Friday, July 31, 2020

African women lived it up at a cocktail bar, Thai restaurant and NINE other venues after lying about flying into Queensland from Melbourne - and they may have sparked a major COVID-19 cluster

A coronavirus-infected teenager enjoyed trips to a cocktail bar and a Thai restaurant after returning to Queensland from Melbourne and lying about where she had been.

There are fears Olivia Winnie Muranga and Diana Lasu's extraordinary disregard for COVID-19 rules could spark a Victoria-style outbreak in Queensland, which recorded its first community transmission in two months on Wednesday.

The pair, both 19, arrived together in Brisbane from Melbourne via Sydney on July 21 and made false declarations on their border paperwork. They are expected to be fined $4,000 each.

A third woman who travelled with the women from the Victorian capital has already been fined and is awaiting her test results for coronavirus.

It is believed all three lived the high life around Brisbane for eight days, going to work, visiting restaurants and bars. 

A third woman who tested positive to coronavirus yesterday is believed to be the 22-year-old sister of one of the teenagers.

Ms Muranga went to work for two days at Parklands Christian College in Park Ridge, south of the city. She called in sick and went to see a doctor on Saturday who told her to get tested immediately.

She didn't do so until Monday.  Instead she continued to attend venues in Ipswich and Brisbane, including going to a Thai restaurant in Springfield on Sunday and a Southbank cocktail bar on Monday.

On Thursday Queensland's Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the women are now involved in an ongoing police investigation. Authorities will probe how the women were able to travel from Melbourne to Brisbane despite the border closure, and whether they used fake names and contact details on their declaration passes.

Investigators will also probe whether the women were at party during their stay in Melbourne which was attended by about 20 people. The gathering was broken up by police, who issued fines totalling $30,000.

Ms Muranga is a cleaner at Parklands Christian College in Park Ridge. The school's principal Gary Cully confirmed a coronavirus-infected cleaner worked for three days last week.'The staff member was on site last week and then rang in sick and then that's when the trace program started,' Mr Cully told The Courier Mail.

'As far as I'm aware they were not symptomatic while they were onsite and then called in sick the following day and then the next week were tested.' 

Shopping centres, restaurants, a school, and a church they visited will shut while authorities scramble to conduct contact tracing.

The pair took flight VA863 from Melbourne to Sydney and flight VA977 from Sydney to Brisbane, 21 July

Scores of the women's contacts will be forced to isolate, and aged care facilities in the Metro South Health region will re-enter lockdown.

The incident prompted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to announce all Sydneysiders will be banned from entering the state from Saturday. 'There will be a thorough police investigation here but now we have to act as a community and in the areas where the chief health officer says need to be closed, will be closed and I urge people in those areas when that list goes out later on today to please ensure that if you are feeling sick you must go and get tested,' she said.

Queensland residents returning will have to isolate in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young called the pair 'reckless' and said she was 'very disappointed'.

Health Minister Steven Miles said there was a large amount of contact tracing that needed to be done with the community as well. 'These young women have gone about their business within the communities that they live in and so there will be a large amount of contact tracing to be done, largely within it the Logan and Springfield areas, including shopping malls, restaurants and a church.'

The pair's entry into Queensland is the subject of a criminal investigation, with penalties for lying on your declaration form incurring fines of $4,003 or six months in jail.

There are now eight actives cases left in Queensland following three new cases on Wednesday.


A report from more than 150 experts and affected community members has called on the government to punish climate change enablers

Climate skeptics would like to see this go to court.  The case would collapse like a house of cards when the full weight of scientific evidence about global warming was led

In a sobering study released this week, Australia was revealed to have lost nearly three billion animals due to the devastating Black Summer bushfires.

The fossil fuel industry has “pushed Australia into a new bushfire era” and should pay for the carnage inflicted from blazes and other disasters across the country, former emergency leaders, climate scientists and doctors have declared.

The Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA), a group of more than 150 experts and affected community members, have called on the Federal Government to impose a levy on those contributing to climate change.

As part of the 165 recommendations, the group wants a climate disaster fund set up to cover the massive costs associated with natural disasters.

The rising impact of global warming evidenced in the summer’s devastating and extensive bushfires has created the need to “fundamentally rethink how we prepare for and manage this growing threat”, former Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins said.

“This plan outlines practical steps that all levels of government can take right now to better protect communities,” he said, who is also a Climate Councillor.

“It’s important that the Federal Government takes these recommendations seriously and acts on them urgently. “First and foremost, the Federal Government must tackle the root cause of climate change by urgently phasing out fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions.”

The declaration comes ahead of the royal commission report into the destructive bushfire season which is due to be handed to government next month, which Mr Mullins hopes will include provisions for a climate response.

The cost of extreme weather events is growing towards a total annual bill of $39 billion by 2050, Deloitte Access Economics partner Nicki Hutley said, who also contributed to the report.

“Climate change, which is fuelling more severe extreme weather events and worsening bushfire danger, has serious economic consequences,” she said.

“Reducing emissions, building community resilience, and boosting emergency resourcing can help us avoid huge economic impacts and damage in the future, while creating clean new jobs right now.”

The report comes as the government faces increasing pressure to invest in a major green energy plan, with groups from across the political spectrum declaring an investment is imminent to help propel the economy out of the virus crisis.

Once the iconic divide between conservative and progressive politicians, activists and lobby groups say the need for action on climate change has reached a boiling point with evidence of environmental damage now being undeniable.

“The pressure is growing and the larger picture is a lot of the Coalition members, Liberals and Nationals, do support this transition and understand it ultimately will happen,” Coalition for Conservation chair Cristina Talacko told

“It’s not a question of debating the ideology behind climate anymore, we’ve gone totally past that, now it’s about what’s good for Australia, what’s going to give us resilience because we don’t want the droughts and the bushfires.”

Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said calls for a green energy policy overhaul is coming from most segments of the community but insists there are still hurdles within the party led by Scott Morrison, who once famously brandished a lump of coal during Question Time.

“There are a few dinosaurs in federal parliament but the amount of support that’s now coming from state governments, from business, and from industry will be irrepressible,” she told


Firefighting tactics should change as climate warms, say fire chiefs

Blaming the fires on global warming is just propaganda.  Australia's biggest fires were many years ago. The important thing is to get a more effective response to the fires. And for that the measures called for below are a step in the right direction

Australian bushfire fighters should change tactics to focus on early detection and extinguishment of blazes rather than their containment as climate change has altered the nature of fires on the continent, an expert group has recommended.

Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins said that in the hotter and drier conditions more common in Australia due to global warming, containment was more difficult or impossible at times – and on high-danger days, firefighters should seek to detect and put out fires as fast as possible.

The change in tactics would require increased funding by governments so bushfire authorities could use early-warning technologies including thermal-imaging drones and satellites and increase the number of highly trained airborne firefighting teams of the sort that defended the famous grove of ancient Wollemi Pines in the Blue Mountains.

Further, on such days, aircraft should be deployed as soon as fires are detected, said Mr Mullins.

A shortage of airborne firefighting equipment means they are often not deployed until firefighters on the ground have surveyed the fire, by which time it was often too late, Mr Mullins said.

He was commenting on the release of a report into the fires drafted after a summit of emergency, local government and community leaders, economists, academics and climate scientists earlier this year.

He called on the federal government to purchase new purpose-built firefighting aircraft such as the CL-415 Superscooper, an amphibious aircraft that can land on any large enough body of water and collect 6000 litres of water in 18 seconds. He noted that during the summer fires, many aircraft deployed on the NSW South Coast had to return to the RAAF base Richmond to refill.

The recommendations were among 165 developed during the summit hosted by the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and the Climate Council earlier this year who gathered to develop plans for bushfire response, readiness and recovery in an era of increased fire danger.

Underscoring all the recommendations was a call for all governments, the private sector and community groups to work together to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are rapidly moving to a climate outside the range of human experience," says the summit's report Australia Bushfire and Climate Plan.

"This is driving an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme events and disasters including out-of-scale bushfires. Addressing greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas must therefore be the highest priority because changes in our climate are increasing the bushfire threat and reducing the effectiveness of current hazard reduction strategies."

The report has also called for improved co-ordination between firefighting authorities and the Australian Defence Force.

"Often you'll have the military saying to fire services, 'what do you need', but fire services have no idea what Defence has to offer," said Mr Mullins. Better co-ordination will be critical in fighting future fires, he said.

"You don't want soldiers fighting fires, they are not trained to do it. But they have huge capacity in engineering, in logistics. They have air bases and infrastructure. Every person they put in the field releases a firefighter to do their job."

The group also called for reforms to insurance practices in the face of increased disaster risks, and recommended that the federal government map extreme weather risks street by street across the country and identify areas where under- and non-insurance was placing recovery at risk.

It called for the establishment of a permanent independent insurance price monitor either with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission or as a stand-alone entity.

The group also called for the creation of a national climate disaster fund to help preparation and recovery efforts to be funded by a levy on fossil fuel producers.


Horticulture giants warn fruit and vegetable prices could rise due to labour shortage

Border closures really are a problem here

The horticulture industry has warned fruit and vegetable prices could rise up to 60 per cent and 127,900 jobs are at risk across the economy as the backpacker workforce faces being decimated due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a new parliamentary submission, the industry says the loss of the foreign harvest workforce, which includes young people from Europe and South East Asia on working holiday maker visas, would cut Australia's GDP by $13 billion while slashing the value of the horticulture industry by $6.3 billion.

To address feared shortages in coming months the horticulture industry has called for a special one-off $1200 payment funded by the federal government to lure Australians from the cities to work on farms at harvest time.

The workforce concerns are outlined in a submission from the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) to federal Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Migration's "Inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program". The industry group consists of fresh food heavyweights including ASX-listed Costa Group and privately owned Perfection Fresh.

The working holiday maker program accounts for about 80 per cent of the harvest labour workforce, and the industry is concerned that COVID-19 border closures and restrictions could severely disrupt the number of backpackers able to work in Australia.

Tens of thousands of backpackers have left Australia this year and the industry fears this trend will continue.

Australian farmers need to continue to secure a workforce to harvest fruit and vegetables for Australian families.

Michael Rogers, CEO of Australian Fresh Produce Alliance
The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance has proposed the $1200 payment to harvest workers only be paid after they complete three months of work. The group has also called for a $1200 induction support payment for businesses who hire workers under this arrangement, also paid after three months.

"The AFPA has obtained data from member companies, other growers and labour hire companies that indicates from March 2020 to June 2020 these companies received 23,000 inquiries for work. Only 8 per cent of these inquiries were made by Australian citizens and permanent residents," the submission says.

The economic calculations about job losses and prices come from modelling by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance. The 127,900 job loss estimate includes lost harvest worker roles, as well as the impact on other sectors from a dramatically smaller harvest including in transport, food manufacturing and retail.

The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance fears that without a backpacker labour force, fruit and vegetables would be left to wither and rot, or crops would not be planted because of labour force concerns.

Darren Gray explores how society sources its food, investigating how apples get from the orchard to your table.

It is also asking for the number of harvest workers coming to Australia via the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme increased from 12,000 to 15,000 per year.

"Australian farmers need to continue to secure a workforce to harvest fruit and vegetables for Australian families. And we have a current and very real challenge that we will have a shortage of workers," said the group's chief executive Michael Rogers.

Michael Simonetta, chief executive of fresh produce giant Perfection Fresh, said backpackers had been a vital horticulture industry workforce for years.

"Now it's absolutely critical to us and the horticulture industry to harvest the crops that we grow, to feed Australia and our neighbours to the north," he said.

Asked what would happen if working holiday maker harvest workers disappeared, Mr Simonetta said: "Our industry would be devastated. We wouldn't be able to pick all the crops that growers are labouring over and investing a lot of money in.


 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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Ridd Case: IPA Welcomes Historic High Court Appeal

Ridd was fired for challenging Greenie lies about the Great Barrier Reef

The Institute of Public Affairs has welcomed the announcement that Dr Peter Ridd will appeal the judgement in the case of James Cook University (JCU) v Peter Ridd to the High Court of Australia. Dr Ridd is seeking to reverse the 2-1 decision of the Federal Court of Australia, which overturned the earlier decision in the Federal Circuit Court, which held that Dr Peter Ridd was unlawfully dismissed by JCU.

“This is an historic appeal. It will be the first time that the High Court has been asked to adjudicate on the meaning of intellectual freedom,” said Gideon Rozner, IPA Director of Policy.

“The fundamental issues of free speech at Australian universities, the future of academic debate and freedom of speech on climate change are all on the line in this historic High Court appeal.”

“This has been Australia’s David vs Goliath battle. Dr Peter Ridd on one side backed by the voluntary donations of thousands of ordinary Australians, and JCU on the other side who with taxpayer funds secured some of the most expensive legal representation in the country in Bret Walker SC to stifle the free speech of one of its own staff.”

Dr Peter Ridd, a professor of physics at JCU, was sacked by the university for misconduct for questioning in the IPA’s publication Climate Change: The Facts 2017 the quality climate change science surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, and for public statements made on the Jones & Co Sky News program.

Dr Peter Ridd today reopened his Go Fund Me page, appealing to thousands of mainstream Australians to once again support his historic fight for free speech on climate change.

“Peter Ridd’s fight is representative of every Australian who has been censored, cancelled or silenced,” said Mr Rozner. “Alarmingly, the decision of the Federal Court shows that contractual provisions guaranteeing intellectual freedom do not protect academics against censorship by university administrators. This is a point where the IPA and the NTEU are on a unity ticket.”

“James Cook University’s actions prove there is a crisis of free speech at Australian universities. Many academics are censured, but few are prepared to speak out and risk their career, particularly if faced with the prospect of legal battles and possible bankruptcy.

“The case has identified a culture of censorship when it comes to challenging claims surrounding climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. JCU to this date has never attempted to disprove claims made by Dr Ridd about the Great Barrier Reef,” said Mr Rozner.


Ideological fervour must not trump good public policymaking response

Victoria's inability to contain the coronavirus outbreak brought on by hotel quarantine failures risks becoming NSW's problem too. There are indications that by the end of this week NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian may face some tough choices. The
question is, will she make a similar mistake to Victoria? By letting ideology restrict her options to contain the spread of the coronavirus. By not locking the state down in part or in full — swiftly enough.

The Victorian experience has been hampered by a centralised public health bureaucracy: old-fashioned, slow and unwieldy in response to a virus that rapidly takes hold. It's a sharp contrast to NSW, where the decentralised public health system is fit for purpose: able to rapidly deploy contact tracers and pop-up clinics in order to not lose control of the situation too quickly.

Contact tracing in Victoria has been ineffective and centrally organised. Pop-up clinics haven't opened up quickly enough. The state's Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, sits too far down the health bureaucratic food chain —three rungs below the minister —to make decisions quickly enough to see action fluidly follow. Despite an impressive career, Sutton isn't a career public health clinician, in stark contrast to NSW CHO Kerry Chant. 

The centralised structure of public health in Victoria is a hallmark of how Dan Andrews likes to do business. The system 'has been years in the making, dating right back to the now Premier's time as the responsible minister during the Bracks government.

The harsh lockdown Andrews announced became his only option to try and regain the initiative against a virus that shows little mercy. However, because of the many system faults, Victoria is starting the fightback a long way behind. As of yesterday, there were 1583 cases still under investigation, which speaks to the poor contact tracing out of Victoria, not helped by the COVIDSafe app not working as effectively as promised, if, indeed, it's working at all. The six-week hard lockdown became a necessary evil for Victorians precisely because of the failures in Health Victoria's old-fashioned structures.

Polemicists on the right might like to mouth off about the hotel quarantine failures, which to be sure were the trigger for this disaster. But the magnitude of it has grown exponentially because of the structural failures outlined above. And those failures are
ideological — red meat for right-wing critics of Andrews.

The Liberal government in NSW now has its own ideological choice. Does it reject a lockdown because of its stated desire to keep the economy open, risking the spread of the virus getting out of control? Or does it recognise that even though a lockdown goes against the Liberal Party's mantra of opening the economy back up, in the long run, failure to contain this latest contagion will do more economic harm than a short (and perhaps limited) lockdown?

Andrews let his ideological preference for centralised power get the better of him, to the detriment of Victorians' health. For the same ideological reasons, he found re-embracing the lockdowns easier to stomach. The command-and-control nature of it suits his style. The economic cost of lockdowns are not front of mind.

Berejiklian can't let her ideological opposition to lockdowns be her undoing, especially when the decentralised public health structure in NSW has so comprehensively shown up the Victorian model. Like it or not, lockdowns for NSW might be the lesser of evils, for both health and economic outcomes. Sadly, the behaviour of some NSW residents has shown that if the virus becomes established, it may spread even more quickly than in Victoria.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has been presented with modelling highlighting this. NSW still has a chance to contain the virus. It may even get lucky and tiptoe through unscathed, because of its decentralised structures. But if it doesn't, NSW will need to let good public policymaking guide its response, not the ideological fervour of the government of the day.

From "The Australian" of 22.7.20

Coronavirus: Hospital breakthrough removes the fear factor

A story of globally significant medical ingenuity has emerged from the rubble of Australia’s ­second coronavirus wave, as doctors and nurses use a local invention to better treat patients and protect staff.

Western Health and Melbourne University this year helped create a world-leading ventilation hood that is placed over victims, with the twin benefit of protecting staff and improving treatments.

Associate professor Forbes McGain has received the results of an initial study into the effectiveness of the hood, which is designed to contain the droplet spread of the coronavirus.

Dr McGain, who works for Western Health, said the study feedback from the first 20 patients had been “overwhelmingly positive”.

Many thousands of healthcare workers globally have been infected with COVID-19 while trying to save the lives of the sick and dying.

The ventilation hood separates medical staff from the patient without losing line of sight and contains the droplets.

For Dr McGain, an intensive care specialist at Melbourne’s Sunshine Hospital, the first obvious benefit is in the wellbeing of nurses and doctors. “The nurses in particular feel safe,” he said.

“That’s the most important thing for the hood. The nurses aren’t as worried nursing and caring for quite unwell patients.”

The hood, which effectively creates a bubble around the ­patient, also enables staff to provide less invasive therapies and improved interaction with those being treated.

Some 17 of the hoods are being used in Victoria as the medical world starts to struggle with the increasing load of the virus.

There is rising interest in the device from other hospitals and it has presented as a significant opportunity for local manufacturing and potential global exports.

The ventilation sucks air away from the patient but restricts the flow of droplets, with the hood acting as a barrier. It also enables other intensive care machines to function without compromising the safety of the staff.

The project was made possible with the support of Melbourne University’s School of Engineering, led by professor Jason Monty.

“We only have 17 of these hoods at the moment but more can be made,” Dr McGain said. “There is an opportunity for expansion with local manufacturing.”

There are 32 coronavirus inpatients at Sunshine Hospital with four in intensive care.

Western Health research nurse manager Sam Bates said the presence of the ventilation hoods was embraced by staff: “They are just so excited to see it.”


NAPLAN, attendance and aspiration best indicators of HSC results

Researchers have developed a system that predicts students' final High School marks with more than 90 per cent accuracy using information such as their year 9 NAPLAN results, their HSC subject choice and their year 11 attendance.

The University of Newcastle academics say their findings raise questions about whether the final two years of school that are now devoted to HSC courses and exams with predictable results could be better spent on deeper learning and more focused career preparation.

But critics argue using NAPLAN to determine students' future would just shift Higher School Certificate stress from year 12 to year 9, and say the HSC is not just about ranking and testing students, but also giving them a strong education regardless of their social background.

A team led by Professor John Fischetti, pro vice-chancellor of the university's faculty of education, developed a system that analyses information about students, such as NAPLAN results, family background, aspiration and attendance, to estimate how they would fare in their HSC.

After feeding in the results from 10,000 students across 10 years in 14 subjects, Professor Fischetti found it could predict students' exact HSC mark in each subject with 93 per cent accuracy.

The researchers began with 41 different variables, but narrowed them down to the most influential 17, which included the amount of time students had spent in Australia, their school's demographic index, and whether the students chose HSC subjects that challenged them.

"We anticipated that [the most influential factor] would be their marks all the way through, their teacher marks, assigned marks," Professor Fischetti said. "But it actually turned out that the year 9 NAPLAN, your year 11 attendance, and your year 11 course selection were most influential. We factored in some demographic information, but those three became critical."

Professor Fischetti said the analysis showed the importance of students mastering literacy and numeracy, which is tested by NAPLAN. English language skills were also important, as was aspiration, shown by a willingness to choose subjects that challenged them.

"It puts the pressure on, that primary education really does cover on [literacy and numeracy]," he said. "If students leave primary school weak in them, they struggle to catch up. It doesn't mean it's impossible, but we found it's that 7 per cent [whose result cannot be predicted]."

Professor Fischetti argued the approach to the final two years of high school could be changed, to give students greater depth in their learning or focus on their passions, rather than study for an exam in which their results were predictable.

His comments come as a new, federally commissioned report on post-school pathways has recommended students curate a learning profile, focusing on non-scholastic skills as well as academic results, as a way of reducing focus on the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which is based on HSC results.

"[The HSC] is not wasted time, but we haven't taken advantage of it in the ways we could," he said. "Our exit outcome is a score on an exam, not the habits of learning."

However, Tom Alegounarias, a former chair of the NSW Education Standards Authority and president of its predecessor the Board of Studies, said educators had always been able to predict the likely outcomes of students.

"Some students achieve results that are not predicted, and that's an important part of a meritocratic process," he said. "Particularly for disadvantaged students, we should not be defining their prospects even in part as a function of their socio-economic background."

Greg Ashman, author of The Truth About Teaching, said year 9 NAPLAN assessments were not high-stakes tests at present. "As soon as they are used to determine university entrance, you'll have all the pressures of year 12, only three years earlier," he said. "It also seems unfair on students who may improve over those three years and it creates a licence for those who are so inclined to learn little in that time."

Professor Fischetti said students spent 10 years gathering the knowledge and skills they would need to do well in year 9 NAPLAN, so it would not involve the same pressure as a two-year, high-stakes HSC program.


 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

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sydney Black Lives Matter protest organiser detained, protesters ordered to move on

A Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney's CBD was shut down before it even started, with police arresting and fining several protesters, including one of the organisers.

While the protest was scheduled to start at midday in The Domain, by noon protesters had left the area after being encouraged to disperse and issued with move-on orders.

Almost 1500 people had indicated on Facebook they would attend the rally, but only about 40 turned up.

Six were arrested, five of whom were issued with a $1000 penalty infringement notice for breaching public health orders.

One of those was co-organiser Paddy Gibson who was removed by police before midday after speaking to an officer. The officer had been telling protesters on a megaphone they were breaching the public health orders.

Protesters chanted, "Let him go, let him go," as Mr Gibson was being led away. He urged the crowd to disperse and not to come to his aid.

A woman, 25, was also arrested and issued a criminal infringement notice for offensive language.

The protest was organised by the family of David Dungay jnr, a Dunghutti man who died in custody in 2015 after he was held down by Corrective Services officers while gasping "I can't breathe".

Mr Dungay's nephew Paul Silva said he wanted to see the officers involved in his uncle's death stood down and the matter reinvestigated by Safework NSW.

He said police had shut down a table where protesters were handing out masks and hand sanitiser.  Mr Silva was issued with a move-on order and, as he was leaving the area, said: "NSW Police have told us we will be arrested."

Mr Gibson was released from police custody and issued a $1000 fine.

As he was leaving, Mr Gibson said he was "all right". "We tried to be as safe as we could today," he said. “We’ll continue our fight for justice. I don’t regret it at all."

Another man, who was also issued a $1000 fine, tore it up and said he would take the matter to court.

Several hundred police officers were at the rally, including the riot, dog and mounted police squads.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said while the force appreciated people's right to protest, it was not appropriate to do it in the midst of a pandemic.

"We understand that the issues in question here are significant and are sensitive to a lot of people. However, we must do what we can to ensure that the public in general are safe at this time," he said.

"We are not anti-protest, just don't do it in the middle of a pandemic. "Find another way to express your views, find another way to have your voice," he said.

Last week, police took court action seeking a prohibition order for the rally, which was granted on Sunday.

The prohibition order did not ban the rally, but left participants exposed to potential criminal sanction including for breaching public health orders.

While an appeal was lodged, it was later dismissed by the NSW Court of Appeal. Despite the outcome, protesters vowed the rally would go ahead.

Mr Dungay’s mother Leetona appeared at State Parliament with supporters just before 3pm to present a petition calling for the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions to consider laying criminal charges against the prison guards who restrained her son.

Almost 100,000 people have signed the petition. "It was a bit scary,” she said of the rally. "But we succeeded in showing them we aren't going to give up."


Why the Black Lives Matter protest is dangerous

By immunologist John Dwyer

The vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 met the virus while in close physical proximity to an infectious individual for an extended period of time. Prolonged exposure not only results in a much greater chance of being infected; it makes it likely one will be infected by a lot of virus – "high viral load" – which will be a major factor in determining the clinical consequences.

This reality is not being given sufficient emphasis in our mitigation strategies.

As we attempt to tame this epidemic it is crucial that we not only practise social distancing but also focus on minimising occasions when we are close to fellow citizens for a prolonged period of time, a strategy we might call "social brevity".

Remember our local experience of one infected individual attending a wedding reception with 35 others, all of whom went home infected.

No matter how laudable the cause of yesterday’s planned Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney, it was ridiculous to even contemplate having a gathering which 1500 people had indicated on Facebook they would attend – even if wearing masks – to give voice (and potentially virus) to their shared concerns for a prolonged period.

While the organisers had pledged to divide into legal groups of no more than 20, how feasible might that have been? As it turned out, only 40 turned out for the rally, which was abandoned when its leader and others were arrested. But it shouldn't have come to that.

What irony that a protest about the need to save lives could be responsible for the loss of lives. It’s disturbing that after all these months of struggle to contain COVID infections, the organisers were defying a court order not to proceed.

As we have seen in Melbourne, a single carrier can set off a tidal wave of infections. Prolonged exposure to COVID carriers results in clusters of infection as we have seen in meat-packing plants, nursing homes, cramped housing estates and, increasingly notable, hospital settings.

More than 700 Australian health professionals caring for COVID patients have been infected. In the Italian crisis more than 100 previously healthy and often young doctors died as they were constantly exposed to huge numbers of infected individuals over many weeks.

Now, you might get infected making you way around a crowed supermarket. You might pick up COVID from a solid surface or meet it in air exhaled by a fellow shopper, but the risk is low. To avoid the greater risks, we have to extend our thinking to social brevity.

Religious services, choirs, funerals, parties, hotels where drinking while standing in groups is allowed, public transport and the normal daily routines in nursing homes all create dangerous opportunities for infection.

The data also highlight how important are opportunities to work at home. We need to pay special attention to the working conditions associated with "essential services". We have had clusters of infection on construction sites and in factories. Industry experts should be working with government health authorities to devise the best possible protective gear and arrangements for workers in such industries.

The recent outbreak of infections in Victoria clearly illustrates how quickly we can see a reassuringly low rate of new infections explode to produce so many new infections that our best efforts at contact tracing are unable to arrest the exponential increase in cases.

In NSW we are understandably nervous that our currently manageable numbers of new infections could suddenly accelerate.

While vaccine news features much optimism, the data is very preliminary and we are learning from numerous studies that natural infection may not be associated with any long-term immunity.

Too often we hear that COVID infections are only a problem for "oldies". Yet globally they are causing more and more serious clinical consequences for young people (very noticeable in Victoria at the moment), often resulting in chronic illness.

It was of some comfort that the Black Lives Matter protesters had pledged to wear masks, but that would have given them no guarantee. Numerous studies have been performed trying to quantify the value of mask wearing by the general population as a strategy for defeating COVID; the results are mixed. The controversies are well presented on the NSW Department of Health’s COVID website.

The wearing of masks by all citizens, as is currently required of Victorians, needs to be put into an evidence-based perspective. There is no doubt about the effectiveness of masks in reducing the likelihood that an infected individual will infect another.

Of course, individuals with respiratory symptoms should wear a mask as they seek testing and then self-isolate until the results are in. No-one with symptoms should be at large in the community and thinking that a mask will guarantee they are harmless.

The World Health Organisation and America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the importance of mask wearing by all in situations such as Victoria’s. Certainly the same is true for the likes of Florida and Texas where 25 per cent of those tested are infected, but mask wearing will not provide the panacea that will terminate the COVID epidemic.

Stay-at-home orders will slow the infection rate but our need to "live" with this virus and restore our economy requires us to adapt our normal social interaction to the long-term epidemiological reality we face. That adaptation must address the need for "social brevity" for the foreseeable future.


Irrigators warn Berejiklian that her minister is picking the environment over farmers

Irrigators have taken a complaint against NSW Environment and Energy Minister Matt Kean to the Premier, claiming the minister appears to be choosing environmental concerns over the interests of farmers and agriculture.

In a stunning broadside against the minister in a letter sent to Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday, NSW Irrigators' Council interim chief executive Claire Miller suggested the water and agriculture sectors were being treated as "part of the problem" by some wings of the government.

The letter comes after a tense meeting with irrigators on July 1, in which Mr Kean apparently stated he had been appointed by the Premier to represent his energy and environment stakeholders, and left early.

"We quickly got the impression Minister Kean was not much interested in engaging with us," Ms Miller wrote to the Premier.

"It was troubling to realise Minister Kean does not consider farmers to be among his stakeholders. This narrow view is divisive and perpetuates the false binary that pits environmental interests against farming, as if the two are mutually exclusive."

In a strong warning to the Premier, Ms Miller said the agriculture sector regarded itself as a critical player in the state’s COVID-19 economic recovery program.

"We see ourselves as part of the solution and trust we [will] not be treated as part of the problem in some quarters of government."

Ms Berejiklian declined to comment on Monday, and did not respond to a question on a claim made by irrigators that Mr Kean said she had instructed him to deal only with energy and environment sector stakeholders.

Mr Kean declined to comment on the tone of the meeting, but was forthright in what he said during the session: he wanted to see more done to look after the environment.

"In my view, farmers and industry have an important role to play in caring for our natural environment, including our rivers and waterways," he said. "But I also think that more needs to be done. That is what I communicated to the [Irrigators’ Council]."

In response to other questions regarding the objective of the meeting, he said: "I want to see a sustainable agriculture industry thriving in NSW and an environment that is in a better state than the way we inherited it."

The tension between the minister and the state’s farmers and irrigators comes at a delicate time for the Premier, who is increasingly having to mediate between MPs pushing for more ambitious environmental action while regional communities continue to reel from drought and bushfires.

Within his own portfolio, Mr Kean is pushing the accelerator on his own steep environmental ambitions — including a plan to double the koala population by 2050, announced on Sunday, and a commitment to renewable energy.

Meanwhile, regional MPs argue the government hasn't done enough to help rebuild regional and agricultural communities still suffering hardships from a nightmare summer.

"Hopefully he can remember that he's the minister for the whole of NSW and if he busts this relationship with farmers he'll be essentially hurting the environment," one unnamed backbencher said. "And I very much doubt he's been given the Premier's instruction to disregard farmers."

Another was more blunt, saying, "Kean has shown a complete disregard for the people putting food on our tables in a time of crisis."


Modern Monetary Theory: ABC might like the idea, but it’s just printing money

For a man who had just announced the biggest deficit in the commonwealth Treasury’s history, Josh Frydenberg appeared to be getting off lightly.

Four minutes of ABC interview under his belt and just one interruption from Leigh Sales. It was hardly a light saute, let alone a grilling. At the mention of tax cuts, however, Sales cranked up the heat.

“But, Treasurer, on that point, sorry to cut you off there …”

“You’re not really sorry,” sighed Frydenberg. “But that’s okay.”

If the ABC were a local shire council, Sales would have been obliged to leave the room at that point, so great is her conflict of interest. So too would have the camera operator, and the bloke with the clipboard and the makeup woman, since all of them draw their wages from the public purse.

An $87bn deficit is not everything they would wish for, but at least it’s a start. A government focused on spending rather than saving might leave the ABC’s budget intact.

Sales, of course, is not foolish enough to frame her fiscal narrative like that. Her complaint about tax cuts is that they favour the wealthy. Instead, she told the Treasurer, he should target “the most disadvantaged”. “You’re forgoing income to the government at a time when you need to spend more,” she said.

If a family on the median income in a rented house in Rockdale is rich, then Sales may be right. Under the changes promised for 2022, workers earning between $43 and $57 an hour will be removed from the top tax bracket.

If targeted assistance is the way to go, our imagined middle-income family in Rockdale, a tree-starved suburb unfashionably close to Sydney Airport, would be a good place to start.

Not even the most brilliant government is able to spend with the precision of a household on a tight budget.

In the course of a grouchy interview with the Prime Minister the previous evening, Sales nominated sectors where government spending might be directed. The universities, perhaps, or the arts, where JobKeeper, JobSeeker, a special injection of $250m plus $400m in assistance for the film industry clearly wasn’t enough.

Did the Prime Minister accept that the government spending would have to remain high for some time? Did he accept that there is no urgency to pay down debt? Would the government’s spending commitments remain high and would he rule out slashing government spending in the short to medium term?

Crisis or no crisis, the conviction that governments spend more wisely than the citizens they serve is superglued to the consciousness of the utopian left. Margaret Thatcher’s projection that socialism would be exhausted when it ran out of other people’s money proved to be a fallacy.

Once its citizens’ pockets had been emptied, governments started borrowing on their behalf expecting them to pay the interest.

The left’s new fiscal fancy takes this one step further. Modern Monetary Theory postulates that governments don’t even have to borrow the money they spend. They just have to print it.

MMT began on the fringes of Australian universities as a critique of Peter Costello’s effort to pay down public debt. It found new life with the arrival of quantitative easing in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Now the principles of MMT have been embraced at the ABC as the start of a new dawn.

“We may be on the cusp of a revolution,” wrote business reporter Gareth Hutchens earlier this month.

“What if everything we thought we knew about public finance over the past 40 years has been wrong?”

Australia’s political elite could afford to spend far more on public health and education, social housing, scientific research and green energy schemes, while eliminating unemployment, the credulous Hutchens continued.

“And yet they’re not — either from a misunderstanding of government finances or because they don’t want to.”

MMT holds that any nation with a sovereign currency and a floating exchange rate, like Australia, can print all the money the government needs to spend. The ready supply of currency will keep interest rates low.

Inflation would be kept in check by raising taxes, rather than increasing the cost of borrowing.

Coupled to MMT is a Job Guarantee program underwritten by the federal government. Community improvement schemes and other worthy public objects would act as a buffer against unemployment.

The reinterpretation of permanent public debt as a sign of good government is troubling. A Job Guarantee scheme, however well intentioned, would quickly drain the nation of its enterprising spirit and its people of ambition. It would lead us towards the dystopia described by Robert Menzies in 1942: “ … an all-powerful state on whose benevolence we shall live, spineless and effortless … where we shall all have our dividend without subscribing our capital.”

As Henry Ergas explained eloquently on these pages last Friday, the Menzies decision to harness personal ambition as the motive-power of progress, rather than state spending, was the key to Australia’s post-war achievements.

The inevitable consequence of MMT would be the expansion of the public sector at the expense of the productive private sector. Conventional economics suggests that controlling inflation by raising taxes and funding make-work schemes would put the brakes on business investment, reduce workforce participation, undermine productivity and send jobs offshore, hardly the recipe for success in a post-COVID-19 world.

Yet conventional economics, or “the neoliberal orthodoxy” as the ABC calls it, has become old hat. The tried and tested macro-economic theory that turned the fortunes of almost every industrial nation in the final decades of the 20th century is just another stone monument awaiting the sledgehammer.

The truly eye-watering thing right now is not the projection for debt or deficit, the likely need to extend emergency assistance or the Victorian government’s incompetence.

It is the break in the political consensus on fiscal policy that threatens to make our current level of government spending the new normal, even in the good times.

Public debt is heading from the billions to the trillions. But what the heck? Let’s chuck another boondoggle on the barbie.

“Gov debt is manageable & affordable,” tweeted Emma Alberici last week. “Maybe time for high speed rail?”


 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

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Weak, voluntary CO2 standards for Australian cars

And the Greens are fuming.  See below

The Australian car industry has finally admitted that it needs to clean up its act – but the voluntary scheme it outlined on Friday is so weak that it will barely cause a change from business as usual. And business as usual in Australia, unfortunately, means it is a dumping ground for dirty engines that car manufacturers can not sell in other markets.

The proposal outlined by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries aims for a non-compulsory emissions standard for passenger vehicles in 2030 that is actually weaker than the one being imposed, and legally enforced, in Europe in 2021.

And because it is voluntary, it won’t result in any penalties for companies that don’t comply. Any buying of “credits” suggested in the scheme will be more likely be for green-washing marketing purposes rather than actually cutting emissions and improving fuel consumption.

The lack of standards has also hit the hip pocket of Australian consumers. We each pay over $500 a year in additional fuel and maintenance, according to government estimates, because our cars are so dirty and inefficient

And yet consumers are told by government and vested interests that any move to introduce such standards would amount to a “carbon tax on wheels” and blow out the costs of new cars. Which the government’s own research also contradicts.

So it would seem to be a welcome move that the FCAI should outline on Friday a “voluntary CO2 emissions standard” that sets targets out to 2030, so the industry “can contribute to Australia’s commitment to the Paris agreement.”

It aims for a level of CO2 emissions for passenger and light SUVs of under 100 grams per kilometre, and under 145g/km for heavy SUVs and light commercials (mostly utes and vans).

The target will be voluntary, and each manufacturer will be able to plot their own path to the 2030 target, and it will allow the inclusion of Carry Forward Credits and/or Debits.

To put this into perspective, Europe is aiming for 95kg/km by 2021. That target is enforceable, and car companies face massive penalties if they don’t comply. Countries are being urged by climate experts to ban the sale of any petrol and diesel car from 2030, and many like the UK have committed to such bans.

“The intent behind this new Standard is to ensure automotive manufacturers can continue to do what they do best – and that is to bring the latest, safest, and most fuel-efficient vehicles to the Australian market,” FCAI boss Toney Weber said in a statement.

The Electric Vehicle Council, however, did welcome the move as a “step that paves the way forward” and at least means the industry recognises that CO2 standards benefit consumers.


Here's how we can lift the standards of school teachers

Matthew Bach

An increased respect for school teachers may be one of the few welcome effects of this pandemic.

During the period of online learning (unfortunately still ongoing for most in Victoria) teachers did brilliantly to adapt, delivering innovative lessons.

Meanwhile, parents had a taste of just how challenging their children could be at school. More than a few were relieved when classes reopened. There is no doupt most teachers are excellent dedicated, expert and genuinely interested in the students they teach.

As a teacher and school leader before entering the Victorian parliament, I know this first-hand. But, as in any profession, a small number of teachers is not up to the mark. Most of us know someone who fell into teaching because their preferred career option didn't work out, or who always struggled academically yet is in charge of a classroom full of young minds.

One history teacher I used to work with thought, like Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer Armaliese van Diemen, that James Cook led the First Fleet. And while teaching religious studies I had to explain to a colleague that he was wrong to teach his students that Catholics weren't Christians. He wasn't trying to make some theological point; he just wasn't too bright.

It has been worrying to learn that one in 10 student teachers fails to meet the most basic standard in literacy and numeracy. The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students, which was introduced in 2016, in time will prove to be a useful tool to improve teacher quality. So will increased Australian Tertiary Admission Rank scores for teaching courses -- not that either is a silver bullet.

When I first started secondary teaching I remember how struck I was by the almost complete autonomy I enjoyed: no appraisal, no key performance indicators, no meaningful oversight. I could teach whatever I liked, however I liked. As long as students and parents did not complain about me, I could do as I pleased.

This teacher autonomy is part of the culture of schools. But it has to change, as it has started to change — in a positive way — in the better private schools.

Far from the clutches of the powerful public education unions, some independent schools have started to introduce meaningful systems of staff appraisal. The best models include regular lesson observations by a school leader, with structured feedback; student surveys on teacher performance; targeted professional development guided by a mentor; and goal setting, with progress reviews.

This can be done, in my experience, in a collegial and supportive way. The many excellent teachers can be affirmed, encouraged and - enabled to be the best they can be. Underperformers can be supported to improve or perhaps weeded out.

This type of change, especially in state schools, will be difficult But we can't ignore the facts. The performance of Australian students in the critical areas of literacy, numeracy and science has been going backwards for years — at least since the Program for International Student Assessment first started publishing its reports in 2000. Teacher quality is not the only reason for this. From personal experience I know most teachers to be hardworking, quality educators. But if our goal is to provide every Australian kid with a great education, improving teacher quality must be a major part of the conversation.

From "The Australian" of 22.7.20

Coronavirus: Could more be done?

The national strategy to deal with the pandemic is aggressive suppression, to stop community transmission of the virus, rather than strict elimination. That latter approach, the Treasurer said, would cripple the economy, shut down more industries and not let anyone into the country. Treasury estimates a six-week hard lockdown would wipe $50bn from gross domestic product. National cabinet recommitted to the overall strategy on Friday. Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the task was to chase down every case, every day, ensure those people were isolated, to make sure the contacts of every case were notified and, where necessary, tested and isolated as soon as possible. The outbreaks in Victoria show how difficult that is, especially with a large number of cases.

In a sense, Victoria is stress-testing our systems and strategy; it points to human error, poor preparation, policy gaps, flaws in tracing tools and a rising complacency in the community and in government. Each state and territory is at a different stage of restrictions and caseload. In six jurisdictions, we’ve effectively reached elimination. For instance, there has been no community transmission in Western Australia or South Australia for over 100 days. The message from Scott Morrison on Friday was all states and territories remain on alert for outbreaks, and that we have the capacity to deal with them. “But you’ve got to be constant about it and you’ve got to throw everything at it,” the Prime Minister said. Certainly, Canberra has been throwing the kitchen sink at economic resuscitation. Nevertheless, there are signs of slippage in adherence to social distancing, isolation and tracing, and the provision of helpful public information.

Our federal system, evidenced by the sensible devolution from Canberra to the provinces for managing borders and the staged reopening of the economy, is working, in some ways better than ever. But it has led to general confusion in the community about what is allowed and what isn’t, even among those who closely follow news and monitor daily press conferences. Before Victoria’s spike in cases, with the bulk of infections confined to returned travellers in quarantine, people shifted their attitude to “up close and personal” on public transport and greeting friends not seen for months; venues pushed the envelope on allowable customer limits; companies urged workers to get back to the office but were lazy about supplying hand sanitiser or regular cleaning.

Our leaders need to step up the messaging for this new normal of germ aversion and distancing, even in states where there is no community transfer. As well, there are alarming lapses on contact tracing, especially in Victoria. One-quarter of people aren’t answering the phone when contacted by expert virus tracers; a high proportion of those tested are not isolating properly, while some in quarantine continue to refuse testing. The COVIDSafe app is not often spoken about in public by health experts or politicians. How come?

Most worrying are failures in aged care. We know the elderly are acutely vulnerable to COVID-19, as shown by the 23 deaths in Victoria’s second wave, and age-specific mortality rates. Aged-care workers, despite stricter protocols, have been infecting residents. As in other countries, Professor Kelly says “we’re learning as we go”. Mr Morrison noted one of the lessons from the deadly Newmarch episode was the need for better communication with families. Yet were safeguards put in place in other states after the fiasco in NSW? Questions remain about the adequacy of protections for aged-care residents, routine testing of staff, the rapidity of response to an infection, and the sharing of information and data in the sector about best practice. The COVID-19 crisis in Victoria exposes systemic weaknesses in nursing homes, a policy buck that stops with Canberra. Scaling that peak requires clear vision, vigilance and leadership from the top.


Drought-stricken Australian cotton growers will be millions of dollars short after the collapse of a Chinese importer left thousands of cotton bales stranded

Chinese companies are increasingly shifting imports away from Australian growers towards domestic production in Xinjiang, the north-western Chinese province home to the persecuted Uighur Muslim minority. It comes as textile companies in China report the cost of Australian cotton is too high.

Industry sources, who declined to be named because the commercial negotiations were confidential, said privately owned Chinese merchant Weilin had committed to buy up to half the Australian cotton crop this year, which for the 2019-20 season came in at 600,000 bales.

Weilin offered growers about $620 a bale, at least $15 above the next best offer. But when the offer from its buyer in China dried up, it was unable to fulfil the contracts leaving growers hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Industry sources said growers were left with few options to resell their bales, and most took offers of about $420 a bale.

Weilin entered voluntary administration in July. The administration firm Vincents has identified 130 creditors - taking in many more individual farm businesses which are involved in cooperative marketing companies and family trusts.

The impacts varied across businesses. Many farmers spread risk by selling to several merchants, but there are reports of growers who sold more than 1000 bales to Weilin.

The collapse of Weilin is unprecedented in the cotton industry. Australian grain growers frequently cop losses when traders, who operate in a more volatile global market, go under unexpectedly.

But never before has a large cotton merchant gone bust and left growers to foot the bill.

The company’s directors, Zhang Lin and Liu Wei, also own Weifang CHN-Miracle Agricultural Products, based in Shandong in northern China. The company invested more than $200 million in a cotton logistics processing plant to process 500,000 tonnes of lint annually. Large companies in China often have links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Zhang told Chinese state media in 2016 that the Australian market was a big opportunity for Chinese cotton producers.

"We took advantage of the strategic opportunity of the 'Belt and Road' and the policy of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement to transport seed cotton from Australia back to the Weifang Comprehensive Free Trade Zone in our factory for processing,” he said. “Because the processing cost in China is much lower than that in Australia, it can greatly reduce production costs and improve our cotton's ability to resist risks in international market fluctuations."

Zhang said in May that production at Weifang CHN-Miracle Agricultural Products had restarted after being put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. “At a stage of coronavirus pandemic is passing and production is resuming,” he said.

Analysts at China’s textile network said on Thursday individual textile companies reported the cost of using Australian cotton was too high after the drought and importers had switched to Xinjiang cotton instead. “The export situation of Australian cotton is still not good,” the network said.

Senior ministers fly to Washington for talks on China
Defence and Foreign Ministers Linda Reynolds and Marise Payne will leave for the Washington tomorrow to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

The agriculture sector has been nervous about further trade strikes from Beijing after Australia was hit with restrictions on beef and barley in response to the Morrison government’s calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus. The relationship has deteriorated further over disputes involving Chinese telecommunications provider Huawei and new national security laws imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong.

Australia rejected China's claim to key parts of the South China Sea on Saturday, joining the United States in branding the territorial ambitions unlawful at the United Nations.

The move could pave the way for increased naval engagement in the area a week after Australian warships encountered the Chinese navy in disputed territory between Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The strategically significant area has large oil, gas and fishing resources. Up to one-third of the world's shipping passes through it. South Korea and Japan rely heavily on the route for their supply of fuels and raw materials.

The government has been surprised by the lack of immediate trade retaliation from China in response to its decision in early July to offer Hongkongers who wanted to stay in Australia visa extensions. Communication between producers, Austrade and ministers' offices has calmed down after a frantic first half of 2020.

Andrew Woods, an analyst at Mecardo, said commodities consumed in China, such as beef and barley, were more open to manipulation than a re-exported material such as cotton.

“But something that goes into China and is processed and then re-exported in large amounts, that is a different matter from a Chinese perspective because they don't want to upset their exporters,” he said.

Grant Hutchins, who runs forward market operations with Fox & Lillie Rural exporters, said the Weilin episode was an example of commercial risk in dealing with companies from Australia's largest trading partner.

"It's a new paradigm with Chinese industrial companies when they come in and use market share and then use price as the hook," he said.

“It's usually buyer beware but in this case its sellers beware. All Chinese companies have some level of government involvement. It might have been that the state representative in the company has been told to cut it loose.”

Hutchins backed the government’s more assertive China strategy. “I heard some China apologists say why are we being so hawkish? Why would be biting the hand that feeds us?” he said.

“Worst case China hits us, the dollar collapses, and we get other markets. Some people would be significantly affected by China pulling the pin but all that means is someone else's misfortune in the short term might be better for others in the long term.”


 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

Monday, July 27, 2020

It’s time to lift the ban on outbound travel

You know that old saying about Australia being the best place on earth, and why would anyone want to go anywhere else?

Well, you can’t currently go anywhere else. The international border is closed, and when might it open? I’m going to make the case for right now.

Not for tourists. That’s still too risky. But if you’re an Australian citizen, or indeed a permanent resident, and you want to go to Greece to visit your long-lost second cousins for, let’s say three months, why shouldn’t you be allowed?

If your family is from Lebanon and you’ve always wanted to see the village for yourself, why should you be prevented?

The Australian ban on all travel is one of the toughest anti-infection measures in the world. Nobody is telling citizens of Britain that they can’t leave. You can leave the EU, you can leave the US, you can leave Canada. Even New Zealanders are free to come and go.

Of course, you have to quarantine on your return, and get a COVID-19 test, but provided you agree to do that, and to pay, why shouldn’t Australians be allowed to leave Australia?

As it stands, Australians must submit a written application to the Department of Home Affairs to travel aboard. Exceptions are being made only in certain circumstances, like a personal emergency.

So, maybe your restaurant in Melbourne is closed, and you’ve accessed your super, and you want to spend six months finally getting to know your extended family in some other part of the world. You can’t go and not because they won’t take you. The European border has been open to Australians since the beginning of July. Maybe you’re a university student, and your course has gone online, and so you’ve decided to put the polish on your dissertation from a bar in Croatia?

You’re banned from doing that. Maybe you’re one of those people who can do all their work digitally. The Bahamas is developing a new “Welcome Stamp” for creative types who have found that they don’t really need to be in the office. It’s as safe as travel can be. Between June 17 and July 7, Barbados has reported just one active case of COVID-19.

Australians can’t take up the offer, either. These are opportunities lost, never likely to be regained, when life goes back to normal. But the ban has important implications for Australia’s status as a good global citizen, too.

Our travellers have long played a crucial role in ensuring poorer countries, and precious wildlife, are able to thrive.

Sujata Raman, who is regional managing director, Australia Asia Pacific, for the global luxury travel company, Abercrombie & Kent, has thought carefully about this issue, since it impacts her whole world.

“It is such a complex question: when can we go?” she tells Inquirer. “The health of the population must come first. But when this all started, we put aside, in a fund, $1m to pay the salaries of rangers in certain parts of Africa. Because without tourism, how do they live?

“Tourism has protected wildlife from poachers. Certainly, in the case of gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, they have been protected by tourism. There is no question about that. It’s been incredibly important, in terms of awareness, too. Open borders allow people to consider the question of saving these species.”

Cameron Neill, general manager of travel company, Bench Africa, agrees, saying the risk of poaching of rare species increases without tourism, which helps “ensure the wildlife remain for generations, long after this current crisis is over.”

There seem to be two arguments for the Australian travel ban: first, it’s too risky to let Australians go overseas, because they might get sick. But it’s always risky to travel overseas. You can get malaria, or typhoid. The bungee cord might snap, or you might drown in a river while white-water rafting in Canada.

The government traditionally offers advice to Australian travellers, through the Smart Traveller program, which encourages them to avoid unnecessarily risky countries, but you’re an adult, so you’re still allowed to go.

The second part of the argument is: well, you can’t have outbound without inbound travel meaning those Australians who go must then come back, and they might be infected, and that’s a risk to everyone, not only you.

But returning travellers are already being asked to stay in quarantine, and to pay for it (quarantine costs around $3000 per person, and you don’t get a choice of hotel. The rules around that should also be relaxed. If you want to pay to stay somewhere fancy, why shouldn’t you be allowed?) The government claims it’s right to take such measures to protect public health.

Constitutional expert, George Williams, tells Inquirer: “In the absence of a Bill of Rights or other national rights protection, there is very little in the space that can assist Australians. I can think of nothing that would confer a right to leave the country … When it comes down to it, there are a few things a determined government cannot control given the lack of legal protection for even the most basic liberties.”

Travel has of course long felt less like a liberty and more like a fundamental human right to most Australians, who after all invented “the gap year” and probably also backpacking (our youngsters have always had to go away for a reasonably long time, because it’s always been so expensive, and everywhere is so far away.)

Going abroad is what we do: Australians made 11.3 million trips overseas in 2019. More than 8400 passports are issued every day.

Domestic tourism looks, in the end, like it will be fine during the pandemic, but the ban on outbound travel cripples those boutique agencies. It’s a frustrating situation, with the CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Darren Rudd, telling Inquirer: “The time is rapidly approaching where we need to accept that Australians should be able to once again leave our shores.

“It may well be that the first phase of this involves Aussies who are heading off for indefinite stays overseas,” he says. “But we can re-open our domestic and national borders in a controlled and responsible manner while protecting lives.

“Travel bubbles can start right now between those states and countries that are already low risk. There were a range of security protocols put in place post-911 and we are going to need the health equivalent so let’s start doing the work now.”

There is currently no date for the opening of the borders, but for how long will Australians tolerate being held in an island version of the Hotel California? It’s time to let us leave.


Australian Government sued by 23-year-old Melbourne student over financial risks of climate change

Governments have often been sued over global warming in the USA without success.  This is probably just a publicity grab

A 23-year-old Melbourne law student is suing the Australian Government for failing to disclose the risk climate change poses to Australians' super and other safe investments.

The world-first case filed today in the Federal Court alleges the Government, as well as two government officials, failed in a duty to disclose how climate change would impact the value of government bonds.

Katta O'Donnell, the head litigant for the class action suit, said she hoped the case would change the way Australia handled climate change.

"I'm suing the Government because I'm 23 [and] I think I need to be aware of the risks to my money and to the whole of society and the Australian economy," Ms O'Donnell said.

"I think the Government needs to stop keeping us in the dark so we can be aware of the risks that we're all faced with."

Experts say it is the first where a national government has been sued for its lack of transparency on climate risks.

Government bonds are considered the safest form of investment, with most Australians invested in them through compulsory superannuation.

Bonds are similar to shares, but instead of investing in companies, the investor lends a government money to build infrastructure and fund critical services such as health, welfare and national security.

Ms O'Donnell, who has invested in bonds independently from her super, said she did it to "protect her future".

However bonds, like shares, can lose value if they become less attractive to the market. This can occur if investors question a government's ability to repay them due to rising government debt, ethical or reputational reasons.

Ms O'Donnell said watching the impact of bushfires in Australia made her worry about the value of her bonds.

Despite the Government not disclosing climate-related risks to its investment products, government regulators are increasingly forcing companies to disclose how climate change will impact their shareholders.

This landmark trial has the potential to change the way superannuation funds invest retirement savings and pave the way for more climate-change-related litigation.

No damages, just recognition

Ms O'Donnell's case names the Commonwealth, as well as the secretary to the Department of Treasury and the chief executive of the Australian Office of Financial Management — both of whom are alleged to be responsible for promoting government bonds.

The case is a class action, with Ms O'Donnell representing all investors and potential investors in government bonds tradeable on the Australian Securities Exchange.

It does not seek damages, but instead a declaration that the Government and those two officials breached their duty.

It also seeks an injunction, forcing the Government to stop promoting bonds until it updates its disclosure information to include information about Australia's climate change risks.

The case is backed by heavy-hitting silk and former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel and barrister Thomas Wood, who was previously the counsel assisting the solicitor-general of the Commonwealth.


Moral terror: Australia is not immune

You know we live in a strange world when classical liberal think tanks, such as the Centre for Independent Studies, are forced to draw comfort from the statements of Noam Chomsky. The left-wing radical was among 150 esteemed artists, authors and public intellectuals who this month signed a letter that condemns ‘cancel culture’ for stifling freedom of expression in journalism, higher education, philanthropy and the arts.

Writing in Harper’s magazine, the ideologically diverse group says: “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” They go on to bemoan “an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.”

As the prominent British historian and columnist Simon Heffer argues in the new CIS Occasional Paper, Moral Terrorism,  it is abominable that, effectively, a bunch of blinkered, self-righteous activists are dictating to the rest of us how we should feel about certain issues. Blacklisting people because of what they sincerely feel and believe, and terrifying people into confessing their unorthodox thoughts in the hope they might achieve some sort of redemption, is not how liberal democracies are supposed to work.

This is a matter of grave concern that goes to the heart of liberal society. As Professor Heffer argues, by eroding free speech, the activists seek “not simply to create a certain orthodoxy of view, but to punish those who do not subscribe to that orthodoxy, even to the point of seeking to deny them a livelihood.” What the activists who run the  ‘cancel culture’ don’t understand is that you can disagree with them without wishing to obliterate them; though they seem to wish to obliterate their opponents.

To be sure, the trends of illiberal tolerance are more evident in the US (as a recent Wall Street Journal editorial)  and Britain (as Prof Heffer makes clear) than here. However, as Peter Kurti explains in a forthcoming CIS research paper, we are kidding ourselves if we think Australia is immune to these disturbing developments. Indeed, there is enough evidence to show that a small but highly vocal and zealous minority here are already using social media and parts of the mainstream media to seek to force their opinions and attitudes on everyone else.

All this is why genuine liberals — from whatever political leaning or creed — have to expose not just the activists’ ignorance and their unreasonableness, but their immense dangerousness. It is not just they invite an extremist response from their opponents. It is that if too many people roll over in front of them, we shall damage liberal democracy irreparably.


US backs Australian rare earths production

The US is looking to work with Australia to boost production of rare earths and other critical minerals, according to the US Ambassador to Australia, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr.

Speaking at the launch of a new report on US economic ties with Australia, Mr Culvahouse said the potential for improved co-operation between Australia and the US on critical minerals would be discussed next week at ministerial talks in Washington.

"There is an added impetus for us to work together in the area of critical minerals," he said. "Australia has most of the 14 critical minerals. "Australia has people with processing expertise and we have capital markets. "There is a real opportunity for us to work together.

Mr Culvahouse was speaking before leaving for Washington on Wednesday ahead of the annual AUSMIN talks next week between  Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper.

"Critical minerals are only becoming more critical," he said. "Both our countries will benefit from more robust, transparent and standards-based supply chains."

Mr Culvahouse was speaking at the launch of the report "Building Prosperity: The importance of the United States to the Australian economy", which argues that the US is Australia's most important "economic partner", a relationship contributing as much as 7 per cent to Australia's economic growth. He said US economic ties with Australia would continue to increase, with almost half of US companies in Australia expecting to increase their investments over the coming year.

In his speech he made a veiled reference to recent comments by the Chinese Ambassador to Australia warning that Australia's ex-ports to China could suffer as a result of Australia's push for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

Seeking to contrast Australia's ties with China with those of the US, he said: "Australia will never see the day when a US ambassador threatens to withdraw from trading with and investing in Australia. "Recent events have shown starkly that economic security is national security. "It's not just about the money, it's who you trust, it's about shared values."

The report, by Deloitte Access Economics, argues that Australian exports to the US and the income generated from US investments in Australia collectively contribute $131bn a year to Australia's economy. It says US is now the largest single foreign investor in Australia with a total of $984bn as of 2019.

From "The Australian" of 22.7.20

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

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Melbourne intensive care nurse's blunt warning of big coronavirus risk to younger adults

This is contrary to all previous observations so requires explanation. 

The explanation probably lies in the origin of the current outbreak. It originated in big blocks of welfare housing. 

Many of the residents would be there because they had health challenges.  So they fit the usual observation that substantial co-morbidities normally are required for the virus to take hold.

So my hypothesis would be that the young patients came from welfare housing.  The virus normally hits the elderly most because most elderly do have substantial co-morbidities.

A senior Melbourne intensive care nurse says hospitals are preparing for the prospect of deaths among younger Victorians as authorities battle to rein in the state's coronavirus cases.

The head intensive care unit nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Michelle Spence, said there was a growing number of younger adults being hospitalised by the virus.

"What we are seeing now is young people who are going to die. There is no doubt about it," she said. "And these are people who are 30s, 40s, 50s, who have no past history."

She said deaths in Victoria had so far predominately been in older people, but that would change.

Yesterday, authorities revealed 20 per cent of people in Victorian hospitals with the virus were aged under 50, including four children.

The figures also showed a quarter of COVID-19 infections were being recorded in people aged in their 20s.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital has acquired a further 22 ventilators as the intensive care unit prepares for a surge in cases.

Ms Spence, who is the hospital's ICU nurse manager, said the hospital had patients ranging from their 30s to their 80s "and all of them are at varying degrees of their COVID journey".

"We're definitely not just seeing the elderly, that is not the case at all."  "It is definitely not an old person's disease," Ms Spence said.

She said a COVID patient's time in the intensive care unit was a long, slow process, where very ill people were separated from their families.

"Being in ICU is not a nice place to be," she said. "It is absolutely not a comfortable thing to do."

Ms Spence warned the process of recovery, even after patients leave ICU, could take a long time.

She urged Melburnians of all ages to follow the directive to wear a face mask when outside their homes, saying wearing a mask was "way more comfortable than being on a ventilator".


Managing Covid-19 without lockdowns

The fight against Covid-19 is a conundrum replete with knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns — as Donald Rumsfeld might have said — but policymakers don’t have the luxury of waiting for greater certainty and have to make choices here and now.

Some of the choices are reviewed in our analysis published online by the CIS this week, Policies against Covid-19: Reflections on the way in and the way out.

We conclude that ongoing or on-off reliance on heavy-handed lockdowns and shutdowns is unsustainably costly to jobs and living standards. It also produces downsides for other health outcomes, so the net impact on health over time is questionable.  Such policies deliver declining benefits, but rising costs, as shuttered business are driven past the point of no return.

Australia’s Covid objectives are now unclear. Having more than ‘flattened the curve’ of infections by mid-April below intensive care capacities that have been almost tripled, at least some state governments seem to have adopted an implicit objective of eliminating Covid — and this option is now being canvassed more openly.  But even if this could be achieved at all, it would be at an unsustainable economic and social cost.

The policies that worked best to reduce Australian infections to manageable levels were external border controls and quarantining of arrivals from overseas from early February, increasingly broadly and firmly applied through March. But as the situation in Victoria demonstrates, this policy has to be rigorously administered with no slip-ups.

With transmission from abroad shut down, keeping domestic transmission manageably low requires effective quarantine of the domestically-infected and isolation of their contacts. Contact tracing has to become speedier and interactive with testing to isolate new infections quickly.

Support for sensible social distancing has to be strengthened, relying on well-informed self-interest rather than heavy-handed proscription of business activity and customer restrictions. Providing growing evidence on the benefits of social distancing and the character of ‘superspreader’ events harnesses individuals’ self-interest and businesses’ entrepreneurship to sustain low-cost behaviour change and improve personal risk management.

This approach still involves costs. But they are lower relative to the benefits — and more sustainable than a continuation or return to the high-cost, low-benefit policies of business shut-downs and domestic lock-ins.


We need a Covid plan that is, dare I say it, sustainable

When Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews blamed his own population for spreading the coronavirus, accusing them of flouting self-isolation rules (actually, his health authorities had given them the wrong advice), he threatened an extension of the current lockdown. Quite aside from the ugly blame-shifting by a leader who is yet to account for his government’s mistakes, few people seemed to consider the crucial sustainability question.

Can Victoria really keep going into lockdown? At what point does the balance between public health, economic wellbeing, community needs and individual livelihoods, deserve realistic evaluation? If you keep locking down, there won’t be much to lock down.

The whole country locked down in March and the federal government budgeted an unfathomable $130bn to sustain people through the following six months. They got the numbers wrong in a $60bn mistake that surely would have cost the Treasurer his job if the error had been to the other side of the ledger.

The wage replacement scheme has been extended by six months and $20bn but unemployment is still expected to top 9 per cent.

What if states are still locking down in a year? What if the virus is running rampant so that tourism and hospitality businesses cannot function 18 months from now? Would it be sustainable for wage replacement schemes, additional unemployment benefits and special industry stimulus packages to continue?

Scott Morrison, Treasurer Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt deserve enormous credit for putting Australia in this position; if an effective vaccine is readily available worldwide within a year, their response will rank as one of the world’s best.

But even if the current Victorian outbreak is suppressed and our national economy can operate relatively freely behind sealed international borders, how will we be placed in a year if the virus continues to run rampant across the world? How long can we continue to close ourselves off from overseas students, tourists and immigrants?

Would we simply be delaying the eventual spread of the virus across our nation? Would all our most drastic and costly measures have been in vain?

What we have done so far has our COVID-19 death rate per million people sitting at less than six, whereas the US is over 400, and in Britain and Spain it is more than 600. How long can we afford the policies that have delivered this staggering success?

We should thank our lucky stars that upwards of 98 per cent of infected people suffer minor symptoms only and the young are virtually impervious to the virus (compared to the Spanish flu which killed infants and healthy young people in their millions). We need ways of dealing with outbreaks that fall well short of closing businesses, crushing livelihoods and banning human interactions.

This is where widespread mask-wearing, social distancing and hygiene, coupled with protections for the vulnerable, offer vastly more sustainable options. We eventually might have to learn to live with the disease.

The economic sustainability of hard borders restricting interstate travel is highly questionable, especially for tourism and hospitality. And these measures hurt socially; communities like Albury-Wodonga and Coolangatta-Tweed Heads are being torn apart; families are being kept from each other.

Our politicians have been too eager to outsource decision-making to medical experts who have a singular focus on preventing infections, which we know can be stopped dead if we cease all human interaction.

This represents the “collapse of government legitimacy”, according to the Manhattan ­Institute’s Heather MacDonald, who has written about this phenomenon in the US.

“For three months, public officials abdicated their responsibility to balance the costs and benefits of any given policy,” she says. “They put the future of hundreds of millions of Americans in the hands of a narrow set of experts who lack all awareness of the workings of economic and social systems, and whose science was built on the ever-shifting sand of speculative models and on extreme risk aversion regarding only one kind of risk.”

MacDonald said the experts were “deaf to the pleas of law-abiding business owners who saw their life’s efforts snuffed out” as these decisions destroyed wealth through arbitrary decision making. This tragic summary sounds gut-wrenchingly familiar.

Secure in their permanent tenure, bureaucrats and publicly funded broadcasters have barracked for ever more draconian measures while the price has been paid by the unemployed and small business owners who have seen their hard-won assets eviscerated. As always, it is for politicians to carefully weigh-up costs and benefits.

Consider how the coronavirus measures have all but eradicated influenza infections this year and, according to the statistics, saved more lives than we have lost to COVID-19. Yet would we suggest imposing these lockdown measures every year, at these costs, to save 150 lives or so from flu? ­Obviously not, or else we would have done it ages ago.

Our leaders have changed their pandemic objectives on us without saying so explicitly. We were told initially that we were locking down to give authorities time to expand capacity within our health system so the pandemic would not overwhelm us.

Authorities tripled the availability of critical care beds nationally from just over 2000 to more than 7500 but, so far, the pandemic has not required more than 100 on any given day and fewer than 50 are being used now. We have ample surge capacity.

According to the original rationale, we ought to be more relaxed about higher levels of infection without shutting down society. So long as our hospitals are not overwhelmed, this might be more sustainable than lockdowns, especially if it is inevitable that we end up in this situation eventually anyway.

Instead, state politicians seem to be taking every infection case within their borders as a political blow. There is an absence of national policy as states ignore urgings from Canberra and shut borders and cities.

State governments seem able to shut down anything, except protests. And they are prepared to implement every pandemic ­response, so long as the federal government funds it.

This is the devolution of the federation; we are not all in this together, each state is in it for ­itself. It is not sustainable.


Academic freedom bows at the altar of social media

The university was too canny to challenge Peter Ridd on his climate skepticism.  Instead they got him on a perverted legal technicality

It’s out with philosophers John Stuart Mill, John Locke and Isaiah Berlin and it’s in with “the internet, social media and trolling”. According to the majority judgment of the Federal Court of Australia in James Cook University v Ridd handed down on Wednesday, that is.

Peter Ridd was employed by James Cook University for 27 years before his employment was terminated in May 2018 for serious misconduct. At the time Ridd was a physics professor. However, he was not dismissed on any academic or teaching grounds.

Rather, Ridd went down because JCU maintained that he had failed to act “in the collegial and academic spirit” required and had denigrated a fellow staff member by failing to act “with respect and courtesy”. Oh yes, Ridd had also denigrated JCU, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

In fact, Ridd disagreed on scientific grounds with the views of some fellow academics and some influential organisations about the long-term viability of the Great Barrier Reef.

He maintains that sections of the Great Barrier Reef are in good shape and that coral dies and is reborn as part of the reef’s life. This is inconsistent with the scientific orthodoxy preached by JCU and like-minded organisations.

Announcing the termination in May 2018, Iain Gordon, then JCU’s deputy vice-chancellor, referred not to the quality of Ridd’s teaching and research but to his “manner” and “disrespect”. You see, he had been charged with having “trivialised, satirised or parodied” JCU’s disciplinary processes. Why, Ridd had even sent a private email to a friend dealing with JCU that was headed “for your amusement”. How shocking is that?

It is a long time since there was genuine academic and intellectual freedom in the groves of academe — if this ever existed. The ideals pronounced by John Henry Newman’s 1875 The Idea of a University are essentially utopian. What’s new about the current JCU case is that the curtailment of academic freedom that once prevailed in the social sciences has extended into the physical sciences.

Take Australia, for example. The two big cases of academic freedom in the past half-century involve philosopher Frank Knopfelmacher (1923-95) and physicist Ridd. In 1965 Knopfelmacher, who was a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, was appointed to the position of senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Sydney. The appointment was overturned by the university’s professional board.

Knopfelmacher’s appointment was strongly supported by David Armstrong, one of Australia’s finest philosophers.

Like Ridd, Knopfelmacher went down because of his irreverent manner and a tendency to criticise colleagues in addition to his unfashionable views. An articulate and well-informed anti-communist, Knopfelmacher upset the leftist fashions of the time with his vehement criticism of the communist regimes in central and eastern Europe (East Germany, the Soviet Union) and Asia (North Korea, China, North Vietnam), and their supporters in the West.

In 1964 Knopfelmacher wrote an article in Twentieth Century magazine criticising the leftist ideology that prevailed in many of Melbourne University’s social science departments. He claimed that left-wing academics discriminated against non-leftists and exercised significant veto powers “in matters of academic preferments and sinecures”.

This accurate comment was used against Knopfelmacher by his opponents on Sydney University’s professional board.

In the half-century since the Knopfelmacher affair, the attack on academic and intellectual freedom has moved into universities as a whole, including the physical sciences. That is Ridd’s problem. JCU appears to have a view that the Great Barrier Reef is dying fast and anyone who disagrees with this orthodoxy, no matter how well qualified, does not have a right to be heard, especially if they are irreverent and outspoken.

In one sense, the Federal Court’s decision in JCU v Ridd turns on the interpretation of the enterprise agreement under which the respondent was employed.

In September last year the Federal Circuit Court (Judge Angelo Vasta presiding) found that JCU had contravened section 50 of the Fair Work Act by making findings against Ridd, giving him directions with respect to confidentiality and speech along with a “no satire” instruction. All this, the court found, had led to an improper employment termination.

However, the current case is more important than mere industrial relations. The majority — justices John Griffiths and Sarah Derrington — essentially dismissed “historical concepts of academic freedom”.

So the thoughts of Mill, Locke and Berlin are out of date. Griffiths and Derrington instead cited the work of American philosopher Jennifer Lackey concerning the internet and social media. They quoted favourably from the Illinois academic, who has written that the concept of academic freedom has been challenged not only by no-platforming but also by student demands for “content warnings and safe spaces” that “leave us in uncharted territory”.

Newman, originally an Anglican who became a cardinal in the Catholic Church, was a deeply religious man who saw a role for an essentially secular university bestowed with intellectual freedom. But many a modern campus has become an institution that acts in accordance with the notion that “error has no rights”.

This was once the teaching of extreme religious sects. Now it is being put into effect by censorious administrators, academics and students who believe that those with whom they disagree have no right to be heard.

In his dissent, Justice Darryl Rangiah placed much more emphasis on Ridd’s right to intellectual freedom. Rangiah agreed with the majority that the decision of the primary judge contained material errors on industrial law.

However, he said that while the appeal should be allowed, the proceedings should not be dismissed but remitted for a further hearing. Rangiah did not support the majority view that some aspects of Ridd’s conduct cannot be characterised as an exercise in intellectual freedom.

While JCU v Ridd turns primarily on industrial law, it is likely to have the unintended consequence of discouraging academics who are at odds with prevailing fashions in the social and physical sciences from speaking out.

Australian universities need more Knopfelmachers and Ridds — not fewer.


 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