Climate change, politics and the Franz Glacier:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Re. “Antidotes to Liberal climate quackery” (yesterday, item 2). Bernard Keane wrote: “An emissions trading scheme is good economics regardless of whether other countries do it. Reducing carbon emissions is not some act of generosity. Carbon is inflicting damage on our environment and our economies. Currently we are not paying the cost of that damage, and therefore distorting our investment, consumption and production decisions. We apply the principle of ‘polluter pays’ elsewhere in the economy — why not in relation to carbon?” Hear, hear Bernard Keane. Climate action needs to be at a national level to get the most value out of each dollar be it private dollar or tax dollar. Piece-meal schemes like solar panels (which at last hearing the Libs supported for political reasons) and water tanks in urban areas are feel good money burners that will never pay their way. If Greg Hunt cannot get his colleagues to follow through on climate change his position becomes untenable.

Niall Clugston writes: Bernard Keane claims carbon emissions trading is “good economics”. All genuine economic analyses say a tax makes more sense. That is if you actually want to reduce greenhouse gases, rather than just set up an artificial market for the sake of it. Can someone actually put the case for “carbon trading” rather than a “carbon tax”?

Leah Marrone writes: Re. Chris Hunter (yesterday, comments). I too recently visited Franz Glacier in New Zealand and was blown away by this experience. While hiking up near the top of this amazingly beautiful glacier my guide informed me that while the glacier had expanded a little in recent years and it does expand and contract every few years, it has drastically decreased in size over the last 100+ years has retreated a great deal since it was originally adjoining the sea several kilometres away. Also, the glacier is in a unique position with the high snowfall at the very high top of the glacier and roaring forties winds which cool the air. On the other side of the valley (away from the icy winds) is the Tasman glacier which is turning into a giant muddy lake which is now several kilometres long and continues to retreat.

John Kennedy writes: In answer to Chris Hunter’s question about the Franz Josef Glacier, I was advised when I visited that global warming has resulted in increased precipitation on the Western slopes of the Southern alps causing the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers to advance. Glaciers fed from snowfields on the Eastern side are, like most glaciers worldwide, in retreat.

Matt Hardin writes: The question was asked about Franz Josef glacier. I hope the paper to be found in Global and Planetary Change (Volume 22, Issues 1-4, October 1999, Pages 155-168), will help people understand that many factors apply to climate change and that the physics is complicated.


Christopher Ridings writes: Re. “Notes on life in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, part 1” (yesterday, item 5). When Zimbabwe’s President-for-life Robert Mugabe sends the message that he will only hand over his power over his dead body, then that considerably restricts everyone else’s options. I keep remembering the risk-taking actions pursued as a last resort by erstwhile pacifist German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1944. His methods would be vastly preferable to the Bush method against the late unlamented Saddam Hussein where it took over 150,000 Iraqi lives just to remove the power of one.

Schapelle Corby and baggage handlers:

Ian Farquhar writes: Re. “Brisbane airport insider: Corby family demonised us” (yesterday, item 16). Although I sympathise with the anonymous baggage handler, his complaint is misdirected. I see no issue with Schapelle Corby’s lawyer introducing reasonable doubt by suggesting baggage handler interference, and find the media circus surrounding this issue to be naive at best. The fact that her legal team fabricated this Defence does not actually remove the possibility that it occurred, and indeed, did a service by highlighted the shocking lack of surveillance in these supposedly sterile baggage handling areas. The baggage handler’s anger should, instead, be addressed to his or her employers who failed to provide an adequate auditing and monitoring system in their workplace. Although none of us like to work in a situation where we are constantly monitored, when we choose to work in an environment where significant trust is extended to an individual, monitoring is as much protective as it is intrusive. Had adequate monitoring been in place, the suggestion that the baggage had been mishandled could have been readily disproved by following the baggage through-out it’s transit. Such person and object tracking technology exists, and is deployed at many other venues within Australia (eg casinos). If the idea of working under surveillance while doing the job of baggage handling is an issue, then perhaps the handler in the wrong profession, or isn’t thinking this through adequately.


Zachary King writes: Re. “Keysar Trad: UK is right to recognise polygamy” (yesterday, item 4). While I agree with the UK decision (and the bent of your article) that polygamy should be recognised among consenting adults, can you please leave out the ‘but it’s in the bible’ defence? It adds nothing. Who cares what was in the all time best selling work of fiction? I was much more interested in your personal experiences.

Crikey and non-proliferation:

Peter Burnett writes: When is Crikey going to develop a coherent editorial policy? On Monday your editorial complained about “the collapse of hopes that the Rudd Government would be different” and derides their lack of vision. Yet recently you attacked Rudd as a “tosser” when he announced the creation of a commission on non-proliferation and disarmament. You can’t have it both ways, whinging about “policy indolence and political cowardice” then attacking politicians who implement new policies they’ve been elected to fulfil. Rudd’s disarmament announcement didn’t come out of thin air, as suggested by press gallery journalists who haven’t followed the debate. Disarmament groups have been lobbying for action ever since Howard shelved the Canberra Commission report in 1997, the plan for a disarmament commission is ALP policy and then Defence Shadow Robert McClelland had pledged to support it in the lead up to the election. Surely the vision of a world without nuclear weapons represents a significant policy shift in comparison to Howard’s ar-e-licking, and is worth a bit of debate. And there’s a series of international figures, ranging from Hans Blix to Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and George Schultz, who are engaged in the same debate. I’ve few illusions in Labor (the real political courage will be when Martin Ferguson agrees we should stop uranium mining or close Pine Gap) but you guys need to do a bit of research about the topics you editorialise about. Less pontificating, more analysis please.

Macquarie Bank:

Paul Gregory, senior manager, public affairs at Macquarie Capital Funds, writes: Re. “Why toll roads can no longer be regarded as a low risk investment” (Tuesday, item 22). Adam Schwab’s piece on toll roads contained the following statements: “The listed vehicles have all been duly deserted by investors courtesy of their debt funded, opaque structures which have lured gullible investors with massive, (faux) yields.” As has frequently been disclosed to the market, most recently on 20 June 2008, MIG has gearing of 46.5% (as at 31 March 2008). This includes cash on the balance sheet in excess of A$900m (as at 31 May 2008). MIG, in common with other Macquarie funds, makes significant voluntary disclosures to assist investors’ and other interested parties’ analysis of the underlying performance, cash and debt positions of the business. MIG’s principal disclosure in this respect is the Management Information Report, produced quarterly. Schwab wrote: “The vehicles are in fact nothing more than elaborate Ponzi scheme of sorts — the only difference between the Babcock/Macquarie satellites and Charles Ponzi is that Ponzi used equity to pay for distributions to existing owners, whereas the infrastructure vehicles use bank debt.” MIG rejects any comparison with a Ponzi scheme. As repeatedly disclosed to the market, MIG’s distributions are comprised of proportionate earnings from its assets, and capital returns from those assets such as the proceeds of refinancings. In MIG’s 20 June 2008 disclosure we reiterated our expectation for distributions for the year to 30 June 2008 to be covered 50-60% by proportionate earnings (post corporate expenses).

Brendan Nelson’s not dead, he’s resting:

John Goldbaum writes:

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: ‘Ello, I wish to register a complaint about this Opposition leader what I voted for not seven months ago.

NICK MINCHIN: Oh yes, the, uh, the Chameleon Stud…What’s, uh…What’s wrong with him?

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with him. ‘E’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with him!

NICK MINCHIN: No, no, ‘e’s uh…he’s resting.

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: Look, mate, I know a dead leader when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now.

NICK MINCHIN: No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’! Remarkable fellow, the Chameleon Stud, idn’he, ay? Beautiful coiffure!

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: The coiffure don’t enter into it. He’s stone dead.

NICK MINCHIN: Nononono, no, no! ‘E’s resting! There, he moved!

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: Yes, he moved backwards!

NICK MINCHIN: No, no…..No, ‘e’s just changed direction!

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: Um…now look…now look, mate, I’ve definitely ‘ad enough of this. That Opposition leader is definitely deceased, and when I voted for him not seven months ago, you assured me that his total lack of conviction and substance was due to him bein’ tired and shagged out following his sharp turn from Labor to Liberal and from moderate to conservative.

NICK MINCHIN: No no! He’s changed direction from left to right, then from forwards to backwards!

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: ‘E’s not changed direction’! ‘E’s passed on! This leader is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! E’s pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-LEADER!!

NICK MINCHIN: Well, I’d better replace him, then. Sorry, I’ve had a look ’round , and uh, we’re right out of Chameleon Studs.

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: I see. I see, I get the picture.

NICK MINCHIN: I’ll give you a mad Monk, instead.

LIBERAL BACKBENCHER: Pray, does he talk?

NICK MINCHIN: Nnnnot really. He’s more popular if he’s a Trappist Monk.

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