Friday, April 21, 2006

LETTER: Thwaites playing possum with our water

Environment Minister Thwaites encouraging us all to reduce our water consumption by 30 percent (The Age 21/04) with the Government’s new draft water strategy is a commendable initiative.

Unfortunately, he is taking no action to prevent the serious water losses caused by logging in our water catchments.

Prevention is better than cure, but in this case we can have both.

Leadbeater’s possum lives in these catchment forests too. The last one in captivity at Healesville has just died. Protecting our catchment forests will help the survival of this threatened species – which is also Victoria’s faunal emblem.

Thwaites should stop playing politics and take real action to protect our forests, our threatened species and our water resources.

LETTER: Bolt's rant on West Papua shows ignorance and malice

Andrew Bolt’s recent diatribe (HeraldSun 12/4) supporting Indonesia’s mistreatment of West Papuans flies in the face of clear evidence that serious human rights abuses are occurring there. These abuses have been validated by the Immigration Department when they granted temporary protection visas to 42 of the West Papuans who arrived recently, and by numerous other exiled West Papuans, such as Jacob Rumbiak, who have suffered at the hands of the Indonesians.

Bolt’s intemperate attack on several academics, activists, churchmen, unionists and politicians (Bob Brown in particular) who have voiced concerns about human rights abuses in West Papua is ill informed and quite inappropriate.

Church groups have estimated that over 100,000 people have died under Indonesian rule. According to Amnesty International Australia, "reports include extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and ill-treatment and arbitrary detentions in Papua Province, where there is an ongoing struggle for independence from Indonesia."

It is unacceptable that the Howard Government has recently decided to start locking up children behind razor wire again and resurrected the so-called “Pacific solution” for asylum seekers who reach our shores in response to Indonesia’s recent protestations.

Encouraging and supporting democracy Indonesia doesn't preclude us from drawing attention to human rights abuses or giving safe harbour to those who flee from it.

Standing up for human rights is not always easy or politically expedient. It is simply the right thing to do.

Bolt's rant

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Howard and Costello squander opportunity for genuine tax reform

So John Howard thinks that doing tax returns is popular (Age 20/4). Well they aren’t for me, or the other 80 per cent of Australians that find them too onerous and confusing to do themselves.

Paying tax agents over $1 billion annually to do our tax returns is a monumental waste of our money – which would be better spent improving health or education.

Instead, Howard and Costello support a complex and inefficient income tax system that constantly raises our tax via bracket creep so they can hand out tax cuts during election years. An honest government would index the brackets.

With a big surplus this year, Howard and Costello are squandering a great opportunity for genuine tax reform that could simplify our lives and address the creeping poverty trap that affects many lower income people.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Minister Campbell uses the Orange Bellied parrot as an excuse to block wind farms

Environment Minister Ian Campbell’s blocking of the Bald Hills windfarm is ill considered on a number of counts.

Campbell omits to mention that the Orange-bellied Parrot report states that “analyses suggest that such action will have extremely limited beneficial value to conservation of the parrot without addressing very much greater adverse effects that are currently operating against it”.

The parrot migrates to Cape Otway then spreads along the coast West to South Australia and East to Wilsons Promontary. Following Campbell’s dubious rationale, all windfarms in these areas must also close, which would shut down Victoria’s entire wind energy industry.

In addition, Minister Campbell is doing nothing to protect the habitat of other endangered species such as the Powerful Owl and Leadbeater’s possum, whose habitat is being destroyed by the clearfell logging of our remaining native forests.

The parrot is critically endangered, with only 200 thought to remain in the wild. A coordinated program addressing all factors impacting its survival is required.

Minister Campbell should take genuine action to protect the habitat of all our endangered species, rather than use them as an excuse for politically motivated policy decisions in marginal seats. He needs to take his portfolio more seriously.