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

1 comment:

Paul said...

What car industry? We don't have one. What we get is what has been designed for overseas standards, which can still be very stringent.