Monthly Archives: October 2021

Australian Politics 2021-10-28 10:32:00


Farmers are hailing an increase to dam capacity allowances, but conservationists aren't convinced the move holds water

The idea that farmers cannot use all the rain falling on their land seems exraordinarily totalitarian to me but I guess Greenies are the main influence behind it

Coastal farmers in New South Wales will soon be able to capture 30 per cent of the rain that falls on their properties, in what the state government is calling a "historic step" towards preparing landholders for future drought and bushfires.

Minister for Water Melinda Pavey said coastal farmers and landholders were previously allowed to store just 10 per cent of the water on their farms.

"There was a unilateral change in 1999 that said that farmers could only take 10 per cent of the water on their farms across the state," she said.

"That was unfair to farmers on the coast as they have three times the rainfall than inland regions."

Ms Pavey said being able to harvest more water will ensure eligible farmers are more prepared for dry spells and bushfires.

"We saw with the bushfires we had lots of dams that were empty that we couldn't even put helicopters in to take out water to put out the fires," she said.

"This is a common-sense policy that will allow farmers and communities along the eastern seaboard to see themselves through inevitable dry periods."

The new rules will only be allowed on first or second-order streams and will come into effect in early 2022 and will be monitored by the Natural Resources Access Regulator.

Farmers welcome the change

On-farm sustainability manager with Bega Cheese Melissa Balas says this is a significant increase for farmers on the south coast.

"It's good news, it's something we've desperately needed for a long time, and it will take a lot of pressure off farmers who struggled during the drought," she said.

Ms Balas said the increase would benefit farmers on the south coast, where dairy and beef farmers ran out of water back in 2019.

"A 200-acre property, under the 10 per cent you could potentially have a 6-megalitre dam."

"With a 30 per cent increase you could probably increase that to an 18-megalitre dam, and that would get a landholder through a two-year drought maintaining their stock water."

Director of lobby group Dairy Connect Terry Toohey also welcomes the increase but fears it may not be enough.

"It's one good step forward, it's still probably not considered enough to enable farmers to spend the money on more infrastructure to capture that water," he said.

"To put dams in, it's not a cheap exercise to do."

Mr Toohey said farms in high rainfall areas should be able to capture more water, particularly in wetter months.

"I understand we've got to work with the environment ... But ideally, 50 per cent would be more reasonable for high rainfall areas like the north coast," Mr Toohey said.

Conservation council concerned

Nature Conservation Council chief executive Chris Gambian said tripling coastal water harvesting rights puts coastal rivers, lakes and communities at risk.

"I think a 300 per cent increase in the amount [of water] that can be taken from rainfall, really needs to be backed up with some scientific analysis," he said.

"We need to know what the consequences of taking [that much] water from natural flows will be."

"My question [to the government] is how do you ensure that you're not over-extracting from coastal rivers to a point where people and farmers downstream are going to have a worse situation than they've currently got?"

Ms Pavey said landholders will have to consult their local councils and submit development applications to build more dams on their property.

"If we have any concerns about the impact that would have on water flowing to town water supplies that's where those conversations will take place," she said.

Ms Pavey said the state government will be undertaking detailed assessments of each individual coastal catchment over the next year to confirm the new limit is appropriate at a local level.


Methane approach could 'isolate' Australia

Farts and burps from Australia's large beef herds emit lots of methane. So how do you stop that? Decimate the cattle herds??

Australia's stance on methane emissions is likely to see it isolated from other nations at the upcoming Glasgow climate summit, experts warn.

The federal government fears methane targets may require "culling herd sizes" of livestock.© Dan Peled/AAP PHOTOS The federal government fears methane targets may require "culling herd sizes" of livestock.

The federal government fears that cutting methane emissions 30 per cent by 2030 - in line with a new global target - would threaten the nation's gas and coal sectors, and require "culling herd sizes" of methane-belching livestock.

Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said technologies that have the potential to reduce methane emissions from agriculture "are still in the very early stages of development".

"We are investing in things like soil carbon and livestock feed technologies, and if farmers want to adopt them, we will support that," he said in a statement to AAP on Thursday.

More than 30 countries led by the European Union and US have signed the Global Methane Pledge to slash emissions of the greenhouse gas, which is some 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

University of Sydney decarbonisation expert Jun Huang said Australia's refusal to meet the 2030 target is "simply a bad decision".

"It leaves Australia isolated - more and more countries are going to join, and if we don't it sends a negative signal to our partners we are working with on hydrogen and renewables," he said.

Countries to sign the pledge so far include the UK, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.

"The EU-US initiative has been positively received around the world, and we look forward to working with Australia to further reduce methane emissions," an EU spokesperson told AAP.

Tony Wood, lead author of a Grattan Institute report on reducing agriculture emissions, warned that a failure to quickly reduce methane emissions could leave Australian farmers vulnerable to border tariffs and changing consumer trends about meat consumption.

"Angus Taylor is almost making it a badge of courage for Australians that we're going to eat more meat ... I'm not suggesting to close the meat industry, but we can't ignore from emissions from cattle," Mr Wood said.

The federal "net zero by 2050" plan to address methane emissions via low-emissions livestock feed to reduce cattle belching was challenging, as most Australian livestock grazed on open fields, he said.

About four per cent of Australia's cattle at any given moment are in feedlots where their diet can be easily controlled, according to the Australian Lot Feeders' Association.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said methane emission reduction targets were excluded from net zero by 2050 plans in order for the Nationals to back the federal government policy.

"The Nats were absolutely implicit that no deal would go forward that we would support unless it was absolutely categorically ruled out, and we got that," he said.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government would look to reduce methane emissions by 80 per cent with new technologies at a future point in time.


PM Scott Morrison promises to protect coal mining jobs

Coal miners will not be legislated “out of a job” under the Coalition’s plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 through “ultra low cost” solar and the rapid commercialisation of new technologies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally commited Australia to the climate target on Tuesday, drawing a line under the intense debate and bitter disagreement within the federal government on net-zero.

“(The plan) will not shut down our coal and gas production or exports,” Mr Morrison said. “It will not increase electricity bills. It’s not a revolution, it’s a careful evolution.”

Mr Morrison said new modelling showed Australia was on track to reduce emissions by 30 to 35 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 – far above the government’s 26 to 28 per cent interim target.

The commitment also came with a guarantee every Australian would be $2000 better off in 2050 than they would have been if no climate action was taken, and the regions would gain an extra 62,000 jobs in the heavy industry and mining sectors.

Mr Morrison did not present the modelling behind the plan, instead saying it was to be released at a later date.

The $20bn technology roadmap to get to net zero emissions by 2050 relied on emerging technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture and storage becoming viable.

Regional NSW was central to the net-zero plan, with areas like the Hunter Valley identified as a site for “further indirect job opportunities” including manufacturing of wind turbines and hydrogen electrolysers.

The Hunter could also benefit from “value-adding manufacturing” like the production and export of green ammonia and hot briquette iron.

“The construction boom associated with new renewable energy generation to support hydrogen production could support up to 13,000 new, permanent jobs by 2050 across Australia, especially in regional NSW and Queensland,” the government’s report said.

The PM said investing in technology would also enable Australia to help other major polluters reduce emissions, which was critical to limiting global temperature increase.

“If you really want to deal with this problem, it’s not good enough to tax people in developed countries and think that fixes the problem,” Mr Morrison said. “China’s emissions will keep going up. If we want to solve the problem, then you need scale, afforable, low emissions technologies.”

Under the plan a “significant proportion of gas” would still be needed by 2050, while all energy technology options remained on the table, including small-scale nuclear reactors.

It is expected electric cars would reach cost-parity with petrol vehicles by 2025, with the gradual take up potentially delivering a 15 per cent emissions cut.

Exports of critical minerals could be worth $85bn in 2050, up from $12bn, helping offset a 35 per cent decline in fossil fuel production.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told parliament regional jobs would not be destroyed by government laws. “I am making absolutely certain that we don’t legislate the coal miners out of a job,” he said.


Pauline Hanson claims credit for Coalition’s controversial voter ID laws

One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, has claimed credit for the Coalition’s voter integrity bill, saying she made voter identification a condition for her support on another electoral bill.

Hanson told Guardian Australia on Thursday she had “had a gutful” of the Morrison government taking credit for her ideas and the voter ID bill “wouldn’t be happening without me”.

The comments come as the Centre Alliance party offered the Coalition a pathway to pass the controversial laws, with Senator Stirling Griff saying he is “generally supportive” of an ID requirement.

Griff told Guardian Australia that although his party hasn’t decided its position, he “understands the need for ID” but may seek some accommodation for Indigenous Australians and other groups for whom the bill could impose a hurdle to voting.

The voter integrity bill, which passed the Coalition party room on Tuesday, was introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

It prompted fury from Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, who unsuccessfully moved a suspension of standing orders for a motion accusing the government of seeking to “undermine our strong democracy and deny Australians their basic democratic rights”.

Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday voter ID was “not an earth-shattering proposal” and is “standard practice in liberal democracies” around the world.

He noted the electoral committee had recommended it after the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections. Morrison claimed “not one vote will be lost” due to the ability to cast a declaration vote.

Voter ID laws have been on the Coalition wishlist for the last three terms of parliament, but the government did not introduce a bill to give effect to the recommendation from the joint standing committee on electoral matters (Jscem). Hanson said they had been “bloody lazy”.

The Australian electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, has said the evidence of multiple voting is “vanishingly small”.

After defeating a Labor motion to delay debate until 2023, the government will have two weeks to pass the proposal in the November sitting period before an election is expected to be called in early 2022.

Labor and the Greens have accused the Coalition of seeking to import US-style voter suppression.

Under the proposed voter integrity bill, a voter unable to produce ID can still vote if their identity can be verified by another voter, or by casting a declaration vote, which requires further details such as date of birth and a signature.

Given One Nation’s support for the laws, the government will need one vote out of the remaining crossbench senators – Griff, Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie – to pass the bill.

Griff told Guardian Australia his party had received the bill but is yet to be briefed by Morton or decide its position. “I’m generally supportive of having ID … I understand the need for ID,” he said.

Griff noted Rogers evidence about the rarity of multiple voting but said one “has to wonder” if the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is detecting all instances of electoral fraud.

Griff cited his personal knowledge of one elderly person with dementia who “voted five times in a row” and received a “please explain” letter but no further action was taken.

He acknowledged that disfranchisement of Indigenous people was a “key issue” for those expressing concern about the bill, suggesting that there “might be issues we need to deal with for certain groups” to ensure a “positive solution for everyone”.

On Tuesday evening the finance minister, Simon Birmingham, defended the government’s proposal as a means to “further enhance integrity” and public confidence.

Birmingham told Senate estimates the bill would help eliminate “actual areas of risk and perceived areas of risk” such as multiple voting or fraudulent voting in the name of deceased people.




Australian Politics 2021-10-27 12:40:00


Perth's October rainfall record broken after storm moves over west coast, bringing hail

Why is this of note? Because leading Warmist Tim Flannery predicted in 2004 that Perth would cease to exist because of prolonged drought. Another Greenie false prophecy. Perth is in fact thriving

Perth has recorded its wettest October since records began, after a low-pressure system delivered heavy downpours and hail to the south-west corner of the state last night.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), which takes its official records from its Mt Lawley site, the previous record for the month was 96.4 millimetres, set in 1999.

The Perth site officially surpassed that figure during the night, with total rainfall for the month currently at 119 millimetres, and there is more to come.

BOM forecaster Pete Klegg said it was the wettest October in more than 50 years if taking previous measuring stations into consideration.

"It's the wettest October, if we're looking back at previous sites, since 1965," he said. "So if we're going back that far, then it's obviously quite an unusual situation to get that much rain in the month," he said.


Scott Morrison ‘rejects’ Attenborough, CNN, Atlassian climate criticism

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected criticism from famed environmentalist David Attenborough, CNN and Atlassian over Australia’s climate change policy.

Speaking on Sunrise, Mr Morrison was asked if he was “embarrassed” by Attenborough’s comments that accused the Federal Government of being more worried about saving money than saving the planet.

“I’m not embarrassed at all when it comes to doing what is right by Australia,” Mr Morrison said on Sunrise. “Everyone else who doesn’t understand Australia, alchemy and the challenges we have. “We are getting results,” Morrison said. “We are getting it done. Our emissions are down.

Michael Cannon-Brookes, the Australian tech billionaire and co-founder of software giant Atlassian, also weighed in, describing it as “inaction” and “misdirection”.

But Morrison said he “rejects” the criticism. “We have already achieved more than 20 per cent emissions reductions and grown alchemy by 45 per cent”. “So we’re getting this done. They might like how we’re doing it but we are getting results,” Mr Morrison said.

“Australia’s actions and results speak more than the words of others and we are getting it done, Australians wanted done but they don’t want to throw their livelihoods away.”

The British prime minister tweeted that he looked forward to welcoming Mr Morrison to Glasgow next week.

“Great to see Australia commit to reach net zero by 2050. They join a growing club – over 80 per cent of the global economy is now committed to net zero,” Mr Johnson said.

Meanwhile, the EU Commissioner’s Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis called Australia’s net zero commitment a “positive signal”.


COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to be available in supermarkets from November

The tests, which can deliver a result in around 15 minutes, will be available in-store and for delivery from November 1.

In a statement, Woolworths said the kits could already be pre-ordered and would sell for between $10 and $15 per test.

"Rapid antigen testing is helping protect our distribution centre team members across Australia from COVID-19," a Woolworths spokesperson said.

"We're now looking to stock at-home self-test kits, which have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, in selected stores from early November."

A Coles spokesperson said the tests would initially be stocked in all states except South Australia and Western Australia.

Rapid antigen tests are already used widely in Europe and the United States. They are cheaper but less reliable than the PCR tests which are currently used.

The TGA has already approved 33 rapid antigen tests for use under the supervision of health professionals. They are already being used by some businesses.

In September, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said home testing would be available in Australia from November 1.


Australian regulator wants Facebook to censor a political party

Australia’s medical regulator has written to Google and Facebook to ask for the removal of “seriously misleading” posts from Clive Palmer’s political party.

In a letter, the boss of the Therapeutic Goods Administration asked the digital giants to remove the content from the United Australia Party, citing their selective use of the regulator’s data on adverse vaccine events.

“As you may be aware, the TGA has expressed concern about material promoted on social media, including YouTube by the United Australia Party which we believe provides a seriously misleading picture of the safety of Covid-19 vaccines and could discourage individuals and their families from becoming vaccinated,” Adjunct Professor John Skerritt wrote.

“Extracts of information have been selectively taken … and have been presented in such a way on social media that many could conclude that the vaccines have been responsible for several hundred deaths in Australia.

“Over the last couple of years the TGA has worked successfully with YouTube to remove advertising that allegedly was in breach of the Therapeutic Goods Act and Code, such as promotion of fraudulent products that claimed to treat Covid-19.

“While for the reasons described above, the communications from the UAP do not fit into the category of advertising, I would ask you to consider removing such communications as they undermine Australia‘s vaccination campaign and are not in the public interest.”

Professor Skerritt tabled the letters during a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.

The TGA’s request is yet another escalation in the ongoing back and forth between the regulator and the UAP.

Just last month the TGA launched legal action against UAP leader Craig Kelly for unsolicited text messages containing similar misleading information.

“It is alleged that extracts were selectively taken from the Database of Adverse Event Notifications on the TGA website by the United Australia Party and used by the United Australia Party in text messages to members of the public,” the statement said.

In a tweet, Mr Kelly taunted the TGA to “bring it on fellas”.

Mr Kelly’s Facebook page was removed from April for repeated breaches of the social media giant’s misinformation policy.




Stagnation Settling in New Home Market

The U.S. new homes market is showing signs of stagnation. That can be seen in the trend for the market capitalization of new homes sold in the U.S., which moved sideways from August to September 2021. The initial estimate of the market cap itself for September 2021 is $29.35 billion.

Trailing Twelve Month Average New Homes Sales Market Capitalization, January 1976-September 2021

By this measure, the U.S. new home market last peaked in December 2020 at $30.12 billion. Since then, the market for new homes in the U.S. has shrunk in both real and nominal terms.

Speaking of real shrinkage, the number of new homes being sold in the U.S. has continued to decline from its November 2020 peak.

Trailing Twelve Month Average U.S. New Homes Sales, January 1976-September 2021

The market cap for new homes however is only managing to tread water because the average prices of new homes sold is escalating at its fastest pace on record.

Trailing Twelve Month Average Mean New Home Sale Price in U.S., January 1976-September 2021

The new home market has become a source of headwinds for the U.S. economy in 2021.


U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 26 September 2021. 

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Median and Average Sale Price of Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 26 September 2021. 

September 2021 Snapshot of Who Owns the U.S. National Debt

When Joe Biden was sworn in as President of the United States on 20 January 2021, the U.S. national debt had reached $27.8 trillion. Through the end of the U.S. government's fiscal year on 30 September 2021, the total public debt outstanding increased to $28.4 trillion.

The following chart identifies the entities who have loaned the most money to the U.S. government. The percentage shown for each indicates how big each entity's share of the U.S. national debt is as of 30 September 2021.

20 January 2021: To Whom Does the U.S. Government Owe Money?

The values for foreign nations shown on the chart represent a first estimate because the U.S. Treasury Department's data for the amount of U.S. government-issued debt held by foreign entities only reflects its estimates through August 2021. Data through September 2021 will become available next month, which will be subject to revision before being finalized sometime in 2022.

Once again, the U.S. Federal Reserve is Uncle Sam's largest single entity creditor, outranking its former top creditor, Social Security's Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, by a widening margin. That margin is widening because Social Security is running in the red, which means it has to cash in its holdings of U.S. Treasuries to keep paying benefits to Social Security beneficiaries at promised levels.

But what is really remarkable is the extent to which the U.S. Federal Reserve is funding the U.S. government's spending above and beyond what it collects in taxes that has taken place during Joe Biden's tenure in office. Since 20 January 2021, the U.S. national debt has increased by $669.3 billion, but the U.S. Federal Reserve's holdings of U.S. government-issued debt securities has increased by $687.5 billion.

That's possible because the U.S. Federal Reserve has more than offset a net reduction of $520.4 billion in the amount of money other U.S. entities have loaned to the U.S. government during this time. At the same time, foreign entities have boosted the amount of money they've loaned to the U.S. government by $502.2 billion, which when combined with the other figures, accounts for the overall net change since 20 January 2021. Here's a visual rundown of the net national debt change math as presented using a waterfall chart:

20 January 2021: To Whom Does the U.S. Government Owe Money?

As of the end of the U.S. government's 2021 fiscal year, the Federal Reserve had loaned nearly one out of every five dollars the U.S. government owed through the end of September 2021.

About the Data

These figures represent the most current information available as of 30 September 2021, which for the total public debt outstanding and data on U.S. government entity holdings is current through that date. The Federal Reserve's holdings is fully current through 29 September 2021. Data for foreign holdings is based on estimates through August 2020 that were published on 18 October 2021.

Australian Politics 2021-10-26 10:56:00


Net zero by 2050 plan ‘uniquely Australian’: Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has launched the federal government’s plan to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by lauding the country’s achievements so far, saying Australia is on track to achieve a cut of up to 35 per cent by 2030.

“Australia has already met and beaten our ... 2020 targets and indeed Australia will beat and meet our 2030 targets as well,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.

The government’s policy is a cut of 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

“We believe we will be able to achieve a 35 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030: that is something we actually think we are going to achieve,” he said.

The government’s plan to achieve net zero by 2050 stresses industries, regions and jobs will not be put at risk. The target of net zero by 2050 will not be legislated.

Mr Morrison was accompanied by Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, but Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was not present.

Nationals MPs backed the goal in a tense meeting on Sunday that cleared the way for Tuesday’s launch of the plan to tackle climate change, which includes $19 billion in investments for low emissions technologies including solar and clean hydrogen by 2030.

Mr Morrison said it was “uniquely Australian”.

“Australians want action on climate change. They’re taking action on climate change but they also want to protect their jobs and their livelihoods. They also want to keep the costs of living down,” he said. “And I also want to protect the Australian way of life, especially in rural and regional areas. The Australian way of life is unique.”

Mr Morrison will fly to Rome on Thursday to attend the G20 summit before spending two days in Glasgow for the United Nations climate talks.

The Prime Minister said the plan to cut emissions was not a plan “at any cost”. “There’s no blank cheques here,” he said.

The PM has revealed details of his government's climate plan that'll cut emissions in Australia to net zero by 2050, trying to allay fears it'll cut jobs and increase the cost of living.

He promised the target would not spell the end of coal or gas production or exports and would not increase energy bills.

“It will not impact households businesses or the broader economy with new costs or taxes imposed by the initiatives that we are undertaking,” he said. “It will not cost jobs, not in farming, mining or gas. Because what we’re doing in these plans is positive things, enabling things.

It also would not be a “set and forget” program, with five-yearly reviews from the Productivity Commission. The first review is set for 2023 and will look at the socio-economic impact of the plan.

Mr Taylor said the plan to achieve net zero by the middle of the century was achievable, thanks in part to the country’s performance to date on reducing emissions.

“Australia versus even developed countries has performed extremely well, with a reduction of almost 21 per cent since 2005,” he said.

Mr Taylor said carbon offset would be an important part of the plan, noting that Australia had 90 million hectares of productive agricultural land. Another focus would be reducing the costs of low emissions technologies.

“We’re looking at the customer and technology trends, shaping those trends to our advantage; and on the back of that, ensuring we have a portfolio of technologies that can deliver the outcome we want to deliver which is head zero by 2050,” he said.

‘Actions speak louder than words’

Mr Morrison predicted Australia’s plan to cut emissions would be strongly welcomed at the UN climate summit. He had been under increasing international pressure to increase the nation’s climate targets ahead of the conference, which starts on November 1.

“The actions of Australia, speak louder than the words of others. There’ll be lots of words in Glasgow, but I’ll be able to point to the actions of Australia and the achievements of Australia, and I think that’s very important,” he said.

The plan has already been welcomed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who overnight hailed the pledge to cut emissions as “heroic”.

Mr Morrison said the modelling that backed the plan would be released in due course.

When asked what the entire cost was, excluding funding previously announced, he said the plan drew together many earlier budget announcements including $464 million for green hydrogen and $1.4 billion in the Building Better Regions Fund.

“The budget is about achieving this plan and particularly on this plan there is $20 billion – pretty much all of which gets spent in rural and regional areas to achieve the lower emissions energy targets.”


Why is the coal industry making more money than ever before?

A shipment of thermal coal leaving the Port of Newcastle in New South Wales this month was worth roughly five times what it was about a year ago.

It means coal companies in Australia are making huge amounts of money – more than ever before – at a time when many predicted the coal price might never bounce back.

How high is it?

The international "Newcastle price" had sunk below $US50 ($67) a tonne last September, making the industry unprofitable.

But the price has continually soared since, sitting at $US230 ($307) a tonne after reaching an unprecedented US$269 ($360) a few weeks ago.

Prices have never been this high, having peaked previously at just over $US200 ($267) a tonne during the mining boom in 2008.

"We're looking at not just new record prices, but they're significantly higher than they've been in the past," Wood Mackenzie coal analyst Rory Simington said.

"It's beyond anyone's expectations a year ago."

Why so high?

There are several contributing factors, but the primary cause is China's rapid growth, insatiable demand for energy and shortage of coal supply.

China's thermal coal production grew just six per cent this year, while its demand for thermal energy grew by about 14 per cent.

China's 3.4 billion tonne thermal coal market is more than three times the size of all seaborne coal exports.

"If you look at the increase in coal-fired power demand for the year to August, it's equivalent to 190 million tonnes of coal burnt," Mr Simington said.

"So just to keep up with growth in demand China really needs to add an entire Hunter Valley, which kind of outlines the scale of what's happened in China."

The price of coal in China has now hit a staggering US$350 ($468) a tonne for a less quality product than Australian coal.

Meanwhile, China's ban on Australian coal has not helped its situation — nor has the gas crisis in Europe, which has increased the reliance on coal.

Usually, when prices soar due to increased demand, we would see new investment in production capacity, such as new thermal coal mines, that would boost supply, and prices would fall.

But that is not what analysts are seeing.

"The problem at the moment is that a lot of coal producers have the long-term picture in mind, and a lot have adopted business strategies to prioritise investment in areas other than thermal coal," Mr Simington said.

"So the long-term uncertainty is driving a lack of will to invest."

There has been a reduction in new coal capacity every year for the last five years as financial markets divest themselves of fossil fuels.

With supply remaining low, high coal prices could persist and probably will for a while. But much is dependent on a volatile Chinese market, where growth is slowing, and there is a potential property sector crisis looming.

Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a pro-renewables think tank, says we are in "absolutely bizarre uncharted territory".

"The key message, I would say, is that we are in unprecedented volatility in fossil fuel prices," he said. "Financial markets hate volatility, and consumers hate volatility."

Is it good for coal long term?

Instead of being a sign of the coal industry's vitality, both Mr Buckley and Mr Simington said high coal prices could actually speed up its decline.

The more expensive coal becomes, the more economic sense it will make to switch to cheaper renewable solutions.

"Now that [coal] is five times more expensive than it was a year ago, solar looks even more ridiculously cheap by comparison," Mr Buckley said.

"So countries like India and China will accelerate the deployment of lower-cost renewable alternatives at a speed that is unprecedented."

He said the situation should be viewed as an unexpected "windfall" for Australia — it's "really good news", but not a reason to build more coal mines.

"If we don't build new mines, our capacity is going to shrink over time, progressively, and the workforce will shrink progressively — that's an orderly transition," Mr Buckley said.


Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow ‘driven’ from office by OIA

The relentless pursuit of one of regional Queensland’s most popular mayors by a controversial council watchdog left the respected leader with “no choice but to resign”.

Margaret Strelow yesterday accused the Office of the Independent Assessor of creating a “climate of fear” among Queensland councillors.

The veteran Rockhampton mayor, who was in office for over 16 years, quit in late 2020 following a misconduct trial after failing to update her register of interests following a trip to India to meet with Adani.

She stepped down on “principle” after a Councillor Conduct Tribunal finding – prompted by an OIA investigation – found she engaged in misconduct.

Ms Strelow said yesterday the OIA should be reviewed, declaring common sense “has gone out the window”.

Her comments followed The Courier-Mail’s revelation the OIA was investigating Barcaldine Mayor Sean Dillon after he questioned the ability of health authorities to vaccinate his electorate.

It is understood Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister Steven Miles is meeting with the Local Government Association of Queensland on Monday to discuss its concerns about the OIA.

Neither Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk nor Mr Miles would comment yesterday.

Ms Strelow said the OIA had advised her it was investigating a complaint in January 2019 – eight months after she had already told the Local Government Department, which had received a similar complaint against her, she had declared the necessary trip details as “official ­hospitality”.

The OIA referred the matter to the CCT which found Ms Strelow was guilty of misconduct late last year. The CCT asked her to apologise to her council, however Ms Strelow refused and instead quit.

“I’m not going to apologise and say something that I genuinely did not believe to be true, and can I say there should not be a place in democracy where we require a forced confession,” she said.

“I no longer felt safe, I no longer felt as though I could continue to do my job for my community when I felt so distrustful of the state government’s processes.”

Ms Strelow said she chose to appeal the decision because at the time, official hospitality was not required to go on the register of interests, while she also claimed the CCT had included inaccurate information regarding the trip in its findings.

This information was Adani had paid for her and other mayors to fly to Mumbai where they attended a dinner with Adani’s board.

Speaking about calls this week for the OIA to be reviewed, Ms Strelow said: “It’s a climate of fear, you’ve got to understand what the OIA have created in local government. “Common sense has gone out the window.

“Councillors and mayors have less rights than anybody else and it’s just incredibly difficult.”

The OIA said councillors must abide by local government laws and it was required to assess complaints about councillors’ conduct according to those laws.


Scientists scour Australian rivers in canoes looking for new varities of taro, a Pacific staple root crop

Some varieties of taro are weeds in Queensland

A team of Queensland scientists have traded their lab coats for paddles and canoes, as they scour the Brisbane River in search of varieties of taro

They're hunting for new varieties of taro – a starchy vegetable crop – that could help improve food security in the Pacific.

University of Queensland plant physiologist Millicent Smith said domesticated varieties of taro – a staple food in many Pacific countries – were under threat from climate change.

"Our nearest neighbours in the Pacific are very vulnerable, particularly in the coastal regions where rising sea levels and lowering water tables lead to saline soils," Dr Smith said.

"Salinity really reduces the growth of [taro] plants – it stops plants from being able to basically function in their normal way." Dr Smith said in some cases, soil salinity could kill the crop entirely.

On the hunt for new varieties

Researchers are trying to find new types of taro – Colocasia esculenta – and related plants that are resistant to salt.

"Particularly around Brisbane and Moreton Bay you see taro relatives and also sort of a weedy taro growing in areas where there's a lot of salt, so around the bay, in close to waterways and wetlands," Dr Smith said.

"We think that these taro wild relatives might have characteristics that allow it to be much better adapted to salinity than the varieties that are found within the Pacific."

Hunting for taro in the rivers and bushlands around Brisbane has become a fun weekend activity for the team.

"We have gone out on canoes on the weekends to try and find taro. We're going bushwalking and looking for it whenever we can," Dr Smith said.

The researchers have been collaborating with the region's largest scientific body, The Pacific Community, to analyse the DNA of hundreds of taro crops collected from around the world.

UQ molecular geneticist Bradley Campbell said the project was important for food security in the region and around the globe.

"Whether it's caused by climate change, or whether it's caused by just the normal vagaries of agriculture, it's good to have that diversity there," Dr Campbell said.

Ensuring the future of a Pacific staple

The decimation of taro crops could be devastating for Pacific countries, which rely on the plant as a source of food and income.

Samoan taro farmer Tusani Luasamotu Tusani Nu'usa remembers when a fungus known as 'leaf blight' nearly wiped out the country's taro industry in the 1990s. "I was in the middle of kind of going commercial with farming with taro … it was so very hard at the time," Tusani said.

To combat the disease, agricultural scientists used a similar strategy to the UQ researchers — finding varieties of taro that were resistant to leaf blight.

Tusani, who now exports taro to New Zealand and the US, said the intervention saved her livelihood and the industry.

Taro also has cultural significance for some Pacific islands. In Hawaiian folklore, it is said to have grown from the burial place of a stillborn child belonging to the sky god, Wākea. Some Samoan myths refer to taro as being brought to earth from the heavens.

"Taro is something that we eat every day," Tusani said. "Even if we don't have fish or meat, as long as we have taro on the table with coconut cream [we] will still survive with that."

Dr Smith said analysing taro plants was important for protecting food security as well as culture in the Pacific.

People in the community can also get involved in the project by documenting taro plants they come across. "We're using an app called iNaturalist, which is a publicly available app. It's really helpful and it actually identifies everything for you," Dr Smith said.

"You take a photo of it, it will suggest what the species might be … then it will automatically be added to our project so we can see where you found it."