Thursday, January 23, 2020

The old teacher standards debate

You can demand high academic standards in teacher trainees until you are blue in the face but people with high academic standards don't want a bar of chaotic Australian State schools.  They have better job options. So dummies are all you can get to teach

THE way to lift Queensland's academic standards? Get brighter teachers. It's not rocket science - but then science, of any kind, is not the strong suit of most who are fronting our classrooms.

By accepting into education degrees the students at the bottom end of tertiary entrance rankings, we can't then expect top outcomes. An OP17 won't get you into most university degrees - and fair enough, too - but it will ensure you a seat in the lecture theatres at the Australian Catholic University.

I've written about this issue before and am familiar with the arguments of those who disagree with me, including fans of ACU and proud parents of young teachers who say the ability to relate to kids outweighs academics.

Now, Deanne Fishburn from the Queensland College of Teachers is claiming that "you can't be registered as a teacher in Queensland without meeting high and rigorous standards".

As director of the QCT - which, according to its website, "registers teachers for Queensland schools and accredits the state's preservice teacher education programs" - Ms Fishburn is hardly going to admit the status quo stinks. Naturally, she will defend it.

However, as part of her argument, she says that those high standards include that "teacher education students must have passed senior English and mathematics". That means obtaining a C. Hardly what I'd call excellence.

When economic experts are continually identifying the greatest jobs growth in fields that require higher level maths and critical thinking, such as engineering and technology, why are we settling for a pass mark in those who would inspire and instruct future job-seekers? It is unreasonable to expect people who are average achievers themselves to be able to confidently unpack complex problems to others.

Alarming findings from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute back me up on this. Only one in four teenagers is learning from a specialist maths teacher - someone who studied maths at university, including for six months as part of their four-year education degree. Too often, sports or music teachers are also taking maths classes.

It's no better in primary school, with AMSI director Geoff Prince saying that teachers are "breaking out in a cold sweat" when they have to teach maths. Contrary to the requirement to which Ms Fishbum refers, Mr Prince says many "haven't done maths through to Year 12 (and) don't understand fractions and percentages properly themselves".

Ms Fishburn argues that focusing on OP scores (soon to
be ATAR) distorts the real picture of the beginning teacher workforce. Reason being, she says, is the average age of graduate teachers is 28, meaning they are likely to have a career behind them or perhaps another degree. They might also have had several gap years, stuffed around  switching courses,'Or taken longer than usual to complete their teaching qualifications.

Don't get me wrong - life experience is valuable, but it shouldn't excuse academic mediocrity or underperformance.

In Finland - a much stronger performer than Australia in PISA international benchmarking - all teachers hold a master's degree.

Teaching polls as Finland's most admired profession, and you can't just walk into an education degree. You have to be the cream of the crop. This is how it should be.

As Peter Goss, director of the Grattan Institute School Education Program, told the Courier-Mail yesterday: "Teaching is a complex job. It requires strong cognitive abilities as well as the  emotional skills to relate to the  children, but unfortunately the academic backgrounds of new teachers has been dropping for 40 years and has continued to drop even over the last decade."

  Lowering the bar to address teacher shortages - which is partly why an OP17 is  considered adequate - will not  attract high achievers.  What will, however, is not an easy fix. It requires a major shift in how we, as a society, view the value of education and, in turn, respect, train and remunerate teachers.  Kids deserve the best educators - those who combine academic proficiency with "soft" skills such as creativity, communication and empathy, but as it stands now, that boils down to sheer luck.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

Scott Morrison says hazard reduction burns are more important than cutting carbon emissions in protecting Australians from deadly bushfires

Good that someone in power gets it

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared hazard reduction could be more important than emissions reduction in protecting Australia from increasingly dangerous bushfire seasons.

Mr Morrison has also revealed the government was considering a way to name and shame states which don't complete required hazard reduction burns.

'Hazard reduction is as important as emissions reduction,' the prime minister told Sky News on Tuesday. 'Many would argue even more so, because it has a direct practical impact on the safety of a person going into a bushfire season.'

Mr Morrison flagged clear national standards for meeting hazard reduction targets, along with a review of land-clearing laws, native vegetation rules and allowing grazing in national parks.

'We report all the time on what our emissions reductions are, but across the country there is not a national system of reporting to track how hazard reduction is progressing,' he said.

'There's been plenty of chat around emissions reduction and that's fine, hazard reduction though is the thing that is going to take a more practical effect on how safe people are in future fire seasons.'

He said a proposed royal commission should look at how states were performing on reducing fire risks in the face of hotter, longer and drier summers.

While the royal commission into the 2009 Black Saturday fires took 18 months, Mr Morrison wants the mooted inquiry into this summer's disastrous season to run for a maximum six months.

He also wants the probe to look at when the federal government is able to step in above state counterparts in natural disasters. 'I want to know when the trigger line is,' he said.

Mr Morrison has come under fire for his response to the fires, which have killed almost 30 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Climate change debate has been central to the fallout from the disaster, with the government criticised for not taking more action.


Tony Abbott says 'every extreme weather event' in Australia is being used as 'proof of climate change' by eco fanatics who have become 'religious' in their beliefs

He is clearly still aware that global warming is hokum

Tony Abbott says climate change zealots are wrongly using 'every extreme weather event' as undeniable proof of global warming, with the former prime minister denying it was the main cause of Australia's unprecedented bushfire crisis.

Mr Abbott launched a stinging rebuke of eco warriors at an event for the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, in Washington D.C. on Tuesday - where he also lauded US President Donald Trump's first term in office.

The former Liberal Party leader and volunteer firefighter said deadly bushfires were inevitable in Australia and pointed to the century-old Dorothea Mackeller poem 'My Country' which describes the country as a land 'of droughts and flooding rains'.

Mr Abbott said climate change activists were almost 'religious' in their beliefs that global warming was to blame for the ongoing fires, which have devastated a record amount of land.

'I'm not one of those people who sees the current bushfires as confirmation of all we have feared about the changing climate,' he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

'I see the current bushfires as the sort of thing we are always going to be prone to in a country such as ours.'

Mr Abbott said those who believe climate change is the most important factor in extreme weather events use it as the reason for fires, floods and Hurricane Sandy - which devastated the Carribean in 2012.

'If you think climate change is the most important thing, everything can be turned to proof. I think that to many it has almost a religious aspect to it,' he said.

Mr Abbott, Australia's 28th prime minister, led the country between 2013 and 2015 while served 19 years as a volunteer firefighter for the Rural Fire Service.

He supported Prime Minister Scott Morrison's stance that climate change had some role in causing bushfires, and praised his response to the state of emergency caused by the fires.


Dozens of vegans storm a steakhouse and ruin people's dinners in protest against eating meat - but run away scared when the police are called

Vegan activists have stormed a Queensland restaurant as part of a protest against the meat industry.

Protesters held up signs and repeated the chant 'it's not food, it's violence' in the middle of the Black Hide Steakhouse in Brisbane at the weekend.

The protest was part of a global movement by activist group Direct Action Everywhere.

The group live-streamed the protest to Facebook, urging animal rights supporters to share the video and spread their message. 

'We're at a steakhouse to disrupt normalised violence,' the woman filming the video said. 'We have around 25 dedicated animal rights activists standing in solidarity for animals that are needlessly slaughtered for food.

'We have the choice to end violence with our dollar and in 2020 there is no longer an excuse to pay for someone else's suffering.'

The diners appeared uncomfortable as the group stood in the middle of the restaurant chanting and holding their signs.

Others stood out the front of the steakhouse confronting those who entered the restaurant with their message against meat.

The group are well known for their activities in Western Australia, where they have held several marches and protested outside abattoirs and butchers shops near Perth.

Direct Action Everywhere spokesman Arcadiusz Swiebodinksi said the group planned more protests in Queensland.

'We came here to Brisbane because its a very heavy animal agriculture state here in Queensland and animals need to be spoken for everywhere, he told 7 News. 'This is just the beginning.'

One diner said he was unhappy about having his dinner interrupted. 'Don't interrupt other people's life everyone has got a right to make a choice - they can make there's.  Let the people here who like eating steak make theirs,' he said.

Others offered their support to the steakhouse on social media.  'Hi, sorry you had to put up with those vegan d**k heads last night. We love eating your steak,' one person wrote.

The protest lasted less than 20 minutes, and by the time police arrived the activists had already left.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Amusingly empty-headed Leftism

Leftists run as if from the plague if they encounter conservative discourse.  They have to.  So much of what they believe is contrary to the facts that they have a desperate need not to be proved wrong.  Conservatives have no such fears.  Conservatives just want to know what the facts are. Conservatism is built around the facts.  Mr Gradgrind was probably a conservative.

So I read Leftist articles almost daily.  They can have useful facts in them but never the whole facts.  So I had a look at the current article below from the far-Left "New Matilda" site. It is written by Rosie Latimer, who is a medical student. I feel sorry for any patients she may one day have.  The heading on her article reads "Climate Change Is Science Not Politics. So Can We Talk About It Yet?"

Yet she mentions NOT ONE scientific fact in her article. She probably knows none. She uses "science" as a sort of magic word that opens all doors.  She relies on a fictitious "consensus" among scientists to "prove" the reality of global warming.  Has no-one ever told her that once there was a consensus among all good men that the earth was flat?  Science relies on facts, not opinions.

I reproduce just her opening paragraphs below.  I give the link for you to read the whole article if you are interested in any more "ad hominem" fallacies

Australia is under attack from unprecedented bushfires, which are decimating our country, leaving a trail of physical, mental, and emotional destruction. Many have lost loved ones, homes, and some of our native plants and animals are facing extinction.

People are suffering under the toxic smoke that is billowing throughout Australia and the Pacific.

Yet in the face of this, our government and the Murdoch media contend this is not the time to discuss climate change, because the discussion of climate change is a political issue.

Climate change is not a political issue.

There is overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, caused by humans emitting greenhouse gases. The world has drawn links between Australia’s love affair with a coal-based economy and the bushfires ravaging our great nation.

This should be a bi-partisan issue, an issue that unites us all. So why is it a Liberal calling card to deny climate change, and a Labor calling card to let them?


Climate change rally turns ugly in Melbourne as angry demonstrators clash with police and Extinction Rebellion protesters bury their heads in the sand at a popular beach

They are just attention-seekers getting high on their own righteousness

Thousands of protesters have marched through Melbourne calling for immediate climate change action and for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to be sacked.

There was a heightened police presence as the activists gathered at the State Library and walked through the city on Saturday afternoon.

One impassioned activist decided to target the on-duty officers by screaming in their direction and leaning uncomfortably close.

A police officer was forced to warn the angry protester to 'back off' and push him away.

The rally, organised by Uni Students for Climate Justice, is part of rolling January demonstrations for the city 'to demand real action on climate change and justice for the communities devastated by the fires'.

'These fires are the result of decades of climate destruction at the hands of fossil fuel industry and their mates in Canberra,' the event description said.

Activists are fighting for a levy on fossil fuel companies, the removal of Mr Morrison from office and firefighters to be paid for their work, among other demands.

Organisers estimated about 2,000 people took part in Saturday's event. 

The march came one-day after Extinction Rebellion activists buried their heads in the sand to demand the government declare a climate emergency.

About 300 people descended on Inverloch Beach, about two hours south-east of Melbourne, for the 'peaceful' protest on Friday.

The demonstration comes amid a catastrophic and fatal bushfire season, which has ripped through the state's East Gippsland region.

The protest saw activists dig holes in the sand to bury their heads and lie on the side of the shore, Nine News reported.

Protester Nicky Miller described the protest as 'symbolism' for Australia's lack of action in reducing emissions.

A number of protesters displayed signs slamming the government for its reliance on fossil fuels.

The colourful demonstrators sung there was a 'climate crisis' with the assistance of ukuleles and other instruments.

Leticia Liang referred to the bushfires when explaining why she took part in the protest.

'I don't want my children to adapt to hazy days, I don't want me children to adapt to smoke and fires,' she said.

Lynn Atkinson from Extinction Rebellion said the location of the protest - Inverloch Beach - was eroding 'rapidly'.

Jessica Harrison, also from the activist group, said: 'We want our lovely beach to be preserved, this beach has eroded more than 30 metres in the last four to five years.'

Extinction Rebellion said they expected 100 protesters to attend the demonstration but the 300-strong crowd represented the local community are 'concerned' and 'need action'. 


Insane childcare costs

A torrent of regulations have "gold-plated" childcare, making it generally unaffordable.  So the government tries to restore affordability by giving subsidies. But the subsidies are not keeping up

It's deregulation that is needed if affordability is to be restored.  One insane regulation is that a carer has to have a university degree or diploma -- and it goes on from there.  There must also be a minimum educator-to-child ratio of 1:15, which is well-up on what it used to be.

There are also regulations about premises, furniture, materials and equipment; fencing; laundry and hygiene facilities; indoor and outdoor space – unencumbered space; toilet and hygiene facilities; ventilation and natural light; administrative space; nappy change facilities; outdoor space—natural environment and shade.  And they all cost money that has to be recouped from fees in order to get a return on investment

"OUT-of-control" childcare costs are continuing to soar -under a new subsidy scheme, as the industry warns there is more hip-pocket pain to come. Even fees for some Queensland parents on the highest discount are hundreds of dollars higher than they were 12 months earlier.

Prices are expected to substantially rise again later this year with a review of child-care worker wages anticipated in the Coming months. The cost increases are biting now as parents return to work and scramble to find extra care for their children until school returns.

Education Minister Dan Tehan flagged that more action would be announced soon to crackdown on excessive fee increases by rogue childcare operators.

The annual cost of sending a single child to care  is now reaching higher than $16,000 a' year in the inner city and parts of Brisbane's south, before rebates are applied.

Parents are forking out hundreds to thousands of dollars more, depending on where they live and how much they earn, just covering the increased costs applied by pro-viders since the subsidy started on July 2, 2018. The subsidy covers up to 85 per cent of the childcare fee depending on a family's household income.

Education Department data from September 2018 to September 2019 shows that childcare costs rose 42 per cent on average from $9.50/ hour to $9.90/hour during the 12-month period. But the Nathan area was the most expensive in the state. topping $17,000 a year pre-subsidy for one child in care for 31.6 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year after a 12.5 per cent increase in the hourly rate. Families there on the highest 85 per cent subsidy were still paying $2600 a year.

Families in Nundah, Nathan, Outback Queensland and Bundaberg on the full 85 per cent discount were paying $200 a year more out-of-pocket in September, compared to a year earlier.

Queensland Council of Social Services boss Mark Henley said child care was becoming unaffordable for many families. "For someone on minimum wage there's a decision to be made as to whether it's more costly to have ajob and put kids in child care, or if you're saving money by staying at home," he said.

Australian Childcare Association vice-president Nesha Hutchinson said profit margins were falling as rent and wage increases put pressure on care operators. "When they're putting up prices they don't want to gouge fainilies; they're just trying to remain financially viable," she said.

Despite the soaring costs, Mr Tehan said many. Austraian families were still paying less out of pocket now than they were before the new sub-sidy system started.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

Government is not even trying to reduce fuel for fires

A FIRE fighter has savaged the Queensland Government's hazard reduction burning process, claiming there was state-owned land that wasn't being monitored for fuel loads. Will Wilson, who is stationed in Mt Alma, West of Gladstone, said the local brigade had also stopped telling authorities about "intense fuel loads" building up because there were too many hoops to jump through.

"There's no one that drives along the highway that says 'There's a massive fuel load'," he said "There's no one checking fuel loads at those locations apart from landholders who don't own the land."

The first officer, who's been with the brigade for about 25 years, said the land which runs parallel to a highway was a big instigator for fires. "We've never been notified by main roads that we need to do some fuel reduction on their land," he said

Mr Wilson said it was not the volunteers' job to monitor areas such as rail corridors and main roads and called for financial incentives to better protect the community.

A Government spokesman said government agencies conducted hazard reduction burns on state-owned land only when it was safe to do so.  "Activities include hazard reduction bums, fireline maintenance, mechanical clearing and targeted community education," he said. "More than one million hectares of national parks were treated by planned burns last year. That is the most hectares treated in eight years."

Frank McKee, a fire warden for the Boyne Valley, said it was "all but impossible" to get all government departments to agree to hazard reduction burns on state-owned land. "You have to jump through hoops so high it's ridiculous," he said.

Asked why he thought it was hard to get approvals, Mr McKee said it was due to concerns about risk. "They (authorities) think 'Well what if it (fire) gets away'," he said.

Mr McKee also said officers were required to tell the Government whether there were endangered trees on land needing burning.

"They should be able to have land with no more than a seven-year build up (of fuel load)," he said. "Anything over seven years is uncontrollable."

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 18 January, 2020

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Platypuses said to be on the 'brink of extinction'

This just about "fears" and what "could happen".  There is nothing factual below.  The journal article is "A stitch in time – Synergistic impacts to platypus metapopulation extinction risk".  It is pure armchair modelling based on extensive guesses.  There was no actual research involved. No feet were muddied.

And the assumptions are all one-sided.  What if some features of  modern environments are actually helpful to the platypus?  There are plenty of examples of modernity helping a species. The "bin chickens" (Ibises) are known to most Brisbane people

It seems to me that dams might actually be helpful to the platypus. They give it a big choice of what water level they want to feed and breed at.  But that would never have occurred to our modellers.

And the major scare the modelling was based on was global warming.  What if there is no global warming?  There has certainly been very little warming for the last century or so

This whole article is just a tawdry attempt to get something into the journals by using conventional scares.  The journal editors were negligent in publishing something so insubstantial

Australia's beloved platypus is now feared to be on the 'brink of extinction'. Researchers at the University of New South Wales say the number of platypuses in the wild could fall by 66 per cent by 2070 because of climate change and other threats.

Researchers said soaring temperatures across the country, the intense drought and land clearing are all contributing to the species' decline.

Richard Kingsford, director for UNSW's Centre for Ecosystem Science said the future for the animal was 'grim'.

'This is impacting their ability to survive during these extended dry periods and increased demand for water,' Mr Kingsford said in the journal article, Biological Conservation, The Age reported.

'If we lost the platypus from Australian rivers, you would say, 'What sort of government policies or care allow that to happen?''

Gilad Bino, the study's lead author said the threat of climate change could affect the platypus's ability to repopulate, noting they could face 'extinction'.

'We are not monitoring what we assume to be a common species. And then we may wake up and realise it's too late,' Dr Bino said.

The platypus is listed as 'near-threatened' under the IUCN Red List of threatened species but Dr Bino says the government needs to assess how much the animal is at risk.

The study's researchers said in order to prevent total extinction the platypus' habitat would need to be managed.

The Victorian Environment Department said they were working with the federal government over whether the platypus' status needed to be changed to 'threatened'.

NSW said they recognised issues such as the drought could be placing the platypus 'at risk'.

Platypuses live in freshwater areas and are found along the east coast and southeast coast of Australia.


Prevention as cure: Fuel load reduction way to take climate out of fire threat

Peta Credlin

RIGHT now, Scott Morrison is in the political fight of his career. I do not say that lightly; he has been in plenty of scraps over the years, but few have seen him so wounded, up against an opponent so full of might, and spleen. And hate too.

George Orwell wrote, "the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it".

This an understatement when it comes to the new "truth" of climate change? No longer do we have any fact-based assessments on Australia's 1.3 per cent contribution to global emissions — or what others are doing, or not doing as the case may be.

Instead, climate change orthodoxy has become the new religion for generations of young people (and the not so young) who often mock more traditional institutions of faith.

Indeed, I bet over the summer, if you have tried to have a rational discussion with anyone on this subject or the fires more broadly, it is quickly descended into regurgitated dogma, and quite likely hysteria, so cult-like it's all become.

Take the opportunistic Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese who last week again tried to turn bushfires into climate change with his now much-repeated line that "you can see it, smell it, and feel it".

By trying to use the soot and ash whipped up by fires to further his political fight against the Coalition, Albanese both insults our intelligence and does himself a disservice in his bid to one day lead the country.

The Left's demon in all of this is carbon dioxide and is also essential for life on this planet. Like news outlets that love to show images of water vapour spewing out of power plants or smog filled skies as evidence of climate change — conflating steam or pollution with greenhouse gas emissions is just yet another example of the lies and misinformation that masquerade as "fact" in this debate.

In a world now where the only history we know comes from what we might have personally experienced rather than any proper study of the past, these fires are the "worst ever" so "something extraordinary must have caused them" regardless of historical fact.

Right now, dismayed by these fires' devastation, people do not really want to know that the 2009 Black Saturday fires and the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires killed far more people; or that the 1974 fire season burnt out at least ten times the area of this one.

And while people want policy measures the Government can take that will avert similar devastation in the future, it would be a serious mistake to think the policy measures to combat these fires lie in agreements made overseas that most countries (unlike us) do not even follow, rather than what can be done here at home, in our state governments and Canberra, as well as national parks, right around the country.

Can someone tell me the point of a new royal commission into bushfires if we still are not doing what was recommended in the last one? Out of Victoria's tragedy in 2009, officials in that state were told by the royal commission to lift the rate of off-season hazard reduction burning — yet last year, just one-third of the burn target was met.

Fires cannot burn without fuel. Fuel is something Australians in the past — indigenous Australians for centuries and the rest of us, until recently — managed to get down to acceptable levels as we approached the summer fire season.

But that is now all changed. If we want to help prevent future fire seasons of this magnitude, then we have got to have an honest debate about how we got here, and what can be done in the future to better manage the risks.

Fighting this issue on the basis of climate change policy is where the Left want this debate. It lets state governments off the hook for what they have not done and it gives the Left their first real opportunity to tear down Morrison since he killed off their fairytale last May.

But for the Coalition, it is a zero sum game politically. You see, it does not matter how much Morrison does on climate change, it is never going to be enough for the green left; that does not so much want a reduction in emissions, but a statement of belief, and a redirection of society away from economic growth towards a new means of income redistribution.

This is why the government gets no credit for the fact that we are well and truly on track to meet our Paris targets.

Nothing exposes the Left on emissions more than their refusal to even debate nuclear power as an option for this country given its capacity to provide baseload power with zero emissions and our ready supply of uranium. Uranium I might add, that we send overseas but cannot use here; like our coal too, and increasingly our gas. If it all was not so serious, it would almost make you laugh.

The Coalition must stand firm because proper debate is needed now, more than ever. Fuel-load reduction is an area the PM can rely upon recommendation after recommendation in almost every bushfire inquiry to back him up. If he wanted to really change this debate and get it off an area he cannot win, on to an area where he can — and where most Australians would follow him — Morrison should demand a new national approach to fuel load reduction.

If the states are so keen to se the Commonwealth up-end the Constitution and take more responsibility for bushfires — then give them what they want. By making a new national fuel-load reduction plan a standing item on COAG, with reduction data pulished quarterly and states that do not do what the experts recommend named and shamed. As well as being the best way forward for the 2021 bushfire season, it is the PM's best way forward, polically too.

From the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of 19/1/20

John Barilaro, Scott Morrison slam Matt Kean over cabinet climate claims

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has joined Scott Morrison in lashing Matt Kean’s claim federal frontbenchers want more action on climate change, saying his Environment Minister’s “unhelpful” comments didn’t represent the party.

“He seems to have taken this opportunity to go all out and spruik a whole heap of messages that I don’t believe is representing of the whole of government,” Mr Barilaro told Ray Hadley on 2GB.

“I’ve got a lot more to say about Matt and his comments but I’m not interested today, I’m focused on recovery,” he said.

As wild weather hits parts of Victoria and NSW after a catastrophic fire season, Mr Kean claimed on Sky News on Sunday that right-leaning cabinet ministers – as well as Liberal moderates – were concerned about the Morrison Government’s current suite of climate policies.

It comes after months of pressure on the Prime Minister to change tack on climate change and reported divisions between the federal and NSW government over the handling of the bushfires.

Mr Morrison on Monday said no cabinet ministers have approached him with concerns about the government’s stance on climate action and labelled the NSW Liberal MP’s comments a “beat up.”

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” he told the Nine Network. “I think Matt can focus on hazard reduction and I will focus on emissions reduction. “It’s all a beat up.”

Mr Barilaro, who has been appointed as the Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery, said he had spoken to Gladys Berejiklian about the rogue Environment Minister. “Will you be talking to his boss about his comments?” asked Hadley.

“Yeah, I’ve had conversations about it. There’s a time and place and right now it’s all unhelpful,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Morrison went on to give a more brutal assessment of Mr Kean and his public profile in a later interview.

“Matt Kean doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know what’s going on in the federal cabinet. Most of the federal cabinet wouldn’t even know who Matt Kean was,” he told ABC radio.

On the Today program Mr Morrison also continued to defend his government’s climate stance, saying he would never take up environmental policies which would cost resource sector jobs.

“I won’t put up a carbon tax. I won’t put up people’s electricity prices and I will not wipe out a resources sector which millions of Australians depend on particularly regional Australians,” Mr Morrison said. “We will stay with a balanced policy that understands the economic interests and environmental interests.

“We know the summers are longer, hotter, dryer. We are addressing them. We acknowledge the link between these things and will have a balanced policy which doesn’t put people out of their jobs.”


'It's not even a debate': Scott Morrison shuts down Sam Armytage over Australia Day question

Scott Morrison has said he does not want to see the date of Australia Day moved. The PM was quizzed about the celebration in an interview on Sunrise on Monday morning after a new survey found 71 per cent want the day to remain on 26 January.

In recent years, the weeks before Australia Day have been fraught with debate about whether its is wrong to celebrate the day the First Fleet arrived to colonise Australia in 1788.

Indigenous activists say the date should be moved - but this year the debate has been stifled by the bushfire crisis.

'No one seems to be talking about it this year because there are other things to talk about,' said host Sam Armytage.

The PM said: 'We do have something is to talk about and that is people affected by bushfires.

'On Australia Day I will be saying thank you to every volunteer that has supported everyone through this terrible crisis. Not just this one but all the crises of weather and disaster in this country.'

Armytage pressed him, saying: 'So you think it should stay?'

Mr Morrison replied: 'Well of course I do. It's not even a debate we're having at the moment. 'I don't really want to be distracted by it at the moment.'

The survey by the Institute of Public Affairs found 71 per cent of Aussies want Australia Day celebrated on January 26, which was down four per cent on last year's figure.  


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Monday, January 20, 2020

'They are incinerators from hell': Biologist blames GUM TREES for Australia's brutal bushfire season - and says they should be banned anywhere near human settlements

I really like our native gum trees and would oppose any attack on them but there is undoubtedly some truth in the colorful claim below. They do burn easily.

It is irrelevant, however.  Fuel reduction will prevent the fires regardless of which trees the fuel comes from.  Fuel reduction is the Holy Grail.  With it, there CAN be no big fires.  Anything else is passing the buck

A prominent Australian biologist has blamed the country's bushfires on gum trees, labelling them 'incinerators from hell dressed up as trees'.

Also known as eucalyptus trees, gum trees are native to every Australian state and their leaves make up most of the diet of koalas and some possum species.

Despite being a source of food for iconic native animals, biologist Jeremy Griffith attributed Australia's current bushfire crisis to the widespread tree on Saturday.

The biologist, who is also an author, even went as far to say that people should be banned from growing eucalyptus trees anywhere near human settlements.  

'Humans can't live near them, and they are an extremely dangerous habitat for wildlife,' Mr Griffith wrote in The Spectator.

Australia's current bushfire season has claimed the lives of 28 people and an estimated one billion animals so far.

Mr Griffith explained eucalyptus trees actively encourage bushfires as their waxy and oily leaves are very flammable.

In addition, he said gum trees have epicormic buds hidden under their bark that are protected from flames and allow them quickly sprout back after bushfires.

'Eucalypts can survive an intense fire when few other species can; and since they can survive fire they can afford to encourage fire because it will eliminate competition from other species,' Mr Griffith said.

He pointed out that gum trees heavily shed leaves and peeling bark, which he believes is in order to generate tinder for fires. 

Mr Griffith likened gum trees to 'dangerous crocodiles planted tail-down ready to destroy lives and our world'.

'There has to be a complete change of mindset when thinking about eucalypts that recognises their true nature. The stark reality is there should be legislation in Australia preventing eucalypts from growing in quantity near people,' he said.   

The biologist said there needs to be more regular hazard reduction burns in eucalypt forests, like those practiced by Indigenous Australians thousands of years before British settlement.

He explained that because Indigenous Australians would start small fires regularly, the intensity of fires would decrease, which would allow for safe fires in the summer.

Mr Griffith warned of the dangers that eucalyptus trees pose in other parts of the world where they have been introduced, such as California. [And China]

Australian gold miners introduced gum trees to California in the 1850s before the local state government began encouraging their plantation in the early 1900s.

During the Oakland firestorm in 1991, it is estimated that 70 per cent of the energy released from blazes was through eucalyptus trees.

In California, which has similar dry conditions to Australia, wildfires are a yearly occurrence and recently took the lives of five people in 2019.

Australia's current bushfire season arrived early in October 2019. So far, a total of 28 people have died in the horror blazes and more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed.


Victorian government to launch an attack on free speech about sex-change

The Victorian government intends to pass a law very soon that may see ordinary citizens imprisoned if they speak up against the chemical, psychological and physical mutilation of confused adolescents. Labor Attorney-General-Hennessey wants to outlaw conversion practices. They are defined in her discussion paper about the proposed Bill as

…any practice or treatment that seeks to change, suppress or eliminate an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to reduce or eliminate sexual and/or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender, or efforts to change gender expressions.

Queensland already has a similar bill before its parliament. It would authorise imprisonment for those who perform what is called conversion “therapy” in that state. Such therapy is defined as a treatment or other practice that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s very broad. While it is directed to those who provide a health service it includes “alternative” ones, and  will very arguably capture pastors, concerned family members, or other lay people who attempt to dissuade a young person they know from embarking upon a “transition” from their natal sex to its opposite.

It is almost unnecessary for me to tell you that the Queensland legislation specifically quarantines from criminal liability the actual conversion practices that carry the real risks for children — those promoted by the medical and quasi medical cadres of the gender industry, opportunistically exploiting a child’s hesitant and often confused explorations of her or his identity and sexual nature and independence as they enter puberty, when frayed family dynamics or peer pressure are often making such experience more difficult. In such a context  any treatment that consists of undeviating and reflexive “affirmation” of the “choice” of such a child or adolescent is not treatment at all. It is better described as enlistment and it is  being done in the furtherance of political and not medical imperatives.

Astonishingly, the fact the person you are trying to assist is a child aggravates rather than mitigates the seriousness of the offence: then it carries a maximum of 18-month, rather than the standard 12, term of imprisonment.

If you are in any doubt about the risks and the scientific irregularities associated with the diagnosis and treatment of gender dysphoria (real and imaginary) in Australia then read what Professor John Whitehall, Professor of Paediatrics at Western Sydney University, has written in Quadrant and elsewhere many times in recent years. He is compelling and the stridency of his call for urgent scrutiny of the medico-gender complex is supported by eminent psychiatrists and paediatricians in Australia and overseas. He is persona non grata with the ideologues, of course; that only raises the index of his authoritativeness even higher.

The Andrews government has plotted this attack on free speech very carefully, as you would expect. First, the Health Complaints Commissioner was given wide power under laws brought in by Ms. Hennessey in 2017 to conduct investigations on her own initiative; she duly and promptly reported on the urgent need to address conversion practices.

Then the radical Marxists of first resort at La Trobe University and the Human Rights Commission were invited to comment on the Commissioner’s report. They did and announced that conversion therapy (only of the unapproved kind, of course) was a terrible practice that must be eliminated urgently with the full force of the law.

Here I am reminded of Andrey Vyshinsky, who always came through with the legal theorising necessary to give cover to Stalin’s latest purges of recusants; attorneys-general have always done the same for Victoria’s socialist governments. Daniel Andrews is the leader of the most illiberal and radical state government in anyone’s memory, even if its Marxism is cultural and not economic and the materialism “designer” rather than dialectical.

The discussion paper and the reports it relies on, together with Ms. Hennessey’s public utterances about them, make it clear that Victoria intends to make plain what is latent or ambiguous in Queensland’s proposed legislation. It is not just the individual transsexual or homosexual who needs protection from conversion; no, the criminality can arise outside of any therapeutic context. It is society that needs to be protected so the mere utterance of heterodox views about affirmation of gender or sexual “choice” must be extirpated.

More HERE 

Labor Party to adopt new 2050 target for emissions instead of old 2030 goal.  Enmity to coal also dropped

They are trying to find a policy that will be less open to attack, it seems.  Good luck with that

Labor will land on a 2050 emissions reduction target before it assesses its shorter term goals, as Anthony Albanese declared it was a “mistake” for the party to retain its climate change policies after losing the 2016 election.

The Australian has been told caucus will likely adopt a 2050 target by Labor’s national conference later in the year, with climate change spokesman Mark Butler expected to push for a net-zero emissions target by the middle of the century.

Senior Labor sources said the party would likely announce a 2030 or 2035 target closer to the election.

The shorter term target would be geared around meeting the 2050 goal based on Australia’s emissions at the time of the election, likely to be 2022.

The Australian revealed last year that Labor could scrap its 45 per cent 2030 target in favour of focusing on a “net-zero emissions by 2050” policy.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday morning, Mr Albanese said Labor should have revisited its 45 per cent 2030 target after losing the 2016 election.

“I think it was a mistake in 2019 to continue to say ‘we will do exactly to do what we did in 2015 as if it hadn’t changed’,” Mr Albanese said.

“What we did (in the last) six year period was to add-on policies. So everything stayed the same and we just added more on. We have seen how that played out. It didn’t work.”

Mr Albanese declared the climate change policy would be “as ambitious as possible” but would not be drawn on a potential target.

He noted Bill Shorten’s pre-election target – to reduce greenhouse emissions by 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 – was created in 2015 and allowed a 15 year time frame to be achieved.

“That was a 2015 target established for 15 years’ time,” Mr Albanese said.

“In 2022 our 15 year target will be very different. 15 years from 2022 is 2037 not 2030.

“You can’t define your point on where you will go to the election in 2022 at January 2020 because the circumstances will change.

“We will take climate change seriously. We will determine our policy. It will be as ambitious as possible. I want to have a very strong framework. I want to be ambitious and I want it to be as strong as possible but you have got to know what your starting point is.”

Mr Albanese also left the door open to amending the party’s pre-election franking credits crackdown rather than dumping it altogether. “Very clearly we won’t be taking the same policy to the next election,” Mr Albanese said. He would not say whether the negative gearing policy would be dropped.

The Labor leader said Adani’s difficulty in securing finance for its coalmine in central Queensland showed there was global uncertainty about the future of the sector.

The Opposition Leader denied claims he was “wishy washy” in his support of the coal industry despite refusing to endorse the already-approved Adani project in the Galilee Basin.

“The environmental approvals have occurred. The project wasn’t able to secure finance. That says something about what the international scene saw about the financing of a new mine in a new coal basin,” Mr Albanese told Sky News on Sunday morning.

“So they are self-financing the project. But it has been approved so it is going ahead.”

When challenged whether he was wishy washy in his support of the nation’s biggest export earner, Mr Albanese said: “that is not right”.

“People in Queensland and everywhere else know, who are involved in the industry, knows that the industry is continuing,” Mr Albanese said.

“If you gave got a 50 per cent renewable energy target, by definition there is 50 per cent coming from fossil fuels.

“So let’s be realistic there about what the framework is domestically and internationally. Of course there will continue to be coal exports; I have made that very clear.”

The Labor leader planned to go to a coalmine but his office claimed the visit was cancelled because of scheduling issues.


Leftist site bans climate skeptics

And its boss is having a wonderful time with the bushfires

Last week, New Matilda announced that we have banned climate deniers (and those who deny the links between the bushfire crisis and climate change) from commenting on our website, and on our various social media channels.

It received a strong response, mostly supportive. And then, a video I filmed on Kangaroo Island of a trailer load of koalas arriving at an emergency triage centre went seriously viral (it's been seen by around 1.5 million people so far)... and the comments section has gone ballistic... and for the interim at least, we have nothing like the capacity necessary to moderate the platform. So that will be a work in progress.

Over the next few days, I'll be writing a feature on the fires on Kangaroo Island, focussed around the 'Farm Units' - an extraordinary group of men and women who operate independently from officials to fight the fires. We'll also have more coverage from our usual broader cross section of areas - as you might expect, our pretty humble resources have been heavily focussed on the bushfire crisis.

Via January 15, 2020 email from New Matilda --

 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Queensland desalination project

The article below was written before 12.12.19.  How do I know that?  Because it refers to the drought.  And for most of 2019 Queensland was indeed unusually dry.  On the night of 12.12.19 however, Brisbane had the mother and father of a storm that delivered 6 months of rain in one hour.  And there was a similar storm down the coast a couple of days later. So both the Wivenhoe and the Hinze dam (which are linked) would have received a big boost

It is particularly good for the dams to get all that rain at once. If the fall had been spread out over a long period, much of the fall would have been lost to evaporation and soaking into the ground.

The desalination project was an absolute boondoggle from the beginning. It was started by a Leftist government as an alternative to building a dam. It took years to get it working properly so it is lucky that the rains came and rendered it unnecessary.  It is however some consolation to hear that it is finally working and being marginally useful

DESALINATE or die. That was the dire warning from then-premier Peter Beattie as he was confronted by a lone protester at the under-construction Gold Coast desalination plant during the so-called "Millennium Drought" in 2000.

The protester, local green activist Inge Light, had slipped through a security detail to shirtfront Beattie about the controversial $1.2 billion project's environmental and financial costs.

"I've got to be honest with you, we're going to build it(the plant), we've got no choice -- unless you go up there and play God and make it rain for me," the premier declared. "If you don't allow us to get desalinated water, frankly no one's going to be alive. "If we don't have desal, we're not going to have any water. "If you don't have water, you're dead.'

It may not be quite life or death. Beattie, wasn't averse to a bit of hyperbole — but as Queensland grapples with arguably its worst drought on record, the Tugun desalination plant is playing a key role in keeping water flowing to residents in the state's south-east.

Largely on "hot standby" since it opened in 2009 due to consistent rain events, the facility has been cranked up to full capacity after a tinder-dry spring and early summer which has seen dam levels plummet.

Since hitting 100 per cent production on November 18, the plant has pumped more than two billion litres of water into the southeast Queensland water grid. It represents about 15 per cent of the region's water use, currently averaging at 212 litres per person per day, up from 183 litres this time last year.

The first large-scale desalination plant on Australia's east coast (Perth's plant opened in 2006), the Tugun facility occupies a sprawling site next to Gold Coast Airport, a few hundred metres from the beach. It was originally planned as a much smaller Gold Coast City Council facility. But as the Millennium Drought bit deeper, the Beattie government invested almost $870 million in the project to more than double its capacity to 133 megalitres per day.

Gold Coast mother and environmentalist Inge Light wept at Gold Coast City Hall in October 2006 after councillors voted 12-2 to approve the project, saying it would worsen global warming and damage the marine environment "I'm emotional because I see my children's future being affected by global warming," she told The Courier-Mail at the time. "It's incredibly sad and incredibly frustrating that we've got yesterday's politicians making tomorrow's decisions."

But the council, led by green-leaning mayor Ron Clarke, decided  overwhelmingly that the desal plant was needed, and urgently. "The region will run out of water if we don't deal with this and make the hard decisions," then finance committee chair and now Southport MP Rob Molhoek said.

Construction began irmnediately by an "alliance", incvolving  French water giant Veolia, construction firm John Holland, infrastructure company Cardno and engineers Sinclair Knight Metz.

In 2007, The Courier-Mail revealed that Veolia expected to take in at least $351 million from running the desal plant over the following decade. Anna Bligh, who had succeeded Beattie as premier, took the first sip of desalinated water at a Tugun open day in December 2008.

The plant officially opened in January 2009, but the State Government refused to accept ownership after a raft of serious defects were revealed, including rusting pipes, cracking concrete and faulty valves, as well as concerns over potential contaminants leaching from the former Tugun rubbish dump on which the facility was built.

In April 2009, the plant, supposedly the showpiece of the $9 billion south-east Queensland water grid, was shut down for almost six weeks as technical experts crawled through pipes to pinpoint faults. A year later, the plant was again shut down, this time for three months, as a giant barge was brought in to make repairs. Only months later, south-east Queensland was hit by the devastating 2010-11 floods.

Critics have labelled the desal plant a costly white elephant, but it has been used to help supply water during floods as well as drought, and when water treatment plants have been shut down for upgrades.

The Courier-Mail recently took a tour of the plant with its manager, Tina Feenstra. Right on cue for our visit, the heavens have opened. "It's a running joke for us here: whenever we're at full capacity, it starts raining," Feenstra says, handing us umbrellas.

Feenstra explains the desalination process, which begins with sea water being fed through a 4m mushroom-like inlet on the seabed, about 1km offshore, and into a pipeline to the plant. Larger particles are screened out before the water passes through a finer filter which removes smaller particles. The water is then pre-treated in large tanks which blend small suspended particles into clumps which are then removed by sand filters.

Next, the main process begins — removing the salt. The water passes through thousands of reverse osmosis membranes to purify the water. It ends up being so pure, Feenstra explains, that chemicals and minerals then have to be re-added to make the water suitable to drink before it is pumped into the water grid.

Desalinated water does not come cheap, costing up to $800 a megalitre to produce. It's also energy-intensive, consuming the equivalent electricity of about 12,000 houses a day when running at full capacity.

"But when it's hotter and drier than average as it is now, having use of a facility like this is a real asset, particularly when we don't know how long this drought will last," Feenstra says.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of January 4, 2020

Status anxiety and the tyranny of opinion

John Carroll

Proclaiming your own shallow virtue from the pulpit of social media has become the new religion.

As the year of identity politics, 2019, is now at an end, we should ask what has been going on.

The return of medieval heresy trials, draconian inquisition and pseudo-religious cults preaching apocalypse demands some inter­pretation. The new wars are over opinion. Belief has been separated from fact. In parallel, status has shifted from property and achievement to attitudes. Even a summer of catastrophic bushfire often has been co-opted by doomsday politics rather than met, as it should be, by sober gravity, sympathy and reflection on the nature and history of this harsh continent.

One obvious manifestation of insecure identity is status anxiety. Throughout the modern period, people have compensated for doubts about their worth by showing off their wealth, displayed in large houses, luxury cars, designer clothes and expensive holidays; living in prestigious suburbs; and sending their children to elite schools and universities.

They have indulged in what American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen dubbed “conspicuous consumption”.

Rise of the new snobs

The new snobbery, however, is not over bad taste, crude accents, cheap belongings and the wrong schools; it is over attitudes.

Some boast on Instagram that they personally carbon offset when flying #climatechange, and attract a stream of likes. Others tweet they support gay marriage #loveislove, and are deluged in hearts of approval. Thousands swarm against a Michael Leunig cartoon. This shift in the signals of status must be, in part, a feature of affluence — the markers of economic success matter less these days — combined with the fact the noise is coming almost exclusively from the ranks of the better off. In the upper middle class, comfort may be taken for granted.

The root of identity politics is revealed in its designation: in identity and its discontents. Mind, there is nothing new in anxiety about self. Seventeenth-century French moralist Francois de La Rochefoucauld argued that self-esteem was the strongest of human motivating forces. Vanity, egoism and fear of embarrassment and failure drive most human behaviour. In the pre-modern world, this was less universally true, for more than 90 per cent of the population had little time or energy left over from the daily grind of basic survival. Concern about identity was a leisure-time luxury they could ill afford.

The key to secure identity is an inner confidence underpinned by belief and belonging. Belief is primary. German sociologist Max Weber coined the term disenchantment to describe the central threat confronting the modern West. In a secular time that no longer believed in God, or indeed in any transcendental ordering principle, the risk was that the world would lose its magic and be come a dull and prosaic absurdity. Humans were left to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and little else.

Samuel Beckett highlighted this condition in Waiting for Godot, arguably the most important play of the 20th century. For Beckett’s two tramps, life has become so pointless that they talk of suicide but can’t be bothered carrying it out. Meaning has become the modern problem.

In fact, faith in God has been replaced, in the shadows, by an alternative potential commanding attachment: that there are deep and enduring truths that underpin the human condition; and, further, that the good life depends on gaining some understanding of them and managing to live in harmony with them. These truths are elusive, and difficult to formulate and enshrine; Shakespeare’s entire work may be read as a wrestling to uncover their complex texture.

Things were much easier in the time of church religion, with priests, teaching orders, theology and doctrine, an absolute moral calculus, and a vast background of tradition, monumental buildings, music and art — all dedicated to proclaiming the faith.

As the West progressively moved into a post-Christian era, high culture and the universities became of vital social importance. Their guiding mission was to help ordinary people better understand their lives, and in particular bear the hardships and tragedies that beset them. They did this through telling stories about life in its manifold variety — in literature, art, music and more recently film — and then interpreting them. Across the past 1½ centuries, this mission, in the main, has been progressively abandoned. As a result, loss of faith has left a vacuum and the anti-belief, if pressed, that there is nothing.

Weariness rules

The need for faith, or some secular equivalent, seems to be universal. Without it, there is the uprootedness of Beckett’s demoralised tramps, who have no mental chart to guide them through the day, the month and the year.

Human identity without firm and distinct shape is condemned to leading a haphazard existence, motivated by profane pleasure and the pursuit of power. Pleasures diminish and power is capricious. A vacancy of belief drives some to seek tranquillisers and intoxicants; others to seek militant secular faiths. Those pseudo-religions, in turn, are given to a paranoid polarising of the world into good and evil. The psychology is familiar, from earlier times, when churches, out of their own insecurity, persecuted heretics, witches or those they deemed nonconformist.

Shaky medieval religion also triggered apocalyptic sects, which we see re-emerging today in an uncanny regression to our most superstitious past.

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg provides a case study. Her demean­our and mode of declam­ation mimics that of a fundamentalist Christian preacher ranting about the end of the world. The intense eyes, the raging warnings of apocalypse and the incantatory chant of “How dare you!” pitched against the satanic adult world are reminiscent of some cult spawned in Waco, Texas.

There was a Children’s Crusade in the early Middle Ages: something like 20,000 children, led by two of their number, set out from France to free Jerusalem from unbelievers. The crusade foundered well before its destination, in starvation and disaffection.

There is also the other recent eruption of Extinction Rebellion, a movement of self-styled soldiers of virtue parading as if cast from the Book of Revelation. From London to Melbourne, they came hooded and garbed in bright crimson robes, faces painted white, with thin red lips, a cross between a medieval dance-of-death procession and spooky Hare Krishnas. These martyrs glue themselves to buildings and seek arrest — that is, look for self-vindicating persecution by evil authority.

Whatever the truth about ­climate change, the Extinction ­Rebellion apocalypse is based on a radical inflation of long-term global warming forecasts, in themselves as unreliable as economic forecasts, if not more so. Eminent Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith quipped that economic forecasting was invented to give astrology a good name.

Identity politics obeys the catchcry: I emote virtuously, there­fore I am

End of the world is nigh

Greta is not in herself of interest. What is alarming is that she has been taken seriously by the worldwide media, listened to devoutly by broad sections of the upper middle class and its cultural elites, given a platform at the UN and celebrated as Time person of the year.

Professional orders that are otherwise sober, serious, hardworking and methodical in their practical lives are turning, in their leisure, to quasi-religious venting, dark paranoid fantasy and wide-eyed righteous indignation.

This crusading opinion is being generated from within a tiny social bubble. Sociologist Peter Murphy has calculated from Twitter statistics that a mere 2 per cent of the American adult population deal in political opinion. The rest who use Twitter gossip about celebrities and lifestyle — but that too may come with a malevolent thrust, as experienced by Meghan Markle and the barrage of hate opinion she has attracted on social media, some of which has an overlapping political cast.

In last year’s federal election, climate change was proved to be a minority worry, playing a negligible role among mainstream voters, who remained uninterested.

The take-up of social media has meant angry opinion, which used to be limited to berating this or that political figure at the pub or the golf club, may be broadcast instantly and worldwide. It provides the mouthpiece for a global cacophony of hatred, malicious gossip, derision and persecution of those who are different, and coercive opinion containing the implicit threat: agree with me or else.

Foundation stones of the modern West crack: the liberal value of freedom of individual conscience, the Enlightenment values of reasoned argument and freedom of speech, and the civilised values of moderation and courtesy.

The ease of fingertip communication has aggravated the tendency for anyone, when hot under the collar, to speak impulsively and thoughtlessly, and to judge without mounting a clearly reasoned case. As people spend more of their leisure time on smartphones and less reading books, they develop habits in themselves ill-suited to measured reflection.

Addiction to social media brings with it a feverish restlessness of concentration and, it seems, a dependency on approval.

This is a trait that has taken centre stage, with posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter receiving hearts and thumbs-up to indicate likes, even though the likes often come from strangers giving the post a few passing seconds of their time.

That recognition for a post comes in the form of a love heart is suggestive of an underlying depressive strain in the culture.

No depth or sense of self

At the pathological extreme, this kind of brittle self-esteem links with an inability to handle criticism, as with the 20-year old apprentice plumber whose work is corrected by his boss, sending him into a two-day sulk. Or univer­sities offering counselling for students whose sensitivities may have been damaged by opinions they disagree with. Or The Australian’s cartoonist Bill Leak being investigated by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Identity politics obeys the catchcry: I emote virtuously, there­fore I am. The specific content is often unimportant, as illustrated by a low inclination to mar­shal arguments to back up opinion.

The in-vogue markers of identity today — sexual orientation, race, hostility to Western civilisation, and the environment — are more free-floating excuses for enthusiasm than real personal traits, for few of the crusaders are cross-gender, native peoples, Gandhi-like ascetics or Greenpeace sailors.

The enthusiasm is then expressed as high-voltage opinion on social media, during political demonstrations and in graffiti.

The logic of this type of depressive narcissism finds its main reward in the tick of approval. The thumbs-up or love heart is inflated in the imagination as recognition for the lonely self as a whole, the sum total of its identity, which is more than the specifics of its opinions. At the same time, self-esteem has become so fragile, the ego so lacking in confidence, that the mere whisper of a dissident view pricks the emoting bubble.

Even major institutions have taken to emoting virtuously. In part this has been to cover up the fact they have excluded while they have embraced. The mission statements of corporations, universities and sporting bodies proudly boast of inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity. But the more they do so, the more they have practised discrimination, intolerance and politically correct conformism.

Sigmund Freud termed this pathological syndrome negation, as in the aggressive smile — “to smile and smile and be a villain”. Negation was illustrated politically by the former East Germany, one of the nastiest dictatorships of the modern era, which called itself the German Democratic Republic.

It is not surprising, then, that belief has become separated from act. Others are judged by what they believe, not by what they do. Footballer Israel Folau and tennis great Margaret Court have been chosen as the local scapegoats.

Last year Rugby Australia, it seems, preferred to signal its own virtue than concern itself with the wellbeing of its sport, in on-field performance or its own balance sheet. Mimicking medieval relig­ious fanaticism, it persecuted its best player for his unmodish beliefs, likely picking on him because he was its best player — the more brilliant his rugby, the more evil his character.

Many professional footballers, if grilled on their attitudes, would not pass the heresy test. What separated Folau from the others is, first, rugby super-stardom; and, second, the unusual fact today that he strongly believes in something. His faith confronts and irritates. For the minority who are themselves fanatical believers, such as devotees of Extinction Rebellion and Greta, Folau is a true heretic worshipping the wrong god.

Likewise with Court. The fact she was the nation’s best female tennis player, and arguably the world’s best tennis player, makes her a beacon of sporting excellence. She has to be burnt at the stake because she lends authority to heresy, even though that heresy is the traditional view of marriage held by most of the Western world until very recently, and still held by a sizeable minority of Australians.

The Folau and Court cases tell us something more. The moral views at issue are not particularly shocking, for the public heat has gone out of both domains. Folau’s attitude to homosexuals is, to most minds, ludicrous, even laughable, as is his belief in Hell; and the same-sex marriage controversy is over, and decided, so who should care what Court thinks?

But crusading religion needs its devils, even if they are rather quaint and feeble devils. The sniff of evil provides blood energy.

Virtual shallowness

Communal belonging traditionally has proved the most successful way to compensate for the insecure identity that derives from the lack of much to believe in.

What sociologists call anomie results when community ties break down — anomie is the sense the world lacks cohesive norms and values. Strong community binds people together with shared purposes and common beliefs, providing a collective glue that helps its members feel at home in their world, with confidence about what they should do and how they should live their lives.

Today, the nuclear family provides the most common and successful example, with a lesser, supporting role played by schools, clubs and other associations.

The virtual community enabled by social media is not an entirely satisfactory substitute. It is, in general, less stable and enduring than the family, less tightly bound, and it mobilises a fickle, less cohesive legitimacy. More, it encourages aggregates of shared opinion rather than shared doing or face-to-face gathering together.

The disenchantment that follows from lack of belief in any fundamental truths anchoring the human condition has led to some malign compensations. It has unhinged the all-too-human search for security of individual identity.

Hell has gone, but not the belief in satanic forces and their incarnations. Christ the saviour has gone but not the belief in redemptive politics. The more atheist ranks have grown, the more we have seen, with religion, a Freudian return of the repressed. The best of secular values — freedom of conscience and opinion, underwritten by a liberal-democratic order — are suffering under an onslaught from the worst excesses of religion: the tyranny of right­eous opinion, fanatical preach­­ing and the persecution of heresy.


Somewhere over the ditch there’s an imaginary utopia

It’s a reality of Western democracies that the most estranged citizens tend to come from the most successful and best-educated sections of society. The phenomenon is best described as alienation, a feeling of dissociation from fellow citizens and their elected leaders.

Take Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside. He lives a lifestyle to which most Australians would aspire. But he’s not happy with his lot. On New Year’s Day, Burnside tweeted: “The only thing worse than #ScottyFromMarketing as PM is the possibility of @PeterDutton replacing him. If that happens, it will be time to move to NZ where they HAVE a real leader.”

Those with a sense of deja vu may recall that it is not the first time Burnside has threatened to quit the land of his birth following political disappointment. Before the 2004 election, he foreshadowed an intention to consider “leaving Australia if John Howard were re-elected”.

When this occurred, Burnside conceded that inertia was a powerful reason for staying in Australia. He added that “the effort of selling up and moving to New Zealand or Canada and re-establishing a ­career is formidable”. And so it came to pass that Burnside remained in Australia and unsuccessfully contested last year’s election as the endorsed Greens candidate in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong.

Burnside worked hard to defeat Josh Frydenberg with the help of leftist activist groups such as GetUp. But the ­Coalition won both seats and votes in the election. Rather than accept that Scott Morrison is the duly elected Prime Minister of Australia, Burnside, who paraded his AO QC post-nominals in the election campaign, refers to Morrison as “ScottyFromMarketing”. This is just a sneer.

In the unlikely scenario Dutton replaces Morrison as prime minister and the even more unlikely scenario that, in such a situation, Burnside would pack up his Melbourne mansion and head to Auckland or Wellington, what would he find? Well, not a Greens-style utopia, that’s for sure.

The fascination of some Australians with New Zealand seems to have coincided with the elevation of New Zealand Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern to Prime Minister in September 2017, leading a minority government with the support of New Zealand First led by Winston Peters.

Without doubt, Ardern is a successful politician with an ability to project empathy. But her political legacy has yet to be established. Despite this, some Australians appear to have fallen in love with Ardern’s New Zealand.

At a post-budget business function in Sydney in April last year, ABC presenter Ellen Fanning introduced panellist Sir John Key, a former conservative New Zealand prime minister, with the statement: “Don’t we love a New Zealand prime minister in Australia, any of them are fine.”

Last month Nine Entertainment newspapers published an article by Neil McMahon, who suggested that what he termed “Kiwi envy” was a phenomenon “afflicting modern Australia”. He referred to “the election of global icon Jacinda Ardern, whose disarming political charm and boldness (have) left many Australians gazing forlornly across the ditch and wondering: what happened to us?”

Earlier this month Nine newspapers published a column by playwright Ned Manning, who maintained that Australia’s victory in the Boxing Day Test “exposed the evolving essential difference between the two neighbouring countries”. Yes, according to Manning, you can generalise about a nation by watching its men’s cricket team in action.

Manning’s point was that the Aussies were technically superior but the Kiwis “seemed to have the whole thing in perspective”. He did not like “the incessant chest beating of our players”. Fair enough. But it’s a stretch to claim “a lack of self-confidence makes us take ourselves seriously” based on the behaviour of a dozen men in cricketing whites. According to Manning, Australia might defeat New Zealand at cricket “but we have a fair way to go when it comes to defining who we are”.

He argued that New Zealanders “have an anthem that reflects their, not someone else’s, culture; they are unafraid to stand up for themselves on issues such as climate change and, famously in the past, nuclear arms; and they have a treaty” with the Maori people.

Manning’s comment about the New Zealand national anthem is not readily understandable. However, he overlooked the fact Key’s National Party government restored imperial honours — knights and dames — in 2009 (they had been abolished by ­Labour in 2000). Also, in 2016, most New Zealanders voted in a referendum against Key’s proposal that the Union Flag (Union Jack) should be removed from the top left corner of the nation’s flag.

It’s true New Zealand has ­denied US nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships access to its ports. But it’s also true that through the years New Zealand has obtained its defence on the cheap, relying on the military assets of US and Australia to protect its sea lanes and air lanes.

Members of the Kiwi fan cub in Australia, like Burnside, rarely protest against how little New Zealand does with respect to its refugee and humanitarian intake. At five million people, New Zealand’s population is about one-fifth of Australia’s yet it accepts far fewer than one-fifth of those who find refuge in the area of Austral­asia. Then there is the fact, as Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor has pointed out, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions are increasing, not declining.

Sure, the Land of the Long White Cloud is a fine place to live. But its population is unlikely to blossom following an intake of Australians. There is no evidence in suburban, rural or regional Australia that citizens are thinking about doing a Burnside and seeking political refuge across the Tasman. This is just a fantasy for some Australians who can afford to be alienated.


Teachers rushed in

Students hired to fill widening gap

AN INCREASING number of Queensland university students are being approved to teach before they have officially graduated, as the state is gripped by a shortage of educators. The Courier-Mail can reveal that last year, 99 students in education courses were granted Permission to Teach (PTT) waivers by Education Queensland to help fill the gap in schools without enough teachers — 39 more early approvals than in 2018.

But a Department of Education spokeswoman said the number of teachers on PTT represented "only a fraction of all new teachers hired" and they taught in schools for an average of one semester. The spokeswoman said that the approvals issued included those for students who had finished their courses, but were yet to graduate and be registered as teachers.

The main criteria for a PTT, which is assessed by the Queensland College of Teachers, includes evidence that no "appropriate" registered teacher is already available for that position, and evidence that the applicant has the skills and ability relevant to the job, and is "suitable to teach".

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the process should be used only as a last resort and he was concerned the number issued was increasing. Mr Bates said that a concerning number of teachers were already forced to teach outside of their specialty, and this could place increasing pressure on new teachers employed under PTTs.

"It can complicate things enormously ... in remote and rural areas you usually have to teach something you're not trained in, and that involves an enormous amount of additional work," he said. "A teacher in a western school who is trained as a junior primary school teacher is teaching a secondary art and a math class simply because there aren't enough teachers.

"PTT should be a last resort only and should not be seen as an easy option for HR systems to fill a gap. We need to have a long-term view to make sure teachers are available to teach every class."

Mr Bates said those teachers needed more support. "If they're coming in on PTT, the standard induction and support of the Beginning to Teach program is simply not enough."

During 2019, the department employed more than 1400 new teachers, and 500 new teachers have already accepted appointments to start in 2020, an Education spokeswoman said.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 15 Jan., 2020

 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Friday, January 17, 2020

Science Minister says talking about climate change a waste of time in combatting fires

The real issue is how to reduce fuel loads.  Everything else is a distraction

Australia's bushfire crisis has prompted a blunt warning from Science Minister Karen Andrews to those she says are wasting time arguing about whether climate change is real.

Ms Andrews will convene a roundtable meeting of top scientists on Wednesday to kickstart work in response to the "devastating and surprising" bushfires this summer.

"Every second we spend discussing if climate change is real is a second we don't spend addressing these issues. Let's move on and get over this," she told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Ms Andrews warned unnecessary debate could distract from the urgent need to develop new bushfire adaptation and mitigation techniques. Her intervention is another step in the Coalition's recent shift in rhetoric over climate change, after a decade of divisions over the issue dominating the party room.

"My starting position in the discussion tomorrow will be that the climate has changed and it continues to change," Ms Andrews said. "We need to focus on the steps to adapt and mitigate the impact of those changes."

The Wednesday roundtable meeting will include scientists from the CSIRO, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre and Science & Technology Australia and the Australian Academy of Science.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has come under increased pressure during the bushfire crisis from scientists and business leaders to take further action on reducing emissions, flagged a focus on resilience and adaptation to the changing climate.

"The longer, drier and warmer seasons that we're seeing are a reality and so while you take your actions as part of a global effort on emissions reduction, the practical thing that actually can most keep you safe during the next fire or the next flood or the next cyclone are the things that most benefit people here and now," he told reporters in Canberra.

"People have said it's not just about emissions reduction, it's about hazard reduction. That's true. Hazard reduction is climate resilience and ensuring that you're able to successfully pursue those programs is very important.

"So climate resilience, climate adaptation, the fact that over the next 10 years, it's a fact that we've got longer, hotter, drier summers means we have to prepare practically as we have been and need to do so more in the future."

Ms Andrews said she would focus the roundtable discussions on practical measures, asking the question "what can we do immediately, and what can we do in the medium and long term?"

Former Australian chief scientist, Australian National University Adjunct Professor Penny Sackett said the science community would need a funding boost to complete the "herculean task" of documenting the causes and impacts of this summer's bushfires.

"We have the expertise needed in Australia for most of the questions we need answered, but the magnitude of the task will demand a lot of capacity building and a large injection of funding."


Qld. Conservative parties back grazing to reduce risk

MORE national parks would be opened up to cattle under the LNP's newly unveiled bushfire management plan to help reduce the fuel load across the state.

The party has announced a 10-point plan that would make it easier for landholders to burn on their land to manage fuel loads and set KPIs for fire-fighters to do 98 per cent of all planned hazard reduction reduction burns.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington said "one of the main reasons" for such catastrophic bushfires here and in southern states was because state-owned land hadn't been managed properly.  "There are many old-timers, there are many people, including our indigenous elders, who are saying that they have evidence that grazing in national parks, if managed properly, is a very good way of controlling the amount of hazard," she said.

Opposition Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Lachlan Miller said the move would reduce fuel loads and benefit local economies.

We're not looking at opening it up to every national park across Queensland, what we're looking to do is looking at state forest areas and certain national parks that used to have grazing", he said.

The plan would also allow landholders and councils to burn on their land 15 business days after an application was made to stop bureaucratic hold-ups under a "right to burn" model.

Environment Minister and Acting Fire and Emergency a Services Minister Leeanne Enoch said 10-point plans were for pamphlets. "We're well past the time when politics are welcome in the discussion about bushfires," she said.

Ms Enoch said that many of the policies, such as grazing to  reduce fuel loads and using indigenous methods, were already  done.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 14 Jan., 2020

Greens’ shaky camera conspiracy near Carmichael coal mine

Suspicious Minds, Tony Abbott’s go-to karaoke tune, could easily serve as the soundtrack for the latest saga involving the Greens and anti-Adani activists in central Queensland.

Protesters recently became suspicious of cameras installed on roads leading towards the controversial Carmichael coalmine, convinced they were being used to secretly monitor their activities.

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman fired off a question on notice to state Transport Minister Mark Bailey: “Will the minister advise … do the monitoring facilities use thermal sensors, infra-red sensors, face recognition or vehicle number plate recognition? Who has access to the monitoring feeds and information?” Berkman demanded to know who owned the devices and whether the Palaszczuk government had given permission for them to be installed.

Bailey pleaded ignorance. Eventually the Isaac Regional Council confessed to putting up the traffic cameras and admitted the confusion could have arisen because no signs were erected. Despite the James Bond gadget claims from the Greens, a spokesperson for the council insists “there is no face recognition, no infra-red capability”. The cameras’ only purpose is to make sure trucks and other equipment don’t damage the “assets of the council” — aka the road.

“They don’t monitor anything else but vehicle movements,” the spokesperson says. “The council just wanted to know the pressure being put on local roads from the activity at the mine site.”

Asked who would have access to the footage, the council says normal rules of privacy will apply.

But that’s not good enough for Berkman. The Greens MP’s flack says he will continue to pursue the curious case of the unmarked road cameras: “We are happy to take the council at their word but would still like to know who would have access to the vision from the cameras.”


Wilson Gavin: Online pile-on mob is medieval in its malice

Go now to Twitter — yes, I know, why would anyone? — and you will find messages like that popping up pretty much everywhere after prominent Aust­ralians hurried to delete their mean tweets about Wilson Gavin, who killed himself on Monday.

Gavin, who was gay and ­conservative and just 21, threw himself in front of a train. He is lost now — to his family, and his wide group of friends.

The train driver will never recover­. Also the passengers. And those who watched in horror.

“Don’t care. He started it.” That’s just one of the tweets that appeared online after his death was announced. Can you believe that we live in this world? Because we do. And pity young people. They always have, and likely always will.

Some background: Gavin was the president of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club. He was part of the group that turned up to shout at drag queens reading to children at a Brisbane City Council library event on ­Sunday.

The protest was filmed, and the video got posted on Twitter, and Gavin was seen shouting: “Drag queens are not for kids.”

He soon found himself subjected to what’s known as a pile-on: a mass social media attack. He’s fat! He’s ugly! He’s a miserable beast. A vile homophobe!

But Gavin was himself gay. “I’m not a homophobe. I love gay men,” he said in an interview on Sky during the same-sex ­marriage debate.

But he was a conservative, so people are now saying: “Ah, yes, but he was filled with self-loathing. He hadn’t come to terms with his sexuality. He was living a life of misery.”

It’s a sad and ugly spectacle, but of course we’ve been here before.

Charlotte Dawson was a Sydney model, gorgeous inside and out. Loud and outrageous. She was bullied online, and she blamed trolls for driving her towards ­suicide, before killing herself in her luxury apartment in 2014.

There was also a girl called Dolly, star of the Akubra ads, who was bullied to death in 2018.

Some of those who piled on Gavin — many of whom were middle-aged women with promin­ent media careers — are now mourning his death.

Then you have people saying: but you contributed. You piled on. Have you no shame?

It’s such a complicated story. Gavin is not a sweet little girl in an Akubra being bullied at school. He went to that library. He ­con­fronted the drag queens, said they were “not for kids”. His Facebook page was filled with hateful posts.

Much of the criticism of him was mild. Liberal National Party MP Trevor Evans called the UQ kids “ratbags”. Party leader Deb Frecklington just distanced herself.

But some was vile. Pile-ons ­almost always are intensely ­personal. They go for individuals. It’s not about your argument. It’s about how disgusting you are. How ugly. How slovenly, how ­sluttish. How you should really kill yourself. And yes, people do ­actually say that.

Roman Quaedvlieg, the former Australian Border Force chief, describ­ed it this way: “Shout out to those Twitterati opening the app with gloves on, mouthguard in.”

Because that’s what it’s like: being pummelled. Or else you’re the one throwing the virtual punches, from behind the safety of your screen.

But it’s not just you. It’s millions of people all saying the same thing: gross pig, go and die! Mobs form online, just as they used to do in town squares, and they are just as unpredictable as they ever were. They can swerve in ways you can’t predict.

Pile-ons also aren’t concerned with political argument or nuance. It’s personal abuse. It’s broken. It’s unedited, unfiltered, it’s garbage. It’s doing untold harm to children, and young people, but also to anyone­ in the firing line.

Everyone claims to be in the group copping it most:

Conservatives get the most hate!

No, it’s liberals!

No, it’s those who work for Murdoch!

No, it’s those who work for the ABC!

Public shaming is the subject of the book You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by British journalist Jon Ronson; and an episode of Black Mirror, Hated in the Nation. It was the subject of Monica Lewinsky’s most recent tour. It’s not new: in the olden days, they’d cast you out beyond the city walls, in sackcloth and ashes, or they’d make you carry a billboard, or throw fruit at you, or sew letters on your clothes.

Now you get the pile-on, and it may make you want to kill yourself. But even that won’t stop them. “Absolutely no sympathy!” said one man after Gavin’s death.

No sympathy for a 21-year-old man who threw himself in front of a train? Nope. Because there’s a Twitter war to fight.

Question is: who’s winning?

 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here