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Australia

Flooding tragedy in the north is not about money

This is certainly a tragedy, (‘‘Floods kill up to 300,000 cattle costing drought-ravaged farmers $300 million’’, canberratimes.com.au, February 8) but only, it seems, in regard to the monetary losses to the farmers.

Similarly, the million or so fish who died recently from poor water quality were referred to only in terms of biomass and ‘environmental disasters’.

Just some of the estimated 300,000 cattle killed in the north-west Queensland floods.

Just some of the estimated 300,000 cattle killed in the north-west Queensland floods.Credit:Laine Keough - Supplied

Even news reports about the Tasmanian bushfires referred to the loss of thousands of native animals in terms of reduced biodiversity. Nowhere in the media is there consideration of these thousands and thousands of beings as sentient, feeling individuals who have suffered horrendous, agonising deaths by drowning, exhaustion, asphyxiation or being burnt to death. All we do is lament the loss of stock or damage to ‘our’ environment.

Still, if we were to start considering nonhuman animals as feeling beings we’d also have to acknowledge the horror of the more than one and a half million individuals slaughtered in this country every single day for unnecessary food (that’s not counting the fish and other sea creatures who are generally measured by the tonne). That’d be simply too much for most of us to cope with.

M. O’Shaughnessy, Spence

Belief in orchestra of minorities

Who could resist reading a review of a book titled An Orchestra of Minorities (Sarah Dempster, Panorama, February 16)?

Its Nigerian author, Chigozie Obioma, apparently has his story narrated by his ‘chi’ or guardian spirit that bridges the human-divine in Igbo cosmology.

It had me thinking of the primary school class I got to know last year as a volunteer reading tutor. It had been a challenging group, but when a new child ‘on the spectrum’ was added, its hitherto excellent teacher said she could manage no longer.

No less than three teachers in rapid succession tried to cope with that class without success and it had become a seriously dysfunctional classroom.

The next teacher to be given this ‘opportunity’ was a young African woman who very humbly admitted she would just do her best. I was not optimistic in the light of what I could only describe as the additional cross-cultural challenges.

But I was proved wrong! That new ‘orchestra of minorities’, perhaps mediated by the African teacher’s invocation of her ‘chi’ (who knows?), magicked that class together into an extraordinary new harmony.

This year she got the job and I will be reading Chigozie Obioma’s book.

Jill Sutton, Watson

Greed at the top

To anyone who has followed the ebbs and flows of power and influence over the last quarter century or so — from the final years of Hawke’s Union Accords, through Keating’s recession ‘‘we had to have’’, the Howard years where successive elections were effectively bought with both generous tax concessions to retirees and just enough middle-class welfare to ensure we came out of the most prosperous period of our history with nothing to show — Viktor Diskordia’s take on things (Letters, Feb 16) seems a little ridiculous.

After Labor’s stewardship through the GFC, the Coalition took budget repair to the election. But instead of targeting the tens of billions in tax concessions to corporations, the wealthy, and those reaping massive profits from extracting our one-off resources for free, they attempted to starve welfare recipients back to work, slashed penalty rates, and reduced the corporate tax rate even further.

In the early 80s the average ASX 100 CEO earned 17 times more than the average Australian, but by 2009 CEOs were making 42 times the average. If ideologues like Viktor Diskordia want the ‘‘trickle-down economics’’ experience, I suggest they move to the US where the wave of prosperity from Reagan’s tax cuts is due to arrive any day now.

The welfare state is not the problem, it’s greed, money in politics and the concentration of wealth at the very top. The Scandinavian model of socialist democracy is not only much fairer, but it provides a happier, healthier and more prosperous existence for everybody.

James Allan, Narrabundah

Taxing times

Andrew Leigh (Letters, February 15) rejects the view that the ALP’s imputation credits policy is regressive.

He is dead wrong, and the reason is clear from his own words. He states the policy excludes aged pensioners who as a single person receive around $25,000 per annum from the government. It also excludes the aged in receipt of part pensions.

Well, what about the self-funded retirees living off similarly low gross incomes who for one reason or another do not qualify for an aged pension? They are not exempt from the policy and are to be treated in a most regressive manner. The solution for the ALP is to exclude from its policy all taxpayers with total gross incomes up to a threshold of say $30,000 and then apply a sliding scale so the benefit of excess imputation credits is zero at say $60,000.

The confusion of taxable income with gross income is at the heart of the backlash that the ALP is trying to ignore at its own peril.

By the way, I am a CSS pensioner and I still have the honour of still paying income tax, so this is not a case of self interest.

David McIntosh, Gordon

Drag on society

It seems that Hawaii is looking at introducing legislation to ban smoking, actually just cigarettes, for people younger than 100 years by 2024.

Those over 100 can smoke although if they have lasted that long they have probably led a healthy life which definitely would, or should, mean no smoking.

It is a law that would make the world better even though many addicts, yes addicts, would still be gasping for their cigarettes.

Realistically it is a stunt to bring attention to the evils of smoking.

Smoking is a matter of free choice until the addiction starts and it’s no longer a free choice.

Stunts and even legislation will not stop people from being stupid.

If they could the world would be better in a few days.

Let’s be realistic, tell people the truth, repeatedly, tax the hell out of cigarettes, help farmers to grow other crops, remind smokers how much cigarettes stink and show them how sad and painful a death by lung cancer or emphysema is.

Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

Medevac maelstrom

The Medevac legislation contains significant flaws. When not in hospital, recipients will be held in detention and afterwards flown back to Manus or Nauru to still be imprisoned. Let’s hope that ‘medical care’ can be prolonged until after the election. Otherwise why bother?

Gill Burke, Braidwood

Taxis hit a dead end

The article on the ACT government charges associated with the Multicultural Festival (canberratimes.com.au, February 15) has the Canberra taxi industry wondering.

In an effort to cover extra funding for the festival, the government apparently intended to screw stallholders and business operators into the ground.

Mr Mercieca’s experience will save him this year.

With regard to the taxi industry, it has screwed the holders of perpetual licences into the ground by arbitrarily dropping the market price of lease fees for its own (the community’s) fleet, sacrificed $1.7m of taxpayers’ money and released many more taxis into the market than are needed to meet demand; and, has announced it intends to release another 80 before March.

This is on top of a refusal, after reference to a costs formula that has worked since 2004, to implement a recommended 2.5 per cent fare increase last year whilst implementing a 2.5 per cent increase for bus fares, saying it was in line with inflation.

The taxi costs index for 2018 now suggest a further taxi fare increase of around 4 per cent is warranted.

Drivers are wearing the brunt of this.

The government expected the drop in its lease fees that lowered the overheads of lessees of its fleet (and would subsequently force down the lease fees of all taxis) would enable operators to charge less in driver bailment fees and thus allow for an increase in driver income.

The introduction of rideshare has all operators on their knees (nothing for drivers) and they are leaving the industry.

There are now over 75 inactive taxi licences in Canberra, of which 39 are owned largely by people who drove their taxis for many years to establish a retirement nest egg and are now too old to ‘‘get back in the saddle’’.

Surely the grand plan needs a revision.

John McKeough OAM, Chairman Canberra Taxi Industry Association

Curtin not down yet

The Curtin community has been working constructively with the ACT government since early 2015 on a Master Plan for the development of the shopping precinct.

Unfortunately, the Haridemos family have ignored this planning, declaring that if they didn’t get the six storeys they wanted they would close down their shops. Good to their word the shops have been unnecessarily empty for over a year.

The impotence of the ACT government to counter this blackmail of the Curtin community and businesses is disappointing and makes you wonder who is really pulling the strings.

The Haridemos family has yet to lodge a development application that is compliant with the Master Plan, causing further inevitable delay.

Perhaps they see themselves above normal planning rules and hope residents and government planners will cave into their bullying. Fortunately the Planning Act requires that decisions are made in the community interest, not selfish greed.

Thank you to the Curtin Residents Association for standing up for our human scale urban village vision for the shops.

Vikki McDonough and Michael Mulvaney, Curtin

Pumping up prices

Samuel Gordon-Stewart of Reid (Letters, February 15) suggests that the head of the ACCC, Rod Simms, has unfairly singled out Coles as the price setter (aka ‘‘chief gouger’’) in the ACT fuel market.

However, the comments made by Mr Simms simply reflect the survey data collected by the ACCC over many years. Readers can check that for themselves on the ACCC website.

What the ACCC data shows is that Coles enjoys significant power in the ACT fuel market and has also been consistently amongst the highest price retailers nationally. Its prices are generally above those of independents and discounters and were, on average, above the 540 outlets once owned by Woolworths. The ACCC listed those former Woolworths outlets as amongst the lower price sellers.

Mr Gordon-Stewart suggests that Woolworths still operates service stations here. If it does, that won’t be for long. Woolworths advised the ASX on November 9, 2018 that it had sold all its fuel outlets to the British EG Group though Woolworths’ customer loyalty agreements will still be honoured by the new owners.\

That leaves only Coles with the additional market power that comes from owning and operating service stations with a direct line-of-sight agreement to its other retail interests.

By some strange ‘‘happenstance’’ the Woolworths move to sell its retail fuel interests here and elsewhere seem to have coincided with a significant widening of the long-standing price differential between Canberra and anywhere else you might care to name.

Coles is now reportedly looking at their own business model in the face of declining market share. Not before time.

Bob Bennett, Wanniassa

Look west for fair play

Everyone has known for ever that Canberra pays too much for fuel. Andrew Barr talking about another review is a good example of what we do not need — more delay, waste and talk.

Roger Clements (Letters, February 15) suggests physical intervention in the market, but on that I disagree — it’s too slow and costly as well as being limited and inflexible.

The rule any good manager know is KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid.

In this case the government should use the tools it already has at its disposal to engender the necessary competition. So why not simply adopt a WA type approach — very easy, cheap and quick to do, and no great cost if it was ineffective.

The WA approach requires retailers to post their prices on the web the day before and not be allowed to vary them for 24 hours.

The ACT could add to this if more encouragement was needed. For example, it could impose an impost, and perhaps gain revenue, in proportion to how much a retailer’s price was above a reference price that the government determined as appropriate.

Trevor McPherson, Aranda

TO THE POINT

DUBIOUS CONCERNS

Now let me see if I’ve got this straight. No previous medical transfers of asylum seekers had any security implications, but future ones will cause existential threats to Australia. And, having passed security and character tests, they will run amok in the community, while remaining in detention. Seems about right.

David Clark, Scullin

PM IS A PROMO MAN

T. Puckett (Letters, February 15) summed up ScoMo very well. Everything ScoMo says is a Promo for ScoMo.

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW

HONESTY DOES NOT PAY

It would be ironic if the electorate doesn’t re-elect Kerryn Phelps to the seat of Wentworth because she did what she said she was going to do if they elected her the first time. People are never satisfied and are unaccustomed to representation by honest, honourable politicians.

W. Book, Hackett

BOAT A SHORE THING

With the medevac bill passed and the Morrison government revving up its scare campaign on boats, what is the betting that before the election somehow a refugee boat will slip by the Australian government sea and air patrols? I would put money  on it.

Rod Holesgrove, O’Connor

PRIZE FOR DELUSION

By saying he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he has done on North Korea and Syria Donald Trump merely confirms just how delusional he really is. What the American people deserve is to be relieved of this narcissistic president ASAP.

Rajend Naidu, Glenfield, NSW

CHINK IN THE ARMOUR

With an election in the offing and a government in panic mode what are the chances that a refugee boat will be allowed to just slip through our border defences?

Judith Erskine, Belconnen

LOST FOR WORDS

Trump said Shinzo Abe ‘‘gave me the most beautiful letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize’’. The quote speaks for itself.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

CANCEL CHRISTMAS

The PM made a big mistake when he started talking about reopening Christmas Island. Nothing to that point had the pull factor the Prime Minister claimed it did. He’d better shut the gate.

Herman van de Brug, Kaleen

SHOW SOME SPINE

Farmers who are the backbone of Australia need guaranteed financial security and personal support for as long as it takes, says Jeff Rose (Letters, February 18). This must be a sense of the word ‘‘backbone’’ I’m not familiar with.

S. Davey, Torrens, ACT

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 or fewer words. 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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