Wednesday, July 05, 2023

What Berejiklian and Maguire tell us about the state of modern love

As one expects of a Leftist, Jenna Price (below) has a simplistic view of the matter she discusses. She overlooks a very common arrrangement between partners, where the man defers to the woman on most issues on the understanding that he will have the biggest say on things that are particularly important to him. It is a perfectly reasonable trade that works well for many couples but Price would probably see it as male dominance

I defer to my partner on most things but where the matter is important to me I do put my foot down. And my partner accepts that and respects my wishes on such occasions -- with no hard feelings. She is actually quite a tyrant but we both have sufficient flexibility and appreciation of one another not to make that an obstacle between us. She gets her way on most things so is not hardly done by -- and I love my little tyrant

I should perhaps make it clear that nothing I have said is any defence of the pathetic Daryl Maguire. Gladys Berejiklian is a fine woman who treated him far better than he deserved

The big reveal in the Berejiklian ICAC report last week was that in the romantic relationship between a premier and a backblocks MP, Wagga Wagga’s Daryl Maguire was boss. But the bigger reveal is that the relationship between Berejiklian and Maguire is a model which is surprisingly common – a sizeable number of Australians agree relationships should have bosses – and that boss should be a man.

It’s been made very clear to our politicians what we want from them – much of the pressure for the National Anti-Corruption Commission came from us, voters, folks who were sick of seeing pork-barrellers do for their own.

But do we really know what we want from ourselves? Do we need bosses in our relationships? Shouldn’t it be more like a see-saw, a constant thoughtful negotiation, where we balance the needs and wants of our partners and our families, of ourselves?

I called Queensland University of Technology’s resident expert on men Michael Flood to ask him what he thought about the state of modern love. I assumed he would say the Berejiklian-Maguire relationship was outdated. I assumed he would say, nobody thinks like that any more or if they do, they belong to minority groups such as the Sydney Anglican Church (Brian Douglas from the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture tells me most Anglicans do not have such a literal view of the scriptures).

But no. Here we had a deliberately-kept-secret relationship between the most senior politician in the state and one of the more junior and less able.

According to volume two of the ICAC report, a conversation revealed Maguire accused Berejiklian of being “mean”. She replied:

Because you know what I tell you why because normally you’re the boss and it’s hard when we have to switch it around that’s the truth.

Maguire: Yeh but I am the boss, even when you’re the premier.

Berejiklian: I know. So therefore it’s hard when I had to switch it around.

Maguire: Glad, even when you are the premier I am the boss alright.

Berejiklian: Yes I know.

Heartbreaking really. Yes, she’s a corrupt politician but no one should be consigned to taking instructions from a nebbish.

Flood’s explanation of the state of relationships killed me. In Australia, he said, a 2017 national community attitudes survey revealed a substantial minority of people, and especially men, believe men should dominate relationships and families. One in four Australians believe “women prefer a man to be in charge of the relationship”. About one in six agree “men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household”.

In a society where we often chat about how important merit is, wouldn’t you argue that the person appointed to be in charge should be the best person for the job? And wouldn’t you say to yourself, I don’t want to be in a relationship where someone wants to be the boss of me? And wouldn’t you also say to yourself, the best decision maker depends on what the bloody decision is?

And who drives those beliefs? Flood tells me it’s men. One in three men agree that “women prefer a man to be in charge of the relationship” compared with only one in five women. Twice as many men (21 per cent, or one in five) agree that “men should take control in relationships and be the head of the household”, as compared with one in 10 women.

Look, I get the concept of bosses in the workplace (designed to maintain the power structures of capitalism and keep workers downtrodden) but a boss at home designed to maintain the power structures of patriarchy? No. Thank. You.

Is it about men earning more? Thinking that because they earn the big bucks, they get to take charge? And what would happen if women started charging out for the mental load? For the cognitive work they do in keeping relationships and connections alive? Money’s good but love matters more.

CEO of Relationships Australia (NSW) Elisabeth Shaw says the entire “man is boss” narrative is still very compelling for some women and that’s reflected in the success of the 2011 bestselling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. And we can’t know for sure from the ICAC transcripts whether these conversations were just teasing, maybe even throwing down the gauntlet, maybe a kind of relationship joke. But that’s not how it reads. It reads like humiliation in spades.

Shaw, who’s worked in the fraught area of family stress for years, says that in successful relationships, people can have different areas of strength. But that doesn’t mean there is never any discussion of alternatives. The sign of a successful relationship is that other comments, other ideas, are in the mix. That’s what tells you it’s not an entrenched, fixed or abusive dynamic.

“Not everything has to be a debate, but there are ebbs and flows in strong relationships,” she says.

And no, I’m not giving Berejiklian any leeway. She is corrupt. But if it can happen to the most powerful woman in the state, it can happen to anyone. Let’s start the relationship revolution right now. Ask me how.


Australia dominates Decanter World Wine Awards as producers celebrate 'golden period' of local winemaking

Australian wines have been labelled "the best in the world" after dominating a prestigious international wine awards.

Wines from Australia accounted for a fifth of those awarded "Best in Show" — more than any other country — at the 2023 Decanter World Wine Awards, held this week in London.

Margaret River was particularly celebrated, with three of the top 50 wines from the lush South West WA wine-growing region.

"If there is a 'winning region' in this year's Top 50 Best in Show selection, it has to be Western Australia's Margaret River," the Decanter World Wine Awards declared.

A vineyard at sunset with rows of vines with two large trees and a silver cellar door building in the distance
Domaine Naturaliste in South West WA's Margaret River wine growing region. (Supplied: Domaine Naturaliste)
Bruce Dukes received a coveted 'Best in Show' for his 2020 Domaine Naturaliste Rebus cabernet sauvignon, grown in Wilyabrup, just shy of three hours south of Perth.

"It was just an incredible surprise," Mr Dukes said.

"It is exciting because Decanter is simply the pinnacle of it all."

15 days, 18,250 wines

Now in its 20th year and self-described as "assuredly the world's largest wine competition," this year's Decanter World Wine Awards saw more than 72,000 bottles of wine flown into London.

Over 15 days, several hundred wine experts and sommeliers conducted blind tastings of 18,250 wines, with entrants required to submit four bottles of each wine.

Australian wines were represented across the Best Show, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze awards, prompting US news outlet CNN to declare Australia as the "home of the best wines in the world for 2023."

While there is often industry cynicism toward wine awards, educator, judge and award-winning sommelier, Leanne Altmann said Decanter's awards carried international credibility, and the results were significant for Australia's growing wine identity.

"In an international context, where you've got the world's best tasters awarding some of these wines so highly, I hope it causes people to say, 'Why did they get such a great score?'" Ms Altmann said.

"Maybe people will take the opportunity to taste those wines that won the awards, or maybe they'll explore a little bit further — it might just open that door to people trying Australian wines and better understanding them."

'Golden period' for local winemaking

Riesling and grenache from South Australia's McLaren Vale, semillon from NSW's Hunter Valley and a fortified grand muscat from Rutherglen in Victoria were all among the top-rated wines.

The recognition comes at a time when the local industry continues to grapple with the collapse of the once-lucrative Chinese export market.

Ms Altmann, who, as beverage director for the Trader House group, selects wines for some of Melbourne's best restaurants, said the awards help to emphasise the regionality of Australian wines.

Where once the industry might have suffered from a flattened international reputation for big-bodied shiraz, she said there was now an increasing appreciation for the specific terroir of growing regions like Margaret River or McLaren Vale.

"For a long time we were making the wines that we thought that market wanted to drink.

"When I first started out in wine, people would sell things to me saying, 'this is a Burgundian-style chardonnay, or I'm looking to make the best example of Chianti, but from Australia,'" she said.

"Now, the best producers are saying things like, 'This is from our place in McLaren Vale, and you can feel where the wind comes across the hills, and this is why the fruit from this place tastes like this.'

"That's widely seen in Europe, but it's getting more common in Australia, which I find particularly exciting."

It's an ethos echoed by Bruce Dukes at Domaine Naturaliste.

"For so many years, Australia had a message of entry-level wines and effectively 'bottled sunshine,' and that message didn't really suit the vast majority of small producers — it just suited a couple of larger producers," Mr Dukes said.

"The only way I can see my business working is to focus on the quality.

"Australia is now going through this golden period with so many smaller producers making the most amazing wines.

"It's just something that takes a while to communicate to the world."

The 'Best in Show' cabernet sauvignon from Domaine Naturaliste retails for $39 a bottle.

Despite a likely uptick in popularity, Mr Dukes said he had no plans to change the price or place an 'award-winning' sticker on the label.

Instead, he believes the success of Australian wines at this year's Decanter awards should serve as encouragement that a more regionally-specific focus is being valued on the world stage.

"I think it's the reinforcement around having the right soils, the right varieties in the right climate.

"There is a pride [about winning], but it's also motivation to keep refining the details and just working on the very basics of the grape growing and the winemaking to continue to fine-tune and improve style and quality.

"It is exciting and motivating at the same time."


More than 1000 qualified nurses ready to return to the wards

Covid vaccine mandates for Queensland healthcare workers are under review as more than 1000 “stood down” nurses and midwives are keen to get back in the wards to help ease the workforce crisis.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman has revealed to The Courier-Mail that the review is being led by the Department of Health and will determine ongoing or future vaccine requirements for Queensland Health staff.

The announcement comes following months of government recruitment drives to attract medics to a health system struggling with understaffing.

“We are currently reviewing the Covid vaccination requirements for Queensland Health employees, following the advice from The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) earlier this year,” Ms Fentiman said.

“A number of strategies are in place to actively manage healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against Covid, including time limited exemptions, return to work options and alternative duties,” she said.

Last month, chief health officer John Gerrard announced that “as the Covid pandemic evolves so does our response here in Queensland”. He said that Covid is now part of reality much like other respiratory illnesses.

The Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland (NPAQ) which has 10,000 nurses as members, urges immediate action from the Health Minister to return to work highly qualified nurses, some with 20 years experience.

“The dismissal of such a significant number of healthcare professionals has exacerbated the existing staffing crisis, placing an immense burden on the remaining workforce. Junior nurses are finding themselves responsible for team leading on wards without the appropriate experience,” NPAQ state secretary Ella Leach said.

A Right to Information document reveals that over 2000 Queensland Health staff applied for a vaccination exemption in late 2021 and early 2022. Some of these were terminated straight away, while many pursued a public service appeal or human rights claims.

There are now well over 1000 healthcare workers that are still not working in healthcare due to vaccine mandates either because they have been or are about to be terminated.

“How many lives could be saved by the reinstatement of these thousand nurses? These nurses can go and work in other Australian States that have dropped all Covid vaccine requirements but they can’t work in their own state, NPAQ president Marg Gilbert said.

Western Australia and Tasmania no longer have the vaccine requirements.


Road to net zero paved with coal

Professor Alan Finkel launched his new book Powering Up this month, describing global and Australian pathways to net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions via renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, hydropower, and battery storage).

In describing our clean energy future Professor Finkel says, ‘Think forests of wind farms … and endless arrays of solar panels disappearing like a mirage into the desert.’ We may or may not like his vision, but there is some arithmetic we have to consider along the way.

Finkel endorses Australia’s goal of a 43 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, with 82 per cent of electricity generated by renewable energy (wind, solar, and batteries).

A sobering counter-claim by Paul Broad, former chief executive of Snowy Hydro, suggests that it will take 80 years, not eight, to generate 82 per cent of Australian electricity from renewables.

Given that the Snowy 2.0 pumped storage project including its connection to electricity grids has seen a time blowout of six or more years and a cost blowout from $2 billion to a likely $20 billion, maybe Broad knows a fairy-tale when he reads it.

The Hunter Coast near Newcastle in New South Wales, and the Gippsland Coast in Victoria are two of six Australian regions under evaluation for offshore wind-energy farms.

To get an idea of the potential cost we can look at recently completed Hornsea 2 project which sited 165 turbines off the coast of Yorkshire, England. The construction cost was A$5.2 billion per GW of electric power. This is double the estimated cost of a modern coal-fired power station.

Australia generates over half of its electricity from coal-fired plants, according to Australian Energy Regulator figures for 2023. These plants for the most part use obsolete technology and receive minimal maintenance because they are being shut down progressively.

New technology where boilers run at higher temperatures and pressure are vastly more efficient with lower CO2 emissions. The tragedy is that our clever country has not adopted these ultra-supercritical (USC) or high-efficiency low emission (HELE) plants.

Many countries in the West have these plants as well as ten countries in Asia from India and Bangladesh in the west to Vietnam, China, and Japan in the east which have USC technology installed and have additional plants under construction.

What might such technology achieve in Australia? Large coal-fired power plants (think Loy Yang A in Victoria or Eraring in NSW) have output capacities of about 2 to 3GW. A detailed study by engineering group GHD in 2017 found that a USC plant would cost $2.5 billion per GW in today’s dollars or about $5 billion for a 2GW plant. International Energy Agency estimates and Korean experience suggest an average construction time of four to six years for a USC power plant.

Australia has about 20 GW of conventional coal-fired power plants spread over the eastern states which generate the larger part of the nation’s baseload electricity. These obsolete plants could be replaced with state-of-the-art USC plants for about $50 billion.

If we include Western Australia’s coal-fired generators, and allow additional costs for Victoria’s generators which use brown coal, the national cost may be in the order of $60 billion, with no additional costs for transmission lines since the existing infrastructure already serves these plants. The benefits? A 30 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions using available technology that provides baseload power, removing the threat of blackouts on cloudy or low-wind days.

Finding $60 billion to finance this conversion is challenging, but as a nation, we face bigger demands. Our Aukus nuclear submarines are estimated to cost up to $368 billion over three decades which is justified on national security grounds. Providing energy security for the nation’s industry and its citizens over the next decade is surely deserving of similar serious consideration.

The federal budget last year allocated $20 billion over four years to Rewiring the Nation, a project which is designed to ‘upgrade, expand and modernise Australia’s electricity grid’. How much more secure we would be if we put a similar amount of money into modernising our generators rather than our transmission lines?

The coal-fired plants envisaged in this discussion will not be the forever solution for our power needs. Over two to three decades, aided by our Aukus nuclear submarine development, small modular nuclear plants will become available. Such plants, like USC coal plants, can be sited at existing power stations.

Finkel is confident that the availability of nuclear plants by 2040 will be too late due to the growth of renewable energy sources however, the growth of nuclear power stations overseas (planned, new, or re-commissioned from mothballed plants) suggests his view is likely too pessimistic.

The US Westinghouse Electric Company, with an established record of manufacturing nuclear power plants, has announced the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) for civilian power generation, targeting operation on the electricity grids by 2033.

The estimated cost of these nuclear plants is equivalent to A$5 billion per GW which is twice the cost of established USC coal technology and may well be subject to cost and time blow-outs. But the crucial point is that over the next decade, USC coal-fired power is the efficient, secure, and achievable option and replacement with nuclear and/or renewable energy should follow as alternative sources become proven, stable, and fit for purpose. We also note that the SMR option is comparable in estimated cost with the actual cost of the Yorkshire offshore wind farm discussed above.

If Australia wishes to pursue the goal of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 without nuclear technology the costs may be far greater than the proponents of green energy admit. Former Chief Scientist Professor Robin Batterham led an international consortium which which released their Net Zero Australia report in April. It was written by a team of over 40 collaborators drawn from two Australian universities and two international groups who conducted two years of detailed study and modelling. It covers more than just net-zero power generation detailing the steps needed to create a true net-zero economy covering power, mining, agriculture and exports.

The numbers are sobering. It estimates a cost of between $7,000 billion and $9,000 billion by 2060 covering five different scenarios. The fraction attributable to net-zero electric power generation is not explicitly identified but is likely to be in the range of 25 per cent to 50 per cent of the total cost depending on the pathway chosen.

The analysis incorporates coal-fired power generation as a necessity until 2040 and envisages a continuing need for gas-fired peak power plants through to 2060 with carbon capture and storage technologies designed to remove CO2 to provide a net-zero outcome.

As we contemplate a lower-end estimate of $2,000 billion for Australia to deliver net-zero electricity by 2060, with coal-fired plants operating until 2040, we may well conclude that spending $60 billion over the next decade on efficient, low emissions USC coal-fired power plants is a small price to pay for near-term energy security while we evaluate and implement newer zero-emission technologies such as nuclear and green hydrogen over the next half century.




No comments: