Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor: Climate consensus at risk

Scott Adams, creator of comic-strip character "Dilbert", rejects concerns about human-caused climate change (Canberra Times, May 14, p.45) and online internationally).

First, he presents climate scientists as committing the fallacy of "selection bias". In this context, "selection bias" means highlighting only those results or data favourable to a supposed "case" for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet all reputable scientists, natural and social, are aware of such elementary cognitive fallacies and seek to eliminate them. Such fallacies will, sooner rather than later, be filtered out through the scientific method, and openness to criticism, including peer-reviewed publication in reputable journals.

Adams is "conveniently" uninterested in these social processes and is ignorant of the scientific method.

Second, Adams quotes his bearded climate scientist to the effect that "human activity is warming the earth and will (sic) lead to global catastrophe". But this extreme statement is a "convenient" distortion.

Rather, both the probability and magnitude of global catastrophe due to climate change reflects the extent of failure to urgently limit emissions by national and international policy action.


The need for such major action has been accepted not only by the vast majority of climate and related scientists but also by the international community.

This consensus is embodied in the Paris Agreement of 2015-16, now ratified by 145 countries. But this agreement is at risk of sabotage by the likes of President Trump, along with (it seems) Scott Adams among others, and closer to home, right-wing political careerists like Senators Zed Seselja and Cory Bernardi.

Barry Naughten, Farrer

Plant near expiry date

John McKerral (letters, May 18) states that the Hazelwood brown-coal power plant in Victoria closed partly because the Victorian government tripled the royalties on brown coal and partly because of the Renewable Energy Target.

In fact, its owner, the French company Engie, closed the plant because it was nearing the end of its technically and economically serviceable life. To keep it operating efficiently would have required a non-viable $400 million investment.

Engie is also shifting away from coal and into renewables in its international operations.

Mr McKerral points out that Britain subsidises its fossil-fuelled power plants. 

However, Australia does likewise, to the tune of about $5 billion per year. He criticises renewable energy plants for being "[also] subsidised, expensive, intermittent and therefore undesirable".

They produce no emissions, their "fuel" costs nothing, the building costs, particularly of solar plants, are decreasing quickly, and their intermittency will also decrease and finally disappear as battery technology improves and its cost decreases, and as the use of pumped hydro and solar thermal technologies increases.

It has been well and truly established that the infamous blackouts in South Australia had nothing to do with the use of renewable energy and everything to do with severe storm conditions and malfunctions in the management of the energy distribution system.

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Time to care for nature

Monday, May 22, is the International Day for Biological Diversity, the day to celebrate the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

This has been ratified by almost all nations including Australia, and it's now 25 years since the world recognised the threats we pose to other species and the natural world.

But, despite this global recognition of the importance of biological diversity, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature the current loss of species is estimated to be 1000 to 10,000 times higher than the naturally occurring extinction rate.

The theme this year is Biodiversity and Tourism, and Australia has several wild places where tourists from around the world visit to marvel at our biodiversity. We now have one less place, after the Great Barrier Reef just experienced mass coral bleachings two years in a row. We need to urgently change the way we treat the natural world before we lose Kakadu and the Tasmanian Wilderness as well.

Already 10,000 hectares of mangrove forest has died along the west of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and 20,000 hectares of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area has burnt for the first time. To quote Chief Seattle from 1855: "Humankind has not woven the web of life, we are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves."

Stuart Walkley, Lyneham

Of dictators and deities

I fully second James Allan's opinion (letters, May 16) and I would add a thought from Sir David Attenborough himself, who found it difficult to reconcile himself with the idea that the creation of the worm causing onchocerciasis (aka river blindness) – to name one – could be the act of a merciful God.

What is defined as God's "unfathomable will" is nonetheless conveniently articulated and codified into a sacred text: one of the many open contradictions that a certain approach to religious faith prefers not to address. The appeal to blindingly follow an "unfathomable will" is as much a trait of dictators as it is of deities.

Luca Biason, Latham

Hazing unacceptable 

Re: "Young workers in danger", May 18, p.1. 

Just because hazing trainees and apprentices was once a right of passage doesn't mean this is acceptable behaviour.

B. O'Meara, Yass, NSW

Need to look both left and right when crossing off new streets

Thanks to Andrew Wall ("Streets that turn left", May18, p16) for his worthy and learned revelations about the street names proposed for one of the new Canberra suburbs.

Far from celebrating Andrew's side of politics, the government has chosen to big note its own side; and not only that, but to use names from a failed lefty past which could gratify only pathetic lefty voters and people interested in history.

When will righties be allowed to share the rosy glow of passing street signs with a compatible ideological configuration?

Great to see the quality of our opposition. Looking forward to their manifesto at the next election.

S.W.Davey, Torrens

Andrew Wall's opinion piece complaining about street names exposes the deeply conservative nature of the Canberra Liberals.

Unions in Canberra, including the CFMEU, have made a proud and positive contribution to our city and our living standards. It is sad that MrWall is addicted to union bashing, despite many tens of thousands of Canberrans who are members of their union, and thousands more Canberrans who are retired union members.

Union activism, environmental activism and women's rights may be "contentious" to Mr Wall, but they are mainstream and enjoy wide support in our community.

I hope as many people as possible read Mr Wall's opinion, so they can see for themselves the extreme right-wing views he holds.

I also invite Mr Wall to meet with the rank-and-file CFMEU members he demonises.

Alex White, secretary, UnionsACT, Dickson

Bec Cody was pilloried for expressing concerns about some tasteless wall tiles in a regional RSL club.

Though her judgment may not have been perfect, she was at least attempting to uphold an important principle, unlike her fellow MLA Andrew Wall's pathetic bleating about the naming of a handful of streets in one new suburb after people with whom he disagrees ('Streets that turn left', May18, p16).

Perhaps, in order to restore the divine balance of the universe and save us from a catastrophic collapse into communism, we should name a few streets after some well-known anti activists.

We might have Andrews Avenue, Santamaria Street, Dutton Drive or Pell Parade. Maybe we also need a Wall Street. Oh, hang on ...

Felix MacNeill, Dickson

Train of thought

It will be interesting to see if Chief Minister Andrew Barr's recent publicity stunt ride on the snail train to Sydney will lead to anything other than a talkfest on the issue, as has been the case for ACT politicians for many years. ("Barr rails against slow train times to Sydney, May17, p3).

A statement of his great embarrassment about the continued existence in the 21st century of such a terrible train service from Sydney to Australia's National Capital would have helped us to not conclude that he went to Sydney for the day to see a show at the Opera House or to take a trip on the Manly Ferry.

His vague mention of "rolling stock procurement" raises the question as to what that means?

Is he considering buying a fast Spanish tilt train for the ACT to run on upgraded NSW tracks to Sydney?

Presumably, this would be similar to the NSW XPT train that runs on Victorian tracks from Albury to and from Melbourne twice daily.

Now that would be a significant step forward.

John Gray, Mawson

Memories of trams

As a five-year-old schoolgirl in Edinburgh, I travelled to school every day, using both a bus and a tram. Watching the ABC TV Portillo-Baedeker program, last week, I was delighted to see the old double-decker maroon-coloured trams that I used to travel on every day.

These trams caused traffic chaos in the years after World War II, when more and more people were able to use private cars for their daily commute, and, in consequence the trams were put out of service at the end of 1957.

The trams didn't run much after midnight, or before 6am, during which time they were all put in various depots in different parts of the town.

I was shocked when the Scottish Nationalists decided that trams had to be restored – despite the obviously much heavier traffic flow in the present time, and shambles when the roads were dug up again and rails were replaced.

But what really amazed me was seeing the enormous area required for the new Scottish National Trams to be parked (washed, maintained, up-graded, etc), that was shown on Portillo's TV show.

Has anyone decided where and how large the depot will be for the Gungahlin-Civic tram?

M.D.Curtis, Kaleen

Respect water rights

So charging big users more for water is forcing them off-grid ("Tariffs send users off grid", May15, p1).

The five biggest users use 2,500,000kilolitres. Where is their alternative? They don't have one.

What about ordinary people, if lower pricing for a (small) basic consumption goes? Theywill be tempted by cheaper options.

But the reason for organised water supply was to get ordinary people on-grid.

We all benefit from general use of safer, cleaner, properly treated water. We all lose if ordinary people substitute tank water because of high basic allowance cost.

At least in Canberra there's a debate.

In Queanbeyan, the decision has been locked down by the administrator without discussion and pre-empting what an elected council might think when next we have one, later in the year.

Quarterly costs in Queanbeyan are three to four times higher than they were, for ordinary users.

Canberra faces hundreds of thousands of losers to help out big users, and to hinder access to cheap clean water for ordinary people.

Christopher Hood, Queanbeyan

Look to the 'passed'

The NSW voluntary assisted dying bill is just one more reason the ACT should revert  to its pre-1913 governance arrangements.

A.B.Mackie, Watson 



All Andrew Wall ("Streets that turn left", May 18, p.16) has to do to name some local thoroughfares after right-wing and capitalist luminaries such as Oswald Mosley, B. A. Santamaria and, dare I say, Cory Bernardi, John Elliott and Alan Bond, is to arrange for the Canberra Liberals to win an ACT election. Good luck with that.

M. Moore, Bonython  


The worst word ever is "outsourcing".

It costs lives, gives employment to foreigners at the cost of unemployment in Australia and leads to the loss of privacy. Now they are outsourcing immigration. What next?

When will they outsource politicians?

Artur Baumhammer, Isabella Plains


The trouble with the Donald is that he understands social and political norms and conventions aren't laws and don't have to be obeyed. Only well brought up gentlefolk are stupid enough to make that mistake. Mao, Josef, Adolf and Benito shared the same lack of illusion on this matter.

M. Pascoe, Barry

Could the problem be that Donald Trump is just unfamiliar with intelligence?

Tony Judge, Woolgoolga


Re: "Money changers reset", letters, Kevin Cox, May 17.

On what planet does Mr Cox reside, given the strange ideas floated in his letter that is finance goggledegook of the first order.

M. Flint, Erindale


I call on the Labor/Greens' government in the ACT to use its price control powers to prevent the big banks from passing the Turnbull government's bank levy on to customers.

John Passant, Kambah

Are health funds the new banks? We saw more and more reports about people getting angry as the funds are accused of making "obscene" profits.

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld.

When Dr Henry talks, we should all listen. I agree with him 110 per cent.

Mokhles k sidden, South Strathfield, NSW

Tax the banks? What a bonzer idea. Pity the poor people will end up paying as usual.

M. Strong, Mendooran, NSW 


When can we decentralise Barnaby Joyce? It's definitely time for a catch and release.

N. Barry, Belconnen

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