Comment

Letters to the Editor

AMA position clear

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Your editorial "AMA needs to step up on bullying" (Times, December 5, p2) pointed to the serious and ongoing issues of bullying and harassment within ACT Health's public hospital medical workforce. At the same time, it also highlighted the important survey findings that emerged from the AMA (ACT)'s recent survey of junior doctors employed by ACT Health.

These findings were at once disturbing and a call to action – 63per cent of respondents reporting a perceived inability to raise issues of concern without recrimination and 50per cent having experienced bullying and 44 per cent unsafe working hours within the previous 12 months. These findings followed an earlier report for ACT Health (undertaken by KPMG) that showed similar deep concerns junior doctors have about the ability of ACT Health to address issues of bullying and harassment effectively or at all.

The AMA (ACT)'s position is clear: what is needed is a transparent, independent and external process to address bullying and harassment in the ACT's medical workforce. This is precisely the model that was used by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and its expert advisory group.

David Morrison, former chief of army, would be an ideal person to chair such a body and indeed, AMA (ACT) has suggested Mr Morrison to ACT Health as an appropriate chair, should they agree to move to an external process.

It is crucial that junior doctors have confidence in both the process and the people to ensure that their concerns are being heard and addressed.

Finally, I was surprised and disappointed in the claim by The Canberra Times that there had been a lack of leadership from the AMA on the issue of bullying and harassment and a failure to advocate "a zero tolerance for bullying".

This claim is at odds, not only with several public statements made by the AMA during 2015, but with the position statement on "Sexual Harassment in the Medical Workplace" issued on December 3 that says "[t]here is no place for sexual harassment in any workplace, including in medicine".

A little fact checking in future would assist the public debate.

Dr Elizabeth Gallagher president, AMA (ACT)

Alcohol a big issue

I thank The Canberra Times for sharing Ross Fitzgerald's article on alcohol and domestic violence ("Booze-violence link is ignored", Forum, January 2, p6).

It's about time we started to address one of the nations' biggest social issues. The statistics on alcohol are compelling. Having lived and worked in Sydney's western suburbs most of my life I can tell you the issue is widespread. I agree with all of the issues Professor Fitzgerald raises in his article.

It's unbelievable that alcohol is involved in up to 65 per cent of family violence cases in Australia and we do nothing about it. It's time that we started to address the community attitude to alcohol and the drinking culture in Australia.

As Professor Fitzgerald rightly points out, there is no quick fix but doing nothing also means that we will not be addressing the major cause of family violence either.

Addressing the issue would not only see a decline in domestic and other violence, it would also see a significant drop in alcohol-related visits to emergency departments of Australian hospitals. Surely this must be a very good thing?

Fred Turner, Telopea, NSW

It's a no-brainer

Ross Fitzgerald's op ed piece on the connection between Australia's relationship with alcohol and domestic violence is spot on. I'm no expert on domestic violence but it's a no-brainer that the increase in Australia's alcohol consumption is a strong factor in the increasing incidence of this social epidemic.

Of course there are other factors, but it cannot be denied that Australia's long relationship with alcohol and its connection to gender power issues has always, and is increasingly more so, an insidious factor in domestic violence. Ecstasy and ice attracts much more media and political interest than alcohol, although the latter has far greater negative social and health impacts – and as Fitzgerald writes this can be directly attributed to the "politically powerful liquor industry".

In a couple of weeks my family and I will be attending the Australia v India ODI at Manuka oval. Cognisant that some people may not want to sit with those imbibing alcohol, the organisers have considerately provided alcohol-free family zones. Paradoxically, however, the main sponsor for this event, at which a high proportion of attendees will be children, is a beer company.

While the commercial realities of major sporting fixtures and events cannot be denied, one must ask is it necessary to actually name the event after an alcohol brand, and to actually incorporate the beer brand logo within the official emblem for the match?

While ever we continue to give mixed messages about the role of alcohol in everyday life, it is going to be very difficult to separate the issue of alcohol from domestic violence.

Leigh Watson, Macgregor

No special benefit

Paul Feldman (Letters, January 2) thinks the ACT government would be giving the Federal Golf Club a special benefit, and "diminish community benefit", if it allows the club to develop some of its presently-unused land for housing – because the lease purpose charge payable by the club is 75 per cent of the land's increase in value (instead of 100 per cent); and the government's 2014 Lease Variation Stimulus Package reduces the charge still further.

He's wrong; the club would not be getting any special benefit, because the 75 per cent lease variation charge (and the Stimulus Package) apply to all lessees or developers and all ACT land re-development, whether residential, commercial or industrial.

So the club would pay as much as any other developer. And, incidentally, a tax rate as high as 75 per cent can hardly be said to "diminish community benefit"!

R.S. Gilbert, Braddon

Targeted by police

I travel by road to Sydney and back every two weeks and have noticed a pattern of visible policing of the Hume Freeway.

Normally: no visible presence. School holidays: plenty of parked cars. Double demerits time: plenty of parked cars. Summernats (January 6): four active bookings. Two with "show cars" and two with "show cars" on trailers.

ACT Policing may be co-operating but NSW police are obviously targeting visitors to this event.

Brian Wilson, Tuggeranong

Until women are treated as equals, appalling statistics will continue

As I sat on the lawns in front of Parliament House on the eve of Australia Day last year and watched Rosie Batty be named Australian of the Year, I hoped this might herald a sea change in men's treatment of women in our society.

Regrettably, my optimism was misplaced. Women continue to be murdered by their partners at a rate that averages two a week, and high-profile men demonstrate by their public actions their sheer disdain for the female gender of our species.

In the past 10 days, Jamie Briggs, Peter Dutton and now Chris Gayle have each acted deplorably in their treatment of women, and unless and until men understand that women are our equal and need to be treated accordingly, I fear the appalling murder and abuse statistics will continue.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rightly accepted Briggs' resignation, and Dutton needs to quickly follow. This is a clear test of Turnbull's authority and one he can't afford to fail if he is determined to be respected by women in this country and beyond.

Ian De Landelles, Hawker

Jenna so wrong

I suggest that Jenna Price lives in world ruled by overly active imaginations ("Briggs, and so many men like him, fail to get it", Times2, January 5, p5).

Although I agree with her premise that gentlemanly behaviour should be the norm on work sites, Jenna is prone to exaggeration. How were the"Abbott months ... catastrophic for women"? Did someone die? What is the "it" that "so many men like him fail to get"? Perhaps it's some nebulous feminist daddy anger hanging in the ether?

"We are subject to policing by men every single day." Right, Jenna. That's why you occupy a media pulpit from which you lash men with a verbal cat o' nine tails every second column or so.

I have suffered verbal harassment from eminently less qualified women than me. I suffered a false accusation once, and it was proven to be untrue. I got on and did my job, which provided for a family.

What Jenna doesn't get is that work is not all about what women want despite the tired complaints about how unfair life is when I don't live an upper-middle-class lifestyle on a $50,000 salary.

Gerry Murphy, Braddon

Stop making excuses

As a mother of a young daughter, I have encouraged her to believe that she can be whatever she wants to be when she grows up. In any career that she chooses, whether it be a consular official, journalist or sports reporter, I expect that she should be able to go about her daily work without inappropriate and unwanted behaviour from men.

As a society, let's stop overlooking and making excuses for men such as Jamie Briggs, who hopefully are in the minority, and continue to garner support and respect for all women.

Sally Bond, Willoughby, NSW

Officer not at fault

I must have missed something with Craig Thomas' letters (December 30 and January 5).

A former ATO officer called for action to get more appropriate tax from some big taxpayers. So Mr Thomas is "questioning the former ATO assistant commissioner's actions when he was overseeing corporate tax compliance".

How can John Passant answer? Confidentiality means he cannot discuss individual taxpayers and how they were dealt with by him, not even if they lie about his actions.

Why should he answer? An assistant commissioner, like any other tax officer, has no authority and no resources for going off on frolics, and can't be personally answerable for whether multinationals used to pay more of their tax, or less (although the figures suggest they used to pay more). And what do an individual officer's actions have to do with what is now good tax policy?

I used to be an ATO assistant commissioner. When I discuss tax policy, my experience does influence my thinking, but proving I always collected every dollar, or didn't, has nothing to do with whether my ideas are good or bad, and I may not tell anything that is not public knowledge, or even correct the record.

Christopher Hood, Queanbeyan, NSW

Teach animal welfare

Bryan Furnass (Letters, December 31) observes that the ethical considerations of animal welfare should be taught in schools, and that's a fine idea. If we are teaching our children about the need for responsible stewardship of the planet, we should not ignore what it means to intensively farm animals for food.

It's been a while since I went to school, but I'm betting that today's students are well exposed to information about the harm of fossil fuels and global warming, more than likely replete with videos of the horrors of air pollution, climate change and so on.  I wonder how well the processes and harms of factory farming are explained and illustrated.

Graeme McElligott, Isabella Plains

Shameful cut

The new rules changing age pension entitlements ("Public services pensions shock", January 6, p1) highlight the arrogance of the federal government. It has nothing to do with ending an anomaly, but is about clawing back dollars from a vulnerable group.

Chasing multinationals for unpaid taxes is too hard, as is reducing the financial burden of pension entitlements for retired politicians. Dear me, that would affect Christian Porter!

When I retired 10 years ago, I qualified for a part pension to supplement my super pension. I have lived on that income for those 10 years only to be told, now, that my income is to be reduced by 20 per cent. That is a cut of $369 a fortnight. How exciting is that, Mr Turnbull?

Of course, this begs the question of how this got through Parliament and the Senate. Where were the opposition, the Greens and the independents?

The government has been saying for two years that it was not changing pensions. It hasn't. It has just gone through the back door and changed the way your entitlement is assessed.

And when were pensioners alerted? Two days before Christmas! How shameful is that?

John Hotston, Young, NSW

Institute burying its head in the sand

With Richard Denniss ("Let's open Pandora's box", Opinion, January 2, p6) as the workers' friend, who needs enemies?

In his world, systemic corruption, death threats, associating with serious criminals, cartel behaviour, reduction of worker's entitlements and unauthorised distribution of superannuation fund members' private details uncovered in the royal commission into trade unions are "mole hills" to be brushed over. Richard puts up the proposition the impact on the economy is trifling and there are bigger villains so all should be left alone.

No one could ever accuse the Australia Institute of consistency. Richard and his mates decry the power of vested interests. However, in his criticism of the TURC, he fails to acknowledge the monopoly power of unions over enterprise bargaining agreements and their corrosive influence on markets and probity. There was extensive evidence of unions and officials enriching themselves, often at the expense of their members. Possibly worst of all, the CFMEU continued to back criminal phoenix operators who consistently fall into liquidation, leaving workers and creditors out of pocket.

When a few union officials tried to expose this activity, they were threatened and ostracised from the union.

In our inquiries into workers' compensation in NSW, these phoenix operators were shown to have a history of industrial sites with poor OH&S, leading to worker death and injury. The cost to the nation's economy from phoenixing is estimated at more than $2 billion a year, with workers losing at least $200million a year. As the TURC showed, much of this couldn't happen without union complicity. It's unfortunate the institute chooses to bury its head in the sand to the detriment of workers and the economy.

Scot MacDonald MLC, Sydney

TO THE POINT

BARREN GROUND

It's great news that we may soon be permitted to grow vegetables on our nature strips. Does this mean the government will remove the oversized and dangerous eucalypts beside my humble abode? Not even a weed will grow anywhere near them.

M. Connolly, Giralang

BEST-DRESSED JIHADISTS

Saudi Arabia likes to distinguish itself from the head-choppers of the Islamic State, but the recent 47 mass executions, including that of a top Shiite dissident, reveal the Saudi royals to also be jihadists, but just better-dressed jihadists.

Rhys Stanley, via Hall, NSW

ABUSE UNACCEPTABLE

H. Ronald (Letters, January 6) thinks that it is "refreshing to see a smart woman in public life who can laugh off a dumb mistake with sexist overtones". He surely can't be serious. It is unacceptable for a cabinet minister to refer to a woman doing her job as a "mad f---ing witch". My guess is Mr Dutton will be out of the ministry before the next election.

Ray O'Brien, Wavell Heights, Qld

Peter Dutton's "mad f---ing witch" text is offensive, sexist and demeans his position as a cabinet minister. No surprise that H. Ronald would think it's just a "dumb mistake" with "sexist overtones". H. Ronald appears to believe women belong in the kitchen, that men are breadwinners and never the twain shall meet.

Joyce Wu, Lyneham

A new federal portfolio, malapropism and botches, ought to be created, with a junior portfolio of gaffes and gags. And accidental texting ought to be known as duttoning.

Matt Ford, Crookwell, NSW

HOW DO WOMEN FEEL?

Bill Deane's suggestion (Letters, January 6) that Peter Dutton is not obliged to apologise to Samantha Maiden because it was a private conversation between him and Jamie Briggs is silly. Dutton represents thousands of women voters in his electorate. What do they feel about his remark?

Sankar Kumar Chatterjee, Evatt

COST OF INNOVATION

I refer to your article "Government pours $28m into promoting innovation agenda" (January 6, p4). Good thing it's not wasted by being squandered on Medicare and hospitals.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld

ON-AIR RESTRAINT

Mel McLaughlin missed a golden opportunity to put a sizeable dent in the Gayle ego by giving him an earful on air the other night – but then again, she's better than that.

Tony May, Pearce

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