Gas solution requires some political courage
7th June 2022

Illustration: Cathy WilcoxCredit:

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Energy crisis
If Australian farmers decided to sell all their produce overseas because they could get higher prices there would be riots in the street. Yet we allow most of our gas to be exported with hardly a whimper (“Green power shift a ‘mind-boggling’ task”, The Age, 7/6). It does not make sense. Gas is still essential for many of our industries to produce goods and food for our own consumption. Many homes still rely on gas for heating and hot water. The gas belongs to all of us and it is in the national interest that our new government stands up to the exporting companies.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North

Reservation policy works
There is no shortage of gas on the east coast, only gas companies taking advantage of skyrocketing international prices to maximise exports to earn windfall profits. Rather than federal Labor implementing the gas trigger mechanism as its response to the crisis left by the previous government, it should immediately adopt the WA domestic gas reservation policy where a certain percentage of exports must be reserved for domestic markets. In WA last week gas prices were $5.50 per gigajoule, compared to Victoria where wholesale prices reached $800 on the spot market.
Peter Thomson, Brunswick

Alternative energy
While it’s great that Melburnians are embracing the use of solar panels it should be acknowledged that during our grey winter the electricity production is cut significantly. In my case from 5000 to 500 watts on a cloudy day, which is far different from those up north.
David Eames-Mayer, Balwyn

Failure of preparation
While the previous Coalition government is not responsible for the current east coast cold snap, it must bear some responsibility for our power grid’s struggle to cope. For years, it denied the realities of climate change, ignored the need for a long-term, staged transition to green energy and failed to break free from ideology and its fossil fuel supporters. No wonder Anna Collyer, Australia’s chief energy adviser, is calling for “urgent reforms”. Climate change encompasses more than global warming. Some parts of the world are forecast to become colder. Others drier. Others perhaps non-existent due to sea level rise. The cold snap has simply highlighted the harm to Australia caused by the Coalition’s ideological blinkers. What an appalling legacy to leave.
Jennie Irving, Camberwell

Nuclear part of the solution
Frankly, from a climate change point of view, it doesn’t matter much whether Australia has a nuclear power industry or not (“Old and costly, nuclear energy has reliable friends”, 6/6). What matters is that the rest of the world does. Nuclear power, being produced at 415 reactors worldwide as Nick O’Malley points out, is one of the world’s main tools for limiting carbon dioxide emissions while generating electricity and has been doing that for 60 years. And, despite what O’Malley writes, that there also is a growing global interest in expanding nuclear power; for example, in France, where President Macron has placed nuclear power at the heart of his country’s drive for carbon neutrality by 2050.
Australia’s best nuclear pathway is to continue to explore for, mine and export uranium to supply the countries whose nuclear power industries are limiting the emissions that are causing the climate crisis. Fortunately, there is a national bipartisan political consensus to do just that.
Michael Angwin, Surrey Hills

Not listening
David Littleproud, now wishing to elevate his political standing, calls for a “mature conversation” with the Australian people on nuclear energy. Clearly, he obviously doesn’t understand previous exhaustive “mature conversations” on this subject, or wasn’t listening.
Ian Cooper, California Gully

THE FORUM

We just want integrity
Barnaby Joyce might be on to something (“Watchdog will manacle political vision”, The Age, 7/6). We voters said we wanted an integrity commission, but what we really wanted was integrity. A blatant lack of it was exposed by existing agencies (Auditor-General, Productivity Commission, media), so we voted the government out.
If the new government remembers that, then maybe an integrity commission is unnecessary – as Joyce claims. Maybe just legislation to curb political donations, and egregious election-spending.
Peter Greig, Colac

Seeing through ‘vision’
The majority of Australians can see through Barnaby Joyce’s “political vision” to maintain the status quo and voted in favour of a federal anti-corruption body to ensure a clear view of political processes and decisions.
Graham Cadd, Dromana

Strange priorities
Your article “Heritage checks cast shadow over solar panels”, The Age, 7/6), is a reminder how small government can be petty. The City of Boroondara over the years has seen massive redevelopment, and mostly not for the better, aesthetically or for the environment.
Perfectly good homes and their gardens have been demolished to make way for the McMansions we see in our streets now. Wall to wall concrete and polystyrene columns, with the token white standard roses and possibly a hedge if the developer is feeling generous. So much for the leafy eastern suburbs.
And of course if a developer gets a knockback from the council, it is off to VCAT and voila, a tick and a rubber stamp. It is truly ironic that solar panels can be deemed inappropriate but monster concrete houses with barely a tree to be seen are not. Go figure.
Kate Read, Canterbury

Blinkered view
We empathise with solar panel owner Richard Barnes. Boroondara council had a similar issue with the solar panels on our roof that face the street as our house is in a heritage area. We had used up all the smaller available north-facing roof space, which doesn’t face the street, and when we wanted more panels the roof facing the street was the only possibility. The panels used were a close match to the colour of the roof and set flat. We also went to VCAT, and we were successful. The difference was that our house, although in a heritage area, was only about 20 years old at that time.
Generally, the Boroondara Council’s view and that of some other councils is quite blinkered, especially in their main consideration of the view of a house from the front. There is an old house on a corner block in a heritage area of Boroondara with a roof covered in solar panels that are visible from the street, but it’s allowed because the panels are not facing the front of the house.
There are many visible modern additions to houses that councils do not consider to take away from heritage value, including extensions, carports, electricity wires, cars in driveways, aerials, satellite discs, airconditioning units and skylights. Some houses have all of these. People looking at dwellings are quite capable of seeing their heritage value beyond its modern additions.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn

Easier to demolish
It seems councils have a two-prong approach when it comes to heritage. Under the current rules, it probably would have been easier to demolish the house in question than shift the solar panels.
Councils need to get their priorities clear and remember there is a climate crisis.
Nola Cormick, Albert Park

Landlords not all loaded
Your correspondent (Letters, 7/6) asks why are landlords not held accountable for buildings to be made more energy efficient. As mum and dad investors convinced by our bank manager to become landlords for one property around 10 years ago, we have experienced the replacement of mature, co-operative property managers with inexperienced, young staff.
We are now paying for compulsory yearly inspections of smoke detectors, gas and electricity audits, each at a hefty price. Fair enough.
But when tenants don’t do basic maintenance of appliances and of the house, we get bills for sink unblocking, heating vent vacuuming, blind cord replacement, etc which are each in the hundreds of dollars. When we were tenants, these were our responsibilities.
Sometimes it feels like we are dealing with a tradies management agent and paying for the privilege. Don’t assume that landlords are all living the high life.
Name withheld on request

Time for an audit
I was shivering myself when I read the account of life in your correspondent’s daughter’s “ice house” at Mitcham: no insulation and high ceilings. There is probably not much opportunity in the current market to find another better-insulated rental. A good gift might be an energy audit. Renshade to reflect heat; bubble wrap for windows that are not scenic; sealing around floorboard edges and over the top of pelmets were ideas that were useful at my place. The auditor found all the draughts, and we could choose to do what we wanted ourselves. We just paid for the audit itself.
Elaine Hopper, Blackburn

Do tenants want the costs?
We have had a rental property for around 18 years. The existing tenant when we purchased the property has been there for the whole of that time. The tenant hopes to live there “forever”, and we would like to keep him. However, the residential tenancy reforms are making that increasingly difficult for landlords. No one wants to rent out a property which is unsafe, but we are now compelled to carry out gas and electricity inspections every year, at a cost of over $700. If we want to maintain our income, the rent should increase by around $14 per week. If the gas inspector finds the distance between the stove top and the overhead kitchen cupboards is two centimetres too small in the 1970s house, we would need to remodel the entire kitchen (as has happened to other landlords). The rent would be increased to recover this cost, but we would rather sell than go to that expense and effort – leaving one less rental property available. I applauded the state government’s efforts to provide more safety and certainty of tenure for tenants, but the lived reality can have the opposite effect on tenants.
Louise Kloot, Doncaster

Beware the tiger
In answer to Peter Hartcher (“Offer friendship, demand kowtow”, 7/6), Defence Minister Richard Marles is wise to bridge the nuclear sub gap by quickly building other means of defence. Australia is under-resourced in its security capability. It needs to be better prepared as China continues to try to gain more prominence in the Pacific region using provocative means. There is an Indian saying, “beware a prowling tiger as it can catch you unaware”.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

Bamboo power
A bamboo-framed bicycle might seem a humble machine (“PM pulls up socks and gives diplomacy a spin”, 7/6), but add electric power and they are anything but. They can even humble the vaunted e-car in sustainable active transport mobility. Let’s hope the Melbourne City Council takes note.
Michael Oxer, Fitzroy North

Tech tip off
Re: “Restaurants hit a tech tipping point” (The Age, 7/6), I had lunch at a city venue last week, ordering (for the first time) my meal from a food ordering platform. I was offered the option of providing a tip as part of this ordering and payment process, that is, prior to food arriving and prior to any meaningful interaction with staff. I’m all for tipping for friendly service and good food, but that seemed beyond the pale.
Fiona White, Alfredton

Cosmetics’ deeper issue
The testimonial issues in cosmetic surgery are not just skin deep (“Warning over testimonials for cosmetic surgeons”, 7/6). They go far deeper. The very nature of the vast majority of cosmetic surgeries are disconnected from any actual pathological processes, with the important exceptions of patients who have real deformities or disfigurements which can be either congenital or acquired. In other words most patients desiring cosmetic surgery are driven by ideas or feelings some part or parts of their bodies aren’t the way they would like them to be. It seems to be a peculiar 21st century phenomenon that medicine has stepped into this area. The flip side would surely be a bit more acceptance of our natural physical selves, and a bit more focus on various forms of self-improvement or self acceptance that may come in non-surgical ways.
Dr Larry Hermann, South Yarra

Barriers to diagnosis
Where is the benefit in educating students to recognise early warning signs of endometriosis (“Students to get ‘pep talk’ on endometriosis”, 6/6) if our medical profession is not equally educated? Our daughter’s eight-year journey was not caused by lack of knowledge or inactivity by us. Young women need doctors to be educated in dealing with endometrial symptoms, and more importantly, better research and intervention techniques. Current laparoscopic procedures do not always find endometriosis. And that is assuming you can find a gynaecologist willing to perform a laparoscopy, and you can afford to pay for it.
Name withheld on request

Once were terrors
Kerri Sackville’s insightful article (“I stand with Kate, some kids won’t be tamed”, 7/6) recalled a visit from three unruly children at my (late) husband’s dental surgery. Their blustery natures and unruly and noisy actions had us holding on to what we could so that it remained intact. Their parents sat and read the magazines. Years later, these three young men are a credit to the community. Good workers, exemplary manners, and a delight to meet again. That Prince Louis ran riot means nothing.
L. Anne Kruger, Rye

And another thing

Illustration: Matt GoldingCredit:

Barnaby Joyce
Speaking after his removal from the leadership of the National Party, Barnaby said “it was a weight off his shoulders”. The public reply might well be: It’s a weight off our shoulders also.
Hugh McCaig, Blackburn

Foreign policy
Of course Albanese should go to the G20 and tell Putin what civilised people think of his disgusting behaviour. He could even take Tony Abbott along to deliver his long-promised shirt-front.
Loch Wilson, Northcote

All praise to our new defence minister for toning down the rhetoric around the potential for conflict with China. However, his use of former US president Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick” leaves me wondering where and what our big stick is!
Liz McLachlan, Eaglemont

I note that China has rejected charges of risky air manoeuvres by its pilots following our government’s complaints. Surely our pilots should have dash cam footage to prove our government’s complaints.
Jaya Naidu, Merrijig

Australia supported independence for East Timor despite Indonesia’s hostilities. We should now support independence for West Papua regardless of Indonesia’s attitude.
John Walsh, Watsonia

Furthermore
Our previous prime minister and his pals said we needed a gas-led recovery, but they forgot to tell us we would have to pay for it.
Michael Hall, Blackburn

Is the Boroondara resident forced to remove his solar panels allowed to park a modern car out the front? Or is he limited to a T-model Ford?
Michael Hassett, Blackburn

I guess the first of “Kate’s style rules on show at the Platinum Jubilee” (7/6) is “make sure someone else pays for it”.
Angus McLeod, Cremorne

Medical and surgical testimonials are a great idea providing equal publicity is given to those who say that the practitioner was awful and the surgery disastrous.
Les Aisen, Elsternwick

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