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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

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Smartcards are a Smart Idea

Let's face it: dealing with CentreLink, the Tax Office and Medicare is never going to be pleasant. But a lot can be done to improve the experience through simpler, more convenient and better co-ordinated services. The Government's smartcard proposal could go along way to reduce the endless form-filling and paper-shuffling while ensuring everyone gets their entitled benefits.

It is disappointing then that Liberty Victoria's president Brian Walters has attempted to pour cold water on the whole idea because "there is potential for Government authorities to misuse cross-referenced data" (The Age, 21/4).

How can Government authorities misuse information they've lawfully collected (without breaking pre-existing laws)? Why should people be able to tell one thing to CentreLink and another to the Child Support Agency?

I hope this is just rabid, knee-jerk techno-fear and not a smokescreen to protect tax avoiders, welfare cheats and "dead-beat dads". Liberty does not entail the right to lie.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

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While not downplaying the tremendous efforts of Professor Graeme Clarkson and others in developing the bionic ear (The Age, 12/4), it is worth noting the important supporting work undertaken by the research engineers and other boffins at the (then) Telecom Research Labs, in Clayton.

How terribly unfashionable. If it were to happen nowadays, it would have to be called the "Telstrear" and hearing would be billed at 18c for 30 seconds (with a 25c flagfall). Progress?


Monday, April 11, 2005

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Excess Baggage

Qantas is cutting corners on security and supervision. They were quick enough to slap on a "fuel levy" - so where's our "dodgy baggage-handler discount"?

Friday, April 08, 2005

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Government Doesn't Want Pokies Solution

Like any addict, our State Government is in denial about the damage gambling causes. Its dealers (the gambling companies) say the right things while continuing to profit. For example, Tattersalls' Managing Director Duncan Fischer said he doesn't want money from problem gamblers (The Age, 16/10/03) - but sadly it's out of his hands.

Here's a suggestion to remove the bulk of fraud, money laundering and problem gambling through a single measure: phase-out anonymous cash wagering and replace it with personalised smart-cards. Punters could set limits and track their own losses, the courts would have a paper trail to chase and researchers would have high quality data to use in policy development. More importantly, the industry could refuse wagers from problem gamblers at the point of sale, giving Mr. Fischer's empty platitude some teeth.

How are ideas like this to be explored without independent research? We can be sure a joint government-industry think-tank won't be looking at it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

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Bloody Idiot

There's an old Italian saying that it takes a village to raise a child. It seems it takes a football team to nurture that village's (bloody) idiot.