Monday, June 24, 2019

New reef envoy Warren Entsch takes aim at 'coaching' of kids over climate change

The new Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef has declared the World Heritage site doesn't need "saving", while taking a swipe at climate change activists for "indoctrinating" school students who protest the issue in Australia.

Queensland MP Warren Entsch, who was appointed to the new role on Sunday, acknowledged climate change was a challenge for the reef, but said his priority is to reduce plastic in Australia's oceans.

But Mr Entsch said he was unmoved by student climate protesters who frequently targeted his electorate office, saying he had witnessed adults "coaching" some of the young people involved ahead of visiting his office.

"They're frightening the living hell out of kids. It's like child abuse and I think they should be held accountable," he told SBS News on Tuesday. He said "hostile" and "dishonest" activists were "giving kids nightmares because they don't believe there's a future".

Climate strikers have targeted the outspoken MP who represents the electorate of Leichhardt which covers Cairns and far north Queensland.

"One of them was almost in tears, as far as she was concerned the reef was dead in 10 years ... They only spoke in slogans 'save the reef', 'stop Adani' and '100 per cent renewables by 2030'."

He said Australia needed "solutions not slogans" around climate change.

But he dismissed the idea the Great Barrier Reef was facing any kind of existential threat, instead declaring his mission is to reduce the amount of plastic in Australia's oceans.

"We don't need to 'save the reef'. The reef is functioning well. There are lots of challenges. We need to continue to manage it and meet all those challenges," he said.

He nominated curbing plastics in the oceans as the main challenge he hoped to address as envoy, committing to a national policy on plastics.


Kudos to NSW for phonics check trial

The NSW budget included some very welcome education news: a trial of the Year 1 phonics screening check in some government schools.

This is a great outcome for NSW children, and CIS is particularly pleased to see it, as we have been advocating this policy for several years.

South Australia was the first state to have a trial — the feedback on which was overwhelmingly positive from students, teachers, and principals — and now conducts the check annually in all government schools (it is bi-partisan policy, with the trial having been introduced by the then Labor government).

There shouldn’t be anything partisan about wanting to ensure high-quality reading instruction in the early years of school. It is well-established that early reading ability is crucial and strongly influences later literacy skills and achievement across subject areas. It’s vital we identify students who are falling behind as soon as possible so we can intervene to help them.

And phonics instruction is especially important for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A comprehensive review by the NSW Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation found that explicit phonics instruction substantially reduces the reading gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students.

The context is that too many children aren’t learning how to read in primary school. The 2016 PIRLS test found that one in every five Australian Year 4 students had reading levels below the international literacy benchmark.

While the focus in the past has been on lifting education spending, it is more important that school systems implement evidence-based policies, with accountability and transparency.

The NSW government also announced in the budget that, along with a significant increase in school spending, in future, there will be an outcomes-based approach to NSW schools. Unsurprisingly, this was controversial, with a former NSW education minister labelling it a “bad idea”.

Imagine… a government wanting to ensure that additional billions of taxpayer dollars spent on schools actually leads to better outcomes? Just outrageous.


'I feel sorry for them': Wool worker calls PETA a cult and accuses it of brainwashing vegan protesters with 'blatant lies'

A wool worker has called PETA a cult and accused it of 'brainwashing' animal cruelty activists after protesters walked through central Sydney clutching a fake dead lamb.

Chantel McAlister, who's worked in the wool industry for over a decade, says PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) use misinformation to recruit those who protest on their behalf.

'People like PETA are cult leaders and they just force feed mistruths,' the Queensland woman told Yahoo. 'I do feel sorry for them,' she added, describing the vegan protesters as 'foot soldiers' for PETA.

The wool worker's comments come after two female PETA members descended on Sydney's Pitt Street mall last week to protest the wool industry.

During the protest, the two women carried dead sheep props while dressed in skin coloured clothing and drenched in fake blood.

Daily Mail Australia does not suggest the protesters used misinformation to convince the public to stop using wool, or are victims of 'brainwashing'.

The protest followed the release of footage by the animal rights organisation depicting alleged animal mistreatment in the wool industry.

The footage showed shearers allegedly punching sheep in the face, jabbing and beating them with electric clippers, and stomping and standing on their heads and necks.

But Ms McAlister believes PETA protesters are the victims of misinformation.  'Ninety-nine per cent of them have big hearts and they're very compassionate but from the misinformation they are fed, their anger is misguided.'  'They have their heart in the right place but they are brainwashed.'

While she admits to hating 'all farmers' when she was younger, she has since changed her mind after a decade spent in the wool industry.

The Queensland woman worked her way up from being a handler to a master wool classer and says that the wool industry doesn't resemble the one depicted by PETA.

While she says cruelty and serious injuries to sheep are not the norm, she does admit that some animal cruelty may happen due to the presence of 'bad eggs' in the industry.

To counter the work of groups like PETA, Ms McAlister runs a website, Truth About Wool Campaign, in order to dispel myths about the wool industry and to educate the public.

In 2017, she also spent time photographing the wool industry during a tour through Australia.

After various media outlets covered the work she received a number of death threats, mostly on Facebook, from various animal rights activists.

But she said she will continue her campaign. ‘It’s about educating urban areas about what goes on in the industry to counter these smear campaigns with positive stories’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

Last week’s protest in central Sydney’s Pitt St follows another held in January, in which PETA activists pretended to barbecue a fake dog in the heart of the busy and popular shopping area.

On that occasion, the group were protesting the eating of meat, and stopped members of the public to ask 'If you wouldn't eat a dog, why eat a lamb?'

In a statement about the protest, the group said: 'As humans, we instinctively feel compassion and empathy for animals, but we're taught that it's OK to enslave and eat some of them.'


CSIRO'S ‘clarion call’ more a tin whistle call

A clarion is a war trumpet

Through the years, the CSIRO has made an important contribution to the development of the Australian economy by assisting industry through its scientific research. But there have been times when the CSIRO has lost its focus by wandering into areas in which the ­organisation has no expertise. The end result has been highly political and unconvincing output.

This week we saw another example of this loss of focus with the release of a particularly pointless and political report entitled Australian National Outlook 2019.

Here’s the blurb. “More than 50 leaders from over 20 organisations contributed to a new landmark ­report. The report, which looks out to 2060, signals Australia may face a Slow Decline (capitals in original) if it takes no action on the most significant economic, social and environmental challenges. But, if these challenges are tackled head on, then Australia could look forward to a positive Outlook ­Vision (again capitals in original).” Gosh, you could almost set it to music.

Now you know I always want to be helpful to my readers, so here’s a tip: don’t bother reading the ­report, which is mercifully short at less than 100 pages.

Mind you, it’s not just the CSIRO that has lost the plot with the production of this rent-seeking bilge. The National Australia Bank was the lead private sector sponsor and some members of its senior management team are among the 50 leaders consulted. Why the board of the NAB thought it was appropriate to use shareholders’ funds ($240,000 in cash, plus a multiple of that in in-kind assistance) to sponsor this sort of kite-flying piffle is anyone’s guess.

I did, however, learn that the CSIRO has a futures director — where do we all apply? — who thinks that ANO 2019 should serve as a “clarion call for Australia”. Given the report seems to have died almost without trace since its release, his statement could be on the hopeful side. ­According to this chap, “we believe the positive outcomes in this report are all achievable, but they will require bold, concerted action and long-term thinking”.

He also had some positive comments to make. He is the “chief customer officer business and private banking” — how this makes him suitable to prognosticate on Australia’s future across the next 40 years is also anyone’s guess — and he says “a key outcome of the ANO 2019 must be leadership and action. NAB will be making commitments to drive positive change that helps customers take advantage of new opportunities and encourages growth in Australia.”

You are probably getting the drift already. If we don’t do things the report’s way, it’s big trouble, misery and doom. But do things the report’s way and all will be swell. And what are these preferred things? Lots of high-rise buildings, lots of low-emissions energy (which also can be exported), lots of investment to prepare for jobs for the future (more money for education and the CSIRO), lots of building resilience to climate change and, the one I love the most, a culture shift that restores the trust in institutions, companies and politics.

It turns out the CSIRO has a futures team and the report included more than 20 researchers from across the organisation. Then there was the motley collection of organisations, in addition to the NAB, whose leaders were asked to nominate their pet projects.

These included three universities only (Australian National University, Monash University and University of Technology Sydney), Australian Unity, Australian Securities Exchange, Baker McKenzie, Gilbert + Tobin, ClimateWorks Australia, Shell Australia, Australian Red Cross, PricewaterhouseCoopers, UnitingCare Australia and Birchip Cropping Group (of course). To say this methodology is unscientific is to understate the point, something NAB chairman Ken Henry (who was a former Treasury secretary) would fully understand.

This group of organisations does not represent the Australian economy or the Australian community. But you will be pleased to know that “it was a highly collaborative process over two years” with the penultimate meeting of the group focusing on “narrative ­development”.

Of course, the message that unless productivity can grow strongly we won’t be as well-off down the track is completely obvious. We didn’t need this report to make this point. We already have the Productivity Commission, which does credible research on the topic. And there are also the intergenerational reports regularly put out by the Treasury.

But according to the wise leaders who took part in the ANO 2019 exercise, it’s going to be great in 2060 as we all pile into our cities because our population will be heading to 41 million based on ongoing high rates of immigration. (People living in the regions should be barred from reading this report because there is no future for them.)

Our living standards are going to be more than one-third higher with the Outlook Vision (stop here for drum roll) compared with the Slow Decline (stop here for sad music). Average real wages will be 90 per cent higher. We won’t be driving cars much ­because passenger vehicle travel per capita will have declined by 45 per cent as we all live around the corner from work, school, services and recreation (admittedly in dog boxes in cracking buildings, flammable cladding hopefully removed). It sounds a bit like living in Moscow in the 1960s.

And here’s a prediction worth bottling: household spending on electricity relative to incomes could decrease by 64 per cent by 2060 and greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced to “net zero” by 2050. The CSIRO is very taken with the opportunities associated with the commercial development of hydrogen as a means of generating electricity and heating as well as powering transport.

Now there is nothing wrong with the CSIRO researching ways of capturing hydrogen in novel and cost-effective ways. Other countries, including Japan, are also looking into this topic. But to oversell the scope for hydrogen to replace our existing resource exports is to call into question the credibility of the CSIRO.

Even on the best estimates, ­hydrogen exports from Australia might amount to less than $10 billion by 2030 and this is assuming that Australia can establish a comparative advantage in producing and transporting hydrogen, which is by no means certain. But this is small beer given that coal is currently earning Australia close to $90bn and resources in total bring in about $160bn.

Hydrogen is an interesting play, but it would be foolhardy to base a large part of Australia’s economic fortunes on hydrogen alone. But note the report’s picking of winners — with necessary support, of course — also includes “agriculture (although everyone will be living in the cities), healthcare, cyber security, food manufacturing, mining and metals, construction and education”. Note the overlap with the list of experts consulted.

As with so many government reports these days, the ANO 2019 report uses highly simplified charts and cartoon pictures to convey its key messages. The trouble is these puerile portrayals make it difficult to take the report seriously. You just have to wonder whether there was an implicit ­assumption on the part of the project participants that there would be a change of government when the report was released and its deep green, interventionist messaging would be eagerly lapped up by a Labor government. My guess is this report will now quickly gather dust.

The CSIRO should get back to doing useful basic and applied scientific research.


 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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