Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Left-led destruction of standards in the schools

We will MAKE you equal, they implicitly say -- even if we can do that only by dumbing everybody down to a low common denominator. Their "all men are equal" gospel is truly pernicious but is part of their general disconnect from reality.

Reality is unimportant to them. They see only what they want to see. And what they want is to see everyone as miserable as they are. As Gore Vidal once said: "Whenever a Friend Succeeds, a Little Something in Me Dies"

In my university teaching career I saw several instances of the sort of thing mentioned below. I was in a very Leftist Sociology department and I saw student marks upgraded on all sorts of flimsy grounds

A friend of mine walked away from his job as a teacher recently, turning his back on career spanning over three decades.

He told me he was leaving because he was tired of being forced to give good marks to indifferent students, as there existed an unwritten but understood direction that no one was allowed to fail.

He said he was tired of coaching sporting teams to take part in competitions in which there was no scoring, so that everybody was a winner and no one suffered the ignominy of coming second.

If everyone passes and nobody loses, then the students are happy and parents are happy and the headmasters and education bureaucrats are happy.

Little Johnny never acquires the discipline inherent in study, but sails through high school without raising a sweat because the system says he must. He also thinks he’s great at sport as his team never lost.

His lack of commitment to learning doesn’t matter, because as long as he can sign his name and apply for a student HECS loan, universities will welcome him into their folds.

He spends three lovely years watching online lectures in between playing video games, going to the beach and hanging out with his mates.

His tutors give his barely comprehensible assignments a pass mark because they know that their superiors expect everyone to pass.

Tutors know that if they fail students, particularly those from overseas, they will be accused of having a bias against a particular group.

It doesn’t matter that these groups have poor written and spoken English language skills, and engage in wholesale cheating.

It’s much better to give everyone a tick and move on, rather than risk a career-threatening confrontation.

Three years and $30,000-plus later, Johnny emerges from the sun-drenched halls of academia with a degree and zero skills.

He has been in the education system for 15 years and learnt absolutely nothing because no one forced him to pursue goals and strive for excellence.

He eventually gets a job in retail or a call centre, and looks at the degree hanging on his bedroom wall and gets angry because he feels the system has failed him.

What happened to that high-paying job to which his degree entitles him?

He’s right, of course. The system did fail him. It thought it was doing him a favour by protecting him from the emotional damage he might suffer if he was told that if what he was offering up was his best, it wasn’t good enough and he would have to go back and give it another shot.

He never learnt that there are winners and losers in life, and that the difference between the two is that winners try harder.

We know the system is failing these kids because it’s evident in the studies that compare the performance of our students with those in other countries.

This evidence is incontrovertible, but no one seems particularly interested in changing anything.

In 2019 almost one in every 10 student teacher university graduates failed an online literacy and numeracy test.

How difficult is the test? Here are two sample questions.

* This year a teacher spent $383.30 on stationery. Last year the teacher spent $257.85 on stationery. How much more did the teacher spend this year than last year?

* A surf shop has surfboards for hire at $15 an hour up to a maximum of $60 a day. What is the cost of hiring a surfboard from 9.30am to midday?

Challenging? I don’t think so.

Surely a system that produces high school graduates who then progress through a degree at the completion of which they are unable to perform simple intellectual tasks is flawed.

They then go on to teach others and the process is perpetuated.

Many teachers do great work and it could be, I imagine, the most demanding of professions but that is not the point.

The concern is that far too many of our kids are completing their high school education ill-equipped to make their way in the world, and then drift into meaningless degree courses that qualify them for Centrelink payments and little else.

In a few weeks, thousands of Queensland children will part company with their tearful mothers and pass through the school gates for the first time.

We want these kids – all of our kids – to be winners in every sense of the word, but it falls to parents to instil the understanding that success is hard won because a system that seeks to please all and disappoint none will never do it.

Scott Morrison attacks Cricket Australia for decision to drop term 'Australia Day' from BBL promotions

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has criticised Cricket Australia (CA) for its decision to avoid using the term "Australia Day" in Big Bash League promotions.

Three Big Bash clubs will wear Indigenous jerseys and Cricket Australia decided to drop the term in a bid to normalise conversations over the date's history.

The move to abandon references to "Australia Day" prompted a rebuke from Mr Morrison, who is touring a refinery in Queensland on Thursday.

"I think a bit more focus on cricket, and a bit less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia," he told radio station 4RO. "I think that's pretty ordinary but that's what they're putting on their press releases."

He said Cricket Australia should listen to any backlash from fans opposed to the decision and reverse it.

The Sydney Thunder, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades will all wear their special strips in matches on January 23, 25 and 26.

A barefoot circle, Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony will also take place before some games, with CA leading the initiative backed by the clubs.

The moves form part of several recommendations by the sport's National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee, with three games to be played on January 26.

"They thought it was pretty important to not remove cultural elements we have celebrated all season on a day like that," Cricket Australia's diversity and inclusion manager Adam Cassidy told AAP.

"Obviously it's a bit of a challenge when you have matches being played on a day of mourning for a lot of people."

CA is well aware the issue is a sensitive one and is desperate for it not to prove divisive, but for it to encourage open discussion.

"When you are a business operating under a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan, it does come with responsibility and accountability to lead on key reconciliation issues," Cassidy said.

"In an ideal world what we're trying to do is create a safe and inclusive environment for everybody."

Indigenous jerseys have been worn across different sports for some time, but it is the first time they will be used over the Australia Day period.

The move has been firmly approved by the game's players, with Sydney Thunder's Brendan Doggett championing the cause through his own Indigenous history.

"I hate conflict. So I am of the opinion if we can all merge forward together that's ideal," Doggett said. "The way we're going to do that is by starting conversations and talking about it and acknowledging the history of what's happened. "If we wear the kit and hopefully even start one conversation then that is a win."

The Thunder have long referred to the public holiday as the January long weekend and have been a leader in multicultural initiatives through the Thunder Cup.

Doggett, meanwhile, has grown increasingly aware of his Indigenous history in recent years, after only discovering his mother's family's links to the Stolen Generation around five years ago.

That, too, has changed his perspective on the day, which he says is now far different to when he was a carpenter in Queensland.

And it's with that perspective he believes it is possible to become more united, and that wearing the Indigenous jerseys could help prompt that.

"For me now it's more of a day to just recognise and acknowledge the history and everything that has happened. And do it respectfully," he said. "It makes me want to make sure that everyone's moving forward together.

"It's a pretty dark past but if we can move forward, together and united then in my opinion that's the best result."

Medevac detainees freed from Melbourne hotel after years in immigration detention

At least 26 refugees and asylum seekers have been freed from immigration detention in Melbourne, where some have spent more than a year detained in inner-city hotels, advocacy groups say.

The men were allowed to leave the Park Hotel and the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) on Wednesday, according to Ian Rintoul from Refugee Action Coalition.

Legal representatives for some of the men who were still detained said they had been told they would be freed on Thursday.

"We've got 100 cases where people are still in detention, and the minister has indicated that he's considering granting the visas in a number of other cases," Daniel Taylor from Sydney West Legal said.

Most of the men had cases pending in the court, where lawyers planned to argue they were being illegally detained.

The men who are being released were brought to Australia under the now-repealed medical evacuation law — widely referred to as the Medevac law — which allowed refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention to enter the country for urgent medical treatment.

Ramsi Sabanayagan, a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka, learned that he will be freed on Thursday after eight years in immigration detention. "Tomorrow morning, I am released," the 29-year-old refugee said. "I can't believe, really, I can't explain our happiness. Really, very exciting."

Mr Sabanayagan said he arrived on Christmas Island in July 2013 and was later transferred to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea where he spent more than six years in Australian immigration detention.

In November 2019, he was transferred to Australia under Medevac to receive treatment for mental health issues and severe headaches caused by shrapnel wounds.

Mr Sabanayagan said in recent months he had made multiple requests to immigration officials to be returned to PNG but didn't receive a response.

Police cars lined the streets outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne on Wednesday as officials prepared to move the men to the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) to be processed.

Images showed at least one man waving to supporters as police escorted him to a waiting bus. Within hours, some walked out of the gates of MITA, according to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC).

"The entire refugee movement is feeling a great sense of relief that people are finally being released," Jana Favero from the ASRC said. "People's mental and physical health rapidly deteriorated over the past year, especially with the pandemic."

The Home Affairs department has long maintained the men's stay in Australia would be temporary, and that as soon as their treatment was over they would be returned to PNG, Nauru or another country that was willing to take them.

Before being transferred to Australia for medical treatment, the men had spent years in offshore immigration processing centres on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Under Australia's immigration policy, asylum seekers who arrive by boat are told they will never be settled in the country.

The Medevac legislation passed in February 2019 was short-lived, as the Government opposed it and repealed it in December 2019, months after the federal election.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed the legislation offered a "back door" into the country that refugees would exploit to stay here.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department said Australia's policy remained unchanged. "No-one who attempts illegal maritime travel to Australia will be permanently settled here," the spokesperson said.

The Home Affairs spokesperson did not confirm what visas the men had been given, but said final departure bridging visas give holders the right to temporarily reside in Australia while they finalise their arrangements to leave.

Mr Taylor from Sydney West Legal said all of his clients who had been in detention had asked to return to PNG or Nauru, but their requests were ignored.

Hundreds of people were transferred to Australia under the Medevac legislation. Most were held in Alternatives Places of Detention (APODs), namely hotels in Melbourne and Brisbane while they received medical treatment.

Some of the refugees said they did not receive adequate medical care and were confined to their rooms for 23 hours a day.

Fishermen reject Greenie claims Australians are 'eating endangered sharks' under the guise of flake

Queensland shark fishers have rejected an Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) campaign encouraging Australians to stop eating flake.

The Give Flake a Break campaign urges people to choose sustainable seafood alternatives, as there is no legal obligation to disclose what species of shark is being sold, or where it has come from.

Margaret Stevenson, who owns a fishing business with her husband Graham at Burnett Heads in Queensland, says there should not be any concern as fishers are already heavily regulated.

"We've got a total allowable catch that restricts how much we can catch," she said. "We have to call in and give out how many sharks we've caught, even if it's only one, and that's every trip. "We can't leave the boat ramp for an hour after we've called in so boating and fisheries patrol can inspect our catch.

"We have to identify each species of shark that we catch in our logbooks and report on it and we have to do that on the phone as well — we have to give them the numbers before we get in."

Senior sharks campaigner for the Australian Marine Conservation Society Leo Guida argued the seafood labelling system was "broken".

"Fishers do record what species they catch, and there are fishers out there who do a fantastic job and provide us with sustainable alternatives," he said.

"But by the time it gets to the plate, somewhere along the way, the information as to what species — particularly with sharks — that people are eating gets lost or is very difficult to find.

"We know this because there are quirks in our national environment laws that allow the harvest and sale of endangered fish. "These include the endangered school shark and the critically endangered scalloped hammerhead."

Mrs Stevenson said what AMCS was implying was simply wrong. "It just can't happen with these claims that we're selling product that we shouldn't be — that it's threatening an endangered species," she said.

"If they [boating and fisheries patrol] come and inspect our catch and we have something that we shouldn't have or there's an error in what we've told them over the phone — we're liable to get fined. "Our whole livelihood, our whole business then is on the line."

A handful of species are listed as threatened under Australia's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including the grey nurse shark and the speartooth shark, which banned them from being fished in Australian waters.

But while the scalloped hammerhead shark is classed as globally critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it is legally allowed to be caught in limited numbers in Australia under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

In Queensland, recreational fishers are prohibited from catching scalloped, smooth and great hammerhead sharks, but commercial fishers are not.

Graham Stevenson explained that they were not catching endangered species of shark. "The species of sharks that we catch here primarily are spinner sharks, which are a school type shark — they're in the thousands out here," he said.

"We get black-tipped sharks and weasel sharks — weasel sharks only ever eat octopus, they're very similar to the southern gummy. "At different times of year we do get a lot of hammerhead sharks — they're very prolific in this area."

Mrs Stevenson said she was frustrated that there did not seem to be anything they could do about it. "We're guilty until we're proven innocent and we've got no mechanism available to us prove our innocence as an industry," she said.

"The only thing I can say to consumers is to put the onus back onto these greenie organisations and demand the evidence, demand the proof of what these claims are.

"A few years ago, we had a really good market for shark and they [AMCS] came out and did a big campaign and because of it that whole business that used to buy our shark went bust."




Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Is Novavax the dark horse of Australia's COVID-19 vaccines?

Experts say early clinical data on Australia's third COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax, is promising enough to suggest it could play a significant role in the nation's pandemic strategy.

The federal government has signed up to buy 51 million doses of Novavax’s two-shot vaccine and those involved in trials say it is expected to be made available as early as the middle of this year, in addition to COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca that will be available in coming weeks.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Tuesday confirmed the nation's drug regulator was in direct talks with European and Norwegian authorities after several elderly people died after receiving Pfizer's vaccine. It is not yet clear if there was a link between the deaths and the vaccine.

While large phase three studies for the Novavax vaccine are ongoing, early data released in December suggests it is likely to offer strong protection against COVID-19. There are even hints it may do something other vaccines have struggled with: stop the coronavirus' spread.

"The phase one data was really convincing. The immune responses were really strong – up there in the realms we saw with the mRNA vaccines. That level of immune response tends to be a bit of a correlation ... those are the vaccines that have ended up giving very strong efficacy," said University of Sydney professor of medical microbiology James Triccas.

Paul Young, co-leader of the University of Queensland's aborted COVID-19 vaccine project, agreed the data "does look promising".

"The preclinical animal data showed that viral titres in the upper respiratory tract were lower in vaccinated animals, suggesting but not proving that infectivity and transmission may be lower," he said.

Paul Griffin, medical director of the Nucleus Network – contracted by Novavax to conduct clinical trials in Australia – said if all went well, the vaccine could be available for use by May or June.

"I think this is one, just based on where it’s up to timing wise, that has fallen off the radar in this country. There has been a lot of attention on Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna," he said. "It is looking very safe and effective."

It is difficult to directly compare phase one trial results, but data reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in December suggested Novavax’s vaccine produced an immune response similar to vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

"They were able to induce higher [antibody] titres than recovered COVID patients. And that’s a really good sign. When we were seeing results like that, it did highlight Novavax is one to watch, and a really promising formulation," said Kylie Quinn, an RMIT vaccine designer.

Griffith University virologist Adam Taylor said the trials showed the vaccine was safe and generated good antibody responses. "Certainly, this is a useful candidate."

Other vaccines have already shown themselves capable of inducing strong immune responses and protecting people from the virus.

What makes Novavax different is a hint in the early data it could not just protect people but also stop the virus spreading. Stopping or reducing transmission of the virus is valuable to protect people who cannot or will not get vaccinated. At this stage, it remains unclear if any of the vaccines available can prevent transmission.

In a small study, Novavax’s vaccine effectively prevented COVID-19 growing in the noses of monkeys. Results in animals often do not translate to humans. But other vaccines have struggled to repeat the achievement; they effectively protect the lungs but still allow the virus to grow in the nose, where it could spread.

While other vaccines quickly moved from phase one to phase three trials and then approval, Novavax's progress has been slower. The company started its key phase three trial on December 28 after several delays due to issues scaling up vaccine manufacture.

Novavax has had a chequered history. Two failed vaccine trials in recent years led to the company’s stock plunging; it sacked 100 employees and closed two manufacturing plants. In its near-30-year history it is yet to develop an approved vaccine.

Nevertheless, the company is aiming to produce 2 billion doses of vaccine this year.

Novavax’s jab combines traditional and cutting-edge technology. Inside each vial are copies of COVID-19’s spike protein – the cellular harpoon it uses to attach to and enter our cells – and a dose of the company’s adjuvant. The adjuvant triggers the immune system, which recognises the spike protein and builds antibodies and immune cells capable of defending the body against the virus.

"It’s more of a traditional vaccine – the same type we have used for other vaccines we have in use," said Professor Triccas.

Novavax produces the spike proteins using moth cells, and then studs them on a nanoparticle, creating a shape that looks much like the spike-covered virus. In theory, immune cells should be much more likely to spot and attack these nanoparticles, as they look just like little viruses.

The company used similar technology in a flu vaccine it is developing. In a late-stage clinical trial, it produced much stronger antibody results than a current flu vaccine.

Addressing the deaths in Norway, Chief Medical Officer Professor Kelly said on Tuesday: "In a normal week, 400 people do pass away in their aged care facilities.

"In general terms, they were very old, they were frail, some of them were basically terminally ill."

It is not yet clear if the deaths are linked to the vaccine, and Australian experts have already said they are no reason to slow the vaccine's rollout.

Professor Kelly said it was possible Australia's drugs regulator would advise against giving the very elderly and frail the vaccine.

"That is a very tricky balance. We know elderly people, as is the case in Norway, elderly people in aged care facilities are towards the end of their life. We know from our own data from the Australian pandemic, of the 900 people who have died, they have mostly been in the very elderly group, they are of the greatest risk of severe infection," he said.

"The mortality rate is very high once you get over 80 or 90 if you get COVID-19. It's that risk balance equation which the [regulator] will need to do around which people should be excluded from the vaccine."

Barley finds a home in Mexico after China ban

Despite the trade tensions with China and the massive tariff imposed on barley exports, there are some good signs for grain growers on international markets.

West Australian grain handler CBH Group has sent a shipment of malt barley to Mexico, which is a first for the Australian grains industry.

The shipment of 35,000 tonnes of malting barley, used to make beer, was loaded at the port of Albany in WA and sent to Mexico.

CBH Chief Marketing and Trading Officer Jason Craig said other shipments could follow. "While it is early days, this shipment to Mexico signals a potential new market for malting barley. However, this will need to be developed over time."

There is an opening in Saudi Arabia, which is the second-largest barley market globally, importing approximately 7 million tonnes each year.

"Australian feed barley has become very price competitive compared to barley from alternative origins, such as Russia and the Ukraine that have dominated exports to the country for the past few years," Mr Craig said.

There is good news for Australian growers in the feed sector as well. Australian feed barley exports to Thailand and Vietnam are expected to double in 2020-21, according to CBH.

WA produced a big crop of barley, but growers were alarmed late last year when China, their biggest market, imposed a massive 80 per cent tariff. That dispute is heading to the World Trade Authority for resolution.

World wheat prices are also set to rise after Russia imposed a second levy on exports and cancelled some contracts for Russian wheat.

Commonwealth Bank Commodity Analyst Tobin Gorey said it was all being driven by domestic politics. "The Russian President doesn't want to see food prices in Russia continue to increase and he wants to keep more grain for local use."

Russia is the world's biggest exporter, so this latest action is expected to push world prices up.

"There will be a reduction in the amount of Russian wheat sold into the Middle East and South East Asia and it will pave the way for Australian grain sales," Mr Gorey said.

World wheat stocks have been running down over the last few years and Australian farmers on the eastern seaboard have had a big harvest.

It is a serendipitous moment, according to Tobin Gorey. "It's the best [harvest] for probably 10 years, and the world needs our wheat, so the prices have started to go up."

After three years of drought and the worry over the China trade dispute, it is good news for growers.

"We are still recovering from a three-year drought so having a bumper harvest and good prices are exactly what Australian farmers in Qld, SA and NSW were hoping for," Mr Gorey said

Government slams proposal to hold a minute's silence on Australia Day as the idea to recognise Indigenous Aussies will only 'increase division'

The Morrison government has slammed a proposal to hold a minute's silence on Australia Day.

Independent MP Zali Steggall wanted the silence to recognise the suffering of Aboriginal communities during and after colonisation.

But new citizenship minister Alex Hawke said the idea will only increase divisions. 'It is disappointing to see an ill-considered proposal from the Member for Warringah that plays negative politics with our history and which can only perpetuate divisions between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians,' he said in a statement.

'The truth is Australia Day unifies us all, because of our shared history – the good and the bad.

'Regardless of the failings in our history, Australia has become one of the most free, egalitarian, safe and diverse societies today, and our shared commitment to continuing this journey together is what matters most.'

Ms Steggall - who was an Olympic skiier before turning to politics - wrote to mayors in her Sydney electorate asking they observe a minute's silence on January 26.

The day celebrates the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships into Port Jackson in 1788.

Ms Steggall has written to the Australian Local Government Association along with the mayors of the North Sydney, Mosman and Northern Beaches councils.

But Alice Springs councillor and Warlpiri woman Jacinta Price condemned Ms Steggall for 'painting Indigenous Australians as helpless victims'. 'Zali needs to learn a bit more about our country's history, instead of using shallow, PC, woke-ish ways of dealing with these particular issues,' she told Jim Wilson on 2GB. She said Australia Day is a time for unity with people who have travelled across the world to become Australian.

Last week, Scott Morrison's government warned councils not to use the Covid as an excuse to cancel Australia Day celebrations to appease Invasion Day activists who want the date changed.

Local councils are required to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 and could have their citizenship powers revoked by the government if they fail to comply.

While most councils are still holding citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day, some have announced they have called them off in either solidarity with Indigenous people or the Covid pandemic.

Minister Hawke said local councils should not divide Australians over the contested date after a tough year marred by the pandemic.

'For any council seeking to play politics with Australia Day citizenship ceremonies, our message is simple - don't,' he told The Australian. 'Australians need this sort of negative bickering less than ever at this challenging time.

'We know the vast majority of councils across the country will do the right thing when determining whether to hold online or physical citizenship ceremonies.'

Inner-city Melbourne councils Yarra and Darebin will not be holding citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

The two councils voted to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day in 2017, which resulted in their citizenship powers being stripped.

Yarra and Darebin councils will also hold events commemorating Indigenous people in place of Australia Day events.

According to a recent survey of 1,038 people by think tank Institute of Public Affairs, two thirds believed Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26.

Only 11 per cent were in favour of the date being changed.

About 72 per cent of people interviewed thought the day was an authentic way of of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to celebrate being Australian.

Aboriginal man slams the 'noisy minority' fighting to change the date of Australia Day - and says the event 'doesn't exclude indigenous people'

A proud Aboriginal man has slammed calls to change the date of Australia Day and says January 26 doesn't exclude indigenous people.

Indigenous affairs commentator and Australian Catholic University researcher Dr Anthony Dillon weighed into the debate this week when he said the date neither includes nor excludes people.

Dr Dillon has since publicly lashed the 'noisy minority' who want the date changed.

January 26 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet into Port Jackson in 1788.

'For most of them it's a celebration… but you've got this minority who are trying to make out that the white man is yet again guilty and that it's a terrible day for Aboriginal people,' Dr Dillion told Sydney radio station 2GB on Wednesday.

'It does nothing for reconciliation, it does nothing for racial relations. It's ridiculous.'

He doesn't believe changing the date would change the situation. 'How would it?' he asked.

'The problems affecting Aboriginal people aren't going to be fixed by changing the date.'

He says it isn't the date that includes or excludes but individuals themselves.

'We are told that celebrating Australia Day on 26 January is not inclusive. Well actually, dates neither include nor exclude people. Individuals do that themselves. If you want to exclude yourself from celebrating Australia Day, go for it,' Dr Dillon tweeted earlier in the week.

He plans to celebrate next Tuesday's public holiday with friends. 'It will be a happy day for me but I guess ultimately, I will reflect on what a great country we live in,' he said.




Tuesday, January 19, 2021

University humanities students sold short on riches of their heritage

Gender and race are legitimate themes for study, analysis and debate in universities’ humanities courses. Disciplines such as history, literature and social science should encourage students to take a broad view of the world and think independently, grounded in a deep knowledge of their subjects. Humanities courses overrun by identity politics and ideology, however, fail to provide the liberal arts education students are entitled to expect. To the contrary, such courses narrow students’ understandings of the world around them. The problem fuels divisions within the general community, evidenced by perennial controversies around Australia Day and “cancel culture’’ campaigns for the removal of public statues associated with European settlement. The trend is then perpetuated in schools, as a high proportion of humanities graduates become classroom teachers.

An audit of Bachelor of Arts subjects at 10 top universities last year by the Institute of Public Affairs found 572 subjects, or 44 per cent of 1181 subjects analysed, were concerned with identity politics. A further 380 featured critical race theory, a US-born framework for studying race and power. It coined such concepts as “white privilege” and “structural racism”. About 25 per cent of subjects focused specifically on gender issues. Such themes were dominant in humanities courses at Macquarie (70 per cent), and Melbourne (61 per cent) and Sydney universities (59 per cent). The dominance of such themes — which should be fair game for critical scrutiny — short-changes many students. Only a quarter of English literature subjects involved the study of great works comprising the Western canon, Rebecca Urban reported. And just 23 per cent of history subjects covered Western civilisation, from Ancient Greece to the modern world. Only 10 per cent of political science subjects surveyed taught students about the history of ideas and political thought. And freedom, a concept highly valued in democracies and traditionally a key tenet of the study of the social sciences, was featured in just 10 per cent of a possible 524 subjects.

IPA director Bella d’Abrera, who carried out the review, said academics obsessed with identity politics had turned the humanities into a political project. Subjects had become “homogenised” to the extent it was “almost impossible to differentiate’’ between sociology and English literature; philosophy and sociology. Regardless of the subject, the same worldview, of identity politics and critical race theory, was repeated through all disciplines. For example, one course on the history of sport examines the meaning of sport across “class, racial, gender and ethnic groups”, including “the rise of female, LGBT and transgender athletes”. The major problem is not that or any other particular subject — it is the preponderance of the trend, and the exclusion of much of the riches of history, literature, philosophy and political science. For many taxpayers, the trend underlines the sense of the Morrison government’s lifting fees for humanities courses in a bid to steer young people to nursing, maths, science and engineering courses, which offer greater job prospects.

It also shows that the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which sponsors great books-style courses at several universities, and Campion College, a private liberal arts university in Sydney, are filling a major gap in the nation’s education. Campion College president Paul Morrissey is correct when he says disciplines such as literature and history should be studied for their own sake, using a wide range of interpretative lenses.

Activists wield ‘I’m uncomfortable’ like a sword

The guidelines for movie casting recommend that the director begins with some searching questions. For example: “Can this role be played by a woman, someone who is trans or gender non-conforming, someone with a disability, a person of colour, an older person, etc?”

The National Australia Day Council’s “Reflect. Respect. Celebrate” campaign advertisement has followed the advice up to and including “etc”. And why not? As the ad says, “we are all part of the story”.

Sadly, however, this well-intentioned call for national unity has been pulled from the schedule at Nova Cinema in Carlton, Melbourne. Like everything that gets cancelled these days, the action took place on Twitter.

“Hey @cinemanova,” wrote a person by the name of unaustralian native © @MerikiKO. “I love coming to your cinema to switch off and watch a good film at a great venue.

However, we were made uncomfortable by the Australia Day ads that you have screening. This is highly inappropriate for mob to have to pay to sit through. I hope you reconsider.”

Cinema Nova replied apologetically, claiming that “reduced in-office hours” meant the ad “may not have been vetted with our usual care”.

We would never intentionally make our valued customers feel uncomfortable, so we will remove the associated propaganda from further sessions. We hope to welcome you back soon

That’s all it takes these days to get something that makes you “uncomfortable” pulled from the cinema. Just a single, ungrammatical Twitter message complaining that a 60-second ad is “inappropriate for mob to have to pay for”.

It would be just as futile to ask what makes a Cinema Nova audience uncomfortable. Presumably not the currently screening R18+ movie Possessor, which portrays a man stabbing himself in his head before killing another bloke with a meat cleaver. Yet an innocuous message from a federal government-funded body is declared “propaganda” and pulled down.

The ease with which a single slacktivist from the fruitcake fringe can force commercial businesses to take the knee is one thing. The damage this does to the cause of reconciliation is another.

The National Australia Day Council is damned if it leaves Aboriginal faces out of its ad and damned if it puts them in. Popular support for an Aboriginal voice to parliament begins to crumble when the demands for inclusiveness reach the level of the absurd.

If Saputo Dairy thought it could settle the argument about Coon Cheese by simply changing the name, it was mistaken. The cheese is named after its inventor, Edward William Coon, not the common name of the butterfly Astictopterus jama or the Maine coon, an energetic breed of domestic cat that tends to pounce unexpectedly.

Saputo, however, was not prepared for an etymological fight, even with a lone activist who claims that a walk down the supermarket dairy aisle hurt his feelings. Saputo announced last week that the product will henceforth be known as Cheer.

“We trust our valued consumers and those who are new to our products will embrace this new name,” Saputo’s commercial director, Cam Bruce, cheerfully announced, bringing a new dimension to the word cheesy.

“Cheer Cheese … brings that extra little bit of happiness. Whether it’s a sliced snack, a part of your family’s dinner time favourite or a melty midnight toastie (sic).”

Anti-Coon campaigner Stephen Hagan was not satisfied. “I would have liked it to be something a bit more inclusive of First Nations people,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “We weren’t even consulted on names. We would like to have contributed.”

This is not what Indigenous leaders had in mind when they signed the Uluru Statement from the Heart in May 2017. They wanted a structural mechanism to give Indigenous Australians input on policy and legislation, not fatuous campaigns on the nomenclature of dairy products.

The Morrison government has committed to a constitutional referendum to put just such a mechanism in place. Like all such questions, it should be considered on its merits, unclouded by distractions.

The biggest risk to the “yes” vote will not come from conservatives. It comes from the activist fringe dwellers who have co-opted Indigenous interests as one of a suite of causes with which to attack the status quo.

These play-fights over symbolic issues devalue the seriousness of purpose behind the Uluru Statement in the public eye. These people are as unserious as the social media platforms they frequent. They could choose to campaign to end the welfare and alcohol dependency that is endemic in many rural and remote communities. They could take a stand against the vandalism and violence symbolised by the boarded-up shops of towns such as Walgett and Brewarrina in NSW.

These, however, are not things you can fix on Twitter. Perhaps an Indigenous voice to parliament can.

The yes campaign must filter out calls to make Australia Day a Day of Mourning, flying flags at half-mast or dressing in black, as Greens MP Lidia Thorpe proposed in The Age last week. A yes vote will only succeed if Australians can be convinced that this is a permanent step towards a better future, not just a stick of shame with which to beat the rest of us over the head.

The Greens are already saying the proposed Voice to Parliament does not go far enough. They are seeking a legally binding treaty under which the elected parliament would be bound to adopt Indigenous advice.

This kind of crazy talk will all but guarantee the referendum’s failure. It comes from people more concerned about projecting their own virtue than winning a popular vote. It is why supporters of the Voice must take on the radical voices in favour of a yes vote, not just those arguing no.

Aboriginal man attacking woman had to be pulled off her by police

A man has been tasered and charged with attempted murder by police after he allegedly attacked a woman in a rural Queensland town overnight.

A call for help was made after 9pm on Monday in relation to a domestic violence disturbance at a home in Aurukun, in far north Queensland.

According to police, the 37-year-old man was allegedly attacking a 51-year-old woman, who is known to him.

A police issued statement said the man had to be tasered upon the arrival of police.

“Officers arrived to find a man allegedly attacking a woman known to him and consequently deployed an electronic conductive device before he was taken into custody,” the statement said.

The woman suffered serious non-life-threatening injuries, while the man was taken to the watch house where he was refused police bail.

He will appear at the Cairns Magistrates Court later today on charges of attempted murder offence (domestic violence) and assault occasioning bodily harm while armed with an offensive instrument.

No slowdown in scary climate prophecy phenomenon

The beginning of every year often triggers the release of doomsday predictions. You know the sort of thing: there will be no polar bears in 50 years, parts of the world will be uninhabitable within two decades, the world will run out of oil/gas/water very soon.

If you bother to tune into the ABC, you will regularly learn about these various catastrophic prophecies because they are very popular with the program producers. Add in a bit of scary music and the picture of a forlorn koala or parched landscape and the story writes itself. It has become almost a vocation for some jumped-up types who think their opinions should be taken seriously because of their accomplishments or positions in completely unrelated fields. Think Al Gore, Prince Charles, Greta Thunberg, Tim Flannery and plenty of others.

I was reminded of this when I came across a recent article with the juvenile title “Underestimating the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future”. Oh no, I thought, not a ghastly future. And who should be among the list of authors but Paul and Anne Ehrlich, who are still going strong with wild, over-the-top predictions. Who can forget The Population Bomb, published in 1968?

According to these authors, hundreds of millions of people were going to die in the 70s because of overpopulation and the world’s inability to feed everyone. But here’s the bit I really love about this book: Paul Ehrlich still thinks he was largely correct but his timing was just a bit askew. In 1986, Ehrlich doubled down by predicting that in 2020, one billion people would die as a result of climate change. That’s right: one billion.

Let me be clear: I’m not recommending you read about avoiding a ghastly future. Yes, overpopulation is still a big issue for the authors, even though all the demographic predictions point to falling world population around the middle of the century.

There is an unproven assertion in the article that COVID-19 and climate change are somehow linked because of increased interaction between different animal species because of changing climate patterns. That sounds scary.

Of course, Ehrlich doesn’t have a mortgage on barking out doomsday scenarios. Who can forget Al Gore, who has become extremely wealthy undertaking his climate change evangelism?

During the first decade of this century — his film, An Inconvenient Truth, was released in 2006 — he repeatedly declared there would be no ice in the Arctic by 2013 or 2014. As it turned out, there was actually more ice than ever in those years.

And we can’t go past our own Professor Tim Flannery, a mammologist by training, predicting in 2007 that cities such as Sydney and Brisbane would run out of water because of climate change and that “even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems”. This, sadly, was not an accurate prediction for the citizens of Brisbane, who endured a ghastly flood in 2011. And, while drought remains a perennial feature of Australia’s climate, most parts of eastern Australia have had above-average rainfalls in the past year and the landscape is green and lush.

I’m not exactly sure why we should pay any attention at all to Prince Charles and his climate change fanaticism. But in 2019, he stated: “I am firmly of the view the next 18 months will decide our ability to keep climate change to survivable levels and to restore nature to the equilibrium we need for our survival.” The good thing is the 18 months is up and we can all move on without his opinions.

Embarrassing though these false predictions might be, they are perhaps slightly less excruciating than those made by actual experts — OK, so-called experts — in the field. Take this forecast in 2000 by Dr David Viner, senior research scientist at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia:

“Within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event.” (This is the same unit that was the subject of an email scandal in 2010.) Sadly for Viner, but happily for the rest of us, winter snowfalls are very much with us. The UK is enduring a particularly cold winter with snow in various parts of the country. So neither rare nor exciting, it would seem.

And let’s not forget the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declaring in 2007 the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035, only to then retract this projection. But it wasn’t a problem according to the IPCC because “in drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly”. Unsurprisingly, nothing happened as a result of the error and readers of the larger report were encouraged to accept the rest of the material as gospel.

The cannier experts in the field tend to project much further out than the next few years or decades because the chances of being tripped up by curious commentators checking for inaccuracies are very slim. Take the UK Met Office, a zealous climate change agency much like our Bureau of Meteorology. Dr Lizzie Kendon, a science fellow at the Met Office, has predicted by 2080 the hottest days in the UK will peak above 40C and the number of cold days will decrease. “We’ll still have cold days, but features like lying snow will become an increasing rarity …” Luckily for Lizzie, 2080 is in the very distant future.

Gratuitous and unverified projections are not science. They are not based on the testing of refutable hypotheses and generally reflect personal biases of the person making deliberately alarming forecasts to promote their preferred set of actions. The media should either ignore them or treat them with the scepticism they deserve There’s plenty of good science around but also plenty of rubbish. Claims that the end is nigh should be treated with the same level of respect given to the speakers in Hyde Park Corner.




Sunday, January 17, 2021

Left selective in showing contempt, outrage


It was the incorrect answer to a politically correct question. On Wednesday, ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Sally Sara interviewed New York-based Anti-Defamation League vice-president Greg Ehrie. The ADL is a leading anti-hate organisation, profoundly opposed to white supremacist groups and other extreme domestic ideologies.

Discussion turned on the decision of Twitter and Facebook to ban Donald Trump following the riots at the US Capitol on January 6. Sara ran a recording of acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack comparing the storming of the Capitol with “those race riots we saw around the country last year”. She asked Ehrie, “what’s your response to that comparison?”.

Ehrie replied: “Certainly, it’s very hard not to compare. They happened almost contemporaneously, one after another. And there were a lot of similarities — other than the ideologies — involved with the genesis. How they formed and how the crowds …”

At this stage Sara interrupted: “Hang on, this is storming the Capitol building …” The message was clear; Ehrie had given a response Sara did not want. As it turned out, he went on to condemn the January 6 riots. All he had said was that, in this time of social media, the strategies adopted by rioters of various ideologies were similar.

It is true Trump’s “Save America” speech, delivered in front of the White House, was designed to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election as determined by the vote in the electoral college. Trump lost narrowly to Joe Biden in 2020 as Hillary Clinton had lost narrowly to Trump in 2016.

It was a Trump-like rambling but captivating 75-minute address. At about the 18-minute mark, the US President said: “We have come to demand that congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been fully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”

Clearly, Trump called for a peaceful demonstration. However, in view of the dynamics of the rally, his overall comments were irresponsible. There are such phenomena as unintended consequences, and they took place with a vengeance on January 6. But they do not make Trump a terrorist, as some of his political opponents now assert.

Trump has reason to query the predominance of mail-in ballots in the 2020 election, conducted at a time of pandemic. In November 1960, Republican candidate Richard Nixon had reason to query the validity of some ballots in Illinois and Texas, which led to Democratic rival John F Kennedy entering the White House. Nixon accepted the decision with little dissent; Trump chose another tactic. On Wednesday (US time), Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives — with about 5 per cent of Republican members supporting the unanimous Democrat turnout led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It remains to be seen if he will be convicted by the Senate, but this seems unlikely.

To win elections, Republicans need their traditional voters plus lower-income Americans, including those of African-American and Latino backgrounds, whom Trump got on board. That’s why it will be difficult for the Republican Party to distance itself from Trump and his supporters if it wants to win in 2024.

In recent times, Australia has had its own violent political riot, when left-wing demonstrators attempted to break down the doors of Parliament House in 1996 as part of a protest against John Howard’s recently elected Coalition government. The story is well told by Tony Thomas in the current issue of Quadrant Online. Fortunately, the Australian Federal Police was better equipped to repel rioters in 1996 than was the case with Capitol police in 2021.

It should be remembered that during the period of the Trump presidency, demonstrators invaded the Capitol building in 2018 while protesting over the President’s decision to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. They also demonstrated outside the court.

Previously, Trump had succeeded in getting another conservative, Neil Gorsuch, appointed to the US’s superior court. In March 2020, leading Democrat senator Chuck Schumer declared at a left-wing rally: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released a whirlwind and you will pay the price.” An irresponsible statement, to be sure.

Obviously, the overwhelming majority of the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump were not present at the “Save America” rally. And the overwhelming majority of those who were did not storm the Capitol. Even so, many of the wealthiest and well-educated left-liberal types despise so many of their fellow Americans.

We are familiar with Clinton’s 2016 reference to the Trump-supporting “deplorables”. In the wake of January 6, CNN presenter Anderson Cooper sneered at the demonstrators, violent and peaceful alike. He told viewers: “And they’re going back to, you know, the Olive Garden and the Holiday Inn that they are staying at.”

The Holiday Inn in Washington DC is a three-star hotel. Olive Garden is a moderately priced dine-in and takeaway food chain. Cooper is a left-wing multi-millionaire, born to the Vanderbilt family. Like so many contemporary left-wing journalists, he expects everyone should agree with him. In the event, the Americans making most sense in recent times were the likes of Ehrie, who got the correct perspective, and VicePresident Mike Pence who did his constitutional duty in ensuring an orderly transition to the Biden presidency on January 20.

Phoenix of hope rises from ashes of pandemic disaster

For much of the past decade the pace of innovation underwhelmed many people — especially those miserable economists.

Productivity growth was lacklustre and the most popular new inventions, the smartphone and social media, did not seem to help much. Their malign side-effects, such as the creation of powerful monopolies and the pollution of the public square, became painfully apparent. Promising technologies stalled, including self-driving cars, making Silicon Valley’s evangelists look naive. Security hawks warned that authoritarian China was racing past the West and some gloomy folk warned that the world was finally running out of useful ideas.

A dawn of technological optimism is breaking. The speed at which COVID vaccines have been produced has made scientists household names. Prominent breakthroughs, a tech investment boom and adoption of digital technologies during the pandemic are combining to raise hopes of a new era of progress: optimists giddily predict a “roaring Twenties”. Just as the pessimism of the 2010s was overdone — the decade saw many advances, such as in cancer treatment — so predictions of technological utopia are overblown. But there is a realistic possibility of a new era of innovation that could lift living standards.

In the history of capitalism, rapid technological advance has been the norm. The 18th century brought the Industrial Revolution and mechanised factories; the 19th century railways and electricity; the 20th century cars, planes, modern medicine and domestic liberation thanks to washing machines. In the 1970s, though, progress — measured by overall productivity growth — slowed. The economic impact was masked for a while by women piling into the workforce, and a burst of efficiency gains followed the adoption of personal computers in the 1990s. After 2000, though, growth flagged again.

There are three reasons to think this “great stagnation” might be ending. First is the flurry of recent discoveries with transformative potential. The success of the “messenger RNA” technique behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and of bespoke antibody treatments, shows how science continues to empower medicine. Humans are increasingly able to bend biology to their will, whether to treat disease, edit genes or grow meat in a lab. Artificial intelligence is at last displaying impressive progress; spectacular falls in the price of renewable energy are giving governments confidence their green investments will pay off.

The second reason for optimism is booming investment in technology. Having shrunk for years, public R&D spending across 24 OECD countries began to grow again in real terms in 2017.

The third source of cheer is the rapid adoption of new technologies. It is not just that workers have taken to videoconferencing and consumers to e-commerce — significant as those advances are — the pandemic has also accelerated the adoptions of digital payments, telemedicine and industrial automation. It has been a reminder that adversity often forces societies to advance.

Alas, innovation will not allow economies to shrug off structural drags on growth. As societies get richer they spend a greater share of their income on labour-intensive services, such as restaurant meals, in which productivity growth is meagre because automation is hard. The ageing of populations will continue to suck workers into low-productivity at-home care. Decarbonising economies will not boost long-term growth unless green energy realises its potential to become cheaper than fossil fuels. Yet it is reasonable to hope a fresh wave of innovation might soon reverse the fall in economic dynamism responsible for perhaps a fifth of the 21st century’s growth slowdown. Over time that would compound into a big rise in living standards.

Although the private sector will ultimately determine which innovations succeed or fail, governments also have an important role to play. The state can usefully offer more and better subsidies for R&D, such as prizes for solving clearly defined problems. The state also has a big influence over how fast innovations diffuse through the economy. Governments need to make sure regulation and lobbying do not slow disruption, in part by providing an adequate safety net for those whose livelihoods are up-ended by it. Innovation is concentrated among too few firms. Ensuring the whole economy harnesses new technologies will require robust antitrust enforcement and looser intellectual property regimes. If governments rise to the challenge, faster growth and higher living standards will be within their reach, allowing them to defy the pessimists.

Aussie cherry growers hit back at China report

Australian cherry growers have hit back at China’s claims their fruit is inferior to other countries, as the sector hopes to avoid being the next target in Beijing’s trade war.

It follows a report in Chinese state-owned media that the taste and quality of Australian cherries had dropped, prompting buyers to turn to other countries’ products.

Cherry Growers Australia president Tom Eastlake rejected the claim, saying: “We are positioned as the premium cherry product in the world.

“Seventy-two hours from hanging on a tree, it is in the market.”

Growers did not send fruit to international markets when the quality had been affected, such as during extreme weather events, because they did not want to damage the industry’s reputation, Mr Eastlake said.

He also said the sector had received no complaints from Chinese customers.

The Global Times reported fruit traders had claimed Australia’s share of cherries in the market had dropped due to “inferior quality”.

But Mr Eastlake said the fall in exports to China during 2020 was due to the grounding of planes during the pandemic.

His first thought after the Global Times report was “this doesn’t sound good”. But buyers told him they actually needed more fruit.

“The most reassuring thing for me is when you ring your key people in China and say is everything OK?

“And they say, ‘Well look, Mr Tom, if you could send us more that would be wonderful.’

“We don’t have a plan B for China. Not because we don’t have any other options, we’ve got plenty.

“We want to keep working with them, which we will, to see our product get there.”

While other luxury products have fallen victim to worsening trade tensions between the two countries, Aussie growers believe they will continue to thrive in the Chinese market because of their decade-long connection with buyers.

“Trade tension or diplomatic relations is not one of our principal concerns because we are an industry that is built on relationships,” Mr Eastlake said.

“The federal government should, and does, maintain their relationship with China and we, as an industry, do the same.

“Everything has been clearing, everything has been going in and everyone has been really happy.”

Publicity-seeking academics on social media are influencing school policy

A social media-driven "cult of the guru" within education is giving flashy "Kardashian" academics disproportionate influence over schools at the expense of more complex ideas and research, new research argues.

Scott Eacott, an associate professor of educational leadership at the University of NSW, applied the "Kardashian Index" to 50 education researchers from around the world, including 11 from Australia, and found almost a quarter - eight men and four women - had a score high enough to qualify them as a social science Kardashian.

Three were from Australia, and eight were frequent keynote speakers at education conferences.

Named after influencer Kim Kardashian, the index was developed in 2014 to measure the discrepancy between a scientist's social media profile and their publication record. A high index increased the likelihood that they were famous for being famous.

Dr Eacott said this guru culture threatened to undermine the sector. "My big concern is education de-professionalising itself from the inside," he said.

He also examined academics' Twitter mentions, as tagging like-minded gurus can create "cumulative advantage". Seven like-minded researchers out of the 50-strong sample contributed half of all the mentions exclusively among themselves.

Dr Eacott's paper, published in Leadership, Education, Personality: An Interdisciplinary Journal, argued Twitter presence was conflated with expertise in education, and became a means of influencing and shaping the sector's direction.

It did not name any of the alleged Kardashian researchers, but cited University of Kansas Professor Yong Zhao, University of Toronto Professor Michael Fullan and Boston College Professor Andy Hargreaves as examples of gurus in education.

Dr Eacott said social media was an easy way for time-poor teachers and principals to interact with research. "[Social media] devalues the role of regular research, because it reduces everything to slogans," he said. "They say things at face value that are difficult to argue against. Who doesn't want to 'foster creativity'? But they give you nothing to operationalise.

"You need systemic leaders, and professional associations that are more research literate. We say schools are complex, but we ignore that for simple solutions. If schools are complex places, then you need complex solutions not simple solutions. That takes time."

But Professor Hargreaves, who has more than 80,000 citations in peer-reviewed journals and more than 40,000 Twitter followers, said it was important for academics working in professional fields to share their findings in an accessible way, as epidemiologists have done during the pandemic.

"I would be very opposed to anyone saying it was a bad thing to have an impact in the public square, virtually, in print, or physically. Indeed, it would be irresponsible," he said.

Public intellectuals should also not be confused with gurus, Professor Harvgreaves said. "Whenever someone calls me a guru (in a positive way), I am very clear they should call me a teacher as my job is not to get them to follow my ideas, but to engage with those ideas then think and learn for themselves."

"When social media are well used, they are a way to draw people [and] followers into longer, more substantive reads, including academic papers, and to move knowledge around. Some people use social media simplistically. Many in our field don't."

The Kardashian Index was a lighthearted attempt by biologist Neil Hall to highlight the growth of the rock star researcher on the conference circuit, and suggest scientists should be less concerned about social media and focus more on traditional research.

Critics of the Kardashian Index say neither citation numbers nor any other metric adequately measures an academic's value. Professor Zhao declined to comment and Professor Fullan did not respond to the Herald's request for comment.




Saturday, January 16, 2021

Young woman appears in court after allegedly obstructing police and breaching bail

What gives these people the right to disrupt other people's lives? There is no such right but you would never know that from the decisions of the courts

The affinity between Leftists and environmentalists was well on display here. From Napoleon and the Socialist Hitler onwards, both groups cheerfully disregard the rights of others in pursuit of their own interests. Many completely innocent people were greatly put out by the traffic holdups but did the demonstrators care about that? Not as far as one can see. Obtaining their own goal -- personal publicity -- ruled supreme

That personal publicity was the aim can be seen from the pointlessness of their "cause". The people they were championing were NOT refugees. They were people who claimed to be refugees but whom the authorities and the courts had ruled NOT to be refugees. They had already had full attention to their fraudulent claims

A refugees rights activist charged after a protest in Brisbane has been bailed following a night in custody. Emma Jade Dorge, 24, appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with obstruct police and a breach of bail condition.

About a 100 protesters marched in the streets of Kangaroo Point yesterday blocking peak hour traffic as the Gabba Test finished.

The protest began about 5pm at the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel where scores of immigration detainees have been warehoused since last year. The protesters headed down Main St chanting “we won’t stop until we free the refugees”.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman said there was no permit issued for the demonstration and it was “an unauthorised protest”.

Dorge was the only person charged following the incident.

Representing herself in court this morning Dorge indicated during a bail application that she was likely to plead not guilty to the charges.

If refused bail today she would spend months in custody for offences that are likely to only attract a fine if found guilty, she told the court.

“All of my alleged offences and history are for peaceful protesting. I don’t pose a risk to the community in being let out on bail,” she said.

Magistrate Annette Hennessy granted bail stating she did not consider Dorge an “unacceptable risk”in the community.

Australian 'excess' deaths lower than expected, despite coronavirus pandemic

Australia recorded fewer deaths than expected from medical conditions in 2020, despite being in the midst of a global pandemic.

So, what's behind the numbers. What type of deaths are we talking about?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released provisional mortality figures in December for deaths certified by doctors.

According to the ABS, "excess mortality" is the difference between the number of deaths in a period of time, and the expected number of deaths in that same period.

The ABS's December report showed there were 116,345 deaths registered by doctors between January 1 and October 27, 2020, compared with the 2015-19 average of 117,484.

Doctor-registered deaths include deaths associated with respiratory diseases, dementia and chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

"In 2020 when the initial wave of the pandemic hit, we had an increase in the number of deaths and the increase was sustained only for around a month," ABS health and mortality statistics director James Eynstone-Hinkins said.

"After that, what we've actually seen is a lower number of deaths through the winter months pretty much right the way through until October, which is the latest data that we have now.

"What we can see is that the causes that have the lowest numbers of deaths in comparison to previous years are mostly in the respiratory disease group so that can include chronic lower respiratory diseases, things like influenza and pneumonia.

"It certainly points to a lack of transmission perhaps of some normal infectious diseases during the winter months that may have contributed to a lower-than-expected number of deaths during that period."

The statistics do not include deaths referred to coroners, such as accidents, assaults and suicides, which Mr Eynstone-Hinks said usually accounted for about 10-15 per cent of deaths in Australia.

What happened with influenza?

Federal Health Department figures show that of the laboratory-confirmed influenza cases last year up to late November there were 37 deaths, a 50 per cent decrease from the five-year mean.

There were 21,266 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System in the year to the end of the 2020 influenza season, which was almost eight times fewer than the five-year average of 163,015.

Deakin University chair in epidemiology Catherine Bennett said Australia was heading into an early influenza season before COVID-19 arrived, but restrictions introduced in response to the pandemic slowed transmission not only of coronavirus, but also of other infectious diseases.

"Because we went early and hard with our restrictions, we not only prevented many COVID deaths — we did see 900 or so [COVID-related] deaths — but at the same time we prevented many more," Professor Bennett said.

"In the process, by bringing in an early vaccine for flu and just the effects of the restrictions, the isolation, the extra hygiene people were practising, we also reduced our flu deaths and other communicable, respiratory in particular, deaths really noticeably."

Without restrictions and physical distancing, Professor Bennett said Australia would have recorded similar numbers of influenza deaths to previous years, as well as "many more" COVID-19 deaths than the 900.

Is drilling in Lake Torrens the next Juukan Gorge?

Can a Premier who is also Minister for Aboriginal Affairs really refuse an inquiry sought by Indigenous people into his state’s native title organisations because he says he respects Aboriginal self-determination — yet then approve mining exploration in an area his own Aboriginal heritage body recommended against?

It’s a bob each way on self-determination and it’s at the heart of this month’s decision by South Australian Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Steven Marshall to grant Argonaut Resources subsidiary Kelaray permission to drill on the western shores of Lake Torrens, 450km north of Adelaide. It’s a decision some insist is potentially South Australia’s version of last year’s Juukan Gorge destruction by Rio Tinto in Western Australia.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the nation’s most experienced native title lawyers says: “In some ways Torrens is not directly comparable with Juukan because the destruction of the caves is far more damaging to traditional culture than exploratory drilling at Torrens. Yet, in another way, it is far worse. While it can be argued neither the WA government nor Rio Tinto properly understood the importance of Juukan ahead of the blasting, the Lake Torrens situation is the opposite. The Marshall government has approved drilling of a site even though it had extensive knowledge from the state’s Aboriginal Heritage Commission warning it of the potential destruction of sacred sites.”

The issue is divisive politically and for local people. ABC Online on September 28 reported comments from Kuyani woman Regina McKenzie, who said her people “had a deep connection with the lake”.

“The Kuyani were the law holders of what anthropologists would call the lake’s culture people,” McKenzie said.

Her brother, Malcolm “Tiger” McKenzie, completely disagrees. He is unequivocal that cultural issues need to be traded off to maximise economic benefits to local Indigenous people.

“There’s a lot of people, especially the Greens, that stop Aboriginal people advancing in this country. There are important cultural issues associated with the lake, but without mining how are we going to build the capacity of Aboriginal people to work and to contribute to this country?”

Tiger, 68, lives in the Aboriginal community of Davenport north of Adelaide. He believes concerns about a possible repeat of the Juukan Gorge disaster could be alleviated if people from the various tribal groups associated with the lake could sit down and negotiate with the company and state government.

“That’s what we blackfellas have got to do. Sit down and negotiate. We should not be saying no from the very beginning. Otherwise we are always going to have our arms out for a handout.”

For its part, Argonaut is treading warily; CEO Lindsay Owler, acknowledged by all sides as a thoughtful executive who has good relations with government and local Aboriginal communities, saw no benefit in going on the record for this story. Argonaut wants good relations with local Aboriginal people and is willing to pay royalties to any group that eventually secures native title.

Argonaut’s Kelaray sent a draft Native Title Agreement to the Kokatha in October 2019. A royalty framework agreement and proposed heritage arrangements were sent to the Adnyamathanha, including the Kuyani subgroup that may make its own claim for the area, and the Barngarla in late 2016. None of Argonaut’s draft agreements has been executed.

Professor Peter Sutton, anthropologist with the South Australian Museum, gave evidence in the Overlap case that the Kuyani had the strongest connection to the Lake Torrens area.

As in all things native title since the original Wik Ten Point plan devised by John Howard in 1998, negotiated local agreements are the best way forward. With that in mind, Koolmatrie hopes Marshall’s indication last year that he may be prepared to look at some form of parliamentary inquiry will proceed by mid-2021. Andrew Thomas says Marshall should “be meeting with the Kokatha law and culture committee regularly”.

The complexity of the anthropological evidence considered by Justice Mansfield suggests to reform group members that the path of legal action is not the best way forward for Aboriginal native title holders and those without title who nevertheless have legally recognised cultural connections with proposed mining sites.

In the Lake Torrens matter that process would be complicated by the state’s history of mining approvals in the area. A spokesman for the Premier said records indicated the first exploration hole at the lake was drilled in 1960 and 282 exploration licences had been granted over the area since the 1970s. As well, “previous Section 23 authorisations had been approved in 2010 and 2018 by the former Labor government”. The spokesman said any proposed mining would mean “a separate Section 23 authorisation would have to be sought by Kelaray”.

The Marshall government could lose a lot of political skin pleasing neither side, whatever the anthropological justifications for the Premier’s latest decision. An inquiry and a new, more co-operative approach could benefit miners and Aboriginal groups while minimising political damage. A good place to start might be splitting Marshall’s portfolio responsibilities. Many people spoken to for this story believe it is inappropriate that a Premier with power to override Aboriginal heritage recommendations is also Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Nor is there much support for the opposition. The most recent drilling at Lake Torrens was approved three years ago by ALP minister for Aboriginal affairs Kyam Maher, who told ABC radio on Thursday he now believes Marshall’s decision went much further than his own. The present Aboriginal Heritage Act was introduced by Maher in 2016.

Greens upper house MLC and spokeswoman for Aboriginal affairs, Tammy Franks, said in response to Maher’s comments, “We rushed through the Aboriginal Heritage Act in the first place in 2016. It didn’t have the support of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement or the SA native title services at the time. We didn’t even wait for Law Society advice. It was rammed through the parliament and they got it wrong.

“I will be moving to open up the Aboriginal Heritage Act when parliament resumes in the first week of February. I would hope Labor would be willing to have a respectful conversation that actually listens to Aboriginal voices.”

This issue will only get politically hotter. Lake Torrens is not Juukan Gorge, but activists are keen to make it seem so.

Recovery gathers pace as nation heads back to work

CBD baristas, lunch bar operators, shop keepers and suppliers are geared up and raring to go. Monday in the third week in January traditionally signals a large-scale return to work after summer holidays. This year it is more significant. Many Australians will be stepping out of the shadows of COVID-19 and returning to the workplace for the first time in nine or 10 months. The conditions are auspicious. No new cases of community transmission were recorded on Friday. The US, Britain and Europe can only envy our position. Foot traffic in the Sydney CBD increased this week; Victoria will allow 50 per cent of private sector workers and 25 per cent of public servants on site from Monday. Are the latter more delicate?

Important decisions for employers and governments lie ahead on matters such as workplace rules about vaccinations. Employers, we have reported this week, are seeking clarity. The principle of choice is important. And Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt have made it clear that COVID vaccines will not be compulsory. At the same time, employers such as nursing home operators have long insisted that staff receive an annual flu shot. A sensible, co-operative approach in individual workplaces will help. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is being proactive. In a blueprint that has been well received by Treasury, the Health Department and other business groups, it is proposing that after the inoculation of the elderly, Indigenous Australians and frontline at-risk workers, that staff in manufacturing, international education and other major export sectors receive the vaccine in the second phase, ahead of the general population. Ensuring export supply chains do not become a source of infection and allowing international travel to restart as soon as possible would make sense.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox, who represents the nation’s larger employers, says governments will need to issue advice “so employers and employees know what their rights and obli­gations are’’. Fair enough. Vaccination programs will take months to complete; in the interim, social distancing and other precautions will remain vital. Practical decisions will be needed, at some stage, in regard to those who decline or postpone vaccinations because of pregnancy or medical conditions. Workplace layouts, working from home and masks will be part of the mix. Much will depend on Australians’ take-up rate for vaccines. Rolling out vaccines later than other countries is a positive; useful lessons will be learned from overseas experience.

As the nation opens up, we endorse Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ plan, to go to national cabinet on February 5 to allow international students to re-enter his state. It should be adopted nationally. COVID cases are negligible and the higher education sector faces crippling losses if overseas students are locked out in the first semester. Victoria, sensibly, wants a separate entry quota for overseas students, on top of the current quota for international arrivals. Australia’s success in suppressing COVID should be a comparative advantage in a competitive field, which is also Victoria’s largest export industry. Students, including some from China, Malaysia and Pakistan, are backing campaigns to return. They are ready to pay up and follow quarantine rules.

Mr Andrews should extend his thinking to scrapping Victoria’s Stasi-like domestic border regime. It is denying Victorians the chance to return to their own homes as dates for resuming work and school loom large. Out of more than 11,000 people who have applied for exemptions since January 1, about 8000 are yet to be processed. Such tardiness on a matter that is costing Victorians dearly is inexcusable. On Friday, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce accused the Andrews government of “hypocrisy’’ for denying Victorians the right to come home, with some basic precautions, while allowing in more than 1000 overseas tennis players. Provided it is staged safely, with restrictions for preventing the spread of coronavirus applied rigorously, we applaud the holding of the Australian Open and welcome its competitors. But Mr Joyce’s concern about Qantas and Jetstar being forced to cancel almost 3000 flights between Sydney and Melbourne, the nation’s busiest air corridor, with significant social and economic consequences, is valid. Victoria closed its border to NSW on January 1 in response to Sydney’s northern beaches cluster. The move was excessive then and is now out of all proportion with the risk of COVID transmission. As the broader national economy bounces into the new year from Monday, state leaders should be looking outwards to consider how they can safely promote economic recovery and mobility.




Friday, January 15, 2021

Queensland judge allows mother to consent to autistic child’s transgender treatment

This case was obviously decided on the facts rather than on any principle so should not be regarded as any precedent. The kid was mentally abnormal and distressed while the father had effectively renounced his parental rights so this was not in any way a paradigm case.

One wonders, however, whether the mother might have encouraged the inappropriate gender role. From what we are told, it seems not. If that were the case it would be a matter of considerable concern

It is reassuring that nothing irreversible will be done at this stage.

A 13-YEAR-OLD child, born as a boy but living as a girl, has been given urgent permission to have male puberty bocking drugs without the father’s consent in an extraordinary Queensland first.

The landmark legal case is the first of its kind to be heard in the Supreme Court, with decisions regarding consent for treatment for children with gender dysphoria having previously only been made in the Family Court.

The child, “A”, has been living as a girl for several years and is terrified of her voice deepening and her male genitalia getting bigger, the judge was told.

The mother applied for an urgent order for her to be able to consent to stage one male puberty blocking treatment for her child, without the father’s consent.

“From the age of four, A would declare that she was something other than her male gender and began to declare she was a girl and not a boy and had been born in the wrong body,’’ Justice Ann Lyons said.

“She is uncomfortable wearing boys’ clothes and prefers girls’ clothes, preferably in the colour pink.’’

The mother and child have not seen the father for more than three years, with the mother claiming he had a criminal history for drug and weapons offences and was violent.

She and the child moved to regional Queensland to escape the father, whom she claimed was emotionally, verbally and physically abusive towards both of them.

He did not support the child’s desire to be female, the court heard.

In a recent Family Court decision, a judge said doctors had to seek consent from both parents before a child could be given stage one, two or three treatment for gender dysphoria.

The Supreme Court heard the mother did not know the father’s whereabouts and there were concerns that if the application was made in the Family Court there could be long delays.

The girl is being home schooled, but while she attended a supportive State school she had worn a female uniform and chosen a female name on the school roll and on her bus pass.

A treating team recommended A receive reversible treatment that would block her puberty as a male.

The child, who has autism spectrum disorder, had a history of self-mutilation because of her distress about her genitalia and had previously had suicidal thoughts, a psychiatrist said.

The child recently became upset when experiencing erections.

The doctor said he was concerned if she did not get treatment the child would be at significant risk of depression, anxiety, social isolation, suicide or self-harming of her genitalia.

Justice Lyons heard the application on December 18, two days before the child turned 13.

The judge said the application was brought in the “parens patriae’’ jurisdiction, in which the court acted as a parent to protect children who are unable to look after their own interests.

It allowed the court to make orders contrary to the wishes of a child’s parent, if satisfied it was in the best interests of the child.

Justice Lyons said she was satisfied that A had gender dysphoria, that she and her mother consented to the puberty blocking treatment and the treating team considered it was in the child’s best interest that it not be delayed.

She said considerably delaying treatment to obtain the father’s consent was not in the child’s best interest.

Justice Lyons allowed the mother to consent to the puberty blocking drug treatment without the father’s consent, because of the time of year and concerns about delay.

However, the judge said any future applications for stage two treatment should go before the Family Court of Australia, given its expertise in such matters.

Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland president Gina Mather applauded the decision of Supreme Court Justice Lyons, which she said was for the betterment of the child.

“We understand the heartache and desperation of trying to contact an absent parent regarding medical assistance for a child,” Ms Mather said.

“The Supreme Court judge should be commended for acting quickly to make this urgently-needed decision,.

“Family law is too slow regarding children under the age of 16 whose parents are of differing opinions with regards to gender dysphoria and puberty blockers.

“This medication is reversible and allows breathing space for everyone, the child, the parents and so on.’’

Australian MS researcher is “excited” by vaccine discovery

An “accidental” miracle cure for multiple sclerosis could emerge from the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scientists who have created a highly successful jab for coronavirus have discovered that the same vaccine mRNA also improved MS symptoms in animal trials and prevented disease progression in rodents showing early signs of MS.

The findings have “excited” a leading Australian MS researcher who hopes that future research will offer a similar protection in people with the debilitating disease.

There are over 25,600 people living with multiple sclerosis in Australia, including over 3970 in Queensland. It is a lifelong disease with no cure. It attacks the central nervous system — the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves and the progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS cannot be predicted.

German company BioNTech has delivered a COVID-19 vaccine that has been unrivalled in its efficacy and it is being rolled out in the US and the EU.

Their work into multiple sclerosis has been published in the medical journal Science.

“While this is an interesting study, it is early-stage research in the laboratory. In people with MS we don’t know specifically which components of the brain and spinal cord are targeted by the immune system; so designing a specific “vaccine” has not been possible. This research is exciting because the “vaccine” was shown to dampen the immune response against additional components of the brain and spinal cord which are involved in auto-immune responses in MS,”

Dr Julia Morahan, Head of Research at MS Research Australia said. “This is an encouraging early finding, and we hope that future research will investigate whether a similar protection could be induced in people with MS,” she said.

BioNTech’s CEO, Ugur Sahin, MD Ph.D has led new research and together with his team they hypothesized that an mRNA vaccine could work in a targeted fashion to help the immune system tolerate specific MS-related proteins without compromising normal immune function. Existing treatments suppress the immune system but can leave patients open to infections. More than 60 per cent of patients are using disease modifying therapy.

Bin-busting grain harvest reviving rural towns

Where's that food shortage the Greenies are always predicting?

Grain growers along the eastern seaboard reaped record winter crops this season, with timely rain across the grain belt in NSW, Victoria and Queensland after a run of dry years.

GrainCorp's haul of wheat, barley and canola exceeded 13 million tonnes, with many of its sites that receive and store grain setting new records after four or more years of drought.

This eclipsed the previous record crop of 12.6 million tonnes reported by eastern Australia's dominant bulk grain handler in 2016-17. Since then, the harvest from Queensland, NSW and Victoria has been depressed by the lack of rain.

GrainCorp operations manager Nigel Lotz said the company's receival site at Coonamble, NSW, which had been barely used in recent years, epitomised the reversal in fortunes for farmers. It set a new record of 443,000 tonnes for the site this year, the single biggest haul in the state.

"NSW port facilities didn't have much activity at all last year, but now the ports in NSW and Victoria are booked out for the whole year coming up," Mr Lotz said.

"Last year in north-east Victoria, southern NSW and particularly north-west NSW, the season was very lacklustre. Now, with all the activity during harvest, you could sense the vibrancy in the communities and people had a skip in their step."

The grain harvest is wrapping up in Victoria, also with some record results despite wet weather since December, which can strip quality from the grain and disrupt harvest logistics.

Julia Hausler, a farmer in the northern Wimmera, said timely rain earlier in the year meant her district enjoyed one of its better seasons in recent memory.

"We were on a knife's edge in the Wimmera, Mallee and central Victoria, but we got the rainfall in August and it turned the season around," Ms Hausler said.

Dalby, Queensland farmer and AgForce grains president Brendan Taylor said farmers were at the whim of "storm lotto" this season, with heavy but patchy rain so localised that a boundary fence could mark the difference between delight and desolation.

"There's been a lot of good management by people to get through these tough seasons, but there's also a lot of good luck in being under the rain and if you're not it can be bloody heartbreaking," he said.

Sam Heagney, who farms at Mungindi, Queensland near the NSW border, said he had an average harvest season but "you didn't have to go far to find someone who'd had their best season ever".

"Coming from such a low base, anything seems amazing. All the businesses in towns were so happy, they were busy and there were lots of people around," Mr Heagney said.

"We have been getting a bit of rain, in late December and early January. But the more the better now. It still hasn't been enough to fill the irrigation dams like Copeton and Keepit."

While wheat prices are down $100 on last year's drought-induced highs of about $350 a tonne, Ms Hausler said the current price was a welcome surprise given the large volume of grain that had hit the market.

"It's a relatively good price at the moment, and a rare thing that prices have even trended upwards $21 since December, despite the good harvest."

Coal exports from Port of Newcastle strong despite China's ban on Australian coal

While Australian coal remains off limits in China, the trade tensions have barely dented overall export figures from Australia's largest coal terminal, with producers finding other international markets.

China usually accounts for 20 per cent of exports from the Port of Newcastle, and when coal ships stopped leaving for China in November, it raised the prospect of a shortfall in demand.

Yet, overall export figures for December show only a 3 per cent decline on the previous year.

A total of 14.9 million tonnes of coal were exported from the port last month, worth $1.7 billion, compared to 15.4 million tonnes in December 2019.

Rory Simington, senior analyst with Wood Mackenzie, said the international coal market had rebalanced itself "remarkably quickly" in the face of the trade war.

As trade and political tensions simmer, speculation swirls about what's really going on between the two nations — and what's next on a Chinese sanctions "hit list".

But Mr Simington said new markets had opened for Australian producers, ironically as a result of China's surging power demand for heating through a bitterly cold northern winter.

"The Chinese coal market's in a bit of chaos at the moment because there's an extremely cold winter there and prices for domestic coal are extremely high," Mr Simington said.

"So they've gone to other places like Indonesia, Russia, South Africa and have pushed up prices in those destinations — that has provided opportunities for Australian coal into other destinations that it wouldn't normally compete into.

"If China pushes up Indonesian prices, that means a consumer in India is looking at relatively much higher prices for Indonesian coal, and they're saying, 'well, I'll just have some Australian, thanks'."

Mr Simington said new export orders to India, Pakistan, Turkey and even Spain had cushioned the shock for Australian coal producers.

In its December quarterly statement to the ASX, Whitehaven Coal explained that they were sourcing Australian coal through other countries:

China has supplemented its domestic coal production with higher cost coal from alternative origins such as Russia, Indonesia and South Africa.

In addition, late in 2020 China lifted its total import quota in response to strong domestic demand and an extremely cold winter.

China's restrictions have altered seaborne coal trade flows where, instead of being delivered to China, Australian coal is now finding customers in alternate destinations including India, Pakistan and the Middle East, and traded coal historically delivered into these markets is finding its way into China.

Demand boosted by pandemic
Annual figures for Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS), which handles the bulk of coal loading in the Port of Newcastle, show its exports to China dropped from 18 per cent in 2019 to 8 per cent in 2020.

But overall there was only a 4 per cent decline, which PWCS chief executive Hennie de Plooy attributed to the pandemic.

"Certainly very little coal from here went into China sort of in the last four or five months of the year, but producers in the Hunter Valley were able to find replacement markets for basically all of the coal that didn't go to China," he said.

"I think the main impact was actually the pandemic, the demand really softened in the first half of the year around April-May, when a lot of the economies basically shut down and energy demand dropped.

"Economies restarted in the second half and demand picked up."

New South Wales Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said it was good news for the industry.

"2020 was another strong year for NSW coal exports despite a range of challenges," he said in a statement.

"It … demonstrates the ability of the sector to adapt to changing opportunities and markets, with NSW coal exported to around 20 different countries during the year."

In another win for the industry, thermal coal prices rose significantly at the end of 2020, up from a low of around $US50 a tonne, where many Australian coal producers are cash negative, to now above $US80 a tonne.

Mr Simington said the prices were being driven not only by China but also Japan and other Northern Hemisphere countries experiencing the cold winter.

Mr Simington said there was "absolutely no sign" of the Chinese Government relenting on its Australian coal ban. "I think the Chinese Government is showing that it's prepared to endure quite a bit of pain with coal prices where they are in China," he said.