This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au It was a Saturday afternoon ritual we looked forward to, blissfully unaware of the dangers. The structure, made of Besser blocks, took the rubbish the bin wouldn't accommodate - plastic, styrofoam, wood, paper, cardboard, garden waste and anything else that could be turned to smoke and ash. That smoke was black. It rose from the backyard incinerator to join plumes rising from homes across the neighbourhood. And it stank. But for us kids, drawn to flame like moths, it was fascinating. We fished out plastic with sticks and watched it bead and melt, making a whooshing sound as it dropped little burning bombs onto the ground. We were playing with fire, unaware we were also playing with cancer. It was the 1970s and awareness of the dangers of the backyard incinerators was only just dawning. By the late 1980s, such DIY waste management practices were banned across most of Australia. When burnt, plastic releases polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and furans into the atmosphere. PCBs are linked to increased rates of melanomas, liver cancer, gall bladder cancer, biliary tract cancer, gastrointestinal tract cancer, and brain cancer, and may be linked to breast cancer. PAHs are suspected culprits in a range of respiratory diseases, including asthma. Furans are also nasty, associated with skin disorders, immune system problems and hormonal disruption. It's a miracle so many of us survived. But the incinerator is making a comeback - on an industrial scale. Several proposals are in the works around Australia for so-called Waste to Energy incinerators to deal with the rubbish we can't recycle and prevent it going into landfill. One proposal - at Tarago between Canberra and Goulburn - is stoking fear and loathing among residents and the local council. Slated for multinational Veolia's Woodlawn Eco-precinct, the incinerator would burn up to 380,000 tonnes annually of waste that would otherwise go into landfill. The company says the associated power plant would generate up to 240,000 megawatts of energy each year. Veolia insists the incinerator will capture the nasties. Goulburn-Mulwaree Council is unconvinced. It says no amount of emissions from the power plant is acceptable. In other words, it's a firm NIMBY - even if the go-ahead ultimately rests with the NSW government. The collapse of the REDcycle soft-plastics recycling scheme is a wake-up call. We generate too much waste in this country. An export ban means we can no longer make it someone else's problem. The burning question is: should we incinerate it to generate power? Proponents say it's killing two birds with one stone - stopping waste going into landfill and generating power. Opponents say there's a risk it will end up killing us. They argue once the incinerator is built - at a cost of $600 million - it will perpetuate demand for waste to burn when we should be limiting it in the first place. Similar incinerators in Europe have closed down, they say, because the EU's waste reduction and recycling policies mean there's not enough rubbish to burn. Decades after banishing the small incinerator from the backyard, the push to keep the giant one out is growing louder. HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you welcome a waste to energy incinerator into your neighbourhood? What is the answer to our growing waste problem? How do you cut down on waste in your own home? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: - The secrecy surrounding former prime minister Scott Morrison's portfolio power grab was "corrosive of trust in government", a damning inquiry has found. The findings of ex-High Court justice Virginia Bell's probe into Mr Morrison's secret ministries scandal were published on Friday afternoon. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ordered the inquiry after revelations Mr Morrison had secretly appointed himself to five portfolios during the COVID-19 pandemic - health, finance, home affairs, resources and treasury. Justice Bell's 159-page report revealed Mr Morrison had planned to appoint himself to the environment and water portfolio - but chose not to go ahead with it. - The number of employers offering sign-on bonuses to recruits has exploded as organisations look to entice workers in a super competitive labour market. SEEK job ads mentioning sign-on bonuses have surged 2184 per cent since 2019 - albeit from an extremely low base - with the total share of positions offering a commission or bonus sitting close to 30 per cent. SEEK economist Matt Cowgill said the findings were consistent with a tight labour market that's expected to ease as the economy responds to interest rate hikes and inflationary pressures. - Clive Palmer's planned Waratah Coal mine should be refused due to its potential impacts on the environment and contribution to climate change, a Queensland court says. The Land Court of Queensland on Friday found in favour of the case against the mine's lease and environmental approval brought by the Environmental Defenders Office on behalf of Youth Verdict and the Bimblebox Alliance. Court president Fleur Kingham says the project's mining lease and environmental authority should be refused by the state government due its potential contribution of burning thermal coal it produces to climate change. THEY SAID IT: "We have soon to have everywhere smoke annihilators, dust absorbers, ozonisers, sterilisers of water, air, food and clothing, and accident preventers on streets, elevated roads and in subways. It will become next to impossible to contract disease germs or get hurt in the city, and country folk will go to town to rest and get well." - Nikola Tesla YOU SAID IT: Charity and the meanness of the richest Australians, and whether an inheritance tax should be imposed to encourage billionaires to open their wallets for the less well off. Murray says: "I was once a regular contributor to several charities, but in recent years none with the exception of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, because the biggest share of donations is spent on administration, promotion and advertising and so very little of it filters down to those who really need it. I would not support the reintroduction of an inheritance tax as the wealthy would find a way to dodge paying it and the parents who just want to leave their modest family home or small business or farm to their children would be severely disadvantaged." Arthur doesn't like the idea of an inheritance tax: "We already have such a tax but it is called capital gains. I do not know why Australians give less to charities than other rich countries. Our government sets a very poor example with a very low percentage of taxes going to overseas aid. There are almost certainly other reasons to explain Australians' poor performance. And yes I do worry about how the money I give to charities is spent. I get annoyed by the constant flow of highly emotional letters I receive let alone supporter surveys." Andrew says: "Tax deductible - I'm not wealthy enough for it. My income is less than the tax free threshold, so I get none back. This does not stop me. It just means I grit my teeth. I would prefer tax direct-able, so that the rich have to think about where to spend their tax dollars, rather than returning money to the rich only. As for inheritance, I support income tax freedom for the over 90-year-olds who enact plans to give away 90 per cent of their assets by the time they would reach 100." Erika adds: "I consider the paying of taxes and charitable donations to be a privilege. Taxes provide services to the public and something of a safety net for those who haven't been as lucky as me (and that safety net needs to be larger and a lot less grudging). For me, that has meant decades of automatic donations to a range of charities, from the Red Cross and the Smith Family through SANE, Canteen, Rainforest Rescue and Australian Bush Heritage to pet rescue operations. I know I'm in a fortunate position and that needs to be shared - health issues mean I can't donate my time, but I can donate money. And an inheritance tax? If an estate can be realised above a threshold amount (say $2 million, given the crazy price of housing), why not? It comes back to the social contract that we have - government providing public services." Claude worries the donations don't reach who they're intended for: "Most charities have so many employees who get paid before the people who want help. I have questioned some groups and they very quickly walk away from me. Send food to the starving people in Africa and it's unloaded in front of soldiers; I question who gets fed first." David says: "Every billionaire is a failure of policy. They simply shouldn't exist. That they do exist is a substantial cause of the need for charity. Concentrating so much wealth in one place is also lousy economics. Australia is constituted as a Commonwealth. Ponder that word. Historically, a Commonwealth is a form of republic with a focus on the public good. Our country is rich enough to provide for all of its people. But we've strayed from our constitutional roots."