Chandran Vigneswaran, External Affairs for BP Australia writes: Re. Anonymous tip in WA gas worker: Fark, we ran for our lives (yesterday Story 11): We are surprised at the allegations made yesterday regarding safety at BP’s Kwinana Refinery in Western Australia, and we are concerned at the inaccuracy of the information provided and the unnecessary and unfounded concern this may raise. The Kwinana Refinery operates all of its equipment within industry best practice to ensure the safety of its employees and the community, and to ensure that the refinery provides the security of supply to the state that is required. Specifically, the suggestions that the refinery is or has been operating its heat exchangers in a manner which poses a safety or energy security risk are simply misguided. We operate all of our equipment including heat exchangers within the capacity for which they are designed, both in terms of pressure and temperature. This approach ensures that our equipment is both safe and able to operate at capacity. In the rare event of an incident or issue being identified, we have investigated and conducted appropriate engineering assessments, informed the appropriate regulatory authorities where required, and responded to prevent the incident from occurring again. We also actively manage our equipment through engineering and inspection programs to ensure it remains fit for continued service, and fit to help us provide a safe, consistent and reliable supply of fuel for the state’s industry, government and community.

The NT Intervention — 12 months on:

Neil James, executive director of the Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. It surely undermines the objectivity and professionalism of your coverage of the NT intervention when your editorial perpetuates sloppy and biased terms such as “military intervention”. It was this type of alarmist terminology in a complex situation that initially caused unnecessary fear in some indigenous communities that the Army was somehow coming to take their kids away. The intervention has always been a civil government activity. Any law enforcement aspects have rightly always been the responsibility of the NT or federal police. The background military assistance has always been only logistic and administrative and has never involved any soldier carrying a weapon or enforcing any law or policy. It also needs to be remembered that the ADF, and the Army in particular, have been operating in remote indigenous communities for decades. As one of many examples, since ten years before the intervention Army engineers have been building houses and environmental health infrastructure in outback indigenous communities — and training community members in construction and maintenance skills — under the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program (AACAP). Finally, the operational head of the intervention, Major General David Chalmers, has done a sterling job in difficult and delicate circumstances. However, as per longstanding constitutional conventions, the ADA continues to believe that such a potentially controversial position should not be occupied by a serving Army officer, especially once the initial emergency phase had passed.

Marion Cincotta writes: Re. “Reflections on the NT Intervention– one year on” (yesterday, item 5). Calling your attention to research that was suppressed during the 2007 election period and eventually published in Medical Journal of Australia by Kevin Rowley and NT staff, showing the huge health advantages that are being obtained by Aboriginal people living on outstations. Their own land, with no shops, not much English spoken. This is a huge research effort with 11 years of collecting clinic, death and hospitalisation data. I was there, and what was not stated was the horrible effects of colonisation. In the most “acculturated” town, Ntaria or Hermannsburg with 130 years of white control, there is a funeral every Tuesday and a life span almost as short as for Victorian Aboriginal men.

The Murray River crisis:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Kohler: Political courage runs dry over water” (yesterday, item 6). I agree that something must be done about the Murray, but Alan Kohler’s questionable arguments don’t help. Of course, it is a flea market mantra that “price is always a better way to deal with shortage than rationing,” but I doubt Kohler claims this for every situation of war or emergency. The environment does need extra water, but it’s hardly in a position to enter a bidding war. Kohler asserts that scientists have said “the Murray-Darling has only six months to live”. Actually that deadline was only put on ecosystems at the Murray mouth. Alarmist reporting only discredits serious analysis. Kohler also argues that Australia’s dairy industry is exporting water. This assumes that the water currently in milk would not be lost via evaporation etc. The unstated argument is that Australia should abandon agriculture and invest its capital elsewhere – perhaps in carbon trading derivatives. The problem is that none of these “solutions” have any relation to the real economy, the real environment, or the real anything. Kohler concludes we need “political courage” — but leaving a problem to an amorphous, undefined market isn’t courage.

John Bowyer writes: Well Alan what about you have a look at your water bill? I checked my South East Water bill today and it was 84cents for the first 40.04 kl and then $1.02 for the remainder. Now you said, Alan Cornell said, prices were $1.72 per kl and he apparently runs a water Company? I suggest you and your mates should all ensure you know what you are talking about before suggesting my bill should be trebled. My memory is the South East Water also pays the State Government of Victoria some hundreds of millions of dollars as a “dividend” each year. Gee you blokes make me laugh and your suggestions make me laugh too. I always thought you knew what you were talking about but now I am not so sure. This is all about a stealthy grab for more taxes which will all be wasted as usual.

Les Heimann writes: Sorry folks but this obsession with simplistic economic concepts just has to stop. With regard to water we simple folk know we need it — it’s about living you see and frankly to hell with big farmers up river sucking the Murray-Darling dry and growing rice through irrigation is bloody stupid anyway — we want our water ‘cos we drink it, wash in it and maintain a very modest pride in our suburban surrounds. To hell with jacking up prices on us — get rid of the really big and wasteful users instead. Stupid free traders! We are screaming hell for leather back to the days when the world was run by greedy market manipulators and that led to what — wars, death, destruction, communism, class warfare and all those things that “market forces” ultimately create. It is necessary to accept that in order to distribute resources in an inclusive and egalitarian manner one needs to accept that the needs of the many ultimately outweigh the perceived needs of the few.

Cheap tabloid populism:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “A Newspoll too far for Brendan Nelson” (yesterday, item 2). Brendan’s had his 15 minutes of fame. It’s time to let the next boy display his talent. At least Malcolm will concentrate on meaty issues such as lower and fairer taxation. Cheap tabloid populism (CTP) may get you noticed but it won’t get you elected. The punters want credible economic managers to govern them. Brendan’s Newspoll rise and fall should now be known as his CTP slip.

WA’s gas crisis:

Lindsay Bussau writes: Re. “WA gas worker: Fark, we ran for our lives” (yesterday, item 11). I feel that it is time we started to move our focus from efficiency, and start to have a bit of a look at the resilience of our society. The W.A. gas crisis is the most recent case in point. A 30% slowdown in gas supply is crippling the whole state, and threatens our national economy. 10 years ago, a single explosion at Longford shut down gas supplies to Melbourne for seven weeks. A couple of summers back, smoke from a bushfire shut down the electricity supply and blacked out pretty much the whole of Melbourne out for half a day. Our public transport systems are running at full capacity and oil prices are still going up. There are many more examples of this sort of thing that are of smaller scale. It is about time someone did the analysis of what it costs the rest of society when essential services are run “lean and mean” with no backup or redundancy built into the system.

Red meat and cancer:

Walt Hawtin writes: Re. “Dieticians underplay the red meat risk” (yesterday, item 16). Geoff Russell presents an emotional argument making apparent links between a high red meat diet with increased incidences of colorectal cancer. I am not a scientist and am not challenging Geoff’s interpretation of the WCRF report that he is using to drive his comments. Unless he is hiding his credentials from us, he does not appear to be an oncologist or cancer-related researcher either clinically, scientifically or by association. He is a spokesperson for Animal Liberation SA. I am not treating Geoff’s work as anything other than very serious, nor am I being flippant, but how can I take an animal liberationist seriously on this subject when he claims that “… eating red meat is like smoking cigarettes through your an-s.” Choice imagery, however surely he is grasping at the butt of the issue. A cursory glance through the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a study, conducted by Harvard Medical School on over 120,000 people, that increased intake of fruits and vegetables offered little or no protection against colorectal cancer. So what does this Harvard study leave out? Probably plenty, just like Geoff Russell’s commentary. I wouldn’t ask a cattle grazier to give me an objective opinion on the health benefits of vegetarianism, so I can’t see how an animal liberationist is a remotely credible commentator on the link between red meat and colorectal cancer.

Geoff Walker writes: I don’t have the expertise to debate the merits of Geoff Russell’s arguments on the risks of eating red meat, but his article is a classic example of the credibility problems that the vegetarian lobby has in persuading people to its view. At least Geoff is upfront about his Animal Liberation connections, but unfortunately those connections are often unstated, leading people like me to assume their existence anyway. Thus we don’t even simply consider the arguments on account of suspicion of ulterior motives. What would be really good for the vegetarian lobby would be to have a spokesman who is a big-game hunter!

Wine good, bundie and water evil:

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “Spin watch: To Roxon, wine is good, Bundie is evil” (yesterday, item 14). For those who wish to have a glass of wine… and those who don’t… this is something to think about. As Benjamin Franklin said: In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink one litre of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than one kilo of Escherichia coli, (E.coli) — bacteria found in faeces. In other words, we would be consuming one kilo of poop. However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine and beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting. Remember: water = crap, wine = health. Therefore, it’s better to drink wine and talk stupid than to drink water and be full of sh-t. There is no need to thank me for this valuable information: I’m doing it as a public service. Hopefully we are still able to keep our sense of humour in this wide brown land.

Gavin Findlay writes: Trevor Cook’s item brought to mind the famous “if-by-whiskey” argument (courtesy of wikipedia): “The label “if-by-whiskey” refers to a 1952 speech by Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr., a young lawmaker from the U.S. state of Mississippi, on the subject of whether Mississippi should prohibit or legalise alcoholic beverages.

Forget Gold Coast’s AFL stadium — what about Perth?:

George Williams writes: Re. “AFL punt may fall short on the Gold Coast” (yesterday, item 21). Your mysterious Queensland correspondent says the AFL is nervous about building an AFL stadium for $200 million. Why? It’s a bargain compared with Subiaco. Here in the boom state of WA, Alan Carpenter, a footy fan, and his crew have committed to $1.5 billion for a 60,000-seater at Subiaco. There has been no mention of how much the AFL might chip in. Perhaps Andrew Dimitriou will share some of his fat pay packet to buy naming rights on the Dimitriou scoreboard? Then we football fans might not resent so much that we have the most expensive football in Australia — and he has the biggest salary package of any sporting CEO. This stadium could turn into a classic bum-biter for the government; the fact is that some people are NOT interested in football (of any type), others actually do NOT like it and they certainly do not want their money spent on a stadium for it. Some of those opponents are people waiting months or years for surgery, others with kids in clapt-out school buildings, and even more struggling to find a house to live in because the state housing at Homeswest has a waiting list of 15,000. Perhaps if a stadium could be used on non-sport days as crisis housing, it would get more support. The same approach could squeeze a lot more value out of other public buildings left vacant and unused for weeks of the year — government schools would be a good start. The graffiti crews might enjoy some company.


A Charles Darwin University spokesperson writes: “Re. “Tips and Rumours” (18 June, item 5). Crikey published: “Charles Darwin University, is to lose its VC, Helen Garnett and the Exec Director, corporate Scott Snyder.” Contrary to Wednesday’s “tips and rumours”, Charles Darwin University Council has made no such decisions.

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