New thinking required, not failed past policies

VINTAGE WILCOX

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FEDERAL BUDGET

New thinking required, not failed past policies

Each time we have a crisis, be it an economic crisis, or as now a global health emergency, the response from government is so predictable it’s worrying. Whether Labor or Liberal, recovery we are told can be led by going “back to the basics”, now jazzed-up in the language of “foundational skills”. Recovery can be led by ensuring young people are more skilled (“Skills push for youth to boost recovery”, The Age, 11/5). This is the intent of the budget’s “sweeping skills package” ostensibly designed to sign up young people to learn “new skills” so they can get a job.

What we need is a recognition that real jobs need to be created. It is not young people’s ostensible skill deficit, innumeracy and illiteracy that causes unemployment. The number of jobless people wanting work far outstrips the jobs available as it has done for 40 years or more.

The “back to the basics” call requiring more young people to “skill-up” while simultaneously refusing to adequately fund universities, vocational education and schools is a classic example of hypocrisy or at best “preferred ignorance”. Using out of date rhetoric and policy reveals a disappointing incapacity on the part of our leaders to do a reality check and practise some new thinking rather than retreating to tired and failed policies of the past.
Professor Judith Bessant, RMIT University

A new campaign big on spin and small on detail
Much has been written about the Coalition’s recent Keynesian conversion. No longer do we have “debt and deficit disasters”, anguished calls about “where is the money coming from” and shaming about the burden of debt on our grandchildren. Now it’s all government expenditure begets growth and growth begets revenue and this will take care of the debt. As the old saying goes, better late than never.

In reality the Morrison government is merely deriving its economic agenda from two primary sources. Firstly the leadership being shown by the Biden administration, which is undertaking the largest pro-worker economic reforms since the 1930s. Secondly the need to remove a number of barnacles from the Coalition’s election ship by looking like it cares about aged care and women. So this budget will have many good and worthwhile spending commitments but most of them will be over long time horizons. Big numbers, big announcements, big photo opportunities, certainly enough to enable Morrison and his crew to slide through another election. And that’s the point. Unfortunately there will be scant regard to issues such as climate change, energy security, insecure work, wage stagnation, housing costs, overcrowded cities and rising inequality.

Once again Scotty from marketing is starting up a new campaign big on spin, small on detail.
Graeme Henchel, Yarra Glen

Alternative economic strategy urgently needed
The combination of relying on economic growth and a so-called “cash splash” central to the federal budget is not the answer to Australia’s economic, ecological and social shortcomings. This combination of growth plus cash and in too many other years growth plus austerity has failed to create an innovation-led economy, prosperity for all or ecological sustainability.

It has left Australia overly dependent on resources exports, a price taker and vulnerable to China. It keeps about 50 per cent of the population poor or subject to unacceptably high levels of economic insecurity, and it maintains Australia on a trajectory that drives global warming and disruption of multiple ecological systems.

The need for an alternative economic strategy is urgent.
Stewart Sweeney, North Adelaide, SA

Passing the buck (again)
So now, if we don’t pull our weight and start spending it will be our own fault if the economy bombs (“Budget to bank on household spend-up”, The Age, 11/5). I wish the buck could be passed up rather than down.
Margot Rosenbloom, Princes Hill

THE FORUM

Cancel Tokyo Games
With Japan extending its state of emergency due to a surge in COVID-19 cases (“Suga defends ‘safe’ Games as backlash bites”, The Age, 11/5) and 60 per cent of the Japanese population wanting the Olympics cancelled, it seems to go against good sense that they will proceed. If the Olympics do go ahead and there is a worsening of the COVID situation during the Games, will people say the athletes should be left in Japan as they chose to go, like they did with cricketers and other Australians stuck in India? The Games should be cancelled, but it seems the corporate dollar is more important.
Nic Beredimas, Sunbury

Stop the posturing
Peter Dutton and others, who are raising the prospect of war, are fooling themselves and the Australian people as regards the country’s defence capabilities. China, which has been preparing its armed forces for decades, along with Indonesia, has enormous capabilities in regard to land, air and sea strength. China is now making approaches to the Indonesian government.

The prospect of a Chinese-owned seaport in Papua New Guinea should be of immense concern to the Australian government, which has a recent history of being a poor neighbour in the Pacific region. The rollback of aid to these countries under the Abbott government, in particular, and the lack of concern about how climate change is affecting them, has had a serious effect on our standing in the region.

There is need for a serious assessment of our situation and not just posturing, hoping that the US is listening.
Loucille McGinley, Brighton East

Move in the right direction
The government’s initiative to provide funds to retrain young people to develop new skills to boost economic recovery (“Skills push for youth to boost recovery”, The Age, 11/5) is a move in the right direction. Our universities can also play a role in upskilling Australians. Instead of trying to attract overseas students who take their skills elsewhere, universities could reimagine themselves to invest in local education, especially in science. This would enable Australia to transition away from the traditional “digging it up and shipping it off” approach to the economy to a more sustainable and self-sufficient model based on manufacturing and technology.
Leigh Ackland, Deepdene

Pies have first claim
True, Port Adelaide may have been founded earlier than Collingwood but the black and white striped guernsey that Collingwood have had since inception in 1892, was not adopted by Port Adelaide until 1902. Port Adelaide’s original guernsey was blue and white, then pink and white, through to magenta and blue. The “prison bars” were the fourth guernsey change.

If Port Adelaide want to go to their original guernsey maybe they can select from one of the other three.
Janiene Hart, Northcote

The mining issue
Thank you Paul Cleary for your excellent article (“Mining giants must share wealth”, The Age, 11/5). Any addition to the tax system is necessarily complex. The Rudd Resource Super Profits Tax proposal was not badly explained. Rather, it was jumped on and distorted by the mining industry and the partisan politics of the time before it could be considered rationally. Our democracy was considerably weakened by the defeat of the resource tax and will remain weak until we have multi-party commitment to ensuring Australians get an appropriate return on our exports. Our economic objective should be that Australia becomes a wealthy country rather than a wealth-producing country.
Gerry O’Reilly, Camberwell

Tax iron ore exports
Paul Cleary makes a good point, but misses one. No need for Resource Super Profits Taxes or special taxes. Impose an export tax on iron ore because taxing inelastic demand is efficient.
Douglas Shirrefs, Yea

Address core poverty
It is encouraging that the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare is urging the state government to invest in early therapeutic intervention programs in order to keep vulnerable children safe and to divert families from an overstretched and, at times, an unresponsive child protection system (“Call to shift focus of youth protection to intervention”, The Age, 10/5). Every report into child protection in the last 30 years has concluded that more must be done, and earlier, to better support fragile families and vulnerable children. Child abuse has complex psychological and social causes. But we also know that most child abuse involves neglect and is concentrated in deeply troubled and excluded families living in poverty and without kith and kin support.

The Social Ventures Australia Report is an attempt to respond to this issue. The proposal however ignores the needs of 70 per cent of the child protection population that, following a report, are closed, without active intervention and/or referral to another service.

There is a place for short-term evidence-based therapeutic interventions. However these interventions must be embedded in social and community work approaches that are grounded in the lived experience of families, recognise the value of enduring family work based on relationships and understand the importance of reducing the adverse impact on families and children of impoverished communities.
Simon Gardiner, Camberwell

Trauma ongoing
In James May’s description of a life impacted by domestic violence (“Grim legacy of family abuse”, The Age, 10/5) I recognised my own. The legacy he described is mine. I never fail to be saddened by the similarities in something that me, my mother and siblings endured alone and unsupported behind closed doors. The legacy of family violence lasts for generations. Our family is scarred and fragmented because of it, and I struggle to explain why to my own children. My hope is that in addition to support for those living with this blight, prevention, in the form of cultural and attitudinal change, receives equal attention. James, my heart goes out to you.
Amelia Nicoll, Heathmont

Value truth telling
The medium is the message, as opined by Marshall McLuhan as early as the 1960s. Chris Masters’ recent address at the opening of the Judith Neilson Institute’s new offices in Sydney (“Lessons from the ‘big, little’ stories of my journalist mother”, The Age, 10/5) shows how successful the attempts to control the message has been. He was “pained by the demagogues and the dissemblers of self interest as public interest who proliferate the media landscape”.

One has to ask who is to gain by the constant chipping away at the independent broadcaster. Cancelling the Australia Network contract to broadcast into the Asia-Pacific region and funding commercial networks who are easily controlled. Independent research shows the ABC has lost $783 million in funding since the Coalition government came to power in 2014, despite the $1 billion each year the ABC actually generates to the Australian economy.

Around the world ultra-conservative values are being proposed at the expense of independent democratic principles and truth telling and we don’t know we are losing it until it is gone.
Shirley Videion, Hampton

End exploitation
Ross Gittins (“Years of neglect won’t make it easy to push wages up”, The Age, 10/5), reminds us of the way Australia has leant on the taxpayers of other countries to provide us with a constant stream of, mainly, underpaid labour. As he put it devastatingly: we buy labour “off the shelf”. When it’s skilled labour we need, all the basic schooling and technical training has been paid for by another country. When it’s unskilled workers a business needs, it just brings them in on temporary visas. At all levels, these are primarily cost-cutting strategies. Meanwhile, TAFE colleges have been slashed, as have apprenticeships.

In a way our closed borders can be regarded as an unexpected boon, with scarcity of labour ultimately leading to higher wages and ending the exploitation of foreign workers.
Janna McCurdy, Northcote

Oversight needed
Excellent news that the federal government will increase spending on aged care (“‘Record’ response to aged care promised”, The Age, 11/5). The boost to home care packages is long overdue and will go a long way to keeping our elders in their homes for longer. However any handouts to aged care homes need to be handled carefully. Government-mandated ratios of nursing and care staff to residents should be put in place. Shortages of properly qualified staff are the main problem. We cannot trust the executives of these homes to spend their new money without oversight.
Jan Marshall, Brighton

Bert’s fighting spirit
Bert Newton has been a much loved figure in Australian television. He shot to fame in the 1950s when he co-hosted In Melbourne Tonight, and displayed his talent for comedy, being the perfect foil for Graham Kennedy in every kind of skit. He has had a stellar career in television and on stage, and a leg amputation will not dim his fighting spirit (“Newton recovering after leg amputation”, The Age, 11/5) We all wish him well.
Helen Scheller, Benalla

Pointless words
Julian Robertson (Letters, 11/5), expresses his irritation with the football commentators’ use of the word “within”. This gives me an opportunity to vent my irritation at the use of the word “convert”. It is totally inappropriate. The footballer is not converting a point to a goal. He kicks either a point or a goal. What are the chances of the commentators ceasing the pointless need for this word?
Margery Renwick, Brighton

AND ANOTHER THING …

Credit:

Budget
Don’t panic we’ll be in surplus soon. A surplus of hollow promises.
Bill Trestrail, St Kilda

I was hoping there would be money in the budget to fund empathy training for elite members of the Coalition Club.
Geoff Wigg, Surrey Hills

The state opposition is saying we must cut spending while its federal counterpart is saying we must spend more. Puzzling!
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

More money alone will not fix aged care. Without fundamental changes to the system, unscrupulous providers will continue to prioritise profits over the quality of life of older people.
Dr Sarah Russell, co-founder, Aged Care Reform Now

The budget … More smirk and mirrors, and a premature election!
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

Could this be Australia’s first laughing gas-led election, sorry, recovery?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

Women: if you can no longer ignore them, try bribing them.
Bill Pell, Emerald

What’s in a name?
If Howard Springs quarantine facility has been renamed the Centre for National Resilience how long will it be before the Department of Home Affairs becomes the Ministry of Love.
Trudy Wyse, North Fitzroy

Centre for National Resilience for a quarantine facility (Letters, 11/5) reminds me of Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre (a sewage treatment plant in Canberra).
Peter Greig, Colac

Furthermore
Why have so many drivers decided it’s now acceptable to pass a stationary tram? Just stop.
Caitlin Stone, Brunswick East

Finally
Robert Doyle’s apology for hurt he had caused is empty. The apology needs to be for his behaviour. Until he owns his behaviour, he hasn’t recognised the problem.
Barbara Darvall, Ivanhoe East


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