Thursday, February 29, 2024

Queensland Supreme Court finds some Covid vaccine orders unlawful

They were the three words of the week, if not of the year: ‘vaccine’, ‘mandates’ and ‘unlawful’. That was the key takeout from the decision handed down this week by the Queensland Supreme Court in a case largely financed by mining gazillionaire and political agitator Clive Palmer. Specifically, the Covid-19 vaccine mandates, implemented in the form of directions given to Queensland police and ambulance service workers, were made unlawfully, the court has ruled, partly because they didn’t take into account those workers’ ‘human rights’.

The news, of course, is to be welcomed. It is the first crack in the dam wall and will hopefully be followed by significant class actions and further court cases. Ideally, one might hope that certain senior politicians, senior bureaucrats, doctors and corporate heads will wind up in prison for their collective roles in the grotesque Covid abuse of power, following a royal commission. However, there is the chance that the Queensland case will be overturned on appeal, as the powers-that-be attempt to reassert their censorship and crushing authoritarianism over what remains the most disgraceful period in our history.

Alone – and we really do mean alone – among the Australian mainstream media, indeed in many instances the world media, The Spectator Australia fought from the very beginning against the vaccine mandates, the lockdowns, the mask mandates, the school closures, the banning of perfectly good (and cheap) alternative treatments for Covid and the fraudulent claims being made about the safety of the mRNA ‘vaccines’. Dismissed as conspiracy theorists, extreme right-wingers, anti-vaxxers and a whole list of other pejoratives, this magazine and its astonishing collection of writers can hold their heads high – Rebecca Weisser, Ramesh Thakur, Julie Sladden, Kara Thomas, Alexandra Marshall, David Flint, David Adler, James Allan, Rocco Loiacono, Robert Clancy, Rowan Dean and many others. Of course, there were a miserable handful of writers, and readers, who were appalled by our Covid scepticism and took their writing skills or subscriptions to other media outlets more in tune with their views. They are not missed.

On 22 May 2021, as powerful voices and commentators within the Australian media frantically urged the government to introduce vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, we wrote on this page:

So we will be blunt on this particular occasion: if Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt or any members of the federal or ‘national’ cabinets seek to impose a ‘vaccine passport’ that restricts the freedom of movement and liberties of Australians, they will potentially be guilty of human rights abuses and even crimes against humanity.

Any number of conventions and laws exist that make it a criminal offence for a government or its bureaucrats to coerce or make mandatory any form of medical treatment against the will of the individual. Such laws and conventions were brought in as a direct result of the atrocities of the second world war and the revolting medical experiments conducted by not only the Nazis but other totalitarian regimes against their own people.

Make no mistake; a ‘vaccine passport’ denying liberties and restricting the free movement of Australians within their own country will be the most sinister and disgraceful act by an Australian government against its own people in our history. This is for one simple reason: governments and bureaucracies have no right to enforce or to coerce an individual to take a medical treatment or drug against the individual’s better instincts or judgment.

In any free society, the government’s role is to persuade, not to coerce or to mandate.

It is a fine line between encouraging or incentivising vaccination and coercing it, but telling traumatised Australians that they can, for example, only visit their loved ones or carry on their normal business if they inject a certain drug is completely unacceptable and indeed reprehensible. Persuasion is all very well. Coercion and emotional or financial blackmail are not.

Then on 3 July 2021, we wrote:

It is on the coronavirus that an absence of any genuine political convictions on the part of the PM and his advisers is most apparent. Devoid of a bedrock of political philosophy to stand upon, the government makes it up as it goes along, reacting, presumably, to internal polling as much as to media hysteria. It is not a pretty sight.

Most depressing of all, as certain politicians urged people to report friends or neighbours who were flouting the rules, on 31 July 2021 we wrote:

Welcome to the new Australia of dobbers, scolds and snitches and the self-appointed virtuous.

Kudos to Queensland Judge Glenn Martin for having the courage and moral fortitude to put into law what was always self-evident to any self-respecting conservative. The vaccine mandates trashed every ethical, moral, medical and human rights principle in a free democracy.

To all those individuals, not only in Queensland but throughout Australia, who lost their careers, their dignity and even their families because they resisted the mandates, you are true heroes. Every Australian owes you a huge debt for your courage, and an apology for the medieval vilification so many suffered.

To the few brave politicians who dared to speak up against the madness, often at terrible personal or professional cost, we salute you. Craig Kelly, Alex Antic, George Christensen, Gerard Rennick, Malcolm Roberts, Pauline Hanson, Matt Canavan and others. Above all, we thank all our loyal readers who stayed the course.


Why we need more CEOs to speak up for profits

Coles’ Leah Weckert issued an important reminder to corporate Australia: Profit is not a dirty word.

Weckert’s comments have come right at the tail end of a resilient earnings season, and the newish Coles boss has cut through with a reminder about the purpose of her business: To look after shareholders through delivering the sharpest value to her customers.

Supermarkets and Woolworths boss Brad Banducci in particular, have been in the firing line around profits they make.

The big two retailers have become an easy target for claims around price gouging and anti-competitive behaviour while Australia is in the midst of an inflation bubble.

This has now spiralled into a Greens-led Senate inquiry and a year-long Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Review into the supermarkets. These will be highly distracting for management and, like the previous ACCC review into supermarket pricing a decade ago, will probably amount to little.

Everyone else is jumping on board with the ACTU and Queensland’s Steven Miles demanding their own probe. The claims are easy to make and always missing from the barbs is what should be the right level of profit for a business to make. No one is willing to go there and nor should they.

Still the attack on profit from all sides of the political spectrum is a worrying trend. Businesses exist to make profit and reward shareholders. In doing so they invest money into the economy and create jobs. The trick is in the balancing act to make sure the pursuit of profit is sustainable over the long run and businesses keep one eye on their social licence to operate.

Banducci, who this month announced his retirement, has struggled to cut through with a simple message on this point and his trainwreck interview on ABC TV only fanned the flames.

Banducci is the architect of Woolies much-needed cultural transformation and this month conceded to The Australian he was the first to get upset with himself when he doesn’t represent his company accurately.

In the middle of the anger, Woolworths triggered some big non-cash writedowns of its business, tipping the retailer into a heavy bottom-line loss.

Commonwealth Bank boss Matt Comyn is the only other boss who is prepared to issue a spirited defence of profits. Comyn regularly points out his bottom-line returns go to millions of shareholders as well as generate the crucial capital so funds can be lent back out to grow the economy.

Weckert, promoted to the top job in May last year, delivered her numbers on Tuesday which included a 3.9 per cent dip in December half net profit to $594m. The numbers show Coles is selling more, with revenue up nearly 7 per cent, but costs are crimping profit margins. Where Weckert draws the line is criticism of the windfall dollars.

“Profits are an essential thing for any business,” Weckert says. “They enable us to continue to operate and for us that means we get to employ 120,000 people. We get to support thousands of suppliers. We pay a very large tax bill every year.”

Coles has more than 460,000 shareholders and many of these are retail investors – the so-called mums and dads. There are millions more who benefit indirectly from the dividends through their super funds.

The simple message Weckert will take to next month’s Senate inquiry that begins in Hobart is that Coles generates $2.60 for every $100 spent by customers.

This is “less than 3c on the dollar,” she says, and points to her profit margins now being stable for at least the past five years, including through an inflation spike. Nor is food inflation unique to Australia, she adds, It’s are often driven by a surge in input costs such as fertilisers or wheat. Indeed, many developed economies, particularly the UK and in Europe, have seen food prices rise at a faster pace.

Weckert says Australian supermarkets are facing more intense competition than ever as offshore giants Aldi, Costco and Amazon make big inroads. Wesfarmers’ Bunnings and Priceline, along with Chemist Warehouse, are making inroads into the non-food sector.

Meanwhile, supermarket customers are trading convenience over value and are using local specialists from butchers to bakers.

The numbers show Coles now has the momentum in the sales race against its rival, Woolies. It can be argued Woolies is more distracted than it has been in years with problems from New Zealand, Big W and its looming leadership transition.

Coles’ supermarkets sale jumped 4.9 per cent in the first eight weeks of the calendar year, while Woolworths delivered 1.5 per cent growth over the first seven weeks. This helped back a near 6 per cent jump in Coles’ shares.

Coles says it is getting on top of the jump in theft rates it experienced last year as it invests more in checkout technology.

This could make a big difference to its earnings line in coming halves as it continues to get theft rates down further.

Australia’s housing and building shortage is now becoming a force on the ASX, although it has taken global players to recognise the value.


Victorian blackout has lessons

When the lights went out last week for 500,000 Victorians, it wasn’t all bad. Most still had natural gas to turn to for cooking and some for hot water.

But gas connections to new homes are banned in Victoria from 2024. Clearly, the great fortune of being part of the Lucky Country, blessed with dual energy supplies, was too great a first-world burden for the socialist-left Allan state government to handle.

It means that for these new homes, the next time the lights go out, everything goes out.

However, Victoria’s diabolic blackout might be the best double-edged sword the state’s future could have ordered.

What happened last week may have been the first time many youngsters couldn’t charge their mobile phones, laptops, or other electronic gadgetry. Their lives and their lifelines also went flat.

Until then, they had been removed from reality. Until then, it was someone else’s problem…

Only now might they think about the importance of the essential service of electricity, and better still, the importance of cheap and reliable energy. One day they will have to pay the bills.

And so it is that there may be more power in a flat phone battery than we think.

Only now might the Net Zero zealots begin thinking about the real world, just as theirs shatters into texting and tweeting oblivion.

The blackouts, with the promise of more to come, might just be the real-life lesson in understanding the old saying that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Schooled in Net Zero nonsense, the younger generations and their educators have largely applauded the direction of phasing out coal and pursuing a renewables nirvana.

With eyes wide shut, they believe they are saving the world one poppycock plan at a time. They have skipped school and rallied for the cause. They have spent school hours making placards and writing letters to Ministers. Some have voted for the cause and more will follow.

Little might they think that their increasingly battery-led lifestyle, pumped up by power, is not the life that their childhood counterparts in the Congo are living.

Little might they think of the trees being pulled down in order to put up wind farms, or the interruption to whale migration at sea. Little might they think about what a romantic sunset could look like in years to come with industrial love on the horizon.

Little might they think of the increasing plethora of coal-driven power, mining, and industrial operations elsewhere in the world, while Australia’s decision-makers pull the plug on ours.

They are in the dark more than they might want to realise.

For first-time power blackout sufferers, it won’t be the temporary death of their fridge or freezer worrying them. These days, most order-in a solution to their food problems or go to a local supermarket – backed up by diesel generators – to get a tub of ice cream on demand.

No, it is only the absence of mobile phones, iPads, and the like that might make the younger generations understand what nobody else is telling them: reliable energy is really important.

When they can recharge their phones – and their lives – they should google the following: nuclear energy, reliable energy, low-cost energy, and underground powerlines.

Then they should google future job prospects in Australia.

But it’s a bit hard to find the buttons in the dark.


What Young Australians Should Know About the Green’s Housing Policy

How is it that the Greens are becoming the party of choice for anyone under 30, while also being the party most likely to destroy the future prospects of those under 30s?

Take housing for example.

The Greens yearn for the days when the state was the provider of miserable, cramped housing for Australians deemed too incompetent to organise their own.

This led to housing estates and stigma, and the “poor me” reminiscences of the current prime minister. No rational person would want to go back there.

When Liberal party founder Robert Menzies became prime minister in 1949 he began to sell off the Commonwealth’s public housing.

The states never went that far, but despite their rhetoric, zeal for public housing waned, and the rate of building new public housing went on a long trajectory towards zero.

Since then the market (private individuals and corporations seeing an opportunity to do a favour to someone else, and earn a living doing it) stepped in and developers provided almost all Australians with a place they could call home.

It turns out there are hardly any Australians so incompetent they can’t secure a place of their own either to rent or to own, and that just like every other service, individuals contracting freely with each other are better at arranging accommodation for themselves than the government is.

But this is not the world for the Greens with their retro-Marxist preferences and Che Guevara tees.

They want to boost the public sector rental market and marginalise the private ones, and have adopted a swag of policies to this end, including the abolition of negative gearing.

This is a serious problem for people who can’t afford to buy and who have to rent. Even with the Greens promise to build 50,000 rental homes a year, it would only represent 1.5 percent of the total rental market, which would be overwhelmingly still financed by private owners.

The Greens claim that negative gearing keeps homeowners out of the market, but this is wrong for a number of reasons.

Around a third of Australians rent. Some of these are permanent renters, but others are homeowners-in-waiting.

In either case, there should be no enmity between renters and owners. But policies that handicap investors who rent, also handicap people who will be first-home buyers because it limits their renting options while they save a deposit.

How Does It Work?

The principle of negative gearing is that if you are going to tax investment income, an investor must be able to deduct their expenses from their income.

If the investor owns a property in their own name, then that income includes what they earn from other sources, like their principal job.

Most plans to abolish negative gearing tacitly admit this. They may prevent investors from deducting expenses against their other income, but they still allow them to carry forward their losses until the property becomes cash flow positive.

This means that if the Greens were to abolish negative gearing, they don’t somehow save the whole of the deduction and bank it to government coffers. They save it, until they have to give it back in the future as deductions against future income.

In accounting jargon, the tax amounts to the interest value of the timing difference.

What they save is the interest they earn on the money that would have stayed with the taxpayer, if it had been allowed as a tax deduction.

This means the value to the government is much less than most of the models that are used to justify the policy, which magically assumes the government gets the benefit of the foregone deduction forever.

But it gets worse than that.

We are in a situation where we need drastically more properties than we have now, which means we need to encourage people to build more houses.

Negative gearing makes that possible.

How much longer would it take an investor to buy a property if they decided to wait until they had a deposit that would allow them to “positively” gear the property?

Positive gearing means that although you’ve borrowed, the property is returning enough income to give you a surplus.

When interest rates were around 2 percent, that probably wasn’t too much longer, but now they’re more like 6 percent. It’s quite a stretch.

So, by banning negative gearing it would mean that investors would be encouraged to take longer before they bought a house. This is the reverse of what you want when you have a housing shortage.

Everybody Benefits

The reason we gear most investments (and most investors and companies have some degree of gearing) is so we can do more with the same amount of capital, which is exactly what the country needs to do at the moment.

That’s a good thing for renters, who need more properties, and also for buyers, who also need more properties.

It’s also a good thing for the government. If investors can leverage their capital, there is more economic activity and the government gets to tax it.

There is GST on new buildings and on renovations, and there is payroll tax on building companies, and income tax from the companies and the tradies who do the work.

All models I have seen that favour abolishing negative gearing neglect this altogether.

And then there is the tax on borrowings. Again, most models advocating abolishing negative gearing don’t take into account the fact that the asset producing the income still produces the same income with gearing, it just splits it differently.

Without gearing it goes entirely to the owner, with gearing it goes to the owner and to the financier.

But both pay tax. The owner may pay less tax than if they owned the whole property, but the financier will pay an amount that is roughly similar to the difference.

Also, Homeowners Don’t Lose Out

The Greens’ myth is that negative gearing squeezes home buyers out of the market because it is a tax benefit that homeowners don’t get.

When you do the figures, it is actually homeowners who are tax-advantaged.

While investors pay capital gains tax, the homeowner doesn’t. When it comes to real estate investment it is actually capital gains that provide the majority of earnings, particularly when gearing is involved.

So, the homeowner is already ahead, but it doesn’t stop there.

Homeowners also receive a benefit in that they don’t pay any tax on the “rent” that accrues to them by owning the property.

This is an unfamiliar concept to most, but if you regard a homeowner as an investor who lives in their investment, then it makes sense to look at what rent it is they would pay to live there and see that as part of their investment return.

This is called “imputed rent” and some countries, like the Netherlands and Switzerland, tax this as income.

We don’t, and I’m happy about that, but it is another tax advantage that homeowners get over investors who do pay tax on the rent they receive.

All of which means that when it comes to a contest over who can afford to pay the most for a residence, it is the homeowner that comes with all the advantages.

The only advantage the investor generally has is that they normally already have assets they can use for a deposit, like the house they live in, and a first homeowner has to save for their deposit, but you can’t “fix” that disparity by abolishing negative gearing.

Another Green’s Party Idea That Is Not Feasible

The Greens also want to step beyond fiddling with the tax system to fiddling with the rental markets by imposing rent caps. We’ve been here before and they don’t work.
However, we don’t need to look at Australian history to see what a bad idea rent control is.

Argentina has just elected a classical liberal president Javier Milei, and he has abolished rental controls in the country.

Overnight rents dropped by 20 percent as the number of houses on the market doubled. When you fiddle with property rights, property owners make smart choices.

The Greens complain that 10 percent of Australia’s housing is vacant (a figure which is about what it should be, given holiday houses, temporary vacancies because of property sales or rental vacancies, or people away for work or otherwise absent on holidays).

That figure would be a lot higher under rent caps as owners make the rational decision that if they can’t make a living at the Greens “reasonable” rents, then they should hold the house off the market.

If our millennial Australians don’t wake up soon to the Greens’ destructive ignorance about housing, they will walk into their own nightmare if they vote Greens’ policies in.

Not just home ownership, but renting reasonable digs, will be outside their budgets.

In that case, they may even need public housing, and just like our prime minister, in the future, they’ll be able to regale their kids with stories of how tough it was growing up in a public housing estate




Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Malcolm Turnbull eyes pumped hydro opportunity in the Upper Hunter

Pumped hydro requires TWO dams. What does Mal think the dam-hating Greens will say about that?

Acompany owned by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy has won a tender to develop plans for two pumped hydro projects in the Upper Hunter.

WaterNSW has awarded a development agreement to Upper Hunter Hydro (UHH) to explore the feasibility of the projects using WaterNSW land and reservoirs in the Hunter Valley.

The company was registered in early 2022 under the ownership of Wilcrow Pty Ltd - a Turnbull family entity that has traditionally held its pastoral properties in the Upper Hunter.

The pumped hydro projects, which would deliver long duration storage totalling more than 1.4 gigawatts for eight to 12 hours, could power a million homes.

Upper Hunter Hydro has been granted access to the Glenbawn Dam and Glennies Creek Dam as part of its investigation.

WaterNSW said the company would seek to secure all necessary approvals and consent for their projects.

Elsewhere in the region, AGL and Idemitsu are exploring the feasibility of establishing a $450 million pumped hydro project at the former Muswellbrook Coal site at Bells Mountain.

Mr Turnbull said pumped hydro projects would provide important support for industry and employment in the Hunter.

"Australia has abundant wind and solar generation, some of the best in the world. But the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Pumped hydro provides the long duration energy storage we need to make renewables available 24/7 and secure our clean energy future," he said.

"Renewables development is not for those wanting instant gratification .... but it is dawning on the market that we are going to need a lot more long duration storage than we thought."

Mr Turnbull said the Upper Hunter Pumped Hydro would proceed to a detailed design phase that incorporates "wide ranging community and stakeholder engagement" as well as "thorough environmental assessment," to secure planning approvals and backing from investors.


Kudos To Mr. Nuzzo for Taking on the Feminist Status Quo

It is refreshing to find Mr. Nuzzo, a lone warrior willing to call out the feminist claptrap throughout the academic world.

There’s a four-year gap in life expectancy in Australia between men and women. So how come our peak science funding body, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), in 2022 allocated over six times more funding to research on women’s health compared to men’s?

This glaring bias in research funding attracted the critical gaze of a Perth-based academic with a keen interest in men’s health.

James Nuzzo is an exercise scientist, currently affiliated with Edith Cowan University, who has been busily churning out academic articles on topics like exercise neurophysiology and physical fitness testing.

But he’s become increasingly concerned to see his discipline infiltrated by gender ideologues whining about women missing out while totally ignoring the health outcomes of boys and men.

He’s calling out their bias and poor scholarship in a hard-hitting series of blogs on Substack (The Nuzzo Files) and podcasts.

For instance, Mr. Nuzzo points out that we hear constant allegations about the widespread exclusion of women in clinical trials.

In America, complaints about the neglect of women in health research led, in 1990, to the Office for Research on Women’s Health being established within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Since then, annual reports from the Office reveal that women constitute 55-60 percent of all participants in NIH-funded clinical trials each year. Thirty years later, the Office is flourishing, pouring out funding for women-only projects.
Similarly, Australian governments are falling over each other to prove their commitment to improving health outcomes for women and girls—and the NHMRC funding simply reflects that consistent anti-male bias.

This is simply one more example of the feminist claptrap now seeping throughout our academic world.

I hear regularly from principled researchers grinding their teeth at this blatant ideology and poor scholarship. Most don’t dare put their head above the parapet.

It is refreshing to find Mr. Nuzzo, a lone warrior willing to call it out, despite being well aware he is likely to implode his academic career in the process.

Another Small Victory In the Bag

Mr. Nuzzo’s most recent public skirmish in this territory involved an article in Sports Medicine written by mainly female exercise physiology students from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) claiming that “gender-based violence is a blind spot for sports and exercise medical professionals.”

The UNSW scholars devoted their entire article presenting women as the only victims of interpersonal violence (IPV)—the single mention of men referred to their “socially determined privilege,” an alleged cause of violence against women.

No mention of young male victims of abuse by coaches or fellow athletes, of which there have been plenty, nor of lesbian perpetrators of abuse (lesbians top the chart of rates of IPV). And not one word about the decades of research showing men and women are victims of IPV at roughly equal rates.

Mr. Nuzzo set out to put them straight, seeking to get the true facts published in a response letter in Sports Medicine. And he succeeded, but only after nearly a year of back and forth with the journal. It helped that he combined forces with Deborah Powney, the University of Central Lancashire psychologist doing work on male victims of coercive control, and John Barry, from the Centre for Male Psychology in London.

Sports Medicine took the unusual step of submitting the letter to peer review, but the three reviewers all concurred with the critique by Nuzzo and his co-authors. Ultimately the letter was published—one small victory for proper scientific inquiry.

Their published comment proved it was the UNSW academics who had the blind spot, by providing a summary of some of the best research showing equal gender rates of IPV victimization, which also applied in sports environments.

Storm in a teacup, you might conclude. Perhaps. But it is a telling example of how the feminist take-over of our universities is playing out.

The Next Generation

We now have increasing numbers of radical young female academics and students, probably indoctrinated back in their school days, all keen on displaying their feminist credentials in their so-called scholarship.

Increasingly, they are forcing this sludge into diverse disciplines, right across all academia.

Worryingly, these are the teachers of the next generation, intent on convincing young women they are set for a life of persecution, abuse and discrimination.

They are teaching our future bureaucrats who’ll be setting key policies, the future lawyers, judges, social workers, and the politicians who will be deciding where the dollars are spent.

Their goals are transparent and the process is unfolding before our very eyes.

Kudos for James Nuzzo for having the courage to take them on, in published articles, blogs and podcasts. It’s infuriating to read his research and discover how much we’ve been hoodwinked.

The Big Two Globalist Agencies

Another of Mr. Nuzzo’s published articles concerned bias against men’s issues in the U.N. and WHO. He conducted a content analysis showing consistent promotion of women’s issues whilst men are ignored. The U.N.’s sustainable development goal on “gender equality” is exclusive to females.

The organisation observes nine International Days for women’s issues/achievements and one day for men. They operate 69 Twitter accounts dedicated to women’s issues and none for men. And so it goes on.

DAVIA (the Domestic Abuse and Violence International Alliance) has launched a petition that calls on groups to “suspend their funding of the United Nations until all U.N. agencies fulfill their pledge to respect the ‘dignity and worth’ of all persons and assure the ‘equal rights of men and women.’” That’s a worthy goal.

It’s also a pleasant change to find someone looking for the good in men.

Mr. Nuzzo recently wrote a blog on Men: The Martyrs of Medicine. He’d unearthed a 1929 medical journal article listing the names of male doctors and researchers who died as a result of acquiring the disease they were studying or medical technology they were developing.

Brave men who gave their lives trying to save others from yellow fever, typhus, bubonic plague, and other infectious diseases.

It was quite a story and a welcome change to see the risk-taking, now so often labelled as ’toxic,' being promoted as valuable, even inspiring.


Gender pay gap zealots care nothing for facts or fairness

If we are in the business of publicly naming and shaming gender pay gap scoundrels, then the Workplace Gender Equality Agency ranks as the worst.

Each year, this agency tops the list as worst offender when it comes to analysing the so-called gender pay gap. Each year we taxpayers pay these bureaucrats to churn out work that consistently defies logic, fairness and choice.

WGEA’s latest report, released at midnight on Monday, has taken an underlying fraud to a higher level of wickedness. Why? Because if you are going to publicly humiliate companies, you had better have the right set of numbers to justify that exercise.

Instead, WGEA data is as hollow as a drum, but that doesn’t stop it beating said drum for ideological purposes.

One killer line brings down this house of cards: the data does not compare men and women doing the same job in a company.

Think about that glaring omission given WGEA has the temerity to shame companies such as Qantas, Virgin Australia, Telstra, Woodside and Santos for being the worst offenders when it comes to the gender pay gap.

Suffice it to say that not only would none of the companies on WGEA’s name and shame list not pay men and women differently for the same jobs even accidentally, most of them go to great lengths, through careful pay audits, to ensure men and women doing the same job are paid the same money. The gender pay gap actually has nothing to do with equity or fairness or any similar concept. It is simply a smokescreen to force social change.

I am not going to recount WGEA figures because if you start at the wrong place you end somewhere up the garden path. And those who are of a fair mind should not buy into this fraud.

To illustrate, WGEA’s chosen model doesn’t account for the fact more women than men prefer to work less hours, that women choose different jobs than men – in other words, that women make different choices to men.

In other words, WGEA’s chosen measurement for the gender pay gap is unadjusted for anything that happens in the real world to explain differences between women and men.

Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find any serious attempt by WGEA’s bureaucrats to mention, let alone thoughtfully analyse, the different choices men and women might make. WGEA is so obsessed with asserting there are iniquitous structural inequities in our society that it is happy to doctor the data by excluding the choices of women to get to its result. For WGEA a flawed means justifies the ideological end: screaming each year about the gender pay gap and ramping up those screams by producing a list of worst offenders.

One of the dumbest defences of its flawed model is the claim by WGEA boss Mary Wooldridge that their chosen measurement is replicated internationally. That apparently makes it just fine. “The gender pay gap is a widely used, internationally recognised measure for gender equality,” Wooldridge said.

Consider that logic carefully. Never mind that the data is hollow, inaccurate tosh; it becomes legitimate if the same hollow, inaccurate tosh is replicated on a global scale. What WGEA appears to be saying is that the bigger this flawed agenda gets, the more untouchable and incontestable it is. It’s just as well we don’t use the same reasoning to justify international drug cartels.

Let me put forward a different view: reproducing something rotten again and again, across countries, doesn’t make it acceptable. It makes it worse. It means there is a grand fraud afoot.

So why is there global reliance on fake data? That’s the easy part.If WGEA and other similar activist agencies used more accurate measurements that factored in the different choices millions of women make, their agenda, activism and relevance would be in ruins. By excluding choices as relevant factors, WGEA is left with a gender pay gap caused by structural inequality. It gets to stay in business by claiming each year that the system is stacked against women and fairness.

Given that it has been illegal for more than 50 years to pay men and women different amounts for the same work, WGEA is clearly not interested in genuine pay equality. Its aim is to confect and cement an emotive-sounding cause to justify massive social change that suits its vision of a modern society.

But its dodgy numbers mean all it has done is create a straw man.

Those who lap up the naming and shaming WGEA data would do well to consider the massive, centralised, disempowering social change required to eliminate WGEA’s confected gender pay gap. There are two routes. Either we insist that women work more hours, do the same kind of work as men, regardless of their choices, or we need to pay women more for less work. Which one of these social “reforms” is genuinely equitable, let alone attractive?

Eliminating differences between men and women that contribute to different pay outcomes means effectively mandating that men and women must be 50-50 in all jobs (not just cushy jobs but garbos and gravediggers too), that men and women must be 50-50 in all university or training courses, that men and women must split 50-50 all domestic and childminding work, and must share all holidays or absences from work 50-50. We would need to eliminate differences in choices and attitudes to life, work and family between men and women.

At the moment, the gender pay gap – as defined by WGEA – exists mainly because many women choose to work in lower-paid jobs. Therefore, to “fix” this gender pay gap, we need a societal change to reduce the number of women in lower-paid jobs. Does that mean cleaning out women from the ranks of clerical and admin roles and any other lower-paid work? Does it mean getting rid of many women in HR departments too because only that will lead to a 50-50 gender equal workplace? Only through social engineering on this colossal scale can we make men and women statistically the same in an aggregate sense to satisfy WGEA’s agenda.

How about WGEA, with 30 female employees out of a workforce of 32 as at June last year, clean up its in-house gender inequality first before pointing the finger at others. Or has WGEA inadvertently discovered that there are some jobs that more women than men prefer to do?

There is another way to gender pay parity that the boffins at WGEA probably prefer – simply pay women more even if they work less, and regardless of what kind of work they do. That might be social utopia for the gender equity ideologues. Revenge is a long time coming, some will say.

I’m willing to bet that in the real world, women want to continue making their own choices, thank you very much, to work less, to work in different fields and in different roles.

Equally, it’s not hard to guess that men might come to resent employers who paid women more money than men for working fewer hours than men.

Either way, the change WGEA has in store for us to reach its version of gender pay parity is ugly in a free society. WGEA, noisy local accomplices such as Chief Executive Women and sister organisations globally use “gender parity” to demand equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity. Their “data” is nothing more than politics, focusing on aggregate outcomes, not individual preferences.

It is, simultaneously, a laughable and depressing insight into the current state of the Western world that we countenance taxpayer-funded bureaucracies filled with a majority of senior female bureaucrats (so much for in-house gender equality) who behave like chorus girls on a global stage singing from the same song sheet of fraudulent numbers.

Like central planners from previous eras, the gender pay gap ideologues are the latest bunch of we-know-better-than-you emoters who sideline facts, fairness and individual choices.


Anti-Israel activist Laura Allam has been accused of organising the kidnapping and torture of a man because he worked for a Jewish employer

Is there no limit to Muslim insanity

The 28-year-old from Fraser Rise in Melbourne’s northwest has been charged with kidnapping, armed robbery, false imprisonment, ­unlawful assault and assault by kicking over the ­alleged attack on a 31-year-old man in St Albans on February 16.

A Victoria Police spokesman said it was alleged the man was pulled from a car near the ­intersection of Gladstone and Cleveland streets about 9.30pm, the Herald Sun reported on Tuesday night.

“He was then allegedly placed in another car and ­assaulted and robbed before being released in Braybrook,” the spokesman said.

The police spokesman said ­detectives had charged two people in relation to the ­alleged ­kidnapping.

Police sources told the Herald Sun the man had required extensive treatment in hospital for his injuries, and that police believed Ms Allam, a well-known member of the Lebanese community, ­orchestrated the assault.

Ms Allam’s alleged accomplice was a 37-year-old Brunswick man, who police said would face a string of charges.

Ms Allam and her alleged ­accomplice were bailed to ­appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on May 31.

The Herald Sun reported that a suppression order relating to Ms Allam’s case had prevented it from publishing her image and providing certain details about Ms Allam’s advocacy work.




Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Spending Hundreds of Millions to Make a 0.1 Percent Difference to the Great Barrier Reef

Hard-working Aussie fishermen, and all the people who depend on them, are about to suffer severe restrictions on their production. And all based on dubious science.

The barramundi fishery mostly operates in the creeks and rivers, or very close to shore. Our out-of-touch government ministers have never explained how catching a barra in a creek somehow damages the Reef, which is far from shore—mostly 40 to 100 kilometers (25 to 62 miles).

But worse is to come as governments cast their net further afield.

As part of the UNESCO demands, the federal government has announced that it is now restricting fishing in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria to “save the Reef.”

That area of the Gulf is 700 kilometres from the Reef and on the wrong side (to the west) of Cape York Peninsula. How can catching a barra near Mornington Island affect the Reef? Was this really demanded by UNESCO or is it being used as a convenient tool by our government to further enforce extreme green environmental policies?

If killing the barra fishery seems like a scientific folly, the recent letter from Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to UNESCO asking that the Reef not be listed as endangered contains an even bigger indication that the government, and the science institutions upon which they base their dubious decisions, have lost the plot.

Ms. Plibersek’s letter proudly states that government schemes costing hundreds of millions of dollars have stopped 140,000 metric tonnes of sediment reaching the Reef from farms and cattle stations in the last decade.

That 140,000 figure sounds like a lot of mud. But in a decade, the rivers in question carry roughly 1,000 times more sediment than that out into the ocean.

So, they reduced the sediment to the Reef by a meagre 0.1 percent—and they made it a big deal!

Before I was fired by James Cook University after calling for better quality assurance of Reef science, my group worked extensively on the impact of sediment.

We invented some of the instrumentation for doing this work. We took more measurements than all the other groups combined. We showed that mud almost never reaches the Great Barrier Reef, which is far offshore. And even when it does, it is in minuscule quantities for only short periods of time. Even the inshore reefs, such as around Magnetic Island near Townsville, are barely influenced by mud coming directly from the rivers fed by tropical monsoon rains.

Government-funded scientists and managers have thus spent hundreds of millions to make 0.1 percent difference to a non-problem.

We must hope that they do not try to scale-up their effort and completely solve a problem that does not exist. At this rate, it would cost roughly 10 percent of Australia’s yearly GDP just to manage this one environmental factor.

Strangely, Ms. Plibersek conveniently forgot to mention that data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science show that, since records began, the reef has never had more coral than in the last two years. People might think that Ms. Plibersek was on UNESCO’s side and doing their bidding.

The time has come for a forensic audit of the science that is being used to smash the livelihood of hardworking Aussie farmers and fishers. The government is in effect picking off industries one at a time in a classic “salami” tactic.

The Australian Environment Foundation is organising a coalition of affected small industries to fight back, and top of the list is to audit the science.


ABC health expert Dr Norman Swan admits some Covid vaccines had serious side effects after largest ever study released


ABC health expert Norman Swan has admitted the Covid vaccines produced unexpected side effects but considers them to be akin to 'winning the lotto three times in your lifetime'.

Dr Swan was commenting on the largest ever study done into adverse reactions from Covid vaccines which was published last week.

'They uncovered side effects they hadn’t quite expected and they did show up as a signal there,' Dr Swan told ABC interviewer Jeremy Fernandez on Monday.

However, Dr Swan stressed that the side effects seen in the study's 99million subjects who received Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca shots were 'rare'.

He said Guillain-Barre syndrome was a side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine that received particular attention in the study.

He described it as a 'descending paralysis of the body that affects the nervous system'.

'Usually in most people it is a temporary phenomenon but it can be quite serious at the time,' Dr Swan said.

An unexpected side effect of the Moderna vaccine was acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

'So, this is essentially a brain inflammation usually seen in children but in this case in older people, these are largely 20 to 60-year-olds,' Dr Swan said.

'He described the condition as 'self-limiting and quite nasty'.

Dr Swan said that this condition was still extremely rare with only seven cases seen out of 10million injections.

He likened the probability of getting it to 'winning the biggest lotto three times in your lifetime'.

Asked how applicable the study was to Australians, Dr Swan said it included Aussies and people from similar countries such as Canada.

Dr Swan has been a strong advocate for getting the Covid vaccines despite initially dismissing their likely efficacy and saying those who took them were 'guinea pigs'.

In July 2022 the Scottish-born medical commentator revealed he had caught Covid for the second time despite having four jabs.

The study Dr Swan was citing involved an international coalition of vaccine experts who looked for 13 medical conditions among 99million vaccine recipients across eight countries.

They confirmed that the shots made by Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca are linked to significantly higher risk of five medical afflictions including Guillain-Barre syndrome.

But the study also warned of several other disorders that they said warranted further investigation, including the links between a brain-swelling condition and the Moderna shot.

However, the team says the absolute risk of developing any one of the conditions remains small.

They said 13billion doses of vaccines had been administered and there have only been 2,000 cases of all conditions.

Their research was published in the journal Vaccine.


Fact checkers fall out

The ABC has ended its partnership with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) FactLab, with which it has operated the ABC RMIT Fact Check project for the past seven years.

On Tuesday afternoon ABC news director Justin Stevens notified staff via email that the national broadcaster would replace the partnership with an internal fact-checking team, known as “ABC News Verify”.

Stevens said Verify would be a “team of specialists with the ability to scale up to support our special coverage in times of crisis. It will be part of the Investigative Journalism and Current Affairs team led by Jo Puccini.”

“In parallel with our decision to establish our own specialist verification team we have also taken the decision to not extend our current participation in ABC RMIT Fact Check when our current agreement expires in the middle of the year,” he wrote.

Crikey understands RMIT management felt blindsided by the decision from the ABC, with sources saying it appeared that the ABC had concerns over pressure from fact-checking politicians.

One source told Crikey that the relationship between RMIT and the ABC had become one-sided in recent years, with the university taking a lot of criticism from conservative media over the Fact Check project.

It comes as the partnership and the ABC have come under significant pressure in recent months over accusations of bias following the Voice to Parliament referendum. In May, RMIT FactLab published a fact check of itself, refuting claims that the organisation was being “used” by proponents of the Yes campaign to “rig the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum”.

The organisation’s participation in Meta’s fact-checking program was briefly suspended last year after its accreditation with the International Fact-Checking Network lapsed.

The Australian reported last year that the ABC had spent $165,000 a year on the RMIT partnership since 2020, according to figures released in Senate estimates.

In budget estimates this year, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts asked ABC managing director David Anderson about the make-up of ABC RMIT Fact Check in relation to the Voice referendum.

Anderson responded on notice that of the 17 articles published between June 1 and September 29, RMIT ABC Fact Check published two articles focusing on claims made by the Yes campaign or proponents, 10 on the No campaign or proponents, and five on claims made by proponents of both sides.

Anderson said “checkable claims more frequently surfaced from proponents of No arguments than from proponents of Yes arguments” in the ABC’s media monitoring process.

“When a Yes claim surfaced which was checkable and important to the national debate, Fact Check made sure it was covered in a timely manner.”

A spokesperson for RMIT said in a statement that the university was “proud of the long-standing partnership” with the ABC.

“The partnership between RMIT and ABC will conclude at the end of the current agreement [on June 30, 2024]. RMIT is committed to upholding the integrity of public information and will continue to do this through a range of activities,” the spokesperson told Crikey.


Australia on the brink as iron ore, nickel, lithium prices collapse

CBA Mining and Energy Commodities Research Director Vivek Dhar says the collapse of Chinese property developer Evergrande “underscores” the issue with China’s property sector.
Australia prides itself in being the world’s quarry. But China is its biggest buyer. Now the collapse of the nickel industry reveals a supermarket-style price manipulation scandal is being played out on a grand scale.

Competition is great. Until you get a winner. And that winner’s been taking performance enhancers …

Canberra is having to fork out billions of dollars in emergency corporate aid and surrender royalty income after a slump in global nickel prices. They have fallen more than two-thirds – from a high of $US50,000 per metric ton in 2022 to about $US16,500 this week.

Thousands of jobs are on the line as big multinational mining companies urgently review the viability of their operations across Australia.

Mining giant BHP reported an 86 per cent slump in half-year net profit on February 20, 2024, hit by a writedown of its nickel assets and costs related to a 2015 Brazilian mining disaster. Picture: William WEST / AFP
Mining giant BHP reported an 86 per cent slump in half-year net profit on February 20, 2024, hit by a writedown of its nickel assets and costs related to a 2015 Brazilian mining disaster. Picture: William WEST / AFP
But the nickel industry isn’t the only mineral facing massive market disruption.

Steel and iron ore prices have collapsed. As has lithium.

The cause is the same across the board: China’s dumping huge quantities on already depressed markets.

And that makes it unviable for competitors to continue competing.

“Far from a hypothetical, Beijing has already used its near-monopolistic global supply-chain control of (rare earth elements) to strategic advantage against the US and Japan,” warns the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

Nickel is not just any mineral. It’s critical for producing high-capacity batteries, stainless steel and many other advanced alloys.

It’s one of a host of difficult-to-mine and expensive-to-refine materials (generally classified as rare earth elements and critical minerals) that play central roles in modern electronics and high-performance technology.

These are central to the global race to combat climate change – and rebuild militaries in the face of the territorial ambitions of Russia and China.

But Beijing’s willingness to subsidise every step of production and bear the environmental fallout of chemical and energy-intensive processes means it’s now the source of about 80 per cent of the rare earths processed worldwide. That includes 90 per cent of lithium, 70 per cent of gallium, and 70 per cent of germanium.

China refines about 35 per cent of all nickel output. And last year, it took control of a further 15 per cent once new Chinese-owned-and-operated plants in Indonesia came online.

“Its incredibly low cost of processing and competitive labour market gives it an almost unassailable advantage, turning suppliers into price takers rather than price makers,” says Monash University critical minerals analyst Associate Professor Mohan Yellishetty.

‘Dig it and ship it’

Australia is notorious for selling off the farm and failing to value-add its food and mineral produce.

China, however, has for decades had a single-minded focus on building market dominance.

It’s invested heavily in building advanced industries, such as silicon chip and clean energy technologies.

As a result, it’s now the world leader in the entire lithium extraction, refining and production chain – among others.

“It has paid substantial environmental costs through trial-and-error innovation and has now developed dominant advantages in not just the scale of mass production, but also green technologies used in lithium processing,” Dr Marina Yue Zhang of the Australia-China Relations Institute argues in the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter. “It is debatable whether that cost should be repeated by other countries.”

Likewise, Indonesia moved to value-add its nickel production in 2014. It went so far as to restrict exports – triggering a global price spike – while comprehensive new Chinese-owned and operated facilities were being built.

“China also financed supporting infrastructure needed for nickel processing. Many coal-fired power plants, on which nickel smelting depends, were set up in Indonesia through China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI),” policy analyst Dr Teesta Prakash says in the Australian Institute of International Affairs’ Australian Outlook.

“Before the ban, Indonesia only supplied raw nickel ore, valued at US$6 billion in 2013. By 2022, this figure increased to US$30 billion due to refinement.”

Competitive chokehold

“We should strengthen the production and supply of food and strategic mineral resources, and build a strategic base to guarantee the supply of important primary products for the country,” Chairman Xi Jinping proclaimed shortly before restricting refined gallium and germanium exports in July last year.

Trade restrictions, embargoes and sanctions are nothing new on the world stage.

But China seems especially willing to use its new-found economic superpower status to coerce its customers.

Australian exports of coal, barley, wine and seafood were banned after Canberra suggested an international inquiry be conducted into the source of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In October last year, Beijing imposed export restrictions on graphite. And that followed similar restrictions on gallium and germanium earlier in the year.

It’s just part of an ongoing tit-for-tat trade war with the United States and the European Union. They’ve been steadily increasing restrictions on the export of advanced semiconductors – one last technological weakness China is determined to overcome.

“Together, these announcements have been met with alarm given the dominant role China plays in the production of these minerals, as well as the minerals’ important role in the semiconductor industry and the clean energy economy,” says Atlantic Council think-tank analyst Reed Blakemore.

Left in the dust

“Perhaps the most pressing of these challenges is the global crash in lithium value,” ASPI warns. “Prices of lithium — Australia’s second largest commodity in committed capital expenditure through to 2030, surpassing even iron ore — collapsed in the last 12 months.”

Australian governments have leapt at the prospect of becoming the Western world’s quarry in response to growing concerns over China’s reliability.

Last year, Canberra committed an additional $2 billion in subsidies for miners – and processors – of critical minerals to set up shop here.

The stated goal was to reduce reliance on China and support US attempts to revive its own neglected processing facilities.

But the unfolding metals market price collapse is casting a long shadow over the economic viability of this strategy – without further heavy subsidisation by Western governments.

“Judging from the supply side, Australia enjoys a powerful position in lithium,” adds Dr Zhang. “On the demand side, however, because power is concentrated in a single large buyer – China – this is a vulnerability for Australia.”

That vulnerability is being seen in regional Australia.

The Finniss lithium mine in the Northern Territory suspended operations in January. Other closures are expected to follow.

BHP has written off its Nickel West division in WA as worthless. It’s preparing to suspend operations.

Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest is also shutting down all his WA nickel mines.

Meanwhile, Australian lithium producers and steel refineries are also reviewing their economic viability.




Monday, February 26, 2024

Stamp duty stops thousands from moving every year: PropTrack, e61 Institute report

Stamp duty is a really horrible tax that hits people when they can least afford it

The removal of stamp duties could instigate 100,000 more home sales each year in NSW alone, with new research revealing a single percentage point increase to the transaction tax significantly reduces a buyer’s appetite to purchase.

The findings from research firms e61 Institute and PropTrack revealed a 1 per cent increase in stamp duty can reduce property sales by 7.2 per cent each year as the burden of the “inefficient tax” creates an affordability hurdle.

The research analysed the impact of then-Queensland premier Anna Bligh’s 2011 decision to nearly double stamp duty for owner-occupiers. Despite a short-term boost in the six weeks between the announcement of the change and implementation, the 2011/ 2012 financial year recorded a 9 per cent drop in the number of people moving – the equivalent of 20,000 households – and a 14 per cent decrease in people moving to the Sunshine State.

The decision was reversed when the Newman Government won power in 2012.

Research Manager at e61 Institute, Nick Garvin, said the economic impacts of stamp duty on employment, productivity and housing availability aren't immediately obvious.

“Everybody knows that stamp duty is a big cost, but it’s fairly hidden because it gets charged to people at a point when they’re spending all their savings ,” Dr Garvin said.

“It’s important to understand that there are economic effects. There are pretty strong signs that the productivity of the economy would be lifted when it’s easier for people to move and change jobs. With slowing productivity and problems with housing availability, removing barriers to job and housing mobility is critical.”

Dr Garvin suggests that if NSW removed stamp duty, about 100,000 additional owner-occupiers would move home each year, up about 25 per cent on current levels.

“Queensland gives us a quantification of the sensitivity of purchases to stamp duty,” he said, with the economic modelling taking into account interest rates and other influencing factors on the market at the time.

“This is the best estimate we have – obviously different states, different points in time, the effects could vary – but we have no particular reason to think the effect in Sydney would be higher or lower.”

Since the mid-1990s, the average stamp duties collected nationally have tripled relative to incomes. To buy in Sydney and Melbourne, the average homebuyer would need a full six months of income to cover the tax bill, which is about six times more than it was a generation ago.

PropTrack senior economist Angus Moore said bracket creep has been an important driver of this increase in stamp duty as most states have the same tax brackets they had decades ago.

“That means that, as home prices have increased, these brackets now capture more homes at higher tax rates,” Mr Moore said.

“This process of bracket creep has seen us go from as few as 12 per cent of buyers paying a rate of stamp duty of 3 per cent or more in the early 1990s to 95 per cent today.”


Nuclear, gas fuel Dutton’s tilt at green madness

In 2004, Australian electricity bills were the fourth-lowest in the OECD. The wind and solar caper had barely begun, and coal and gas supplied 91 per cent of the National Electricity Market.

Today, after 20 years of subsidy chasing by the renewable energy industry, Australia has slipped to 10th place in the OECD rankings of end-user power prices.

Of the nine countries where electricity is cheaper, six have nuclear power stations. They are Finland, Mexico, Switzerland, South Korea, Canada and the US. Of the remaining three, the wet and hilly ones, Norway and Iceland run mostly on hydropower because that’s the way God made them. Israel, somewhat unfashionably, has stuck with coal and gas but has other things to worry about.

So much for Energy Minister Chris Bowen’s claim that the opposition is using nuclear power as a culture-war distraction. His argument collapses at the first brush with reality.

Nuclear is the only baseload alternative to fossil fuel for the inhabitants of a wide and flat brown land unless we care to drill down 40km through the Earth’s crust to tap geothermal energy, which even Bowen must concede is impractical. The minister’s forlorn grab for supporting evidence in his article in The Weekend Australian suggests he knows he is losing the argument.

Until recently, conventional wisdom held that a pro-nuclear policy would be the kiss of death for the Coalition. Yet Bowen would know how quickly public opinion is changing, even within the green movement. When voters are asked if they favour nuclear power, the numbers are usually tight.

When the pollster asks if they would consider nuclear power, however, a clear majority say yes. The readiness to consider nuclear grows when they are asked about small modular reactors, notably among younger voters.

Bowen’s foolhardy use of statistics is unnerving, given his power to call upon the resources of a sizeable government department to stop him from embarrassing himself. He writes that “by early 2025, renewable energy will surpass coal as the planet’s largest source of energy”. As the Energy Minister should know, energy differs from electricity, which accounts for just 20 per cent of global energy use, according to the International Energy Market’s latest data.

Wind and solar accounted for 2.2 per cent of the world’s energy mix in 2019 if we assume it is what the IEA means by “other”. If we include hydropower in the renewables basket, it rises to 4.8 per cent.

Oil accounts for 31 per cent, down from 44 per cent in 1971, but the gap has been filled by gas (up from 16 to 23 per cent) and nuclear (0.5 per cent to 5 per cent). Coal has remained steady at 26 per cent.

The data does not exactly leap to Bowen’s defence, even if we assume he has conflated energy with electricity. In 2019, wind, solar and biofuels generated 10.8 per cent of the world’s electricity, and hydro 15.7 per cent. Fossil thermal fuel was by far the biggest contributor at 63 per cent.

Admittedly, the IEA’s reporting is somewhat tardy, but it would take a hockey stick curve of Michael Mann-ic proportions for renewables to overtake coal by this time next year, even if it were feasible.

Bowen’s suggestion that nuclear projects fall like skittles is equally hard to substantiate. The World Nuclear Association lists 62 nuclear plants under construction in 17 countries. They include 26 in China. Some 440 more are listed as either planned or proposed, of which 196 are in China, 25 in Russia and five in Iran.

Yet Peter Dutton would be foolish to assume the argument is as good as won, or that a nuclear policy is a substitute for a convincing energy policy.

Even on the most optimistic timetable, nuclear will not be part of our energy mix before the mid-2030s and investment won’t flow without a thorough reform of the energy market.

The short answer to almost every question is gas. The Opposition Leader will have little trouble persuading his own party room, where past battles have instilled a degree of energy literacy. He should prepare for considerable opposition from his own party at the state level, however, where many Coalition MPs have formed a unity ticket with Labor and the Greens in opposition to the imagined climate emergency.

Dutton should not underestimate the quantity of the venom in the hornet’s nest he has disturbed by challenging the orthodoxy that prevails in the media, universities and government departments. As Tony Abbott discovered, these people are not prepared to surrender their dogma in this policy debate without a fight.

An even more formidable opponent will be the energy industry, where a powerful combination of virtue signalling and naked self-interest has set in.

The energy industry with few exceptions is not campaigning for fossil fuel, as renewable advocates often claim. It is busy chasing subsidies and playing with the market. It has worked out easier ways to make money than supplying customers with affordable and reliable electricity. Renewable Energy Certificates have proved be a more dependable source of revenue than the energy itself.

Labor’s planned Capacity Investment Scheme, which is supposed to underwrite 32GW of renewal energy investment, has the added appeal of letting them make money without actually turning the generation plants on. It provides an even stronger incentive to stop nuclear before it eats their lunch.

Over the past 10 years, the renewable energy industrial complex has grown in strength and sophistication. It channels tens of millions of dollars into grassroots campaigns in Australia, creating an almost bottomless war chest to fund lawfare and buy influence in politics. Renewable energy interests almost entirely underwrote the teal campaign in 2022. Dutton shouldn’t expect any of these so-called independents to back nuclear anytime soon, despite their claim to be the heroes putting integrity back into politics.

Big renewables will fight almost as hard against gas, even though quick-start-up turbines are the quickest and cheapest way to firm the supply of the intermittent energy they fitfully supply. Gas threatens their investment in batteries for the same reason nuclear threatens renewables.

The cause of common sense is not just lost. Dutton has defeated the woke Goliath once and could do so again. Corporate support for the voice, however, was mainly motivated by virtue signalling rather than crude financial self-interest.

To use the words that turned boxing announcer Michael Buffer into a household name, “get ready to rumble”.


Going to univrsity is not always the right choice

Students with poor grades in high school will be encouraged to go to university and set on a career path that is wrong for them, experts warn, under sweeping recommendations in the federal government’s higher education review that are coming under fire from vice-chancellors.

One higher education expert warned that students with ATARs as low as 45 could make it into university under the blueprint for the sector outlined in the Universities ­Accord review’s final report, released by Education Minister Jason Clare on Sunday.

The biggest review of tertiary education in 15 years has called on the Albanese government to double the number of university places in the next 25 years, reduce the high fees students pay in some subjects and reform the HECS loan scheme to ease the financial impact on graduates.

The recommendations in the review will cost tens of billions of dollars over the next 25 years if fully implemented. They aim to create a highly educated workforce, with more than 55 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds having a bachelor degree or above by 2050.

The review recommends more government funding to dramatically increase the number of disadvantaged students from poor backgrounds and regional areas at university.

“At the moment almost half of young people in their 20s and 30s have a uni degree. But not … in the outer suburbs … not in our regions. And the accord is about changing that,” Mr Clare said. Although the report was welcomed by most universities, Australian National University higher education expert Andrew Norton warned the attendance target meant that students with an ATAR of only 45 would be going to university,

“Historically most students with ATARs below 50 don’t go,” Professor Norton writes in The Australian. “Those who do, face a high risk of dropping out, and if they finish a reduced chance of getting a well-paid job. Nobody should be encouraged to take courses that probably won’t leave them better off.”

While most of the recommendations are uncosted, Australia’s three wealthiest universities – Sydney, Melbourne and Monash – have slammed a key proposal to tax university income and redistribute resources from richer institutions to poorer ones.

The report calls for all universities to pay an impost on “untied” revenue they earn through their own efforts, including international student fees, unsubsidised domestic student fees, interest and investment income, and business earnings.

The tax, which will fall mainly on universities with high international student income, will contribute half of a $10bn investment in the Higher Education Future Fund, to pay for university infrastructure including campus buildings and student accommodation. The $5bn raised in tax would be matched by the government.

Monash University vice-chancellor Sharon Pickering said the future fund plan would interfere with universities’ ability to deliver on the accord review’s goals of increasing numbers of disadvantaged students and building the workforce skills needed in a modern economy.

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell said he was concerned by the proposal. “A new tax on universities will weaken Australia’s current and future productivity, innovative potential and prosperity,” he said.

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott, who is also chair of the Group of Eight universities which benefit most from international student fees, said the future fund tax plan “would hurt our reputation and our capacity to attract international students”.

The report made no recommendations on the level of the tax but said it should only commence once a new university funding system was in place and should cease when $5bn had been raised.

It would mainly affect five of the Group of Eight universities which have large numbers of high fee paying Chinese students – Sydney, Melbourne, Monash, UNSW and Queensland.

Western Sydney University vice-chancellor Barney Glover, a member of the accord review panel, said the fund was “important future proofing for the sector” but there was “work to do on design and timing”.

On Sunday Mr Clare said he had an open mind on the tax and the future fund, and would decide over the next weeks and months. “There are some universities who hate it, there are other universities who love it,” he told the ABC.

The review called on the government to reduce the high fees student pay in some subjects, and reform the HECS loan scheme to ease the financial impact on graduates. The review says high university fees of over $16,000 a year in some fields – including humanities, communications, and other society and culture subjects such as human movement – should be reduced.

It also urged reforms to HECS to ease the effect high inflation has on increasing the amount students owe and to reduce the financial impact on HECS debtors when their income first hits the loan repayment threshold.

The report says banks lending practices should be reviewed so people don’t have their home loan borrowing capacity unduly affected by HECS debt.

The review panel, headed by former NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane, makes 47 recommendations for reforming tertiary education, aimed at dramatically increasing the number of Australians who continue education after finishing school.

The review recommends a goal of having 80 per cent of working age Australians with at least one tertiary qualification (vocational or higher education) by 2050 compared to 60 per cent at the moment.

It urges the government to set an achievement target of having 55 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds holding a bachelor degree or above by 2050, compared to 45 per cent now. This will require a doubling of commonwealth supported university places for domestic students from 860,000 in 2022 to 1.8 million in 2050.

The review says universities should get more government funding for educating students with higher needs, such as those from low socio-economic status backgrounds, from regional and remote areas, and Indigenous students.

The review also calls for more innovative types of courses such as micro-credentials and degree apprenticeships, payments to ­students for compulsory internships, free university preparatory courses, higher living allowances for needy students, better recognition of prior learning for people starting qualifications, and a “jobs broker” to help students find part-time jobs while they are studying in the area of their course.


Why it’s a mistake to deny the science of sex

In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir wrote that one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. For decades after her claim, feminists have championed the idea that social conditioning is what creates differences between the sexes.

As little girls we are encouraged by our parents to play with dolls. As we get older we are encouraged to be decorative. From the clothes we wear to the interests we pursue, thousands of tiny interactions with the world mould us into the women we are.

But advances in neuroscience are throwing at least some of this conventional wisdom into question. While we have known for a long time that sex may have some subtle influences on the brain (how could it not?), a study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests such influences may be more expansive than previously thought.

The landmark study, conducted by Stanford professor Vinod Menon, and with Srikanth Ryali, PhD, and academic staff researcher Yuan Zhang, PhD, took a large sample of fMRI brain scans from 1500 young adults between 20 and 35, and then tested whether deep neural networks (AI models) could detect their sex. They could.

The AI models looked at many brain images from each person taken at different times (the brain scans were also taken from people in different regions). It found complex patterns that predicted if a brain was male or female with over 90 per cent accuracy.

The AI could not only tell if a brain was male or female, but the researchers also created explanatory models to predict cognitive abilities based on their images. Because male and female brains are so different, separate models were needed for each sex.

I contacted Professor Menon to ask what this meant. He told me “there were no gender differences (found) in the general intelligence factor, but response inhibition and reward sensitivity were higher in males than females”.

There are a multitude of implications in these findings. Male brains having higher reward sensitivity and variable response inhibition may explain why males tend to be more vulnerable to addiction and ADHD, for example.

The finding that males and females are different may strike many as intuitive and hardly worthy of journalistic attention, much like the observation that water is wet.

One might argue quite reasonably that anyone who spends any time around children knows girls and boys are different, and that these differences are not superficial. Nevertheless, in the world of academia, simple intuition does not go very far. In the scientific fields at least, empirical claims have to be proven with data.

Not only that, but there has been significant hostility from some quarters towards the idea that male and female brains differ at all. This hostility has been grounded in the fear that any discovery of differences will be used to reify gender stereotypes and justify discrimination against women – something female academics are naturally attuned to. Writing in Quillette in 2019, veteran neuroscientist Larry Cahill wrote: “Senior colleagues warned me as an untenured professor around the year 2000 that studying sex differences would be career suicide.”

But sexism does not need any scientific justification to exist. The odious Andrew Tate, for example, uses social media to spread his noxious misogyny and, as far as I am aware, is not relying on any findings from neuroscience in doing so.

Republicans in the United States are restricting women’s reproductive rights – including abortion and even IVF – on theological rather than scientific grounds. And I am not aware of the Taliban subscribing to Neuroscience News.

In truth, sexism flourishes wherever scientific progress is suppressed, not where it is advanced.

And ignorance about the influence of sex on the brain harms, rather than helps, women. For decades, basic research was only conducted on male cells, male animals and male clinical trial participants. Yet we know the incidence of many neurological conditions, from migraines to Parkinson’s disease, manifest differently according to sex. The failure to study how sex influences out of fear it will contribute to sexism means women miss out on having medical treatments tailored to their needs.

The fear of acknowledging sex differences has also, ironically, given rise to another form of anti-female prejudice. Today the denial of biology has metastasised into the denial of sex itself. Trans activists argue that one can literally change biological sex, and that biological males have no physiological advantage over women in sports.

Women are being denied the right to single-sex spaces such as bathrooms and change rooms, and new mothers are insultingly described in government-mandated protocols as “chestfeeders”. This is Simone de Beauvoir’s argument on steroids – this time used to erase womanhood altogether.

Refusal to grapple with biological realities has hampered progress in a way that has helped no one. Indeed, the denial of sex differences has not eradicated sexism but instead has led to the neglect of women’s health needs and the emergence of new forms of prejudice unimaginable just a decade ago.

While there may be some risks associated with new discoveries in neuroscience, these risks are outweighed by the potential benefits. As Larry Cahill has quipped: “The potential to misuse new knowledge has been around since we discovered fire and invented the wheel. It is not a valid argument for remaining ignorant.”




Sunday, February 25, 2024

Co-ed schools ‘healthy’ for teens asserts Anthony Albanese amid elite private schools’ battle of the sexes

This is an old, old debate but there is no denying that single sex schools have produced many notable graduates. There is some argument that single-sex schools are better for girls but not for boys. That would pose quite a policy conundrum

Mr Albanese praised his old boys’ high school, St Mary’s Cathedral College in Sydney, for its decision to admit girls from Years 1 to 7, from 2025. “It’s a good thing they’ve made that decision,’’ he said.

“I think there’s something healthy about boys and girls not being separated until they hit uni is my own personal view.

“My son went to a co-ed school, went through the entire system at Dully and what’s now known as Sydney Secondary College, but to me as Leichardt High and Glebe High.

“From my recollection, I remember that there would be a bit of craziness when we’d have school dances with St Bridget’s at Marrickville or Holy Cross at Woollahra, and that probably wasn’t the ideal.‘’

Mr Albanese’s comments came after two elite private schools began a war of the sexes, over plans for Newington College to become a coeducational school after a girls’ headmaster decreed his students would never play sport with girls from a rival college.

Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC) Sydney principal Dr Paul Burgis has cautioned that girls in coeducational schools risk being distracted by boys showing off, or joining in popularity contests to impress male classmates.

In a note to PLC parents this month, Dr Burgis gave an assurance that their daughters would never take part in any sporting, public speaking or musical collaboration with the soon-to-be coeducational Newington College.

“Pubescent girls benefit from being able to practice (sic) and play hard and freely, without an awareness of watching eyes,’’ he wrote.

“No coeducational school is allowed to compete in the sport, speech or cultural programs with IGSA (Independent Girls’ Schools Association) schools.

“I note this because if Newington is to become a coeducational school, it will need to look much further afield than the IGSA schools for its sport, public speaking and musical collaboration.’’

The February 8 email refers parents to a link to a longer missive Dr Burgis wrote in 2022, when Newington College announced its divisive plan to become a coeducational school.

Plans by the 161-year-old Uniting Church boys’ school to admit girls has upset an influential “old boys’’ network.

Some “Old Newingtonians’’ have even withdrawn their bequests to the school in protest.

Dr Burgis’s original missive – which was circulated among Old Newingtonians yesterday – noted that a successful co-ed school “needs to have a majority female population’’.

“I hold this view because in your average group of boys, some will be likely to take on the role of gaining attention by acting counter to what it is the class is trying to achieve,’’ he wrote.

“This may be outwardly disruptive behaviour, or it may be attention-seeking behaviour.

“It could have the purpose of creating laughter or fun.

“Girls are more likely to support the cultural project of the classroom, and would prefer to settle quickly, to be able to listen well, and to talk through any difficulties they might have.

“The needs of girls can easily be set aside in a coeducational setting.’’

The principal of PLC – which charges $42,000 a year in tuition fees for senior students – wrote that “girls learn better in single sex schools’’.

He said the “toughest school for girls’’ is one with a “male-oriented culture’’.

“Is it ethically a good idea to introduce girls because it could benefit boys?’’ he wrote.

“Why … would a highly successful school for boys, with long waiting lists, choose to go coeducational?

“They must have arrived at the belief that something in the culture of the boys is better if girls are about.

“The change is being driven by a perception about boys, rather than the needs of girls.’’

Dr Burgis wrote that “having boys about is an opportunity for distraction’’. “Some girls will seek to be ‘popular’ with the boys. “Others will feel the need to respond to this.’’

Dr Burgis wrote that “it is easy for some of us males, when relaxing, to take up quite a bit of room on the lounge’’.

“On average, we will take up more lounge space more often than our sisters,’’ he wrote. “The effect is that they will have to accommodate us. “In a girls school, girls get a comfortable seat on the lounge without even having to ask.’’

Dr Burgis yesterday told The Australian that his memos to parents should not be mistaken for “us seeking to tell a different independent school what they should do’’.

“Of course as a school which believes wholeheartedly in the education of girls in a single sex environment, PLC Sydney will communicate strongly and positively about the advantages of a girls only education to our families and the broader community,’’ he said.

“We will also explain how girls only sporting programs work.’’

A Newington College spokeswoman declined to comment on the rival school’s critique.

The Newington College website shows that it never intended to join the girls’-only IGSA sporting contests, but plans for girls to compete in the Independent Sporting Association (ISA) contests with co-ed schools Barker, Redlands and St Andrews.

Newington College, which charges up to $42,000 a year, will admit the first girls to preparatory and Year 5 students in 2026, but will wait until 2028 to admit the first female high school students to Years 7 and 11 until 2028.


Inquiry Ponders How Government Can Legislate Against Climate Change Health Risks

The government is hearing testimony on whether to require lawmakers to consider the ‘health and wellbeing of children in Australia’ when approving mines.

Questions remain over how exactly the federal Australian government can define, and legislate, a climate change risk to the “health and wellbeing” of children.

A Senate Committee is examining an amendment to the Albanese government’s Climate Change Act 2022 to require legislators to consider the health of children when making significant decisions.

The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 would also restrict approvals for mining activities related to coal, oil, and natural resources if they pose a “material risk of harm” to children.

While medical bodies like the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), as well as several climate change activist groups, shared their views on the health risks caused by climate change, the issue of how exactly the government would legislate against this, was largely left unanswered.

“How would you expect decision-makers to correctly identify a project-specific impact on health, in a context where the cumulative impact of emissions over many years is causing climate change? How would you see that point of identification?” said Labor Senator Karen Grogan on the morning of Feb. 22.

In response, Dr. Catherine Pendrey, chair of the Climate and Environmental Medicine Specific Interest Group at RACGP, said her organisation would not “specifically comment on the functions of the court.”

“I believe it’s the young people in Australia that have been taking these issues to court, rather than members of the medical profession,” she told the Senate Environment, Communications Legislation Committee.

Senator Grogan said that she had no argument with climate change science, but was concerned about the impact of how the law would operate on the ground.

“Will it have the intended impact? Or will it ... have unintended consequences, and limit the ability of the structures—that the Labor government’s put in place over the last 18 months—to try and ramp up action on climate change?”

She further added, “I’m asking how you would believe an administrative decision maker would make that assessment [on the health impact of climate change?]”

Dr. Michael Bonning, chair of the Public Health Committee at the Australian Medical Association, said there was evidence of legislators coming to conclusions based on available evidence and “utilising that going forward.”

“As for internal administrative procedures, we obviously aren’t able to comment on that.”

When asked the same question, Anjali Sharma, a young climate change activist, conceded it was difficult to quantify the impact of a fossil fuel project, but added that the “cumulative impact of all these decisions is what we young people will face down the road.”

“I know that 50 years down the road—in a world that potentially has seen warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius—we will not be able to look back and point to that one specific decision that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she said.

‘Health Impact Assessments’ Mentioned

Dr. Kate Wylie, from Doctors for the Environment Australia, provided, what she termed “the beginning of an answer” to the senator’s question.

“We have Health Impact Assessments for various projects ... and they do not consider climate change impacts. We could broaden the scope of the Health Impact Assessments to include climate change, and how that impacts on children’s health.”

Heath Darrant, national coordinator of the Australian Medical Students’ Association, concurred, saying Australia could adopt the United Nation’s Child Rights Impact Assessment Model.

“And I know Wales used that in their [Wellbeing of Future Generation Act] that they implemented, which is a similar bill that’s being discussed here today. And New Zealand also uses the same model to come up with criteria on what constitutes an impact on health.”


IR rule changes are about union power, not helping workers

In six months, on or around September 1 depending on the date the parliamentary-approved legislation receives royal assent, employing casuals in most Australian enterprises will be extremely hazardous.

There are currently around 2.6 million Australians who take up their entitlement to casual work usually as a second family income.

By Christmas this number will be slashed, resulting in a nightmare for family enterprises and a 25 per cent reduction in pay in the pocket for a vast number of Australians struggling with rent and mortgage stress.

Australian family businesses thrive on the flexibility of casual labour, and vast numbers of people under mortgage and rent stress use casual labour as a second job to help make ends meet.

In my view, this new legislation shows a callous disregard by the Prime Minister for this segment of his fellow Australians.

I emphasise casual labour has not been banned, but control over whether an enterprise is entitled to employ casual labour will be determined not by the employees or the enterprise but rather by the Fair Work Commission.

The Prime Minister may deny he is deliberately attacking family business and those struggling with mortgage and rent stress – so let me go through, step by step, how he and the relevant minister engineered the legislation and the looming chaos.

Remember, currently whether a person is to be employed as a casual, at least initially, is determined by the enterprise. Many employees love casual work because of the extra cash and the fact they can determine when they work, so work can be fitted into family and base job obligations.

There is no job security or holidays, but in a an economy where there is a labour shortage this is not seen as a problem by many Australians.

Family and other businesses can relate their labour requirements to the flexibility of customer demand. Casual labour is one of Australia’s greatest boosts to productivity and employee wellbeing. But Albanese, via his Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke, and the loopholes in the so-called industrial relations legislation has set new rules.

Accordingly, from the start of spring 2024, an employee will be a casual employee of an employer only if “the employment relationship is characterised by an absence of a firm advanced commitment to continuing and indefinite work”.

What this means will be determined by Fair Work and involves looking into the minds of both the casual person and the employer.

It is complete parliamentary nonsense, with no regard to how business and ordinary Australians operate. But the Albanese legislation gets worse.

The above definition is then subject to further interpretation, and the ability to hire casuals must also be anchored on “the basis of the real substance, practical reality and true nature of the employment relationship … having regard to, but not limited to, the following considerations (which may indicate the presence, rather than an absence, of such a commitment):

(i) whether there is an inability of the employer to elect to offer, or not offer, work;

(ii) whether, having regard to the nature of the employer’s enterprise, it is reasonably likely that there will be future availability of continuing work …”

I invite Albanese to go down to the Stanmore fish and chip shop in his electorate to explain what this means.

But there is one chilling criteria in the Albanese legislation which actually has a clear meaning and will be used by the required union delegate, or delegates, in all enterprises to report to their union. That is: “whether there are full‑time employees or part‑time employees performing the same kind of work”.

My layperson interpretation of this sentence is if an enterprise has a part-time or full-time employees doing “the same kind of work” as a casual employee, then the casual must be forced to take a pay cut and be employed full or part time.

Under the legislation it seems the penalties for employing casuals do not apply until Fair Work has declared the enterprise is not entitled to employ casuals. If the enterprise continues to do so, the penalties are harsh and can total close to $100,000.

This leaves the enterprise being forced to employ permanent part-time employees, which usually requires the rigidity of a roster. And contacting the employee out of hours to change the roster may be hazardous.

It’s a totally different relationship, which robs both the family business and the employees of the flexibility which benefits both in the modern world.

Of course, in some situations the predictability of a roster may help an employee, which is why when the ACTU originally suggested after a designated period of casual employment, an employee should be able choose part-time employment.

It was a reasonable suggestion, but few would have changed because of the pay cut and lack of flexibility. Now they have no choice.

The ACTU is now suggesting the casual premium be increased from 25 to 35 per cent (the cost differential is about 20 per cent) to “mop up” any enterprise Fair Work allows to employ casuals.

The reason the ACTU and the unions want all people working in an enterprise to be full or part-time employees is it they are more likely to become union members, delivering the union more income plus a relationship with employees – which gives the union influence over the running of the business.

It’s all about money and power, not worker protection


‘Good’ girls, ‘bad’ boys? That’s no way to make progress

Nikki Gemmell says boys in the West are angry. They want power and control, she says, pointing to a Gallup poll that apparently shows young men “flinching into conservatism” while young women are embracing and facilitating social reform.

The impetus for girls is fairness and equality, she says, a natural step for the educated. It’s why “the Taliban wants to stop females from being educated”, she wrote on the weekend.

The impetus for boys, says Gemmell, is to preserve what they had. She claims they are hurting, raging and lost.

Let’s put the Taliban to one side, given that in Australia girls are educated, they work, dress as they wish, vote, run companies, and become prime minister.

Lumping girls in the good column and boys in a bad one is not helpful. The world can’t be summed up so simply. Let’s dissect two claims – one about politics, the other about gender, at the centre of Gemmell’s thesis.

Having followed politics for a long time, I can safely say the world is more complicated than saying that conservative equals bad and progressive equals good.

If “progressive” meant only good things, we would do away with elections right now, and make Adam Bandt leader for life. In fact, the Greens are not genuinely progressive. For starters, they harbour anti-Semites.

This word, “progressive”, is often a crock. The progressive Greens are economic dunces; they’d wreck the economy overnight with their taxation and spending policies. We know from experience that being progressive on immigration – in other words, handing over control of our borders to people-smugglers – led to thousands of deaths at sea for desperate people.

So-called progressive policies can be wickedly regressive. When a bunch of elites thought that granting special rights to one group of Australians was such a good idea it should be enshrined in the Constitution, the response from Australians was an overwhelming “no”.

That No vote was the height of social and political equality: it was progressive and liberal.

When I hear claims that “progressive” is all sweetness and light, and comes in the shade of teal, it pains me to point out that most of the teals are frauds.

For all their kvetching about the need for more integrity in politics, and attacking low-hanging fruit such as pork-barrelling, they haven’t shown any interest, on behalf of taxpayers, in getting to the bottom of why the federal government handed over $2.4m to Brittany Higgins. Not a single injured veteran is able to secure that amount of money, no questions asked. How’s that for political integrity.

Nice-sounding words can’t hide poor outcomes. When diversity translates into discriminating against men, the result is neither fair nor equal.

Earlier this year, Caroline Overington reported on a bookshop owner in Melbourne who was concerned that while she had shelves of great women’s fiction writing, “positive stories with men and boys are almost missing from the mix”. We reported that women filled seven of the top 10 places in fiction writing last year. It was the same internationally.

Women coming out on top is great news, so long as it’s not manufactured by booting men out of the mix. Sadly, it’s seen as “progressive” to do precisely that.

Gender quotas are routinely used to fill board seats, sidelining merit. It’s easy to predict what flows: boards end up reflecting a political monoculture comprising people who think quotas make sense. That’s not genuine diversity.

When I wrote extensively many years ago about the importance of phonics when teaching young kids to read, I discovered phonics was described by its opponents as a conservative plot to entrench the political status quo. What on Earth? We’re talking about giving the kids the building blocks to read, a necessary step so they can learn, expand their horizons, think for themselves.

Back then, progressives believed kids learned to read by osmosis, by being exposed to words, and most schools bought their magic pudding. The steady stream of poor literacy results for Australian students reveals how regressive that progressive project has been for kids. Talk about being mugged by reality.

According to a piece in The Financial Times about the Gallop survey, the #MeToo movement is the trigger for women moving to the progressive side of politics. Gemmell repeated the claim. So, let’s look a little closer at this recent progressive movement.

The #MeToo movement has helped women feel empowered to report sexual assault and call out bad behaviour that falls short of assault. But not everything about #MeToo is positive. For example, the oft-repeated mantra that we must “believe all women” can only serve to undermine the presumption of innocence. That’s a dangerous path for a society committed to fairness, let alone fair trials.

There are other, less serious, but equally boneheaded responses to the #MeToo movement. One of Sydney’s most prestigious boys schools told boys in an assembly not to use the word “moist” because it offends girls. That school and others are going co-ed because apparently boys will become civilised human beings by sharing a classroom with girls.

The boys I know aren’t angry about sharing power, let alone classrooms. They’re not hurting, or raging, or lost, as Gemmell suggests. They weren’t born to be at the top of the tree. Nor are they hankering for cosy arrangements to continue. If I had to guess, what annoys both boys and girls – along with some of their parents – are evidence-free anti-male messages that go unchallenged.

Sky News contributor Daisy Cousens says the MeToo movement’s celebrity activists do not actually care about…
Young men and women in Gen Z are entering a world where labels and slogans are routinely used to dumb down society. Just as people are complex, so too are political philosophies.

For those interested in learning about conservatism as a political philosophy, there are plenty of books I could suggest. But let’s cut to the chase: being conservative means looking at what people did before us, holding on to what works and, yes, changing what doesn’t work.

Conservatism is rooted in lived experience, to coin a phrase from the progressive zeitgeist, not crossing your fingers, closing your eyes and saying a little prayer that good intentions will translate into good outcomes.

Now to another point about boys and girls. Gemmell claims Gen Z is “split” and living in “two separate worlds”. I looked at the Gallop results. In the US, Gallop’s news website says “a widening of the ideological gaps between men and women over time has been due to women becoming more liberal at a faster rate than men, rather than women and men moving in different ideological directions”. So, let’s take a breather.

I must live in a different part of Australia to my colleague. Having young men and women waft through our homes for many years, I can vouch for relationships forged above politics and social movements.

These young men and women befriend, work with, partner and marry people who have different views. The reason is simple: in most workplaces, pubs and homes, politics need not be a morality contest; ergo progressive doesn’t mean good, and conservative doesn’t mean bad. Or vice versa.

Perpetuating a myth that girls are progressive social reformers, while boys hanker for the good old days when men ruled the world, will only help to make the world more, not less, polarised.


Warning over pipeline regulation review

APA Group has warned a review into the regulation of Australia’s gas pipelines threatens to delay much needed investment to boost capacity ahead of looming gas shortages on Australia’s east coast.

The industry was informed on Wednesday that the Australian Energy Regulator, under new powers over the regulation of Australia’s gas pipelines, would initiate the first in a series of reviews, starting with APA’s South West Queensland Pipeline (SWQP).

The pipeline, which links Wallumbilla in South East Queensland to Moomba in South Australia, is a key pipeline in the transmission network connecting Queensland with the southern states.

It is currently subject to light regulation, with an arbitration process in place to handle customer complaints, but the AER is considering whether to convert it to a “scheme pipeline”, which would subject it to full price regulation.

The AER on Wednesday said the SWQP was chosen as the first pipeline for review “due to its importance to the east coast gas system in transporting gas between northern and southern states”.

Speaking to The Australian after delivering the company’s half-year results on Thursday, APA Group chief executive Adam Watson criticised the “bizarre” timing of the review.

“They’ve actually called out the reason why they’re starting there is because of the significance of it in moving gas down, which is sort of bizarre and ironic that you’ve got a gas pipeline that is so critical to energy security, and pricing that’s functioning well,” he said. “We’ve never had a single customer complaint, it’s already lightly regulated so we’ve got full transparency of pricing and everything, and yet the government is giving the regulator power to look at that to see whether or not it should be heavily regulated.

“It is quite concerning that at a time where we need more flexibility in our energy supply, we need to be more nimble ... that they’re putting up barriers making it even harder for us to bring this transition to life.”

The AER was given the responsibility for determining the form of regulation of Australia’s gas pipelines last March as part of new National Gas Law rules introduced by the federal government at the time.

The review of the SWQP will be the first in a series of reviews the AER is planning to undertake over several years.

However with Australia facing a looming material shortfall of gas on Australia’s east coast from 2028, Mr Watson said the reviews undermined the need for further investment in new supplies and infrastructure.

“We’ve put about $700m of expansion capacity in that network at our own risk, ahead of market, to support energy security,” he said.

“If you go to a heavy form of regulation, that form of regulation is going to cause all sorts of problems in our energy transition.

“If we need to do an expansion, all of the decisions around that would be effectively determined by the regulator, and the regulatory processes are slow - it could take two, three, four, five years for them to determine whether or not we should bring an asset to market, by which time the problem’s already hit you in the face.

“You feel like the goal posts are being moved on you in the middle of a pretty important game, and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t have the umpires being the only ones left on the field trying to run the energy transition.”

APA’s underlying EBITDA grew by 5.8 per cent to $930m in the six months to December, underpinned by inflation-linked tariff increases, which resulted in a 3.4 per cent increase in revenue (excluding pass through revenue).

Recent acquisitions including the Basslink interconnector between Victoria and Tasmania, and the Pilbara Energy portfolio of renewable energy assets, lifted the result, and supports the company’s new full-year guidance for underlying EBITDA of $1.87bn to $1.91bn.

Statutory net profit after tax in the first half came in at $1.05bn.

The company reaffirmed full-year distribution guidance of 56c after declaring a 26.5c distribution for the first half.

Mr Watson described it a “solid” result, with the two recent acquisitions “in line with expectations and business cases”.

However he renewed concerns about the policy uncertainty surrounding the role of gas in the country’s energy transition, using last week’s blackouts in Victoria as an example of the important role gas will continue to play.

“Gas fired generation came on to save the day,” he said.

“We lost power to about half a million homes. By our high level estimates, we think that would have been more than a million homes without power if we didn’t have gas.

“We need to be able to bring more gas to market ... but the challenge we’ve got is when you look at things like excluding gas generation from capacity investment schemes, project approval processes, regulation.”