Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'Absolutely ridiculous': Joe Hockey denies Australia is dirtiest greenhouse gas emitter in OECD

Australia is very large (3 million sq. miles)  so it has a large animal population (both wild and domestic) which emits various gases.  The human population is however small (22 million) so blaming all the animal emissions on people and their activities is absurd

Treasurer Joe Hockey has been bombarded with questions on climate change, the economy and Australia's relationship with China during an interview on the BBC World News airing at 2:30pm and 7.30pm on Tuesday.

Hockey has denied that Australia is the highest greenhouse gas emitting country in the OECD per capita, telling a British journalist the statement is "absolutely ridiculous".

He has also refused to explicitly back the democracy movement in Hong Kong, and says Australia's free trade negotiations with China will not be damaged by China's shock move last week to introduce new tariffs on imports of Australian coal.

On his first trip to London since becoming treasurer, Mr Hockey has also told an audience at the Institute of Economic Affairs that Australia's Reserve Bank has only a "limited capacity" to stimulate economic growth and Australia can no longer afford a "she'll be right" approach if it wants to avoid recession or high unemployment.

On the BBC's Hardtalk program recorded overnight, Mr Hockey faced tough questions about Prime Minister Tony Abbott's views on coal, Clive Palmer's recent explosive appearance on the ABC's Q&A during which he called the Chinese government "mongrels who shoot their own people," and Labor leader Bill Shorten's criticism that Australia is now seen as the climate change sceptic capital of the world.

He told BBC host Stephen Sackur that Europeans had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of Australia's economic ties with Asia, particularly China, and the view that Australia had a "massive reliance and dependence" on China for exports was a "complete misread".

He also laughed at the suggestion that Australia was "one of the dirtiest most greenhouse gas-emitting countries in OECD group of developed countries". "The comment you just made is absolutely ridiculous," Mr Hockey told Sackur.

"We've got a small population and very large land mass and we are an exporter of energy, so that measurement is a falsehood in a sense because it does not properly reflect exactly what our economy is," Mr Hockey said.

"Australia is a significant exporter of energy and, in fact, when it comes to coal we produce some of the cleanest coal, if that term can be used, the cleanest coal in the world."

His comments contradict the Garnaut Climate Change Review, which says Australia was the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the OECD, even without exports of energy.

"Australia's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are the highest of any OECD country and are among the highest in the world," the review says.  "Australia's per capita emissions are nearly twice the OECD average and more than four times the world average."

When asked on the BBC program, which will air in full on BBC World News on Tuesday evening, about China's surprise decision last week to introduce 3 per cent and 6 per cent tariffs on coal imports, Mr Hockey said Australia had no political problem with China at the moment.  But he would not say if negotiations with China on a free trade agreement would end if there was no agreement by the end of this year.


Science, industry links positive step forward: Academy

The Australian Academy of Science welcomed the announcement of a new suite of measures to cement the role of science in Australian industry in the government’s competitiveness agenda.

The announcement included the establishment of new industry led “growth centres” to connect researchers and business, funding for new science and maths education programs and the establishment of the Commonwealth Science Council – replacing the Prime Minister’s Science Engineering and Innovation Council. 

The Academy’s Secretary of Science Policy Professor Les Field said the announcement was a positive step forward.

“Anything which aligns science more closely with industry has got to be a big plus, especially when this is an area where Australia traditionally struggles,” he said.

“One of the things that impacts most on the translation of research into industry is that period that called the valley of death, where you've got a great idea but it's not yet at the stage of being able to attract investment. Hopefully these centres could be one way to bridge this gap.”

He said that while investment in industry links and applied research is essential, it should continue to be balanced with pure research programs. 

“With the benefit of hindsight, some of the most significant advances and commercial returns have resulted from fundamental research,” he said.

Professor Field said the Academy looks forward to working with the new Commonwealth Science Council.  “It is encouraging to hear there will be a new body for dialogue between the government, industry and the scientific community,” he said.

“It is particularly good to see the Prime Minister is chairing this important new council himself, joined by scientific and business leaders, many of whom are Academy Fellows.”

Professor Field also welcomed the increased focus on improving science and maths skills.  “Boosting STEM skills will have a significant impact on the competiveness of Australian industry.”

Radio jock slams Woolworths for pulling offensive singlets

2GB radio shock jock Ray Hadley has lashed out at Woolworths for removing from its shelves a singlet that has been described as "racist" and "offensive".  The singlet was emblazoned with an Australian flag and read "If you don't love it, leave".

Hadley said that Woolworths had "caved in" to social media pressure by removing the singlet.

Woolworths announced on Monday that it had withdrawn the "totally unacceptable" singlets.  It claimed the singlets were stocked inadvertently in two stores, one in Sydney and one in Cairns.  Social media users were quick to condemn the singlets when they first appeared.

Hadley leapt to the defence of the singlets on his Morning Show on Tuesday.  "It's very simple; we are inclusive," he said.

"If you're here, if you reside here, if you're an Australian resident, or if  you're an Australian citizen, then you love the joint. It's not racist. Its simply a fact of life, this is the best country in the world. If you don't embrace it you don't deserve to be here."

He went on to say that all Australians should be part of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's "Team Australia".  "My mates say if you don't love it, leave."

It was the second time on Tuesday morning that Hadley had taken umbrage at Woolworths' decision.  On Channel Nine's Today show he took aim at the Greens for promoting the campaign to remove the singlets.

Greens deputy leader, Adam Bandt [an old Trotskyite] , told the Today show the decision was a "victory for social media". "We are a society that operates on a civil law, not an episode of Survivor where you get to say who's next to be kicked off the island."

Hadley was also surprised by the original Twitter post by George Craig and the group of footballers he was travelling with. They were unanimously offended by the singlet.

"I'd love to identify all these footballers who went on a fishing trip to Cairns and stood in the aisle and said: "Oh dear, let's not go fishing or drinking today. Let's stand in Woolies and look at all these T-shirts. Thats just disgraceful, let's put this on social media and start a furore.' "

Woolworths has been at pains to distance itself from the singlet since the controversy began. "The sentiment expressed on the singlet does not reflect the views of Woolworths," a spokesman for the company said.  "As soon as we were made aware, we immediately withdrew the product from our shelves."


Why getting rid of school excursions is a scholastic and social travesty

Do you remember the marvellous feeling of waking up on a school excursion day?  Maybe it was one of the few days of the year that, as a child, you didn’t complain about going to school. Without having to be asked by your parents, your teeth and hair were brushed, shirt tucked in and lunch packed.

If you were organised, you had handed in your permission slip to your teacher weeks before. Even if you were more of a last-minute child, you wouldn’t leave the house without that parental signature and little envelope of grubby cash clutched in your hand.

School excursions ranged from the classic zoo, beach and aquarium trips to the more adventurous: skiing at Jindabyne, hiking through the Blue Mountains or camping in the outback.

There was the typical farm tour in the early primary school years, the gold fields trip in middle primary, and the Year 6 excursion to Parliament House and participation in a mock Parliament debate.

In high school, you may have been lucky enough to venture overseas to hike the Kokoda Trail, volunteer in a Cambodian orphanage or, like I did, spend three terms fundraising to go on a tour to South Korea with the school jazz band.

But while these school trips have, for decades, formed some of the happiest memories for school students, many of today’s teachers are cutting back on excursions due to liability and litigation risks.

Why? Because some teachers dread the threat of being sued by parents, should a child be injured or experience misadventure while on the trip.

The recent major review of Australia’s National Curriculum found that teachers, particularly graduate teachers, had a fear of teaching outside the classroom on field trips. The report linked this to “a lack of organisational skills, and concerns about liability and litigation.”

The fact that litigation around school based student injury has reached a tipping point where teachers are afraid to leave the classrooms, or simply schedule less excursions because of the sheer pile of red-tape required to take children outside, is a sad outcome.

I’m inclined to agree with the warnings present in the report, that education standards could be at risk if kids are bound to their desks. And it’s not only standards I’m worried about.

As a teacher-turned-journalist, I’m aware that excursions, often completed at the culmination of a topic like Insects (Year 1 and 2), British Colonisation (Years 3-6) or Ancient Rome (Year 9 and 10) bring school work done in class “to life” in a way that no amount of teaching time can.

Lists of food rations, corporal punishment and penal colonies are dry and uninspiring until the students dress up in a pinafore, convict or soldier’s uniform and act out scenes from history.

Do I think inexperienced teachers are to blame for their fear of legal action if misadventure strikes on a school excursion? Certainly not.

As I’ve experienced first hand, new teachers have a huge weight of responsibility to ensure duty of care for their students, both in the classroom and outside of school property. However, I believe the onus is on school administration to make certain that experienced teachers are paired with graduate teachers for excursions.

Seasoned teachers are crucial in showing young teachers that despite the mountain of risk-assessments and permission slips that need to be completed before you hop on the bus, excursions are one of the best memories of school a student can have and shouldn’t be dropped.

Let’s not see the decline of the magical bush camp under the stars, the trip to the snow or excursion to the local art or history museum. Let’s give the next generation of children the best memories of school they can possibly have.


1 comment:

Paul said...

American teachers refer to suing schools over racism related issues as entering the Ghetto Lottery.