Letters to
the editor

Abbott policies not selling

Mike Seccombe clearly describes how we have a government that acts as if it believes “clear commitments”, delivered with enough conviction, will never be found to have been lies (“The $14.2 billion election fantasy”, July 11-17). But they are, and as a community we now sadly need to be ever watchful of weasel words that betray the real agenda: “not ... in this parliament” now means “we’ll get you later after you’ve voted us back”. Worse still, if that’s possible, Seccombe outlines the maze of inquiries aimed at making people think governing is really happening. In fact government is “deferred”, as he points out, an example being yet another taskforce to look at “how” (not when) to implement changes to mental healthcare. This after the release of a damning report the government sat on for months. In the interim though, policies are snuck in to disadvantage the vulnerable. For instance, proposed cuts to Medicare rebates, slated for January 2016. They will particularly burden the already burdened, the mentally ill among us. The taskforce, though, probably won’t look at how rebate cuts will reduce access to treatment. The real agenda is covering the government’s ineptitude in governing fairly. All it seems able to do, apart from encouraging us to be distracted and very afraid, is to introduce poor penny-pinching policies, under the radar. Is it not time to see the Abbott government, and this style of politics, as a failed experiment in marketing?

– Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA

Budget figures won’t add up

Mike Seccombe’s excellent analysis omits a doozy in an accounting trick with the earnings from the Future Fund. The heroic projections for growth in the last budget have been boosted by including the earnings from 2020-21 of the $117 billion Future Fund. Saul Eslake, economist, estimates that 31 to 56 per cent of the hoped-for surpluses from 2020 to 2026 are based on the earnings of the fund. The government cannot use these billions as they are reserved to pay for public servants’ pensions. The Future Fund of course rolls over its own earnings for reinvestment in the fund. The earnings are thus counted twice. The fund pays only fringe benefits tax and GST in Australia. The 2013-14 annual report shows close to 70 per cent of its investments are overseas, where it invests through 49 wholly owned tax havens, including 41 in the Cayman Islands and five in Luxembourg. The Coalition, which claims to be the superior economic manager, relies on double counting in its accounts and on tax havens to support its hoped-for surpluses.

– Bill Johnstone, Marrickville, NSW

Changing minds

May I quote John Milton: “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary.” Is it not a better thing that Australians are allowed to hear, and judge, Zaky Mallah, Nick Kyrgios or Dawn Fraser, than to be told that their voices are not fit for our ears? (The Week, July 11-17) Zaky showed himself to be a thoughtless and spineless creep – trounced by Grahame Morris who got no credit for the win. Nick showed himself to be a temperamental ratbag – I don’t care; he’s paid to play tennis, not to be Socrates. Dawn, dear, dear old Dawn – I really believe she was just trying to say that Nick wasn’t living up to standards of sportsmanship that she holds dear, and that she thinks of as especially Australian. She chose her words poorly, but her apology was unreserved and eloquent. Here’s the thing – of Grahame, Zaky, Nick and Dawn, only Grahame has proper training in public speaking, yet the headlines are filled with the ill-chosen words of the others, whom the twittocrats want to silence. Let us hear what is distasteful, let us confront it and confound it – then, with luck, we can debate, discuss, persuade and even change.

– Matthew Peckham, Brunswick, Vic

Refugee crisis a complex world problem

There is a problem with proposals by advocates such as Tony Windsor and John Blount (Letters, July 4-10), who advocate international structures for dealing with refugees humanely and settling them in countries of first asylum. It is the assumption that there will be refugees forever. No one seems willing to ask the question, “Why have over 40 million people been forced to leave their homes?” Unlike the problem following World War II, where the number of displaced people was known and finite, we are now faced with a continuing mass movement of people for which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its offspring, the 1951 Refugee Convention, were never designed. A remedy such as “turn back the boats” will ultimately be irrelevant. Repressive regimes extend from Zimbabwe to western China and their victims include Ndebele, Sudanese, Somalis, Palestinians, Iraqis, Tamils, Rohingyas, Uygurs and, of course, Syrians. An international organisation with the sole purpose of helping these victims – without punitive measures against the repressive perpetrators – is like treating people for burns while ignoring the arsonists.

– Peter Stamford, Wahroonga, NSW

Think before you type

If you’re going to write about the complex legal and moral aspects of sex work (Max Opray, “Legalising Sex Work”, July 11-17) then you need to dig deeper than clichés that seriously undermine your first paragraph – i.e., “… the profession so famously regarded as the world’s oldest”. This ugly description damns all women as whores from the dawn of civilisation, and therefore all women as worthy of our scorn, hatred and contempt. It’s one of the oldest pillars of misogynist thinking, patently false and serving only to reduce women to the status of chattels for ownership, sale or short-term hire. You don’t need a lecture on “rape culture” to point out that this fossil metaphor demeans all women.

– Lee Kear, Kambah, ACT

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 18, 2015.

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