The cost of detention

Toc Foale writes: Re. “Serco cops a serve — but what’s the alternative?” (Friday) Bernard Keane claims that in-sourcing of detention centre staff would cost more, but gives no reason for the statement. Given that the government doesn’t have to make a profit and Serco does, this, on the face of it, is a ridiculous statement. The only reason Serco could be cheaper than an in-sourced service is if Serco provides an inferior service, or more to the point if detention centres, prisons, etc, were to be returned to government control and responsibility, we would expect a more accountable and better trained service.

A lost opportunity

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “A plague on both your houses” (Friday). In contrast to John Richardson, who applauds  the demise of the political donations bill,  I see a missed opportunity.  A opportunity for the public interest to be better served  by giving Labor and the Liberals  more freedom to pursue evidence based policy by loosening the grip of their respective paymasters, namely the unions and big business.

While  the unions through their involvement in industry super funds are growing in their understanding of the need to increase the size of the economic pie, they still have a way to go. Big business, on the other hand, too often conducts its public lobbying in a selfish and beggar thy neighbour manner.  An example of the latter is how the mining companies effectively neutered the mining tax, which has damaged the capacity of the government to provide wider tax relief to help the economy.

The shenanigans over the bill also raise wider questions about the judgement and credibility of wannabe PM Tony Abbott.  It’s all very well to justify a backflip by claiming he was listening to the public when he decided to renege on a written agreement.  The problem is that the decision was made overnight  before the shock jocks had started their inane and populist rantings. It is clear he folded in response to pressure from the shadow cabinet and his own backbenchers who deeply resented his lack of consultation.  The existence of the signed agreement goes to Abbott’s credibility as it gives lie to his claim of a lack of government consultation and the absence of any firm decision on his part.

John McCombe writes: No, John Richardson, a “None-of-the-above” party wouldn’t help.  Until we move to a democratic system that enables a “None-of-the-above” candidate a fair chance of election, you would be wasting your vote.  No, we are stuck with a two-party system, protected by preferential voting in single member electorates, so the “opposition” can just curl up and quietly mumble in the corner and still eventually “win” an election.  How about real electoral reform?  Ask the electorate the following:  “Would you support a change to the voting system that would give you a chance to vote against both major (protected) parties, and have your vote actually count?”

Not invited

Mike Daube, director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Thursday). Crikey carried a piece criticising us and the Cancer Council for excluding the alcohol industry from a forum about action on alcohol advertising. I wonder if a little bird from the alcohol industry has been whispering to Crikey?

The alcohol industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars exposing children and young people to alcohol promotion, and opposes any effective curbs, just as Big Tobacco did. The World Health Organisation position is that “the alcohol industry has no role in the formation of alcohol policies, which must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests”.  The industry certainly don’t invite us to any of their advertising planning meetings, and it would be ludicrous to think that they should be involved in discussions on how to curb their promotional excesses. That would be like inviting Tom Waterhouse to advise Gamblers Anonymous.