Sunday, June 12, 2022

Aboriginal mother claims she was followed around a Kmart store by 'racially profiling' staff and her bags searched as she shopped with her family

This woman's treatment certainly seems extraordinary and oppressive. She undoubtedly deserves an apology at least. But what happened should be understood nonetheless.

In their ancestral hunting lifestyle, Aborigines have developed enormous skills pertinent to that lifestyle. And those skills make them extraordinarily skilled sneak thieves. Combine that with their disrespect for white society and you get a lot of property crime from them. And in a working class suburb like Merryylands, retailers would be well aware of that.

So Aborigines in general are a problem there and that makes individual Aborigines suspicious. The lady bore the brunt of the perceptions that her fellow Aborigines have created. Sad for her but probably inescapable

An indigenous musician claims she was racially profiled and accused of stealing while shopping with her children at Kmart.

Australian rapper Barkaa, real name Chloe Quaylee, was shopping at her local Kmart store in the western Sydney suburb of Merrylands on Wednesday night.

She claimed she and her family were watched and followed by three staff and stopped from leaving the store until they checked her bags.

'I walked into Kmart with my family and was spotted by one of the women who worked there, who continued staring at us,' Barkaa wrote in an Instagram post.

'She then grabs two young men (one that was in uniform and one that wasn't) and all three followed me through the toy section with my young kids, snickering things under their breathe and laughing.'

Barkaa confronted the woman asking whether 'she was ok', the woman replied: 'yes, just looking at this' - which she then told the woman: 'I know you are following me, can you please stop, it's rude.'

The mother-of-three called her children to follow her and leave the store when two young men allegedly followed them through the aisles.

'As we were leaving the two young men followed us so I decided to start video recording as it was distressing and humiliating for me,' Barkaa wrote.

'Once we got to the check out and checked all of our items through and proceeded to walk out, we were then stopped by a young woman who said "I have to check your bag".'

Barkaa claimed three Kmart workers pulled out all the items she bought out of her bags and insisted they 'had to because it was their job' - while other customers left with their bags unchecked.

'I said to them, 'I have no need to steal, I'm in here with my kids, I have more than enough to pay for these items,' Barkaa told the Kmart staff.

The artist felt 'humiliated and ashamed' but believed she had to speak out against racism and discrimination and had the platform to do so - sharing the experience with her 59,700 followers.

'I have the platform to do so and I wish this wasn't my job, but so many of us are still being discriminated against and racially profiled, followed around in stores and targeted just for being who we are,' she wrote.

'Tonight I felt humiliated and ashamed, I had people looking at me and my young kids like we had done something wrong.

'I felt like crying when I got out of the shop but instead I had to walk off and explain to my kids what just happened and comfort my eldest daughter. 'I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.'

The budget retailer, which is a subsidiary of Wesfarmers, said it was aware of Barkaa's experience and was investigating the matter further. 'We are aware of Barkaa’s experience in our store and we are investigating internally and taking it extremely seriously,' Kmart told Daily Mail Australia.

'We have been in contact with Barkaa and are speaking with her to understand more about her experience. 'We want all our customers to have a great experience every time they are in one of our stores and we understand we have not delivered on this experience this time around.'

In two Instagram story posts on Friday night, one of which was deleted, Barkaa labelled users leaving negative comments as 'whinging racists'. 'It's 2022, I don't need racists for permission to be a Blak [sic] woman in this country with a voice,' she wrote. 'What happened was unacceptable... I'm not backing down and I have every right to be upset... it was traumatic for myself and my babies.'

'Fancy being called a thief on stolen land,' she wrote and then quickly deleted.


This is the electricity crisis we had to have

It's all about gas

This is the electricity crisis we had to have. It forces leaders in business, politics – state and federal – and regulators to face the big structural problems, feet to the flame.

Thankfully the new Labor government has not had a knee-jerk response to the crisis. Instead ministers claw their way up the learning curve. This is “not an easy fix” they say. Translated this means customers, retail and manufacturing will feel pain for some time.

The crisis has at last demonstrated to Australians just how important gas is as a reliable firm power that, unlike coal, can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch.

What just happened in the past couple of months? The crisis is both simple and very complicated.

The East Coast lost more power more suddenly than the USS Enterprise on a bad day. It was not gas which failed, it was coal. Like it or not, coal still normally provides 60 per cent of the grid’s electricity, but incredibly, up to a third of it is out of action.

A plethora of failures at the largest coal-fired power stations have caused this, from unplanned shutdowns to coal supply chain problems triggered by wet weather. Coal power stations once down, take time to come back. On Friday came the grim news that AGL had lost half its capacity at NSW’s Bayswater, and Loy Yang in Victoria would take an extra two months to fix.

At the same time a cold snap has caused customer demand for energy to rise. Unfortunately wet weather has meant that renewables have not been at their best.

This supply-demand mismatch has everyone scrabbling for more gas to fill the gap.

But there are limits to the amount of gas that is easily accessible. In part, that is because the system has been set up to export most of the gas in production. And in part it is because for years now opportunities to access new gas, in NSW and Victoria in particular, have been frustrated. Victorian Premier Dan Andrews is insincere to deny this.

What is missing are the huge transmission links between states that would help the grid to balance energy capacity. Poles and wires infrastructure is woefully behind.

What is also missing is the capacity market called for by the former Energy Security Board chief Dr Kerry Schott – with instructions last year to “just get on with it”. Schott’s proposal was that the market would pay for firm reliable power generators, be they hydro, battery, gas or indeed coal, to have energy capacity available when urgently required.

Labor’s crisis meeting with state counterparts agreed to a market where firm renewables could be part of the capacity market but not coal.

Now Snowy 2.0, the flagship renewables project that would provide oodles of firm power is delayed another 19 months.

Farcically, even when that project is built, there is still no clear date for the transmission line, the Hume Link, to take that power to Sydney.

What a mess. What a contrast to Labor’s grand Powering Australia plan which promises that by 2025 family power bills will be $275 a year cheaper than they were at the end of 2021.

And Labor knows that any major intervention to permanently cap retail prices risks knocking investment confidence. It is looking for $58bn from the private sector to help build the infrastructure to deliver low price renewable power.

Back to Scotty in the boiler room needing more power now: the East Coast can’t get it from coal, nor from renewables. It has to be more gas.

Last week the market operator AEMO had to put a temporary cap of $40 a gigajoule on gas prices which had spiked to $800, a price that would blow up any manufacturer needing gas. On Thursday, that temporary cap was extended in NSW and Victoria.

Two questions immediately come to mind.

Why can’t the East Coast demand a 15 per cent domestic gas reserve, effective immediately and divert gas destined for the export market back into the home market?

And second, why can’t more loose gas that isn’t locked up and destined for export be found?

To the first, breaking an international gas contract with customers is not just a force majeure that threats Australia’s sovereign risk status. It also threatens the energy security of our Asian neighbours relying on Australian gas in Japan, Korea and elsewhere. These customers could be left scrambling for gas at record prices after Russia turned off the tap.

When the newly elected Labor government went first to Tokyo for the Quad meeting, then to the Pacific Islands and most recently to Indonesia, the No.1 agenda item was national security.

Two of the three big LNG joint ventures on the East Coast are already supplying 10 to 15 per cent of production to the domestic market anyway. Only Santos has difficulty.

To the second question, it is likely that more gas can be found than the sector cares to admit. This is where Labor needs to quickly get to know the bosses running the major oil and gas companies.

Business has a far more sophisticated understanding of the market. New Nationals leader David Littleproud says gas companies ride high in the stirrups and can see where the resource is accessible. Right now, that available spot gas sells for a terrific price on international markets.

This is where government jawboning around intervention comes in.

Last week, Energy Minister Chris Bowen branded the Coalition’s gas intervention mechanism as useless. But it was the threat of its use that has in the past squeezed more out of gas players.

This week Labor sensibly changed tack, ordering a review of the domestic gas security mechanism.

It is also a furphy that the pipeline bringing gas down is at capacity. It might have been at capacity on one day, but it is not at capacity at all times.

For new projects a gas domestic reservation plan seems sensible. Santos’ Narrabri gas project (which has been locked in red tape for nearly a decade) is all destined for the domestic market.

But the real urgency is to shore up coal-fired power where companies face every incentive to under-invest. Even coal supplies are running tight because miners can get much higher prices on the international market. So do coal generators lock in three-year coal contracts knowing there is risk of earlier closure as activist pressure continues?

Australia’s two biggest power players are under pressure. Origin’s accelerated closure of its ­Eraring coal-fired power station was on the premise that Snowy 2.0 would be up and running by 2025. It will not be. AGL has its own corporate crisis. Like politics, energy transition is the art of the possible and our political leaders are going to have to get their hands dirty.


The Teals are useless, powerless and irrelevant

I sometimes struggle with similes. If a person is said not to have any particular utility, there’s no shortage of idiomatic phrases available. Ashtrays on motorbikes. Pockets on singlets. Ejection seats in helicopters. But these tend to be clichĂ©. So, I’m going to settle on being as useful as a Teal independent in the parliament.

We saw the rise of the Teals at the federal election. I predicted their triumphs in Liberal blue-ribbon seats in Melbourne, Sydney and in Perth. We should have been immediately suspicious because truth be told, their rah-rah merch is more turquoise than teal. Alas, turquoise is a difficult spell – way too many vowels stuck together, and the plural form sounds clumsy.

See, I would have gone with Tree Tories but would have been shouted down in the focus group.

Much has been postulated about the rise of the Teals post-election. Demographers have scrambled to make sense of it and lapsed into furious disagreement. Some put it down to a shift to high density dwellings, the introduction of a new aspirational class of younger voters snapping up apartments and townhouses which might explain Kooyong and even Goldstein but in Mackellar not so much.

Others speak of global political trends towards progressivism among the professional classes combined with dwindling confidence in the major parties which might be right but a one off does not make a trend. It could easily be a blip.

Labor fretted and fingered the runes of electoral defeat in 2019 and flung policy overboard when it could have saved itself some angst and time in the post-match review and come up with two crisp words to understand it: Bill Shorten. Likewise, the Liberals might end their soul searching by the use of a similarly brief explanatory: Scott Morrison.

Conservative commentators and the odd conservative politician have determined these freshly turquoise-ed electorates lost once to the Liberals should be forsaken for ever more, left to their own devices, entire electorates reverted to p[arty political wastelands where candidates are pre-selected over a cucumber sandwich and herbal tea in a person’s loungeroom who claims he or she is a voice for the community.

The Teals are party that isn’t a party who aimed for the support of a critical demographic of forgotten people who drive Porsche Cayennes, enjoy negative gearing on their Sydney property portfolios, assorted middle class tax breaks on equity markets investments, have disposable income up the wah-zoo, and still think they’ve somehow been dudded by government.

Overall, the Teal phenomenon seems to be an assertion that the rich might be a waste of money, but the poor are a waste of time.

Now we come to the pointy end of the Teals’ political raison d’etre. Parliamentary politics. In what will surely be a crushing disappointment for the turquoise-bedecked, they find themselves stuck on a cross bench with Labor enjoying a workable majority on the floor of the House.

The first poignant reminder of their lack of political utility will come when they take their seats in the chamber no less than five metres away from Bob ‘The Hat’ Katter. Dispiriting for them, hugely amusing for the rest of us.

At the first sitting of the 47th Parliament, the Teals – nine of them in total, the freshly inducted members for Kooyong, Goldstein, Wentworth, North Sydney, Mackellar and Curtin will join the old salts already on a first-name basis with the staff at Aussies CafĂ©, the members for Clark, Indi and Warringah and maybe Mayo, too, depending on whether Rebekha Sharkie has shifted from the orange hue of the Centre Alliance or the more Zeitgeist packed turquoise.

And then down to business. The Teals have a trifecta of political purpose. The first is the Teals demand more parliamentary representation from women but of Labor’s 17 fresh faced MHRs, ten are women. Of Labor’s 77 seats in the chamber, 35 are women. Ten of the 23-member cabinet are women. This does smack of the Teals who aren’t a party being late to that particular party.

When it comes to the business of integrity, the Albanese government will create an independent anti-corruption commission. While the exact nature of the body is yet to find legislative form and will be subject to discussion and consultation across the parliament, the fact remains the Albanese government will have created it with or without the Teals.

And then we get to the biggie. Climate change. The Prime Minister has signalled an end to the climate wars, but no one seems to have told the Teals about the armistice. There is a global energy crisis driven in no small part by the conflict in Ukraine.

Resources Minister Madeleine King has said the solution to it is a sensible mix of coal, gas, and renewables.

“We need a sensible plan of action that looks at all the energy mix. That will be a combination of fossil fuel energy, coal for the moment, certainly gas for some time, but importantly renewables and hydro. Pitting them against each other or turning this into a political football – which we have done for far too long – has led us to this situation,” she told The Australian.

“My starting point is that all of our energy mix must be in the plan for the future. As things fluctuate, you have outages. The question becomes: how do we back them up? It’s gas right now. Will it be renewables in the future? It will, provided there’s proper investment and the battery storage capacity is built up.”

But there is little or no sign of flexibility coming from the turquoise sector on the crossbench, although Curtin’s Kate Cheney and Clark’s Andrew Wilkie seem at least to understand the nature of the problem.

Others, including Goldstein’s Zoe Daniel and Wentworth’s Allegra Spender are babbling about gas company profits. Being ideologically intractable puts any politician up there with the behaviour of the Greens (indeed there is no sign they have matured) who were walking expressions of the aphorism, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Should many or all of them remain uncompromising, the debate over the energy mix driven by raging power prices and gas supply shortages will simply pass the Teals by, their musings consigned to angry letters to the editor of the Guardian.


Hydrogen hot air

When Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declared in his election victory speech that his new government would work to make Australia ‘a green energy superpower’, those who knew anything about the problems involved groaned aloud.

Australia is already a major power in energy markets as it has vast reserves of coal and natural gas that other countries want, despite all the talk about net zero, and which can be easily transported. Renewable energy is different. Every country can generate its own energy, with equipment imported from China, and it is far more difficult to transport over long distances.

Admittedly some countries have less space for such activities, such as Singapore, Japan and the UK, but renewable energy activists are full of ideas for offshore wind generators and even floating generators, or photovoltaic panels on every rooftop and never mind what happens in the rainy season. They also all want to be energy superpowers, or ‘the Saudi Arabia of wind’ as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston put it when he announced plans to build yet more offshore wind turbines around the UK.

In other words, why would any country buy expensive energy from Australia when they can generate their own expensive energy, especially as the problems of transporting energy many thousands of kilometres from Australia wind farms and solar installations will add greatly to the cost of that energy?

This point was forcefully made by renewable energy advocate Andrew Blakers, a professor of engineering at the Australian National University, on the Conversation in early April. He says that the federal government has already set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to help create a major green hydrogen export industry, particularly to Japan, for which Australia signed an export deal in January. However, he also points out that Japan has more than enough solar and wind energy to be self-sufficient in energy and – assuming all that energy is harnessed – does not need to import either fossil fuels or Australian green hydrogen. Whether or not you agree with Professor Blakers that Japan can realistically meet all of its energy needs from local renewable energy the country can certainly generate hydrogen locally.

In fact, Japan is already doing so with a government-supported facility for producing hydrogen derived from a token 20 MW of solar power, which started operating in March 2020. (Major coal power plants generate 2,000 MW plus.) The resulting small parcels of the gas are shipped in hydrogen tube trailers to be used in stationary fuel-cell systems and in specially adapted cars and buses. This is hardly world shattering but it far more than Australia is doing at the moment. However, Japan has pledged to develop the first full-scale hydrogen supply chain and is interested in importing the fuel, having built the Suiso Frontier, the first ship in the world designed to carry hydrogen. This has shipped one load of hydrogen from Australia which was produced using steam and natural gas, the usual method of producing hydrogen for industrial processes and far cheaper than using electrolysis (sticking two bare ends of wire attached to the same power source into water).

The Suiso shipment in January attracted some media attention without the stories noting that the shipment only involved a test quantity of around 70 tonnes. A good-sized LNG carrier will take 72,000 tonnes. The exercise would also have represented a net power loss, for the process of making, condensing and shipping hydrogen is known to be technically challenging and wasteful.

Professor Blakers cites an estimate that converting energy to hydrogen, shipping it to where it is needed and then converting back into energy could consume 70 per cent of the energy generated. Michael Liebreich, a senior contributor to BloombergNEF (new energy finance) wrote in 2020 that as an energy storage medium, hydrogen has only a 50 per cent round-trip efficiency – far worse than batteries. As a source of heat, he estimates that hydrogen costs four times as much as natural gas. Hydrogen pipelines also cost three times as much as power lines.

Activists who talk so glibly about using hydrogen to store energy are no doubt thinking of liquid natural gas, which is now the basis of a thriving international trade using purpose-built container vessels. The international trade in LNG, in which Australia is a major player, started growing in the 1960s with the large-scale adoption of techniques for liquifying the gas in giant facilities called ‘trains’ and for keeping it liquid for long periods in what amounts to giant thermos bottles. LNG requires low temperatures, minus 160 degrees centigrade, but the gas itself is a source of energy and some of that energy can be used to power the liquification process. Once at that temperature the liquid form of the gas can be stored relatively safely at atmospheric pressures.

But hydrogen is not methane. It is a much smaller molecule so seals and pipes that would comfortably prevent methane leakage do not keep hydrogen in. The liquification temperature for hydrogen is also much lower, specifically minus 253 degrees centigrade or just 14 degrees above what physicists call absolute zero – you can’t get any colder – requiring considerably more energy to achieve and maintain. The Suiso Frontier cargo was liquified in a special facility that was powered from the grid. Hydrogen is also a considerably more dangerous gas than methane. Transmission lines are safer, but the same problem with demand arises. One group has been trying to raise interest in building a $16 billion transmission line from northern Australia to Singapore for years. But if the Singaporeans felt the need for intermittent energy why not take it from neighbouring Malaysia which also has all sorts of schemes to generate green energy and transmission would not be so expensive? While activists are on the subject, they could calculate just how much intermittent energy would have to be transmitted over the proposed line to justify the investment.

But as demonstrated by the suspension of senior HSBC executive Stuart Kirk by HSBC pending an internal investigation into a presentation he made at an event, the Financial Times Moral Money Summit, in late May, reality in renewable energy debate is not the issue. Kirk’s presentation, entitled ‘Why investors need not worry about climate risk,’ pointed out that most of the projections of economic loss due to climate change either have to fudge the figures or come up with numbers that are too small over the long periods involved to matter at all. Among other valid points in his presentation, Kirk likened the climate crisis to the Y2K bug that predicted a widespread computer glitch at the turn of the millennium and declared that ‘unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are always wrong’. But as far as the greens are concerned reality and economic analysis are simply not relevant.




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