Category Archives: Culture

University funding: drifting to mediocrity?

Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute says the modest university ‘reforms’ signalled for the budget will entrench the status quo, and will affect universities more than students.

George Morgan says the universities are drifting to mediocrity, and these cuts will not help.

The headline figure is a saving of $2.8 billion over the forward estimates, and a 7.5% increase in student fees over the period. Total Commonwealth Government payments to universities over the next four years amount to of $74bn, so the impact of this $2.8bn reform package is less than 4% of the revenues to universities from taxpayers and students, according to Simon Birmingham. Continue reading University funding: drifting to mediocrity?

Saturday salon 21/5

1. Protect your plastic money

If you haven’t heard about it you will. And if you think it won’t happen in Australia, you’re wrong.

Thieves can use RFID technology to empty your card. Seems they can steal your details with a cheap credit card reader, which they hold near you wallet or purse. It could be on public transport, or standing next to you in a supermarket. Continue reading Saturday salon 21/5

Comments facility broken fixed

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Unfortunately a WordPress update appears to have broken our comments facility. The “Submit” button has gone missing.

Unfortunately too our technical guru is on holidays with limited internet access, so I’m not sure when it’s going to be fixed. So I can only apologise and hope for better days. If anyone has any bright ideas, please let me know at climateplus@bigpond.com

I was going to do a post on GM foods, but I’ll leave that until the comments facility is fixed.

ABC cuts run deep – over 400 jobs to go

The ABC has announced that more than 400 ABC staff could lose their jobs as the public broadcaster moves to implement the $254 million the Federal Government will cut over the next five years. That’s $254 million out of an otherwise projected budget of $5.5 billion.

I’d like someone to do an historical perspective on this. My memory is that in the 1980s the ABC had 6000 staff. There were cuts during the Hawke-Keating years. I heard yesterday that Costello’s first budget saw cuts of 12%. The Howard years were not kind to the ABC, not receiving any of the largesse distributed in the good years. The Rudd-Gillard years actually saw some improvement in the ABC budget, mostly through negotiated support for additional services. Supporting a strong and vibrant public broadcaster was part of ALP policy. At the same time the ABC did Labor no favours in its reporting.

That’s from memory. I’d like to see a proper study.

I’ll come to broken promises later. First some detail on the cuts:

  • Adelaide TV production studios to close
  • State-based 7.30 programs on Friday to be scrapped and replaced with national 7.30 program
  • Lateline moved to a new timeslot on ABC News 24
  • Foreign bureaux will be restructured to create “multiplatform hubs” in London, Washington, Jakarta and Beijing, although the number of correspondents will stay the same
  • The Auckland bureau will close down and a new Beirut post will be opened
  • Regional radio posts in Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone, Port Augusta and Nowra to close
  • ABC Local, Radio National and ABC Classic FM programming changed, with some programs scrapped
  • State-based local sports coverage scrapped
  • The creation of a new regional division and ABC Digital Network, to begin in mid-2015, and a $20 million digital investment fund.

Radio National’s Bush Telegraph will be scrapped. I used to listen to it to keep in contact with happenings in the bush. In recent years I’ve favoured Richard Fidler’s excellent and compelling Conversations, which clashes in the timeslot.

In another blow against the bush, Local Radio Afternoons programs will go state-wide. In Queensland that will likely be Kelly Higgins-Devine, who has lived in the far north and will do a good job. It’s just not the same. There is a lack of localism, evident at times when Brisbane has had to be combined on a temporary basis with the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Apparently 100 internet sites are to be closed, which sounds like a real blow to ABC’s generally excellent internet presence. Presumably there will be fewer transcripts of radio and TV programs, which will be a loss.

Managing Director Mark Scott told Leigh Sales that at least 10% of the 10% would be administrative or support staff. As to why a 5% cut translates into a 10% staff cut, Scott didn’t answer very well but I think the story lies in fixed infrastructure costs.

As to broken promises, the only thing worse that breaking a promise is pretending that you didn’t. ABC’s FactCheck verdict is This promise is broken. It was all very clear:

During a live interview with SBS from Penrith football stadium, Mr Abbott said: “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

Turnbull has been saying:

“Prior – prior to the election, I said on a number of occasions, I think possibly on this show, certainly on Lateline, that while we weren’t planning to make, you know, massive, slashing cuts to the ABC to cut their programming resources, as some people were urging us to do so, we would be looking to make… savings and cut waste right across government and ABC and SBS would not be exempt,” he said.

To be honest, unless he can provide an actual quote I think that is a flat out lie. Certainly he said something along those lines after the election.

Overwhelmingly, I think Ben Eltham is right, it’s about revenge – punishing the perceived enemies of the right.

There has been an appalling associated decision – Janet Albrechtson has been appointed to a panel to oversee the appointment of board members. There can be no clearer sign of a desire to domesticate the ABC.

Scott himself is apparently too much of a leftie. Turnbull has suggested that he relinquish the role of editor-in-chief. I think overall editorial and resource allocation roles are not usefully separated.

This attack on the ABC was of course expected. In it’s conception and execution, however, it has exceeded my expectations of brazenness and perfidy.

We Could Learn a lot from the Scandinavians

The Conversation has run this interesting article suggesting that we could learn a lot from the Scandinavian Countries re Public policy.  It is all about comparing countries with a long history of governing to improve the welfare of the people and accepting high taxes with our far less people friendly policies that help minimize the taxes of the rich.

Funny thing is that people like the Yanks have been saying for years that what the Scandinavians are doing will wreck the economy despite the durable success of the Scandinavian countries.  The Yanks and clowns like Hockey don’t seem to understand that good health, excellent education, a fairer distribution of income etc. actually help economies stay healthy.

Worth a read and worth discussion.

The OECD has identified Australia as one of a small number of countries in which long working hours are common. In comparison, parents in Sweden and the other main Nordic countries have working weeks shorter than the OECD average. This is in addition to their substantial paid parental leave and publicly provided child care.

Shorter working hours allow parents from Sweden to pick up their children after work without the time pressures Australian parents face.

Australia will probably move to make child-care centre hours more flexible to suit our long working hours. However, the government should encourage shorter working hours, which are more compatible with family life.

 

Remembering the Lessons from 9/11

I am fan of of Rob Burgess of Business Spectator.  I particularly liked what he had to say about the IS beheading and our reaction to it.

Burgess starts by reminding us how we reacted to 9/11:

Whichever account of Bush’s actions one accepts, history now tells us that the US response to the Al Qaeda threat was exactly what terrorists would want.

Anyone old enough to remember the shock of those attacks will understand why the US was driven to define Al Qaeda as tantamount to a rogue state that could be tackled by a conventional war.

Not lunatics. Not criminals. But warriors who wanted a war … and the West was damned if it wasn’t going to oblige.

It was the wrong choice. We were damned because we did oblige, and the power vacuum in Iraq, and the massing of extremist forces in Syria, are some of the ghastly results.

In our ignorance, Australia also fell into the mistake of demonising Islam as a whole instead of the Islamic extremists who were behind 9/11.  In Australia 9/11 was used as an excuse by some to burn at least one mosque, throw stones at least one busload of students going to an Islamic school and rant and rave about hijabs.  Then there were the comments from some radio jocks as well as some of our politicians.

There are two dangers here.  The first is that we will be so busy trying to avoid “the mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq” that we will fail to see the differences between what is happening now and what happened then.  (For example IS seems to be the foreign invaders this time around while the Kurds are the natives.)

The second is that we will simply mindlessly repeat the mistakes.  In Australia Abbott is already rabbiting on about how this (beheading) could happen in Australia despite al the anti terrorist laws we have in Australia.  His comments about “team Australia” aren’t really helping unite Australia and its communities.

Burgess had this to say:

We now seem to be again on the brink of allowing a force of between 10,000 and 17,000 extremists to define a conflict – with themselves as glorious warriors, rather than lunatics and criminals.

The brutal video of the beheading of James Foley is a symbolic missile fired into the heart of the liberal democracies that the IS fanatics so despise.

Their greatest joy is watching the missile explode and rip holes in our democratic political culture, when we could so easily choose to defuse its destructive force.

and

Civilised, democratic debate is the precious core of our society — and that makes it a target for the symbolic missiles sent by groups such as the Islamic State.

To the extent they rouse us to anger, and provoke ill-considered responses, as happened with 9/11, the missile can be said to have ‘exploded’. Let’s not let that happen again.

So what should we do this time round?

Blogging hiatus

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My dearly beloved sister and her husband from Canada will be staying with us until Friday 20th. Naturally my priority will be with them, so blogging for me will be disrupted during this time. I still have a few posts in the draft bin from the time I was active before the blog opened. I might manage to rummage through the pile and post a couple.

Because of house geography I’m restricted in my computer access and at this time of night must work from my wife’s computer, which for me is less than ideal.

From Monday to Wednesday we will be paying a visit to Byron Bay and Casino sans internet access.

Many moons ago as it happens and not the main reason for our visit, my sister and her husband had their honeymoon at Byron Bay. My wife and I had half ours at Lennox Heads and have not been back since 1982. When the Commonwealth Games was held in Brisbane we decided to take leave and go down to NSW where we could watch on TV.

Anyway bear with me for the next five days and we’ll see what happens.

Posting strategy

blogging-230Tomorrow there will be climate post, no risk.

In the welcome post I said I’d post as time and inclination permits, so there won’t always be a post every day. I still work outdoors on most days, so with the time available I’ll surprise myself if I average more than three a week.

In fact, however, I’ve been writing posts for the last six weeks, so at last count I think there were 17 in the bin. Back in 2012 when we were close to launch I actually published three which are still there, and I think worth a look. I might do link posts to them at some stage.

I don’t want to flood the place, so I’ll publish posts the binned posts between the new material for some weeks until the backlog is cleared. So for a while there should be daily offerings. However, I’d recommend taking a subscription, available at the foot of the page.

The posts in the bin include a bunch of Climate clippings posts, which I’ll also feed in. I used to aim for one a week. They’ll be a bit more frequent for a while and then as time and suitable material permits.

John Davidson, when he gets cracking, will do a parallel series under the rubric Climate action. There should be more from him about renewables, electric vehicles, new technologies, electricity prices and such and less from me. It will be a case of parallel play, however, and there may be some overlap. I don’t think either of us is madly territorial.

Open threads

Climate clippings and Climate action will also act as open threads on climate matters.

For tragics who would like to talk about other things I’m thinking we could have two weekend open threads, somewhat in the manner of LP. Can anyone suggest a name and an image for a Saturday Salon type post? I can only come up with boring stuff like Your say and Conversation corner. I did find, however, in my youth working as a reference librarian that boring names like Handbook of… had greater utility and were more readily remembered than snappy titles unless you can come up with something like Catch 22.

On Sunday I had in mind something like Lazy Sunday but extending it to the whole week and including information of interesting life experiences like movies or shows you’ve seen, books you’ve read, street protests and other activism, as well as what you’ve been doing in the back yard. Provisionally the title is The week that was. Again ideas of titles and images appreciated.

If we remember, each open thread will be categorised as such. So when you want to make a sundry comment go to the Open Threads link above the header and find the latest open thread.

Finally…

… this post will be filed under Blog Matters accessible under the link above the header. When I have days off, like today, I hope to spend a bit of time doing posts about features of the blog, seeking your comments and suggestions.

T

Welcome to Climate Plus

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When Larvatus Prodeo folded originally in 2012 the one option I ruled out was starting my own blog. The plain fact is that my computer skills are such that I’d never be able to create a place I’d like to live in. Then tigtog offered to help and help she did, putting up with my numbskullery and faltering comprehension.

So here we are. Welcome to Climate Plus. I’ve grown fond of the place and I hope you do too.

In Climate Plus we have a blog designed and customised by tigtog at VIVidWeb, powered by WordPress and hosted by DreamHost. It’s been in an advanced state of development since October 2012, when I put it aside to do some writing about family history. Then it was overtaken by the revival of LP.

It’s meant to be a friendly place, with simple but functional features.

As to what we might achieve here I’ll quote from Curt Stager’s book Deep Future: the next 100,000 years of life on earth:

In this new Age of Humans, our thoughts and desires have become powerful environmental forces in their own rights, and how we think and act can be as important to millions of other human (and other species) as to ourselves. The better we know and respect each other as people, the more we’re likely to learn from one another, the more likely we are to understand each other’s needs and goals, and the more likely we are to cooperate effectively for our mutual benefit. Greenhouse pollution problems will not be solved piecemeal, and there is also no way to avoid making a collective choice one way or the other. We’ll either decide to solve them as a self-aware global community or we’ll decide to suffer through them together as a disjointed mob of individuals. (Emphasis added)

We may be just talking about climate change here, but in our own sphere we are creating meaning. You never know when a sleeper may be planted that makes a real difference in the larger scene.

John Davidson joins as a foundation author who brings the practical perspective of a process engineer, not just any engineer, a process engineer experienced in setting up systems that work. You can read about him here.There may be others later.

I plan not to become victim to ‘feeding the beast’, so I’ll post as time and inclination permits. Soon my sister and her husband come from Canada to visit, when I’ll take a bit of time out. Later in July I’m joining my brother and my wife as part of a convoy driving out to Central Australia and back via Simpson’s Desert. We’ll have a satellite phone for emergencies, but that’s all.

You’ll notice that tigtog has brought across many of the posts I did at LP in recent years. In addition there’s Gillard on the world stage which I posted in February, in part as a trial. We have more in the bin which will be fed in over the coming days, so there will be plenty to chew on initially.

So welcome aboard, tell your friends and we’ll see how we go!

The image at the head of this post comes from Neal Elbaum’s collection.

As a concluding perspective I’ll post this shot of the earth from Voyager 1. In the Age of Anthropocene we have collectively become responsible for the future of our little space ship. But does the universe care? There are over 200 billion suns in the Milky Way and over 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe, some of which have over 100 trillion stars:

Earth from Voyager 1_500

What matters is that we care and we have to learn to care collectively.

For anyone who arrives early

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One day soon, in the middle of the night, a bright new day is going to dawn with the official birth of a new blog about climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff.

Climate Plus is due to put up a welcoming post, shall we say at 12.01 am (Eastern Standard Time of course) on Sunday 6 April. Anyway with a bit of luck I’ll be there.

This is an open thread for anyone who arrives early to chat if the spirit moves them.

We pay, but what do we get?

There was much interest in a leaked list of the pay packets of the ABC’s star personnel yesterday, published (paywalled) in The Australian. If I’d been asked to guess how much these folks were paid I would have been thinking the $80,000 to $120,000 range, which shows how out of touch I am.

The salaries listed in this article range from Annabel Crabb on $217,000 (rounded down to the nearest 1000) to $355,000 for Tony Jones.

My question is whether we are paying for star power, essentially personality, or for competence, outstanding ability to do the job. With respect to the latter, I don’t rate highly at all the competence of many listed. Tony Jones is an awful interviewer and is more interested in entertainment than journalism in my book. So my impression is that we are paying mostly for personality.

Some of the people listed are unknown to me in terms of their work. Richard Glover must be an awfully good radio presenter to be worth $280,000.

The Courier Mail today picks up on the Queensland scene. I believe Spencer Howson, local radio’s Breakfast presenter, was the only one to make the top 100 at $160,000. He’s light, breezy and rates well. It’s a long time since I’ve listened to him. For me Fran Kelly at $255,000 would be my choice in the time slot, and that seems an awful lot of money. Steve Austin, our local Mornings presenter, is on $115,000. I rate him and that strikes me as about what he’s worth.

The Community and Public Sector Union were not impressed, seeing it as an attack on the ABC.

It’s claimed that the women are paid less. Leigh Sales at $280,000 is paid $11,000 less than Quentin Dempster, but $25,000 more than Chris Uhlmann.

Jonathon Holmes was on $187,000, which inclines me to think we are rating star power above competence.

Someone pointed out that you can take a bunch of any half dozen and their combined salaries come nowhere near that of Kyle Sandilands.

Bolt rools!

Australia is a competitive nation on the sporting field. In the field of climate change we excel in two ways. Firstly, we head the OECD in terms of per capita CO2 emissions. Secondly, our press is the most critical of climate change science, according to a Reuters survey. Our leadership is in no small way due to the efforts of one Andrew Bolt. That’s what Wendy Bacon told Richard Aedy on the Media Report recently.

Wendy Bacon was talking about her report Sceptical Climate Part 2: Climate Science in Australian Newspapers. There is a summary of key findings here. From this page (scroll down) you can download the report, or parts of it, or go to Key Findings with links to sections of the report.

Oliver Milman in The Guardian has a useful summary.

The report analysed 602 articles published between February and April in 2011 and again in the same period in 2012. The article covered ten papers including The Australian, the capital city Newscorp papers, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The West Australian. Missing were The Canberra Times and the AFR.

There were fewer articles in 2012 (270 as against 332) but actually more sceptical articles.

Fully 97% of comment pieces in the Herald Sun either questioned or rejected climate science.

When measured by words, 31% of the writing in the surveyed papers did not accept established climate science in 2011, with this number rising to 44% in 2012. This in spite of the fact that The Age and the SMH have become less sceptical. Continue reading Bolt rools!