John Peak writes: Re. Greenswatch (yesterday, item 12). Christian Kerr’s long bows don’t merit the space in Crikey. This was Bob Brown’s motion, in support of existing, successful farming operations on King Island: “That the Senate Congratulates the King Island Council on its success in banning plantation forestry from its farmland; and Commends Forestry and Conservation Minister Eric Abetz for understanding “the view of the King Island Council and local farmers in wanting to protect their icon (sic) beef and cheese industries” (Interestingly, both the government and opposition voted against the motion). This is Bob Brown’s statement on the import of tropical rainforest timbers: “The Howard Government should ban the import of tropical rainforest timbers … Australia exports twice as much timber as it imports. We simply do not have to be part of the illegal trade … The Stern Report nails logging of the forests as a worse climate change menace than all of the world’s urban transport. Logging rainforests is also driving rare species to extinction. The only exception would be strictly inspected local mills doing selective logging – that is a responsibility Australia should require if we are to import timbers at all.” If after reading this, there is anyone who feels Christian Kerr has not insulted their intelligence, then in their case, clearly he hasn’t.

Ebony Bennett, Media Adviser to Senator Bob Brown, writes: King Island Council successfully banned plantation forestry from its farmland in order to protect its beef and cheese industries from the threat of government subsidised plantation forests. Managed Investment Schemes offer 100% tax deductibility for people who invest in plantations and drive up the price of land and water until local farmers cannot compete. Victorian dairy farmers have described the schemes as “tax subsidised social annihilation”. King Island’s beef and cheese industries should not have to compete for land and water with government subsidised plantation forests. Plantation forestry schemes should stand or fail on their own merits, just like any other industry and that is the point Greens Leader Bob Brown was making with the motion Christian Kerr was referring to.

Alona Hunter writes: Either Christian Kerr is a simpleton, or he just hates the greens, but Blind Freddy can see that the practice of chopping down trees for paper is an unsustainable practice. The powers that be HAVE to start putting money into alternative sources of paper making. Why hasn’t any government anywhere put money into developing techniques for turning hemp into quality printing paper, for instance. If Christian Kerr wants to be smart, he would do better to think of ideas to improve our future, instead of slagging off people with real passion and commitment to make a difference for the long term future of the planet.

Ecology Action’s Tom McLoughlin writes: After 15 years battling for our forests here and in South America I’m glad you raised the topic of where the wood comes from. We have a logging industry in our public native forests, but not a timber industry as such, by simple fact the trees are mostly felled for woodchips (8 million tonnes per year) for export to Japan etc for paper production. Thus we employ chainsaw operators, truckies and a handful of factory workers in highly mechanised chipmills, but not many sawmillers. The lesson from this is lots of logging but not for timber. Similarly the fall in employment and rise in woodchipping volume is well understood for 20 years now. The lesson is lots of chips and job shedding. So Green Senator Brown is saying nothing unusual to replace rainforest imports with whole logs here that otherwise would be woodchipped especially in Tasmania but also Eden in NSW. Second his comment is in the context of what all the experienced voices (!) in the forest debate already know: Plantation timber volume already far outstrips native timber in Australia for housing frames, and likely will soon enough replace appearance grade applications like furniture and floors. Thus the real timber industry (and the loggers hate hearing this) is in the existing plantation sector in volume, jobs and economic value, not native forests – that’s a PR construct.

Mark Hardcastle writes: Re. Greenswatch. It is an outrageous perversion of logic to claim, that because Crikey reports on the state of the planet, that Kerr can use this as his excuse to make an anti-Green spin – day after day. In other words, we find we are seriously damaging the planet, and Kerr thinks an appropriate response is to attack the party the gave us the early warning. We need to change how we are doing things, Christian – your vendetta against the Greens won’t change that fact.

Wendy Harmer writes: Re: the growing Tassie political scandal. The grubby political scene in Tasmania is still the festering boil on the backside of the ALP. Bully-boy Paul Lennon is an old-style union throwback of the worst kind. This latest scandal looks like another “blink, a nod and a blind eye” for union cronies in the building industry. Lennon double-crossed Mark Latham (then ALP leader) on forests and his pandering to Gunns, which has taken over 85% of the timber industry since Labor took power, is nauseating. Kim Beazley’s credentials on global warming are threadbare while he allows Lennon to run amok with a chainsaw in the Tassie forests. Does Lennon remain a protected ALP species in the name of “jobs for workers”? By ignoring value-added timber products and promoting last-century wood-chipping, Lennon has done nothing for timber workers – past or present. While the global warming tide is on the turn, I urge the ALP Feds to get down there and put Lennon back in his recycled, plantation timber box, for once and for all!

Sandy Culkoff, ABC’s Head Corporate Communications, writes: Re. How to counter bias on Counterpoint? (6 November, item 18). Guy Rundle got it wrong when he said there must be balance across “individual series, rather than the whole platforms, i.e. Radio National.” The revised ABC Editorial Polices, announced by ABC Managing Director Mark Scott last month, require impartiality across a platform – in topical and factual content as well as opinion content and not within a program such as Counterpoint, as suggested by Rundle.

Brian Cusack writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. It seems to that stem cell research and surrogacy are entirely different ideas and practices. Perhaps Crikey should keep personal morals/values out of the columns. No doubt we’ll have more than enough emotive language when the debate really gets going. Please tells us just the facts, not a personal opinion.

Bob Corcoran writes: Re. The “once in a thousand year” drought. A horse does not need to run in a hundred races before tipsters or bookies can rate it as a “100 to one shot”. But both the Prime Minister and Andrew Bolt have scorned the suggestion that we are now having a “one in a thousand year” drought. Mr Howard’s language was less extreme than Mr Bolt’s but – for people whose tools of trade include words – they both displayed a surprising ignorance of the way scientists and others use language to try to communicate with persons not involved in their technical work. Expressions like “one in a thousand years” may make it easier for us laypersons to get an idea of the size of possibilities. Alternatively, it could have been worded (and perhaps more correctly) “one chance in a thousand in any one year”, but this sounds awkward and its meaning may be more difficult to grasp. What is very clear is that both gentlemen would have been wiser – and more polite – to have sought some more information before diving in without checking the water.

Carmel O’Loughlin writes: Re. “Enjoy the champagne, but insist on a fair non-crack of the whip” (yesterday, item 11). Many thanks to Mirko Bagaric for for having the courage to describe the sanctified Melbourne Cup as it is – an indictment of the cruelty of “the sport that stops the nation” and the double standards to which we all subscribe.

Harold Thornton writes: Is the Mirko Bargaric whose concern for the welfare of whipped racehorses moved readers to tears in any way related to the Mirko Bargaric whose scribblings in the Murdoch press promote the use of torture on human beings as a legitimate means of waging the Global War On Terror?

CRIKEY: Yes, it is the same Mirko Bargaric, head of Deakin University’s Law School.

Kate McDonald writes: Regarding the debate on the relative beauty or ugliness of Sydney (yesterday, item 17), Mark Twain said it, and no one else can better it: “It is beautiful, of course it’s beautiful – the Harbour; but that isn’t all of it, it’s only half of it; Sydney’s the other half, and it takes both of them together to ring the supremacy-bell. God made the Harbour, and that’s all right; but Satan made Sydney”. I’m certain he was referring to the moral attributes of the city at the time, but he was prescient, to say the least, about its physical appearance.

Tony Ryan writes: Re. “Scrapping Aboriginal employment scheme another attempt at destroying Aboriginal identity” (6 November, item 14). Unlike Chris Graham, I don’t need to rely on self-promoting documentation of CDEP to understand its impact on Aboriginal enterprise initiatives and employment and, hence, the evolution of genuine community economies. As, variously, a project researcher for both Commonwealth and NT Governments, I recorded the impact. CDEP inarguably destroyed the few existing Aboriginal initiatives and prevented the development of others. Furthermore, it inspired innumerable embezzlements. I was far from being the only in-house critic. So why did the experimental project become a fully-fledged Programme? Because CDEP hid the actual 97% NT Aboriginal unemployment level from the public view; a strategy which condemned Aborigines to permanent welfare dependency wherever it was implemented. The argument that no alternative employment was possible is provably false and there is a list of opportunities which would have enabled full employment. What I wonder is why a cynical government which clearly has no sympathy for the deepening plight of Aborigines, would wish to expose the real level of unemployment to electoral view? Time to create some pre-election national resentment perhaps? 

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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