Comment

Letters to the Editor

Clean energy feasible

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Don Aitkin's rambling article about the ACT government's renewable electricity program ("Feeling good about illusions", Times 2, February 8) lacks objective, evidence-based analysis.

The government will readily achieve its 90per cent target by 2020 with investments in wind and photovoltaics (PV), and Canberra's greenhouse gas emissions will fall by half. The cost is low or negative over the long term, and the ACT will substantially insulate itself from any future carbon price risk.

New wind and PV capacity is being installed at a greater rate worldwide than new fossil and nuclear combined, because PV and wind now produce cheaper electricity.

The argument that variability constrains PV and wind is wrong, because there is a well-proven combination of solutions: geographical dispersion, shifting loads from night to day, storage (pumped hydro energy, batteries, thermal), and occasional supplementation from biomass and gas generators. For example, South Australia will soon get half of its electricity from PV and wind and its remaining coal-fired power stations are being shut down.

Professor Andrew Blakers, director, Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, ANU

In response to Don Aitkin's attack piece on renewable energy in Canberra, the point of our renewable energy target isn't to safeguard just Canberra from the effects of climate change.

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While Canberra, like the rest of the world, will feel the impacts of climate change, there are many more communities that will be hit sooner and harder.

We need to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, to stop the destruction of communities and culture now, and in the future.

Canberra's renewables plan sets us on a good path to do so, and just because it might not be perfect isn't a reason to go backwards and continue to send emissions into the atmosphere. So, yes, Canberra can, and has a moral obligation to rely entirely on renewable energy.

Mary Clare Woodforde, Melba

Don Aitkin attempts to denigrate the ACT government's actions on renewable generation, and to perpetuate some incorrect myths about wind and solar generation.

In 2013, Elliston, MacGill and Diesendorf, of the University of NSW, published a peer-reviewed paper demonstrating that a mixture of wind and solar generation, geographically spread across the eastern states and South Australia, could provide 88per cent of those states' electricity needs. The remaining 12per cent could be met from biofuel and existing hydro generation.

A credible amount of storage (200 GWh, or nine hours at average demand levels) was required to ensure demand matched supply on an hour-by-hour basis. The storage, hydro and biofuel components represent the back-up generation Aitkin refers to.

In contrast to what Aitkin writes, the paper demonstrates that this back-up need not be fossil-fuelled, and it only needs to provide a small proportion of the generation.

The ACT government has and continues to enable the construction of several wind and solar farms, geographically spread across a few Australian states, as well as within the territory. These will generate the equivalent of 90per cent of the ACT's electricity needs by 2020. The government is also funding storage technologies. Don Aitkin may consider the government's actions to be smoke and mirrors, but I would suggest it is effectively doing what the experts say is required to decarbonise our electricity supply.

David Osmond, wind engineer, Dickson

What's the cost?

Mark Diesendorf's claim that fossil fuels are not needed (Letters, February 9) contains vague and contradictory statements. The examples cited as "practical experience" do use electricity from fossil fuel, as he admits in the same letter. A better example would be Hawaii, which cannot import baseload electricity from neighbouring regions, and which aims to use only clean energy by 2045.

Sixty per cent of South Australia's electricity comes from non-renewable sources, and this amount is said to be "relatively small". Renewable energy is said to be "affordable", and the amount of storage required "quite small". Why not provide figures? For example, how much would the price of electricity in Australia increase if it was all provided from renewable sources?

Mike Dallwitz, Giralang

Redirect the subsidy

With more and more people unable to afford private health insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses for procedures ever increasing, why doesn't the Commonwealth government transfer its subsidy for private health insurance to hospitals?

Apparently, the subsidy will be $7.3billion in 2018-19. Of course, this would lead to increased usage of public hospitals, but increasing funding to hospitals would be a far better use of taxpayers' money than funding private health insurance.

I wouldn't be sorry to see the demise of the bloated private health insurance industry.

Felicity Chivas, Scullin

In the same boat

Public Service Minister Michaelia Cash says the government doesn't interfere in decisions of the Remuneration Tribunal because it is an "independent statutory authority" (Bonanza for top public servants", February 8, p1). Not surprising really, because MPs' pay rises are also determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, so we wouldn't want to rock the boat, would we?

Thus, while a rise in excess of the total wage of millions of Australians can go unquestioned, the government will fight tooth and nail in the Fair Work Commission (which is just as independent) against even a few dollars for ordinary workers.

Eric Hunter, Cook

Cut out the politics

Now's the time for Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to stop wedging each other on asylum-seeker policy and stop the consequential deterioration of Australia's human rights record.

Why can't both parties agree to work together, like adults, to develop a humane refugee policy that Australian can be proud of. Australian state and territory leaders and churches have begun the grown-up conversation by offering sanctuary to the 267 asylum seekers from Nauru. But this is just a beginning.Profound change is required in both parties to eliminate their willingness to use human degradation and suffering to jockey for political advantage.

Dr Anne Cawsey, Hackett

Mobile road safety cameras part of larger action plan to save lives

In response to Mr Emery (Letters, 5 February), I want to emphasise that the clear goal of the ACT's road safety camera program is to make the strongest possible road safety contribution.

In May last year, I released the ACT Road Safety Camera Strategy.

The strategy introduced several key policy changes, such as allowing mobile camera use on any ACT road which meets operational and safety criteria, and increasing the number of hours of mobile camera operations, to support an "anywhere, any time" mobile camera capability.

Already, the government has evaluated, assessed and implemented more than 50 new mobile camera sites and will assess a further 100 annually.

The initial expansion sites have been based on black spot rankings, and police information. Mobile cameras have also expanded into nine school zones with new sites located at schools with a history of complaints and speeding drivers.

The location of cameras is not, as suggested by Mr Emery's letter, determined by the NRMA.

As part of the 2015-16 budget, the government announced an increase in funding to mobile cameras of $1.328million during the next four years.

I agree that there is more that can be done to improve the safety and culture of our roads. I will soon be releasing a road safety action plan which will provide a range of measures aimed at saving lives, reducing injuries, and strongly prioritising a "Vision Zero" approach to transport policy making.

Shane Rattenbury MLA, Minister for Road Safety

Lack of coverage

Poor John Passant (Letters, February 8) complaining about The Canberra Times' lack of coverage of his two of his pet beliefs. Perhaps the numbers he mentioned (200 and 500 people) attending protests featuring refugees, invasion, genocide and racism says it all.

The vast majority of people may well be weary of these tiresome protests and opinions as reflected in the numbers attending such events.

Rather than continual whingeing, presentation of acceptable solutions of such issues may well be better attended by more people, which may warrant larger coverage in the media.

G. W. Potts, Holder

Snap protest no-show

Keep up the great work, David Pope, with your cartoons. Keep up the great work, Canberra Times, with the non-reporting of some events.

Can see why only 200 people (probably less as these types seem to exaggerate numbers) attended a snap protest re refugees when your speakers were Sarah Hanson-Young and Jon Stanhope.

By the way, history has shown January 26 as Australia Day but sadly this has recently been stolen to suit a few wanting to call the 26th Invasion Day.

Mark Urquhart, Palmerston

GST is not a fair tax

Despite the reservations of the PM, Scott Morison and others in the Tory party (notably many from the dinosaur faction) continue to insist that tax reform essentially must involve increasing and/or broadening the GST. These dodos just don't get it.

They don't understand that the GST, like any broadly based and non-progressive indirect tax is not a fair tax.

Sure compensation packages can make it fairer for some but no practical compensation arrangement can make it fair for everyone except the very wealthy.

There are avenues to fund real tax reform by rationalising some obvious rorts, such as returning to indexation rather than discounting capital gains tax and reducing the ability of the very wealthy to exploit the favourable treatment of superannuation. There are also avenues which do not require international co-operation in order to reduce the obscene level of tax dodging practiced by many multinational and some resident entities.

T. J. Marks, Holt

Tax bracket creep

Crispin Hull's article on taxation bracket creep (Forum, February 6) set me investigating what would happen if the bracket boundaries were indexed to match wage increases. What I discovered was that if wage increases match the indexing, then all that one would pay extra in tax matches the increase in wages; something that I think most people would accept as reasonable.

The only anomaly that occurs is at the very bottom of the scales when the Medicare levy kicks in about $20,800 and cuts out at $26,100.

If wage increases are higher than the indexing then slightly more tax is paid; vice versa for increase less than the indexing.

Of course politicians know this and it will never happen for the simple reason that they are addicted to tax bracket creep; it is the simplest way to get more tax because most people don't realise it is happening. So, don't hold your breath.

Norm Johnston, Monash

Queen's power of veto

John Rodriguez (letters Feb 8) criticises the style of David Smith's article "The Governor-General is Australia's head of state" (Times2, Feb 14).

While I do not wish to comment on Smith's style, I would question his comment.

Does not paragraph 59 of the constitution state: "The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General's assent"? Given what appears to be a veto power, how can we claim the Governor-General is truly Australia's head of state?

C. J. Johnston, Duffy

Battle against pests

It is a great relief to finally see some land managers in the ACT taking an ecological approach to the interactions of native and naturalised species ("Learning to live with a fox problem in the wetlands," February 8).

It is well known to ecologists that killing fast-breeding animals like foxes, cats, rabbits, rats and mice, as is routinely done throughout Australia for alleged ecological reasons, only results in a much larger population of youngsters of those same species replacing them.

It seems that land managers are also beginning to understand that introduced animals are only a very marginal threat to native animals, compared with all the other impacts modern humans bring to natural systems.

Frankie Seymour, Queanbeyan

Rattenbury content to sell off parkland

At times the Greens, due to their environmental and social concerns, have provided a welcome political alternative for voters.

However, Shane Rattenbury as the most prominent ACT Green, shows little concern for public parks and their social and environmental benefits.

Under the guise of getting rid of parking and promoting 'no urban sprawl' Mr Rattenbury seems content for the West Basin parkland, adjacent to Commonwealth Avenue, to be sold to developers for a monstrous, urban sprawl of an unwanted building estate.

Upholding environmental protection for urban parklands does not appear in the ACT Greens policies nor does protection of Canberra's iconic lake and its lake shore features.

Mr Rattenbury has become a comfortable companion to ACT politicians hell-bent on selling our lake shore and its environmental and social benefits. One has to ask if the proposed West Basin estate is purely to cash up the funding for a light rail and city stadium as the costly lowering of Parks Way for access to the lake, part of the City to the Lake, seems to have faded.

The millions set aside for the West Basin waterfront can be saved if the development is stopped now.

Once West Basin land is sold, Mr Rattenbury and other politicians can gloat about their victories and sing about 'vibrancy and liveliness' while giving the strata title developers a lake shore bonanza.

We, who love Canberra's beautiful lake heart and foreshore parklands, will have to gaze forever at the apartments blighting Commonwealth Avenue, destroying our lake vistas and restricting public use of West Basin's landscape.

Juliet Ramsay, Burra

TO THE POINT

KEEP IT IMPERSONAL

I make no comment on David Smith's view "the Governor-General is Australia's head of state", but neither did John Rodriguez. His letter (February 8) was nothing but a string of insults directed at Smith's personality. I am disappointed you saw fit to publish it.

Richard Johnson, Ainslie

WRONG TARGET

Amazing that such a such a frenzied lather of knickers-twisting should be provoked by "golliwogs" dedicated to bringing loving joy and comfort to a sick child, lovingly crafted and freely donated by volunteer auxiliaries, while, contemporaneously, for-profit corporations advertising death-dealing weapons receive official imprimatur.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

CARDIAC CONFUSION

I am trying to come to terms with the news George Pell might suffer heart failure were he forced to return to Australia to give evidence at the Royal Commission into Child Abuse and the thought that Philip Ruddock, after all, might have a heart, because he has been appointed as Australia's Special Envoy for Human Rights.

Annie Lang, Kambah

RENEWABLE ENERGY

The report that regions with 100per cent renewable electricity need back-up from fossil fuels is not refuted by the "practical experience" of two German states that operate on net renewable energy, as claimed by Mark Diesendorf (Letters, February 9). The word "net" means they trade electricity with and get their baseload supplies for peak periods from regions that use fossil or nuclear fuels.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

A BETTER QUESTION

Re the refugee issue, which appears to be the cause celebre du jour, perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is not how did we get here, but is this where we want to be?

Anthony John, Ainslie

IN THROUGH BACK DOOR

So state leaders are urging the federal government to allow the asylum seekers awaiting return to Nauru to remain in Australia. Once this precedent is established, everyone coming for medical help will claim this back-door method to stay here.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

TAX REVIEW OVERDUE

If the government wants to broaden its tax base, it could do worse than look at company tax collections. Taxation statistics show only 40per cent of companies pay tax. Are the other 60per cent really unprofitable? The PM said tax reform would be based on fairness, but to whom?

Chris Mobbs, Torrens

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