Tuesday, November 13, 2012


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the way Kevin Rudd keeps popping up like a bad penny

Australia's hero of the hour

Australia's cricket captain Michael Clarke is 218 not out in the match against the South Africans at The Gabba.  I live within earshot of the Gabba

Steve Biddulph overgeneralizes

Steve sometimes says sensible things but he has got carried away by some unpleasant events in the form of initiation rituals at one Sydney college.  See below. 

If he was up on his anthropology he would know that initiation rituals are as old as the hills and a powerful bonding agent.  They really are quite masculine.  Like anything else, they can get out of hand and sometimes do but in our society they are generally a lot less destructive than (say) the subincision ritual of Aboriginal "secret men's business'. Or will Aborigines "never be real men"? 

For Biddulph to condemn a whole generation of Australian men on the basis of one or two incidents is quite hysterical and certainly shows that he is no scientist.  Perhaps he is just angry that his frequent earnest advice about parenting is little heeded.  All that abuse and vitriol below certainly sounds like it has got rage behind it

YOU'D have to say it's a theme in the culture - the outrageous mistreatment of girls at Sydney University's St John's College, which almost took the life of a student there this year. The scandal that shook the Australian Defence Force Academy over sexual violations present and past, and similar problems right across the defence forces. And of course the recurring sagas involving sportsmen's behaviour towards women.

We are only just coming to grips with our tendency to create generations of defective men. That this happens in places that are the incubators of our nation's political, legal and business leaders, means it couldn't be more urgent.

Schools and university colleges have long claimed to be about making honourable men. The now laughably pompous-sounding name "Johnsmen" for the Sydney college's former residents must have had its origins in some ideal of masculinity. It doesn't square with images of students collecting their own faeces to leave lying in corridors, or setting fire to furniture, let alone violating vulnerable students. What is most concerning is that the adults in charge were for so long unwilling to intervene.

The concept of initiation is a clue to what has gone wrong. Acts of cruelty from those a year or two ahead of you are not initiation. They're a reductionist act, not a liberating one, creating conformity and leaving a legacy of fear and shame.

The clear sanctioning of bullying by those in charge of what is to be their new home creates a terrible dilemma for the victims - since the only escape is to become part of the problem. Bullies have long operated by enlisting the frightened to stand alongside them.

We've long understood how this process works. From the origins of the British military, to the boarding schools of the empire, the leadership class has often been weak and effete. It relied on fostering a harsh pecking order among the ranks, letting them rule themselves, and issuing favours to those who survived. The school bully was almost a designated role.

Whether in the barracks of the Australian Defence Force Academy, or a university college full of socially inadequate and under-parented young men, it's not enough to merely offer room and board. This age group requires intense engagement with adults who have strong values and who live in the same space as those they educate. Boys become the men they look up to and spend time with.

The role of alcohol needs to be revisited. Experts in youth mental health are campaigning for a change in the selling of alcohol in-house by colleges. It is well documented that binge drinking arises from peer pressure in halls of residence, and is a serious mental health risk actually created by college life.

Suicide, depression, sexual assault and fatal accidents haunt the world of tertiary education. This is not a rite of passage that we need.

There is much thinking going into helping boys turn into men. Schools across the world have begun to deliberately tackle this issue, since it clearly does not happen if merely left to chance.

Secondary schools, both church and government, hold programs that involve parents, staff and boys, usually in year 9 or 10, as they begin a formal parting from boyhood and spend a year studying manhood. The qualities of respect for self and others, of becoming a responsible adult, are meshed into the curriculum, with the active involvement of men the boys know and respect.

What happened at St John's College - the formative ground of many men in public life today, including a prospective prime minister in Tony Abbott - is not a small or isolated problem. Several months ago, a group of Australian private school boys tied up and sexually abused a disabled girl student, and filmed themselves doing so. The police investigated, but her parents declined to bring charges, understandably wanting to spare her the ordeal.

The school moved to suspend the boys concerned - no more - but their parents expressed outrage at any disciplinary action, and the matter lapsed.

Doubtless these young men, like thousands before, will continue on with their lives and become charming husbands and fathers and respected community figures. At least, on the surface. But they will never be real men.


The net is slowly closing on Julia  -- and her dubious past

LAW firm Slater & Gordon has contradicted Julia Gillard's claim that she was not in charge of legal work for the purchase in 1993 of a Fitzroy property later found to have been bought with stolen union money.

Ms Gillard - a former salaried partner with the firm - last week denied responsibility for conveyancing work on the purchase of the Kerr Street unit by a crony of her disgraced former boyfriend Bruce Wilson.  "I was not in charge of the conveyancing file," she told journalists during a visit to Laos.

But Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech has confirmed Ms Gillard "acted directly" in the conveyancing work on the property purchase. The confirmation came in documents lodged with the Australian Press Council in support of a complaint against Fairfax newspapers and this journalist over reporting of the firm's role in the Australian Workers Union "slush fund" scandal.

Ms Gillard is under sustained opposition attack over her role as a legal adviser to the union in the early 1990s when Mr Wilson was a senior official. She has denied any wrongdoing.

A West Australian fraud squad investigation discovered in 1996 that Mr Wilson had stolen more than $400,000 from the AWU Workplace Reform Association.

The association, established with Ms Gillard's professional assistance in 1992, was incorporated to promote workplace safety and training, but she has publicly confirmed it was a "slush fund" designed to raise union election campaign funds.

More than $100,000 from the association was used to purchase the Fitzroy unit in the name of Ralph Blewitt, a close associate of Mr Wilson and then WA secretary of the AWU.

The property - which Mr Blewitt had never seen - was bought at auction by Mr Wilson in the company of Ms Gillard using a power-of-attorney she had drafted. She then arranged finance from a Slater & Gordon loan facility to complete the purchase and waived legal fees on the conveyancing work.

Slater & Gordon has complained to the Press Council about reports in Fairfax newspapers and associated websites on October 13 detailing internal tensions within the firm in 1995 over Ms Gillard's conduct and her role in the formation of the AWU association.

One of the reports detailed how a letter written by Ms Gillard to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 had vouched for the bona fides of the association and been instrumental in securing approval for its incorporation.

In a "summary of issues" submitted to the Press Council, Mr Grech objected to accusations by lawyers representing Mr Blewitt that Slater & Gordon was stalling the release of an unofficial file created by Ms Gillard detailing work on the incorporation.

"The only documentary evidence Slater & Gordon was in possession of was that Ms Gillard acted directly for Mr Blewitt in relation to a conveyancing matter, a union dispute and a defamation matter," he said.

Mr Grech confirmed to Fairfax on October 16 that the file was missing.


Former principal sues Jewish school

No freedom of religion, I guess.  He seems to have been generously treated considering that most of his staff refused to keep working with him

A FORMER principal of one of Melbourne's top Jewish schools, Bialik College, is suing the school for millions of dollars over his abrupt and mysterious sacking last year.

Joseph Gerassi - believed to be the first openly gay principal of a Jewish school in Australia - was called into a meeting on August 24 last year and told the school council had "lost confidence" in him.

However, in a case which has similarities to the termination of Methodist Ladies' College principal Rosa Storelli, the council of Bialik College acknowledged the "positive changes" Mr Gerassi had made to the school.

Documents filed in the Federal Court reveal Mr Gerassi alleges his dismissal contravened the Fair Work Act and was a breach of his contract.

He is seeking compensation for loss of income, shock, distress, humiliation and damage to his reputation and professional standing.

Mr Gerassi, who is believed to have earned more than $300,000 a year as principal, is unlikely to find an equivalent job at another Jewish school given homosexuality is not condoned by sections of the Jewish community.

The mystery that surrounded his termination also meant rumours were rife within the Jewish community that were damaging to his reputation.

Mr Gerassi started as principal at Bialik College in 2009. In 2010, Bialik was ranked the equal-top performing private school in VCE, with 35 per cent of study scores 40 or above, and enrolments at the kinder to year 12 school in Hawthorn East had risen during Mr Gerassi's time.

Mr Gerassi was told to resign at the meeting on August 24 or have his employment terminated within an hour. Council president Graham Goldsmith told him 15 staff members were going to resign if his employment was not terminated.

"While the council has acknowledged many of the positive changes you have made to the college, the council has come to the difficult but unanimous decision that they have lost confidence in your ability to lead the college into the future," Mr Goldsmith wrote in a letter to Mr Gerassi.

He was given nine months pay - and for nine months was ordered not to attend Bialik College or speak to the media, staff or school community.

The court documents claim the school council's ultimatum that Mr Gerassi resign or he would be fired prevented him from exercising his workplace right to make a complaint in relation to his employment. They say he was not able to obtain advice or respond to the conclusion the school council had lost confidence in him.

His lawyer, Andrew Farr of Lander & Rogers, also alleges that Bialik College breached Mr Gerassi's employment contract by not offering mediation. In the notice of defence, Bialik College said a mediation did take place.

It denies Mr Gerassi is entitled to the compensation sought or that he suffered any loss or damage due to the council's conduct.

A spokesman for Bialik said the school could not comment on the case because it was before the courts. "This happened 12 months ago - the school has put it behind it. The school community has been kept informed of the situation throughout," he said.

Mr Gerassi said: "The only thing I would like to say at this point is that I took the decision to take this matter to the Federal Court at great personal cost in an attempt to clear my name and to restore my reputation."



Three current articles below

Green bank won't deliver "clean" energy by 2020

Unless it's backed up by more compulsion

The $10 billion clean energy finance corporation will not deliver additional clean energy by 2020 but will just shuffle renewable energy investment from wind power to solar, new modelling says.

But the modelling found the "green bank" could deliver "bang for its buck" if the government expanded the renewable energy target to apply to the projects it funded.

Two sets of modelling for the WWF and the Australian Solar Council found that, as it is proposed, the green bank's proposed $2 billion a year in investments would drive no additional renewable energy investment by 2020.

But expanding the renewable energy target - which requires electricity providers to source 45,000 gigawatt hours of power from renewable sources by 2020 - could see Australia generate an additional 3 per cent of its electricity from renewables (26 per cent rather than 23 per cent) without any change to government spending and without hitting electricity prices.

The green bank is intended to provide both commercial and subsidised loans to big clean energy projects, but from its inception green groups argued that while the carbon price was still relatively low the projects would also need the additional "leg up" from the ongoing effective subsidy of being included in the government's renewable energy target (RET).

The modelling shows that, if the RET was expanded, both wind and solar photovoltaics would get a boost, substantially reducing emissions.

And it argues that because renewables, especially solar, reduce peak demand and lower wholesale prices, this would offset a slight increase in retail prices from the move - resulting in no net increase for household power bills.

"There is an opportunity for the CEFC to have a greater benefit..at potentially no additional cost to the public," said WWF climate change manager Kellie Caught.

Chief executive of the Australian Solar Council John Grimes said even though solar would be the winner under current policy settings, it made sense to boost renewables overall.

The modelling will be provided to the Climate Change Authority which is reviewing the RET, with many industry groups and state governments arguing that it should be wound back rather than expanded.

The new modelling came as proponents confirmed the demise of the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn project, which was to begin construction of a 250 megawatt solar thermal power plant near Chinchilla in 2013, after the decision by the new Queensland Government earlier this year to cancel promised state funding.


Renewable energy scheme cost $3.2 billion

The federal government’s solar renewable energy scheme has cost households $3.2 billion over the past two years alone, according to Origin Energy.

At its annual general meeting today, Origin managing director Mr Grant King said the funds could have easily funded a roll-out of smart meters which would help cut electricity use.

"The uncapped nature of the small scale renewable scheme has led to an increased cost of the scheme to customers of about approximately $3.2 billion," he said.

“The $3.2 billion cost of the [scheme] would have allowed most Australians to have smart meters installed.”

The small scale scheme forms part of the federal government’s renewable energy target for at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply to come from renewable sources by 2020.

Origin estimates renewable energy could supply up to 27 per cent of electricity by 2020.

"This will come at a considerable cost," the chairman Mr Kevin McCann said. "Homes and businesses will bear the cost and are likely to be unaware of that. In addition, there will be technical build and grid impact issues that must be carefully considered."

“I never thought Australia would be in this position where the dysfunctional regulation between state and federal authorities could cost us, for example, the flawed Queensland pricing determination mechanism.”

The cost of complying with the renewable energy scheme was a prime factor in Origin’s profit downgrade at the end of last week. It now expects no profit growth this financial year, which has pushed the company’s shares to 5-year lows.

Origin also attributed the share price slide to a “lack of patience by investors who are concerned whether large resource projects like [Origin’s] APLNG will be on time on or within budget”.

Shareholders expressed concern about the impact of coal seam gas extraction by the company, with one shareholder worried that Origin may become "a modern day James Hardie", in reference to that company’s ongoing asbestos liability.

“We won’t jeopardise our social licence and we certainly don’t want to be a James Hardie,” Mr McCann said. “We have a team of environmentalists working with the government under strict regulations in Queensland. But it is important to note that gas is no longer a transitional fuel."

Shareholder concerns about the lack of geothermal, solar and wind energy production dominated the rest of the meeting.

Mr McCann said investment in renewable energy is not cheap in Australia, although the company is active in overseas countries such as New Zealand and Chile, where it is more competitive.


A scientist's open mind snaps shut

by Tony Thomas

Suzanne Cory AC, FAA, FRS, has been president of the Australian Academy of Science since 2010 and is a distinguished researcher in the molecular genetics of cancer. I interviewed her on climate change for Quadrant (May 2012) and was impressed that she was more open-minded on the controversies about catastrophic human-caused global warming (CAGW) than her authoritarian predecessor Kurt Lambeck.

As I quoted Cory:

“As a professional I’d be happy to talk about cancer but not about climate change… It is really important to allow scientists to seriously question any matter from any perspective. You discover truth by knocking down an hypothesis with new evidence. Scientific debate on climate change is the only way we will improve the science.”

“So the science is not settled?” I asked.

“Exactly,” she replied.

It was therefore disappointing to read her remarks in The Weekend Australian magazine on October 20. Her views on the climate controversies seemed unworthy of her. Maybe the reporter edited out any sensible comments. The published bits of her Good Weekend interview were:

Q: Do you find the lack of scientific literacy in the general community dispiriting?

A: Yes. We have people taking false comfort in alleged cancer remedies and others dismissing climate change research or immunization research as a matter of political opinion. Such poor understanding of current knowledge diminishes all our social debates.

Q: Has the climate change debate politicized science?

A: The media’s pursuit of balance in reporting has meant that a very small minority has been given equal weight to the huge majority. Science is not political. It is a process of observation, hypothesis, challenge and proof, and the science of anthropogenic climate change is very well established.

Cory assumes there is some solid corpus of scientific knowledge called “climate change research”, which would only be challenged by those with “a poor understanding of current knowledge”.

Similarly she refers to “the science” of anthropogenic climate change as being “very well established”. This is equivalent to her saying that “the science” of molecular genetics of cancer is “very well established”, thus skating over the molecular-genetic controversies which I am sure exist in her own discipline (or is the job done?).

Cory has merely set up a straw man to attack. Indeed AGW is well established, and most skeptics agree that human-caused CO2 emissions may well be causing some mild (maybe beneficial), warming.

If Cory were conversant with the actual climate debate, and chose to take sides, she would instead have said that (a) “the credibility of CAGW forecasts” is very well established. She would also have said (b) that “the three-fold feedback impacts on temperature asserted by the climate modellers, consequent on a doubling of atmospheric CO2” is also very well established. These are statements capable of falsification and therefore worth making, in lieu of motherhoodisms.

She taunts anti-consensus climate researchers and aligns them with quacks in other fields in a way I am sure she would not do to any researchers within her own discipline. To Cory, disagreement with her take on climate catastropharianism is “taking false comfort”, or “poor understanding” which “diminishes all our social debates”.

Her argument includes that the media should not give equal weight to “a very small minority” of skeptics, compared with “a huge majority” of warmists. Cory appears to have swallowed the finding of a student M.Sc. thesis that 97% of climate scientists believe in CAGW.[1] Anyone in her medical cancer research field who put out data of such mendacity, would be tarred and feathered by Cory and run out of town on a rail.[2]

Cory ignores the roll-call of American scientists, 31,000 to date, who have rejected the CAGW hypothesis.[3] Even allowing for the credibility issues in all such petitions, there is obviously a reputable and substantial group of her global science peers who do not subscribe to her “climate-majority” views. This formidable body of scholars, she asserts, has “poor understanding”, a la anti-vaccination nuts, and is degrading public debate.

She also seems unaware of her crushing non-sequitur. She argues that the media should respect only the views of the “huge majority” of warmists. Then without pausing for breath she says that “science is not political” but based on “observation, hypothesis, challenge and proof”.

So what is the media meant to do if it comes across scientific findings that, say, Antarctic ice is increasing (despite the globe allegedly warming strongly), that the Roman and Medieval warmings were higher than the 20th century warmings (giving our CO2 warmists an obvious question to answer), or, dare I mention it, that there has been no statistically significant warming for the past 16 years?[4][5][6] Would the President of the Australian Academy of Science prefer that such findings be suppressed by a compliant media?

Cory began her term at the AAS as an unthinking warmist, accepting the fanciful findings of the Raupachs, Karolys and Flannerys as holy writ.[7] [8]  [9]A few months ago she appeared to have become more respectful of “the science” as opposed to “the warmism”. But today she’s again a climate dogma devotee. How sad for the Academy.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Slater & Gordon have found the bus they intend to throw Julia under at last. They must be getting a bit stressed. Poor ambulance chasers.