Monday, November 30, 2020

Politicians and military brass have failed to 'honour the presumption of innocence'

Sky News host Alan Jones says politicians and military brass have failed to understand they must “honour the presumption of innocence," adding the contemplation of placing the Brereton report on display in the War Memorial is a great “indignity”.

His comment comes regarding news the Australian War Memorial could make changes to its existing Afghanistan displays following the Brereton report.

“Well, why not add the Ruby Princess inquiry report to the Australian Museum?” Mr Jones said.

“The War Memorial is the veritable soul of the nation, the resting place of the Unknown Soldier. And here we are, in 2020, unproven allegations and politics directing what the military legacy will be.

Mr Jones says after the release of the Brereton report, which spoke of alleged crimes committed against Afghanis but did not name the alleged guilty, every Australian soldier “has been maligned, guilty around the world”.

“The Special Air Service Regiment's Second Squadron is to be dismantled. This non-leader, Campbell, is apparently going to recommend that the Meritorious Unit Citation, to the Special Operations Task group, be revoked,” he said.

“How much longer will the prime minister remain silent in the face of this assault on the integrity and contribution of these selfless men.

“Prime Minister, speak up and defend them and correct your original grubby comment that the report contains "brutal truths."

“Is the War Memorial now to be an institution to honour allegations?

“Rarely has the real truth been laid so bare through this shameful episode. The simple truth is we have lost our way; we are leader less.”

A psychologist correspondent comments

In course of my work I interview and assess many war veterans.

Because I connect, inquire, and do not keep records, many have described to me the awful dilemmas they face in war. Dilemmas and pressures which most civilians cannot imagine without having them explained and being asked, "What would you do then?"

I cannot even repeat their stories to my lefty/feminist colleagues because they get shocked, reject the reality of the stories and take offence, especially when I put that question to them.

Lefties cannot bear reality and individual responsibility, in other words, truth and freedom. That is why they are obsessed with changing reality/society into some fanciful version where everyone is equal and no individual responsibility exists.

Leftism is immaturity. It is basically a tantrum against reality.

Electricity supplies under pressure due to heatwave, energy market operator warns

This is a complete nonsense. I live in central Brisbane in SEQ and when I looked at my thermometer at mid-afternoon, it showed only 32 degrees, where a normal summer temperature at that time is 34 degrees. So any blackouts are clearly NOT blamable on a "heatwave". Greenie pressures on traditional generators are the real problem

In parts of northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, the Bureau of Meteorology says it is looking like a five or six-day heatwave for millions of people.

Overnight, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said there might not be enough reserve capacity (Lack of Reserve Level 1) in New South Wales this afternoon between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.

Earlier in the week, it also said Queensland would likely be affected on Wednesday.

The Queensland prediction was serious enough to prompt it to issue an official Lack of Reserve level 2 (LOR2) forecast, meaning the possible shortfall could be enough to require the AEMO to ask big energy users to use less power.

"LOR2 means we are one contingency away from load shedding," said Ben Skinner, the general manager of policy at the Australian Energy Council.

But by Thursday, the AEMO had downgraded the forecast risk to LOR1.

"That is mild in terms of reserves, and they're largely being met at the moment, but we'll watch that very carefully to manage that over the coming days," said Michael Gatt, the AMEO's chief operations officer.

Australia's Covid vaccines: everything you need to know

Around the world about 200 Covid-19 candidate vaccines are being developed, with more than 40 in human clinical trial stage. The Australian government has agreements to secure four of the most promising vaccines, and will roll them out if they prove to be safe and effective.

All four vaccines require two doses, spaced a few weeks apart. As the pharmaceutical companies behind some vaccine candidates begin releasing results, many questions remain about the next steps towards controlling Covid. Here is what we know.

What are the four vaccines Australia is getting?

Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine: This is a viral vector vaccine, containing a weak or inactivated virus that cannot cause disease. This virus has genetic material from the Covid-19 virus inserted in it. Once the viral vector is inside human cells, the cells make a protein unique to the Covid-19 virus. This triggers the body to begin to build an immune response. If infected with Covid-19, the body will remember how to activate this response and fight the real virus.

Australia has secured 33.8m units of this vaccine. The phase three interim clinical trial results have only been communicated in a press release, so it is hard fully to interpret the results in subgroups, for example in elderly people.

In clinical trials, phase three represents the final stage before the drug is rolled out to the general population, and involves tens of thousands of participants.

Novavax vaccine: This is a classical protein vaccine, and includes harmless pieces of Covid-19. Once vaccinated, the immune system recognises that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins building antibodies.

If the vaccine proves safe and effective, 40m units will be available in Australia as early as the first half of 2021. Phase one and two clinical trials are being conducted in Australia and the United States. Phase three clinical trials are under way in the UK.

University of Queensland/CSL vaccine: This is also a protein vaccine, and Australia has secured 51m units, which it hopes will be available by mid-2021. Phase one clinical trials in humans began in July in Brisbane, with phase two and three clinical trials to be under way in December.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine: This is an mRNA-based vaccine that gives human cells instructions for how to make a a protein unique to Covid-19. The protein is harmless, but the body recognises it should not be there and begins to build an immune response. If infected with the real virus, the body will know how to attack.

The Australian government said 10m units of the vaccine would be available from March. Phase three clinical trial results found 95% of people given the vaccine were protected against the virus, and while the full results have not been made public, they are being provided to regulators.

Why mRNA, instead of the proven path of an inactivated virus?

The study protocol for the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine states there are benefits to this type of vaccine. “Unlike live attenuated vaccines, RNA vaccines do not carry the risks associated with infection and may be given to people who cannot be administered live virus (eg pregnant women and immunocompromised persons),” it says. However, the vaccine still needs to be tested in these groups.

It would be the first mRNA vaccine to be rolled out to the general public, but there have been clinical trials of mRNA vaccines to treat other diseases since the 1990s. They have the benefit of being easier to mass produce and cheaper. But the instability of mRNA vaccines has meant their study has been limited.

With the arrival of Covid-19 it made sense for different pharmaceutical companies to explore different technologies, in case one type did not work. Vaccine technologies have improved rapidly, allowing scientists to address some of the previous problems with mRNA vaccines, such as degradation during delivery into cells.

The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA Covid-19 vaccine does need to be stored at minus 70C, but sophisticated eskies with dry ice and remote sensing have been produced to keep it stable in transit.

Does it matter that there will be different types of vaccine?

No, this is not uncommon. Each year there is a variety of types of flu vaccine. High-dose flu vaccines are offered to the elderly, but not routinely to healthy adults.

A taskforce of medical experts will look at the Covid-19 vaccines and decide which should go to which locations or groups of people. Like other common vaccines such as for tetanus and hepatitis A, the four Covid-19 vaccines are delivered with an intramuscular injection.

How will the vaccine be distributed?

The first doses will be rolled out from March.

The program will depend on the nature and test results of the vaccines approved for use, the federal health department has said, and will take into account any current outbreaks. If there was a large outbreak in a particular state, it would make sense to send the vaccine there first.

The physical rollout will be complex due to different storage, transport, security and administration requirements for the vaccine types. The federal government will be responsible for safely transporting vaccine doses to storage and administration sites within each state and territory.

Once vaccine doses are delivered, the states and territories will take responsibility for the safety and storage. Vaccines may be administered in GP clinics, dedicated vaccination clinics and workplaces, and vaccination teams will visit aged care homes and other centres with vulnerable populations.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health sector will help identify rollout locations. Pharmacies are likely to play a role once enough doses are in stock and vulnerable and target populations have been vaccinated. If vaccines are licensed for children, they may be administered in schools.

The federal government said “to achieve wide population coverage it is likely that all or most” of these locations will need to be used over several months.

Who gets it first? Can rich people buy the vaccines?

According to a federal department of health spokeswoman, potential sales are up to the vaccine companies. “The Australian government is committed to providing Covid-19 vaccines at no cost to consumers,” she said. “Decisions to make any vaccine available privately are for the sponsoring company, noting all vaccines need to be registered by the TGA before they can be supplied in Australia.”

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is advising the federal government about which groups should be prioritised for the first free doses. In line with World Health Organization recommendations, ATAGI said the first groups to be vaccinated should be:

Those who have an increased risk of developing severe disease [such as the elderly].

Those at risk of exposure, being infected with and transmitting the virus.

Those working in services critical to society functioning [such as health work and aged care].

Once enough doses are in stock, all Australians who want the vaccine will be given access on a voluntary basis during 2021.

The real reason China is imposing duties on Australian wine

Despite entering into a free trade agreement

China's decision to impose temporary anti-dumping duties on Australian wine from Saturday is more about "other factors", Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says.

Australian wine going into the Chinese market will face tariffs of up to 212 per cent, having benefited from zero tariffs under the China-Australia free trade agreement.

Relations between Australia and China have soured in recent years, with China's grievance list spanning foreign investment rules, banning Huawei from the 5G network and the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.

China has launched a series of trade strikes against Australia encompassing barley, cotton, red meat, seafood, sugar, timber and coal exports, as the diplomatic row deepens.

"The cumulative impact of China's trade sanctions against a number of Australian industries during the course of this year does give rise to the perception these actions are being undertaken as a result or in response to some other factors," Senator Birmingham said.

"(It) is completely incompatible with the commitments that China has given through the China-Australia free trade agreement and through the WTO."

Australian officials will seek to overturn the move over the next 10 days, after which the dispute could be taken to the World Trade Organisation.

Chinese officials said an investigation had found "substantive" evidence of the dumping of Australian wine and "material damage" to the Chinese wine market.

The tariffs cover a range between 107.1 per cent and 212.1 per cent.

The rate required of Australia's Treasury Wine is 169.3 per cent, which saw its shares fall more than 13 per cent before being put on a trading halt pending an announcement.

China began an anti-dumping probe into imports of Australian wine in August at the request of the Chinese Alcoholic Drinks Association.

Senator Birmingham said the investigation's finding was "erroneous in fact and in substance" and Australia would provide Chinese authorities with detailed evidence of how the wine industry works.

Australian wine exports to China were worth $1.1 billion in the year to June 30.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government was extremely disappointed in the move by Australia's top wine market.

"The fact is Australia produces amongst the least subsidised product in the world and provides the second-lowest level of farm subsidies in the OECD," he said.

"The Australian government categorically rejects any allegation that our wine producers are dumping product into China, and we continue to believe there is no basis or any evidence for these claims."




Sunday, November 29, 2020

Another dubious tale of "Aboriginal" achievement


It's amazing how the people who feature in stories about Aborigines who achieve academically all turn out to look just like people of European ancestry. Why? Because they clearly are overwhelmingly of European ancestry. They look nothing like Aborigines. The lady above is even hyphenated, for goodness's sake!

She does have a slight "suntan" but to a degree well within European norms. Vanessa is quite simply good-looking. She would be a social success among any group of white Australians.

How she came to originate in an Aboriginal family, one can only speculate, but mixed ancestry is common among urban Aborigines so she may well have simply got a very fortunate roll of the genetic dice that featured all or most of the "white" genetics in her ancestry. Though we should perhaps note that there is no mention of her mother below.

Her life story does show that her childhood among Aborigines ended in producing serious distress for her but her tale below is clearly very one-sided. Why did the social workers remove her from her Aboriginal family? We are left to believe that it was because they were inhuman monsters.

The fact of the matter however is that removing a child is very rule-governed and in this case the aim was protective. It is very common for Aborigines to treat their children very negligently and even abusively so there must have been reports of that nature in this case.

But despite her difficult childhood, that evil white society recognized her talent and moved her into the upper echelons of that society.

So combined with many other similar stories, this story does reveal a very clear lesson. It is not at all the lesson intended by the narrator but it is clear nonetheless: Real Aborigines cannot achieve academically. It is only ones who are not really Aborigines who can. It reasserts the great importance of European genetics

As a child I lived on Gadigal country in Redfern in Sydney, before moving out to social housing near La Perouse. Through a white lens, people would say we were poor. But there was something really powerful in being appreciative of what we did have and that was community, family, kinship and love. We were living with poverty and struggled at times, but we never went without.

The Department of Community Services (DOCS, now the NSW Department of Family and Community Services) removed me from my family in 2008 when I was 10. It was around 10 o’clock at night, and I was in bed. My older brother, thankfully, was at my mum’s place that night. Dad was out on the balcony and he yelled, “Bub I’m so sorry, they’re coming to get you.” I looked out the window and saw all of these red and blue flashing lights.

I heard a knock at the door and it was a caseworker. She said, “Hug your dad one last time, you’ve got to come with us.” I remember hugging my dad so tight that I could feel his tears drop on my shoulder.

When I was in the DOCS car, I vomited because I’d been crying so much. I didn’t know what was going on. I was placed into an emergency foster home that night. I remember the caseworker saying to me, “You can’t go home because your parents neglected you and your parents don’t know how to look after children.” I was really confused, because I remembered my dad raising my nieces and nephews and cousins and playing a prominent role in their lives. I was like, “What do you mean that my dad doesn’t know how to raise children?”

I went to around eight or 10 foster homes in that first couple of years. That’s considered a low number. Behind the scenes, my family was battling the court system. My parents, who had no knowledge of the legal system, were put into a room to advocate why they should be allowed to parent their child. No one ever asked me what I wanted.

I was passed around as if there was no soul in my body. The foster homes that I went to were white – they weren’t my kin, even though my aunties and uncles had put their hand up to take me in. During my third year in out-of-home care, I lost my Pop. He wanted to take me in, but I was robbed of those years with him because of the state system. I went from spending every weekend at Pop’s house, hearing stories, sharing our culture, having a Sunday roast, to seeing him for sorry business after he’d passed away.

My experience in foster care was a driving force for me to make the most of my career. I thought, “I’m going to leave this state system, I’m going to go back to my family and I’m going to get that time back that was robbed from me.”

At 18, I was accepted to study social work and criminology at UNSW. I met with a senior law lecturer to talk about whether I should study law. I remember she said, “It’s been 15 minutes and I’m already wondering why you didn’t originally enrol in law as your first degree.” In that moment I was like, “Shit, someone genuinely believes I’m capable of doing this.”

I’m in the sixth year of a seven-year combined law and social work degree. As an Indigenous student studying law, you’re reminded every day of what you don’t have. In corporations law you’re reminded you don’t have tenure to your land. In criminal law you’re reminded all your people are being locked up, removed from their families and communities and subjected to punitive measures rather than support. I work part-time as a paralegal in the pro bono team with Sydney law firm Gilbert + Tobin. One of the most beautiful things about working there is it’s built on the values of giving back. The team is like family. I’m lucky to have their guidance and support on the right side of the fight for humanity and justice.

The year that Kevin Rudd gave his apology to the stolen generations was the same year I was taken. I remember everyone felt so proud as a nation, but the reality is, the same executive powers are removing our babies. This is still occurring today. [In 2018, First Nations children made up almost 40 per cent of all children in out-of-home care nationally, despite being 5½ per cent of Australia’s child population. About a third were placed with non-Indigenous carers.]

Controversially named racehorse makes its debut

A Queensland thoroughbred owner has been allowed to name a rookie racehorse "Black Suspect", despite concerns it could offend Indigenous people.

The three-year-old colt with the potentially provocative name is set to raise eyebrows when it makes its racing debut, with even its trainer admitting there could be questions.

Black Suspect was meant to have its first race in a maiden event at Toowoomba last weekend but was a late scratching.

Ipswich trainer Beau Gorman said the scratching had nothing to do with the name of the horse, owned by local racing enthusiast Colin Clark, but was because it simply wasn’t ready to go.

Mr Gorman said the horse was named because it was a big black colt and its sire was a US stallion called Unusual Suspect.

He said the name was chosen after other names, including Black American and Black Gold, were rejected by Racing Australia.

Coronavirus Australia: Wake up and smell the sickly stench of government control

Lucky we seldom use cash any more; it would be impossible to physically swirl the dollars fast enough between taxpayers and governments. For instance, if I spend $10 at a local Sydney cafe, one dollar heads to Canberra as GST, while perhaps another one will cover company tax on any profit; some of the federal tax is funnelled back to the cafe for JobKeeper payments and most of the GST dollar is returned to the NSW government which, after an initiative in its post-COVID budget this month, then sends some of it back to me in vouchers to be spent at a local hospitality businesses — such as my local cafe.

It might have been simpler to just let my barista keep the $10 — or are we worried that leaves too many work-from-home state and federal public servants with too little to do. Imagine the money wasted and the efficiencies forgone in this endless churn; it is a wonder cash is not turned into butter.

Yes, this is a simplistic and stylised example, but it illustrates the never-ending expansion and reach of government. While the mortality rate from COVID-19 is trending downwards worldwide, the virus has proven lethal against pre-pandemic notions of small government.

On the macro scale, the impact is frightening; where once we were traumatised by Wayne Swan’s $50bn deficits we have flipped this year from a projected $7bn surplus to an $85bn deficit — a record shortfall that will be almost tripled next year with a $213bn dollar deficit. Swan can finally have a Christmas where he fancies himself as Scrooge.

Government spending as a percentage of GDP snuck above 25 per cent in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, after which even Labor agreed it should be kept below that mark. But it surged to 27.7 per cent last year, and will hit almost 35 per cent next year. So, while we once considered it prudent to keep federal spending to less than a quarter of the economy, Canberra’s splurge is about to account for more than a third of GDP.

When John Howard lost government, 13 years ago this week, the nation had cash in the bank — negative net government debt. We started to worry when debt rose above $150bn after the GFC, ballooning to more than 10 per cent of GDP. Now it has hit $500bn — half a trillion dollars, or 25 per cent of GDP — and within five years it will top $1 trillion, or equivalent to 44 per cent of the ­national economy.

Never before has the federal government sent more money to more people and more businesses. We are reacting to the corona­virus pandemic like it is a once-in-a-lifetime challenge that we can bet the bank on — best hope there is not another pandemic, natural disaster, global depression or war around the corner.

While interest rates are at record lows, we have been prepared to burden future generations with enormous risks. The big privatisations are behind us and all hopes hinge on the tumultuous cycle of economic growth. Most of us under 80 years of age can thank previous generations for the prosperity we have enjoyed — yet we seem happy to do the opposite, make ourselves comfortable in the here and now, while forwarding the bill to future generations.

The same people who argue it is immoral to leave behind a carbon footprint for future generations have no qualms about leaving them more debt than has ever been imagined. There must be an argument that we could have been more prudent and avoided any sense of intergenerational theft — but this discussion seems absent from the political debate.

Perhaps even more debilitating than the lifetime of debt is the rapid and unbridled escalation of the Nanny state. What has long been an alarming trend has run rampant since Wuhan first shared its virus with the world.

We have long observed the politicians’ predilection for increasing spending, launching new initiatives, imposing new rules and inveigling themselves into every aspect of our lives in order to win our gratitude and boost their prospects. Yet it is even more disturbing to see how great swathes of the population have lapped this up and played along — “gimme more free stuff”.

Nonsensical interventions

Worse still is the way we see people enthusiastically yield to the feverish and often nonsensical interventions imposed upon them. Melburnians heeded a drastic, inconvenient and muddle-headed curfew slapped on the city with no medical imprimatur. They also were forced to wear face masks outdoors, even many ­metres away from fellow citizens.

Daniel Andrews and his barrackers claim the absence of infections as vindication, when the whole point was supposed to be about controlling the pandemic without crushing communities, businesses and livelihoods. Around all the states except NSW, signs are that these lessons are yet to be learned.

Worryingly, police officers in Victoria and elsewhere enforced curfews and other nonsense with ruthless disregard for civil rights — officers on horseback and in ­patrol cars moved people on in Sydney parks, pregnant women were arrested over Facebook posts in Melbourne, drones spied on Western Australians in the streets, and there were Checkpoint Charlies set up along a string of interstate borders.

Most of us accepted these intrusions. People compliantly kept their children home from school, for months on end, when there was no medical basis for doing so. We stayed apart from family because of closed borders, we cancelled overseas holidays, worked from home, and kissed goodbye to a wide range of social activities.

Curfews weren’t enough

But it was not enough; governments wanted more control. They banned people in Adelaide and Melbourne from leaving their homes; restricted how many people could visit our houses; set stringent attendance limits for funerals, weddings and church services; demanded we did not sing; or dance; made us commemorate Anzac Day on our own but let the protesters do as they pleased; and they shut beaches

All this in a blessed Land Down Under where the people were once renowned for their self-­reliance and anti-authoritarian streak. Has the Nanny state eaten away our resilience and national character?

Sure, most of us have understood the aims and surrendered to authority, in part because we believe in the project of “flattening the curve”. But much of what has been imposed has been irrational, over the top and not based on ­science — yet we went along with it anyway. Were we too compliant, too ignorant, or too frightened to object?

There are Australians right now, kept apart or sweating it out in home isolation in Western Australia because Mark McGowan still insists on hard borders with Victoria and NSW, even though there has been no community transmission for weeks in the two most populous states. Some will be proud of this — “we are all in this together” — but it speaks more to fearmongering and ignorance.

Politicians have spoken of a “dangerous” situation and how they need to “keep people safe” which is a ridiculous way to frame attempts to control a virus that is mild to asymptomatic in more than 95 per cent of cases, makes a small percentage of people seriously ill and, in the main, is only life-threatening to people who are very old or already very ill.

This is not to dismiss the vulnerable — it is a call to focus on protecting them instead of trying to scare children and paralyse communities.

No such thing as a free lunch

Have we become so molly­coddled that we look to governments to prevent us from getting sick? Are politicians so conceited they believe they can manage all risk out of our lives? Do they fret about paying a political price because a virus hops from one ­person to another?

Ideas for government intervention have proliferated like a contagion. We have governments siphoning taxes from us only to regurgitate some of it back as vouchers to cover kids’ sport fees or, now, for us to spend in restaurants. There is no such thing as a free lunch — we are paying for these gimmicks ourselves.

Governments now proffer paid sick leave for casual workers, subsidies for wages, bonuses for employing people, refunds on car registration, funding for solar panels, bonuses for first-home buyers, freebies in childcare, schooling, healthcare, social housing, public broadcasting, and whatever else. We are dining out on the taxpayers of 2050.

No matter how successful or futile the vaccines turn out to be, no matter how far this pandemic has to run, we can say one thing about its duration. It will never outlive the propensity for governments and bureaucracies to constantly mutate and expand, infecting every aspect of our lives.

Beware, Parents, Your Kids Are Being ‘Scootled’

When I noticed that a top-tier federal-state education body is providing lesson materials for teachers, I decided to take a look. The body is Education Services Australia (ESA), a company set up by federal-state education ministers. ESA provides free supplementary online materials for teachers via 20,000-plus pages on its Scootle portal. No mickey-mouse operation, it’s all keyed precisely to the curricula and used in 2019 by some 60,000 teachers, who chalked up 2.8 million sessions involving 18.8 million page views. From 2000-09 this on-line exercise chewed up about $130 million of taxpayer money.[1] Today ESA self-supports on revenue of $40 million a year from projects and subscriptions.

Scootle is just one of many third-party inputs to schooling. More than 90 per cent of teachers and 8400 schools, for example, use online lessons supplied by the anti-capitalist green-left Cool Australia outfit (See here, here, here, here). I fully expected that Scootle materials would be part of the Leftist miasma pervading education, which is so all-encompassing that even the 50 per cent conservative-voting parents long ago ceased to notice what their kids are being taught.

In the immortal words of Victoria’s one-time education minister and premier Joan Kirner, education must be reshaped to be “part of the socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument of the capitalist system”. This was consummated in 2008 when PM Julia Gillard and her Labor premiers brought in their “Melbourne declaration”.[2] Conservative governments don’t seem to mind that schools have been converted to breeding grounds for green-minded woke warriors.

ESA is supposed to promote “improved students outcomes” and classier teachers and schools. As we know, our kids’ performance is sliding down the international league tables, despite ESA’s best efforts. So, as an amateur auditor, having logged on as a “guest user”, I had a look around.

“Paul Keating” gets 17 hits, virtually all laudatory; Gough Whitlam gets 56 hits, none hostile and most laudatory. Whitlam’s dismissal (1975) gets a dozen tracts. “John Howard” gets more than 20 cites, but sadly none are laudatory and most hostile.[3]

I got a surprise when I searched on “WWF” to check that green lobby’s input. Instead of cute pandas, I got a dozen propaganda film clips from the Communist-led Waterside Workers Federation of the 1950s, such as “Banners Held High, 1956: May Day”. Scootle tells kids this film is “honouring the achievements of workers across the world”. Actually, a few months after its May Day love-in, the WWF backed the Soviets as their tanks crushed the Hungarian revolt.[4]

Scootle’s asylum-seeker treatment is straight from The Greens’ playbook.[5] Search for “asylum seeker” and the request generates exactly 100 hits and ‘refugee’ alone 169 hits. Scootle’s intense interest in the topic includes: Discussion paper – ‘Towards a fairer immigration system for Australia’, 1992.

This is the cover of a 55-page paper titled ‘Towards a fairer immigration system for Australia‘. It states that the current immigration system is unfair to some groups and discusses how to guarantee fair access to Australia’s immigration system. The paper was prepared by Andrew Theophanous and published in 1992… The dimensions of the discussion paper are 29.60 cm x 21.00 cm.

I’m sure it’s a lovely paper from 28 years ago for kids to study, being 29.60cm x 21.00cm and all, about fairness and victim support. Author Andrew Theophanous was MHR (Labor) for the seats of Burke and Calwell from 1980-2000. But as Wikipedia puts it, “He was later jailed for bribery and fraud offences relating to visa applications and other immigration matters.” Specifically, “he was charged with defrauding the Commonwealth by making false representations in relation to an immigration matter, taking an unlawful inducement and soliciting an unlawful inducement.” He got six years, and served two of them. Maybe Scootle should footnote that?

Another example is:

Anthem – An Act of Sedition, 2004: MV Tampa and September 11

This clip presents an interpretation of the Howard government’s response to the arrival of refugees in Australian waters on the MV Tampa in August 2001. The narration states that John Howard had often used scare tactics for his political advantage and that the refugees were now to be used in a ‘race election’. Views defending the refugees are juxtaposed with images of troops. Scenes of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York dramatise the narration, which states that the government used fear of terrorism to override international law and civil rights.

The tone here seems similar to what East German kids used to get. Scootle’s explanatory notes say the film argues passionately that PM John Howard cynically exploited Tampa and 9/11 “to create fear, undermine the rule of law and secure a win in the November 2001 election.” The notes say, “the desperation of the passengers led the captain to attempt to land under conditions of emergency”. In fact the Afghans effectively took over the ship by threats, which led to SAS troops storming the vessel.

Scootle cites Julian Burnside QC, most recently a failed Greens candidate, who “condemns the ‘Pacific Solution’ legislation as being a clear-cut infringement of international law, and another lawyer sees it as being undemocratic.”

In a mealy-mouthed way, Scootle says,

In this case no attempt is made to present the case for the Howard government, the narration puts its views strongly and the use of dramatic footage heightens the sense of crisis, reinforcing the filmmakers’ view that these events marked a serious attack on civil liberties and democratic processes.

Impressionable kids are treated to a tear-jerking film (aka “powerful account”) about an Australian family with four kids visiting an Afghan teen in detention in Port Hedland in 2004. The visiting mother describes ‘a heavy gate being locked behind’ them, the children ‘huddled together wide-eyed and silent’ and the guard ‘unlocking the third door’, with an echoing, sombre and “slightly fearful” sound track. The film, asserts Scootle, “raises questions about the government policy that imprisoned children in the name of border protection.”

Kids also get a poem, ‘When I think of Australia’ by Amelia Walker. Extract: “I switch on the TV and see wire with children behind it. If this isn’t their country it isn’t mine.” Images include chicken wire and “refugees’ children in detention camps”. There’s also a color cartoon provided from leftist New Matilda[6] showing

a dilapidated ship crowded with asylum seekers approaching a pier where an elderly woman stands with outstretched arms, saying: ‘I know it’s extremely unAustralian of me, but I’d like to welcome you to our shores …’

So where does Scootle offer kids the conservative government’s case? A search on “people smuggler” finds one hit from a 1990 incident, and none contemporaneous. Another search fails to turn up reference to the 1,200 asylum seekers drowned after Labor’s PM Rudd overturned Howard’s policy and encouraged people smugglers to ship 50,000 people south in those infamously leaky boats.

More here:




Friday, November 27, 2020

China claims 'quality' problem with Australian coal as $700 million worth sits idle off ports

It is clearly getting to be time to do something about this. Exporters who are not heavily dependant on the Chinese market could refuse all new orders from China until the existing shipments are paid for

But government action is probably needed to get enough impact. Morrison has several options, all of which would probably cause China to lose "face" so would have to be heavily telegraphed in advance

He could freeze all payments to China until China pays its bills -- including demurrage costs. China does have significant exports to Australia so losing payments for them should make an impact

He could ban all exports to China until China pays its bills. China is heavily dependent on Australia for some things -- such as metallurgical coal and iron ore -- so such a ban should cause great disruption to Chinese industry

He could let matters ride but insist that all future exports to China should be prepaid. That is a common way to deal with bad debtors. It should probably be the first option

For months, dozens of bulk carriers have been stranded off the coast of two major Chinese ports unable to unload their cargoes, with a Bloomberg estimate of more than 60 ships now in limbo in November.

Chinese authorities have not previously explained the exact reasons for the long delays, which have coincided with a series of restrictions and bans Beijing has imposed on other Australian exports amid diplomatic tensions.

But in answer to a question on Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has for the first time suggested quality problems are to blame.

As trade and political tensions simmer, speculation swirls about what's really going on between the two nations — and what's next on a Chinese sanctions "hit list".

"In recent years, China Customs has conducted risk monitoring and analysis on the safety and quality of imported coal and discovered imported coal not meeting environmental standards is relatively common," he said.

China has unofficially banned Australian coal imports since October amid souring relations between the two countries, and in turn, increased imports from Mongolia and Russia.

Mr Zhao said China had strengthened the examination and testing of imported coal regarding safety, quality and environmental standards "so as to better protect the legitimate interests and the environmental interests of the Chinese side".

Coal is one of seven Australian imported products that have reportedly been targeted with bans by China amid rising tensions.

Earlier this month, multiple Australian exporters said that their Chinese business partners had been informally instructed by Commerce ministry officials to stop buying seven types of Australian exports, including coal.

But many of the bulk carriers sitting off the Chinese ports arrived with their Australian cargo prior to those instructions being given.

China's Government has stopped short of directly linking the various trade measures with its anger at Australia but has made little effort to dispel the widely-held view that it is retaliation for a series of Australian moves Beijing objects to, including a public call for a coronavirus inquiry.

The Federal Government last week said the reports were "deeply troubling" but China has denied it is levying coordinated trade action against Australia.

China accounts for about one-third of Australia's total exports. The stalled shipments account for about a quarter of all imports waiting to pass customs clearance in China.

China's coking coal imports from Australia slumped in October to 1.53 million tonnes, or about 26 per cent of its total imports of the fuel, customs data showed, down from 78 per cent in March.

Despite the bans, Australia remains China's top seaborne coal supplier in 2020, as Mongolia was forced to trim exports in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

It's time to go to bat for market forces

It could be the news of not one, but two, COVID-19 vaccines with over 90 per cent effectiveness that could be widely distributed before winter. It could be some economic green shoots, with some forecasters - particularly at the big banks - predicting a far faster recovery than first feared.

It could be just that it's nearly summer time.

Economic optimism is a good thing in more ways than one: it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Optimism breeds consumer and business confidence, which itself generates the desired investment and economic growth to beat the pandemic recession.

Of course, given what 2020 has dished out thus far, it might be wise to exercise some caution amid the optimism - lest we next suffer a plague of locusts or some other biblical black swan.

Yet, while the short-term issues associated with the recovery are crucially important, they're not the only serious economic problem we face.

Although it may seem like the sort of dull thing we used to be concerned about back when we didn't have any real problems (circa 2019), you may recall that wage growth leading into the recession was at near record lows, despite a 28-year run of uninterrupted economic growth.

As the Productivity Commission pointed out in its latest report on productivity, stimulating and maintaining productivity growth are the only things that will boost wages in the long term.

There are two roadblocks to rebooting productivity, one on the left and one on the right. From the right, the concern is the re-emergence of economic nationalism and protectionism. From the left, the issue is the strangling growth of regulation.

It took a long time for Australia to move away from protectionism. There is a serious risk that the border safety concerns of the pandemic will drive Australia, and the rest of the world, back towards the insular, protectionist attitudes that were prominent in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

As the Productivity Commission explained, the "Fortress Australia" approach of protection all around was deeply flawed: "The walls of Fortress Australia were unable to protect us from the economic turmoil of the 1970s and contributed to Australia sliding down the income ladder."

Scepticism of a free trade-led approach to international relations had been growing for years before the pandemic.

In the United States, both sides of politics have been openly expressing hostility to the merits of free trade deals. President Donald Trump has been a strong proponent of economic nationalism: specifically the idea that America is a loser from trade with the rest of the world.

A big part of Trump's pitch to "make America great again" was bringing manufacturing jobs back to America.

Of course, the unexplained flaw in this argument is that most of the jobs were actually lost to automation not trade. And the ability to manufacture far more than we used to, at a lower price, thanks to automation and productivity gains, is one of the most tangible examples of why we should embrace a pro-market agenda.

A pro-market agenda is not a pro-business agenda: it's a pro-consumer agenda. After all, despite what the politicians say, the gains from trade do not primarily arise from chiselling out access to distant markets for producers.

The biggest benefit comes from the competition that foreign producers bring to domestic markets. Competition drives innovation and cuts margins: that means more products and lower prices for consumers.

Competition forces firms to become more efficient to thrive. Firms protected from that competition grow fat and lazy, taking their customers for granted because they have nowhere else to go.

Regulation is a different type of limitation on competition, one that is equally damaging and even more insidious. Whatever lofty language is used to justify them, regulations are primarily about government control over businesses and markets.

Sometimes that control is exercised effectively, for a good purpose; such as regulations around manufacturing standards for medicines and medical devices.

But more often, regulation - regardless of how well-intentioned government is - creates as many problems as it solves. Regulations may create barriers to entry and flow through into unaffordable price rises.

The best example here is childcare, where the National Quality Framework has driven rapid growth in prices and out of pocket costs, despite increasing government subsidies.

Overzealous regulators can also create perverse outcomes, like ASIC's enforcement of responsible lending laws.

And sometimes regulation exists solely for the purpose of protecting vested interests, to the detriment of consumers - such as restrictions on the placement and ownership of pharmacies.

The number and scope of regulations imposed by government has exploded in the last decade or so. It would be convenient to point to the global financial crisis and its supposed failure of capitalism as the genesis of this trend, but in reality a desire to tamper with market forces to control economic outcomes far predates this downturn.

The left of politics in particular has embraced the regulatory state, both because of a discomfort with markets and because the declining power of unions has weakened their ability to push their social and political agenda on business and society through industrial muscle.

The distrust of market forces and the supposed unfairness of the outcomes from free markets are common to both right-wing protectionists and left-wing regulationists. The COVID-19 pandemic has enabled and encouraged the expansion of these attitudes.

Yet, as the Productivity Commission and the governor of the Reserve Bank have both made clear in recent days, freeing up market forces is the key not only to emerging from the COVID-19 recession but to sustained income growth thereafter.

If the green shoots of recovery are indeed more robust than they seemed a few months ago, it will be because Australia's efforts at deregulation and opening of markets in the 1990s and 2000s made our economy one of the most resilient in the world, in spite of the hostility to those ideas that has been growing since then.

It will not be easy to reignite this agenda. A lot of the low-hanging fruit has been picked, and what's left will require taking on entrenched vested interests (particularly in the public sector, where the productivity gains promise to be the greatest).

But if we want broad-based wage growth, then it's time to go to work.

Cheap, abundant gas cooks the green guilt industry

The conviction that global warming requires us to find new ways to burn other people’s money is hard-baked into the narrative of environmentalism.

Last week, the Grattan Institute took to cooktop shaming to make that case for switching to electricity. If you’re cooking with gas, we were told, you’re playing with fire.

Banning the installation of gas in new homes is “a prudent, no-regrets option” as a prelude to phasing out gas altogether.

“It may be painful for some in the short term,” Australia’s richest think-tank concedes, “but neither wishful thinking nor denial will serve us well.”

Installing electric cooking and water heating appliances adds $2500 to the price of a new house, and retro-fitting an existing house will cost $3800 more. What about the poor people? No problem. Electricity companies can pay for new electric appliances and recover the cost over time through additional electricity charges, says Grattan.

Electricity may one day be cleaner than gas, but to force a switch now would only increase emissions. Cooking with electricity is effectively cooking with coal for 60 per cent of the time and gas for another 20 per cent.

The incessant demand to commit to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, if not sooner, ignores the fact that we don’t yet have the technology to get there. Pragmatism is an inadequate response to the apocalypse they insist is heading our way. It is tempting for a Liberal government to avoid the argument by making the pledge anyway. After all, Scott Morrison’s government will be in its 12th term before it has to deliver.

Yet a commitment to net-zero emissions in 2050 demands that we accelerate emissions reductions now, leading to the dangerous, knee-jerk responses of the kind advocated by Grattan.

Gas is a fossil fuel, ipso facto, it must be purged from our energy supply, or so the thinking goes. Hence Grattan’s expectation that gas will inevitably play a declining role in our energy mix, and we must start turning down the flame right now, whatever the cost.

The path to net-zero emissions will be revealed in the fullness of time and may or may not mean turning off the gas. It is bound to include offsets, such as the sequestration of carbon dioxide into soil where it can be put into productive use, producing better food, more productive farms, greater drought resilience and biodiversity.

The notion that the energy sector alone can achieve net-zero emissions is an assumption it has become heresy to deny. For some, the cost of over-ambitious emissions reduction targets is proof of their virtue.

Economic pain and environmental gain have become inextricably linked in the climate change narrative. Last year the same think-tank warned: “Australia will need to make faster, more expensive changes to get back on track.”

Yet the assumption that efficient technology costs more than the technology it replaces runs counter to our experience. A Honda Civic today costs roughly the same as new model did in 1973 but delivers twice as much power and lower emissions, thanks to investments in research and development in a highly competitive market.

For the past 50 years, however, the environmental debate has become shrouded in apocalyptic thinking and overlaid by puritanical guilt, led by people who doubt the power of free-range human ingenuity to deliver a better future. In the dull, zero-sum world of sustainability, anything that adds to the joy of human existence imposes a cost on the rest of nature.

Rational thinkers on the centre-right have abandoned the space, leaving the ironically named progressives in charge. The oil crisis that gave birth to the hatchback reinforced the conviction that excessive consumption was draining the world of energy and that economic growth should be curtailed.

Innovation in both car manufacture and oil exploration has since allayed the fears that peak-oil was just around the corner, but the anxiety lingers.

Grattan’s speculative assessment that the price of gas will make it too expensive to bring down the price of electricity or the cost of industrial production underpins its claim that it is yesterday’s fuel.

Yet the spot price of gas has fallen considerably in the east coast market since its peak early last year. Lower-priced offers from gas-powered generators in turn helped bring down wholesale electricity prices, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

The removal of moratoriums to unlock supply in NSW and Victoria, together with the expected arrival of re-gasification terminals in one or more east coast locations, will further bring down prices, together with government moves to introduce more market transparency and new investment in gas pipelines.

The prospect of cheap and abundant gas should calm the nerves of those concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. The renewable energy sources in which we have invested so heavily will at last be able to pull their weight supported by quick-fire gas, which Chief Scientist Alan Finkel describes as “the perfect complement to wind and solar”.

The impossible trifecta of energy that is cheaper, more reliable and greener at last seems possible, a win-win for people and the planet.

This what a rational environmental policy might look like if a rational approach was ever articulated. It is advancement through incremental improvement rather than by abolishing capitalism and starting again.

A Liberal approach to the environment sees no conflict between economic wellbeing and the environment. Indeed, it recognises that a strong economy is a precondition for environmental improvement and that attempting to reduce energy consumption by constraining supply is a race to the bottom.

Crucially, it avoids the conceit of perfect knowledge in a policy realm that is exceptionally complex. It does not attempt to pick winners or over-promise. It prefers, in the words of FA Hayek, “true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much undetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false”.

China’s ‘major’ Australian miscalculation

Xi Jinping is carrying out an aggressive plan to force Australia to obey China – but there’s something “major” he wasn’t banking on.

Chairman Xi Jinping is urging his nation onwards and upwards on a new Silk Road towards international dominance. But he’s hit an unexpected roadblock: Australia. Now he’s getting angry.

And his “wolf-warrior” diplomats are leaping into the fray. “China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” a Chinese diplomat “leaked” to Nine Newspapers on Tuesday.

And it’s all Australia’s fault. “Responsibility for causing this situation has nothing to do with China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a conveniently timed address to state-controlled media in Beijing later that same day.

“The Australian side should reflect on this seriously, rather than shirking the blame and deflecting responsibility,” Zhao warned. He failed to reflect on Beijing’s role in the escalating standoff.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, did. “Australia will always be ourselves,” he said. “We will always set our own laws and our own rules according to our national interests – not at the behest of any other nation, whether that’s the US or China or anyone else,” he said.

It’s exactly what the wolf warriors didn’t want to hear.

Chairman’ Xi’s ambitions seem likely to continue to be frustrated by Australia. But a frustrated Xi poses a “special kind of danger”, international relations analysts warn.

Beijing insists it has never interfered with other countries’ affairs. Nor is it interested in doing so, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last week.

On Tuesday, Beijing proceeded to do precisely that. It issued a dossier of 14 grievances against Australia. Addressing these “would be conducive to a better atmosphere”, an embassy official said.

Changing these behaviours to ones more sensitive to Xi Jinping Thought would result in restored economic ties. But there’s a problem. Australia has a history.

It’s a unique history that has produced an eclectic national culture of political incorrectness. Not to mention irreverence, independence and an inherent suspicion of authority. None of these suit an autocratic mindset.

They tend to sit uneasily enough as it is with just about every Australian elected government. Until they’re back in opposition.

The crackdown against Australia’s recalcitrance is just one element of Chairman Xi’s rush to cement power. At home, he’s moving hard against any possible perceived threat to the Communist Party he dominates.

He’s even adopted a new title – “helmsman” – once reserved only for the great founding father Chairman Mao Zedong.

“Xi Jinping certainly seems to be cracking the whip with a purpose and a force that, if not new, is certainly designed to impress upon the party, entrepreneurs, citizens and the rest of the world his authority and determination,” Oxford University China Centre research associate George Magnus told US media.

Helmsman Xi unveiled his revised five-year plan to a Communist Party assembly last month.

He urged his commissars to redouble their efforts towards turning his promises into reality. He wants China’s economy to double by 2035. He wants greater state control of Chinese businesses. He wants Hong Kong and Taiwan to submit to his will.

Meanwhile, Xi’s been busy securing his position. He’s made himself national police chief. As chair of China’s Central Military Commission, Xi has ordered an extraordinary series of overlapping military exercises – the latest testing civilian industry’s ability to adapt to military demands urgently. Xi blames an “intensifying situation and increasing risk of military conflicts” as the need for such war preparations.

His Premier, Li Keqiang, is calling on Southeast Asian nations to quickly agree with Beijing’s “Code of Conduct for the South China Sea”. Their compliance would demonstrate “wisdom and capability to take good control of the South China Sea and maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea”.

On top of all this, Xi wants to reshape the international order in his own image. Which is where Australia’s getting in the way.

“Xi Jinping’s China is an infirm colossus that will be frustrated by unmet ambitions. A strong but frustrated country poses a special kind of danger. This is the China Nightmare,” writes American Enterprise Institute Director of Asian Studies Daniel Blumenthal.

“Although China was ruled by a dictatorship before Xi’s ascent, he has made a radical bid to obtain almost total authority over his country’s affairs. In doing so, he has paralysed the normal functioning of the state’s bureaucracy.”

But Beijing’s belligerence is backfiring. Instead of compelling international compliance, it’s forcing South East Asia closer together for mutual protection.

“The ‘Beijing model’ was supposed to be an efficient alternative to democracy, which was supposedly more sclerotic and incompetent. Instead, the Beijing model has now inflicted untold misery on its own people and the rest of the world,” Blumenthal writes.

Canberra and Tokyo this week signed a new defence deal making it easier from troops of both nations to work with each other. Though hurdles, such as making Australians subject to Japan’s death penalty, are yet to be resolved.

The need for such a “special strategic partnership” is pressing.

Japanese Premier Yoshihide Suga joined Prime Minister Morrison in expressing “serious concerns” about “militarisation” across South East Asia. They stated the alliance’s “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral attempts to change the status quo and thereby increase tensions in the region”.

Beijing doesn’t accept such tensions exist. Its territorial claims are uncontested, it insists. And the opinions of neighbouring nations and international courts of arbitration are irrelevant.

“(The) Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposed to their press statement in which they accused China on the South China Sea and East China Sea issue”, Zhao said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao told a Beijing briefing on Tuesday that “some” Australians harbour ideological prejudice, regard China’s development as a threat.

He went on to say Australia’s actions had “seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” – despite a Communist Party approved editorial having declared “Australia immature to be scared of Chinese scholars’ candid opinions”.

Australia, however, has its own feelings. And Prime Minister Morrison is unapologetic.

“Having a free media, having parliamentarians elected and able to speak their minds is a cause for concern, as well as speaking up on human rights in concert with other countries like Canada, New Zealand, the UK and others in international forums … if this is the cause for tension in that relationship, then it would seem that the tension is that Australia is just being Australia,” he said.

“Under Xi, the Chinese government’s goal is … a new network of strategic partnerships with China at the centre, and to propagate a “China model” of economic and political governance. It wants to create a new world order based on what it calls a “community of common destiny” that reshapes global institutions to be more compatible with the CCP’s own authoritarian governance,” Blumenthal writes.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull summed up the situation last week: “These sorts of actions, whether it’s trade action like that or furious editorials in the Global Times or People’s Daily, are all instrumental, they’re designed to achieve a certain response, which in our case is compliance.”

Electric car tax spreads to new states

Controversial new taxes on electric cars are likely to be implemented by Victoria and NSW as well as South Australia.

Pitched as a way of making up for lost fuel excise revenue, special levies on electric vehicles are seen by supporters as a fair way of paying for road infrastructure, while opponents say extra costs will stifle growth of zero emissions vehicles.

Owners of conventionally powered vehicles pay for road infrastructure through fuel taxes of about 40 cents per litre, a cost owners of electric vehicles do not bear.

South Australia became the first state to commit to an electric car taxes in November, when treasurer Rob Lucas flagged plans to implement new levies for the 2021-22 financial year, in the form of extra registration fees, and mileage-based charges.

“Electric vehicles do not attract fuel excise and therefore make a lower contribution to the cost of maintaining our road networks,” Mr Lucas said at the time.

Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas revealed plans to introduce state levies on electric cars on Saturday.

Mr Pallas told the ABC “we need to recognise we have to put in place appropriate arrangements as we move to more electric vehicles and low-emissions vehicles on the network”.

Victoria will charge owners of electric or hydrogen powered vehicles 2.5 cents per kilometre for road use, while plug-in hybrid vehicles will pay 2.0 cents per kilometre.

It means electric vehicle owners who travel 15,000 kilometres per year will have $375 added to their registration bill.

By comparison, a Volkswagen Golf 110TSI owner who completes 15,000 kilometres of driving while matching the car’s official petrol consumption figure of 5.4L/100km would pay $342.63 in fuel excise currently taxed at $0.423 per litre.

The NSW Government also looks likely to implement EV-based taxes in the future.

A NSW Treasury review of federal financial relations published in June 2020 said “electric vehicles still use the roads and must share the costs of doing so”.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told The Australian last week EV taxes are “something that I’d obviously want to take to cabinet within the next 12 months”.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Adrian Dwyer released a report in November 2019 saying taxes on electric cars would be “a home run reform” and must be introduced quickly.

“Once there is an electric car in every street, the opportunity will be lost,” he said.

The Australian Automobile Association, parent body to motoring clubs such as the NRMA and RACV, says there is widespread community support for electric vehicles taxes.

A survey of more than 4000 of its members agreed that “owners of electric vehicles should contribute towards the costs of the nation’s roads in some way”.

AAA managing director Michael Bradley said the Federal Government should step in to make sure EV taxes are nationally consistent and do not stymie green car sales.

Electric cars represent far less than 1 per cent of Australian new car sales.

Tony Weber, chief executive for the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, said the Victorian Government’s decision to tax battery-powered cars could “kill the technology at its infancy”.




School Is a Safe Place During COVID

“The truth is, for kids K-12, one of the safest places they can be, from our perspective, is to remain in school,” stated Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield on Thursday regarding a recent wave of school closures due to the coronavirus. “It’s really important that [we’re] following the data, making sure we don’t make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close. And I’m here to say clearly the data strongly supports that K-12 schools — as well as institutes of higher learning — really are not where we’re having our challenges.” He added, “And it would be counterproductive from my point of view, from a public health point of view, just in containing the epidemic, if there was an emotional response, to say, ‘Let’s close the schools.’”

Earlier this year, Redfield pointed to what he saw as a far greater threat to children’s health than the coronavirus. “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID,” he observed. “We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID. So this is why I keep coming back for the overall social being of individuals, is let’s all work together and find out how we can find common ground to get these schools open in a way that people are comfortable and they’re safe.”

It turns out President Donald Trump has been right all along, which comes as no surprise to our readers, nor should it come as a surprise to any who have been following the actual science. It has been well documented that children and young people are neither super spreaders nor seriously threatened if they contract the novel virus. In fact, the annual flu has a higher mortality rate among children and young people when compared with COVID.

However, what may come as a bit of a surprise is that a journalist from The New York Times is finally admitting that Trump was right when he called for reopening schools to the objection of many Democrats. In a story titled “When Trump Was Right and Many Democrats Wrong,” Nicholas Kristof writes, “Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.”

Wait. We thought Trump was a racist and a bigot who cared nothing for the plight of minorities and the poor. In truth, it is Democrats who better fit that mold. Kristof writes, “So Democrats helped preside over school closures that have devastated millions of families and damaged children’s futures. Cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., have closed schools while allowing restaurants to operate.”

Thus far, out of more than one million children who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, only 133 have died. That’s a fatality rate of 0.01%. So at the risk of overstating it, we’re shutting down schools and doing inestimable damage to our children’s future to prevent … what, exactly?

For Some Post-Graduate Plans, Employer Tuition Reimbursements Is the Way

Many students since the pandemic have questioned whether they should attend graduate school or change their career plans altogether. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 17 percent of graduate students said their career plans changed since the pandemic started.

Students are now worried they cannot afford graduate school. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center Survey,

Half of the oldest Gen Zers reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job or taken a cut in pay because of the outbreak. This was significantly higher than the shares of Millennials (40%), Gen Xers (36%), and Baby Boomers (25%).

Students are also dealing with mental health and problems job hunting in a pandemic, too. But for some paths after undergrad, students could find a solution with tuition reimbursement programs.

Tuition reimbursement is an employee benefit that an employer may offer to their graduate school employees. The employer pays for a predetermined amount of education credits or college coursework. The employee may then be required to work for the employer for a certain amount of time while they take their courses or after receiving their degree.

According to Northeastern University Graduate programs, employers spend $177 billion annually on formal education and training programs for their employees, and $28 billion of this spending is for tuition benefits. Almost 60 percent of employers in the US offer either tuition assistance or reimbursement to their employees, but not many employees take advantage of the programs.

Those who do generally use it for law or medical school. Medical school is 4 years and a student can expect to pay anywhere from $150,444 (in-state, public school) to $247,664 (out-of-state, public school) or more. Law school is 3 years but still costly; from $85,000 (in-state, public school) to $150,000 (private school) or more for a degree.

Some law firms have tuition reimbursement programs so that law students may work at a law firm while getting their tuition paid off. The firm gets to train a future lawyer to focus where the need arises. Instead of hiring a lawyer fresh out of school with no experience, a firm invests in a student as they learn about the firm and the legal world.

For example, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner is a law firm that specializes in patent and trademark work and has a reimbursement program that covers 100 percent of employees’ law school tuition.

Students don’t get guaranteed reimbursement that easily, however. A full reimbursement requires an A in their courses. A letter grade of a B is eligible for 80 percent reimbursement and a C is eligible for 60 percent. They also work part-time as “student associates.”

Dawn Ibbott, director of human resources and administration at the firm told The Washington Post that the program is “an incentive for the employee to do as well as possible with their course work.”

Similarly, the high price to become a doctor or surgeon can be mitigated by scholarships and loan repayment programs.

While it may not be for everyone, “the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offers medical trainees a full-tuition scholarship in addition to a monthly stipend, in exchange for a specified term of commitment to a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.” Serving in a marginalized community can also lead to loan forgiveness through the National Health Service Corps or the Indian Health Service.

University hospitals also tend to offer tuition repayment as an employee benefit for staying with the hospital for a decade. Other medical groups may offer full or partial tuition repayment.

Though it may be harder for would-be grad students in the social sciences to find generous tuition reimbursement plans, for some students, the opportunity is out there.

Notes From a Teacher's Desk: Virtual Survival

I’m a career educator, and for the last 21 years I have taught in an independent college preparatory school for boys. Our school has high standards: strict admission requirements and dedicated professionals who are committed to their students and their courses are the status quo. Our educational philosophy is generous in not only allowing but encouraging teachers to be creative and progressive in their classrooms. For over 100 years, we have learned from and subscribed to the practice that says boys learn best when they are actively engaged in their classes and when they are bumping into each other in a friendly, rough-and-tumble boy kind of way. Sitting still for hours all day limits their desire and potential for learning.

We intentionally have not required our students to use their own device (iPad, laptop, Chromebook, etc.) in classes because we know that actual pen-to-paper has a positive neurological impact on imprinting (better learning) in the brain. Writing and learning go hand in hand (pun intended).

Until Friday, March 13, 2020. The first “Friday the 13th” of 2020.

I refer to that date as “Schexit” — the exit from school.

Many people I know have observed that 2020 has been characterized by more sleeplessness, more suppressed anxiety, and more “wondering.” I am an adult who lives by a deep faith in God and who also respects science. As I think about everything happening around me, how much more do children — who aren’t developmentally ready to assimilate the world news and real life — struggle with making sense of all that has happened and continues to happen in 2020?

I have more questions than answers.

Our students have traditionally carried the “burden” of academic pressure, but now they’re engulfed by ubiquitous reminders that the virus is waiting at every turn. Their new 2020 daily routine now includes a morning checklist that gives them permission or prohibition to be on campus: temperature check, questions about contacts who may/may not be positive, date of last negative test, plans to be on campus. Upon arriving on campus, they immediately mask, stay at least six feet apart, sanitize their hands at every door, spray desks after each class, and grab a lunch where they eat socially distanced from their friends. There is nothing social about “socially distanced.”

It takes longer for us to know our new students. Never seeing a full face is now normal. We have to learn our students by their eyes and hair color, and we can’t be near them. Teachers who respond to body language and non-verbal cues now have to guess if a student smiles at a pun or if he winces at a corny joke, if he smirks or if he has a sad countenance through the day. We teach from a distance, which is now the socially accepted/required practice, and the distanced connection is the oxymoron we now know. Reminders of CDC guidelines and recommendations are the prelude to every weekend, holiday, or extended break. The emotional toll is taxing.

Students are more anxious, and they don’t even realize it. They are carrying a load too big for their adolescent bones and minds to carry. Before they begin to learn anything academic, they have to cut through the fog of viruses, parental employment uncertainty, unexplained irritability, sleep deprivation (I’ll touch on this soon), and normal adolescent development.

We now have to require our students to have their own device (in education, we call this 1:1, meaning one device for one student), because at any moment a call from the Health Department may require the student to become a virtual learner. A teacher may have to quarantine and teach a physical class virtually after a family member tests positive. (Note: When a teacher has to quarantine and teach virtually, we still have to find a substitute for the students in the classroom for them to have supervision or attend to technological difficulties.) Children who developmentally thrive on routine are now living with 2020 that has given the gift of daily uncertainty and an increased threat level.

What is the long-term impact of living with this threat? Time will tell.

Before the COVID pandemic hit, educators and parents struggled to teach the balance of screen time for their kids. Thanks to the pandemic, the requirement for students to have a device for academics, as well as gaming/entertainment/social networking, unrealistically expects that students use an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex to exert the self-discipline to unplug. Any device in their hands gives them access to anything and everything, and the intention of games and videos (even the educational variety) is to keep them plugged in. (If you haven’t seen “The Social Dilemma,” I highly recommend it.) I set out on a search to find evidence that more screen time increases learning, but everything I have found proves the opposite. More screen time decreases learning, creativity, and restorative sleep. (Sleep is important for good health and learning.) Too much screen time is antithetical to increased learning.

We will have to be proactive as parents and professionals to listen to our children’s fears, concerns, and anxieties. We have to tune in to our children and turn off the devices. We have to engage with them and others on a personal level. Look at them. Listen to them. Our school is fortunate to have trained school counselors on campus to work with our teachers, students, and their families. Psychologists report that children of parents who are constantly distracted with their smart phones are less resilient, have lower self-esteem, and have delayed development. This research was published before a global pandemic. What will research show about the effects of an entire household that is glued to a device for work and school, and then for games, entertainment, and social media?

While I am concerned about my own school and our students, I realize how immeasurably blessed we are that we have the facilities and resources to be open for physical classes. We are blessed to have families that have access to devices and the Internet. How many thousands upon thousands of students do not have the access, resources, help, and availability of supervision? What happens long term to students who require special intervention and services to accommodate their learning differences and/or socioeconomic disadvantages? What about those who are now at their homes, who used to be able to escape the emotional and/or physical abuse that they received at home, for the routine and safety of school with adults who protect and educate them?

Surviving 2020 is only the beginning. The lasting impact of the gravitas of shutdowns, masks, and other extraordinary measures is yet to be determined. Our children will have lost months of education, growth, natural curiosity and discovery, and personal interactions. I fear we will feel the lasting effects of this gap resulting in stunted or delayed development. Will the relief of a vaccine overcome the grief over the loss of special moments, milestones, family traditions, and family members?

The pandemic interruption will require student triage for years to come, and it will take more than a “village” to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.




Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Black menace in Brisbane

Another problem Sudanese

Queensland Police have released horrifying body-cam dash-cam footage of a man driving erratically through the streets of Brisbane.

A man who led police on a wild car chase through Brisbane, injuring a young girl, has been described as a “straight-out menace”.

A fleeing Major Major, 20, was apprehended by officers on a motorbike in the CBD after leaving a trail of destruction from East Brisbane during peak hour yesterday.

Alarming footage shows Major colliding with three stationary cars at a set of traffic lights at Stanley Street and Wellington Street in East Brisbane about 5.20pm.

It’s alleged Major, who was on probation at the time, was driving a stolen car.

Police sighted the car and commenced a short pursuit along Stanley Street at Woolloongabba.

Major continued driving dangerously onto the Pacific Motorway, colliding with two other cars, during which police terminated the pursuit.

He continued through Brisbane City before crashing into a truck at the intersection of William Street and Margaret Street. The car was significantly damaged causing Major to leave the scene on foot.

A seven-year-old girl, an occupant in one of the cars hit by Major, was taken to hospital with neck injuries.

Major faced Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle, evasion and driving without a licence. He has also been charged with five counts of wilful damage and two counts of stealing.

During a bail application police prosecutor Sgt Wade Domagala urged against releasing Major into the community. “Mr Major is a straight-out menace,” he said.

“The police tried to pull him over and then his behaviour just endangers the community ...smashing into other cars causing a seven-year-old to have to go to hospital.

“Your honour the community denounce that sort of behaviour and they need to be protected from people like him.”

War heroes deserve our thanks, not cutting down

It is sickening to suddenly hear people moaning about a warrior culture as if it was a disease

Australia’s Chief of Army says he was “sickened” and “shocked” by the nature and extent of the war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

If you venture to be a tall poppy in this country, then be prepared for those of more modest achievement to come at your ankles with chainsaws.

One of our tallest poppies, literally and figuratively, is Ben Roberts-Smith, the recipient of the Victoria Cross and the Medal for Gallantry and former member of the Special Air Service Regiment.

Roberts-Smith may or may not have been ­involved in the alleged crimes in ­Afghanistan detailed in the Brereton report, but his only known crime to date is to have exhibited extraordinary bravery under fire on numerous occasions.

A genuine hero – what a perfect target for the armchair critics who have never heard or seen a shot fired in anger, and whose most critical life decisions relate to the choice between iced latte and cappuccino.

What, I wonder, would those now chanting “shame, shame, shame” have done had they been in ­Kandahar Province on June 11, 2020, pinned down by fire from three ­machineguns and with two comrades already wounded?

Would they have huddled in a hole and cried for their mothers, or done as Roberts-Smith did as detailed in this citation accompanying his Victoria Cross.

“Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40m, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure,” the citation detailed.

“As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol.

“Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent.

“With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy.”

Corporal Roberts-Smith’s actions later in the encounter demonstrated “extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry”.

In another engagement, he ­realised that the forward edge of an observation post was not secure and moved forward to take up an exposed position forward of the patrol so he could effectively employ his sniper weapon.

“Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith’s actions whilst under heavy anti-coalition militia fire and in a precarious position, threatened by a numerically superior force, are testament to his courage, tenacity and sense of duty to his patrol,” the Victoria Cross citation found.

Courage, tenacity, sense of duty. See much of that around these days? I see plenty of self-interest, self-indulgence, self-promotion and self-opinion, but not much in the way of courage, tenacity and sense of duty.

It is sickening to suddenly hear people moaning about a ”warrior culture” as if it were a disease. We need people with a warrior ­culture to defend us from those who would destroy our democracy.

It is worth remembering that the enemy in question are in the habit of decapitating their prisoners and burning them alive in metal cages. They are not nice people.

There can be no doubt that some bad things happened, but it’s easy to judge while safely ensconced in the society that Roberts-Smith and his colleagues fought to defend.

At the battle of Milne Bay against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea in World War II where my late father served, he and his men were told to take no prisoners, and they didn’t. Were they war criminals? I don’t think so.

ABC in hot water over ‘racist’ kids’ show

Racism against the Chinese is OK for the Left, apparently

China is demanding a formal apology from the ABC over a “racist” show that implies eating rats is an everyday part of Chinese cuisine.

The diplomatic row over the Horrible Histories episode centres on the story of ancient China Empress Wu Zetian, the only woman to ever rule China.

In an article in the state-controlled Global Times, the newspaper has claimed the ABC’s Horrible Histories program had “drawn outrage and condemnation from Chinese-Australians for “broadcasting a children’s television series with controversial content suggesting insects, rats and hair are used in normal Chinese recipes, which they believe is racism and demand for an apology.”

“In an episode of the series, ancient China Empress Wu Zetian, who is played by a white actress, is eating insects, rats, jellyfish and hair, and invites two modern visitors, the program’s hosts, to join the meal,’’ the article states.

“As the visitors act disgusted, “Wu” explained it was “perfectly normal” to eat insects in China in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).”

But a spokesman for the ABC denied that the episode represented an example a white people masquerading as Asian noting the actress, Sophie Wu, in British-born but has Chinese heritage.

“The ABC has received some complaints, which will be considered by ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs as is our usual practice,’’ an ABC spokesman told

The Global Times said the episode was a disgrace. “This kind of racist behaviour is indeed too narrow-minded for a country,” a netizen (a citizen) wrote on China’s Twitter-like social networking platform Weibo.

“It’s uncanny how they are always talking about anti-racism and they are actually the meanest racists,” another one commented.

The episode is not new but from the sixth season of Horrible Histories, a sketch comedy released five years ago, that aired again in Australia recently.

Some Chinese-Australians have launched an online petition protesting warning it could cause Chinese children to be ridiculed and bullied at school.

“The program was also aired at the moment when some Western politicians constantly attacked China for COVID-19 outbreaks, launching smear campaign against the Chinese culture especially the food culture, which is indeed seen as malicious and offensive,” Chen Hong, professor and director of the Australian Studies Center of East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Previously, the BBC was forced to delete an episode of the program that depicted Florence Nightingale as racist.

“We also need an apology,” a Chinese student in Australia told the Global Times, “Hopefully ABC and CBBC can prove that they are really against racial discrimination, and not just another biased Westerners playing with double standards.”

Empress Wu Zetian (624-705) is one of the most controversial monarchs in Chinese history, a woman who historians claim presided over a reign of “blood and terror” but remained much admired.

A teenage imperial concubine to Emperor Taizong (598-649) she also served as his secretary, playing music and reading poetry. She then had an affair with the Emperor’s youngest son, Li Zhu, who sent for Wu to be returned to court after his father died.

She is also accused of strangling her own baby to frame a rival for the murder before deposing the woman and becoming the new empress consort.

Why NSW power bills could surge by $400 a year under government's new 'electricity tax' to pay for renewable energy plan

Power bills could increase by $400 a year under the New South Wales government's energy roadmap, Mark Latham has warned.

The NSW One Nation leader slammed the plan to encourage $32billion of private investment in renewable energy projects by 2030 as a 'stitch up'.

The state government wants wind, pumped hydro and solar projects to replace four coal-fired power stations which are due to shut over the next 15 years.

Energy Minister Matt Kean says then plan - which will create Renewable Energy Zones in Dubbo and the south west - will cut household bills by $130 and small business bills by $430 a year between 2023 and 2040.

The state government wants wind, pumped hydro and solar projects to replace four coal-fired power stations which are due to shut over the next 15 years +2
The state government wants wind, pumped hydro and solar projects to replace four coal-fired power stations which are due to shut over the next 15 years

But Mr Latham fears bills may increase as the government plans to offer a minimum electricity price to companies that build the renewable projects.

If the electricity price were to fall below that level, the government would levy cash from providers who would temporarily increase household bills.

Mr Latham told Daily Mail Australia the plan represents 'guaranteed income for renewable energy companies and their lobbyists, paid for by electricity consumers.'

He described the plan as a new tax and criticised Mr Kean for intervening in the electricity market.

'He's planning personally to levy amounts on the electricity distributors that they pass on to consumers,' Mr Latham told Sydney radio station 2GB.

'So that's a new NSW electricity tax where the minister gets to levy the money on the distributors... it goes straight on to the electricity bill.

Why might power prices increase?
The NSW government wants wind, pumped hydro and solar projects to replace coal-powered electricity.

Under the plan the government will offer a minimum electricity price to companies that build the renewable projects through a Long Term Energy Services Agreement.

The government's consumer trustee will then sell the energy to retailers and companies, with any shortfall made up by enforced 'contributions' from distributors who would push up their prices for consumers.

The government says these payments will only be triggered if consumers are already benefiting from low energy prices - and they would be repaid once prices increase and the renewable projects are making cash again.

'We're talking huge amounts of money and probably power bills going up by $100 a quarter,' Mr Latham said, without explaining where he got the figure from.

The 59-year-old has vowed to oppose the plan, which the Coalition government introduced in early November with support from Labor and the Greens.

'I think we should slow this down and make sure we can guarantee to people the lights stay on and the prices come down,' he said. 'This is the whole future of the energy sector in NSW and they won't have a committee that's commonplace in other areas. 'It's a stitch up, it's a cover up and we're going to oppose it.'

Federal energy minister Angus Taylor also fears the plan will push up prices and has demanded to see the NSW government's modelling.

'I'm concerned about models and analysis including unrealistic assumptions that don't translate into the real world,' he said in a speech at The Australian Financial Review Energy and Climate Summit on Monday.

'The Commonwealth would like to see the modelling behind that policy. I'm confident that we can work through it, and NSW has indicated its strong intent to get to a sensible outcome.'

The Australian Energy Council warned the government's intervention may encourage too many energy assets to be built in places where they may not be needed. 'This would ultimately mean higher costs for households,' it said in statement.

Tony Wood, energy director at the Grattan Institute, said the plan takes risk away from investors and transfers them to consumers who would potentially foot larger bills.

The plan will support 12 gigawatts of renewable energy and two gigawatts of storage, such as pumped hydro, and reduce carbon emissions by 90 million tonnes to 2030.

Landholders are expected to pocket $1.5 billion in rent by 2042 for hosting new infrastructure.

More than 10,000 construction and ongoing jobs will be created by 2026, with an estimated 2800 ongoing jobs in 2030, the government says.

Coal-fired power made up 77 per cent of NSW's total electricity generation in 2019 - higher than the national average of 56 per cent - but four of the state's five plants will stop by 2035. Renewables made up 19 per cent.