Letters to
the editor

Remember injustices on our soil

News of the judicial killing in Indonesia of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “Inside the fight to save Bali pair”, May 2-8) gives pause for thought about whether life without parole may in fact be a harsher punishment than the death penalty. Of the Bali Nine prisoners, Chan and Sukumaran were sentenced to death while two others, including Martin Stephens, have life sentences. Stephens wrote to The Australian and said he would rather be shot than spend the rest of his life in prison. Who could blame him? Spending the rest of your life behind bars without any opportunity for parole would send most people insane. In a first world country such as Australia the cruelty is amplified by the lack of any opportunity for the rehabilitation of life prisoners. No art studios for prisoners Down Under. Visits from journalists are banned, so no humanising television pictures. New South Wales has an especially harsh regime for life prisoners at least since 1990 when life under the Greiner Coalition government became life without parole. Of the 58 prisoners serving life without parole in NSW, none will see daylight beyond their cells for more than an hour or two each day. In the Goulburn Supermax, you get to play basketball, but only two players at a time. As we beat our breasts over the appalling injustices of the Indonesian legal system, it is worth placing on record that there are plenty of prisoners in NSW jails who would relish the opportunity of death by firing squad. One act of gruesome judicial cruelty in the form of the death penalty is bad enough, but relentless day-after- day cruelty with no possibility of reprieve is, for many prisoners, far worse.

– Peter Breen, Byron Bay, NSW

Bird’s plight needs response

Thank you, James Norman, for the compassionate article about far north Queensland’s endangered cassowaries (“A case for worry”, May 2-8). How ironic (and tragic) it will be for people and the rainforest if the Cassowary Coast mayor Bill Shannon’s throwaway line, “I certainly don’t want to be the mayor of the ‘Extinction Coast’ ”, became a reality. Unless Shannon and councillors adopt some of the recommendations put forward by people such as Liz Gallie and the Djiru people for the more effective restraint of unsupervised domestic dogs, illegal clearing of cassowary habitat, etc, Aboriginal people will be adding this iconic bird to the long list of losses to their unique rainforest culture.

– Ruth Lipscombe, Innisfail, Qld

Business rents of concern

Mike Seccombe has produced a scathing indictment of the housing industry and its impact on home buyers (“Negative gearing’s social carnage”, May 2-8). But there are even more problems that should be aired, not least of all the developer-related corruption. Higher land prices also deter business investment. It was the low cost of land that sparked the IT revolution in Ireland and a housing bubble that killed it. Along with higher house prices are increasing rents, which while causing distress to renters also creates havoc in commerce and industry. Commercial rentals in Australia are some of the world’s highest and almost four times that of the US equivalent. Australia has a terrible record of small business failures, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that 44 per cent of small companies failed in four years, on average 44 a day, a feature certainly exacerbated by the burden of leasing costs. This adversely impacts on our international competitiveness and reduces employment, while increased costs are passed on to the consumer.

– Don Owers, Dudley, NSW

Positive about abolition

I’m the owner of two residential investment properties, and I’d love to see negative gearing abolished. Both are positively geared, meaning I’m paying tax on the net income. If abolishing negative gearing pushes up rent, I’ll be happier, because I’d be receiving extra money.

Although I doubt it would happen. Rents are determined by supply and demand. If some investors sell their properties, reducing the supply of rental properties, presumably they’ll be selling to current renters, reducing the demand for rentals, too. And if rental prices fall, new investors would need lower rents to make the investment worthwhile.

– Wayne Robinson, Kingsley, WA

Drilling into the numbers

To attempt a quasi-mathematical analysis of what it is the parliamentary Labor party is committed to and prepared to fight for is fraught, if the algorithm is designed around concepts such as factions, Left and Right (Sophie Morris, “ Factional calculus”, May 2-8). A much better algorithm on which to construct analysis needs to be based on real people and an understanding of how they exert their power. Let’s posit this hypothesis. In a federal system of government, excluding the territories, the ALP consists of six state parliamentary parties, one federal parliamentary party, and one extra parliamentary party. The extra parliamentary party is composed of all of the leaders of unions affiliated to the ALP and is responsible for candidate selection. The power of each union leader in the extra parliamentary party is directly related to member numbers. Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association leader Joe de Bruyn thus has the greatest say in determining who should represent the ALP in the parliament. It is said, without evidence, that 10 members of the federal caucus owe their positions to de Bruyn. An analysis of the political thylacine that is the ALP, extinct but still the subject of occasional sightings, should be based on real variables, real people, the union leaders who make up this shadowy extra parliamentary party.

– Brian Sanaghan, West Preston, Vic

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 9, 2015. Subscribe here.