Comment

Letters to the Editor

A heated exchange

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Gerry Murphy (Letters, December 29) charges me with cherry-picking. To support my writings on climate change I have looked at more than 2000 papers on the subject; that's not cherry-picking, that's the whole greengrocer's shop.

As the world warmed from the last ice age, atmospheric carbon dioxide increase followed, as climate scientists have known for many years (interesting that now he recognises carbon dioxide has risen since 18,000 years ago whereas in his December 21 letter he had it back to front). This does not destroy the linkage between carbon dioxide and temperature, for the climate can change for several reasons, not only from carbon dioxide change.

One obvious reason is change to the sun's energy output. Back in the Ordovician Period the sun shone at about 95 per cent of its current intensity, so cold spells could happen under carbon dioxide levels higher than those of today. There were other factors also, but the point is that climate change is not a single- issue topic.

Another driver of climate change has been changes to the earth's reflection of sunlight resulting from slow changes in earth's orbit (the 120,000-year Milankovic cycles), which led to the ice ages. The carbon dioxide released from the oceans during each deglaciation enhanced the warming but did not trigger it.

Today's climate change is neither the result of changes to the sun, nor of changes to the Earth's orbit, but follows from change to the atmosphere's carbon dioxide content; here the link is strong and certain. Increasing greenhouse gases have always raised the global temperature, and vice-versa. But Murphy's last paragraph is not just wrong, it is laughable.

Tony Eggleton, Belconnen

In Gerry's Murphy's extensive geological reading around evolutionary periods (Letters, December 29) he fails to mention the Ordovician Period environment was so hostile, with estimated sea temperatures around 45 degrees C, it is postulated vertebrates could not even evolve, let alone occupy the land. It is also postulated the late Ordovician Period cooling and subsequent glaciation was caused by a significant meteor event, second only to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs in the late Cretaceoous, and therefore independent of CO2 levels.

Can Gerry enlighten readers as to exactly when in the past 500 million years or so every land environment on this earth has been occupied by a single species numbering upward of 7billion souls intent on excavating every bit of fossil fuel and liberating the waste into the atmosphere?

Keep on peddling your selective information Gerry, some gullible soul might believe you.

Phillip Baron, Monash

Foxtel and cable

Steven Hurren's statement (Letters, December 29) as to cable not being a delivery technology for Foxtel in Sydney is incorrect. Foxtel is distributed there via the Telstra and Optus Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) networks – aka cable. Satellite reception is supplemented in the metro area not able to be serviced by the HFC network.

Tim Herne, Calwell

Corrosive analysis

Malcolm Maiden's article "The year market seers didn't predict" (BusinessDay, December 3, p10) reminded me of the late Frank L. LaQue, a world-renowned authority on marine corrosion, saying "But corrosion engineers, like economists, know enough to provide plausible explanations of what has happened without being equally adept at predicting future occurrences".

John F. Simmons, Kambah

Cover-up claim

Mike Crowther (Letters, December 28) made the phantasmagorical claim that in 1962 Pope John XXIII approved, in Crimen sollicitationis, the cover-up of sexual misbehaviour by clergy, and that "Straps, belts, canes and fists were tools to ensure this outcome". Actually the 1962 instruction was a restatement of a document that gave the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office authority to prosecute clergy accused of having used the Sacrament of Penance to make sexual advances to penitents. For 20 years it was Cardinal Ratzinger's task to enforce the Crimen sollicitationis statement.

Henk Verhoeven, Beacon Hill, NSW

Paper profligacy

How many, or rather how few, of the thousands of small shareholders in NAB waded through the 580-page tome that arrived in the mail in recent days detailing the bank's proposed demerger of its ill-conceived acquisition of Britain's Clydesdale Bank. What a waste of paper!

All small shareholders require are a brief outline of the proposal, a synopsis of the pros and cons, an outline of taxation implications, relevant dates, and the voting slips. Surely this could be contained within a 32-page booklet.

Granted we were given the option of downloading the 580 pages on the internet, or reading it on screen. Thanks for that!

The full gamut of information may be required by the relatively small number of large investors, such as superannuation funds and investment trusts, but certainly not by the vast majority of investors, particularly where a demerger or amalgamation or acquisition is involved. There is justification for the provision of more detail in the case of prospectuses for IPOs (initial public offerings) in the case of floats of new ventures, but even then, for the vast majority, an outline of the proposal is all that is required.

Stop the waste.

Michael J. Adler, Gungahlin

A mountain of integrity

I was listening to ABC RN while driving to Fisher recently. It was a podcast of the Australian Progress Conference at Melbourne Town Hall in May 2015 featuring Edward Snowden via video link from Russia. The man is a giant, a towering mountain of integrity and public service. What a contrast between him and James R. Clapper, that perjurer, and his mendacious protector, Barack Obama. And all praise to Vladimir Putin, President of all the Russias, for giving Edward Snowden sanctuary and succour.

What a pale cardboard cut-out of America is Australia. It can't think for itself. It can't reach its own conclusions on the inefficacy, the ineffectiveness and the danger of unintended consequences of bulk collection of metadata, it has to ape the Yanks. We've turned from a nation of forelock-tuggers to the Brits to slouching saluters to the Stars and Stripes.

Kenneth Griffiths, O'Connor

Oppose council mergers because promised benefits won't happen

There has been a good deal of publicity and opposition to the NSW Government's recent decision to force various councils in NSW to amalgamate. The rationale for this policy is supposedly to bring about more efficiency in the delivery of services and to save money for ratepayers. In the Canberra region, most councils have expressed their opposition. Their stance is correct.

I grew up on the Darling Downs in Queensland and was living there when the Queensland state government forced the amalgamation of three rural shires with Warwick City in the early 1990s. Residents of all councils were told that they would get improved services and lower rates because of the alleged economies of scale that would result. Residents of all shires strongly opposed the forced mergers.

The reality was very different. Rates did not fall and services did not improve. What did happen was that the bureaucrats in the newly merged Shire of Warwick Council were paid significantly higher salaries, which absorbed the savings from fewer employees. Furthermore, the three rural shires all had their representation on the amalgamated council greatly reduced and effectively lost control of their own affairs.

Later, the same state government also forced the amalgamation of Warwick and Stanthorpe Councils against strong opposition from residents in both shires and from the two councils. The government made the same promises with regard to the benefits that would be achieved. These did not eventuate.

NSW councils and their residents should oppose this heavy-handed decision with little consultation, by the State Government on this fundamental issue of local government administration and democracy.

Colin Lyons, Weetangera

Mindless changes

The impact on Majors Creek of local council boundary changes ("Country town riding the boundary of uncertainty", December 29, p1), is so similar to many such mindless acts over history, especially that of the early European colonial powers. One such glaring example, so close to home, is the border between Papua New Guinea and West Papua. Dating back to Dutch colonial expansion in the 19th century, the border was eventually determined as the 141st meridian, with concurrence of colonists Britain and Germany. This was done by simply drawing a line on a map, with no account taken at all of the local inhabitants' land tenure, language, culture or other connections.

This was starkly brought home to me when working as a kiap in the southern border areas in the late 1960s, after the border had eventually been surveyed on the ground. I recall one border marker located in the middle of a village, with half in Papua New Guinea (then still an Australian territory) and the other half in Indonesian West Papua. Let's hope such mindless division does not happen in Majors Creek.

Paul Jones, Curtin

Paying a fair share

Having eaten my muesli and donned my best sandals, I'm about to go for a ride on my bike. But before I do, I can't resist responding to Craig Thomas's critique (Letters, December 30) of John Passant's "frog droppings" (lovely expression, Craig – I'm going to use it) suggesting that corporations should pay their fair share of tax. Mr Thomas (is he the Craig Thomas who stood for the Liberal Party against Kevin Rudd in 2007?) suggests that Mr Passant's proposal is invalid because corporations ostensibly didn't "pay their share of the tax burden while he was Assistant Commissioner of the ATO". On that basis, I assume that Mr Thomas would refuse a prescription for antibiotics from an ageing doctor who trained before antibiotics were available. If the prescription's appropriate, Craig, it's only wise to take the medicine.

Fred Pilcher, Kaleen

Fix the problems

Malcolm Mackerras ("Put people before parties", Times2, December 28, p1) and John Passant ("Companies have tax questions to answer", Times2, December 28) point out problems we have in our election and taxation systems. Both of these problems can be fixed, and should have been fixed years ago, by good legislation.

Unfortunately for Australia our legislation has been in the hands of our two major parties for far too many years, both of whom have shown a complete lack of either integrity or competence. Lack of integrity if they have known that 579 companies pay no tax and our voting system was biased towards the parties or incompetence if they did not know of these problems. We the people have the answer.

Max Jensen, Chifley

When will they learn?

My heart sank as I read Nicholas Stuart ("Tragic war achieved nothing", Times2, December 22, p1) on the outcome of our latest adventure known as the Afghanistan War. How will we remember our withdrawal from Afghanistan in a hundred years? Will we invent another myth to explain our defeat or will it sink into historical oblivion?

I served in Vietnam, returning back to Australia some 45 years ago. Not a day goes by without unpleasant memories surfacing about that experience. Many serviceman who survived have similar experiences. As I read Nicholas' commentary, I saw similar responses from our current politicians as I saw post-Vietnam. When will they ever learn?

I feel very much for the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, both lost causes militarily and politically. They, like us, will experience PTSD and other war-service related diseases. They, like us, will have to fight with the DVA to have their illnesses recognised as war-service related. Like us, many will leave it too late, when the trauma of war experiences surface decades later. Some will take their own lives, as has been our experience. I repeat my question – when will our political leaders ever learn?

Gavin O'Brien, Gilmore

Healthy cruising

I have enjoyed many cruises with a variety of cruise lines (Passengers complain of stomach virus on cruise ship, seek refund", December 28, p5), Star Cruises, Holland America, Princess and Celebrity to name a few. Never once have I become ill or experienced rudeness from any crew member. I adhere to one rule at all times – never, ever travel with P&O.

Judy Bailey, Kambah

High time to teach animal ethics

As far as I am aware, humans are the only creatures with the mental capacity to understand the meaning of cruelty to each other or to other animals. Religious texts pay little attention to the ethics of animal cruelty, exceptions being Hinduism, which regards cows as sacred and Buddhism, which advocates reincarnation.

Yet cruel practices are endemic to modern industrial society, highlighted by Graeme McElligott (Letters, December 29) in his condemnation of factory farmed pigs for our Christmas dinners. Other examples abound, in which ethics are subservient to the almighty dollar, from caged hens to the live export of cattle, in which supermarkets and consumers appear indifferent to the methods of production of animal products which finish up in their shopping trolleys.

It is high time that broad ethical principles, teaching that we are members of the biosphere with responsibilities towards animals we consume, are introduced to children in both secular and religious – based schools to help us grow into a civilised nation.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes

One home enough

If Stephen Brown (Letters, December 28) is right, then that's splendid news for taxpayers. The Commonwealth could divest itself of Admiralty House at no cost to taxpayers, now or in the future, by simply handling it back to NSW. Why should the Governor-General have two official residences? Yarralumla is at his disposal and if he must go to Sydney, there is plenty of suitable alternative accommodation.

Commonwealth ownership of Admiralty House and the adjacent Kirribilli House is a curious thing especially with those small-government crusaders, the Coalition, in power. Not that long ago they were hellbent on ridding the Commonwealth of all manner of assets, some profitable. They should do the same with these two dinosaurs.

Graeme Barrow, Hackett

TO THE POINT

ABBOTT'S RETURN

I thought it must have been April 1 when Eric Abetz made the call for Tony Abbott to be placed in the cabinet when Malcolm Turnbull reshuffles his ministry in February ("Eric Abetz calls for Tony Abbott to return in Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet reshuffle", canberratimes.com.au, December 30).

Robyn Lewis, Raglan, NSW

It beggars belief that anyone in the federal Liberal Party thinks bringing back Abbott to the ministry will fix the divisions in the party. These few, precious souls need to just suck it in and get over it, as Abbott is the Kevin Rudd of the Liberal Party.

Graeme Rankin, Holder

PLOT LOST

Some would say the Greens have lost the plot, but that would indicate that they had it in the first place ("Greens' plot for nature strip vegetables", December 30, p1). The minister concerned should acquire a three-metre-by-one-metre picture frame, so when he finally gets the big picture, he will have somewhere to frame it.

W.G. Priestley, Amaroo

How long do Canberrans have to put up with Shane Rattenbury's games? Does he plan to plant vegetables down Northbourne Avenue too?

Brian Hale, Wanniassa

THRUST AND PARRY

The question that should be being asked around the kitchen tables of amillion British homes is whether the same calibre and integrity of decision-making that offers Lynton Crosby up for a knighthood also sends them to war over and over again in the Middle East.

Ross Kelly, Monash

TIRED OLD FORMULA

Our current federal Minister for Education has repeated the "tired oldformula" that smaller class sizes don't deliver better educational outcomes ("Govt turns its back on Gonski funding", December 29, p1). No doubt he's also talking about the seriously overcrowded classes in top private schools. Union formula indeed!

Bob Gardiner, Isabella Plains

VOLCANIC FALLACY

Gerry Murphy (Letters, December 29) claims "the year-long eruption of Mount Pinatubo spewed more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the entire human race has since industrialisation", but does not appeal to a higher authority for the validity of this myth. The United States Geological Survey's highest preferred estimate for global volcanic emissions of CO2 is 0.26gigatonnes a year, while anthropogenic CO2 in 2010 was estimated as 33.6Gt.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

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