Peter Dowding, former premier of Western Australia, writes:  Re. “Glencore, Xstrata and making a motza from emerging food panic” (Monday, item 4). What an absolute disgrace that Xtrata, a company operating in Australia, which owns 25% of the Lonmin platinum mine Marikana in South Africa, should permit the Lonmin company to use what amounts to slave labour to mine platinum.

That metal is sold on the world market, competing with the metal mined in places including the US, Canada and Russia.

It might look great on the profit-and-loss sheet to pay your workers $500 per month and provide no accommodation, just allow them to squat in vast slums for which the company pays nothing, but it is an appalling breach of human rights and amounts to exploitation of the worst kind.

Nike, Apple and other major international companies have been outed for their exploitation but Xtrata seems to slip under the radar.

Unions and governments should give publicity to the plight of the employees in South Africa and pressure Xtrata to take steps to end this disgraceful exploitation.

Lance Armstrong:

Neil Hunt writes: Re. “Armstrong, Pharmstrong, Livestrong: is the future strong?” (yesterday, item 14). Lance Armstrong may have won seven Tours de France, clean or not, but he won very little else and, as a result, cannot be considered the “world’s greatest cyclist”.

The cyclist considered the “world’s greatest” is a Belgian by the name of Eddy Merckx. He won five Tours de France, five Giro d’Italias, one Vuelta a España AND the points and mountain classifications of those races in some of the same years he won them. Merckx also won Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse (both shorter stage races), as well as the one day World Championship a record three times, as well as ALL of the Monuments on multiple occasions — Ronde van Vlaanderen, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix Giro di Lombardia and the Milan-San Remo. All in all, Merckx had 525 victories as a professional.

I admired Lance Armstrong when he came back to cycling, as I too had been ill (chronic fatigue and kidney disease for me) for a long time and recovered enough to get back to my own cycling, and he was an inspiration. Too many people have told too many tales about Armstrong using and abusing PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) for it not to be true, and a lifelong ban for him, and the others that helped him, is the least of the punishment he deserves.

Channel Ten:

Damian Lataan writes: Re. “Lach, stock and both barrels: who’s killing Channel Ten?” (yesterday, item 1). If the demise of Channel Ten means the end of the Bolt Report, then I’d be happy to see it go.

Which raises the next question … while she might be the richest woman, could one really recommend following Gina Rinehart’s investments into the media business? Everything she has touched for political purposes has turned to lead where it was once gold.

Smoking in Tasmania:

Denis Lenihan writes: Re. “Prohibition on Tasmania’s smoking speakeasies a bad idea” (Monday, item 12). Martyn Goddard’s analysis could do with more history and less hysteria.

He should consult the Wikipedia piece — with full references — entitled “Prohibition in the United States” where he will learn that far from failing, as he claimed, prohibition worked; “the consumption of alcohol overall went down by half in the 1920s; and it remained below pre-Prohibition levels until the 1940s.” It was the side effects, including the rise of organised crime, which were too hard to bear.

But it is ludicrous to claim a parallel, as Goddard does, between  US prohibition and Tasmanian prohibition, and that banning a substance the consumption levels of which are already falling will result in “a powerful and dangerous new pack of organised criminals”.