Packer’s smoky empire
“What James Packer wants, James Packer tends to get” (Mike Seccombe, “The Crown prince of Sydney Harbour”, April 12-18). A prime example of this is Packer’s plan to allow smoking in his new Sydney casino – in defiance of workplace health and safety considerations and against the trend towards smoke-free workplaces elsewhere. Packer’s Crown claims smoking in an extensive area of its planned Barangaroo casino is “an economic necessity” to attract overseas gamblers. And the NSW government has caved in – even making overtures of weakening smoke-free rules at The Star. Crown has also persuaded the NSW branch of the union, United Voice, to sign an agreement accepting this “necessity” – though it will expose employees to health-endangering levels of smoke. Packer’s henchmen have bamboozled the union with talk of “state of the art” ventilation systems. Worldwide research has long discredited ventilation as a safe method of dealing with the problem – it would need the force of a tornado to replace the poisonous air fast enough. So rather than politely asking patrons to go outside to smoke, as they do in other workplaces, Packer will get what he wants – with casino employees the sacrificial lambs on the altar of his gambling profits.
– Stafford Sanders, Gladesville, NSW
Navy boats built to act
John Birmingham’s article (“The boats that really stopped”, April 12-18) perpetuates the myth that RAN vessel design and construction standards are higher than those for commercial vessels. The Navigation Act and its subordinate legislation have only ever prescribed minimum standards. Until the advent of computer-aided design it was common for merchant vessel owners to require that their vessel’s scantlings be 10 per cent above the regulatory requirements. The act has always included exemptions for vessels under the control of the minister for defence, which the RAN has used extensively. The exemptions are to allow lower standards, so naval architects can trade off weight for greater speed and/or range.
– John F. Simmons, Kambah, ACT
Worrying about jihadists a waste of time
Anthony Bubalo writes (“The new jihadists”, April 12-18) that “we should care” about the new jihadists being created in the Middle East, but I am left uncertain whom he means by “we”. Is that you and me, the average world citizen, or is it our governments? If it is the former, I feel there is precious little we can do. The Australian government ignored the people in 2003 over the invasion of Iraq, and the current one will do so again if the US says “jump”. If it is the latter, past efforts have simply made matters worse, and there is no consensus as to how to react. Replacing one noxious regime with a new one is no guarantee of less aggression, and more refugees are created with each conflict. Bubalo is long on warnings but short on suggestions.
– Rodney Syme, Toorak, Vic
Bye-bye to $300 million in car import tax
The media have flooded the public with two pieces of information recently that, when looked at closely, do not make sense. First, we have the “free trade agreement” with Japan and Australia dropping the 5 per cent import duty taxed on all imported cars from Japan. Fair enough.
Second, we have the repeated claims the budget will be a tough one, and every expense needs to be looked at and verified as being essential. So it appears the government is having difficulty balancing the books. However, when we look at the freely available statistics on the car industry, the value of imported cars from Japan in 2011 was about $6.2 billion. At a 5 per cent import duty, this equates to a whopping $300 million every single year. Which begs some questions. If things are so tough, can we afford to let go of this annual income? And if we do let it go, what taxes will be put in place to replace it? Is the public going to be taxed more to pay for the loss of this import duty? Are we really subsidising the car industry of another nation? We need to know.
– Rod Julian, Glenbrook, NSW
History littered with peace-mongers
Who could argue against searching for a visual and moral language for peace (Paola Totaro, “Peace Mission”, April 12-18)? Certainly not me, but I was surprised that Mary Zournazi said that peace sensibility and vocabulary were “largely absent from history” (as well as public debate).
What about those hugely influential figures from history (Christ, Gandhi, Mandela, to name a few) who showed that peace trumps violence – if you’re strong enough? True, peace isn’t newsworthy, and movies celebrating peace are always backlit by violence. And public debate is adversarial, at least in parliamentary democracies. So the search for peace images and language is worthy, but let’s also make the most of the peace-mongers of the past.
– Peter Greig, Murroon, Vic
Being called a ‘wog’ a badge of honour
In response to Con Vaitsas’s rant regarding racist behaviour (Letters, April 12-18), I was employed at Newcastle steelworks from 1957 to 1982. In that time there were thousands of displaced persons employed at the steelworks. These people built this country and I am privileged to have worked with them. Some of my oldest friends are of European descent and are proud of being involved in making this country what it is today. I do not know of one who was racially vilified during his time at Newcastle steelworks. To some, being called a “wog” is a badge of honour.
– Ross Taylor, Tea Gardens, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 19, 2014. Subscribe here.