Thursday, September 30, 2021

Prohibition doesn't work for Aborigines either

Alcohol could be sold on Mornington Island again in a bid to reduce the deadly prevalence of home brew, following a long-running campaign by the local council.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the State Government is seriously considering the reintroduction, that would allow moderated sales from a tavern in the Gulf of Carpentaria community.

Environment Minister and ministerial champion for the island, Meaghan Scanlon, visited the remote Indigenous community this week following harrowing stories of overcrowding in homes, high unemployment and shocking health statistics in this newspaper in May.

Following intensive discussions with the Mornington Shire Council, and seeing first-hand the issues affecting the community, the State Government is also poised to commit to an audit of taxpayer-funded services to determine whether the millions of dollars being spent were achieving the desired outcomes.

The Courier-Mail accompanied Ms Scanlon on her first visit to the island.

Assistant Minister Lance McCallum, Queensland Health director-general John Wakefield and other government officials also visited this week, and heard Mayor Kyle Yanner make the heartbreaking admission that he was now “immune to death”.

He said 19 locals had died for various reasons last year.

“We grieve on a regular basis,” Cr Yanner told leaders while at the local cemetery where there are many graves for people under the age of 50. “I’m out of tears.” The Mayor, who lost three brothers in a year, said residents were drinking their lives away.

“Until we get this law scrapped, which is discriminatory of its own, we’re going nowhere,” he said.

By making it legal, only selling mid-strength alcohol and moderating the amount sold, the council believes less home brew would be consumed.

In a bid to kerb its prevalence, the local grocery store has restricted the sale of sugar – allowing only two packets per person, each day.

Councillor David Barnes said the “myth” of a dry community needed to be exposed and expunged. “Prohibition has become part of the problem,” he said. “It hasn’t led to a community that is healthier.”

Cr Barnes said while there were no AA meetings on the island, he hoped to be running some soon.

Ms Scanlon told The Courier-Mailwhile the alcohol ban, which was introduced about a decade ago, had good intentions, there were “clearly” some adverse side effects.

“It is complex though,” she said. “I don’t think it’s an easy fix and so we do need to consider it with everything in mind, but very clearly we’ve heard some very strong views … from the community around things needing to change.”


Coal prices are roaring back amid a global energy crunch

Soaring coal prices have placed Australia’s mining and energy exports on track to reach a record $349 billion this year even as the value of the nation’s biggest export, iron ore, appears to have peaked.

Markets for thermal coal, used for power generation, are booming around the world as a global recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic drives up demand for energy. Metallurgical coal used in steel-making has also touched new highs as supply shortages combine with rebounding industrial activity.

Federal government trade data to be released on Thursday reveals an expected 10 per cent rise in resources and energy earnings to hit an all-time high of $349 billion in 2021-22, before falling back to $299 billion in 2022-23.

“The sector has gone from strength to strength and is performing better than it was pre-pandemic,” Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt said.

Coal producers were hit hard in 2020 as the shock of the pandemic pummelled prices and a diplomatic feud led to China banning Australian coal shipments. The sector has also been under mounting pressure as global warming concerns cause investors to flee, while the United Nations, ahead of an upcoming climate summit in Glasgow, is calling on all countries to commit to phasing out thermal coal between 2030-40.

Although this year’s price rally signifies coal’s enduring near-term demand as an abundant source of energy, the federal Industry Department notes the commodity faces “significant competing forces”.

“Recent revenue surges are likely to run up against longer-term structural issues in the coal market,” it said. ”Investor and policy pressure has grown in recent years, and the global coal-fired power plant construction pipeline has contracted since 2015.”

Still, the share prices of ASX-listed coal miners have been rallying in the past month. Investment bank Morgan Stanley described Whitehaven Coal, whose value has jumped almost 50 per cent since August, as a “cash machine” amid expectations of higher coal prices lasting well into 2022.

Prices for the key steel-making ingredient iron ore, however, have been falling rapidly. China, by far the world’s biggest consumer of the commodity, has been seeking to cut steel mills’ output and tackle carbon emissions for the third straight month.

After hitting a record $US230 a tonne in May, iron ore has had its value slashed in half and is now trading below $US110 a tonne, hammering the share prices of the mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue.

UBS analyst Myles Allsop said Chinese steel production had weakened since July as Beijing put pressure on provinces to materially cut energy consumption and intensity to meet targeted emissions cuts of 3 per cent year-on-year. Problems plaguing top Chinese property developer Evergrande had also triggered a slowdown in construction reducing steel demand, he said.

Australia’s iron ore exports reached a record $153 billion in 2021 on the back of an aggressive infrastructure building blitz in China and weaker iron ore output from mines in Brazil, but is forecast to fall by as much as 35 per cent by 2022-23.


Rainbow Beach businesses weigh in on Fraser Island name change to K’gari

Reception to the State Government decision to call the Fraser Island world heritage area by its original Indigenous name K’gari continues to be overwhelmingly positive, though a longtime Rainbow Beach businessman said one key detail remained unclear: who will pay?

Retired businessman Tony Stewart questioned the need for the change, saying the question of who would pick up the bill remained unanswered. “What’s this going to cost to change all the signage and marketing?” Mr Stewart said.

The State Government announced on Sunday its commitment to renaming the world heritage area centred on Fraser Island, the waters around it and parts of the mainland coast.

The move was celebrated the same day at a ceremony on the island with Butchulla elders and representatives.

Mr Stewart questioned the move and what it would cost the State Government, which did not seem to have any money for major safety fixes to the main roads between Rainbow Beach and Gympie.

Over the past two decades this stretch has been deadlier than any other in the Gympie region except the Bruce Highway; from 2000-2018 Tin Can Bay Rd was the site of 14 deaths in 13 fatal crashes.

Mr Stewart has been campaigning for safety upgrades to the stretch. “(The state) hasn’t got money to fix our road,” Mr Stewart said.

The change was something he said he could not “see the point of”, and said it reminded him of efforts to change the name of a national park in Victoria before the turn of the century.

“I saw this when they renamed the Grampians,” Mr Stewart said. “It caused a big backlash down there.”

Wolf Rock Dive owner James Nelson said he understood why that would be a concern, but at the end of the day all marketing had to be replaced eventually.

“I’d wait until things looked a bit tired and swap (the names) out,” Mr Nelson said.

The name change had other benefits, too.

As a former United Kingdom resident Mr Nelson said that country was full of places named things like “Fraser”.

“There’s something quite cool about coming to another country and having an exotic local name,” he said.

Rainbow Beach Adventure Centre 4WD owner Wendy Shaw was “perfectly happy” with the change.

Ms Shaw, whose company hires out 4WDs for tourists to explore the Cooloola Coast and K’gari, said the renaming highlighted the island‘s native history. “It‘s just respectful to put the name back as it always should have been,” she said.

There was no fear of a potential drop in tourism either. “It‘s still going to have the Fraser Island name around,” she said.

Cooloola Coast businesswoman Ruth Modin has owned the Rainbow Beach Foodworks for decades and said the name change would not damage tourism in the region. “It will have no impact on tourism,” Mrs Modin said.

An online News Corp poll run at the time of the announcement revealed 70 per cent of those who voted disagreed with the name change.


Northern Territory buffalo is going to waste, but these feral beasts could be our new beef

Adrian Phillips jokes he's probably got buffalo blood running in his veins, such is his passion for the wild animals.

Watching the former chopper pilot, contract musterer and butcher patiently coax a mob of wild buffalo through a set of yards on a Top End property, it's clear he does have a kind of "buffalo whisperer" ability.

He's a straight-shooting, rugged cattleman born and raised in the Northern Territory, where he claims buffalo helped give him a leg up in life when he did not have two cents to rub together.

"It was the buffalo that made money, [it's] black gold in the Territory, hey," he said.

He now runs around 700 buffalo and 3,500 cattle on a property on the Mary River about 100 kilometres south-east of Darwin.

"I put the buffalo in paddocks on marginal country where cattle don't do well," he said.

His buffalo are mostly destined for live export, but he is eyeing off a new market — domestic high-end meat production using the Riverine breed.

"They are bred for dairy buffalo, but they yield exceptional-quality meat and really good. There's [a] massive demand for the meat from the restaurant trade. So I'd like to see that line of buffalo go paddock to plate," Mr Phillips said.

"I call it Top End wagyu. Look, it's good eating beef. They hold white fat and good white fat there."

Demand for Australian buffalo
With cattle prices currently sky high, exporters like Patrick Underwood from Australian Cattle Enterprises said he was also seeing demand for buffalo surge.

Countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and some smaller nations are all putting orders in for Australian buffalo.

"So, there's been a big disruption to that supply throughout that market. Also, Australian cattle are so expensive, they're very expensive, and the supply is short. So buffalo is seen as a genuine alternative," he said.

Mr Underwood said buffalo were fetching 10 per cent more than last year, when 10,000 head were exported through the Darwin Port, the highest numbers to date.

The industry is feeling optimistic but also anxious the opportunity does not get squandered.

Louise Bilato heads up the Northern Territory Buffalo Industry Association.

"There's been ups and downs in the industry. We really feel that this is a period of huge opportunity where the industry can have a whole series of disparate aspects come together," Ms Bilato said.

"Obviously, because of COVID, some of the suppliers internationally are no longer there and Indonesia particularly is very keen not just to have our live buffalo but also to get boxed buffalo meat."

A game-changer was the reopening of the Rum Jungle abattoir near Darwin in December 2019. It processed 7,000 buffalo this year.

The meatworks can take the animals that are rejected or unsuitable for live export.

"That is the one big thing that has changed that has now gone from 20 per cent or 30 per cent of the animals could be sold to right now, nearly 100 per cent could be sold," Mr Phillips said.

Shooting to waste

In a world where waste is increasingly a dirty word, there are also environmental aspects.

A renewed buffalo trade could help keep control of the animals on Indigenous lands where they can wreak havoc. In some areas, buffalo are culled rather than mustered and sold.

"So this shooting to waste is ridiculous. Yes, we need to manage numbers because it does create [an] environmental impact. And we see that but hey, let's get together and get contractors out there," said Mr Phillips.

Louise Bilato said they could take up to 30,000 animals each year and not make an impact on the 180,000 roaming in Arnhem Land.

She said there's also a need for more pastoralist or Indigenous landowners to "background" buffalo like Adrian Phillips is doing and retain young animals to be fattened during, and traded in, the wet season when contract mustering crews cannot get in.

Exporters say the consistency in supply would also help them sell the product.

"We'd like to see people spend money in infrastructure. And I think as an exporter, we should pay a premium for buffalo during the wet season to encourage that year-round aspect," Mr Underwood said.

Mr Phillips and his family are keen to see black gold reign once more.

"Make something really happen, you know, but if we want to keep going around in circles like we are, you're gonna kiss it all goodbye."


ATAR delay offers a silver lining for stressed Canberra year 12 students ahead of university

The release of the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) has been delayed to January 20 after the NSW Higher School Certificate final exams were also postponed due to school closures.

The University of Canberra has one of the earliest semester start dates in the country on February 7.

The University Admissions Centre (UAC) announced the first ATAR entry round would happen on January 26 which leaves a very short time for prospective UC students to receive an offer, decide to accept it and if necessary relocate to Canberra in time for the first week of class.

Deputy vice-chancellor academic Professor Geoff Crisp said the university had decided to have three rounds of the school recommendation scheme, instead of only one round, as well as an additional round of early offers based on year 11 results on January 13.

No matter what entry method they use, students will have guaranteed accommodation on campus if they're coming from interstate.

"It's a difficult time for everyone at the moment with the COVID lockdown, but of course, [there's] this additional stress of wondering whether you'll get into the course you want. We just want to make sure that we put their minds at ease as much as we can," Professor Crisp said.

At the Australian National University, classes start later on February 21 but the university has been working closely with UAC on a revised schedule so that students can get offers and start in time for semester 1.

ANU's deputy vice-chancellor (academic) Professor Grady Venville said the majority of applicants had already received offers as part of the university's direct entry process.

"Any student who has been given an offer and who finishes Year 12 will be able to study at ANU in 2022. Any student who has not yet received an offer to ANU should apply in the regular way through UAC," she said.

The ANU has issued 4561 early offers for 2022, which is down from 5341 offers given this time last year as travel restrictions and lockdowns impact on demand from interstate students.

"To all Year 12 students impacted by this delay, we say keep focused on completing your studies," Professor Venville said.

"We are proud and impressed that you are completing your senior secondary studies in the middle of a global pandemic. You should be proud too."

Year 12 student Rohan Jones, who is waiting to find out if he has been accepted to study psychological science at Southern Cross University, said the delay to the ATAR could put more pressure on students in their final term.

"There might be some feelings of regret for some people. There might be like, 'I could have tried harder'. And I think it's definitely adding a lot more stress for lots of students," he said.

Fynn Jammer is trying to decide whether he will take up an early offer from the University of Canberra to study business, innovation and entrepreneurship or take a gap year to explore Australia.

He said universities moving away from an ATAR score for entry was a positive step.

"I think is a very important skill to build a portfolio to show your creative works, to show who I am as a person as opposed to just a number that you then get an offer."




Wednesday, September 29, 2021

China power crunch sees potentially millions of homes in the dark and global supply chains cut

Australia used to be a big supplier of thermal coal to China but that has been cut off by China for political reasons. It would seem that replacement of the Australian coal from other sources has not been very successful

A widespread power crisis in China threatens to become the “new normal” as the country’s manufacturers and citizens alike face a potential cold, hard winter ahead.

Several of the country’s provinces have begun to ration power supplies in the face of shortage of coal supplies, increasing energy demands from manufacturers and consumers and tough emission standards.

China, which is increasingly dependent on coal, has ordered provinces to limit power consumption, as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics and strives to curb emissions.

This has led to unannounced power cuts for citizens in many provinces, who have taken to social media to complain about the lack of heating and public infrastructure, including lifts and traffic lights not working.

The most severe impact of the power crisis has been seen in the country’s northeastern industrial belt, comprising of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces.

Huludao city told residents to not use high energy-consuming electronics including microwaves and water heaters during peak periods, according to Reuters.

The immediate effects of the power crisis have echoed in industry as well. Key suppliers of Apple and Tesla halted production in some plants. Power-intensive sectors like aluminum smelting, cement manufacturing, steel making and fertiliser production have been hit as well. At least 15 Chinese companies that produce goods ranging from aluminum and chemicals, said their production was curbed by power cuts.

While the power crisis has taken its toll on citizens only this month, early indications of the crisis have been witnessed since March, which is when the country had begun witnessing spikes in power prices, reported Reuters.


Stop thinking our kids will be lumbered with massive government debts; they won’t be

If you’re one of the many who worry about how we’ll pay off the massive debt the Morrison government has incurred during the pandemic, the Parliamentary Budget Office has reassuring news.

The budget office – which is responsible to the whole Parliament and so is independent of the elected government – has prepared its own projections of the budget deficit and debt over the decade to 2032.

It’s also assessed our “fiscal sustainability” over the 40 years to 2061, testing the budget against 27 different best, worst and middle scenarios with differing assumptions about economic growth, the level of interest rates on government debt and the size of our budget deficit or surplus.

It finds that the federal government’s debt is projected to keep growing until it reaches a peak equivalent to about 50 per cent of gross domestic product in 2029. After that it’s projected to keep growing in dollar terms, but at a slower rate than the economy is growing, so that it slowly declines relative to the size of the economy, to reach 28 per cent of GDP in 2061 in the middle scenario.

We don’t pay off any debt unless we get the budget back into annual surplus. But this happens only in the best-case scenario, where the debt is completely repaid by 2058. Don’t hold your breath.

So the budget office’s reassuring news is not that we’ll be able to repay the debt – it’s unlikely we will – but that it accepts Scott Morrison’s assurances we don’t have to repay it to keep out of trouble. That, unless our leaders go crazy, we can outgrow the debt and that the interest bill isn’t likely to become a significant burden on taxpayers even though the debt remains unpaid.

These are not controversial propositions among economists. If you find them hard to believe then – forgive me – but you don’t understand public finances as well as you should. It’s a mistake to think that a national government of 25 million people has to live by the same rules as your household.

Households must pay off their debts before they’re too old to work, but governments go on forever and always have most of their population working and paying taxes. Their populations keep growing and getting a bit richer every year, so they can keep rolling over their debts.

They can do what no household can do: pay their bills not by working but by imposing taxes on other households. So stop thinking governments have to pay off their debts the way you and I do.

And stop thinking our kids will be lumbered with massive government debts; they won’t be.

But that’s not to say government debt doesn’t matter or that it comes without a price tag. In its projections over the next decade and its scenarios over the next 40 years, the budget office assumes that the “shocks” causing ups and downs in the economy in the future will be no worse than those we’ve experienced over the past 30 years or so. Maybe; maybe not. As well, it assumes that present and future governments will be no more reckless spenders than governments have been over past decades.

It judges that our deficit and debt position will be sustainable over the next 40 years – will cause no need for “major remedial policy action” (no horror budgets) – “provided fiscal strategy is prudent”. We can continue to run budget deficits provided they’re “modest”.

We’ll need “a measured pace of fiscal consolidation”. Translation: if governments stop trying to keep deficits low, all bets are off. So governments will need to avoid wasteful spending. And they’ll need to ensure tax collections are sufficient to cover most of any growth in government spending.


Australia and India move closer to major trade deal after Scott Morrison meets Narendra Modi

Australia and India expect to seal an interim trade agreement by the end of the year following a meeting on the sidelines of global Quad talks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have discussed the trade agreement and climate change during bilateral talks in Washington DC.

The two nations confirmed their commitment to announce an interim trade agreement by December.

It follows former prime minister Tony Abbott’s August trip to India on behalf of Australia to follow up stalled Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement negotiations.

Morrison and Modi also underlined the need to urgently address climate change and possibilities of providing clean technology.

“In this regard, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the need for a broader dialogue on environment protection,” a communique released by the Indian leader said.

Australia is inching towards a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 amid immense international pressure in the lead-up to United Nations climate talks in Glasgow in November.

The Indian PM reiterated his invitation for Morrison to visit India.

“The prime ministers agreed that as two vibrant democracies in the region, the two countries needed to work closer together to overcome the challenges in the post-pandemic world.”


Dismissal of unvaccinated worker who refused flu shot upheld

The Fair Work Commission has backed the right of a business to sack an employee who refused to get a flu shot as required under a public health order.

The commission’s full bench majority upheld the dismissal of a receptionist at a NSW South Coast aged care facility who refused to get a flu vaccination shot.

In an earlier decision in April, Commissioner Donna McKenna found the worker’s dismissal by Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care in Bega was not unfair.

Commissioner McKenna rejected the worker’s unfair dismissal application on the basis that she did not provide evidence of an allergy she claimed had prevented her from getting vaccinated.

On Monday, a majority of the full bench upheld the original decision and dismissed the worker’s application to appeal.

“We do not intend, in the circumstances of the current pandemic, to give any encouragement to a spurious objection to a lawful workplace vaccination requirement,” the ruling said.

Recording her dissent, deputy president Lyndall Dean, in the minority, said the decision had denied the worker protections under the Fair Work Act “in part because of an inference that she holds a general anti-vaccination position”.

“Never have I more strenuously disagreed with an outcome in an unfair dismissal application,” she said.

The Australian Industry Group welcomed the commission’s decision saying it would influence decisions relating to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. Chief executive Innes Willox said this was the commission’s first full bench decision on the issue of vaccination mandates to be handed down during the pandemic.

“It is pleasing that the full bench has supported an employer’s right to mandate vaccinations where reasonable in the circumstances,” he said.

Herbert Smith Freehills employment lawyer Alexis Agostino said the decision “should give some comfort to employers considering mandating vaccination policies within their workforce where those policies are lawful and reasonable”.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Mia Pantechis said the decision dealt with a dismissal in a specific context, “and although it provides guidance on the type of evidence required to prove a medical contraindication and to gain an exemption from a public health order mandating the vaccination of certain workers, it is not a blanket ruling that it’s lawful to sack employees who refuse vaccines”.

“In most workplaces, including those that are not the subject of a public health order, the question of whether it’s lawful to mandate that employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine or to sack employees who refuse requires careful consideration and a balancing of a range of factors.″⁣

Ms Pantechis said these factors include work health and safety obligations, rights under anti-discrimination laws, the level of risk within the workplace, and whether flexible work arrangements can be offered.

Shae McCrystal, a professor of employment law at the University of Sydney, said the decision was unlikely to provide an authority to employers mandating COVID-19 vaccines outside of public health orders.




Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Joe Hildebrand: Real genius of Australia’s submarine pact is nothing to do with boats

The message that other major Anglosphere countries will give brotherly support to Australia is the main point. Considered as a whole, the Anglosphere is a substantial counterweight to China

Beijing is spitting chips about Australia’s US sub deal despite the first boat not being due for more than a decade. Their real anger is because of something else.

The biggest advantage of a nuclear submarine is that it never has to surface, which is also the biggest advantage of Australia’s nuclear submarine deal.

There has been much debate over the technical merits of the new nuclear subs we will get from the US and UK versus the diesel-powered subs we just ditched from the French. At least all our armchair epidemiologists have found a new area of expertise.

But the most critical characteristic of both the diesel and the nuclear subs is the one they have in common: Neither actually exists. Australia has no French submarines or American submarines — and it won’t be getting any of either for a very long time.

In fact, the seismic announcement that sent the French Ambassador storming out and the President sniffily screening his calls has almost nothing to do with submarines at all. Indeed, it is inconceivable that such explosive tantrums could be caused by an argument over aquatic metal.

Instead it is about something far more primal and real — and much more real than phantom U-boats.

Paul Keating knows it, which is why the former PM’s reaction was if anything even more visceral than that of the French. He may have landed on the wrong side of the argument but at least he knew what the argument was about.

The most precious commodities in the submarine swap aren’t underwater tin cans but the flags that stood behind Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden as the three leaders announced the new deal.

For Australia it was a clear message to China that we might not be the biggest kid in the playground but we’ve got both Blighty and Biff at our back. For the UK and USA it was a clear message that they now have not just an eye on the region but a dog in the fight.

Many on the lunar green left have sought to paint it as a provocative action but this is merely a form of geopolitical victim blaming. After the shameless trade war that China has waged upon Australia, its ubiquitous cyber attacks on our institutions, its open belligerence towards Hong Kong and Taiwan and its literal raising of the seabed in the South China Sea to create military bases — not to mention innumerable mass-scale human rights abuses within its own mainland — one wonders what they would consider an appropriate strategic response.

There was a time in global affairs just a decade or two ago when China was rightly considered a rational and reasonable actor. Sadly its more recent actions prove that while it may well still be rational — its hyper-nationalist and expansionist agenda is nothing if not calculated — it is no longer reasonable. Reasonable countries don’t put 200 per cent tariffs on wine.

So what do we do? The truth is there is not much we can do. Obviously Australia will never be any match for China in a straight fight, be it a trade war, a cold war or — God forbid — a hot one.

Our only option is to remind the Chinese that, as Princess Leia said to Jabba the Hutt, we have powerful friends. Some might sneer that the USA is a declining superpower but it’s the only one we’ve got. And, as Crosby, Stills and Nash once sang, you’ve got to love the one you’re with.

It should also be noted that if the United States can withstand its last two presidents then perhaps reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. If a nation can survive both Trump and Biden then surely that is a mark of infinite resilience.

It is thus both wholly and sadly unnecessary that this new — or rather renewed — alliance is causing such an identity crisis within the Australian Labor Party. Labor has always been a friend of America, to the point that it even uses the American spelling of its very name.

The great John Curtin made perhaps the most important decision in Australian history when he turned to the US to defend Australia from Japan after the fall of Singapore in World War II. It is then strange that the party has been infected by anti-American sentiment in all the decades since.

Of course in the 1990s Labor heralded the advent of the Asian century and it might have been right then. That doesn’t mean it is still right now.

Placating Indonesia while it oppressed East Timor was bad enough. Placating China while it oppresses Hong Kong and Taiwan is a whole new art of acquiescence. It certainly has no place in a party that calls itself progressive.

Anthony Albanese is right to support our reinforced position as a member of a Western liberal democratic alliance. As Opposition Leader he is obliged to ask questions and find fault but he needs to stand strong even as he is bombarded by the bonkers left.

Former PMs might carry on and cry but it’s only future PMs that count.


And then there's the QUAD

Australia is also allied with India and Japan

Australia will intensify co-operation with the United States, India and Japan to ensure that China does not exert excessive control over the supply of minerals essential to modern technology in one of the key goals of the first face-to-face leaders’ meeting of the “Quad” nations.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet with US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House on Saturday (AEST) for the first in-person leaders’ meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

In a separate speech to the United Nations on Saturday, Morrison will position Australia on the front lines of the battle to ensure China does not monopolise the Asia-Pacific.

“The global strategic environment has rapidly changed, indeed deteriorated in many respects – particularly in the Indo-Pacific region where we live here in Australia,” the Prime Minister will say.

“The changes we face are many, whether it’s tensions over territorial claims, rapid military modernisation, foreign interference, cyber threats, disinformation and indeed economic coercion.

“We must reinforce a sustainable rules-based order, while ensuring it is also adaptable to the great-power politics of our time. Our voice is clear, it’s respectful, it’s constructive.”

The Quad is rapidly emerging as an influential grouping of leading democracies working together to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The four leaders are also expected to announce significant initiatives on vaccine diplomacy, climate change, infrastructure and space exploration following wide-ranging joint discussions.

Morrison, Biden, Modi and Suga have agreed to map out supply chains for key minerals and products - such as semiconductors - to better understand the nations’ technological vulnerabilities.

China accounts for the majority of the global production of rare-earth minerals, including palladium and lithium, raising alarm that the rising superpower could block access to crucial consumer and defence technologies as part of a trade war with its strategic rivals.

An iPhone, for example, contains an estimated eight different rare-earth minerals, which are also integral components of high-tech weaponry such as fighter jets and guided cruise missiles.

Australia has the world’s sixth-largest reserves of rare-earth minerals, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, but they currently remain largely untapped with only two mines producing them. The largest by far is a mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia, owned by the Lynas Corporation.

In February the US Defence Department announced it had awarded Lynas a contract to develop a rare-earth processing facility in Texas.

The Morrison government believes the fellow Quad nations represent potentially lucrative export markets for Australian-sourced minerals such as lithium given their increasing concern about China’s reliability.

Rare earths were also a focus for Morrison during his previous visit to Washington in 2019 with then -president Donald Trump.

The leaders are expected to say that “resilient, diverse and secure technology supply chains for hardware, software, and services” are vital to their shared national interests.

Specifically, the four nations will “launch a joint initiative to map capacity, identify vulnerabilities and bolster supply chain security for semiconductors and their vital components”.

Australia's race against China's 'rare earths weapon'
A global shortage in semiconductor chips is driving up the prices of cars and other electronic goods such as laptops and televisions, leading the Biden administration to make boosting supply and reducing dependence on China one of its top economic priorities.


Bid to remove ‘racist’ slave trader Ben Boyd’s name from Sydney street fails

The Kanakas were NOT slaves. They were contracted labourers. They were free to return to Kanaky at the end of their contract. Most did

Calls to remove the name of slave trader Ben Boyd, who was responsible for ‘blackbirding’, from a leafy Sydney suburb have failed.

North Sydney Council will keep the name of Ben Boyd Rd in Neutral Bay and Cremorne, on the lower north shore of Sydney, after a former Green’s staffer created a petition to change the name.

The petition caused a stir in the community with the council then asked to consider a name change.

The road was named after a colonial entrepreneur who lived in Neutral Bay in the 1840s.

Boyd was known for pioneering the practice of using cheap labour from the South Sea islands to work in Australia. It is known as ‘blackbirding’.

After the petition was circulated the council asked constituents for their thoughts.

A survey was put forward and 2318 residents responded, 54.7 per cent opposed the renaming of the street while 44.3 per cent were in favour. Just 1.6 per cent were unsure.

The papers also said there were 20 council installed street signs referencing Ben Boyd Rd. The cost of replacing these would be about $6200.

There are also two plaques in the community commemorating Ben Boyd with the council preparing to alter these.

“The larger of these are soon to be reinstalled with another plaque outlining the story of Boyd’s place in Australia’s historical narrative,” council papers said.

“With that, the naming of Ben Boyd Road will be put in context, and residents and visitors can decide for themselves the nature of the man and his deeds.”


It’s a $50b-a-year export industry. How long until coal’s rivers of gold run dry?

If the end of coal is near, it’s hard to see it among the open pits and billowing cooling towers of Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and the Hunter in NSW.

Canyons of brown and black coal, set between green paddocks and sloping hills, loom large in these mining districts and dominate their economies as a source of great wealth, just as they have for a century or more.

A global push is accelerating to eliminate the use of thermal coal — the worst-emitting source of energy — to restrain the planet’s rising temperature and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

But the mines in Latrobe and the Hunter are still operating around the clock. White steam still rises from the nearby power plants as they burn coal to supply more than two-thirds of Australia’s electricity needs. And, at the ports, huge volumes of coal are still being loaded onto cargo ships bound for Asia, bringing in billions of dollars of export revenue a year.

“The coal industry is just so damn important to the regional centres,” says Peter Jordan, a Cessnock local and mining union official who worked in the sector for more than a decade.

“Our coal mining jobs are well-paid relative to other industries, but they support many others in the mining communities; services, retail, health … most of them wouldn’t exist without coal.”

With 50,000 coal mining jobs nationally, the industry’s head count is relatively modest in contrast to sectors such as manufacturing, which employs 900,000 Australians. But coal has an outsized influence in a handful of seats, where it is a provider of good jobs and rich revenue streams for governments.

“It sends rivers of gold to Sydney in the form of royalties,” Jordan adds, “paying for roads, schools, and hospitals.”

For now, coal is a $50-billion-a-year export industry. How long until its rivers of gold run dry?

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull lost his job over an attempt to reshape energy policy and push down emissions. Scott Morrison went to the last election warning voters that Labor’s “net-zero” target would unleash economic havoc and widespread lay-offs.

Most Australians now say they want stronger emissions curbs, new polling suggests. But fewer than half (49 per cent) think coal power should be phased out within a decade and 44 per cent want to keep mining and exporting coal for as long as buyers want it.

Australia’s coal addiction might seem hard to shake. While 10 coal-fired power plants have shut down in the past decade, coal still generates about 70 per cent of the nation’s electricity.

Winds of change are, however, blowing anyway. The clean energy era is firmly upon us. And powerful forces are radically reshaping coal’s outlook overseas and on the home front.

With 3.3 gigawatts of new wind and solar power capacity plugged into the nation’s main grid in 2020 alone, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has officially declared the transition to be the fastest of anywhere in the world, describing the pace as “absolutely staggering”.

A consequence of more wind and solar farms being built, and more Australians installing rooftop solar panels, is that coal is getting squeezed. In the past 12 months, the flood of cheaper-to-run renewable energy has pummelled daytime wholesale power prices to levels where just about every coal-fired power plant is considered at risk.

This year, EnergyAustralia brought forward the closure of its Yallourn power station to 2028, four years ahead of schedule. Last week, it said it would shut its Mt Piper plant earlier, too, sometime prior to 2040.

Other sites, though, are still licensed to be burning coal until the back half of the 2040s, or even the 2050s, putting Australia at odds with a growing chorus of world leaders calling for a markedly more urgent phase-out plan.

Ahead of the world climate summit in Glasgow, the United Nations has launched a push for all OECD countries to quit coal power by 2030, and non-OECD countries by 2040. “The alarm bells are deafening,” UN secretary-general Antonio Gutteres says.

Is it possible for Australia’s coal-dominated national power market to be rid of coal entirely by 2030? “It depends,” says Lisa Zembrodt of Schneider Electric, an adviser to many of Australia’s largest corporate energy consumers.

Put this question to the power station operators, and they invariably insist 2030 is far too soon and would raise the threat of a “messy” transition that could see price volatility or even blackouts.

AGL, which accounts for 8 per cent of Australia’s total emissions, says nine years is not nearly enough time for replacement capacity to be invested in, built and plugged into the grid.

“We certainly recognise that the date of 2030 is something that is on the table with respect of the UN targets,” AGL chairman Peter Botten says. “I believe that 2030 is a very, very challenging target.”

Still, at its annual investor meeting last Wednesday, more than 50 per cent of AGL’s shareholders including US investment powerhouses BlackRock and Vanguard defied the board and voted to support an activist climate resolution requesting consideration of new goals that would compel accelerated coal plant closures.

What it boils down to, according to Zembrodt, is a choice we have to make as a society: As expensive as it may be, are we prepared to invest in the transition — smart grids, micro-grids, demand-management technology, batteries, energy storage and infrastructure — to fill the gap?

“We should be seeking to phase out coal as quickly as possible … and 2030 is a great aim,” she says. “But we need clear policy, we need market design, we need coordinated efforts between government, the market operators and consumers to enable the transition and support it, rather than prevent it.”

Grattan Institute energy director Tony Wood agrees: Australia could be capable of retiring all its coal plants and replacing them with clean energy by 2030, but it would cost a “huge amount”.

“You would have to do a hell of a lot of things in the shorter-term that you otherwise would only have done in the longer term,” he says.

Because electricity production is a dominant source of emissions, exiting coal would help sharply reduce the country’s carbon footprint. At the same time, however, state and federal ministers have also become acutely aware to the risk of abrupt plant closures leading to undesirable outcomes for consumers.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor is driving development of a so-called “capacity mechanism” designed to spur investment into “dispatchable” assets – those capable of supplying on-demand power when the wind isn’t blowing and sun isn’t shining.

Taylor insists the mechanism would be technology-neutral, with equal opportunity for gas, pumped hydro and batteries. But the policy has drawn fierce criticism from environmental advocates who have dubbed it “CoalKeeper” because it may see coal plants paid to guarantee future supply by remaining in the grid for longer.

NSW thermal coal has rallied this year to $US180 a tonne – a 10-year-high, and a sign of enduring near-term demand despite accelerating emissions goals globally.

As economies re-emerge from COVID-19 and energy consumption rebounds, coal markets are booming. What will happen next, though, is decidedly less certain. Top Australian coal destinations – Japan, China, South Korea – are targeting “net-zero” emissions by 2050-60, which, eventually, will diminish demand for fossil fuel cargoes.

There is much still to be answered. How sharp will the trajectory in those countries be? Will the world seek to limit global temperatures to 2.5 degrees of warming, 2 degrees or the most aspirational 1.5-degree pathway, as targeted by the Paris Agreement? What does that mean for Australian coal?

When the Reserve Bank of Australia considered these questions, it modelled four scenarios. Under one scenario of no change to existing policies in those countries, Australian coal exports rise 17 per cent by 2050. In other scenarios in which temperature rises are kept at 2 degrees or lower, coal falls by up to 80 per cent by mid-century.

“Countries are unlikely to materially alter their energy mix in the near term, and ... demand for coal will likely remain robust this decade, the RBA said. “However, as global appetite for coal tapers off from 2030 onwards under all scenarios except for the baseline, Australian coal-related investments are at risk of becoming ‘stranded assets’.”

Coal producers and analysts say Australian coal – with a relatively high quality and energy content – could face a brighter future than coal from other sources, as countries across Asia retire their older, less-efficient coal generators and move towards lower-emissions facilities.

“If everybody else goes down, we could end up holding a bigger piece of the global coal pie,” says Herd. “But is that who we really want to be? Do we want to be the last coal exporting-nation in the world?”


A major Queensland university is set to ditch lectures next year in a move which has been slammed by the tertiary education union and protested by students

Seems a lot of nonsense to me, as a retired lecturer

From 2022 the University of the Sunshine Coast will no longer have in-person or online lecturers, with students instead to be provided with alternative learning materials such as quizzes and podcasts.

In a message to students about the change, USC stated “traditional style lecturers have been demonstrated to have poor learning outcomes”.

But many students have already voiced their concerns with USC psychology students launching a petition protesting the change, which has gathered more than 600 signatures.

USC Pro Vice-Chancellor (students) Professor Denise Wood told The Courier-Mai lecture attendance had been dramatically declining over the past few years, and students would now have access to more “engaging” online learning materials.

“USC remains predominantly a face-to-face on campus learning environment and that’s not changing,” she said.

“However over the years learning and teaching has changed, we are now living in a period of contemporary learning and teaching practice.

“Over the last decade, as has the entire sector, we’ve seen a gradual shift from the number of students wanting to come to face-to-face lecturers.

“A decade ago, you would see about 50 per cent attendance by week four, now you’re lucky to see between 20 and 25 per cent.”

National Tertiary Education Union Queensland secretary Michael McNally said members were concerned the university was taking a “one size fits all” approach, by ditching lecturers for all subjects.

“That’s a bit of a slamming condemnation of everything all of the staff up until now have been doing,” he said.

“A lot of our lecturers are quite happy to do some or even all of their teaching in this kind of format, because it works for them, it works for the subject they teach and their students prefer it.

“But there are also lots of situations where that type of format isn’t the best, and the academic staff need to have the ability to decide what’s the best learning format for their students.”

Prof. Wood said there would be no job losses with the change.

“The academics will still need to be available … and of course still need to respond to students,” she said.

In their petition, psychology students argued the “proposed will have a negative effect on student learning, specifically the psychology undergraduate degree”.

“Many students feel that the introduced interactive platform is a way for less and less teacher contact time,” the petition stated.

Prof. Wood said the university would listen to student feedback, with a survey currently underway.

“We will work with the student senate on analysing the feedback from students, and we will be responsive to it,” she said.




Monday, September 27, 2021

Why has the price of aluminium skyrocketed around the world?

Northern Australia has huge and easily accessible deposits of of bauxite right by the sea (at Weipa) and only a short sail from Asia. So it is already a major supplier. It may soon become even more dominant as a supplier. It easily has the reserves to replace Guinea and buyers should see that

What happened this week was a huge spike in the price of aluminium, which goes into everything from cars and trucks to phones and beverage cans. The metal touched $3000 a tonne — the highest it’s been since the 2008 global financial crisis — before settling down a wee bit after a couple days. But it’s still almost 70% more expensive than this time last year.

Why has the cost soared?

Because of Guinea, a tiny country in West Africa. Earlier this month, a military junta ousted Guinean president Alpha Condé in a coup driven by frustration over a lack of social and economic reform during his tenure. (Ramming through a referendum to ignore term limits and extend his time in office didn’t win Condé any friends either.)

Guinea is one of the major producers of bauxite, the mineral that is the raw ingredient for the production of aluminium. With a country so dependent on mining producing a commodity the world is so reliant on, a military coup naturally introduced uncertainty into the market — and uncertainty often means volatility. Even though Guinea’s mines are making an effort to keep operations normal and production steady, prices can still rise because commodities are traded speculatively. This means traders are nervous about what could happen with this batch of colonels, or even the next government, whenever it’s formed.

Guinea’s travails have indirect effects. Any blip in the bauxite supply chain has potential to wreak havoc later on. This is especially true seeing that China, which turns much of Guinea’s rocks into shiny metal, has become a net importer of aluminium recently, so it doesn’t necessarily have the domestic back stock to keep up with industry demand.

Aluminium comes from an ore called bauxite. According to the US Geological Survey, bauxite is the “only raw material used in the production of alumina on a commercial scale”. In other words, if the world wants aluminium, the world needs bauxite. The process that turns bauxite into aluminium is called smelting, and it is fairly resource- as well as energy- and emissions-intensive. It’s a messy business.

While Australia was the world’s largest producer of bauxite last year, digging up 110 million tonnes, Guinea produced 82 million tonnes, or 22% of the world’s supply. For a country of just 13.6 million people, that is no small feat. More importantly, perhaps, it also has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, with 7.4 billion tonnes. Guinea may not be to aluminium what the DRC is to cobalt, but it’s almost there.

What does this mean for the prices of goods that use aluminium?

Well it’s not good. Aluminium is everywhere these days. It’s used heavily in automobile production: Ford’s F-150 pick-up, the best-selling vehicle in the US, uses loads of it, which unfortunately got pricier thanks to former US president Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported aluminium. It’s in mobile phones. It’s in cans. The US uses it extensively in defence production. And the post-pandemic “greening” of the economy has led to increased aluminium demand due to its prevalence in electric car production and solar panels, as NPR’s Marketplace pointed out.

Increased demand, combined with continued political uncertainty in Guinea, could keep aluminim prices sky high. If that happens, the prices of consumer goods will inevitably inch upward. The more volatile Guinea’s political situation is, the bigger the effect.

How long will this last?

It depends on how long political instability in the country persists. Lately, consultations have begun to shift from military rule to a transitional government. But it could take weeks — or a whole lot longer — for a final decision to be made.

In the meantime, the leader of the coup, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, rushed to assure big mining companies he wouldn’t do anything to disrupt operations, which might take some of the froth out of the market.

Bauxite is Guinea’s golden goose, so it’s not likely the new junta will do anything to jeopardise exports in the short term. But if political instability continues — or if the government decides to take a bigger bite of mining revenues, potentially even leading to closures — supply problems could creep into an already jittery market. And if you drive, talk, or eat leftovers, that is not what you want to hear.


Tim Blair: Inclusion actually means exclusion in the woke community

In the names of inclusiveness and social justice, girls and women are losing opportunities for athletic achievement – and even losing their gender identities, writes Tim Blair.

If ever you hear a woke type ­talking about the need for ­“inclusion”, brace yourself. It usually means someone is about to be excluded.

The latest victims of inclusion are female netball players. Last week several girls’ netball teams were swept aside in a state championship because netball administrators allowed a boys’ team to compete.

By “compete”, I mean “dominate”. The Queensland Suns Under-17 team, an all-male outfit, easily won the Under-18s championship in Brisbane against all-female ­opponents.

As you’d expect.

Parents and fans at the final expressed understandable outrage. So did NRL legend Cameron Smith, whose wife watched a game in which fellow former NRL star Matt Geyer’s daughter played against the boys.

“She just said Matt’s daughter’s team were a gun side and they had no chance. The males were just too fast, too physical. It was just a disadvantage to the girls,” Smith said on SEN.

“It’s crazy. How do you put one male team in against all the other ­females and expect the girls to compete? Particularly at that age when they’re still developing. It’s not fair.”

Damn straight. But according to Netball Queensland, allowing boys to play against girls was even better than fair. It was inclusive, the highest level of woke accomplishment to which ­humanity can possibly aspire.

Following criticism, Netball Queensland issued a statement boldly defending its decision to deny girls any chance of winning. It’s a masterpiece of social justice sophistry. Let’s take a walk on the woke side:

“We want to make clear that there is a place for everyone in our sport.” Except for a place on top of the podium. That’s now reserved for boys.

“We stand by the decision to choose inclusion over exclusion.” Says the same organisation that excluded girls from even the possibility of a championship win.

“We recognise that change is sometimes uncomfortable …” Especially for girls, who will probably give up netball entirely if they’re going to be beaten in every match.

“We are buoyed by the support of our wider netball community …” As one sharp-eyed observer noted, they really should have used a more inclusive term than “buoyed”.

“We’d like to address the assertion that the young women who played the State Titles were disadvantaged in any way.” Really? The boys won their games by an average of 29 points and took out the final 46-12. If that’s not evidence of disadvantage, then what the hell is?

“We see this as a great development opportunity.” But not for girls, at least in terms of claiming a title.

“The inclusion of both women and men in the competition in 2021 was about affording all netballers the opportunity to play and develop our great game.” And for boys, and boys only, the opportunity to win.

“While we have been subject to commentary around the different physical attributes it should also be remembered that men are new participants to our sport and play a different style of netball.” A style known as “successful”. Because they’re boys playing against girls.

“It’s also imperative that we provide a platform for men and boys to participate – because if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” I can’t see a girls’ team ever winning a netball championship again if boys are allowed to compete.

“And we aspire to be a sport for all.” You’ve taken a sport designed for girls and women and have handed it over to boys and men. Congratulations, ladies.

Queensland Netball’s idiocy, which if extended to other exclusively-female sports would scrub women from peak athletic involvement, is part of a broader woke war on women.

Last week the totally woke American Civil Liberties Union celebrated the memory of late Supreme Court justice and feminist hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg by promoting an old Ginsburg quote.

Problem was, Ginsburg’s 1993 quote used non-woke words such as “her”, “woman” and “she”. So the ACLU helpfully edited it, which turned an eloquent statement on abortion rights into an abortion ­itself.

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] wellbeing and dignity,” the updated gender-neutral version reads.

“When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”

Fully adult humans should be capable of hearing or reading words that refer to women without having an ­inclusiveness-based panic attack.

Similarly, formerly-prestigious British medical journal The Lancet last week indicated its devotion to wokeness by also excluding women. “Historically,” The Lancet reported, “the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been ­neglected.”

Seriously? “Bodies with vaginas”? That’s where wokespeak is taking us. They are reducing women to their genital component form.

Sensible people, such as psychologist and author Dr Jessica Taylor, took issue with this. How, Dr Taylor wondered, could The Lancet present itself as caring about the exclusion of female bodies and female biology from medicine and science when the journal won’t even name them?

“I would like to hear The Lancet explain their scientific rationale for keeping the use of the word ‘men’, ‘male’ and ‘man’ when they are refusing to use the word ‘woman’, ‘women’ and ‘female’,” Dr Taylor added. “Genuinely, I would like to hear that argument.”

They don’t have one. That’s why we hear nonsense phrases instead, like “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.

We are increasingly seeing women not mentioned in elite correspondence. What happens next?


Qld, WA may face legal challenges over border closures

Barriers betwen the states are clearly ultra vires of section 92 of the constitution

Queensland and Western Australia could find themselves vulnerable to unprecedented legal issues as the rest of Australia embraces ‘Covid normal’ in the coming months.

Constitutional lawyer Professor Kim Rubenstein told Ten’s The Sunday Project that anyone adversely affected by the states’ refusal to open their borders could have grounds for a case.

“Any person who is impacted by these restrictions and who can show that this is a disproportionate burden on trade (could mount legal action),” she said.

“So that if it can show that it is, in fact, protecting one state over the other, without a legitimate or proportional response, then it really is available for challenge. And we may, in fact, see that ahead of us.”

Professor Rubenstein told The Sunday Project that the Australian constitution “was motivated by a desire to travel freely across the country”.

“Section 92 was placed there to discourage any restriction of travel within Australia,” she said.

Professor Rubenstein said the court would examine “whether these restrictions are needed for the purpose that they‘re seeking to achieve in terms of health protection.”

If they’re found wanting, the state could be much more “vulnerable” to legal action.

It comes amid criticism over Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was unwilling to reopen the state’s borders even at 80 per cent national vaccine coverage.

Ms Palaszczuk on Friday said she was unwilling to reopen as “80 per cent actually takes you backwards and I do not want that for Queensland”.

Her remarks have since come under heavy criticism with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg labelling it a policy that would keep Queensland families apart.

“The decision, and the announcement by the Queensland government, which means we may not see an opening of the borders consistent with the National Plan, is not good, and it would be a bad decision that would cost Queensland jobs,” he said.

“It would be a bad decision that would mean Queensland families are kept apart and it would be inconsistent with what was agreed at the National Cabinet.

“It’s really important that, in Queensland, the borders open in accordance with those 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates.

“People want their lives to come back to what it was, and it’s up to those premiers and chief ministers to give those people hope, to give them a chance to reopen their businesses, to be reunited with loved ones, to send their kids back to school.

“That’s what the people of Australia are expecting from their state and territory leaders.”


Australian PM refuses to commit to phasing out fossil fuels

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to commit to phasing out fossil fuels as a major climate conference approaches, while his deputy doubled down on opposing targets for net zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

Australia, the world's top coal and a major gas exporter, is under growing pressure to come up with emissions reduction targets ahead of November's COP26 United Nations climate conference in Scotland.

The International Monetary Fund called on Australia to set a "time bound" target to reach net zero emissions on Friday, when the country's treasurer warned that Australia must brace for much higher borrowing costs if it fails to commit to a net zero target by 2050, as many peers have done.

In interviews with Australian media after a summit in Washington, Morrison said his government was still working on its emissions plans, declining to commit to curbing fossil fuels that account for a major part of Australia's export revenue.

He told broadcaster SBS in an interview that aired on Saturday night that he was not prepared to pull back any fossil fuel industries immediately.

"We don't have to, because that change will take place over time," he said. "We are working on the transition technologies and fuels and the ultimate technologies that will be there over the next 20, 30 years that can get us to net zero... This doesn't happen overnight."

Morrison, who has a largely undefined slogan of "technology not taxes", was part of a government that torpedoed a carbon pricing scheme after winning the 2013 election while opposing the mechanism as a tax.

His deputy prime minister, climate change sceptic Barnaby Joyce, dug in on Sunday against a net zero target.

"We look at it through the eyes of making sure there is not an unreasonable, or any loss of... regional jobs," Joyce, whose National party represents largely rural voters, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Joyce said proceeds from mining and agriculture industries were vital for people in regional towns, from hairdressers to auto service providers.

"You've got to remember, fossil fuels are your nation's largest export and if you take away your nation's largest export, you've got to accept a lower standard of living," he said.


Spanish mackerel ban shows contemptible disregard for commercial fishermen

Peter Gleeson

If you like eating Spanish mackerel, you might have to start saving your pennies because the price is about to skyrocket.

It follows the establishment of a so-called working group, which will look at banning the commercial ­fishing of mackerel in north Queensland waters.

The plan is to ban fishing in certain areas from July 1 next year, abolishing the existing quota system.

Fisheries Queensland has been managing the resource through a quota system since 2004 under the sustainable fishing banner.

They have recently announced the East Coast Spanish Mackerel biomass is at a critically low level and changes to the management will be implemented next July.

Among other possibilities, the most likely result of this is a drastic quota reduction for the fishermen.

No doubt there will be the standard stakeholder working groups and public discussion papers so that Queensland Fisheries can be seen to be going through the consultation process, but the outcome is inevitable.

This is yet another hijacking of a perfectly legitimate business by the Greens and their Labor Left mates.

The Greens hate all commercial fishing. It’s a bread-and-butter issue. Greenpeace have made an art form of trying to destroy fishing industries.

Unfortunately, there are not enough commercial fisherman left to have any voting clout, so outcomes become inevitable.

The utter disregard for the consequences to fishermen’s personal and financial circumstances shown by Queensland Fisheries is contemptible.

Fishermen in the north Queensland area are in despair at the proposed changes.

For Spanish mackerel farmers such as Peter Guymer, the fish are all caught one at a time on a line.

There is no trawl or net fishery for this species, and the fish he catches are consumed by Queenslanders.

Mr Guymer says this latest issue for the Spanish mackerel industry is part of a broader campaign to undermine the professional fishing industry.

“The demand for wild caught local seafood has never been stronger,’’ Mr Guymer says.

“The ultimate loser here is the seafood-eating public who cannot or don’t wish to catch it themselves and will be eating imported farmed product.’’

The Queensland Seafood Industry Association has tried to talk sense into the State Government, but received little solace.

The Government says Spanish mackerel stocks are under threat from overfishing, with 300 tonnes commercially fished each year since 2004.

The latest damning Fisheries Queensland view follows a 2020 report, which said harvest numbers were good.

If a ban was implemented, it would throw dozens of fishermen out of work, and mean Spanish mackerel would be off the menu at most ­restaurants.

This is a typical Greens-Labor Left stitch-up, with a Labor government complicit in sending a section of the industry to the wall.

Let’s hope sanity prevails and the quota system remains. It’s a very fishy situation indeed




Sunday, September 26, 2021

Australia needs a ‘clear plan’ for net zero to avoid energy crisis

Barnaby Joyce has hit thenail on the head. Greenies and their supporters have NO plan for what will replace coal-fired electricity. Nukes are anathema and natural gas is an increasingly scarce and expensive fossil fuel. But only those two could keep the lights on at night and when the wind is not blowing

Mr Joyce has made a slight pivot in his stance on committing to a net zero target by 2050 after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg made an economic case for adopting the target in a speech to business leaders on Friday.

The Nationals have traditionally been opposed to the commitment; however, the remarks from Mr Joyce may signal a future shift in the party’s position.

“We want to make sure – and the Coalition is a prudent organisation – we want to make sure that any process forward doesn’t just follow rhetorical flourish, one-line headlines, but makes sure that we have a clear plan,” Mr Joyce told reporters on Friday.

“I have to show the Australian people what happens, what it looks like when you get it wrong.

“And the UK energy crisis, the European energy crisis, will be our energy crisis.

“At the end of that graph resides coldness and unemployment, and we don’t want either of those.

Mr Joyce indicated he believed the treasurer was “completely right if people make decisions that restrict the flow of capital”, however, Australia should not allow “third parties” to restrict the capacity to act within rules and within a process that is legitimate.


Victoria Police censored 'vital' media coverage of Melbourne protests

Victoria Police censored vital media coverage of Melbourne's protests by banning the live-streaming of aerial footage, according to Digital Editor Jack Houghton.

On Wednesday the Civil Aviation Safety Authority approved a Victoria Police ban of all helicopters bar their own flying over Melbourne CBD.

"A media blackout," Mr Houghton said. "A pathetic attempt by an over-zealous police force which lost control of its own city.

"You deserve to know what's happening in your city every moment of every day, and in my experience, police only ever want you to stop filming when they are worried about stuffing something up."


Australia signs deal with Nauru to keep asylum seeker detention centre open indefinitely

Australia will continue its policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers indefinitely, with the home affairs minister signing a new agreement with Nauru to maintain “an enduring form” of offshore processing on the island state.

Since 2012 – in the second iteration of the policy – all asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat seeking protection have faced mandatory indefinite detention and processing offshore.

There are currently about 108 people held by Australia on Nauru as part of its offshore processing regime. Most have been there more than eight years. About 125 people are still held in Papua New Guinea. No one has been sent offshore since 2014.

However, Nauru is Australia’s only remaining offshore detention centre. PNG’s Manus Island centre was forced to shut down after it was found to be unconstitutional by the PNG supreme court in 2016. Australia was forced to compensate those who had been illegally detained there, and they were forcibly moved out, mostly to Port Moresby.

But the Nauru detention facility will remain indefinitely.

In a statement on Friday, home affairs minister Karen Andrews said a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru was a “significant step forwards” for both countries.

“Australia’s strong and successful border protection policies under Operation Sovereign Borders remain and there is zero chance of settlement in Australia for anyone who arrives illegally by boat,” she said.

“Anyone who attempts an illegal maritime journey to Australia will be turned back, or taken to Nauru for processing. They will never settle in Australia.”

Nauru president, Lionel Aingimea, said the new agreement created an “enduring form” of offshore processing. “This takes the regional processing to a new milestone. “It is enduring in nature, as such the mechanisms are ready to deal with illegal migrants immediately upon their arrival in Nauru from Australia.”

Australia’s offshore processing policy and practices have been consistently criticised by the United Nations, human rights groups, and by refugees themselves.

The UN has said Australia’s system violates the convention against torture and the international criminal court’s prosecutor said indefinite detention offshore was “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and unlawful under international law.

At least 12 people have died in the camps, including being murdered by guards, through medical neglect and by suicide. Psychiatrists sent to work in the camps have described the conditions as “inherently toxic” and akin to “torture”.

In 2016, the Nauru files, published by the Guardian, exposed the Nauru detention centre’s own internal reports of systemic violence, rape, sexual abuse, self-harm and child abuse in offshore detention.

The decision to extend offshore processing indefinitely has been met with opprobrium from those who were detained there, and refugee advocates who say it is deliberately damaging to those held.

Myo Win, a human rights activist and Rohingyan refugee from Myanmar, who was formerly detained on Nauru and released in March 2021, said those who remain held within Australia’s regime on Nauru “are just so tired, separated from family, having politics played with their lives, it just makes me so upset”.

“I am out now and I still cannot live my life on a bridging visa and in lockdown, but it is 10 times better than Nauru. They should not be extending anything, they should be stopping offshore processing now. I am really worried about everyone on Nauru right now, they need to be released.”

Jana Favero from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the new memorandum of understanding only extended a “failed system”.


Coking coal price hits record highs as Chinese steel-makers face pain

The price of metallurgical coal has risen to record levels as trade tensions and border problems push the cost for Chinese importers sky-high.

Coal for coking purposes has soared despite declines in iron ore values attributed to Chinese steel-makers abiding by a government directive to avoid buying from Australia.

The value has surged to $US410 a tonne in the past week, representing a more than tripling in price since early 2020.

Coking coal is now overtaking iron ore as the largest input cost for many of the world's steel mills.

Mining analyst Peter Strachan said while the booming price appeared counterintuitive given the slide in iron ore demand, logistical issues in Asia were at play.

"Normally they get a lot across the border from Mongolia but COVID restrictions have meant they haven't been able to get enough truck drivers to do it," he said.

"Shipping costs have skyrocketed, the Chinese are just scrambling and paying over $US500 a tonne for the stuff delivered. Ex-Newcastle it's well over $US400, that's a new high."

With poor domestic supplies of metallurgical coal, Chinese buyers were racing to source shipments from across Asia, North America and as far afield as Columbia as a result.

As a result of China's hunt for new suppliers, major steel-making nations with limited domestic metallurgical coal such as India, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the EU are now increasingly turning to Australia.

Director of the Bowen Basin Mining Club Jodie Currie said the loss of the Chinese market had opened new doors for the region's miners.

"I think it gave them opportunity to look at other markets, Queensland coal is sought after across the world," she said.

"There were certainly shock waves sent through the industry but we've diversified, we've looked at other markets."

Property market-induced slide

Concerns over the financial woes of Evergrande, one of China's leading property developers has been seen by many commentators as a catalyst for the declining iron ore value.

Analyst Peter Strachan said, with increased recycling of metals domestically, metallurgical coal demand in China could reach a peak soon.

"Eventually there will be a correction, the Evergrande issue is going to put a hiatus on the expansion of steel-making," he said.

"We're also seeing a lot more scrap iron coming though the [steel production] system, eventually China's going to move towards 20, 30 per cent of their steel coming from scrap."

Falling steel production through July and August as a result of the planned cap on steel-making has been mirrored by a decline in other polluting industries such as cement, another sector blamed for poor air quality in Chinese cities.

"There are a number of climate-related, clean-air issues, the big polluters tend to cut back ahead of winter, especially with the Winter Olympics coming," Mr Strachan said.

After the price of iron ore crashed from $230 in May to as low as $93 a tonne in recent weeks, some stability returned to the market in recent days following indications Evergrande will pay interest payments due today.

The price rose back above the $US100 mark in mid-week trade.


Vulcan metallurgical coal mine approved for Queensland

Vitrinite has been granted a mining lease for its new $160 million Vulcan metallurgical coal mine near Moranbah.

The project between Moranbah and Dysart will create at least 150 full-time jobs and is expected to deliver a major economic boost to the Isaac and Mackay regions.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Queensland company had invested significant time and effort exploring for coal on its Vulcan Complex project in the Bowen Basin.

He said it had led to the discovery of premium, high quality metallurgical coal seams.

Metallurgical coal, also known as coking coal, is primarily used to make steel and is currently attracting record export prices.

Mr Macfarlane said the granting of a mining lease for Vulcan facilitated the first four years of an expected 15-year-plus mine life, which on its own is a $160 million, nine million tonne (Mt) mine.

“During this four-year period, Vulcan will contribute an estimated $170 million in royalties to the Queensland budget which will be used to fund essential health, education and infrastructure projects,” he said.

“On top of that, the project will contribute millions of dollars to the Queensland economy through taxes and the uptake of goods and services.”

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the new Vulcan coal mine was the first mining project for Vitrinite.

“The project shows ongoing investor confidence in Queensland’s world-class resources, infrastructure and skilled workforce,” he said.

“Queensland’s resources industry has been integral to our economic recovery, operating through the pandemic and now supporting a sector record 85,000 jobs in our state.

Vitrinite founder and managing director Nick Williams said the company was grateful to be part of the Central Queensland mining community.

He said he was proud to prove a private, family-style business could succeed in Australia alongside some of the world’s largest companies.

“We started off small, but what began as the dream of a few, young entrepreneurs has evolved to a stage where we’re creating at least 150 full-time jobs, which will lead to more indirect jobs, and can make a significant contribution to the state economy,” he said.

“We are a family business, and we want to continue how we’ve started, to create a company that supports family and makes people a keystone of every business function.

“When planning the Vulcan mine, and everything we do, we also put a very large focus on minimising our environmental impact, to ensure we’ll leave this land better than we found it for future generations,” he said.

“We have implemented plans to minimise water usage, reduce overburden movements, use innovative technologies and conduct progressive rehabilitation beyond our statutory requirements, so we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.

“While this is good policy for the environment, it also translates into good business practices which will allow us to maximise the value of these resources for all Australians.”

Mr Macfarlane said the community could be confident the Vulcan project had undergone rigorous regulatory assessment to establish its environmental credentials before having its mining lease approved.

“Queensland is widely regarded as having the strictest environmental regulations in the world, which our industry is fully committed to complying with, along with our determination to lower carbon emissions and implement sustainable mining practices,” he said.

“The Vulcan Complex mine project is also the first resources project in Queensland to have its Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plan approved under new legislation introduced in 2019.

“A PRCP commits mine operators to progressively rehabilitating land while the mine is operating and returning the land to its pre-mining use at the end of the project, which in this case is low-intensity cattle grazing.

“This is the future of mining and ensures Queensland resources companies can continue to operate safely and sustainably with the support of their communities and government regulators.”




Friday, September 24, 2021

Environmental showstopper: AGL has its Greta Thunberg moment

It was the shareholder meeting of 2021 that was worthy of top billing - Australia's biggest carbon emitter, AGL, came face to face (well screen to screen) with its environmentally concerned investors.

Numerous Australian companies have recently faced the environmental backlash from investors. But AGL has been squeezed by the pincer of big emissions and plunging profit - enough to upset any shareholder.

The entertainment even included the self-nomination of a young student Ashjayeen Sharif to the board - a proposal roundly rejected by other directors and, unsurprisingly, wildly unsuccessful.

It looked like a cut-down version of Greta Thunberg's United Nations speech on the need for climate action with a corporate twist.

To be sure, shareholders chalked up a victory of sorts - scoring the largest vote in Australia's history in favour of forcing a board to report emissions targets and report how pay packets will be aligned with achieving them.

Ultimately this proved to be a pyrrhic victory because adopting the shareholder resolution required a change to the company's constitution - and the vote to achieve this failed.

But after a couple of hours of verbal beating, AGL chairman Peter Botten managed to have all resolutions voted in line with the board recommendations.

That said, the company avoided a second strike on its remuneration package but only after it acquiesced to big shareholders and proxy forms to overhaul pay performance measures and transparency.

Botten and his board don't need a shareholder meeting to take the temperature of its shareholders' feelings about AGL's environmental credentials.

They understand that AGL has been caught on the wrong side of history. Ten years ago, it loaded up its balance sheet with coal-fired generators it now can't afford to close down but which impose a massive reputational cost on the company.

(And AGL and other energy companies are getting no help from the government, which has a hopeless inability to commit to larger cuts in carbon emissions.)

The enormous fragmentation in the supply of energy has come about with the fall in the cost of renewables - a situation that has seen consumers and businesses switch to an energy self-service model.

In the case of households, this has been primarily achieved through the installation of roof solar panels, while large energy using companies have taken to building their own energy infrastructure.

A tsunami of supply collided with a COVID-induced shrinkage in demand - and the price of wholesale electricity fell accordingly - and with it AGL's earnings.

This move began slowly but in recent years has accelerated very quickly. AGL, which to be fair has also invested heavily in renewable energy, was overtaken by the environmental stampede. And it has a share price and earnings to prove it.

Less than two years ago, AGL completed a $650 million buyback of its own stock at $19 compared with the current price of $5.68. This alone demonstrates the board's failure to read the tea leaves.

While there was never any great threat to AGL's ability to push through the resolutions at Wednesday's annual shareholder meeting, the reality is this was merely a warm-up event.

The real action will take place next year when shareholders get to vote on splitting AGL into two separate companies.

These two companies can be roughly characterised as a retail supplier of energy and a wholesale generator of energy - officially named AGL Australia and Accel Energy - but more colloquially known as Cleanco and Dirtyco.

The challenge of navigating through this separation, avoiding saddling either sibling with too much debt and finding investors willing to retain a stake in a corporate environmental leper need to be addressed.

All this needs to take place against the backdrop of a further fall in AGL's earnings.

Wednesday's annual meeting will seem like a walk in the park in comparison.


Landmark climate pollution case launched

Victorian environmental campaigners are launching landmark legal action against the state's Environment Protection Authority and three coal power stations over claims they failed to limit climate pollution.

Led by conservation group Environment Victoria, the Supreme Court case will be the first to test Victoria's Climate Change Act, which was introduced in 2017.

It will also be the first challenge to the regulation of air pollution from the state's coal-burning power stations.

The owners of Loy Yang A, AGL Energy; Loy Yang B, Alinta Energy; and Yallourn, EnergyAustralia are cited in the legal action.

Environment Victoria will allege the EPA "failed to protect the health of the community and the environment" by not taking any action against these three coal power stations while reviewing their licences in March this year.

"The Andrews government passed nation-leading climate change legislation in 2017, but Victoria's environment watchdog chose to ignore it when making a crucial decision about coal power station licences this year," EV chief executive Jono La Nauze said.

"The EPA took more than 1200 days to review the licences of three coal power stations and then failed to take any action on the greenhouse gases they emit.

"Our case will argue that they failed to properly consider key sections of the Climate Change Act and the Environment Protection Act."

AAP contacted the EPA for a response, however it declined to comment due to the upcoming court case.

Coal power station owners Alinta Energy, EnergyAustralia and AGL also declined to comment on specifics of the case, while the matter is in court.

An AGL spokeswoman said it acknowledged its role in energy transition and is committed to ensuring this is done responsibly "balancing Australia's current and future energy needs with the commitment to decarbonise".

An EnergyAustralia spokesman said it had a strong record of environmental compliance and a commitment to improvement.

"EnergyAustralia is committed to being a leader in environmental stewardship and the responsible operation of our assets is paramount," the spokesman said.


Victoria’s police commissioner comments on social media video of man being slammed to ground at Flinders Station

Victoria Police’s chief commissioner has commented on footage circulating of a heavy-handed arrest in Melbourne.

The 12-second clip emerged overnight on Wednesday and is believed to have been filmed during the day of protesting action across the city.

Footage shows a man talking to at least three police officers at Flinders Street Station.

Another officer then approaches the man from behind and appears to slam him into the ground.

The man appears to strike the ground face-first and the person who filmed the footage says he lost consciousness and was bleeding.

“This poor guy was calm, he was just talking to the police, you can see it in the video then he gets thrown to the ground,” the caption on the video said.

“You can see it in the video then he gets thrown to the ground. You can hear his face hit the tiles. He was unconscious, blood and urine everywhere.”

On Thursday morning, Police Commissioner Shane Patton spoke to 3AW and was asked about the video.

“We’ll investigate that. I don’t know what the full circumstances are,” Patton told the station.

“There’s always context to everything. We’ll investigate it with an open mind.”

Patton said he was not “jumping to any conclusions”.

Victoria Police said in a statement it was aware of the circulating vision.

“The exact circumstances around the incident are yet to be determined and are under investigation by both Transit Safety Division and Professional Standards Command.”


Josh Frydenberg’s plea to banks, super funds and insurers

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has urged banks, super funds and insurers not to abandon the mining industry during the economic transition to lower emissions.

In an online speech to major employers, Frydenberg will say businesses that recognise climate change-triggered trends will have the most promising futures.

“At the same time, there is a message to Australian banks, super funds and insurers,” he is expected to tell the Australian Industry Group on Friday.

“If you support the objective of net zero, do not walk away from the very sectors of our economy that will need investment to successfully transition.”

The treasurer believes it is wrong to assume traditional sectors like resources and farming will face a decline during the economic transition.

“To go the next step and achieve net zero will require more investment across the economy,” Frydenberg will say.

“An economy-wide transition is needed, as in the words of the former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, this isn’t about funding only deep green activities, or blacklisting dark brown ones.”

Instead, he favours a broad-based approach which invests in emissions reduction across all sectors including agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

“It’s a long-term shift, not a short-term shock.”

The Morrison government is under immense international pressure to commit to more ambitious emissions reduction targets ahead of a major United Nations.

Australia has become increasingly isolated over its refusal to adopt a 2050 net zero emissions goal.

While an increasing number of moderate Liberals have urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to adopt the target, Nationals and other conservative MPs oppose the move.

Frydenberg praises BHP’s investment in renewable power at mines and pursuit of net zero emissions by 2050, along with Fortescue’s expansion into green hydrogen for steel making.

The treasurer will also note three of the world’s biggest fund managers - BlackRock, Fidelity and Vanguard - have a net-zero goal.

“For them, there is an alignment between the commercial opportunities and the environmental outcomes.”

Frydenberg warns reduced access to capital markets could impact interest rates on home and small business loans, along with the viability of major projects.

“Australia has a lot at stake,” he will say. “We cannot run the risk that markets falsely assume we are not transitioning in line with the rest of the world.”

He argues the government is making progress on meeting emissions reduction targets and investing in new technologies.

State and federal energy ministers will meet on Friday to discuss incentives to keep dispatchable power running during the transition to cleaner technologies.