Tax cuts and electioneering:

John McArthur writes: Re. “Tax: How Labor can do better than John Howard” (yesterday, item 12). I always thought the purpose of taxation, whether on income or consumption was to provide services for the benefit of all the people such as roads, health services, communication, education, law and order, etc. However the $34 billion announced involves handing back overtax to individuals to spend as they wish. Does it follow therefore that Howard and Costello believe that the necessary services provided from the grab are adequately provided for? If this is so why wait till next year to start returning the overtaxed amounts if not to avoid the attention of the Reserve Bank?

Gary Carroll writes: The question that should be put to the PM and Treasurer regarding the tax paid by workers is what we get in return. Not enough is the answer. A public health crippled by lack of funding, ie. mental health, dental health, public hospitals. The PM is too busy handing out funds on “anything to buy a vote” in the marginals. That’s taxpayer’s money, not the PM’s re-election fund.

Small “L” Liberals:

Geoff Robinson writes: Re. “Comitatus: Howard’s Catch 22” (yesterday, item 7). Most small “L” Liberals defected to Labor or the Greens long ago — they are drawn from public sector professionals and managers, a group that has moved to the left across the Howard years. The problem group for the Liberals in the “leafy suburbs” are private sector managers and professionals, a group that has moved rightwards since 1996, call them republican Liberals, they liked Kennett and Keating (to a degree). Reconciliation, climate change etc. are to them not tests of moral standing but practical policy challenges that can’t be ignored. They think Howard is a good manager but consider him lacking long-term vision for Australia Inc.

Land and housing affordability:

Ruth Pring writes: Re. “MacCormack: Be wary of politicians talking about selling land” (yesterday, item 8). What’s with the short-sightedness of Labor in releasing commonwealth land to home buyers? This will surely not be available to the poorer owner builders, but will end up in the hands of any one of the developers who bankroll both major parties. Provide affordable housing with essential community facilities and infrastructure? Not likely. The disasters of the McMansion plague look set to afflict more of the country, with open land becoming clogged with energy inefficient buildings, cul de sacs and the occasional mall. Why must the housing market continue to boom? As someone priced out of the market I have time to consider such things. Let the bubble burst, sell off the investment properties, and we might be able to afford a house without ruining more land.

Trade union backgrounds:

Perry Gretton writes: Re. “Sparrow: The ALP is as right-wing as it claims to be” (yesterday, item 11). Is having a trades union background the same as having a criminal record? Should it disqualify you from becoming a cabinet minister? Are there other professions we should be wary of? Like lawyers, for instance?

Howard’s debate:

Doug Pollard writes: Re. “Howard debates himself: exclusive preview” (yesterday, item 3). It’s almost Zen – what is the sound of one man mass-debating?

Fay Sharp writes: Is Kev scared of the upcoming Sunday debate? Is he not prepared? He’s had all year to get it together and he knows the PM gets to call the terms. However, if worried, he can just fall back on his fave “me too” response to everything John says.

Electoral roll shenanigans:

Jonathan Yarad writes: Re. “People bored by politics not on electoral roll! Shock!” (yesterday, item 17). I do not understand all the shenanigans about the electoral roll closing early? The AEC has spent over $15m in the last few months advertising this fact. There has also been extensive media coverage on this all year. 99% of the population know there will be an election this year. Isn’t it more that the people who have not enrolled are either lazy or do not care. I think it is just another case of Howard bashing for no particular reason.

The Exclusive Brethren:

Rodney Croome writes: Re. “Exclusive Brethren step out from the shadows. Again” (yesterday, item 14). The anti-Newhouse leaflet is the kind of thing we may have seen from the Brethren once upon a time, but not anymore. Brethren election materials have become more sophisticated in their design, they are usually authorised, they usually don’t urge voters to support the Howard Government or oppose Labor, they’re not overtly religious, and they don’t deal with abortion or immigration. In short, they are tailored to their audiences in a way which this leaflet clearly isn’t. It’s true that the anti-Newhouse leaflet echoes issues which preoccupy the Brethren like same-sex marriage and public funding for gender re-assignment. It even uses similar wording about the destruction of families. But these preoccupations and this language are common to the religious right. On balance I’d guess that this leaflet is from another religious group, possibly seeking some of the Brethren’s limelight. My experience in Tasmania in the 1990s was that a bewildering array of theocons come out of the closet when social and legal change is afoot, and/or their rivals are getting to much attention. Of course, it’s also possible the leaflet’s Christian references and lack of authorisation are a clumsy attempt by the Brethren to avoid NSW anti-vilification law (there is currently a sexuality vilification case against Brethren state election ads before the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, and the relevant NSW law has a religious exemption which Tasmanian law does not). But that’s probably crediting the author(s) – whoever they may be – with too much nouse.

Doogie Howser:

Alastair McConnachie writes: Re. “Rundle: Swing seats and social change” (yesterday, item 9). While not wanting to pour any cold water on Guy Rundle’s analysis of the mood in the NSW seat of Dobell, amongst others, I must take issue with his description of the former Labor member for the seat, Michael Lee, as the “Doogie Howser Attorney General”. I can vaguely recall Doogie himself, but not Attorney General Lee. The former member was, as far as I can recall, Minister for the Arts. I suspect that the Doogie Attorney Guy is grasping for is Michael Lavarch, former member for Dickson.

The conservative ACF:

Sally Goldner writes: Re. “Election Scorecards: 1. The ACF” (yesterday, item 18). Christian Kerr wrote: “The first we’ve seen comes from the Australian Conservative Foundation.” Conservative? Well, it’s nice to see that not all greenies are lefties after all (smile).

Annoying websites:

Ailie Bruins writes: Re. “Reality check: Australian polls poles apart” (yesterday, item 16). It annoys me when reading the websites of newspapers that I have to waste time finding the real news content. Richard Farmer’s conclusion that the marked “chasm between what newspaper editors select as news and what their readers actually read” is reached “by comparing front pages and the list of most read stories on the websites of the same papers” is misleading. Like comparing apples and oranges really. The serious news content on the websites of newspapers is not as “prominent” as the gossipy, irrelevant, news trash which is usually given prime position on the website. Change the websites and the stats might be very different.


Andrew Elder writes: Re. “Ben Cousins and the futility of the war on drugs” (yesterday, item 5). Murder was illegal before 1788, in Britain and within all of the Aboriginal societies then operating in Australia. All colonial administrations, all states and territories, all parties of government, all oppose murder. Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 281 people were murdered in Australia during 2006! Greg Barns would regard this as another failure of criminialisation. Will you call for the decriminalisation of murder, Greg – or can you accept that, while drug policy could be better, drug use in society could also be so much worse? If you abolish all crimes there will be no criminals, and the silliness of Barns’ legal-centric outlook on society will be apparent.

Louise Crossley writes: So, Greg Barns, what is your answer to this dilemma? If criminalisation of drugs doesn’t work, is the answer de-criminalisation?

The Sydney Dance Company:

Andrew Kensy writes: Re. “Howard loves the arts, ask the Sydney Dance Company” (yesterday, item 23). Glenn Dyer wrote: “Why just taxpayers, including all those millions of people living outside of Sydney?” Dyer put a question mark at the end of what seems a rhetorical question, but I’ll have a stab anyway. It seems that the options are a) close down the Sydney Dance Company (what about the Sydney Theatre Company? Melbourne Theatre Company?) b) have a world standard dance company in every regional area of Australia c) force sponsors to pay more than they already have. Of course, the last is the most palatable, but how do you propose the government exert such force?

The first Aboriginal Army officer:

Executive director of the Australia Defence Association, Neil James, writes: In answer to Steve Martin (yesterday, comments), the first Aboriginal Army officer was Captain Reg Saunders, MBE. He had a fine combat record in North Africa, Greece, Crete (including 12 months under German occupation) and New Guinea where he was promoted to sergeant. Saunders was not a battlefield commission but selected for a 16-week wartime officer training course in late 1944. He returned to serve as a platoon commander with the 2nd/7th battalion in New Guinea and was later a famous company commander with 3RAR in Korea in 1951. His father and uncle had served in World War I (Uncle Reg winning a Military Medal and being killed in action) and his brother Harry was killed in World War II. Until the late 1970s, as a sign of the regard he earned, the duty officer at 1RAR every day still wore the Sam Browne belt that Reg had worn when adjutant of the battalion in the early 1950s. When he left the Army in 1954 civil society did not accept Reg and his undoubted leadership skills as readily. In 1969, however, he began a distinguished career in the Public Service with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (as it then was), being awarded his MBE in 1971. He also served on the council of the Australian War Memorial from 1985 to his death, at 69, in 1991. Finally, it was not race that kept Aboriginal Australians out of Duntroon for many years but education standards as the college produced Maori graduates from the early 1950s. The Officer Cadet School at Portsea (1952-85) graduated Aboriginal officers much earlier because its shorter course did not require university-entry standards.

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