It has been reported that a submission has been made to the government's Commission of Audit recommending a co-payment system for GP visits, with an upfront fee of $5 touted. The purpose of the fee is apparently to reduce Medicare costs.

Surely a better approach would be to charge a co-payment for visits to hospital emergency departments of, say, $20 that is not Medicare-rebatable. This would act to reduce the number of people unnecessarily visiting emergency departments, clogging up already stretched facilities.

It is well known that a significant number of people a week are walking out of hospital emergency departments without being treated, suggesting they were not ill enough to require hospital treatment. And many others attend for minor medical matters - rather than seeing a GP - simply because it is free. Something that needs to be remembered is that hospital emergency departments are just that - for emergency treatment; they are not free GP clinics. The savings to Medicare from such a co-payment approach are likely to be significant flowing from the resulting reduction in hospital costs.

Don Sephton, Greenway

So, a ''small'' upfront fee of $5 for a GP visit? Health minister Peter Dutton, policing the matter, says this will discourage ''unnecessary'' visits to the doctor.

It will certainly discourage the genuinely sick. For many, $5 is far more that it is to your well-heeled friends in Toorak and Bellevue Hill. Like that old Coalition trick of branding those on unemployment benefits as ''dole-bludgers'' - the implication is that you are not really trying hard enough to find work or, in this case, to stay healthy.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


Scrub up hospitals

I read with concern the article ''The rise of the superbugs'' (Forum, December 28, p2). Perhaps if the hospitals kept a better cleaning regime there would be fewer infections.

I recall several years ago after emergency surgery to repair a broken leg, I was released without antibiotics and ended up with two badly infected wounds which took some time to cure with antibiotics provided by a GP. If hospitals relied on improved hygiene and less on antibiotics we may see improved outcomes. I can recall a time when hospital beds were stripped and scrubbed with antiseptics when a patient was discharged. I also recall when the floors and walls were covered with inlaid linoleum and scrubbed daily.

The only cleaning I witnessed several years ago was a cleaner who wiped the top of the bedside trolley with a tissue taken from the box on the trolley. Towels were changed at least daily years ago but not today that I have seen. The state of the bathroom was simply a disgrace, dirty discarded toothbrushes, discarded razors still clogged, dirty old toothpaste tubes all laying in the tray below the mirror in that bathroom. Little wonder I had infected wounds.

I am dreading my next visit for an essential procedure.

Warren Prince, Weetangera


Hear the people

I strongly support the views of Richard Youngs (''The shaking of authority'', Times2, December 27, p1). The protest movements in Egypt, Tunisia and others in the Arab Spring to get rid of corrupt dictatorships (which incidentally were initially supported by the West) have not resulted in election of democratic governments, as they have not had the organisational skills to create big new parties. This was sad for the protesters in Egypt who had such wonderful aims, but the Muslim Brotherhood had the numbers and won the election.

The Western attempts at democracy have deteriorated over the years, as the major parties are controlled by vested interest groups such as big business, unions, Zionists, evangelical Christians or miners. Balanced decision making, to make the right decisions for a better world, cannot occur while there is unwillingness of political parties to (1) make the necessary hard decisions as they fear they will be voted out, or (2) support the opposition when it tries to make the right decisions. No wonder people vote for small parties or informally - just so as not to have to vote for the majors they do not respect. The protest movements are growing, and after a few traumas it seems likely that the Arab countries, and others like Ukraine and Thailand, will eventually get better governments. But they will have to go through years of trauma to get there. Western governments need to take action now to ward off similar protest movements against their weaknesses - acting on pressure from vested interests, and fear of losing power. I believe the power of civil society will rise up strongly against weak Western governments, and our poor attempts at democracy. Roll on this happening sooner rather than later.

Caroline Fitzwarryne, Yarralumla


Chain-gang solution

Bus stops with no buses (''Travellers find buses a rarity at some stops'', December 27, p5) are not exactly a new problem.

On October 5, 2010, I wrote to Kristin Blume, A/g senior manager, Transport Policy Coordination, Transport Planning Branch, ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services. One of the issues I raised was lack of information at bus stops, mentioning specifically the Majura Avenue stops. The reply I received said ''Transport Planning is currently reviewing the information provided at bus stops with the aim of providing timetable information at more stops across Canberra. Majura Avenue will be included in this review. I have also passed your comments about the volume of buses that use these stops onto ACTION and the network planning team for consideration in their ongoing review of the bus network.''

Since ACTION is clearly unwilling to put timetables on stops (my local one on Officer Crescent at Hawdon Street once had an empty timetable holder for a couple of years but never a timetable) or to put warning signs on rarely used stops, can I suggest that the problem be addressed by chaining an ACTION or TAMS senior executive or an MLA permanently to the stop to inform would-be passengers of where to go. This ''stop attendant'' would only be fed or watered by a passing bus, and then only if the driver could be bothered.

David Walker, Ainslie


Sow wise seeds

J. J. De Jong observed ''Good seed doesn't cost - it pays!'' (FAO 1960). Those considering the Gonski report should reflect that ''Good education doesn't cost - good education pays''. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

Cosgrove might not be such a perfect choice for GG job

Those pushing for Peter Cosgrove to be governor-general should remember his preparedness to be disloyal to a colleague when politically pressured to do so.

Back in 2004, prime minister Howard was incensed when Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty suggested (correctly as it turned out from subsequent terrorism trials) that Australia was at greater risk of terrorist attack because of Australia's stance on Iraq.

Defence Force chief Cosgrove sided with Howard to publicly criticise Keelty's comment. This caused considerable disquiet in Defence and in the public service bureaucracy more generally, where loyalty to colleagues is considered to be an important principle.

In Cosgrove we would apparently be getting a person as governor-general who is prepared to sacrifice principle for ambition, and who has shown himself to be too close to the Liberals for comfort.

C. Williams, Forrest

While there is no doubt that Peter Cosgrove has ''long been a front runner'' for the role of governor-general, claims that he remains ''controversy free'' may be harder to sustain (''General Cosgrove front runner for governor-general role', canberra times.com.au, December 27)

Notwithstanding widespread acclaim for the stellar career of this popular military chieftain, it seems somewhat curious that the former commander of the peacekeeping force in East Timor in 1999 is being canvassed as a candidate for the role of governor-general, coincidental to unresolved allegations of illegal spying by the Australian government against the government of East Timor.

And perhaps more than a little ironic to some that, while General Cosgrove subsequently went on to become Defence Force chief, before successfully transitioning to a career in the private sector, that allegations of abuse, torture and possible murder of Indonesian militiamen by ADF personnel all those years ago also remain unresolved.

Still, with the central figure in the spying allegations, former foreign minister Alexander Downer, having just been elevated to the plum diplomatic post of high commissioner to London, there would seem to be little doubt that our cream will continue to rise to the top.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

The likely appointment of General Peter Cosgrove will be a slap in the face for the many ADF serving and retired personnel who have been eagerly waiting for justice to catch up with those who subjected them to sexual and other abuse.

As head of the army and, later, chief of the Defence Force, General Cosgrove carries grave responsibility for the abuse and the cover-ups that took place on his watch. He should not be considered for high office until each and every case that occurred - or was covered up - by personnel under his leadership has run its course.

Chris Smith, Kingston



Australia is supposed to be a sophisticated democracy. So how have we been hoodwinked by the Abbott government?

Sure, the Rudd/Gillard governments were shambolic at times but they managed to achieve a lot of good policies for the general community that seem recognised.

This government, on the other hand, seems intent on tearing down our hard-won community gains by an early consistent breaking of its electoral promises.

Traditional Labor supporters and the general public are now paying a heavy price by not sticking to their roots and understanding the true agenda of the Abbott government.

Geoff Clark, Narrabundah


Stop, and look around

No Christmas cheer and goodwill from Martin Kenseley (Letters, December 27). The Christmas holiday season when most Australians are looking forward to winding down and spending precious time with family and friends, Mr Kenseley wants all those workers on the Cotter Road-Streeton Drive intersection to return to work and complete the roadworks.

Mr Kenseley, as a resident of Weston Creek, claims that the ACT government is subjecting him to ''commuter pain''. He questions why roadworks on the Cotter Road-Streeton Drive intersection are suspended two days out from Christmas with restrictions still in place. He also takes a cheap shot at the two young police officers who were completing road checks on Monday in over 30-degree heat.

The roadworks are being completed simultaneously with the development of the rapidly expanding and busy residential area of Molonglo Valley and North Canberra. As a Canberran who grew up in the Weston Creek area, a motorist, cyclist and walker who regularly travels through this beautiful, ever-changing and expanding part of Canberra, can I suggest to Mr Kenseley that he takes a bit of a Christmas break and explores this rapidly growing and busy part of Canberra. He might be surprised.

K. Angove, Hawker


Crows know better

It is oxymoronic to identify healthy choice with McDonald's burger an' fries, in any context, so it is unsurprising to learn the ''Fast food giant axes site over diet tips'' (December 28, p11).

Even vermin and crows fail to recognise McDonald's products as ''food'' when ''supersizing'' patrons toss their partially eaten, non-biodegradable, products out the car window. McDonalds, like Walmart, prefer starving, slimmed-down, working poor who will work for the minimum, starvation, US wages ($US2.13-$7.25), while it pays minimal taxes.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

Burnt out taxi on bike path hazardous to the public

For over three weeks now the residents of Torrens, Pearce and Chifley have been greeted with the horribly unsightly view of a burnt-out Canberra Elite Taxis cab sitting across the bike path just metres from the Petherbridge Street underpass.

The vehicle is surrounded by broken glass from the windows, has an open door that makes the charred interior accessible to children and, in addition, the bike and pedestrian underpass has been blocked off with plastic mesh that forces the public to go up and over the road to get around the obstruction.

Besides looking like a bomb site, the vehicle is a danger to the public and should be removed immediately by whoever is responsible, be it an ACT government department or Canberra Elite Taxis or the vehicle's owner. Leaving such an unprotected and dangerous mess for more than three weeks is a disgrace and reflects poorly on the national capital.

The public deserve consideration in regards to safety as do workplaces. Someone, remove this danger immediately please.

Peter Keast, Torrens


Whither went gales?

It occurred to me recently that weather reports and forecasts no longer use the term ''gale''.

Quite commonly in the 1960s through to, perhaps, the early 1980s, we would hear warnings of ''gale-force winds''. You knew you were in for wind enough to disrupt certain outdoor activities that might involve stalls and marquees, but not damaging winds as such.

Definitions of what constitutes a gale are easily found - if a little various. Winds between about 60km/h and 80 km/h qualify under most definitions.

So, I ask, whither went the gales? It seems that a very succinct and useful weather term has been sadly lost to this generation.

Ross Kelly, Monash




ANU academic Susan Harris Rimmer says (''Envoy's asylum claims 'won't hurt relations''', December 30, p1) a decision made to grant asylum to Ms Jacqueline Zwambila should not hurt Australia-Zimbabwe relations. Big deal. With trade between the two countries about $12 million a year, I am quite sure we could absorb the hit if it did have a negative impact.

T.J. Farquahar, Ainslie

I wonder how long the illegal queue-jumping Zimbabwean ambassador will stay on Manus Island.

Gary Thomas, Griffith



Regardless of content, my response to any Christmas message from Tony Abbott is emphatically: Bah! Humbug!

Dennis Hale, Beecroft, NSW


In response to Andrew Rowe's letter (December 27), the reason the decision review system isn't being used in the South Africa-India cricket Test series is that India does not accept it and will not allow its use when it is playing - no matter who it is playing or where. It's very frustrating but that's the way it is.

J.F. Bishop, Flynn



The Christ I know, John Richardson (Letters, December 27), would most definitely recognise Cardinal Pell. Christ would recognise him for what he is, a Pharisee!

S. Redston, Chisholm


Jack Kershaw's letter (December 26) had merit but missed an essential point. Every other capital city in Australia distributes its magistrates courts to where they are most effective. In Canberra's case, that would be our larger town centres.

If you are defending an issue in court and live in Tuggeranong, you do not want to go to an ever more crowded Civic to have your say.

Howard Carew, Isaacs


Like Mark Raymond (Letters, December 28), I find H. Ronald's contributions highly amusing and, guess what? He can be assured there will be more of the same entertainment as Tough Talking Tony's circus rolls on in the new year.

Chris Bell, Pearce

For a conservative to be thought an agitprop in the letters pages of The Canberra Times, one does not need to lean very far to the right (Letters, December 28). However, faint praise is still praise, so thanks to comrade Raymond for the lift.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


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