Keep your receipts

CEO Sex Workers Outreach Project Cameron Cox writes: Re. “Water cannons and blowjob receipts: the adventures of Freedom Boy, possible member for Goldstein” (Tuesday). There are only three brothels in Australia that cater for male to male sex; two in Sydney and one in Melbourne. The vast majority of male sex workers who work with male clients work independently as sole operators via the internet. Brothels are legitimate and legal businesses and would provide receipts if require. We are unaware of any factual basis to Tim Wilson’s claims.

On infrastructure

Ian Lowe writes: Re. “Infrastructure policy challenge has been laid bare — and voters won’t like it” (yesterday). It is true that Australia has an infrastructure problem, but Infrastructure Australia and Commonwealth politicians refuse to acknowledge the root cause: an unsustainable level of population growth. Our urban populations are growing by about 2% a year, which roughly doubles the cost of infrastructure but only increases revenue by 2%. Since there is no convincing evidence that this rate of population growth has economic benefits and it is clearly coming at a serious cost, a revision is long overdue. The current government claims to be in control of our borders because its brutal approach has dissuaded a few thousand desperate people from arriving by boat, but 250,000 arrive each year by plane. This is selective blindness.

Geoff Edwards writes: The giveaway phrase was “sustainable growth” in the very first column of text. Sorry Bernard Keane, the new Australia Infrastructure Plan is just another “economically rationalist frolic”. The entire document is comprised of puffery and platitudes, with numerous nice-sounding objectives such as “sustainability” and “growth” cobbled together without any recognition of the tensions between them or any feasible path for making them happen. Lacking in-depth familiarity with complex subjects such as water allocation, remote communities and city planning, Infrastructure Australia has resorted to shallow generalisations and a general one-size-fits-all formula of more economic instruments, privatisation and market competition. Its support for user-charges for roads, coupled with greater private-sector provision, seems like a formula for more toll roads, bypassing the checks and balances inherent in public funding.

There is no analysis of Australia’s of vulnerability to disruption of oil supplies, just a few homilies about increasing the proportion of journeys by public transport and cycle contradicted by a long list of grand new road projects. Climate change is mentioned, but the wisdom of facilitating exponential growth in petroleum-fuelled transport is unquestioned. Of 93 initiatives on the Infrastructure Priority List, only one seems to be for scientific research, even though the economic payback from research is typically 20 times that of the best of the multi-billion dollar road projects (Productivity Commission survey).

As for a “new source of credible, independent economic reform advice”, sorry, Bernard, it may be “independent” of government, but by its composition, Infrastructure Australia is not “independent” of the construction or finance sectors. In any case, why should such a complex multi-disciplinary field as infrastructure planning be independent of government? No single statutory authority with a commercially-focused board can possibly match the range of skills and disciplinary insights that are or ought to be readily available within the public service. If this passes for credible policy analysis, the nation is in serious trouble.

On yer bike

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Is NSW’s one-metre cyclist protection law worth it?” (yesterday). Discussing road fatalies, Alan Davies comments, “juries still find it hard to convict drivers.” Surely, the point is that crime requires intention (“mens rea”), and, however much the motorist might be at fault, these deaths are caused by accident. It’s true that sheer recklessness can amount to intention, but this would need to be proved. Davies implies throughout the article that drivers are indifferent to the safety of cyclists, but I think almost everyone would be horrified by the thought of injuring or killing anyone.