Negligent to ignore climate warnings
WHEN conservative bodies like the World Bank and the International Energy Agency warn us that we have the narrowest of windows to avert dangerous climate change, only the foolish and criminally negligent political leaders bury their heads in the sand ("Extreme temperature rise coming, warns World Bank", The Age, 20/11). We could be locked into more than 2 degrees of warming as early as 2017 if we continue with business as usual.
We are already seeing extreme weather with less than 1 degree of warming. The state government cannot in all conscience keep talking about exporting soggy brown coal, the dirtiest fuel of of all. Furthermore, Hazelwood, Victoria's dirtiest power station, must be replaced, and incentives for solar power restored and those for fossil fuels abolished. Meanwhile, wind farm restrictions must be sensible, not ridiculously punitive as they now are under the Baillieu government.
Lynne Holroyd, East Hawthorn
Focus on value
I AGREE with Professor Peter Doherty that it seems inevitable that the escalating costs and often small benefits of new drugs should lead to a "rationing" of treatments ("A revolution of tough choices", The Age, 20/11). However, I would express it as The Medical Journal of Australia does, as "looking for value in healthcare" following a research article that identified more than 150 potentially low-value healthcare practices. For example, there has been an explosion in the number of procedures to remove low-risk non-melanotic skin cancers, our most costly cancer treatment. Other recent research has shown emphatically that early referral to specialist and home-based palliative care services helps patients live just as long as if they were taking many of the expensive new cancer drugs, improves the quality of life of the patients and their carers and yet is vastly cheaper.
The cost of chemotherapy drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme alone has risen by more than 400 per cent - from $302 million in 2001-02 to $1.2 billion in 2010-11, with very few extra benefits. As Professor Doherty wisely says, "We don't have the resources to do everything." We must now focus much more on what works.
Associate Professor Ian Haines, Malvern
Benefits all round
PETER Doherty's compelling interview frequently refers to dementia - "this terrible disease". He says "I think a lot of people would much prefer to say, 'I'm not going to sit around with Alzheimer's disease"', implying that he fully understands that most of us exist through our minds and our ability to think and communicate. When that is gone, there is not much point in just "being there".
I have created an advance directive that will prevent treatment that merely prolongs my life if I become no longer competent because of dementia. But frankly, I do not want to become incompetent from dementia, and would happily end my own life before that point, if only I could legally obtain the means to do that in a safe, dignified and serene way. I would very happily forgo five years of care with dementia, save myself and my family from this pain, and coincidentally render a financial benefit to my community.
Dr Rodney Syme, Toorak
All about choice
IT DOESN'T surprise me that Gillian Mears has changed her mind on voluntary euthanasia ("Author changes her mind on right to die", The Age, 19/11). The whole point is that it is voluntary and it is a personal choice. Why, in 2012, do I not have the legal right to something my animals have a right to - death with dignity and without prolonged and unnecessary suffering, not only for those wanting to end it but for their loved ones?
Ann Bull, Hawthorn
Power to people?
WEBSTER'S Dictionary says democracy is that form of government in which power rests with the people. In Victoria, it seems, that power rests with our elected representatives who impose their personal beliefs and prejudices over the desires of those whom they represent. Roughly 80 per cent of the electorate are said to be in favour of some form of legislation to end the lives of people who are enduring intolerable pain and suffering close to death. Despite this we seem unable to even raise a discussion on this topic with those people who are elected to represent our views.
I periodically receive letters from my local member, Attorney-General Robert Clark, suggesting he welcomes input from constituents. However, in relation to euthanasia, which he opposes, a recent request by me to discuss his views was denied, as the minister could not spare the time.
The refusal by Parliament to even consider this admittedly difficult subject is based, I understand, on religious beliefs. Thank God the majority are not vegetarians or we would have to fight for our right to eat meat.
Lindsay McArthur, Box Hill North
But it is a crime
AN INTERESTING article, Chris Middendorp a good perspective on how policing in Victoria has changed (Comment, 20/11). But why do you include domestic violence in a list of "symptoms of a community with social justice, not criminal justice, problems"? It has taken years to encourage both women and the police to treat these bashings and killings as crimes.
Helen Smith, Maldon
Little people left to pick up the tab
GOOGLE Australia declared a loss of $3.9 million last year, and paid just $74,176 in Australian tax ("How savvy multinationals curb their tax bills", BusinessDay, 17/11).
As a UK expatriate/Australian citizen, I recently decided to bring my superannuation over from my UK fund to put in an Australian scheme. I was hammered with a tax bill for $20,000 to cover the growth of the UK fund from 2000 to 2012. And, no, I didn't have anywhere close to Google's millions yet I am going to pay just under a third of Google Australia's tax bill.
When is the Tax Office/the rest of the world going to get real about making big business pay its fair share of tax on the massive profits made through international online trade? And when are governments going to stop asking the little people to pick up the tab? As if we can somehow afford it more than poor Google.
Alison Bate, Mitcham
Notions of empire
THE debate over our relationship with Asia and especially China needs to be realistic rather than ideological.
China complains bitterly that the US is attempting to "contain" it. And while I am no advocate for "all the way with the USA", I do not forget the years and Australian lives lost to communist insurrections launched by ethnic Chinese in many Asian nations as colonial powers moved out after World War II. From Malaya to Indonesia, China funded and promoted these "emergencies" to create its own fantasy of a Han Chinese empire. It was no different from the al-Qaeda fantasy of the caliphate being restored.
The Prime Minister is proceeding with caution, and so she should. South-east Asia still bears the scars of those wars discrimination against ethnic Chinese continues, while Australians have forgotten everything earlier than yesterday.
Mairi Rowan, Coburg
Standing room only
IT SEEMS that someone at Metro has had the brilliant idea of taking all the seats off platforms four and five at Flinders Street Station. I was told it was a safety issue as there are more people using the trains and therefore the platforms are more crowded. Now, nobody can sit and wait for a train - not the elderly, the disabled or pregnant women, let alone anyone who has just missed a train and has a 20-minute wait for the next one. Whoever dreams up these ideas is obviously not someone who actually uses the trains in Melbourne.
Frances McKay, Kensington
The neglected 007
THE article on Bond films omitted George Lazenby and On Her Majesty's Secret Service ("How James Bond got serious", Focus, 19/11).
Lazenby's Bond was surely the most underrated. Yes, he was a man of action and irredeemable playboy, and the first to thrill us with the iconic skiing sequence, but he also had the wit to impersonate an expert in heraldry. Telly Savalas' Blofeld was a worthy adversary, not a pantomime villain. In Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo he had a love interest who was an independent woman. Her death formed the most poignant closing scene in a Bond film, with a sensitive 007 shedding tears as he cradled Tracy's body. Contrast this with the crassness of Connery and the mildness of Moore. I can't even draw a comparison with dull Dalton, bland Brosnan or the mechanical Craig. George, I raise my martini to you.
Eric Searle, Sorrento