Role of banks needs examination
Your editorial, “Bank maraud” (April 9-15), did well to parse Malcolm Turnbull’s address to a banking luncheon as “wet lettucing” rather than “excoriation” as reported elsewhere. Your support for a banking royal commission was based on the fact that the sector is huge, scandal prone, close to government, and of great import to people’s lives. Yet the focus on unethical and criminal behaviour obscures the big story of an industry whose role in society has become parasitic. The finance sector is considered a partial cause of “secular stagnation” – the global sluggishness of economic growth post-GFC. An industry whose purpose is supposedly the efficient allocation of capital has expanded to such an extent that it has become a handbrake on productive investment, a drag on growth. Yet the treasurer, who worships the deity of economic growth, called a royal commission into the banks a “reckless distraction” that risked undermining confidence. The converse is likely true.
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
Political climate could change, too
The Delusional Conservatives (Paul Bongiorno, “Masters of delusion” April 9-15) have much to answer for, not least of which is the dropping of a price on carbon. In his book Why Are We Waiting?, Nicholas Stern made pointed reference to this: “Australia’s conservative government, under the prime ministership of Tony Abbott, has repealed the carbon pricing scheme introduced by the former Labor government and plans to replace it with a so-called “direct action plan” that has been nearly universally derided by experts as ineffective, inefficient and inequitable; and the government is promoting the large-scale expansion of Australia’s coal exports”. With the Queensland government’s approval of mining leases so Adani’s Carmichael coal project can proceed, it is evident Delcons not only control policy decisions within the federal Coalition, but also in Queensland’s Labor government. As Australia’s politicians continue to ignore coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, or the devastation caused by cyclone Winston in Fiji, one can only hope climate change will be one of the main issues in this year’s federal election, and a number of these Delusional Conservatives will be deservedly swept out of office into irrelevance.
– David Nash, Manly, NSW
Tax lesson in Panama Papers
I used to teach accounting and taxation in my economics classes and I remember one iron law of taxation: you pay it in the country where the income is earned. Rich individuals, companies, transnationals and politicians break this law every time they use tax havens. It is not true that they have broken no laws – there are laws of morality and ethics. Many high-income earners fail to carry their share of taxation. If this is not bludging then someone has changed the meaning of that word. As Hamish McDonald so tellingly puts this (“Rich and famous left to wear Panama hack”, April 9-15), “having a tax-haven company or two” can never be acceptable when hospitals, schools and transport infrastructures are so poorly funded.
– Greg McKenzie, Chatswood, NSW
A nightmare narrative on Nauru
Martin McKenzie-Murray’s article (“Wilson Security’s appalling record on Nauru”, April 9-15) covered the alleged beating of children on Nauru by a private company paid by us. Some politicians cling to a limited narrative of “saving lives at sea” to cloak true evil. Evidence is overwhelming that lives are being damaged by purging policy of humanity and decency. Costs of offshore detention are about $5 billion a year when we have not enough for aged care and healthcare. Australia is refusing tried options enabling fast security and health checks and quicker release preferring warehousing of people fleeing harm. Governments are paying vast sums to private companies and dumping people on Pacific countries in true colonial form. How is breaking up families, abuse of children, the destruction of hope, loss of identity a policy solution to anything? Neither political party wants to be less harsh than the other, passing laws enabling cruelty and circumventing humanity. I lose sleep over it, do you?
– Dr Liz Curran, Australian National University
Following Tasmania’s voting lead
I agree with Jim Middleton (“Taking proportions”, April 9-15) that the voting process in the house of representatives needs to be reformed. The house – as envisaged by our constitution – was not a party-based system. In fact it was based on each member reflecting the views of their particular electorate. It was captured by the party system because parties could better organise the cultivation of votes. To reform voting of the house of representative, I would go to Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system. Here each electorate is intended to represent the same population size and, moreover, have a fixed number of members per electorate. By having multiple members for each electorate, the voting intentions of the electorate are better represented and this also allows for a greater possibility that individual members may be selected based on their personal attributes and policies rather than merely as the sole nominee of a political party. It would return our lower house voting system to what was originally envisaged by our constitution.
– Dr Ellak I. von Nagy-Felsobuki, Arcadia Vale, NSW
Perhaps not such a great idea
Rob Oakeshott argues (“Moment of truce”, April 2-8) that Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull should privately agree on a raft of policies to implement without troublesome reference to the Australian electorate.
He’s been in Myanmar, so perhaps he might have a little think about how the generals there made decisions before the recent shift to democracy.
– Toby Ralph, South Yarra, Vic
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 16, 2016. Subscribe here.