On Abbott’s intervention

John Richardson writes: Re. “Matthewson: what Abbott doesn’t say is what should worry Turnbull” (Tuesday).

So Tony Abbott has been on a “listening tour”, during which he experienced a taxpayer-funded epiphany which allegedly revealed that people were frustrated with “governments that don’t deliver” & “oppositions that oppose just to score political points.”

Given his direct experience operating in both modes, Tony’s tour should have been more of an unhappy reminder than anything else.

Of course, it wouldn’t matter what Turnbull or his front bench did in an effort to placate Abbott, it wouldn’t make a scintilla of difference to the wrecker. Talk about desperate & dateless.

Barry Welch writes: Re. “Matthewson: what Abbott doesn’t say is what should worry Turnbull” (Tuesday).

This little old gold fish remembers when Tony Abbott (“people should live within their means, as should government”), as a Minister who had ended up in opposition in 2007 was bleating that a backbencher’s salary wasn’t sufficient for his needs — something to do with his daughters’ private school fees. How the worm turns.

On animal welfare and economics

Geoff Edwards writes: Re. “Even economists think animal welfare laws need to improve” (Tuesday).

The uselessness of the Productivity Commission is exposed again. If, as Bernard Keane claims, an economic framework is the only perspective it can bring to bear on issues like animal welfare, then its reports are worse than useless, because the economistic lens by itself can be profoundly misleading. Contemporary policy analysis requires meshing perspectives from many different sectoral and disciplinary perspectives.

Then again, having for a couple of decades preached the virtues of competition as the preferred organising principle for issue after issue across Australian society, with consequent fragmentation, loss of system coherence, inefficient overheads and loss of economies of scale, the Commission has apparently now discovered the virtues of a coordinating body at the Commonwealth level to set standards and conduct research. So much for competition (in this case between the states) as a driver of innovation and efficiency. The internal contradictions are breathtaking. Or perhaps this lack of a realisation that the virtues of competition depend on scale is a blind spot of the economics profession as a whole?

Peter Fray

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