Monday, September 18, 2023

The Feelgood versus the rational

I have set out at some length here why Leftists tend to have ego problems. They have a great need for praise and admiration. So if an opportunity comes up for a Leftist to say or do something that will win him/her congratulations for being caring (etc.), he/she will grab that opportunity. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The problem arises when the feelgood policy has consequences that are destructive or dangerous. What if some action that at first seems praiseworthy turns out to do a lot of harm if you take that action?

A Leftists will not normally be deterred by that. His/her need for praise will cause him to close his eyes to the bad consequences down the track and keep advocating anything that sounds good. He needs the praise too much to give up the feelgood policy

But conservatives are not like that. They are cautious and want to avoid doing anything that will hurt people. So they will point to the future harms of the feelgood policy and will oppose it because of those harms. The conservative does not allow the feelgood nature of some policy to swamp all other considerations.

And Australia is at the mmoment gripped by a debate over a policy that feels good to most people but which could do real harm if implemented: The "Voice" debate.

Leftist feel all warm and righteous at advocating a special voice in Federal parliament for Aborigines. Aborigines as a group are in a hell of a mess in many ways so "doing something" for them has great appeal. It shows how much heart you have for their problems and may lead to better treatment of them by future governments.

But conservatives know their history and are quite appalled by the prospect of racial privileges for one particular group. If the 20th century taught us anything, it taught us the evils of racial favoritism. There can be no doubt that racial preferences are simply evil and provoke disharmony.

So conservatives are against the Voice on that and other grounds. And that makes them the enemies of the Leftist feelgood policy. So what do the Left do when thretened with the loss of their feelgood policy? Do they simply concede the point and desist from advocating something that could be very harmful? No way. They like ther feelgood policy too much to abandon it.

So what do they do? In good Leftist style they resort to abuse and lies. They go "ad hominem". They cannot answer the conservative arguents so they impugn the motives of conservatives who oppose the polcy. In the oldest bit of Leftist abuse in the book, they accuse conservatives of racism. They say that it is racism that lies behind opposition to the "voice". That they are are the one who are advocating something racist seems quite lost on them.

So they pretend tat it is white supremacists who are their opposition while they are the good and noble guys. It's a sad commentary on the ego needs that drive such irrationality but it is a classic bit of Leftist argumentation.

The toon below describes the mythical world that the Left have created around the "Voice". One of the many things that the Left are sedulously ignoring is that it is not only white conservatives in opposition but many Aborigines too. Around half of Aborigines seem to be opposed to the Voice and say so. How come they oppose something that is supposed to help them?

The only way the Left have of dealing with that puzzle is by ignoring the Aborigines concerned. The toon features some well-known Aborigines who oppose the Voice and shows them as canvassing for a "No" vote


Prosecutions ‘frequently terminated’ to avoid harming First Nations victims: DPP

Since the usual victims of Aboriginal offenders are other Aborigines, this denial of justice hurts Aboriginal victims and helps the offenders

The state’s top prosecutor has warned that the criminal justice system is failing First Nations victims of crime and her office frequently terminates prosecutions involving Indigenous complainants because existing trial processes are not culturally safe.

NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Sally Dowling, SC, said adapting the justice system to serve the needs of First Nations complainants was a priority, including advocating for judges to give directions to jurors situating the evidence of Indigenous witnesses in a cultural context.

“It’s our strong view that there’s a potential for First Nations witnesses to be prejudiced in terms of their evidence being understood if lawyers, judges and juries aren’t familiar with the cultural and language differences that can characterise their evidence,” Dowling said.

Sociolinguistics experts have identified the respectful avoidance of eye contact, long silences and gratuitous concurrence – saying yes regardless of whether a person agrees with a proposition – as features of some Aboriginal communication styles that may be misinterpreted by non-Aboriginal jurors.

Those communication styles were “underpinned by cultural norms of courtesy and respect”, Dowling said, but “it can be, in fact, regarded as the opposite of what non-Aboriginal people expect from an honest witness”.

There was “further potential for miscommunication in cross-examination” because it involved the use of leading questions which “suggest an answer to the witness”, Dowling said.

The potential for jurors to misunderstand the evidence not only risked distorting the individual trial process, she said, “but we believe it has a deterrent and chilling effect on other First Nations people from engaging with the legal process”.

Under legislative changes that took effect in NSW last year, judges in many sexual assault trials must give a direction to jurors addressing common misconceptions about consent.

Dowling said those reforms provided a “good model” for a direction to “counter incorrect or stereotypical assumptions” that might affect jurors’ assessment of the evidence of First Nations witnesses. This would not remove judicial discretion and directions were “not required in every case or for every First Nations witness”, she said.

The changes might include a new requirement for judges to give a direction to jurors in some cases to help situate the evidence of First Nations witnesses in a cultural context. This could be modelled on the direction about consent given in some sexual assault trials.

The Evidence Act could also be changed to make it easier to introduce expert evidence about sociolinguistic factors that may affect the assessment of First Nations witnesses’ evidence.

Inspiration could be drawn from the state’s child sexual offence evidence program, which allows for a deviation from conventional cross-examination in some cases. This may allow evidence to be given in a narrative form.

Dowling said that “the very fundamental thing that needs to happen is that there is comprehensive judicial training into trauma-informed practice and also cultural awareness and culturally safe practices in courtrooms”.

The directions could “be as simple as highlighting to the jury that in many First Nations communities it’s considered polite to avoid eye contact or that a silent pause is an important part of Aboriginal communication,” she said.

This year, Dowling’s office discontinued a prosecution involving the alleged sexual assault in the 1970s and 80s of an Aboriginal teenage girl, given the pseudonym Leah, after Leah raised concerns about the trial process and a lack of cultural safety.

Leah’s concerns included the potential for long silences in the evidence of First Nations witnesses to be misinterpreted, and her desire to give her evidence in a narrative fashion.

“Leah noted that both she and her mother were storytellers, and that there is significant cultural value and power in storytelling for First Nations people,” a DPP case note said.

Leah’s case was not isolated. Dowling said that “for First Nations people, cultural safety is central to wellbeing” and her office “frequently terminates prosecutions involving Indigenous complainants because the criminal justice process is not culturally safe and does not meet their needs”.

‘These proposals are not radical. They are about fairness, and justice is all about fairness.’

NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, Sally Dowling, SC
Judges have discretion to give a direction to jurors about the evidence of First Nations witnesses, and they have been given in trials in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. However, they have rarely been given in NSW despite applications by prosecutors, and they have no legislative basis.

“We have seen with the consent directions ... that there’s not a lot of movement in this area without legislative amendment,” Dowling said.

She said there was “a widespread misconception that only First Nations people from remote communities have these distinct sociolinguistic characteristics” but “even quite urban communities” could share those features.

Dowling said separate changes to the NSW Evidence Act could be considered to allow “expert evidence on the sociolinguistic features of First Nations people ... to be given in court much more easily”, as is the case for expert evidence about the impact of sexual abuse on children.

The state’s child sexual offence evidence program also provided “a precedent for a significant deviation from conventional cross-examination in NSW”, she said, and it was “an analogue ... from which we can draw inspiration in this context.” The Evidence Act already allows judges to give a direction that witnesses give evidence in narrative form in some cases.

“These proposals are not radical,” Dowling said. “They are about fairness, and justice is all about fairness. We’re pursuing these changes largely in response to what our First Nations staff ... have identified as the difficulties they face in working with our First Nations witnesses and complainants.”

The changes “would be just as beneficial for First Nations people who are accused of having committed crimes”, she said.

Indigenous Australians are overrepresented as victims of crime compared with the non-Indigenous population and “they are a really important cohort of the people who are needed to be serviced by the criminal justice system”, Dowling said.

Bureau of Statistics figures based on police reports reveal First Nations people experienced sexual assault at 2.5 times the rate of non-First Nations people in NSW last year, the DPP said in a report tendered in a Senate inquiry.


Journos are failing the public in their reporting on renewables

The main sources of misinformation on Australia’s renewable energy transition are journalists from the ABC and the Nine newspapers.

And it’s not just about exaggerated reporting of natural disasters. Think about preconceptions among environment writers about the rights of people directly affected by the renewables grid expansion. Add to that journalists who ignore inconvenient facts about what is really happening to emissions around the world, and especially in China and India.

This column suggested last year that editors should send reporters into regional Australia to look at the reaction of rural communities affected by the rollout of more than 10,000km of poles and wires to connect renewables projects to the eastern states’ grid. This column has also pointed many times to misreporting of China’s renewables expansion while ignoring its rapidly expanding CO2 emissions.

This paper’s chief writer, Christine Middap, is the former editor of The Weekend Australian Magazine. She published a compelling piece on Saturday July 21 under the headline “Casualties on the road to renewables”.

The piece examined the plight of landholders affected by Transgrid’s HumeLink transmission project. Middap explained what fourth-generation Snow Valleys land holder Dave Purcell sees from his farm: eight to 14 steel towers, up to 76m high, carrying cables crisscrossing his cattle property.

Even Minister for Energy Chris Bowen sympathised with the plight of such farmers. “In my experience, most concerned community members are not anti-renewables, anti-transmission or anti-progress. Nor in most cases are they opposed to projects going ahead if their concerns are addressed,” Bowen was quoted saying.

The Sydney Morning Herald took a very different tack on the issue on Saturday September 9. This is a paper that has devoted probably hundreds of thousands of words in the past 50 years to disputes in Sydney’s eastern suburbs over trees disrupting multimillion-dollar harbour views.

National environment and climate editor Nick O’Malley savaged the new NSW Labor government’s decision to extend the life of the Eraring power station in the Hunter Valley. This is the country’s largest power source and the likelihood it would need to remain open beyond the 2025 date owner Origin Energy has flagged for closure has been known for years.

O’Malley quoted NSW Minister for Energy Penny Sharpe on social licence and renewables. “As Sharpe says, transition involves dispersing energy production that was once centralised mostly in the Hunter Valley across the state. Objections to new solar farms, wind turbines and transmission lines from landholders across the east coast are increasing.”

The piece, a full page, went on to quote several green energy lobbyists and planning experts about the slow processes of the NSW Department of Planning. From people whose land is being dissected by such projects – not a word. The renewables industry lobby owns the SMH’s journalism.

Reporting about the renewables commitments of the No.1 and No.3 global CO2 emitters, China and India, is just as lacking. Too many environment writers focus on increasing renewables use while ignoring that both countries are expanding their coal capacity.

In fact, The Telegraph in London on September 6 said China had this year started on new coal capacity greater than the entire existing US coal fleet. Yet in much media here it is Australia that is the emissions pariah.

At least The Guardian was honest enough to publish the truth on August 29. Quoting analysis by the Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research of Energy and Clean Air, The Guardian said “… in the first half of 2023 (China’s) authorities granted approval for 52 gigawatts of new coal power, began construction on 37GW of new coal power, announced 41GW worth of new projects and revived 8GW of previously shelved projects.”

Yet ABC radio’s flagship morning current affairs program, AM, on September 11 reported – po-faced – that Australia was being left behind by China’s energy transition as renewables industry leaders here pleaded for subsidies to help compete with US President Joe Biden’s misnamed Inflation Reduction Act spending on US emissions reduction.

Reporter Annie Guest interviewed Tim Buckley from the consultancy Climate Energy Finance who called for $100bn in government investment in renewables and critical minerals such as copper and lithium. Buckley believed the Future Fund should become an equity holder in renewables projects.

John Grimes, CEO of the Smart Energy Council, told Guest China was leading the world in the production and export of solar panels, wind turbines and EVs. “The rest of the world is in China’s dust,” he said.

Indeed, China has been the biggest beneficiary of the global energy transition across the West, even though it has increased domestic coal consumption by 300 million tonnes a year and last year increased emissions by 10 per cent over the pre-Covid peak set in 2019, according to The Conversation on July 10.

It is the biggest emitter by far, has the fastest-growing emissions and yet is the winner from commitments in Europe, East Asia, North America and Australia to reduce their emissions. In effect, the rest of the world is exporting its industrial base to China for no net gain on global emissions.

In fact, several European car makers, including German giant Volkswagen, have warned in recent months that European car production is on the verge of collapse in the face of cheap imported Chinese EVs and conventional cars and soaring power prices in Europe.

Now President Biden is using the Inflation Reduction Act to get a piece of the action China has been enjoying and European vehicle, electronics and chemical companies are moving manufacturing facilities to the US. Renewables lobbyists here want government subsidies so they can get some of the cake too. But what if it all fails?

AM was incurious about China’s rising emissions, the dangers of governments picking winners, the severe economic downturn in China, and the possibility Biden’s green agenda may just be a trillion dollar act of self-harm.

An editorial in The Wall Street Journal on September 4 warned many projects that were made possible only by Biden subsidies are now seeking large price increases from utility ratepayers to compensate for higher interest rates and soaring investment costs. Offshore wind developers in New York are seeking a 48 per cent rise in their power delivery contacts.

“The Alliance for Clean Energy NY is also requesting an average 64 per cent price increase on 86 wind and solar projects,’’ the Journal said. It noted growing demand nationally for renewables projects in the wake of Biden’s subsidies had driven inflation in the prices of renewables components.

So the laws of supply and demand apply even in the green economy? Who knew.

Good journalists should cast a sceptical eye over the self-interested claims of people wanting government handouts to boost private profits. Many consumers don’t pay for their media, relying on free sources such as the ABC and The Guardian.

It is incumbent on such sources to test the claims of those who stand to profit from new technologies. ABC consumers may be astounded to know there is as yet no economically viable technology pathway to green hydrogen. Nor would many realise most energy specialists expect all countries will continue to rely on gas for decades to firm renewables.


Fairness slips through ALP’s fishing policy

If Anthony Albanese planned to price wild-caught barramundi off the menu before last year’s election, he forgot to mention it to the electorate. However, it probably had yet to enter his mind before he flew to Paris to talk to UNESCO in July 2022.

Closing the gillnet fishing industry was one of the things UNESCO insisted must happen to stop the Great Barrier Reef from joining the “in danger” list. The Prime Minister and his Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, have bent over backwards to comply. French newspaper Le Monde recently quoted sources close to UNESCO saying the difference between the new government’s attitude and the old one was “like night and day”.

Gillnet fishing for wild barramundi in north Queensland will end when the season closes on October 31 and will be illegal from the start of next year. It was banned at the insistence of a supranational organisation without any discussion in federal parliament or consultation with the industry. To describe it as undemocratic would be an understatement.

Sky News host Caleb Bond says “doomsayers” would lead you to…
There is no credible scientific evidence showing how an annual catch of 200 tonnes of wild barramundi in onshore waters could damage the Reef. There have been no reports that stocks of wild barramundi are depleting. On the contrary, local fishermen say they have seldom been more abundant.

Yet from the end of next month the only place Australians will be able to buy Queensland wild barramundi will be on the black market. Gillnetting will continue in the NT and WA, but since two thirds of the national catch comes from Queensland, wild-caught barramundi will be priced out of reach for most consumers. Everything else will be farmed and much of it will be imported.

The sentence on gillnet fishing came out of the blue. Commercial fishers in Queensland reportedly found out less than an hour before a general announcement released by Plibersek and the Queensland government on June 5. The announcement was apparently timed to coincide with World Oceans Day, but no one had considered it worth warning the people whose livelihoods were about to be destroyed.

“It was just gut-wrenching to have that told to you in a press release,” gillnet operator Neil Green told me at the weekend. “No one in Queensland who managed the fishery was ready for this. Here we are three months down the track and we have no idea whether we’re going to get compensated, we’re going to be bought out or what the future is.”

Neither government had given much forethought to the impact on towns such as Ayr, where a thriving fishing industry operates around the mouth of the Burdekin River. The local ice producer is wondering if his business will survive. Business for the suppliers of marine services has tanked. Licence holders are stranded with expensive boats for which there is no longer a market.

It’s unclear whether Plibersek has visited the region, so far as anybody can tell. The decision and the announcement were made in the safe confines of Canberra, a city where the major industry is messing with other people’s lives.

“We know one of the most immediate threats to health of (the) Reef is unsustainable fishing practices,” read the June 5 press release in a section headed “Quotes attributable to the federal Minister for the Environment and Water”. She said dugongs, turtles and dolphins are caught in nets and drown.

If Plibersek could spare time to spend a morning with Green and his daughter, Sienna, working the creeks and mangrove swamps near the mouth of the Burdekin River, she would have learned the allegations in her press release were pure fiction.

She would have watched Green release his nets meticulously weighted at the bottom and with corks at the top, at locations and at a depth where almost half a century of experience has taught him he’ll catch barramundi and nothing else.

No licence holder looking for a return on their investment in their boat, equipment and red tape would contemplate not complying with the reporting regulations. Green has never had to report the catching of dugongs, turtles and dolphins, let alone their drowning, because he has never had the misfortune to catch one in 47 years of commercial fishing.

The Queensland government keeps a record of wildlife deaths for which humans are responsible. The total number of dugongs caught in nets since 2012 is six. The total of koalas killed on Queensland roads is more than 3000. Cars and trucks remain legal, at least for now.

Green has repeatedly asked for scientific evidence to support the minister’s claims. He said the best answer he’d been given was that fish absorb carbon dioxide and hold it in the ocean. “I’m happy to consider the science, but I’m not going to cop this rubbish,” Green told me.

UNESCO’s jihad against gillnets began in April last year when a delegation of special investigators flew to Queensland to look for evidence of damage to the Barrier Reef. Like Hans Blix, the hapless former Swedish diplomat sent to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, the delegation was hardly likely to return with a report declaring fears were misplaced.

The delegation spent 10 days in Queensland meeting more than 100 people, including politicians, bureaucrats, academics, representatives from tourism and the ever-expanding reef conservation industry. None of them worked in the kind of jobs where you get your hands dirty. They met representatives from the World Wildlife Fund, Queensland Conservation Council and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, whose organisations had joined the confected campaign against gillnets.

They apparently met nobody from the commercial fishing industry, let alone the licence owners whose worlds they were about to destroy.

When the Hawke Labor government banned logging on the Atherton Tablelands in 1987, then environment minister Graham Richardson had the decency to show up at Ravenshoe and look squarely at the faces of the workers who were about to lose their jobs. That is not the Albanese government’s style. It rubberstamps decisions made in Paris with little consideration for the dignity of working Australians, incomes, communities or fairness.

It is the same approach it has taken to develop the industrial-scale wind and solar plants blighting scores of regional communities from Tasmania to far north Queensland.

The pattern is clear. Albanese is dancing to the tune of the inner-city elites who call for greater action on climate change, knowing they’re exempt from paying the cost. His government is making costly decisions in energy and environmental policy without bothering to ask if they are needed or will be effective.

It is perfectly understandable. When the Prime Minister and his Environment Minister represent adjoining inner-city seats that are both under sustained attack from the Greens, the dignity of working people in regional communities is probably the last thing on their minds.




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