It is appalling that the only way Treasury and our government can think of to raise income is to raise income tax or GST (''Treasury head paints appalling outlook'', April 3, p1). I have written to every new federal treasurer since Peter Costello, who introduced tax-free superannuation pensions for the over 60s, to point out how utterly inequitable that decision was.
Joe Hockey says he wants to get rid of the age of entitlement. Surely that should extend to the over 60s? I am over 60 and receiving tax-free income from my superannuation. It's nice for me but it is in no way fair. The exemption of superannuation income from taxation is estimated to cost $30 billion annually in tax forgone. Getting rid of that would solve Mr Hockey's budget problems and allow money for an increase in welfare payments to those Australians who need the money, not just those of us who are over 60.
As well, what about going ahead with the fringe benefits tightening that Labor was going to do, that would have given the government an extra $1 billion a year. Or reduce the subsidies to the big banks, about $10 billion, or subsidies for fossil fuel use, another $10 billion - not counting the environment impacts. Or negative gearing of property, which could have the fringe benefit of more affordable housing? Or if it is really an appalling budget situation, the government could keep the carbon tax.
Caroline Le Couteur, Downer
Not a day goes by now without another salvo softening us up for an increase in that most regressive of taxes, the GST. I'm all for taxes. Even though they're often used for bad purposes and used inefficiently, conceptually and on balance they're a Good Thing (tm). But a fair tax system has two fundamental underpinnings: that it be progressive, i.e. the more you earn, the more you pay; and that everyone pays his/her fair share. The GST meets the latter criterion but fails spectacularly in the former; flat taxes always fall most heavily on those who can least afford to pay them.
So why do governments love them so much? Three reasons: They're easy to implement because retail establishments do the heavy lifting of collection; they're much easier and more philosophically palatable (not to mention more beneficial to party coffers) than making wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share; and because they're a perfect implementation of the universal Tory philosophy of robbing the poor to pay the rich.
Fred Pilcher, Kaleen
Reiteration by bureaucrats and economists about raising or expanding the GST ignores the fundamentals of human behaviour and the political system. Irrespective of the type of budget (personal, business or government), spending must be tied to what is earnt. Or put another way, whether it be businesses, governments or Joe Citizen, all must live within their means. Australia's incessant desire to keep up with the international Joneses at all cost is at times embarrassing. Should the GST rise, its a fair bet so too will the spending (and promises). Many countries with higher value-added taxes are in deficit, thereby reinforcing the fact that its spending restraint, and not taxation, that balances the books.
Trevor Robinson, Duffy
NRL penalty unfair
The seven-game suspension penalty dished out to Jordan McLean by the NRL judiciary is an absolute travesty. He does not deserve such a penalty. McLean was apparently found guilty of a dangerous throw.
To the extent he was guilty of any wrongdoing, he was guilty of contributing to a careless tackle by three players.
Without wanting to take anything away from the seriousness of the spinal injury to Alex McKinnon that flowed from the tackle - and I wouldn't wish such an outcome on anyone - it is clear from the many video replays and still photographs that McKinnon contributed - however unwittingly - to his injury by ducking his head into the tackle.
I understand that players are taught to do that so as to facilitate a roll should they be involved in a so-called ''spear'' tackle.
But the tackle on McKinnon was not a spear tackle. If McKinnon had not ducked his head it is unlikely he would have sustained the injury he did.
McLean is going to suffer from guilt by association for the rest of his life for this unfortunate accident.
No further ''punishment'' should have been required.
Don Sephton, Greenway
Geoff Clark (Letters, April 3) seeks to defend his views on compulsory third party insurance by claiming that the new insurers ''make their own risk assessments''. If they were truly independent they might, but these new players are not independent: they are all owned by the Suncorp Group. It is therefore not difficult to surmise that there might be some ''group-think'' going on here. I do not believe that the entry of these new players has increased competition or reduced premiums, particularly to the point where the benighted car owners are not being seriously gouged.
Mark Raymond, Manton, NSW
An excellent article ''Bigger Australia no cure-all'' (Times2, April 1, p4) by Nicholas Stuart indicates the fallacies behind the push for high population increase. With fine exceptions, such as Kelvin Thomson and Bob Carr, why can't politicians see the $200,000 per migrant borne by the existing population in new infrastructure to provide extra housing, roads, schools, hospitals, shops etc. Also, there is the huge loss in biodiversity from destruction of habitat to locate the new infrastructure, and there is loss of amenity from noise and air pollution, traffic increase and high prices due to the housing shortage.
Similarly, why do we have baby bonuses to encourage women to have more children when a third of our population increase comes from births over deaths?
No doubt the politicians are constantly harassed by major donors to their parties who want more consumers to increase their wealth at financial, environmental and social cost to the rest of the country. We could afford to take more refugees from the camps (a drop in the ocean compared to other immigration programs) if we didn't have such high levels of non-refugee intake.
Julia Richards, Kambah
Planet is resiliant
I agree with Julian Cribb's well-presented article ''Is extinction on the cards?'' (Times2, April 3, p1). Human behaviour is not always rational because we can be a friend or an enemy, loving or hateful, a predator or a victim, civilised or a slave to our basic instincts - we all have the ability to be either good or bad depending on the circumstances.
Cribb said: ''Typical species survive for about 10 million years before they succumb to Mr Darwin''. This planet existed for billions of years before humans emerged, and humans have a way to travel to reach the 10 million years mark. Realistically, we can't look forward to reaching the average mark, succumbing in the meantime to our consumerism, pollution and worship of the mighty dollar. Our planet existed for billions of years before man emerged as a species and it will continue to exist and to rehabilitate itself after mankind is no more than a bad memory.
Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay, NSW
Apart from the TakeFive photos (Times2, April 1, p13) I've been surprised to find no mention of the ACT Cancer Council's grand efforts at the AIS last weekend with the ''Relay for Life'' event. More than 200 teams involving thousands of Canberrans (participants and volunteers) raised more than $560,000 and persuaded 190-plus people to have their heads shaved in a world record attempt for the great fight against cancer. I hope Canberra's paper will make a more genuine effort to record this fantastic achievement soon given it doesn't seem to have done so to date.
Andrew Higginson, Cook
Is one expected to be shocked to learn that the CIA for years misled the US government and the public about its brutal interrogation (''CIA lied on torture - report'' Apr 2, p9).
Wasn't it the former US vice-president Dick Cheney who in May 2009 described the torture of Guantanamo detainees at the hands of CIA operatives as ''enhanced interrogation techniques''?
So, take your pick as to which repulses you most: excruciating techniques that yield very little, or the vulgar abuse of the English language.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
I was deeply concerned about the recent report on Four Corners regarding the issue over the oil and gas reserves off the coast of East Timor. East Timor tried to negotiate a fairer deal with Australia because the original maritime borders were unfair and illegal.
What's so disturbing is not only that ASIO bugged negotiations, but when Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery represented East Timor at the Hague, ASIO, directed by the government, broke into his offices, as well as breaking into Witness K's home.
In the past, governments have lied and acted illegally, but this is a whole new level of deceitfulness when people's homes are broken into, all under the guise of national security.
I was surprised how little coverage of this story was given by the media in general, but that's understandable when the Murdoch-controlled media owns 70 per cent of it.
Christopher Nyssen, Gordon
A stirring let-down
I am disappointed my effort at stirring up the Canberra community with a racial vilification of our poor old Scots (Letters, March 31) was a failure - although I still claim that Doug Cameron proves my point.
But talking of racial matters, I am getting fed up with every time I have to fill out papers for medical or government reasons I have to state whether I am of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. I have no idea whatsoever whether my mother had an affair with an Aborigine, a Torres Strait Islander, a Chinese coolie, an Afghan camel driver or whatever.
I've decided that from now on my answer will be the absolute truth - I don't know !
Baden Williams, Lyneham
To the point
PULLING THE STRINGS
So, outgoing ASIO spy chief David Irvine has written a book on Indonesian wayang puppetry (''ASIO chief David Irvine to step down in September'', canberratimes .com.au, April 3). Seems more than a little ironic, given the egregious efforts of successive Australian governments to defraud the people of East Timor, while pretending to be their friend, all allegedly facilitated by the illegal activities of agencies headed by Mr Irvine.
John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW
MAKING THINGS HARDER
Tom McIlroy (''Appy days: hunt for change at an end'', April 2, p5) says the inconvenience of the old parking meter system drove him to take the bus. The ACT government has forgotten the lesson from the tobacco success already. Make things harder, not easier, if you want to promote bus use and reduce single-person car use to get to and from work. Of course, this has nothing to do with revenue raising.
Nick van Weelden, Mawson
So, Therese Rein has sold her company for $222 million. Does this mean she and Kevin can live the luxurious life without the taxpayer paying for Kevin's ''retirement'' package. And if the Education Department functioned better, $95,000 for advice on improving its image (''Department paid spin doctors $95,000 for three weeks' work'', April 2, p1) would not have been required.
Rita Corbett, Spence
MORE A TRIAL THAN INQUIRY
From the article ''Forensic scientist too sick to give evidence in Eastman inquiry'' (April 3, p2) and the statement by his counsel that ''his funding was running out'', it would seem that Mr Barnes has been the subject of a ''trial'', not an ''inquiry''.
Roger Terry, Kingston
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