Abbott shoots himself in the foot – again

Chris Uhlmann and Sabra Lane say that pressure is building in the Liberal Party to remove Prime Minister Tony Abbott and that backbenchers and ministers say the Malcolm Turnbull now has the numbers. The leadership issue has risen again because of the brutal attack launched on Gillian Triggs as President of the Human Rights Commission. Ben Eltham says:

In a show of belligerence that has stunned seasoned political observers, the Abbott government has declared a personal vendetta against one of the most respected lawyers in the land. Triggs’ personal ethics have been questioned, her competence and impartiality attacked, and her conduct impugned.

Turnbull has certainly put some distance between himself and Abbott on the matter. He says that criticism of Triggs “misses the point” the point being the children in detention. Further, he said that Triggs was “a very distinguished international legal academic”.

Eltham again:

The findings of The Forgotten Children report should shame us all. Triggs found that children have been sexually and physically assaulted in federal care. Some children have been detained for more than 27 months. Many are denied education. Unaccompanied children are locked up in adult compounds. They are mentally and emotionally traumatised. There have been multiple instances of attempted suicide and self-harm.

A government with a scintilla of compassion would have welcomed the report, and redoubled its efforts to get children out of these hell-holes. And, if the Abbott government had wanted to, it could have spun the findings in its favour. For instance, the report found that there are fewer children in detention now than under the previous Labor government.

Instead the Government advised her that it had lost confidence in her and suggested that her legal talents might otherwise be employed by the Government. She declined. It then launched a public attack, bringing up also her finding in the Basikbasik matter.

A galaxy of legal scholars has signed a letter supporting Triggs, pointing out, inter alia, that the Government is not obliged to take her advice, a point she understands well.

Distinguished retired lawyer Hal Wooten tells why he signed up. He respects Triggs personally and professionally, the facts of the report speak for themselves.

Once again Mr Abbott has proved a loose cannon, but this time his wild firing threatens grave pain and injustice to a courageous and honourable public servant, and the undermining of a much needed national institution, as well as obscuring the terrible effect of detention on innocent children.

Richard Flanagan says that some day a PM will apologise for what it is now doing. He thinks:

The only accusation of Gillian Triggs with the ring of truth is that she has lost the confidence of the government – but then so too has Tony Abbott. Gillian Triggs’s real crime is that as human rights commissioner she spoke up for human rights with a government that has no respect for them.

He also sees women and children as being at the bottom of the pile, as it were. Triggs is being attacked as a woman speaking up for children.

Bill Shorten says Tony Abbott sank to ‘a new low’ over Gillian Triggs’s treatment and that Abbott was ‘psychologically unsuited’ to the prime ministership.

Annabel Crabb says the Government is thumping Triggs when it could/should be thumping Labor. It has also presented Labor with the moral high ground.

Jonathon Green has written the speech Abbott could have made about Triggs’ report, with Triggs at his side.

One point is that there were 1500 children in detention when the LNP took over. Now there are 126.

For the record, from Berard Keane at Crikey, this is what Chris Moraitis from Brandis’s department told the Senate hearings:

“There were essentially three points that I was asked to make. One was that the Attorney had lost confidence in Professor Triggs as chairperson. He retained significant goodwill towards her and had high regard for her legal skills. In that respect, he was asking me to formally put on the table or mention that there would be a senior legal role, a specific senior role, that her skills could be used for.”

Brandis later quibbled over the word “position” being tossed around, emphasising that the offer was for a role. But an offer there surely was, later denied by Julie Bishop representing Brandis in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile much of importance, such as the McClure report on social security, is not being discussed.

Abbott’s war on terror


The tricky thing about Man Haron Monis and the Lindt Café siege, is that he acted alone and was taken rather as a harmless buffoon by the security agencies. The terror threat from random actors is very real. Annabel Crabb says that

It’s clearly an escalating threat situation. Anyone carrying on today about how Tony Abbott is just cooking it all up to save his own skin is thinking wishfully.

She says that there are now:

Four hundred current investigations by ASIO, sixty-two new biometric screening gates to catch people travelling on false passports, forty-nine extra AFP officers across Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra working on the problem of Aussie jihadists abroad, and so on.

Certainly Abbott is playing to a political strength. Newspoll tells us that 51% think Abbott is best at handling the nation’s security, whereas 31% go for Shorten. 7% say neither, and 11% are uncommitted.

What the Government intends to do was spelt out on Radio National’s PM:

  • There will be a national counter-terrorism co-ordinator “to bring the same drive and focus to this as we’ve brought to Operation Sovereign Borders.”
  • On immigration a harder line will be taken to “keep out people with security questions over them.”
  • “The Government will develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act so that we can revoke or suspend Australian Citizenship in the case of dual nationals.”
  • The Government is looking at “suspending some of the privileges of citizenship for individuals involved in terrorism.” Privileges susceptible to suspension could include “the ability to leave or return to Australia”, “access to consular services overseas” and “access to welfare payments”.
  • The Government will take action against hate preachers by “enforcing our strengthened terrorism advocacy laws” including “new programs to challenge terrorist propaganda and to provide alternative online material based on Australian values, and it will include stronger prohibitions on vilifying, intimidating or inciting hatred.”
  • Muslim community leaders should speak up more. When they talk about Islam being a religion of peace that they should mean it.

All this doesn’t actually amount to much, according to Annabel Crabb, apart from enforcing existing laws and some blowhard (my term) urging.

Bill Shorten offered bipartisanship, saying that Labor would “engage constructively” with the government but counselled:

Haste and confusion is never the friend of good, sensible security in the future.

Abbott had also said quite explicitly that individual liberties might have to be sacrificed to ensure the safety of the community.

According to Grattan:

Shorten said there always should be a strong presumption in favour of individual liberty. “This presumption should only be reduced, rebutted or offset to the extent that current arrangements are proven to be inadequate.”

I’m concerned about what Abbott and Brandis might do in returning to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Frankly I’m concerned about anything Brandis does after getting out of bed.

I’m concerned about revoking citizenship. Once people are Australians, we should take responsibility for them rather than shunt them to a different jurisdiction, or virtually render them stateless.

Sangeetha Pillai argues that there’s more to be lost than gained in stripping citizenship. She says that most of what is proposed that is achievable can already be achieved by other means. In other words existing laws suffice. She says “commentators have been quick to note that amendments along these lines carry the risk of exacerbating feelings of social disaffection that can underpin extremism.” Her bottom line:

The limited potential effectiveness of the proposed measures, combined with the challenges of implementation and the possibility for them to be counter-productive, suggests that the losses may outweigh the gains.

I’m concerned also that there might be hassling of Muslim’s and consequent increased radicalisation.

Abbott’s words about Muslim community leaders were, according to Michelle Grattan:

“I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.”

Shorten and Julie Bishop were quick to distance themselves from these remarks. One Muslin community leader suggested that Abbott should engage in anything he chose except politics. I understand that some community leaders declined to attend a special briefing.

Randa Abdel-Fattah has a fine piece on the ABC religion and Ethics site:

Flanked by a row of Australian flags, Tony Abbott, like a priest performing a rite of passage, formally inducted Australian Muslims into the category of Australia’s primary Other.

The Prime Minister’s stated intention was to provide the nation with clarity and reassurance – just in case the decade-long stream of moral panic, manufactured fear and Islamophobic sentiment had left Australians in any doubt as to who successive governments deem as “un-Australian.”

In a way, the Prime Minister has done Muslims a favour. For he has made explicit what is at the heart of this government’s war on terror (picking up where previous governments left off). It has never been about targeting a radical minority or national security per se. The real struggle is to re-configure our social, discursive and symbolic relations around a politics of us and them.

There are many tragic consequences to this state of affairs. But at least the government has now laid bare the fact that it is prepared to hold social cohesion, justice and national security to ransom in its war on terror.

I’ll finish with this Wilcox cartoon from August last year:


I’m sorry, Annabel Crabb, the problem’s for real, but Abbott isn’t – not entirely. Guy Rundle says Abbott should act like a statesman. It seems to be beyond him.

Abbott’s battles back, but will he make it?

Abbott has two big challenges right now. One is to settle his party, organisational and political, down and the other is to cream Labor in the polls.

On the latter it was one step forward with a long way to go. Morgan saw the LNP improve from 43-57 to 44-56. Still in wipe-out territory. The only demographic were the LNP heads Labor in the TPP vote is the 65+ group.

In Newspoll the LNP improved from 43-57 to 47-53, a difference worth writing about. Nevertheless it leaves Labor with a comfortable winning position.

The Greens were unchanged at 12 per cent.

The papers are making much of Bill Shorten’s net approval rating, which dipped from +2 to -14. Abbott’s ‘improved’ from -44 to -43.

Shorten still heads Abbott as preferred prime minister 43 to 35, with Abbott closing from a hopeless 48 to 30 thumping last time.

In personality terms Abbott is a shocker. The Abbott-Shorten scores are:

    Understands the major issues 52-68

    Cares for people 55-71

    Arrogant 77-46

    Likeable 40-64

    In touch with voters 33-63

    Trustworthy 43-59

They were remarkably similar on Experienced, Decisive and strong and Vision for Australia.

On handling issues they stack up Abbott-Shorten as follows:

Australia’s economy 45-37

National security 51-31

Health and Medicare 30-56

Education 33-53

Asylum seekers 51-32

Climate change 24-55

With that one the scores should add up to 100, with the shortfall made up of Neither and Uncommitted. These totalled from 14 to 21%.

Politically Abbott is playing to his strength with his ‘war on terror’ which I hope to post on soon.

It is possible to battle back from a desperately losing position, as Howard did in 2001, largely on the back of a war on asylum seekers.

He did have his party behind him.

True, after the liberals had lost the blue ribbon seat of Ryan in a by-election and party president Shane Stone sent him a memo accusing the government of being “mean and tricky”. Essentially Howard took notice.

The “mean and tricky” leak is now being compared to Fairfax’s publication of excerpts from two candid and blunt emails from party treasurer Phil Higginson. RN’s PM reporter James Glenday:

it’s now obvious the Prime Minister’s grasp on power is being actively undermined by a steady stream of leaks.


Plainly there is this desire on the part of some to damage and destroy this government.

But who? The Drum looks at the leaks that rocked Australian politics politics. All were damaging and the leakers were never discovered. Could be one of the seven ministers who are said to have Abbott on notice.

Guy Rundle in a delicious (for lefties) article at Crikey (paywalled, unfortunately) says we are we are watching the throes of a dying government:

Like Howard in 2007, Abbott is politically dead — he just doesn’t seem to have noticed yet.

How good is this? Seriously, how good is it? I know I should start a piece about the Abbott government in some more serious vein, about the new stuff about redrawing the line between security and freedom being the desperate act of a dying government but no less dangerous for that, but ehhhh …


They tell us lies, but are they clunkheads?

Back in 2010 just after the election and before the Gillard minority government had been formed, Laura Tingle wrote:

There are two possible explanations for how an opposition presenting itself as an alternative government could end up with an $11 billion hole in the cost of its election commitments.

One is that they are liars, the other is that they are clunkheads. Actually there is a third explanation: they are liars and clunkheads.

But whatever the combination, they are not fit to govern. (Emphasis added)

I visited this theme again in 2013 before the election, when Tingle took a look:

at where the PEFO numbers leave the LNPs budget task and finds that, at best, $25 billion more in ‘saves’ will be required.

She was commenting on the competence of the Joe Hockey/Andrew Robb team. Robb has of course since been replaced by Mathias Cormann.

Peter Martin has now written a searing critique of the Abbott government’s economic performance against what they tell us. Cormann told the ABC

the economy was “heading in the right direction”. He wanted “to build on the achievements we made in 2014”.

Martin comments:

That year began with a quarterly rate of economic growth of 1 per cent. After the budget, it slid to 0.5 per cent, and then to 0.3 per cent. It’s falling, rather than rising. The direction is down. (Ignore the through-the-year figures Cormann quoted. They make the budget look good by including the very strong economic growth that preceded it.)

Here’s what the Reserve bank said:

“In Australia the available information suggests that growth is continuing at a below-trend pace, with domestic demand growth overall quite weak.”

It’s weak and it’s bleak. It isn’t heading “in the right direction”.

Hockey and Cormann will tell you that while unemployment is growing, employment is too.

The Reserve Bank points out that monthly hours worked have scarcely changed since December 2011 despite three years of population growth. They barely moved at all in 2014.

Hockey told us the poorest Australians “either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases.” They do. Petrol is a bigger part their budget than it is for the rich.

Hockey said:

his own wealthy electorate of North Sydney had “one of the highest bulk-billing rates in Australia”.

Make that one of the lowest in Sydney.

Hockey said that typical Australians pay nearly half their income in tax. They don’t. Even those on $200,000 pay only 36%.

Then this:

Hockey said Australia was on track to run out of money to pay for its health, welfare and education systems. The figures put forward by his then health minister suggested otherwise. In ten years the cost of Medicare had climbed 124 per cent, the cost of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme 90 per cent and the cost of public hospitals 83 per cent. But Australia’s gross domestic product – the money we would use to pay for these things – climbed 94 per cent.

Trust has evaporated, and without trust consumers and business lack confidence, which has been sliding since September.

Specific businesses are at a standstill. Universities don’t know what fees they will be allowed to charge, students enrolling don’t know what fees they will eventually be asked to pay, doctors don’t know what will happen to their incomes, electricity generators don’t know what will happen to the renewable energy target, big businesses don’t know whether they will be hit with the 1.5 per cent paid parental leave levy and what it will be used for.


Focussing on the budget, Alan Austin at Independent Australia finds a revenue megafail, all of the government’s own making.

Failures in revenue include:

    1. Closing off $7.6 billion in annual revenue from the carbon tax

    2. Closing off $3.4 billion revenue from the mining tax

    3. Closing off $3.6 billion from changes to tax and superannuation rules

    4. Failing to pursue $1.1 billion shifted by multinational companies to offshore tax havens

    5. Failing to pursue other tax avoidance schemes

    6. Failing to pursue tax evasion

    7. Failing to forecast resources revenue write-down

    8. Failing to anticipate falling revenue from corporate sector

This comes on top of the earlier post in which Austin found 40 expenditure items where money was wasted. Such as the Italian Carrara marble panelling Defence is putting in a Canberra building, to take one at random.

On the revenue megafail, Austin says, all were Coalition decisions, the deterioration has been dramatic, we got precisely the opposite of what was promised, it will take a treasurer and finance minister with a high level of competence, courage and authority to restore the situation, and finally, as the experiences of Spain, Ireland, Hong Kong, Venezuela and other countries show, damage done to an economy in a short time can take decades to repair.

On debt Austin says:

The Abbott Government inherited the best-performed economy in the world in 2013. Some say the best the world has seen since data collection began. Within nine months, however, ABC Fact Check confirmed deficits for the forward estimate period had doubled over Labor’s level. Now, after 17 months, net government debt has increased over Labor’s by 34.6%. It’s on track to have doubled by this time next year.

I think the initial question about liars and clunkheads answers itself.

Chris Bowen promises us a warts and all budget narrative. We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile Hockey is setting up to scare us to death with the intergenerational report.

See also

Hockey’s debt and deficit mess.

Abbott explodes his economic credibility

Welcome to the the Green Tea Coalition

Traditionally, doubting climate science has been an article of faith for the US Tea Party.  Imagine my surprise at seeing this New Yorker  report that sections of the Tea Party are now actively supporting rooftop solar and teaming up with the Sierra Club to form the “Green Tea Coalition.  Coalition action includes:

helping defeat an effort by Georgia Power to impose heavy fees on customers with rooftop solar systems.”

So what is going on and are there implications for climate action in Australia?

The Tea party leader behind these moves is Debbie Dooley.  Debbie is definitely not someone from the Tea party fringe. She is

one of the twenty-two organizers of the first nationwide Tea Party protest, in 2009…. a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party, on the board of directors of the national Tea Party Patriots, and, since 2012, has been a fierce solar-power advocate.

In addition, much of what she says in support of solar is pure Tea Party:

“I thought that the regulated (utility) monopoly in Georgia had far too much power…” Solar, …. promised to give people energy autonomy. “The average person cannot build a power plant, but they can install solar panels on their rooftop, and they should be able to sell that energy to friends and neighbors if they wish.”

She also talks about:

solar energy, the free market, consumer choice, and national security. “Rooftop solar makes it harder for terrorists to render a devastating blow to our power grid,” she said. “There’s nothing more centralized in our nation. If terrorists were able to take down nine key substations, it would cause a blackout coast to coast.”….

and actions such as leading

a major ballot initiative that would amend that state’s (Florida) constitution to allow individuals and businesses with solar panels to sell the power that they generate directly to their tenants or neighbors. (Current law permits only utility companies to sell electricity.)

The key things here are a growing aversion to big business trying to limit the freedom of individuals in addition in addition to the traditional Tea Party aversion to big government.  There is no suggestion that the Tea party side of the coalition has suddenly decided to become climate change believers.

So what are the lessons for Australia given that the Tea party is an artifact of US culture?   For me there a few key reminders:

  1. You don’t have to believe in climate science to do things that help slow climate change.
  2. In some cases ideological things like individualism. aversion to big business/government will help with things like rooftop solar, household recycling, urban farming etc.
  3. In other cases the fracking companies are helping build the case against fossil gas while helping to build the regional Greens vote.
  4. Then there is finance.  The thing that is most likely to kill thermal coal projects and fossil power stations these days is the banks perception that these have become very risky investments.
  5. Then there is the economy.   What the world economy needs right now is a big drive against Greenhouse emissions – You don’t need to believe in climate science – Just sensible economics.

No, I haven’t gone over to the Tea party but it is worth reading the rest of the New Yorker article on the fights that Dooley has fought and won against the likes of the Koch Bros and more.

If you want to find out even more, admire the picture, imagine Abbott stewing in the Tea Cup and go to:  Green Tea Coalition

Green Tea Coalition

Bi-partisan Coalition of Environmentalists and tea party activists seeking common ground on common sense energy solutions for a stronger American economy.

ABC’s Sarah Ferguson accused of bias


In a commissioned review Fairfax’s Colleen Ryan found that Ferguson’s opening question to Joe Hockey on the 2014 budget was “emotive” and would lead to the average viewer thinking the treasurer “was not treated with sufficient respect by the interviewer”.

Ferguson’s opening gambit to Hockey was: “It’s a budget with a new tax, with levies, with co-payments. Is it liberating for a politician to decide election promises don’t matter?”

Ferguson, who pressed an uncomfortable-looking Hockey on the fairness of the budget and its reversal of pre-election promises, homed in on the deficit levy and Medicare co-payment, which Hockey referred to as “tax adjustments”.

“They’re still taxes,” Ferguson said. “I don’t need to teach you, treasurer, what a tax is. You know that a co-payment, a levy and a tax are all taxes by any other name. Am I correct?”

Apparently she treated Chris Bowen in a similar manner.

I thought she treated everyone like a headmistress sorting out naughty miscreants. Because she was generally well-informed and incisive I rather enjoyed her style.

The ABC has defended her:

“As a political interviewer, Ms Ferguson is tough but demonstrates a consistently civil and objective approach,” said Kate Torney, director of ABC News.

“She is insistent that those she interviews do not evade important questions and often focuses on contradictions either within policy positions or in the responses of interviewees.

“The fact that this may make interviewees ‘uncomfortable’ does not necessarily mean that the interviewer is either aggressive or is failing to demonstrate due impartiality.”

Torney said the ABC “does not believe Ms Ferguson’s questions were hostile or unbalanced; rather they were astute and prescient”.

Generally speaking though, I think aggressive interviewing is unproductive, especially when coming from an ill-informed base, which unfortunately is what we get all too often.

The whole affair has become problematic for the ABC because it has been reported in a biased way. Note that The Guardian report linked above speaks of what the average viewer might think. It hasn’t reported a finding of bias as such. But elsewhere we have:

Alan Sunderland as Head of Editorial Policy tells the real story:

Colleen produced an excellent and comprehensive report. Her overall judgement was that our coverage complied with all of our policies and guidelines and the overall quality was “excellent”. At significant length, the report discusses all aspects of the coverage and provides a series of observations on ways it might have been improved, expanded or extended.

When it came to the detail, the report analysed 76 different pieces of content over several days, and in all of that it singled out only three items for particular mention. One of them was the Sarah Ferguson interview.

While stressing that the issue was subjective and her view related only to a “potential perception”, Colleen Ryan suggested that some questions were asked in a way that might raise perceptions of bias because of tone and phrasing. While acknowledging that all the questions were accurate and appropriate, and that Sarah Ferguson had a reputation as an interviewer who asked equally tough questions of all sides, she nonetheless wondered whether enough respect was shown to this interviewee.

He says it was a worthwhile question to ask, and the whole point of seeking outside views is to raise honest questions.

Thankfully the ABC will continue to monitor its performance with such external reviews and publish the results in a transparent way. It’s critics in the MSM should do likewise.

Climate clippings 127

1. Queensland’s minister for the reef

Premier Palaszczuk’s new ministry contained some surprises, including the appointment of Steven Miles as Minister for the Great Barrier Reef. His full handle is Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef.

According to the WWF, Minister Miles will be responsible for delivering ALP environmental commitments including: a ban on dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area; an 80 per cent reduction in pollution run-off into the Reef by 2025; and the reinstatement of key legal safeguards.

2. Japan now has more EV chargers than petrol stations

The number of EV charging points in Japan, including fast-chargers and those installed in homes, has reached 40,000, surpassing the nation’s 34,000 gas stations, a new report has found.

The surprising figures were reported last week by Japanese auto giant Nissan, whose fully electric car, the Leaf, has been one of the world’s big EV success stories, selling 160,000 cars globally since its 2011 launch date.

Mainly in Japan, the US and Europe.

It should be noted that some of the charging stations are in private homes. Also petrol stations have multiple pumps, not reflected in the figures.

Tesla has its own network of (solar powered) charging stations in the US – and has plans to build versions of this supercharge network in China, Europe and Australia.

In Australia, local fast-charge tech company, Tritium, installed its first public Veefil EV charger in Brisbane at a BMW dealership in Fortitude Valley – the first of a planned “electric super highway” of fast chargers along the east coast.

3. Temperature records vs trends

Gavin Schmidt, who has succeeded James Hansen as head of NASA GISS, has some Thoughts on 2014 and ongoing temperature trends. The shorter Schmidt is that while individual records grab the headlines, they don’t matter nearly as much as the underlying trend. This graph shows the overall trend in relation to El Niño and La Niña and years:


The blue bars represent La Niña years, the orange El Niño and the grey neutral years. 2014 is bang on trend, but only marginally higher than 2005 and 2010. Yet it is grey to their orange.

Schmidt doesn’t mention this, but while 2014 was neutral it did feature anomalous warming in the northern Pacific, rather than the eastern equatorial Pacific warming associated with El Niños. This warming is said to have some of the same climatic effects as El Niño. Perhaps we need a new category with a fancy name.

4. Climate sensitivity conundrums

The term is “equilibrium climate sensitivity” (ECS). It represents “the global surface temperature change anticipated as a result of doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.” John Fasullo has done a post on the current challenges and constraints in relation to the concept. It’s technical and I find it a bit boring, but ECS is an absolutely central concept to climate change discourse.

The basic problem is that the IPCC broadened the uncertainty range at the lower end from 2-4.5°C in IPCC4 to 1.5-4.5°C in IPCC5. The likely midpoint is still 3°C.

Fasullo has a lot of complex argument about the constraints arising from observations and models. What I think it comes down to is this.

The cut-off date for published papers for IPCC5 was July 2012. Prior to that date there had been several papers suggesting uncertainty at the lower end. Now the literature has swung back the other way. There was also the ‘warming pause’, which for a while back there was deemed by some to be real.

Fasullo makes it clear that the calculations are based largely on short-term effects. In Climate clippings 125 I referred to a David Spratt article which refers to the work of Hansen, Tripati and others which put longer term ECS at 4.5°C or more. And part of the point of the Michael Mann article was that we are starting to get into the longer term feedback zone.

I think they should all go back and read Hansen et al Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications (2011, I think) pages 4-18. The table on p17 gives ECS at 8°C or more, depending on certain definitions and circumstances.

5. Origin Energy to build Australia’s biggest rooftop solar array

Origin Energy and Zen Energy Systems are to build a 3MW solar system on the rooftop of the old Mitsubishi factory in Tonsley, Adelaide, in what will be the largest rooftop solar array in the country.

The awarding of the contracts was announced by the South Australian government this week. The intention to build the array was first announced late last year.

Origin Energy will own the rooftop array and sell the output to the tenants of the Tonsley high tech centre…, under a power purchase agreement that it is looking at replicating elsewhere in the country.

Here’s an artist’s impression of the site:


6. Origin shifts retail focus to rooftop solar and battery storage

Origin Energy has provided further details of its impending major push into the domestic solar market, saying that it expects rooftop solar to grow five-fold over the next 15 years, and battery storage will also emerge.

The Tonsley centre initiative is one example of this company reorientation. Seems AGL is looking to follow suit.

Marcia strikes

Mercifully Cyclone Marcia made landfall at Shoalwater Bay, a military training area between Yeppoon and Sarina, south of Mackay. The ABC coverage shows how it zigged and zagged after getting up steam in the Coral Sea:


It headed for Mackay and then side-stepped. Perhaps Kolobok Norris was out there on the beach waving his fists! I do hope he and Graham Bell were safe.

It gathered strength to become a category 5, but not nearly as big bad or ugly as Yasi. Nor will it penetrate as far into the inland, where large tracts remain parched.

Here’s an image of Yasi:

Yasi 2 Fe 500

Here’s the equivalent of Marcia:


Cat 5 cyclones can destroy buildings. The Courier Mail has a photo gallery, including this:


Here’s another:


There was a three metre tidal surge and with significant erosion a tourist cabin fell into the sea on Great Keppel Island:


There will be a lot of personal stories of danger, escape and loss:


Some people, especially surf board riders, seem to be energised by these events. Here at Noosa they line up for their turn:


Here in South-east Queensland we’ve had a substantial rain depression for a couple of days. I gather it is related to Marcia but there is clear air between them as seen from this BOM screenshot late on Friday:


Considerable swells have already battered then Gold Coast:


Here in Brisbane we await the remnants of Marcia. I gather we are in a 12 hour interval which is like being in the eye of the storm. So far at our place we’ve had about 150 mm or six inches in the old money. We are assured that the main issues will be creek flooding and wind, with the possibility of trees bringing down power lines, hence blackouts and/or blocked roads. We are assured that it will be nothing like the floods of 2011. In fact we may get our reservoirs recharged which currently sit at a bit over 80%.

In the NT Cyclone Lam crossed the coast about 440 km east of Darwin, hitting some remote communities.

At time of posting (2 am) it looks as though Marcia has significantly fizzled and is mainly sliding through to the west of us. We’ve certainly had enough rain and it might do some good in agricultural areas.

Update: Geoff Henderson has sent me a link to a CNN map shown on Facebook, with Tasmania labelled Queensland. Here it is:


Saturday salon 21/2


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.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Brandis staffer oversees Labor meeting with Gillian Triggs

This scungy mob don’t know how to behave.

When Mark Dreyfus, shadow attorney general, met human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs Brandis’s deputy chief of staff, Josh Faulks, turned up at the commission’s Sydney office at the appointed time for the meeting. Both Dreyfus and Triggs asked him to leave.

Faulks refused, saying he was acting on the instructions of the attorney. The meeting proceeded with Faulks watching.

The Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body.

At the same time Abbott refuses requests from Triggs for a meeting and Brandis has been unable to find time in recent months.

Simply outrageous.

2. Abbott wades into the Bali nine affair

When Abbott promised an “absolutely unambiguous” response if Bali nine the executions went ahead, I was inclined to agree with him. I thought there should be some very overt sign of our displeasure if our neighbours kill some of our citizens. However, I thought, now is not the time to be saying this.

I also thought it was very bad form to remind Indonesia about the help we gave them during the aftermath of the Aceh tsunami. Surely we gave help because it was needed, not in the hope of future favours.

It seems that Abbott’s intervention was a real diplomatic clanger and may have undid much of the carefully crafted strategy pursued by Julie Bishop and others. Lets hope no-one takes the clown too seriously. Certainly Julie Bishop made clear to RN Drive that aid was a quite separate issue.

3. Remembering the freedom rides

Nearly every week we remember some significant event of the past. This week it was the freedom rides of 50 years ago. Ann Curthoys and Brian Aarons remember:

We travelled by bus to protest against racial discrimination against Aboriginal people in New South Wales country towns such as Walgett, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey.

Although we had done our best to prepare, the non-Aboriginal students were shocked by what we found: desperately poor living conditions on fringe settlements, missions on which white managers controlled every aspect of Aboriginal people’s lives, white people convinced of their racial superiority, and exclusion of Aboriginal people from the basic amenities of a country town.

So, we protested against the exclusion of Aboriginal people from RSL clubs in Walgett, swimming pools in Moree and Kempsey, and picture theatres in Bowraville.

The SMH tells the story of the re-enactment. Here John Powles, Charles Perkins, Patricia Healy and Jim Spigelman plan the ride:

Freedom rides_1424227244392_550

How much has changed? A lot, but there is more to go, according to this account of Moree then and now.

4. Remembering Dresden

Just a week ago, on 13-14 February, we remembered the 1945 carpet bombing of Dresden and the consequent fire-storm in which at least 25,000 people died. There are some historic pictures at The Atlantic:


The Daily Mail concentrates on photos of the commemoration, including the magnificent rebuilt Frauenkirche. It also includes historic photos towards the end.

Scary berries: trusting the food we eat

As of Wednesday evening 14 cases of hepatitis A have been linked to frozen berries. More are expected. Schools are on the alert as the berries have been used and consumed in cooking classes. At least one preschool used the berries to make smoothies for an afternoon snack.

Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, said the government was considering a review of testing on imports under Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) as more hepatitis A cases turned up. His department wrote to the Chinese government to ask for assurances on the food testing measures.

As for the government doing anything concrete Abbott has virtually ruled it out, saying that it is the responsibility of businesses ‘not to poison their customers’. A crackdown would just add to the cost of food, he says.

Meanwhile Patties, the company concerned, has cast doubt on the quality of Australian produce, angering growers.

Patties say their:

“policy was to acquire Australian fruit wherever possible,” despite the fact in the past two years it sourced berries from China, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, United States, Greece, Turkey and Serbia.

In this case:

The four recalled products – one-kilogram packs of Nanna’s Raspberries and Frozen Mixed Berries, as well as 300 gram and 500 gram packs of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries – were largely sourced and packed in China. (Emphasis added)


The Conversation has an explainer.

Hepatitis A can come from the berries being grown in infected water, washed in infected water, picked or packed by people carrying the virus, getting contaminated by infected animals, such as livestock, rats, mice or bats, at some stage in the production cycle, or mixing with other ingredients contaminated with hepatitis A virus during processing.

The infection can be inside the berry itself.

About 90 per cent of China’s groundwater is polluted, 65 per cent severely so, with contaminates such as pesticides, fertilisers and petrochemicals, a report from the Centre of International Security Studies at Sydney University showed.

The real problem, however, is faeces. Human poo is used in China as fertiliser. I understand that customs don’t test for bacterial or viral pollution. I did hear that the berries were now sent to an overseas lab for testing. Are we a first world country?

A new focus has come on labelling. Consumers want it, there have been endless inquiries, and exactly nothing happens. Choice tells us we are stuck with statements like ‘Packed in Australia using imported fruit’ or ‘Made in Australia using local and imported ingredients’ which offer very little information about a product’s origin and are largely meaningless to consumers.

It looks as though Joyce wants to do something about labelling, but I think it lies in the health portfolio. At least eight governments have to agree. Without the support of the PM who seems to have made up in his mind in the negative, nothing will happen

Ironically the Chinese would rather eat our fruit than their own if they can afford it, but there is no provision to export our produce directly to China. It has to go through third countries. We are currently working on a trade deal with China. Andrew Robb, please note!

Antony Green’s voting analysis

Labor received 51.1% of the two-party preferred vote to the LNP’s 48.9%, according to Antony Green. This represents a swing to Labor of 14.0% since 2012.

That margin was greater than Anna Bligh achieved in 2009 and should have resulted in a comfortable win. However much of Labor’s vote is locked up in safe seats. Labor has 15 seats on more than 10%, compared to the LNP’s 10. Labor has two on over 20% to the LNP’s none.

At the other end of the spectrum, the LNP has four on a margin of less than 1% compared to Labor’s one. The LNP has 12 seats on less than 3% to Labor’s seven.

Labor won in Brisbane and the regions, especially the north. The swing was greatest in outer Brisbane (17%), defined by the seats in the Moreton Bay, Redlands, Logan and Ipswich local government areas. Labor holds no seats on the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast.

On preference flows, fewer votes were exhausted this time.

There were 71 electorates that finished as two-party preferred contest in both 2012 and 2015. In 2012 the distribution of all minor party preferences in these seats split 27.0% to Labor, 22.0% to LNP and 51.0% exhausted. In 2015 the same figures are 47.8% to Labor, 15.9% to the LNP and 36.3% exhausted. With 18.2% minor party and independent vote in these seats in 2015, changed preference flows have added 3-4% to the swing.

The union campaign to “put the LNP last” seems to have prevailed over the LNP’s injunction to “just vote one”.

Had preference flows in 2015 been at the same rate as in 2012, Labor would not have won Bundaberg, Ferny Grove or Maryborough, and would have struggled to win Mount Coot-tha.

Labor won the race for both Katter and PUP preferences.

Together Palmer United and Katter preferences split 38.7% to Labor, 20.6% to the LNP and 40.1% exhausted.

As for the Greens:

In 2015 Labor received around 20% stronger preference flows from the Greens. In 2012 the big first preference gap delivered a boost to the LNP through exhausted preferences, a factor less relevant in 2015. On a Green vote of 8-10% in most urban seats, the change in preferences delivered an extra 2-3% to the swing to Labor after preferences.

There has been a pathetic attempt to suggest that Labor has no mandate, because the LNP got more first preference votes. Green’s analysis rather gives the lie to that claim. The LNP are lucky they got as many seats as they did.

Finally, and not from Green, if you want to shorten Annastacia Palaszczuk’s first name, friends and family call her Stacia.