Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gillard huffs and puffs over Tom

Empty threats.  She threatens action if what is already broadly agreed does not happen.  Just bandwagon hopping

Tom Waterhouse

SPORTS broadcasters face a complete ban on the promotion of betting odds during live sports matches in Australia.

Facing a growing public backlash over the rise of gambling advertising, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today announce TV, radio and internet broadcasters must agree to the ban or legislation will be rushed into parliament before the September polls. Bookmakers, including the high-profile Tom Waterhouse, will be banned from appearing in the commentary team at any time and identified if interviewed outside of the venue.

Broadcasters could face a complete ban on gambling advertisements during live broadcasts if they breached the new code with the government warning that if the intensity of advertising continues to rise, it "will impose a total advertising ban". Under the proposed changes, all generic gambling broadcast advertisements will also be banned during play.

Advertising to promote gambling would be allowed before or after a game or during a scheduled break in play, including at quarter-time and half-time.


Quack medicine taught to doctors

General practitioners are receiving government-mandated training by doctors who claim vaccines are linked to autism and temper tantrums can be treated by delaying immunisation.

The body that oversees doctors will investigate how the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), which represents more than 20,000 GPs, could have approved the course as part of its "continuing professional development" program.

Ongoing education is supposed to protect patients by ensuring practitioners are trained in the most up-to-date medical evidence. But experts fear the system is failing because of inadequate oversight.

The GP training course is run by the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, which says it "does not have a policy on immunisation", and doctors should "make informed decisions determined by evidence-based science".

Its four-day course perpetuates long-discredited misinformation about immunisation, including claims childhood vaccines contain mercury. It also references researcher Andrew Wakefield, whose work was found to be wrong and tainted by financial conflicts of interest.

Australian Medical Association head Steve Hambleton said the accreditation of training courses should be reviewed.

"Clearly, this is concerning and it's not something the college or the AMA can be comfortable with, and neither can the parents of children," he said. "Colleges have a great responsibility to ensure they are doing their job."

A hospital doctor who discovered the anti-vaccination course, Martin Tio, said patients could be put at risk by misinformation. "If you are going to delay vaccination or, to use the example from the vaccine-specific course lectures, to make a case vaccines are linked to autism … it could easily discourage them from getting vaccinated."

He feared the acceptance of unscientific claims was becoming more widespread in the medical community.

Ken McLeod, from Stop the Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network, said he was aghast to see such dangerous misinformation given to doctors. "You have to wonder who let these discredited cranks in," he said.

Professor of public health at Bond University Chris Del Mar said doctor training was often influenced by vested interests and lacking an evidence base.

"There are very serious flaws in the way continuing medical education is conducted," he said. He was particularly concerned about courses run by drug companies.

Medical Board of Australia spokeswoman Nicole Newton said it would be concerned about training that was inconsistent with good medical practice. "The board will follow this up with the college," she said.

The Australian Medical Council accredited education requirements set by colleges, she said, but left the examination of individual courses to the colleges.

A spokeswoman for the RACGP would not comment on the course while it was under investigation. "The RACGP endorses and actively supports immunisation," she said. "Temper tantrums are not a recognised reason for delay of immunisations."

She emphasised there was no link between vaccines and autism and said using Mr Wakefield's research would "constitute serious academic misconduct".


Rural gamblers need the wisdom of Solomon

One man responsible for 450 hectares.  That would be a wonder in most of the Old World

Agronomist Andrew Daley and grain farmer James Bowman are smiling at the silver beads of rain water dribbling down broad leaves of a new canola crop near Harden.

The gentle patter of rain and soft cries of sheep over the hills beyond burnt stubble paddocks are in sharp contrast to farmers' nervous calls to Mr Daley about whether to risk sowing during a bone-dry autumn.

"I usually sit on my arse in autumn, but I've had every farmer ringing, very indecisive. I just say, 'keep going'," Mr Daley said.  "Ninety per cent of my farmers have put in crops.

"That extra 10 days you get from having it in early in the warmth, it makes a huge difference. Unlike out west, where some crops are not sown in a dry autumn, from about Stockinbingal (near Cootamundra) , the crops go in regardless.

"You are pretty well guaranteed some winter rain. You will get a crop of some sort. If you can't harvest it you get enough to at least cut hay."

James Bowman is one of Mr Daley's clients confident enough to invest in a 450-hectare canola crop, which needs more nitrogen than wheat.

"We've been lucky," Mr Bowman said. "We had five millimetres in a storm. Once the crop came up we knew we'd be right because the tap roots would get into the moisture."

NSW Department of Primary Industries technical specialist Peter Matthews said no useful rain fell throughout most of autumn causing growers to either delay or dry-sow early season crops such as canola.

"This year most growers don't have any subsoil moisture, so moving forward, even if we manage to get the crop in and growing, it is high risk. We are going to be very dependent on rainfall through winter and spring.

"For growers who didn't dry sow, we see a lot of growers shift out of canola, and go for lower-risk crops like wheat and barley."

The Bureau of Meteorology says there is a higher chance of a wetter than normal winter for south-east Australia.

But the bureau won't commit to either a wet La Nina or dry El Nino pattern, saying all atmospheric and oceanic indicators are showing neutral values.

Mr Daley and Mr Bowman believe growers in the Harden district de-risk crops by grazing stock on them and conserving moisture.

Better sowing technology that needs minimal tilling and relying on herbicides to kill competing weeds also helps.

Mr Daley said a new winter variety of canola needed 40 days of below 3degrees temperatures.  "That's all right, we had 50 frosts last year," he said.

Next week Mr Bowman will let out lambs on this canola crop, and expects them to put on 300 grams a day. Stock will feed on the crop until August, then it will be locked up until harvesting when it's chest height in December.



Three current reports below

Many conservative Federal politicians opposed to windfarms

Outspoken Liberal MPs plan to defy publicly the official party line by attending a Tea Party-style anti-wind-farm rally at Parliament House, widening the rift in Coalition ranks over renewable energy targets.

The Canberra rally on June 18 is being promoted through a clandestine group using a website called, which conceals the identity of many of its supporters.

Broadcaster Alan Jones is named on the site as master of ceremonies for the event, which is being touted as the "Wind Power Fraud" rally.

NSW Liberal MPs Craig Kelly and Alby Schultz are among the line-up of speakers, as is West Australian Liberal senator Chris Bach. The Coalition's star candidate to replace the retiring Mr Schultz in the seat of Hume Angus Taylor has also been recruited.

The boldness of the Liberal wind-farm opponents is raising suggestions the Coalition is about to backflip on the renewable energy target, a bipartisan commitment to source a fifth of Australia's power from renewables by 2020.

The shadow environment minister Greg Hunt recently confirmed the party's commitment to the target and chose not to chastise the MPs who had begun speaking out against it.

"The Coalition is aware of the community concerns regarding wind farms," Mr Hunt said. "We have committed to a full medical research into the potential impact if elected. It is important that MPs listen to their communities … there is no change to our support for the 20 per cent target."

During a post-budget interview with Mr Jones, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey would not be drawn on the issue, saying only that he would have to consult with his colleagues.

The rally's organisers are goading Mr Hockey to "come clean" over renewable energy.

Victorian senator John Madigan (Democratic Labor) and independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon will also speak. The pair has co-sponsored of an excessive noise bill in relation to wind farms.

Senator Xenophon said he was invited through Senator Madigan's office and didn't really know who was behind the rally.

"I don't look at all my invitations that closely," he said. "But I am happy to talk at the event and I will say that, while I do believe something should be done about climate change, the economics of wind farms don't stack up and neither do the environmental benefits."

Senator Madigan's office confirmed he was scheduled to address the gathering.

Environmental groups did not wish to comment, but it's understood plans are being considered to stage a Canberra event in support of renewable energy on the same day.


Wildlife guru is a people hater

It figures, I guess.  The USA has 300 million people.  Australia has 22 million.  The USA and Australia are about the same size geographically.  It takes a Greenie to see no room for expansion in Australia's population

ONE of the world’s leading naturalists, Sir David Attenborough, has cautioned Australia against pursuing further population growth, labelling an unlimited expansion a kind of madness.

Speaking to the Sunday Canberra Times ahead of a national tour of Australia in June, Sir David questioned why the country still found itself from time to time actively debating whether it needed to grow its population.

“Why would you want to do that? I don’t understand that. The notion that you could continue to expand and increase and grow in an infinite way on a planet which is finite, is a kind of lunacy. You can see how mad that is by the expression that you can’t believe that you can grow infinitely in a finite place – unless of course you’re an economist.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s population is estimated to grow to between 30.9 million and 42.5 million people by 2056.

The first Sustainable Australia report released earlier this month said the nation’s population was growing at 1.7 per cent, one of the fastest rates in the developed world.

In 2009 former prime minister Kevin Rudd called for a ‘Big Australia’, but his successor Julia Gillard has rejected that notion and called instead for sustainable growth.

Sir David said his tour next month was to discuss highlights of his six decades of nature filmmaking, not to speak out on environmental issues. “I’m not on a proselytising tour. On occasions I speak on these issues where it’s appropriate and where the subject has come up,” he said.

While he did not believe bureaucrats should meddle in a family’s right to have children, he said had China not introduced its controversial one-child policy in 1979 the consequences for the planet would have been catastrophic.

“One thing you can say is that in those places where women are in charge of their bodies, where they have the vote, where they are allowed to dictate what they do and what they want, whether it’s proper medical facilities for birth control, the birth rate falls,” he said.


Solar price rise to end power divide

"Investors" in government promises to lose their dividends.  LOL

AUSTRALIA'S one million rooftop solar households could be forced to pay new fixed charges to help recover billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies and make electricity prices fairer for all consumers.

A series of electricity industry reports has highlighted the inequity in existing power pricing where customers without solar panels are unfairly subsidising those with them.

Queensland Energy Minister Mark McArdle has warned that existing rooftop solar contracts will cost the state more than $2.8 billion over the next 15 years and is preparing a major submission to cabinet within a month recommending more user-pays charges. Electricity tariffs could be changed to include a higher network access charge and lower unit prices per kilowatt hour, a move that would increase the cost for rooftop solar users.

A national meeting of electricity executives in Sydney this week discussed a potential "death spiral" for the industry as high electricity prices force more people off the grid, increasing costs further for those who remained.

Mr McArdle said the number of households with rooftop solar had continued to grow despite a cutback in government subsidies and the gap between the haves and have-nots in electricity widening.

"If one group of consumers enjoys a benefit in excess of the true savings they make, other electricity customers have to pay the price of those excess benefits or lower prices," he said.

"When those doing the paying are likely those least able to afford it, and those enjoying the benefits are those likely to be most able to afford to meet their true costs, then something is truly wrong."

The problem was compounded because power companies were forced to buy high-priced electricity from rooftop solar when there was no demand for electricity from customers.

And baseload power generators were forced to run inefficiently to be ready for when "intermittent" solar power was not available.

Renewable industry lobby groups have rejected calls for a new fixed charge.

Clean Energy Council deputy chief executive Kane Thornton said: "It would be like telling early adopters of email that they need to chip in to pay for stamps."

The Greens said yesterday they would spend $405 million a year on a new federal government agency to cut spending on electricity infrastructure, improve energy efficiency, and set higher prices for renewable energy produced by households which generate solar power.

Leader Christine Milne said the Greens were the only party with innovative ideas to help Australians live a fairer, cheaper and cleaner future.

The cost of the new agency would not include the higher charges paid by electricity companies from rooftop solar under the Greens scheme. An investigation by the Queensland Productivity Commission found that, by 2015-16, most Queenslanders would be paying $276 a year or 17 per cent of their annual power bill to subsidise other residents having solar power on their roofs.

Mr McArdle said this did not include the cost of upgrading the electricity network to cope with widespread power flowing back into the grid.

A report by consultancy ACIL Tasman for the Electricity Supply Association of Australia said solar customers were overcompensated when they generated electricity and used it on site because they were not making a contribution to the cost of providing network services.

There were also issues of equity and fairness, as some customers were unable to install rooftop solar systems because they were renters or lived in an apartment.

Fairness was an issue because one customer's choice to install rooftop solar forced other customers to pay more for network service.

"The distortion could give rise to a 'price spiral' where the rising cost of electricity, driven by the ongoing reallocation of network costs, made solar increasingly attractive to customers," ACIL Tasman said.

The ESAA discussion paper, Who Pays for Solar Energy, said more than one in 10 households were generating electricity from solar panels on their roof.

"Subsidies for solar systems have to be paid for somehow," the paper said.  "Basically, households who don't have solar help pay the power bills of households who do.  "The cost of these transfers from non-solar to solar households now runs to many millions of dollars per year."

Like Queensland, all state governments have cut back their generous feed-in tariff schemes, but are likely to seriously consider the ESAA reports to move towards a fixed network access charge. Solar has posed significant problems for electricity companies in Western Australia and NSW.

The discussion paper said a new way was needed to charge consumers for the cost of the networks to make sure everybody paid their fair share.  "We have to find a more equitable way for charging for electricity that does not unfairly benefit some households because they can afford the latest technology," the discussion paper said. "Electricity consumers should pay their fair share of network costs.

"One way to make the way we pay for electricity more equitable is to change network tariffs so they better reflect underlying costs."

This could include a higher proportion of fixed network charges and a lower percentage based on the amount of electricity consumed.

Mr Thornton said calls for higher fixed charges for households with solar panels were "ridiculous".

"Similar claims that solar drives up bills because network upgrades are required to accommodate the extra electricity fed into the grid are also incorrect," he said.  "All new solar systems in Queensland are required to go through an assessment process with the distribution business to ensure they do not adversely impact on the grid."


1 comment:

Paul said...

I see the "Great Moral Challenge of our Time" is obviously over now.