Friday, January 28, 2022

$1bn top-up to keep Great Barrier Reef off UN’s danger list

This is a complete waste of money. The reef is in no danger. Only Greenie scaremongering says it is. And the reef is at its most diverse in WARM climates (e.g. the Torres Strait) so global warming would help, not hinder it. Guess why the reef lies almost entirely in the (warm) tropics? Greenies rely on people not knowing even the basics and nobody dares to contradict them. Peter Ridd did and he got the sack

Scott Morrison will inject an ­additional $1bn into protecting the Great Barrier Reef – the largest single investment in the marine park – to avoid the national treasure being listed as an endangered world heritage site.

Three weeks after Anthony Albanese announced Labor would spend an extra $163m over four years to extend the Reef 2050 program, the Prime Minister will unveil the Coalition’s election pledge in Cairns to increase funding for the reef to $3bn.

Mr Morrison’s funding boost for the Great Barrier Reef – a key economic driver in the government-held electorates of Leichhardt, Herbert, Capricornia and Flynn – comes as Labor attempts to wrestle back the central and north Queensland seats.

The reef package is also expected to bolster the government’s environmental credentials across inner-city electorates in Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney where Liberal MPs are facing challenges from cashed-up pro-climate change ­independents at the election due by May.

The major pre-election spending follows a global push and recommendation from UNESCO last year for the 21-country World Heritage Committee to list the Great Barrier Reef as being “in danger”. While the government successfully lobbied against the push, the Morrison government must report to UNESCO by next month about how it is strengthening its Reef 2050 plan.

More than half of the extra $1bn in reef funding, to be spent over nine years, will go towards improving water quality and working with land managers to remediate erosion, improve land condition and reduce nutrient and pesticide run-off.

Efforts to combat threats from the crown of thorns starfish, which has severely damaged large swathes of the reef, will be bolstered by $253m.

The crown of thorns starfish control program, which has already culled more than 275,000 of the marine invertebrates since 2014, will be extended from 253 to 500 reefs.

Mr Morrison said protecting more than 13,000 hectares of coral reef captured under the crown of thorns starfish program required “state of the art on-water management practices”.

“We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy,” the Prime Minister said.

“This is already the best-­managed reef in the world and today we take our commitment to a new level. Funding will support scientists, farmers and traditional owners, backing in very latest marine science while building ­resilience and reducing threats from pollution in our oceans and predators such as the crown of thorns starfish.”

The Australian understands the Great Barrier Reef Foundation – controversially awarded a $443m grant by Mr Morrison’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2018 – will likely work with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and other government agencies but not play any role in the allocation of funds.

With the Great Barrier Reef supporting 64,000 jobs and generating $6.4bn in annual tourism revenue, veteran Liberal MP Warren Entsch said “the people in Cairns and far north Queensland care about the reef more than anyone”.

“Our tourism operators, local communities and traditional owners are invested in the health of the reef and this funding ­supports their commitment and the future of the world’s greatest natural wonder.”

The Leichhardt MP holds his Cairns-based seat on a margin of 4.2 per cent.

“The reef is an amazing place for people to visit and, particularly as local businesses start to recover, I encourage people to come up and see that for themselves,” Mr Entsch said. “This funding will help us keep it that way and ensure that we remain the best reef managers in the world.”

The government’s existing $2bn 2050 plan has supported management agencies including GBRMPA and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences maintain the health of the reef.

In addition to water quality and reef management, $92.7m is being funnelled into research and deployment of world-leading reef resilience science and adaptation strategies. A further $74.4m is going towards indigenous and community-led projections including “species protection, habitat restoration, citizen science programs and marine debris”.

Central to the Coalition’s reef management plan is improving the quality of water flowing to the reef, which involves land-­management transformation across a catchment area of about 424,000sq km. About 80 per cent of the catchment area is under agricultural production.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the best science and engagement with communities, industries and indigenous groups would drive record investment.

“From breakthrough science in coral seeding and restoration, to improved water quality, the latest on water management and compliance systems, as well as the protection of native species, we are working across every aspect of the reef,” Ms Ley said. “Our farmers, tourism operators, and fishers are our reef champions and we are supporting them through practical water and land based strategies that will contribute significantly to the health of the reef.”

The Opposition Leader this month launched his Queensland election campaign blitz in the state’s north and promised a Labor government would ensure the key tourist attraction was never classified by the UN as “in danger”.

“That’s what we’re determined to do: make sure that it’s never ever put on that list,” Mr Albanese said. “The way to do that is take the big action that we will take by joining the world in climate policy, once again, not being a pariah sitting in the naughty corner with Saudi Arabia and Brazil and a couple of other countries.”

Mr Albanese also pledged to tear up Mr Turnbull’s Great Barrier Reef Foundation funding arrangement.


Australia day grievance: Always was, always will be a smokescreen

As Roger Scruton wrote: ‘The fictions were far more persuasive than the facts, and more persuasive than both was the longing to be caught up in a mass movement of solidarity, with the promise of emancipation at the end. My father’s grievances were real and well-founded. But his solutions were dreams.’

Always was, always will be. These words are the first clue that the fight about when Australia Day falls isn’t really at all about ‘when Australia Day falls’. It is hard-coded into the progressive narrative that there can be no solution to the problem.

Colonisation cannot be resolved. No reparations, no recognition of inter-generational trauma, no overly-verbose oratory apology can meaningfully move the needle on Indigenous outcomes.

Any good-faith analysis of the anti-Australia Day movement has no choice but to conclude there is nothing that can be done to appease the movement to the point it ‘stops’ short of a complete demolition of the entire country and mass exodus of people.

That is a feature and not a bug of those weaving the narrative. It is designed to endlessly fuel emotional responses in voters which are ordered towards political ends (namely stacking up contributions and winning elections). This isn’t entirely novel to the left but denying this reality is futile.

This isn’t to say that there are not very real and serious issues within Australia’s Indigenous communities that must be urgently addressed. This is to say that whatever cultural battleground we fight over next will be just as asinine and just as much of a smokescreen from the real issues as the fight over Australia Day has been.

Indigenous women are 34 to 80 times more likely to experience domestic and family violence. That should be the headline in the news cycle today. That is a real problem in need of urgent redress.

The infantilisation of adult people as nothing but victims of systemic oppression, teaching them they cannot be the masters of their own destiny – that is a real problem as well. Treating 3.3 per cent of the population as a monolithic entity is also a real problem.

Custodial land rights with no true ownership or freedom to generate wealth from the land entrusted to Indigenous communities, that is a very real and easily solvable problem.

To those who criticise opponents of the date change, saying symbolic changes have ‘real meaning’, please tell us what changing the date will do to address the horrific rates of family violence? Please tell us what ‘Sorry Day’ did to help these disaffected people living in poverty (apart from facilitate the Astro-turfing of the change the date movement to follow it)? The answer, as we all know deep down – or not so deep – is nothing. To paraphrase, ‘Symbolism is quick, easy, and exhilarating. Real change slow, laborious, and dull.’

You can’t put a date on the colonisation of Australia, so suggesting a date change meaningfully alters the nature of Australia Day (whenever it might be) is equally puerile. The narrative will not change: always was, always will be.

A day of celebration and recognition of Australia for all its splendour and achievement is intransigently tied to its conquering through violence. This is neither good nor bad at this point, it is just historical fact. We can, and we will, celebrate good while recognising bad, as we have throughout human history.

Until proponents are willing to come to the table for a vision of a unified Australia (one which recognises the bad but stops short of setting unachievable outcomes), they cannot be taken seriously in their ostensible objectives and Indigenous communities will continue to suffer.

The Greens celebrate calls for Amazon to write Meanjin instead of Brisbane on our frivolous online shopping while looking past the woe’s faced by Indigenous children because the data makes them uncomfortable.

Campaign money, which could be better spent pushing for actually needed reform, will be frittered away by university educated white people trying to ‘change the world’ one overshared Instagram story at a time.

It’s okay though, for anyone tired of the debate, these people will have moved on to their new pet issue by next week. Just like we have already seemingly forgotten the plight of women in Afghanistan.

Maybe the left-wing elite want to have a spell discussing the quandary of the Ukrainian people while simultaneously opposing the military industrial complex which defends them next?

Once you accept that appeasement or acquiescence on the date change would be in vain, you must merely fight the changes because it slows down the timeline before the next pet (culturally more divisive) issue is engineered into the Overton window for political ends.

The grimmest realisation is that in twelve months’ time we will have to rehash this all again, yet no meaningful changes which could actually help our Indigenous communities from the harm they suffer, will have occurred.


Many Australian "workers" are better off on welfare -- and it shows

Last week there were three important pieces of news related to the Australian labour market.

One was the fall in the unemployment rate to 4.2 per cent, the lowest since before the global financial crisis and one of the lowest since monthly surveys were first conducted in 1978.

The second was the revelation that 200,000 people who took up welfare benefits during the height of the pandemic remained out of work, notwithstanding widespread labour shortages.

Finally, there was the decision by the federal government to open international borders to those who had been vaccinated, with visa fees temporarily waived for international students and working holiday-makers. The expectation is that there will be about 175,000 arrivals in the coming months. Note here also that work restrictions placed on international students (20 hours a week during semester time) have been lifted temporarily.

These developments tell us lot about what is happening in the labour market and the government’s approach to dealing with the issues. When it comes to the unemployment rate, the official figure still contains a lot of noise as a result of the pandemic and on-again, off-again lockdowns and other restrictions. Even without government-mandated restrictions, the private decisions of wary members of the public are affecting business conditions.

There is also the impact of Covid-related jobs – think PCR collectors, vaccine givers, contract tracers and the like – which is similar to having an ongoing census affecting the figures. (In the month in which the five-year census takes place, there is always a noticeable impact on employment, although the number of collectors now is much less with the census going largely online.)

The point is that the official unemployment rate still doesn’t give us a totally meaningful and comprehensive view of the labour market. But there is no doubt that conditions are relatively tight, particularly given the absence of temporary migrants in the past nearly two years.

What is clearer is that some industries and businesses had become highly dependent on migrants to fill certain jobs, particularly lower-paid ones in service industries and agriculture. When this source of workers dried up there were serious difficulties in securing other (Australian-born) workers to fill the positions. On the face of it, it would seem there are some jobs Australians just won’t take.

This is consistent with overseas research that shows local workers will vacate positions permanently when there are low-skilled migrants prepared to take them. Even when there are fewer migrants available to do these jobs – as has been the case with the pandemic – local workers show little propensity to resume their occupancy of these jobs, even if rates of pay are slightly increased.

Two or so decades ago, the Australian labour market was adequately serviced by local workers with relatively few international students, working holiday workers and temporary workers. Migrants overwhelmingly were permanent and undertook long-term job plans consistent with getting ahead and providing for their families.

More recently, the number of temporary migrants has swamped the number of permanent ones, which in turn reflects where migrants work and the aspirations of the workers involved. Many international students, for instance, must work to pay fees and living expenses. They tend to take low-skilled jobs in hospitality and retail and often will work in businesses with ethnic ties. It is not surprising that many instances of wage theft occur among these temporary working migrants lacking, as they do, knowledge of our industrial relations regulations and fearful of losing their jobs.

It is not surprising the businesses that came to rely on temporary migrants as one of their principal sources of workers are those that are complaining loudly about worker shortages. If they can convince the government to open up the international borders, it is easier to resume their old ways rather than offer higher wages and train locals to do the jobs.

While this course of action may take time, it shouldn’t be ruled out. That there are large numbers of people on JobSeeker – about 200,000 – who took up welfare payments during the pandemic but remain without employment suggests there is a potential source of labour that could be tapped.

For some people, the net advantages of not working (including the payment of a slightly higher JobSeeker and other top-ups) are greater than the net advantages of working. This creates a dilemma for the government because the employability of these welfare recipients declines the longer their duration of joblessness. But given the complications of the pandemic restrictions on ease of movement, it hasn’t been an optimal time to impose mutual obligations on welfare recipients.

This has led the government to take the easy route and simply bring in as many temporary workers as possible to take up these difficult-to-fill jobs. Mind you, this tactic is consistent with the government’s preference for large migrant intakes and high rates of population growth. (The Prime Minister’s time at the Property Council seems to have had a lasting effect given his ongoing refusal to countenance a future for Australia based on much more limited rates of immigration.)

There are downsides to this approach, not least the lack of electoral appeal in restarting large migrant intakes. The incipient wage pressures that have become apparent, consistent with worker shortages, are likely to be suppressed to a degree. And why bother training workers when it is possible simply to import them? (This is particularly the case in more skilled fields like engineering and IT.)

It is pleasing to note the federal opposition is taking a slightly different position when it comes to immigration. In particular, its view is that the number of temporary workers should be restricted to drive the incentives for locals to be employed and trained.

Having said this, it would seem unlikely a Labor federal government would limit the number of international students granted visas, given the close relationship between the higher education sector and the Labor Party. International students are the largest group of temporary workers by far.

Again, going back two or so decades, our educational sector managed well without such high proportions of international students. Indeed, it would seem many universities have managed very well during the pandemic without the steady stream of international students.

The reality is that the pre-pandemic situation worked for many key players in the economy and the government is being pressured to return to that situation as soon as possible. Without thinking through the forgone opportunity to reform and change things, it would seem the government is only too keen to oblige.


‘Scrap the app’: Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner slams need for the check-in app

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner has slammed the state government over the need for the check-in app saying its lost its purpose, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is refusing to budge on the policy.

Cr Schrinner said Queenslanders have been questioning whether the check-in app is worth the “impositions” it puts on businesses since Queensland Health stopped posting individual contact tracing locations this year.

“When the cases started to rise in Queensland, everyone was waiting to hear the contact tracing locations of hotspots, and that hasn’t happened. The state government’s not using their app for its intended purpose. If the contact tracing was happening it would be a different story but it’s not,” he said.

While people were originally prepared to do the “right thing”, Mr Schrinner said their patience wouldn’t last forever.

“If they see a purpose for it, they’ll be cooperative. But in this case people are seeing the state government not using their own app so they’re really questioning why they should use it,” he said.

He said that there are other apps on smartphones that will allow people to show their vaccination status, and this function was unnecessary for places where the vaccine mandate wasn’t enforced.

“When it comes to places like Coles, Woolies and Aldi, it’s time to scrap the app.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk fought back at the Mayor saying there were no plans to remove the check in app as it was vital for making sure people were vaccinated.

“If there is a big outbreak, we want to make sure that we can actually let people know,” she said.


Global cobalt shortage good for Australia

Cobalt prices performed strongly in the second half of 2021, rising for 100 consecutive days to hit more than US$70,000/t in December.

In 2022, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence projects the demand for cobalt out of the global battery sector alone will grow by more than 20% year on year — a significant step up in demand.

Meanwhile, forecasted supply side additions will struggle to keep pace with such growth, providing further support to prices.

Over the medium term, this small market – global production was just ~140,000t cobalt metal total in 2021 — will grow at an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of between 8-10% to 2030.

(Of that 140,000t, ~55% is currently consumed by the battery sector.)

Based on a CAGR of 10%, cobalt will be a +310,000tpa market by the end of the decade.

100% growth in just 8 years. Huge.

By 2050, Glencore has previously estimated about 507,000 tonnes per annum will be consumed – a ~300% increase on existing levels.

That’s because EV makers, a relatively small percentage of current demand, will need a lot more going forward. German behemoth VW, for example, has formed a joint venture to produce cathode material at an as-yet undisclosed location in Europe.

The deal outlined targets to produce sufficient cathode material for 20GWh of cell production by 2025, scaling up to 160GWh by the end of the decade. According to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence data, that 160GWh will require more than 20,000tpa of cobalt.

COB is making big process on the flagship 81,000t Broken Hill Cobalt Project (BHCP) – Australia’s largest cobalt sulphide deposit — which could be in production by mid to late 2025.

Pre-production capex is estimated at ~$560m. The BHCP would produce +3,500tpa cobalt metal eq over a 20 years at a very low all-in sustaining cost of $US12/lb – making it profitable even at record low prices.

The cobalt price recently hit $33/lb. The leverage for COB is astonishing, Kaderavek told Stockhead. “A US$2.50/lb increase in the price of cobalt delivers a 28% NPV (Post Tax) increase,” he says.

“For example, a mark to market exercise reveals that today’s Broken Hill project is worth $1.3Bn – as opposed to the $550m that was assumed on long dated numbers back in 2020.”

In 2022, COB is planning to operate its demonstration plant — a smaller version of the real thing — and deliver large scale samples to potential offtake partners.

Project approvals and a BFS will be finalised by the end of the year, ready for a final investment decision on the project by Q1 2023.

Despite additional DRC supply coming online soon, Kaderavek says over the long-term, supply will struggle to keep up with demand.

“This is an EV phenomenon – for example, our Broken Hill Cobalt Project is a top 5 (ex-Africa) project, yet the 17,000tpa of our cobalt sulphate will barely feed a single 40GWh giga factory.”

“There are over 50 such large facilities planned for the US and EU alone over the next decade.”

Kaderavek says battery makers and carmakers will need to move up the supply chain to make deals with raw material suppliers.

COB already has commercial partnerships with LG International, Mitsubishi Corporation & the giant Japanese trading house, Sojitz Corporation.

The question isn’t solely whether supply will be able to meet demand. Automakers, especially western automakers, are increasing putting ESG at the centre of everything they do.

That puts dominant global cobalt producer, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under the microscope. The landlocked African nation is a global giant when it comes to cobalt production. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the DRC produced 95,000 tonnes of cobalt in 2020, accounting for 68% of global output.

It’s where China – the world’s biggest consumer by far — gets ~90% of its supply.

But some high-profile supply agreements have shown that European consumers are committed to diversifying away from these problematic Chinese and DRC supply chains.

This underscores the importance of cobalt projects in ‘de-risked’ tier 1 jurisdictions – like those owned by COB, as well as Jervois Mining (ASX:JRV), Australian Mines (ASX:AUZ), Sunrise Energy Metals (ASX:SRL), Queensland Pacific Metals (ASX:QPM), red hot IPO Kuniko (ASX:KNI) and Metals X’s (ASX:MLX) nickel-cobalt spin-out Nico Resources (ASX:NC1) — just to name a few.

The pivot away from African cobalt towards more sustainable sourcing is another reason supply will struggle to keep up with demand, Kaderavek says. “We are seeing a strong commercial pivot towards ethical sourcing of battery materials from the EU and US,” he says.




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