Abbott: cyclist in Big Pharma’s clothing 

Marcus Dabner writes: Re: “Tips and rumours” (yesterday). Given how frequently Crikey criticises both major parties for “cash for access” type fundraising, I find it interesting that you’re OK with Abbott being a walking advertising board for Amgen.  Are you OK with the other sponsors of this event (including, among others, another three pharmaceutical companies, Cadbury, DHL, and rather curiously the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)?  What if it were News Limited or Hancock Prospecting with their logos on Abbott’s chest?

You may argue that these companies are all “making people’s lives better”.  An alternative possibility is that they are sponsoring the event because it’s a pretty good advertising opportunity that aligns well with their commercial interests, while giving them access to Abbott et al. As with all corporate sponsorship, if it were out of the goodness of their hearts, they might feel less need to splash their logos all over the participants.

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Regardless, perhaps the likely future prime minister (and former health minister) should reflect on whether it is a good look to front up for photo opportunities covered in advertising logos, particularly from Big Pharma.  Even if it’s for a good cause, it wouldn’t be appropriate from the Prime Minister and shouldn’t be from the Opposition Leader.

Newstart payments

Chris Redman, media adviser for Senator Rachel Siewert, writes: Re. “PromiseWatch 2013: Newstart Allowance comparison” (yesterday). I just wanted to clarify something. Rachel’s bill on single parenting payments doesn’t reverse the Howard/Gillard cuts, instead it provides single parents on Newstart with a $40 per week supplement payment. It has been talked about as a “reversal” in the sense that it undoes some of the financial effect of moving from parenting payment to Newstart.

Jay Martin writes: The article states: “Progressives have noted the Newstart base payment has not increased in real terms since the Keating government in 1994.” It’s equally true to say Newstart has not decreased in real terms since 1994. In fact, Newstart has not changed in real terms since 1994 — that’s what indexing to CPI does: keeps it the same in real terms. What has changed since 1994 is that a typical wage earner has gotten relatively more wealthy due to sustained income growth above and beyond the cost of living (along with reduced taxes), meaning a typical wage earner can buy heaps more stuff than she could have in 1994, someone on a fixed income with a link to wage growth, like a disability pension, can buy a bit more, while someone on an income indexed to price growth alone, like Newstart, can only buy the same amount.

The Salvos making a difference in Nauru

Major Paul Moulds of The Salvation Army writes: Re. “Nauru and The Salvation Army” (yesterday). Bruce Haigh’s comments illustrate that some have not yet been able to grasp the difference between supporting a person and supporting a policy. There has been no “about face” in our statements or our mission. From day one, both publicly and in private, The Salvation Army has called for a more compassionate and cost effective way of processing asylum seekers.

Haigh has not been privy to the at cost, not-for-profit funding arrangements of this contract. Nor has he cited the reports of both Amnesty International and the UNHCR, which visited the islands and commended the care and support The Salvation Army is providing. Haigh hasn’t read the letters I have received from various politicians and others thanking us for the difference we are making. Nor has he spoken to the asylum seekers themselves, who regularly express their thanks to the Salvos for being here with them and sharing their journey.

The Salvos teams in Manus Island and Nauru spend at least 15 hours a day in the centres, helping asylum seekers in a number of practical ways. Most importantly we listen to their stories, feelings and needs.  Yes, the conditions are harsh. But in the midst of this difficult place hope stays alive, support is shared, and individuals feel valued because a people who give love and compassion are there.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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