Middle class welfare

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Debunking the ‘middle-class welfare’ furphy” (yesterday). Peter Whiteford doesn’t exactly debunk the concept of “middle class welfare”.  Of course, the term “middle class” is ambiguous.  Whiteford seems to interpret it as the “bourgeoisie”, and concentrates his analysis on the richest quintile of Australian society.

However, if we are actually discussing welfare for middle income earners, we should be looking at the third, or middle, quintile.  For this quintile, as his graph shows, the amount received in benefits is roughly equal to the amount paid in taxes.  And the fourth quintile is not much different.  Part of this relates to the public health and education systems, which are a benefit to everyone, but part of this is taking money with one hand and returning it with another.  Most people would see this as economic irrationalism.  However, you could argue that this merry-go-round of money provides employment for many public servants, who are themselves of middle income, and provides many citizens with the inexplicable joy of having some of  their own money returned to them like a small lottery jackpot every fortnight.

Do you speak-a my language?

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “The sneaky English requirement in our citizenship test” (yesterday). Ben Purser questions the “continued push for official English monolingualism” as he puts it. He’s welcome to his point of view, but there is a very strong case for official national monolingualism and English is by a long way the only serious contender.

He also says “federal Parliament has been slow to even recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as the first languages of Australia”. Why should Parliament do that? Of course those languages were spoken in these lands before English. Nobody disputes that at all, but that is not the point. There is Australia as a name used in English for this geographical area, and separately and distinctly there is Australia meaning the Commonwealth of Australia, which commenced on January 1, 1901. It is entirely reasonable for the Commonwealth of Australia to have English as its first and sole official language. It involves no disrespect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their nations or their languages.

A Coalition back-to-the-future

Peter Matters writes: Re. “Running the ruler over a future Coalition ministry” (yesterday). Because of the polls there is a general preoccupation with Coalition affairs. Fair enough, but a 8% swing is not a big deal and the 15% poll advantage is not due to the relative performance of government and opposition, but due to firstly, the aggro and malice of Tony Abbott and secondly, the smart and totally dishonest spin of the Murdoch press combining to successfully brainwash the electorate. If government members stop running around like headless chooks and start fighting back, realizing that both Abbott and the other Axis member, Murdoch, are not only very vulnerable but also men of the past — as well as a disaster in waiting if the opposition is elected. The bluff is not really that difficult to call and if it is called, the 8% swing will occur within a fortnight.

Gary Woodman writes: Disappointed in the hopefully unintended slur on Neanderthals in Bernard Keane’s assessment of the Opposition front bench. As the archaeological evidence dribbles in, it increasingly seems that Neanderthals were a lot like us (our ancestors, anyway). Perhaps Bernard means troglodytes — those people who, after houses were invented, continued to live in caves.