Write on — letters to the editor

June 21, 2009

End US blockade of Cuba

Having been a recent visitor to both Miami and Cuba may I congratulate the American press on its commitment to free speech and the lively debate both pro and against lifting the embargo on Cuba.

The plea [from Bob Staltman, president of the American Farm Business Federation] to lift farm restrictions is timely and appropriate.

Remember over 20,000 health workers from Cuba are travelling each year to Third World countries like East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Venezuela and the Carribean to provide essential health care and education.

But perhaps the best reason for lifting the embargo is the tragedy of the denial of essential medications to Cubans.

Are US women aware that Cuban women are dying because they do not have access to Tamoxifen to treat their breast cancer or that children with leukaemia are denied chemotherapy only available in the US? Come on America. It is time for a fair go for Cuba and its people.

Dr Colin Hughes, Greenmount WA [Abridged]

Anger at black deaths in custody

Last Monday's Four Corners program "Who Killed Mr Ward" was one of the saddest things I had seen on television in a long time.

Mr Ward, arrested under dodgy circumstances and transported the next day on a long and unnecessary road trip, under exceptionally hot and obviously perilous conditions, died along the way.

The "slow and shocking death" was totally foreseeable and preventable, and what the program outlined was a litany of racism, ineptitude, callousness and mendacity.

In between, we learned of obviously racist transport guards; a clapped-out transport van without air-conditioning or even basic ventilation; numerous reports, recommendations and even past experience showing that the relevant minister and department knew that the transport was unsafe; and ultimately the claustrophobic metal box into which Mr Ward was placed, its surface temperature of 56°C being hot enough to burn the unfortunate victim's skin.

As Dennis Eggington of the Aboriginal Legal Service said, "My goodness sake, one can only feel such horror at slowly being cooked." All this 18 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

David Bastin, Nicholls ACT [Abridged]

Racism on Sydney Harbour

I am writing concerning racism on Sydney Harbour. This letter is not just for the rights of international students but the rights of all the people living in the Sydney area.

It is our understanding that complaints have been made in regards to a water taxi company, whose behaviour is seen as inappropriate. We understand that after many complaints were made, the taxi company suggested legal action against the person who complained.

As overseas students, we pay a great deal of money to study here and strongly feel that have just as much right to enjoy Sydney Harbour as anyone else.

As world citizens, we are against all forms of discrimination towards overseas visitors and local citizens of all colours and races. We are also concerned and upset that any complaint made will be met with a threat of legal action against the person speaking out.

Many of us have limited access to legal counsel but we believe we have a right to express our concerns and share our unease of situations which are not universally accepted behaviour.

Many students and people in local businesses and the community would agree with us.

Alister Rasha, by email [Abridged]

Failed transport policies

Not content with having spent more than $1.3 billion on the failed Miki Ticketing system, the minister for public transport, Lynne Kosky, is wasting Victorian taxpayers' money on a Queensland consulting firm.

Surreptitious interviews are being conducted with suitable taxi drivers, who are paid $80 each to answer questions about the taxi industry.

This is happening at a time when the taxi industry is already subject to a process of interrogation under a state-wide accreditation process with the Victorian Taxi Directorate and the Department of Infrastructure.

Public transport users and taxi passengers are also entitled to know why they have been excluded from the consultants' agenda.

Perhaps the minister has realised that the Brumby government's transport policies have failed commuters and she is reluctant to admit it?

John Glazebrook, by email [Abridged]

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