Federal Politics


Plenty of taxpayer funds, but health system still suffers

In The Sydney Morning Herald last Saturday a page three advertisement appeared under ACT Government Health for a position of ''Deputy Director-General, Strategy and Corporate'' for a salary of about $320,000 plus benefits. Then followed sentences I would describe as gobbledegook purporting to be a job description with no mandatory medical qualifications.

The Department of Health bureaucracy is out of control and presiding over a system that in terms of productivity, cost and patient care statistics, such as morbidity, is an increasing disaster for the ACT taxpayer.

In my own practice there are patients who have lost their babies under appalling standards of care. There are also patients who have been seriously harmed beyond lenient allowances for human/clinical failings.

At a personal level, my wife was sent home with aspirin for a life-threatening condition. If it was not for the diligence of her GP she would be either dead or seriously damaged. This occurred after spending an inordinate amount of time, on a trolley, unmonitored, without a bed, in the emergency corridor and subsequently transferred to a four-bed ward. The hospital then tried to seek money, unearned, from our private health fund. The extraordinary waste of money not translating into patient care is a national disgrace and bodes ill for Australia's future.

Dr Grahame Bates, John James Medical Centre, Deakin

Setting eco agenda

Vince Patulny (March 17) accurately points to the complete absence of a ''future frame'' in Australia's political discourse and suggests there will be less long-term pain if we face now the realities of limits to growth than if we await their consequences. To listen to our political leaders one would think there is no such thing as climate change and that we are not heading for environmental catastrophe as a consequence of the fact that humanity's ecological footprint already exceeds our planet's capacity to sustain it, by 30 per cent.


It is now clear that our political ''leaders'' are in reality, followers and that it is up to the electorate to set the agenda for a sustainable future. Thank goodness for GetUp! and its 400 community get-togethers across Australia this Thursday to generate the ''future frame'' that is absent from the current thinking of our main political parties.

Bob Douglas, Aranda

Media's unfair bias

The campaign by the media against Julia Gillard is a good example of media group-think. The attacks on the PM are almost universal - now it is not only News Ltd, but Fairfax and The Canberra Times are all out there baying for blood. With the exception of Crikey.com, media condemnation of Gillard is overwhelming.

But on what grounds? The Gillard government has done a good job. We have one of the best performing economies in the world and a raft of important reform legislation has been put to the Parliament. In contrast to the pack dog attack on Ms Gillard, media scrutiny of Tony Abbott is minor.

Sometimes I think political commentators are playing with our heads: ''Let's see if we can bring down another PM, just to show what power we wield''.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

Reforms hysteria

For everyone who is up in arms about the government media reforms, they have two major elements. At the moment, news media outlets voluntarily sign up to industry self-regulators like the Press Council, agreeing to uphold basic journalistic standards. These bodies also provide a complaints mechanism for people who feel journalistic standards have not been upheld.

The legislation creates the Public Interest Media Advocate to certify these industry self-regulators, making sure they have the appeals mechanisms and standards necessary for such a group to be effective. To receive the privileges given to media outlets, media organisations must be affiliated with a PIMA-certified self-regulation group.

The second component is the ''public interest test''. Before a major media entity changes ownership, the change has to be submitted to the PIMA. The change will not be allowed if it will substantially decrease the diversity of media ownership..

That's it. No media sources are being shut down or censored. It is legitimate to debate the merits of this legislation. But to call it a totalitarian assault on freedom of the press is ridiculous.

Joshua Smith, Gordon

Dig deeper: health effects of wind turbines may be very real

Simon Chapman's relentless drive to assert that adverse health effects from wind turbines are ''all in people's heads'' should be taken with a grain of salt (''Wind farm sickness may be just hot air'', March 16, p7).

What is dangerous about Chapman's psychological theory is that all manner of technology (industrial wind turbines, mobile phone towers, Wi-Fi) can be declared benign, when more detailed knowledge of the areas in question suggests the opposite. Although Chapman, a sociologist, gives mobile phones and mobile phone towers a clean bill of health, neurosurgeon Vini Khurana and others reviewed evidence of health risks, citing studies reporting adverse neuro-behavioural symptoms or cancer in populations living less than 500 metres from mobile base stations.

Likewise for Wi-Fi, public health professor and physician David Carpenter, a world authority in this area, draws on a substantial body of scientific literature to conclusively demonstrate the associated health hazards. His 2011 declaration to a Portland, Oregon, court case on school students exposed in Wi-Fi-equipped schools is on the web. In a major new report BioInitiative 2012, the contributing authors discuss the implications of 1800 new studies since the 2007 BioInitiative report. There is now reinforced scientific evidence of risk from chronic exposure to low-intensity electromagnetic fields and to wireless technologies. Chapman's use of a one-size-fits-all theory is overworked, shallow, and simplistic. It is also highly irresponsible, in that, with turbines, it ignores the physiological chain of events from audible and low frequency noise through to adverse health effects.

Murray May, Cook

The article ''Wind farm sickness may be just hot air'', on the health effects of wind power generation, raised some significant issues that require attention in future reporting by the media.

Simon Chapman's analysis of the apparent connections between complaints against the health impacts of wind power and the activities of groups opposed to wind power is substantial enough to suggest that reporters should be asking questions about their motivation.

Do they have any financial or other interests in preventing the spread of this form of power generation?

The University of Auckland study provides a plausible account of the link between anti-wind power proselytisation and increased reports of ill health sourced to wind power, and suggests how the phenomenon that Chapman has mapped could have arisen.

Future reporting on claims of ill health resulting from wind power generation should take account of this research.

Doug Hynd, Stirling

War worse than tax

It's been a decade since former prime minister John Howard took Australia to war in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Australians marched against it to no effect and surprisingly little reporting. We took part in wrecking their country and killing more than 100,000 people.

In contrast, Prime Minister Julia Gillard brought in a price on carbon, and a couple of bus loads of pensioners who listen to 2GB protested.

The harangue has continued to this day in the media. Where is our sense of proportion? How can we gloss over the monumental mistake of going to a pointless and illegitimate war, but keep harping about a tax on pollution as though it's the worst thing ever perpetrated by government?

Dr Julie Kidd, Bonner

Give Raiders a go

After just one game Rory McElligott (Letters, March 18) is calling for the sacking of Raiders' coach David Furner! Rory must be ecstatic, now the Raiders have failed against the Gold Coast! I wonder how Rory would react if his undertakings came under such close scrutiny as Furner?

The Raiders arguably have a better side than the team that finished sixth last season, although I doubt if we have yet put the best side on the field!

Rod Frazer, Garran

Don't whine, dine

Kirsten Lawson says dining in Canberra's restaurants (Food and Wine, March 12, p2) is a pretty gloomy experience, enlivened only by those few places that really care about quality of the produce.

This is in complete contradiction to international and national food critics, one of whom, on ABC Radio National on March 15, raved about Canberra restaurants and described them as ''providing outstanding quality, and value for money''.

Perhaps the editor of the Food and Wine should get out more, leaving her bias and opinions at home, and report on Canberra's great range of fine eateries.

Ken Helm, Murrumbateman, NSW

Y the delay

Chris Ablett (Letters, March 7) accused the ACT government of ''two years of inaction and procrastination'' causing the non-occupation of the first floor of the YMCA Sailing Club at Yarralumla, saying this was brought about by continual lobbying by residents. His accusation is entirely inaccurate.

The reason the first floor has not been used is the YMCA could not get a certificate of occupancy after restructuring work in 2010. Neither the ACT government nor Yarralumla residents had any involvement with the non-certification. In fact, both strongly support any valid attempt to make the clubhouse viable following the 80 per cent decline in sailing club membership since its peak. This is part of their pursuit of increasing the recreational use of Lake Burley Griffin.

In May 2010 the ACT government advised the YMCA it should seek development approval to expand the use of the clubhouse from ''exclusively for sailing''. The YMCA delayed doing so until June 2012 when it sought approval to expand use to all aquatic recreations. During the public consultation process, the Yarralumla Residents Association strongly supported the application. It did not lobby against it. The ACT government approved the YMCA proposal in September 2012. However, the YMCA has not yet advised how it intends to implement it. The ''two years of inaction and procrastination'' is entirely due to the YMCA.

Paul Fitzwarryne, YMCA SC member, Yarralumla

Ring wrong

Angela Kueter-Luks (Letters, March 15) sought to borrow from Tolkien in an effort to portray the papacy as a uniting force for good. Unfortunately, there are two problems with her allusion: firstly, the misquote - ''One Ring to find them all''.

Much more importantly, however, is that the character quoted is the Evil One - Satan, if you will.

Rather than the One Ring being a source of unification and hope in a benighted world, as in Angela's interpretation, he is saying that the ring is his most powerful instrument and source of the oppression and evil he wishes to visit upon the good people of the world.

Hmmm, perhaps Angela is right after all.

Mark Raymond, Manton, NSW

Land of inequality

Thomas Friedman (Times2, March 15, p2) claims Israel is a Jewish democracy even though over 650,000 Palestinians were detained and imprisoned between 1967 to 2006, nearly all on political rather than criminal grounds (Unfree in Palestine, N. Abu-Zahra and A. Kay, Pluto Press 2013, p.61). That's about one-fifth of the West Bank and Gaza Palestinian population which includes hundreds of women and children. Israel is like Orwell's Animal Farm where some animals are more equal than others.

Gareth Smith Byron, Friends of Palestine, Byron Bay, NSW

NAPLAN shame

Shame on The Canberra Times for once again compiling and publishing league tables derived from the recently-released NAPLAN statistics. At best, the scores provide a snapshot of a minuscule portion of student learning. At worst, and most sadly, the tables engender despondency and discouragement among students, teachers and parents from schools which are deemed to be ''failures''. Please show a sense of social responsibility and abstain from continuing this disgraceful annual practice.

Anna Chrysostomou, retired teacher, Kaleen

No help for tourist

On Sunday I flew to Canberra for the day to visit NGA's wonderful Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition. Alas, Canberra Airport was a shock. It offered no tourist information. I could not find anything to assist my visit. There were no booths, no stands with brochures, no pamphlets. No maps, no direction to public transport, no timetables, no visitor information. Nothing!

It was very frustrating. My time was limited and I wanted to make the most of it. A plane full of passengers disembarked with me; were they all politicians and public servants?

Canberra encourages visitors; how are we to find our way around this town?

I finally found a cleaner who helped me find the airport bus. Canberra Airport needs information for the visitor.

Julie Stainmagen, Carnegie, Vic

Papal tips

I have some advice for Pope Francis. Sell the Vatican to a developer who can transform it into a five-star hotel (little change will be required).

Put the resultant $1 billion into a plane and sprinkle it over the poorest parts of India and Pakistan.

2. Forbid the Catholic hierarchy and clergy from making any statements about sex for the next 100 years. This will not make up for what they have said over the last 2000 years but it will be a start.

3. Stop pretending that the Catholic version of church government (absolute monarchy) is a good thing, let alone based on the gospel. Gradually implement forms of government favoured five centuries ago, then two centuries ago and finally those used today.

Paul Hartigan, Ainslie

To the point


The many thousands of Australians who marched in protest at the decision of the Howard Government to commit to the war in Iraq in 2003 would probably disagree with Crispin Hull's statement that ''Support for the Afghan and Iraq invasions was overwhelming'' (Not even a cup of tea is harmless in modern politics'', Forum, March 16, p2).

Peter Crossing, Curtin


Julia Cronin (Letters, March 15) may be interested to know that in my day - possibly Jack Waterford's too - a dag was an affable oddball. Maybe a nerd nowadays?

Robert J. Irwin, Queanbeyan, NSW


Frank O'Shea (''Abandon science for stories'', Panorama, March 16, p22) persists in claiming that Isaac Newton was condemned as a heretic, along with other heroes of the scientific method, Copernicus and Galileo. Not many condemned heretics can have died in their sleep and been buried in Westminster Abbey.

R.F. Shogren, Hughes


I've no right to be offended by critics of my town, Canberra. For years I've been criticising Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, even - to a lesser degree, perhaps, Perth and Hobart. Curiously, I've rarely been critical of country towns - just as I find it's unusual for people from country towns to be critical of Canberra.

R.J. Wenholz, Holt


Maybe it's relative, perhaps it's the exchange rate but money for two children killed in Afghanistan (''A 'few hundred' the price paid for two dead boys'', March 9, P11) and reportedly up to $50,000 for defence personnel subject to alleged abuse seems out of kilter.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla


If Tony Abbott truly wants to lead while still sitting on the opposition benches he is well placed to join with Cardinal George Pell to ask Pope Francis to release the records held in the Vatican in order to assist the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Dr P. A. Smith, Mount Archer, Qld


In Canberra, if you subscribe to Foxtel you can receive ABC and SBS via satellite, but not the commercial channels. In Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide you can also receive all commercial channels via satellite. Why not in Canberra? The response to this question from the commercials will be deafening.

Steven Hurren, Macquarie

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