What has Australia become?

Recently a family of four – mother, father and two children, was woken at 5am by a group of police, Border Force officers and Serco guards.
This little refugee family was settled in central Queensland.
The father was locally employed. The children are Australian-born – one is two-years-old, the other is a nine-month-old baby.
They were given just 10 minutes to gather their belongings.
The parents were separated and driven to Gladstone airport.
Though the children were in the same vehicle with their mother, they were not allowed to sit with her. You can imagine their distress.
The mother’s visa had expired on March 4. She had been working with a case officer to have it renewed.
The family was flown to Melbourne and detained.
Following their incarceration, under duress and fearing further separation, the parents finally agreed to sign deportation documents.
This is not about “stopping the boats” or “saving lives at sea”. This is not about securing our borders.
These sorts of raids and deportations by Minister Dutton’s Border Force officers are reminiscent of Germany of the 1930s and totally inappropriate for Australia in 2018.
As an Australian I am appalled by the continual punitive and inhumane actions of this government.

Jan Govett,


Making things better

“Rail a political platform” (Bendigo Weekly, March 9) might seem to suggest that both major political parties would like to see improved rail services to destinations such as Swan Hill.
The problem is that our politicians seem to have absolutely no idea about a) what the problems are, and b) how to fix them. Despite spending millions on “upgrades”, things just keep getting worse.
If we look at today’s Swan Hill timetable, we see that the morning train departs at 6.58am and arrives Southern Cross at 11.34am, a total time of four hours 36 minutes. Is this really the best we can do?
If we go back a generation to 1995, the morning train from Swan Hill left at 7.10am, and it arrived at what was then Spencer Street at 11.05am, a total time of three hours 55 minutes. That’s 41 minutes faster than today.
If Minister Allan was serious about making things better, she would summon her top advisors and force them to explain to her (and then tell all of us) why things have got so much worse.
It’s not the actual trains, because they are the same trains we had 20 years ago running at the same speed limits. But the answers are simple.
Firstly, Swan Hill trains make too many stops because our timetablers can’t resist combining the long distance express idea with the commuter stopper, to the detriment of both. We simply end up with the “long distance stopper”.
Secondly, and something the minister seems totally incapable of comprehending, is that singling the line north of Kyneton was an absolute disaster which made many trains, including the Swan Hill’s, slower.
It is pleasing that the minister says we are getting “long-haul VLocity” trains, but her other comments about not being able to run them on present tracks – “You can’t run these modern VLocity trains on these tracks that won’t hold these trains” is just sheer gibberish.
It must be obvious to even the minister that if we had any, we could run “long-haul VLocitys” to Bendigo and Swan Hill starting tomorrow, since we already run “short-haul” versions to Eaglehawk and Echuca every day.
One of the boasts of the “We are singling the line to go faster” brigade was that the “flagship” service could reach Bendigo in 84 minutes.
Times this fast seem a hazy memory now, with today’s fastest train to Bendigo taking 93 minutes, a whopping two minutes faster than the best pre-upgrade train.
But rather than just the one “fast” service, redoubling would allow any number of 93 minute services, and if done properly, we could easily get Bendigo times back below 90 minutes.
North of Bendigo, a VLocity allowed 115km/h on today’s track instead of the present limit of 100km/h for loco-hauled trains would reach Swan Hill in about one hour 50 minutes.
That gives a potential Melbourne – Swan Hill time of three hours 20 minutes, well over an hour faster than today.
The secret to running faster trains is to run more expresses, and the secret to running more expresses is double track. All we need for this to happen is a minister who wants it to happen – and of course enough double track to make it work.

Andrew McLean,


Heritage grants now open

One of the great strengths in this region is our heritage and many of us are involved in organisations working hard to restore, preserve and protect historical treasures.
National Library of Australia has officially opened its Community Heritage Grant program for 2018.
Organisations can apply for up to $15,000 to assist in preserving cultural heritage collections of national significance.
Not-for-profit organisations, such as historical societies, regional museums, public libraries and indigenous organisation are encouraged to apply.
A wide range of activities may qualify for this grant. Guidelines and application forms are available at nla.gov.au/chg/guidelines
The grant round closes 5pm, Monday, May 7 and I encourage every associated group in the Bendigo electorate to apply.

Lisa Chesters MP,
Federal Member for Bendigo


How many lives saved?

In last week’s Bendigo Weekly, there was an article on the use of wire ropes along our highways, written by Vic Roads deputy chief executive, Robyn Seymour.
I wish to ask the writer a question, she says, “flexible safety barriers are proven life savers, and that’s why we are installing them across the state”.
My question is, can she provide the number of lives saved and the number of lives lost due to this $1billion spending spree?
If a tired motorist wants to pull over and take a power nap, like the signs say, well, he can’t because its not safe to be parked so close to the road.
Most roads have been used extensively for over a 100 years, by motorists, bikers and truckers. And as such it’s not the road that causes accidents, it’s the drivers.
So please, don’t make it harder for firies, ambos and police.

Peter Tharle,


Rewriting history

The letter by Ed Thomas of Kangaroo Flat in the Bendigo Weekly, March 9 requires a response as he is attempting to suit the facts to his ideology concerning the decline of the Victorian Transport Service.
It suits Mr Thomas to make charges against the Labor government of John Cain without acknowledging the part the Liberal/Country Party played for 27 years in the destruction of public transport in Victoria.
In April 1997, the Liberal Kennett government announced that Victoria’s public transport service would be privatised. But, the destruction had begun to change Victoria’s freight system well before then.
Under Sir Henry Bolte as premier from 1955 to 1972, Sir Repurt Hamer from 1972 to 1980 and then Lindsay Thompson Minister for Transport, until Labor won the election in early 1982, the railways were first run down by capital starvation and then dismemberment.
It was only in 1973, when the railway commissioners were replaced with the VicRail board that the pace of decline quickened.
The board’s charter called for the railways to be run as a commercial enterprise to make costs meet revenue.
The board itself argued from its inception that this was impossible without a massive capital injection.
They then commissioned the consultants McKinsey and Co to report on the state of the railway.
The report recommended the staff be cut by 9000, that charges and fares be increased and that a number of suburban, country and freight services be axed.
Three years later after that report the Liberal government established the Lonie Inquiry, or Victorian Transport Study.
Transport Minister Robert MacLellan recommended the closure of eight suburban train services, seven tram services and all country passenger services except Melbourne to Geelong.
In March 1982, after 27 years of destruction of public transport the Labor party won the election under John Cain, but, the dice had already been rolled by 27 years of neglect.
In opposition, the Labor party had opposed the privatisation in principal but in government it has, with the exception of provincial rail, maintained private operaton.
The Cain and Kirner governments spent more money employed more staff and improved some services. As a result of these Labor government actions, it could point to halting the long-term decline in public transport patronage as an achievement.

William C. Collier,
Golden Square