Monday, February 28, 2022

Constable Zachary Rolfe's murder trial told Kumanjayi Walker posed 'low threat' when second and third shots were fired

This is absurd and shows no awareness of the use of firearms in policing. The key point is that rapidly aimed fire from a handgun is not very likely to hit its target. Most shots will go wild. So the only way of being reasonably sure that the target is hit is to fire multiple rounds in close succession, which is exactly what Rolfe did.

It is easy to do armchair pontification about rights and wrongs after the event but the police are often confronted with a situation requiring split second decisions, which was the situation here. The root cause of the death was the deceased's hostility to the police, not the action of the police in response to it

It may be relevant that Const. Rolfe appears to be a little guy who would reasonably be particularly fearful of any physical confrontation

Biomechanical expert Andrew McIntosh on Friday gave evidence in the NT Supreme Court, where Constable Rolfe, 30, has pleaded not guilty to murder and two alternative charges over the fatal shooting in the remote community in November 2019.

Dr McIntosh was asked about the moments after Mr Walker began to struggle with Constable Rolfe and fellow officer Constable Adam Eberl, when the 19-year-old stabbed Constable Rolfe in the shoulder with a pair of medical scissors.

The first shot then fired by Constable Rolfe is not the subject of any charges, but prosecutors argue the second and third shots fired 2.6 and 0.5 seconds later were not legally justified because the threat posed by Mr Walker had been contained.

Dr McIntosh said the body-worn camera footage of the incident showed that after the first shot, Mr Walker and Constable Eberl fell onto a mattress on the floor.

As Mr Rolfe moved towards them with his gun drawn, Dr McIntosh said Constable Eberl could be seen putting his body weight on top of Mr Walker, who was lying on his right side.

Dr McIntosh said this meant Mr Walker's right arm, which was holding the scissors, would likely have been restricted in its movement range.

Under questioning from the prosecution, he agreed that when the second and third shots were fired, Mr Walker was not likely to be a "direct threat" to Constable Rolfe.

He agreed Mr Walker was likely to be a "low threat" to Constable Eberl, because his ability to deploy the scissors was impaired, as his arm was stuck beneath him.

"If you're using a weapon in your hand and your arm is pinned in that way, then it's very difficult to develop force with the weapon that you have because you can't accelerate your arm, reach any velocity, reach any momentum and exert a force onto someone else," Dr McIntosh said.

He said the degree of restriction depended on how much of Mr Walker's right arm was under his own body and that even if only the upper arm was pinned down, his movement would have been "greatly constrained".

Under cross-examination from the defence, Dr McIntosh agreed the body-worn camera footage never showed the extent of control Constable Eberl had on Mr Walker's right forearm, while he was lying on top of him.

Dr McIntosh also agreed that he had the "luxury of slowing down" the vision to make his analysis, which the officers were not able to do during the incident.

"Do you accept that the perception, or perspective, of both officers Eberl and Rolfe, may be quite different from your analysis?" defence barrister David Edwardson QC asked.

"Yes," Dr McIntosh replied.

Forensic pathologist Paull Botterill also took the stand on Friday and told the court the "overwhelming majority of stab and incised wounds" in the general community do not result in death.

But he said Mr Walker's scissors did have the potential to cause a life-threatening injury if they had struck a vulnerable part of the body at a sufficient force.

He added that if Mr Walker's arm movement was restricted, the likelihood of a lethal injury was slim.

"If the limb was not able to freely move, then the only way that an implement such as those scissors could have resulted in a serious life-threatening injury would be if there was movement of the other party, the police officer, up against that immobilised weapon," Dr Botterill said.

"And it's very unlikely to result in a potentially fatal injury."

At the end of Friday's proceedings Crown prosecutor Philip Strickland SC said he would call two more witnesses on Monday and expected to wrap up the prosecution's case on Tuesday morning.


High school principal sparks outrage for claiming 'better breeding' is needed to improve student grades

I think he was just saying that there is a limit to what schools can do. The real work needed has to be done in the home

A former high school principal has been slammed for suggesting 'better breeding' is required in order to improve students' grades at a NSW public school.

The acting principal at Lithgow High School had been in a meeting with the director of educational leadership in September 2020 when they made the accusation.

They were asked by the director: 'What will it take to move students from Band 4 to Band 5 in each HSC course?' to which they replied 'better breeding'.

Their contentious response, which was recorded in the minutes of the meeting, has been unearthed by One Nation MP Mark Latham, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Mr Latham condemned the 'slur' as 'nasty, elitist and condescending' to the people of Lithgow as well as the students enrolled at the school.

The MP stumbled upon the comment when reviewing documents about a School Excellence Policy, following a parliamentary call for papers.

Mr Latham said the 'nasty' slur was the last thing the Lithgow community needed as it entered an economic transition following a loss of jobs in the mining sector.

'Is this really how schools in Lithgow are being run? With elitist, condescending, nasty reflections on the breeding of this working class community? he said.

'These are leaders who are supposed to have effective ways of improving school results – yet instead they are sneering at the school community by saying there's something wrong with their breeding.'

The Department of Education has responded to concerns by launching a formal investigation into the comments.

Underneath the initial response of 'better breeding' the relieving principal goes on to suggest grades could be improved by choosing the correct maths course.

'We have the small numbers to allow students to push themselves to achieve mathematically in a higher course,' they wrote.

'This means we achieve bands 3 and 4 in Advanced courses rather than bands 5 in the Standard course. This gives our students more scope to access university courses.'

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was 'shocked' that such a statement had come from a staff member.

While it is unclear who made the 'elitist' remark the department of education has stated it came from a former relieving principal at the school.

'The Department unreservedly apologises for the comment, which was inappropriate and doesn't reflect the standards we expect of our principals,' a spokesperson said.

'The comment was made by the then relieving principal, who is no longer in the role or teaching at any school.

'The matter was immediately addressed by the local director. It has been referred to the department's Professional and Ethical Standards Unit.'

Lithgow High School is located in the NSW Central Tablelands, about a three hour drive west from Sydney, and has close to 900 students enrolled.


Reporters swallow spin on coal power closures

Australian business journalists apparently missed some of the world’s biggest stories of the past year when they reported on last week’s $5bn bid by local billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian “alternative asset manager” Brookfield.

They did not link the bid and statements about bringing forward the end of AGL’s coal power generation to four months of European power shortages and soaring prices driven by a lack of wind power, nor to brownouts in California and Texas or even to Russian gas price extortion.

The body representing the transmission industry here, Energy Networks Australia, warned last Thursday week: “Increases in energy supply charges across the UK are cause for concern as almost 22 million households will see an average increase in their energy bill of 54 per cent from April.”

Yet only days later many at the Nine newspapers were starry-eyed about their local tech hero bidding for an old-fashioned power company so he could close down its coal-fired power generators earlier than AGL had already planned. They seemed to accept Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield were putting the planet before their pockets.

Reporters showed no sign they had heard about last week’s pact between Russia and China to shore up 100 million tonnes of coal a year for their mutual benefit, a deal announced the Friday before Monday morning’s AGL bid.

This paper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd summed it up perfectly, telling this column: “Mike says renewables freeloading off coal are cheaper so ipso facto, building five times as much renewables will be cheaper still.”

READ MORE:Is nature really at the centre of the ‘green dream’?|Reporters find it hard to tell truth about renewables
Kerry Schott, head of the Energy Security Board, could see no reason for the government to block the bid, writing in The Australian Financial Review online last Tuesday. Schott did not mention early coal closures would depend on storage technologies to firm the power grid when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

Yet she told PV magazine on May 4 last year: “I know a lot of people hate this but (it’s being proposed to) leave open some management of (coal station) exits so that we can actually keep the system going.

“As coal leaves the system it will be replaced by a mixture of pumped hydro and gas. In due course we will have hydrogen to complement the gas.”

Schott said in PV that big batteries were helpful for stabilising the grid but “as it stands they just aren’t a reliable capacity replacement”. Big batteries were about network frequency harmonisation, and their storage lasted a maximum of four hours.

Not much has been said about storage in the reporting of Mike’s excellent power adventure. Indeed, the bid scarcely mentions storage, although the word does appear in a response to AGL’s rejection of the $7.50 a share offer.

Mark Carney, vice-chair of Brookfield Asset Management, did however point to the reason this kind of deal is flourishing globally: “Energy transition will be one of the biggest investment opportunities of our lifetimes. It is estimated $US150 trillion will need to be invested globally through 2050 to drive the decarbonisation of energy markets.”

This column argued on October 18: “Investors are short-selling the fossil fuels industry because they can make more money on taxpayer-guaranteed renewables.” The transition is giving dictators in Moscow and Beijing a lever over the West that they could not have dreamt of. US President Joe Biden is playing into their hands right now, making it harder for gas pipeline companies to operate in the US.

In the UK it is possible only 10 companies of the 70 that supplied the electricity market a year ago will survive. Many in the UK want Britain to resume fracking and expand its North Sea oil drilling program.

Part of the problem around the world wherever the energy transition is advanced is the zealotry of environmentalists and their business and media acolytes who won’t admit renewables just don’t work well when demand for them is highest: at breakfast time, especially in winter while the sun is low and the wind calm, or at dinner time when the sun has gone.

They also hate admitting gas plants that can be turned on and off quickly are one of the most efficient ways of dealing with the intermittency problem.

Schott’s AFR piece argues the government has no need to worry about the AGL bid driving up prices. But speaking to this column on Thursday she did say AGL, and all other large suppliers, would be forced to rely more on gas when intermittent energy flows were low and that all the large suppliers would need pumped hydro.

“Particularly in Victoria, the state will need to build more gas and hydro dispatchable power,” Schott said.

Many in business and the media suggest storage batteries at the home, charged by rooftop solar during the day, may be the solution to firming the network. But just like state government subsidies for electric cars, this will involve the poor effectively paying more for power to subsidise those who can afford home battery storage.

Another preferred firming solution of the Energy Security Board is investing billions of dollars in extending transmission lines to help to offset geographical differences in wind and solar output on given days.

Schott told this column: “The way you deal with intermittency is first of all by having a lot of transmission to add renewable capacity and to use different regional weather patterns across the network. Typically if it’s not windy in northwest Victoria and South Australia, which have a similar wind system, it’s then very windy in New England. If you have more transmission lines when you have wind drought down south you can use more wind from Queensland and New England.”

So while the ESB has a plan to make the transition to renewables smooth and reliable it is not unreasonable for governments and large users such as the Tomago aluminium smelter in the NSW Hunter Valley to be concerned. When people such as Cannon-Brookes simply announce renewables are cheaper than coal, they are forgetting the tens of billions of dollars that will need to be spent on storage and new transmission lines, all of which will have to be paid for by consumers.

It is only the market design mechanism created in response to political decisions that has made coal uneconomical. Coal stations that run 24 hours a day cannot compete at five-minute bidding intervals with renewables, gas and hydro. Gas and hydro can be turned off when not used but large coal plants cannot.

Back to the real story about the AGL bid and coal closures. As Matthew Warren pointed out in Thursday’s AFR, AGL’s NSW and Victorian power stations, Bayswater and Loy Yang, are its most modern. Whatever Cannon-Brookes says and whoever owns AGL, these will be its last ones standing. AGL will need them for insurance so it can meet its contracts – lest it follow the UK suppliers down the tube.


Anti-mining green frauds not welcome in Central Qld

Robert Schwarten of the ALP

If the Greens think they can repeat Bob Brown’s stunt of bringing an anti-mining convoy to Central Queensland, they’ve got another thing coming, says Robert Schwarten.

Greens leader Adam Brandt says he will repeat green fraud Bob Brown’s stunt in Capricornia in bringing up a paid gaggle of misfits and no-hopers to protest mining in Central Queensland.

He is in for a rude shock if he expects the same reception. Here’s why.

In 2019, Labor candidates in CQ were instructed to ignore Brown and his convoy of paid parasites on the way to promote a public meeting hosted by the LNP in Clermont.

I actually paid for a large sign to put on my ute and parked at the northern entrance to the city. I authorised the wording, “Welcome Brown and your convoy of coal-fired hypocrites.”

Russell Robertson, the ALP candidate for Capricornia, received a call from someone in the campaign office telling him to get rid of the signage.

As Robertson did not have any involvement he did not comply. Some campaign flunky rang me and I impolitely told him where to go.

This time Labor’s message is clear. Coalminers are not criminals, coal is here for as long as the market says, our coal workers will not be put at risk by overseas miners undercutting their jobs and product quality.

I note that has displeased some of the keyboard job snobs who tut-tut about Labor endorsing coalminers as candidates.

Our party was formed on miners, shearers and other manual workers. It is still their party, the one that still stands up for workers’ rights, and the Tories are still those that oppose them. Rump parties are still the opportunistic oddballs they always were.

Anthony Albanese has had to campaign directly against the inner-city Greens to preserve his ­political hide. He is not going to ­sanction any meekness towards a Greens invasion into Labor votes here.

His message could not have been clearer last time he was in Rocky: “Capricornia needs a coalmine ­worker in Canberra.”

He pointed to the number of times current LNP member Michelle Landry had voted down legislation aimed at improving the lot of workers. Casualisation, penalty rates, mine safety and wage parity were just a few points he raised.

Given that Australians are generally waking up to these impostors it is likely the vote will come down further.

The truth is, Labor has a proud record of achievement on environmental ­reforms. Brown big-noted himself on saving the Franklin River in ­Tasmania, but that was the Hawke Labor government.

Brown was merely the protester. The protectors were the Labor MPs who voted to save it.

The Greens voted (with the LNP and One Nation) to sink the Labor Carbon Trading scheme a decade ago. Every bit of carbon thrown into the air since then is theirs.

The Greens have never saved anything. They have never had to put up a Budget, much less a serious policy.

The billboards are awash up here with desperate statements from the LNP of a green alliance with Labor.

Reality is with polling pointing to a Labor lead the numbers mean it will be the LNP, which may well be trying to cobble together One Nation, the Katters and every other ratbag rump if they want to keep their hands in the public till.

Mining is not the conversation piece it was last time. Skills shortages, house prices, the lack of rental ­accommodation, nursing home workers’ pay are just to pick a few.

The sports rort issue is hotting up too as impoverished clubs want to know where their money is.

Petrol prices and interest rates are hot topics – the cost of meat in the beef capital is at an all-time high. That wages are not keeping pace is also being felt and talked about.

Adam Brandt and his other ­impostors take note. Whichever way you come into CQ, you will be met with a Labor-led protest.




Sunday, February 27, 2022

Wivenhoe dam is safe this time

This time the flood comparment has not been compromised for water storage. The previous Labor government of the clueless Anna Bligh tried to use the flood compartment as a substiute for building a new dam -- meaning that there was no flood control capacity when the big rains came. The present labor government has left the dam alone, mercifully

Releases from Wivenhoe a decade ago were blamed for contributing greatly to the flooding that inundated Brisbane and other parts of the South East in 2011. This is what is different this time around.

The dam’s storage can take millions more megalitres of water before any repeat of the catastrophe of the floods still fresh in the minds of South East Queensland residents.

Releases from Wivenhoe a decade ago were blamed for contributing greatly to the flooding that inundated Brisbane and other parts of the South East in 2011.

However, Graham Fraine, director-general of the department of water, said the current storage capacity of Wivenhoe meant there was no immediate threat of a repeat of that disaster, despite the grid’s main dam jumping from about 60 per cent to 100 per cent of capacity in a matter of days.

“For those interested in how that compares to the 2011 event, there is a lot more, in fact about two million megalitres more of supply that this dam can take at this point in time,” he said.

“There were some releases from Wivenhoe during the course of last evening and they were done at the time to do some strategic releases in order to manage water flow levels between the various parts of the SEQ network.

“Future releases will be looked at through the lens of the flood manuals that SEQ water operates by and through the lens of when rain and water levels subside.”

SEQ Water Chief Operating Officer Stuart Cassie said modelling showed Wivenhoe should be able to cope with the extra floodwaters without posing a risk to communities downstream.

“The current modelling that we’re using in conjunction with the BOM is not predicting that that capacity will be filled up,” he said.

“We’re playing a balancing act in terms of making sure that we’re not increasing the flows downstream unnecessarily so we will wait for the rains to subside and the flows in the rivers to subside and that’s the point that we will release water in accordance with the flood manuals.”


Former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth has taken aim at Daniel Andrews for making it compulsory for school students to wear face masks

Chairman Dan is an obnoxious tyrant

Dr Coatsworth took to Twitter on Saturday to retweet a scathing post made by Crikey columnist Adam Schwab.

Schwab condemned the requirement that school students above Year 3 must continue to wear the extra layer of protection in classrooms across Victoria.

The mandate comes despite the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the peak national health agency in the US, relaxing its face mask recommendation.

The CDC announced face masks were no longer necessary in most classrooms.

'Meanwhile, in Victoria, with only 38 people (0.0006%) in ICU with Covid, Dan Andrews and Brett Sutton still demanding small children where masks for 7 hours a day.'

The CDC announced on Friday it does not recommend students to wear face masks if their school is located in suburbs with 'low' or 'medium' Covid-19 cases.

Victoria recorded 5,874 cases on Saturday - one of its lowest figures since February 21.

Hospitalisations have dropped to 281 - down from 301 - while ICU rates have slightly risen to 43 - up from 38.

The US continues to record tens of thousands of new cases a day with its seven day case average at 75,208.

Dr Coatsworth retweeted the post made by Schwab to his 21,400 followers on Twitter in an apparent swipe against the premier.

The online dig is the latest attack made by the top doctor after he accused Mr Andrews of scaremongering and using the mask mandate to boost vaccine rates in children.

'I haven't been a big fan of masks in primary school age children and that's because the disease is mild in that age group and we know the disease spreads far more readily in adults,' Dr Coatsworth told the Today Show on Wednesday.

'In my view, it doesn't make a lot of sense. It does trouble me that this is a sort mandate in a way to create the impetus for people to go and get their kids vaccinated when, really, it should be a choice.'

About 54 per cent of children aged five to 11 are vaccinated against Covid in Victoria, compared with 93.9 per cent aged 12 and over.

Other experts argue requiring some students to wear masks while their older siblings are exempt from the rule is impractical and unfounded.

Mr Andrews pointed to lower vaccination rates as a driver behind the decision and the risk of the virus spreading from children to the elderly or immunocompromised.


The stampede of green lemmings

No country on Earth relies entirely on wind and solar energy, but Australian politicians aim to achieve this miracle.

They are leaders in the ‘Stampede of the Green Lemmings’.

Solar energy has a huge problem. Even on sunny days almost nothing is generated to meet the demand peaks around breakfast time and dinner time – the solar energy union only works a six-hour day, goes on strike with little warning, and takes quite a few sickies.

So, for at least 18 hours of every day, electricity must come from somewhere else. Then at around noon millions of solar panels pour out far more electricity than is needed, causing electrical and financial chaos in the electrical grid.

Naturally, our green ‘engineers’ see wind power as filling the solar energy gaps. But wind power has a union too and they take lots of sickies when there is no wind over large areas of the continent. And they down tools in storms, gales, or cyclones in case their whirling toys are damaged.

So the green planners claim that batteries can solve these intermittent problems of the green energy twins.

They will need to be humungous batteries.

Batteries are just a crutch for a crippled generation system. And with fierce lithium battery fires reported regularly, who wants a humungous fire-prone battery over the back fence or in the basement?

A battery is not a generator of electricity – every battery (including Snowy 2.0) is a net consumer of electricity. Batteries are very expensive, most lose capacity as they age, and every conversion between DC storage and AC transmission triggers energy losses. To collect, back up, and re-distribute green electricity will require a continent-spanning spider-web of transmission lines with all the costs and energy losses that network entails.

Still nights and calm cloudy days are what really expose the problems of wind-solar-plus-batteries.

Suppose electricity consumers require 100 units of electricity every day. A well-designed coal, nuclear, or gas power station can do that, 24/7, day after day, whatever the weather.

But to insure a wind or solar system against, say, 7 days of calm or cloudy weather would require a battery capable of storing 700 units of electricity. To re-charge this huge battery while still supplying consumers will require much larger wind or solar generating capacity. However, if several weeks of windy or sunny weather then occur, this big battery will sit idle, connected to a bloated expensive generation system that is capable of delivering far more power than is needed.

Sunny or windy weather brings a deluge of green energy, causing power prices to plunge at irregular intervals, and forcing reliable generators to stop producing and lose money. Eventually they will close. Once all coal-gas generators are all gone, every (inevitable) green energy drought will awaken the spectre of extensive blackouts.

On top of all these practical problems of green energy, we have the massive carbon credits scam, where speculators sell green fairy stories to greedy bankers, and real producers are forced to buy these fictitious ‘products’, passing the costs onto real industry and consumers.

Australia is following the green energy lemmings of Europe.

Germany once produced abundant reliable electricity from coal and nuclear power – the backbone for German industry. Then green ants started nibbling at this backbone, replacing it with wind-solar toys. Now, Germany has expensive electricity – a grid in danger of collapse and must rely on imported gas from Russia, nuclear power from France or hydro-power from Scandinavia.

UK is also following similar foolish energy policies, even banning exploration of their own oil and gas resources.

Australia is almost alone in the Southern oceans, with no near neighbours to buy, beg or borrow electricity from. We cannot afford to follow the green energy lemmings or their billionaire pied pipers.


Want to ‘think bigger’? Switch off the ABC

Earlier this month, ABC Managing Director David Anderson delivered the startling news to a Senate Committee that, ‘Now, more than ever, the ABC belongs to all Australians, wherever they live.’

Anderson’s platitudinous refrain is as useful and potentially misleading as so much else that is said by the ABC about itself on all its platforms – but most importantly, its television platforms.

Does Anderson want us to ‘relate’ to the ABC much as we might relate to the Australian flag, the national anthem, or perhaps even to ANZAC Day itself?

Taxpayers know full well they pay for the national broadcaster – even the legions of people across this country who never engage with the broadcaster know it. Taxpayers also know the ABC stands alongside the Australian Tax Office, the Weather Bureau, and ASIO as ‘belonging’ to them. If not belonging to us – then who? The Managing Director of the public broadcaster it seems, was attempting to say the ABC means something more to taxpayers. What precisely, he never actually articulated.

Anderson went on at the hearing of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on February 15: ‘The ABC entered 2022 with the value of its services widely recognised and appreciated across the Australian community. Against the backdrop of a challenging year, the ABC achieved its highest reach in a decade in 2021.’

Lofty claims indeed.

Media organisations like nothing more than spruiking ‘dramatic’ and positive figures about audience reach and impact. Along with the claims about audience segmentation and market share from non-public broadcasters – audience members are right to be sceptical. Ask the right question and you’ll get the answer you’re looking for. Several people are employed at the ABC generating and collating audience data which, hardly surprisingly, is sliced and diced to be favourable to the ABC.

While the ABC’s commitment to higher staffing levels in rural and regional Australia is commendable – as is shifting some of the high-paid presenters out of their Sydney bunkers at Ultimo to Parramatta – it is on content the ABC should rightly be judged. In this – ABC television news and current affairs is consistently and comprehensively failing those who pay for it. The omission by Anderson to specifically mention ABC television current affairs in his opening remarks is itself telling.

Anderson, at no point during the hearing, revealed that ABC news rates third in Australia on a nightly basis with Channel 7 easily achieving in excess of one million viewers each night and Channel 9 not too far behind. The ABC, it has to be said, does sit ahead of Channel 10 – which astoundingly is watched by fewer people than live in the City of Geelong. (This data, which is not easy to obtain, was made available via sources that measure audience participation across Australia.)

The ABC makes much of trust. The broadcaster takes every opportunity to remind viewers and listeners how ‘trusted’ it is. Precisely how it measures this is not revealed and we are left to either ‘take it’ or ‘leave it’. Over the years 2019-21 – the ABC did increase its market share marginally, but then fell back again to 2019 numbers. Anderson failed to tell the Senate committee what the numbers are showing in 2022. In fairness, perhaps it’s too soon.

Interestingly, Anderson made much of truth and its relationship with democracy. It seems – according to Anderson’s logic – by committing oneself to the waves of verbiage from the ABC you can be sure of getting the truth, and this, in turn, builds and buttresses a flourishing democracy. Needless to say, reporters, presenters, producers, and so-called ABC ‘fact checkers’ love this notion as they can feel entirely virtuous for their role in building a stronger democracy. The ABC, so we asked to believe, is the bulwark against a sea of dangerous, unreliable junk (my words) from commercial TV land.

Audience members are repeatedly bombarded with exhortations to ‘think bigger’ by tuning in to ABC networks. Without a shred of humility, the ABC wants all of us to believe that by accessing the array of ABC platforms our minds will be expanded, our thinking deepened and presumably our knowledge more elevated. Implied also is that by tuning to non-ABC networks our thinking will not ‘get bigger.’

Some of what makes it to air on ABC current affairs television is of very high quality, but quite a deal isn’t. Foreign Correspondent is outstanding – showcasing the talent and experience of offshore ABC correspondents.

When a previously highly respected program such as Four Corners becomes embroiled in litigation and defamation action as it has over recent years, viewers rightly begin to ask if they are seeing the beginning of the end of a once world class production. It has been especially galling that taxpayers have picked up the costs in the majority of these matters.

More immediate current affairs offerings such as 7.30, The Drum, and Q&A have become formulaic, predictable, and each of them attract criticism for leaning to one side of politics over the other.

Not infrequently, such criticism would seem to be justified particularly in regard to 7.30’s coverage of national politics which has become strident, bitter, and decidedly lop-sided. That the ABC repeatedly tells its audience that these shows are ‘world class’ and ‘outstanding’ does not make them so. Viewers make these assessments, not the broadcaster.

The television current affairs model is clearly under pressure and all broadcasters – public and private – are having to rapidly adapt to survive contemporary and likely future upheavals.

Australians should both expect and demand so much more from the publicly funded broadcaster than it is currently getting. The parallel universe in which the ABC sees virtue in all that it does – minus the bloopers, barnacles, and blemishes – is no longer credible.

Something else that might exercise the minds of ABC executives and programmers is that young people are no longer accessing their news or current affairs from television.

They find the regimentation of television constraining and time consuming. In other words – the ABC’s so-called ‘flagship’ news and current affairs shows may well find themselves on a media scrap heap within a relatively short time. By the time news goes to air these days the vast majority of viewers already know it.

The rapidly changing tastes and habits of Australians, young and older, make the ABC’s vision to become the ‘most trusted digital content provider within five years’ all the more urgent and commendable.

Without a doubt, public broadcasting and digital news and current affairs provision are vitally important and Australians should be encouraged to demand of their ABC the very best that is reasonably affordable and deliverable.




Friday, February 25, 2022

Australian health authorities have treated our kids shamefully during Covid

Some sections of our community have had a ‘good’ pandemic. If you’re a cold-eyed capitalist with a flair for early adoption and lobbying, you’ve made a motza from masks and RAT riches. If you’re a middling health bureaucrat with a dour expression and a flair for the dramatic, you’ve clogged our television screens for hours at a time and not lost a single day’s pay.

Not everyone has been so lucky. While our public health overlords strenuously ignore it, it is clear the worst effects of the Covid panic have been suffered by children. Lockdowns were particularly troubling. A Unesco report in 2021 examined the adverse consequences of school closures. The report details the effects felt by children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. From missing out on meals to increases in unreported sexual abuse, poorer children suffered the most. Protecting the vulnerable, indeed.

These lockdowns and restrictions trapped children in the home with their abusers. Kids Helpline reporting data demonstrate a 49 per cent increase in sexual abuse reports in the home during lockdowns. Anecdotal evidence from police officers indicates that this is probably far greater, as children have gone unseen by health services, schools or community groups which otherwise might notice and file mandatory reports.

Children have borne the brunt of the effects of draconian policies and those who have been born during this era will feel the effects well into their futures. Babies born recently will be victims of missed screenings that identify early childhood issues, like deafness or astigmatisms, which, if diagnosed early, can result in better outcomes over the course of a lifetime.

This is coupled with foolish policy decisions like the cancellation of home visits by community nurses in South Australia. They only serve to punish newborns that will be victims of missing checks identifying physical safety concerns or domestic violence, putting them at risk of SIDS, the third highest cause of death in children under one. Without a rigorous cost-benefit analysis against the risk of Covid in children under one it is an arbitrary and potentially dangerous decision.

The ongoing Resonance Study at Brown University in the United States recently released a pre-print paper indicating that children born during the pandemic in the USA experienced declines in verbal, motor and cognitive performance and an average decline in standardised IQ testing of 22 points. If this is even half correct, it’s still cause for alarm.

As with all the pandemic’s negative effects, authorities and commentators are quick to castigate parents, rather than cast so much as a glance at their own policy failure, blaming any loss in children’s cognition or speech on parental neglect, when so many of them were trying to work, keep house and teach children all at once as required by health department diktat.

Childcare, going to playgroup or shopping with a parent or carer are all regular routines that promote socialisation and help develop verbal and emotional skills. These mundane societal interactions help shape children’s development, and their loss has had a devastating effect.

For children turning four this year and entering preschool, half their lives have been shaped by inane rules, denial of simple pleasures and lack of social contact. This drives an increase in social isolation and bleeds into the poor educational outcomes that older children experience.

Ironically, bureaucratic overreach and Covid theatre have created a situation where children who truly require medical attention can’t receive it. When my own son was ill and I was nervous about pneumonia, I was forced to first have a farcical telehealth consult (‘shall I hold the phone up to his chest for you?’) before being ushered to a sweltering back room along with supplies and an old fax machine, because his complaint was ‘respiratory’ in nature. Covid cases in Adelaide at the time? Zero.

Other longer-term medical concerns for children’s health have also been obliterated due to Covid monomania. At a time when children’s obesity rates have been steadily rising, we have abandoned them to devices and screens, further entrenching the sedentary lifestyles already commonplace prior to the pandemic. Once again, it is our poorest children that end up worst off here, with obesity rates in children from lower socio-economic areas 2.4 times greater than children from our most wealthy areas. Anyone who has tackled obesity from childhood knows how hard it is to reverse. Protecting our health system, indeed.

The irrationality of decisions about children’s participation in activities that would help to reverse obesity trends knows no bounds. The same children that play sports together at weekends are banned from interschool sports in South Australia, while unvaccinated teens are locked out of community sports in Victoria. Some of the more ludicrous decisions made about children’s lifestyles in South Australia are all the more galling given the chief public health officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, is a paediatrician by trade. Perhaps, in all her pronouncements of ‘do not touch that ball’ or the ‘pizza box strain’, she simply forgot about the children.

The rhetoric across Australia has become increasingly shrill. One of the ugliest scenes recently was breakfast television host Natalie Barr and media identity Mayor Basil Zempilas cheering on the idea floated by the WA government that would see unvaccinated parents restricted from accompanying or visiting sick children in hospital. Any civil society ought to reject outright such a vile notion, if not for the parents, at least for the sick children unduly punished by the edict.

Of course, the media in Australia have a case to answer for in championing these policies and their less-than-subtle attempts to shift the Overton Window to make outlandish restrictions seem required by the masses. Children have been scared witless by news coverage throughout attempting to paint Covid as the peril of our lifetime. The relentlessness of the pandemic news coverage cannot have been good for children’s mental health. Banning breakfast television has been one of the simplest and easiest mental health boosters in this household.

From failing young children through reducing their verbal skills, to creating the sadness of teenagers missing out on school formals due to ridiculous vaccine mandates, there has been no end to the cruelties foisted on our kids.

Our children have had a terrible pandemic. Nelson Mandela said, ‘The true character of society is revealed in how it treats its children.’ Australia’s bureaucrats have demonstrated that children are at the absolute bottom of the pile when it comes to wearing the consequences of poor policy and draconian crackdown. We should all hang our heads in shame.


Revolt has Dan Andrews in retreat on property tax

Daniel Andrews has blamed Victoria’s housing industry after being forced to reconsider his government’s latest property tax.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne announced the $800m “social and affordable housing contribution” less than a week ago, but by Wednesday the Premier conceded the future of the bill was “very uncertain”.

On Thursday ­Mr Andrews ­denied that was due to fears Labor could lose outer-suburban marginal seats at the ­November election should the property industry and opposition campaign on the impact the tax could have on supply and affordability. He instead accused the Property Council of reneging on a deal.

Mr Andrews said the bill would see developers receive windfalls worth billions of dollars through the removal of red tape, in exchange for contributing 1.75 per cent of the value of all newly built developments with three dwellings or more, or three or more lot subdivisions.

“Engagement began on this very issue, and written submissions began back in 2019, so this has been a process that’s taken quite some time, and people were very clear on what their positions would be,” Mr Andrews said.

But peak bodies denied the Premier’s claims. “Both prior to, and following the government’s announcement, we have not been provided with any further documentation, modelling, legislation or any other government analysis of the proposed planning reform or social and affordable housing contribution,” the Property Council said.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia said the imposition of “yet another tax” would add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home.


Australia is pushing ahead with new coking coal projects for decades to come

Money is being pumped into research and technology to reduce big polluters' carbon footprints, none more so than in steel making, which accounts for eight per cent of all CO2 emissions globally.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of metallurgical coal used in steelmaking, and the second-largest exporter of thermal coal, used for electricity generation.

So in Queensland's coal belt, where so many livelihoods depend on this black gold, how long will its run last?

CQ University resource economist John Rolfe believes there'll be a strong need for coking coal in the foreseeable future — that is at least until green steel made without coking coal becomes economically viable.

"That's a low possibility," he said. "It's a bit like electric cars. Electric cars have been around for a long time and there's been talk for nearly 30 years that they will soon become mainstream, but the conversion has been really slow."

It's a snail-pace transition that mining companies like Sojitz Blue are planning to capitalise on. The company has three mine sites in central Queensland: Gregory, Minerva and Meteor Downs South.

Sojitz Blue has "committed to reducing its environmental impacts", but has also recently proposed to expand its operations at the Gregory Crinum Mine to continue producing two million tonnes of hard coking coal per year until 2043.

Sojitz Blue declined the ABC's request for an interview about its future, as its plans for expansion are still open for public comment.

Professor Rolfe is urging all mining companies to be prepared for changes in supply and demand as technology develops. "The new technologies could be both positive and negative," he said.

"If carbon capture becomes more viable then that will probably increase demand for coal mines. "But if alternative forms of energy become more viable then that will reduce the demand for coal."

New mines planned for Queensland

The Queensland Resources Council's Ian Macfarlane said the state could expect to see a number of coking coal mines open in the next three to five years.

"There is a very strong demand for high quality coking coal and central Queensland has the best coking coal in the world," Mr Macfarlane said.

Mr Macfarlane said there were three likely prospects for new mines in the state, including the Winchester South and Olive Downs mines planned for near Moranbah.

Blast furnace age will direct future coal use

When new technologies become commercially viable, Dr Tahmasebi explains there could be a reluctance from countries like China, which produces half the world's steel, to jump onboard quickly.

"The average age of the reactors that are used in China, for example, are about 14, 15 years old," he said.

"Ideally you want to operate that for 40 years, so there's another 25 to 30 years that they will want to use their reactors.

"From some of those countries there's going to be some resistance to shift to lower carbon alternative and technologies.

"The blast furnace technology is also very efficient and it's producing iron at a low cost, so there will need to be a lot of effort in alternative routes to decrease the cost to compete with that."


Broadcaster slams calls for Australia to allow 235,000 new immigrants a year claiming it would push up house prices and bring wages down

Ben Fordham has slammed a push to open Australia to hundreds of thousands of skilled migrants as a 'quick fix' to pay back debts.

The 2GB radio host questioned if enthusiasm surrounding foreign workers was prompted by the tens of millions of dollars owed by the federal government.

He explained the influx would mean more tax could be collected but claimed it would stretch public services, inflate house prices, and pull wages down.

This is despite Australia having virtually no immigrants for two years since Covid closed the borders, and accepting 200,000 net a year before that.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently called for 235,000 new arrivals every year.

'That's the population of Hobart arriving in Australia every year,' Fordham said on his 2GB radio show.

'Our leaders see this as a money tree but is this really in our best interests?

'We're not talking about government interests or the treasurer, we're talking about the best interests of everyday Australians.

'It may satisfy economists but it won't help those who are waiting years for surgery and it won't assist anyone who can only dream of buying a house.'

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce backed the push to bring skilled migrants Down Under but said they had to be prepared to settle down in regional areas.

'We have to say 'if you want to come to Australia you have to live in Tamworth. Sydney's full,' he said on the 2GB show.

'Sydney does not want more people but regional areas do.'

Fordham said though immigrants were crucial in building Australia, he worried housing, health services and transport would suffer.

He said a mass influx of 190,000 or even 235,000 skilled workers may satisfy economists but make life tougher for residents.

'For our political leaders it's a quick fix,' he said.

Fordham said Sydney was crippled by some of the worst traffic congestion in the world with 500 schools already crowded with too many students.

'Before Covid came along, one in three patients in our hospitals were waiting too long to be treated in emergency rooms,' he said, with 100,000 on the waiting list for elective surgeries.

House prices in the Harbour City also soared up to three times the rate of wages, faster than the rest of the country.

He said the demand for housing in Sydney would result in many having nowhere to live, putting pressure on public services to help the homeless.

The influx of skilled migrants would also put pressure on the 900,000 Australians currently surviving on unemployment benefits, he claimed.

Business leaders are complaining of a job shortage and there are fears employers will favour migrants to avoid paying higher wages to Australians.

'More needs to be done to put Aussies in jobs, before sending an SOS to the other side of the world,' Fordham said.

'You've got to show some tough love to those who refuse to work. And if you're a leaner and not a lifter you can't keep on collecting a cheque from taxpayers.'

Economists said the arrival of foreign workers would fill the gaps in high and low-skill jobs and contribute at least $1 billion a year to the economy.

Accounting giant KPMG has suggested bumping net migration levels beyond 350,000 a year to reverse a population decline and stimulate demand, increasing the size of the labour pool.

The report said pushing migration to 350,000 people a year - equivalent to adding a city the size of Brisbane every seven years - would boost GDP by 4.4 per cent.

However, the Grattan Institute said numbers alone would be counter-productive and the migration policy must tilt even more towards skilled workers, even though they far outnumber family reunion arrivals.

Business groups demanded the nation's cap on permanent skilled migration to be bumped up to 200,000 per year, rather than the current 160,000.

National wages growth has been stuck below the long-term average of 3 per cent since mid-2013 and last year grew by just 2.2 per cent, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed.

Property prices in the year to January 2022 rose by 22.4 per cent, the fastest annual pace since June 1989, as professionals who could work from home took advantage of record-low interest rates to buy a bigger house or move to coastal regional areas.

The CoreLogic data showed an even more dramatic 29.8 per cent surge in Sydney's median house price to $1.39million, putting a home with a backyard beyond the reach of an average, full-time income earner on $90,329.




Thursday, February 24, 2022

Gender ideology endangers Girl guides

Admission of homoxsexual scoutmasters into the Boy Scouts led to a slide in membership there. Something similar seems set to happen with Girl Guides. It is a loss for young people who might have benefited from those organizations. Parents will undertandably want to keep their children safe from sexual predation

You could barely imagine a more ludicrous scenario. A female CEO sacked without process. From Girl Guides. For questioning why Girl Guides admits males.

And a political and media culture that sees nothing wrong with this.

The firing of former CEO Karyn Lisignoli by Girl Guides WA should send a shiver down the spine of every Australian. It shows that even in the most obvious situations where the safeguarding of young girls should be the top priority, it is forbidden to question the radical left-wing ideology that males have a right to identify into any female space.

As Ms Lisignoli told The Australian: ‘There is a reason why there are certain situations in which we say men can’t be present. Do parents know when they send their nervous and shy 12-year-old girl to Girl Guides that she might be camping in a tent with a biological boy of the age of 15?’

This is more than simply a fair question for the leader of an organisation with young girls in its care. In the eyes of most Australians, it would be downright negligent not to ask questions and inform parents about the presence of young males on a Girl Guide camp with their daughters.

30 per cent of Australian women experienced physical or sexual violence before the age of sixteen. 97 per cent of sex offenders are male. The reasons why we separate girls from boys in activities like an overnight camp is as clear as crystal.

Ms Lisignoli’s dismissal for raising this issue sets an abhorrent standard for the next CEO. To avoid being sacked, the new appointee will either be a person who is happy to place a teenage boy in a tent with a young girl without the knowledge of her parents, or a person who knows that this goes against every safeguarding principle in the book, but is prepared to stay quiet about it to preserve their employment.

In any other circumstance, a female CEO being sacked for trying to protect girls in her care would be on the front page of every paper in the country. Yet what do we hear from left-wing media and the taxpayer-funded broadcaster? Silence.

It’s time for us as a nation to grow a backbone before it’s too late. The sensible majority is being continually dictated to by a vindictive mob – a mob that will gladly harass women out of a job for raising basic safeguarding questions about protecting young girls. Spineless institutions and businesses are happy to play along if it keeps them out of the gun. Australia has barely finished digesting a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and already we are back to organisations choosing to prioritise their reputation above reducing the risk to children in their care.

Hundreds of Australians have contacted me over the last two years raising concerns about the risks of this uncritical adoption of gender ideology in their professions. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, psychologists, nurses, elite athletes and coaches, academics, scientists, and public servants. People widely respected in their fields and from professions highly valued in the community – yet all believe that speaking out against the new elite orthodoxy could well end their career. I’d be lying if I told them they were wrong.

Activists demanding total subservience to their ideas now have the tools to enforce that compliance as media, government departments and universities sign up to their ideology. They can have you fired, they can stop you getting jobs or appearing at events, they can have you dragged by a left-wing media outlet. Or they can have you hauled before an archaic and draconian anti-discrimination process, as happened to me 18 months ago and which is continuing to happen, in secret, to others around the country.

Unless you’re one of the activists revelling in having this power over your fellow Australians, you should be very concerned about how a small minority has been given the tools to punish Australians for non-compliance with their views.

Three years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine someone losing their job for saying males shouldn’t be in the Girl Guides. If we don’t take a stand for common sense now, nobody can tell you it won’t be you in their sights next.


Covid and government in Australia: illogical panic

Numbers weren’t meant to be complicated. We use them daily, yet when it comes to Covid and our health they often appear mired in confusing technical terms. This article seeks to demystify the situation using over a million positive test results published by NSW Health this year whilst remaining relevant across our great country.

It is evident from the graphs that we have passed the natural peek of cases and are experiencing a normalising trend. Countries including England, Denmark, and Norway have removed limitations, even though it is winter in the northern hemisphere. It makes me wonder why our government seems quick to impose but slow to remove restrictions.

Around 13 per cent of the NSW population have tested positive to Covid thus far. We have a total vaccination of 84 per cent which is higher than the national average of 81 per cent. Across the population, the chance of surviving Covid is 99.90 per cent.

Former Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr. Nick Coatsworth recently said Omicron is clearly no more dangerous than influenza for those who are young and healthy.

According to the Department of Health surveillance report, the chances of death from Influenza is around 0.2 per cent (five year average 2014-19), which supports his conclusion.

Government and health experts have repeatedly portrayed the influence of Covid in an overly dramatic manner – choosing to generate fear over hope. I have discussed this further in another article. According to the data, however, an average person below 70 – or someone in good health – has little more to fear from Omicron than they have from seasonal influenza.

Prior to the pandemic, experts were saying that the two major groups affected by severe Covid viruses were the elderly and obese with related illnesses. Everyone ages, but we can try to improve our health.

Rather than leading the country and encouraging us to join in on dropping some weight whilst doing some exercise in keeping with the old ‘Life be In It’ ads, governments restricted our movement and made us fearful to go outside. We joke about the extra ‘Covid Kilos’ but it has made us more vulnerable to disease. Just some of the ways policies have compromised our health include:

Vitamin D deficiency
Increased body fat
Increased alcohol consumption
Increase in sedentary lifestyle
Increased Cortisol levels

Cortisol is part of our ‘fight or flight mechanism’ induced during high-stress events and designed for short bursts. The problem is our bodies have been experiencing long and sustained periods of stress due to constant fear-inducing messaging, policies, and health orders. The Mayo clinic attributes overexposure to Cortisol in response to prolonged stress to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and weight gain – all increasing chances of an adverse reaction to Covid and other diseases (Mayo Clinic, 2022).

Contracting Covid and being obese has a multiplier effect of three for hospitalisation according to the CDC (CDC, 2020) and between 1.5 and 9.48 of fatality according to multiple studies. An Australian study by Bette Liu, Paula Spokes, Wenqiang He & John Kaldor found that obesity, in the presence of diabetes and chronic lung disease, increased the risk of ICU or death by a factor of 5.34 and concluded by recommended targeted prevention strategies.

We are individually responsibility for our health decisions, but governments have intervened with our ability to make such choices freely and hence have a proportional responsibility for the outcomes.

I was critical in 2021 when the NSW CHO Kerry Chant said that Covid was her sole focus. As the peak health bureaucrat her responsibility is for all aspects of health. What about cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases? What if the focus on one aspect created a larger burden on our overall health and hence became counterproductive?

Are the Covid vaccines beneficial?

According to this data, the benefit of vaccination is a multiplier effect of 1.5. So if you are 55 your chance of dying increases from around 0.028 per cent to 0.042 per cent – still well below that of influenza. Along with this benefit also comes risks of adverse reactions, unknown long-term effects, and some ethical questions about their development.

There also appears to be more benefit in eating healthy and regular exercise – particularly outdoors. So, why have the lines to the local KFC been the longest I have ever seen? Why haven’t our leaders and experts been promoting being healthy? Is it because they find it too complicated to motivate us? Or is it that the fear generated has made us more malleable for compliance? A favourite word of our premiers in 2021.

Perhaps we would do well to remember Senator Rennick’s speech to the Federal Senate on November 21, 2021:

‘The government overreach of the state premiers in destroying our civil liberties has gone too far. This is no longer about health but is rather about politicians wielding power for the sake of power instead of doing what they should be doing and protecting the people.’

I cannot find compelling evidence supporting the government intrusion and mandates into our lives. If it is there, it has been well hidden behind secretive health orders. Encourage vaccine uptake to vulnerable groups but, more importantly, encourage a healthy life balance and in doing so maybe we can turn a national weakness into a strength.


‘Clear’ need for STEM boost to prepare job-ready graduates

The billionaire founder and chief executive of logistics software outfit WiseTech, Richard White, has called for a major boost to STEM education in Australia, declaring he’ll “tell anyone who listens” that the nation needs to improve its outcomes for primary and high school students.

Amid an ongoing battle for tech talent, WiseTech on Wednesday posted an 18 per cent increase in revenue to $281m for the first six months of the financial year, while earnings before interest taxation depreciation and amortisation jumped by 54 per cent to $137.7m.

The company also upgraded its EBITDA growth guidance by 10 per cent to 43 per cent, representing EBITDA of $275m to $295m.

Its net profit climbed a whopping 74 per cent to $77.4m.

Mr White said that WiseTech’s string of acquisitions in recent years was beginning to pay off, and that its CargoWise product in particular had been up a strong performer, with its revenue up 33 per cent year-on-year.

WiseTech’s software helps simplify logistics solutions for businesses.

It noted that despite the overall positive outlook “uncertainty around future economic and industrial production growth and/or global trade may lead to alternative outcomes” and “prevailing uncertainties relating to sovereign and geopolitical risk may also reduce assumed growth rates.”

The executive, a former guitar tech for AC/DC, said that for both WiseTech and Australia’s technology sector more broadly, Australia needs to boost its education efforts and pump out more job-ready graduates.

“This is something I‘ve been clear on for more than a decade,” Mr White said. “I want Australia to lift education, particularly digital technology education, and I’ll tell everybody, from politicians to industry leaders and everybody, that we need to do better.

“In primary school, and in high school, we need to get students in to digital technologies and into STEM so that when they arrive in the workforce they‘re highly skilled in the technologies for the future, rather than focused on what they might perceive as an interesting career but that is not necessarily the future.”

WiseTech shares closed up 4.2 per cent to $44.58.

The company has been caught up in the recent choppy market valuations, but Mr White said that businesses with strong fundamentals will have no trouble weathering the storms.

He added that while the recent acquisitions have been important for WiseTech’s success, he’s concentrating now on “not getting distracted by shiny objects’’.

“It’s important that we focus on really sticking to our knitting, and making this business’s core capabilities better and better,” he said. “So to be frank, the next year is about more of the same and being as good as we can.”


Australian parents turn to religious schools as public enrolments slide

Australia has recorded its most significant shift in school enrolments since 2008, with 6,388 fewer Australian students in the public system in 2021 — meaning less funding for state schools while private schools will see a windfall.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) annual schools report, the number of public primary and secondary students fell by 0.2 per cent in 2021, with low-fee independent Islamic and Anglican schools in the suburbs picking up the most new students.

The move from public schools was greatest in primary years, with 0.8 per cent of students leaving.

Overall, independent schools grew by 2.2 per cent across Australia, or 30,101 extra pupils.

The ABS said Australia's closed borders and the first net loss of migrants since 1946 was influential in the trend, with new arrivals generally guaranteeing growth at public schools.

Public schools receive $14,776 per student in a combination of state and commonwealth funding, so a drop of 6,388 students means $94,389,088 less for public schools. Meanwhile, funding to the private sector, which receives $11,724 on average per student, is expected to rise by $352,904,124.

It's money that will be gratefully received at schools like the Australian International Academy, a fast-growing Islamic school with three campuses in Sydney's outer western suburbs.

Principal Mona Abdel-Fattah started the school a decade ago with just 19 pupils. Today, there are 611, with more joining at the start of every year.

"It's almost a hundred a year, and at the moment, there are classes where we cannot accept any more students," Ms Abdel-Fattah said.

Ms Abdel-Fattah said the attraction for many of the young families in the area was the extra moral guidance and shared faith.

"A big attraction at our school is the Islamic environment. It's the identity, the care, the compassion," she said.

Islamic schools see huge growth as families prioritise values
Nasha Mohammed moved her 13-year-old daughter Lujain and 10- and six-year-old siblings Layan and Alfarouk from the state system to the Islamic school at the start of the year.

Mrs Mohammed made the decision because her daughter was entering high school and she wanted to prioritise values.

"I wanted her to be around people who pray the same way, are brought up the same way and have the same priorities and same ideas," Mrs Mohammed said.

Mrs Mohammed had a great experience at the public school her children attended last year, but as a busy mum decided to move Layan and Alfarouk as well.

"I wasn't really sure but I thought as a parent I thought it would be easier to drop them off in the same spot and pick them up at the end of the day," Mrs Mohammed said.

Lujain Mohammed said the smaller class sizes allowed her teachers to give her more attention.

"They know more about students' health and wellbeing," she said.

Nationally, Islamic schools have enjoyed enormous growth, with the number of students tripling over the past 15 years.

Last year's Australia Talks survey found parents at independent and Catholic schools had the highest rates of parental satisfaction, leading to calls for an investment in the public system.

Pressure on public schools expected to grow after recent baby boom
Leading International education expert Pasi Sahlberg, from the Gonski Institute at the University of New South Wales, said it would not be the last tough year for public education.

"Governments need to take the responsibility to make sure that the neighbourhood public schools [are] always good enough … for all children," Professor Sahlberg said.

"When this doesn't happen, for example due to insufficient resourcing of these schools, I'm afraid we are going to see trends similar to education statistics published today also in the future."

Professor Sahlberg and other education experts expect pressure on the public system to grow after a recent baby boom.

"This means new schools and many more teachers that need to be available as these numbers grow," he said.

"It is important that the governments will invest in their public infrastructure and human resources to secure a good school and trained teacher for every child."

Independent schools across Australia have welcomed the figures.

In New South Wales, the growth means that for the first time independent schools have more students than the Catholic sector, which set up its first school in Australia in the 19th century.

"This record growth now makes the independent school sector the second largest in NSW and reflects the confidence and satisfaction of parents from across the socio-economic spectrum," Association of Independent Schools New South Wales chief executive Geoff Newcombe said.




Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Concrete: The big CO2 source Greenies have forgotten

In vowing not to close coal fired power stations until equivalent replacement generation is in place, the bidders for AGL – Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield’s Stewart Upson – have added realism to the “shut down coal frenzy” sweeping Australia.

For that, the nation can be grateful because, until now, the frenzy was not being moderated by that vital qualification. The frenzy has also obscured sources of carbon pollution which rival coal that few want to discuss, because they go to the heart of the current Australian and world economic stimulation. That is the use of concrete and steel in construction.

Twiggy Forrest’s Fortescue has highlighted the carbon content of steel production, but concrete is rarely talked about probably because, as a community, in most of our houses we are replacing stored carbon in the form of timber with concrete slabs and their associated carbon emissions.

If we are serious about carbon emissions, then we must not leave all the heavy lifting to coal – concrete must be part of the action. And just like coal, we can’t simply abandon concrete unless we develop techniques and materials to either replace it or make it differently. Late last week Frank Cerra, head of Perth based project engineers BG&E, sent me a note highlighting the size of carbon emissions from concrete.

– The global construction sector accounts for 25 per cent of the world’s emissions. And as the world increases its investment in infrastructure and new buildings, emissions are rising rapidly. It’s predicted the equivalent of one New York City will be built every month globally until 2060.

– The global cement industry produces 7 to 8 per cent of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide. Concrete is consumed at a rate of 33 billion tonnes per annum and is the most consumed material in the world after water.

– Currently, over 20 per cent of Australia’s GDP is attributed to infrastructure sectors, with 33 per cent of planned infrastructure project activity occurring in NSW and Victoria. Approximately 25 million cubic metres of concrete are used annually in construction.

Cerra says engineers understand the critical interdependence of structural efficiency and materials and are working with key players to reduce embodied carbon in their projects, but a lot more needs to be done.

Meanwhile NSW has launched a program to reduce carbon in infrastructure by developing “collaborative solutions which are practical yet ambitious while also ensuring our infrastructure is fit-for-purpose and built to last”.

Now to the “Bacchus Marsh” cement-making technology story. Soon after the turn of the century, scientist Mark Sceats concluded that for many furnace applications, including cement, it would be far better to use a cylinder heated to very high temperatures and to conduct the treatment process inside that cylinder. That method of operation would also allow electrification of the furnace.

Washington H. Soul Pattinson saw Sceats process as a potential way of making better bricks. A test plant was commissioned at Bacchus Marsh in Victoria, but Soul Pattinson pulled out with the plant not completed. The employees raised the money to complete the plant and managed to keep it operational. Sceats is now the chief scientist at Calix, the listed-Australian company that owns the technology.

Australian cement makers were not interested, but in Europe there was a crisis. Back in 2005, the enormous emissions from its cement makers were neutralised by huge carbon credit certificates which would have lasted many decades.

But the cement makers were greedy and didn’t take carbon seriously, so they sold their abundant carbon credits for a profit of some $8bn.

Now the European Union is being tougher on carbon but most of the credits have gone. So far the cement makers have not been able to find a satisfactory substitute for lime in cement so they are pursuing a strategy of developing technology to separate and collect the carbon emissions from the cement process. They will either use the separated carbon in industry or store it in old oil wells.

The Bacchus Marsh plant was able to separate carbon so the European cement makers trialled the Australian technology (officially called LEILAC-1) in a massive Belgium pilot plant. Other technologies were also tested before the Europeans declared last October that the Australian technology offers the cheapest way yet to decarbonise the cement industry.

Calix will receive royalties, but it is now pursuing non-cement uses for its technology.


Scott Morrison backs 'terrific bill' to ban transgender women from playing female sport

Scott Morrison has backed a new push to prevent transgender women who were born male from playing female sport.

The Prime Minister has thrown his support behind Liberal senator Claire Chandler's proposed law to prevent women's clubs from being sued for excluding a trans player to reduce the risk of injury and unfair competition.

'I support it, I think it is a terrific bill and I've given her great encouragement,' he said alongside the Tasmanian senator in Trianbunna on Tuesday.

'Claire is a champion for women's sport and I think she has been right to raise these issues in the way that she has.'

Senator Chandler has raised concerns about transgender participation, especially in contact sports where the risk of injury is higher, since entering Parliament in 2019.

'Women's sport was invented for people of the female sex and any suggestion that it is somewhat provocative or controversial to articulate this view I think is pretty ludicrous,' she told Daily Mail Australia in an interview in 2020.

In 2019 Sport Australia had issued pro-trans guidelines recommending that 16,000 sport clubs across the nation catagorise sport based on 'gender identity' not biological sex, meaning a person can chose whether to play men's or women's sport.

Senator Chandler, who received 'hundreds and hundreds' of emails and phone calls from parents concerned that girls' sport was being undermined, said the guidelines 'prioritise transgender inclusion over the health and safety of women'.

Her proposal - dubbed the Save Women's Sport Bill - would amend the Sex Discrimination Act to specify that 'offering single-sex sport is lawful'.

When she introduced her bill earlier this month, Senator Chandler said: 'Australia's Sex Discrimination Act 1984 has always acknowledged that sex is relevant in sport, but under recent interpretations has unacceptably limited the circumstances in which single-sex sport can be offered.

'As a result, sports clubs, associations and volunteers are threatened with legal action if they exclude males from women's sport.'

Equality Australia has rejected the bill as 'divisive and unnecessary'.

The inclusion of transgender athletes in elite women's sport has been intensely disputed in recent years.

Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who transitioned in her 30s, sparked controversy when she won a gold medal for New Zealand in women's events at the Pacific Games in Samoa in July 2019.

She then won two gold medals at the Roma World Cup in January 2020.

Broadcaster Piers Morgan said 'women's rights to equality and fairness were being slaughtered at the alter of political correctness'.

Former Australian Olympic middle-distance runner Tamsyn Lewis told Sydney radio station 2GB in March 2020: 'There's been a lot of people who are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness.

'You don't want to get to the point where we haven't tackled this issue head on and in a respectful manner, that in 20 years time we're seeing our kids grow up and compete in sports that they just actually can't win,' she said.

In 2018 Australian women's handball player Hannah Mouncey, a trans woman who is 1.88metres tall and weighs 100kg, withdrew her nomination from the draft for the Australian Football League's professional women's competition.

She said the toll of trying to meet the AFL's standard - which demands that players can prove that their testosterone levels have been maintained below a threshold for at least two years - had proved 'too great'.


Muslim father jailed for 'unspeakable' murder of daughter and son-in-law

A Melbourne father who gunned down his own daughter and her husband, partly because he was not invited to their wedding, has been jailed for life over the "cold-hearted" and "cowardly" killings.

Osman Shaptafaj, 57, today appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria where he was ordered to serve two life sentences concurrently after pleading guilty to murdering Lindita Musai, 25, and Veton Musai, 29, at Yarraville about two years ago.

Shaptafaj will have to serve at least 35 years, meaning he will be in his nineties before he becomes eligible for parole.

Confronting details were aired in the Supreme Court about how Shaptafaj lay in wait for the couple for almost two hours before shooting them both in the head at point-blank range.

Leaving his daughter and son-in-law lying on the porch, Shaptafaj then rang the doorbell of the house so that they could be found by Mr Musai's distressed family members.

He then walked to nearby grasslands where he shot himself twice while being watched by onlookers.

Shaptafaj claims he has no memory of what happened and the Supreme Court heard that he believed he was stuck in a "glitch" of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, a first-person shooter game set during the Cold War.

Justice Andrew Tinney called Shaptafaj's crimes "cowardly".

"You've taken away two young lives. Your crimes were premeditated, carried out upon two members of your family who should legitimately have expected you to be their protector, not someone who would kill them so savagely," Justice Tinney said.

"Yet you allowed your unjustified feelings of resentment and anger towards then to drive you to commit unspeakable crimes.

"In view of your current age … the long non-parole period required to be passed would you have you ineligible for consideration of parole until you're quite elderly.

"If the result of that is that you go forward from today with the expectation that you will likely die in prison, that is an unavoidable by-product of your heinous crimes."

By the time Shaptafaj had made the decision to murder his daughter, Lindita, and her husband Veton, their relationship had been in tatters for some time.

Prosecutors previously told the court that the 57-year-old had been a violent husband and father, which ultimately sparked his divorce and left his children loathing him.


BlueScope’s $1 billion blast furnace rebuild indicates ‘green steel’ isn’t coming anytime soon

BlueScope Steel (ASX:BSL), the steel business carved out of BHP (ASX:BHP) two decades ago will press ahead with a study on a $1 billion furnace reline at the Port Kembla steelworks.

It is a surefire indication those in the know do not view the transition to so-called ‘green steel’ as a near-term shift.

The reline of the mothballed number 6 blast furnace will have a 20 year life and cost up to $300 million more than BlueScope initially planned, setting the firm up to maintain its domestic supply of steel from 2026, helping BlueScope through the energy transition ahead of its 2050 net zero target.

BlueScope’s position is the furnace reline will provide a “challenging but credible timeline” for the development of low emissions steelmaking technologies.

“The reline does not lock BlueScope in to blast furnace steelmaking for the full 20 years if technology is ready earlier,” the company said.

“However, achieving this will be dependent on several enablers including access to low cost green hydrogen, firmed and affordable renewable energy, the development of suitable raw material supply chains and appropriate policy settings.”

It follows comments last week from South32 (ASX:S32) CEO Graham Kerr, a supplier of metallurgical coal to BlueScope, that coal would have a use in the steelmaking process for at least 20 years given the infancy of low emissions technologies like green hydrogen.

BlueScope is well stocked to deploy capital at the moment after reporting record first half underlying profit of $1.57 billion, up 373% on the same period in 2021.




Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Apartment buildings face massive bill for electric vehicle charging stations

The costs and other obstacles are such that NO charging stations are likely to be provided in most existing apartment buildings. That might effectively prohibit electric car ownership for most apartment dwellers, a very large number

Body corporates are facing costs in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars to retrofit complexes to accommodate the power to supply electric vehicles, experts have warned.

There’s also likely to be confrontation between those who want to retrofit a complex and unit owners who do not drive nor live there and have no interest in the paying for an EV charging stations, says strata title specialist Chris Irons.

Unit owners may not even have the right to install an EV charger in their ‘exclusive’ car space even if they foot the bill, the former Queensland commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management said.

“If you have exclusive use of a parking space, or even it is on the title, to install a charging station may require a motion at an AGM to be passed as technically the car park is common property,” Mr Irons said.

“Even if the body corporate decides to install several charging stations as a convenience, but on common property, there may be owners who do not own electric vehicles and do not want money spent on them.

“You also have the issue of where they are going to be placed and how is the vehicle owner charged for the use of the power if it is a shared meter.”

Transformers for established complexes are highly unlikely to cope with the power demand to service dozens of EV charging stations, said Master Electricians Australia CEO Malcolm Richards.

Body corporates can expect to pay more than $100,000 alone just to upgrade a transformer, before pricing the cost of retrofitting the wiring for their complex and individual meters, he said.

“In terms of putting car charging stations in the basement of existing premises, you have got a significant headache for the body corporate to put infrastructure in place,” Mr Richards said.

“They have to determine what type of chargers are going to be installed, how much extra power they going to draw.


Power time bomb for industries, jobs

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the future of Australia’s manufacturing and mining sectors “will be won or lost in the next decade”, warning the early closures of coal-fired power plants risked hundreds of thousands of jobs and power supply shortages.

Speaking at the Illawarra First Energy and Renewables summit in Wollongong on Tuesday, Mr Taylor will say there is no point “planning for a green steel or aluminium industry, if high energy prices decimate the industries we have today”.

After Scott Morrison warned Australia’s coal-fired generation fleet must “run to its life” to keep energy prices down, Mr Taylor will say AGL’s decision to bring forward the closures of Bayswater and Loy Yang A “and Brookfield’s bid to accelerate these closure dates even further only compounds the risk” of energy shortages.

“I’ve been calling this out since the day I became Energy Minister. That hasn’t always been a popular position – there are plenty of others who are happy to hand-wave, hiding behind technicalities to proclaim ‘it will all be OK’,” Mr Taylor will say.

“But we’ve seen this movie before. If a major generator is closed down, there’s a gap in supply that must be replaced. And if there is no replacement, it’s customers who wear the pain.”

Speaking to blue-collar workers in the Illawarra, Mr Taylor will say those who focus on getting to carbon neutrality through a centrally planned, linear pathway put energy-intensive jobs at risk.

“While long-term goals are important, our focus must be firmly on the road in front of us,” he will say. “Let’s be clear – these energy companies provide an essential service. Customers must come first. And to keep energy companies and investors honest, we will do what is needed to keep prices low and the lights on.

“That is my focus. We will work with the NSW government and the private sector to ensure more dispatchable capacity is available to replace Eraring when it closes.”


Techie comes ‘clean’, blackouts will generate billions

Terry McCrann comments on AGL takeover bid by Mike Cannon-Brookes

Thank you Mike for so promptly demonstrating the truth of what I wrote about Origin’s proposed closure of a real power station, Eraring.

That it would have a cascading impact on all the other real – coal-fired – power stations; forcing their accelerated closures, because the totally destructive and destabilising impact of ever-increasing so-called renewables in the grid rendered the real stations unable to function.

You and your Canadian partners are really only proposing upfront to do what AGL would have ended up being forced to do anyway: bring forward the planned closure dates.

This would be both exactly the same as, and also accelerated by, what Origin is doing with Eraring - bringing it forward from ‘over the horizon’ in 2032 to an all-too immediate 2025.

Even a Green loon like NSW’s laughingly titled ‘Energy’ Minister, Matt Kean, can see that 2025 is all-too close to now for comfort; heck, it’s even possible that he could still be in the job when the blackouts and brownouts start.Thank you Mike for also announcing that – at least, you think - there are big dollars to be made in Australia’s blackout and brownout future, off the back of real pain for 26m Australians. You and Brookfield are not putting - or more accurately, being prepared to put - $8bn on the table, to play Father Christmas to Aussie consumers.

You want to and intend to take more dollars out of their pockets for the same amount of electricity they’d be getting – when of course the wind is blowing and the batteries haven’t run flat, and they can actually get it – not fewer dollars.

The bid by got-lucky-techie Cannon-Brookes and Brook-field (no relation, other than intelligence-challenged wokeness) is best judged on two levels.

On both levels it’s a joke.

The first is as just another opportunistic corporate play: launching at AGL when it’s vulnerable with its de-merger proposal. AGL needs 75 per cent shareholder approval to break itself into two packages – the ongoing, heading for the business cemetery, coal-fired stations, and the ‘new-age’ energy player plus retailer.

Brookes, Cannon and Field, want the same 75 per cent to vote for their $7.50 cash a share upfront and not have to worry about what the package going forward will be worth.

The simple counter is that they think that package going forward can be made to be worth more, much more, than $7.50. Current holders should say thanks but no thanks, as indeed the AGL board has promptly done. We’ll keep the extra dollars from Australia’s blackouts and brownouts future, if you don’t mind.

In the context of both corporate realities and the seemingly unstoppable sleep-walk to Australia’s energy future disaster, the demerger makes sense.

The two most recent examples have been value-accretive for holders. That was Wesfarmers hiving off the Coles supermarket business, and Woolworths separating its Endeavour grog and pokies business. And it should be also with BHP selling its oil and gas business to Woodside, with BHP holders retaining their equity pro-rata in the merged entity.

On the second level, AGL and Australia’s energy future, the bid is an even bigger – and thoroughly sick – joke. The bidding duo’s core proposal is to replace 7GW (7000MW) of existing AGL real 24/7 coal and gas generation, with “a build-out of at least 8 GW of clean energy and storage (batteries)”. Let’s say, for example, that’s 6GW of wind/solar and 2GW of batteries.

When the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine – for at least 8 hours every night and often 24 hours through a full day – that 6GW could and will drop close to zero; the 2GW of batteries will run flat in a couple of hours. Hullo blackouts; hullo brownouts. And very expensive power, as in even crazier Europe.


Catastrophic drop in apprentices could send house costs soaring

There’s been new and alarming twist in the Australia-wide shortage of labour. The number of young people wanting to take up apprenticeships in trades like electrical, plumbing, carpentry, concrete laying and similar areas has slumped dramatically.

In many other areas the hope is that when we lift migration rates the shortages will be greatly reduced. But, without rule changes, building-skills migration is complex and not likely to substantially reduce the impact of reduced apprenticeships in the short to medium term.

The shortage of apprentices is catastrophic because it is going to increase the price of constructing a new house (not the land cost) by between 20 and 30 per cent. Such a huge rise in the construction costs will press state and local governments to reduce their bureaucracies and taxes.

My friends in the industry say the shortages are nationwide but particularly severe on the east coast. Large apprenticeship recruiters get almost no worthwhile responses from advertisements. The recruiting agencies still contribute, but the overall intake in many areas looks to be down 40 to 50 per cent.

There is already a shortage of skilled labour in the building industry and that will increase over time because of the age levels of the workforce. Apprentices normally contribute substantially in their third and fourth year, so the shortage of skills will be extended along with building delays.

What makes this so dangerous for costs is that there are two levels of payment in the building industry. The first is the large, unionised projects that extend into multistorey apartments. Renumeration and labour costs in that part of the industry are usually more than twice that of the second part, the housing sector.

This difference has been maintained because a lot of building people don’t like working in a unionised environment. But the shortage of skills and apprentices is impacting both sectors as well as engineering operations and factories.

Not surprisingly many tradespeople in the lower-remunerated areas are now looking for better paid work. The long-term skills shortages will make the remuneration differences unsustainable. So renumeration in the housing and other sectors will rise in the next two or three years.

Just how much this will add to the total price of a new house depends on the extent of the remuneration increase, the land content and the way the house is designed and constructed. There will be wide variations, but it is not unreasonable to assume that a theoretical doubling of the trade renumeration in the area will add 20 or 30 per cent to the construction cost of houses.

There are a large variety of opinions as to why young people are turning away from apprenticeships when it is clear that once they are done they are going to be rewarded with very large pay rates.

If the shortages continue remuneration will exceed $100 an hour, often by a big margin. Here are some of the reasons being widely canvased. It is not an exhaustive list, and there is room for legitimate disagreement:

* A regular source of the apprenticeships has been TAFE and similar courses that have provided young people aged around 15 and 16 with a pre-apprenticeship course. Covid substantially reduced the ability of these colleges to operate in many states.

* Although there is a very large carrot at the end of an apprenticeship, first and second year apprentices’ wages are very low and can be under $10 an hour. Many young people can get twice that in hospitality and retail areas. There is a great deal of well-paid unskilled work on the large construction sites. Young people are taking the cash rather than the future prize. That short-term view may also be linked to concerns about climate etc.

* Although most of today’s building and industrial sites are very different to say five or 10 years ago, they can still be a bit “rough”, with frequent use of swear words. Young people coming out of a modern school environment are not well prepared for this way of working.

* Many of the trades involve so-called “dirty work” or the discipline of a factory. Many young people don’t want to work in such environments.

* The Covid handouts have created among young people a sense of entitlement which has damaged the work ethic of the community. This widely held view is certainly not universal among young people. I am seeing in many areas of the community young people very keen to work but they require inspiring management.

* The absence of foreign students means that if a young person wants to go to a university it is much easier to gain enrolment. University enrolment or trade skills will become an increasing debate among young people, as the rewards in trades are set to exceed those in many professions.

While we can all debate the reasons for this slump in apprenticeships, it is a signal for serious problems ahead.

First-home buyers are already finding it difficult to fund the high cost of housing and another substantial rise in costs will multiply this problem. It will also force state and local governments to look at their practices, because they contribute about half the cost of the house – partly due to stamp duty and GST, but also because their bureaucracies and organisations are designed to delay good developments and boost costs.

In theory we could train the bureaucrats to be apprentices but under the adult apprenticeship rules anyone aged over 21 has to be paid a full adult wage. Inexperienced apprentices are very costly in their first two years because a lot of time needs to be put into training them. As a result, adult apprentices are a relatively small part of the skills workforce. Maybe that needs to change.