Letters to the editor

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Assistant Health Minister Senator Fiona Nash has engaged in two recent actions that will impact adversely on the health of Australians at a time when obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and cardiac disease continue to be very prevalent.

First, Healthy Foods' website was dismantled after many months of work and expenditure by state Health staff.

Not deterred, and a censure motion in the Senate, Senator Nash has disbanded the independent panel monitoring the sale and marketing of artificial baby formula.

There is well-established nutritional evidence showing the superiority of human breast milk over artificial formula. Where circumstances require formula feeding, health professionals are the appropriate people to provide the information not multinational food companies eager to increase their profits.

When Tony Abbott spoke following the election, he stated that he would be governing for all Australians (even those who did not vote for him). However, actions by the Prime Minister, Senator Nash and others in cabinet, suggest that decisions are made to suit the corporate world at the expense of ordinary Australians.

M.Saines, Page

Way off track

So it's now been revealed that salaries for the ''Thomas the Train'' Capital Metro will shortly cost us around $45,000 per week, and that's without turning a wheel (''Light rail seeks finance boss to avoid blowout'', March 26, p1). Add super and other direct costs this equates to around $2.7 million a year. That, with the recovery of infrastructure costs estimated to be $680 million, but say $900 million (given the Cotter Dam experience) over 100 years, back-of-envelope calculations suggest that we'll need around 5000 passengers per day at $5 a head, 365 days a year just to recover these costs.

And where is Shane Rattenbury proposing to build the car park for the ''park and ride'' commuters?

Peter Toscan, Amaroo

Clear the air

David Ingles (Letters, March 26) has proposed a local solution to the reported closure of Mount Carmel College, Yass. This certainly is a workable solution although it probably is not the favoured one for parents of the students now at Mount Carmel. They are expressing concerns about the actual process leading to the decision to close the college. Both sides, the Catholic Education Office/Catholic Education Commission and the Yass college community, are expressing opposing views publicly as to whether or not formal advice of the intended closure was given to the parish priest and the college community ahead of the announcement last week.

Presenting copies of the documentation to the Yass college community would seem to be one way to halt the blame game and clear the air so that the parents can think about the future education of their children. Mr Ingles' suggestion can be considered then in a more rational way, free of the emotional overtones surrounding the issue.

Bryan Docherty, Garran

No right to life

So, David Jenkins (Letters, March 22) believes that the death penalty is barbaric. What about long-term jail sentences, a form of psychological penalty? On what basis does he conclude that the death penalty has been ''proven'' not to be a deterrent? No doubt offenders have been identified who considered the death penalty and still went ahead with their crimes but what about those who have not committed a crime after first considering the death penalty? And yes, there would be a few (not ''many'') who would be later found to be innocent - but that may be more than counterbalanced by the fact that the death penalty totally removes the opportunity to seriously reoffend.

If the evidence against an offender is overwhelming and if the crime is very serious then obviously the offender has forfeited the right to life and the penalty ought to be ''death''.

Of course, the death penalty should only be administered in a quick, painless manner under sedation as the objective would be to eliminate the problem, not seek retribution.

At the very least, the death penalty should be an option and decision available to offenders.

John Burke, Weston

For their eyes only

I note in Jack Waterford's piece on the Eastman inquiry, ''Lights on at end of tunnel'' (March 26, p1), that the judge and counsel refer to statements, transcripts and exhibits on computer screens only they see.

When big screens have been commonplace for years in entertainment centres and conferences, it's bizarre that they're not used in courts. If the hearing is open and the public gallery can hear testimony, why can't they read evidence? For that matter, why isn't the inquiry streamed live?

Dallas Stow, O'Connor

Good in theory

Chris Hansen (Letters, March 24) is correct to question the role of sequestration of carbon in soils in the Direct Action plan to combat climate change.

It is easy to show that a small notional increase in carbon concentration in agricultural soils can result in a large increase in carbon storage.

In practice, it is difficult to achieve such changes or indeed to measure them accurately at a broad scale.

On-farm increases in soil carbon depend upon manipulation of the on-farm carbon cycle. For example, a greater proportion of carbon fixed by photosynthesis on the farm could be directed to the soil, but this is contrary to current practice, which aims to maximise harvest index; the proportion which goes into the saleable portion of the crop.

Alternatively, it may be possible to increase total carbon fixation on the farm by better water, nutrient or crop management but any additional costs need to be balanced by the value of increased soil carbon fixation. Some advocate the incorporation of off-farm sources of carbon such as compost or biochar into soils but these should be regarded as a loss to an agricultural system elsewhere.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

And still we forget

There are to be even more memorials to the dead on Anzac Parade. If the people who gave their lives for us could see how their suffering has been turned into some sort of semi-religion, they'd be turning in their grave.

To see our children inculcated with the same militarism of old makes me sad indeed.

There is no way that Anzac Day is anything but a glorification of war.

P Landrum, Queanbeyan, NSW

Is pursuit of money driving the threats to free speech?

Racial respect is earned through personal actions - not litigation. My personal understanding is that all human beings hold diverse and unique belief systems. In a democracy, citizens expect to have the right to freely express their personal beliefs - it is called freedom of speech!

If we choose to take the expression of someone else's beliefs personally - and then claim to be offended - that is surely our problem. We can just as easily choose to find other people's comments different, interesting, surprising, amusing, sad or ignorant.

Could it be that the vocal proponents for continuation of the erosion of free speech in Australia, are claiming to be ''precious'' because there is money in litigation?

Jennifer Hogan, Kaleen

I'm no expert in pejorative epithets for persons of Anglo-Celtic origin in Australia but in the light of current efforts to regulate what one can and cannot say about matters multicultural or ethnic, it seems to me to have escaped the PC police and politicians that such terms do exist within the various ethnicities that now make up the community; why is this so? Perhaps because most of us don't have the skills to understand a foreign language conversation.

So pretty obviously gweilo (Cantonese) would be lost on most Australians whereas the word skippy used in a pejorative sense, perhaps would not. The Japanese term gaiko has the same pejorative implication as apparently does the use of nunga among those who speak an indigenous language. Why, even among older European Jews the term goy is used in a pejorative sense.

So while we seek to regulate the language, ideas and expression of English-speaking Anglo-Celtic origin Australians, such Australians are really being singled out for a pasting in current endeavours.

F. A. Roberts, Curtin

Mining tax no big deal

As a swinging voter, I am nonplussed over the mining tax furore. In its current form, the minerals resource rent tax on iron ore and coal has well-acknowledged flaws requiring amendment. But it is no different in its basic premise of taxing super profits to its companion but much better constructed petroleum resource rent tax. The PRRT has been in operation for more than 25 years and has collected for the Commonwealth an average $1 billion-plus a year over that time. It is now extended to onshore jurisdictions and coal seam gas.

WA is a party to a mini-PRRT for Barrow Island and has done well from that for 30 years; perhaps its government should repeal that too? The Norwegian Pension Fund, collecting profit-based taxes up to 70 per cent on North Sea revenues for the past 30 years is one of the largest shareholders in global resource companies such as BHP Billiton. Norway is smaller than Sydney but its people will always enjoy dividend rewards from majority overseas-owned resource companies operating in Australia, which have a problem with an MRRT but not apparently a PRRT.

Richard Lamb, Farrer

Rural policing ups jail rate

Ross Gittins and Don Weatherburn are eminent and reasonable people. I agree with most of what is said in ''Keeping Aborigines from jail'' (Times2, March 26, p4). However, I suggest they have omitted one of the most significant factors, namely overpolicing in rural mainly Aboriginal communities. I have not seen anything more recent that invalidates my experience as a magistrate in the '90s and later. In what non-Aboriginal community would the ceaseless, quite menacing patrol of the streets by the police van - because there is nothing better to do - be tolerated?

In what non-Aboriginal community would the locking up of both partners because of a police fear of domestic violence being perpetrated by one on the other be tolerated? In what non-Aboriginal community would it be tolerated when an Aboriginal man is charged with malicious damage to a cell blanket he cut to fashion a noose to hang himself with while in custody? In what non-Aboriginal community would a person charged with a not terribly serious offence not apply for bail ''because I might do something wrong''.

My view is corroborated by the statement by Gittins that ''in NSW for example, the indigenous rate for assault is 12 times higher than the non-indigenous rate''.

A comparison of court lists will show that generally the level of crime in cities is much more serious than in mainly Aboriginal rural communities. Offences with which many Aboriginal people are charged go undetected and unpunished in bigger cities because the police have more serious work to do. It it is about time the same standards for arrest were applied in both city and rural communities. Until this issue is faced nothing is likely to change.

Sue Schreiner, Red Hill

Pyne needs a lesson

While in opposition, Christopher Pyne protested the proposed national curriculum apparently contained no reference to the Westminster system of government. Perhaps through his protestations observers could conclude that Mr Pyne strongly believes the Westminster system is a deeply important institutional arrangement worthy of study by the youth of the nation.

Yet now Mr Pyne, as Minister for Education, is accusing the re-elected Labor government in South Australia of being ''illegitimate'' (''Independent MP Geoff Brock backs Labor to avoid South Australia election crisis'', Canberra Times online, March 24). The Westminster system, so lauded by Mr Pyne, establishes one key criterion for the legitimacy of a government: namely, the ability to command a majority on the floor of the lower house, specifically to guarantee confidence and supply.

Premier Jay Weatherill through coming to an agreement with independent Geoff Brock has met that legitimating criterion. Mr Pyne's ignorance, wilful or otherwise, is all the more troubling because he holds the important office of Leader of the House. Perhaps he should reflect a little more on how political institutions actually operate before engaging in petty politics.

Brendan Forde, Gundaroo, NSW

The Lodge's walls not built for security

It is absurd to imply that the perimeter wall at the Prime Minister's Lodge was intended to be a security measure - other than (perhaps) to exclude pedestrians (''Car crash prompts review of The Lodge's security'', March 25, p3).

The wall was built for reasons of traffic noise reduction and privacy when a large part of The Lodge's grounds was excised for the widening of Adelaide Avenue and a swimming pool was installed. Thus, the wall does not go right round the boundary. Given the importance of ''security'', the hapless Hyundai driver has probably delivered a multimillion-dollar boost to the construction industry.

Stephen Brown, Forrest

Put shoe on other foot

Michael Jordan (Letters, March 24) seems to think that Australian women should be happy with the concessions awarded to them to date by the men in our society in relation to employment and living conditions, and not pursue equality any further because there are women in the world who have fewer opportunities and live far more restricted lives.

I wonder if he also thinks Australian men should be happy with their lot and not expect any future improvements in income, access to education, training and promotion, and living standards because there are many men in the world whose standard of living is so much worse than theirs.

D. Edwards, Weston

Bunyip aristocracy

Unilaterally, Tony Abbott has decided to reinstate the bunyip aristocracy. To quote selectively from Henry Lawson: ''No, he comes not to amuse us, and he comes not to explain, With the bathos of the old things over all the land again.'' And a warning from Marcus Tullius Tiro: ''There is in all men who achieve their life's ambition only a narrow line between dignity and vanity, confidence and delusion, glory and self-destruction.''

W.A. Reid, Ngunnawal

TO THE POINT

RIGHT OF ASYLUM

Asylum seekers do have rights, John Passant (Letters, March 27). It's just that they seem to be in two categories, the first, who have the ready cash to jump the queue and then the poor buggers who sit and wait to be processed. Sort this anomaly out first and I'm sure that people will readily accept those who have been properly vetted and processed.

Alex Wallensky, Broulee, NSW

SOCIAL BURDEN

David Hicks (Letters, March 25) suggests that we need to admit asylum seekers to contribute to our economy and enrich our society. However, they are a burden on society. What about social security, health, education, housing - the list goes on. Perhaps David will sponsor asylum seekers at his house. I doubt it.

Steven Hurren, Macquarie

HEROIC TASK

Could one of your knowledgable readers advise how many Woolies Heroes cards I need before I can expect to have all 42 in the set (assuming they are distributed fairly). When I offered to collect them for my granddaughter it didn't seem a big task, but with just 22 so far I'm already getting more duplicates than new ones. With a $20 spend required for each card I fear it's going to cost me a fortune!

Geoff Clarke, Holder

NOTHING LIKE A DAME

Whenever I see or hear the word ''dame'', I am reminded of the slightly demeaning to women song from South Pacific and the man dressed as an ugly woman from English pantomime. If I was any sort of a real sheila I would not want to be called a dame.

Mike Dalton, Gowrie

If the wife of a knight, say Sir John Brown, is Lady Brown, why is the husband of Dame Quentin Bryce not called Gentleman Bryce? Seems unfair if he's still just Mr Bryce.

Michael Travis, Cook

MEDIBANK SALE

The sale of our Medibank private is the biggest negative impact issue. Once privatised, you can bet pounds to peanuts that the prices of medical insurance will go up, just as it did with the sale of government insurance offices in the 1980s and '90s. Medibank is providing an annual positive return to the government and keeping the medical insurance industry in check. The knighthoods announcement last week was an intentional distraction.

Geoff Davidson, Braddon

ROGUE BROGUE

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages for Scotland separating from the United Kingdom might be that they would no longer have to pretend they speak English.

Baden Williams, Lyneham


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