Letters to
the editor

Honesty and choosing the right words

Martin McKenzie-Murray (“When the healthy want to die”, May 24-30) writes “definitions are the rub” in the debate about euthanasia. He reports that both Jack (a man who “had a great life”) and Jack’s nurse believed that “pills at sunset were ... a heroic act of will”. Perhaps McKenzie-Murray might care to define what he understands by the word “heroic”? Does he mean “courageous” or “grandiose”? I know of people – young, middle aged and old – who have had anything but a “great life” and whose struggle to go on living has, at the very least, demonstrated courage and humility – though not one of them would view their personal actions as heroic. I can certainly imagine circumstances in which the act of suicide might be viewed as heroic. “Pills at sunset” at the end of “a great life” is not among them. To suggest that we might view such suicides as heroic acts is to debase whatever used to pass for heroism and to encourage a dangerous perspective. Jack does seem to be bitter at his failed attempt to become a heroic figure. Bitter enough to cut his one mate off. Mateship and heroism aren’t what they used to be. Euthanasia is a very complex matter. The devil, as always, is in the detail – and in being honest about the words we use.

– Jack Kirszenblat, St Kilda East, Vic

Freedom to decide enough is enough

How sad for that 87-year-old farmer, that he is deemed depressed and shut away with dementia patients. We live independent lives; choose where to live; who to marry; how many children we want; what car to drive; what job to learn. And yet having led a life full of choices we are denied the ultimate choice in old age of when and where to die. Death is inevitable and many of us believe it should be our choice when enough is enough. A nursing home is definitely one of the places most old people do not want to move into and nor should they be made to. Many want to retain their dignity, make a cup of tea when they want or eat when and what they want with their own possessions around them. When will politicians realise life and death is not for them to decide? There should be strict guidelines especially for the young whose depression can be cured. Old people are often depressed because they are weary and tired of living, all their friends are dead. Their bodies ache and in years gone by they would have been dead, but modern science with its antibiotics and blood pressure control et cetera keeps people alive often beyond their use-by date. Let our elderly decide when they are ready to go and not our politicians.

– Jessie Edney, Lisarow, NSW

What about capacity to pay?

Economists who advocate widening or increasing the GST should be kept well clear of the economy. They do not understand fairness in taxation. To be fair, tax must be based on capacity to pay. Since capacity to pay is related solely to income, it follows that in order to be fair, tax must be based on income and nothing else.

– Bill Smith, Glen Iris, Vic

Risky research no match for budget fix

Sophie Morris’s excellent article “For the good of our health?” (May 24-30) covered many issues with the proposed medical research fund. Australian of the Year 2003 Fiona Stanley is “conflicted, and feels it is ‘unpalatable’ to charge the sickest and the poorest to fund a medical research budget”. This is apposite. There are some further complexities with the scheme. Tony Abbott has stated that “fixing the budget” is one of his “elemental” commitments – carefully avoiding John Howard’s core and non-core promises terminology. None of the proceeds of the $7 fees for GP visits goes towards this goal. When a doctor chooses to waive the fee, they lose a $6.20 incentive payment, on top of a $5 rebate from the government, as well as the $2 payment they could have received. Each fee waive thus costs a GP $13.20. If a doctor sees 30 to 40 patients a day, it could become very expensive. Medical research is a very high-risk venture – far more risky than cutting $111 million from the CSIRO, $80 million from Co-operative Research Centres and $75 million from the Australian Research Council. Many large pharmaceutical companies are researching cures for different cancers because the potential profits from selling the drugs they develop are huge. But the probability of success is small.  This is hardly an area for a risk-averse government.

– Bill Johnstone, Marrickville, NSW

Shutting young out of home ownership

The abolition of the First Home Saver Accounts has flown under the radar in the aftermath of the Coalition government’s recent budget proposals. This great initiative was proposed by the Labor government in 2007 to accelerate saving for a house deposit. An array of generous incentives and concessions assisted in this process, including a tax-free government contribution of 17 per cent on the first $6000 invested every financial year. In addition, the prevailing rate of interest was taxed at the lowest marginal rate of 15 per cent. Joe Hockey claims his decision to abolish the accounts was because not enough of these accounts were in use. According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, at the end of 2013 there were 46,000 accounts in operation. Contrary to what the treasurer has stated, I imagine the $134 million that will be saved would have been the more influential factor. This great initiative provided many young people with a window of opportunity to accelerate the process of saving for a deposit in order to enter the increasingly expensive property market. It is safe to say, this window has been slammed firmly shut!

– Liam Moloney, Coburg North, Vic

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 31, 2014.

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