Friday, June 03, 2022

Brisbane 2011 flood class action win of $450 million to be distributed by early 2023

A 12 year wait to get compensation for government bungling. The genesis of the problem was a decision by the Bligh Labor government to use the flood compartment of the Wivenhoes dam for water storage

Victims of the 2011 Brisbane floods have started receiving part of the $450 million settlement won in a class action against dam operator SunWater and the state of Queensland.

In November 2019, the Supreme Court in New South Wales found flood engineers operating the Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams in Queensland were negligent and failed to follow the manual they had helped draft.

While the court ruled in favour of the negligence claim against the Queensland government of the day, as well as Seqwater and SunWater, other aspects of the case failed.

The class action alleged the dam operators failed to follow their own manual and did not make enough room for heavy rainfall until it was too late, heightening flood levels and damaging more properties.

Maurice Blackburn lawyer Rebecca Gilsenan told ABC Radio Brisbane's Steve Austin some of the almost 7,000 claimants had received an interim payment.

She said the total payout would not be distributed until all legal matters associated with the case were finalised. That could take until the end of this year or early 2023.

"We are releasing partial payments now so people can get something," Ms Gilsenan said. "We've paid about 300 people so far and we are paying on a rolling basis — when people accept their loss assessment, we can pay them."

Maurice Blackburn developed a settlement scheme which informed how the money would be distributed among the claimants and took into account their location and the damage sustained.

Ms Gilsenan said most people accepted their assessment and wanted to "move through the process". "There are a small number of people who have appealed and asked us to look at that assessment again and we've done that," she said.

"They're only ever going to get half of what they lost, at most, because we only settled half the case, half the case we lost, so I can understand why some people are angry. "But more than 95 per cent understand and accept what's being allocated."

Describing the initial payouts as a "conservative amount", Ms Gilsenan said most were valued at just several thousand dollars.

She acknowledged the decade-long legal process was too long and left victims without a sense of closure for many years


Barnaby Joyce issues a dire warning to Australia NOT to ditch coal with the country in the grips of an energy crisis as Germany announces that it could switch on coal power plants once again

Barnaby Joyce has called for Australia to generate more coal-fired power to ease the energy crisis as power bills soar.

The former deputy prime minister said Australia should follow European nations including Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic which plan to burn more coal as a temporary measure while they reduce reliance on Russian gas.

Sanctions on major oil and gas exporter Russia over its invasion of Ukraine as well as soaring demand after Covid-19 lockdowns have seen global energy prices skyrocket.

Germany has drawn up a bill this week ordering coal power plants that were due to shut down to be maintained on standby in case they are needed at short notice.

Financial comparison group Finder is predicting Australian electricity prices could double in July, taking average monthly bills in NSW from about $120 to $240.

Mr Joyce, who is against Australia's net zero carbon emissions by 2050 target which his own government implemented, said one solution is to burn more coal and gas.

He blasted the Coalition for not building more fossil fuel plants or nuclear power stations which are banned in Australia.

'We've sort of gone off on this tangent that we don't need coal fired power, we don't need baseload power,' Mr Joyce told 2GB on Thursday morning.

'And of course that's like saying you don't need a roof, that you can live alright in your house if you just wear a coat and unfortunately these chickens are coming home to roost.'

Labor Treasurer Jim Chalmers takes the opposite view, insisting that a 'decade of inaction' on renewable energy under the Coalition government has left Australians paying more for their power.

'These are the costs and consequences of almost a decade of a former government which had 22 different energy policies, a range of different energy ministers, and didn't take the steps that we needed them to take,' he told reporters on Thursday.

Dr Chalmers said the Coalition had failed at 'improving transmission, getting cleaner and cheaper energy into the system, or injecting some certainty in the market so that we can get the investment that we need.'

The new Labor government wants 82 per cent of the nation's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 and believes this will bring down power prices because hydro, solar and wind energy is cheaper.

Currently about 60 per cent of Australia's electricity comes from coal, 32 per cent from renewables and eight per cent from gas.

Mr Joyce, who was toppled as Nationals leader on Monday, said he wants to change public opinion to garner support for more coal and gas.

'What we have to do now is get the attitude change in the public that you want to get baseload power up and running,' he said.

'You want to get the coal fired power stations up and running. You have to seriously consider nuclear because the alternative is coming to you in the mail and it's called the power bill and it's going through the roof.'


Perth pick for Northern ministry draws wrath of Bob Katter

LABOR’S lack of talent north of the Brisbane Line has been underscored by its selection of an MP from Perth to be the next Minister for Northern Australia.

The Member for Brand, Madeleine King, was sworn in as Minister for Resources and Northern Australia on Wednesday in a Cabinet lacking representation from the North.

Even Cairns-based Labor Senator Nita Green,appointed Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, did not make the Outer Ministry.

The selections drew fire from North Queensland MP Bob Katter who described Ms King’s appointment as “complete lunacy”.

“I’m trying to get a message to my fellow North Queenslanders, it’s not that they hate you or that they have higher priorities, it’s that you don’t exist for them. We are not on their radar, that’s the whole issue,” Mr Katter said.

Ms King said she was honoured to be named as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and denied she lacked experience in the North.

“Having held the resources portfolio in Opposition, I have spent a great deal of time on the ground at mine sites and mining communities across Australia, including in Northern Australia, and met regularly with local government representatives in places like Karratha, Isaac, East Pilbara and Gladstone,” Ms King said.

“Before that, I visited Northern Australia regularly to undertake parliamentary committee work, including Darwin, Katherine, and remote communities in the Northern Territory and WA. I have family in Far North Queensland, and I am delighted that my sister, who lives in Cairns, could join me for the swearing (on Wednesday).”

She said there were clear complementarities between the Resources and Northern Australia and that she looked forward to engaging with communities to address the challenges and grasp the opportunities.

Gold Coast-based Queensland Senator Murray Watt, previously Labor’s Northern Australia spokesman, was appointed Minister for Emergency Management and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

One of the problems for Labor is that it has few representatives in Northern Australia although it does have two MPs in the Northern Territory, including Darwin-based MP Luke Gosling.

Mr Katter said that like all parties Labor would have been trying to appease its factions.

“We don’t count at all. Nor did we in the last government,” Mr Katter said.


Liberal: We're not dead yet!

Kevin Donnelly

In response to the federal election and to paraphrase Mark Twain, the death of centre-right parties, including the Liberal Party, is much exaggerated.

The Australian’s Paul Kelly’s pompous claims the Australian electorate is facing the ‘great realignment’ and the ‘decapitation of the liberals in their heartland’ plus describing Anthony Albanese as the ‘realignment Prime Minister’, while colourful, are far from the truth.

Richard Flanagan’s article in The Age, in addition to being characterised by bitterness, also misses the mark in claiming the arrival of an ALP government heralds the end of conservatism and the triumph of progressive, Woke ideology.

Much of the commentary in response to the election is also misplaced and dangerous when suggesting the sole aim of political parties is to get the numbers to win government. Instead of developing policy based on what best serves the common good, Dave Sharma in The Age suggests if parties are to win government they need to ‘ensure their values keep in step with the electorate’.

While it’s true Edmund Burke may have retained his seat if he accepted Sharma’s advice, it’s also true the primary duty of a Member of Parliament is to act according to his or her conscience and not the demands of the electorate. Burke writes in his speech to the electors of Bristol:

‘Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.’

Burke’s view is politicians must act according to their conscience and what is best for the nation as opposed to a Machiavellian view of politics where gaining and retaining power is the sole objective. Such a belief explains why the Liberal Party allows parliamentarians a conscience vote.

While there’s no doubt the Liberal Party suffered a heavy loss to the Teal faux-Independents, as argued by Peta Credlin, it’s also true the ALP suffered a significant decline in its primary vote. Based on the election result, only a third of Australians voted for Albanese as their first choice as Prime Minister.

Credlin also notes while left-of-centre parties won 47.9 per cent of first preferences, the equivalent figure for centre-right parties was also 47.9 per cent. Talk of a progressive, Woke landslide ignores the reality so many voters preferred the more conservative alternative.

As political history tells us politics is dynamic and as societies evolve and change old parties either disappear or reshaped and new parties arise. Sir Robert Menzies, after serving as Prime Minister for the United Australia Party, founded the Liberal Party in 1944. In 1955, the ALP split with the newly established DLP ensuring Menzies became Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

Donald Chip in 1977 became leader of the Australian Democrats. More recently, the Greens Party and now the Teal faux-Independents have arisen as a political force. In many ways, the most recent election result is simply a playing out of the cultural changes impacting Australian society and the fact political parties too often become ossified and dominated by apparatchiks and power seekers.

While many of the LINO Members of Parliament who lost their seats argue the way ahead is for the Liberal Party to out-Woke-the-Woke, the greatest danger facing centre-right parties, especially the Liberal Party, is to try and mimic the policies of the LGT alliance (Labor, Greens, Teals). Trying to regain seats like Kooyong where Millennials indoctrinated with Woke alarmism, radical feminist, and gender ideology are living in increasing numbders is pointless.

As argued by Peter Dutton, the new leader of the Liberal opposition, far better to appeal to voters in suburban and rural Australia where the LGT parties either do not exist or are most vulnerable. Central to this will be engaging and motivating voters by developing a coherent, carefully thought through, and persuasive case for change.

A narrative grounded in firmly held ideas and beliefs that embody what is best for the nation and future generations. A government that is fiscally responsible and less intrusive, where small businesses and communities are supported and that acknowledges the institutions and way of life that underpin what makes Australia unique in an increasingly dangerous world.

A government committed to the liberties and freedoms too long taken for granted and prepared to defend the nation’s sovereignty against the global push to dominate and control evidenced by the Great Reset, the IPCC’s climate alarmism, and global behemoths including Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Twitter.


Outrage idiocy takes root in unexpected field

You will be surprised to learn, as I have, that the study of plants is a field beset with structural racism. But so insidious is this malaise that it has infiltrated professions you would least suspect.

As the ABC reported last week, the International Congress on Plant Molecular Biology (IPMB) is the latest institution to be indicted. A single tweet from that organisation has put in doubt its ability to host an international conference in Cairns this October as planned.

Specifically, it concerns IPMB conference committee chair, plant biochemist, and Curtin University professor Josh Mylne, who has been meticulously planning the conference for over four years. In January, the IPMB tweeted a collage of 94 images of headline speakers and session chairs.

“We had one of the best gender balances I’d seen, career-stage diversity with younger and older scientists, so much different science — more than ever before — chairs from all around the world, including for the first time Africa and India,” Mylne later reflected.

But he was bemused when replies to this tweet alleged under-representation of black American, South American, and Africans. When one person angrily tweeted “International and no Africans!” he replied, “Look harder”.

That was it. Not “Look harder next time before you make a goose of yourself” or “It’s not my fault you don’t have the intelligence to think before you tweet”. Nevertheless Mylne’s response angered the critics, who accused him of being “disrespectful”. His deletion of the tweet the next day only made matters worse, prompting accusations the organisation was attempting to forestall discussions about diversity.

In fairness to the critics, I too identified diversity shortfalls in the collage concerned. It did not appear the Asháninka people of Peru were represented nor the Uriankhai Mongols for that matter. Neither did I spot a single Sentinelese botanist of the Andaman Islands but given that tribe’s habit of throwing spears and shooting arrows at outsiders, I assumed an invitation would have been problematic.

Within a few days, IPMB officially responded. The script – well, I hardly need detail it – is depressingly familiar. “This experience has been a wakeup call and we have listened,” the release read. Pledging “to do better with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion,” and effect “structural change” to end discrimination and promote inclusion, the organisation declared it was “deeply sorry” for its “initial and poorly conceived responses from leadership”.

But even this was not enough to appease the screechers. Five days after the IPMB’s capitulation, the American Society of Plant Biologists announced it was withdrawing support for the Congress. “ASPB has an obligation to advocate not only for plant science, but also for plant scientists,” the board declared. “We are not fulfilling our obligations to the latter if we stand by as members from groups that have been historically marginalised continue to face exclusionary practices, taunting, and harassment from others in the community.”

According to APSB president-elect Gustavo MacIntosh, one of the main reasons for the decision was a private email sent from the Congress leadership team to an APSB member which implied, as the ABC reported, “that it was up to people of colour to fix any problem with the diversity of speakers”.

“Again it’s not understanding the problem, and then compounding the problem, by just keeping the same attitude that is aggressive towards a person of colour,” said MacIntosh, although he later conceded this was a perception only. “Is the person that did it trying to be aggressive? I don’t know,” he said. So why go the nuclear option?

Revealingly, MacIntosh also conceded the accusations that the Congress did not provide a diverse field of speakers had not been substantiated. “The criticisms could have been valid or not, but independent of this, the problem we have is what happened afterwards,” he said.

And there’s the rub with identity politics. Racism as well as other prejudices are alleged ad nauseam, but they are secondary to the real issue, which is the urge to dominate the mainstream through virtue bullying. Its practitioners are often indifferent to actual racism but highly attuned to the threat posed by those who challenge their narrative. As we see in this case, the Congress’s cardinal sin was not the collage poster but its chair’s refuting the accusations that the conference lacked diversity.

But kudos must go to Diversity Council of Australia CEO Lisa Anesse for her woke confounding of this incident. As the ABC reported, she maintains Australia “is lagging behind countries like the US when it comes to talking about race”.

“We’ve raised generations of Australians without race-based language and without an understanding of how to have conversations about race,” she said. And how did this reticence come about? According to her, it is the “shame of the White Australia policy”.

Never mind that the last vestiges of that policy were abolished nearly 50 years ago. As for the absence of race-based language or the disinclination to obsess about race, who aside from the grievance industry regards that as a bad thing?

Spare a thought for poor Mylne, who hopes to salvage the conference by holding it next year instead. “We can and will do better,” he said.

But you have done nothing wrong, professor. If the aggrieved ASPB members do attend, you should treat them politely and acknowledge the importance of Black Lives Matter activism. And then you should immediately go on to talk about delicate petals and other native flora. “That reminds me,” you could say. “Did I mention the Cairns region is home to the parasitic strangler fig species Fichus virens, which wraps itself around a perfectly good tree and sucks the life out of it?”

As for the ASPB, it clearly sees an opportunity for its activists to flex their muscles, saying “This ordeal has caused ASPB to reflect on what a global plant meeting looks like, and we look forward to sharing a reimagined vision for a truly global convention in the future.”

I’m no botanical scientist, but I can tell you what this outrage idiocy means for the profession. A global plant meeting overflowing with diversity, tolerance, and harmony? More like something from The Day of the Triffids.




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