On Senate Estimates

John Richardson writes: Re.”Noble gatekeepers of tradition and good morals suit up for (culture) war in Senate estimates” (Thursday)

The senate estimates comedy show just gets better & better.

Taxpayer funded advocate for the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia, the Association of Christian Parent Controlled Schools, Salt Shakers, Focus on the Family, Lyons Forum, Endeavour Forum, Family Council of Victoria, Fatherhood Foundation, Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Family Association & Right to Life Australia, great nephew of former SS Brigadier General Otto Abetz, Senator for Tasmania & the very model of a modern member of the liberal party, Eric Abetz, took umbrage with SBS boss Michael Ebeid for allegedly using his taxpayer funded position to engage in advocacy.

An undisputed master of parody.

On the Lindt cafe siege

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Victims of the Lindt cafe siege deserve better than ‘lessons learned’

I am concerned about the sentiment expressed in Bernard Keane’s article on the Lindt Cafe bombing. Of course there were errors of judgement, mostly seen in hindsight.  It took the coroner 600 pages and two years to identify in extraordinary detail what the commander on the spot had 10 minutes to work out.

It turns out that the police commander was correct in his belief that police intervention was likely to lead to death or injury, as it did exactly that.  It follows that extreme reticence to act  was probably wise. We now have a situation where the outcome of the enquiry is that the police in a hostage situation should act immediately they hear gunfire.  Any terrorist planning such an event now knows that it is imperative to shoot everybody immediately as the police will act on the first shot.  It is far from clear that this is an advisable tactic to telegraph in advance.

We often complain about the police being too gung-ho.  In this instance the recommendation is that they should have been a bit more gung-ho.  It is a fair bet that next time something like this happens either the police commander will be so paralysed by conflicting policy restrictions that more people get hurt, or the police will act, people will be killed, and an enquiry will find that the police action was too gung-ho.

 On the inland rail

Geoff Edwards writes: Re “Inland rail will make its $8 billion back, government says” (Thursday).

Bernard Keane is right to highlight the schizophrenic treatment of the inland rail project in the national budget. In addition, taxpayers deserve an analysis of the opportunity cost of committing such a large sum — whether public or private capital — to a single transport project with questionable economic returns. If benefit-cost analysis has any value, it should be used to compare this project with alternatives. The Productivity Commission in 2007 surveyed a sample of scientific research and development projects and found an average benefit-cost ratio of 12:1. Why should investment capital be sunk into a project that arguably can’t even pay back its cost, that is, 1:1? The economics profession should be up in arms.

In any case, goods and people need transport only when they are separated from where they need to be. Given Australia’s lac of self-sufficiency in petroleum (less than 50% and falling), an economically rational approach would be to re-engineer our transport system to minimise consumption of imported petroleum fuels. Such as by electrifying components, designing cities to be more self-sufficient and restructuring supply chains so that transport of goods across the continent is unnecessary. CSIRO could produce a serviceable model for one per cent of the rail’s budget.


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Peter Fray
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