Treasurer’s proposal is unfair on several levels

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ELECTRIC VEHICLE TAX

Treasurer’s proposal is unfair on several levels
All road users should pay for the roads they use and it is appropriate for electric vehicle (EV) owners to pay their fair share. However, the proposed EV road tax is unfair on several levels (‘‘Pallas zaps electric cars with road charges’’, 22/11).

It fails to account for the benefits of EVs to society, such as reduced health costs attributable to pollution-related illness and costs of mitigation of the effects of climate change. It beggars belief that a state that has just endured a climate emergency-related catastrophe would decide to introduce legislation that would increase the risk. It ignores the fact that the fossil-fuel energy is already subsided to the tune of $1480 for every Australian per year.

It will mean that Victoria will be one of the few places in the world with not only minimal EV incentives but actual disincentives. Without adequate incentives to buy EVs and without stringent fuel efficiency standards, Australia has become a dumping ground for car manufacturers’ least fuel efficient, most polluting models. An EV road tax will only exacerbate this problem.

It would be far better to develop a more equitable system that ensures that all road users pay their fair share, not only of the cost of building and maintaining roads, but of the cost to society based on their choice of vehicle.
Michael Fink, Donvale

A mind-boggling decision
For a government with ambition to tackle pollution and climate change, Tim Pallas’ decision to follow South Australia’s questionable lead and tax electric cars is mind boggling.

Why would you tax the one form of transport technology that can produce zero emissions? The ACT has said it will offer zero interest loans, stamp duty exemptions and two years of free registration for EV buyers, yet in Victoria we plan to place a new tax on not polluting?

Nowhere else in the world (not even Donald Trump’s America) are EVs the subject of a special tax. Our failure to encourage the uptake of EVs means we will be the dumping ground for old polluting cars while manufacturers send their new and cheaper EVs to more welcoming shores. Mr Pallas needs to reconsider this damaging proposal before budget night. Guy Abrahams, Richmond

We need leaders, not dinosaurs
So Tim Pallas thinks drivers that are not filling up their vehicles with petrol are not paying their way . This would have to go down as one of the most short-sighted political statements in recent memory, perhaps to be quoted in the future as one of the prime examples of misguided policy as climate change stares us in the face.

Drivers of petrol cars (me included) are not paying our share of the costs associated with the emissions they produce. I guess for a short time earlier this decade we were, but Tony Abbott saw that idea off. Sure, electric vehicles can indirectly produce emissions because of the generation source, but because of the high efficiency of electric motors, even a car run on coal-fired power is less polluting than a petrol one. A properly constructed price on carbon-based fuels would account for this.

Australia is set to become the dumping ground for vehicles that car manufacturers cannot sell in advanced markets. Take a look at Volkswagen’s websites for European countries for example – the new electric range is promoted front and centre. Boris Johnson (Conservative, UK) would think the Victorian government is “bonkers”.

We need leaders, not dinosaurs.
Alex Judd, Blackburn North

Compromising a good record
The Andrews government’s move to slap a new tax on electric vehicles is bizarre. While claiming to be a leader on climate action and clean energy, the Victorian Treasurer seems intent on creating barriers to clean technology uptake.

While European countries embrace government incentives for electric vehicles, the Andrews government’s good record on clean energy and climate action is now looking severely compromised.
Nick Roberts, Shepparton

THE FORUM

A waste of public money
The failure of Australia’s COVID-19 clinical trials to generate any useful information (‘‘Australian COVID clinical trials have learnt relatively little’’, The Age, 21/11) should be seen for what it is: a disastrous waste of public money.

Sadly, for some of us, this comes as no surprise. As early as April, it was clear Australia’s epidemic trajectory meant we would be unlikely to compete with researchers working in the world’s COVID-19 hot spots. Nonetheless, the Medical Research Future Fund and others sank substantial funds into clinical trials, driving Australia’s large, fragmented research community into an opportunistic free-for-all of competing studies.

Researchers themselves seemed to show a lack of critical and strategic thinking, especially by being swept up in politically driven hype surrounding hydroxychloroquine, before seeing their investment in this drug becoming redundant. Again, no surprises here for some of us.

The lack of leadership on display should raise alarm bells for Australian taxpayers, who contribute the billions of dollars every year to health and medical research in this country. The silence from the National Health and Medical Research Council is deafening.
Harin Karunajeewa, Yarraville

Ordinary workers miss out
Tim Wilson was out campaigning loudly last year for the retirement income of ‘‘hardworking retirees’’ who might have lost their franking credit rebates under a Labor government, but he is not prepared to defend the retirement incomes of ordinary workers who only have their compulsory super on which to retire.

These workers don’t have share portfolios or tax minimising structures to ‘‘grow their wealth’’.
These incremental increases in the super guarantee from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent by 2025 will not even be noticed by most people. To defer it again just demonstrates how the Liberals only want to destroy Paul Keating’s compulsory super scheme for ordinary workers.
Margaret Ludowyk, Brunswick

Sobering reading
The report ‘‘Platypus in peril as national numbers take a dive’’ (The Age, 23/11) makes sobering – if not alarming – reading. On the current trend of declining numbers (down 32 per cent in NSW in three decades), the already elusive platypus could vanish forever by 2090.

No effort should be spared to protect one of our most reliable sources of tourism dollars and, much more importantly, one of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders.
Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin, ACT

The equity approach
COVID-19 has pushed the cost of government borrowing to record lows and we can see that federal and state governments can go into massive debt and still gain praise from their electorates, provided that the purpose is seen to be in the public interest. Now is the perfect time to utilise cheap money to address our national housing policies.

Instead of negative gearing, home owner grants and annulling stamp duty, all of which gives the buyer more money to spend and simply drives higher prices, why not make the interest on first homes tax deductible for a fixed period (five-10 years). This immediately increases household savings via equity rather than creating a false increase in spending power (as prices inevitably adjust upwards after every government initiative, creating a zero-sum effect).

The benefit of such an equity tax subsidy would go to the new home owners, not developers, providing greater home ownership and the opportunity for them to use their equity in later years.
Stephen Farrelly, Donvale

Trump is not the problem
Despite the head-shaking, the soon-to-be-former President of the USA is not the cause of concerns held by many. He is merely the product of an unusual nation, made up of numerous and unadulterated beliefs, which has hopefully now finally reached the zenith of aberrant behaviour; behaviours that have been manifested by an extraordinary lack of social responsibilities, blind faith in commercialism and a level of startling and dangerous jingoism, typically seen in the past as outdated by the West.

It makes optimism difficult, and while some of those structures are seen as a crucial essence of ‘‘the land of the free’’ the outcome is a malaise of egotistical notions, astonishing and influential media and celebrity exposures, all pinned together by a semi-religious fervour of ‘‘might is right’’.

With that in focus, a wide concern by many Australians, is where was, and where is now, the line drawn for what is ‘‘international diplomacy’’ and Australia’s ‘‘national interests’’?
Stephen Laffan, Sandringham

What ‘common sense’?
I don’t want to disappoint Chip Le Grand, but I don’t share his faith in people using ‘‘common sense’’ and keeping their distance (‘‘Unmasked in act of ‘common sense’’’, The Age, 23/11). People just don’t.

Yesterday at my local cafe they stood in close contact … no masks. None of the common sense he talks about was evident.
Julie Carrick, Leopold

A cultivated skirmish
I welcome the fact masks outdoors are no longer required but wearing them only became a ‘‘cultural skirmish’’ because your writer and too many of his colleagues have chosen to quote ‘‘experts’’ with conflicting views throughout lockdown, none of them tasked with decision-making in a public health emergency.

If Chip Le Grand wishes to quote a ‘‘common sense’’ view on mask wearing he could always listen to the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan who, since March, has provided COVID-19 information without political spin.
Susan Mahar, Fitzroy North

We need to inspire them
In his opinion piece published on International Men’s Day (‘‘Australia’s ‘bloke blindspot’ – we keep overlooking the people most at risk of suicide’’, 19/11), Pete Shmigel writes that the high rate of male suicides isn’t helped ‘‘when men’s behaviour is sometimes generalised as ‘toxic’’’.

As a society, we need to recognise that constant negative messaging about men does have a detrimental effect on their mental health. Last year on Q&A, Alex Hawke, MP, father of three boys, lamented that ‘‘men today in our society are told virtually from a young age … that they are doing the wrong thing, that they have done the wrong thing historically, that there’s no place for them’’. Similarly, Shmigel quotes another father who says that, ‘‘There are so many messages out there saying that boys are somehow inherently bad. You can see how that explains a lot of hopelessness.’’

In the 1980s, we encouraged girls to break out of stereotypical norms by taking up maths in school, with slogans like ‘‘maths multiplies your choices’’. Surely we can come up with messaging that encourages and inspires boys, rather than blaming their gender and aspects of their masculinity for everything bad about this world.
Walter Lee, Ashfield, NSW

We have been warned
The situation in South Australia again demonstrates that one of the biggest risks for the spread of the virus is those on low incomes and casualised workforces.

There have been warnings about this all year. Yet it appears that, except for in Victoria, there is no move to increase security, pay conditions and contracts restricting where people can work for those people who are involved in caring, cleaning and security in the quarantine program.
Instead we have the Prime Minister flagging changes to industrial regulations and my bet is that his aim will not be to increase wages and security for those on the lowest wages.

In addition, it appears the lie by the part-time pizza shop worker was from someone on a temporary visa, possibly with restrictions on hours that could be worked, thus placing them in a precarious position, again created by the Commonwealth government’s position on support for those on temporary visas.
Marg D’Arcy, Rye

It’s not just ideological
Melodie Potts Rosevear (‘‘Disadvantage and the digital divide in education’’, The Age, 23/11) points to the gaping inequity in education in Australia.

An OECD report on education shows that Australia, a wealthy country, not only spends less money on public education than most industrialised nations, but paradoxically, it is one of the highest ranking countries in funding to wealthy schools where digital access is taken for granted.

According to Jane Caro, Australia has one of the most unequal education systems in the OECD and the UK Equality trust recently marked Australia as one of the most unequal societies in the Western world. Such figures should come as a shock to us all.

This is not just an ideological argument. Nobel laureate James Heckman calculates that for every $1 invested in disadvantaged schools, $10 is recouped in later costs related to health, social welfare and imprisonment.

Educational inequity in Australia is such that we should be asking, ‘‘What kind of society do we want for the future?’’
Bryan Long, Balwyn

Relief at last
Oh the relief, now that we can go for a walk without wearing a mask, not having our glasses steam up, not having the mask straps getting caught up in our hearing aids, not missing what people are saying as they jog past.

It is a wonderful feeling of freedom, and the fact that we still have to wear our masks when in close proximity to other people, makes the times we don’t have to wear them all the sweeter.
Margaret Collings, Anglesea

Too much too soon
It was surprising to read the account of the decline in popularity of VCE literature (‘‘Year 12 leaving literature on shelf’’, The Age, 23/11) without there being any consideration of the impact recent changes in the study design might have had on that fact.

I speak from the experience of having watched a highly motivated student, who enjoys reading and talking about literary texts, become anxious and stressed while dealing with the new demands of accessing and understanding huge dollops of literary theory better suited to study by first year English students.

The consequence is, having done units 1 and 2 literature, she is now going to do units 3 and 4 English.
Terry Hayes, former chief assessor VCE literature, Yarraville

AND ANOTHER THING

Wearing masks
Sore and buckled ears can be heard rejoicing as the mask wearing rules are relaxed.
Eric Kopp, Flinders

Credit:

It is perhaps not that reassuring to see our mask policies falling in line with California (‘‘Unmasked in act of ‘common sense’’’, 23/11), where COVID cases are in excess of 1million, and deaths near the 19,000 mark.
Roger Lay, Ivanhoe

The lockdown
In a pandemic I would prefer to beguided by a hardline public-health edict. That, to me, is common sense.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn

Politics
If a Labor government had overseen the robo-debt scandal with its thousands of victims, Scott Morrison would have been demanding a royal commission into the activities of the several ministers involved, but in government, he prefers the ‘‘nothing to see here’’ approach.
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

Nest eggs
Apologies to my daughter, but there will be no nest egg waiting for her when I leave; unlike the retirees in the government report (‘‘Issue is retirees not spending", The Age, 21/11), I have been spending it like there’s no tomorrow.
Trish Young, Hampton

Furthermore
Not only are myths impervious to truth, Alan Whittaker (Letters, 23/11), but the greater the myth and the more it’s repeated, the more likely it is believed to be the ‘‘truth’’.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East

Finally
The only people Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani should be suing are their hairdressers.
Pam McDonald, Berwick

I guess if golf had been a popular game during Roman times Nero would have been playing golf while Rome burnt.
Mike Preeston, Prahran

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