Victoria’s bushfires:

Michael Potter writes: Re. “Victoria’s bushfires: Don’t mention the c word” (yesterday, item 1). The bushfire tragedy in Victoria with its mounting toll of lives lost and property destroyed throws into sharp relief exactly why a rush to spend $42bn on a so called stimulus package front ended with handouts to many is not a good idea. It, and the floods which preceded it in Queensland, should give politicians on both sides of the House and in the Senate a wake up call to start putting the national interest ahead of party politics.

A populist non targeted handout which will be genuinely welcomed by some but won’t be needed by many is no way to deploy this nation’s financial resources when there is no tangible evidence that the last stimulus package did anything other than show a blip in retail sales which simply means more expenditure on consumables most of which are imported. The promised jobs increase has not been quantified.

Conversely, the Opposition needs to put up a clear position as to where it would apply funds and the mechanisms required to deliver them. The massive reconstruction effort which will be needed following these disasters should keep construction workers, building supply companies, steelmakers, consultants and apprentices busy for years. Utilising Australian talent, materials and skills is what’s required.

The courage displayed by so many in the midst of this greatest national disaster needs to be matched by those sitting on the front and back benches of Canberra. To this taxpayer the choice facing those in Canberra is simple — pocket money for someone to buy a new TV or monies to rebuild a family’s life.

Gideon Polya writes: According to Professor Holdren (Harvard University, former Chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Director of the Woods Hole Research Center, and President Obama’s chief scientific adviser) in a recent lecture entitled “The Science of Climatic Disruption”, forest fires are being exacerbated by drought and elevated temperatures in America and Europe; the annual acres burned in the Western USA have now increased from about 0.5 million (1960-1980) to 2.5- 4.5 million (21st century); and the 14 hottest years on record have been since 1990.

The current Victorian bushfire inferno was the worst on record and the recent Victorian heatwave was the worst on record. The dangerous and irresponsible fossil fuel burning policies of Australia’s major political parties continue to contribute to a worsening fire and flood threat to Australia.

It is reasonable to conclude that (a) man-made global warming has made a significant contribution to this immense Victorian bushfire tragedy and (b) continued ignoring of top scientific advice about the worsening climate emergency by Australian State and Federal Governments and Oppositions will contribute to more such tragedies.

Michael Harvey writes: This “hell” has been brought upon us by ourselves, and it’s ironic that we are the greatest greenhouse gas producers in the world. We must reduce population, change our exploitation of resources and control ourselves if the species is to survive, and no longer tolerate leaders who believe in overpopulation and greed. Nature couldn’t care less about human survival.

Greg Fearn writes: It’s been a while since I’ve been this mad, but Ten News was reporting all yesterday morning that the Victorian bushfires were the worst “natural disaster” in Australia’s history, yet in the same reports they told us that the majority have been deliberately set. That makes this disaster as natural as the Bali bombings. Also seems you can no longer leave comment on the Ten website either!

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 13). Re. Full Marks to Malcolm Turnbull. Richard Farmer rightly congratulates MT on keeping his nose out of the fires on Sunday, what he didn’t emphasise enough was “unlike his predecessor”. Brendon would have been all over the place announcing that there was nothing he could do, but possibly darkly suggesting this was all the fault of the Labor Party.

Suzie Gold writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 7). I found this distressing and totally inappropriate people were killed in those cars show some consideration for their families disgusted and concerned that you lack basic human feelings at such a tragic time.

Jenny Morris writes: A short note to say “goodonya” for your relief fund efforts for the bushfires. I also applaud the decision to split proceeds between Red Cross and Wildlife Victoria — animals can sometimes be forgotten in crises like this.

Stimulating the economy:

Martin Gordon writes: Newspoll confirmed my worst fears about what motivates people. Wave a fistful of dollars around and see how many hands grab for the cash. Perhaps we could call the stimulus package the “dash for cash”. There is no doubt that Australia and the rest of the world are facing a huge economic crisis.

I happen to think large lump sum payments are not smart ways to spend money, particularly if you want a lasting effect. If you want to really “nation build” (which is the new prime ministerial spin on his ill-conceived spend up) I would suggest that you do many high return longer lasting things not just a fistful of dollars per school. How about some serious infrastructure and not the trifling amount proposed to date. How about increasing fortnightly pension payments and bringing forward the tax cuts so each pay is larger. That will stimulate the economy much more.

The worst part is the Green acquiesce to this selfish, short-sighted and short-term thinking. Completely at odds with the logic they normally claim.

Our short-sighted voter response seems to be in lock step with our short-sighted government. PS. Ross Copeland and his comments on self-funded retirees (yesterday, comments). I believe you are right and have to admit my sources of information The Australian and The Advertiser were in error.

Ross Copeland writes: Further to my comment yesterday and the government handout, The West Australian now has a report that if you lodged a tax return and got a refund then you will be ineligible for the handout, but if you didn’t get a refund then you will get the $950. This has nothing to with how you earned your income or how much tax you paid, just whether you got a refund or not.

If correct, does this mean if you got a $1 refund you get nothing in handouts but if you had to pay the ATO another $1 you could get $950? Now I am confused.

Could Crikey get a definitive answer on this issue so I can continue with plans on how to spend the money or just forget all about it?

Jack Plimmer writes: In total agreement Keith Thomas (yesterday, comments), I’ve already sent a very similar letter to Mr Swan about my $950:

Dear Wayne,

Australians are experiencing a period of material affluence as never before witnessed, yet most Australians still believe they need a bigger house, bigger TV or better gadgets.

Rather than treat Australians as nothing but mere consumers and encourage us to even greater levels of consumption, should not the government use this opportunity to remodel our economic behaviour away from what got us in this mess in the first place?

Why does the government continually and so desperately try to increase our GDP when we already have so much?

It is well known that the Earth can not support our current level of consumption, and we still have hundreds of millions to raise above the poverty line.

The government should be using this GFC to remodel Australia as a steady state economy, do away with GDP growth and instead focus on increasing our wellbeing and quality of life.

Vernon Brabazon writes: An open note to “Kevin”; my comment on “the package”.

Dear Kevin,

I don’t claim to have a total grasp of the rationale behind handing out $42 billion to attempt to maintain the economy, but I will take whatever comes my way with the same resignation with which I pay my income tax, and I write a taxpayer … and a voter.

As I understand it, the general idea is that the stimulus package will do the most good for the economy if the recipients pass it back into the wider economy either in buying housing, goods or developing infrastructure, but there is no guarantee that is where the money will be directed by those who get it.

With the devastation that is rolling out across Victoria, I’m wondering if it might be better to reduce the package by say 10% and direct that amount into a targeted stimulus to redress the effects of the Victorian disaster, because they are going to need a massive amount of infrastructure, housing and goods.

I’m quite happy to take 10% less of whatever of my taxes were coming back to me if it means that it will be spent doing what the package was intended to do.

Such a targeted input would reduce the long term trauma on those who have been impacted upon by this disaster, and the long term social benefit and nation (re) building that would flow from such direct action would be immeasurable.

So what do you and the rest of parliament say to re thinking the package by just 10%?

Guy Rundle:

Glen Frost writes: Re. “Rundle: Thatcher’s golliwog and Clarkson’s Brown eye” (yesterday, item 20). I have never met Guy Rundle but I find his articles/postings from various pubs in the UK fantastic.

It’s like being in the pub with the wittiest characters without having to put up with the other w-nkers at the bar.

I say “Keep Rundle in England”. He’s 10 times better than all those overpaid Aussie ex-pat t-ssers from Fairfax and News writing back with their “Letters from London” — no, I’m not interested in how your maid uses the web phone to call the Philippines — which any half-wit of an Editor could see are just rip-offs from the front pages of the British red-tops and broadsheets; which are all available online for free in case you’d forgotten.

Andrew Bolt:

Adam Rope writes: Re. “Nothing’s off limits for Bolt’s pompous point-scoring” (yesterday, item 22). Careful Crikey, if you go about publishing articles criticising Andrew Bolt, you’re only giving him the “oxygen of publicity” he so desperately craves. And you know he’s going to respond with yet another long rant claiming that you are “sliming” him.

It’s yet another example of his hypocrisy, that every single day he can write rude and belittling comments about other people, and their opinions, but woe betide you critique his articles, or the information therein, and it’s a “slime”!

Somewhat ironically, Bolt has recently written a couple of long articles decrying ABC interviewers, such as Kerry O’Brien and Mark Colvin, citing “evidence” they allegedly use “leading techniques” and “biased” questions when interviewing Liberal politicians.

The Australian:

Patrick Young writes: Re. “The Australian to raise its cover price to $1.50” (6 February, item 21). I buy The Australian Monday’s only for the media section and today I found old Rupert has upped the price to $1.50!

The cheek of it all, for such a slim newspaper with hardly any real or serious content! (Yes, the Wall Street Journal business section does beef it up but apart from that there’s no real depth to the paper).

I informed my local newsagent this would be the last time I would be buying it, and now will browse online!

Matthew Newton:

Warwick Sauer writes: Re. “Media briefs: Spectator mangles history… Matthew Newton’s PR rehab…” (yesterday, item 25). Matthew Newton’s recent glamorisation by the press (most particularly Channel Nine) beggars belief. Giving him the role of a moll-bashing gangster in Underbelly 2 is, at best, an extremely insensitive casting choice; at worst it is the ultimate in bad taste.

One can only imagine what Brooke Satchwell might think of Newton’s continued success, not to mention the turgid support he is being given by Nine.

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Mark Byrne and Matt Hardin (yesterday, comments) both flip the argument around and say I must provide a counter-theory as to why the world has warmed if it is not driven by man-made CO2. No I don’t. I have no idea why the world has recently warmed, just as I have no idea why it warmed in the medieval warm period, the Holocene optimum and countless other warm periods.

I don’t see any evidence that man-made CO2 was the primary factor this time so I don’t accept that we should bankrupt ourselves on an unproven theory. Mark Byrne also accuses me of ignoring his previous ‘evidence’, i.e.; a statement that computer models are in fact evidence. Sorry Mark, but that’s just laughable.

Matt Hardin and Tim Marsh outline some observations that would falsify the global warming hypothesis (and yes Matt, I remember your December comment, which I agreed with in a comment the next day).

I don’t accept all of Tim’s points but let’s keep an eye on Antarctica and the Arctic.

Finally, Clive Hamilton blames the bushfires on global warming because we are on a “high global warming scenario … path”. What a crock. The world is the same temperature right now as it was in 1983. Explain that, Clive.

Peter Fray

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