Wednesday, June 08, 2016
Climate change's role in Eastern Australia's recent big storms
Acacia Pepler seems to be a dear little thing and she definitely has real talent as an academic. She has written a long and careful article below on how likely it is that Australia's recent big storms were influenced by climate change: An inevitable question. And she does have extensive knowledge of East coast weather. But her answer to the question could be accurately summarized in just two words: "Nobody knows". To stretch that out into a long article is real talent. She will go far in academe
Australia's east coast is recovering from a weekend of wild winds, waves and flooding, caused by a weather pattern known as an east coast low. Tragically, several people have died in flooding.
Parts of New South Wales have received more than 400mm of rain since Friday morning. Some places such as Canberra and Forster recorded their wettest June day on record. Waves have also caused severe coastal erosion and damaged property.
East coast lows are a type of low-pressure system or cyclone that occur on the Australian east coast. They are not uncommon, with about seven to eight lows a year causing widespread rainfall along the east coast, particularly during late autumn and winter. An east coast low in April last year caused similar damage.
But whenever they happen, they raise the question: did climate change play a role?
Climate models suggest the cyclones that move through the global mid-latitudes — around 30 to 50 degrees S — are moving south. This is contributing to long-term declines in winter rainfall in south-western Australia and parts of southeast Australia.
These models also suggest the atmospheric conditions that help east coast lows form could decline by between 25 per cent and 40 per cent by the end of the century.
In recent work, my colleagues and I looked even more closely at how climate change will affect individual east coast lows. Our results also found east coast lows are expected to become less frequent during the cool months May to October, which is when they currently happen most often.
But there is no clear picture of what will happen during the warm season. Some models even suggest east coast lows may become more frequent in the warmer months. And increases are most likely for lows right next to the east coast — just the ones that have the biggest impacts where people live.
What about the big ones? The results in the studies I talked about above are for all low-pressure systems near the coast — about 22 per year, on average.
But it is the really severe ones that people want to know about, like the current event, or the storm that grounded tanker Pasha Bulker in Newcastle in June 2007. These storms are much rarer, which makes it harder to figure out what will happen in the future.
Most of the models we looked at had no significant change projected in the intensity of the most severe east coast low each year.
Warming oceans provide more moisture, so intense rainfall is expected to increase by about 7 per cent for each degree of global warming.
East coast lows are no different; even during the winter, when east coast lows are expected to become less frequent, the frequency of east coast lows with heavy rain is likely to increase.
Finally, even though there may be fewer east coast lows, they are occurring in an environment with higher sea levels.
This means many more properties are vulnerable to storm surges and the impact of a given storm surge is that much worse.
Was it climate change?
While the frequency of cool-season east coast lows looks likely to decrease in the future, changes in the big ones are a lot less certain.
However, east coast lows are very variable in frequency and hard to predict.
So far, there has not been any clear trend in the past 50 years, although east coast lows may have been more frequent in the past.
As for extreme rainfall, studies have found little influence of climate change on Australian extreme rainfall so far.
Climate variability, such as El Nino, currently plays a much larger role.
This does not mean climate change is having no effect; it just means it is hard to tell what impact a warming world is having at this stage.
So did climate change cause this weekend's storms? No — these events, including intense ones, often occur at this time of year.
But it is harder to rule out climate change having any influence at all.
For instance, what is the impact of higher sea levels on storm surges? And how much have record-warm sea temperatures contributed to rainfall and storm intensity?
We know these factors will become more important as the climate system warms further, so as the clean-up begins, we should keep an eye on the future.
Bill Shorten denies hypocrisy, defends Labor backflip on company tax cuts
ARE company tax cuts a key driver of jobs and wage growth for average Australian workers, or an unaffordable gift for big business and foreign billionaires?
According to Bill Shorten in 2011, the former. According to Bill Shorten in 2016, the latter.
In 2011, the then-assistant treasurer was spruiking the flow-on impact of cutting the company tax rate, telling parliament it would increase productivity and investment.
“More capital means higher economic activity and higher wages,” Mr Shorten told parliament. He was spruiking an unsuccessful push by the Gillard government to lower the corporate tax rate by one per cent to 29 per cent.
In a video from the same time, circulated by the Coalition, Mr Shorten continued: “As Australia is buffeted by the economic affairs overseas, we understand that lowering corporate tax assists the creation of jobs. And what can be more important in this country than the creation of jobs.”
And, as The Australian reported, in a 2011 speech to the Australian Council of Social Service national conference, Mr Shorten said: “Friends, corporate tax reform helps Australia’s private sector grow and it creates jobs right up and down the income ladder.”
Mr Shorten took a different position on Friday. “There’s no comparison between 2011 and now,” he told reporters. “The truth of the matter is you can only ever do company tax cuts when the nation can afford to do them. That goes for any tax cuts.”
The government plans to reduce the rate of company tax from 30 to 25 per cent over the next decade at a cost of $48 billion. Labor opposes these cuts but supports giving tax relief to small businesses with an annual turnover of $2 million or less.
Labor MPs also faced the job of explaining the Mr Shorten’s change of heart, given many of his senior team have previously argued in favour of company tax cuts.
Writing in The Australian, columnist and broadcaster Peter Van Onselen pointed out that the man who could become treasurer until very recently argued for them.
“It’s a Labor thing to have the ambition of reducing company tax, because it promotes investment, creates jobs and drives growth,” shadow treasurer Chris Bowen wrote in his book Hearts and Minds.
And opposition assistant Treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh told Sky News last year: “We know the company tax rate is a significant drag on growth, largely because capital is more footloose than labour and so there’s potential for us to miss out on high-quality investment if we have too high a company tax rate.”
Similarly, Labor frontbencher and former finance minister Penny Wong argued the line last time Labor was in power.
“We understand that the cut in the corporate tax rate is important to increase productivity, to promote broadbased economic growth and to encourage more investment and jobs across Australia,” she said.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says the government is unashamedly prioritising jobs and growth. “The truth is Bill Shorten knows, in his heart of hearts, what is the right thing to do here. He’s just too weak to deliver it,” he said.
Senator Penny Wong also once argued for company tax cuts.
Senator Penny Wong also once argued for company tax cuts.Source:News Corp Australia
Ms Wong insisted Labor’s opposition to the government’s plan to reduce business tax was about priorities. “We just think we’d rather be putting money into Australia’s schools, into protecting Medicare ... than a $50 billion tax break for businesses earning up to $1 billion,” she said.
Opposition finance spokesman Tony Burke pointed out the Liberals and Greens voted against the 2011 measure.
“You don’t get these tax cuts for free. If you give it, it means other things hit the fence on the way through,” he said.
“What Malcolm Turnbull is doing is saying that he then wants to, every year, change the definition of small business,” he said.
Former ALP national president Warren Mundine, who now heads up the prime minister’s indigenous advisory council, fears economic reform will go backwards if Labor wins government.
Talking about the birth of his great-grand-daughter last week, Mr Mundine wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “Labor’s rhetoric will take Australia down a path where her taxes will be higher and her education will be more costly.”
BUSINESS LEADERS ‘GOBSMACKED’
Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott is “gobsmacked” by Labor’s anti-business election campaign, describing it as a dangerous ploy.
But she also believes the coalition government should have been more ambitious on industrial relations during its term in office. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has labelled as “anti-business” Labor’s rejection of his plan to reduce the company tax rate.
But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is not for moving, insisting it’s a choice between standing up for lower and middle-income families or a handout to companies which “simply don’t need it at this point”.
Ms Westacott is bewildered by Labor’s stance.
“How are we going to grow our economy when 80 per cent of our economic output is dependent on business?” she said on Sunday. “It’s gobsmacking, it’s very dangerous.”
Ms Westacott also wants to see Mr Turnbull talk more about industrial relations during the campaign, especially reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, one of the triggers for the July 2 double-dissolution election.
While bringing back the ABCC would be a “huge step” in restoring confidence in the industrial relations system, the government could have done more.
“We would have liked to have seen a more ambitious agenda by the government over the last three years,” Ms Westacott said.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash believes the government has been active in industrial relations, citing its attempts to restore the ABCC.
She dismissed suggestions that releasing the government’s formal response to the Heydon royal commission into trade union corruption before polling day will be seen as a political stunt.
“Our response is already in play, we will of course respond to the additional recommendations of Heydon over the next few weeks,” Senator Cash said.
The Business Council will be launching its own campaign in the run-up to July 2, promoting how business underpins the wealth of the country.
Ms Westacott is concerned opinion polls are pointing to a tight election outcome, saying Australia will be in a far worse position if there is a hung parliament or another obstructive Senate. She believes Australia is at a turning point.
“A spending plan without a growth plan will just lead to crippling rates of taxation and more and more deficits and a very, very fragile and non-resilient economy.”
PM fires up attack on union powers
Unions will be blocked from striking “secret deals” to wield control over volunteer organisations as Malcolm Turnbull intensifies the election battle over workplace relations, backed by business groups that see the furious dispute over Victorian firefighters as a national test of industrial power.
The federal government will use the new laws to confront a “pattern of behaviour” in the union movement that hurts workers as well as volunteers, while warning the union tactics could also harm emergency workers battling storms and floods in NSW and along the nation’s east coast.
Bill Shorten challenged the Prime Minister to explain how he would change the Fair Work Act to intervene in the dispute, warning that the Prime Minister was “causing more trouble” in a state matter.
But the political pressure is taking its toll on the Labor state government of Daniel Andrews, who struggled to reach a cabinet compromise late yesterday to prevent Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett quitting over the attempt to give union officials more sway over 60,000 volunteers at the Country Fire Authority.
The Premier was forced to take a step back in his push to ram the deal through cabinet to avoid the twin prospects of losing a minister and further damaging federal Labor’s campaign in Victoria.
The compromise commits the government to reconsidering the contentious elements of the union’s claim that first ignited the row between the government, the CFA and the United Firefighters Union, which sought veto powers over the independent agency.
Ms Garrett said last night that the government would undertake further work on the clauses that see the mandatory dispatch of seven professional firefighters and the dispute-resolution mechanism that the union’s critics say amounts to a right of veto on the CFA management’s decisions.
It also flags the prospect of both the Fair Work Commission and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley monitoring the implementation of the agreement.
The Australian has been told that the Turnbull government is examining a series of potential amendments to workplace laws to shield the Victorian firefighters but also curb union manoeuvres in other states where volunteer organisations may be exposed to similar deals.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott, who is a volunteer emergency service worker, backed the federal stance last night and contrasted the Opposition Leader’s campaign slogan of “putting people first” with the deal struck by Mr Andrews to let the UFU gain power over volunteers.
“So typical of Shorten/Andrews Labor. Not people first but unions first,” Mr Abbott told The Australian.
Mr Turnbull lauded the state emergency services volunteers dealing with floods in NSW and likened them to the 60,000 volunteers at the Victorian CFA objecting to the push for influence over the organisation by the UFU. “They’re the volunteers that the Labor Party and the unions have taken on; they’re the volunteers that have been disrespected by the Labor Party,” Mr Turnbull declared.
“We respect them, we honour them, we stand up for them.”
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told The Australian the government was considering changes to the Fair Work Act to shield the Victorian volunteers from the union’s attempts to extend its power over the firefighting authority.
“We are considering a number of possible amendments to the Fair Work Act that would address this issue,” Senator Cash said. “There is a clear pattern of behaviour when it comes to secret deals between unions and Labor governments which only benefits unions at the expense of all others. Whether it is destroying the livelihoods of truck drivers at the behest of the TWU, locking contractors out of the construction industry at the behest of the CFMEU or destroying the volunteer CFA at the behest of the UFU, Labor’s utter weakness in the face of greedy union bosses comes at an enormous cost to the community.”
Business groups are backing the government on the issue amid worries about similar attempts to extend union power across industry.
Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said: “The depth of feeling in Victoria among CFA volunteers and the community they serve shows there are clear limits as to how far people are prepared to be pushed by union demands for more power and more control. We hope this dispute can be resolved quickly, amicably and in a way that draws community support. If ever there was a test case for how far a union can push community sentiment, this is it.”
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace relations director Richard Calver said the Victorian dispute had national implications because of the way the government could change the Fair Work Act to protect volunteers.
Mr Turnbull said the 60,000 volunteers of the CFA were “heroes” who would be subject to the firefighters’ union if the Victorian government had its way. He likened this to the decision by federal Labor when Julia Gillard was prime minister and Mr Shorten was workplace relations minister to “do the bidding” of the Transport Workers Union by introducing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to set higher rates for truck drivers and limit owner-drivers.
Mr Turnbull said the government would add to the powers in the Fair Work Act list to strike out “objectionable clauses” in enterprise bargaining agreements, setting up grounds to disallow an industrial deal if it curbed the rights of volunteers. “We are quite satisfied that we have the ability to amend the Fair Work Act to deal with this,” he said.
Thirty illegal fishermen caught in Far North Queensland waters
THIRTY crew from two vessels have been detained and taken to Cairns for suspected illegal fishing in Far North waters.
The fishermen, believed to be Vietnamese, were apprehended by Maritime Border Command (MBC) officials on Thursday near Lihou Reef, about 600km east of Cairns.
An Australian Border Force spokesman said two vessels were searched by Australian Defence Force personnel and they found diving gear and about six tonnes of bêche-de-mer (sea cucumber), suspected to have been caught illegally.
It was the third incident of its kind in the Far North in just over two months.
Authorities are understood to be investigating whether the group of fishermen are part of a syndicate that has decided to target the Great Barrier Reef.
The incident is on par with the arrest of 28 fishermen off Lockhart River in late March, which was believed to be the largest haul of illegal foreign fishers in Great Barrier Reef waters in more than 30 years.
Australian Fisheries Management Authority general manager Peter Venslovas said illegal fishing posed a significant risk to Australian waters.
“Australia’s fisheries are some of the best managed in the world and as such they are the target of illegal fishers,” Mr Venslovas said.
“However, through regular surveillance, monitoring and patrols, those seeking to do the wrong thing will be caught.”
The two unregulated and unregistered vessels were initially spotted by an ABF surveillance aircraft with the HMAS Wollongong and AFMA officers responding.
The crew members were believed to have arrived in Cairns yesterday morning.
Parks Australia’s Marine Protected Areas head Jason Mundy said Lihou Reef had been a sanctuary since 1982.
“Ensuring illegal activities including foreign fishing are prevented is essential for conservation and protection of this unique and special place,” Mr Mundy said.
MBC Acting Commander Commodore Brenton Smyth said they performed surveillance and responded to incidents throughout the Australian Fishing Zone.
“These apprehensions are a fine example of the collaborative efforts of Australian government agencies working together to detect and apprehend vessels illegally fishing in Australian waters,” he said.
It is understood the detained fishermen will be transported from Cairns to a detention centre in Darwin.
Mother of a man, 21, who was murdered six years ago claims the man jailed over her son's death was wrongly convicted - and she wants him released from prison
The mother of a 21-year-old man who was brutally murdered six years ago claims the suspect jailed over her son's death was wrongly convicted as she fights for his release from prison.
Josh Warneke was attacked and killed as he walked home after a night out with friends in Broome in Western Australia in the early hours of February 25 in 2010.
More than two years later, police arrested an Aboriginal man named Gene Gibson, who was sentenced to seven-and-half years in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in 2014.
However, Ingrid Bishop claims that Gibson did not kill her son – pointing the finger at an alleged botched police investigation, lack of forensic evidence and a confession she believes was coerced, according to 60 Minutes.
Ms Bishop believes Gibson is innocent as she's working with his family to get him out of jail and is searching for her son's killer – who she believes is still out there.
'It is the right thing to do – Gene Gibson is innocent – that is a no brainer and if no one else is going to do it, I'm going to do it,' Ms Bishop told 60 Minutes.
'I will never get my son back but I'm not going to have someone sit in a prison for how many years because no one else could be bothered doing their jobs – shame on the lot of them,' she said, referring to the Western Australian police officers who investigating her son's death.
Gibson, who is believed to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, told the police three different stories on how he allegedly killed Josh, none of them matching the forensic evidence, Ms Bishop said.
Tests conducted on hair found in Josh's hand suggest that he was attacked with an axe or a sharp object, unlike the rock and pole Gibson told police he hit Josh with, Ms Bishop said.
His interview with police was not recorded and in 2014 a supreme court ruled that his confession couldn't be used in a trial because officers didn't conduct the investigation properly, according to 60 Minutes.
Officers were then forced to drop the murder charge and offer Gibson a plea deal for manslaughter, which he took.
11 police officers that worked on the case have been disciplined after the court's ruling but are all still employed, Ms Bishop said.
Ms Bishop says she now wants a coronial inquiry. 'I just want to know how Josh died and I just want to know who killed him,' she said. 'Who is wandering around in Broome who committed a murder?'
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here