<i></i>

Let me remind the notoriously short-term memory electorate that the ''never ever'' GST was brought in by John Howard with the connivance of Meg Lees of the Democrats, was to be fixed at 10 per cent (and was argued that this would not ever be changed because the states would all have to agree to such a change), would exempt things such as food and would replace inefficient state taxes and charges. And the electorate fell for it.

Now we have a multitude of government ministers, officials and bureaucrats, including our own Katy Gallagher, arguing for an increase.

When will voters learn not to trust anything politicians say and refuse to accept tax rises where the funds are then wasted on yet more politicians, increases in their remuneration and allowances, overseas junkets with spouses and staff, pet causes such as gay marriage, Olympic torch rallies, Grassby statues, some awful public ''art'' and the like. More efficient spending would negate the need for extra revenue sources.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher is to be commended for countenancing an increase in GST. This increase is unavoidable if standards in schools and hospitals are to be maintained and improved relative to facilities available to the rich. As should be well understood by now, it is the tax system (and also public expenditure and financial transfer systems) as a whole that should be fair and equitable, not necessarily individual taxes.

Marginal rates on income taxes on lower income households can and should be reduced and supplemented by family allowances to compensate for GST increases. The same compensatory logic applies to restoring the indexation on petrol excise and then some. Contrary to the opportunistic and short-sighted bluster of Bill Shorten, the fuel tax is also an excellent one in many senses.

It has a broad base, is administratively efficient and is a ''green'' tax on CO2, on polluting emissions and traffic congestion. It is a scandal that Howard's bad indexation policy has been allowed to drag on to the point where public revenues have fallen catastrophically, and Australia's tax on petrol is one of the lowest rates in the OECD. A principled ACT government would lead the way in restoring and increasing this tax-rate also.

Barry Naughten, Farrer

So, having savaged the youngest, oldest, poorest and defenceless through its unconscionable budget, government MPs are now pushing for the expansion of the regressive GST tax regime: a double whammy for the underprivileged (''Slap GST on fresh food, says senior Coalition MP'', canberratimes.com.au, May 20).

The same liars are saying an increase in GST could underwrite the abolition of ''other'' state taxes, such as stamp duty, hoping we won't remember the original promise that such taxes would be abolished when the GST was first introduced.

My message to our rotten politicians is that I'll support changes to the GST the day after you abolish the unconscionable tax concessions gifted to the wealthy through superannuation and negative gearing; after access to government benefits such as the pension are means-tested to exclude those who have the good fortune to be able to look after themselves and after the 60 per cent of corporations that pay no income tax begin to pay their way. In the meantime, a pox on all of you.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

The plan to increase, or broaden, the GST because the states just got lumbered with extra expense is surely an excuse. Any tax could provide the funding. Mining tax, resource tax , company tax, income tax, carbon tax (or levy?) Please don't spin it as the states' problem.

A. Waterman, Cook

The GST was always about value adding along an evolving product chain, targeting luxury items. A banana on the bunch, in a shed, in a shop, is still a banana. So no GST on the lowly banana (or any fresh food).

And no GST on health or education either. (''Put GST on fresh food: Lib MP'', May 20, p1).

Jack Kershaw, Kambah

Secret influence buying

Anonymous donations - the bane of our political system - are out of control. At the federal level you can get away with almost any anonymous donation, according to constitutional lawyer Professor Anne Twomey. In 1996 John Howard's government lifted the threshold to $10,000 for donations. Businesses set up bulk donations collectives that stay secret. Australia is driven by engines like our Treasurer Joe Hockey's North Sydney Forum, which charges up to $22,000 to business figures. Fees are then ''consolidated'' and then passed on to parties. We don't drive our democracy - companies do!

Martina Fechner, O'Connor

Business writes off tax

Regardless of any comment by the federal government, most businesses and high-income earners pay very little if any tax following write-offs for depreciation and purchase of equipment including vehicles, machinery, office equipment, rates, water, electricity and other day-to-day running costs. Income tax and any increases however are paid for by employees before they get their wage.

P.J. Carthy, McKellar

No more land of the fair go

The once great Liberal Party has lost its moral compass. Australians were proud this was the ''land of the fair go''. This egalitarian ethos underpinned our institutions and our interpersonal interactions. ''Do unto others as you would have them do to you'', was a given. This government has trashed this sacred trust.

Koula Poulos, Watson

P.M. Button (Letters, May 19) should learn the difference between responsible debt and irresponsible debt before casting egregious slurs on others' behaviour: it is quite easy to borrow responsibly and still ''live within your means''. It seems P.M. Button hasn't grasped the wrong end of the stick: he/she has grasped the wrong stick.

Mark Raymond, Manton, NSW

Push for wage misery

The Commission of Audit recommended that the minimum wage should be reduced by 20 per cent, and Julie Novak, in her article ''Anti-jobs minimum wage must be ended'' (Forum, May 17, p9) urges its abolition. In fact, destroying the current minimum wage would be a disaster for the Australian economy, and society.

First, it is doubtful if a high minimum wage reduces employment: the US has a minimum wage half Australia's, but higher unemployment.

But let's assume that, by a drastic minimum wage reduction, unemployment would fall from the current 6 per cent to 4 per cent. This would mean 220,000 extra jobs. However, there are many other workers already on the minium wage, or not greatly above it, whose pay level is set in relation to the minimum wage.

These workers, in areas such as retail and hospitality, cover many times more workers than the 2 per cent of jobs possibly created. With no, or a low, minimum wage, these workers would become much worse off.

This seems a very bad bargain: very low-paid jobs for 2 per cent of the workforce, at the cost of drastic pay cuts for many times other workers already in jobs. This would be disastrous for society; everything gets worse with greater inequality: crime, social mistrust, health, education, and opportunity.

But it would be bad in narrow economic terms, too. This is because if you can pay workers less, they don't need to be so productive. You don't need to invest in equipment and training to make them productive. Cutting the minimum wage is a path to a large, underperforming, underclass of workers, and a low-productivity economy.

Making sure every worker is sufficiently productive is the challenge from having a higher minimum wage. So far Australia has met this challenge reasonably well. The advocacy of a different path by the Commission of Audit, and by Julie Novak of the Institute of Public Affairs, is the voice of ignorance, greed, and a brutal social ideology.

Paul Pollard, O'Connor

Cartoon disgusting

At 88 years of age, and never having written a letter to the editor before, I feel compelled to write regarding the disgusting Pope cartoon ''Beware of exploding cigars'' (Times2, May 14, p1). To portray the leader of our country, Prime Minister Tony Abbott (or anyone for that matter) in such a demeaning and hateful way left me feeling outraged and quite ill.

We may not agree with our government, but we are supposed to respect the office of prime minister.

Maurine Wearne, Dunlop

Driver's road to jail

Wayne Brown (Letters, May 20) claims he ''saved'' three cyclists by not driving into them while they were cycling across pedestrian crossings, ''as he was legally obliged to'', given that they were cycling and not actually pedestrians at the time.

Well done, Mr Brown. If only there were medals to reward such actions. Of course, should you have ''demonstrated'' your superior knowledge of the pedestrian crossing rules as you appear to have been tempted, I suspect that the ''unsavoury'' results you alluded to could have also included a spell without your licence, and possibly in jail as well. The only person claiming special ''powers and rights to which other road users are not entitled'' seems to be you.

You might just be the only person with the belief to an entitlement to intentionally drive into any other road user to teach them a lesson about the ''rules''.

David Brudenall, Palmerston

Wayne Brown (Letters, May 20) attributes unnecessarily complex motives to cyclists who ride across pedestrian crossings.

In fact, they do it because it is safer. A cyclist walking their bike across a pedestrian crossing is vulnerable - exposed on the crossing longer, encumbered by the bike, and far less able than a pedestrian to get out of the way of any motor vehicle speeding towards them. It's far safer to be mounted, quickly across and able to take avoiding action if necessary.

It's not the fault of cyclists that the law forces them to choose between riding legally and riding safely, nor is it surprising that they choose the latter. It's a dumb law, and the solution is not to castigate cyclists for quite sensibly ignoring it, but to instead get rid of it!

Terry George, Kingston

Asbestos shambles

Brianna Heseltine (''Asbestos crisis pushes ACT mum into battle'', May 20, p1) is right. We do have ''the biggest public health and financial security issue in the city's history'' on our hands. More than 1000 families forced to live in houses containing asbestos, despite government assurances they were safe after their ''remediation''; and contractors not wanting cancer can't know which ones they are because with the list made public the value of all those family homes falls into the toilet.

That's the government's policy position? Perhaps it hopes they'll just be abandoned. Mary Celeste homes, sailing the suburbs.

Better remediation would be expensive. And our cash-strapped government can't afford that, can it? But apparently it can find $1 billion for the Rattenbury tram up one road (operating subsidy to be revealed).

Veronica Giles, Chifley

Twits and twittery

Twitter is the fastest-growing social platform on the planet that enables users to send and read short, 140-character text messages, called tweets (''Twitter analysis helps assess the national mood,'' May 20, p5). Nowadays it's not about to tweet or not to tweet, but rather to tweet in order to exist and be close by the ambient awareness of trending topics. Once more Descartes' ''I think therefore I am'' has been proven not a logical validation of our human existence. Thinking in order to be is not enough. One needs to tweet to be part of research on ''the globe's mental health''. But Twitter is not a tool yet that can make inferences about the population as a whole. Before any system may assess language and map emotions to help people in crisis, effective communication, which avoids confusion, is necessary.

Lurking may be better then than participating, for twits twittering on Twitter sending tweets that would not reflect exactly the national mood being assessed.

Noelle Roux, Chifley

Autumn leaves hungry

Though beautiful in autumn, deciduous trees provide little food for our precious native wildlife in winter.

Those calling for the removal of eucalypts (Letters, May 21) should give a thought to those creatures dependent on them for food and hollows to nest and live in. We should be planting more native shrubs and trees, not fewer.

Susan MacDougall, Scullin

Time to blow whistle on Stuart's ref blasts

Just as some clubs have the ''booze ban'', the Raiders should consider hitting Ricky Stuart with a ''refs rant'' ban. Seriously!

I was part of the 8000-odd Raiders' faithful at the game on Sunday and from my view of the game in the stands, I would say the referees did a reasonably good job, certainly up to first grade standard.

In my opinion Ricky's comments (''It's a reffing joke, says Stuart'', Sport, May 19, p24) were way off the mark … if anything the Raiders received slightly the better of the decisions, correctly made, overall on the day.

The Shaun Fensom ''no try'' issue is a furphy as the referee had already blown his whistle to penalise Dave Shillington and the Panthers' players had half-stopped. Canberra then received the penalty-reversal but could still not score despite it being one of a number of repeat sets right on the Penrith line.

Ricky may have forgotten because it's been a while since he's been in town, but the Sydney press love to play up the ''poor Raiders robbed by the refs again'' anthem, knowing this will get a few headlines but also irritate the refereeing fraternity, ultimately making it harder for the Raiders to win the balance of support from the officials.

Please, Ricky, stop with the criticism now, and concentrate on why the Raiders seemed to concede a try every time the Panthers got within cooee of our line, and why we could only score one try in the second half despite having the majority of possession and, yes, clearly the better run of decisions from those dastardly referees over that half.

Mark Francis, Griffith

TO THE POINT

ABBOTT'S HYPOCRISY

When Julia Gillard said she would put a price on carbon and later introduce the carbon tax the Coalition was the first to say ''broken promise''. Now Tony Abbott has effectively done the same thing, he says ''the people were on notice''. Such blatant hypocrisy.

Adam Hamilton, Ngunnawal

Continuous and unjustified panic-mongering is the trademark of bad governments. Tony Abbott's warnings about the possible loss of our AAA credit rating if certain budget measures are not passed fall in this category. That, together with the broken promises, makes this government bad and dishonest.

John Rodriguez, Florey

The government's strict budget measures strike low-income earners, pensioners, students and other people who in my opinion are struggling, and need some government support. The Coalition appears to be very callous in its idea of who should be supporting the country. I am fearful of us becoming like America, a user-pays society that caters mostly to those on higher incomes.

Adele Ford, Dunlop

Recent polls, feral protests and the general tenor of letters to The Canberra Times are a fair indication that the culture of entitlement is well and truly entrenched. We can only hope that the conservatives can stay in government long enough to repair the mess caused by Labor's prolific spending and ''free-for-all'' policies.

Owen Reid, Dunlop

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS

Allow me to enlighten ''frustrated shopper'' L. Bentley (Letters, May 20). Shop music is not played for shoppers; it's for the enjoyment of bored staff, who are mostly under 25, hence the selection and volume.

W. Stanford, Murrumbateman, NSW

PEARLS OF WISDOM

Barnaby Joyce's articles receive a lot of criticism, but I love their whimsical and digressive style. His effort last week was particularly fine (''Ramsay: he found joy and gave joy'', Forum, May 17, p9) . In a piece ostensibly about Paul Ramsay, he managed to bring in T.E. Lawrence and Kim Philby, before climaxing in a superb piece of name-dropping (the Queen!) You are casting your pearls before swine, Barnaby.

G. Burgess, Kaleen

A PUBLIC BETRAYAL

Was it really worth it to pay such a price to defer being sacked (''Payroll tax rise no worse than GST: Treasury head'', May 21, p4)? What a disgraceful betrayal of the ethical code of our embattled public service.

Professor John Milfull, Kingston