The floods levy:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Laugh until you cry — can we put a levy on political stupidity?” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane’s article yesterday greatly underestimates the political context in which the Gillard government operates, and this context is largely the fault of the media.

It is simply not possible for the government to delay the timing of the return to a surplus budget.  The media would crucify them for it, albeit they are now saying correctly that it is not necessary. It would be described as incompetent, dishonest, gutless and so on.

Far too much of the media takes its idea of what is fair and balanced from News Limited’s papers. Gillard will get a small hit for her small levy, but the return to surplus in an election year is simply an absolute bottom line. If a small levy helps guarantee that result, then so be it.

Bernard also seems to forget the circumstances around the mining tax.  The campaign by the miners and their support for Abbott after his immediate capitulation cost one prime minister his job and almost brought down the government. There was little discussion in the media about the right of the mining companies to determine who runs the country and circumstances under which it is run. There was a wide spread acceptance that their screams of outrage were entirely legitimate. Where would more courage on this issue have taken the government?

His final statement concerning the appalling quality of our politicians is predicated on a reasonable public discourse that for Julia Gillard simply does not exist.

Richard Barlow writes: Bernard Keane nails the problem, although not the solution when he highlights that people including Bernard are for a levy, against a levy, for a levy but not this one, for a longer time to return to surplus, opposed to any extension of time and wanting spending cuts.

I say credit to Gillard for just getting on with it. I will pay about $3 to $4 a week to help rebuild Queensland. There’s another skinny decaf latte I’ll have to do without. Poor me.

Niall Clugston writes: Regarding the flood levy, Bernard Keane has answered his own question. He concludes his comment “wondering who let any of these people on either side anywhere near power” and adding, “Oh, wait.”  Yes, the Australian people voted for them. Can we put a levy on political stupidity? The government can and will.  The levy is on everyone.

Jim Hart writes: It’s all a terrible misunderstanding. When Julia was up there checking out the floods Anna said what they  needed was “a big new levee”.

Women and politics:

Beryce Nelson writes: Re. “Female MPs: you’re either a mum, or the owner of an empty fruit bowl” (yesterday, item 12). As a married woman with three children under 10 years of age I had all the same questions as mentioned in your article.

My standard reply as a candidate in 1979/80 was: “I am sure the people in the Aspley electorate know me well enough to understand that I have those issues under good management. They would be more keen to hear about  XYZ ”  The XYZ would be an issue of importance to the specific or broader electorate depending on the media outlet responsible for the questioning.

Continued questions on my mothering , community versus family responsibilities etc ranged from the banal to the truly outrageous and were of course actively encouraged by my opponents. But spare a thought for the poor spouses — they were also on the receiving end and often from supposedly well meaning friends as well as the media.

Once I was elected (a great shock to everyone but me) my husband and I had to come up with a brief but humorous response to questions such as “What’s it like being married to an MP?” Truly, they did ask it and they wanted details!

All of the then male dominated media were obsessed with me as only one of two women in the Queensland Parliament at the time. I was pretty naive then and probably gave them some good copy from time to time but overall I think were very kind to me. I thought it was just part of the job back then.

How astonishing that gender specific topics are still the bread and butter stuff of local and national media in the 21st century.

Australia Post and NIMBYism:

David Lecomte writes: Re. “Cox: it’s possible to make every post (office) a winner” (Tuesday, item 13).  Since when can NIMBY-ism be described as “commendable”. Eva Cox doesn’t want her local post office closed — that I can understand.

She indicated on a 2BL interview, that if she hadn’t been attending a function related to herself being on a stamp, she would have been down at the corner of St Johns Rd, and Glebe Point Rd, with the protesters.

What though is in Eva Cox’s interests, may not be in the interests of the rest of us.

I do not know what is commendable about uniting middle class conservatives in Woollahra, Turramurra and trendy Glebe against what is most likely good governance by Australia Post.

Just because Eva Cox is a great writer, and has a very commendable track record in women’s rights, does not mean that all her views are “commendable”.

There seems to be this pervasive view that all “community action” is commendable, without anyone looking to see if what is good on a local level is also “good” on a wider perspective.

The residents of Wahroonga may feel good about stopping the F3 in its tracks, but I’m sure the residents along Pennant Hills Rd do not share their enthusiasm.

Climate change:

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “NASA climate chief: Labor’s targets a ‘recipe for disaster‘” (yesterday, item 5). This may seem like a picky little detail, but it matters. Hansen’s draft paper, well presented by David Spratt, isn’t the first in which he claims that the politically popular 2 degrees at 450 ppm of atmospheric CO2 scenario is likely to be disastrous.

The work to support this criticism was laid out over two years ago in Target Atmospheric CO2. Where should humanity aim? with nine co-authors.

What is new in the 2011 draft paper is a careful analysis of some details glossed over in the 2008 paper and a careful look at whether the latest data are consistent with that work. In a real sense the scientific community has had two years to pick this work to pieces and it is standing up well. Politicians need to pay attention.

They should also, particularly now and in Australia ask themselves about a small footnote in the new work in which Hansen questions the concept of carbon dioxide equivalents and the idea of offsetting emissions. He is questioning the central tenant of the recently announced Carbon Farming Initiative.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Seeing as most readers probably yawned and skipped this article, let me sumarise before I offer a retort. David Spratt wrote;  “dangerous… disaster… brutal in its implications…  dangerous… death spiral… unprecedented… extreme climate events… fires… floods… danger… edge of a precipice… devastating… unacceptably high risk.”

David also argues the current Holocene period has been almost perfectly stable in its temperatures (has he seen a temperature chart of the past 10,000 years, including the one he published?) and that just 1C of warming will doom us. The global temperature range in the satellite data for the past 31 years is around 1.3C, by the way.

In any case, this disastrously dangerous brutal death-spiral is so important that President Obama mentioned it exactly zero times in his State Of The Union speech yesterday. So the climate does seem to be changing rather rapidly: The intellectual one, not the one shown by thermometers to have done nothing for the past decade.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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