Letters to the editor - Feb 10

Slick response

In 2009 an oil company, PTTEP Australasia, was responsible for a massive oil spill in the Timor Sea which spread over 90,000 kilometres over a period of 10 weeks. It was found responsible because of poor installation and, in a report, it was said that the Northern Territory Department of Resources had a ‘minimalist’ approach to regulation. The full environmental damage may never be known. The area is known for whale birthing, and what other countless sea creatures and their habitat have been affected?

Now the federal government is convinced that this company can continue to operate safely in Australian waters with scrutiny and monitoring! As in the Gulf oil disaster in southern USA, these companies do not have controls to manage these spills and must await rescue from afar. This isn’t good enough, and they must be made to have at their disposal immediate remedial plant. Costly, maybe, but not as costly as the damage they wreak on our environment and economies.

It seems corporate wealth, government coffers and jobs are the only issues here for the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson.

Cherie Imlah


The Brown land

The people of Gympie and Maryborough have been flooded by the ‘Brown’ floodwaters that could have been much abated by the Traviston dam, if the politicians had allowed it to be built. In a few years’ time when the Mary River valley is again Browned by drought, again the people can thank the Greens for no dam water.

Dams may drown the valley habitat of some farmers, but an assured flow in rivers downstream provides water security for many more birds, flora and farmers. Unregulated rivers often nearly run dry in major Australian droughts, what I guess you could call Brown rivers.

If we are to have more frequent severe weather events, surely we need more dams to store the water to help control flows?

No dams can prevent such major floods, but at least they can retain some of the water for the droughts to come.

Ken Macdonald

Lennox Head

Levy support

After listening to the continuing opposition by Abbott et al over the flood levy I checked on the amount of levy (the “never-ever” GST) imposed by the Opposition when they were in government. The GST I pay amounts to around $20 per week, on an income well under $50k a year.

By contrast, I, along with 60% of the adult population, would not pay any levy at all, because I earn less than $50k a year. For those earning $55k a year the levy would be a mere 48 cents a week. For those on $90k a year it would be $3.85 a week (the cost of one cup of coffee). Even someone earning $300k a year would only pay a total of around $2400 for the whole year. Remember, this one off levy is to assist in the rebuilding of areas affected by a massive natural disaster. It is to help our fellow citizens.

It is shameful the way Abbott et al are politicising the levy for their own selfish purposes. Their aim is clearly to prevent the government carrying out any of their worthwhile plans. Plus, the levy is going to cover only around a third of the costs anyway. Budget cuts will cover the rest. If Abbott thinks the government should increase budget cuts maybe they should cut all subsidies to wealthy private schools, or stop every bit of corporate welfare or cut politicians’ salaries and benefits. Maybe use the Future Fund instead and let politicians and bureaucrats entirely fund their own retirements? Would Abbott agree with this? The hypocrisy of the Opposition never fails to astound.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes tax as a contribution levied on persons etc for government support.

B Guy



Withdraw from war

Instead of enforcing a new flood tax levy, or cutting welfare programs to fund reconstruction, would it not be far wiser to withdraw from the futile fighting in Afghanistan? The millions of dollars now being wasted every single day fighting an endless war could be put to good use here at home.

Not only will we save our brave soldiers from yet another senseless death, but it will ease the tension being created through what can only ever be an unproductive war. Russia tried for 10 years in this very area, only to have to withdraw after achieving little except massive expenditure. Must we do the same? Each time the Australian death toll mounts, we see politicians and military brass on TV mouthing the usual platitudes about their bravery, but despite all the noble rhetoric, it’s yet another tragic death of an Aussie boy fighting on the far side of the world for unclear reasons, leaving parents, wife and kids to grieve and ask why?

It is senseless trying to impose Western beliefs by means of a machine gun on an ancient culture and religion that vehemently opposes it. They can simply play the waiting game, constantly harassing our forces until we are forced to go home, either by economic necessity or public disapproval. How many more broken young bodies have to be shipped home in metal boxes before we see the population of Australia reacting the same way they did to the mounting death toll of what ultimately became a hugely unpopular war in Vietnam? Why not bring the boys home now? No one doubts their bravery, just the sanity of the politicians who kowtowed to American interests in the first place. Give our troops a well-earned rest, retain their efforts for a more productive initiative that has meaning for Australia, and use the saved multi-millions towards the massive rebuilding made necessary by the many natural disasters that have hit us here at home.

P De Grey


Protest movement

Any mention in our popular media about massive protests and violence in Egypt give little more explanation than a struggle for democracy over tyranny. However, more honest and outspoken publications, not owned by obscenely wealthy capitalists, such as Green Left Weekly, tell the real story.

The worsening unrest in Egypt is part of “a fearless uprising for democracy and economic justice that is sweeping the Arab world”. In Tunisia, mass protests have been described by protesters as “a revolution of the poor and the martyrs”. The anger in the Arab world against the exploitation and deprivation inflicted upon them by the worldwide surge in capitalism is not dissimilar to what has already been occurring in European capitalistic countries.

What the capitalist press don’t want people to realise is that there’s simple, understandable, provable reasons for the ever-growing anger, frustration, dissent and violent protests.

Ironically, the best country to study to see the workings of unbridled capitalism, America, has so far been one of the least known for public dissent. Mass murders, often by stressed, frustrated and desperate people losing their jobs, suicides, drug abuse and an extremely violent society reflect an underlying extreme discontent. But, partly thanks to the very nature of capitalism, of competition against fellow man, of striving to the top by exploiting others, often by treachery, all for the glory of obscene wealth, the disgruntled masses are not so unified. Unionism is discouraged. De-unionisation of the public sector is increasing under Obama. A proposed two-year wage freeze for two million federal workers has been accompanied by a crackdown on collective bargaining. Disadvantaged groups lack solidarity, a condition of their capitalism.

With approaching 50 million living off food vouchers, uncounted tens of millions homeless, and unemployment around 30% among the poor, and rising, workers are being further deprived while corporate tax is about to be cut.

The capitalist extraction process, whereby profits that never return to their source are extracted from the community at large by paying out less than they gather from the goods or services they sell, is grinding to an inevitable halt. The government, at the behest of the capitalists, then deprives workers more and takes less from the rich. And the rich got richer while scores of millions of others fell into abject poverty. It is simple and obvious, the evidence is there to be seen.

The next phase will be fascism. Better to have war than have the hideous inevitable result of capitalism: deprivation, suffering and death, there for all to see. After millions are slaughtered in the war, they can start another capitalist boom from the survivors’ savings.

History tells the story, capitalism is always doomed to fail, a hideous war follows. Democratic socialism is the only alternative. It works. It has been demonised by the capitalists, and the majority believe them.

They are in for a shock, but almost certainly not enlightenment!

Doug Burt



Simple solution

Scientists for over 30 years have been predicting extreme weather events as a consequence of human caused greenhouse gas emissions. After cyclone Yasi, one of the “biggest and meanest” (to quote a cyclone expert), tore through the north Queensland coast, isn’t it time that we as a community said this is enough!

We have seen catastrophic weather events such as the Victorian bushfires, record floods in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Brazil, extreme cold in the US and Europe and of course the recent fatal floods in Queensland. The link between these events and climate change is not proved. The best scientific advice says there is an overall link to climate change if not to specific extreme weather events. However, commonsense dictates that if there is even a slight chance of a link we need to demand that world leaders agree to reduce carbon emissions immediately. At the same time it is critical for individuals, government and industry to reduce their own energy use and emissions.

Simon Clough



No more debate

The climate change debate is over! No more silly scepticism, half truths and quoting of supposedly impeachable sources, like some raving Lord lunatic, can ignore the facts as they continue to be represented by scientists of all disciplines and driven home by extreme weather conditions. The extinctions of species, caused by global warming, predicted by scientists, have already begun to be observed. Glaciers are melting exponentially, forests are dying. Recently the Amazon rainforest experienced the worst drought in recorded history killing millions of trees and threatening to alter the forests ability to scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere. In fact scientists are afraid that it will become a reverse situation where dying and decaying trees will actually increase CO714987860 in the atmosphere. Like a smoker, the Amazon, one of the Earth’s lungs, may suffocate from too much toxic gas.

Yet the she’ll be right mentality of the dozy Australian governments and its sceptical numbnuts continues to dominate the inaction we see on just about every front when the world is confronted by a glaringly implacable problem. When the Jews faced annihilation under the Nazis the world dilly dallied and six million were exterminated in the gas ovens. As we dilly dally on the action needed to act on climate change caused by global warming the entire human species and sundry animal stands to reap the same fate. This time the oven will be the planet we live on. We are the 21st century Jews. Our enemies are apathy and vested interests who refuse to change their ways.

It is interesting to note that some of the greatest sceptics are those who believe the inerrant truth of the Bible, yet even the Bible says the world will be destroyed by fire. Like Nero did as Rome burnt, our emperors and empresses continue to fiddle. Though not all. Many European countries have shown that with the will things can change and produce surprising economic benefits too. We as a species have the mind to turn this cataclysmic effect we have on the Earth around. It is all just amatter of political will.

M Mizzi



Weather patterns

In response to Wayne Wadsworth (Echo, Jan 27), Mother Nature is indeed still standing aside. I am a believer in climate change, however the severe weather patterns that we’re seeing have happened before (eg 1974 floods), however the frequency and is escalating.

Before extraordinary events were an isolated incidence, now we hear about them every week in a different part of the globe. It’s not just that we’re more in touch – there is a definite escalation.

I believe the consistent and increasing abuse that we humans have collectively heaped upon the Earth is bearing fruit. This is not Mother Nature responding to our ignorance – this is one of the clearest illustrations of Karma, “As you sow, so shall you reap”.

Well we’ve sown it all right. Now it stands to be seen what the results of our actions will bring.

And to K McPherson – “Fluoride doesn’t make sense to me” – better dental hygiene however does make sense which most people have put into action over the last 20 years with regular dental checkups, cleaning, flossing etc.

If you want fluoride – get the tablets. Don’t make me ingest a poison that I don’t want in my system. You can put it in – I can’t take it out!

Liora Claff

Lismore Heights

For Fluoride

No, K McPherson (Echo, Jan 20), you are not the only person in the Northern Rivers who wants fluoride in the water. I do, and I suspect many others do also.

I totally agree with your logic, and am constantly surprised when otherwise intelligent people get sucked in by the conspiracy theories put forward by the anti-fluoride lobby.

Some people in this region seem all too ready to ignore scientific studies in favour of popular campaigns

against the status-quo, eg the anti-vaccination movement.

The internet provides all sorts of people with a platform to argue their pet theories. But what really matters is the weight of scientific evidence. The World Health Organisation encourages any countries not fluoridating water supplies to do so. Surely this esteemed body would have weighed up the research.

By the way, Sydney’s water supply is fluoridated. I don’t hear any lobby trying to reverse that.

Yes, fluorine is a poison, as are chlorine and iodine. These halogens exist naturally in our environment. Chlorine is added to water to kill pathogens, iodine is very necessary for proper brain development and thyroid gland functioning. Many things are toxic in excess but beneficial in small amounts.

Anyone who has sat in the dentist’s chair and felt the grind of the drill and the sting of the needle would surely want the strongest protection possible for their children and grandchildren’s teeth.

A Burke



Common ground

K McPherson is not the only local parent who uses common sense to judge the inflammatory outbursts of self-professed ‘scientists’ maligning the benefits of fluoridated community drinking water.

Twenty years ago Dr DH Leverett DDS (NY) published these facts: “...the scientific evidence of efficacy and safety has, over the years, grown into an enormous body of literature... early clinical trials of fluoridation showed caries reduction of up to 65%, which reduced to 18% in recent (1990) years... community water fluoridation is the most cost-effective means of delivering the therapeutic effects of the ion.”

Fluorine (F2) is a very small, highly reactive, toxic elemental gas that is never found in nature. It is, in its ionic form, in the inorganic compounds such as sodium fluoride (very similar to sodium chloride, common salt), tin (II) fluoride and most commonly sodium monofluorophosphate, all of which are used in fluoride toothpastes and fluoridated water supplies.

The cautionary and slow procedures of Rous Water are to be commended. The time has come, however, for the minority zealots to acknowledge and accept the majority preference and redirect their zeal towards other issues where science and sense support their cause.

Robert B Wells


Poison pen

In response to K McPherson’s letter in support of fluoridating the water supply. I am not an expert either, but I am aware of a report by the US Centers For Disease Control issued two weeks ago admitting that two in five children in America show signs of fluoride poisoning. The US Centers for Disease Control is a very respected and conservative organisation.

The Ballina Fluoridation Free Network is hosting two educational conferences by Emeritus Professor Dr Paul Connett, Professor of Environmental Chemistry at St Lawrence University, Canton, NY, at Lismore Workers Club on Feb 15 at 7pm and Ballina Beach Resort on Feb 16 at 7pm. I invite K McPherson and all members of the public to attend either of the conferences to further inform ourselves on this vexed issue. For further information contact Ilga Sleja on 6686 9263. I am not a member of the Ballina Fluoridation Free Network but I am very interested in this issue.

Simon Chance

Richmond Hill


Spark plug

Much has been heard and discussed about the sale of the retail and generation sections of ‘our’ electricity companies. One aspect that has had little coverage since the day it happened, but which concerns me greatly, is the process in one 24-hour period that enabled the sale to take place.

How could eight directors be appointed during the night? Under the Corporations Act, and the governance responsibilities of directors of all boards in Australia, there is a legal process and legal obligations that must be adhered to.

Individual nominations for board places must be received in writing by the board secretary at a stipulated time before the meeting held to appoint new directors.

Directors have a legal obligation of ‘care and diligence’: it is impossible for directors who are appointed overnight, and immediately make a decision of this magnitude, to demonstrate such ‘care and diligence’ in their decision-making.

Directors have a legal obligation to scrupulously avoid conflicts of interest between, on the one hand, the organisation the board represents, and on the other, personal, professional and business interests.

The directors who resigned did so because they believed that the sale conditions were not in the best interests of their boards. Given the background of the suddenly-appointed directors, and their involvement in pre-sale activities, it is impossible for these directors to demonstrate avoidance of conflicts of interest.

Can someone please explain how this group of directors that make up the boards which agreed to sell off our electricity interests are exempt from the legal obligations that apply to all other Australians who take on director roles?

Marilyn Perkins



Pet love

Non-mandated de-sexing of domestic pets – its ugly consequence:

60,000 unwanted pets destroyed each year in this state alone with 250,000 nationally and increasing by the year.

Wildlife decimated, due in large part to pets, having reached their use-by-date being abandoned in National Parks, state reserves and bushland remnants.

Farm stock (and as aconsequence, farm incomes) is threatened and savaged as financially-embattled pet owners relieve themselves of a perceived financial incumbency and dump pets on farmland fringes.

Animal welfare groups finances are besieged as they struggle to; de-sex, veterinary (often surgically) treat, accommodate, feed, and re-home abandoned pets.

The quality of life equation of those compassionate, caring members of society who take it upon themselves to either (sometimes both) rescue and rehabilitate injured native wildlife or abandoned pets continues to erode with no end in sight

Local councils’ finances and staffing reserves (and by implication, rates levied upon all residents) are placed under increased strain as they too must deal with unwanted pets and roaming pets – the result of non-committed custodianship.

Yes, each of these (plus more) circumstances will prevail, just so long as the NSW Companion Animals Act fails to include a fully enforced, accredited breeder exempt, ‘Compulsory De-sexing Clause’.

In the short time lead-up to this state’s March election, I hereby respectfully call upon present-day incumbent National Party Members Thomas George and Don Page as those aspirants to the role of political representation; Andy Moy – Labor to the seat of Lismore, Catherine Cusack – Liberal to the seat of Ballina, Simon Richardson – Greens to the seat of Ballina, Sue Stock – Greens to the seat of Lismore, Independents, aligned or otherwise, to publicly declare both their personal views on this issue and should there exist a departure from their parties’ intended policy position, commit to a preparedness to ‘move mountains’ (minus the well-worn ‘political promise’) to ensure compulsory de-sexing becomes a reality – and ‘with haste’. I equally respectfully invite response from all involved parties be they wildlife carers, animal welfare groups, farmers, veterinarians, concerned members of the community. Let’s all work together to ensure this issue of totally unregulated pet breeding is humanely resolved. Very special thanks to editor Rudi and The Northern Rivers Echo for making possible this debate – well done crew!

Ray Mezieres



Jesus teaches

Although we missed your Jan 20 edition, some of Jan 27’s letters re Christianity were apparently in response. I do not wish to enter a debate but thought some of your readers may be willing to consider a few concepts I have accepted as the basis of my personal pilgrimage. Firstly, I think that most would agree that, regardless of denominational or other differences, the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, who lived about 2000 years ago, are the common basis of Christian belief. Secondly, a careful consideration of all the information available about that person’s life should form the basis of our acceptance or rejection of Him and His recorded teachings. In doing this I came to the conclusion that there are only three possible situations. One, He was badly afflicted with a common human condition, i.e. delusion. Two, perhaps He was a “clever devil” who has successfully deceived millions of people into believing he is a Super Human or God to the extent that they worship and idolise Him. Or thirdly, He is indeed who He claims to be – the only begotten son of God who lived as a human being in perfect harmony with Almighty God. Then at about age 33 He was crucified as the “sin bearer” for all humanity. The well-documented account of His resurrection (both the Bible and contemporary secular history) demonstrates His ability to fulfil His promise of an eternal, joyful existence for all those who put their trust in Him, and accept His redemptive work. However, as the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthian Church, “The preaching of the Cross is foolishness (illogical nonsense) to those who are perishing, but unto us who are saved it is the Power of God”. 1 Cor. 1 v 18. Also in ch. 2 v 14 we read, “But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they seem foolish to him, neither can he understand them because they are spiritually discerned”. I think a “debate” about Christianity will be futile. “Christianity” primarily is a personal relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Arthur Felsch



Calf cruelty

Over the last week, the spotlight has focused on certain disturbing practices within the dairy industry.

A proposed industry regulation would permit the withholding of food from newborn “bobby” calves, the offspring of dairy cows, for the last 30 hours of their lives.

Annually, 700,000 bobby calves undergo the trauma of removal from their mothers within hours of birth, and then endure the long process of transportation to a slaughterhouse. This denial of food would serve to reinforce their misery while safeguarding the profits of the dairy industry.

These calves are the result of annual pregnancies of dairy cows and are unwanted by the dairy industry. The milk produced by their mothers is denied to them; instead used for human consumption.

Many people choose to avoid dairy products because they do not wish to support an industry that inflicts suffering, and which forcibly and prematurely severs the bond between mother and baby.

Additionally, eminent researchers have argued that the consumption of cows’ milk can lead to ailments including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers. There are healthier and kinder ways to obtain calcium such as soy, rice and almond milks, leafy green vegetables and legumes.

Can we honestly justify supporting an industry that profits from this misery?

A & S Waters


Wood block

I refer below to last week’s story by Terra Sword “Cansdell and NEFA at loggerheads”.

All rural communities should be backing Steve Cansdell’s call for a review of areas that have been locked up. After 15 years of the Labor government in NSW 1.6 million hectares of State Forest have been reserved to “protect” environments, to save threatened species and to conserve biodiversity. It is well overdue to now assess these forests to see if that protection has occurred and if it was warranted in the first place. The aim was to balance environmental protection with jobs and rural economies; timber supplies have been halved, jobs lost and country towns have suffered but there has never been any assessment of any outcome for environmental values. There can be no doubt that increased fires in reserved forests has severely damaged many of the environments that were supposed to be important and protected; the severe fire history of Bundjalung is a small but devastating example of such disasters.

3,911ha of Doubleduke State Forest, that is 60% of the forest, has been reserved since 1998. In that area of coastal forests, new reservations of State Forests amount to 23,363ha, bringing the total reserved area to 32,540ha. As an outcome of NEFA’s claims at the 2003 election, legislation reserved the last of the “old growth icons” on the North Coast: none of these coastal forests were identified then, they seem to have only been identified by Greens in the lead up to the 2011 election campaign.

To get the facts right, the NSW Government issued wood supply agreements in 1998 after a long and detailed comprehensive forest assessment and Forest Agreements set in NSW and Commonwealth legislation. The wood supply agreements provided resource security on which timber companies were able to invest and jobs could be maintained. A review due in 2006 was brought forward to 2003 so that Green claims for reservation of the last of the “old growth icons” was in time for the 2003 election campaign. Contrary to Dailan Pugh’s claims, that review saw a 25% reduction of the sawlog

volume in agreements which was substituted with small sawlogs becoming available from increased thinning and plantation volumes. That was the outcome of the yield review at the time to enable reservation of 69,000ha of supposed old growth forest and other “icon” areas that included regrowth forests and plantations. No compensation was ever provided for this review, only an ongoing commitment to the wood supply agreements. Some timber companies, of their own commercial choice, closed and sold or relinquished their supply agreements.

Several mill closures and the economic building recession throughout Australia reduced timber demand for a period and consequently at least one large company did not utilise their full entitlements under wood supply agreements. That shortfall does not diminish the resource commitments of wood supply agreements or create any desperation for sawlogs. NEFA’s persistent claims of unlawful logging of native forests remain the subject of investigation by the regulators in the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. Very few of their allegations are substantiated or significant.

The full volumes of high quality large sawlogs from native forests over the period of current wood supply agreements will be replaced with increasing volumes of sawlogs from plantations, that is the clear strategy of Forest Agreements and of maintaining sustainable forest management, ensuring sustainable timber supply and balancing social and economic values. Environmental values have been protected in reserves and forest operations approvals, and are set in legislation.

Dailan Pugh’s suggestions that reserved areas may now become available for logging is not possible, legal or feasible. But Steve Cansdell’s call to assess the reserved forests, to see if they are in fact protecting the environment properly, is well justified. Last year the NSW Natural Resources Commission found that “active interventions to manage forests” (Riverina Bioregion Regional Forest Assessment: key findings) will be necessary in all forests, whether managed primarily for conservation or timber production.

Any inquiry into forest resources or areas that have been locked up must also examine the performance of the NSW Government’s commitments to establish plantations for future timber resource, and the capacity of sustainable timber production to meet the consumption of timber and forest products in NSW. In the current building recession, NSW imported $177 million worth of timber products last year. If we cannot maintain timber supply in NSW we will inevitably increase imports from countries, with less sustainable forest management practices, and increasingly use high energy products such as concrete, steel, aluminium and plastic.

Russ Ainley

Executive director
NSW Forest Products Association

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