Letters to the Editor, Illawarra Mercury

All the following letters to the editor by Michael Organ were published in the Illawarra Merucry, unless otherwise indicated. Some letters in response to letters by Michael Organ are also included. This comprehensive list only goes back to March 2005, plus a single item from 2004.

23 November 2011 - Buy local to save quality of life

The report on the lack of competitiveness of our local steel industry (Mercury, November 16) failed to mention the government and business leaders' enthusiastic support for the export of Australian jobs to China. It is in China where products are made cheaply because of slave labour, atrocious wages and working conditions, illegal export subsidies and tariff barriers, corporate piracy of systems and technology, and an undervalued currency. What future is there for our children when local resources, factories and farms are being sold off? This is not racist rhetoric - this is about economics, employment, our quality of life and job creation. There is no such thing as a level playing field when it comes to dealing with China, and although the Chinese people may be our friends, their oppressive communist government, corrupt business practices and sham free-trade systems with high tariffs and inflated currency are not. Why are we not imposing tariffs on the low-priced steel from China, so that our own quality steel is able to compete? Our imports from China stand at $41 billion and rising. Why don't we do what China does, and impose an Australia-only purchase policy for major projects to ensure the long-term financial viability of our local industries and our jobs? Selling off the farm is resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs and the impoverishment of local communities. Putting Australia first, protecting our manufacturing industries and ensuring better use of our resources for the good of the nation is a no-brainer. Why is it not happening? Michael Organ, Austinmer.

18 November 2011 - History repeats itself

What the hell is Wollongong City Council doing spending almost $6 million on the Quattro site? Is this a return to the bad old days of city-centric, pro-development, community-disengaged decision-making? The Quattro purchase was undertaken with no community consultation and only two councillors - Greg Petty and Vicki Curran - voted against it. Is the council so flush with money it can afford to engage in property speculation? What will be the ongoing costs of owning this site and the lost rate revenue? What community services and facilities will suffer as a result of this purchase, and will the council cry poor when the next budget round arrives, upping rates yet again by the maximum allowable amount? And what happened to the open and accountable council that we were promised during the election campaign? With our councillors barely out of their two-month induction period, this secretive decision was just plain wrong. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

7 November 2011 - Aunty Jack great fun

The interview with Graham Bond (Aunty Jack) in the Mercury (October 26) was delightful. Having been raised on Norman Gunston's droll "What's on in Wollongong?" during the '70s, I could never understand why people such as then lord mayor Frank Arkell did not see the joke and adopt the motley Aunty Jack crew as city icons. We were proud of them, though apparently the city fathers were not, and took offence to a golden-gloved transvestite on a Harley riding through town. Taking the mickey out of our pollution woes and events such as the Dapto Dogs was a hoot. Bond and his associates were our version of the Monty Python gang. Good on you Aunty Jack, and Thin Arthur, and Norman Gunston, and Flange Desire, and God bless the ABC for putting a bit of fun and colour into our lives. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

4 November 2011 - End this crazy war

Three Diggers killed in Afghanistan, and a couple of hours later Australian soldiers shoot dead an innocent young Afghan civilian phone card seller who failed to stop riding his motorbike when called on to do so. Why are we in Afghanistan? Why are foreign soldiers and local civilians dying, for no apparent reason? Are we now the enemy of the Afghan people? And why does Prime Minister Julia Gillard refuse to bring our troops home? War is hell, for all involved. There are no winners. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

2 November 2011 - Keera Vale

Protect oldest house - News that the oldest house in Wollongong is on the market - Keera Vale circa 1842 in Bukari St - provides Wollongong City Council with the opportunity to redeem its poor heritage credentials. Decades of over-zealous development by previous councils have resulted in the destruction of numerous 19th century buildings in the city. The survival of Keera Vale in West Wollongong for more than 150 years is therefore to be wondered at. It is perhaps now time that this rare and precious building comes into public ownership, to ensure its ongoing protection and preservation. Keera Vale could serve the community well as a museum, gallery or cultural heritage centre, and form an integral part of Wollongong's heritage trail for residents and tourists alike. With the council looking to spend $14 million on cosmetic changes to Crown St Mall, surely it can find - with community support - less than a tenth of that amount to purchase and restore this grand old mansion. As the oldest house in town, it deserves nothing less. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

29 September 2011 - Keep art in Gong

It will be a shame if the rare Josef Selleny oil painting of the Illawarra bush from 1864 (Mercury, September 27) does not find its way into the Wollongong City Gallery collection to add to the works by that artist already held. Selleny was a member of the crew of the Austrian scientific expedition aboard the Novara, which visited Wollongong in November 1858, and he produced a number of watercolours and oils of scenery, including Tullimbar. What we obviously need in the Gong is a group of generous arts benefactors, similar to those who support the major city galleries, and who are willing to support the purchase of iconic works of art such as this. The setting up of a million-dollar kitty would be a good starting point. Any takers? Michael Organ, Austinmer.

28 September 2011 - RTA law unto itself

Yet again the RTA is going to intervene in a council development proposal - the new tourist and toilet facilities at Stanwell Park (Mercury, September 26) - and stuff it up, just like it did with the traffic arrangements at Bulli Tops adjacent to the tourism centre there. The RTA is a law unto itself, with no real community input, and can force the council to do its bidding. It is about time the RTA consulted with the community before demanding gross traffic changes which could destroy the scenic amenity of the site and leave the community with another white elephant. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

15 September 2011 - Labouring the point

David Boyle is referred to as an independent (Mercury, September 6), yet he ran under the Community Labor ticket in the Shellharbour council election, is a member of the ALP, stated that he would caucus with the ALP if elected and, according to Marianne Saliba, only ran under the Community Labor banner because he was not preselected as the No 1 candidate on the ALP ticket. An independent? I think not. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

14 September 2011 - Compassion-free zone

Member for Throsby Stephen Jones' support for, and public defence of, the Government's efforts to overturn the High Court decision regarding the humane treatment of refugees is nothing short of heartless. It draws comparisons with the dark days of the Howard government and the shame brought upon us as a nation by the introduction of mandatory detention and the long-term imprisonment of refugees. Mr Jones and his party colleagues need to visit a few detention centres incognito and obtain a genuine picture of the harsh treatment those facilities provide. Guided tours only mask the truth. With the ALP Caucus blissfully ignorant of the damage done by pursuit of an offshore solution and maintenance of an onshore mandatory detention regime, it seems inevitable that the Gillard government will fall at the next election, having failed miserably in Compassion 101. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

13 September 2011 - Independent view

The Mercury's exclusion of Gordon Bradbery from the independents in its analysis of voting trends is inexplicable (Mercury, September 6). To assert that independents had a "poor showing" and "were consigned to the political wasteland" is to deny the fact that a substantial number of voters in Wollongong strayed from the major parties and looked elsewhere. Independents scored 52 per cent of the lord mayoral primary vote, not the 19 per cent referred to in the article. In the wards the ALP and Liberals received approximately 54 per cent of the primary vote and the rest went to Greens and independents. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

5 September 2011 - Vital infrastructure

Barry Swan (Mercury, August 30) is getting his trains mixed up. A VFT (very fast train) will not be hauling grain to Port Kembla, nor will the Maldon-Dombarton rail link service Sydney commuters. The two are separate entities, yet both are regional priorities and vital pieces of infrastructure that are needed to ensure employment growth into the future. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

5 August 2011 - On the public record

It is frankly amazing to hear Member for Wollongong Noreen Hay criticise NSW Health for selling off public land in the City of Wollongong and not returning the millions to the local community (Mercury, July 26). It was under her government that the land was sold. It was her government who fought hard to close down and sell off Bulli Hospital and nearby land. Her government was in power when the West Wollongong Public School site was transferred from the NSW Department of Education to the State Property Authority for eventual sale. It was also the ALP-dominated Wollongong City Council that sold off a certain quota of public land every year. The sale of public land in the city must stop. With an ever-increasing population, the need for associated services and infrastructure is paramount, and public land is required for this. Don't expect private developers to bail us out. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

20 July 2011 - High time to bring on high tech

Geoff McQueen's great escape for Wollongong (Mercury, July 16) through a Silicon Valley-style transformation, is yet another "motherhood statement." It follows on similar views put forward by politicians, local activists, unionists and entrepreneurs over the years since the early 1980s when the downturn in the steel industry threatened the region's heavy industrial base. As one of those activists, I have watched Wollongong's Labor-dominated council and pro-development senior management promote residential rezoning of precious industrial and job-generating lands, while the NSW Department of Planning has sat by idly. The northern Illawarra's Sandon Point, the site of the old Bulli brickworks and Edgewood at Woonona are examples of lost opportunities to secure local jobs through the revitalisation of industrial lands. Let's hope the new council shows leadership in bringing high-tech industries to the city, thereby putting to an end our slow transformation into a dormitory suburb of Sydney. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

9 July 2011 - Rid mall of its pall

The key to making Wollongong's mall safer is breathing life into it through people and events. At the moment it is an intimidating concrete wind tunnel, and late at night lifeless, apart from people (often drunk or stoned) using it as a thoroughfare between venues. Why are there no street cafes to help enliven the place and deter thugs from running riot? What about evening use of the mall amphitheatre for performances? This would bring families into the city centre, support businesses interested in opening late, and would not cost the community $14 million. A city circle tram would also work wonders. Over to you, council. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

28 June 2011 - Union acted correctly

The local maritime union was right to demand testing of cargoes entering Port Kembla from Japan in light of the catastrophic events at the Fukushima nuclear reactor ("Nuke exam 'cover-up"' Mercury, June 24). With that country recently blanketed by dangerous radioactive fallout, there is a high likelihood that exports could be contaminated. The comments by the head of ARPANSA are nothing less then a disgrace, in that they downplay the possible risks, close off any future testing and belittle the concerns of workers at Port Kembla. The community must have confidence that the cargoes are clear of radioactive contamination. With the city of Wollongong a declared nuclear-free zone, it is all the more important that ARPANSA reassures the community by carrying out a comprehensive testing program, and not a half-hearted "reassurance exercise". Michael Organ, Austinmer.

4 July 2011 - Park plan child's play

There are numerous parks and reserves in the city which front onto busy roads and are therefore rarely used by families due to the inherent danger of kids running in front of cars and bikes while playing. Perhaps council could consider building fences to separate the parks from such dangers. For a relatively small cost, these open spaces could be made family friendly and, in an era of ever-increasing childhood obesity, encourage our kids to get out a bit more. "Go play in the park" may once again ring out every afternoon, like days past when the streets were safer. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

31 May 2011 - 'Vision' misses point

Rod Oxley's "vision" of a building-based revitalisation of Wollongong (Mercury, May 25) once again misses the point. By all means consider re-use of the Gravity site in lower Crown St, but not if it involves a taxpayer-funded bailout and a financial noose around the necks of local ratepayers. His pro-development stance during two decades as council CEO was at the expense of services, infrastructure maintenance, cultural diversity and the environment. The council should work with receivers McGrathNicol to find a solution. Oxley should stick to his day job selling houses and submitting DAs. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

26 May 20111 - Council's clean slate

The council should be aware their strategic and management plans will be binned on September 5 as new representatives implement their own mandate for change. Councillors should not be hamstrung by commitments developed with little or no input from the community. If we don't "own" it, how can we support it? Michael Organ, Austinmer.

Response - 28 May 2011 - Local knowledge tabled - I read with interest comments from Michael Organ (Mercury letters, May 26), where he suggested the council's strategic and management plans would be "binned" on September 5, presumably after the elections, by new council representatives. It is quite evident that Mr Organ does not know or is completely ignorant of the statutory process that councils have to follow when developing strategic and management plans. And this is from a person who wants to be lord mayor. This just highlights, further, the risk of political party candidates nominating for local government. Local government needs to be about local people dealing with local issues for the best interests of the whole community without the influence of political parties - in this case the Greens. Rod Oxley, Wollongong.

30 April 2011 - On slow road to ruin

The announcement of construction of a Woolworths shopping centre at the Northern Distributor roundabout in Bulli highlights the fact that, in recent years, the RTA has poorly served the people of the northern suburbs. The positive media surrounding the construction of the Sea Cliff Bridge has masked what can only be described as a number of significant stuff-ups: construction of a single-lane bridge at the bottom of Bulli Pass instead of a dual carriageway; installation of a dangerous concrete wall there instead of a sand trap run-off area; the continuation of accidents almost on a weekly basis for those wishing to turn up the pass from the north; road changes on the top of Bulli Pass that led, in part, to the closure of the Aboriginal centre; the RTA suggestion that there will be no significant impact on traffic around the already congested entry and exit to Thirroul due to the construction of the 360-plus residences at the Stocklands Sandon Point estate; the atrocious roundabout at the intersection of the Northern Distributor and Princes Hwy at Bulli, and now the construction of a Woolworths store at that locality. A bad situation is going to be made worse due to lack of foresight and vision on behalf of the RTA and no accountability since the dissolution of the community-based Wollongong City Council traffic committee. The RTA needs to provide a solution to the worsening traffic gridlock - not make it worse. Michael Organ, Austinmer.

12 April 2011 - Part of tainted past

If we judge people by their actions, then Rod Oxley and anyone else adversely named in the recent ICAC corruption inquiry should not be part of a future Wollongong City Council. I find Oxley’s nomination for Lord Mayor objectionable in the extreme, because I believe he was at the heart of the cancer that spread throughout Council during his two decades as General Manager / CEO. This, along with the corrupt practices of a Labor dominated Council, left the people of Wollongong with no voice in local government and no civic leadership. Oxley’s pro-development attitude, at the expense of cultural, heritage and community values, damaged not only the reputation of the City but also the environment in which we live, work and play. What is needed now is “12 good wo(men) and true” who are not tainted by past actions, who are not behoven to vested interests, and who will work to enliven this city once again, with the necessary mix of appropriate development, cultural innovation and infrastructure maintenance and enhancement. We deserve a leadership that will take the community along with it, in the true spirit of democracy, and not repeat the mistakes of the recent past. Oxley is part of that tainted past. Michael Organ Austinmer.

8 April 2011 - The Australian - Greens are on the record as opposing Israel

As the Greens federal member for Cunningham from 2002 to 2004, I raised the issue of mistreatment of the Palestinian people by Israel on the floor of the house (October 15, 2003) and in questions to foreign minister Alexander Downer (August 3, 2004). Mr Downer's response noted the Howard government was "deeply concerned at the impact of military operations which have resulted in civilian deaths and the demolition of . . . homes in Rafah". At no time during this period was I labelled an "ignorant extremist" or anti-Semitic for broaching the issue of the welfare of the people of that region, including Israelis. As far as I am aware, Greens policy on Israel and Palestine has not changed. It is moderate and humanitarian and I continue to support it. Michael Organ, Austinmer, NSW

30 March 2011 - Trade deals cost jobs

ALP stalwart and former state politician Bob Harrison (Mercury, 28 March) ... bemoans “the failure of successive governments to protect Australian manufacturing investment and jobs”. I could have used Bob’s support when, as the federal member for Cunningham and member of the Australian Greens, in 2004 I stood alongside independents Peter Andren, Tony Windsor and Bob Katter in opposing the US free trade agreement. We failed in our attempt to protect jobs then, as Labor crossed the floor and voted with John Howard’s Coalition government, knowing full well that the Australian manufacturing industry would be savagely hit by the FTA. Shortly thereafter we saw clothing factories in Wollongong close their doors. The ALP is currently in free trade negotiations with China, supported by a BHP Billiton keen to open plant there. This can only represent another kick in the guts for Australian workers and significant threat to local jobs. Michael Organ Austinmer

29 March 2011 - Now, give us our council

The routing of Labor at the state election suggests the people of Wollongong will vote for a truly independent council, comprising Greens, Independents, Liberal and Labor at the local government elections next September, focused on the needs of the local community and free from scandal and corruption. Saturday’s result shows that voters will not easily forget Labor’s sneaky, deceitful, out-of-touch method of governing, deaf to community concerns and pampering to vested interests. Not only was the ALP implicated in Wollongong council’s fall from grace, it then had the temerity to sack the lot of them, strip it of substantive planning powers and install faceless, unaccountable administrators to run the city in collaboration with council bureaucrats. The sooner this situation is changed and people power returns to Wollongong City Council in the form of local councilors, a lord mayor with vision, and real community engagement, the better. Only then will we be able to breathe life back into the city. Bring it on Barry! Michael Organ Austinmer

19 March 2011 - Nuclear future

The nuclear disaster in Japan is totally man made. The tsunami and earthquake were not. Construction of nuclear power stations on low-lying, flood prone land in a tectonically unstable region was asking for trouble. It is therefore a mute point whether individuals such as Aaron Oakley (Mercury, 17/3) bury their heads in the sand and decry the “I told you so” of long-standing nuclear industry such as the Greens and Australian Conservation Foundation. Nuclear power is dirty and dangerous. The pain and suffering of the Japanese people is clearly seen on their faces, as is the horror of reliving Hiroshima and Nagasaki though the effects of nuclear fallout. Thankfully we don’t have to live with a reactor on the shores of Jervis Bay or Lake Illawarra, as was promoted during the seventies. The use of alternative, clean energy is our only future. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and now Fukushima have shown us that. Michael Organ, Austinmer

Response 24 March: The Greens have lost their way - Michael Organ's letter (Mercury, March 19), is hard to stomach without a reply. To say "the nuclear disaster in Japan is totally man-made" is a statement that is totally ridiculous in the extreme. There would be no crisis at Fukushima plant at this time had Japan's worst earthquake and tsunami not occurred. Unlike Chernobyl and the Five Mile Island disasters, this disaster was caused by external forces and not by an initial internal malfunction of the plant. It's a bit like having a terrorist bomb at a nuclear facility and then saying the facility should not have been built in the first place, thus preventing the disaster from happening. Nuclear power is not dirty but, yes, it can be dangerous but so is riding a donkey. Everything is relative and must be looked at and assessed without the emotional baggage which Michael Organ and others seem to portray. Whilst the original concept of the Greens was very worthy, I think they have largely lost their focus and at the federal level at least, have become a pressure group on the Gillard government without much thought for any economic balance for their actions. My fervent hope is that people voting this Saturday don't allow them to gain the same power with the state government. I would be more in favour of their place in politics if they used their influences to persuade the powers that be to invest in technical research and development of things like alternative energy sources, hydrogen cars and other worthy causes which are stymied for a lack of funding or federal interest. Roger Parrish, Figtree.

Response 26 March: Nuclear hysteria - Michael Organ's fear of atomic energy (Letters, March 19), is entirely understandable, given how successful the media and environmentalists have been at spreading hysteria and fear of the technology. But what do the facts say? Examining fatalities associated with electricity generation shows us that atomic energy is safer than coal or renewables. In fact, over 40 people have been killed in industrial accidents at wind farms over the last decade. That's more than are expected to die as a result of the accident in Japan. It would be wonderful if renewables could meet all of our energy needs, but the severe diseconomies of scale and unreliability of wind and solar work against these technologies as reliable suppliers of base-load electricity. We may as well try to power our cars with watch batteries. Aaron Oakley, West Wollongong.

10 March 2011 - Another war memorial

I understand some people in Canberra are protesting against the construction of new $21m WWI and WWII war memorials on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin. Perhaps instead there could be one to the Aboriginal men, women and children who died in the wars of colonisation, following the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney in 1788? In 1816 our own Governor Macquarie declared war on the Aboriginal people of the Illawarra and southwestern Sydney. During that period people were killed by British soldiers and settlers, and in some instances imprisoned in far off Tasmanian goals. The Appin massacre of the time is notorious, with men, women and children slaughtered as a result of a night attack on their encampment. The campaigns against the Tasmanian Aborigines are also well known. Worthy of a national memorial? Yes. Why? Because it is a part of our military history which is rather shamefully ignored. Michael Organ Austinmer

18 December 2010 - Spirit of reconciliation

The Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE) is an important part of the northern Illawarra community. Its 10th anniversary is worth celebrating as testament to true reconciliation and a show of respect for the firsts peoples of this nation. Complaints to Wollongong City Council calling for a halt to the celebrations are nothing less then petty and verging on racist. They are also very upsetting for many of us in the north who have been enriched by our engagement with the embassy. If someone has a problem with Aboriginal people and the tent embassy, all they need to do is walk down to the site and talk to the people there. They will be welcomed, listened to with due respect, and probably walk away with a greater understanding of the rich cultural heritage of Aboriginal Australia. Council has an official Reconciliation policy - so why is it sending in the lawyers and police? Shame Council, shame. Michael Organ, Austinmer

16 December 2010 - Concrete wall risk to drivers {Northern Leader}

Why has the RTA replaced the emergency sand trap at the bottom of Bulli Pass with a steel-reinforced concrete wall? There will undoubtedly be physical trauma and possible loss of life associated with any runaway motorcycle, car, van or truck which happens to run into the wall at speed. It should never have been built. Was it the result of penny pinching by the State Labor government who failed to give us the dual lane north-south overpass as originally planned? Perhaps David Campbell or Paul McLeay can answer that question. The concrete wall should be removed as soon as possible and the sand trap runnoff area restored in the interest of the safety of local and visiting drivers and their passengers. Michael Organ Austinmer.

4 December 2010 - Town Hall extension

Oh my God! or, as one of my fellow workers said, "What a bloody disgrace!" Can the Administrators PLEASE resign now, so we can have get our Council back and bring some sort of intelligence and civic responsibility back into the management of the City, before it is too late. Michael Organ Austinmer

27 November 2010 - Backward step at Bulli

Why has the RTA replaced the emergency sand trap at the bottom of Bulli Pass with a steel-reinforced concrete wall? I assume that, due to the shock of impact, there will be significant physical trauma and loss of life associated with any runaway motorcycle, car, van or truck which happens to run into the wall at speed. Having watched motor races such as Bathurst for more than thirty years I can only imagine the carnage created should a heavily laden truck or a bus crash into the barrier. Why was this wall built? Was it the result of penny pinching by the State Labor government in failing to give us a dual lane north-south overpass - as originally planned - rather then the present north-only single lane? Perhaps David Campbell or Paul McLeay can answer this question. The concrete wall should be removed as soon as possible and the sand trap runnoff area restored in the interest of the safety of local and visiting drivers and their passengers. Michael Organ Austinmer. 

6 October 2010 - Lethal Weapon

David Campbell, as Minister for Police, oversaw the general introduction of tasers into the NSW Police Force and recently cited this as one of his achievements. In 2008 NSW Police Association president Bob Pritchard applauded their introduction, pointing out that "...guns kill people and police are not in the business of killing people." But tasers kill. Between 2000-2004 some 78 people died after being shot with tasers in the United States, and there have already been a number of deaths in Australia. Tasers are also open to abuse, as has been seen with the recent tasering of a man 13 times by Western Australian police, and another instance where a man died after being tasered 28 times in Queensland. A United Nations committee has declared tasering a form of torture. Nobody deserves to die in such a cruel and inhumane way, and police officers should not be burdened with the thought that use of a taser could be lethal. There are better ways of subduing offenders, rather than using such a barbaric weapon. Michael Organ Bulli.

2 October 2010 - Campbell

David Campbell is both ordinary man and politician. Of the man I can say nothing, because I do not know him. Of the politician I can speak from the experience of 25 years as a community activist, and say that I welcome his decision not to stand again. Campbell personifies the failure of Labour in the Illawarra to truly represent the interests of the local community. Items of cultural and environmental heritage have been trashed, our local council has been taken from us, development is at a standstill and the City of Wollongong is closing down due to lack of leadership and vision. The coastline and escarpment are forever scarred, with the battleground of Sandon Point a symbol of all that is bad about Labor in power. The stench of scandal hangs over the city like the polluted plumes of old. As a senior Labour figure in the Illawarra since 1987, Campbell must take some responsibility for the present sorry state of affairs. Let's hope his replacement is not simply more of the same. Michael Organ Bulli.

25 September 2010 - More dogs

More dogs on our beautiful beaches .... sigh .... turds, noise, smell, dog fights, bird attacks, children getting terrorised, bitten and scratched, joggers stressed out by dogs snapping at their heals, irresponsible owners blaming beachgoers for upsetting their animal .... sigh .... is there nobody in Council listening? Apparently not. No dogs on any beaches, at any time - that is the only solution. Michael Organ Bulli.

9 September 2010 - Labor win, public win

Coalition anger at failing to win government is nothing more than sour grapes. Their ‘born to rule’ arrogance is contemptible. The facts are that the ALP scored approximately 38% of the primary votes, the Liberals 30%, the Nationals 13% and the Greens 12%. This equates to approximately 4.7 million primary votes for the ALP, 3.8m to the Liberals, 1.6m to their coalition partners the Nationals, and 1.5m to the Greens. If the 150 seats in the House of Representatives were allocated according to those figures the Greens, for example, would hold 17 seats and the Independents and minor parties 8. The result we have is as it should be – democracy in action, whether Abbott and co like it or not. Michael Organ Bulli.

26 August 2010 - NSW Labor on nose

The installation of faceless administrators to Cessnock Council by the Keneally Labour government is a blatant attempt to appease developer mates and shore up the coffers prior to a State election next March, where the ALP will hope to out-advertise and out-spin the opposition, minor parties and independents. The basic democratic right of ordinary Australians to actively participate in local government is obviously looked upon with scorn by the ALP in New South Wales, judging by their willingness to so readily withdraw it from local communities, including here in the Illawarra. This political arrogance, alongside the corruption and the scandal of recent times, has put NSW Labour on the nose. Michael Organ, Bulli.

24 August 2010 - Our Green history

I am sure many locals were irritated by the election coverage which referred to Adam Bandt as the "first Green to be elected to the House of Representatives." Of course the people of the Illawarra know otherwise, as do the Australian Greens and Adam himself, who pointed out that he was the first elected in a general election, as opposed to the Cunningham by-election of 2002 which saw my election. More grating was Laurie Oakes' comment on Saturday night that Cunningham was only held by the Greens "for a couple of months", when in fact it was 2 years - October 2002 to October 2004. Nonethess, the election result is a great opportunity once again for the Greens to have a voice in the lower house and to put questions directly to the Prime Minister of the day. Michael Organ, Bulli.

12 August 2010 - Parking meters

If I was lord mayor the first thing I would do would is get rid of those damned parking meters. The second would be to facilitate more free parking and improved access to the city centre so that facilities such as the art gallery, museum and other cultural venues are easy to get to. We know the detrimental effect parking metres are having on local business, and I am sure other aspects of the city are suffering as well. The community never wanted them – and for good reason. Shame no one listened to us. Michael Organ, Bulli.

6 August 2010 - Presidential campaign

They say that all politics is local – yet here we are in the grip of a presidential-like campaign in which we are being fed a daily does of “Julia did this” and “Tony said that”, almost to the exclusion of all else. It is disheartening to think that government can rise or fall on the actions of a single person. No wonder the public is apathetic about this election. And who is to blame? The major parties of course for setting this agenda, and the media for meekly following their lead and focussing on the personal, as against the policy which is, after all, what we have to live with following election day. Michael Organ, Bulli.

24 July 2010 - Thirroul wowserism

What kind of wowserism is behind the move by Wollongong City Council to re-establish an alcohol free zone throughout Thirroul, from the mountains to the sea? We already having swimming and alcohol consumption banned on McCauley’s dog beach, and now if we are seen drinking on any footpath or street in Thirroul we can be charged by the police? What about community street parties? What is the rationale behind such an extreme measure? Laws already exist to deal with anti-social behaviour. There is no need to impose further restrictions, or to extent the seemingly never-ending proliferation of street signs in the north. The sooner we get rid of our administrators and return Council control back to the people, the better. Michael Organ, Bulli.

8 July 2010 - Gong our dead heart

As a northern suburbs resident I have observed with interest recent attempts to "revitalise" the city centre by installing parking meters and removing most of the short-term parking from Burelli St, replaced by sporadically used bus stops and interminable no-standing signs.All of these seem to have had the opposite effect and turned the Gong into our dead heart. I know that they have stopped me going into town as regularly as I used to, and dropping into town for a bit of quick shopping is no longer a simple task. While I support efforts to reduce the use of cars around the city, these need to be made in tandem with improved public transport options, and frankly Wollongong has a long way to go before it reaches the standard of a city such as Melbourne, where cars are a rarity and the tram is the prime people mover. Until that day comes, more short-term parking spaces are needed in the city centre to give it a bit of life, like Newtown or Glebe, or Melbourne even. Michael Organ, Bulli.

17 June 2010 - Detention like prison

Joanna Gash (Mercury, June 12) is wrong to suggest that life behind the razor wire in an Australian detention centre is anything less than a living hell. While Federal Member for Cunningham (2002-2004) I visited the Villawood Detention Centre and saw children and young adults zonked out on anti-depressants, denied access to special play areas and the internet, and educational opportunities such as TAFE. They were treated like prisoners within a prison. One 17-year-old boy had been there for more than four years. His life and education were in limbo, and his only crime was that his parents had come to Australia as refugees. I would suggest detention centre conditions shown to Ms Gash during official government tours were a con. Would any elderly person give up their freedom for the so-called luxury of a detention centre? I think not. Michael Organ, Bulli.

21 May 2010 - Dapto toxic site

Reports of arsenic poisoning at the old Dapto silver lead and zinc smelter site once again highlight the sorry state Wollongong City Council is in with the removal of community involvement via committees such as Environmental Heritage and Ecological Sustainable Development which successfully ran during the 1980s and 90s. The site on the hill at Koonawarra is one of the most toxic in the Illawarra, and Council along with State planning authorities well knows this. The environmental dangers of the site were raised at Council committees decades ago, and I presented a submission on it to the NSW Legislative Council Committee on Lead Poisoning back in 1988. I am astounded that Council would allow residential development of such a polluted site. The alleged release of airborne arsenic as a result of site development works show that my concerns were well founded. Michael Organ, Bulli.

25 March 2010 - Sign crazy

Wollongong City Council has gone sign crazy. The latest example is at McCauley's Beach, Bulli, just north of Sandon Point. Two new signs have been erected indicating that, among other things, people will be subject to on-the-spot fines which "exceed $100" if they go swimming there. Since when has Wollongong Council had the right to fine people for swimming in the ocean? Sure, it can recommend bathing between the flags - if there are flags present - but surely it cannot fine people for not doing so? Isn't the beach and ocean a public open space? What of surf board riders, ocean swimmers and kyakers? On this dog off-leash beach there is no mention in the signs of fines for illegal activities on the part of dog owners. Does Council want to eventually ban people from using this beach altogether, apart from when they accompany their dogs? Do they expect us to just sit on the sand on a hot day, looking at the water, but afraid to enter for fear of being fined? We are also no longer allowed to picnic on the beach and enjoy a glass of wine or cold beer with our lunch. This is just plain crazy. This recent proliferation of visually polluting and overly legalistic signs along our coastline has occured without community consultation and is one more reason why we need to get rid of the administrators and get our own council back. Michael Organ, Bulli.

13 March 2010 - Saturday bullies

Bullying comes in many forms. Surf Life Saving NSW is currently pressuring Illawarra clubs to do Saturday patrols, thereby taking jobs away from professional Council lifeguards. Clubs that don't agree face loss of funding and other punitive measures. Surf Life Saving NSW will pocket large sums of money from this, and that money will not make it to clubs. Where is the South Coast Labour Council? Why is it not publically defending the jobs of union members? And what about the risk to public safety in replacing highly trained, professional lifeguards with volunteers? The clubs are hard-pressed as it is to provide volunteers for Sundays and public holidays, let alone covering Saturdays as well. I am a volunteer lifesaver and opposed to Saturday shifts, especially if forced by Surf Life Saving NSW, and most especially if lifeguards lose their jobs as a result. Saturday is a day for other things, such as shopping, sport and work, not for scabbing. Council should employ more professional ocean lifeguards during the summer season to deal with the increasing numbers on our beaches, and assist and train volunteers. We don't need Surf Life Saving NSW running our beaches from their ivory tower in Sydney. Michael Organ, Bulli.

23 November 2009 - A local's lament

With all due respect to Jennie George and her years of hard work, I think it disgraceful that the ALP parachutes out-of-towners such as Stephen Jones into federal seats and does not give locals the chance to represent their community. How are we to encourage young people to enter Parliament when we have this abuse of safe seats? No wonder the standing of politicians is so low. Our parliamentary democracy is about local representation, and we should be grooming our best young people to take on those roles. What is needed is locals with local knowledge and local commitment. And who will Mr Jones answer to? ALP powerbrokers, that's who. Not the people of Throsby. Michael Organ, Bulli.

31 October 2009 - Meters last straw

The imposition of parking meters in Wollongong is the final straw - the three Council administrators must go. They answer to no one and are obviously out of touch with the local community. The city centre is dead, and parking meters are yet another nail in the coffin. Locals have no input and no power, though of course they have the expertise and solutions. The Labor Party is responsible for this sorry state of affairs in Wollongong - for taking our Council away from us and dragging out the period of administration. The administrators' work is long done - they should give us back our City before they do any more damage. Michael Organ, Bulli.

28 October 2009 - Curse you, Red Baron

Northern suburbs residents were rudely awoken early on Sunday morning to what sounded like an over-revving lawnmower, but instead proved to be a WWI-era biplane doing loops, free falls and mock strafing runs. For half an hour between 7am and 7.30am this Red Baron wannabe buzzed the skies about Bulli and Thirroul in his bright yellow and red machine, with nary a thought for those below hoping to enjoy a sleep-in. After he eventually scampered off in a westerly direction over the escarpment towards Camden airport, I was left thinking, "There must be a law against this sort of thing?" Michael Organ, Bulli.

18 August 2009 - Dogs again ....

On Saturday morning around 8am I was walking along the beach rock shelf between Thirroul and Austinmer beach and noticed a group of the rare and endangered Sooty Oyster Catcher feeding. I took some photos of these beautiful seabirds. I walked on and passed a woman and her dog, running about off leash chasing a ball. As I turned around I then noticed the dog scurry off onto the rock shelf at full pace and attack the Sooty Oyster Catchers, who luckily were able to fly off. This is the same rock shelf area that Council proposes to make off leash under its new traffic light system. On Sunday morning I was walking in the same area, around 7.30, and was deep in contemplation, when all of a sudden I found that same dog snapping at my heels and barking aggressively at me. The owner tried to call it off, initially to no avail. She had no leash and no real control over the animal. I stood there, glared at her, shook my head, and walked on. Should I have given her a lecture about the illegality of walking a dog off leash on this beach? Should I have told her about the rare and endangered Sooty Oyster Catcher and how they frequent the rock shelves of the Illawarra and are a protected species? Should I have complained that the peace and quiet of my morning walk was ruined by her vicious dog trying to attack me? Where were the Council rangers, enforcing the so-called 'zero tolerance' policy? This is the reality of our beaches, as more and more dogs frequent them. I suppose I will just have to just get use it, and say goodbye to the Sooty Oyster Catcher and its ilk. Thank you Council, and thank you to all those irresponsible dog owners out there. Michael Organ, Bulli.

30 July 2009 - Guards dogs instead of lifeguards?

Is Wollongong City Council's plan to expand dog off leash areas merely a budget-driven ploy to avert the expansion of lifeguard patrolled beaches? The ever increasing popularity of our beaches calls for an expansion of lifeguard services, especially in such heavily used areas as south Thirroul, south Coledale, Little Austi and Puckeys at Wollongong. Yet they are all current, or proposed, dog off leash areas. Unrestrained dogs will undoubtedly discourage families and tourists from using these beaches. It will also save Council money. With more dogs roaming free, and only 7 of our 17 beaches having the industry standard of 2 lifeguards per patrol, it seems Council is putting dollars before public safety. Michael Organ, Bulli.

23 July 2009 - Revamp restraints [Coastal aesthetics]

Council is to be congratulated on the revitalisation of Bellambi rock pool for it, like so many other such community assets, has been left to deteriorate in recent years. I only hope Council's current enthusiasm for revamping public facilities does not get out of hand, and result in an over abundance of seating, shelters, signs, tarred carparks and concrete boulevards lining our beautiful coastline. Afterall, it is the natural beach and foreshore which is the main attraction for locals and visitors alike. The provision of facilities should always take into account the aesthetics of the coastline and the natural environment. Michael Organ, Bulli.

16 July 2009 - Dogs plan barking mad

Wollongong City Council has a duty of care in regards to local residents, and that duty extends to the danger posed by dogs on beaches. Council knows that dogs attack people and native animals, and pollute the environment. In the past it has washed its hands of any responsibility for these actions and turned the blame over to the dog owner. However it can no longer use this defence. Council is fully aware that irresponsible dog owners exist, and that the law is disregarded. The failure of Council's present dogs on beaches policy to protect the community leads to the unalterable conclusion that that policy should be scrapped. Council has shown it cannot police the policy in a meaningful way, and that its claim to 'zero tolerance' of breaches is a sham. In the interest of public safety, dogs should therefore be banned from our beaches. For Council to consider further expanding off leash and dog access area and allowing them to swim in our rock pools is simply irresponsible. Ratepayers will ultimately foot the bill for the present folly, when a victim sues Council as the result of a vicious dog attack or infection arising from dog excrement polluting bathing waters. Michael Organ, Bulli.

{Reply: 20 July 2009 - Target owners, not their dogs: Oh dear, there's another Michael Organ dog diatribe (Mercury, July 16). This time he suggests we sue the council if there is "a vicious dog attack or infection arising from dog excrement polluting bathing waters" in relation to the council's new dog off-leash proposals. And what about paragraph two, that "dogs attack people and native animals and pollute the environment"? Mankind does the same thing every day and is a much bigger problem for this city/country/planet than the allowance of a few more metres for the community to relax its canines. The real issue here is policing the irresponsible dog owners more effectively and providing more bins and bags. Saying "no" to the council's proposals increases the number of dogs being surrendered to shelters because owners don't walk them. This increases the euthanasing of dogs and also adds to the rise of "barking dog" syndrome, because the dogs are left to rot in backyards and go stir-crazy again because there are more dog restrictions than before. It would be better focus on the disgusting humans that do the wrong thing than further impede the council's strategy to offer better options for a sector of society (companion animals) which has proven its worth in increasing the quality of life for many people. Helgi Anderson, North Wollongong.

4 July 2009 - My children attacked [Dogs on beaches]

Dogs should not be allowed on our beautiful public beaches. The defecate, urinate, bark and fight. They bite and scratch people and chase away native animal life such as birds. My children were attacked on beaches near Bulli by dogs, both on leashes and off. In two cases I was blamed by the owners for allowing my children to run free. Perhaps Council will soon be asking us to put leashes on our children! Michael Organ, Bulli.

15 June 2009 - Expenses bill unjust

Dennis Rhodes' letter (Mercury, June 11) calling for Bob Brown to pay highlights the issue of members of the public going up against government and big corporations with almost unlimited funds. The case brought by Senator Brown was just. He won. For Forestry Tasmania and the court to then lump him with a bill for expenses, in the vicinity of $250,000, is outrageous and unfair. Sen Brown is not wealthy and is now threatened with bankruptcy and the loss of his seat in Parliament. Is the writer suggesting that members of the public not mount legitimate cases against government and corporations unless they are prepared to pay such exorbitant sums? The legal system is meant to be fair and equitable. It should not be simply a playground for the rich and powerful. Michael Organ, Bulli.

19 May 2009 - Mayor must be local

With all due respect to St. George coach Wayne Bennett, what this City needs in a lord mayor is a local. Someone who knows Wollongong, its people, places and problems. A person not bound to any group and not afraid to stand up for what is right. Someone who is not corrupt, or corruptible, does not serve a vested interest or look to line their pockets through kickbacks. What is needed is a person with a vision for the City who can deal with the big end of town, the local community group, an individual resident or bureaucrat. A person who loves the City and will work at all times as a servant of the people, open and accountable within a truly democratic framework. Ideally they will cherish the rich cultural heritage of this part of Australia, and seek to ensure the community is warm, welcoming and inclusive. They will stand proud in its promotion. But most of all, what this City needs is a lord mayor that can be trusted and is one of 'us'. And we need that person right now. Michael Organ, Bulli

Reply - 23 May 2009: New blood needed - Michael Organ's letter (Mercury, May 19) throws up many questions. At what point does one cease being a blow-in and is deemed a local? Since I moved to Wollongong 20 years ago, none of the people who have held the position of lord mayor - Arkell, Campbell, Harrison and Darling - have left what might be termed a positive impact on the city. The "outsiders" viewpoint of Wollongong hasn't changed since the original broadcasting of Aunty Jack in 1972, and we all remember the hissy-fit Arkell threw over a satiric, but also sadly correct image of a place that I now love! Why must a lord mayor be a local? I think all of those lord mayors I listed took the place very much for granted. Having a plaque with your name on it means not a jot if you leave a bitter aftertaste in people's mouths. Wollongong needs a lord mayor who has been around, had plenty of ups and downs, and is tough about getting rid of the riff-raff and corruption. So many people who grew up here have a myopic view of the place - the environmental types, the feral tree-huggers, the artsy crowd who congregate in the northern suburbs, the so-called movers and shakers - all of them have self-interest written all over their faces. Adrian Simpson, Wollongong.

2 May 2009 - Bulli's dirty pool

The Mercury story on Towradgi's "Pool with no water" (April 28) raises the issue of Bulli's pool with dirty water. For decades now locals and tourists alike have had to put up with swimming in the stinking, slimy water at Bulli tidal pool. This has come about due to the action of council over the years in building up the pool walls and removing its ability to flush and clean itself out with the tide. The erection of unsafe handrails on the pool walls in recent years has also decreased the amenity of this community asset. With millions being spent on kerbing and guttering and Wollongong's Blue Mile, how about some of that money coming north to restore Bulli pool to its original condition? We deserve to enjoy the clean water and safe walkways of old. Michael Organ, Bulli.

11 April 2009 - Chaotic court of Labor

Pity the poor people of Wollongong. For too long we were lumbered with a series of councils acting like Monty Python's chaotic Court of Camelot. And the director of this unholy mess? Labor NSW Inc. Which begs the question: how can three imposed bureaucrats possibly replace a full, energetic and democratically elected council supported by a network of neighbourhood committees and expert local panels? The short answer is they can't. So please, Premier Rees, give us back our council. Now. Michael Organ, Bulli.

4 December 2008 - Make stack an icon

Hey, how about painting the Port Kembla stack in Aboriginal colours and calling it the Big Didgeridoo! That would both recognise the Aboriginal significance of the area and also turn the stack into a tourist drawcard. Australians love their "bigs", whether they be banana, lobster, potato or tomato. Isn't it about time the Gong had one as well? Michael Organ, Bulli.

15 November 2008 - Scarred for life [Bulli Pass works]

When is the RTA going to repair the massive ugly scar they have created on the Illawarra Escarpment at Bulli Pass? Prior to the carrying out of recent drainage works Bulli Pass was invisible, hidden amongst the green vegetation. The exposed cliff face now greets northern Illawarra residents every morning and is nothing less then the desecration of one of our premier tourism icons. Will the removal of vegetation and trees give rise to landslip in the near future? And why was the work carried out without prior community consultation, and with no consideration of the atrocious visual impact? Shame on you RTA. Michael Organ, Bulli.

14 November 2008 - Leave Keelong alone

The closure of Keelong Juvenile Justice Centre shows just how heartless and out of touch Labor has become. On top of the removal of free school bus travel, it is a kick in the guts by Premier Rees for the most vulnerable in our society - our kids. Some of those troubled young people, who found support and protection in Keelong, could end up in the adult prison system and be exposed to rape, drugs and the ways of criminals. Leave Keelong alone. Michael Organ, Bulli.

8 May 2008 - Don't forget women [Winter swimming]

Women swim too. Anyone reading the Mercury's recent articles on winter swimming (May 3) would be left with the impression that it is the domain of elderly men. The reality is that women swim during winter as well. In fact, my experience at pools such as Bulli and Austinmer would suggest that they comprise half of those who brave the elements all year round. And there is no doubt that women are in the majority when it comes to early morning walking along the city's coastal bike tracks. Perhaps the winter swimming clubs could more actively encourage female membership, so as to better reflect the reality of the situation in the water. Michael Organ, Bulli.

5 April 2008 - Deprived of democracy

The move by Minister Paul Lynch to hold a public inquiry into Shellharbour council (Mercury, April 4) is Wollongong's ICAC scandal revisited. It is clear that Premier Morris Iemma is again working towards depriving ratepayers of the Illawarra a chance to participate in the Local Government elections this September. Are we again to see a public inquiry followed by the minister sacking the whole council and replacing the democratically elected representatives with bureaucrats answerable only to the government? Mr Iemma's contempt for Australian democracy and the community's role in Local Government is again revealed. Shame, Mr Iemma, shame. Michael Organ, Bulli.

24 March 2008 - ICAC just tip of iceberg

Wollongong City Council general manager David Farmer needs to pull his head out of the sand if he thinks that the ICAC revelations are all there is to worry about (Mercury, 19 March). Convicted criminal Ray Younan is right - they are the tip of the iceberg. Many in the community have known about council corruption for years but their concerns have been largely ignored by the council, politicians and authorities such as the NSW Ombudsman's office and ICAC. I contacted Mr Farmer as soon as he arrived on the job, offering to provide a briefing with regard to some of the community's concerns and examples of abuses by council officers and councillors in recent times, with suggestions for action to restore community confidence. I never received a response to my offer. Corruption of process has been rife throughout council for decades now, most especially in the area of planning. Bad management has supported this, and the offenders have reacted to criticism by "circling the wagons" and covering up or denying there were any problems. There has been a decided lack of vision, aside from Mr Oxley's "fait accompli" development imperative. A culture of bullying has allowed abuse of individuals and the environment to occur. For example, there is no coastal protection plan, the development of the escarpment management plan was drawn out far too long and only implemented after the horse had bolted, while heritage protection instruments have been ignored or watered down. My door is still open to Mr Farmer if he wants to talk to me and other members of the community who have had incredibly bad experiences with councillors and council officers over many, many years. For someone such as myself who loves Wollongong, what we have seen during the Oxley years has often been heartbreaking. As it now stands, the community has been disenfranchised and the bean counters are in control. The new general manager has yet to show that he has the vision or commitment to community engagement that the city sorely needs at this time. Perhaps he is just an Oxley clone ... I hope not. Michael Organ, Bulli.

Reply: 31 March 2008 - Organ previously quiet - The recent letter from Michael Organ, written apparently as a vehicle for puerile sniping at Wollongong council's David Farmer, raises significant concern about his own actions. He claims to have been aware of corruption of process within Wollongong City Council for decades and yet I am unable to find any public record of action on his part beyond currently offering to keep his door open. Mr Organ was the MHR for this area prior to Ms Bird and therefore uniquely placed tor those three years to expose and pursue the eradication of such corruption. He could have used the avenues properly made available to our national parliamentarians and backed by the authority of that parliament. Despite the contrived nature of his election, the brevity of his stewardship and the Gilbertian nature of his performance he was the Federal Member and as such should have done what he is now encouraging others to do. Peter Wolfe, Thirroul.

28 February 2008 - Little change expected to decades old regime

Will anything really change in the City of Wollongong as a result of the ICAC revelations? I suspect not. For decades we have known about payments from developers to councillors and to members of the ALP. The community has seen its submissions and legitimate protests ignored, because deals had been stitched up and money had changed hands. I cannot see anything changing unless we get decent management in council, focused on public service and serving the community, and the ALP loses its control of the city. Until then, the money will continue to change hands, the community will be ignored, and the city will suffer. Michael Organ, Bulli.

15 October 2007 - MRI licence result of hard work by many

Giles Pickford's reference to Sharon Bird's five years of work to obtain a Medicare licence for Wollongong Hospital's MRI machine (Mercury, October 3) fails to adequately highlight the important efforts of many people in the local community over recent years. The machine was installed during early 2004 and as Federal Member for Cunningham between 2002-2004, I was one of those fighting hard for the granting of a licence. In May 2004, I asked Tony Abbott, on the floor of the Parliament, for such a commitment. I also delivered a number of speeches in Parliament on the issue at the time, presented submissions on behalf of the local community, and brought to the attention of the Government, and individual government members, the urgent need for the licence so that Wollongong Hospital could make full use of the facility. The recent announcement by Senator Fierravanti-Wells that a licence would be granted is welcome and undeserving of Mr Pickford's snide remarks. We all know that the announcement was made in the context of a forthcoming Federal election, but moreover it is the culmination of a long campaign and the work of many people, parliamentarians past and present, but most especially members of the local community, including doctors, nurses and local health care workers. Congratulations to every one of them. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

14 August 2007 - Pastoral care part of Catholic education

J Pezzutto's claim (Mercury, August 9) that all private schools have the luxury of choosing their students and therefore there is little pastoral care in Catholic schools for children with behavioural issues is, in my view, simply wrong. My children attend a comprehensive Catholic school because they are Catholic, as I did when I was young, and not because of any view that it will inherently deliver them a better educational outcome than if they were to attend a public school. A typical range of children attends the school, from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and with the normal range of physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs. Just because you are Catholic does not mean that your children will not suffer behavioural issues such as ADHD, defiance disorders and depression, as J Pezzutto suggests, and that the Catholic system will not provide services to deal with these issues. My experience in the system since the early 1960s tells me otherwise. While undoubtedly some children leave the Catholic system to obtain access to services available in the public system, I know that many (the majority?) stay within the Catholic system and are assisted accordingly. I do agree with J Pezzutto that we have a terrific school system in Australia, with the public schools at its core. I also agree that taxpayer funding for the education sector must prioritise the public system to ensure that it is adequately funded to maintain the highest possible educational standard for the children of Australia. It would be a disaster for our nation if the public education system were to fall behind. The public and non-public school systems have co-existed in Australia since the convict era, and both systems deliver terrific results. We should not confuse the issue of public funding of schools with that of pastoral care and welfare within the various systems. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

11 August 2007 - Let Games begin only after China stops abuses

Democratic nations and free-thinking individuals should boycott the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Why? Because, as we speak, the Chinese Government is the perpetrator of the worst human rights abuses upon its citizens. Thousands of people are incarcerated, tortured and executed each year because of their religious and political beliefs and ethnic origins. Tibetans, Mongolians, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians and Muslims rot in Chinese prisons, having committed no crime apart from not adhering to the hardline, atheistic, communist world view of the Chinese political leadership. Corruption is rife and people live in fear as friends, family and neighbours report their every move lest they themselves are reported and imprisoned. The International Olympic Committee granted China the 2008 Games on the understanding there would be an improvement in human rights and a move towards democracy. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred as one of the most powerful and militarised nations in the world cracks down on its population to ensure a squeaky-clean, sanitised image of China is presented when the Games begin. But it is not too late. China can still do a lot to earn the right to hold its head high as it hosts the Games. It could invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Opening Ceremony. It could free all political and religious prisoners in the lead-up to the Games. It could stop the trade in human organs, most of which are sourced from those executed in prison, with no permission from the victims or their families. It could lift its internet ban. It could remove media censorship, and it could get rid of the internal security goon squads responsible for torture, intimidation and imprisonment of law-abiding Chinese citizens. Only then can the 2008 Olympic Games be run in a spirit of open, free competition. Adolf Hitler tried to hijack the Games in 1936 and failed. China will also fail if it does not clean up its act. The Olympics and China's continuing human rights abuses cannot go hand in hand. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

Reply: 27 August 2007 - China has well and truly cleaned up its act - I wonder if Michael Organ (Mercury, August 11) in his tirade against China is speaking from his own personal experiences or what he had read from that quasi-religious/political organisation Falun Gong. It would be interesting to know where he gets his misinformation from. I concede that there could be thousands of people in jail in China for various reasons but with a population of over 1.3 billion, even with a minuscule rate of 1 per cent of the population, the criminal dissenters etc, would be over 10 million persons. With over 50 different ethnic groups, it would be a diverse prison population. I will repeat what I saw with my own eyes, churches of various denominations being patronised. Yes, religious freedom. I visited schools and hospitals and slums being torn down and homes built. The mighty Yangtze has been tamed, no more do hundreds of thousands drown when it floods and with large hydro-electric plants producing clean energy, the environment is rapidly improving. Three million trees in one province have been planted. No more dying in famines. As for China being one of the most powerful and militaristic nations, for over 200 years China has been carved up and plundered by European and Japanese nations. I'm sure they have taken care that it never happens again. I have no qualms in using human organs from executed prisoners. I have organ donor stamped on my driver's licence. To argue that they did not get the organs of the convicted without permission - did the criminals ask their victims before murdering and raping them if it was OK to kill them? The Chinese dragon is setting an example to the world. Go and see for yourself. Mick Pilton, Barrack Heights.

21 July 2007 - Green attacks signal election in the wings

There must be an election in the offing. How do I know? Well, the letters page is once again featuring attacks on the Greens. For example, the headline "Time for the Greens to stop personal attacks" (Mercury, July 16) and statements such as, "The Greens continue to attack all development, whether good or bad, on ideological grounds." Of course, this is utter nonsense. The Greens support a vibrant, modern economy and see ecologically sustainable development as an important driver in regards to job creation. The community has deemed that development should be planned, well thought through, and should take into consideration environmental, economic and social factors. Developers are required by law to follow the rules set down by government. Members of the community need to be able to express their open support, or opposition, to such developments, for who amongst us does not want to leave the planet in a fit state for future generations? So beware, readers of the unchallenged, unsupportable statements which may appear on these pages over the coming months as supporters of the government and opposition parties jostle for a bit a space. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

18 July 2007 - Free speech is a wonderful thing

Adrian Simpson's call (Your Say, July 14) for a ban on all environmental issues in the letters page, to be replaced by a focus on "sex, religion, politics and ... Perkins Paste", is in fact an argument against any such ban. His tirade against Greenies reveals just how important it is that a broad spectrum of issues are covered, and that individuals are provided with an opportunity to air their views. I am sure Mr Simpson would agree that free speech is a wonderful thing. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

23 March 2007 - Greens' drug policy misunderstood

At each and every election the Greens' drug policy is dragged out and subjected to all manner of distortion and misreading, leaving the public with the impression that the Greens promote drug use. Nothing could be further from the truth. The policy is simply explained. Ask yourself this: If a member of your family, or a friend, was a drug addict, how would you like them to be dealt with? Lock them in jail, or treat them for an illness and provide support to kick their habit? It you answered "give them support", then you agree with the Greens' drug policy, which is about harm minimisation, decriminalisation and effective treatment. The policy aims to save lives and turn them around, while targeting drug dealers and suppliers for prosecution. It is not about promoting drug use. Michael Organ, Bulli.

15 March 2007 - Hill 60 'development' must be minimal

Many of those involved in the recent fight to save the Department of Defence land at Hill 60 from development would be concerned at the comments by Phil Bowden of the Port Kembla Chamber of Commerce calling for the construction of a function centre there "as soon as the site is cleared" (Mercury, March 13). This land is of immense significance to the local Aboriginal people and has important environmental values making it a major addition to the state heritage listed Hill 60 Park. All the parties involved to date in the fight to save the land recognise the need to ensure its ongoing preservation as public open space, with in-built protection for Aboriginal and cultural heritage values. Minimal impact walkways, removal of contamination and weeds and revegetation with native species, and the possible construction of monuments to heritage items would, I suggest, be the only appropriate forms of "development" on the site. The land should not, in my opinion, become a high impact tourist zone as this would only serve to destroy important elements of its natural and Aboriginal heritage. Michael Organ, Bulli.

30 November 2006 - Sick world needs help but some don't get it

Rabid anti-environmentalists such as K Gordon of Bawley Point (Mercury, November 27) just don't get it. Since Europeans arrived in 1788 we have destroyed some two-thirds of eastern Australia's forests and our forested woodlands have been turned into deserts as a result of unsustainable farming practices. Yet Mr Gordon is critical of farmland being "reclaimed" for environmental regeneration. Scientists tell us that there is a real likelihood we will fish out the waters off the east coast in coming decades. Yet Mr Gordon complains about a few areas being set aside for reserves. Dieback, deforestation and man-made bushfires continue to decimate our indigenous wildlife such as the koala, which was once abundant in the region but is now rare. Yet Mr Gordon sees all this as a political issue and attacks the Greens. Forget about politics. Our planet is sick and if we don't start taking care of our own backyard then our future will be bleak. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

The Australian, 30 November 2006 - Dalton and the ABC

It seems the Government's hatchet man, Kim Dalton, is doing to the ABC what he did to the National Film and Sound Archive in 2002: ripping it to shreds (Media, November 23). Dalton's lack of appreciation for the "past glories of a self-sufficient ABC" reflects an earlier failure to understand the role of the archive in protecting and promoting Australia's film and sound heritage. Change is fine, but what the ABC needs is experience and respect for the corporate memory and skills base. Or should we feel sorry for Dalton in the knowledge that, as Bob Dylan once told us, perhaps he's only a pawn in their game? Michael Organ, Thirroul, NSW

24 November 2006 - New gallery plan an 'outrageous proposal'

The report to go to Wollongong City Council on November 27 recommends the demolition of the heritage-listed Wollongong City Gallery and its replacement by a single storey "modern" box-like facility, topped by 17 storeys of commercial development. Councillors should reject such an outrageous proposal. Not only does the gallery appear to lose out by the loss of huge amounts of space, but the city will also lose a wonderful building. The gallery has a lot of character and serves the city well. Surely it can be retained and expanded as part of this latest plan to "revitalise" the city's heart. This seems to be yet another plan to appease developers and trash our heritage. Why am I not surprised? Michael Organ, Bulli.

13 November 2006 - History warns us about climate change woes

In 1845, Polish Count PE Strzelecki bemoaned the widespread deforestation of south-eastern Australia and the negative impact it was having on climate. He predicted widespread droughts, impacts on water catchments, species extinction and loss of soil fertility. Strzelecki, the first European to climb and name Mt Kosciuszko, visited Wollongong and walked overland from Sydney to Melbourne in 1840. He was not the first to comment on climate change, though his pleas were largely ignored. In order to combat it we need to replant some of the more than two-thirds of our native forest which has been destroyed since the arrival of Europeans in 1788. Staving off the effects of climate change is more than just about decreasing carbon emissions. It is also about revitalising the lungs of the planet and making sure they continue to give us clean air into the future. Otherwise we will all die like the dodo. Michael Organ, Thirroul

News story by Paul McInerney: 9 November 2006 - Keeping our four-legged friends under control

While dog owners are celebrating the decision by Wollongong City Council to create seven additional off-leash areas between Helensburgh and Windang, some believe the council is barking up the wrong tree. One who is highly critical of the decision to open McCauley's Beach at Bulli to canine capers is former federal Green MP Michael Organ. Now Michael could be expected to oppose dogs on beaches on environmental grounds but an email to the interpreter reveals he has greater concerns - the safety of his kids. He says he has watched helplessly on three occasions as his three and four-year-old children have been attacked by dogs on beaches in the Bulli area. On each occasion his children were playing on the beach and the attacks were unprovoked. Michael also tells us he has been attacked while jogging along the beaches in the area. To add insult to injury, he claims the owners of the dogs actually blamed him or his children for their pets' bad behaviour. With summer on our doorstep and 38,000 dogs in the council's area waiting for walkies, there will be no room for irresponsible owners. For the record: The interpreter is a life member of RSPCA NSW, has been a dog owner for most of his adult life and regularly uses his neighbourhood off-leash area.

Reply: 16 November 2006 - New off-leash areas put vulnerable birds at risk. I would like to add my voice of concern to that of Michael Organ (Mercury, November 9) regarding off-leash areas for dogs. Wollongong City Council adopted Little Austinmer Beach, Austinmer, and Perkins Beach, Windang, as off-leash areas. Little Austinmer Beach is an important habitat for the sooty oyster catcher, which is listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act as a vulnerable species. Perkins Beach, Windang, is one of 18 breeding sites in NSW for the little tern, listed as an endangered species. How serious is council about protecting our coastal environment where they declare the breeding habit of vulnerable and endangered species as an off-leash area for dogs, which are a known predator? The interests of dog owners and their companions cannot be placed above the interests of Australia's native flora and fauna. Council must, therefore, remove these areas as off-leash areas immediately to ensure the survival of these unique yet vulnerable species. Stephen Allen, Austinmer.

8 November 2006 - Killing Saddam won't achieve anything

Don't kill Saddam. To do so now would be to deprive his hundreds of thousands of victims, such as the Kurds, and their families of the opportunity to have their day in court and to make Saddam face up to his barbaric actions. Saddam is a butcher. However his execution speaks of revenge, rather than of the dispensation of justice. Incarceration, public trials, facing his accusers and victims, living with what he has done for the rest of his life, deprivation of liberty - this should be the fate of Saddam Hussein. Most Australians are opposed to capital punishment, and for good reason. It is barbaric and inhumane, and sometimes it is handed out to the innocent. It is not the way we do things in Australia. The recent statements by Sheikh Hilali that perpetrators of rape should be executed I found disturbing. What sort of country do we want Australia to be? One where life is cheaply taken? I hope not. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

12 September 2006 - ALP arrogance

WILL they never learn? The arrogance of senior ALP figures in Sydney never ceases to amaze. They appear to have learnt nothing from the 2002 Cunningham defeat. The imposition of BlueScope Steel executive Lylea McMahon as candidate for the state seat of Shellharbour (Mercury, 6 September) ignores the views of local members. Where is the open preselection process? This appears to be another case of "jobs for the boys", with Premier (Morris) Iemma calling the shots. In my view, the best politicians are those born and raised in the region. They know the local issues and are committed to the local community. They do not owe allegiances to political masters in far-off Sydney. If the ALP is unable to find a suitable local candidate through an open preselection process, then I am sure the Greens or independents will provide the voters with a suitable choice. Michael Organ, Thirroul.

25 August 2006 - Over the Hill

Many thanks to our local Liberal Senator Fierravanti-Wells for supporting the campaign to save Hill 60. Her recent announcement concerning the failure of the tender process opens the door for a possible handing back of the Defence Department land to the local community. Hill 60 is one of the most spectacular areas of our coastline and combined with its Aboriginal significance, military heritage and environmental values, is a prime candidate for public ownership. Let's hope that future generations can continue to enjoy the area and that some form of recognition of its indigenous heritage can also be put in place. Michael Organ, Bulli.

18 August 2006 - PM still at sea

Once again O'Farrell nails it with a cartoon (Mercury, August 15) of our tired Prime Minister adrift on a sea of moral indifference in relation to refugees. Welcome back! Michael Organ, Bulli.

12 August 2006 - Aborigines should be given land

Hill 60 at Port Kembla is of immense cultural significance to the local Aboriginal people. The Department of Defence has built structures on and within it since the early 1900s. It has also kicked Aboriginal people off the land, while promising the land would be handed back once the department had finished with it. So why is the land being offered to developers on tender? It must be returned to the community so it can be incorporated within the land at Hill 60, which is already subject to state heritage listing. The Aboriginal heritage values of this part of Wollongong must be protected and preserved. Michael Organ, Bulli.

1 August 2006 - Nuclear confusion

So ALP leader Kim Beazley supports more local uranium mines, while in the same breath announces a "new diplomatic initiative against nuclear proliferation to be led by Australia". This is crazy stuff. We cannot halt proliferation by selling more uranium to the world. Doesn't Beazley realise that there is no clean, safe way of disposing of radioactive waste? Beazley's backflip represents a real threat to world peace. By selling the unrefined uranium we, as a nation, will be partially responsible for its misuse, whether we like it or not. Michael Organ, Bulli.

20 July 2006 - A stupid war

Israel's war against Lebanon is a horror, as are the terrorist acts of Hamas. To hear an Israel commentator condone the death of innocent civilians in the pursuit of Hamas is nothing less then sickening. One civilian death is one too many. "An eye for an eye" just does not work. You do not defeat terrorism by becoming terrorists yourself. And just because you have the firepower to blow the crap out of Lebanon, does not mean you should. The path to peace is through talk and compromise, not by destroying the lives of innocent civilians. Hamas and the Israel government are both going down the wrong path. They need to pull back before the number of innocent lives lost reaches the thousands and the rest of the world - including Australia - is dragged into yet another stupid war. Michael Organ, Bulli.

15 July 2006 - Name not the first

It was a wonderful gesture by the Wu family to name their child Wu Lun Gong after our fair city (Mercury, July 8). However, he is obviously not the first child to bear the name, as was suggested. Aboriginal people had names before the coming of Europeans to Australia. A census taken at Wollongong in 1836 recorded a 50-year-old man named Wollongong. It also included Coromal (Corrimal) and Tullinba (Tullimbar), whilst a census the following year at Nowra recorded a 20-year-old-woman by the name of Illawoora (Illawarra). The name Wollongong may have been common amongst the Aboriginal people who have lived in the area for thousands of years. Michael Organ, Bulli.

1 July 2006 - Don't get personal

My in-principle support for marine parks has seen me associated with so-called Green "extremist cohorts" (Mercury, June 26). In this post 9/11 era the use of such terms is inflammatory and personally offensive. If certain sections of our marine environment are identified as biodiversity sanctuaries, or are so degraded and damaged that the authorities - based on scientific studies over many decades - have deemed it necessary to quarantine them for a period so that they can rejuvenate and replenish, then so be it. Is the NSW Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or the Iemma Labor Government, part of this so-called extremist cohort? I should think not. Personal attacks never win arguments. Neither does labelling an individual or group "extremist" simply because they do not share your point of view. Michael Organ BSc, Bulli.

21 June 2006 - Give it a go, Macca

Queasy landlubber and Mercury scribe Paul McInerney's suggestion (June 17) that the Sydney to Hobart sea voyage aboard the Spirit of Tasmania III would be one long chunderous encounter with the cabin toilet bowl is, dear readers, not the case at all. Having taken the trip last year, I can confirm that the passage about this ocean-going liner was smooth, smooth, smooth. Forget those images of capsizing racing yachts and being tossed about in a boiling Bass Strait. With good food, entertainment and great views from the observation deck - especially during the return trip when the ship hugs the coast all the way from Cape Howe to Five Islands - it is, overall, a wonderful tourist experience. The only heaving I did was in throwing my bag on the bunk after having parked my motorbike below deck. So give it a go, Macca - forget about green gills and go the green jelly and ice cream before the final 27 August voyage - you know you want to. Michael Organ, Bulli.

20 June 2006 - Mishaps not funny

It looks like Lemony Snicket has been up to no good at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, with a series of "extremely unusual" events resulting in four accidents/leaks over the past week. The news that krypton gas was also released into the atmosphere should also set off warning bells for any burgeoning Clark Kents out there. If it wasn't so serious, it would be hilarious. I, for one, am not laughing. Michael Organ, Bulli.

17 June 2006 - Greens targeted

The tagging of the Greens as "extremists" by Mr O'Brien (Mercury, June 13) is nothing less than ridiculous. Or is he just baiting us? Wanting a fair deal for workers is not extremist. Nor is calling for better funding of schools and hospitals. And wanting to protect the environment - the escarpment, coastline and our fisheries - is that extremist? No. So keep dangling the verbal berley - while the silent majority enjoys the fruits of our marine parks. Michael Organ, Bulli.

26 May 2006 - Nuclear danger

John Howard is wrong - nuclear power is not clean and green - it is dirty and dangerous. We should send a clear message to the Government, and the rest of the world, that we as a nation want nothing to do with it. No matter how much money is thrown at us. Nuclear bombs, weapons, munitions and reactors are polluting the world, killing thousands of innocent people, and adversely affecting the health of millions. We would be stupid to follow John Howard down the nuclear proliferation path. Greenhouse is bad. Nuclear is so much worse. Michael Organ, Bulli.

25 May 2006 - Pity our poor lake

B Payne (March 18) rightly highlights Lake Illawarra's declining water quality and biodiversity over the last decade, and the fact water levels have dropped significantly. The writer's call for the Lake Illawarra Authority (LIA) to "get the lake open immediately" would, I presume, result in a continuation of these low water levels, with presumably adverse environmental effects. What is actually needed is an end to all the rubbish and pollutants flowing each and every day into the lake. As long as we continue to treat the lake like a sewer and push ahead with development along its edges and within the catchment, the problem will not go away. Forget about the entrance, the problem lies upstream, to the west. The West Dapto development can only make things worse, and our councils don't seem to have the gumption to deal with the problem, let alone the LIA. Pity our poor lake. Micheal Organ, Bulli.

23 May 2006 - Green light

P D Payne (Mercury, March 18) reckons Greens policies are "dangerous". What about the Liberal Party policy to sell uranium to China, at a time when it is engaged in an unprecedented military build-up? And their turning a blind eye to the AWB's donations to the Saddam Hussein war machine? What about the NSW Labor Party continuing to support more and more polluting freeways, instead of healthier public transport alternatives? Or both major parties increasingly supporting "user pays" in the areas of health, education and welfare? Now that's dangerous, if not downright scary. The fact is, the policies of the Greens are the least dangerous of any political party on this planet. Michael Organ, Bulli.

11 March 2006 - Designer drivel

Trevor Holt's rejection of the Greens' criticism of the teaching of intelligent design in schools (Mercury, March 8) fails to get to the point. Intelligent design is a rehash of creationism, which long ago was cast in the bin by the world's scientific community as a load of fundamentalist quackery. As a trained geologist I am very concerned that our young children should be taught such an unscientific load of twaddle. I totally support the Greens in their labelling of intelligent design as fundamentalist propaganda. Michael Organ BSc(Hons) Bulli.

10 January 2006 - Compulsory community service?

The decision by NSW Young Labor to press the introduction of compulsory national service for high school students (Mercury, January 6) shows just how close are the policies of the John Howard let's go to war Liberal Party and bomber Beazley's ALP. There is no need for compulsory military or community service. The Government is already using work for the dole to force community service upon individuals. And our military forces should be strategically developed on a needs basis, not via compulsion. The costs of such a scheme would be substantial, and the money could be better used in improving health, education and welfare services. Forcing young Australians to defer education and career in pursuit of some hair-brained 1950s scheme must cause many to wonder how the Labor Party became so out of touch. Young Labor would better spend its time coming up with policies which promote peace, both internally and regionally, rather then seeking an expansion of Australia's military might. And a return to the philosophy of eight hours work, eight hours play, eight hours rest would enable more young Australians to engage in community service, though in this instance without compulsion. Michael Organ, Bulli.

30 September 2005 - Suggested itinerary for PM's visit

SO the Prime Minister is coming to town? Terrific! Perhaps the following itinerary will give him a good overview of the aspirations and concerns of the people of the Illawarra in 2005: 1. Sandon Point - a visit to the picket and Aboriginal tent embassy - here he can see where federal Aboriginal cultural heritage and environmental protection legislation has dismally failed the community. 2. Escarpment, Bellambi - here he can see a monstrous house on the side of the escarpment, proof federal environmental heritage legislation hasn't protected this icon from inappropriate development. 3. Emergency ward, Wollongong Hospital - here, among the queuing trolleys, lined up ambulances, stressed-out staff and overflowing wards he can see how the Federal Government's increasing financial assistance to private hospitals is impacting on the increasingly poor public sector. 4. Greenacres workshop - here he can see the impact of Federal Government cutbacks to some of the most needy in our society. 5. Port Kembla harbour - here, among the trucks and traffic, he can see how his Government's failure to support infrastructure development has impacted on the port's ability to operate and create jobs. 6. A public school - here he can see the kids standing outside for assembly, because they do not have a proper hall, while money is diverted to the private sector. Prime Minister, you are very welcome in Wollongong. However, while here, I hope you take the time to meet with, and listen to, some locals, and not just those who happen to be members of the business community or the Liberal Party, for you are the Prime Minister of all of Australia, not just part of it. Michael Organ, Bulli.

19 August 2005 - Trip into mystery [China and Tibet]

It is good to see ties between Wollongong and China are being improved with upcoming visitations there by our Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor. China remains a mystery to many Australians, having been closed off for generations. Apart from improving trade relations, our representatives will be able to gauge first-hand the moves towards a more democratic, open and free society, somewhat along the lines of what we enjoy in Australia. Whilst human rights will not be a focus of the visit, I hope that some of the economic positives will flow on to this area of concern. And I hope the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor are aware the picture of Chinese life they will be presented by their hosts will only be a snapshot. Issues such as freedom for Tibet, the rights of the Falun Gong to practise, the 700 missiles aimed at Taiwan, ethnic tensions in the western Mongolia area, and continuing border clashes with India and Pakistan, not forgetting the ever-increasing pro-democracy movement within China itself, will continue to bubble away as our representatives are welcomed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party officials. I wish them an enjoyable and fruitful visit, and a safe return. Michael Organ, Bulli.

Reply: 27 August 2005 - Organ off tune. I doubt if Michael Organ has ever been to China when he writes such tripe, (Mercury, August 18). I have been to China four times including Tibet (which, incidentally, was part of China before Wales became part of Britain). I was not restricted on any occasion that I was there, wandering around Beijing and other cities. I spoke to all classes of people from academics to working class discussing many topics and no time did I encounter any adverse comments of their government. If China remains a mystery as Mr Organ suggests, I think that it is the likes of M Organ's mind that is closed and that he should visit and see China for himself. I saw churches of many denominations open to the Chinese people. In fact, open to anyone to enter and worship as they please. As for the Falun Gong, where do they get their finances from and why do their spokespersons speak with American accents? Mick Pilton, Barrack Hts.

13 August 2005 - Sense of dread [Rod Oxley and Planning matters]

The announcement by the general manager of Wollongong City Council that he will take on the role of manager of planning in order to "move along" development fills me with a sense of dread. How on earth can the GM of one of the largest councils in Australia find the time to take on such an important role, in addition to his already considerable responsibilities? And what is so wrong with Wollongong council that a qualified and experienced planning manager cannot be found in the whole of Australia? There are many in the community who have lost faith with the planning department of WCC under the present leadership, and not just those thousands involved in public stoushes such as Sandon Point. In recent years we have seen budget blow-outs. We have seen planning staff jump ship. We have seen the escarpment protection process move along at a snail's pace, and inappropriate development occur all the while. There has been no vision, apart from the vision of a pro-development stance. Heritage protection and promotion has been killed off. Community involvement in the planning process has been severely downgraded. There is no coastal protection strategy, no commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly planning and development. Spot rezonings proliferate, and planning rules are continually ignored. If Mr Oxley wants the job of planning manager, he should resign as GM and submit an application as part of an open public process. Does he have the right qualifications? Is he the best person for the job? The Lord Mayor and councillors must ensure that this city has the best, most experienced and independent management team possible. Doubling up, Mr Oxley, is not prudent. Michael Organ, Bullli.

30 July 2005 - Political donations

According to the Australian Electoral Commission (www.aec.gov.au) during 2003-04 the Village Building Company donated $38,000 to the ALP NSW. Village is the developer behind the Edgewood estate at Woonona and the proposed 550 dwelling subdivision with high rise apartment blocks on the escarpment at Bulli. Why do property developers donate money to political parties? What do they expect in return for such payments? What impact does such a payment have on ALP councillors on Wollongong City Council? Should those same councillors excuse themselves from voting on any rezoning or development applications associated with the Bulli Brickworks site because of a perceived or actual conflict of interest? Michael Organ, Bulli.

20 May 2005 - Carr's 'concept'

Premier Carr's new fait accompli measures to facilitate development within the state mark the end of community initiated environmental and heritage protection. His announcement included "the introduction of a 'concept approval', where a proposal can obtain up-front, bankable statutory approval, minimising risk and cost without compromising the environment ... This creates certainty, not just for the developer, but for the local community." The only certainty for the community is that the development will go ahead, despite any and every environmental, social and heritage-related constraint. And of course the environment will be compromised. Just as it was at Sandon Point, and just as it is at present up and down our magnificent escarpment and coastline. Once again Carr and Labor have sold out to the development lobby. Money talks, and the ALP listens. Michael Organ, Bulli.

7 May 2005 - Uppercut for MP

Regarding the Corrimal High School gaffe by the local ABC announcer and former vice-captain at the school. Why did the Minister for the Illawarra blurt it out to the whole world on the floor of parliament? Rather than a few hundred early morning local ABC listeners being aware of the statement, now the whole region and the whole state knows. Mr Campbell has increased the level of embarrassment for the school and its students, past and present. Why would such an experienced politician make such a blue? Michael Organ, Bulli.

19 March 2005 - Dunes are a part of the charm

Dunes are an important part of the Illawarra's precious natural coastal environment. High-rise developments are not. More of our coastline should be populated with indigenous vegetation and restored dunes, both to protect the coastline from erosion, and also to encourage the presence of native wildlife. Protection of the environment must come before the creation of million-dollar ocean views. Micheal Organ, Bulli.

The Australian - 16 March 2005 - 'One China' Policy

The "One China" policy was responsible for the invasion of Tibet in 1951, the subsequent death by torture, murder and starvation of millions of Tibetans, destruction of some 6000 Buddhist temples and monasteries, and ongoing cultural genocide by the Chinese regime. Is Taiwan now to suffer the same fate? Will the world sit idly by as China's Communist Party declares that its bullying and threatening of Taiwan is merely "an internal matter"? Torture, murder, invasion and abuses of basic human rights are never merely "internal matters", though recent events at Guantanamo Bay would suggest that the United States and John Howard's Liberal Government are not much different to the Chinese in this view. What is this world coming to? Michael Organ, Bulli NSW.

12 March 2005 - Heritage loses

Wollongong Council's decision to allow the demolition of the heritage-listed Harrigan house - Charcoal Tavern is nothing less than disgraceful. It is the council's obligation to protect and preserve the heritage of this city. Once again council has let us down. When will the Lord Mayor and councillors have the guts to stand up to developers in defence of our local heritage? Probably never! Michael Organ, Bulli.

5 May 2004 - Dapto Heritage Loss 'a Disgrace'

News of the downgrading of the heritage status of the old Dapto lead smelter works (1895-1905) by Wollongong City Council and the NSW Heritage Office from regional to local significance (Mercury, May 1) is a disgrace. It leaves one with little faith in the commitment of local and state representative bodies to preserve the industrial heritage of the region, or to stand up to developers. In recent years we have seen the success of Stocklands in destroying industrial heritage items at Sandon Point, namely the old 1860's tramway and the 1890's coke works. Now its Dapto's turn. The Dapto operation was a substantial lead smelting works, of national significance, employing hundreds of workers. The site has significant heritage values. And what of the lead-filled toxic waste dumps associated with the works and which were identified during the NSW Government's inquiry into lead contamination in the late 1980s? A decade of heavy industry by the lake at Dapto has left its mark. I hope council and the State Government ensure that all issues relating to lead contamination of the area and related health issues are fully investigated and brought to the attention of councillors and the public before any development proceeds. Michael Organ, Bulli.

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