Proposed cuts attack the weakest

Proposed cuts attack the weakest

I HEAR of the proposed funding cuts to women's health organisations around the state and I am filled with dread. Cutting funding to these small, dynamic organisations that are continually making do with fewer resources risks losing so many of women's hard-won gains.

Who will champion the reproductive rights of women, or bring the voices of rural, multicultural, Aboriginal and same-sex-attracted women into the mainstream? Who will be the voice of the everyday woman who receives lower pay and ends her working life with a fraction of the superannuation to which a man is entitled?

The core business of women's health organisations is to bring family violence into the spotlight so it is finally seen for the scourge it is. It has taken decades of hard work, research, advocacy and, more recently, working with police and other services to improve responses to women and children living in the shadow of a violent partner.

Working behind the scenes, women's health organisations are often the quiet drivers behind changes that benefit everyone. Mr Baillieu, please leave them alone, especially in rural areas our needs are often the last to be considered and our voices the last to be heard.

Claire Zara, Wangaratta

Fit for humans?

ARE all post-harvest treatments and additives safe for consumers ("What they do to food", The Saturday Age, 9/6)? I found two soft but intact apples in my worm farm four months after they were placed there. All other vegetative matter had been converted to worm castings. If microbial activity is not causing these apples to rot and 1000 hungry worms are refusing to eat them, are they fit for human consumption?

Sally Mannall, Brunswick West

Flavour has gone

WHEN food scientists working in the industry quote Brix (i.e. sweetness) levels to claim our fruit is better than 20 years ago, they are missing the point. I no longer buy apricots because when they ripen off the tree (the only way they are available now) they no longer taste of apricot. It is the complexity of flavour that has disappeared, not the sugar.

Coles' WIBIT (would I buy it test?) is meaningless if, as I suspect, we now have staff who don't know what fruit should taste like, and are training the public to accept insipid produce.

Further, the problem has spread to growers and sellers who should know better. When I buy heritage-variety apples in the organic aisle at Queen Victoria Market, I find they are usually picked so green that they never ripen into their full flavour similarly, the stone fruit.

Perhaps the only answer is a return to the backyard orchard.

Danny Neumann, Brunswick

Kick up a stink

OF COURSE governments love the idea of standardised testing and performance pay for teachers. Spin doctors will tell you it is all about improving performance but it isn't. It is about distracting the public from the real problem the appalling lack of funding for state schools. You only need to look at comparative funding in OECD countries.

Whether governments like it or not, they are responsible for providing free, secular education for all students who want it. But it is expensive and if governments continue to undermine the system that has served our nation so well, then those who have the money will send their children to private schools, costing them more but the government less.

Too bad about the 60-plus per cent who send their children to underfunded, undermined state schools. It is about time this majority of families started making things hard for politicians who treat their children with contempt.

Pauline Ashton, Maribyrnong

Way off the mark

WHILE reading the inevitable "teachers paid nicely" letter (8/6), I thought back to a recent Sunday afternoon where I was marking homework while my family enjoyed a barbecue. Out of interest, I had decided to count my working hours for a few weeks. I was averaging between 50 and 55 hours (clearly more than our apparent 38). An extra 12 hours per week over a 10-week term equates to 120 hours. This is well over two weeks of eight-hour days.

Therefore, our two-week end-of-term "holiday" is really the equivalent of overtime in lieu. This also doesn't account for the work done during this break.

As for our greed, as put forward by Michael Gamble, I worked in the corporate world before teaching and the suggestion of self-interest compared with that sector of the "productive" workforce is laughable. We don't want more than anyone else, only to be paid the same as other state teachers.

Andrew Palfery, Mentone

Food chain clear

NOT all labour-hire firms, or all employers, are so sophisticated as to make casual workers wear armbands (The Age, 8/6) another common practice is to make sure casuals wear a high-visibility vest (supplied by the worker) of one colour, while permanents wear another - e.g. orange for casuals, yellow for permanents. This is far more effective for the employer, who can see (and label) at a distance just who is who in the food chain. Such practices take a toll on casual workers.

Gainore Atkins, Altona Meadows

Homeless workers

AS A housing worker, I couldn't agree more with Paul Richardson that life for low-paid workers in increasingly unreliable jobs is getting tougher ("Armbands with barcodes - a sign of the times", Comment, 8/6). Every week, I see more and more working people who are threatened with eviction because they can't make the rent. There could be plenty of hours of work available one week and then none for the next two weeks. It used to be mainly people on government benefits in housing crisis. Will we end up like the US, where low-paid workers have to sleep in their cars or on the street?

Brendan Blackford, Fitzroy North

Good can come of it

AS A psychiatrist I work daily with victims of domestic violence. Suzy Freeman-Greene writes about the complexity of Paul McCuskey's contradictory behaviours ("Brave irony for Humane Society", Forum, 9/6). His violence against his partner was an exercise of control and dominance, just as it was when he was saving the elderly woman. Men who need to control and dominate don't have the confidence to compete against others. We all need control. But there is good control and abuse of control. Good control is use of control over one's life abuse of control is unfair dominance over others domestic violence. The abuse of control reflects a deeper layer of insecurity.

McCuskey should not be allowed to keep his award unless he publicly apologises to his partner for his cowardly actions. His need for control can be channelled in a good cause, such as raising awareness among men of the impact of domestic violence on their victims.

Dr Manjula O'Connor, Beaumaris

Call it as it is

HELEN Razer, as soon as men start playing football in their undies, then we old-fashioned feminists will get off our snobby soapboxes ("Feminist critics of this new 'sport' sound like snobs on a soapbox", Forum, 9/6). Next you'll be telling us that women hold only a fraction (and dropping) of senior business, political and leadership roles because they prefer low-paid work and being marginalised (despite outperforming and outnumbering men in higher education).

If I had been told, when I was young, that women running around in their undies would be a legitimate, intelligent and dignified employment choice, I would have been deeply disappointed. I also definitely never imagined that socially and institutionally embedded misogyny would be defended by women. Time to start calling it what it is, Helen.

Carolyn Hart, South Yarra

No harm in looking

HELEN Razer nails the middle-class contempt of some female commentators. We don't hear Kate Lundy decrying the Olympic female beach volleyball team who wear identical outfits to the Lingerie Football League.

How about the AFL pinup calendars or the buff guys of the World Wrestling Federation? Damning, too, is the assumption that men can't enjoy looking at attractive women (that they do is undeniable) without demeaning and objectifying all other women they meet. That's sexism.

Janine Truter, The Basin

Play fair with artists

I READ with enthusiasm the call to regulate federally the art industry ("Art of doing business", The Saturday Age, 9/6). Most artists pay 40 per cent or more in commission to art dealers. No other industry in Australia takes such an incredible commission. Once the monies of the artist are paid, they go into the dealer's account, which is not an ideal business practice. We look forward to trust accounts for artists and decent commissions on their sales.

Juan Davila, East Malvern

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