Monday, October 31, 2022

Queensland title deeds no longer valid

This should be a big issue before the election especially in Queensland as it affects ALL property owners but hasn’t got any media coverage and not sure if other states have or will do the same.

Queenslanders can no longer prove property ownership using a Land Title certificate, even if they have one.

All land title certificates were cancelled by the by a new section (215 ) that was inserted into The Land, Explosives and Other Legislation amendment Act 2019 Queensland which not makes Land title Certificates legally void.

The new Section 215 in the Land Title Act 1994 states:

Certification of title cease to be instruments:

(1)  On the commencement, a certificate of title-
a)  Ceases to be an instrument under this Act; and
b)  Ceases to  be evidence, conclusive or otherwise, of the indefeasible title for the lot for which it was issued.


The amendment takes all the evidential power away from landowners and gives it to the state.

The state could alter your records, illegally, or a hacker could and you have not way of proving ownership unless your ownership rights were reinstated by a Court.

This amendment allows the State to prevent you from selling or buying property unless you comply with additional terms related to digital identify certification.

The Amendment was passed in Parliament on 06 April 2022.

<i>Via email from</i>


Netball Australia rescued by the Victorian taxpayer

The deal was announced on Monday morning by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan.

“Victoria is a proud sporting state and we are delighted to announce a new partnership with Visit Victoria,” Ryan said.

“The partnership will guarantee Victorians the opportunity to experience more netball across the next five years.

“This investment will benefit all levels of netball – from our pathway system to the Suncorp Super Netball League and the Origin Australian Diamonds.”

The $15 million partnership will run over four and a half years.

The Diamonds will wear Victorian branding on their kit for home and away fixtures and all staff will take part in tourism campaigns for the state.

It was also confirmed that the 2023 Grand Final will be played in Victoria as part of the agreement.

“We are really thrilled today to be able to announce a four and a half year sponsorship deal where Visit Victoria will become a significant sponsor for the Australian Diamonds netball team,” Andrews said.

“This is a coup for our state. This is all about supporting netball.”

Mr Andrews said other states and private companies were competing for the deal, with Victoria putting forward a “very competitive” bid.

The Premier stood by the $15m deal, despite Victoria’s mid-financial-year update revealing the state is on course to record a $9.7b deficit in 2022-23.

“Netball boasts the highest level of participation among young women (of) any sport in Australia – and as one of the nation’s most popular national teams, the Diamonds are an inspiration for women and girls across all levels of sport.

“We’ve already supported netball very, very strongly. We know how important that is. And to be able to have the world’s very best netball team wearing our logo projecting all that we offer to the world and to the rest of our country is absolutely fantastic.

“From a grassroots level all the way through to attracting more and more visitors to our state tourism is such an important part of the Victorian economy.

“(It is) great for jobs, great for investment, and obviously fantastic for netball and female participation.

“It is unique, it’s absolutely fantastic and a really big win for Victorian jobs and our tourism sector.”

The news comes just over a week after a player revolt forced Rinehart to revoke her sponsorship of the team.

It is understood that players were uncomfortable with the company’s links to the abhorrent, racist views expressed by Rinehart’s father and Hancock Prospecting’s founder Lang Hancock.

Members of the Australian side refused to wear the new sponsor’s logo on their uniforms in the series against England.

“Reports of a protest on the part of the players, on environmental grounds and a split within the playing group are incorrect,” the players’ statement read. “The singular issue of concern to the players was one of support for our only Indigenous team member.”

The Victorian lifeline will be welcome relief to Netball Australia after Ryan last week alluded to financial issues soaring if Hancock’s decision prompted others to walk away.


Superannuation  delusions: Future retirees risk being shortchanged by politically correct fund management

In an interview with Company Director, the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ magazine, Dr Don Russell, chair of AustralianSuper, says, ‘Being able to influence companies in their decisions around board governance, climate risk and disclosures, are all mechanisms we see as improving investment returns.’

‘We’re heavily engaged in that because we think it lowers the risk associated with everything we’re invested in.’

Well, with 2.5 million accounts, a quarter of a trillion dollars under management and $650 million a month in new contributions, no one can doubt this fund has clout. Nor that much of that clout, whatever the investment returns, comes from increasing payments from the same companies Dr Russell seeks to influence. Having started at three per cent of workers’ salaries, these are soon to rise to twelve per cent.

As a principal adviser to former prime minister Paul Keating, Dr Russell helped design the compulsory scheme. No doubt he and Mr Keating knew what an enduring gift it would be to their friends in the trade union movement. And what a gift it has proven to be!

In three decades it has enabled a handful of unions and employer associations, with no capital backing, to account for around 30 per cent of Australia’s $3.1 trillion superannuation assets, earning some $30 billion a year in fees. This firepower has greatly leveraged organised labour’s capacity to influence boardrooms through shareholder activism.

Unions also benefit from sponsorships and advertising deals which aim to encourage workers to join their funds. According to the Financial Services Royal Commission, while not itemised, these inducements totalled more than $30 million in the five years to 2019. Unions are also believed to receive fees of around $14 million a year, paid nominally to its appointed directors.

Former union apparatchik and current federal assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, ignores calls for improvements in reporting standards. He believes annual aggregate disclosures of political donations and, payments to trade unions and industry bodies is sufficient.

Unsurprisingly, the cosy relationship between industry funds, trade unions and government, leads to suspicions of personal indulgences and cover-ups. No matter the truth, this cartel exerts an unhealthy influence on capital allocations.

And while union nominees on fund boards have responsibility for a substantial slice of workers’ life savings, they remain relatively unknown. After all, workers see superannuation contributions as a tax paying for something they will receive in the remote future and this detachment means fund executives on multimillion-dollar salaries and performance bonuses are rarely held to account.

The absence of transparency and accountability seems inconsistent with many of the ESG governance principles espoused by Dr Russell. Nevertheless, this doesn’t preclude AustralianSuper from closely monitoring external managers to ensure they adhere to its strict protocols. Indeed, rather than exert indirect control, AustralianSuper has already brought management of half its assets in-house.

Dr Russell believes this strict ESG approach enhances the equity portfolio’s performance. ‘We’ve built concentrated portfolios and developed skills and capabilities to understand a whole range of Australian businesses,’ he says, ‘Part of that understanding is based around an understanding of how these companies deal with climate risk and other ESG matters.’

On climate, AustralianSuper is committed across its portfolio to net-zero emissions by 2050. But what does this mean? According to consultancy McKinsey, ‘trillions of dollars need to be spent every year for almost three decades to hit net zero targets’. Is AustralianSuper’s commitment open-ended? Has it considered the long-tail risks to its members’ savings from constant capital misallocation? Have AustralianSuper and its likeminded peers forgotten the old Wall Street adage, ‘When all the experts and forecasts agree – something else is going to happen’?

Already, too many alarmist climate predictions, advertised as based on authoritative modelling, have proven false. It is surely only a matter of time before the public weighs the crippling economic and social costs of environmental policies against environmental progress. Retirees will begin to question who gave the mandate for superannuation assets to be so heavily weighted in essentially moral crusades. What about eggs and baskets and a case for compensation?

By inserting themselves into boardrooms, industry funds and their friends in government have blurred the line between management and ownership. They are getting in the way of what Milton Friedman argued was the ‘one and, only one, social responsibility of business, to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it… engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud’.

Despite Dr Russell’s claims of inherent ESG out-performance, several studies have questioned any causal link, saying it can be explained by other factors. For example, technology and asset-light companies are often among broader market leaders in ESG ratings because they have a relatively low carbon footprint. These tend to merit higher ESG scores and, through weight of buying, initially achieve a self-fulfilling out-performance. But, as the director of one fund declared, ‘There is no ESG alpha,’ or, sustained outsize market return.

Nevertheless, Dr Russell and many of his powerful peers, insist on micro-managing the companies they invest in. The boards in turn obey, spending valuable board and management time on unproductive navel gazing and redirecting investments into ‘safe’ assets. Innovation is shunned.

Strikingly, net zero 2050 and, ESG more generally, seem to be peculiarly Western preoccupations. China is not so obsessed. Rather, it is massively boosting coal production to keep electricity supplies reliable, prices low and manufactured products internationally competitive. Chinese leaders remain clear-eyed and are thoroughly practised in the art of climate-change arbitrage. BMW’s decision to move manufacture of Minis to China highlights Beijing’s wisdom.

This is not to argue against prudent governance. But it is to warn that a cartel, comprised of big government, ideologically driven investors and obedient businesses, is concentrating risk based on what may yet prove to be a popular delusion. Future retirees would have good reason to feel betrayed.


No longer a British nation?

Australians will get to have their say on whether they want a republic, as the Albanese government makes plans to tour the nation to discuss the possible referendum.

Assistant Minister for the Republic Matt Thistlethwaite will be meeting with multicultural representatives in Townsville on Tuesday and speaking with Australians about their thoughts on splitting away from the monarchy.

He has previously emphasised that Australia is “no longer a British nation”.

Australia last voted against becoming a republic in 1999 after the majority said they wished to stay under British rule.

While the official listening tour doesn’t begin until early 2023, Mr Thistlethwaite’s office told NCA NewsWire the minister would be starting the conversation early by speaking with a multicultural support group in Townsville on Tuesday.

Representatives from the Indian community, the Townsville Islamic Society, the Central African Republic Association and members from the Ukrainian community are expected to share their thoughts on the referendum.

Speaking at a republic event in Melbourne on October 12, Mr Thistlethwaite said it was time for Australians to consider their options when it came to Australia being a republic.

“We are no longer a British nation,” Mr Thistlewaite said.

“We should reflect our unique culture, our unique identify by finally having one of our own as our head of state to represent who we are in modern day Australia.

“We are out of practice when it comes to constitutional reform and it is a long journey that we are now taking.

“The Australia of modern today is a very, very different nation. “We are a multicultural nation, either 50 per cent of Australians are either born overseas or have a parent overseas.

“We are a nation that is economically linked to the Asia-Pacific region.

“We get our security relationship through ANZUS Alliance with the United States and New Zealand.”

Speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald on October 30, Mr Thistlethwaite said he wanted to speak to people who were unsure which way they’d vote if a referendum was called in the future.

The government has flagged it will work towards launching a republic referendum should it win the next election.

“We’re on a journey to maturing and becoming independent,” Mr Thistlethwaite said.

“The first step is a Voice to Parliament … and the second is an Australian head of state. I’m doing the legwork and work behind the scenes to make sure that second step is a success.

“This consultation is part of that.

“I don’t want to hear from people who are republicans. I want to hear from Australians who are undecided or voted no in 1999, and I want to hear the reason they voted no and what arguments will help them get them across the line.”

Australian Monarchist League chairman Eric Abetz told ABC Newson Monday that the listening tour was a “con”.

“This is not a consultation, but a con to the Australian people,” the former Coalition senator said.

“What he’s doing is using Australian taxpayer resources to fund a three-year campaign to try to promote to the Australian people something they don’t want or need.

“The democracy that we have in Australia works exceptionally well. Indeed, in the democracy index of the world, of the top five democracies, four of them are constitutional monarchies. I think that speaks for itself as to how well constitutional monarchies operate.”

The Attorney-General’s Department is expected to run the consultation.




Sunday, October 30, 2022

Mayor leads push to bring back Queenslander-style homes in flood-prone regions

Traditional Queensland timber homes are very prestigious in Brisbane.  I live in one. Vast sums are being spent by their owners to renovate them. Building new ones is a problem, however.  They were built when timber was cheap.  It is no longer.  New ones would cost a bomb

Homes on stumps – such as the traditional Queenslander-style house – would be built in place of concrete-slab developments under a push from local government to boost flood resilience.

Townsville City Council – led by Mayor Jenny Hill – is calling for local governments to have more powers to block slab-on-ground developments in high-risk flood zones.
Fellow councils have backed the move, with a motion passing at a recent Local Government Association of Queensland conference calling for the state government to introduce law changes.

“When you looked at Townsville, in a lot of the older areas, people built on stilts,” Ms Hill said.

“And when we went through some of the flooded areas in 2019, a lot of people who were in highset homes that particularly hadn’t built in underneath were able to stay in place for the few days required until the water levels got down.”

Deputy Premier and Planning Minister Steven Miles said councils had existing powers to stop development in flood areas, but he was open to ideas on how to bolster them.

Ms Hill said the “Queenslander” home was a great example of what could be built instead of slabs – pointing out that they were constructed on stumps with water able to flow through. She also suggested building codes needed to change to ensure homes could be built in a certain way.

The motion that passed the LGAQ conference called on the state to make law changes to allow councils to prevent slab-on-ground developments in areas where “sufficiently detailed mapping” showed there was a high flood risk.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said his council asked for proposed housing developments in flood-prone areas to be lifted as part of their planning rules.

“But I guess this particular LGAQ motion points out … there is very little prohibited development in Queensland,” Mr Schrinner said.

“By prohibiting certain types of things in the planning scheme, it gives councils more power when it comes to unacceptable development outcomes.

“People have, I think, over time, lost the reason why the ‘Queenslander’ house was the ‘Queenslander’ house. “It was designed for our climate, for our challenges, for flood-prone areas – and that’s why ‘Queenslanders’ were on stilts effectively, and not on a slab on the ground.” 

Mr Miles said that local councils, through their planning schemes, were already able to set minimum floor levels or ensure that development did not occur in flood areas.

“That said, I’ll always consider feedback from councils and will ask my department to look at ways this can be streamlined,” Mr Miles said.

“We’re also working to make our communities more resilient to flooding.

“For example, following flooding across (the) southeast earlier this year, the $741m Resilient Homes Fund includes retrofitting or raising single-storey existing housing.


Petticoat tyrants running faculty recruitment in Australin universities

Males need not apply for many university teaching jobs

ANU is not alone with its women-only recruiting. Swarms of other universities are at it too. Australia’s 40-year legal progress towards equal opportunity for males and females is white-anted by these progressive academics (the same ones who aren’t sure who’s a woman in the first place). Their flimsy rationale is to level up the sex ratios in their fields.

How successful are the women-only ads at hoovering up qualified women? Not very, apparently.

In November, the RMIT node [2] of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems provided feedback from its “women-only recruitment round”. This involved 13 women-only jobs and two “First Nations” slots (any gender). Maybe “First Nations” males in academia count as honorary females. Using the insane leftist jargon now blanketing academia, Chief Operations Officer Dr Mary Gray began by announcing how

“Patriarchy and racism are systems that exclude women, people of colour, and those living with disability from accessing the full benefits of the post-industrialised workforce.”

I feel sorry for Dr Gray because her centre rashly set a target of 40 per cent woman researchers by 2026 and now “we are being held accountable to this target by the Australian Research Council.”

Her recruitment exercise included beating away pathetic male optical physicists and engineers, many of whom — desperate for consideration — insisted on applying anyway. Qualified women hung back, needing strokes and reassurance, forcing the recruiters into what Dr Gray called “dozens and dozens of conversations.” In the end they got 311 applicants and filled a meagre five positions with women (37.5% of the advertised jobs). “We consider this an outstanding achievement, especially in the context of 2020!” she wrote, referring to covid issues.

Their attempt to fill an Aboriginal-only optics job at ANU was aborted as just too hard. I guess Aborigines with transformative meta-optical expertise aren’t all that thick on the ground, even in Canberra let alone Wadeye. Dr Gray says that on the challenge of recruiting women

"We appear to be in a position of an ugly compromise between delivering on our scientific objectives and building our diverse workforce. Globally there are enough women, with the right expertise to fill every single postdoctoral position in our Centre! However, Australia has been one of the world’s most locked-down countries globally and, in our disciplines, we are reliant on the international job market. Effectively, the pandemic has reduced the flow of new postdoctoral students and researchers into Australia to a trickle and competition is fierce to obtain women researchers. 

The competition is excellent for women, which we applaud … In practice, we have struggled to stick to our gender target in 2021. We must keep proving that it doesn’t have to be research goals versus diversity goals. The big picture objectives of building a diverse workforce for research excellence and the creation of transformative technologies in meta-optics is paramount. Integrity, accountability, and taking steps forward to recruit more women when international travel resumes is a priority for 2022 and 2023."

All this women-only monopolisation might be lawful, but it doesn’t pass the pub test. The legislative loophole was designed, according to the Human Rights Commission, for helping groups “who face, or have faced, entrenched discrimination so they can have similar access to opportunities as others in the community.” ANU-wise, there aren’t a lot of women, women-identifiers and LGBTQIA+s with space-optic ambitions now sleeping rough in Petrie Plaza after being cruelly knocked back for space jobs. Probably young women just don’t care about space-optics, and gravitate instead to school-teaching, law, health careers or Virgilian poetics.

There’s no university push to encourage males into female-dominated sectors, let alone go the whole hog and offer male-only student admissions and male-only faculty positions. More on that aspect shortly.

You might be wondering how the female-only ads square with equal opportunity – considering that they give males zero opportunity. Well, all the various Acts have permitted exemptions or “special measures”, originally intended for women’s refuge staffers or corsetiers and the like. They were uncontroversial despite their broad wording.

For example, the Federal Sex Discrimination Act has a get-out clause (7D) saying an employer “may take special measures for the purpose of achieving substantive equality between men and women” and between, for example, “women who are breastfeeding and people who are not breastfeeding.” [Disclosure of interest: I am among the “people who are not breastfeeding”].

The Victorian Act equivalent, similarly, says (S12) “special measures” are “for the purpose of promoting or realising substantive equality for members of a group with a particular attribute.”

From 2015 the universities began using the loophole for their women-only ads. Initially, there were doubts in legal circles that they’d get away with it. Employers in Victoria invoking the “special measures” in effect got a letter of comfort from Victoria’s Equal (sic) Opportunity and Human [i.e. Female] Rights Commission as follows:

“A university may identify an inequality – that women are under-represented in its academic workforce within a particular faculty. The causes of the under-representation may include a lack of female candidates for positions, a lack of female academic staff to act as role models, unconscious bias in recruitment practices or other societal and organisational-specific factors.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission defined “identified positions” , e.g. for women only, as helping “people who experience disadvantage to access equal opportunity in employment.” In fact, a woman associate professor ensconced in a useless gender studies department suffers no disadvantage over not being in a STEM area. The women-only push is coming from employers who feel disadvantaged by having too many blokes around. No bragging rights there. The Victorian commission in a case study actually rules out a co-ed high school offering an academic scholarship for girls under 14, on the basis that such girls don’t have any disadvantage and the school is really just doing a marketing exercise to attract girl students.[3] 

Note that the Victorian HR Commission has shown no interest that in Victoria in 2019, male students were only 24% in university school-education courses (27% nationally), 27% in health (26%), and 31% in “Society and Culture” (34%), according to  data from the federal Department of Education. In the hot-button field of “natural and physical sciences”, women students are well represented nationally at 51%. Conversely, they’re slightly under-represented in management/commerce (46%) and architecture (41%), and greatly under-represented in IT (19%), and engineering (18%).

Overall, universities have become bastions for female students. For domestic (non-overseas) undergrad and post-grad students (total 1.086m in 2019), the ratio is 59% females to 41% males. Yet universities continue to cosset female students with “women’s centres” and other privileges not offered to males.

In pre-school teaching, males nationally comprise a near-invisible 2% versus females’ 98%, according to last year’s census.[4]

WA sports a mere 27 men pre-school teachers vs 3507 women; NSW and Victoria combined muster a mere 448 men pre-school teachers vs 16,768 women. Not much of that oh-so-necessary “diversity and inclusion” there. But imagine the clamour from feminists if a pre-school tried to correct these gross imbalances via “men-only” recruitment ads. Indeed, men seeking pre-school and primary teaching roles would have a valid case of discrimination, given the general unfounded fear that they might sexually abuse children. (Another reason they’re opting out is that the only other male employee is often just the gardener). In school teaching, the lack of male teachers is not only concerning but deteriorates annually. Overall, males have slipped in 50 years from 41.3% to barely 28%. ABS 2021 data show that male primary teachers were 20.2% in 2006, decreasing annually to a mere 18.0% last year. In secondary teaching, males have slipped from 43.4% in 2006 to 38.8% last year.

Universities advertising for women-only and gender-diverse-only positions will soon be the new normal. Move along, nothing to see here. You “cis males” can just suck it up. The petticoat tyrants are on the march!


Why an Australian woman does NOT want transgenders competing against biological females who are being 'sacrificed on the altar of woke'

Popular YouTube right-wing pundit Sydney Watson says allowing gender transitioned women who have gone through male puberty to compete in female sports is 'crazy'.

The Melbourne-raised commentator, who has nearly 800,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, said female athletes are being sacrificed 'on the altar of woke' by having to compete with biological men.

Ms Watson, who is visiting family in Australia but has lived in the US since 2019, says that she will calls a trans person by their preferred pronoun but won't pretend they are something they are not.

'I think it's pretty simple, I think there are two sexes male and female,' she told Daily Mail Australia. 'Are trans women women? No,' she said.

'There's an inescapable biological reality that I am not going to deny simply because it makes them feel better.  'We have understood that men and women are fundamentally different for hundreds and hundreds of years. 'They are different, we are different. 

'The fact we deny this in order to appease a very, very small portion of the population and an even smaller proportion of the population who can afford it (to transition) is crazy. 

The 29-year-old said she 'feels' for trans women who can't compete in their sport because 'they don't neatly fit into either category anymore' but that did not make them women.

'You have these biological men, who go through a male puberty and people will not admit this and I do not know why,' she said. 'It is so crazy to me. 

'I realise it is an evolving topic and it is not easy to deal with but I don't think that sacrificing women on the altar of woke is the way to go.' 

She pointed to the examples of trans New Zealand weight lifter Laurel Hubbard, who was the first Kiwi to win international weight-lifting competitions, and US trans swimmer Lia Thomas, who won a national college title in March. 

'For these and other people to absolutely smash their female competitors it is just so regressive,' Ms Watson said.

'They think that's somehow being positive for women and then to post their names and say they are woman of athlete of the year - you're not a woman.' 

Ms Watson said she had no issue with people transitioning and would use the pronouns that people requested or best fit their appearance. 

 'If you are adult and you are making your own choices and it doesn't affect me and I don't have to pay for it and you want me to call you a male or female, he or she, man or woman I will do that for you,' she said.

'But I am not going to say "hey guy, you can participate in female sports if you have gone through male puberty and transitioned after the fact".

'I am not going to say "hey you male, who is completely intact but now identifies as a woman, come into my changerooms".' 

Ms Watson argued that such trans behaviour was actually 'the erasure of women'.

She also thinks that, paradoxically, gender preconceptions are being reinforced by the trans activists.

'In this quest to dismantle stereotypes the regressive left and the trans rights activist movement have actually enforced their stereotypes,' she said. 

'So, if a girl like Tonka trucks, the colour blue, wears baseball caps and plays sports there is a cohort of parents who say "my kid is trans" rather than "hey, my kid really likes that stuff and I am just going to let her do it because it is what she likes".' 

Ms Watson described herself as a utilitarian that wants 'things to make sense'.

'Let's say you have a transgender sports person who is devastated because they love their sport and they can't really play anymore because they have transitioned and they are on hormones it has shifted the game for them,' she said.

'I think we can have compassion for people who don't feel comfortable in their skin, however there is a bigger mental issue at play.

'What these (trans) advocates are advocating for is affecting kids, it's affecting women. it's putting women in danger in some cases it's harming others and I just think why do their interests supersede the rest of the population.'

Ms Watson said that it was important to keep trans issues in perspective. 

'I think the fact that the transexual conversation dominates every area of life and we are expected to walk on eggshells around these people to me is not appropriate,' she said.

'The vast majority of the population does not participate in this and you can sympathise and have empathy but letting them dictate the way we live our lives the language that we use I don't think that is OK.'


Rogue insurers

She was in a bad way when I first spoke to her. “I’m frightened of everything”, she said, crying.

Linda and her husband, Harry, are in their eighties. Two years ago a violent storm sent a huge tree crashing through the roof of their home. Luckily they were unhurt, yet their home was unliveable.

Thankfully, for years they’d diligently paid their home insurance. Even better, it was ‘replacement cover’, which entitled them to a new roof. Or at least it should have.

Instead, the insurance company offered the elderly pensioners a cash settlement. The first offer was for $80,000.

When they rejected it, the insurance company came back with $120,000. They still rejected it. You see, they didn’t want the money – they wanted the insurance company to fix their bloody roof! Yet when they rejected that offer, they were basically put on the bottom of the pile, and ignored.

A few months later Linda tragically lost Harry, the love of her life and her protector. And so for the past 18 months she’s been living alone in temporary accommodation.

“All I want is to move back into my home and feel like I’m around my husband”, she sobbed.

Now generally I like to approach my financial counselling work with a collaborative mindset. Yet this time, the sage advice of my mate Darren (an old chestnut farmer) was ringing in my ears:

“Look, everyone throws around some fertiliser, so you should be gentle most of the time. Yet every now and again you just need to pull out your pruning shears and cut off some nuts.”

So, with pruning shears in hand, I called up the insurance company and started negotiating. Hard.

When it went up the chain, they realised very quickly how badly they’d screwed this one up. And then we waited.

And then they came back with an offer. But this time it wasn’t $120,000 …

It was $370,000 (it turns out it was indeed a total structural write-off). Plus an extra $50,000 for being total jerks.




Friday, October 28, 2022

Cheap renewables, rising power bills?

James Macpherson

I cannot work out which is more incredible – the claims this government makes, or the fact that this government expects Australians to believe their claims.

Labor continually promises to reduce cost of living while increasing the cost of living.

Their strategy to lower prices is to increase prices.

If I could afford to laugh, I would.

Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, the Prime Minister chants zombie-like, as prices rise in direct proportion to his use of renewable energy.

I swear, every time he utters the words ‘renewable energy’, my power bill goes up.

Australians are caught in a kind of twilight zone where we are continually told to expect cheaper power while continually told to expect more expensive power.

Oh, but don’t worry, you’ll still get that promised $275 cut to your power bill. It’s just that your power bill will have gone up by a couple of thousand dollars before Labor cut it by a couple of hundred dollars.

The Prime Minister will then claim, with a straight face, that he has saved us money. And my teenage son worries that he is the one struggling with math!

This is a government that believes it can keep global temperatures in check when it can’t even keep a $275 promise to struggling families in the suburbs.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers explained today that the delay in providing the promised cut was due to a flaw in the modelling. ‘That model was done in 2021, and it referred to an outcome in 2025,’ he said.

But don’t worry, the government’s modelling about how taxing cow farts will stop the warming of the planet and the rising of the oceans is totally legit!

This Labor government insists that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, or at least it will be, just as soon as they spend another $10 billion of your money here, and another $10 billion there.

How much will it cost taxpayers to end up with cheap power? The answer is always the same. Just a little bit more.

If you believe the government’s obsession with intermittent energy will deliver cheap power, you have the one prerequisite necessary to do energy minister Chris Bowen’s job – wishful thinking.

Expect him to provide a unicorn with your next power bill.


The perverse obsession of BHP with environmental correctnes

It’s known as ‘The Big Australian’, but is BHP really just the ‘Lucky Company’; the corporate version of Donald Horne’s 1964 book describing Australia as ‘a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck’?

BHP has been rescued from its China-prompted iron ore doldrums by soaring prices for fossil fuels due to the Ukraine war’s energy crisis, with the hated coal providing the largest slice of BHP’s 2021-22 record profit. This is despite its woke board’s faithful adherence, in both word and deed, to the anti-CO2 dogma that has exacerbated this Western-world crisis (while authoritarian states like Russia and China wallow in mounting emissions) by the premature shut-down of power stations, the blocking of investment in base-load energy and the construction of bureaucratic and legal obstacles to fossil fuel developments.

BHP’s enthusiastic embrace of the gospel according to Saint Greta has led it, among many other errors, to what the Australian Financial Review last week classified as ‘the worst deal of the year’ where, in order to demonstrate its climate purity, it sold its interest in a coal mine in Columbia for what the AFR describes as ‘virtually nothing’ to Glencore – which this year expects to collect earnings from it of about $US4 billion. As London’s Investors’ Chronicle, with traditional under-statement, noted: ‘Recent deals mean that BHP has not fully enjoyed the bull market for coal’, observing that it also got rid of its 80 per cent stake in BMC, the joint Queensland venture with Mitsui, whose full-year earnings approached $US2 billion. At this rate, it will not take long for the Indonesian-controlled purchaser, Stanmore Resources to pay off, out of earnings, the modest $1.8 billion it cost.

In the same climate cause, BHP tried desperately for years to get rid of its NSW energy coal mines, but, in the absence of adequate bids, was forced to keep them open. The result has been a welcome boost to BHP group earnings in the 2021-22 financial year of a record $2 billion as the average prices received of $US217 a tonne provided a huge profit over costs of only $US71. Principles are one thing; money in the bank is another. So not only will BHP retain these energy coal assets until their licences expire in 2026, relevant approvals are being sought to extend their life to 2030.

On top of all this fiscal self-harm (and unsuccessful attempts at it) BHP also took the major anti-fossil-fuel step of ridding itself of its oil and gas assets in a $41 billion deal with Woodside that saw their ownership effectively transferred from BHP to entitled BHP shareholders via the gift of Woodside shares. In keeping with BHP’s past form, its former assets participated in a record profit as Woodside’s doubling of production from the acquisition of BHP’s assets and a doubling of LNG prices enabled revenue for 2022’s September quarter to soar by 272 per cent to $9.3 billion.

But these ‘lost’ revenues do not involve any destruction of shareholders’ funds as did BHP’s last major deal, the onshore US oil and gas shale venture into which it ploughed upwards of $50 billion since acquisition in 2011 before selling out for $15 billion four years ago. BHP’s previous big US investment, in copper, was also a financial disaster. That is why ‘caution’ is the key word when BHP, now flush with funds, is in acquisition mode. It has just made a rejected $8.4 billion bid for OZ Minerals in its search to expand its interests in the commodities set to benefit from a low-carbon future, like copper and lithium.

Unsurprisingly, and despite BHP’s disposal of much of its fossil-fuel assets, there are concerns about BHP’s status in ESG portfolios as long as coal remains its major single earner. And despite BHP’s continual obsequious observance of climate purity, the true believers are unimpressed by BHP’s bountiful returns from coal, with the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility critical not only of BHP’s current coal profits but also its progressing of a number of new coal mines and expansions in its Queensland joint venture with Mitsubishi, ‘including pursuit of a staggering 90-year licence for the Blackwater South mine’.

Whether these will proceed is far from certain. Even though CEO Mike Henry told investment analysts last month that while he sees ‘lots of opportunity yet to be unlocked in the coal business,… BHP will not be deploying any major capital into the Queensland coal business in the face of the recent royalty changes [by the Queensland government] and the way they were gone about….We are building a range of options…Queensland is not going to be at the front of the queue’.

The ACCR also questions BHP’s ‘good faith with regard to the urgent need to decarbonise the steel sector’, following BHP’s stated view that, despite the push for hydrogen processing, ‘blast furnace iron making, which depends on coke made from metallurgical coal, is unlikely to be displaced at scale by emergent technologies this half century’.

Nevertheless, the metallurgical-grade coal export industry faces a difficult and uncertain period ahead, with international economic and political problems. In addition, BHP claims ‘The regulatory environment has become less conducive to long-life capital investment in Queensland coal’ (the world’s premier source) even though ‘the advantages of highest quality coking coals with respect to greenhouse gas emissions will be increasingly apparent as carbon pricing becomes more pervasive’.

So what sort of company will the Big Australian become if it does replace its financially rewarding coal with any of its range of options? Potash in Canada is its current big-ticket punt. Bloomberg speculated earlier this year that, after sitting dormant for more than a decade (presumably waiting for burnt fingers to heal) BHP is positioning itself for a return to large-scale mergers and acquisitions.

But rather than mining the market in a search for financial jewels, how about looking at upgrading its bulk commodities into products – and transforming the Lucky Company into the Clever one. With ESG now more important than profit to BHP, why not?


Just when you thought energy plans couldn’t get any worse ... Dan Andrews horns in

Judith Sloan

Last week I wrote about the tipping point that the National Electricity Market is facing. Beset by the early withdrawal of coal-fired plants, which still supply between 60 and 70 per cent of all the required electrons, there is a very real danger that the system will collapse without the required firming/dispatchable capacity. The best-case scenario is much higher prices and intermittent blackouts and brownouts, hardship for many consumers and the closure of energy-intensive businesses.

But I clearly spoke too soon because the announcements of Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, in full election campaigning mode, made the dangers both more imminent and more serious. In his infinite wisdom – pause here for predictable chuckle – he has decided that he wants to recreate the state-owned State Electricity Commission which was broken up and sold off over 30 years ago, for seriously big bucks.

Now at the time, the SECV was a typical bloated bureaucracy whose operations included electricity generation, transmission and distribution, and retailing. Subject to frequent industrial action by the highly unionised workforce, it’s not clear that its demise was lamented by anyone with an interest in the delivery of efficient and affordable electricity in Victoria. Electricity prices fell significantly after the sale.

Towards the end of its existence, the SECV engaged in, or was forced to engage in, some dodgy dealings with the Cain/Kirner Labor government, including the raising of debt finance that was really just intended to cover the government’s daily expense needs. Those were the days.

But now Dan the Man has other ideas. He wants to resurrect the SECV, with the state government as majority owner and the other 49 per cent held by private interests. The intention is for the Victorian government to hand over $1 billion initially to the new organisation – which is peanuts, by the way, in this context. Mind you, given the heavy indebtedness of the Victorian government at the moment (over $160 billion), even another billion is a stretch.

As for the private partners, Dan has specified industry super funds as his preferred team mates. Evidently they have a social conscience and he thinks they will be interested in investing in renewable energy as well as delivering lower prices for Victorian consumers. Former federal treasurer, Wayne Swan – remember him, probably best to forget – who is now the ‘independent’ chair of one of the largest industry super funds, Cbus, was quick out of the blocks to endorse the idea.

But here’s the thing: superannuation funds are legally bound by a sole purpose test to maximise the retirement incomes of their members. There is nothing about having a social conscience, whatever that means. The very idea that a national industry super fund like Cbus would be interested in delivering lower electricity prices to Victorian consumers at the expense of investment returns should be quickly dismissed by all fund trustees.

This is yet another example of superannuation being used as a plaything by Labor governments. Albo and his team were initially very keen on the idea of industry super funds investing in social housing until it was pointed out to them that social housing involves below-market rents and is bound to make very low returns. It is interesting to note in this context that Homes Victoria, which manages Victoria’s social – once called public – housing stock, is completely broke and, by rights, should be declared insolvent.

Now apart from the thought-bubble of resurrecting the SECV, Dan thinks he’s on to a popular electoral pitch by upping the emissions-reduction targets of his state. He wants to legislate a cut of between 75 and 80 per cent by 2035 (from 2005) involving 95 per cent of electricity being generated in Victoria from renewable energy. And for good measure, the net-zero target will be brought forward to 2045.

You might think this is totally insane, but we must assume that the focus groups are telling his massive media department that this sort of ‘aggressive action against climate change’ still resonates with voters, particularly those in seats that might otherwise fall to the Greens or Teals. And while there have been some rises in electricity prices, they are small beer compared with what is to come.

Needless to say, all of Victoria’s coal-fired power plants will be closed by 2035, including the relatively new Long Yang A and Loy Yang B plants. In point of fact, these brown-coal-fired plants could prove extremely useful economically because brown coal is not a traded commodity and their principal input price is not affected by international events.

An economically rational option would be to keep them going and to buy offsets to accommodate them within an emissions-reduction framework. But ‘economically rational’ and ‘the Andrews’ government’, including the bungling energy minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, cannot be put into the one sentence.

Indeed, one of the most blatantly hypocritical decisions taken by any government has been the secret financial deal that the Victorian government has entered into with Energy Australia to pay the company to keep the brown-coal-fired Yallourn plant going until at least 2028. It is impossible to find out any details of the contract and the sum of monies involved. The suspicion is that the costs are being borne by taxpayers rather than electricity consumers.

When it came to the option of creating a capacity market for the broader NEM – the Yallourn deal is just a special capacity mechanism, after all – Victoria was loudest in its opposition, vetoing the use of any fossil fuels. At this stage, there is no prospect of a broader capacity market being introduced.

The hugely indebted Victorian government is also throwing money at the Marinus interconnector with Tasmania, notwithstanding the abundance of private investment money for regulated assets. It is also keen to rush the VNI-West Kerang link to New South Wales. Without being able to access electricity in greater licks from other states, even Andrews knows that Victoria is stuffed if his plans go ahead.

But just like you can’t hurry love, it’s impossible to hurry these large transmission projects, in part because of local objections and the need to obtain easements, but also because of shortages of materials and workers. Of course, Dan will be gone by the time the shit really hits the fan, probably chairing some industry super fund and meeting up with his wealthy mates.

The real tragedy however is the complete inability of the Victorian opposition to land a glove on him in the meantime.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


The inconvenient truth about electric cars

Prices are going UP, not down -- largely because battery prices are going up too

Rising battery costs are pushing up the price of electric vehicles, dampening hopes that they could close the gap to petrol vehicles by the turn of the decade.

Experts had tipped that EVs would cost the same as their petrol equivalents by 2030 as battery production scales up and economies of scale kick in.

But rising raw material prices are driving up the cost of batteries, and most EV makers have hiked up prices in the past year.

This week, Hyundai’s luxury offshoot Genesis, launched its GV70 large electric SUV at a higher price than originally predicted. In May, the brand said the EV would be priced between $105,000 and $115,000 plus on-road costs, but that has blown out to $127,800, or about $138,500 drive-away.

The brand is not alone in hiking prices.

Tesla increased the price of its Model Y SUV by $3000 to $72,300 (before on-road costs) within days of launching it in June, while rivals the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 have also had multiple price rises in the past few months.

The Kia EV6, which launched at the beginning of this year, has risen from $67,990 (before on-road costs) to $72,590 in October for the cheapest model.

Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 Techniq AWD variant cost $75,900 (before on-road costs) early this year before jumping $1600 in August and increasing a further $2000 in October. The October price rise coincided with an increase in the size of battery, driving range and motor power.

An industry executive said further price rises were likely because the increase in raw materials costs hadn’t yet flowed through.

Despite the price rises, Aussies are lining up to get their hands on the machines and waiting times extend well into next year.

Australia isn’t the only market afflicted with high EV prices. A recent report by automotive research experts, JATO, showed EV prices had risen sharply in Europe and the US in recent years.

The average price of an EV in the first half of this year was €55,821 in Europe ($A87,412) and €63,864 ($A100,000) in the US – up from €48,942 ($A76,403) and €53,038 ($82,797) in 2015.

The average retail price for an electric car in Europe is 27 per cent more than a petrol vehicle, while in the US it is 43 per cent more.

Car makers say the cost of raw materials is the cause.

Ford has raised the price of its F-Series electric pick-up twice since August. The cheapest model is now $US12,000 ($18,810) more expensive, while the Mustang EV costs up to $US8000 ($12,510) more. Ford blamed “ongoing supply-chain constraints, rising material costs and other market factors” for the price hikes.

The world’s largest electric vehicle battery maker, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., reported a big surge in the price of its batteries.

A report in financial outlet Barron’s put the price per kWh of batteries at about $160, up from $150 earlier this year and $120 in 2021.

One of the major causes is the price of lithium, which is up 200 per cent in the past 12 months. The cost of the basket of materials that go into a battery is up about 62 per cent for the year.

Renault Group chief executive Luca de Meo told reporters at the Paris motor show last week that he didn’t believe electric and petrol cars would achieve price parity anytime soon.

He told Automotive News the industry had expected the price of batteries to drop to $100 a kWh three years ago.

He said raw materials made up 80 per cent of the battery cost, making it hard for carmakers to reduce costs.

He told Automotive News the company could come up with better battery chemistry and better power electronics, “but these gains would be erased when the price of cobalt doubles in just six months.”




Thursday, October 27, 2022

Another white "Aborigine" stirring up controversy

Blue eyes and all. This is just attention-seeking. Her aboriginality is essentially nil so she is not campaigning for anything that affects her personally.

The issue she is jumping onto is not totally unreasonable. The whole statue removal lark has the justification that we should separate ourselves from the values espoused by the person portrayed. And perhaps we should in the unlikely event that we are aware of it. But it is also removing us from our own history. History is not changed so lightly. We do well to remember it.

Most people's lives have good and bad in them. And the statues concerned could well be seen as a message about how unfortunate were the values of our comunal past. To add a plaque to statues telling of both the worthy deeds of the person plus the deplored ideas of their time would be a balanced approach to any issue involved. It would certainly be more constructive and potentially useful as education

An indigenous marriage celebrant wants a 'racist' statue of Australia's first prime minister removed from a regional town's waterfront because it is 'offensive'.

Arlene Mehan is behind a push to have Sir Edmund Barton's statue uninstalled from Port Macquarie's waterfront Town Green Park.

Although Ms Mehan has pushed to have it taken down for several years, not everyone agrees and the statue's exit isn't assured.

It was only put up in 2001 as the focus of a local project about Barton.

His statue is the latest monument to a significant historical figure to be earmarked for removal in recent years because of past 'racist' actions.

Barton, prime minister from 1901 to 1903, is widely accepted to have been a key architect of the White Australia policy.

He also said publicly that he believed white people were superior and there was no such thing as 'racial equality'. '[Other] races are, in comparison with white races – I think no-one wants convincing of this fact – unequal and inferior,' Barton once famously said.

Ms Mehan claims the presence of the monument in the park is confronting for local indigenous people. 'It is offensive to glorify this man who represents racist ideologies on this sacred site. 'Edmund Barton was explicitly racist,' she said.

Town Green was a burial ground for the local Birpai Indigenous people before colonisation.

Other options aside from removal have been proposed to the local Port Macquarie-Hastings council, including placing an educational signage explaining more about Barton's views.

If the statue is removed it could be placed outside the Port Macquarie Local Court as Barton became a High Court judge after his term as prime minister.

Ms Mehan gathered 4,383 signatures in a petition to have Barton's statue removed in 2020 and presented it to the Port Macquarie-Hastings council.

She also campaigned against a statue of the fifth governor of NSW, Lachlan Macquarie, whom the town is named after.


Long-term Greenie journalist Graham Readfearn is still looking at the world through one-eye

He does his best below to make a case against the use of coal but mainly does so by quoting fellow Greenies. The blithe mention of "storage" as an alternative to burning coal is amusing. What storage? Snowy 2 is not yet up and may nevrer be, Qeeensland's pumped storage is pie in the sky and would be so expensive that it will remain there, and the available battery storage is tiny and short-lived relative to demand.

And there is some very stretched reasoning below. Look at the statement "I’m not aware of any time where we have had a blackout because renewable energy hasn’t supplied sufficient electricity.”

It's a true statement. But why? Because every time we were on the brink of a blackout because of failing wind and solar, coal and gas generators have stepped into makeup the shortfall. Lose those generators and the blackouts will be extensive and long

In Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, columnist Erin Molan turned the caps lock on to declare “WE NEED COAL”. It’s tempting to respond with “NO WE DON’T” and leave it at that. But there are certain expectations from a fact-checking column.

Molan argued clean and renewable alternatives to fossil fuels with the “infrastructure in place” to support them did not currently exist. Let’s test that.

Alison Reeve, an energy and climate expert at the Grattan Institute, said in the electricity market “coal has been doing two things”. “Providing electrons and system stability. The renewables can substitute the electrons and we can use other things – like storage and demand management – to find system stability. “So you only need coal to the extent that you don’t have those other things lined up yet.”

She said while there were legitimate concerns about the pace that storage and other measures were being added, “that’s not a case for keeping coal”.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s blueprint for the expected future of the electricity market – a plan released after consulting more than 15,000 analysts and stakeholders – also disagrees with Molan. That plan includes several scenarios for the future, but the one Aemo says experts think is most likely sees 60% of coal generating capacity gone by 2030. Why?

“Competition, climate change and operational pressures will intensify [for coal] with the ever-increasing penetration of firmed renewable generation,” the plan says.

Oh yes, climate change. Burning coal is the biggest single contributor to the climate emergency.

Since Aemo’s blueprint was released in late June, both the Queensland and Victoria state governments have announced major energy plans mapping the exit route for coal that are broadly in line with Aemo’s plans.

Neither state sees a future in burning coal, with the polluting fuel practically gone in both states by 2035.

Coalmining is also responsible for about one fifth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions from methane, according to official figures. The actual number, according to data from the International Energy Agency, could be double that.

As the Albanese government this week signed a global pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, mining more coal will make those targets – nonbinding, but geopolitically significant – harder to reach.

Molan claimed in her column there was “ample evidence in recent years of times and occasions when renewables just haven’t been able to supply our energy needs”, but didn’t actually offer any evidence.

This is a strange interpretation of how the electricity market works. Reeve was puzzled. “It’s a mixed system and you will always have the generation you need to meet the demand. “The percentage provided by renewables fluctuates, but I’m not aware of any time where we have had a blackout because renewable energy hasn’t supplied sufficient electricity.”


UN’s tortured thinking on human rights defies credibility

A question for the many holiday-makers who have driven past Queanbeyan courthouse on their way to the NSW South Coast: have you ever had cause to believe unspeakable crimes against humanity were being committed inside? Representatives of the United Nations, specifically those on the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), seem to think so.

Last week these dedicated bureaucrats and their entourage, having made the arduous journey from overseas, turned up there unannounced insisting on their “right” to conduct a snap inspection of the court cells, much to the bemusement of NSW Corrective Service officials. Regrettably, they were not welcomed in a manner befitting a holder of high office. Suffice to say the four subcommittee members – who hail from the human rights utopias of Maldives, Poland, Croatia, and Georgia – are now familiar with the expression “Go to buggery”.

Why they came here in the first place is a mystery. Admittedly, the courthouse in question is a drab looking building, but we are not talking your Lubyanka-like edifice. Its officials are not known for hanging prisoners by their thumbs for days on end. And the streets of Queanbeyan are not strewn with wailing women and children holding up photos of missing husbands and fathers.

UN inspectors fared no better in Sydney last Sunday when they demanded entry to the Mary Wade Correctional Centre in Lidcombe and the Silverwater Correctional Complex. As the relevant department later explained, all such visits required prior written authorisation. And heaven forbid, they make no exceptions for UN officials.

This additional impertinence proved too much to bear. “Despite its continued efforts to engage the authorities for the resolution of the problems, the SPT continued to be obstructed in the exercise of its mandate,” the UN said in a statement this week. “[Its] members felt that their 12-day visit, which began on 16 October … had been compromised to such an extent that they had no other option but to suspend it.” Prior to departing the country, subcommittee officials threatened “grave” consequences for the NSW government.

I agree, starting with the prison officers who thwarted the inspections. A bonus week’s paid holiday for each of them, a commendation on their personnel files, a couple of slabs perhaps?

Predictably some, including Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay, are upset the subcommittee has left in a huff. “What compliance with OPCAT [Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture and Inhuman Treatment] actually represents for NSW and other Australian governments is an opportunity for all of us to feel more secure about how we protect the human rights of detainees by agreeing to greater oversight and accountability in our detention regimes,” she said.

But I doubt many Australians would feel distressed or less secure at the prospect of the UN not conferring tickety-boo status on our detention centres. This is the same organisation which boasts among the members of its Human Rights Council the nations of China, Cuba, Venezuela, Qatar, and Pakistan. It has no credibility.

And you must wonder why Australia is the subcommittee’s priority. Its website lists the countries it has visited since OPCAT’s inception in 2002. They include Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. All good and well but there are some notable absences. If the subcommittee is hellbent on uncovering examples of torture, then surely it would have assessed the detention centres of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

We know the answer. Given a choice, these human rights poohbahs opt for junkets to Western countries as opposed to travelling to a third world dung heap. I am seriously considering sending this mob my resume. As for my choice of assignment, I have in mind detention centres in the South of France, particularly the Bordeaux region. Did I mention I have similar concerns about those in the Azores?

It is farcical. Take for example these excerpts from their assessments. New Zealand: “The Subcommittee noted with concern the low nutritional value of the meals provided in the prisons it visited. Breakfast and lunch were monotonous, the latter invariably … comprising three thin white bread sandwiches and a piece of fruit.” United Kingdom: “The Subcommittee is concerned at the overrepresentation of the ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system.”

There was almost a tone of disappointment when it noted following a visit to Switzerland in 2019 that none of the detainees spoken to had alleged mistreatment by police. Nonetheless it made mention of their “harsh conditions during transport, including handcuffs that were too tight”. Yes, its members are paid lucrative wages to produce these trivialities. And you thought the travelling circus was a thing of the past.

Do not expect the Albanese government to stand up to these panjandrums. Already Attorney-General Mark Drefyus has hit out at the NSW government for its treatment of the subcommittee. Likewise, Finlay has called for the federal and state governments to invite the delegation to return.

If they really are serious about finding instances of torture in this country, let’s give them a few suggestions. To begin with, no more interminable so-called Welcome to Country ceremonies. Never again should we have to hear Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tells us he is the son of a single mother who grew up in a housing commission dwelling. And few things are as mind-numbing as waiting for someone from Qantas to answer the phone.

But you know what is the ultimate torture? Knowing that we handed over US$60m to the UN this year alone.


Chilling reality of Labor's green dream: Bills soar by 56% as $20 BILLION is spent on a 'renewables friendly' electricity grid and $46M for a UN energy conference - while Albo hands millions to extremists who dream of driving Australia into energy poverty

Despite constant claims renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels the billions being poured into greening Australia's power and hosting UN climate talkfests appears to be only driving up the price of electricity.

Labor went into the May election with a promise of slashing electricity bills by $275 a year, a pledge that was meant to be delivered by its commitment to renewables.

However, Tuesday's Budget instead predicted a staggering 56 per cent hike in prices in the next year on top of the already ballooning bills.

But at the same time the Albanese government announced they will funnel $10 million into climate activist groups the Environmental Defenders Office and Environmental Justice Australia.

When asked about this in parliament on Wednesday Prime Minister Anthony Albanese repeated the mantra of his government. 'The cheapest form of new energy in this country is renewables,' he said.

On budget night Treasurer Jim Chalmers told the ABC that despite him not being able to predict when prices would come down the $25 billion being spent on various climate change measures would help. 'Renewable energy isn't just cleaner energy, it's cheaper energy as well,' Chalmers said.

North Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan, who is a strong proponent of mining and fossil fuel, strongly disagreed with both the Prime Minister and Treasurer. 'Power prices are going up because we are investing too much in renewable energy that is not on all the time,' Senator Canavan told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday. 'Australia has been building more solar and wind per person than any country in the world.'

A particular Budget item that Senator Canavan latched onto was the almost $50 million the Albanese government has committed to 'restoring Australia's reputation'.

The centerpiece of this measure will be hosting UN-overseen conference in partnership with Pacific island nations to build clean energy partnerships and agreements .

'Labor can't help you with your power bills but they are going to spend $46 million of your money to host a UN climate conference,' Senator Canavan tweeted on Tuesday night.

He expanded on this in a response to Daily Mail Australia.

'Instead of spending money on helping rich people attend a climate talkfest, the Australian Government should be using our coal, gas and uranium to make more power and bring down living costs for struggling Australian families,' he said.

'The Government is wasting our money by funding more jobs for climate bureaucrats.'

The budget contains a mind-boggling multitude of green projects, subsidies and new government agencies to bring about the Albanese government's commitment of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

There is even $8.1 million to improve the energy efficiency of seaweed farmers.

However, by far the biggest sum, $20 billion, will be for rewiring the nation's grid to make it more renewable energy friendly.

On top of this $275 million will be spent on getting more electric cars on the road while $224 million will toward the community batteries that will store power from household solar panels.

Re-establishing 'international climate leadership' will cost $296 million, of which $200 million will go to help Indonesia with green projects.

A new agency, the national health sustainability and climate unit, will inform Australia's 'health response' to climate change.

The green bureaucracy will also be beefed up by the injection of a further $194 million, with $102 million to restore the Climate Change Authority and $64 million to rebuild Treasury's climate modelling capability.

Senator Canavan delivered a scathing assessment of what the new public servants would achieve.

'Power prices won't be lowered from a desk in Canberra, they can only be lowered by building more generators across our nation,' he said.

The Environmental Defenders Office have campaigned to block laws aimed at stopping disruptive climate protests, such as the protests that halted coal loading at Sydney's Port Botany earlier this year.

Environmental Justice Australia lobbies against new coal and gas projects and organised a group of children and teens to claim Australia's lack of action on climate change violated their human rights to the United Nations.

To support his claim that renewables are cheaper Mr Albanese cited agreement from the Business Council of Australia, the Australian industry group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the National Farmers' Federation.

However, this has not been backed up by players in the electricity market. Major energy retailers told a conference in October that replacing coal and gas with renewable energy is the major reason power prices are sky-rocketing.

'Next year, using the current market prices, tariffs are going up a minimum 35 per cent,' Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery said at the Sydney event. 'It's horrendous, it's unpalatable. We don't want energy consumers getting their power bills and setting fire to them.'

In September reports by sector watchdogs the Energy Security Board and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) both pointed at switching to renewables as a major reason power price surges.

Dr Chalmers pointed to 'inflationary pressures' for the power price increase but electricity bills have been outstripping inflation by as much as 8 per cent.

The war in Ukraine is often pointed to as major contributor to worldwide inflation but Australia is energy sufficient in coal and gas and an exporter of those things, although international prices can influence the domestic price.

Coal prices are surging but this reflects a turning away from renewables in many countries.

With the Ukraine war threatening its gas supplies Germany has began bringing around 20 of its coal power plants back online.




Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Budget 2022: Treasurer Jim Chalmers warns of deep spending cuts, more taxes

Amid all the talk, the grim reality is obvious. The government continues to spend up big and there will be no halt to to the rise in cost of living. Given the spending committments that the government treated as baked-in, no other budget was possible.

The government will continue to print money to cover its excess spending so more inflation is coming. Australians are in for a grim trot. Only people who get their savings out of money (e.g. buy company shares) are going to have any hope of protecting them. Only a big cut in government spending could have stopped the rise in cost of living -- but that was never on the cards

The Treasurer laid the ground for deeper cuts in the future but provided no additional cost of living support for struggling households other than existing policies offering cheaper childcare and medicines that won’t begin until next year.

Delivering Labor’s first budget since 2013, Dr Chalmers told The Australian it was yet to be ­determined how the government would tackle the structural deficit but signalled there would be a combination of new taxes and spending cuts.

“We’ve always seen this as the first of three or four budgets this term,” Dr Chalmers said.

“We set that up deliberately. We’re putting the foundations down. There’s an element of conditioning people to understand that we’ve had budgets for a really long time now where there hasn’t been a savings effort.

“There hasn’t been an effort to return commodity-fuelled revenue upgrades. We’ve made a good start because we’ve done something different in those revenue upgrades; we’ve done something different on savings. That’s a good start.”

The budget papers paint a pessimistic debt and deficit picture over the decade, with $11bn in higher deficits expected in 2024-25 and 2025-26. As a proportion of GDP, the deficit is worse in 2032-33 than the current financial year. Treasury also warns the nation risks falling into recession should key budget assumptions prove too optimistic, with growth slumping to just 0.75 per cent next financial year if inflation peaks one percentage point higher in December or the global downturn is more severe.

Treasury warned of a double whammy effect, noting the downside scenarios for both growth and unemployment from higher inflation at home “would be greater if these risks occurred simultaneously with global risks”.

Treasury expects sharp spikes from 2026-27 in the cost of the ballooning NDIS and servicing debt, which will peak in mid-2026 at $1.16 trillion or 43.1 per cent of GDP.

In a shock for households and businesses, retail electricity prices will increase by an average of 20 per cent nationally in late 2022 and a further 30 per cent in 2023-24. Domestic wholesale gas prices will remain more than double their average prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with retail gas prices increasing by up to 20 per cent in both 2022-23 and 2023-24.

The budget said electricity and gas prices were expected to ­directly contribute 0.75 per cent and one percentage point to inflation in 2022–23 and 2023–24 respectively.

Dr Chalmers said the government would take action in the market to keep prices lower.

“Any responsible government facing these sort of price hikes needs to consider a broader suite of regulatory intervention than they might have considered in times gone by,” he said.

Peter Dutton said millions of Australians would pay the price for a “big-taxing, big-spending” budget. The Business Council of Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Australian Industry Group said more must be done to drive economic growth and tackle structural spending pressures.

Rental costs will jump “considerably” in the next two years and fuel inflation amid stronger population growth and limited housing stock. A new housing accord between governments, investors and ­industry announced by Dr Chalmers on Tuesday, backed with an ­initial $350m pledge, has an ­ambition of building “one million new, well-­located homes over five years from 2024”.

Dr Chalmers said the accord must be driven by the market, ­despite concerns that cashed-up superannuation funds will struggle to deliver investment returns for members.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, whose pre-budget audit slashed $22bn from Coalition-era programs which were redirected to fund Labor policies, told The Australian the trajectory of budget pressures were “keeping her up”.

Senator Gallagher’s audit sets up a fight with Nationals and ­regional Liberal MPs after the budget canned dozens of ­Coalition projects and grants programs and redirected a chunk of $6.5bn in infrastructure savings to climate change projects.

In his first budget speech, Dr Chalmers told parliament that 92 per cent of the $132.5bn in upgraded tax receipts over the next four years had been banked.

But the budget sugar hit, which cut the 2022-23 deficit by $41bn to $36.9bn, is expected to unravel ahead of the 2025 federal election as unemployment and inflation spike and wages and economic growth stagnate.

Compared with the pre-election fiscal outlook, Labor’s policy decisions have added $9.7bn to the budget bottom line. Treasury projects tax-to-GDP levels of 24.1 per cent by 2032-33, which ends the Coalition-era policy of maintaining taxes within a 23.9 per cent tax-to-GDP cap.

Dr Chalmers painted a grim outlook for Australians who “know there are hard days to come and hard decisions to accompany them”, as Russia’s war in Ukraine, China’s slowdown, higher interest rates and inflation bite. He released a “five-point plan for cost-of-living relief” amid growing political pressure on Labor to deliver on their promises to slash $275 from electricity bills by 2025 and lift wages.

The $5.4bn changes to childcare subsidies start from July next year, cheaper medicines from January and the full paid parental leave scheme from 2026. Labor’s five-point plan also includes “more affordable housing and getting wages moving again”.

In his speech, Dr Chalmers lamented that real wages were lower now than 10 years ago.

“Wages are growing faster now than they were before the election, but that welcome news is tempered by rising electricity prices and grocery bills eating into pay packets,” he said.

“When that inflation moderates, real wages are expected to start growing again in 2024.


Confidence through censorship: The (medical) Ministry of Truth

On Wednesday, October 12, the Queensland Labor government – with support from the LNP opposition – passed a dystopian and dangerous bill.

The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 refocuses the guiding principles of medicine to prioritise public confidence over public health and safety. It allows bureaucrats to name and shame doctors, a move which the AMA described as ‘incoherent zealotry’.

This bill, if passed by other jurisdictions in Australia, will essentially legislate national medical censorship as a means to ensure public confidence in government health services.

Adherence to the Good Medical Practice code of conduct means that advocating for patients (which is our primary concern) is being overridden by external demands to comply with public health messaging. Our code of conduct is predicated on The Hippocratic Oath, the Declaration of Geneva, and the International Code of Ethics which outlines our dedication to serving humanity: To first do no harm, making our patients our primary consideration.

Political-based medicine has now replaced evidence-based medicine.

History has proven that unquestioning compliance to government directives is dangerous. In 1947, the World Medical Association agreements were formed in the aftermath of the second world war due to the gross systematic human rights abuses which took place under enforced national laws. Tragically, the political currents in Australia appear to be heading towards bureaucratic medical compliance enforced through regulatory threats, soon to be legislative threats.

In 2015, the federal government passed The Australian Border Force Act 2015 which made doctors who advocated for their refugee patients liable to face up to two years imprisonment. Doctors for Refugees challenged this law in the High Court a year later. A major basis for their argument, according to their submission to the Medical Board’s 2018 Code of Conduct review, was that the Code doctors had sworn to uphold and advocate for the rights of their patients could not be overridden by the vagaries of domestic laws.

The government eventually backed down on this law and had that problematic section repealed.

Interestingly, their submission was in response to the Medical Board attempting to insert into the medical code the concerning phrase ‘doctors must comply with relevant laws’. The response to the word comply was fierce as the idea that the medical code of conduct could enforce compliance to political decree was antithetical to what doctors had sworn to uphold.

With the arrival of Covid came the bureaucratic decree through the March 9, 2021 joint statement by AHPRA and the National Boards that made undermining public confidence in the government’s Covid public health messaging equivalent to professional misconduct. Questioning ‘the message’ is now subject to investigation and disciplinary action, including immediate suspension of registration.

Letters received by practitioners who have questioned the government response to Covid are chilling in their implication. After being suspended by National Boards under the immediate action clauses for allegedly being a threat to public health and safety, they are accused of the crime of non-compliance. They are deemed a threat because they failed to comply with public health orders, undermined the Board’s position on the promotion of Covid vaccination, and undermined public confidence because their medical expert opinion contravened government health authorities.

In summary, health professionals are not permitted to question the ‘secret health advice’ without losing their registration to practise.

Consider that in response to Covid, our health bureaucracy overturned the medical industry’s well-researched 2019 pandemic preparedness plans – doing almost the total opposite of what was recommended by health professionals. Interestingly, Dr Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, told employees recently: ‘To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes from testing, to data, to communications.’

In December 2020, the FDA outlined, ‘At this time, data is not available to make a determination about how long the vaccine will provide protection, nor is there evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person.’ Our health bureaucrats, regulatory agencies, and politicians mandated provisionally approved vaccines by telling the population repeatedly that they stopped transmission and people were selfish granny killers if they didn’t get jabbed.

We, as health professionals, are not allowed to question government statements on transmission without losing our registration to practise.

On September 2021, a delegate of the Secretary of the Department of Health rescheduled ivermectin, in effect banning it for use as an off-label treatment option for Covid stating ‘subsection 52E(1) of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, in particular paragraph (f), which empowers the Secretary to act on any other matters that the Secretary considers necessary to protect public health’.

Ivermectin is one of the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines. It was fully approved by the TGA and found to be very safe according to their own 2013 Australian Public Assessment Report for Ivermectin. Two of the reasons the TGA gave for denying Australians access to a drug that showed great promise in the treatment and prevention of Covid-19 was that it was all of a sudden unsafe and its availability might dissuade people from getting vaccinated. Behaviour modification was undertaken, with the TGA appearing to act in partnership with other government nudge units to promote vaccination.

We as health professionals are not permitted to advocate for ivermectin without losing our registration to practice.

In July 2021, as Australians were being mandated through coercive techniques to get vaccinated with poorly tested provisionally approved gene-based vaccines that our Health bureaucrats and politicians repeatedly told us had been proven safe and effective, the TGA was amending the Therapeutic Goods Regulation Act to further reduce the safety and efficacy requirements for any medicine that is for the treatment or prevention of Covid. Not only do manufacturers have six years to provide the government with safety and efficacy data on these provisionally approved jabs, they also no longer have to demonstrate they could provide a greater benefit than other available medicines or that the medicine is likely to provide a major therapeutic advance.

We, as health professionals, are not allowed to question the safety and efficacy without losing our registration to practise.

Recently, the TGA has granted provisional approval to Moderna for the active immunisation and prevention of Covid in high-risk babies and young children. The report concluded the vaccinations had low levels of protective efficacy against infection, they didn’t know how long any efficacy lasted, and while the (Advisory Committee on Vaccines) recommended the provisional approval to children at high risk they noted high-risk children were excluded from the study. Across the world, pandemic policy and guidelines vary. Denmark is no longer recommending vaccination for people under 50, Norway no one under 65, but our regulatory body is expanding approvals to 6-month to 4-year-olds.

We, as health professionals, are not allowed to question this approval without losing our registration to practise.

Whenever governments want to enact laws to suppress free expression, censor and punish dissenters through threats to careers and livelihood, to control public perception as a means of creating confidence through enforced public ignorance, it is time to ask some serious questions.

If this bill passes nationally and the government becomes the single authority on all health advice, then unquestioning compliance becomes the new accepted standard of good medical practice. That is the end of medicine and the death of science. George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth has arrived. Public confidence in politicians and their bureaucrats should never come at the expense of people’s right to full, free, and unhindered access to scientific evidence and emerging data.

The Australian Medical Professionals Society is dedicated to fighting for medical free speech for the safety of those we swore to protect, our patients. Prioritising public confidence in government through censorship has led to what Professor Bhattacharya has said is the single biggest public health mistake in human history. With Dr Aseem Malhotra, a British Cardiologist, recently describing the mandates as ‘perhaps the greatest miscarriage of medical science we will witness in our lifetime’. We must stop medical censorship and allow doctors to be doctors. This bill is dangerous to the future of medicine and the health of our nation.


Energy cost a big issue

Calls for a national energy summit to address soaring energy costs are increasing after the budget predicted consumer prices would soar by 56 per cent.

Joel Gibson from the consumer network OneBigSwitch said the energy price crisis should now be the government’s top priority if Australia was to avoid similar scenes to the UK, where 40 retailers had gone bust and price caps had doubled.

“The budget was an opportunity to address the biggest cost of living crisis we face right now - energy bills - but the government has elected to kick the can down the road,” Mr Gibson said.

“We now need a national summit to deal with this issue. Business as usual won’t cut it. If we don’t ring the bell now, we’ll have millions of Aussies who can’t afford to turn the lights on.”

While the NGO sector generally welcomed Budget measures in areas such as child care, aged care and housing, there were strong concerns about the day-to-day cost of living increases. Besides the predictions of soaring energy prices, the Budget also pointed to likely increases in the cost of food and vegetables because of October floods in eastern Australia.

Mission Australia’s CEO Sharon Callister said: “As cost of living and housing pressures go through the roof, people who rely on income support are unable to pay for many of the essentials of life.”

Opposition Treasury spokesperson Angus Taylor slammed the government over rising cost of living pressures.

“The Budget confirms that electricity and gas prices are expected to rise sharply over the next two years. Treasury has assumed retail electricity prices will increase by 50 per cent. Retail gas prices are up some 40 per cent in 2022 and 2023,” he said.

“Despite Labor’s pre-election promise to reduce your power prices by $275 a year, their own budget papers contradict this claim, and the Government has no plan to address rising prices.”

The price hike amounts to a 56 per cent rise over two years due to the increase compounding each year.


‘Over-designed’ government megaprojects are bad for environment and taxpayers

NSW megaprojects are being over-engineered with tonnes of unnecessary, costly materials driving up the price and carbon footprint of the multibillion-dollar builds, Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes has warned.

Stokes said NSW would fail to reach its goal of a net zero economy by 2050 without addressing overservicing in its $110-billion infrastructure pipeline, where concrete and steel are being superfluously added to projects.

Carbon emissions from construction material – including concrete and steel – are estimated to represent up to 10 per cent of Australia’s carbon output. A new report produced by Stokes and Infrastructure NSW has flagged including those emissions in the business cases of future projects.

“We want things to be robust and well-built, but that shouldn’t mean just throwing more concrete and steel into our bridges, roads and railways,” Stokes told the Herald.

“There is an irony here. Because we’ve got very conservative design standards we’re actually putting more concrete and steel into roads and bridges and railways than anyone else in the world.”

Stokes pointed to the recent construction of the multibillion-dollar Metro rail lines as an example of a project that could have used less material without impacting design integrity.

“I think there is a general awareness that we have been very conservative and over-designed some of our station boxes on Metro lines,” he said.

The government is spending tens of billions of dollars on the Metro, which will connect the CBD to the west and south-west of the city, as well as a line to service the new Western Sydney Airport when it opens in 2026. The projects have been hampered by cost blowouts.

Station boxes are excavated for underground platforms, concourses and facilities, while major developments are often installed above them.

Infrastructure funding cuts leave NSW behind Victoria, Queensland
Stokes said a “compliance culture” in NSW had led to an intense focus on mitigating risk and liability in both the government and private sectors.

“I think every engineer that touches a project on the way through … just wants to ensure that their responsibility is entirely mitigated by throwing a bit of extra concrete and steel at it,” he said.

“The sum total of all these little decisions where people are just effectively covering their back means that we’re paying way over the odds, and also contributing toward global climate emissions because of our innate design conservatism, so we need to challenge that.”

The senior minister, who will retire from politics at the next state election, said that more thoughtfully designing the state’s largest projects would cut emissions, save time and taxpayer cash.

“We should be very proud of the fact that we are designing very, very robust structures, but the question we need to ask is, ‘Are we over designing them?’. There’s a cost imperative to that for the taxpayer,” he said.

“But there’s also a climate imperative because every bit of extra design constraint that adds to the bulk of a structure is making it more carbon intensive.”

The Infrastructure NSW discussion paper, set to be released this week, recommends a whole of government approach to measuring emissions in infrastructure.

The Decarbonising Infrastructure Delivery report says multibillion-dollar investment decisions were being made without any understanding of carbon mitigation or management over the life of the asset. It warns that could result in potentially higher costs to retrofit projects to achieve net-zero in the future.

The report also recommends maximising the use of recycled material in building.

The United Kingdom, including the Glasgow Airport Investment Area, and Europe are cited as examples of governments including the carbon impact of projects when weighing up their benefits and cost.

The NSW government earlier this year warned it would need to push back some of its mammoth infrastructure pipeline amid rising construction costs and limited workforce.

The government paper follows a report produced by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia which earlier this year called for ambitious, lower-carbon outcome requirements in major projects.

Stokes said future state governments would need to rethink the way they approached big projects, and instead start by questioning whether they should even go ahead at all.

“One of the very best ways we can decarbonise infrastructure is actually asking whether we need such an expensive megaproject design intervention in the first place. Maybe there are other ways to achieve the same objective,” he said.