We must get road message through

In the 1970s I was a young teacher at a rural secondary school. Because a number of young people across Victoria and particularly our region had been killed or injured in road accidents, a team of police was allocated the task of visiting schools to talk about their gruesome experiences in dealing with road fatalities.

In the 1970s I was a young teacher at a rural secondary school. Because a number of young people across Victoria and particularly our region had been killed or injured in road accidents, a team of police was allocated the task of visiting schools to talk about their gruesome experiences in dealing with road fatalities.

We must get road message throughIn the 1970s I was a young teacher at a rural secondary school. Because a number of young people across Victoria and particularly our region had been killed or injured in road accidents, a team of police was allocated the task of visiting schools to talk about their gruesome experiences in dealing with road fatalities.

As well as providing graphic images and personal stories of confronting accident scenes with dead, dying and injured people and then having to visit families to deliver ''the bad news'', the team gave each student newspaper articles that were read out at assembly. Teachers then discussed the articles to reinforce the message delivered by the police.

One of the most disturbing was ''And this is how you die'', by Roger Aldridge (republished today page 5). It had a sombre and jarring impact on each student and teacher who attended the assembly. I saved it and as each of my children reached their ''learn to drive'' age, I gave them a copy in the hope that the article's impact would stay with them.

Some aspects discussed in the article have changed - such as children ''cradled on their mother's laps'', but not the awful manner in which people die in road ''accidents''. What will it take to get the message through to our young people?

Kay Fenton-Branson, Strathdale

Call that corruption?HOW telling that the developer views a community win as ''a blatant corruption of the planning system'' (''Serendip it be for a sanctuary'', The Age, 2/12). It all but confirms that planning is structured to give developers what they want, when they want it. Giving them anything less is evidently ''corrupt''.

John Bond, Wandin North

Cronyism is issueWELL might we say ''pay peanuts, get monkeys'', but will increasing the remuneration of politicians attract a higher standard of representation? Of current parliamentarians, some 71 per cent have post-secondary qualifications while 24 per cent were previously business executives or managers.

The biggest limitation on new blood in Parliament is nepotism, cronyism and party loyalty. What chance do we have?

Andrew Cameron, Newstead, Tasmania

Ranks unrepresentativeTOM Quinn (Opinion 1/12) is right to say that the ALP is in need of a new supporter base. Of the 86 Victorian elected delegates who will be attending the national conference, 47 reside in just six of the state's 37 federal electorates. Eleven federal electorates will be unrepresented. Conference representation is concentrated in those electorates with the highest stacked membership.

Few of the Victorian conference delegates are rank-and-file members. About 70 per cent are either parliamentary representatives, their staffers, union officials or employees or senior party officials. This pattern of representation is almost certainly replicated in other states.

Ian Hundley, Hawthorn ALP, North Balwyn

Another fiscal rodONE effect of the proposed move to abolish various perks and compensate politicians with a 30 to 50 per cent basic pay rise would be to boost current and retired MPs' superannuation payments commensurately.

This is because MPs' already lavish super payments are indexed to any periodic increases to the backbencher base salary. This mechanism has over the years been much more generous than the average weekly earnings or consumer price index adjustments that politicians routinely impose on the rest of the retired community.

Without radical changes to the parliamentary super indexation arrangements, these proposals would create another fiscal rod for the back of future generations of taxpayers.

Pete Barrett, Gardenvale

Veterans dip out againIT'S heartening to know that all retired MPs will get the same percentage increase in their pension as was just granted to serving MPs - the very same MPs that claim the 2.7 per cent catch-up they granted age pensioners in 2009 is unaffordable for disabled veterans. I know who has given the most to the nation.

Bill Dobell, Sebastopol

Ideas for fair budgetIF TREASURER Wayne Swan wanted a realistic surplus, he'd get rid of negative gearing and the halved capital gains tax, extant for 24 and 10 years respectively. These two nanny state "wealthfare" tax breaks, for investors, are worth $9 billion annually and have resulted in record high house prices and rentals.

To ''remedy'' this imbalance between investors (who invariably own their home), and aspiring first-nesters and renters, the government has invented further expenditure, such as the first home buyer grant the childcare subsidy (because mum must help pay the mortgage) paid parental leave subsidy (ditto) the first home savers account subsidy the national rental affordability scheme and the housing affordability fund subsidy.

These ''curative measures'' are estimated as costing $5 billion a year, giving a total of some $14 billion of extra fiscal revenue.

John Mason, South Melbourne

1.5 million are breaking the Marriage ActTHE Prime Minister objects to same-sex marriage because it is prohibited by the Marriage Act. Is this through genuine conviction, or the need for votes in certain marginal electorates?

A better question is: has she actually read the act? Ms Gillard needs to refresh her memory by re-reading the second half of the sentence, which states, "Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."

If she is serious about adhering to the letter of the act, she must conclude that more than 1.5 million divorced Australians are clearly law-breakers, and most of them should immediately be prosecuted for bigamy, adultery or both. That ought to be a real vote-getter.

Stephanie Borland, South Melbourne

Please explain, ABCIT WAS wonderful to read of Stephen Smith's transition from disillusioned youth to opera star (''From low notes to a career high'', The Age, 1/12). However, I was shocked to read that another Stephen (Ryan) had been sacked by the ABC from Gardening Australia and its magazine (''Garden host out with the weeds'', The Age, 1/12). Having watched this show for many years I thought Ryan brought a breath of fresh air to the program and have very much enjoyed it with him as host. The public should be given an explanation as to why his contract wasn't renewed and why he was treated so rudely.

Margaret Shaw, Watsonia

Judgment goes astrayTHE dismissal of Stephen Ryan from Gardening Australia is another example of the arbitrary way the show's programming has been conducted. The repeats of Saturday night's program, once run early Sunday afternoon, were dropped for less notable programs.

Like the dropping of The Collectors, another interesting program, these decisions call into question the judgment of ABC management, and the lack of concern for audiences.

Brian McKinlay, Greensborough

Incubator in dangerI HAVE just met with the Melbourne ABC staff who produced Art Nation, the ABC's recently axed arts program that enticed us into theatres and galleries, and delighted television audiences. They came together to say goodbye. The ABC's television arts unit has been shut down.

The loss of the arts unit won't be obvious at first: faced with strong criticism, ABC management is ensuring there at least looks to be no further decline in arts programming. The unit's talented staff will move to the private sector from which the ABC is increasingly purchasing programs, as happened when the ABC's acclaimed Natural History Unit was closed.

But as people chatted, I realised how much is being lost. I became aware of how the often-considerable talent had been discovered or resulted from the support and opportunities given to them by ABC colleagues.

In closing yet another specialist unit, the ABC is losing passionate, creative program makers. It is shutting down the ABC's role as a chronicler of Australian cultural and artistic achievements. Perhaps even more worrying, the ABC's management is killing the ABC as an incubator that will spawn and nurture future talent.

Glenys Stradijot, Friends of the ABC, St Kilda West

Definition of literacy is found wantingTHE Reading Recovery program does not have ''an ideological commitment to the whole language approach to the teaching of reading'' (Letters, 2/12) and it is insulting to misrepresent the tremendous work our Reading Recovery teachers accomplish nationally and globally. The program is informed by contemporary research and identified by KPMG as the most cost-efficient and successful program for struggling readers.

A more serious problem is the federal government's definition of literacy in the early years: ''Literacy includes a range of modes of communication, including music, movement, dance, storytelling, visual arts, media and drama, as well as talking, reading and writing.'' I look forward to the day when NAPLAN at year 3 includes an assessment of dance and music.

Professor Bridie Raban, graduate school of education, University of Melbourne

In breach of treatyRORY Medcalf (Comment, 2/12) presents India as a Gandhian possessor of nuclear weapons, citing its ''pacifist tradition'' as a justification for Australian uranium sales, but history reveals otherwise.

In 1974 India defied the international community by testing nuclear weapons, using uranium sold to it by Canada and the US that was intended for ''peaceful purposes'' only in the 1990s it launched unprovoked weapons testing, leading Pakistan to develop and test its own nukes, and last month India launched long-range ballistic missile into the Bay of Bengal.

As possessor of 40 per cent of the world's uranium, Australia has an obligation to show leadership on non-proliferation and safety issues. Trust is built on transparency and compliance with international treaties and laws. If Australia provided uranium to India we would be in breach of our obligations under the Treaty of Raratonga, as India refuses to accept the comprehensive safeguards required as a prerequisite to any sale.

Our shared energy future is renewable, not radioactive.

Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, Carlton

Another optionTHE article ''Parents get jabbed on vaccination'' (The Age, 25/11) states that ''families are already required to have their child immunised to receive the childcare benefit and rebate''. Parents have the option to register as a conscientious objector, not vaccinate their children and still receive the benefit and rebate.

Anna Ferro, Whittlesea

Stakes are highHEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon should be congratulated for requiring a review of the new drug Pradaxa for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation (''Stroke drug too costly: Roxon'', The Age, 3/11). The aggressive marketing campaign of the Boehringer-Ingelheim company - pushing doctors and patients to protest at delays - uses emotional rather than rational pressure.

The minister's action is supported by the Therapeutic Goods Administration advice. The claimed 36 per cent reduction in strokes with Pradaxa must be accompanied by evidence to explain the chances of major benefit to the individual. The drug will be used increasingly in individuals aged 70 to 85 with existing health problems and will complicate their management through increased risk of bleeding. The company needs to produce documentation quantifying risk benefit in the aged before patients and doctors can be reassured.

The estimated cost of $1 billion over four years for Pradaxa points to high commercial stakes, suggesting that urgent financial pressures are the driving force for this campaign given three rival anticoagulants are in advanced stages of development.

Dr John Niall, Richmond

20 days of excessI CANNOT attend the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival when I know of the droughts and starvation in eastern Africa, the rising rates of obesity in Australia, and the families in my community who struggle to keep food on the table.

The conundrums and contradictions make me feel queasy, yet alone the thought of all those leftovers going to waste. We don't need 20 days of excesses.

When it comes to food and wine, keep it simple, grow as much of your own as possible and buy local produce. Food is for sharing with family and friends, not for public display of one's gastronomic prowess. I am no wowser. Slow and humble eating gets my juices going.

Deborah Wardle, Castlemaine

WHAT'S MORESame sex marriage

THE best way for the Prime Minister to ''save face'' on marriage equality is to ''change mind''.

Richard Moore, Melbourne

WHY was Michelle Grattan so anxious about Julia Gillard's authority (Comment, 2/12)? Her name is Gillard, not Gaddafi. Kevin Rudd went off the rails with an authoritarian bent. Don't talk up another one.

Des Files, Brunswick

WHEN is a party policy not the party's policy? When the party members are completely free to vote against it in Parliament.

Colin Smith, St Kilda

SIMON Crean tells us that ''leaders get their way. And so they should''. Mr Crean, leaders can be wrong, and if they aren't listening to the people, therein lies a potential despot.

David Buller, Clifton Hill

AN unconscionable conscience vote at the ALP national conference?

Michelle Goldsmith, Eaglehawk

GENDER equality and race equality are (properly) matters of ALP policy, not conscience. So why not sexual orientation?

Chris Gill, Reservoir

TONY Abbott repeatedly asserts the Liberal Party's commitment to individual freedom and choice, unlike the nasty Stalinists in the ALP. So why are members of the Liberal Party not given a conscience vote on gay marriage?

Jane Edwards, Peterhead, SA

MPs' pay

HELP me, please. Australia's cricket captain gets paid twice as much as the Prime Minister? Say it isn't so.

Julanne Sweeney, Eden Hills, SA

WE HAVE to tighten our belts, while the politicians loosen theirs.

Barbara Cohen, McKinnon

WOULDN'T Oliver Twist have made a great politician?

Barbara Abell, North Ringwood

Politics

MY LAUGH of the day. A developer is outraged by "blatant corruption of the planning system ? sacrificed on the altar of short-term politics".

Caroline Storm, Clifton Hill

DON'T expect sound education policy from Martin Dixon any time soon, Bill Payne (Letters, 1/12). He is too focused on gaining approval for a $30 million swimming complex on central Rosebud's fragile foreshore.

John Cain, McCrae

TOM Quinn's analysis of the ALP policy direction is dead right - there will be nobody ''left'' to take the party into the future.

Howard Hodgens, Burwood