–We need to close the gap between rich and poor

February 20, 2018

If Jennifer Westacott is really serious about the benefits of tax cuts for big business why does she not also address the use of tax havens, shifting costs across the globe by many corporations to avoid tax and the excessive remuneration paid to senior executives? Why is she not spelling out in detail how the average Australian will benefit from corporations receiving tax cuts in increased salaries, in better health and education? While company profits increase while wages stagnate her argument rings hollow to the community.

Ray Cleary, Camberwell

A failed neoliberal ideology

After Jennifer Westacott finishes her rounds to persuade MPs to vote for corporate tax cuts so we can be “getting on with it” for that extra GDP growth of 1 per cent, she may want to rethink the consequences. Corporate tax cuts and selling off of public assets during the past 30 years by both major political parties have led to inequality growth in the US and Australia. She and her board might like to do the rounds of blue-collar suburbs and industrial sites and see how well-paid jobs are disappearing, replaced by low-paid service jobs that barely pay the bills.

Blue and white-collar voters are getting a raw deal from this failed neoliberal ideology that Ms Westacott continues to furnish and her major political party kinship. A secure economic and environmental future begins with economic ideas embracing “the commons” the state was meant to protect.

Leon Zembekis, Reservoir

The benefits flow up, not down

Jennifer Westacott warns that “an ideological hatred” of corporate Australia threatens to weaken wages and jobs growth for a decade. This justifies her strong urging for tax cuts on the grounds they will produce substantial growth trickling down to lower levels of society. But this is highly disingenuous as most of the empirical studies show the beneficiaries of tax cuts to be the very wealthy, CEOs and others who have available to them many means of avoiding tax. It is mainly expectations of increasing demand or productivity breakthroughs that produce growth spurts (to the extent these are sustainable at all).

She also invites us to look forward 10 years if these tax cuts don’t go ahead. But if they do, will she acknowledge the collapse in government expenditure on health, education and social welfare that will occur because of lower tax receipts? Will she point out the massively increased inequity in incomes because of the flow of these tax cuts to the wealthy? And will, finally, she ask why big corporations will still push for cuts in real wages even when they receive massive tax cuts?

Greg Bailey, St Andrews


The other side

The hypocrisy of Barnaby Joyce’s actions over the last week has been repulsive, but the hypocrisy of his words? Even worse. I was struck by one quote he shared with the media, a throwaway line attributed to his millionaire mate Greg Maguire. Apparently, Mr Maguire wanted to help out Barnaby because he was “living out of a suitcase”. My heart breaks for him. I work with homeless people, and only a few weeks ago I had the task of sorting through the suitcase of a deceased client. A man roughly the same age of Barnaby, who actually was living out of a suitcase on the streets, whose worldly goods added up to a change of clothes, a mug, a dustpan and brush and his identification.

This was a man who was failed by countless people in his life, including by our government. A man who had no income, let alone a well-compensated, heavily subsidised existence propped up by businessmen friends.

Barnaby’s “woe is me” attitude and his insistence that he has done nothing wrong is one thing, but to cry poor is just plain offensive.

Name and address supplied

Beggaring belief

Jennifer Westacott says “we (Australians) have become a business-bashing country”. (The Age, 19/2.) I may be wrong, but it could be: obscene salaries for executives, even when they fail, aggressive tax minimisation and avoidance practices to the extent that many companies pay no tax at all, cartel-like behaviour in some industries, corrupt and morally dubious conduct in others, the constant refrain that employees should accept that wages need to be reduced for the sake of productivity, then in the same breath bemoaning the fact that stagnant spending is a problem for the country, and finally, the continuing casualisation of the workforce.

To have the gall to say that this will all be solved by giving a tax cut to these very same businesses beggars belief. The failure of the trickle-down effect in the US after Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts remains a salutary lesson.

Alan Gamble, Boronia

Care for vulnerable

The article (“Public housing sell-off a raw deal for all”, The Age, 19/2) is timely given that the government has just gazetted a new incorporated document for the Markham Estate redevelopment. In all the politicking that is taking place around public housing we need to remember that the most important thing is the future of vulnerable people. If we are ever to reduce the public housing waiting list governments need to bite the bullet and properly fund public housing, not rely on the sale of precious, publicly owned land to developers.

Rita Fellows, Ashburton

End truck noise

There is another major environmental impact of the North East Link that is bound to be ignored. Truck noise. Greensborough Road runs down a long hill past the army barracks. At the moment trucks maintain 60km/h but with a freeway they’ll have to slow from 100 down to 80 to enter the tunnel. The recently introduced 10pm to 6am truck ban will also no longer apply.

This is an easily fixed problem but the truck industry seems to be a protected species. Most of the problem comes from less than 5per cent of heavy trucks with illegally modified mufflers. That’s only around 2000 trucks. It’s nothing to do with engine brakes as such.

Employing just a couple of teams of police dedicated to prosecuting a few trucks a day each would soon fix the problem statewide and be a big vote winner as much in the country as the city.

Mark Freeman, Macleod

Valuing values

Malcolm Turnbull said on 3AW this morning in discussion with Neil Mitchell that “the Australian people know my values and where I stand”. That may be so however the Australian people also know of the values he holds and had to jettison to get the job he so coveted, ie prime minister. Holding true to your values and implementing them is the sign of a true leader.

Francis Bainbridge, Fitzroy North

We need the water

The court decisions that gave the green light for water mining at Stanley (in north-east Victoria) have assumed that the behaviour of groundwater is thoroughly understood. It is not.

In fact, the water authority that issued the licence acknowledges this in its own reports that there are “uncertainties associated with the understanding of groundwater resources”.

So why hasn’t a more precautionary approach been taken with this licence – for example, by including restrictions on summer water extraction, as is the case for surface water licences.

It is an inappropriate use of our local groundwater for it to be trucked away for bottled water and/or sent overseas. We need it for local horticulture, water supplies and our streams.

Bill O’Connor, Beechworth

MPs, grow up

It is not good enough for George Christensen to withdraw his Twitter words suggestive of gun violence and accuse people of lacking a sense of humour. Many have said similar things about other bullying behaviour but threats and intimidation are just that. It is notable that this has now been referred to the police.

If some “greenie punk” were to do the reverse towards a federal MP they would feel the harsh impact of the law quite smartly.

This action shows a total lack of judgment particularly in light of recent leader behaviour issues and US shootings. How many new words need to go into that Code of Conduct revision? There should be a clear message from our parliamentary leaders that it is not acceptable on any level. We deserve better from our parliamentary reps. Kindergarten is no longer in session.

Robert Brown, Camberwell

Double standards

Imagine instead of George Christensen there was a unionist pointing a gun and then change Greenie to business leader. Now can’t you hear the screams of outrage from the Coalition. But with Christensen we hear nothing but excuses. Double standards? You bet.

Pauline Ashton, Maribyrnong

Down to the wire

Recently I needed to pull over and stop on a newly wired stretch of the Great Ocean Road. The shoulder was not wide enough and my wheels were on the white line. I was terrified as traffic came up behind me tooting and swerving around me. There was no way I could open the door.

Subsequently driving up the Hume Highway I was very conscious of the wire, in some areas it is very close to the edge of the road and almost nowhere did it look safe. I believe it is supposed to stop me hitting a tree if I run off the road, but I feel much more at threat from being hit from behind by a truck if I have to stop for any reason.

As someone who spends a lot of time on the road, the continuous wire barrier makes me feel very vulnerable. If a child were car sick you could not open the passenger side door. Has this been thought through at all?

Jill Edwards, Camberwell

Unilateral thinking

As a university student, I find myself frustrated by Peter Martin’s attack on the value of universities, where he states “most courses teach things that aren’t useful for employers” (Comment, The Age, 17/2) and questions the worth of studying calculus or literature.

Martin uncritically cites the work of economist Bryan Caplan, who, as a right-wing libertarian, opposes close to all forms of government investment. Given Martin’s recent advocacy for public financing of “quality journalism” (The Age, 3/2), I find it contradictory for him to readily endorse Caplan’s work criticising the alleged burden of universities on the taxpayer, while asking that we subsidise his own livelihood.

But my real frustration is with the persistent demand that intellectual pursuits justify their existence in easily quantifiable economic terms. When did we decide that it was not in the public interest to encourage knowledge of literature, philosophy and history for their own sake? Our most beloved democratic institutions, in particular a free press, owe their success to the existence of an educated people with cultural and political awareness. My suspicion is that fiscal conservatives would not be saddened by the gradual disappearance of their most astute critics.

Campbell Rider, Brunswick

Damn statistics

There’s been much bleating about the government’s creation of 400,000 new jobs in 2017. But the new jobs weren’t quite enough to go around. The number of unemployed has risen from 720,200 to 723,800 over the past 12 months.

Mary Mack, Box Hill

Take it as Red

May I please join the chorus of “Bring back Red Symons”. The last time (before Red) that I really enjoyed ABC Breakfast time was Peter Evans, and that was a long time ago. Does the ABC really know its listening demographic?

Ian Baxter, Point Cook

Bias and prejudice

Prejudice and discrimination by non-religious people is deemed to be unacceptable, some forms being explicitly illegal. Often, prejudice and discrimination within a religion is deemed to be based on “values” and the churches tell us it is acceptable and important.

Strange that non-religious people are held to higher standards than religious people. Stranger still that the churches insist that it must be so. It’s high time we stopped referring to the prejudicial beliefs that underpin discrimination as “values”.

Richard Fone, Camberwell



“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment.” Malcolm, Barnaby, the impediments are now too great.

Gary Bryfman, Brighton

There is a very pertinent political adage, “If you can’t govern yourselves, how can you govern the country?”

Phil Alexander, Eltham

Leave Barnaby’s Akubra alone. Remember he has had melanomas. Enough is enough.

Joan Mok, Kew

Have Turnbull and Joyce smoked a pipe of peace, or is it all just smoke and mirrors?

Chris Burgess, Port Melbourne

Lucy advises Malcolm about bonking rules in Parliament. I wasn’t aware we had elected her to Parliament.

Jean Tansey, Berwick

Sounds like Malcolm and Lucy have replaced John and Janet running our country.

Joan Segrave, Healesville

What breathtaking irony – Tony Abbott publicly criticising politicians for publicly criticising politicians.

Ron Slamowicz, Caulfield North

Given the wave of sentiment coming from America, Malcolm, would you care to rethink your ambition to turn us into an arms-exporting country?

Colin Mockett, Geelong


In view of what has just happened in Florida, how crass, insensitive and outright provocative is the picture of George Christensen in a shooting stance.

Myra Fisher, Brighton East

It may not be a criminal offence according to police, but George Christensen’s post was disturbing, especially coming so soon after one of the worst school shootings in US.

Susan Munday, Bentleigh East


Why don’t they just go back to weapons available when the Second Amendment was agreed?

David Bishop, Brighton East

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