LETTERS

Double standards of the 'needy'

Double standards of the 'needy'

IN "ASK Noel" (Money, 22/8), a reader seeks advice on how to minimise his and his wife's tax via salary sacrifice into superannuation and also how to gain the government's co-contribution, supposedly meant for low-income workers. He is no longer able to salary sacrifice $50,000 a year and gain the considerable tax benefits as the threshold for this has been halved to $25,000.

Another reader asks how he can move some of his super out of reach from Centrelink's income test so he can get more benefits from this source.

In contrast to this is ANZ boss Mike Smith's call to cut the dole, and a government submission that claims an increase over the $245 per week will reduce incentives for the unemployed to seek work. Why it is acceptable for the well-heeled to avoid paying tax and/or maximise their Centrelink payments? Both are funded by the taxpayer. The unemployed receiving the dole are directly funded, while the above readers rely on others to pick up the tab from the loss of revenue. Who is more in need?

Gia Underwood, Northcote

Gender envy

LENORE Taylor's article "The PM, the law firm and the slush fund" (Focus, 22/8) about Julia Gillard's activities when a member of the Melbourne law firm Slater & Gordon was thoughtful. However, one could speculate about the motives of sources for the story by thinking about the strong glass ceiling that existed 17 years ago in the legal fraternity. Some of those concerned may have had difficulties in dealing with a smart, intelligent, capable and determined female lawyer.

Rob Elder, Flynn, ACT

Too many questions

JULIA Gillard undertook the legal work to set up the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association. Its declared purpose was "the development of changes to work to achieve safe workplaces".

How did she reconcile this with her explanation, according to former Slater & Gordon equity partner Nick Styant-Browne, that she understood its purpose was to "hold funds for union officials [and] was referred to as a re-election fund or slush fund"? Especially after its funds financed the purchase of a house on behalf of two AWU employees, including her boyfriend Bruce Wilson?

It has been widely reported that Gillard failed to open a file for the Workplace Reform Association. Where did she charge the time spent on this client? Perhaps Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney may reconsider her declaration of confidence that nowhere else among its members might the financial shenanigans apparent at the Health Services Union be found.

George McGregor, Malvern

A fine model

THE problems with public housing "What price a home?" (Focus, 21/8) will not be solved by viewing such accommodation as a path to somewhere else. This will create anxiety and lack of permanence, the things that low-income earners do not need. The government should try a new approach. In Singapore, for example, people who go into public housing are not renters they become owners and the rent they pay is regarded as being payments off their dwelling. Renters who have been notorious for not looking after previous properties become owners who do look after them because they realise they will have an investment at the end. This is a much better system.

Spencer Leighton, Torquay

Master salesman

THERE are two people I would like to meet. One is the salesman who convinced Melbourne City Council to buy a $6 million bicycle-hire scheme. The other is the council officer who bought the idea. He must have been the one born that particular minute.

Pete Smith, Richmond

Going, going, gone

OVER the past five years, Telstra has closed down nearly all its customer call centres in regional Australia "651 jobs to go" (The Age, 22/8). Communities such as Cairns, Maroochydore, Bundall, Wollongong, Grafton, Geelong, Bendigo, Moe, Launceston, Darwin and now Lismore and Townsville have suffered enormously from the telco's callous indifference.

Telstra has also lengthened the unemployment lines in cities (it has slashed nearly 60,000 jobs over the past 20 years), but the workers there have greater access to alternative jobs and the flow-on impact on communities is less. The bombastic Sol Trujillo took his millions and ran. However, regional Telstra workers must be asking just how different David Thodey really is as hundreds more jobs head offshore. Those in Bathurst, Newcastle and Ballarat must be nervous indeed.

Paul Girdler, Edithvale

Cheating cover-up

THE call to tackle plagiarism and other forms of corruption of academic standards in universities (Education, 21/8) is welcome. But detection is only half the battle and the onus for action is at the highest levels. Under a regime where full-fee-paying students, often with limited English, keep programs afloat, there is a disincentive to pursue detected plagiarism.

Of several such cases in my experience at a leading university, one is indicative. A student who had signed off an assignment as her unassisted work later admitted to assistance, the known penalties being severe. Following a threat of self-harm and her refusal of a supplementary examination, her paper was re-marked by two academics. They issued a "bare pass", their brief excluding consideration of the assistance received. The long-term consequences of underfunding universities will not only be measured in dollars and cents.

Angela Munro, Carlton North

Fair's fair, please

I AM pleased that Victorian Labor MP Steve Gibbons is pushing for fines for media outlets that publish or broadcast material they know is factually wrong (The Age, 21/8).

In the interests of fairness, I assume that he will also push for similar fines for MPs who tell lies?

Dave Torr, Hoppers Crossing

Bastions of privilege

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard is hypocritical in talking up private schools that operate on the principle of exclusion by class or creed. No wealthy private school will make itself available to the majority of the community merely because it receives additional government funds. On the contrary, they will reduce class sizes and add more facilities to entrench the privileges of their clientele. At best, they will cherry-pick gifted students from the public stream with fee subsidies.

Public schools are, by definition, inclusive and cater to a wide range of needs and abilities. Gillard's hypocrisy in the matter of school funding is only matched by Tony Abbott's arrogance and appeal to entrenched privilege. If Labor is morphing into the Liberals, the Liberals are morphing into One Nation and neo-con Republicans.

Naendra Mohan Kommalapati, Abbotsford

Fund needy schools

IF TONY Abbott thinks my public high school was overfunded, he is wrong. Has he tried to study in a portable classroom when the heater was broken, and had been for a few years, and it was so cold it was a struggle to hold a pen? Or tried to research an essay on a computer that was five years old and half the letters were missing from its keyboard? I endured these circumstances every day when I went to a supposedly over-funded public school.

Mr Abbott clearly has no idea about the conditions of some public schools. Nor does he seem to be committed to improving them. Rather than arguing over which sector deserves more funding, shouldn't it go to the neediest schools so they can replace the outdated buildings and resources that are actually preventing students from learning?

Darcy Elrick, Brunswick

No-frills ticket

TRANSPORT Ticketing Authority chief executive Bernie Carolan admits the former state Labor government's failure to properly investigate other smartcard systems led to blunders in the introduction of myki. He still has a chance but apparently no plans to avoid another disaster.

Metro systems in Paris, Rome and Santiago offer cheap one-day or one-trip tickets. Melbourne plans to replace one-day and two-hour Metcards with a myki card, costing more than $10, for short-term visitors. The high price is justified by including on it admission to tourist attractions. However, many visitors may not want to see these.

Mr Carolan, ditch the plans for this ridiculous package card and avoid complaints from angry visitors. Give people the option of simply using the transport.

Bob Morrow, Oakleigh South

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