Sunday, October 10, 2021

International farm subsidies the next target in Australian plan on carbon

Clever. If other countries in the developed world accuse Australia of not doing enough carbon reduction, Australia can embarrass them by pointing to an area where they could do much more. The upshot could be an informal agreement not to criticize one-another's CO2 emissions

Australia will back a push to slash farm subsidies overseas worth $740 billion a year in the hope of achieving deeper cuts to carbon emissions at the upcoming United Nations climate summit, declaring the payments encourage waste and hurt the environment.

The federal government is joining other big countries in vowing to tackle the subsidies after UN agencies said the spending could balloon to $2.5 trillion and undermine the Paris target to cut greenhouse emissions by 2030.

The campaign promises benefits for Australian farmers who suffer from their competitors being paid mammoth subsidies in the European Union and the United States, helping Prime Minister Scott Morrison seek a climate deal with the Nationals as soon as next week.

The Australian position, put by Trade Minister Dan Tehan in talks in Europe on Friday, joins calls from Brazil and Indonesia for cuts to subsidies that offer the biggest payments to farmers in wealthy countries and do the most harm to those in the developing world.

Mr Tehan raised the issue with US climate envoy John Kerry in a step toward getting the US, EU and the World Trade Organisation to acknowledge the problem and put it on the agenda at the climate summit that begins in Glasgow on November 1.

“If countries are serious about addressing climate change they have to address all aspects of reducing emissions,” Mr Tehan said in an interview.

“We cannot leave an issue untouched when it ultimately accounts for 25 per cent of emission reduction. “We’re looking at this and other countries need to do the same.”

Mr Tehan spoke to US trade representative Katherine Tai, European Commission Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and World Trade Organisation Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala about setting up a climate group to pursue the issue in trade talks after the Glasgow summit.

Australian governments have long opposed the scale of the US and EU subsidies on the grounds they punish food producers elsewhere, but the climate talks build a stronger case to unwind decades of payments that encourage over-production.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation and other UN agencies estimated last month the subsidies cost $US540 billion ($740 billion) this year and would rise to $US1.8 trillion ($2.5 trillion) by 2030, hurting efforts on climate change.

“These are inefficient, distort food prices, hurt people’s health, degrade the environment, and are often inequitable,” they said.

The EU is promising to reform its subsidies as part of its action on climate change, given agriculture accounts for about 10 per cent of EU emissions.

Agriculture accounts for about 13 per cent of Australian emissions but has been a big source of carbon reductions since 2005, leading Nationals deputy leader and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to warn that the sector cannot do as much “heavy lifting” in the future.

Mr Tehan acknowledged the campaign on farm subsidies meant Australia would have to accept concerns about fossil fuel subsidies from other countries when Mr Morrison and the federal government are being accused of doing too little to cut emissions.

“If questions are going to be asked about fossil fuel subsidies, which they are, then what we need to be saying is: OK, if we need to take action against fossil fuel subsidies – and the Australian government acknowledges that this is an area that there needs to have action on – then why not do the same on agricultural subsidies?” he said.

The Trade Minister also noted this in remarks to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development meeting on the “green economy” in Paris on Thursday, attended by Mr Kerry, before heading to a meeting of G20 trade ministers in Rome.

The value of the fossil fuel help is forecast to be much more than the farm assistance, the International Monetary Fund estimating last month fossil fuel subsidies are worth about $US6 trillion a year, with 70 per cent made up of “undercharging” for environmental costs.

Mr Tehan expects to raise the subsidy campaign with his Indonesian counterpart, Muhammad Lutfi, in the G20 talks in Rome in the belief developing nations also want the issue on the agenda in Glasgow.

“What this would do is enable developing countries, and countries like Australia, to be able to transition in a way which would help us set ambitious targets when it comes to emission reduction,” he said.


Immigrants will probably trust Dominic Perrottet - it’s inner-city folk whose values are "progressive"

The appointment of former NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet to the role of Premier provoked an outcry this week. It was a deeply weird reaction. Perrottet’s assent has been described as “scary” and “troubling”. He makes one writer, who is “a woman and a supporter of LGBTQIA+ communities” particularly “nervous”. A social media activist was concerned that his conservative religious and family values drive “attitudes and often policies that may be severely at odds with the central demands of democracy”.

The idea that holding conservative, faith-based family values is aberrant is very weird. Weird in the sense coined by evolutionary psychologist Joseph Henrich in his book on “how the West became psychologically peculiar and particularly prosperous”. Henrich tracks how the rules laid down in European Christianity’s “marriage and family program” replaced intensive kin-based institutions with an institution that expanded trust relationships beyond the family. The universalism it fostered created the Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Developed (WEIRD) world, Henrich argues.

Australians are individually among the WEIRDest. Whether or not we are now religious, our views have been shaped by the social structures our religious ancestors built, which encouraged individualism, independence, the notion that strangers have the same inherent human value as those related to us, non-conformity, resistance to tradition and a number of other characteristics which you might instantly recognise as positive, even aspirational, and which you probably believe you possess. Some of us are so non-conforming that we have talked ourselves out of religion entirely. We believe that you can be moral, spiritual and good without attending religious ceremonies or worshipping a higher being.

We are also open to other peoples and cultures and Australia’s immigration intake has made Australia the diverse, multicultural and multi-faith society it is today. Since the middle of last century, the overseas-born population has risen from one-tenth to one-third. This has increased the proportion of non-WEIRD to WEIRD people, as more people come to Australia from countries such as India, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

These countries tend to be more religious, more family-oriented and less individualistic than societies which have been WEIRD for a very long time. The people from them bring their cultural dispositions with them and, Henrich has found, generally these values are also held by their descendants over a couple of generations. These communities are more socially conservative, family-oriented and religious than your inner-city WEIRDo.

These communities now hold quite a lot of electoral power. That is not, of course, why the new Premier holds the values he does. But Henrich reports that immigrants from different countries living in the same country show higher levels of trust in people of faith, even if it’s a faith different to their own. The Premier’s values make him more trustworthy among the less WEIRD new Australians.

In retail political speak, Perrottet can connect with voters from many religions because he shares their values. But then so can NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns, who is also a family-oriented Catholic. Both men are focused on the needs and aspirations of non-WEIRD Western Sydney, in which the next state and federal elections could be decided.

By now the WEIRD people who are terrified of Perrottet should be waking up to a shocking discovery. Australian public life doesn’t revolve around their values. ABC Religion and Ethics presenter Andrew West wrote thoughtfully about the lessons of the 2019 federal election won by the Liberals, in which religious freedom played at least some part, observing that “Labor, and the broader left, need to understand that you cannot celebrate multiculturalism without supporting religious freedom”.

West points out that while no one expects politicians to adopt a fake religious identity, they do expect them to respect their rights “to believe, to manifest these beliefs in private and public, and to educate their children according to these beliefs”.

This means also respecting that people may have different views on social issues, such as same-sex marriage, abortion, gender and voluntary assisted dying. WEIRD people see these things as about individual choice. Less WEIRD people believe that individual choices affect the collective and so they may be more cautious about changing the social fabric. We should be able to disagree and debate such issues with respect, understanding that there are no objectively right or wrong answers on culture.

That might weird you out, but it is part of the tolerance that a multicultural society demands. Conservative governments have sometimes worried that such tolerance could go too far and have attempted to protect the progressive principles of our culture with a statement of Australian values. Progressives have often labelled these attempts as racist.

There could be another shock for the weirdos next week when the voluntary assisted dying bill is presented to NSW Parliament on Thursday. Minns opposes it. If he allows a conscience vote, many Labor MPs will also vote against the bill, including Hugh McDermott, the member for Prospect in western Sydney.

The inner-city WEIRDos have had the cultural power for a very long time. At least in NSW that might be changing. That is not “at odds with the central demands of democracy” but a WEIRD expression of it.


Plan to bring thousands of nurses and doctors into ‘Fortress Australia’

An interesting sidelight of this is that the immigrants will be forthcoming. For many Brits, any opportunity to immigrate to sunny Australia will be seized

Australia will allow 2000 overseas nurses and doctors to enter the country for work under a plan being finalised by the Commonwealth and states to ease a healthcare staffing crisis.

With Melbourne and Sydney’s hospital beds jammed with COVID-19 patients and the health systems of other states also under strain, the reinforcements will be flown in over the next six months and predominantly dispatched to outer suburban and regional hospitals and GP clinics.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said doctors and nurses who had already applied to come to Australia would be able to sidestep travel restrictions to secure flights and take up critical jobs in our pandemic response.

“This will be a one-off boost to provide additional support,” Mr Hunt told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. “The Commonwealth is committed to it and the states are working constructively with us on it.”

The airlift is likely to be made up largely of migrants from Britain, Ireland and other countries where nursing and medical qualifications are recognised by regulators as being equivalent to those in Australia. This means they can start working shifts as soon as they arrive.

Details of the plan emerged as Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, expressed optimism that the state was nearing the peak of its current wave of infections and as NSW, where COVID-19 hospital admissions have begun to ease, prepares to take its first steps out of lockdown.

Concerns had previously been raised with Mr Hunt by the Australian College of Nursing and health service employers that the so-called “Fortress Australia” approach to the pandemic had isolated us from an important source of health workers at a time of urgent need.

The International College of Nurses estimates there is a global shortage of 5.9 million nurses. The UK’s Royal College of Nursing estimates there are more than 39,000 vacant nursing jobs in England alone. Australian College of Nursing chief executive Kylie Ward said there were more than 12,200 vacant nursing positions in Australia.

Australia entered the pandemic with 337,000 registered nurses and produces about 20,000 nursing graduates every year. It is also increasingly reliant on skilled migration to bring in experienced nurses to supplement the workforce and do harder-to-fill jobs in regional areas and aged care.

Figures provided by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation show that skilled migrants make up 21 per cent of all newly registered nurses. In Victoria, overseas-trained doctors make up 23 per cent of total doctors and 30 per cent of doctors in regional areas.

The Victorian Health Department estimates that since the start of the pandemic, the number of healthcare migrants joining the state’s workforce has plummeted by about 40 per cent. A department spokesperson said this was due to the difficulty of recruiting doctors, nurses and allied health professionals from overseas while navigating border closures and quarantine arrangements.

Ms Ward said this could create a longer-term problem for Australia’s healthcare. “If we don’t do something to secure our new graduates as well as keep the international pipeline, we are going to get caught in the worldwide shortage that is coming,” she said.

Despite the federal government including nursing on its list of priority occupations for skilled migrants and offering more than 3100 special medical visas to doctors and nurses to come here to work, would-be healthcare migrants have been refused travel exemptions and visas and bumped from flights.

The impact of this is being acutely felt in our hospital wards, GP clinics and nursing homes and also in the university and college courses where, until the pandemic, a steady stream of nurses from countries like India and the Philippines enrolled in three-month bridging courses to gain registration in Australia.

La Trobe University confirmed its entry program for international nurses had been “severely disrupted” by international border closures and it had no intake of students this year.

At Central Queensland University, enrolments for its graduate certificate in nursing have fallen from 70 students last year to just three this year. Southern Cross University used to train nearly 300 international nurses a year at its Lismore campus in NSW. It currently has none enrolled.

Although this is partly due to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia changing its entry requirements for overseas nurses, it suggests that many overseas nurses are giving up on Australia. In 2019, the Australian College of Nursing had a waiting list of 3000 people to do its course. The waiting list is now down to 300 and its current intake has just two nurses from overseas.

There is a split between the College of Nursing and the nurses’ union over the extent to which Australia should rely on overseas nurses, particularly those from poorer countries. The union argues it is unethical for Australia to draw on nurses from low-income countries facing their own shortage of healthcare workers.

“Overseas recruitment should not be the primary strategy to overcome workforce shortages in Australia or as an alternative to education and recruitment opportunities for the existing domestic workforce,” the union wrote in a recent submission to government.

The Australian College of Nursing’s Ms Ward said although Australia needed to do better to support and retain its own graduates, it should also keep its doors open to overseas nurses from diverse backgrounds.

“It is a female-dominated profession, so you are giving opportunities to women they wouldn’t otherwise get. Who are we to say no if they meet the criteria? We are part of a global system and should encourage diversity and opportunity.”

Mr Hunt agreed it was important for Australia to keep attracting healthcare workers from all parts of the world. He also said that in its urgency to attract more doctors and nurses to respond to the immediate pressures of the pandemic, Australia could not compromise on the standard of practice it required. “Safety remains, as always, the number one priority,” he said.


Cotton crop selling well despite Chinese ban

As Australian cotton growers were celebrating world cotton day this week, the value of their commodity was skyrocketing.

Key points:
Cotton prices have surged to highest levels since 2011
Around 50 per cent of next year's cotton crop has been forward-sold
Vietnam has become Australia's biggest export market
Cotton futures have surged more than 20 per cent in the past fortnight, reaching $US1.13 a pound this week — its highest level since 2011.

Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay said growers had now forward-sold around 50 per cent of next season's crop, with some growers locking in prices of $670 a bale.

"We are seeing a situation where the supply is less than demand — that is really driving prices," Mr Kay said.

"The word on the street is that the Chinese crop might not be as good as they thought, the Indian crop might not be as good as hoped, and next season there's talk that the Brazilian crop might be down by 10 or 20 per cent."

"These are all factors that are driving the market at the moment." has reported heavy rains are threatening cotton crops in major US growing regions such as Texas, and a pest called pink bollworm "is rapidly spreading across fields".

Meanwhile, Mr Kay said great seasonal conditions in Australia had the cotton industry on track to produce around 4.5 million bales next season.

"We've a rare situation where we have tremendous water in the [Murray-Darling] system, the major storage dams are full, so growers can confidently forward-sell at these exceptional prices."

Twelve months on from China's soft ban

A couple of years ago, China was buying around 70 per cent of Australia's cotton crop.

Then in October 2020, the Chinese government started to tell mills to stop buying Australian cotton, or risk their quotas being slashed. Australian cotton sellers suddenly had to scramble to find new markets for their product.

"Everyone was nervous at the start [of the soft ban]," Mr Kay said. "But the Australian cotton shippers have done a magnificent job in selling the crop to other markets and developing markets."

Australian Cotton Shippers Association chair Michael O'Rielley said the industry had worked hard to diversify markets for Australian cotton. "Right now, Vietnam is our biggest export market, followed by Indonesia which currently has the most upside," he said. "They are our closest neighbour, and we have short shipping times."


"Anti-Racism" Comes to Australian schools

Parents beware! Anything which the corruptors of society get away with in America will eventually be introduced into Australia. And the obvious place to introduce it is in the schools, under the radar of the parents. We have already been alerted to the "Safe Schools" abomination, and questions are now being asked about how the new curriculum undermines the national identity.

Now we have a three-part ABC documentary on "The School That Tried to End Racism". No doubt the intentions were good (which is more than can be said for some other teaching programs), but the sum result was to introduce racial tension into an area where it did not previously exist.

First of all, you should understand that about a fifth of Australia's population is of non-European background, and while we see a few of them scattered around here in Brisbane, the vast majority are concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne. Not only that, but they are concentrated in specific suburbs, some of which do not look like Australia at all. This is a relatively new development. Pauline Hanson warned about it, but they vilified her, demonized her, and put her in jail.

The program was introduced to a class of 10 and 11 year olds in a Sydney state school with a broad mixture of European and non-European children, with an idea of teaching them about racism before it started. It was acknowledged that the various pupils got on well together. This, you might think, is how racism is defeated: by having people, particularly the young, mixing together and discovering that a lot more unites them than divides them. Heck! My nephew's best friend in primary school was a "blackie" (his word) from Fiji. My wife grew up playing with the black kids in Papua New Guinea, so when she went to school in the U.S., she automatically gravitated to the negro girls (and got stones thrown at her as a nigger lover). However, they were now going to be put through a course to make them conscious of racial differences that hadn't bothered them before.

First of all, they asked the children to draw their friends. I suppose they were trying to establish that they picked their friends according to race, but we didn't hear much more about it. What did they expect? The drawings were so inexpert, it was hardly possible to identify the friends, or even their race.

So the kids were taken outside to learn about "white privilege". This is a definite import from America. The concept was invented by Peggy McIntosh, a specialist in "women's studies". In other words, she is one of those unnecessary academics who make their money creating tension and resentment between the sexes, and now she was intent on doing the same with the races.

To give her credit, she did not pretend that a white hillbilly was more privileged than a middle class black man. Instead, she talked of being able to get a "flesh coloured" Band-Aid close to the colour of her skin, to easily find a hairdresser familiar with her kind of hair, to open newspapers or turn on the TV and see white people widely represented, and know that her bad behaviour would not reflect on her race.

All these, of course, are simply a reflection on being in the majority ethnic group. I suppose my cousin, who works in Japan, finds himself surrounded by Japanese privilege. She did, however, add the fact that, if she gets a job with an affirmative action employer, people won't assume she got it because of her race - evidence that there is such a thing as "black privilege" in America.

But the managers of the school program were determined to teach the kids that being white gave them a head start in life, and for this they adopted a program straight from the US. They took them to a race track outside, and told them to take one or two steps forward or backwards depending on certain qualifications. The system was rigged to make the white children win, and left one poor little Vietnamese boy stuck at the back because he spoke Vietnamese at home, and was once asked where he really came from.

And what were the factors which allowed the white kids to step forward and win the race? Such things as speaking English at home, seeing people predominantly of their own race in advertisements and on TV, having most Members of Parliament of their own race, and so on. Is there any evidence that these factors give anyone a head start in life? It was never proved, just asserted.

The most ludicrous was for them to take two steps forward if they had blue or grey eyes. Are brown eyed white people at a disadvantage to those with lighter coloured eyes? Don't these idiots know that brothers and sisters can have eyes of different colours?

And no-one ever mentions the elephant in the room: immigration. If non-Europeans are really at a disadvantage in Australia - no matter whose fault it is - then bringing in more of them can only make the situation worse. Why import an underclass?

Through their agencies, Governments inflict us with contradictory propaganda. When they want to justify their unpopular immigration policies, they assure us that we are a "proud multicultural country", and we are all getting on swimmingly. But when they want to justify their procrustean anti-discrimination legislation and the indoctrination of children, they claim that there is racism everywhere.

Having now convinced the non-Europeans that they were hard-done-by second class citizens, they took them all back inside and told them to divide into two groups: whites and non-whites. One girl from the Lebanese Muslim community initially failed to act as planned. She looked around and decided she belonged with the whites. This of course was correct; non-European is not the same as non-white.

But in the second round, she decided to join the non-whites. (I might add, that we saw her family a couple of times, and a disturbing thought occurred to me: when she becomes a teenager, will she be forced to wear the headscarf like her mother? Will the school permit it? If so, this will isolate her from mainstream Australia more than anything else.)

The non-white groups consisted of children whose origins lay in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, and east Asia. In other words, they were a mixture of races, religions, and cultures, with nothing in common except they were non-mainstream.

Instead of the teachers encouraging them to consider how they might fit in, they asked them to consider their experiences of being non-white - which meant rehearsing the occasional slights they had received in the past, plus what they had been taught about "white privilege".

The teachers noted that the white children were reticent when asked to reflect on what it meant to be white. What did they expect? Prior to that, it had never been part of their world view.

The program was a success; they had introduced racial tension where little had existed before. When they grow up, the non-Europeans will not assimilate, and they will assume that any difficulties they encounter will not be due to their own fault, or bad luck, but to Australian racism. The whites had been taught to feel guilty just for being white. I hope the parents of both groups were suitably impressed.

It will no doubt be a while before it is introduced to white cities such as Brisbane, but they are sure to expand it in Sydney and Melbourne. When this happens, parents will have to refuse to permit their children to get involved, and they must make a fuss at the local PTA, and with their Members of Parliament. This is why parents must be very diligent at investigating everything their children are being taught at school. The days are past when they could assume the education system was their servant.




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