Henrie Ellis writes: Re. “Rudd can change the GST any time he likes — but there’s not much time” (yesterday, item 2). All the brouhaha, posturing, chest beating, and COAGulation going on over health reform only reinforces the inescapable conclusion that Federalism is stuffed.

No matter how the Premiers spin it they are the maidservants of the Federal Government. The Senate has never been a house of review and talk of states’ rights is a constitutional fiction, a farrago of well intentioned but decidedly naive supposed safeguards. The alternatives need to be carefully considered but they must be premised on national interest and the only way that can happen is to abolish the states.

To talk of constitutional reform is easy but if we continue to repeat the fiasco of health reform the states must go and the Senate as constituted must go.


Doug Buckley writes: Re. “Rudd can change the GST any time he likes — but there’s not much time” (yesterday, item 2). Reporting of the GST health claw-back deal reveals that unlike most 12 year-olds, many journos and editors do not know that 30% is not the same as one-third.

When the national debate on economic questions started to acquire some sophistication, I think in the Keating era, it was reported that many journalists were starting to acquire economics qualifications. There was not much evidence of this or even of simple numeracy on radio and TV between 6pm and 8pm on the day of the health deal with the states, Tuesday 20th April.

What is the size of the GST claw-back from the states? On the ABC’s 7.30 Report, Kerry O’Brien put it at 30% but on the same show Chris Uhlmann quoted an amount of one-third. Even our least numerate readers will agree that this is not the same, some even noting that it is more than 11% greater. SBS TV news was at least consistent, both an unnamed reporter and Karen Middleton picking 30%. Mark Simkin of ABC TV news quoted one-third, as did ABC NewsRadio.

Has the media had time overnight to summon its numerary resources?  The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday carries four 30%s and two one-thirds. Fortunately our politicians were consistent, at least on TV, the Premiers of both New South Wales and Western Australia talking one-third.

No surprise that the PM also weighed in at one-third, after all the figure is, as mentioned, greater, and 11% of many billions of dollars is, well, many billions of dollars.

Health reform and mental health:

Tanja Surwald writes: Re. “Waiting for Ruddo — mental health misses out at COAG” (yesterday, item 3). As a healthcare worker I have been concerned at the strong media focus mental health dollars in the recent COAG negotiations but the government and media completely ignoring the lack of disability funding or support for home carers?

The disabled are the most marginalised of our community, with the least capacity at living a “normal life”. Are dollars from the disability and carer sectors being diverted to mental health and acute because of its loud public advocates?

A tale of two airlines:

Patrick Gallagher writes: Re. “The ash clears to reveal… sky high prices” (yesterday, item 12). My friend and his wife flew business class to Hong Kong on Friday night but London by then was closed. British Airways put them (and I believe another 128 people) up in a 5 star hotel for four days, food, accommodation all paid, and then flew them back to Sydney. Offered a full refund or flight later in the year.

I reached Bangkok on Thai, business class, to transfer to Lufthansa for London, closed. Lufthansa’s gesture was to offer a discount at a hotel I’d never heard of, and to provide no further information during the two days I spent in Bangkok at my own expense. I bought my own ticket back to Sydney, and will have to do the same to get back to Bangkok if and when Lufthansa can find room for me.

The ABC:

David Lenihan writes: Re.”Media briefs: the NSW media blackout … Apple’s assault on e-reading … Mark Scott defends 24hr news …” (yesterday, item 19). I sincerely hope Mr Scott ensures the staff entrusted to conduct interviews on the new 24hr News Channel, have a far superior grasp of their craft than the riff raff, who daily insult our intelligence on Sky News.

Being a competent interviewer does not consist of continuously butting in on replies, not having the ability to listen to answers and develop a thread, or stick to ones prepared line of thought regardless of answers.

In this new two horse race, the ABC should dispose of the opposition with ease, if they conduct themselves in a professional, dedicated manner, making use of the ABC superior technical facilities and worldwide staff and associates.

I look forward to their arrival.

Human rights:

Andrew Rosenzweig writes: Re. “Bill of rights: good riddance on ‘bogus’ charter v lost chance” (yesterday, item 13). For an academic, Professor James Allan does a good job of obfuscating the role played by the judiciary in Australia, and of the role it would play subject to a charter of rights.

Professor, interpreting existing statutes in a manner reflective of basic human rights is a fair way off “decid[ing] the concrete limits of our rights”. Parliament would still make the rules, it’s just that the judiciary would have to interpret them with one eye on parliament’s intention, and one eye on the rights of humans involved.

And as for why judges are given this power and not teachers, journalists or others? Dear God that’s infantile, you may as well ask why Brendan Fevola isn’t interpreting the UN Charter on Human Rights.

If you’re still trying to solve this rhetorical puzzle Professor, start with the word “judge”.

All a shame, because it would have been interesting to read an intellectually honest view on why the proposed charter was a no-go zone.

Justin Pettizini writes: There were two very weird statements in this article.

Firstly Julian Burnside argues that “…the Government has once and for all foreclosed any possibility” of human rights law for Australia. Foreclosed any possibility for all time?  How does he possibly conclude that?

Secondly Greg Barns says “The Government is scared that people have human rights and campaigners have lied consistently to Australians on the issue of human rights.” What on earth is he trying to say? What does it mean to say that the Government is “scared” that people have human rights? And is the second part of the sentence meant to mean that the government is scared also because campaigners have lied or is it just an unrelated and unconnected observation.

Neither of these makes me think that the proponents of a human rights bill are thinking very clearly.

Michael Pearce  writes: Prof James Allan wrote: “It is not true that conservatives blocked the Bill of Rights, in fact it was mostly Labor people that lobbied against it like Bob Carr.” Did anyone else notice the non-sequitur?

Interest rates:

Phil Amos writes: I was wondering why it was taking so long for INGDirect to raise the rate on my Mortgage Simplifier home loan. After all it’s two weeks since the RBA increased rates by another 25 basis points. I got the letter yesterday, and the interest rate on my Mortgage Simplifier has risen from 6.19% to 6.49%.

Looks like ING were waiting for the usual media storm that accompanies rate rises to die down and then slip this oversized rate rise through. It’s still one of the cheapest variable rates around, but the increase shouldn’t pass unmentioned as ING are the biggest loan provider outside the big four banks.

The dole:

Gavin R. Putland writes: I wonder if Tony Abbott thinks there should be no First Home Owners’ Grants for people under 30.

Pedant’s corner:

Chris Owens writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 9). I hate to be pedantic (that’s a lie — I love being pedantic) but  Myer, in “Tips and rumours” yesterday, should be focusing more on enticing uninterested customers as disinterested (that is, impartial) customers are unlikely to be swayed by bribes.

Peter Fray

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