Thursday, June 16, 2011

Some government "protection" that didn't work

For decades, Australian governments kept in force regulations that enabled Australian booksellers to charge much more than overseas bookshops. With the coming of the internet, however, it became easier for Australians to import their own books from overseas booksellers -- and Australians abandoned their overpriced local bookshops in droves. So now they are going broke wholesale

ANGUS & Robertson has sacked 519 workers as it prepares to close 42 stores across the country. In a statement issued on administrator Ferrier Hodgson’s website last night, the losses were confirmed as negotiations to sell 19 bookstores continue.

The chain, owned by RED-group, will lose 116 full-time staff, 47 part-time staff and 266 casual staff, plus 90 from the REDgroup headquarters and warehouse.

The closure follows the collapse of Borders, which saw job losses totalling 1675, and this week’s announcement that clothing brand Colorado Group had gone into administration.

Despite the further blow to the already struggling retail sector, the statement insisted the 48 franchised stores would continue to trade as normal.

Ferrier Hodgson partner John Melluish, said the sale of a portfolio of the stores would save approximately 200 jobs in addition to those associated with the franchise business and e-commerce.

Mr Melluish said employee entitlements would be paid in full to staff who had lost their jobs. "Our ability to pay full entitlements is a direct result of the untiring efforts of the Angus & Robertson staff who worked under very difficult circumstances to keep the business going," he said. "As a result of their efforts, I can confirm that all entitlements will be paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the remaining inventory."


ALP stupidity not absolute after all

There'll be a lot of ALP voters in the cattle industry so shafting them is shafting the ALP vote

The Labor Party has lessened its resistance to the resumption of live-cattle exports to Indonesia while moving ahead with a threat to strip the industry of $5 million to care for stranded cattle in the interim.

At the same time, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said her government was working quickly to restore some live trade to Indonesia, a move that will be easier since the caucus backed down yesterday after a fiery discussion and stipulated less restrictive conditions in return for its support to lift the suspension.

The federal opposition opposes the suspension. The leader, Tony Abbott, said there was an "unfolding disaster" in northern Australia and demanded trade be resumed immediately to at least five abattoirs that had acceptable slaughter standards.

Ms Gillard said this would not occur until the industry could assure the government that cattle shipped to Indonesia would not be siphoned off to bad abattoirs.

The Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig, wrote to the Meat and Livestock Association on Friday demanding it hand over $5 million from a reserve fund paid for by levies on its members. The association refused to do so yesterday. Senator Ludwig gave the organisation until Friday to change its mind. If not, he would exercise his powers under the act and appropriate the money.

The fund would be set up by next Wednesday and used to feed cattle awaiting export, transport others south for slaughter, build temporary pens and anything else required.

The association would not say yesterday whether it would challenge the senator's position in court. "The minister has invited MLA to discuss these issues with him by Friday and it is disappointing that he has pre-empted these discussions," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

The chairman, Don Heatley, said the industry was prepared to direct producers' levies only towards moves that would reinstate the trade to Indonesia. "Reinstating this trade under an accredited supply chain is the most effective means to provide financial security to cattle producers and businesses."

The government suspended the trade last week after the ABC's Four Corners broadcast shocking footage of the beasts' treatment at Indonesian abattoirs. The suspension was driven in part by a caucus revolt, which gave notice of a motion calling for a ban on all live exports to Indonesia until the abattoirs there met "Australian standards".

Despite the government's acting, the caucus went ahead with the motion yesterday and it was passed unanimously. But the language had been toned down, saying the suspension should remain until Indonesian abattoirs complied with the lesser "international" standards. Unlike Australian standards, these do not require the stunning of the animal before it is killed.

The motion was watered down after some, including the WA senator Mark Bishop and the Northern Territory minister Warren Snowdon, argued that the $318 million industry was at risk.

Animal welfare groups were angry at the backdown and said they would continue to seek an urgent meeting with Ms Gillard.

In the Coalition party room, about 15 MPs condemned the government's actions. The Liberal senator and veterinarian Chris Back said that unless limited trade resumed within three to four weeks, more than 150,000 cattle would be too heavy to export and too underweight to be brought south for slaughter.

The cattle would either have to be shot or let loose on the rangelands of northern Australia, which would lead to starvation and an "environmental catastrophe".


Here comes the evil denier monster

WHEN you've run out of positive things to say in advertising, the easiest trick is to make up a monster. The uglier and more repulsive the better.

Think of toilet cleaning ads. Take those imaginary, microscopic, horrible, slimy things that make guttural noises and squirm disgustingly as they salivate over your ceramic bowl.

Animation and special effects studios have a lot of fun designing and creating these grotesque visual metaphors with which to terrify the consumer, to the delight of advertising executives and their clients alike. Ugly monsters allow you to avoid having to spell out your own positive selling points, if indeed you have any.

It would appear the advocates of the carbon tax have cottoned on to this trick. Through a relentless and combined effort they have created their very own grotesque creature to terrify us. The hideous "climate change denier" is as ugly and repulsive as any toilet germ gremlin.

The climate change denier has become the Left's favourite bogeyman, pursued with all the zeal of a witch hunt in 17th century Salem. Stupid, vain, ugly and mendacious, the climate change denier monster is anyone who questions any or all aspects of the anthropogenic global warming theory and rejects the urgent requirement of a carbon tax/ETS. This repugnant creature lurks in your neighbourhood and threatens life on earth as we know it.

"The agents of . . . planetary death will be the climate change deniers," asserted The Sydney Morning Herald columnist and ABC presenter Richard Glover recently. What, even more so than say, viral mutations, nuclear war, poverty, over-population, peak oil or even the odd asteroid? Yep. And so dangerous are these critters that Glover helpfully suggested "Surely it's time for climate change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies" before being "lashed to a pole at a certain point in the shallows off Manly? If they are right and the world is cooling . . . their mouths will be above water." After this piece attracted a great deal of unwelcome attention Glover apologised and pointed out the obvious; he was only joking.

But the joke's wearing a bit thin. Only weeks earlier Glover had had another stab at humorously depicting so-called climate change deniers, eagerly conflating them with the "trolls" who clutter the internet. I'm sure former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson would be flattered to know that Glover, in effect, deems him and his opinions to be of no more consequence than an "idiot who should be corralled".

And is it honestly the case that the likes of Lord Turnbull, the former head of the civil service in Britain who has demanded that his government stop terrifying the public about climate change, have their "heads in the sand and their bums defiantly aquiver as they fart their toxic message to the world"?

And is the physicist William Happer of Princeton University, who claims it is far from clear there is any real threat from global warming - let alone a catastrophic one - really just another creature from "a septic tank teeming with snapping trolls?"

Elizabeth Farrelly, also of the Herald, decided that rather than creating her own monster to terrify us with, she would borrow an existing one. Not even the best animation studios have managed to come up with anything as slimy, evil and repugnant as our very own cane toad.

With the Herald's cartoonist on hand to make sure you were suitably repulsed, Farrelly applied the metaphor to 2GB's Alan Jones. Bemoaning the fact that Australia's highest rating broadcaster was "poisoning the logic well", "lowbrow", and will "irreparably harm our civilisation, as well as our climate," she chose to dismiss out of hand the points he was making about a) Julia Gillard having lied to the electorate about imposing a carbon tax and b) the nation's ability to have any measurable effect (negative or positive) on the world's climate.

Instead, we were treated to: "[Shock jocks] are the cane toads of contemporary culture: ugly, ubiquitous, toxic to most other life forms." There's that planetary death threat again. If only Glover and Farrelly had some Toilet Troll handy. It kills 99.9 per cent of all known climate change deniers.

Farrelly then gave us an accurate, but ironic, lecture on "dishonest tricks in argument, including caricature, anecdote and non sequitur" seemingly unaware that these are the precise tactics she and her fellow climate change denier demonisers (there! I've just created my own monster!) repeatedly use to demean anyone who happens to disagree with their point of view.

Mike Carlton (also of the Herald, is there a pattern developing here?) is also a dab hand at scaring the kiddies. When George Pell had the temerity to question the climate change orthodoxy, Carlton was ready with the ugly imagery: "Pull out a few fingernails, stretch him on the rack, a bit of how's-yer-father with a red hot poker." Carlton was trying to paint a picture of the medieval religious mind-set, but you couldn't help but get the impression he wouldn't mind wielding the red hot poker himself. Particularly if any of the following monstrous individuals had been splayed out on the rack:

"The third lot of climate denial ratbags are those tabloid media pundits cynically banging the populist drum to drag in the hordes of bogan nongs out there. [A fair bit of Australian slang there: Ratbags are eccentric people; Bogans are working class people; Nongs are stupid people]

"These are people who believe they are beset by a cabal of lefties, Greenies, gays, femi-Nazis, Muslims, venal and incompetent public servants and latte-sipping intellectuals conspiring to deprive them of all they hold dear, like their inalienable right to own a jet-ski and to name their children Breeyanna and Jaxxon."

That's a lot of condescension and hate to pack into one paragraph. These wouldn't be those same people out in the western suburbs who are now lumbered with exorbitant electricity bills because of feel-good renewable schemes that, according to the Productivity Commission report, were ineffectual at best?

And let's not forget "the usual talkback shock jocks going feral and Rupert's opinionators lunging like a shoal of piranha" which, I suppose, is as good a way as any to avoid responding to those who dared question the credibility of Cate Blanchett (Hollywood millionairess) fronting Get Up's carbon tax ads (say yes to the poor being better off.) Is it possible for this debate to be conducted on the strength of the arguments alone? Or, like the toilet cleaning ads, do we have to create monsters in order to build our case?

By all means, counter every argument the climate change deniers, sceptics, carbon tax opponents and the rest put forward, and attack their opinions with passion and verve, or even better, with proven facts and irrefutable rebuttals.

But hysterically and repeatedly portraying them as ugly, stupid trolls, toads and ferals threatening life on earth as we know it, is intellectually (and morally) dubious at best.

Worthy of a toilet cleaning ad, perhaps. But not worthy of the future economic and environmental health of our country.


Electricity tsar AEMC lashes Gillard's climate poodle

ROSS Garnaut's proposals to transform coal-fired power generation using a carbon tax are ineffectual, too bureaucratic and create "significant fiscal risks" for power companies, according to the Gillard government's own energy commission.

In a confidential report sent to all energy ministers and the multi-party committee working on the carbon pricing legislation, the Australian Energy Market Commission says proposals in Professor Garnaut's electricity sector report for the government could threaten the energy market.

"We are also concerned that the paper does not fully consider the likely implications for retail competition and market structure of the development of a carbon price and associated policies," AEMC chairman John Pierce said.

The report by AEMC - an adviser to the Council of Australian Governments' Ministerial Council on Energy - warns that the proposals to provide power stations with government guarantees could lead to taxpayers footing the bill for failed generation businesses by assuming ownership and could "undermine rather than strengthen the stability of the national electricity market".

Compensation for electricity generators hit by a carbon price was one of the key factors in framing the government's first carbon pollution reduction scheme and is opposed by the Greens and Professor Garnaut - Labor's key climate change adviser.

Professor Garnaut's March report on the effects of a carbon price on the $120 billion electricity sector to the government and the multi-party committee on climate change rejected compensation for power stations affected by the carbon price on the grounds it was "highly unlikely" to threaten physical energy security.

He proposed commonwealth loan guarantees to keep high-emission generators operating and an "energy security council" to ensure continuity of supply and avoid instability in the electricity market.

He also found that old brown-coal power stations in Victoria's Latrobe Valley could still be required to operate intermittently on days of strong power demand.

While the AEMC said there were some useful aspects of Professor Garnaut's report, it did not address the main problems of electricity generators losing asset values, being unable to borrow funds and avoiding financial risks and market failures.

Responding to the AEMC criticisms, Professor Garnaut last night rejected suggestions his approach was bureaucratic, saying it was the opposite. "I've got much more faith in the role of the market and the market's response to carbon pricing than has been shown by the regulatory authorities," Professor Garnaut said at a community meeting in Victoria's Latrobe Valley. "I'm quite confident that our electricity market can handle the adjustments that have to be made without big handouts of taxpayers' money."

The AEMC - an independent body that sets the rules for the national electricity market - wants free carbon permits to be given to specific power-generating plants rather than cash compensation or debt guarantees to encourage investment in new technology and limit the risks of power disruption and price rises.

On renewable energy programs, the AEMC agreed with Professor Garnaut's criticism of the schemes, saying they should be reviewed to see whether they were "still required" following the introduction of a carbon price.

"The overall aim should be to find policy settings that achieve the government's policy objectives as efficiently as possible, including minimising costs to consumers."

In relation to the creation of an energy security council to oversee the implementation of a carbon tax to force electricity generators to shift to cleaner fuels, Mr Pierce said: "We are concerned that the proposed mechanism may be unduly bureaucratic and not able to operate quickly enough in the circumstances where it would be required."

Mr Pierce is a former secretary of NSW Treasury and until June last year was secretary of the federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

The AEMC report said Professor Garnaut's proposals aimed at minimising "financial contagion" in the electricity market, which could disrupt power and force up household costs, but were aimed at industry debt levels rather than damage to the value of power-generating assets.

"Rather than a financial problem, the introduction of a carbon pricing mechanism creates an equity problem through asset impairment," the AEMC report found. "If the carbon pricing mechanism is introduced without addressing the asset impairment issue, the equity of the businesses would be reduced. "If that occurs across a number of participants, it is likely to lead to financial contagion and will impede the market from functioning effectively."

Professor Garnaut said last night he did not think asset impairment was the real issue. "In the end, the question about asset impairment is where should a scarce amount of revenue from carbon pricing be spent," he said.

"Should it be spent on compensating the shareholders, whether in Sydney or Hong Kong or Paris, or should it be spent on supporting innovation to build the economy of the future, and providing tax cuts and improved benefits for Australian households?

"A choice has to be made and I'm confident I got that choice right."

The commission expressed "concern" the Garnaut report "does not fully consider the likely implications for retail competition and market structure of the development of a carbon price".

"We are also concerned the paper makes a number of proposals that would be very significant implications for the energy markets without sufficiently detailed analysis of the costs, benefits and implications of the proposals," the AEMC said.

The AEMC is also reviewing the efficiency and effectiveness of renewable energy schemes with generous feed-in tariffs that underpin investments in power sources such as wind and power.


Female predominance in Australian universities too

There are a lot of very highly paid jobs in the mining industry nowadays which would appeal to people who like operating heavy machinery etc. There are some women driving Haulpak trucks but not many

Ben McCulloch, a final-year education student at the Burnie campus of the University of Tasmania, is hoping for a position in a local primary school next year. Picture: Chris Crerar Source: The Australian

AS an education student, Burnie local Ben McCulloch says being a male on his female-dominated campus is "like being in training" for when he graduates as a primary teacher.

"It helps me get used to working with lots of females," he said.

Mr McCulloch, 21, is one of just 130 male students - 27 per cent of the student body - at the University of Tasmania's Burnie campus. It's a trend mirrored on regional campuses across Australia, with at least a half having less than one-third male students.

Of Australia's 106 regional campuses, only 10 had a majority of male students in 2009. Another eight had equal representation, but all are micro-campuses with fewer than 20 students.

The data released to the HES reveals a picture of female dominance at most regional campuses, magnifying the trend of feminisation in metropolitan universities. Richard James, director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, said the percentage of domestic female enrolments on Australian campuses was approaching 60 per cent.

He said since the 1980s women were using education for social mobility, while men had work options not open to women.

"There are pull factors keeping men out of higher education . . . work opportunities women don't have access to," he said.

"At least some of the women who are going on to tertiary education are doing so because there isn't another option."

Professor James said the courses at regional campuses, which tended to be female-centric, also played a role in keeping local boys away.

Women also were clustered in low-status, low-paying vocational courses, such as nursing, teaching and child care. "These are highly feminised professions, teaching increasingly so in the past 30 years."

Writing in today's HES, Andrew Harvey from La Trobe University said raising the participation rate of regional men required "a shift in focus from the supply of places to demand for them". Regional campuses were "a necessary but insufficient condition for attracting regional men."

"Universities will need to work more closely with schools, industry and communities to increase the pool of applicants."

This would require new selection methods to reduce the dominance of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which had a strong correlation with wealth, improved pathways via vocational education and entry for mature-age students based on work experience.

Mr McCulloch said while most of his male friends went to university, they all left for the mainland, Launceston or Hobart. His decision to stay in Burnie was primarily economic; he could live at home and keep his job. But he also hoped to get an appointment to a local school after he finished his degree in October.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I gotta say, the Live Cattle decision was one of the most foolish, populist (pandering), short-sighted decisions of any Government I have ever seen, and I remember Whitlam. But if you think about the whys and whats, imagine Gillard's spin-docs tell her the public thinks she doesn't listen to what they want (probably because she doesn't) so this is a quick way of making the government look responsive to the wishes (which aren't often needs) of the people without touching the issues where they don't care what we think (see Climate-Change). Cattlemen? they all vote National surely so electorally she could look decisive and compassionate without alienating too much of the support-base. Make some correct noises, love some animals, and then restart exports to nice abattoirs first until the dust has settled and the TV watching public's attention is deflected elsewhere (ten minutes later?),and there you have it: decisive yet caring and responsive to the just rage of the masses. Its just so easy. Won't SOMEbody think of the cowwwws?