Jim Hart writes: Thanks to Michael R. James (Friday, comments) for some useful analysis on the book tax issue. My sympathies are totally with the book industry but sadly they fail to convince, and their case is not helped by the same clichés and irrelevancies that have been trotted out for decades.

We used to say “books are different” even when we couldn’t pin down that difference, because for generations they were inextricably associated with learning and the dissemination of truth. Politicians would have their photos taken in front of shelves of soberly bound volumes of Hansard because it made them look learned and knowledgeable. (Now, seeking the common touch, they are more likely to choose the Sherrin or the Speedos, books being elitist and so pre-digital.)

Where is that difference now? Try saying “a tax on books is a tax on knowledge” with a straight face when you are choosing between your chick-lit and a travel guide at the airport newsstand, and then you buy a pretentious imported art quarterly instead, which probably has more cultural worth but would be taxed as a periodical not a book.

Tax exemption for educational texts perhaps? Nice try but impossible to define when today’s pop culture bestseller is tomorrow’s school reading list. Add GST to online imports? Equitable perhaps but impractical and an extra 10% won’t address the bigger changes that have come from a confluence of e-commerce and digital content.

The message was there in the demise of that major bookselling chain: we are now in the era of Books Without Borders.

Public servants:

John Thompson writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 8). I have no particular axe to grind for or against public servants, (I was one, briefly, 45 years ago).

However, I do not believe it was any government department that was kept away from home, or badly inconvenienced over the weekend, during Qantas’ grounding — it was individual public servants.

Accordingly, it is those public servants who should be compensated with free flights, not their employer. By all means let the government pursue Qantas for some further compensation, but, for once, give the public servants something directly.


David Hardie writes: Re. “My Cup of Tea: nothing changes in opera — and nobody seems to care” (Friday, item 16). In a generally excellent article Andrew Ford overlooks three operas that managed to work their way into the wider repertoire of contemporary opera companies: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide and George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (at least in the US).

However, the main point, and these three operas underline my point, in that the conservative point of view is that since good modern opera may not attract an audience, it is assumed that any modern opera that manages to attract an audience is too commercially oriented and therefore not the type of opera that they should be doing.

Climate change:

Mark Duffett writes: To use their own words, someone might want to put a rocket under the Crikey editorial writer. A nuclear powered one, that is.

Ferguson is much more correct than Milne on the energy/climate options issue. Even just the first graph reproduced from the IEA in the editorial hints at this, with the contribution from non-hydro and non-biomass renewables (the only type the Greens support) pitiful and projected to remain so. There are fundamental physical reasons for this.

A proportion of renewable energy is fine and to be encouraged, but 100% renewable energy plans for Australia (or anywhere that lacks abundant hydro and/or natural geothermal resources) are multi-trillion dollar recipes for failure.

With their disgraceful and completely unjustified insistence that nuclear energy be excluded from international carbon credit calculations under the new legislation, the Greens are more part of the climate problem than Ferguson is.

I plead with anyone whose mind is not closed on this issue to get over to and get educated.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. Friday’s editorial.  It’s been a while since Crikey published a breathless climate change editorial. Friday’s included some stock-standard scare quotes;  “the door is closing” … “worried” … “door will be closed forever”; then some graphs showing the utter dominance of hydrocarbons in our energy mix and how we’re basically locked in to big CO2 increases anyway.

Curiously, Crikey then quotes Christine Milne explaining how we need a shock-construction program to get us to 100% renewables FAST, while disparaging Martin Ferguson for explaining why this is impossible.

But … but …  the second graph showed “dangerous” CO2 concentrations are a dead certainty by 2017; Locked in; Unavoidable. You see, China’s CO2 emissions grew more than Australia’s total emissions last year. India’s are skyrocketing. North America is doing nothing to restrain its emissions and nor is anyone else. Well, except for brave Australia.

So in six years Thermageddon will be locked in. All that needs to happen now is some serious temperature increases so we can get onto the warming path the climate models have been predicting for so long. Sure, there’s only been 0.7° warming in the past 150 years and just 0.08° since 1998. But no matter how many windmills we build, we can’t run or hide from this one.

Global warming is coming, soon. It’s locked in. And don’t bother moaning about the futility of the carbon tax — it’s not like there will be a civilisation where you can spend your money anyway.