Response to species deceases
Tim Flannery is wrong to claim “nothing was done” in response to the demise of the pipistrelle bat on Christmas Island in 2009 (Karen Middleton, “Sustained energy”, September 24-30). As environment minister, I convened an expert working group to advise on plummeting bat numbers, once the critically endangered status of the bat was made known to me (including by Flannery). I encouraged the capture of the remaining bats (a task that ultimately frustrated ecologists and park managers), and ordered a trial captive breeding program of related species as insurance. I injected $1.5 million to assist ecosystem preservation on the island and visited to inspect works firsthand. I later blocked expansion of the island’s phosphate mine, thought to be partially responsible for the bat’s demise due to habitat loss, and corrected an administrative failure of former minister Malcolm Turnbull in the process. Tim Flannery wanted to create an emergency room to quarantine the species while habitat recovered. But the experts were clear that this was highly unlikely to succeed. To disagree with actions taken is fair comment. To say I did nothing is simply untrue and a poor reflection on the accuser to boot.
– Peter Garrett, former federal environment minister 2007-10
Better than Canada’s system
Tim Flannery is correct in saying that British Columbia’s carbon tax is better than emissions trading for pricing carbon and addressing fossil fuel emissions. It is revenue-neutral, popular with electors and has boosted the economy. Carbon fee and dividend (advocated by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby) further improves on the BC tax by placing a steadily rising fee on fossil fuel companies (instead of consumers) and returning all the net revenue to households, further boosting the economy and electoral support. Fee and dividend also has a better chance of cross-party support than emissions trading. It efficiently phases out fossil fuel emissions while freeing us up to focus on Flannery’s other concerns; saving the reef, protecting biodiversity and enabling farmers to draw down atmospheric carbon into our depleted soils.
– Rod Mitchell, Guildford, WA, national co-ordinator Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia
Rallying cry on same-sex marriage
It’s time for the church to “talk straight” on marriage (Mike Seccombe, “Battlelines drawn on same-sex marriage plebiscite”, September 17-23). While there is considerable debate over funding the “Yes” and “No” campaigns around the marriage equality plebiscite, there is little doubt that the social cost already generated by the issue can be credited to generations of institutional investment in silence. The fear and aggression displayed towards commentators advocating marriage equality employs ancient Christian weapons that should have been locked up, decommissioned and surrendered but instead are employed to wage a new war between world views using members of the Australian public as foot soldiers. Evolution of the species is a reality that has not been assisted by conservative religious institutions, and the evolution of the institution marriage has been similarly gaffer-taped by the same team that initially supported slavery, denied women the vote, compromised best outcomes for children and straitjacketed social and religious diversity. In the arsenal of guilty secrets, “unchanged biblical marriage” ticks away as a fiction made possible by collective ignorance, against which Copernicus, Galileo, Wilberforce, Darwin and Pankhurst struggled, and against which those advocating marriage equality struggle today. This is not a Sunday school picnic with fairy floss and pin the tail on the donkey. The plebiscite is more akin to sponsoring civil war with air-dropped “hate” propaganda and pinning the cost on a new generation of young victims.
– Archdeacon Peter Macleod-Miller, Albury, NSW
Population growth not a given
Guy Rundle is partly right in his diagnosis of the appalling planning regimes in our major cities, and their capture by developer and party-political interests (“Urban stall”, September 24-30). But why does Rundle not consider the possibility that our population growth could be slowed or stabilised? Instead, he asserts that, “We have decided, as a nation, to become a substantially larger one.” How does this square with consistent opinion polling that shows a majority of Australians think we don’t need more people, with about 65 per cent believing our population should be no more than 30 million? A majority also thinks our record-high immigration levels are indeed too high. Rather than take “expansive” population growth as a given, perhaps Rundle could ask why the will of the people is so doggedly ignored? As the Productivity Commission notes, our immigration policy is our default population policy. Rundle’s vision of a big Australia accommodated within Melbourne II and Sydney II, built within existing city footprints, is pie in the sky. Be assured that if the population keeps growing, then our urban fringe areas will continue to sprawl, trashing biodiversity, habitat and scarce arable land.
– Peter Cook, Spring Hill, Qld
A familiar tale
Maggie MacKellar’s series about her dying father (“Wings of change”, September 10-16; “Survival instincts”, September 17-23; “Into the light”, September 24-30) brought back so many memories of my experience with my own mother who did not “go gentle into that good night”. The emotional roller-coaster of caring and grief involved when watching someone you love die, mixed with the anxiety that comes with every decision that has to be made along that journey, was so honestly told. Thank you for a very moving story of loss and renewal.
– Vicky Marquis, Glebe, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 1, 2016. Subscribe here.