Sunday, September 20, 2020

Cathy Freeman’s iconic Olympic moment shows the racism Indigenous Australians face

This do-gooder article below is a good example of lazy thought. It casually accuses Australians of racism towards Aborigines but makes no attempt to enquire why that racism exists.

And it does exist. Australians rarely encounter Aborigines as anything but dirty and drunked layabouts and beggars and it is undoubted that they dislike ALL drunken layabout beggars. So that is the simple explanation for why Australians have a low opinion of Aborigines.

And the high rate of intermarriage beween East Asians (mainly Chinese and Filipinas) and Anglo-Australians shows that looking different and coming from different cultures does not of itself normally elicit prejudice. In the Bogardus social distance scale, marriage is the most non-racist category of behaviour. The almost total absence of any friction between Anglos and our large population of East Asians is surely evidence that Australians are NOT racist in general

It is of course true that what is true of the group is not true of all individuals within it. But it is a universal human habit to categorize, as the psychological literature (See here and here) clearly shows. But that literature also shows that once a person becomes known as an individual, the category judgments fall away.

My own father, who was a man of his times, had an Aboriginal friend — solely because the Aboriginal was a hard worker in my father’s trade (“lumberjack”) of cutting down forest trees. He was perfectly friendly to Tommy even though he had the usual negative view of Aborigines in general prevailing at that time. My father greatly respected hard manual work so his friendship with Tommy was an expression of his values

So the human tendency to categorize may be regrettable but it does not generate immovable attitudes. So Freeman received a lot of acceptance and admiration once she became known as an individual. But up to that point the assumption about her was that she was a discreditable type of person. She was judged as a member of her group. That is how the human mind works. It is nothing to do with Australians in particular

Call it racism or call it stereotyping but categorization is a basic human survival mechanism. It enables prediction

Twenty years ago Cathy Freeman stopped the nation not once, but twice in the space of 10 days.

All of Australia watched as Freeman won the 400m in front of 110,000 people at Sydney’s Olympic stadium on September 25, 2000.

Ten days earlier she was unveiled as the secret final torch bearer to light the Olympic cauldron inside the stadium.

It was something Freeman – who had the race of her life just 10 days later – was reluctant to do.

“It wasn’t until I got to Sydney, in those days before the Opening Ceremony that I started to think, ‘OK I have to be in this moment’.”

It was an iconic moment in not only our sporting history but the history of Australia.

Twenty years ago Indigenous Australians were fighting for an apology to the Stolen Generation. Just months before the Olympics 250,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians had marched across the Sydney Harbour Bridge for reconciliation.

And here was a proud and outspoken Indigenous Australian on the world stage representing Australia.

It’s easy to look back at that moment with rose-tinted glasses. A moment that shows how accepting white Australians have been of Indigenous Australians.

But I have vastly different memories of that opening ceremony.

At an 18th birthday party in country NSW, the family whose daughter was turning 18 had moved the TV outside so everyone could watch the ceremony.

But despite it being a huge moment in our history, there are only two things I remember from that event.

The first was when a young Nikki Webster entered the ceremony surrounded by Aboriginal dancers.

A partygoer – who would have just been 17 or 18 – yelled out that Nikki wasn’t safe with so many Aboriginal men around her.

It was a disgusting comment that shows just how acceptable it was to be openly racist 20 years ago. Sadly, it’s probably still acceptable in some circles today.

When the torch bearers reached the stadium it was a parade of former Australian Olympians who did the final legs. Then it was Cathy’s moment. No one knew she would light the cauldron.

But the decision to use Australia’s greatest athlete at the time didn’t please everyone at the party.

People started to boo as Cathy took the torch and started the final run before lighting the cauldron surrounded by water.

You could just say this was a group of teens who didn’t understand the importance of this moment. They didn’t understand how racist it was to boo a prominent Indigenous woman during one of the biggest moments in her career.

But that would be ignoring how much Freeman had to fight during her whole career.

Like how Australian Commonwealth Games official Arthur Tunstall said Freeman should have been kicked out of the 1994 Commonwealth Games when she carried both the Australian and Aboriginal flags during her victory lap after winning gold in the 200m.

Or when Freeman was just a girl and didn’t receive a trophy after winning a race, instead watching non-Indigenous girls who finished behind her receive them.

“What did upset me at time was my parent’s reaction; they were more upset than me,” Freeman said years later.

It’s easy to look back at Freeman winning the 400m gold in Sydney or lighting the cauldron and forget the racism she faced.

She was even warned in the lead up to the 2000 Games she could be stripped of her medals if she celebrated with the Aboriginal flag. There were concerns it would breach an Olympic rule by being seen as a political gesture. But when she won the 400m, she carried both flags proudly.

The 20th anniversary of Freeman’s gold medal should rightly be celebrated this month as a moment that brought Australians together.

But it should also be a reminder of how much more Indigenous Australians have to fight to be accepted in Australia. And that it’s a fight that still continues.


Much of Queensland’s legislation against farmers was ‘completely unnecessary’

Marine scientist and physicist Professor Peter Ridd says data showing pesticides bear a a negligible impact on the Great Barrier Reef means much of the Queensland government’s new legislation against farmers were “completely unnecessary”.

Professor Ridd said it was recently revealed by the director of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, that only 3 per cent of the whole Great Barrier Reef, the ‘inshore reefs’, was affected by farm pesticides.

He said it was revealed even for the affected 3 per cent, pesticides were a low to negligible risk.

“It’s only 3 per cent of the whole Great Barrier Reef, and even when you look at the data on that … even on that 3 per cent, pesticides are a low to negligible risk,” Professor Ridd told Sky News host Chris Kenny.

“(Which) basically means a lot of this new legislation the Queensland government is bringing on against farmers is completely unnecessary.”


Green hypocrites and gutless banks holding up power to the people

That Australia needs a big new power station on the east coast is obvious. The $64,000 question is where? While everyone wants one, they do not wish to live near one. “Not in my backyard” is the cry from householders who still want their airconditioning running year round. As we dither and dally over the where, the need becomes more critical. You have to be old enough to remember the days when Neville Wran was premier to recall the “brown-outs”. Different parts of the state would be robbed through periods of inadequate power and no power at all. If one of those incidents occurs at the height of summer or the depth of winter, people die.

When Victoria closed its dirty brown-coal plant at Hazelwood it may have done us an environmental favour but it meant that other states had to increase the amount of power they produced to bridge the shortfall. So we adopted the approach of stretching out the power we had, knowing full well that we were only delaying the inevitable.

We can’t dawdle any longer. Our weak-willed banks lack the courage to back a new power station built by the private sector.

If this desperately needed power station is ever going to be built it will be with government money. It will be bitterly opposed by those who see nothing incongruous about turning the lights on tonight when they get home. No bank will risk losing tens of thousands of customers by shovelling money into this development, regardless of how worthy it might be.

Our banks run up the white flag and begin a quick retreat with the first whiff of grapeshot. “Principle be damned” is their motto as they race to find the lowest common denominator.

The financial services royal commission did much more than highlight corruption and malpractice in that system. It undermined our faith in our institutions. The AMP was the pinnacle of Australian business success. It was big and it was ours. I can recall my parents taking me to the top of the old AMP building to look out over the harbour. Just the mention of AMP invoked national pride. Watching its executives being grilled was not a pretty sight. They even stole money off dead people.

They say a rort is not a rort if you are in on it. At the AMP everyone had a rort going – robbing customers. Under new management the company is rebuilding; I wish them well, but it is a mighty task. You can easily rebuild physical structures but trust is different altogether and it takes longer. It would be a great idea if these boards had a consumer representative – a genuine independent who could apply a smell test to board decisions, particularly executive remuneration.

We waste talent in this country. Tony Abbott, a Rhodes scholar before becoming Prime Minister of Australia, was offered nothing when he left politics. He had to go to London to find work. That’s pathetic. You need to have a national memory bank and you have that by keeping those who made our history on our shores to educate, stimulate and nurture those Australians smart enough to know that the only way forward is to look to the past to find out what works and what doesn’t.

The US presidential election is near and brilliant colleague Rowan Dean predicts a landslide victory for Donald Trump, notwithstanding the polls. I am not inclined to rubbish Dean’s claim; he made a mug of me rightly predicting Scott Morrison’s victory over Bill Shorten. Joe Biden – an uninspiring candidate – may lead in the polls but then he has to get Americans out to vote. This will happen only if there is a sufficient number of Americans who want to dump Trump.

Why is it that the best the Democrats can produce is a doddery near-octogenarian flat out remembering what room he is in? Is he fit and able enough to handle all the complexities of the toughest job in the world? It is hard to come up with a confident, positive answer to that. What will this man do in a life-and-death crisis when it is his finger on the button? Will his mind be on the job or will it wander? Let us hope and pray that we never find out.

Sometimes democracy seems not all that it is cracked up to be. While the rulers of its greatest potential enemies, China and Russia, are presidents for life, the US President faces the people every four years. Incumbents don’t often get beaten but Jimmy Carter only got one bite of the cherry when his Georgian mafia showed they were well short of having whatever it takes to control all the levers of American government.

Trump is terrific for people like me. Journalists and commentators know he provides us with rich pickings. For that reason a part of my brain tells me to support him. My whole brain then kicks in and I return to sanity.


Big changes to Australian citizenship test flagged

The citizenship test has been modified so that aspiring Australians will need to correctly answer questions about the country’s values, the federal government is expected to announce.

The 20-question multiple choice test, which requires a 75 per cent overall mark to pass, will from November include five questions about Australian values – all of which must be answered correctly.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge is due to introduce the changes on Thursday to coincide with Australian Citizenship Day, when more than 100 citizenship ceremonies will take place across the country.

“The updated citizenship test will have new and more meaningful questions that require potential citizens to understand and commit to our values like freedom of speech, mutual respect, equality of opportunity, the importance of democracy and the rule of law.”

The new values-based queries will include questions such as should people in Australia make an effort to learn English, are people free to choose who they marry or not marry, do religious laws override Australian law and is it acceptable for a husband to be violent towards his wife if she has disobeyed or disrespected him.

Questions in the current test focus on Australian history and government.


Farmers reach ‘crisis point’ over shortage of labor

President of NSW Farmers James Jackson says the agricultural industry is at “crisis point” as crops are not being harvested due to a shortage of laborers.

It comes as the agriculture industry’s usual influx of backpackers who join the fruit-picking force at an estimated worth of $13 billion has been impeded by the coronavirus pandemic.

“In NSW, Victoria and South Australia, it’s looking like a pretty good cereal harvest and we do need casual labor that,” Mr Jackson told Sky News host Alan Jones.

“For the horticultural crops, we need labor for that. “We are looking and it’s five minutes to midnight on this because it’s starting to become the busy season for horticulture.”


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don’t forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

Friday, September 18, 2020

Australia singled out for mammal extinction in UN’s dire global biodiversity report

LOL. The good ol’ Bramble cay melomys again: A small rodent that has actually gone extinct in recent years. The Greenies love it so we keep hearing about it.

The whole thing is a beat up. It is only the Melomys on Bramble cay that has gone extinct. There are tons of them on the nearby mainland.

And their extinction has NOTHING to do with global warming. One of the cyclones that bedevil the far North blew most of the vegetation and a lot of the sand away that formed its habitat. Any that survived the big blow died of starvation, not of any temperature rise

The Greenies will of course say that the big blow was caused by global warming but that is nonsense. Big blows have always been a frequent occurrence in the Far North. Where they hit is random however. Bramble cay and its inhabitants just got unlucky on one occasion

The extinction of Australia’s Bramble Cay melomys has been singled out for criticism in a United Nation’s report on the state of biodiversity across the world.

The fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook, released last night, warned that biodiversity is declining “at an unprecedented rate [while] the pressures driving this decline are intensifying”.

Australia was named alongside Cameroon, the Galapagos and Brazil as countries having suffered at least one extinction in the last decade.

The Bramble Cay melomys — a native rodent found on a coral cay in the northern Great Barrier Reef — was officially declared extinct by the Australian Government in 2019, although it was last seen in 2009.

It is believed to be the world’s first mammal extinction due to climate change.

Today’s report is an update on the world’s progress with the Aichi biodiversity targets — a set of 20 conservation targets set out in 2010 to be achieved by 2020, and signed off on by 194 countries including Australia.

Those targets include the elimination of “incentives, including subsidies harmful to biodiversity”, and halving “the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests”.

“At the global level, none of the 20 targets have been fully achieved,” the report stated, “though six targets have been partially achieved.”

Strengthening and enforcing environmental protection laws is outlined as a key lever to help stop the loss of biodiversity — a warning that Australian Conservation Foundation spokesperson Basha Stasak said the Government needs to pay attention to.

“The Australian Government’s own report to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in March 2020 revealed the Government failed to meet or measure the majority of its [Aichi] targets,” Ms Stasak said.

“Yet the Morrison Government is trying to further weaken nature protection in rushed changes to the national environment law due to be debated in the Senate next month.”

Australia’s environment laws have come under scrutiny since the interim report into the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, released in July, found that the Act is failing to curb our loss of habitat and species.

The report’s recommendation for an independent “cop” to oversee the enforcement of environment protection laws was rejected by the Government.

Instead the Government is moving to introduce changes to the EPBC Act which would shift environmental assessments for major development projects to the states — a move critics say will further weaken an already failing system.

In a statement to the ABC, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said that the Government was aiming to strengthen environmental protection.

“The Government continues to work on delivering both short- and long-term change that will make the Act more efficient and result in clearer, stronger protection for the environment,” the spokesperson said.

Australian species at risk of extinction without change
Australia currently has 21 species listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list — a globally recognised database of flora and fauna conservation status.

A further 24 Australian animals are listed as endangered, with 19 of those having decreasing populations.

One of the biggest failings of our environment protection laws is the self-assessment criteria, according to David Chapple, who heads up Monash University’s Evolutionary Ecology of Environmental Change Laboratory.

Under the self-assessment guidelines, people are required to decide for themselves whether they think their activity needs to be referred to the Federal Government for approval.

Yet, researchers have found that 93 per cent of the over 7 million hectares of threatened species habitat cleared since 1999 (when the EPBC Act came into effect) were not referred for assessment.

More than 3 million of that 7 million hectares was koala habitat.

“Self assessment and whether you actually refer yourself to the Act in the first place is an area where there’s a lot of improvement to be made,” Dr Chapple said.

“The [EPBC report] recommendation for an independent panel to oversee the Act is one thing that most conservation biologists think is a key element to [improve] it.”

In research published earlier this month, Dr Chapple and colleague’s assessed the conservation trajectory of just lizards and snakes in Australia.

They found that there are at least 11 species of lizard and snake at significant risk of extinction by 2040.

The biggest driver of species loss in Australia and globally is habitat loss, according to Associate Professor Chapple.

He said he wasn’t surprised by the poor outcomes in the UN’s report today.

“There wasn’t anything in there that surprised me. It’s a reinforcement of what we already know,” he said.

“In terms of the Samuel’s review of the EPBC Act, it’s very timely. It remains to be seen how many of those things [the Government] do take on.”

A Department spokesperson told the ABC the Government has made “significant progress” across its Aichi targets.

“The Australian Government is investing in dedicated threatened species strategies, national environmental science programs, practical on ground action to reduce threats from feral predators and pests and $200 million in bushfire wildlife and habitat recovery strategies that focus heavily on threatened species impacts.”


More police excess

Canberra player Curtis Scott has had his allegations of police assault thrown out after a magistrate declared his arrest on the Australia Day weekend “unlawful”.

Scott was handcuffed and arrested by police at Moore Park while sitting under a tree before he was pepper-sprayed and Tasered. He was originally charged with seven offences as a result, including the assault of two police officers.

Body-worn police footage was played in Central Local Court on Wednesday, revealing the moment officers found Scott under the tree about 2am on January 27.

The 72-second clip showed Scott asleep under the tree with his arms folded in a floral blue shirt as officers tried to wake him.

The vision showed one officer grabbing at his earlobe three times to rouse him before Scott reacted by lashing his arms out towards police. This was considered one of the allegations of police assault.

Scott can be heard telling the officer in question: “Come on, get off me c—.”

Police then put Scott in handcuffs before telling him to “stop resisting” and to “get up” despite his intoxicated state.

Scott’s lawyer Murugan Thangaraj SC argued in court that Scott was not told he was under arrest when handcuffed, which is unlawful, and that the rest of the case could not go ahead.

Police allowed only 72 seconds of the entire incident to be played to the court and requested that no other parts be shown, believing that the charges in question were limited to the short clip.

Mr Thangaraj argued the request was an attempt by police to “shield themselves from scrutiny”.

He said that later in the full-length clip, a part that was not shown in court, a female officer stood on Scott’s foot on purpose and twisted his ankle. “She clearly applies pressure and twists his ankle,” Mr Thangaraj said.

He said that later in the full-length clip, Scott is seen “writhing in tears” after being pepper-sprayed by police before an officer tells him it is “not that bad [being pepper-sprayed]”.

Police prosecutor Rebecca Becroft told the court the officers used handcuffs for Scott’s protection and their own as he appeared to be “heavily intoxicated with alcohol or drugs”.

After viewing the shortened clip three times, Magistrate Jennifer Giles ruled the act of Scott being handcuffed while asleep “unlawful”. She described the first allegation of police assault as Scott “dreamily” using his arm to brush one of the officers away.

As a result, police withdrew the five charges in contention.

“I have to say it is drawing a very long and frightening bow to argue that the police can handcuff someone they are trying to wake up who is sleeping under a tree that is not under arrest,” Ms Giles told the court.

Outside of court, defence lawyer Sam Macedone said he was eager for the full clip to be played during the cost hearing on Thursday.

Mr Macedone also said that due to the police’s persistence of the case the cost to the taxpayer would likely amount to more than $100,000.

When Mr Macedone was asked outside court whether the police in question should be charged he said he would be not making that comment “at this stage”. “Not publicly anyway,” he said.


‘States doing the heavy lifting’ repatriating Australians: Palaszczuk

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called on the federal government to use its resources to bring Australians stranded abroad home, claiming the states are doing “the heavy lifting”.

Ms Palaszczuk confirmed her government was willing to accept repatriated Australians currently trapped abroad, stating it was “imperative” Australians be allowed to return home.

“I think it is imperative we get back to Australia as many Australians as we can,” she said.

“The federal government can utilise its aircraft to bring people back and set up accommodation.

“I said to the Deputy Prime Minister that I would be more than happy to look at taking more Australians here where we have the capacity to do so.”


Surprise fall in jobless rate as 111,000 people find work in August

A tribute to the flexibilty of a capitalistic economy. The USA is performing similarly

More than 110,000 jobs were created across Australia in August, delivering the nation a surprise fall in unemployment even as Victoria went into coronavirus lockdown.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday reported the national jobless rate dropped to 6.8 per cent from 7.5 per cent. Markets had been expecting an increase in unemployment to around 8 per cent.

The bureau said 110,000 jobs were added in the month, taking total employment above 12.5 million. It is back to where it was in July 2018.

Of the jobs created, 74,800 were part-time positions. And despite the large jump in jobs, total hours worked only lifted by 0.1 per cent.

There were huge falls in jobless rates in many areas. The Northern Territory’s jobless rate fell to 4.2 per cent from 7.5 per cent, in Western Australia it fell to 7 per cent from 8.3 per cent while in Queensland it went to 7.5 per cent from 8.8 per cent.

In NSW, the nation’s biggest jobs market, the jobless rate dropped to 6.7 per cent from 7.2 per cent.

Analysts and the government had been expecting a spike in unemployment in Victoria due to its lockdown. But even there, the jobless rate only moved up to 7.1 per cent from 6.8 per cent.

The bureau’s head of labour statistics, Bjorn Jarvis, said there had not been a substantial change in the participation rate, which measures those in work or looking for it.

“The large increase in seasonally adjusted employment coincided with a large decrease in unemployment of 87,000 people, around 55,000 of whom were female,” he said.

While jobs lifted in most areas, Victoria’s lockdown did have a major impact there with total employment down 42,400. It is just above the low point reached in May in the wake of the first coronavirus lockdown.

The bureau said nationally there were now 215,300 people who worked zero hours through August. This had been 766,900 in April.

Victoria, with 113,000 people on zero hours, accounted for more than half those who held a job but did not work through the month. Victoria’s zero hour workforce peaked in April at 229,800.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don’t forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Scientific cancel culture exposed

An inquiry into Great Barrier Reef farming yields remarkable confessions as institutions are challenged by evidence.


The Senate committee inquiry into the regulation of farm practices impacting water quality on the Great Barrier Reef has yielded some remarkable confessions by science institutions about the state of the reef. It has been the first time many of the scientists have been asked difficult questions and publicly challenged by hard evidence. They have been forced out of their bubble.

It was revealed by Paul Hardisty, boss of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, that only 3 per cent of the reef, the “inshore reefs”, is affected by farm pesticides and sediment. He also stated that pesticides, are a “low to negligible risk”, even for that 3 per cent.

The other 97 per cent, the true offshore Great Barrier Reef, mostly 50km to 100km from the coast, is effectively totally unharmed by pesticides and sediment.

This has been evident in the data for decades but it is nice to see an honest appraisal of the situation.

Why has this fact not been brought to the public’s attention in major documents such as the GBR Outlook Report produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority? Why has everybody been deceived about the true extent of the problem?

AIMS was also forthcoming on other important points. Records of coral growth rates show no impact from agriculture. Large corals live centuries, and have annual growth rings like trees. They record their own rate of growth. If farming, which started about 100 years ago on the reef coast, was damaging it, there should be a slowing of the growth rate. The records show no slowing when agriculture started a century ago, or when large-scale use of fertiliser and pesticides began in the 1950s.

I have written previously that AIMS has been negligent in not updating the GBR-average coral growth data for the past 15 years. We have the scandalous situation that there is data going back centuries – but nothing since 2005. AIMS claimed coral growth rates collapsed between 1990 and 2005, due to climate change; however, there is considerable doubt about this result because AIMS changed the methodology for the data between 1990 and 2005. At the Senate inquiry, under some duress, AIMS agreed it would be a good idea to update this data if the government will fund the project.

Updating the coral growth rate data will be a major step forward. It will prove or disprove the doubtful decline between 1990 and 2005. It will also give the complete record of how the GBR has fared in the past 15 years, a period when scientists have become more strident in their claims that it is on its last legs.

Hardisty, to his credit, has recently implemented red-blue teams within his organisation to help with quality assurance of the work that AIMS produces. A red team is a group of scientists that takes a deliberately antagonist approach to check, test and replicate scientific evidence. A genuine red team is a far more rigorous quality assurance approach than the present system used in science – peer review – which is often little more than a quick read of the work by the scientist’s mates. What AIMS has done internally is similar to what I have been proposing – an Office of Science Quality Assurance that would check, test, and replicate scientific evidence used for public policy.

Unfortunately, Hardisty’s commitment to quality in science was not reflected by many other important witnesses at the Senate inquiry. Many are in denial and resorted to shooting the messengers. An extract from a letter signed by Professor Ian Chubb, a former Australian chief scientist, was read out by Senator Kim Carr.

Disputing the conventional wisdom on the reef was likened to denying that tobacco causes cancer, or that lead in petrol is a health risk. Worse still, the reason sceptics do this, apparently, is “usually money”. Scientists such as Dr Piers Larcombe, the pre-eminent expert on the movement of sediment on the reef, with decades of experience, is thus written off as a corrupt charlatan.

It is scientific “cancel culture”. It is easier than confronting Larcombe’s evidence that farming has very limited impact on the GBR.

It is customary to be very cynical of our politicians, but it was senators Roberts, Rennick, Canavan and McDonald who forced some truth from our generally untrustworthy science institutions. Only our politicians can save us from them.

The evidence about the reef will not be buried forever. All the data indicates agriculture is having a negligible impact on the reef, and recent draconian Queensland legislation against farmers is unwarranted. And this issue will be influential come the Queensland state election on October 31.


Calls for daylight saving to be scrapped over health risks

There are growing calls from health professionals around the world to scrap daylight saving, with warnings turning clocks forward for half the year can have significant health impacts.

An Australian professor has spoken out about some of the health risks associated with changing the clocks, warning the health risks could be amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor of diabetes at Monash University, Paul Zimmet, told 3AW the Victorian Health Department needed to consider the negative impacts of the upcoming change to daylight.

“In terms of the scientific evidence, which we will want to stick with at the moment, there are more heart attacks just after daylight saving, more road accidents, and then you’ve got workplace accidents, car accidents and their implications,” he said.

“There is also cognitive dysfunction in relation to the daylight saving and the change in timing to our normal body rhythms.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews shut down the possibility of cancelling daylight saving when asked about Prof Zimmet’s comments during Wednesday’s press conference.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to the professor, who may be a very learned individual. No. Daylight saving will be proceeding,” Mr Andrews said.

“That’s why the curfew changes, that extra hour is really important, well ahead of daylight saving.”

Mr Andrews said the extra hour of daylight would hopefully help make the summer “like no other”.

“If we stay the course we’ll be able to get close to normal, COVID normal but close to normal, but people will be able to go out and enjoy the city, enjoy the state, enjoy being back at work, enjoy a sense of confidence as they go into 2021 and you know what they’ll enjoy most? They’ll enjoy the fundamental truth that all that they’ve given, all that they’ve done count counted for something,” the premier said.

“It wasn’t frittered away. It wasn’t because pressure came on a bad decision was made, the wrong decision was made. We’ve got to avoid that.

“This will be a summer like no other and daylight saving, I can confirm, will be a feature of it.”

Daylight saving will kick off at 2am on October 4, with residents in NSW, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania turning their clocks forward by an hour.

The debate around daylight saving ramped up last year when the European parliament voted to scrap changing the clocks from 2021.

From next year, countries that are part of the EU will be able to choose whether they want to stay on permanent summer” or “permanent winter” time.

Under the proposal, those that chose permanent summer would adjust their clocks for the last time on the last Sunday of March 2021, and those that choose winter will do so on the last Sunday of March 2021.


NSW police spent $24m on legal settlements, including for battery and false imprisonment

The New South Wales police spent $24m of taxpayer money on almost 300 civil legal claims brought against officers during the last financial year.

The figure, obtained by the NSW Greens, includes settlements for serious misconduct claims including battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Data on the cost of civil claims against police have been notoriously hard to access, until now. Out of court settlements with government departments generally include gag orders, and police have resisted attempts by justice advocacy groups and politicians to access the figures.

NSW Greens upper house MP David Shoebridge has been attempting to force police to release the figures through freedom of information requests and parliamentary processes for several years.

In July, Shoebridge was able to pass a so-called “call for papers” motion with the support of the opposition Labor party and key crossbenchers in the upper house.

The motion compels government departments to produce certain documents within a specified timeframe. The first tranche of that release also revealed that NSW police have settled more than 1,000 civil claims made against officers in the past four years.

In a statement to Guardian Australia, Shoebridge said the figures were the first real insight “into the financial cost of police misconduct” in NSW.

“This is money that should be used to support and protect communities, rather than deliver secret payouts,” he said.

Justice advocates have long criticised the lack of transparency surrounding civil legal cases against NSW police.

In February, Guardian Australia revealed that Patrick Saidi, former commissioner of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, had sought an investigation into what he called the “systematic failure” of police to address the number of civil cases filed against officers for misconduct.

An internal investigation into the LECC showed Saidi had raised concerns that NSW police treated the millions of dollars paid in damages each year as “the cost of doing business” and believed officers subject to complaints were often not exposed to internal consequences.

Among his concerns, Saidi wrote, was his belief that officers subject to legal complaints were “given no feedback as to the illegality of any action on their part” and that unit commanders were often not informed about findings made against police.

“Up till now, commanders who have had police officers under their command have not been advised of the fact that damages or compensation monies have been paid as a result of the misconduct or unlawful actions of police officers under their command,” Saidi wrote in documents published as part of the investigation.

Shoebridge said the figures released by NSW police did not explain how police dealt with officers whose conduct was the subject of a civil settlement.

“The outcomes of these cases are usually suppressed, meaning it’s impossible to know whether the police whose misconduct has resulted in large payments to victims have faced any sanction at all,” he said.

“It’s very likely that most or all the officers whose actions have led to the police being sued are still working in the police with no sanction and often having been promoted.”

In a statement, NSW police said the full cost of civil claims was not reported in the force’s annual reports because the data is held by other departments.

“These figures were obtained from the Treasury Managed Fund, which provides insurance coverage for the portfolio,” a spokesperson said.

“As the NSW police force is insured, contingent liability for this portfolio is not borne by the NSW police force.”


Professionalism to lift teaching status

Lifting teaching’s status can be achieved through embracing — rather than obstructing — market-based reform.

Australia’s education unions falsely blame alleged underfunding for the declining status of teaching, rather than failure to adopt the professionalism commonplace in other highly valued professions.

Any pretence that the source of teaching’s decline is low average rates of pay is debunked by evidence — as definitively shown in OECD data.

Instead, the fundamental problems are the flat pay structure — which has virtually no nexus with performance — and that this has made teaching unattractive to a generation of high-ability graduates.

Ultimately, the greatest threat to the status of the profession is its failure to embrace performance management — which undermines the efforts of hard-working teachers across the country.

Scathing government reports have repeatedly identified a lack of performance evaluation, few financial incentives for performance, and limited opportunities for career advancement.

But consistent, independent, and objective assessment of staff performance in the classroom will help teachers improve their craft, and ultimately deliver improvements in student achievement.

It’s also clear there’s a need to better attract, recruit, and retain high-ability teachers. But policy efforts have mistakenly imposed supply restrictions as the sole policy lever of choice.

These have included the blunt instruments of: tightening the eligibility to become a teacher (such as ATAR cut-offs and aptitude tests); increasing the hurdles needed to jump for accreditation (through compliance with additional professional standards); and requiring additional years of study and professional development to qualify for positions.

Rather than cutting the supply of teachers, policymakers should be expanding it. A wider pool of teaching applicants means schools — and the universities who admit prospective teachers — can be more selective in who they accept.

Reducing the barriers to entry for teaching — which currently prevent mid-career transitions and alternative on-the-job training pathways — will better target existing workforce challenges. More flexible pay structures can follow from more flexible teaching recruitment approaches.

All Australians will benefit from the education dollar being spent more wisely than persistent calls for more funding without accountability to match.

To genuinely address the declining status of teaching demands divorcing the profession from the anti-professionalism that holds back our educators.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Gas bills down and jobs up: Morrison government aims to cut household costs and boost employment with $53 million gas industry investment

Note that this investment will be a boost to Qld and NT, as they are the only places where their governments allow gas mining

Scott Morrison says a $53 million government investment in the gas industry will bring down household bills and support the creation of at least 4,000 jobs.

The prime minister wants to increase exploration to find new gas reserves and will set state and territories higher targets to encourage them to produce more.

It comes after The Australian Energy Market Operator warned that southern states could suffer shortages from 2024 as several Victorian gas fields run out.

Mr Morrison also wants to develop an Australian Gas Hub - where gas can be efficiently traded - at Wallumbilla in Queensland.

And he wants to set up code of conduct to help commercial and industrial buyers get fair prices when they buy gas from major suppliers.

Plans will be drawn up to develop five key gas basins starting with the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory and the North Bowen and Galilee Basin in Queensland.

The government will also set aside $10.9million to invest in pipelines and other infrastructure under a National Gas Infrastructure Plan.

Mr Morrison will work with state governments to accelerate three critical projects – the Marinus Link, Project Energy Connect and VNI West interconnectors.

'These links will help put downward pressure on prices, shore up the reliability of our energy grid and create over 4,000 jobs,' the Prime Minister said.

'Our plan for Australia's energy future is squarely focused on bringing down prices, keeping the lights on and reducing our emissions and these interconnectors bring us a step closer to that reality.'

Mr Morrison added: 'We'll work with industry to deliver a gas hub for Australia that will ensure households and businesses enjoy the benefits of our abundant local gas while we hold our position as one of the top global liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters.

'This is about making Australia's gas work for all Australians. Gas is a critical enabler of Australia's economy.

'Our competitive advantage has always been based on affordable, reliable energy. As we turn to our economic recovery from COVID-19, affordable gas will play a central role in re-establishing the strong economy we need for jobs growth, funding government services and opportunities for all.'

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said reliable and affordable gas was more important now than ever.

'A gas-fired recovery will help Australia's economy bounce back better and stronger while supporting our growing renewable capacity and delivering the reliable and affordable energy Australians deserve,' Minister Taylor said.

'We are building a robust and competitive gas industry that will allow both gas producers and users to thrive, with lower prices and lower emissions benefiting all Australians.'

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the Government's Gas Plan would drive job creation and economic growth in northern and regional Australia.

'This commitment will encourage investment to unlock Australia's vast resources potential – boosting exports, jobs and energy supplies,' Minister Pitt said.

'Developing Australia's untapped gas resources will help to deliver more affordable and more sustainable gas supply that supports households and businesses.'

Gas supports the manufacturing sector, which employs over 850,000 Australians and is an essential input in the production of plastics for PPE and fertiliser for food production.

In 2019, Australia was the largest exporter of LNG, with an export value of $49billion.

The International Energy Agency has found that coal-to-gas switching has saved around half a billion tonnes of emissions since 2010 – equivalent to putting an extra 200 million electric vehicles on the road running on zero carbon electricity.

In total, the government has set aside $52.9million for the gas industry in the 2020-21 Budget

It expects to comfortably meet its Paris emissions targets for 2030.

On Thursday Mr Morrison announced a $211million plan to keep fuel prices 'as low as possible' as the nation emerges from the coronavirus-caused recession.

The prime minister wants to protect the nation from any future 'price shocks' by increasing domestic fuel storage and supporting local oil refineries.

New domestic storage facilities to hold 780ML of diesel will be built at a cost of $200million, creating 950 jobs during construction.

The government will also pay refineries to stay open and turn oil into fuel when they may otherwise close because they are struggling to make money.


PM claims Australia will hit 2030 emissions targets in 'canter'

Mr Morrison made the claim during a national energy address, where he encouraged accelerated development of gas fields and the continued use of coal for decades to come.

Under the Paris Agreement, Australia has committed to reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Despite further investment into gas and coal, a move which environmentalists will likely criticise, Mr Morrison said his government was committed to reducing emissions.

Mr Morrison said $30 billion invested in renewables between 2017 and mid-2020 would help Australia hit its 2030 targets.  "We remain committed to (the 2030 target) and we will meet it in a canter."

"In Australia, you cannot talk about electricity generation and ignore coal," Mr Morrison said. "Coal will continue to play an important part of our economy for decades to come."

Some environmental groups have complained Australia will need controversial "carry-over" credits from previous agreements to meet the 2030 target.

Mr Morrison also announced Australia was boosting its national fuel storage capacity to protect against "low probability, high impact events". At a minimum, this means the national stockpile of petrol and jet fuel will cover 24 days, and diesel stocks to increase from 20 to 28 days.

The COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted supply chain threats, Mr Morrison said. Mr Morrison used his address to call on the gas industry to supply energy to Australia customers at cheaper prices.


Students struggle as review finds writing skills neglected in NSW government high schools

A sweeping review of the teaching of writing in NSW schools found it has been widely neglected in the secondary years, leaving thousands of students struggling with crucial skills such as writing clear sentences or expressing complex ideas.

The review, commissioned by the NSW Education Standards Authority, found educators lacked knowledge, skills and confidence in teaching writing, as well as training and resources that could help them. Over recent decades, writing had been "forgotten" amid a strong public policy focus on reading, the report said.

Almost a decade's worth of NAPLAN data shows high school students struggle with writing more than with reading or numeracy. But without those skills, they "struggle to show what they know, and their learning remains untapped or unseen", the report said.

The report found year 9 students in NSW in 2019 were the equivalent of five months behind the level of year 9 students in 2011. On average, one in six of those students was below the minimum standard required to succeed in their final years of school. That compared with one in 20 below the standard in reading and in numeracy.

"The minimum standard isn't high to begin with," said education consultant Peter Goss.

NAPLAN writing assesses how students develop and structure a piece of writing, as well as how they structure a sentence and use punctuation, paragraphing and spelling.

The decline in writing has been more pronounced for advantaged students, whose parents are educated, than their disadvantaged peers, Dr Goss's analysis showed. Boys are twice as likely to be at or below minimum standard by year 9 than girls.

The Thematic Review of Writing, handed to NESA in mid-2018 and obtained by the Herald, found a focus on writing at primary level was followed by "a significant decrease in teaching writing in the early years of high school" across all three sectors.

In primary school, the class teacher teaches writing, but in high school it is shared across disciplines so no single teacher is responsible.

"It is core business in [kindergarten] to years three or four, but then you look at what the teachers self-report to us … the attention shifts away from the explicit teaching of writing," said lead author Claire Wyatt-Smith from the Australian Catholic University.

Research has shown that writing ability in year 9 is a strong indicator of success in year 12.

While there has been controversy over the quality of the NAPLAN writing test — including a recent high-level review that called for it to be redesigned — the report said it was a "reliable indicator for some key elements of student writing ability".

"Strident claims that NAPLAN assesses all the wrong things about writing have been unhelpful, and have likely done a disservice to teachers looking to improve their writing instruction," the report said.

Jenny Donovan, director of the newly established National Evidence Institute for education, said writing skills not only enabled students to demonstrate their knowledge but also involved a cognitive process that enhanced their learning.

"Like reading, writing is not a naturally acquired skill," she said. "It must be formally taught, not caught, and practised. As students progress through schooling, their writing needs to become more complex, so their instruction in how to write needs to be correspondingly more complex."

NESA chief executive Paul Martin said the review was commissioned in response to data showing NSW writing performance had been static since 2011, "with a marked decline consistently evident as students move through the junior secondary years".

NESA endorsed all six of the report's recommendations, including that it declare writing a priority area, improve the quality of teacher training in writing, develop requirements for teaching degrees, strengthen writing content in syllabuses and create resources that give teachers clear guidance.

Changes will be incorporated into the new curriculum. The first step is "a K-2 curriculum that makes explicit oral language development, early reading and writing skills and early mathematics skills, particularly for children who are less advanced in these areas," said Mr Martin.

Peter Knapp, an education consultant whose doctorate is in the teaching of writing, said it was a complex process that required extensive knowledge and experience, which teachers were not being given at university or during their years in the classroom.

Unclear policy and confusing standards also made it more difficult, he said. "Our national and state curriculum documents lack any real precision on how writing should be taught," he said.

"They constantly seem to be under review to change, re-orient and re-direct so that teachers, in all honesty, will have difficulty knowing what needs to be done, and there is a view that the changes will make no substantive difference."


Almost one in 20 babies in Australia born through IVF

A new report by UNSW medical researchers sheds light on the latest IVF numbers, success rates and trends.

There were 14,355 babies born through IVF treatment performed in Australia in 2018, UNSW’s Assisted Reproductive Technology in Australia and New Zealand 2018 report shows. That represents almost one in 20 babies born in Australia, or about one in every class room.

There were 84,064 initiated IVF cycles in 2018, a 2.2 per cent increase on 2017. The overall live birth rate per embryo transfer has increased from 24.3 per cent in 2014 to 27.3 per cent in 2018, the most recent year from which data are available.

“The birth rate following frozen embryo transfer cycles (29.3 per cent) was higher than fresh embryo transfer cycles (24.6 per cent),” says lead report author, UNSW Medicine’s Professor Georgina Chambers.

There was a higher live birth rate in younger women: for women aged younger than 30 years, the live birth rate per embryo transfer was 40.4 per cent for fresh cycles and 34.9 per cent for thaw cycles.

For women aged 40 to 44 years, the live birth rate per embryo transfer was 9.5 per cent for fresh cycles and 20.1 per cent for thaw cycles.

“The reason for the higher live birth rate after thaw cycles in older women is mainly because the embryo was created in an earlier fresh cycle when she was younger and because preimplantation genetic testing is more frequently used in older women to select viable embryos,” says Fertility Society of Australia (FSA) President, Professor Luk Rombauts.

The proportion of twins and triplets born following IVF treatment is now 3.2 per cent - a record low in Australia and New Zealand’s 40-year IVF history. This all-time low is due to the increased proportion of IVF cycles where only a single embryo is transferred, up from 79 per cent in 2014 to 91 per cent in 2018.

“By comparison, the percentage of multiple births from IVF treatment was 8 per cent in the UK and 13 per cent in the US during the same period,” says Prof. Chambers.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Africa comes to Brisbane

A man has died and another 10 people have been seriously injured after a violent brawl in Brisbane's north overnight involving knives and baseball bats.

A man, believed to be about 20-years-old, died at the scene, while 10 others were taken to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

Detective Superintendent Tony Fleming said he believed the brawl involved two African groups. "We believe knives and baseball bats were used in that attack," he said.

"We know at least one young man has died and there are about 10 other people who have been hospitalised as a result of that incident. "Two of those people, I'm led to believe, are in a critical condition.

"I'm concerned this incident is the result of a retribution amongst these people for an incident that happened earlier this week in the western suburbs of Brisbane."

Detective Superintendent Fleming said he was concerned there could be further violence. "What we would ask is for the community to remain calm," he said.

"We are doing all we can to investigate this and hold people to account for the level of violence that happened. "We are active right across South East Queensland now to ensure we don't have a repeat of this."

Detective Superintendent Fleming says police are now stationed at a number of hospitals.

"None of that behaviour is helpful to those who've been injured and nor to others who are using the hospital," he said.

"We have, as I have indicated, police both at the locations where we think there might be trouble but also on patrol to make sure — or do our very best to prevent — any escalation."

He said it was still early on in a complex investigation.

"As I'm sure you can appreciate we've got a large number of people who've confronted each other ... the outcome of that is one young man is dead and a number of people are very, very, seriously hurt."

Detective Superintendent Fleming urged witnesses to come forward.  "Both for justice, for those who've been injured, but more importantly to make sure that we don't have any further trouble."


Australia's race against China's 'rare earths weapon'

If you have a phone, a camera or an electric car, chances are that each of these devices is wholly dependent on key minerals that, at the moment, are processed only in China.

For much of the past two decades, this has been fine: a status quo that rewarded low-cost production in China with exports around the world. The global economy was growing, more smartphones were being sold than there were people and the electric vehicle market was burgeoning.

Now, as supply lines shrink, geopolitical tensions rise and the world's dependence on these minerals for everyday use surges, policymakers are coming to terms with a gaping hole in the world's development of rare earths that threatens to hit militaries as much as it does consumers.

There are 0.15 grams of palladium in an iPhone, 472 kilograms of combined rare earths in an F-35 fighter jet and four tonnes in a Virginia-class submarine.

"[With] some of these things, the government stockpile levels are very, very small in terms of weight," says federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt. "They are kilos compared to tonnes. That is how rare the element is."

Europium oxide, which is used to produce the colour red in household TVs, comes from a global europium stockpile of just 20 tonnes. Stock of ferro dysprosium, used in some magnets, is less than 500 kilograms.

But it is graphite, a key component of the lithium-ion batteries in phones, laptops, military and medical equipment and electric cars, that has sparked the most heated minerals race. Turkey, China, Brazil and Mozambique have the world's largest graphite reserves but only China has the technology and scale to purify the mineral into graphene and other battery anode compounds to make it useful.

"There is no other supplier in the world except China producing this material," says Andrew Spinks, managing director of EcoGraf, an Australian company set to become the first local processor of graphite in the country.

"It is the most electrically conductive mineral known. The next most conductive mineral is gold."

China has declared graphite a strategic mineral. It has 195 mining areas across 20 provinces that account for 70 per cent of the world's exports of processed graphite resources. Its dominance and proliferation-brand of state-linked companies has sharpened the concerns of governments that, in the event of a shortage or a military dispute in the South China Sea, the tap could be turned off.

"It does not matter if you are importing loaves of bread or anything else, if you only have one supply line, that is an increased risk," Pitt says in an interview in Canberra.

In the last few months of 2019, China had begun winding back its exports, well before its relationship with the US, Australia and Europe was pummelled by the coronavirus and China's crackdown in Hong Kong. From August to September 2019 alone, rare earths exports from China to the US dropped by 18 per cent.

Australia, which has historically focused on more common, highly profitable exports such as iron ore, is sitting on a graphite reserve in South Australia of 200 million tonnes.

"You are touching my nerves," says Professor Dusan Losic, the director of Australia's graphene research hub, which collaborates between five Australian universities, including the University of Melbourne and the University of Adelaide.

"We have very huge reserves just sitting down there," he says. "But nothing can be done with a lack of investment."

The government has committed $125 million to exploring two 2500 kilometre-long corridors in the hope of hitting another rare earths payload. One stretches from the Gulf of Carpentaria down to the border of NSW, South Australia and Victoria. The second runs from Darwin to the Great Australian Bight. The government has also invested $4.5 million in critical mineral research and development through the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia but industry figures say it is not enough. Losic says the cost of starting up a single graphite processing plant is $60 million.

Perth USAsia Centre research director Dr Jeffrey Wilson says Australia has abundant geology and technical capabilities, but the investment risk is higher than the private sector can manage.

"China holds a global monopoly on the production of rare earth minerals, which are used across the civilian and defence technology ecosystems," he says.

"With China applying trade sanctions to many countries in early 2020, there is a real risk the rare earths weapon may be deployed in the coming months."

Australia signed a strategic partnership in June that will allow for Australia to supply rare earth resources to India. Another deal with the US followed in July after Australian rare earths miner Lynas announced it would process the minerals at a Texas facility in partnership with the Pentagon. Australian resources company Syrah is also establishing a production line in the US state of Louisiana that will be the first to completely transform graphite into the active anode material used in electric vehicles outside China.

Pitt says: "We are being watched very closely internationally right now. I think every Australian will recognise how critical this is in terms of our nation. It is also about our strategic partnerships as well. That is why we are working very closely with South Korea and Japan and the US, Europe and a lot of other countries.

"They recognise it is in their interests to have a diverse source of materials into their countries, not just a single one."

Lynas says COVID-19 has heightened the focus on resilient supply chains and securing a diverse supply of critical minerals.

"It’s only when there is a risk that a component like rare earths will not be available that it comes to the attention of business leaders," a Lynas spokeswoman says.

One of the reasons for China's dominance in processing graphite is its use of highly toxic chemicals in the purification process, which other countries have been reluctant to replicate.

China's processors use hydrofluoric acid to remove impurities. The chemical is highly corrosive and discharges chemicals into surrounding land and water. Processing graphite also produces air pollutants that can cause respiratory illnesses.

Pitt says there is no intention to change any environmental controls to allow for more mining or processing. "If you work within that framework, you reduce the risk substantially," he says.

EcoGraf has spent the past three years developing an eco-friendly purification process that will avoid hydrofluoric acid and the discharge of air pollutants. Its new plant, the first graphite purification facility in Australia, is set to be established in Kwinana, Western Australia, after the company secured investment from Export Finance Australia and the German government to source graphite from a mine in Tanzania.

Spinks says the establishment of an Australian Critical Minerals Office, headed by Jessica Robinson, a former senior official in the Treasury and in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, is a sign of how seriously the government is taking the rare earths supply challenge. But he says more government support is needed to buttress the significant upfront costs of mining and processing the material.

"If we don't, we will just see battery minerals being shipped offshore for 1/100th of the price and then we have to buy it back," he says. "That just doesn't make any sense."


Coal miner wins bid for injunction against activist

Environmental activist Benjamin Penning will be forced to cease his public attacks against mining giant Adani after the company won a Supreme Court injunction against him.

Adani and its Carmichael Rail Network claim Pennings’ ongoing campaign of harassment has cost millions of dollars, forced its insurance to skyrocket by 400 per cent, blown out its $1 million security bill to $5 million and cost millions of dollars in lost and renegotiated contracts.

Adani is suing Mr Pennings, an outspoken serial protester and former Greens mayoral candidate, who it claims has orchestrated a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation against the company for almost a decade.

In addition to the damages lawsuit, Adani last week also applied for an injunction to force Pennings to remove previous online posts threatening the mine and its contractors and cease publishing any future posts relating to the mine on social media and websites including Galilee Blockade.

Adani alleges Pennings helped orchestrate an “infiltration campaign” whereby people were encouraged to leak the company’s confidential information, and a “Dob in Adani” campaign in which contractors were targeted by activists, causing a number of companies to cease relationships with the coal mine and its rail line.

This morning Justice Glenn Martin granted the mine’s injunction application, saying he was satisfied the evidence supported the conclusion that Pennings and others had “misused and will, unless restrained, continue to misuse confidential information with the purpose of frustrating or terminating the development of the mine and rail network”.

“The protest activity undertaken by the Galilee Blockade has led to at least three contractors withdrawing,” Justice Martin said.

“The information published on the social media accounts reinforces that the Galilee Blockade is determined to continue to obtain confidential information and to use it, and other information, to place pressure upon contractors to either withdraw from negotiations or to withdraw from contracts.

The evidence relating to the conduct of Mr Pennings and the Galilee Blockade allows for an inference to be drawn that, unless required to remove the statements complained of, they will remain on the social media accounts and will be acted upon by Mr Pennings and the Galilee Blockade.”

He said Adani had provided un-contradicted evidence that contractors and suppliers had been the subject of threats, some of which had been fulfilled through action being taken against contractors such as Downer Group, AECOM, and Greyhound Australia.

“The conduct alleged against Mr Pennings has, on the applicants’ case, resulted in a loss of many millions of dollars to the applicants,” Justice Martin said.

“Should they be successful in this matter then the potential size of an award of damages would, on the material, be beyond Mr Pennings. “There is nothing to suggest that an individual in his circumstances could make good the damage which is said to have been caused.”

Justice Martin said the balance of convenience “clearly favours” the granting of the injunction.

The order will require Mr Ben Pennings to remove online posts and campaigns remove any online material related to the Dob in a Contractor campaign, remove content from online channels that encourages the collation of confidential material about our business, and to stop what Adani alleges is threatening behaviour towards its contractors and employees.

“The plaintiffs have a good case against Mr Pennings and there will be no prejudice to him should orders be made which, effectively, require him to act in a lawful way,” he said.

“The injunction sought will have no financial repercussion for Mr Pennings but, if they are not made, the losses to the applicants will be very substantial.

“The injunctions sought do not seek to, nor would they, have any effect on any business or undertaking of Mr Pennings, nor do they restrict his right, or any other member of Galilee Blockade, to participate in lawful protest.”

Outside court, Mr Pennings said while he would comply with the court order, the “global movement” would not be deterred by the lawsuit. “Adani claims their legal strategy is not about inflicting hardship on me,” Mr Pennings said.

“Despite this successful injunction, Adani is still undertaking court action that could bankrupt my family. I shouldn’t have to sell our suburban family home to make a multi-billionaire even richer. So long as Adani threatens my family and the environment we all share I will do everything lawfully in my powers to stop them.”

“The global movement to stop Adani’s coal mine will not be deterred by the cold-hearted bullying tactics of a billionaire’s mining company targeting one individual.

“The Australian public will continue to oppose Adani’s destructive climate wrecking mine.”


Sydney's new building sheriff is cracking down

Like the wild west, Sydney's high-rise residential building sector has been home to plenty of cowboys. They have run amok, employing substandard design and building practices. But the new building sheriff just got his badge. Operators who have been having a free run at transferring the risk and cost of defects to consumers have reason to be nervous.

Over many years, I have witnessed severe shortcomings in the regulations that were supposed to protect consumers who buy into high-rise residential buildings. It's now a pleasure to see effective regulatory reform under way.

The NSW Building Commissioner, David Chandler, has put in place two key planks of reform. First, new inspection powers to hold the serial offenders and escape artists to account. These powers came into play on September 1. Second, after July 2021, new mandatory minimum design documentation will be required before concrete is poured rather than after.

Over the years, so-called "design and construct" contracts have lowered the bar on building quality in Sydney. These contracts reduced the input of professional designers such as architects and engineers to such an extent the building process became "construct then design". Minimal documentation at the start of construction meant that builders had to make it up on the run. With little chance of being brought to account, many developers exploited the regulatory shortcomings. They forced future owners to pick up the repair tab on the faults that came out of this chaotic process.

Ahead of September 1, the commissioner signalled that this situation was coming to an end, with new auditing procedures designed to send a message to the industry: you won't get away with substandard work.

In an early test run of the new inspection procedures, I was part of an audit of a large development for the commissioner, in excess of 200 units, which was one week away from completion. We found 16 major areas of non-compliance. Rather than wait for the rectification order that was certain to be issued after September 1, the developer began work on the replacement of hundreds of shower areas that were assessed as highly non-compliant and likely to have significant defects in future. Planter boxes are also being rebuilt and roof membranes are being redone where inadequate. Millions of dollars of future defect repair costs are being nipped in the bud. We hear on the grapevine that all certifiers in Sydney are watching this particular project with great interest.

We inspected a separate smaller development also nearing completion in Sydney’s inner west. It had identical types of defects in the bathrooms and roofs. Rectification orders under the new regulations are expected to be issued. Many stone-clad bathrooms will need to be replaced to prevent future water leaking and ponding issues. Roof membranes and roof-top planter boxes will also be redone.

Developers and certifiers are watching these audits closely because, in the event of an unsatisfactory audit, the commissioner can withhold the all-important occupation certificate. Those of us in the waterproofing and building defect repair industry have not seen impending regulations being taken this seriously by the industry in decades.

While audits are critical to catching problems that have emerged, the game is also changing on the prevention side of things.

From July 2021, the Design and Building Practitioners Act kicks in. Developers will be required to have qualified and registered architects and designers produce critical design documentation. Complete designs will be needed for all of the important features of a building – fire safety systems, waterproofing, load-bearing elements, and services such as mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

During construction, builders will have to get the same registered designers to sign off on variations and performance solutions. At the end of the project, builders will have to testify that they’ve completed all work in accordance with the declared plans. These are big changes and will move the sector back to a design-first-then-construct approach.

To beef up the standard with which designs must comply, a collaboration between a wide range of practitioners and building industry groups is looking at improving key clauses of the Building Code of Australia with regard to damp and weatherproofing. Participants all sense this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the mistakes of the past.

It's quite simple. Architects and engineers like to be able to undertake a design without the developer deciding halfway to transfer the process to someone else, usually less qualified, to finish the design more cheaply. Builders like to start with a completed design so they know what to allow for. They like to know that everyone else is complying with the same standard and cannot undercut them on price by skimping on that standard.

The sheriff's badge is still new and shiny, but there is quiet optimism among the town folk that he is doing what is needed to support law-abiding operators and drive the scoundrels out of town.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Monday, September 14, 2020

Last-minute backflip on pulling out shark nets for whale season

THE Queensland government was poised to remove the state’s controversial shark nets this year for the winter whale season until an 11th hour backflip.

The shark net program, which has long attracted criticism from environmentalists but served to keep Gold Coast beaches fatality free for more than 60 years before this week’s shocking attack on Miami surfer Nick Slater, was to have been swapped out in June with a trial on new, alternative measures, but the move never went ahead.

The Sunday Mail can reveal that Fisheries Minister Mark Furner was scheduled to make the announcement at Sea World as the park celebrated its reopening from the coronavirus lockdown.

With its focus on marine science and a dedicated whale rescue crew, Sea World has long advocated for alternative measures to the shark control program, which came under fire earlier this year after a number of whales were tangled in nets.

However, by the day of the scheduled announcement, the State government had reconsidered the proposal, deciding instead to continue with the shark nets.

In a statement, Mr Furner on Saturday said the decision was about protecting lives. “The safety of human life is the Government’s highest priority,” he said.

He declined to elaborate on exactly what measures would have replaced the nets, which would have come out of the water until the end of the whale migration in October, but it is understood increased aerial surveillance featuring drones and spotter planes was on the table along with an increase in baited drum lines.

The balance between human and marine life has been at the core of a long-running debate over the shark net program, but there were fears any fatal attacks at a Queensland beach after the removal of nets would have sparked widespread condemnation.

Mr Slater was killed by a 3.5-metre great white at Greenmount on Tuesday, the first fatality at a Gold Coast beach since the shark net program’s introduction in 1962.

Greenmount is protected by a series of drum lines, but while it is a common misconception, there is no continuous net or barrier to sharks stretching the entire coast.

Instead, a series of small sections of net, measuring 186m long by six metres deep, are placed strategically along the coastline along with hundreds of baited hooks.

It is understood the temporary removal of nets would have coincided with a trial on new measures recommended in a report published in October last year.

The report, prepared for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries by engineering firm Cardno, recommended a trial of aerial surveillance measures for beaches from the Gold Coast to Bundaberg where the water is clear and objects can be easily spotted from above.

In March, the Queensland shark control program’s scientific working group recommended ‘the replacement of some nets with drum lines over winter during the whale migration season’.


Shark expert reveals the three factors that made Gold Coast mauling victim vulnerable to attack

A shark expert has revealed three key factors that contributed to the fatal mauling of  Nick Slater at a Gold Coast beach on Tuesday afternoon. The 46-year-old longboarder was bitten on the leg by a monster great white shark while surfing at Greenmount Beach.

Mr Slater was among at least 40 surfers in the water when he was attacked and later succumbed to his injuries on the beach.

Bond University shark expert Daryl McPhee said Mr Slater's position at the bottom of the sandbank away from other surfers made him vulnerable.

A large school of bait fish in the water was another factor heightening the danger, he said, but more importantly was the time of day.

'Bites can occur any time during the day but you can expect an increase in shark activity at dusk and dawn,' Dr McPhee told Gold Coast Bulletin.

While those factors contributed to the attack, he said Mr Slater was also the victim of 'exceptionally bad luck'.

Local fisherman have claimed great white shark numbers have increased rapidly in recent times, though Dr McPhee said all evidence of shark numbers is anecdotal.

No data on the number of sharks was collected before they became a protected species, so there is no way to determine whether numbers have actually increased.

'When we protected white sharks, we didn’t know how many were there so there was no baseline for recovery,' Dr McPhee said.

'When someone says "sharks are protected, therefore the numbers have gone up", we don’t know whether they’ve gone up.'

Three-time world surfing champion Mick Fanning surfed at nearby Snapper Rocks on the morning Mr Slater was fatally attacked.

The 39-year-old, who survived a shark attack in the final of the J Bay Open in South Africa in 2015, called for an update to Queensland's shark management strategies in the wake of Mr Slater's death.

Greenmount Beach has shark nets on the outside of the lineup, but Fanning said the incident proves the system needs to be upgraded.

'It’s just a little bit outdated. We haven’t revisited them for a long time. We see south of the border they have the smart buoys and tagged sharks get pinged and we can see where those sharks are via an app and I don’t see why we shouldn’t have that on the Gold Coast,' he told Courier Mail.

Fanning said Mr Slater's death had shocked the Gold Coast surfing community. 'We didn’t think that it would happen so close and just the footage of it, it’s horrific. Everyone is shaken up and our hearts go out to the Slater family and all his friends, it’s just shocking,' he said.

Fanning suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and recurrent nightmares in the years after his shark incident.

Through his recovery, he started working with National Geographic on a two-part documentary called Save this Shark, which premiers on Tuesday. In the film, Fanning speaks with world-leading shark scientists and conservationists to share a broader understanding of shark habits.

Fanning disagrees with culling sharks, which he believes is a knee-jerk response many take after an attack. He said we need to do more study on shark patterns to learn to live in harmony with the ocean predators.

'We have to learn why it’s happening. Why are we seeing so much more activity along here? That’s what we need to find out rather than just going and slaughtering the ocean,' Fanning said.


Baby's death leads to 'extraordinary' discovery of 2000 unchecked results at hospital

Government medicine at work

Thousands of test results were never followed up at a major NSW hospital last year leading to the prescription of wrong medications, missed broken bones and the death of a baby girl, a doctor who worked there has alleged.

When the doctor tried to raise the alarm after discovering the unchecked results at Dubbo Base Hospital, he was accused of being "unsupportive" of colleagues and sacked, the Herald can reveal.

"During that week I had personally gone through perhaps 2000 unchecked results," the doctor said in an email to management, which was leaked to the Herald. "This is an absolutely extraordinary number."

The revelations put Dubbo Base Hospital back in the spotlight after a Herald investigation in May uncovered a death and a series of troubling near misses at the flagship facility and a second hospital within the Western NSW Local Health District.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard is expected to come under renewed pressure after dismissing the need for an inquiry into regional NSW hospitals, as sources said the state opposition was close to securing the numbers for an inquiry examining the Herald’s revelations.

The doctor’s discovery of the unchecked results sparked a furore at Dubbo Base Hospital last November, only months after a NSW Health investigation concluded a systemic failing at the hospital contributed to an infant’s death.

The doctor appealed against his termination to the NSW Ministry of Health and his version of events was laid out in legal documents leaked to the Herald by a third party.

It's understood the appeal was successful and the doctor was cleared of wrongdoing. The doctor declined to comment when contacted and the Herald has chosen not to name him without his consent.

According to the documents, the saga dates back to early 2019 when an unwell baby girl presented to the emergency department.

An X-ray showed she had a type of suspicious fracture seen nearly exclusively in babies being shaken, which requires that the infant must not be sent home while an urgent referral to child protection services is made.

However, the doctor did not check the X-ray and the child was discharged without follow up. "As a consequence, the opportunity to investigate the reason for the non-accidental fracture was missed and the child subsequently died," the documents said.

The Herald has established the identity of the 11-month old Aboriginal girl, but her family declined to comment. Her death is under investigation by NSW Police’s child abuse and sex crimes squad.

An investigation by NSW Health, known as a root cause analysis, concluded that systemic failings at the hospital were to blame for the unchecked X-ray, according to the legal documents.

In a letter dated August 2019, the hospital was ordered to address the problems.

A spokeswoman for the Western NSW Local Health district said there was "no doubt that the health system failed [the baby]".

They blamed a "gap in the electronic medical record system process" which meant the X-ray was not reviewed in a timely manner and the fracture was not detected when it was reviewed.

The spokeswoman said interim measures were immediately put in place and all of the investigation's recommendations had since been implemented, including a daily review of results by a senior consultant and the escalation of any abnormal results from the radiologist. "These actions mean that all reports and diagnostic results are reviewed and actioned daily," she said.

However three months after the NSW Health investigation findings, the doctor became concerned test results were still not being checked by registrars, locums, GPs, consultants and junior medical officers. During a shift in November the doctor allegedly discovered between 1500 and 2000 results had gone unchecked in a month.

He spent three hours working through the unchecked results, contacting patients about weeks-old missed fractures and incorrect antibiotics. "It is embarrassing both personally and for the Health Service," he wrote in a complaint to management.

Alluding to the death of the baby girl, he added: "Unfortunately we are all well aware of what can happen when results are not followed up".

One resident, who asked not to be named, told the Herald she spent three weeks chasing her MRI results after presenting to Dubbo Base Hospital with numbness down one side. When she finally got hold of the results after "numerous requests", she discovered she’d suffered a stroke. "I think it’s pretty poor," she said.

The doctor posted his concerns to a WhatsApp chat group involving about 40 hospital staff, writing: "sigh … This why I keep banging on about checking results [sic]".

He warned that if he was called to give evidence in court he would have to state doctors who hadn’t checked results "had not met the expected standard of care and were negligent".

Several participants agreed the unchecked results were alarming, one blaming understaffing and lack of orientation training for juniors. Others became defensive, complaining the discussion group no longer felt like a "safe, judgment-free platform".

When a hospital manager discovered the WhatsApp conversation a staff email was sent out saying it did not meet NSW Health Code of Conduct standards.

"All doctors who work here, at any level of seniority, should be assured that the hospital executive will support you at all times and in all circumstances," the manager said.

The doctor apologised for expressing his frustration on social media but stressed the matter was serious and warranted attention. He said while most doctors were diligent, "a small but significant number" continually failed to check results despite repeated requests to do so.

"I am upset and very sorry that my comments have been interpreted as being unsupportive of junior staff," the doctor said, adding he always did his best to support the development of the junior staff in their difficult roles. "If our juniors do the right thing – or even make a genuine mistake – the Health Service and myself will back them to the hilt."

But The manager accused the doctor of "egregiously" breaching the code of conduct. "I am amazed and concerned that you think your comments could be interpreted, by the staff in training, as supportive," the manager said, informing him of the immediate termination of his contract.

The doctor’s lawyers argued there had been a complete lack of procedural fairness in the termination.

In response to questions about the termination, a spokesperson for the Western NSW Local Health District said only that the doctor no longer worked at the hospital "under mutual agreement".


The stakes are high for Facebook and Google if Australians decide to get their news elsewhere

Global tech giants Google and Facebook are using the Australian public as human bargaining chips as they raise the stakes in their bid to block what would be world-leading laws to end the conceit that news content is a free natural resource.

While the legislation in question is complex and technical – the product of more than 18 months review and consultation – the political battle is totemic: should big tech be responsible for its impact on our broader democracy?

That’s the underlying premise of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry that informed the laws: the rise of the big tech platforms has created an unfair market, where media companies can no longer compete fairly. That distortion has led to the collapse of the media business model, leaving a space filled with conspiracy theories, self-reinforcing filter bubbles and voter manipulation.

After steadfastly refusing to take accountability for the dissemination of fake news and disinformation on its platform, Facebook last week threatened to block real news from the accounts of its Australian users if “pay for content” becomes law.

Google too has warned users their service is at risk, making veiled threats of ending free internet search while revving up YouTube creators in suggesting they will be disenfranchised and disadvantaged if they have to explain how they make their money off news content.

It’s a brazen show of strength premised on the notion that the millions of Australians who search and scroll on their platforms will continue to stare into their screens even without the fact-based journalism that for many is an anchor point of their online engagement.

So what do we human bargaining chips think? Results in this week’s Guardian Essential Report should serve as a caution to the Silicon Valley overlords, with majority support for propositions that reinforce the Morrison government’s roadmap to sustain the ailing news media.

The clear impression from the public responses to these propositions is that the public agrees there should be some form of recalibration. Not only do they think it’s reasonable to pay for news, a majority also believe that the platforms have too much power. While there are high numbers of uncommitted, the core statements break against the platforms 2:1.

Dig under the headline figures and two trends emerge: first, support for bringing big tech to account is skewed older (as is usage of the platforms as a primary news source); but more significantly, the issue breaks stronger with Coalition voters long conditioned to oppose regulation of any kind.

Perhaps that’s a result of the simple fact it is a Morrison government initiative, bought forward with the vigorous support of the Murdoch press, which sees obvious self-interest in the legislation. But this should not be a reason to reject it out of hand.

There is a very, very narrow section on a Venn diagram showing the crossover of Murdoch self-interest and national interest but the proposition that the big tech platforms should pay for premium journalism content is bang in the middle of that graph.

While a proposition that supports News Ltd’s business model will stick in the craw of many progressives, the reality is that without its advocacy the Morrison government would be unlikely to be pushing this issue.

The legislation is not perfect. After rejecting another recommendation from the ACCC to adequately fund public broadcasting, the omission of the outlets from this part of the code creates a two-tier media, with the real risk that the platforms use this “free” content instead. More glaringly, there is no requirement the negotiated payment would be spent on actual journalists, rather than filling the pockets of shareholders – something that should be persuasive in future negotiations.

These reservations aside, if you believe (as I do) that these companies need to be regulated before they roll over the top of democracy, the question is: if the government won’t step up with the urging of Murdoch, then when will it? Establishing a beachhead of regulation around media content is an important first step in the broader project civilising surveillance capitalism.

Second are concerns (vigorously fuelled by Google and Facebook) that the changes will give News Ltd even greater power in the Australian media, a power it repeatedly uses to pile on progressives and run partisan campaigns. But the dominance of Murdoch in the Australian media is a symptom of the media’s decline, not justification for its ongoing erosion. Fair funding for the use of journalistic content is our best chance of supporting other publishers, such as Guardian Australia, to build viable models to invest in civic journalism.

And finally, to the extent that News Ltd abuses its power, it does so in plain sight: there is nothing subtle about the old-school media mogul wielding influence for power. Their nefarious activities are baked into our political system and because we understand them, we have the opportunity to respond.

In contrast, Facebook and Google’s excesses occur behind the algorithm: the softly, softly seduction, the extraction of personal information and the repurposing of our reality, is done under the slick veneer of progress. Remember Cambridge Analytica?

By drawing this line in the sand, Facebook and Google have actually fessed up to how significant these regulations are, a chance to establish not just national but global ground rules that could help quell the takeover of our public square with lies and bile.

And if they make good on their threat to walk, then maybe we will have the chance to reimagine what our public square could be. A separate question in this week’s report suggest we will find a way through.

Three-quarters of us say we will go to a news website and choose the news for ourselves, while more than half will find another social platform. Yes, the majority predict they will read less news, but 30% say they would also use Facebook less.

For companies whose value lies in their human network, these are the highest stakes. If you start using your humans as bargaining chips, you risk losing them altogether. Lose your network and you are just another website.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here