Letters to
the editor

Hailing those on the front line

Anna Krien’s brilliant, heart-wrenching piece (“24 hours on Melbourne’s lockdown front line”, September 5–11) was both informative and timely, reminding us of the incredible stresses and sacrifices of those thousands of workers turning out day and night to see us through this pandemic. Thank you, Anna, and all those folk you wrote about, and may this article go far and wide.

– Robin Sevenoaks, Canberra, ACT

Wealth tax not death tax

I disagree with only one thing in James Boyce’s excellent article “The case for a death tax” (September 5-11). That is, his preference for calling this tax, on estates over a certain threshold size, a “death tax”. The objection is not due to being coy about mortality but because the name is inaccurate. The term will increase misunderstanding and fear and therefore decrease the chance of such a tax being implemented. The proposed tax is not a tax on every death. It is a tax on a small proportion of estates. It is effectively a wealth tax. It’s the type of tax that builds community and economic strength. It is progressive, socially responsible and the easiest shot in the locker that we have to contribute to economic recovery following Covid-19. Suggested names: large estates tax, wealth distribution tax or equity tax. Bring it on!   

– Anne Sutherland, Glen Iris, Vic

A duty to society

James Boyce’s excellent article “The case for a death tax” should put it on the political agenda. My house has increased in value over 52 years, from three times my husband’s salary as a senior lecturer to 35 times a senior lecturer’s salary today. Of course my estate should pay death duties. This would not only bring house prices back to being affordable but also provide money to build houses for people who cannot afford them after this pandemic. After the war Britain not only had death duties but also supertax to share the wealth in their inherited stately homes.

– Julie James Bailey, Abbotsford, NSW

The curse of cronyism is spreading

James Boyce says that Joh Bjelke-Petersen was “driven by cronyism and populism” to abolish death duties. He’s right, but all state governments of the day were thus driven, and the disease has since infected federal government. Federal politicians regularly appoint cronies to plum positions and then slide effortlessly into lobbying jobs when they leave parliament. Impelled by populism, federal governments can’t even address franking credits, capital gains discounts, negative gearing, superannuation tax breaks, corporate tax loopholes or myriad other unfair policies, so we’ll all be pushing up daisies before death taxes are restored.

– David Clarke, Battery Point, Tas

To Abbott, social costs don’t count

No one could be shocked by Tony Abbott’s pronouncements concerning the costs and effects of Covid-19 on aged care and lockdowns (Gadfly, “Moving on to greener onions”, September 5–11). The core tenet of the Thatcherite vision he adheres to is that there is no such thing as a society, only an economy. Hence the lack of empathy and compassion in his speech. To him it’s all numbers and dollars, not social costs.

– Peter Max Taylor, Midway Point, Tas

Time for a mug shot

After viewing Kudelka’s delightful cartoon (September 5-11), I wondered if the beam-me-up-Scotty brigade might be able to kickstart the economy with a timely production run of “Back in red” mugs? If not, The Saturday Paper might be forced to grasp the nettle.

– Bruce Hulbert, Lilyfield, NSW

Job providers misrepresented

Rick Morton’s recent piece “Exclusive: Jobactive virus kickbacks top $500 million” (August 29–September 4) misrepresents the payment system and failed to mention the many integral functions job providers deliver to unemployed Australians, including helping them to access mental health services, upskilling, retraining and other material support. In the story’s lead, Morton referred to the “lucrative payday” when Minister Michaelia Cash made a $100 million advanced payment of administration fees to employment providers. Morton failed to mention that, as an advanced payment, the money was required to be paid back to the government within six weeks. It was not extra funding. On administration fees: the government fee equates to $10 a week for supporting one job seeker. No organisation could survive on that amount. More than 70 per cent of funding to employment providers is from the “outcome fee”, which the government pays employment providers when job seekers get into work. Outcome fees are the basis of the sector’s viability, not a “kickback”. The employment services sector, which itself employs 26,000 Australians, is not “booming” but facing uncertainty as jobs for our clients become few and far between. During Covid-19 the government has placed 400,000 job seekers onto a new online employment platform where there is no needs assessment occurring and no personalised support. Job seekers are parked in digital nowhere land where their needs aren’t being assessed. That’s the story journalists should be focusing on.

– Sally Sinclair, chief executive officer, National Employment Services Association, Melbourne, Vic

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 12, 2020.

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