Sunday, November 11, 2012
Coral reef alarmists can't keep their story straight
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is an immense coral structure stretching over more than 1500 miles in a roughly North to South direction. Its corals and fish are beautiful and it is a "must see" for recreational divers.
Because it is so admirable, however, Warmists have long had their beady eyes on it. If they can make a case that global warming is destroying it they see a propaganda victory. It is however peskily resilient so far. When bits get damaged they heal up again. (Diaz-Pulido, 2009; Bellwood, 2006)
But WHAT IF we do finally get the two or more degrees of warming that Warmists regularly predict? Aha! Then the reef will be in trouble, they say.
As I live in the Australian State where the reef is located, I hear rather a lot about the doom hanging over the GBR, with academics from both the University of Queensland and James Cook University huffing and puffing from time to time. Hoagy (Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg) used to be the chief doomster but he mostly seems to be handing over to a younger generation these days.
And, hey presto! Included in my local newpaper that I got yesterday (Nov. 11) was a colour magazine called "QWeekend" which included a big feature on coral. I reproduce the attractive opening page below.
Magazines of this sort seem to be beyond the reach of Google so it is interesting to see what is slipping by the reach of internet users but still lodging in at least the local public consciousness.
And it's a lot of fun. I reproduce below a couple of bits. I rather like this bald assertion (end of excerpt) from a Dr. Matt Lybolt, protege of Fra Pandolf himself: "A sea-level rise is good for reefs".
WHAAT? Panic stations! That is the WRONG thing to say! Any Warmist will tell you that global warming will lead to sea-level rise. So will global warming be GOOD for reefs? Unthinkable! Dr. Lybolt is a very bad boy,
So we come to our next excerpt. Lybolt is at it again: "The Great Barrier Reef is not in trouble". He qualifies that statement in a totally confusing way but he is obviously having trouble toeing the party line. That he and his supervisor are Warmists, however, there is no doubt.
I have dealt with Fra Pandolf's nonsense about the effects of human settlement a couple of days ago -- JR
Bellwood, D.R. et al. (2006) "Coral bleaching, reef fish community phase shifts and the resilience of coral reefs" Global Change Biology 12 (9), 1587–1594
Diaz-Pulido, G. et al. (2009) "Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery" PLoS ONE 4(4): e5239.
Australia's superannuation system is one huge ripoff
And after 5 years of Leftist government nothing has been done to help the little guy. The ALP are too busy putting up people's power bills and building a superfluous phone network. I kid you not
I survived the GFC in good shape because I manage my own stockmarket investments -- on conservative principles. But the average person cannot be expected to do that. He puts his trust in "managers", who mainly manage to impoverish him -- JR
It doesn't take more than a few moments thought to understand that Australia's superannuation system is not the paragon it's cracked up to be.
Savers and retirees are fully exposed to both market and longevity risk, there is very little regulation around where the money should be invested and virtually no regulation of fees.
In other words, Australians are required by law to save 9 per cent of their salaries in an effectively unregulated privately managed system.
The industry will argue that it is, indeed, tightly regulated, but not where it counts. Other utilities' prices are set according to the returns on capital of the providers; in super, not only are fees essentially unregulated, but few customers even know what they are.
Those who can actually work out the dollar amount by multiplying the basis points by the amount in their fund, which is not very many people, would have to make sure they include all the different fees in their statement - administrative and investment fees. It's virtually impossible.
So the superannuation industry is in the happy position of providing a service that is mandated by law where the price is both unregulated and effectively unknown.
No wonder there are more than 400 super funds in this country and many more investment managers fighting to manage the $1.4 trillion in super and $9 billion a year in inflows, and little wonder that the fastest growing sector is self-managed super.
I met an English investment manager for a coffee yesterday who, unsolicited, expressed amazement at the levels of investment fees in this country.
"How long has this been going on?" he wanted to know.
But that's not the worst thing about our superannuation system. The worst thing is the brutal risks to which Australians are routinely exposed.
Between about 1985 and 2000 all capital, both private and public, was removed from the support of retirement pensions. Up to that point most corporations, life offices and governments allocated part of their capital to guarantee their employees a certain retirement income.
But in the space of a few years they all rushed out of "defined benefit" super, as it was called, to "defined contribution", or accumulation, funds. Billions in capital was given back to happy shareholders or deployed elsewhere by even happier managers and politicians.
It has taken about a decade for the risks of this process to become evident. For the first 10 years the fact that Australian super funds had over-exposed their unknowing clients to equities was not a problem because the stock market boomed.
Now the funds have been going backwards for five years and suddenly the nation's retirement savers are exposed to what is politely called "sequencing risk" - that is, if you want to retire when the market is down, bad luck!
In general, very few people in Australia now know what they will have to live on when they retire. It is a lottery. In the space of two decades we have gone from knowing and not having to worry, to not having faintest clue, and worrying like hell.
Many people, realising late in life that they won't have enough, start taking bigger and bigger risks as they approach retirement to improve their returns, when the opposite is recommended. For some this pays; for many it is a disaster.
Meanwhile, when we retire we are left to our own devices with a lump of money. Usually, but not always, we consult an adviser. Sometimes we give the lot to a nice man who then runs off with it.
The advisers used to be paid commissions by investment managers, as well as unscrupulous shysters, to ensure that the money found its way back to them.
Those commissions are now banned, in the face of a ferocious campaign from the industry, but the money still mostly goes back into "balanced" investment portfolios - that is, shares, property, hedge funds, private equity, bonds and cash - using expensive managers for each category.
As during the saving years, retirees are thus playing the asset markets once again; nobody is guaranteeing them anything.
So once they retire, Australians are exposed to the greatest risk of them all: that they will have the misfortune to live a long time.
According to the Bureau of Statistics average life expectancy in Australia is now 79.5 years for males and 84 for females. But that's an average - half the people will need to fund a retirement of more than 15-19 years (assuming retirement at 65), and many will live much, much longer than that. It's another lottery.
Moreover, the crackdown on smoking, the advent of effective anti-cholesterol drugs and advances in cancer research, among other things, will ensure that life expectancy increases dramatically from here.
The cost of retiring, already enormous, is set to soar. Yet just as nobody knows what fees they are paying to have their savings lost, nobody knows what it will cost them to retire and whether they will be able to afford it. Mind you, it's usually better not to know, because you can't afford it.
As Winston Churchill would say, superannuation in this country is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
It is a national disgrace.
Teachers 'failing to champion excellence', Australian academic warns
Speaking in Britain
School standards are being damaged by a "conspiracy of silence" among teachers who refuse to champion excellence, a leading academic has warned.
Pupils may be missing out on the very best results because of a "great equalisation" at the heart of the teaching profession that fails to mark out and reward top-performing staff, it was claimed.
John Hattie, professor of education at Melbourne University, suggested that too many teachers were reluctant to value expertise for fear of denigrating struggling colleagues.
He insisted that the "tyranny of the closed door" was a major problem as it prevented teachers sharing their best ideas and lessons with their colleagues.
A rigorous focus on teacher improvement is the hallmark of top education systems around the world but a reluctance to adopt a similar system in the UK risks undermining standards, Prof Hattie suggested.
He warned that the impact that schools can have on pupils "will barely change" until drastic reforms are made.
The comments come amid continuing concerns the variable quality of lessons in schools.
In its annual report last year, Ofsted warned that teaching was not good enough in more than four-in-10 English schools, with "dull" lessons fuelling bad behaviour in the classroom.
Ministers have now introduced new rules making it easier for heads to sack consistently struggling teachers. The Government is also considering introducing a new system of performance-related pay to reward the very best staff.
Prof Hattie, an expert in the evaluation of teaching standards, said there was a "great equalisation in the profession that does not welcome excellence and a conspiracy of silence to even talk among each other about the impact of their teaching".
Speaking ahead of a presentation to the London Festival of Education on November 17, he said too many teachers failed to properly observe their colleagues at work.
"The greatest difference between one school and another is the quality of teaching," he said.
"Yet in spite of this there is a conspiracy of silence, with teachers unwilling to talk to their colleagues about the impact of their teaching.
"Teachers, like politicians, prefer to talk about the curriculum, children, assessments and the structural parts of schooling such as the state of the school building.
"Until this situation is properly acknowledged, it just isn't possible to truly change the impact a teacher, a school, even an entire education system, can have on its pupils."
The academic, author of the book "Visible Learning", said the UK education system was not sufficiently geared towards teacher improvement, adding that the profession failed to sufficiently "rejoice" at evidence of improvement being made.
"Teachers too often live in their private worlds with teaching often done in front of classes not visible to colleagues," he said.
"And our studies show that the most high impact and passionate teachers are not always the most social in the staffroom."
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, insisted that teachers constantly "strived for excellence" but were hampered by a lack of on-the-job training and attacks from politicians.
"Teachers find their efforts to improve the quality of their teaching stymied by the low priority given to continuing professional development," she said.
"And teachers' morale is at rock bottom - damaged by wave upon wave of denigration by Michael Gove [the Education Secretary] and his acolytes.
"If the situation is to improve, teachers must become partners in the drive to improve education performance. After all, it is teachers who will make the difference - not politicians."
Future of NSW environment office at risk after cuts
THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has refused to guarantee future funding for the Environmental Defender's Office of NSW, the legal agency that represents community groups against developers in environmental disputes.
With reduced funding available only to March, the office has been put on notice while the Attorney-General conducts a review of community legal advice.
The Minister for Energy, Chris Hartcher, has accused the group of helping activist groups hurt the coal and coal seam gas industries as part of a "left agenda to destroy the economy".
When asked if he endorsed Mr Hartcher's views, Mr O'Farrell did not comment. "The Premier supports the comments made last week by the Attorney-General," a spokesman for Mr O'Farrell said.
The Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said no decision had been made about the EDO's future. Most of its funding - about $1.12 million this year - comes from the Public Purpose Fund, based on interest on unclaimed solicitor's fees.
Mr Smith would be concerned if resources were "diverted from those who need it most to other activities, particularly given limited funding and the state of the Public Purpose Fund", a spokeswoman for Mr Smith said.
The environmental office said its staff would have to be reduced from 25 people to just three people if funding was not restored. It denies it is engaged in activism and said most of its cases involved providing legal help to farmers.
"We have had an extraordinary level of support from people in the community since they heard about the threat to cut funding," said the office's executive director, Jeff Smith.
Among supporters is a group of 59 environmental law academics, who have written to the state government asking that the future of the office be guaranteed.
Even mothers to be don't get no respect in Victorian hospitals
CROWDED hospitals are sending women home just hours after giving birth, despite them wanting to stay longer.
New mothers are also being discharged without enough help to care for themselves and their babies, forcing some to reach crisis point, maternal and child health experts say.
One Melbourne mother, who only wanted to be known as Viki, said despite receiving excellent care at Sunshine Hospital last year, she was asked to go home nine hours after giving birth because the hospital was too full.
"They said, 'You know how we said you could stay overnight, well, actually, we've just had some new admissions and we have nowhere to put people.' I thought there must be people who need the beds more than I do, so I'll go," she said.
The single mother went home to care for her infant and 10-year-old-child without assistance and had a midwife visit her the next day. While she coped, Viki said the hospital needed more funding for services.
"It will reach a point where it gets unsafe," she said.
One year later, Viki cannot get her baby into the local maternal and child health nurse for a developmental check.
"They said they were completely booked for six weeks and that they don't want to book any further out than six weeks because they don't know how many babies they'll have at that time, so it's pretty bad," she said. "With my first baby I can remember being able to drop in any time if you had a problem or a question and now you can't get an appointment."
Terry O'Bryan, chief executive of Isis Primary Care - the group funded by Brimbank City Council to provide maternal and child health services in Melbourne's west - said the waiting list was a reflection of inadequate funding. "There are waiting times for almost all of our services now and that's because we haven't had commensurate increases in funding for the population rises we've had over the last decade."
Experts said many postnatal services were under pressure in Victoria, including hospital breastfeeding clinics and child and family health services that run programs for parents struggling with unsettled babies.
Professor of women's health at Monash University and the Jean Hailes Foundation Jane Fisher said women were waiting up to three months to get help for problems that could have been prevented with earlier education and care.
While some women could afford to pay for private services, she said research found many new mothers were taking unsettled babies to hospital emergency departments because they were desperate.
She said the government needed to boost community care in the earliest weeks of a baby's life to prevent problems from developing.
"There's a huge need … and people with the highest needs are concentrated in the areas of greatest disadvantage and that's where the services are really stretched," she said.
Dr Lisa Amir, a breastfeeding expert at La Trobe University, said although Victorian women received better care than women in other countries, breastfeeding services had deteriorated in recent years, with the Royal Women's Hospital closing its breastfeeding clinic to women who had not given birth there.
"We need more of a focus on postnatal care," she said.
A spokeswoman for the Victorian government said it was about to release new guidelines to improve postnatal care and had funded two labour and delivery rooms to be added to Sunshine Hospital.
A spokeswoman for Sunshine Hospital would not comment on Viki's case, but said: "Each mother and baby is assessed on a case-by-case basis and discharged from the maternity unit when it is safe for them to return home."