Friday, July 29, 2022

Atheist Senate president Sue Lines wants Lord’s Prayer ‘gone’

I am an atheist but I think a reminder of the Christian origins of our culture is valuable. I think the prayer is theologically interesting but does anybody else think of that when they utter it?

New Senate president Sue Lines says she would like to see the longstanding tradition of reading the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each sitting day “gone”, as she prepares to put her mark on the chamber by warning senators she’ll be tougher on those who demean their colleagues.

Senator Lines, only the second woman elected to the role of president, said as an atheist she did not want to say the prayer, which has been read by the presiding officers in the lower and upper houses at the start of each sitting day since 1901.

“On the one hand we’ve had ­almost every parliamentary leader applaud the diversity of the parliament and so if we are genuine about the diversity of the parliament we cannot continue to say a Christian prayer to open the day,” Senator Lines said.

“Personally, I would like to see the prayers gone. I’m an atheist. I don’t want to say the prayers. If others want to say the prayers they’re open to do that.

“Personally I would like to see them gone but again it’s not something I can ­decree. It’s a view of the Senate.” Senator Lines said the abolition of the Lord’s Prayer was “certainly on the agenda” and would be raised with the Senate procedure committee, which considers any matter relating to procedures referred to it by the chamber or the president.

The Senate agreed on Wednesday that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags would be displayed with the Australian flag in the chamber.

The move infuriated One ­Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who walked out of the Senate, ­ declaring “no I won’t and I never will” while Senator Lines was making an ­acknowledgment of country, which follows the prayer reading.

The three flags are positioned next to each other on the floor of the House of Representatives for the first time, after Anthony Albanese and leader of the house Tony Burke made the change.

Senators and members are not required to be present or participate in the reading of the Lord’s Prayer.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts to change the standing orders to replace the prayers with a personal prayer or reflection, including by former Greens leader Bob Brown in 1997.

The acknowledgment of country was added to the standing orders in 2010.

It is understood the House of Representatives Speaker Milton Dick has no desire or plans to change the arrangements for the Lord’s Prayer or acknowledgment of country.

Mr Dick, 50, hails from the Anglican faith and has spoken at the parliamentary prayer breakfast. He is a known supporter of ­religious communities in his Brisbane electorate of Oxley.

Senator Lines said she had a particular interest in implementing the Jenkins review recommendations and making parliament a safer place to work, revealing she had been sexually assaulted when she was five.

While she has witnessed bullying and name-calling in federal parliament – having been called a “squawking seagull” – Senator Lines said she had never seen or experienced sexual harassment or assault in the building.

But she said the chamber was too accepting of bad behaviour and it was up to her and other ­Senate chairs to raise standards.

“The standing orders do say you can’t demean a person and I think in the past we’ve kind of let that go unless it’s been really ­particularly bad. We have to raise the standards as chairs, whether it’s me or the deputy president or the deputy chairs,” Senator Lines said. “We actually do (need to) start to pull people up a little more. That’s one of the areas we’ve ­developed too high a bar for moderating bad behaviour.”

She will push for the chamber’s hours to be brought into line with the house’s after the Jenkins ­review found long and irregular hours of work could exacerbate aggressiveness in the workplace.

Though Senator Lines conceded there would still be occasions when the Senate needed to sit for long periods.


Greenie lunacy

Power grids transitioning to renewable energy generates great debate, but no one is discussing the Australian government’s transition into madness, marked by bouts of delusion and dissociation from reality on any issue involving climate.

An obvious area of denial is the chaos in power grids, with wholesale electricity prices spiking and major users being paid to stay off the grid to balance supply. Yet in the midst of it all, as if nothing was happening, a minster or official will declare that the switch to renewables must be accelerated.

Another is the declaration by defence minister Richard Marles that climate change – specifically rising sea levels – is a greater threat to the Pacific than Chinese military aggression. Made during a visit to the US in mid-July the minister’s comments may have had more to do with maintaining harmony at the Pacific Island Forum then being held in Fiji and attended by Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong, or cosying up to Beijing, but it was a strange statement for a defence minister to make.

As part of the forum the federal government followed the fad of declaring climate emergencies signing a joint forum declaration including the phrase. Now all they have to do is to produce an emergency, although they will probably settle for another State of the Climate report declaring that eco-systems are on the point of collapse, as they have for more than 30 years.

For island nations the declaration makes complete sense. Tuvalu, for example, sits on the peak of a submerged mountain top with poor soils, half way between Australia and Hawaii, where it is regularly visited by cyclones. So climate has always been a problem. But if the developed countries can be persuaded that the nation’s troubles are somehow their fault, they may contribute billions to a climate fund long promised during the endless series of international summits. Some of that climate money would be funnelled to the Pacific nations.

From the point of view of the minister of defence however, his declaration is madness. Satellites have tracked sea level increases world-wide for decades with the results publicly available on a site run by Columbia university. Since the early 1990s, when satellite monitoring began, sea levels have been increasing at an average rate of 3.3 millimetres a year. Such an increase, if extended over a whole century, adds up to an undramatic one third of a metre.

In addition, in a paper in the journal Nature Communications in February 2018 three New Zealand academics point out that there is growing evidence that islands are geologically dynamic, with features that adjust to changing sea level and climatic conditions. As a result, Tuvalu’s overall area has been increasing, not decreasing, although the island’s government strongly disputes that any of the additional surface area is usable land. Storms are another, obvious problem in the Pacific, but a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change in June, authored by 12 mostly Australian academics, states that the frequency of tropical cyclones has been declining due to climate change. The paper was reported straight-faced by the mainstream media without acknowledging that it contradicted decades of green propaganda.

Then there is the ongoing power crisis which has affected most Western countries. In Australia, the lack of a power capacity market, which pays generators simply to be ready to produce power, combined with relentless green propaganda against coal-fired power plants means no new plants have been built for years, there are fewer coal-fired generators capable of delivering on-demand power, and those still operating are increasingly unreliable due to age and lack of maintenance.

Those problems, combined with massive increase in energy prices, have resulted in spikes in wholesale power prices, particularly in Queensland, with advisor Energy Edge noting that wholesale power prices in the state more than doubled to an unheard-of average of $323 a megawatt-hour in the June quarter. When coal-fired power stations ruled the old state grids 20 years ago, wholesale power cost about $40 a megawatt hour. A few years ago, it was $80 a megawatt hour.

The chaos, and revelations that the government may pay some $1.7 billion to major power users who agree to stay off the grid during the crisis, has not affected the worldview of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. In a recent conference in Sydney, as the crisis was unfolding, he talked of the shift to net zero and ‘the transformative role of clean energy technologies’.

Activists claim a big part of the problem is the increase in prices for gas and coal, but they bear the blame, having repeatedly attacked new coal mines and gas projects, and their financiers, using propaganda, protests and legal actions designed to deter or delay projects.

Thanks to their efforts, no one should be surprised that developed countries are dependent for energy supplies on the likes of Russia, where green activists trying to shut fossil fuel projects get into serious trouble. In 2013, for example, the Russian government charged Greenpeace activists who tried to interfere with an oil platform above the Arctic circle with piracy. The charges were dropped after two months but activists have stayed away from Russian oil platforms.

Threatening to throw activists in jail for up to 12 years is unlikely to happen in the West but any government serious about energy security must recognise that the grid will require base-load fossil fuel power for many years to come, and do more to stand up to climate trouble-makers. Along the way they could try to regain their sanity.


The Left is winning the language wars

Judith Sloan

Once upon a time, we – or most of us, at least – knew what words meant. Needless to say, from society’s point of view, this was very useful – we were all working from the same page.

If someone had used the term economic rationalism, the typical response would have been to query the need for repetition. Yep, economics is about making trade-offs and who would sign up to irrationalism? What happened, in fact, was that economic rationalism became a term of derision, the message being that economics is a heartless discipline that should be ignored by both politicians and concerned persons.

While the term economic rationalism has luckily gone out of fashion, the connotation lives on. Social justice was another term that became wildly fashionable a while back. I’m not sure who is against social justice, but hands up all those who know what social justice actually means. The main point is that social justice is just a short-hand term for everything that progressives regard as important and woe betide anyone who disagrees.

There are plenty of murky, even meaningless, words and terms that have been captured by the Left to throw stones at those who disagree with them. To describe economics as neoliberal makes no sense at all. But it is a way of casting economics as a callous discipline based on absurd assumptions. The fact that right-minded economists don’t ever describe themselves as neoliberal is irrelevant to activists pushing greater government intervention.

Extraordinarily long-serving economics editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins – succession planning is clearly not the long suit of the editors – is always at pains to distance himself from neo-liberalism. As he puts it, ‘economics has many useful insights to offer the community. It must be rescued from neoliberalism because neoliberalism is simply bad economics.’ We can’t be sure why it’s bad economics because we don’t know what neoliberalism is – well apart from it being bad.

Austerity is another term purloined by the Left to attack any politician who attempts to cut government spending. Actually, make that cut the growth of government spending. Where once austerity might have been interpreted as responsible behaviour, particularly after a period of excess, these days it is another abridged term for merciless pruning of government expenditure.

Recall those 365 economists who wrote to the Times in 1981 complaining about Maggie Thatcher’s economic policies. They were confident that the fiscal and monetary tightening that was being implemented ‘will deepen the depression (sic)’. They even went as far as to suggest that Thatcher’s 1981 budget would ‘threaten social and political stability’. As events panned out, inflation came under control and unemployment began to trend down. Oops for the ‘experts’ (another misused term).

The Australian Labor party also has form in terms of misrepresenting austerity and spending cuts. At recent elections (but not 2022), Labor would claim that the Coalition had plans to cut spending on education, health and other areas. Who could forget the vacuous Tanya Plibersek making this claim when in fact federal government spending on education under the Coalition had increased and was forecast to increase further?

The trick was for Labor to foreshadow ridiculously rapid increases in spending and judge Coalition plans against this fabrication. Of course, there were always fine words attached to Labor’s plans like removing the impact of socio-economic background on educational outcomes. Yeah, right! But the point is that Labor was able to misuse language to score political points. Arguably, this tactic forced Tony Abbott to agree, during the 2013 election campaign, that there would be no cuts to education, health or the ABC (!) under a Coalition government.

Nimby – not in my backyard – is another term that has been snaffled by the Left to push for any of their preferred developments while denigrating those who oppose them. The objective is to delegitimise any preferences that locals have in order to achieve ‘progressive’ objectives. (Yes, there’s another word that’s misused – progressive.)

The Grattan Institute has long promoted high-rise developments in inner and middle suburbs as a means of providing housing for a rapidly growing population, the latter mainly the result of very high rates of immigration. For people living in those suburbs who object to these developments – gosh, doesn’t everyone want a 30-storey apartment building next to their freestanding house? – the argument is that they should be ignored as selfish, privileged buffoons.

Because Nimby-ism is bad, so the Left’s argument goes, governments should be able to ignore the preferences of locals and simply force through new developments. It’s like China’s modus operandi, when you think about it. Nimby arguments are reaching a crescendo in some regional areas. Proposals to build massive transmission lines across farms or close to cities or towns are understandably causing disquiet among locals.

Recently, there was a well-attended protest in Ballarat objecting to the construction of huge pylons in western Victoria. This has put local federal member, Labor’s Catherine King, in something of a quandary, particularly as she is also minister for infrastructure. Weirdly, two state shadow ministers from the Victorian Liberal party turned up too, notwithstanding their party’s bizarre embrace of net zero by 2050 and a 50 per cent cut in the state’s emissions by 2030. Who ever said politicians needed to be consistent?

There is also a great deal of disquiet about a solar farm proposed for the outskirts of Goulburn, with many locals unhappy that a large chunk of the Gundary Plain should be used for this purpose. Apart from the loss of land, there is anxiety about glare from the panels and the ambient heat effect. Energy behemoth, BP, is a partner in the project.

The broader point about the promotion of renewable energy is that those living in regional areas are expected to bear the external costs of developments with any objections being written off as mere Nimby-ism.

So language matters. But the sensible centre-right has been totally outgunned and has completely lost the contest.


Energy prices smash records as coal generation slumps

The scale of Australia’s energy crisis has been laid bare with wholesale power and gas prices surging to new highs after coal generation plummeted to its lowest level of supply on record.

Wholesale electricity prices more than tripled in the second quarter of 2022 to average $264 per megawatt hour compared with $87MWh in the first three months of this year, the Australian Energy Market Operator said, with Queensland and NSW posting the highest prices.

Gas prices across the east coast markets also soared to more than $28 per gigajoule on average from less than $10/GJ in the first quarter, and peaked at more than $41/GJ on June 30, exceeding international LNG netback prices in both May and June as Russia’s restrictions on supply roiled global markets.

The collapse of black coal-fired generation contributed to the price hit with a string of plant breakdowns and supply shortages resulting in the fossil fuel recording its lowest second quarter output since the national electricity market began in 1998. Coal, which normally accounts for 60 per cent of supply, fell to 43 per cent in the three months to June 30.

The amount of coal out of action hit a peak of 4600MW in June, nearly 10 per cent of the entire capacity of the power grid.

The supply squeeze, along with high gas prices, saw wholesale energy prices jump which forced AEMO to impose a price cap. Some high cost producers refused to supply the market over fears of running at a loss, eventually forcing the entire market to be suspended amid accusations from Anthony Albanese that generators were essentially “gaming the system”.

READ MORE:Solar installations dip as costs bite
More than 400 separate lack of reserve conditions were declared by AEMO in the second quarter, compared with 36 in the March quarter and 73 a year earlier.

While the suspension was lifted after a week, a gas price cap remains in place for Victoria while an emergency guarantee mechanism was triggered to help arrest shortfalls in the state where demand surges threefold in winter.

Gas and renewables filled the gap left by the coal generation sitting on the sidelines. Gas generation jumped 27 per cent or 472MW from the same time a year ago to reach its highest second quarter level since 2017, while clean energy supply grew by a fifth over the same period although it remained seasonally lower than the first quarter of this year. “Wholesale energy price hikes and volatility were driven by multiple factors, including high international commodity prices, coal-fired generation outages, elevated levels of gas-fired generation, fuel supply issues, and many east coast cities experiencing their coldest start to June in decades,” AEMO executive Violette Mouchaileh said in its quarterly energy dynamics report.

AEMO reinforced its call for Australia to accelerate a move away from coal to renewables and storage and urgently sanction more than $10bn of transmission projects to escape the ongoing threat of blackouts and high power prices amid a national energy crisis.

“What’s clear is the urgent need to build-out renewable energy with diversified firming generation – like batteries, hydro and gas – and transmission investment to provide homes and businesses with low-cost, reliable energy.”

Separately, rooftop solar installations fell to their lowest level in three years for the three months to June 30 with households paying $1000 more for the same system due to higher costs and supply snags, the Australian Energy Council said.

Solar installed on rooftops fell by more than half in the second quarter of 2022 to 52,950 systems from 109,000 for the same time a year earlier and 86,000 in 2020. A reporting lag means this year’s figure will likely be bumped up to 80,000 installations, indicating just over a quarter fewer systems put in place.

Households in 2022 are typically paying $1000 more for the same solar set-up their neighbours paid last year, fuelling hesitancy which has been amplified by cost of living pressures and economic jitters.

The cost hike was triggered by supply chain issues, the increased cost of polysilicon which is used to make solar cells, and a reduction in subsidies paid through small-scale technology certificates.

The number of STCs a rooftop solar system creates falls each year through to 2030 when the scheme ends.

The average installed solar system size for residential households has more than tripled over the last decade to 9.54 kilowatts from 2.65kW in January 2012.

The Victorian postcodes of 3029 – Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit and Truganina – and 3064 – Donnybrook – were first and second respectively for the biggest solar uptake in Australia while the NSW postcode of 2765 in Sydney’s northwest was third.

South Australia and NSW account for more than half the market for those combining solar and batteries, with Queensland lagging after its incentive scheme was exhausted in 2019.

Over 3.1 million households have added solar to their rooftops since the turn of the century, adding 15 gigawatts of capacity to the national electricity market.




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