Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Marine heatwaves threatening Australia's oyster industry and affecting Great Barrier Reef, scientists warn

Note the dog that didn't bark below.  The people involved are NOT barking about global warming.  They cannot logically do so.  If waters are warming much more rapidly than the global rate, it is not global warming!  Sometimes a tautology is needed

Waters off parts of Australia are warming at some of the most rapid rates in the world, threatening the future of some of the country's most important marine industries, scientists say.

Scientists say the heatwaves are having a severe impact on oysters — and threaten the future of the industry — as well plants and creatures that rely on the ocean for life, pushing some into new areas, while killing others.

"The oceans are really ringing the alarm bells," said CSIRO biological oceanographer Alistair Hobday, a leading expert on MHWs.

"[The oceans] are telling us we've got big problems and those problems are not going to go away."

A MHW is defined as a period of warm water that lasts five days or longer, where temperatures are in the top 10 per cent of events typically experienced in that region.

They are graded in severity — similar to how cyclones are — with category five being the most intense.

The heatwaves lead to outbreaks of diseases that can be fatal to oysters and other molluscs, and reduce the reproduction rates of species such as salmon and abalone as well as killing seagrass and kelp.

"[We thought] marine heatwaves were an example of what the climate would look like in 100 years time," Dr Hobday said. "But we [are] getting it today."


The federal bureaucracy has continued to shed jobs and is now at its smallest size in 13 years, after losing more than 3,000 staff over 12 months

This is good news, somewhat tempered by the increased use of contractors.  Contractors are under much more pressure to perform

The Australian Public Service (APS) has been shrinking since 2012 — a trend that has coincided with increased government spending on consultants and labour-hire firms.

The latest snapshot of the public service shows it employed 147,237 staff on June 30 — 2.1 per cent less than a year earlier.

Most of the job losses were in the Tax Office and Services Australia, which includes Medicare and Centrelink offices.

The Government explained the reductions in a report, saying "fluctuations in the overall [staff] headcount occur for many reasons, including seasonal patterns, business and government requirements, and demand".

The decline of the APS workforce divided political parties during this year's election campaign. A parliamentary committee had also been examining the growing use of businesses to do government work, but its inquiry was abandoned when the election was called.

Labor pledged to end staffing cuts and reduce spending on contractors and consultants, saying the loss of government jobs was a "false economy" because buying the skills from elsewhere cost more.

Australian National University academic Leo Dobes also warned the reliance on consultants had left the APS with too few skilled economists and "a woeful lack of ability and knowledge in that area".

However, the Coalition argues that using outside expertise makes the Government more flexible and efficient.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told public servants last year that contractors and consultants could "keep the overall cost of government administration low, when the business needs to access relevant skills and expertise, or a surge in demand for certain public services is temporary".

The federal budget papers also point out that per capita spending on administration (whether on public servants or businesses) is falling, which Senator Cormann says is good — it should be "as much as necessary but also should be as little as possible".

A former deputy head of the Finance Department, Pegasus Economics director Stephen Bartos, says the private sector can be more cost-effective — if used sparingly.

"Unfortunately, what we have seen, in … some departments, is over-reliance on consultants, when there is ongoing work that would be more cheaply and effectively done by public servants," Mr Bartos said.

Lure of cities too strong?

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce managed to move an agriculture regulator — the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority — from Canberra to his regional New South Wales electorate, provoking an uproar and staff resignations in the process.

But the Government's policy of shifting the APS workforce out of the nation's big cities appears to have failed so far.

Since the policy was announced in 2017, the proportion of public servants who work in Australia's six largest cities (Canberra and larger) has remained exactly 82 per cent — a ratio that hasn't budged in seven years.


Parents give Australian school policies poor report card

Parents are generally satisfied with how much money their child’s school has, but they don’t agree with how it is spent. If that sounds familiar it’s because it echoes what the CIS has been arguing for years.

The results of a national survey of more than 1,000 parents (relating to 1,394 children) — revealed in the CIS policy paper released this week: What Do Parents Want from Schools? — show that 88% of parents believe their child’s school has enough or more than enough funding. This includes 86% of parents with a child in a government school.

This cuts against the dominant education policy discourse — driven by the union movement and progressive educationalists — which both major parties have swallowed hook, line and sinker.

It is already clear that huge increases in public funding aren’t delivering educational improvements. This new research also shows that it is also not what parents want either.

The unions have rallied — and largely won — for money to be spent on endlessly reducing classroom sizes (presumably unsatisfied until we are practically educating one-to-one), increasing teachers’ pay (presumably until it’s in line with doctors), and amassing an army of support staff in schools.

In contrast to these priorities, parents say that they want to see better facilities and more extra-curricular activities offered at their chosen schools. This could be because funding for capital works is around one-eleventh of that of the spending on staffing. And extra-curriculars are generally paid for out of parents’ own pockets and in their own time.

The research also found that a considerable proportion of parents regret their choice of a school for their children, with around 40% saying they either would not choose the same school again or were unsure if they would.

This means that around 1.6 million students are enrolled in a school that their parents aren’t happy with. However, some appear to be more happy than others.

Unsurprisingly, those that felt limited in their choice — around two-thirds of surveyed parents — are less satisfied with the school their child is in.

Those that chose a non-government school, for instance, appear to be happier with their choice. This appears to be linked with findings of higher levels of confidence in how funding is being used in non-government schools, compared to their government school peers.

And parents who sought independent sources of information to help with their choice of school — like meeting with school staff, visiting school websites, and checking the MySchool website — are more likely to be happier with their choice. As the old adage goes, more informed shoppers are happier shoppers.

When it comes to school funding and school choice, this research is a poor report card on policymakers in state and federal government. It’s past time for government to listen to the message that parents want to see a spending shakeup and that more choice is indispensable to educational improvements.


A friend of free speech bows out, integrity intact

In the final months of 2016, a jaded Cory Bernardi was cooling his heels on a 12-week parliamentary secondment to the UN in New York.

The conservative Liberal senator was fed up with the leftward drift of the party under the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull, who had limped across the line at an election earlier that year having wrested the leadership from Bernardi’s good friend Tony Abbott the year before.

Bernardi, a lifelong Liberal supporter, was having dark thoughts. Through circumstance, he was now living in the same city as his mentor, former Howard government minister Nick Minchin, who was then the Australian consul-general in New York.

Minchin had sponsored Bernardi’s rise through South Australian Liberal ranks in the early 2000s as a powerful and intelligent young conservative, challenging the state’s historic moderate domination. Minchin knew where Bernardi’s mind was at, and he set to work. “While Cory was in New York we spent many a while together talking it through,” Minchin tells The Weekend Australian.

“There were quite a few of us who had difficulties with Malcolm’s view of the world. But I did a lot of work to persuade him not to leave. I wanted him to grit his teeth and hang in there. I understood what he was thinking because I had also been shattered by the Turnbull coup against Abbott, but I was desperate to keep him in the party.”

Minchin’s pleas failed to convince Bernardi, who on his return home in 2017 quit the party in ­disillusionment at Turnbull’s lead­ership and founded the unsuccess­ful Australian Conservatives.

“I understood why he did it. But he sacrificed what would have been a long and successful senior ministerial career. He could have gone all the way,” Minchin says.

This week, Bernardi announced he was leaving politics for good, but with no sense of ­regret at having quit the Liberals or derailing his own career. “I remember those chats with Nick and he definitely did sound a cautioning note in our conversations,” Bernardi tells The Weekend Australian.

“I had confided in a couple of people about where I was at. He said that I needed to realise what it would mean for my life and my ­career. It was a mentor’s concern, that I needed to understand the implications of leaving. But like all my good friends he understood the motivations for my decision. And I can console myself in the fact that the people who said bad things about me after I quit were already saying bad things about me before then ­anyway.”

Bernardi may be unique in the annals of Australian political betrayal in that he is the only politician to have “ratted” on his party and still received a warm send-off from many of the people he abandoned.

Bernardi, who turned 50 this month, will leave the parliament at the end of the year, with the SA Liberals to hold a fresh preselection to find his replacement.

The announcement came almost three years after he walked away from the Liberal Party, for whom he was elected a senator for South Australia back in 2006.

Unlike most other famous political defections and departures, Bernardi’s was motivated by ­neither spite nor self-interest.

He wasn’t Mal Colston walking out on Labor in 1996, enraged at having been denied the glorious honour of elevation to the Senate deputy presidency.

Bernardi’s reasons — like Bernardi himself — were 100 per cent ideological.

He had come to regard his relationship to the Liberal Party, then under the leadership of Turnbull, as akin to a bad marriage, where he felt that his own role was pointless and that he was living a lie ­remaining in a party that, he believed, was swinging leftward away from its traditional values.

And rather than acting out of self-interest, he acted against his own interests, in that the party he founded on his departure, ­Australian Conservatives, endured what Bernardi described with trademark bluntness as “an unmitigated disaster” at this year’s election, polling just 16,000 first-preference votes in his home state, less than one-third the result enjoyed in South Australia by One Nation.

The fledgling party had been caught in a pincer movement with traditional Liberal conservatives returning to the fold once Scott Morrison replaced Turnbull, and the headline-grabbing Pauline Hanson scooping up disaffected blue-collar and regional right-wing voters.

“The inescapable conclusion from our lack of political success, our financial position and the re-election of a Morrison-led government is that the rationale for the creation of the Australian Conservatives is no longer valid,” Bernardi wrote on the party’s website in June on announcing its deregistration.

Bernardi is now in the business of cleaning out his office in the inner-eastern suburb of Kent Town ahead of a return to the family business where he received his start in the 1990s, as publican of the now-defunct hotel Bernardi’s, a rollicking city pub propped up by an army of drunken journalists from the neighbouring Advertiser building.

Bernardi became famous for a string of so-called controversies that stemmed from his enthusiasm for plain speech, be it on ­issues such as banning the burka or his defence of the traditional family unit. While in New York, he had a front-row seat for the unheralded rise of Donald Trump, deliberately goading his lefty critics back home by posing on social media wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.

He says this week he has been reflecting on the battles he has had during the past 13 years, most of which emanated from his lived commitment to freedom of speech. He fears that censorship, self-censorship and a growing inability to agree to disagree are now the biggest threat to the exchange of ideas.

“A lot of the battles I had were really because people weren’t ready for the conversations,” he tells The Weekend Australian.

“In the fullness of time we can now have mainstream talk about the problems with China and its interference in our political system, the merits or otherwise of high immigration levels, or altering our cultural norms. I am happy to have participated and in some cases led those ­debates.

“If we stifle free speech or the battle of ideas we will go backwards as a country. I know it’s not what Australians want.

“When I consider the relationships I have formed in Canberra, there are people I respect on all sides of the political divide. It’s because I respect their intellect, their consistency, their application of principle, and the fact that they are prepared to counter the political battle in a rational and sensible way. The ones I have the least ­respect for are those who are reactive, emotionally driven, rather than driven by an actual factual nature.

“We can’t have a society where we say ‘we are going to denigrate your character because we disagree with what you say’.

“Now too often it’s about shrillness and denigrating others. Any society where 100 per cent of the people are agreeing 100 per cent of the time is a false one. You can go to North Korea for that.”

Minchin says that when Bernardi emerged on the SA political scene in the late 1990s, he was keen to enlist him to the cause in a state where the party had been historically dominated by small-l Liberals. At the time, Minchin was at the height of his enmity with moderate powerbroker Christopher Pyne. The Howard cabinet also replicated the SA factional split, with Minchin and foreign minister Alexander Downer flying the flag for the Right in a sometimes uneasy coalition with moderate ministers Amanda Vanstone and Robert Hill.

“When I got to know Cory I was struck by our common judgment on a whole range of issues,” Minchin says. “He and I shared a common view of the world. He was a fellow traveller for me, a fellow conservative. He was also a very commanding figure, and a good mate. A loyal mate. Someone who was keen to get stuck in and help the party.

“My friends and I were always on the lookout for young conservative talent to bring through the ranks. He wasn’t someone who was there out of ego or a thirst for self-promotion. At the time the moderates did have a bit of a grip on the younger side of the party and Cory helped challenge that. He did it by being honest and ­direct. He was never a game-player, he was never devious, he was what you see is what you get, not like some of the cockroaches that scurry around.”

Bernardi feels no qualms about ending his career the way he did. “I don’t take any angst or unhappiness out of this. I’ve had a wonderful journey and I’ve met some extraordinary people. Your opponents often make you better. The qualities I admire in others — integrity, honesty, resilience — are all enhanced by your opponents picking on you when they think you’re wrong.”

And while he won’t name names, he confirms that there are several farewells planned in Canberra by his former party colleagues. “There are a lot of dinners,” he says. “They’re all secret though.”


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

No comments: