Tales from the poll
As counting continues in the seemingly never-ending election (Paul Bongiorno, “The moment of truth”, July 2-8), spare a thought for those who missed out on voting. According to failed independent senate candidate Glenn Lazarus there’s growing anecdotal evidence of polling stations running out of ballot papers. According to Glenn, the people who couldn’t vote were told their names would be ticked off, and they wouldn’t be fined. So that’s okay then. Meanwhile, there’s already talk of another federal election sooner rather than later. Hang on, before we rush into that, how about finishing the last one, and allowing all the people to have a vote? Power to the people?
– Nick Franklin, Katoomba, NSW
Health facts are hard to find
Mike Seccombe’s critique of the federal election strategy (“The $250 million question”, July 2-8 ) is right in focusing on the different costs to the community of relentless negative campaigning, and on the need to accept our part in what is blindly served up to us. It seems mistaken, however, that Seccombe asserts that “most people don’t bother” to understand policy detail, leaving them open to scare-mongering and “loss aversion”. Tuning out, as it were, might be better understood as stemming from feelings of disaffection brought about by how much detail is inaccessible or just unexplained. The Medicare privatisation scare is illustrative; the fear resonated, and the Coalition seized on the alleged lie. Rather, it may be people sensed a real fear, that Medicare is indeed being eroded. The Coalition wanted to raise the safety net in late 2015; they withdrew the bill but not the agenda. GP co-payments remain an issue. Private insurers are allowed more say in rationing cover and treatment. These are not small details; these are policies of great importance that were not clarified by either party. Not treating people as mugs might have better electoral outcomes for whichever party is brave enough to just debate the issues openly, clearly and in detail. Which is the point Seccombe rightly ends with.
– Gil Anaf, Norwood, SA
Better way on asylum seekers
The efforts to beat up the refugee issue in the election campaign, and to divide Australians on this issue into hard-headed realists and foolish bleeding hearts, has been dishonest and disheartening. Trumpeting our boat turn-backs for Europe, because they have been practically effective here, ignores the very different circumstances, and that they violate the spirit and intent of the United Nations Refugee Conventions. The sad truth is the leaders of our two main parties have succumbed to some understandable public concerns and a distorting media coverage by concentrating their venom on the people smugglers, and by setting up detention centres in neighbouring Pacific Island countries, which punishes the refugee victims more than the people smugglers. Overseas processing while in transit countries, and the provision of safe onward passage for genuine refugees accepted by Australia, is the obvious and proper response.
– John Piper, Waverton, NSW
Checking the numbers
I’m sure the Australian Christian Lobby doesn’t represent Christians (Martin McKenzie-Murray, “Altared state”, July 2-8). I’d like to know the validity of the claims by the Liberal–Labor duopoly to represent Australians. Some figures on their membership and how active they are would be interesting.
– Evan Hadkins, Kingston, Tas
Look to pollies’ perks
If elected, Treasurer Scott Morrison proposes removing school leavers’ financial support, reducing rental subsidy and pensions, removing childcare support, increasing university fees, and many more to save $3 billion annually to reward big business and their wealthy supporters. Will they consider removing political welfare rorts such as claiming $285 each day for living away accommodation when living in their own properties, claiming $6 superannuation from taxpayers for each $1 they contribute when workers receive 9 cents for their dollar, free five-course meals daily when many fail to afford one a day, exorbitant welfare benefits and unlimited Visa cards to retired politicians and public servants? A treasure chest of more than $3 billion could be raised from this source.
– Wally Reynolds, Perth, Tas
Repeating history’s mistakes
Michael West (“Conflict of influence”, July 2-8) points to the enormous power of big business, rising inequality in the Western world, xenophobia and the decline of faith in the political process as major concerns particularly when linked to the lack of transparency in politics. It seems we are passing through one of those periods in history where the rich and powerful know of the growing crisis but are not prepared to make any concessions. Thuggish behaviour by executives in big companies towards suppliers, workers and consumers, the weak regulatory regime and the breakdown of permanent work with all the social implications that follow are all features of this era. No wonder the rich and powerful don’t want political transparency. Thomas Piketty talking of inequality in Capital in the Twenty-First Century says, “The consequences for the long-term dynamics of the wealth distribution are potentially terrifying …” Are we destined to repeat the mistakes of the 20th century?
– Max Taylor, Epping, NSW
The right direction
No matter who forms government, one really good thing has already happened. Michael West is writing for you. Yet another column to look forward to on Saturdays.
– Doug Foskett, Griffith, ACT
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 9, 2016. Subscribe here.