The media cycle:

Sandi Logan, Immigration (DIAC) spokesman, writes: Re. “Public service braces for cuts, paralysed by spin and regs” (yesterday, item 7). Stephen Bartos observes that “for many in the public service today … the climate of inaction and avoidance of risk that pervades almost everything they do … is in part because of the media cycle”.

I certainly don’t dispute that the media cycle, among numerous external influences, keeps us busy; I am not so sure though Stephen has it right with the suggestion these elements result in “inaction” or the avoidance of risk. More to the point, I take issue with the suggestion “a huge amount of public service effort is now devoted to spin”. In an age of greater transparency, open government and the digitisation and democratisation of information holdings, there is more and more pressure to provide timely access to the community’s demands for answers to their questions. The answers and explanations we provide through a variety of channels, is not spin.

To describe the compact Immigration national communications branch (of 27 FTE) as being “devoted to nothing but … spin doctoring” is unfair to the hard-working public affairs professionals who work there. To suggest “there are literally hundreds of public servants in these areas” ignores, for example in DIAC’s experience in 2011 the: 6000 media inquiries we answered on a 24/7 media hotline; the 2500 sets of talking points we produced to help respond to journalists’ calls; the 250 media releases issued for the two ministers and the department, and the hundreds of ezines, video clips and blog postings we produced to communicate with 8000 staff in almost 80 locations in Australia and abroad.

We’re damned when we do not communicate, and then when we do, we’re damned for being “devoted to spin”.

Tax:

John Richardson writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Crikey‘s editorial assertion that Australians are deluded about the relative level of taxation that they pay, compared to other developed countries, is quite simplistic, as the “neat little infographic from the Australia Institute illustrates”.

It simply isn’t meaningful to try to argue that because the sum of all taxes paid by Australians and Australian businesses as a percentage of GDP is lower than most other developed countries, that somehow the majority are better off than they think.

This superficial analysis ignores the realities of life being experienced by the 40% of the workforce who subsist on casual work; it ignores the large number of retirees who eke out a subsistence existence on a fixed income below the poverty line (all of whom have to try to deal with sky-rocketing state and local government taxes and service charges) and it ignores the obscene level of “welfare” being thrown at the middle-class and  wealthy taxpayers in this country.

Moreover, it ignores the forces that inform our cynicism on such matters, such as continuous promises made by politicians that old taxes will be abolished coincidental to the introduction of the new (as was the case with the introduction of the GST, when we were promised that payroll taxes would be abolished). And it ignores the barrage of propaganda that we are subjected to on a daily basis, with business, self-interested billionaire “entrepreneurs” and the opposition continuously reinforcing the impression that we are being crushed by “great big new taxes” and deteriorating productivity, while all the while the share of national wealth going to profits is at an all-time high.

If Crikey wants to indulge in simplistic thinking, then why the hell wouldn’t Australians trust their own direct experience against the nonsense that is constantly being foisted on them by lying politicians or the paid “broadcasters” who so successfully dominate the enfeebled media landscape these days?

Greece:

Pamela Papadopoulos writes: Re. “Rundle: Europe, where the Left takes centre stage” (yesterday, item 6). With the emergence of parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece that generated less than 10% of the vote, the European Union has a serious problem where it could easily fall into the preying arms of extremists. This is an issue that needs to be confronted head-on and dealt with immediately.

Peter Fray

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