Freedom to play

A good piece by the CIS's Sara Hudson on the decline of children playing and the rise of the state:

Curtin University research claims that in just one generation, outdoor play has decreased from 73% to just 13% of total play time. Such are the time limits on children today that some parents are structuring in time for unstructured play! […]

One reason for this is over-anxious parents who worry that if they let their children out of sight, some calamity will befall the kids. This obsession with safety is permeating all aspects of Australian society. A recent article in Crikey suggests that some people actually like Australia’s ‘nanny state’:

When I get back to Australia and I’m not allowed to throw a Frisbee at the beach and I have to get a special council permit just to mind my own business … I’ll say a prayer of thanks to Nanny, and enjoy the freedom – that’s right, haters, freedom – of feeling safe and protected.

Australia is fostering a risk-averse culture where people are reluctant to put themselves or their children ‘at risk’. What is deemed risky has become more tightly defined – so the independence granted to children in the past is now viewed as parental negligence. For example, children using a public toilet without an accompanying adult, walking to school by themselves, or simply crossing the street unaided.

We couldn't agree more with the conclusion:

It is time to take a stand against the paranoia gripping parents and remind them that although the worst-case scenario might happen one day, most of the time it doesn’t. Meanwhile, their children are losing out on developing valuable skills such as resilience, imagination and independence that come with unstructured play.



Menzies House U.S. Politics Editor Amir Iljazi discusses the historic ruling on the Affordable Care Act and who the winners and losers were.

The US Supreme Court finally rendered their opinion on President Obama’s historic Health Care Reform legislation. The outcome was a surprise, and the immediate effects seem to be a positive for several of those who had much at stake. Here are the winners and losers from the monumental decision. 


President Obama

Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen; this ruling was a major victory for President Obama on multiple fronts. The Affordable Care Act was his signature domestic legislative achievement and the biggest issue for him and his party aside from the economy. The fact that the highest court in the land affirmed the law means that the one year President Obama and Democrats spent getting the law passed and the two years they have spent defending it did not go to waste as we head toward another election. Had the law fallen, it would have been devastating for an incumbent President struggling to find a salient strategy on how to run for reelection.

President Obama (left), Mitt Romney (right) will battle on Health Care this Fall 

Mitt Romney

Yes, Mr. Romney was also a winner in the decision to uphold “ObamaCare” today. How you ask? Several ways and the first being financially; Mr. Romney’s Presidential campaign raised more than $1 million dollars in online donations in the hours after the decision was announced. This is also a victory for Mr. Romney in terms of getting the base energized to go out and vote; there can be no debate now about whether or not the most conservative voters will turn out to vote for an otherwise “moderate” GOP nominee… the base has been shored up. Finally, Mr. Romney can now discuss the issue not as a Health Care bill, but a “tax increase” and judging by historical standards, tax increases don’t play well with voters.

Chief Justice John Roberts

In a surprising move, the conservative George W. Bush-nominated Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court sided with the liberal justices to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act… but the way in which he did it was truly the most important aspect of how he was a winner today. Mr. Roberts did three things in this ruling: First, he silenced those on the left who have tried to paint the “Roberts’ Court” as political in nature, that argument is now null and void. Second, he upheld the limited-government principle that sought to argue the role of the Commerce Clause as applied by law. Third, he put the ultimate fate of the law in the hands of the voters while doing what no Democrat would do… tell the truth that it was a tax.


Conventional Wisdom

So much for insight and analysis! Nobody got this one right, not even the left-wingers who said it would be upheld could have envisioned the rationale being quite possibly a new front on the battle for the 2012 campaign. I called it wrong as did many other observers and really everyone did, from the beginning. The genesis from most “experts” was that it would be upheld by a wide majority; then it seemed as if it was headed for disaster; and all along many thought Kennedy would be the swing vote, he wasn’t. The observers were way off on this one and that isn’t limited to any media venue, or side of the political aisle.
Chief Justice Roberts (above) went where nobody, left or right thought he would 

Senate Democrats

The most vulnerable group of politicians are those elected officials who voted for ObamaCare and the 2010 midterm elections proved that. Now, the Democrats in the Senate will be tasked with going to their constituents and explaining why they voted for an effective tax increase to the tune of more than $500 billion dollars. This issue will not be helpful to many Senate Democrats in close races and with control of the Senate in total play for the 2012 election, it has just been made that much more difficult by being burdened with a vote to increase taxes on their recent record.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy

The moment that the Affordable Care Act was out on a track to be heard in front of the US Supreme Court, all attention was focused and had been focused on Justice Anthony Kennedy. He has been seen as the “swing” vote on the court over the last several years and many believed that whichever way he went would in fact be the way of the majority. It is clear now that the real swing vote is not Kennedy, but Mr. Roberts as he is both a conservative mind, but also the “steward” of the institution he presides over. 
Justice Kennedy (above) is a "swing" vote in the court, no-more

Anthony Kennedy has been more of “reliable” conservative in the last few terms of the court as opposed to the “swing” vote that he used to be during his days serving with Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I would venture to guess that the attention he was accustomed to receiving in the run-up to major decisions will likely dissipate, considering the vehement dissent he authored today.

Amir Iljazi is the U.S. Politics Editor of Menzies House. He earned his Master's Degree in Political Science at American University in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in Tampa, Florida. Before relocating back to Florida, he specialized in longitudinal campaign tracking and voter trends for Federal Races nationwide while working for a Washington DC based center-right political advocacy organisation. You may follow him on Twitter@Michi83


Before a long analysis post, a quick prediction:

The US Supreme Court will rule on ObamaCare in 10 minutes, my prediction:

On a 5-4 vote, the court will throw out the “Induvidual Mandate”; but on a 6-3 vote, will uphold the rest of the law.

I will be writing a post-ruling analysis to be published later today!


VSU Is Not Dead!

Ben Riley

Ben Riley charts a new course in the fight to reintroduce Voluntary Student Unionism

Following the passing of Labor’s Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Student Services and Amenities) Act 2011 (Cth) (SSAF), many students have resigned themselves to not seeing a return to Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) in the near future (at the least, not until the coalition next win a federal election with a Senate majority – most likely after they have graduated).

Unfortunately, and understandably, this has drawn much of the urgency and direction out of the fight for VSU, as students await a political climate more conducive to their cause. This needn’t be the case. With state Liberal/National governments now covering the eastern and western seaboards of Australia, the climate is ripe for a return to VSU: this time by the states.

At various young/student liberal conferences over the past 18 months, the suggestion of a return to VSU through state enactment has often been raised. Sadly, it has always been casually dismissed by those who instinctively, and indeed tragically, capitulate to the rule of Commonwealth supremacy.

However, if we look at the Federal statue in depth, it appears that legislative action to restore VSU can be taken by state governments, simply by prohibiting the compulsory exaction of the ‘Student Services and Amenities Fee’ within a university’s constituting act.

Let’s look at the VSU and SSAF legislation more closely.

The operative provision of the VSU Act is s19-37 (2):

(2) A higher education provider must not require a person enrolled with, or seeking to enrol with, the provider to pay to the provider or any other entity an amount for the provision to students of an amenity, facility or service that is not of an academic nature, unless the person has chosen to use the amenity, facility or service.

The SSAF Act does not seek to reverse or repeal any portion of the operative provisions of the VSU Act. Rather, it creates an exception to the prohibition placed on universities with regard to the compulsory exaction of a fee for student services and amenities of a non-academic nature. It does so by inserting 19-37 (4).

(4) Subsection (2) does not apply to a *student services and amenities fee that the higher education provider requires the person to pay.

The legislation is clear: The SSAF Act does not require any university to charge the SSAF; rather, it merely permits them to do so. As such, the SSAF Act should not be seen as reversing the VSU Act as it does not compel universities to charge the SSAF as a condition of Commonwealth funding. Rather, the exception merely provides Commonwealth consent to universities compulsorily charging an amenities fee.  Where they choose not to do so, it does not result in a mandatory loss of funding.

Almost all universities in Australia are the creation of state legislation. These constituting acts commonly set out the powers and responsibilities of a university and outline, amongst other things, the ability to charge fees. It is therefore within the power of a state legislature to amend these constituting acts, and include any prohibitions it considers appropriate – such as one against a SSAF-type fee.

Introducing VSU at a state level is not unprecedented. The best example of this was the tit-for-tat battle in Western Australia.VSU legislation was first introduced in 1977 by the late Sir Charles Court, then repealed in 1983 by Brian Burke. It was then again introduced in 1994 by Richard Court, before its most recent repeal in 2002 under Geoff Gallop.

The Voluntary Membership of Student Guilds and Associations Act 1994 (WA) (‘WA VSU Act’) effected substantially identical amendments to every one of WA’s university governing Acts. The amendments provided that:

  1.  it was not compulsory for a student to be a member of a union/guild;
  2. unless the student chose to join a union/guild or use an amenity/service, it was not compulsory for a student or prospective student to pay:

                a. a fee or subscription required by the union/guild or any amount in lieu of said fee;

                 b. an amount required by the university for an amenity/service which was not related                     to an educational course;

    3.       the university (on behalf of a union/guild) and the union/guild itself were prohibited from accepting Commonwealth grants where the intent of the grant was to overcome the WA government’s VSU policy and compensate the union/guild for the WA prohibitions.

If a university is prohibited from charging a SSAF-type fee by virtue of its governing act, a mere Commonwealth permission to do so, cannot override the university’s institutional disability. Therefore, it is not possible for mere permission per the SSAF Act to override a ban on SSAF-type fees within a university’s governing act by citing s109 of the constitution, thereby allowing for state-based VSU to be implemented

Unless there is soon a Federal Election and a coalition win of Newman/O’Farrell-esque proportions, (which is not out of the question), it will be a long wait until we hold the numbers in the Senate to reinstate VSU federally.

As political circumstances change, so too must our strategy. Liberal students and alumni ought to adjust accordingly and refocus our efforts on lobbying liberal/national state governments for a reintroduction of VSU.

Fighting for VSU has bonded liberal students for generations – this is the opportunity for the next generation to make their mark.

Ben Riley is the President of the Queensland YLNP. Ben has played a central role in the successful Fresh and Epic student election teams at the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology, and has served as Treasurer of the UQ Union and as a member of the UQ Senate. He acknowledges Steven Mammarella and Andrew Stirling for their detailed research in preparing this article.

A motion to urge Premiers to introduce VSU at a state level is scheduled to be debated at this weekend’s Liberal Party Federal Council.


Gillard’s tequila surprise


According to Crocker

I never thought our government ministers truly believed the nonsense they spruik but a stellar performance by Prime Minister Gillard at the G20 meeting in Mexico confirms they do believe their own propaganda—emphatically.
Just days ago, Australia’s diplomatic envoy jetted into los Cabos to solve the European Union’s financial woes.  With not a minute lost, Ms Gillard, with her accomplice Mr Swan’s assistance, launched a predetermined campaign and gave a magisterial lecture on economics.
To assure that heads of the World’s most powerful counties would be prepped to pay attention, Gillard and the World’s best treasurer had penned a letter to all members of the G20 days before her arrival. During the usual handshaking and kissing, Julia must have been elated when told by “senior officials” (persons unknown) the letter had “become a talking point”. That, of course, was European diplomacy ignoring the rude, in-your-face Gillard style.
Excerpts from “the letter”:
Dear colleagues, The G20 Los Cabos Summit comes at a challenging time. Risks in Europe have intensified significantly in recent weeks.
Barack Obama, the heads of Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, and others must have rushed for the brandy flask upon reading such surprising news. Doesn’t it make you feel proud that our PM has the answer to the Euro-block’s financial conundrum? 
That foolish statement could only be eclipsed by Kevin Rudd’s famous drivel, “detailed programmatic specificity” which sent European translators into cerebral melt down.
The letter continued;  …there is growing awareness that growth must be pursued alongside fiscal consolidation.
What gall, did she also tell them Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal are stuffed? The following insert smacks of Wayne’s usual Question time babble:
…Without sustainable public finances, growth cannot be sound nor sustainable. The challenge for many countries is to implement plans that focus on ensuring fiscal sustainability over the medium term, while using all available scope to support growth and jobs in the short-term.
Can you imagine Wayne, were he there, tippy-toeing around the stage holding his World’s best treasurer biscuit-platter-prize aloft to the deafening cheers of the G20? Quelle courage mon ami!
The letter remained vacuous to the very end:
Yours sincerely,
Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan.


I thought those letters would simply meet the shredder and better use in the bottom of Europe’s rabbit hutches. I was wrong, that official missive received serious attention, particularly by Jose Manuel Barroso, head of the European Commission who defended Europe’s move to “protect the integrity and stability of the eurozone.”
When asked about Gillard’s tutorial concerning the EU’s “credibility” Mr Barroso was visibly infuriated: Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to handle the economy.
European observers reported that Gillard’s presumption to lecture Europe on financial matters only mirrored what European leaders had been discussing for some time. Ms Gillard’s smug, trite analysis and suggestions offered no new ideas.
Did Gillard and Swan underestimate the intellect, acumen, and sophistication of national leaders beyond Australia’s shores? or is it a manifestation of the pair’s hubris, their extreme pride and loss of contact with reality; their complacent overestimation of their competence? Vote Now.
The EU is sufficiently briefed in Australian politics. Despite Gillard postulating about Australia’s prosperity brilliance throughout the Global financial Recession, EU politicians know differently.
When Labor won government in 2007 they inherited a $20 billion surplus. European leaders know, as we know, that reserve was squandered in short order. They also followed the waste and mismanagement of failed policies, pink batts, school-building rip-offs, the cattle export shame, the NBN white elephant and so on.

They also know that Australia dodged the GFC bullet because our banks had fleeced depositors so richly and our mining industry was in record production with unprecedented profits. And, with the click of a button they can see our national debt going from $20 billion surplus to about $155 billion deficit with a national credit card debt around $51 billion. Our massive borrowing also raises conservative eyebrows.
EU members also have access to the Telegraph headline: Labor’s experiment to elect Julia Gillard as leader has been a “spectacular failure” with two thirds of voters believing the government is now demonstrably worse than two years ago when Kevin Rudd was dumped.
A Government that has delivered the four biggest deficits in Australian history hardly has the credentials to lecture the G20, Tony Abbott told a conference in Canberra. How sympathetically he put it.
Our government lives, works and breathes in a microcosm of Labor stultification where external input is eschewed as if deadly cyanide. They also judge the intelligence of foreign leaders, and indeed that of the people of Australia, by the measure of their own intelligence—big mistake. Our leaders simply flounder among their counterparts, the more widely thinking Europeans.
The word “diplomat” means: a person who can deal with people in a sensitive and effective way. Australian politicians in general need to lift their game. The “shove it down their throats” practice common to the Gillard regime will be politely rebuked in Europe, as it should be.
Europe has witnessed Gillard’s arrogant presentation and according to local media, is not impressed. Unfortunately, I doubt Ms. Gillard is capable of understanding her diplomatic blunder as she believes critical comment was not directed at her—such denial is telling. Lord, we deserve better!

Thought for the week: Visitors should behave in such a way that the host and hostess feel at home.  ~J.S. Farynski



The Great Renewable Energy Rort

PhotoKathy Russell, in this 2010 Quadrant article, argues that we need to scrap the Renewable Energy Target:

I thought the message was loud and clear on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) decision: we don’t want one! So why is this same logic not being applied to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) legislation? The proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) legislation (which incorporated the ETS) was defeated twice in federal parliament, on August 13 and December 2, 2009. After the Opposition blocked attempts to further debate the legislation in February this year, the government announced on April 27 that the implementation of its proposed CPRS would be delayed until at least 2013.

The ETS aimed to create a price penalty for carbon with the overriding objective being to promote carbon abatement. It was effectively a new tax which would artificially inflate our cost of living and most importantly our manufacturing cost base, reduce any shred of international competitive advantage any industry had in this country and essentially ruin a perfectly good economy for no real gain.

On August 20, 2009, the Renewable Energy Target (RET) legislation was passed, requiring electricity retailers and large industrial users to purchase at least 20 per cent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

In much the same way as the ETS created a price penalty for carbon, the RET creates a price penalty for electricity in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) with the same overriding objective being to promote carbon abatement. The RET is effectively a tax, as was the proposed ETS. By creating a political environment which guarantees uptake of inefficient and very expensive energy forms—for example wind energy—again it artificially inflates our cost of living and most importantly our manufacturing cost base and reduces significantly the international competitive advantage any industry has in this country and essentially ruins a perfectly good economy for no real gain.

Worse still, unlike a normal tax which provides revenue into government coffers for the general provision of infrastructure and welfare to the country as a whole, the RET singularly provides benefit to a select few—renewable energy companies. There is no offset for those forced to bear the cost.

So why the “disconnect” between the ETS and the RET? Aren’t they the same thing? They both have similar objectives with questionable outcomes. Both create artificial markets and costs. Why does the Opposition reject the ETS yet support the RET?

There was a huge public outcry during the ETS debate which motivated the Opposition to act and block the government’s proposed legislation. Is it a lack of public understanding which is allowing the amended RET legislation introduced into parliament in May this year to proceed unhindered? In the interest of greater public awareness, let me expand the concept further with my wind energy example and demonstrate what damage the RET is actually doing in real terms.

Of intermittent nature, wind energy needs 100 per cent backup capacity and the requirement for the market to purchase substitute power when this energy form needs to be shut down due to excessive wind speeds or when the wind dies down. This happens regularly, and details within the live generation data prove it[1]. These “loss of load” incidents have the ability to occur on a grand scale and require intervention from backup facilities at a premium—up to the current market cap of $10,000/MWh. Who pays for the added cost of this unnecessary electricity spot market volatility? Yes—you guessed it—individuals (that is, voters) and industry.

In addition, wind energy cannot be substituted for base load, nor can it be relied upon for peak requirements and is classified as self-dispatching. This wind energy supply has a zero bid price into the market, unlike other generators who must compete via price nomination for the opportunity to supply their product. Wind energy drives out the highest price generators first and, as it doesn’t bid into the market, receives the next highest generator’s bid. During periods of low demand, some generators bid a negative price in order to guarantee the uptake of their supply (some energy generators can’t just be switched off). The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is looking to introduce a floor price into the market in order to accommodate wind energy in this mix. Wind energy does not compete in a free market environment. Its sale and revenue are guaranteed. Who pays for this artificially high price acting over and above normal market forces? Yes—you guessed it—individuals (that is, voters) and industry.

But wait, there’s more. The Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) which go with the RET are like gold. From a high of approximately $46/MWh in March this year, wholesale certificate prices were trading at $38/MWh at the end of May[2]. This is the subsidy component which makes the business plan viable and is received on topof the price paid per MWh in the dispatch market. Current planning approvals and applications for over 2000MWh in western Victoria alone attest to the bonanza to be had. Foreign companies are leading the charge. Profits shift offshore and the underlying cost of the RECs are born by whom? Yes—you guessed it again—individuals (that is, voters) and industry.

Then there are the newly created opportunities to manipulate the electricity market. Destabilise the grid with wind energy and then compensate with fast-acting gas generation at peak prices. Now here’s one for the ACCC to watch. Did anyone notice the most recent capital investments of Origin and AGL to place Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) in strategic alignment with wind energy investment? Take note of the choice of generator. Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT—0.4 tCO2/MWh) are much more efficient than OCGTs (0.7 tCO2/MWh) from an emissions perspective, but unlike OCGTs, they do not have the ability to ramp up and down as quickly. If their investment strategy was to produce gas-generated electricity with the lowest carbon emissions possible, then CCGT would be the choice. If their investment strategy was to produce gas-generated electricity which could take advantage of opportunities in the market via its flexibility in ramping up and down on demand to satisfy grid instability issues, then OCGT would be the choice. Who pays for this fast-acting, shadowing capacity at peak prices? Yes—you guessed it again—individuals (that is, voters) and industry.

And what about the claim of jobs? Australia’s economic recovery on the back of a brave new environmentally friendly world? Construction jobs at the start-up of a wind farm are a given—this is so with the construction of any new plant or industrial facility (including a gas-generating plant) or public infrastructure project. The number of jobs long-term in the wind industry is rather less than ideal. Wind farm control is both electronic/automatic and remotely monitored. Maintenance positions are highly specialised and are not generally filled by local regional communities. Families attached to these specialised technicians don’t tend to relocate to these regional communities as they are moved around different wind farm locations on a rotational basis. The Spanish experience has been that each new green job created cost one million euros and caused 2.2 jobs to be lost in power-consuming industries[3]. Net job losses on the back of reduced economic activity from cost increases in the electricity market—no surprise on this one. Who pays for this unnecessary burden to Australia’s welfare obligations? Right again—individuals (that is, voters) and industry.

And all this for no tangible benefit. Emissions will not be reduced. Not one coal-fired power station will be switched off. Additional back-up capacity will have to be built. Artificially-based capital development of this scale and nature also has the effect of pushing up the cost of borrowing money. An increase in the cost of living and of the manufacturing cost base sends jobs offshore—to the smart countries who don’t entertain fantasies such as RETs and ETSs. Not to mention the vast tracts of land occupied by wind turbines and the destructive effect they have on communities forced to reside with them. This technology type is far from benign. Just ask the communities at Waubra, near Ballarat (and those at Toora, Cape Bridgewater, Capital, Cullerin, Hallet and Crookwell) who are suffering health effects and have started abandoning their homes, creating a new form of epidemic to add to the already struggling health and community support infrastructure. All of this would not be happening if it weren’t for the RET.

But don’t take my word for it. Take the time to listen to other market participants and commentators.

Origin Energy has been doing its best to blow the whistle on the same issues for years. But at what point do they join the rort, given that no one is listening?

In an important speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Sydney on April 13, Grant King, the CEO of Origin Energy, predicted massive increases in electricity prices driven

largely by the current policy environment, large amounts of renewables being forced into the system, uncosted charges for those renewables given current policy settings and substantial increases in transmission and distribution costs.[4]

In February 2006, Origin Energy submitted a technical paper to the Victorian government entitled “Driving Investment in Renewable Energy in Victoria—Options for a Victorian market-based measure, Submission by Origin Energy in response to the Issues Paper released by Department of Infrastructure and Department of Sustainability and Environment, December 2005”. The reason I mention the detail here rather than in a footnote is because there is a story to tell with regard to this document’s mysterious disappearance from the public domain. Submissions were recorded on the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) website for some years. A Google search now using the key words “Origin Driving Investment in Renewable Energy in Victoria” will produce a number of links to the DPI website. But guess what? When you follow these links, the site opens and a message appears stating that this document has been deleted. Sounds like the “Climategate” response to FOI requests: delete the required information.

But all is not lost. Copies were downloaded when the report was first made available. And their contents make for sensational reading. Some incredibly damning statements are made about the technical viability of policies which promote wind energy (because of its industry maturity) ahead of other developing technologies because of their inability to “step up” and be commercially viable within the time frames demanded.

The following excerpts are important because of their relevance to the argument, and important to acknowledge because so many people either ignore these inconvenient truths and irresponsibly plough on regardless or simply aren’t aware of these basic limitations in the first place.

Unreliable capacity requires additional generation support. Additional wind capacity will require two forms of generation support because of the intermittent nature of the underlying energy source:

variability outside 5 minute dispatch intervals—gas turbine generation, which can take between 15 and 30 minutes to reach maximum output, is either required to run to adjust for wind generation variability or to stand idle as back up support; and

variability inside 5 minute dispatch intervals—ancillary services generation is required, sometimes at significant extra cost, to cater for wind generation variability. [5]

Keep in mind that grid-supplied electricity is a unique commodity; its production for and consumption from the grid must be matched instantaneously and continuously, day and night. Not averaged out over days, hours or even half-hourly intervals. The grid is not like some large lake into which electricity might be dumped. This is an unchanging law about grid operation.

The Origin document goes on:

The costs of both forms of generation support are ultimately borne by energy consumers. Moreover, these costs are magnified as greater amounts of wind generation are connected to the system and more generation support is required. This is compounded by inter-connector constraints from time to time as more generation support is required from other regions in the NEM … 6

The intermittent nature of wind generation translates into higher electricity spot price volatility. Modelling of the impact of 1000 MW of wind generation on the South Australian electricity market indicates that 1 per cent of the time 250 MW of supply could be lost within the half hour and 390 MW within the hour which, in Origin’s view, would significantly increase electricity spot price volatility. Preliminary modelling by Origin indicates that Victorian electricity spot prices could increase by between $2 and $5/MWh (average flat price impact) as a result of a similar level of variability occurring in Victoria. The cost of additional financial risk associated with greater electricity spot price volatility will ultimately be borne by energy consumers. [6]

The fact that wind energy supply can be lost in such a short period is no joke. Commentators who make assertions to the contrary appear blissfully unaware that the performance data of all major wind farms connected to the eastern Australian grid is readily available in the public domain[7].

To demonstrate that a widespread loss of wind generation can and will occur, the night of August 18, 2009, provides a perfect example. Very strong prevailing winds of a weather system covering the Cullerin and Capital wind farms in New South Wales (about 40 kilometres apart) caused the control systems of both wind farms to shut down the wind turbines for their own protection. Each wind farm had been operating near its rated full capacity of approximately 120 MWh combined, which fell to zero within two minutes, starting at 5.19 p.m. This is a very significant loss that had to be replaced immediately.

The Origin document continues in its criticism of policy which promotes renewable energy such as wind over more economic forms of greenhouse gas abatement:

The economic cost of gas-fired generation is lower than wind generation—the combined capital and running costs of a gas-fired power station are approximately half that of a wind turbine (adjusted for the intermittency of wind and including higher running costs of running a gas-fired power station);

Gas-fired generation is a more cost-effective source of greenhouse gas abatement than wind generation—at approximately half the economic cost, a gas-fired power station reduces emissions up to twice as much as a wind turbine, because of the better utilisation of the gas-fired power station and the relatively low emission intensity of gas-fired electricity (which makes gas at least 4 times more cost-effective on a $/tCO2 basis than wind);

Gas-fired generation is more reliable than wind generation which is reliant on the vagaries of nature—gas-fired generation can be turned off and on to meet demand requirements while wind generation is regarded as firm for about only 8 per cent of the time (according to ESIPC in South Australia);

Gas-fired generation can provide much larger increments to generation capacity to satisfy growing demand—a large scale gas-fired power station may be up to 1000MW which is all available to generate on average 95 per cent of the time compared to a 1000MW of wind generation which is available to generate on average 33 per cent of the time; and

Diversity and security of supply are improved by gas-fired generation and diminished by wind generation—gas-fired power stations stimulate gas supply sources (potentially expanding the range of viable gas production in regional Victoria available for other uses) and connect to the transmission system (potentially in more remote areas) without lowering supply security (as would be the case with wind)[8]

Pretty damning isn’t it? So why isn’t the government listening?

A lack of transparency coupled with an absence of any analysis of live performance data in assessing the effects of policy in real terms from the highest levels down are contributing to these enormous mistakes.

In an effort to combat the lack of transparency and non-availability of live performance data, Andrew Miskelly has, of his own initiative, developed a way to make electricity generation data more freely available and user friendly (see thewebsite). Why has this task been left for unpaid “privateers” to complete?

The electricity provided to the national grid by every connected generator of greater than 30 MWh installed capacity is published daily on its website by the AEMO, the operator of the eastern Australian grid. It is a statutory requirement that the data is made available in the public domain. At there is the statement “under Clause 3.13.4(r) of the National Electricity Rules AEMO is also required to publish such data to Registered Participants, in a daily file covering all intervals of the previous trading day”. In fact, the data is supplied to the website as the average output at five-minute intervals for each full day, midnight to midnight, at about 4 a.m. the following morning, every morning. Andrew has created a method which captures this information release.

On the back of this original information breakthrough, Andrew and Dr Tom Quirk teamed up to write a paper which debunked the myth of geographical dispersion[9]—the myth being that wind farms can be a reliable source of electricity if they are dispersed over a sufficiently wide area[10]. The wind will be “blowing somewhere”, it is claimed. Given the real production output of wind farms in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Andrew and Dr Quirk analysed the data and were able to determine that wind farms in south-eastern Australia are unlikely to supply any significant power output that system operators can rely on. Using five-minute power measurements for the month of June 2009, it was determined that the one benefit of grouping wind farms is that the 90 per cent reliability point is increased from 6 per cent for South Australia, 5 per cent for Victoria, to 10 per cent overall. This figure should be expected to vary from month to month and from year to year as a result of changing weather patterns with no marked improvement as a result of saturation of wind turbines within respective states. 

Since the Miskelly/Quirk paper was written, there have been a number of sustained meteorological events which highlight even further the obvious fallacy of geographical dispersion. The period November 1 to 21, 2009, was of particularly low output across the whole eastern Australian grid. More recently, May 13 to 20 paints a terrible output generation picture if you’re a wind farmer. The operational data originally posted on the AEMO website for these date ranges is available via Andrew’s database. Also, go to and alter the “change date” tab and flick through the May date range provided to confirm the graph below.

The above combined wind farm output incorporates all of the wind farms over 30 MWh capacity which are connected to the eastern Australian grid and are listed to the right of this graph. This equates to a total installed capacity of 1611 MWh. If this maximum potential output were to be demonstrated on the above graph, it would appear just above the 1600. As previously mentioned, not a good week if you’re a wind farmer. So much for the certainty of geographic dispersion improving wind farm reliability. 

Wind farms on the eastern Australian grid have a geographic spread of over 1100 kilometres east-west and over 500 kilometres north-south. This grid has the largest geographic dispersal of any interconnected grid in the world. Weather systems can occupy and influence large if not whole areas within this geographic spread[11]. Further, no matter how many turbines are erected throughout this geographic area, wind energy will always require instantaneous reserves equal to the total installed wind farm capacity to be kept operational at all times. This reserve requirement is in addition to any reserves presently required to cover the loss of any large controllable generation unit, simply because the scenario that a large generation unit (such as a coal power station) might fail remains a separate, independent probability to that of wind farms’ frequent “failures”.

Furthermore, Andrew’s data base provides conclusive evidence that wind farm output does suddenly start and stop on a regular basis, and does so in a totally unpredictable fashion. This data cannot be averaged out for the purpose of analysing wind farm performance and its ability to supply a secure, reliable, efficient energy source into the grid. To do so completely ignores that unchanging law of grid operation, where supply and demand must be matched instantaneously and continuously, all the time. Not averaged out over days, hours or even half hourly intervals. This unpredictability may well have serious impacts on the controllability and stability of the eastern Australian grid.

It is impossible to forecast wind speeds and wind speed variation over timeframes of seconds to minutes, or to provide any sort of accurate estimate of wind speed variation across the meteorological micro-scale of any given wind farm location. It is possible to forecast some sort of regional mean wind speed (that is, average value) over timeframes of hours. But again, averages are not good enough when it comes to managing the grid second by second. Thus the flow-on effects such as market volatility, higher electricity prices, grid instability, security and efficiency issues become an everyday reality if the current RET policy promoting wind energy remains unchallenged.

And how is this totally unacceptable risk being justified by our incumbent governments? At a state level in Victoria I received a letter on the subject from the Office of the Minister for Energy and Resources, signed by the Chief of Staff, Ms Susanne Legana, dated November 17, 2009:

Regarding the intermittency of wind, this is partially mitigated by the installation of multiple wind farms, as together these smooth out individual variability. In 2007, there was a period of only about 4 hours where the combined output of wind farms in Victoria was zero.

God love her! This was November 2009, mind you, and Susanne was quoting 2007 data. Not only this, but Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales were at that exact moment in the grip of extremely calm weather. In the first three weeks of November there was a total of 5.5 hours in which the combined output of wind farms in Victoria was zero or below (important fact: sometimes turbines are netusers of electricity because at all times they require energy to initiate and maintain blade spin, cooling of motors, remote monitoring, turning of blades to face the wind, flashing lights, and so on). In addition, for a further 5.67 hours the combined output of wind farms in Victoria in this period was between zero and 1 MWh. This is just as bad. What good is 1 MWh of power from all that capacity? On top of this again, for a further 26.25 hours the combined output of wind farms in Victoria in this same time frame was between 1 and 5 MWh.

That’s a total of 37.42 hours of less than 5 MWh Victorian combined wind farm energy generation during a three-week period from a combined maximum generating capacity of 439 MWh. So for a day and a half in a three-week period, all the wind farms in Victoria combined produced less than 1 per cent of their capacity. How is this smoothing out intermittency? How is this energy security? How is this timely analysis of live data? The Office of the Minister for Energy and Resources is two years behind!  

In total, the system produced at less than 50 MWh for the equivalent of eight days. It produced at less than 100MWh for the equivalent of thirteen days. The average output for the whole Victorian system for the three-week period was 86.32 MWh. It peaked at 341 MWh at 11.05 a.m. on November 3 during one of two days of elevated activity. I must reiterate that it is very important not to rely on averages alone when analysing this data. Big movements from minute to minute are not the exception, but the rule. On November 3 at 4.10 p.m. the combined system was producing 306.07 MWh; at 4.15 it was producing 290.445 MWh; at 4.20 it was producing 274.28 MWh; at 4.25 it was producing 258.21 MWh. This was a loss of 47.86 MWh within fifteen minutes. This is not an isolated incident.

Now imagine a further 2000 MWh installed capacity within this Victorian system as per approved and planned applications. Assuming a total capacity of 2439 MWh, a variance of 11 per cent capacity in fifteen minutes would translate to a loss of 268 MWh from the system. This type of event will occur regularly.

On the same day at 03:05 a.m., 77.27 MWh was lost in ten minutes; at 4.50 a.m., 80.43 MWh was lost in twenty-five minutes; on a further six instances on the same day 10 per cent or greater capacity was lost within minutes. And this isn’t counting the equivalent increases being forced into the grid. Multiply this out against a larger installed capacity as is intended for the state and this is the equivalent of a large gas-fired generator being switched on and off regularly. The operator of a gas-fired generator would be fined hundreds and thousands of dollars if it were to perform in this manner. The wind generators get away with this behaviour.

So can you now see why backup generation must not only be built, but kept running at all times? What’s the point of installing two systems when one alone will suffice? Where are the savings?

Frightening isn’t it? And the people managing and governing our country are not analysing this data and therefore do not have a clue what effects their policies are having in real terms. The ignorance gets worse. Note the following paragraph from the same letter:

Wind farms are private sector investments which derive income from two sources, the sale of electricity and the sale of Renewable Energy Certificates (REC). Private investors would not continue to develop wind energy projects if they were not commercial in competitive electricity and REC markets.

If the Office of the Minister for Energy and Resources were private enterprise, the Board and the CEO would be sacked. Where is the accountability of the Australian government? Wind energy does not compete in the electricity market. It drops in and takes the next available bid price. And no, the private sector wind farm investor is not happy with the current competitive nature of wind versus solar in the REC market, and that’s why they have lobbied Penny Wong, federal Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water so intensively to have their own market in which they do not have to compete. Thus the new RET legislation currently before the parliament. New wind energy gets electricity price plus REC value with no requirement to compete. New gas energy gets electricity price only plus has to compete for opportunity to supply. Hello? Who’s driving this bus?

Contrary to the belief of the Minister for Energy and Resources that wind farms would not be built if they weren’t able to compete in the electricity and REC market is the unavoidable fact that private investors are applying in their droves for new wind farm developments due to current friendly policy which removes the risk of competition and guarantees cash windfalls. And it’s our money the government is using as bait to achieve their political objective of being “seen to be green”.

Departments such as the Energy and Resources Department quite clearly do not have a clue. They lack a basic understanding of industry dynamics, with no level of accountability or responsibility, and there is no intelligent, transparent analysis or debate behind their decision making.

A blind faith in RET legislation and an ETS being able to solve all of these issues is driving this madness. A blind faith in a Green utopia which decrees “in theory” (confirmed by computer modelling?) that we must have a generous mix of all energy types with a magical “20 per cent renewable” falling out at the end of the equation. And an even blinder faith which assumes we can acquire all of these different energy types off the shelf and simply plug them into our current electricity grid, ready to use. In Australia, we are not connected to any neighbouring countries which have the luxury of fast-acting secure conventional backup generation capacity (such as nuclear, hydro, gas and coal) as is the European experience. Why are these basic facts being ignored? If the system is going to be forced to work in an inefficient manner for no gain (and that includes little if any carbon abatement), we have a right to know: “At what cost?”

The damage does not end here. Environmental costs of equal if not greater significance must also be included in this analysis. The most significant of all is the human cost.

Human health is an issue of major concern for those forced to reside near turbines and for good reason. I know because I speak and correspond with these people every day. I know because I am invited into their homes and for the relatively brief length of my stay, I experience their symptoms. Luckily for me, I am able to leave, and in doing so my symptoms disappear. Not so lucky the people who can’t leave and are forced to endure long-term exposure with significant long-term consequences. Some have been fortunate enough to have the means to leave their homes. The majority are not so lucky, having lost the ability to sell their most valuable asset, their farm or home.

Symptoms range in strength and severity and include sleep disturbance, motion sickness and nausea, inner ear symptoms, headaches and migraines, excessive tiredness, palpitations, high blood pressure, eye symptoms, and cognitive as well as gastrointestinal problems. The residents of some homes experience more problems than others, and sometimes certain family members within these homes are affected more than others. Explanations for these differences include a combination of an individual’s physical predisposition, distance from the wind farm and climatic conditions which affect the operation of the turbines at the time.

In a rather clever analogy, a Waubra resident recently compared her experiences of ocean racing with those of living next door to a wind farm. She said in ocean racing, some of those on board the same boat would fall ill to seasickness immediately and be totally incapable of moving for the remainder of the journey, some would be ill yet could still function, while others felt no ill effects at all. Much the same happens around a wind farm, although the biggest concentration of people affected in Australia appears to be at the Waubra wind farm site, north-west of Ballarat. Unlike ocean racing, where a seasickness sufferer is given sympathy and accommodated in their reduced capacity, those suffering wind farm sickness are ridiculed by wind company managing directors[12] and their genuine concerns are ignored by those who are supposed to at the very least initiate investigations, support and protection—the government and its delegated agencies.

Sound familiar? Parallels with the tobacco and asbestos histories come to mind— misrepresenting data, hiring PR firms, attacking the detractors. Remember, there is a great deal of money and green votes at stake here.

In response to a Legislative Council adjournment debate issue raised by Peter Kavanagh MLC in the Victorian parliament on September 2, 2009, in relation to the possible health effects of wind farm generators, on October 14 the Minister for Workcover Tim Holding announced: “WorkSafe has commenced work with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Environment Protection Authority, and will work with local government and relevant individuals to identify potential hazards related to the issues raised by Mr Kavanagh.”

In January, Mr Holding announced the conclusion of his investigation with the finding that after examining both peer reviewed and validated scientific research, no correlation could be found between direct health effects and the operation of wind turbines. However, not one resident who had raised their concerns with the wind company was interviewed or even approached as part of this investigation.

On November 11, I participated in the National Wind Farm Development Guidelines: Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) meeting. The meeting was called to discuss what the working group had planned for the consultation process for the draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines, the timeframe for analysing the public comments and addressing those comments in the final version. It was expected that the SRG would provide a diverse range of views and highlight issues that the Working Group could address during and after the public consultation period. It was an experience to say the least.

Of greatest concern to me was the stated purpose of the guidelines: “to support government renewable energy policy by providing a nationally consistent set of methods for addressing issues that are unique or significant to wind farms[13](emphasis added). Beside the fact that the wind companies present at that meeting decreed that they would not follow guidelines which were not a legislative requirement (so what was the point of having a nationally consistent set of guidelines?), there was no mention of health effects in any of the chapters or appendices. As far as I and the hundreds I represented at that meeting were concerned, health was a major subject “unique or significant to wind farms”, yet there was no mention or recognition of it, let alone a guideline on the subject. How could potential safeguards be put in place if the problem itself was not recognised? By not acknowledging the problem, were we not condemned to more of the same mistakes?

This was quickly countered with the “no peer-reviewed evidence” excuse during the ensuing debate. But during a subsequent break, the convenors (from the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, DEWHA) approached me and explained that until there was evidence of a conclusive scientific peer-reviewed nature, they couldn’t act. But if I was to obtain something of significance, I should provide it to them and I would be assured of the subject’s recognition. Yeah, right. Quite clearly, the state and federal governments had no intention of initiating the scientific studies required to investigate the causal links. Given this was a new frontier in scientific research, the cost, resources and expertise required to complete the task were extensive, so how was this the responsibility of ordinary Australians? Wasn’t it the government’s responsibility to at least send in an assessment team to interview and investigate the people affected?

Rather than rely on the assertions of DEWHA employees, I then moved on to Peter Garrett, federal Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (the position he held at that time). I was beginning to understand in explicit detail how the pink-batts tragedy had evolved. On February 18, 2010, I met with Mr Garrett and took with me a Waubra resident who was suffering health effects and had been forced to move out of his home. I also took and provided to Mr Garrett a short documentary of the testimonials provided by other Waubra residents who were unable to attend the meeting. We also provided medical evidence and expert advice, some of which was personally addressed to Mr Garrett. On the issue of health and its omission from his National Guidelines, Mr Garrett contended that he had no jurisdiction in this area and it was the responsibility of the states. He stated he had jurisdiction only under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). When asked why he was writing National Guidelines which included subjects such as noise, shadow flicker, electromagnetic interference, aircraft safety, fire risk, if he had no jurisdiction in these areas, he would not respond.

I then introduced Mr Garrett to the Waubra resident who had been displaced from his home. I took the evidence to him. There was no show of concern on Mr Garrett’s behalf, no request for this man to relay his story so that he could at least make his own assessment. Just an assistant next to Mr Garrett pointing out the necessary response in the response book: “there is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support the link”.

We left Mr Garrett with some very fundamental and damning evidence which at the very least would be grounds to commence an initial assessment. He promised to respond personally. To this date (June 1) we have not received any correspondence, let alone a response to the information we provided. Unlike the pink-batts scandal, he can’t say he wasn’t warned of the consequences to people’s health on the wind farm issue.

Given Mr Garrett’s perception that health was a state government responsibility, on March 15 I attended a Victorian State Community Cabinet meeting in Geelong. With me I took a number of other Waubra residents as well as residents from other wind-farm-approved locations who would soon be affected by turbine operation near their homes. We all wanted answers. The ones we got were quite unexpected.

First, the Premier, John Brumby, had no idea that his wind farm policy mandated use of a New Zealand noise standard. Mr Brumby and Mr Batchelor (Minister for Energy and Resources) equally had no idea that any national standards or guidelines, if and when they were released, would have no jurisdictional power in Victoria over their mandated New Zealand standard.

The most telling answer of all was Mr Batchelor’s response to Waubra residents when they relayed to him what was happening in their own homes: it was up to them to prove there was an issue with scientific peer-reviewed evidence to back up their claims, because the wind companies had been granted development approval through the proper channels and it was hardly fair that they should have to change their practices just because someone complained. When he was told that it wasn’t just one person complaining and an investigation should be the government’s responsibility, Mr Batchelor used the same old excuse, “there is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support such a study”.

How on earth can they make this determination when not one incumbent government minister or their representatives or agencies will even visit Waubra, let alone speak with the residents? After all this (and much more)—you have to ask yourself: Why?

There are only two possible answers to this question. Either it is true that there is no connection between health and wind turbines and the people I have personally surveyed in Waubra and the people making similar claims at other wind farms in Australia and throughout the world are imagining them, or …

… the ramifications of undertaking such a study and finding a connection are too great from the perspective of either litigation (with the potential to destroy the wind industry in Australia and any chance of achieving the RET’s 20 per cent renewable target by 2020) or planning scheme adjustments (which would recognise and prevent health issues and thus severely alter the locations at which wind turbines can be placed, again jeopardising the 20 per cent renewable target by 2020).

Either way, there is obviously a great deal at stake here, which the government and the wind industry are keen to keep a lid on. Ultimately a proper study which satisfies the current scientific peer-reviewed criteria is required to determine an outcome either way. The government has a duty of care and it should fulfil this obligation.

On May 20, we met with the state Liberal Opposition leader Ted Baillieu, who had the week before released a wind farm policy in the lead-up to the state election in November. Amongst other things, his policy mandates a two-kilometre setback of turbines from homes (currently there are no planning setback provisions, with homes unwillingly as close as 400 metres in some approved developments). We took this one step further with Mr Baillieu and sought his opinion on the necessity of an approved health study. His opinion was in the affirmative and he later confirmed this affirmation at the media conference on the steps of Parliament House in answer to a direct question on camera. A Ballan resident with turbines proposed within a kilometre of her home who was not part of the earlier meeting but was there to listen to Mr Baillieu speak, burst into tears on hearing this news. Such was her relief. Again I ask the question: “At what cost?” We have a right to know.

From the work I have undertaken on the health issue with experts to date I have a fair idea of what is contributing to the problem from a physical and planning perspective. I don’t believe there is a single contributing factor or a single available solution. I do believe that what can’t be acknowledged can’t be changed. I do believe without a question of doubt that this is an avoidable problem. I do believe without a question of doubt that the same mistakes are being made in current planning approvals via policy which will guarantee the displacement of hundreds more rural residents situated close to turbines through no fault of their own. I don’t care if my hypotheses of contributing factors or suggested solutions are wrong, as long as someone determines what they should be and fixes the situation before more innocent rural families are subjected to the same form of torture as those currently suffering.

The moral high ground taken by those in government and those initially in favour of turbines is that they are doing their bit for the environment. People not wanting turbines in close proximity to their properties or homes are considered collateral damage by the very planning process established to protect them. Any risk or resulting damage is not costed in its assessment of “benefits to the greater community”. And then these people discover that they are being sacrificed for no real gain—that their loss and harm will not contribute to saving the planet.

This is what the Renewable Energy Target is doing to real people in real terms, right now. Why is anyone of sound mind supporting this legislation? 

Kathy Russell, a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, is Vice-President of Australian Landscape Guardians Inc, whose website contains some of the data referred to in this article. She lives in rural Victoria. This article was initially published in Quadrant Magazine and is reproduced with permission

People smuggling crisis: Advice given on duping officials

AFGHAN people smugglers are offering money-back guarantees on getting to Australia and providing step-by-step instructions on how to dupe authorities when they get here.

Free 2 month digital pass

The smuggling trade has increasingly moved from Pakistan to Afghanistan as smugglers seek to cash in on the huge demand for people wanting to leave the country before the withdrawal of most foreign forces by 2015.

"If someone has the money, then they are leaving, but don't worry, Australia is easy if you follow my advice," a Kabul-based smuggler told the Sunday Herald Sun.

"I have three people going to Australia this week and I guarantee 100 per cent they will make it. You will get your money back if you don't get in."

The smuggler's clients are almost always Hazaras, a tribe that suffered persecution under the Taliban.

They pay up to $14,000 to a money broker in Kabul who holds the money until they reach Australia.

The smuggler's confidence comes from the dozens of other customers to whom he has supplied fake documents and tricks they have learned in refugee processing camps.

For between $300 and $1500, clients can get a made-to-order threat letter purportedly from the Taliban, which carries the insignia of the hardline Islamic movement and threatens violence if they don't leave their village.

The Sunday Herald Sun was able to buy one of the letters from a smuggler who runs his business on the eastern Afghan border with Pakistan, after having requested it be written to maximise the chances of it being accepted.


Click through to read the rest…

Massive storm hits new Marine Parks proposal

John MikkelsenJohn Mikkelsen examines the controversy surrounding the Federal Government's decision to lock up much of the Coral Sea as "Marine Parks" :

A massive storm of controversy has hit plans by the Federal Government to lock up much of the Coral Sea in a series of huge marine parks in Australian waters.

Most commercial and amateur fishing organisations are strongly opposed to the plans announced by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke on the eve of a major international environmental conference in Rio, while some tourism and environmental groups gave it a guarded tick of approval.
Opponents see it as an attempt by Mr Burke to save face in the wake of the damning draft report by UNESCO, which has threatened to place the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area on the endangered list after visiting major expansion projects at Gladstone, Mackay and other northern ports in March.
Mr Burke this week was forced to delay his planned trip to Rio to promote the marine parks proposal so that he could face Opposition questions in Parliament.
 Some Green groups say the planned changes don’t go far enough, and various marine experts claim the closures more than 100 km offshore will do little to boost coastal fish stocks threatened by pollution from dredging and other major development.
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd and LNP Senator Ron Boswell, who have been pushing for proper recognition of displaced commercial fishers in Gladstone, yesterday launched a strong attack on the new proposals, which follow another controversial  decision to allow a huge foreign trawler to operate in Australian waters.
They said the move by the Gillard Government to allow the 142-metre long Dutch-owned Margiris super-trawler to fish Australian waters was a slap in the face for our commercial fishermen who would soon be forced out of the proposed marine parks.
“Tony Burke is attempting to shut down the Australian commercial fishing sector with the world’s largest marine parks, and at the same time the Government has approved what will be the largest trawler ever to fish in Australian waters.
“This is stupidity at its best and again highlights the dysfunction in the Gillard Government and how again their policies are at cross purposes,” Senator Boswell said.
Mr O’Dowd said
the Government was sending mixed messages.
 “They must decide if they are for fishing and jobs or not.

 “I have been told that fish are the best renewable resource that we have, and if a reef or bommie becomes crowded, the fish actually stop breeding.

 “They are territorial and don’t like moving far away, thus catching a few actually helps numbers to regenerate,” Mr O’Dowd said.

He also claimed there was no scientific evidence to support change, no fish species were under threat in Queensland, 80 percent of fish products were imported already, and the new boundaries would open flood gates to other nations to  plunder our fishing grounds.

“How will we control these extra 3.1 million sq. km of waters when we can’t patrol existing protected waters?” Mr O’ Dowd asked.

Commonwealth Fisheries Association spokesman Brian Jeffriess said the plan showed a lack of cooperation between state and Federal Governments, to avoid duplication.

"What is symbolic about this is in the Minister's statement itself – all this about the biggest and best, the biggest and best in the world and you have to believe that's what it's about, beating your chest in front of the rest of the world rather than good ecosystem management”.

Mr Jeffriess said the changes would threaten the livelihood of fishing crews and their communities.

Rather than the $100 million compensation suggested by the Government, the amount needed was closer to between $250 and $300 million, he said.

A James Cook University scientist has also hit out at aspects of the proposal. Dr Terry Hughes, a Federation Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, writes in acadamic  blog, The Conversation:

“….Marine reserves rebuild depleted stocks of fisheries, but they do not address the impacts of coastal developments and pollution. While today’s announcement ….is a big step forward, it won’t change how we affect the marine environment from land. The number of major coastal development projects along the Great Barrier Reef has grown hugely in the past decade, and the new Queensland government has promised to reduce “green tape” in the future….

“In response, the UNESCO report has formally requested that the Australian Commonwealth prohibits the construction of new ports along the Queensland coast, and that all future coastal developments must not affect the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area….

“The rush to get as much fossil fuel out of the ground as quickly as possible, before the transition to alternative sources of energy occurs, has pushed environmental concerns far into the background. The Commonwealth has been complicit in the damage coal mining is causing to the inner Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area by allowing an unprecedented level of dredging and dumping within the boundaries of the World Heritage Area….”

Aquaculture expert Rangi Faulder, who has been assisting with research on seafood disease in Gladstone Harbour, says that the new marine parks will place more pressure on other areas where fishing is permitted.

“The right way to approach it would be to manage all areas that produce seafood sustainably, not take a path where areas are badly managed, so you offer up areas that can be kept free of all commercial fishing.

“Making (more) marine parks is a sign of losing areas because of bad management. Gladstone has ‘gone’ for fish, now we will lose the new marine parks for fishing too. 

“There are many instances of areas in the world not being too heavily fished and not being degraded and they will produce seafood forever. Let’s hope someday that is the way we work it all out, but I don't see this new move as a win at all. It's a con, epic fail.

“As for UNESCO, I'm certain they will see past this attempt and will be looking at how their specific recommendations are dealt with,” Mr Faulder said. 

John Mikkelsen is a long-term journalist, former regional newspaper editor (Gladstone Observer) now regular columnist and freelance writer. This article first appeared in the Queensland Telegraph & The Mackay Telegraph  and is reproduced with permission. 

Gina Rinehart and how self-styled “progressives” are keeping the boardroom male

Cross-posted from Major Karnage.

IN MY line of work, I get to spend quite a lot of time in high-level boardroom meetings with people who all sit on corporate boards. I also have a few relatives who have sat on various boards in their time and my extended networks include quite a number of others. This means that while am not on any corporate boards, I am not a stranger to them either.

I still remember the first time I was at one of said meetings and a female colleague muttered to me, “do you notice anything particularly… male about the room?” The truth was that I hadn’t. While I had definitely noticed that I was the youngest person in the room by at least a decade (two if you didn’t count her). Until she pointed it out to me, it did not occur to me that she was the only woman there.

That incident jolted me into awareness. Since then, I have been paying attention to the gender balance when I am in corporate settings and a lot of observations have struck me that anecdotally support the mountains of research showing that the boardroom is simply not a place for girls. Not once in the last couple of years have I ever seen anything that even comes close to gender balance. Several times, there have actually been no women present. I also find that the “higher-level” the meeting, the less women tend to be invited.

That said, there are other observations that I can make about people in boardrooms than merely their gender. They are generally very sure of themselves – often manifesting as arrogance, but always including a calm and confident demeanour. They are hard-working, ambitious and persistent to the point of obsession, they know what they want and they make it happen. They are uncompromising – they expect the best and will not accept anything less. They are often very blunt and straight-talking. They can be friendly and charming when they want to, but they can be aggressive and intimidating when they have to.

I note these things not as a criticism of the corporate world and certainly not as an affront to the people that I am writing about. I have a tremendous amount of respect for most of them, they work harder than anyone else I know and they do amazing and under-appreciated (if not under-paid) work, without which our society could not function.

I MENTIONED those character traits is because of a common thread running through them: they are generally “alpha male” traits, they are not things that women are “supposed” to be. Women are loving, conciliatory, family-oriented and selfless. Women are neurotic and emotional, they doubt themselves, they shut-down and cry when bad things happen and they panic when they are stressed. They are not confident, ambitious, persistent and aggressive. When shit hits the fan, they are the ones panicking and screaming, not the ones who take-charge – at least in most sitcoms.

Again, I am not trying to say that it is a bad thing for someone to put others first, display their emotion and focus more on relationships than outcomes. I am trying to say that doing this is unlikely to get you ahead in the corporate world (or in other areas of public life). If you doubt yourself, the person who believes in themself will get the pay-rise or the promotion. If you shut-down and cry or panic, someone else will take charge. If you compromise, someone else won’t and they will have the better result in the end. Potential alone can only get you so far, there is not a lot of room at the top and to get there requires hard work, sacrifices and, above all, wanting to be there more than everyone else.

The public image of most successful women in Australia does not fit the stereotype of a high-powered Director. I say “public image” because, from my experience, the women who get to these positions do have most of these traits in private, but are able to create a persona that comes across as more “feminine” when they want to.

I refuse to believe that the corporate exec described above is actually gender-related. I know plenty of men who do not act like that. That character is simply how a person needs to act in order to reach the top of the corporate ladder – possibly the most competitive position anyone can aspire to reach (except maybe professional athlete). Other high-profile positions (rockstar, politician etc) require a huge amount of luck as well as hard work, becoming a CEO or company chair is about nothing except ability, attitude and work ethic.

THERE IS one very notable exception: Gina Rinehart. Here is a woman who is overweight and unattractive, but clearly not too concerned about her appearance and uninterested in the world of glamour and fashion. She is abrasive, intimidating and even a bully. She is willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants, without regard to the way it makes her look or the people she is offending. She is ambitious, single-minded and dedicated to the point where she supposedly goes without any of the frills that other billionaires afford themselves so that she can re-invest all her money into her company.

She is also not a “loving mother” figure by any stretch of the imagination. She isreportedly quiet and reserved in person and she keeps her personal affairs completely private. What did leak last year was that, having judged her children as inept for running her company, she offered them each $300mln a year in return for signing-away their shares. When they refused, she fought them all the way to the High Court – becoming estranged in the process.

Meanwhile, her achievements are incredible. She inherited a floundering, debt-ridden mining company that was making its money from a lucky break and transformed it into a hugely profitable, gigantic operation – becoming the world’s wealthiest woman in the process. She is now in the process of planning the biggest Australian-owned mining development in history and is funding it entirely on her own.  Yes, she was born into some wealth due to a lucky find by her father, but many people born into wealth spend their lives turning a large fortune into a small one. She turned a small fortune into a gargantuan one.

And yet she is being punished for this – not by the Andrew Bolts and Alan Jones’ of this world, but by the very people that would generally be the first to jump to her defence if she hadn’t made the unfortunate mistake of being a Conservative and one of the mining magnates vilified by Wayne Swan. Oh, as well as committing the awful sin of giving jobs to people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in Australia.

The best (but not the only) example was the abuse she received from David Marr and Miriam Margolyes on Q and A last month:

Note: I did not criticise the others as Barry Humphries was playing a character, Tony Jones was trying to defend her while still maintaining his “distance” as chair, Jacki Weaver seemed a little stunned and John Hewson later said he regretted not arguing but felt overwhelmed. Also, Marr and Margolyes were the two noted “feminists” on the panel.

THAT INCIDENT did receive fairly wide coverage – in News Ltd papers. It was all but ignored in the ABC, Fairfax (well, aside from the SMH’s balance columnist),New Matilda etc. Some good responses were written that I could find in more minor leftist publications, however it was generally her political allies that were jumping to her defence. More anecdotally, the people on my social networks who would normally be concerned about this kind of thing have been completely silent.

Why is this such a problem? Because it shows that this kind of abuse is acceptable for women that the left don’t like. It sends the message that the only reason anyone complains about comments aimed at Julia Gillard or Christine Milne is that they are on the left and not because this kind of discourse should be unacceptable. It reaffirms the idea that women shouldn’t act like CEOs, which discourages women from acting like CEOs, which in turn means women won’t become CEOs.

To some degree I think that it may be that people who hold corporate leaders in contempt yet think they want to see more women being corporate leaders were somehow expecting female corporate leaders to be more like “women” and less like “businessmen”. The issues inherent in that assumption should speak for themselves.

It’s all well and good to conduct research and then complain about the lack of women at the top, but unless there are a lot of ambitious and competitive young women willing to fight to get there, nothing will ever change.

Major Karnage is a Sydney-based blogger and can be followed on Twitter or Facebook. This article was originally posted on

Government-funded ‘registry of homophobic acts’ launched today in Quebec

QUEBEC, June 18, 2012 ( – In what they are touting as a “world first,” a Quebec homosexual activist group has launched a “registry of homophobic acts” with support and funding from the Quebec Government’s Justice Department.  Standing alongside Montreal Police Chief Johanne Paquin and Commander Alain Gagnon, the leadership of the group Gai Ecoute launched the anonymous tipster registry at a press conference today. 

Included in the definition of actions classified as “homophobic” and deemed worthy of reporting to the registry are: “any negative word or act toward a homosexual or homosexuality in general: physical abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, offensive graffiti, abuse, injurious mockery, inappropriate media coverage and discrimination.”