Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching at 95 per cent in northern section -- attributed to global warming

What bulldust!  For a start, coral bleaching is NOT coral death.  It is a stress response that leads to the expulsion of symbiotic algae.  There are about half a dozen things that can cause it.  And the ONE thing that can be excluded as a cause is anthropogenic global warming.  Why?  Because there has been none of that for nearly 19 years.  Things that don't exist don't cause anything. 

The ocean waters MAY have warmed but that will be due to natural factors such as El Nino.  The 2015 and early 2016 temperature upticks were DEMONSTRABLY due to El Nino and other natural factors, as CO2 levels were plateaued at the relevant time.

And it is not at all certain that a small temperature rise causes bleaching.  An ancient coral reef specimen now on display at the Natural History Museum in London is instructive.  It goes back to  160 million years ago.  The exhibit is proof that ancestors of modern corals somehow thrived during the Late Jurassic period when temperatures were warmer and atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide higher than they are today.

And if that's ancient history, how come corals survive in the Persian Gulf today at temperatures up to 8 degrees hotter that what we see in the tropical Pacific?

Bleaching may even be a positive thing. In recent years, scientists have discovered that some corals resist bleaching by hosting types of algae that can handle the heat, while others swap out the heat-stressed algae for tougher, heat-resistant strains.

And a recent study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science showed that warming in Australian waters actually INCREASED coral growth over the 20th century.

I could go on but I think I have said enough

All the points I have made above could have been made by any competent marine biologist -- and I can provide references for them all. But I am not a marine biologist. I am a psychologist. What a harrowed world we live in where a psychologist has to give the basic information that marine biologists dare not give.

An aerial survey of the northern Great Barrier Reef has shown that 95 per cent of the reefs are now severely bleached — far worse than previously thought.

Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert based at James Cook University in Townsville who led the survey team, said the situation is now critical.

"This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever," Professor Hughes told 7.30.

"We're seeing huge levels of bleaching in the northern thousand-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef."

Of the 520 reefs he surveyed, only four showed no evidence of bleaching.  From Cairns to the Torres Strait, the once colourful ribbons of reef are a ghostly white.

"It's too early to tell precisely how many of the bleached coral will die, but judging from the extreme level even the most robust corals are snow white, I'd expect to see about half of those corals die in the coming month or so," Professor Hughes said.

This is the third global coral bleaching since 1998, and scientists have found no evidence of these disasters before the late 20th century.

"We have coral cores that provide 400 years of annual growth," explains Dr Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

"We don't see the signatures of bleaching in reduced growth following a bleaching event until the recent 1998/2000 events."

Environment Minister Greg Hunt flew over the reef just eight days ago, before Professor Hughes' aerial survey, and announced some additional resources for monitoring the reef.

"There's good and bad news — the bottom three quarters of the reef is in strong condition," he said at the time.

"[But] as we head north of Lizard Island it becomes increasingly prone to bleaching."

The northern part of the Great Barrier Reef is the most pristine part of the marine park — and that is one possible glimmer of hope.

"On the bright side, it's more likely that these pristine reefs in the northern section will be better able to bounce back afterwards," Professor Hughes said.

"Nonetheless we're looking at 10-year recovery period, so this is a very severe blow."

Professor Justin Marshall, a reef scientist from the University of Queensland, said the reason for these bleaching events was clear.

"What we're seeing now is unequivocally to do with climate change," he told 7.30.

"The world has agreed, this is climate change, we're seeing climate change play out across our reefs."

Professor Hughes said he is frustrated about the whole climate change debate.

"The government has not been listening to us for the past 20 years," he said.

"It has been inevitable that this bleaching event would happen, and now it has.

"We need to join the global community in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.



American computer game company Found Guilty Of Breaching Australian Consumer Law

After an 18-month back and forth with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian Federal Court has finally ruled that Valve was in breach of Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC’s major issue with Valve was its lack of a refund policy, which ran contrary to Australian Consumer law. Valve has since implemented its own refund policy in the wake of this case, but had no refund policy in August 2014 when the ACCC initially sued.

Valve’s defence was based around the fact that it doesn’t officially conduct business in Australia, only admitting it provided access to an online access portal to video games through a client. Valve denied this falls into the definition of ‘goods’ in Australian consumer law. Valve also maintained the Steam Subscriber Agreement is the law of the State of Washington, United States of America — not the law of Australia.

But the Australian Federal court disagreed, and found that Valve made misleading statements to consumers in its terms and conditions contained in three versions of its Steam Subscriber Agreement and two versions of its Steam Refund Policy. These misleading statements all focused on the rights of Australian consumers to a refund if they’ve been sold a faulty or defective product.

Justice Edelman that Valve was doing business in Australia and, as such, was bound to operate within Australian Consumer Law.

“The Federal Court’s decision reinforces that foreign based businesses selling goods and/or services to Australian consumers can be subject to Australian Consumer Law obligations, including the consumer guarantees,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“In this case, Valve is a US company operating mainly outside Australia, but, in making representations to Australian consumers, the Federal Court has found that Valve engaged in conduct in Australia. It is also significant that the Court held that, in any case, based on the facts, Valve was carrying on business in Australia.

“This is also the first time Courts have applied the extended definition of ‘goods’ to include “computer software” in the ACL. It will provide greater certainty where digital goods are supplied to consumers through online platforms.”

“Consumer issues in the online marketplace are a priority for the ACCC and we will continue to take appropriate enforcement action to hold businesses accountable for breaches of the ACL.”

Initially, in August 2014, the ACCC asked that Valve:

* Provide an email address that specifically deals with refunds as per Australian Consumer law.

* Provide a 1800 number to help consumers address any refund issues.

* Provide a PO Box address for consumers to deal with refunds.

* Appoint representatives (the ACCC refer to this person as a contact officer) to reply to consumers regarding refunds.

Back then Doug Lombardi informed Kotaku that Valve was “making every effort to cooperate with the Australian officials on this matter.”

No set amount was decided in terms of liability at the judgement, but there is a chance that, in addition to any liability, Valve will have to pay up to 75% of the ACCC’s legal costs.


Federal election 2016: Turnbull to ditch Abbott health cuts

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have mapped out a health funding compromise to present to state premiers and treasurers at Friday’s COAG meeting.

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are preparing to ditch Tony Abbott’s massive cuts to state hospital funding at a crucial meeting on Friday after the Prime Minister and Treasurer held a two-hour strategy discussion at Mr Turnbull’s harbourside mansion yesterday, countering talk of a rift at the top of the federal government.

Although federal sources insist the deal has not been finalised, states are confident they will be ­offered a four-year hospital funding agreement to 2020 based on the original formula agreed under the Gillard Labor government. This would create a $5 billion hit to Mr Morrison’s first budget.

The Australian understands the four-year agreement would be tied to a revolutionary tax reform proposal under which the states would be offered a share of income tax beyond 2020 to fund health and education.

The discussions at Mr Turnbull’s mansion in Sydney’s Point Piper, which were held without ­officials, came after a week of poor communication, including a controversial decision by the Prime Minister to bring forward the budget from May 10 to May 3 without telling the Treasurer in the hours before the final proposal was put to federal cabinet.

As Labor warns of “dysfunction” within the government, yesterday’s meeting was described as proof of an effective working relationship that would scotch ­rumours of a rift.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have mapped out a health funding compromise to present to state premiers and treasurers at Friday’s Council of Australian Governments to neutralise hospital funding as an election issue.

Mr Abbott and Joe Hockey’s first budget, in May 2014, included $80bn in cuts to hospitals and schools in the period to 2024-25, with commonwealth funding limited to covering only increases in the cost of living and population.

Mr Abbott argued funding was not being cut, rather that Labor’s unfunded increases in spending were not being covered.

After differences on GST and the government’s tax reform strategy, the Prime Minister and Treasurer had been at odds over hospital funding following meetings with their state counterparts in December.

When federal and state officials met in Sydney 10 days ago to plan for the summit, the message from Martin Parkinson, the head of Mr Turnbull’s department, was that the Prime Minister was “fighting” to find a way to offer more health funding but that others around the cabinet table had no appetite for an increased offer.

State governments were told Mr Morrison was one of those ­resisting the increased offer. “They really need to put their cards on the table,” said one state official.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison accept that the formula imposed in May 2014 is not realistic, either politically or to secure sustainable health services. Mr Morrison’s chief of staff, Phil Gaetjens, was formerly head of the NSW Treasury Department and had prepared the NSW argument against the hospital funding arrangement.

Commonwealth officials say the final shape of the agreement on Friday has not yet been negotiated and the idea of a four-year deal is the states’ claim, rather than the commonwealth’s offer.

However, a four-year deal would push the issue of hospital funding beyond the 2019 election, while a date of 2020 is sufficiently distant to allow for sweeping tax reform. The idea of sharing the ­income tax base has been repeatedly proposed as a way of securing state government finances.

The commonwealth will also be looking for some contribution from the states. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has proposed savings on preventive health while NSW Premier Mike Baird has outlined a proposal for increased health funding. The states are understood to have quantified “significant” savings they can make by improving healthcare before patients need hospital treatment, such as better medication management and in-home care.

This would go some way to meeting Mr Turnbull’s demand that the states bear some of the burden in fixing the hospital funding problem rather than rely solely on more cash from Canberra.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison are expected to discuss their proposals with state counterparts within days, but the federal offer may not be formally proposed until Thursday, ahead of a dinner in Canberra that night. The Prime Minister will dine with premiers at The Lodge ahead of the official COAG meeting in Parliament House the next day, April 1.

In a significant step, given the speculation over the relationship between the Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr Turnbull has ­ensured that Mr Morrison will be alongside him at the most important sessions on Friday, including a presentation on the economy.

Just as former prime minister John Howard hosted some COAG meetings with treasurer Peter Costello next to him, this Friday’s meeting is expected to be a show of unity between Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison.


Australia Post: snail mail gets even slower

Australia Post is trying to kill off its main business

Bills arriving after the due date, birthday cards missing their mark, and businesses unwittingly breaking the law – this is the reality of life under Australia Post's new two speed mail service. The mail is so slow that retirees are phoning in birthday wishes instead of writing cards and schools have stopped posting newsletters.

This super-slow snail mail was introduced by Australia Post on January 4, ostensibly to save money on overnight processing and planes. Stamp prices also went up – an ordinary letter now costs $1 and takes up to six working days to be delivered. (Maybe this is why the Prime Minister called a three-month election campaign – to make sure the postman has enough time to deliver all the political junk mail.)

But while the changes were announced last year, it appears some industries have been caught unawares. For example, the National Credit Providers Association has just realised its members could be breaching the National Credit Act because it requires they wait 30 days before taking someone to court over unpaid bills. The law actually states the day of notice is the date "it would have been delivered in the ordinary course of post".
Letter delivery has slowed right down since two-speed mail was introduced in January this year.

Letter delivery has slowed right down since two-speed mail was introduced in January this year. Photo: Jim Rice

The NCPA has since realised members cannot rely on "ordinary" post speeds any more.

"Our view is that you should allow a further two days to ensure that the document is delivered compared to the time you would have previously allowed," chief executive of the NCPA, Phil Johns, wrote in a recent letter to members.

He was now in urgent discussions with the corporate regulator and Treasury to make it legal for his members to email default notices.

Even paying the extra 50¢ for a priority sticker doesn't help a letter arrive much sooner according to Elly Foster, the franchise operations manager at Melbourne Body Corporate Management, which sends out notices to property owners and tenants.

"Under our statutory requirements, we are to forward notices in relation to meetings with 14 days' notice. And it used to be that we could send them 15 days before [the meeting]. Now it is a case of having to send them a minimum of 21 days," she said. "If nobody turns up because they have not got their notification of the meeting, it is obviously a waste of everybody's time and energy."

Schools have also decided to dump snail mail. Thornbury High School recently stopped posting its newsletter to hundreds of families because the news was old by the time parents read it.

"We have a deadline for our newsletter here at the school and the expectation was that parents would get it in two days," principal Peter Egeberg​ said. "Now that no longer happens." A quarter of families still receive a paper newsletter, but they now collect it from the school office.

A spokeswoman for Australia Post said this slower mail "will help to ensure a sustainable, world-class letters service can be maintained".

Last year the government-owned business reported revenues of $6.4 billion, including $2 billion from mail services, but recorded a $222 million loss, its first since corporatisation in 1989.

The spokeswoman also confirmed ordinary letters posted anywhere in Victoria go to Dandenong for sorting, including letters posted in regional towns to someone in the same town. This means something posted in Shepparton takes a 500-kilometre round trip. 

 She added that 97 per cent of letters sent in Australia were sent by business and government, and had been on the two-speed service since mid-2014

Asked whether Australia Post has seen an increase in complaints since the start of the year, she said it was "not required to publicly release any data related to customer complaints".

 The Postal Industry Ombudsman's latest annual report shows a 38 per cent increase in complaints about Australia Post in 2014-15 to 5613. It noted complaint numbers have tripled since 2007. 

One Hughesdale woman conducted her own experiment after a letter posted in Gippsland took two months to reach her in Melbourne's east.

"I put a piece of paper in the envelope saying the date of the letter and posted it to myself. It took about seven to eight days to get back to me," she said.

"I am not trusting [the post] as much. I have got to the stage now where I ring up and wish someone a happy birthday. If you want the card to get there on their birthday you would have to post it two weeks before."


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