The Murray-Darling Basin:

John Hunwick writes: Re. “Murray-Darling Basin — never let politicians near policy making” (Friday, item 1). Any experienced teacher could have told the Murray-Darling Basin Plan presenters that they way they were proposing to handle the launch of the document was a recipe for disaster. (The same goes for the government’s present handling of the climate change debate but that’s another story).

The real reason for the uproar that the guide to the proposed Basin plan received was to obscure the amount of water that was thought required to maintain the environmental flow of the river. The only number that was emphasized was 4000 gigalitres whereas what was being suggested was between 4000 and 7000 gigalitres.

Time and again before the Federal election the committee was begged to release the guide, but was refused. With that as background, what Bernard Keane has written on Friday is still correct. The Federal Government shows no aptitude when it comes to “educating” the electorate (let alone consulting with it) and it wonders why it can’t “sell” its point of view. Put the pollies in a classroom for a day and ask them to teach anything and I would bet the result would be students 10, polly teachers 0, and wanting to quit to the derision of the students.

As for the future of the Murray-Darling Basin it will never be managed in an ecologically sustainable manner. Why not? Those politicians who understand sustainability are scared out of their wits by the implications, and those who don’t understand it have no idea of what they voting for.

Asylum seekers:

Brefney Ruhl writes: Re. “Border ‘security’: how inconvenient is the new deterrence” (2 June, item 12). Less than a year ago Julia Gillard, in a speech expressing repugnance of past Liberal asylum seeker policy, proudly proclaimed “we are better this”.

At a time when I thought we couldn’t (wouldn’t!) sink any lower than the Howard era in relation to asylum seekers, here we are on the cusp of a decision which will see children sent to the horrors of Malaysian “protection”. A policy which incredibly makes the Pacific Solution seem almost benign.

Apart from the obvious inhumanity of it, this new policy will rank amongst the worst of own goals for Labor. Over the next two years the opposition will mercilessly drive the “inhumane” message home every time anyone suffers a beating, caning or worse.

For the coup de grace, in the run up to the next election, a video will emerge of one of the children or mothers we sent back being caned … Game. Set. Match.

Time to get out of the gutter Julia.

Rob Oakesott:

Brett Krieger writes: Re. John Goldbaum (Friday, comments). Goldbaum wrote:

“I was restricting my comments to the actions of the cross benchers. The Opposition is expected to support its own MPs after naming. If they voted with the Government, they’d really look stupid.”

So here we have it. In the midst of the partisan game-players, we have a person (Rob Oakeshott) who takes his role seriously, uses his best judgment and conscience in the moment and afterwards reflects “the matters of the last fortnight do weigh heavily … [and he wakes] up in the middle of the night worrying about the standing orders and trying to work through the issues of the last two weeks”.

I’m personally thankful for such a politician trying to do the right thing in spite of a degree of personal anguish and constant pressure from all sides.

And then people take pot-shots while leaving the game-players to pass with nary a comment, presumably on the basis that it’s expected of them. If the rest of us aren’t going to defend politicians using their judgment and conscience we can hardly complain should we end up with a bunch of unprincipled “yes men” running the country.

John, now that you’ve clarified your initial comment to be restricted to the handful of cross-benchers, perhaps you should clarify if you believe the opposition to be fools and hypocrites as you tagged Rob.

Climate change:

Andrew Davison writes:  There is a clear difference between what James Haughton suggested and what Tamas Calderwood (Friday, comments) accuses him of. Tamas is entitled to his own opinions, and to have them published in Crikey; he is not entitled to his own facts.

Whenever Tamas states something as “fact”, I check it at or similar and every time (every time) Tamas is either flat-out wrong or distorting something by cherry-picking or misinterpretation.

His claim on Friday is just such a case, included in his letter to sow more seeds of doubt (though I don’t suppose there are many Crikey readers who take him seriously any more). I followed the link he provided — in no way could a reasonable person interpret Dr Kilbourne’s answer as “we don’t know” — in fact, it was clear: there are short-term variations superimposed on a long-term trend. He took one sentence out of context and used it as the basis of his argument. Again. Well, two can play at that game!

Tamas admits (and I quote), “I … have no idea. I’d prefer … to shut up.”

Please do.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Yes Tamas Calderwood keep throwing up your furphies. My question to you is, spurts aside, how do YOU explain the overall upward trend in global temperatures at a time when carbon dioxide emissions are also rising.

The following site deals sceptically with sceptics such as yourself and this question in particular. I commend it to you.

Peter Fray

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