Monday, July 31, 2023

Andrew Bolt: ‘This Aboriginal identity craze is too much’

Brittany Higgins is now Aboriginal, too? And even got a job from Victoria’s version of Labor’s Aboriginal-only Voice?

Dear God. This Aboriginal identity craze is just too much.

And wait until I tell you about the latest very senior “Aboriginal” academic.

But let’s start with Higgins, whose story helps to explain why so many academics in particular say they’re Aboriginal when they’re not.

Higgins, you’ll know, controversially claimed she’d been raped in Parliament House by a Liberal colleague. He denied it, but she still won up to $3 million in compensation.

It was extraordinary. Higgins didn’t have to prove either the rape or the nasty treatment she claimed she’d got from the Morrison Liberal Government before the Albanese Labor Government gave this fortune to the woman who’d help them to smash the Liberals.

But Higgins had meanwhile hit a problem. Where could she find another job?

No problem! A friend working at Victoria’s First Peoples Assembly told her to apply there to be a media adviser, and apparently told her bosses Higgins had Aboriginal ancestry.

Text messages uncovered by the Daily Mail show that friend, Emma Webster, then asking Higgins what “mob” she was, adding the Assembly’s “co-chair and CEO are curious”.

Higgins replied that her grandfather was connected “to either the Nyawigi or Gugu Badhun people”. But “we’re not entirely sure which one” and her grandfather “didn’t want to progress any further” with inquiries after reconnecting with his “siblings from the orphanage”.

Higgins added: “We’ve all collectively as a family respected his wishes”, but “my grandma has all the documentation if you’d like”.

Be clear: I’m NOT calling Higgins a fake. Her grandfather may indeed have Aboriginal ancestry, but I wonder how anyone could claim Higgins is in any meaningful way Aboriginal herself, based on such uncertain connections.

Higgins got the job, but many other Australians who get jobs after claiming to be Aboriginal can’t even wave at any documents to supposedly prove it.

I’ve given examples before: author Bruce Pascoe, of course, now Professor of “Indigenous Agriculture” at Melbourne University; and Professor Kerrie Doyle of the non-existent “Winninninii” tribe. Both won’t explain why their genealogies show no Aboriginal ancestors.

But let me now introduce you to yet another academic who has longed claimed to be Aboriginal.

Margo Neale is an Australian National University adjunct professor, and head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges at the National Museum of Australia.

She’s been one of the gatekeepers of Aboriginal culture, organising exhibitions of Aboriginal art and working at the National Gallery of Australia and the state galleries of NSW and Queensland.

She’s big. She’s shared in seven Australian Research Council grants, and her many books include the Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture.

Part of Neale’s influence comes from claiming she’s Aboriginal herself – descended on her mother’s side from the “Mirning-language speakers of the Albany region, Western Australia”.

She’s also claimed she’s “Aboriginal descent, from Kulin nation with Gumbayngirr clan connections”, and even “clan-affiliated” with the Wiradjuri of NSW.

The trouble is that Neale’s family tree – now assembled by professional genealogists at – suggests she’s actually 100 per cent of Irish, Welsh and English stock.

The researchers couldn’t find a single Aborigine among Neale’s ancestors, after consulting birth records, death records, newspaper clippings of family events, and the family trees and photographs posted on by two of Neale’s very close relatives. wrote to Neale asking her if they’d overlooked something, but got no answer.

Then I wrote, asking Neale to identify her Aboriginal ancestor. I eventually received a response offering no name or evidence: “Aboriginal histories, as you know, can indeed be tricky particularly if one relies on western records during the long period of disruption and displacement …

“Aboriginal births, deaths and marriages were largely unrecorded outside missions and pastoral properties in earlier days at least, or inaccurately recorded for spurious purposes or surnames changed for legitimacy reasons.”

I’ve since asked Neale again which ancestor was Aboriginal and had their birth record inaccurately recorded.

I’m still waiting, but someone did meanwhile send me one university document which helps to explain why so many academics are now Aborigines about as pale as Higgins.

It was a Queensland University advertisement, seeking a lecturer in maths and physics, but insisting “the occupant must be of Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander descent”. I’ve since found many more such racist ads.

How mad. No wonder a great race circus overwhelms even our universities and all common sense


Queensland Government Slashes Fishing Quotas, Fish Prices Set to Rise

On July 1, Fisheries Queensland cut the amount of Spanish mackerel allowed to be caught.

For professional anglers, the amount dipped by approximately two-thirds from 578 tonnes to 165 tonnes.

Recreational fishers’ possession limits have also changed from three to one fish per person or from six to two fish per boat with two or more recreational fishers on board. Further, the extended charter limit has been removed, stopping recreational fishers from taking twice the in-possession limit for trips over 48 hours.

These changes were made based on fish stock modelling. The government’s stock assessment estimated that Spanish mackerel could be down to 17 percent of its unfished biomass which has an accepted sustainable level of 60 percent or more.

However, Allan Bobbermen, Chief Executive of the Queensland Seafood Industries Association (QSIA) said this data must be re-examined.

He told the ABC that the modelling did not match what fishing businesses were experiencing in the field.

“If there was less to catch, we’d be catching less, but we’re not catching less,” Mr. Bobbermen said.

Simon Hoyle and Alistair Dunn, experienced fisheries scientists with expertise in mackerel management, are also concerned after they conducted an independent report on the government’s modelling.

They said that the model showed “signs of misspecification, with bias apparent in the estimated growth curve, and instability in model fits.” They argued that before this model was used to recommend any management advice, it needed to be fixed.

“What Fisheries Queensland has relied upon in reaching decisions about future Spanish mackerel catches simply should not be used in its current form for management of the fishery,” said Mr. Bobbermen.

He has asked Fisheries Minister, Mark Furner, to withdraw the new East Coast Spanish mackerel Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) because of the information being questioned in the independent report.

According to Bobbermen, the TACC could lead to severe economic hardship for many coastal Queensland communities such as Ingham, Halifax, Lucinda, and Cardwell. It will also affect more than 200 commercial fishermen.

He said, “We did not get any warning, and in fact, we’re quite dismayed at the lack of due process and the lack of engagement by governments in relation to this whole matter.”

No Heads Up

This is not the only issue the fishing industry is facing in Queensland. Commercial fishers have said that Queensland’s wild-caught industry will be crippled by a surprise reform to ban gillnets from the Great Barrier Reef by 2027.

Gillnets are used to catch fish in a moving tide and have been shown to be a threat to much sea life, including dolphins.

The government has allocated $160 million (US$107 million) to reduce net fishing and other fishing activities affecting the reef.

Licences (N2 and N4) that cover Thursday Island to Maryborough will be bought out by the end of 2023. While Cape Bedford to the tip of Cape York will also become net-free, with N1 licences phased out by June 30, 2027.

Additionally, there are around 240 gillnet licences that will eventually be cancelled, and the government will also mandate the use of independent data validation on commercial fishing vessels.

Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia, said that the decision was a significant moment for ocean conservation.

“This announcement is shaping up as a globally significant moment for ocean conservation, fisheries management and the Great Barrier Reef—one of the natural wonders of the world,” he said.

“The commitment to mandate the use of independent data validation on commercial fishing vessels is also welcome and long overdue.

“It means we’ll have a much better understanding of what’s happening out on the water, including how many threatened species are being accidentally caught.”

Federal Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek said in a media release that the removal of the gillnets will help boost populations.

“The removal of gillnets in net-free zones on the reef has already helped boost local fish populations. We want to see this happen right across the reef,” Ms. Plibersek said.

According to Mr. Bobbermen, these bans were made without any consultation or discussion with the fishing industry.

“We are shocked by these unnecessary bans and the lack of empathy shown to fishers, their families, and the communities that rely on the commercial fishing industry in the joint announcement by the state and federal governments,” Mr. Bobbermen.


Why our energy transition needs a price tag

On the ABC’s 7.30 earlier this month, presenter Sarah Ferguson asked Energy Minister Chris Bowen to forecast a time when power prices would come down.

After name-checking the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bowen answered: “very clearly, the policy agenda indicates getting more renewables into the system, backed up by storage and by firming … (that) is the best way of seeing the cheapest possible energy prices”.

But is it? This is the multibillion-dollar question Australia’s future hinges on.

Bowen’s view that an ever-increasing share of renewables will lead to a reduction in power prices largely rests on one document: the CSIRO’s GenCost report. Updated on a yearly basis, this document is produced by a small team led by energy economist Paul Graham.

Although the document is treated as gospel by many, it has received surprisingly little scrutiny in the public arena. Given it is the most important document in Australia’s energy transition this lack of scrutiny may lead to policy disaster. One problem is that describing the problems with the report in accessible terms is no easy task.

Understanding the report requires a technical nous, and even those with industry expertise have found parts of it confounding.

Nevertheless, some experts do not hold back in their criticism. Stephen Wilson, from the School of Mechanical & Mining Engineering at the University of Queensland, told me in an email that the GenCost report is “inaccurate and misleading on total system costs”.

In a submission to Treasury earlier this year, energy economist David Carland points out that the report says nothing about the cost of “firming” of renewables and instead estimates the cost of “integrated” renewables from 2030 onwards – relying on the flawed assumption that firming has already taken place. But the most pointed criticism of GenCost has emerged this week from a Sydney-based data scientist.

Writing in the Fresh Economic Thinking publication, Aidan Morrison points out that the CSIRO’s claim that renewables are the “cheapest” form of energy rests almost entirely on a misapplication of the “sunk cost” assumption.

A “sunk cost” is economics jargon for money already spent. The sunk cost fallacy applies when you have already spent dollars and you try to recover them after they are gone. Say you buy a cake and put it in the fridge. You come to it later in the week but it has gone stale. You tell yourself you should eat it because you have spent money on it. In that situation – if you ate it – you would be committing the sunk cost fallacy. It would be better to just chuck it in the bin and reach for an apple.

In many situations, it makes sense to account for sunk costs. But the concept should always apply to money spent in the past, not in the future. By definition, costs that have not been incurred yet are avoidable, and are not yet sunk. This is common sense but, in the GenCost report, the CSIRO treats future spending on renewables as sunk – even before the spending has occurred – allowing the analysis to exclude this expenditure from the total cost of renewables.

This creative accounting method is how the GenCost report arrives at the conclusion that “integrated renewables” are the cheapest form of energy by 2030 onwards.

“By use of a bizarre ‘sunk-cost’ assumption in their modelling, CSIRO cleaves the cost of infrastructure built prior to 2030 (when we would supposedly already have reached over 50 per cent renewable penetration) from any solar and wind generators built thereafter that might depend on that infrastructure,” Morrison writes in Fresh Economic Thinking.

The CSIRO lists the projects that are written off as sunk: “Snowy 2.0 and the battery of the nation pumped hydro projects … various transmission expansion projects … New South Wales gas peaking plants at Kurri Kurri and Illawarra … The NSW target for an additional 2GW of at least eight hours duration storage is assumed to be met by 2030.” In response to this list, Morrison quips: “I’m losing count of the billions.”

“Every economist, politician, and policymaker relying on this report simply must hear about this,” he writes.

Morrison argues that a circular logic has taken root: “Politicians build transmission and storage because they think solar and wind are cheap because science says so. Science (ie, CSIRO) says solar and wind are cheap because high transmission and storage costs required to facilitate these renewable generators are an already built ‘sunk cost’ and ignored in their calculations.”

Of course, there may be good reasons why the CSIRO uses the sunk cost assumption for future and not past spending, and Morrison’s critique itself is worthy of scrutiny. But the problem is that we do not have a balanced conversation in this country about the true cost of our energy transition, and engineers who have expertise in alternative clean energy sources – such as nuclear – are frozen out of the conversation.

There is also a growing awareness internationally that when the full cost of firming renewables is incorporated into cost-of-generation metrics, the analysis looks rather different from what the CSIRO produces.

In a paper published in the journal Energy, German-American energy economist Robert Idel finds that when taking into account the full cost of renewables to an energy system, solar is 14 times more costly than nuclear energy, and wind is 4.7 times more costly.

In Texas, his methodology calculates that solar is 3.3 times more costly than nuclear, and wind is 2.3 times more costly. Such information is crucial for a balanced conversation about Australia’s energy transition. Especially in the context of power prices that just keep on rising.


Australia's easing inflation has given the government hope – but there's a long way to go until victory can be declared

"Pleasing" and "welcome". It's a long while since the treasurer has been able to use those words when talking about inflation. Yesterday they were his go-to descriptors.

The slightly better than expected fall in inflation from 7 per cent to 6 per cent in the June quarter was certainly a big relief for the government. "There's still a long way to go," Jim Chalmers acknowledged, but "we're heading in the right direction."

Inflation falls faster than expected. Has the Reserve Bank already increased interest rates too far?
Inflation has slowed down again, with consumer prices up 6 per cent over the year to June, below most economists' forecasts.

Recent opinion polls have shown some softening in Labor's (still dominant) levels of support. And the LNP's win in the Fadden by-election, while downplayed by Labor, suggested Peter Dutton is gaining more traction on cost-of-living issues than he was a few months ago.

The great fear within the government has been "sticky" inflation persisting in the economy, overwhelming its agenda for the remainder of this term, and dragging down its political fortunes and re-election prospects.

The June quarter figure gives Labor hope the cost-of-living crisis will be in the rear-view mirror by the time voters go to the polls in 2025.

There's still a risk of stickiness, however. The more problematic "services inflation" is now broad based in the economy, according to the Bureau of Statistics, and overtaking "goods inflation" for the first time since the end of COVID lockdowns.

The best news in this week's figures

Over the 12 months to the end of June, while goods inflation fell, services inflation rose faster than at any time since the introduction of the GST more than 20 years ago. Those services include both the discretionary and the unavoidable, which both present political challenges for the government.

Insurance premiums, for example, are through the roof, up more than 14 per cent over the year, raising fears households might drop their cover, leaving them exposed heading into a potentially difficult summer. Jim Chalmers says the government is looking at what it can do to help but admits there's no simple solution.

Who should pay for an increase in home insurance claims?
One in 25 Australians have lodged an insurance claim because of extreme weather since 2020, but should the remaining policyholders be responsible for sharing the cost of increased premiums?

Rents are an unavoidable expense for many. They've risen 6.7 per cent over the year, the largest annual rise since 2009. The treasurer points to the increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance announced in the budget and the government's battle in the Senate to establish a new housing fund, but the pressure for more help, stirred on by the Greens, will only grow.

The best news in yesterday's figures was the fall in goods inflation. No one will be cheering at the checkout just yet but the rate of inflation for a range of basic food, clothing and furniture goods has eased considerably.

While economists will debate what all this means for next week's interest rate decision, it's also worth considering what the June quarter result tells us about the decisions made to date by both the Reserve Bank and the government.

For all the criticism of Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe and the blunt tool of hiking interest rates, the 12 increases to date have clearly had an impact in gradually lowering inflation without destroying the jobs market.

There's been undeniable pain along the way for all those hit by higher rates, but the unemployment rate, remarkably, remains at near record lows of 3.5 per cent.




Sunday, July 30, 2023

Who Wears the Cost of Taking Down Wind Turbines Once They Expire?

Well in Australia, it could be the landholder or farmer.

Andrew Dyer, the country’s energy infrastructure commissioner says he has seen several “questionable agreements” between renewable companies and landholders that could leave the latter saddled with millions of dollars in decommissioning bills.

“Under the law, it will default to the landlord,” Mr. Dyer told a Senate Estimates hearing on May 23. “It’s up to the landlord to make sure that they have … a really good contract in place and you get the appropriate bond set-ups to cover the costs.

“It costs more money to pull a turbine down than it does to put it up, and that probably makes sense when you think about it. The costs of pulling down a turbine may exceed the revenue you get for 25 years. That’s not a good outcome.

“In the case of a turbine in Queensland where the bed plate cracked and you couldn’t go near the turbine because it could fall on your head, that cost millions of dollars to take down with robots and explosives. You could be stuck with some big bills.”

How Hard is it to Remove a Wind Turbine?

The average wind turbine has a lifespan of 25 years before it must be decommissioned and taken apart.

Yet the process of deconstructing and disposing of wind turbines is no simple feat.

“They have an in-ground lump of concrete that can be as much as 800 tons [to support a 200-metre high turbine] and could be left to the landowner or a farmer … to deconstruct what is effectively a giant Meccano [similar to Lego] set,” said federal Nationals MP Keith Pitt in an interview with The Epoch Times on July 28.

“This [net zero movement] is moving so fast that no one has the necessary regulations in place to protect the owners of the land, and potentially the future costs to the Australian taxpayer,” he added.

Mr. Pitt called for financial security or bonds to be made available, like how mining activity features similar arrangements for land rehabilitation once a project concludes.

“That should absolutely happen for intermittent wind and solar. Solar panels that will cover literally millions of hectares, and wind turbines that will dominate the skyline,” he said.

The energy infrastructure commissioner said some renewable energy providers would try to avoid a bond “because the landholder was ignorant to the risk.”

“We put out an updated guideline [pdf] in January this year to help landholders ask the right questions before they sign a document,” Mr. Dyer said.

“There are some questionable agreements out there that were not balanced, in our view, and so we’ve given the community and the landholders a helping hand.”

Mr. Dyer also suggested making bond provisions part of the licensing that goes into building renewable projects.

The march towards net zero has spurred a swathe of logistic, financial, engineering, and even security challenges.

According to the commissioner’s Energy Charter 2023, farmers have said the building of new infrastructure to support renewable energy could come at the cost of farmland.

“[About] 58 percent of surveyed landholders said that transmission infrastructure will result in a direct loss of farmable land or disruption to their land productivity,” the document states.

“Sixty percent also believe transmission infrastructure will impact their use of machinery or equipment. Some landholders also noted biodiversity impacts, which may diminish the natural features valued by the local community and aesthetics of the area.”

Federal MP Pitt said new transmission lines required easements, which need to be kept clear of regrowth to prevent future interference.

“That land generally can’t be farmed and can’t be utilised,” he said. “And it gets in the way of moving around your own property. Generally, no one wants a 200-metre strip of unusable land through the middle of prime agricultural land that impacts not only their operations but the value of their property.”


Farmers’ revolt threatens to stifle the Indigenous voice to parliament

The nation’s peak agricultural lobby says West Australian farmers are “paralysed with fear” and uncertain “what they can do on their own land” because of new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws that loom as a key threat to the voice referendum and Labor’s political dominance in the state.

The National Farmers Federation has sounded an alarm over Anthony Albanese’s plan to legislate a stand-alone national framework for Indigenous cultural heritage protections, saying the rollout of separate federal rules could “intensify the confusion in WA with overlapping federal laws”.

NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said “the (federal) government needs to learn from the mistakes of WA” following a fierce backlash to the introduction of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act in the state on July 1. “Nobody wants to damage cultural heritage, but at the moment the (state) laws are too open to interpretation. We’re hearing from farmers who are paralysed with fear, not certain what they can now do on their own land,” he said. “That shouldn’t be the case – it should be clear cut.”

WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said the shake-up to heritage laws in WA represented the “greatest attack on private property rights since federation”.

He urged the government to scrap them, saying the new cultural heritage laws had eroded support for Labor under Premier Roger Cook and would result in the state voting No in the voice referendum.

“They’ve rewritten the book on how to do the maximum amount of harm in the shortest amount of time,” Mr Seabrook said. “The voice is dead over here. The Premier has absolutely cooked it. If this can be imposed upon us without a Yes vote in the referendum, God save us if the voice gets up.”

Speaking in parliament on Nov­ember 24 last year, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek linked the government’s plan for a national rollout of cultural heritage protections to the voice – a connection that some Labor figures now believe could undermine the chances of a successful Yes vote.

“We’re protecting Indigenous cultural heritage for the same reason we’re supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the voice to parliament,” she said.

“We are always a better country … when we give everyone a seat at the table.”

One senior WA Labor source told The Weekend Australian that “the voice has dominated the last three months and then that’s been conflated here with Aboriginal cultural heritage”.

“It’s looked like Labor is only focused on those issues which, for most people, are completely niche,” the source said.

“I’ve always thought that the voice was going to go down over here … people still don’t understand what the voice is and why we need to do it. I think the Yes camp and the government has failed to mount a retail argument for how this is going to help anybody.”

The WA state laws establish a complex three-tiered system requiring landholders to organise potentially costly heritage assessments through local Indigenous corporations before undertaking basic work on properties larger than 1100sq m.

Permits could be required for ground excavations of up to a depth of 1m, with Mr Seabrook saying this could include anything from “putting up a fence, laying a pipe underground to a water-point, putting up some sheep-yards or putting up a shed.”

The Albanese government agreed to legislate a national ­cultural heritage framework as recommended by a 2021 parlia­men­tary inquiry into the ­destruction of the caves at Juukan Gorge containing evidence of human life dating back 46,000 years.

The framework would be developed through a process of “co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” and set a series of minimum standards for state and territory protections.

Speculation has grown the government will wait until after the voice referendum before advancing any legislation, with a spokeswoman for Ms Plibersek saying: “We want to make sure we take the time necessary to get this right. We are committed to improving protections for First Nations cultural heritage and to provide clarity … for business.”

Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Price said it would be “absolutely within the scope of the voice” to demand a national rollout of the WA laws while WA Liberal MP Andrew Hastie said the backlash to the new state laws from landholders was a just a “foretaste of what is to come from the voice”.

Yes supporters said WA cultural heritage laws were being exploited by the No campaign.

WA teal independent Kate Chaney said the “confused rollout of this updated law has been weaponised against the much bigger issue of the proposed voice”.

Former Coalition Indigenous Australians spokesman Julian Leeser said “the focus on the WA law is a clever scare tactic of the No campaign, but that law has absolutely nothing to do with the voice. It was created without a voice. The voice is about advice. It doesn’t make decisions.”


Andrews government’s gas ban to increase emissions

The move to phase out gas in new Victorian homes will initially increase the state’s carbon dioxide emissions, with the shift from mains gas likely to increase bills for those who remain on the network.

Industry figures have warned the Andrews government’s decision will move consumers onto an already strained coal-based electricity grid, with those who remain on mains gas longest – who are likely to include the state’s poorest and most vulnerable – set to face an escalation in network costs.

While Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood – who recently co-authored a paper urging governments to assist Australians to move to all-electric homes – welcomed the announcement, he conceded it would lead to a temporary increase in emissions, and warned governments must find ways to address the “real problem” of rising costs which will be faced by consumers and businesses that stay connected to gas.

Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced on Friday that from January 1, no new homes or residential subdivisions requiring a planning permit will be connected to mains gas – a measure the government claims will save households $1000 a year, or up to $2200 if they have solar electricity installed.

The all-electric requirement will also apply to all new government buildings which have not yet reached design stage, including schools, hospitals, police stations and public housing.

Victoria has the highest use of residential gas in Australia, with around 80 per cent of homes ­connected.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the gas sector contributed about 17 per cent of the state’s emissions.

“The move to electric systems is a key element of meeting Victoria’s nation-leading emissions reduction targets of 75–80 per cent by 2035 and net zero by 2045,” the minister said.

Mr Wood said Victoria’s current reliance on coal to generate electricity meant emissions would in fact increase in the short term.

“However, because the coal-fired power stations are going to be closing over the next 10 years, if you converted from gas to electricity today, emissions over the next 10 years would be lower as a result of that decision.”

Mr Wood said the two million Victorian households currently connected to mains gas would need to transition to electricity in coming years, but that this would increase network costs for remaining gas users, who would “absolutely” include poorer and more vulnerable households.

“The network problem is a real problem, and the government and the companies have to come up with a solution, because either the businesses will go broke or the consumers left will be paying a lot of money for gas,” he said. “That’s not a reason not to do it, but it’s not an easy problem to solve.”

Industry bodies including the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, Ai Group, Australian Pipelines and Gas Association, Australian Gas Infrastructure Group and Energy Networks Australia expressed concern about the announcement, while the managing director of Australia’s largest airconditioning and gas heating appliance manufacturer accused the Andrews government of denying Victorians choice, even in their own homes.

“This dangerous ideology is not only blind to logic and commonsense, it defies trends in Europe and North America where gas, far from being banned by zealots, is being embraced with a transition to renewable gas,” said Seeley International boss Jon Seeley.

An Andrews government spokesperson said phasing out gas in new builds would in fact save remaining gas consumers and taxpayers money, which would otherwise have to be spent expanding distribution networks.


Andrew Bolt tells Malcolm Turnbull to ‘suck that up’ as he dumps retirement plans

It’s not often that an ex-prime minister plays a direct role in influencing contract negotiations for big-name media personalities.

But that’s exactly what happened last week with star Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt, when Malcolm Turnbull published a scathing article – co-authored with former ACTU president Sharan Burrow – in online news site The Guardian about Sky.

Turnbull claimed in the piece on Tuesday that Sky presenters were specialising in “angertainment” in relation to the voice, and that a new channel launched last week on Sky risked becoming a “factory for misinformation” about the upcoming referendum’s ‘yes’ case.

The former Liberal PM repeated his allegations in an interview with Patricia Karvelas the next morning, on Radio National’s breakfast program.

Turnbull’s comments on radio were the final straw to motivate Bolt into making an extraordinary move on his eponymous nightly show on Wednesday night: live texting his acceptance of a new two-year deal to his bosses at Sky.

Bolt revealed live-to-air that he had been “agonising” for a fortnight over whether to accept a new contract with Sky. “It’s an old story: I wanted to retire years ago, and every year it’s the same old stupid agonising, the Nellie Melba kind of thing. And I haven’t known my mind.”

But Bolt noted that Turnbull’s words to Karvelas that morning had a magical effect on his powers of decision making.

“Now that Turnbull’s done this, I’ll tell you what: you’ve inspired me – and I’m going to send Boris (Sky News CEO Paul Whittaker), my boss, a text,” Bolt said live-to-air as he turned to his phone. “Make it one year more. No, no – make it two years, just to get Turnbull really upset, make it two years. And send.”

Before Bolt let the subject of his contract renewal go, he had one more message for the former PM. “There you go Malcolm – you’ve got two more years of me to complain about. Suck that up!”

Bolt has since shared with Diary proof that he did indeed send his job acceptance message to the Sky CEO while he was on-air that night, just under 10 minutes into his show at 7:09PM.

His message to Whittaker was unequivocal: “I am sorry to have agonised for so long. Make it two years




Friday, July 28, 2023

Commonwealth Bank rules that will stop you from accessing your money

I recently went through an elaborate auhentication process that the CBA required of me. Like anying over the net, it was difficult but I eventually got an approval mark. So I may be in the clear.

But I am going to keep a fair bit of cash on hand from now on. I do mostly pay by cash these days. Tyrannical bank behaviour has become another good reason to stick with cash. Nobody has ever rejected one of my $50 notes

Many Australians are unaware that they can be denied access to their money if they break rules buried in the fine print of opening an account.

The Commonwealth Bank states a customer may not use their banking services if they engage in conduct 'that in our opinion' is 'offensive, harassing or threatening to any person' or 'promotes or encourages physical or mental harm of any person'.

Professional poker player and author Crispin Rovere, who is in dispute with Westpac after they froze his account, highlighted the Commonwealth Bank's terms and conditions in a tweet last week.

A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the terms were to prevent 'to address the issue of financial abuse in the context of domestic and family violence'.

'In 2020, we updated our Acceptable Use Policy to address technology-facilitated abuse and to provide a safer banking experience for customers,' the spokesperson said.

'Any customer found to be using NetBank or the CommBank app to engage in unlawful, defamatory, harassing or threatening conduct, promoting or encouraging physical or mental harm or violence against any person may have their transactions refused or access to digital banking services suspended or discontinued'.

But some Aussies said the rules were too vague.

'Since when are banks the arbiters of moral and legal conduct? Especially the Commonwealth Bank? Do they even remember The Royal Commission findings????' one said.

'Setting themselves up to freeze people's bank accounts for wrong speak,' another added.

Others said the rules were justified.

'Classic example is abusive ex's harassing their ex-partners with 1c transfers that include threats in the description. In support services you see this all the time as a modus operandi. In the normal world, most don't even know it happens.'

In July, Mr Rovere slammed Westpac as 'totalitarian', claiming the bank froze his accounts after he made a 'modest' cash deposit following a poker win.

The bank demanded to know where Crispin Rovere's funds came from, which were 'way, way under' $10,000 and refused to unblock his account until he told them.

Last Wednesday the Commonwealth Bank came under fire after it announced it had opened a cashless 'specialist branches', where customers would no longer able to access their money over-the-counter a trend also happening with NAB branches.

'The specialist centre branches focus more on business customers and loan products and are located nearby to traditional branches,' a spokesperson said.

'We continue to maintain Australia's largest branch network for customers.'

However, the news did draw favourable responses on social media.

'Bank branches without money? WTF! That's like having a petrol station with no fuel! Do they expect people to call into the branch just to say hi and have a chat,' one said.

Another joked: 'A bank without cash, that makes real sense.'

'I suggest everyone to change their bank where this is happening,' a third said.

Mr Rovere told Daily Mail Australia he only realised there was a problem when he tried to make a card payment at a hotel he was staying in, but the bank rejected it.


Victoria to ban all new homes from having a gas connectionRent controls could be the last straw for property investors

Australian property investors have walked a tightrope for years. The Covid-19 price slump, 12 consecutive interest rate rises and a blizzard of state-based regulations. But “rent controls” have never been an issue until now.

In our second biggest residential market of Victoria, Premier Dan Andrews has confirmed the state is considering rent controls and related caps in the property market.

On the table is a specific plan to ban all rent increases for two years.

Andrews may be listening to political factions who have been calling for rent controls but he certainly has not been paying attention to the rest of the world on this issue.

He has definitely not been paying attention to the UK where landlords have fled the real estate market to the point the opposition Labour party – which has campaigned for years for rent controls – has just announced a dramatic U-turn and dropped the policy.

And he most definitely has not had a look at the situation in Ireland where rent controls pushed mum-and-dad property owners out of the market only to be replaced by US-based “vulture funds”. Once those funds went bargain hunting in housing estates, the issue had people marching in the streets.

In Australia about 90 per cent of all residential rental property is owned by mum-and-dad investors. We can debate endlessly whether the property owners are rich or not but the evidence is that a lot of them are ordinary working Australians. Tax office data shows that among the top five occupations of landlords are teachers and nurses.

As Ray White chief economist Nerida Conisbee said in this week’s Money Puzzle podcast, “putting rental controls into this situation would be disastrous”.

You might reasonably expect an economist from a real estate agency to say something like that.

But the thing is her views are shared well beyond the confines of the real estate industry. Saul Eslake, a pragmatic independent economist, has forecast rent controls will reduce the amount of buildings for rent and ensure the quality of those buildings will go downhill.

“It will probably act as a deterrent of investment in residential property … It will also probably discourage landlords from undertaking repairs and maintenance,” he told The Australian this week.

Nobody wins

Victoria is not alone. The regulation risk for investors has been building all year. The Greens kicked off the notion and it looked like it would remain on the fringe until the Queensland government triggered market interventions this year, topped with a once-a-year rent increase rule introduced in April.

As the perception grows that state governments are aiming policies squarely at property owners, investors are not waiting to see what will happen next.

A report from the Jarden investment bank has detailed how landlords have risen as a percentage of sellers in recent months – especially in the larger cities. Lending data also suggests that investors are not returning to the market even if rental growth is improving and prices are recovering.

The danger is that we have only seen the start of an investor exodus – Rent controls might just be the last straw for many investors.

In Victoria the issue is acute. Melbourne has been among the weaker markets. As Sydney residential prices rebounded by 6 per cent so far this year and the combined capitals moved higher by 3.8 per cent, Melbourne barely inched higher by just 1.1 per cent.

Victorian investors are not seeing a price rebound and now they are set to have any income rebound outlawed.

Worse still, the conditions for property investment in the state are increasingly gloomy and the Andrews government does not even pretend to see both sides of the issue. Asked whether property owners would sell up if rent controls were introduced Andrews said: “They bought the place without my advice, they can manage it without my advice.”

Market about to ease

After a long period where prices moved higher but rents barely changed, the combination of 1 per cent vacancy rates and rapidly rising interest rates triggered widespread double-digit rent rises in 2022.

Yet even with those rental increases, rental yields remain paltry at around 3 per cent in the major cities. For the first time in many years investors could get the same income from a risk free government-guaranteed bank deposit as running an investment property.

Moreover, rent increases have been keeping up with interest rate increases by any measure.

It may be little consolation for a tenant where the rent has just been pushed higher. But inside residential property, on average rents went up $266 a month, while on average interest rates increased $976. In other words tenants and property owners have both been struggling.

Ironically, while the market is at breaking point the reality is that rent controls are on the agenda just as the worst may be over.

There is every sign the rent increases are about to slow down. In regional Australia rents rises have already been reduced by half.

At CoreLogic, economist Eliza Owen says rent growth is likely to continue to moderate. Annual growth in regional rents has already slowed to 4.9 per cent in the year to June, down from a peak of 12.5 per cent in the year to November


ABC v Heston Russell defamation case: commando’s lawyer deems reporting ‘shoddy, uncorroborated’

Like Leftists generally, the ABC has scant regard for the truth

The ABC’s star source in a story accusing former commando Heston Russell of killing an Afghan soldier repeatedly described his memory as “fuzzy” and asserted he may not be a credible informant, a court has heard.

Journalist Mark Willacy also inaccurately recalled the evidence of the source to write a more compelling story that was “new and different”, Mr Russell’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC claims, slamming the reporter’s “shoddy” reporting.

The revelations emerged on the first day of a defamation trial between Heston Russell and the national broadcaster, where the former soldier has alleged two ABC articles, through the use of links and his photograph, implied he was complicit in the execution of an Afghan prisoner who was captured during a joint drug enforcement operation ­between Australia and the US.

The stories, written and produced by ABC journalists Mr Willacy and Josh Robertson, who are also respondents in the matter, aired on television, radio and online in late 2021.

The articles contained allegations from a US soldier under the pseudonym ‘Josh’ that he witnessed Australian forces shoot the prisoner in a “deliberate decision to break the rules of war” because there were too many of them to fit into the aircraft.

But on Friday, Mr Russell’s barrister Ms Chrysanthou read aloud correspondence between Mr Willacy and Josh, in which Josh claimed his memory was “hazy” and he would be unable to share “actionable information” with the journalist.

“My memory is pretty hazy, so I can‘t really give you anything specific enough to follow up with, but I wanted to reinforce the narrative that you’re writing about based on my own experiences,” Josh wrote in an email to Mr Willacy, according to Ms Chrysanthou.

“I‘m definitely open to speaking about things through email or otherwise, with the obvious caveat being that this all happened a long time ago, in the midst of constant combat operations, where I had very little sleep, and was constantly working with people from different units and countries.

“I likely won‘t be able to provide you with actionable information that could go anywhere useful in any specific investigations, only the bits and pieces I remember.”

Ms Chrysanthou accused Mr Willacy of falsely claiming Josh had referred to the soldiers as commandos, in order to make his story “different” and not simply about the SAS.

“(Josh) didn‘t say the commandos. He didn‘t say the commandos,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

“Had Mr. Willacy use different language, like ‘the ABC believes Josh was working with the commandos given the timing of his mission’ ... it wouldn’t have been as great a story, because what it comes down to is there were lots of stories about the SAS ... but Mr Willacy wanted a story about the commandos, because that was new and different.”

In her opening statement of the landmark defamation hearing, Ms Chrysanthou slammed the “shoddy uncorroborated and reckless reporting” of the ABC journalists.

“Freedom of speech does not include the publication of lies,” she said. “Frankly, when a serious allegation is made to a journalist by a source it should be critically assessed. It should be checked. It should be tested and corroborated before it is published.”

The ABC, Mr Robertson and Mr Willacy rely upon the defence of public interest, which was introduced in NSW in July 2021 and remains largely untested. Ms Chrysanthou asserted the broadcaster’s defence was “doomed”.

In order to win the case, the ABC will need to persuade the court its journalists genuinely believed the publication of the articles were in the public interest.

The Australian understands the costs associated with the case have so far exceeded $1 million.

Earlier this year, Justice Michael Lee found ten defamatory imputations put forward by the national broadcaster were carried following a preliminary hearing in November 2022.

The trial will last for five days, and began just two weeks after the ABC called an emergency hearing in the Federal Court where they declared they would be “withdrawing the public interest defence” before sensationally backflipping on the decision.

The ABC made the announcement to withdraw its public interest defence claiming it did not want to comply with court orders to reveal Josh’s identity to Mr Russell’s lawyers.

Ms Chrysanthou argued she wanted the information to make witness inquiries, but the broadcaster said it would rather pull out of the fight than hand over a source. The ABC conceded Mr Russell was entitled to judgment in his favour.

But less than 48 hours later the ABC reinstated its defence after Ms Chrysanthou revealed her team had discovered the identity of Josh from some Google searches, referencing the mountain of information the ABC made available about him in the articles.

Mr Russell is expected to take the stand for cross-examination later on Friday.




Thursday, July 27, 2023

Here's fun! Power Companies Could Remotely Switch Off EV Chargers to Reduce Grid Stress

Energy providers could have the option to switch off home EV charging stations remotely to reduce pressure on Queensland’s electricity grid.

The proposal is part of the Australian state’s Queensland Electricity Connection Manual (QECM), which provides a framework for the grid’s operation.

Section 8 of the QECM proposes that EV charging equipment may be limited or switched off by operators Ergon Energy and Energex (distributed network service providers or DNSPs) if it has an output of more than 20 amps—a standard domestic single-phase EV charger uses 32 amps.

The use of such “demand management” schemes is largely unique to Queensland and is also used on residential pool cleaning machines, hot water systems, and air conditioning units under the Peaksmart program.

Peaksmart gives households a cash rebate; in return, the operator can turn off air conditioners remotely during peak operating times (summer) to reduce pressure on the energy grid.

The large-scale roll-out of such programs has been earmarked as a potential catalyst to close down coal-fired power stations faster—amid the net zero push—and to, instead, adopt more intermittent renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and battery.

Federal Nationals MP Keith Pitt, himself an electrical engineer, says a proposal to use demand management on EV charging reveals that operators have little confidence the grid can handle the uptake of electric cars expected in the push towards net zero.

“EV take-up could increase peak demand by as much as 60 percent right across the National Electricity Market,” Mr. Pitt told The Epoch Times.

“That would mean you need a 60 percent increase in generating electricity capacity, transmission, and distribution. So that’s every substation, every cable, every supply point, every house—it will cost an absolute fortune.”

The federal Labor government has set a lofty goal of having 3.8 million EVs on the road by 2030—there are currently 83,000 in use.

Further, the government is also pushing to expand the charging network, aiming for 100,000 for businesses, 3.8 million chargers in households, and 1,800 publicly available fast chargers.

The initiative comes as part of a wider push towards net zero by 2050 and to reduce emissions by 43 percent by 2030. Further, the Labor government hopes to have 82 percent of the National Electricity Market powered by renewables.

Advocacy groups have argued against a demand management system saying it will dampen enthusiasm for EVs. “We know from surveys that average consumers aren’t particularly keen on mandated orchestration of their appliances,” says the Electric Vehicle Council in its submission on the QECM (pdf).

“The Peaksmart program enlists between 10,000 and 15,000 air conditioning units for orchestration each year … out of a total of about 300,000 that get installed. About 95 percent of consumers prefer retaining control of their air conditioning, overtaking the financial incentives on offer.”

Meanwhile, Melissa McAuliffe, acting director of energy services at Energy Consumers Australia, says it would erode consumer trust that the “energy system is working for them.”

“Our 2023 Energy Consumer Sentiment Survey finds that only 35 percent of households are confident that the energy industry and regulators are working in their long-term interests now,” she wrote in a submission (pdf).

“Further, such measures are unlikely to be completely effective for consumers or the system, as consumers may look to workarounds that circumvent giving DNSPs control. For example, through disincentivising the use of EV chargers, consumers may just use regular power points.”


WA Labor Government Popularity Crashes as Controversial New Law Causes Concern

The West Australian Labor government’s popularity with the voters has plunged, according to a new poll, following the passage of controversial new laws which have seen farmers and landowners across the state concerned about their rights.

The Utting Research poll of 1,000 voters, which was conducted between July 18-20, shows a resurgence of support for the Liberal party, which now has a 54 percent to 46 percent two-party preferred lead over Labor.

The last poll conducted in May, after leader Mark McGowan stepped down at the end of May and was replaced by Roger Cook as premier, had Labor ahead at 61-39, The West Australian reported on Monday.

The Utting poll also shows the Nationals are carrying six percent of the primary vote, with the Greens at 10 percent and other parties were at 15 percent.

Labor’s primary vote has also fallen to 32 percent, from 52 percent previously recorded in May.

After the 2021 state election, the Liberal and National parties banded together to form the opposition, with the Liberals as the junior partner.

The Liberals hold two parliamentary seats in the Legislative Assembly, while the Nationals hold four.

Western Australian Government Under Pressure

The drop in popularity comes as Western Australians become increasingly anxious about the state’s updated Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act, which has already seen Indigenous advocacy groups make million-dollar demands on councils and environmental groups over issues like reforestation.

The Act was designed to protect culturally significant landmarks in the state from potential “harm” and was updated following the destruction of the Indigenous heritage site Juukan Gorge by mining giant Rio Tinto. It establishes the Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services (LACHS), which is responsible for ensuring areas of significance are not harmed.

Yet, farmers, landowners and councils are worried they could be easily caught up in red tape or face heavy penalties under the new laws.

Under the system, a landowner with over 1,100 square metres of land (11,840.3 square feet) must first apply with LACHS if they wish to carry out work that could disturb over 50 centimetres of soil—encompassing activities like land clearing, drainage work, and even building a fence. LACHS will then send out a consultant—at the landowner’s expense at around $160 (US$108) per hour—to determine if the site has any cultural significance.

Stephen Johnston of the South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare said the two revegetation events run by Landcare, which were scheduled to plant 5,500 seedlings, were cancelled because of the lack of clarity in the laws.

“I’ve been poring over the websites and the act, the 255-page act, the 47 pages of guidelines and the printouts, which are all available on the state government website,” he told ABC Radio Perth.

“So there’s a lot of information there, but there’s information that begs questions,” Mr. Johnston added, noting that it was unclear whether Landcare activities were exempt from the new requirements.

Around 30,000 people signed a petition calling on the West Australian government to delay the rollout of the state’s Indigenous heritage protection laws just days prior to the implementation.

The Liberal and Nationals alliance said the government needed to provide more information to those affected by the laws about their rights and obligations, with Liberal spokesman for planning and environment Neil Thomson declaring the Labor government needed to make the laws clearer.

“Farmers, pastoralists, and companies that provide services such as plumbing and civil contracting are all trying to work out the implications, as are hobby farmers around the metropolitan area that are deeply concerned about what they will be allowed to do on their land without a permit,” Thomson said.


Teachers cannot teach what they do not know

Well, here we are with another review of teaching. Australia has itself a bit of déjà vu with a well-meaning Education Minister who wants to do his bit to fix the problems in our schools – this time by focusing on how we train our teachers.

To be fair, the Minister seems to be asking some of the right questions. Given the money we spend on education, why don’t we do better as a nation? Looking at how teachers are trained is important – they cannot teach what they do not know.

Here is a practical example. After recently marking the first essays of first year teacher trainees, I saw the need to do some revision of grammar. I asked the group a simple question: ‘What is a sentence?’ One of the young students, who was embedded in a school while doing her degree, said, ‘I don’t know, but my teacher is doing that with her year 5 students – I’ll look it up.’ The answer she found from her mentor teacher was: ‘A sentence is a clump of words that makes sense.’ Really…

So, my experiences would agree that there is core content that we simply do not consider important to teacher training, so a review might help there.

But it may not. There are complexities that go much deeper than simply adding ‘what the latest science says we need to do while we get back to basics’ (which is the reported framework through which the Minister is thinking).

I wonder if Minister Clare has done his homework in order to understand just how complex this apparently simple problem is? My suggestion is that The Minister should start his homework by reading Chapter 1 of the 2014 Donnelly and Wiltshire review of the National Curriculum, as commissioned by former Prime Minster Tony Abbott. These two reviewers fairly note improvements nationally with the introduction of ACARA – for we now have a curriculum that can translate across borders, to an extent.

But a decade ago these reviewers highlighted two deep areas of structural difficulty within the education system. Each of these aspects bring with them assumptions about the purpose of teaching, and therefore which ways of teaching are privileged over others. As Donnelly summarised later in his book How Political Correctness is Destroying Education:

As noted by the late Ken Rowe in the Commonwealth inquiry into the teaching of literacy, the prevailing orthodoxy in teacher education is based on constructivism; an approach to teaching that emphasises child-centred, inquiry-based learning and less explicit forms of teaching.

Such ‘child-centred’ approaches do not simply imply knowing your students well so that you can teach them better. It implies that teachers cannot impose sequential core knowledge into their lessons. Why? Because, according to the constructionists, all we need to do is to help our students think, and they can find the rest on the internet.

So, when the terms of this review suggest getting back to the old fashioned teaching core of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, it begs the questions, ‘to what end’, ‘in what way’, and ‘with what content?’

For example, is the purpose of our education simply utilitarian – aimed at getting everyone to work in the government’s priority areas, which include environmental alarmism, anti-family identity theory, and victim-blaming anti-Judeo-Christian history?

To help the Minister understand these dynamics better, he might also do another piece of homework that involves reading Professor John Sweller’s work. His theory flies in the face of the popular notion, supported by pseudo-science, that students do not need to learn anything off by heart because it is on the internet. The fact that the internet is also littered with conceptual rubbish seems to escape proponents of ‘21st Century education’. The constructivist process of education is given so much privilege that we have students who simply do not know enough (like, ‘What is a sentence?’).

But neither do the teachers of these trainees know good content, because they have not learnt about it – the problem is generational. After reading Sweller’s work, the Minister could then graduate to E.D. Hirsch’s Why Knowledge Matters, and the report by the John Hopkins Institute, What We Teach Matters. Or he could read the case study about Sweden’s decline in standards by Henrekson and Wennstrom.

So, does the Minister understand that the methods by which teachers teach reflect their deeper assumptions, or what we used to call ‘philosophy of education’? And similarly, does he understand that these presuppositions which we bring to our teaching also have an impact on what we consider is good content? This is where Minister Clare needs to do even more homework. An ideology is the belief system in which we put our faith. Such deep beliefs steer what we believe is essential content for education. That is why the IPA report that came out earlier this year by Bella D’Abera and Collen Harken would be the next homework piece for the Minister.

This report revealed afresh the depth of distortion in the content of the ninth iteration of the National Curriculum. This national document is what the teacher trainers will still be expected to work too. But as the authors summarised:

As this report reveals, where the National Curriculum is failing in one area, it is succeeding in another. Instead of teaching children how to read and write, it is indoctrinating them with identity politics, radical race theory, and radical green ideology.

These emphases reflect the priorities of the current political elites. The authors note ‘… as this report demonstrates, Version 9 of the National Curriculum is a highly politicised document; it reflects the current ideologies held by bureaucrats who have control over what is in the curriculum.’

These privileged emphases are in line with the ideologies of the Labor Party. Will the Minister really reject his party’s ideology to release teacher trainers to revise the content away from environmental and pantheistic alarmism, the racially biased critical race theories, and the emphasis on history that downplays the constructive aspects of Western heritage?

I doubt it – we have been plagued by Ministers who seem to lack experience with these educational philosophical assumptions, knowledge of the National Curriculum, and an understanding about the teaching of teachers. Yet here we are, with another Minister trying to evaluate whether teachers and their trainers know enough about going back to the basics in schooling…


COVID Vaccines Show 24 Times More Adverse Reactions Than Others

The latest report on adverse reactions to vaccines in Western Australia has revealed that COVID-19 vaccinations have 24 times the rate of adverse reactions in the state compared to all other vaccines.

According to the state’s vaccine safety surveillance report (pdf), COVID-19 vaccines showed that for every 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines administered, 264 adverse events following immunisations (AEFIs) were recorded.

For all other vaccinations, 11.1 AEFIs were recorded, making the COVID-19 vaccines 23.8 times more likely than non-COVID-19 vaccines to result in adverse events.

The rate of adverse events varied among different types of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine recorded 281.4 AEFIs per 100,000 doses, Comirnaty (Pfizer) recorded 244.8, and the Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine, which was removed from the vaccine program after reports emerged of blood clotting in younger people, recorded 306.

Adverse events following vaccination can range from mild, such as a sore arm, to serious conditions, such as anaphylaxis, thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia syndrome (TTS), Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), myocarditis, and pericarditis.

Collaboration Continues With 3-in-1 Super Jab

Meanwhile, despite these concerns, the Australian government’s partnership with Moderna to produce vaccines using experimental messenger RNA technology to prepare for the next pandemic means these vaccines are here to stay.

The company has been forming a trifecta jab to address the main respiratory viruses—influenza, COVID-19, and RSV to maintain its market share amid the falling revenue of vaccine companies as the health crisis subsides.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine sales of US$18.4 billion in 2022 are expected to dive to $5 billion this year.

Recently, it was granted expedited approval by Australia’s authority for medicines for its mRNA-1345 (RSV vaccine), meaning that the company will be able to launch the vaccines in Australia before any other country in the world.

A spokesperson from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration told the Epoch Times that Moderna was granted an accelerated approval process on March 30 after satisfying all of the following criteria:

the medicine is new

the medicine is for the treatment, prevention, or diagnosis of a life-threatening condition

no other medicines that are intended to treat, prevent or diagnose the condition are included in the Australian drug register or there is substantial evidence that this medicine provides a significant improvement in efficacy or safety of the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of the condition compared to those goods already included in the register
there is substantial evidence that the medicine provides a major therapeutic advance.

However, phase 3 clinical trials for Moderna’s mRNA version of the seasonal influenza vaccine have been underwhelming, showing a high rate of side effects.

Although the vaccine generates a strong immune response against the A strains of the flu, its efficacy against B strains is not better than existing approved vaccines.

Additionally, 70 percent of trial participants who received the shot reported adverse reactions such as headaches, swelling, and fatigue compared to 48 percent for the conventional flu vaccine.




Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Home Building Set to Grind to a Halt under new regulations

The new National Construction Code takes no account of costs. Yet another example of how government creates housing shortages

No one wants anyone to be living in substandard conditions, and we all want the disabled to live full lives, but how far can we go in making this possible?

The National Construction Code (NCC) has taken it one step too far. It will result in less affordable houses, and insoluble design issues, even making certain types of housing extinct.

It is socialistic bureaucratic overreach, robbing homeowners of individual choice and making it harder for first-home buyers to get into the market.

I grew up in a two-bedroom worker’s cottage on a 400 square metre allotment—10 metres (33 feet) by 40 metres. Raised on stumps, it had storage underneath and was built to one side of the allotment to allow a car to run down the other side.

Mum and Dad raised three children there. A third bedroom had been added to the rear of the house, and when my younger sister arrived, Dad enclosed the front veranda to make a bedroom for her.

Some of the rooms had a tongue and groove lining, and some had nothing. Nowhere in the house was there anything that you could call insulation.

Brisbane was full of houses like this. Stumped houses suit hilly terrain as they minimise the need for terracing and retaining. In flood areas, they also provide a buffer against rising water.

The construction was cheap but sturdy, and you didn’t have to be too handy to add an extension or modify something in line with need or increasing income.

Sure, it was a bit cold in winter and hot in summer, but this is Brisbane, where extremes are moderate. We coped using sweaters in winter and sweat in summer.

Most importantly, these houses were affordable for working-class people, like the children of labourers, tradesmen, and newly arrived immigrants I went to school with in East Brisbane.

You can still enjoy this style of house, ours is well over 100 years old, structurally sound and is still standing. But under the new NCC, not only couldn’t you build a house like this anymore, but not even the modern versions will pass muster.

First Issue With the New NCC

The new accessibility conditions present the biggest problem, and here you have to bear in mind that most of these requirements are specifically to allow for wheelchairs.

Only 193,600 people use wheelchairs in Australia, and if you generously assume that there is only one of them per household and none are in nursing homes and retirement villages, then that represents 1.78 percent of the total housing stock.

But to accommodate these people we are being told we need to change how we build the other 98.22 percent of our housing.

This is nuts.

By making housing more expensive it will push more people into homelessness, and there is not a lot of accessibility in a tent, car or caravan.

At the same time, it makes life more difficult for all home buyers. And for what?

If you’re afflicted by misfortune, you can either modify an existing house or move to one that fits your changed circumstances.

We do all of these things now for work, lifestyle, children or old age, so why not for disability?

Amongst the changes that will need to be made are ramps to handle slope and lifts to handle height and slope. Bathrooms will need to be made larger and corridors wider.

This will multiply costs on small lot subdivisions—themselves a device for lower housing costs—and in places with steep terrain, like Brisbane and Sydney.

The house I live in now would be non-compliant—26 steps to the front door over 6 metres, and nowhere to site a ramp. But it suits our needs at the moment.

The two-story walk-up unit, which underpins Brisbane’s affordable housing market, would also appear to be at risk unless it incorporates a lift. But lifts add not just capital but maintenance costs, which is one of the reasons this style of unit is often favoured over higher-rise ones with lifts.

Then there are the larger bathrooms and wider corridors. Not only will these squeeze some other rooms out, but they will make it difficult to build a house on the 10-metre frontage common in old Brisbane and in small lot subdivisions.

Once you’ve set your side walls back 1.5 metres each, you have only seven metres to play with. Wider corridors make that even harder.

What Else?

Then there is the requirement to raise energy efficiency to seven stars. Not only will this require a lot of insulation, but it will make it mandatory to have concrete slabs in the higher stories of any multi-level residence instead of more economical lightweight systems, like timber.

Seven stars are also difficult to attain without good solar orientation, yet even the best-designed subdivision has a number of non-optimal blocks. Not everything can be north-south.

But what is the problem with a less energy-efficient house? We’re planning to be CO2 neutral in our electricity generation by 2032, so if a house uses slightly more power, it will all be renewable power. Why should a building authority care how much of it is used?

And why shouldn’t householders be able to trade off heating and cooling costs against capital costs and other forms of adaptation?

Gabriel Poole was a Queensland architect renowned for his innovative lightweight structures. It’s doubtful many of them would be seven stars efficient.

And this must surely be the greatest objection to these new building code rules—that they rub out innovation.

How can a national authority think it is so all-knowing that it can guess the needs, preferences, and budgets of builders and consumers, as well as the ability of the industry to adapt and innovate?

The job of the Australian Building Codes Board should surely be to ensure that buildings are structurally sound and not much more.

The housing industry is fearsomely innovative and competitive, with designers, builders and suppliers looking for edges to make their products better designed and better priced. An overly regulated market destroys this innovation by removing the ability to make trade-offs.

Queensland decided to adopt all of these changes before the other states. They’ve now pulled back and made some exemptions because of the uproar from the industry.

Let’s hope for the sake of future buyers and owners and for innovation and progress, that this moves from pullback to abandonment and that the other states pay attention. If Victoria can ditch the Commonwealth Games, Australia should easily be able to ditch the changes to its building code.


A journalist records Covidian Australia's pandemic over-reach

Medically idiotic, economically ruinous, socially disruptive and embittering, culturally dystopian, politically despotic: what was there to like in the Covid era? Billions, if you were Big Pharma. Unchecked power, if you were Big State. More money and power over the world’s governments and people, for the WHO. Template for action for climate zealots. Dreamtime for cops given free rein to indulge their inner bully. Anguished despair, if you were a caring, inquisitive reporter.

In Australia Breaks Apart, John Stapleton, a retired journalist with over 25 years’ experience with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian, chronicles the collective madness that suffocated Covidian Australia, but also the resistance movement that began hesitantly and grew organically. It is a tale of the many villains complicit in tyranny and the few heroes of resistance. ‘What will you tell UR kids? Did you rise up or comply’, asked a sign during the Canberra protests. It’s a story of venal, incompetent politicians and brutish police – thugs in uniform – acting at the behest of ‘power drunk apparatchiks’.

If you want to know or recall what happened, read the book. If you questioned and resisted from the start, take heart at the documentation for the record. If you belong to the Covid class in slow retreat from the wastelands you created and now leave behind, take evasive action. An extract was published in the Weekend Australian. Among more than 900 online commentators, one quoted Tony Abbott that in two world wars, many risked their lives to protect our freedoms, but in the last three years, so many gave up freedoms to prolong lives. Some took Stapleton to task for failing to thank our great and good leaders and public health authorities for keeping us safe through the terrifying ordeal of the ‘rona wars. The persistence of the last attitude justifies the book’s publication. It’s an effort to chronicle and, if possible, come to terms with how an entire population was terrorised into fearing a virus and complying with arbitrary and draconian rules. Stapleton laments this is not the Australia he knew and loved. There evolved a co-dependency between the uber surveillance state and a Stasi-like snitch society in which ‘we are all guilty until proven uninfected’.

The unleashing of state violence on peaceful protestors included militarised responses on the streets and in the air that drew gasps of disbelief from around the world. State over-reach included ‘an insane level of micromanagement’. All was done without providing any evidence and cost-benefit analyses in support. It’s all here in grim detail, possibly with generous dollops of hyperbole. But who can blame Stapleton, writing amidst the ‘height of totalitarian derangement’ syndrome.?

Stapleton uses the narrative device of a fictional character called Old Alex who watches what is happening with detachment and growing disenchantment. In 444 pages divided into 19 chapters, he provides a comprehensive catalogue of the milestones, lies, and obfuscations on the relentless march to medical tyranny and vaccine apartheid. He puzzles over the left’s embrace of the Pharma-state’s over-reach. Struggles for words strong enough to convey the depth of contempt for the ‘shameless’, ‘odious’ and ‘loathed’ Scott Morrison, whose name became synonymous for some with the act of defecation as shouts were heard from inside a lavatory: ‘I’m doing a ScoMo, I’m doing a ScoMo’. Readers will encounter many writers from the Spectator Australia and Brownstone stables, which clearly sustained Stapleton through the dark Covid years with emotional connections to many of the world’s leading fellow-dissidents. They will be reminded of many characters whose horror stories were illuminated briefly during the long darkness, such as Anthony and Natalie Reale who run the Village Fix café in Shellharbour, NSW. I wrote about them in the Speccie on 15 January 2022. We encountered the big-hearted and generous family on the drive up from Canberra to our new home in the Northern Rivers in December 2021.

Australia broke apart most obviously in the way in which the Morrison government was complicit in the fracturing of the federation into mini-fiefdoms run by wannabe warlords aka Premiers and their palace courtiers of CHOs and Police Commissioners, some of whom have since been pushed upwards into Governors’ mansions. But it was more. Trust was also broken, perhaps irreparably, with respect to parliaments, the judiciary, human rights machinery, police, medical establishment, experts, and the media. The significant switch to independent media reflects disillusionment as much with social media’s Big Tech platforms that turned into narrative enforcers as with the legacy media that turned into fear-mongering Big State mouthpieces and Big Pharma shills.

It was important for someone to write this instant history under time pressure, an accessible work of record, lest we forget. Or rather, lest they be allowed to forget and move on. This is neither a book by nor for academics. Therein lies some of its failings and much of its strength. ‘The Government is my enemy’, laments a disillusioned citizen. Do not trust politicians and bureaucrats. ‘They lie for a living’, says the cynical reporter. In the years to come a flood of scholarly tomes can be expected, analysing in excruciating detail the excesses of lockdowns, masks, and vaccines and systematic assessments of their successes and failures. Given the paucity of critical journalism, it’s useful to have a record of contemporaneous events before memories fade and stories are conveniently rewritten. The journalistic strengths include on-the-ground reporting from protests like the Canberra Convoy, observation skills, an eye for the human interest story, jargon-free writing, and analysis uncluttered by theoretical explorations. His stories of the personalities encountered during the massive Canberra protests in early 2022 bring out vividly the electric atmosphere, energy, and camaraderie of what became a festive, exultant celebration of shared emotions and commitments to securing the freedoms of future generations of Australians.

This is a book to read, display prominently on the coffee table or discreetly on the bookshelf, recommend for purchase to the public library, and spread awareness by word of mouth. It contains many literary quotations and allusions. It’s appropriate therefore that I am left at the end recalling these lines from Dylan Thomas that apply very much to ‘Old Alex’: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rage at close of day;Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ ?


‘Far Right’ or Traditional Liberal?

Alex Antic

When it comes to avoiding the intellectual rigour of constructing and prosecuting a cogent argument, those who occupy the left of the political spectrum are often shamelessly ill-equipped. It is much easier to latch onto the latest leftist buzzword of the day than to give an issue due consideration.

In this superficial world, a person who stands against vaccine mandates is an ‘anti vaxxer’, a person who believes in the free market is ‘anti worker’, and a person who is appalled by the concept of terminating a baby at 39 weeks is ‘far right’.

Luckily, the nuances of such political fairy floss often fails to escape the smug beltway world of the political elites. The man on the street couldn’t care less about the latest political epithet of the day.

It would be impossible for me to recount the number of times that salt-of-the-earth people running small businesses, volunteering in their communities, and raising families have thanked me for defending traditional Liberal values.

I don’t say this to signal virtue, but to highlight my experience since becoming a Senator – a position I am grateful to hold.

The Forgotten People, to borrow Sir Robert Menzies’ famous phrase, are tired of being overlooked and want to see politics that invests in the next generation of Australians and fights the reckless policies of the left which are driving this nation into the ground.

I firmly believe there is no universe in which mandatory vaccinations, especially with treatments lacking long-term safety data, are consistent with Liberal values. But it isn’t just vaccine mandates that have hurt Australians. People are fed up with the drift of politics in general. They are tired of alarmist rhetoric about climate change and its endless failed predictions, not to mention the way that Net Zero policies are accelerating the current cost of living crisis. They are tired of the suggestion that Australia’s history is entirely negative and that they are not allowed to be grateful for their heritage. They are tired of their children being exposed to highly sexualised material and of the undermining of the traditional nuclear family, without which society cannot function, let alone flourish.

Dissenting from the identity-politics narrative of the political and cultural elites gets one labelled all kinds of ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’, and this has kept normal people, who hardly have time for such nonsense, politically disengaged.

Much like these ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’, the label ‘far right’ is one that leftists use to denigrate their opponents to avoid the hard work of formulating an argument and engaging in reasonable, respectful debate. You don’t support the Voice? You must be a racist. You don’t support Net Zero? You must be a ‘climate denier’.

Well, the Forgotten People, who know that the insults of the left are the last resort of those who lack good arguments, have had enough. Those who hold the genuine Liberal values of defending the nuclear family, minimising bureaucracy, incentivising private innovation, and upholding freedom of speech are getting involved in the machinery of politics, as is their right in a liberal democracy.

Over the past few weeks, the term ‘far right’ has been bandied around here in South Australia. Those who use it show zero insight, zero understanding, and zero ability to mount a cogent argument.

Those of us who do believe in Liberal principles will continue to strive for a better future for our nation, while Labor and the Greens enrich themselves and disempower hard-working Australians with their senseless Net Zero and identity-politics agendas.

Far from being ‘far right’, my beliefs are reflected in the fundamental principles of the party Menzies founded. That is why I joined the party and that is why I am a Liberal. There is nothing ‘far right’ about that.


Workers threatened by Tony Burke’s terrible tango with unions

Employment Minister Tony Burke and his close union associates are getting themselves into a terrible tangle as they pursue left-wing industrial relations agendas in a commercial society that needs productivity increases to lift the level of wages.

Sometimes the outcomes are bizarre.

For example, unions want casual labour curbed because full-time employees are easy to organise, but it has suddenly becoming apparent that what they are really advocating for is a reduction in take-home pay for the hundreds of thousands of people currently on casual employment.

I will detail how this works later, but one of the reasons why casual work is very popular among those with big mortgages is that they end up with more cash in their pocket to meet mortgage payments.

A second agenda is the popular concept that everyone should receive the same pay for the same work.

In the public service there is an attempt achieve this by slotting everyone into grades and it is one of the reasons why productivity in the public service has been held back.

In the private sector, if enterprises do not pay experienced people with great skills at market levels then they will lose that person.

Another person might be doing the same job but without the same skills and experience, and so simply does not receive the same pay rate.

Trying to turn the private sector into a massive public service system would absolutely kill private sector productivity in Australia.

But there is one area where the unions are particularly anxious to attack – labour hire companies in mining projects.

Labour hire companies usually have different enterprise agreements to mining companies.

Some miners have their own labour hire company with a different enterprise agreement to the base miner.

It would be a disaster for the nation if in targeting this activity, the legislation expanded public service labour classification practices into the whole of the private sector.

Perhaps the most dangerous of the proposed industrial relations changes stem from proposals that envisage labour laws should conflict with the commercial contract laws of the nation.

Australia has some of the most advanced and clearest rules in the world to determine whether a person operating under contract, and so is subject to commercial law, or whether a person has an employment relationship so is part of the labour laws.

In the past the Australian Taxation Office tried to classify genuine contractors as employees and were made to obey the law by the courts and community pressure.

Nevertheless sometimes people claim to be the operating under contract but are clearly employees but the clarity of our rules, which have been backed by High Court determinations, is reducing such incidents.

The vast majority of self employed people who work under contracts know the commercial law rules and make sure they obey them.

Their activities are governed by the laws of contract and that includes regulation by the ACCC; unfair contracts; provisions fast payment and so on.

The relationship covers the whole ambit of long-established commercial law and is totally different from the rules that cover employment relationships.

We have not seen the legislation but the government seems to thinks self-employed people are selling themselves short and their commercial law contracts should be controlled by Fair Work Australia and be part of labour law.

If that is put into legislation it will be a total disaster for the nation because these are two very separate ways of generating commercial activity.

Australians understand the difference very well and when they hire a tradesperson they first obtain a tender price and the payment is made under the terms of the contract.

Australians entering into contracts don’t want to be trying to look after superannuation and holiday pay, which is part of an employment relationship.

The contractor incorporates those rewards into the tender price and it’s a system that generates great productivity because the contractor is always looking for better to perform the task.

In many ways it’s the essence of the nation.

The independent senators have an incredible responsibility to make sure that the governments embrace of union agendas does not throw into chaos the nation’s commercial contracting system.

And this is also important in the casual area because the casual pay rate is 25 per cent above the permanent employment level.

That effectively means casuals receive cash instead of holiday, long service leave and other full-time employment entitlements.

Casuals receive superannuation entitlements usually calculated on the higher casual rate.

Employment entitlements usually add about 20 per cent to the cost of a standard before tax wage so the casual is receiving an extra payment.

Employers are prepared to pay the extra money for the flexibility that casual employment delivers.

And many casuals prefer to have cash in their pocket rather than entitlements.

The great danger in messing with these laws is that casuals will receive employment entitlements and still receive their higher cash rewards – an effective double dip.

That would destroy casual employment in the nation.

Without seeing the legislation, if a person who has been working as a casual for six months and has been receiving very regular hours and wants to take a pay cut and become classed as permanent then they should be allowed to do so, especially as ending a casual arrangement is nearly as hard as a so-called “permanent” relationship.

Remember there is no job in the country that is permanent unless backed by specific legislation.

As public servants in debt-ridden Victoria are discovering, they too can be retrenched if a government borrows too much money.