The Guardian 2 February, 2005

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Unpardonable policies

When Howard and his cronies came to power there was no end of promises of good things to come everybody was supposed to be "relaxed and comfortable". I won't go into all the things that make me feel angry, uncomfortable and out of the pocket thanks to all the Howard-Costello policies. One of them is really hurting everybody and it's the public health system.

A friend of mine needs a minor operation on his foot and has to wait for six months to have it done. Meanwhile, it severely restricts his ability to walk and causes a lot of pain. An older woman I know was told that her hip replacement operation date was 18 months away. Imagine how she feels hobbling around and in pain.

Bulk billing has almost disappeared and emergency rooms in public hospitals are flooded with patients who would have otherwise gone to see their medical practitioner but can't afford to do so now.

Meanwhile the government continues to pour money into private hospitals. According to a report by the Productivity Commission, annual government spending on private hospitals has grown on average by 23.7 per cent during the past ten years. In comparison, the annual average growth in spending on public hospitals was only 3.7 per cent.

There is a shortage of doctors in the bush and overseas doctors are being imported to fill up vacancies. It's shameful that Australia, a rich country compared to many others cannot train enough medical practitioners to meet the needs of its citizens.

The health of Aboriginal people (or the absence of it) is unpardonable. Australia has the worst record in the world as far as life expectancy and health of an indigenous population goes. Are these problems being addressed? Not that I noticed.

The government is trying to turn everything into private hands, even the things that as a government it should provide free to all the citizens. I'd like to encourage everybody to make sure that these policies are fought against at every opportunity and at every level.

We all pay taxes and have a right to have a say on how they are spent. Howard is never short of a quid when it comes to some military adventures. It's time to redirect the money to people's needs, not some of his friends' profits.

Sue Sanders
Sydney, NSW

Australia needs a new national day

In the wake of the rousing celebrations of the 150th anniversary since the stand at the Eureka Stockade on 3rd December 1854, and now yet another commemoration of our convict streak and dispossession of the indigenous inhabitants from their land, it is good time to question whether our so called Australia Day of 26th January has run its course.

Who in Australia still believes in what Australia Day stands for or would want to believe in what it stands for?

If the people of this nation are ever to have a symbol or portent of unity, resolve, liberty and egalitarianism, then it has to be those events on the Ballarat goldfields of November 1854, which culminated in the brief and only popular uprising in this nation's history in the early hours of 3rd December 1854 (Is Prime Minister Howard the new Governor Hotham of this age?).

As a consequence of the Eureka Stockade the people of Victoria gained: the right to vote; parliamentary democracy; the birth of trade unions and the development of the organised urban working class; and the belief by the citizenry across all classes, that a fair, decent and prosperous society for all would not be gained without struggle or by leaving it to the so called respectable landed gentry/squatters, colonial mercantile capitalists and other representatives of imperial interests.

As Australia moves inexorably towards a republic and attempts to forge a more inclusive and compelling national identity, a more deeply felt national day (flag and song also) is one of those symbols which will help draw us there.

Richard Titelius
Perth, WA


The year 2004 went out with a vengeance, you might say. The tsunami with its tremendous loss of life, and the lives that will be lost as a result of it. Poor people do not have the physical stamina to deal with illness, or the support of a health and welfare system, to help them.

The magnificent humanity of the Australian people will be diminished by the politics of dirty tricks, and the media beating up terrorism.

On the home front the loss of life in the SA bushfires no political gain there, as bushfires are part of life in Australia. The mentality is, you must accept bushfires. Or move to New Zealand you have earthquakes there.

Unselfish, devoted bushfire brigades, devoted to saving life and livelihood, face tougher and harder times each summer as they risk and some lose their lives.

A contributor in part to bushfires is the speed of land-degrading clearances, lack of undergrowth clearing and adequate fire breaks.

Bushfire brigades have to be given more resources and equipment, controlling bushfires is a year round operation.

Bushfire brigades are voluntary and not appreciated enough. Water is a scarce liquid on this Australian continent, any day you pass a building site, 1st class drinking water mixes concrete, hoses down dust. We are told save water, install this and that shower head, tap, kettle, etc, etc.

The answer is recycle water.

Germany is well resourced with water. The Germans built the great Ruhr industrial giant with recycled water, they've seen beyond the natural supply of water (that was long before Nazism), at the beginning of Germany's industrial revolution.

Australia needs a national water conservation and recycling scheme, not owned and controlled by private corporations.

We are heading for an environmental holocaust with the rapid dumping of waste and toxic waste.

We will have to import food, in large quantities if the loss of farm land is not halted.

The CPA must shake it up.

The Guardian is top on political analysis; foreign affairs none to match it. The CPA has to lead the way, on the critical state of the Australian continent's health.

Anne Duffy-Lindsay
Sydney, NSW

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