Audiences deserted Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp mastheads in 2019 with its tabloid tub-thumper The Daily Telegraph losing a massive 15.5 per cent of its readership across both print and digital editions, according to research house Roy Morgan.
Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of The Ethics Centre, is very clear. While what Bridget McKenzie did may not be illegal, ethically it was wrong. Politicians are elected to serve the public interest, not indulge in behaviour to promote private interests, or further the interests of a political party.
Quite simply, she should resign, or be sacked.
Part of Longstaff’s argument in his AFR opinion piece is that corrupt politicians tend to corrupt others:
Their dodgy behaviour distorts the judgment of citizens. They deploy power in ways that punish the virtuous and reward only those who play their game. We begin by being compromised and end up being complicit.
He says that McKenzie may be a wonderful person, but she has shown herself to be an irresponsible minister who has done wrong and refuses to acknowledge this.
Fortunately, we have a Prime Minister who stood for office as a principled man. Hopefully, we can rely on him to uphold the conventions of ministerial responsibility – even when it is difficult or inconvenient to do so.
The honourable course of action would be for the minister to resign. However, if she fails to do so, then she should be dismissed by Scott Morrison.
PM Scott Morrison gave his answer to Sabra Lane this morning (from 6:30 on the counter) – there are some legal issues the Attorney General is “clarifying”, we may learn from this, but the rules were followed, no ineligible projects were funded, the minister has made the decisions, and they were “actioned in an endorsing way by Sports Australia”.
In a sense he’s right about that last bit. Sports Australia should have refused to action decisions improperly made, and so they have become complicit.
The bottom line is that it looks as though the government is going to get away with this scam.
Australia’s constitutional rulebook doesn’t allow federal governments to splash money on local sports groups without parliamentary approval.
Twomey says that there are at least three areas in which rules are likely to have been broken. Firstly, there is a legal obligation on ministers when acting within the scope of their powers to behave in a manner that is procedurally fair. They can’t take into account irrelevant considerations and they must not act for an improper purpose or in a biased manner.
Clearly there is a basis for what happened to be challenged legally in this regard.
Secondly, there is a question as to whether the minister had any power at all to make these grants. She says:
The Australian Sports Commission (which includes “Sport Australia”) was established by statute as a corporate entity with its own independent legal powers to enter into contracts and make sporting grants.
While Bridget McKenzie had power under section 11 of the Act to give “written directions to the Commission with respect to the policies and practices to be followed by the Commission in the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers”, this did not allow her to exercise its function and decide who got the grants. In any case, she made no such direction.
If the minister had no power under statute to make the grants, then this was an invalid expenditure of public money, which is an extremely serious matter.
The third reason relates to the constitution itself. The constitution lists the areas where the Commonwealth Parliament may legislate, for example, external affairs, defence and banking. These are known as “heads of power”. There is no head of power for sport.
She says that the school chaplaincy program ran into a similar problem. The High Court found that direct funding by the Commonwealth was invalid.
So the funding must be channelled through the states which tend to have “more stringent accountability measures, such as codes of ethics for MPs and ministers, strong anti-corruption bodies and legal sanctions.”
In NSW what McKenzie did would likely end up with ICAC (the Independent Commission Against Corruption). Furthermore, in NSW it is a criminal offence to give any property or benefit to any person to influence votes.
That is section 209 of the NSW Electoral Act. If breached a Court of Disputed Returns must declare the election void, as actually happened in 1988 in the case of Scott v Martin.
It seems that who won and why is not relevant, it is the act of attempted influence itself that matters.
I’m not sure if that would fly under Commonwealth law, but truly, this matter is quite egregious and there should be some form of restitution. Here’s exhibit A, from the Longstaff article:
1. Trump’s trade deal will make us collateral damage
Kevin Rudd’s AFR article Trade deal will not stop US and China drifting apart gives us the lowdown. From the URL his heading was probably Trade war truce a symbol of the US unhinged. Seems Trump banged on for an hour about incoherent nonsense at the announcement while the head Chinese trade negotiator stood patiently by.
Rudd says intellectual property theft will be criminalised in China for the first time. Good in principle, but you will need to make your case in Chinese courts. Continue reading Weekly salon 20/1→
It seems that anything a LNP politician did to keep the Bill Shorten out of The Lodge and the ALP out power prior to the 2019 election was ipso facto justified. It’s either that or there is no such thing as integrity left in this government’s modus operandi. Continue reading Bridget’s dreaming and broken democracy→
“The global emissions’ curve needs to bend in 2020, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030, and net zero emissions need to be a reality by 2050,” said Johan Rockstrom, head of the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“Achieving this is possible – with existing technologies and within our current economy,” said the revered climate scientist. “The window of opportunity is open, but barely.”
However, swearing is also shorthand way of expressing disgust and disapproval. Moreover, YeaNah is suggesting that ‘balance’ be privileged over the truth. Is Tingle unable to express the truth because she is working for the ABC, so she must demonstrate ‘balance’ at the expense of truth?
The brown skies I observed in the Blue Mountains this week are a product of human-caused climate change. Take record heat, combine it with unprecedented drought in already dry regions and you get unprecedented bushfires like the ones engulfing the Blue Mountains and spreading across the continent. It’s not complicated.
2019 will always be known for the fires. So how different was the climate?
2019 was Australia’s driest year on record with nationally-averaged rainfall 40% below average for the year at 277.6 mm.
2019 was Australia’s warmest year on record. Australia’s area-averaged mean temperature for 2019 was 1.52 °C above the 1961–1990 average, well above the old record: +1.33 °C in 2013. Mean maximum temperatures were the warmest on record at 2.09 °C above average, also well above the previous record, which was +1.59 °C in 2013.
Please note the temperature is referenced against the 1960-1990 average, not pre-industrial.
At 277.6 mm, 2019 rainfall was well below the previous record from 1902 which was 314.5 mm.
The main influence was a very strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), one of the strongest on record. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation remained neutral throughout 2019, so I guess things could have been worse.
All this gave us severe fire weather throughout the year; the national annual accumulated Forest Fire Danger Index was the highest since 1950, when national records began.
For images to illustrate, I’ll begin with a temperature trend for the summer months worked out by Tamino:
Looking at the graph, add about 0.5°C to get the anomaly to pre-industrial. This year looks so much an outlier that one would think it unlikely to be repeated for a few years. However, it has shown us what the future may hold.
Here are the maximum temperature deciles:
More than half the continent was the hottest on record, with average and below average bits hard to find.
Under climate change, the conditions for catastrophic fires will likely be much more frequent — along with the conditions for drought, flooding and storms.
So a nation-building effort to minimise risk would seem prudent.
Morrison is hiding behind the notion that solving climate change requires effort from all nations. His rhetoric is that Labor’s policy would be “economy wrecking”. Yet leading climate scientists, such as Johan Rockström from the Potsdam Institute say:
“Earth observations show that big systems with known tipping points are already now, at 1°C warming, on the move toward potentially irreversible change, such as accelerated melting of Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, drying of rainforests, and thawing of Arctic permafrost”
Countries are being asked to come to the 2020 meeting of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties with increased ambition. As preparation the Climate Change Authority published a consultation paper in July, and having heard what came out of the Madrid Conference in December will shortly finalise their advice.
PM Scott Morrison could take that opportunity to show some leadership. Also he has spoken of the possibility of a royal commission on the bushfires. That could be an opportunity to pivot. However, George Megalogenis in Morrison, the political animal who missed the political opportunity to leadthinks Morrison has fluffed it, and simply does not know how to behave faced with an international pile-on.
this isn’t about people, it’s about ideology, and to accept the unprecedented scale of the fires and act accordingly is to accept that the climate is changing and something needs to be done. That’s it. To me, this is the most striking aspect of the crisis — the debate about how best to douse a burning country has been seamlessly press-ganged into service in the ongoing culture war, all of which is amplified and buttressed by an increasingly demented right-wing media and an absurdly powerful fossil fuels lobby.
No one is being told to calm down anymore. The smug reassurances have given way to blind panic as it comes apparent that not even the friendly media can shield the government from the rising ire of the public. But even as the army is called in to assist in the relief effort, even as Morrison agrees to pay volunteer firefighters, even as a two billion dollar recovery fund is pledged, the government refuses to alter its climate change policy.
Transpiration is a process whereby trees take water from the soil and release it into the air. The effect is immense and under-appreciated according to an article in the New Scientist by Fred Pearce.
Transpiration is responsible for around half of all precipitation, up to 60,000 cubic kilometres of water per year, more water than all the world’s rivers combined.
In the Amazon, for example, 400 billion trees or so circulate water into the air five or six times. Isotopic analysis has revealed that the water supply for Sao Paulo’s 20 million people mostly comes from rainforest.
If the Amazon turned into desert the effects would be felt as far away as Argentina and right up into central USA.
A recent study has found that deforestation has reduced regional rainfall by as much as 40% per annum.
Key source regions include western North America, eastern Africa, Europe, western Asia, India and, above all, the Brazilian Amazon. Flying rivers often take this water long distances. Around 70 per cent of the water in the River Plate basin, which stretches from southern Brazil through Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay to Buenos Aires in Argentina, comes from transpiration in the Amazon. China gets the moisture for over 80 per cent of its rain from far to the west in the forests of Siberia and Scandinavia, a journey involving several stages of water recycling by trees and taking six months or more.
“The China finding was among my first, and it was a real eye-opener,” says van der Ent. “We learn in high school that rainfall comes from the oceans. China is next to an ocean, yet most of its rainfall is moisture recycled from the land far to the west.”
This map shows some of the main rivers in the sky.
Australia does not show up there, perhaps because the river has run dry. The text actually targets the impact of early human intervention:
It was much wetter until around 45,000 years ago. Today’s desert depressions were huge permanent lakes, kept full by strong and wet monsoon winds. Lake Eyre, also known as Kati Thanda, back then extended to around 10,000 square kilometres, but is now usually a dry salt-encrusted plain.
Also it says:
In the past half century, some 130,000 square kilometres of forest along the western coast south of Perth has been replaced by wheat fields. While rainfall along the coast has remained stable, there has been a 20 per cent decline inland, leaving reservoirs that supply Perth parched, says Jorg Imberger, former director of the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia.
Water management needs to take a broader view. One study looked at planting 70,000 square kilometres of extra forest in the Bolivian Amazon to deliver 600 million cubic metres of extra rain annually to a river supplying the country’s largest city, Santa Cruz.
Some species transpire more than others. An inconvenient finding is that palm oil and rubber trees can transpire more than the trees they replace.
For the Amazon a reduction of 20 to 25 per cent forest cover may be the tipping point which converts the region into open savannah. Africa may be in even more peril with the source of the Nile and jungles of Central Africa.
There have been reviews aplenty. This one is based on Twenty years to 2020 published in the AFR, with some enhancements.
Bitcoin was born and we had the Black Saturday bushfires. The Copenhagen climate talks failed, ratf*****d by the Chinese, according to Kevin Rudd, who spent the summer break writing a children’s book while Wayne Swan read to Henry Review into taxation.
My wife and I walked the Milford track. 16 year-old Jessica Watson sails around the world. Kevin Rudd squibs a double dissolution election on climate change, and is turfed out in favour of Julia Gillard.
30 asylum seekers drown when their boat crashes into the rocks at Christmas Island.
Scientists develop a functional synthetic genome.
A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits Christchurch, killing 180. A tsunmami hits Fukushima, blowing up the nuclear plant, killing 15,840. Osama bin Laden is killed, and Qantas grounds its entire fleet in an industrial dispute.
Australia did pass ‘world leading’ climate change legislation, courtesy of the Gillard government, working with the Greens and independents.
The AFR forgot the Brisbane floods, the Toowoomba cloudburst and cyclone Yasi.
Gillard made he famous ‘misogyny speech’, Uber launched in Australia, a Royal commission into child abuse was announced, and Australia introduced plain cigarette packaging.
Not mentioned by the AFR the Bahnisch family had a reunion.
Rudd turfs Gillard out, then loses the election to Tony Abbott, instituting a new dark age which still prevails.
Prince George was born and analog TV was turned off in Oz.
Malaysian Airways flight MH4370 disappeared with 239 people on board, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine with 298 killed, Gough Whitlam died and two hostages and a gunman were killed in the Lindt Cafe siege.
Some of us had a Red Centre holiday and crossed the Simpson Desert.
Also the blog Climate Plus came into being.
The Charlie Hebdo shooting saw 12 killed and the birth of the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.
The Apple watch is launched and Malcolm Turnbull turfs out Tony Abbott.
The Bahnisch family did a trip from Prague to Budapest, via the Danube which ran out of water at Bratislava. Plus various other European places of interest.
Not mentioned by the AFR, but Germany experienced the VW stuff-up, plus absorbed about a million refugees.
Nor did they mention the Paris Agreement on climate change and the death of a bloke called John Malcolm Fraser.
UK votes 51.9% in favour of Brexit.
Augmented reality game Pokemon Go is released.
Donald Trump is elected 45th POTUS.
Women’s march is the largest single-day protest in US history.
Grenfell Tower fire in London kills 72.
GMH ceases manufacturing in Oz.
Same sex marriage is legalised in Oz.
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Super and Finance Industry makes a stir.
Kim Jong-on crosses into South Korea.
Apple becomes the first trillion dollar company.
Malcolm Turnbull got the chop, making way for Scott Morrison.
Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in 1996.
Scott Morrison wins an election with a little help from Clive Palmer, Bill Shorten and the ALP election team. (There is a rumour that former Greens leader Bob Brown and a coal mine in Central Queensland had an effect.)
Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg inspires the school climate strikes. (Actually that started in 2018, she sailed to New York and addressed the UN in 2019.)
Did they miss any?
Of course any list is somewhat arbitrary. I would have noted the rise of social media other than blogging, which I think dates from around 2012.
Also in 2018 there was the Thai cave rescue story, and the Christchurch massacre.
Where are we now?
According to Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens at The Minefield we’ve reached a point where nothing really matters any more. There are no consequences for bad behaviour, truth has no enduring meaning and can be changed with a tweet to become whatever you want.
All that could be changed if we could clone Jacinda Adern and get her to run every country on the planet. In 2019 she brought down a Wellbeing Budget:
After more than a year of curiosity and speculation, New Zealand’s Labour coalition government has unveiled its “world-first” wellbeing budget, to widespread praise from social agencies charged with looking after the country’s most vulnerable people.
The finance minister, Grant Robertson, unveiled billions for mental health services and child poverty as well as record investment in measures to tackle family violence.
“Success is making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life,” Robertson told parliament.
He said many New Zealanders were not benefiting from a growing economy in their daily lives, and this year’s budget had been designed to address the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots.
What will 2020 bring?
We’d best not talk about climate change here or we’ll never finish.
I don’t think killing Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran was a smart move. After Iran did a deal with Obama on nukes the country could have pursued peace and prosperity, one would think. What happened was anything but. However, killing a military leader is unlikely to be followed by an outbreak of peace and love.
Now if Iran misbehaves Trump has threatened 52 strikes, including cultural sites, normally classified as a war crime.
Apart from that, any given year usually brings forth something entirely unexpected.
The New Scientist has a short article suggesting that facial recognition technology will be big, and on another front research on human origins may produce a more settled view on how we evolved from being just another ape.
Then medical research is on the threshold of producing two drugs which may make ageing redundant.
One new drug clears out “senescent” cells out of the brain. The second drug mimics the transfusion of young blood “which has been shown to increase cognition in animals and reduce biomarkers for cancer and heart disease.
They are about to enter phase 3 trials, but could be sold as al-purpose rejuvenation therapies by the end of the decade.
Probably too late for me, and that might be just as well!
The New Scientist asserts that most of us are materially better off, but that puts no price on ‘nature’ and the environment. As top predator we are still on a classic path of a plague species heading for a population crash.