There is a multitude of advisory bodies and lobbyists in Canberra (“Voice lost unless PM changes tune”, June 24). None have legislative power. The Voice would be just another one, but with three distinct differences: Transparency, accountability and a constitutional enshrinement. No one could protest at the first two differences, and the enshrinement is to prevent future political cancellation. Along with recognition of the First Nations people’s status, after 200 years of failed policy, this is a logical and positive proposal along the path to reconciliation. Rowan Godwin, Rozelle
It is wrong to blame the No campaign for the Voice’s demise. As someone who almost exclusively consumes left-wing media, I am largely unaware of the No campaign, but instead have been convinced to vote No by the Yes campaign. No dissent of any kind is allowed on the left (I’ve tried to play devil’s advocate) with the claim of moral superiority left to fill the void. The difficulty of changing the Constitution is also blamed; is this really a document we want changed on a whim? The Yes campaign has strayed so far from what it was about (rectifying Indigenous disadvantage) and has instead been replaced with nonsense arguments by ideologues. With no meaningful discussion and no dissent, the referendum needs to be revisited another day. Paul Davies, Crows Nest
For any Australian citizen with Scottish ancestry like me, or Irish or Welsh ancestry, to vote Yes in the referendum is to do peacefully what our forebears did in battle and by other means to win a respectful voice with the English. The UK has held together well, and so will we, based upon the respect of all its constituent nations. I hope and trust the Australian voters will do the same. Jim McPherson, Mt Coolum (Qld)
The assumption that our Chicken Little Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and the No campaign will be supported by the majority of fair thinking Australians, I suggest, is way off the mark. The conservative side of politics is averse to any reform and their maintenance of the status quo has held back Australia for years. Wobbling at the knees can be overcome by decisive action, which is what is called for at this historic time. The world will be watching, so if we want Australia to be seen as a backward-looking, non-inclusive country then a No vote will guarantee this. Hopefully, common sense will prevail.
Greg Thomas, Annandale
Anything the federal opposition has raised about the Voice is dismissed as “fearmongering”. No need to seriously engage with the arguments. Peter Hartcher rightly points out, and then ignores, that this approach is not working. It has not, and will not, help the Yes campaign. He also shoots down the Voice idea by claiming that “the Voice as proposed is nothing more than an advisory body. The federal government already has dozens. This would be just one more.”
So the legitimate question arises: If the dozens of voices already in place haven’t worked, why would “just one more” voice make any difference, just because it is enshrined in the Constitution? If the Yes campaign continues in this vein it will indeed be doomed, not because of the “fearmongers”, but because the serious flaws in the Yes campaign’s approach. Dietrich Georg, St Ives
Dangerous deep dives not the only way to get a thrill
Dick Smith doesn’t want to stifle the spirit of adventure that has driven him and other mega-wealthy people to go on risky adventures (“Sub disaster shouldn’t stop Titanic dives, says Smith”, June 24-25). May I suggest that it’s not necessary to plumb the ocean depths or soar skywards to get a thrill? Right here on terra firma there are any number of ways of being adventurous. Building several safe accommodation units for Sydney’s homeless would thrill not only the recipients but the donor. Providing safe drinking water for remote communities would draw on all one’s skills as an adventurer. The risk? That this benevolent attitude becomes addictive, and that can be the ultimate safe thrill. Joan Brown, Orange
I applaud Dick Smith’s contention that “responsible risk-takers” should be encouraged. What is not mentioned, however, is the vexed question of who should pick up the tab when things go wrong. If it is a state-sponsored project, clearly the state is responsible for any rescue mission. However, for entirely private projects, is it not the individual’s responsibility to pay for any rescue or salvage operation? It would not be surprising if the American taxpayer queried whether they should pay for the Titan submersible rescue, or at least be repaid in full. Neil Buchanan, Waitara
Smith says submersible dives on Titanic shouldn’t cease and individuals should be able to take risks. All very well for an adventurer to say, but who should pay for search and rescue expenses for that deliberate risky behaviour when things go wrong? Will it be the same people who can afford to indulge in such expensive pursuits? Karyn Raisin, Hunters Hill
I fail to see the thrill as a tourist in viewing sites of great tragedy (“Titan tragedy sparks a timely conversation”, June 25). Surely there is a difference between taking risks as an adventurer and exploring a disaster location which involves an element of personal danger, just for the challenge. The possible consequences are writ large in the Titan tragedy. Vicky Marquis, Glebe
I am certainly not an engineer, but reading the articles and looking at the images of the Titan submersible has scared the living daylights out of me. The vessel looked like something that might be constructed by a year 12 engineering class (no offence intended to year 12 students). As such I would not have set foot in the craft, let alone attempted to travel four kilometres down to the Titanic. Tony Heathwood, Kiama Downs
Small creatures, massive threat
The infestation of fire ants, one of the world’s worse invasive species, around Brisbane has been cause of great alarm for years (“Looming fire ant invasion ‘worse than cane toads’“, June 24). Your report says we are on the brink of the infestation’s advance becoming unstoppable.
These horrible creatures will thoroughly change the Australian outdoor way of life. Gardening, picnicking, camping and other outdoor pursuits that Australians love doing might be perilous. For 3 per cent of the population they are life-threatening.
Our governments at every level have to take urgent action and eradicate this terrible scourge. It will be an ecological and human way of life tragedy otherwise. This is not a fanciful forecast – just look at other parts of the world where they have overrun. We must insist our governments to do much more and stop them right now. Peter Neufeld, Mosman
The invasion of fire ants is far beyond “looming”, and their eradication is just one small part of Australia’s massive invasive species problem: bee mites, deer, pigs, goats, lantana, rabbits, prickly pear, crown of thorns all need controlling actions as broad and expensive as for the fire ants. We are in a battle which politicians don’t want to know about because it’s not much of an announcement. Maybe only when pet dogs start being hospitalised or killed in large numbers will MPs act on this one. Barry Laing, Castle Cove
Rebel now a target
Now that Yevgeny Prigozhin has been given sanctuary in Belarus, soon there will no doubt be reports that his health is ailing as the goons put poison in his underpants (“Wagner chief agrees to halt advance on Moscow after striking deal with Putin”, smh.com.au, June 25). Lance Dover, Pretty Beach
The article on doubling or tripling the housing capacity for Sydney included the word “infrastructure” only once (“Triple play in density debate”, June 24). Apart from finding the space for all these new dwellings, are we also finding space for schools, sports fields and public aquatic centres? People need green space, not concrete. And I remember reading not all that long ago about the lack of trees in western Sydney – 16 primary schools apparently did not have a tree in their playgrounds. Does Mother Nature figure in these plans to upsize the city? I bet people from the city’s east and northern beaches gave your article nary a glance because they won’t be impacted – no chance of that. Genevieve Milton, Dulwich Hill
When governments don’t get the advice they want from public sector agencies, they remake them. The Coalition government created the Greater Cities Commission which improved analysis, but the Coalition still dictated where it wanted development, and the new Labor government does the same – in eastern rather than western Sydney. The infrastructure spend should be less, with more money devoted to government services and service providers.
Eighty per cent of the five-year dwelling target is in Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong – the base of Unions NSW-NSW Labor. Labor ensures its future by focusing on our mega-region, which will get the bulk of its spend. Peter Egan, Mosman
Bots copying us
ChatGPT and other AI have been discovered creating output which contains mistakes or fictitious content (“Lawyers fined over use of AI”, June 24). AIs research the internet and other sources. I wonder if they are just learning human behaviour. We have all seen people publish stuff on the web that is simply made up. Bob Liddelow, Avalon
I share concerns about the dehumanising effects of information technology described in the review of Richard King’s Here Be Monsters: Is Technology Reducing Our Humanity? (“Never mind progress, what about profit?”, June 25). My concern is that the online world increasingly reflects the incapacity of computers to experience empathy. We are forced to communicate with machines by typing details in boxes rather than by talking to a person, and responding to automated questions asked by an electronic processor that doesn’t care whether our answers are yes or no. Is it what our society wants or needs? Norm Neill, Darlinghurst
I am a pharmacist who owns and operates a small community pharmacy in a small semi-rural town in NSW where the next nearest pharmacy is over 20 kilometres away (Letters, June 25). In the late ’80s, I was young and keen and my parents mortgaged their house to allow me to borrow money (at 17 per cent) to purchase a pharmacy when the Hawke government similarly moved to make major changes to the PBS that would adversely affect the viability of pharmacies.
Unlike the present government, Hawke had the decency to work with the industry, offer a dignified exit for those who wished to take it and settled on a significant industry restructure that has delivered for the community. It’s hard to believe that some 35 years later, I am fighting the same battle.
For the record, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) does not subsidise pharmacies; it subsidises the cost of listed medications for the consumer. Pharmacies have no choice but to “bulk bill” the government for the cost of the medicines (after co-payments are made), and (unlike doctors) are not allowed to charge any more than the PBS-approved price. The government has control over how much we are paid for PBS medications.
The government has control over the number and location of pharmacies, and there are about the same number as 35 years ago. Dispensing prescriptions is the major source of income for most pharmacies (despite what it may look like) and in my case, about 85 per cent of the business. The PBS pays a flat fee to dispense PBS prescriptions, the cost of the drugs being basically irrelevant (and some cost in the thousands of dollars), so the only “variable” is the number of prescriptions dispensed. The maths is simple. The change to 60-day dispensing will cut the number of prescriptions dispensed by anything from 30-50 per cent, which will result in significant job losses for pharmacists, especially dispensing technicians, and fewer pharmacies. This is also not a win for consumers. Pensioners will take twice as long to qualify for the safety net scheme, and many non-pensioners will not reach the safety net, resulting in increased annual medication costs.
Pharmacists want recognition from the government that this is a major shock to the industry, that many will go under, and that the implementation of this policy needs to be made with some consultation to avoid a bloodbath. At present, the government refuses to engage in meaningful consultation with those most affected. When other industries undergo major restructures, it is normal to work with the affected businesses, offer retraining or alternate employment pathways. Why not this time? Tim Hewitt, Robertson
Time for a good bike ride across the bridge
Despite being a former resident of Kirribilli and Lavender Bay, it took me a while to realise the alleged heritage and aesthetic wonder of the world that will apparently be desecrated by a splendid and much needed bike ramp is poor, dull squalid old Milsons Point station and it’s sad little park rendered sunless half the day by the adjacent carbuncle of tower blocks (Letters, June 25). Methinks the locals need a good bicycle ride across the bridge to recalibrate their sense of beauty. Peter Fyfe, Enmore
“Why can’t cyclists continue to dismount?” asks your correspondent. Because my wife isn’t strong enough to walk her heavy electric bike up the existing steep ramp. The city is therefore inaccessible to her unless I’m cycling with her. And cycleways are built for safety reasons, not ideological ones.
Alex Kemeny, Naremburn
In his younger days our son, as a bicycle courier, crossed the Harbour Bridge multiple times a day and dismounting amounted to much more than a minor inconvenience. The so-called motza spent on cycleways is a drop in the ocean compared to that spent on motorways. Motorists speeding, running red lights and blocking pedestrian crossings are at epidemic levels in my neck of the woods and most seem willfully blind to their infringements. God speed to the cycleway l say. Graham Short, Cremorne
I have to say the proposed bicycle ramp for the harbour bridge looks perfect for skateboards. John Swanton, Coogee
I nominate your correspondent for the 2023 “Penny Farthing Award” for his views on cycleways. Michele Thomas, Mollymook Beach
The digital view
Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on smh.com.au
White hot: The political brawl that has Albanese losing his cool
From spiz: ″The Greens have been defining their relationship to Labor all along. It’s all they do. Meanwhile, essential housing is not being built. Just like the previous government.″
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