Granite going cheap

Granite going cheap

Holcim is the largest quarrying company in the world. It is a Swiss owned company headquartered in Zurich. It has annual revenues in excess of $25billion and assets in excess of $50billion. It has, just out of Goulburn NSW, built what will become the largest hard rock quarry in Australia. It recently applied to extract 120 million tonnes of high grade granite from this site. This granite is valued at about $30 per tonne.

Holcim does not intend to pay for these resources. The NSW government does not intend to charge Holcim for these resources. That is $3.6billion of Australia’s natural resources we are giving away to a massive foreign owned company.

Why on earth would we do this? These resources belong to Australians, present and future. Are they aware their governments are giving these valuable resources away? At any time, least of all during a period of growing national debt and deficit, this would seem ridiculous.

Holcim is not the only company to whom we give our natural resources, free of charge. Other foreign entities avail themselves of the same cheap jerseys extraordinary generosity (some might call it stupidity).

Holcim, and others like them, will take our granite, crush it and make necessary things such as road base. They will sell these resources back to us, at a handsome profit of course. They will contribute very little to the local communities surrounding these quarries. They will impose a huge environmental and social impact and, when they have finished, they will take their profits back to Zurich with them. Fennessy of Braddon wrote (Letters, November 9, 1965), “The situation is much worse if the pedestrian is unwise enough to be walking on the pavement on the right of the roadway against the traffic. None of the traffic lights is visible to him. Before he ventures into the crossing he has to rely on his observation of the traffic in deciding when to make the first step”.

Fifty years on, the government plans to create a similar dangerous situation at the intersection of Antill and Badham Streets, in Dickson. In addition, people walking direct from the new supermarkets to Downer will have the dubious benefit of traffic signals that prevent them from proceeding except when their path conflicts with that of drivers turning right on a green arrow.

People who prefer the safety of pedestrian signals will face two minutes of delays.

This intersection will convey an unstated message, “if you want to cross the street safely and efficiently, drive a car”. If the government wants to make any progress towards its “Transport for Canberra” walking targets, surely it will give us safe and efficient pedestrian crossings.

Leon Arundell, DownerSince taking up the reins as coach of the Canberra Raiders, Ricky Stuart has demonstrated a decided pigheadedness and prejudice against giving Josh McCrone a fair go in the halves.

If Stuart does not give McCrone his deserved opportunity to play inside Blake Austin against Cronulla this weekend; surely he must show some decency and give us fans an explanation for his shallow and bewildering decision making process.

Peter Duffy, Wanniassa

Rental market rules

Paul Pollard (Letters, June 23 and July 7) asserts that increased rates and land taxes can’t force up rents. In Paul’s world, increased taxes and charges generally lie where they fall. Experience suggests the contrary.

Businesses often succeed in passing on new or added costs. Hence, higher fuel excises have a nasty habit of finding their way to the bowser.

Paul’s claims about land taxes, rates and rents rest on several inadequate assumptions. The most crucial is that landlords can’t offload land taxes and rates on to tenants because the latter would simply up stumps and move elsewhere or stop renting. To use the economic jargon, Paul’s argument is that the demand for rentals is “highly inelastic”.

It is quite rare though for the demand for any product or service to be quite so price sensitive. In the rental market, such price sensitivity is unlikely because of: (a) the way in which rents are bargained; (b) the costs of moving to alternative accommodation and (c) the basic need of tenants to find accommodation within commuting distance of work and community facilities.

Tenants especially the most vulnerable seldom have the sort of market power needed to fully resist a rent increase. Their position is even weaker because they know that the costs they are being asked to shoulder are also being experienced by other property owners.

Paul’s second erroneous assumption is that for prices to be bid up in a competitive market, sellers need to collude.

Such collusion, he says, is impossible. Impossible or not, it is unnecessary. For sellers to independently lift prices all they need is an awareness that market conditions have moved in their favour and a willingness to test that belief. Landlords only need to go online or look at their books to see if conditions are trending their way. Collusion is unnecessary.

Third, Paul, argues that over the long term it is possible for increased land taxes to flow on to higher rents but only because some landlords may chose to opt out of the market. I partly agree. The time taken for landlords to act can in fact be quite short. With ACT rental market tightening already (“Rental market swings towards investors”, July 5, p23) the sort of spikes in rents witnessed here only a few years back are again an emerging risk.

Bob Bennett, Gowrie

Water down prices

Can someone tell me why Icon Water needs to sponsor/advertise? They have a monopoly on the provision of water supply to the ACT. Surely some of the unnecessary funds spent could go towards reducing everyone in the ACT’s bills.

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