Stop shirking responsibility: silicosis epidemic is avoidable

Letter writers found it “incomprehensible” that workplace silicosis could still occur in NSW, and asked who should be held responsible. Also, while SBS continued to be criticised for ill-timed ads in movies, the ABC was also in the firing line for bombarding its listeners with promos. Pat Stringa, Letters editor

Ken Parker, 47, has his lung capacity measured after contracting silicosis.

Ken Parker, 47, has his lung capacity measured after contracting silicosis.Credit:Steven Siewert

A few years back, young workmen in my then apartment had to grind some kind of stone needed for the job they were doing (“Revealed: the bench tops killing our young tradies”, February 20). I noticed none wore masks. I asked the supervisor why they weren’t because I was concerned about … and, as I searched for the word, he said, “silicosis”. So, he knew. He said the masks were in the truck. I said they should be wearing them. He smiled and shrugged. It wasn’t about profit; the masks had been supplied. It was about bothering, taking responsibility, and ensuring your staff wore masks, even if they hated wearing them. Now, I wonder about the futures of those young, fit, skilled, friendly, blokes – and all the others. Jennifer Fergus, Croydon

It is incomprehensible that workplace silicosis could have occurred in NSW in this day and age. It’s assumed that dusty workplaces, regardless of the cause, would have adequate ventilation and protective equipment for workers. It’s also assumed that SafeWork NSW would be super vigilant when it comes to workplace safety and that it would be uncompromising in enforcing safety requirements. Inevitably, some requirements necessitate immediate attention, even if they affect a company’s ability to operate. It’s a tragedy that these workers were left unprotected from this deadly disease for so long. Graham Lum, North Rocks

The question is, has the regulator SafeWork NSW been captured by the industry as is so often the case? Greg Baker, Fitzroy Falls

This terrible situation also highlights how small government may cost less in taxes, but more in lives. When governments are shrunk, it’s usually departments responsible for business compliance that are downsized. Anne Matheson, Gordon

Tragically, company profit is more important than the health of its workers. Silicosis exposure follows the same pattern as asbestos exposure. My father died from mesothelioma, yet the lethal dangers of asbestos were forgotten due to company profit. John Cotterill, Kingsford

Fashions come and these days, they don’t go. Anything that comes into fashion stays. I have clothes that are 10 years old and they are perfectly still in fashion. So, why not bring back the fashion for timber bench tops? They look great, even greater with age, and can be sourced from sustainable hardwood. Win-win all around. Genevieve Milton, Dulwich Hill

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John ShakespeareCredit:

Some things don’t change. My grandfather died of silicosis after a long illness in 1929. He inhaled rock dust while working on inadequately dampened crushers at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie in WA. X-rays revealed flecks of metal on his lungs. Geoff Black, Caves Beach

As bad as the silicosis epidemic from engineered stone is, there is an even bigger killer that almost no-one ever wants to talk about, and that is disease and premature death resulting from burning fossil fuels.
Numerous studies have estimated that thousands of people die prematurely in Australia every single year due to air pollution, about half of which is caused by vehicle tailpipe pollution. Living near a coal-fired power station or a coal mine is another major risk factor.
It’s a national scandal, and yet no politician wants to talk about it. Renewable energy is essential not only to tackle the climate crisis, but also the health crisis from fossil-fuel induced respiratory illness and death. Brendan Jones, Annandale

Ads on ABC just as bad as on SBS movies

It’s not just SBS (“SBS loses the plot with ill-timed ads in movies”, Letters February 20). ABC TV and radio pride themselves on not having commercial ads but bombard us with internal promos and ads for their own products, with only one promo per program endlessly repeated like drip-torture. The dumbing down of the once great classical music station Classic FM continues with it now being a type of talk radio and an inexplicable obsession with “the text line” where Betty Blockbuster of Bondi tells us she loved the Beethoven. Edward Grieve, Woolloomooloo

For decades one could play ABC Classic as a calming influence before bed. I gave that up when, even close to midnight, there would be some loud, screeching promo for some other program. It seems so many of the promos are done by people who sound as if they’re on speed.

TV too. Watch a thought-provoking, poignant program and within milliseconds of the credits rolling there’s the inevitable nails-on-blackboard voice shrieking some inane rubbish such as “Betcha didn’t see that coming”. They then go on to let us know that some other program has yet another “explosive” ending.

The infantile and grating quality of so many of the promos is a true insult to the audience and to the makers of so many of the programs. Peter Thompson, Grenfell

OMG, people really watch movies on SBS (Letters, February 20)? I had no idea masochism was so widespread. I love SBS; we watch World News at 6.30pm religiously. The format is great: 15 minutes of Earth-shattering event coverage, then a few minutes of respite – always after a news item is finished and before the new item comes on. It makes the earthquakes, fires and floods bearable (just). But ad breaks in movies? Why subject yourself to that torture? I understand: apparently there are movies on offer you can’t see anywhere else. Tough. Carsten Burmeister, Mosman

Ads breaking up SBS movies? Come on! TV watchers know that ads have higher production values than art house schmaltz dubbed from Scandinavia-noir, and are more fun to watch.
The ads should win the Oscars and usually elevates any existential angst flick it interrupts. Ivan Head, Burradoo

During his time as PM, John Howard defunded SBS.

During his time as PM, John Howard defunded SBS.Credit:Eddie Jim

Those criticising SBS for its disruptive mid-film ads are right to do so, but the real devil here is, wait for it, John Howard, who de-funded SBS, forcing it to run these obnoxious ads in order to survive.
A little fairness, please. Ian Lewis, Kentucky

The Coalition’s well-known contempt and relentless demand for efficiency dividends from cultural institutions such as the ABC, SBS, the National Gallery, the National Archives and the National Library has resulted in a decade of systematic budget cuts that now compromise the very functioning of these vital cultural institutions. While the public sector efficiency dividend was initiated by a federal Labor government, the Coalition imposed far more draconian impositions for cultural institutions, with the predictable exception of the Australian War Museum which has had millions of dollars thrown at it for renovations. In the Coalition’s view, our cultural heritage has no intrinsic value and must pay for its own survival. Bruce Spence, Balmain

The SBS Charter states that its mission is to “inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society”. Obviously, filmmaker Julia Leigh and letter writers are far from being entertained by the way that movies are being butchered by SBS with the insertion of incessant commercials. SBS management should fulfil the “entertain” aspect of its Charter and remove all commercials from movies. John Payne, Kelso

Not content with tearing asunder the integrity of the films it screens with crassly excessive advertising, SBS can also inflict on the benighted viewer some truly weird subtitling. Ducks cheep, wind squeaks, waves patter and malapropisms thunder across the screen as subtitlers savagely rewrite the English language. I love its film and television offerings but please SBS, have a heart! Alison Stewart, Riverview

An intermission during a movie would be handy though – just so I can top up my wine glass and check out the contents of the fridge. Alicia Dawson, Balmain

Get over the trivialities. SBS is free, has an enormously diverse range of content, and it gives you a countdown on when the ads will finish, allowing you to get a cup of tea. Tim Schroder, Gordon

More literary rewrites required after Roald Dahl changes

I’m so pleased to see that Puffin Books have made an effort to correct Roald Dahl’s politically incorrect word choices (“Never a Dahl moment: books change for the modern age”, February 20). There is so much work to do in this area. Last week I went to see Don Giovanni. Even though the Don’s life was held up as an example of immorality, I was still quite offended by his misogyny as well as the extreme stupidity of the women in his life. Rewrite, please. And while we’re at it, I’ve always been offended by the racial stereotyping in a lot of Shakespeare, particularly The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare is definitely due for a rewrite. And please don’t get me started on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Helen Watkins, Hawks Nest

It is absurd to overhaul Roald Dahl’s books to match modern sensitivities. Decades after his death, Dahl’s books are the firmest of favourites with children, their parents and their teachers. He remains one of the best-selling children’s authors of all time and that is due, in no small part, to his descriptive and innovative use of language. Replacing the word “fat” with the word “enormous” does not make obesity more acceptable. Changing a witch, disguised as a cashier, into a top scientist does not make the character any more or less admirable. Removing words, such as “black” and “white” from Dahl’s work, so that characters can no longer wear a black cloak or turn white with fear is more than censorship; it is vandalism. Who wants to read a weirdly sanitised version of The Witches, The Twits, The BFG or Matilda to their youngsters? Maybe, we should purchase our unedited Dahl collections while we still can. Irene Buckler, Glenwood

Be afraid, Tim Minchin, be very afraid. Jenny Stephenson, Wollongong

Tim Minchin, who wrote Matilda the Musical Story based on the Roald Dahl book with some of the show’s stars.

Tim Minchin, who wrote Matilda the Musical Story based on the Roald Dahl book with some of the show’s stars.Credit: Brendan Esposito

We need more “manias”

An estimated $63 billion to build three new metro lines in Sydney – it’s a relief to know that this price tag includes the already constructed Metro Northwest (“Former rail boss decries misuse of funds”, February 20). Dr Dick Day calls it “Metro mania”. How nice would it be to have a bout of “affordable and social housing mania”, accompanied by some “building new public schools in areas of need mania”, topped off with a “let’s support hospitals and schools in the rest of NSW mania”. Wake up NSW, time to call the mania makers to account. Barbara McKellar, Dulwich Hill

Day has drawn attention to the state government’s obsession with metro-style lines. These seem to be based on someone riding in some of London’s older and small-sized underground trains and excitedly bringing their experience back here. As Sydney showed the world how to engineer electric double-deckers, now adopted by many European urban railways, it seems strange that this government is determined to build small-scale lines which cannot accommodate existing trains or passenger capacity. This government loves to make infrastructure splashes on the news, but will these projects be beneficial in the long run? And there is the small matter of maintaining what we already have. Donald Hawes, Peel

The time for action is now

Sean Kelly’s thoughtful and accurate analysis of the federal government’s approach to righting the wrongs of the previous government, hint at us wanting a little more (“Method in Albanese’s gladness”, February 20). Making up for the accrued wrongs of arguably the worst government in our history has been a large task. It is refreshing to have ministers actually doing their jobs and real change does take time. I agree with Kelly that climate change, the biggest threat of our times, needs more action. Small target politicians and their journalistic acolytes will continue to obfuscate and misdirect. Kelly’s exhortation to the government to move past the backward-looking yardstick of the Morrison government’s failings is timely and the opportunity to do more is upon us. Geoff Nilon, Mascot

Kelly rightly highlights the government’s disappointingly limp “safeguards” mechanism climate policy and sees it as a Labor test for The Greens. As the policy is a reincarnation of a previous Coalition policy, the real question must be why the Coalition are not supporting the policy? More than anything, it accentuates the complete irrelevance of the current Coalition, who seem to believe that being in opposition means opposing anything and everything, from The Voice to their own previous policies. Alan Marel, North Curl Curl

No consistency from Elliott

In his attempt to return to the state parliament from which his party’s factions dumped him last year, David Elliott is quite happy to prevent Melanie Gibbons from gaining a seat in the upper house.(“Dumped Elliott makes his case for a comeback”, February 20). Is this the same David Elliott who came out swinging in December last year demanding more seats for women stating: “We’ve got to make sure it’s very clear to women that they have a serious role in the political process.” So much for consistency. Tony Brownlow, Glebe

Officials bottom of the class

Offering increased pay to a small group of teachers will not solve the ongoing issues related to the current education system (“Teachers offered $4000 enticement”, February 20). Apart from the financial and time costs to achieve “HALT” accreditation, many teachers then use this qualification to gain promotion via merit selection to administrative positions away from face-to-face teaching. Ongoing government funding will also guarantee that there will be a limit on the number of staff able to gain this position resulting in the creation of an “us and them” environment in schools.
It is now time for the government and educational bureaucrats to stop listening to the same old “experts” and to start talking to the hundreds of very successful and experienced teachers who have left the system in the past 10 years. Bruce Cuneo, Mortdale

Proceed with caution

There have been a lot of emotive comments about the Voice but we need to
take a step back and look at facts not emotions. Constitutions need to
be amended with care. When the American forefathers put “a right to bear
arms” in their Constitution only muskets and swords were available.
They could not envisage the variety of arms available today.
That being said, we need to legislate a Voice to parliament, but it should
not be embedded in our Constitution. Barry O’Connell, Old Toongabbie

Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

Illustration: Cathy WilcoxCredit:

Lowe wrong about savings

Ross Gittins is correct that the Reserve Bank has shown no interest in the price gouging and increasing profit margins of oligopolies (“The worry the RBA doesn’t want to tell us about”, February 20). In fact, Philip Lowe even dismissed this idea by saying it was increased consumer demand that was driving the massive price increases. Lowe also believes that every Australian has a massive amount of savings they intend to spend on discretionary items, ready to drive up inflation. Nothing could be further from reality. Clearly, as Gittins suggests, the business people that make up the Reserve Bank board are happy to allow the unfettered profiteering of oligopolies and only blame workers trying for wage increases as the cause of inflation. Mark Berg, Caringbah South

Lowe is not Merlin and can only make educated guesses about what the future holds (Letters, February 20). I am quietly confident that his guesses are better than mine and most of your readers.
Greg Phillipson, Aranda (ACT)

Housing crisis has different cause

Your correspondent forgets that during the three years of COVID lockdowns Australia’s population did not grow at all, yet housing prices went through the roof – indeed several roofs (Letters, February 20). Soon after opening up to immigration, prices started dropping. Clearly, population growth is not the cause of the housing crisis. Andrew Taubman, Queens Park

Mourning the Bobbseys

Robyn Lewis, how fortunate that you have kept all your childhood books (Letters, February 20). My treasured set of the Bobbsey Twins books was inadvertently thrown out when I was 14 and I was, and still am, distraught. I often look for sets on eBay. Such happy childhood memories, thank you. Chris Sinclair, West Pennant Hills

I’m with your correspondent in her dilemma. I, too, am in a bind, of the bookish kind. I have books, many are classics, which I cannot take with me. Alas, with the growth of digital usage, there seems to be a corresponding decline in demand for printed material, aka books. More’s the pity. Pasquale Vartuli, Wahroonga

My Oxford-educated, slightly eccentric English brother-in-law catalogues his extensive library of books in order by the year they were published. He can locate any book readily. Dale Bailey, Five Dock

The melody lingers on

I also went to a preview performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (“A nostalgic romp of biblical proportions”, February 20). I’d never seen it before and was unfamiliar with the music and came away thinking that it was a weird story. I agree with the reviewer the lyrics are close to banal. But, of course, the genius of Andrew Lloyd-Webber means I just can’t get those melodies out of my head. Lisa Clarke, Watsons Bay

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is in Sydney this month.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is in Sydney this month.Credit:Daniel Boud

The digital view

Online comment from one of the stories that attracted the most reader feedback yesterday on
The worry the Reserve Bank doesn’t want to tell us about
From Open to change: ″⁣The double standard in Australia: decades have been spent destroying worker collectivity to influence wages, while big business gets bigger and able to influence prices by reducing competition.″⁣

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Callan Tansill

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