Pensioners need services, not money:

Pat Berzin writes: Re. “Pensioners can’t see the Budget benefits for the myopia” (yesterday, item 4). For the past 10 years my sole source of income has been the age pension. During that time I’ve paid all my bills, visited friends interstate, had two major surgical interventions but above all, I’ve eaten well and I remain active. I don’t own a car or any credit cards, I shop once a fortnight, I compost all the vegetation and I also have a worm farm for the garden. I gave up smoking and restrict myself to one bottle of Bushmills every year. I also own my own home, as do most age pensioners, and I regard myself as doing well. Services, not extra money, are what all pensioners need. No matter how much some people receive they will still whinge. And what about the other classes of pensioners, those on disability and parenting allowance? They do not get any utility allowances and are often harassed by Centrelink to get a job however difficult that may be. And few of these people own their own home. So they must pay rent out of their lousy pension.

Not enough aid for China:

Brian Haill, president of the Australian AIDS Fund, writes: Re. “Twitter fills the Myanmar/China media vacuum” (Monday, item 18). As the founder/president of what’s probably Australia’s tiniest AIDS-care charity, deeply engaged in Africa, I like to keep track on what help Australia offers nations in distress. I was staggered at Canberra’s initial miserliness with its $3 million dollop to the Burmese in the wake of its cyclonic disaster, but a little more heartened when the national outcry saw this beefed up to $25 million. But I held my breath when China shuddered under its worst earthquake in decades. With a PM who likes to show that he can literally talk the talk with the Chinese and who’s indicated that he wants the Chinese to regard him as a real friend, how much aid would he shovel their way, I pondered? I’m still staggered that it was a pitiful one million dollars which, yesterday was doubled…to 2 million dollars. Am I the only person in Australia to condemn our national miserliness? The Australian government recognises that China is looking to a final death toll in the area of 100,000 and that over 4 million people are homeless. When Mr Rudd doled out the $25 million to Burma he made the comment that the Burmese government was callous. I think our aid to China in its calamity deserves the same description. I’m ashamed for us as a nation. Tim Costello has shed his tears for Burma, I shed mine for China.

Haneef, civil liberties versus public safety:

Dave Liberts writes: David Hand (yesterday, comments), I’ve previously criticised Greg Barns for some of his civil liberties obsessions but you’re wrong about the Haneef case being a matter of civil liberties versus public safety. Haneef was detained under specific anti-terrorism laws, and this lasted for adequate time for investigations to clear up the issues you raise (namely the phone card, the relationship with the cousin and the one-way plane ticket). Thus the public safety concern was adequately addressed, albeit under laws which denied Haneef’s civil liberties. What made this case much dodgier was the political interference which ran alongside it. Various Federal Ministers gave running commentaries about how dodgy they reckoned Haneef was, and ultimately the then Immigration Minister took it upon himself to effectively override a Queensland court’s decision on Haneef’s bail application for purely political reasons. Any discussion of the Haneef matter which tries to portray it as civil liberties versus public safety without also taking into account the ludicrous political machinations is simply ignorant.

Mark Hardcastle writes: David Hand, as an exercise name a society where the police were beyond open and public scrutiny, and consider if that was a free society? Then contemplate what it would take to create a system to deliver a continual production of “terrorists”? How can we maximise the number of people who turn to terror tactics? If it’s hard to get beyond the response of “Islam”, consider why non-Muslims use the same terror and violence? And why the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not use violence? What extreme circumstance and influence would drive Anglo-Australians to use tactics of terror? What have driven our forbears to employ terror in our past? Finally, we might wonder if there are better ways of securing public safety than increasing the politicisation of our police service, persecuting innocent people from minority groups and dividing the population.

David Lenihan writes: I am surprised at David Hand’s clumsy attempt to justify what was a shocking performance by the AFP, Immigration and its then Minister. The question that comes to mind is, why even try?

The RBA and the ABS:

Thomas Finney writes: Re. “Alcopops are one thing, but what about the Reserve Bank?” (Monday, item 3). At a time when better economic statistics are needed, the government has cut funding to the ABS. Here is an institution whose job is extremely important for public policy. Particularly around business cycle turning points, decisions about monetary and fiscal policy are particularly difficult because the probability of making a wrong call increases significantly. How about take the money we’ve raided from the RBA and give a lot of it to the ABS to improve their data collection, analysis and the quality of their statistics. Better economic statistics should lead to better economic policies. Stephen Mayne should also be asking if the Government tells the RBA what the dividend will be (Costello once split the dividend over two years to make the bottom line look better in the second year) or does it ask the RBA how much it can realistically release to the fiscal authority. In any case, one should remove dividends from the revenue side of the budget to get a better picture of fiscal policy actions.

Operation Wickenby:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “D’Ascenzo: Trust in me your tax sins and… go to jail” (yesterday, item 3). Former tax auditor, Chris Seage, expresses surprise at the inclusion of an estimated voluntary compliance effect in the assessment of the overall result of the ATO’s Operation Wickenby. But surely this is the very point of such an operation? To measure its effectiveness by comparing the cost of the operation purely against the value of tax directly recouped entirely misunderstands the purpose of such actions by regulatory authorities, whether ATO, ASIC, ACCC or any other. As Voltaire wrote in Candide, the purpose is to “encourager les autres” (translated as “encourage the others”). Voltaire suggested, following the execution of Admiral Bing after his failure to relieve Minorca from French assault, that the English should periodically execute an admiral to encourage the others. Tax Commissioner D’Ascenzo has no doubt studied his classics.

$150K households:

Jody Bailey writes: Re. “Comitatus: What do the budget polls really tell us?” (Yesterday, item 11). Possum wrote: “…the budget reaction wash-up as it was reported … $150K households were staring down the barrel of economic destitution because of means tested welfare.” Government financial benefits are for people who can’t support themselves in difficult times. The last decade of profligate bribery has seen the middle and upper-middle classes acquire a taste for free milk from the government teat. Anyone, I repeat, anyone on $150,000 a year does not need, and so therefore does not deserve, government welfare. It’s masqueraded as the politics of envy, but it’s time to renounce greed as a political lever.

Global warming:

Mingus Drake writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 12). Far be it for me to speak for the Honourable K-Rudd, but in response to Richard Farmer’s question regarding Australia’s response to global warming, the answer was contained in Rudd’s three points. In the first, to give effect to such a solution so we don’t end up in a situation where the USA, China and India aren’t involved, and in the third, adaptation, because without such a global agreement we’re stuffed anyway.

Lookalikes:

Walt Hawtin writes: If Crikey is going to play “separated at birth” (yesterday, comments), then let’s get a little serious! Steve Bracks and Hymie from Get Smart are dead ringers.

Adam Rope writes: can I jump on board, and say I always thought the King, from Shrek 2, had a more than passing resemblance to our late lamented conservative PM.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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