Beware a return to Dickensian era

Beware a return to Dickensian era

SO JOE Hockey has come out of the closet with proposals for a cultural revolution ("Hockey blasts attitude of 'entitlement'," The Age, 19/4). He wants an Asian system of "filial piety" to replace Western-style "education, health, income support, retirement benefits, unemployment benefits". Isn't this front-page news? The man who will be treasurer, if present trends continue, wants to dismantle the social achievements of a century. How far back do we want to go? Workhouses? Child labour in mines?

With the onset of unregulated industrialisation in the 19th century, Britons and Europeans watched their societies disintegrate, and authors such as Charles Dickens highlighted the injustices of untrammelled capitalism. Social movements, church groups, and trade unions began campaigns for social welfare, which bore fruit in the 20th century. More money is made than ever before, but the increase is going to the 1 per cent and now their public representatives, such as Mr Hockey, are telling us we have to depend on our children to keep us in old age. "Filial piety" was big in the West, but that was in the Victorian era. It didn't work then. It won't work now.

Charles Sowerwine, Fitzroy

Blame the needy, hey?

THANKS, Joe, now we know where the Liberals stand. The West's economic woes are all the fault of the needy, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled, the elderly, the sick and families with children. Funny, I thought the GFC and its ongoing repercussions on Western economies resulted from the rich the bankers, the financial services industries, the hedge-fund cowboys, the purveyors of usury, their greed, their tax avoidance and their shameful manipulation of people who couldn't afford to pay for mortgages being lent money they could never pay back. And by all means, let's be like Asian economies with workers on pitiful wages, few rights, appalling working conditions and virtually no welfare support.

Oh, and make sure they pay most of the tax. Perhaps while you're at it you can give the top 1 per cent tax cuts, more private health insurance rebates, more ways to hide their money outside the tax system through family trusts and offshore accounts, all the while bemoaning lending costs, needing to "restructure" workforces, all the while being bailed out by dipping their snouts into the public purse. Thanks, Joe.

Nicholas Goodwin, Wheelers Hill

Just like the neighbours

SO, Joe Hockey wants Australia to have a welfare system closer to that of our Asian neighbours. Let's look at Indonesia. (a) Age pensions go only to retired military personnel and civil servants. The amount is less than subsistence-level. Everyone else is supported by their extended family. (b) A health insurance scheme is available only to government employees and the military. (c) There is no widows pension and no supporting parents benefit. (d) There are no unemployment benefits. (e) The extremely poor, with the endorsement of their village head, might qualify for a health card. (f) There is a "rice for the poor" program, but this is limited to the destitute. (g) There are no benefits for the disabled or their carers. Australians will no doubt be pleased that the shadow treasurer wants to bring us into line with others in our region.

Glen Chandler, Ringwood, and Helen Lok, Bandung, Indonesia

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