Murray-Darling Basin:

WA farmer Colin Ross writes: Re. “Murray Murmurings: it’s no wonder rural people are angry” (Friday, item 3). As a fellow farmer, I can sympathise with David Furphy. Over here in the west we are having one of the driest seasons ever.

However, he destroys his whole argument by quoting a comment from the Griffith meeting that “It’s taken us 100 years to build this district and you give us 16 weeks for consultation, it’s a disgrace”.

It has been obvious for many years that the Murray-Darling basin was in trouble, and something needed to be done. The people most likely to be affected should have prepared a plan to deal with it years ago.

Judy Oborn writes: I would dearly like to ask all the angry irrigators what they want. Are they proposing that water be cut from all regions except theirs? Or are they proposing that no water be cut and the rivers be damned?

No-one doubts that the cuts will be devastating for farmers, their families, their communities and to a lesser extent the rest of Australia. But what are we to do? When I was in primary school in the late 1970s, we were taught that the Murray River was dying. Will the river survive another 30 years of business as usual?

What will happen to the farmers, their families and their communities if the river actually does die?

George Hawthorne writes: Re. “Panicky govt will stuff up the river and any other reform it tries” (Friday, item 2). That story by Bernard Keane is ridiculous. It is not the Government but the press who screw the message.

An independent body puts out their recommendations and suddenly the press report on every word that is spoken in opposition to it. Not one word is written about the benefits of the plan but all the negatives are headlined and the Government blamed.

The opposition members become champions for the cause and needed reform is lost. The farmers and others who are protesting need to accept reform or nature will do it for them. It was only a few years ago that drought brought them to their knees and they had no water and had to be saved by the taxpayer.

Bernard Keane should start assisting the government with at least an attempt at an unbiased report on what will happen if reform is not forthcoming.

The Singapore dollar:

Glen Frost writes: Re. “Singapore dollar move echoes dilemma facing RBA” (Friday, item 1).  It’s all very well to praise Singapore — after all, decisions are so much easier when you don’t have a pesky democratic Government to worry about. Please do not compare a central bank in a country like Australia to Singapore’s Government and Central Bank, where everyone is either a relative or old school buddy of the ruling family. By the way, Singapore has a house price bubble and illegal immigrants are sent to jail, so some things are similar.

Interestingly, Singapore has got a nice new casino (financed by the Americans), which locals pay S$100 to enter (Tony Abbott would no doubt call it a “great big new tax on everybody”). Luckily, us foreigners get in free.

In another demonstration of how the Singapore Government controls everything, if a member of your family has a “gambling problem” you can get them banned from the casino — how would Mr Packer lobby against that ?

Phylli Ives writes: Wouldn’t it be simpler for the RBA to revalue (downwards) the Australian dollar?

Tobacco:

John Band writes: Re. “BAT set to spook politicians on black-market tobacco” (Friday, item 13). While Simon Chapman’s main point – that copying branded packs is no obstacle for illegal tobacco sellers — is definitely right, I’m not sure about his argument from personal incredulity (i.e. “if illegal tobacco were easy to get hold of, then the cops would know about it too and arrest everyone, so it wouldn’t be easy to get hold of”) holds.

In London, even a casual smoker can get hold of a packet of illicitly imported cigs in no time — they’re sold under-the-counter in a huge number of neighbourhood shops, as well as by dodgy men in pubs. The police don’t do very much about this, partly because they’ve got r-pes and murders and robberies to solve, and partly because illicit imports are seen as Customs’ problem.

Australia almost certainly has lower levels of illicit cigarette sales than the UK, because it’s not in a customs union that allows the unlimited personal import of cigarettes from 24 other countries that have much lower cigarette prices. But the suggestion that if it was easy to get cigarettes illegally, the cops would find out and stop everyone is a little naive.

(It’s also interesting, if not surprising, that BAT is pretending the main issue in black-market cigarettes is counterfeiting. It isn’t – it’s illegal import from low-tax countries, a trade to which the big tobacco companies have generally turned a blind eye).

Vaccination:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Unpicking myths about childhood vaccinations” (Friday, item 16). Dr Julie Leask is right that the majority of parents support vaccination. But there are plenty who support vaccination in principle, but who refuse to vaccinate their children with vaccines containing mercury.

Until mercury is totally eliminated from vaccines, many parents will decide the risk is too great. Now, I know the amount of mercury is minuscule, and I have heard that it is lower than normal environmental exposure. But I also know that mercury is not essential to the effectiveness of vaccines.

It’s the impression that’s important: as Leask says, decisions are not always wholly rational.

Peter Fray

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