March 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.

Mining and money

Paul Cleary wrote an excellent article (SAM, November 2011) on the mining boom and how we are being short-changed because of it. He criticises the big three mining companies for, among other things, their opposition to the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) but he omits the role of the “smaller” mining companies including Fortescue Metals and notably its billionaire chairman, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest. These companies are hardly strapped for cash and don’t qualify as Aussie battlers, despite their bleating.

It would seem Paul Cleary supports the idea at least of a mining super profits tax even higher than the proposed RSPT of 40 per cent. It’s amazing he still has a job at The Australian, given its regular vociferous front-page editorialising against this and the moderate Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) of 30 per cent.

I’d like to hear his stories on that. I would like him to confirm his support for an increased – as well as a simplified – mining tax regime and whether he thinks it should be applied to other mineral resources such as gold, diamonds, copper, uranium, etc. Much of his commentary was implied rather then stated, critical rather than prescriptive and I’m not sure the comparisons with geographically smaller countries are helpful.

Given the broad-based nature of the topic, why the plug for the University’s Graduate School of Government at the end? Is this the only way of having articles published in SAM?

Justin O’Connell (BA ’84 M Litt ’98)
Windsor NSW

Editor’s note: The reference to the Graduate School of Government was included because it was felt to be relevant to the article.

Actively engaged

The University’s Alumni Council has been very active over the past three years, working closely with the Alumni and Events Office to post a number of notable successes.

AlumniOnline was launched three years ago and has enabled alumni to post their details, communicate with their peers via their regular social media networks and mentor students online.

The Alumni Awards program has grown, with the number of awards increasing from one to four, and the number of Graduate Medals being expanded from one to three (see page 10 for the 2011 recipients).

The events program has also grown. The quarterly Graduate Connections Breakfasts in Sydney CBD regularly attract up to 250 alumni, and celebrity alumni dinners fill the Great Hall, with speakers including the Honourable Michael Kirby and actor John Bell.

The Alumni and Events Office recently commissioned research into the needs of young alumni, out of which has come a program of exclusive “behind the scenes” events at places not normally open to the public. A number of recent graduates have joined the Alumni Council and are now actively contributing to policy development and debate. In addition, a student chapter of the Alumni Council is currently being established to give students an opportunity to display their leadership skills in fundraising on campus.

Our thanks to the Alumni and Events team who make this wonderful program possible, and to the Vice-Chancellor who is a strong supporter of alumni activities.

By David Turner (BArch ’71 MDesSc (Hons) ’97), President, University of Sydney Alumni Council, and Graduate Fellow of Senate. David was President of the Alumni Council from 2009 to 2012; the new President is John McLenaghan AM (BEc ’59). See the next edition of SAM for a profile of John.

Less than impressed

I am a University of Sydney geology graduate and am not impressed by your cover story on mining (SAM, November 2011). Author Paul Cleary’s key thesis is that we are running out of mineral and energy resources, and so he raises again the same arguments of The Club of Rome in 1972, whose arguments have already been comprehensively trashed. He sneers at State royalties and bemoans Federal resource tax reform.

Nowhere does he mention that resources are the property of the Crown, which means each State, and most definitely not the property of the Federal Government, and thus the appropriate way for society to receive its fair share of the wealth of resources is via royalties at State level and income taxes at Federal level.

A BEc from 1986 ought to check some of his pre-1986 facts; they are not all medieval.

Paul W. Askins (BSc ’65)
Subiaco WA

In praise of a poet

As a lover of poetry, I was interested to note that the writer of the prize-winning letter in SAM’s November 2011 issue received a copy of the anthology Australian Poetry Since 1788 [edited by Geoffrey Lehmann and Robert Gray, $69.95, NewSouth Books]. It is gratifying to know such an anthology has been compiled. This anthology has, however, one glaring omission.

To quote the review by Mike Ladd of Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald, November 12-13, 2011, “The decision not to include anything by Michael Dransfield seems cavalier, almost an attempt to rewrite our literary history. True, he was very uneven but he is one of the few Australian poets who could claim to represent a generation and to have influenced a later one.”

Michael Dransfield’s poetry has been studied in Australia at secondary level, and also at universities here and around the world. His work was included in the University of Queensland Press anthology Made in Australia in which Australian poetry has been translated into German.

Michael was enrolled at the University in 1967. However, he was too interested in exploring life to settle down to study.

Frances Macdonald (BA ’67 Dip. Ed ’68)
Miranda NSW

Editor’s note: Read Michael’s poetry in Michael Dransfield: A Retrospective (UQP, $24.95).

Credit where it’s due

Richard Neville’s story (Letters, SAM, November 2011) that Tom O’Mahony’s work on Fisher Library has been written out of its history is incomplete. I have always stated that the appointed joint architects were E. H. Farmer, Government Architect (GA), and T. E. O’Mahony. I am known to have been the GA’s Design Architect. The joint arrangement became an unhappy one for Farmer and Rembert, his deputy.

The original librarian, Dr Andrew Osborn, did not get on with O’Mahony on design matters. He and many others have expressed opinions about the work, then and since. Osborn, his deputy Bea Wines, Harrison Bryan following and critics, writers, reviewers, chairman of the awards jury Sydney Ancher, academics, students and many contemporaries have all discussed the architecture of the building.

The design has been compared to the other current work of the participants in around 1960 in regard to design character, details, materials and its Miesian discipline. Mine include the State Office Block, the Mosman House and the Lidcombe Hall.

A few years ago O’Mahony gave an account that used an illustration, from my own hand, of the final 1960 design. He used the occasion to disparage the work of the Government Architect’s Office on the Chemistry School, which was designed five years earlier than Fisher and is now highly regarded as the first modernist building at Sydney University. I would contrast this by adding that I liked and got on well with John Neville, Richard’s father.

Dr Ken Woolley AM
(BArch ’55 Hon DSc Arch ’10)
Paddington NSW


Please note that the article in the November 2011 edition of SAM titled “Gift of Life” incorrectly referred to Robert Maple-Brown as the father of the late Christine Maple-Brown, instead of father-in-law. Our sincere apologies for this error.

SAM’s new editor

After four years under the valued editorship of Diana Simmonds, a new editor for SAM will be commencing for Issue Two in 2012. Michael Visontay (BEc ’79) joins us after senior roles at The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald. Look out for further details in the July issue of SAM.