Friday, January 02, 2015

Liberal Party MP promotes natural gas rather than coal as the future for developing nations

NSW Liberal MP Angus Taylor, who was elected the member for Hume in the 2013 election, says gas is the better way to reduce carbon emissions and supply countries such as China and India with the energy they need to continue their rise.

Mr Taylor, a Rhodes scholar and former partner at McKinsey, told Fairfax Media that the fastest way for the world to reduce carbon emissions while containing energy prices "is to build new natural gas generators, instead of coal generators, in the developing world".

"This is an enormous economic and environmental opportunity for Australia – as a supplier of relatively cheap, secure, lower-emission natural gas," he said.

"The IPCC itself accepts that gas can drive sharp reductions in emissions," he said.

Mr Taylor said Australia's impact on reducing global emissions through encouraging gas-fired power in the developing world would "dwarf any domestic emissions reductions efforts".

Economist Frank Jotzo said Australia is uniquely placed to exploit all changes in global energy demand. "Australia is not just rich in coal, Australia is rich in gas, Australia is rich in uranium, Australia is rich in renewable energy potential," he said.

He said natural gas was an option but not the end game for the developing world.  "Gas is about half the carbon intensity for coal for electricity generation so it can be a useful transition fuel on the way to a low-carbon energy system," he said.

However he said because gas is expensive, developing countries were investing in renewables and also coal.  "India is the standout, where expansion of power generation is happening in coal or solar," he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in December that Australia's natural gas exports increased by nearly 20 per cent last year, making it the third largest exporter of LNG in the world.   But natural gas is Australia's fifth largest export item behind iron ore, coal, gold and education services.

Australian company Origin Energy will begin exports of natural gas to China and Japan in mid-2015.  When both its production plants are fully operational, it will be capable of producing 9 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).

Under existing supply contracts, 7.6 mtpa will be sold to China's Sinopec and 1 mtpa to Japan's Kansai Electric.

A company spokesman said: "Each tonne of emissions produced in Australia as part of LNG production reduces emissions in China by four tonnes when it's used in place of coal to generate electricity."

Recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said any honest conversation about reducing Australia's domestic emissions had to include a debate about nuclear power, describing it as an "obvious direction" for a country blessed with uranium supplies.


Focus of Immigration Department moves from resettlement to enforcement

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton wants to create the "hardest borders possible" for criminals, as he prepares to merge the immigration and customs departments into the Australian Border Force to focus heavily on weaponry and force rather than processing and settlement.

In his first announcement as Immigration Minister this week, Mr Dutton said customs officers would be able to carry guns and personal protection equipment at all Australian airports. The decision, which came into effect on Wednesday, was made to ensure officers could be respond to a number of potential "border-related threats" across an "evolving transnational crime and national security environment".

"The government is committed to ensuring that the future Australian Border Force is as well trained and well equipped as possible, to ensure that the public is protected from the range of new and emerging threats our nation faces at the border," a spokesman for Mr Dutton said.

But the overhaul of the Immigration Department to guard the country's borders, rather than focus on settlement and migration, is causing rifts.

Fairfax Media understands tensions within the department are rising before the two departments merge. More than five senior immigration staff recently left the department after former Customs chief executive Michael Pezzullo was announced as immigration secretary in October.

Former deputy secretary Mark Cormack has since left the department, while another former deputy secretary, Elizabeth Cosson, moved to the Health Fepartment. Dr Wendy Southern, who was deputy secretary of immigration policy and chairwoman of the Irregular migration research advisory group, has also left.

The department confirmed a "small number" of senior executive staff had recently left the department.

"It is common for senior executives in the Australian Public Service to transfer from one agency to another. The senior executives concerned leave the department with the best wishes and full support of the secretary," said a departmental spokesman.

This week, Mr Dutton described the Australian Border Force as "a single frontline operational border agency with statutory responsibilities to enforce our customs and immigration laws".

"Its focus will be getting on with the job of border protection and building a system where criminals are faced with the hardest borders possible, but legitimate traders and travellers are unimpeded by border processes," a spokesman for Mr Dutton said.

And in a sign of the renewed focus of the department, during an Australian Strategic Policy Institute speech on December 4, Mr Pezzullo said as secretary he was charged with "protecting our borders".

"I prefer to see borders in a very different way. I see them as mediating between the imperatives of the global order, with its bias towards the flow of people, goods, capital, data and knowledge, and the inherent territoriality and capacity for exclusion which comes with state sovereignty."


Alan Jones loses lengthy legal battle with Muslim leader Keysar Trad:  Tribunal rules that calling Lebanese men ‘vermin’ and ‘mongrels’ constituted racial vilification

Jonesy was clearly a bit too sweeping. "Some" is a magic word.  He should use it more often

Alan Jones has lost his lengthy legal battle with the Muslim leader Keysar Trad and been ordered to pay him $10,000 plus costs after a tribunal ruled that calling Lebanese men “vermin” and “mongrels” constituted racial vilification.

In a 2005 broadcast on his popular 2GB morning radio program, Jones described Lebanese men as “idiots” who hated “our country and heritage”.

The inflammatory comments went to air when Jones read a letter he said he had received from a listener. The letter, which he also commented on, was in response to a story on Nine’s A Current Affair program the night before about young men taunting police and showing disrespect for the Anzac tradition.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal said in its judgment: “The assertion is made that these men simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that’s taken them in. They are then described in sub-human terms as ‘vermin infest[ing] our shores’.

“These words, which are highly insulting and inflammatory, portray Lebanese men in an extremely negative way, suggesting that they rape and are warlike and violent. The words ‘vermin’ also carry the inference that they are unwanted parasites. Lebanese males are a threat – a ‘national security problem in the making’.”

The tribunal said although Jones claimed to be reading from a listener’s letter he was responsible for the statements that were read out.

“It was Mr Jones who had the ultimate choice as to which letters and emails to read out and who to speak to,” it said. “There is no doubt that Mr Jones endorsed the views of the correspondent.”

The tribunal found that because of Jones’ high profile and status “his opinions are respected and carry significant weight with his listeners”.

An allegation by Trad that the letter was written by Jones himself or a member of his staff was never proven but 2GB’s owner, Harbour Radio, failed to produce evidence the letter existed.

On 19 December the tribunal found Trad’s complaint of racial vilification against Jones and 2GB was substantiated and ordered them to pay the applicant damages of $10,000.

The tribunal also ordered 2GB to undertake a critical review of its 2005 programs and policies on the prevention of racial vilification “with a view to developing and implementing revised programs and policies aimed at eliminating unlawful racial vilification”.

In its judgment, the tribunal rejected Harbour Radio’s assertion that it provided regular training to all presenters and production teams and that in 2004 – before the incident – Jones had attended training which covered the offence of racial vilification.

“This evidence is very general and does not satisfy us that Mr Jones has received professional training in relation to what does and does not amount to racial vilification,” the tribunal found.

Trad’s battle to hold Jones responsible has been a long one with many twists and turns. In 2009 the tribunal found that part of his complaint of racial vilification under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) against Jones and Harbour Radio had been substantiated and ordered they pay him $10,000.

But subsequent legal challenges by Jones and Harbour Radio resulted in the tribunal’s order being set aside and in November 2013 Trad was ordered to repay the $10,000.


Iron ore caps year of decline as Morgan Stanley says worst is over

Iron ore is poised to cap the biggest annual decline in at least five years as surging supplies from the world's biggest producers outstrips demand growth in China, with the raw material dropping for four straight quarters in 2014.     

Ore with 62 per cent content delivered to Qingdao, China, lost 47 per cent this year to $US71.15 a dry tonne on Tuesday, according Metal Bulletin.

The commodity fell to $US66.84 on December 23, the lowest level since June 2009, before rebounding with four daily gains to complete the longest run of advances since July.

This month prices are just 0.2 per cent lower.     

"In terms of price downside, the worst is probably over," said Tom Price, an analyst at Morgan Stanley in London. "The major factor that undercut ore prices in 2014 was the Australian-led supply surge."     

The steel-making ingredient entered a bear market in March as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto expanded low-cost supplies, betting that increased volumes would offset lower prices while forcing less-competitive mines to close.

Concern that China is slowing, with the biggest buyer set for the weakest expansion in almost a quarter century, exacerbated the rout.

Some are less optimistic than Morgan Stanley: The raw material may drop to below $US60 next year, according to Citigroup and Roubini Global Economics.     

The market shifted to a surplus in mid-2014 and that excess will widen to about 300 million tonnes by 2017, Goldman Sachs Group analysts Fawzi Hanano and Eugene King said in a November 6 report.

Producers led by BHP and Rio have embarked on $US120 billion of spending on new mines since 2011, Goldman said.                          

The rout has hurt producers' shares, while hurting government revenues in Australia, the world's largest exporter.

Rio Tinto lost 16 per cent in local trading this year, while BHP tumbled 22 per cent and Fortescue Metals Group sank 53 per cent.     

Australia this month cut its iron ore estimate for next year by 33 per cent, forecasting that prices will average $US63 a tonne, according to the Department of Industry.

That compares with $US94 a ton forecast in September by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, which is now part of the department.     

Iron ore's 47 per cent loss this year compares with the 16 per cent retreat in the Bloomberg Commodity Index.

While the gauge tracks 22 raw material including crude oil, gold and crops, it doesn't include iron ore. The biggest decliner in the index is Brent crude, which dropped 47 per cent in 2014 in the global oil rout.


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