Australian Politics 2022-12-08 08:27:00


‘Book ban’ angers academics amid claims University of Tasmania ‘in crisis’ due to ‘all powerful’ VC and management ‘cadre’

A war on tall bookshelves?? Bureaucracy gone mad. As you would expect of a retired academic, I have tall bookshelves at home. Am I in danger? Would I be welcome in Tasmania?

University of Tasmania academics say they have been ordered to remove books from shelves and throw away their “life’s work”, all in the name of “safer spaces”.

A parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday heard senior academics allege UTAS was in “crisis” and had “lost its direction” due to an erosion of academic influence by a rampant “management cadre”.

“What we’ve been seeing in recent times is the growth in the management level and them assuming more of a role in directing academic activities,” UTAS Emeritus Professor Stuart McLean told the Legislative Council inquiry. “As an example, an edict came around recently that books were to be removed from shelves in … academic offices.”

Outside the inquiry, several academics confirmed to The Australian they had been ordered to remove books above shoulder-height, as well as all records that will not be used in the next year.

“You can’t have anything left in the office – it is deeply puzzling, and quite bizarre,” said one academic, on condition of anonymity. “Most academic offices are lined with books … and dumping much of your life’s work in the bin is hard to do.”

Academics said some had dodged the safety auditors, retaining ceiling-high books; others had been allowed to keep some above shoulder-height as long as they had an “industrially-rated step ladder”.

UTAS safety and wellbeing director Chris Arnold said any actions were about “keeping our people safe”. “Throughout 2020 and 2021, we ran a series of safety-focused clean-up days in all areas of the university, which resulted in cleaner, safer spaces for our staff and students,” Mr Arnold said.

“Some of the advice we provided included ensuring workspaces were not cluttered in ways that inhibited access or created fire and trip hazards, and that heavy items – like large books or boxes of equipment and items like glass sample slides – were not kept on shelves above shoulder height.”

The LegCo is inquiring into UTAS’ governance under state law, with peak bodies hoping it will lead to a model to restore academic freedom at universities nationally.

Senior academics are pushing for an increase in elected academic representation on key bodies.

Distinguished Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick told the inquiry even UTAS’ academic senate, of which he was until recently a member, was dominated by managers.

“So the majority of people on the academic senate are in upper level management positions and a minority are elected from the academics,” Professor Kirkpatrick told the inquiry.

“It’s not really giving an academic perspective on the courses and on the teaching programs. It’s a perspective that’s dominated by the people who are managing the university.”

Distinguished Professor Jeff Malpas told the inquiry UTAS was “in crisis” and “looking like a third or fourth rate” institution, due to the “McKinsey-ite” management model of Vice Chancellor Rufus Black.

“The governance structure has fallen into complete decay as a result of a centralised approach that concentrates effectively all power in the VC – and that’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster,” Professor Malpas said.

Former UTAS chancellor Michael Field has defended the current UTAS council as having the “right balance” and dismissed the reform push as a “harking back” by “retired academics”.


Excess deaths in 2022 ‘incredibly high’ at 13 per cent

Almost certainly due in the main to people with other illnesses not getting treatment during the Covid panic

The Australian government should be urgently investigating the “incredibly high” 13 per cent excess death rate in 2022, the country’s peak actuarial body says.

An extra 15,400 people died in the first eight months of the year, according to new analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data by the Actuaries Institute, with around one-third of those having no link to Covid.

Karen Cutter, an actuary of more than 25 years and spokeswoman for the institute’s Covid-19 Mortality Working Group, said 13 per cent was an “incredibly high number for mortality” and that it was “not clear” what was driving the increase.

“Mortality doesn’t normally vary by more than 1 to 2 per cent, so 13 per cent is way higher than normal levels,” she said.

“I’m not aware [of anything comparable] in the recent past but I haven’t gone back and looked [historically]. They talk about the flu season of 2017 being really bad, and the mortality there was 1 per cent higher than normal. So it’s well outside the range of normal.”

She added, “In addition to Covid-19 deaths, there are significant numbers of non-Covid deaths – it is not clear what is causing these as there are many factors at play.”

“Looking at mortality and how that might be different from expectations is part of the core of what we do,” Ms Cutter said.

“A lot of insurance products rely on mortality assumptions – life insurance, death and disability, superannuation – it crosses over a lot of things. Similarly with morbidity. I tell my friends we do all the maths behind insurance.”

While sounding the alarm was one thing, Ms Cutter said what happened next was a “very good question”.

“I think the government should be looking at it – I don’t know to what extent they are or not, I don’t know what kind of investigations are underway,” she said.


How couple's dream Tesla roadtrip turned into a nightmare after they became stranded without a charger deep in the country

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A couple's dream country road trip turned into a nightmare when they found their electric car didn't have the right cable for a charging station leaving them stranded in rural Australia.

Bernadette and Stephen Janson from Sydney hired a Tesla Model 3 for the recent six-day journey to Echuca in rural Victoria as a 'try-before-you-buy' test run.

But the pair ran into trouble on day three of the journey when, with 12 kilometres of battery left, they went to hook their car up to an electric vehicle charging station in the town of Leitchville on the NSW-Victoria border.

They realised their Tesla didn't have the cord they needed for that station and so they went to the next nearest charge point in the adjacent town on what battery they had left - but that one wasn't working.

'Massive drama today, we had enough charge to drive to the next town of Cohuna where there is a charger only to discover it's not working,' Ms Janson said in a video shared to TikTok.

'We've been on the phone for three hours getting the run around between the car hire company, RACV and NRMA.'

Ms Janson said she eventually spotted a tow truck that had stopped nearby and 'rushed over to grab the driver' but even he couldn't help with the correct cables or any way to charge the car.

'But he did say he knew of a lady that lives in Cohuna with a Tesla so we called her and she told us that to get enough charge to get back to Echuca would take about six hours,' she said.

'It's 2pm now and we've been at this (place) since 7am so frankly that's not ideal'.

The problem was only solved after the car hire company agreed to foot the bill for a tow truck lift to yet another charging station because they had not included the extra charging adapter they initially needed in their hire car.

'But we're going to have to extend our road trip for another day,' Ms Janson said.


Glencore pulls plug on $2bn Valeria coal project in Queensland

Glencore has pulled the plug on a $2bn coalmine in Queensland, backing away from the major thermal coal development in the face of the state’s royalty increases and the federal government’s ­industrial relations changes.

The mining giant, Australia’s biggest coal producer, is understood to have written to both the Queensland and federal environment departments over the last week to withdraw applications for approval of the Valeria project.

A spokesman for Glencore confirmed the company had ­cancelled its plans to build the 16 million-tonne-a-year coalmine, which was tipped to create more than 1200 permanent jobs when it began production in 2024.

He said the project’s future ­status was now “under review”.

“This decision has been made in the current context of increased global uncertainty and is consistent with Glencore’s commitment to a responsibly managed decline of our global coal business,” the company said in a statement.

Global factors – such as the need to reduce carbon emissions, rising geopolitical tensions, and long-term uncertainty over future demand for coal – were a factor in the decision, but the spokesman confirmed domestic political uncertainty made it less attractive.

“Abrupt decisions like the Queensland super royalty hike have damaged investor confidence, increased uncertainty and raised a red flag with key trading partners,” he said.

“Genuine and timely consultation with companies on the detail of policy reforms is crucial to avoid continued uncertainty.”

Queensland’s royalty increases have been fiercely opposed by the state’s coal producers. But the ­federal government’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws, which will allow multi-employer bargaining, have also been criticised by the resources sector.

Valeria is also one of 18 gas and coal projects that will receive ­additional scrutiny from federal environmental authorities and Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, after environment ­activists launched legal action in July aimed at ensuring their ­impact on climate change would be considered before any approval was granted.

Glencore’s decision is the latest sign of unrest over the extraordinary royalty increases introduced in the state’s July budget that are now expected to deliver $3bn to the state’s coffers in the current ­financial year, up from initial estimates of $765m.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick unveiled the figures on Wednesday during a mid-year budget update, and was unrepentant about the decision to introduce the surprise royalty rise. “This shows that coal royalties are worth fighting for, delivering a fair share for Queenslanders,” he said of the new royalties projections.

In response to questions from The Australian on Glencore’s ­Valeria decision, Mr Dick noted that the company’s public statement attributed the decision to “increased global uncertainty”. “Queensland Treasury’s report on long-term global coal demand released last month makes clear that while demand for Queensland thermal coal is set to resume its decline, demand for Queensland metallurgical coal will remain strong over coming decades,” Mr Dick said.

“Investment decisions around mining projects are ultimately a matter for proponents.”

BHP has also threatened to end future investment in the growth at its Queensland coal ­operations in response to the new royalty regime, and has also been a strident critic of federal Labor’s industrial relations reforms.

But Glencore’s move to scrap the development of Valeria is the first major project cancellation in the wake of either, and comes after the company confirmed on Tuesday night it expected to wind down production at other Australian thermal coalmines over the next four years, including ­Liddell, Newlands and Integra in NSW.


The Left’s racism against Senator Price: The "Wrong" Aboriginal voice

In the name of equity and inclusion, Australia’s marquee satire publication, The Betoota Advocate, has written an astonishing (and some may say racist) article equating Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price to an ‘Uncle Tom’.

In a piece entitled, Senator Jacinta Price Officially Promoted To ‘One Of The Good Ones’ By Her Redneck Overlords, the journalist suggests Price cannot think for herself as her intentions are to appease her ‘white superiors’.

Announcing the decision with the party leaders on Monday was Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, an Indigenous woman who has made a name for herself over the last couple years by saying exactly what the rednecks what to hear on Sky News as a professional devil’s advocate.

The article attributes Price’s success in politics to her role as Sky News Australia’s ‘professional devil’s advocate’ and claims that she has been ‘promoted from her previous role as “the only one they have” to her shiny new position as “one of the good ones”.’

This decision to oppose The Voice, while extremely damaging for the Federal Coalition’s electability in 2026, has done wonders for the political trajectory of Senator Jactina [sic] Price, who has officially been promoted from her previous role as ‘the only one they have’ to her shiny new position as ‘one of the good ones’.

To be sure, this foul racial commentary is not just on Price; it robs Indigenous Australians of their true voice – the very thing Betoota is advocating for through their satirical attempts.

And yes, it is satire – but in the world of cancel culture and painfully meticulous social justice activism, this sort of race-baiting is only given a pass when it spews from a left-leaning publication that supports certain political goals. For a comparison, look at Mark Knight’s recent satirical cartoon on the Voice to Parliament, which was quickly censored.

Similar to when Biden proclaimed, ‘you ain’t black’ if you vote Republican, this kind of rhetoric puts Indigenous Australians in a position where they become anti-Aboriginal if they vote ‘no’ in The Voice Referendum, or are accused of supporting racism if they hold conservative values.

Likewise, all Australians fall into these categories if they do not subscribe to the left-wing orthodoxy.

Meritless arguments such as this are a logical fallacy known as ‘the appeal to emotion’, which the Left has weaponised to bypass fact and manipulate the public towards their side through emotional blackmail.

This tactic is used in two ways. Firstly, to defend people who are a part of the cultural elite, often by turning them into victims of the Right; secondly, to viciously label someone who offers a counter thought as one of the many ‘isms’ or ‘phobias’ which will see the target ejected from the public square, their logic-based opinions delegitimised, and their person forced into Soviet-style apologies.

Unsurprisingly, Jacinta was not offered membership into the cultural elite.

Instead of highlighting Price’s long list of achievements as an advocate for Indigenous Australians and fighting against domestic violence, the government, commentariat, media, and keyboard warriors have joined Betoota in demonising Price as the ‘devil’s advocate’ and narrowing down her success to obeisance towards ‘Her Redneck Overlords’.

Where is Paul Barry, Lisa Wilkinson, Peter FitzSimons, Clementine Ford, Louise Milligan, or Jane Caro when you need them? What about all the social warriors who have, in part, built a career out of festering public outrage, creating pseudo-victim narratives to push their ideology, and acting as Australia’s arbiters of morality? They have remained silent.

It is clear, however, the Left offers a pathway to redemption for members of conservative parties:

Central-West NSW Nationals MP Andrew Gee has been quick to point out that he disagrees with his party’s official stance and is a supporter of the Voice, as someone who doesn’t think stoking racist hot buttons amongst frustrated rural voters is really going to achieve anything other than a few Murdoch headlines and ruined Christmas dinners.

The overall logic truly is flawed on many fronts; ‘It is not racist to say an Indigenous Woman is not thinking for herself when opposing our view’; ‘We will bridge the gap between the racial divide by encouraging intolerance towards other views’; ‘We believe in every Australian’s right to vote on the referendum, but democracy has failed us if the majority of Australians vote no’; ‘Vote yes to an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and anyone who disagrees should not be allowed to enter the debate.’

With this line of thinking infecting our Federal Parliament, Australia’s democratic process is rotting. The federal government has amended tax laws to give deductions to people donating to groups campaigning for ‘yes’ to the Voice, all the while organisations pushing for ‘no’ will not receive this incentive.

Furthermore, the government will spend $75 million on educating Australians on what the Voice means and preventing misinformation. With the term ‘misinformation’ being used in contemporary times to shut down critics, it is doubtful this money will be used to showcase both sides so Australians can make an informed decision.

Instead, it will fund a monolithic view on the referendum and extinguish the contest of ideas. How is this fair or democracy in action?

Rather, we will be subjected to weak, superficial arguments, which will be allowed to flourish without question or criticism.

Just like the Betoota Advocate, which advised conservatives to heed the warning from the Victorian State Election and not to question the Voice, as the Coalition lost because they delved into the ‘murky culture wars’.

This analysis is materially wrong. The Victorian Liberals lost because they were a Labor-lite government offering no point of difference. They had budgeted for larger debt than Labor, had more aggressive climate change policies than the federal Labor government, and banned a long-serving MP from the party room because he was anti-abortion, along with a candidate whose father was a member of a conservative church.

Despite this blatant failure to accurately peruse politics, we are meant to listen to them when it comes to changing our constitution, while conservatives who ask highly pertinent questions are removed from the discussion.

Instead, they are denounced as the root cause of the Culture Wars when they respond to the Left’s attempt to radically change long-standing institutions that have generated overall net positives for society.

The attack on conservatives around the world is profound. Nevertheless, we should pay homage to the likes of Price, who are fearless in their conviction to fight for values that have made the West the greatest civilisation in human history and willingly withstand severe public backlash in this pursuit.

I suggest these concrete cowboys give up their comfortable city lives for a few days and visit a remote community with Senator Price before they try to besmirch her reputation again.