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Letters to the Editor

Just $614 million on the line?

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In 2014, then chief minister Katy Gallagher was quoted as saying Cabinet "won't tolerate much more than $614 million [being spent on light rail]" ("Gallagher puts cap on light rail cost", June 1) at $614 million.

Now that the consortia bids have been available to the Barr government for some time, and without asking the actual prices, can Labor at least tell us if they exceed $614 million and if this includes the cost of all the intersection works that were later identified as a consequence of the LRT project?

Also, will the government now release the Lister Veitch report on traffic and patronage, which has been previously denied FOI access as this forms such an important part of our understanding of the project's value and was referred to in the business case.

R.J. Nairn, Hawker

Barking up wrong tree

Instead of talking to the trees, perhaps Ian Warden could convince the Rosenberg's monitors on Mount Ainslie ("Project aims to monitor goannas", Gang-gang, January 6, p8) to return to their habitat in the paddocks adjacent to Wells Station Drive. CanTheTram would then readily conform to being the cult of the Gungahlin Goanna in deference to this noble animal's act to save the city from constructing a silly tram line. Otherwise Warden has to justify his labelling of a diverse group of people, who arguably speak the views of a majority of Canberrans, as an "ignoble cult".

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A. Smith, Farrer

Undemocratic funding

The Australian Electoral Commission has just advised that following the North Sydney byelection $163,000 of taxpayers' funds has been paid out to three of the 13 candidates who contested the byelection. The three candidates got 4 per cent or more of the primary vote (first vote) and the sums were; Liberal ($95,000), Green ($31,000) and an Independent ($37,000). Not only is it unacceptable that our taxes are subsidising candidates but it is also undemocratic, with 10 candidates who got less that 4 per cent of the vote getting nothing. This payout is on top of the cost of conducting the byelection. This ripoff, which I think started during the Hawke government, must be stopped. Let parties and candidates raise their own funds for campaigning in all elections.

Adrian Jackson, Middle Park, Vic

Patient decision or not

Richard Mills (Letters, January 6) is semantically correct in defining suicide, murder, and euthanasia. Euthanasia is when you are killed with the help of someone else, whether the help is requested or not. But Mr Millis is wrong to assert that there is no doubt that the patient decides.

When the time comes, the patient is mentally incompetent to decide; is likely to be in mental and physical pain, and may feel guilt about depriving relatives of their inheritance by using it for palliative care. Worst of all will be the pressure on the medical staff to reduce costs. Furthermore, if the "patient" has the power to decide, do we let 19- year-olds, who have lost their job and lost their partner, decide?

I don't offer an answer to the question, "Who decides?" because I have not found an answer that I consider satisfactory.

This is a complex issue, and cannot be simply dismissed with "no doubt the patient decides" or "no one complains in Norway".

Bruce A. Peterson, Kambah

What many think

Elizabeth Farrelly ("Foul whiff in the halls of power", Times2, January 7, p4) has said what many people think.

The recent parade of sexist and dishonourable behaviour by three of Malcolm Turnbull's Liberal Party colleagues deserves our strongest condemnation. More importantly, the behaviour of these men demands that the PM take stronger action than he has so far.

Mr Turnbull has ridden high in the polls as preferred prime minister ever since he relieved us of the burden of Tony Abbott, but he cannot expect to maintain this popularity if he fails to offer something different.

In particular, we are entitled to expect much stronger action against the Immigration Minister, who consistently shows himself to be a man totally unfit for the portfolio he currently holds.

If Turnbull wishes to fulfil the promises he made when overthrowing Tony Abbott, he must immediately act to dismiss Dutton from the ministry.

Anything less will be seen as a failure of leadership. After all, "the standard you walk past is the standard you accept". Turnbull has already shown himself to be an ineffective Opposition Leader and must work hard to convince us that he is anything more than empty rhetoric and a captive of the extreme Right of his party.

S. Berresford, Hackett

Thanks and congratulations to Elizabeth Farrelly for her powerful article "'Foul whiff in the halls of power" (Times2, January 7, p4). As a voter of more than 60 years, I thought Australia had hit the bottom of the barrel under the Abbott government, but the foul whiff is still there.

After the promising moves to our first female GG, then female PM and, our "leaders" and their supporters have descended from misogynist abuse in parliament to 'back to the boys' behaviour on placards, in emails, photos, and the denial of human rights to a Nauru asylum seeker claiming rape. How low can we go?

Geoff Armstrong, Monash

Idiocy must be barrier

Alex Wallenksy (Letters, January 7) is right in that it isn't an offence to express an opinion about one person to another. It's not an offence –at least legally – even if that opinion takes the form of a childishly crude, shallow, gratuitous personal insult.

However, anyone in a public position, a minister for instance, who still doesn't understand that anything sent into the ether is both potentially and probably going to end up in the public domain, is an idiot. And surely idiocy should preclude one from holding such office, even if coarseness and lack of respect for others do not.

Ian Fraser, Duffy

Double standards

When a journalist penned the headline "Treasurer for sale", male politician Joe Hockey raced off to the courts and sued for defamation because he felt it implied he couldn't carry out his job impartially.

When a male politician refers to a female journalist (Samantha Maiden) as "a mad f---ing witch" Bill Deane and H. Ronald (Letters, January 5) expect her to laugh it off. Isn't there a whiff of double standards here? Don't the words used by Peter Dutton demean Ms Maiden and suggest that she does not have the good judgment and intelligence to carry on her job as a political journalist?

Mike Reddy, Curtin

 

Laughable attempt to 'steal' Hobart test

Attempts by the ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, and Cricket ACT to steal away Hobart's Test match are pitiful. Hobart's Bellerive Oval situated on the picturesque Derwent River attracts huge and passionate crowds for one day international matches involving Australia and to support the local team the Hurricanes in the Big Bash.

The suggestion that Manuka would sell out a Test match against hopeless opposition like the West Indies is laughable. When the ACT can produce a stream of Test quality players as Tasmania has consistently done over recent years, including David Boon and Ricky Ponting, it may have a reasonable claim to host a Test. Until then, Canberrans can just take a flex day and catch the bus up to Sydney.

Brent Knevett, Melbourne, Vic

Climate change yo-yo

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has a good way of describing global warming. It's like walking up a hill with a yo-yo. The temperature goes up and down, but the trend is relentless.

Since 2000 the rise in global temperature has been clear. Each year, we break another grim record. While the planet is heating, energy is bleeding off the oceans, and causing large scale changes to weather. It's increasing the severity of storms, but it's also affecting rainfall patterns. Ask a farmer in the south-west of Australia.

People say in science that nothing is certain, but nobody seriously argues about the speed of light or the size of the Earth.

The evidence is now beyond doubt. Despite all this, we have our little band of climate deniers whose higher authority" is nothing more than "me and my mates reckon".

They're entitled to their opinions, but this has gone well beyond a simple debate. Their efforts to undermine solutions are a mark of short-term self interest, while condemning ourselves to a dangerous future. It's an attitude that can be rightly classified as unethical.

A.R. Taylor, Giralang

 

No calls for less 'us and them' when Workchoices law was introduced

Who wouldn't agree with Bill Carmichael ("We're all in this together", Times2, January 6, p1) that less "us and them" in Australia's industrial relations would be a good thing? But, sadly, any fair assessment of wage movements in the past decade shows that for employers this too often means simply more for "us" and less for "them".

Carmichael correctly suggests union leader Charlie Fitzgibbon was a great Australian who was worried about the pernicious effects of comparative wage justice in the mid-1980s. But if he is implying Fitzgibbon's concerns were rejected and lay neglected for the past 30 years, then he is guilty of serious misrepresentation of history.

Comparative wage justice died in the late 1980s/early 1990s and was then buried with passage of Paul Keating's Industrial Relations Reform Act in 1993. This could not have happened without the courageous leadership of then ACTU secretary Bill Kelty – another great Australian – whose high opinion of Fitzgibbon Carmichael quotes with approval.

Kelty spoke so well of his former colleague because, among other things, he agreed so strongly with him on this subject. And he did something about it.

Kelty's drive was instrumental in changing trade union approaches to wage bargaining with the result that, in large measure, Fitzgibbon's preferred approach was adopted. Bargaining at the enterprise level brought employers, their workers and trade unions closer together for a time, with greater differentials in wage outcomes.

A decade later, this all ended abruptly with John Howard's Workchoices legislation, effectively written in secret by employer-side lawyers without even rudimentary consultation with employee representatives.

It was the absolute antithesis of co-operative labour relations. There were no calls for less "us and them" then.

Phil Teece, Sunshine Bay, NSW

Capitalism to blame

In his article justifying collaboration (ie, wage "restraint" and, eventually, even wage cuts), Bill Carmichael cites concerns expressed by former union leader Charlie Fitzgibbon 30 years ago "that if employees insisted on too big a share of economic production, that could result in lost competitiveness and, hence, loss of job security".

A bit over 30 years ago, in 1982-83, labour's share of factor income was about 60per cent and capital's share about 20per cent. Today, labour's share has fallen to about 53-54per cent and capital's is close to a record 27per cent.

What Carmichael is basically arguing for is a continuation of this trend to shift more wealth and income to capital from labour.

The capitalist class successfully started this process of wealth and income shifting in the 1980s through the Hawke and Keating governments and their special relationship with trade unions. Through the accord, this saw wage increases moderated and real wages cut in exchange for spurious or illusory benefits.

In any event, if we are going to use the arguments of a class collaborationist like Fitzgibbon, why not pick 1982-83 as the best guide to what an appropriate share of the national pie going to labour and capital should be?

This shift of wealth and income is, I believe, driven by a deeper trend within capitalism; what Marx identified as the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

As that tendency reasserts itself in Australia after the end of the mining boom, the logic of Carmichael's argument is that workers must suffer wage cuts (and cuts to social services and public services) to restore the profit rates of the 1 per cent.

The current near-record levels of factor income going to capital are the result of the class collaboration of union leaders like Fitzgibbon and their commitment to capitalism. The 30-year, one-sided class war of capital against labour and the shift of wealth and income from labour to capital are the end result of this mistaken view that we are all in this together.

Maybe the time has come to think about alternatives to the madness of capitalism.

A truly democratic society that puts people before profit comes to mind.

John Passant, Kambah

Pension anomalies

If, as the federal government claims, planned changes in the treatment of public service pensions in the test for the Centrelink age pension are about ending an anomaly that advantaged defined-benefits pensioners over other pensioners ("Warning on public service pension pain", January 7 p1), then perhaps it should consider correcting an anomaly that disadvantages defined-benefits pensioners.

When the Howard government decided the pensions of retirees be exempt from income tax, this was not applied to defined-benefits pensioners on the ground that their pensions had not been subject to tax at the point of contribution.

In their case, only 10 per cent of their pensions were so exempted. This different treatment may have been equitable, but in the implementation, it had serious, if unintended, side effects.

Since the income from private pensions was not subject to income tax, this income did not contribute to taxable income.

In contrast, the taxable income of defined-benefit pensioners included 90per cent of their pensions. This meant any additional income enjoyed by defined-benefit pensioners was taxed at a higher rate than similar additional income of other pensioners.

Consider two people, one with a defined-benefits pension, the other not, but each having pension income of $50,000 and additional income of $50,000.

The person whose pension is free of income tax pays no tax on that $50,000, and about $8000 tax on the additional income. The defined-benefits pensioner pays about $6000 tax on the pension income and nearly $17,000 tax on the additional income.

There is another consequence of this differential treatment. Many government benefits, such as the healthcare card, use taxable income as a measure of eligibility.

The defined-benefits pensioner in the above example is at a comparative $45,000 taxable income disadvantage in accessing such benefits.

Bruce Cook, Aranda

 

TO THE POINT

FRASER WAS OUR JIM

I agree with Jon ("Stanhope, fuming over 'outrageous' response to Fraser-Fenner inquiry", January 8, p1). Ithink I recall that Jim Fraser's son said he didn't mind if they changed the name of the electorate, but I do. He was our Jim, speaking up for us when we had no voice. Fenner has national relevance: give him an electorate somewhere else!

Lesley Fisk, Barton

DO WE DESERVE IT?

Now we have Barnaby Joyce saying that it is OK for senior ministers Dutton and Briggs to mock and importune women, because it is "part of our culture". It is said that we get the politicians we deserve, but what on earth have we done to get these clueless cretins?

Richard Keys, Ainslie

JOYCE FOR PM

Barnaby Joyce for Deputy Prime Minister. Won't he get on well with President Donald Trump when they visit North Korea together!

Linus Cole, Palmerston

GROW VEGGIES ON TRAMS

John Simsons (Letters, January 6) makes a great point. A compromise would be growing vegetables on the trams. Window boxes bursting with medicinal herbs, members of the Cucurbitaceae family, and Tropaeolum majus dangling from the roofs.

Matt Ford, Crookwell, NSW

ASSESS OLDER DRIVERS

Letters about older drivers have mainly focused on accident rates. Asmost of us will one day be older drivers, what options are available in the ACT for assessing driving ability, so that drivers and their families canmake informed decisions aboutcontinuing to drive?

Hilarie Kemp, Duffy

UNWORTHY FOR AWARD

Ian Warden ("Wild about public art", Gang-gang, January 7, p8) misread my letter of January 6 that suggested that he was the most worthy candidate for UnCanberran of 2015. My reference to his attack on the residents of Yarralumla referred to his swingeing articles earlier in 2015. His lack of comprehension or memory on this subject leads me to withdraw my suggestion that he aim for a Walkley Award in 2016.

Alan Robertson, Civic

NEWS IS SINGULAR

David Sheppard (Letters, January 7) wonders about the number (singular/plural) of "news". Far be it from me to judge and compare dictionaries, but the Oxford says this is a plural noun (meaning tidings, fresh events reported), which, however, is usually treated as a singular one ("No news is good news").

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

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