all the qualities we like to associate with our troops – courageous, ingenious, quick thinking, practical, loyal with a hint of recklessness and all bundled up with a healthy dose of larrikinism.
It is a wonderful story we are privileged to learn.
It’s disappointing to realise that many wonderful battleground achievements have been forgotten over the years.
Perhaps other admired Australian qualities – the art of being unassuming and avoiding any hint of boastfulness – is partly to blame for that loss.
Thankfully this tale has a happy ending as there were no casualties.
Few war stories can boast that.
The traditional Anzac horror we remember at dawn today is a case in point.
The slaughter of so many young men on the exposed beaches and among the unforgiving cliffs and gullies of Gallipoli is a sobering lesson on what can happen when war turns nasty.
For every defeat there must be a loss.
There was no glory at Gallipoli – certainly not among the combatants who were forced to eke out an existence in the filthy trenches as the bombs and shells rained down among them.
No, the appropriate recognition was to come later and is a task subsequent generations have taken up with great pride and enthusiasm.
The way this country has turned a humiliating military defeat into a day of national significance is remarkable.
After all, to commemorate a glorious victory might be considered boastful, and who would want that?
Remembering a defeat in such detail is probably the best way following generations can gain a dose of reality and a sense of perspective when it comes to war.
It’s comforting to think the diggers who were left behind at Gallipoli would be proud of what Australia has subsequently made of the whole event.
But was it worth all that pain, loss and suffering? Unfortunately we can’t ask them.

Bushfire threat

Bushfires are a very real threat in the Hills, yet many residents would have little idea about what it’s like to face one.
As the region becomes increasingly urbanised, more people move here from the suburbs where the risk of fire is very different.
At the start of each fire danger season the CFS warns us to be prepared – clean up properties, plan whether to stay or go and ensure there is a well researched plan in place with the necessary equipment if we decide to stay.
But there is a key component missing in our preparations to protect our properties from a raging bushfire.
Are we up to the challenge mentally?
For those who have never experienced a fire, it’s impossible to know how they will react to the first smell of smoke, the roar of flames approaching or the rain of embers onto the roof.
And yet that reaction could be the difference between life and death.
A person’s emotional response could be the thing that ensures they calmly go about protecting themselves and their loved ones, or the thing that sends them on a last-minute panicked journey trying to flee the approaching inferno.
Now UniSA researchers and the CFS have devised a way – using virtual reality – to give locals a taste of what it might be like if they decide to stay and defend their homes.
The bushfire scenario will play out through the safety of a headset, but will give volunteers enough of the sights and sounds of a bushfire to help them gauge their emotional response.
It is hoped the technology can be used to develop new educational tools which can be more widely distributed to residents in fire danger areas ahead of next summer.
If used regularly, the simulations may help participants build their resilience and give them the skills to more calmly enact their bushfire action plans in an emergency.
However, a comprehensive pre-summer preparation of property remains the real key to survival.
A well-considered and practiced bushfire plan is still the best line of defence, but taking part in the virtual fire study may give well-prepared locals the confidence in their ability to safely stay and defend their homes.

Imperfect fruit

There is no greater sign of consumers’ unrealistic desire for perfection than a piece of fruit on a supermarket shelf.
If an apple happens to be too big, too small, oddly shaped or blemished we reject it in favor of its perfectly shiny, medium-sized, unblemished neighbor.
Yet how often have you selected a perfectly red and round tomato, only to discover it’s nothing like a tomato in the way that matters most – taste.
They look magnificent but at first bite you realise beauty really is only skin deep.
The apple and pear industry’s new Hailstorm Heroes campaign provides an easy way for consumers to help growers at risk of losing millions of dollars in income after last October’s freak hail storm.
Hail-marked fruit sold through the campaign will taste just as good, despite the odd lump, bump or scrape.
It also means that growers will receive a far better return for their slightly damaged fruit than the alternatives – dumping it or juicing it in a market already flooded with juicing fruit.
But the Hailstorm Heroes campaign also shines a light on a much bigger issue facing our food producers.
Our obsession with perfection is driving staggering amounts of food waste.
Worldwide about one third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste.
In Australia, that figure is even higher.
In the banana industry alone, an estimated 40% of all fruit grown is dumped before it’s even had a chance to make it to market – and all because it’s imperfect.
Food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy $20 billion a year.
Between households, eateries and industry, we throw out at least 5.3 million tonnes of edible food each year.
Yet at least 650,000 Australians, one quarter of which are children, are believed to be reliant on food relief from aid services each month.
Buying a bag of hail marked apples or pears is an easy way to support our region’s growers in their time of need.
It may also be a catalyst for shoppers to rethink their grocery buying habits.
Supermarkets are driven by consumer demand and to curb our food waste, demanding choice at the checkout that includes “imperfect” fruit and veg is a good place to start.