When solving the ‘budget crisis’, don’t pick on retirees

John Richardson writes: Re. “In tough budget times, retirees must take a hit” (yesterday). The suggestion by the Grattan Institute that the elderly should not be eligible to access the age pension or superannuation benefits until they reach 70 is as unhelpful as it is nonsensical, and simply makes for an even more divisive debate about a problem that we should all be prepared to assist in resolving. Of course, the debate about how to restore the health of the budget has already been well and truly hijacked by the usual suspects, ever ready to touch-up the poor and disadvantaged with a further installment of the GST.

Meanwhile, the long list of rorts in place to take care of the rich and greedy don’t rate a mention — whether it’s the baby bonus; negative gearing, superannuation tax breaks for the already well-off, or even the rusted-on family trust … sacred cows the lot of them. Until our politicians & policymakers demonstrate a real preparedness to plan a future based on serving the balanced best interests of all Australians, as well as the national interest, we’ll continue to get dumb & lopsided headlines that just make solving the problem that much harder.

Gavin Greenoak writes: It’s time to remember that the primary basis for people paying tax (not tribute) to governments is to provide services in three main sectors: education, health and old age. Education was never free, parents and grandparents had already paid for it. If a government proposes to interfere on my behalf with the management of my savings with a view to relieving itself of paying me a pension, and where the greater my sacrifices the less likely I am to get a pension, then the terms of this proposal are in no sense “kind” (Kean’s word) or “highly concessional”. They are simply contractual, and insofar as the terms are honoured, also just. Governments exist to serve people, not people to serve governments, and when too many of these governments seem as unable as a malignant tumour to contain their proliferating growth and appetite, then the efforts to continue feeding them unconditionally would seem ill-advised.

Robyn Godbehere writes: I am a little bit confused as to why government keeps hitting those people who have worked all their lives, who have contributed to the tax burden all their working lives, who have been providers of infrastructure that all Australians enjoy today yet we still want to punish them for their audacity in providing for their old age. Are we ever going to ask the young to work for a living and pay taxes to help upkeep and provide further infrastructure that they demand as their right? If there are jobs for the older generation, then there are jobs for the younger generation.  Or are the older generation easier victims?  Whatever the case, I think the persistence to make the older generation keep paying is archaic, vindictive and utterly obscene.

A very model of a modern Governor-General

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Crikey says: G-G must leave politics at the door” (yesterday).  I couldn’t disagree more strongly concerning the editorial comments about Quentin Bryce. Her Boyer lectures were primarily about community, opportunity and inclusion and the remarks interpreted to refer to gay marriage were precisely in line, not only with her lectures but the thrust of her long public life.  Rather than being divisive, her remarks were inclusive.  One cannot be inclusive while acknowledging the right of others to exclude.

I believe that we have moved well past the stage in our democracy where the Governor-General’s role was restricted purely to the ceremonial, the sort of role filled by the long list of British imports earlier in our democracy. We want someone with compassion and passion, someone who lends meaning and interpretation to our polity and that is what we got. We have had gray ciphers, and that is not what we want any more. We have evolved to the point where the appointment of anyone other than such an Australian would be unacceptable, and this is part of the incremental advance toward a republic. As Mr Abbott said, the comments were made with grace and style, as we would expect of her.

Denise Gadd writes: Heavens above! When I opened up Crikey today and saw your editorial criticising Quentin Bryce for saying what she said, I thought I’d inadvertently clicked onto Andrew Bolt’s column in the Herald Sun. Good on her, I say. Telling it like it is. Even our “I’m in love with the Queen and all things British” PM Tony Abbott wasn’t fazed.

BHP Billiton’s resistance to climate change action

John Poppins writes: Re. “BHP wants to have its coal and burn it too as climate dominates AGM” (yesterday). Following BHP’s AGM the board continues as before. Ian Dunlop is well qualified and would have added some “genetic diversity” to the board. This could have helped BHP’s adaptation to a carbon-limited world, and our future. It is sad that Ian Dunlop was not elected. 4% of votes does not sound like much, but this is in fact a great achievement. We must remember that the vast majority of shares are held by large corporations, super funds, banks, etc. If they vote, they generally follow the chairman’s direction. They’re all members of the same club. To gain the 4% of votes Ian had to win the consideration of a great many smaller long term shareholders. These numbers are significant in that they indicate a growing concern for survival among shareholders. Concerned shareholders all talk to friends, acquaintances and politicians. It is to be hoped that their concerns and their principles will spread.

Peter Fray

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