Letters to the Editor


The article ''Boost in demand for breast checks'' (December 26, p1) reveals anxieties, fears, social dislocations, individual costs and program expenditure associated with screening for breast cancer.

Accompanying articles describe mammogram and MRI diagnostic techniques' effectiveness (and limitations) in locating aberrant tissue. Radiotherapy/chemotherapy essentially follow the surgical removal of cancers.

Kristine Hewett's generously shared personal experience (''Mother knows best in advising a second opinion'', December 26, p1) illustrates how disruptive, anxiety provoking, life altering and expensive a diagnosis of breast cancer can be.

Public health resources - that is, mammography, surgery, hospitalisation, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, prosthetics and rehabilitation - directed to this important issue represent considerable opportunity costs, some of which might be more cost-effectively directed to prevention.

Primary healthcare campaigns do not win votes because their benefits are longitudinal and are spread over several electoral cycles.

Available research on cancer causation, albeit accepted as multifactorial, does suggest environmental factors, that is, social status, exercise, diet, contraceptives, obesity, environmental chemicals and alcohol, as representing identifiable breast cancer precipitating factors.

Public health awareness programs educating women about potential risks would be a community investment, contributing, long term, to reducing individual physical and emotional burdens that accompany breast cancer diagnosis.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan, NSW

Tiny rainbow, big message

I've noticed a small rainbow adorning Senator Cory Bernardi's Adelaide electoral office sign.

No tit-for-tat meanness and nastiness in its execution, it is discreetly placed rather than defacing. It seems to signify a call for inclusion rather than an exhibition of understandable rage.

A little dab of white paint will certainly remove all trace of it.

What will never be erased is the demand for the inclusion and equality it represents.

Julia Anaf, Norwood, SA

India's responsibilities

Professor Ramesh Thakur wrote for the second time in a week to defend his homeland (''US must apologise to India'', Times2, December 26, p4).

The US arrest of India's deputy consul-general for falsifying statements on her maid's visa application should be seen in the context of Russian diplomats defrauding US Medicaid of tens of thousands of dollars. The context is criminal fraud for personal gain by consular and diplomatic guests. It is not ''over a labour dispute'' nor is it about ''the strict letter of the law''.

The rarified niceties of diplomacy and associated consular functions must stand alone. They are not to be compared with the actions of an ''intelligence agent'', US ''judicial process'', multinational executives and extraterritorial rendition. To do so lacks the academic rigour due from a professor. It lacks the balance to be expected from a former assistant secretary-general of the UN.

His impatience with vital distinctions is not consistent with his demands as an architect of the Responsibility to Protect principle at the UN.

It is not consistent to hold the developed world responsible for policing societies ranging from the mediaeval to the early industrial, to castigate it when force is used or to claim insult when decorum is demanded of privileged national representatives.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Inconsistent Boris

Boris Johnson (''EU needs to justify its relevance in today's world'', Times2, December 24, p5) suggests that assuming the EU is indispensable is an example of ''the lingering of old ways of thinking, old habits, to the point where they become superstitions''. He warns of the scaremongering that would ensue if Britain considered leaving the EU: the millions of lost jobs, the vanishing foreign investments.

This is the same Boris Johnson who said last November of the vote for Scottish independence: ''I don't think people have woken up to the full lunacy of what is afoot. I am appalled that the pro-independence vote is up at 38 per cent. We need someone - the Americans? - to step in as a kind of marriage guidance counsellor and tell us to stop being so damn stupid.''

Substitute ''UK'' for ''EU'' and ''Scotland'' for ''Britain'' to see yet another example of his flexibility on issues of principle. His interpretation of free speech (on bus advertisements) and of national independence depends on what he thinks will be popular with his audience. His inconsistencies are scrutinised on www.boriswatch.co.uk

P. Edwards, Holder

Discrimination fears

You report apparent discrimination in a small government agency trying to shed six jobs (''Office tells blind, pregnant and injured women their jobs at risk'', December 24, p1). Could this be a trend?

A friend's husband, partially disabled after a motor accident a few years ago, was the only member of his team not to get a post in a recent spill-and-fill operation.

The Australian Human Rights Commission should not wait for individual complaints but do its job and investigate the possibility of widespread unethical, perhaps illegal, discrimination in the public service in this time of severe staff cuts.

John Rogers, Cook

SBS is tops on the box

I agree with Keith Penhallow (Letters, December 27).

Apart from the great SBS series that he mentions, throw in the best documentaries on TV and, from time to time, good movies and SBS is clearly the only TV station worth watching.

Rod Holesgrove, O'Connor

Ignoring the message

Barry Hindess (Letters December 24) admits that ''atheists and agnostics have sometimes done appalling things , but in the annals of destructive ideas, the record of organised religion would be hard to beat''.

As far as Christianity is concerned, such destructive ideas have emerged, not from following Jesus but from failing to do so. What a different world it would be if the professed followers of Jesus really did obey his teaching and put it into practice in their daily lives.

Atheists and agnostics should remember that in the 20th century Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia tried to build societies based on atheist principles and in defiance of the clear teaching of Jesus. The sickening human suffering they inflicted on their victims must not be repeated.

Robert Willson, Deakin

Walk the safe line

In your advice about how to survive being lost in the bush (''Your complete guide to surviving the silly season'', December 26, p8) no mention was made of the need for all bushwalking parties to carry a personal location beacon (PLB), previously called an EPIRB. These light electronic gadgets can be used to notify the Australian Maritime Safety Authority based in Canberra of an emergency at sea or on land.

To rely on mobile phone reception is foolhardy. Serious bushwalks are usually well out of range of mobile phone reception. On a long walk one can program in details of the size of the party, possible route, date of return and contact numbers at home. AMSA can use this information to hasten a rescue. Bushwalking is a wonderful pastime but should be taken seriously. Novices would do well to join one or more of the excellent clubs in Canberra such as the National Parks Association, the Brindabella Bushwalking Club or the Canberra Bushwalking Club.

Timothy Walsh, Garran

Extremely wrong

Brian Hatch (Letters, December 19) appears to try to determine the course of climate change by looking at extreme weather events in selected parts of the world - ''outliers'' in statistical jargon - and implies deliberate suppression of information when his chosen outliers were not reported by The Canberra Times. Should the CT report every occasion that a weather record is broken at any place in the world? It would look like the stock market reports. There would be no room for the cricket scores.

Using extreme weather events to try to detect overall climate trends is like trying to determine the movement of the tides by watching the breakers. In my experience over nearly 40 years, that is impossible. There is so much short-term activity (that is, over minutes) from breakers coming in that it is impossible to see the longer-term trend (that is, over hours) without waiting until it is obvious.

You can always argue that a recent big wave is not evidence that the tide is coming in, but that it is just an unusually large wave in an otherwise steady pattern. Since the mechanisms which produce waves are generally distinct from the causes of tides, you would be right in a strict scientific sense. But the tides do come and go.

People who rely on their own judgment all too often get stranded on the offshore island near my favourite beach, and unfortunately those who have been marooned by rising tides have sometimes even been drowned when they try to get back to land.

It is much more reliable to consult the predictions of the official tide charts prepared by professionals, who have special equipment and use sophisticated mathematical techniques for monitoring the tides. I have never known them to be wrong.

Similarly, if you want to know the overall trend of climate in a specific locality, or the world as a whole, you would be much better to rely on the analyses of mathematicians than on your own judgment. Unfortunately, with weather and climate change, the time periods involved until any trend is obvious are longer than normal human lifespans. If you are wrong, the cost for you, your children and grandchildren could be very large.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has a very informative website, in which the raw data is presented in addition to various summaries. Overall the temperature has risen over the past century in most parts of Australia, but there are exceptions, notably the north-west.

Those who accuse the BOM of bias in summarising the readings can use the raw data to demonstrate that alleged bias.

Neil Porter, Hughes

Israeli hypocrisy

If it really is true as Allon Lee says that Iran is delaying negotiations on a nuclear deal to ensure that ''talks go nowhere'' (''Stalled nuclear deal is a long-running Tehran tactic'', (Times2, December 27, p5) then it can only be that Iran has learnt its lessons in how to negotiate from Israel, which has long been the master of using endless negotiations as a tactic to change nothing. This is exposed in detail by Jewish author Tanya Reinhart in her book Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948, where she catalogues Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin's ''concept of endless negotiations'' (p72) and how it was enthusiastically adopted by his successors, notably Ehud Barak in his phoney offer to the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000, and ever since.

And when will the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council realise its repeated outrage about Iran - or any other country - refusing to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection of their nuclear facilities is seen as the basest kind of hypocrisy given Israel's decades-long refusal to allow the atomic agency to inspect Israel's weapons stockpile?

At least Lee has conceded that the Syrian plan to remove chemical weapons is a genuine one. Given that Israel is protected by the deterrence of the US nuclear umbrella, its own nuclear weapons have no military value. They are simply the expression of its leaders' military machismo and hatred towards Israel's neighbours.

Chris Williams, Griffith

Heads and tales

I admire The Canberra Times journalists who write an interesting article and then give it an extremely witty title. The one that gave me the biggest LOL moment this year was the item about crocodiles and alligators that have developed the ability to disguise themselves under sticks so as to dine on a few unsuspecting egrets who swoop to collect the sticks. The title? ''Egrets - I've had a few.'' Despite feeling sorry for the poor birds, it is part of nature and with so many horrific events occurring in parts of this world a lighter moment can go down well. Thank you.

Carolyn Doyle, Banks

O'Shea's April Fools' Day joke off the rails

It's not the first of April, but I'm assuming Frank O'Shea's article ''Light rail: a one track, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride'' (Times2, December 26, p5) is a Boxing Day wind-up. Nevertheless, to assuage the fears of would-be rail travellers taking his article seriously, I point out that Australia's, and most of the world's, long distance railways are single tracked.

Trains moving in opposite directions avoid crashing into each other by waiting on strategically placed passing loops, letting the opposing train thunder past before proceeding. In places without computer signalling and driver-activated points, there are manual systems that work perfectly well. As they no doubt know even at Junee.

The vision of Leonard di Caprio at the controls of a doomsday tram is terrifying. Alas, even if he were to seize one on London's modern light rail network at Croydon, he would fail.

It has extensive single-track sections where trams zip past each other on loops every few minutes. We need have no fear of an incident in Canberra if the ACT government buys London's software off the peg. If Frank cared to drop in, I'd happily show him how the principle works by pulling out my old Hornby train set.

But then I'm sure he has one too.

Ray Edmondson, Kambah

Look on bright side

From time to time, I too have felt that the world is a bad, bad place. Frances Cornish (Letters, December 25) mentioned the many disgraceful, unpalatable aspects of our fair city and I agree there is room for improvement.

It's just that too often we forget to appreciate the brighter and more pleasurable offerings of Canberra, of which there are also many.

Kit Huang, Yarralumla



Barney Zwartz's eloquently expressed view that Cardinal Pell should move on (''Final, unsolicited tip for Pell, Hart'', Times2, December 26, p5) raises the question as to what role he could assume. Perhaps he could become personal chaplain to Tony Abbott, acting as a moral compass on issues such as mooted disability pension cuts and asylum seekers [sorry, ''illegals'']? I'm sure Pell's views on misplaced compassion would be warmly received by the government.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld


John Richardson (Letters, December 27) claims to know a Christ that would not recognise a Christ that Cardinal George Pell claims to know. Even adults are entitled to their own imaginary friends and to call those friends whatever they want, even if that leads to duplicate naming. Why is it relevant that such imaginary friends would or would not recognise each other?

Mike Hutchinson, Reid


Congratulations to the ACT Parks and Wildlife officer who swam fully clothed to rescue a drowning joey stranded in Lake Burley Griffin, on Boxing Day morning. The incident happened just near the cafe of the National Museum in a quiet part of the lake. Thanks also to the fisherman who paddled his canoe to tow the officer and joey to shore. Well done.

Janet Johnson, McKellar


It was no surprise that Peter Dark's long-winded ad hominem (Letters, December 26) failed to address the central issue of my claim that the ABC is biased to the left. Perhaps Mr Dark might now focus on the issue and offer his view why, with the exception of Amanda Vanstone's counterpoint, is there not one conservative presenter on any major ABC opinion or current affairs program?''

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


Graeme Barrow (Letters, December 24) raises some relevant points to the future of bowling clubs, which are slowly being lost to redevelopment. Perhaps one answer to stop this happening would be for the ACT government to not change the land use purpose, or if this were not possible, for the remaining bowling clubs to combine their assets and build a bowling centre.

Dave White, Deakin


The Australian voters are presently on the largest electoral learning curve ever. About time too!

Johannes Esman, Braidwood, NSW


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