The conversation that we really need to have
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
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Russell Broadbent’s Liberal colleagues could learn something from him and his support for a debate on the fairness of Australia’s tax rules (“Lib MP backs debate on super tax rules”, 28/2). Of course, promises should be honoured when reasonable; but not when altered circumstances render them erroneous, or reflection reveals they always were.
Much mental and physical ill-health stems from inflexible thinking and resistance to necessary change and adaptation. The promises we expect politicians to honour are those promoting fairness and wellbeing for all citizens, not just a privileged few. Promises have been broken constructively (Julia Gillard’s carbon reduction strategy) and also destructively (Kevin Rudd’s abandonment of “the great moral imperative of our time”).
The government’s reluctance to jettison the stage 3 tax cuts, amend very high-end superannuation concessions or tackle negative gearing stems from its fear of Coalition cries of “broken promises” and its supporters “twisting the truth to make a trap for fools”, to paraphrase Kipling. To persist on a destructive course, when reality dictates altering it, is to risk the Titanic’s fate.
Joe Di Stefano, Geelong
Facing up to hard questions
Criticisms from David Crowe and others that the government has been “kite flying” with issues such as the stage 3 tax cuts and regarding superannuation ahead of its changes yesterday (“Leaders in a tangle as they fly kite on levy changes”, 28/2) ignores a much more important shift in how this government is developing policy. We have, as a country, been starved of national debates for at least 10 years. Opening up a policy discussion is exactly what we need. Our society must get more involved in the process of government and policy if modern democracy is to survive.
John Rolland, Rosebud
Inequality the problem
Jessica Irving is right on the money with her article on super and a dignified retirement (“Compulsory super only really benefits one group of workers”, 28/2). The inequality in the current system needs urgent attention, irrespective of what was said during the last election. As the situation changes governments need to act as they see fit.
Tony Ottobre, Sorrento
Abolition of super has limits
I don’t disagree with Jessica Irvine’s conclusion about a scheme that was meant partly to lower the cost of supporting an ageing population but which is about to cost the taxpayer more than the pension does due to tax concessions for people who don’t need them. However, Irvine tells us that many low income earners might have been better off if their super contributions were “scrimped together for a modest home deposit”. A modest home deposit where? Has she seen house prices lately?
How many more of those earning less than, say, $80,000 a year, would be able to afford a property if super was abolished?
Perhaps many on low-incomes would be better off if they had a property and lived on the aged pension than if they rented and had some super payments, but there’s no reason to think that abolishing compulsory superannuation would get them to this happy state.
Floyd Kermode, Preston
Bringing class into it
Independent MP Zoe Daniel accused the government of pursuing a “class war tactic” when it proposed super reforms and another independent, Allegra Spender, said she was concerned about the “class focused” comments of the government. I’m incredulous how these MPs conflate capping super balances to class, when Labor’s stated objective is to limit the cost of tax concessions providing unreasonable benefits to people who don’t really need them. There’s nothing wrong with people having $3 million or more in their super — they just shouldn’t be receiving tax concessions at the expense of other taxpayers.
Neil Hudson, East Melbourne
Educate on killer dust
Re: “States and territories agree to consider banning engineered stone”, the hazards of dust-borne diseases (such as silicosis and asbestosis) have been well-documented since at least the 1960s when I was taught about them at university. The safety measures for handling these risks are also well-known. Wet cutting and properly fitting dust masks.
There is absolutely no need to ban these type of materials, just adopt the proper safety measures.
The real issue is education. In industries such as those using hot metal if you don’t adopt the proper safety measures you can be immediately hurt. With dust-borne hazards the problems develop over time, which probably contributes to workers not using proper safety equipment all the time. As an aside, the dust from cutting MDF is also toxic.
Rob Melvin, Avondale Heights
Coles and Woolworths say that now REDcycle is being wound up they will ensure the plastics stockpiles “will be responsibly managed for the best possible environmental outcome” (“Recycle firm wound up as stores step in”, 28/2). How do we know this is more than a PR stunt? What outcomes do they have in mind? When will they be realised? If the supermarket giants genuinely cared about environmental outcomes, why did they not notice while REDcycle failed to recycle vast amounts of plastics generated by their businesses?
As consumers we can send Coles and Woolworths a message by taking our business elsewhere. For example, instead of buying fruit and veg from supermarkets that come with unnecessary packaging, try the local greengrocer where you can take your own bags or supplied brown paper bags.
Matilda Bowra, Fitzroy North
Lab explanation remains
At the start of the COVID pandemic, there were emphatic denials of any possibility of escape from a laboratory in Wuhan, accompanied by cries of conspiracy theories. Invoking of “conspiracy theories” is one of the most effective ways of suppressing debate.
A more effective end to the debate would take place if a proximal precursor to SARS-Cov2 could be isolated from a natural source, and its gene sequence included the interspersed 12 base furin cleavage site required for human infectivity, for which no natural source has been found.
Until that hypothetical time, a laboratory leak remains a possible explanation. Recent events (“New support for COVID lab leak theory”, 28/2) suggest the tide of debate is turning.
James Goding, emeritus professor, Monash University
Re: “Mr Miyagi offers Russell Crowe dress code exemption” (CBD, 28/2), restaurant dress codes are civilised and should be enforced. Restaurant visitors should dress neatly. A blue or white singlet and rubber thongs are not acceptable, and should be saved for the beach. This is not too much to ask to ensure all diners feel comfortable. At a local cafe or pub clean jeans, a shirt and casual shoes should be the minimum dress standard.
I eat out most days and dress appropriately. Melbourne is Australia’s premier food capital and we want to keep Melbourne looking nice for locals and visitors. The excellent Australian actor Russell Crowe should have known better when he visited a Prahran restaurant recently.
Being from Sydney may explain Crowe’s dress code violation at a middle-class Melbourne restaurant.
Adrian Jackson, Middle Park
I was saddened to see the responses to the potential construction of a mental health facility next to a school (“Private school fights plan for mental health hospital”, 28/2). I wonder whether the principal will reflect on the impact of her words and of stigma prevalent in our community. As a role model and leader of her school, how will students experiencing an existing or emerging mental illness feel when hearing her words?
My heart goes out to all those and I hope they feel able to reach out and seek the help they need.
Liz Burgat, Lismore Heights
How to fix suburbs
Your respondents call for solutions following Tone Wheeler’s article on the declining quality of Australia’s suburbs (Letters, 28/2).
Well, better design can lift the current 9 per cent canopy tree cover in estates to 30 per cent, delivering an acceptable microclimate, even at higher housing densities. Linking estate and housing design delivers better house orientation, and more than doubles solar-ready roof areas. Good housing design can slash energy use. Energy autonomy is possible, including even electric vehicles. Smarter road design liberates space for parks that can be directly accessible from housing. Flexible housing design can also increase returns on these assets and reduce “empty nests”.
All these benefits demand integration and government policy to assist in covering the upfront costs. These challenges are not insurmountable. Suburban development models are broken, and new solutions are needed.
Michael Jeffreson, Richmond
We get what we ask for
Critics of modern homes in new suburbs recoil at what they see and a common view is that if “good Australian housing designs” were offered by architects and builders a necessary change would occur. The question is: where in Melbourne’s 146 suburbs are there examples of these homes built to such good designs ? There are very few.
The critique of the oversized modern two-storey homes, or the faux Georgian or Victorian terraces in the outlying suburbs is valid but what standards of material success is being imitated in those housing designs? There needs to be a huge cultural shift towards housing and it has to be rapid. The vicissitudes of climate change are forcing the pace.
Des Files Brunswick
Thank you to your correspondent who pointed out the hideousness of rubbish bins left out the front of homes.
A home near where I live, and which I have loved since a child, was sold and thankfully not pulled down, but renovated. A beautiful Australian classic with a veranda all round. It was finally finished with no expense spared. But lo, the bins are now left out the front for all who pass to “admire”.
As your correspondent states, why is it not possible for an area to be set aside specifically so these unsightly coloured monsters are out of sight?
Obviously money doesn’t buy intelligent design.
Kate Read, Canterbury
Failing our vulnerable
My heart goes out to people like your correspondent (“Life in a medical vacuum”, Letters, 28/2) who, like people exhausted by long COVID, inevitably “turn to each other for solutions and comfort”.
Suffering with debilitating ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for three decades, she understandably feels neglected by the under-resourced medical profession.
She is a person of class and courage and we are a weaker society by being deprived of the contribution of such gifted and community-minded people. Her story is yet another reminder that we as a community fail the test of a civilised community namely to care for our most vulnerable members.
Kevin Burke, Sandringham
Fund safer roads
Victoria’s interstate road links are life-threatening. Buckled road shoulders, bad patching and random potholes distract drivers from high-speed traffic around them. Many opt to stay in the better-condition passing lane, creating confusion behind and often furious undertaking.
Regulators know how to fix it. Fund better road surfacing and fund more regional police to make all of us think twice before pushing harder.
Our police have the laws – give them the staff they need to do the job. Take aggressive tailgaters off the road. Fine thoughtless drivers cutting into truck’s safe-breaking buffers that risk 80-tonne multi-vehicle wipe-outs.
Road crime cripples tourism, trade, and civility in Victoria. Fine and de-license this threat now.
Ian Lang, Flemington
“Our greatest team?” by Greg Baum (The Age, 28/2) is a good read. One player faced only five balls for seven runs and bowled one over that cost five runs. However, I think Ellyse Perry influenced the result of the game as much or more than any other player in the victorious Aussie team.
She kept many almost certain boundaries throughout the South African innings to just one or two runs, probably saving more than the 19 runs Australia won by. A brilliant throw from the boundary also brought about a run out.
Her reading of the game, athleticism and good hands just about make her worth two players.
Ian Dale, Rosebud
I had the experience of being a bald seven-year-old, thankfully decades before the publication of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. Today’s debate about edits to his books would be enhanced if Dahl were read by adults in the context of his many, well-documented prejudices.
We should take seriously the potential impact, especially on children, of scaring them with images of bald, wig-wearing, evil women – a “lazy and archaic narrative”, according to the patient support organisation Alopecia UK.
I hope it’s possible to have our Dahl, to robustly critique it and be mindful of The Witches’ damaging possibilities, especially for alopecia-affected young people bullied by their peers.
Patricia Crotty, Portarlington
And another thing
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
Architecture is a business like every other. If a client wants to spend big bucks on a McMansion with no aesthetic appeal and no yard, there would be very few who would refuse the commission.
Marie Nash, Balwyn
Good letter, “Welcome to our new prison-like universe” (28/2), but in the interests of literary accuracy it should be pointed out that Soma is found in Huxley’s Brave New World, rather than Orwell’s 1984.
Alan Whittaker, East Kew
Those with superannuation balances above $5 million are probably at the stage where they can withdraw it all and put it in some other tax haven. What’s the issue?
Jan Newmarch, Oakleigh
A suggestion for Angus Taylor. Discuss core and non-core promises with John Howard.
Alison Dods, Ascot Vale
We don’t need to rehabilitate the word ″woke″ (Letters, 28/2). It serves as a useful marker that anyone who uses it is trying to defend the indefensible.
Bill Pell, Emerald
Is the opposite of woke comatose or unconscious?
Kris Sloane, Fitzroy North
It’s not only facetious with vowels in ascending order, (Letters, 28/02), but also abstemious.
Bill Freeman, Charlton
As we rev up to the AFL season I wish writers and commentators would brush up their language skills. For instance, its “drivel” not “dribble” and “rapt” not “wrapped”.
Glenda Johnston, Queenscliff
Why would 0.1 of a cent be an incentive to buy fuel at a service station? The price advertised in my town sat on 209.9 cents per litre for some time. How odd. Why not $2.10 a litre?
Anne Hocking, Healesville
Apply the “Winners are grinners” rule next time you walk into a pokies venue. Then keep walking.
Peter Thomas, Pascoe Vale
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