Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

The government took out the trash on Friday afternoon with its robodebt backflip, and Crikey readers want an inquiry. Readers also responded to our new series on the future of cash, and the devastating closure of suburban and regional newspapers around the country announced last week.

On robodebt:

Catherine Riley writes: All Australians have the right to know who did what, when and who knew what, when. Governments are expected to act with complete propriety in the way they administer laws. They’re also supposed to be model litigants in legal proceedings.

We need a completely open and transparent judicial inquiry into this debacle, else we send a message that the executive can do whatever it wants and there are no consequences.

Sue Russell writes: I want to see the cost-benefit ratio. How much was received versus how much to implement and retrieve. Another marketing ploy!

Sharon Broughton writes: Whilst I am not personally affected by the robodebt attack on vulnerable Australians, on Friday I felt gutted. Gutted by the cowardly way the PM “managed” the announcement that the government had lied and schemed to cover up their policy decisions.

Gutted when I heard Christian Porter on Insiders refuse to apologise to those who had suffered from the policy. Gutted that they look like they will get away with it! Gutted that so many Australians still believe in dole bludgers over the awful truth of what governments can do to those they choose to portray as ripping off the taxpayer! I am despairing.

I went on unemployment benefits when I left school in 1974 — before it was a “bad thing”. It meant my working class parents didn’t have to support me until I found work and started my distant education degree. There was no stigma.

Now sadly it seems to be a near-death sentence to have to beg for assistance.

On the future of cash:

Dom Quigley writes: I suppose being a 60-something year old inevitably makes me a cash dinosaur, but I still believe cash is king for a much of my spending.

Foremost is the ability to control expenditure. I find it’s much easier to spend up big on my credit card than it is when I have to part with the cash from my pocket. I prefer to take cash from an ATM usually just once a week to spend on my incidental purchases.

I know I’m the exception to the rule but I often watch with interest as customers at cafes, bars and pubs swipe their cards without as much as a glance at the bill and almost never requesting a receipt! And in an attempt to keep the supermarkets honest, I’m one of those shoppers who still asks for a checkout receipt and checks it when home from shopping. Ah the joys of being a retiree and having time in my hands.

The other great delight in having cash is on those occasions that system failures cause queues at checkouts and those of us with cash are ushered through our purchases with ease and speed.

In the end, with dollars in my pocket or in my bank account, I know I’m less likely to overspend so I’m happy to resist the trend away from cash, despite the best efforts of banks and merchants to ween me off it. Somehow I think I’m the winner in this tussle and happily remain debt free as a result.

On regional media:

Ian M J Baker writes: Sad days, indeed. While much immediate commentary reflects concern at a lost local eyeglass on social structures such as councils and courts, I recall from time as a kid reporter in Bunbury that the two major sell-out days followed the local regional show and the Catholic school sports.

It was galling to learn that little Molly’s third prize for Daisy the pet duck entered in “novelty pets”, or Gavin’s fifth place in the under eight 50-yard dash excited more reader interest than the big expose on council land development.

We ran the “seven inch rose in a vase” results from the show down to sixth place. People took multiple copies.  

A more sophisticated analysis conducted by Princeton during the 1960s American newspaper strikes found that readers especially lamented the loss of supermarket and entertainment ads. 

Accordingly, it is the basic and the banal that will demand replacement in new platforms. 

Karyn Starmer writes: I too am horrified at what is happening in the Australian media but here is a question for you? Why aren’t you telling the good news stories about the small media companies that are thriving in this environment like my employer, Region Media (in Canberra). Still signing on new advertisers and acquiring mastheads in the middle of a pandemic.

Local news isn’t dying just yet, it has just gone somewhere else.

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