Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Coronavirus triggers Australian self-sufficiency push

Austraia would be greatly impoversished if we had to make everything ourselves.  China will always be way cheaper at making most things. But giving local industries with good prospects a bit of a push to get them going would make some sense.  But that would give the government the job of picking winners -- and they have no expertise at that.

 It is very hard to see any one thing that we should stop importing and start making ourselves.  At the moment there would be some justification for producung more face masks etc but the next emergency might be quite different and generate different shortages. We just don't have the predictive power to make any changes that would be reliably useful

Australia's reliance on imported products will be put under the microscope by the federal government as it pushes the economy to become more self-sufficient in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has started quietly pulling together a policy roundtable from the public and private sectors so agriculture is the industry "best placed" to thrive after COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed as rain soaks into drought-baked paddocks of eastern Australia.

Mr Littleproud said even though agriculture delivered just 2 per cent of GDP, the industry would be crucial in helping the nation rebound after this crisis.

"Growing the industry is going to be so important to helping our nation repair. It's the bedrock of our nation's economy and our nation's security," he said.

He was circumspect about bringing back food manufacturing jobs, but said there were opportunities for “new jobs in innovation and science” to boost livestock and crop yields with new farming techniques and technology.

Richard Heath, executive director of the think tank Australian Farm Institute, said there was potential to look at job creation through food manufacturing, provided the government brought in "very different policies".

"This is where it gets really complicated," Mr Heath said, explaining that post-coronavirus "Australia will still have really high processing, energy and labour cost".

"We'd have to add some sort of economic stimulus, or export and import restrictions, to create a competitive processing sector," he said.

Moves to wind back Australia's free trade policies would meet resistance from the government.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Sunday said that even the current demand for locally made medical equipment "should not be seen as an argument for protectionism" and Australia didn't "need to engage in mass national subsidies of industries".

Mr Frydenberg said there would have to be a "proper assessment" of global supply chains and that while Australia was self-sufficient in terms of agriculture, other areas such as fuel security would need to be closely considered.

Grattan Institute household finances program director Brendan Coates said while there were benefits of having global supply chains and not being overly reliant on domestic supplies, there should be careful consideration about concentrating too much risk in one place.

"The crisis has clearly exposed that Australia did not have adequate domestic supplies or productive capacity for critical health equipment like masks, respirators and some of the reagents for producing tests for COVID-19," Mr Coates said.

"We've maybe relied more heavily on China than we should've," he said, adding that firms had started diversifying outside of China in the past decade into other countries.

EY Asia Pacific supply chain reinvention leader Nathan Roost said there was an opportunity for a rethink of the Australian manufacturing strategy and supply chain at a national level.

"There is an effort by corporate enterprises and government departments to identify additional suppliers in different countries, including Australian sources of supply, to limit future input disruption or shortages," he said.

Former NSW primary industries minister Niall Blair, who retired from politics last year and started a new role as professor of food sustainability at Charles Sturt University, is bullish about the prospect for new jobs in agriculture, particularly exporting food products to the growing Asian middle classes.

"There are enough people, with enough disposable income, for us to be able to make a lot of money out of our higher quality, clean and green, value-added food and fibre products," Mr Blair said.

"I've seen people in China pay $11 for a litre of Australian milk. They just don't trust their own produce in some cases and they've got the income to afford it."

Mr Blair said new food processing systems, where food waste was recycled in biodigesters to produce heat and methane for power, could reduce ongoing operating costs.

"Some of the smarter farming and processing businesses are starting to generate their own electricity, their own heat and their own fertiliser, which can make them a lot more sustainable."

Carolyn Creswell, founder and owner of Australian muesli brand Carman's, said local production had enabled the company to meet a 50 per cent rise in demand during coronavirus restrictions.

"So many times I've had conversations that we could have had packaging printed in China and saved a bit of money. What happened to a lot of companies, they could actually make the product, they just didn't have the packaging," Ms Creswell said.


NOAA’s Bogus Climate Scare: “Near-Annual” Great Barrier Reef Bleaching

Climate alarmists are back with a new and far-fetched Great Barrier Reef scare, just a few years after their most recent claims of massive coral death in the Reef proved false. No, alarmists, we are not entering a period of “near-annual” widespread bleaching.

Mark Eakin, coordinator of Coral Reef Watch at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Australian edition of The Guardian that rising ocean temperatures may have pushed the world’s coral reefs into annual “mass bleaching” events from which corals can’t recover.

However, this year’s bleaching hardly qualifies as the “mass bleaching” Eakin describes. Even The Guardian acknowledged, “Many areas of the Great Barrier Reef are known to have experienced severe bleaching this summer, likely killing many corals, but others, including tourist reefs near Cairns and the Whitsundays, only experienced mild bleaching. Most offshore reefs in the far north escaped bleaching entirely.”

The reefs in the far north, which have “escaped bleaching entirely,” are the ones closest to the equator and thus in the warmest water.

"Climate at a Glance" provides a summary of the scientific evidence regarding coral reefs and climate change. The summary documents that corals have existed continuously for the past 40 million years, surviving and evolving in temperatures and carbon dioxide levels significantly higher than what exists today. Indeed, corals thrive in warm water, not cold water. Among the myriad factors thought to have driven recent coral bleaching episodes are, “oxybenzone (a chemical found in sunscreen), sediment runoff from nearby coastal lands, and cold temperatures like those recorded in 2010 off the Florida coast.”

Australian coral reef expert Dr. Peter Ridd recently debunked claims in 2016 that up to 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef died during a bleaching event. “At the extreme, 8 percent died,” Ridd reported.

“There’s about the same amount of coral now as there was in 1995,” Ridd added.

“Of all the ecosystems in the world, in fact, the Reef is the one best able to adapt to increasing [temperatures], whether that’s natural or whether that’s anthropogenic. Half a degree temperature change certainly doesn’t cause mass bleaching events.”

Still other peer reviewed studies have indicated modestly warmer oceans cause an expansion of corals’ ranges. For instance, a team of Japanese scientists published a study in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters indicating corals off the coast of Japan expanded their range as water temperatures increased. The scientists, with access to 80 years of national records from temperate areas of Japan, found corals were expanding poleward as waters warmed, reporting, “[f]our major coral species categories, including two key species for reef formation in tropical areas, showed poleward range expansions since the 1930s, whereas no species demonstrated southward range shrinkage or local extinction.”


Memo stating babies would be separated from COVID-19 mothers retracted

The state’s largest private hospital has apologised for telling mothers with COVID-19 that they would be separated from their babies immediately after giving birth, prevented from skin-to-skin contact and made to sign a consent form if they wished to care for their newborns.

The Sydney Adventist Hospital outlined its new rules for COVID-19 maternity patients in a newsletter on Thursday, describing protocols at odds with the World Health Organisation and peak Australian and UK obstetrician bodies.

The hospital's management told The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday the newsletter was incorrect, "lacked subtlety" and would reissued new advice that stressed COVID-positive mothers would be offered the choice to stay with their babies or be separated from them to reduce the risk of transmission.

Birthing hospitals across Australia are considering their approach to managing the risk of COVID-19 in the absence of uniform protocols from health departments. The mixed messages and confusion have inflamed anxieties among expectant mothers, partners and healthcare workers.

The now-retracted communique from Sydney Adventist (known as The San) informed COVID-positive mothers and their partners: “Your baby will be, with your consent, taken to a room close by straight after birth and nursed in a crib to reduce the transmission of the virus to your baby”.

“This is in line with advice from our paediatricians and in accordance with hospital policy," it said.

“Unfortunately, we will be unable to provide skin to skin contact with your baby at birth. We understand this is a very difficult concept to consider, however the effect of the virus on your newborn is unknown and we will be doing everything possible to protect you both.

“Your baby will be nursed separately from you until your tests, and those of your baby, are negative," the newsletter said.

Babies would be fed expressed breast milk by nurses, and if a mother felt well and wanted to breastfeed and care for their baby, she would be asked to sign a consent form prior to birth, the document read.

Chief executive of Adventist HealthCare Brett Goods said: “On behalf of the hospital I’m very sorry we have caused people distress".

Mr Goods said the newsletter “lacked some subtlety” and “seemed overly weighted [towards] 'this is what the hospital wants to do and if you don’t want to do that you’re going to have to sign a consent'." “It was unfortunate,” Mr Goods said. “We want to correct that.”

Dr Neil Ginsberg, the San’s head of paediatrics, said the new communique would stress that mothers who may have COVID-19 would be cared for in a separate part of the maternity unit to other patients and could choose to stay with their babies. He said the risk of transmission was "extremely, extremely low".

"But we also just wanted to make sure that if somebody was looking for as close to 100 per cent or risk aversion, that that option could be offered,” Dr Ginsberg said.

“We decided the best option would be to offer two pathways where the mother could remain with their baby if that is what they wanted and educating them about those risks," he said.

"The second option was for mums who were highly anxious and concerned about those risks; we would offer them the opportunity to separate [from] their babies at birth."

Separating babies from COVID-positive mothers was at odds with the World Health Organisation as well as guidelines from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), which states a COVID-positive mother “should not be automatically separated from her baby, but should take enhanced precautions with general hygiene and consider a face mask when feeding.”

RANZCOG does not support testing asymptomatic babies for the virus and stipulates that women with COVID who wish to breastfeed should be encouraged and supported.

College president Dr Vijay Roach said the risk of babies contracting COVID-19 from their mothers in utero or during birth was low.

“If the mother or baby is unwell, or the baby is premature, or if there are other risk factors, then the baby should be assessed and transferred to the nursery,” Dr Roach said.

Dr Ginsberg said The San’s approach was in line with the US Centre for Disease Control advice.  “There is a huge amount of information that is unclear at this stage,” Dr Ginsberg said.

Dr Nisha Khot, an obstetrician and councillor with RANZCOG and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) acknowledged "this is a rapidly evolving situation but recognised bodies like RCOG and RANZCOG are monitoring all emerging evidence".

Dr Khot said current evidence suggests that mothers and babies should not be separated immediately after birth.

A spokesperson for NSW Health said the ministry "supports RANZCOG advice that does not recommend separating a newborn from its mother if she has COVID-19".


Year 12, kindy should get priority when school goes back: teachers' federation

The NSW Teachers Federation has suggested a staggered return to school once health authorities and governments start lifting social distancing restrictions, beginning with year 12 and kindergarten.

As schools prepare to deliver term two online, federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said leaders needed to think about how to ensure an "orderly return" when circumstances changed, avoiding a deluge of students when older or vulnerable teachers were unable to return.

The NSW Teachers Federation says year 12 and kindy should be given priority when schools reopen.
The NSW Teachers Federation says year 12 and kindy should be given priority when schools reopen.

"An option could be a staggered return to our schools," he said. "I've advanced a proposition that part of an orderly [process], we could consider a return of year 12 and kindergarten, followed by year seven and year six, and progressively pad that out."

Educators cautiously welcomed the idea, although they said the process would be complicated and schools would need to be consulted.

It comes as Education Minister Dan Tehan said ministers were looking at options to make school systems more flexible and open for some students. "Is there an opportunity maybe to bring year 12 students back one day a week?" he said.

"Or would there be an opportunity for those doing vocational education at school to do some of their practical work at school? Or chemistry students - would they be able to come to school one or two afternoons a week to do the practical side of their chemistry?"

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the government will be using the school holiday period to consider its options for term two and beyond.

“We will communicate this with school communities before school returns. All options will be considered in line with health advice,” she said.

While pandemic experts say children are not believed to drive the spread of COVID-19, teachers have been concerned about their safety, particularly those who are older or have underlying conditions. A 2017 workforce survey found the average age of NSW teachers is 37, but up to a fifth are over 50.

Before they began holidays on Thursday afternoon, NSW schools were not closed but were delivering remote learning to everyone, and parents were encouraged to keep their children at home. About 94 per cent of families did so. By this week, two thirds of the public school teaching workforce were working from home.

Schools have prepared to deliver term two lessons online. But as parents feel the stress of supervising students while working, or students become more restless about learning alone, some predict the number of students attending schools will rise.

Craig Petersen, head of the Secondary Principals Council, said the danger of allowing students to return whenever their parents chose could lead to a situation in which there were more students at school than teachers available.

An ordered return - prioritising high-needs years as suggested by the federation - made sense, but it would be complicated, he said. Year 12 teachers, for example, might have an underlying health condition, while some schools ran a "compressed curriculum" in which years 10 and 11 also did HSC subjects.

"This needs to be carefully thought through," Mr Petersen said. "It introduces a whole range of complexities. What we need is for the principals' associations, for the federation, and for educators to be consulted."

Mr Petersen said parents were already ringing schools, confused about what to expect next term. "We have to have clarity around this, schools cannot be left in this position where we become the target of parental concern and anxiety about decision we have no control over," he said.

"We are extremely frustrated with the lack of consultation and consideration for what's in the best interests of our students."

Jenny Allum, the principal of SCEGGS Darlinghurst, said schools had proven their ability to respond to changing circumstances over the past month. She said a staged return was "certainly a possibility", especially one involving year 12 as a priority.

"You can have 24 [year 12] kids working in three classrooms with one teacher, you can't have a class of 24 kindergarten kids in three classrooms with one teacher," she said. "But we are conscious that it's a significant demand on parents, to be supervising younger kids at home and trying to do their own work."


 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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