Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

David Hand writes: Peter Jones (Friday, comments) seems to have watched too many evil corporation movies and he may be comforted to find out that Blade Runner was a work of fiction. The idea that “polluting companies” are the key problem for zero carbon and consumers are not polluters can’t be sustained. It ignores the inter-connectedness of our economy.

If anyone is utopian, it’s Peter with his view that consumers are supportive of a transition to a zero carbon economy when most of us have no idea what a zero carbon economy is, how much it would cost and what impact it will have on our way of life.

We are all in favour of it because we, like Peter, see it remotely, like an untidy neighbour with a couple of wrecked cars in the front garden that we would like someone to do something about. If it was that easy, do you think we would be on this never ending cycle of talk-fests, conferences, ETS schemes, international finger-pointing and untried technology?

One disturbing fact is that the Rudd Government’s ETS design is so weak about emissions reductions, that it may be that Kevin and Penny are simply too afraid to tell us just how invasive, disruptive and wealth-destroying the emissions reductions being called for will be. You simply cannot escape the fact that as you watch your TV, take that hot shower or drive your car to work, you, personally, are putting carbon into the atmosphere and that a reduction in carbon emissions will have a direct impact on such activities, either through price or availability. The price of carbon must be paid, and like most things, it is the end user who will pay.

Sorry mate but that means household consumers (and those dang evil corporations get away with it again!)

Justin Pettizini writes: Peter Jones argues that:

We aren’t each individually responsible for “our own” pollution because the only conceivable solution to climate change is a collective one. Individuals quite reasonably take the view that there is no point paying extra for “green power” when others aren’t required to do the same.

Moreover, under capitalism, workers don’t make decisions about how the economy is run, so they can’t be held accountable (and shouldn’t be made to pay) for the fact that governments and polluters have failed to make the transition to a zero carbon economy.

This, although I’m sure he hasn’t recognised it and would almost certainly deny it, is exactly the argument put by those who argue that there is no point in Australia doing anything until the rest of the world does. Try this version of Jones’s argument (my changes in bold):

Australia isn’t individually responsible for “its own” pollution because the only conceivable solution to climate change is a collective one. Individual countries quite reasonably take the view that there is no point doing anything about carbon reduction when others aren’t required to do the same.

Moreover, Australia doesn’t control the world economy, so it can’t be held accountable (and shouldn’t be made to pay) for the fact that other governments and their polluters have failed to make the transition to a zero carbon economy.

It’s a stupid argument at the international level and it remains a stupid argument at the individual level. If the issue is important enough at the international level for Australia to do something (and I think it is), even though Australia’s efforts alone will make no practical difference, then it is also important enough at the local level for each individual to do something, even though each individual’s efforts alone will make no practical difference.

The sum of the efforts in both cases will make a difference.

Ron Wilmshurst writes: There is a curious parallel between the current policies on uranium and carbon dioxide. We encourage production and export of uranium while denying its application to generate power within Australia. Similarly we encourage mining and export of coal while insisting that we should reduce our domestic consumption and the resultant carbon emission. It’s fair to conclude that we are happy to encourage others to engage in activities which many suggest may destroy our planet, as long as we can convince ourselves that we are squeaky clean.

Sounds to me like a useful definition of hypocrisy — in spades!


Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Water report part 2: snatch the Basin from the states to save it” (Friday, item 7). Bernard Keane’s discussion of a Federal takeover of the Murray-Darling river system largely ignores the genuine conflict of interest between upstream states and downstream states. It is no accident that there is greater South Australian enthusiasm for a takeover. Upstream states can only expect their water use to be curtailed. It is naive to paint this as merely a bureaucratic lack of co-operation.

We’re not talking about competing claims on a single reservoir. The Darling Downs are ecologically and economically different from the Murray Mouth — and of course geographically distant. A trading scheme based on an equal “value” (or exchangeability) of water along the course of the river system makes no sense.

Keane discusses the constitutionality of a takeover but ignores Section 100: “The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation”. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as easy as he thinks.

But even a radical centralist government would need to balance upstream and downstream interests, conservation and consumption. It is better to deal with these inevitable tensions than try to cover them up.

Rio Tinto:

John Poppins, Convenor, BHP Shareholders for Social Responsibility, writes: Re. “Stern Hu and the unpleasant truth about Rio Tinto” (Friday, item 2). Anyone with an interest in Rio Tinto’s history should look out a copy of the book River of tears: the rise of the Rio Tinto-Zinc Mining Corporation by Richard West.

First published in 1972, it provides substantial case studies from the company’s earlier years. Clive Hamilton has picked up on the more recent history which has been no less exploitative and has severely damaged many lives and environments. For shareholders concerned by aspects of the social and environmental behaviour of companies in which we own shares there is an avenue of influence which can perhaps appease some of our consciences a little.

For example for Rio’s 2006 AGM in Melbourne we organised substantial proxies to enable Moses Havini and Herman Wanggai to speak to the meeting. Moses represented the Bougainevilleans, the only local group to have successfully resisted the miner’s environmental carnage. Herman was the leader of the West Papuan refugees who so embarrassed the Howard government by landing on Cape York. He spoke simply on the damage being done by Grassberg, the mine’s use of the Indonesian military and the associated repression of the local people.

A few older shareholders present may have been prompted to think a little more deeply about the sources of their dividends. More effective is the potential for over 100 like minded shareholders to place statements or resolutions on the AGM agenda.

Such shareholders are plentiful; the hard bit is finding them!

First Dog vs. Tony Abbott:

Virginia Gordon writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (Friday, item 4). Five muddy footprints and 100 Woofs for your efforts on Friday. When I take my purple Hottie waterbottle to bed tonight, I think my dreams may not be as they might. I have many secret boyfriends who are often conservative, but until now hadn’t contemplated the member for Warringah. Methinks you have undersold him by not including one of those hot hot hot cycling photos (Margot Saville may disagree).

Is the first of many to come and we can expect the likes of Stephen Smith, Steven Ciobo, Eric Roozendaal, Judy Moylan, Tanya Plibersek, Pru Goward and others in your regular series?

While I think First Dog Walks On Water and Can Do No Wrong, I do wonder about the reverse sexism of the cartoon — how would we feel if the same images of our female politicians in such seductive stages of fleshiness?

As I an aside — WTF as you would say — I do think Tony’s Catholicness is something to be admired (OK, I know the word is Catholicism as a good Catholic girl!). Not necessarily for all his views per se – but his unwavering public commitment to them at times when religion is not in favour. Whether one agrees or not, he has been consistent over a very very long time and unwavering no matter the challenges or ridicule thrown his way.

I’d rather know what someone authentically stands for, than be in doubt. Whether he needs to be so Catholic so often in public remains a question.

TV, fuuny, not funny:

Sherree Goldsworthy writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (Friday, item 21). Glenn Dyer’s TV wrap is usually pretty spot on (sick ’em Rex) however I am moved to print to disagree with his generosity regarding The 7pm Project. It is really terrible. They are a pack of comedian-hacks who make a living being “funny”, doing the rounds of game shows etc. But humour, particularly political or news satire, requires wit, intelligence and understanding in order to be pithy and, well, funny.

These hacks display none of these qualities and cheap laughs obviously fall flat in a very short time (less than a week, actually, as the ratings would indicate). I also disagree that we cannot have a Jon Stewart simply because of the size of our market. Surely Australia can dredge up something better than The 7pm Project‘s sorry efforts. I’ve had more laughs with Lateline Business.

Also maybe Glen should spend a bit of time watching pay TV, as TV Burp, which he reviewed (generously) is a direct rip off of The Soup, which is really funny and uses the same format. Yours in continuous improvement.

Nick Place writes: Regarding “Glenn Dyer’s Media Maul”. Has the Nine Network considered a new show, Farmer wants a fat dancer? I’m here to help.

Thanks for the laughs:

Mike Sanchez writes: Look, how do I put this? You are like a News Comedy Site, not to be taken in the least bit seriously, but usually entertaining. It’s like a neo Marxist journalists coffee lounge where they serve cheap brandy & a Cuban cigar with each cuppa.

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