Comment

Letters to the Editor

'Efficiency dividends' ignore government duty of care

<p>

 

I have lost count of the number of "efficiency dividend" cuts imposed on our national memory institutions by both Liberal and Labor governments, but they have long ceased to have anything to do with either efficiency or dividends ("Capital cops it as more jobs go", February 11, p1).

Our stressed institutions are losing hard-won expertise as staff numbers and budgets decline. They can cope only by closing functions, reducing access and failing to acquire what should be preserved. As their communities rally to help, volunteers and corporate sponsors can assist.

But this cannot, and should not, relieve government of its fundamental duty of care for the national memory and national treasures.

As Lloyd George once said, "national culture and identity is too important to leave to the politicians".

The Prime Minister's dream of an innovation nation is hardly compatible with a mindset that regards cultural institutions as an expense instead of an investment. Compared with the untaxed profits being offshored by multinationals, harming our institutions contributes next to nothing in the budget balance sheet.

Dr Ray Edmondson, president, Friends of the National Film and Sound Archive

Research shift

The decision by Barnaby Joyce to shift key regulatory and research corporations out of Canberra is misplaced populism. He does not even understand what the research corporations do. While saying "there are no fish in Lake Burley Griffin" is good for a media grab, he betrays himself.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation catches no fish. The Grains Research and Development Corporation grows no cereals, pulses or oilseeds. The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation rears no livestock, grows no crops nor produces any of the output of the farming pursuits that it serves.

These corporations do not do research. They use grower and producer levies to contract research bodies to undertake the work. The research providers are the universities, CSIRO, state departments of agriculture, private companies and individuals.

They should not be too close to any research organisation, competition helps guarantee farmers and fishers a good return on their levies.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is critical to both human health and the success of our agriculture sector. Its more than 100 scientists and other professionals are invaluable and, like the research and development corporations, many will be lost if the organisation is forced to move to the Deputy Prime Minister's electorate.

The Prime Minister must intervene to stop this madness.

Joe Fitzgibbon, shadow minister for agriculture

Barnaby Joyce's justification for pork barrelling Nationals electorates by moving public servants to Armidale and other rural areas is exemplified in the article "Capital cops it as more jobs go".

I quote: "as marvellous as Lake Burley Griffin is, there are not many fishing grounds in it so why we have the fisheries research and development corporation here has always perplexed me".

These types of illogical statements show a lack of understanding of what research is about and reflects very poorly on Joyce being selected for anything, let alone Deputy Prime Minister of this country.

E. R. Moffat, Weston

Sport that isn't

With tennis, depressingly, but unsurprisingly, outed as yet another sport corrupted by filthy lucre ("Fixers have their eye on tennis: cricket tsar", January 30, p5), why don't we finally concede, if reluctantly, that so-called "professional" sports be more accurately described as entertainment so as to obviate the sense of being let down by the conga line of flawed sporting "heroes", to spare us from hyperbolic post-mortems conducted by the media, and to accept mindlessly that our hero/team "won". Hooray and well done – then we all move on to the next business deal.

The last-ditch position should be to preserve and protect amateur sporting clubs, for whom playing the game is (hopefully) more important than winning or losing.

Based on the steepness of the decline, I won't hold my breath.

A. Whiddett, Yarraluma

Flexible budget

The Finance Minister and his department secretary say The Lodge renovations, which cost about $12 million instead of the original estimate of $3.2million, were "delivered within the agreed budget" ("What blowouts? Bureaucrats say $12m Lodge renos were within budget", February 10, p3).

Really? Their explanation is that work additional to that originally estimated was "approved" as the renovation proceeded, so the approved budget by the time the work was finished was about $12 million – so the project was "delivered on budget"!

That's quite breathtaking, rivalling Sir Humphrey Appleby's way of explaining things in Yes Minister.

With that approach, every project undertaken by either government or the private sector, anywhere in the world, will always be "within budget".

I'm sure the public sees it differently – that the renovations at The Lodge, originally estimated to cost $3.2 million, in fact cost $12 million.

R.S.Gilbert, Braddon

Fuels and energy

Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf (Letters, February 9) presents his "Clayton's illusion" to counter claims about the need to back up intermittent energy sources with fossil fuel energy.

There is no shortage of nights where the combined Australian output of wind energy is well below 20 per cent capacity, perhaps only 5 per cent sometimes. Solar PV is unavailable, so what keeps the lights going?

If it isn't coal energy, it's going to be gas turbines running on coal-seam gas. If coal energy is a problem, then I'm afraid to say that nothing makes coal-seam gas any better.

We are also told that two German states run on almost 100 per cent wind energy. Unlike the wide expanses of Australia, these German states will be of limited geographical span – a still night is a still night everywhere. Have the Germans discovered how to manipulate the weather, or is Diesendorf misrepresenting his facts?

George Papadopoulos, Yass, NSW

Refugee cost

The imminent reshuffle ("Deputy PM after being elected Nationals leader", February 12, p4) should be a great opportunity for the Prime Minister to make important changes to his frontbench, like finding a competent treasurer. How can he trust the nation's budget to the one who in his previous job as immigation minister has spent over $50million resettling four refugees to Cambodia?

Sandor Siro, Ainslie

Business interests

John Warhurst never quite got around to suggesting that Malcolm Turnbull might yet backflip and increase the GST. If he does, it will only be because lobbyists and power brokers make it seem that he was forced to, against his will ("GST gamble might pay off" February 11, Times2, p1).

It is a methodology the preceding two prime ministers used.

Such an outcome would serve the mercantile princes and princesses.

Quite apart from relieving them of threatened increases in their tax burden, it puts the wage slaves thoroughly in their place.

The middle class and small businesses have been getting beyond themselves, as far as big business is concerned. Big business is not a faceless behemoth. There are always individuals hidden behind the largest corporations, otherwise statistics like the 1 per cent who own half of the world's wealth could not exist.

We should never forget that our Prime Minister was the mouthpiece for the Goanna.

Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor

Fox control

Whatever Braidwood's Peter Marshall's knowledge of the behaviour of foxes, his evident ignorance of the context of management of the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve makes his criticism of an experienced and knowledgeable park ranger seem churlish (Letters, February 10).

Marshall shows no knowledge of the physical context of the reserve, its proximity to housing on one side but open access for foxes on many sides, and the challenges this poses to his simplistic view of feral animal control.

Nor did he let the arguments of a leading national expert on feral pests, reported in the same article and contradicting his simple approach, get in the way of his facile criticism of the pest management strategies in the complex setting of the wetlands.

Perhaps Braidwood has a strictly limited number of foxes and they respectfully avoid the territory of any of those who are removed.

Grant Battersby, Barton

Scientists' jobs

The argument for retaining the scientists doing the modelling for climate change is really simple: if you don't measure and monitor climate change indicators in the future, you have no idea of the efficacy of the products or systems you produce.

You also have no ongoing base data to use to adjust your mitigation measures to deal with what is a complex problem with potential for unexpected feedback loops.

This might not matter in the commercial world, where if a product fails you just move on to the next market opportunity.

However, in the public sector, where investment is for the common good and is about actually managing problems like the impact of climate change, not just financial returns, efficacy matters.

That's not lobbying, it's common sense. It's also a basic scientific process.

The climate change response is not one we want to get wrong and find out too late.

Sheila Hughes, Dickson

 

TO THE POINT

TRIFECTA FROM HELL

Hackers have obviously been attacking the selection processes for major public awards. How else to explain the trifecta from hell: David Morrison as Australian of the Year, Greg Hunt as the world's best minister, and Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister. By implication, Donald Trump is a shoo-in for the US presidency.

Des Fooks, Forrest

NO TRANSPARENCY

"Deliberation behind closed doors" will determine whether a $72million office block, which the Australian Taxation Office may or may not use, goes ahead ("Gosford building in for $20m fit-out", February 11, p5). By operating in this secretive way, Tax Commissioner Jordan demonstrates an inherent dissonance with his resolve to enforce transparency and accountability on multinationals.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan NSW

SCARY REALITY

Barnaby Joyce is a "heartbeat away" from the prime ministership. This can't be happening. Are we part of a reality TV program, I'm a voter get us out of here?

Linus Cole, Palmerston

MAXIMISE BENEFITS

Instead of the ACT government telling the planners at Capital Metro where the light rail will be built in order to benefit the people of Gungahlin, why doesn't it ask the planners where the light rail could be built, in order to maximise its benefits to the people of Canberra?

Colin Whittaker, Torrens

ZERO SAYS IT ALL

So Shane Rattenbury (Letters February 11) is to "strongly prioritise a 'vision zero' approach to transport policymaking". Says it all, really!

Peter Haddon, Jerrabomberra, NSW

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).