Friday, July 17, 2020

Qld. Premier confirms no new cases as border battle intensifies

All 19 Queenslanders who visited a hotel at the centre of the latest NSW coronavirus outbreak have now tested negative, the premier has confirmed.

Annastacia Palaszczuk took to Twitter to thank those who came forward for testing and urged anybody else who had visited the Crossroads Hotel in Casula, in southwest Sydney, between July 3 and 10 to come forward.

“We are urging anyone else who was at the venue to self-isolate and get tested immediately,” she said. “Queensland border protections remain strong and we’re closely monitoring the outbreaks interstate.”

It comes as Victoria today announced its highest daily infection rate, with 317 new cases and two more deaths.

Following gridlock at the Queensland border on Wednesday, a NSW-based traffic cam reported wait times of only 10 minutes on Thursday morning. Queensland Police have been contacted for confirmation.

All motorists with NSW licence plates are being stopped, with anyone who has been in declared COVID hot spots turned around.

It comes as the state’s peak trucking industry body told drivers coming from Campbelltown and Liverpool they would be allowed into Queensland, despite rumours otherwise.

The Queensland Trucking Association shut down the rumour mill and expressed its frustration at lengthy border delays.

“The rumour mill has been circulating that trucks are about to be stopped from entering Queensland at the border if they come from a declared hot spot,” CEO Gary Mahon said. “This is not right nor at any stage been considered.

“The QTA has continued to express our frustration with the continuing delays at borders with the new checking procedures and we would expect some improvements soon.”

Mr Mahon said the QTA was in regular contact with the Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young and urged fleets to introduce a regular testing regime.

“This will add an additional layer of protection in your COVID-safe protocols,” he said.

“This will require a co-ordinated approach to align with the application for the Queensland Border Declaration pass.”


Anti-monarchists lose the plot

The sad decline of the Australian Republican Movement has been on display over the past two days in its angry, confused and convoluted attacks on the Queen and Buckingham Palace, accusing the crown of deception and complicity in Gough Whitlam’s dismissal.

As the Republican Movement goes on the offensive against the Queen, it seems to have lost any understanding of how and why it was defeated in the 1999 referendum to make Australia a republic.

Stirring up hostility towards the crown is the deepest and oldest republican sentiment. It has never worked in the past and never will in the future. The ARM by seizing upon the release of the Buckingham Palace and John Kerr correspondence has fallen into a familiar and disastrous trap.

There are three problems. Its attack on the Queen and the palace for dishonesty and complicity in Whitlam’s dismissal is false on the historical facts. This argument will alienate many Republican sympathisers appalled that populist misrepresentation is now a standard method for the republican cause. And finally, the argument won’t get traction with mainstream voters.

Doesn’t the ARM grasp that after 68 years on the throne, the Queen is respected for her diligence and integrity? Who are the tactical geniuses who think unwarranted abuse of the Queen and the palace actually helps the republican cause?

For the record, ARM national director Sandy Biar said the movement was calling out the palace’s “arrogant attempt at misleading Australians” about its involvement in Gough Whitlam’s sacking. Biar makes a series of unsubstantiated claims — that the palace was forewarned and “provided advice” on how the reserve powers might be exercised, when the palace actually urged caution on Kerr — and then makes the ludicrous claim that “without the explicit assurances” of the palace, Kerr might not have sacked Whitlam.

This is worse than cheapjack populism. It signals the ARM will engage in misrepresentation in an effort to fool and mislead. Obviously, it won’t work. How on earth did the ARM get derailed on such a futile track?

The case for the republic stands in its own right. It doesn’t need dishonest campaigns against the Queen about events that occurred 45 years ago. That might make republicans feel good but it doesn’t help their cause. Republicans outnumber monarchists in Australia and have for some time. But support is shallow and without agreement on the pivotal question: what type of republic?

The big lesson from the 1999 loss is that the fundamental issue is no longer the Queen. Someone should tell the ARM.


CSIRO fracking research criticized

The criticisms are reasonable ones but the report was in line with worldwide experience

Research by an alliance between the Commonwealth research agency and major CSG companies has been used to argue that fracking is a safe method of extracting gas.

The CSIRO said the report — Air, Water and Soil Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing in the Surat Basin, Queensland — found "little to no impacts" from fracking "on air quality, soils, groundwater and waterways", but the organisation was subsequently criticised for testing just six gas wells out of the 19,000 across the state.

The research was conducted by the Gas Industry Social and Economic Research Alliance (GISERA), which is a joint research venture that includes the CSIRO and major gas companies.

An environmental scientist from Queensland's Griffith University, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, said that sample size "doesn't pass the pub test". "Six [wells] is just too small a sample out of 19,000 wells to have any confidence in the results," Professor Lowe said.

"The second and more basic problem is that the wells weren't chosen randomly: they were chosen by the industry and the industry obviously has a vested interest in looking good."

Former Australian chief scientist Professor Penny Sackett agreed.  Professor Sackett, who now works for the ANU's Climate Change Institute, questioned the choice of sites.

"There's simply not enough sites that are tested and also I think there could be a concern that the sites were chosen by the gas industry itself," she said.

GISERA's website states its alliance agreement with CSG companies "provides a robust and transparent governance framework to ensure that GISERA's research is demonstrably independent".

But Professor Sackett said there were concerns the CSIRO was compromised by its relationship with the CSG industry.

"The report was essentially conducted on behalf of the gas industry, funded primarily by the gas industry, with sites chosen by the gas industry," Professor Sackett said.

"You really want those sorts of reports done by independent bodies that are funded independently, preferably by public money."


UNSW to cut 493 staff and merge faculties under COVID-19 response plan

The University of NSW will cut almost 500 full-time jobs and combine three faculties as it responds to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and a $370 million budget shortfall next year.

It will also bolster online learning and offer more flexible working arrangements to address long-term shifts in the higher education sector propelled by the pandemic.

The job losses, revealed to staff on Wednesday, represent about 7.5 per cent of full-time university staff. UNSW is also employing 115 fewer casual staff than it was in January, before the pandemic.

UNSW vice-chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the university had avoided major job losses until now and instead cut discretionary spending, casual hours and pay to some senior managers and staff.

But he said 493 full-time equivalent job losses were needed to mitigate a remaining budget shortfall of $75 million in 2021, after other savings measures were made.

A restructure will also consolidate the university's eight respective faculties and divisions into six - with two deans and two vice-presidents to be removed from the senior leadership team.

UNSW National Tertiary Education Union branch president Sarah Gregson said it was a "shocking number" of job losses.

"I think people will be really reeling," she said. "Nobody denies there's a crisis, but the detail of what's necessary is difficult. We're obviously going to challenge every job loss we can."

The Community and Public Sector Union NSW, which represents professional university staff, said the higher education sector was in a "perilous situation" and needed greater Commonwealth assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

"We need JobKeeper in our universities now, and then we need a fundamental rethink of the higher education system," union assistant secretary Troy Wright said. "We will hold a mass meeting with members [on Thursday] to make sure their voice is heard clearly during negotiations."

Professor Jacobs said redundancies would not target particular parts of the university. "The impact of this will be spread across ... I doubt that any part will be spared," he said.

The existing faculties of Built Environment, Art and Design and Arts and Social Sciences will merge into a single faculty headed by Professor Claire Annesley.

"There'll be some people who think they're strange bedfellows, and others might be happy about the relocation," Dr Gregson said. "We're just concerned that a lot of amalgamations are about cutting jobs, and there's concern for those who remain that workload isn't [forced] onto them."

The merger will deliver savings in faculty overheads, management and administrative costs, but Professor Jacobs said it did not signify a lack of commitment to the humanities, which are set to lose Commonwealth funding under the federal government's proposed higher education reforms.

"It's an opportunity to bring people together across that full spectrum [where they] interact and have much more influence over the university," he said.

But Professor Jacobs cautioned there was still uncertainty as student fees and enrolments, particularly from international students, could be affected by the recent outbreak in Victoria and suspension of a "safe corridor" trial for overseas arrivals.

"In my very optimistic moments, I can envisage lots of international students returning to face-to-face in early 2021," Professor Jacobs said. "In my most pessimistic moments, COVID-19 and geopolitical uncertainty mean international student numbers collapse and they don't even stay with us online.

"I'm more on the optimistic side ... But if it turns out to be worse, we will have to revisit."

Among UNSW's challenges are its declining student satisfaction levels, blamed on its controversial transition to a three-term academic year.

A new academic and student life division will be created with a "laser-like focus" on optimising the student experience, Professor Jacobs said.

He said trimesters had given the university "enormous flexibility" during the pandemic, and students were now seeing its merits.

"As students get used to [the timetable] and see the rest of investment we're making, our student experience will improve. The test of that will be over time," he said.

The university will also increase online teaching methods, which have earned mixed reviews from students this year, and move towards "lifelong learning" that involves working with industry and businesses on shorter teaching modules".

"Inevitably [online learning is] not perfect. There are so many variables: for the individual it depends on personality, the subject, it may vary across the time of their learning," Professor Jacobs said.

But he said there were benefits of both scale and education with high quality online delivery. "You have to get the right balance there, we're making progress on that. Online learning is not going to go away now, it will be an ever-increasing thing."


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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