Australian Politics 2017-03-04 15:32:00


Australia’s record-breaking summer heat linked to climate change (?)

This is just modelling:  Games with numbers.  There has been no statistically significant change for decades anyway.  So there is nothing to link to.  Big fraud!

The record-breaking heat seen across southeast Australia in the last few months was made 50 times more likely by climate change, according to new analysis that links the heat directly to global warming.

Southeast Australia was struck by three major heatwaves in January and February, with temperatures climbing as high as 113°F (45°C) in some places. On February 10, Sydney Airport recorded its hottest February day on record, with temperatures hitting 109°F (42°C). The heat was also uncharacteristically persistent — Observatory Hill in Sydney saw temperatures reach above 95°F (35°C) for nine consecutive days in January, breaking a 120-year old record. Elsewhere, the consistent heat was even more extreme: in Moore, New South Wales, there were 52 consecutive days with temperatures above 95°F (35°C).

The study, conducted by the World Weather Attribution Program at Climate Central, used climate model simulations and observational data analysis to understand how climate change, caused by an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, might have made these heat events more likely. They found that climate change made the average temperatures seen this summer in Australia 50 times more likely, and made the maximum summer temperatures 10 times more likely.

“In the past, a summer as hot as 2016–2017 was a roughly 1 in 500-year event,” the researchers wrote. “Today, climate change has increased the odds to roughly 1 in 50 years — a 10-fold increase in frequency.”

The analysis also warns that heat events like these — both punctuated heatwaves and long stretches of above-average temperatures — are likely to become more frequent as climate change continues. In the future, according to the study, heat events like the one this summer could happen as frequently as every five years — and will likely be more intense, with temperatures averaging at least 1.8ºF (1°C) warmer than they were in the past.

The connection between heat waves and climate change has strong scientific support. In 2015, eight papers published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society’s attribution report — an annual report that explains extreme weather events from a climate perspective — all linked climate change to heatwaves, showing that climate change clearly made heatwaves either more likely, more intense, or both.

According to data from NASA and NOAA, 2016 was the hottest year on record. Before that, both 2015 and 2014 held that distinction. In fact, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001.


Trump effect coming in country Australia?

Conservative politician George Christensen sees different attitudes in his regional electorate

Mr Christensen, 38, is channelling deepening backbench disaffection with the Prime Minister and his leadership team, his seat of Dawson is in the eye of a wider storm for Australian politics: the re-emergence of Senator’s Hanson’s party of protest.

One Nation is thriving in the fault line between voters in the prosperous inner cities and the country, as detailed this week by The Australian’s Regions in Revolt series. Dawson is emblematic of the political and socio-economic rift. Anchored in sugar farming, coalmining and tourism, economic growth in the electorate ­consistently outstripped that of the Queensland and national economies until mining con­struction fell over in 2012-13. ­Exclusive modelling for The Weekend ­Australian by Price­waterhouseCoopers shows than unemployment in the Dawson ­region doubled between that time and December 2015, from 3.6 per cent to 8.4 per cent. Reflecting this, take-up of the dole increased by 98.61 per cent in postcode 4740, in the heart of Mackay, in the three years to 2016, government data reveals.

Peter McFarlane, of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, said the average home price in Mackay had slumped from $411,000 to $318,000 in five years. While there are signs of “green shoots” in the property and job markets, it’s not before time.

Mr Christensen wants to tell this story of Australia’s haves and have lesses. The outspoken backbencher this week threw in his job as the Nationals’ chief whip, sacrificing pay of $26,000 a year, to ­become an even greater headache for Mr Turnbull in his self-­appointed role as a straight-­talking advocate for regional Australia and his far-flung ­electorate. While some of his colleagues complain that Mr Christensen is embittered about missing out on a spot in the ministry he claims to have been promised after the election last July reduced the Coalition government’s ­majority to a single seat, the man of the moment is having none of it.

“It had just become completely and utterly not workable for me,” he said of his position as whip.

“You could not have someone who was supposed to enforce party unity and discipline and do what I was doing. I was actually having to hold back most of the time when I was … speaking out. Relinquishing the role makes me feel a lot more free in terms of ­articulating the concerns of the electorate and where I think the government has gone into the wrong area.”

Mr Christensen is convinced that it’s a mistake for the government to support the decision by the Fair Work Commission to reduce weekend penalty rates. In parliament, Mr Turnbull was pursued by Labor over the impact on low-paid workers — even though the industrial umpire had been set up by Labor and the review of penalty entitlements was commissioned by Bill Shorten when he was industrial relations minister.

By week’s end, Coalition backbenchers were “despondent”, Mr Christensen said. “There is no way we can win an argument when you are telling people they can make do with less money.”

The government needed to cut its losses. Mr Christensen backs a proposal by Tony Abbott loyalist Eric Abetz for existing workers’ penalty rates to be protected and for the cuts to be applied only to small business, where cost relief was needed most. He had texted Mr Turnbull and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce to outline his concern about the government’s position, but was given short shrift.

“Let’s just say I gave my view and they gave their views back, and it was not the same view,” he said. “But blind Freddy can see the trouble we are in … this argument is so big we should be doing something to head it off at the pass. It (the FWC decision) was not our decision. We should not be ­wearing it. But we are wearing it.”

Mr Christensen said his apprehension was shared on the government backbench: “I have talked to other MPs who agree with me, yes.”

Asked if the issue could ­threaten Mr Turnbull’s leadership, he said: “I don’t know about that. Leadership speculation is a matter for the Liberal Party and not the National Party, to be honest. I think we are going to have to make decisions which may be political, but the reality is it is in line with what people think.”

Newspoll showed this week that support for One Nation had doubled over summer to 10 per cent nationally, as its leader sought to channel President ­Donald Trump’s appeal to conservative-minded voters in the US. A ReachTEL poll in Dawson conducted for the Left-leaning Australia Institute showed that One Nation and the merged Liberal National Party in Queensland were level-pegging on 30 per cent apiece of the primary vote, a finding Mr Christensen yesterday described as credible. This suggests that his re-election would be dependent on Labor preferences.

He will tell a crisis meeting today in Bundaberg of federal and state MPs and senators for regional Queensland called by state LNP leader Tim Nicholls that a “de-branding” of the amalgam­ated conservative party could be the way forward. Contrary to ­reports in Fairfax Media, however, he remains a supporter of the LNP.

“There is some merit to the ­argument that we (regional MPs) should stand under the brand of the Nationals … do I think it would be better federally? Probably it would be,” he told The Weekend Australian.

State LNP frontbencher Jason Costigan, whose ultra-marginal seat of Whitsunday takes in Mackay’s northern suburbs, won’t be attending the Bundaberg meeting, highlighting the problems One Nation is causing for the LNP. Mr Costigan has portfolio responsibilities for north Queensland. But he said he had other commitments and Bundaberg “was a long way from north Queensland”.

“One of the things in our party is that we have lacked the ability to sell our vision and our policies to the people of Queensland,” Mr Costigan said.

Mr Christensen said Senator Hanson had been able to a “fill a void over values”, especially in regional areas. “People are angry,” he said of the quality of political leadership. “In the regions … we are more conservative, we are more patriotic. People can laugh in the cities that it’s a bit jingoistic, but that’s the reality. Kids stand up at school looking at the flag, they sing the national anthem and some even have a school prayer. Things are done differently here.”

Mr Christensen said he would not accept a promotion to the ministry before the next federal election, due in 2019. Queenslanders are tipped to go to the polls to elect a state government later this year or early in 2018.


Punchbowl Boys High School having Muslim problems

The Punchbowl Boys High School principal and deputy principal have been dumped amid a backlash over the exclusion of female teachers from taking part in ­official events at the largely Muslim public school.

The NSW Education Department confirmed yesterday that principal Chris Griffiths and deputy principal Joumana Dennaoiu had been removed from their roles, following an investi­gation into the school in Sydney’s southwest.

The school’s treatment of its ­female staff is understood to be one of a multitude of issues that have led to the decision. While the department said it was unaware of any official policy at the school that concerned the role of female teachers, The Australian understands a decision was made last year to exclude them from taking official roles in the Year 12 graduation ceremony and the annual presentation day.

Senior female teachers, who expected to play official roles as they had in the past, were upset by the move, for which no explanation had been provided by ­management.

Action by the department comes as Education Minister Rob Stokes seeks legal advice over a protocol implemented at the Hurstville Boys School in Sydney’s south that permits students to decline to shake hands with women in accordance with an ­ancient Islamic hadith.

While Mr Stokes labelled the protocol “sexist” in a radio interview earlier this week, it is understood there are concerns within the government that such a protocol could potentially contravene federal anti-discrimination laws.

Legal advice, when received, is expected to be shared with all principals.

Tensions at Punchbowl have been building since Mr Griffiths took over the top job from Jihad Dib in late 2015. Mr Dib, now the state Labor MP for Lakemba, had a celebrated teaching career and is credited with turning around a school that was once notorious for gangs, drugs and violent crime.

Sources close to the school claim that the broader school community has been gradually shut out. Large community dinners previously hosted by the school, often with 700 people in attendance, have been scrapped and replaced by small invitation-only events.

In the meantime, former students have been barred from visiting the campus.

Meanwhile, the relationship between the Education Department and the school is understood to have soured, with the school understood to have resisted ­numerous requests to provide ­information.

A spokesman for the Education Department said yesterday that Punchbowl Boys High School underwent the department’s regular cyclical auditing process in 2016, which covered a range of ­internal programs and practices, including supervision of prayer groups.

“As a result of a recent ­appraisal of Punchbowl Boys High School, there has been a change in the leadership of the school,” said the spokesman. “A new principal and deputy principal will commence work at the school tomorrow.” He declined to name the new principal.

Mr Stokes, who has been in the role just weeks, has requested regular briefings from the department on the situation.

“Decisive action has been taken by the department to remove the principal and deputy principal from the school,” he told The Australian last night.

“A new principal with great ­experience has been appointed, effective immediately.”


"Aboriginal" woman has $250,000 racial discrimination case against three uni students dismissed for the second time after judge rules they have 'suffered enough'

An aboriginal woman who claimed she was racially abused on Facebook by three university students has lost her appeal to restart legal proceedings against them.

Cindy Prior, an administration officer at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), filed a $250,000 lawsuit against Alex Wood, Calum Thwaites and Jackson Powell after they allegedly posted racist comments about her online in 2013.

She claimed she had been racially abused by the trio after asking Mr Wood to leave an indigenous-only computer room at the university in Brisbane.

Her lawsuit under the Racial Discrimination Act's controversial section 18C was thrown out of court last year and a judge has now ruled that she cannot appeal.

Ms Prior's lawsuit was originally dismissed by the Federal Court after a judge ruled she did not reasonable prospects of bringing a successful case against the three men.

Justice John Dowsett has now dismissed the case for a second time, saying the students had 'suffered more from legal proceedings than any other young person would have suffered in a lifetime'.

The QUT worker, who has been on stress leave since filing the lawsuit, has been ordered to pay more than $200,000 in costs and the legal fees of the three men, The Australian reported.

Ms Prior had argued she was unable to work face-to-face with white people following the incident in a computer lab at the QUT in 2013.

Mr Wood allegedly made a series of Facebook posts after Ms Prior told him to leave the room, which was reserved for indigenous people only. 'Just got kicked out of the unsigned indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation,' he wrote.

The post attracted a number of responses, including one from Mr Powell who wrote: 'I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is.' Mr Thwaites is alleged to have written 'ITT N***ers', however he denied being responsible for the post.

Justice Dowsett's judgement appeared to criticise 18C as he said Mr Powell's comments were clearly ironic. 'To suggest that humour or irony cannot blunt the most outrageous of statements overlooks the history of such devices, and the extremes to which comedians, authors and speakers commonly use them today,' the judge said.

'No reasonably intelligent person would have understood Mr Powell's posts as other than humour or irony.'

The case has been a rallying point for opponents of 18C, which makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people.

Many Coalition MPs have argued the words 'insult' and 'offend' in section 18C of the act hinder free speech and have called them to be removed.


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