Letters to the Editor

Expect electric shock

The ACT politicos pushing for 90 per cent renewable electricity are living in fantasyland if they believe prices won't skyrocket. Wind energy, in particular, is a chief driver of significantly higher costs to the consumer as seen in Germany, with 800,000 households disconnected, similarly in Britain (600,000) and now South Australia (30,000).

Electricity from wind costs about $90 to $110 to deliver - at least four times the cost of baseloads of coal and gas. And don't forget wind is 100 per cent reliant on baseloads (which continue chugging away even if its windy) for its very existence.

Infigen Energy is currently fighting for its corporate life, with a share price falling 90 per cent over the past few years, more than $1 billion of debt and losses up to $80 million per year for the last five. It desperately needs a power purchase agreement from, well, anyone to secure further loans - hence the overtures to what it sees as easy pickings from a ''progressive'' government.

One would hope, for the sake of the consumer and the health of the ACT economy, that the ACT government has exercised due diligence in accepting the Infigen proposal. Helping with the roll-out of solar panels to all new housing developments using ACT companies would be infinitely preferable to the prospect of supporting a largely foreign owned company importing wind turbines and providing minuscule job opportunities.

Lastly, the breathtaking arrogance ACT politicians and administration display in continuing to view the NSW rural surrounds as ''sub regions'' there for the taking, regardless of rural communities' protests against inappropriate developments, can only inflame continuing rural-city divisions.

William Gray, Bungendore, NSW


Despite my strong environmental credentials, I am uncomfortable about Simon Corbell's announcement of further reverse auctions for the ACT's renewable energy. This time, it is clear that the ACT expects to buy that energy from projects in nearby NSW, where I am a local government councillor.

It's all very well to buy renewable energy, but all power generation has environmental impacts and it's a little hypocritical that Corbell seems to foresee the local environmental impact of renewable energy being in someone else's backyard. His history on this is poor. The complete lack of consultation or even information on the Royalla Solar Farm, before it was announced as a fait accompli, is an example of Corbell, the Planning Minister, using his call-in powers and the impenetrable, cerebral Chinese wall that conveniently avoided any embarrassment to Corbell, the Environment Minister.

The local communities and local governments in NSW have little influence on such projects either, as we are not trusted by the NSW government, that bastion of incorruptibility in the last decade or so. Decisions about major projects are made in Sydney.

Perhaps if Corbell was talking to the surrounding councils (he has not), I would have more confidence that we won't just become Canberra's power station. Though I am an ActewAGL customer, I doubt I will be able to buy any of the locally generated renewable energy power either. At the very least, there should be something in it for the region surrounding the ACT. Renewable energy doesn't result in large amounts of continuing employment, as it is not labour-intensive once built.

Peter Marshall, councillor, Palerang Council

Plenty in a name

Congratulations to the ACT government. Its decision to introduce a law preventing convicted people and parolees from changing their names without special permission (''Ban on offenders changing names'', February 27, p6) is to be applauded.

This will prevent such people from hiding behind assumed names, assist with their continuing monitoring and prevent them from easily fleeing the country to avoid justice.

Public safety will be improved immeasurably as a consequence.

It is to be hoped that other states will shortly follow the ACT's principled example.

Michael J. Gamble, Belmont, Vic

Context key on Israel

Ron Walker (Letters, February 21) seeks to interpret United Nations Security Council resolution 242 to suit his criticism of Israel. But his attempt is at odds with international law and the intention of the drafters of the resolution.

Security Council resolutions must be read in the context of international law. The ''inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war'' only refers to wars of aggression, not defensive war; it is in this context that this phrase in resolution 242 must be interpreted. It would be ludicrous to hold the aggressors and their intended victims to the same interpretation.

As for the intent of the phrase ''withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories'', the then British ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon (who was the chief drafter of the resolution) subsequently stated: ''We didn't say there should be a withdrawal to the '67 line; we did not put the 'the' in, we did not say 'all the territories' deliberately … We did not say that the '67 boundaries must be forever.'' Others involved in the drafting have made similar comments.

The resolution also states that the withdrawal principle is to be taken together with the principle that states have the right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. The combined effect is that Israel should withdraw once there are boundaries that are recognised by its neighbours. This can only be achieved through negotiation, which is what Israel, with its various offers of a Palestinian state, has been trying to achieve.

Athol Morris, Forde

Verdict not clear-cut

''My City: The People's Verdict'' rated Canberra No. 1. Clearly, such ratings depend on the criteria/questions (''Canberra wins liveability poll but housing still a concern'', March 3, p1).

One sensible criterion asked how easily citizens can get around their city; how does traffic congestion impact liveability? ACT citizens, 94 per cent of whom routinely drive themselves about, rated Canberra particularly well in this regard.

So why then is the ACT government blowing $1 billion on this non-problem?

Why spend the proceeds from government monopoly-priced, trickle-released land and soaring stamp duties arising from us being forced to pay the nation's second-highest prices for housing on one dopey tram down Northbourne Avenue?

Manson MacGregor, Amaroo

Jack Waterford (''Practised in the arts of deception'', Forum, March 1, p1) claims Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell was being ''economical with the truth'' at Senate estimates.

I disagree. Campbell was being ''economical with the actualite'', that is, with current events. This was for obvious reasons: Operation Sovereign Borders has important strategic, military, legal and political consequences. It is a complex, long-term affair that for its success requires adroit, subtle and sometimes privileged (''megaphone diplomacy'' anyone?) handling at the diplomatic, operational and on-scene level. The originator of the phrase, Edmund Burke, saw it as a virtue. He continued: ''It is a sort of temperance, by which a man speaks truth with measure that he may speak it the longer.''

Also, Gavin Mount ''Targeting the politics in play'' Times2, February 28, p1), having invoked Clausewitz, could have acknowledged that OSB will inevitably be subject to the Clausewitzian ''friction'' that results from human frailty - spying allegations, deaths at sea or in detention, and the provision of ambiguous information are prime examples.

Campbell, as expected of a military commander, is pushing on despite this ''friction'', but without ignoring its effects. Moreover, it appears that he has brought military incisiveness, co-ordination and sangfroid to OSB: the many agencies involved - civilian and military - now appear to be operating not as individual, sometimes ill-directed, fiefdoms, but as co-operative contributors to a comprehensive, disciplined and flexible plan.

As to parliamentary oversight (question time anyone?), this could appropriately, particularly for a responsible shadow defence minister, have been obtained via a confidential briefing. But the incompetent, incontinent Conroy chose instead to engage in base and very public political shenanigans. In doing so, he even managed to overshadow the dependably anserine Hanson-Young. Currently, Conroy exemplifies those many inferior - intellectually, morally, civilly - politicians (and, it must be said, journalists) to whom loyal, responsible senior public servants and defence force officers must often react. And, to me, this is a much greater threat to Australia's interests, identity and values.

W.A. Reid, Ngunnawal

Lieutenant-General Campbell and General David Hurley's expressions of concern, even outrage, at an accusation that the defence force has been ''engaged in a political cover-up'' is understandable. But neither general should have been surprised at the allegation. Both have been complicit in the arrangements in which a most distinguished serving officer has stood, week after week, shoulder to shoulder with the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection as they asserted that information would not be provided on the numerous matters which had been determined to be ''operational''. Most of these matters were directly relevant to political debate in Australia.

The reasons for the minister taking this option may be many and varied. However, the public relations benefits of having a senior representative of our armed forces, armed forces for whom generations of Australians have shown the greatest respect, standing with him as he chanted operational matters, would not have escaped him.

Nor should it have escaped Lieutenant-General Campbell, whom General Hurley describes as a man of intellect. Nor, too, should it have escaped General Hurley. The generals may be right in denying that the defence force had been ''engaged'' in a political cover-up, but the defence force has been ''complicit'' in it.

It is not Senator Conroy who has displayed lack of respect for our military. It is the Abbott government's misuse of our military in such a tawdry political manner.

Ken Brazel, Weston

Proper channels

What a striking picture of mourners on the front page of the Canberra Times (''Tears and anger for a lost life on a far-flung island'', March 1, p1). It clearly indicates Reza Barati was not a genuine refugee in fear of his life but a would-be economic migrant. I don't blame anyone wanting to improve their lives, but it should be done through the proper channels. Refugees languishing in camps is where my sympathy lies. Australia has brought many genuine refugees in and helped them settle here, but it is the negative aspects we only seem to hear about.

Heather Sorensen, Kambah

Grubby analogy

Being new to Canberra, I bought The Canberra Times for the first time on Saturday and I noted most of the front page was dedicated to the death of an asylum seeker. I guess I've missed the hundreds of front pages that you would have dedicated to the deaths of more than 1000 asylum seekers under Rudd and Gillard.

Another feature on Vatican appointee Cardinal Pell was headlined ''Is 'Pell Pot' the perfect prefect?'' There might be problems in the Catholic Church but the obvious comparison to Pol Pot, who killed more than a million people in Cambodia, has to be one of the grubbiest analogies I have seen. I doubt a News Ltd columnist would get away with it.

Brian Whybrow, Wanniassa

Blame for 'white trash'

Brian Handley (Letters, March 3) could look to a few more reasons for Australia becoming the ''white trash of Asia''. I'm not sure who he believes is responsible for this, the previous ALP or the current LNP government! He doesn't say.

Blaming the unions, the Greens and poor public policy, whatever he thinks that may be, is rather too broad for me. Let's look at our current asylum seeker policy, changes to Medicare, changes to superannuation, paid parental leave to high earners, dismantling Gonski, jobs for the LNP boys and girls, tax breaks for the rich … my list could go on.

So are we to become the ''white trash of Asia'' because of the previous ALP government or the current LNP government? I know where I lay the blame.

Jan Gulliver, Lyneham

Fossil fuel lobby clouding the issue on wind farms

After the doubting responses by some of the wind farm opponents to the recent draft NHMRC report that suggested that health risks from wind farms are unproven, one is left wondering if they would prefer to live next to an open-cut coalmine, as in the Hunter Valley, or Morwell, in Victoria. The disastrous effects on miners of underground coal mining have been known for generations.

It seems a NIMBY response, at least.

It will be a sad day for the future health of many Australians if the fossil fuel lobby succeeds in its efforts to stop the growth of renewables as an option.

Marie Coleman, Watson

Mandela review

Having recently seen the film Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom one wonders that it had any viewing public at all after Jake Wilson's two-star rating and comment that it was ''a well-intended bore'' (''Great man, grating tale'', Panorama, February 8, p28).

It surprises me that anyone can refer to this film as ''a well-intended bore'' given the sometimes tragic happenings of South Africa. Perhaps his comments say much more about the reviewer.

I can assure you that I will not be paying any attention to Mr Wilson's reviews in the future.

Judith Manning, Nicholls

Artist misspelled

Sally Pryor (''The master of light'', Panorama, March 2, pp6-7) wrote a wonderful article on Elioth Gruner, which has inspired me to attend his exhibition. How disappointing then, that in the midst of such an evocative piece, she should write ''… beach paintings which are quite Condor-esque …''

Poor Charles; it's actually easier to pronounce (and spell) his name correctly as Conder.

Bob Gardiner, Kambah

To the point


Given that Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell is a public servant would the government clarify his role by making public his Duty Statement?

Dave Harding, Sunshine Bay, NSW


Assuming Judy Angus (Letters, March 3) is correct and 20,000 Australian workers and their families are threatened with unemployment, how do we accommodate the illegal boat people their local supporters want to admit to the country?

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla


Why does the Immigration Department need 66 spin doctors (''Morrison's 66 spin doctors'', March 2, p11). All that's needed is a ''1300'' number that on answer that will play a recorded message: ''For operational reasons we have no comment.''

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld


Every time I see Scott Morrison on TV I am reminded of Donald Rumsfeld. Maybe it is the facial similarities or manner or is it just my imagination?

G. Hansen, Ainslie


Gary Humphries' words ring hollow (''Spare us Greens carping'', Times2, February 28, p4). Humphries was a member of the Howard government at the time of the decision to commit Australia to war in Iraq on the basis of no more than ''tentative conclusions'' about the presence of weapons of mass destruction. There was no waiting ''for the review process to sift the evidence and provide an account anchored on facts''.

Peter Crossing, Curtin


Peter Hartcher's opinion piece (''Breaking the Australian government's silence on stopping the boats'',, March 1) should be compulsory reading. Hartcher is hardly a right-wing ideologue, but compared to the sanctimonious tripe from the usual suspects on the left he makes good sense.

H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW


Stop the boats and save (x) lives! Return the boats and lose 10x lives!

Geoff Wood, Waramanga


The comment by Leo Vukosa (Letters, February 28) that the ACT has a government ''nobody wanted'' is sad and incorrect. Democracy is both precious and fragile. I value democracy far more than whatever other system of government others might prefer.

Tim McGhie, Isabella Plains

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