Thursday, December 31, 2015
Totally empty Warmist thinking
The puff below appeared in The New Daily, which aspires to be a serious newspaper. It was headed "Why Australia is sitting on a clean energy goldmine" and was written by Rob Burgess, their economics commentator and previously a journalist on Left-leaning newspapers.
I looked forward to hearing what particular activity or resource Australia had that would give it the great advantage claimed. Do we have rare earth metals in abundance? Do we make very efficient solar cells? Do we make better wind turbines? I knew in advance that the answers to those question would be No, so what was it that had I not thought of or what was it that did I not know?
I was disappointed entirely. All there is below are conventional prophecies and some very airy generalities that are well known but are in no way explicitly tied to the subject at hand.
Take this sentence:
"The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up".
That is just a pious hope with no evidence or argument offered that it is happening or will happen.
Mr Burgess clearly has nothing to say but says it at length. But Warmist thinking is generally brainless so I don't suppose I should have been surprised
Australia has for a long time become convinced that it ‘got lucky’ via the mining boom, and that the subsequent boost in national income and household wealth could not be generated any other way – a defeatist position that would make industrial nations such as Germany and Japan, or newly-industrialised Malaysia, cringe.
That’s because their growth stories are not put down to ‘luck’ but to successful deployment of financial capital, innovation, development of human capital, and transparent and stable systems of governance.
Australia’s new comparative advantage, then, will be found in acknowledging how far along the non-luck path we are.
Despite pockets of deprivation, Australia is still one of the wealthiest nations in the world and its people rank second only to the Norwegians on the United Nation’s human development index.
The USA is eighth, the UK 14th and Japan 20th, by way of comparison.
Our rule of law, and stable and well-regulated financial markets, make Australia an excellent place to invest, meaning financing our renewable energy future will be easier and cheaper than for developing nations.
And to those advantages – strong human capital and attractiveness to investors – can be added a growing recognition that services exports will form a large part of our future economic growth.
The expertise we develop in energy efficiency, renewable technologies, power grid management and transport networks can be exported to nations trying to catch up.
Oh, and there’s a bit of luck too – we have excellent natural resources to develop in renewable energy areas such as solar, wind, wave, biomass and biofuels. We also have huge scope to offset future carbon emissions via carbon forestry.
In short, Australia is sitting on a carbon-free goldmine. We are smart enough, wealthy enough, export-oriented enough, well governed enough and blessed enough in natural resources to be ahead of the curve in the transition to clean energy.
The five-year challenge
At the heart of the Paris agreement is a five-yearly ‘stocktake’ of how each nation is doing with meeting its self-nominated targets.
Australia took a very modest target to Paris at the end of November, but it will now face five-yearly check-ups to see if, firstly, it has met the target, and, secondly, whether it will offer a stronger target for the next five years.
As the US, China and others strengthen their targets, they will not idly disregard laggard nations – the threat of trade measures such as ‘border tax adjustments‘, are the means by which ‘non-binding’ pledges will, in effect, be made binding.
Also, as with all 195 nations who have signed up to the Paris agreement, Australia is committed to globally binding transparency measures – that is, we can’t fake our carbon emissions.
But why would we?
The tide of history is running, strongly. The arguments put forward by the fossil-fuel lobby, the Abbott government, and a few King Canute-like backers in the media, have been lost.
Yes, Australia has among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, and the highest carbon-intensity per unit of GDP. So we have more work to do than comparable nations to keep up with the post-COP21 pack.
But the point that must not be missed is that those reductions will be easier here than just about anywhere.
It is our new comparative advantage.
And though it’s based partly on luck, to capitalise on it we will need world-beating innovation, business acumen, policy responses and, most importantly, a voting public given the full facts of where the tide of history is flowing, rather than the unworthy fear campaigns of the past few years.
Australian uranium in demand as China goes full steam for nuclear
Despite reactor closures in Europe and the US, the global outlook for uranium looks bright, with Asia's burgeoning nuclear energy industry fuelling demand for the radioactive metal.
Australia's uranium market is also set for a bright future, with a strong possibility of new mines opening in Western Australia provided global demand strengthens as forecast.
And, as with so many of the world's minerals, Chinese demand is a key driver.
A recent commodities research note from Macquarie Bank called uranium the "best mined commodity of 2015".
After a collapse in generation following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, "nuclear power has been making a quiet comeback," said Macquarie. "We have now seen more than two years of consistent year-on-year growth. Total output this year is set to be the strongest since 2011."
China, India, Korea and Russia were the engines of growth in the industry, said Macquarie, expected to contribute 70 per cent of new reactors by 2030. Furthermore, Japanese reactors were returning to the fleet, with 20 Japanese reactors back online by 2020.
However, cheap gas and coal, the rise of politically-friendly renewable energy and the costly need to extend the life of reactors had hit the industry in the West, the paper said.
In the US five reactors had closed since 2012, "with potentially as many to follow"; Germany will phase out all reactors by the early 2020s; while Sweden will cut back its reactor fleet by 40 per cent.
New capacity in Asia
However, said Macquarie, "the combined size of these reductions is less than half of the scheduled new capacity additions" in Asia. Widespread closures in the US, despite record-low energy prices, were "unlikely": US nuclear energy use was its highest since 2009, nuclear power was still cheaper than fossil fuel, and the focus on reducing coal usage meant uranium had become a relatively more popular source of baseload power generation.
"We still see nuclear power as a growth industry," said Macquarie. "We still expect solid demand growth on a five-year view."
The paper singled out China's "staggering" stockpiling. In 2016, the Chinese will have the equivalent of nine years of projected 2020 consumption in inventory. "China's annual uranium requirement is likely to grow by more than the rest of the world's combined requirement over the next five years."
China has 26 nuclear reactors in operation and 25 under construction. But long-term plans call for 92 reactors operating by 2025 and 129 by 2020.
In 2015, China approved new reactors for the first time since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2009, with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation receiving the go-ahead for two gigawatt reactors.
China was "the only part of the world that's really increasing reactor capacity by any large margin", said Mining and Metals Senior Associate at Citi, Matthew Schembri.
But Chinese demand for the radioactive metal far outstripped supply. China only produced 1450 tonnes of uranium in 2015, far less than its 8160-tonne consumption rate.
Consequently, the Chinese were trying to create "uranium independence," said Mr Schembri, not only by producing more but also by stockpiling and buying equity shares in foreign projects.
"They're aiming for one-third to be domestically produced, one-third from foreign equity ownership in foreign mines, and one-third to be imports," said Mr Schembri.
But the world was not likely to face a shortage of uranium despite the uptick in demand, he said.
"It is going to be an important power source in the future and the most recent Chinese five-year plan has said that, but even so, the world has enough uranium that's it's not going to create a particularly tight market."
Uranium has fallen from around $US152 per pound in 2007 to well under $US60 since the global financial crisis, with a low just above $US28 in May 2014. This year, it peaked around $US40 in March. It is currently trading at $US35.35, which is just off the year's lows.
Mr Schembri said that the price would return to $US40, rising to $US50 in the longer term. At these price levels, existing mines would remain viable and new ones would open, he said.
Macquarie agreed, stating that "almost all mine output is cash-positive at current price levels".
Mr Schembri added that the recent Paris Climate Summit – which pledged to restrict global warming to "well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels", a goal that is expected to increase demand for nuclear power as countries shift away from carbon-dioxide-producing coal power – had had no effect on the uranium market or prices.
Australia, which produces 11 per cent of the world's uranium and is the world's third-largest producer after Canada and Kazakhstan, currently has three operating uranium mines: Ranger in the Northern Territory, Olympic Dam (the world's largest uranium deposit) in South Australia and Four Mile in South Australia. Australian-listed uranium miners and explorers include Energy Resources of Australia, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Paladin Energy, and Mintails.
There are a numerous proposals for new Australian mines, including four well-advanced proposals in Western Australia alone: Lake Way (Wiluna), which Toro Energy hopes to mine; Yeelirrie and Kintyre, which Canadian uranium miner Cameco wishes to develop; and Mulga Rock, which Vimy Resources has an interest in.
However, the new mines – which could create up to 1300 long-term jobs and be worth $1 billion a year to Western Australia by 2020 – have still not been formally approved and are dependent on the uranium price improving as forecast.
They are also the subject of fierce opposition from environmental groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation, while the Western Australia's ALP opposition opposes uranium mining and export. The next Western Australian election is in March 2017.
Leftist academics think the Jihadis are good guys
Bloodshed has never bothered Leftists
ASIO head Duncan Lewis ‘merely reflected a widespread view that criticism of Islam by a non-Muslim will only provoke Muslim rage and provide more recruits to Islamic State’.
Academic theoreticians are to blame for Australia being in a position where ASIO head Duncan Lewis, “an unelected securocrat”, tells democratically elected MPs that “silence is the price they have to pay for an uneasy civil peace”.
David Martin Jones, a former associate professor at Queensland University who is visiting professor at the War Studies department at London University’s King’s College, told The Australian that, from a widespread academic perspective, “the market and the West perpetuate the real global violence, not terrorists, who merely resist the capitalist behemoth”.
He said that “in asking MPs and, by extension, the wider political community to refrain from commenting on the connection between Islam and political violence, Duncan Lewis merely reflected a widespread view that criticism of Islam by a non-Muslim will only provoke Muslim rage and provide more recruits to Islamic State”.
Since the terror attacks on the US in 2001, “liberal political elites, academe and state broadcasters have consistently denied any connection between religion, in its Islamist form, and religiously inspired violence”.
He said that after the London bombings on July 7, 2005, and the more recent Paris attacks, “a predictable chorus of academic experts have appeared in the media to claim the latest outrage has nothing to do with religion”.
“Well might they,” he said. “For the past decade, grants and chairs in terror or peace and conflict studies have been dedicated to showing modern terrorism has no Islamic association.” Even if some Islamic connection was conceded, he said, this was viewed as part of a wider, anti-capitalist “resistance” by the rest to the West.
The past decade, said Professor Jones, had witnessed a proliferation of peer-reviewed academic journals that reinforced this “resistance” message. These included, he said, Critical Studies on Terrorism and Critical Security Studies. “Tracing this critical posture reveals how deeply imbued contemporary academe has become with anti-western self loathing”. Such journals explained, for example, that “the rhetoric of freedom and the democratic way of life it upholds inflames the Muslim community”.
Professor Jones said that “the antidote they suggest is not to condemn, but to enter into ‘force-free dialogue’ with the forces of resistance”. Thus, he said, this academically fashionable critical theory shared an elective affinity with “the resistance”.
Reading Islamism as a form of revolutionary Marxism with a religious facade, he said, “enables the Western theorist to present the Islamist in more attractive academic garb as a fellow critic ‘representing a distinctive combination of Islamic and enlightenment thought’ ”.
Not surprisingly, he said, Islamism’s most effective online journals embraced this unmasking of the “true” sources of terrorism. “They also consider the war on terror ‘a narrative’ and a distorted Western ‘construct’ that Islamism ‘deconstructs’, and accept that orientalism and colonialism are the real causes of their ‘radical’ reaction,” he said.
Professor Jones said that “ultimately, to empathise with Islamism and provide it with a justification for its hyper-megalomaniacal violence was delusional”.
“Such a delusion, ironically, depends on the liberal pluralist tolerance that both Islamic State and critical theory otherwise abhor,” he said. The result was “a curious disjuncture between what Islamists say and have said for a while, and what the critical theorist and now ASIO say they mean — and what Islamists actually do.”
Malcolm Turnbull fixes Liberals' `women problem': Newspoll
Female voters have returned to the Coalition since the rise of Malcolm Turnbull, erasing Tony Abbott's so-called women problem in the polls.
Support for the government among women has jumped seven points to 44 per cent since the change of Prime Minister, according to an analysis of Newspoll surveys conducted exclusively for The Australian between October and December.
It is the first time in two years that more than 40 per cent of female voters have supported the Coalition and comes as Labor's standing with women fell four points to 34 per cent, to be at the lowest level since Bill Shorten became Opposition Leader.
While women had ranked Mr Shorten as the better prime minister over Mr Abbott by 39 per cent to 34 per cent, that support has been wiped out, with female voters in the December quarter preferring Mr Turnbull over Mr Shorten by 58 per cent to 16 per cent.
The analysis, based on Newspoll surveys of 8013 people, also reveals that Mr Turnbull leads Mr Shorten as voters' preferred prime minister in every age demographic, with his support the strongest in those aged over 50.
It also shows that the Coalition leads Labor in the age demographics with the exception of voters aged 18-34, where the two major parties are tied at 38 per cent support. Among voters aged over 50, more than one in two now back the Coalition.
The Newspoll analysis reveals satisfaction with Mr -Shorten's performance among women has hit the lowest level for an opposition leader in the 20-year history of Newspoll and is at a 12-year low among men.
Male voters overwhelmingly prefer Mr Turnbull as prime minister over Mr Shorten by 64 per cent to 17 per cent and are the most satisfied with his performance during his first 100 days.
Among men, support for the Coalition hit 46 per cent in the December quarter, up five points to be at the highest level since the 2013 election. Labor's standing with men dropped five points to a two-year low of 33 per cent.
Mr Shorten's support as -preferred prime minister among both men and women has more than halved and is at the lowest level since former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson fell to 14 per cent as preferred prime minister among both sexes in September 2008. It is the equal worst result for a Labor leader with Simon Crean's low in 2003.
Mr Turnbull's satisfaction rating among men and women is at a six-year high for any prime minister, giving him the highest ratings since Kevin Rudd in late 2009.
The analysis shows 58 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women were satisfied with Mr Turnbull's performance while 25 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women were dissatisfied.
Mr Turnbull's net satisfaction rating - the difference between those who were satisfied and those who were dissatisfied - is 33 points among men and 29 points among women.
Satisfaction with Mr Shorten's performance among men was at a 12-year low of 27 per cent while among women it was the lowest level in the 20-year -Newspoll time series of 25 per cent.
Sixty-one per cent of men and 54 per cent of women were dissatisfied with Mr Shorten's performance. The Labor leader's net satisfaction was minus 34 points among men and minus 29 points among women.
The analysis shows more than half of voters aged over 50 support the Coalition - the strongest level of support for the government across any demographic. The government's primary vote in this group is 52 per cent, up seven points, compared with Labor's 31 per cent, down six points. Voters aged 35 to 49 back the Coalition by 42 per cent to Labor's 35 per cent while among voters aged under 34 support for the major parties was tied at 38 per cent.
Older voters were the biggest direct supporters of Mr Turnbull ranking him ahead of Mr Shorten as the preferred prime minister by 65 per cent to 15 per cent - a 50-point lead.
Voters aged 35-49 favoured Mr Turnbull by 58 to 18 per cent while among those aged 18-34 his lead was 57 to 19 per cent.
Across all age groups more than half were satisfied with Mr Turnbull's performance.
Voters aged over 50 were the least satisfied with Mr Shorten and the 23 per cent rating was his lowest across all -demographics in the December quarter.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Union `corruption and thuggery' to be laid bare in controversial commissioner Dyson Heydon's report
THUGGERY and corruption within elements of the CFMEU is expected to be laid bare tomorrow by a royal commission that looks set to recommend laws be strengthened and key officials slapped with criminal charges.
Commissioner Dyson Heydon's, lengthy, final report into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was obtained by the Turnbull Government yesterday, and was expected to reveal serious failings, criminal activity and intimidation.
The report, which will be given to the states today and released by the Government on Wednesday, could include recommendations on union donation and governance reforms, forcing new levels of transparency for the first time.
It is anticipated Commissioner Heydon will also recommend stronger penalties or strengthened laws for unions that engage in secondary boycotts, whereby some unions refuse to do business or perform services for a firm that is engaging with a company with which it is in dispute.
Senior Government ministers have told The Courier-Mail that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would be unwise to describe the royal commission as a witch hunt because of separate judgment by Justice Chris Jessup this month.
On December 2, the CFMEU and its Victorian/Tasmanian branch president were penalised $245,000 in the Federal Court for trying to coerce a Melbourne-based scaffolding company to hire a CFMEU shop steward.
During the penalty hearing, Justice Jessup questioned, "Has there ever been a worse recidivist (CFMEU) in the history of the common law?''
A government hospital system with three times more bureaucrats than doctors
A review of South Australia's hospital system needs to examine the number of bureaucrats after documents show administrators outnumber doctors, Family First MP Robert Brokenshire has said.
Mr Brokenshire called for an independent review after obtaining the data under Freedom of Information which showed administrators now outnumbered doctors by three to one.
The number of administrators has jumped by more than 1,600 to 13,477 in the past 10 years compared to the number of salaried doctors which rose to 3,897.
The documents also showed the number of executives increased to 113 from 84 - 10 years ago.
Mr Brokenshire said the disparity needed to be examined. "So I'm calling for an independent audit to actually have a look at and put a public report out to say whether or not, all these bureaucratic positions are required at a time when we have unprecedented pressures in our hospitals that our doctors and nurses are trying to cope with," he said.
SA Health said since 2010 there had been a more than 10 per cent reduction in executives working in SA Health and that in May it announced cuts to 25 executive roles and 425 staff from head office.
"South Australia has more doctors and nurses per capita than the national Australian average and there are only two other states that have a lower ratio of administrative and clerical staff per capita than South Australia," the statement read.
"The vast majority of SA Health staff are based on the frontline in local health networks or in roles directly supporting frontline staff."
Chemists squealing at a threat to their profits
HUNDREDS of thousands of consumers could miss out on a $1 per script medicine discount from New Year's Day as a war erupts in the pharmacy profession.
From January 1, chemists will be allowed for the first time to discount the price the patient pays for prescription medicines subsidised by the government.
The price a pensioner pays for prescriptions will rise to $6.20 in line with inflation in January 1 but chemists will be able to sell the medicine for just $5.20 per script.
The price of a subsidised script will rise to $38.30 for general consumers but chemists will be able to sell them the medicine for just $37.30.
In the past government rules have prevented pharmacists discounting the patient copayment that applied to subsidised prescription medicine. But that changed under a new five year pharmacy agreement signed earlier this year, aimed at increasing competition in the industry.
Mega discount chain Chemist Warehouse has already pledged to pass on the discount to all its customers from January 1.
But the Pharmacy Guild of Australia which represents 3,000 of the nation's pharmacy owners is opposed to the discount.
This is because chemists who pass on the discount will lose the money. "We have a clear position: we oppose it." Pharmacy Guild President George Tambassis told a conference in September.
He said pharmacies that were advertising they would pass on cheaper scripts were doing "the wrong thing". "That's the trouble with this profession, there is always one or two who will do the wrong thing," Mr Tambassis said.
The measure will save the government $373 million over four years because when patients spend less on their medicines it takes them longer to reach the PBS safety net.
When they reach the safety net medicines become free for pensioners and the price drops to $6.10 for general patients.
The Pharmacy Guild says concessional patients who choose to receive a full $1 discount will need to fill an additional 11 prescriptions during the year to reach their Safety Net and access free medicines.
They will reach their Safety Net later in the year and be on the Safety Net for a shorter length of time the Guild says in a newsletter on its website.
However, even though patients will take longer to reach the safety net they won't be worse off because their medicines will be cheaper all year round if they use a chemist that passes on the discount.
"Already, we have seen one large pharmacy discounter spruiking the $1 discount in the public arena without mentioning its Safety Net impact on concessional patients," a spokesman for the Guild Greg Turnbull says in the Guild's Forefront newsletter.
"This has the potential for patients to think they are benefiting when they are actually no better off over a 12 month period," he says.
Consumers who want the discount should shop around to find a chemist who is passing it on.
Indonesia vows new age with better ties with Australia
Australia and Indonesia are poised for significantly closer military, security and economic ties as Jakarta's ambassador to Canberra drew a line under two years of tension by declaring the critical relationship to be back on track.
Nadjib Riphat Kesoema told The Australian that Malcolm Turnbull's visit to Jakarta last month for talks with President Joko Widodo created an atmosphere of hope and optimism in the relationship between the two nations. "In just a few hours the two leaders built a very good relationship," Mr Nadjib said. "It is full of expectations for the future."
The leaders' meeting was a landmark in the relationship -between the nations, he said.
Mr Nadjib was recalled from Canberra in late 2013 for several months after it was revealed an Australian agency had in the past spied on then president -Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his family. Tony Abbott, who was prime minister at the time of the revelations, did not explain nor apologise.
In August, the ambassador used an essay published in The Australian to call for an intensification of relationship-building and for both sides to put aside "megaphone diplomacy". Mr Nadjib's essay came as Jakarta and Canberra tried to reset the relationship after the tensions over the spying allegations, people smuggling, policies to stop asylum-seekers boats and then the execution of drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
In September, Mr Turnbull replaced Mr Abbott as prime minister.
The Turnbull-Joko meeting that followed in Jakarta was "a special juncture" that set that course to a future together, Mr Nadjib said. "It was not just dry policy," he added.
Leaders could impose their personalities on international -relationships and Mr Turnbull's individual style gave special -colour and atmosphere to that linking Australia and Indonesia, Mr Nadjib said. "With the style of the Prime Minister and his relationship with my President, it's No 1 - it's very important for us," he said.
Mr Nadjib said the two leaders set the scene for a much closer -relationship at all levels, "economy to economy, people to -people, security to security and military to military".
Subsequent meetings of ministers responsible for foreign -affairs, defence and national -security in Sydney and Jakarta had built on that relationship, bringing the broad strategic agreements into practical action.
People smuggling was still an issue for both countries with about 13,000 asylum-seekers in Indonesia who did not want to stay there. "They want to go maybe to Australia or to somewhere else," Mr Nadjib said. There would be more talks under the Bali process next year, he said, and they would be -co-hosted by Australia.
Mr Nadjib said Mr Joko had stressed to Mr Turnbull that -Indonesia practised Islam in a very moderate and tolerant way. "Tolerant Islam is very compatible with democracy," Mr Nadjib said. "That's why we have developed an atmosphere of tolerance in Indonesia and we try to bring all people, whatever religion they have, together in a dialogue."
Both nations were victims of radicalisation and extremism and the exchange of intelligence to deal with terrorism was very -important, he said.
Mr Nadjib said Indonesia had a very strong relationship with China, especially through economic links, but it shared with -Australia concerns about developments in the South China Sea.
Indonesia's foreign policy was "free and active", and did not stop Jakarta having a close relationship with Beijing and Canberra.
"These are international sea lanes," he said. "We hope that everybody is restrained in their actions. Like Australia, we are not claimants but we want a peaceful South China Sea. We are friends with everybody."
Mr Nadjib said Australia and Indonesia already had very good economic relations and he would like to see that develop to benefit the people of both countries. Indonesia wanted to increase its exports to Australia, especially manufactured goods, agricultural produce and tropical fruit and palm oil. "We would like to export more machinery to Australia," he said.
Indonesia could also benefit from Australia's advanced defence industry. "We can learn a lot from you," he said. "And you have modern defence equipment. We would like very much to have the opportunity to exchange experience and we send our officers to your military training schools here."
Australian officers could learn, too, from the grassroots style of the Indonesian military, Mr -Nadjib said. "They are born from the people itself to defend the freedom of the country," he said.
Despite being very close geographically, there were major cultural and other differences between Indonesia and Australia and misunderstandings could arise if there were not sufficient dialogue. "We have to have good interaction, to put aside all the misunderstandings that we have," Mr Nadjib said.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Australia backs multiculturalism despite extremist threats
The article below relies a lot on a report from the Scanlon Foundation, a do-gooder outfit, so may not be entirely trustworthy. In particular, the question asked to assess attitude to immigrants was pretty dumb: "Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger". The obvious response is "Which countries?". Syria, Iran, Iraq? I personally would agree that immigration from East Asia and the various countries of Europe has been beneficial but I can see no similar benefit of immigration from fanatically Muslim lands or from crime-riddled African lands. I very much doubt that I am alone in that. All immigrants are not the same, hard to acknowledge though that may be to the Left
I also note that the survey was done the lazy way -- over the telephone. Such surveys are widely used but can be wildly inaccurate. In my own survey research I usually trudged from door to door to ask my questions. I believe I may be the only academic who has ever done so. Academics much prefer armchairs to dusty shoes. So again, I rather doubt the results. They could well be much too high
It is however true that Australians tend to be a relaxed and easy-going people so they may well be more accepting of immigrants than some others
Australia has had three terrorist attacks over the past year and this month former prime minister Tony Abbott preached to the Muslim world that it must become “enlightened”. Yet the country sticks out from others fighting Islamist extremism as most of its population strongly support multiculturalism and legal immigration.
Neil El-Kadomi, Parramatta Mosque chairman, says the local non-Muslim community have largely remained supportive. A recent protest by far-right group Reclaim Australia outside the mosque drew just a handful of protesters. “It shows just what a small minority this is,” he says. “We have integrated well into the community.”
A recent survey by the Scanlon Foundation shows 86 per cent of people say multiculturalism has been “good for Australia”, while 67 per cent say immigration has “made the country stronger” — the highest level recorded since the survey was introduced in 2007.
[That's a barefaced lie. According to Table 9 in the Scanlon report, it was higher in 2009 and 2014. Pesky of me to look up the original figures, isn't it? I have always found that fun]
“This is the reverse of the trend you see in Europe now, where the National Front and Ukip are gaining sizeable support,” says Andrew Markus, a professor at Monash University in Victoria.
It is not hard to see why Australia is more accepting of different cultures. A quarter of the country’s 23m population were born overseas, which makes it one of the world’s most multicultural nations, with more than double the proportion of immigrants than either the UK or Germany.
“Australians accept they are a new country made up of immigrants, whereas Europe with its older cultures does not,” says Prof Markus.
He says in Europe multiculturalism has been interpreted by political leaders as immigrant groups retaining their own cultures and rejecting integration. In Australia it is now understood to mean respect for different cultures while integrating into mainstream society, says Prof Markus.
It was not always this way. Australia introduced its “White Australia” policy at the turn of the 20th century to deter an increasing flow of migrants from Asia. This policy was gradually dismantled following the second world war, and in 1975 the government under Gough Whitlam passed the race discrimination act, which outlawed racially based selection for migrants.
chart: foreign-born population
Since then there has been sporadic racial unrest such as the 2005 Cronulla riots, when clashes broke out between members of the Middle Eastern community and white Australians. More recently, the far-right group Reclaim Australia has held demonstrations to campaign against what it dubs “Islam’s radicals”. But there is little sign of any far-right political party gaining the type of electoral support that would give it real influence.
Australia’s tight control of its borders and its role as colony rather than a colonial power are two underlying reasons why support for immigration remains high, according to some experts.
Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s racial discrimination commissioner, says the country benefits from being an island continent that has a planned intake of migrants, most of whom are skilled.
“You don’t have the problem here of migrants and their descendants feeling estranged from the country,” he says.
Australia’s strong economy, which has grown for 24 consecutive years, is another positive factor. Unemployment remains low at less than 6 per cent and there are fewer of the immigrant ghettos that blight parts of France and the UK.
“We don’t have the level of structural disadvantage attached to ethnicity that you see in some other countries,” says Kevin Dunn, professor of human geography and urban studies at Western Sydney University .
But he warns this positive picture of a multicultural life in Australia cannot be taken for granted. Muslims experience discrimination at about three times the rate of other Australians, according to a recent study Prof Dunn oversaw, and people are emboldened to perform racist actions due to terrorist events and divisive media and political commentary.
“It is the political environment that determines whether racism flourishes,” says Prof Dunn. “This is the biggest risk to multiculturalism.”
Shorten in a parlous state as Turnbull turns Victoria against Labor
Bill Shorten enters an election year with Labor’s standing in his home state of Victoria at a four-year low after the biggest collapse of support in any state for the ALP since the rise of Malcolm Turnbull to the prime ministership.
Mr Turnbull has lifted the Coalition’s primary vote across all states, with his strongest gains in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland, according to an analysis of Newspoll surveys conducted exclusively for The Australian between October and this month.
Victoria had been Labor’s strongest state when Tony Abbott was in power, but since the change to Mr Turnbull in September it has become the opposition’s weakest.
The plunge suggests Labor-held marginal seats of McEwen and Bendigo, as well as Chisholm and Bruce where long-time MPs are retiring, are at risk.
The analysis, based on Newspoll surveys of 8013 people across the nation, also reveals Mr Shorten’s satisfaction rating in his home state has crashed 14 points since this time last year to 25 per cent, the lowest for any federal opposition leader in Victoria in 12 years. In South Australia, Mr Shorten’s satisfaction has slumped to a record low of 24 per cent.
Mr Turnbull, who ousted Mr Abbott in a partyroom challenge just over 100 days ago, has in some cases doubled the voter satisfaction levels for his predecessor and reversed the government’s fortunes to give it a two-party-preferred lead in every state, except South Australia. The change has been most dramatic in Victoria, where Labor’s primary vote has dived eight points to a four-year low of 33 per cent. It is the second worst result for the ALP in Victoria since the Newspoll time series began in 1996.
Labor’s primary vote has fallen below 40 per cent in every state.
In Queensland it fell five points to 35 per cent, in WA it dropped four points to 35 per cent, in SA it eased three points to 36 per cent and in NSW it lost two points to 34 per cent.
In contrast, the Coalition’s core support surged nine points to 48 per cent in WA, its strongest state. It jumped eight points to 44 per cent in Victoria, gained six points to 45 per cent in Queensland, lifted four points to 46 per cent in NSW and rose two points to 38 per cent in SA, the only state where it was not above 40 per cent.
In capital cities, the Coalition’s vote has jumped seven points to reach 45 per cent for the first time since before the last election while its primary vote in rural and regional areas was up four points to also be at 45 per cent.
The Greens’ strongest state is leader Richard Di Natale’s home of Victoria, where it has 15 per cent of the vote, but there was a surprise four-point tumble to 9 per cent in WA where the Greens had been polling well in previous quarters.
Based on preference flows from the 2013 election, the 57 per cent-43 per cent two-party-preferred lead enjoyed by Labor in Victoria in the September quarter has vanished in a 16-point turnaround, and the Coalition is now ahead by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, the first time it has been in front in Victoria since September 2011.
Western Australia is once again the Coalition’s strongest state, recovering from 14-year lows in the March quarter, with a 16-point turnaround in the December quarter to lead Labor by 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
In NSW, which has the most seats and had been the Coalition’s strongest state under Mr Abbott, the switch delivered an eight-point change to give the government a 53 per cent-47 per cent lead. A 10-point turnaround in Queensland sees the Coalition in front by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
In SA, the turnaround was four points but Labor still holds a 52 per cent to 48 per cent lead, based on weak support for the Coalition and more than one-quarter of primary votes going to the Greens or others, which reflects high support for independent senator Nick Xenophon.
In all states, Mr Turnbull is ranked as the preferred prime minister by a margin of at least 43 points, and in Queensland he is 47 points in front of Mr Shorten.
Again, the most dramatic change occurred in Victoria. Mr Shorten had been ahead of Mr Abbott by nine points in the September quarter, but Mr Turnbull now leads him by 43 points — a 52-point turnaround.
Mr Turnbull was ranked voters’ preferred prime minister by at least 60 per cent of voters in every state, with Queensland the highest at 63 per cent.
Mr Shorten, who fell to a national low of 14 per cent in the final Newspoll early this month, averaged 16 per cent or 17 per cent in every state over the December quarter, including a drop from 43 per cent to 17 per cent in his home state.
It is the worst rating in the 20-year Newspoll history for a Labor leader on the preferred prime minister measure in Victoria, lower than the 18 per cent for Simon Crean in 2003, but it is still higher than Liberal opposition leaders Brendan Nelson, who fell to 9 per cent in Victoria in March 2008, and Mr Turnbull, who hit a low of 15 per cent in Victoria in November 2009 in the month he was replaced as opposition leader.
Despite being from NSW and not seen as popular in Victoria, which became his worst state, Mr Abbott’s lowest rating as preferred prime minister in Victoria was 26 per cent as opposition leader and it never fell below 30 per cent when he was prime minister.
The December quarter Newspoll figures show satisfaction with Mr Turnbull’s performance in his first 100 days as Prime Minister was above 50 per cent in every state and hit 60 per cent in WA.
Dissatisfaction ranged between 21 per cent in WA and 26 per cent in NSW. His net satisfaction rating — the difference between those who are satisfied and those who are dissatisfied — ranged from 28 points in NSW to 39 per cent in WA.
Mr Shorten’s net satisfaction rating was almost the reverse, ranging from minus 26 points in WA and minus 35 points in Queensland. The Opposition Leader’s satisfaction rating was below 30 per cent in every state.
ALP’s 11th-hour union bid over royal commission report
Bill Shorten has tried to pre-empt the findings of a damning report into trade union corruption by appealing directly to Malcolm Turnbull to accept a series of Labor measures, including an overhaul of political donations rules.
The Opposition Leader has used a letter, sent to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, to try to ensure Labor is not trapped in a crucial election year by the findings of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which will hand the government more ammunition to push for union reform after a series of scandals.
The royal commission is due to hand its final report to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove today and the government is expected to release the document as early as tomorrow, with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash canvassing toughening-up the Coalition’s proposed union governance laws as a potential response.
Senator Cash also identified the militant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union as one of the targets of any government response. “I believe that all Australians would want to see in place laws that ensure greater transparency and accountability for registered organisations — whether they be employer or employee representative bodies,” the minister told The Australian.
“The construction industry has been repeatedly identified as one with endemic problems of lawlessness.
“When repeat offending by the construction division of the CFMEU gets so bad that the Federal Court has to ask whether there has ‘ever been a worse recidivist in the history of the common law’, there is clearly a problem in the industry and this division of the CFMEU.”
The royal commission’s findings were to be a central plank in the re-election strategy of Tony Abbott and his successor, Mr Turnbull, is standing by royal commissioner Dyson Heydon amid an attack on Mr Heydon’s integrity led by Labor and the union movement.
Mr Shorten’s letter urges Mr Turnbull to consider a series of Labor measures to improve union governance, as well as linking the issue to a reduction in the political donation disclosure threshold from $13,000 to $1000 for individuals, companies and unions.
The opposition has attacked the government’s legislation to clean up the union movement as too onerous, saying it was unfair to bring penalties for union volunteers into line with those applying to highly paid company directors.
Mr Shorten has urged Mr Turnbull to engage with Labor on the issue in an attempt to negotiate a breakthrough to the political impasse, saying the “flagrant misuse of union members’ money by a small number of union officials” was unacceptable.
“Unlike the government’s Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Bill, Labor’s new proposals do not place more onerous obligations on volunteers involved in unions and employer organisations,” he said.
After taking over the top job in September, Mr Turnbull engineered a breakthrough to the political impasse over the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement in response to Labor calls for more serious engagement with its concerns.
Correspondence with the Shorten letter also shows opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor opening the door to talks with Senator Cash about a possible way forward before the resumption of parliament next year.
“Labor’s proposal strips the politics from the problem, and is a genuine attempt to strengthen unions through better union governance,” Mr O’Connor said.
However, the appeal was quickly dismissed by Senator Cash as an “11th-hour attempt to try and hoodwink the Australian public”, after Labor voted three times against legislation to improve union transparency. “Mr Shorten has been the ALP leader for two years and during that time, despite overwhelming evidence of systemic corruption in certain unions, he has pretended there was not a problem,” Senator Cash said.
“The ALP under his leadership has voted against the Government’s Registered Organisations Bill to clean up union governance on three separate occasions.”
UK schools snapping up NSW teaching graduates
Few Brits want to teach in British "Comprehensives" because they know how bad they are. Student indiscipline and lots of red tape are not attractive to anybody who actually wants to teach
Shahrzad Amjadi only had to wait a matter of days between finishing her final teaching placement and being offered a full-time job in a school.
But her success is virtually unheard of and the University of Notre Dame teaching graduate has had to move 17,000 kilometres for the position or face competing with 44,000 others who are waiting for a permanent teaching position with the NSW Department of Education.
The newly trained primary school teacher will start next month at Heathrow Primary School, a government school west of London.
Unlike Australia, which has a worsening oversupply of teachers, Britain is struggling to meet demand and figures suggest that a fall in the birth rate in the late 1990s will mean a "steady decline" in the population of 21-year-olds until 2022.
This means the overall pool of graduates is likely to fall and result in fewer trainee teachers, according to the UK's Association of School and College Leaders. Schools have also been forced to spend £1.3b on temporary staff as a result of the chronic shortage of teachers.
But in NSW, the education department's latest figures reveal that only 1.6 per cent of all teachers are aged 20-25 and it warns that by 2021 there will be a "more than adequate supply of primary teachers in all geographical locations" and an "adequate supply of secondary teachers".
Ms Amjadi, 23, who has been working in early childhood and nannying while completing her degree, said she was attracted to working overseas because it would provide her invaluable experience when she returned to Australia.
"I might have been able to get some casual work in Sydney, but I would have had to put in 110 per cent just maybe to get a couple of days," she said.
"I am really excited because I love the sound of the school [in the UK] and I got along really well with the principal in the interview and he really seemed to have a vision for the school so I think it is going to be a great experience for me."
An international education recruitment consultant, Mitch Jones, said young teachers had been travelling to Britain on working holiday visas for many years but the demand for Australians was now much higher as Britain battles with its shortage of teachers.
"In the UK, there are not the same amount of people going into teacher training and that means we can't keep up with demand for Aussie teachers over there," Mr Jones, from Protocol Education Australia, said.
"There is also the professional development side of things because if you are applying for a job, 250 CVs can look quite homogenous but if you have something different, like experience overseas, that can really help in a teacher-saturated market."
Monday, December 28, 2015
Another black riot in Melbourne
EIGHT men suspected of involvement in a weekend brawl at Seaford, which left a man with stab wounds, squared up for round two at Frankston police station last night.
Just hours earlier, three men had been arrested over the weekend melee, which involved up to 80 people.
One of the trio, a 27-year-old Frankston man, was charged last night with intentionally causing serious injury, recklessly causing injury, and affray. The other two men remained in custody.
Relatives of the men were waiting at the station about 7pm when eight other men entered, asking for the return of mobile phones seized by police.
Denied, the men briefly left, but two returned and tried to attack three women and a male. Four police officers tackled one man to the ground outside the station.
The 25-year-old Seaford man was charged with assault on an emergency worker, summary assault and threatening behaviour.
The violence follows the weekend incident, with crowds gathered for a tournament for the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association.
Crowds started hanging around the stadium carpark before starting to fight and running to Kananook Railway Station where the fighting continued
The victim, a 23-year-old man from Seaford, is still recovering from the multiple stab wounds he received in the fight on Wells St, Seaford on Sunday afternoon at about 5:35pm.
He was dropped off at Frankston Hospital on Sunday after the fight by a group of unknown men. He is listed as being in a stable condition and was expected to remain in hospital until Wednesday at least.
It was earlier revealed members of a western suburbs gang were seen wielding a samurai sword, baseball bats and a machete during the mallee. Dramatic CCTV vision shows one man carrying what appears to be a large knife, while near him another carries what looks like a wooden baton.
Stills from CCTV footage showing men running after a brawl outside Kananook Railway Station. Young men and women, including some dressed in basketball uniforms, were seen running down Wells Rd as police swooped.
The violence had spilled over from the stadium carpark, about 200m to the Kananook train station.
About 30 minutes later, witnesses reported seeing two carloads of armed men smashing the windows of a car at the nearby Bayside Shopping Centre.
Youth worker Les Twentyman warned that groups were travelling to sporting events and schools to attack individuals and "stamp their mark" on their rivals. "It's tit for tat," Mr Twentyman said.
Did chicken pox kill off most Aborigines in the early days?
Estimating the size of the Aboriginal population before 1788, the anthropologist Alfred Radcliffe-Brown wrote in the Commonwealth Yearbook of 1930 that it would have been more than 250,000, maybe even more than 300,000.
But Butlin's piecing together of the evidence told him this was way too low. He wrote in 1983 that it would have been 1 million or 1.5 million.
Then in 1988 some of Australia's leading archaeologists, led by John Mulvaney, argued that a more accurate estimate would be between 750,000 and 800,000. This has become accepted as "the Mulvaney consensus".
The Aboriginal population declined dramatically in the early days of white settlement. We can be reasonably confident that, by 1850, the Indigenous population was only about 200,000.
Thus backcasting the figures to 1788 involves determining the main factors that led to the loss of Aboriginal lives and estimating how many lives they took, then adding them back. So the paper is a kind of whodunit.
One factor springing to the modern mind is that the unilateral appropriation of Aboriginal land led to much frontier violence, which started shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet and persisted well into the 20th century.
"Like any war, declared or otherwise, the conflict led to many deaths on both sides," the authors say. But even the controversial historian, Henry Reynolds, estimated the number of violent Aboriginal deaths at as many as 20,000, making this only a small part of the explanation.
Butlin allows for Aboriginal "resource loss", where tribes' loss of productive members and land used for sustenance led to people dying of "starvation or dietary-related diseases". Butlin's calculation implies this factor would have involved as many as 120,000 people.
That's still not the biggest part of the story. No, the big factor is the spread of introduced diseases. Such as: Tuberculosis, bronchitis and pneumonia, not to mention venereal disease. But the big one is smallpox. Butlin and others have assumed that it spread rapidly around Australia along the extensive pre-existing Aboriginal trading routes after its first recorded outbreak in Port Jackson in April 1789.
In 2002, however, the former ANU historian Judy Campbell argued in her book, Invisible Invaders, that it was brought to Northern Australia by the Macassan coastal traders following its outbreak in Sumatra in 1780, then spread across the continent, reaching Port Jackson by early 1789.
This is where Hunter – no doubt relying heavily on the expertise of Carmody – brings to bear modern medical understanding of the infectiousness and mortality rates of various diseases. Although smallpox has a high rate of mortality – between 30 and 60 per cent of those who contract it – it's not highly infectious.
This means it happens most in densely populated areas and doesn't spread rapidly to distant areas. This casts doubt on Campbell's theory that smallpox spread rapidly from lightly populated Northern Australia to densely populated NSW. But it also casts doubt on Butlin's theory that smallpox spread rapidly from Sydney to the rest of Australia via Aboriginal trading routes.
So what's Hunter and Carmody's theory? Are you sitting down?
Gathering all the suspects in a room, detective Hunter deftly turns the finger of guilt from smallpox to the so-far unsuspected chickenpox. The two are quite separate diseases, but this wasn't well-known in the 1780s. And since they both give rise to rashes or spots around parts of the body, many people may not have been able to tell the difference.
The point, however, is that chickenpox is about five times more infectious than smallpox, meaning it could spread a lot faster. It can recur in adults as shingles, which is also highly infectious. When adults contract chickenpox it can be fatal.
When the authors use chickenpox to do their backcast, assuming a low mortality rate of 30 per cent and also taking account of resource loss, they get a pre-contact Indigenous population (including up to 10,000 Torres Strait Islanders and up to 10,000 original Tasmanians) of about 800,000 – which by chance fits with the Mulvaney consensus.
NAB anxiety index: jobs secure but cost of living makes us anxious
Australians are more secure about their jobs than a year ago but cost of living pressures remain a headache, according to National Australia Bank's latest quarterly consumer behaviour survey.
NAB found that consumer anxiety has fallen to its lowest level since this time last year. It attributes the better mood to "more signs of improvement in the labour market and non-mining sector of the economy".
NAB's "consumer anxiety index" slipped to 61.1 points in the December quarter from 62.5 in the three months to the end of September, compared with a long-term average of 61.9 points.
The bank's findings suggest recent improvements in the labour market, shown by a further fall in the unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent in November, have made finding or keeping a job less of a worry than a year ago.
"Strong employment growth and a falling unemployment rate may be buoying confidence, despite weak growth in wages suppressing household income," the bank said.
"Wealth creation effects from the housing boom in Sydney and Melbourne are also likely to have contributed but may provide less impetus to consumer spending in the new year as house prices stabilise."
Indeed, Australians are already less chilled when it comes to financing their retirement and meeting the monthly costs of health, transport and utilities such as electricity, gas and internet connections.
The sub-indices covering these areas are above last year's levels and are largely unchanged or only slightly down on last quarter.
"It is still of some concern that almost one in three consumers rate their anxiety levels from cost of living pressures as high," said NAB's chief economist Alan Oster.
Despite this, spending on non-essentials, while broadly unchanged since the previous quarter, was much stronger than a year ago, said Mr Oster.
This is particularly true in NSW and Victoria, which have the hottest housing markets and are where most of the new jobs are being created.
However, there were still some cuts in spending on essentials such as transport, utilities in health, with paying down debt a household priority, particularly in NSW, the ACT and Western Australia, NAB said.
The removal of Tony Abbott as prime minister in September also appears to have fed into the survey results, with anxiety about government policy at its lowest level in about two years.
However, the issue still rates as the second most important after cost of living and above the ability to fund retirement.
"By state, nearly all types of spending were weighing more heavily on the household financial positions of consumers living in Western Australia and Tasmania."
Tasmania aside, the bank concluded that overall consumer anxiety levels had slipped below the long-term average in all states and many demographic groups.
The main exceptions to this were low-income earners, women over 50, widows and divorcees, some professionals and those whose highest educational attainment was a diploma.
University student sues Yarra Trams after ticket inspectors pinned him down
Goons in uniform are all too frequent
A university student is suing Yarra Trams, alleging that he was forcibly pinned down by multiple ticket inspectors, including one who pressed their knee on to his throat to detain him.
Cheng Liu, also known as Michael, was allegedly thrown to the ground by the ticket inspectors at a Swanston Street tram stop on October 30, 2013.
He alleges that when the inspector placed his knee across his throat, he refused to remove it. The incident was filmed by another commuter on their mobile phone, in which Mr Liu can be heard shouting that he cannot breathe. A ticket inspector asks him to stop moving.
In documents lodged in the Supreme Court on Monday, Mr Liu is suing Yarra Trams for using "physical force that was grossly excessive, as well as assault and battery".
The 23-year-old is also arguing that the inspectors ignored his pleas for mercy and that Yarra Trams has failed to implement, or adequately implement relevant recommendations made by the Victorian Ombudsman in relation to issuing public transport infringement notices.
Maurice Blackburn's Dimi Ioannou said Mr Lui now suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.
She said the case had broader implication for other public transport users, who "needed to be protected from such violence at the hands of ticket inspectors".
"Inspectors must know the difference between restraint and excessive force and appreciate that they don't have the same powers as Victoria Police," she said.
The writ was filed against Yarra Trams by Maurice Blackburn in the Supreme Court on Monday.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Isn't the sunny optimism below wonderful?
Unmentioned is that this is an old idea and that there are already a lot of these plants around to assess how successful they are. Huge projects of the sort are already in operation in both California (See here and here) and Spain (See here). And guess what? They do produce some power but have big problems and need big subsidies from government to stay in operation
After hours of steady rain, there is not a ray of sunshine in sight and the mud is thick on the ground at the $20 million Jemalong pilot solar thermal plant near Forbes in central west New South Wales.
But in a way, the fact it is overcast helps to explain the importance of this technology, which enables both capture and storage of energy from the sun, according to James Fisher, chief technology officer of Vast Solar.
The engineer, who formerly worked in the fossil fuel industry and said he never thought renewables could compete with coal, now has a much sunnier outlook on the subject.
Technology behind solar thermal power plant
The Australian company has developed what it hopes will be a low-cost, high-efficiency Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) generation technology.
The Jemalong pilot plant will be ready for commissioning in mid-January and is designed to prove the technology works.
Five modules of 700 mirrors — or heliostats — will concentrate the sun's energy onto a receiver mounted on a 27-metre high tower.
Sodium will then be pumped through the receiver where it will be heated up to 565 degrees Celsius and stored in a tank.
When power is needed, the hot sodium will be put through a steam generator, similar to a big kettle, which will boil the water, generating steam and driving the turbine in the same way a coal-fired plant operates.
Mr Fisher said traditional solar or photovoltaic power production converted the sun's energy directly into electricity which then had to be stored in expensive batteries.
He said the difference with CSP was that it captured the sun's energy in heat which was cheaper and easier to store.
"So the big advantage with solar thermal is the storage. Our storage costs around $25 a kilowatt an hour, compared to lithium ion batteries which cost about $300 a kilowatt hour," Mr Fisher said.
He said the system meant power production could happen whenever it was needed and until now, that role of maintaining a steady electricity grid had mainly been provided by coal power.
"We can run 24 hours a day and providing base load is really the key to solar thermal," he said.
Mr Fisher said if the 1.1 megawatt Jemalong pilot proved the technology was viable for 30 years, billion dollar commercial plants would be built.
"This sort of technology will put massive amounts of money into regional Australia if it takes off," he said.
Vast Solar has revealed plans for a 30 megawatt commercial plant — at a yet to be determined location — and Mr Fisher said the company had progressed well in attracting investment.
"But a problem is it's big money to develop it. These plants you can only build in large scale, so a tiny plant will be $100 million and a good-sized plant will be $500 million," Mr Fisher said.
The commissioning process at the Jemalong pilot will take four to six months and experts ranging from representatives of power utilities to academics from the Australian National University will be involved.
The project is also being closely watched by the Australian Government's Renewable Energy Agency, Arena, which has committed $5 million.
Mr Fisher said commercial solar thermal plants could be producing power at seven cents per kilowatt hour, which was cheaper than the most up-to-date coal-fired plants.
"I think we'll look back in 50 years and think, 'wow, what were we doing building coal mines to power a plant that has to run 24-hours a day when the sunshine's free?'"
He said solar thermal technology had a bright future. "Hopefully it will be Vast Solar that cracks it but someone will do it, there's no question in my mind," he said.
December heatwave shatters record temperatures in south-eastern Australia
Global warming, right? Not quite. In S.E. Queensland where I live we had an unusually COOL December. So whatever is going on is not global
Sunday night was Sydney's warmest in three years but a cool change will bring rain over Monday and Tuesday, aiding fire risk reduction efforts in the Newcastle and Wodonga areas.
It might be hard to recall after the past few days of torrential rain, but December has been hot – the records don't lie.
The extreme heat prompted the Bureau of Meteorology to issue a Special Climate Statement, confirming record temperatures across South Australia, NSW, Tasmania and Victoria, where the highest daily minimum temperature ever recorded was reached (31.9 degrees in Mildura).
"The most intense phase of the heatwave began on December 16 as high pressure became established in the Tasman Sea and directed hot, north-easterly winds over South Australia," the bureau said.
Children took to the Nepean River at Penrith as the mercury rose into the 40s on Sunday.
Children took to the Nepean River at Penrith as the mercury rose into the 40s on Sunday. Photo: James Alcock
"The heat spread over much of south-eastern Australia from 18 December as winds turned more northerly, reaching its most intense levels over the weekend of 19-20 December. A trough and cold front crossed the region on 20 December, bringing the heatwave to an end over the most-affected areas although hot conditions continued over parts of New South Wales on the 21st."
Sydneysiders have surely not forgotten the night of 20th, when they sweated through the hottest December night in 15 years, during which the mercury was still sitting at 29 degrees at 10pm in the city, before dropping briefly to a low of 22.6 degrees just after 3am.
An extended period of hot weather in South Australia concentrated on Adelaide, where temperatures reached 40 degrees on each of the four days from December 16 to 19.
"This was the first occasion that four consecutive days of 40 degrees or above had occurred in Adelaide in December," the bureau said.
"The highest temperatures of the heatwave occurred on 19 December. Hottest of all was the upper Spencer Gulf region, where Port Augusta reached 47.2 degrees, with 45.8 degrees at Whyalla and 45.6 degrees at Port Pirie."
Bureau senior climatologist Blair Trewin said the South Australian heatwave was particularly interesting as heatwaves usually occurred in late summer.
"Systems tend to be more stable and slow moving," he said. "It's unusual to get a heatwave in December. We've had that a few times in January and February but never December."
However, the fact a heatwave occurred early in summer did not suggest even hotter conditions for the coming January and February, Mr Trewin said.
"The seasonal climate outlook is leaning towards cooler conditions in much of Victoria and South Australia," he said. "We are experiencing a strong El Nino, but the main effect of that on temperatures in Southern Australia is actually in the second half of the year.
"El Nino effects on average temperatures disappear in Southern Australia from January onwards."
In Victoria, El Nino summers tend to bring more extremes at both ends of the scale, meaning more hot days but also more unusually cool temperatures as well.
The remarkable global heat experienced this year may not be the last of it, with forecasters already predicting next year will be hotter again – marking three years in a row of record annual warmth.
The prediction, by Britain's Met Office, came just days after almost 200 nations agreed in Paris to a new global agreement to tackle climate change.
Under the pact, to take effect from 2020, nations would review efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions every five years with the aim of keeping temperature increases to "well below 2 degrees" of pre-industrial levels.
Most Australians are clueless about immigration and population: survey
Many problems flow from Australia's high immigrant intake
In the 2016 election year we will hear a lot more about one of Australia's hitherto practically unsung federal-state imbalances.
The much sung one, of course, is the fact that the Federal Government raises the bulk of the taxes, but the states are the ones with the responsibility for spending them – schools, hospitals, police, most roads and so on. It goes by the rather ugly name of vertical fiscal imbalance.
The unsung one is that the Federal Government is responsible for Australia's high immigration rate but it is the poor states that have to provide the services and infrastructure for the extra people. It could be called vertical population policy imbalance. But it might be easier just to call it dumb policy.
Australians seem to have some idea about vertical fiscal imbalance because the Premiers and Chief Ministers are forever whingeing about being starved of funds by the Feds. It is a convenient excuse for long hospital waiting lists and the like.
But Australians have very little idea about population. A survey published this week by the Australian Population Research Institute reveals just how ignorant they are about it.
The survey asked four basic questions with multiple-choice answers. Only 2 per cent of respondents got all four questions right. That is worse than random guessing, which would have yielded one in 16 getting all four questions right, or about 6 per cent of respondents.
That suggests not just ignorance but the possession of misinformation, as if people have been victims of a slow-drip propaganda campaign.
The questions were: Is it True or False that without immigration, Australia's population would be shrinking? What is Australia's population? What portion of the immigration intake are refugees? And is it True or False that Australia has one of the highest population growth rates in the developed world?
The best result was the present level of population, with just over half of respondents getting it right. The worst (19 per cent) was the fact Australia has one of the highest population rates in the world. Only Israel and Luxembourg in the OECD have higher rates.
Overall, 12.6 per cent of respondents got all four questions wrong. Again, random guessing would have resulted in only 6 per cent of respondents getting them all wrong. The 12.6 per cent result can only be the result in some general pushing of misinformation – not just ignorance on its own. By the way, this is my conclusion, not that of the researchers.
If political leaders, business, the media and other providers of information and information were generally pushing the correct or no information – rather than an incorrect picture – you would expect a better than random result for all questions right and for no questions right. Instead, both are worse.
The survey backs up what a few people have long suspected: that the big end of town – a tiny, wealthy and powerful minority which gets benefit from high immigration - and the politicians they finance have pushed the case for high immigration, generally against the overall public interest.
They do this by stressing imaginary benefits – economic growth, cure for an ageing population, cure for a falling birth rate etc. And they underplay how aberrant high population growth is, the strain it puts on infrastructure and the provision of services, and the strain it puts on the environment.
Further, they are desperately worried that any difficulty with refugees might detract from what they say is general support for immigration. Former Prime Minister John Howard said as much. That is why he was so tough on refugees.
Well, it is about time some of these myths got busted. And it looks as if the next election campaign may go some way towards that.
For a start, last week's report revealed that politicians' assertions that there is widespread support for immigration in Australia are plainly wrong.
The survey found that 51 per cent of Australians do not want any population growth. And a further 38 per cent said they did not want Australia to grow beyond 30 million. Those 89 per cent are in effect saying they want governments to reduce or eliminate immigration – because, as the survey pointed out, even without immigration Australia's population would still grow.
The Australian Population Research Institute is an independent research institute. Its members are participating researchers, mainly academics. This survey was commissioned by Sustainable Population Australia (about to change its name to Sustainable Australia). Its candidate was supported by Dick Smith in the North Sydney by-election this month.
Smith said he has been in discussion with Flight Centre founders and rich-listers Graham Turner and Geoff Harris about supporting Sustainable Australia at the next federal election.
Money, of course, helps immensely in politics. The Palmer United Party, backed by millionaire miner Clive Palmer, won three Senate seats and a House of Representatives seat last election. Its support has since collapsed and two of its senators deserted the party and its policies have been incoherent.
You need more than money. You also need a convincing platform. So expect to hear a lot more about immigration and population at the next election. Money can buy media presence, either directly through advertisements, or indirectly through things like last week's research and paying people to present the message effectively.
One of those messages is likely to be that Premiers should stop asking the Feds for extra money, and ask them for fewer people instead.
Oddly enough support for population growth was stronger among university graduates and urban dwellers.
It was extraordinarily high in Canberra – the centre of political lobbying.
Overseas born were – as you would expect – more in favour. The research suggested that more recent arrivals did not have a past reference point of a less populated and less congested Australia.
Males were more in favour than females and tended to cite economic reasons more than females who, when in favour, cited cultural diversity and helping refugees more than males did.
The interesting question will be how the Greens and the National Party react. The Greens have not been very active for an environmental party on the sustainable-population front. The National Party has opposed (fairly weakly) mining on agricultural land, but has been virtually silent on the question of population expansion encroaching on agricultural land.
They may be forced to get into this debate come election time.
Killers and terrorists will be served Halal chicken at 'religious friendly' Christmas lunch at Supermax - because so many of the inmates are Muslim
Christmas dinner inside Goulburn's Supermax prison for many of the inmates will be Halal chicken with cranberry sauce in an aluminium tray slid through the hatch of their four-by-three metre cell door at around 11am on Friday.
An unprecedented number of arrests of terror related suspects has boosted the number of Muslims locked up inside Supermax this Christmas alongside longer term inmates like serial killer Ivan Milat and double murderer Vester Fernando.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal that 37 high risk inmates will be spending the holiday season inside the prison and the increase in Islamic prisoners means there will be more call on the 'religious friendly' meal option on Friday's menu.
Although they are unlikely to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Supermax's newer inmates like teenager Raban Alou will find little comfort in the culinary nod to his religion.
Alou was locked up in October for allegedly supplying schoolboy Farhad Jabar, 15, with the gun that killed police accountant Curtis Cheng at Parramatta in western Sydney.
Supermax prison is a modern jail within the larger 19th century jail which lies on the edge of the town of Goulburn, 200km southwest of Sydney.
While Goulburn's main prison, where inmates are caged in open-air yards in a noisy and sometimes menacing rabble, the atmosphere inside Supermax is more like a hospital than a jail.
It feels clinical, and with dozens of the country's worst offenders behind the glass doors of their day rooms like animals in a zoo, it is creepy.
Alou is likely being held in Supermax's segregation area, 7 wing, where all fresh admissions are held as they get used to the high risk management prison's rules and restrictions.
Alou, who is spending his first Christmas inside after being charged with aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring the commission of a terrorist act, will be offered the Halal chicken with potatoes and mixed vegetables.
Muslim inmates can also opt for the vegetarian Christmas lunch option of a spinach and ricotta burger with potatoes and vegetables.
Prepared three days earlier by criminals in one of the state's four prison kitchens in Sydney and regional NSW, the meal will be reheated, placed on a trolley and given to Alou in his cell. For dessert, he will receive a fruit mince pie.
The food will have been precisely measured to be high on vitamins and minerals and low in harmful fat or salt rendering it, many inmates claim, completely tasteless.
After a year in which breaches at Goulburn prison have resulted in escapes, attempted escapes and the amassing of contraband such as mobile phones, security will be tight in Supermax where guards can only interact in pairs with inmates.
In the lead up to Christmas, Corrective Services usually instigates a pre-season crackdown with officers from a special anti-contraband force and dogs searching common areas of the prison to sniff out drugs.
At this time of year, these teams also step up searches of visitors who may try to bring illegal substances into prisons.
Searches unearth stashes of methadone, fruit to make 'jail brew', cannabis, pills, steroids, 'ice', mobile phones and SIM cards, weapons such as shivs made from filed toothbrushes, wood or metal, and other banned items tattoo guns and cigarettes.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
A crooked scientist
Judging by the name, she might be of Greek origin. Greek ladies often come under a lot of pressure from their families
This is just one episode in a trend. There has been a lot of publicity in recent times about unreplicable and fabricated research, so the reputation of science should be declining. Once the global warming scare is also recognized as crooked science, the reputation of science will be permanently damaged, which will be a good thing. People should always question authority and ask for evidence as a first response. An example of how Green/Leftists do not below
The research of a promising Australian scientist has been retracted after an investigation found she faked results in the trial of a blood pressure drug.
Dr Anna Ahimastos was a researcher at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne when she fabricated data that was published in two international journals.
What we hope to do in the fullness of time is reanalyse that data independently.
Bronwyn Kingwell, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute
On Tuesday, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) retracted Dr Ahimastos' paper on a three-year clinical trial of a blood pressure drug, Ramipril. The study found the drug, a safe and effective treatment for lowering blood pressure, also helped patients with artery disease walk for longer and with less pain.
While the study has been retracted, Baker IDI said participants involved in the trial were not exposed to any danger. Subsequent studies also suggest the original finding may still be correct.
In June, another Baker IDI researcher noticed inconsistencies in the original study data, which promoted an internal investigation.
Bronwyn Kingwell, the head of the laboratory where Dr Ahimastos worked, said during the investigation Dr Ahimastos admitted to making up data about several patients that did not exist. She resigned in July.
A note from the paper's other authors to the JAMA journal editors said Dr Ahimastos was the person "responsible for data collection and integrity for the article".
"No other coauthors were involved in this misrepresentation," the note read.
"All authors recognise the seriousness of this issue and apologise unreservedly to the editors, reviewers and readers of JAMA."
Professor Kingwell said while data collected from study participants in Melbourne had been compromised, the information gathered from patients in Townsville and Brisbane was credible.
"What we hope to do in the fullness of time is reanalyse that data independently and get a research finding from that," she said.
A smaller subsequent trial also found that ramipril improves patient with walking time.
Professor Kingwell said while this was an isolated event, the institute was reviewing its practices around how investigators report study data and results to prevent this type of incident recurring.
She said Dr Ahimastos had a PhD, 10 years of experience and was trained in good clinical practice, making her well qualified for the job.
"We work in a high-trust environment as a team and each individual has serious responsibilities," Professor Kingwell said. "Unfortunately [in this instance] the individual who breached [this trust] was the one who had responsibility for the data collection."
In 2010 Dr Ahimastos was honoured with a Young Tall Poppy Science Award by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science.
Another of Dr Ahimastos' papers, published in the journal Circulation Research, has also been retracted.
"We are currently investigating other studies for which Dr Ahimastos had oversight of data collection," Professor Kingwell said.
JAMA has just published the Notice of Retraction
Incorrect to celebrate Australia day?
My family always celebrate it in the traditional Australian way -- with a BBQ at my brother's place
AN AUSTRALIA DAY celebration, which more than four thousand people said they were interested in attending, has been axed following a series of angry outbursts on social media.
However, as soon as it was cancelled, a new event was created in its place.
The event, called Floatopia, was due to be held on 26 January at Gordons Bay in Sydney’s east.
Police and the local council have expressed concern at the location of the event and another one, due to be held on New Year’s Day, saying it could harm local ecosystems.
They also reminded partygoers of a strict alcohol ban.
As with similar events overseas, Floatopia sees revellers bring a variety of flotation devices as well as sound systems, and often alcohol, down to the beach to enjoy the warm weather.
In recent years the celebration has been held at other Sydney beaches including Manly.
However, this morning one of the organisers cancelled the Australia Day event blaming “mean spirited behaviour” including racism.
It followed a heated to and fro online between people who were looking forward to attending Floatopia and others who were variously concerned with issues such as littering.
Some questioned whether it was appropriate to hold the event on a public holiday that marked the beginning of colonisation in Australia.
On the page, one user posted, “Imagine I went and partied about someone in yr fam [sic] dying. That might be how it feels for some Aboriginal people.”
Another person went further saying the event celebrated racism.
“Invasion Day is a day where drunk yobbos scream ‘straya’ for 12 hours and have absolutely no regard for the atrocities that have been and are still being committed to my race to this day. If you’re celebrating on the day of which my people suffered mass killings and genocide. Well then there is something seriously wrong with you.”
On the opposite side of the fence, one person said “We can’t have a celebration of unity of Australia becoming a country without someone getting on their high horse about something that happened a hundred of years ago ... but that’s not what Australia Day is about. Back off and let people have their BBQs and fun without carrying on like a pork chop.”
The thread garnered hundreds of comments and some of which descended into insults.
Another user complained about the possible ramifications of the event which could ruin “our beautiful, quiet vista,” of Gordons Bay.
The organiser, Jaime Lawrence, today posted on the page, which had been liked by 4200 people that the event was cancelled after debate “went from zero to 100 really quickly.”
“We don’t condone bullying, name calling, racism or any other type of mean spirited behaviour,” the post said.
“Watching that unfold over the last 12 hours is a pretty f***ing awful demonstration of humans. “We’re local ocean-loving hippies too and by no means do we support anyone harming beautiful Gordons Bay on this day or any other. So with that in mind, we’re pulling the event down.”
However, within an hour an almost identical event, with the same images used and at the same location, was launched called the ‘Australia Day Floaty Party’.
Talking to news.com.au, Tatiana Sugarplum Sparkle Craufurd-Gormly, one of the fiercest critics of the event, said she was pleased it was axed. “It is small step towards breaking away from the stigma that this is a day of celebration rather than mourning.”
She said anyone who publicly celebrated on Australia Day should be conscious of their actions given Aboriginal communities continue to name it Invasion Day. “Not only are individuals being insensitive to the true meaning of this day but they are also disrespecting and disregarding the land which was nurtured peacefully for thousands of years up until it was colonised.”
While private celebrations were more acceptable, Ms Craufurd-Gormly said it would better if the date was changed to a less controversial anniversary. Those that decded to celebrate Floatopia anyway were, “ignorant, obstinate and disrespectful,” she said.
A similar event, called Float Your Boat, is still planned for New Year’s Day at Gordons Bay. With more than 9000 people potentially attending, it has alarmed authorities.
Melbourne authorities caught extremist days after Paris bombings
MELBOURNE authorities nabbed a French extremist trying to enter Australia with chemicals just two days after the deadly Paris bombings.
The French national of Arab descent was caught as he arrived at Tullamarine airport two days after the Islamic State’s co-ordinated massacre which killed 130 people.
The man flew in from Abu Dhabi in the Middle East and was detained by the Australian Border Force.
A search revealed extremist material on his phone and a supply of chemical mace.
The man was kept overnight at the Maribyrnong Detention Centre and deported the next day.
A spokesman for the Australian Border Force said an anomaly with the man’s passport raised the alarm for security officers.
“The Australian Border Force can confirm the detention of a French national on 15th November who arrived inbound to Melbourne airport from a Middle Eastern airport,” the spokesman said.
“The man was detained by ABF counter-terrorism unit team officers as a result of an assessment of advance passenger processing information which revealed an anomaly with his electronic travel authority.
“A subsequent search of his belongings revealed objectionable material of an extremist nature on his mobile devices and prohibited goods in his luggage.
“The man was issued with an infringement notice and then detained at the Maribyrnong Detention Centre until his removal from Australia the next day.”
The man’s entry has reportedly sparked a security review of Europeans travelling to Australia. Experts have already warned a terrorism attack on Australian soil is “inevitable”.
Security efforts have been beefed up at Melbourne airport with more staff members screening travellers, especially from France and Belgium.
Safety measures have also been upgraded at the MCG for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and the West Indies with a new security compound around the stadium. The Australian Open tennis is also increasing security.
Three out of four Australians surveyed by Newspoll last month believe a large scale terror attack is still likely.
Silent majority is toasting Trump as Left wallows in its vitriol
By Jennifer Oriel
The political year is ending as it began, with a sustained attack on conservatives and their replacement by a populist Right less willing to compromise on free speech and immigration. The New Right, embodied by political figures such as Donald Trump, is a counterforce to the continuing campaign of censorship and vilification by leftists determined to remove all traces of conservative thought from public life.
When Tony Abbott proposed a secular reformation of Islam, the Left compared him to Trump in a contorted campaign of guilt by association. Rather than address the problem of Islamist theocracy and the terrorism it produces, the Left urged Abbott to self-censor, framing him as a divisive element in society and the Liberal Party.
Network Ten’s The Project ran its coverage with the words “Abbott the Wrecker” splashed across the screen. SBS went into full scold mode, chiding: “Mr Abbott had promised to sit quietly on the backbench … but he’s already causing problems.”
Abbott certainly is causing problems — for theocrats and terrorists. The establishment Left did not complain so loudly when Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz called for a reformation of Islam, but Abbott embodies a combination of traits deemed intolerable by self-appointed political elites: he is white, male and Christian. From the lofty bureaucracy of the left clerisy, however, Abbott’s cardinal sin is conservatism.
The editor of the University of Adelaide’s student magazine On Dit, Leighton McDonald-Stuart, described the corrosive effects of left bigotry on campus in The Courier-Mail: “The attitudes of … social justice warriors … is not conducive to (free) speech … You risk being labelled ‘fascist scum’ if you happen to be of conservative ilk … If you seek to express a view that doesn’t conform to … the revolutionary socialist groups on campus, then you are ‘racist’.”
Across US campuses, the Left’s campaign to impose its ideology by censorship has turned violent. Radical minority groups are attacking people whose skin colour is deemed politically incorrect. A multi-university group called the Afrikan Black Coalition stated: “White people need to be stopped. Period.”
Last month, The Dartmouth Review reported a large group of Black Lives Matter activists storming the university library and attacking students while screaming: “F..k you, you filthy white f..ks!” They pinned one woman to a wall, shouting “filthy white bitch!” at her. Vice-provost of student affairs Inge-Lise Ameer responded not by condemning the violent racism of Black Lives Matter activists but the media that criticised it: “There’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not being very nice.”
The Left’s systematic and increasingly violent campaign of bigotry is fuelling the rise of political figures such as Trump. One cannot understand the Trump effect and the emergent populist Right without analysing the forces that produced them.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the odious treatise that produced the modern Left: Herbert Marcuse’s Repressive Tolerance. Marcuse was a neo-Marxist who prescribed two methods to eliminate conservatism: censorship of free speech and the introduction of majority rule. The new majority would comprise Marcuse’s “radical minority” and come to power by dominating public debate.
The neo-Marxist equation for equality is: “Not equal but more representation of the Left.” The old standard of universal equality was superseded by a new formula to force the Right into political oblivion by engineering an over-representation of Left-approved minorities across public institutions. Media, academe and politics were all targets of the New Left’s doublethink formula for social justice: inequality = equality.
Trump has crashed through the apex of neo-Marxism. His carefully crafted target group, the “silent majority”, is a two-fingered salute to the Left’s censorious activists. Trump’s success rests on the premise that the silent majority is so angered by the decades of censorship and oppression devised by neo-Marxists that it will support any man whose free speech most offends their manufactured minorities.
Unlike the genuinely persecuted minorities of the Islamist and communist worlds, the minority groups of the Western Left have been manufactured primarily for political purposes. They enjoy equal and often greater rights under law than their fellow citizens. Affirmative action policy offers them privileged places in education and employment. They can access a range of special benefits under welfare, health and housing schemes. And the state shields them from words that may offend by encoding anti-free speech provisions in anti-discrimination legislation.
Minority politics may help some people genuinely in need, but it is also an expression of codified bigotry against the only group wholly excluded from its benefits: white men.
Trump is wielding such devastating effect because he embodies everything neo-Marxists have oppressed for a half-century.
He is white, male and capitalist. A determined freethinker and free speaker. A politically incorrect pundit who does not resile from attack but ups the ante after every blow. He pursues targets so aggressively that Republicans are at pains to disown him, especially after his call to halt Muslim immigration while America learns to manage the jihadist threat. But to everyone’s surprise, Trump continues to dominate.
While public poll results vary, a Fox News poll held in South Carolina across four days showed that two days before Trump proposed a halt to Muslim immigration, his rating was at 30 per cent. He polled 38 per cent for the two nights following it. He is poll favourite to lead Republicans into the next election. And despite media portrayals of Trump followers as rednecks, a Rasmussen poll last week found the majority of Americans (46 per cent) support a temporary ban on Muslim immigration with 14 per cent undecided.
Trump is voicing the politically incorrect concerns of the silent majority and, for better or worse, they are rewarding him for it.
Trump is a middle finger aimed squarely at the establishment and the backlash against him has come from both sides of the political divide. It was The New York Times columnist David Brooks who distilled the complex issue into a sound bite, accusing Trump of bigotry. Brooks may be right, but the main challenge Trump’s ascendancy leaves the Left is less to prove his bigotry than to disprove its own.