Abbott’s frontbench:

Angus Sharpe writes: Re. “Abbott’s frontbench just doesn’t look competitive” (yesterday, item 1). This is why I voted for Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins. I have felt this way before.  I couldn’t place it until now, but it just hit me.  The way that I feel about the Liberal party now is exactly the same way that I felt about Carlton after the John Elliott fiasco.  You just knew that it was going to be ten years before Carlton was going to be competitive again.

And now we just know that it’s going to be ten years before the Liberal dinosaurs are cleaned out, and the new recruits move to the front bench.  All we can do is take a deep breath, build the team from its base, and do all that we can to hasten the demise of the loony Liberal boomers (and geriatrics).

Hopefully we will make a good start when we are decimated at the next federal election. Time for a generational war in the Liberal party?  I think so.  So bring on the cleansing fire of the next federal election.

Or to quote from that seminal work, Aliens: “Let’s nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

Jim Gobert writes: Don’t be so damn mean spirited. I say : Well done Tony Abbott — you have demonstrated your environmentally responsible credentials. No matter how worn out and apparently useless an article is it still has a potential for recycling in some form or another –Bronwyn Bishop is now seniors spokesperson.

Nigel Brunel writes: Based on the new coalition opposition front bench just announced — it now appears to me that the next coalition prime minister has not been born yet. Good grief.

John Taylor writes: This will probably be labelled the “Dad’s Army” team. But those who  are old enough to recall that show will remember one of the catch-cries was “they don’t like it up ’em”. And my immediate reaction is that this lot will shove it “up ’em” at every opportunity. The one to be found out in all this will be Kevin Rudd who won’t handle a concerted attack from all these oldies.

The Liberal Party:

David Hand writes: Re. “Abbott and Minchin: pick a fight with Turnbull at your peril” (yesterday, item 9). Well after all the bloodletting on the floor of the Liberal Party room, I can accept that Bernard Keane is entitled to his view when he states that the Liberal Party is “run by climate denialists who only feign interest in addressing carbon emissions for political reasons”.

At least we won’t die wondering what the country’s view about action on climate change is.  We will also find out how much John Howard was a factor in 2007 as the country will have an opportunity to reject the Howard Government all over again.  Personally, I am disturbed by the triumph of politics over policy and there is a strong whiff of this from government as well.

Kevin Rudd called climate change the great moral challenge of our time for which time has run out. Well that was before the ETS got rejected and he suddenly found a lot more time in 2010 to talk it all through again.  Let’s hope he makes a better job of communicating to the people of Australia about it than he did last time.

Certainly Copenhagen has got off to a bizarre start with its “2012 style” apocalyptic video that I was unfortunate enough to see a clip of on TV.  I just wish the science was out there for us to see without every movie producer, green nutcase, fringe philosopher and political activist hitching their wagon to it.

I thought Tim Flannery was compelling on Lateline the other day and his sensible expertise is enough for me.  And as for Malcolm Turnbull, if anyone has earned the right to forthrightly expressly put forward his view in the face of a different front bench position, it’s him.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Your editorial comment misrepresents the two recent leadership coups.  Neither was merely the “dirty work”  of removing a leader who wasn’t “performing well”, though this was a factor in both.

Federally, Turnbull was undermined by a deep political fissure on a real policy issue. The NSW example was conditioned by the failure of the Nathan Rees experiment.  A fresh-faced leader was a trick that could only work once — though the feverish Labor caucus seems to think that a female face will relaunch the ship.  Moreover, Rees and his Left Faction overplayed their hand, humiliating the Right and accumulating a crew of disgruntled ex-ministers, making mutiny inevitable.

Furthermore, these cases, together with the previous downfalls of Mark Latham and John Brogden, are redolent of political decadence, of a shallow palace-courtier culture of self-destructive scheming and media-driven narcissism, bereft of mass support or governmental traction.

Neither of the newly anointed emperors have a life expectancy longer than a butterfly.  Your complacency about this state of affairs is misplaced.

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Rundle: Abbott has a deep and original desire to fail nobly” (yesterday, item 4). Guy Rundle wrote : “That shouldn’t be too hard, if Labor maintains a positive message about modernity, hope and possibility, and what a weird little creep Abbott ultimately is, rather than a fear campaign about what he might do.”

Calling Abbott a “weird little creep” would be passable if the caller was not a strangelovian, cat stroking, gaze averting, monotonic creep himself.

Guy is really worried because the climate change caper might be unimpressing the Howard battlers who don’t really want to pay 30% more for electricity to see another generation of finance spivs play with their cash in a carbon casino while waiting for a windmill led recovery.

Abbott has rightly concluded that going to an election agreeing with Rudd’s ETS and getting beaten; is no serious alternative to cranking up the battlers and core conservatives and having a go at a GST like scare campaign against a brittle bureaucratic control freak who has never really had the blowtorch to the belly.

And I’ll bet the knockabout Abbott is charming to hapless VIP aircraft flight crew and considerate of his staff.

Only “weird little creeps” claim to have phoned their wives to apologise after a drunken night out at Scores NY strip joint!

Shirley Colless writes: Guy Rundle writes that Australians will not accept Tony Abbott’s ultra-conservative policies because we ‘are an enlightenment country, effectively founded in 1789 (when the Second Fleet arrived and saved everyone from starvation)’.

Rundle sadly misreads the core values behind his 1789 foundation theory.  The arrival of the Second Fleet saw the entry into Australia not of enlightened invaders but of the first of the carpetbaggers, the White Shoe Brigade, the officers of the New South Wales Corps who effectively for the next twenty years imposed a most successful and, technically illegal, get rich scheme backed up by military might.  There was nothing enlightened about it.

Any attempt by Governor Phillip to introduce any hint of enlightened rule over both the invaders and the invaded went out the window when he retired and left the rule of the Colony in the hands of the military both in fact for some years and then de facto during the terms of Governors Hunter, King and Bligh.

Governor Macquarie tried to be both an autocratic and enlightened ruler, but the times were against him as far as his rulers in the United Kingdom were concerned, and after his departure, as with Phillip, Australia passed into the hands of  new generations of carpetbaggers, this time with the full support of government committed to the pragmatic get rich quick as fast as you can philosophy.

It is an historical miracle and mystery that Australia did in fact lead the English-speaking world in the development of a democratic parliamentary system, of a unionised workforce and of advances in public education for all children;  but whether these came out of any sense of individual or national enlightenment rather than a pragmatic attempt to climb the economic and social ladder is debatable.

So, sadly, the battle between Rudd and Abbott will remain in locked into that most important Australian location, the hip pocket nerve.

Jackie French writes: I know it’s nitpicking ( it was a nit ridden era) but the Second Fleet didn’t save the colony from starvation; it made the food worse as their supply vessel had been wrecked and there were now starving, ragged,  ill passengers to tend.

Plus if you look at the early medical records, the First Fleeters up till then were better fed than they had been in England — the “starving” over exaggeration was a propaganda ploy by disgruntled marines who wanted food privileges: the grog, bread and the roast beef or pork of England instead of fish, oysters, native greens and home grown vegies.

Kelly O’Dwyer and Higgins:

Barry Everingham writes: Angus Sharpe (yesterday, comments) surely realises that Kelly “Tracey Flick” O’Dwyer seemed to think she was running for a State seat. I too live in the electorate but I voted for the Greens — I might have returned to my old Party had Malcolm remained leader but when His Madness got up that was that.

I looked everywhere for Ms Flick during the boringly long campaign and I didn’t once spot her but a few days before the by election her nuisance team was everywhere. Mainly Young Libs – and then I remembered Sophie Panopolous and that settled  that.

Memo Kelly: The Feds don’t run freeway closures and policing  is done at a State level dear. Duh!

Kristina Keneally:

Ben Keneally writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published: “Will Ben continue to work in his wife’s department now that she is the Premier?” Having already corrected your blog once before, I am surprised that I yet again have to point out in response to yesterday’s Tips and Rumors section that I no longer work for the NSW Public Service. I have not done so for almost a year.

Canberra airport:

Ken Ineson, General Manager Projects & Feasibility, The Village Building Co. Limited, writes: Re. “Canberra Airport expansion threatened by housing development” (yesterday, item 12). I am the project manager for The Village Building Company’s (VBC) development project at South Tralee.

In writing his story, Ben Sandilands did not contact VBC or bother to check his facts.  Ben Sandilands has used the same language as the owners of Canberra Airport including a number of misleading assertions.

The owner of Canberra Airport is the biggest development company in Canberra and a competitor of VBC. The Tralee development will include an office park and retail areas in direct competition with the rapidly developing office park and retail precinct at Canberra Airport.  The Airport owner has a history of taking aggressive action to stop competitors. Several years ago they delayed the development of a competing Direct Factory Outlet by taking a series of unsuccessful legal actions.

Local Environmental Studies undertaken by Queanbeyan City Council confirmed that the proposed development fully complies with Australian Standard AS 2021 which is the most stringent standard for aircraft noise in the world. Commonwealth policy states that compliance with AS 2021 protects the community from aircraft noise and ensures the long-term viability of airports.  AS 2021 results in a series of ANEF contours around airports that determine appropriate land uses.  In calculating its ANEF contours, the owner of Canberra Airport has assumed it will grow larger than Sydney Airport.  Tralee still complies with AS 2021 under this highly optimistic scenario.

Tralee is identified in the 1998 ACT and Sub Region Planning Strategy as the only future urban development area in the south of the Canberra region. This strategy was signed off as a formal agreement by the Commonwealth, ACT, NSW governments and local Councils to guide future development.

Double Bay in Sydney has more than three times as much aircraft noise as Tralee.

Developments in areas with much more aircraft noise than Tralee are approved every year around every major airport in the nation including curfew free airports.

Tasmanian hospitals:

David Roberts, Secretary, Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services, writes: Re. “Tasmanian health minister’s appointments under a cloud” (yesterday, item 11). The suggestion that somehow I am responsible for allegedly unsatisfactory performance hospitals at Coventry and Warwickshire in the UK could not be further from the truth.

I was Chief Executive of the University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust for five years from 2002.

I was appointed by the then Government to lead a new management team to turn around a situation where the Trust was rated one of the worst performing in the country and the major hospital in the group, Walsgrave, was rated by the Commission for Health Improvement as the worst bar none in the UK.

It is a matter of public record that by the time I left, the Trust had been granted three stars by the Health Care Commission — the highest possible rating.

It is difficult to understand why there is so much attention being given in Australia to this matter.

I am proud to be the leader of the Department of Health and Human Services in Tasmania as I was of University Hospitals which achieved great things.

I have a strong management team working hard with our staff to improve the services we offer to the public in line with the reform programs of the State and Federal Governments.


Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “At least somebody’s mentioning the war” (yesterday, item 18). Charles Richardson exemplifies the continuing problem in Crikey between reporting and comment — and between reasonable commentary and polemic.

In particular, his comment that “everyone knows the [Iraq] war was illegal; no serious international lawyer not in the pay of one of the belligerents has ever said otherwise” is simply pamphleteering bluster, not fair or professional or objective or informed commentary in a modern media organ.

The majority view among international law academics, for example, tends to regard the US-led intervention in Iraq in 2003 as unlawful because it was not specifically underwritten by a separate UN Security Council Resolution to those governing the 1991 ceasefire (and mandating the subsequent WMD disarmament of Iraq under UN supervision) generally. However, a sizeable minority legal view then and now is that Iraq’s long-term violation of these 1991 resolutions, over 12 years, was sufficient grounds alone to justify at least some military intervention to enforce further compliance with the UN’s requirements.

Two aspects are virtually undisputed among serious international lawyers who specialise in this area. First, Iraq had consistently and extensively violated most and probably all the UNSCR mandating it admit, surrender and disarm it’s chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range missile capabilities. Second, views on the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the 2003 intervention are nowhere as cut and dried as some opponents of the intervention like to claim.

The real strategic and moral problem involved with Iraq was the UN’s inability to enforce its resolutions (and the longstanding international treaties banning chemical and biological warfare). It was politics at the UN not law that was and remains the main problem. It is unlikely that the UN will be very effective with regard to preserving peace and preventing war until the democracies are a majority in the General Assembly again (as they were before 1961) and none of the permanent members of the Security Council are veto-wielding dictatorships.

Charles Richardson’s blanket erroneous claim reminds me of the still commonplace but sloppy and indisputably incorrect slogan that “there were no Iraqi WMD”. Even ignoring Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War and against its own Kurds, extensive UN records prove beyond all doubt that between 1991 and 1998 the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) discovered and destroyed enormous quantities of Iraqi WMD and long-range missiles. UNSCOM also uncovered voluminous evidence of how Iraqi had purchased, developed, deployed and concealed such WMD capabilities for decades — including illegal concealment after 1991 and illegal destruction (outside UN supervision) of some WMD after 1991 to hide its existence. The only real mystery about Iraqi WMD is what happened to the few remaining bits between the last UNSCOM inspection in late 1998 (when the Iraqis threw UNSCOM out) and the intervention in early 2003.

Finally, the ADA supports the British inquiry into the UK’s participation in the 2003 intervention in Iraq. It is likely to re-air some intractable problems of international law and international security that many choose to ignore when making ideological and/or idealist arguments.


Leigh Bentley writes: Re. “Telstra’s ‘real’ customer unmasked as former spin doctor” (yesterday, item 2). Last October Telstra disconnected my home phone just after 7pm on the Sunday of the October long weekend. I know this because the software that monitors my home computer system recorded the exact time of the disconnection.

I called Telstra two days later after returning from my holiday, and they restored my service by creating an entirely new account, complete with different billing numbers, so all my paperless bills and direct debit payments no longer worked. They also charged me full whack for the reconnection.

I was livid and attempted to lodge a complaint. I was told a complaints person would contact me to discuss resolution. I never heard from Telstra complaints again, despite 3 follow-up calls from me.

Then Telstra charged me a late payment fee on the reconnection bill, which I had been hoping would be reversed when the complaint was ‘resolved’.

After hours of call centre on-hold music and personal angst I just paid up, including the late payment fine and resolved never to use Telstra again. I eventually found someone who credited the connection fee to my old account, which of course was useless because it was no longer my active account.

I recently moved house and enjoyed using the credit to connect a Telstra line to my new premises, and then promptly put in an application for Naked ADSL to my internet service provider of choice. My ISP uses Optus infrastructure, and I now have a VOIP connection which offers me vastly improved digital services, no Telstra monthly “service” fee, and calls charges that make it cheaper for me to call a friend in New York for an hour than call Telstra’s call centre number (which would also amount to an hour-long conversation).

It’s the ultimate feedback – just leave Telstra behind.

No matter what Megan Lane says — it’s all BS.

Christian Kent writes: Re. “Telstra’s iPhone stuff-up: network is no (3) gee whiz” (Monday, item 22). Regarding Telstra’s NextG. It truly is a first-class service, for a first-class price.  Part of this is that you don’t need to share, but congestion is as relevant a factor as any other.

If you take the Indian-Pacific train from Sydney to Perth, you’ll be in range for most of 3 days minus an hour or two.  Bear in mind that this is away from the popular highway routes and towns.  Up in the north-west corner of NSW, you can walk in to the general store at Tibooburra and buy a pre-paid NextG USB key, and fly away onto the internet five minutes later, but your 2G/3G phone won’t work even for emergency calls via Telstra.

Not that I’m shilling for Telstra:  My mobile will go back from Vodafone/Optus 3G to Three’s less popular network, partly because it’s less congested, but the main benefit of Vodafone was $9/month live streaming of ABC1 and SBS1.  This was good for watching the news on the way home, but as this service has been broken for 6 months now, I’m just reading Crikey on my phone for the evening commute now.

Oil spill:

Bruce Hogben writes: So Joe Boswell (yesterday, comments) thinks shooting the messenger somehow makes the message disappear? Well, like the pollution still spreading across vast areas of our northern waters a month after the 10-week Timor Sea oil rig leak was plugged, it doesn’t.

Our ship left Exmouth at sunset on November 27 and the two pictures of oil slicks seen in Monday’s Crikey were among many snapped over several hours on November 28. Joe dismisses as nonsense the notion that this thick muck would blind the flying fish we saw passing through it, but would he like to test it on his own eyes? Would he like to bathe in the chemicals commonly used to disperse oil?

I am not a working journalist (I retired six years ago) or a “green activist” or “swivel-eyed lunatic”, as Joe has labelled me. I am a mere tourist shocked at what I have seen and photographed over three days at sea between Exmouth and the Gulf of Carpentaria between November 28 and December 2 (not while sitting at Broome on November 29 or at Darwin on December 1).

The slicks became more dispersed as we travelled north and east, but no less apparent — vast lakes of slime extending to the horizon. Close-up shots on each day clearly show these “lakes” to be oil pollution, and I would be happy to provide them to anyone. The cruise ship Dawn Princess has 2000 passengers, and many took photographs. The ship’s officers announced they had reported the sightings to authorities. What more “evidence” do you want, Joe?

And, yes, Joe really did say this: “Pardon me for my pathetic apathy, but when the platforms caught fire there was nobody hurt and the leak from the well, so far as anyone knows, did not get any worse. Environmentally, the biggest regret might be it did not happen sooner, as it would have turned a lot of methane into carbon dioxide, which on balance is a better greenhouse gas result.”

So when a leak erupts, we should set the oil rig alight?

Using the rig owner’s estimates of 400 barrels a day, the leak sent almost six million litres of oil into the sea. And toxic it remains, Joe, regardless of what you say.

Joe Boswell writes: Thanks for publishing my letter yesterday, where among other things I mentioned your correspondent Mr Hogben misnamed the oil rig “Montara” as “Montana.” Somehow you then changed the correct name I used so it appeared as “Montana” also. This might have puzzled anyone who took the trouble to read that far.

Innocent people:

Jenny Ejlak  writes: Re. “Innocent people go to jail in this country all the time” (yesterday, item 16). I have no doubt our justice system is fallible — but fallibility works both ways — guilty people get off scott free thanks to the failings of the system and resourceful defence barristers like Mr Barns. I suspect the rate of wrongful acquittals is much higher than the rate of wrongful convictions.

When is Crikey going to ask a prosecution barrister to write about the guilty people who escape conviction, particularly for rape, a crime that carries a notoriously low conviction rate?

Turf war:

Greg McPhee, General Manager, Turf Australia, writes: Re. “Council mows down Brumby’s (fake) lawn order solution” (4 December). It’s about time the virtues of real grass are being recognised for what they are. Synthetic surfacing does not stand a chance in comparison, particularly if you take into account the triple bottom line.

The claims commonly made that it does not need watering are fantasy. It is hot, hot enough to burn and the only way to cool the stuff is to add water and lots of it.

It’s expensive. Try $1.3 million for a cricket oval. It does not last long, about 10 years and you need to replace the lot, if you can find a place to dump the existing stuff.  There is a significant risk of damage so the ground will need to be security fenced. For active field games an underlay needs to be added. It’s also not suitable for elite games of cricket and AFL.

If the Victorian Government wish to provide long tern sustainable solutions for community playing fields than they need to look no further than returfing with natural grass.

New turf varieties are more drought tolerant than the cool season types, they can grow with less water and you still get the benefits of a biological disinfection process. The cost of preparation, installation, underground drip irrigation and tanks is less than synthetic surfacing and it does not to be replaced in 8 years.

With a focus on the environment and sustainability, natural is the way to go.

Climate change:

Matt Andrews writes: Climate deniers (or “contrarians”, if you prefer) generally spend their time “cherry-picking”: selecting a tiny slice of data to support their argument, carefully ignoring the much broader body of evidence that is available.

Tamas Calderwood (yesterday,comments) continues this ignoble tradition, repeating a couple of popular climate denial sound bites: that “the satellite record shows the atmosphere has cooled since 1998” and that “the Argo buoy program shows the oceans have cooled since 2003”.

As Tamas has repeatedly been informed here and on my blog, these claims are highly misleading.

In reality, the atmospheric surface temperature trend has been rising steadily at a rate of around 0.2 degrees per decade.  Choosing 1998 as a starting point (the strongest El Nino event in a century) is spectacularly deceptive: it reveals nothing beyond utter ignorance of basic statistics.

To suggest that the Argo buoy program shows that the oceans are cooling is yet more misrepresentation of the data. From How we know global warming is still happening:

Since 2003, ocean heat data has been measured by the newly deployed Argo network. However, there have been teething problems with the Argo buoys experiencing pressure sensor issues that impose a cooling bias on the data. Consequently there have been several data analyses on ocean heat since 2003. One reconstruction of ocean heat show  cooling since 2003 (Willis 2008). Other analyses of the Argo data show ocean warming (Levitus 2009, Leuliette 2009, Cazenave 2009):

How do we determine which analyses are more accurate? Ocean heat data can also be independently determined through other empirical means. Cazenave 2009 uses satellite gravity measurements to create two independent estimates of ocean heat – both find warming. Sea level has been inexorably rising since 2003. As a large portion of sea level rise is due to thermal expansion from ocean warming, this is an indirect confirmation of warming.

See How we know global warming is still happening, part 2 for a more recent analysis that confirms ocean warming.

Tamas also tries to ignore the fact that the planet’s energy imbalance has been directly measured by satellites.

The fact remains that there is overwhelmingly strong support among climate scientists for the basic observations that the world is warming and that human activity is primarily responsible.  In fact, there is not a single credible and substantial line of evidence against those conclusions; the arguments usually promoted on denial blogs have been debunked over and over again.

Tamas would do well to read What happened to the evidence for man-made global warming? … and actually try to absorb the information.

Brett Gaskin writes: Apparently the definition of insanity is performing the same action and expecting different results.  Based on this definition, everyone who responds to Tamas Calderwood’s missives are indeed insane. I suspect the earth could turn into a blast furnace and still Tamas would deny it was to do with man-made global warming.

My final insane question to Tamas is thus — what is the worst case scenario if the vast majority of the world’s climate experts are wrong?  A lot of money wasted, but also less reliance on middle east oil (and the geopolitical benefits), more reliance on clean technologies such as wind and solar, and the decline of industries such as coal.

Now let’s consider the implications if Tamas is wrong — severe weather patterns killing thousands of people, millions of environmental refugees, tens of thousands of flora and fauna extinctions, and the possible disappearance of whole countries.  If it was two blokes in a pub, you’d side with taking action.  When it’s the world’s climate experts against those doing the polluting — it’s a no brainer.

Jim Ivins writes: For my money, the comments section is often the best part of Crikey, but yesterday’s gem from Tamas Calderwood deserves some kind of award. “This claim is false because it would breach the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy principle).”  OMFG!  You couldn’t make it up.

Behold the danger of a (very) little scientific knowledge in the wrong hands.  I suspect the only closed system of relevance here is the mind of Tamas.  But do, please, keep publishing him — some days he’s even funnier than First Dog.

Geoff Russell writes: Tamas, you subtly changed what I said and got it wrong. What I said was  “…more heat has been arriving at the planet than leaving.” which doesn’t violate any thermodynamic principle because the planet has been getting hotter.

Likewise you subtly change what the Argo float sea temperature data actually says … which is that the rise in heat content since 2003 has slowed which isn’t at all the same as showing that the oceans have cooled.  Read that sentence as many times as necessary to get it.

Lastly, you say the atmosphere has cooled since 1998.  This is trivially true but misleading because the global average temperature trend is still positive even though no single year has passed the peak El Nino year of 1998.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Tamas Calderwood give it up. NASA asserts that the Earth is on a upwards warming trend and on the balance of probabilities  humans are responsible. Trying to score off  fellow Crikey readers is a waste of your time and ours. It’s you against NASA buddy.

John Mellor writes: I appreciate Shirley Colless’ contribution and views (yesterday, comments) but I think she under-estimates the very pervasive nature (and cost to the public’s hip pocket) of sales tax before the move to GST.

I think the essential difference between the GST and sales tax was that the public had no idea how much they were paying in tax on items because of the cumulative nature of sales taxes that built up in a product as it went through its various stages of production to sales.

Producers of goods and services paid a very high price in sales tax for essential business items (for example, office equipment, computers, printing and cars at a whopping 22 per cent sales tax) and all these sales taxes had to be added into the final cost of the product which mostly attracted a sales tax again when passed to the retailer.

Food is exempt from GST but the public had been paying for the cumulative effect of sales tax that built up in the price of food as it was produced.

Was there not that famous tub of butter cited that attracted a multitude of different sales taxes along its production path to market? My recollection is that there were more than 100 sales taxes in that tub of butter but it was a while ago and Google has let me down on a search for the exact details.  Many items like chocolate I seem to recall carried sales taxes of 30 per cent which was added on top of the accumulated sales taxes paid by the chocolate maker and its suppliers.

The GST eliminated the accumulation of tax within the price of the product because companies deduct the GST they have paid from the GST they have billed.  Only the difference is sent to the tax office. Thus the product or service is effectively only taxed (for GST) at 10 per cent in total.

From Shirley Colless’ point of view, the GST may appear to be a more pervasive “Great Big New Tax” than sales tax but I was running my business under that sales tax regime and there was a heap of sales tax money flowing out of our accounts to Canberra about which the general public had no knowledge yet they paid for it in the price of our products.

Cars alone became thousands of dollars cheaper on the switch from sales tax to GST.   So the GST was a tax replacing a very onerous secret tax and the Australian public benefited across a wide range of purchases which made it more politically palatable.

From where I sit, a carbon tax will be harder for Kevin Rudd to sell to the electorate than a GST.

Andrew Lewis writes: I have to agree with Shirley Colless, decrying yet another simpleton describing an ETS as ‘just another tax’ and ‘that new and huge tax’.   What bunkum.  The relevant reports that have looked at the actual costs, rather than the made up hysteria, have been the Stern Review (global) and the Garnaut Report (for Oz).

Both reports state clearly how the actual effect on households is quite modest.  Ms Colless rightly points out that the GST was a new tax, that it was costly, that the burden of other taxes weren’t withdrawn, as promised.  Surprisingly enough, the GST did not bring on the end of civilisation, nor did it destroy the Australian economy, although it did almost dip it into a short recession.

The Stern report and the Garnaut report also clearly show how it will be much less expensive if implemented now and if implemented fairly, preferably with minimal handouts.

Now if you are going to argue about the stupidity of handing out free permits, I’m right behind you, but this pathetic ‘Hanrahan, we’ll all be rooned’ argument is really wearing thin.

Peter Fray

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