Australian Politics 2020-01-16 15:05:00

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Science Minister says talking about climate change a waste of time in combatting fires

The real issue is how to reduce fuel loads.  Everything else is a distraction

Australia's bushfire crisis has prompted a blunt warning from Science Minister Karen Andrews to those she says are wasting time arguing about whether climate change is real.

Ms Andrews will convene a roundtable meeting of top scientists on Wednesday to kickstart work in response to the "devastating and surprising" bushfires this summer.

"Every second we spend discussing if climate change is real is a second we don't spend addressing these issues. Let's move on and get over this," she told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Ms Andrews warned unnecessary debate could distract from the urgent need to develop new bushfire adaptation and mitigation techniques. Her intervention is another step in the Coalition's recent shift in rhetoric over climate change, after a decade of divisions over the issue dominating the party room.

"My starting position in the discussion tomorrow will be that the climate has changed and it continues to change," Ms Andrews said. "We need to focus on the steps to adapt and mitigate the impact of those changes."

The Wednesday roundtable meeting will include scientists from the CSIRO, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre and Science & Technology Australia and the Australian Academy of Science.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has come under increased pressure during the bushfire crisis from scientists and business leaders to take further action on reducing emissions, flagged a focus on resilience and adaptation to the changing climate.

"The longer, drier and warmer seasons that we're seeing are a reality and so while you take your actions as part of a global effort on emissions reduction, the practical thing that actually can most keep you safe during the next fire or the next flood or the next cyclone are the things that most benefit people here and now," he told reporters in Canberra.

"People have said it's not just about emissions reduction, it's about hazard reduction. That's true. Hazard reduction is climate resilience and ensuring that you're able to successfully pursue those programs is very important.

"So climate resilience, climate adaptation, the fact that over the next 10 years, it's a fact that we've got longer, hotter, drier summers means we have to prepare practically as we have been and need to do so more in the future."

Ms Andrews said she would focus the roundtable discussions on practical measures, asking the question "what can we do immediately, and what can we do in the medium and long term?"

Former Australian chief scientist, Australian National University Adjunct Professor Penny Sackett said the science community would need a funding boost to complete the "herculean task" of documenting the causes and impacts of this summer's bushfires.

"We have the expertise needed in Australia for most of the questions we need answered, but the magnitude of the task will demand a lot of capacity building and a large injection of funding."

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Qld. Conservative parties back grazing to reduce risk

MORE national parks would be opened up to cattle under the LNP's newly unveiled bushfire management plan to help reduce the fuel load across the state.

The party has announced a 10-point plan that would make it easier for landholders to burn on their land to manage fuel loads and set KPIs for fire-fighters to do 98 per cent of all planned hazard reduction reduction burns.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington said "one of the main reasons" for such catastrophic bushfires here and in southern states was because state-owned land hadn't been managed properly.  "There are many old-timers, there are many people, including our indigenous elders, who are saying that they have evidence that grazing in national parks, if managed properly, is a very good way of controlling the amount of hazard," she said.

Opposition Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Lachlan Miller said the move would reduce fuel loads and benefit local economies.

We're not looking at opening it up to every national park across Queensland, what we're looking to do is looking at state forest areas and certain national parks that used to have grazing", he said.

The plan would also allow landholders and councils to burn on their land 15 business days after an application was made to stop bureaucratic hold-ups under a "right to burn" model.

Environment Minister and Acting Fire and Emergency a Services Minister Leeanne Enoch said 10-point plans were for pamphlets. "We're well past the time when politics are welcome in the discussion about bushfires," she said.

Ms Enoch said that many of the policies, such as grazing to  reduce fuel loads and using indigenous methods, were already  done.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 14 Jan., 2020






Greens’ shaky camera conspiracy near Carmichael coal mine

Suspicious Minds, Tony Abbott’s go-to karaoke tune, could easily serve as the soundtrack for the latest saga involving the Greens and anti-Adani activists in central Queensland.

Protesters recently became suspicious of cameras installed on roads leading towards the controversial Carmichael coalmine, convinced they were being used to secretly monitor their activities.

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman fired off a question on notice to state Transport Minister Mark Bailey: “Will the minister advise … do the monitoring facilities use thermal sensors, infra-red sensors, face recognition or vehicle number plate recognition? Who has access to the monitoring feeds and information?” Berkman demanded to know who owned the devices and whether the Palaszczuk government had given permission for them to be installed.

Bailey pleaded ignorance. Eventually the Isaac Regional Council confessed to putting up the traffic cameras and admitted the confusion could have arisen because no signs were erected. Despite the James Bond gadget claims from the Greens, a spokesperson for the council insists “there is no face recognition, no infra-red capability”. The cameras’ only purpose is to make sure trucks and other equipment don’t damage the “assets of the council” — aka the road.

“They don’t monitor anything else but vehicle movements,” the spokesperson says. “The council just wanted to know the pressure being put on local roads from the activity at the mine site.”

Asked who would have access to the footage, the council says normal rules of privacy will apply.

But that’s not good enough for Berkman. The Greens MP’s flack says he will continue to pursue the curious case of the unmarked road cameras: “We are happy to take the council at their word but would still like to know who would have access to the vision from the cameras.”

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Wilson Gavin: Online pile-on mob is medieval in its malice

Go now to Twitter — yes, I know, why would anyone? — and you will find messages like that popping up pretty much everywhere after prominent Aust­ralians hurried to delete their mean tweets about Wilson Gavin, who killed himself on Monday.

Gavin, who was gay and ­conservative and just 21, threw himself in front of a train. He is lost now — to his family, and his wide group of friends.

The train driver will never recover­. Also the passengers. And those who watched in horror.

“Don’t care. He started it.” That’s just one of the tweets that appeared online after his death was announced. Can you believe that we live in this world? Because we do. And pity young people. They always have, and likely always will.

Some background: Gavin was the president of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club. He was part of the group that turned up to shout at drag queens reading to children at a Brisbane City Council library event on ­Sunday.

The protest was filmed, and the video got posted on Twitter, and Gavin was seen shouting: “Drag queens are not for kids.”

He soon found himself subjected to what’s known as a pile-on: a mass social media attack. He’s fat! He’s ugly! He’s a miserable beast. A vile homophobe!

But Gavin was himself gay. “I’m not a homophobe. I love gay men,” he said in an interview on Sky during the same-sex ­marriage debate.

But he was a conservative, so people are now saying: “Ah, yes, but he was filled with self-loathing. He hadn’t come to terms with his sexuality. He was living a life of misery.”

It’s a sad and ugly spectacle, but of course we’ve been here before.

Charlotte Dawson was a Sydney model, gorgeous inside and out. Loud and outrageous. She was bullied online, and she blamed trolls for driving her towards ­suicide, before killing herself in her luxury apartment in 2014.

There was also a girl called Dolly, star of the Akubra ads, who was bullied to death in 2018.

Some of those who piled on Gavin — many of whom were middle-aged women with promin­ent media careers — are now mourning his death.

Then you have people saying: but you contributed. You piled on. Have you no shame?

It’s such a complicated story. Gavin is not a sweet little girl in an Akubra being bullied at school. He went to that library. He ­con­fronted the drag queens, said they were “not for kids”. His Facebook page was filled with hateful posts.

Much of the criticism of him was mild. Liberal National Party MP Trevor Evans called the UQ kids “ratbags”. Party leader Deb Frecklington just distanced herself.

But some was vile. Pile-ons ­almost always are intensely ­personal. They go for individuals. It’s not about your argument. It’s about how disgusting you are. How ugly. How slovenly, how ­sluttish. How you should really kill yourself. And yes, people do ­actually say that.

Roman Quaedvlieg, the former Australian Border Force chief, describ­ed it this way: “Shout out to those Twitterati opening the app with gloves on, mouthguard in.”

Because that’s what it’s like: being pummelled. Or else you’re the one throwing the virtual punches, from behind the safety of your screen.

But it’s not just you. It’s millions of people all saying the same thing: gross pig, go and die! Mobs form online, just as they used to do in town squares, and they are just as unpredictable as they ever were. They can swerve in ways you can’t predict.

Pile-ons also aren’t concerned with political argument or nuance. It’s personal abuse. It’s broken. It’s unedited, unfiltered, it’s garbage. It’s doing untold harm to children, and young people, but also to anyone­ in the firing line.

Everyone claims to be in the group copping it most:

Conservatives get the most hate!

No, it’s liberals!

No, it’s those who work for Murdoch!

No, it’s those who work for the ABC!

Public shaming is the subject of the book You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by British journalist Jon Ronson; and an episode of Black Mirror, Hated in the Nation. It was the subject of Monica Lewinsky’s most recent tour. It’s not new: in the olden days, they’d cast you out beyond the city walls, in sackcloth and ashes, or they’d make you carry a billboard, or throw fruit at you, or sew letters on your clothes.

Now you get the pile-on, and it may make you want to kill yourself. But even that won’t stop them. “Absolutely no sympathy!” said one man after Gavin’s death.

No sympathy for a 21-year-old man who threw himself in front of a train? Nope. Because there’s a Twitter war to fight.

Question is: who’s winning?

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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