Comment

Letters to the Editor

E-cigarettes helpful

Meegan Fitzharris has introduced introduced a bill to the Legislative Assembly to treat e-cigarettes "as though they are cigarettes, whether or not they contain nicotine", apparently in the interests of "a cleaner, healthier Canberra" (my emphasis).

Her words suggest a prioritisation of moralism over health concerns and ignore the lived experience of those Canberrans who have given up or reduced their smoking with the aid of e-cigarettes. The restrictions proposed by Ms Fitzharris and the consequent perception created in the public mind that e-cigarettes are as harmful as actual cigarettes risk closing off one of the most effective exits from tobacco smoking (for details, Google "Guardian Bauld e-cigarette").

Furthermore, the use of e-cigarettes to give up tobacco use has occurred through independent consumer choice, rather than through "strategies" devised by politicians, bureaucrats or NGOs. Perhaps this is the aspect that Ms Fitzharris, her departmental advisers and her supporters such as ACT Heart Foundation chief executive Tony Stubbs find strange and disturbing.

H. Simon, Watson

Painful surrender

After reading so many articles, including "Fluffy blocks under hammer" (March 12, p1), the term "surrender" comes to mind. My Oxford school dictionary defines the term "surrender' ' as to "hand over, yield to another; accept enemy's demand for submission; give oneself up. n. surrendering".

Since I live among many houses in a neighbourhood containing Mr Fluffy insulation (which I now term as "Fluffy Central", I have become aware of the stress and anguish of those who are forced to surrender their properties. Also of those who won't capitulate to the demands of the system to yield under pressure.

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We've just celebrated the 900th anniversary of the foundation stone of our democracy, the Magna Carta. So why are some member of our community dealing with the Mr Fluffy insulation legacy being hard done by. And not just that – treated as the enemy and had terms of "surrender or else" dictated to them.

Michael Calkovics, Lyons

Work on closing gap

Transgenerational trauma, deep poverty and lack of suitable housing of First Nations People are key issues sitting right under our nose in Canberra. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy site mirrors both past dispossession and the present situation for many Aboriginal families' living conditions throughout many urban and regional areas of Australia.

The Aboriginal Embassy Site is important as a National meeting ground for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from many different communities. It is also an important site representative of the history, struggle and interaction between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

As privileged locals we all could do much more to help, by understanding and engaging in the nationwide First Nation Peoples' struggle and learn why "close the gap" is such a critical but highly neglected ground level campaign.

Maria Altmann, Canberra City

Problem with Islam

Hussain Nadim's article "Islam needs to invest in people and universities, not mosques" (canberratimes.com.au, March 13), is a good start in the process of Muslims facing up to the reality of why they're distrusted and belittled by the West. They build mosques aplenty, but, credible universities don't exist and Nobel Prize winners are negligible.

Moreover, Mr Nadim laments the supposedly 99 per cent who abhor Islamic State, et al, yet who do nothing and say nothing about the Koran which so very easily forms the crutch for extremists seeking a justification for their violence.

The Koran is awash with "authority" to butcher non-believers; and Islamic doctrine and theology are awash with "authority" to butcher Islam's adherents who dare question its inherently contradictory standoff with contemporary Australian law. Mr Nadim must know that if he goes out on a limb and questions the "word of God" he will face apostasy charges. And, he knows he will be hunted down by his own.

Cardinal Pell is right: the great problem with Islam is that it cannot renovate.

Patrick Jones, Griffith

Other options for dying

I write in support of Bev Cains (Letters, March 9 who suggests that euthanasia is not necessary for people dying of a terminal illness if adequate palliative care services are available.

I nursed for 20 years in a palliative-care setting. The aim of palliative care is to support a patient and his family, and to address his many needs. These needs include the different types of pain which must be addressed – psychological, emotional, social, spiritual as well as physical. Maybe the patient is lonely, isolated or depressed.

With professional, competent, caring palliative care support, a patient does not need to resort to the strategy of euthanasia.

Moya Homan, Greenway

No sense in easing law

Some argue that prohibiting laws against illegal drugs should be eased. But there are quite sensible arguments against doing so. For example, if we wanted to reduce alcohol-related deaths on our roads – and we do – would any government legislate to ease the drink-drive laws by increasing the current maximum of 0.05gm of alcohol per 100mls of blood to 0.10gm? Or reduce substantially the number of police drug breathalysers. So what would be the sense in easing, or further easing, current laws on illegal drug use.

Colliss Parrett, drugs policy adviser, Australian Family Association (ACT)

Caution needed

Jane O'Sullivan (Letters, March 15) misrepresents me when she alleges that I depicted opposition to immigration as an attack on migrants. What I actually wrote was that she and Geoff Davies should exercise caution so that a focus on migrants as economic burdens would not be misused by far right groups.

While asserting that my modest warning is somehow "shutting down debate", she is writing yet more letters to the editor. Jane claims without evidence that America's growth around 1900 and Australia's in the 1950s would have been even stronger without immigration.

It is of course impossible to disprove these sorts of counter-factual assertions, but it seems certain that large infrastructure projects such as the Snowy could not have proceeded without the influx of migrant labour.

David Roth, Kambah

Truly important issues ignored as media focus on political squabbles

It has become clear in connection with the coming elections that the Australian media, rather than focus attention on the decisive issues of our times – including global heating, hair-trigger nuclear missile fleets and looming wars in the China Sea, Korea, the Middle East and Ukraine – is continuing with its parochial preoccupation with domestic political power games and money matters.

When multiple military forces confront each other, a conflict by accident or by design becomes inevitable with time. Yet none of this appears to be an issue in the coming elections.

When the world's leading scientists and research organisations warn governments of the dangerous shift in state of the terrestrial climate, approaching irreversible tipping points, what meaningful difference would the election of one major party or the other make, if both parties continue to support coal mining and export and coal-seam gas fracking, rendering the country a world-leading per capita carbon emitter?

Politicians continue to talk about the future, making no reference to these decisive factors. With their lack of action on dangerous climate change, world governments, including in Australia, are presiding over an increasingly likely demise of the terrestrial and marine biosphere.

Which planet do these "leaders" think they are living on?

Dr Andrew Glikson, Kambah

CSIRO cuts foolhardy

Bruce Haigh's comments ("CSIRO water science cuts leave precious resource untapped", Forum, March 12, p7), point to the absolute stupidity of the cuts to CSIRO announced by the new CEO, Dr Larry Marshall. The foreshadowed 350 jobs to be cut over two years, 110 in the Oceans and Atmosphere division, as well as those in the Land and Water division, as outlined by Bruce Haigh, don't augur well for Australia as an innovative nation. Land and water issues must rate as priority issues for any country, but particularly for Australia, with our climate of extremes, now being exacerbated by climate change.

These cuts, if they go ahead, would seriously damage Australia's research capacity in these crucial areas – damage that cannot easily be reversed. Many people, not only in CSIRO, but also the general public, are outraged about this irrational attack on Australia's research capacity, and the campaign against them is growing.

On Wednesday, March 16, at ANU, speakers from the Climate Council, the CSIRO staff Association, ANU and the climate organisation 350.org were to meet to discuss the implication of these cuts.

Malcolm Turnbull needs to show some leadership by reinstating the $115million funding cut from the 2014 budget and stop these job cuts.

Kathryn Kelly, Chifley

Bruce Haigh, in defending CSIRO Land and Water research failed to list even one example of research by that division (flagship or whatever) that it has carried out in the last decade (and perhaps two) that is remotely of use to Australian farmers.

This is probably due to research being directed by a top-heavy "management" team that takes its roots from the days of Neville Wran and his communist mate, Lawrie Carmichael (circa 1980).

So, it is not just politicians and management to blame. Those scientists remaining over the last 20 years have simply not attempted to identify land and water problems in the community and direct their efforts specifically to those areas. Who reads anything about soil and water salinity these days? Obviously, the Land and Water team think climate change has solved all those problems.

I've got news for them. It hasn't produced a single remedial action. Similarly, when did Land and Water last tackle soil carbon – the single most important soil attribute associated with healthy, productive soils? If they would like, I could give them an hour-long PowerPoint presentation on what is happening to our land and water under present and past management practices. But, of course, I am not part of "management", so that would be a useless exercise.

Baden Williams, Lyneham

Capital gains tax

R.S.Gilbert (Letters, March 14) thinks the current capital gains tax rule discounting 50per cent of nominal gains before tax doesn't reduce overall revenue compared with that collected under the pre-1999 rules. He offers the example of a property bought for $500,000 and sold 10 years later for a price that has just kept pace with inflation.

As expected, the hypothetical investor loses out by paying more tax under the current rules. But how well does this example reflect reality? A look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics residential property price index shows that the capital city weighted average price over the 10 completed calendar years to December 2014 rose by 67.5per cent, despite the global financial crisis. Substituting that value into Mr Gilbert's example results in a shortfall of around $11,500 in capital gains tax compared with what would have been collected under the old rules.

But if you'd bought a property in Perth back in 2004, where the index rose by 102per cent over the 10 years to 2014, you'd be wearing a $50,000 smile, courtesy of the Howard government and the rest of us taxpayers. While this is entirely consistent with the Liberal Party ethos of "winners keep more", the incentive to invest for capital gains has worked in synergy with the incentive provided by negative gearing to borrow big.

The resulting increase in house prices has outstripped the growth of average earnings, and younger families are copping the consequences.

Paul Feldman , Macquarie

Submarine deal risky

Hooray for Hugh White ("Japanese subs could sink us", Times2, March 15, p1). And to add to his comments: The strategic and defence export directions being taken by the Abe government have yet to be confirmed as constitutionally valid; other Japanese political parties oppose the strategic directions being taken by the Abe government; and the Abe government is on the nose with the Japanese electorate.

Hardly a firm foundation for the building of a relationship which will have to last many decades.

David Wade. Holt

Gluten intolerance not coeliac disease

It is unfortunate that the general public may be misinformed about coeliac disease when reading Henry Belot's article 'Defence force rejects gluten-intolerant soldiers' (March 12, p5). It contains misconceptions and inaccuracies, particularly in quotes provided by Paul Bertrand, a head of RMIT's gut neuroscience laboratory. To be clear, coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease, and neither an intolerance or allergy. Those with coeliac disease abnormally react to gluten when consumed, resulting in damage to the gut, which leads to malabsorption.

Conversely, those with gluten intolerance do not have gut damage.

The gut lining does not "take a few weeks to heal" as Paul Bertrand suggests; it takes months, years or may never completely heal. Strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is difficult. The risk of accidental consumption of small amounts of gluten is common at food outlets professing "gluten free", when their food contains hidden gluten in thickeners or sauces, or where food is contaminated with breadcrumbs or wheat flour.

Paul Bertrand states "The person would suffer bloating and diarrhoea"; this is not necessarily true. My daughter is one of many who do not have these symptoms when consuming gluten, and the myth that someone with coeliac disease will have gastro symptoms in part explains why 80 per cent of those with coeliac disease remain undiagnosed.

Understanding coeliac disease is important, considering one in 70 people have the disease, and many others have gluten intolerance.

The Coeliac Society has a lot of work to do to correct the myths and misconceptions out there.

Jo Clarke, Jerrabomberra, NSW

TO THE POINT

EMBARRASSMENT

L.Christie (Letters, March 15) does not seem to realise many of the embassies in Canberra are built in the architectural vernacular of their countries. To our eternal shame, that is exactly how the Aboriginal embassy is built.

Barbara Fisher, Cook

A VOTE FOR BURNEY

Thank-you, Ross Fitzgerald, for your article "Canberra next stop on Linda Burney's unfinished journey" (Times2, March 14, p5). What a story! It needs to be told and is both impressive and fascinating. I wish I could vote for her. She would be a great addition to Federal Parliament.

Helen FitzGerald (no relation) , Surry Hills, NSW

SMOKE SIGNALS

This week, I dropped a patient at the Canberra Hospital accident and emergency department. Directly outside A&E, there were five people all smoking next to the smoke-free campus sign.

T. Henderson, Holder

MISCHIEVOUS CLAIMS

Domestic violence is wrong and should be punished, but so should mischievous allegations – as happened recently against two footballers ("El Masri: everyone branded me guilty", March 15, p6) – that waste police and court time. Would the White Ribbon organisation like to comment?

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

CLIMATE PREDICTION

I am alarmed that someone, such as Gerry Murphy (Letters, March 14), claiming statistical expertise does not know how to distinguish between an observation (weather) and an average (climate). He/she should also be aware that the prediction of an observation is subject to much greater error than the prediction of an average.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

CRITERIA OR CRITERION?

I hope GWS Giants executive Richard Griffiths (Letters, March 15) is more adept at solving the Manuka development problems than he is in distinguishing singulars from plurals, eg, "A key criteria ... will be".

Eric Hunter, Cook

SELF-INTEREST AT WORK

The decision by Greens senators to vote against a motion to give equal marriage rights to all Australians is yet another example of the truism of the J.T.Lang quote: "In the race of human life, always back self-interest, cause you know you're on a goer'. Their actions, yet again, make a mockery of their continued sanctimonious claims that they are "different" to the "old" political parties.

Ian De Landelles, Murrays Beach, NSW

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

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