Federal Politics


Myth challenged

HEAR HEAR to Paul Malone, who claims (''When perceptions don't add up'', January 20, p17), supported by International Monetary Fund research, that the popular conception of the Coalition as superior economic managers is a myth and that the Howard-Costello government was the most profligate in the country's history.

Howard was the most incompetent treasurer since federation. A relatively trivial manifestation of this is given by what the press gallery dubbed ''the telephone book''. In Howard's last days as treasurer he required then commissioner of taxation Bill O'Reilly to provide documentation of Howard's measures to combat flagrant tax evasion. Neither Howard nor his office examined the large sheaf of documents provided before tabling what turned out to be a damning indictment of Howard sitting on his hands for nearly three years in the face of repeated minutes from O'Reilly pleading for a stop to the plundering of federal revenue which was occurring.

Of course there was a political reason for this. The Liberal Party had to persuade several of its luminaries, particularly in Melbourne to disengage themselves from the tax evasion industry, of which they were active promoters.

The Howard government should have produced a series of very substantial surpluses. They had the advantage of a booming economy boosted predominantly by two factors, the resources boom and the benefits of the Hawke/Keating economic reforms.

Instead of delivering healthy surpluses or major infrastructure upgrades Howard delivered results which at best could be described as miserable, due in no small part to his disgraceful pork-barrel spending. Hence the IMF's finding of profligacy.

T. Marks, Holt


Problem out of control

IT IS heartening to see that some indigenous NRL footballers will be shortly taking a lot of aboriginal kids on camps to teach them about the culture and customs of their people. It is not so heartening to see that while Aborigines consist of 4 per cent of the Australian population they are 38 per cent of the prison population.

In the ACT the proportion of aboriginal prisoners has risen from 12 per cent to 13.6 per cent over the past 12 months (''A problem kept locked away'', January 13, p17). Aboriginal elders and supreme court judges complain that the situation is virtually out of control and the problem needs to be solved.

Obviously it does, although we are covering ground previously argued about and have spent millions of dollars trying to remedy, with little, or no positive results.

Anthony Hopkins of the University of Canberra says the ACT has ''one of the highest aboriginal incarceration rates per capita'' and ''the ACT government should put more weight on Aboriginality in pre-sentencing reports.''

I disagree, and think that if Aboriginal children were taught about the customs and culture of the white population, which is 96 per cent of the population, and instructed that they have to abide by these customs and laws, maybe they would be more respectful of the law and fewer people would end up in trouble.

While it is good to teach them about their culture, it is not really helping them in today's society and does nothing to teach them about being accepted as an equal in the total population. It makes much more sense to teach them about the rights and wrongs in our modern legal systems and what the punishments are going to be if they do not abide by the laws which apply to all Australians. Simply, if they are told of the laws and then continue to break them, it is their own fault. The present legal system is here to stay. It is not going to change for them or any other special group. The sooner it is drilled into them and they learn to accept that it is here to stay, the better off they will be in the future.

In fact it may give them some chance at a successful future, rather than remaining in the sad situation where they find themselves.

Trevor Willis, Hughes

Re cyclists

I COULD not agree more with Jane Caro's article on shared pathways (''Solo riders' quest for speed adds element of fear to morning walk'', January 13, p2). When a cyclist is courteous and alerts me of his/her imminent passing, I say ''thank you''; yet when the inconsiderate and arrogant brigade can not be bothered to alert you of their approach from behind, I say ''THANK YOU'' as loud as I can. It most likely makes no difference to them, but gives me some satisfaction; or maybe it just expresses my indignation.

Steven Hurren, Macquarie

Their famine, our feast

BRENDAN COX (Letters, January 20) informatively expands historically and horticulturally, on Jack Waterford's article ''One up for us couch potatoes'', citing benefits and curses accruing from Sir Walter Raleigh's American ''gift'' to Ireland (January 13, p19).

As Cox alludes, famine's history is replete with victim-blaming sophistry. While beef, wheat and dairy was produced aplenty, it was expropriated to pay the rack-rents demanded by absentee landlords who herded families unto ever diminishing subsistence plots of earth's surface, called ''conacre'' or ''spade-land''. These idle and feckless, questionably human, people with a propensity for fecundity, clung to the spud on which hung their very existence, as the Great Famine tragically illustrated.

Out of the tragedy of the Diaspora a proud tradition transpired of a people who took, to a welcoming global family, themselves, their music, dance, literature, culture, superstitions, mythology and reforming spirit.

At home, a brave people, having endured the yoke of tyranny for generations, rose up to put the first crack in the Empire on which ''the sun never set''. All on the strength of the humble spud.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

Myth, or hit?

PAUL MALONE reported that the historical perception of the Liberal-Nationals' economic management superiority was false (''When perceptions don't add up'', January 20, p17). He based this on an independent study by four researchers from the International Monetary Fund. That study does not measure management of the economy. It is titled, A Modern History of Fiscal Prudence and Profligacy.

Fiscal means public revenue. The study measures the management of government budgets. It is a theoretical analysis of the cause of sovereign debt and debt defaults, essentially an index of missed opportunities. Malone considers significant its identification of Howard's 2003 and 2005-07 budgets as Australia's most wasteful. The Coalition, despite its budgetary wastefulness, somehow presided over appreciable GDP increases in those years.

The average percentage GDP increase for the 12 years of Coalition government under Howard is 3.01. Labor has averaged 1.31 over five years.

The GDP data takes no account of the global context. That does not mean Labor is the better manager. It only means that Malone's argument is meaningless. The IMF argument was a ruse to establish the perception that a budget surplus is relevant to assessment of economic management and thus of its fitness to govern. The only relevance of a budget excess to the assessment of Gillard's Labor government regards its credibility.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

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