Comment

Letters to the Editor

GST shifts tax burden

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Malcolm Maiden argues that the "Tax system should be broader based" (February 4, BusinessDay, p11).

In the current tax debate, this is simply code for shifting the tax burden from the rich to the working poor and pensioners.

Private motorists and most businesses pay fuel excise. However, miners, including multinationals that pay no company tax in Australia, do not. The tax base will never be broadened to abolish the diesel fuel rebate.

We now have a broad range of state taxes, such as stamp duty on shares and property investments, and land tax.

Special interests want to abolish these taxes, paid mostly by the rich, and have labelled them inefficient. They want to replace them with an ever-higher GST.

The GST itself is hardly the most efficient tax, as the tens of thousands of us who have paid a tradesman in cash can testify.

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Noel Baxendell, Macgregor

Paul Keating's tirade against a 2.5 or 5 per cent increase in the GST ("$33b play money a bad idea", February 3, Times2, 1) can be ignored for two reasons.

One, seeing that the GST is obviously the most efficient tax we have (and therefore in the community's best interests), if Keating supports a 2per cent increase, what logical or philosophical reason has he for opposing a 2.5 or 5per cent increase?

Two, Keating's suggestion that the proceeds of an increase be hypothecated to meet healthcare costs is contrary to an important basic philosophy of government – i.e. that all revenue received should be paid into a consolidate revenue fund, from which all government spending is met. That principle was first adopted more than 500 years ago in England, as an alternate to English barons imposing their own taxes and spending the proceeds as they liked.

It's the only way governments can determine priorities for spending in the interests of the community as a whole.

R. S. Gilbert, Braddon

Tony Abbot and Joe Hockey very cleverly cut funding to the states for hospitals and education in their first budget. Some states then started to push for a GST to fund what was lost. What a clever ploy! Should we go along with this sneaky way of raising taxes?

Sandra von Sneidern, Mongarlowe, NSW

Clouding the issue

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the hospital at the detention centre on Nauru has better facilities than some regional hospitals in Australia.

This is a typical "apples and oranges" comparison used by politicians to cloud rather than clarify difficult issues. His statement could mean that one or two regional hospitals have very poor facilities – which is possible, given federal cuts to health budgets.

Or perhaps it means that some regional hospitals located near large cities don't offer the range of services that the very isolated Nauru facility may need to offer.

Alternatively, it may mean that facilities on Nauru are truly of exceptional quality.

They would need to be exceptional to cope with the mental-health issues exacerbated by indefinite detention and isolation on Nauru.

Harry Samios, O'Connor

Waleed Aly's excellent article ("Nauru tests our integrity", Times2, February 5, p1) articulates the central issue starkly. The ends do not justify the means. We cannot knowingly and certainly destroy lives in order to (possibly) save others.

Our moral bankruptcy is revealed in our refusal to take up New Zealand's offer to resettle refugees from Nauru. We cannot evade responsibility for what is happening to asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus. History will judge us harshly.

Enough is enough. No more.

John Blount, Fadden

The only thing wrong with Waleed Aly's article is that it was not published on page 1, in really big writing.

He concludes his powerful essay by noting: "At some point, the clock runs out. And on that day, maybe the alarm will sound on these mighty fictions that have been sustaining us." A little bit of hope tucked in there.

Annie Lang, Kambah

Waleed Aly's article is sobering to say the least. Hopefully, it's also provocative; because surely we are better than this.

Greg Friedewald, Isaacs

Waleed Ali for prime minister, I say. He has more scruples than all other potential candidates combined.

Pauline May, Lyneham

Coverage one-sided

My thanks to David Pope for his wonderful cartoon putting Peter Dutton in a black shirt uniform hunting for refugees in a church (February 6). Speaking truth to power is what Pope does brilliantly. Unfortunately, that is not what the rest of the newspaper generally does.

Two-hundred people attended a snap protest in support of refugees on Thursday.

Speakers included Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young and former ACT Labor chief minister Jon Stanhope.

There was not one mention of that protest in Friday's paper.

Similarly, on January 26 – Invasion Day – 500 of us protested against genocide and racism.

Again, there was not one report in The Canberra Times.

How is it that the Times can publish Australia's best cartoonist yet not report on the protests expressing the very sentiments he portrays?

John Passant, Kambah

Heavy-handed justice

Professor Morris Ginsberg tells us in his book On Justice in Society that at the heart of the modern justice system is an avoidance of arbitrariness, especially the arbitrary exercise of state power. We learn that a United Nations human rights panel has concluded that Wikileaks founding editor Julian Assange is being arbitrarily detained in London in violation of international law ("Assange seeks free passage with boost from UN ruling", February 5, p7).

It makes one wonder what kind of modern justice the states persecuting Assange practise?

Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, NSW

Dress proclaims

Patrick O'Hara is making a mountain out of a molehill with his letter about Quentin Bryce's dress in the Museum of Australian Democracy (January 31).

He appears not to believe Lord Polonius' view (in Shakespeare's Hamlet) that "apparel oft proclaims the man", or woman in this case.

My view of Bryce, from meeting and speaking with her, and from others who have had reason to meet her, is that if she were concerned about her dress being on display in the museum she would have either not provided it or she would ask for it to be removed.

Ric Hingee, Duffy

Cameron's bright idea

British Prime Minister David Cameron could have a slight domestic problem if he is seriously considering caving into the European Union and paying welfare to immigrants for children living abroad, albeit indexed to the standard of living where the child is ("Brexit no way out, says British PM", February 4, p7).

His EU colleagues might want to save face but they do not want their financial systems to crash because German Chancellor Angela Merkel shot her mouth off.

The City of London is the clearing house for EU banking for only one reason: that's where the expertise is.

There's already talk of shipping Merkel off to the UN, just to get rid of her.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

 

Zika: climate change will help bugs thrive

Jenny Heywood (Letters, February 5) casts doubt on the connection between the Zika virus and birth deformities like microcephaly, suggesting it may be caused by pesticide use.

Nevertheless, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is the vector that carries Zika, and the virus manifests itself in symptoms in 20per cent of those infected.

There is a close correlation with microcephaly, even if causation is not fully established. In The Washington Post last week, one expert argued that there were many factors that had contributed to the emergence of Zika, "but the principal drivers have been human population growth, unplanned urban growth, globalisation and lack of effective vector control".

Climate change also makes matters worse. Aedes aegypti, and the diseases it brings, will thrive at higher temperatures.

That makes the decision by the Turnbull government to cut CSIRO funding in climate science not only inexplicable, but reprehensible ("Scientists scathing of plans to slash CSIRO climate expertise", February 5, p1).

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

 

Golly, what a fuss a self-righteous tweeter caused over a few dolls

Will all redheaded dolls, or skinny/fat dolls, or Eskimo dolls be removed because one person is upset ("Hospital golliwogs taken off the shelves after online outcry", February 5, p2).

The golliwogs are beautiful. They are not only cheering up the day of many sick people who pass them by, they are making much-needed funds for the hospital. They are not offensive – they are dolls.

Gail Boate, Gowrie

Only in Canberra could an issue be made of golliwogs (or gollies) being sold in a hospital kiosk.

These dolls are not illegal and a customer can choose to buy or not to buy one.

The different outfits look imaginative and the soft cuddly doll would be great for a little girl in hospital, I would have thought.

I suggest that politically correct types check out BBC TV world news when an Africa story is shown, because many African women, and some men, dress just like the golliwog dolls.

Perhaps a Yankee, anorexic, blue-eyed, blonde, white doll dressed like a prostitute in skimpy clothes is preferred in politically correct Canberra.

Incidentally, how were the gollies selling?

Adrian Jackson, Middle Park, Vic

Your article didn't really explain the reason for Emma Woolley's complaint about the golliwog dolls until recently on sale at Canberra Hospital's kiosk.

If it had something to do with the dolls representing people with darker skin, will Woolley also take a stand against the new, darker-toned Barbies?

Greg Pinder, Charnwood

What sort of sick society are we becoming when ACT Health bows to the demands of some self-righteous tweeter (Emma Woolley) and makes the hospital's auxiliary shop remove its golliwogs from the shelves?

Some volunteer probably spent hours lovingly producing these items to help the hospital and its patients financially.

How many other visitors have seen these items for sale without taking exception?

And tell me how (according to Woolley's theory) the sale of harmless golliwogs will undermine Aboriginal health workers' efforts and increase the barriers Aboriginal people face in accessing mainstream healthcare?

Give me strength!

Bob McDonald, Weetangera

Plan for parking

The artist's sketch accompanying the article "Feedback sought on nature strip garden rules" (February 4, p2) shows a person walking on a footpath.

Both of the suburbs I have lived in had many streets that lack footpaths in minor streets, with the occasional jungle undergrowth reaching to the gutter requiring you to walk on the road, after you had dodged onto the street to get around cars on the nature strip.

I pity the police if they are required to enforce the "no parking on the nature strip" law , though the ACT Treasury may see it as a potential financial bonanza.

Our planners should accept that most houses or flats with more than two bedrooms will usually result in the inhabitants having a multitude of cars, sometimes up to five or so in a large household.

Blocks should be wider, with more off-street parking required, and builders should realise that a house plan of "5-3-2" – i.e. only two garages – is ridiculous because, most likely, the mother and father will have a car each as will two or three of the children when they reach a mature age.

Sensible planning will prevent the illegal cars on the nature strips.

Paul O'Connor, Hawker

Limit the risk

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his deputy, Simon Corbell, seem determined to proceed with the signing of the light rail contract before the 2016 election with negotiations proceeding over the next few months.

A purpose of those negotiations is to establish adequate protections and controls to minimise risk. As much as they dislike the stated intention of the Liberals to tear up the contract if elected, they must now know that this is a real and immediate risk that cannot and should not be dismissed.

The consortium's ability to commit to spending or contracts must be carefully restricted in the hiatus period before the October election.

The ministers have a responsibility to ensure those protections are included in the negotiations.

For them or their delegates to do otherwise would be a breach of their fiduciary responsibilities.

Ken Stokes, Wanniassa

Warped by the tram

About 6pm on Thursday, I had reason to drive down Gundaroo Drive on my way to Mulligans Flat. The route was hopelessly congested from well on the Giralang side of the Barton Highway roundabout to the James Kirk Street intersection on Gundaroo Drive.

This route needs to be duplicated and the Barton Highway intersection needs an overpass, not lights that further impede the flow of traffic.

Ask the government why it doesn't do it and it will probably tell you it lacks the money.

It does have money, but it's keeping it all for its ridiculously expensive tram.

This situation illustrates how the ACT budget is being warped by the tram.

We need to spend money on things we actually need – and think of schools and hospitals, not just roads.

It becomes clear why an incoming Liberal government would have not just the right but the obligation to tear up the tram contract. We can't afford to have our real needs ignored for years why the government builds the tram to retain the support of the Greens and keep itself in power.

Stan Marks, Hawker

 

TO THE POINT

HONOUR THE TOAD

Given the recently invented tradition of naming ACT federal electorates after ANU halls of residence, would it be possible to rename the southern electorate Toad, in honour of the distinguished creature whose achievements are familiar to most of us?

David Walker, Ainslie

PROBLEMS STORED

As an Australian abroad, I am shocked by the government's determination to send traumatised children back to Nauru. The British government just agreed to bring 3000 Syrian children to Britain. This was a difficult decision politically but it recognised that we are storing up immense problems for the future if children grow up in situations of stress and danger.

John Bond, Oxford, Britain

A CYNICAL MOVE

It is hard to imagine that the announcement of cuts to CSIRO's world-leading climate science programs are anything other than a cynical move to shoot the messenger. I hope the motivation was not to free up funds to support research into water divining.

Dr Bradford Sherman, Duffy

GENESIS VALIDATED

Both Patricia Saunders (Letters, February 4) and Evelyn Bean (Letters, February 2) are right. Saunders' statement is backed up in Alice Roberts' work The Incredible Human Journey, which says scientific evidence shows that humans set out from sub-Saharan Africa, moved to northern Africa and to the area of ancient Babylonia. The next migrations were when humans spread from Babylonia to the four corners of the earth, thus validating the Genesis text.

Ken McPhan, Spence

MAKING A POINT

David Smith, with his highly illuminating article "The Governor-General is Australia's head of state" (February 4, Times2, p5), has just secured, affirmed, confirmed and reiterated his position as one of the most boring, dull, tedious, tiresome public persons in Australia's history.

John Rodriguez, Florey

IT TAKES ONE ...

Regarding Senator Cory Bernadi's rant about Kevin Rudd's megalomania in relation to the United Nations' role. As the kids say in the other playground, it takes one to know one.

Linus Cole, Palmerston

THAT YELLOW SUIT

I don't know whether Dame Quentin Bryce wore her yellow suit as "a potent symbol of her feminist views" and "as a statement" (Letters, February 5). All I know is she looked pretty sharp in it.

Bill Deane, Chapman

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