John Goldbaum writes:

To a capitalist by the name of Kerr
A Christian who seldom does err
His blindspot for warming of
The globe is informing of
His general reluctance to concur.

James Eggins writes: As a long-time proponent and employee of the nuclear power industry I will savour the inevitable discomfiture of the rabid anti-nuke elements of the Green movement as they slowly but inevitably come to grips with CO2 sequestration. Will their monotonous ranting about “high level nuclear wastes having to stored for centuries” be replaced by invective about “millions and millions of tonnes of CO2 having to be stored for ever?”. This is an exquisite dilemma, because the high level nuclear wastes arising from a huge (i.e. 1600 MWe) nuclear power plant after 60 years operations would be solids with a mass less than 6,000 tonnes, and being radioactive, this will decay over time. If carbon is the new “environmental plutonium”, then how do we justify eternal storage of vast amounts of it in preference to the elegant principles of nuclear decay? Please explain. (I’m in favour of solar too: just tap into the heat from the neighbourhood reactor).

Geoff Russell writes: CO2 has a very long half-life in the atmosphere and the stuff that is up there already will cause temperatures to rise for many decades – even if we magically stopped pumping the stuff out tomorrow. Hence the NASA modellers (James Hansen) are saying that the only way to stabilise temperatures while waiting for CO2 emission reduction measures to come online is to reduce anthropogenic methane emissions by about 40%. This can have an effect on temperature within a decade or so. Maybe there is another way, but the NASA boys and girls haven’t found it. The major anthropogenic sources of methane are, in decreasing order: ruminants (80), gas (49), rice (39), coal (33), human sewage (29), landfills (23). (Figures are in megatonnes – from the EDGAR 32FT2000 database). But if people would rather eat steak, have triple bypasses and die of colorectal cancer while leaving a hotter planet to their children, then who am I to complain?

Tim Warner writes: Re. Brad Ruting on the US NOAA temperature map (yesterday, comments). The reason that the United States is an island of cool on the 1960-90 temperature map is one of the many scientific questions that global warming alarmists have to answer. The most likely answer is that the US has better techniques of measurement that reduce heat island effects and is thus giving a more accurate reflection of temperature change. This implies of course that the enormous leap shown by Gore et al in the 20th century did not really happen, that the rise was much lower than that claimed. If stations in rural localities in the non-US of A are used it is amazing how the steep rise of the 1900-1940 becomes a gentle rise.

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. Christian Kerr’s hair shirt (1 November, item 7). I was horrified at Kerr’s suggestions for energy efficiency measures in the home. Replace an electric hot water heater with a gas hot water heater? Good Lord, man, what about solar hot water heaters? What about trum walls? What about double-glazing, insulation, window blankets, and all the other completely conventional, attractive and non-frightening techniques which go into solar passive housing? What about water tanks, grey- and black-water treatment systems, and solar panels? Andrew Blaikers’s group at the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering, ANU, has just developed a solar cell using much slimmer silicon pieces, which would bring the prices of these cells down enormously. He’s had to go overseas for the development of this technology, because he couldn’t get the funding in Australia. Imagine the state of aviation if people had looked at the first pathetic efforts of the Wright brothers and written the whole field off at that stage. This is exactly what has happened with “alternative energies”, which have had to beg for dregs of research dollars, and anything granted was tenuous at best. Mindsets like Kerr’s are precisely the problem. People need to stop thinking of solar, wind power, and energy efficiency as “alternative”, associating them with toke-hazy images of Nimbin. They should recognise that these , and realise that in fact they do work.

Kate Dennehy writes: The Courier-Mail had an in-depth editorial on 31 October lauding the Stern Report. “Sir Nicholas lays down a future that must be beyond politics. Our leaders should rise to the occasion.” Great stuff! Unfortunately, directly underneath that editorial was one calling for the building of the controversial Hale Street bridge on Brisbane’s southside under the heading: “Bridge-building time”. It’s commonly known that the bridge, if it goes ahead, will encourage car use as opposed to increased use of public transport. The bridge will also funnel thousands more cars and heavy trucks through the middle of the two campuses of Brisbane State High School, with more than 2,000 students. Do the Courier‘s editorial writers not understand what the Stern Report is on about, that is, we want fewer greenhouse gases, not more? And do they really care as long as their pet Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman, is happy? Anti-bridge groups have fought to get balanced stories in Queensland newspapers for most of this year. We’ve accused the editors of bias in favour of the bridge. At least, with the Courier‘s blatant editorial, we’ve been proven correct.

Stuart Ritchie, Sustainable Development Policy Manager for the Cement Industry Federation, writes: Re. “Oz finds someone to back Howard on greenhouse… briefly” (1 November, item 25). I’m not sure that Michael Pascoe actually read that Oz edition right through. There were in fact a number of related stories, two of which were remarkably similar in content – perhaps online versions make for better conspiracy theories?! I’d also suggest “desperate search” may be very much in the eye of the beholder. Apart from businesses with a vested interest in managing complex economic instruments, those industries actually impacted by rising energy costs are closely focused on energy and production efficiency improvements. Consumption, on the other hand, is a broader societal issue, barely yet on the agenda. Yes, the global 5% figure cited is correct, in Australia however, the industry contributes 1.2%. Our cement industry was an early-mover with respect to climate change management, becoming a signatory to Greenhouse Challenge in 1997. Alongside a 27% increase in total product sales, outcomes achieved include; electrical efficiency improvements of 18% and kiln fuel efficiency improvements of 37% since 1990, a 24% reduction in specific carbon CO2 emissions and total CO2 emissions abated of 1.5 mtpa resulting in emissions level remaining at 1990 levels. I would take the liberty to suggest that this demonstrates that a technological approach can achieve real improvements.

Mike Shuttleworth writes: Am I the only one who immediately thinks of Dad’s Army when I hear John Howard shout “don’t panic!” about climate change?

John Taylor writes: Re. “Was Australia’s longest serving PM a philanderer?” (yesterday, item 1). Why would Gavin Souter think that James Fairfax would tell him that his mother had had a carnal affair with Sir Robert Menzies? Hands up any son in the room who would expect his mother to tell him of such a liaison while she drew breath?

Niall Clugston writes: My grandfather claimed to have first hand knowledge that Ming was having an affair with the scrumptious Pavlova.

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Don’t buy into talk of a coup in Fiji” (yesterday, item 2). It is a pity that you left the best bits out of your quote from Dr Steven Ratuva, senior fellow in governance at University of the South Pacific in Suva. Following on after the very reasoned views he puts forward in your extract from his website, he goes on as follows: “One of the ethno-cultural stereotypes dominant in the perceptions of mainstream Australian and New Zealand media (and of course governments and some of their citizens) is that Fiji is part of the dreaded ‘arc of instability’ stretching across Melanesia. The people in these countries, it is assumed, are of inferior cultural and intellectual dispositions and are often prone to corruption, bad governance and institutional chaos.” And “Over the years these naïve and racist thoughts have been whipped up by some conservative Australian journalists and academics”. Fiji experienced a constitutional crisis in 1977, two coups in 1987 and another in 2000 which resulted in killings and suspension from the Commonwealth. Now in 2006 the Fijian military commander (Frank Bainimarama) is publicly raising the possibility of a repeat of the bloodshed. I don’t believe that I am guilty of “naïve and racist thoughts” if I believe that Fiji is prone to “bad governance and institutional chaos”. It’s true.

Ashley Midalia writes: In his article on Fijilive, Dr Ratuva lists five “possible factors which compel foreign journalists to be so coup excited”. Most of these imply an absence of cultural sensitivity or nuanced understanding or else a desire to invent good copy. There are two rather central factors he fails to mention, however: 1. The extant cultural (and therefore political) tension between the two dominant ethnic groups within Fiji. 2. The fact that coups have happened in Fiji before – three times actually – despite Dr Ratuva’s assertion that “every time they [the media] make these coup predictions they are wrong, very wrong indeed.” Dr Ratuva’s asks, “Why is everyone so eager to conclude that a coup is imminent in Fiji every time the military commander Frank Bainimarama makes an anti-government statement?” Could be something to do with the fact that, in countries where coups are improbable, military commanders aren’t in the business of making anti-government statements.

Frank Golding writes: Re. “Chasing a replacement for The Glass House” (yesterday, item 14). The claim that “Some would argue that the ABC axed The Glass House because the organisation is scared of success” is weak. A better explanation is that the ABC has been struck out on political interference and intimidation from the bully-boys of the right. Strike 1: The decision to launch our public broadcaster’s new guidelines in the offices of a well-known right-wing private think tank was an appalling error of judgement. No doubt Mr Howard’s appointees to the ABC Board were pleased and appeased by the symbolism, especially when accompanied with Managing Director Scott’s explicit threat to Media Watch. Strike 2: The decision to renege on Jonestown was clear evidence of the weakening of the ABC’s independence and integrity. The commercial publishers are going to make a fortune at the expense of the timid ABC. Strike 3: The axing of The Glass House, one of the most popular satirical programs and one that brings to the ABC a new mostly young audience – and a program at the height of its popularity – can only be construed as political self-censorship. Satire by its very nature focuses on power-holders and many of them get their noses out of joint. But to buckle at the knees when the powerful object is a pathetic and inappropriate over-reaction. Three strikes and the ABC is down and out. It has finally lost its independence.

Christopher Young writes: I was rather surprised by yesterday’s comments section. Very little feedback on the axing of The Glass House. Some may say I’m over-reacting a bit, but the first thing that came to mind when I heard this news was the Chinese Government and their level of censorship. Will the government try and shut down anyone who criticises it from now? Or is this an example of media diversity? I have always voted Liberal, but for some reason this really rubs me the wrong way. They have certainly lost my vote from now on.

Tony Berry writes: Re. The Glass House. Wil, Dave and Corinne, and their supporters, should stop looking for conspiracy theories and face the fact they have ceased to be funny – if they ever were. Taking undergrad pot-shots at predictable easy targets to an underscore of Corinne’s nervous giggle and Dave’s grating whine is hardly the stuff of leading-edge satire. Even the mostly pallid guests were beginning look sharper than the stars.

John Peak writes: In the ABC’s 50th anniversary advertisement, John Clarke (may God forgive him) asks: what can you give an audience that has everything? Well, clearly nothing. You just start taking stuff away. Vale The Glass House.

Gavin Robertson writes: Re. Tripping Over. While it’s good to see that Tripping Over is holding a reasonable audience here, it’s a pity the same can’t be said for its performance in the UK (whose Channel 5 have co-produced the series). The opening episode got less than a million viewers, a 5% audience share, last weekend. If this figure doesn’t pick up dramatically I can’t see them sticking around as co-producers for a second series.

Chris Colenso-Dunne writes: Re. Aussie women can wear what they want – can they? Part of the response to Hilaly’s comments about scantily clad women has been the assertion that Australian women have the right to wear what they want free from retribution. Since when? Not so long ago the local Caliban (Cairns Taliban), responding to some outraged residents who with binoculars could perv at the beach from their homes, prosecuted a Kiwi man and his wife who had removed their clothes on what they had mistakenly taken for a clothes-optional strip at the southern end of Ellis Beach. The magistrate fined both Kiwis $50, with no conviction recorded, stating that nudity on a beach offended most Australians. Just as in the puritan dominated US, few women go topless on beaches in wowser controlled Australia compared to Roman Catholic France, Spain or Italy or Lutheran Denmark, Sweden or Norway. I grant that a woman who was merely cavorting topless on an Australian beach would probably get away with merely dirty looks from her outraged sisterhood, but were she to walk topless down the main street, she would almost certainly be arrested and charged with a public order offence by the boys and girls modestly clad in blue. Women wear what they want? Airborne porkers!

Max Wallace writes: Richard Hurford (yesterday, comments) disagrees with my claim that in the 1981 High Court Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) case separation of church and state was defined out of existence. He argues “a partial separation remains.” He is concerned the “no religious test” clause of s.116 of the Constitution might be contravened by Howard’s proposal to put chaplains into state schools. But the “no religious test” means anyone is eligible for a public office in Australia irrespective of their religion. That is why ministers of religion can stand for parliament and why Howard was able to appoint Archbishop Hollingworth as Governor-General. The situation is similar in New Zealand although they do not have a written Constitution. An Anglican archbishop, Sir Paul Reeves, was appointed Governor-General there from 1985 to 1990. Chaplains have been allowed in state schools in NZ since the mid-1990s. He is right that the founding fathers intended separation of church and state, but the 1981 High Court with its six Knights of the British Empire was having none of that. However, the issue Richard raises of chaplains for the armed forces is tricky. That will need some thought when we abolish our Constitutional Monarchy and draft our formalised separation of church and state for the Australian Republic. Unfortunately the Australian Republican Movement has not even got as far as arguing for separation.

Paul Martin writes: Correction to Michael Tormey’s article yesterday (item 25) – “US Treasury sniffs out Columbian soccer drug connection” – the name of the country in question is spelled “Colombia”, not “Columbia”. An amusing article nonetheless.

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Peter Fray

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