I DON’T know whether to laugh or cry when I hear Tatts claim that it has been treated ”unconscionably” by the Victorian government (”$1bn hinges on one word”, The Age, 17/8). Tatts and Tabcorp raked in billions over the 20 years of the duopoly they held in Victoria. Most of this came from the pockets of vulnerable people, leaving a trail of crime, broken homes and mental illness in its wake.
Further, the killing they made was far more than the government ever expected they would make. A National Competition Policy review in 2000 found that both companies were extracting ”monopoly rent” from their gamblers. That is economist speak for saying these companies were extracting super profits from gamblers, well beyond what a normal market would ever deliver.
Tatts’ claim for compensation is an example of rapacious capitalism, where a company seeks every cent it can get for its executives and owners regardless of the harms caused to the wider community. We can only hope the government has the better case.
Mark Zirnsak, Victorian InterChurch Gambling Taskforce, Melbourne
Source of the bets
TATTS chief executive Dick McIlwain seems not very smart in saying that the huge profits from Victorian poker machines are not all from taxpayers. Who, then, is it from? Pensioners and retirees, the unemployed, children, perhaps? Tax dodgers? The Tatts compensation claim is unconscionable whichever way you look at it.
Chris Henschke, Brunswick
Tobacco’s desperate fight
TOBACCO is the only legal consumer product that is linked to death when used as the manufacturer intended. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon should be congratulated for differentiating tobacco from other consumer products.
For those who say plain packaging won’t work, I refer them to a February 9, 1987, article in Forbes magazine, where it was reported that a researcher offered Marlboro smokers Marlboro cigarettes at half price – in generic brown boxes.
The researcher found only 21 per cent of the smokers were interested, despite being assured each pack was fresh, had been sealed in the factory, and was identical to what they normally bought. Maybe this is why the global tobacco industry fought so hard to defeat the initiative.
Michael Carr-Gregg, Balwyn
A glass a day
THE plain-packaging victory has seen the rise of the wowsers, who now want a ban on alcohol or, at the least, graphic plain labels on alcohol.
I have heard many times that a glass of red wine is actually good for you. I have never heard that a cigarette a day is good for you. Let’s have some perspective. Please.
Douglas Potter, Surrey Hills
BRITAIN must be condemned for even contemplating the possibility of suspending diplomatic relations with a friendly country, Ecuador, to arrest Julian Assange on the minor offence of not complying with bail conditions (”Assange wins asylum”, The Age, 17/8). What message would this send to the governments of hostile states like Iran, North Korea and the like? A dissident or refugee from regimes like these could be snatched from any place of refuge by invoking the same covenant that the UK now contemplates. There are sinister powers at work here.
Hans Pieterse, Narre Warren North
IT’S hard to reconcile the actions of the UK government in relation to the extradition of Julian Assange and the extradition of General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was accused of crimes against humanity, including genocide and terrorism. All that we know Assange has done is reveal the embarrassing truth. In the former case, after all legal avenues had been exhausted, the government still procrastinated over the extradition request until forced by public pressure to accede. In the latter case, again after all the legal avenues had been explored and extradition granted, it seems to be acting with unseemly haste and heavy-handedness to rid the realm of this troublesome herald.
Yes, there have been accusations of rape levelled at him from Sweden, but judging from the ministerial outpourings of members of the government, coupled with the cultural view of what constitutes rape in Sweden, anything but a fair trial is assured. Nor is any concern eased by the declaration by the US government that it has no pending charges against Assange and has no intention of requesting his extradition.
As for Julia Gillard, her actions have been unambiguously cowardly.
John Mosig, Kew
MICHAEL Leunig’s cartoon (17/8), depicting Julian Assange as a heroic foe of America’s ”dark crusade” in Iraq, only confirms why many have reservations about the WikiLeaks’ founder. That organisation’s anti-Americanism from the outset caused even some human rights activists to see it as motivated more by anarchism than an objective social activism.
Interestingly, Assange, in October 2010, raised the prospect of WikiLeaks disclosures relating to Russia, only to promptly issue a clarification stating that there wasn’t ”going to be a particular focus on Russia”. The sanitised ”freedom fighter” version of our most famous expatriate, currently being protected by a leftist tinpot South American regime, needs challenging.
Jon McMillan, Mt Eliza
Smell of death
MY FRIEND Michael, who lives nearby, telephoned the other night. ”They have killed my brother Ismail,” he said. Ismail and other family members had fled their street in Damascus when they heard gunfire. Later a neighbour phoned them: ”I think it’s your brother’s body in the street.”
Apparently Ismail had gone back to check for damage to his shop, but the government militia caught him and executed him. Ismail had to be buried quickly. Neither his wife, his four children, nor his mother were there. They have been moving from town to town in Syria to try to find safety. ”He was just a shopkeeper,” said Michael.
Such killings are going on all the time. As Michael’s sister said, the smell of death is everywhere. ”It feels like the whole country is burning.”
Where is the response from our powerful Western governments? As one al-Jazeera commentator puts it, when what is needed is a consensus-based, regional solution, we are witnessing an abject failure of the international community.
Margaret Jacobs, Northcote
The devil you know
YOU have to admire the Greens for sticking to their principles, although their failure to negotiate has resulted in much worse outcomes in some cases. Had they passed the independents’ resolution a few weeks ago, the plight of refugees would not be as perilous and unknown as it is today.
Alan Inchley, Frankston
Sort out our backyard
MICHELLE Grattan makes a valid point about the need to provide services, education and training for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island (Comment, 17/8).
However, we need to look at the wider picture in our own cities. In Melbourne there have been reports of troubled youth in western suburbs who don’t have access to these services, education and training. A report on housing shortages for the disadvantaged this week highlighted further problems. Surely we need to look after our own backyard before we provide money for refugees who may or may not end up coming here. There is a limited amount of government money; it should be spent first on much-needed infrastructure to help those already living here.
Irene Ritchie, Balaclava
Abbott’s bare-faced lies
”EVERYONE has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,” says Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So how many more times must it be repeated that to arrive in Australia by boat, plane, flying saucer or any other mode of transport, in order to seek asylum from persecution, is not an offence under international or Australian law. So, yes, Richard Jamonts (Letters, 16/8),Tony Abbott’s incorrect and repeated use of the term ”illegal” to describe asylum seekers arriving by boat is at best deliberate fearmongering, and at worst a bare-faced lie. And he knows it.
Jean Jordan, Eltham
TONY Windsor in his anger was direct and blunt (”Message by Tony express: you’re a disgrace, Abbott!”, The Age, 17/8). His speech in Parliament should be required reading for any who still regard the Leader of the Opposition as a person of honour; how Tony Abbott’s principles were flexible then, and how they will be discarded whenever it suits him. Who could forget Abbott’s earlier comment that we need to see his position in writing, rather than what he might have said on policy?
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn
THE Baillieu government is at again with its use of weasel words. First it decided that ”exiting” non-performing teachers was a better phrase than sacking. Now, in its discussion paper about letting youths hunt wildlife in the bush, does it refer to killing animals? No, that was too confronting; the hunters will instead be ”harvesting game”. How can you trust a government that cannot be honest with itself?
Ross Hudson, Camberwell
We have not learnt
THE call for an independent inquiry into the decision to join the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 is being resisted by the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister on the ground that this is effectively an old issue and we should be moving on (”Smith dismisses call for Iraq War inquiry”, theage.com.au, 16/8).
It could only be an ”old issue” if Australia were never again to commit its troops to a foreign operation. Given the extent of actual and potential threatening conflict in many parts of the world, some close to Australia, the manner in which such decisions may be made in future is very relevant indeed.
In the case of Iraq, the decision was made in effect by prime minister John Howard and a few ministers; they gave then President George W. Bush the nod well before the matter was deliberated in cabinet, let alone raised in Parliament. It was also in the face of substantial dissenting public opinion. Is this how we wish to be involved in wars in the future?
The facts need to be settled so that the lessons learnt will prevent such precipitous, ill-considered acts, with all the disastrous consequences for Australian troops and Iraqi citizens which they lead to.
Andrew Farran, Beaumaris
Banks’ no-lose situation
I WAS concerned at the statement by the head of the CBA, who reportedly said businesses need to adapt to a higher dollar (”Get used to buoyant dollar, says CBA chief”, BusinessDay, 16/8). This suggests a lack of understanding of the situation in the eastern states – we are losing 1000 full-time jobs in Victoria every week. We have clients whose raw material costs exceed the landed costs of finished goods imported by competitors from manufacturers in China.
The CBA states it is under pressure, but still manages a $7.1 billion annual cash profit. The major banks are in a no-lose position – simply increase interest rates or fail to pass on rate reductions by the Reserve Bank.
Government, the RBA and major banks control the future of industry in Australia. What is the answer? Should there be greater control over the banks? Should the RBA have greater ability to adjust currency? Should government exercise more control? The manufacturing industry is on a downward trajectory, and the suggestion that we should get used to the high dollar is extremely unhelpful.
Rob Sneddon, Toorak
Google’s PR exercise
DAVID Zielinski’s points regarding Google’s fibre-to-the-home network deployment in Kansas City need clarification (Letters, 17/8). The National Broadband Network will certainly be able to match the 1 gigabit per second downlink speeds being offered by Google. However, few operators – even in Asia’s leading high-speed broadband markets – offer synchronous 1 gigabit per second downlink/uplink speeds; few people need such upload speeds, so operators are not prepared to pay the extra cost of providing them. Second, the Google network is fundamentally a PR exercise to showcase the potential for high-speed broadband. It is basically an attempt to pressure US telcos and cable companies to upgrade their infrastructure – which will benefit Google’s deployment of future services.
Google is not planning to deploy a widescale FTTH network – indeed the rollout is a loss leader – because the business case for a private company to deploy a nationwide FTTH network in a market like the US comes nowhere near adding up.
Tony Brown, Ormiston, Queensland
Cricket’s greater good
I DISAGREE that having the greatest athlete in the world in the ”Big Bash” undermines cricket (Sport, 17/8). The Big Bash is not, and never has been, real cricket. It is a carnival built to produce excitement. This ”show” gets people, mainly kids and their parents, from the margins into cricket. Anything that adds to the excitement, and gives West Indian and Australian cricket a boost, is more than welcome for the greater good of the actual game: Test cricket.
Tim Cribbes, Coburg
ALL hail Tony Windsor. Thank you for providing a refreshing breeze of honesty and integrity to clear the rancid rhetoric of Abbott and his ilk.
Christine Corey, Seaford Rise, SA
THE government is to reopen the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. While they’re at it, why don’t they reopen Port Arthur, Norfolk Island, Sarah Island and Moreton Bay.
Rowena Ryan, Fairfield
THERE are too many suffering people on the planet for developed countries to resettle them all.
Rod Matthews, Fairfield
TONY Abbott, to really adopt the Howard government’s policies, Labor needs to ignore sinking boats at sea and lie about ”children overboard” for political gain. Then you can crow.
Michael Canaway, St Leonards
HOW did we become a society where the number of desperate people arriving on our shores seeking asylum is regarded as a measure of success or failure of a government?
Margaret Ludowyk, Brunswick
WITH just one breathtaking moral dive, Britain went from Olympic glory to being a stooge in the US government’s vendetta against the whistleblower who embarrassed them.
John Hayward, Weegena, Tasmania
AUSTRALIAN citizens around the world can now take heart. Ecuador will protect your rights.
Mark Bradbeer, Brunswick
THE past week in Parliament has shown just how easy it is to take the high moral ground these days: just stand perfectly still as the mainstream parties go subterranean.
Stephen Jeffery, Sandy Bay, Tasmania
HOW many politicians have never changed their minds and broken promises? Have none been divorced?
Beryl Bartacek, Emerald
MEMO Prime Minister: can you please set up another expert panel to help you change your thoughts on same-sex marriage.
Sampath Kumar, Mornington
GODWIN Grech, the Utegate man (smh.com.au, 17/8), commends the team of Tony Abbott as prime minister and John Howard as governor-general. That should persuade a lot of people to vote Labor.
Ken Rivett, Ferntree Gully
YOU’D think Godwin Grech might have grasped he has a bit of explaining to do before we’d listen to his opinion on anything.
Lloyd Swanton, Wentworth Falls, NSW