Letters to
the editor

Words failing us

The German verb verschlimmbessern means: “To make something worse in an honest but failed attempt to improve it; to disimprove.” We need an English word for this, as the Coalition does it so often. We have only “iatrogenic”, which means the medicine makes the patient worse.

– Ian M. Johnstone, Armidale, NSW

Cuts cost one cent per person

Much overlooked in the heat over the ABC cuts is the fact that, as individuals, this institution costs each of us next to nothing. That is the principal of public services – we all chip in a tiny amount and get something for the greater good in return. The ABC costs us under 12 cents a day per capita. That is the figure that people decrying supposed waste of taxpayers’ funds are arguing about here. By my calculation, the $254 million cut over four years has saved every Australian man, woman and child less than one cent a day. Spend it wisely folks! Maybe we should each shout ourselves a cappuccino (small) in 12 months? Those urging on the government are either so impoverished that, frankly, it’s a wonder they can afford internet access (and I do feel for them if so) or, more believably, purely driven by ideology.

– Lloyd Swanton, Wentworth Falls, NSW

Efficient ABC helps everyone

Finally Malcolm Turnbull is cracking down on the inefficiencies and lack of balance at the ABC with its apparent mission statement to bring down the Coalition government. Examples include the indefensible skit mocking the MH17 deaths of 38 Australians; the hostile questioning and interrupting of Coalition ministers; Q&A, which has become a parody of a balanced political forum. Mark Scott has left the lunatics in charge of the asylum. Ultimately an efficient and balanced ABC is in the interests of all Australians.

– John Shailer, East Lindfield, NSW

Getting at the truth

Like his role model, John Howard, Tony Abbott misled the Australian public about his intentions towards public broadcasting. One might wonder whether this and other pre-election lies might be addressed in the privacy of the confessional. Or is such shameless mendacity in the political sphere permissible?

– Alan Lender, Inverloch, Vic

Medical model built to save lives

Helen Razer’s take on the portrayal of doctors and hospital systems in television shows (“Reality bypass”, November 22-28) made me stop for a reality check. The “awful and slow evil of organised medicine?” The “horror of medicalisation?” Hang on a minute. Doesn’t organised medicine underpin the quality of life Helen and most other people in the developed world enjoy today? It separates us from past cultures that regularly succumbed to plagues, malnutrition and environmental pollutants. It’s what many people are today striving to bring to the world’s poor. Helen might also have reviewed a few news programs to consider their portrayal of healthcare workers. Consider the Ebola crisis currently playing out in West Africa. There are daily calls for help in that “extraordinary horror show”. For what? For organised medical teams and field hospitals in which to house and care for patients. Television may struggle to glamorise it, but the medicalisation of disease and human health is an everyday blessing in the lives of many real people. It is the result of centuries of challenging, sometimes dangerous, frequently tedious, scientific research that even the Abbott government knows must continue. Yes, it has involved egregious errors and no doubt there are more to come. That’s a difficult reality of evidence-based science. Medical research relies on hypotheses and trials. Some trials lead to errors. It’s how institutionalised healthcare has developed. It has improved human lives far more often than not. Doctors may not be gods but surely they should not be demonised for being human.

– Sue Hobley, Lilyfield, NSW

Blaming Obama for quoting experts

It would seem that remarks made by Barack Obama in his recent address at the University of Queensland have got up the nose of Ms Bishop, the Australian foreign minister (Hamish McDonald, “China FTA cushions emissions pledge blow”, November 22-28). All the US president did was allude to the utterly abject performance of the Abbott government, with respect to an effective response to climate change. Surely nobody could quarrel with that? Certainly not the audience, who roared their affirmation. He further drew attention to the internationally held view that the Abbott government’s intransigence on this critical issue will seriously threaten the health and future viability of the Great Barrier Reef. No argument there either. Australian scientists have been spelling out that reality for many years. Ms Bishop’s gripe would appear to be that the president should have consulted the government, who would have then explained what a wonderful job they are doing along with a heartfelt plea to “let’s keep this climate change stuff really low key”. Perhaps Obama prefers to get his information on these issues from the scientists, and the major scientific institutions, rather than from a bunch of politicians, and who could blame him for that? Thank you Mr President!

– David Payne, Bermagui, NSW

Chifley not Menzies responsible

Nice piece by Martin McKenzie-Murray (“Reach for the spy”, November 22-28). Pity he didn’t know that ASIO was established by Labor’s Ben Chifley in 1949 (partially in response to The Case – leaks from the Department of External Affairs in 1945-48), not Robert Menzies.

– Alan Fewster, Canberra

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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 November 29, 2014.

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