THERE have been several catastrophic fires in Australia in my lifetime. They came every few years. Now, however, governments talk about the forthcoming "fire season", as though this is something to expect on an annual basis, and it may be.
The Royal Commission into National Disaster Arrangements in its final report in November 2020 recommended that the federal government establish a publicly owned national air fleet to fight bushfires. So far, all the federal government has done is "note" the recommendation. That response will not do when the fires start and we leave our firefighters ill-equipped, as they currently are. I believe the federal government needs to act on the recommendation without delay.
Olga Parkes, New Lambton Heights
Tail can't wag the climate dog
WE have reached a situation where it is clear that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and other Nationals are dictating climate policy in Australia ('Nats 'not selling support for glass beads'', Newcastle Herald 21/10). The Nationals are minority partners in the federal Coalition government. Recent polling in every electorate indicates that the majority of Australians want urgent action taken to counter climate change. I believe Barnaby Joyce and other Nationals are ignoring these polling results.
It is now perfectly clear, in my opinion, the government is not structured in a manner that enables it to deal with the needs of the Australian electorate in a truly democratic way in relation to climate change. That situation is not acceptable, and change is urgently needed.
Brian Measday, Myrtle Bank
Power shift may be costly change
FOR the last month the National Electricity Market has consistently been generating negative prices of up to $1000 per megawatt hour across the total market for about six hours per day during daylight hours. This means generators (pool participants) have to pay to put electricity into the grid. The reason appears to be an excess of solar installations. I believe this will become a real financial issue for those pool participants like the City of Newcastle who have installed a five-megawatt generator at Summerhill dump and cannot sell hedge contracts to others because they generate intermittently.
Instead of earning an average of $250,000 per year as they claim on their web site, I would estimate they will have to pay the National Electricity Market about $30,000 this month and if the excess solar generation continues (as I am sure it will) they will have to pay out close to $400,000 per annum for the privilege of generating power to deliver to the NEM. So much for the claims about how clever the council was to install this plant. It seems a lot of money for ratepayers to be spending so the council could win a Local Government Sustainability Award.
John Davies, Newcastle East
Logic says get submarines now
ONCE, when the country was relatively ''underdeveloped' and very much poorer, we built many ships here in Newcastle and elsewhere. Now it is uneconomic to build even ferries, let alone an Antarctic ice breaker - both government contracts.
However, we are going to build nuclear submarines, eight at a suggested $12 billion each. This may be a ploy; logic points to leasing them from the USA (they have about 70, many not in service). Logic is to have them now, not in 20 years, otherwise we need to upgrade the 12 Collins class at a huge cost.
This is, of course, simple economics. Our defence experts seem more into voodoo economics. Somehow, I don't think logic comes into it. It's funny how they can come up with mega bucks to stimulate our economy to fight the dreaded COVID-19.
Fred Whitaker, Newcastle
'Death tax' we desperately need
TAX reform is hard and unpopular. Neither major party wants to stir up voters by committing to definitive tax reform in the lead up to a federal election. Certainly, after the last Federal election's debacle, Labor doesn't want to commit to any definitive tax reform, but Australia's tax system needs it. Ten years on, and Ken Henry's expensive review of the Australian tax system is still gathering dust. Politicians tut-tut, but take no action.
Taxes should be efficient and equitable. They should not provide an incentive or excuse not to work or run a business. Efficient taxes are simple, hard to avoid and easy to police, cheap and easy to collect and easy to pay. Honesty requires that taxes should be visible. Various tax reforms have been proposed, such as the replacement of inefficient transaction taxes with an increase in GST. Another proposal is the adoption of a two-tiered 'Nordic' system in which direct personal tax is progressive, 'poverty traps' are minimal, and all other taxes have a uniform rate.
The Australian government needs to keep working at recovering company taxes from the multinational tax evaders. Currently OECD tax haven nations such as Singapore and Ireland have agreed to levy a minimum rate of 15 per cent, but this is still half Australia's rate of 30 per cent.
To reduce the generational inequity and the build-up of unearned wealth that the existing tax system is causing, a wealth tax should be reintroduced. Of course the opposition would scream "death tax", but any federal government needs to bite the bullet and introduce such a tax. Tax avoidance loopholes for such a tax, including gifting and family trusts, would be abolished.
Under any new system, there should be no tax advantage for anyone, if their income tax accountant labels their income as company income, trust income, dividend imputation, capital gain, a low interest loan or anything else. Income tax deductions would be selectively abolished.
Indeed, I think that serious tax reform should put a lot of tax agents and accountants out of business.
Geoff Black, Caves Beach
Green power correlates with costs
THANKS to Lloyd Davies (Letters, 19/10) but nothing I said was misleading. The seven-year period on both satellite data sets I quoted started in 2014. That was a mild year, two years before the hot 2016 El-Nino year and the plot ended in 2021. So, no distortion of data, it was a true reflection of the recent temperature trend. I "dug up" as Mr Davies says, the 3 per cent renewable energy contribution from the International Energy Agency. Their report on World Total Final Energy Consumption, published in August 2021, lists energy used from each contributing source such as coal, oil, gas etc.
Electricity was 21.3 per cent, with wind/solar providing 9.1 per cent of that. That's equivalent to 2 per cent of world energy, so I was overly generous to wind and solar power. Hydro worked out as 3.4 per cent of world energy but was excluded from renewables because it existed before the wind/solar hysteria started and is unlikely to increase much more anyway. Biofuels worked out as a massive 12 per cent of world energy, but most of that is poor people burning animal dung and sticks in open-fire smoky cooking-stoves in unventilated huts. Having worked at reducing employee exposure to industrial dust and fumes, I was horrified to see people (mostly women) exposed to this every day of their lives.
I think that fossil-fuel energy, for cooking, lighting, and heating, would be the better way to go. Does Mr Davies agree, or would he be happy to see six billion third-world people continue to live like that? Wind and solar farms last less than half the time of coal-fired power stations and all over the world, the more wind/solar power a nation has the higher power charges are. What is misleading is pretending to people that Western nations going to net-zero emissions by 2050 will do anything to change the climate.
Peter Devey, Merewether
PETROL has just soared to $1.80. Why? Are we to kick in for the oil moguls? I'm going back to two feet and a heartbeat.
Bryn Roberts, New Lambton
THE other morning whilst enjoying the sunshine on my front verandah I was attracted to a noise across the road in the reserve. It wasn't long before I found out the noise came from a very hungry young magpie. Suddenly its mother appeared and the youngster opened its mouth to be fed by the offering. I'm convinced that there is still a lot of good in our world.
Daphne Hughes, Kahibah
IT is illegal to sell alcohol to a person under 18 and illegal to advertise alcohol at times when children would be watching. It is illegal for persons under 18 to gamble, yet gambling ads are on TV at all hours of the day and night. Why the difference?
Joan Lambert, Adamstown
IF there is nothing to fear except fear itself, then why should I fear the god of religion?
Dave Wilson, Bar Beach
HOW long are we going to put up with this minority of Nationals in Canberra to sabotage our country and completely trash our international reputation. We need real change in this country.
Colin Rowlatt, Merewether
LAST week I read that Labor, if elected at the next state election, would divert funds from a major road project for Sydney's Northern Beaches to public transport infrastructure for Western Sydney. What about Newcastle, considering the growth we are likely to see here? Every now and again I look at the WesTrans proposal that was released in 2008 by Save Our Rail. While much has changed since then, this is still an interesting proposal with a lot going for it. It still makes sense. Regardless of who is in power after the next election, it's a proposal which needs to be adopted if our traffic problems are to be dealt with.
Peter Sansom, Kahibah
COULD I please ask the climate change denying politicians what part of "If you make too much smoke you are eventually going to suffocate" they don't understand?
Dave Hamilton, Jewells
READING Peter Devey's letter (Letters, 16/10), regarding ICAC legal failures I thought it was up to the courts to prosecute. When and if the courts fail, how is that ICACs failing? Please enlighten me.
Maria Pye, New Lambton
WHY do the left blame the right for the COVID outbreak? It's global. We have been lucky to last this long, but I think a big bag of something is about to hit the fan and everyone will get it sooner or later. If you want to point the finger of blame, point it where it originated from.