Proceed with caution: that’s today’s message from letter writers. While many sympathise with the call for a treaty, they fear a No win for the Voice to parliament will set back the cause and make it difficult to achieve a united identity. Also; doctors discuss a failing Medicare, life-changing scholarships and why young people are being penalised for rising inflation. Pat Stringa, Letters editor
The Statement from the Heart talks about a different concept of sovereignty, a spiritual connection between peoples and the land, or mother nature (“Greens will carry lasting shame”, February 8). They ask for that idea of sovereignty to be recognised alongside the legal Western notion of sovereignty. This would more fully express Australian nationhood. I have no problem with this. As a person who has changed nationality, I know that the tug of your country of birth persists, even 68 years later. With most people in Australia now having links to another country, by birth or through a parent, the acknowledgment of a Voice for the First Peoples gives all of us a voice. The “Australian people” is an idea still in the making, and acknowledging a truthful origin might help. Perhaps we should not talk about the Voice as a race issue, but as a necessary precondition for the development of a multicultural, yet united, Australian identity. Bill Buykx, Bowral
While a treaty with our First Nations is needed, those pushing for a focus on it before implementing the Voice could benefit from thinking about how Australia, overall, responds to major change. With respect to the Voice, we already have premature, vacuous, dissembling demands for “detail” from Peter Dutton et al. Certain ultra-right wing elements of the media are doing their best to confuse and mislead people so they will vote No. If this is what happens with a body that simply offers advice, just think what the reactionary misinformation industry is going to do with a treaty. Get the Voice done first so that Australians can realise that it is not a massive takeover of parliament or that all who arrived after 1788 will be sent packing. Peter Thompson, Grenfell
Lidia Thorpe and friends should take note. The dominant European white Australian culture has for the last 200 years considered that they have known what is best for First Nations people, and we know how well that has worked. Indigenous people should consider, that without a Voice, it is unlikely that they will be heard. If you are not heard, how will others know the truth? Without the truth, what is the basis for a treaty? I am not sure what a treaty would be and what purpose it would serve. But I know doing more of the same will deliver more of the same, which is not acceptable. Nigel Sandercoe, Winston Hills
The non-acceptance of less than perfect proposals that some Greens seem to embrace is a problem. If their approach scuppers the Voice referendum, the prospect of such a voice to parliament may never eventuate. Let’s hope that we will support the Yes proposition and then focus on a treaty after that, along with a republic. Tom Meakin, Port Macquarie
Politicians who hitchhike a ride into parliament with the backing of political parties, and then decide to quit those parties as independents, should be ejected from parliament, and subjected to byelections, or made to wait till the next election for possible re-admission (“’Hand back your seat: Greens candidate who lost to Thorpe”, February 8). The crossbench is not a parking lot for those in waiting and not in communion with their existing parties. Tim Wynn Jones, Homebush
Is there a solution to the GP crisis?
Ross Gittins is correct when describing the report of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce as containing “glossy photos of happy good-looking Aussies” and “guff about equitable, affordable, person-centred primary care services” (“Sharing the heavy health load”, February 8). The report, however, does lay down some important principles; although without pathways to achieve them.
From my perspective of 40 years as a hospital medical specialist, I particularly noted the recommendation to “facilitate integration of specialist and hospital services with primary care”. This requires a bridge across the Commonwealth/state divide for which many of my colleagues have been calling for decades. It will require deep engagement with hospital clinicians, in emergency medicine and those responsible for out-patient consultation services, notably absent from the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce team.
So many GPs struggle with the inequity of access to specialist support for their many patients, with serious chronic illness, who are unable to afford private referral fee gaps and for whom the waiting time at public hospital out-patient clinics is too long and medically unsafe. There are many young specialists prepared to provide out-patient care without charge to the patient but this will require Commonwealth/state co-operation and investment in facilities and staff. In the true spirit of Medicare, it is unconscionable to do otherwise. Graeme Stewart, Westmead
An important aspect of medical funding which is not currently being discussed is the unfair distribution of Medicare funding for specialist compared to general practice billing. When Medicare was introduced in 1984 the relative values of Medicare fees were determined by an average of what medical practitioners were currently charging, so that those who tended to overcharge (largely surgical specialties) did best. Even within specialties medical specialists have poorer Medicare fees compared to surgical specialties. Overheads are similar for all medical practitioners – we all need to have rooms, reception and nursing staff and to purchase equipment. Surgeons do not pay for theatres, theatre staff or equipment – that is all supplied by the hospital. Several relative values studies have confirmed this unfair discrepancy, but no action has been taken to correct this. It is beyond belief that anyone’s time and expertise is worth more than $1-10,000 an hour and yet patients often spend their life savings for vital surgery. GPs, surgical and medical specialists all do several years of extra training beyond their basic medical training in their various fields. The numbers of GPs in Australia are declining, and the numbers of specialists are billowing. Specialist care is expensive. The Australian people and their government need to understand that if this trend continues health costs will continue to spiral upwards. Dr Judith Gardiner, Port Macquarie
I struggle to understand why the government is considering investing in other parts of health, e.g. pharmacy and other allied health practitioners, while apparently leaving GPs out to dry.
We are not the most costly part of the system. GPs are willing to change, if the changes make sense, are good for the community and make general practice financially viable. If GP numbers continue to fall, however, the government will have to create a whole new model with who knows what consequences. Do we really want to embrace the US model, which is not only more costly for everyone but not particularly efficient? Dr Christine Ahern, Suffolk Park
Nobody likes to pay more for a visit to the doctor but the decreasing rate of bulk-billing should be welcomed, even if grudgingly. Visits to GPs have evolved to low-quality rushed meetings and this needs to change. Aside from low-income earners and welfare recipients, the community needs to pay more to encourage doctors to choose general practice as a specialisation and to ensure existing practitioners don’t leave the profession.
While taxpayers funding an increase in the Medicare rebate may be warranted, there is also merit in requiring patients to make a small out-of-pocket contribution at both medical practices and emergency departments. John Kempler, Rose Bay
Heartache in Turkey
The word apocalypse means revelation (“Like an apocalypse”, February 8). Perhaps a better descriptor of the horrific situation in Turkey and Syria would be annihilation. My heart aches for so many people suffering unbearable pain. Meredith Williams, Northmead
PFAS crisis a repeat of scandals past
Another episode in the now depressingly familiar playbook: of a company discovering that their product is dangerous, deciding to use every trick in the book to hide that fact, and if it is finally discovered, fight via politics and the courts any calls for reparation so that any final penalty is small enough to be easily paid and nobody goes to jail (“$58b day of reckoning looms for chemicals giant over toxic crisis”, February 8). It happened last century with Big Tobacco’s fight with the medical profession to stop recognition that smoking kills. It happened last century and continues now with Big Fossil fuel first denying climate change was real, then minimising its effects. It is to be hoped that the outcome with PFAS court cases is different, but I wouldn’t put money on it. Money as the saying goes, makes the world go round. Gary Barnes, Mosman
RBA needs rethink
The central economic reasoning behind rising interest rates seems to be to stop Australians spending (“Rates threaten to squeeze life out of the economy”, February 8). This will apparently decrease inflation and bring prices and cost of living down. Economists and government, please explain: what will be the result of the huge chunks of money injected into the economy from the Stage 3 tax cuts? Will those who receive it spend it? Perhaps the RBA should spend some time advocating for that to change rather than just pulling the same lever over and over again. Allan Kreuiter, Roseville
I don’t have a mortgage, but my granddaughters do. Can someone explain why they have to be penalised for the increased rate of inflation, but I don’t? Don Firth, Wooli
Boost scholarship numbers
As an alumni of Sydney University, I applaud its initiative to increase opportunities for disadvantaged students with scholarships and subsidised accommodation (“Scholarships widen the road from regions to campus”, February 8).
But for former Commonwealth scholarships, my brother and I would otherwise not have afforded to study at Sydney Uni.
Underprivileged students wishing to receive or likely to benefit from a tertiary education should be encouraged to study at that level by all post secondary institutions, following my alma mater’s lead.
Ability, not affordability, should be the only criteria to qualify for higher education. Edward Loong, Milsons Point
Congratulations to Sydney University for implementing a scholarship program for regional students. As a recipient of a scholarship many years ago, I can attest to the life-changing benefits that this afforded me and many of my fellow students from regional areas. If the government is serious about attracting more students into teaching they might consider seriously adopting a similar scholarship program to all universities both in metropolitan and regional areas. Max Redmayne, Drummoyne
If the train fits
Your correspondents are spot on about the cost and delay to the Spanish built trains being outsourced by the NSW government (Letters, February 8). However, having just heard that trains being built by Spanish firms for Spain’s rail system are being delayed by three years because they are too big to fit through their tunnels, the NSW Government might like to prevent any further embarrassment, cost and delay by checking the ones ordered will actually fit through our tunnels and on our tracks. It is time we revamped our local manufacturing industry. Think of the jobs ‘n’ growth it would create. Merilyn McClung, Forestville
I could never quite understand the core reasons for the stand-off between the NSW government and the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union which brought disruption to commuters last year. Central was acquisition of new trains. When you read extracts from the review published this week into another purchase of trains for NSW, the penny starts to drop. The trains, again, seem unfit for purpose, a bewildering situation which gives credence to the union’s actions. However, it begs the question, can government be so incompetent or is ideology trumping the need for the right solutions and transitions? Increasingly, this century we see the latter approach becoming the disruptor. Brian Jones, Leura
Population no housing fix
What is it with these letter writers insisting we reduce the demand for housing by reducing population size, via decreased migration (Letters, February 8)? Don’t they realise there are many skilled jobs in our big cities which can’t be filled because we have run down our TAFE system, and furthermore, these generally low paid workers have fled to regional areas because housing is too expensive in the city. I think they call this a Catch-22 situation, or just bad planning on the part of governments, past and present. Lyndall Nelson, Goulburn
It is very encouraging to learn that a major construction company like Lendlease is calling for the provision of at least 30 per cent of low-cost housing in any new housing development. This is vitally important for the growing number of women over the age of 60 who for various reasons find themselves facing homelessness. I trust governments, both federal and state, will applaud this initiative and act on it sooner rather than later. Fran Durand, St Ives
Only fools and horses
Your correspondent’s arguments (Letters, February 8) that “brumbies are not so bad” are easy to answer. Yes, Snowy 2.0, the ski industry and increased tourism impact the environment of Kosciuszko. Brumbies do as well. Your writer questionably implies that public concern should be limited to just three of these four impacts. She also writes that feral horses “may” reduce fuel loads. Scientific articles directly refute this claim. She is entitled to her “belief” that the actual number of horses in Kosciuszko is vastly different to the government’s latest, peer-reviewed, survey, but we are not required to share that belief. Linda Groom, Deakin (ACT)
Wily Gilly’s lesson for Cummins
Hope Australia’s captain Pat Cummins reads Darshak Mehta’s masterpiece before he tosses for the first cricket Test in Nagpur, India (“Adopting Gilchrist’s un-Australian tactics the best way to win in India”, February 8). Kersi Meher-Homji, St Ives
Tony Abbott’s recent joining to a climate change sceptics group has drawn attention once again to what Rob Oakeshott said years ago: that the science department at Abbott’s old school has a lot to answer for (Letters, February 8). Bill Forbes, Medowie
Take a mile
Why don’t the councils sell the beach parking rights to Transurban (“Transurban in market to buy Eastlink”, February 8)? Then they can charge us to drive to the beach as well as park. Tim Schroder, Gordon
Maybe Transurban could spend some of the company’s net profit on fixing the state of the M2 pavement (“Back on the road: Tollways boss seeks greener pastures”, February 8). Tim Overland, Castle Hill
If there is one idiotic expression that needs to be purged forever from our lexicon it’s “gone viral”. Once upon a time it would have simply been called “popular” but now that’s not sensational enough, so we’re all exposed to this infectious curse. Anthea Doe, Russell Lea
The digital view
Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au
The RBA rate python threatening to squeeze the life out of the economy
From Buff: ″Rate rises only hurt those who’ve recently borrowed to purchase real estate encouraged by low interest rates. Boomers with money in bank accounts are actually benefiting from higher interest. Why not better target those who can afford a squeeze with increased taxes? This would also help pay down Morrison’s huge debt.″
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