Mirabella: Claiming that I was a student union member is meaningless:

Sophie Mirabella, the Member for Indi, writes: In a letter, Sandi Keane (Monday, comments) claims that I “was a member of the student union at Melbourne University.” At that time, students were compulsorily forced to join the union under a policy of “no union ticket, no degree.” Consequently, claiming that I was a student union member is meaningless. I never held a paid office bearer position in the student union, and I was (and remain) an active campaigner against compulsory student unionism. Meanwhile, Ms Keane misleadingly claims that Julia Gillard’s “only links with a union was also as a member of the student union.” She neglects to note that Ms Gillard served as the full-time, paid National President of the Australian Union of Students, shortly before it collapsed as a result of serious mismanagement. Trying to claim equivalence between someone who was forced to be a member of a student union (while never holding any office bearer positions!) and someone who served as the National President is self-evidently absurd. The Coalition’s contention is very simple – there is nothing inherently wrong with a Member of Parliament having a history of involvement with unions. However, there is something wrong when 70% of a future Rudd Ministry will be former union officials, and Labor rules requires that every MP be a union member. That’s just not balanced.

Hysterical focus on mortgage rate rises:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “As Glenn Stevens said: ”Something needs to be done'” (yesterday, item 2). The media has focused rather hysterically on recent mortgage rate rises (ie. since 2004 but seems to have forgotten all the falls under the Coalition government from 1996 to 2004. Rates are now some 3% less than in 1996, and currently much less than the average rates during the previous Labor administration at 12.75%. People would baulk at 12.75% and rightly so.

Could rates be a rabbit?:

Ian Close writes: Re. “Kerr: Could rates be a rabbit?” (Yesterday, item 13). Christian’s whole premise in this story is that there is still a substantial gap between Howard and Rudd over who would be the best economic manager. But unfortunately he has read the wrong column of his Newspoll table. The point really is that the gap is now a not very significant 46:37 (not 48:33 as Christian states) – only nine points, or a lower gap between the parties than at any time in the past decade. Howard’s opportunistic financial populism (Mersey etc), chickens roosting (interest rate rises) and the lambasting by Costello of his boss’s fiscal prudence to the JWH biographers have greatly eroded Howard’s claims to sound economic management. And I get the feeling that more and more of the electorate are seeing this government for what it is: a lazy squanderer of the financial bounty of a once-in-a-generation resources boom.

Rolling the dice on Howard’s chances:

Greg Samuelson writes: Re. “Rundle: How the Coalition could win” (yesterday, item 11). In Wednesday’s Crikey, Guy Rundle lists about half a dozen factors, which, if they all went the Coalition’s way, would see them scrape over the line in this year’s election. As he rightly says of his list “nothing really unlikely needs to be assumed”. But you can look at these factors as a series of six dice rolls. For arguments sake, let’s say the Coalition needs to roll a six on each roll to have a chance on November 24. Nothing eye-opening here, sixes are rolled in casinos and on Monopoly boards every day, a straight one in six chance. But when you have to roll six sixes in a row, the odds multiply to one chance in forty six thousand, six hundred and fifty six. Even if you assumed the Coalition only needed to roll a four or above on each of Guy’s factors (a 50% chance on each), the odds are still a long shot at one in sixty four. Not odds that would keep Kevin Rudd tossing and turning at night. On the other hand, the odds that Guy Rundle is another example of a political commentator seeking to hedge his bets (world’s most savvy pundit if right, “just speculating” if wrong) are, dare I say, considerably shorter.

Les Heimann writes: Poor Guy – flogging dead horses does not in any way enhance performance. Let’s look in the other direction. The polls could indeed be wrong and giving that magical 3% in the Rudd direction Labor’s lead could be 19 points and that could translate to around 30 seats and that in turn could also result in a Labor senate majority as well and that could result in all the promises made by Labor actually happening and all the zillions of inquiries supporting Labor led changes like cheaper petrol and housing affordability and reduced stress levels and free cappuccinos at each railway station and who knows what. Of course it all depends on that little trip down the yellow brick road and the tin man and straw man and the lion and humpty dumpty and…

Economic conservatism:

Christopher Monie writes: Re. “John Howard no longer a fiscal conservative” (yesterday, item 19). I don’t think I know what economic conservatism is, and I don’t think I want to know. What I do know is that it seems a bad way to go. I want a political party to inform me, clearly and precisely, as to what their position is in relation to matters of national significance. I want them to inform me as to how services will be provided, at what level and by whom. I want them to inform me of the cost to the public purse of the provision of those services. Then I want them to inform me at what level they will need to tax me in order to provide those services – and provide a living income support system for those who are not employed. And I want the taxation system to be fair, progressive and as inexpensive to run as possible. Do you get my drift? Have a plan, cost it and pay for it and don’t waste my money? I do not want political parties who say we don’t know what we’re doing but we’ll give back some of the excess that we rip off you. We won’t fix the system because it suits us for you to have no idea of the relationship between services, expenditure and taxation. This appears to be the essence of economic conservatism.

Mark Hardcastle writes: Despite Glen Daly’s protest (yesterday, comments), David MacCormack, is justified in labelling the Greens as economic flat earthers. Why else would the Greens prioritise spending on climate change and the water crisis? The extremist are obviously not up to speed with current economic thinking. Apparently captured by the belief that stabilising the climate and water security have priority over tax cuts. A true economic conservative knows that now is not the time for such priorities. The loonies may go so far as tax breaks for “disadvantaged” and for investment in “green initiatives”. But their ideology of envy is evident when they deny tax cuts for the rest. They really haven’t thought this through, without tax cuts how will we afford rising food costs and climbing interest rates?

Nuclear power:

Justin Tutty writes: Re. “Nuclear power? Suddenly a marginal issue” (Tuesday, item 3). Yes, I’m in a marginal electorate (the Darwin seat of Solomon) where nuclear issues are prominent in this election. Sitting CLP member David Tollner – Dopey Dave to his friends and foes alike – helped ram through the Radioactive Waste Management Act, which will see nuclear waste come to the Northern Territory via Darwin Harbour. He has also proposed building a nuclear fuel enrichment facility in Darwin, and supports plans to build a uranium mill on Middle Arm, in Darwin Harbour. But I reject the “NIMBY” tag. I’m not a NIMBY – I’m a NOMP – Not On My Planet. This industry is too dirty and too dangerous to tolerate anywhere.

Populist welfare spending:

Steve Martin writes: Re. “MacCormack: Howard’s ‘grey power’ bribes are just the beginning” (yesterday, item 9). Why is the government making populist welfare spending commitments that will be politically impossible to claw back – spending on older Australians – when we already face significant challenges dealing with an aging population? Easy to answer – Apres moi le deluge – The only thing that matters to Howard at this point is to be re-elected come what may. Someone else (Rudd?) can pick up the pieces, and no doubt get the blame if it’s too difficult. It can only be described irresponsible politics, and don’t forget that it’s our money that’s being thrown around like a drunken sailor.

Quadrant:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Quadrant spikes its own guns” (yesterday, item 3). Christian Kerr’s Quadrant piece amusingly uses the phraseology of the neo-right (“islamofascism”, “moral relativism”, the “black armband version of history”), but just as I’m crediting the lad for use of beautifully-weighted irony he comes out with a defence of Windschuttle as “easily misrepresented”. Windschuttle’s work on Australian colonial history is remarkably similar to the wilful misrepresentation of Nazi documents (and more especially the absence of documents) practiced by Irving and company. The Irving comparison is no glib smear. Irving did excellent work in his early years before eventually succumbing to the temptations presented by a too-close association with his subject matter. Fortunately, Quadrant has been irrelevant for some years now, as the right has gone from challenging prevailing orthodoxy to, in its turn, being taken over by a new ideological lunatic fringe.

Ben Clemson writes: Christian Kerr wrote: the vast majority of Australians share Quadrant’s commitment to intellectual freedom and liberal democracy … threatened in the Cold War by communists and their fellow travellers.” The self-declared “liberals” responsible for the Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950 would appear to be the ones lacking commitment to intellectual freedom during the cold war, Christian. And as for “moral relativism” being a “threat” to liberal democracy, I suggest you bone up on “relativist” concepts such as “the marketplace of ideas” and “pluralism” to avoid embarrassing confusion: you appear to be suggesting that certain tenants of liberalism are actually a threat to liberal democracy – how very Marxist of you!

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