Real question on coal
While the Coalition laments the closure of the old coal-fired power plants at Port Augusta and the Latrobe Valley, suppliers of “cheap” electricity, perhaps someone could ask the question: how cheap is coal (Paul Bongiorno, “A republican’s thorny crown”, December 17-23)? Ask the miners who have been diagnosed with black lung if they think coal is cheap. And ask their families. Ask the people of Morwell if they think coal is cheap. After all, that fire in 2014 wasn’t the first time they’ve been exposed to a range of highly toxic air pollutants. Ask other people who live near coalmines, railway lines where open coal trucks are carried numerous times each day, and they are breathing in coal dust all day, or coal terminals such as Newcastle where millions of litres of precious water are required to reduce that dust. Ask the farmers who give up and sell when their cattle refuse to eat grass covered in coal dust. Ask the residents of towns such as Thirlmere, which has all but lost its ancient lakes, and people who rely on rivers reduced to a trickle. Did the company that owns the mine that caused the extensive subsidence on the M1 pay for repairs? Or did it come from our state taxes? The increasing mechanisation of this industry means jobs have already been lost, and this is likely to continue, and so this is not just about employment. I won’t even venture into the realm of climate change and the uncertain real costs if we continue to ignore coal’s contribution to this. How about we just look at the real cost of this “cheap” coal; the full cost of health, of lost livelihood, and factor that into the real cost of coal-fired power plants.
– Barbara Lyle, Tea Gardens, NSW
An inspiring voice
I was so saddened to learn of Georgia Blain’s passing. As someone diagnosed with brain cancer in 2012, I read Georgia’s contributions (“The Unwelcome Guest”) closely. Georgia’s honest reflections captured so many of the challenges of what it means to live day-to-day with this insidious disease that touches all aspects of life. Georgia spoke to the insights gained through suffering, captured a sense of living groundlessly, and above all reminded me of the importance of the simple and joyful things in life – landscapes and nature, companionship, family. May she rest in peace.
– Benjamin Leske, Footscray, Vic
Waiting for a change
We can thank Tony Abbott for Australia’s status as “the biggest pariah nation in the world when it comes to action on climate change” (Bill McKibben, “How to stop lends and influence people”, December 17-23). During Julia Gillard’s time as prime minister (2010-13), some of the most inaccurate statements about the consequences of a carbon tax were made by Abbott. It became farcical when Barnaby Joyce claimed the carbon tax would push the price of a Sunday roast to $100. Even now, the words “carbon tax” cannot even be mentioned in the context of sensible policy debate surrounding carbon emission schemes. Recently on Q&A, Naomi Klein was asked, “How does the world view Australia’s inaction on climate change?” Her reply was prefaced: “Among wealthy industrialised countries, Australia now stands alone raising its middle finger to the world.” Originated by Abbott, and now continued by Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s inaction on climate change reaffirms its pariah status. Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, and Abbott, “would seemingly see the world burn before they were willing to take genuine climate change action”. Cheered on by such luminaries as Bernardi, Christensen, Abetz and others, Abbott continues to hold the strings of his marionette – and tragically, the nation still waits for a rational energy policy, one that clearly addresses what remains of our carbon budget under the Paris agreement.
– David Nash, Manly, NSW
Mapping the future
I agree we should change the date (Editorial, “The date is changing”, December 10-16) and am somewhat surprised that so far no one has suggested a celebration of Australia’s Name Day. I don’t know the actual date other than the name “Australia” being adopted in 1804 – as suggested by Matthew Flinders. Surely a Name Day would be inclusive of all peoples who live here.
– Lorri Pattingale, Boronia Heights, Qld
Smoke and yoga
Gillian Terzis has been contributing some interesting stories from San Francisco. But “Running, man” (December 17-23) ignored thousands of years of history by suggesting “pot lovers and yoga devotees, [as] two groups that might have had little crossover in the past”. This distinction might apply for recent yoga devotees in the West, but ganja has always been central to yogic practice in India. Lord Shiva, the ultimate yogi, is also the Hindu god of cannabis, or at least its patron saint. That said, one wonders what Australian law-enforcement agencies make of the passing in California on November 8 of Proposition 64, which legalises marijuana for recreational use. According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s latest “Illicit Drug Data Report”, in 2014-15, 66,309 people were arrested for possessing or administering marijuana for their own use. Our lawmakers, ever eager to follow America’s lead, should take note.
– Dave Lisle, Mullumbimby, NSW
US learns departmental ways
American republicans are getting upset because negotiations about our refugee resettlement program are being kept secret. Welcome to the real world, fellas, where secrecy in the Australian Immigration Department is paramount, and you will soon learn that what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
– Jim Banks, Pottsville Beach, NSW
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 24, 2016. Subscribe here.