Monday, January 22, 2018

The "invasion" that was not in 1788

This was no invasion scene. This was a First Fleet sailor standing on the finest coastline in the world, dropping his pants to show Australia’s first inhabitants he was a man and not a woman or a god. Another brief moment of practical humility and goodwill conceived 230 years ago by the deep-­thinking captain standing pas­sively adjacent to the curious display of wrinkled British man junk.

Captain Arthur Phillip had safely led 1420 souls aboard a fleet of 11 ships 17,000 nautical miles across deadly seas in the most ­extraordinary and treacherous flotilla voyage in history.

By January 20, 1788, the ships of Phillip’s mighty First Fleet had been reunited in Botany Bay. The intrepid captain’s concerns had switched immediately from survival at sea to life in Oz. He was thinking about food. He was thinking about shelter. He was thinking about friendship, a ­notion of a shared humanity so perfectly realised in that moment two meeting races — those sea-spent Poms and the Eora people of coastal Sydney — bonded over the male copulatory organ and all the earthly trouble carried within it.

“At those initial meetings, the first Eora priority appears to have been to establish the strangers’ sex — men dealt with men,” says Grace Karskens, a University of NSW ethnography historian and world authority on early colonial Australia. “The (British) had no beards and they did not appear to have male sex organs. Once he grasped the question, Phillip ­instructed a sailor to drop his pants at one meeting — in ­response a great shout went up from the Eora warriors.”

Phillip had come to Australia with a vision for a great nation, a place of peace and prosperity open to all the vast continent’s inhabitants, old and new, he hoped might build a life within its shimmering borders. He was ridiculed by peers for this vision but he held to it. “There shall be no slavery in a free land,” he fiercely declared, ­almost 40 years before slavery was abolished in Britain.

He believed something wondrous could emerge from the prison colony he was burdened with building by order of King George III — the most ambitious social experiment ever to be conducted and, against all odds, succeed. Arthur Phillip believed he could turn a monumental historical negative — 780 criminals exiled from home constructing “a commonwealth of thieves” — into something close to the grand and evolving positive that is Australia in the year 2018.

This was no invasion scene. This was Phillip in September 1790, in Manly Cove, near-fatally speared in the shoulder while ­attempting to communicate with a group of indigenous Australians feasting on a dead whale. When others called for retribution, Phillip called for understanding.

Two hundred years later, one of this young nation’s most ­esteemed legal figures, Geoffrey Robertson QC, described that man as “the first and finest white Australian” who set a “standard of decency and justice for which we should express gratitude”.

An avid Phillip scholar, Robertson has lobbied for decades to have the oft-overlooked captain’s remains — believed to be resting in the grounds of a church in Bath — repatriated to Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, overlooking, says Robertson, “what Phillip was first to describe as the world’s finest harbour”. “As a nation, we probably owe more to him than to any other single person. Quite literally, our founding father.”


Inconvenient fact: Native title can only exist if Australia was settled, not invaded

International law recognises all territories acquired through invasion and annexation by force, prior to World War II, as lawful conquests.

This 'Right of Conquest' doctrine was first conceived by the International Law Commission of the United Nations and later adopted as UN General Assembly Resolution 3314.

Provided that all citizens of a lawfully conquered territory are granted equal rights by the local law, international law doesn't consider the descendants of the conqueror and the conquered as two separate peoples.

This in turn invalidates any claims to separate land rights under the same jurisdiction.

As one of the 193 member states of the United Nations, Australia is not exempt from this doctrine.

Yet we do recognise separate land rights because the historic Mabo Decision in 1992 rested on the correct presumption that Australia was settled, not invaded.

In their ruling, Justices Brennan, Deane, Gaudron, Toohey, Mason and McHugh acknowledged that native title could have been intentionally extinguished by the use of government powers, but wasn't.

They proceeded to reject the 'terra nullius' doctrine without overturning the traditional view that the Australian landmass had in fact been settled.

Had Australia actually been invaded, the descendants of its native population would be classified as a conquered people and their land rights would be abolished under UN Resolution 3314.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale might like to explain to the Australian people why he is attempting to undermine native title by implying that Australia was invaded and conquered.

On 26 January 1788, there was no sovereign state on the landmass we today call Australia. The land was sparsely populated with disparate nomadic tribes without a written language and a central government.

Captain Arthur Phillip's arrival with his group of disease-stricken poorly-fed convicts in their new prison colony, on territory claimed for the British Crown seventeen years earlier by explorer James Cook, does not constitute an "invasion".

Far from the brutal instincts of actual invaders like Napoleon or Hitler, early British settlers built a colony that was surprisingly harmonious and committed to justice.

As the first Governor of New South Wales, Phillip developed a fondness for the native Eora people in his new colony at Port Botany.

He befriended native man Woollarawarre Bennelong who became the first native Australian to be escorted to England to meet King George III.

The federal seat of Bennelong held by former Prime Minister John Howard for 33 years is named after him.

Phillip once forgave a native for stealing his shovel because he understood that in native culture people shared what they had and there was no concept of exclusive personal belongings. Hardly the attitude of an invader.

In 1816, Governor Lachlan Macquarie appointed native leaders to act as conduits between settlers and natives. He welcomed the natives who aspired to be part of the new colony. Hardly the attitude of an invader.

Violent clashes were the exception, not the norm.

At Myall Creek in 1838, some 30 natives were killed by 10 settlers and an African in Bingara, New South Wales. The perpetrators were trialled, 7 of the 11 involved were found guilty of murder, and hanged.

The rule of law prevailed. Hardly what happens in invaded countries.

Whether Australia's colonisation by the British Empire should be classified as an invasion or settlement is not a question of mere semantics. It's a question that holds serious legal and political consequences for our country.

For most Australians, this debate is as settled as Australia itself on 26 January 1788.

American President Abraham Lincoln once said "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Let's unite to recognise that 26 January is a celebration of a democratic story that would be incomplete without the Mabo Decision.

Let's never again disparage native title by referring to our settlement as an invasion. Happy Australia Day 2018.


Big government is costing its citizens far too dearly

Let’s start with a one-question quiz that will put you broadly into one of two camps.

You may recall in March last year a compelling speech made in the Senate about how hard it is to live on welfare. Then senator Jacqui Lambie gave a frank and tearful description of life on the disability pension.

The senator is no slouch and has worked in various jobs since a young age. Lambie could not bear being on welfare but circumstances had required it, and it was very hard to make ends meet. The fridge broke and food was kept in the Esky under the house so the ice lasted longer. The children went hungry and missed out on other things they needed. The car was driven, unregistered, on several occasions because the registration bill hadn’t been paid. Lambie felt so distressed that at times she just sat in the corner and cried.

Pick your gut reaction to the speech from these two options:

A. This must have been awful. No one should have to live like this. The government should take more tax out of the economy — surely there are people out there who can afford to give more. Then they should use this money to give people on welfare and low incomes more money so they can live more easily.

B. This must have been awful. No one should have to live like this. Car registration is a tax, probably unnecessary — because governments are so wasteful — and people shouldn’t have to pay it. Essential services are too expensive because of taxes and government meddling. There is too much tax in the cost of food and other goods, and red tape makes everything very expensive. The government should decrease its burden on us and take less tax out of the economy so the cost of living is much lower. Then people on welfare and low incomes will have more money left in their pockets and can live more easily.

Labels are unhelpful and personal political beliefs are complex. A person’s politics cannot be defined using a crass linear measure, with “left” at one end and “right” at the other. Nevertheless, for the sake of fitting in, if you chose A, you are known as a leftie. If you chose B, you are one of those dreaded right-wingers; and by the way, welcome to the club.

The point is, we all want to arrive at broadly the same destination: eradication of poverty and higher standards of living for all. The problem is we all have different ideas about how to get there.

For those in club B, the situation is pretty clear. Australians bear the burden of a government that is too large, too expensive and too invasive. Sure, we need essential and shared services, roads, schools, hospitals and so on. We don’t, though, need three layers of government to run the place and, in any case, our population is far too small to wear the damage of its meddling, support its unchecked growth and meet its insatiable cost.

In daily life, people are mercilessly peppered by governments hooking into their pay packets, in ways that are not always obvious. There are taxes on things a government thinks you should do, like earn an income and invest and provide for yourself. There are taxes on things a government thinks you shouldn’t do, like smoke.

There are rules, so many rules, that must be followed or the fines will arrive. There are so many things that must be registered, from cars to boats, to cats and dogs, and if these regos aren’t paid, there will be more fines to pay. There are so many activities that require a licence fee, so many regulations and so many inspectors you have to pay to check compliance. Incomes are high but the cost of living is stratospheric, and people are drowning in bills.

Key economic data for the past six years was released this week by various sources.

In terms of our costs, household spending on childcare has doubled over the six years. Primary and secondary education costs are up 50 per cent. The price of electricity has doubled and spending on health insurance has risen by 50.7 per cent. Overall, households are spending 23 per cent more on essential services, with prices influenced by government. The cost of goods and services — set by the market — has risen by only 15 per cent.

In terms of our incomes, Fair Work Commission data shows private sector rises have been below 3 per cent for six of the past eight quarters. In the September quarter, pay rises in private sector enterprise agreements fell to an average annual rate of 2.4 per cent — a 25-year low.

Since 2010, average incomes have grown by 24 per cent but the cost of income tax has risen by 47 per cent. The average middle-income earner receives $46,000 a year. Over the next four years, Canberra projects this person will earn an extra $6100, but will lose $2500 of that (41 per cent) to tax.

How’s that big government working out for you, Australia? Not too well by the looks of it.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has said his summer homework was to craft a budget with tax cuts for average earners in mind. Based on Morrison’s history, these cuts will probably be small and barely offset the recent tax rises — the Medicare levy increase — he put in place. Increasing the burden of government on the people is something this government has proved very keen to do.


Confidence returns for Australian coal miners

Note:  Thermal coal is the coal used in those evil coal-powered electricity generators.  Metallurgical coal is used in blast furnaces to make steel

Did the doubters declare the death of thermal coal too soon?

Certainly the major listed Australian thermal coal miners have all seen positive movement in their share price from late 2017 through into 2018, bucking the wider perception of a market in decline.

That was in turn driven by a resurgent thermal coal price after its massive bust three years ago.

From August 2015 to August 2016, prices languished below $US60 ($75) a tonne. By October of last year that had spiked to more than $US100 a tonne in October 2016 and remained in a healthy range rarely falling below $US80 a tonne.

There are combination of international and domestic market factors as well as  smarter play by Australian miners that have created market conditions where thermal coal has regained ground, shaking off the zombie company taglines that have dogged the industry over the last year.

The domestic market is also different. Australia has significantly fewer thermal coal miners today than it did five years after a spate of sell-offs, divestments, and exits from the market, and now those who survived are reaping the benefits of a strengthening market.

Whitehaven Coal has been one of the standout performers. In February of 2016 Whitehaven's share price hit 37 cents. Earlier this month it hit $4.77 only slowing down on the back of lowered production guidance figures last week.

New Hope Group has seen strong movement northwards, hitting a share price high point not seen since early 2015.

New Hope chief executive Shane Stephen told Fairfax Media pinpoints the sector's turning point as May 2016, when China announced it would institute new controls on domestic production sending buyers elsewhere.

"We're seeing strong demand for higher quality Australian thermal coal in Asia, and that is what's driving the price. Additionally, we're also not seeing a material increase in supply coming out of Australia

"Prices are around US$107 from Newcastle, to put that in perspective, any price with an eight or nine in front of it is considered good," Stephen says.

"With demand at these prices, New Hope is strongly profitable. I think most coal producers in Australia will produce strong financial numbers in their first half results."

Stephen says the company is continuing to focus on expansion and gaining approvals for its Acland Stage 3 project and the possibility of bringing new coal mines in the Surat Basin online as soon as 2023.

Yancoal is also starting to chart a recovery a massive slump in its share price after it announced its intention to acquire Rio Tinto’s Hunter Valley Operations and Mount Thorley Warkworth thermal coal mines.

Rio's rival, BHP, used its quarterly production announcement this week to spruik an expectation defying result for its energy coal division.

Production was up 8 per cent quarter on quarter, and up 4 per cent for the December 2017 half year from the previous corresponding period, with 14,029 kilotonnes produced during the December

Glencore has maintained its focus on thermal coal, telling Fairfax Media it is aiming to continue growth in the area, although it is still seeking to divest its Rolleston coal asset.

Coal mining regions are welcoming this revival of the industry and the flow-on social and economic effects it will have.

"This is most definitely a positive for the Singleton region," Singleton Mayor Sue Moore says. "The industry has been ticking upwards for the last six months, and we're seeing a turnaround, although it is slow. We expect to see this flow through to the local business sector over the next 12 months, beyond just the mining industry.

Newcastle, home of the largest coal port in the world, is looking beyond coal to future energy. ''The City of Newcastle recognises the role that coal plays in our local, state and national economy," Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes says.

"The Newcastle and the Hunter Region has a proud history of coal mining, with the mining industry supporting thousands of local jobs for well over 100 years. We understand that coal will continue to be exported from the Port of Newcastle into the future; but Newcastle also has a proudly progressive history where our people demonstrate time and time again their ability to adapt with changing economic opportunity," she says.

Fat Prophets analyst David Lennox says the changing face of the world’s energy needs will eventually have a major impact on thermal coal, but the growth of renewables will not negate coal in the near to medium term.

“Even though we’re seeing significant interest for renewables, we’ll still see thermal coal power stations for a long time,” Mr Lennox told Fairfax Media.

This has been reinforced by the Turnbull Government’s National Energy Guarantee, an energy policy announced late last year which sees coal-fired power generation still playing a major role in Australia’s energy landscape.

Mr Lennox says Australia’s higher quality thermal coal is being sought as its lower impurities means lower emissions when burnt in power plants.

“While we don’t consume significant quantities of coal in Australia, there is high demand from China and India.”

Whitehaven's chief executive Paul Flynn said Australia's higher quality coal and location so close to Asian customers has given it an edge. "Australia as a whole has done a good job rebasing its costs quickly as supply and demand has tightened," Mr Flynn said.

"What we've observed is very strong demand out of Asia fuelled by their demand for high-quality coal to fuel their supercritical power stations."

Another major Australian coal miner agreed, stating that significant growth is forecast from South East Asia.

“Thermal coal’s story hasn’t changed, we’ve always had an optimistic view of it in the medium to long-term. China’s domestic consumption even reached an all-time record last year,” the miner’s spokesman says.

A recent Credit Suisse analysis agrees noting that while much of the developed world is turning away from coal, there is still strong demand from South East Asian nations.

"These nations expect to add 32 to 56 gigawatts of coal-fired generation from 2015 to 2025. The high end of the range may represent increased coal demand of 150 million tonnes per annum," it says.

This is the focus for Whitehaven's Flynn. He says the coal outlook has been strong and exceeded many market expectations in the lead up to north Asia's winter period.

"A number of factors are helping to maintain these higher prices - China's draw on the seaborne thermal coal market is steady, demand for high-quality coals from South East Asia and the traditional Asian markets of Japan, Korea and Taiwan remains strong, reflecting buoyant economic conditions across Asia while a number of factors including Australian industrial relations issues and poor weather in Indonesia have limited supply response," Mr Flynn says.

"The outlook for thermal coal in the short to medium term is favourable."

MineLife's Gavin Wendt believes the combination of growth in China’s manufacturing sector and “an almost surprising level of discipline and fiscal management” is aiding a thermal coal revival.

“Thermal coal is trending at its highest level since 2016,” Mr Wendt told Fairfax Media. “This is mainly driven by manufacturing activity in China having a direct impact on coal demand here.”


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

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