Sunday, February 05, 2017
Federal government plan for clean coal power
The very term "clean" coal is a monstrous crock. The claim is that CO2 is "dirty". But we all breathe CO2 out. Do we breathe out dirt? And the idea that you can capture and store it is equally absurd. It's possible in theory but the engineering challenges would make it monstrously expensive
The Turnbull government is planning to help fund the construction of new clean-coal-fired power stations in an extraordinary measure to intervene in the looming energy security and pricing crisis.
In a move to address the premature closures of state power plants, the federal government will look to either repurpose plants or directly invest in the construction of new-generation coal-fired plants in partnership with the private sector. A senior government source confirmed Malcolm Turnbull had asked late last year for options to fund “ultra-super-critical power plants” to provide clean-coal alternatives and lower fuel costs, which would not only alleviate price pressure for consumers and business but arrest the decline in Australia’s competitive advantage in manufacturing.
In a direct challenge to the Labor states, and drawing the political battlelines with Bill Shorten, the Prime Minister yesterday blamed “huge” renewable energy targets set by Labor governments for pushing power prices to the highest of any OECD country.
In his first national address of the year, Mr Turnbull accused Labor yesterday of a “mindless rush” to renewables, and hinted that the government would intervene to protect prices and security of supply with a path to state-of-the-art coal-fired technology.
The Australian has confirmed that Mr Turnbull and senior ministers, including Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, have been in discussions since December on what exceptional measures the commonwealth could take to subsidise new coal-fired generation, as well as provide incentives to the states to lift the moratorium on new gas development, which is also having a crippling impact on reliability and prices.
“States are setting huge renewable targets, far beyond that of the national RET, with no consideration given to the baseload power and storage needed for stability,” Mr Turnbull said in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday. “We will need more synchronous baseload power and, as the world’s largest coal exporter, we have a vested interest in showing that we can provide both lower emissions and reliable baseload power with state-of-the-art clean-coal-fired technology.”
Energy storage would also be a priority in the government’s energy policy, with Mr Turnbull claiming it had long been neglected in Australia.
“You’d think if anyone had a vested interest in showing that you could do really smart, clean things with coal it would be us, wouldn’t you? Who has a bigger interest than us? We are the biggest exporter. Yet we don’t have one power station that meets those requirements,” he said.
“This has got to be all about Australian families and Australian businesses, making sure that they can keep the lights on and, when they’re on, they can afford to pay the bill.
“And, yes, of course, we meet our emissions reduction targets.
“Nothing will more rapidly de-industrialise Australia and deter investment more than more and more expensive, let alone less reliable, energy.
“Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, has invested $590 million since 2009 in clean-coal technology research and demonstration, and yet we do not have one modern high-efficiency, low emissions coal-fired power station, let alone one with CCS?”
Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos yesterday flagged the possibility of the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation being used to fund technology-neutral power sources, but would not reveal what the government might do.
“The whole issue is being looked at because we need now a systemic approach,’’ Senator Sinodinos told Sky News. “And Malcolm Turnbull I think is a good Prime Minister to do that.’’
Another government source close to the discussions said “it is very early days” but sites being raised as possibilities for new coal-fired power plants included in Queensland, the Hazelwood plant in Victoria, which is due to be mothballed next month, and the gas-fired plant site at Pelican Point in South Australia.
Scott Morrison, who recently led a push for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to include coal power as an option in the region as it transitions to higher levels of renewable energy, confirmed that new coal would be part of the government’s energy policy mix. “Coal is part of our energy future, coal is part of our security and energy security and affordability, and we will have more to say as time goes on but the Prime Minister made it very clear today that you cannot be technology dependent or biased in any way in this area nor can you be, frankly, resource dependent on these things,” the Treasurer said.
“It is about energy affordability, security and sustainability. That is what households, families need, it is what businesses need. And coal is part of that. We need to have an energy future that is inclusive of what has been one of our greatest energy advantages for 100 years.”
The Opposition Leader on Tuesday claimed his 50 per cent renewable energy target would create “real jobs ... for blue-collar workers, jobs for engineers, jobs for designers’’.
Labor’s energy spokesman, Mark Butler, yesterday blamed the government for pushing up power prices because of uncertainty in the electricity market.
“Instead of addressing the investment uncertainty facing the energy sector with sensible national policy that would reduce the cost of electricity, improve reliability and cut pollution, the Prime Minister is actively causing prices to rise, security to suffer and pollution to grow,” he said.
But Mr Frydenberg said Labor had presided over a 100 per cent increase in power prices.
“Their record in government was a disaster,” the minister said. “Bill Shorten’s 50 per cent renewable energy target would require 10,000 wind turbines to be built between now and 2030.”
Latrobe City Council Mayor Kellie O’Callaghan welcomed Mr Turnbull’s statement, saying a clean-coal policy could mean a new power station to replace Hazelwood was back on the table.
Section 18C: a bad law that finds racism where there is none
My traditional Warlpiri culture is governed by stringent rules regarding the sharing of knowledge and what women can and cannot say in public, but I believe my people need cultural reform to allow more open and honest discussion so that women and children victims of violence are no longer silenced.
The domestic violence epidemic that has been played out in Aboriginal communities for decades is worsening, and the political correctness that suppresses freedom of speech is contributing to it.
Activism once sought to champion freedom of speech but has now turned on those wishing to practice that right who do not follow the left-green ideology, or simply if they are Caucasians addressing an issue relating to individuals who are not. The popular ideology of these people is that all Aboriginal people need to be protected from white people.
Political correctness is a set of rules that governs the way in which we use language about, or towards, minority groups so as not to offend them. Oddly, people of Caucasian backgrounds are exempt from this protection. They are fair game.
This means if we wish to expose horrible truths in order to address them to try to bring about real change, it can be misconstrued or branded “insulting” or “humiliating” to someone, somewhere who self-identifies as indigenous.
This is exactly what happened with Bill Leak’s cartoon. According to the unwritten rules of political correctness you must not speak of the reality of the circumstances Aboriginal people face unless you are Aboriginal, or can claim to be.
If a non-Aboriginal person attempts to address any of these issues and an Aboriginal person is offended, they can simply call out “racist” and the debate is shut down.
This is exactly the tactic that abusers of power, supporters of Aboriginal perpetrators of domestic violence and deluded individuals with an unhealthy victim mentality will use to shut down any honest debate about the plight of their fellow human beings.
This is the case even though a clear majority of those identifying as indigenous produce children with their fellow Australians who don’t. What, then, are the non-Aboriginal people to do in order to address any issues their Aboriginal or ethnic loved ones are facing? How are they supposed to deal with the issues causing incredible suffering to their fellow Australians who happen not to be white?
I believe 18C invalidates the idea that we are all human and hold differing opinions. It denies basic human nature that allows us critical thinking and the means to learn and grow. It is absurd that 18C ever became legislation.
It is my human right to argue that Aboriginal people have never been given the privilege that those of the West have had, the right to culturally evolve. We have been told we must remain in an unchanged culture. We have been exempt from constructive criticism, as has Islam in the West.
There are other points of comparison. If you criticise Islam, you risk a threat to your life. If you criticise Aboriginal people in any way, shape or form, you are labelled a racist or bigot if you are white. You may also risk a threat to your life if you are Aboriginal like me.
My life has been threatened because I wrote a piece telling the world that as an Aboriginal Australian I celebrate Australia Day.
The Racial Discrimination Act has made many who identify as indigenous believe they are exempt from its provisions. That they can’t be racist and therefore they feel free to insult, offend and humiliate whomever they please. They do it to white people and they do it to other Aboriginal people who refuse to follow the “party line”.
In Alice Springs a member of the public is far more likely to be randomly assaulted, physically or verbally, if they are perceived as “white” rather than “black”. Grossly offensive racist insults are used liberally in the streets of Alice Springs against white people. I have walked the streets of this town with my white friends to protect them from this sort of thing. But there have been no complaints under 18C, which is not seen as a protection of the rights of Australians generally. White Australians feel intimidated, not protected, by this act.
Both my mother (a senior Warlpiri woman and former minister of the crown) and I have been vilified in obscene sexist and racist terms by somebody who described themselves as an indigenous activist, because we refuse to be told what to think and say. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been called a coconut and much worse.
We have not once been insulted in racist terms by white people, not as far as we know. And if that happens we know how to defend ourselves. We aren’t victims, we aren’t afraid to stand up for our people and ourselves.
Our people are suffering and their problems are daunting and complex. We will not find the answers if we are denied the right to take part in an open and honest debate.
We can’t do that without offending those who are ideologically committed to the party line that has been laid down by the activists of the eastern cities and their white allies.
They are educated, speak English and know how to use the system against anybody with whom they disagree. We speak for the most marginalised, those whom the education system has failed, who are often illiterate and don’t speak standard English.
It is not just the white people who are closed down, it’s also the most marginalised and least powerful of the Aboriginal population who are denied a voice by the self-appointed spokespeople who know nothing of the circumstances in which they live. The agenda is controlled by an English-speaking Aboriginal middle class ignorant of the values and issues of those who live remotely.
The Racial Discrimination Act’s 18C treats us Aboriginal Australians as infants who can’t speak or stand up for ourselves. It treats non-Aboriginal people as if they have no right to hold an opinion about anything that relates to us, especially the problems of our own making that are killing us.
White people are not game to speak out. That should never be allowed to happen in a democracy.
The way to beat racism is through debate, not the closing down of debate.
The way forward for our people is cultural evolution.
We have an absolute right to find our own solutions, to find our own way forward out of this misery without being vilified by those who claim to be on our side and claim to speak for us.
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price is an Alice Springs councillor. This is an edited version of her submission to the parliamentary inquiry into freedom of speech
Kick this FWC circus out of the tent
The Fair Work Commission was a Labor Party creation
My guess is that the following might have escaped your attention. In last year’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, the Fair Work Commission was awarded an additional $16 million in cash appropriations over the forward estimates.
There had been no request for additional funding, although needless to say the extra cash was welcomed by the general manager. Why on earth the government would want to increase further the funding of the FWC is anyone’s guess. I thought the government was trying to repair the budget and impose efficiency dividends — code for cutting funding — on government departments and agencies. But evidently the FWC needs more.
The reason given was to fund investigations arising from the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption. But this isn’t the role of the FWC, particularly after the imminent termination of the division dealing with trade union regulation, a function that has been performed with utter dereliction and complete incompetence by the FWC.
And I should point out that the FWC received a boost of close to 12 per cent (to $85m) in funding from the taxpayer in 2015-16 compared with the previous financial year. Is this government insane?
Here is a chance to begin to defund an agency that kills jobs, and yet the government hands over even more dough than requested? (The same could be said of other regulatory agencies — the Australian Securities & Investment Commission has received an additional $122m over four years.)
The FWC is awash with cash. For example, it funded a ludicrous survey on workplace industrial relations which received a response rate of about 10 per cent. Even so, staff at the FWC — there are more than 300 — dutifully went about producing some completely meaningless and pointless analyses of the survey. Indeed, a conference was held, at taxpayers’ expense of course, to talk about the survey.
And then there is the excessive use of our money to contract out various functions of the FWC that should be undertaken by the actual members (commissioners, deputy presidents, vice-presidents — did I mention that the remuneration of the members ranges from $366,000 to $548,000 a year? The president is paid even more.)
Recently, a barrister with barely any experience in employment law was engaged to assist in the rewriting of modern awards as part of the award review process.
We are told the 122 awards are modern but they need to be rewritten in plain English, a point that has been made for the past 30 years, incidentally. A decision is made to engage an ill-informed outsider to help out. The current review of awards is so drawn out that it will likely overlap with the next review, which must be held every four years. Talk about making work.
Of course, if the focus of the award review process had been to bring these arcane documents into the modern era by slashing the clear over-regulation and interference with management rights that would be one thing. But, in fact, the convoluted process has led to the possibility of award entitlements being extended (and overturning precedents).
Throw in a costly survey of small businesses using a series of leading questions and it is clear why the FWC is overfunded and in serious need of efficiency measures and economy. But still the government doesn’t get it.
Given that many of the FWC members regard themselves as dab hands when it comes to productivity matters, there should be a lot of internal support for achieving better value for money for the taxpayers. (Pause for laughter.)
Mind you, since the members are statutory office-holders and are technically appointed by the governor-general, they effectively have no boss. Up to a point, they can determine their own work patterns and travel requirements. One member of the FWC — a keen sports lover — is wont to arrange his travel to fit in with major sporting events.
This so incensed another senior member of the FWC that he circulated an email to all members containing a photo of this person attending a sporting event and words to the effect of “gotcha”. It’s not only politicians who get up to these tricks.
And then there was the case of a member who decided that it suited her to live in another city, so she simply moved without informing the then president. Even the current president has shown a keenness to switch cities. Like many public sector agencies, there is a clear 80/20 rule going on at the FWC. Twenty per cent of the members undertake the vast bulk of the (statutory) workload.
A number of members has decided it is more fun advising companies on how to improve workplace relations and lift productivity — the mind boggles given the background of most members — and spend their time doing this rather than the more mundane roles envisaged by the act.
If you want a laugh, you should go to latest annual report (titled Continuing Momentum) and read about the “new approaches”. There is a case study written up about improving relations between Patrick and the Maritime Union of Australia. It’s quite hilarious until you realise that we are paying for this wasteful claptrap.
With the May budget coming up, here is the government’s big chance. It is clear that the real demand for the services of the FWC is in decline. The number of applications for approval of enterprise agreements is in free-fall, for example.
A lot of what the FWC does is just make-work: the processes are deliberately prolonged. The “new approaches” program is a total joke.
Time to swing the axe. There will be widespread cheering when this happens.
Australian surf kills unwary Asians
On a Sunday morning in North Steyne, north of Sydney, a small, glassy swell is rolling in. My twins, nine, are part of a rolling maul of nippers on the beach. They are the only children from a South-East Asian background as far as the eye can see.
Last summer, we were members of another club nearby in Dee Why. There I met Cicy, a nurse originally from Kerala, India, and her son Rishi. We bonded because in this vanilla white part of Sydney - home ground for two former political heavyweights, ex-NSW premier Mike Baird and ousted prime minister Tony Abbott - we were among the very few nipper parents with obviously ethnic kids.
Cicy works in the intensive care unit at Manly Hospital. Like me, she enrolled her child because of her fears of what can happen - often suddenly and silently - out there in the Australian surf. "I wanted him to be confident with water because I have looked after patients who have [ended up] dying or have nearly died from drowning. Unfortunately, all of them Asians."
Like Cicy, my childhood holidays were spent in South-East Asian oceans as benign and warm as bathtubs. There was no fierce, raging, unpredictable surf, no sudden rips dragging you out to sea.
I learnt to swim but never felt at ease in Australia's surf. As a teen growing up in the Sutherland Shire, I was rolled one day by a giant wave at Garie Beach in the Royal National Park. I still remember that panicky, choking feeling, salt water in my throat, no air, the sense of being caught in a violently thrashing washing machine.
For years since, I have dreamed of huge waves rearing up from flat oceans like cobras. When I enter the sea now, I stand waist deep and head on, defiant, scanning the horizon. Every wave is a potential tsunami.
For many immigrant Australians - particularly non-European - the beach is not that bucolic playground and national symbol we so prize. Instead, Australians like us regard the sea with suspicion and, in some cases, an atavistic fear.
Many of us don't come from swimming cultures - most of my older family members, friends and relatives can't swim at all. Many of us hail from landlocked parts of the world - Afghanistan, Laos, Nepal. Many of us can't read the sea, don't understand how quickly Australian beaches and waterways can turn treacherous.
A childhood friend from Malaysia, Andre, jokes that "maybe we're genetically not suited to the water". He says that an Aussie swim coach who used to chuck learners into the deep end back in Australia told him he was shocked to find in Malaysia that "Asian kids just sank to the bottom like rocks".
It's been a bad summer for drowning, with 59 fatalities nationally since December. The victims represent a roll call of ethnicities. Henry Tran, two, dead in a fishpond. Tu'ipulotu Gallaher, 14, lost off Maroubra. Nepalese international student Sujan Adhikari, 29, dead at Wattamolla Lagoon. In the Murrumbidgee River, Peter Abd-El Kaddous, 42. At a water hole in the Bents Basin State Conservation area near Greendale, Mohamed Amine Hamza. Young Indian international student Anudeep Varri in Lake Bellfield, Melbourne.
Any of us - old, young, male, female, black, white - can drown. But Australian state and national water safety bodies, from Austswim to Life Saving Victoria to the Royal Life Saving Society, say that Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds - known as the CALD demographic and encompassing overseas tourists, migrants and international students - are particularly vulnerable.
The Australian coast is particularly dangerous. The Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Report 2016 found that 30 per cent of the 130 people who lost their lives in 2015/2016 were born overseas, continuing a 12-year trend.
All say the figures are likely to be much higher as place of birth is often unrecorded. And as Australian society grows increasingly multicultural, it represents a growing public health challenge, says the Royal Life Saving Society's Alison Mahony.
Factors behind this increased risk range from lack of swimming skills to cultural reasons such as female modesty, to socio-economic barriers such as cost and access to pools. Authorities have come up with strategies ranging from multilingual videos to culturally sensitive swimming programs for migrant women and children.
My children have little fear. The sea is welcoming. But for me, it's different. That rogue wave is always waiting so I don't turn my back on the sea - ever.
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