July 2012 Letters

Opinions expressed in the pages of the magazine are those of the signed contributors or the editor and do not necessarily represent the official position of the University of Sydney.

Online letters

China: Beyond the stereotype

Being an Asian simplistically categorised as Chinese by most Aussie blokes, I was attracted to the story on the China Studies Centre (land of opportunity, SAM March 2012) that is bringing fresh thinking about a 1990s BBQ-stopping debate: does Australia’s future lie with Asia?

I found great comfort knowing that the University has gathered some of today’s best minds and practitioners to shed light on how Australia ought to relate with China as a “land of opportunity”, rather than revert to its old-time hysteria of “rats and infestation”. With revenue of $100 billion each year from China, one would expect logically that Australia is now doing solid sense-making in order to sustain these massive relational foreign exchange inflows.

I believe the recent monsoon rains also shook the mindset of many an Australian to accept that – and where we like it or not – what initially precipitates in mainland Asia usually blows into the whole of Australia. It is up to Australians to strategically manage what flows in and out between the two distant worlds. And the writer, Chris Rodley, amply clarified how Australia might exactly benefit from its intertwining with China.

Rodley highlighted findings by two of the Centre’ most senior academics, including jointly with KPMG, about a “compelling opportunity” for Australia to grow a fruitful business partnership with China.

No longer just sponsoring some trade missions to Beijing or marketing China as an exotic destination for currently rich Aussie tourists, both researchers agreed Australia could in fact sell more of its expertise and already sophisticated infrastructure, say in banking and finance.

Perhaps it is time to be weaned off the greenback and tie Australia’s future with the growing role of ‘redback’ (China’s renminbi) in the global financial system via Sydney and Melbourne foreign exchange trading centres.

With GDP per capita nearly expanding three times Deng Xiaoping’s great leap to open market, Australia can very well sell its advanced industrial technologies to China to extract more value from this now fully-fledged consumer society.

Rodley pointed out the need for Australia to approach China using its three tiers of governments, as well as cultivate engagements as provincial and grass root levels.

Rodley also cited Hans Hendriscke’s recommendation at the Centre’s recently hosted Sydney China Business Forum on how exactly it could benefit from China’s $2.7 trillion FDIs.

The article closed with a quote from Hans Hendriscke about China’s transition from an “order taking country to one that makes orders” which made me think he should have added some insights into how ordinary Australians are transforming their mindset towards China, which the other senior researcher, David Goodman, described as follows: “in some ways we have gone backwards.”

Dan Umali (MPAdmin)
Leichhardt NSW

Investment proposal naive

The suggestion by Professor Hendrishke (SAM March 2012) that Australia would benefit from letting China invest in our infrastructure and resources is as naive as it is economically laughable.

It has been a cardinal error of Australian economic policy to privatise or corporatise monopoly infrastructure in favour of rapacious investors and State Treasuries who have driven up costs of production in this country so much that our industries are leaving.

Water, roads, gas and electricity are now priced at far more than the economically optimal short-run marginal cost. For example, the greed of monopoly infrastructure owners in over-pricing is so blatant that Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel collapsed financially and the ACT water utility has suffered a massive loss. Instead of “user over-pays”, capital costs of infrastructure should be recovered by rating the lands benefited rather than slugging users.

Rather than selling off monopoly infrastructure rents, we should be collecting full resource and land rents from Chinese and domestic “investors” in our resources and urban land. We should be using the money to build infrastructure.

The Gulf Arabs collect their oil rents and build infrastructure instead of letting themselves be exploited by foreign or domestic predatory “investors” seeking a good cash cow. Would the Chinese let Australia buy its ports or airports and gain a stranglehold over its trade and commerce?

Terry Dwyer (BA ’70 BEc ’74)
Canberra ACT

Grateful for donated corneas

By the time I graduated from Sydney University in 1978 I already had two transplanted corneas. My first operation was performed when I was 16 and at school. My second operation occurred in my second year at university. Since that time I have had a third cornea transplant in 2003. Because of the generosity of three donors I have enjoyed good vision most of my life and so far it has been very full and rewarding.

After graduating, I completed my professional year studies and so I am a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. To date my work career has been very satisfying and I have travelled for business throughout Australia, New Zealand, PNG and South East Asia, seeing unusual places and meeting a wide cross section of people.

I have also had a very happy marriage and two sons. The only major setback in my life was the death three years ago of my eldest son, Paul, while he was living overseas. Very sadly, none of his organs were able to be harvested. So I know only too well the tragic circumstances under which organs become available to recipients like me.

Every time I am reminded of those three generous people who have given me a “sighted” life, I give thanks – even more so now that Paul has died. Because of their thoughtfulness and their families’ support of their wishes after their deaths I can still look at my son’s photos, admire his paintings and enjoy the sunsets and clouds which were often his inspiration when painting.

If the eyes are “the windows to your soul”, then the souls of three people have looked out on the world many years after their deaths. I hope more people will follow their examples and give the gift of sight to grateful organ recipients like myself.

Catherine Morrow (BEc ’78)
Castlecrag NSW

Dancing too close

New ideas and research fellowship make SAM a stimulating read. Alumni greatly appreciate the editor and editorial staff responsible for this high-value journalism.

As a long-term academic, retired since 1987, I was surprised to read in the March edition about Philip Flood’s Dancing With Warriors, a title too close, it seemed to Inga Clendinnen’s Dancing With Strangers – to be overlooked. Perhaps Flood spoke with Clendinnen about his title. Her use of ‘dancing’ was carefully chosen to cover behavioural patterns of Australians and early white arrivals.

A title for Flood’s analysis of diplomatic vagaries must have been difficult to find. Perhaps “Hip Hop with Warriors” would have been closer to his experience.

Joan Ritchie (MEd ’68)
Aachen Germany

Library is no oil painting

I don’t know why anyone would want credit for designing Fisher Library (Letters, SAM, March 2012). It's a hideously ugly building. Anyone involved should be ashamed of themselves, and the fact that it won awards just calls into question the whole architect profession.

Niall Clugston (BA ’94)
Parramatta NSW

Limits to growth, in hindsight

Paul Askins (SAM, March 2012), objects to Paul Cleary’s criticism of the big mining companies, and particularly the similarities with the arguments of the Club of Rome in 1972, which he says (without offering any references) have been “comprehensively trashed”. He goes on to say that a BEc from 1986 “ought to check some of his pre-1986 facts”.

Perhaps Mr Askins should check some of his own facts. In a recent analysis (“A comparison of The Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality,” Global Environmental Change 2008), Graham Turner, from CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, concluded that: “analysis shows that 30 years of historical data [from the time of the initial report] compare favourably with (its) key features”.

Len Fisher (BSc Hons ’62 MSc ’64)
Bristol UK

Too much political point scoring

I am more than a little disturbed that the esteemed SAM magazine has allowed its pages to be sullied by printing letters and articles that have a blatant political direction. I refer to the letter, Mining and Money (SAM, March 2012) as if mining is the only activity where money is the principal objective of the enterprise. How pathetic.

I can purchase any newspaper in the country and they will contain numerous letters on the subject of the proposed mining tax, ad nauseam. Why do you demean SAM by permitting, even encouraging political “point scoring” and invective?

I could elaborate on terms such as “the tall poppy syndrome”, the “politics of envy”, “redistribution of wealth”, etc but to do so would only expose myself to the charge of hypocrisy and so I will have to vacate the field and leave it to those perpetrators who fit the descriptions appearing at the beginning of this sentence.

Bill Darley (BSc Ag ’50)
Leura NSW

Online letters

We have three choices

Paul Askins was correct in pointing out that resources are the property of the Crown. However, he was wrong when he stated that the arguments of “The Club of Rome in 1972…have already been comprehensively trashed.” It appears that he has not read The Limits to Growth or he would have known that the outcome of that study was not a prediction of doom as commonly believed but, in three conclusions, presented a warning and a choice.

The conclusions stated in 1972 were: firstly, “If the present growth trends…continue unchanged, the limits to growth will be reached sometime within the next 100 years. The most probable result will be a sudden and uncontrollable decline in population and industrial capacity”.

Secondly, “It is possible to alter these growth trends and to establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future…” and thirdly, “If the world’s people decide to strive for the second outcome rather than the first, the sooner they begin working to attain it, the greater will be their chances of success”.

The authors updated the study 20 years later and published the results in the book Beyond the Limits (1992). They found no reason to change their conclusions but found that, in terms of the second outcome, the world had procrastinated for 20 years. Even now, after another 20 years, the economic growth paradigm continues unabated and it is clear that, far from being “comprehensively trashed”, the conclusions of the Club of Rome have been comprehensively confirmed.

We see the evidence now ourselves in the loss of fertile soil, declining water availability, food insecurity, loss of biodiversity, peak oil, air and water pollution and more. Will humanity ever strive for the second outcome?

Graham Faichney (MScAgr '63)
Mosman NSW