China matters: Turnbull puts Australia’s future in play

When Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, Chinese media outlets gave him the nickname Tang Bao, which sounds like his surname and means sweet dumpling, according to Lisa Murray in the AFR. Yet the dumpling has turned sour as relations with China are assessed as worse than they were since the Tienanmen Square incident

On Saturday 9 December last year Turnbull stood in a leafy garden and let fly:

    Switching between Mandarin and English, Turnbull then said: “Modern China was founded in 1949 with these words: ‘The Chinese people have stood up’. It was an assertion of sovereignty, it was an assertion of pride.”

    “And we stand up and so we say, the Australian people stand up.”

Historians may come to mark that day as a turning point, when Australia’s future was put into play, ending later during Bill Shorten’s period as PM with Australia declaring neutrality in relation to both China and the USA. Continue reading China matters: Turnbull puts Australia’s future in play

Saturday salon 14/4

1. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”

Two problems here. The first is that the above quotation is not found in the bible or Shakespeare, it’s a conflation of Ecclesiastes 8:15 and Isaiah 22:13, plus you could throw in Luke 12:19.

The second problem is more serious. It’s true – kind of. Comprehensive research has shown that if you drink more than five drinks a week every extra glass of wine ‘will shorten your life by 30 minutes’. Continue reading Saturday salon 14/4

AGL doubles down on Liddell plan

CEO Andrew Vesey has advised that AGL are ordering the equipment they need to convert Liddell’s turbines to “synchronous condensers” to fim up solar and wind energy. AGL’s plan for a clean energy hub to replace Liddell is going ahead, according to Ben Potter in the AFR.

Beyond tha,t the same edition of the AFR has an article explaining the conundrum of the Liddell fight, making particular reference to what the advice from AEMO (the Australian Energy Market Operator) actually said. This issue was raised in the comments thread of the post Energy crisis? What energy crisis? AEMO boss Audrey Zibelman took exception to an article Malcolm Turnbull’s bid to flog Liddell to Alinta ill-advised: AEMO. Continue reading AGL doubles down on Liddell plan

China matters: Vanuatu

We are all going to be thinking more about China for the rest of our lives, for better or for worse. Apart from trade we were most recently startled by the notion that China may be about to build a military base in Vanuatu. Fairfax announced that China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications. A day later we had Chinese military base in Pacific would be of ‘great concern’, Turnbull tells Vanuatu. Followed rapidly by denials by China and Vanuatu, both of which were a bit cranky over the suggestion.

However, China is building a cruise ship terminal near a new international airport it is funding, together with a new official residence for Prime Minister Charlot Salwai as well as other government buildings. Then there was a 1000-seat convention centre, a major sports stadium, and a $14 million school that will be reportedly the biggest education facility in the South Pacific. Early last year, Beijing donated 14 military vehicles to Vanuatu.

Vanuatu is becoming vulnerable to the “debt-trap strategy” that has left a number of countries swimming in debt Continue reading China matters: Vanuatu

Saturday salon 7/4

1. Turnbull faces the music on Newspoll

Malcolm Turnbull got an unexpected surprise when Fairfax-Ipsos cheekily inserted a poll to gazump Newspoll by a few days. It had good news for Turnbull. By the usual method of allocating preferences according to flows at the last election the LNP was behind 48-52 TPP. However, when preferences were allocated as those polled indicated they would vote, the result was 50-50.

However Poll Bludger points out that the sample was only 1146, instead of the usual 1400.

Fairfax-Ipsos also said 62% reckon the Liberals should stick with Turnbull. Only 28% think he should be dumped.

There is little doubt that Abbott and his mates are making a special effort to unsettle Turnbull. We have the Monash Forum to promote coal, and the Pollie Pedal through the La Trobe Valley. Julie Owens, Labor member for Parramatta, has been on these pedals in the past, and tells Patricia Karvelas just how political they are.

At time of writing Newspoll has just appeared and it’s 52-48 to Labor. Turnbull will be happy with that, as he will think he can win from there.

There is some encouragement for Bill Shorten as he has narrowed the ‘better PM’ poll to 36 to 38.

Essential Report on 27 March also narrowed to 52-48 in favour of Labor, from 54-46 a fortnight earlier.

2. In the Land of the Free

Quite a lot has been happening in the Land of the Free. There is little doubt that President Trump would feel more free if he could wish away the investigations about collusion with Russia being undertaken by Robert Mueller.

    Multiple aides to the President continue to describe him as obsessed with the Russia investigation, becoming increasingly agitated as details about the probe emerge. Trump feels the investigation undermines his presidency and has grown increasingly bitter that it has not yet concluded, the aides have said.

Mueller’s mob have already laid charges on 19 people and problem is that Mueller wants to have a chat with Trump.

At least five major law firms have been invited to help Trump navigate the Mueller investigation. All have declined.

    Deliberations over an interview with Mueller have proceeded amid tumult within the President’s legal team. Midway through March, the lead lawyer, John Dowd, resigned amid disagreements with the President and increased scrutiny in the probe. That’s left Jay Sekulow, an outside attorney, and Cobb, who works in the White House, as the remaining lawyers representing the President in this matter.

3. American teachers fired up over pay

If you look at international comparisons, apart from learning that Luxembourg is the place to be, American teachers do a bit better or a bit worse that the OECD average. That last one, however, shows American teachers earning about 70% as much as similarly educated workers.

The real problem, hover, is that within the US there is enormous variety:

    While kids enjoy their summer vacations, most teachers are still working. Why? Because many across the U.S. are struggling to make ends meet.

    In fact, the amount teachers make can vary greatly by state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of high school teachers earn less than $38,180 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $92,920.

In Kansas the state supreme court recently rule that “public spending on education was unconstitutionally low”. It’s not just teachers salaries, of course, it’s buildings and the whole fabric of educational resourcing. Ironically, I understand the states doing worst are Republican states obsessed with small government.

You might say that people are getting what they voted for.

4. Centrelink’s robo-debt scheme is a scam, pure and simple

Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Sydney and former member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Terry Carney headed a review of Centrelink’s robo-debt program and found that Centrelink has been enforcing debts that have no legal basis. In legal terms it is a scam, pure and simple.

The Finance department told them they needed to save around $2 billion, so they went out and scammed the most vulnerable people in the community.

The scheme uses averages to determine debts, not actuals. Carney thinks about 70 per cent of debts raised are wrong. For some unimaginable reason the Ombudsman’s review did not examine the legality of the operation.

This arrogant government is persisting. This scam must stop now.

There’s more at the SMH and a more complete article at The Guardian, linking also to Carney’s paper.

Previous post – Centrelink fail: Ashgrove pensioners billed for $45,000

Energy crisis? What energy crisis?

About a month ago Meridian Australia’s CEO Ed McManus said that while the electricity market can turn on a dime, stability had returned to the market and the trend looks good. They had just concluded a swag of hydro, wind and solar power deals which will deliver cheaper electricity than the company could buy in the wholesale market. So their retail arm Powershop was offering a 5 per cent price cut to consumers.

    Electricity contracts for delivery in 2019 were trading at more than $92 per megawatt hour in Victoria and $108/MWh in South Australia a year ago, when SA and NSW had just suffered power shortages and the closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood power station loomed.

    Contracts for 2019 have since fallen to $82.90 in Victoria and $94.36 in SA, while contracts for delivery in Victoria in 2020 and 2021 are trading at $76/MWh and $69/MWh and contracts for 2020 and 2021 in SA are trading at $86/MWh and $85/MWh.

Continue reading Energy crisis? What energy crisis?

Saturday salon 1/4

1. Coached to cheat!

No I’m not talking about cricket, I’m talking about rugby league, highlighted by a match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks where 33 penalties were blown, and Cameron Smith, captain of the Storm, Queensland and Australia was binned for 10 minutes for dissent. I didn’t see it, but I understand Smith made very clear that he did not think he should go.

The fact is that teams had been coached to cheat for years. The NRL had reached the point where they either had to enforce the rules or change them. Players were not standing up before they played the ball, then simply rolling it between their legs. The defending players, back the mandatory 10 metres, were taking off before the ball had cleared the ruck.

If everyone played by the rules, the game would look cleaner, tidier, and would be more open. However, players had been coached to ignore the referees, who typically gave a couple of penalties, then put the whistle in their pocket. The public called for consistency. Now they are getting it, some don’t like it. However, if the referees give in now, then we may as well give up on the rules. Continue reading Saturday salon 1/4

The rise and rise of American gun culture

On the 4th of July in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence the thirteen American colonies then at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain—New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia— announced that they would now regard themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states no longer under British rule.

It was a very brave thing to do, because there were very few guns in the colonies and they had no significant gun industry. Yet the American War of Independence (1775-1783) was won and with it the American gun industry was born. ABC RN’s Rear Vision program recently took a look at the origins of the American gun industry (transcript available) with some erudite published authors and scholars. Continue reading The rise and rise of American gun culture

Saturday salon 24/3

1. Trade war is on, as China strikes back

Trump has ordered tariffs of up to 25% on about $60 billion worth of goods imported from China annually.

China has responded with tariffs on around $3 billion worth of goods, selected to cause maximum political pain for Trump. So what does it all mean? Reverberations have echoed around the world, so $34 billion was wiped off the value of Australian ASX listed companies in one day. Continue reading Saturday salon 24/3

How Labor won Batman

Phillip Coorey, one of the better Canberra journalists, has laid out in plain terms how Labor won Batman. This post is based on his article but is not confined to it.

One reason, says Coorey, is that her campaign targetted voters who had been turned off Labor by her two predecessors, Labor machine men David Feeney and Martin Ferguson. Continue reading How Labor won Batman

Saturday salon 17/3

1. Stephen Hawking: a legacy of paradox

That’s how the New Scientist summed up the impact of Stephen Hawking, who died last Wednesday aged 76. An amazing life and an amazing intellect. That link is no doubt pay-walled so here’s Gizmodo.

1962 was a big year for Hawking. He turned up at Cambridge University hoping to land Fred Hoyle as a supervisor. He missed out on that, but landed Dennis Sciama, who he’d never heard of. Turned out that was a lucky break: Continue reading Saturday salon 17/3

The South Australian election matters for climate change


When this is published SA voters will be lining up to select a new government. That is the hope. I understand the betting market favours a hung parliament. No pundit I’ve heard is willing to pick a winner. Kevin Bonham talks about the difficulty of modelling the outcome, with the entry of SA Best and the redistribution. The ABC has guidance on how we can follow the election and an Online Election Page.

On climate change the election matters. There is coverage at:

. Continue reading The South Australian election matters for climate change

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff