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Letters to the Editor

Letting foreigners buy houses a bigger worry than tax

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Sam Crosby sought to provide some wriggle room for the Labor tax platform ("Gearing isn't all negative", February 17, Times2, p4). He advocated restricting negatively geared tax concessions to new residences.

It is valid to use tax concessions to redirect capital, but tax deductions from negatively geared investments are not a concession. They are a valid deduction of costs incurred in a business risk. Tax should not be incurred until profit is made.

Capital gains tax then becomes the issue. Of course, the "deemed" deduction of 50per cent of capital gains should be disallowed where full deductions for purchase, interest, inflation, insulation, improvements, extensions, landscaping, general maintenance, legal and management fees and so forth have already been made on an annual basis. Inflation would rarely have been claimed, so should, in all equity, remain deductible from the sale profit. All such costs across decades would likely render the family home a business loss, so it should remain tax-free.

It would be a brave government that sought to impute rental value for the period of residence as income.

Whether or not negatively geared residential investments by landlords affect the net availability and affordability of rental accommodation or first-home purchase, there is another innovation that certainly does so and unfavourably. That is allowing foreigners and non-residents to buy Australian real estate.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

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Greek meltdown

In its budget submission, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry rails against tax increases, but wants homeowners who qualify for the age pension to have to pay it all back out of their estate.

In fact, outgoing chamber chief Kate Carnell suggests Australia could end up in a financial hole as deep as Greece's if Treasurer Scott Morrison doesn't take an axe to the pension.

I thought that what went wrong for Greece was the bursting of a debt-financed growth bubble coupled with the fact hardly anyone, including Carnell's small-business constituency, was paying tax?

Nigel Thompson, Queanbeyan East, NSW

Parking fears

I'll bet "Inner south [residents are] spooked over Manuka plan" (February 18, p1). They are probably trying to imagine the size of the hole in the ground needed to provide parking for occupants of 1000 apartments, a 300-bed hotel and the 140,000 square metres of offices and shops.

Oh yes, 450 parking spaces are being provided.

May I also ask on whose lawn the extra 4750 sportsground attendees are going to park?

Paul O'Connor, Hawker

Tax cut won't help

It was sad to see Scott Morrison's continued obsession with giving tax cuts to middle-income (or is it really higher-income) earners, despite the fact pay increases are almost nonexistent at present and bracket creep is not a problem for most workers ("Morrison warns there'll be no 'fistful of dollars' to be spent before election", February 18, p5).

I guess Morrison sees tax cuts as an election-year sweetener, but he may have misjudged the electorate.

Most people I know want the government to ensure our health and education systems are properly funded, along with the other key functions of government. A $10 tax cut doesn't help much if you need to take a sick child to hospital and can't get the necessary treatment.

Australia is a low-taxing country by OECD standards, yet many companies and individuals are able to structure their affairs in such a way as to pay no tax at all, leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab.

Morrison, how about you put some energy into addressing this outrageous anomaly instead of worrying about bracket creep?

Catherine Rossiter, Royalla, NSW

Plain cruel to dogs

Phil Teece (Letters, February 17) chastises the zealots who would welcome the end of greyhound racing in the ACT.

He might reflect for a moment that the dog, alone among all animals, is known as man's best friend, an honour well earned.

Many people repay dogs in various ways and with great kindness for the countless rewards we receive from them. Some people use dogs in activities that are anything but in the dog's best interest.

The notorious end game for unsuccessful or used-up greyhounds is a loathsome violation of the reciprocal relationship that is the essence of friendship and is absolutely unworthy of humans.

Man's best friend. Indeed. Ya wouldn't do it to a dog, mate! Ya shouldn't do it to a dog, mate. The zealots are right. It's just plain cruel.

John Beaton, Campbell

Liberal champion

Congratulations to the ACT Justice Minister, Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, for speaking up on behalf of freedom and against unnecessary laws that undermine it ("Rattenbury takes lone stand on terror laws", February 17, p3).

The leaders of the major parties in the ACT and federally, on the other hand, seem to value freedom lightly and favour panic measures against an overblown terrorist threat.

I would ask every reader to count the number of relatives, friends or even acquaintances killed or maimed by terrorists in the past two years.

Surely it is a core belief of our liberal democracy that we defend our traditional freedoms against all comers without deliberately destroying them. Why is it that only the Greens among the major parties seem to defend liberalism, as in this case?

Elsewhere, they are defending worldwide the conservation of our planet's natural capital in its forests, its seas, its soil and their biological assets, while the pretend-conservatives worldwide seem set on squandering it as fast, as wastefully and as harmfully as possible.

Bring on the elections, federal and local, so we real liberals and conservatives can again defend liberalism and conservation by supporting those who still promote these political virtues.

A. Moore, Melba

Invest in rehab

Ross Gittins describes the growth of Australia's incarceration industry, which resembles the British colonial transportation of convicts for minor offences, while the disproportionate imprisonment of Aborigines displays persistant racist attitudes ("Prisoner stats tell a sad tale", February 17, Times2, p1).

A more humane approach to punishment is found in Sweden, where emphasis is placed on open prisons, whose main aims are rehabilitation and education, resulting in lower crime rates and the closure of several prisons over recent decades.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said recently that the levels of violence, drug-taking and self-harm in prisons brought "shame on us all".

He said a significant change would be to make it easier for people with criminal records to find jobs in the civil service, without making this admission until much later in the job application process, after having had a chance to put their case.

Pilot projects will be launched this year, allowing some prisoners to be released during the day to go to work and just spend weekends in custody.

Since most prisoners have drug and alcohol problems or mental disorders, investment in treatment, rehabilitation and education, rather than incarceration, as in Sweden, should reduce the present high incidence and costs of recidivism of Australian prisoners.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

Plebiscite will fail

In response to Ed Dobson (Letters, February 16): the first stage of voting on the republic is proposed to be a non-binding poll (a plebiscite), not a referendum.

Our view is that only one yes/no plebiscite, lacking sufficient detail to make a confident decision, would be a rerun of the 1999 referendum and about as successful.

We have made this clear to the Australian Republican Movement and the Labor Party.

We think two plebiscites – possibly more – canvassing, for example, voters' opinions on the name of the country, the title of the head of state and the selection method for the head of state – are necessary before the final constitutional convention and, last step, referendum.

Women, whose support for a republic runs consistently 10per cent lower than that of men, are more likely to vote "yes" this way.

Sarah Brasch, Women for an Australian Republic, Weston

PNG water plan

An inland sea for Australia ("100 years ago", February 16, Gang-gang) was not then such a wild idea as may at first seem.

While working in the Fly River area of Papua New Guinea during the late 1960s, I was always astounded by the sheer massive volume of good fresh water flowing from the river estuary into the Gulf of Papua.

With the tip of Australia only a relatively short distance away, it always occurred to me there was great potential to pipe this outflow into northern Australia, especially with the then fairly recent benefit of all the Snowy Mountains Scheme engineering expertise.

To feed this outflow into the Murray-Darling system could have made an enormous difference, especially to south-eastern Australia.

There was also potential for northern and central parts of Australia to benefit – including the inland sea, around present-day Lake Eyre, written about 100 years ago by Fred Bloomfield in the Queensland Worker.

Sadly, all this is no longer possible, certainly from the Fly River, due to Ok Tedi mining and the environmental and economic destruction of the river, especially caused by the tailings dam collapse and the continuing pollution and unmitigated contamination over the years since then.

Paul Jones, Curtin

 

TO THE POINT

A RIGHT ROYAL GIFT

As monarchists keep reminding us, the best argument in favour of the monarchy is that it is impotent. So let's give the next royal tour our traditional gift to powerless arrivals: non-return tickets to Manus Island or Nauru.

Michael Barry, Torrens

DON'T JUST TALK ABOUT IT

Let's hope our pollies aren't just squawking about structural change to our taxation system.

Tom Middlemiss, Deakin

AMUSING AMBITION

I just watched Josh Frydenberg spelling out our future as a supplier of coal to India ("Adani hurdles could deter Indian investment", February 12, Business Day, p11). I had to laugh.

S .W. Davey, Torrens

OUT OF THEIR DEPTH

I suggest H.Ronald and Gary J.Wilson buy a few colouring books (Letters, February 17). Their valiant, yet futile efforts at deciphering gender politics would be better spent on "mindful colouring".

Joyce Wu, Lyneham

A GERMAN CONNECTION?

Floored by the contribution of my one-time boss, Don McMichael (Letters, February19), to the debate on whether "news" is singular or plural, I have now recovered sufficiently to offer a footnote. It is possible the word is not the plural of "new", but arose among Americans of German origin under the influence of the German neuter singular adjective neues – as in etwas neues, something new; nichts neues, nothing new; Im Westen nichts Neues, All Quiet on the Western Front.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

BETTER THAN BARNABY

What a pity Mr and Mrs Joyce didn't name their son Ulysses. Now that would have been a literary illusion (sic).

Eric Hunter, Cook

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