Monday, May 01, 2023

Carbon dioxide shortage threatening supply of key consumer goods

A strange irony here. Where's all that CO2 that the Greenies have "sequestered"?

There are growing concerns within the supermarket, food, grocery and beverages industries that a carbon dioxide shortage might threaten the supply of hundreds of consumer products – from baby food to packaged meat – highlighting once again the fragile state of Australia’s food supply chain.

The tightening supply of manufactured carbon dioxide was revealed by Coles chief executive Steven Cain on Friday and acknowledged by Ritchies supermarket boss Fred Harrison, as well as the nation’s largest chicken producer, Inghams, a host of beverage companies including Coca-Cola, and a range of grocery manufacturers contacted by The Australian over the weekend.

“Some of the (supply) challenges are ongoing, some of them are returning. There is now a CO2 shortage again, and that is impacting obviously carbonated drinks and a few other products as well,” Coles boss Steven Cain said on Friday.

“Obviously, things that are carbonated are in short supply. I understand there is more CO2 heading our way but there’s just two main suppliers in the world … and I think there is just a shortage caused by the environment at the moment.”

Already the supply issues for carbon dioxide have left Woolworths desperately short of its private label soda water and mineral water products, with many stores sold out for weeks. Many of its shelves are also showing thinning supplies of branded soft drinks.

“Due to challenges in the supply chain, we do have lower volumes of our own-brand carbonated beverages than we would like but we expect supply to get back to normal in the next few weeks,” a Woolworths spokesman told The Australian.

Mr Harrison, the boss of one of the nation’s largest independent supermarket chains, Ritchies, said the CO2 shortage was a growing concern within the industry.

“The further we moved away from Covid you would have anticipated that these sorts of issues are going to go away, but right now there is a major issue around CO2 and I think this could be a threat to industries such as the carbonated soft drink category … it is a high risk and I think some companies have tried to anticipate this and tried to order but there is a shortage of getting product into the country.”

It isn’t just the fizzy drink sector that is being hit by a shortage of carbon dioxide, with CO2 used in the production of hundreds of consumer products such as packaged meats, baby foods, fresh foods and baked products. It is also used for dispensing drinks in pubs and in a number of medical procedures. CO2 is used as a pure gas or in mixtures with other gases for anaesthesia, stimulating breathing and sterilising equipment.


Wallowing in moral self-regard

James Allan exposes the narcissism of some who support "Voice"

What does one say about the Julian Leesers and Greg Cravens of this Voice debate? I refer to the way they paint themselves as superior moral beings because they are going to vote Yes. And make no mistake that is precisely what they are doing. ‘For me the moral logic of the Voice flows deeply from my Catholic faith,’ says Craven. So all the millions of Catholics who’ll vote No are what, Greg? Morally blind? Stupid? Ill-informed? He goes on to claim that ‘the moral payload is inescapable’. If you set out to wallow in moral self-regard and sanctimonious blather you couldn’t do better than that.

Oh, and best of all Craven describes himself as a conservative too. Well, when I first got to this country to teach law I read a few of Craven’s constitutional law writings. The man was funny. He was deeply sceptical about the pernicious effects of judicial activism. The same went for Julian Leeser when it came to any proposed bill of rights (or for him, not Craven, the proposed Republic too).

Today, neither Craven nor Leeser seems to care one hoot about the sort of judicial activism this constitutionalised Voice body will unleash on our democracy. (Ditto Chris Kenny on that point.) Every single claim Leeser made about a bill of rights or Craven made about the High Court just making up the implied freedom of political communication doctrine (both of which claims are correct in my view) applies equally to this Voice body. And they know it. Both have read the Love case. Either they’d have to recant their earlier positions or they today don’t care about judicial activism.

I ask myself, ‘in what sense are Craven and Leeser actually conservatives, the former being pro-Republic, pro-Voice, insouciant about judicial activism and the latter being against s.18C repeal and also insouciant about judicial activism and neither, as far as I know, saying a word in three years against the lockdown authoritarianism that Lord Sumption rightly called the biggest inroads on our civil liberties in 300 years?’. Moral self-regard should be made of sterner stuff.

This suggests that for both these men the moral position is to ignore likely future bad consequences in favour of empty symbolism – empty in the sense that supposed good consequences in tangible terms are just not there and all we hear is vague, amorphous prattling about how this Voice will (in some never explained way) allow Aborigines ‘to live life to the fullest extent’. Really? Once in place this body will carry with it a huge bureaucracy. As the wording stands at present it will have input into every law mooted (not just ones directly aimed at Aboriginal people).

Law-making will become sclerotic. Rent-seeking is almost certain to become a feature of political life. This constitutional amendment will hand the High Court a tool it can use in known-unknown and unknown-unknown ways. It will be a body that is far more likely to diminish good outcomes for Aborigines than improve them because the activist, left class will soon take it over.

And if you want a comparison, this past weekend a well-known political commentator visiting these shores, Andrew Neil, pointed to the Scottish parliament. Since its coming into being it has built up a huge bureaucracy of massively paid hangers-on and the like; meanwhile the Scots have gone downhill against the English on just about every social statistic going – higher percentage working in the public service than anywhere else in Europe, even worse NHS results than in England, more thuggish than England during the pandemic, education results now below England’s and for the first time in history it is today harder for a poor Scot to get to university than for a poor English kid, undoing centuries of good old-fashioned Scots Presbyterian concern for education.

I point all that out, by the way, as a Scots-Canadian myself descending on both sides from generations of Calvinist Scots. (It’s an embarrassment that the land of David Hume, Adam Smith, and the better version of the Enlightenment has descended to Nicola Sturgeon and an inability to know what a woman is.)

Oh, and worst of all the Voice will undermine the core concept of equal citizenship that lies at the heart of any liberal democracy. Some will get rights others do not, and on a group-rights basis. That’s not conservative Julian!

In a democracy each of us can vote as we wish. But when people start advertising their own moral superiority you need to point out a few home truths. Likely future facts on the ground shape the morality of proposed actions. Looking inside oneself and wondering what you will tell your kids or making high-falutin’ claims about ‘moral logic’ (as if you’ve just overdosed on a bit of Immanuel Kant) does not automatically or self-evidently put you on the side of the angels, not even if you yourself proclaim that it does. Here’s something else that doesn’t obviously align with the best moral position.

Both Craven and Leeser have pointed out a good few of the problems with the Albanese wording of this amendment. I believe Craven went so far as to call it ‘awful’. But both are going to vote for it anyway. That being the case, why was it moral for Leeser to accept the position as shadow minister? I mean, you can’t really negotiate can you, if in the end you’re prepared to accept what Albanese rams down your throat however many flaws you point out it has. And likewise Craven on the Expert Panel. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest negotiator to see this emasculates you in any bargaining sense. You might even say that it undermines your moral position.

I’m sick and tired of so many people on the Yes side calling those who are opposed to this Voice body ‘racists’ – people like top barrister Bret Walker and Noel Pearson who seems these days only to deal in name-calling.

But now we have to listen to self-righteous, sanctimonious pridefulness. So let me be blunt. I don’t believe the Yes side and those on the Yes side are more moral. I know for a fact (having done a doctorate in moral philosophy) that none of them could cash that argument out in a way that would get them a passing mark in an undergraduate essay. And need I point out the obvious, that many, many Aborigines are themselves against this proposal?

Here’s the thing. No campaigners like me are saying that this amendment will deliver a racist constitution, not that Yes people are racists. That it will undermine equal citizenship in a way you can’t find anywhere else in the democratic world. That it will subvert and sabotage the fourth-oldest written constitution in the democratic world. That’s not an overly moral prospect.


Fear and loathing in POST-Covid Australia

Three years ago, I was approached at a pub in Brisbane by a television station reporting on the mask mandates to be put in place by our state premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk. I was asked what I thought of having to wear a mask and remain seated when at cafes, restaurants, and pubs. I said it was a laugh and that I would be eating, smoking, or drinking anyway, and if they started fining us for dancing, I’d write a novel about Queensland turning into a revenue raising quasi-religious state. That did not make it on TV, but a short bit of my diatribe did, when I said, ‘Who cares? Very few people will be bothered to follow these rules.’ I pointed to a bloke emerging from the pokies den for a cigarette and said, ‘Try getting old mate over there to wear a mask, he’s not even wearing shoes…!’

Three years later and I have moved from one Labor-run state to another: from the Stasi north to the dictatorial south, as they say. Melbourne was the most locked down place on the planet during Covid, and people are still wearing masks. It is not just the elderly going about their grocery shopping, but fit men in suits walking down Collins Street on their lunch breaks and young healthy women at art galleries on their weekends.

I attended a panel discussion in a theatre recently and a young woman was sitting inside, alone, wearing a mask. A stranger seated three chairs apart from the masked woman leapt over and asked her if she would feel more comfortable if she, too, put on a mask: ‘I have one in my bag! I can put it on!’ The masked woman assured her this would not be necessary. ‘Oh but we still must be so careful!’ the stranger cooed.

As a Queenslander, I would like to dismiss this nauseatingly effusive display as so very Melbourne – home of the nouveau riche with a social conscience, the Australian luvvie, and the birthplace of Dame Edna – but all-around Australia young, healthy people are still peering anxiously from beneath their masks and the rest of us are nodding along with them.

When I wrongly assumed that lockdowns and mask mandates would be impossible for our politicians and police to enforce, I did not only underestimate the lengths the authorities were willing to go to curtail basic freedoms, I deeply misunderstood the Australian psyche, or what became of it during the pandemic. I had faith in the larrikin: our convict swagger, our healthy mistrust of authority, our ability to remain nonchalant in the face of almost anything, and our unwavering commitment to preserve the Australian way of life in the luckiest country in the world. ‘She’ll be right!’ I thought. What I didn’t bet on was that the other side of the Australian character, the dark underbelly of the double edged-sword that is our easy-going nature, would instead be the side to emerge triumphant.

As women’s rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull has recently observed, reflecting on her tour of the antipodes, Australians are easy to coerce because of our easy-going nature. ‘I think you have a really worrying rise of authoritarianism,’ she said. ‘Nobody thinks it’s going to be nefarious. Australians are a bit like, well, that’d be right now, it’d be fine… And then next time they have no rights.’ Keen identified a link between hard lockdowns and a reluctance to stand up for the rapidly escalating erosion of woman’s rights. ‘If we think about the worst countries in the world for this gender bulls**t: Scotland, Canada, the blue states in the United States, not the red states, you’ve got New Zealand, Ireland, and Australia, and what they have in common is really hard lockdowns.’

I would argue that what we now also have in common is an all-pervasive fear – a mass, generalised anxiety relating to any transgression of unwritten rules. We were told that wearing masks would keep us safe from disease, we obliged, the threat of disease abated, but we have continued to cling to our masks like a child clings to a security blanket in the night. Our easy-going nature put us to sleep and we woke up petrified, haunted by the spectre of disease. The devastating consequence of this state of passivity and panic is that we are now not only germaphobes, we have created a whole culture where we have allowed ourselves to be completely dominated by fear and beholden to arbitrary, unwritten, rules.

As the reactions to Keen’s demonstrations showed, standing up and peacefully advocating for a cause as innocuous as women’s rights now carries the threat of being branded ‘anti-trans’, a Nazi, and physically attacked. It is not surprising that this phenomenon has surfaced, and holds great weight, in a post-Covid world. It is a world where we are now so used to having our freedoms restricted that we choose to imprison ourselves ‘just in case’.

What is most disturbing, and what we saw at the woman’s rights protests, is how this perverse mindset has taken on a distinctively political and moral tone. In the same way that we were told to wear a mask to avoid contracting Covid, we are now told we must wear LGBTQ+ insignia and the like, in order to protect ourselves from the disease of bigotry. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the most ardent mask and lockdown advocates were on the left of politics.

Today we fear committing some new transgression like we fear the plague, and so we blindly follow the new unwritten rules which are enforced with all the zealotry of the draconian lockdown laws. Our other great national characteristic – tolerance (aided by our easy-going nature) – has fallen prey to its own paradox. A society that is tolerant without limit will always be eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. That is what happened to liberal MP Moira Deeming when she spoke at the Melbourne woman’s rights rally. John Pesutto, once easy-going and tolerant, looked to the Marxists who heckled Deeming, and petrified of public criticism, nodded along.

‘Oh, but we still must be so careful…’ Like the dreaded plague that never was in Australia, there is no Nazi cabal of feminists running amok in Melbourne. What we do have is a society that is conditioned by fear and self-loathing.


Shock stats: Rate of high school dropouts reaches 10-year high

Students deserting useless education/indoctrination

The number of Queensland students finishing year 12 has drastically dropped in the past three years, with current rates now below those seen a decade ago.

Experts believe the disruption of the Covid pandemic played a big role in questioning the focus on academic results and a shift towards finding a career earlier.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics schools data shows just 82.2 per cent of year 12 students in 2022 – who would have begun high school in year 7 in 2017 - made it to their final year of schooling.

In 2012, 83.7 per cent of the year 12 cohort who commenced year 8 in 2008 – the beginning of high school at that time – made it to their senior year.

That equates to 11,180 fewer students finishing their secondary schooling now compared to a decade ago, with most of those dropping out male.

The height of high school retention peaked in 2019 just ­before Covid when 91.3 per cent of students remained until year 12.

University of Southern Queensland senior education lecturer Dr Tania Leach said the pandemic likely played a part in retention rates falling away after some improvement.

“It created the notion that they (students) don’t know what is coming, so they may have decided to look at what they loved in that moment as a potential career,” she said.

Dr Leach said the value of vocational education needed to be increased.

“What we have seen in this data is students choosing different pathways,” she said. “At the moment, it could be that our education system is one-size-fits-all due to such a focus on academic and ATAR results. We need a balance and range; one career pathway should not be privileged over another.”

Tertiary offers to school-leavers show a small shift away from the traditional university path. Queensland’s Class of 2012 received about 49,500 QTAC offers during the two major rounds, but Class of 2022 graduates got only about 45,117.

Construction Skills Queensland chief executive Brett Schimming said in the face of a 10-year high work demand in the state, his organisation changed tack in 2019.

“Today’s young people are the Instagram generation … we started to turn the conversation around and invest in new ways of talking about the industry,” he said.

“We now use virtual reality to demonstrate what it is like on a construction site … put the goggles on and you’re driving a high-tower crane, or on the ground as a carpenter.”




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