FROM THE EDITOR: Scroll through to see a selection of our readers' Letters to the Editor. To share what's on your mind, send a letter via this link or email email@example.com. Letters may be edited to remove factual or grammatical errors, or for brevity.
EDITOR: Kempsey teacher Mark Baxter responds to the mis-representation of comments by Voice advocate, Professor Marcia Langton'.
This was a golden opportunity to lift the awareness of the Australian public about the truth of Australia's history, instead it has become a mud-slinging contest.
Not only were Indigenous Australians not mentioned in the 1901 Constitution, but the reason for not mentioning them was heralded a year later with the White Australia policy - a blatantly racist legislation... to refuse to accept people into the country who did not have white skin.
This "sacred fabric" of racism is what the learned Professor [was] describing with dripping sarcasm. You will recall that the "White Australia" policy was not removed until 1966 by the Holt Liberal/National Government, . and not properly replaced until the multiculturalism policies of the Whitlam Government of 1973.
There are already advisory groups in Canberra; the Business Council of Australia Advisory Group, the Youth Advisory Group, the Small Business Advisory Group, the Multicultural Advisory Council, the National Women's Health Advisory Council - dozens advising. Nothing sinister.
The only difference is that this Indigenous advisory group represents a seriously disadvantaged minority in this country .
All levels of government have attempted to address the "Closing the Gap" statistics .There has been a long struggle for justice and equal rights by these fellow Australians but the gap in living standard is still there.
So maybe, just maybe, the advisory group might help address this unacceptable situation.
Let's hope so .
Mark Baxter, Crescent Head
All ratepayers and pensioners in Kempsey are shocked to know that the Kempsey Shire Council has listed three options for rate rises between July 2024 and July 2026 totalling either a 51 per cent, 85 per cent or 94 per cent increase from the current level.
There is only one way to stop this... you can lodge a complaint with the Local Government Minister or the NSW Ombudsman.
Their contact details are as follows
The Hon Ron Hoenig MP: GPO BOX 5341, Sydney NSW 2001. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The NSW Ombudsman: Level 24, 580 George Street Sydney NSW 2000. Email:email@example.com
Don't delay, write today
Don Henry, Aldavilla
*EDITOR: Some parts of this letter have been sub-edited.
The Salvation Army is one of the biggest providers of social services in Australia. We are a pragmatic movement, not really into empty gestures or performative virtue signalling. I don't think in our 140-year history in Australia that we have ever been called "elites"
But we do support the Voice.
We support the Voice, simply, because we believe it will make a difference.
For 140 years, the Salvos have rolled up their sleeves and helped where we can. We started small by assisting discharged prisoners at the prison gates in Melbourne and now we provide over 2,000 services across every state and territory in Australia. We support people experiencing homelessness, family and domestic violence, financial hardship, unemployment, substance use disorders, social isolation and loneliness, and help them recover from natural disasters.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in almost every service we deliver - and that's why we support a Voice.
There is no escaping the fact that what we are doing right now, as a nation, is not working.
The Salvos will always do what we can on the ground, but the issues we see are deeper; they are structural and systemic. We believe the only way to practically address the hardship experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is to change how the government makes and carries out policy. We believe the best way to do that is to actually listen to the people affected - to give them a voice.
Not everyone agrees with us on this and that's okay. We just ask that people respectfully consider, before they decide on October 14: "Will the Voice make a difference for people who really need help?"
We think the answer is a resounding yes.
Captain Stuart Glover, The Salvation Army Australia
The Voice to Parliament is a recognition by the Australian Government that First Nations' voices must be consulted about proposed laws and policies that affect them.
In late 2023, a referendum will be held in which Australians will vote on whether to establish an independent and permanent advisory body that would give advice to the Australian Parliament and government on matters that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This includes issues such as education, health, housing, justice, and other policies with a practical impact on First Nations people.
Healthy North Coast supports the Voice to Parliament, acknowledging the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have greater involvement in decision-making which directly impacts their lives.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live and work, comprising in this region the lands of the Birpai, Bundjalung, Dunghutti, Githabul, Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl peoples.
We are committed to walking beside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and community-controlled health organisations in advocating for social change that achieves equity and better health and wellbeing.
We also recognise the continuing rich culture and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in the face of colonisation, dispossession, and discrimination.
The impacts of this trauma have led to unacceptable inequalities and health disparities that must be addressed.
Healthy North Coast Board Chair, Dr Adrian Gilliland: "Building a better future together requires us to engage with, empower and walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations within our North Coast communities.
Our commitment to closing the gap and reducing health inequity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities is paramount to all our objectives and outcomes.
Our support of the Voice to Parliament is a demonstration of this commitment, and we will continue to advocate for positive change."
Healthy North Coast CEO, Monika Wheeler: "Healthy North Coast is on a continuing journey of learning and understanding.
We are deeply committed to the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan and working in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to achieve better health outcomes for First Nations peoples.
We respect there are differing views and encourage our community to access reliable information on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament at voice.gov.au, which will empower us all to make our own informed decision."
Dr Adrian Gilliland and Monika Wheeler, Healthy North Coast
*Healthy North Coast delivers the North Coast Primary Health Network program on behalf of the Australian Government.
Heart disease is Australia's leading cause of death and tragically takes the life of one Australian every 30 minutes.
The good news is, heart disease is largely preventable. The bad news? Our best tool for heart disease prevention - the Medicare Heart Health Check - is about to expire.
We are seeking a guarantee from the Australian Government that funding will continue beyond 30 June this year. Nearly 440,000 Australians have seen their GP for a Medicare subsidised Heart Health Check since they were introduced.
The Heart Foundation is asking the Government to invest $11.5 million per year, to continue subsidising Heart Health Checks into the future.
This is a relatively small investment compared to the $1 billion in healthcare costs that could be saved with broad uptake of Heart Health Checks in high-risk Australians and more importantly, the 67,000 heart attacks, strokes and heart disease related deaths that could be prevented over five years.
It's not too late for your readers to take action: I urge you to please help us save Medicare Heart Health Checks by signing our petition, writing to local MPs and sharing the petition with friends and family.
To take action, please visit www.heartfoundation.org.au/save-heart-checks
David Lloyd, Chief Executive Officer, National Heart Foundation of Australia
*Editor's note: In mid-2022, the Macleay Argus interviewed then Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey. The interview discussed Ms Pavey's support of the Oven Mountain hydro project and attracted many letters in response. Our checks revealed several contained errors, while some were politically motivated. Others were simply uncivil. As a result, all were withheld. The Oven Mountain project team's subsequent request for a regular column was also declined in the interest of fairness. Now that our seemingly-endless run of elections is over, and because the project is still topical, a selection of new and previously vetted letters follows.
March 2023: Our team is currently preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project and are continuing with design work.
In January, the team hosted a series of small information sessions - which we called "Power Lunches" - at our Kempsey Community Information Hub. In February, we held industry briefing sessions in Kempsey and Armidale, where we highlighted future opportunities for local and regional businesses. The team was also proud to support the 2023 Walcha and Armidale shows and will be out-and-about in April at the Kempsey Show.
In March, we held a community consultation meeting at Dunghutti Elders Council, and we thank both the Dunghutti and Thunggutti community for hosting us and sharing their insight. The team celebrated International Women's Day by hosting a community event in Kempsey where Her Excellency Ms Dorcas Kobela Makgato, High Commissioner for Botswana to Australia was guest speaker.
Our team are continuing to work to submit the project's EIS for approval. We anticipate that submission is imminent and will update the community well in advance when we hear further word from the Department of Planning and Environment.
Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Energy Storage project team
In a recent interview reported in the online and print editions of The Macleay Argus, Oxley MP Melinda Pavey encouraged the Macleay residents "to learn for themselves" about the Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro project.
The problem is that it is difficult to find the facts and there is a lot of misinformation in the community. The current plan for Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro project aims to generate 900MW, not 600MW as reported by the Argus. (*Ed: The figure of 600 MW is quoted on both the Oven Mountain project and Kempsey Shire Council websites.The NSW Planning Portal quotes 900 MW.)
The proponents have estimated that there will be 600 jobs during construction, not "up to 3000 jobs" as Ms Pavey is quoted.
The report on the Argus website says, "Macleay Valley residents expressed concerns about the project's relationship with China." The much reduced print version addresses this point with the curious quote, "it's not China. It's actually an Australian invention by a former local".
Pumped hydro technology is most certainly not the invention by a local, it was developed in Italy and Switzerland in the early 20th century. (*Ed: 1.We cannot fit as many words on a print page as we can online. 2.Ms Pavey was referring to the project design not the invention of pumped hydro.)
Community members have indeed raised concerns about the source of the investments and about the eventual financial benefits going overseas. Ms Pavey says that we are dealing with "old Commonwealth money". What does that mean?
The facts are that the company currently proposing the scheme is OMPS Pty Ltd in partnership with Alinta Energy (AE). The owners of the private property where the project is located have formed the company Hoshac Pty Ltd. Alinta is often referred to as an Australian company, because of their operations in several Australian States. However, it is part of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited (CTFE) - owned by the Cheng family with headquarters in Hong Kong and registered in the British Virgin Islands. The territory of Hong Kong was transferred to the People's Republic of China in 1997.
According to one of the OMPS directors at the recent community drop-in meeting in Kempsey, Hoshac and OMPS will sell their interests in the development to Alinta once the project is operational. At the community drop-in meetings the question was raised if the costly road access from Kempsey will be financed by the investors.
Ms Pavey said, "we have now guaranteed $227 million in natural disaster relief funding to improve the Kempsey to Armidale Road". This means tax[payers]' and ratepayers' money.
And last not least, Ms Pavey asserted that the Oven Mountain reservoirs will contribute to the Kempsey Shire water security in times of drought. This has been questioned in submissions to the NSW government's North Coast Regional Water Strategy.
It is highly unlikely that the reservoirs would be drained and electricity generation stopped for the benefit of the down-river community. Even if that were the case, water released during a drought would soon be absorbed into the dried-out riverbed and not even reach Bellbrook.
So far, the most reliable information about the Oven Mountain project can be found on the NSW Planning Portal. (*Ed: The planning portal's major projects page has recently undergone a refresh and indeed, contains information that can be read in concert with the project and council websites.)
Christa Schwoebel, on behalf of Save Our Macleay River Inc (SOMR)
Thanks Argus for getting an interview with Ms Pavey regarding Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro. The description of the project operation and its "off river" nature not affecting river flows is clear and a good explanation that should reassure those who have little knowledge of the scheme.
Ms Pavey suggests people learn for themselves; and I have. But her words intensify my concerns instead of allay them, due to inaccuracy and lack of examination of other renewable options.
"We nearly ran out of electricity for NSW": There was electricity. But power generators have been withdrawing energy capacity from the market due to a price cap in order to trigger an order from Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to release it, for which they would be paid and avoid losses.
"It's actually an Australian invention by a former local": The first-known users of pumped hydro schemes were in Italy and Switzerland in the 1890s. (*Ed: As above. Ms Pavey was referring to the project design not the invention of pumped hydro.)
"It's not going to be through national parks, it's going to be on private land": This is the case for the reservoirs and turbines. Generated electricity needs to get to "the grid" and that will be achieved by integration into the main transmission line to Armidale. It runs through National Park and conservation areas and an upgrade is needed; so, concerns of increased loss of, and impact on, public land need addressing.
"Well, it's not China": Alinta Energy is owned by Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook Enterprises. Hong Kong is China. Initial information was the Aussie company would build the project but it will be Alinta's to oversee after construction. Now I find there is a 50/50 deal with Alinta and the State government. (That's from the project people).
Capacity to "generate up to 600MW of hydro power during periods of peak demand" and "Online in 2030": Why do all this in an area of stunning wild country when in that time battery technology will likely provide what is needed where it is needed, and avoid the transmission lines? The new Victoria big battery, a 600 MW battery storage facility, will provide fast frequency response services to the National Electricity Market. We could embrace a battery solution that leaves the environment intact.
The Macleay Valley Aboriginal Community Controlled Forum voted against the project and the Cultural Reference Group, with a makeup of a wide range of indigenous organisations, also opposed it. Their concerns originating from their oneness with country should raise significant questions.
But what if it goes ahead? 3000 jobs? The information sessions only suggest 600-1000 Ms Pavey. I ask, if the technology is mature, why OMPS is not already looking hard to invest in people of the district by training them for the jobs the company knows they will need. Locals can be trained/apprenticed to augment what skills they have.
Earn a loyalty from the people of the district. More than this though, let's get an outcome that gives long lasting benefit to the traditional owners. Public concerns are exacerbated by a perception at information forums of company obfuscation. The Pavey interview only heightens my concern.
Graeme Carrad, South Kempsey
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