Daniel Kogoy writes: My preferred mode of transport to and from work is the bicycle, largely because I love cycling, though there is also a part of me that has enjoyed thinking of those carbon credits that accrue with each pedal stroke. I also feel good when people congratulate me for doing my bit for the environment. However I have a dilemma: I need to have an extra shower each day so as not to stink up the office, the result being increased use of precious energy and water. My commute is about five kilometres each way. Can someone please tell me the maximum duration for the second shower that would still produce a carbon profit? Would a cold shower have less of an impact? I’m willing to shower with the lights off if that helps. If the result is a carbon deficit, how many trees do I need to plant in order to cycle to work with a clean conscience?

Andrew Lewis writes: At the risk of being a smarta-se (whoops, too late) one would have to think that the answer to our problems is to fill large areas of Warragamba Dam’s catchment area with solar cells. At least we will be able to eliminate one of our two major problems. It’s either gonna rain and produce less energy or be cloud free and punching out the watts. At the risk of being serious (not for long), why hasn’t anyone thought of insisting that anyone who buys an air conditioner has to also install solar cells on their roof. It’s so obvious I can’t believe I am the only person who has thought of it. Building a nuclear power station so that we can generate that extra 10% power for the 1% peak times is self evidently stupid. The brilliance of my scheme is that the solar cells would be pumping out the greatest amount of power at exactly the time when the air conditioners are draining it. Somebody will write in to tell me the flaw in the plan, but I bet it has little to do with logic and everything to do with economic and political realities.

Mary Jane writes: It was very interesting to read the article Mark Bahnisch wrote about Centrelink’s Dole Diary (yesterday, item 8). It is common knowledge that applications sent to a Government Department are rarely if ever acknowledged and the rule rather than exception is that only candidates who were shortlisted and interviewed will be notified of an outcome. Ironically, I suspect Centrelink would be no different. Do they have a written departmental policy that states all applications will be acknowledged and the applicants notified if unsuccessful? Maybe the job seekers should fill their diaries with applications for the public service, specifically Centrelink. No courtesy is shown to job seekers by the Government Departments.

Troy Hey, Foster’s Manager of External Communications, writes: Re. “Foster’s fibbed in blaming ASA for attempted media ban” (yesterday, item 21). While all this cloak and dagger, media exclusion stuff makes a great story, the facts and the story seem to have parted ways over the last few days. Foster’s decided this year not to continue its usual practice of hosting a dedicated media briefing – including dial-in access for journalists unable to attend – in an adjoining room. Invited media was informed that their was no separate briefing but were very welcome to attend, and those that did, spoke to the Chairman and CEO following the event. Foster’s nowhere “blamed” the ASA for our decision not to hold a separate briefing – but their preferences, as with those of all our shareholders, rightly play a part in any decision – especially on the one day a year dedicated solely to them. It’s as simple, and ultimately straightforward, as that.

Bert Van Manen writes: Re. “Christian Right should take over Australian politics: former Family First candidate” (yesterday, item 1). As a Christian I would have to agree with Irfan’s concerns and that of others present at the meeting. It is not the church’s role to Christianise the nation through becoming leaders of the nation and forcing Christian beliefs on others. It is, however, the church’s role to act as the conscience of the nation and speak with politicians and leaders about the effects of their decisions on society. I acknowledge that this will necessarily result in a biblical standard of morals and ethics being recommended and sought, however if anyone can supply me with a better basis from which build the moral and ethical fibre of our society I would be interested to hear about it. We are all (Christians, Muslims, Atheists etc) responsible for the present situation in society; the question is which set of tools are we going to use to fix the problems that are so readily evident. We have had 40 years of doing away with a Christian morality and ethics in our society on the pretence that it will provide a better society. I would argue that this experiment has been to date an abject failure and that it is time to return to a Christian worldview.

Alan Mahoney writes: Don’t be too rough on the farmers. There are shonky accountants, dodgy pollies and shifty millionaire Yanks in charge of public assets, so it’s hardly a surprise that there are some farmers that are ill-prepared for a ten year drought. The problem is that no matter how prepared a farmer might be, when the value of outstanding loans approaches that of the net value of assets, something has to give. This drought is so severe it will take at least three good years to get most farmers back into the black, let alone actually making money. The climate is changing, but it will rain again regardless; we’ll know if farming is unsustainable when farmers start to quit while they’ve got government support. Unfortunately I fear that our city-based population will only really understand how good they’ve had it when the local producers are gone, and the cheap imports start to become a very expensive headache.

Fraser Crozier writes: Last time I looked, farming communities were slowly dying. The victims are moving to the cities which leads to ever increasing demands on resources that most cities have no chance of sustaining, yet the farming communities which have plenty of room to support the people, cater for growth, provide employment opportunities, etc etc etc, are being ignored. Pour some capital into the communities, if not for sustaining agriculture as much as for maintaining a culture, full stop. A place where you can enjoy bringing up a family. If it were left to the Andrew Bartletts of this world, we’d pull the plug on the farmers and all move into the big smoke. In 20 years, we’ll have four metropolises jammed to the hilt, with no water, with places you wouldn’t let a stray dog sneak through in the dead of night, and vast open spaces in the country without a soul in sight.

Chris Davis writes: In response to Dr Mirko Bagaric in “Opposing the veil – involuntary apartheid” (yesterday, item 13). This is truly an interesting subject and a great civil rights debating point. Along with the Jewish skullcaps, ludicrously spiked punk hairdos and Sikh turbans I do feel that their main point is about public demonstration of their difference. I am not overly rapt in garish large obvious cross jewellery either. However, I strongly object to anyone being told what to and what not to wear, and perhaps myself would like the right to wear in public any of the above accessories, to take the proverbial, in the old fashioned Australian way that far more demonstrates our equality than any other device I know. So I think I can resolve that one myself, the bigger struggle I have now is to keep telling motorcyclists to remove their helmets in banks and convenience stores…

Sue Harrison writes: Bravo, Dr Mirko Bagaric, for his stand on personal freedoms such as the right to wear hijab, crucifix, turban or any other marker of religion or non-religion. In recent years whining about feeling uncomfortable or offended – the coward’s way of having power over others without taking responsibility for one’s actions and reactions – has become ever more pervasive: just play the victim and demand that others change to suit you. The price we pay for living in a free society is that sometimes we’re going to offend and sometimes we’re going to be offended, and if that’s too much for some of our more delicate petals, tough! (Pardon my cynicism, but when politicians like Tony Blair and Jack Straw go all swoony, I find myself asking if their real intention could just possibly be to whip up ethnic tensions: after all, in times of crisis the voters tends to stick with what they know.)

Diane Newcombe writes: The perfect response to Dr Bagarac’s claims that opposition to the face veil is all about Western prejudice is Anne Applebaum’s article in Slate. In “Multicultural Manners: Removing a full-face veil at work is simply a matter of manners”, Ms Applebaum addresses the issue of face veils in the workplace without resorting to Dr Bagarac’s inflammatory tone and tries to explain why the veil does cause such deep reactions in the West. Tolerance to difference in a multicultural society is a two way street and seems to have worked well in Australia since the 1950s until we met up with the Islamic approach to tolerance.

Helen Barnes writes: Dr Mirko Bagaric writes: “It is also absurd to suggest that we have a right to view the faces of those with whom we come into contact.” Yes, we do have a right to see the faces of those with whom we interact. Facial expression is vital to accurate human communication. Even knowing to whom you’re talking is pretty tricky without it. If a woman wants to wear such a ridiculous garment on her own time, more power to her, but she should understand that most of us find it just plain rude. And it makes little children cry!

Perry Gretton writes: Re. Dr Mirko Bagaric’s comments, I’m intimidated by those who wear reflective sunglasses. It’s like a confrontation with a robot. At least I have eye contact with a Muslim woman who wears a veil. However, if she were to wear those sunglasses as well, I’d be seriously discomposed.

Dave Liberts writes: Re. “That’s the Pacific for you!”: How DFAT deflects criticism (yesterday, item 2). Roger de Robillard’s piece on the Federal Government’s attitude to the Pacific nations includes a reference to DFAT’s tactic of brushing off criticism of its heavy-handedness with reminders about how much aid we provide to these same countries. It’s a mindset that the Government has adopted on a range of sensitive policy areas. I recall the lead-up to the 1998 Federal election, when my local Liberal MP put out a flier discussing the Government’s response to the Wik judgement (aka the ten-point plan). It explained that the Government needed to extinguish native title because farmers and miners needed more certainty than they felt the Wik judgement had created. Outrageously, though, the flier linked this issue to the Government’s spending on Aboriginal health and welfare, clearly implying “what are they whingeing about – we’re already spending a heap on them”. My housemate and I turned up to abuse the MP at a local shopping centre the following week, and at least he had the decency to discuss it with us rather than running away from our loud suggestions he was racist. He couldn’t understand what our problem with it was, though. I don’t think DFAT’s response is a tactic or a strategic game, I think it’s just evidence of the Government’s deep-seated belief that they know what is best for coloured folks, who couldn’t be expected to have their own good ideas about their future.

Timothy Ashton writes: Thank you, Mr Robillard. How true, how misguided. Our aid that is. When Bougainville elected its autonomous government 15 months ago there was a tremendous opportunity to build on the goodwill and optimism of the people. Australia had the opportunity to build and develop this goodwill with some relatively (miniscule compared to RAMSI) small LOANS targeted at developing economic infrastructure and getting the people down at the village level working a producing cocoa and copra. (Yes, they did distribute 12 million hybrid cocoa trees of the same variety that are now being ripped out and replaced in Central America). Along with helping the people back onto the plantations, these loans could have been directed at helping the Bougainvilleans market their own produce instead of the profits being taken offshore in Singapore and Australia. Developing relationships with the manufacturers of organic chocolate in Europe, as has been done by VIDA in Vanuatu, would effectively double the return to the producers, or in the case of direct marketing of Copra, nearly tripling their returns. But just as the cynics of the Middle East said of Arafat, that he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity; the same applies to Australia, especially on Bougainville.

Bill Gemmell writes: I’ve been taught to listen politely when others speak, but I’m afraid Roger de Robillard, in discussing the Solomons situation, loses my attention the instant he resorts to name-calling (Australia’s “bully approach”). I’d suggest to Roger that his emotive language does no more than flag a (political?) self-interest that adds nothing to his credibility, but then as a barrister you’d think he’d already know that.

John Richardson writes: Re. Does Coles have two sets of performance targets? (yesterday, item 4). While I can’t take issue with Crikey’s assertion that Rob Lake is a “retail expert” (whatever that might mean), it seems clear that he is inexpert in the design of remuneration packages. It has been common business practice for decades to structure remuneration packages so that they contain both “fixed” & “variable” (at risk) components, with the latter subject to the attainment of specific performance outcomes (usually sales revenue or profit related). As the term implies, the “variable” (at risk) component of such packages usually varies, normally commencing for results achieved well below 100% of budget & increasing against a pre-determined scale of achievement. This type of remuneration package exposes employees to financial consequences arising from their non-performance, whilst likewise partly protecting employers in the same way. It is also usual for the” variable” (at risk) component of such packages to be structured so that additional payments are available for over-budget achievement. The fixed and variable mix of such packages, as well as their aggregate value, is usually a function of the marketplace & the company’s own remuneration strategy. Lake also uses the terms “bonus” and “incentive” in the same context, when they are actually very different reward mechanisms – a bonus is a “discretionary” payment, arbitrarily determined by management & usually based on collective performance. Incentives are individual, defined & contractual in nature. It is arguable that, as an experienced businessman and former Coles Director, Solomon Lew should be familiar with such common remuneration practices and that he may have been deliberately mischievous in alleging discrepancies in the Coles profit targets; which potentially makes Lake an old fashioned cats-paw.

Drew Turney writes: Re. “Why the terrorism book was shelved” (yesterday, item 15). Pan MacMillan is sketchy in its details of why Australian Jihad was shelved? Are you surprised? This is the best PR coup Pan MacMillan could hope for in marketing its book. Next year when it does come out, it won’t just be another one in the production line of books about terrorism, it’ll be the one that was banned, a guaranteed generator of column centimetres. Just ask the producers of A Clockwork Orange and the publishers of The Hite Report if their work being banned in a few territories hurt eventual sales.

Ru Hartwell, Director of Treeflights.com, writes: Re. Allan Lehepuu’s questions on carbon offset treeplanting (yesterday, comments). Yes, fire damage would seriously undermine the validity of what we are doing. We are growing these trees in the uplands of mid-Wales, (GB). Forest fires are almost unheard of in this area because of the amount of rainfall we receive. This is not mono-culture, single species softwood plantation that is more prone to rapid fire spread. On the contrary, we plant a mixture of 12 species of hardwood types with open glades. In Wales we don’t have a “summer” like you do Down Under. A couple of years ago, it rained for 100 days on the trot. Beyond that, most predictions for climate change in this part of the world are for increased rainfall during the summer months. We receive no “tax breaks” or grants for this planting.

Dunley Voss writes: Re. Nine disses The Sopranos again. One could almost forgive Nine for focusing on commercial priorities when dropping or moving around programs, but it would be nice if they wouldn’t be so arrogant when they are being asked about it. The Sopranos Army has been aggrieved again after printed guides in Sydney listed the next episode as broadcast Wednesday midnight, while in fact it had already been on on Monday morning. This comes after the show was bumped earlier, after two episodes, from a Thursday evening slot. Given the timing, the show is generally taped for later viewing so aficionados only realised this morning they had missed an episode of a show that is hard to follow even when viewed in its entirety. Channel Nine clearly takes the view that if the Australian public isn’t sophisticated enough to watch a show in sufficient numbers to keep it in one timeslot, they deserve no sympathy. I for one was told sarcastically “it’s all very sad but what do you want me to do about it?” They basically admit they knew it was going to make some people unhappy, but at least they had “promo-ed” the time change. Unfortunately, people watching The Sopranos are unlikely to watch anything else on Nine, so chances are they missed any promos during Survivor or Days of our Lives

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