Letters to the Editor

Taskforce not needed

I go to the doctor. I pay the bill.

They ask if I'm registered for electronic Medicare claiming. I say yes. They put a claim in digitally. Medicare pays me my refund digitally. Within minutes, the money is in my bank account. Done and dusted.

Medicare is already digitised.  There is no need for a taskforce ("Move to privatise payments expected to unleash cries of outrage", February 10, p1). Send the bureaucrats home, save the $5million, keep the jobs.

Claire Hughes, Kambah

The Turnbull government is toying with the idea of using private contractors to process Medicare payments.

The obvious choices would be the private health funds who would then be able to tighten their grips further on the health financing system.


Is this a precursor to the introduction of "opting out" from Medicare for those who choose to take out private health insurance or who self insure?

I have heard that the Howard government looked at this option during its time in office.

Such moves to a two-tier approach are the inevitable outcomes of an inequitable, worn-out system that is already grossly underfunded and offers no consumer protection to patients in relation to their private medical fees or capacity to challenge the inevitable "profit before patients" motivation of privatised health funds such as Medibank Private.

John Popplewell, Hackett

Put the cash into TAFEs

The misfortune experienced by students who chose to enrol in government-funded private vocational colleges is unsurprising for anyone who has observed the development of such "colleges" ("Collapsed colleges got $66m in loans", February 12, p7).

The apparent rorting of both the students and the government by many of the colleges indicates to me a clear and simple cost-saver for the government.

Stop the public funding of private colleges and pour the money into TAFEs across Australia. They have done a fantastic job over decades and will continue to do so as long as the government continues funding those public institutions.

It would be a win for students and some kudos for the government because, with that funding, the TAFEs would again be able to accommodate the needs of more local and international students.

W. Book, Hackett

Research is vital

Congratulations on your editorial ("PM needs to back climate scientists", February 10).

The Prime Minister should indeed give the CSIRO more breathing room so scientists can get on with a bit of blue-sky research and not just be servants of industry.

As far as climate research is concerned, Malcolm Turnbull must ensure that the scientists are not lost to this country.

They need to be absorbed by the Bureau of Meteorology or into universities, which will in turn need more funding to accommodate them.

The research must go on.

Even if the new emphasis is on adaptation, it still needs basic climate research to underpin it.

Failing redeployment of our climate scientists, I suggest Turnbull asks the the CSIRO's board to sack chief executive Larry Marshall.

He appears to have no understanding of what scientific research is all about.

Jenny Goldie, Michelago, NSW

To Malcolm Turnbull: after watching the news and listening to the pathetic diatribe coming from the head of CSIRO as he tries to justify decimating this brilliant organisation, I can't help thinking how you must feel ("CSIRO job cuts 'a crisis' for science", February 10, p5).

You offered so much hope to us when you took over as Prime Minister, with your belief in climate change and apparent desire to do all you could to fix it.

Now, this travesty is happening on your watch and you have proved to be nothing more than a spineless puppet of the nutter right-wing of the Liberal Party.

You will continue to preside over our downfall into hell in much the same manner as Tony Abbott. How does it feel?

Sue Gerrard, Dunlop

Evil can't be justified

Greg Pinder (Letters, February 12) misstates my proposition in asserting that I had written (Letters, February 8) that "we cannot knowingly harm those in our offshore detention centres simply because it saves the lives of those who would otherwise die".

Rather, I wrote: "We cannot knowingly and certainly destroy lives in order to possibly save others."

A certain and present evil act cannot be justified by a possible and hypothetical future alternative – especially when, as Charles Body correctly points out (Letters, February 12), there are plenty of options between the two extremes.

The facile hypothetical example concerning an infant Adolf Hitler offered by Pinder is based on the artificial premise that we can know with certainty the future consequences of refraining from present evil.

John Blount, Fadden

I totally agree with Professor Karen Healy's letter (February 12) pointing out the irony in a government holding a royal commission into child sexual abuse while sending children back to an institution in Nauru where child abuse takes place.

This is a policy of both the Liberal and Labor parties.

It is even more ironic that people who abhor this action still vote for the two parties whose policy it is.

The buck stops with the voters and, collectively, we are responsible for what happens to these children.

The answer is obvious.

Max Jensen, Chifley

Mansplaining a point

Every few years, I enjoy mansplaining the difference between "mitigate" and "militate" ("Andrew Robb: How a 'game changer' politician became an unlikely hero to those suffering silently", February 11,

"Mitigate" (from Latin mitis, mild) means appease, alleviate, moderate, reduce severity of.

"Militate" (from Latin miles, soldier) means to have force (against), to tell (against).

I hope my mansplanation, in mitigation of which I can only plead advancing senility, does not militate against publication.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin


Land tax won't hurt wallets of the rich

Jessica Irvine put a case for a land tax ("How to hit the rich where it really hurts", February 12,

Her argument starts with the premise that the really rich can hide their income, so we should use a wealth tax instead of income tax.

The case segues into a property tax with the false assertion: "The major asset most people have is property, which is rather hard to disguise."

Irvine destroys her own argument with the very next sentence: "This gives the taxman an advantage: he might not know where your Bermuda billions are hidden, but he sure knows where you live."

The point is that the major asset of people who have billions of dollars cached overseas in secret accounts is not in their residential real estate.

A land tax has identical regressive shortfalls to GST.

If graduated, it has the same catchment defects as the income tax it is meant to replace.

More work is needed on the catchment of profit shifting and trust regulation.

Irvine's final spiel, that the ACT is pushing ahead with such a plan and has legislated to phase out stamp duty and replace it with a land tax by 2020, is invalid. The municipal functions of our town council make the ACT land tax the equivalent of council rates.

Gary J. Wilson, MacGregor

Risk of rental shortage

The article "Treasury warns of tax threat to growth" (February 12, p1) says Scott Morrison's scalpel now hovers over government spending, including tax concessions relating to negative gearing and deductions for workers.

If negative gearing tax concessions are reduced or abolished, taxpayers who receive them will exit the market by selling to potential owner-occupiers and then entering another market. 

This will lead very quickly to a shortage of rental accommodation and a call for the government to spend billions of dollars to make up for the shortfall in an economy that is not flush with funds.

If workers' tax deductions are interfered with, it will show we have a courageous and daring government.

Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay, NSW


No kind words for ministers who demonstrate contempt for science

As they say, there are lies, damned lies, and political obituaries and valedictions.

It was difficult to recognise the "detail politician" Warren Truss, in the current amnesic valedictions, as the same minister (for agriculture) who, when queried in 2000 by Four Corners on the government's position on the controversial use of wholesale antibiotics in animal feeds – regarded as nefarious by all independent medical research, from the UN to professors of infectious diseases right here in Canberra – replied that he couldn't really weigh up conflicting views coming on the one hand from UN experts and on the other from farmers and pharmaceutical company representatives.

Chew on that when your MRSA or VRE is entombing you in your hospital room and there are no effective antibiotics left to treat you.

It has been happening ever more for years now.

I clearly remember thinking then that there ought to be a law to impeach ministers who discharge their duties with such avowed contempt for science and for the nation.

Dr Alex Mattea, Kingston

Arts an easy target

Malcolm Turnbull gave an excellent speech a week ago at the recent opening of the National Library's Celestial Empire exhibition and praised the library's work, while ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr extolled the virtues of such exhibitions for the ACT economy.

At the same time, the Turnbull government is cutting the budgets of Canberra's national cultural institutions by $20 million over four  years through the now much-derided efficiency dividend.

Meanwhile, exactly $20 million is to be spent on a new Tax Office fit-out in Gosford, which neither the local community, nor allegedly the Tax Office, want ("Gosford building in for $20m fit-out", February 11, p5).

Throw in the $55 million that apparently located three refugees in Cambodia and one wonders about overall government budget priorities.

Why are the arts seen as an easy target, given the large national audience participation in the arts?

The National Library's extensive newspaper digitisation project and Trove are just two examples of their outstanding national service that reach beyond Canberra. The idea of reducing physical access to national cultural and heritage collections one day a week is even more shortsighted.

One really hopes Turnbull is not just "Abbott-lite".

Colin Steele, Hawker

When in Rome ...

Since university students have returned to Canberra, I've noticed a disturbing trend.

Numerous toga parties have spilled onto our streets yet not one boofhead can wear a toga properly as Roman patricians and plebian aristocrats did.

My solution is simple. If you can't drape a toga, dress in another costume to impress the womenfolk.

A fraternity buddy, who's now a surgeon in Ohio, attended my frat's Halloween party one year dressed as a tampon complete with the string out the top. The girls loved him.

Gerry Murphy, Braddon

Enterprising failures

Chris Mobbs (Letters, February 11) questions whether 60 per cent of companies pay no tax because they are unprofitable. A few years ago, while studying business, I learned that 50 per cent of Australian small and medium-sized enterprises cease trading within five years.

This five-year period was allied to the fact that the Tax Office permitted businesses to amortise start-up and losses for up to five years but expected businesses to make a taxable profit after five years.

This seems comparable to the negative-gearing offset principles. Many of these "failed" businesses then restarted under a new name for another five years.

I'd welcome a Canberra Times article on the issue by a business tax expert. Of course, multinationals can reduce tax by paying huge "fees" to the overseas parent located in a low-tax jurisdiction.

Peter Haddon, Jerrabomberra, NSW

Made to measure 

R.S.Gilbert should not be surprised by the pea-and-thimble trickery evident in the financial management of the $12million renovations to The Lodge (Letters, February 13).

The deceitful and dishonest practice of bureaucrats and politicians claiming that financial outcomes are "within budget", after they have simply approved an increase in the budget to match the actual expenditure incurred, is the hallmark of crooked governments the world over.

What is even more offensive is the corrupt practice of paying performance bonuses to bureaucrats for successfully achieving such outcomes.

But how else would we get the governments we deserve?

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW

Credit where it's due

I read with interest your article about the upcoming National Folk Festival ("Talented folk from far and wide grace golden jubilee", February 11, p3).

It was not reported that, last week, the 2015 festival received the bronze award for the festivals and events category in the national tourism awards – an achievement worth mentioning.

Who pipped them at the post? A little town in north-west NSW called Boggabri, with a population of 960, runs an event called Drovers' Campfire. It started out 10 years ago with a vision to introduce country life to city folk prepared to tow a caravan to the little town for a weekend.

Boggabri received the silver award, an amazing feat for such a small community. The gold award went to the Fun4Kids Festival from Victoria.

Why am I so excited by this? I'm a born-and-bred Boggabri girl who moved to Canberra many years ago. Communities deserve recognition when they excel at something.

Sandra Hruza, Conder

Decimal rip-off

My only recollection of the decimal currency changeover was wondering why my big sister seemed to want the Italian guy at the lolly shop to cut in half the 5c piece our mother had given us to spend ("Dinkum digger, Australia's decimal currency had a colourful start", February 12, p6).

Some years later, I realised that she would have been told that 5c was equal to sixpence, which formerly could have yielded a threepenny coin for each of us to spend as we chose.

Ian Douglas, Jerrabomberra, NSW




I will only support the appointment of former defence minister David Johnston as consul-general to Hong Kong if he agrees to row his canoe there.

Paul Kringas, Giralang


Steve Waugh was a brilliant cricketer who, I'm sure, didn't tolerate fools ("Waugh most selfish cricketer I've played with: Warne", February 10, Sport, p29).

Pat Hamilton, Monash


Why couldn't Cardinal George Pell catch a boat to Australia? Not only would this deliver him to the child abuse royal commission, but a few weeks of shipboard life might improve his health, too.

Felicity Chivas, Scullin


C.J.Johnston (Letters, February 11) writes that section 59 of the constitution purports to allow the Queen to disallow a law to which the governor-general has assented. The section is otiose – it has never been used and now could never be used.

David Smith, Mawson


Let me put Linus Cole's point (Letters, February 12) another way. Given the telecommunications chaos wrought by a careless Testra technician, consider what could be achieved by a careful terrorist.

Martin Aubury, Scullin


Outsource Medicare ("Move to privatise payments expected to unleash cries of outrage", February 10, p1)? Like Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas? No thanks.

Kevin McCue, Aranda


It's Mr and Mrs Joyce who deserve the credit for hitting on the name "Barnaby". Would he be there if they'd settled on plain John Joyce?

C. Lendon, Cook


As the GST applies to all taxpayers and tax avoiders, irrespective of the income tax they should pay on their total income, perhaps the government could apply the same principal by introducing a gross revenue tax. The Tax Office could apply such a tax to those who try to avoid honouring/paying their Australian income tax obligation.

G. Spence, Bruce


CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall, you are endangering my family ("CSIRO job cuts 'a crisis' for science", February 10, p5). Understand what that means.

W.T.O'Connell, Waramanga

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