Comment

Letters to the Editor

Climate insecurity

 Two recent articles in The Canberra Times  have pointed out the folly of outsourcing Australia's strategic capability. The first, an opinion piece by Martin Callinan and Alan Gray ("Defence white paper lacks innovation grunt", Times2, March 3, p5), points out the "strategic mistake" inherent in "abandoning self-reliant, deep expertise". Despite the "seductive simplicity of outsourcing, they argue, "preparedness can't be bought off-the-shelf".

The second by Peter Hannam and Adam Morton ("Climate modelling may be outsourced", March 9, p5) reports that CSIRO is giving active consideration to the procurement of climate modelling capability from the British Met Office. This revelation comes in the wake of the recent announcement by CSIRO CEO Dr Larry Marshall of the organisation's intention to make drastic cuts in its climate change research capability.

Both articles draw attention to the shortsightedness of policy prescriptions that elevate the logics of "the market" over the logics of "public purposes". The same criticisms made by Callinan and Gray of the defence white paper can be applied to the CSIRO's misguided efforts to shed its "self-reliant, deep expertise" in climate science.

As the Climate Institute and others have pointed out, climate change is a major source of strategic risk and uncertainty, the strategic implications of which cut across Australia's social, environmental, defence, economic and foreign relations policy interests. The Turnbull government needs to back off the "mantra of the market". Australia's climate security cannot be bought "off-the-shelf"'. 

Dr John Butcher, Australian National University 

Authentic or not?

Quentin Grafton ("Voters want leaders to be 'the real thing"' (Forum, March 5, p5), rightly says that all over the world people are reaching out for authenticity, meaning honesty; "what you see is what you get." Quentin then says Pope Francis and Donald Trump are perceived as being "authentic", ie, genuine, true and trustworthy.

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However, Pope Francis inferentially "judges" Trump as not being Christian because he advocates building "walls" while the Pope himself oversees his Christian fiefdom from behind 30-foot high Vatican walls.

 The disconnect between the Pope's "judgment" of Trump and his "politically correct" refusal to have an opinion on homosexual practices is palpable. Why then is Pope Francis held out as being "authentic"?

Incidentally, why is the subprime mortgage fraud (it wasn't a debacle, because it wasn't a humiliating failure for the banksters who profited but did not go to goal for perpetrating it), stated to be an example of in-authenticity when the subsequent bank bailouts have been far more fraudulent and far more damaging to global economic welfare? 

 The subprime mortgage frauds are history.

Just askin'.

 Ron Chapman, Yarralumla  

Light dig on light rail

Poor Peter Robinson (Letters, March 7)! I was being funny by referring, in my letter of March 3, to the citizens of Tucson as "car-hating". Anyone who has lived or travelled in the American Southwest, as I have, knows that the people there love their cars more than anything else. (Yes, even more than their guns!) By resorting to satire, I was trying to say that, since even people who are terribly car-oriented have embraced light rail, Canberrans, with their healthier lifestyles and trimmer waistlines, should logically be more receptive to it.

Los Angeles, the classic car-loving city, is a case in point. By following the Alistair Coe transport model, it abandoned its tram lines and became a freeway-clogged, smoggy sewer: truly dystopian, to use Mr Robinson's expression.

In the 1980s, people there realised that the automobile is not useful for urban transport and built subway and light rail lines. As in Portland, Oregon, which lost its efficient inter-urban (heavy) rail system to massively clogged freeways and roads and has now rebuilt it as light rail.

If Mr Robinson and his ilk succeed in destroying light rail, with the inevitable need to build freeways and huge carparks for a city that will soon grow to be well over 500,000 people, my grandchildren will have to destroy these automobile artefacts and replace them with rails. Would it not be simpler, easier and far cheaper to put in the rails now? 

 John Mason, Latham 

Warming to change

Jenny Stewart ("Going Green – Australia must choose its options carefully", Forum, March 5, p5) betrays her bias early by invoking the snide anti-science canard that "global warming has morphed into climate change". In fact, in the scientific literature the term "climate change" dates back to Gilbert Plass' 1956 paper "The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change", while the term "global warming" first appeared in Wallace Broecker's 1975 paper "Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?"

Since 1975, both terms have been used, but "climate change" has always dominated the scientific literature. Both terms are valid. Basic physics says that increasing CO2 will reduce the rate that heat can leave the planet and will therefore warm it. Observations confirm this. As a result, the climate is changing in complicated and generally deleterious ways.

No one claimed the warming would be uniform in space or time. In fact, the fingerprint of greenhouse induced global warming is that the stratosphere has cooled – predicted by models and confirmed by observations. A warmer arctic can cause blizzards in the North America and Eurasia.

Climate scientists do not choose either phrase for political effect. On the other hand, right-wing spin doctor Frank Luntz advised American Republicans to use "climate change" because it was "less threatening than 'global warming"'.

 Paul Pentony, Hackett  

In higher esteem

All praise to Richard Hoare (Letters, March 1) for his tribute to the "Flying Scotsman".

I trust I am on the right track by suggesting that a steam locomotive be returned to the massive concrete plinth outside Canberra railway station to acknowledge steam's contribution to the development of our capital. It would be an impressive welcoming sight for tourists. The plinth has deteriorated over the years and looks more like the Tomb of the Unknown Railway Worker. It is ugly and a disgrace and an OH&S problem due to its Lycra-shredding and rusty, spiked fence abutting a cycleway. God knows what tourists arriving by rail make of it.

 V.R. Condon, Narrabundah 

Premiums increasing much more than Health Minister claimed

   The federal Health Minister, in recently claiming success in scaling back bids from health insurers for premium increases, said that my fund would raise premiums by 6.6per cent. In fact, my premium has increased by just under 10per cent, a rise of nearly $30 per month.

 When queried, the fund claimed that Senator Ley was not including in the stated premium increases the on-going annual reduction in the percentage of the rebate offered by the government. This meant that premiums are rising well in excess of the announced percentage increases.

 It is difficult not to conclude that Senator Ley is being at least economical with the truth and continues to represent the interests of the health insurance industry over consumers who are more likely than ever to vote with their feet. 

 Jeffrey Benson,  Curtin   

 Not for him to say

 Michael Pezzullo ("Department of Immigration and Border Protection uses 'allegedly' to describe experiences of Nazi Germany", canberratimes.com.au,  March 9) states that there should be no place for "falsehood" in discussions of detention policy. One wonders how he can then say with a straight face that "people subject to regional processing will not be allowed to settle in Australia"?

As a public servant, he knows – or should know – that it is not for him to determine government policy, and while he can state what current policy is, he has no right to determine what will happen policy wise in the future.

 (Dr) William Maley,  Reid   

Taking a lead role

   The Department of Human Services is not removing the right for staff to take time off when experiencing family and domestic violence ("Public servants lose domestic violence leave",   March 9, p1). It is irresponsible to suggest otherwise. Staff will always have access to leave, flexible working arrangements and support in the workplace when facing such serious circumstances.

 The proposed staff agreement contains access to flexible working arrangements, specifying situations where "a person is experiencing violence from a member of the employee's family". This department is taking a lead role across the public service to guide a whole of government approach to providing support for staff affected by family and domestic violence. 

Our Family and Domestic Violence Strategy outlines the approach to supporting both staff and customers impacted by this issue. We have established an experienced family and domestic violence contact officer network to confidentially provide information to staff about the support available, including leave and flexible working arrangements. 

Our campaign, titled "Enough", encourages both customers and staff impacted by domestic violence to seek help. And we're rolling out training across our 35,000-strong workforce so all staff are better able to identify where someone – customer or colleague – may need this kind of help. We are committed to ensuring every employee can access support when  needed. 

 Hank Jongen, general manager, Department of Human Services 

 Only alternative

   Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has called scheduled strikes by Border Force and other APS staffers "unfortunate, ill-conceived" and "counterproductive".  Cash asserted the effort and time spent on work stoppage would be spent better on negotiating realistically. The union and APS staff asserted they've done everything they can to make the case for the "frustrated mums and dads working across the Commonwealth public sector", and, in their view, striking is the only alternative remaining.

Having endured bargaining as a public servant, I observed both management and union treating staff as ignorant children. Both published incomplete, incorrect, and intentionally misleading information; neither management nor union provided raw data that would allow us to decide – based on facts-without-spin – as the intelligent APS-ers we were.

APS strikes call attention to worker-management issues   affecting work at prime places at prime times. I'm willing to be inconvenienced in this case.

 Judy Bamberger, O'Connor  

 No stopping women

  I guess we will continue to see articles like Judith Ireland's "Government needs to lead on gender equality" (March 8, p4)  into eternity. They really do amuse me as women have, and have had for quite a while, equality in the workplace.

 If women want to spend their lives battling for office, they have every right to do it and good luck to them but, if they don't, why should they have to in order to keep the feminists happy?

 The two female division heads I have worked for in the public service were as good as any man, but the claim that women are stopped by the glass ceiling amuses me. Some of the other female executives I have known, including one who recently got an award for mentoring girls and women, were so toxic that the glass ceiling would have dissolved if they had licked it.

 Stan Marks, Hawker  

Migration caution

   I am flattered that my humble heresies on the claimed adverse effects of immigration on infrastructure now require the urgent attentions of the chief proponent, Jane O'Sullivan (Letters, March 7), rather than an acolyte. 

While I am in furious agreement with Jane on the rate of migration, all I can do is once again point out that her multiplier of 7per cent of GDP for 1per cent of immigration does not clearly apply to historical cases such as the US  at the turn of the 19th century which combined high immigration, high birth rates and high economic growth. 

While I am glad to see that Jane recognises the positive benefits of migration and does not think of migrants solely as "burdens", these considerations were unfortunately not mentioned in Geoff Davies's first letter. While I am sure that neither Jane nor Geoff would subscribe to any animosity, I think we need to be cautious about depicting migrants as millstones when there are all too many groups which are actively hostile to the home cultures, ethnic composition and religious beliefs of recent arrivals.

 David Roth,  Kambah   

Pay our apprentices a fair living wage

  Much has recently been said about the decline in apprentice numbers, low start numbers and high non-completion rates. Much wringing of hands and "oh, woe is me" from the leaders of industry. 

How about just stumping up the money and paying apprentices a living wage! The promise of substantial wages on completion belongs in the world of the Norse Gods, it is all mythical. Take for example a dual trade qualified automotive technician, who is the mechanic that diagnosis and repairs complex mechanical systems in your car.

They have undertaken additional apprenticeship requirements to attain the requisite knowledge to fix the complex electrical systems in today's modern cars, but are paid as little as $47,000 gross per annum. Try getting a home loan on a wage like that. 

Why would any parent ever encourage their child to take on an apprenticeship? We must learn to pay our tradespeople a decent living wage.Current low levels of participation will remain until this is addressed. 

 Charles Landwehr, Kambah 

Many nappy returns

  I'm heartened by the support of James Allan (Letters, March 8)  regarding human procreation and its  effect in stretching our planet's resources. I believe there will soon be  strong bipartisan support  in redressing this problem by banning the use of disposable nappies in the ACT in favour of  cloth nappies.

This will have a positive impact  on the environment, landfill and decomposition issues, and contamination problems that result fromdisposable nappies. It will be a win/win outcome for the ACT and help  maintain the territory's reputation for being innovative and agile in meeting environmental challenges. It would also determine who in public office  is fair dinkum about addressing environmental issues.

 Les Brennan, Sunshine Bay, NSW 

 TO THE POINT

SHIFT YOUR SWAG

   Dinkum advice from PM Turnbull to Tony Abbott, taken from the other political side (Gareth Evans to Bob Hawke): "It's time to move out , old mate. The dogs are pissing on your swag".

 Linus Cole, Palmerston 

 THIRSTY BIRDS

  Please show concern for our wildlife during these hot conditions by having constantly filled bird baths/water bowls. We've had so many more birds than usual in our garden recently, including a raven.

 Susan MacDougall, Scullin  

 WHAT DID HE MEAN?

  Did a senior Treasury official ("Global economic threats have intensified, says Treasury's Nigel Ray",  canberratimes.com.au, March 9) really say: "Global risks are tilted to the downside"? What did he mean? Does he know? Are these risks actually decreasing, or did he mean the opposite? What happened to the requirement for senior government officials to be able to communicate clearly?

 Mike Hutchinson, Reid 

 STREETS AHEAD

 Trialling driverless cars in Canberra is a terrific idea. If they can be programmed to use indicators, observe the speed limit and refrain from tailgating, they will be streets ahead of our brainless drivers.

 Gaynor Morgan, Braddon  

 DOUBLE BENEFITS

 Contrary to some critics, the Westside Container Village, delivers a double benefit to the community. It complements the aesthetic statement of the architectural monstrosity behind it on Anton Peninsula, the National Museum of Australia. It also inures us to the proposed blocking of the open western vista from the northern shore of Lake Burely Griffin. 

 Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor 

IGNORING THE OBVIOUS

  What is the difference (as a Tweeter posited on Q&A last Monday) between those in ecclesiastical authority ignoring what is going on under their noses in Ballarat and elsewhere and those in political authority (or aspiring to it) and us too, for that matter, ignoring what is going on in the hell-holes on Nauru and Manus Island?

 James Gralton,  Garran 

BRILLIANT ARTISTRY

  I had expected to see a letter on Thursday complimenting Pope on his brilliant depiction of Abbott as a clapped out fixer-upper (Times2, March 9,p1). In case you didn't get any such letter, please regard this one as expressing my great appreciation of his artistry.

 George Beaton, Greenway  

Email: letters.editor@canberratimes.com.au. Send from the message field, not as an attached file. Fax: 6280 2282. Mail: Letters to the Editor, The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610.

Keep your letter to 250 words or less. References to Canberra Times reports should include date and page number. Letters may be edited. Provide phone number and full home address (suburb only published).

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