Saturday salon 28/6

voltaire_230

An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

I’ve added a few items here in the post which impinged on my consciousness during the week. The main links, if any are in the headings.

1. The ABC will be just fine

Do the highlights of the federal government-commissioned report outlined in the Fairfax Media tabloids, sorry, compacts, this morning really “gut” the ABC, as claimed in the headline? Or are they a mixture of current practice in TV around the world (including Australia) that haven’t been fully explained by selective leaking?

It’s more of the latter. The report, written by former Seven West Media chief financial officer Peter Lewis, could save the ABC a lot of money and deliver it far more production flexibility and control.

On the other hand Quentin Dempster says “It’s what Murdoch wants”.

2. Newspapers underestimate readership

Readership figures released today from Roy Morgan Research reveal the publisher-backed figures from Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (emma) actually undervalue 75% of newspaper brands by a combined shortfall in audience of over 4.8 million.

When compared with Roy Morgan’s ‘last four weeks’ figures, emma’s underestimate the print readership of 11 out of 12 major metro newspapers by up to 43%. When online and app audiences are included, 9 of the 12 masthead brand lose out with emma’s scoring.

Roy Morgan counts the Sydney Morning Herald’s combined print, online and app audience at 5,653,000 in an average month, compared with emma’s March published figure of 5,311,000.

At 4,227,000, Roy Morgan’s total audience for The Age is 875,000 greater than what emma tells Fairfax.

According to emma, the audience for News Corp’s The Australian is 3,213,000, while Roy Morgan’s count is 20% higher at 4,020,000.

But the biggest loser under emma is the Financial Review, which gets a monthly masthead audience of only 1,306,000—a massive 37% below Roy Morgan’s figure of 2,086,000.

3. ALP review: election loss ‘self-inflicted’

Rudd and advisers partly to blame, but the buck stops with the campaign director. This is not about assigning blame, according to Milton Dick, report co-author.

Well we’ve analysed the successful electoral results, particularly in western Sydney, in seats like Greenway, Parramatta, in places like Queensland where we weren’t expected to win any seats, in places like Lilley, Rankin and Moreton where we defied the trends, the one common theme out of those electoral results demonstrated in the evidence was that where those members are continually engaging with the community. If you want continuous campaigning, we going to adopt some of those models and some of those successful strategies, and roll them out.

I’m currently reading Troy Bramston’s book and he pretty much fingers Rudd and Bruce Hawker. Not helped by the fact that HQ was populated by Gillard loyalists.

4. Asylum seekers already in Australia face harder visa rules

The charming Scott Morrison has introduced new rules, including:

  • People arriving without travel documents will be refused protection visas unless they can provide a “reasonable explanation” for not having identification.
  • A lower threshold for assessing harm to returning asylum seekers who have sought complementary protection, where the chance of harm is more than 50%.
  • Asylum seekers who have arrived by boat will be refused visas unless the minister determines “it is in the public interest to allow them to do so”.

Appalling!

A journey of ‘Bahnisch’ family discovery in Lower Silesia, Poland

My dad’s four grandparents all came to Australia as youngsters in the 1840’s.  Three were from the Eastern European area of Lower Silesia and the fourth was from Posen Province to the north.  While this part of Europe was then part of Prussia, since WWII it has been part of Poland.  As far as I am aware, I’m only the second descendent of those four Australian migrants from our branch of the Bahnisch family in Australia to visit the villages where they were born and spent their early lives.  The only other person I know of who has done it is Noel Cameron-Baehnisch.  He made this journey in 2004 at a time when it would have been much more difficult than it is now!

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge that much of the information that has allowed me to visit these small villages was generously supplied to me by Noel.

Until recently, discussion within our family had centred around the fact that ‘the Bahnisch’s came to Australia from Moettig in Lower Silesia, Prussia’.  Nothing much was known in my immediate family about my father’s mother and her parents.  So my journey of discovery to visit all four of these villages has been sweet indeed.  As you might expect, the first village I visited was Moettig.  All of the German place names were replaced with Polish equivalents after WWII, and so Moettig became Motyczyn.  So here we go!

1.  Motyczyn – formerly Moettig, and home of the Bahnisch’s.

This is a very small village to the N-E of the city of Legnica and about a 1 hr drive west of Wroclaw.  In Poland, all villages and towns are announced with a sign of the type shown below.  In the right-background can be seen one of the three reasonably new houses in Motyczyn.

IMG_3559aA minor road runs through Motyczyn, and the entrance to the south is through an area of (apparently natural) forest (see below).  There are two side-roads that constitute the village.  On one of these, with only a few houses, I saw small stacks of cut logs.  Noel saw a similar scene in 2004, so maybe there is some ongoing income being derived from the forest.  IMG_3552aThis is one of the other new houses in town – quite smart, but garden still to come! IMG_3568aAt the corner of the main side-street is a house with a (pink) sign that includes the word ‘Soltys’.  Noel says that this means ‘Village Head’.  IMG_3563aOpposite is the house with the best garden that I noticed in the village.

IMG_3564a

But apart from a few well presented houses at the far end of the main street (just before it became a track through a wheat field), my overall impression of the village was unfortunately one of despair.   Around one-quarter of the houses were no longer inhabited, and were in varying stages of dis-repair/decay.

IMG_3567a

It’s interesting to think that this large, now derelict and dis-used barn may have had something to do with the Moettig Bahnisch’s!

IMG_3570aThis is the view of the main side-street from near the far end, looking back towards the road.   IMG_3578aWhen I arrived back at the ‘main road’ corner, a couple of guys were fixing the front wheel bearings on their old tractor.  The younger chap (sitting) spoke quite good English.  He said that they have lived here for 12 years and that they have a farm of 12 acres.  When I spoke to him about my distant local family connection, unfortunately, he didn’t seem very interested.  IMG_3561aOn the corner of the through-road stood a decorated cross – apparently as an after-math of local Catholic community activities during  Lent.  IMG_3562aAs I drove out of town, I observed that even the local crops didn’t seem to be yielding as well as many others I had seen in my travels!  But the large woodlot (in the background) seems to be doing well.

 

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2.  Dabrowka Wielkopolska, formerly Gross Dammer and home of Franziska Ruciak

Franziska was a Polish lady who married Willi Bahnisch in South Australia.  It took me nearly 4 hr to drive the back-roads directly N-E of Wroclaw to reach Franziska’s home town.  Dabrowka Wielkopolska is about a 1 hr drive due west of Poznan.  I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a large and well-presented town.

While there are at least three roads that lead into the town, this one is interesting.  While I was unsure of the meaning of the black silhouette sign in the background, Noel advises that it means ‘Place of Historical Significance’.  I noticed these signs often as I approached small villages in the rural areas of Poland.  But significantly, I think, there was no such sign on the outskirts of Motyczyn!

As well, behind this sign, you can see an area of wheat.  This crop has been planted on several vacant lots witin the town – there are houses all around it!   IMG_3802aOften, villages in areas like this in Poland are only a few kilometres apart.  As well, they are sometimes connected with walking/bicycle paths as well as roads.  At the end of this path, I found a cemetery.  I scanned it for the family name Ruciak, but found none.  I did, however, find two Franziska’s!   IMG_3800aThis was by far the largest of all of the villages/towns that I visited.  While there were some older homes in the town, there were none in the severe state of dis-repair that I had seen in Motyczyn.   IMG_3849aAnd there was a rather wonderful lake in the centre of town.   IMG_3825aThis was a rather stately home, quite close to the centre of town. It seemed to be a private residence, despite the cross on the roof.  IMG_3858aWhile there was little commerce to speak of in the town (apart from a couple of small convenience stores), there was an (apparently) new Catholic church with a very modern design.   Again, Noel advises that, while this church appears to be new, it is in fact old, but has had recent additions in the ‘folkloric’ style.  IMG_3829aSet behind it was a large old building, clearly with religious significance.   IMG_3860aIt was locked and didn’t seem to be in use.  But, based on its (former) grandeur, it had certainly been a significant building in the community in the past!IMG_3822aThis was the only village in which I didn’t see a cross on a major street corner.  Maybe this cross next to the catholic church served the purpose?    IMG_3828aAnother practice in Poland is to place signs at the end of towns leaving motorists (and cyclists and walkers) in no doubt that they are now ‘out of town’! IMG_3862aBeing Polish, it would have been expected that the Ruciak’s worshipped as Catholics.  But according to Noel, this family was a little different.  Apparently, they worshipped as Protestants in the nearby tiny village of Chlastawa.  As you can imagine, I was keen to see it.  While it was 7 km away by road, in a direct line, the trip to worship for the family would have been a lot less.

IMG_3807aWhat I found right adjacent to this very small village was a total surprise.  There was a massive Ikea distribution (and maybe manufacturing) centre!   Along the building frontage, there were 23 semi-trailer loading bays.  Nearby, there was a large truck park with dozens of trucks, presumably waiting to be loaded.  And there were staff car-parks with hundreds of cars at each end of this massive building.

What an immense change to the local community/economy this business must have made.  IMG_3810a

But I was looking for any evidence that there had been a protestant place of worship here in the past.  What I found was this Catholic church of wooden construction.  And as with all of the other churches I had visited during my travels in Poland, it was locked.   When Noel visited Chlastawa in 2004, he was with a Polish guide and was able to gain access to this church.  He says that it was originally a Protestant church and dates from before the mid-1800’s.  So it is likely to have been the place of worship of the Ruciak family before they migrated to Australia.  IMG_3814a

3.  Pawlowice Wielke, formerly Pohlwitz bei Liegnitz and birth place of Wilhelm August Gregor, father of Louise Gregor, my father’s mother.

Pawlowice Wielke is south of Motyczyn, and only a short drive south-east of Legnica.

IMG_3584a This village was a little different from many that I saw in that it had mostly cobbled streets.  IMG_3588aThere were two very large buildings in the town, one of which had recently had a new roof installed.  The second of these buildings was currently having its roof replaced.   IMG_3586aFor me, the village had a very pleasant atmosphere about it, and it was a satisfying feeling to know that this was where my great grandfather, whom I had previously known nothing about, spent his younger days! IMG_3598aThere were pleasant landscapes and extensive gardens.   IMG_3600aAs well, crops in the nearby fields were flourishing.   IMG_3601aAs I now expected, I found a decorated cross at one entrance to the village.  There was also a stone-fruit orchard nearby with speakers strung in the trees and pleasant music playing.  But no people!  What was that all about, I wonder?  IMG_3590aAs well, there was a more permanent crypt at another entrance to the village.   IMG_3594a

4.  Bielany, formerly Weissenleipe, birth place of Ernestine Pauline Schulz, who married Wilhelm August Gregor and whose daughter, Louise was my father’s mother.

Bielany is a small village quite close to Pawlowice Wielke.

IMG_3603aIt is a village in two parts.  At the bottom end of town by the main road, there are several businesses that you would not normally expect to find ‘in town’, including a scrap metal yard.   IMG_3620aAgain the main street of this small town was cobbled. IMG_3622aTowards the top end of town, it had an entirely different character …. a pleasant environment with well-tended homes and gardens.  IMG_3617 IMG_3611a IMG_3610aIMG_3606aBut there was very little still existing in this small town that might give a clue to the child-hood circumstances of my great grandmother.

Again, at the intersection of the village street with the ‘main’ road was the ever-present cross.

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I also attempted to visit the village of Karmin where Franziska Ruciak’s mother was born.  I Googled for it and checked with my Navi system and both pointed to the same place, about 1 hr drive north of Wroclaw.  So on the way back from Dabrowka Wielkopolska, I set the up the TomTom to go there.  The drive across was mainly on very quiet and often one lane roads, with an average speed of about 60 km/hr. Lots of farming and lots of trees – both native and plantation.  And it was raining!  So this is some of what I saw:

IMG_3874aTrees in foreground below are native – in the rear they’re plantation. IMG_3870aThis is actually a cobbled road! IMG_3875aFinally, I came to where my TomTom said that I had ‘arrived at my destination’!  – see below.  Not likely!  You may be able to see a faint figure in the distance.  I hadn’t yet noticed him when I took this photograph.  But when I did, he turned out to be a burly, dishevelled looking woodsman. I must say I turned the car around and got out of there very quickly!

When I returned to my B&B, I found that Noel was indeed correct – there is more than one Karmin in Poland.  All I can confirm is that Fran’s mother wasn’t born about an hour’s drive north of Wroclaw!   IMG_3880a

It has been an emotional experience for me to have the opportunity to travel around these villages.  A lot has happened here since the mid-1800’s, so I didn’t expect to see much evidence of the folks who left for Australia.  But where are the old cemeteries of the communities who lived here then?  Noel advises that most of them were deliberately destroyed after Poland took over in 1945.  As well, across Europe, cemeteries are regularly reused by succeeding generations.

There was a lot of destruction in this area during WWII.  Maybe that explains some lack of evidence of the past?  And of course, there was the forced transmigration of most remaining Germans out of this area into East Germany after the end of WWII.  As well, I’m told that Polish people were forced out of their homes to the East of here when part of what had been Poland was incorporated into what are now the independent states of Belarus and Ukraine.

I’m pleased that the folks who left for Australia made the decision to move.  Their motivation to move was at least partly economic, seeking opportunity in a new land.  It must have been a very difficult decision for them to make.  They came to a land with a totally different natural environment and climate that would have seemed very strange to them for a long time!   But I’m very pleased and grateful that they made the bold decision to turn their lives upside down for a new life ‘down-under’!

Update (Brian): This map shows the boundaries of Prussia in 1793, which on the eastern side are the same as they were in the mid-19th century:

Germany_18C_600_cropped

Möttig, near the city of Liegnitz (now Legnica) is about 70 km west of Breslau (now Wroclaw). Dabrowka Wielkopolska, formerly Gross Dammer, is west of Poznań, pretty much on a direct line between Berlin and Warsaw.

Silesia was ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs under the Bohemian Crown until 1742, when Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia snatched it from Maria Theresa, a 25 year-old woman at the time. In 1740 she had become Queen of Bohemia and in 1745 became Holy Roman Empress Consort and Queen Consort of Germany in an arrangement where she shared the imperial role with her husband in a bandaid solution when the Habsburgs ran out of male heirs. She didn’t give up easily on Silesia, but conceded in 1763 after three wars.

Silesia was about 75% German, but Lower Silesia (western, lower down the Oder River) would have been close to 100%. After WW2 Silesia was assigned to Poland. Some 5-6 million Germans left Poland mostly from Silesia and the provinces along the Baltic (Pomerania, Gdansk (Danzig) East Prussia etc). In the 2011 census only 150,000 of 38 million Polish residents identified as German. Some 60,000 speak a language known as ‘Silesian’, a Slavic language influenced by German. I assume most of them live in Silesia, which now has a population of about 5 million.

Posen became Prussian in the second partition of Poland (by Russia, Austria and Prussia) in 1793. Prussia lost it when Napoleon reorganised the map in 1807 but regained it in 1815. Posen returned to Poland when it was reconstituted as a country after WW1. Silesia at that time remained with Germany.

Posen had about 35% German speakers, mainly in the towns and towards the west.

This map shows the changes in Prussia, leading to the reunification of Germany as an empire (there were four kings in that lot) in 1871:

Germany_1815_600

Prussia when our ancestors left Prussia comprised the reddish-brown and yellow parts. Modern Germany is limited to the Oder-Niesse line.

A glass more than half full

Economist John Edwards questions the notion of an economic crisis (Laura Tingle in the AFR, paywalled, unfortunately) in relation to the resources boom. For at least nine years, Ross Garnaut has been warning about “The Great Complacency”, that we are squandering the benefits of the resources boom and are ill-prepared for its aftermath. Andrew Charlton, talking to Phillip Adams, has a nuanced view, but sees difficult days for us if China crashes, builds less infrastructure and needs less of our iron and coal.

Charlton regrets the eight tax cuts delivered by Costello and Howard. People often talk of Norway, but Chile too has long created a sovereign wealth fund to lock in permanently the benefits of mining. We have largely spent the benefits on consumption.

Edwards fingers those tax cuts also, but questions the very nature of the ‘boom’. Edwards points out that in the 10 years prior to the resources boom Australia grew more rapidly than during the socalled boom years. Other factors, such as the GFC, have had a greater impact.

He says we haven’t just “complacently dozed through an unparalleled opportunity to reshape their nation and prepare for the challenges ahead.”

“Australians have been saving more, investing more, working more and learning more”, he says.

“During the mining boom Australia’s capital stock has increased by nearly two-thirds, a larger share of Australians have jobs, the share of young people in training and higher education has increased markedly, household saving has increased from zero to one-tenth of household disposable income, national gross saving has risen to well over one fifth of GDP, the current account deficit has narrowed, household credit growth has slowed sharply, and Australian banks have dramatically reduced their dependence on foreign borrowing and thus the vulnerability of Australia’s financial system to global shocks.

“Of the biggest investment boom in Australian history, well over four-fifths has been matched by Australian savings.”

(I wonder how that last fact matches with the often repeated claim by Hockey et al that we are borrowing overseas to pay the interest on our government debt.)

Edwards big emphasis is on human capital, which we have been developing and will serve us well, with further development, in the future.

Economic change is about more than money. During the years 2003 to 2013 a net 2 million long-term migrants settled in Australia.

“This vast, transformative migration, the full effect of which has yet to unfold, has occurred not only without serious controversy, but almost without notice”.

The socalled budget ‘crisis’ is mainly a revenue problem. It will be fixed by some restraint, certainly, but mainly by restoring revenues to historic percentages of GDP. I pointed out here that Hockey has manufactured a crisis by limiting revenues to 23.9% of GDP. Lifting that by a notch or two, manageable over time by bracket creep, would do wonders for the deficit.

Edwards argues that we need “continuous reform and adjustment to entrench our prosperity, but in order for it to be deliverable it has to be based on a recognition of success and making sensible claims for the outcomes”. In that we need to be careful that ‘reforms’ don’t advantage one group to the disadvantage of another.

Nevertheless, the high dollar, now based on our comparatively high interest rates rather than the price of commodities, which have been falling, is still a drag on traditional areas such as agriculture and tourism as Charlton notes. But overall, he says, mining employs far fewer people than knowledge based services and elaborately transformed manufacturing.

Edwards says that it is in these areas, exporting services and goods to the developing markets of Asia, that our future opportunities lie.

Edwards says that people no longer believe the crisis story, “the story of prolonged failure; imminent catastrophe, sweeping advantages that flow from the kinds of reforms that are sometimes advocated.” Tingle says this:

poses some big questions for our political class about whether they need to, or are even able to envisage, a different script to the one that has dominated their working lives and institutional memories.

There’s an opening for a political leader who excites us with vision, just as Kevin 07 did perhaps a little in an era now fading into the past.

John Edwards is an economist who is a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, a member of the Board of Skills Australia and Adjunct Professor at the John Curtin Institute for Public Policy at Curtin University. In January 2012 he was appointed one of three members of the Australian Government’s Review of the Fair Work Act. He just published ‘Beyond the Boom’, a Lowy Institute booklet.

Lateline also has the story.

A Coast to Coast odyssey: Stage 3 – Ennerdale Bridge to Black Sail YHA

Our stay at the Shepherds Arms Hotel in Ennerdale Bridge was delightful.  A special highlight was barman Callum – he has an honours degree in English from Newcastle University and is now studying for his PhD.  His program involves completing a thesis during the first part of his candidature, and then writing a novel.  And his thesis topic?   –  ‘Miltonic Ideas of The Fall in the Romantic Period – 1790 to 1825’ …. or translated, ‘What they thought about Adam & Eve, the snake and the apple in Milton’s day!’.  Our friendly Soil Scientist was enthralled and seemed to engage Callum in animated conversation about his chosen topic at every opportunity!

Drying walking gear on an extended hike like this can be a problem.  Some accommodation houses have drying rooms, others have the central heating units in the rooms and still others have nothing (ie, central heating not on because it is thought to be warm enough without it (probably is, too – but doesn’t help when you are trying to dry clothes overnight)).  At the Shepherds Arms, they have a drying room, but only staff are allowed access to it …. seemed like a very strange system to us – were we that untrustworthy?   It meant that the washing that we had all done in a bath attached to my single room (remember, we were in plenty of mud on Dent Fell earlier in the day) came back the next morning in a complete jumble!  I lost an expensive pair of hiking socks as a result of this fracas.

Once we had sorted the chaos of our laundry as best we could and collected our prepared sandwich for lunch, we were off for our 14 km hike to Black Sail YHA.  Our route took us first along roads out of town, then along the banks of Ennerdale Water and finally along a local gravel road that progressively deteriorated as we approached the very isolated Black Sail YHA.  Sherpa Van, our accommodation and bag transport company of choice, would not deliver our bags to Black Sail YHA because of the poor standard of this road,  so we had to carry sufficient for two days of walking plus one overnight stay in our ‘day-packs’.  This made them just a little heavier than on the previous two days.

So we’re off and headed towards the valley at the right of this picture.

IMG_0507aOn the way out of Ennerdale Bridge, we came upon an attractive new house constructed mainly with slate.  IMG_0505aNotice the large conservatory on both levels – will be great in winter!  And the detail of the construction looked quite complicated.  IMG_0506aI have no idea how they build these walls, but they look impressive and I hope they last just as well as the old buildings with 40 to 50 cm thick walls!

Pretty soon we were out of town and heading towards the local lake (and water supply) – Ennerdale Water.

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It appears that the level of the lake has only been raised a little to make it into a reliable water supply for local towns.  Apparently this ‘lake’ supplies water to around 60,000 households.  IMG_0519a

The walk along the banks of the lake was a highlight of the day, starting with a very well-made walking track.

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And the sheep grazing lands on the opposite bank were a delight with their dry stone walls.  IMG_0525aPretty soon we came to a feature named (for no known reason) ‘Robin Hoods Chair’.  ‘You mean we have to go up there?’ –  Tricia seems to be saying! IMG_0534aSeems like the answer is – ‘Yes!’.

For about half a day, we walked with a chap called Richard who was doing the C2C solo.  So he was up for a chat on any topic that anyone wanted to raise – and a thoroughly pleasant fellow he was too.  He was on a much more punishing schedule than us, covering about twice the distance we did that day.   Here he is, heading up towards Robin Hoods Chair.  IMG_0535a

After this steep and rocky diversion from the water’s edge, the path started to become a little rougher – a foretaste of things to come as we continued our journey into the heart of the Lake District.

IMG_0551a IMG_0550aBut the scenery was no less spectacular!  In the middle of the picture below you can see the valley that we were headed for.  At the start of the day, some of us had been keen to take the alternative high route, via the ridge and peaks on the upper left of this photo, particularly over Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag and Hay Stacks as you move along the ridge.  As you can see, the clouds were getting low and in fact the rain started shortly before we reached the turn-off to Red Pike.  So we decided against the high route.  But Laurie was still keen, so later he took a solo side trip up to near Hay Stacks.  When he arrived later at Black Sail, he reported that there were lots of people up on the high path – seems like these Lakeland folk don’t let a little cloud and rain put them off!    IMG_0546aAs well, we were starting to see more large scree slopes, typical of true Lakeland landscapes. IMG_0542a

As we walked, we noticed dead patches in areas of sown forest.  From a distance, these appeared to be the result of fire damage.  IMG_4092aBut not so.  Further along the path, we came across a couple of explanatory boards.  IMG_0564a IMG_0565a

In summary, any trees affected by the soil bourne Phytophthora fungus will die, probably assisted by human-applied herbicide to help limit spread of the disease.  And the areas of forest lost to the disease will be re-planted in time with native species, presumably ones that are not susceptible to the fungus.

A related fungus is a significant problem in native forests in Australia.  I recall washing our boots in anti-fungal agents at the entrance to several National Parks in South-East Queensland during our training walks.

Eventually, we arrived at the top of Ennerdale Water and came across the fast-flowing River Liza.

IMG_0569a

It was interesting (and surprising to me) to see that the geological profile of the stones in the Liza was similar to that seen back on the beach at St Bees.

IMG_0557aBy now it was raining and we each had our particular array of gear to attempt to keep dry.  In my case it included a Gore-Tex and a poncho (no water-proof trousers at this stage).  This had the advantage of keeping both my pack (back) and SLR camera bag (front) safe from the weather.  Everyone else I saw on the walk preferred to use a rain-proof jacket and a pack-cover.  In fact, pack covers are not very effective if the weather turns really nasty.  And rain jackets can be far from water-proof as well.  On the other hand, I was very confident that no water was going to penetrate my plastic poncho!  So even though I looked a sight, I was very happy with my choice of gear!  IMG_0558aBy now, the valley was starting to close in and the fells above were spectacular IMG_0568aEven the rain and mist added an extra mystique to the landscape.  IMG_4090aThe gills were swollen and the green valley-sides appeared verdant.

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Eventually, we came upon the delightful Black Sail YHA just in time for a late lunch – that’s it in the distance.  It was originally a shepherd’s bothy.

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We enjoyed a lazy afternoon, a delightful home-cooked meal in the evening (included rhubarb pie for desert – one of my favourites!) and a surprisingly restful night in bunk beds (four to a room, men and women segregated).  But we had been warned that, while there were power points in the rooms, they conveyed no power.  Unfortunately, this advance information proved to be 100% accurate!  But this slight inconvenience was more than compensated by the charms of the delightful young Scottish lass (Alison) who was the host (and chef) at the YHA.  IMG_0603aVital stats for this stage

Distance for this stage:  14 km

Total distance covered:  41 km

Ascent:  100 m

Total ascent:  805 m

Level of difficulty:  Easy

Highlight: The delightful walk along the southern shore of Ennerdale Water

 

 

 

Fuel efficiency standards – a no-brainer

Hi.  You might know me from such blogs as the late, great Larvatus Prodeo. For those of you who don’t, my day job is teaching software engineering at Monash University, but I’ve had a long-standing interest in public policy, and particularly the intersection between climate change and public policy. I hope you find my posts an interesting addition to the blog!

The (possibly reprieved) Climate Change Authority has continued to produce high-quality analysis that a sane federal government should examine very closely, and its latest report is no exception. It advocates for a mandatory emissions target for light vehicles (that is, vehicles you can drive on a car licence) sold in Australia, and proposes some design principles and options for implementation.

The proposed scheme would establish “fleet-wide” emissions targets for manufacturers, with an adjustment for vehicle footprint; that is, the target for a particular vehicle is adjusted by the size of that vehicle. As the report puts it,

The standard should differentiate obligations based on the size (footprint) of the vehicle, ensuring equity across suppliers while maintaining consumer choice and maximising flexibility. This approach ensures that the option to lightweight vehicles,
a major emissions reduction strategy in new vehicle design, is maintained.

I’m a bit ambivalent about this, and it shows one of the weaknesses in this kind of regulatory mandate as compared to alternative approaches like simply increasing fuel taxes. All things being equal, smaller vehicles are more fuel efficient than larger vehicles; encouraging people to make the switch away from vehicles than they need would actually be a good thing. But a flat target would encourage manufacturers who sell an above-average proportion of small cars to not do anything, as they will be able to meet their targets without actually improving their vehicles beyond business as usual.

In any case, what is most striking about this is how out of step with global practice Australia is; most other OECD countries have an enforceable fuel efficiency target of one kind or another. As Evan Beaver pointed out on Twitter, it was mostly another aspect of the multitude of small-beer decisions taken to protect the Australian car industry. Since the demise of Corolla production, Australia’s domestic producers have exclusively churned out large vehicles, mostly with large, not particularly sophisticated petrol engines. When combined with Australia’s low levels of fuel taxation, this further encouraged Australians to indulge their long-standing penchant for large, powerful and thirsty vehicles. The consequence of this is one of the most fuel-inefficient light vehicle fleets in the world, matched only by the USA with its love for Ford F-150s and Chevy Suburbans.

One of the great things about doing this is that it’s actually a net win for the country even ignoring the social costs of climate change; the extra costs of more fuel efficient technologies in vehicles are more than outweighed by the lifetime value of the fuel savings. As a society, the report estimates that rather than paying costs to avoid carbon emissions, every tonne of carbon emissions avoided through this policy would also result in a net saving of over $350. You might wonder why this policy is actually necessary; the short answer is that both consumers and businesses seem to undervalue emission savings when considering a new vehicle purchase. I’d prefer to fix this with fuel taxes and congestion charging, but if that’s not on the table it’s a reasonable alternative.

Even within a model range, the savings by simply changing the mix of drivetrain variants available are substantial. The Climate Change Authority compared the fuel efficiency of models available in both the UK and Australia, and found that, on average, the most efficient models available in Australia emit 20% more emissions than the most efficient models available in the UK. That probably overstates the difference between the typical models sold in Oz and Blighty, as many of the economy specials sold are heavily compromised to the point of impracticality and sell in tiny numbers. But even if you assume a 5% difference in the economy of your average Pommy Toyota Corolla and the Australian equivalent, that adds up to a lot of money.

Based on the data in the report and my assumption that Australian fuel usage is 5% higher than it might otherwise be purely because of the engine variant choices within a model range due to the lack of fuel economy targets, this results in Australian consumers and businesses burning about 1.2 billion litres more petrol than they otherwise might. At the current fuel price, that’s 1.8 billion dollars a year, every year, wasted, in that long and ultimately futile attempt to keep the Australian car industry alive.

The demise of the Australian car manufacturing industry represents an opportunity to fix a number of boneheaded transport policies. It would be nice if this anomaly was one of them.

Palmer does climate change

And how!

As noted on another thread Clive Palmer has announced the PUP policies on climate change with Al Gore on board.

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In case you were wondering, Gore wasn’t specially imported, he was in Australia Gore is for the Climate Reality Project, hosted by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The central point is that PUP will support the Government’s legislation to repeal the carbon ‘tax’ on condition of an amendment that companies be required by law to pass on the savings to consumers.

Two additional votes from the other four swinging senators will be required.

Secondly, PUP will vote against the Government’s bid to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Renewable Energy Target and the Climate Change Authority.

Palmer pointed out that while in opposition the Abbott had promised that Australia would retain its renewable energy target. He will make them keep the promise. There were fears that the RET could be shut down as soon as January.

No mention was made of ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which already has a budget of $3 billion “to fund renewable energy projects, support research and development activities, and support activities to capture and share knowledge.” Presumably it stays.

Third, PUP will give the thumbs down to ‘Direct Action’. Direct Action is:

“a waste of money, at a time when families, pensioners, young Australians, stay at home mums and single parents and indigenous communities are facing unfair measures in the budget, to increase excise and indexation is not the answer”. (From the SMH)

Instead, Mr Palmer says his party will move another amendment to set up an emissions trading scheme similar to the one proposed by former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.

But this version will “only become effective once Australia’s main trading partners also take action to establish such a scheme”, Mr Palmer said.

“Climate change is a global problem and it must have a global solution,” he said.

“Air moves around the world.”

The price will initially be set at zero.

My interpretation is that the PUP ETS is not linked to repealing the carbon ‘tax’, but to the proposed Direct Action.

This policy mimics what Abbott has been spruiking, so the might just go for it.

Greg Hunt must be happy. He won’t have anything to do and won’t have to fight his recalcitrant colleagues every step of the way.

The Guardian notes:

As recently as April Palmer indicated he did not accept the findings of the latest intergovernmental panel on climate change report and thought countries should be concentrating on reducing “the 97% of carbon dioxide emissions that come from nature”.

Perhaps Palmer has been reading some recent opinion surveys, where Australians are increasingly looking for action on climate change. According to Giles Parkinson, Palmer said:

“The world is constantly changing, and our ability to adapt to change and keep open open mind is what really matters.”

Any way he’s now going to “deliver hope to mankind”.

The Guardian also notes:

Palmer wholly owns a nickel refinery in Queensland that is liable to pay the carbon tax. He has now paid its outstanding carbon tax bill in full, and abstained from the vote on the carbon tax repeal in the lower house because of his conflict of interest.

Moreover:

Under existing law, the fixed carbon price is set to rise to $25.40 next week. A floating price would mirror the international price which is about $8.

Elsewhere there’s Michelle Grattan at The Conversation, and Laura Tingle at the AFR.

Tingle sees palmer as a populist who has outplayed Abbott and wedged Labor and The Greens. After Clive the ETS lives on as a viable policy notion with anyone but Abbott at the helm.

There’s an interesting piece at The Drum by Peter Lewis and Jackie Woods Palmer: top dog or annoying PUP? Voters see Palmer as above all arrogant, aggressive, erratic, out of touch with ordinary people and superficial. This is how the four leaders stack up overall, according to Essential Media Communications:

Political leaders_cropped-600

Angry voters and the question of mandate

Nielsen and Newspoll both currently have Labor ahead 53-47 in two-party preferred (TPP) terms. This is almost the exact reverse of the 2013 election result which the LNP won 53.5-46.5.

This is how Nielsen is tracking:

Nielsen 23.6.14_cropped_600

This image from the AFR shows how the Coalition vote is trending in six polls:

AFR Je14_6e420e70-fa5f-11e3-80cb-3fa822d151bf_23p00 news poll of polls 600

Laura Tingle says voters are still angry over the budget:

Six weeks on from the budget, the rage is maintained: the majority of voters still think the budget is unfair and the task of confronting ever deepening voter hostility towards Prime Minister Tony Abbott is only growing.

It says something about the quality of the government’s budget sales job that, in the period since the budget, the number of Coalition voters who believe the budget is fair has actually fallen more sharply than the number of Labor voters who think it is fair.

The latest Nielsen poll figures suggest little the government has done has changed voters’ initial hostile reaction to the budget and, if anything, has only eroded its own base as the details of the budget’s impact on traditional constituencies like pensioners and families has become clearer.

Arguments about the budget crisis; that working people are working a month a year just to fund welfare recipients; that the government is not really cutting pensions – none of these seem to be cutting through.

John Quiggin in commenting on Hockey’s statement about “lifters” and “leaners” had this to say:

The hostile reception given to these Romneyesque arguments is unsurprising. The fact that Hockey is relying on talking points that failed even in the US is indicative of the level of delusion under which the government is operating. Having run a disciplined and entirely negative campaign, Abbott and Hockey ought to understand that they were elected by default. They owe their jobs to the fact that voters were sick of Labor’s leadership shenanigans.

The fiasco of the Senate election is a pretty clear indication of a “plague on both your houses” view. Instead, they appear to be under the impression that they were granted a mandate for radical change – and long after the budget is off the front page, the electorate will punish them for it.

Some of the hacks are finding comfort in the fact that the LNP has clawed back some support. In fact they’ve improved from a prospective landslide defeat to one that would just be demoralising. Of course much can happen suddenly in politics and the election is a long way away.

There can’t be much comfort, however, in Abbott’s approve/disapprove rating of 35-60, up from 34-62. The slide from November last year when it was 47-46 should be telling him something.

Shorten’s numbers are 42-41, down from 47-39. He was 51-30 in November, but most of the time since he has been about evens.

In the preferred prime minister stakes, Shorten leads 47-40.

The LNP support comes from the old, men, NSW and WA. Strangely Labor slipped in NSW from 58-42 to 46-54, well beyond the nominated margin for error of 4.6%. The numbers for the state break-up are small and one or both may be rogue results.

Overall, though, one might say that the voters are telling Abbott and Hockey that they do not in fact have a mandate for much of what they are attempting to do.

I’ll leave you with this Tandberg from a few months ago:

Abbott_AW-abbott-tandberg--300x0

Questioning the age of mining entitlement

From time to time the AustraliaInstitute insists on injecting facts and figures into political discussions. It has now produced a report on just how many billions a year the States spend supporting their mining industries.  The figures are significant.  For example, for  2013-14 state budget minerals and fossil fuel expenditures and concessions totalled about about $3.2 billion.  For Qld this cost represented about 60% of the royalties it received.  The figures look much worse when it is realized that no GST is paid on mineral exports (or other exports.)  This loss of GST income to the states would have been worth about $19 billion for 2012!
Continue reading Questioning the age of mining entitlement

Climate clippings 100

Kiribati_Fanning Is_478950-3x2-340x227Climate clippings_1751. Climate clippings reaches 100

Generally speaking I don’t rate the number 100 much except that it’s the number after 99 and the number before 101. Which might be just as well because when I was going through all the posts after transporting them (thanks tigtog) from Larvatus Prodeo I found two with the same number. So the 100th edition was actually number 99!

If you like to laugh Graham Readfearn has assembled 11 climate change comedy video clips to celebrate his 50th post on Planet Oz. I can recommend John Oliver and Australians for Coal, for example. There’s a bad language warning on the latter.

Huffpost has 9 Political Cartoons That Put Climate Change In Perspective:

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2. Dust increases Greenland’s ice melt

A ‘normal’ Greenland summer melt is illustrated by the left-hand panel taken at 8 July 2012, when about 40% of the ice sheet was subject to melting.

Figure 8

The right-hand panel shows what happened for about a week thereafter and is not relevant except as a harbinger of things to come.

A new study looks at the increased melting from dust and soot. It found that a relatively minor decrease in the brightness of the ice sheet could cause double the average yearly rate of ice loss seen over the period 1992-2010.

assets-climatecentral-org-images-uploads-news-6_8_14_Brian_GreenlandDirtyIce-350x467

Soot resulting mainly from wildfires in North America and Russia has a greater melting impact than dust as such. However, increased dust is being produced in the Arctic and finding its way to the Greenland ice. Now 150 times as much dust as soot has been found at a site in the north-east.

While this can’t be extrapolated to the rest of the ice sheet, there is concern that Greenland melting could be greater than previously thought. See also Antarctic images for context.

3. Green jobs declining in Australia

Yes green jobs are declining in Australia:

Australia is one of the few places in the world where green jobs are decreasing according to figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Globally the sector now provides an estimated 6.6 million jobs, an increase of 800,000 from 2013 figures, but in Australia, jobs across solar photovoltaics and solar heating have declined, with up to 22 per cent of jobs lost in PV and 20 per cent in heating, according to Ethical Jobs general manager Michael Cebon.

This is happening:

entirely the result of government policy, both through loss of incentives at the federal level and backpedalling by state governments.

While a structural shift is occurring in the workforce elsewhere, Australia is regressing. The graphic shows the jobs potential of investment in various sectors:

comparison-fossil-and-renewable-380x513

4. Climate change impacts will ‘cost world far more than estimated’

That’s according to Lord Stern. He says that:

the economic models that have been used to calculate the fiscal fallout from climate change are woefully inadequate and severely underestimate the scale of the threat.

That includes those cited by the IPCC. They ignore the science, the full range of risks and simply assume away some of the worst economic impacts.

5. Historians will look back and ask ‘why didn’t they act?’

That’s the question asked by science historian Naomi Oreskes in her

latest book, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, [which] imagines a Chinese scholar in 2393 analysing the slow-motion disintegration of 21st-century democracies as they fail to tackle a growing environmental catastrophe.

It’s not a pretty picture.

By the end of the book, co-written with fellow historian Eric Conway, the Netherlands and Bangladesh are submerged, Australia and Africa are depopulated, and billions have perished in fires, floods, wars and pandemics. “A second dark age had fallen on Western civilisation,” Oreskes writes, “in which denial and self-deception, rooted in an ideological fixation on ‘free’ markets, disabled the world’s powerful nations in the face of tragedy.”

Oreskes and Conway say it’s a worst-case scenario, not a prediction.

One way or another, the game is up, we need to act with vigour and determination.

6. Coal to fuel human progress for decades – Tony Abbott

Our fearless leader has been strutting his stuff on the world stage, ignoring the science and embarrassing us all. He told Texan business leaders that:

we don’t believe in ostracising any particular fuel and we don’t believe in harming economic growth.

“For many decades at least, coal will continue to fuel human progress as an affordable energy source for wealthy and developing countries alike.”

Under the fig leaf of Direct Action anything goes.

Meanwhile Julie Bishop confirms that climate change won’t be high on the G20 agenda.

Once again they are out of tune with the nation. In a recent opinion poll 57% of those polled said the government should take climate change more seriously.

while more than half of respondents felt the federal government was the primary body which should address climate change, there was a negative rating of -18 when people were asked to rank the government’s performance.

This compares to a -1 rating from last year. These rankings are the differential between respondents’ “good” versus’ “poor” response to the government’s performance.

Reminder: Use this thread as an open thread on climate change.

7. Pacific presidents speak out against Australia’s stand on climate change

Out in the Pacific they are not happy with Abbott’s policy stance. The sea is coming up and they are going down. Here’s Fanning Island in Kiribati:

Kiribati_Fanning Is_478950-3x2-340x227

Lost in a mid-winter Canberra fog

Laura Tingle’s Friday AFR column ends with:

The despair in Coalition ranks is extraordinary. As thick as a mid-winter Canberra fog.

At the beginning:

“What on earth does the government think it is doing?” was the mystified question du jour in Parliament House. You might expect it from business executives who don’t have time to focus day to day on politics. It’s just a little more alarming coming from government backbenchers and even ministers’ staff.

The latest kerfuffle is over the use or non-use of the term “occupied” to refer to East Jerusalem and occupied West Bank territories. Apparently the term “disputed” preferred by Israel has been used. Rural Liberals are seething over Attorney-General George Brandis’s remarks about East Jerusalem, accusing him of “intellectual arrogance”.

They have very real concerns over live cattle exports. In Jedda, 57 Arab foreign ministers condemned the Federal Government’s decision not to use the term “occupied” when referring to east Jerusalem.

Their statement, issued in Jeddah, also calls on member states to “take necessary measures” in response.

The declaration was made as the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop sought to assure ambassadors from many of those countries that Australia’s position hasn’t changed.

It’s not clear if her efforts will have the desired effect.

Tingle says that Bishop apologised. No-one seems to know whether there has been a considered change in position, or whether it was a Brandis stuff-up. Bishop claimed on Insiders that there had been no change in position, claiming that practice is to use “East Jerusalem”, “West Bank” or “occupied territories”, but not in combination. She claims that they were verballed by Lee Rhiannon. Nevertheless they seem to have gotten themselves into a twist.

Beyond the East Jerusalem dispute Tingle says:

the government is under deadly attack from those communists at the Australian Medical Association. Its new president, associate professor Brian Owler, wrote this week the health measures in the budget “add up to bad health policy”.

“The health of Australians is too important for healthcare to be an ideological toy,” he said.

“The AMA is supportive of some co-payments, but not the one proposed by the government.”

This is the AMA leading the fight against a co-payment, an organisation that fought Medicare for decades.

Then business is reconsidering their relations with government finding Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen “are open to talking and that there are some Labor policies that are actually more pro-business than those of the government.”

Then there are all the welfare bludgers, the people Joe Hockey refers to as parasitic “leaners”. Tingle continues:

Liberal MPs report the outrage of aged voters who will lose their $800 seniors supplement.

But what is striking is that these voters aren’t angry about losing the $800 as much as they are about feeling they have been portrayed as welfare bludgers.

The feedback about an anger that is not going away is it is very different to what MPs have felt before because it isn’t just about hip pockets but a sense the budget has broken something at a community level, particularly universal healthcare and access to education.

What causes despair on the Coalition backbench is that the senior ranks of the government don’t seem to recognise that something has been genuinely broken that the Coalition team will never be able to get back. That an electorate that never quite got a handle on Tony Abbott has one it will now never let go.

You will recall back in May the fearsome grilling Abbott suffered from ABC talkback radio callers who accused him of lying, fearmongering and endangering the health of pensioners. Photographers can be cruel. This was the occasion of Abbott’s famous wink, but take a look at this shot by Penny Stephens:

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This post can serve open thread on politics.

Saturday salon 21/6

voltaire_230

An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

High Court rules federal funding of school chaplains invalid again

As The World Today story makes clear, it is the funding methodology rather than the school chaplains program itself that has been, for the second time, ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.

High court_250When Toowoomba father of six Ron Williams won the original High Court challenge to the chaplaincy program in 2012 the Gillard Government passed ‘catch-all’ legislation which sought to enable to make such grants directly to schools. This ‘bandaid’ solution has now failed. While the court case has only been about the school chaplaincy program specifically a precedent was set that placed a question mark over some 400 other Commonwealth direct funding programs, past and present. I gather these programs had been implemented by the executive without legislation.

It appears that the Commonwealth will now have to use legislation specific to the program, by which means it can make special purpose payments to the states with as many conditions as it likes. This legislation would then have to run the gamut of the senate, which may be difficult, if Labor comes to its senses and opposes the legislation.

I agree with Angelo Gavrielatos, head of the Education Union:

We’ve always opposed this program, considering it a badly designed and quite frankly not in the interests of our kids and what they actually need.

It also compromises the secular traditions of public schools. This money is better directed to specialist, expert support for our students. What our students need are expert trained school counsellors, psychologists and welfare workers.

It’s also important to note that this program has been costed at $250 million. This is at the same time when there’s been a real cut in funding for students with disabilities.

The Abbott Government is so far reserving its position until they examine the ruling, as one would expect.

There is a summary article by Michelle Grattan at The Conversation.

Retiring Senator Louise Pratt has condemned the program, saying that it has driven gay and lesbian children to self harm:

Senator Pratt said an online survey by gay rights group All Out, which attracted 2200 responses, had uncovered dozens of firsthand student accounts that describe chaplains as being “explicitly anti-gay”.

One respondent said their school chaplain had described gays and lesbians as “unnatural, indecent and perverse”. Another said a gay friend had overdosed on medical pills after their school chaplain said being gay was a “degrading sin” that sends people to hell.

“As well as the two stories I have just quoted, students described chaplains helping them to ‘pray the gay away’ and advising them to sleep with a member of the opposite sex to ‘correct’ their same-sex attraction,” Senator Pratt said.

“One very serious story involved a student being told by a chaplain that they should leave home because they had homosexual parents . . . Regardless of the outcome [of the High Court challenge], it is important to see this program stopped.”

Proponents of the program say such incidents would be rare and in breach of the code of conduct under which chaplains operate.

According to Peter Sherlock schools have been able to use the money to employ secular counsellors. In the 2104-15 budget, however, this was narrowed to chaplains from religious organisations alone.

Sherlock, who is Vice-Chancellor at University of Divinity, says that the program recognises that schools have a socialising role in the formation of a child that goes beyond the door of the classroom and the skills and content imparted there. He thinks, however, the chaplains from religious organisations will almost inevitably be motivated to proselytise, and the secular counsellors would be more appropriate.

I couldn’t agree more. Problem is, part of the purpose of the program is to win votes from particular sectors of the church-going community.