Giving up cigarette fight

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “Australians still smoke 21 billion cigarettes a year. Why?” (yesterday). As someone who has only ever smoked about a dozen cigarettes as a kid, who thoroughly dislikes the smell, and is delighted with the ban in pubs and restaurants, I say “enough”. We’ve done enough!

I know that smokers occupy hospital beds more frequently, but they could hardly be accused of not paying for it. No, wait, let’s ban cigarettes altogether, doubling a black market that shouldn’t be there for other drugs either.

Fact-checking the fact-checkers

Kevin Tyerman writes: Re. “Get Fact: will more expensive booze cut binge drinking?” (yesterday). Callum Denness, while fact-checking about whether price increases will reduce binge drinking makes the claim that “For all the concern about young people and cask wine, less than 1% of 20- to 29-year-olds actually drink it.” To back up this claim he has highlighted the figure of 0.9% of respondents in the age group, in a table titled “Favourite Drink Disaggregated by Age Group”. While it is the favourite drink of less than 1%, the figure does not indicate what percentage of 20-somethings “actually drink” cask wine. There is even a chance that some people in that age group would drink cask wine at times when they can’t afford their “favourite” drink.

It seems like a pretty shoddy way of backing up such a statement in any media article, doing so in a fact checking article surely undermines the credibility of the whole fact-checking exercise.A

Are the Solomon Islands sinking?

Bill Lambert writes: Re. “‘Now it is too late’: bracing for climate displacement in the Pacific” (yesterday). The Solomon Islands lie on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Pacific plate is subducting the Australasian / Filipino plate. Lateral tectonic plate movements of millimeters per year are normal; the Australian plate is moving northwards at some 55 mm per year.

It is not clear from the article whether or not the satellite measurement of ocean rise was measured against a datum on the Solomon Islands themselves, or some other reference point. It is possible that some of the additional “ocean rise” may actually be “island sink”, caused by tectonic plate movement. I am convinced that climate change is real, but not convinced that all “ocean rise” is a simple manifestation of the changing climate and temperatures.

On fighting for a cause

John Penny writes: Re. “We had to bring it in’: defending conscription, 50 years on“. I would have no objection to conscription if Australia were genuinely in danger; being 80 rather than 18 may have something to do with that! But Dr Forbes’ apologia for conscription makes it timely to review the lies told by his government at the time of the Vietnam War.

When my son and his wife recently visited Vietnam, they found it a friendly and decidedly capitalist state.  At the time of the war, we were told: “We have to stop them up there before they get down here.” I have news for Dr Forbes. We lost the war. We didn’t “stop them up there”, but they didn’t “get down here”.

Another piece of fiction was the “domino theory”. If Vietnam fell to the Communists, the other south-eastern nations would fall one by one. That didn’t happen either.

Then, there was the 1966 federal election. I have a vivid memory of a leaflet put in my letter box. It showed a map of east Asia, with a sinister Oriental figure above a red mass covering the whole of China. Red tentacles were reaching down to envelop Australia. I put the map on my fridge door, but upside down, as there is no reason for north always to be at the top of a map.

It was oddly reassuring, as gravity was no longer aiding The Reds in their downwards march to Australia. And of course, the new Vietnamese government within a year or two fought a border war against the Chinese.Vietnamwas if anything a buffer against supposed Chinese expansion.

Fear-based lies like those are the tools of trade of those eager to go to war. Or, more accurately, those eager to send young people off to war.

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Peter Fray
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