Dirt units and

Dirt units and

soiled lives

TONY Wright (Insight, 16/6) makes the point that so-called dirt units have always been part of the political system. No surprise there, but it makes one wonder about people who think an occupation to do with finding flaws in their fellow human beings is a decent way to make a living. "Dirt units" might be here to stay, but it doesn't make them less childish and often destructive at a personal level.

I wonder if any of the people involved think about integrity, ethics and indeed the idea of common decency. Or are they so thick and without conscience that their justification is based on the idiotic notion that "if I don't do it, then someone else will"? I notice that one of these characters is leaving the "dirt" of politics and taking up a university position. Wonderful. Will he teach in his area of expertise? "The art of muck-raking", "How to develop an uncaring attitude towards your fellow beings", "The art of being ruthless" or "Disgraceful occupations: a personal experience"? I wouldn't bet on the last one.

Tony Gould, Elwood

Still indignant?

TONY Wright got it right with his "confected indignation" reference to Tony Abbott and co over their recent media appearances and scandalised view of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Labor Party's "dirt unit". It seems Christopher Pyne has fashioned a look for such media work. But how will the affronted Abbott and Pyne cope with the claims there is another dimension to the story? Now it is alleged ("Slipper's staff leaked to media, Brough, court told", The Age, 16/6) that some staff in Speaker Peter Slipper's office have been selecting material from his files to feed to former Howard government minister Mal Brough and a News Ltd journalist in a bid to discredit the Speaker. So the question is: will Abbott and Pyne again front the media with indignant, perhaps shocked, looks on their faces for a please explain?

Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

Out of order

I USED to think one should not make public comments about a legal case being heard in an Australian court, lest one be held in contempt of that court. It was therefore more than a little surprising that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon should see fit to call a news conference to comment on a case currently being heard.

Ms Roxon said the Commonwealth had been provided with "a vast amount of material" that would show there was "clear intention to harm [Peter] Slipper, and bring his reputation into disrepute and to assist his political opponents". While it may be in the Attorney-General's jurisdiction to refer matters to a court, that role does not include making public judgments about any matter being heard by a court.

Ken Browne, Wheelers Hill

Defending Defence

THE media have certainly gone to town in the past few days over the supposed deficiencies of the Australian military culture. However, noting that the alleged 800 or so instances of misconduct were spread over 60 years, in an organisation that would have numbered at least 75,000 at any one time, that would make less than one reported incident of serious misconduct a year for every 6000 members. Doesn't sound like a "high", let alone "dismal" or "poisonous", rate of misconduct to me. In fact, such a statistic suggests the workings of a strong, positive culture, and that few in Australia's military regard bullying and sexual misconduct as being trivial issues.

Nick Jans, Marysville

Change attitudes

JAMES O'Brien (Letters, 16/6) rightly expresses the vital need for a national disability insurance scheme. It is absolutely imperative however that this scheme is not seen as a cure-all for a society that is failing many people with disability. My most recent working week was spent speaking with families from around Australia who have been informed their children cannot go to school full time. One school makes a boy go home before lunch every day because of reported funding inadequacies. It is clear the education system does not meet the needs of many children with disability. This is a national disgrace that for too long has not been tackled.

A previous week at work involved following up with Channel Ten's breakfast program over a degrading comment about being "retarded". This is just the most recent of similar incidents in which media shows appear to find it acceptable to ridicule or demean people with disability.

This situation won't be solved through a national disability insurance scheme on its own. We cannot lose sight of the broader reform and attitude shift that needs to happen if we really want to ensure people with disability get a fair go.

Stephanie Gotlib, executive officer,

Children with Disability Australia, Clifton Hill

On the money

ROSS Gittins' GST article (BusinessDay, 16/6) is a total breath of fresh air and cuts through all the politics and vested interests. The GST was supposed, in its original proposed form, to be a fair tax that would be driven by expenditure rather than income. It was diluted by those who had vested interests in not paying the tax and politicians who did not have the "ticker" to apply it to all goods and services. Exemptions meant it only went part of the way. Without it taxing all goods and services, the states were short-changed in distribution of the collected tax.

How do we fix that? The federal government can show it does have the ticker and legislate for everything, no exemptions, to be taxed. Without some intervention of this nature, there will ultimately be a need to increase the tax, which will be much worse for many businesses.

Tom Stevenson, CEO,

Henderson Greetings, Dandenong South

Game for criticism

ANDREW Demetriou likens criticising umpires to racial vilification (Sport, 16/6). Please don't try to persuade me that players, officials and coaches those who know, play and are experienced in the game cannot provide a constructive public comment on umpires. Maybe, if they were listened to more the standard of umpiring might improve. I am not talking about a teenager umpiring at a local junior level I am talking about well-paid, mature individuals who seem to enjoy and thrive on the on-field controversy they often create. Instead of protecting these people, provide them with greater exposure and contact with people who play and run the game and the problem of recruiting may be solved.

Barry Culph, Dingley

Save paper

I WAS sad to read that analysts predict the possible end of weekday paper copies of The Age as early as 2014 (Insight, 16/6). It is one of life's pleasures to sit over a coffee reading a paper copy of a newspaper. Go into any cafe across the city and you will see evidence of this. It would be a real shame if soon we were given no choice but to read The Age only on electronic devices. Of course, if Gina Rinehart gains editorial influence over the paper, The Age probably won't be worth reading in any format.

Natalie Leske, Murrumbeena

Wrong focus

LOYAL subscribers to The Age continue to write letters threatening to cancel their subscriptions should Gina Rinehart gain a board seat. They all miss the point. The barbarian at the gates is not Rinehart. The clear and present dangers to the survivability of The Age are the internet, former customers who have found a more attractive product somewhere else, and a board powerless in the face of well-known commercial threats.

Loyal subscribers have two options. They can keep banging on about Rinehart, in which case they will no doubt take comfort in their final copy of The Age as SS Fairfax quietly sinks beneath the waves of irrelevance. All lofty principles intact, of course. Or they can turn their passion and intellect towards the Fairfax board and demand to know the detail of the strategy that will return The Age to the premier position it once occupied.

George Mackey, Malvern

Parks needed

THE article "Fishers' fury over marine parks plan" (The Age, 15/6) omits to mention depletion of fish stocks due to overfishing and the unwanted by-catch of the commercial fishing industry. The trawling of our ocean floor disturbs silt and suffocates millions of sea creatures. Sharks are caught in nets along with sea lions and other vulnerable creatures.

Of course we desperately need marine parks our oceans belong to everyone, not just the people who want to exploit them. It is time we considered exactly what we are leaving future generations, as unhealthy oceans mean an unhealthy planet.

Di Cornelius, Seacliff Park,

South Australia

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