Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Kurdish "boat person"

The NYT has a long and meandering story designed to evoke the life of a Kurdish "refugee" named Behrouz Boochani.

"Boat people" are alleged refugees who tried to crash their way into Australia aboard small, rickety, wooden fishing bosts from Indonesia.  They mostly came from the Middle East after taking an airline flight from Pakistan to Indonesia.  As a Muslim country, Indonesia had a duty of hospitality towards them but they wanted to come to much more affluent Australia.  They were almost all Muslims but passionately wanted to live in a non-Muslim country.

Since they had been in two countries where they could claim asylum, their claim to be asylum seekers was invalid.  They already had asylum in Pakistan or Indonesia.  Nobody was shooting at them or likely to do so there.

In the '70s, Vietnamese boat people sailing directly from South Vietnam to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam war were welcomed into Australia and integrated well. Muslims not so much.

Dramatically, the NYT story starts out:

"In 2013, Australia sent hundreds of would-be asylum seekers to a secretive offshore detention center. Then one of the detainees, a journalist named Behrouz Boochani, told the world all about it."

It is a sob story.  Let me briefly retell the story without the sobs:

Boochani was one of a group of "boat people" who tried to impose their presence on Australia.  They thought they could bypass the means Australia uses for selecting immigrants.  They thought that compassion alone would grant them entry. 

It once did, but Australia eventually suffered compassion fatigue. Most such arrivals remained welfare dependent on the Australian taxpayer, a most exploited individual who would have preferred to keep his hard-earned dollars in his pocket.

Would you like a stranger to move into your house and expect you to feed him?  That is very much what the boat people were doing.  So in the end both major Australian political parties agreed that no more such people would be accepted into Australia.  They would instead be held in what were effectively jails outside Australia and offered a free flight to anywhere else in the world.

Boochani is a Kurd so he could have opted to go to the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq. But Kurdistan generally is poor.  So that was no good to him.  He sought life in a rich and peaceful Western country. And Australia was near but so far. He was offered residence in the USA but rejected that. He had heard that America was too violent.  It was Australia and New Zealand he was focused on.

He was eventually released from detention and given residence in New Guinea.  But New Guinea is poor and violent, just like Iran, where he came from.  So that was no good to him.  He was a journalist and a talented writer so he wrote accounts of his life as a boat person until he was accepted into New Zealand, where he has an academic job.

It took him many years of his life in squalid refugee camps to reach his goal but reach it he did.  He is certainly persistent.

But the NYT article is a tale of suffering.  It even adopts Boochani's claim that the Australians tortured him.  The torture was however the torture of being held in a jail instead of sailing off blissfully to Australia. 

There is however no doubt that detention was unpleasant and frustrating but it was his choice to become an unwelcome guest in someone else's country that brought that down on his head.  Had I been an Iranian and a critic of the regime, I would simply have shut up.  It would have given me a much less troubled life -- JR

Andrew Bolt: Diversity has once again let Victoria down

Victoria’s commitment to diversity has once again landed the state in hot water, and I’d be saying ‘I told you so’ if the situation weren’t so dire, writes Andrew Bolt.

I would thank the lunatic Victorian government for making my critics look stupid, if it wasn’t that so many people have died.

Two months ago I was savaged by the mob for saying this second wave of infections “exposes the stupidity of that multicultural slogan ‘diversity makes us stronger’”.

I said diversity had instead weakened us.

I won’t go through all my evidence: how the virus was worst in the most multicultural suburbs, housing commission towers, workplaces and an Islamic school, after slipping out of quarantine hotels where many guards were immigrant workers, badly trained.

Nor will I again go through all the admissions by the Victorian government that public health messages were not reaching ethnic groups where English was poor.

Let me instead point out even more evidence — crazy stuff — that’s come out since activists said they’d ask the Press Council to punish me for my heresy.

Last week, a public servant working in Victoria’s highly infectious quarantine hotels told an inquiry he’d been given an hour of training in “equity and diversity”, but none on personal protective equipment.

Don’t think this must be an anomaly. The self-destructive preaching of “diversity” seems to run right through what should have been a single-minded war to stop the virus.

About 90 per cent of the infections in this second wave have been traced back to a hotel where security was handed to Unified Security, which was not a preferred tenderer but did boast it was “Indigenous-owned”.

And it seems the government hasn’t learned its lesson.

Check its extraordinary ads now for a manager and several policy officers for its COVID-19 Forward Strategy and Co-ordination Branch.

In the nine-paragraph job descriptions, there are four paragraphs stressing the branch’s commitment to diversity, and not one to its commitment to stopping people getting sick.

It declares: “We are building an inclusive workplace that embraces diversity of backgrounds and differences”, and “we encourage job applications from Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, LGBTI and people from culturally diverse backgrounds”.

Only later, in the job summary, is there one fleeting reference to what should be the most urgent part of the job, “the development of policy advice on measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19”.

But for all this yammer about “diversity”, what happened? A second wave of infections that’s hit the most “diverse” communities worst


UK infrastructure investor suffers big losses from two Australia solar farms

That "free" electricity from the sun turns out to be not so free after all

UK infrastructure investor John Laing has revealed yet more big losses from its Australia renewable energy portfolio, this time focused on the two big Australian solar farm investments hit by connection delays, equipment problems and grid congestion issues.

The two solar projects affected are the wholly-owned 175MW Finley solar farm, located in south west NSW in a newly congested part of the grid, and its 90 per cent owned 200MW Sunraysia solar project, which is in the same region but which has also run into technical difficulties and has so far failed to obtain registration from the Australian Energy Market Operator nearly a year after mechanical construction was complete.

In its interim results released late last week, John Laing reported losses of £43 million ($A79 million) from the two solar assets. This follows its write downs of £66 million a year earlier due to changes in marginal loss factors in Australia – a result that led to a decision to cease new investment in wind and solar assets and to try and sell the Australian portfolio.

It adds to the growing number of write-downs and losses on new solar projects from a range of affected parties – contractors, developers and asset owners – due to issues ranging from cost-overruns, delays, commissioning problems, grid congestion and system strength issues. More are now being affected by falling wholesale prices, such as New Energy Solar’s Manildra solar farm, among others.

In the latest period, some £11 million came from transmission issues, presumably Finley, which is among a number of solar assets warned about “material constraints” in the network west of Wagga Wagga due to congestion issues. That suggests that many of the solar assets in the area may also face write downs by their owners.

“This primarily relates to a loss on one of our solar projects as a result of transmission-related issues,” the company says. “Due to the instability of the power system in south-western New South Wales, AEMO imposed a constraint on this network. This limits the flow of power on the main transmission line.”

The losses from Sunraysia make up the rest of the £43 million cited from the two solar farms. “Sunraysia, which is still in construction,  experienced technical issues,” it says, adding later that the technical issues are related to “transformers”.

“There have also been ongoing delays with the Australian Energy Market Operator registration process which is holding up the project’s connection to the grid,” it adds.

John Laing says a “remediation plan” for Sunraysia is in place. But the solar farm has also become the centre of a legal dispute between John Laing and co-investor Maoneng, and the main contractor Decmil.

In a presentation to analysts, recently appointed CEO Ben Loome said some of the issues that have affected the business are the result of “not fully assessing risk return dynamics. A lot of this activity came at a time when investment in renewable energy was becoming more competitive and commoditised.”

John Laing earlier this year put its Australian renewable energy portfolio up for sale after taking the decision not to invest in any new assets. It pulled the two solar assets from the sales process, citing the uncertainty over connections and grid congestion.

Loome said the company will not be hurried to make a sale. “We have got to make sure each of projects is properly prepared for sale – so we can maximise value,” he said in the presentation. “We will be pursing realisations over the next 1 or 2 years. We are not under pressure to sell any assets ”

But John Laing says the sale process is being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and changes to Australia Foreign Investment Review Board rules, and the 49.8 per cent owned Granville wind farm being built in Tasmania is being delayed by Covid-19 issues and “weather conditions.” Completion of construction is targeted for the beginning of 2021.

Its other assets in Australia include the Cherry Tree wind farm in Victoria, the Kiata wind farm in Victoria (72.3 per cent), and minority stakes in each of the three big Hornsdale wind farm assets in South Australia.

The John Laing accounts also reveal another £50 million in losses from its renewable energy portfolio because of lower prices, although it does not specify the extent of these losses across the individual regions of its US, European or Australian portfolio.

John Laing has contracts in numerous civil works projects across a number of countries, including a hospital in Adelaide and light rail in Sydney, but the problems with its renewables portfolio drove its result to a £95 million loss in the first half.


Australian public servant condemns censorship after blogpost cost him his job

He would have had to sign a confidentiality agreement to get his job so the government has a clear right to enforce that agreement.  But whether what he did does breach the agreement sounds moot.  But in any case there is no "right" to a government job.  And resigning was not forced on him.  So I think he has scant grounds for complaint

When federal public servant Josh Krook sat down to pen a decidedly uncontroversial blogpost on how Covid-19 benefitted big tech, he didn’t imagine it would cost him his job.

In April, Krook published a post on a fledgling blog called the Oxford Political Review, arguing social isolation was good for big tech companies, because it made people increasingly dependent on online platforms for interaction.

Krook also worked as a policy officer with the industry department, working on tech policy.

His post talked only in generalities. It made no reference to any individual company and did not mention, let alone criticise, the Australian government or government policy.

In no way did Krook identify himself as a government employee or policy officer or seek to conflate his writing with his views as a public servant.

Three months after the post, Krook was invited to a meeting with his superior. In the meeting, Krook says he was given a choice: remove the blog post or face termination.

“[My boss] said that the problem was that in talking about the big tech companies, we risked damaging the relationship the government has with the big tech companies and that when we go and do public-private partnerships, they could Google my name, find my article and then refuse to work with us,” Krook told the Guardian.

“I was told that all future writing, all future public writing that I do would have to go through my boss or a senior colleague.

“I was also told that for the first article, it would have been fine to write it, had I been positive about the big tech companies.”

Krook did as he was asked, initially at least. He contacted the editor of the Oxford Political Review and asked that the post be removed.

But the more he reflected, the less he could stomach what he had been asked to do. He decided to quit government and speak out about the censorship, a decision that will almost certainly cruel any future career he has in the public service.

The case reignites the tension between freedom of speech and the public service code of conduct’s requirement that workers be apolitical.

He aired no criticism whatsoever of government or government policy. “I was very careful not to do that … the idea that you shouldn’t be able to criticise other companies, when you work with the government particularly, it doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

“I don’t think there is a public interest case for that. Basically, I think I can criticise the big tech companies while remaining apolitical.”

Krook says he was also told to amend a second post containing an almost laughably benign reference to the Australian government’s competition with other governments for medical supplies.

He was, at the time, seconded within the industry department to a role in helping the government secure such supplies.

His post’s brief reference to the competition between Australia and other nations for medical supplies could in no way be conceived of as a criticism, but rather a reflection of fact, and a repetition of a statement previously made by the health minister, Greg Hunt, and the former chief medical officer Brendan Murphy.

“I was told that by saying that there’s competition between Australia and other countries, I make the government look chaotic in its response,” he said.

“I didn’t say that, I didn’t say the government was chaotic in its response. But he said that could be implied by what I had written somehow.”

The industry department was approached for comment but says it does not discuss staffing matters.

Krook was on a non-ongoing contract with the department, which was expected to be renewed.

Krook is now jobless at an extremely difficult time, leaving the relative comfort of the public service to enter the job market during an economic crisis.

He remains the law editor of the Oxford Political Review, where he occasionally edits writing, and plans to republish his blog post.

Krook is eyeing a future career in academia, but with that sector facing huge upheaval, his work prospects remain uncertain.

“It’s not the best time to leave a job, it’s not the best time to look for new work,” he said. “But there reaches a certain point where you have to stand by what you believe in, I guess, and in this I just completely disagreed with what they were saying and their decision.”


 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...

Poor Mr Krook doesn't seem to have realized that not only have Big-Tech and Government (everywhere) become a blended entity, but "Big-Tech" is in fact the senior partner because Government has become so dependent on their platforms (think Queensland Health) that they can effectively dictate tech policy decisions.