Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Well done! Australia has been ranked last for its climate policies behind Russia and Brazil

Like most conservatives wordwide, Australian conservatives don't think global warming is a serious threat. So our conservative PM just puts out flim-flam policies about it, with minimal damage to the economy

But Australia is not alone in walking on both sides of the street. Germany claims great climate virtue but is busily building coal-fired power stations -- including brown coal, the most polluting coal of all. Everybody else is supposed to be phasing out coal. I wonder why Australia's coal exports are at a record high?

Australia's climate policies have been ranked last out of 64 countries and the nation is among the worst offenders for emissions, renewables and energy use.

The country slipped four spots to 58th overall place in the latest Climate Change Performance Index unveiled at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

Australia ranked last among 64 countries behind the likes of Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Brazil in terms of climate policy.

The country's highest ranking was 52 for renewables, followed by a score of 54 for energy use and 56 for greenhouse gas emissions.

The index criticised Australia for bringing to Glasgow a 2050 target of net zero emissions that involved no new policies or plans.

Its 'technology investment roadmap' was deemed insufficient to decarbonise the economy, cut fossil fuel use and promote renewables.

'This failure to promote renewables ... is exacerbated by inadequate infrastructure investment despite subsidies for fossil fuel production and promotion of a 'gas-led' economic recovery following COVID-19,' the ranking said.

'The country's international standing has been damaged by climate denialism by politicians, refusal to increase ambition and refusal to recommit to international green finance mechanisms.'

The annual ranking designed by German environmentalists has compared the performance of countries responsible for 90 per cent of global emissions since 2005 across four key categories.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has emphasised Australia's 'technology not taxes' approach to climate change led by private investment over government leavers.

The latest policy is a $250million 'future fuels' plan aimed at getting up to 1.7 million electric and hybrid vehicles on Australian roads by 2030.

'It's the private sector that now is responding to consumers, they're responding to what people want,' Mr Morrison said.

'Governments don't have to step in and tell everybody what to do anymore when it comes to this, if they ever did.'

The plan was criticised by the electric vehicle industry for leaving out tax incentives or fuel efficiency standards.


We have some yawning gaps in balancing the history we teach

There has been much throwing about of brains in the review of the Australian national history curriculum. The federal Minister of Education, Alan Tudge, has declared that the draft consultation curriculum taught students to suspect Australia’s Liberal democracy: that teaching ANZAC Day as a “contested” idea is downright un-Australian, and that Christianity and liberal democracy should be far more emphasised.

Professor of History at the ANU, Frank Bongiorno, dismissed Tudge with a “gigantic yawn” in this masthead on Saturday. ”Any well-educated history student would know that … he is simply wrong. The origins of democracy lie in classical and pagan Greece, not Christianity or the West, both later inventions.”

As Australia’s pre-eminent historian of Australian politics, this kind of easy contempt, frankly, is below Professor Bongiorno. Christianity and the West do lie at the origins of democracy, and he knows it. Pagan Greek philosophy, Roman administration, and Christian spirituality combined to form the engine room of Western European history.

Over many centuries and contexts, the tiny Athenian 5th Century BC experiment was spun into modern democracy, through, for example, the Reformation, the English, French and American Revolutions, the Clapham sect reformers, the independence movements in the Central and South Americas, the struggle for female enfranchisement, among many other examples. After its short-lived origins in pagan Greece, radical Christianity and its various ideological offspring lay at the base of most of it.

That aside, however, he and many historians attacking Tudge’s complaints – particularly those who have never set foot in a primary school – have missed the larger point. The Australian Curriculum is not a tutorial for clever history undergraduates but mandatory school education: millions of small children, and their families, are compulsorily involved.

Consequently, this has far less to do with the theory of history than the theory and practice of mass education and civics. Unlike former prime minister John Howard, Tudge’s complaints about the curriculum have not peddled a particular theory of history, but relate to an imbalance between the big social ideologies that inevitably bump into each other in every mandatory curriculums, in every school subject.

In the past 50 years, all Australian curriculums – across all disciplines – have been framed by three ideologies. First, skills: that students graduate as economically useful. Second, cultural heritage: passing on through the generations “the best and the good”. Finally, and most recently, emancipation: to equip students to question and oppose dominant, oppressive power structures.

All three are important in a liberal democracy. Cut emancipation and the marginal are crushed; reduce skills and everyone runs out of money; trim cultural heritage and everyone forgets what is best, good, honorable and beautiful. The key to a successful curriculum in a liberal democracy is a judicious balance between all three.

There is much good about the recent history consultation drafts, particularly in teaching history as a disciplinary foundation, and especially the introduction of “Deep Time” First Nations Australia.

However, it is also clear that a balance between curriculum ideologies was lost. The relentless interrogation of European history, and Australia’s colonial cultural heritage, belonged squarely in the emancipation camp. This was mostly characterised by the depiction of First Nations Australians post-colonisation, almost exclusively, as a devastated, oppressed minority. The sheer volume of the material, inevitably, would displace the time for children to study other basic facts about European and colonial history, including, by the way, the incredibly rich post-colonial heritage of First Nations Australians, from first-contact to the present day, that is far more complex, diverse and proud than just that of a moribund, weakened people.

True enough, this oppression happened, it was abominable, and one of the original sins in our national story. The teaching of mandatory history is a necessary vehicle to propel us towards the great social goal of redemption and restoration.

However, teaching small children to relentlessly question a heritage about which they have not been substantially taught is like creating a literary critic who hasn’t read anything – the worst kind of critic. When emancipation drowns out cultural heritage in a curriculum, our children are consigned to spin round and round in an echo chamber of unresolvable complaint, never able to find solid footing on what is useful, what is good, and what is true. Such imbalance does not make us freer, and it certainly doesn’t make us kinder.

Bongiorno is right that the understanding, publication and teaching of history has different perspectives. This is something children must be taught over time: to rationally question and test the veracity of sources, and the merits of interpretations.

However, for children to learn history primarily about one perspective – that all power is suspect – is just one of many theories of history. Mandatory history as a vehicle for intelligently celebrating national heritage, is also a widespread, defensible educational approach. However, without emancipation in a curriculum, the teaching of national pride through the history classroom produces monsters. The balance is all.


Australian regulator requests information from Pfizer after medical journal alleges contractor ‘falsified’ safety data

Australia’s medicines regulator has sought additional information from Pfizer after an investigation by the British Medical Journal alleged serious issues with a small number of its vaccine safety trials, including claims of “falsified data” and slowness following up on adverse reactions.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has stressed that Pfizer’s vaccine is “highly safe and effective”, and that Australians “should not be concerned about the issues raised in the article”.

The BMJ’s report, published last week, centred on a former employee of Ventavia Research Group, a Texas-based contractor involved in the phase-three trials for Pfizer’s Covid vaccine last year.

According to Brook Jackson, a former regional director at Ventavia, the company “falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinators, and was slow to follow up on adverse events”, the BMJ reported.

The whistleblower, who provided the BMJ with “dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings and emails”, recounted that she repeatedly notified the company of the problems before finally emailing a complaint to the US Food and Drug Administration on September 25, 2020.

She was sacked the same day, with the company saying in her separation letter she was “not a good fit”.

In a statement to The Conversation, Ventavia said Ms Jackson was employed for “approximately two weeks” in September of 2020 and “no part of her job responsibilities concerned the clinical trials at issue”.

Ventavia said the “same accusations” were investigated and “determined to be unsubstantiated” last year.

Pfizer’s full phase-three trial involved about 44,000 participants across 153 sites. Ventavia enrolled more than 1000 participants at three sites – or only around 2 per cent of the total.

The drug company made no mention of the alleged problems at the Ventavia sites in a briefing document submitted to an FDA advisory committee meeting on December 10, 2020.

The FDA, which never audited Ventavia after receiving the complaint, issued its emergency use authorisation for the vaccine the next day.

A Pfizer Australia spokeswoman declined to comment on the BMJ report. understands the TGA has contacted Pfizer to further clarify the issues raised, although given the allegations only pertain to 2 per cent of the trial population, the overall results are not expected to be impacted.

“The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is highly safe and effective and has been approved for use in nearly 100 countries and also approved by the World Health Organisation,” a TGA spokeswoman said.

“Australians who have received the Pfizer vaccine should not be concerned about the issues raised in the BMJ article.”

She noted that “the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine demonstrated in clinical trials has been thoroughly substantiated by real-world use in many millions of people worldwide”.

“The benefits of vaccination are clear and not in dispute,” she said.


More love for Communist China from Keating

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Leftists usually have a soft spot for Communist regimes: "Just Leftists in a hurry". The American Left's love affair with the Cuban tyranny never seems to wane

Former prime minister Paul Keating has begun his National Press Club appearance by lashing Australia’s foreign policy on China, saying the country is “at odds with its geography and has lost its way”.

He said Australia should be looking to its immediate north, Indonesia, to engage in the region, rather than the “Quad” alliance with the US, India and Japan.

The former Labor leader said India would never be engaged in a conflict in the South China Sea, and Japan should have reached a point of accommodation with China “years ago”.

“No, they are hanging out for some Quad which has us in it, the Americans, the Indians in it… This is the kind of hopeless environment we are in.”

He said China’s economy would be 250 per cent the size of the US in the years ahead, but the US was refusing to acknowledge China’s preeminence in East Asia.

Mr Keating said the problem with Australia’s foreign policy was that it is informed by the “spooks” - referring to intelligence and security agencies.

“It’s informed, our foreign policy debate now in Canberra, is informed by the security agencies.

“You are not getting a macro view of what China really is.”

Mr Keating’s views about China are, of course, well known.




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