The collapse of trust:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “The collapse of trust — led by older Australians” (yesterday, item 4). “The Collapse of Trust” is hardly a surprise. Under the leadership of Tony Abbott, the Coalition has undertaken a concerted attack on Australian institutions one after the other.

Abbott’s rise was predicated on scientific illiteracy, religion, and inspired by the brain-dead US Tea Party movement. It was inevitable that organisations and individuals concerned with facts would come into conflict with his wacky world view, and the Liberals’ approach has been to attack these institutions, ably led by the sections of the media that target those of limited education and without critical thinking faculties.

From Tim Flannery to the Productivity Commission, Ross Garnaut to the Department of Treasury, Glenn Stevens to universities generally, anyone speaking fact to stupidity has been railed against by mental giants such as Barnaby Joyce and Eric Abetz. The very faction of the party that ousted the self-made Malcolm Turnbull in favour of Abbott. Ably supported, of course, by the likes of Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt. It is probably worth noting the contribution made by the parliamentary ALP, who have sat out this culture war.

Wreckers indeed.

Alf Liebhold writes: The idea that “things are good economically” does not strike most people as a fact in their daily lives. The more it’s repeated publicly, the worse they feel.

Professor Richard Wilkinson in his book The Spirit Level proves that, historically, inequality diminishes trust in any society. He mentions de Tocqueville; “we are less likely to empathise with those not seen as equals. Material circumstances serve to divide us socially”.

This removes the mystery concerning the general loss of trust that Crikey‘s article has usefully recorded.

The economy:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Kohler: Gillard can’t sweet talk the economy” (yesterday, item 9). Alan Kohler has missed a key point why the government gets no credit for our strong economy,

No one in their right mind should take any notice of the monthly unemployment figures as they are based on a political definition of unemployment, not an actuarial one. The real figure is 2 million or 20% chasing about 200,000 vacancies.

The problem is that the ABS unemployment estimates are “paraded” by the federal government, the RBA, most journalists and the opposition when they are in government as indicative of their “good” economic policy; and this in turn leads to policy errors by the federal government, the RBA and others, which consequently misleads businesses and decision makers looking to invest in their future.

Additionally, a host of government day-to-day decisions, the number of 457 visas and Job Services Australia would be dramatically reduced or abolished if we used the real figures.

Unfortunately, decisions made on the basis of the ABS unemployment figures have real consequences for Australia and Australians. The RBA’s determination to maintain Australian interest rates at well above the rates of comparable countries such as Canada — the country most similar to Australia with regards to its strong resource sector, has interest rates of 1% and means real Australians and real Australian businesses suffer from the higher borrowing costs that restrict lending in Australia and reduce investment by Australian businesses that would otherwise provide employment to many more Australians.

Clearly there are many Australians who would like to find employment or be employed for more hours each week — these people are ignored because each month the federal government purposely ignores the true level of unemployment — and the federal opposition is inept by letting them “get away with it”.

In fact, the federal government itself has the most to lose from relying on the unbelievable ABS unemployment estimates — each time the government claims it should receive “credit” for its good economic management, a majority of Australians don’t believe what they say due to their own personal experiences.

Trains:

Gil Arnold writes: Re. “All aboard for train betting, as novelty wagers hit the fast track” (yesterday, item 5). There I was trundling (word chosen deliberately) along on the Melbourne to Albury V-Line service and reading Crikey when the conductor made an announcement (far too obvious) that the train was running 57 minutes late.

Just then I “turned” to your item on train betting.

Well, this may work if the odds are set for the amount of time late, but no amount of insider information will ensure a safe bet or certainty of arrival on time.

The noon service was late departing because the engine arrived late and then had to have the brakes checked. A little late to do so, one would have thought. Eventually the train shunted 70 metres further into Southern Cross Station before permitting passengers to board, despite the fact that all passengers had waited patiently right beside the train where it was. One blind passenger was particularly inconvenienced.

So here we are, trundling along and despite claiming lateness of exactly 57 minutes and that we have now passed the “speed restricted” stretch of rail, there is no certainty of time of arrival.

Even renewed lateness is a certain bet on this one.

First Dog on the Moon:

Michael Parker writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 6). Just saying thanks for yesterday’s First Dog. It was one of the funniest political cartoons I’ve ever seen.

I watched Q&A and had exactly the same thoughts (well not quite so funny). If only the people in the Q&A audience would ever see it. So thank you all.

Peter Fray

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