Monthly Archives: October 2019

Australian Politics 2019-10-31 15:55:00


Assisted dying outrages religions

Remarkable unanimity

Islamic and Jewish leaders have joined the churches in slamming any rollout of voluntary euthanasia in Queensland, the latest state t0 weigh the right to die. In a joint statement, 16 religious leaders headed by president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, former primate of Australia and Anglican archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall, president of the Islamic Council of Queensland Habib Jamal and Rabbi Levi Jaffe of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation warned that voluntary assisted dying was "not dying well".

"We believe that the Queensland government should main-tain the current laws and improve palliative care for a flourishing Queensland based on human freedom, human dignity and the common good," the statement said.

A modified version of the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) law that came into effect in Victoria in June passed the lower house of West Australian parliament last month, but faces a sterner test in the Legislative Council, possibly by the end of the year.

Queensland is at an earlier stage of assessing VAD but its unicameral state parliament means the process will be smoother if an all-party committee endorses the need for legislation and the state Labor government grasps the nettle.

This happened with abortion law reform in 2017, to the dismay of
the churches. Their effort to block euthanasia shows signs of being more concerted and co-ordinated. The joint statement argued that VAD offered a misleading choice: "You can choose to die horribly or you can take your own life."

But Everald Compton, of the Dying with Dignity organisation and an elder of the Uniting and Presbyterian churches, rejected the religious leaders' position. "I fundamentally disagree with the unreasonable position taken by my church and all the other churches -- which is based on creating fear and misrepresentating what voluntary assisted dying is all about," he said

The religious leaders said the provision of high-quality palliative care was paramount, so that death did not need to be terrible or feared. "High-quality palliative care is not merely a third option; it is best practice," they argued. "Queenslanders do not yet have universal access such as specialist palliative care that addresses the physical, psycho-social and spiritual needs of people."

The statement said VAD would undermine efforts to curb suicide in a state with the nation's second highest rate of self-inflicted death.

Other signatories were: moderator of the Uniting Church Queensland Synod Reverend David Baker, Reverend Peter Barson of. the Presbyterian Church, Conference president of the Churches of Christ Geoff Charles, moderator of the Queensland Congregational Fellowship Dr Joe Goodall, state chairman of the International Network of Churches Pastor Gary Hourigan, Elder Carl Maurer of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints, Pastor Carl Mutzelburg of Acts 2 Alliance, acting general superintendent of Queensland Baptists Reverend Stewart Pieper, Reverend Rex Rigby of the Wesleyan Methodist Church South Queensland, Bishop Paul Smith of the Lutheran Church, district and state ministries director of Christian Churches Queensland-NT Pastor Gary Swenson.

From "The Australian" of 28/10/2019

Pressure rising for drivers of electric cars to pay their way

Electric vehide drivers should be charged road-user costs, with 76 per cent of Australians calling on green-car owners to contribute to transport infrastructure, and almost one-in-two declaring it unfair they avoid paying fuel excise.

New polling obtained by The Australian reveals pushback against electric vehicle owners, with Australian motorists warning "there shouldn't be one rule for them and another for us". The sample of 1500 Australians, conducted by pollster Toby Ralph for the Australian Automobile Association, shows an "overwhelming sentiment that all road users should pay to fund the roads, not just those using petrol or diesel".

The research, based on 1400 quantitative and 100 qualitative interviews across the nation in July, also revealed concerns about Australia holding 50 days of fuel stocks, with 55 per cent saying it was insufficient and 31 per cent unsure.

AAA managing director Michael Bradley said the data spoke to the fact that "Australian motorists are incredibly price sensitive and very focused on high transport costs". "People understand motoring taxes build and maintain the roads and rail networks we all need, and Australians clearly want that burden shared equally," Mr Bradley said.

"Low emissions vehicle technologies are evolving rapidly and while no one wants the adoption of cleaner, safer cars stifled, Australia's tax system needs to be updated if it is to be ready for the changes coming.

"The task in front of government is to fix a structural flaw in the federal budget by creating a national road access charge for low emission vehicles, which brings this growing fleet into the tax system without disincentivising uptake."

According to Infrastructure Australia, electric vehicles are projected to account for 70 per cent of new vehicle sales and 30 per cent of the vehicle fleet by 2040. In February, the Electric Vehicle Council welcomed IA's identification of the need to construct a national electric vehicle fast-charging network as a "high priority initiative for Australia".

According to interviews conducted for the AAA-commissioned research, respondents raised concerns over electric vehicle owners not paying the fuel excise of 41.6c for every litre of petrol. "It's their choice to get (an electric car) but they should pay too," a respondent said.

Others said "when you think about it, it's like tax avoidance", "why should I subsidise them" and "it's only fair they pay something".

Debate over electric vehicles peaked ahead of the federal election after Bill Shorten flagged an electric vehicle target of 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030.

Both major parties have baulked at funding a major rollout of recharging infrastructure across the nation and supporting generous subsidies for electric vehicles, which have been adopted by some overseas governments.

The AAA research showed while a majority of Australians knew about the fuel excise, they were unaware of how much it was worth, and only older motorists knew it was used to pay for roads. Excise rates on fuel and petroleum products are indexed twice a year in line with the consumer price index.

On paying to increase fuel stocks to 90 days, 59 per cent of those surveyed said nothing and 21 per cent flagged they would likely pay less than 2c. Asked if they were aware Europe's petrol is "cleaner" than Australia's fuel, 72 per cent said they weren't and only 41 per cent of respondents were likely to pay more for cleaner fuel that would "reduce emissions and improve community health".

From "The Australian" of 28/10/2019

‘Unconscionable conduct’: private college fined $4.2m

A private education college that deliberately targeted disadvantaged and illiterate prospective students by offering them free laptops has been fined $4.2 million by the Federal Court.

Unique International College, which operated out of a single room in Granville in Sydney’s west, sold online diploma courses worth up to $25,000 often targeting vulnerable communities in former Aboriginal missions in regional NSW.

In six separate cases, Unique International College was found to have failed to inform students of the cost of the course they were signing up to, did not tell them they would incur a debt and did not give them copies of the contract they signed.

One judgment, relating to a 19-year-old with learning conditions who was signed up by Unique in Wagga Wagga, stated it was “exploitation of an obviously very vulnerable person for financial gain”.

“(Unique’s conduct) involved the exploitation of an uneducated indigenous person with no understanding of what he was agreeing to in return for a laptop which was worth substantially less than the debt which was being incurred,” Justice Nye Perram found in his Federal Court judgment on Thursday.

“It is difficult to imagine unconscionable conduct which could be worse.”

Each of the six people were left with a VET FEE-HELP debt of $26,400, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“These students enrolled by Unique were unlikely to be able to complete the courses, but would have been left with significant lifetime student debt,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Some of these consumers enrolled in courses by Unique had poor literacy skills, and others could not use computer or did not have an internet connection.

“The ACCC will always prioritise taking action against businesses which engage in egregious conduct impacting vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers,” Mr Sims said.

Using the new VET FEE-HELP student redress measures, the government in the process of cancelling the debts of eligible consumers enrolled by Unique.

In 2017 the Federal Court found the college made false or misleading representations and engaged in behaviour amounting to unconscionable conduct, following evidence that more than 3100 students never completed a single unit of any of the college’s management or marketing courses, costing taxpayers more than $47 million in student loans.

During the trial the court heard evidence that the owner of the college, Amarjit Singh, transferred $22 million from his business account to his family’s account on one day in 2015, in addition to transferring a $5.7 million Kenthurst property owned by the college to another family member in the same year.

But in 2018 the company successfully appealed, with the Federal Court finding there was insufficient evidence that its conduct amounted to a system of unconscionable conduct beyond the six consumers still currently involved in the matter.

Justice Perram found Unique acted deliberately in remote communities on a number of occasions, including Walgett in October 2014, Wagga Wagga in March 2015 and Bourke in June 2015 but “was ignorant” to the fact it was contravening consumer law.

“One of Unique’s employee witnesses stated in cross-examination that he had not in fact heard of (Australian Consumer Law),” Justice Perram wrote.

The college has been found to have acted unconscionably in connection with goods or services, made false or misleading representations, failed to inform of a termination period, did not give a required document to a consumer and contravened requirements for all unsolicited consumer agreements.

It has previously had its registration cancelled and is no longer operating. The college operators have 28 days to pay the fine.


How water rats are killing toxic cane toads in massive numbers by ripping out their HEARTS with 'surgical-like' precision to avoid being poisoned

Scientists have discovered water rats are learning to kill cane toads without dying from their toxins.

Cane toads have been devastating Australia's ecosystems since they came Down Under from Central America in the 1930s.

But now, water rats are killing the animals by eating certain parts of them that are free from their toxins.

Reproductive biologist Dr Marissa Parrott was working in Western Australia's Kimberly region when she saw the dire effects cane toads had on local wildlife.

Even large crocodiles are found dead with small cane toads inside their stomachs.   

Dr Parrott said that while working near a creek in WA's Emma Gorge, she saw more proof of water rats killing off cane toads.

'I found a number of very large dead cane toads, and all of them were lying on their backs with almost surgical type incisions down their chest. Every day I went there, there were up to five new bodies,' she told VICE.

'We found that in all the cane toads, the heart and liver had expertly been removed, and the gallbladder, which contains toxic bile salts, had been removed and placed outside the body.'

Dr Parrott set up infrared cameras and discovered that local water rats were behind the deaths.

She said that within just two years of cane toads moving into the region, water rats had figured out how to disable, kill and eat the toads, despite them having killed a number of predators.

Despite not being able to get a close-up of the killing, Dr Parrott believes the rats most likely sliced opened the toad's chests with their teeth - which is less poisonous than their backs.

She said the rats would then use their paws to take out the toads' organs. 

'They didn't eat as many medium-sized toads, but when they did, it was fascinating to note that as well as the heart and liver they had also eaten one or both of the thigh muscles after stripping away the toxic skin,' she said.

'We're not sure if they just wanted a bigger payoff for their efforts in overpowering the toad, or if it was easier to subdue the toads by holding down the legs first. Interestingly, they never attacked the leg muscles on the larger toads.'


 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

After Peaking at 1-in-9 in September 2019, Odds of U.S. Recession Falls to 1-in-11

Thanks largely to the effects of the Federal Reserve's actions to reduce short term interest rates, the Recession Probability Track now visually confirms the probability the U.S. economy will enter into a national recession peaked at 11.3% on 9 September 2019 and has indeed begun to recede. What that means is that should the National Bureau of Economic Research someday determine a recession began in the U.S. in either 2019 or 2020, the odds are highest that it will identify a month in the period from September 2019 through September 2020 as Month Zero for such a recession, or rather, the last month in which the U.S. economy's business cycle expanded before entering into a sustained period of contraction. Much like December 2007 marks the final month of economic expansion before the onset of the Great Recession.

Though the Fed took action again on 30 October 2019 to cut the Federal Funds Rate by another quarter point for the third time since 30 July 2019, the receding recession odds indicated by the Recession Probability Track is mainly responding to the Fed's previous two quarter point interest rate reductions, although the end of the inversion between the 10-Year and 3-Month constant maturity U.S. Treasuries is also contributing to the reduction in forecast recession risk.

U.S. Recession Probability Track Starting 2 January 2014, Ending 30 October 2019

The Recession Probability Track is based on the recession forecasting method introduced by Jonathan Wright in his 2006 paper, The Yield Curve and Predicting Recessions, which uses the level of the effective Federal Funds Rate and the spread between the yields of the 10-Year and 3-Month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasuries to estimate the probability of recession based on historical data.

That method may be greatly understating the probability of a recession starting between September 2019 and September 2020, since that historical data does not take the effects of the Federal Reserve's quantitative tightening policies into account, where the Fed reduces its holdings of U.S. Treasuries and Mortgage-Backed Securities on its balance sheet as a way to achieve the effects of an interest rate hike without actually hiking interest rates - the opposite of what Fed officials set out to achieve during their various quantitative easing programs from 2009 through 2015 after the Federal Funds Rate reached a level near zero percent.

These unusual monetary policies are comparatively recent developments, which Wright's 2006 paper did not contemplate. We've developed an alternate scenario analysis that factors in the effects of the Fed's most recent quantitative tightening policy that continued until 30 July 2019, which would make the effective Federal Funds Rate much higher than the 'official' Wright method indicates, boosting the odds of recession starting in the months from September 2019 through September 2020 as high as 54-55%.

There's no reason though why we should be the only ones to consider that kind of scenario in determining the probability of a future recession! If you would like to consider your own recession probability scenarios, please take advantage of our recession odds reckoning tool, which has become increasingly popular over the last year.

It's really easy. Plug in the most recent data available, or the data that would apply for a future scenario that you would like to consider, and compare the result you get in our tool with what we've shown in the most recent chart showing the 'official' Wright recession odds we've presented above.

On a final note, now that the probability of recession indicated by Wright's method is declining, there is no connection between its level and how long a forecast recession might last should one come to pass - the most it can do is indicate the odds of a recession getting started during the next 12 months. For a history of the analysis we've previously presented throughout the 2017-2020 cycle, here are links to all the analysis we've presented going back to when we restarted this series in June 2017.

Previously on Political Calculations

Australian Politics 2019-10-30 15:54:00


A-G backs silk over Labor campaigning

The swamp defends one of their own.  A politicized judiciary is OK if it's Leftist.  Nobody can see anything wrong about Qld Bar Association president Rebecca Treston QC handing out Leftist propaganda on the streets

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath has declared her full confidence in state Bar Association president Rebecca Treston QC amid disquiet over the silk campaigning for Labor at the federal election. Ms D'Ath threw her weight behind the first woman to head the state Bar after The Weekend Australian revealed former president Christopher Hughes QC had written to federal Attorney-General Christian Porter dissociating himself from Ms Treston's actions.

Hitting out at Mr Hughes, Ms D'Ath said: "Mr Hughes has not written to the Queensland Attorney-General, who is responsible for making Queensland judicial appointments. "It is regrettable that Mr Hughes has chosen to politicise the matter by writing to the Commonwealth Attorney-General, who has no authority over state appointments."

Ms Treston said she was acting in a personal capacity when she donned a Labor T-shirt and handed how how-to-vote cards for her friend and ALP candidate Ali France before the May 18 federal election. This happened once, for only a few hours, she said. Ms Treston insisted she did not belong to a political party and her position did not preclude her from being "supportive to my friends".

In a shot at the federal government's quasi-judicial appointments in Queensland, Ms D'Ath said the state Labor government's selection process was transparent, unlike the Coalition, which "has no concern with appointing former LNP politicians and staffers" to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

"I have full confidence in Rebecca Treston QC, her leadership of the Bar and in the members of the Bar Association in Queensland," Ms D'Ath said.

Ms Treston's critics have cited her 'responsibilities to advise the state government on judicial appointments and consult over the designation of barristers as Queen's Counsels in arguing that she has compromised the supposedly apolitical standing of the Bar president.

The annual intake of QCs can be contentious because of the valuable stakes: the investiture of silk typically bumps up a barrister's earnings and prospects of advancement, including later appointment to the bench. This year's prospective crop in Queensland is being circulated for comment among Supreme Court judges by Chief Justice Catherine Holmes, who will provide recommendations to Ms D'Ath on who should get silk. An announcement is due by November 20.

Victorian Bar president Matthew Collins QC said he was not aware of rules anywhere in the country preventing the office-bearers of a legal representative body from being actively engaged in political campaigning. Asked whether this was appropriate conduct, Dr Collins said: "My concern would be about whether any conduct had undermined the ability of the office-bearer to engage in a constructive relationship with politicians from whatever side of politics. So it would depend very much on the circumstances."

Ms Treston said she had developed strong working relations with MPs on all sides, and would continue to represent the interests of barristers.

From "The Australian" of 28/10/2019

Chill out: lessons Joe Hockey says the US can learn from Australia

Australia’s Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey has warned that the values that made America great are under pressure and that no-one should take the US-Australia alliance for granted.

In a blunt and at times emotional speech in New York, Mr Hockey who finishes his term in January, offered some heartfelt advice for the US from his observations in his four year posting.

“Patriotism, respect, freedom and hope are values that are essential for America to continue to be exceptional and they are all under extreme pressure in a world that is increasingly fraught,” Mr Hockey told the annual gala dinner of the American Australian Association on Wall St in New York.

Mr Hockey, who was presented with the AAA’s “Legend Award” for his services to Australia’s most important alliance, gave a speech that was generous towards the US but had a sting in its tail.

“Americans can learn from Australians as well,” the former Federal Treasurer said. “Your infrastructure is terrible. Your banking system is really hard work and I don’t understand your health care system.

“Americans also have to learn to chill and they should think a little bit more about bridging the divide between the haves and have-nots in a society that is broad, diverse and inherently generous,” Mr Hockey said.

His comments came less than a week after Mr Hockey, who enjoys a close relationship with the Trump White House, warned that the US was at risk of permanently abdicating its global leadership role if it continues down the route of trade protectionism.

Mr Hockey told the AAA dinner that the risk for both the US and Australia was that both countries took the relationship for granted.

Mr Hockey was introduced by the Secretary of the US Navy Richard Spencer who lauded the strength of the military relationship between the two nations.

The dinner of around 1000 people then watched a video about Mr Hockey’s time in the US which included tributes from singer Olivia Newton-John, golfers Greg Norman and Jan Stephenson and members of the Friends of Australia Caucus in the US Congress.

The night began with Mr Hockey’s favourite band, Human Nature, making a surprise appearance and singing for him as he walked into the building for the function.

For many months Mr Hockey had been trying to get Human Nature to perform at an Australian embassy function somewhere in the US. But the band, which has a solid regular gig in Las Vegas, was never available.

Hockey wanted them for the AAA gala dinner — but his minders said no they are not available.

Except that they were. Hockey stepped out of his car in the front of Cipriani’s Wall St where the AAA gala dinner was held and as he posed for a formal photo, Human Nature emerged from behind a concrete pillar to sing him a song in front of startled New York commuters. Hockey’s face said it all — he had no idea.

Among those also attending the dinner were former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy and the chief executive of News Corp Robert Thomson.

Mr Hockey, who has been Ambassador since January 2016, has been credited with forging close personal connections with the Trump White House.

He has played an important role in helping navigate Australia’s most important alliance relationship through the turbulent Trump administration with an unpredictable president who has often lashed out at close allies.

Mr Hockey has largely ignored the traditional US State Department channels that ambassadors in Washington have relied upon and has instead sought to forge personal relationships inside the White House itself.

He has developed a close friendship with Mr Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and has frequently played golf with both Mulvaney and the president.

During his tenure as ambassador Mr Hockey helped repair an early rift in the relationship when Mr Trump argued with then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull over the refugee deal in a phone call just days into his presidency in early 2017.

Mr Trump lashed out at the deal struck between Mr Turnbull and outgoing president Barack Obama to resettle refugees from Nauru into the United States and accused Mr Turnbull of wanting to export ‘the next Boston bombers’ to the US.

Months later Mr Hockey helped to organise a meeting between the two leaders in New York for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea – a meeting that helped put the relationship back on track.

Mr Hockey has also had to deal with the threat of Australia being hit by Mr Trump’s steel and aluminium tariffs which he initially threatened to levy on US allies and rivals alike.

Mr Hockey was part of a successful government-wide lobbying effort to persuade the White House to grant Australia a special exemption from the tariffs.

Mr Hockey’s term ends in January when he will be replaced by former Senator and John Howard’s former chief of staff Arthur Sinodinos.


The West Australian Government will ban students from using mobile phones in all public schools in a major push to reduce distraction and focus on learning

The ban, announced today by Premier Mark McGowan and Education Minister Sue Ellery, will come into effect from 2020.

The prohibition on phones will take effect during school hours, beginning from the time students arrive until the end of the school day, including before school and during break times.

"We want to create the best possible learning environment for WA kids and our policy will allow students to focus on their school work without the distraction of a mobile phone," Mr McGowan said.

With no phones, life returns to the schoolyard

The "off and away all day" policy comes after consultation with schools such as Ocean Reef High School that already had successful guidelines in place for controlling access to mobile phones.

Principal Karon Brookes said despite initial resistance from some students, the ban immediately reduced disruptions in the classroom and increased interaction in the schoolyard.

"Teachers felt that at every change of lesson, they weren't dealing with students and reminding them, prompting them to put away their phones," she said.

"But we also noticed this growing noise in the yard … students were actually talking, laughing and engaging with each other."
Ms Brookes said the school set up extra activities at recess and lunch breaks to help students get used to the new policy.

One Year 11 student at Ocean Reef Senior High School, ZJ Tan, said the ban had paid dividends. "We are not distracted by notifications, so we are more focused in class and we are aware of what homeworks are given out [and] when assignments are due. So grades have improved," she said.

The ban restricts the use of mobile phones, smart watches, earbuds, tablets and headphones unless students are under the instruction of a staff member.

Students from kindergarten to Year 6 will not be permitted to have mobile phones in their possession during the school day.

Students from Years 7 to 12 must have their phones turned off during school hours and kept off and out of sight until the end of the school day.

Additionally, under the new policy, smart watches must be set to airplane mode.

Mr McGowan said exemptions to the policy would be made for students with special circumstances, including those who needed to monitor a health condition, were under the direct instruction of a teacher for educational purposes or had teacher permission for a specified purpose.

Education Minister Sue Ellery told ABC Radio Perth the ban, which had been trialled at six secondary schools, had been relatively well received. "Most of [the students] said they found it useful to have a break," she said. "Some of them whinged a little bit, but nobody said that it was completely unreasonable."

Ms Ellery said teachers would also be allowed to give students permission to use their phone — for example, to take photos of work on whiteboards or to confirm shifts with employers.

She said while other states pointed to the rise of cyberbullying as motivation for similar bans, that was not the case in WA.

"I don't know that it will do that of itself, because most of that happens actually outside of school hours," she said.

"But if this policy helps kids form the habit of having a break and knowing that the world isn't going to end, the sky isn't going to fall down, if you're not on social media 24/7.
"That will probably help with cyberbullying as well."

Ms Ellery said the response at Ocean Reef Senior High School, one of the schools to have trialled the ban, gave her confidence the change would be a success.

"When they introduced the policy at the start of last school year, they were amazed," she said. "They hadn't anticipated the level of noise in the playground at lunchtime because kids were actually talking to each other."


$102m to help keep the lights on

The usefulness of interconnetors consists in some suppliers having excess capacity. With all states shutting down traditional generators, that seems to be less and less likely.  It's a poor substitute for new coal or gas-fired generators

An upgrade of the Queensland-NSW Interconnector will be underwritten by Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in a move to increase competition between generators in the electricity market and drive down wholesale energy prices amid pressure from coal station closures.

The federal and NSW governments will underwrite the project up to $102m to help TransGrid fast-track early works ahead of final approvals by the Australian Energy Regulator.

Ahead of the Liddell coal-fired power station closing in the Hunter Valley in 2023, the Prime Minister said unlocking transmission infrastructure was crucial in ensuring the future of the NSW energy grid. "This is about putting downward pressure on wholesale prices so businesses and households have access to reliable and affordable power," he said.

"Industry needs certainty. They need to know their electricity won't cut out, and their power bill won't suddenly double. "You can't run a business like that, and you can't employ people. That's why we are underwriting this interconnector. It's a practical step to make sure it happens, and it happens quickly."

Support for the interconnector upgrade is separate to the Morrison government underwriting the new generation investments program, which has shortlisted 12 renewable pumped hydro, gas and coal upgrade projects in NSW, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria.

In mid-2018, the Australian Energy Market Operator released an integrated system plan outlining transmission investments required to preserve long-term affordability and reliability in the national electricity market.

The QNI project, which will provide an extra 190MW of transmission capacity from Queensland to NSW and an upgrade of the Victoria/NSW interconnector provide an extra 170M W. of transmission capacity, were identified as key priorities by the AEMO.

Upgraded interconnectors would increase wholesale market competition in NSW and push down prices. Upgrades would also provide a reliability buffer in NSW, delivering an extra 360MW of supply across the state during peak demand.

Ms Berejiklian said her government committed to the QNI up-grade to "ease cost of living pressures across NSW" and provide "reliable and affordable power to households and businesses".

"Last year, the NSW government announced its transmission infrastructure strategy, which outlined our commitment to accelerate the delivery of key interconnector projects, including the QNI," Ms Berejiklian said.  The joint federal-state agreement, of which the Commonwealth's liability is capped to a maximum of $51m, will see upgrades to the QNI brought forward to late-2021 and help cushion the impact of the Liddell closure.

Regulatory approvals for the QNI project were progressing under the NSW transmission infrastructure strategy but further action would be required to ensure the upgraded QNI was "fully operational by the summer of 2022-23".

Under the arrangement, the federal and state governments
would be liable only for early work costs not yet approved by the AER. TransGrid chief executive Paul Italiano said the underwriting commitment was essential to the "early delivery" of the transmission project: "TransGrid is building the interconnector to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to cus-tomers over the summers ahead and as older, coal-fired generators shut down."

NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said the project would help "keep the lights on and keep power costs down as the energy market transitions", while federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said NSW industries required lower energy prices and reliable transmission to protect jobs.

From "The Australian" of 28/10/2019

In defence of the recent Leunig toon

It behoves me to defend Michael Leunig, despite having never met him, nor warming to the whiny tone of his cartoons, and holding a bit of a grudge against him because he didn't support his fellow cartoonist, the late, great Bill Leak, in his hour of need.

Still, we need to stand by Leunig because the bullying handed out to him in the searing world of social media is another assault on free expression. Were he around today, Leak would be in Leunig's corner, showing a solidarity too many spared for him.

Leak was probably helped into his early grave in 2017 because of a nasty and illiberal pile-on over his provocative cartoon about indigenous community dysfunction. He was given the full thought-police treatment under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In miserable comments soon after Leak's death, Leunig said Leak had probably been "egged on" by others to draw his "cruel" cartoon that was a "terrible mistake". He could hardly have been more insulting, wrong or cowardly.

Still, when Leunig last week dared to suggest that some of us —in his drawing, a mum — might be distracted from the better and more important things in life by our smartphones, all hell broke loose. A social media barrage attacked Leunig for things he did not choose — his age, sex and skin colour — as well as for his cartoon.

On Channel 10's The Project Leunig was denounced as a'"dinosaur" and a "74-year-old dude" who' was "targeting mums" and has "form going after women and mums in particular". We were told it was "time he exited the public sphere for good".

At least Leunig didn't confront an AHRC investigation trying to taint him as sexist or racist. But the vigour and tone of the public shaming was worrying; not seeking to disagree or discuss but to silence, condemn and de-platform.

Lucky for Leunig, some cartoonists are consistent. Leak's old mate, The Daily Telegraph's Warren Brown, defended Leunig from what he called an "extraordinary" overreaction. 'We've all copped it out of the blue," Brown sympathised. "A cartoon is about making people think."

Yep, Leunig gave some readers pause to think. Well played, Warren, Bill would have loved your work, and he would have rung you to say so, not deferred to social media.

From "The Australian" of 28/10/2019

 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

Falling Trend for New Home Sale Prices Resumes

After having held relatively steady in recent months, new home sale prices have resumed falling. The chart below shows the raw median and average new home sale prices reported by the U.S. Census Bureau since January 2000, where we have to go back to early January 2017 to find similarly low prices.

Median and Average Monthly U.S. New Home Sale Prices, January 2000 through September 2019

After smoothing out the month-to-month volatility in the data for median new home sale prices by calculating its rolling twelve month average, we can confirm the resumption of the falling trend that originally began in October 2018 in the following chart that focuses on the period since July 2012.

Trends in Trailing Twelve Month Average of Median U.S. New Home Sale Prices, July 2012 through September 2019

In terms of affordability, at a preliminary estimate of 4.93 times median household income for September 2019, the falling median new home sale price in the United States is now the lowest it has been since April 2013. The following chart shows the ratio of the trailing twelve month averages of median new home sale prices and median household income from 1967 to the present.

Ratio of Trailing Twelve Month Averages for Median New Home Sale Prices and Median Household Income, Annual: 1967 to 2018 | Monthly: December 2000 to September 2019

This median affordability ratio has generally only been higher during periods of time when the real estate market experienced bubble conditions, or more accurately, supply shortage conditions.

For new home builders, the falling trend for sale prices is coming as new home sales are slowing, which we can see in the slowing rise of the industry's market capitalization, the aggregate value of all new home sales across the United States.

Trailing Twelve Month Average New Home Market Capitalization, January 1976 to September 2019

While preliminary data indicates the U.S. new home market cap is still rising, September 2019 saw the first deceleration in that growth in the months since falling mortgage rates sparked a rebound in the national new home market following its recent recessionary trough, which ran from mid-2018 to early-2019. September 2019's sudden deceleration is easier to see in the following chart showing the year over year rate of growth of the U.S. new homes market cap.

Year Over Year Rate of Growth of Nominal and Inflation Adjusted New Homes Market Capitalization, January 2000 to September 2019

Unfortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau's new home sales data doesn't allow for the kind of state or local-level analysis we can do with existing homes data, but their available regional data points to the West region as having seen significantly falling sales in September 2019. When the state level existing homes sales data for September 2019 becomes available next month, we'll take a closer look at the West region, where we assume that whatever is happening with the trends for new homes in those states will be paralleled in the much more detailed existing homes sales data.

Australian Politics 2019-10-29 15:37:00


Senator Amanda Stoker exposes our unjust universities

Bettina Arndt

Finally, I am seeing some real action from my campus campaign. I’m just back from meetings with parliamentarians in Canberra, including the outstanding Queensland Senator, Amanda Stoker.

Yesterday Amanda put on a brilliant display, grilling TEQSA, the university regulator, in Senate Estimates committee about the higher education sector’s abysmal failure to protect the rights of the accused in new rape regulations now in operation in universities across Australia.

Watch the bureaucrats squirm when she rightly points out that the regulations contain barely one word about ensuring proper legal rights for accused young men. It is a disgrace that TEQSA has been shown to have cow towed to feminist lobby groups and bullied universities into adjudicating rape on campus, shelving the legal rights of the accused and using lower standards of proof to ensure more convictions.

Remember it was Senator Stoker who put pressure on TEQSA over my Sydney University protest last year, which ultimately led to the French Inquiry and universities now reluctantly introducing voluntary free speech codes.

Now Amanda is promising to help the regulator ensure they address the appalling bias in their own instructions to universities regarding this issue.

I have a team of serious players on board. We have a number of plans of attack to persuade universities to leave the serious crime of sexual assault to be dealt with by our criminal law system, which is designed to offer proper justice to both sides in these cases. I’ll be writing about some of the other fascinating developments in the weeks to come but couldn’t resist sending you the Stoker video today. I’m really keen that we circulate this as widely as possible.

This is a shot across the bows of the feminists who have been had the running on this issue for so long.  And the more people who know about it the better.

Here are the links you can use to view the video and circulate it on social media.

Facebook video:


Email from Bettina Arndt:

Climate abounds with deception

Chris Kenny

Blatant deception has become endemic in what is an extreme debate on global warming. The alarmists who sneer at so-called climate deniers are, all too often, fact deniers. The ABC and The Guardian Australia have shown when the assessments of climate scientists don't fit their catastrophist narrative, they are prepared to ignore or verbal scientists and attack other media for sharing the information.

Consider a forum at the University of Sydney on "The Business of Making Climate Change" in June that included the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes director Andrew Pitman. Asked about climate and drought, Professor Pitman said this:

"This may not be what you expect to hear but as far as the climate scientists know there is no link between climate change and drought. Now, that may not be what you read in the newspapers and sometimes hear commented but there is no reason a priori why climate change should make the landscape more arid. "And if you look at the Bureau of Meteorology data over the whole of the last 100 years there's no trend in data, there's no drying trend, there's been a drying trend in the last 20 years but there's been no drying trend in the last 100 years and that's an expression of how variable the Australian rainfall climate is."

You will not have heard that comment, in full, on the ABC, nor read it in The Guardian Australia; yet they have run many comments from Greens and Labor politicians saying the drought is linked to climate change. This self-censorship is extraordinary enough because there could hardly be a more relevant and factual contribution from such a reputable source that puts the lie to the political posturing over a crippling drought that is dominating political debate.

But it gets worse. What the ABC's MediaWatch did a fortnight ago, and The Guardian Australia replicated last week, is run cut-down versions of that quote and accuse me and others at Sky News of misrepresenting Professor Pitman. That's right, it is commentators sharing a reputable climate scientist's own words, uncut, that they criticise.

These journalists failed to run the pertinent information but slammed others for running it. Their tenuous justification is a statement from Professor Pitman's centre claiming he should have said "no direct link" rather than "no link". The insertion of the word "direct" into his assessment is mere semantics and changes nothing. Indeed the statement begs the question of how and why this ex post facto qualification came about, not directly from Professor Pitman, but from his centre.

In that June forum Professor Pitman also said the "fundamental" problem in this field of science is that "we don't understand what causes droughts" — again under-scoring the absence of a climate change/drought link. Last week he was reported on the topic again in The Guardian Australia "But the fact that I can't establish something does not make it true or false, it just means I can't establish it."

Astonishingly, the website argued this quote bolstered its claims of misrepresentation when clearly it reaffirms his critical point; there is no link established between our drought and global warming. The evidence is in, no matter how much it is buried, denied and spun away by the ABC and Guardian Australia.

All of Professor Pitman's comments demonstrate that politicians are making a link between global warming and drought that climate scientists have not established. In comparison, some of us at Sky News have run Professor Pitman's comments in full a number of times, drawn our conclusions, asked others to comment and allowed audiences to make their own judgments.

Additionally, I have repeatedly invited Professor Pitman to discuss the issues, live and uncut to air. He shrinks away. We can imagine it is difficult for scientists to have their work pushed and pulled for political point-scoring but they have a public duty to share the facts.

Professor Pitman's work is being grossly misrepresented by the ABC and The Guardian Australia, who argue the opposite to his declared reality. His centre should be clearing the air but is doing the opposite.

The dishonesty of the reporting by Paul Barry's Media Watch, at your expense, is stunning. They cut, trim and misrepresent what has been broadcast on Sky News, fail to ask pertinent questions of Professor Pitman and try to convince the public that his research shows the exact opposite of what he has said repeatedly.

There has seldom been a clearer demonstration of George Orwell's 1984 maxim: "War is Peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength."

The Guardian Australia should be left to its own devices, I suppose, but Ita Buttrose should not sit idly by and allow Media Watch to implement the antithesis ofthe ABC's charter mission.

From "The Australian of 28/10/2019

Police arrest over 40 climate activists outside IMARC conference in Melbourne

More than 40 climate protesters have now been arrested after police doused them with capsicum spray as they clashed outside an international mining conference in Melbourne.

The activists were aiming to shut down the International Mining and Resources Conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre which began on Tuesday and is being attended by thousands of global delegates.

Victoria Police Acting Commander Tim Tully said the majority of offences related to failing to obey police direction or intentionally obstructing an emergency service worker.

Two people were arrested in relation to cruelty to animals after they allegedly struck a police horse.

Commander Tully said four police officers have been injured while making arrests with three taken to hospital for injuries including a dislocated finger and minor head injuries.

One woman was taken to hospital after she allegedly was injured by a police horse and a man was treated at the scene for a minor cut to his head.

“The police operation is ongoing,” Commander Tully said. “However Victoria Police would like to state that any action taken by officers this morning has been in response to the protesters’ activity and in accordance with training.”

From 6am, activists from 11 different groups began blocking entry to the conference amid a heavy police presence. Clashes erupted between police and the protesters who held up signs calling for mining to be “shut down” as they tried to push back the police line.

“We have the right to demonstrate, this is not a police state,” the activists chanted. Protesters also blocked Clarendon Street at Southbank.

One police officer received minor injuries during the arrests and was transported to hospital for treatment. A protester was also taken to hospital in a stable condition after she was injured by a police horse.

Capsicum spray was fired into the crowd, with officers yelling at protesters to “get back” as attendees attempted to enter the conference.

The activists picketed at multiple entrances to the centre, chanting “land rights not mining rights, shut IMARC [the conference] down” and “blood on your hands” as they pushed back against a police line.

Just after 7am, police deployed horses to protect the entrance to the conference. Two people were arrested in relation to cruelty to animal offences for assaulting a police horse. These are summary offences.

Protester Emma Black from the Blockade IMARC Activist Alliance said the police tactics had been quite aggressive. “There’s been very little communication from the police when they would like to move us,” she said “They’ve just been storming us, pushing us.”

Ms Black said she had been hit with a police baton on her right arm which was extremely swollen. She said her arms were raised and was trying to get out of the way when the officer hit her. Ms Black said she didn’t witness the alleged attack on a police horse but said she couldn’t understand why the protesters who were generally aligned with animal rights would target a horse.

She said the point of today was to get the message of the protest which was to stand up against “ecocide and for human rights’’.

“It was always going to be impossible for us to shut down the whole thing without having tens of thousands of people,” she said.

More than 7000 delegates from about 100 countries are attending the three-day conference and organisers say the protest action is based on misconceptions about the mining industry.

Among them is Craig Ian McGown, chairman at Pioneer Resources, who said he had a bottle of water emptied over him, had been pushed and forced to walk 40 metres with a woman next to him shouting “shame”.

“I’m just very confused by people having too much time off,” he said. “I’m just in attendance at the conference because my company is involved in major projects that can help the country move forward.”

The conference organisers said in a statement: “There is a misconception that as an industry mining does not operate with sustainable principles in mind”.

Mining was vital for the production of electricity, solar panels, electric car batteries, pacemakers and medical apparatus and public transport, they said. This year the conference will consider the importance of battery minerals, used in the emerging electric car market, and the growing importance of ethical investment for resource companies.

The mining and resources conference is scheduled to run for three days. Protesters plan to disrupt all three days of the conference and will be joined by Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam on Tuesday and federal Greens MP Adam Bandt on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack described the protests as “disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful”.

The Extinction Rebellion group ran a week of climate protests early in the month and Victoria Police acting commander Tim Tully predicted on Monday that activists would ramp up their methods this week.

“We expect to see heightened tactics by the protest groups,” he told reporters in Melbourne. “Our intelligence would suggest that the protesters have been planning, and are well co-ordinated, to undertake different tactics to what we saw, or very similar tactics to what we saw, in the recent protest activity.

“We are well prepared to respond.”

Victorian opposition leader Michael O’Brien said people should be allowed to go about their business without being confronted by “constant demonstrations”.

“It’s turning Melbourne into a joke and unless the premier starts giving the police the powers they need to do with it, it’s just going to continue and go on,” he said.


Union to Labor party: change tack on trade or cash stops

They are dead against further immigration.

The 'CFMEU will not donate another cent to the Labor Party if it continues to support free-trade policies that the union says hurt Australian jobs.'

National construction division boss Dave Noonan also says the party has been overrun by "broken-down Tony Blair spin doctors". who have orchestrated a conflict with his union for political gain.

In a defiant interview with The Weekend Australian at the end of the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union's five-day national conference in Adelaide, Mr Noonan declared his division's besieged Victorian chief, John Setka, an "asset" to the CFMEU who had been treated "unfairly" by Anthony Albanese.

Mr Noonan also backed 'Mr Setka's assessment that Labor was "losing its soul" by signing up to trade deals that allow foreign workers into Australia. He said there were about l.4 million Workers in the country on temporary visas who were being underpaid and driving down wages and conditions for Australians.

He warned that as long as Labor backed 'the government's free-trade deals', it should not expect any more donations from the union, which has handed more than $13m to the ALP since 2000, almost all of it from Mr Setka's Victorian branch.

"We will not be donating to any political party that does not put the interests of Australian workers first," he said "When we think Labor has got it wrong we will call it out. We are certainly not donating any money out of this conference. We are not going to be going out funding politicians who undermine job security. "We don't understand why the Labor Party is going down this path. We were trying to point out to them the level of wage theft that's going on with workers on temporary work visas.

Mr Noonan said Labor was confused about what it stood for as it tried to retain its appeal to blue-collar workers while seeking support from inner-city professional voters. "It's not just about Albo," he said. "The party needs to have a good look at itself. You will never out-green the Greens. They should look to working people — not just blue-collar workers, but in other industries such as IT who are getting underpaid."

His comments cap the end of a CFMEU conference that exploded into life courtesy of Mr Setka and his searing attack on the Federal Opposition Leader on Wednesday. He announced then that he would nor be appealing against his expulsion from the ALP

The Weekend Australian has been told Mr Setka was hailed as a hero by delegates for standing up tothe Labor leader. Mr Noonan confirmed there was strong support for Mr Setka across the CFMEU

Excerpt from "The Weekend Australian" of 26/10/2019

Morrison is on top of Australia's "swamp"

Sharri Markson

John Barilaro made a disturbing admission one Friday evening when he sat down to chat with me on Sky News. He said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and he, the Deputy Premier, do not run the state of NSW. "Unfortunately one of my frustrations is that the bureaucracy does," he complained.

As he publicly ruminated about whether he should leave his plum job as Deputy Premier, Barilaro expressed his grievance about the public servants that stop projects being built or policies being implemented in the state that is Australia's economic powerhouse.

"A lot of these bureaucrats, and I'm going to admit this, I believe that 12 months leading into the last election in March, mate, they were sitting idle thinking there was going to be a change of government and it's time to square that little ledger up. I want to get on with building projects," Barilaro said in the August interview.

For him to make this admission publicly indicates how high his level of agitation must be behind the scenes. It's quite extraordinary that, in Barilaro's opinion, not even the Premier can get stuff done in NSW, blocked by an obstructionist public service.

It partly explains why Barilaro is weighing up a move to Canberra, should Mike Kelly leave Parliament and spark a by-election in Eden Monaro. But a more important question than Barilaro's political future is, who gives these faceless public servants power?

There is a familiar scenario. A new minister is sworn in, heaving with policy ideas to implement, which they may even speak about in media interviews. But they are quickly put back in their box as the advice from their department comes back that their innovative solutions cannot be implemented, due to one constraint or another.

Scott Morrison faced this as immigration minister when he wanted to turn back the boats. However, he quickly worked out how to drive the agenda using his personal leadership, rather than become a puppet for a department that has seen a revolving door of politicians. It's why one of his earliest moves after being elected Prime Minister was to haul every departmental secretary into the Cabinet room and make it clear who was in charge: Him. Not them.

He laid down the law and said they work for the government and not vice versa. He used an analogy from his rugby coach, which he has since repeated, calling it the bacon and egg principle: the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. He used it to say that accountability to the public ultimately lay on his shoulders, not theirs.

Since then, Martin Parkinson stepped down as secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and there is expected to be another high-profile head of a department leaving in the near future.

Unlike Parkinson, this anticipated resignation is understood to be a case of the department head not being aligned with Morrison's agenda. If a department secretary is not on board, it becomes a clash of cultures.

Before any Home Affairs opponents get their hopes up, the person leaving is not Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo. His position may have been on shaky ground momentarily, as a result of a perception he was trying to do the "pre-election Olympics" as the business of the AFP referral for the media raids, but his role is secure and has the confidence of the PM.

Another public service appointment Morrison is really happy about is the new Treasury Secretary, Dr Steven Kennedy, who was formerly head of the Infrastructure Department. "He's a Labor guy but gets things done," a senior figure remarked.

Morrison has more contact with the heads of department than usual as a result of policy "deep dives" he is conducting in areas he thinks need extra attention like veterans' health, recycling, the drought, the NDIS, taxation and indigenous health. He has done about a dozen since the election and has about eight to go this year.

The sessions involve the relevant minister, backbenchers that have a particular interest in the policy area, the department heads and other senior public services figures. They have a two or three-hour meeting to run through all the problems in the space and discuss what can be done to bring about change.

The only drawback with this hands-on approach of Morrison's is when it comes to a policy area like drought, Morrison's ownership of the drought may be as problematic as Malcolm Turnbull's was of electricity prices.

Electricity prices were considered a state government issue before Turnbull decided he would campaign on lowering prices and solving the energy crisis. It was a decision that ultimately cost him hiS leaderShip.

Now, there are concerns within the Government that Morrison is doing the same thing with the drought; personally taking responsibility for an incredibly complex problem he will not be able to solve.

While it is risky, and has already proved politically damaging for Morrison, Aussie farmers deserve attention from the very top, with the best minds in Government focused on how Australia can set itself up better for the next drought. These farmers deserve more than just bureaucrats, they deserve leaders.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail of 26/10/2019

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