Federal politics: Cosmetic differences only between parties

Illustration: Andrew DysonIllustration: Andrew Dyson

John Brumby makes useful suggestions about positive alterations to the legislative process dominated by short-termism (“Australia must start making its luck”, Comment, 8/6). However, he may be mistaken in assuming there is a lack of bipartisanship between the two major parties. Both are strong supporters of a neoliberal economic and political system, and have consistently legislated for this over the past 30years. What differences they have are cosmetic in the face of their support for small government, minimum government debt, lower taxes, and the rest.

Similarly, it has to be recognised that the rise of a neoliberal polity was given a great push along by reforms associated with floating the currency, developing the financial services industry, lowering tariffs and privatisation, all instituted by the Hawke government. In the 1980s academic experts showed that these would lead to further concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. Look where they have got us. A much more divided and inequitable society. The Hawke government should not be taken as the model for developing an Australia capable of making a more realistic assessment of its future.

Greg Bailey, St Andrews

No, the philosophical differences are major

In an ideal world I would agree with John Brumby’s sentiments. However, cooperation between the major political parties is unlikely to happen, particularly on vital economic policies. The Coalition supports policies that favour the big end of town and a trickle down economy, as illustrated by the recent budget which gave big tax cuts to large companies and banks. They are more likely to increase their profits rather than increase employment in their enterprises.

Labor is aiming for a more equitable distribution of taxation income by increasing spending on education, health and much needed infrastructure projects such as rail. While there are major philosophical differences between the parties, how can you get them to cooperate in policies that rely on economics?

David Orr, Croydon

When was the last time the parties agreed?

At last, a politician, albeit a former one, with the nous to state publicly the bleeding obvious to most sane people. We need more bipartisanship policies between the two main political parties, not only in Canberra but in all states and territories. With the exception of policies on national security, I do not remember the last time both parties in Canberra were at one on a major policy that we needed to have.

John Cummings, Anglesea

At long last, a call for bipartisanship

Following on from the usual biased articles by Amanda Vanstone and Peter Reith comes a timely and refreshing approach from John Brumby. He suggests bipartisanship. More parliamentary free votes. Getting real about climate change, negative gearing and road pricing. Yes, please.

Lloyd Cox, Cranbourne

Please, no more of their ‘wisdom’ and ideas

Three days in a row in a lead article, a former polly has deigned to offer their wisdom in solving the nation’s problems. John Brumby asks, “why is it we seem prepared to burden our younger generation with unsustainable deficits and growing future indebtedness?” This from the premier who saddled us with a lifetime of debt for the desalination plant and the “Mickey Mouse” myki ticket. Why don’t they sail into the sunset and enjoy their over-generous pensions?

Hans Pieterse, Narre Warren North

Hail the crossbenchers

It is fitting that Peter Reith’s article about legislation being blocked by the Senate followed Joanna Howe’s complaints about work visas for Chinese nationals threatening Australian jobs (Comment, 7/6). A serious review of trade agreements is needed. With one major party controlled by business interests and the other by unions, it is no wonder the smaller parties and independents are popular. They can review and amend legislation so that it serves us all. Like many voters, I hope the crossbenchers hold the balance of power in the Senate.

Helen Pereira, Heidelberg Heights

A precious patch

At a time when Melbourne City Council is doing all it can to encourage green growth in the city, Federation Square is looking to replace the only green area in all its hectares with a car park or a helipad (The Age, 8/6). As I understand it, for its first eight years the top of Federation Square’s car park was an empty slab of concrete until a community garden was established there.  Now Pop Up Patch is facing closure so that the area can once again be a slab of concrete. PopUp Patch has an ideal climate for gardens, and a vast amount of produce has been harvested from there. Go and see it. Walk through it, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did recently, and enjoy the delights of this space – while it lasts.

Mel Sutherland, Southbank

Beauty and courage

My hat goes off to Belinda Ainley, whose son Ash was stillborn, and journalist Beau Donelley for drawing attention to the fact that not all parents take their children home after birth (The Age, 8/6). The article also highlighted the compacted trauma associated with simple things such as the return of items not required to shops. Mostly, my gratitude for Adrienne Gilligan’s exquisite photo of Ash and his mum. Death will happen to you and me and everyone we know. It needs to be part of our regular dialogue. To share such an intimate and beautifully bittersweet image with the public is courageous and needs to be commended.

Dr Pia Interlandi, Natural Death Advocacy Network 

Paying the price

Since former prime minister Tony Abbott did not want to burden me with the cost of a big, fat carbon tax on everything, could he or any of his successors please provide me with details of how I can claim compensation for the insurance premium rises and associated costs that will flow from the (predicted by the science) storm damage this week and the rescuing of the bleached Great Barrier Reef, etc.

Richard Jamonts, Williamstown

Take action – now

Planet Earth has joined the election campaign with photo opportunities of flooded rivers and wild seas that have resulted in lives lost and  properly damage. Climate change and its effects cannot be neatly shoehorned into the four-year election cycle. We need political will to take real action for the benefit of future generations: renewable energy should be forging ahead, with coal being phased out. Or perhaps Jobson Growth should consider making his soapbox seaworthy and fireproof.

Wendy Knight, Little River

Prepare for more

It has been known for almost 100years that building on main dunes at coastal areas is fraught with danger. This is especially so when you have a combination of huge seas and high tides. How many owners of the luxury homes damaged by the storm in Sydney were aware of the consequences of being so close to the beach? With global warming a scientific fact, events such as this will occur more regularly.

Rod Oaten, Carlton North

A pre-university test

Simone Pakavakis (Letters, 7/6), if graduates cannot be confident of completing a basic literacy and numeracy test, how can they be confident about becoming good teachers? Every teacher is a teacher of English. Perhaps the problem is that the test should have been applied at the other end. If graduating from high school no longer guarantees literacy and numeracy, it should be part of a general entrance test for universities.

Margaret Byrne, Belgrave

Media loves ‘bad boys’

What you have to realise about Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios is something they found out a long time ago from previous “tennis bad boys” (Letters, 8/6): if you are good, you will fill the sports pages, and if you are bad, you will be on page one.

Andrew Wood, Moonee Ponds

Feminism and equality

The reluctance of many prominent women to identify as feminist (Editorial, 8/6) reflects a misunderstanding of the term. Many rights and welfare movements are named after the marginalised group. That does not imply hatred or suppression of alternative groups. Are advocates of refugee rights the enemies of long-term residents? It seems opponents of feminism are taking control of the terminology, and this is a cause for concern. There is a word for man-hating. It is misandry, not feminism.

As a woman who has enjoyed the benefits of education, control over my fertility, political representation, property rights, and not being legally raped by my partner, I am loath to distance myself from past generations of women (and men) who campaigned bravely under the banner of feminism to assure me those rights. Feminism is about equality, and it is constructive for everybody.

Dr Angela Hesson, ARC Centre for Excellence for the History of Emotions, University of Melbourne

Prepare for Trump

Danny Katz has fallen out of love with the United States because Donald Trump may be the next president (Forum, 4/6). However, he needs to save some of his anti-American feelings in the event that Trump actually becomes president. As Paul McGeough explains, the outcome of the election is more complex than merely assuming American voters will come to their senses and reject Trump (Insight, 4/6). McGeough’s detailed analysis shows that Hillary Clinton faces a range of difficulties in winning the election. Katz and many like-minded people might need to plan for the time when the Trump family moves into the White House.

Rod Wise, Glen Iris

Respect for war dead

There is one thing that I will give Donald Trump. Unlike Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, he would have stopped campaigning and shown respect by attending the homecoming of his country’s war dead.

Gerry Lonergan, Reservoir

End the cruelty

A shortage of eggs (The Age, 8/6) is worth it to get rid of cage eggs. Think of the misery of caged hens that spend their lives in the floor space the size of an A4 sheet of paper.

Jan Kendall, Hawthorn

Where’s the vision?

I recently spent 10 days in Sydney and was surprised by how well its public transport and road network worked. The road network is better linked than Melbourne’s, and substantial spending continues on roads and the rail network. We have no spending on networks that would make a difference, such as the East West Tunnel and much needed extension to the Metropolitan Link Road/Greensborough Freeway. Sydney’s traffic light sequencing favours main roads, the opposite to Melbourne’s. Its double-decker trains are sensational and carry about double the number of passengers that our trains carry. Ialso understand there are no railroad level crossings in Sydney. (I have two within walking distance of my home.)

The current and previous Victorian governments have lost the vision, opportunity and ability to plan and build infrastructure. This will lead to even more congestion and a reduced amenity for our capital and all Melburnians. We need a vision and plan for infrastructure that is not dominated by politics.

Mark Williams, civil engineer, Surrey Hills

Teenagers at heart

I, and other fairly fit, late-sixties retirees with whom I have spoken, find it remarkable how younger people almost always offer us their seats on public transport. As we still think of ourselves as adolescent, often this is a devastating reminder of our age. However, for the kindness and thoughtfulness, thank you, younger Australians.

Jennifer Gerrand, North Carlton

Please move over

I am always grateful to accept a seat from a younger tram traveller. However, I am frequently dismayed to find people solidly seated in the aisle seats, completely blocking access to the empty window seats.

Zelma Warne, Culgoa



CFA dispute

Politicians are good at fanning fires but not very good at putting them out.

Paul Smith, Maldon

Jane Garrett for a feisty future premier.

Tris Raouf, Hadfield

If we knew the party political allegiances of the CFA board members, it could explain a lot.

Roger Hehir, Albert Park

Why does Andrews not want Shorten to be prime minister?

Stephen Baldwin, Frankston

If Garrett is forced to resign or backflip, Labour loses my vote.

Linda Stern, Alphington

How many people complaining about the industrial agreement have actually read it, rather than listening to right-wing media and MPs beat it up as a union takeover?

Bill Walker, St Andrews Beach


Turnbull’s crocodile tears remind me of the old saying: Once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.

Bill Thomas, Castle Hill, NSW

Free trade agreements under Abbott. Jobs and growth for Chinese nationals under Turnbull.

Peter Ramadge, Newport

It would be good if MPs worked together to solve problems, rather than blaming each other.

Perry Becker, Leopold

Kim Beazley says our submarines may be outdated at the time of delivery. You only need half a brain to work that out.

Roger Vincent, Fitzroy, SA

So, Malcolm, “women hold up half the sky”. Would that be the top or the bottom half?

Geoff Ingram, Mordialloc

Surely there has never been a less “exciting time” for an election.

Geoff Wigg, Surrey Hills

Don Keys, the new candidate against Jobson Growth, should get a few votes.

Lola Marsh, Wonthaggi

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