Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Australian householders to be charged for each flush of toilet

The latest Greenie brainwave to avoid building dams. Much of Northern Australia is experiencing severe floods so "drought" is not the problem. Catching and distributing the water is where governments have been failing -- due to Greenie pressure. With the huge amount of "stimulus" money available for infrastructure, it is a pity that there are no plans for a big North/South water pipeline. But the Greenies would oppose that too, of course

HOUSEHOLDERS would be charged for each flush under a radical new toilet tax designed to help beat the drought. The scheme would replace the current system, which sees sewage charges based on a home's value - not its waste water output. CSIRO Policy and Economic Research Unit member Jim McColl and Adelaide University Water Management Professor Mike Young plan to promote the move to state and federal politicians and experts across the country. "It would encourage people to reduce their sewage output by taking shorter showers,recycling washing machine water or connecting rainwater tanks to internal plumbingto reduce their charges,''Professor Young said. "Some people may go as far as not flushing their toilet as often because the less sewage you produce, the less sewage rate you pay.''

Professor Young said sewer pricing needed to be addressed as part of the response to the water crisis. "People have been frightened to talk about sewage because it is yucky stuff, but it is critically important to address it, as part of the whole water cycle,'' he said. "We are looking at reforming the way sewage is priced and this plan will drive interest in the different ways water is used throughout Australia.''

The reform would see the abolition of the property-based charge with one based on a pay-as-you-go rate and a small fixed annual fee to cover the cost of meter readings and pipeline maintenance, Professor Young said. The pay-as-you-go rate would provide financial savings for those who reduce their waste water output.

Professor Young and Mr McColl will promote the plan nationally through their Droplet, a newsletter whose 6000 subscribers include state and federal politicians, water policy specialists and economists around the country. Professor Young said a sewage pricing plan, like the one proposed, was already used in the US. "In places like the City of Bellaire, Texas (a virtual suburb of Houston), they do it and the system seems to work,'' he said.

"As nearly all of (the homes in) mainland Australia's cities and towns already have water meters, introduction of a volumetric charge, such as that used in the City of Bellaire, would not be difficult to implement.'' Mr McColl said the plan had to be viewed in the context of "the crucial issues surrounding water resources'' in Australia. "We should be prepared for the (drought) situation we are going through now to occur again, as well as the potential impact of climate change, so we have to act now for the future,'' he said.


Floods hit NSW, Queensland and WA while boy drowns in Darwin

So much for the "drought" Greenies keep talking about. But reality has never been important to Greenies. They live in a world of fantasy and superstition

EVEN while firefighters are still battling bush infernos in scorched Victoria huge amounts of Australia are under floodwaters. Rains have eased, but more than 4000 people remain isolated by flood waters in parts of northern New South Wales, the State Emergency Service (SES) says. Heavy rains falling since Friday have soaked large parts of the state between Bourke and Sydney, but began easing last night, SES director general Murray Kear said.

"We've got about 4,000 people still isolated along the Bellinger River at the communities of Bellingen, Darkwood and Thora,'' Mr Kear said. "Those communities are isolated by the Bellinger River, which we are monitoring and has showed a slight lowering. "There have been no signs of an increase overnight, with no further rain, and the river is steady at about 5.3m currently.'' The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts a further 100mm of rain in the area today, but Mr Kear said satellite images showed the rain falling over the Pacific Ocean.

At Bourke in the state's central north, where a natural disaster zone has been declared, 200mm of rain has fallen in the past few days, equivalent to two-thirds of the city's annual rainfall. Between Bourke and Sydney and stretching to the coast, the SES has received more than 2000 calls for assistance since Friday. "We've conducted nine flood rescues across the north coast - people stranded in vehicles, et cetera,'' Mr Kear said. Last night and early today, the SES received 100 calls for help in the greater Sydney area from people beset by water inundation.

In far North Queensland flooded Gulf of Carpentaria communities and properties have been cut off for six weeks and face another six weeks in isolation, The Courier-Mail reports. As cooped-up residents go stir crazy from a month of isolation and as emergency fodder drops begin, there have been reports of feral pigs and dingoes feasting on the carcasses of dead cattle and snakes taking refuge in and around homes. "We found an olive green python skin about 12ft long (3.6m) in my craft room," Burke Shire mayor Annie Clarke, of Brinawa Station, said yesterday. "And our highest dry ground has been under the house where there's a fair few brown snakes. The browns tend to make you lift your skirts and go like hell.

Premier Anna Bligh said yesterday the Croydon-Normanton flood zone, the Norman, Flinders and Cloncurry river lower reaches would be the priority for $3m worth of helicopter drops.

In Western Australia's Pilbara region two national parks have been closed and mining activity disrupted after heavy rainfall. The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has closed all roads in the Millstream-Chichester National Park and all gravel roads in the Karijini National Park, PerthNow reports. Falls of up to 250mm caused widespread flooding in creeks and rivers in the Pilbara last night. Severe flooding in rivers and creeks at Millstream had resulted and water levels were set to rise in the next few days as heavy rain was forecast to continue. At Karijini, the park was closed with gorges at risk of flash flooding and landslides.

Rio Tinto Ltd said today that its Pilbara iron ore operations were being impeded by heavy rains and high winds, and it had evacuated stranded staff in the region by helicopter. And the Chinese operator of a Pilbara mine admitted today that workers had ridden on a grader to escape floodwaters but denied union claims it had put them at risk.

In the Northern Territory a swollen creek claimed the life of 13-year-old Daniel Browne yesterday despite the heroic effort of three mates to save him. Andrew Demetriou, Tiernan Anderson and Morgan Wise - all 15-year-olds - were the first to jump in and try and save Browne after his foot got tangled on rope and he drowned in the swollen Rapid Creek in Darwin's northern suburbs. The boys said they could not touch the bottom and that the 3m-deep water was fast-flowing. "It was so wet, wild and running quite fast," Morgan said.


Australian steel chief sounds job-loss alarm over proposed Warmist scheme

AUSTRALIA'S second-biggest steelmaker says the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme is likely to cause job losses and force new investments offshore. Onesteel chief executive Geoff Plummer said, that even though the Government had tried to address the industry's concerns, his company "cannot support the carbon pollution reduction scheme based on its current design". "We understand the Government's intentions, but the practical effect of the scheme as it stands is that we will bear a cost not borne by our competitors," he said. "We would be the only steelmakers in the world to have these costs and that would put us at a material disadvantage."

Onesteel employs 10,000 people and is a major employer in the Newcastle and Whyalla regions.

Mr Plummer said the carbon pollution reduction scheme, as it stood, was likely to lead to job losses in the steel industry. The industry is collapsing globally as construction slumps during the economic crisis, a situation Mr Plummer said made the implementation of the scheme at this time even more difficult. "In the current economic environment there is an increased sensitivity around price and competitive positioning," he said. "We are finding it difficult enough at the moment. Since November, we have been forced to reduce our workforce, in terms of direct and indirect employees, by 650."

Onesteel said there was still uncertainty about the level of special assistance it would qualify for under the Government's proposed compensation for emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries. It said it was likely its integrated iron and steel making would initially qualify to receive 90 per cent of its necessary emission permits for free, while electric arc furnace operations would qualify for 60 per cent free permits.

Mr Plummer said Australian steel operations were among the most efficient in the world. If the carbon pollution reduction scheme boosted production from less efficient operations overseas, it could actually increase global emissions. He said his company would continue talks with the Government about possible changes to the emissions trading scheme, but had been forced to deliver a view about its impact as part of its first-half results were reported yesterday.

Industry concerns about the emissions trading scheme intensified during the summer as the economic conditions worsened. The Rudd Government is drafting legislation for its proposed scheme, which it hopes will pass the Senate by June. It argues that revenue from the scheme has been fully committed to its proposed compensation funds, leaving little room to increase free permits to industry.


Leading universities trash the plan for a vast expansion of higher education

The envious bitch who wrote the plan seems to have had no capacity for any thought beyond kneejerk Leftist responses and no idea of all that her proposals would lead to

The Group of Eight has savaged the Bradley review, describing it as a "road map to mediocrity", foolish and deeply flawed, in a confrontation likely to fuel political tensions ahead of the federal Government's promised education overhaul. The Government is formulating a response to the Bradley review in a fiscal climate dramatically altered from that in which the review was commissioned, and Education Minister Julia Gillard met the Go8 yesterday as part of her consultations with the sector. The group's response to the Bradley review has hardened this past month.

On Monday evening, University of NSW vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer warned the Government not to accept the review as a whole, saying it was not properly thought through and costed, and could not deliver dramatic increases in quality and output. He told the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney that he and "many of my colleagues" were troubled by the review's lack of a clear vision. He said the review did "not clearly acknowledge the fundamentally important principles of excellence, differentiation of mission and the importance of auniversity education for its own sake". "There is little recognition in the Bradley report of the special and key role played by research intensive, internationally well-ranked institutions."

The Go8 bristled at comments by Denise Bradley, former vice-chancellor of the University of South Australia, which it believes reflect a "hidden agenda" to "de-concentrate" research. Go8 vice-chancellors were fearful before the release of the Bradley review, in late December, that the hostility its chairwoman was believed to harbour against the research elite might influence her recommendations. The group decided to air its concerns, published today in the HES, after Professor Bradley revealed to a recent Australian Technology Network conference that her review had stressed the teaching and research nexus to counter an "extreme position" on research concentration.

Professor Bradley told the ATN conference: "I am aware of the arguments about the strategic importance of greater concentration of internationally competitive research performance, but I think that there are good national reasons for us to adopt a model which continues to encourage some spread across institutions." She argued against "too much concentration of research capacity in too small a number of what will inevitably be capital city institutions".

The Go8, which argued forcefully for research concentration to meet global challenges in a paper released before the Bradley report, slams the findings of her panel today. "What is presented as a tightening of criteria for university status, based on the mythical 'teaching-research nexus', could well loosen expectations of research quality and further dissipate the nation's research investment," argues the group's executive director Michael Gallagher. "The Bradley report reflects a parochial and complacent view in the context of aggressive concentration of research investment in many other countries."

But universities outside theGo8 sprang to Bradley's defence. In a direct response to Professor Hilmer's criticism, ATN director Vicki Thomson said: "We think that it is unfortunate that the Bradley review is being picked apart and that might diminish the opportunity for significant reform." The ATN and the Innovative Research Universities met MsGillard in Melbourne on Monday as part of the consultation process.

Representing the ATN, University of Technology, Sydney, vice-chancellor Ross Milbourne said the Bradley review was the best he had seen on the sector. He said its vision was to create a world-class university system. "We need a great university system, not one or two great universities," Professor Milbourne said.

Ms Gillard has finished her round of consultations and the HES understands that bureaucrats have been given two weeks to consolidate the sector's views for her consideration.

In his article for the HES, Mr Gallagher does not limit his criticisms to the research agenda. He asserts the Bradley report's "vision for the long-term tertiary education system is confused; it fails to offer incentives for diversification, either through competition or governmental strategies; and its financing model will not sustain quality higher education and university research".

The Go8's tough stand against Professor Bradley has been echoed by University of Melbourne professorial fellow Vin Massaro, who points out that the review's targets for enrolment growth would involve producing an extra 544,000 graduates by 2020, housed in an additional 20universities. "Assuming that the Government (was) prepared to fund these places, no mention has been made of the likelihood of finding the academic workforce to teach them, nor of the cost of building the necessary teaching infrastructure, nor of the plausibility that demand would rise so quickly," Professor Massaro says in an analysis for HES online. He estimates that the capital costs required to meet the challenges of this enrolment explosion would be in the range of $25billion-$30 billion.


Jump in fertility rates shows Peter Costello's baby bonus has delivered 12,000 extra children

Those evil old capitalistic "incentives" just keep on working, regardless of how much Leftists hate them

FORMER treasurer Peter Costello's baby bonus could have delivered almost 12,000 extra births, accounting for the surprise jump in Australian fertility rates between 2004 to 2006. A Melbourne Institute study has found that the controversial bonus succeeded in convincing at least some parents to follow Mr Costello's exhortation in 2004 to have "one for mum, one for dad, and one for your country".

Study co-author Mark Wooden said analysis of intentions to have a child and of reported births suggested the baby bonus had increased the fertility rate by 3.2 per cent. The figure matches the increase in Australian fertility rates from 1.763 in 2004, when 254,246 children were born, to 1.817 in 2006, when 265,949 were born. "If the baby bonus hadn't worked, and our estimates are correct, probably those 12,000 (additional) kids born in 2006 wouldn't have been born," Professor Wooden said.

Most of the women who had children in 2006, however, were swayed by factors other than the baby bonus to have children, making the job of convincing the remainder an expensive proposition for government, the study by US and Australian researchers found. "The small size of the effect yields a marginal cost per additional child figure of at least $124,000," it concluded.

The bold new estimates lend support to Howard government claims that the initiative drove up birthrates. It also challenges Families Minister Jenny Macklin's assertion last year that the recent rise in births was unrelated to the bonus. It also comes as the Rudd Government considers a Productivity Commission draft recommendation to roll the baby bonus, now worth $5000 per child, into a wider paid maternity leave scheme.

Professor Wooden said a higher birth rate had an economic value that could be assessed against the costs. "The point is, is $124,000 a waste of money? Well, what's the discounted value of a child? One day they're going to be future taxpayers," he said.

Labor announced in the last budget it would means-test the baby bonus, but has otherwise retained a policy it once labelled "appalling" and "poorly targeted and inefficient". It has abandoned the fertility argument for the baby bonus in favour of one stressing its value in offsetting some of the costs of having children. "There are a range of views about how best to increase fertility in Australia," a spokeswoman for Ms Macklin said. "The baby bonus provides support to families at a time of additional financial need."


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