Monthly Archives: February 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 28, 2021


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 28, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Austerity and the Rise of the Nazi Party

Gregori Galofré-Vilà, Christopher M. Meissner, Martin McKee, and
David Stuckler
Economic History Association, published online by Cambridge University Press, 11 January 2021

We study the link between fiscal austerity and Nazi electoral success. Voting data from a thousand districts and a hundred cities for four elections between 1930 and 1933 show that areas more affected by austerity (spending cuts and tax increases) had relatively higher vote shares for the Nazi Party. We also find that the localities with relatively high austerity experienced relatively high suffering (measured by mortality rates) and these areas’ electorates were more likely to vote for the Nazi Party. Our findings are robust to a range of specifications including an instrumental variable strategy and a border-pair policy discontinuity design….

In this paper, we investigate the association between the austerity measures implemented by the German government between 1930 and 1932 and voters’ increased support for the Nazi Party. A growing literature studies the interactions between political preferences and fiscal policy with evidence that austerity packages are correlated with rising extremism (Alesina, Favero, and Giavazzi 2019; Bor 2017; Eichengreen 2015, 2018; Fetzer 2019; Ponticelli and Voth 2020)….

We also provide some novel quantitative estimates concerning the channels by which austerity mattered. To do so, we study the relationship between mortality rates and austerity. We find a plausible link, since where public spending on health care dropped more, mortality was higher. These places also saw a relatively large increase in Nazi support at the polls. Finally, looking at archival documents of Nazi propaganda, we document how Nazi leaders invoked austerity to attack Brüning and the Weimar Republic and how Brüning’s tax rises were seen as inefficient and unfair by the German masses. 

Eviction Moratorium Deemed Unconstitutional by Federal Judge in Texas

[Naked Capitalism 2-26-21]

Business Licensing and Constitutional Liberty
Amanda Shanor [The Yale Law Journal 314 (2016)]

….the Constitution is increasingly being invoked as a trump against certain types of economic regulation. My thesis is that the central arguments currently marshaled in favor of extending stringent judicial review to business licensing regulations are untenable. These lines of reasoning have no logical endpoint. Individual rights, on this view, could trump any manner of governmental regulation in favor of free-market ordering.

These business licensing cases raise deep and pressing questions about the purpose and scope of rights and constitutional judicial review more broadly today. Underlying these debates are competing conceptions of constitutional liberty. One view, perhaps the ascendant one, reflects free-market libertarian values, whereas others understand the First and Fourteenth Amendments to reflect ideals such as democratic self-governance, anti-subordination, or civic republicanism. Resolving disputes about the constitutional status of business licensing requires that we grapple with those deeper questions.

Predatory Capitalism in the Time of COVID19

Nursing homes owned by private equity had 24.5% higher infection rates and 10.2% higher death rates than NJ statewide average.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-23-21]


More Evidence That Private Equity Kills: Estimated >20,000 Increase in Nursing Home Deaths, 160,000 Life Years Lost Due to Cuts in Care

Yves Smith, February 24, 2021 [Naked Capitalism]

The wave of covid bankruptcies has begun 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 2-27-21]

Chapter 11 filings were up nearly 20 percent in 2020 compared with the previous year, court records show…. Bankruptcies filed by entertainment companies in 2020 nearly quadrupled, and filings nearly tripled for oil and gas companies, doubled for computer and software companies and were up 50 percent or more for restaurant owners, real estate companies and retailers, compared with 2019, data from the research firm show. There were 5,236 Chapter 11 filings in 2019, but 6,917 last year, a tally at least 30 percent higher than any of the previous four years.

Why Is Kroger Closing Stores Instead of Paying Hazard Wages for Its Employees? 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-21]

But parent company Kroger appears to be doing just fine—better than fine, even. Kroger’s profits shot up 90% during the first two quarters of 2020, according to the centrist Brookings Institution think tank, and the company announced a stock buyback initiative totaling up to $1 billion in September.

Big Companies Ask Regulators To Help Quash Paid Sick Leave Initiatives

[The DailyPoster 2-25-2021]

Walmart, McDonald’s, and other name-brand corporations are trying to block their shareholders from voting to make worker protections permanent….

The paid sick leave resolutions, coordinated by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a shareholder advocacy organization, have been filed at CVS, Dollar General, Kohl’s, Kroger, McDonald’sWalmart, and Yum! Brands (which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut). The efforts are part of an attempt to force companies that have made a point of calling their employees “essential” to put their money where their mouth is.

“These companies have been saying day after day that their employees matter, that their employees are essential,” sad Nadira Narine, senior program director at the ICCR. “The best way to show that they mean that is to extend a paid leave benefit.”

In response to the proposals, every single company except Dollar General asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to agree that they do not need to put the resolutions to shareholders for a vote this spring. In four of the cases, the SEC has sided with the company, while two decisions are still outstanding.

[Twitter, via The DailyPoster 2-25-2021]


Health Care Crisis

Dems’ Gift To Health Insurance Predators 

[Daily Poster].

Instead of enacting a universal Medicare for All health care system that would save the United States and its citizens hundreds of billions of dollars annually, temporarily expanding Medicare or championing a promised “public option,” Democrats are rallying behind a health care proposal that will funnel tens of billions of dollars to corporate health insurance companies even as they are already experiencing record profits and jacking up premiums, while continuing to deny claims.

Democrats’ current plan will lower people’s premiums, but only on a temporary basis. It will also not stop insurers from passing on huge out-of-pocket costs to enrollees if they need medical care, nor does it improve the quality of people’s health insurance. Indeed, it will push people onto state exchanges where one in six in-network medical claims were denied in 2019.

The proposal would be a boon for the health insurance industry, which has specifically lobbied for the new subsidies….

On the other hand, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare for All legislation in Congress could ultimately save $650 billion annually, while covering all Americans and ensuring they no longer have to worry about expensive deductibles or copays or narrow insurance networks that act as barriers to care.

Former OSHA head: We’re getting it wrong on COVID workplace safety”

[David Michaels,, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-23-21]

Q. So the federal Centers for Disease Control has set no standard for ventilation? Not even for schools? 

A. That’s right. There are private groups that put out voluntary standards, but there are no actual standards for ventilation right now…. 

Q. You think the government should be setting air standards for workplaces and requiring N95s or other respirators? 

A. Yes. What we’re asking the CDC to do is recognize this means of transmission is an important one, and modify its guidance to reflect this. That will be important because OSHA is likely to be issuing an emergency temporary standard for workplaces within the month. It will point to CDC guidelines and say, follow this. And if the guidelines are out of date, they will be less protective.”

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Texas freeze shows a chilling truth – how the rich use climate change to divide us 

Robert Reich [The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-21]

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the flow of electric power, exempted affluent downtowns from outages, leaving thriving parts of Austin, Dallas and Houston brightly lit while pushing less affluent precincts into the dark and cold.

Texas Froze by Design James K. Galbraith, Project Syndicate L 2-23

Harvard Kennedy School’s William Hogan is credited with designing the Texas energy market. As Texans froze and their water pipes burst, he reportedly remarked that the state’s energy market has functioned as designed. Hogan is right, which says a lot about how some economists think….

Texas had a self-enclosed energy grid, cut off from interstate commerce and thus exempt from federal regulations. What better place, what better product, to prove the virtues of a competitive, deregulated system? So, economists proposed a free market: let generating companies compete to deliver power to consumers through the common electrical grid. Freely chosen contracts would govern the terms and the price. Competition would maximize efficiency, and prices would reflect fuel costs and the smallest possible profit margin….

Texas Electric Bills Were $28 Billion Higher Under Deregulation 

[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 2-25-21]

Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities, according to the Journal’s analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration….

“If all consumers don’t benefit from this, we will have wasted our time and failed our constituency,” then-state Sen. David Sibley, a key author of the bill to deregulate the market, said when the switch was first unveiled in 1999. “Competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates,” then-Gov. George W. Bush said later that year.

Restoring balance to the economy

FAIR Act: Will Congress Finally Complete the Project the CFPB Fumbled and Ban Mandatory Arbitration Clauses?

Jerri-Lynn Scofield, February 22, 2021 [Naked Capitalism]

Democrats’ Bill Would Close Tax Loophole For Private Equity 

[Bloomberg, via The DailyPoster 2-26-2021]

“Three House Democrats are pushing legislation that would repeal the carried-interest tax break used by fund managers to reduce the levies they owe to the Internal Revenue Service. The bill would close the carried-interest tax break and require many hedge-fund and private-equity managers to pay higher ordinary income-tax rates, rather than the lower rates on capital gains.”

Climate and environmental crises

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-23-21]


This Obscure Energy Treaty Is the Greatest Threat to the Planet You’ve Never Heard Of

Fabian Flues [OpenDemocracy, via Naked Capitalism, February 25, 2021]

….Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a little-known international agreement signed without much public debate in 1994. The treaty binds more than 50 countries, and allows foreign investors in the energy sector to sue governments for decisions that might negatively impact their profits – including climate policies. Governments can be forced to pay huge sums in compensation if they lose an ECT case.

Information Age Dystopia

Facebook: What is the Australian law? And why does FB keep getting caught for fraud?

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 2-21-21]

Facebook is engaged in a giant crime spree to steal ad money. A battle over speech in Australia shows what top executives really think of the rule of law.

I Can’t Stand Fox News, But Censoring It Might Be The Dumbest Idea Ever 

Matt Taibbi, TK News. Today’s must-read., via Naked Capitalism 2-24-21]

Before the New Year, a cease-and-desist letter from Dominion Voting Systems went out to Fox, the Epoch TimesOANNewsmax, and others, demanding an end to evidence-free claims about their company. It worked, as even OAN retreated, and Newsmax, tail between its legs, broadcast a two-minute statement to “clarify” that it had no evidence for claims of election fraud made against the companies Dominion and Smartmantic.

This is exactly how the existing system is supposed to work, in a legal framework that still makes the cost of broadcasting provable deceptions prohibitive to deep-pocketed companies like Fox. Libel and defamation laws are imperfect, but effective. If the massive Fox audience were driven further underground, that tool would no longer be worth much.

However, those gunning for the removal of FoxNewsmax, and other outlets are clearly not interested in getting there by way of the law. They want to take advantage of the hyper-concentration of power among media distributors — the tech giants like Apple and Amazon that can zap a massively successful app like Parler overnight, and the confederation of cable carriers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon that hold dominion over broadcast networks.

We have to ask politicians like Eshoo and critics like Sullivan and Boot: where exactly do they want massive conservative audiences to go, if Fox is removed from the air? By any rational standard, having them watch Fox is way down the list of worst-case scenarios.

House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Core Press Freedoms 

Glenn Greenwald, via Naked Capitalism 2-24-21]

Whistleblowers: Inflexible prison software says inmates due for release should be kept locked up behind bars 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 2-23-21]

According to public radio station KJZZ, unidentified whistleblowers within the Arizona Department of Corrections revealed the software problem, which is said to have been known by department IT leaders since 2019.

The software, ACIS (Arizona Correctional Information System), implemented in 2019 at a cost of $24m by IT biz Business & Decision, North America, is said to contain a module for calculating the release dates of inmates.

The module's code, however, hasn't been able to adapt to Arizona Senate Bill 1310, a state law signed in June 2019 to allow non-violent inmates in Arizona to earn credits toward early release as a reward for participating in state-run education and rehabilitation programs.

The software can neither recalculate sentences to account for early release credits nor help identify inmates who qualify for such programs, thereby keeping people in prison who shouldn't be there and frustrating efforts to reduce the state's prison population….

The KJZZ report suggests fixing the calculation problem would take 2,000 hours of developer time, which appears to be billed at a rate of about $1,137 per hour, based on the screenshot of a Department of Corrections contract amendment included with the report. It's claimed that more than 14,000 bugs have been identified in ACIS since the software was implemented.

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

Secret Memo Shows How Harris Must Now Advance Minimum Wage Hike

Andrew Perez and David Sirota [The Daily Poster 2-26-2021]

Despite a Senate official’s roadblock, the VP can clear a path to fulfill Dems’ $15 minimum wage promise, according to a blueprint circulating on Capitol Hill.

“Democrats Beat Trump in 2020. Now They’re Asking: What Went Wrong?”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-22-21]

Four major groups are backing the effort, spanning a range of Democratic-leaning interests: Third Way, a centrist think tank; End Citizens United, a clean-government group; the Latino Victory Fund; and Collective PAC, an organization that supports Black Democratic candidates.

They are said to be working with at least three influential bodies within the House Democratic caucus: the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the New Democrat Coalition, a group of centrist lawmakers. The groups have retained a Democratic consulting firm, 270 Strategies, to conduct interviews and analyze electoral data.

Looks more like the Democratic Party establishment throwing itself a pity party than a real attempt to debubblize and reach out. They can save their money by just watching these presentations by local and state Democratic Party officials in North Carolina and Wisconsin

“Building a Grassroots Strategy to Elect Democrats in North Carolina: How Wisconsin Did It.” [Zoom recording]

[Neighbors on Call, January 15, 2021]

After their losses in 2016, Wisconsin Democrats and activists worked together to start winning. And it worked! Let’s find out how they did it! Join Ben Wikler (Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and a former leader of and Nellie Sires (Executive Director, DPW) in conversation with Dr. Aimy Steele, 2020 candidate for NC House District 82, with introductions by Sydney Batch, former NC House Representative for District 37.

How We Won In A RED District - North Carolina House District 63 - Ricky Hurtado [Zoom recording]

[Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party]

On Saturday, December 19, 2020, the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party hosted a presentation by Elaine Berry, the campaign manager for Ricky Hurtado’s successful election in District 63 of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Hurtado is the first Latinx legislator elected to  the North Carolina general assembly. And, he defeated a Republican incumbent, making this one of only two races that the Democratic Party was able to flip in the general assembly.

“Democrats Are Waltzing Toward an Easily Avoidable Political Disaster With Their COVID Bill”

[Slate, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 2-24-21]

“At the moment, Democrats in Washington appear to be in danger of sleepwalking their way toward a major policy and public relations debacle. The problem? With tax season underway, millions of Americans who lost their jobs thanks to the coronavirus crisis might soon discover that they unexpectedly owe thousands of dollars to the IRS. Lawmakers could prevent this wave of surprise tax bills by adding a fix to the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that’s currently moving through Congress. But so far, efforts to do so seem to be stalling out. A senior Democratic aide told me that, as of now, he thought the chances legislators would act were ‘slim to none,’ and described the failure as ‘political malpractice.’ While unemployment benefits have long been considered taxable income, recipients are often unaware of that fact until it’s time to file. Under normal circumstances, this is not necessarily a disaster, since people tend to stay on unemployment for relatively short stints of time. But the past year has been different. A historic number of households fell back on unemployment insurance to survive the pandemic, and some have collected well over $10,000 or even $20,000 in aid thanks to the enhanced benefits Congress enacted.”

The Dark Side

Republicans believe Democrats cannot legitimately win an election
Heather Cox Richardson, February 21, 2021 [Letters from an American]

On ABC’s This Week this morning, Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) refused to admit that Democrat Joe Biden had legitimately won the 2020 presidential election.

It’s hard to overestimate how dangerous this lie is. It convinces supporters of the former president that they are actually protecting American democracy when they fight to overturn it. Jessica Watkins is one of 9 members of the right-wing paramilitary group the Oath Keepers indicted for their actions on January 6. Yesterday, her lawyer told the court that Watkins behaved as she did because she believed that then-President Donald Trump would use the military to overturn what he falsely insisted was the rigged election….

Republican Party leadership launched the idea that Democrats could not win an election legitimately all the way back in 1986. They began to examine the made-up issue of voter fraud to cut Democrats out of the electorate because they knew they could not win elections based on their increasingly unpopular policies.

In 1986, Republicans launched a “ballot integrity” initiative that they defended as a way to prevent voter fraud, but which an official privately noted “could keep the black vote down considerably.” In 1993, when Democrats expanded voter registration at certain state offices—the so-called Motor Voter Law—they complained that the Democrats were simply trying to enroll illegitimate Democratic voters in welfare and unemployment offices.

In 1994, Republicans who lost elections charged that Democrats only won through voter fraud, although then, as now, fraud was vanishingly rare. In 1996, House and Senate Republicans each launched year-long investigations into what they insisted were problematic elections, one in Louisiana and one in California…. In 1998, the Florida legislature passed a voter ID law that led to a purge of voters from the system before the election of 2000….

After 2000, the idea that Democrats could win only by cheating became engrained in the Republican Party as their increasing rightward slide made increasing numbers of voters unhappy with their actual policies. 

The idea that Democrats cannot legitimately win an election has been part of the Republican leadership’s playbook now for a generation, and it has worked: a recent survey showed that 65% of Republicans believe the 2020 election was plagued by widespread fraud, although election officials say the election was remarkably clean.

Silence About GOP Senators’ Hypocrisy 

David Sirota [The Daily Poster 2-22-2021]

Early in 2020, a powerful health care industry group that delivered large donations to Cuomo’s political machine drafted legislative language to shield those executives from legal consequences if their cost-cutting, profit-maximizing decisions endangered nursing home residents’ lives. Cuomo slipped that language into New York’s state budget and then did not support repealing it when critics warned that removing a lawsuit deterrent to corporate misbehavior was jeopardizing lives. Instead, his administration withheld data about how many nursing home residents were dying under the immunity regime.

Despite the warnings about the immunity law’s effects in New York — which were later buttressed by a report from New York’s Attorney General — U.S. Senate Republicans lifted New York’s language and dropped it into their own legislation last year. Indeed, as The DailyPoster first reportedthose Republican legislative proposals included word-for-word passages from Cuomo’s corporate immunity law.

[Twitter,  via Naked Capitalism 2-25-21]


Deathbed Confession: FBI and NYPD Responsible for Malcolm X Assassination

Thomas Neuburger [Originally published at DownWithTyranny!, Naked Capitalism, February 23, 2021]

The new evidence comes by way of a deathbed confession by a former NYPD policeman who gave a letter to his family saying that he, the FBI and the NYPD were responsible for the assassination. His role, he claimed, was to make sure that Malcolm X’s security detail was previously arrested so that there would be no door security at the ballroom where the civil rights activist was speaking the night he was murdered.

Tennessee Republicans Propose Using Fingerprints For Voter ID 

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 2-25-21]

Australian Politics 2021-02-28 07:13:00


Panic attacks as kids taught not to use words ‘boy’ or ‘girl’

Gender language warriors are making kids frightened to say “boy” or “girl”, with one Queensland doctor warning we risk a generation scared “to admit they are heterosexual”.

The warning from Logan doctor Thomas Lyons comes as mums of two transgender children who say kids need support, not gender neutral language.

Midwives are also battling to head off the push to drop “breastfeeding” for “chestfeeding” and “mother’s milk” for human milk.

“If the push to eliminate gender from society continues we are likely to see a wave of suicidal adolescents who are too anxious to admit they are heterosexual and happy in the bodies they were born into,” GP Dr Thomas Lyons said.

The medic is angry that a non-binary blanket is being thrown over the wider community when the majority of the population has no problem with the words ‘boy”, “girl”, “father” or “mother”.

“Who are these fascists who assert authority over the lives, culture and values of the majority, This coup will fail,” the doctor said.

Dr Lyons admits that the drive to outlaw gendered language became a problem for him after an experience where he had six kids visit his surgery. When he was testing their sight with a chart showing the drawings of animals and people, four of the kids refused to say the words ‘boy” or “girl” and all six were stressed and panicky.

“These children, without the knowledge or permission of the principal and parents, had been taught by teachers that the words ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ had some kind of bad magic and to utter them would somehow harm people. The children knew what they could see and hear but could not reconcile themselves with the notion that this was wrong to see boys and girls as different. Watching a six-year-old have a panic attack over use of gender identifying language is disturbing,” he said.

Adding to the debate, two Queensland mothers who have lived the reality of raising transgender children are not fans of gender-neutral parenting.

“Most children are happy in who they are and to raise them in a world without the word ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and letting them decide for themselves is putting undue pressure on young minds,” Meagan Hayes, mother of 16-year-old transgender daughter Emma, said.

“I respect those who make this choice but it is my experience that children are what they are and nothing will change that,” the Gympie mum told The Sunday Mail.

“My daughter tried to cut off her own penis at the age of four. At that very young age she instinctively knew she was a girl and told everyone that she was a girl.

“My parenting style or any restricted use of language would not change that in any way.”

Michelle Suters from Rothwell, north of Brisbane, is the mother of four children and two step-children. Her son Nate, 17, is transgender.

“My children were all raised the same. They could play with whatever toys they wanted whether trucks or dolls. Nate wasn’t interested in dolls, he wanted to be a superhero and loved worm farms. He wanted his hair short from when he was 10. We just accepted him as he was no questions asked,” Ms Suters said.

“I am not a fan of gender-neutral parenting. Most children are happy to be either a boy or a girl. I don’t think they need to be made frightened of being one of the other. Nature has a way or making things happen as they should. All any parent can do is support and love their child for what they are or what they want to be,” she said.

Both mothers agree that gender words should not be erased but children should be taught that their opportunities are not hindered by gender and it’s OK to buck stereotypes.

But on the flip side Nate Musiello himself told The Sunday Mail that he believes that in the future people will adapt to a world without gender. “I think my generation see things a bit differently and the world is ready for the shift. The use of the words ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ were hurtful to me as I grew up. I will raise my own children gender neutral and I think small things like removing the Mr from the toy Potato Head is a good thing. Why does a potato have to be a man?” Nate said.

Social commentator David Chalke said the bid to wipe out the words “girl” or “boy” in society is ludicrous. “Parents can raise children in whatever way they see fit but to throw out these ideas to fit the wider community is a mistake,” he said.

“No child should be directed to be scared of certain words and children are too young to understand the extreme message.

“This trend is a push by a minority that should not impact the whole community particularly children. I have a manhole leading up to my attic, is that going to be a problem?”

A push for midwives to use more gender-inclusive words like “chestfeeding” rather than “breastfeeding”, “feeding parent” rather than “mother”, and “peri-natal” instead of “maternity” is gathering momentum, but the Australian College of Midwives is standing firm against the drive, determined they will not wipe out “women” from the health system.

Maternity consumer advocates state that removing words such as “mother”, “breastfeeding” and “woman” from experiences that are direct experiences of women is “completely misogynist”.

“This is something that is coming to the fore and we hear about it regularly but our stance is that changing the vernacular to remove the word “women” is going to take us backward rather than forward. Women make up over 50 per cent of the population,” Ruth King, adviser to the ACM said.


Outback road sign with Alice Springs crossed off and replaced with its Indigenous name sparks furious debate

image from

A photograph of a defaced road sign in the outback has sparked a fierce debate on social media about whether Indigenous place names should used

The image showed the names Alice Springs and Hermannsburg on Larapinta Drive, in the Northern Territory crossed out with white paint.

'Mparntwe' and 'Ntaria' - as those towns are known to the respective local Indigenous communities, Arrernte and Western Aranda - were painted onto the sign.

The road sign was also graffitied with the letters ACAB - a political acronym that means: 'All cops are b*****ds'.

The Common Ground Australia Facebook page captioned the photo: 'Across Australia there is a growing movement of reclaiming traditional place names in First Nations languages.'

'Using traditional place names in conversation, on signs and any other references is an amazing step towards recognising the sovereignty First Nations people still hold across Australia.

'When we recognise and embed language, we centre First Nations people, culture and Country.'

But not everybody agreed and the post generated fierce debate, with several unhappy at what they saw as vandalism.

One man wrote: 'I applaud the spirit of the action however I feel the crossing out of European names spoils the message.'

'At this time of what hopefully is a transition and a bringing about of new values perhaps the names should have stood together so as to educate rather than challenge.'

Many people suggested a compromise - using both the Indigenous and English or Colonial place names.

They pointed out that bilingual road and street signs are common in many countries - including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.

New Zealand's tallest mountain, Mt Cook, was renamed Aoraki/Mount Cook in 1998.

Some place names in Australia have been renamed over time too, most notably Ayers Rock which in was re-labelled Uluru/Ayers Rock in 1993.

In Adelaide, 39 sites including many of the city's parks were dual-named by 2003 in acknowledgement of the local Kaurna people.

Bilingual signage is common too in some of Australia's biggest cities were large immigrant populations live who may not speak English at home, or to acknowledge non-English speaking tourists - such Chinatown in Sydney.


Cheering prohibited: Parents frustrated by inconsistent COVID-19 rules in schools

Over the swimming carnival season, some students have been banned from cheering their teammates, while others have not. Some parents have been allowed to watch their kids swim, while others have not.

But it’s not just sport. Tim Spencer, the president of the P&C Federation, said parents were becoming frustrated with inconsistencies in the application of all kinds COVID-19 rules between schools, especially when there were so few cases in the community.

But the NSW Department of Education said schools and parents could expect updated guidelines “imminently”.

Mr Spencer said parents had been complaining about different interpretations from different schools. “We’re certainly hearing things that are inconsistent,” he said. “There’s still P&Cs not allowed to meet on school premises, and they still need to meet virtually. “That rule hasn’t been in place since term four last year.

“The real problem is how that’s communicated to parents at a school level. The department is being reasonable in most of its applications, but it’s when there’s arbitrary restrictions - when the school down the road is doing the opposite.”

What is and isn’t allowed:

Field trips, excursions and camps are permitted
P&C meetings can be held indoors after hours with a limit of 30 people (in Greater Sydney)
For indoor events, audience members cannot join in singing or chanting
All singing, chanting, rapping and group activities must take place in large well-ventilated settings
School performances, productions, plays and concerts can continue
Interschool activities are permitted

At St Andrews Cathedral School, the usual cheer squads were suspended this year. “We followed the COVID-safe requirements of NSW Health,” said principal John Collier.

“These indicate that singing and chanting are activities which should be prohibited, as they are likely to spread a plume which if such a plume contains the COVID virus, can provide aerosol which is highly infectious.”

At International Grammar School, the carnival was staggered, with years 11 and 12 going first, then heading back to school and being replaced by years 9 and 10.

“Students supported each other through rhythmic drumming, sprays of vivid colour and some outstanding feats of aquatic mastery,” the newsletter said.

Students at Waverley College were told on Friday they would not be able to cheer at the upcoming high school swimming carnival.

Paul Galpin, the treasurer of the Balmain Public School P&C, said the COVID-19 restrictions have been a “source of great frustration. We’re really keen to be involved with our son’s school life but find the guidelines frequently prevent that.”

He said the school could not host in-person P&C meetings because the rooms were all too small. A cross-year buddy program was almost cancelled because of the interpretation of the guidelines.

“I have zero problem with a conservative approach when it comes to keeping my child safe,” Mr Galpin said. “When rules seem arbitrary and poorly thought out though it becomes a bitter pill to swallow.”

Craig Petersen from the Secondary Principals Council said the guidelines themselves could be difficult for principals to keep across. “It’s frustrating, and confusing and I’m not surprised there’s inconsistencies, particularly across sectors,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Education said it was updating the guidelines for NSW schools in line with health advice. “We expect these to be finalised imminently,” she said.

“The guidelines are provided to all schools to support consistent and safe implementation. Public schools should be following these guidelines in a uniform way. “School events taking place at venues outside school grounds, like swimming pools, must comply with the COVID restrictions of that venue.”


A record dry in Australia

Suggesting global cooling. Warming would produce MORE rain, not less

Overlooking the old family farmhouse on Gerard Walsh's farm is a hill covered in hundreds of dead ironbarks.

"Two years ago, they would have all been alive and flourishing. Basically every tree has died," Mr Walsh said.

Across all of 2019, his property at Greymare in southern Queensland recorded just 144 millimetres of rain — the driest in 100 years.

"Certainly the rainfall has changed, all for the lesser," Mr Walsh said.

For more than a century, the Walsh family have been recording rainfall on their farm Coolesha for the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). "My mother Margaret Walsh, she would have done the weather for some 60 years, her parents before that," Mr Walsh said.

The long service was recently recognised with an award from the BOM.

The voluntary role has meant the Walsh family have been able to observe up close those effects of climate change on the Southern Downs region.

Rainfall at Coolesha has been below average for seven of the past 10 years, consistent with the BOM's most recent State of the Climate report.

"Income was more than halved during most of that period of time," Mr Walsh said.

Like many in the region, less rain has meant less feed for cattle and the Walshes have had to reduce cattle numbers.

Farmers in the Southern Downs are dealing with declining winter rainfall and the prospect of back-to-back droughts.




Australian Politics 2021-02-27 08:33:00


Economics professor Ross Garnaut says Australia voluntarily keeps hundreds of thousands unemployed

Greenie economist Garnaut appears also to be a fan of Modern Monetary Theory. He says government should maximize employment and to heck with everything else. In particular we should stop worrying about inflation.

It is true that for the last 8 years the USA has allowed levels of monetary growth that would once have been regarded as inviting roaring inflation. It is still a puzzle as to why U.S. inflation has in fact remained quite modest. Modern Monetary theory simply says "That's the way it is and so what?"

So Garnaut is saying that Australian governments too could spend up big and not worry. It's a logical position if you accept MMT as a rule rather than as a one-off happening.

It's clear that there IS a limit to government spending. The roaring inflation in Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Argentina show that. And in such economies the people's savings are destroyed, which is deplorable for several reasons.

So would big Australian government spending end up with us like the USA or like Argentina? That is the issue and the answer appears to be that you can go so far and no farther. How far is too far in the Australian case remains to be seen. But, as a short-term policy, Garnaut's recommendations could be beneficial

With weeks to go before the JobSeeker rate is cut, one of Australia's most respected economists has suggested there are potentially hundreds of thousands of Australians on unemployment benefits who shouldn't be there.

Professor Ross Garnaut, a Professorial Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Melbourne, has condemned Australia's economic policymakers for the situation.

But his criticism refers to how they've been running the economy for years, not just for the last 12 months.

He's referring to the federal government and the Reserve Bank.

He says their decision to "allow" hundreds of thousands of Australians to languish in unemployment in recent years, to suppress wages and inflation, as part of the country's broader economic policy settings, has immiserated people and cost the economy hundreds of billions dollars in lost economic activity.

In his new book, Reset: Restoring Australia after the pandemic recession, Professor Garnaut says our policymakers should drop that policy and return Australia to having genuine full employment.

He says that would mean an unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent or lower — the lowest it's been since the early 1970s.

The unemployment rate is currently 6.4 per cent.

He says it's hard to know for sure, but that lower level of unemployment will probably be the point at which wages finally start to rise and inflationary pressures emerge. But we would have to test it. It could be much lower than that.

"Certainly, it is lower than the 'well below 6 per cent' that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said would trigger efforts to reduce the budget deficit," Professor Garnaut has written.

The problem with Australia's economic policy architecture
It's a scathing assessment.

Between 1946 and 1975, when Australia pursued an official policy of full employment, the national unemployment rate averaged below 2 per cent.

Successive federal governments (both Labor and Coalition) deliberately recorded budget deficits to achieve that full employment.

But since the 1980s, Australia's policymakers have accepted higher levels of unemployment, which they say are "natural" for prevailing conditions.

They developed a new definition of full employment: full employment would mean the level of unemployment that keeps a lid on inflation (i.e. that stops wages and prices growing too quickly).

The ugly term for that level of "full employment" is the NAIRU, or non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment.

When 'full employment' isn't

One of the Reserve Bank's targets is full employment, but back when that target was set it meant a very different thing to what does today.

Professor Garnaut says Australia's policymakers have repeatedly miscalculated the NAIRU in recent years, meaning they have often suspected the economy is getting close to full employment when it is far from that point.

For example, consider a situation in which the national unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent and falling, and the RBA suspected full employment (i.e. the NAIRU) was 5 per cent.

That means the RBA would expect inflation and wage pressures to start building soon, because the unemployment rate was apparently getting closer to "full employment," so it would prepare to start lifting interest rates.

However, what if, in this scenario, the economy was only going to be in genuine "full employment" when the unemployment rate was 3 per cent?

That means the RBA would start lifting interest rates prematurely, when the unemployment rate was 5 per cent (rather than 3 per cent), effectively killing the momentum in the labour market before everyone who wanted a job could find one.

Professor Garnaut says Australia's policymakers have to stop guessing where full employment could be.

"We can find out where it is by increasing demand for labour until wages in the labour market are rising at a rate that threatens to take inflation above the Reserve Bank range for an extended period," he says.

He says the difference between the actual level of unemployment and the lower level of genuine full employment represents people who are "unnecessarily unemployed."

"The number of unnecessarily unemployed people is actually larger than this, because more people would be encouraged to seek employment if unemployment rates were lower," he says.

He says the years since 2013 have been particularly bad.

"An average of several hundred thousand fewer people were employed [from 2013 to 2019] than would otherwise have been possible," he says.

"This is voluntary unemployment — voluntary for the Reserve Bank, because it is unemployment that the Reserve Bank chooses to allow.

"At current levels of economic activity, having several hundred thousand people unnecessarily unemployed holds annual gross domestic product [GDP] down about $50 billion below what it could be, and, all other things being equal, raises Australia's public deficits by nearly $20 billion each year."

Support for idea promoted by Modern Monetary Theory
Professor Garnaut says Australia should use as many resources as possible to get the unemployment rate down to 3.5 per cent by 2025, as a matter of national urgency.

He says the budget deficits needed to achieve full employment should be funded "directly or indirectly" by the Reserve Bank, "at least until full employment is in sight."

That puts him squarely on the side of people like former Prime Minister Paul Keating, and economists of the Modern Monetary Theory school, who say the RBA has the power to create money itself to finance the federal government's stimulus spending, so there's no reason why the federal government's deficit spending should be supported by an explosion in Commonwealth government debt.

Modern Monetary Theory explained

MMT attacks the obsession with government deficits and debt, and is gaining traction at a time when both are rising fast. Gareth Hutchens explains what MMT is, where it comes from and what its critics say.

As things currently stand, the Reserve Bank is waiting for Treasury to sell new Commonwealth government bonds (via the Office of Australian Financial Management) to private banks, pension funds, and insurance companies that comprise the so-called "secondary market", before buying those same bonds from those private entities at an agreed interest rate.

That traditional practice of "raising money" from the secondary market for government spending is what has led to the explosion of Commonwealth government debt over the last year.

Professor Garnaut says that's unnecessary.

"We're really arguing about angels dancing on a pinhead when we talk about a difference," Professor Garnaut told journalist Alan Kohler's Eureka Report this week.

"The only difference between the Government selling bonds into the market and then the Reserve Bank buying them is you give a margin to the small number of players in the bond market, to the banks that participate in that trade.

Can modern monetary theory knock out free market capitalism?
A white piggy bank sits in the centre of the image surrounded by rows and rows of pink piggy banks.
Modern monetary theory is taking on free market capitalism promising to end the "surplus fetish". But is it a brave new future or "voodoo economics"? "I'd say, let's take away their free lunch."

Phil Lowe, the RBA governor, has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that the RBA should be directly financing the Government's stimulus spending.

However, he's never said it's not possible. He's only said it's unnecessary.

"I want to make it very clear that monetary financing of fiscal policy is not an option under consideration in Australia, nor does it need to be," he said in July last year.

"The Australian Government is able to finance itself in the bond market, and it can do so on very favourable terms."


Another white "Aborigine"

Tammy Baarat

Des Houghton

Hymba Yumba was unlike every other high-achieving independent school I have ever visited.

To begin with, the 280 students are not called students but jarjums, an Aboriginal word for children. And is it not uncommon to find a well-behaved Labrador or two sitting in a classroom with the jarjums. Each morning the dogs join humans in a sit-down “yarning circle” that finishes with students bowing their heads and closing their eyes in a meditation session.

The students at Hymba Yumba at Springfield, south of Brisbane, were assigned by an outside firm to train dogs for the disabled, especially the blind.

“The jarjums seem to develop a special relationship with the dogs,” said principal Peter Foster, a former state basketballer who previously taught at elite Brisbane Grammar and St Peter’s Lutheran College before accepting the job as principal at Hymba Yumba.

There was a surprise element to the “dog therapy”, Foster said. The animals reciprocate to the kindness shown to them. The dogs somehow recognize children who are having a bad day and sit at their feet. “They sympathise with them. It works.”

Eighty percent of Hymba Yumba students are Indigenous and they are streets ahead of other Indigenous and non-indigenous schools in literacy and numeracy. Foster said this was due to “a massive academic program” that worked hand in glove with “a massive wellbeing program”.

Urban Aboriginals are not always aware of their own culture, he said. An education at Hymba Yumba was the “start of the journey” to explore it.

“It’s about understanding who you are and where your mob is from,’’ he said.

Foster’s deputy Tammy Baarat, a Darug woman, said the wellness programs taught jarjums to respect their parents, their community, their country and themselves.

The programs helped stem bad behaviour. Years ago, one student arrived with so much pent-up anger she tore a classroom door from its hinges. She is now a top scholar.

“Wellness is a prerequisite for academic success,” Baarat said.


Australia is set to lose a staggering 1.5million jobs within the next few years - and the economic catastrophe is NOT due to the pandemic

But 1.7million jobs will be created

More than a million jobs are set to be wiped from the Australian economy within the next few years as the shift towards an automated workforce renders some roles obsolete.

Job numbers across the nation are forecast to plunge 11 per cent by 2030 as artificial intelligence and automation reshapes workforces globally, according to a new report.

A study by global technology research firm Forrester analysed 391 occupations tracked by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and found 1.5million jobs would be slashed in some sectors as positions are replaced by digital technology.

Employees in finance, accounting, clerical roles, and human resources, who perform highly structured administrative tasks are most at risk, with automation likely to eliminate a million of those jobs first.

By 2030, it is estimated more than half of the jobs in this category will be replaced by automated systems.

While the demand for leaders to facilitate changes in organisations will remain unchanged, the need for co-ordinators in middle management is also expected to decline.

Although some industries will bear the brunt of transformation to the labour landscape, others are tipped to boom.

As automation becomes more advanced, 1.7million jobs will be created by 2030 while as many as one in three workers will transform into the online gig economy.

The next few years will see an increased demand for workers with digital skills, including tech specialists with skills in big data, process automation, human/machine interaction, robotics engineering, blockchain, and machine learning.

The growth will offset eight per cent of more traditional technology roles that can be fully automated.

The report also found employees for charities, social enterprises, and health and well-being services will becoming a significant new labour force, boasting more than 700,000 mission-based workers by 2030 as Australians seek to align person values and lifestyles with work.

'Some of the biggest challenges that firms face in embracing automation technologies relate to culture and change management,' Forrester principal analyst Sam Higgins said.

'It’s critical that policymakers and employers learn how to minimise the number of digital outcasts by measuring the ability of individuals and organisations to adapt to, collaborate with, trust, and generate business results from automation – or else over 1 million Australian workers may be left stranded beyond the next digital divide.'


Youtube streaming of NT police officer Zachary Rolfe's murder trial raised as concern in court

The cop is in court because the deceased is black. No other reason

The murder trial of Constable Zachary Rolfe could be streamed on YouTube to Alice Springs and the remote community of Yuendumu, where 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker died in November 2019.

At a pre-trial hearing in the Northern Territory Supreme Court today, Chief Justice Michael Grant said the court's administration was hoping to allow the broadcast of proceedings. He said it would be streamed to the courthouse in Alice Springs and at the school in the community of Yuendumu, about 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

"There would be a facilitator [in Darwin] who would close down the broadcast whenever court is closed, whenever arguments are being made in the absence of the jury and otherwise, whenever the trial judge ordered," he said.

Crown Prosecutor Sophie Callan said the prosecution would not oppose the streaming of the trial to Yuendumu, but questioned whether other members of the public could access it.

"I think the question, your Honour, is whether it's some form of private YouTube channel or access to which others could, would be restricted," she said.

Constable Rolfe's defence lawyer, David Edwardson QC, said he had concerns about whether this would mean witnesses could potentially access the proceedings.

"We'd be most concerned if the public — the wider public — could access it outside of the hall," he said.

"How would the court envisage ensuring that nobody who accessed the hall, for example, at Yuendumu, was in fact a witness or potential witness in the proceedings?" he asked the court.

Justice Grant acknowledged the concerns but reminded lawyers that any member of the public would be entitled to come to court and watch the proceedings.

"I imagine it will be possible to have a police officer located in the school hall at Yuendumu, able to give effect to any order the trial judge makes for witnesses to remove themselves from the premises," Justice Grant said.

He said he would raise the matter with court staff.

The matter will return to court at the end of March.




How Much SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Is There in the World?

What if you could collect all the particles of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus there are in the world together in one place. How much space do you think it would occupy?

Mathematician Kit Yates ran a back-of-the-envelope calculation to find out, where the final result might surprise you. The basic math has been described in the following short video:

In U.S. terms, 160 milliliters is the equivalent of 5.4 fluid ounces, which would better fit in a 5.5 fl. oz. V-8 juice can, the smallest size container in which this particular product may be purchased! Or if you prefer to reference another popular Campbell's product, all the coronavirus in the world would fit in just about half of a single iconic 10.75 fluid ounce can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup.

For our regular readers, if the name Kit Yates sounds familiar, it's because we've been linking to a BBC Four radio interview he gave in April 2020, in which he describes how back calculation may be used to identify the specific timing of events that have changed the trends for coronavirus infections. We've been employing that method as an integral part of our series exploring Arizona's experience during the coronavirus pandemic. In case you missed it, here is the previous entry in that series.

Australian Politics 2021-02-26 09:18:00


Brisbane flood victims awarded $440m settlement over Wivenhoe Dam disaster

Conservatives built a dam that should have ended Brisbane floods. But a Leftist government misused it catastrophically. To avoid building a new dam, the Bligh government used the flood compartment to store water. So when the floods came threre was nothing to contain them

On top of that the bureaucrats in charge of the dam failed to heed danger warnings -- because it was not in their manual. They killed a lot of people. An early discharge could have kept the flood within bounds. Morons all round

Almost 7000 people in a class action will be paid $440 million in a landmark settlement with the Queensland Government and SunWater, the dam’s operator.

The figure – the largest-ever in a class action in Australia – was announced to the ASX today by litigator funder Omni Bridgeway.

“This has been a hard-fought and extremely difficult case on behalf of approximately 6700 claimants, against determined defendants over many years,” Omni Bridgeway said.

Releases from the Wivenhoe Dam in January 2011 saw water levels rise up to 10 metres. Hydrologists determined the releases were the main cause of flooding in the riverine area of Brisbane.

The class action lawsuit represented some 6700 victims of the disaster.

SunWater and the Queensland Government have settled to split a 50 per cent share of the liability for the class action.

Another state owned enterprise, Seqwater, has not settled with the claimants, the statement from Omni Bridgeway said. Seqwater has been allocated the remaining 50 per cent liability for the disaster.

“Seqwater has been allocated 50% of the aggregate liability” by the NSW Supreme Court in the first instance, the statement said. The enterprise plans to appeal the finding in May 2021.

However, based on the current allocation of Seqwater’s 50 per cent liability, Omni Bridgeway estimate the claimants currently look to settle with the parties with a total value of $880 million.

The class action suit was previously estimated to reach a settlement between $130 to $170 million.

In light of the settlement, Omni Bridgeway said they now consider the previous upper level estimate to be “conservative”.

The settlement comes a decade after the 2011 Brisbane floods, which affected more than 200,000 people and caused $2.38 billion worth of damage.


College principal defends teen thugs who attacked tradies

Comment from a social work reader:

"And the school principal calls his thugs “vulnerable” and “broken babies”.

I expect he is a soppy leftie, and maybe worse, a cunning and manipulative one.

"I worked with leftist forensic psychs who would justify crim’s crimes, coach them into believing they were victims of society’s artificial expectations, so they would continue to be crims after release, by telling them things like there is no truth, just perception and feelings, no right or wrong, just social expectations, and if you feel it, it’s true for you, and in another society you would not be in jail, you would be considered a good citizen, even a hero….

I would not be surprised if the principal and a number of his teachers are of the same sort of character as those psychs, committing crime by proxy through manipulating dumb thugs and crims, all the while acting themselves as if they are caring and wise"

A school principal has thrown his support behind the gang of thugs filmed savagely beating tradies during a wild rampage earlier this week.

The saga began on Tuesday, when two tradesmen arrived at SMYL Community College in Rockingham, southwest Perth, to fix a broken fire hydrant.

But soon after their arrival at the school for at-risk teens, a group of up to 10 students began surrounding the men and verbally abusing them, with footage of the incident livestreamed to Instagram.

The incident soon escalated, with around six teens seen throwing punches at the men while they are trapped in a corner, amid shouts of “bomb him, bomb that motherf …” and “keep going”.

Teachers soon arrived in an attempt to break up the attack, but as the incident was unfolding, another teenager was seen smashing the front windscreen of the tradesmen’s work vehicle after jumping on the bonnet and yelling “let’s smash his car”.

The attack made headlines across Australia and shocked the country – but despite the “appalling” violence, college director Sam Gowegati has defended the perpetrators, describing them as “broken babies” who needed help.

“The reason these kids are sent here is because they’re disengaged from mainstream education,” he told The West Australian.

“These kids are already vulnerable … and they do dumb stuff, that’s why they’re here, closed off in this area so we can manage that process.”

Earlier this week, Mr Gowegati told The West Australian some students had been suspended following the brutal attack.

“It is an atypical event. We’re just trying to figure out what happened and what triggered it,” he told the publication.

“A number of students have been currently sent home to decide what their futures are going to be.”

Mr Gowegati’s comments come after the publication reported that some staff were so concerned by student behaviour that they were “petrified” of going to work, with one teacher telling The West Australian some staff were “scared for their lives”.

According to the school’s website, SMYL Community College aims to “ provide an inclusive and supportive learning community that offers an alternative approach to education and training for young people aged 14 to 17 years of age who are at risk of missing out on opportunities due to their home life, health and other issues.”


Nuclear Power Would Stabilize the Australian Power Grid

While the situation in Texas shows us the necessity of a resilient grid with a high peak capacity and a healthy mixture of energy resources, Australia has been ruminating on a decision that would allow the country to utilize one of its most abundant natural resources. As one of the world’s foremost uranium producing countries, it is strange that Australia does not use uranium for nuclear power production.

Australia does not have any nuclear power stations, and has never had one. Australia has 29 percent of the world’s easily recoverable uranium resources (procured for less than $130 per Kilogram). That is 1.174 million tons of uranium. In 2019, Australia was the world’s third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada.

Despite these resources, Australia has only ever had one nuclear reactor, and it was not built to generate power. It was a research reactor at Lucas Heights which was initially built as a test reactor to determine the suitability of materials for use in future power reactors. The reactor’s purpose has shifted since its 1958 construction, and it is now used for the production of medical isotopes and for other research purposes.

What’s Preventing Nuclear Power in Australia?

The Australian government’s ban on nuclear power is enshrined in two laws: the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (ARPANS Act) and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

The ARPANS Act applies to commonwealth-owned entities and bans certain nuclear installations, namely nuclear fuel fabrication plants, nuclear power plants, enrichment plants, and processing facilities. In order for any commonwealth-owned entity to construct and use any of these facilities, the act would need to be amended.

The EPBC Act creates similar prohibitions for commonwealth corporations, commonwealth entities, the Commonwealth itself, or other people, which prevent them from taking “a nuclear action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the environment.” This and other parts of the act would need to be amended to create a framework for licensing projects.

The ARPANS and EPBC acts are products of a sense of national outrage arising after the United Kingdom used Australia and its surrounding waters as nuclear testing sites during the early years of the Cold War. The tests remain a sore spot between the former colony and mother Britain, but they also stained the conversation around nuclear projects with the taste of weapons development and colonial exploitation in Australia.

Understanding that these regulations are anchored in old conflicts now largely moot is the key to challenging them effectively for the good of Australians and the Australian environment today and in the future.

Efforts to Allow Nuclear Energy

In recent years, the impetus to change the law and create a pathway toward nuclear power in the country has grown. In 2019, the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy performed an “Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia.” The ensuing report made three recommendations.

“Firstly, the Australian Government should further consider the prospect of nuclear technology as part of its future energy mix; secondly, [it should] undertake a body of work to progress the understanding of nuclear technology in the Australian context; and thirdly, [it should] it consider lifting the current moratorium on nuclear energy partially—that is, for new and emerging nuclear technologies only—and conditionally—that is, with aprovals for nuclear facilities to require the prior informed consent of impacted local communities.”

These recommendations show that the tide may be turning for nuclear, and for energy freedom more generally, in Australia.

Australia has some of the highest energy consumption per capita in the world, and its efforts to decarbonize are stymied by its categorical refusal of nuclear power. It is illogical for a country with such a bounty of a valuable natural resource to preclude its use toward this end. Were a pathway created for licensing of nuclear reactors in Australia, energy developers would have a wider range of options for new power to replace some of the country’s aging coal plants.

The ideal way to determine the most efficient energy mix is to remove as many barriers to market operation as possible, and then allow the wheat to separate itself from the chaff. This requires that there be minimal subsidies and restrictions. Australia has done just the opposite, and that is why its attempt at an “energy transition” has been unsuccessful thus far. Attempting to force decarbonization through wind and solar, while outright banning nuclear power, is counterintuitive. Nuclear is less carbon-intensive than solar, and about as carbon-intensive as wind while using dramatically less land.

Even without allowing the construction of older technologies, if Australia followed the committee’s recommendations, and allowed new nuclear technologies, the added flexibility of technologies like small modular and advanced non-light water reactors will give the country the ability to confront the impending need to add new capacity to its aging grid.


Redcliffe State High School’s trial of pronoun badges has divided the community

A state high school’s trial of gender pronoun badges has divided the community with some welcoming the new initiative and others saying the “world has gone mad”.

Redcliffe State High School’s LGBTIQ+ group launched the trial of the pronoun badges last week. It provides students an option to wear a badge with he/him, she/her or they/them on it.

A Facebook post shared by the school said: “(The) purpose is to display to everyone what those who are wearing them define themselves as. They’re also so that people know what to refer to the wearer as.”

A poll conducted by the Redcliffe Herald found 91 per cent, of the almost 2000 voters, did not think gender badges should become common practice at all Queensland schools.

Many readers said the school should focus less on this and more on the basics of education. William said: “No wonder our world ranking in math and science are going to the dogs”.

“How about teachers teaching maths, science and English and leaving all this rubbish alone. Teachers and the education system have no right or authority to start reading around with gender issues. That should only be the responsibility of the parents,” Peter said.

Philip, a teacher, supported the idea. “Regardless of what many people might think about the use of differing pronouns by people, this is an incredibly good idea,” he wrote. “As a teacher, having to recall the preferred pronouns for all my students has always been difficult. The uniform does not help you, nor does the hair style, etc.