New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
Animals the best option for now
The piece “Animal sacrifice” (Elfy Scott, June 20-26) does not adequately argue for reasonable alternatives to the use of animals for research. The article is flawed in its assumption that the “voices of people with interests in the animal welfare sector are seldom heard” by ethics boards. Representatives from all stakeholders are given their chance to accept or reject research proposals. Lay people, too, are on these boards. The strongest argument I can find in favour of the continuation of research conducted on animals is that, as yet, there is no viable alternative model of human disease and behaviour. Humans are complex and function in systems. It is not enough to consider aspects of disease or behaviour in isolation (as is gained by genetic and cellular studies). Further, to offer cDNA microarrays among other non-animal-based technologies is naive, as some of these technologies are incredibly resource intensive when compared with the maintenance of animals, particularly mice. Sadly, for many research teams struggling to meet the financial costs, this is an increasingly important consideration. An overnight or even gradual replacement of research undertakings from in-vivo to in-vitro or in-silico studies may come at the expense of ever-scarce grant funding. Finally, not all in-vitro studies are free of animal products. The antibodies, proteins and other reagents needed do not materialise in test tubes. I am an advocate for the ethical treatment of all animals, not only those destined for research studies. I view animals as the best (current) model of human disease and behaviour. Until such time as all aspects of human disease and behaviour can be accurately, viably and ultimately reproducibly modelled without the use of animals, then animal research should be supported with the appropriate regulatory scrutiny.
– Alexander J. Rodriguez, Department of Medicine, Monash University
Tilting at wind farms
As alluded to in last week’s editorial (“Hot air”, June 20-26), the Abbott government’s stance on climate change in general, and renewables in particular, is getting weirder by the day. The pledge to make Australia “open for business” seems to have been forsaken in favour of policies heavily skewed towards certain fractions of capital. Surely the Coalition’s fossil fuel industry donors would have been quite satisfied with the early results of the war on renewables which, according to Bloomberg, saw investment in large-scale renewables projects decline by 88 per cent in 2014. Now the promise of a wind farm commissioner suggests that this government is intent not just on propping up an ailing coal industry, but on prosecuting a bona fide war against green iconography, notwithstanding Pope Francis’s encyclical.
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
Freedom from information
Further illumination has been given to Sophie Morris’s timely article on the Coalition’s quest to close down the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (“The government’s secrecy addiction”, June 20-26). On the same day it was reported that the OAIC has “slapped down” a list of excuses from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for not divulging sensitive communications relating to the repatriation and plea deal for former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks. This was the positive outcome of a three-year battle to obtain information relating to the correspondence between the Howard and Bush administrations. The extent to which the Coalition seeks to rid itself of yet another medium by which citizens are allowed a chink of light into government activities is surely its modus operandi of imposing the OAIC’s death by a 1000 cuts.
– Julia Anaf, Norwood, SA
The other story
Alex Frankel’s comment about the progressive movement’s big-picture story (“What’s the story?”, June 13-19) is spot on about the big picture, but misses the point. Environmentalism and climate change have emerged from postmodernism. The challenge for postmodernists is that many are anti-modernist, i.e. anti-capitalist, which of course makes conservatives and modernists very nervous. “People’s values influence their thinking more than their thinking influences their values.” The US-based Institute for Cultural Evolution is contributing to a discourse about depolarising issues such as climate change through the lens of values, cultural systems and world views. Being anti-modern is counterproductive to our cause and we need to find a way forward that brings conservatives and modernists with us.
– Monica Richter, Potts Point, NSW
Turning negative into positive
Re Sophie Morris’s “Blowing up the housing bubble” (June 13-19), in all the discussions and articles on this subject in recent times – and indeed fading into “negative” gearing’s inception when the current dilemma was first projected – there has been little discussion of an alternative that is less open to misuse as a tax dodge. This is the proposition that turns it on its head – that the tax relief should be applied to the primary residence of the applicant, any investment property treated as a business and income and expenditure taxed accordingly.
– Keith Birney, Shepparton, Vic
I loved reading the well-crafted and beautifully observed article about Positano (Andy Hazel, “Elevated company”, June 20-26) as I await to board a flight from Melbourne to Noosa. I hope I can find a fragment of Andy’s Positano experience and sense of wonderment while I am away. I do hope to return to Positano some day soon.
– Joanne O’Callaghan, East Melbourne, 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 Jun 27, 2015.
A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.