Economic management:

Annemarie O’Reilly writes: Re. “Why Labor gets no credit for economic management” (Tuesday, item 1). Overall, the economy may be doing well but the people at the bottom are doing it tough and the government knows this. Julia Gillard should shut up about it and actually do something for the people who are trapped by circumstances. There is a housing shortage, there are people living on meagre incomes and the cost of essentials is too high for those on low incomes.

I know there are men out in the suburbs who want to work and are devastated about being unemployed. These are men who have the practical experience in trades and use of heavy machinery but do not have the latest documentation to prove their skills.

In order to meet the criteria for funding for training through employment providers/agencies, an individual must be classified as long-term unemployed. If they take part time, casual or once off contract work they are slotted into the system as recently unemployed as opposed to long-term and therefore ineligible for subsidised training.

The system is vicious on the old blue collar class who may be excellent performers and highly skilled in practical work, but struggle with reading and writing. These are the people that Labor ought to be able to understand. These are the people who get most angry about imported labour from overseas, this is where the Labor government will feel the backlash.

I come across people like this fairly frequently.

The underclass is increasing. It is mandatory to report child abuse but unless the children are about to die, it’s unlikely that any action will be taken because the system is overloaded.

You cannot say an economy is doing well if there are pockets of the community living in squalor, neglecting and abusing children due to sheer ignorance and lack of support … never mind the rhetoric, I know they are not getting the support. Don’t even get me started about the conditions of indigenous Australians.

I think it is a big mistake to look at an economy in terms of dry figures and averages. When the needs of the lowest in a society are met, then one can look at figures and say yeah, we are doing well. As it is, only some are doing well, very well and some can barely manage. One expects this type of engineering from Liberal Party economists but not from the party of the working class.

Thanks, yes it makes my blood boil, mostly because I am so disappointed.

John Howard:

Paul Pollard writes: Re. “Our long winter of inexplicable economic discontent” (Monday, item 3). Bernard Keane refers to John Howard as “easily the most frequently identified as Australia’s best postwar PM”, based on an Essential poll earlier this year. Before it becomes established myth that Howard is unrivalled as best postwar PM, we need to look at what the figures in that poll really showed.

A basic consideration is that, philosophically, most people are fairly firmly on one side of politics or the other, and most people who are in, say, the 50% left side would never say a Liberal PM was the best, and vice-versa. Therefore what Howard is up against, for the most part, in a popularity poll on best PM is the competition with other Liberal PMs for the 50% right side of political opinion. And his competition in this group is abysmal. It comprises the never popular Malcolm Fraser, who finished his largely failed period as PM almost 30 years ago, the forgotten short-term PMs McMahon, Gorton and Holt, and Menzies, an ancient history figure for all but the over 65s.

The rightwing 50% therefore have almost no one but Howard to vote for. Given the weak competition, he should have got much more than 33%. By contrast the 50% leftish voters have five viable candidates from the last 40 years: Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam (who still has a very healthy support figure of 9%). It is only this five-way split of the Labor PMs vote (which adds up to 48%), and the weak competition from other Liberal PMs, that allows Howard to look good in this sort of poll.

Contrary to the impression from Keane’s statement, a big majority of Australians (67%), don’t think Howard was Australia’s best postwar PM. This is another example of how bad simple plurality (“first-past-the-post”) voting systems are.

The Greens:

Matt Davis writes: Re. “Life after Bob: Greens cleavage exposed by NSW preselections” (yesterday, item 4). It’s sad that Crikey is probably the most widely read Australian media source where reports on Greens policy and activity can occasionally be found. Sadder still that those who do the reporting have yet to learn anything of the party structure and process that so starkly separates the Greens from anything else in Australian politics.

For example, I sight Andrew Crook’s implication that Senator Brown retiring has somehow caused (or heightened or failed to prevent) an ugly personality clash over preselections. Get a life, Andrew. These things are inevitable, though unfortunate and the Greens have developed methods (some of which were mentioned in the article) of dealing with them without compromising core Green principles. This is the sort of thing that happens so often in other parties that Crikey would hardly bother to report it beyond a mention in the rumours column.

I guess the allusion to the ALP’s historical turmoil is bait for the national broadsheet and it’s cousins — we’ll see if they take it and run — it’s the sort of Green story Rupe’s goons usually love.

As I’ve written previously in Crikey comments, the Greens are a coalition of locally run state parties — it seems that the Tasmanian Senate seat vacated by Brown was filled quickly and without rancour. Any ruction in the NSW Greens is as likely to have anything to do with Bob Brown as it is to cause the nation-wide split suggested in the article.

I’m sure the Greens, though embarrassed, welcome the scrutiny and perhaps now the NSW Greens can get back to the job of holding their government to account.

Automatic enrolment:

Mitchell Holmes writes: Re. “Electoral Commission on a roll as hunt on for the unenrolled” (Tuesday, item 4). In Charles Richardson’s article is this line, “automatic enrolment … reinforces and makes more effective our system of compulsory voting, which is an infringement of basic civil liberties.”

What rubbish! The right of universal adult suffrage took hundreds of years to obtain and was at times a right that some people fought and died for. Even in early democracies only land holders were allowed to vote, then only males. It was only really in the twentieth century that the right to vote became universal.

Suggesting that automatic enrolment through the use of already obtained information is an infringement of civil liberties is poppycock.