Renewable energy and government:

John Hunwick writes: Re. “Abandoning an economically-pure approach to climate change” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane wrote:

“The example from the rest of the world appears to be not a simple choice between an economically-pure carbon price and government intervention, but a mix of both.”

The solution to climate change will have to involve more or less everyone. As individuals we are happy, perhaps sensitive, to economic pressures and will respond to them in any way we can. The element individuals cannot enact is government intervention! If only we could!

The majority of people in Australia want to see the phasing out of coal, starting yesterday, much more investment in solar and wind and a commitment to targets in line with the best scientific advice to minimise the effects of climate change. But how can we get government intervention. Speaking to politicians who have made up their minds and are now closed to further argument doesn’t do it; voting once every four years does not bring the urgent action required.

Perhaps Bernard Keane could write at length on what people can actually do to bring about the required ? Or will it be a case of democracy in action: too little too late?

Bernard Murphy appointment deserves scrutiny:

Stephen Mayne writes: “By all means run the piece,” wrote Bernard Keane in his opening emailed response after reading a proposed 1000 word item I’d written on the Gillard-AWU-Slaters saga on Sunday.

Alas, a group editorial decision was then made not to run the piece and Crikey instead published this Bernard Keane piece on Monday linking me with Right wing nutters pushing conspiracy theories and quoting past coverage on issues as Paul Keating’s piggery and the Mark Latham bucks night video.

As Keane and Crikey‘s editorial leadership well know, the most important point of Monday’s spiked story went to the appropriateness of Gillard appointing her controversial Slater & Gordon mentor, Bernard Murphy, as a Federal Court judge last year when they both left the firm in acrimonious circumstances.

Having read today’s front page story in The AFR about Bernard Murphy, along with the various new disclosures in The Australian since Saturday, especially the edited transcript of Julia Gillard’s 3 hour taped interview with Peter Gordon in 1995, surely Crikey now accepts that this is a legitimate story worthy of discussion.

Crikey should be dealing with all political and media issues on their merits and operate on the basis that it is possible, indeed desirable, to air criticism of News Ltd and Julia Gillard at the same time.  Suppressing legitimate views and then attacking this website’s founder is hardly fostering a range of independent viewpoints in our highly concentrated media market.


Rob Musk, Senior Forest Biometrician at Forestry Tasmania, writes: Re. “Tasmania’s forestry sector akin to ‘work for the dole’” (yesterday, item 10). Andrew Macintosh and Richard Denniss provide an economic analysis of timber production in Australian native forests devoid of any consideration of the complexities involved in forest management. The article is riddled with errors and yet again, Crikey has missed an opportunity to inform their readers about an important topic.

Macintosh and Denniss hold up Forestry Tasmania as an exemplar of how badly things are going in our forests. In critiquing the financial performance of this agency they seek to perpetuate a number of myths that normally only get an airing in journals less august than Crikey.

The Tasmanian Audit Office notes that in the 16 years to 2011 Forestry Tasmania made $200 million in profit, averaging $12.56 million per annum, returning $139 million in taxes and dividends. It also noted that Tasmania was $111 million per year better off with FT than without it. The report further explains in excruciating detail how the subsidies paid to Forestry Tasmania in compensation for a 27% drop in productive forest area due to increases in reservation have been used to develop plantation resources. In doing so it casts doubt on whether the amounts paid have been sufficient to cover the profit loss or for the costs of plantation management.

So much for the four summarising “facts”.

Forestry Tasmania manages 694 000 hectares for wood production and a further 807 000 hectares for conservation. The royalty payments from the timber produced in the former pay for the conservation in the latter. How much would this reserve system cost taxpayers without timber royalties? According to the DPIWE Annual report 2010, the Parks and Wildlife Service in Tasmania manages a far less accessible land base at an annual cost of $18.60 per hectare.

So if we chose to halt timber production and provide less roads and public amenities our state forests would cost Tasmanians $12.9 million a year up front. Actually the State forest contains many roads and is interspersed with many other tenures. It is more similar to the NSW reserve estate which costs $37 per hectare to manage. So the upfront cost might be closer to $25.7 million per annum.

Andrew and Richard also seem to think that the alternative conservation-only forest is inherently more sustainable. How exactly? Should we look to National Parks as a possible service model? Forestry Tasmania has 360 staff available for fire fighting duties. The Parks and Wildlife Service in Tasmania has 12. Consider what that means on a hot summers day.


Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (Monday, item 11). In response to Richard Farmer’s comment, “There’s nothing like a bit of nationalistic fervour with which an undemocratic regime can divert the attention of its people from economic troubles at home,” Niall Clugston (yesterday, comments) argued “but tensions over maritime boundaries have been bubbling along across East Asia for many years, including between South Korea and Japan. I don’t think “news of a decline in economic growth” in China has much to do with it.”

The fact these tensions have been around for years only strengthens the argument that something — such as the state of the Chinese economy — must have changed now to persuade the Chinese government that it suddenly wants to elevate these tensions to a big issue in the state-controlled media.