In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG rightly predicts that the media won't like the Trump/Kim detente
Is Australia’s current drought caused by climate change? It’s complicated
Rubbish! They are just obfuscating below. It's not complicated at all. Rainfall in Australia regularly oscillates between the North and South of the continent. If there is drought in Victoria, there will be extra rain in Queensland, and vice versa.
And the present pattern is a confirmation of that. While there is reduced rainfall down South we in Brisbane are getting a lot of rain. Autumn and winter here are normally dry but this month there seems to be rain a couple of times a week. And in March it rained nearly every day, with some big falls among that. Statewide it was much the same. Hence the headline in March: "Queensland's wet weather breaks dozens of records as rain still falls" and "Far North Queensland residents urged to be vigilant in floodwaters across the region"
Cairns in March
And the trees and plants are showing the effects of all the rain. This year, my cumquat tree has really leapt for the sky. It's put on at least a foot of growth recently. It seems to know more than the meteorologists do.
We do have some of those splendid fine clear days at the moment that Brisbane winters are known for but we have just as many cloudy days.
How come a humble social scientist like me knows all that while there is no hint of that knowledge from the climate mavens below? They know bupkis but as long as they can drag in some mention of climate change they are in clover
Much of southern Australia is experiencing severe drought after a very dry and warm autumn across the southern half of the continent. Australia is no stranger to drought, but this recent dry spell, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to drought-stricken parts of the country, has prompted discussion of the role of climate change in this event.
Turnbull said that farmers need to “build resilience” as rainfall “appears to be getting more variable”. This prompted former Nationals leader John Anderson to warn against “politicising” the drought by invoking climate change. This in turn was followed by speculation from numerous commentators about the links between climate change and drought.
So are droughts getting worse, and can they be attributed to climate change? Drought is a complex beast and can be measured in a variety of ways. Some aspects of drought are linked with climate change; others are not.
In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology uses rainfall deficiencies to identify regions that are under drought conditions.
Droughts are also exacerbated by low humidity, higher wind speeds, warmer temperatures, and greater amounts of sunshine. All of these factors increase water loss from soils and plants. This means that other metrics are often used to describe drought which go beyond rainfall deficiencies alone. These include the Palmer Drought Severity Index and the Standardised Precipitation Evaporation Index, for example.
This means that there are hundreds of metrics which together can provide a more detailed representation of a drought. But this also means that droughts are less well understood and described than simpler phenomena such as temperature and rainfall.
So is climate change affecting Australian droughts?
As we have so many ways of looking at droughts, this is a more complex question than it might first sound. Climate change may affect these drought metrics and types of drought differently, so it is hard to make general statements about the links between human-induced climate change and drought.
We know that over southern Australia, and in particular the southwest, there has been a rapid decline in winter rainfall, and that this has been linked to climate change. In the southeast there has also been a decline but the trend is harder to distinguish from the year-to-year variability.
For recent short-term droughts in southern Australia, analyses have found an increased likelihood of rainfall deficits related to human-caused climate change. Also, it has been suggested that the character of droughts is changing as a result of the human-induced warming trend.
There is some evidence to suggest that widespread and prolonged droughts, like the Millennium Drought, are worse than other droughts in recent centuries, and may have been exacerbated by climate change. But the role of climate change in extended drought periods is difficult to discern from background climate variability. This is particularly true in Australia, which has a much more variable climate than many other parts of the world.
Jewish students take aim at ‘distressing’ university paper
A female suicide bomber who killed dozens of Israeli soldiers has graced the front cover of a University of Sydney student newspaper, and Jewish students who complained about the cover have been “condemned” for censorship.
Hamida al-Taher killed more than 50 people, mainly Israeli military personnel, when she blew herself up in Southern Lebanon in 1985. The special edition of the University of Sydney’s student newspaper Honi Soit, produced by the student women’s collective a fortnight ago, put her on the cover and called her a “martyr” in an issue dedicated to the struggle against “Israeli colonisation”.
The student queer collective’s edition of Honi Soit on April 16 was criticised for having a picture of a petrol bomb on the cover and supporting a boycott of Israel.
The Australasian Union of Jewish Students has called for an apology over the covers. “They are particularly disturbing to Jewish students as they display a blatant disdain for Israeli victims of violence,” AUJS national political director Noa Bloch said. “By disseminating publications that sacrifice respectful dialogue … it inevitably causes distress among Jewish and other students who support Israel.”
The University of Sydney’s Student Representative Council passed a motion, 11 to 10, against AUJS on Wednesday night for complaining about the publication.
“This SRC condemns AUJS for suggesting the university should intervene to censor a student-run publication,” the motion reads. “This SRC congratulates those who put together the women’s edition of Honi for their brave and highly defensible cover depicting a pro-Palestine freedom fighter (opposing) the illegal Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Palestine.”
Taher was a member of Syria’s Arab Socialist Ba’ath party, which is accused of killing thousands.
SRC women’s officers Madeline Ward and Jessica Syed said they did not intend to upset anyone with their cover but stood by their anti-Israeli position. “We are saddened some were upset by the picture — this was not our intention. The policy of the University of Sydney SRC and our collective is pro-Palestine. ”
The latest Israeli-related stoush at the university comes months after multiple staff members pledged to boycott Israeli universities over the situation in Gaza.
AUJS’s Sydney University president, Ben Ezzes, 21, said he had felt unsafe on campus as anti-Israeli rhetoric had increased. “I identify openly as Jewish through what I wear,” he said. “I feel a lot more eyes on me whenever I’m there. I try not to meet people on campus anymore.”
Fellow student Dana Segall said Israel had become a key target for student political groups. “I feel utterly unsafe and unwelcome … It has become increasingly popular for student groups to adopt a blanket anti-Israel, anti-Zionist position,” she said.
Executive Council for Australian Jewry chief executive Peter Wertheim said the student publication “glorifying terrorism … with positive portrayals of violent symbols, including a terrorist in military fatigues pointing a rifle … is despicable”.
The University of Sydney said it did not condone the cover but would not intervene.
Labor wants to scrap Queen's Birthday public holiday in favour of honouring Aboriginals and 60,000 years of indigenous history
60,000 years of no history, more like it. A few oral tales from old men is all there is. And why should I honour Aborigines? What have they done for me or for the community at large? Soak up welfare payments is all I can think of. Britain, on the other hand, founded Australia. So it is properly grateful to honour the Queen, who represents Britain
Labor has stated its intention to scrap the Queen's Birthday public holiday in favour of a day dedicated to Aboriginal history.
New South Wales Labor leader Luke Foley told the Sydney Morning Herald he plans to make the second Monday in June a public holiday to honour indigenous people, as 'another step in the process of reconciliation'.
He said the day would be dedicated to '60,000 years of indigenous history' if his party is elected.
Mr Foley said the Aboriginal flag would also fly on the Sydney Harbour Bridge every day if his party was elected as a sign of respect.
'We must acknowledge the special place the First Peoples occupy in the story of our state and nation,' he said.
'The second Tuesday of June isn't Her Majesty's real birthday - the day would be better used as one to acknowledge the First Peoples.'
Mr Foley said he would consult with the community about the proposed change and would most likely not introduce it until Queen Elizabeth's reign had ended
He is also committed to negotiating a treaty between Aboriginal people and NSW.
The Victorian lower house recently voted for negotiating Australia's first Aboriginal treaty, similar to existing ones in New Zealand and Canada.
Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs David Harris said changing the meaning of the public holiday would have a significant impact.
'Creating an Indigenous public holiday in NSW is a small step we can take to acknowledge the past but more importantly create a meaningful way forward,' he said.
Footy Stadium sign divides Australia
AUSTRALIA was completely split by a sign at a Melbourne footy Stadium in groundbreaking new territory for Aussie sport.
ETIHAD Stadium has introduced gender-fluid toilets for all spectators during the annual Pride Game between St Kilda and Sydney.
Social commentators and footy fans have been divided by the move to designate three toilet blocks throughout the Docklands venue for all-gender use.
Signs posted throughout the stadium and then flashed on the giant screens inside the stadium advertised one toilet block on each level of seating have been converted into bathrooms that allowed spectators to use whichever gender bathroom they identified with.
The stadium signs read: “Gender diversity is welcome here. “Please use the restroom that best fits your gender identity or expression.”
The move follows the AFL’s staging of its annual Pride Game at Etihad Stadium, celebrated by St Kilda and the Swans before and during the round 12 game.
Both clubs have been widely applauded for their public support for inclusion of LGBTI communities in football and everywhere else in Australia.
However, many other commentators believe Etihad Stadium’s decision to scrap traditional mens’ and womens’ gendered toilets was a dangerous development.
Other commentators applauded the symbolism of the toilet re-allocation.
The drama did not entirely overshadow the commitment of both clubs to promote inclusivity on the night.
The Swans wore rainbow coloured socks in support of the cause, while the Saints wore rainbow coloured numbers on the back of their jumpers.
Both clubs also posted messages in support of the LGBTI community on the banners they ran through at the start of the game.
Host broadcaster Channel 7 also pledged its support of the AFL’s Pride Round.
LGBTI activist Paul Kidd tweeted on Saturday night in support of the AFL’s public support of LGBTI inclusion initiatives.
Teaching quality is the biggest challenge facing Australian country areas
It will surprise few people that students from rural areas tend to perform worse on average than those in cities. In fact — as shown by the results of NAPLAN and two different international standardised tests — the more remote the area, the lower the average student test score.
Decades of research show the most significant in-school factor that affects student achievement is the quality of teacher instruction. But in country areas, it is a particular challenge for schools to attract and retain experienced and expert teachers.
This was the most pressing issue discussed by the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education, authored by Emeritus Profession John Halsey and commissioned by the Turnbull government. The review received hundreds of submissions, and the vast majority rated the area of teachers and teaching as the most important.
But this is not just an Australian problem. According to an OECD report, the city-country gap in achievement exists in most countries; and internationally it is much harder on average for rural schools to attract experienced and more qualified teachers. Realistically, this is a problem we can only mitigate, rather than solve entirely.
So how can the size of the problem be reduced? The Halsey review proposes few specific actions, but unfortunately doesn’t give any analysis of the costs and benefits of each approach. It suggests: university teacher education degrees include a subject specifically covering rural education, more teacher professional experience placements in rural schools, and using targeted salary and conditions packages to attract experienced teachers to rural schools for fixed term appointments.
In theory, these ideas are sensible, but are potentially expensive — and it is unclear if they are cost-effective uses of taxpayer money to increase teaching quality in rural schools.
Unfortunately, it seems the trend for Australian government-commissioned education reviews these days is to be overly general and not address the pros and cons of their ideas. The Gonski 2.0 review into schools was the epitome of the genre — full of clichés and jargon at the expense of practicality and evidence.
To be fair, the Halsey review doesn’t quite reach the Gonski 2.0 level of platitude litanies. But the fact that the Turnbull government’s response to Halsey’s review was simply to accept all 11 (very broad) recommendations and then note that the more specific 53 suggested actions were just “examples of what could be done to implement these recommendations” and “are very specific and may cut across existing initiatives” shows the practical policy utility of the Halsey review is limited. Prepare the mothballs.
The Halsey review also focuses arguably too much on curriculum and technology.
One recommendation is about “ensuring the relevance of the Australian Curriculum” for students in rural areas. It seems absurd that, when faced with a gap in achievement in the curriculum, a response is to blame the curriculum. Why is the gap a problem if what is being measured is supposedly irrelevant for country kids? And no evidence is presented to suggest that the reason students in rural schools are underperforming is because the content being taught isn’t relevant enough for them.
Another focus of the review is technology for rural schools. Of course, access to fast and reliable internet is often a challenge in country areas, and technology has the potential to open up many mobile learning opportunities for students.
But there is too much faith in the possible productivity gains from technology in schools. There is no clear relationship between use of education technology and student achievement. In fact, some studies suggest there is a negative relationship. Australian schools already use technology much more than most other OECD countries — including the top-performers like Singapore — according to the international education datasets. So more technology is no silver bullet for rural education.
Nevertheless, Halsey’s review is an important contribution, expresses aspirations we all support, and is at least “a starting point for many conversations” — to quote the federal government’s response.
But state and territory governments are going to have to do much more detailed analysis if they are to come up with a blueprint to improve teaching in rural areas; and minimise the educational disadvantage faced by country students.
Australian coal prices hit 6-year high as Asia demand spikes
What happened to all those "renewables"
Australian thermal coal prices have risen to their highest level since 2012 as hot weather across North Asia spurs buying ahead of the peak summer demand season.
Spot prices for thermal coal cargoes for export from Australia’s Newcastle terminal last closed at $115.25 per tonne, the highest level since February 2012.
Thermal coal, the world’s most used fuel for electricity generation, has surged by 130 percent since its record lows below $50 per tonne in 2016 following a years-long decline.
Prices have been driven up by economic growth, especially in Asia, along with constraints on supply due to earlier mine closures and high hurdles to developing new mines amid concerns about pollution and global warming.
In recent weeks, a heat-wave in North Asia and restocking ahead of the hottest summer months in July and August have led to soaring demand for both residential and industrial cooling, traders said.
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