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Beware the call

Beware the call

on prostate tests

THE decision by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, none of whose members are generally involved in primary patient care, to enter the contentious debate about screening for prostate cancer is alarming (The Age, 2/8). Why would they do it?

To recommend this test to all 40-year-old men is the equivalent of telling them that there is a pill available that if taken will definitely double their lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. It may also, at best, decrease their lifetime risk of dying from prostate cancer from 3 per cent to 2.4 per cent. Which men, properly informed, would agree to take this pill?

To tell the 50 per cent of men that have a higher-than-average prostate specific antigen at age 40 that they need regular monitoring, with all the associated risks of being referred for risky and unnecessary biopsies and then of developing urinary incontinence, bowel injury and permanent impotence from radical surgery with only a tiny, at best, chance of potential benefit defies logic. No wonder that the American Cancer Society and most clinical groups in the world have recommended against routine use of this very unreliable and arguably quite dangerous screening test.

Associate Professor Ian Haines, Monash University at Cabrini Hospital, Melbourne

What a waste

I READ the Gillard government's booklet on a "Clean Energy Future" with great anticipation, hoping to be enlightened and informed. I expected to see a plain-English summary of the climate science, explaining to us ignorant non-scientists why urgent human action was required to address the greatest moral challenge of our time. There was nothing. I was looking forward to a simple explanation for us non-economists as to why putting a price on carbon is the cheapest way to cut pollution. Again nothing, except that economists say it is so. The whole booklet reads more like something you would receive from the Australian Taxation Office and is just as poorly written. Of course, we shouldn't be surprised because the carbon tax has nothing to do with a clean energy future and, according to the government's own reports, will fail to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions at all. It is a wealth tax designed to deliver tax cuts to low income earners. The booklet has now been placed in the round receptacle where other junk mail finds its final resting place.

Allan Tapley, Mt Eliza

End hypocrisy, AFL

I AM absolutely disgusted at the two-faced attitude of the AFL towards tanking. It has told us in the past that it would not tolerate teams playing down the game for the sake of draft picks, yet when confronted with the suspicion that the Melbourne Football Club engaged in that, the AFL says there is nothing to answer. In fact, Caroline Wilson writes (The Age, 3/8) that, "The AFL will do nothing [about tanking] because it supported Melbourne's tactics at the time."

What sheer hypocrisy. This is the body that controls the game. This is the body that shouts from the rooftops that anything to do with bringing the game into disrepute will not be tolerated. So where is the mighty chief executive now? Say one thing, do another? Not good enough. Do something, AFL.

Brian Morley, Nunawading

Tanking it ain't

FOR goodness sake, it's not rocket science. "Great game has no place for tanking" (The Age, 3/8). Tanking can only be effected with the knowledge and complicity of the players. Provided that players are not complicit, and there is no instruction, ipso facto there is no instance of tanking. Whereas a decision of a football club to employ a strategy for team rebuilding, by definition is not, and cannot be deemed to be, tanking.

Keith Brown, Southbank

Screen scorn

THE arrogant response by the Melbourne International Film Festival to criticisms about technical problems resulting in some films being unwatchable at this year's festival ("Problems behind the screens at the Forum", The Age, 3/8) beggars belief. MIFF general manager Jenny Sabine's dismissive comment that problems are no more prevalent this year than in past festivals suggests that buying a MIFF ticket is now on a par with buying a Tatts ticket. You might get a return or you might get nothing it is all up to luck.

Surely a film festival that takes such a cavalier attitude to ensuring its patrons can actually see and hear its films is failing to live up to its charter. Time for some changes at senior levels perhaps, so that things get back on track? Having someone in a leadership position willing to say, "We're sorry, we will try to do better", would be a start.

Grant Davies, St Kilda

Where is the UN?

THE ineptitude and ambivalence shown by the UN in its handling of the despotic Syrian regime gives credence to the notion that the international body is effectively moribund. The UN seemingly prides itself on upholding human rights and freedoms. Yet as hundreds of defenceless citizens are slaughtered in Hama, the UN sits idly by. A military intervention in Syria may not be feasible, but sanctions against President Assad and his cronies must at the very least be imposed. Edmund Burke's famous declaration, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", should resonate with the bureaucrats at the UN and impel them to act.

Joel Feren, Elwood

Arms no answer

I AM astounded and saddened by your editorial "Syria sets out to crush hopes of Arab Spring" (2/8) that supports the Syrian rebels and condemns President Assad. Any country, whether democratic or not, will uphold a policy of armed intervention against armed rebels in order to maintain law and order. For several decades, the British adopted this policy against the IRA. A peaceful transition to democracy in Syria is the most desirable option. That can never happen when the country is on a war footing as a result of economic sanctions of more than 20 years imposed by the West, and the West's financial support for the rebels. If the rebels by chance win power in Syria, there will be a real bloodbath. Only a peaceful transition to democracy can avoid such an event. This can happen if the West stops its support of the rebels.

Bill Mathew, Parkville

Dangerous rides

CHRIS Thompson wrote (Letters, 2/8) that as a cyclist he is only covered by TAC insurance if struck by a motor vehicle. Presumably he is advocating all cyclists pay a TAC premium similar to the compulsory TAC fee motorists pay with their vehicle registration.

As insurance premiums are calculated on risk, and cyclists experience a proportionally higher accident rate than motorists, he should expect the cyclists' premiums to be considerably higher than the $380 per year paid for a motor vehicle.

A logical extension of such a user-pays principle would be for cyclists to pay an annual registration fee to cover the costs of bicycle lanes which were originally constructed for motor vehicles but have since been assigned to cyclists without a corresponding reduction in the fees paid by motorists.

Peter Row, Kew

Not funny for pony

METRO'S promotion for their Royal Melbourne Show package (The Age, 2/8) only serves to highlight the silent suffering of animals. In this case, a young pony is clearly distressed as it is being forced into a large, foreboding structure (in this case a train) in the name of "humour". Such suffering continues apace as commercial considerations seem to take precedence. The Show should be celebrating animals, not mocking them.

Mark Eggins, Albert Park

Distorting debate

IT SUITS anti-Labor propagandists to dramatise Mike Rann's retirement, but let's remember the facts. Was Rann "butchered" or "shafted"? Rubbish. He'd already agreed he should retire this term but wanted to choose when. Sure, ambitious MPs got impatient but still accepted Rann's choice of timing when he conceded he'd have to go a bit earlier.

Our political debate is being seriously distorted by dishonest headlines and emotive phrases.

Wilma Western, Leongatha

No place for Breivik

THE article on the Arts page, "Killer Breivik a tagger and a bragger" (3/8), was inappropriate and ill-placed, especially since it included a large carefully self-styled photo of the man, almost working like an ad. The small "sound bite-type" article, even though it clumsily tries to illuminate the man's moral ineptitude, does not sit well against the magnitude of his crime. I found this piece gratuitous, and was shocked by its placement on "The Arts" page.

Barbara Moje, Kilcunda

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