Australian Politics 2021-09-27 10:30:00

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Why has the price of aluminium skyrocketed around the world?

Northern Australia has huge and easily accessible deposits of of bauxite right by the sea (at Weipa) and only a short sail from Asia. So it is already a major supplier. It may soon become even more dominant as a supplier. It easily has the reserves to replace Guinea and buyers should see that

What happened this week was a huge spike in the price of aluminium, which goes into everything from cars and trucks to phones and beverage cans. The metal touched $3000 a tonne — the highest it’s been since the 2008 global financial crisis — before settling down a wee bit after a couple days. But it’s still almost 70% more expensive than this time last year.

Why has the cost soared?

Because of Guinea, a tiny country in West Africa. Earlier this month, a military junta ousted Guinean president Alpha Condé in a coup driven by frustration over a lack of social and economic reform during his tenure. (Ramming through a referendum to ignore term limits and extend his time in office didn’t win Condé any friends either.)

Guinea is one of the major producers of bauxite, the mineral that is the raw ingredient for the production of aluminium. With a country so dependent on mining producing a commodity the world is so reliant on, a military coup naturally introduced uncertainty into the market — and uncertainty often means volatility. Even though Guinea’s mines are making an effort to keep operations normal and production steady, prices can still rise because commodities are traded speculatively. This means traders are nervous about what could happen with this batch of colonels, or even the next government, whenever it’s formed.

Guinea’s travails have indirect effects. Any blip in the bauxite supply chain has potential to wreak havoc later on. This is especially true seeing that China, which turns much of Guinea’s rocks into shiny metal, has become a net importer of aluminium recently, so it doesn’t necessarily have the domestic back stock to keep up with industry demand.

Aluminium comes from an ore called bauxite. According to the US Geological Survey, bauxite is the “only raw material used in the production of alumina on a commercial scale”. In other words, if the world wants aluminium, the world needs bauxite. The process that turns bauxite into aluminium is called smelting, and it is fairly resource- as well as energy- and emissions-intensive. It’s a messy business.

While Australia was the world’s largest producer of bauxite last year, digging up 110 million tonnes, Guinea produced 82 million tonnes, or 22% of the world’s supply. For a country of just 13.6 million people, that is no small feat. More importantly, perhaps, it also has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, with 7.4 billion tonnes. Guinea may not be to aluminium what the DRC is to cobalt, but it’s almost there.

What does this mean for the prices of goods that use aluminium?

Well it’s not good. Aluminium is everywhere these days. It’s used heavily in automobile production: Ford’s F-150 pick-up, the best-selling vehicle in the US, uses loads of it, which unfortunately got pricier thanks to former US president Donald Trump’s tariffs on imported aluminium. It’s in mobile phones. It’s in cans. The US uses it extensively in defence production. And the post-pandemic “greening” of the economy has led to increased aluminium demand due to its prevalence in electric car production and solar panels, as NPR’s Marketplace pointed out.

Increased demand, combined with continued political uncertainty in Guinea, could keep aluminim prices sky high. If that happens, the prices of consumer goods will inevitably inch upward. The more volatile Guinea’s political situation is, the bigger the effect.

How long will this last?

It depends on how long political instability in the country persists. Lately, consultations have begun to shift from military rule to a transitional government. But it could take weeks — or a whole lot longer — for a final decision to be made.

In the meantime, the leader of the coup, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, rushed to assure big mining companies he wouldn’t do anything to disrupt operations, which might take some of the froth out of the market.

Bauxite is Guinea’s golden goose, so it’s not likely the new junta will do anything to jeopardise exports in the short term. But if political instability continues — or if the government decides to take a bigger bite of mining revenues, potentially even leading to closures — supply problems could creep into an already jittery market. And if you drive, talk, or eat leftovers, that is not what you want to hear.

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Tim Blair: Inclusion actually means exclusion in the woke community

In the names of inclusiveness and social justice, girls and women are losing opportunities for athletic achievement – and even losing their gender identities, writes Tim Blair.

If ever you hear a woke type ­talking about the need for ­“inclusion”, brace yourself. It usually means someone is about to be excluded.

The latest victims of inclusion are female netball players. Last week several girls’ netball teams were swept aside in a state championship because netball administrators allowed a boys’ team to compete.

By “compete”, I mean “dominate”. The Queensland Suns Under-17 team, an all-male outfit, easily won the Under-18s championship in Brisbane against all-female ­opponents.

As you’d expect.

Parents and fans at the final expressed understandable outrage. So did NRL legend Cameron Smith, whose wife watched a game in which fellow former NRL star Matt Geyer’s daughter played against the boys.

“She just said Matt’s daughter’s team were a gun side and they had no chance. The males were just too fast, too physical. It was just a disadvantage to the girls,” Smith said on SEN.

“It’s crazy. How do you put one male team in against all the other ­females and expect the girls to compete? Particularly at that age when they’re still developing. It’s not fair.”

Damn straight. But according to Netball Queensland, allowing boys to play against girls was even better than fair. It was inclusive, the highest level of woke accomplishment to which ­humanity can possibly aspire.

Following criticism, Netball Queensland issued a statement boldly defending its decision to deny girls any chance of winning. It’s a masterpiece of social justice sophistry. Let’s take a walk on the woke side:

“We want to make clear that there is a place for everyone in our sport.” Except for a place on top of the podium. That’s now reserved for boys.

“We stand by the decision to choose inclusion over exclusion.” Says the same organisation that excluded girls from even the possibility of a championship win.

“We recognise that change is sometimes uncomfortable …” Especially for girls, who will probably give up netball entirely if they’re going to be beaten in every match.

“We are buoyed by the support of our wider netball community …” As one sharp-eyed observer noted, they really should have used a more inclusive term than “buoyed”.

“We’d like to address the assertion that the young women who played the State Titles were disadvantaged in any way.” Really? The boys won their games by an average of 29 points and took out the final 46-12. If that’s not evidence of disadvantage, then what the hell is?

“We see this as a great development opportunity.” But not for girls, at least in terms of claiming a title.

“The inclusion of both women and men in the competition in 2021 was about affording all netballers the opportunity to play and develop our great game.” And for boys, and boys only, the opportunity to win.

“While we have been subject to commentary around the different physical attributes it should also be remembered that men are new participants to our sport and play a different style of netball.” A style known as “successful”. Because they’re boys playing against girls.

“It’s also imperative that we provide a platform for men and boys to participate – because if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” I can’t see a girls’ team ever winning a netball championship again if boys are allowed to compete.

“And we aspire to be a sport for all.” You’ve taken a sport designed for girls and women and have handed it over to boys and men. Congratulations, ladies.

Queensland Netball’s idiocy, which if extended to other exclusively-female sports would scrub women from peak athletic involvement, is part of a broader woke war on women.

Last week the totally woke American Civil Liberties Union celebrated the memory of late Supreme Court justice and feminist hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg by promoting an old Ginsburg quote.

Problem was, Ginsburg’s 1993 quote used non-woke words such as “her”, “woman” and “she”. So the ACLU helpfully edited it, which turned an eloquent statement on abortion rights into an abortion ­itself.

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] wellbeing and dignity,” the updated gender-neutral version reads.

“When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”

Fully adult humans should be capable of hearing or reading words that refer to women without having an ­inclusiveness-based panic attack.

Similarly, formerly-prestigious British medical journal The Lancet last week indicated its devotion to wokeness by also excluding women. “Historically,” The Lancet reported, “the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been ­neglected.”

Seriously? “Bodies with vaginas”? That’s where wokespeak is taking us. They are reducing women to their genital component form.

Sensible people, such as psychologist and author Dr Jessica Taylor, took issue with this. How, Dr Taylor wondered, could The Lancet present itself as caring about the exclusion of female bodies and female biology from medicine and science when the journal won’t even name them?

“I would like to hear The Lancet explain their scientific rationale for keeping the use of the word ‘men’, ‘male’ and ‘man’ when they are refusing to use the word ‘woman’, ‘women’ and ‘female’,” Dr Taylor added. “Genuinely, I would like to hear that argument.”

They don’t have one. That’s why we hear nonsense phrases instead, like “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.

We are increasingly seeing women not mentioned in elite correspondence. What happens next?

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Qld, WA may face legal challenges over border closures

Barriers betwen the states are clearly ultra vires of section 92 of the constitution

Queensland and Western Australia could find themselves vulnerable to unprecedented legal issues as the rest of Australia embraces ‘Covid normal’ in the coming months.

Constitutional lawyer Professor Kim Rubenstein told Ten’s The Sunday Project that anyone adversely affected by the states’ refusal to open their borders could have grounds for a case.

“Any person who is impacted by these restrictions and who can show that this is a disproportionate burden on trade (could mount legal action),” she said.

“So that if it can show that it is, in fact, protecting one state over the other, without a legitimate or proportional response, then it really is available for challenge. And we may, in fact, see that ahead of us.”

Professor Rubenstein told The Sunday Project that the Australian constitution “was motivated by a desire to travel freely across the country”.

“Section 92 was placed there to discourage any restriction of travel within Australia,” she said.

Professor Rubenstein said the court would examine “whether these restrictions are needed for the purpose that they‘re seeking to achieve in terms of health protection.”

If they’re found wanting, the state could be much more “vulnerable” to legal action.

It comes amid criticism over Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was unwilling to reopen the state’s borders even at 80 per cent national vaccine coverage.

Ms Palaszczuk on Friday said she was unwilling to reopen as “80 per cent actually takes you backwards and I do not want that for Queensland”.

Her remarks have since come under heavy criticism with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg labelling it a policy that would keep Queensland families apart.

“The decision, and the announcement by the Queensland government, which means we may not see an opening of the borders consistent with the National Plan, is not good, and it would be a bad decision that would cost Queensland jobs,” he said.

“It would be a bad decision that would mean Queensland families are kept apart and it would be inconsistent with what was agreed at the National Cabinet.

“It’s really important that, in Queensland, the borders open in accordance with those 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates.

“People want their lives to come back to what it was, and it’s up to those premiers and chief ministers to give those people hope, to give them a chance to reopen their businesses, to be reunited with loved ones, to send their kids back to school.

“That’s what the people of Australia are expecting from their state and territory leaders.”

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Australian PM refuses to commit to phasing out fossil fuels

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to commit to phasing out fossil fuels as a major climate conference approaches, while his deputy doubled down on opposing targets for net zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

Australia, the world's top coal and a major gas exporter, is under growing pressure to come up with emissions reduction targets ahead of November's COP26 United Nations climate conference in Scotland.

The International Monetary Fund called on Australia to set a "time bound" target to reach net zero emissions on Friday, when the country's treasurer warned that Australia must brace for much higher borrowing costs if it fails to commit to a net zero target by 2050, as many peers have done.

In interviews with Australian media after a summit in Washington, Morrison said his government was still working on its emissions plans, declining to commit to curbing fossil fuels that account for a major part of Australia's export revenue.

He told broadcaster SBS in an interview that aired on Saturday night that he was not prepared to pull back any fossil fuel industries immediately.

"We don't have to, because that change will take place over time," he said. "We are working on the transition technologies and fuels and the ultimate technologies that will be there over the next 20, 30 years that can get us to net zero... This doesn't happen overnight."

Morrison, who has a largely undefined slogan of "technology not taxes", was part of a government that torpedoed a carbon pricing scheme after winning the 2013 election while opposing the mechanism as a tax.

His deputy prime minister, climate change sceptic Barnaby Joyce, dug in on Sunday against a net zero target.

"We look at it through the eyes of making sure there is not an unreasonable, or any loss of... regional jobs," Joyce, whose National party represents largely rural voters, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Joyce said proceeds from mining and agriculture industries were vital for people in regional towns, from hairdressers to auto service providers.

"You've got to remember, fossil fuels are your nation's largest export and if you take away your nation's largest export, you've got to accept a lower standard of living," he said.

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Spanish mackerel ban shows contemptible disregard for commercial fishermen

Peter Gleeson

If you like eating Spanish mackerel, you might have to start saving your pennies because the price is about to skyrocket.

It follows the establishment of a so-called working group, which will look at banning the commercial ­fishing of mackerel in north Queensland waters.

The plan is to ban fishing in certain areas from July 1 next year, abolishing the existing quota system.

Fisheries Queensland has been managing the resource through a quota system since 2004 under the sustainable fishing banner.

They have recently announced the East Coast Spanish Mackerel biomass is at a critically low level and changes to the management will be implemented next July.

Among other possibilities, the most likely result of this is a drastic quota reduction for the fishermen.

No doubt there will be the standard stakeholder working groups and public discussion papers so that Queensland Fisheries can be seen to be going through the consultation process, but the outcome is inevitable.

This is yet another hijacking of a perfectly legitimate business by the Greens and their Labor Left mates.

The Greens hate all commercial fishing. It’s a bread-and-butter issue. Greenpeace have made an art form of trying to destroy fishing industries.

Unfortunately, there are not enough commercial fisherman left to have any voting clout, so outcomes become inevitable.

The utter disregard for the consequences to fishermen’s personal and financial circumstances shown by Queensland Fisheries is contemptible.

Fishermen in the north Queensland area are in despair at the proposed changes.

For Spanish mackerel farmers such as Peter Guymer, the fish are all caught one at a time on a line.

There is no trawl or net fishery for this species, and the fish he catches are consumed by Queenslanders.

Mr Guymer says this latest issue for the Spanish mackerel industry is part of a broader campaign to undermine the professional fishing industry.

“The demand for wild caught local seafood has never been stronger,’’ Mr Guymer says.

“The ultimate loser here is the seafood-eating public who cannot or don’t wish to catch it themselves and will be eating imported farmed product.’’

The Queensland Seafood Industry Association has tried to talk sense into the State Government, but received little solace.

The Government says Spanish mackerel stocks are under threat from overfishing, with 300 tonnes commercially fished each year since 2004.

The latest damning Fisheries Queensland view follows a 2020 report, which said harvest numbers were good.

If a ban was implemented, it would throw dozens of fishermen out of work, and mean Spanish mackerel would be off the menu at most ­restaurants.

This is a typical Greens-Labor Left stitch-up, with a Labor government complicit in sending a section of the industry to the wall.

Let’s hope sanity prevails and the quota system remains. It’s a very fishy situation indeed

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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