Friday, February 25, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG accuses Julia of breaking an election promise with her current push for a carbon tax

Australia's coral reefs threatened by climate change, say armchair modellers

Attempting to model something as complex as the earth's climate is a ludicrous enough enterprise but at least there is quite a lot of data against which one can check the model output -- with uniformly dismal results, of course. NO model predicted the temperature stasis of the last 13 years, for instance.

But when it comes to modelling another very complex phenomenon -- such as worldwide coral reef growth -- where there is virtually no worldwide data available for checking purposes, one knows that the results will simply be whatever the modellers want them to be. And when one notes that the report of the modelling has a foreword by Al Gore, laughter is almost inevitable.

That actual scientific findings run directly contrary to Al Gore's little scam should of course surprise no-one. The media (below) have of course swallowed the hokum wholesale.

The Australian public will however be more skeptical than their media. "Coral reefs threatened" has been popping up regularly in the Australian media for many decades -- long predating the global warming scare. There are constant natural changes in coral reefs and there have always been attention-seekers getting a scary headline out of it

Shocking evidence has been released claiming that nearly all of Australia's coral reefs are at risk of being wiped out in less than two decades.

The report by the World Resources Institute claims that by 2030, 90 per cent of Australia's reefs will suffer from the overwhelming effects of climate change like warmer seas and acidification.

It also outlines the threat to the rest of the world's coral reefs, with research suggesting that many could be obliterated by 2050 due to pollution, climate change and over-fishing.

The report encourages Australia not to waste any time in fighting the prediction, particularly becuase of the impact reef degredation will have on tourism and the economy.

Dr Clive Wilkinson, the United Nations sponsored Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network coordinator, urged Australia "to be part of the global solution to climate change, as our reefs will suffer like others around the world and this will threaten the $5 to $6 billion per year that the Great Barrier Reef means to the Australian economy."

"Australians have no right to be complacent as the vast majority of our reefs will be seriously threatened by rising sea temperatures and increasing acidification in less than 20 years," he said.

Today, 40 per cent of Australia's reefs are under pressure from rising sea temperatures and other threats linked to climate change.

However, 75 per cent of the reefs are in marine protected areas, which is a contributing factor to the improvement in fish numbers and reef resilience.


Most illegal immigrants arriving in Australia by boat win legal residency eventually

Nearly every asylum-seeker who arrived in Australian waters during the past three years was granted refugee status, according to figures released under Freedom of Information laws and reported on by The Australian.

According to the report, the figures show that the Immigration Department approved fully 94 per cent of all refugee claims from people arriving by boat between October 2008 and December 22 last year.

Compared with other forms of refugee claims, those seeking asylum by boat had a significantly higher success rate. The Immigration Department approved only 39 per cent of visa requests for non-boat asylum-seekers in the first half of the current financial year. In 2009-10, the department refused 49 per cent of non-boat asylum seekers, and rejected 55 per cent the year before.

Opposition politicians argue that overseas refugee smugglers are keenly aware of the success rate of those arriving by boat, and said the figures will only further contribute to the problem. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said refugee claims are processed independently of how they arrived in Australia.


Taxpayers' cash to smooth Labor's path of broken promises

This is just an opening shot, of course. What, if anything, gets through the parliament remains to be seen

STRUGGLING families will be compensated with cash for rising energy costs when the Federal Government imposes a carbon tax on Australians from July 1 next year. But most households won't be able to escape Prime Minister Julia Gillard's new emissions trading scheme, with forecasts that it will push power bills higher by between $300 and $500 a year.

Accused yesterday by the Opposition of betraying Australians, Ms Gillard formally broke a key election pledge and announced that the Government would impose a price on pollution from July 1, 2012, with a full emissions trading scheme to be operating as early as 2015.

It will be the most complex and broad-ranging carbon tax of almost any country in the world. The actual carbon price has yet to be set, but industry experts claim that the flow-on costs of a moderate $26 price per tonne of carbon would result in a $300 rise in electricity bills due to the country's reliance on coal-fired power generation. The price could be as high as $40 a tonne by 2020, adding anywhere up to $500 a year to bills. Petrol prices would also be expected to rise by 6.5c a litre.

The fixed carbon price would operate for between three and five years before a full market-based emissions trading scheme would come into operation between 2015 and 2017, with a floating price then to be set by the market.

Welfare groups demanded that low-income families be protected from the inevitable rise in the cost of living, as the Australian Council of Social Service warned that low-income households would be affected by climate change first and worst. "They have little capacity to cope, adapt or move," ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

Australia's business lobby attacked the lack of detail in the plan and warned it threatened jobs and would fuel uncertainty with Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Peter Anderson labelling it "a blow for the competitiveness of Australian business, especially small and medium-sized enterprises".

Ms Gillard, flanked by Greens Leader Bob Brown and the NSW rural independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, tried to head off the inevitable backlash, claiming the money raised from the tax would go back into compensation but admitted it would affect households.

"That's the whole point. Every cent raised from pricing carbon will go to assisting households, helping businesses manage the transition and funding climate change programs, and the Government will always support those who are in need of assistance with cost of living pressures," Ms Gillard said.

Before the August election Ms Gillard declared: "There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead." Yesterday she said: "This is the parliament the Australian people voted for."

Ms Gillard said some elements of former prime minister Kevin Rudd's abandoned emissions trading scheme - one of the triggers for his sacking - might be taken up in the new scheme. Under the old ETS, more than eight million households would receive compensation payments of up to $600 a year. Some low-income families would have ended up better off than before an ETS.

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott accused Ms Gillard of the ultimate act of "betrayal". "The price of this betrayal will be paid every day by every Australian," he said. Mining giant BHP and big energy players welcomed the move but one of Australia's biggest manufacturers, BlueScope Steel, was scathing saying it was "potentially killing manufacturing in Australia". Leading price comparison website chief executive Ben Freund said households would pay higher costs for electricity and locally manufactured goods.


Paul Howes's recent speech to the Sydney Institute

Howes is the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, one of the largest trade unions affiliated with the ALP and a stanchion of the NSW Right. In his speech Howes, a member of the ALP's national executive, makes two key points. First, he rejects the calls made by Rodney Cavalier in Power Crisis to reform the unions' gerrymander over the ALP and, second, he calls for a new culture of debate to flower in the ALP. He wants Labor to "openly, fearlessly, debate ideas" and to "compete in the marketplace of ideas".

What Howes will not recognise is that his two points are irreconcilable. The ALP can never have a genuine culture of debate while it is controlled by union bloc votes. Free debate is part of a democratic culture, but the ALP's structures are designed to exclude democratic participation. It is worth considering the details of how the ALP bear hunt is organised.

Despite the fact affiliated trade unions represent only a "bare" 10 per cent of the workforce, these unions still insist on holding 50 per cent of the votes at the ALP's annual conference. These votes are distributed among the various unions according to the size of the affiliation fee that the union pays. The union that pays the most money will be rewarded with the most votes to play with at the conference: the bloc votes.

Having purchased 30 or 40 votes, a union secretary has the unchallenged authority to decide who will exercise these votes. The union membership has no say in who will represent them at the conference. The union secretary decides that and will go to great lengths to ensure that whoever they send will vote exactly as the union secretary tells them to. What a union secretary will not tolerate is delegates who listen to debate, decide issues on the merits of ideas and arguments, and vote accordingly: so much for openly and fearlessly debating ideas. The power of the union secretary depends on having complete control of all the votes purchased and voting them in a bloc.

To eliminate any risk the union secretaries employ shameful contrivances such as double voting by union delegates. This allows union delegates to vote twice, to cast two ballots and ridicule Labor's commitment to one vote, one value. It may not be attractive, but double voting by their delegates is a bluntly effective way for the union secretaries to maintain their stranglehold.

It is no wonder that Howes likes the present system of union control so much. It delivers him and his union secretaries immense political power. But it is not political power earned by persuasion or through effective debate or the power of ideas. It is political power crassly purchased with other people's money and then activated via bloc votes and double voting.

Once people understand that the ALP is a fix, that nothing they say or contribute really matters, that a handful of union secretaries have got a lock on proceedings, they simply exit themselves from the farce. Why would they stay and have their time wasted once they know the whole show is rigged against their contribution counting for anything?

This is exactly what happens. Branches close and collapse and the membership dwindles away. The number of living former members of the ALP must stand at well over 100,000. The NSW ALP is a party of mass ex-membership.

If Howes genuinely wanted Labor to compete in the marketplace of ideas he would support winding the bloc votes down from 50 per cent to 10 per cent. He would speak out against repulsive tricks such as double voting and he would support democratic reforms such as election by the ALP membership for all positions on the national executive -- including his own.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour. New posts on both today

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