Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Ward is a hate-filled and man-like far-Leftist

Safe Schools socialist Roz Ward recently defended Aboriginal activist Tarneen Onus-Williams, who told an Australia Day rally: “We have organised this to abolish Australia Day because f--k Australia.”

“It wasn’t a surprise that the Murdoch empire would strike back with a concerted campaign against Tarneen,” Ward wrote.

“When the Murdoch press led the campaign against Safe Schools, they focused on my personal involvement in the program [and] described me as a ‘hardline Marxist’.”

That would be because Ward is a hardline Marxist.

Moreover, this piece appeared in the Socialist Alternative’s Red Flag, which believes a “revolutionary overthrow of capitalism is the solution.” Red Flag links to only five sites, including Marxist Left Review, Marxism Conference, Marxist Interventions and Marxist Internet Archive. The fifth? International Socialist Review.

“They deployed ammunition in words,” Ward continued. “Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair, Janet Albrechtsen and others were wound up by their editors to spin the narrative.”

As it happens, I’d been at a mate’s place playing cricket on Australia Day and posted my first item on Tarneen the following morning. No editorial directives were involved. No spinning, either, unless you count my slow-rotation offies.

Writing about another ally, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Ward seethed: “Bigot MP George Christensen suggested self-deportation might be the answer.” Which is exactly what Abdel-Magied did, fleeing to London.

Ward signed off with a sarcastic reference to “the great nation of Australia”. It’d be substantially greater if she also followed Christensen’s fine advice.


Bill Shorten’s industrial relations promise to militant CFMEU

Workplace Minister Craig Laundy has slammed Bill Shorten for calling the industrial relations system “cancer”.

Mr Laundy said the Opposition Leader should be defending the independent umpire that was created by the former Labor government.

“These comments are wrong across the board on a few different fronts but sadly symptomatic of what you are seeing with the modern Labor,” Mr Laundy told Sky News.

“What he is conveniently forgetting is the Fair Work Act is their act, it was implemented by them between 2007 and 2009. They are completely beholden to the unions for not just their financial support for his support on the floor of parliament.”

Mr Laundy rejected Mr Shorten’s “lie” the enterprise bargaining system was broken.

“Apparently according to the Labor Party the bargaining system is broken yet in the last 12 months 3 per cent of terminations ..were contested, 97 per cent were not,” he said.

Bill Shorten vowed to tear up the nation’s industrial laws during a rallying speech late last year to workers at a Queensland coalmine where CFMEU protesters were revealed to have allegedly threatened to rape the children of non-striking workers.

In a secret recording of the ­Opposition Leader’s stump speech delivered at the Oaky North coalmine on October 6, Mr Shorten told striking CFMEU workers that he would rewrite ­labour laws if he won office.

“We now have a situation where the laws of this land are being distorted; where they are being mutated; where they’re being metastasised, like a cancer,” Mr Shorten is heard to say in a video recording obtained by The Australian. “We will change laws if we form a government or when we form a government.”

The speech was delivered four days before it was revealed that several CFMEU protesters had engaged in serious intimidation of families of non-striking miners. One protester was recorded saying they would rape their children.

Mr Shorten, who was accompanied at the rally by opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor, later condemned the comments made in the weeks ­before their visit. “I do not condone unlawful or disrespectful ­behaviour, whoever does it,” he said at the time.

The Opposition Leader claimed he had been there to lend support to the 175 CFMEU workers who only yesterday were granted a return to work by the Fair Work Commission after a 230-day lockout imposed by Glencore following a dispute over an enterprise agreement that the union claimed stripped workers of basic rights.

In his address to the CFMEU workers, Mr Shorten said: “You should also say to your families that Bill and Brendan have the highest respect for the mining and engineering division of the CFMEU. These people will be with you the whole way, always have been and always are, always will be. If we form a government, yeah, we’ll do the right thing, we won’t let you down. The privilege for us today is to be in your ­company.”

Mr Shorten has stuck with a pledge to rewrite laws that allow employers to put workers back on to an award where an agreement can’t be reached on a new EBA. But he has backed down in recent weeks over a policy to override the Fair Work Commission and legislate for minimum wage rises.

His comments to the private meeting of CFMEU workers ­appeared to echo calls by ACTU secretary Sally McManus who has attacked industrial laws as a “joke”.

The Oaky North speech has been seized upon by the Turnbull government to exploit the factional deals between Mr Shorten and the militant union designed to protect his leadership.

Employment Minister Craig Laundy last night accused Mr Shorten of having a plan to rip up labour laws to benefit union power. “It proves that if Bill Shorten becomes prime minister, he would give the unions a blank cheque and rewrite the industrial landscape to suit them,” he said.

Less than a week after Mr Shorten’s address to the CFMEU workers at Oaky North, it was revealed that a small band of the same CFMEU workers had a month earlier made threats to security guards and other miners who were refusing to engage in the industrial action.

The Courier-Mail posted a video of CFMEU members ­appearing to abuse workers. In one incident, a worker was heard to tell another worker to “crash your car into a tree on the way home”. The video was dated September 6, 2017.

Glencore at the time claimed that they had evidence that CFMEU members had also allegedly threatened others with ­obscenities including: “I’ll f..king rape your kids, c..t. I’ll f..king rape your kids, c..t.”

Other threats included: “I’ll ­attack you with a crowbar. “I’ll rip out your spine … ya f..king dog.”


Aspiring doctors begin Macquarie's 'cash grab' $250,000 medical degree

Amid outrage and controversy, Australia's newest full-fee medical school opened its doors on Monday, welcoming about 50 fresh-faced students who have the ability to cough up $250,000 for the privilege.

While they too welcomed the aspiring doctors, the Australian Medical Students' Association (AMSA) and Australian Medical Association (AMA) lambasted Macquarie University for its "short-sighted cash grab", saying the degree didn't come with a guarantee of an internship and would cause greater bottle necks in the training system.

“The pipeline is stretched and bursting; in 2016 we had 200 medical graduates left without an internship which you need to become a qualified doctor,” said AMSA president Alex Farrell.
Alex Farrell, president of Australian Medical Students' Association, says the opening of Macquarie University's new medical school is not a good thing.

Alex Farrell, president of Australian Medical Students' Association, says the opening of Macquarie University's new medical school is not a good thing.

“Macquarie University is irresponsibly profiting from the dreams of young students [because] these students may end up with a six-figure debt and no job.”

On Monday, the public university kicked off its four-year, graduate-entry Doctor of Medicine program. It welcomed 50 domestic students, which is 10 more than its aim.

But the university failed to hit its target of 20 international students, enrolling only three for the 2018 cohort and leaving a funding gap of more than $1.75 million over four years, according to AMSA.

Ms Farrell said Macquarie University had made a “business move” and was concerned that other universities would follow suit and exploit the same loophole, which allows public universities to offer domestic, full-fee places for graduate-level programs.

“We know from overseas that high tertiary fees drive graduates into highly paid specialties, and away from areas of workforce shortage such as general practice or rural practice,” said Ms Farrell.

“In doing so, these programs, while lining the universities’ pockets, do a disservice to the public and the Australian healthcare system.”

But Professor Patrick McNeil, Macquarie University’s executive dean of medical and health sciences, told Fairfax Media that no university could guarantee an internship to any student at any program in Australia.

He said some of the graduates would receive post-degree training at MQ Health, the university’s medical centre. He rejected the suggestion the program would “clog the pipeline”.

“We don’t have an oversupply of graduates and in fact Australia imports nearly 3000 foreign trained doctors to Australia every year,” he said.

“Also, given the size of Australia’s population increase, the world’s not going to end because we’re graduating a small number of graduates.”

Professor McNeil said the fresh cohort was “incredibly excited, highly motivated” and their GPA and GAMSAT results were similar to that of their peers at University of Melbourne.

He revealed they had 500 applicants. The final cohort is made up of 30 women and 20 men, and the average age is 23.

AMA president Michael Gannon said he opposed the opening of new medical schools, expansion of student numbers and “what Macquarie represents”.

“We’re already seeing the states and territories struggling to provide internships for all medical graduates so we’re worried that a university will just decide to chase the funding and the prestige that comes with having a medical school without having any need to give consideration to what the product means at the end,” he said.


Sydneysiders don't want a bigger population. They are voting with their feet

Traffic jams. Housing costs. Packed beaches. High-rise living. The pace and general stress of life.

Many of Sydney people’s everyday concerns can be linked in some way to population growth. What if we could just turn it off, and keep a stable population of around five million?

It might surprise you to learn it would be relatively easy for Sydney to cut its population growth to near zero. It wouldn’t take an onerous “one-child” policy like China’s. All we’d have to do is turn off the tap of foreign immigration, to a net in-take of zero, and almost overnight the city’s population would plateau, staying basically flat right out to 2036.

At least, that’s what modelling done by the state Department of Planning and Environment in 2016 showed.

The department, which expects the city’s population to reach 6.4 million by 2036, said that the population would actually stagnate at beneath five million without any immigration (we have since already passed five million). Their projection takes into account both the loss of immigrants expected to arrive, and the babies they would be expected to have.

So it can happen. The question is, do we really want it to happen?

There would be side effects, that’s for sure, and they wouldn’t all be pretty. My colleague, Jessica Irvine, detailed some in an article in 2016. The budget would be in disarray. The ageing population would cause increase strain on working people. Education and tourism would suffer.

Ever the opportunist, Tony Abbott popped up again last week, arguing for a reduction in immigration to reduce supply pressure in the economy. His comments were immediately denigrated by Liberal colleagues, but it was hard not to suspect they were playing the man and not the ball.

The question is, is dreaming of a stable population unreasonable? Do we want Sydney to grow the population ad infinitum? Will there ever be a point when we say ‘that’s enough’? Ten million? Twenty million?

There are many first-world cities with populations much larger than Sydney, so it clearly can absorb more growth. But it would appear Australians don’t want that.

The clue is in the hundreds of thousands of people who are voting with their feet, deciding that Sydney is not for them. As the Herald reported on Monday, more people leave Sydney than arrive from within Australia every year. And it has been that way for four decades.

This seeming distaste for a bigger, more expensive Sydney seems born out in the planning department modelling also. Otherwise, why would the city’s only path to growth be via immigration?
Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of multiculturalism. But a majority don't want further population growth. The thing is, they don’t want a recession either.

Changing our relationship with population growth is complex because it requires a rethink of our economic approach.

At the moment, growth dictates our priorities. Australian rightfully celebrates going 27 years without a recession (defined as two consecutive quarters without economic growth). And politicians are no doubt determined to not be in charge when that streak ends.

However, Australia has been taking the shortcut on this by growing the population. Growing the economy while growing the population is a lot easier.

There’s another system that requires a constant input of new people to achieve returns: a Ponzi scheme. Those don’t normally end well. Unless you are prepared to grow literally forever, then such a system is set up for failure eventually.

If some day we want to consider having a stable population without an economic meltdown, it might pay to start thinking about how we do it. Japan is having to do just that, and is seemingly making an OK fist of it.

But it requires having a nuanced conversation that, in this political climate, seems somewhat optimistic. It doesn’t help if anyone who raises the idea of reducing immigration is tagged a racist or economically illiterate.

Whatever the optimum size for Sydney might be, it would be nice to get there as the result of considered decision making rather than just drift into it because we couldn’t face the hard questions of how to deal with the economic ramifications.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Report revealing Australia's educational decline a 'real worry', says Birmingham

Australian children are lagging behind when it comes to developing basic skills in primary school but they are staying in school for longer.

The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth’s five-year snapshot, released on Sunday, shows Australia ranks 35th out of 40 OECD countries on preschool attendance, although the number of four- and five-year-olds who attend has dropped in recent years.

It also shows three in 10 year 4 students aren’t meeting minimum maths standards while one in four are below standard in science and one in five are not at the required reading level.

The rate of parents reading to their two-year-olds at least once a week has stayed static, although there was an encouraging lift among Indigenous families.

The education minister, Simon Birmingham, said the concerning figures underscore what the federal government has been saying for some years.

“That is a real worry,” he told Sky News. “If a child is behind by year 3 in terms of developing basic skills, it’s really hard for them to catch up.”

However, the news was slightly better for older children, with the proportion of students staying in school through to year 12 or doing other study increasing.

Australia’s 15-year-olds were doing better on international comparisons but across the board about one in five weren’t achieving the standard they should be for maths, reading and science.

Birmingham is expecting a report next month by businessman David Gonski’s panel on the best ways to spend extra money in schools to lift student outcomes.

The revised funding arrangements that started in schools this year requires states to sign deals with the commonwealth to receive extra federal funding.

“I am confident that what we will be doing is going back to the states and saying that more is required in terms of the focus we place in those early years around foundational skills,” Birmingham said. “We’re not going to be passive players in education.”


Australia 'under attack' for 15 years from group of Muslim men, judge tells court

Australia has been "under attack" from a group of Muslim men wanting "to kill as many unbelievers as they can" for about 15 years, a Supreme Court judge has said.

Justice Desmond Fagan made the comments while sentencing Tamim Khaja, 20, who pleaded guilty in October to planning and preparing a terrorist attack two years ago.

The then 18-year-old was arrested while preparing for a lone wolf massacre, either at the US embassy in Sydney, an Army barracks in western Sydney, or at a court complex at Parramatta.

Counsel for the defendant, Ian Temby QC, tendered to the court a list of recent sentences handed down to other men who had been convicted of terror offences.

In response, Justice Fagan told the court that Australia had "been under attack for 15 years by about 40 Muslim men, to kill as many unbelievers as they can and impose Sharia law."

"The ideology that underlies each is Islam."

Sitting at Sydney West Trial Courts at Parramatta, Justice Fagan referred to verses in the Koran which he said described the duty of "a Muslim to wage Jihad".

He said he was not making generalisations about Islamic beliefs and that his courtroom was "not a forum for the rights and wrongs of the Islam or Christian religions".

An agreed statement of facts tendered to court revealed that Khaja had twice attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq, where he "intended to join the Islamic State terrorist organisation and engage in hostile activities".

After his passport was cancelled in March 2016, Khaja began communicating via an encrypted messaging app with an overseas police officer, who he believed to be an ISIS supporter.

On May 7, 2016, Khaja told the police officer, known as Person A, that he "wanted so badly to be on the battlefield with my brothers", but since his passport had been cancelled, he would "fulfil my obligation here".

"I am currently sourcing a glock [handgun] but I want to do big damage," Khaja told Person A. "I am thinking more along the lines of Boston Marathon .. I know how to make a portable microwave b..b [sic]" Even with a handgun I would be able to cause a lot of damage."

Khaja told person A that he had been considering locations for an attack, including the US Embassy in Sydney, but it was likely to be heavily guarded, court documents revealed.

He told Person A that another option was the Timor Army Barracks in Dundas, where he could "launch an attack by ramming the lot of them by car and then firing head shots when they are on the ground".

Mr Temby argued that at the time of the arrest Khaja was only at "a preliminary stage" of planning the offence and that he "had no accomplice".

However the crown prosecutor said Khaja had accessed documents about bombs and creating suicide vests.

Justice Fagan said Khaja had spoken about "killing innocent people as many innocent people as he could, like [he was] planning a picnic".

The sentence hearing continues.


Turnbull and Shorten quibble over indigenous identity

A dispute over what constitutes indigenous identity has embroiled Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten’s offices, with echoes of bumbling suburban lawyer Dennis Denuto’s declaration in The Castle about the Constitution, Mabo, justice and “the vibe”.

At stake is a new post of indigenous productivity commissioner, announced by the Prime Minister a year ago but still not filled.

During last week’s Closing the Gap address, Mr Turnbull pleaded with Labor to pass the long-­delayed enabling legislation “to apply greater rigour to assessing what works and why” in indigenous affairs spending.

The government says the standoff could go as far as threatening the Constitution, and ­accord­ing to Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, it’s all Labor’s fault.

The amendment needed to create the position defines an ­indigenous person simply as being “a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia or descendant of an indigenous inhabitant of the Torres Strait Islands”.

However, most government departments use a broader three-part definition covering descent, self-identification and community recognition.

This was acknowledged by Justice Gerard Brennan in the 1992 Mabo judgment, when he specified “­biological descent from the ­indigenous people and … ­mutual recognition of a particular person’s membership by that person and by the elders or other persons enjoying traditional auth­ority among those people”.

A spokesman for Senator Scullion said Labor’s desire to ­expand the amendment to reflect this broader notion “departs from the language of the Constitution, and the implications of this would need to be considered further. Any proposed change ... would need to be done in a considered manner in consultation with indigenous people”.

Asking an actual indigenous Australian for legislative advice? Well, there’s a ruling on that, too.

In a 1998 Federal Court case on indigenous identity, Justice Ron Merkel said it was a shame the matter had been “left by a parliament that is not representative of Aboriginal people to be determined by a court which is also not representative of Aboriginal ­people”.

Perhaps one day, he mused, such a ruling “might be made by ­independently constituted bodies or tribunals which are representative of Aboriginal people”.

The Opposition Leader has pledged to legislate for such a body, should Labor win government, as recommended by the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council.

That body, or “voice” to parliament, would consist of First ­Nations-nominated members, rather than being appointed by government or elected in a representative democratic sense.

It would be comprised, that is, of people for whom their own community identification of indigeneity was a given, and would include traditional owner-based membership.

Mr Turnbull has rejected the idea but is in discussion with Mr Shorten on establishing a joint parliamentary committee to examine indigenous constitutional recognition.

But he is not, at least according to Mr Shorten, talking about the productivity commissioner impasse. “This is a minor issue that we are confident can be resolved — as soon as the government returns our call,” a Labor spokesman said yesterday.


'Growth mindset' just another platitude

We’re constantly told schools should go beyond literacy and numeracy, and instead focus on ‘21st century learning’ to educate ‘creative’ kids and prepare them for ‘jobs of the future’.

Basically, this is code for trying to get better student results without actually doing the hard yards in literacy and numeracy.

There is no silver bullet which magically makes kids get better grades. The best way to help students be prepared for the 21st century is to ensure they leave school good readers, fluent writers, and competent in maths. These are the fundamental skills people will always need to be successful.

Unfortunately, many people still don’t understand this. The NSW government’s recent submission to the ‘Gonski 2.0’ review called for less testing in schools in order to reduce student stress, and a focus on ‘non-cognitive skills’ and encouraging students to have a ‘growth mindset’.

Tests are necessary to find out if students are actually learning and to identify which students need more help. Furthermore, a recent OECD study found there is no link between student anxiety and frequency of testing. No one likes doing tests, but that doesn’t mean they’re generally harmful to mental health.

And focussing on ‘non-cognitive skills’ and creativity in school puts the cart before the horse. You need to master the fundamentals of a subject before you can be creative, and too many kids leave school without those fundamentals. Generic creativity or critical-thinking skills are practically impossible to teach or assess.

The truth is there is only a limited amount schools can teach. Consider the ‘growth mindset’ idea. A ‘growth mindset’ is having the positive attitude that if you work hard you will get better at whatever you are trying to do. But, while we want students to have a positive outlook like this, there is little evidence schools have the ability to instil this into students. This is primarily a role for parents.

Schools shouldn’t waste time and resources trying to achieve things they aren’t capable of doing. They should focus on their core purpose: giving students excellent literacy and numeracy skills.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Monday, February 26, 2018

South Australian state election first big opportunity for Cory Bernardi’s party

He’s the high-profile South Australian politician challenging the big parties with his own upstart political movement – and no, we’re not talking about Nick Xenophon.

It is a sign of the deeply unusual manner in which the SA state election campaign is panning out that senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party has hardly rated a mention, despite the 17 March contest shaping up as both the first big test and first major opportunity for the ex-Liberal’s new political force.

The Australian Conservatives are running 33 lower house candidates – three short of the number Nick Xenophon’s SA Best have announced to date – but the real opportunities lie in SA’s legislative council, where Bernardi already has two well-established members out of a merger with Family First.

Dennis Hood, the leader of the South Australian branch of the party, is not up for re-election, but his collegue Robert Brokenshire will be fighting for his spot, and Riverland businesswoman Nicolle Jachmann rounds out the upper house ticket.

If Bernardi can retain enough of Family First’s significant SA support base and bring on board some of his own fans, the Australian Conservatives could prove highly influential in what is likely to be a fractured 22-member legislative council.

What’s more, One Nation failed to register in time for the election, meaning the Australian Conservatives will have a clear run at voters who inhabit the space to the right of the Liberal party.

That space is larger than usual given that the campaign of Liberal leader Steven Marshall, himself a moderate, has responded to the Xenophon threat and Labor’s popular renewables strategy by edging to the political centre on a number of issues.

In an election where the centre-right party is offering $100m in means-tested grants to help people buy home battery storage systems and a 10-year moratorium on fracking in a farming region, Bernardi has a lot of conservative touchstones to himself.

His proposals include repealing $3bn in state taxes, completely ending renewable energy state subsidies, and undertaking a cost-benefit analysis to either bring coal-fired power back to SA or build a nuclear power plant.

The nuclear ambitions don’t stop there, with the Australian Conservatives proposing to follow through on Labor’s abandoned push to establish a $445bn state wealth fund seeded from importing and storing high-level radioactive waste that could remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years.

A lower house seat is a long shot, but the Australian Conservatives could play a deciding role in many electorates, firstly by making it more difficult for the Liberal party to win seats outright in an election where going down to preferences promises to be a chaotic affair, with Liberal, Labor and SA Best evenly divided in many areas.

Australian Conservatives preferences are, however, expected to flow back to the Liberals and could prove decisive in the many marginal seats up for grabs.

Their conservative values and policies appeal to some, but the key question is whether anyone is actually listening, with all the attention on Xenophon.

Of course, it is not so easy to start afresh without the formidable Liberal party machine backing Bernardi as it once did. Like Xenophon and SA Best, Bernardi’s personal brand is well known, but his new party’s name is not, and Australian political history is littered with the floating corpses of startup political parties drowned out by more established voices.

Voters had a decade-and-a-half to become familiar with Family First, but the Australian Conservatives are in a sense starting afresh, and will also be distracted by the federal byelection in Batman that concludes on the same day as the SA election.

Unlike Xenophon, Bernardi is not himself running as a candidate as he continues with his federal Senate commitments, and besides is a great deal more divisive a figure than the SA Best leader is. Xenophon might have questionable taste in advertising jingles, but he has never linked bestiality to same-sex relationships as Bernardi has.

After spending three months in the US during the 2016 election campaign, Bernardi might be confident that divisiveness can be a vote winner. His election slogan is a familiar one: “Make South Australia great again.”

The original version worked for US president Donald Trump, but how will it go down in SA?


Rainfall’s Natural Variation Hides Climate Change Signal

New research from The Australian National University (ANU) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science suggests natural rainfall variation is so great that it could take a human lifetime for significant climate signals to appear in regional or global rainfall measures.

Even exceptional droughts like those over the Murray Darling Basin (2000-2009) and California (2011 to 2017) fit within the natural variations in the long-term precipitation records, according to the statistical method used by the researchers.

This has significant implications for policymakers in the water resources, irrigation and agricultural industries.

“Our findings suggest that for most parts of the world, we won’t be able to recognize long-term or permanent changes in annual rainfall driven by climate change until they have already occurred and persisted for some time,” said  Professor Michael Roderick from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

“This means those who make decisions around the construction of desalination plants or introduce new policies to conserve water resources will effectively be making these decisions blind.

“Conversely, if they wait and don’t act until the precipitation changes are recognized they will be acting too late. It puts policymakers in an invidious position.”

To get their results the researchers first tested the statistical approach on the 244-year-long observational record of precipitation at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, UK. They compared rainfall changes over 30-year-intervals. They found any changes over each interval were indistinguishable from random or natural variation.

They then applied the same process to California, which has a record going back to 1895, and the Murray Darling Basin from 1901-2007. In both cases, the long dry periods seem to fit within expected variations.

Finally, they applied the process to reliable global records that extended from 1940-2009. Only 14 percent of the global landmass showed, with 90 percent confidence, increases or decreases in precipitation outside natural variation.

Professor Graham Farquhar AO also from the ANU Research School of Biology said natural variation was so large in most regions that even if climate change was affecting rainfall, it was effectively hidden in the noise.

“We know that humans have already had a measurable influence on streamflows and groundwater levels through extraction and making significant changes to the landscape,” Professor Farquhar said.

“But the natural variability of precipitation found in this paper presents policymakers with a large known unknown that has to be factored into their estimates to effectively assess our long-term water resource needs.”


Jordan Peterson: six reasons that explain his rise

Why has an obscure Canadian academic become a phenomenon across the Anglosphere? The man seems genuinely surprised at his 18-month transformation. Hence his tweet asking why so many people have watched the interview he did on Britain’s Channel 4. On March 8, Jordan Peterson kicks off his Australian speaking tour. At sold-out events in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane he will talk about his bestselling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

One way to explain this rise of a man who has been described as a cowboy psychologist and an egghead who gives practical advice is that he drives many on the left bonkers.

There are at least a dozen reasons for this, but this is a column, not a book, so here are six.

Reason 1. Peterson reckons that listening is good for our soul and even better for human progress. Sounds banal, but in an age when campus outrage and an angry mob mentality have seeped into our broader culture, listening to those we disagree with is a truly revolutionary message.

The University of Toronto psychology professor is old school. He gathers information and builds knowledge the Socratic way, by listening and testing ideas. That’s how he developed a fascination with why totalitarian regimes murdered millions in the quest for utopia. He’s suspicious of ideology, dogma and the doctrinaire. Ideology is dangerous, he says, because it’s too certain about things and doesn’t allow for dissent.

Moral relativism is equally dangerous because it makes no judgments and is blind to the greatness of Western civilisation. Human beings need a moral compass. The demise of religion has left a vacuum, and it has been filled by rigid ideologues and nihilistic moral relativists. Well-timed, given so many millennials are bunkering down with socialism or moral relativism.

If you want to ignore Peterson, that’s your right. But he is a symbol of what’s rotten within parts of our culture. When he speaks, his critics try to howl him down. Students scream over him, university administrators try to censor him.

Last year, Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University, played one of Peterson’s YouTube videos in a communications class. In a meeting with university honchos, one professor, Nathan Rambukkana, accused her of breaking Canadian law and creating a toxic environment for students. Another said her decision to show a Peterson debate clip was akin to the Nazis relying on free speech. The meeting was taped. It’s literally crazy. An uproar led the university to apologise to Shepherd.

Some of this explains why, as of Thursday, Peterson’s cracker interview with Channel 4’s Cathy Newman has attracted 7.4 million views since it aired on January 17. Sure, some of us have watched it more than once, because it’s funny, it’s serious and it ought to be shown in the first lesson of a journalism 101 course.

As reported in Inquirer last month, the interview is a 30-minutes precis of what happens when you don’t listen. Peterson was calm, measured, respectful. He used science and evidence when explaining the differences between men and women. He raised obvious questions about dogma on the gender pay gap. And he smiled politely when a woman who brought him on to her show wasn’t interested in listening.

There are now memes about Newman’s closed-ears interviewing style. Like this one. Peterson: “Women want strong and competent men.” Newman: “So what you’re saying is women are incompetent.” And this. Peterson: “I’m a clinical psychologist.” Newman: “So what you’re saying is I need therapy.” But none is as humiliating as the interview.

Reason 2. Peterson believes in free speech. He’s worried about the illiberal direction of modernity, not just on campus. That’s another reason this solid-gold cultural disrupter, with a quiet but firm tone, drives many on the left nuts. The professor attracted headlines at home in Canada when he said he wouldn’t abide by Bill C-16, introduced in May 2016, amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and making it illegal to use the wrong pronoun. It became law last June. Peterson baulked at being told by the state to use the pronoun “ze” for transgender people. He said if someone asked him to use it for them, he’s a polite guy and he’d do it. But when the state tells you what to say, the state has crossed the line into forced speech.

Reason 3. Peterson is a force because he’s also damn good at getting his message across. He uses our most important stories, drawing from history, psychology, neuroscience, mythology, poetry and the Bible to explain his thinking.

The man described as an “ardent prairie preacher” grew up in the small town of Fairview, Alberta, watched some of his friends succeed while others ended up drug addicts. He spent years searching for answers to big questions such as what makes life more meaningful and, going back a step, why meaning even matters.

His 12 Rules book, extracted in Inquirer earlier this month, sprang from an online free-for-all forum called Quora, where anyone could ask questions and provide answers. His answers attracted a huge online crowd, then a curious publisher, and this week his book is topping Amazon’s bestseller list in Australia.

Why storytelling matters calls for a divergence. Last December Jonathan Sachs, a rabbi and member of Britain’s House of Lords, said we need an army to defend a country. And to defend our civilisation we need a conversation between generations. “We need to teach our children the story of which we and they are a part, and we need to trust them to go further than we did, when they come to write their own chapter,” he said.

This is not woolly idealism, Sachs said. “It’s hard-headed pragmatism.” Understanding our own story, our history, where we went wrong and what we got right, allows children to face the challenges and the chaos of a rapidly changing world. “We need to give our children an internalised moral satellite navigation system so that they can find their way across the undiscovered country called the future,” he said.

Peterson is a navigation system with a twangy Canadian accent, trying to direct us towards meaning. Wrong way, go back, he’ll tell you when you’re heading down a dead-end street.

Reason 4. Peterson is secretly feared by utopians on the left. Life is full of unexpected and unavoidable suffering, he says. We get sick, we get betrayed, we lose jobs and friends and a sense of order. Get used to it. Deal with it.

This starting premise is where he departs so spectacularly from cultural Marxists. The utopian imaginings of socialism and communism created great suffering. So stop dreaming, Peterson says, accept that life can be hard. Accept, too, that each of us is capable of being monstrous and marvellous in all our human complexity. And make choices about that. Accept individual responsibility.

Start by standing up straight because it can “encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence”. If people around you see you as strong and capable and calm, you might too — and vice versa.

Face your problems with honesty, he says. Choose friends who are good for you. Pursue what’s meaningful rather than what’s expedient. It’s the kind of advice given a generation ago when people talked more about responsibilities than rights and parents warned their children that life is tough. Today it offends our rights culture, not to mention our mollycoddling parenting. So three cheers for common sense from this Canadian disrupter.

Reason 5. Get your own house in order before you start lecturing others or presuming to know how to fix other problems. Peterson’s message is a direct challenge to two particularly rank strains of modernity: victimhood and virtue-signalling. Both are cop-outs. Much harder, and more important, says Peterson, is to fix what you can at home because if we all did this there would be fewer victims and less misery in the world.

Reason 6. Men need to grow the hell up, he says. A whiny guy who blames others for his poor life choices is of no use to himself, no use to women, no use to children and no use to a world that has prospered from those who take responsibility. A boy who never grows up can’t possibly deal with the periods of chaos we all must face. And parents shouldn’t bother children when they’re skateboarding, meaning let them take risks so they can manage them as adults.

Maybe now you’re seeing why the mild-mannered Canadian psychologist is attracting brickbats and bouquets.

Those living in a women’s studies world can’t bear him and wail about him entrenching the patriarchy. Men especially want to listen to him, and plenty of women, to be fair, because he makes a reasoned case, based on evolutionary science and evidence, for men to be men, in all their masculine complexity. The “patriarchy” hasn’t hampered human progress, he says, but helped it.

Peterson, who is the only member of his department to maintain a clinical practice, draws on his work with patients when he says that being “agreeable” doesn’t drive achievement. Instead, it’s being assertive, even aggressive.

And there’s this. He said recently he has figured out how to monetise social justice warriors. The more they scream and go crazy over what he says, the more money he makes.

They just keep feeding him material to work with and he’s making a motza each month from a crowdsourcing fund that pays for his YouTube videos.

If this information leads some of them to change their tune, it will mean they have listened after all.


Shock union claims: detective breaks silence on fraud scandal

The retired detective who led the police investigation into the ­Australian Workers Union fraud scandal has broken his silence, calling for a fresh probe into an alleged ­conspiracy between former union ­officials and executives from ­construction giant Thiess that he claims extended to Julia Gillard’s old law firm.

In an extraordinary development in the long-running affair, former West Australian major fraud squad officer David ­McAlpine claims his investigation into the AWU slush fund 20 years ago was “subverted” due to “political interference”.

He said that in August 1998 the WA Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had “abruptly” ordered him to remain in Perth as he was preparing to fly to Melbourne to execute search warrants on key players, including Ms Gillard’s then employer, law firm Slater & Gordon.

Mr McAlpine said he had retained key documents including letters, memos and telephone notes from his two-year investigation and he was willing to swear an affidavit and give evidence in any court about his knowledge of the $400,000-plus fraud. “The fact that I was lied to and this investigation was subverted and people appear to have given false evidence at a royal commission, it needs to be reinvestigated because the simple fact is the Australian people need to know the truth,” he said.

Mr McAlpine retired from WA Police in October 2016 after 42 years of service and is now living in Thailand.

In a written statement and audio recording sent to The Australian, Mr McAlpine claimed ­former Thiess senior executives might have misled the trade union royal commission in 2014 about alleged secret commissions paid to AWU officials Bruce Wilson and Ralph Blewitt.

Mr Wilson has admitted to extract­ing large sums of money from Thiess for a slush fund he set up in the early 1990s with legal assistance from Ms Gillard, who was his girlfriend at the time.

Money from the AWU Workplace Reform Association was used to partly fund the purchase of a house in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy in 1993. The association was supposed to promote training and safety on construction sites.

Royal commissioner Dyson Heydon recommended in 2015 that Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt face prosecution for fraud-related offences connected to the fund.

Ms Gillard has repeatedly denied knowing the fund was to be used in a fraud.

The royal commission found that she had been “casual and haphazard” in her work at Slater & Gordon but had not committed offences, and was not aware of Mr Wilson’s conduct.

Mr Heydon rejected Ms Gillard’s denials that she was the beneficiary of cash sums from Mr Wilson for house renovations. The commission found that the builder, Athol James, who recalled the “wads of cash”, and a union staffer, Wayne Hem, who said he had deposited $5000 at Mr Wilson’s request into her account, were telling the truth.

The former prime minister could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr Blewitt is facing 31 fraud charges and is due back in a Perth court next week.

In his statement, Mr McAlpine recalled how he had obtained warrants in August 1998 to enter and search Slater & Gordon, Melbourne Water, Thiess and other firms in Melbourne.

“The search warrants directed me to enter premises and search for evidence about the use of a power of attorney in the purchase of a property at Kerr Street, Fitzroy, the use of funds from the AWU Workplace Reform Association in that purchase and Slater & Gordon’s role in that property transaction,” he said.

“As I was preparing to leave WA and execute the warrants, I was directed not to travel and not to gather that evidence. The direction came from the WA DPP … I was given no explanation as to why my investigation was ordered to be stopped.

“Thiess executives … told me at the time they did not want to make any complaints about the money paid to Wilson via the AWU Workplace Reform Association. They said: ‘We got what we paid for’.”

Mr McAlpine said this was further confirmed in writing in a letter signed by a manager of Thiess. “The course of my inquiry was wilfully subverted,” he said. “(Two Thiess executives) have now made the claim, under oath at a royal commission that they were deceived — that a fraud was committed on them.

He said this “leaves two open explanations”: that their evidence to the royal commission was incorrect or the information they gave him was wrong. He said he believed at the time that the Thiess executives had been caught up in a “conspiracy with Wilson and Blewitt”.

“I believe that conspiracy extended to other persons … and had I not been stopped from travelling and executing the search warrants, further evidence of that conspiracy would have been disclosed 20 years ago.”

One of the executives yesterday denied misleading the royal commission and said his story had been consistent for the past 20 years. The other could not be reached for comment.

Mr McAlpine called on WA Police to restart the aborted investigation to identify who benefited from the AWU fraud.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Sunday, February 25, 2018

World's coral reefs face new peril from beneath within decades (?)

This is just a new variation on an old fraud.  For the ocean to become more acidic it has to absorb more CO2 and thus produce carbonic acid (H2O + CO2 = H2CO3). And as CO2 levels rise, that might happen to some degree.

But according to Warmist theory higher CO2 levels will bring higher temperatures.  But higher ocean temperatures will REDUCE the carrying capacity of the oceans for CO2.  So CO2 will OUTGAS from the oceans under higher temperatures and the oceans will be LESS acidic. 

So if the galoots below really believed in global warming they would welcome it as REDUCING the threat to corals.

So there is a small potential threat to corals from higher CO2 levels but it will only eventuate if there is NO global warming. Fun?

The world's coral reefs, already enduring multiple threats from bleaching to nutrient run-off from farming, also face another challenge - this time from below.

New research, published in the journal Science on Friday, has found the sediments on which many reefs are built are 10 times more sensitive to the acidifying oceans than the living corals themselves. Some reef bases are already dissolving.

The study used underwater chambers at four sites in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, including Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef, and applied modelling to extrapolate results for 22 reefs in three ocean basins.

As oceans turn more acidic, the corals themselves produce less of the calcium carbonate that forms their base. Instead of growing, the reef bases start to dissolve.

"The public is less aware of the threat of ocean acidification [than warming waters]," said Brendan Eyre, a professor of biogeochemistry at the Southern Cross University and the paper's lead author.

“Coral reef sediments around the world will trend towards dissolving when seawater reaches a tipping point in acidity - which is likely to occur well before the end of the century,” he said.

At risk will be coral reef ecosystems that support tourism, fisheries and the many other human activities, he said.

The ocean's acidity has increased about 30 per cent since the start of the industrial revolution, as seas absorb about one-third of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“It is vital that we put pressure on governments globally to act in concert to lower carbon dioxide emissions as this is the only way we can stop the oceans acidifying and dissolving our reefs,” Professor Eyre said.

Rates of dissolving reef sediment will depend on their starting points, including their exposure to organic sediment. The Hawaiian reef studied is already showing signs of its sediment dissolving, with higher organic nutrient levels likely to be contributing, he said.

"Carbonate sediments in Hawaii are already net dissolving and will be strongly net dissolving by the end of the century," the paper said.

Living corals themselves appear to be able to resist the acidification process, with mechanisms and strategies to resist some of the impacts.

Still, the study said the transition of the dissolution of reef sediment "will result in the loss of material for building shallow reef habitats such as reef flats and lagoons, and associated coral cays". It is unknown if the reefs will face "catastrophic destruction" once the erosion begins, the paper said.

Over time, as coral bases begin to dissolve, they are more likely to become more vulnerable to cyclones and other threats, Professor Eyre said.

He said further study was needed to understand how reefs would be affected by temperatures, rising organic and nutrient levels and more acidic waters in combination, he said.

The impact of bleaching - such as the two mass events in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 summers on the Great Barrier Reef - would most likely accelerate the breakdown of reefs by "making more sediment and organic matter available for dissolution", the paper said.


Must not mention differences between blacks and whites

Australian Aborigines usually live apart from whites and their living conditions in their communities tend to horrify all others who see it -- but somehow you have got to pretend that they are "equal" in some sense.  It's perfectly fine for good kind people to make that pretence but such people also tend to condemn others who choose just to look at reality.  It seems to me that the real racists are people who base their perceptions of Aborigines on their race rather than on any objective circumstances

After niggling disagreements with campmates including Peter Rowsthorn and Paul Burrell, David Oldfield has had his first full-on I’m A Celeb fight.

The blow-up happens in tonight’s episode, and sees former One Nation politician Oldfield and comedian Fiona O’Loughlin clashing over Indigenous welfare issues.

A question from AFL player Josh Gibson to Oldfield - “What do you actually think about Aboriginal people?” - quickly led to a heated argument between Oldfield and O’Loughlin, who lived in Alice Springs for 27 years and fostered “many” Indigenous children during her time there.

Oldfield had questioned how much Aboriginal people had contributed to modern society, while O’Loughlin explained that her own son works closely with Aboriginal communities and has seen first-hand the effect of ignorant comments and beliefs like Oldfield’s.

“You’re suffering white guilt,” Oldfield told her. “They didn’t invent anything.”

“Oh, you racist pig,” O’Loughlin shot back.

“People talk about reconciliation, which is inappropriate because we have never been together and it’s to bring together two peoples that have not been estranged. What time do Aboriginal and others feel they’re together as one group?” Oldfield asked.


Is immigration too high in Australia?

THE former prime minister is copping a lot of flak for his latest comments, including from his own colleagues. But one expert said he made a lot of sense.

Should Australia cut immigration levels?

CUTTING immigration into Australia may improve living standards and housing affordability for residents but there are also trade-offs that need to be considered.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has called for Australia to drastically reduce immigration levels from 190,000 to 110,000 people a year.

“My issue is not immigration; it’s the rate of immigration at a time of stagnant wages, clogged infrastructure, soaring house prices and, in Melbourne at least, ethnic gangs that are testing the resolve of police,” he said during a speech at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday evening.

“It’s a basic law of economics that increasing the supply of labour depresses wages; and that increasing demand for housing boosts price.”

Mr Abbott has come under fire but could he actually be right?


Population expert Bob Birrell, a former Monash University professor and now head of the Australian Population Research Institute, said net overseas migration was responsible for half the growth in households in Melbourne and Sydney.

“Therefore it’s a major factor in demand for housing in those two cities and a major contributor to price rises as a consequence,” Mr Birrell told

“If there’s going to be any solution to metropolitan problems (housing affordability, pressure on infrastructure, cost of living increases), the immigration program has to be cut drastically.”

However, net overseas migration includes everyone coming in or out of Australia annually, whether they are citizens or migrants.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said today it was temporary migration driving population growth up, so the government had tightened controls on 457 visas and extended the waiting list time for migrants to be able to claim welfare.

But Mr Birrell said he thought dramatic cuts could still be made to the skilled migration program.

While a high immigration rate may have made sense in the past — to help bring workers in during the mining boom — Mr Birrell said many migrants were not filling skills shortages anymore.

According to 2015-16 statistics, almost 130,000 people enter Australia every year under the “skills stream”, a substantial number of the total 190,000 granted permanent visas. Most of the other places are granted under the “family stream”.

“That could be slashed because the so-called skilled migrants it is attracting — very few have skills that are in short supply in Australia,” Mr Birrell said.

“Employers would hardly notice the difference if the skills stream was slashed.”

In a report published in December 2016, Mr Birrell highlighted rorting of the previous 457 visa system (which has now been replaced) among three popular occupations: IT professionals, engineers and accountants.

“Recent Australian graduates in each of these major professions identified are struggling to find professional work,” Mr Birrell said in the report.

“Competition from the migrant influx is part of the problem.”

But Mr Birrell said changes announced in April last year to abolish the 457 visa and replace it with a new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa was a significant reform.

Unlike the 457 visa, the two-year TSS will not allow migrants to apply for permanent residency once they expire. The government also slashed the number of occupations eligible to apply for the visa.

“All those reforms were justified and represented quite a change in Coalition Government immigration policy,” Mr Birrell said.

“Prior to April 2017, the Coalition priority had been to open up the temporary and permanent entry programs so this is a big change.”


Treasurer Scott Morrison has come out swinging against Mr Abbott’s suggestion, saying that drastically cutting Australia’s migration intake would cost the federal budget up to $5 billion.

This potential impact on economic growth is one of the main factors keeping immigration high, Mr Birrell said.

“A great point of pride in Australia is our 26 years of unbroken economic growth, and by economic growth, they are referring to overall GDP (gross domestic product) growth,” he said.

“Government does not want to lose that growth figure and it’s also crucial to tax revenue.

“Extra people consuming things is a major driver to gross domestic product.”

Basically, if population is growing, so are the number of houses and other products required to cater to the extra people. This is good for business, who can make more products.

Mr Birrell said the Coalition, like the Labor Party, had been anxious to maintain overall economic growth and reducing population growth would slow this down.

But he also noted that while “nominal economic growth” would slow, “per capita economic growth” wouldn’t.

“This is what really matters to Australian residents,” he said.

“The benefits would mainly be reducing pressure on the big cities — so it’s a trade-off.”

Another trade-off would be the hit to Australia’s university sector.

“The main industry affected by this would be the overseas student industry because it would diminish the attractiveness for students to enrol at Australian universities, since many only do so in the hope of using the qualification to get permanent residency,” Mr Birrell said.


While Mr Abbott has also raised issues with migrants not speaking English and “ethnic gangs” in Melbourne, Mr Morrison said he disagreed with the proposition that immigrants caused crime, saying statistics showed they were less likely to be unemployed and their children did better educationally than the general population.

Mr Birrell also notes Australia’s intake of refugees is “non-negotiable”.

“The humanitarian program is based on Australia’s obligation to do its bit for the international refugee situation,” he said.

Currently about 17,555 refugees settle in Australia every year, and this is on top of the 190,000 granted permanent visas.

“It’s an obligation that can’t really be changed, it’s a non-negotiable part of the immigration program,” he said.


Deregulate energy market and go back to coal

The catastrophic outcome of government energy market interventions is palpably clear. As the latest new regulatory body, the Energy Security Board, diplomatically puts it: “Fifteen years of climate policy instability … (have) left our energy system vulnerable to escalating prices while being both less reliable and secure.”

Australia has seen electricity prices double since 2015 and the once reliable supply is now suspect. From enjoying the world’s lowest cost electricity a decade ago, Australia now has among the most expensive.

The main cause has been subsidies and regulatory favours to renewable energy — chiefly wind — that have forced the closure of reliable coal-fired generators, particularly Northern in South Australia and Hazelwood in Victoria. Without these subsidies, costing about $5 billion a year, there would be no wind or solar. Not only are customers and taxpayers slugged with the subsidy costs but the outcome also has been to raise prices and reduce reliability.

A new Australian coal plant would produce electricity at about $50 a megawatt hour. A new wind farm can produce electricity, at best, at $110/MWh and its present subsidy is about $85/MWh. Solar is about twice the cost of wind

Fundamentally, the cost disadvantage of wind and solar stems from their low “energy density”. To get the equivalent energy from a standard 500MW coal generation unit requires 300 wind generators or 900,000 solar panels, and storage or back-up capacity is required to offset the inherent unreliability of energy sources dependent on the vagaries of the weather. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg put the cost of this at $16/MWh, an optimistic estimate even with the government’s 23.5 per cent renewable target.

Wind farm entrepreneur Simon Holmes a Court recently argued on this page that the world is abandoning coal for electricity generation. Australia’s booming coal exports testify to the ludicrous nature of such statements. In fact, according to Greenpeace’s data, China has 300,000MW of new coal plant under way, increasing its capacity by a third; Japan has 20,000MW, which also would raise capacity by a third; while India has plans for an additional 148,000MW, adding 65 per cent to its capacity. Australian coal generating capacity is about 25,000MW.

The US has no new coal generators planned. This is partly a legacy of Barack Obama, who declared his policies would bankrupt any new coal generators, and partly because of the US boom in gas and oil production. Due to fracking, a technology largely banned in Australia, the US has gas at less than half the Australian price, making it cheaper than coal for new electricity generation.

Holmes a Court was correct in drawing attention to the costly failures of “carbon capture and storage”, the global propaganda arm for which is largely financed by the Australian government, and of high-energy, low-emissions coal power stations. These technologies reduce carbon dioxide emissions but involve add-on costs.

The Minerals Council of Australia, anxious to retain the support of BHP, has promoted low-emission technologies. For internal reasons, BHP supports renewables and opposes coal generation in Australia notwithstanding its dependence on international coal sales and cheap energy generally. The firm’s promotion of renewable energy confronted the reality of this with high fuel costs for its Olympic Dam mine in wind-dependent South Australia. It also took a $137 million hit from the 2016 wind-induced collapse of SA’s power system.

Many firms support renewable policies out of self-interest. Revenue from subsidies is itself valuable and, in addition, coal generators, as Origin Energy’s half-year results last week showed, are earning huge profits from the doubled wholesale price. Others are conscripted to support renewables for PR reasons, as part of what German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann has called a “spiral of silence”, where a loud and confident group is perceived to be majority opinion, leading others to acquiesce in much of its message.

The ESB has been tasked with creating an electricity market blueprint that marries lower carbon dioxide emissions with lower costs and greater reliability. This is an impossible task and would require massive new regulatory interventions.

The ESB’s proposals envisage creating a market combining emissions and energy in which every retailer and generator would need to participate. They would add new dimensions of complexity to electricity supply, bringing a further proliferation of administrative resources within the bureaucracy and the industry.

Envisaging such further controls as bringing improved efficiency represents a triumph of hope over experience. We can restore our latent competitiveness in cheap energy only by abandoning all the intrusions and distortions that are in place. Donald Trump has achieved success from such an approach and we may have to await full recognition of this before our politicians adopt similar deregulatory policies.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Friday, February 23, 2018

Abbott’s anti-immigration push dead

I think Greg Sheridan is attacking a straw man below.  Abbott would obviously want to direct immigration cuts to individuals who are least likely to adapt well to Australian life but Sheridan pretends that Abbott wants to cut all immigration across the board. I think it is fairly obvious that more selectivity is needed as the way of cutting total numbers.  How else would you do it?

As Malcolm Turnbull meets Donald Trump, former prime minister Tony Abbott’s misguided attack on the immigration program, strongly rejected by conservatives Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison, suggest the populist right in Australia is learning all the wrong lessons from the US President.

It is becoming an increasingly negative force, which measures its puny tactical accomplishments only in what it can stop, never in what it can achieve.

It would be impossible for a journalist to have a higher opinion of Abbott than I do. I regard him as a major figure in Australian political history and have written at length of his government’s achievements, but his attack on the immigration program, which contradicts much of what he did in government, is 100 per cent wrong.

It is wrong in its particulars, and it represents a decline in the quality of Abbott’s political contribution. It looks like populist pandering.

The political leader in Australian history who most comprehensively cut immigration was Gough Whitlam. The other mainstream political force that has typically argued for big immigration cuts is the Greens, and for many of the same reasons as Abbott cites.

That the populist right now finds itself on a unity ticket with Whitlam and the Greens indicates the ultimate sterility and false promise of populist solutions. Abbott has called for a more or less immediate halving of the immigration level — something he never suggested or entertained as prime minister — and blamed immigration for wages stagnation, housing shortages, infrastructure bottlenecks, welfare dependency and other ills.

He cites the high level of welfare dependency of refugees five years after their arrival and conflates this into a general anti-immigration position. However, refugees are very different from skilled immigrants. So long as we choose refugees who will make a personal and political commitment to Australia, we are rich enough to bear the cost.

If Abbott thinks we should cut refugee numbers, fair enough. Argue then for that, not for a general cut in immigration.

As prime minister, Abbott increased our refugee intake. You cannot credibly be Captain Compassion in government when you’re looking for majority support and transform into Harry Hardheart out of government when you are looking for a populist corner of resentment.

Both Dutton and Morrison, who were key ministers under Abbott and once his closest allies, rightly rejected the almost cartoonishly simplistic economic arguments Abbott used to oppose immigration generally.

More supply in the labour market means a lower price for labour, he declared. This really is the territory of the Greens and the trade union movement of a century ago. In that case, we should never have any immigration and we’d all be rich.

In fact, immigration makes the economy bigger and makes, over time, everyone more affluent, provided it’s a well-run program.

Dutton, the cabinet’s leading conservative, yesterday pointed out that with two-thirds of our intake being skilled immigrants, the economic benefits to Australia are very substantial. As the Productivity Commission has pointed out, skilled migration increases productivity.

Abbott is also just plain wrong to say Australia’s program today — 183,000 migrants last year — is a historically high number.

Australia welcomed a net migration of 153,000 people in 1950 when our total population was eight million. Our population is now three times bigger, our immigrant intake merely 30,000 more. In other words, it is a much smaller immigration intake as a percentage of our population today than it was then. And we were much poorer then.

The great immigration of the 1950s and 60s occurred under conservative Australian governments led mostly by Robert Menzies. That was a time when conservatives were nation-builders, not forces of negation and protest.

Abbott is right to say infrastructure, especially roads and houses, has not kept pace in Sydney and Melbourne. This is a bipartisan political failure. State governments Liberal and Labor have been equally ineffective in providing needed infrastructure, as have federal governments of both persuasions.

The wretched populism involved in turning against immigration may yield some resentment-corner political dividends. It will also yield very bad policy for the national interest.


Australian Parents To Take Part In International Sex Ed Sit Out

Australian school children are being increasingly subjected to early sexualisation through programs such as Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships and sex ed shifting from focusing on biology to teaching sex positivity. This is not a uniquely Australian phenomena with sex ed being taught at younger ages and in a lot more graphic detail in nations such as the United States and Canada. These new programs are mandated by governments in public schools with parents getting no say in the matter, if they are told about them at all.

Not surprisingly parents are fighting back against this government overreach in an area which used to be the realm of the parent who could best decide how to teach their children these sensitive topics. Part of the difficultly in challenging such programs is that the masses are not informed about what is contained in them, so much activism involves just communicating to the public the disturbing material contained in them so enough can begin to put pressure on the politicians who sign off on such programs.

To protest against the compulsory nature of the programs parents in the United States are planning a National Sex Ed Sit Out on April 23 where they will pull their children out of school for the day as an act of defiance against the education authorities. The sit out is being promoted by the Activist Mommy (Elizabeth Johnston), an Ohio mother of 10 who is America’s most prominent campaigner against graphic sex ed programs. The concept of a sex ed sit out has spread internationally.

Given Australia’s problems with such programs parents in Australia are planning to take part, the event has been shared on prominent parental activist pages. There is also an effort being undertaken to organise a Parents United for Kids Rally in each state and territory to coincide with the Sex Ed Sit Out for parents to take their message to the people mandating these programs.

The state of Victoria has the worst of these programs with it still teaching the uncensored Roz Ward version of Safe Schools and where the Respectful Relationships program which is supposedly taught to counter domestic violence was born. The Australian Christian Lobby recently presented a a 16,675-signature petition to the Victorian Premier’s Office against the Safe Schools Program. Victoria is facing a state election year with these programs likely to be a prominent campaign issue.

If enough students are absent from school on one day for a reason the education bureaucrats don’t approve of then the sit out will have achieved its goal of making policymakers take note of these parents concerns.


Science or silence? My battle to question doomsayers about the Great Barrier Reef

By Professor Peter Ridd.  His university is desperate to shut him up as he tells basic scientific truth, which they  see as threatening the funding that they have bought with lies and alarmism. Ridd leads the Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Australia and has authored over 100 scientific papers

Around the world, people have heard about the impending extinction of the Great Barrier Reef: some 133,000 square miles of magnificent coral stretching for 1,400 miles off the northeast coast of Australia.

The reef is supposedly almost dead from the combined effects of a warming climate, nutrient pollution from Australian farms, and smothering sediment from offshore dredging.

Except that, as I have said publicly as a research scientist who has studied the reef for the past 30 years, all this most likely isn’t true.

And just for saying that – and calling into question the kind of published science that has led to the gloomy predictions – I have been served with a gag order by my university. I am now having to sue for my right to have an ordinary scientific opinion.

My emails have been searched. I was not allowed even to speak to my wife about the issue. I have been harangued by lawyers. And now I’m fighting back to assert my right to academic freedom and bring attention to the crisis of scientific truth.

The problems I am facing are part of a “replication crisis” that is sweeping through science and is now a serious topic in major science journals. In major scientific trials that attempt to reproduce the results of scientific observations and measurements, it seems that around 50 percent of recently published science is wrong, because the results can’t be replicated by others.

And if observations and measurements can’t be replicated, it isn’t really science – it is still, at best, hypothesis, or even just opinion. This is not a controversial topic anymore – science, or at least the system of checking the science we are using, is failing us.

The crisis started in biomedical areas, where pharmaceutical companies in the past decade found that up to 80 percent of university and institutional science results that they tested were wrong. It is now recognized that the problem is much more widespread than the biomedical sciences. And that is where I got into big trouble.

I have published numerous scientific papers showing that much of the “science” claiming damage to the reef is either plain wrong or greatly exaggerated. As just one example, coral growth rates that have supposedly collapsed along the reef have, if anything, increased slightly.

Reefs that are supposedly smothered by dredging sediment actually contain great coral. And mass bleaching events along the reef that supposedly serve as evidence of permanent human-caused devastation are almost certainly completely natural and even cyclical.

These allegedly major catastrophic effects that recent science says were almost unknown before the 1980s are mainly the result of a simple fact: large-scale marine science did not get started on the reef until the 1970s.

By a decade later, studies of the reef had exploded, along with the number of marine biologists doing them. What all these scientists lacked, however, was historical perspective. There are almost no records of earlier eras to compare with current conditions. Thus, for many scientists studying reef problems, the results are unprecedented, and almost always seen as catastrophic and even world-threatening.

The only problem is that it isn’t so. The Great Barrier Reef is in fact in excellent condition. It certainly goes through periods of destruction where huge areas of coral are killed from hurricanes, starfish plagues and coral bleaching. However, it largely regrows within a decade to its former glory. Some parts of the southern reef, for example, have seen a tripling of coral in six years after they were devastated by a particularly severe cyclone.

Reefs have similarities to Australian forests, which require periodic bushfires. It looks terrible after the bushfire, but the forests always regrow. The ecosystem has evolved with these cycles of death and regrowth.

The conflicting realities of the Great Barrier Reef point to a deeper problem. In science, consensus is not the same thing as truth. But consensus has come to play a controlling role in many areas of modern science. And if you go against the consensus you can suffer unpleasant consequences.

The main system of science quality control is called peer review. Nowadays, it usually takes the form of a couple of anonymous reviewing scientists having a quick check over the work of a colleague in the field.

Peer review is commonly understood as painstaking re-examination by highly qualified experts in academia that acts as a real check on mistaken work. It isn’t.  In the real world, peer review is often cursory and not always even knowledgeable. It might take reviewers only a morning to do.

Scientific results are rarely reanalyzed and experiments are not replicated. The types of checks that would be routine in private industry are just not done.

I have asked the question: Is this good enough quality control to make environmental decisions worth billions of dollars that are now adversely affecting every major industry in northeast Australia?

Our sugar industry has been told to make dramatic reductions in fertilizer application, potentially reducing productivity; our ports have dredging restrictions that threaten their productivity; scientists demand that coal mines be closed; and tourists are scared away because the reef is supposedly almost dead – not worth seeing anymore.

Last August I made this point on Sky News in Australia in promotion of a chapter I wrote in “Climate Change: The Facts 2017,” published by the Australian free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

“The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organizations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies … the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more,” I said.

The response to these comments by my employer, James Cook University, was extraordinary. Rather than measured argument, I was hit with a charge of academic serious misconduct for not being “collegial.”

University authorities told me in August I was not allowed to mention the case or the charges to anybody – not even my wife.

Then things got worse. With assistance from the Institute of Public Affairs, I have been pushing back against the charges and the gag order – leading the university to search my official emails for examples of where I had mentioned the case to other scientists, old friends, past students and my wife.

I was then hit with 25 new allegations, mostly for just mentioning the case against me. The email search turned up nothing for which I feel ashamed. You can see for yourself.

We filed in court in November. At that point the university backed away from firing me. But university officials issued a “Final Censure” in my employment file and told me to be silent about the allegations, and not to repeat my comments about the unreliability of institutional research.

But they agreed that I could mention it to my wife, which was nice of them.

I would rather be fired than accept these conditions. We are still pursuing the matter in court.

This case may be about a single instance of alleged misconduct, but underlying it is an issue even bigger than our oceans. Ultimately, I am fighting for academic and scientific freedom, and the responsibility of universities to nurture the debate of difficult subjects without threat or intimidation.

We may indeed have a Great Barrier Reef crisis, but the science is so flawed that it is impossible to tell its actual dimensions. What we do know for certain is that we have an academic freedom crisis that threatens the true life of science and threatens to smother our failing university system.


Must not address women as 'darling'

South Australian Liberal MP Tim Whetstone has come under fire after calling another election candidate 'darling' during a public meeting.

At a forum at Renmark in the Riverland yesterday, Mr Whetstone told SA Best candidate Michelle Campbell to "get a brief, darling" after she described regional Port Pirie as being a marginal seat.

It prompted a member of the audience to call out Mr Whetstone's actions as "aggressive and sexist", and he went on to apologise.

But on ABC Riverland today, Ms Campbell said she had received no personal apology, despite his public backdown at the meeting.

"I can understand he is trying to make a point of difference and he is trying to be noticed," Ms Campbell said. "It's always a bit tricky sometimes for men when there are women stepping up and trying to be leaders in the community."

Ms Campbell said she approached the audience member who spoke up at the meeting to thank her.


Turns Out Australia’s Anti-Piracy Legislation Is Actually Working?

Remember when The Pirate Bay and a bunch of other torrenting  sites were blocked in Australia back in December 2016? Well, despite the naysaying at the time, it looks like the strategy is sort of working to prevent piracy.

A new report released today by Incopro, a company that specialises in research on intellectual property, reportedly shows that Australian traffic to the blocked sites has dropped by 53 percent in the last year.

It’s more than just a couple of blocked sites too. Since the government passed legislation making it easier for websites to be blocked, film and TV copyright holders have been going absolutely gangbusters with their court orders, succeeding in getting hundreds of sites blocked by internet service providers.

I mean, sure, many of those sites are just different web addresses you can access The Pirate Bay at (this whole blocking system is a little like whack-a-mole), but still.

Anyway, the findings about the piracy reduction are a little surprising, given the criticism the ban faced when it was first being considered. At the time, opponents pointed out that the blocking system is fairly easy to bypass, and that other countries that tried a ban had reportedly just inspired more people to visit sites like The Pirate Bay.

Who knows, maybe Australians are just lazy. Or maybe it has something to do with the streaming services that have become available down under since the piracy bans. Incopro’s full report doesn’t seem to be available to the public yet, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stop 'bail-in' law that steals Australians' savings

Citizens Electoral Council of Australia started this petition to Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull and 25 others

We the undersigned call on Parliament to reject the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Crisis Resolution Powers and Other Measures) Bill 2017. The bill gives the bank regulator APRA sweeping powers to prop up failing banks by confiscating the savings that Australians hold in those banks, which is known as "bail-in". At stake is the investment savings of hundreds of thousands of retirees, and the ordinary deposits of all Australians, including individuals, businesses, charities and organisations. This unjust, destructive legislation must be scrapped


'Gender-neutral' science teacher who doesn't identify as a man or a woman angers parents after asking students to use 'Mx' instead of 'Mr' or 'Ms'

A gender neutral high school teacher is dividing the classroom after announcing they did not want to be referred to with traditional titles.

The teacher identifies as gender neutral meaning they do not identify as a man or a woman.

The secondary teacher in Sydney's northern suburbs asked students to call them 'Mx' instead of 'Mrs' or 'Mr'. 

The Year 10 science teacher angered some of the school community with one father angry at the principal for not warning the parents, Daily Telegraph reported.

'I don't think my son's ever met a transgender person,' he said. 'I'm sure the same could be said for a lot of other students too. The school really should have, at the very least, spoken with the parents of the students who would be taking the class.'

While not trying to be negative, the father reportedly wanted to see if other parents felt the same way and shared his view to Facebook - which has been deleted.

People who identify as gender neutral may not want to use single-sex bathrooms or be referred to by titles that imply a specific gender. Gender neutral people may express a mix of both male and female characteristics.

The NSW Department of Education told the publication it 'adheres to the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity in all aspects of teacher recruitment and promotion'.

Two weeks ago, an elite Christian girls school announced to parents they had a transgender student who was a 'born into a boy's body'.

The Glennie School in Toowoomba, Queensland, welcomed the student and openly discussed the young girl's attendance to squash any rumours.

Discussing the transgender addition in the school community, the Christian school sent an email to parents - an act the Year 10 student's father wished the principal had done about the transgender teacher.


Campaign against use of the word 'retard' targets social media

The West Australia Government has helped launch a social media campaign aimed at getting people to stop using the word "retard" to demean people with disabilities.

Disabilities Minister Stephen Dawson said the word appeared on social media every five seconds and was used casually and unthinkingly by people every day.

"The R word is insulting and disrespectful — not just to people with disability but also to their families, friends and carers," he said. "It's never OK to use the R word — not in humour or frustration.

"People should stop and think about whether they would use the word on someone they love before they direct it towards somebody else."

The campaign is being run by not-for-profit disability advocacy group Avivo.

Mr Dawson said Twitter users who used the word would be targeted with a tweet containing one of the campaign's videos, which focus on people with a disability sharing their experiences with the word.


Christian Schools Australia defends right to hire and fire teachers over beliefs

Schools must retain the ability to hire and fire teachers and other staff based on their beliefs and adherence to religious codes, Christian Schools Australia has said.

It also called for “the right to select students”, including to eject them from a school community, in a joint submission with Adventist Schools Australia to the Ruddock religious freedom review.

During the marriage law postal survey campaign the Catholic church threatened to sack gay teachers, nurses and other staff if they engaged in civil same-sex weddings in breach of church doctrine.

Submissions from LGBTI organisations and Amnesty International called for a repeal or narrowing of religious exemptions to discrimination law, which the Rationalist Society called an example of “religious privilege”.

Christian Schools Australia warned that “removing the ability of Christian schools to employ staff who share the school’s values and beliefs would undermine the essential nature of the school”.

“If freedom of religion is to remain a legitimate hallmark of Australian education then the rights of school communities to operate in accordance with religious beliefs must be upheld.

“This must include the right to choose all staff based on their belief in, and adherence to, the beliefs, tenets and doctrines of the religion concerned.”

CSA proposed giving schools a power to choose staff by defining it as a legal form of “differentiation”, rather than merely an exemption to discrimination law.

It warned that existing exemptions were “narrow in scope” and did not necessarily allow religious organisations to deny their services or facilities based on belief nor to “separate from families” when their values did not accord with the school’s.

CSA took aim at Queensland’s anti-discrimination laws, which require that a religious objection must be an “inherent requirement” of the religion, and staff can only be discriminated against if they “openly act” in contravention of religious beliefs.

It warned that meant schools could not take any action against staff who “may have a fundamentally antithetical faith position” to the school.

Staff leading a “double life” undermines their duty of fidelity and good faith to the school and was a form of “duplicity and deceit” that was “not in anybody’s interests”, it said.

The CSA called for the creation of a new religious freedom commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission and for protections that mirror the amendments in the conservative Paterson same-sex marriage bill, including to guarantee free speech about what a marriage is and to secure religious organisations’ charitable status.

The National Council of Churches in Australia, in a submission written by its president, the Melbourne Anglican bishop Philip Huggins, said the right to freedom of religion was “in reasonable shape” in Australia.

But the submission said religious people had been subjected to more “verbal and physical abuse”, including Christians who supported the “no” case in the postal survey – which it compared to the abuse of Muslims after the 11 September terrorist attacks.

The NCCA recommended that the government consult about the benefits of a human rights bill and suggested a review of school curricula to counter “a growing level of religious ignorance in the Australian population”.

The LGBTI rights group Just Equal called for the abolition of all laws that allow discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

“This includes those provisions that allow discrimination and vilification by religious individuals and faith-based organisations such as schools, hospitals, welfare agencies and aged care facilities,” it said.

The Rationalist Society, which advocates for secularism, accused religious groups of seeking an “unfettered right to manifest [their] beliefs, even if this involves breaching the fundamental rights of others”.

A permanent, belief-based exemption to discrimination law “promotes and entrenches traditional prejudice and harm against women and LGBTI communities”, it said.

Amnesty International suggested a prohibition on religious vilification and the removal of an exemption that allows civil marriage celebrants who profess a religious faith to refuse to solemnise a marriage on religious grounds.

Amnesty International recommended that religious organisations, including educational institutions, in receipt of public funding be prohibited from “discriminating in the provision of those services in ways that would otherwise be unlawful”.

In January the deputy Labor leader, Tanya Plibersek, said Labor had “no plans … at the moment” to change discrimination law exemptions but downplayed the likelihood religious schools would sack staff over sexuality.

In November a Baptist school in Rockingham, Western Australia, sacked a relief teacher who revealed his sexuality in a Facebook post.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here