We need vastly better funding for palliative medicine technology

The power of the states to legislate for euthanasia (or assisted dying, assisted suicide) arises accidentally under the constitution. Since the power was not conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament, state parliaments have it by implication and default though it was unknown in 1901.

Many informed, compassionate people are deeply conflicted about the practice – repelled by the idea of intentionally aiding a suicide or actively ending a life, even with consent; yet torn by the desire to relieve suffering that, it is said, medicine cannot alleviate or palliate.

ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja: opposed territories getting rights on assisted dying.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

However, I can only imagine what the position would be if the time and energy spent on debating or advocating euthanasia were spent on how to improve palliative medicines, enhance palliative medical and nursing practices, invent new supporting technological equipment, and obtain much greater funding for this medical Cinderella.

In 1988, when the idea of socially and medically acceptable euthanasia was not on any political or polling radar, Canberra was given quite wide powers to legislate for its couple of hundred thousand ratepayers.

These included an implied, unrecognised, power to legislate for euthanasia. There are no local government councils for metropolitan cities anywhere, let alone large country towns, trusted with such powers.

If the practice of euthanasia, intentional killing, is to be available, should it not be by an act of the whole Australian population, for example, in a plebiscite, rather than through accidental historical entities like states or territories?

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For now, my focus is on advocating for that which the euthanasia debate overshadows – the need for vastly better funding, and the potential for better, more imaginative, practice and technology in palliative medicine.

P. O'Keeffe, Hughes

Be alert and alarmed

Re: "Rezoning of Mawson car parks threatens supermarket war" (September 5, p6).

The Mawson community will need to be very proactive to avoid another "Dickson disaster" following rezoning plans for a large supermarket and changed parking arrangements in their shopping centre.

For too many years ACT planners and Coles foisted upon Dickson various iterations of a very poor and unacceptable design for additional supermarket space with many small units above and parking below for over 400 cars.

The latter were given little room to manoeuvre efficiently into, around and out of the underground car park, let alone to and from adjacent major roads.

The whole footprint on current car parking space was overdeveloped and showed little consideration for the surrounding built environment, growing pedestrian and cyclist needs, the community's expectation of high quality design and landscaping, attractive public spaces and tree replacement, and its ongoing hope for a variety of appealing commercial offerings in the central Dickson area.

The plans were rejected by the community and the AAT. The ACT Chief Planner is now helping to justify the Mawson rezoning and proposed redevelopment on the basis that "people preferred well-designed basement parking to surface parking".

Sue Dyer, Downer

Coalition in the dark

While the Coalition government is tearing itself apart over energy policy, and in particular the role of renewable energy, individuals, local communities and businesses are moving into the future with schemes to produce and store renewable energy.

Drive along any street in the suburbs or country towns and see the number of solar panels going up on roofs of houses and businesses.

Farmers are powering their home, and sheds and water pumps and electrifying their fences with solar power from panels on the roof, and batteries for storage.

I read, online, a couple of regional, community newspapers in south-western Victoria and almost every month there is a story about a new wind farm in a local community or a large-scale solar farm on local land.

These developments are going ahead because people see that these renewable schemes will eventually reduce the cost of power and will provide local jobs.

For a government which promised jobs and growth the government seems blind to the employment opportunities, the value to our economy of eventual export of these developing technologies, and long-term environmental benefits of these new ways of generating power and that this is the way of the future.

Surely there is someone in the government who can ignore the power of the coal lobby and has enough vision to imagine a world powered by the sun and wind, and who will frame an energy policy which gives certainty to future energy producers.

Mary Virr, Kambah

Republic to be proud of

I will know we are ready for the republic of Australia when you can ask the original inhabitants whether Australia was invaded, occupied or settled and they respond, "all of the above, we're not too fussed, life's OK and our children have a bright future".

When we have just one set of Australian road rules and all children sit the same year 12 examinations.

And the live animal-export trade ends.

When a graduate plumber in NSW is automatically licensed to exert their skills anywhere in our country.

Add a nation powered exclusively from free, clean, limitless energy derived from wind turbines and photovoltaic sources.

With a dozen ocean-pumped hydro reservoirs to sustain months of uninterrupted base load power.

My republic of Australia provides business and industry with the lowest energy costs on the planet and allows pensioners one warm room in winter.

An Australia where the hardworking young couple (living next door with her parents) no longer fear agents for foreign property speculators outbidding them at home auctions.

If these are monarchist sentiments (J. Adamson. Letters, August 27) I suggest that you consider "God save the Queen and protect us from an overbearing republic" (Letters, August 20, 2017) because we need a republic that we can all be proud of.

Ronald Elliott, Sandringham, Victoria

Local ABC has lost me

It is lamentable the local ABC has lost many quality presenters, including Genevieve Jacobs, Alex Sloan and, most recently, Tim Gavel.

Thank goodness for my iPad. It is a source of access to 702 Sydney.

I don't have to listen to giggling presenters, and local news that I suspect is drawn from the columns of the local paper.

John Fuhrman, Kambah

Pensions pose burden

Further to your editorial of September 6 re the wise decision not to increase the pension age to 70, it is interesting to note advocates of this measure never mention the fact that when the pension was introduced less than a decade after Federation there was no such thing as income tax.

This largesse was funded through indirect taxes such as tariffs and the like. Income tax was not imposed until midway through World War I as a "temporary measure".

So, in terms of the government's total take, I suspect pensions would have been just as much of a burden on the budget as they are now and will be into the future.

Apologists for the "work until you drop" school of thought championed by, among others, the current Prime Minister, usually make much of the fact average life spans are much greater today than they were 110years ago.

Statistics are dangerous things. It would be better to talk about a median than a mean given much of the increase in the average lifespan that has occurred over the past century has come from a significant fall in infant mortality rates.

Many people still lived a very long time in those days.

One of my female ancestors, who was born in 1808, turned 100in 1908. She may well have been the oldest person in Australia to qualify for the pension at the time.

Her name was Jenifer Tom. She died in 1910 at the age of 102.

D. J. Strong, Neville, NSW

Plan for future

Your editorial of September 6 said it "beggars belief" that anybody in the Coalition could have thought that telling Australians they would have to work until 70 to get the age pension was a good idea.

In 1908, when we introduced a national age pension, you had to work until 65 to qualify (at least if you were a man).

A man who made it to that age, could expect to live another 11 years. Today, if he reaches 65, he can expect to live for about 20 more years.

It follows that Australia has to fund nine more years of pension than it had to in 1908.

Inevitably, that means raising taxes. Coupled with the ageing profile of our population, those increased taxes will fall on a smaller and smaller proportion of the population.

Many of those people might well think their taxes are becoming burdensome.

In that situation, it behoves us to plan carefully for our future rather than making the sort of knee-jerk response your editorial seems to be encouraging.

If short-term political concerns mean we can no longer prepare for obvious future problems, then we are surely doomed.

Greg Pinder, Charnwood

Meaningless question

If Bruce Paine (Letters, September 6) really does "support measures to reduce emissions" and wishes to make it harder for "climate sceptics to spread misinformation" he could start by not spreading misinformation himself.

Asking what proportion of the ACT's electricity is "actually" sourced from renewables is as meaningless as asking which of the RAAF's aircraft are dedicated exclusively to defending Canberra.

The ACT does not have a separate generation system of its own but is part of the wider NSW grid — itself a component of the National Electricity Market.

We do not have a passport control point where each electron is checked at the border for its colour and provenance.

What our 100 per cent renewables policy does do — and all we can do — is to ensure that the same amount of electricity that we use, regardless of when we use it, is generated by renewables.

This is additional to what was already in place and only exists because we have contracted for it.

As we no more have borders on our atmosphere than our power lines, the actual impact on emissions reduction is the same as it would have been if those renewables were all located in the ACT and their output was solely used within our borders.

The ultimate and inevitable transition of the national grid to 100 per cent renewables must await the advent of a sane federal government with rational energy policies.

In the meantime, the ACT's program is a responsible and useful contribution to the transition.

Felix MacNeill, Dickson

Falling short of target

We will meet our Paris goals in a canter! So says Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Not according to the International Energy Agency in February this year: "Current energy efficiency measures and climate mitigation policies are not sufficient."

Nor according to Climate Action Tracker: "While the federal government continues to maintain ... that Australia is on track to meet the 2030 target, the Carbon Action Tracker is not aware of any factual basis, published by any analyst or government agency to support this."

Nor according to the Climateworks Report on September 6: "Australia is not yet on track to meet its emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement, but there are many opportunities to still get there."

With our greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise and a government seemingly bereft of effective energy and climate policy, can the Prime Minister or his new Environment Minister clearly explain to the electorate how Australia will meet its 2030 Paris climate goals "in a canter"? At present it looks like we will miss the 2030 Paris target by a country mile.

Darryl Fallow, Stirling

Growth has limits

Business favours mass immigration, not just because it means more consumers and construction, but because it supplies pliant and eager workers, often working below their skill and education levels.

Governments like mass immigration because it automatically creates economic growth and increased job creation which they can claim credit for. But growth can't go on forever.

Rod Matthews, Fairfield, Vic

PM's fairytale talk

Today I witnessed the birth of a modern-day Hans Christian Andersen — I listened to the first major speech delivered in Albury by our newly-appointed Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Des Fooks, Forrest



The number of correspondents raising serious concerns with light rail, and in particular the crazy idea of a convoluted route to Woden, seems to be increasing quickly. Likewise, many people I talk to in the community just shake their heads. The southern route, whichever bridge, was ever only an unwelcome election sop to the neglected south at the last election. I'm pleased to see opposition growing to this dog of a project. Welcome to the party. But where were you before the last ACT election when voters could have hoisted this government before it did more damage.

J. Mungoven, Stirling


Isn't the ultimate expression of threatening behaviour in parliament the concept of "cabinet solidarity"? Stray from the party line and lose your job. It's interesting to note how many ex-ministers suddenly feel free to speak their mind after leaving their ministerial role.

M. Paterson, Greenleigh, NSW


I gathered, to my horror, from recent media reports that the detention centres responsible for so much injustice and misery are run by private companies. It is appalling that jails of any kind should be run for profit. Are refugees being denied medical treatment and resources so as not to eat into company profits?

B. Fisher, Cook


Speaking in Darwin, the chief executive of Santos has criticised the federal government for "unfairly blaming the gas companies for the east coast gas crisis because they send most of their supplies offshore under export contracts." Those remarks remind me strongly of the Irish potato famine of the 1840s during which large quantities of food were exported from a starving Ireland, mostly at the behest of (English) foreigners who cared little or nothing for the plight of the locals. Now we know how the Irish felt.

G. Soames, Curtin


The PM's right. School hours are increasingly packed out by matters that are really parental responsibilities. Worse, when these matters lack their own time slot some education authorities allow them to corrupt legitimate parts of the curriculum. Letter-writers to some news media call this the work of "Marxists'.' No, they are sincere activists but their ideas are an unwarranted intrusion into the legitimate role of the school. No wonder so many kids can't read, write or count.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy


The UN says the Rohinga minority in Burma were subject to ethnic cleansing by the Burmese army. The Nobel Peace Prize conferred on Aung San Suun Kyi should be rescinded.

Rohan Goyne, Evatt

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