Tim Hollo writes: Re. “Saving SE Asia’s forests at the expense of our own?” (yesterday, item 4). Once again, Mr Howard is trying to force developing nations to do something he himself refuses to do at home. The developing nations are well within their rights to say, as they do, go get your own house in order before you come lecturing us. The hypocrisy of trying to stop logging in PNG and Indonesia without doing so in Tassie has already been pointed out. But it goes beyond that to the very heart of Mr Howard’s climate stance – fear of economic restructuring. Mr Howard won’t tackle coal in Australia because he doesn’t have the guts to bring on the massive economic restructure that would entail. But what he is proposing would force just such radical economic restructuring for PNG, Indonesia and the other developing nations this plan targets. Their economies depend as much, if not more, on currently illegal logging as ours does on coal. If the plan works, and sets up a just transitions process to help these countries stop illegal logging, that’d be marvellous, from a biodiversity and human rights perspective, let alone climate. But the question must be asked, if it’s good enough for them, why are we too precious to take it on at home?

John Hayward writes: Prof David Lindenmayer barely scratched the surface of the PM’s bottomless hide in describing Howard’s announced plan to save the world’s forests. Howard oversees the fastest proportional rate of native forest clearance in the developed world in Tasmania, a rate presently similar to Brazil’s, but due to leave it for dead once the proposed Gunns pulp mill, initially using 80% native forest wood, gets smoking. Tasmania, of course, differs dramatically from those countries Howard means to rescue, as its frenetic logging is perfectly legal. Tasmanian loggers will also receive close to $150,000,000 this year in public subsidies, enough to make much of the developed world green by comparison. They are expected, however, to give a fair dollop back to their parliamentary benefactors.

Victoria Mack writes: I was listening to Malcolm Turnbull announcing in Parliament yesterday the “new global initiative on forests and climates” which will address emissions from deforestation and therefore climate change by helping Third World countries in SE Asia manage their forests better, reduce illegal logging, deforestation and unsustainable forest practices. I am amazed that the commentators haven’t really got onto this one yet … the Howard government is moving our environmental obligations offshore. It is “their” problem, a problem of others, and all we have to do is give a few hundred million over a few years and our expertise (probably paying Australians to do the work) and we can absolve ourselves of doing anything at home, including upsetting the coal industry. Yet, Australia has cleared more than 65% of Australia’s land mass, which is continuing to this day. What a gall telling others to stop clearing when we haven’t stopped it here. Think about it … Part of the solution to climate problems is planting new forests. Forests need land – lots of it. We will not have enough land for all our reforestation needs. Agriculture and developers are unlikely to give over valuable farm land and land for development to lesser value forestry plantations unless a profitable carbon trading scheme is introduced. So who has land? I was in Africa last year. Their land shortages per capita are already dire. It will, however, be relatively easy to buy this land from landlords for cash, which over time will leave even more people having to survive on even less land. The poor in the developing world will be required to give up their land on which so very many depend, to meet global forestry needs enabling the West to buy carbon credits and continue on their merry way. There is a land grab and crisis looming and it will be the poor who will give over their land to forests under the guise of “help” from Australia and the West. Downer is already talking to the USA and UK about this great initiative. We can then all happily purchase their carbon credits for peanuts. This will happen too. The coalition government doesn’t want to act here, so is now making a hero if itself supposedly helping its neighbours. Other Western countries will do the same in Africa. See through it. It is another imperialist attack on the world’s weakest people.

Dr Mark Duffett, Tasmanian geophysicist, writes: Though it may well have been more by accident than design, the Howard Government may have got it exactly right in directing $200m worth of trees to South East Asia rather than closer to home. Recent work published in Geophysical Research Letters (see press release here) has indicated that tropical forests do indeed act as a cooling agent, by increased evapotranspiration as well as carbon storage. But – read this slowly – planting forests in temperate regions (eg southern Australia) may increase global warming. This apparently counterintuitive effect results from decreased albedo (reflectivity) of forest in comparison to grassland or bare ground. Over time, as the forest matures, the carbon uptake effects are outweighed by the continuing elevated absorption of solar energy. So perhaps the likes of Prof Lindenmayer might like to ponder a little more before advocating turning the Tasmanian economy on its head. Like about the effects on established groundwater regimes of tree plantations on former farmland, for instance. And how exactly farmers can be “on board” while watching trees grow on what was their dairy pasture. Given the potential impacts of changing land cover type, it’s far from evident that “it is totally unacceptable to clear native forests to plant plantation timber” in Tasmania.

Ashley Midalia writes: Re. “As Zimbabwe burns, regime leaders’ children study down under” (yesterday, item 1). Rather than seeking to pack them off and send them home, shouldn’t we be pleased that the children of members of the Mugabe regime are studying in Australia, where they will be exposed to a (relatively) democratic country, its free speech and open exchange of ideas on university campuses? At the very least, they’ll get a different take on Zimbabwean politics than they would at home. And maybe they’ll go back to their ruined homeland and ask their daddies a few curly questions. I mean, sure, let’s not have them taking military studies or nuclear physics, but studying something more benign at an Australian university can surely only encourage critical thinking about the way things are run at home.

Michele Stephens writes: The children of the blacklisted Mugabe government officials supposedly studying in Australia would probably be living via credit card transactions (funds deposited in Zimbabwe or elsewhere and spent here). Is the RBA taking any action? Thinking of action, why doesn’t the world’s greatest anti-terrorist campaigner George W Bush transfer his focus from Iraq to Zimbabwe? It would be much easier to capture Mugabe than Osama bin Laden.

Robin Wingrove writes: Re. “Alan Ramsey’s VIP fleet hypocrisy” (yesterday, item 13). I thank Gerard Henderson for the exercise as every time I see an article by him about hypocrisy I have to rush out to the kitchen to see that the pot and the kettle aren’t at war.

Sven Svenson writes: What more would we expect from Gerald Henderson? VIP fleet is no small ticket item. Two years ago the fleet cost tax payers $60 million per year. Virgin would put about 180 passengers in a 737-800 series (same as Business Jet). When the government entered the lease agreements in 2001 for these aircraft it might be noted that there was a sudden increase in PM & Foreign Ministerial overseas travel! Doesn’t look like seating capacity is the problem.

Megan Yarrow writes: As a subscriber, it is very disappointing to read the views of shills such as Gerard Henderson in Crikey. I can get those for free elsewhere. What I pay Crikey for is independent, and intellectually honest journalism and commentary. In any case, Henderson’s story does not make sense. The only conclusion I can draw from the story is that, in his strange worldview, taking a consistent and non-partisan view of an issue causes people to die.

Tom Richman writes: Re. “So there’s influence and influence?” (yesterday, item 8). When John Howard says jobs will be lost should Australia sign up to the Kyoto Protocol or implement recommendations in the Stern Report, is he really letting us know that capitalism and environmental sustainability might be mutually exclusive? Now there’s a can of worms.

Peter Wachtel writes: Re. “Open and shut: Hicks is guilty” (Wednesday, item 12). All these comments from your readers proclaiming that military tribunals are not lawful obviously have not heard of the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, the decree issued on 8 August, 1945. The Tribunal was a trial before a panel of judges rather than a jury and allowed for hearsay evidence. As you disagree with Military Tribunals now I can only assume you would have disagreed with them after WWII. You would have seen and agreed with people like Martin Bormann, Wilhelm Frick, Hermann Goring and Rudolph Hess walking free because the Tribunal in your view was illegal. There was also the US Nuremberg Military Tribunals which dealt with the Doctors and Judges Trials. Quite a few were imprisoned. Again they should never have been held responsible for anything based on your views.

Greg Poropat writes: Philip Ruddock told Parliament that in the prisoner exchange agreement covering David Hicks, only the United States would be able to change the length of his custodial sentence. Given our Government’s form, the Attorney-General and the Australian officials who negotiated the arrangement should sign statutory declarations certifying that Australia did not propose this provision to be inserted in the agreement. One can see the strategy: “We have to have Hicks home but we don’t want to be pressured into releasing him, so let’s manufacture the arrangement saying this was the only way he can home.” Am I too cynical?

Drew Turney writes: People are getting the Hicks issue muddled. The issue of whether he should sit in Guantanamo Bay for five years and the issue of whether he is a terrorist or not are totally separate. Until his plea, the issue was that he deserved a fair trial. Even serial killers, child molesters and mass rapists do. Justice and sentencing are far from perfect in our society, but following the theory of the due process of an impartial court hearing where all the facts are (emotionlessly) considered before guilt or innocence is assigned is all we have to separate us from mob rule, and that’s what separates us from animals. Now he’s issued his plea, the issue is: if he pleads guilty, or is found to be guilty, he should serve a sentence.

Holger Lubotzki writes: Last night on TV I saw one of the British Marines held by the Iranians confess that they had entered Iranian waters when they were arrested. If we apply the same standards and logic that Faris and Ruddock have applied to David Hicks then it’s an open and shut case! No need for any further analysis or debate! In which case would Faris and Ruddock please contact Tony Blair right away and tell him to pull his head in and stop posturing?

Nathan Quigley writes: Re. “Nationals’ dilemma in NSW” (yesterday, item 11). The four Nationals seats referred to in your article are Murray-Darling, Tweed, Dubbo and Tamworth. Of these seats the Nats won Tweed and Murray-Darling. Murray-Darling was notionally National after the redistribution but had a Labour sitting member. Whatever your thoughts on Murray-Darling are, it is entirely untrue to say that the Nationals were hopeful of winning four additional seats but only won one. By the way that modest 0.6% represented an overall swing of about 10%.

Jim Sutcliffe writes: How about a campaign to have all politicians (State and Federal) alcohol and drug tested prior to each sitting day? I am aware that their decisions are not as critical to the wellbeing of the nation as the results of a sporting event. But if they wish to shoot their mouths off about the drugs in sport issue, maybe it would be nice to know that their thinking is not impaired before they involve the nation in conflicts or staging of A1 sporting events etc.

Mike Smith writes: Re. “Pot-holes in the AFL’s drug boasts” (yesterday, item 19). Adam, what does salary really have to do with illicit drug testing? The only type of testing you should be doing is for performance enhancing drugs. If you’re going to play the role-model card, you ought to ban use of legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol – you don’t want alcohol consuming players acting as role models for kids, surely? But that would upset Fosters, which is one of your major sponsors…

Chris Ewart writes: Isn’t it great to have to have AFL back, just so we can hear comments like Clynton Grybas on Fox last night, who described the match-up between Chris Judd (West Coast) and Adam Goodes (Sydney) as being like “a paint-off between Michelangelo and Rembrandt”. I kid you not. How about a contest for the best (worst) cliché or comment from a footy commentator this season?

Nigel Brunel writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Don’t lie detector tests have to be yes/no answers to questions – not “what’s in your briefcase” type questions?

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “David Oldfield, please explain” (yesterday, item 14). Surely I’m not the only person who doesn’t give a flying f-ck about who Oldfield slipped the sausage to? I know I dislike Oldfield’s political agenda; I don’t need any other reason to dislike him and frankly would prefer not to have that image manifest over lunch.

Peter Scruby writes: David Oldfield may well have been telling the truth when he denied sleeping with Pauline Hanson… he may have been awake the entire night.

Matt Hardin writes: Fred Hodson (yesterday, comments) in trying to correct the units for information transmission further muddies the waters. “B” is for bytes (a unit of information). Lower case “b” is for bits (there are 8 bits to a byte). This website explains it all very clearly (http://www.bisnotb.com/). It is never correct to use a lower case “m” for Mega (prefix meaning 1 000 000) this is reserved for milli (prefix meaning 1/1000), similarly Giga (1 000 000 000) is always with a capital “G”.

Tim Marsh writes: Not sure Fred Hodson is right on bits and Bytes. Generally, in the telecommunications sector (in which I work), we can specify data/line rates in terms of bits per second (bps) or Bytes per second (Bps). Equally we can specify storage in bits or Bytes. Bytes are generally specified in capitalised letters, eg GB, whereas bits are specified in lowercase Gb. The two are basically interchangeable, if you specify them correctly. Semantics, I suppose.

Greg Cameron, Urban Rainwater Systems Pty Ltd, writes: Chris Vickers (yesterday, comments) fails to recognise that rainwater tanks operate interchangeably with the mains water supply. When tanks empty, supply automatically switches to mains, thereby providing continuity of supply. When rain occurs, supply automatically switches to tank. Based on actual daily rainfall in 2006, four 670 litre tanks collecting rainwater from an average house (175 square metre roof area) in Sydney would have yielded 80KL costing $1/KL; and Melbourne/Brisbane 65KL costing $1.25/KL. This compares with desalinated seawater $1.73 – $1.98/KL and recycled sewage $2.23 – $2.61/KL. Household indoor water consumption is 150KL constant throughout the year – every drop of collected rainwater can be used indoors.

John Hunwick writes: The idea that small rainwater tanks of 4500 litres will save urban Australia from water restrictions is nonsense. Here in Port Lincoln a new development is requiring the installation of 24,400 litre (5000 gallon) tanks for every bedroom. This is in an area receiving on average 500 mm annual rainfall. Using 500 mm (ie 0.5 metres of water per year) and a house with a roof of 180 sq metres, then the amount of rain falling on that roof in one year is 0.5m x 180 sq.m = 90 cubic metres. This is 90,000 litres. Provided the water in a tank is being constantly used and thus making room for more rainwater, then on average 2 x 24,400 litre tanks should be sufficient. Of course to be even more certain of catching all the rain no matter when it comes then one or more additional tanks is required. For the average householder the expenditure on two tanks and pump (provided there is room on the block) should be less than $6000. Of course that amount of money would buy (on average – with no future price increases) 6000 kilolitres or 6,000,000 litres! Of course it would only buy 6000 litres of bottled water. The reason for spending money on rainwater tanks of a reasonable size (3000 gallons +) is to save social costs (bigger waste treatment plants, more pipelines, desalination expenditure, etc) and environmental costs (greater energy use, more CO2 production, etc). One advantage of a house with a good set of tanks is that the value of that house should be greater than one without, and therefore, in time the householder should get a reasonable return.

Jim Hart writes: Further to the comments about apologising for slavery or any other past injustice (yesterday, comments), if a group of people alive today recognise a kinship with a group that behaved abominably in the past, it’s not such a bad thing to express some regret to the descendants of the victims. It won’t erase the sins of the past but it might help mitigate the lingering resentment of the present and just possibly could enhance our chances of behaving better in the future. Aside from that, if we aren’t willing to share any sense of shame for the sins of our collective ancestors then we have no right to take pride in their achievements either. If it’s OK to proudly wave a flag on Anzac Day in honour of Gallipoli, then it’s OK to say sorry for transporting African slaves or taking Australian children from their families. Even John Howard agrees politicians should say sorry (but only if you’re Japanese).

Julietta Cerin, Vegetarian Action, writes: Re: “The Crikey Water Diet – Part I” (Monday, item 5). “Not that anything is ever that simple. There’s methane output too of course, and here, some might venture that vegetarians are bigger contributors.” Is this supposed to be a joke? It’s a very weak attempt… The UN FAO report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, released in November 2006, identified that livestock produce 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than road transport. And of course, those livestock would not be around to create those emissions if we didn’t raise and kill over 52 billion animals per year for food. So, sorry Jane, vegetarians can continue feeling smug – a vegetarian diet has much lower impact for global warming too. See here.

Viggo Pedersen writes: My version of Microsoft Word doesn’t like electable in “Peter Costello, the Abjorensen theory goes, is too closely tied to Howard and 11 years of Liberal rule to be electable.” So I asked it: what do you suggest? Answer: my first preference is “delectable”: I love software with attitude. And the spell check doesn’t like Costello.

Jeff Bye writes: In the latest grand Crikey tradition of pointing out pedantic errors, both Christian Kerr (Wednesday, item 11) and Mike Smythe (yesterday, comments) fail to correctly name Yatala Labour Prison. It is not a prison for Labor Politicians, whether or not they have grizzly, or grisly, beards.

John Walters writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. “To Amanda Vanstone: “Ha un nuovoro lavoro?””. Crikey, your Italian is as good as Amanda’s Mandarin. “Nuovo” indeed!

Phil Doyle writes: Richard Farmer (yesterday, comments) will be pleased to know that Bodalla Cheese is made in Granville. Must be Laurie Ferguson’s efforts. Think of it – the rolling hills of Clyde and the Friesians lowing in the mist beside the Bolt Street bridge.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 28: “Do we see signs of sensible policy activism from Labor? Do we not read frequently of the gummint rejecting Labor ideas in a sharper and more focussed way than we have become used to. Could this be another sign, like the punters making Federal Labor favourites to win?” Those all seem to be questions; I can’t see why two of them get question marks but the middle one doesn’t.

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