Time for a law regulating gas prices

Our gas prices are increasing as a consequence of demand in Asia (''Double energy hit for winter'', June 14, p1). Domestic gas price rises are a consequence of gas companies seeking increased profits from overseas demand.

It is time that federal legislation, requiring that domestic needs are met first, is enacted.

Such legislation exists, I believe, in countries such as the US and Canada.

Let us have some transparency and information on the truth as to why our gas prices are increasing so dramatically and why our important resource is being sent offshore while domestic supply is limited at an increasingly higher price.

Time to legislate to protect our gas resources to meet domestic demand.

And how about our politicians becoming a little more educated on this topic and demanding fairness for Australian users of Australian gas resources?


J. Nesbitt, Page

Solar - a hot topic

It appears that Brendan Smyth may well have belled-the-cat on the ACT Liberals' attitude to feed-in-tariffs for solar on the roof.

Anxious to blame the increase in home electricity charges on ACT government, he is blaming the cost of the solar farm at Royalla, and probably with some justification. But he also included the ACT's feed-in-tariff cost in an interview on ABC radio on Friday. And yes, there are some who attack its so-called generosity, ignoring the capital cost paid. The facts are that thousands have a valid contract for 20 years with the ACT government.

In the last ACT election campaign, Zed Seselja assured listeners to ABC Radio that the Canberra Liberals would not seek to attack existing feed-in-tariff contract holders if elected in 2012. I have a signed letter from Mr Seselja to that effect.

Leader Jeremy Hanson now has a duty to be straight with the ACT voters as whether a contract with the ACT government is worth anything, regardless of the colour of the government. This policy needs to be clarified right now, not when the next ACT election is due.

It's just a pity the ABC couldn't ask this question when Mr Smyth was live to air today.

W.A. Brown, Holt

Change house taxes

Graham Macafee (Letters, June 10) should not get away with repeating the real estate lobby's perennial misinformation about the temporary change to negative gearing that occurred in the 1980s. It didn't lead to massive rent increases across Australia. Rent increases occurred in Perth and Sydney, but not elsewhere, at the time, due to local factors. Investor finance for housing was far smaller than today - only about 10 per cent.

As the housing stock increases very slowly, at about 1 per cent to 2 per cent a year, even the (unlikely) total withdrawal at that time, of investor finance from building new houses, would have made a minuscule difference to total housing stock. On the supply side, it is this that determines the level of rents.

Nowadays 95 per cent of investor finance is spent on established houses. This means its overwhelming effect is to raise house prices, not add to supply, which is the crucial need. It is argued that investors add to the housing stock for renters, but with established houses they are only doing this if they take houses from owner-occupiers.

This means one more household seeking to rent, so there is no net benefit to renters.

Negative gearing has been a total failure in ''subsidising'' rents: Australia has the most generous negative gearing in the wealthy world, and has among the very highest rents and house prices.

It generates high house prices, and only makes sense through the expectation of ever-rising house prices, so it is a self-fulfilling process.

The real estate lobby is almost its only defender these days.

The Reserve Bank, the Productivity Commission and many mainstream economists, not to mention those concerned with social welfare, have said that housing tax changes are needed, especially to current negative gearing arrangements.

Paul Pollard, O'Connor

Marist memories

Reading reports on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, one question keeps occurring to me. I realise that the focus is on institutional response but why, in so many cases, didn't parents go to the police? An inquiry into Parental Responses to Child Sexual Abuse seems almost appropriate too!

Also, as a former Marist student I was quite bemused by current head Richard Sidorko's comment (''Marist headmaster meets abuse victim'', June 13, p1) that while witness DD's memories of Marist are not positive, he sees qualities in him ''that I believe are Marist''. Positive qualities like courage in standing up for what is right? To now try to claim credit for DD's good qualities is breathtakingly arrogant, and typically Marist.

Dominic Stinziani, Higgins

Roo cull cruel

So the ACT government's kangaroo cull is to proceed with the blessing of the Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (''Shooters will start roo cull on Monday'', June 12, p 2). Many consider these land management practices a fiasco. All aspects of culling were documented in a 1988 Report by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare entitled Kangaroos, and clearly the controversy has not diminished.

The problem then, as it is now, was uncertainties in the scientific data. The government analysis exaggerates the risks of environmental damage by kangaroos, leading opponents to the conclusion that the culling policy is sympathetic to the perceptions and prejudices of landholders, who in the main believe that kangaroos are pests.

Federal government permission to kill otherwise protected animals is granted ''to contain the deleterious effects'' on land use, including pasture, crops, fences and water. Sometimes damage by other animals (mice, rabbits) and insects is incorrectly attributed to kangaroos.

Although government claims about the evidence and damage are disputable, the main problem is culling. Culling is unscientific and tantamount to institutionalised cruelty, despite reassurances by bureaucrats.

With the expansion of suburban housing and other development in Canberra, large areas of kangaroo habitat are inevitably being affected or destroyed. There is a need for more sophisticated solutions.

In this regard, progress by the ACT government has been non-existent. The Senate committee concluded that, as a principle, shooting kangaroos should be a last resort.

Lynda Graf, Garran

The wealthy can take help but they can't dish it out

Joe Hockey says it is unfair for working people to pay taxes to help those on welfare. Is it also unfair for working people to pay taxes to help middle-class parents send their children to private schools, or to assist the very wealthy employ high-priced lawyers to minimise their tax, or to pay for Tony Abbott's expensive paid parental leave scheme?

I thought the Australian ethos of a fair go was that those who were comfortably off were happy to help others who were having a lean time. Joe Hockey seems to want this to end and instead use working people's taxes to help the wealthy. But in a way, he is right; it is unfair - the whole budget is unfair. His budget represents, in the words of economist J.K. Galbraith, a revolt of the rich against the poor.

David Hicks, Holt

I'm lost for words. Joe Hockey's welfare/taxes statement has to be one of the worst made by an Australian politician.

How long does the taxpayer work to pay for the government's current spending on jets, politicians' wages, former politicians' expenses (especially those of ex-prime ministers), and politicians' superannuation?

Should we (the bludgers) be moved off shore and placed under asylum-seeking status, Mr Hockey? Maybe congregated into camps and be put on rations.

I know! We could be work details for washing Defence Force jets, politicians' cars, caterers for parliamentary junkets, handing out pamphlets for the government on how good it is that your co-contribution goes towards medical progress in the future while funding is cut to such things as CSIRO projects that are working to keep threatened species alive today.

It might just be easier if Mr Hockey makes his intentions clear in respect of his abhorrent statement.

Peter Dixon, Isabella Plains

Please explain

Ross Gittins (''From all sweetness and blight'', Times2, June 11, p4) said that when the old (like me) realise how Joe Hockey's proposed changes to indexation of their pensions will lower their incomes, they will be furious. No doubt he is right, but why didn't he explain why?

Our pensions are still going to be indexed aren't they? That means we'll still be compensated for price increases to maintain our standard of living. What's so bad about that?

But if, as he apparently thinks, we are going to cop it in the neck, could he please explain now what the problem is, not when the change happens (if it does) in 2017.

Tim Terrell, Farrer

Whinging knockers

I fully endorse the views of Zoltan Kovacs (Letters, June 13) on the countless negative, narrow-minded and insular correspondents to your letters columns.

These include Labor supporters who can see no good in anything the present government hopes to achieve in office. Unable to get over last September's loss, they prefer to just whinge and snipe without offering any constructive alternatives. Mostly deriving their income from the public purse, they have little experience of life in the real world outside and beyond the ACT border.

It's a shame that we prefer to ''knock'' rather than support our government in achieving the mandates it was handed at the election.

P.M. Button, Cook

Iraq vacuum

Australia entered Iraq with the US and Britain to teach Saddam Hussein a lesson about something he had nothing to do with. Since then countless allied soldiers and the local population have suffered through a seemingly endless conflict.

A while ago, we turned our backs on Iraq and left a mess of our making - civil unrest and a power vacuum. Now we're being forced to decide whether we should interfere again (''Abbott flags military action in Iraq'', June 14, p4). We probably have no choice as we removed the dictator but put nothing of substance in his place.

I fear Iraq is doomed and will be forever remembered as a blot on our military and political history.

Joe Murphy, Bonython

Once again we have a Shia/Sunni religious conflict that the West would do well to keep out of. The major problem with the non-Arab countries is they are only interested in preserving their interests in the region and don't understand why the two groups are at each other's throats. Perhaps The Canberra Times could explain the issues between the sides.

How many of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants are carrying weapons supplied by the West's misguided support for opponents of President Bashar al-Assad? The White House, no doubt, is being swamped by lobbyists in support of the American petroleum industry.

Brian Middleton, Fisher

Per capita problem

The anthropogenic global warming debate continues, with denialists rejecting both scientific evidence and any precautionary future path.

For a moment, let's forget the science and reflect that over many millions of years, a vast carbon-based energy quantum was stored underground. The terrestrial environmental stability that followed was mother to an evolving animal kingdom ultimately containing humans.

To suppose that all that energy can be released in a relative instant without affecting that environmental stability is at best naively optimistic; at worst, plain stupid.

And for non-denialists to suppose global warming can be tackled without consideration of the impact of growing human populations is equally naive. Total emissions is the product of per capita emissions times population. By all means we should, as individuals, minimise per capita emissions, but if growing populations cancel out or exceed those gains, what will have been achieved?

Where is the political debate on this? Why only silence from all parties? Our Parliament, loaded with lawyers, perhaps needs more diversity in its members and less advice from bodies such as the Business Council of Australia.

Vince Patulny, Kambah

ACT makes switch to sustainable living

Thank you to The Canberra Times for shining a light on office energy use (''ACT government departments leave lights on late into the night'', June 14, p2).

As chairwoman of the ACT Government Carbon Neutral Government Committee, I am proud of efforts being made across government to improve our sustainability.

At Dame Pattie Menzies House, which you feature in your article, we have reduced our energy consumption by 68 per cent since 2005 by installing LED lighting, turning off computers, adjusting winter heating and summer cooling temperatures, putting timers on hot water urns so they switch off in the evenings and on weekends, and putting sensors on all lighting.

These efforts have resulted in our building and its management being awarded a 5.5 star energy rating - a significant achievement in a 20-year-old building. We did in fact have staff working in Dame Pattie Menzies House at 9pm on June 11 when the photos were taken.

All lights, except emergency and exit lighting, would have been off unless either staff or cleaners were working in the building.

As well as our ACTSmart Government program supporting all agencies to progressively reduce energy and water consumption, and reduce waste generation across government, we work with businesses, households, schools and event managers to operate more sustainably - and at the same time save money for these sectors and the community.

Our ACTSmart advisory service can be accessed at:

Dorte Ekelund, director-general, Environment and Sustainable Development, Dickson



Once again Tony Abbott has proved the Abbott haters (most of whom were Howard haters) wrong. Correspondents like G. Coquillette and Trevor Wilson (Letters, June 13) were a little premature in penning their vitriol regarding the PM's overseas trip.

This trip has been a resounding success, (just ask Kim Beazley), and gone a long way to repairing the damage incurred during the Rudd/Gillard era.

Owen Reid, Dunlop


Well done, Zoltan Kovacs (Letters, June 13) for taking the time to shove it to the hate-mail writers and The Canberra Times. ''Independent Always''? I don't think so.

Frank Scargill, Macarthur

Zoltan Kovacs (Letters, June 13) castigates the CT and its letter writers for their alleged nasty left-wing bias. But I suppose if you are stuck on the far-right then anything near the middle will seem left-wing.

Mr Kovacs, please don't shoot the messenger. CT, please keep up your centralist bias.

Peter Cooper, Greenway


Once again with talk of ''class warfare'' I am reminded of the observation of a well-respected commentator on the American News Hour program about 15 years ago that ''the class war is over. The rich have won.''

Bert Castellari, Curtin


Rather than criticise the report on light rail commissioned by the Liberal Party, why doesn't Simon Corbell stop relying on the original 2011 risk-free capital cost estimate of $614 million and publish updated costings for the project.

M. Silex, Greenway


There is only one certain outcome that will emerge from ASADA's latest actions. The big winners will be the lawyers!

Ian De Landelles, Hawker


So. We lose a soccer game in some far-away country and blame our loss on a cheating opposition and a cheating referee.

We lose our ridiculous bid to host this event in our own country and accuse everyone of cheating.

On Saturday morning I watched my grandson's under-14 team being thrashed by a much better opposition - his answer ''gee they were good''. I know what I prefer to call ''sport''.

Michael White, Bonner


I don't object to contributing to the welfare of other Australians who need it - or non-Australians for that matter. In fact, I am proud to be able to do so.

Michael McCarthy, Deakin

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