Federal Politics


With the rorts, superannuation is not so super after all

With the rorts, superannuation is not so super after all

John Passant's article ''Super breaks yield more to the already rich'' (February 12, p9) doesn't address other superannuation rorts. Around 50,000 retirees with $4 million in their super funds, annual pensions of $150k, pay no Medicare, get a senior's health card free, pay only $5.60 for prescription, get state discounts on utilities, still have an $18,200 tax-free allowance so can have up to $400,000 outside of super earning 4.5 per cent, and still not pay tax.

Compare that to other retirees who pay Medicare, whose income is taxed, and have used up the tax-free allowance. The loss in Medicare revenue, alone, is at least $125 million. The loss in PBS revenue is probably another $40 million. For other retirees without the benefit of large value SMSFs, if you have over $50k income from other sources, you lose the seniors health card (this limit hasn't been indexed in 10 years!) and its benefits. It stinks.

Super should be simple - put as much as you like into super, no contributions tax, earnings of the fund treated favourably to encourage super BUT on retirement, income and lump sums treated like any other income and you pay Medicare on the pension and lose seniors health card if over $50k. Too many rorts created by Peter Costello to give to his well-off mates at the expense of the young who are bringing up families, paying off mortgages and paying tax to support millionaire retirees going on cruises and overseas trips - it stinks.

Dave Roberts, Dickson

Congratulations to John Passant on an excellent piece. There are, however, a number of aspects that John leaves out of his article. I would like to highlight one of particular interest to me. John writes ''The problem is that the amount of revenue forgone from the superannuation tax concessions is now $32 billion … and will rise to nearly $45 billion … more than will be spent on the age pension. Spending on the age pension is about $34 billion…''

Forgone revenue in one area normally means increased revenue in other areas or a reduction on certain services. To illustrate this point just think of the current situation where the government had promised certain expenditures predicated on revenues from the mining tax. Alas the MRRT revenue did not materialise! So the expenditures, in this instance improved superannuation concessions to the lower paid, will either not be made or the government will need to borrow to fund the expenditure.


So to get back to the $32 billion of forgone revenue, it can only mean that either the government is taxing us all more to plug the hole, or it is cutting expenditures on services. Whichever way you look at it we, the average punter, is being hard done … twice. First by the redistribution of wealth explained in John's article, and second by having our taxes increased or services reduced. Think of Gonski.

John Rodriguez, Florey

AIS needs probe

Media reports that the Canberra Raiders are an NRL club of interest in the Australian Crime Commission's report on drugs and match-fixing in Australian sport suddenly opens the door to speculation involving the Australian Institute of Sport.

As the local NRL team, along with the local ARU team the Brumbies, the Canberra Raiders have been the beneficiaries and the guinea pigs of cutting-edge sports science during that time.

The AIS sports science facility has been at the cutting edge of elite sporting excellence and has explored the boundaries for 30 years. Untold numbers of young sports scientists, sports medicos, physios and physiologists have been through the AIS like a revolving door to further their careers in major sporting clubs around the nation. The finger has been pointed at one club in the AFL and several in the NRL, all of which have been influenced by the AIS sports science facilities for many years.

In the public interest, it is now time to have a closer look at all government agencies , especially the AIS, as well as the clubs, to ascertain just what their sports science facilities have provided.

John Bell, Lyneham

Arboreal missteps

There's no denying that the arboretum is an elegant development. However, I support recent criticisms of it. While accepting much of what the boosters say, for the longer term we need a more balanced appraisal. Obviously, in the competition for scarce funds , the natural environment has lost out - as Jamie Pittock (''Can't see trees for the forest'', Forum, February 2, p7) pointed out, and we may expect, unless postive steps are taken, this erosion of support will continue, with building subdivision the ultimate solution to managing the bushlands. The layout of saplings in laser-straight grids (Letters, February 5) defies sound soil and water conservation practices that demand contour planting and furrowing on poor soils. Walking would also be more visitor-friendly.

We tend to retain imprints of treasured childhood experiences and this often leads to a desire to re-create them in a newly adopted land. We see this in the botanic gardens of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. It's a pity Bill Gammage's thesis, based on many studies and records of the development of the Australian landscape, was not available during the early planning of the Arboretum. His work shows that in their 40,000-year struggle for existence the indigenous people made Australia into The Biggest Estate on Earth. Unfortunately the arboretum in this most singular location, the so-called ''bush capital'', reflects little if anything, of their great achievement.

Ralph Sedgley, O'Connor

I wonder how many of the dignitaries at the opening of the arboretum (and taxpayers more generally) read Dr Jamie Pittock's excellent article. Dr Pittock knows far more than I do about the merits and drawbacks associated with all the various trees planted in the arboretum. He has also cast serious doubt over the financial wisdom of spending such a huge amount of taxpayers' money on this new venture, given the ongoing high cost of maintenance and the scarce resources to do so. Particularly significant in his article is the poor state of land management carried out on the arboretum.

Such a massive investment of public funds would not be of such questionable value if the rest of the territory's nature reserves were being well maintained. As Dr Pittock points out, they are not. Furthermore the opportunity cost is high.

Colin Lyons, Weetangera

Restoration art

I, and most car club members take umbrage at the Dilbert cartoon strip in The Canberra Times on February 11 (Times, p8), and Scott Adams the cartoonist, for the disparaging remarks about the restoration of old cars as a hobby.

If Canberrans wish to see ''garbage'' turned into beautiful classic cars I suggest they visit Thoroughbred Park on Sunday, March 17, to view a collection of more than 1100 veteran, vintage and classic cars. Or perhaps they would like to visit the National Museum of Australia on Monday, March 11, to see more than 60 one and two-cylinder vehicles from around Australia on display. These vehicles, all pre-1919, have been lovingly restored to their former original condition.

Garbage indeed, turned into wonderful pieces of art.

Graham Gittins, Cook

Flag facts

As a retired Royal Navy officer I would disagree with T. Marks (Letters, February 11). The Union Flag is the national flag of the United Kingdom and is worn as a jack at the bow of all of its warships in commission when alongside or when ''dressed overall''. This is the only occasion when it is correctly called the Union Jack, although it is generally known by this name through common usage. It is also worn during courts martial and is the distinguishing flag of an admiral of the fleet.

R. Manning-Smith, Queanbeyan, NSW

In response to the letters of Bob Howden (February 5), Ian Jannaway (February 7) and T. Marks (February 11), the national flag of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories is the Union Flag, which may also be called the Union Jack. (See Hansard - House of Lords debate July 14, 1908 vol 192 cc 579 80), although the term had been in general use well before parliamentary approval was given in 1908.

The term jack, when referring to flags, means the national flag which is flown from a jackstaff on the stem of naval ships when in harbour. The jackstaff is not named after the Union Jack.

Les Roberts, Kaleen

A delicate subject

My goodness, the climate change deniers are a delicate lot. After declaring the entire climate science community, including our own CSIRO, to be incompetent, or worse, on the basis of one unpublished paper, they burst into tears at a bit of schoolboy sarcasm, from one humble CT reader. I am in no position to prevent anyone from expressing their views. And, no, Dr Marjorie Curtis of Kaleen (Letters, February 6,) it is neither ad feminem (nor ad hominem) to ask what your expertise is, when you implicitly claim authority by signing yourself with the honorific ''Doctor,'' the term applied in the mediaeval universities to those qualified to teach there. Surely you know that appeal to irrelevant authority is another of the standard logical fallacies.

Neil Porter, Hughes

Just the facts

There used to be a time when newspapers were just that - a collection of factual articles from here and overseas that the editor deemed of significant importance enough to tempt Australians to part with a few cents to read. The editor's choice therefore having a fairly large outcome on determining the ongoing viability of the newspaper.

I hadn't regularly read a newspaper for years and having recently subscribed to The Canberra Times, I know why - there is very little news content! (Although it's still streets ahead of anything coming off the News Limited press) OK, I admit that this is my ''opinion'' but Letters (and possibly, Editorial) is where opinions should be limited to. I for one, don't open a newspaper to read reporter's opinions about various topics from politics to indigenous affairs, illegal immigrants to the future of Braddon whatever-club! These are best left to places like Farce Book.

Factual news, please; I'm sure there's plenty out there?

Bob Tyghe, Worrigee, NSW

ACC probe: it's time to blow the whistle on whistleblowers

Given the recent findings by the Australian Crime Commission on doping, links to organised crime and match fixing, I have to ask, exactly how deep are their investigations?

So far we have seen six National Rugby League teams implicated, and we are aware that Essendon is under investigation for doping in the Australian Football League, but nowhere have I seen any evidence to suggest that the ACC is also investigating referees and umpires.

This perplexes me.

In both codes last season there were numerous decisions made in crucial matches that can only be described as being questionable.

Some might go so far as to say that they were downright wrong. Match fixing isn't something that would only apply to clubs or teams.

The referees and umpires should also be investigated.

Their decisions have the potential to change the outcome of any game, and when they get the decision so blatantly wrong, one has to question whether deals have been made behind the scenes to determine game outcomes.

A.J. Hoyles, Fadden

That an area of life which is so vulnerable to elitism, such as professional sport, is not squeaky clean as far as drugs are concerned, should not surprise in the least, when society is so awash with illegal and legal drugs, including alcohol, and so bereft of those willing to live drug-free lifestyles.

If the rest of us do not want to give up our drug-dependant lifestyles, then we cannot expect elite sportsmen and women to do likewise.

Claude Wiltshire, Queanbeyan East

The hellish journey

Cuthbert Douglas (Letters, February 8) says that, in contending that the main drivers of sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities are social dysfunction and socio-economic disadvantage, I forgot in my letter of February 5 to examine cultural predisposition. He is right. And the reason is that it was not mentioned as a major cause of abuse in the studies (both Australian and overseas) I looked at to check my impressions.

I have therefore followed up this issue and this is what I found. It is true that some of the cultural practices of traditional societies would be abusive by our standards today, as would some of our own society's earlier practices.

And Mr Douglas and his sister are right that, as traditional societies broke down, some of these practices lingered on for some time in some communities. It is also true that even today, when there are no Aboriginal communities living a wholly traditional life, with all the constraints that imposed (such as having limited choice about with whom you have intimate relationships), some individuals will from time to time seek to justify their abuse by claiming to follow tradition.

However, most experts in this field agree that the main causes of sexual and other abuse in today's Aboriginal communities are: the breakdown of social structures and mores; consequent dysfunctional behaviour such as alcohol and other drug abuse and violence with consequent physical and mental disability; and socio-economic problems such as inadequate educational attainment, consequent marginal employability and lack of employment opportunities.

Underlying all this is confusion, demoralisation and often despair about what to do with one's life. It is a long and difficult road back from hell.

Chris Ansted, Garran

Renovate or build?

The proposal of Attunga Point as a potential site for a new Lodge (Letters, February 11) shows a lack of ability of planners to see the big picture.

Our Prime Minister's Lodge is perfectly and securely positioned near Parliament House in established gardens. Can our planners please take a lesson from our Hyatt Hotel? This building is a perfect example of our ability to preserve its very special history and architecture. A ''renovation rescue'' is needed for The Lodge and it would be preserved with all its history for future generations..

Jill Hanson, Fisher



I can see the proposed film of the life of Gina Rinehart (''Rinehart film faces competition'', February 11, p2) being very short. Woman inherits mines. ''Makes money - and more money - and more money. Children want some. Woman keeps money - and wants more money … '' You get the idea.

Ron Kerr, Ballina, NSW


Let's get this straight. According to former NSW mining minister Ian Macdonald, ''Obeid is just some Eddie that he used to know''.

Michael Barry, Torrens


I wonder what the papal superannuation scheme is like. There would doubtless be some very long-term benefits.

Dennis Hale, Beecroft, NSW


The Pope is pulling the pin, the first Pope to do so since 1415. Another example of the cut and thrust of CEO turnover in the modern world.

Linus Cole, Palmerston


It was interesting to hear a Catholic worshipper tell an ABC radio interviewer this morning that the Vatican could not change the church's policies on homosexuality and contraception ''because it was the word of Christ himself''.

Strange, I cannot recall ever reading any pronouncements by Jesus Christ on either of those subjects in the New Testament.

Mike Phoenix, Greenway


At least some in that country which declined to join the Commonwealth of Australia at its inception believe that its citizens should be accorded the same entitlements as Australian citizens (''Kiwis still denied fairness'', February 12, p8). That really is taking the open-borders argument to a new level.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor


Having just read Jim Staples' illuminating dissertation on the logical application of tax law to family trusts (Letters, February 13), I'd suggest that the Obeid family must be just one of many thousands of wealthy families laughing all the way to the bank at Australia's expense.

John Richardson, Wallagoot, NSW


I wish I could meet Jeremy Fernandez and shake his hand (''ABC journalist subjected to racist tirade on bus'', February 9, p2). His Rosa Parks moment (should be required reading for everyone) is testament that bullies can be called out for what they are. I hope Jeremy goes on to bigger and better things - perhaps starting a political party?

Anton Dennis, O'Connor