Letters to the editor

Government a pushover for its big corporate backers

In the wake of the environment-destroying recommendations of the Warburton Report to water down or abolish the Renewable Energy Target, important questions arise about the Federal Government's alleged commitment to leaving markets to ensure a natural balance in pricing and supply/demand issues. If it is true that we now have a significant oversupply of electricity, why has the retail price to consumers not fallen? Just the opposite has occurred.

Further, with a huge increase in the supply of natural gas, why are household prices set to triple?

The answers are simple - the Abbott government is beholden to its big corporate backers and plans to stand idly by while they profiteer through fleecing the public. If you have any doubts about that, you need look no further than the government's complacency about the Commonwealth Bank's treatment of investors on its way to record annual profits of more than $8 billion. The market is certainly deciding that this government is a pushover, and we are all paying for the complicity of Sloppy Joe and Phoney Tony.

Peter Maywald, Queanbeyan, NSW

It does not follow

I read Julie Novak's articles for the game of ''spot the non-sequiturs''. There was a beauty recently. Ms Novak noted (''Green subsidies must go'', Forum, August 213, pB9) that ''Renewable energy … costs … in excess of coal-fired generation … It is estimated … that the renewable energy target … adds … 3 per cent to the average … electricity bill … Therefore, such … policies … transfer wealth from households … to the big renewable industry players.'' Sounds as though the renewables are cleaning up.

Julie's non sequitur: The RET, designed by the Howard government, is market-based. Renewable energy generators sell into the electricity market at a loss but receive certificates for what they generate which they sell to the retailers, who must show they are including in their product a prescribed proportion of renewably generated electricity. The retailers pay only what they must, and the generators accept not less than they need to cover their initial losses. Supply and demand finds the balance.


Even if the price of certificates were huge, it would not follow that the big industry players pocketed fortunes at household expense.

By the way, I think Tony Abbott, now looking to wreck the RET, as recently he wrecked the emissions trading scheme, is the same as the one who once, under Howard, contributed to the design of both.

John Cashman, Yarralumla

RAAF ready then and now

Adrian Jackson (Letters, August 28) is correct in saying that ''a few Canberra bombers were sent to Vietnam''. However, he ignores the two deployments by A/F-18 Hornets to the Gulf theatre, as well as the deployment of A/P-3C Orions to the Gulf area. Orions are combat aircraft engaged in anti-submarine warfare as well as maritime and overland surveillance.

Adrian is correct that Australian Hornets cannot operate from aircraft carriers, the two deployments to the Middle East successfully operated from land bases. In fact I am a friend of one of the pilots who participated in the second deployment and carried out missions in Iraq.

Assuming that the government will deploy the extremely capable Super Hornets based at RAAF Base Amberley, the RAAF will be very well equipped to take the fight to ISIS.

Vic Robertson, Vietnam veteran, Page

Julie, look to Julia

As momentum grows for Julie Bishop to lead the country (''Julie Bishop gathers support as next Liberal leader'',, August 28) she must be aware of the criticism and abuse Julia Gillard endured as female leader. Julie and Julia have chosen very similar career paths and lifestyles since leaving school. As someone who has handed out how-to-vote information for independents for many years, I have witnessed much abuse for Julia in relation to her non-married, childless lifestyle. Not to mention that awful red hair.

The big difference in the two females is one has chosen the left side of politics and the other the right.

One can only wonder whether, if she becomes the PM, Julie Bishop she will be subjected to such pettiness on election day.

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW

Numbers in Palestine

Athol Morris is being economical with his facts when he claims (Letters, August 27) that ''there had been a significant Jewish population in the region [Palestine] for thousands of years, and the UN partition plan only allocated to them areas where they were in the majority''.

While historians have been unable to agree when the Jewish people ceased to be the dominant group in Palestine, certainly since the 8th century the inhabitants have been overwhelmingly Arab and by the middle of the 19th century the Jewish population in Palestine was only a few thousand. In this regard, it is significant that the vast majority of the 2.5 million Jews who fled persecution in the Pale of Settlement between 1880 and 1905 emigrated west, with most ending up in the United States. Very few emigrated to Palestine, and by the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1917 Jews represented only 6 per cent of the population in Palestine.

Yes, it is correct that by 1947 Jews were a majority in the area allocated to the Jews under the UN partition plan. But they were a bare demographic majority and almost all had emigrated to Palestine in the preceding 40 years.

In the age of decolonisation, the UN partition plan constitutes the one exception where it was the colonialists who benefited to the prejudice of the indigenous population.

That is not to say I question Israel's right to exist. I do not. But until there is a consensus among the Jewish people, both within Israel and the diaspora, that the 1947 UN resolution perpetrated a great injustice on the Palestinians, there will never be peace.

Justin McCarthy, Copenhagen, Denmark

Losses deprive nation

Stewart Homan's defence of negative gearing tax concessions on investment housing (Letters, August 28) fails to acknowledge the unfair advantage these special concessions give to landlords, who take out high-ratio loans to purchase houses or apartments, knowing that the rental income plus maintenance costs will cause a loss, thus enabling them to claim a tax concession on income derived from other sources.

In 2011, 1.8 million landlords (one in seven taxpayers) claimed a loss of $7.8 billion - thus depriving the government of additional funds to add to the public housing stock, nationally.

Furthermore, negative gearing has enabled such investors to out-bid first-home and other buyers who are on limited incomes and derive no tax concessions. It is estimated that the surge of investors in the housing market has caused a rise of around $44,000 in such property values in recent years.

In 2006, when visiting Australia, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, said that Australia's negative gearing policy was probably the most generous in the world and $21 billion of public money was forfeited each year because of negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions.

If we care for the homeless and support those seeking to achieve the Australian dream of owning one's home, we should call on the government to cease this unfair and damaging tax concession.

Keith McEwan, Bonython

GST holds the answer

Ernst Wilheim (Letters, August 28) offers some free advice on Australia's taxation system, but from a typically undergraduate perspective. It makes no sense, except to the vindictive, to increase direct taxes on the engine room - exporters, companies and high-worth individuals, as they are already among the highest taxed in the world, and may take their bat and ball home if squeezed again, the Kerry Packer ultimatum. Kerry might not have known what it was called (the Laffer Curve) but he knew it was out there somewhere.

A less self-harming tack is to look at the black economy and the GST. The ATO estimates that tax losses in the black economy are now over $22 billion per year, or a large part of our current account deficit.

The $100 note is as elusive as the thylacine. It's people stuffing the walls and ceilings of their CGT-free houses and units with $100 notes. Although the GST was in part designed to get some of that stolen money back and put it to better use, the vindictive Greens (nee Democrats) crippled its reach and effectiveness. We need a stronger, broader and higher GST that taxes consumption, not production and exports.

Christopher Smith, Braddon

School funds sink hole

Janet Fletcher (Letters, August 27) could well do to heed her advice to Michael Lucas (Letters, August 25) on independent school funding. She should read ''School Funding in Australia 1972-2007'' by Dr G.P. White, available in its entirety from the Monash University Matheson library at no cost.

It proves that most private schools siphoned off Federal Government funds provided for recurrent purposes by us taxpayers to build significant infrastructure projects, and that governments of both persuasions have done nothing to stop them.

J.P.H.Trinder, Queanbeyan, NSW

While I applaud Janet Fletcher (Letters, August 27 ) in taking up the issue presented by Michael Lucas (Letters, August 25) and his incorrect assumption on school funding, both letters highlight a common misunderstanding about how schools are funded, and the difference in the levels of government support provided to the three school sectors.

All schools in Australia do not receive the same amount of money from government, nor is money ''syphoned off'' from one system to another.

In the non-government school sector, the amount of government funding a school receives varies enormously as a result of the school's student cohort, and a perception about the parent community's ability to fund the schools themselves (termed the Capacity to Contribute). Using 2012 My School data, an independent school in Canberra can get as little as $3500 a student from all government sources (Commonwealth and Territory), with the average funding per independent school student in 2012 being $6747. The average funding per student for Canberra government schools in 2012 was $13,794. These relativities have not changed in the current funding model.

Andrew Wrigley, executive director, Association of Independent Schools of the ACT

Religious conviction

It is almost certainly incorrect, as Neil James claims (Letters, August 27) that ''not a single Australian Muslim has been murdered by religious bigotry, except when killed by Islamists''.

Unless James has researched the ethnicity, nationality, religion and motive of each of the thousands of homicides victims and perpetrators in Australia in that period, he cannot honestly make that claim. A simple Google search found me potential candidates very quickly. I do not need to conflate the words Islamic and Extremist to describe a terrorist group, for they are terrorists first and foremost. Their religion is usually irrelevant, especially when they are disowned by the vast majority of people of the religion they claim to belong to.

But in the interests of equality and to help confirm that Islamophobia does not exist, I look forward to James suggesting similar terms like Catholicist, Protestantist, Hinduist, and so on. Although, as a religiously tolerant atheist, I am more than a little uncomfortable with the use of the suffix ''-ist'' to denote some kind of radicalism.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

Nameless victims

Susan Cowan (Letters, August 25) again raises the injustice of people, mainly men, being publicly named before trial for alleged sexual assault. This does not uphold the innocent until proven guilty belief we profess in Australia but rather a we-know-you're-guilty but should you get off you will be destroyed socially.

If such vindictiveness is unintended why, in the event of acquittal, is the accuser, usually a woman, not publicly named? Now, before my ageing peace is threatened by outraged females could I suggest a compromise: name nobody before a conviction.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

Let us have one more wafer if we want it

Peter Curtis (Letters, August 29) says, ''If the Territory government was serious about addressing obesity and diet among our most vulnerable people, children, then it would need to initiate a campaign against all advertising of high sugar and salt 'food' in much the same way that tobacco has been dealt with.''

I am opposed to regulating economic and social life by politics because if we go down that path we will end up living in a totalitarian cage eating tofu and being slaves to the tax state.

To paraphrase G.K.Chesterton, if a man cannot eat himself to death he has no more freedom than a dog.

Victor Diskordia, McKellar

Defence rorts rife

As a former Defence department employee, I share Senator Nick Xenophon's disquiet about rorts at Defence (''Senator alarmed by rorts in Defence'', August 27, p1). I worked for an assistant secretary who regularly disappeared overseas on the ''Pacific Rim talks''. After running up a bill that would have embarrassed an Eastern potentate, someone queried what they were. No one knew. I recall that when a first assistant secretary was called to account for a grants scheme that had squandered $30 million a year for decades, he was allowed to go to Washington for three years before quietly resigning - there being no FAS position to send him to.

The uniformed branch is also culpable. While visiting an RAAF stores base, I heard a senior officer explain why deliveries were 18 months behind schedule: the carpenter responsible for packing cases was being employed as a cabinetmaker to refurbish the commanding officer's office!

John Coochey, Chisholm

To the point


I'd always thought of H. Ronald, although sometimes misguided, as an elderly gentleman of repute. How could he condone (Letters, August 28) the absolutely disgraceful rudeness of a cabinet minister and a public servant towards the chair of a commission (or to anyone for that matter)?

The TV clip I saw demonstrated that Morrison and Bowles have characteristics which we do not need in people in their positions of leadership in this country.

D.C. Mildern, Murrumbateman, NSW


I am glad the pendulum looks to be swinging back in favour of rail networks in both commuter light and heavy freight. It has long been a cause of much personal frustration that construction on the city of Canberra, sans the Burley Griffin rail network, began in the same year Henry Ford launched mass production of cars.

Matt Ford, Kambah


Der Anty ABC, I thoht that ''Tom'' and ''Ton'' was a toon, but I now kno that they are abrieviatns. Is your budgt so tight that you can't affrd to use full words? Pls stop using unintellgble abrieviatns. Thks.

Chris Lathbury, Fadden


The 25 ACT school welfare officers whose jobs are threatened (''ACT insists secular counsellors stay on'', August 29, p4) should become ministers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It only costs $20 to be formally ordained, and then they can keep their jobs under Tony Abbott's school chaplaincy program.

Martin Budden, Stirling


Why can't Joe Hockey be more like Alan Joyce? The Qantas chief says, although Qantas has just posted a record loss, ''the worst is over''. This is the kind of positive outlook this country needs. C'mon Joe, give us some hope.

Annie Lang, Kambah


Adrian Jackson (Letters, August 28) could have added that two No 2 Squadron Canberra aircraft were lost in Vietnam; the crew successfully ejected from the first Canberra shot down.

Ken McPhan, Spence


Team Australia is going down the drain, and it's not even half time. We players need to rise up and tell the captain and his behind-the-scenes coach, that it is time for a change. The Peter Principle is not working for us.

John Gelling, Murrumbateman, NSW

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