All posts by Brian

Brian Bahnisch, a survivor from Larvatus Prodeo, founded Climate Plus as a congenial space to continue coverage of climate change and sundry other topics. As a grandfather of more than three score years and ten, Brian is concerned about the future of the planet, and still looking for the meaning of everything.

Sad, angry, guilty, some hope – climate scientists reveal their feelings

As a weather attribution study finds that climate change made the weather that drove the devastating Australian fires 30% more likely, Joe Duggan, a science communicator at ANU returned to his project of asking climate scientists how they feel about climate change.

Graham Readfern explains that Duggan was bowled over when he first started the project in 2014. Continue reading Sad, angry, guilty, some hope – climate scientists reveal their feelings

Saturday salon 2/3

1. Is it Biden vs Sanders?

Not long ago Slate was blaming Biden for messing up the selection of a Democratic Party presidential candidate in The “Establishment” Probably Could Have Made a Regular Democrat the Nominee if It Hadn’t Gotten So Stuck on Biden.

Some senior Democrats are going ballistic about Sanders comparing his Nevada win to Nazi Germany’s successful invasion of France, for example. The article says that if you thought Sanders was electoral poison:

    what should you have been doing for the past year to actually prevent the socialist from winning the nomination? Probably finding and supporting a nonsocialist nominee who’s shown themselves ready to run a dynamic general-election presidential campaign, right? Perhaps one like Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, or even Elizabeth Warren?

Continue reading Saturday salon 2/3

Weekly salon 15/2

1. Rupert gets his just deserts

The New Daily has an article News Corp in ‘dangerous times’ as audience and revenues drop in print and digital:

    Audiences deserted Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp mastheads in 2019 with its tabloid tub-thumper The Daily Telegraph losing a massive 15.5 per cent of its readership across both print and digital editions, according to research house Roy Morgan.

Continue reading Weekly salon 15/2

Scientists, bushfires and climate change

The Orroral Fire on the outskirts of Canberra on Tuesday 28th January 2020. Photograph taken by Prof. Eelco Rohling.

On Monday 3 February ABC’s Media Watch examined how News Corp’s loudest voices denied or downplayed the role of climate change. Those voices included Peta Credlin, Chris Kenny and Alan Jones:

    Passionate denial that the bushfires should make us act on climate change runs right across the Murdoch media in this country reaching an audience of millions.

    But it’s also echoed by Murdoch’s Fox News in the US…

Continue reading Scientists, bushfires and climate change

Weekly salon 28/1

1. Australia Day 2020

Australians seem to like doing crazy things on Australia Day, like pie-eating competitions and wrestling crocodiles. This time an innocent lamington-eating competition went horribly wrong when a Hervey Bay woman choked and died.

Laura Tingle asks seriously As we approach Australia Day, do we even know who we are as a nation? Continue reading Weekly salon 28/1

Bridget McKenzie’s sports rorts defence is wrong

Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of The Ethics Centre, is very clear. While what Bridget McKenzie did may not be illegal, ethically it was wrong. Politicians are elected to serve the public interest, not indulge in behaviour to promote private interests, or further the interests of a political party.

Quite simply, she should resign, or be sacked.

Part of Longstaff’s argument in his AFR opinion piece is that corrupt politicians tend to corrupt others:

    Their dodgy behaviour distorts the judgment of citizens. They deploy power in ways that punish the virtuous and reward only those who play their game. We begin by being compromised and end up being complicit.

He says that McKenzie may be a wonderful person, but she has shown herself to be an irresponsible minister who has done wrong and refuses to acknowledge this.

Then:

    Fortunately, we have a Prime Minister who stood for office as a principled man. Hopefully, we can rely on him to uphold the conventions of ministerial responsibility – even when it is difficult or inconvenient to do so.

    The honourable course of action would be for the minister to resign. However, if she fails to do so, then she should be dismissed by Scott Morrison.

PM Scott Morrison gave his answer to Sabra Lane this morning (from 6:30 on the counter) – there are some legal issues the Attorney General is “clarifying”, we may learn from this, but the rules were followed, no ineligible projects were funded, the minister has made the decisions, and they were “actioned in an endorsing way by Sports Australia”.

In a sense he’s right about that last bit. Sports Australia should have refused to action decisions improperly made, and so they have become complicit.

The bottom line is that it looks as though the government is going to get away with this scam.

Which is why legal action should be considered.

Here an opinion piece in the AFR Why McKenzie’s sports rorts defence is wrong by Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Sydney, becomes relevant. The lead-in summary is:

    Australia’s constitutional rulebook doesn’t allow federal governments to splash money on local sports groups without parliamentary approval.

Twomey says that there are at least three areas in which rules are likely to have been broken. Firstly, there is a legal obligation on ministers when acting within the scope of their powers to behave in a manner that is procedurally fair. They can’t take into account irrelevant considerations and they must not act for an improper purpose or in a biased manner.

Clearly there is a basis for what happened to be challenged legally in this regard.

Secondly, there is a question as to whether the minister had any power at all to make these grants. She says:

    The Australian Sports Commission (which includes “Sport Australia”) was established by statute as a corporate entity with its own independent legal powers to enter into contracts and make sporting grants.

    While Bridget McKenzie had power under section 11 of the Act to give “written directions to the Commission with respect to the policies and practices to be followed by the Commission in the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers”, this did not allow her to exercise its function and decide who got the grants. In any case, she made no such direction.

Twomey says:

    If the minister had no power under statute to make the grants, then this was an invalid expenditure of public money, which is an extremely serious matter.

The third reason relates to the constitution itself. The constitution lists the areas where the Commonwealth Parliament may legislate, for example, external affairs, defence and banking. These are known as “heads of power”. There is no head of power for sport.

She says that the school chaplaincy program ran into a similar problem. The High Court found that direct funding by the Commonwealth was invalid.

So the funding must be channelled through the states which tend to have “more stringent accountability measures, such as codes of ethics for MPs and ministers, strong anti-corruption bodies and legal sanctions.”

In NSW what McKenzie did would likely end up with ICAC (the Independent Commission Against Corruption). Furthermore, in NSW it is a criminal offence to give any property or benefit to any person to influence votes.

That is section 209 of the NSW Electoral Act. If breached a Court of Disputed Returns must declare the election void, as actually happened in 1988 in the case of Scott v Martin.

It seems that who won and why is not relevant, it is the act of attempted influence itself that matters.

I’m not sure if that would fly under Commonwealth law, but truly, this matter is quite egregious and there should be some form of restitution. Here’s exhibit A, from the Longstaff article:

Earlier post: Bridget’s dreaming and broken democracy

Weekly salon 20/1

1. Trump’s trade deal will make us collateral damage

Kevin Rudd’s AFR article Trade deal will not stop US and China drifting apart gives us the lowdown. From the URL his heading was probably Trade war truce a symbol of the US unhinged. Seems Trump banged on for an hour about incoherent nonsense at the announcement while the head Chinese trade negotiator stood patiently by.

Rudd says intellectual property theft will be criminalised in China for the first time. Good in principle, but you will need to make your case in Chinese courts. Continue reading Weekly salon 20/1

Madrid climate talks kick the can on to Glasgow

The 25th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in December last year in Madrid was generally judged a failure. After fractious negotiations exctended through two nights after the conference was due to end, delegates decided to defer some of the thorniest issues to the next UN climate summit in Glasgow in 2020. The situation is serious:

    “The global emissions’ curve needs to bend in 2020, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030, and net zero emissions need to be a reality by 2050,” said Johan Rockstrom, head of the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

    “Achieving this is possible – with existing technologies and within our current economy,” said the revered climate scientist. “The window of opportunity is open, but barely.”

Continue reading Madrid climate talks kick the can on to Glasgow