On wowserism 

Peter Mathie writes: Re. “Crikey says: alcohol wowsers not helping public health” (yesterday). I love Crikey, and it would be fair to say that I read more of it than any of the other publications I subscribe to. I love your approach and that you mostly deal with people pretty fairly.

Now I know Michael Thorn isn’t a bloke you would expect to find dancing naked on a nightclub table, but wowser is just a wee bit harsh.

The report does draw the causal pathways to alcohol harm together and counts them toward statistical outcomes that are a little frightening. And although we might rather see reports that count the folk who drink 10 beers and then walk under a bus, this is very reasonable research, and it does warrant publication. We the punters can then make more informed choices before we decide what we’ll do with the rest of our time on planet earth.

I think there is more concern to be had in alcohol, though. Yesterday I attended a presentation by Carolyn Hartness, who was talking about foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Now that is truly frightening. The number of people who are being born in Australia with mild or severe disability as a result of alcohol use during pregnancy is not known. The number of people who have been misdiagnosed with other mental, cognitive and/or behavioural difficulties is also unknown. And the human and financial costs also remain unknown. If the experience in North America is anything to go by, we have a much greater problem than anybody is going to wave away with dismissive comments like those of Paul Evans from the wine industry.

It seems pretty clear that there are significant risks associated with the use of alcohol, it’s unfortunate that taking note of them challenge the financial aspirations of some and the social expectations of others but a straight-talking chronicle like Crikey could take that on!

Rebecca Barnett writes: It’s interesting the Crikey continues to emphasise its dislike of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education with statements such as “the public health lobby is becoming increasingly disconnected from the real world of Australians, who don’t view alcohol as akin to smoking (one of the goals of the public health lobby) and who have demonstrated they are capable of working out for themselves the right balance in what they consume”. Would Crikey be able to explain then, why there continues to be a high level of children in Australia born with foetal alcohol syndrome? Or at least commission an article about the negative effects of drinking while pregnant? This is an issue that many more Australians, including the white middle-class who think a drink with dinner is OK, need to be made aware of.

Gaza bears responsibility 

John Falconer writes: Re. “Israel struck first“. (Wednesday). Mike Robbo’s very long and very anti-Israel letter opens with an absolute outrageous comment — Israel hit Gaza first. He  does not say that Hamas has been indiscriminately launched  hundreds if not thousands of rockets against Israel over the last six months. He claims that once Israel launched a counter-attack on June 29, then all rockets launched by Hamas thereafter were in “self-defence”. That’s like saying on D-Day in June 1944 during World War II the Germans suddenly stopped being the aggressors and were from that time on acting in self-defence.

One can only get punched in the head for so long before you fight back.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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