Friday, October 30, 2020

Football association bans the Australian national anthem from major series

The NRL has abandoned the national anthem for the game’s biggest showpiece event, the State of Origin series.

It will be the first time in 40 years the anthem will not be played before the kick-off when the series begins in Adelaide on Wednesday night.

The independent commission made the controversial decision at a meeting on Wednesday after consultation with the chairmen of the NSW and QLD organisations.

The explanation given was that the event is not a contest between international countries.

However the NRL has confirmed the anthem will remain for grand finals and Test matches.

The anthem became a huge issue in the NSW camp last year when Blues stars Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr spoke out before the game about their refusal to sing.

The Daily Telegraph understands the NSW Rugby League was against scrapping the anthem but bowed to the wishes of the NRL.

While Indigenous Blues opted against singing the anthem last year, NSW stars including captain Boyd Cordner, Jake Trbojevic and Damien Cook said they would sing the Australian national anthem “loud and proud”.

NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler had vowed to support any indigenous Blues players who wish to remain silent for Advance Australia Fair in 2020, saying: “Our anthem, it definitely needs work”.

Earlier this year, the ARL Commission scrapped the national anthem at the annual All Stars match on the advice of the game’s indigenous players.

Coronavirus: Sad side-effect is our meek acceptance of Premiers’ power grab

And so the recovery begins. Lily-white Victorians are emerging from their homes, their forearms shielding themselves from the sun as they take tentative steps. Young children are discovering there is another world outside their five kilometres radius.

Cafés and restaurants on Carlton’s Lygon Street are chockers, families amble through the botanical gardens, crowds flock to St Kilda beach, and in the city’s south-east region marauding gangs will once again commit home invasions and carjackings.

Normality will not be restored overnight, however. Paradoxically, the absence of circling police drones will keep many awake who are accustomed to hearing their sound. Likewise, it will be a disconcerting experience for motorists to drive without stopping at checkpoints to produce papers. People will chat with their neighbours over the fence as opposed to reporting them to the authorities. East Germany made the transition, and surely Victoria can. Assuming of course there is no third wave.

Artists, musicians, and poets are probably writing peans for the Andrews government. You can expect soon to hear actor Magda Szubanski will be narrating the upcoming production “Dan, the Musical” in honour of the Victorian Premier.

The official Victorian version of the state’s recovery will make for amusing reading.

Yesterday Health Minister Martin Foley claimed the state’s contact tracing system had withstood the “stress test of the real world”; while Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton maintained it was the best in the country. Spare us. This is the same department which only two months ago was using spreadsheets, pen, paper, and fax machines for contact tracing.

It would be premature to talk of Australia having beaten COVID-19, but not so to talk about the virus’ legacy. Sadly, it is a depressing one overall. To begin with, it has shown how ill-suited a federation is to deal with the crisis. Unlike New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who presides over a unitary system of government, the preferred approach of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet largely meant naught when it came to the issue of a co-ordinated response.

Even calling our country a federation is a stretch. We are at best a confederation. Apart from NSW, the states have become fiefdoms. Almost overnight, being an Australian meant nothing if you attempted to cross a state border. South Australia, for example, at one stage was denying entry to Victorians in border towns who needed lifesaving medical treatment in Adelaide, while at the same time making plans to fly in 800 foreign students to its three universities.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein even ordered all non-Tasmanians to leave the island in March, declaring “I make no apologies for working hard to keep Tasmanians safe”.

Presumably he does not plan to expel GST allocation, which makes up 40 per cent of the state’s revenue.

A panicked response that leads to an arbitrary closure is one thing. But premiers playing to populist sentiment in closing their borders is another, as demonstrated by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in her re-election campaign. As someone with a reputation as a vacillator and a mere figurehead, she seized on the virus to portray herself as a resolute leader. In doing so she shut out far north NSW residents, many of whom are dependent on Queensland hospitals for treatment.

In his maiden speech to Western Australia’s Parliament in 1996, a young Mark McGowan made much of his background as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy, a role in which presumably he put aside provincial yearnings. “It was Labor that successfully led this nation through the darkest days of both World Wars,” he said, lauding in particular the leadership of Prime Minister John Curtin.

As leaders, both Curtin and McGowan shared a couple of traits. Both were elected by the citizens of WA, but neither was born or raised in that state. That is where the similarity ends. Curtin was a principled man who unified the country under his leadership. Conversely, McGowan has opportunistically used the greatest threat to Australia since World War II to pick a fight with the rest of the country, having closed WA’s borders since March, even to residents from states and territories that have long recorded no cases of community transmission of the virus.

McGowan has insisted he is acting on health advice. But being a parochial braggart, he gave himself away earlier this month with his audacious declaration that opening WA to South Australia and the Northern Territory would bring no economic benefit. “All we would do is lose jobs, were we to open to those states,” he said. “They’re only saying all this for very self-interested reasons because we have higher incomes and people who are more used to travelling and therefore we will have more tourists from West Australians go to the east.”

As they say, if you wish to ascertain a man’s character, give him power.

Every Australian has a constitutional right to cross state borders, but that means little if the federal government does not act against those who would infringe it.

By and large, the Morrison government has only made token efforts to defend this right, instead relying on a proxy, that being mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who has initiated proceedings in the High Court against the WA Government.

According to Attorney-General Christian Porter, the Commonwealth simply wanted to realise “moderate middle ground” when it intervened when the matter was before the Federal Court, but he later withdrew from proceedings. It was both pusillanimous and disheartening. As such, any subsequent protest by Morrison against state closures merely emphasises his government’s impotence.

But only a fool would leave it to governments to protect civil rights, and this is an area where Australians have let themselves down badly. This virus has proved the anti-authoritarian element no longer exists in the Australian psyche. We have largely accepted questionable restrictions on our liberty but have condemned journalists who have insisted leaders account for these decisions. As evident in polling regarding support for border closures, premiers such as McGowan and Palaszczuk have delighted in our malleability.

And it is not just the politicians who increasingly exercise control over our lives. Thanks to the creeping effect we largely accept that officials in the form of anti-discrimination tribunes and human rights commissioners will regulate our behaviour. Now the virus has accelerated the rise of the bureaucratic class. Who could forget Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young, who, having blocked interstate relatives from attending funerals, decided to admit Hollywood actor Tom Hanks because “entertainment and film bring a lot of money into this state”. Excuse me?

That is not to say that everything that follows this virus is bad. For example, it is refreshing to see people have little time for the climate change evangelists and rent-seekers. Yes, I am talking to you, Zali Steggall, the federal MP and self-proclaimed “climate leader” who is desperately seeking relevance. And for us OCD types, it is joyful to see the proliferation of automatic soap dispensers.

But perhaps the most evident legacy is the burgeoning government debt, which is expected to rise to $1.5 trillion by the end of the decade. We simply cannot continue this taxpayer-funded largesse. Instead we need innovative ideas to instigate an economic recovery.

On that note, it is vital when deciding that issue to utilise those parts of industry that have been dormant because of the virus. My big idea is to lobby Parliament to allow the deportations of non-citizens in cases when the person commits an offence that results in six months or more imprisonment (currently the minimum is 12 months).

This could be the answer to Qantas and Virgin’s recovery. Just think: we would need to commission an entire fleet of planes for the trans-Tasman route alone. I am not sure what is the most attractive proposition: the recovery of our airline industry or the thought of Jacinda losing it. What is your big idea?

Lloyd's insurer Apollo to stop underwriting Adani coal mine from Sept. 2021

Adani is big enough to self-insure

Lloyd's of London firm Apollo has written insurance for Adani Enterprises' Carmichael thermal coal mine which expires in Sept 2021 but is not planning to provide any further insurance for the mine, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

Carmichael has provoked controversy in Australia because it would open up a new thermal coal basin at a time of growing concerns over global warming, in a region that is in need of jobs.

Adani has begun construction at Carmichael, which will start by producing 10 million tonnes of coal per year together with an associated rail project, and expects first production in 2021.

"We participate in one construction liability policy in respect of Adani Carmichael...this particular policy terminates in September 2021 after which we will no longer provide any insurance cover for this project," chair of Apollo Syndicate Management Julian Cusack said in the memo.

"We have recently declined to participate in an additional policy relating to the port and rail extension and have agreed that we will not participate in any further insurance policies for risks associated with this project."

Cusack confirmed to Reuters via LinkedIn that he had written the memo. Adani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many insurers, mainly in Europe, have scaled back their exposure to coal.

Lloyd's of London, which has more than 90 syndicate members, does not have an overarching policy on coal, though the Stop Adani campaign says 17 Lloyd's insurers have ruled out insuring the mine.

"It is encouraging to see that 27 major insurers, including those which have previously underwritten this disastrous project - like Apollo - are now refusing insurance to Adani," said Pablo Brait, campaigner at Australian action group Market Forces.

"The project will help open up a massive new thermal coal basin in the midst of a climate crisis...any insurer that provides coverage for Adani's coal operations in Australia is seriously risking its reputation."

Australia defies international pressure to set emissions targets

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will not be dictated to by other governments' climate change goals, declaring he is not worried about the future of Australia's exports despite four of the country's top trading partners adopting net-zero emissions targets.

China, Japan, Britain and South Korea, which account for more than $310 billion in Australian annual trade between them, have all now adopted the emissions target by 2050 or 2060, ramping up pressure on Australia's fossil fuel industry. Coal and natural gas alone are worth more than 25 per cent of Australia's exports, or $110 billion each year.

"I am not concerned about our future exports," Mr Morrison said on Wednesday. "Australia will set our policies here. Our policies won't be set in the United Kingdom, they won't be set in Brussels, they won't be set in any part of the world other than here."

As the Prime Minister spoke in Canberra, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in was addressing his own parliament in Seoul announcing his country would also pursue a net-zero target by 2050.

"Transitioning from coal to renewable energy, the government will create new markets, industries and jobs," Mr Moon told the National Assembly on Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a phone call on Tuesday encouraged Mr Morrison to take "bold action" on climate change and "emphasise the importance of setting ambitious targets to cut emissions and reach net zero".

Responding to the UK government's version of the phone call, Mr Morrison said Mr Johnson understood that Australia would make "sovereign decisions" on the targets it set.

"It shouldn't come at the cost of higher prices for the daily things that our citizens depend on," he said.

"One thing the British Prime Minister and I agree on is that achieving emissions reductions shouldn't come at the cost of jobs in Australia or the UK."

Major Australian export companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP, major agriculture groups and multinational food companies are pursuing carbon neutrality, which experts say is a move to avoid being stung with trade tariffs or charges by countries that have set net-zero targets.

The Morrison government has argued it will comply with the terms of the Paris climate agreement by reaching net zero by sometime in the second half of the century but has not set a firm target.

Mr Morrison claimed on Wednesday that Australia's emissions had fallen by 14 per cent since 2005, compared to 1 per cent for New Zealand and 0 per cent for Canada. The comparison of emissions reduction between different countries has been disputed with differences over methods and the use of carryover credits. Mr Morrison said the world would "not really make a lot of progress" without widespread renewable technology to ensure developing economies like India and Vietnam could also reduce emissions.

"Our record on this speaks for itself. When we make commitments in Australia's interests then we will meet those commitments as well," Mr Morrison said.

But top scientists contend that for Australia to honour the Paris agreement - which requires countries to follow the best available scientific advice on how to limit global warming to less than two degrees — the country must reach net-zero emissions before 2050.

The federal government’s opposition to commit to reaching the target by 2050 also puts it out of step with all states and territories, which are pursuing carbon-neutral goals.




Thursday, October 29, 2020

'We're full!' Overwhelming number of Australians say the country doesn't need any more immigration as voters reject 'leftist elites'

An overwhelming majority of Australians oppose high immigration, fearing it could affect their way of life, a study has found.

Before the pandemic saw the border closed to non-citizens and non-residents in March, Australia's net annual immigration rate was approaching 200,000.

Australia's population also surpassed the 25million mark in August 2018 - 24 years earlier than predicted in the federal government's inaugural Intergenerational Report of 2002.

With Sydney and Melbourne among the world's least affordable housing markets, 72 per cent of respondents have told The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI) Australia was full.

The survey of 2,029 people was taken in October and November 2019 - four months before Prime Minister Scott Morrison closed Australia's border to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Half the people polled wanted a reduction in immigration, fearing it caused more pollution and congestion.

Study authors and sociologists Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell said rapid population growth before the pandemic had worried a majority of Australians, who regarded both major parties are representing the interests of 'leftist elites'.

'High immigration was responsible for the deterioration of the quality of life in Australia's big cities, as well as stressing its natural environment,' they said in an opinion piece for News Corp.

'Moreover, at least half the electorate do not support the progressive cultural values that left elites (including Labor’s leaders) regard as legitimating high immigration. 'This is a key finding since it shows that there is only lukewarm support for the core Big Australia strategy of high immigration.

'We can say with confidence based on our and other surveys that half the electorate are prepared to say, within the safety of an anonymous survey, that immigration should be reduced.'

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd a decade ago declared himself to be a supporter of a 'big Australia', with business leaders also favouring high population growth.

His Liberal predecessor John Howard two decades ago increased net immigration levels to the six-figures, putting them well above the 20th century average of 70,000 a year.

The TAPRI survey however found people no longer believed it was 'possible' to accommodate more immigrants.

'The conditions that made it possible to sustain a Big Australia and ignore this concern no longer exist in the post-Covid environment,' the study read.

'If the Coalition, or Labor, does try to revive a Big Australia many of these voters would respond readily to any attempt to mobilise them.

Australia's population stood at 25,715,134 as of October 27, 2020.

The survey found that most respondents who took a stance against more immigration were not university educated, while those with a degree were more likely to back immigration.

While our schools coach kids in social activism, literacy takes a back seat

School students are being groomed for social activism while too many are still functionally illiterate as they leave the classroom.

A new OECD report shows that Australia’s school system has an excess focus on students developing “awareness of global issues”.

Little wonder our students’ performance in the OECD-run Program for International Student Assessment has plummeted faster than almost any other country. More than one in five 15-year-olds don’t have the essential literacy and numeracy they will need to be successful in work or further study.

It provides yet further evidence that Australia’s school system has got its priorities upside-down. Of course we should encourage our children to be good global citizens. It’s heartening to know they are inclusive and aware of diversity. They report more positive attitudes about immigrants and embrace the perspectives of others than in most OECD countries.

The problem is that efforts of the school system to engineer ­increased “global competences” comes at a cost — namely the education of our young learners — and for two reasons.

First, there is only so much time in the school day and year. And Australian students already spend more time in the classroom than in most countries. The problem is that this time is not being used well. For decades, teachers and educationalists have warned that the school curriculum has become bloated and overcrowded. Flirting with fashionable but untested teaching trends, entertaining fringe educational issues and bringing woke causes to the classroom are all part of the problem.

Despite this obvious progressive march through the education system, concern over infiltration of those ideas into the curriculum and schools has been routinely dismissed as little more than “conservative hysteria”.

There are now multiple reviews of school curriculums under way across the country, but there is ­little hope the malign and wasteful influences will be struck out.

A central element of the Australian curriculum — which sets the pace for the states and territories — is the focus on so-called “general capabilities”. The competences that are taught and assessed include: personal and social capability; ethical understanding; and intercultural understanding — nice-to-haves, but surely not the centrepiece of schooling.

We need to focus on addressing our students’ literacy and numeracy deficits, with a drive for higher academic standards and expectations from our educators.

The second problem is that, while the curriculum has embraced global issues, it has resisted any effort to reinforce Australian ones. Our students are unfamiliar with our own history, how our democracy works, and have decreasing (or little) national pride.

They’re encouraged to identify as global citizens, rather than as Australians — witness the constant undermining of our national holidays and traditions. Students are often misled to believe our country is racist, sexist, and a selfish polluter. Our school system should educate away foolish misconceptions, rather than promote them in the name of postmodernism and critical theory.

It’s true that the continued pace of globalisation will mean our teenagers need more global awareness than in decades past. But the progressive left has twisted this to mean exclusion of nationhood. We need more, not less, ­emphasis on Australian civics and citizenship — something that successive governments have promised but failed to deliver.

Not only does the education of school students suffer, but so does their wellbeing.

It’s not standardised testing and end-of-school exams that has resulted in the heightened anxiety of our teens but rather the obsessive preaching of celebrity activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are preoccupied with building students’ political activism.

We must put an end to the needless sacrificing of our young learners’ futures in service of progressive globalism. In its place, we need to remodel a rigorous and ambitious education system that doesn’t continue to ignore national aspirations and needs.

Negative prices: South Australia solar farms had to pay to produce in September

Perverse. Their output has no relationship to the need for it -- so it is often worthless

South Australia’s three large scale solar farms had to effectively pay to produce in the month of September – as the average price of solar power in the state’s grid fell to minus $9.70 a megawatt hour over the calendar month.

“Record low wholesale prices in September resulted in South Australian solar farms having to pay $9.70/MWh to generate,” the Australian Energy Market Operator notes in its latest Quarterly Energy Dynamics report.

Over the whole quarter, the volume weighted average price of large scale solar was $23/MWh, down some 62 per cent from the same time in 2019, while the average price for all electricity produced in South Australia for the quarter was $40/MWh.

There are several reasons for the negative price of South Australia solar – firstly the increase in output from large scale solar, as Bungala 2 finally reached full output, the continued rapid expansion of rooftop solar, which in turn is dramatically reducing operating demand in the middle of the day, and grid constraints which limited the amount of exports from South Australia into Victoria.

South Australia has three large scale solar farms, the 110MW Bungala One installation near Port Augusta, the neighbouring 110MW Bungala Two (which has only just reached full output after nearly two years of delays due to technical issues), and the 95MW Tailem Bend solar farm near the town of the same name.

Tailem Bend usually ducks negative pricing events, turning its output down to zero under the terms of its long term power purchase agreement with Snowy Hydro.

But the two Bungala solar farms, under long term contracts with Origin Energy, plough through the negative prices. The exact nature of the contracts is not known, but it is not necessarily a bad thing for either party, but it’s not a great market signal for more solar, or for more off-take agreements – although it is for storage.

Across the National Electricity Market, which comprises South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland, the average price for solar fell to $29/MWh in the September quarter, and the average price for wind fell to $38/MWh, both representing falls of around 50 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

AEMO’s QED report notes that curtailment of wind and solar farms across the NEM rose to 5.5 per cent in the September quarter, a result of the record levels of negative pricing events in South Australia and Queensland, and newly emerging system strength issues in north Queensland.

In Queensland, two solar farms and one wind farm were told of system strength issues that would cause their output to be reduced significantly, or down to zero, depending on conditions, and then another nine solar farms were told the same thing as new modelling unveiled new problems.

In Queensland, the average constraint for wind and solar over the whole quarter was 49MW, up from 5MW in the same period last year. Ironically, the situation was worsened by increased outages at the state’s coal fired generators. New synchronous condensers may alleviate that issue.

Economic constraints – the decision by generators to “self-curtail” in the face of negative prices – meant that on average there was 50MW of curtailment of wind and solar farms through the September quarter. AEMO says 70 per cent of that curtailment occurred in daytime hours between 7am and 7pm.

Queensland police say officer acted appropriately in incident that injured Brisbane refugee protester

The cops were trying to get him away from a fence he was trying to pull down

Queensland police say a video in which an officer appears to hit a refugee protester in the head at a Brisbane rally on Sunday makes the incident "appear far worse than it is".

But Jeff Rickertt, the man who was injured in the incident, rejected the police assessment of the incident as "complete nonsense".

"I felt the force of the blow. My initial reaction was that I'd been hit by a fist," Mr Rickertt said after being released from hospital on Monday afternoon.

He said a CT scan had found no serious head injury, and that he had a laceration on his ear and a dull headache but "otherwise I'm fine".

Tensions between police and activists had been building over a series of protests against the ongoing detention of refugees and asylum seekers at a hotel in the Brisbane suburb of Kangaroo Point.

Protesters provided the ABC with video of what some activists believed was a police officer hitting Mr Rickertt without provocation.

Mr Rickertt was standing by a fence that been erected around the hotel exterior. He was taken to the Mater Hospital after the incident.

"I was struck on the side of the head and for about two hours thereafter the side of my head and my ear were numb with the force of that impact," Mr Rickertt said.

On Monday, Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners told a media conference he believed the actions of the officer were "appropriate".

He said the officer did not strike Mr Rickertt in the video and that the camera angle of the video made the incident "appear far worse than it is".

"The officer didn't strike the male person directly, he reached out with an open hand and grabbed the male person on the back of his clothing to pull him back from the fence," Assistant Commissioner Conners said.

He said other footage available online showed the incident from different angles and he encouraged people to review it. "The circumstances are what they are — review the footage."

One protester, Ruby Thorburn, said she was among the crowd on Sunday afternoon, standing one person away from Mr Rickertt.

Protesters told the ABC a group of 15 to 20 people were slapping their hands against the fence to make noise the men inside the hotel could hear.

"The man who had been targeted by the police officer wasn't actually touching the fence at the time, he had stepped back, and that's when I saw an extremely charged officer who sprinted up and hit him with full force on the left side of his head," Ms Thorburn said.

She said she stayed with Mr Rickertt while he was on the ground. "He looked really hurt. It was a terrifying few seconds when he hit the floor, because it was a really big thud.

"He was quite slow in responding. When he started to respond, we noticed that there was blood coming out of his ear and he was sweating and shaking a lot."

'Directions of police were ignored'

Superintendent Andrew Pilotto said the protest was unauthorised and that many in attendance "were not cooperating with police".

"Prior to the police moving in to safeguard that fence, quite a number of directions were given to protesters to release the fence, step back stand down and re-join the group, and those directions of police were ignored over a considerable period," Superintendent Pilotto said.

"A lot of these people are in police officers' faces for long periods of time, yelling at police officers, throwing things in their faces."

Mr Rickertt said he was not grabbed by the shirt or the neck, and was not near the fence when he was targeted. "I was also conscious throughout the whole process," he said. "I was very aware that I fell to the ground and I'm also very aware that I did not strike my head on the ground.

"The force of the blow to my head by the police officer was what caused the injury that I have."

Police are reviewing the matter internally.




Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Cop to stand trial for murder after an Aboriginal teenager was shot dead as prosecutors allege he was right to pull the trigger once - but not three times

It's easy to miss when firing a pistol so it is normal to fire off a string of shots to ensure an effective hit. And a person who is hit often does not react immediately so may give the impression that further shots are needed to subdue him

All that is perfectly normal and unremarkable so why is this phony charge being levelled at the cop? It is just to placate black activists who are baying for blood. It reflects the huge racial sensitivities of the era. The authorities have to be seen as taking the death very seriously

The deceased was an habitual law-defying criminal so his aggressive behaviour was in keeping with his record. But because he was black there is a furore. He was released from prison in October last year after serving eight of a 16-month sentence for unlawful entry, property damage and stealing offences with the remainder suspended. But he had allegedly breached his parole by removing an electronic monitoring device, among other offences.

There was “face-to-face combat” between him and the two officers. One officer was reportedly stabbed, which allegedly led to the teen being shot.

A Northern Territory police officer who shot dead an Aboriginal teenager will stand trial for murder, with his lawyers arguing he acted in self-defence.

Constable Zachary Rolfe, 29, was charged with murder after shooting Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times during an arrest in the remote community of Yuendumu in November last year.

The teen's death was protested at rallies around Australia in the wake of African-American man George Floyd's death in the United States in May.

Judge John Birch on Monday ordered Mr Rolfe to stand trial following a three-day preliminary hearing in the Alice Springs Local Court.

Prosecutors agree that the first shot fired at the teenager was self-defence, after the officer was stabbed and attacked with scissors.

But they claim the second and third shots, fired just 3.6 seconds later, were murder.

Mr Rolfe was part of a four-member elite Immediate Response Team that drove 290km from Alice Springs into the Tanami Desert to arrest Walker.

The preliminary hearing in September heard evidence that Mr Walker wounded Mr Rolfe and his partner Adam Eberl with a pair of scissors in a darkened room.

Mr Rolfe allegedly shot Mr Walker with a Glock pistol three times as Walker grappled with Eberl.

Prosecutors alleged the second and third shots were not justified, arguing the IRT 'disregarded' an arrest plan by Sergeant Julie Frost from the Yuendumu police station.

A criminologist said that two of the shots were 'excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary'.

The case comes amid rising tensions about the treatment of black and indigenous people by police.

Scientists all at sea with alarmist barrier reef warning

Fancy theories preferred to the real world

A new scientific paper, received with great fanfare among inter­national media and Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, claims half the corals of the Great Barrier Reef are dead.

The paper is by academics at James Cook University’s ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. It is a scary headline. But is it true?

This finding is not based on any tried and proven method. Rather, the researchers from James Cook University have come up with a new method of statistical analysis based on a complicated “proxy” to estimate “colony size”.

The study itself was undertaken in 2016 and 2017, just after a coral bleaching event at cyclone-damaged reefs. If they had used traditional methods and longer time frames, it would likely be found that there is actually nothing wrong with the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef photographer Julia Summerling wrote recently about how a section known as North Direction Island, saying that the island’s corals were “savaged beyond recognition” due to Cyclone Ita in 2014, cyclone Nathan in 2015, and a coral bleaching event in the summer of 2016. So it was probably not the most representative time to be sampling. But the headlines are based on proxy measures from just a few reefs at that time.

She now says those areas have since recovered. “What I saw — and photographed — I could hardly believe. Young dinner-plate-sized corals were crammed into every available space on the limestone plateau as far as I could see, bristling with iconic fish life, from maori wrasse and coral trout to bumphead parrotfish and sweetlips. I swam a long way on the dive, checking to see how far the coral shelf stretched. The further I swam, the denser the coral fields became.”

For a new Institute of Public Affairs film, in January this year I visited the Ribbon reefs with Emmy award-winning photographer Clint Hempshall to follow the edge of Australia’s continental shelf to find and film coral bleaching. It was meant to be one of the worst-affected regions — 60 per cent dead from bleaching, which the same scientists say is caused by climate change. But we could not find any significant bleaching. We mostly found jewelled curtains of coral, appearing to cascade down underwater cliff faces. So colourful, so beautiful, all in crystal clear and warm waters.

The problem for Professor Terry Hughes, who co-authored the research, is that his study was undertaken in 2016 and 2017 then extrapolated out to cover other years. All of the research and subsequent media attention points to a narrative that the Great Barrier Reef is at risk of imminent collapse from climate change.

It was for questioning this claim, and the quality of science behind it, that Dr Peter Ridd was eventually sacked from James Cook University. Part of those claims by Ridd were that a lot of the science coming out of JCU’s ARC Centre for Excellent in Coral Reef Studies “is not properly checked, tested or replicated, and that is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions, and the fact is I do not think we can anymore.”

Neither James Cook University, nor Hughes, have ever rebutted Ridd’s criticisms of the research.

This is what objective observers need to put into context when examining Hughes’s most recent claims. Ridd also said: “I think that most of the scientists who are pushing out this stuff, I think that they genuinely believe that there are problems with the reef, I just don’t think they are very objective about the science they do. I think they’re emotionally attached to their subject and you can’t blame them the reef is a beautiful thing.”

One quick glance at Hughes’s Twitter account and you will find he is critical of the Morrison government’s gas-led recovery, cheerleading for a royal commission into the Murdoch media and constantly criticises the Adani Coal mine.

The new paper by James Cook University scientists claims both the incidence of coral bleaching and cyclones is increasing, but there is no evidence to support ­either contention. The available data from 1971 to 2017 indicated there has actually been a decrease in both the number and severity of cyclones in the Australian region.

Coral-bleaching events tend to be cyclical and coincide with periods of exceptionally low sea levels. As discussed in a new book, Climate Change: The Facts 2020, there were dramatic falls in sea levels across the western Pacific Ocean in 2016. These were associated with an El Nino event.

Until recently, coral calcification rates were calculated based on coring of the large Porites corals. There are well-established techniques for coring the Porites corals and then measuring growth rates. So why do Hughes and his colleagues stray from these tried and tested methods?

Since 2005, the Australian Institute of Marine Science has stopped using this technique to measure how well corals are growing at the Great Barrier Reef. The few studies still using the old technique suggest that, as would be expected, as water temperatures have increased marginally, coral growth rates have also increased.

But rather than admit this, key Great Barrier Reef research institutions have moved from such ­direct measures to new and complicated “proxies”. They thus have more flexibility in what they find because the measurement is no longer one that represents coral growth rates or coral cover.

As proxy votes are something delegated, this gives the researchers at JCU the potential to generate what might be considered policy-based evidence. And yet without question, the media reporting of the most recent research is that “there is no time to lose, we must sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions”.

Far too frequently, climate science has demonstrated noble cause corruption — where the ends justify the means. We will only know exact coral calcification rates, and changing trends in coral cover, when our once esteemed research institutions return to more traditional methods of measuring such important indicators of coral health and growth.

We need a return to real science that is based on real observations and real measurements and then we may find written in journals what we see in the real world when we jump off boats and go under the sea.

Elite $33,000-a-year grammar school enrages parents and students with new ecological uniform design - as it is slammed as being ‘reminiscent of wartime Europe’

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An elite $33,000-a-year grammar school has come under fire from some parents and students for the 'dowdy' look of its new eco-friendly uniform.

Firbank Grammar School in the affluent bayside Melbourne suburb of Brighton last week unveiled an Eco Uniform designed from fully biodegradable materials like nut corozo buttons in place of plastic and 'upcycled polyester'.

Firbank touted the outfit - made in collaboration with designer Kit Willow - as the world's first sustainable school uniform but the big reveal on its Instagram page attracted criticism.

One unhappy student set up a petition to protest the design, saying the new uniform was 'reminiscent of wartime Europe', 'impractical' and 'unflattering.'

The petition has garnered almost 900 signatures since it was first launched over the weekend.

'I fully support sustainable uniforms, but please listen to the people wearing them to make the uniform appropriate for the 21st century,' one person wrote.

'I graduated 33 years ago and our uniforms were less, dare I say it "dowdy",' another added.

An e-brochure released by Firbank last week showed a complete overhaul to the existing uniform in both the senior and junior school - covering winter and summer - plus student sportswear.

Willow became a household name in Australia in the early 2000s before making a comeback with her KitX label in 2015 - a brand priding itself on sustainable materials.

The school's principal Jenny Williams told parents in an e-mail the school board would meet on Monday to review the feedback to the designs.

'Changing a uniform is one of the most controversial things a school can do,' she said in the email seen by the Leader.

'All I ask is you remember our values and respond in a manner expected from members of our community.'

Firbank is a co-educational school at primary level, and a girls-only school at secondary level.

AFL Grand Final sees Qld lockdown hypocrisy hit new heights

As political rallies go, it was one of the better ones, with live music, fireworks, television coverage and a wildly enthusiastic crowd of tens of thousands.

The venue was the Gabba and the event was the AFL Grand Final, presided over by an empress-like Annastacia Palaszczuk smiling benignly from the grandstand as a conga line of players and officials read from their cue cards and thanked the Queensland Government for allowing them to play footy in the Sunshine State.

Thirty thousand people poured into the Gabba, and it was plain to see from the broadcast that many of them were packed shoulder-to-shoulder, caught up in the euphoria of the moment.

The state’s strict entry restrictions for Victorians were bent so far out of shape as to be barely recognisable to facilitate this one game of Australian rules.

Taxpayer dollars had been thrown at the AFL to facilitate it.

When asked on which date the Premier would prefer the game to be played, she indicated that she would prefer October 24, precisely one week before the election.

October 31 would hardly do, as the polls would have closed.

Her Government’s ineptitude plunged the pre-COVID state economy into a debt spiral that will make the post-pandemic recovery that much more difficult, but it can help organise a football match.

We should be thankful for small mercies.

My mother didn’t watch Saturday night’s game.

She passed away quietly in her sleep the previous evening at the ­tender age of 93, God bless her, and is now in a better place.

We are in the process of organising her funeral, but when it is held those attending will, by state government decree, be limited to 100.

There will be hundreds more who will wish to pay their respects to a woman who touched so many in her long life, but they will be forbidden from doing so.

Tens of thousands can hug and ­celebrate and slurp beer in a football stadium, but only 100 can stand in prayer, 1.5m apart, in the respectful ­silence of a church. What towering hypocrisy.

We will never know how the ­number of 100 was decided upon.




Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Budget's infrastructure spend no quick cure for jobs

Economists haven’t been enthused by inclusion in the budget’s big-ticket stimulus measures of $11.5 billion in road and rail projects. Why not? Because spending on “infrastructure” often works a lot better in theory than in practice.

Economists were more enthusiastic about infrastructure before the pandemic, when Scott Morrison’s obsession with debt and deficit had him focused on returning the budget to surplus at a time when this was worsening the growth in aggregate demand and slowing the economy’s return to full employment.

Reserve Bank governor Dr Philip Lowe pointed out that, unlike borrowing to cover the government’s day-to-day needs, borrowing to fund infrastructure was a form of investment. The new infrastructure could be used to yield benefits for decades to come, and so justify the money borrowed. Indeed, well-chosen infrastructure could increase the economy’s productive efficiency – its productivity – by, for instance, reducing the time it took workers to get to work or the cost of moving goods from A to B.

Another motivation was the high rates of population growth the government’s immigration program was causing. More people need more infrastructure if congestion and shortages aren’t to result, and thus worsen productivity.

But much has changed since then. The arrival of the worst recession in many decades has changed our priorities. We’re much less worried about debt and deficit and much more worried about getting the economy going up and unemployment coming down. And we don’t want economic growth so much to raise our material standard of living as to create more jobs for everyone needing to work.

Because infrastructure involves the government spending money directly, rather than using tax cuts and concessions to transfer money to households and businesses in the hope they’ll spend it, it should have a higher “multiplier effect” than tax cuts.

But as stimulus, infrastructure also has disadvantages. Big projects take a long time to plan and get approved, so their addition to gross domestic product may arrive after the recession has passed. And major infrastructure tends to be capital-intensive. Much of the money is spent on materials and equipment, not workers.

In a budget we’re told is “all about jobs”, many economists have noted that the same money would have created far more jobs had it been spent on employing more people to improve the delivery of many government-funded services, such as education, aged care, childcare and care of the disabled.

Most of those jobs are done by women. Infrastructure is part of the evidence for the charge that this is a “blokey” budget, all about hard hats and hi-viz vests.

If there’s a TV camera about, no one enjoys donning the hard hat and hi-viz more than our politicians – federal and state, Labor and Liberal, male and female. And it turns out that “high visibility” is another reason economists are less enthusiastic about infrastructure spending than they were.

In practice, many infrastructure projects aren’t as useful and productivity-enhancing as they could be because they’ve been selected to meet political objectives, not economic ones.

Politicians favour big, flashy projects – preferably in one of their own party’s electorates – that have plaques to unveil and ribbons to cut. It’s surprising how many of these projects are announced during election campaigns.

An expert in this field, who keeps tabs on what the pollies get up to, is Marion Terrill, of the Grattan Institute. She notes that since 2016, governments have signed up to 29 projects, each worth $500 million or more. But get this: only six of the 29 had business cases completed at the time the pollies made their commitment.

So “politicians don’t know – and seemingly don’t greatly care – whether it’s in the community’s interest to build these mega-projects,” she says.

Terrill says the $11.5 billion new infrastructure spending announced in the budget includes a mix of small and large projects, such as Queensland’s $750 million Coomera Connector stage one, and $600 million each for sections of NSW’s New England and Newell highways.

The money is being given to the state governments to spend quickly, and it will be taken back if they don’t spend it quickly enough.

Which they may not, because the new projects go into an already crowded market. Federal and state governments have been pumping money into transport construction for so long that, even two years ago, work in progress totalled an all-time high of about $100 billion.

By March this year – before the coronacession – the total had risen to $125 billion, Terrill calculates.

In some states at least, the civil construction industry – as opposed to the home construction industry – is already flat chat. It’s hardly been touched by the lockdown and doesn’t need the support it will be getting. Just how long it takes to work its way through to the new projects, we’ll see.

Terrill notes that the bulging pipeline of infrastructure construction built up before the pandemic was all about responding to the high population growth we’d had for years, and imagined we’d have forever.

But the pandemic’s closure of international borders – and parents’ reluctance to bring babies into such a dangerous world - has brought our population growth to a screaming halt. The budget papers predict negligible population growth this financial year and next, with only a slow recovery in following years. That is, we’re looking at a permanently lower level of population, and maybe a continuing slower rate of population growth.

Terrill says that, rather than ploughing on, we should reassess all the road and rail projects in the pipeline when we’ve got a clearer idea of what our future needs will be. And when we have a better idea how social distancing may have had a lasting effect on workers’ future travel and work patterns.

What’s so stupid about mindlessly piling up further transport projects is that the glitz-crazed pollies are ignoring a real and long-neglected problem: inadequate maintenance of the roads and rail we’ve already got. No sex appeal, apparently.

HSC maths enrolments still low

The number of students taking senior school maths has flatlined over the past 10 years, suggesting mathematics participation has "bottomed out" and universities may need to insist on the subject as a prerequisite to lift enrolments.

About one quarter of year 12 students over the decade did not take any HSC mathematics course, compared to just 6 per cent of students who opted out of maths altogether in 2000, figures provided by the NSW Education Standards Authority show. Of those HSC students who will sit their maths exams this week, more than half (30,757) are taking the standard non-calculus course.

Enrolments in advanced mathematics (16,966) and extension 1 (9060) are lower than they were 10 to 15 years ago despite today's larger overall HSC cohort.

The stagnant interest in HSC maths comes in spite of the NSW government's maths strategy which aims to increase the number of students studying mathematics in their final years of school, as well as the proportion studying higher level HSC mathematics, by 2025.

It also poses difficulties for the federal government's goal of producing more university STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates.

There has been a spike this year in students taking the highest level extension 2 maths HSC exam, making it the largest cohort in eight years (3418), but it is still below the number of students who took extension 2 in 2010 (3529).

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the government was encouraging universities to introduce more prerequisites for their courses. It also made some form of senior school maths compulsory last year, and has hired specialist maths teachers in primary schools to build students' foundations.

"I want to reverse the trend of fewer students studying maths," Ms Mitchell said. "Maths challenges our students' to think critically and creatively, preparing them for whatever career they might choose after school."

Maaike Wienk, a policy officer at the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, said enrolments in maths had not bounced back after sharply declining from 2000 and stabilising in 2010.

"We have basically bottomed out," she said. "But because it's been such a long term decline, I think people forget how it used to be."

In 2000, 94 per cent of HSC students took a maths course. That dropped to 78 per cent of students in 2005, 75 per cent in 2010 and is 76 per cent this year.

Words mean nothing when those on the left use them in arguments

It’s easy to win an argument if you’re a leftist. All you need to do is change the rules of language as you go.

Plenty of allies will assist in this slippery enterprise. For example, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard famously claimed in 2012 that Liberal leader Tony Abbott hated women.

“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high ­office,” Gillard railed in parliament.

“Well, I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he’s writing out his resignation.

“Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a ­motion in the House of Representatives. He needs a mirror.“

At the time, misogyny was defined as a hatred of women.

This seemed an unfair accusation to level against Abbott, whose mother, wife, daughters, sister and female colleagues have never known him to exhibit any gender-specific loathing.

So the Macquarie Dictionary stepped in to help, softening the meaning of “misogyny” to now indicate a mere implication of “prejudice” against women.

“Gillard‘s critics no longer have semantics on their side,” the Guardian’s Lizzy Davies gloated. See? It’s just that easy.

A similar politically-motivated alteration recently occurred in the US.

During her confirmation hearings earlier this month, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett said that she has “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference”.

“Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent,” Barrett concluded.

Readers unfamiliar with this issue are invited to detect any problem with Barrett’s words. It’s quite a challenge, because there is no problem. None at all.

But Barrett is a conservative and was nominated by US President ­Donald Trump, so a problem had to be invented.

Mazie Hirono, a Democrat senator from Hawaii, did just that.

“Not once, but twice, you used the term sexual preference to describe those in the LGBTQ community,” she reprimanded Barratt. “And let me make clear, sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term.“

Really? How so? And since when?

According to Hirono, the term “sexual preference” is “used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not”.

But according to most people, and almost every dictionary, “sexual ­preference” just means “sexual ­preference”.

Immediately after Hirono’s outburst, however, Merriam-Webster updated its own dictionary so as to strengthen the case against Barrett – exactly as the Macquarie Dictionary had previously assisted Julia Gillard.

Their new definition reads: “The term ‘sexual preference’ as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.”

Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski claimed the change was just a matter of routine.

But the cultural left doesn’t stop at changing definitions.

They’ll also change words and phrases, rebranding various unpopular commie concepts so those abominations may be more easily marketed.

That’s why “socialism” became “social justice”, “global warming” became “climate change”, “East Germany” became “Victoria” and “advanced confinement-grade dementia” became “Joe Biden”.

It’s also why “riots” became “peaceful protests” and “violent Marxist stormtroopers” became “Black Lives Matter”.

Words mean nothing to these people, except as shields or weapons. That’s “progressives” for you.

Isolation fuels ‘pandexit’ calls from Western Australia

Premier Mark McGowan has turned Western Australia into a fortress against infection. This has shielded his community from the worst of the pandemic but has increased its separation from the nation. In the words of the Premier, the state’s hard border closure has turned it into “an island within an island”. Not surprisingly, this has rekindled talk of Western Australia seceding from the federation. The movement is gaining momentum because of the success of its isolation, and friction with the commonwealth and other states.

Western Australia was a reluctant entrant to the federation in 1901. It was the last colony to join and did so late in the process. The colony was concerned that its economic position would be weakened by joining the nation, and that the federation would be dominated by the eastern states. The west feared it would not receive its fair share of taxation revenue.

Geography also played a role. Almost 3300km separates Perth from the east coast, an unimaginable distance for many people at the end of the 19th century. By contrast, London is 2500km from Moscow. New Zealand is much closer to Sydney, and yet it declined to join the federation.

After much disagreement and debate, Western Australia decided to unite with the other colonies at the 11th hour. It did so by a popular vote in July 1900, three weeks after Queen Victoria gave royal assent to the British law creating the new nation. This meant it was too late to include a reference to Western Australia as the nation’s sixth founding state.

The opening words to the British Act that introduce the Australian Constitution speak of “the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania” agreeing “to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth”. The omission of Western Australia was symbolic of its uncertainty. This has resonated over the years with the state’s politicians and leading citizens questioning whether a mistake was made and if the time had come to leave the federation.

Economic factors and political dissatisfaction have driven cycles of debate around Western Australia seceding. Mining magnate Andrew Forrest put forward the idea when the Rudd government proposed a mining tax that many saw as plundering the state’s mineral riches. A decade ago, the West Australian mines and petroleum minister Norman Moore also said that the unequal distribution of GST revenue had led to “rumblings of secession — everywhere you go these days, people are now talking about it”. He had “no doubt that Western Australia would be one of the most successful countries in the world if it was a separate country”.

These rumblings have grown again in recent times. The Western Australian Liberal Party passed a resolution at its 2017 state conference calling on the establishment of a committee to “examine the option of Western Australia becoming a financially independent state”. A poll taken this month found 28 per cent of Western Australians want to form their own country.

Others have expressed concern that calls for separation are growing louder. The federal member for Perth, Patrick Gorman, has warned against treating secession as a joke. He has acknowledged the growing support for the idea of Westralia and drawn a comparison with Brexit. In that case, unfavourable economic conditions and unresolved community dissatisfaction enabled a fringe idea to become a reality.

It is no surprise that the pandemic and Australia’s economic problems have restarted this debate. The closest that Western Australia has come to leaving the nation was 90 years ago amid the great depression. In 1930, a state government led by Sir James Mitchell was elected on a platform for secession. In 1933, he put a referendum to the people of Western Australia asking whether the state should withdraw from the commonwealth. People overwhelmingly voted to do so by a margin of two to one.

The state sent a delegation to London to petition the United Kingdom parliament to allow it to become a self-governing dominion within the British Empire. The British diplomatically took their time to respond. Two years later they decided not to entertain the petition because convention dictated that it come from the commonwealth and not an individual state. The commonwealth opposed secession, and so the push ended. The political movement then faltered as economic conditions improved and the commonwealth sent more money west.

The events of almost a century ago demonstrate the difficulty of any state leaving the federation. The problem for the proponents of separation is that federation is a one-way ticket. The constitution provides no mechanism for a state to leave the nation.

In the absence of a revolution, the only path to secession is to amend the constitution to permit a state to leave. The federal parliament would first need to approve the change, followed by the people voting at a referendum. A majority would need to vote yes, plus at least four out of the six states, including Western Australia. The political difficulties of achieving this make secession possible in theory, but impossible in practice. The bottom line is that Western Australians can only leave if the rest of the nation is willing to let them go.




Monday, October 26, 2020

The visa loophole that's allowing immigrants to 'permanently' stay in Australia - because it takes 50 YEARS to process the application

A special visa has a 50-year processing time, allowing immigrants to effectively stay in Australia indefinitely while they wait for it to be approved.

Craig Rookyard, 32, fled violence and crime in South Africa and moved to Perth to join his parents and sister in 2011.

Mr Rookyard paid $60,000 to complete a business degree at university but didn't qualify for a skilled visa when he graduated in 2013.

He then applied for the remaining relative visa, which allows people to become permanent residents of Australia to be with their close family members.

The visa waiting time was 12 years when Mr Rookyard applied in 2013 but it has since increased to 50 years, meaning he will be 75 years old when he finds out if he is granted residency in 2063.

While he waits, Mr Rookyard is on a bridging visa that allows him to stay in the country but without the benefits of permanent residents and citizens.

He has worked full time, paid taxes, bought a home in the Perth hills and got engaged to his Australian girlfriend while living here the last nine years.

Speaking to Nine News, Mr Rookyard said his visa situation is 'incredibly frustrating because I am Australian in every way but one'.

While Mr Rookyard is still on a bridging visa, his parents and sister have become permanent residents, bringing them one step closer to becoming citizens.

The 32-year-old has no family left in South Africa and doesn't want to return due to crime and violence.

'We were having a tough time there (South Africa) with the crime, we were getting constantly broken into, so we needed to get out quick,' he told Nine News.

'I guess my biggest worry is the uncertainty. We might elect a new government here - and they could say to all the people still waiting on that list – you are not residents here so we are going to cancel your (bridging) visa.

'That's my biggest fear because I don't want to go back to South Africa. I don't have anyone there anymore. My family is all here. Where would I go?'

Mr Rookyward was recently stood down from work during the COVID-19 pandemic but was not able to access JobKeeper like his colleagues since he is not a citizen.

The remaining relative visa is one of four visas in the Other Family category, which had only 500 places in 2019-2020.

The Department of Home Affairs website says 'there will be no further queue release for these visas during migration program year 2019-2020'.

'Current estimated processing time for Remaining Relative and Aged Dependent Relative visa applications that meet the criteria to be queued is approximately 50 years,' the website read.

Another visa with a long wait time is the non-contributory parent visa, which takes an estimated 30 years to process.

Mr Rookyard plans to marry his Australian fiancée in December and will apply for a partner visa afterwards.

The partner visa application will cost $8,000 plus thousands more for migration agent fees but comes with a shorter wait time of three years.

National anthem non-protest decision by Australia's Rugby team

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has confirmed the national men’s rugby side will not take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before their Bledisloe Cup match against the All Blacks next weekend.

Sporting teams and organisations around the world have opted to show support for the BLM movement since the death of George Floyd by taking a knee.

On Thursday, Wallabies fullback Dane Haylett-Petty revealed the Australian squad were considering a silent protest during the national anthem before their Test match against New Zealand in Sydney on Sunday, October 31.

The Wallabies would become the first Australian national side to take a knee during a national anthem if they went ahead with the silent protest.

“I think it’s great,” Haylett-Petty said. “I think sport has an amazing opportunity to have a say and join conversations and a lot of sports have done that and it would be a great thing for us to do.”

It led ex-Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones to speak out against the idea.

“To take the risk of basically splitting the support the Wallabies are starting to earn through their gutsy performances in Wellington and Auckland – just don't do it guys, it's too risky,” he told 2GB radio. “You run the risk that a few (viewers) would just turn off. They don't want to see politics in national sport. That's a real risk. I think it could be divisive. I don't think here in Australia that we have a major issue in relation to discrimination of coloured people."

Which led to a response from former player Gary Ella. “That's just stupid talk. That obviously shows that Nick doesn't have a full appreciation of the history of Aboriginal people in this country,” Ella said. “If you're talking about reconciliation, we're talking about sharing and acknowledging the history that we’ve come past and are working towards a better future. Those type of comments are totally ignoring the history."

On Friday, Rennie told reporters the Australian squad came to a “unanimous decision” not to perform the silent protest.

“We met with the leaders and then the leaders met with the rest of the team and it’s a unanimous decision,’ Rennie said. “The key thing is, this is about honouring our indigenous people and we want the focus to be on that.

“Everyone’s got their own opinions around the other situation, but we want the focus to be on reflecting on our history and our past.

“All I’ve said is that our focus is around the First Nations People and the indigenous jersey. We’re not looking to make a political statement.”

Euthanasia could deliver a blow to Labor’s chances to forming a minority government with a key crossbench party,

Katter’s Australian Party leader Robbie Katter, whose party could play a decisive role in picking the next government, has hit out at the Premier – saying her voluntary assisted dying pledge is all about politics.

He said his party did not have an official position on the issue, but he was personally opposed to euthanasia, pointing to his public record and the KAP’s voting history on issues like abortion.

“I just cannot see a scenario where we could align with anyone that would push that agenda,” Mr Katter said.

“I would find it enormously hard to align with anyone that would even contemplate pushing that agenda in the next parliament. That would make it very difficult for me personally. But I couldn’t say any more than that.”

He would not say if the issue would be a deal breaker, but said he was “not in the business of compromising my values every day”.

Mr Katter accused Ms Palaszczuk of taking advantage of a “highly sensitive, emotional issue” during an election campaign.

The Premier announced at her party’s campaign launch that a re-elected Labor government would introduce voluntary assisted dying legislation to the parliament in February.

The Queensland Law Reform Commission would be asked to report back sooner than March on the proposal, with Ms Palaszczuk promising to give her MPs a conscience vote.

Mr Katter acknowledged that there were some strong arguments for euthanasia, but is concerned that once legislated, the laws could change over time – referring to the “slippery slope argument”. “Most people haven’t … put a formal (party) policy together on it because the whole issue was parked up until the law reform commission report came back,” he said.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington has previously refused to say if she personally supports euthanasia, but has said no one should have to die in pain.

ABC news boss warns staff against focus on 'inner city left-wing elites'

ABC news boss Gaven Morris told staff they were too focused on the interests of "inner city left-wing elites" and linked his concerns about editorial coverage to the national broadcaster's ongoing funding from taxpayers.

In remarks made during staff briefings last week Mr Morris warned it would not bode well for the ABC's funding "if we're seen to be representing inner city elite interests", according to three people who were present.

The sources said Mr Morris disparaged "inner city left-wing elites" numerous times, telling staff he would be "happier if we spent less time on the concerns of the inner city elites and more time on the things that matter to central Queensland".

Mr Morris told The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age his remarks referred to the public's perception of the ABC and it was wrong for anyone to infer that he was suggesting government funding could be under threat if news coverage did not change.

"It's a value proposition back to taxpayers, back to Australians," he said. "If there is a perception in the community that we are more interested in the concerns and lives of inner city elites, then we need to work harder to make sure we are as relevant to people in central Queensland as we are to people in inner Sydney."

The broadcaster has made no secret it is focused on growing its audience in the outer suburbs and regions, which is an explicit goal of the news division's editorial strategy "More Relevant to More Australians".

But the ABC staff who spoke to The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age were concerned about how "harshly" Mr Morris articulated those priorities during the briefings, as well as the explicit link they felt he made between editorial content and the broadcaster's funding.

"The idea we would shape coverage to please our masters is very worrying," one person said.

Some of the sources agreed it was desirable to broaden the ABC's output but said this should be done when warranted by news value, not to change public perception or please the government. They complained Mr Morris' remarks were reminiscent of critiques of the ABC routinely made on Sky News "after dark" or in the editorial pages of The Australian.

According to the people on the call, Mr Morris did not directly mention climate change in his remarks, but his references to issues that were pertinent to Queensland were interpreted as a message the ABC was too focused on the dangers of climate change and not sufficiently interested in the loss of coal jobs, for example.

In response to questions, an ABC spokesperson said: "A couple of words from an hour-long briefing without the proper context is not an accurate summation."

The spokesperson said the goal of the editorial strategy "More Relevant to More Australians" was to expand the range of issues the broadcaster covers.

"ABC News already does excellent and comprehensive coverage of all aspects of climate change, and we'll keep doing that," they said.

"As well as that, we want to make sure we're doing an equally good job covering a whole lot of other issues that are also really important to people and affect their lives.

"The reference to Queensland was simply this: we need to keep working hard to ensure we're as appreciated by and relevant to people in central Queensland as we are to people in central Sydney if we're to provide value to all Australians."

Mr Morris has run the ABC's news, analysis and investigations division for five years, and oversees all the ABC's broadcast and digital news and current affairs output.




Sunday, October 25, 2020

Alan Jones: COVID causes a global crisis of freedom

Sky News host Alan Jones says COVID-19 is not, and has never been, a pandemic:

I am forever an optimist. But there is certainly a crisis in this country and, indeed, in the Western world. It’s a crisis of trust, because we also face an economic crisis, a mental crisis, an unemployment crisis, business viability crisis, an aviation crisis, a crisis in the arts industry — the list is endless, all a derivative of strategies addressing a virus which are utterly out of all proportion to the nature of the problem.

As a result, we learn this week that Millennials in democracies throughout the world are more disillusioned with their system of government than any young generation in living memory. This is a survey of nearly five million people.

Roberto Foa, the study’s lead ­author from the Centre for the Future of Democracy at Cambridge Uni­versity, was quoted as saying: “This is the first generation in living memory to have a global majority who are ­dissatisfied with the way democracy works …”

David Kemp is a former federal Liberal MP, a colleague of mine in a Prime Ministerial office, and one of the most formidable defenders of liberal traditions. He wrote recently: “The corrupting effect of political power and self-interest has so clearly outed itself. The pandemic has highlighted some simple and sometimes harsh truths about ourselves, our leaders and our democracy … The most important truth is that, as individuals, we suffer, and some of us die, not from the virus, but from the lack of freedom to express and achieve our values and pursue our dreams.”

Rightly, argues David Kemp: “These disturbing occurrences underline how vital our civil liberties, democratic processes and constitutional constraints are to our wellbeing as a people and a nation.”

Well may we ask if we will ever get them back. Section 92 of the Constitution guarantees that intercourse among States should be “absolutely free”. No section of our Constitution was more rigorously debated leading up to Federation in 1901 than Section 92. Our Federal government refuses to go to the High Court to defend our Constitution. If our national government won’t, who will?

The “science” is thrown back at us to justify what is nothing more than totalitarian behaviour.

John Tierney, in City Journal, a publication of the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research, which is a leading free-market think tank, wrote recently of lockdowns and of Anthony Fauci, the White House adviser, whom Donald Trump has roundly criticised: “He and politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, profess to be following the science. But no ethical scientist would conduct such a risky experiment without carefully considering the dangers and monitoring the results …”

When a politician says that this is all because of “the science”, why you can only have 10 here and 20 there and 300 there, and you can’t stand, you can only sit and you can’t sing, and you can’t shake hands — never has a single piece of paper been presented that provides an epidemiological justification for what we are being told to do.

Yet, the World Bank estimates that the coronavirus recession could push 60 million people into extreme poverty, which inevitably means more disease and death.

President Trump argued this week: “People are tired of COVID. I have the biggest rallies I have ever seen ... ­people are saying “whatever, just leave us alone.”

As Henry Ergas wrote, clinically this month: “Every new case leads the evening news, reinforcing its image as the Grim Reaper. One might have hoped that the experts would set the picture straight.” Well, despite my protestations, no politician in this country has ever, and I repeat ever, quoted the World Health Org­anisation’s daily statistics — 99 per cent of cases are mild, 1 per cent serious or critical.

Indeed, as I write, in the whole of Australia, there are 17 people in hospital. But lockdowns persist. Everywhere. Not just Victoria.

No debate, no justification. Just do as you’re told or cop the consequences. Seriously, what country are we living in? Politicians should hang their arrogant heads in shame.

Mind Medicine Australia has put together a report, documenting the consequences of the response to this virus. And, among other things, it ­argues that, over the next five years, the additional cost to the Australian economy from those suffering from heightened psychological distress who remain employed, but at reduced productivity, is estimated at $114 billion; that modelling from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre suggests the COVID-19 pandemic will contribute to a major surge, 25 per cent in suicides with an increase of up to 30 per cent among young people aged 15 to 25.

The greatest metaphor of the alarmism, fear and hysteria that has overtaken our country and, indeed the world, is the use of the word “pandemic”. This is not a pandemic. It was never a pandemic.

It doesn’t matter which country you take — the US, with 328 million ­people, Sweden with 10 million people, or outfits like Italy, France, the UK, Spain and Australia in between — the statistics of people who are said to have died from coronavirus, (and remember, many of these people may have died with it not from it) nonetheless, the percentage of the population who have died is basically the same in all of these countries is 0.07 per cent.

Australia is an island continent with 25 million people. If we had not had Ruby Princess and international travellers, we could have easily ­escaped the whole show. But even so, deaths are 0.0035 per cent and look at the price we are now paying.

I have, for months, cited one international authority after another, who has argued the strategy is wrong.

Professor Joe Kettner, from Manitoba University, who said: “I have seen pandemics, one every year. It’s called influenza and other respiratory illness viruses. I have never seen this reaction and I’m trying to under­stand why.”

Professor John Ioannidis, the Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at Stanford University (and think of those mortality figures I have cited) has said: “If we had not known about a new virus out there and had not checked individuals with PCR tests, the number of total deaths due to “influenza-like illness” would not seem unusual this year.

“At most, we might have casually noted that flu this season seems to be a bit worse than average. The media coverage would have been less than for an NBA game between the two most indifferent teams.”

We are in a social, economic and moral sewer, because we have failed to listen to world authorities.

A fed-up and disillusioned Australia is cheering when Professor Kemp ­argues: “The authoritarianism of those whose philosophies are based on ­centralised power and imposed conformity has been unmistakeable … it’s time for the Prime Minister to recognise … that giving priority to his relations with those who abuse their power and disrespect their citizens is not consistent with the strong lead that the ­nation needs.”

Our collective plea is, get out of our way, leave us alone and give our country and our freedoms back to us.

The West’s booming new religion

This week, Britain’s Equalities Minister delivered a speech we probably wouldn’t hear in our federal parliament. That’s a shame because we could do with some home truths about a booming wokeness movement that is deeply flawed.

During a House of Commons debate on Black History Month, Tory minister Kemi Badenoch, an immigrant of Nigerian heritage, exposed the blind adherence of schools to simplistic slogans of the Black Lives Matters movement.

“I want to speak about a dangerous trend in race relations that has come far too close to home in my life and it is the promotion of critical race theory — an ideology that sees my blackness as victimhood and their whiteness as oppression,” she said. “What we are against is the teaching of contested political ideas as if they are accepted facts. We don’t do this with communism. We don’t do this with socialism. We don’t do it with capitalism.”

Badenoch said that some schools have decided to openly support the anti-capitalist Black Lives Matter group “often fully aware that they have the statutory duty to be politically impartial”.

“Black lives do matter. Of course they do,” said Badenoch. “But we know that the Black Lives Matter movement — capital B, L, M — is political. I know this, because at the height of the protest, I’ve been told of white Black Lives Matter protesters calling — and I apologise for saying this word — calling a black armed police officer guarding Downing Street a ‘pet n …’.”

When Badenoch entered the British parliament in mid-2017, she was hailed by sections of the media as the smartest of the crop of new MPs. And maybe only a woman of colour could rise in parliament and say we should stop pretending BLM “is a completely wholesome anti-racist organisation”. ‘There is a lot of pernicious stuff that is being pushed and we stand against that,” she said.

“We do not want to see teachers teaching their pupils about white privilege and their inherited racial guilt. And let me be clear, any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory as fact, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

Let’s not kid ourselves. There is a similar propensity in Australian schools to present BLM in simplistic, and misleading, terms as a wholesome anti-racist movement.

For example, at Ballarat Grammar, a weekly chapel service in week eight of term three, delivered as a video package to students, was devoted to the BLM movement. After an introduction where the school chaplain describes social movements as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, a number of students read scripted statements extolling the virtues of the BLM movement. Students call for reparations for invasion. They talk about white privilege. They detail the terrible treatment of some Indigenous Australians within the justice system.

Students should bring complex and difficult issues to the attention of other students. Genuine learning will, at times, cause discomfort. But the video package for Ballarat Grammar students, and posted on the intra-school website, is a mickey mouse version of the BLM movement. It makes no attempt to recognise BLM as a political movement, which, like every political movement is complicated, sometimes inconsistent, and not figured out from a handful of scripted platitudes. Students are not stupid. Teachers, and preachers, respect them far more by allowing them to explore how political movements can be both significant and far from perfect.

Students have come of age in an online world. So there has never been a greater need to help them be discerning, curious, even sceptical of what they come across in their digital world. So why package up the BLM movement as a Hallmark card?

Defunding police, for example, has become a crude mantra of the BLM movement. It ought to be contested, even at schools, lest students imagine that mantras are a substitute for thinking about complex issues.

As Ballarat Grammar was compiling its BLM chapel video, the BLM website stated its aim to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family”. Though deleted from the website in mid-September, how does this anti-family view fit with the chaplain’s claim that the BLM movement is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit?

Parts of the BLM movement are radically political, vehemently anti-capitalist and aimed at dismantling the liberal order. It’s not hard to find video footage of black-clad BLM protesters standing over diners at restaurants, chanting “white silence is violence”, demanding that all people raise their fists to show solidarity with their chosen agenda.

If this was just a case of dumbing down education, that would be bad enough given the woeful results of Australian students in international educational rankings. But if educators are not giving students the warts-and-all truth about the BLM movement, how will kids learn to separate some very sound aims from some deeply authoritarian traits? Ballarat Grammar’s chapel service could have offered students the chance to consider a deeply ethical question: when, if ever, do the ends justify the means?

Imagine a school classroom where high school students are asked to consider whether Western lives matter? Where they are challenged to think whether we should kneel for French teacher Samuel Paty? Where they are asked to consider what Italian journalist Guilio Meotti said during the week after the civics teacher was beheaded for discussing the Mohammed cartoons in his classroom: “This French teacher was the victim of the most ferocious racism that circulates today in Western democracies, that of fundamentalist beliefs against ‘infidels’.”

Alas, not just schools offer unthinking support for the BLM movement. Corporations and all kinds of other groups salute it too as part of their commitment to “diversity and inclusivity”. This commitment, part and parcel of a wider wokeness agenda, is another quasi-political movement that, like the BLM movement, could do with a splash of scepticism and analysis.

Parading virtue is not the same as doing good. No organisation should need a highly paid team of D&I “experts” to prove it supports inclusivity and diversity. Nor should it need pages of turgid D&I policies to understand that no person should be discriminated against on the basis of sex, sexuality, creed, culture or race.

But the D&I industry has become the perfect Trojan horse for more opportunistic activists to demand special status and privileges for groups they deem special. And timid CEOs and boards are swallowing it, lock, stock and barrel. Most companies have D&I statements drafted by D&I “officers”, D&I KPIs drawn up and monitored by more D&I “professionals”, D&I workshops run by D&I “experts”. It is, as Time magazine reported late last year, a booming industry: a 2019 survey of 234 companies in the S&P 500 found that 63 per cent of diversity “experts” were appointed during the past three years.

What a terrific lurk. No skills or formal qualifications required. Learn the D&I lingo, master the art of bullshit, and you’re on your way to a lucrative career with guaranteed work from company executives and board members looking to mimic each other with expensively drafted drivel about diversity and inclusion.

Woke D&I flunkies are paid handsomely, for example, to advise companies to establish their diversity and inclusion credentials by encouraging employees to “bring their whole self to work”. Most of it is for show. And much of it is as deeply flawed as the BLM movement.

What if your whole self includes a Christian or Muslim view of traditional marriage or homosexuality? Rugby Australia famously told Israel Folau not to bring those bits of his whole self to work, nor to express them on his personal social media accounts. Then he was told not to come to work at all.

James Cook University is another organisation that, according to its website “encourages diversity.” “JCU has an extensive program in place to encourage diversity,” it says. JCU places “diversity messages” in its recruitment advertising — such as this: “We are enriched by and celebrate our workplace diversity and welcome applications from candidates of all backgrounds and abilities.”

But when it comes to the university’s core business, diversity and inclusion is a crock. Rather than defend the diversity of academic opinions, JCU sacked physic professor Peter Ridd, claiming he acted in an uncollegial manner when he challenged the quality of climate research by a JCU academic.

More and more, the D&I industry resembles a new religion for our secular age. Corporate executives throw shareholder money in the D&I collection plate to signal their virtue.

Even worse, whereas older, traditional religions are learning to become more tolerant of difference, the D&I industry is not there yet.

Restrictions hinder housing affordability

Restrictions on new building are one of the main reasons housing is so expensive, especially in Sydney. Local councils want to make this worse.

Ku-ring-gai Council, in Sydney’s affluent North Shore, recently voted for “no increase in housing numbers or building heights” in defiance of state government targets.

Several other Sydney councils, including Ryde, Canterbury Bankstown and Randwick have called for reductions in the housing targets.

These calls are ostensibly in response to a reduction in population growth following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alister Henskens, the local state member, argues that, because of the pandemic, “no new housing may be required in the next 5 years in Ku-ring-gai as there is likely to be an excess of housing supply over demand in Sydney in the medium term.” Many other politicians have made similar claims.

There are three problems with this argument.

First, it ignores Sydney’s long history of under-building. This has accumulated to a large shortage. The NSW Productivity Commission’s recent Green Paper estimates that since 2006 housing supply has fallen short of underlying household formation by 70,000 dwellings.

This shortage is expected to grow to 170,000 dwellings by 2040. These projections take into account the pandemic and current building targets.

Second, a more relevant way to gauge the need for housing is to compare sale prices with supply costs. Homebuyers in Sydney are paying $350,000 more for the average new apartment than it costs to supply.

The unaffordability of housing is further evidence of a housing shortage. High housing costs are an unavoidable consequence of supply restrictions like those of Ku-ring-gai council.

Third, the construction industry is already undergoing a sharp contraction. However, unlike hospitality, entertainment and many other industries that have been hit by the pandemic, construction is a “COVID-safe” activity. It is an area of the economy that can be readily and safely expanded to reduce unemployment.

Unlike industries being supported by fiscal stimulus, market-rate housing provides goods of lasting value that households really want.

With high prices and negative real interest rates, now is a great time to be building houses. The construction industry can rapidly create jobs at no cost to the taxpayer.

All that is needed is for planners to get out of the way.

The alternative of letting the local councils reduce their targets will make housing even more unaffordable.

University to shift teacher training to postgrad diplomas

Back to the future. No more dummy teachers: Students with poor High School marks no longer admitted

The University of Technology Sydney has abruptly shelved its primary teaching degree, saying it was losing money and struggling to attract students because of government-imposed academic standards for trainee teachers.

The decision – which the university describes as a "pause" – comes as a new federal university funding scheme, beginning next year, reduces fees for education degrees to address a looming teacher shortage.

UTS' BEd (Primary) degree has been removed from the 2021 University Admissions Centre guide. Hundreds of students who listed it as a preference have been individually contacted to be told it is not available, multiple sources told the Herald.

The dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Alan Davison, wrote to the school of education late last month listing the reasons behind the decision.

There was not enough interest in the degree, its ATAR was low compared with competitors, and the school of education was not generating enough high-visibility research, he wrote in an email seen by the Herald.

"There is continued impact on load [student numbers] from increasing federal and state standards requirements, [such as] those wishing to enter a teaching degree require a minimum standard of three Band 5 HSC results," the email said.

Professor Davidson’s email said UTS’s vice-chancellor and provost had asked him to take "prompt action" to pause the degree, and explore the possibility of offering a postgraduate primary education course instead.

"As you are aware, undergraduate teacher education at UTS has been a major loss maker, and that must be addressed with some urgency," he wrote.

Students studying the degree will finish it, and there will be a small first-year cohort next year of deferred and repeating students. The secondary education degree has also been cancelled with UAC, and will be offered as a masters degree.

A spokeswoman for UTS said the pause would allow a review of the course in the first half of next year, "leading to a decision on its ongoing viability," she said.

One in 10 trainee teachers fails required literacy and numeracy tests

The decision was made before the federal government’s changes to student fees passed the Senate on October 8. "The challenges facing the area predate, and are unrelated to, the recent government funding changes," the spokeswoman said.

Under those changes, student fees for education degrees will drop by almost $3000 to encourage more students to study teaching. However, the government will not match the amount of money universities will lose due to the lower fees, so teaching – like nursing and engineering – will attract less total funding per student.

Michael Thomson, the state secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union, said UTS was due to replace its existing primary teaching course with a new one in 2021. Staff had been working on that course for at least a year.

"They were quite shocked when the announcement came that they were putting it on pause," he said. "What does a pause mean? People are concerned that this decision was made a bit ad hoc."

Mr Thomson said staff found out about the change two days before voluntary separation applications closed. "If they’d had this information beforehand, it might have influenced what they did," he said.

Like many universities, UTS’s revenue from international students has been hit hard by border closures related to COVID-19.