How courageous are our leaders?

It is difficult to understand how the state government, which supported a medically supervised injecting facility in Richmond just months ago, can be so implacably opposed to pill testing, if one chooses to accept that its decision is based upon an evidence-based, harm-minimisation approach to drug policy rather than isolated, inner-city electorate political expediency.

For more than half a century governments have aggressively pursued a disastrous and futile “war-on-drugs” policy platform which criminalises a health problem and ignores the reality of peoples’ choices to use drugs, just as they use alcohol, a regulated and taxed product, in Australia.

The refusal of Premier Andrews to even discuss the complexities of a proposal for pill-testing legislation seems symptomatic of a reflexive view of drug use as a simple law and order issue, rather than a complex public health emergency. This is disappointing coming from a self-proclaimed progressive leader.

Pill testing specifically and drug reform more generally is an election issue that will define how courageous our leaders are.

As with the issue of the safe injecting room, Daniel Andrews has parliamentary support and a comprehensive policy template in the Greens proposals for a harm minimisation approach to drugs, substance use and addiction.

If only he could find the requisite courage to set aside toxic political animosity for the sake of better community health and safety.

Michelle Goldsmith,



Truth on penalty rates

I refer to the article “MP takes on penalty cuts” bemoaning the loss of penalty rates (Bendigo Weekly, January 4). Why does Lisa Chesters misrepresent the facts?

She knows as well as I that it was not the government who legislated for those cuts – it was the Fair Work Commission.

And who appointed the members of the commission? The ALP. The government simply refused to intervene to overturn the independent umpire’s decision.

Shall we consider the historical facts about cuts to penalty rates. Who was the only union leader to negotiate removal of penalty rates from employment bargaining agreements?

Who was the only employment minister to sign off on EBAs which removed penalty rates – her boss – Shorten in both cases.

She tries the “we will enshrine it in legislation that penalty rates cannot be removed” argument. Anything which is enacted can be repealed at a later time.

Is this the new Medi-scare for the next election? Is this the level of tampering with the truth that we are to expect from Ms Chesters and her party?

If they want respect for politicians, they should start telling the truth to constituents.

Glen Rieschiek,

White Hills


Lack of character

I refer to the opinion piece by Pat Horan in the Bendigo Weekly, January 4 which, in my opinion, paints a neat canvas for social justice and I agree that faith in democracy is declining for all the reasons outlined by the author.

I would also add that our confidence is being eroded by the lack of sound character in many of our elected representatives and this has much to do with the process of preselection of candidates available .

It is far too infrequent to hear a politician speak about his/her constituents and far too common to hear about “the party”, so one has to wonder whether democracy as we practise it is indeed compatible with a fair and just society.

As Mr Horan points out, the gap between the richest and poorest continues to widen, however nothing occurs to address the issue.

Politicians get nice plump remuneration increases, public servants are well provided for as they serve their masters, many publicly listed corporation’s CEOs are paid salaries that equate to a tradesman’s lifetime wages or more but a stroll through Bendigo will require you to look away if you don’t want to see exactly what that gap leaves in its wake.

Education is available in accordance with social class, health and dental care likewise and the physically, emotionally and mentally disabled can wait in line as well; even an individual’s safety and security is for sale.

That we can seek a better deal through our political system doesn’t seem to be working too well because there are far too many in politics who lack the capacity to govern themselves, let alone the country, as a review of exposed recent scandals will reinforce.

The NDIS remains incredibly difficult for many without advocacy, the sexual abuse redress scheme is a train wreck created by many compromised politicians and quite a few refuse to abide by their own professed code of conduct.

The issues surrounding energy policy and climate change appear to be dictated by “know-alls” on radio and print according to what support and exposure they will provide to the politicians who tow the line in accordance with populist audiences or readers.

Back to Pat Horan’s opening line in the opinion piece “Australian’s faith in democracy is declining” and he/she is dead right.

Only a return to principled representation will address that decline in my opinion but that sadly doesn’t appear likely in the short term.

Stephen Colbert,


Diesel prices inequitable

Recently the relative price of automotive diesel has been raised and set at about 15 cents to 18c per litre higher than petrol.

The reason for this a mystery, but probably reflects the European decision to phase out diesel cars because of the particles and nitric oxide in their exhausts.

Buying a diesel car as I did was formerly promoted because of lower carbon dioxide emissions from the more efficient diesel engines.

Other long-term environmental impacts of diesels which help mitigate global warming are these very emissions.

The particulates assist “global dimming”, and the oxides of nitrogen are washed out of the atmosphere as nitrates and thus fertilise the soil, promoting photosynthesis.

The two pollutants are disadvantages only in the city, where high concentrations in the ambient air are detrimental to health.

Once again country residents and farmers are unequally penalised, and there is no justification for the price differential to be applied in rural areas.

Brian Stanmore,



100 day challenge

While applauding the concept of a new year’s resolution, the reality is that by the second, third or fourth week of January, many people will struggle to keep the commitments they have made to themselves to improve their own health and wellbeing and, by extension, that of their loved ones.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case for those in our community wanting to change their relationship with gambling

The 100 Day Challenge has been designed with the assistance of experts in therapeutic services to provide practical, effective support to people seeking to take a break from gambling, reduce the amount of time and/or money they spend, or quit permanently.

The program offers participants 100 recreational activities as alternatives to gambling, over 100 days, and encourages them to set and track progress against their own goals.

It includes a range of tools, tips and advice, and features a highly engaged online community where participants share their experiences.

The 100 Day Challenge is available in app and web-based formats, ideal for people who cannot easily access mainstream services and those who want to make a change without seeking formal help or to maintain anonymity.

If you’d like to join the more than 4000 Victorians who have already signed up for the 100 Day Challenge, visit

Janet Dore,
Interim CEO, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation