The Rattler - what do the other 6 councillors think?
Letters to the Editor
Interpreting councillors' silence
COUNCILLOR Smerdon's letter under the caption, The Rattler - Can We Afford It, The Gympie Times, Saturday, November 18, did nothing to allay community concern, indeed in some quarters consternation, at the spiralling cost of the project.
For the most part it reiterated the serious allegations made repeatedly in the past by his fellow councillor, Glen Hartwig.
In summary, Cr Smerdon asserted that the initial restoration budget of $10.8 million was arrived at without a proper investigation of the work required; that the budget has already blown out and will continue to do so; and that the Rattler is unlikely ever to be self- sufficient and will thus be an on-going burden on the rate- paying community.
He gave some weight to this last claim by quoting some apparently fairly standard maintenance figures on tourist railways such as the Rattler-"...$6000 per kilometre of track per year and $200,000 per year locomotive maintenance."
If these figures were halved they would still represent a very challenging target.
But probably the most damning and disturbing allegation was the now familiar ..."Too many decisions are made by this council without all the facts being tabled to the councillors".
Strangely, we seem to hear only the views of Councillors Hartwig and Smerdon.
It would be perhaps helpful, at least interesting, to know what other councillors think.
At present, to infer that they believe the Rattler project to be in the best interests of the community is the kindest possible interpretation of their silence.
Hoping for something reassuring on the Rattler, I turned to the page 10 advertisement (?) headed Mary Valley Rattler Update.
To my profound disappointment it was not an update at all- at least not the usual facts and figures account of progress and costs to date and perhaps a brief mention of upcoming stages.
It turned out to be rosy recollections of the annual Destination Q Forum (Queensland's leading tourism industry forum) attended by Peter Blashki, general manager, Mary Valley Rattler.
The Rattler did get a mention as a "...unique tourism product ticking all the boxes...".
And Mr Blashki expressed his enthusiasm for a mission statement from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Ironically the concerns expressed by Cr Smerdon seemed to take on even greater significance.
KEEP READING FOR MORE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The future always wins
WITH reference to Ron Owen's letter of 18/11/2017.
It's most noticeable feature, I thought (and I was also struck by this in his letter on the same topic not long ago) was his apparent inability to distinguish between the two different kinds of coal: thermal (formerly called "steaming") and metallurgical (formerly called "coking").
While they are of course both coal, they are dug out of different mines, traded in different markets and used for different purposes.
The former is the one that worries the environmentally concerned community as the carbon of which it is largely composed combines with oxygen during furnace combustion, to be released as CO2 to do its nefarious work in the atmosphere.
The carbon of metallurgical coal, on the other hand, combines with the iron that is fed into the blast furnace---steel being, in its basic form, an alloy of iron and carbon.
Thus, Mr Owen's strong effort in his final paragraph, seemingly intended to clinch his demolition of the anti-coal argument, falls sadly short, as he has taken aim at an irrelevant target.
There is a lot more I could say concerning the various errors and misapprehensions elsewhere in Mr Owen's letter.
Without wanting to get bogged down in dispute about figures and statistics, doesn't it strike Mr Owen as odd that more and more business enterprises, large and small, here in Australia as well as overseas, are turning to renewable energy, not for a warm and fuzzy good feeling but to cut costs?
(It should be unnecessary to remind whoever is reading this that once the wind or solar array is up the fuel costs are and remain zero---but I will anyway.)
Sunmetals at Townsville and Sanjeev Gupta's new-look steelworks in Port Augusta SA, are two notable examples.
The thing to remember about fossil fuels and renewables as they battle for dominance in the electricity generation market is that we are looking at a video, not a snapshot., .While the newest and best-managed of the "coalers" may still be capable of taking the fight up to wind and solar, will they---and this I feel, is the crux of the whole matter-still be capable of doing so ten, twenty years down the track?
As I have said before somewhere, why is it nobody seems to look at graphs any more? Perhaps because they might see something they'd rather not? Which brings me to another point: it is all well and good for Mr Owen to talk lightly of using coal from the Monkland area in a "local" power station,as though such things may be conjured up in short order, by a wave of the wand, as it were.
There's quite a time lag---six or seven years to get one up and running, so I've been told, more if it's one of the more elaborate HELE's.
As I said before, I've just tried to pick out a couple of the more salient points from a very big subject, I will make no mention of the global atmospheric warming/ pollution problem, risks to human health or the obligations we freely committed ourselves to at COP21 in Paris.
Mr Owen evidently sees them as not worthy of mention. My concluding thought is that this whole business can be seen as one more episode in the age-old struggle between the past and the future. And the future always wins, doesn't it?