Sunday, June 19, 2011

Build a dam and then not use it??

QUEENSLAND'S newest dam is effectively a $350 million pond after the Bligh Government secretly shelved plans to connect it to the water grid to save money. The Sunday Mail can reveal the Wyaralong Dam will not be connected to the rest of southeast Queensland for another four years after the Government quietly delayed almost $400 million worth of connections planned for next year.

About 103,000Ml of potential drinking water will now sit idle and trapped in the dam until the 2014-15 financial year.

It will put more pressure on key storage facilities such as the Wivenhoe Dam to store drinking water at the same time as operators try to keep levels low and mitigate against more devastating floods.

The revelations of the delayed connection come after Treasurer Andrew Fraser failed to announce last year the postponement of the $385 million link between the dam, near Beaudesert, south of Brisbane, and the grid.

The water grid was designed to move water around the southeast so drier areas do not run out while others are saturated.

In November, the Government mothballed billions of dollars of the grid's infrastructure to cut running costs and save households $5 annually on soaring bills. Mr Fraser announced the shutdowns would include the $1.2 billion Tugun Desalination Plant, the $313 million treatment plant at Gibson Island and half of the $380 million Bundamba plant.

However, the Treasurer failed to mention that Cabinet had also decided at the same time to delay both the $235 million Wyaralong water treatment plant and the $150 million Cedar Grove pipeline.

Mr Fraser on Sunday defended the decision, saying the dam had not been expected to fill until 2014-15. It caught planners by surprise by filling so quickly during the unusually wet summer, after the connection had been postponed. "If it hadn't rained and hadn't been completed ahead of time, you would be asking why the Government was today spending money connecting a dam to the grid that was not yet complete nor projected to fill until 2014-15," he said.

However, Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said the dam was just another example of Labor's failure to plan. "Labor's panic and poor planning has left us with a rusty desalination plant, a barely used recycled water pipeline, hundreds of millions wasted on a dam near Gympie that won't be built, and now a dam that won't be connected to the grid for years," he said.


RSPCA shifts spotlight to ritual slaughter

"Cruel" slaughter not banned in Australia itself

With Australia's live cattle exports to Indonesia still in limbo, the RSPCA is now calling for Australian abattoirs to be banned from ritually killing animals without stunning them first.

The national halal standard requires most abattoirs to stun the animals before their throat is cut, but several have been given approval to kill animals without stunning.

RSPCA spokeswoman Melina Tensen says it is a brutal practice and should be banned. "The RSPCA believes that it's unacceptable to cut the throat of an animal or sever blood vessels while the animal is fully conscious," she said.

"It's been shown that sheep can be conscious after the throat cuts for 20 to 30 seconds. "So that's quite a long time to be aware of the fact that the pain of the knife cut and the actual stress of the bleeding-out process.

"With cattle that have had their throat cut, they can remain conscious for up to two minutes. From an animal welfare perspective, killing an animal without stunning it first is unacceptable."

The Federal Government is reviewing ritual slaughter standards but is not pre-empting the findings.

Halil Haliloff owns a farm north of Adelaide which is one of nine abattoirs in South Australia that is allowed to kill without stunning. The Turkish-born Muslim has been running the small abattoir for sheep and goats for about seven years and has around 50 animals at any given time.

There were not any customers when the ABC visited, so the kill floor was clean and empty.

But Mr Haliloff says the sheep must be facing Mecca when its throat is cut and its blood drained. He says most of his customers would not buy the meat if it had been stunned. "I kill them for the religion, if not do for the religion then my customer [would] run away," he said.

He says many of his customers actually watch him slaughter the animals to ensure it is halal. "[They] want to buy fresh meat, because shops keep it in a cool room. [Here it is] from ice, it's halal."

Mr Haliloff's daughter Emine helps out with the farm, especially during the busy holy season of Ramadan. She is horrified by the cruelty in Indonesia broadcast on ABC's Four Corners, but she does not believe slaughtering without stunning is inhumane. "If it's done correctly, I believe there are no issues," she said. "But people who are doing it incorrectly, those are the ones that bring the rest of the Muslim community down, which is quite bad."

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is the accreditation body for halal food. It accepts the stunning of animals but president Ikebal Patel says exemptions are needed to accommodate for religious freedoms.

"It's not necessarily more humane to have all animals stunned because the process of stunning itself is inherently painful to the animal on impact," he said.

"The jury's out, but I think [if] you talk to somebody who may be having a very strong belief that it should be all non-standard, you are denying them their right from a religious perspective. "It could be discrimination, it could also be belittling one of their fundamental rights to existence."

Back at the farm in Adelaide, Emine is worried about what a ban might do to her family's business. "It's like spitting in our face and saying it's all wrong. I will fight for it, and I'm sure others out there will actually help about not banning this procedure," she said.

She says as Islam continues to grow more and more people will want their meat killed according to their beliefs.


ABC and friends versus Svensmark

ABC belatedly reported (borrowing from AFP) on a study that suggests the sun is entering a quiet period similar to the Maunder Minimum, which was a 70-year period when hardly any sunspots were observed between 1645 and 1715, a period known as the 'Little Ice Age'. ABC's report provided reference to a recent study by Georg Feulner and Stefan Rahmstorf based on the results of climate modelling that indicated the potential affect on global temperatures may not be significant with just "a 0.3°C dip by 2100 compared to normal solar fluctuations."

In the interests of balance (lacking in the ABC's report) we decided to ask a real solar scientist. It seems the impact of reduced solar activity may be more significant than the ABC's one sided report suggesting more research is required. Correspondence below:

Dear Dr Svensmark,

ABC News cite a paper by Georg Feulner and Stefan Rahmstorf to suggest that a solar mimnimum would reduce global temperatures by 0.3 degrees by 2100. see GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 37, L05707, 5 PP., 2010 doi:10.1029/2010GL042710 On the effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth

"Here we use a coupled climate model to explore the effect of a 21st-century grand minimum on future global temperatures, finding a moderate temperature offset of no more than −0.3°C in the year 2100 relative to a scenario with solar activity similar to recent decades. This temperature decrease is much smaller than the warming expected from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century."

I am interested in your opinion on the evidence for a future solar minimum based on recent results in the news and its effect on global temperature for a news story.

Dear Marc Hendrickx,

I have had a quick look at the paper, and as far as I can see the authors are only looking at solar irradiance changes, and effects like the one that I have been involved in -- like an amplification of the solar signal caused by clouds and cosmic ray modulation -- is not taken into account.

We known with good confidence that the terrestrial response to the solar signal is 3-7 times larger than from solar irradiance alone (see for example the work of Nir Shaviv, attached-Using the oceans as a calorimeter to quantify the solar radiative forcing-doi:10.1029/2007JA012989).

Now if such effects are taken into account the result would be very different (larger solar influence). So I do not think that the present work is particularly helpful in understanding the solar impact in the near future. It is only an estimate of the impact of solar irradiance as determined from numerical modeling. In the coming years the sun will show by itself how important it is.


Labor Party apes Europe -- providing the smoke and mirrors for a carbon tax

IF a new federal tax of $11.6 billion represents economic reform, then the Australian political culture has changed fundamentally, and economic reform means roughly the opposite of what it meant under Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard.

"First, rectify the names," as Confucius said. The complete inversion of the language of economic reform under the Gillard government, especially in relation to the proposed carbon tax, is a clue to the much more fundamental question at hand.

Australia faces a profound and defining strategic choice. The carbon tax is part of that choice. Our choice is not, as international relations experts sometimes allege, between the US and China. Rather, it is whether Australia is to refashion the culture of its politics, economy and society along European lines or to continue the path we have generally followed of being somewhere along the US-East Asian continuum.

For some decades, Australia has sat between the US and Europe on a range of social, economic and cultural indicators. We provide a social safety net more generous than the US but less comprehensive than that offered by European Union nations. We are more regulated than the US, less regulated than Europe. The state is a bigger part of our life, and our economy, than in the US, but a smaller part than in Europe.

The Gillard government is taking us down a European road. The carbon tax is a part of that, both in substance and in the style of its politics.

The Rudd and Gillard governments have been big-spending, budget-deficit governments. In Labor's first term, the justification was the global financial crisis. If the carbon tax passes at $26 a tonne, the federal government will have a magnificent new gusher of money to spend, for redistribution, social policy, whatever.

The US has a chronic budget deficit but does not embrace big government as an ideal.

Gillard's is a highly regulatory government. Re-regulating industrial relations, a la Europe, is central to this.

In the National Broadband Network the government is seeking to create a major, state-owned corporation, along classically European lines.

Economic reform for the past 30 years has meant deregulation, privatisation, surplus or balanced budgets, low inflation and free trade. It also has meant welfare reform to cut long-term welfare dependency. In Europe, this never caught on. Yet just as the Gillard government is moving decisively down the European road, the European model itself is in catastrophic collapse. The model can no longer sustain itself.

The common European currency, the euro, is a central cause of the inability of peripheral European states such as Greece to respond with policy flexibility through measures such as devaluation. Numerous European nations are on the brink of debt default. Germany is in a rolling process of bailout. Unemployment is 20 per cent in Spain, 13 per cent in Greece, 11 per cent in Portugal, 10 per cent across the euro area.

Europe has made a comprehensive mess of illegal immigration, leading disenfranchised voters to parties of the far Right.

Europe plays a role in our carbon tax debate in several ways. Bizarrely, it is the government's model. The latest report by Ross Garnaut constantly extols Europe's emissions trading scheme.

Europe also sends us a steady stream of sanctimonious officials and busybodies to tell us our climate change policies are inadequate.

Even more important, perhaps unconsciously, the culture of European politics has seeped into the Gillard government's management of the carbon tax debate.

Ashton Calvert, a former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who served both Labor and Liberal governments, was perhaps the brainiest official I have met. He told me once that the EU was a menace to Australia in a quite specific way. The EU vastly over-regulated itself and thus suffered enormous, unnecessary, economic costs. It then tried to impose those costs on everybody else by transforming them into international norms and enforcing them by treaty.

The US was big enough to ignore the EU. Asian nations didn't feel bound by EU norms. But Australia and Canada were the two nations, both with wildly different economic structures from Europe, likeliest to suffer from European political imperialism.

There is always something undemocratic and tricky about the EU. If at all possible, it removes issues from democratic political bodies and puts them in the hands of Euro-bureaucrats. This fits perfectly with Garnaut's proposal that Australia's carbon reduction targets should be set by "independent", but of course appointed, officials.

The Gillard government has been consistently tricky, in a very European way, in the politics of the carbon tax. It ruled out a carbon tax before the election last year. Then it decided to introduce one three years before the voters could pass a judgment on it.

Meanwhile, it has spent a vast fortune of taxpayers' money on a series of government bodies, headed by Garnaut, Tim Flannery and other long-term friends of the Labor Party, to conduct an incessant campaign of indoctrination in favour of government policy.

With Australia having a very European-style public broadcaster in the ABC, which is ideologically in favour of the carbon tax and inherently inclined to accept the Garnauts and Flannerys as embodying a kind of wisdom and virtue above politics, this is a plausibly effective strategy.

It is much less a strategy of persuasion, however, and much more a strategy of coercion. Indeed, Garnaut rejoiced in a speech at the "narrowing" of the debate in recent months.

Now the government has gone a step further, announcing a $12 million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign to support the carbon tax. This seems to be in addition to a further $13m set aside in the budget for a similar process.

It is perfectly true that the Howard government spent money in exactly the same way. It was an anti-democratic abuse of process when Howard did it and it is an anti-democratic abuse of process now.

And of course it embodies a central paradox. If it is so overwhelmingly clear that the best way to respond to the still uncertain science of climate change is through a carbon tax, then why is the Gillard government so hopelessly incapable of winning the argument through its own powers of persuasion?

At the same time, elite opinion has simply rubbished and rejected the Coalition's direct action plans to reduce carbon emissions by 5 per cent. There is hardly a single person in Australia who knows more about this subject than the opposition's Greg Hunt, who has been studying it for many years. Yet the elite media, overwhelmed by Garnaut, Flannery and limitless other pro-government propaganda, has not given his plans any serious consideration.

But here is a deeper paradox still. Garnaut's latest report is a partisan abuse of process. It is an extremely flawed document that is misleading about the international scene. It pretends the whole world is as obsessed with reducing greenhouse gas as Garnaut himself is. The strategic object of this deception is obvious.

If the Australian people can be convinced that they alone, among all the nations of the world, do not take this problem with the proper seriousness, that they alone are redneck enemies of "economic reform", then they might be shamed into supporting a carbon tax. They might even be threatened into it.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson this week told parliament that if Australia didn't have a carbon tax then other nations would impose punitive tariffs on us.

But other nations here can only mean Europe, and it would have to impose similar tariffs on the US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and all the many other nations that do not have carbon taxes.

Indeed, as the infinitely better Productivity Commission report noted: "No country imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gases or has in place an economy-wide ETS."

Is it not possible there are sensible reasons no other country has an economy-wide carbon tax?

But to sustain the fiction that the rest of the world is obsessed with climate change and acting with resolution and boldness, Garnaut must take the declaratory aspiration of every other nation as though it were settled, concrete policy.

Thus Garnaut declares: "US officials at the highest levels state that the emissions reduction target will be met, despite the absence of a national market-based instrument for securing that result."

This is a heroic, indeed ludicrous, position. But here is the larger paradox. Garnaut is stating with his usual faux-infallibility that the US, where there is absolutely no bipartisan support for action, will succeed absolutely with its direct action plans. But at the same time, the routine assumption of all Garnaut's media acolytes is that Tony Abbott's direct action plan is a ridiculous fraud.

In its first six years of operation, the EU ETS has raised just $2.5bn and covered only a small part of the economy. That means the European ETS has not been central to carbon reductions in Europe.

In fact, as usual, the Europeans rigged this process from the start. They chose 1990 as their base year because that was the year of peak European emissions. The decommissioning of east European industry, the conversion in Britain from coal to gas, and the presence of nuclear power, none of which involved any sacrifice, allowed the European emissions reduction.

Even the British commitment to halve greenhouse emissions by 2025 is much less than meets the eye. Prime Minister David Cameron has made it clear he has an escape clause. This commitment will be reviewed in 2014 and if the rest of Europe is not on the same path, a highly unlikely eventuality, Britain will change its course.

In Australia the polls do not support a carbon tax. Like the US, our democracy is vigorous and the public has a history of rejecting elite solutions if they are costly and unpractical, and provided they are opposed by a portion of the mainstream political parties.

It may not be designed for this purpose but the carbon tax is part of a combination of policies that would massively increase the size of the state, bring much greater regulation to economic life, entrench European economic and political norms, and demonstrate a way for voters to be browbeaten into acceptance of a policy they don't like.

The democratic way to win a policy argument is to champion it clearly, argue for it convincingly and win an election. The European way, with its tricks and deceits, is much less attractive, and generally produces much less satisfactory policy.


No comments: