Qantas:

Ray Edmondson writes: Re. “For Qantas staff, it’s death by a thousand cuts” (yesterday, item 1). I suppose Qantas has to make the best of a bad situation by proclaiming there is a “new spirit” abroad in the national carrier.

If only this were true. Alan Joyce neglects to mention what I believe is a major factor in the airline’s declining share of international traffic. Qantas may be the world’s safest and best-piloted airline, but in so many other respects it is a follower, not a leader: it is a four-star airline mixing it with five-star rivals such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, who are not necessarily cheaper but who are certainly better run and offer a superior experience  in cattle class (where I usually travel) and up the pointy end.

Asian carriers have an innate service culture, and are able to draw on the resources of a national dress and national cuisine that give them a distinctive style. Qantas doesn’t have a style, and in the “she’ll be right” country, where near enough is good enough, we don’t have an equivalent service culture either. I’m not decrying the many enjoyable flights I’ve had on Qantas or some of the outstanding staff I’ve met: what one tends to remember, though, are the disappointments, the sloppy in-cabin maintenance, or the evasions of responsibility when something gets stuffed up.

Once, on a  flight out of San Francisco, I found that my overhead light switch turned on the light in a neighbour’s seat. It  soon became apparent that a block of nine seats (three rows of three) had their light switches all mixed up. The cabin attendant thought this was hilarious, and joked about the apprentices mucking around with the computer at Mascot. No apology. The problem wasn’t fixed. Tough luck. What message did it convey about Qantas’s standards? How do you think Qantas’s competitors would have dealt with such a situation?

If Alan Joyce is hoping that the Asian markets are going to be Qantas’s salvation, he will have to turn around the airline’s culture as well as its economics. What on earth would make an Asian business traveller prefer Qantas over the alternatives?  A “new spirit”?  Let us hope so.

Rick Perry:

Gerard McEwen writes: Re. “Rick Perry: can the south rise again?” (yesterday, item 15). While I am not normally in agreement with Charles Richardson, I generally respect his commentary, however his comment on Rick Perry’s Texas that “Granted Texas has enjoyed economic success under his stewardship …” cannot go without challenge.

The Texas economy, in the words of a Texan friend, is “a basket case”. The state finances have been plundered to line the pockets of the “good ole boy” plutocracy. In an index of socio-economic indicators ranging from education to income inequality to teenage birth rate to toxic waste discharge to child poverty to general health Texas is in the bottom 10 out of 50 states.

Add that to his advocacy of secession and his association with pastors of the dangerously barmy and downright evil  Dominionist cult and you have probably the most frightening candidate outside of Michele Bachmann.

Dog-whistle writing:

Justin Pettizini writes: In Crikey yesterday, in his article on the Australian Christian Lobby and gay marriage, Brian Greig described the News Ltd columnist as “Catholic columnist Miranda Devine”.

Angela Priestley, in her survey of  political fixers, said of Peta Credlin, “A Catholic, … Credlin has been chief-of-staff or senior adviser to the past three Liberal leaders.”

Replace “Catholic” with other terms used to express prejudice and see what you think: “Aboriginal columnist xxx …” or “A Gay, xxx has been chief-of-staff…”

The use of “Catholic” in these contexts was dog-whistle writing and unworthy of Crikey. (PS — I am not a Catholic and I have no problem with the rest of either article).

Tax:

Matthew Auger writes: Sharon Grey’s comment in Crikey (August 12, comments) uses data from the Institute of Public Studies showing that individuals earning more than $1,000,000 (in inflation-adjusted terms) were paying 43.1% in actual tax in 1961 versus 23.1% in 2011.  Sharon seems to be implying that such individuals are now engaging in massive tax minimisation.

$1,000,000 now, was $132,500 in 1961. For that income in 1961 you were in the 89% tax bracket going up to 91% for income over $200,000 ($1,500,000 in 2011).

In 2011, individuals earning $1,000,000 or more are in the 35% tax bracket, which will soon revert to 38.6% at the expiry of the Dubya tax rates in 2012.

As can be seen from above, the reason why people are paying less tax is because the tax rates have fallen. In fact the income tax rates have more than halved yet the actual tax paid has less than halved, no evidence of increased tax minimisation there. My question to Sharon is are you advocating going back to the 1961 tax rates? Good luck with that, I don’t think there is much of a constituency for a 91% top tax rate even on incomes above $1,500,000.

The data Sharon provides shows the massive increase in people earning more than $1,000,000 (inflation adjusted) since 1961, an increase nearly 20 fold. This increase is much, much more than the general population growth and it shows the importance of economic growth. If a government wants to collect more tax revenue than it should focus on growing the economy, which has the added benefits of reducing unemployment, reducing social security outlays and reducing the debt to GDP ratio. All these are issues that America faces.

Peter Fray

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