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No budget emergency for miners or companies

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I've read with great interest all of the CT letters for and against the budget. The following questions still remain.

If a budget emergency really exists, why would the government reduce company tax by 1.5 per cent across 800,000 businesses? Why would it bring forward $1.5 billion in defence spending? Why would it sever the mining tax and continue to provide billion-dollar subsidies to an already ''peaked'' mining industry? Why would it axe the clean energy renewable fund that brought in a 7 per cent profit for the government, a growing sector with huge potential for jobs growth? Why would it fund ''religious only'' chaplains to the tune of $240 million? Why even entertain a paid parental system at all? This country obviously can't afford it. So what emergency?

One could be forgiven for thinking this charade has nothing to do with good fiscal policy and everything to do with short-sighted conservative ideology made on the backs of Australians who can least afford it. Cuts to health and education are especially concerning.

Also expendable are our scientists and university students, especially puzzling given that Australia is moving into an era where science and education must play an essential part in dealing with future challenges, many around climate change. That's right, Mr Abbott, it's happening whether you believe it or not.

There may have needed to be some belt-tightening, agreed. But this recent budget will render this government as one of the meanest and most ill-advised in Australia's history. A fair and clever country? I fear not.

Alison Chapple, Macquarie

Robert Willson obliquely praises the Joe Hockey budget, claiming it will improve people's health by reducing consumption of alcohol, tobacco and junk food (Letters, May 20).

However, he does not acknowledge Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash's closure of the ''health star rating'' website and the government's abolition of the National Preventive Health Agency. Another case of ordinary people being told to shut up and pay up while the ''big end of town'' fills its pockets with their money.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

 

Not whole truth

Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott get irate when accused of lying about cutting pensions, which, in dollar terms, they are not doing. The government's proposal to cut spending on pensions can be achieved in two ways: raising the pension age (also not a cut to the pension), and/or changing the method of indexation.

For pensioners, the ''whole truth'' cannot ignore indexation methods. For example, over 20 years from 1989 to 2009, retired public servant's pensions indexed to the CPI, increased by 70 per cent. The age pension, partially indexed to average weekly earnings, increased by 130 per cent.

If we have similar figures for indexation over the next 20 years, people aged 50 now will receive a pension indexed to the CPI, worth 60 per cent less in real terms than the current pension. If they live another 20 or 40 years (a statistical likelihood, barring starvation), how will they achieve some quality of life?

The information on indexation is widely available. By talking in dollar rather than real terms, Hockey and Abbott are not technically lying, but they can be accused of deliberately withholding most of the truth.

Harry Samios, O'Connor

 

Burden not spread

Commission of Audit chairman Tony Shepherd thinks ''it's a sad reflection on the modern Australian attitude that they can't see that all areas have to make a contribution'' (''Budget hostility sad, says auditor'', May 23, p1). His claim that all areas are making a contribution is ludicrous.

The rich, of which, in his position, he is no doubt a part, will not even notice the effect on their incomes. Even more so if they adjust their financial affairs to minimise their incomes so they avoid the levy.

The reason so many are complaining so bitterly is because this is a bitter budget, and the burden is very far from being spread across all areas. Mr Shepherd said they ''agonised'' about spreading the burden. Well, they should have ''agonised'' a little more, and included their rich mates in the mix. It's disgusting they didn't.

Jane Craig, Holt

 

Facts distorted

Philip Thomson's story ''Johnston on the defensive as apology sought for 'fat and happy' remark'' (May 22, p4) contains factual distortions, errors and omissions. Far from being on the defensive, my office responded promptly to Mr Thomson's request for clarification of a radio interview, a transcript of which was posted on my website, all open and transparent.

Mr Thomson wrongly claims that: ''Defence Minister David Johnston is still saying 1200 public servants will be made redundant from the Defence Department even though his government's own portfolio budget statements say it will be almost double this number.'' The government has directed 1200 redundancies through natural attrition. However, despite a detailed reply from this office, Mr Thomson fails to make clear that when in government Labor cut 1000 APS jobs in the 2011-12 budget, and as a result of budget cuts Defence had to cut another 1000 APS in 2012-13, and a further 800 jobs in the 2013-14 budget. The tail of these cuts is still having a significant impact on the current forward estimates and are quite separate from the 1200 directed by this government, despite the author's suggestion to the contrary.

As for demands the minister apologise for the ''fat and happy'' remark. Even the most cursory reading of the transcript makes clear I was expressing an opinion about figures reflecting a top-heavy defence bureaucracy. I was not referring to individuals and to suggest otherwise is plain wrong.

Senator David Johnston, Defence Minister

 

Not all debt is bad

I disagree with P.M. Button (Letters, May 20) in the belief that all debt is disastrous. Invested in an income- producing asset and/or item that increases in value, debt can be cash-flow positive in future years.

Debt is only an issue where the repayments cannot be made when due or total interest costs are greater than the benefit obtained.

The best decision I ever made was to borrow an amount that was more than 200 per cent of my annual salary to buy a house. Over my lifetime the cost of interest is substantially less than ''dead money'' of rent. The current capital gain is over 350 per cent. All achieved because I went into significant debt 20 years ago.

Australia recorded a government debt to GDP of 20.48 per cent in 2013. (Australian Office of Financial Management). Our country has a triple A credit rating, so the world's lenders don't seem to have a problem with our ability to repay it. Even at the peak of 31.7 per cent of GDP in 1994, Australia's debt ratio has never been anywhere near what the bank was prepared to deem an acceptable financial risk with me.

The real issue is structural deficit. If as a civilised society we cannot cut assistance to the less well off without undue hardship, then having previously sold off the income-producing assets like the Commonwealth Bank and Telstra, the total tax take as a percentage of GDP must rise to fill the gap. The alternative is to borrow more today and invest in the income-producing assets of the future.

Mark Boscawen, Calwell

 

A lot of wind

Almost every claim Peter Keemis makes about wind power (Letters, May 20) is not supported by a recent study of wind power in South Australia, where it supplies 25 per cent of the state's electricity (2012-13) up from 6 per cent (2005-6). Electricity required from peaking plants has been reduced, wholesale electricity prices have not risen and there has been a 34 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions from electricity production in South Australia over this period.

On the issue of coal-fired plants in Germany, for each new more efficient clean coal plant currently being opened, two older coal plants are being closed. Output from coal in Germany is not increasing.

Doug Hynd, Stirling

 

Costly roo cull

Freedom of information data for 2009-10 to 2012-13 show the ACT government spent just under $1 million on program delivery in killing kangaroos on ACT public reserves.

However, when the cost of ACT government staff time in planning and defending the kill across a range of responsibilities (ecology, management, public relations, security, legal, etc), as well as purchase and hire of equipment and the imputed cost of nature reserve closure to the public for weeks are added, the total cost would conservatively balloon out to closer to $5 million over these years.

For much less expenditure on government programs we naturally expect a comprehensive assessment against outcome measures as justification for ongoing expenditure - in this case, according to ministerial announcements, the enhanced viability of certain threatened species of grass and small animals negatively impacted on by quietly grazing kangaroos.

Yet we find there are no defensible quantitative or qualitative indicators of anticipated outcomes and no results measures of any kind even after five years of kangaroo killing. Is this the level of slack accountability we expect of government decision-making in the ACT with public money? If no evidence can be provided what then of other worthy priorities in the ACT that have to bow and scrape for assistance including no doubt for the increasing decrepit natural state of the reserves.

Professor Steve Garlick, Bungendore, NSW

 

Ridiculous rules

I recently resigned from my job for health reasons. I turn 55 in January and contacted the Department of Human Services to access my super early to pay my mortgage and live until I can access my superannuation in January. I was told I needed a foreclosure notice from my bank. They advised me to sign up for the Disability Pension. I don't want the pension, I want my own money. How ridiculous are the rules regarding early access to super. In light of Abbott's budget, you'd think we were rolling in money to give away.

Evelina Brighty, Campbell

PAIN WITHOUT GAIN

Many of us expected a hit in the budget: even say a temporary cut in benefits. What we got was a temporary surcharge on the rich and a permanent cut in the incomes of the most vulnerable and weaker members of society - the pensioners. Where is the logic? Where is the deficit urgency?

R.C. Warn, Weston

GOVERNING FOR WHOM?

The politicians running this country have odd beliefs. They think that in order to be elected to govern, it is permissible to make promises to sustain what Australia has created over many years, and then break them, tell lies and deliberately penalise those who have the least to give.

The current government is not one that Australians deserve. Government for the people is what we expect.

Pamela Rutland, Kingston

SO DEBT'S OK FOR STUDENTS

The Abbott government is violently opposed to long term, unsustainable debt - except for university students from low to middle-income families.

Tony Judge, Belconnen

SOUNDS OF FAILURE

So, loud annoying music in some stores is for the benefit of ''bored'' staff (Letters, May 22). Why are they bored? Perhaps because their ''choice of music'' has driven away any potential customers.

L. Buckley, Duffy

LIGHT RAIL INDULGENCE

I cannot see the sense in paying fees to consultants for a $614 billion light rail project (which I cannot see ever getting off the ground) while we are struggling to pay for health and education costs, which have a much higher priority. Also, why should people in Tuggeranong and Belconnen have to pay an extra levy to support a light rail that only takes in the Gungahlin-city corridor?

Jenny Nairn, Hawker

MORE ACT PARENTS REFUSING VACCINATIONS

These kids and parents need to be identified so other parents can be aware of the potential risk because we have done the right thing. I certainly dont want my healthly children catching a disease that could have EASILY been prevented by immunisation.

Shogunmatty, Reality, May 21

Email: letters.editor@ canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282.Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).

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