Weekly salon 1/8

1. Will they ever learn?

ABC’s 7.30 Report on Monday looked at Centrelink still operating it’s robo debt scam, where taxation records are matched with Centrelink payments. The program starts with an example where a citizen in Hobart received a demand from a debt collector for $7,000 to be paid immediately. Her wages would be garnisheed if she didn’t pay, they said.

The process then is that the victim has to prove her innocence by showing pay slips etc, bank records etc. In this case more than 7 years had passed, so the bank no longer kept records.

The claim is that the system had been humanised.

In the program Professor Terry Carney said:

    There’s half a million Australian citizens whose rights are being traduced and compromised by a scheme which is not lawful.

    Under social security law, the onus to prove a debt lies exclusively, entirely with Centrelink, and this system operates by shifting all of that onus on to the alleged debtor.

I know that some people try to avoid going on welfare to avoid the risk of this kind of thing. Perhaps that is the purpose.

2. Swimming Australia shoots itself in the foot

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard that our Aussie swimmer, Mack Horton, refused to share the podium with Chinese swimmer, Sun Yang, who had just beaten him in a race.

If you have an opinion about it, and have not read Tracey Holmes article, then you should. It looked as though some people were trying to set Sun Yang up. Two of the three in the drug testing team were unauthorised, and one was taking a video, which is against the rules. The event concluded with a minder destroying the blood sample with a hammer.

FINA accepted this. WADA is contesting it, but meanwhile Sun Yang is free to swim.

Even better, listen to Tracey Holmes talking to Patricia Karvelas about the issue.

In an earlier incident in 2014, Sun Yang was pinged for taking a substance to alleviate a heart condition he suffers. The substance had been approved, then banned, but his doctor had not kept up to date. He then applied and gained approval to take the substance under the ‘therapeutic use exemption’ clause. Sun Yang copped a token three months ban. However, ever since that time Horton thinks he should be banned for life.

Hordes of swimmers and Swimming Australia have backed Horton. Denis Cotterell, who has coached Sun Yang, has lashed the “hypcrites” for vilifying the world champion, when some of their mates had been caught doing the wrong thing.

I have a clear view. Horton is there to swim, not to judge other competitors adherence to the doping rules. The Chinese authorities would see what happened as dishonouring the nation. I gather they are not saying anything but Sun Yang’s fans are, with some death threats thrown in.

3. Shayna Jack steps in a hole

Horton did not know that Shayna Jack had been sent home because she tested positive

Again, read Tracy Holmes:

    Right now, Jack and Swimming Australia must hope other nations show a more respectful and measured response than we have shown them.

I heard a sports lawyer say that all Jack had to do was show the supplements she took, and that ligandrol was not on the ingredients list. Jack hasn’t said she does or doesn’t take supplements. Her manager says she doesn’t.

What she does say is that she has no idea how it got into her system. However, she will be held guilty unless she can show she is innocent, and could be banned for four years.

4. Quiggin on Adani

John Quiggin is closely monitoring Adani, and reports that the project is not springing into life, creating all those jobs it promised:

    Despite the company’s upbeat announcements, the project still seems to consist entirely of tree-clearing and road-building. Photos published recently show the same small group of vehicles that has been on the site since January.

    To get past this stage, and lacking significant in-house experience of major projects, Adani needs partners, not least engineering design firms and construction contractors. And even if no external funds were needed, the project would need insurance, which is getting harder to come by.

Firms previously involved in insurance, engineering design and construction in the coal industry are increasingly reluctant to get involved. The Indonesian coal industry if finding the same.

In my view, any new coal mind should expect to become a stranded asset, probably during the next decade.

Matthew Stevens in the AFR reports that Adani could collapse before it begins. Forensic accountant Professor Sandra van der Laan:

    “It looks to me like a corporate collapse waiting to happen,” she told the ABC. “It has all the hallmarks of the big corporate failures we’ve seen over the last 20 to 30 years.”


    “Effectively on paper, they are insolvent,” van der Laan said. “I wouldn’t be trading with them, as simple as that. I wouldn’t have anything to do with them.”

Meanwhile, Kenneth Rogoff says that new coal-fired power stations are being built in Asia at the rate of one a week, and the average age is 11 years.

Matthew Stevens wrote in a recent article that the amount of coal burned had peaked in 2013, however in recent times had been increasing again, though not to 2013 levels.

This graph from James Hansen I posted recently causes concern, because people are realising that over the life cycle gas could be just as bad.

33 thoughts on “Weekly salon 1/8”

  1. Brian: The paucity of on site action at Adani merely tells me they are not completely incompetent, There are still doubts about whether the project will proceed given problems like:
    1. The apparent reluctance of many companies to be involved due to reputational issues and/or uncertainty re whether they will be paid for work done.
    2. Not clear whether any customers have been lined up.
    3. Have necessary approvals and agreements for the proposed link rail been tied up.
    Even if all the above is OK design and construction should be organized in a way so that all the things that need to be done to start production are completed at about the same time. (There is no prize for digging the pit and then having it sit idle for yonks waiting for the coal process and handling system to be built.) I would expect a limited site establishment like what we can see now to happen up front then a significant delay before major site work begins.
    In Adani’s they may want to spend the minimum required to give credibility for adding the mine to the assets they can use to support borrowing.

  2. John the suggestion put forward by Quiggins was that Adani needed to keep the viable Carmichael on its balance to balance debt against assets. To date the green light has been so far away that a test of the asset worth was still a long way off. I think the real crunch clock has now started ticking for the project. If it does not get started in a reasonable time it could start to lose merit as an asset.
    I noted also that Suncorp will decline insurance for coal mining now. The article did not mention Adani.

  3. John, probably too little attention has been paid to the rail line. I understand it will traverse grazing country, where rail lines are most unwelcome. The inhibit the movement of stock, and are problematic in altering water flows, especially over flood plains.

    I’m reminded of a story I heard about mining speculation in the late 1980s. At least one start-up hired a broken rig and put it out on a tenement to look as though it was active when seeking funds in a share float.

    Geoff, I think Adani has customers for the scaled down version. Something about a deal with his mate the Indian PM to provide electricity more expensive electricity than they would get from renewables.

  4. I’ve just this minute had an email from the Galilee Blockade mob (not sure how I got on their list) that the Co-ordinator General has signed off on the railway.

  5. The process then is that the victim has to prove her innocence by showing pay slips etc, bank records etc. In this case more than 7 years had passed, so the bank no longer kept records.

    It’s disgusting.
    The onus of proof must lay with the accuser, otherwise the “ presumption of innocence “ ( a standard that sets civilised folk from tyrants) is violated.

    Same with audit irregularities and “ proceeds of crime “ allegations.
    Prove your innocence citizen.

    But hey, that big greedy Government needs the money and power and to hell with individual rights, right ?
    Collective ( insert group here ) rights trump individuals rights some insanely believe.

  6. We had an instance about 15 years ago when bank records from only a couple of years earlier “had been lost” according to our bank.

    That was well into the computer database era, when peasants were being urged repeatedly to carefully back up their own PC files etc.

    Wunch of bankers!

    I agree with you Mr J about the importance of the presumption of innocence. Along with habeus corpus it was considered vital as a protection for each citizen against arbitrary and oppressive acts of government.

    (That’s the background as I understand it……)

    The Courts require charges to be backed by evidence, etc. Juries are told they can’t convict a defendant unless convinced beyond reasonable doubt of her/his guilt.

  7. After the upheaval in Bucharest and the overthrow and execution of the Ceaucescus, a member of the new govt said:

    The guilty will all get a fair trial!

    Hmmmm, they haven’t quite grasped the subtleties of justice yet, I thought.

  8. GH

    Did Bin Laden get a fair trial?

    Had he turned himself in for one he could have.

    Did he give a fair trial to those he had executed ?

  9. Jumpy crims are entitled to a fair trial. Did BL get a fair trial? He was shot on the spot I think.

    That he killed others without a fair trial does not give anyone permission to arbitrarily kill, no matter how much the person deserved it.

  10. Saddam Hussein didn’t turn himself in, but received a lengthy (and televised) trial.

    Slobodan M received a very lengthy internationally sanctioned trial but died before it was completed.

    A small number of Khmer Rouge henchmen were tried by an international court. Unfortunately it took decades to organise. Justice delayed is justice attenuated. And Brother Number One, chief henchman, died before the Phnomh Penh trial started.

    Various high officials and military leaders were tried at Nuremberg.

    It’s possible to put on a war crimes trial. The fairness of such proceedings can be debated. (In passing, I don’t think the Ceausescus were tried in a fair way; it wasn’t even up to “court martial” standards.)

    Some wanted persons hide.
    I think Osama was in that category. It seems he took stringent precautions to elude capture.

    Do you believe the al Qaeda attacks in September 2001 constituted war crimes, Geoff H?

    PS: I remember attending a speech by Cherie Blair about international justice, in Melbourne a dozen or so years ago. It seemed there were many legal persons in the audience. In the question time, someone asked her whether PM Tony Blair had committed war crimes in Iraq.

    She thought not.

  11. Did he give a fair trial to those he had executed ?

    Bearing in mind that he could have been tried in absentia, are we tyrants for not extending the presumption of innocence to Bin Laden?

  12. On Bin Laden,
    I looks like a clash between two different sets of laws.

    Under his preferred law ( sharia ) he was a hero.
    Under my preferred law he was a mass murderer.

    Live under which set you prefer I suppose.

  13. Zoot:

    Bearing in mind that he could have been tried in absentia, are we tyrants for not extending the presumption of innocence to Bin Laden?

    My recollection was that Bin Laden gloated about the successes of his organization which makes it hard do do the presumption of innocence thing.
    On the other hand, he is not the only leader who has gloated about a success against one of his enemies.

    Under his preferred law ( sharia ) he was a hero.
    Under my preferred law he was a mass murderer.

    I think you got it right and agree with what you have got to say about accusers having to prove guilt.

  14. Jumpy the crime of twin towers was committed in the USA, which makes me believe that they perps placed themselves in that jurisdiction. There is no clash. If you get caught with drugs in Malaysia they break you neck by hanging. Again, no clash, their law not matter how harsh it appears.
    And yes we could have tried the bad guys in absentia but did not.

  15. GH: The US is seeking to imprison Julian Assagne for alleged breaking of US law (not international law) while living elsewhere. I realize embarrassing the US is on par with original sin and US law is a synonym for international law but………..
    (Nope, I haven’t forgiven Assagne for giving the Trump campaign a critical boost. However, in terms of law……)

  16. Murder is a crime in NY, true.

    I believe the deliberate mass murder of civilians is also a war crime.

    BTW, on al Qaeda, the alleged chief planner of the Sept 11 attacks Khalid Sheik Moh. was taken into custody many years ago, and hasn’t yet been tried (unless a trial has been held in camera.)

    The unexpected arrest in London of ex-President Pinochet was a milestone in international law, almost on a par with the founding of the ICC in The Hague.

  17. Ambi I dunno if you can have a war crime without a war. However, we do have “crimes against humanity” that might be the option where there is no actual war.

    About Assange – I can’t decide on him or his actions. On one hand he showed the world some pretty rancid stuff. On the other hand he broke a few serious rules according to someone’s rules e.g. the USA. I think the US side gets a bit complicated and I’m pretty uninformed on that. I do know that the US has not joined the World Court, and that under Trump US credibility and standing has dipped.

  18. Geoff, my understanding is that the US does not recognise any international body that would have power over any of its citizens. In fact, as a general rule it only joins organisations it can control, or has a veto. The one exception was said to be the World Trade Organisation, because, as a whole, it was set up to favour multinationals, of which the US had many of the biggest and most powerful.

    I understand Trump’s trade war with China breaks WTO rules, but who is going to bring him to account?

  19. Well with Trump’s influence, Britain and Boris’ Brexit, China’s clear expansionist policies, middle east issues and other regimes that seem to be having on-going or developing troubles this looks like being a rollicking century. And at a time when the world should be working together to keep the climate under its tipping point.
    As a proud Australian, I am not proud of our governments attitude to climate.

  20. Certainly atrocities are committed by organised groups that don’t wear soldiers’ uniforms.

    The International Criminal Court can deal with them: militias, terrorist groups, death squads, etc.

    It’s true that USA and some other nations have not yet signed up to the ICC. And South Africa under Pres Zuma was threatening to withdraw.

    Interestingly, the ICC can only prosecute when the affected nation has not investigated or not indicted the alleged criminals.

    In some ways that might be analogous to trade disputes in the WTO. A company in nation A first attempts to sue in the courts of nation B, but afterwards Govt A takes Govt B to the WTO.

    It makes sense (to me) to try first at the local level.

  21. Most Wednesdays James Cook uni presents a public lecture. The series is known as TESS seminars and the speaker is always an eminent authority on the topic of the day. This coming Wednesday Prof Richard Parncutt (https://homepage.uni-graz.at/de/richard.parncutt/ ) is the speaker. His topic draws attention to the effects of global warming on human mortality, and he has attempted to quantify that number. If you looked at his bio you might think, initially that the topic is not in his range, but apparently it is.
    From the Uni flyer:
    “How will anthropogenic global warming (AGW) affect global mortality due to poverty around and beyond 2100? Roughly how much burned fossil carbon corresponds to one future death?”
    I’ve always thought about “harm” but never “death”. Anyway I thought it interesting enough to raise here.
    The talk is on Wednesday 7th August, 4-5pm AEST. It might be available on Zoom. Again, from the flyer:
    Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://jcu.zoom.us/j/255863267 * (please ensure to mute your microphone and turn off your camera)
    I have forwarded the email advice I got from JCU to Brian and expect that he will forward that notice on if requested.

  22. No problems, Geoff.

    There are deaths now from extreme weather events, changes in weather patterns, wildfires etc due to global warming.

    There are also deaths from the direct air pollution from burning fossil fuels.

    Numbers are significant, but I don’t have them in memory.

  23. Brian:

    What we need is despatchable power, not baseload power. Is nuclear despatchable?

    Up to the minimum power demand pure baseload could be all of the power mix. Even more can be used if some of the demand is controlled so that minimum demand under normal conditions can be boosted by using “on demand” power to increase the minimum. In practice , “baseload” power sources like nuclear and coal fired do have some capacity to reduce output without shutting down modules.
    In practice the mix of flexible and inflexible power sources will affect the pricing structure and thus encourage high, steady demand for high baseload or flexible demand for low base load.

  24. John, I was wondering how long it takes to crank up a nuke from a standing start. I know batteries are instantaneous, pumped hydro a few minutes, I think, gas, from memory around 90 minutes. I imagine nuclear is as slow as coal.

    Thing is we are getting increased instances of zero price in the middle of the day.

  25. I have to put my head down this week and do what I need to do for the Labor review. Deadline is this Friday.

    In a way, I’m finding it difficult, because I’m writing for an audience I don’t actually know, and so far have had no real feedback. However, I’ve turned up some stuff which simply must be posted here, so from next week with a little editing…

  26. I met the deadline for submission at 11.45 last night, and got a robo thankyou email.

    I felt kinda washed out. Some parts of the submission nwere definitely good, and I said a few things I’m fairly confident no-one else will say.

    However, I’d need to leave it about a year and then come back to see whether I thought I did a good job. Today I’ve been a bit allergic to the computer screen, but should be OK later tonight.

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