Friday, December 10, 2010

An unpublished Letter to Editor of "The Australian" 4 Dec 2010

Geologist Geoff Derrick [] below is trying to get journalists to look at science before they talk about it.

Your newspaper is to be congratulated on publishing both skeptical and alarmist climate arguments. However, the rambling defence by Graham Lloyd of its climate policy credentials (Weekend Australian 4 Dec) served only to highlight the almost total inability of most journalists, editors and media managers to connect with the actual science around which healthy debate continues.

Most journalists seem not to be bothered with speaking to scientists who speak accurately and tellingly about the deficiencies of IPCC science (e.g. Bob Carter, Richard Lindzen), but instead turn for opinions to climate loons like Clive Hamilton, and serial alarmist and gold medallist in unfulfilled predictions, Tim Flannery.

Currently we have a warmist manager of the Bureau of Meteorology claiming 2010 to be the hottest year ever, but why are not journalists investigating, for example, the closing down by weather officials of hundreds of recording stations in cooler parts of the globe; the ‘homogenisation’ (i.e. favourable adjustments) of older climate records, and the deeply flawed climate models of BOM which predicted in August 2010 that southwest WA, now in drought, was going to have a wet spring ?

More proof of global cooling

The Warmists have assured us many times that warming will lead to drought

THE biggest floods to hit the state in 50 years were sweeping across tracts of NSW last night, as the state government declared 30 separate disaster zones and planned mass evacuations in more than a dozen inland towns.

More heavy rain pelted down in the state's west last night as storms brewed along the south coast. Renewed flood warnings were issued for the Namoi, Castlereagh, Macquarie, Bogan and Lachlan valleys and the Hunter and Murrumbidgee rivers also were expected to rise again as floodwaters moved downstream.

"We haven't had flooding like this in NSW for the past 50 years," said a State Emergency Service spokesman, Phil Campbell. The service had carried out 104 rescues and received about 2200 calls for help. "We evacuated 25 homes in Tarcutta and we have an evacuation procedure set in place for East Wagga, North Wagga and Gumly Gumly. We've also issued a prepare to evacuate order in Wee Waa."

Tens of thousands of sandbags had been propped against doors to prevent flash floods inundating homes and businesses as Wagga's strained stormwater system overflowed, and 20 homes were evacuated late yesterday.

Some residents were making the most of the temporary rivers that had swamped their streets. "It's awesome," said Kane Flack, 9, as he pedalled on his bike, waist deep in trapped stormwater, on Vestey Street. His friend, Hayden Nicholls, was not among the residents rescued from the drowned north-west Wagga area by emergency crews in the early hours yesterday but he said he had never seen so much water. "It's a bit scary because we could hear my little dog squealing and squeaking," he said.

About 65 millimetres of rain fell on Wagga in less than 24 hours. The Murrumbidgee River was expected to rise again during the night.

East Wagga and Gumly residents were told last night they could return home, while the evacuation order remained for North Wagga. The Murrumbidgee River was steady at nearly 8.7 metres last night, but was expected to rise to 9.2 metres this morning.

Almost 100 people, their properties damaged by lightning strikes and fallen trees, had called the SES for assistance in Wagga in the 24 hours to 6pm yesterday. In Tumut, a caravan park was evacuated and emergency services volunteers moved door-to-door on nearby properties warning people to leave before the rising water reached their homes.

In the Castlereagh Valley, residents of Coonamble received an evacuation warning yesterday and may be asked to leave their homes today, some for the second time in a week.

Bathurst faced "the potential for heavy rain and flooding overnight," Mr Campbell said. "Downstream, Molong and Eugowra may be affected by local heavy rain … We've got a close watch on communities there tonight."

Buildings were also being sandbagged last night in Wellington, Dubbo and Narromine.

The Bureau of Meteorology said more rain was on the way and would add to the swollen rivers. "We're looking at possible renewed flooding in the Namoi, Castlereagh, Macquarie, Bogan and Lachlan valleys," said a hydrologist at the bureau, Fiona Johnson. "The Hunter River is a possibility - it's just been added to flood watch this afternoon."

Heavy rain was expected last night in the central and north-west areas of the state, including near Dubbo, Bathurst and Orange, she said.


Labor plots free-trade revolution

Good if it happens

TRADE Minister Craig Emerson is planning a fundamental shake-up of Australia's trade policy. The plan includes tariff reductions and a return to the Hawke doctrine of putting trade liberalisation at the centre of economic reform.

Dr Emerson will also decouple trade policy from the nation's geo-political concerns and reject special trade deals and free trade agreements unless they deliver genuine economic benefits.

The significant change, which Dr Emerson will outline in a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney today, provides the first insight into policy shifts that Julia Gillard plans in line with her recent promises to pursue economic reform in the spirit of former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

It could also aggravate Labor MPs in South Australia and Victoria, where car, footwear and textile producers benefit from the nation's few remaining tariffs protections.

Dr Emerson was Mr Hawke's microeconomic and trade policy adviser when the then prime minister began reducing tariffs and liberalising financial markets -- moves that both sides of politics agree secured significant productivity gains that fuelled economic prosperity.

But in his speech to the Lowy Institute, Dr Emerson will argue that the purist approach of Mr Hawke -- pursuing economic reform in isolation from foreign affairs -- had been watered down after Labor lost government in 1996.

"I want to reconnect with the Hawke-Keating governments' first guiding principle in economic reform that competition is good, and dispense with the bargaining-chip-approach to the remaining Australian tariffs," says Dr Emerson in his speech, a copy of which has been obtained by The Australian.

"In negotiations with trading partners, we neither seek exclusive nor preferential access to other countries' markets -- just an opportunity to compete. It's the quality of the deal, not the quality of the strategic relationships, that should determine whether the deal is worth having."

Dr Emerson will use the speech to commit to continued pursuit of multilateral trade deals through the stalled Doha round of international talks and APEC.

He will also vow to continue to pursue negotiations for free-trade agreements with South Korea, Japan, China and other nations.

However, he will make it clear he prefers a non-discriminatory approach to trade talks and will be prepared to reject FTAs and other deals that don't provide benefits to Australia.

"I am interested in results for our country and the global trading system, not in appearances of looking busy, mired in interminable processes that simply enable us to say that negotiations are proceeding," he will say.

Dr Emerson will argue that under the last Coalition government, a view developed that Australia's remaining tariffs should be retained and used as bargaining chips in negotiations for future trade deals.

Successive changes started by the Hawke government have seen general tariff rates fall from 15 per cent to 5 per cent or zero, while automotive tariffs have fallen from 85 per cent to 5 per cent, and those on clothing and some textiles have fallen from 180 per cent to 10 per cent, with another 5 per cent reduction due in 2015.

According to Dr Emerson, "clinging" to the remaining 5 per cent tariffs would repudiate the Hawke and Keating approach and make no sense. But while he leaves open the notion of unilateral tariff reductions, he gives no timetable.

Dr Emerson will argue that while the Gillard government will "fight tooth and nail" to bring down overseas trade barriers confronting Australian exporters, it will not jealously refuse to reduce its own tariffs if reductions would lift national productivity.

He will also rule out trade deals with other nations that allow them to maintain tariff barriers and introduce the policy of "separation", under which trade would be treated in isolation from foreign policy concerns or the government's domestic political requirements.

"As new Trade Minister, I have been given a stream of advice that I should initiate so-called free-trade negotiations with countries of strategic importance to Australia," he will say. "It's as if the very announcement of the commencement of negotiations performs the task of affirming a strategic, geo-political relationship, with barely a moment's thought given to the prospects of concluding a positive, truly liberalising agreement."

He will say that while he will not rule out trade deals with strategic partners, he will resist the "foreign policy urgers".

He will also promise greater transparency in trade policy and commit himself to the "grand unifying principle" that the best trade policy is domestic economic reform that raises productivity and competitiveness.

Dr Emerson, who in his maiden parliamentary speech in 1998 described himself as an economic rationalist, will also argue that Labor can best help the disadvantaged by being committed to markets and competition as the means to boost national income.

While it should intervene to correct market failure, its presumption must be "that competition is good, more competition is better and markets are better than governments in allocating scarce resources among competing commercial uses".

Dr Emerson will also announce a review of the nation's trade policy framework to be guided by his trade principles for release by March. It will be partly informed by a Productivity Commission review into trade to be released soon.


Claim: New national curriculum will raise the bar in Queensland schools

Good if it's true, but colour me skeptical

STUDENTS are facing a "more demanding" curriculum that not only goes back to the basics but also raises the bar in literacy and mathematics, Australia's curriculum head says.

But experts warn standards under the new Australian curriculum may be too high for some of the state's youngest and more marginalised students.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority chair Professor Barry McGaw said the national curriculum, released this week, placed a heavier emphasis on grammar in the early years, which would now be taught more systematically in Queensland.

He said the Australian curriculum would stretch top-performing students "by being more demanding, by raising the requirements in maths, by putting more literature into the primary school" and "by being more explicit about literacy".

Prof McGaw also warned that Queensland's Year 7 teachers would need more professional development to implement the new curriculum than some of their peers interstate, where Year 7 was in secondary school and taught by specialist teachers with access to specialist facilities.

In Prep, a higher level of knowledge will also be required in some areas by Queensland students.

The four to six-year-olds will be expected "to read short, predictable texts aloud with some fluency and accuracy" and count to and from 20 from any starting point.

QUT School of Early Childhood Professor Donna Berthelsen said reading could be a problem for those marginalised children who did not have particularly advanced literacy skills.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Norm Hart said it had always been understood the developmental range in four to six-year-olds was quite extensive, with some able to read and others not.

The national curriculum achievement standards are still to be finalised, with ministers and the authority agreeing to continue to work on them before signing off on a final version next year.

A Queensland Studies Authority spokesman said the Australian and Queensland curriculums for the Prep year were fairly closely aligned, with expectations of what children should know and be able to do being very similar.


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