Letters to
the editor

Abbott lacking the skills

The Liberal Party’s massive blunder in installing a leader for opposition, not government, was made, envisaging control of both the house of representatives and the senate in government, to give him the power to match his belligerence (Editorial, “Chief concern”, January 31-
February 6). A leader like Tony Abbott makes a more than adequate opposition leader, in which role he can do or say whatever he likes, and he did, making many parliamentary enemies in the process. But a leader of government requires different skills. A hostile senate requires a government leader with the personal skills and charm to negotiate outcomes. Barack Obama dealing with a hostile congress comes to mind. Unfortunately for the Liberal Party, not having control of the senate in government has exposed Abbott’s leadership shortcomings. The Liberals are paying, and will continue to pay, for having installed a leader whose mandate comes from the lower house but whose personal failings make him incapable of capturing the imagination of a democratic upper house. So will Australia.

– Brian Sanaghan, West Preston, Vic

Captain has been found out

After the vicious attacks Tony Abbott made on Julia Gillard, it is almost amusing to see how quickly his government has fallen from grace. Every attempt at policy formulation lacks compassion and intelligent consideration: education, health, immigration, the budget and taxation, among others. Our international reputation has also suffered. Perhaps he should not have promoted himself to the office knowing he was not competent to hold it effectively.

– Sean Koerner, Hawthorn, Vic

In need of diplomatic experience

John Langmore (“Foreign currency”, January 31-
February 6) exposes a gap in Australia’s international relations narrative. He describes nuanced diplomacy and effective peacekeeping operations as characteristics of Australia’s United Nations leadership, where genuine gains for human development were made. Meanwhile, these gains, and the potential for more, are curbed by Abbott’s inflexible realism: acquiescence to America’s military, cuts to the aid budget, a meaningless climate change policy and a narrow definition of national security that precludes a focus on human security. As we’ve seen domestically, Abbott has the diplomatic graces of a beached whale, so we require a replacement (perhaps with foreign policy and UN experience) to fill the gaps in Australia’s international relations narrative.

– Lachlan Alexander, University of Delhi

Keep it simple, stupid

The common citizenry just can’t take a trick. Back in the day the Trotskyists told us that we acquiesced to exploitation because of false consciousness – we didn’t understand where our true interests lay. Now, when we reject dishonest, incompetent government, the commentariat tells us it’s because we don’t understand where our true interests lie. Again and again we’re told that the Coalition is on the nose because the pollies and the media just aren’t explaining things properly – as Queensland Liberal Ewen Jones put it on RN Breakfast on Monday, “the mantra hasn’t been right”. If only Newman and Abbott and co would use more words of one syllable, whip up a few more catchy slogans, perhaps shovel a few more millions at TV ads and PR consultancies, we’d all fall in love with public asset stripping, the GP co-payment, university deregulation, $29 billion on submarines, the unjust taxation system, and perhaps even Sir Phil. Anyone else sick of being patronised?

– Penny Oakes, Pambula Beach, NSW

Plan B just a distraction

Thanks to Wendy Zukerman (“Global norming”, January 24-30) for writing about the mother of all moral hazards – geoengineering. With the Paris climate talks nine months away, it’s ominous that we’re talking about a “Plan B” for when our climate really starts running amok. Playing god with the earth’s atmosphere is a grand act of folly and a serious distraction, too. But what is interesting is that prominent US think tanks that have for so long cast doubt on the science of global warning –
such as American Enterprise Institute, Heartland and Cato – are also promoting geoengineering. While this Plan B clearly appeals to the philosophical inclinations of the neo-conservative techno-optimists who want to lord it over nature, it is most serendipitous that geoengineering is compatible with the business models of such sponsors as the Koch brothers. So I am surprised Abbott’s Direct Action plan does not have geoengineering front and centre. Has he finally lost it?

– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW

Listen to the experts

As a scientist who has been a co-author of a study of the potential impacts of one geoengineering idea, designed to act as a carbon sink, I think there is ample evidence that these schemes are: (1) in general, very risky, and may cause unforeseen environmental impacts; (2) potentially much more expensive than the alternatives, although the economic modelling has usually not been done; and (3) at least in the case we examine, unlikely to work. The solutions to mitigate climate change impacts are already very well known. They have been analysed in depth by peak scientific bodies, made up of thousands of specialists, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their fifth assessment report, completed last year. These solutions involve reducing our emissions of fossil fuels, and are safe, have been evaluated economically, and are highly likely to work. It is both distracting and possibly misleading to discuss such unlikely ideas when the solutions are in front of us.

– Shauna Murray, University of Technology, Sydney

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 7, 2015.

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