The age of entitlement

Greg Poropat writes: Re. “Tips and Rumours: PM double-booked?” (Thursday).  There seems to be general agreement that attendance at a colleague’s wedding is not official business for politicians and that they are not entitled to costs or allowances in relation to such travel. One might equally presume that attendance at an ex-colleague’s funeral is not official business. So it was with interest that I saw the Prime Minister, Bronwyn Bishop and a gaggle of other federal pollies attend the West Australian funeral of travel rorter Don Randall. Will the attendees pay for their own travel and expenses or will each of them tack on some form of “official” engagement, or a secret meeting with some anonymous person, so that you, me and the other taxpayers of Australia pick up their tab?

Andrew Haughton writes: Re. “Bishop gone: Abbott finally bows to the inevitable” (yesterday). Barnaby Joyce says if we get rid of Bronwyn Bishop for rorting the system we’d have to get rid of a lot of MPs. Barnaby, your point is … ?

Born this way? Well, kinda …

Richard Middleton writes: Re. “Who was the real winner?” (Friday). Peter Matters is a little confused. Nature does not “design” things to work. They evolve and finally succeed through many and varied iterations of a particular design. One such particular works, others do not. To suggest that homosexuality is a “fatal flaw” even in the pseudo-philosophical fashion Matters natters on in, is actually a rather offensive thing to say. As far as I am aware, there is no genetic basis for homosexuality which, of course, can occur under any number of circumstances. Neither is it a “life choice”… Well, maybe some trendy actress types make it such, to get more column inches, perhaps. It is certainly nothing to do with “infertility by design” as surely if that were so, nature would design it so gay men would not so readily (as in the past at least) help their lesbian friends with sperm donations. to become mothers. Finally, there is nothing in the archaeological record to support the idea that Jews or anybody stopped eating pigs because of disease. Silberman and Finkelstein, in “The Bible Unearthed” suggest this was a tactic by some early tribe to set themselves apart from the hoi polloi in other settlements.

Maire Mannik writes: Re. “Paper by paper” (Friday). The Mount Barker Courier is an excellent high quality local paper in South Australia that publishes all points of view. But it wasn’t always so. Way back in the 1970s it was successfully prosecuted under the Race Relations Act for an editorial that referred to “young black bucks” and other highly offensive terms in an extraordinary racist rant against Aboriginal rights. Before that on Anzac Day 1975 — just after Medibank came in under Whitlam — there was a priceless editorial that trumpeted “Our diggers did not die at Gallipoli so Australian could have free health care”. Bigotry was alive and loud in the Adelaide Hills.

On refugee resettlement

Gavin Greenoak writes: Re. “Are people who arrive by boat really queue jumpers?” (Friday). Australian government websites provide information for people how to apply for a “Refugee Visa”. More than 13,000 have been granted this year. There are international criteria for refugee status. While I’m not sure what qualifies as a “queue”, applications are no doubt received as human resources permit with some temporal order of receipt. My next door neighbour felt passionately about refugees, and took one into her home. She didn’t tell anyone, and provided all she could for his well being and assimilation into a life in Australia. As a matter of interest I looked up the number of homeless people in Australia after receiving an advertisement saying that one out of six children live below the poverty line: 105,237 homeless people.

Need for speed (limits)

Chokyi Nyingpo writes: Re. “Speed cameras, speeding fines and the greater good” (Friday). Geoffrey Heard  wrote and offered the suggestion:

“Make the speeding fines (in fact, all traffic fines) proportional to the price of the car so that a fine will have a similar financial impact on all road users. The owner of the clapped out old Holden pays $100; the owner of the Maserati pays $10,000 (or whatever more than that). Let’s get some justice into the system.”

This already occurs in (some) Scandinavian countries, but in the form of fine based on income, not on the price of the vehicle used. Both news.com.au and The Atlantic reported in March this year on Finnish businessman, Reima Kuisla who copped a $77,264 (€54,000) for going 103km/hr in an 80km/hr zone.

Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two. The resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier. Most reckless drivers pay between €30 and €50 per day, for a total of about €400 or €500. Finland’s maximum multiplier is 120 days. There’s no ceiling on the fine itself ,it is taken as a constant proportion of income whether you make €80,000 a year or €800,000.

Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland also have some sliding-scale fines, or “day-fines,” in place. Day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off