The rich have a voice, that’s our democracy, apparently
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Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding
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It is ironic that many who voted No did so because they thought that all groups should be equal with representation to parliament. Unfortunately, this is not the way democracy works in Australia.
The revelations about Anthony Pratt (“Pratt’s Trump tapes”, 23/10) show how powerful people, special interest groups and lobbyists have an outsized influence over Canberra and media, which shapes public opinion.
This is why we have a tax on miners that is a fraction of what would be paid elsewhere, taxpayer subsidies of private schools, a population Ponzi scheme, tax laws favouring investors over home owners and government funding of fossil fuels. Power is not through the ballot box and self-interest rules.
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove
Payments not acceptable
I do not understand how it could be in any way acceptable or appropriate for a member of the obscenely wealthy family of our then head of state, to receive donations from one of its citizens as quoted “final payment to HRH [His Royal Highness] of $182,000 in 2021” (“Aides asked Pratt to give to charity, not Charles”, 24/20). This man is now King and our head of state.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn
Who is the best-known Australian in America today? Why, it is Anthony Pratt the billionaire because Donald Trump called him a red-headed weirdo. All that money spent in Florida getting into the Trump circle gone to waste, instead of winning influence Pratt has been humiliated. That old saying if you sleep with dogs you get up with fleas just keeps ringing true.
Ian Hetherington, Moama
Trump might be better known as Donald Dump. Whenever someone reveals information which is adverse to him he dumps on them. He admired his billionaire mate, Anthony Pratt, so much that he reportedly let him in on top secret information. Now that Pratt’s access to the information has been revealed, Trump rails against his mate stating that “red-haired weirdo from Australia, named Anthony Pratt, is fake news”.
No one can trust Trump to be a friend or confidant – he will turn on them like a wild dog. The problem for Trump is that there are too many people who have been called wild dogs who now will testify to authorities in a bid to save themselves.
John Rome, Mount Lawley, WA
Something is rotten when a childcare worker makes $23,000 a year (“Croissants and crumpets”, 24/10) as a casual and former Labor prime minister Paul Keating is on a $25,000 monthly retainer for unspecified services to one of Australia’s richest people, Anthony Pratt. And his is the party of the working people?
John Tully, Yarraville
In trying to understand the No vote, we need look no further than The Age’s revelations about Anthony Pratt. “What’s in it for me?” is a pretty hollow rationale for decision-making, yet it’s apparently a key motivation, as it is for the No voters afraid that Indigenous people would stand to gain at others’ expense.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale
Following their wise week of silence, the letter from Indigenous leaders of the Yes campaign (“Yes leader Mayo tells of emptiness after defeat”, 24/10) might well be called their “Uluru Statement from the broken-hearted”. Understandably, the leaders are lamenting their loss. They are not alone. Yes supporters are also lamenting what happened to the hope, optimism and support for the referendum proposal from earlier in the campaign.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
Racism not the reason
The statement from Voice leaders says, inter alia, “First Nations people have always faced racism …” Given the referendum outcome this poses the question, is Australia a racist country? If you consider the reasons people voted No, it doesn’t lead you to that conclusion. No doubt there were some whose decision was predicated on racism. However, it is reasonable to conclude the majority voted No for one of the following reasons: they were following their preferred party’s policy; they were concerned by the bizarre claims (you could lose your property etc) on social media; or had concerns that unheeded advice could lead to High Court challenges.
Bill Pimm, Mentone
Bravo to Shane Wright for exposing Australia’s absurd vehicle policies (“Everyone is paying for those oversized utes”, 24/10). In a time of catastrophic climate and environmental decline we’re incentivising people to drive massive utes that pollute our air and take up more concrete space. Crazy. Why are we still waiting for the promised fuel efficiency standards that should rein in sales of these and other fuel-guzzling behemoths?
Amy Hiller, Kew
Better ways to move
In Australia we provide tax subsidies to people who purchase road-hogging, polluting behemoths like Ford Rangers and RAMs. Meanwhile in France, companies can obtain €1000 grants for each electric cargo bike they add to their fleet. If the Commonwealth government was serious about its climate change credentials, it would immediately stamp out such anomalies and promote more sustainable forms of transport.
Geoff Collis, Eltham
As a former freeway planner with VicRoads, I am somewhat amused that the government is focused on intensifying development in Melbourne’s central areas and along transport corridors (“More high-rises urged in CBD to ease housing crisis”, 20/10). When VicRoads built freeways with median strips, this wasn’t to provide drivers with pretty landscape vistas, it was to provide for capacity expansion with future eight-lane freeways.
A later career move into the Department of Transport showed that there was no such planning for future expansion with the public transport system. It was designed for today’s needs and tomorrow’s needs were somebody else’s problem. With greater internal densification I expect tram networks will need to be upgraded to train networks and sewerage, water supply and electricity networks will need to be upgraded at huge expense. I would love to be proved wrong.
Jeff Moran, Bacchus Marsh
The young art student who retaliated with “poster vandalism” (“Viral fake transport poster draws ire and the police”, 24/10) has my full support. I just cringe with shame when I see four inspectors bailing up a young person, especially when it’s a non-English speaker who has made an innocent mistake.
Tony Jackson, Fitzroy
In the good times, when everything is working as it should, online shopping, internet banking, tap to pay … are fabulous. But when the internet goes down, or when fires, floods, earthquakes cause power outages that go on for days – what do we do? We reach for good old reliable cash in order to continue functioning. It may well be that “Cash [is] no longer king …” (The Age, 23/10), but neither can we afford to have cash fully dethroned.
Claire Merry, Wantirna
Dr Anne Ring’s depiction of a world in conflict at a time when all should be co-operating to save the world is disturbing (“What the world needs now is women in charge”, 24/10). Locally, she observes antagonism between supporters of Israel and Palestine in Australia but omits one significant group: the original occupants of this country who are expected to docilely accept historical invasion, frontier wars and the centuries-long consequences of these.
David Johnston, Healesville
In response to the impending lifting of Chinese tariffs on Australian wine and agricultural products (“China to review wine tariffs as Albanese confirms visit”, 23/10), Simon Birmingham stated that they should never have been introduced. He is absolutely correct. And they wouldn’t have been but for the complete mismanagement of the Australia-China relationship by the Coalition government. A breakdown that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Trade Minister Don Farrell and the public servants of their departments have worked diligently to repair.
Mick Hussey, Beaconsfield
Jane Hume and Greg Mirabella have found “their solution” as to why the Liberal Party is cactus at a state level. It’s because supposedly “good candidates” are facing barriers from their employer for taking temporary leave (“Plea over business rules on politics”, 24/10). Or perhaps good candidates wouldn’t want to risk their future employment on the chance they are elected into opposition and have to work with the more conservative priorities of their colleagues. The party needs to fix its internal problems so good candidates can’t wait to join up.
David Anderson, Geelong West
Former US president Barack Obama has issued a statement warning Israel not to cause so many civilian casualties in retaliating against Hamas. (“World is watching’: Obama warns Israel over civilian deaths” 24/10.) A salient statement but one which implies that Israel doesn’t care about civilian casualties or that it is able to cause less of them. Neither of which has been shown to be so. Nowhere did Obama give any advice on how the Israelis should deal with Hamas. The statement also rings hollow if one thinks back to Obama’s decision to have Libya carpet bombed during his presidency.
George Greenberg, Malvern
Two sides to peace
Geoffrey Robertson is right in saying that both sides have a duty to negotiate to achieve peace (“Neither side is taking the path to peace”, 23/10). Hamas’ murderous actions require consequences. But to combat murder with murder will result in more murder. For years Palestinians have endured great hardship.
However Jewish people must have their homeland after thousands of years of horrendous treatment when they had no country of their own.
What if Hamas’ murderous actions resulted in consequences of two countries living side by side in co-operation? What if the Israelis removed their buildings from the West Bank and instead give more land to the West Bank while taking over Gaza as part of Israel? Gazans would be financially assisted to move to the West Bank.
Such a state solution based on co-operation could result in peaceful and flourishing neighbours.
Marguerite Marshall, Eltham
Rise of Hamas
Your correspondent states that “there is a clear moral imbalance between the evil that is Hamas and the nation state of Israel” (Letters, 24/10). However, Yasser Arafat once described Hamas as a “creature of Israel” because it probably would not exist today were it not for the Israeli state.
When he returned to office in 2009 current Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu chose to support Hamas as an alternative to the Palestinian Authority, gave it money and established it in Gaza. An arrangement was made with Qatar, which began sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the Hamas leadership.
The Israeli government, with its divide and rule policy of backing Palestinian Islamists against Palestinian secularists, created the Hamas monster and must share the blame for the subsequent death and destruction.
Peter Martina, Warrnambool
Thank you Peter Hartcher for allowing Mike Kelly to share his experience and understanding of the current situation, the existential threat, as he puts it, facing Israel (“Can humanity be upheld in Gaza?” 24/10). With many years of firsthand experiences in a number of conflicts, Kelly validates Israel’s efforts to reduce the loss of civilian life, and highlights Hamas’ theft of international aid donations and materials from the Palestinian people, which has left them unable to access basic necessities. But I doubt any of this will change the minds of those who purport that, even despite the sickening horrors perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, Israel is at fault.
Denise Kain, Caulfield South
I have long admired and relied upon Peter Hartcher’s opinion pieces as being accurate and balanced. Unfortunately that view has been damaged by his repetition of claims that, in the course of its recent attacks, Hamas beheaded babies. Most of the world’s press and, according to Al Jazeera, even the Israeli military, now concede that there is no evidence of this.
John Myers, South Melbourne
More to Malvern East
Re Life in the Burbs (“Affluent and whisper quiet but …” 24/10), I’ve lived in Malvern East for 42 years – from the time our local dairy delivered bottled milk via horse and cart. But Simon Caterson fails to mention the suburb’s magnificent 7.7-hectare Central Park with its historic conservatory and fountain which prompts many to visit, rather than “whiz by on the way to somewhere else”. The suburb has evolved into a juxtaposition: it actually houses a wide range of demographics and psychographics, making it a far more intriguing suburb than the author suggests.
Sally Davis, Malvern East
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit: Illustration: Matt Golding
Trump and Pratt
We have long known that money can’t buy friends; nor, it seems, will it buy you a classy enemy.
Vincent O’Donnell, Ascot Vale
I was bemused at Trump’s description of Pratt as “that red haired weirdo from Australia”. Trump also has similar tonsorial characteristics although in his case one might say his quiff is “prematurely orange”.
Peter Russo, West Brunswick
Relax Pauline. You are still our primary red haired weirdo.
John Rawson, Mernda
Tony Abbott’s monthly consultancy fee for Anthony Pratt at less than a third of Paul Keating’s fee sounds about right.
Russell Kidd, Carnegie
As prime minister, John Howard absolved himself of any responsibility for the “stolen generations” and other atrocities committed against the Indigenous population by pointing to previous generations. But now, campaigning to deny the First Nations people their place in the Constitution; that’s one thing Howard won’t be able to absolve himself from.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East
Recently my wife told me I was becoming an old grump. “I’m not a grump”, I replied, “It’s just the people.” Following the referendum I think she understands me a little better.
Ian Todd, Leongatha
Wonderful to see a good news story in The Age (“Probyn to join Nine news”, 23/10). I hope the ABC is shaking their heads in dismay at who they let go. I look forward to listening to his insightful commentary yet again.
Carley Pope, Mount Eliza
Israel bombs Gaza, then allows humanitarian aid to flow, then bombs again and again aid flows. Go figure.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South
Over sized or undersized utes, who cares, it’s the blokes who drive them.
Margaret Skeen, Pt Lonsdale
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