Monday, December 19, 2016

An Australian dream that is a Greenie nightmare

Ever since Hitler, Greenies have been doing their best to frighten us into thinking that we are going to run out of food.  Hitler at least had the excuse that there really were food shortages in Germany immediately after WWI but modern-day Greenies live in an era of unprecedented abundance. 

Food shortages -- see Paul Ehrlich -- were the no. 1 scare before global warming came along  as a tool to make us do the Greenie beck and call -- but they still pop out the old scare at times too -- usually presenting it as a result of global warming.  That a warmer world would in fact produce a food bonanza doesn't faze them. Imagine the farming lands in Northern Canada and Siberia that a warmer climate would open up!

But you don't have to imagine anything to realize what Northern Australia does to any food-shortage scare. And it rebuffs such scares in two ways -- both because of its potential and because of its actuality. 

Australia is a continent and as you will read below, there is an area the size of India in Northern Australia which is virtually  unused agriculturally.  And India feeds over a billion people.  As in India, the usability of the land is uneven but with modern farming methods it could undoubtedly produce far more food than the primitive methods used by most Indian farmers do.  So how is that for a potential food bonanza?  Would enough extra food to feed more than a billion people be enough to tone down the scares?

So that is the potential.  The actuality is in fact even more instructive.  WHY has such vast potential gone unused?  We can find out from the one bit of Northern Australia that HAS been developed  -- using a lot of taxpayer money.  I refer of course to the Ord river scheme.  The Ord is a big river that flows through a fertile landscape in North-Western Australia.  And for decades governments have been trying to open it up for farming.  They even built a big dam to ensure year-round water supply.

So what happened?  They succeeded brilliantly at growing all sorts of crops.  They could readily have fed a small nation for a lot of the time.  But most of the crops concerned have now been abandoned.  Just about the only product they export is sandalwood.  And you can't eat sandalwood.  You burn it for incense.

So WHY was the Ord scheme an abject failure?  Because the world is SWIMMING in food.  There are all sorts of clever farmers worldwide who produce food at minimal cost.  So much so that the big costs is distribution: Getting the food into your local supermarket. The farmer gets only a small fraction of what you pay.  And that's not a racket.  Distribution is expensive.  All those trucks and trains and warehouses and wharves and roads and rail lines, loading docks and silos are expensive -- and so are the wages of the men who work in them.  They have to be paid too -- not only the farmer. And the Ord is far away from most potential markets and is connected to none of the existing distribution networks.  Getting food from the Ord into your local supermarket would be way too expensive.  It's all down to those pesky dollars and cents.

The Ord is in fact not far away from some big potential markets in Indonesia, India and China, but those countries, like most countries, want to be able to feed themselves -- and their governments are fixated on that.  The Ord can go hang as far as they are concerned.  And it does. The twin whammy of distribution costs and trade barriers doom the Ord.  And it would be just the same for the rest of Northern Australia. 

Australian politicians have been breast-beating about our empty North for generations and periodically put money into explorations of its potential -- but it never has come to anything and it never will.  The world has TOO MUCH food for that to succeed. So only the cheapest food into your supermarket gets grown.  Famine is not the danger.  Greenies are talking out of their anus gross ignorance

FOOTNOTE:  The Ord is a fascinating experiment in agricultural economics so needs a much longer article than these few notes to discuss it properly but perhaps for those interested I can add a couple more notes:

1.) Given its proximity to Asia and Australia's extensive experience with growing rice economically, the obvious market for the Ord would be the growing and export to Asia of rice. Rice is a tropical crop and the Ord is in the tropics. Sadly, however, that is a case of "been there, done that". Many years ago now, in the 1950's the lavishly-funded Humpty Doo experiment in the Northern Territory did prove that an abundant rice crop could be grown in the North. Sadly, however, the vast flocks of beautiful Australian native birds, mostly magpie geese, got to the crops before anybody in Asia did. After the birds had finished, there was nothing much left to harvest. And the flocks were so big that no deterrent efforts worked. And that was in the days before Greenie restrictions on poisons etc. Below is a picture of Magpie Geese at the Ord, where they are abundant.  They are supposed to be a living fossil, but nobody seems to have told them that.

2). Given the billions promised for infrastructure provision, might a spur line to the Ord off the Alice/Darwin railway be a good idea?  It would cross some very difficult terrain so would certainly soak up billions and in the end it would give access only to the Darwin and Alice-Springs market, both of which are quite small.  It would not remotely help to get Ord produce into the nearest big city -- Adelaide -- as Adelaide is quite close the the great array of productive farms in Victoria.  So the transport cost of Ord produce would be a lot more than the transport costs from Victoria.

Scientists have been digging up the dirt on northern Australia's potential to become an agricultural powerhouse.

In the biggest undertaking of its kind in Australia, thousands of soil samples were collected from water catchments in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The samples are now being analysed as part of the Federal Government's multi-billion-dollar plan to develop the Top End and double the nation's agricultural output.

"Northern Australia is a vast and underdeveloped landscape that's three million square kilometres — roughly five times the size of France, or the size of India," said CSIRO Research Director Dr Peter Stone, who oversees the science body's Northern Australia program.

Over the past five years, the CSIRO has identified 70 crops which could grow in the north and 16 million hectares of land that is suitable for irrigated agriculture.

"If you ... grabbed all the water you could, there'd be enough to irrigate about one and a half million hectares of northern Australia," he said.

"So overlaying the sweet spots — where soil is suitable and water is not only available, but reliable — is part of the key."
Drilling in Northern Territory

In the basement of the Ecosciences Precinct in Brisbane, you could be excused for thinking you had walked into a fanciful coffee roastery.

Grinders are lined up on one side of the room, while on the other, Seonaid Philip stacks trays of the most delectable-looking grinds into an oven for drying.

But the pale greys, rich ochres and velvety chocolates are not coffee, of course, but a collection of outback soils.

"For this project we've collected approximately 4,000 samples," said Ms Philip, who co-ordinated the field trips involving two dozen people in the Fitzroy, Mitchell and Darwin water catchments over 120 days.

"The colours tell us quite a bit about the attributes of the soils. These red ones are highly sought after, highly productive, very good for horticultural development... not the best water-holding capacity, but people can manage around that.

"But this one here is a bit sad," she said, picking up a pot of grey dirt.

"It's leeched, a pale colour, and shows that nutrients have been stripped out of it, probably in a high rainfall area."

Upstairs in the laboratory, the samples undergo a wide range of tests to determine their composition, structure and level of nutrients such as nitrogen, essential for plant growth, and carbon, critical for soil and plant health.

The information is helping to build a detailed map of northern Australian soils, which will be overlaid with a similar map being created for above and underground water resources.

Together the projects form the Federal Government's $15 million Northern Australia Water Resources Assessment.

Developing the north is "vitally important", according to Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.  "Mining is great, but it's boom and bust ... but agriculture is a constant flow of wealth that comes back," he said.

"If we can, over time, irrigate one and a half million hectares in the north, that would almost double the amount of land we have under irrigation today ... in the whole of Australia, and that would help us to double agriculture over time," Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan told the ABC.

"We don't have a lot of major dams in the north and in the south, in the Murray Darling and other places, we've kind of exploited the resources we already have, so our future opportunities in agriculture, our future opportunities to develop our water resources do predominantly lie in the north."

Senator Canavan said the Government's $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility would help to ensure that any northern foodbowl could get its produce to market.


Australia should take in more Middle Eastern Christian refugees

This Christmas will probably be the first in almost two millennia when there is no sizeable Christian presence in the Middle East. The situation in that part of the world is the ultimate confluence of religion and politics, two topics Australians do not like to mix. Most of us until recently have had very little understanding of how the two do intersect in the Middle East.

Christian refugees from the Middle East are not just casualties of war, they are victims of targeted persecution. They are fleeing war but, unlike many other refugees, they can never go back. We are not just facing a huge geopolitical realignment in the Middle East but the expurgation of entire Christian populations in the area that gave birth to Christianity: Iraq and Syria, the ancient lands of Mesopotamia.

In Iraq, where the 1987 census estimated a Christian population of 1.4 million, the numbers have dwindled to about 200,000.

Islamic fundamentalism is the cause of this, not just the war. The war has been the means to clear all minority groups, not just Christians but Jews, Yazidis and Druze Muslims. Things were better for religious minorities, particularly Christians, under Iraq and Syria’s Baathist regimes than they will ever be again.

Meanwhile, Australia pursues a religiously “blind” immigration and refugee policy. This is all very well as a general line in a secular society that does not privilege religion. But the Middle East’s Christians are fleeing not simply war but persecution because of their religion. Like it or not, we cannot be religiously blind in our choice of refugees.

Despite this, it is almost impossible to find out how many Christians have been allowed into Australia under the refugee program. When the government announced 12,000 new places, it was assumed they would be filled largely by Christians and other minorities, but the department will not, or cannot, reveal the make-up of these people. From November last year to December 2, a total of 10,092 visas have been granted and 8317 refugees have arrived in Australia.

The announcement of an extra 12000 refugees from Syria and Iraq was generally met with approval by the population. Many Australians had no idea until the conflagration in Syria and Iraq that there were so many Christians in those countries, who were being systematically murdered and forced out of their homes.

Likewise, until the murderous so-called Arab Spring turned to bleak winter for the Copts of Egypt, that large Christian minority, estimated at about 15 per cent of Egypt’s population, was usually ignored by most the world’s media. That changed when church burnings and massacres started to take a toll. Just last Sunday, a suicide bomber massacred 24 people in a Cairo church. The lukewarm response of the Australian government came in a tweet by Malcolm Turnbull condemning the atrocities in Turkey and Egypt. About 300 Egyptian Copts have applied for and been granted asylum in Australia, but at present many are being denied despite the acknowledged atrocities and persecutions.

Even after the latest atrocity, several Egyptians are awaiting deportation. Take, for example, the case of Inas Ghobreyal, who has been given about five weeks before deportation. Inas is the mother of two children and fled Egypt after the firebombing of St George Church by a Muslim mob next to where she lived not far from Cairo. Her husband was attacked and badly assaulted. She came to Australia on a visitor’s visa four years ago, with her two girls, Clara and Marie, now 10 and 7. Recently buoyed by the stated willingness of the Prime Minister to take more Christians from the Middle East, she petitioned Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who she claims acknowledges the atrocities against the Copts but has refused her a visa. A spokesman for the Coptic Association says there appears to be inconsistency in the granting of asylum for Egyptians. He also claims the situation of the Coptics was more readily acknowledged under Labor.

The reason for this inconsistency is basically that the regime in Egypt has improved the official situation of Copts. However, as the latest massacre shows, this is not necessarily an improvement on the ground. There is a lot of suspicion that, in a country where the churches have X-ray machines to prevent explosives and weapons being smuggled in, some of the police have been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Egyptian Copts fear, with some justification, that it may not be long before they, too, are in the same position as the Syrians and Iraqis. Their fate will echo that of Christians in Palestine, the original Christians. In 1948, when Israel was founded, Christians formed more than a third of the Palestinian population. As Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told me in 2007, “stuck between the hammer of the Israeli oppression, beaten on the anvil of Islamic fundamentalism”, Christians are now a mere 2 per cent of the Palestinian population.

Islamic fundamentalism is a scourge, even for Australia’s law-abiding Muslims. So we must ask: can Australia afford to be religiously blind in its choice of immigrants and refugees?


"Safe Schools" program to be overhauled and Marxist founder Roz Ward removed

The Andrews Government will overhaul the Safe Schools program and cut ties with its controversial founder Roz Ward amid a public backlash that was set to intensify ahead of the Victorian election.

In a bid to protect the anti-bullying initiative, the education department will be in charge of delivering Safe Schools from next year, ensuring that the government is solely responsibility for rolling it out to every state secondary school by 2018.

Safe Schools co-founder and academic returns to work at La Trobe University after being suspended over comments made on a private social media account.

The move is a significant shift for a program that was co-founded by Ms Ward almost seven years ago and has been delivered through her employer, La Trobe University, ever since.

But in recent months, Safe Schools has come under sustained attack by critics who claim it promotes "radical gender theory" or believe Ms Ward's history as a hardline Marxist is too extreme.

"I think the campaign against Safe Schools has been quite disgraceful from people who should know better and do know better, but are using it as a political tool," said Victorian Education Minister James Merlino, who wrote to La Trobe on Friday to inform the university its contract would be terminated six months early.

"But Safe Schools has always been about more than just one person; it's about stopping the bullying and harassment of young people who are same-sex attracted and gender diverse. We know that it works – and we know that it saves lives."

The Safe Schools Coalition began as a trial under the Brumby Government in 2010, after teachers asked for a specific set of resources to help them support students who were "coming out" as same-sex attracted or gender diverse.

Since then, about 60 per cent of schools in Victoria have signed up, but the government is keen to significantly scale up the program with minimal controversy over the next two years in order to fulfil its election commitment.

Under the new structure, teachers will continue to have access to the same lesson plans to support LGBTI students, but the department will have the scope to review and enhance the material if required in future. "This is about making it better and stronger," Mr Merlino said.

Despite receiving bipartisan support, Safe Schools ran into controversy earlier this year when Malcolm Turnbull initiated a review at the behest of conservative forces within his ranks.

Ms Ward – an active member of the Socialist Alternative – has also repeatedly come under the spotlight over her politics and private antics. In June, for instance, the university educator almost lost her job at Latrobe after describing the Australian flag as racist on Facebook. And last month, she made headlines once again by being photographed trying to remove the cap from a Donald Trump supporter during an anti-Trump rally in Melbourne, while holding copies of the Marxist newspaper, Red Flag.

But on Friday - after hearing the news during an end-of-year lunch with her team - she said she was "shattered" by the government's decision, insisting that the bringing the program "in-house" would do little to end the attacks by critics such as the Australian Christian Lobby or the Murdoch press.

"I don't think backing down helps, it's like giving a drop of blood to a bunch of sharks," Ms Ward said.

"Four people are losing their full time jobs. They have been told they are getting sacked a week before Christmas. We've spent the last six years building relationships with schools in Victoria. We've worked with 280 schools, and with families that rely on and value the trust we had with them, and we don't think that can be replicated."

Equality Minister Martin Foley said making the education department responsible for Safe Schools would strengthen the program in the long term, ensuring that more same sex-attracted and gender diverse students could get access to much needed support.

But opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said the Premier should have scrapped the program altogether.

An LGBTI reference group co-chaired by Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Rowena Allen and education parliamentary secretary Judith Graley will also be expanded to include principals, students, parents and anti-bullying experts. The reference group would, in turn, support the education department to deliver the program.

La Trobe vice chancellor Professor John Dewar said in a memo to staff that the university was disappointed by the government's decision but was committed to ensuring a smooth transition "to reduce any negative impact on young people in schools."


An "open sky" agreement bears fruit

Should be more of it

Brisbane now has direct fights to Shanghai, China's biggest city with a population of 24 million, following the first flight on Saturday.

China Eastern Airlines vice-president Liuwen Tian surprised and delighted Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Saturday, announcing the airline would move quickly to begin daily flights in 2017, as their original agreement set out.

Until then, four flights a week - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday - will operate between the two cities. The first flight from Shanghai touched down about 10am on Saturday to a welcome of koala diplomacy and didgeridoos blended with a mix of Indigenous and Chinese Lion dancing.

The return flight was scheduled to land in Shanghai at 8pm China time.

Queensland industry figures said the direct flights were a "coming of age" announcement for Queensland in the China market and strong news for business, tourists, international students and investors.

China Eastern Airlines is China's second largest airline and the world's seventh-largest airline with a fleet of 440 aircraft that will bring 18,000 extra Chinese visitors to Brisbane each year.

Even without direct flights between Brisbane and Shanghai there were 485,000 Chinese tourists visiting Queensland in 2016, spending more than $1 billion, Ms Palaszczuk said on Saturday.

"And we'd like to see that figure double in years to come," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Mr Tian told hundreds of Chinese and Queensland business figures at Brisbane's International Terminal on Saturday morning that the airline would move quickly to daily flights.

"2017 is the China-Australia year of tourism and with it China sees new opportunity for development in Australia," Mr Tian said.

Mr Tian drew big smiles and applause from Ms Palaszczuk, Tourism Minister Kate Jones and Brisbane Airport Corporation chief executive Julieanne Alroe by announcing China Eastern would move quickly to daily flights.

"We are starting out with four flights a week, but please rest assured we will work very hard to ensure that we stick to our original plan to have a flight between Shanghai and Brisbane every day," Mr Tian said.

Ms Palaszczuk thanked China's Consul-General Zhao Jian for his assistance in establishing the bilateral agreement with China Eastern Airlines.

China Eastern Airlines was courted to begin direct flights to Brisbane by the Queensland government's $10 million Attracting Aviation Investment Fund.

"This inaugural flight today is a milestone for tourism in Queensland," Ms Palaszczuk said. "Tourism in Queensland is going from strength to strength," she said.  "And China is one of our key partners to drive our tourism sector even further."

The Tourism Minister said the 485,000 Chinese visitors in 2016 was a 34 per cent increase in Chinese tourists to Queensland. She said the extra tourists from four flights a week would equate to another $22.6 million a year.

The announcement comes after the Australian and Chinese governments signed an "open skies" agreement allowing unrestricted flights between the two countries.

The announcement was made by Gold Coast-based federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo on December 4. "Under the new arrangements, Australia and China will have an open aviation market, offering boundless opportunities for Queensland tourism and trade," Mr Ciobo said.

"This historic arrangement paves the way to further strengthen the bilateral relationship, two-way trade and international visitor flows, ahead of the Australia-China Year of Tourism in 2017."

Brisbane Marketing chief executive John Aitken said the new flights meant extra investors, international students and tourists to Brisbane. "It is a real coming of age for Brisbane in the China market, because you are connecting into the biggest commerce market," Mr Aitken said. "Chinese businesses and investors are saying when you have direct aviation connection you are a serious player," he said.

"The Australia Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai said five or six years ago that direct aviation links for a city is absolutely critical if you are serious about China. "So that is why the China Eastern flights are critically important to the future of our city." 


The inflexibility of bureaucracy again

Illawarra drivers are spending hours operating empty school buses, under cookie-cutter contract arrangements that have gone unchecked by state authorities.

The so-called ‘ghost buses’, operated by Premier Illawarra, continued their runs to area private schools throughout this week, despite some schools having broken up for the holidays since as early as December 7.

An industry whistleblower says the practice is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

St Mary Star of the Sea College, The Illawarra Grammar School and Edmund Rice College were among the Illawarra schools visited by ghost buses this week, despite classes having wound up on December 8, December 13 and December 7, respectively.

Five 'ghost buses' depart Edmund Rice College on Thursday, more than a week after students began their summer holidays.

The buses arrived at Edmund Rice’s Keira Mine Road turning circle at their scheduled times Thursday afternoon. They paused a while, then departed with only the driver and sometimes an attendant on board.

According to Transport for NSW, the buses are operating according to their usual timetable.

In some cases this would keep them needlessly on the road for more than an hour. The ER6 bus for example, spends 35 minutes getting from Port Kembla to Edmund Rice College in the mornings, and 45 minutes travelling the reverse route in the afternoons, according to Premier’s timetable.

An industry source told the Mercury Transport for NSW should have detected and put an end to the “wasteful” practice.

“The bus contracting system, with GPS-tracked buses and routes to measure on time performance, is insignificant if government-owned buses operated by a private provider for a contract period of four years are being used when they are unjustified to service schools that students have already stopped attending for the school holidays,” the source said.

“This is NSW taxpayers’ money and it is being wasted when [buses are] not required, and there appears to be no checks or balances from Transport for NSW as to what is happening on the ground.”

Premier Illawarra manager Sunny Brailey declined to explain the ghost services when contacted by the Mercury.

Transport for NSW would also not answer questions on the financial arrangement that underpins Premier’s contract.

A department spokesperson said the ghost buses were operating in line with the public school calendar.

“Due to differences in private and public school holiday periods, there can be short periods of time where buses operate at a reduced capacity,” he said. “These periods are rare and only occur a few weeks a year.”

“These services, which are being operated in accordance with the published timetable, will continue until such a time as all public and private schools close so that no school students are disadvantaged or inconvenienced by any changes to the scheduled trips.”

The spokesman said the department would work with Premier Illawarra on “options to improve operational efficiencies where possible”.

The ghost buses observed by the Mercury at Edmund Rice College were not scheduled to visit any other schools, according to Premier’s timetable.

The bus company’s holiday timetable – excluding all school routes – starts on Monday.


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

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