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Kaye describes herself as a middle-aged woman in jammies. She knew Tony Abbott when they both attended Sydney University where she studied for a Bachelor of Science. After 20 years teaching mathematics, with the introduction of the GST in 2000, she became a ‘feral accountant’ for the small business that she and her husband own. Kaye uses her research skills “to pass on information, to join the dots, to remember what has been said and done and to remind others, and to do the maths.”

Reasons not to

Oh for a government who didn’t spend all their time finding reasons not to:

Bring sick children on Nauru to Australia to get medical help

Resettle refugees in New Zealand (or prior to that, Malaysia) or…let’s make this easy and cheap and only fair….here

Reduce emissions

Invest in renewable energy

Protect water security, the water table and environmental flow

Stop habitat destruction and land degradation through rampant land-clearing

Protect the Great Barrier Reef

Increase Newstart and Youth Allowance

Increase the Superannuation Guarantee

Increase the minimum wage

Make big companies pay tax

Wind back overly generous tax concessions for property, family trusts, superannuation, self-education expenses (read overseas holiday), cost of managing financial affairs, business use of cars, excess franking credits etc

Give Indigenous people a voice in their own affairs

Celebrate Australia Day on another date

End discrimination based on sexuality and actually accept and love people for who they are

Take affirmative action to promote women to leadership roles

Fund public schools and hospitals

Make early childhood education accessible to all

Invest in public transport

Provide affordable housing

Legislate mandatory qualified staffing levels in aged care facilities.

Build the infrastructure for electric cars

Encourage union membership and the protection and collective voice it gives workers when negotiating with employers

Separate church from state

Allow people to choose to die with dignity

Legalise pregnancy terminations

Tax religious organisations on their profitable businesses and place conditions and accountability on any public money given to religious organisations

Fund community groups who help the disadvantaged

Embrace multiculturalism and avoid racial profiling

Increase foreign aid

Increase the public service rather than outsourcing and offshoring

Decrease spending on defence materiel that will be outdated before it arrives

Build communications infrastructure that can accommodate the needs of the future (NO MORE FttN)

Make university education cheaper, not more expensive.  It is an investment that pays dividends and our children should not start life with a large debt from their education.

Become a Republic with an Australian head of state and our own flag.

Be open, transparent, honest and accountable.

Continually fighting against things has drained both the government and the people.  We need leaders who can explain why we should do things, not why we shouldn’t.

According to the WEF, the planet is ‘on the brink’

The Global Risks Report 2018 produced by the World Economic Forum lays out very clearly why this ridiculous debate about emissions reduction must stop.  If they won’t believe the scientists, perhaps the economists can convince them.

Our planet on the brink

“Among the most pressing environmental challenges facing us are extreme weather events and temperatures; accelerating biodiversity loss; pollution of air, soil and water; failures of climate-change mitigation and adaptation; and transition risks as we move to a low-carbon future.

Extreme weather events in 2017 included unusually frequent Atlantic hurricanes, with three high-impact storms—Harvey, Irma and Maria— making landfall in rapid succession. According to the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, which is used to measure the intensity and duration of Atlantic storms, September 2017 was the most intense month on record. It was also the most expensive hurricane season ever.

Extreme rainfall can be particularly damaging—of the 10 natural disasters that caused the most deaths in the first half of 2017, eight involved floods or landslides. Storms and other weather-related hazards are also a leading cause of displacement, with the latest data showing that 76% of the 31.1 million people displaced during 2016 were forced from their homes as a result of weather-related events.

Last year also saw numerous instances of extreme temperatures. When the data are finalized, 2017 is expected to be among the three hottest years on record—the hottest was 2016—and the hottest non–El Niño year ever. In the first nine months of the year, temperatures were 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels and further increases are inevitable—the most ambitious target included in the Paris Agreement envisages increases only to 1.5°C.

Average changes are giving rise to localized extremes: during 2017, record high temperatures were experienced from parts of southern Europe to eastern and southern Africa, South America, and parts of Russia and China. California had its hottest summer ever and by the end of November, wildfire burn across the United States was at least 46% above the 10-year average, and was continuing into December. Chile had its most extensive wildfires ever—eight times the long-run average—while in Portugal more than 100 wildfire-related deaths were recorded.

Rising temperatures and more frequent heatwaves will disrupt agricultural systems that are already strained. The prevalence of monoculture production heightens vulnerability to catastrophic breakdowns in the food system— more than 75% of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animal species, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and it is estimated that there is now a one-in-twenty chance per decade that heat, drought, and flood events will cause a simultaneous failure of maize production in the world’s two main growers, China and the United States. This would cause widespread famine and hardship.

Fears of “ecological Armageddon” are being raised by a collapse in populations of insects that are critical to food systems: researchers in Germany found falls in such populations of more than 75% over 27 years. More broadly, biodiversity loss is now occurring at mass-extinction rates. The populations of vertebrate species declined by an estimated 58% between 1970 and 2012.

Globally, the primary driver of biodiversity loss is the human destruction of habitats including forests—which are home to approximately 80% of the world’s land-based animals, plants, and insects—for farming, mining, infrastructure development and oil and gas production. A record 29.7 million hectares of tree cover was lost in 2016—an area about the size of New Zealand. This loss was about 50 percent higher than 2015. As much as 80% of the deforestation in Amazon countries is accounted for by cattle ranching, suggesting that pressures on environmental and agricultural systems will intensify as the global population increases, pushing up demand for meat.

Pollution moved further to the fore as a problem in 2017: indoor and outdoor air pollution are together responsible for more than one tenth of all deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 90% of the world’s population live in areas with levels of air pollution that exceed WHO guidelines. Deaths are overwhelmingly concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, where health problems caused by pollution exacerbate strains on already stretched health systems and public finances. In November 2017, a public health emergency was declared in Delhi when air pollution reached more than 11 times the WHO guideline levels.  Urban air pollution is likely to worsen, as migration and demographic trends drive the creation of more megacities.

Soil and water pollution cause about half again as many deaths, according to findings published in October 2017 by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. The Commission estimates the overall annual cost of pollution to the global economy at US$4.6 trillion, equivalent to around 6.2% of output.

Many of the associated risks to health are still not well understood. Research suggests, for example, that the huge volume of plastic waste in the world’s water— approximately 8 million more tons every year—is finding its way into humans. People eating seafood could be ingesting up to 11,000 pieces of micro-plastic every year. Microplastic fibres are found in 83% of the world’s tap water. One concern is that these micro-fibres could bind with compounds containing toxic pesticides or metals, providing these toxins with a route into the body.

The growing urgency of acting to halt climate change was demonstrated in 2017 with the news that emissions of CO2 had risen for the first time in four years, bringing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 403 parts per million, compared with a preindustrial baseline of 280 parts per million. The increase in emissions last year was partly a result of developments in China, where the heatwaves mentioned above led to a 6.3% increase in energy consumption, and extreme drought in the north of the country led to a switch from hydro to coal-fired power generation.

There are reasons to expect further upward pressure on CO2 concentrations in the future. Having absorbed 93% of the increase in global temperatures between 1971 and 2010, the world’s oceans continue to get warmer and studies suggest that their capacity to absorb CO2 may be declining. Research also suggests that tropical forests are now releasing rather than absorbing carbon dioxide.

The risk that political factors might disrupt efforts to mitigate climate change was highlighted last year when President Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. However, several other major economies—notably China—reaffirmed their support of the Paris Agreement during 2017. In addition, many US businesses, cities and states have pledged to help deliver on the country’s emissions reduction targets. This kind of network of subnational and public-private collaboration may become an increasingly important means of countering climate change and other environmental risks, particularly at a time when nation-state unilateralism appears to be ascendant.

In addition to meeting the immediate environmental challenges that we face, we also need to focus more acutely on the potential economic and societal risks that may arise as transition to a low-carbon and environmentally secure world accelerates. Moves towards financial disclosures to quantify the transition risks that businesses face have been accelerating, as has the idea of fossil-fuel divestment.  For example, in November 2017 the managers of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund recommended divesting from oil and gas shares, and in December the World Bank announced a moratorium after 2019 on financing upstream oil and gas-related investments.

The potential spillover effects of climate-related transition will be more far-reaching than its effect on financial disclosure norms. For example, dramatic changes in the way energy is produced are likely to trigger large-scale labour-market disruptions. Structural economic changes in affected countries and regions could also stoke societal and geopolitical risks.

There is no scope for complacency about the sufficiency of global efforts to deal with climate change and the continued degradation of the global environmental commons. Equally, however, it is time to prepare for the structural challenges and changes that lie ahead as those efforts gather pace.”

How about we reduce cost of living pressure by increasing wages

The majority of Australians cite cost of living as one of the priorities that they want the government to address.

In typical one-dimensional ideological thinking, the Coalition’s only answer to this is to appoint a minister for getting power prices down who will take a big stick to the power companies.

The main reason that cost of living is an issue is because wages have stagnated for so long as housing, power, transport and other costs have risen.

Rather than recognising the danger of stalled wage growth, the Coalition have set about deligitimising the collective voice of unions, cutting penalty rates to our lowest paid workers, fighting increases to the minimum wage, and freezing the planned growth of the superannuation guarantee.

Rather than showing concern for the homeless and those who struggle to pay rent or buy their first home, the government is fighting tooth and nail to protect the tax concessions of those who own two or more homes.

Lifting the freeze on government fuel excise has added to the cost of petrol at a time when Iranian sanctions, Saudi tightness because of a war in Yemen, Venezuelan production going through the floor and disruptions in Libya have seen oil prices increase.

According to Professor John Buchanan from the University of Sydney’s Business School, the gap between wages and the cost of living is growing in many developed countries, despite rising productivity.

“Australian workers are more productive now than they’ve ever been, but they have not shared in the gains in the way that they used to,” he said.

This has obvious implications.  When people have less disposable income, either demand dries up or private debt grows, neither of which are good for the economy.

While many other developed countries have seen a decline or “levelling out” of personal debt since the 2008 global financial crisis, Australia’s debt levels have continued to increase.  The ratio of household debt to income has more than doubled between 1995 and 2015, going from 104% to 212%, according to the OECD Data released in 2015.

Poverty in Australia 2018 found that there are just over 3 million people (13.2%) living below the poverty line of 50% of median income – including 739,000 children (17.3%).  In dollar figures, this poverty line works out to $433 a week for a single adult living alone; or $909 a week for a couple with 2 children.  Many of those affected are living in deep poverty – on average, this is a staggering $135 per week below the poverty line.

The group of people experiencing poverty the most are, unsurprisingly, those relying on Government allowance payments such as Youth Allowance and Newstart. Yet the government’s reaction is to try to claw back welfare overpayments using a flawed system, and to steadfastly refuse to increase Newstart payments.  They have tried various attempts to make it harder to even get any payment and introduced penalties for non-compliance.

Instead of positive action, we get trite phrases like if you have a go, you’ll get a go, or the best welfare is a job.  They ignore the advice from the Business Council of Australia that the low payment is an impediment to actually getting a job.

Instead of increasing the tax free threshold to give low income earners some relief, as Julia Gillard did to offset cost of living pressures from introducing carbon pricing, the government wants to lower taxes for big business even though they are already making record profits and investors are lining up.

Any pretence that this government cares about cost of living completely evaporates on even a cursory examination of their performance since coming into office.

The truth about power prices and generation – big sticks don’t work but renewables do

A few days before he was rolled from the top job, Malcolm Turnbull said “We will not hesitate to use a big stick, as we did with gas, to make sure the big companies do the right thing by you, their customers.”

Well the latest quarterly update from the AEMO shows just how effective that “big stick” was with the gas companies. The AEMO reports notes that:

“Wholesale gas prices increased across all markets compared to Q3 2017 despite a year-on-year reduction in demand (largely due to reduced gas-powered generation (GPG) demand). Average quarterly gas prices in the Declared Wholesale Gas Market (DWGM) in Victoria and Brisbane’s Short-Term Trading Market (STTM) were the second highest on record.

And it doesn’t look like getting better any time soon.

“2019 electricity futures prices rallied over the quarter, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. This coincided with: a reduction in hydro dam levels in mainland Australia; relatively high gas prices (coupled with some expectation of this continuing into 2019); forecasts of a hot and dry start to 2019; and concerns over the potential delays to the connection of new renewable projects to the grid.”

Luckily, Tasmanian hydro stepped up.

“The quarter recorded the highest NEM hydro generation since 2013, underpinned by record quarterly hydro output from Hydro Tasmania, which contributed to:

  • Tasmania’s wholesale electricity price reducing substantially (to $43/MWh) as Hydro Tasmania changed its market offers to increase output. Practically, the change in bidding translated to an additional 1,000 MW offered below $50/MWh compared to previous quarters – an 88% increase.

  • Comparatively high levels of inter-regional transfers north on Basslink and the Victoria to New South Wales interconnector. Total inter-regional transfers during the quarter were 18% higher than in Q2 2018, and were at their highest level since Q4 2016.”

Wind and solar also upped the ante.

“Over 1,200 MW of new large-scale solar and wind capacity began generating during the quarter. The amount of large-scale solar capacity that commenced generation during the quarter is higher than the NEM’s entire large-scale solar capacity at the start of the year. This, coupled with favourable wind conditions, led to record quarterly variable renewable energy (VRE) output which contributed to:

  • GPG continuing its downward trend in 2018: year-to-date GPG at the end of Q3 2018 was at its lowest level since 2006 and 21% lower than in 2017. Q3 2018 was the first quarter on record in which wind output has exceeded GPG.

  • Quarterly NEM emissions reaching their lowest level on record, both in terms of total emissions and average emissions intensity.

The South West Interconnected System (SWIS) reached over 1 GW of rooftop PV and solar farm capacity installed. High amounts of small-scale PV are resulting in falling minimum daytime demands as well as an increase in the occurrence of negative prices.

While the overall movement in average demand varied geographically, one element was consistent across all NEM regions – “the impact of small-scale PV in reducing operational demand in the middle of the day. Increased small-scale generation has the effect of offsetting consumption, thereby lowering the overall grid demand for electricity. This is a trend that has been increasing over time as the level of installed small-scale PV capacity continues to rise.”

While renewable generation in the NEM reached record quarterly levels, the New South Wales black coal-fired generation fleet recorded its lowest availability since Q2 2016, largely due to extended unit outages at Bayswater and Vales Point power stations.  Average generation from Queensland’s black coal-fired fleet reduced by 155 MW compared to Q3 2017 despite a 265 MW increase in average availability. The reduction in output was due to an increase in the duration of lower priced periods: Queensland’s wholesale price was below $60/MWh 36% of the time during the quarter, compared to 15% of the time in Q3 2017. This contributed to reductions in average output at price sensitive generators including Tarong and Stanwell power stations (-249 MW and -160 MW, respectively), with Millmerran Power Station reducing average output by 268 MW due to lower availability.

Brown coal-fired generation was steady compared to Q3 2017, but reduced by 216 MW when compared to Q2 2018, largely due to reduce availability and output from Loy Yang A Power Station.

We have heard many times the dubious claim that the South Australian blackouts were due to their reliance on wind energy.  But no-one seems to point out when things go the other way.

On Saturday 25 August 2018, at 1311 hrs, the NSW-QLD interconnector (QNI) tripped, separating Queensland from the rest of the NEM. This also resulted in activation of the Heywood Emergency Control Scheme and separation of South Australia from the rest of the NEM. There was also approximately 1,110 MW of under-frequency load shedding in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Market impacts included:

  • “The South Australia spot electricity price reduced to around -$450/MWh, due to the loss of export to Victoria which caused a temporary excess of supply in South Australia. Prices rapidly recovered to pre-event levels.
  • Queensland’s energy price increased to around $1,400/MWh for a single dispatch interval.
  • More than $10 million in frequency control ancillary service (FCAS) costs incurred – all mainland regions recorded FCAS prices at the price cap of $14,500/MWh.”

Key drivers of system strength directions during the quarter included periods of relatively low prices (<$50/MWh) and high wind output (>1,100 MW) which resulted in synchronous generators seeking to decommit from the market for commercial reasons.

This seems to be a common practice.  If the price gets too low, the generators shut up shop.

But don’t expect to hear any of this from the COALition.

The hysterical fringes have stopped sensible debate

So many important discussions this nation must have are being hijacked by sensationalist scaremongering and the caterwauling from the extreme right.

In true Trump fashion, racial profiling is on the rise.  Muslims, Africans and asylum seekers are vilified in a frenzy of xenophobia.  Aboriginal disadvantage is due to laziness and giving them too many free handouts.

We can’t even fix the tragic plight of the refugees on Manus and Nauru.  They are “quietly” bringing people here they tell us in media reports that are supposed to satisfy the growing calls for immediate action whilst saying “shhhhhhh don’t tell anyone”.  At the same time, to satisfy the indignant right, they continue to fight tooth and nail in court to stop these people being freed.

Any discussion about migration quickly simplifies to they are taking our jobs, making housing unaffordable, and clogging our cities.

The genuine issues get lost in an unhealthy lean towards white supremacy, encouraged by this fixation with insisting we all revere western civilisation.  Any criticism is unpatriotic.  It’s become like some sort of cheerleading exercise – we are here to lead the rest, always prove that west is best.

The same has happened with action on climate change.  It has been stymied by the threats of a few politicians to withdraw their loyalty to any leader who even mentions emissions reduction.  Anyone who mentions science is a greenie leftard warmist who spends their days at inner-city cafes eating smashed avo and drinking lattes.

These few have been actively courted and bombarded with misinformation from the Minerals Council, the IPA and other lobby groups and media determined to squeeze one last payday out of their coal assets or denialist propaganda.

With pretty much every expert, every agency, every organisation, every stakeholder, and every financier saying renewable energy will reduce the price of electricity, our government seems determined to guarantee the profits of anyone who will build coal-fired power.  While they crow about the surge in coal prices, they seem to forget that that makes coal-fired power even less competitive.  But hey, joining the dots isn’t big with the extreme right.

In trying to remove discrimination in marriage laws, and promote respectful relationships and acceptance of diversity by providing teachers with resources to use in schools, we have unleashed the extreme right religious lobby who are fighting hard to entrench their discrimination and undo any idea that society actually accepts people for who they are.

The success of these fringe-dwellers in frightening politicians has made everyone realise that sensible discussion ain’t gonna happen – loud threats work better and it’s dog eat dog in trying to shout the loudest.  View the education funding jostling.

It remains to be seen how far Labor will go in courting votes by trying to appease the wrong people but one thing is certain – until we remove the Coalition from office, any chance to progress sensible decision-making will be stopped by the Monash Forum and the Monkey Pod boys.

It isn’t business that lacks leadership, Jason

You may not know Liberal MP Jason Falinski – he’s the guy that ousted Bronwyn Bishop for preselection in Mackellar and went on to win the 2016 election.

There is also a significant chance that he is a dual citizen as his father travelled on a Polish passport. (Groan)

The SMH described him as “the Liberal’s attack dog” in an article about how he questioned a bank boss about his previous employment before quickly backing off when challenged by said bank boss to withdraw any question about his reputation.  I would call him more a confused puppy chasing after the wrong toy.

In July, Falinksi accompanied Craig Kelly and George Christensen on a trip to Japan funded by the Minerals Council of Australia-linked Coal21 Fund, to meet with coal-fired power station operators.

Today, Mr Falinski has excelled himself, saying businesses had shown a lack of leadership by paying more attention to social debates than economic arguments.

“They say they don’t want to get involved in political or policy discourse, but they’re happy to get involved in the same-sex marriage debate,” Mr Falinski said.

“When was the last time we had a business leader come out on tax issues, or regulation issues, or industrial relations issues?”

Apparently, Mr Falnski has missed every business leader, every time they speak publicly, calling for lower taxes and less regulation.  Perhaps he is unaware that business lobby groups make submissions to the Fair Work Commission on all industrial relations matters.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was even more obvious in his plea for business leaders to spruik the government’s economic policies.

“It is business that must advocate the importance of a low-taxing, fiscally responsible government which creates the environment in which the economy will thrive,” he told The Australian on Monday.

Business groups hit back at the government, with Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox saying there had been a “deep frustration” at the coalition’s inaction on workplace relations.

All stakeholders have highlighted the lack of energy and climate policies as a handbrake on the economy.

I think what the government is trying to say is “We can’t sell our policies so can you?”

Falinski’s slur that the corporate sector should stop “virtue-signalling” on social issues underlines that the people of Australia mean nothing to men like him.  Society is reduced to production units.  Value is measured in dollars.  And all this apparently functions outside the general well-being of the people.

[All those fossil fuel groups that have joined up with an unknown NFP who was given half a billion to save the reef “because they could leverage industry funding” are apparently not virtue-signalling.]

This is a government with a dollar sign for a heart, an ear only for profiteers, and a brain that cannot extend beyond short slogans.

Get rid of them and elect people who will govern for the people.


Scott Morrison’s appalling judgement continues

Since seizing the reins a little over two months ago, Scott Morrison has demonstrated the most appalling judgement on pretty much everything.

Businesses are loudly expressing their despair about the lack of any policy on climate change and energy and we are hardly likely to get one with the people he chose for Environment and Energy Minsters.  Thanks to Alan Jones, instead of any sensible discussion, we now talk about “fair dinkum power”, “big sticks”, and meeting emissions reduction “in a canter”.

Floated threats to intervene to break up energy, and now petrol, companies – the so-called ‘big stick’ – have been met with great concern by the ACCC, not to mention the sovereign risk it suggests to new investors.

The Indigenous community have expressed their disgust at having Tony Abbott thrust upon them to make recommendations about Indigenous education.  In an astonishing display of cognitive dissonance during his current photo tour, Abbott said boosting funding to remote communities was “part of the answer” to fixing fundamental social problems.  This from the man who slashed half a billion from funding for Indigenous support services and who described living in remote communities as a “lifestyle choice”.

The captain’s pick to announce publicly that the government was going to “discuss” moving our embassy to Jerusalem and pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal was a foreign policy disaster which Malcolm Turnbull was sent to Indonesia to smooth over.  But under attack from Alan Jones, Scott Morrison pretended Malcolm had acted outside his brief, something that was just not credible at first glance and proven to be a lie when Morrison was forced to admit Turnbull had been briefed on handling the embassy matter and any ensuing threats to trade negotiations.

In July, Troy Bramston tweeted that Craig Kelly had lost the numbers to retain preselection for his seat of Hughes – “Craig’s so busy on Sky News he’s forgotten to talk to his branches,” one Liberal said.  Yet Scott, in another recent captain’s pick, decided to override the preselectors to insist that they endorse Kelly – the most strident and ill-informed climate change denier in parliament.  So much for Abbott’s push for more democracy for the branches.

As Mr Kelly posts on Facebook that any supposed threat to Pacific islands from climate change is just “climate alarmism”, Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O’Neill has used a meeting with Scott Morrison to publicly remind him about the importance of Australian leadership in tackling climate change.

Soon after becoming prime minister two months ago, Mr Morrison decided not to attend the annual Pacific Islands Forum, sending his foreign minister instead.  At the conference, Australia signed a declaration describing climate change as the “single greatest threat” to the Pacific.  Apparently they forgot to brief Craig Kelly about that.

Scott doesn’t seem to let competence, or lack thereof, influence his choices.  Stuart Robert was Scott’s numbers man who, despite multitudinous scandals surrounding him (including the awarding of millions of dollars in government contracts to a company that Mr Robert’s elderly parents didn’t know they were directors of) has been rewarded with the Assistant Treasurer’s job.

Peter Dutton is now horribly conflicted as the NZ deal for refugee resettlement is on, then off, then on, depending on the audience.  Children can’t be removed from the islands because that will make the people smugglers fill the boats with kids and they are just faking illness anyway, but quietly we will get them off in time for Santa to visit, just don’t tell.  And how come NZ is a pull factor but the US isn’t?  Immigration is good for the economy, or bad for congestion, once again depending on your audience.  This is the malarkey Morrison has tasked Dutton to sell.

Sitting on the Ruddock review into religious freedom has just made it turn into a festering debate about discrimination which has now seen school students launch a campaign to ask principals to give up the right to sack gay teachers.

The ‘marketing of ScoMo’ just keeps getting worse, the latest example being his decision to chug-a-lug a beer and put the empty cup on his head at the behest of a chanting crowd of cricket fans.  Responsible drinking?

Scott has six months to convince us that he and his “united team” are the best option to govern the country.  At the moment it looks more like an amateur Karaoke night at the local pub.


How Craig Kelly cons the punters

Member for Hughes and chairman of the Coalition backbench environment and energy committee, Craig Kelly, seems to split his time between appearing on Sky After Dark and 2GB, and posting clickbait headlines on his facebook page.

But the most cursory investigation shows Craig is either deliberately misrepresenting the articles he links to by cherry-picking a sentence or two, or he is a gullible fool who doesn’t bother reading the stuff he is being fed by others.  Considering the volume of links he posts, I would suggest the latter.

On Monday, Craig posted “ANOTHER PROPHECY FAILS : GREENLAND ICE SHEET 150 BILLION TONNES ABOVE AVERAGE.  The Climate alarmist prophecy affirms that the Greenland ice sheet is melting away.  Meanwhile the measured real world reality is the exact opposite of the alarmist climate Prophecies.”

He links to an article that does show a higher than average “surface mass budget” but which also cautions they have not yet received data about calving and melting at the base of the ice sheet which they suggest will show “zero or close-to-zero total mass budget this year, as last year.”

But more importantly, Mr Kelly’s headline ignores the actual thrust of the article.

“The period 2003-2011 has seen ice sheet losses on Greenland averaging 234bn tonnes each year. The neutral mass change in the last two years does not – and cannot – begin to compensate for these losses. The comparison here does show that in any given year, the mass budget of the ice sheet is highly dependent on regional climate variability and specific weather patterns.”

On Tuesday, Craig was at it again.  “ANOTHER PROPHECY BITES THE DUST : NEW STUDY FINDS 90% OF GLOBAL ATOLL ISLANDS GROWING NOT SINKING.  The Climate alarmist prophecy affirms that Pacific and Indian Ocean islands are ‘sinking’, being consumed under rising sea levels, and it’s just a matter of time until they go under.  Meanwhile, back in the real world, the facts are the exact opposite of the alarmist climate prophecy.”

The study does show that islands over 10ha in size have not decreased in size. However, the report is not quite as rosy as Craig would have us believe.

“Climate-ocean related changes, including sea-level rise, increasing wave energy, change in tropical cyclone frequency or intensity, and ocean warming and acidification, are considered as major threats to these islands’ persistence, as the surrounding reef ecosystem may lose the capacity to fulfill its major functions, that is, provide sediments to islands and buffer storm waves. Furthermore, recent modeling studies highlighted that future increased wave activity under sea-level rise may increase the frequency and extent of marine inundation on these islands in the event that coral reefs would not keep up with sea-level rise. This would cause increased soil and freshwater lens salinization, which would in turn affect water and food supply, thereby posing a threat to island habitability.”

Craig’s assertion that “90% of atoll islands are growing” is just a downright lie.

“Collectively, these atolls comprise 709 islands, 518 of which were stable (representing 73.1% of islands), while 110 (15.5%) increased and 81 (11.4%) decreased in size.”

A couple of hours later, Craig posted this clickbait gem which caused outrage.  “YOUR DOG 🐶 IS RESPONSIBLE FOR GLOBAL WARMING : DUMP YOUR PETS TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE.  According to a study out Monday on global climate change, your dog (or your cat) is probably killing the environment, and if you are a true believer that wants to ‘real action on climate change’™️ it’s time to say “good-bye” to Fido and Fluffy.”

Of course, if you read past the headline of the article, it says:

“The study isn’t designed to dissuade animal lovers from taking in the maximum number of pets possible, but rather encourage Americans to consume less meat. Livestock farming is a significant contributor to global climate change and the less meat we consume, the better it is for the environment. And humans make up the vast majority of that consumption; dogs and cats consume only around 19% of the meat protein humans do.”

But it appears Craig didn’t get that far.

In a flurry of social media activity yesterday, Craig also informed us that “80% of Australians DON’T want the government to put ‘’promoting renewables” ahead of; cost of living, health, housing, jobs and economic growth.”

Apparently Jo Nova had been kind enough to graph the results of an Essential poll which asked respondents “Which of the following issues are the most important for the Federal Government to address over the next 12 months? Select up to 3.”

It is true that only 20% chose Promoting renewable energy.  But Coalition policies didn’t fare so well either.  To use Craig’s logic, 80% of Australians don’t think promoting economic growth or addressing national security and terrorism are a priority. They ranked exactly the same as promoting renewable energy. Reducing the deficit only got 13% and business tax cuts trailed the field on 5%.  Cost of living ranked highest but 69% of people did not see it as the highest priority.

It’s all in how you phrase the results isn’t it Craig.

Saying sorry is easy but only action can give it meaning

After three National Apologies to children and their families – Kevin Rudd’s for the stolen generation, Julia Gillard’s for forced adoptions, and Scott Morrison’s for institutional child sex abuse – one would hope that Australia had recognised our obligation to protect and nurture children, was sorry for the ignorance and inadequate care of the past, and was determined to do better in the future.

Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

Indigenous children remain in detention at record levels.

Refugee children remain stuck in offshore detention.

LGBTQI children remain a football with religious bodies and politicians arguing the right of people to discriminate against them.

Domestic violence remains a scourge that has taken the lives of 18 children so far this year.

Any idea of education funding based on actual need has disappeared.

Tertiary education, instead of being viewed as a public investment in the country, now burdens our young people with a huge debt before they even begin work.

The chance of owning a home has been taken away from most young people by prioritising investors and the protection of their portfolio earnings over the provision of affordable housing.

A couple of weeks ago, ACOSS released a report showing that more than one in six children in Australia are living in poverty.  The group of people experiencing poverty the most are, unsurprisingly, those relying on Government allowance payments such as Youth Allowance and Newstart.  But our government refuses to increase it despite calls from basically everyone (with the possible exception of Murdoch media consumers) about the necessity to do so and the economic and social benefits that would follow.

The refusal of our government to address climate change is burdening our children with the consequences of our short-sighted greed and an ever-growing cost to clean up our mess and save what they can of a world we seem determined to destroy.

What sort of example are we setting for our children about caring for others who may be less fortunate when we slash foreign aid but hugely ratchet up spending on weapons of war?

We tell our children they must not be bullies but the example set by our politicians is that of rewarding bullies.  Yelling abuse is called “cut through”, intimidation is excused as a normal part of a “robust” work environment not designed for “snowflakes”.  We ‘adults’ then emulate this vitriolic war of words on social media and then wonder why our kids copy us, on occasion with the most tragic of consequences.

Ian Warden has written a thought-provoking article in the SMH titled Dreaming of a heartfelt apology.

If he is expecting the publicly-expressed remorse to translate into us being better at caring for kids, I’d have to tell him he’s still dreamin’.

Scott’s one-man show

During Scott Morrison’s brief tenure as managing director of Tourism Australia, he waged a running battle with the board whose members complained that he did not heed advice, withheld important research data about the controversial “So Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign, was aggressive and intimidating, and ran the government agency as if it were a one-man show.

Now we are seeing the same style brought to his Prime Ministership.

Astonishingly, he decided to announce a major potential pivot in Middle East policy, shifting our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, without taking the idea to cabinet or seeking advice from the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence, or Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Similarly, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, found out about the appointment of Tony Abbott as Special Envoy from the media.  Needless to say, the Indigenous community had not been consulted either and reacted with anger at having Abbott thrust upon them.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the CSIRO, and James Cook University learned about the half a billion dollars in reef research funds only after it was given to an obscure NFP with six employees without tender and with no application from them.  Scott Morrison has claimed responsibility for the decision to hand the funds over in one big hit.

Despite all the work that had been done to reach consensus on the National Energy Guarantee, bringing politicians and industry and regulators together, Scott has decided to abandon any action to reduce emissions just when we are presented with the IPCC report showing how urgent the problem has become.

Rod Sims, who has just had his appointment as head of the ACCC renewed, read about Morrison’s threat to forcibly break up big power companies that refuse to stop electricity price gouging in the newspaper.

Morrison said the changes were “based on the expert reports” provided by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, however a major ACCC report on electricity prices in July did not recommend divestment powers. Mr Sims told Senate estimates on Thursday that the government did not consult him on the new powers to be handed to his agency and that the ACCC considered the proposal to be “extreme”.

Every day, we hear new announcements about the drought, the latest being another $5 billion fund.  Interestingly, Scott made the announcement flanked by the leader and deputy leader of the Nats, the Agriculture Minister, the head of the National Farmers Federation, and national drought coordinator Major General Stephen Day.  Scott’s other captain’s pick for Special Envoy for the Drought was notably absent as was his ‘unusual’  choice for Environment Minister.

Scott is a one man show, quite literally, as the excruciatingly stage-managed videos he keeps posting on Twitter show, but he is making Abbott’s captain’s calls look positively benign in comparison.


Claimed emissions reduction from land use are very doubtful and must be verified

Finally, the majority of people and businesses have decided they want action on climate change.  Coalition ministers keep assuring us that we will meet our emissions reduction targets easily but they offer no proof for this claim.

They talk about the renewable energy projects planned before the renewable energy target and subsidies are abolished, and they may well bring about the desired reductions in the electricity sector, but we cannot ignore rising emissions from other sectors.

The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory claims significant emissions reductions from the land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) sector (4% net reduction of total emissions in 2016-17), but there is little genuine data to back this up, and they seem to want to keep it that way.

The latest report (released on football Grand Final eve and on the same day as the interim report into the banking RC) states that the LULUCF estimates “have a greater level of uncertainty than the other sectors in the national inventory” because “Processed satellite images are not yet available to support the calculation of emissions estimates for 2017 and 2018.”

After several inquiries, no-one seems to know anything about the State of the Forests report that is published every five years and due this year.  No-one can verify they are even working on it let alone give me a publishing date.

And it’s not just the Feds hiding information.

The Guardian had to fight an eight-month legal battle to get a look at the NSW government’s 2014-16 Native Vegetation report card.  The most recent report from 2016-17 has still not been released, with the department claiming it is still not complete.

It’s no wonder they want to hide the figures.

In 2013-14, 900 hectares was cleared in total in NSW. In 2014-15 this jumped to 2,730 hectares and by 2015-16 it had increased to 7,390 hectares.

At the same time measures to conserve native vegetation slumped to the lowest level in a decade and restoration of native vegetation areas fell to less than half the decade average.  Weed removal programs also went into reverse, with just a tiny fraction of the areas being managed for weeds – 29,970 hectares compared to the decade average of 182,200 hectares.

And this was before the NSW government changed the law in 2017 to make land-clearing even easier.

“Mr Baird’s bill appears more concerned with fast-tracking land clearing than conserving nature, and has clearly been crafted to please big agribusiness and the developer lobby,” said NSW Nature Conservation chief executive Kate Smolski after stakeholder meetings in 2016.

Then there is Queensland.

With 395,000 hectares of regrowth and old growth vegetation having been cleared in 2015-16 — a rise of 33 per cent over the previous year — Queensland accounts for more than half of Australia’s total losses of native forest.  According to The Conversation, this rate of increased clearing is unmatched anywhere else on the globe.

More than 1 million hectares of native bush and forest has been cleared in Queensland over the last four years.

The ERF has claimed 124 Mt CO2-e of contracted emissions reductions through businesses, mainly farmers, “Protecting native forests by reducing land clearing, Planting trees to grow carbon stocks, and Regenerating native forest on previously cleared land.”

One wonders how any seeds and saplings planted have fared through the drought.  One also wonders how you can claim emissions reductions for projects that are supposed to take decades like the Moombidary Forest Regeneration Project.

Projections suggest that in the two decades to 2030, 3m hectares of untouched forest will have been bulldozed in eastern Australia.

This has drastic consequences, not only on emissions, but also on biodiversity and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

About three-quarters of Australia’s 1,640 plants and animals listed by the government as threatened have habitat loss listed as one of their main threats.

Every day, including today, we hear stories about sediment run-off from land-clearing on farms endangering water quality on the reef.

Today we also hear that the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecast that, by March next year. the entire reef has a 60 per cent chance of being subject to “bleaching alert level one”, where bleaching is likely.  And worse still, the southern half of the reef has a 60 per cent chance of seeing the highest “bleaching alert level 2”, where coral death is likely.

Governments must be honest with us about these threats.  They must provide us with the most up-to-date information.  They must allow us to take part in the decision-making about priorities.

The consequences of their obfuscation and inaction and downright lies are becoming graver by the minute.

I thought we were supposed to leave the world a better place

Forgetting the noise and arguments, the marketing and campaigning – a government’s job (and the job of us all) is to make the world a better place.

You don’t do that by worshipping wealth above well-being.

You don’t do that by supporting the fossil fuel industry and looking to join the world’s top ten arms manufacturers.

You don’t do that by engaging in rampant land-clearing to make way for livestock, inappropriate crops, or urban sprawls.

You don’t do that by habitat destruction of endangered species.

You don’t do that by cutting foreign aid to developing nations whilst massively increasing defence spending.

You don’t do it by destroying the lives of people who came to you seeking sanctuary from war and oppression.

You don’t do that by briefing the media about foreign policy discussions/decisions before you have spoken to ASIO, DFAT or defence.

You don’t do that by ignoring the existential danger posed by climate change in order to save a few dollars a week off your electricity bill.

You don’t do that by entrenching people in poverty through inadequate social security payments and demeaning them as leaners.

You don’t do that by offering such generous tax concessions to property investors that housing becomes unaffordable.

You don’t do that by promoting gambling.

You don’t do that by condoning discrimination against people based on their race, religion, gender or sexuality.

You don’t do that by ignoring the advice of the Indigenous community, quarantining their income instead of addressing disadvantage and enabling self-determination, building more jails whilst cutting support services.

You don’t do that by spending hundreds of millions in legal battles to withhold information that the public has a right, and a need, to know.

You don’t do that by holding endless reviews and commissions and summits and then ignoring their recommendations.

You don’t do that by rewarding those who shout the loudest or pay the most.

You don’t do that by concentrating on the marketing rather than the message.

The removal of the Coalition from government is a necessary step in making this country, and the world, a better place.

The problem is, how much more damage can they do before trash removal day?

The experiment of government and business being hand-in-glove has failed

The experiment of government and business being hand-in-glove has failed.

In the relentless pursuit of profit, businesses have reneged on their part of the social contract.

In the pursuit of endless growth, and pandering to big money donors, government has ignored its duty to act in the best interests of the people.

When unions and government collaborate, we get social advances like Medicare, superannuation, paid parental leave, sick leave, annual holidays, workplace health and safety regulations, workers compensation, awards and penalty rates.  We get increased spending on health, education and social security, and consideration of environmental impact and sustainability.

When business and government collaborate, we get stagnant wages, job insecurity, rising inequality, workplace deaths and injuries, environmental vandalism, and obscene salaries and bonuses for management.  We get bribery, corruption, kickbacks and cronyism.

The Royal Commission into Trade Unions uncovered inappropriate behaviour by a few individuals.

The Royal Commission into the Financial Sector has revealed deliberate fraudulent activity systemic throughout all the major institutions.

People who may, or may not, have been paid too much by Centrelink are pursued mercilessly while foreign bribery cases by large corporations fizzle out and tax avoidance is considered an art form.

We are witnessing a global trend where the share of aggregate income accruing to capital is rising while that accruing to labour is falling.  At the same time, globalisation and free trade have flourished while unions have languished.  Governments have been bought off – if not literally then certainly ideologically.

The voice of big business has shouted down that of the people.  We are told that, because our lives have improved incrementally while their profits have soared exponentially, we should be thankful – completely ignoring the contribution improvements in labour productivity and technology have made to their increased wealth.

At every turn, we see business lobbyists manipulating government policy to protect their ever-increasing profits.  Yet should their actions create problems, they cry out for public assistance eg the bank guarantee and drought assistance for farmers who have engaged in rampant land-clearing.

Industries like coal-mining, gambling, alcohol, tobacco, arms manufacture, agribusiness, property development and big pharma insinuate themselves into the halls of power to fight against any regulation.

The same people appear as directors of multiple companies and then on government-appointed reviews.  They live in a circle of affirmation, listening only to those who confirm they are doing the right thing.

Time after time, we see government money gifted to companies with no oversight or evaluation – the Great Barrier Reef being fertile ground for many a rort, for example.  We see assets and essential services sold off for short-term sugar hits to the budget but long-term pain for the people.

Businesses, as a consequence of their own greed and corruption, no longer deserve a seat at the table.

When government and big business collude, the people are powerless to stop them.

Until election day.

Scott steps up but all he can hit is fouls

Scott Morrison might tell us he has “stepped up to the plate” to bring everyone together, but ever since he became PM, he has been pissing people off.

His captain’s call to bring up his willingness to “discuss” moving our embassy to Jerusalem angered the Palestinians, the Indonesians, the Malaysians and the Australians who recognise that would be an incendiary move.  Why would you announce a “discussion” at such cost?

Likewise his Trumpian thought bubble to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal which angered all those who worked so hard to secure it.

The dismissal of the IPCC report and the arrogant gaffe by Melissa Price and her “cheque book” has pissed off Pacific nations and the majority of Australians who want action on climate change.  Morrison has firmly stuck his head in the sand, saying we won’t be contributing to the UN fund as we promised, and we won’t be going to climate change conferences.

The suppression, followed by the inevitable leaking, of the Ruddock review has ended up annoying both the gay rights activists and the religious lobby as we now argue about whether religious schools should keep the right to discriminate against gay students and teachers.

The support for gambling advertising on “Australia’s biggest billboard”, aka the Sydney Opera House, angered pretty much everyone except the racing industry and the politicians who are oh so eager to appease them.

The never-ending attacks on the ABC, with more funding cuts and four reviews underway, shows a government scared of scrutiny and unable to take criticism.  Hands off our ABC has become a clarion call in the community.

The special deal to give extra funding to religious schools has enraged public school advocates and made a mockery of needs-based funding.

The embarrassing revelation that Coalition Senators don’t have a clue what they are voting on when they supported Pauline Hanson’s ridiculous anti-white discrimination bill should worry everyone as should Abbott and Howard’s push to undermine the autonomy of universities with their Western civilisation degree.

The refusal to save the children on Nauru has angered doctors, lawyers, refugee advocates, and, finally, the majority of the public.  Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have tried to hide the plight of the asylum seekers we have incarcerated, denying there were any problems or deflecting responsibility to the corrupt Nauruan government who is keeping these people hostage in order to keep the money rolling in.

Our slashing of foreign aid whilst spending hundreds of billions on war machinery might please the arms manufacturers but it has angered the world community who understand the value of helping our neighbours.

Our push to become an arms exporter has led to several contracts to supply the Saudis with weapons but our government, unlike others, shrouds these dealings in secrecy, unwilling to say exactly what deals we are doing and with whom.  We can’t even decide whether to be cross with them or not for dismembering a journalist in their Turkish Embassy.

Despite advice from everyone that welfare payments are inadequate to live on and an impediment to finding employment, welfare recipients continue to be penalised whilst tax cuts for the wealthy are fast-tracked.

With stagnant wage growth and sham contracting adding to inequality and eroding workplace entitlements, the government goes in to bat for the employer every time, cutting penalty rates and defending the casualisation of the workforce.  They have done everything in their power to undermine collective action by workers, attacking unions for all they are worth.

Claims from women within Morrison’s own party that they have been bullied and intimidated have been swept under the carpet, as were all the investigations into Barnaby Joyce’s behaviour in giving his girlfriend a job, rorting his expenses, and harassing women.  But hey, let’s bring him back.  What sort of signal does that send to women about making complaints?

Scott may have stepped up to the plate swinging but all he has done is hit foul balls – his eye is on the camera and not the game.

After Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison, it’s time for the Australian public to call it – three strikes and you are out.

The story behind the latest unemployment figures

The government sent out the troops to spruik the latest jobs growth figures but, as always, they are not telling the whole story.

The ABC headline proudly announced “Unemployment rate drops to 5pc as full-time jobs boom rolls on”.

That is misleading in several ways.

Despite the ABS suggesting that “The trend data provide the best measure of the underlying behaviour of the labour market”, the Treasurer (along with the media) is quoting the much more volatile seasonally adjusted figure of 5% rather than the trend estimate which shows unemployment unchanged at 5.2%

To give you an idea of how unreliable monthly seasonally adjusted estimates are, whilst suggesting that 5,600 jobs were created, the ABS states that they can say with 95% certainty that total employment change was somewhere between 54,800 jobs lost to 66,000 jobs created in September.

The labour force, which includes the total number of employed and unemployed persons, increased by 261,500 persons over the last year which would imply that we need about 21,800 new jobs a month just to keep up.

As others have pointed out, the only way that the creation of 5,600 jobs in a month can lead to a supposed 0.3% drop in the unemployment rate is if the participation rate dropped – which it did by 0.3%.  Most analysts suggest the 5% figure is “a little too good to be true” and likely to bounce higher in the remainder of the year.

The latest ABS release contains an analysis of underemployment that seems at odds with claims of a “full-time jobs boom”.

As of September 2018, Australia’s trended underemployment rate (the proportion of underemployed to the total labour force) remained high in historical terms at 8.3%, but below the peak of 8.8% recorded in March 2017.  Over the last four years, the rate has seen minimal fluctuation, remaining between 8.3% and 8.8% in trend terms.

Over the last ten years, part-time employment has increased from 28.3% to 31.6% of total employment and the underemployment ratio has increased from 6.3% to 8.8%.

Josh Frydenberg said “In terms of the participation rate, more women and more seniors are in the workforce and over the year we have seen another 100,000 jobs created for young people.”

What he doesn’t mention is that one in ten working women (10.7%) want more hours.

And of course there are more seniors in the workforce.  From July 2017, the age at which you can access the age pension started rising, affecting anyone born on or after 1 July 1952.

For young people aged 15-24, the underemployment rate is 18.1%.  The unemployment rate for this group remained steady at 11.2% in September 2018.

Over the last 20 years, the age groups on the lower and upper extremities have seen the largest growth rate in their total underemployment; underemployment for over 55s increased 275%, for 15-24 year olds 83%, while total underemployment increased 78%.

Picking through a report to find a figure that makes you look good might be a good political tactic but it does nothing to inform good policy making.

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