Letters to
the editor

Building resilience the key to food security

Margaret Simons has drawn out key lessons from my 2012 report into the security of the Australian food supply chain in excellent fashion (“The real reason our shelves were empty”, May 2–8). Although Australia has enough food for everyone, it may not always be available to consumers. Food supply chains are highly resilient, but would be vulnerable if we were exposed to two or more disasters at once. We were in one sense lucky that Covid-19 and the peak of the bushfires did not coincide – distribution centres, especially in some regional locations, would have struggled to maintain supplies even more than they did at the height of Covid-19 panic buying. If shipping lanes had been cut by an international conflict at the same time – fortunately they weren’t – our diets would have been severely limited and some Australians might have gone hungry. To help plan for the future we need to build on the work done back in 2011-12 to understand the pressure points in the supply chain and build greater resilience. We can’t count on our luck holding forever.

– Stephen Bartos, Canberra, ACT

Fund education and teachers properly

Thank you, Jane Caro (“Uneven paying field for schools’ return”, May 2–8) – a wonderful appraisal. Undignified, deceitful, snobbish and sectarian approaches to public education and its funding, full of half-truths, doublespeak and divisive politics, have gone on far too long. Please bring in fully funded, free, universal and secular public education, funded from the public purse. Then pay the teachers properly and better than lawyers and politicians – their job is more difficult and more important. Private schools are business ventures and should be treated as such by state and federal governments.

 – Stephen Skinner, Rockdale, NSW

Far from independent

As a retired principal of a state primary school in Victoria I applaud Jane Caro for her fine article. Jane is a strong advocate for public schools who is extremely well informed on most issues related to education funding. However, Jane falls into the “weasel words” trap that most commentators tend to do. Private and religious schools are not independent. They rely on (and expect) state and federal government funding. They are not “independent schools”, as they are far from independent. Thanks, Jane, for your ongoing commitment to and support of government schools.

– Bill Clark, Melbourne, Vic

Inequality lessons

I, too, have been perplexed at the federal government’s sudden concern for disadvantaged students (although if you listen closely to their words it’s clear it’s just a talking point; they understand nothing of the young people they’re talking about, or the circumstances of the schools they attend). And then private schools are losing money because many parents suddenly can’t afford the fees. Only in Australia could these schools argue that because they’ve got fewer students they should get more government money. Thank you, Jane Caro, for spelling out for us how inequality is increasing as teachers work ever harder with relatively less and less.

– Caroline Clark, Northcote, Vic

Use fertile land more wisely

Max Opray’s excellent article, “Fuelling new ideas” (May 2–8), mentions the possibility that increasing Australia’s bioenergy fuel supply might require more land clearing so land is not taken away from that used to grow food crops. However, there is a huge amount of already-farmed land (about four million hectares) growing crops such as corn, oats and sorghum to produce feed for cattle, pigs and poultry. Consider, too, the extent of fertile lands used to graze beef cattle. It is well known that feeding animals that are then slaughtered for consumption is a very inefficient way of providing protein in the diet. Land used to grow fodder crops could instead be utilised for bioenergy crops. A vegetarian diet will improve the health of citizens, bypass many animal cruelty concerns and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, so helping to reduce planetary heating.

– Rupert Russell, Mount Molloy, Qld

Cutting the mustard

Love TSP. Here we have Max Opray on page 6 writing about Steve Hobbs producing biodiesel from mustard seeds. Then on page 8 we have Margaret Simons telling us how a popular Australian brand of mustard gets its seeds from Wisconsin in the United States. How good is that!?

– Nick Pyner, Dee Why, NSW

Beyond belief

I refer to your editorial (“Palmer’s snake oil”, May 2–8) concerning “no medical proof for Palmer’s belief that hydroxychloroquine is ‘the best hope for those suffering Covid-19’ ”. It reminds me of a T-shirt I saw last summer: “Science does not care what you believe”. There may be a message in that for climate change deniers, too.

– Ian Nowak, Subiaco, WA

Three’s a cloud

As a regular follower of Mungo MacCallum’s cryptics, I write reluctantly to let him know that “tres” means “three” in Spanish, but not in French, which brings unstuck his clues for “trespass” (The Cryptic, May 2–8) and “tresses” (April 25–May 1).

– Michael Sloane, Cook, ACT

Food turn-up

Among all the adjectives that could be used to describe the humble turnip, I never expected to see “stunning”. Still coming to terms with it (David Moyle, “Same aim but different”, May 2–8).

– Anne Ackroyd, Melba, ACT

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 May 9, 2020.

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