Australian Politics 2018-06-23 15:54:00

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Supermarket plastic bag ban ‘like religion’

Although the small extra inconvenience of the new system does not bother me, it is clear that the ban on convenience bags takes us back 50 years for no provable beneft. I remember in my youth that all women took with them a wicker basket or a string bag to go shopping

The ban is a craze driven by false reporting, nothing else. It is third world countries that are responsible for the suffering of some marine creatures.  We dispose of ours properly.  In most of Africa and Asia they do not


The author of a landmark study into plastic bags has likened to “religion” their impending removal from supermarkets, suggesting ­arguments against them are “complete furphies you can demolish in a few minutes of analysis”.

Phillip Weickhardt, lead ­author of a 2006 Productivity Commission inquiry into waste management, said raising fines for littering made more sense.

“This is largely religion, deeply felt,” he told The Weekend Australian. “Plastic bags are useful: ­hygienic, water proof. They have multiple uses and functions,” he added.

Coles will join Woolworths in removing “single use” plastic bags from its stores next month, extending nationwide bans on the ubiquitous bags already in place across all states and territories ­except NSW and Victoria.

“The evidence plastic bags hurt marine life is very unpersuasive. When we looked at this we found that a lot of studies just cite each other; in fact we sourced it all back to some guy in Canada in the 1970s who’d done a study on the effect of fishing ropes on marine life,” he said.

Woolworths surveyed 12,500 of its customers last month, finding more than three-quarters wanted plastic bags scrapped. The retail giant, which gave out 3.2 billion plastic bags last year, points to a CSIRO study that found up to a third of the world’s turtles and 43 per cent of seabirds had eaten plastics.

The Productivity Commission in 2006 concluded: “Plastic bags take up little landfill space, and their inert characteristics can ­actually help to reduce a landfill’s potential for adverse environmental impacts”. “The true extent to which plastic-bag litter injures populations of marine wildlife, as opposed to individual animals, is likely to remain very uncertain ­because it is extremely difficult to measure,” it added.

Mr Weickhardt said: “Our conclusion generated the most angry vocal response from people who, with religious fervour, believe this is critical.”

The retail giants will instead offer a range of reusable bags, ­including 15c recycled bags.

A recent study in Britain, where plastic bags are taxed, found re­usable bags needed to be reused up to 173 times before they had a lower environmental impact than ordinary plastic bags.

“The environmental impact of all types of carrier bag is domin­ated by resource use and production,” it found.

“Whatever type of bag is used, the key to reducing the impacts is to reuse it as many times as possible and where reuse for shopping is not practicable, other reuse, eg store-place bin-liners, is beneficial,” it said.

A 2012 University of Pennsylvania study found San Francisco’s 2007 plastic bag ban killed people because reusable bags increased shoppers’ exposure to harmful bacteria that can infest them. “The San Francisco ban led to, conservatively, 5.4 annual additional deaths,” the authors concluded.

RMIT economist Sinclair ­Davidson said he was surprised Coles and Woolworths would ­“deliberately pursue a policy that they know will reduce the consumer satisfaction”.

“How consumers react remains to be seen — I suspect we’ll see less impulse purchasing,” Professor Davidson said.

“All-up, this is a virtue-signalling policy being adopted by Coles and Woolies; I suspect they have done their market research and are pretty confident they can impose their world view on consumers with little consequence.’’

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This energy hex we place on ourselves, it’s madness

If our worst enemies abroad were given one evil wish to destroy our economy they probably would look to curse perhaps our greatest natural advantage: access to almost unlimited cheap energy.

Yet, as if to prove that fact is stranger than even this madcap fiction, this is a hex we are visiting upon ourselves.

If a prosperous nation decided to burden its people with expensive and unreliable power, imposing hardships including job losses, costs on struggling families, reduced profits and missed investment opportunities, to create a more benign environment for all the people of the world, it would be truly altruistic. But if it were inflicting pain on its citizens and handicapping future generations for no discernible benefit, then it would be an act of sheer madness.

Yet here we are. We are in a self-imposed energy crisis. No one disputes the urgency — Coalition and Labor politicians, state and federal, agree prices are too high; they are spending on diesel generators, large-scale batteries and stored hydro to find a way through; companies are having power cut or being paid to reduce demand; consumers and industries fear dire consequences; regulators sound alarms about lack of supply; and policymakers float a raft of possible solutions.

Yet it is all our doing. By mandating renewable energy targets, committing to global carbon dioxide emissions-reduction goals, subsidising wind and solar generation including by domestic consumers, toying with emissions trading schemes and imposing (for a time) a carbon tax, we have up-ended our electricity market, forced out some of the cheapest and most reliable generation and made our power more expensive and less reliable. The lion’s share of investment across a decade — upwards of $30 billion — has gone into the sure bet of subsidised renewable energy that has a guaranteed market but that cannot be relied on to meet peak energy output at any given time. Billions more have been spent on government payments and grants. All this money is recouped in the end from consumers, who are paying enormous sums to go backwards.

Since 1999, average spot prices per megawatt hour have leapt from $50 to $110 in South Australia and from less than $25 in NSW and Victoria to $80 and $95 respectively. Electricity costs for manufacturers have increased 79 per cent since 2010 and in that period there have been net job losses of about 140,000 in the sector. Price rises have squeezed family budgets, created hardship for pensioners and forced companies to cut jobs or shut down.

South Australia was plunged into darkness for hours and the Australian Energy Market Operator has warned that without remedial action, even in NSW where cheap and reliable coal-fired power has been abundant, there will be supply vulnerability in the coming years that could lead to 200,000 homes going without power during peak summer demand. The closure of NSW’s Liddell coal-fired power station in a few years will make the situation worse.

This month AEMO warned again that the “unprecedented transformation” of our electricity system means Australia “does not have the energy reserves it once had to lean on” when we need it. This is deplorable.

We are the world’s largest coal exporter. We will soon be the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. We are the third largest exporter of uranium.

Australia powers the economic and manufacturing powerhouses of northeast Asia, and other parts of the world, with cost-effective and reliable energy supplies. But we decline to do the same for ­ourselves.

We may as well feed the people of the world with our wheat and sheep exports while our own people go hungry. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Politicians from both major parties and the Greens pretend — surely they are feigning because they must know the facts — that this is our contribution to global efforts to combat global warming. This is fraudulent.

We need to do what the climate activists constantly implore of us: back the science. All the facts tell us that, scientifically, Australia’s climate action is doing nothing to improve the global environment. We are putting ourselves through extended economic pain, with deep social consequences, for nothing more than climate gestures. This is the hard edge of gesture politics: national virtue-signalling, with the poorest citizens and jobless paying the highest price.

Don’t take my word for it; listen to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who the government tasked with revising policy. He confirmed before a Senate estimates committee hearing a year ago that Australia’s carbon emissions amounted to 1.3 per cent of the global total (that proportion is shrinking as world emissions grow). Finkel was asked what difference it would make to climate change if all of our nation’s emissions were cut — pretend 25 million of us left Australia idle — so that world emissions dropped by 1.3 per cent. “Virtually nothing,” was his reply.

But wait. Our contribution is much less significant even than “virtually nothing” because we will not eliminate all our emissions. We aim to reduce them by 26 per cent — so our best impact may be a quarter of virtually nothing. Wait again; we become even more irrelevant. Global emissions are on the rise. Led by China (growing by up to 4 per cent so far this year) world CO2 emissions are increasing at close to 2 per cent. So, more science, more facts. China’s annual emissions are about 30 times higher than ours and in any given year the increase alone in China’s emissions can be more than double what we plan to cut by 2030. While global emissions rise our piddling cuts do zip. We are emitting into the wind. Our price rises, blackouts, job losses, investment droughts, subsidies and energy system dilemmas are all for nothing.

Anyone with a pulse must understand this. Why they persist with proposing or backing costly climate policies is the question. They want to display their commitment to the cause. They want to associate themselves with protecting the planet. It is earth motherhood, dictated by political fashion and a reluctance to go against the zeitgeist. What a sad indictment on our political/media class — indulging its progressive credentials for social and diplomatic acceptance at the expense of struggling families, jobless blue-collar workers and our economic competitiveness.

The Coalition is starting to tear itself apart again; led by Tony Abbott, those who understand mainstream concerns are rising up against those stuck in commercial, media and political orthodoxy. Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg’s national energy guarantee is a retrofit mechanism to encourage some investment in dispatchable electricity.

As they negotiate for a bipartisan position they could be left with a stark choice: satisfy Labor and its premiers or placate the Coalition partyroom. It may be impossible to do both — the partyroom may at least demand a plan to extend the life of Liddell — and another political short-circuit may be in the offing.

The national energy system is so badly distorted by a decade of renewable subsidies and the threat of future carbon prices that there is no easy solution. All sides of the debate propose expensive government interventions. Investors in anything but renewables are wary.

If we had done nothing on climate action we might have had plentiful and cheap coal and gas power on the back of private investment. But we killed that goose. There is bound to be a reckoning; eventually we will reclaim the energy advantage we export to other nations. And if we ever need a zero-emissions future, we will embrace the silver bullet of nuclear energy. The only question is whether it takes us three years or three decades to come to our senses — and how many political careers will be hoist with this petard in the interim.

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Don’t let absurd theatre of identity politics divide us

The controversial University of Melbourne dance performance, Where We Stand, is an insight into kind of divided society we will become if identity politics is allowed to split the nation up into competing racial tribes.

By seeking to remind us that non-whites have been excluded from society and history, the political message being sent is that Australia remains a racist country in which racial privilege and prejudice determine outcomes in life.

What this really shows is how the kind of identity politics our politically-correct schools and universities incessantly preach to young Australians, creates fabrications that belie the diverse and tolerant society Australia is today.

There has never been less racism, despite the grievance-mongering claims made by Where We Stand — which epitomises the way identity politics misrepresents our history of successfully eradicating the racism that once blighted Australian society. 

A century ago, Australia was certainly a country in which race determined destiny.  Racial prejudices were so ingrained that the makers of the White Australia Policy felt that excluding non-whites was the only way to create an egalitarian nation.

The success of our non-discriminatory immigration program, and the transformation of Australia into one of the most harmonious multi-racial nations in the world, has only been possible because the old prejudices have been overcome and replaced by the willingness of the vast majority of Australians to extend the ‘fair go’ to all comers; regardless of racial background.

Absurd as it is, we should not downplay the threat identity politics poses to social harmony. The claim that the persistence of white privilege justifies special rights and status for certain racial groups, is a recipe for generating a backlash from those accused of holding privileges and prejudices they do not.

The best way to ensure that new age racism does not divide us is to simply tell the truth about our history and about the great changes that have occurred in Australian attitudes to race.

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Proposed Australian education reforms are naive

Gonski had no professional knowledge of education. He's a lawyer and a businessman. He got his job because he was a good networker --  so his recommendations were just an idealistic fantasy

The sequel is generally worse than the original movie. The same could be said of the ‘Gonski 2’ review into Australian schools.

Despite a one-year process, hundreds of submissions, and a cost to the taxpayer of at least $700,000 (not including the eight-person government secretariat), the review came up with wide-sweeping, general recommendations that don’t offer useful guidance for the school system.

As we outline in a policy paper released this week, the review also failed to fulfill its terms of reference to examine the evidence regarding the most effective teaching and learning strategies, and to provide advice on how the extra $24.5 billion of taxpayer money for schools over the next 10 years should be used. There is practically no discussion of the cost-effectiveness of the recommendations.

And the review’s most significant recommendations face substantial implementation challenges and aren’t supported by rigorous evidence.

A key focus of the review is growth in learning — recommending a new online continuous assessment tool — as opposed to an age-based or year-based curriculum. This seems impractical, and many teachers have expressed concerns about the teacher time involved in frequent individual student assessment.

In addition, there is no evidence that such an assessment tool would have a positive impact on student achievement. The idea of creating ‘learning progressions’ for the entire curriculum has no support in academic literature. And there is no evidence supporting the implementation of such a broad-ranging assessment tool — the report offers no examples to show that such an expensive and time-intensive reform would be effective. If implemented nationally, it would be a lengthy and costly experiment, with Australian teachers and students as the guinea pigs.

If this recommendation is to be adopted, it should proceed only after a careful trial of the online assessment system in a sample of schools, to determine the efficacy of the approach and lessons for implementation.

Almost as problematic is the report’s recommendation to establish a national education evidence institute (which now has bi-partisan support at the federal level). In theory, a new body like this has merit. But there are obvious risks — like becoming politicised and being too focussed on pleasing stakeholders — that aren’t adequately addressed by the review.

If such a body is to be established, then it should have high standards of evidence and commission outside experts to conduct evidence reviews on important topics in their fields, similar to medical research institutes.

The Gonski 2 recommendations should be approached with great caution. They are potentially expensive and disruptive to the work of teachers and the lives of students, and have little or no evidence basis — a recipe for educational disaster.

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Bill Shorten would be our worst PM, says Pauline Hanson

Pauline Hanson has vowed to do everything she can to keep Bill Shorten out of The Lodge after Labor yesterday accelerated its “Get Pauline” strategy, questioning her understanding of the tax system and launching robo-calls targeting her in the Queensland seat of Longman.

The One Nation leader launched a blistering attack on the Opposition Leader yesterday, declaring, “I think he’d be the worst bloody prime minister we’ve ever had”, and warning him he would have to go through her if he wanted to push legislation through the Senate.

Senator Hanson yesterday fell victim to a robo-call assault ­orchestrated by the opposition in Longman, a key battleground for Mr Shorten in the five Super Saturday by-elections on July 28.

The robo-calls, received by voters across southeast Queensland, blasted Senator Hanson for siding with the government “to give another tax cut to the top end of town”, as she prepared to vote for Malcolm Turnbull’s $144 billion income tax cuts.

“She’s even giving herself a massive tax cut,” the Labor call said. “But it’s not too late to stop her. Pauline is in Canberra right now, the final vote could happen at any minute. Press 1 to be connected directly to Pauline’s office to tell her yourself: stop selling Queenslanders out.”

Senator Hanson hit back, voicing her own robo-call attacking Labor. “The Labor Party is at it again telling lies,” she said. “In the Senate today I voted for battlers — low and middle-income earners — to receive a tax cut.”

Speaking to The Australian, Senator Hanson accused Queensland Labor senators Murray Watt and Anthony Chisholm of “spearheading the campaign to destroy One Nation”.

Senator Hanson — whose party’s preferences helped Labor’s Susan Lamb win Longman at the 2016 federal election, ousting unpopular Liberal National Party MP Wyatt Roy — said she would put Labor second last on One ­Nation’s how-to-vote cards, followed by the Greens.

“The Greens will always be the last, and as far as I am concerned. Labor will be just above the Greens,” Senator Hanson told The Australian.

Earlier, opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen attacked Senator Hanson for her claim on Wednesday that she would not get a tax cut under the government’s plan.

In fact, she would get $135-a-year for the first four years and — if she retained her seat in the Senate — $2025 a year in 2022-23 and 2023-24, and $7225 a year from 2024-25.

“Maybe she does not understand how the marginal tax system works in Australia,” Mr Bowen said.

Senator Watt said Labor would target traditional Labor voters who had shifted their support to One Nation, by “highlighting the difference between what she says and what she does”.

“It’s about keeping her ­accountable for how she actually votes when she comes to Canberra,” Senator Watt said.

He noted One Nation had sided with the government on 100 per cent of Senate votes this year.

Senator Hanson claimed the Labor campaign was based on misrepresenting One Nation ­policies.

“They are spreading lies,” Senator Hanson said. “This is really a compliment. It shows they are ­really in fear of me and One ­Nation, because we are having an impact on their vote.”

After helping deliver the ­government’s income tax cuts, Senator Hanson declared it was “a great day for every worker in ­Australia”.

Mr Shorten branded her a “puppet” of the government, saying she and the government had “shafted 10 million working Australians” who would get a better tax cut under Labor.

“Today the Prime Minister and his government have demonstrated their complete contempt for working and middle-class Australians, and Senator Hanson and her One Nation party, such as it ­remains, have sold out 1.9 million working people in Queensland simply to do the bidding of the LNP,” the Labor leader said.

“And today the government and their puppets have locked in tax rates costing over $140bn.”

Senator Hanson said Labor “just don’t get it”.

“They have no heart for the people of Australia,” she said. “They don’t understand how tough they are doing it.”

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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