OPINION

Let's get our teeth into a proper dental health scheme for all

Over the Christmas holidays I had a dental emergency. Fortunately, I received first class professional treatment and I was able to pay the bill.

Although I have dental insurance cover, ongoing treatment will be necessary but it will be expensive.

How young families can afford dental care these days is a mystery. Photo: Supplied

How young families can afford dental care these days is a mystery. Photo: Supplied

The dental rebate on my insurance is pathetic and therefore an enormous disincentive.

All of us will need dental work at times.

How young people and young families paying crippling mortgages, combined with insecurity of work, casualisation and part-time employment, reduction in penalty rates and so on, all of which are the product of conservative policies, can afford the current dental charges is beyond me.

Would it not be better to remove the economic cost disincentive of dental expenses for Australians in the interests of a more holistic medical outcome for all?

Inevitably the question will be "can we afford to have a comprehensive dental service"? The simple answer is "yes, of course we certainly can, and it makes sound economic sense".

We seem to be comfortable and willing to spend the national coffers on all sorts of corporate projects, eg $600 million on proposed replacement of football stadiums in NSW; $600 million to upgrade the War Memorial; Abbott's $141million pursuing trade unions, and billions on corporate welfare. Yet when it comes to supporting ordinary families on ordinary wages and the elderly there seems to be a problem.

Well, please excuse me for not listening to neoliberalism's endless humbug about trickle-down (or should I say dribble-down) economics and sanctimonious twaddle about family values.

Unless a government can translate words into practical policies which assist people in their daily lives, it's all just theatre and noise.

Mike Flanagan, Farrer

Send your opinions to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au

Send your opinions to letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au

From oasis to desert

Why have all the trees been removed in Anktell Street, Tuggeranong? These trees were a precious part of our urban environment.

I cannot believe a Labor/Greens government allowed the removal of an avenue of healthy 30-year-old trees.

These trees gave us so much: carbon store; oxygen, shade in summer, allowing sunshine in winter and habitat for the beautiful corellas; they were nature's air conditioning.

The psychological benefits people receive when interacting with the natural world are well known.

Having a coffee outside and watching the birds had been a delightful part of my life.

Problems such as roots damaging the paving or seedpods being a hazard to pedestrians have simple solutions; like boardwalks or flexible materials as used in nature reserves.

Ongoing maintenance, also known as sweeping up the seedpods and leaves when they fall, would work well.

The trees should have priority.

Only two weeks ago that section of Anketell Street was closed off. We did have notice of the road closure.

Hoarding was put up and every single tree had a removal and replanting notice placed on it, which was obscured. The removal of trees began the next day.

Surely more notice is required before trees can be removed.

The character and sense of place of that area was because of the mature trees, which have been removed; lopped off at the bases.

Now it is a desert and no amount of replanting or fancy paving will restore what we had. Go and have a look you will be appalled as I am.

Drug change needed

The present proposals for pill testing at musical events seem to be only Mickey Mouse action about a serious health and costly problem in our community.

The ambit problem is alcohol (legal) and illicit drugs. Concentrating on illicit drugs: we find that the users and sellers constitute about half of the population of the ACT prison.

They also require a lot of support and attention from the emergency services, the emergency departments at local hospitals and the police and law enforcement.

The ACIC National Wastewater Analysis Drug Monitoring Program reported in 2017 that the ACT has a high ice use.

This indicates that 2 per cent of the population, some 9000 people, use ice drugs daily and maybe 5-10 per cent, some 20,000 to 40,000 people, over a year.

It also reported high cocaine use (0.3 per cent or some 1500 people on daily use and maybe up to 10,000 people over the year).

There are of course other legal and illicit drugs in use. The figures may change, but the problem remains.

A criminal approach could be better replaced by a health approach, as has occurred in Portugal with apparent success.

Their system has operated for 18 years.

It would be more effective and much lower in cost than present endeavours.

It would involve illicit drugs being available on prescription only and with a requirement for drug treatment.

Some innovative thinking might be necessary to obtain supplies.

The ACT government should be socially progressive and investigate it, and develop a model for a trial.

I expect that this would have strong AMA support and certainly hospital emergency department support.

A dangerous policy

Shane Rattenbury has said that during his twenties he naively took ecstasy (MDMA). There would have been nothing naive about his action. He took the drug illegally, stupidly, and dangerously.

He was no longer a gullible teenager, and as an athlete training to represent Australia he would have been well aware of drugs, their effects, and their illegality.

The message he is giving to today's youth is that taking drugs can be excused by naivety. It cannot.

He claimed that there is a disproportionate focus on a law-and-order approach to drug use.

This claim is only accurate in that the penalties are so small that they are ridiculous.

Does he think that road safety would be improved by reducing fines?

He claimed the results of the Canberra trial showed pill testing makes festivals safer. All it did was attract drug pushers to Canberra and delude youth into thinking that buying drugs was merely naughty and not very dangerous.

The NSW Police Commissioner said "pill testing advocates want to legalise drugs by stealth".

The Victorian Commissioner said "pill-testing was unlikely to save lives".

Bill Shorten said "You can't. They are illegal ... They are actually very dangerous".

The ACT government should immediately discard its ridiculous and dangerous policy.

West Basin's beauty at risk

On December 18, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman published the final City and Gateway Urban Design Framework.

While there was much community consultation with follow-up reports there was little about West Basin.

Planners at the community meetings informed participants that West Basin was not part of the study.

But the December final report features a full page on West Basin (p43) with a blurb of hackneyed "motherhoods", regurgitated by government planners over the past 14 years to enable crass private development of West Basin park, subsequently set into the National Capital Plan in 2006, following developers' intervention into our city's sensitive and sensible planning.

The obnoxious NCP's West Basin proposal does not have to happen.

The ACT government could instead revitalise West Basin as a wonderful recreation and park environment with a community centre, recreation facilities and restaurants.

The future 17,000 residents predicted for light rail stage one corridor may just like to "tram-it" to the lake and use West Basin for their kayaking, picnicking, cycling and paddle-boating as well as enjoying a revitalised native habitat for waterfowl and platypus.

But the West Basin entry in the final City Gateway plan announces the archaic anti-environment ACT government's intention — infilling part of the lake, privatising the public park and public vistas, removing 100 trees and destroying a beach and wildlife habitat area, all for development greed, now part of stage two of the light rail scheme.

Meanwhile Canberra is experiencing the hottest summer on record and the hideous plan for West Basin is set to deliver a high-rise of concrete that will exacerbate the heat, intensify cold winter shadow and destroy the recreation, park and habitat potential of our valuable lake system.

Keep an eye out

In his interesting, if hopeful article "Waiting to hear big ideas" (January 24, p20) John Warhurst identifies three matters that need reform if the disconnection between the major political parties and the electors is to be bridged.

One of these is the federal corruption commission about which Professor Warhurst asserts "The initiative taken by the Greens, Kerryn Phelps and other independents must be embraced by the major parties, especially the Morrison government, to the extent that a new strong, independent and transparent commission receives enthusiastic parliamentary backing". This is quite a big ask.

Not that long ago Prime Minister Morrison had dubbed this proposal a fringe issue. Then Attorney-General Christian Porter produced a bill to introduce such a commission that lacks any semblance of transparency. This is the anti-corruption legislation you create when you want anything but that — no public hearings, no opportunity for a member of the public to report suspected corruption, not including in its ambit either politicians or key public servants.

The relevant committee will report in early April and should be alert to the real and present danger of an attorney-general who is well versed in the law and has eye-watering educational qualifications.

Porter holds a bachelor of economics and bachelor of arts with first class honours in political science plus a bachelor of laws from the University of WA and finally attained a master of science in political theory, topping his class at the prestigious London College of Economics.

Committee members should scrutinise the crossing of every "t"and the dotting of every "i" in any amendments that have passed under the hand of this wily Attorney-General.

Cutting our emissions

ACT Climate Council members ask "Can a growing city cut carbon emissions to zero?" (canberratimes.com.au, January 19).

The Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act defines "zero net emissions" to mean that "any emissions of greenhouse gas in the ACT are balanced by: (a) avoidance and mitigation activities; and (b) emissions offsets outside the ACT".

According to that act: (a) our "net emissions" will not be affected if we go back to coal-fired electricity, provided that the power stations don't emit in the ACT; (b) by similar logic we can ignore the emissions that are caused in producing the steel and concrete that we use in buildings, and for public transport projects; and (c) we can reduce "net emissions" by boycotting local industries.

Baking a loaf of bread causes greenhouse emissions. Those emissions are counted in our "net emissions" if the loaf is baked in Canberra. They are not counted if the loaf is baked in Sydney.

People outside the ACT cause an average of seven tonnes of CO2-e emissions per year. The average Canberran causes about 20.

Our so-called "zero net emissions" target addresses only half of our emissions. It ignores the emissions that we cause outside the ACT.

Good luck Julia

It is pleasing to see that another former Liberal, now independent, MP has decided to run against a senior Liberal — this time Health Minister Greg Hunt ("Julia Banks to take on Hunt for Flinders", January 31, p5).

Julia Banks shows that she maintains traditional Liberal values: she still supports the government's position in opposing Labor's policies on negative gearing and dividend imputation credits.

However, Ms Banks is highly critical of the Liberal Party's attitude to women.

Most important, however, is Ms Banks' stand on climate change. She sees action on climate change as "an urgent imperative". Ms Banks could "see the benefits" of the National Energy Guarantee and was very unhappy to see it being used against Mr Turnbull in the leadership spill and then unceremoniously dumped.

I hope that, along with Zali Steggall against Tony Abbott in Warringah, Ms Banks is successful in her bid to unseat Mr Hunt in Flinders.

TO THE POINT

CONFUSED BY VISA RULES

I understand that parents of both the applicant and sponsor for a partner visa are now required to sign a statutory declaration attesting to the genuineness and continuing nature of the relationship.

I find this difficult to understand as people over 18 do not require to have parental consent to marry. It is also interesting that applicants have to provide full tax returns for two financial years. How did tax law become part of immigration law?

Ebenezer Banful, Curtin

WETTER IN THE SAHARA

Who'd grow cotton on the Darling? They should move to somewhere wetter, like the Sahara, where the water supply is better.

Laurie McDonald, Watson

A DATE TO REMEMBER

Every Australia Day there are plenty of pictures of Phillip raising the flag and reading a proclamation at Sydney Cove on January 26. However, Watkin Tench, Captain of Marines with Phillip, states in his narrative of the journey that they were too busy to do the ceremonies on the 26th.

The formalities of taking possession and reading the letters of appointment didn't happen until February 7. So have we got the historical date wrong?

N. Sheather, Bonython

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

The fuss over the dress code banning thongs and board shorts from (Australia Day) citizenship ceremonies puzzles me. Such dress would see one refused admission to quite a few clubs in Canberra.

G. Wilson, Macgregor

ONE FOR THE ROAD

HRH Prince Phillip took delivery of a near identical replacement Land Rover the day after he'd written off its predecessor in a collision. What about the young lady, her 19-month-old infant and her passenger, who could have been killed in the collision with the silly, 97-year-old bugger?

D. Callaghan, Kingston

NO ARGUING WITH TRAMS

Canberra car drivers are going to have to learn the trams take priority over cars. That's the way it works in Melbourne.

Adrian Jackson, Middle Park, Vic

RELEASE FINDINGS NOW

The findings of the banking royal commission should have been released immediately, not on Monday afternoon.

We want to hear the facts and are not interested in LNP spin on their failed watch.

If there are fines they should come out of the chief executive officers' pockets.

Colin Handley, Lyneham

MONEY UP IN FLAMES

ActewAGL makes a killing on gas in summer. For my latest gas bill, I get charged $82.82 for the privilege of consuming $7.02 worth of gas. Not bad gouging.

M. Flint, Erindale

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