We pay the price for an era of overspending

Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson

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Who is the Reserve Bank governor speaking to when warning (“Recession risk spurs RBA attack on inflation”, The Age, 2/11) the cash rate will keep rising? Is he warning our Commonwealth and state governments or the organisation he is head of? Surely he is not speaking to Australians, most of whom are already struggling with balancing their own finances.

The Morrison Liberal-National Party pumped massive amounts of cash into the economy during the COVID-19 lockdowns, backed by the Reserve Bank with no care to keeping inflation under control. “We are a government of reduced taxes” was and remains their only policy in a policy-free manifesto.

Many people will suffer badly from the profligate spending by the former LNP government, which pigged out on spending trying to make themselves electable only to create a headache for families trying to keep a roof over their heads.
David Hassett, Blackburn

Treasurer should use his controls
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers has chosen to describe inflation as a dragon, as though it were a supernatural threat beyond the power of his government to solve. If he described the current threat more accurately as price inflation, the answer would be too obvious: price control.

Why is the Albanese government so reluctant to use price controls on essential services? Democratic governments in Europe and elsewhere have no such inhibition. To expect the Reserve Bank to solve price inflation by interest rate rises alone is surely unrealistic during this period of international supply chain shortages.

Given the government’s resistance to taxing superprofits, price control is surely the most effective tool left in the treasurer’s toolbox. Why is he taking so long? In the meantime, the combination of unchecked price inflation, low wages and the RBA’s aggressive interest rate hikes will push more Australians below the poverty line.
Peter Gerrand, West Melbourne

Why penalise employers?
Ross Gittins does not mention the real key to “get wages moving” in Australia (“Wage progress still out of reach”, 2/11). The plebs and punters Gittins refers to will only really deserve a pay rise when their labour productivity improves.

Of course, inflation drags down real wages, but why should employers pay their workers more to compensate for price rises caused by factors such as a global pandemic and events in Ukraine? Australian employers are not responsible for these factors.

The Albanese government faces the challenge of explaining this bad news to the people who elected them.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills

Strikes a last resort
We all need to take a deep breath and relax about union members having a legitimate power to take industrial action (“Wage deal shift a ‘bid to unionise workplaces’”, 2/11). No right-thinking worker wants to lose a day’s pay. The power to strike is a last resort, only used when greedy employers won’t come to the bargaining table. If employers bargain in good faith, no industrial action is needed. Over to you, employers. Your record profit levels are created on the backs of your employees.
Matthew Hamilton, Kew

An overdue correction
After hearing cries of alarmism and outrage from various employer groups over the Albanese government’s proposed industrial relations changes, it was helpful to read the balanced perspective of Ross Gittins. The past decade has seen capital steadily increasing its share of national income to the direct detriment of ordinary workers, who’ve suffered from wage stagnation and now falling real wages. As Gittins explains, the purpose of widening access to enterprise bargaining is “strengthening the bargaining position of women in low-paid jobs in the aged care, childcare and disability care sector”. Surely fair-minded employer groups can recognise the need for that overdue correction?
Kevin Burke, Sandringham


The other side of the levee
I would like to commend The Age for the front-page article on the impact of the Maribyrnong flooding on many, including Brian Matthews, an 86-year-old who lost his possessions (“Troubled waters: The race that divided Maribyrnong”, 2/11). In the glitz and glamour of the Melbourne Cup it is all too easy to forget about the reality of those doing it tough.

Melbourne Water is reviewing whether the building of the flood levee by the Victorian Racing Cub contributed to the flooding of homes. If it has, then the VRC must pay compensation to these people.
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove

Many costs of breakdowns
I note that some high-profile trainers, owners and commentators are critical of the strict vetting of horses running in the Melbourne Cup and other races (“Do stringent welfare rules go too far?”, 2/11). Like so many, I am also concerned for the welfare of the horses. However, I’m not aware, in the commentary, of any mention of the danger to the jockeys.

Their occupation presents enormous risks – imagine being speared into the ground as a horse beneath you breaks down in full gallop at a speed of up to 70km/h. The result can be catastrophic life-changing injury, or death. Jockeys acknowledge the high risks of their occupation, yet if a preventable accident occurs due to the horse breaking down, that is remiss.

It’s also very distressing for jockeys when the horse they are riding breaks down. No doubt, the emotional impact of hearing a bone snap or shatter has its effect; jockeys have a strong emotional attachment to horses in general.

I worked with horses for some years in the 1970s. Fortunately, things have improved in the racing industry, but people forget there can be a very high price to pay for such “entertainment”. I’m all in favour of thorough vetting pre-race, including scans.
Janet Thomas, Armadale

Wrong nuclear path
Australia hosting US nuclear-capable bombers represents a serious threat to our national security by making us a target in any conflict (“China accuses Australia of regional arms race”, The Age, 2/1).
This is a reckless intrusion when as a non-nuclear country we could credibly promote nuclear disarmament as a global objective. The existence of nuclear weapons is argued by their supporters as a deterrent of war, yet hasn’t stopped Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Tony Delaney, Warrnambool

When no’s the answer
A correspondent yesterday mentioned Vietnam’s foreign policy in relation to China (Letters, 2/11). Vietnam has a long border with China and also a well-known “Four nos” policy. No military alliances, no joining one country against another, no foreign bases or military activity and no force or threats in international relations.

That communist Vietnam has such a policy makes a nonsense of claims that the world is now a contest between autocracy and democracy. Vietnam defeated the US and Australia in our invasion 50 years ago and it would be a foolhardy nation that would consider invading Vietnam.
Four nos serves Vietnam’s current interests well and contains simple clear principles Australia must consider. We need good foreign relations with as many countries as possible free from ideological preconceptions and precommitments.
Mark Freeman, Macleod

Creating the risks
Mick Ryan’s argument in favour of the United States stationing B-52 bombers in the Northern Territory seems to be somewhat circular – he suggests it’s worth the risks of making Australia a target in a war with China because of “the extraordinary level of capability provided to the Australian Defence Force by the US” to be gained in a war with China.

Thankfully, Mick Ryan is a “retired” and non-practising major general.
Peter Martina, Warrnambool

Share peace, instead
Ryan makes a compelling case for an enhanced US presence until, however, we get to his underlying assumption: it’s not only to improve our own defence capability but also to “allow the sharing of new ideas about future warfare”.

I suspect there are many others who would prefer to share ideas about future peaceful development instead, and who would resist any escalation of defence capability that might increase the risk of conflict.

It’s time for some serious discussion about the need for more restrained defence expenditure. We face long-term economic and environmental risks that are in many ways more urgent and compelling than strategic defence.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

Out of our orbit
As China believes it has sovereignty over Taiwan and is determined to take it by force, only a cavalier state, or a blind one, would intervene and trigger a catastrophic war. However much Taiwan does not want to be incorporated into China, it’s inevitable. Our own involvement in a massive conflagration a long way from our orbit is not.
Faisal Grant, Wendouree

Managing school meals
Matthew Guy’s proposition to provide quality meals to primary school children should be restricted to those experiencing poverty or neglect. Children should also be taught to make the meals in conjunction with adult assistance.

This would educate these children in good dietary habits, which would hopefully result in them experiencing a much healthier life.
Brian McGuinness, Richmond

Revenue forgone
So, the Department of Transport has estimated that the cost of the Coalition’s cheaper public transport fares would be $2.6 billion in revenue forgone over four years, not $1.3 billion, as estimated by Opposition Leader Matthew Guy (“Coalition’s $2 fares challenged,” 2/11).

As the payment of public transport fares in Victoria appears to have become an optional extra over the years, it would be interesting to know whether either of these calculations include the cost of revenue lost through fare evasion.
Ian Hundley, Balwyn North

Who will pay?
The opposition’s $2 train fare may sound good but if we reduce fares there will be more passengers. That will create a need for more trains and a more efficient system to cope. More dollars, and who will pay?
Bruce Dudon, Woodend

Important message
There is no question that both Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese should attend the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, next week (“PM skips climate talks, sends Bowen”, 2/11). They need to send a message to the millions of people who voted in May for the Teals as well as the Greens that the government is serious about climate change. It is not something that is going to happen, climate change is with us now.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris

Diamond splurge
When everyday Victorians’ home loan interest rates and costs of living are soaring, how can Daniel Andrews splurge some $15 million of Victorian taxpayers’ money on a self-opinionated bunch of diamond-studded, professional sportswomen, while grassroots junior sports go begging for money?
Howard Hutchins, Chirnside Park

A small share
The Andrews government’s $15 million sponsorship of Netball Australia over four years amounts to $3.3 million a year. A mere 5 per cent of the ongoing $60 million per annum that the Formula One Grand Prix Corporation receives from the state government.
Geoff Gowers, Merricks North

Let us grieve
Isabelle Oderberg (“We need to get better at talking about grief”, 1/11) says it so well: we all grieve openly over parents dying but babies dying? No, this is shunned, it’s too hard, too confronting, too sad.

But maybe we need the emotions, even when so open and raw. As one who lost a daughter at full term, I sensed my parents grieved not only for my daughter but their own son, a baby who died in the early ’60s. Even in my father – a tough commonsense farmer – I saw sadness in his face and demeanour. I sensed that he was allowed to openly grieve for his own as well as his granddaughter. That helped me immensely.
Suzanne Clarebrough, Wangaratta

Healthy shift
Magda Szubanski is to be congratulated for fronting a new health program (“Magda’s Big National Health Check”, 27/10). She courageously allows her vulnerabilities to show. She highlights factors that adversely affect health that are not the fault of the individual, such as lack of parkland and amenities in outer regions.

It’s time for the focus to be on health rather than fat shaming, a focus that means people feel more empowered to act.
Jan Marshall, Brighton

Fences of death
Thanks to your correspondent for their letter (28/10) highlighting the plight of kangaroos on the Mornington Peninsula. When I moved here a year ago, I was delighted to find kangaroos, koalas and echidnas so close to my home. Friends in the city told me how lucky I was. In a way they were right, but maybe not.

The future for these beautiful animals frightens me. I am saddened by the growing number of bodies on roadsides, by the lone kangaroo I saw hopping along a verge beside a busy road, unable to escape car headlights because a property owner had recently installed a wildlife exclusion fence.
Cherie Wilson, Rosebud

No real democracy
It is disappointing to see Peter Hartcher (1/11) still refer to America as a democracy. It shouldn’t be referred to as such – it has no central electoral commission (as in Australia) to supervise federal elections, and many states are constantly making laws to disenfranchise citizens.
Lorraine Bates, Balwyn

And another thing

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

US B-52 bombers
Are we crazy? We align with a collapsing democracy (the US) amassing their nuclear-carrying bombers in our north (“China accuses Australia of regional arms race”, 2/11), while China is our largest trading partner. Who thought this one through?
Kevan Porter, Alphington

I understand. Basing B52 bombers in Darwin is triggering an arms race, but militarising the South China Sea isn’t.
Les Aisen, Elsternwick

China’s threat to take Taiwan by force if necessary is the catalyst for the regional arms race, instead of a free and fair election by the people of Taiwan to decide if they want to be part of mainland China.
Roger Christiansz, Wheelers Hill

Darwin is striking the right balance – with a Chinese port and also a US airbase.
Graham Cadd, Dromana

Melbourne Cup winners are invariably hailed for their determination and “big heart”. So why do we whip them?
Bernd Rieve, Brighton

“Gamble responsibly” is to be replaced with “chances are, you’re about to lose” (“‘Gamble responsibly’ message ditched from betting ads”, 2/11). Will that be the warning on our voting ballot papers too?
Greg Tuck, Warragul

It would seem that AUSTRAC is more of a puppy than a watchdog (“Firm used by criminals won licence”, 2/11).
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha

Our prime minister must attend this urgent COP27, at least in part – he has no valid excuse (“PM skips climate talks, sends Bowen”, 2/11).
Barbara Fraser, Burwood

Beautiful article by Brooke Boney (Comment, 2/11). Please keep writing, Brooke, keep challenging us as privileged white people to do better.
Julie Ottobre, Sorrento

Are there any TAFE colleges that teach “ark building”? Anyone named Noah need not apply.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

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