Monday, November 21, 2022

More Covid-19 alarmism from Leftist "doctor"

For someone who calls himself “Australia’s most trusted doctor”, Norman Swan sure gets a lot wrong. His multiple misdiagnoses during the pandemic at least provide a public service by reinforcing the virtue of seeking a second opinion.

Just over a year ago, I highlighted Swan’s many erroneous predictions as the ABC’s medical reporter and pandemic analyst. Predictably enough his mistakes are always to the alarmist side, ­exaggerating the threat of Covid-19 and forecasting disastrous outcomes that never occur.

Swan has defended the harshest and most futile pandemic crackdowns in Labor states, such as repeated lockdowns in Victoria, while criticising the less draconian responses of the NSW Liberal government. It is hard to fathom how partisan preferences might infect something like pandemic commentary that should involve only rational and practical considerations – but there you go.

Yet Swan has outdone himself this week with a frightful intervention that broke all the standard rules about personal intrusion, public fearmongering and basic fact-checking. It is a potent example of how some people are desperately seeking to prolong the period of crisis, for whatever political, professional, or personal motivations, consciously or not.

Speaking on ABC breakfast television, Swan was eager to warn the public that even after they had been infected with the virus, and recovered, Covid might still kill them. He cited a study based on 2020 cases – before vaccines, antiviral treatments, the arrival of what are now the most common variants, when we knew much less about the virus – and he illustrated his point with a couple of prominent and tragic deaths from earlier this year, Shane Warne and Senator Kimberley Kitching, both just 52 years old.

“My view is that it’s too much of a coincidence that Shane Warne and the Labor senator in Victoria died not long after a Covid infection,” Swan told viewers, “And people are reporting sudden death after Covid infection. It’s not benign.” Talk about telehealth, this TV doctor was happy to fly blind and stoke anxiety.

If Swan had bothered to check, he would have discovered that Kitching had, in fact, never been infected with Covid. Warne, on the other hand, had seen off the virus twice, but was exposed to other, well-documented heart disease risk factors, including smoking, drinking and poor diet.

Yet Swan was happy to use these deaths to put the fear of God into anyone who wanted to listen. Official figures show at least 10.5 million Australians have been infected with Covid, and scientific studies suggest it might be closer to 16 million, or two thirds of us.

All those people who have survived the virus at least once, the vast bulk with mild symptoms, were being told they were not in the clear. Rather, Swan wanted them to consider that they might suddenly drop dead.

In the furore that followed, the ABC had no choice but to concede their medical reporter had breached editorial standards. The national broadcaster had a breakfast television host read an apology on Swan’s behalf: “Dr Norman Swan has issued an apology after suggesting there may be a Covid link to the deaths of Labor senator Kimberley Kitching and cricket great Shane Warne. He made those comments during his interview on our program yesterday. Dr Swan says he’s personally apologised to Senator Kitching’s husband yesterday and that he made an error he regrets.”

Hang on, where was the apology to the public? Did the ABC and Swan not understand the substance of this transgression or were they just playing dumb?

Sure, Swan needed to apologise to the Kitching and Warne families. But the far greater infraction was the spreading of baseless fear among ABC audiences.

Swan continues to register himself as a doctor, even though his original medical training occurred almost half a century ago and he no longer practises. All the same, he surely would be aware of the dictum, courtesy of the Hippocrates work Of the Epidemics, which urges medics “to do good or to do no harm” – often simplified as the crucial rule, “first, do no harm”.

Warning people, unnecessarily, that they might drop dead anytime because of a virus that is now endemic in our population is not doing good. It is doing harm.

The hysterical response by some to the pandemic is still evident in people wandering around outdoors in masks, elderly people still isolating at home, bureaucrats considering a return to compulsory masks, and some employers still insisting on redundant vaccine mandates. The ABC should get Swan to pull his head in.

It could invite real experts on to ABC programs more often; people who practise medicine and are sensible and articulate. The infectious diseases experts Professor Peter Collignon, Professor Catherine Bennett, Associate Professor Nick Coatsworth and Dr Clay Golledge have all been generous with their time for media during the pandemic, as well as accurate in their predictions, and sober in their advice.

But the ABC has preferred the gloomy, sensationalist, interventionist, and often erroneous analysis from Swan. I guess it makes for a better story.

Shane Warne’s manager said it best, telling The Australian it was “totally disrespectful” for the ABC to air Swan’s “asinine” post-­mortems. “Why would anyone take any notice of what this guy has to say? What on earth would he know about Shane’s health?”

Fair call, and then the kicker: “Maybe he (Swan) could tell us who really killed JFK.”

But Swan alone is not to blame. As is typical at the national broadcaster, the lack of restraint, lack of editorship, and lack of perspective has been evident as the organisation has encouraged and followed Swan along the cata­strophist path.

When the history of the pandemic is written, the constant stream of alarmist misinformation from the ABC (and most other media) will be central. The symbiotic relationship between hysterical journalists and power-stuck politicians sucked the lifeblood out of a normally vibrant society.

Instead of comparing responses around the world and coming to the obvious conclusion that we inflicted greater social and economic costs on ourselves for no greater benefit, some commentators and politicians want to continue the paranoia. They would prefer we still behaved like communist China, where major city lockdowns are provoking violent street protests – even in a totalitarian country – which could lead to all sorts of unintended consequences in coming weeks and months.

The pandemic panic merchants have a lot of explaining to do. Having supported lockdowns, curfews, rings of steel, border closures, school closures, mask and vaccine mandates, and having warned we cannot live with the coronavirus, they are left with all the evidence of overreach, with so much of the tumult and trauma exposed as unnecessary, as we proceed to live with the virus. Only the communist regime in China continues to pursue the impossible Covid-zero goal that many aspired to in this country.

Perhaps we will never see an appropriate reckoning because the main culprits dominate our media, politics, and bureaucracies. We need a national royal commission to investigate our pandemic response but there is precious little impetus for it because this would amount to the media/political/­bureaucratic elite calling an inquiry into themselves.


Up to 33,000 jobs at risk due to Labor's new taxes, bargaining changes, mining companies say

Mining companies have warned that up to 33,000 jobs are at-risk from new taxes and multi-employer bargaining changes, with critical minerals, lithium, copper and other resources projects valued up to $77bn imperilled by increasing investment uncertainty and contagion.

Resources giants have told the Albanese government that projects underpinning its Powering Australia energy transformation plan will come under threat if miners are hit with new taxes, industrial relations rules, emissions and environmental restrictions.

Senior industry sources said a “slow down” in critical minerals, lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper projects would put the government’s 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by mid-century targets in jeopardy.

Facing a re-run of the 2010 mining tax campaign and calls from coal, gas and iron ore producers to rule-out new levies and multi-employer bargaining, Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Sunday said it wasn’t the government’s “preference” to impose a temporary tax on thermal coal and gas.

Anthony Albanese, who returned from overseas on Sunday, will convene Cabinet meetings this week in Canberra to finalise the government’s pre-Christmas plan to support manufacturers and households facing massive hikes in power bills.

“Our priority is on the regulation side rather than on the taxation side. But at this stage of the process, it makes no sense to take options off the table until or unless we can make progress on the regulatory side

Dr Chalmers said the government was pursuing a regulatory solution, anchored by a mandatory gas market code of conduct that includes pricing considerations. The Prime Minister also left the door open to a cap on gas prices.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable, backed by member companies including BHP, Rio Tinto, Whitehaven and Glencore, said a mining tax would “slow down Australia’s energy transformation”.

The mining sector has identified 140 projects subject to pre-final investment decisions which could be at-risk from tax and IR changes, including 46 critical minerals projects.

Across the country, there are about 200 major minerals projects currently in the pipeline over the next five years, with an estimated value of between $73 and $95bn. The MCA warns that 22,000 construction jobs and more than 11,000 ongoing jobs could be at-risk.

Mr Constable said “to build the amount of renewable energy technology required to meet our emissions targets, Australia needs more critical minerals out of the ground”.

“More lithium for batteries, more copper for solar panels, and more cobalt for electric vehicles. Not more uncertainty and risk that will simply chase away investment from our shores, at such a crucial hour,” Ms Constable said.

“By targeting the mining industry, the federal government risks undermining its own climate ambitions.

“Combined with a rushed industrial relations policy that will lead to more strike action, this dual attack on mining will put countless mine developments at risk of cancellation or delay, at a time when we need more investment in our economy, and more jobs.”

The lack of clarity over taxes, multi-employer bargaining, environmental planning changes and a crackdown on heavy emitters has sparked a national campaign by cashed-up miners and exporters concerned about investment and sovereign risk impacts.

The campaign was launched after The Australian revealed the government was considering a proposal for a new temporary tax on thermal coal and gas to help subsidise skyrocketing electricity bills.

Dr Chalmers on Sunday said “we are conscious of our international relationships, we are conscious of investment in the industry” after mining companies and Japan – one of the nation’s biggest LNG and coal export markets – raised concerns about regulatory and tax changes.

Greens leader Adam Bandt will this week ramp-up pressure on the government to impose a windfall profits tax on energy companies and continue his push to end subsidies for oil, gas and coal.

Mr Bandt and resources spokeswoman Dorinda Cox will on Monday move a disallowance motion in the Senate to block federal money for a new Victorian gas project.

The motion targets a $32m commercial loan provided by the Morrison government to GB Energy to accelerate the Golden Beach gas production and storage project.

Mr Bandt said “Labor can’t keep backing new coal and gas projects”.

“The big gas corporations are making giant profits and the public shouldn’t be on the hook for a new gas project that will make the climate crisis worse,” Mr Bandt told The Australian.

Ms Constable said resources companies need “certainty to make long-term investment decisions”.

“Why would companies risk investing in Australia if the rules keep changing, long after investment decisions have been made?”

The MCA, NSW Minerals Council and Queensland Resources Council last week launched an advertising blitz based on the $22m mining tax campaign, which led to the demise of Kevin Rudd.

“The decision to emulate the opening salvo of the 2010 mining tax campaign was deliberate and calculated,” a senior NSW mining source told The Australian.

“Preparations are well underway to escalate things if necessary in the weeks ahead. It’s hoped the government learns from past mistakes and rules out a tax, which will do nothing to bring down power prices but would significantly hurt the Australian economy.”


Canada’s nuclear power turns heat up on energy ignorance

Late last month, energy company AGL lodged an application to blow up its Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW. It’s a shame it can’t be dismantled and packed into shipping containers because the Germans would take it in a flash.

At Garzweiler, near Cologne, the demolition crews are chopping down wind turbines to get to the coal beneath the ground. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced the reopening of five power plants burning low-grade lignite. The life of three nuclear generators is being extended.

Yet Australia, apparently, has so much energy to spare that it can close its fourth-largest coal generator in five months’ time and the lights won’t even flicker. We’ll see.

In June we witnessed a dress rehearsal of Liddell’s closure. A series of outages by coal generators coinciding with rising winter demand brought the National Energy Market to the brink of collapse. The situation was so dire that NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean went on the radio to plead with customers to avoid using their dishwashers until after the evening peak.

At 6.55pm on June 12, the Australian Energy Market Operator ordered Queensland coal generators to turn up the throttle. By 6.30 the next morning, the interconnector from Queensland to NSW was running red hot. At 7am electricity was flowing at three times the safe capacity.

As the sun rose, solar panels offered some relief, but the emergency was far from over. At 6.30pm on June 13, desperate for every megawatt of dispatchable power it could muster, the AEMO ordered Snowy Hydro to crank up its turbines at Colongra on the NSW Central Coast. In normal circumstances, Colongra runs on natural gas. Since the price of gas had gone through the roof, however, the turbines were running on diesel.

READ MORE:State’s coal export bonanza to thrive until at least 2050|‘Don’t go there’: PM warned on new tax|Gas crisis forces Germany to flatten wind farm for coal mine
So much for a smooth transition from hydrocarbons to clean energy. NSW avoided blackouts last winter by turning to one of the dirtiest forms of fuel available. What happened on June 13 was far from an isolated incident. At the peak of the grid crisis in the second week of August, diesel was generating 2 per cent of dispatchable power in the NEM.

If any grounds remain by which the federal and NSW governments can prevent AGL committing this act of industrial vandalism then it must use them, because even if Liddell stays open, the grid will be stretched to the limit. Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen should insist demolition is postponed until AGL replaces like with like. Instead, we’re being fobbed off with puffery about AGL’s investment in wind and solar and its plans for green hydrogen.

AGL scrapped its plan to install gas generators on the site some years ago but it isn’t abandoning Liddell completely. The company has promised to install a 500MW lithium-ion battery in partnership with Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries.

Even if it were up and running by the time Liddell closes, which it won’t be, it will be virtually useless in the kind of emergency that came close to blacking out NSW in June. A 500MW battery stores the equivalent of 0.01 per cent of NSW’s weekly energy consumption.

Blowing up Liddell will be just the start of our woes. In August 2025 the country’s largest generator at Eraring will be replaced with another fizzer of a battery. Others must follow if the AEMO is to stay on track with its plan of retiring 60 per cent of coal capacity by the end of the decade.

For a moment, let us put scepticism aside and assume Bowen’s plan to install 64 million solar panels, erect 3800 wind turbines and string up 28,000km of transmission lines is the solution. But unless he can get them up and running by April, Bowen must abandon wishful thinking and face facts. The laws of physics and the challenges of engineering mean the near-instant shift to zero emissions many expect simply cannot occur. The modern world was built to run on hydrocarbons and transition will take much longer than we have so far imagined, if it can be achieved at all.

Not every Western country is making such a hash of things. The government of Ontario announced the closure of its coal-fired power plants in 2003. The Thunder Bay Generating Station, the final coal plant in Ontario, stopped burning in 2014. Today the province remains the powerhouse of the Canadian economy and a centre for manufacturing.

Ontario seized the advantage by investing in nuclear power and a relatively light touch with wind and solar. The province is home to five of six Canadian nuclear reactors including the largest nuclear power station in the world.

Ontario has become an early adopter of small modular reactors, the first of which is under construction at Darlington Point, adjacent to an existing nuclear reactor. The first SMR could be in operation by 2028 and will have a life of 60 years. Australia’s wind and solar infrastructure will need to be replaced three or four times in that period, if we were foolish enough to persist on that path.

SMRs would be the best possible replacement baseload generators for Australia’s remaining coal-fired power plants if we had a government bold enough to rise to the challenge. Four SMRs, stacked in sequence at Liddell covering as little as 18ha, would comfortably cover the gap left by the withdrawal of coal.

Bowen claims the adoption of nuclear would push up power prices and crowd out cheaper and cleaner technologies, insisting that firmed renewables are quicker to build and cheaper to operate. “Those who say otherwise are either dangerously ignorant or simply seeking to perpetuate the climate wars,” he says.

In fact, the retail electricity price in Canada was about the same as the price in Australia in 2005 before the renewable energy investment boom began. Today, Canadians are paying half as much as Australians and enjoy the third-lowest prices in the OECD. Energy ignorance runs deep.


Another false claim of Aboriginality?

A relative of a Victorian Labor candidate who has described herself as a "proud Yorta Yorta woman" has said their family has no Indigenous ancestry and has never identified as Aboriginal.

Lauren O'Dwyer is running for election in the battleground seat of Richmond in Melbourne's inner north at this weekend's state election.

The ABC understands Ms O'Dwyer said her Indigenous heritage comes from her great-grandfather, Graham Berry.

However Mr Berry's daughter, Joan Keele, has told the ABC her father was not Aboriginal and never identified as Indigenous.

"My father was not … Aboriginal. His father was born in Swan Hill and his mother was born in Richmond," Ms Keele said. "So he's nowhere near Yorta Yorta country. "We had a good relationship. We could chat about anything and everything, but [he] never, ever mentioned that."

Yorta Yorta country is concentrated at the centre of the Victorian-NSW border, taking in towns including Echuca and Shepparton. Swan Hill lies 100 kilometres from its westernmost boundary of Cohuna.

Ms Keele said she found out Ms O'Dwyer had described herself as Indigenous after seeing campaign advertisements on Facebook. "I was really surprised when I read that on Facebook that she was … a proud Yorta Yorta woman," Ms Keele said. "I can't understand her. I really don't."

In a statement provided to the ABC, Ms O'Dwyer disputed the allegations. "I know who I am and am proud of my heritage," Ms O'Dwyer said.

Growing concerns and questions about Ms O'Dwyer's heritage have continued to build in the lead-up to Saturday's election, with the local Aboriginal corporation saying she has failed to follow cultural protocol and consult with elders. "She cannot say she's Yorta Yorta until she actually comes to the Yorta Yorta," Ms Morgan said.

"I'm not against this woman per se, but it is very clear that she has no right to procure an identity as a Yorta Yorta without going through the proper channels and going to their elders."

The YYNC has clear guidelines about who can identify as descendants of the 16 families who moved to the Cummeragunja Aboriginal Mission, near the Victorian-New South Wales border, when it first opened, making up the Yorta Yorta Nation today.

Ms Morgan said neither Ms O'Dwyer nor Mr Berry were found anywhere along the line.


Fascism: We're well down the path to it in Australia

In recent years Australians have been exposed to a succession of natural disasters and a global pandemic. These episodes have seen government powers greatly increased and state dependence become a substitute for personal responsibility.

Perhaps because it all seemed so innocent the people’s reaction to this growing interference in their lives has been muted. They reasoned desperate times call for desperate measures. They tolerated poorly administered disaster relief and obediently observed harsh Covid lockdowns because, ‘they kept us safe’. Official scaremongering, based on uninformed or withheld medical advice, was sufficient to excuse multiple affronts to our Constitution and values.

Our constitutional guardians, from former prime minister Scott Morrison down, watched our liberties being abused with cold indifference. Not even the abridgement of free movement between the states, the arrest of a young pregnant mother for protesting against draconian lockdowns on Facebook, the death of an unborn child because ‘Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders’ or police firing rubber bullets at fleeing demonstrators, could stir the people’s representatives into protecting our Constitution and way of life. And while the emergencies have receded, emboldened governments remain.

This development is eerily reminiscent of 1930s Germany when journalist Sebastian Haffner wrote in his secret journal, ‘There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and, those like me, watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theatre’. Like Australians today, Germans believed talk of authoritarian rule was alarmist until it wasn’t.

Australian sceptics should note how the Racial Discrimination Act is being increasingly used to silence free speech. And how, in the public square, critics of the incessant wave of woke orthodoxies face demonisation as right-wing extremists, racists, climate change deniers or anti-vaxxers. Fear of being socially ostracised intimidates most. A tentative, ‘I probably shouldn’t be saying this’, is as far as most will go, even in private.

It’s the same in the corporate world. As Haffner observed, when an organisation’s future is inexorably linked to being on one ideological side, close attention is paid to the new doctrine.

So as guilt for past sins sees the NSW government commit $25 million for a token Aboriginal flag to fly permanently on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, retailer, Coles Group ‘gets the vibe’ by acknowledging on its shopping dockets, ‘the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia’.

Similarly, big-business executives demonstrate their Green credentials by demanding limousine companies drive them to the airport in electric vehicles so they can take their umpteenth CO2-emitting flight.

It doesn’t take jackboots anymore. Spooked by social media and ‘ethical’ investors and wooed by government incentives, most boards and management have embraced ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ with alacrity. It includes the notion of a ‘social licence to operate’, a term invented by the political class to advance the goals of environmental sustainability in business practices. After all, serving ‘the people’s community’ sounds more noble than the maximisation of financial return.

But don’t be fooled. Going Green is a trillion-dollar industry and a way in which virtue and profit can nicely intersect. Like moths to a flame, rent-seekers have quickly appeared and become part of a new privileged, self-reinforcing elite.

Indeed, having access to the political class is today’s pathway to fame and fortune. It requires a different skill set to the economic risk-takers of the past. It is a system which demands obedience, entrenches privilege and restricts social mobility. Bureaucracies may claim intellectual superiority, but their record demonstrates that intellect and competence are, too often, inversely correlated.

For example, no profit-seeking enterprise would have invested in unnecessary desalination plants, an obsolete NBN, or a poorly conceived Snowy Hydro 2.0, and inland rail, let alone waste $240 million on a now mothballed Queensland quarantine facility. Indeed it’s only because we still have a capitalist system that we recognise bureaucratic ineptitude parading as public interest. Capitalism ends waste. Governments perpetuate it.

We have reached the stage where big government now enjoys a life of its own. It continues to attract a growing army of self-interested, unaccountable, group-thinking bureaucrats. They are inward looking and process driven. They are difficult to fire or demote. Those who actively seek power over others do well. They are essentially anti-liberal and anti-market and pursue regulatory powers wherever possible. The more they intervene the bigger and more powerful they become.

Looking to the future, education bureaucracies are preparing today’s children to become state dependent. Schools are transmission belts for self-loathing propaganda. Students are indoctrinated through required-reading textbooks, anti-capitalist teachings, critical race theory and the vilification of Western society. As our international proficiency rankings in literacy and mathematics tumble, the emphasis is on ‘well-being’. In primary school everyone gets a gold star wherever they place and, in team sports, there are no winners or losers lest self-esteem should suffer. When adults, these children will hardly know disappointment and will lack the necessary resilience to deal with it. They will turn to Big Government for support.

Yet the bigger governments become the more disappointments there are. Prosperity and equity for all are ever-receding horizons. Indeed, a Productivity Commission report reveals economic growth and income per person over the past decade has slipped to its slowest rate in sixty years. Moreover, the wealth of the top 20 per cent of Australians has grown 68 per cent in the past fifteen years compared to six per cent for the bottom 20 per cent.

But like Haffner, we watch silently as high-minded, highly educated bureaucrats, arbitrarily drive the economic and social agenda, leaving politicians to market illusory fantasies with empty catchwords. We are assailed internationally and domestically with promises that big government is the solution, when even a cursory glance at the evidence reveals the opposite.

So we face a stark choice. Coercion and compulsion or freedom and self-determination. There is no third way. A revolution is taking place here and now and it’s not a stage play.




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