M A Smith writes: Greg Hughes asked (20 December, comments), “I should be interested if anyone can enlighten me as to why it is barbaric to eat large, dopey-but-really-appealing-looking marine mammals, but perfectly alright to eat the same on 4 hoofs.” The “same on four hoofs” have been bred and raised by us over millennia, for our food and various other purposes. They would not exist in their current form but for us, they are not wild nor part of the natural ecology. That probably doesn’t make eating sheep, goats, horses, cattle etc any better, but it makes it different. If we have to draw a line, whales could be it. And, by the way, you don’t know how “dopey” the whales are. We know very little about what other mammalian species think or know, although we pretend to.

Flint v climate change:

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Adam Rope writes: Re. “Flint: So much for Rudd’s increased freedom of information” (21 December, item 5). In the last Crikey before the Xmas break, David Flint wrote “Now when I write something for Crikey, I would like to see genuine debate, including reasoned rebuttal.” And I totally agree with him. So let’s have a debate David – a genuine, open and above all, honest debate on the scientific and economic arguments about Global Warming / Climate Change. So for a start, when you later write in the same article: “A number of leading scientists, on examining that theory, say it is wrong, or not the principal cause.” Can you please advise us as to whom these “leading scientists” might be, or how numerous they are? Perhaps you could provide links to their genuinely scientific or economic writings, in genuine publications, such that we may examine, and maybe critique, them? Or maybe you could clarify the source of their funding, that which allows them to continue to question the broad consensus of scientific thought on Global Warming / Climate Change, and the IPCC report? No-one should try to silence them, or you, but perhaps it might help if you did not dissemble so, David.

Lee Tran Lam writes: In February this year, the International Panel on Climate Change (comprising 2500 climate scientists from more than 130 nations) concluded with 90 per cent probability that climate change was caused by humans, declaring that it was time to actually address the global problems that the phenomenon will cause, rather than nitpick over whether it is real or not. I remember learning about climate change and global warming in grade three in 1989, so it’s not a new concern. For David Flint to continually dismiss climate change as a wishy-washy “theory” (whereas Holocaust is “an established fact”) is irresponsible – the general consensus on both topics is based on hard facts. He cites “a number of leading scientists” who believe general thinking on climate change to be wrong, but who are they, and are their findings published in peer-reviewed journals? How do their findings stack up against 2500 climate scientists from an organisation that has been advising governments on this issue since 1988? For Flint to continue to make these misinformed judgements is to undermine the true problem of climate change, and the large-scale problems caused by extreme weather changes. Given the small window of time in which we have to avert dangerous climate change, the last thing we need is another incorrect opinion that gives validity to unscientific findings and suggests that we really needn’t do anything at all. There is a difference between free speech and irresponsible speech. To dismiss unscientific views on global warming as wrong is not censorship. To claim that the world’s leading climate scientists are wrong (about a problem that will effect the entire planet) because it doesn’t fit your ideology is irresponsible.

The Senate comes through for democracy:

Stephen Darley writes: Re. “The Senate comes through again for democracy” (21 December, item 10). Charles Richardson is half-right in “The Senate comes through again for democracy”. In one significant respect the Senate is much more democratic than the House of Representatives, as he illustrates. But in another it is grossly un-democratic: that is as regards the equal numbers of senators per state. The worse disparity is the ten-to-one plus for Tasmania versus NSW – so each Tasmanian’s vote in the Senate is worth 10 times that of each NSW voter. This puts into perspective the relative ease with which the Greens gain Senate seats in Tasmania (even taking into account their high support base), as opposed to the defeat of Kerry Nettle in NSW, a great loss to the party. The rationale for this disparity (small states rights) long ago faded with the vast majority of Senators representing their parties first, their states a long way second. Even if a revised formula still retained some weighting for the smaller states, a smaller big-state quota would see significant minority interests much better reflected in NSW and Victorian Senate elections — no doubt why the major parties are not interested.

Stephen Downes writes: Re. “Australia’s most successful couples” (21 December, item 20). One notable omission: Professor Glyn Davis AC, Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and Professor Margaret Gardner, Vice Chancellor of RMIT University. This one is especially interesting as they head institutions that compete at a number of levels.

Family Day:

Steve Blume writes: Re. Tips and rumours (21 December, item 16). “Did you notice something different in the parliamentary timetable? Look at 4 November (Melbourne Cup Day). It is designated as a public holiday style “Family Day”. What is this? Does it mean all the pollies bring their partners, kiddies and siblings to PH for a big party? Or do we all get a new public holiday to spend with the family watching a horse race?” Pretty simple – ACT government designated Melbourne Cup Day 2007 a public holiday to replace the Union Picnic Day outlawed by the Howard Government. This applies for 2008 too. The Australian Parliament is in the ACT so the day is correctly described.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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