Sunday, December 18, 2022

More big batteries storing renewable energy to be built around Australia

A joke. They run for a couple of hours and then go flat. So what use are they in any serious power shortage?

It is estimated the batteries will lead to a tenfold increase in storage capacity, with Mr Bowen saying it would revitalise the energy market.

"Some people say the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow and that's true, but we can store renewable energy for when we need it," he told reporters outside the Transgrid battery in Western Sydney.

Where will the battery projects be located?

The batteries will come online by 2025 and together would be big enough to power Tasmania for about three hours.

Three will be in Victoria - at Gnarwarre, Moorabool and Mortlake - while one will be at Liddell in NSW.

Queensland will be home to two, at Mount Fox and Western Downs, while South Australia will also have two, at Bungama and Blyth.

They range from 200-300 megawatts each and will have grid-forming inverter technology, which provides stability to the grid usually offered through coal and gas.

The government estimates the total value of the projects at $2.7 billion.

Mr Bowen said the projects would be some of the biggest batteries rolled out in Australia in the near future. "Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, the more renewable energy we have in the system, the cheaper bills will be," he said.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the batteries could underpin the transition to renewable energy in Australia.

"This pipeline of grid-forming projects will help move us closer to an electricity grid that can support 100 per cent renewable energy in the (National Energy Market)," he said.

It came as the federal government unveiled further details about 58 community batteries to be rolled out in regional and urban areas, worth up to $500,000 each.

Electricity providers will use them to store energy generated by solar panels on residential homes, which could then be used by other nearby households.

An extra 342 will be rolled out after consultation.


Criminologist Dr Terry Goldsworthy says shootings not an indication of extremism on the rise

A former senior cop turned criminologist says the pandemic has helped increase hostility towards police who had to enforce unpopular lockdowns, border closures and vaccine mandates.

But Bond University Associate Professor of Criminology Dr Terry Goldsworthy believes the Darling Downs police slayings were an “aberration” and not a sign that violent extremism is on the rise in Australia.

In an opinion piece for the Sunday Mail following the murders of Constable Rachel McCrow, Constable Matthew Arnold and bystander Alan Dare at Wieambilla last Monday, Dr Goldsworthy said fatal police shootings in Australia were rare.

“In the last five years (before the Darlings Downs killings), no police officer had been fatally shot in Australia,” he wrote.

“In the same period in the US, some 244 police officers were killed by firearms. That is not to say policing is not a dangerous occupation (in Australia) – it is.”

Darling Downs cop killers Gareth, Nathaniel and Stacey Train were crazed conspiracy theorists as well as anti-vaxxers. Dr Goldsworthy said their extremist views were likely hardened by the pandemic.

“Covid unfortunately saw a lot of governments use police for things police aren’t necessarily designed for, such as the enforcement of medical protocols and lockdowns,” he said.

“Some of that enforcement was done quite poorly, especially in Victoria where we saw police using bearcats (armoured vehicles) against lockdown protesters. Bearcats are meant to be used in hostage and terrorist situations, not against protesters.

“Certain kinds of people in the community would have seen that as an overreach of authority and an abuse of power by the state. In some people, it may have set off a chain reaction of fear: ‘Look what the state’s done to us here? What else can they do?’

“It made them even more vehemently anti-state and anti-authority.

“But I don’t think what we saw last week was an indication of any overall trend. I think it was a tragic aberration. I don’t think these people (the Trains) would have been stopped.

“It seems as if they wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, in their own minds, fighting against a perceived evil they saw.”

Dr Goldsworthy said the focus now was rightly on grieving the two young murdered officers, whose funerals are being held next week.

But he said a coronial inquest might look at questions including what intelligence was held about the Trains, why relatively inexperienced police were sent to the property and who lodged the missing person report on Nathaniel Train with NSW police.

He said it could lead to a review of policing in rural and remote areas.


Wollumbin scientist questions sacred nature of mountain

A scientist who spent years studying Mount Warning Wollumbin has questioned just how “sacred” the site is after a committee recommended closing it to the public forever.

Dr Peter Solomon wrote a thesis for the University of Queensland on his findings from years of study during the 1950s, focusing mostly on the area’s unique geological formations, but said he found no evidence of sacred sites.

Dr Solomon, who went on to obtain a PhD in science at Harvard University and spent decades working with government and private agencies on natural resources issues, contacted The Courier-Mail after reading how a panel known as the Wollumbin Consultative Group had recommended closing the hiking trail because “access is not culturally appropriate or culturally safe”.

Last week there was renewed hope that a compromise could be reached after a “positive” meeting between key stakeholders, but no formal moves have been made to reopen the trail.

Dr Solomon said he was surprised at the recommendations to permanently close the summit trail which followed almost three years of extended “temporary” closures.

“I found that very interesting,” he said. “During my studies I was looking for sacred sites and I came to the conclusion that there were none around. “I certainly don’t think there is enough evidence that it should be closed off to everybody because of the presence of any sacred sites.”

He said the geological wonders of the area meant it should be able to be enjoyed and experienced by the public, even if it meant the introduction of a permit system to regulate access.

“This is a very precious area,” he said. “There is nothing else like it anywhere else in the world.”

The Wollumbin Consultative Group, whose views were published in the Wollumbin Aboriginal Place Management Plan released in October, has declined multiple requests for interviews and comment.

In the October report, the WCG called for the “immediate” closure of the area to the general public, but suggested requests to access the site for scientific purposes could be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The report identified the Wollumbin Aboriginal Place “as a sacred ceremonial and cultural complex that is linked to traditional law and custom … interconnected to a broader cultural and spiritual landscape”.

It also acknowledged that the “identification of known Aboriginal sites and places within and surrounding Wollumbin AP is not exhaustive”, listing a number of important cultural sites nearby.

On Thursday, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service released a statement confirming any move to reopen the summit track would be at the discretion of the Aboriginal custodians.


Freedom of association no longer guaranteed in Qld

Do the new laws in Queensland that curtail independent unions breach International Labour Organisation articles that guarantee freedom of association? I suspect so, although it is a complex area of the law with many twists and turns.

The ILO is a UN agency that states explicitly that workers’ groups should be allowed to form organisations without government interference.

“Workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to establish and … join organisations of their own choosing without previous authorisation,” says the ILO freedom of association charter.

“Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall have the right to draw up their constitutions and rules, to elect their representatives in full freedom, to organise their administration.”

The Queensland government has clearly tinkered with those rights, in my opinion.

A Labor government that sees unions as enemies? Who would have thought?

The ILO charter adds: “Public authorities shall refrain from any interference which would restrict this right or impede their lawful exercise.”

Recent changes to industrial laws in Queensland strengthened the Labor-aligned unions that fund the Labor Party and made it difficult for independent or “rogue” unions to represent their members.

This seems to me to be against the spirit of the ILO conventions that say unions cannot “be dissolved or suspended by administrative authority”.

I believe the state government has improperly muzzled independent unions that offer cheaper fees while refusing to be linked to the ALP. There will be blowback.

Australia is a founding member of the ILO and, along with 187 nations and labor organisations, has signed dozens of conventions guaranteeing workers’ rights.

Have teachers’ and nurses’ rights been trampled by the new laws that seek to stop the so-called “fake unions” from representing their members at the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission? Has the Labor government conveniently ignored ILO conventions?

It looks suspicious to me. Parliament heard the new laws were designed to punish independent unions like the NPAQ (Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland) and the TPAQ (Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland) who are members of RUSH (Red Union Support Hub).

Why? They will not kowtow to the Labor Party and every time they sign a new member, they take money from Labor Party pockets.

In Parliament, the Opposition questioned the independence of the QIRC.

The Supreme Court has now become ensnared in the political controversy.

Chief Justice Helen Bowskill has received a letter from an appellant asking whether the president of the QIRC, Justice Peter Davis, should abstain from sitting on her case.

In his submission to Parliament Davis discusses the Red Union Support Hub, the NPAQ and the TPAQ, who he said had featured in a promotional video.

Margaret Gilbert, president of the independent NPAQ, wrote to Bowskill and told her she had not received a response to a letter she wrote to Davis in October asking that he step down from deliberating on a separate case involving her.

The appeal was heard in November 2021 but a judgment has yet to be handed down.

In the letter, Gilbert repeated her request that Davis recuse himself, or step aside.

“I respectfully request that you make an inquiry with the Industrial Court about what is happening with my case,” Gilbert wrote.

“Both myself and my members still feel it appropriate in the circumstances that Justice Davis recuse himself and a new judge be appointed promptly.”

Gilbert also raised Davis’ historical political links with the ALP and revelations in Parliament of Davis’ role in the campaigning for the ALP’s Peter Russo, a fellow lawyer, in the seat of Toohey at the last election before Davis was made a judge.

During the October debate in Parliament, Labor members including Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace praised Davis’s submission in the House.

Opposition members led by shadow Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, and Member for Southern Downs James Lister, told Parliament that the Labor Party changed the industrial relations laws to favour its own unions.

Lister was especially blunt.

“It is clear that there is a massive opportunity for patronage here and for jobs for the friends of the union movement, which obviously is a payback from the government for funding its election campaigns and for giving them their jobs,” Lister said. “This is sheer and utter corruption. This bill is a disgrace.”

He added: “Union payback is at the essence of this Bill. I have spoken about this beautifully symmetrical love triangle with big ALP, including the parliamentary wing, big unions and the Industrial Relations Commission which work together in a way that can hardly be seen as truly independent.”

Bleijie told the House there are hundreds of thousands of teachers and nurses who will pay more in fees if the independent unions are crushed.

Chief Justice Bowskill declined to say yesterday whether she had responded to the call by the NPAQ for Davis to recuse himself.

The controversy lingers. Beneath the surface a political and legal volcano is set to explode.

Meanwhile, no one in Opposition questioned whether the new laws breached the ILO conventions. Perhaps they should.




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