The Garnaut Review:

Adam Rope writes: Re. “Garnaut followed by frog plague and death of all firstborns!” (Friday, item 5). Bernard Keane wrote on Friday about the power industry running scare campaigns, via ridiculous and confusing claims, over the emissions trading scheme (ETS). I wonder if he has read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed? One of the matters that Diamond wrote about was the initial reaction of polluting power corporations to the first wave of environmental acts passed in the US in the ’70’s. Guess what? It was the same old hoary “uneconomic” (“we’ll go out of business”, “can’t afford the changes”, “our profits will plummet”, “investor/shareholder panic”) claims being made today. I cannot find the exact passage, but basically some form of lottery was introduced to install filters to chimneys spewing out toxic chemicals, and — surprise surprise — all the polluters managed to cut their emissions without cutting their profits, or going out of business. Give them a report that shows they will have to change their methodologies, and they’ll kick and scream and cry “profit loss”. But find the right delivery method, and an incentive scheme, and they will eventually come around.

The Murray-Darling Basin is doomed:

Chris Blackie writes: Re. “Why the Murray-Darling Basin is doomed” (Friday, item 9). It would be great if more of your coverage of the Murray-Darling Basin crisis could be like Friday’s contribution from Peter Cosier and less like the mean and patronising analyses from Bernard Keane (“Hey Rudd, when you bribe someone, you should get something back“, Friday, item 1), with his references to “two-bit regional towns” and portrayal of farmers and rural communities as grasping and scheming environmental vandals. Crikey’s standard view which seems to posit rural Australia as “the problem” is hardly helpful in understanding how the Murray might be saved to the benefit of all. Cosier’s analysis is a refreshing change, and I hope it can rub off on Bernard Keane.

Bill Bailey writes: I put together a plan to move water from the north of Australia where there is an annual wet season, this plan involved similar methods used by the Romans all those centuries ago, i.e. sluice gates, dykes, water wheels, aqueducts etc. I also enclosed details of solar powered pumps able to lift water to considerable heights at little initial cost. I sent this idea to our local member last year before the election and he forwarded it to the minister concerned. The idea was discarded as too expensive. I then saw why the Liberal government was not going to win the next election (small minds). I am still of the opinion that any engineer with some skills could manage such a scheme successfully. I don’t hold much hope for our future.

Chris Betts writes: Do we start referring to John Brumby now as the “Man who Killed the Murray”? Another sad example of the complete focus of our pollies on short term thinking.

Richard Scott writes: Rex Manson nailed it (Friday, comments). The biggest failure of the Constitution’s framers was missing that rivers and water management are a national issue. The mooted proposal to expand Cubbie Station isn’t a parochial issue that should be judged by one State when it would (presumably) have a substantial effect on the lower Murray. Visionary political leadership would recognise this weakness and see the States refer their powers to the Commonwealth. While I’m on my hobby horse, could Crikey/Bernard ditch the “MDB” acronym? Acronym usage is one step way from making the debate seem yet another esoteric COAG issue, and dilution of the fact that we’re talking about Australia’s premier water system.

Our love affair with gas-guzzlers:

Barrie O’Shea writes: Re. “Australians buying gas-guzzlers in record numbers” (yesterday, item 2). It is amazing that the Rudd government did not bite the bullet in the Budget and increase the tariff on 4WDs from the current 5% to the 10% that applies to all other cars. This would have allowed consumers to choose their vehicles without the influence of a 5% discount. Interestingly, this would have raised about $275 million per year or double the expected revenue from the Luxury Car Tax increase. I wrote to Peter Garrett about this earlier this year and received a reply from Wayne Swan. He told me that 4WDs were assessed by the Australian Customs Service as “goods carrying vehicles” and were thus subject to the lower tariff. He said that these vehicles were an important business input and that as a general principle; the Government did not like increasing tariffs. I have not noticed many goods being unloaded from the X5s and Mercedes MLs at the local schools, so perhaps Wayne and the ACS should get out a bit more. The Sports Utility Vehicle tag was invented by a clever US marketing man to make utes sexy. How about a Crikey competition for a better description? Bottle of Bundy as the prize? My entry is PCTs — Passenger Carrying Trucks.

Andrew Ballem writes: Glenn Dyer writes that diesel isn’t more efficient than petrol. If this is so, why in the same paragraph does he state that you get “greater economy” and “more kilometres to the litre”? Sounds more efficient to me. Perhaps he meant that a diesel car is not cheaper to run.

The death of the Democrats:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Stephen Mayne: How we killed the Democrats” (Friday, item 13). It is obvious to all but the wilfully blind that what killed the Democrats was the parliamentary members’ disloyalty to the leader chosen by the party — Natasha Stott Despoja. Yes, the party had already been rocked by the Kernot defection and the GST compromise, but it had the chance of pulling itself together if it hadn’t been convulsed by a constitutional-cum-political crisis which proved impossible to resolve. Obviously personal or political animosity to Stott Despoja has clouded the issue for most participants.

Fixing politics:

Peter Lloyd writes: John Goldbaum’s original response (2 June, comments) to Crikey’s questioning of whether our system is capable of dealing with modern problems should not be dismissed, though he did himself no favours by concluding his succinct message with a reference to the influence of shareholders in public companies. It is painfully obvious that shareholder democracy is even more moribund than the regular kind. Chris Hunter (1 June, comments) asked where our visionaries are. Pretty obviously, not lobbying around parliament, presumably having better things to do with their time. It seems to me the answer is obvious: we simply force our governmental institutions to function as they were intended to work by those who designed them. As it stands, instead of issues being debated in the chambers, the two sides adopt prearranged positions and in the absence of an actual job to do, carry on like children. Instead of policy being informed and carried out by government departments and the community, it is hammered home by “Departments of PM/Premier and Cabinet” and other sham bodies set up on an as-needed basis, pushed along by lobbyists and undemocratic NGOs and industry groups. Instead of visionaries, orators and builders, our system promotes and rewards loyal hacks. It is clear the major enemy of the operation of the parliaments and of their successful reform are the Liberal and Labor parties, neither of whom could muster as many members as a successful bowling club. Let them be swept away and improvement must inevitably follow.


Mairi Thomson writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 7). Crikey published regarding child care centres. In answer to the question: Is this the norm for all child care centres across the country or the exception? My experience would be that it is the norm. We have always paid the full daily rate for Public Holidays (and any other time when a child isn’t in attendance, i.e.: on family holidays and the like, even if you give months notice in advance, therefore theoretically allowing another child to be booked in that place for that period, or if enough children are absent, allowing lower rostering of staff depending on child:carer ratios. This Public Holiday policy has always struck me as slightly unfair, particularly given that a lot of child care workers are paid under a casual wage arrangement — the workers aren’t getting paid for their public holidays, yet the parents have to pay anyway. I am all for better wages and conditions for Child Care Workers, and have raised my concerns with Centre Managers regarding their employment policies for staff. Thankfully, the new owners of the centre we patronize quickly offered staff the opportunity to become permanent full time or permanent part time employees when they took over. But I take exception to the many operators who are seeking to make maximum profit from child care, with little regard for the work-life balance of their staff, or the desire of parents to have happy and long-term employees caring for their children.

Having a laugh:

Ignaz Amrein writes: Is Frank Lucy (Friday, comments) practicing for the next Comedy Festival?

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