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Who is supporting high immigration levels?

Illustration: Michael Leunig

Good on the Liberals’ lord mayor Robert Doyle for taking on Labor’s federal MP Kelvin Thomson in a ”Big Population” debate on Monday night. And good on Thomson for gingering up his party on the social, economic and environmental costs of Australia’s vastly increased and internationally atypical level of immigration. Judging by the overwhelming support in the audience for Thomson’s case, one wonders where support for high immigration lies.

Doyle’s claim to growth by immigration as unstoppable, as something to be ”managed”, is belied by its active promotion at state and federal levels, softened by such weasel words as ”provisioning for projected population growth”. The funding of political campaigns by property interests at state and local level was identified as underpinning the policy. Doyle’s defence that developer funding of his and other city council campaigns is publicly declared is blunted by the fact that it isn’t revealed until after the election.

A call for a referendum on immigration levels was enthusiastically received.


Rules facilitate takeover of our nation

The article ”Flood of China cash to sow the seeds of a hundred towers” (BusinessDay, 11/10) explains how foreign countries are literally taking over Australia, through the purchase of our assets including gas and mines, as well as property and land. The Chinese are the leading source of migrants, followed closely by Canada and the US. Ten million wealthy Chinese aspire to emigrate to Australia for its clean air, unpolluted environment, education and other advantages, and Melbourne’s skyline could soon ”blossom with another 42 skyscrapers”.

The overseas takeover by Australia is facilitated by Australia’s liberal foreign investment rules. It’s unbelievably shortsighted to foster this huge population growth through migration, given that one in seven Australians live in poverty, that we have job shortages, lack of affordable housing, congestion and our environment is becoming increasingly degraded.

The government’s prime responsibility is to care for the welfare of its people, not to promote profit-making developers. It should regulate against the rampant development and overpopulation that is eroding the quality of life of Australians.

Leigh Ackland, Deepdene

Much unrest in the community

It is good to see the Accountability Round Table speaking out for a stronger anti-corruption commission (”IBAC changes too weak: ex-judge”, 13/10). These judges would have deep insight and thorough understanding of exactly how business is done ”at the top level” in Victoria and how ”ill-equipped” our laws are to tackle corruption.

Meanwhile, ”on the ground” so to speak, the community has reached similar conclusions. Planning groups, like ours, receive calls on a weekly basis from communities across Victoria astonished and dismayed at the lack of proper process, transparency and accountability in our planning system. Serious community disquiet has also been expressed over the management of planning decisions like the Windsor Hotel development, the Ventnor development, the flood of approvals for skyscrapers and the signing of undisclosed contracts on the eve of the state election. In 2011, the Productivity Commission reported that ”60 per cent of Victorians perceive that developers have too much influence over getting their developments approved”. We need a stronger IBAC to protect the integrity of government from an inappropriate culture of undue influence in Victoria.

Ann Birrell, vice-president, Save Our Suburbs

Empowering bullies

I’ve been more than a bit fearful of our future under Mr Abbott’s ”leadership”. Now I am scared to death having learned his answer to dealing with challenging situations is to shirtfront people – which means “aggressively charge and knock down an opponent”. We are right to be seriously concerned about this man’s conflict-resolution skills. I now know why Joe Hockey and Scott Morrison et al feel it is OK to bully us into submission. They have a good teacher in Mr Abbott.

Geoff Selby, Moorooduc

Mangling vernacular?

Is it possible Mr Abbott really meant ”buttonhole”? ”Shirtfront” is a peculiarly Australian term and doesn’t occur in that vernacular sense in any online dictionary. It is also not metaphorical as some are now claiming. It implies a straightforward physical attack. ”Buttonhole”, however, is clearly a metaphorical allusion to grabbing a person’s shirt to ram home a debating point. Perhaps the PM had a picture of the shirt in his mind’s eye which, when combined with the need to be ”upfront” with Mr Putin, became mangled on its journey from the synapse to the cake-hole.

Stephen Williams, Wandin North

Step up to the plate, PM

Mr Abbott’s bout of adolescent posturing was undoubtedly calculated to appeal to the hard-right element of his supporters. It appears Mr Putin bears some responsibility for the deaths of passengers on the ill-fated Malaysian flight over Ukraine. However, I doubt Mr Abbott will be muscling up to take responsibility for the fatalities that will be caused among fleeing refugees downed by munitions he has asked our air force to fly into the Iraq/Syria conflict zone. The man is a national embarrassment.

Graham Malcolm, Aspendale Gardens

Turn our back on coal…

Mr Abbott’s assertion that ”coal is good for humanity” (The Age, 14/10) exposes a world view anchored in the past. Coal was once good for humanity. But no longer. Coal is now the instrument of damage to our world such as we’ve never seen before, as our climate changes. Weather events are becoming more extreme, extreme events more frequent, and swaths of coastal land will be flooded, displacing millions of people around the world.

Having faith in coal, as Mr Abbott does, is not a wise way forward. Faith implies belief. We must look not to religion but to science to illuminate our path. And science emphatically tells us coal is now the pariah of the present and future. New ways of thinking about human success are now available to us with renewable energy sources; we must turn our backs on coal forever.

Jill Dumsday, Ashburton

… and its toxic effects

Our Pacific Island neighbours, those in developing countries living in low-lying flood plains, communities devastated by drought and those who have lost homes and loved ones in bushfires are unlikely to agree that coal is good for humanity. Similarly, many Victorians in coal-affected communities in the LaTrobe Valley and Anglesea have for too long put up with and suffered from the substantial negative health impacts of coal mining and burning. Coal mining has destroyed forever hundreds of hectares of nationally listed and world-renowned Anglesea heath.

Jacinta Morahan, Anglesea

Distinction too subtle

I understand Christopher Pyne finding it ”bizarre” that the ANU is divesting itself of its fossil fuel investments (theage.com.au, 14/10). The ANU has chosen ethics, not the market, to determine its decision-making process. Such a neo-Thatcherite politician as Mr Pyne is hardly expected to understand such a distinction.

John Ashton, Chum Creek

We’ve been played

Labor’s Anthony Albanese has raised concerns that national security legislation passed through Parliament with barely a murmur (”Albanese breaks ranks … on ‘draconian’ terror laws”, 13/10). The legislation could see journalists reporting on the activities of security agencies jailed for five to 10 years. Such legislation goes beyond that in the US and the UK. We’ve also gone to war again in Iraq without going through Parliament. At least, in Britain the PM put the issue to Parliament.

Here, everybody seemed caught up in a similar hysteria as more than a decade ago, when we rushed headlong into war after non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The high levels of anxiety in the community, fuelled by the government’s PR machine, have hoodwinked us into allowing our basic freedoms to be eroded, with us barely noticing.

A democratic society depends on a free press and open government. Restrictions on the press and punitive security legislation are the hallmarks of despotic regimes. This legislation should be reviewed and real debate on this and our involvement in this latest Middle East war should occur.

Dennis O’Connell, Ivanhoe

So it is tough being rich? Try being poor

I’m not sure whether Amanda Vanstone’s article (”The rich v poor debate impoverishes all of us”, 13/10) would be much consolation to the quiet and dignified mother in the supermarket yesterday. Due to insufficient funds in her purse she was unable to buy all the items in her basket. Bravo to the lovely cashier who treated her with such dignity. It is unfortunate that the rich get a ”rough deal in terms of media coverage” as Ms Vanstone claims. What is more unfortunate is witnessing a mother returning the ingredients clearly planned for an evening meal.

Anne Smith, Bayswater

Blind to huge disparity

Research from the Australian Council of Social Service, launched on Monday to mark the start of Anti-Poverty Week, shows that 13.9 per cent of Australians live below the poverty line. Disturbingly, 18 per cent of children also live in poverty. Stating these facts and that a fair, progressive income tax system is an important way to tackle these problems is not a case of ”sour grapes”, Ms Vanstone.

A recent survey from Per Capita found that most people feel they pay the right amount of tax and that those funds should be put towards social support. However, the gap between rich and poor has been growing consistently since the 1990s, with women and their children, people with disabilities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consistently disadvantaged.

Most Australians believe their society is a pretty equal one, but the statistics just don’t support this belief – the wealthiest quintile owns 61 per cent of the wealth while the poorest quintile owns just 1 per cent. Punishing individuals for their poverty only makes things worse. It is not about ”us and them” – a more equal society is better for all of us.

Robyn Roberts, co-chair, Anti-Poverty Week Victoria

Behold a miracle

Jesus said unto them ”Render to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s”. And behold, slush fund funny money provided a fast parachute into a safe Legislative Council seat for Cesar Melhem (”Labor MP offers donation before slush fund grilling”, 14/10). Dan Andrews, please explain.

Reverend Neil Tolliday, Altona Meadows

Widen the focus

Both parties have been promising voters a smorgasbord of infrastructure in the lead up to the state election. Instead of focusing solely on toll-roads, rail lines and hospitals, I’d like to hear more about their policies on the environment and global warming. After all, no infrastructure is required on a dead planet.

Warwick Sprawson, Brunswick West

Worthy recipient

Malala Yousafzai is a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (Letters, 14/10). At a very young age, she began to campaign for women’s and girls’ education, and did so in a society in which it is highly risky to speak out. She was shot, with murderous intent, as a result. She has continued to campaign despite ongoing threats. Malala has shown all the courage and determination of those at the forefront of liberalism and human rights over the past 500 years and of women’s equality in the last century. She deserves our praise and support, as does the Nobel Committee for its decision to grant her the prize.

Michael Angwin, Surrey Hills

All the way with USA

Hugh White’s assessment, that the campaign to degrade IS makes no strategic sense, is hard to argue with (Comment, 14/10). His conclusion, that “we have to decide whether the risks that IS poses are great enough to justify the costs of a campaign that would have any realistic chance of removing it”, logically follows. However, the “we” in his conclusion basically means the US president, since that is where Australia always gets its instructions from in military deployments. The risk that IS would normally pose to us is probably of the same order as the risk from Ebola, but it is now orders of magnitude higher because of our military involvement.

John O’Hara, Mount Waverley

AND ANOTHER THING…

Tony Abbott

The new tactic of Team Australia will surely be referred to the match review panel.

Brian Morley, Donvale

Bet that’ll be another broken promise.

Liz Stockman, Berwick

I hope some of the other G20 leaders ”shirtfront” Abbott over his climate change and asylum-seeker policies.

Chris Black, North Fitzroy

Abbott says he will shirtfront the Russian leader – a judo expert whose finger is on a nuclear trigger.

John Boyce, Richmond

In boxing parlance: Tony, you are fighting out of your division.

Gary Bryfman, Brighton

I bet Vladimir is quaking in his boots.

Roger Mendelson, Toorak

Roll up, roll up for the battle of the puffed-up egos. Tough-talking Tony, the schoolyard bully, versus the Mad Vlad.

John Seal, Geelong West

Stay … Stay … TONY! STAY I SAY… Right! … Sicim … SiCIM … S I C I M.

Diane Walker, Numurkah

Putin and Abbott: two thugs who deserve each other. Australia: a country that deserves better than either of them.

John Everett, Eltham

A bit hard to see how Abbott can shirtfront Putin when neither seem to favour this particular garment.

John McCallum, Strathdale

Putin might have wrestled with bears but he’ll need to be quick on the draw when he comes up against our champion ”Shoot from the lips” Tony.

John McCredie, Hawthorn East

Abbott shouldn’t be allowed out without a prepared script in his hand. He’s making us look like Team Buffoon.

John Cain, McCrae

Tony, as it’s your second language, Australian (rules) is not your forte. Buttonhole the bear by all means; shirtfront him and risk being ironed out.

David Harris, Ivanhoe

While it’s trading season, can Team Australia please swap Malala for Tony and anyone for Joe and Scott?

Ian Bell, Fitzroy

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-letters/who-is-supporting-high-immigration-levels-20141014-3i0ie.html#ixzz3GJuGe1CE

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