Letters to
the editor

Who to trust on medical evidence?

Thank you for shining a light on supplement companies that may have dubious evidence for the efficacy of their products (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “Inside Swisse and its vexed ABC deal”, September 3-9). So, where do we turn for reliable health advice, and medications we can take with confidence? Surely not to the conventional medical and drug industries which, while providing useful and even lifesaving protocols and drugs, have been exposed as purveyors of experimental data manipulation and falsification, corruption, bribery, profiteering, ruthless destruction of whistleblowers’ careers and livelihoods, and supply of substances having devastating or fatal side effects. You may think this is an extreme view, but it is in accord with those of Peter Gøtzsche, professor of clinical research design and analysis at the University of Copenhagen and one of the founders of the Cochrane Collaboration, which is recognised as the gold standard in evidence-based medicine. He should know. 

– Kester Baines, Belmont, Vic

Pushing a tax lie

I get tired of the Liberal government and its financial whiz-kids, Scott Morrison and his ministerial assistants, rabbiting on about the “taxed-nots” (Editorial, “Tax craven”, August 27-September 2). These maligned members of our society don’t pay income tax because their income is insufficient to be taxed. But they still pay tax: there’s 10 per cent tax on most goods and services, then there’s the petrol excise, which itself has the GST added on top. Then there are stamp duties on insurances and other transfers. Don’t tell me we are “taxed-nots”, that’s a politician’s lie. 

– Barrie Brown, East Gosford, NSW

Morrison’s off-key message

At a speech to a right-wing London think tank in 2012, Joe Hockey set himself up for failure by pledging allegiance to Thatcherism and vowing to end the “age of entitlement”. Handing down his first budget a couple of years later, he divided Australian society into “lifters and leaners” and promised to punish the latter. It did not end well for Hockey or his unreconstructed neoliberalism. But, as the editorial “Tax craven” pointed out, we now have Treasurer Scott Morrison singing from the same song sheet – confusing citizens with consumers and dividing society into “the taxed and the taxed-nots”. The problem for Morrison is that the people do not share his vision. Fiscal austerity is a broken concept. There is now wide acceptance that governments must raise revenue so that they may spend it on social services. Neoliberalism is in its death throes. 

– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

Making the connections

Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell’s “Silicon folly” (August 27-September 2), raises an oft-questioned issue that shows how easily it is to miss the point of “innovation”. They allude to the contradiction in their argument in their last paragraph: “Obviously not all aspects of Turnbull’s plans are bad.” No country wants to be a nation of consumers. If one only “consumes”, it lowers the standard of living and undermines that which Vinsel and Russell espouse, namely “health, labour and infrastructure policy”. Nor does innovation necessarily equate with “novelty”. If we want to be producers and not consumers, we have to produce more with less – be more productive. If we want to be more productive, we have to be innovative. End of story. The reality is that existing essentials – food, clothing, clean air and water and housing – together with lesser essentials such as education and transport, on the one hand, and innovation on the other, are not mutually exclusive. The efficiency of existing sectors is dependent upon innovation. The innovation occurs at the edge of the industry and gradually becomes mainstream. Without innovation in housing, air, water, transport, education, we become consumers and our standard of living falls. This means those desired facilities are less available to us. It is clear from these authors and the election results that this connection between innovation and essentials is not easy to make. If you ask someone, “Can you survive without clean air and clean water?”, they will answer, “No.” If you then say, “Innovation is required to deliver clean air and water”, the connection is made. Believing in these principles does not require one to be “green” – it just requires a modicum of common sense. In short, without innovation we lose that which our authors espouse we should cherish – the old way of life. 

– Andrew Macpherson, Zetland, NSW

First, look at taxation

The noise among federal politicians and journalists calling for a banking royal commission is just another diversion from the real problems in this country. They are all looking the other way at the mention of a royal commission into the Australian taxation system, which is so fraught with inconsistencies and irregularity that by comparison the banking system would appear squeaky clean. Maybe the banks do want looking at but, with interest at the lowest level in history and our government owing more money than ever, it is vital that taxation be investigated first. If only we had a politician or party with enough decency and respect for the country to be honest enough to demand all facets of it be thoroughly investigated by an open-ended royal commission. 

– Russell Schatz, Narrabri, NSW

In response

Kindly allow me to propose an answer to Elizabeth Harrington’s uncertainty (Letters, September 3-9)concerning what “ism” would be used to categorise your claim that “people are born privileged and stupid”: realism. 

– Stephen Schafer, Leichhardt, NSW

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 September 10, 2016.

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