Letters to the Editor

Issue 

Dental care funding

Green Left Weekly renders a great service to the labour movement by publishing news that the millionaire ruling class do not want us to know anything about. One illustration concerns the achievements being made in Venezuela.

The federal government and its spokespersons would like us to believe that we are enjoying prosperity. The question is, prosperity for whom? The wealthy capitalists behind the Howard government are the ones who are benefiiting.

In 1996, one of the first measures of the Coalition government was to eliminate $100,000,000 for dental care for pensioners. Their feeble excuse was that it was a state responsibility. In addition to many thousands of pensioners who require dental treatment, there are many thousands of other adults and children who cannot afford dental fees, and as a result their health has been badly affected.

The ALP has started to campaign on this matter. The trade union movement should do the same. Our position has been a consistent one to restore federal finance for dental care.

We did not wait until election year to make our views known. Free dental care should be available for all members of the community who cannot afford to pay fees.

There should also be more scholarships to train dentists, as well as more dental hospitals in both city and country.

Bernie Rosen

Strathfield, NSW

Non-peaceful protest

Fantasia and Bainbridge (Write On, GLW #716) quoted isolated words from my letter (Write On, GLW #715), worked them into their own sentences, and attacked those sentences like they were mine. Example: "Standing writes that publicising the non-violent nature of the planned protest will 'alienate' and even 'demonise' activists who wish to pursue other tactics."

I actually wrote, "adding only the word 'peaceful' unnecessarily alienates and helps to demonise activists who wish to employ non-'peaceful' tactics". I continued writing that a more explanatory statement such as, "'While we support people's right to employ other tactics away from this peaceful assembly, this action has been organised to be explicitly non-violent', would be more useful." Because it would "advertise (the) non-violent nature" of the protest as well as "extend solidarity to (non-peaceful) protesters before a police crackdown".

I continued, explaining that "people who preference simply adding the word 'peaceful' over a statement such as the one suggested, expose the fact that their decision is ideologically, not tactically, based, because both additions publicise the protest's non-violent nature. The only difference is that the statement extends solidarity to forces who seek to employ tactics that are outside what (pacifists) deem acceptable."

Contrary to the intentionally distorted picture painted by Fantasia and Bainbridge, I never opposed "publicising the non-violent nature of the planned protest". In fact, I offered a less sectarian way to do exactly the thing I was accused of opposing. Weird, no?

Benjamen Standing

Via email

Veganism

In response to Rohan Gaiswinkler (Write On, GLW #715), I would point out that life is no picnic for those Australian cows in the pastures. Dairy cows endure repeated pregnancies, separation from their calves, and continual lactation enhanced by artificial hormones. They have a strong chance of suffering lameness or mastitis, and when their "productivity" declines at about five years of age, are put to death,15 years short of their natural lifespan. Beef cattle have an even shorter life of 1-3 years, and may be subject to dehorning or castration without anaesthetic.

This, like all abuse committed by the animal industries, does amount to enslavement (and torture and murder), and is at least comparable to the treatment of human political prisoners. We have a moral duty to stop being complicit in it, and even Australians with comparatively meagre resources can adopt a largely vegan way of life with only minimal sacrifice.

I agree with Gaiswinkler that systemic change is required to achieve environmental sustainability. This will either occur following catastrophe, or when sufficient committed individuals have joined together to call for change. Those committed individuals will be much more persuasive if they have first done all they can to reduce their personal ecological footprints, including by stopping eating meat and dairy.

Richard Bulmer

Adelaide, SA

SMH 'expose'

The July 15 Sydney Morning Herald ran a story by Meldi Arkinstall on the Redfern rally, entitled "Rally Condemns NT Intervention" — the subheading being "Shoot-up before the march for justice", with two photos that allegedly depict march participants injecting drugs before the rally.

This "expose" reminds me of an incident a few months ago while attending a conference where I sat next to a young Koori woman who as it turned out, came from the Redfern area. When I sat down, she was doing something with her fingers. The next thing she did was to reach into her bag for a syringe and proceeded to inject herself.

This woman was not "shooting up" on illegal drugs — she was in fact an insulin dependent diabetic, who has to repeat this procedure at least three or four times each day. Diabetes is one of the many health problems that affect increasing numbers in our community — sufferers undeservedly face an incredible stigma though needle use being associated with illicit drug use. If she was to hide away in private, perhaps to the ladies toilets to inject herself, would this not raise people's suspicions?

Our Indigenous community faces many health and social problems, and drug use is part of that, but I fail to see how beat-ups such as the SMH story help matters. The effect of such articles is to cause stigma for many.

I can only imagine how the SMH would have used photos of my friend injecting insulin if she was blase enough to do so in a public place.

Tony Backhouse

Dee Why, NSW

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