Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Australian Media Leaders on the Spot

Please excuse this promo but it’s too good to pass up.

Our Say (Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport) has a challenge:
Senior executives from media organisations will answer the most voted question at the 2011 New News Conference on Saturday 27th of August.

Not only that, the person who asks the question voted most popular will be invited to join the media leaders on the panel (click here for details). Ask and vote for questions, you want answered by the people who run our media organisations.

You could be sitting with Mark Scott (Managing Director of ABC), Greg Hywood (CEO of Fairfax Media) and Sophie Black (Editor of Crikey) to discuss issues with media, journalism and the coverage of politics in news. This is a unique opportunity for you to keep Australian media leaders to account.
My question: ‘What skills will be essential for journalists in the newsroom of 2050?’
You could vote for it here or post your own question.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Glad I Don't Pay for the Herald Sun

Is the Herald Sun's Miranda Devine indulging in eating some of Rupert Murdoch’s humble fare?

Trying to silence opposition by smear and slander, abuse and suppression of unpleasant facts is just treating the public like suggestible morons.
Juila Gillard's declaration out of line

Good heavens no, she’s attacking the government. The Herald Sun isn’t running a ruthless anti-Gillard campaign for regime change in Australia. They are just telling both sides of the story fearlessly. If you believe that, then your head must be stuck in the wrong end of the proverbial dead bear.

Perhaps Devine wouldn’t have had the chance to read the ‘news’ piece on page 3: Prime Minister Julia Gillard under fire for Christine Nixon's book deal

It’s a classic piece of agenda journalism. Former Liberal Premier and current AFL football club president is an unbiased source of the lowest order:

Mr Kennett said he was surprised Prime Minister Gillard was launching the book. "I guess one could only explain it as the sisterhood at work," he said.

Perhaps his jockstrap was too tight during the interview.

There was some kind of balance with two against and one supporting Nixon/Gillard. This one would have to be a swinging voter:

Flowerdale mother of four Laine MacDonald said of Ms Nixon: "I don't have anything nice to say ... It's a disgrace that she is getting people like that (Ms Gillard) to back her." My emphasis.

Incidentally, according to their own story, the PM is under fire for attending the book launch not for anything to do with the ‘book deal’ itself as the headline implies.

Nothing personal intended, of course.

Anyway, this bit of sycophantic sludge should get Miranda a Christmas bonus:

In any case, the Murdochs' contrite appearance at the UK hearing was a triumph of decency, humility and lessons learned.

And while they spoke, News Corp shares rose 5 per cent. So there.

Tony Abbott: Carbon dioxide 'weightless'

When I read this artcile by Barry Jones in The Age this morning, it seemed worth checking the quote. Not that you can't trust journalists to be accurate, of course:

People are better educated than ever yet debate is dumbed down.

AN ARTICLE by The Age's Michael Gordon titled 'He says She says' last week, included a disturbing paragraph in which he quoted Tony Abbott, in South Dandenong, answering a question about how CO2 emissions are calculated: ''It's actually pretty hard to do this because carbon dioxide is invisible and it's weightless (my emphasis) and you can't smell it.''

This striking observation probably reflects his understanding. If carbon dioxide is invisible, odourless and weightless, in a world outside measurement or analysis, then attempting to control or limit it is pointless.

He appears to take a mediaeval scholastic view of how the universe works. He has forgotten that legislation setting strict standards for emission accounting was passed under the Howard government, in which he was a senior minister.

Intelligent discussion all but extinct

Found quick corroboration but at an unlikely source:

On the Liberal Party's website:

And imagine the administration costs of doing that? What’s the point of it if you take it away with one hand and give it back with the other?

Exactly right. Even if they were trying to give it all back to you, there would still be the deadweight costs, all the extra bureaucrats. See, one of the things that people haven’t quite twigged to is that carbon dioxide is invisible, it’s weightless and it’s odourless. How are we going to police these emissions…

I don’t know.

…I mean, how are we going to police these emissions? This carbon cop is going to be an extraordinarily intrusive instrumentality, running around trying to make sure that all these businesses aren’t actually emitting given that you can’t actually see, smell or touch what’s going on.

Well, I just don’t know how it can be measured.

Well, it can be measured but it’s a very difficult process.

Tony Abbott interview with John Laws - Julia Gillard’s carbon tax; live cattle export ban

It's great to know that Party Headquarters are so proud of their Tony's Science homework, even the mistakes. It gives extra meaning to 'snollygoster' when applied to Abbott.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oz Politics: Some Gems on the Net

Some Australian politics gems from the last week that shouldn't be missed:

A couple of blog posts

Australiar and the f*cking idiot dilemma by Geoff Lemon of Heathen Scriptures
There are definitely times when you wonder if light-fingered alien doctors have been handing out mass lobotomies while we sleep. Or there really is something in the water.
I am confused, I do not understand by 'Catching up' at Café Whispers
I am a little confused about Australian politics today. The following is what I understand the situation to be.

We have a legit elected minority government that on all accounts is performing well. We have a strong economy, employment, trade balance and stable interest rates.

There are problems with a two or multiple speed economy. I believe the proposed tax on miners is important in bringing some balance to the economy.

We do have a problem with lack of confidence in the economy. I wonder how much of this lack of confidence can be sheeted home to the negative and down talking of the economy of the leader of the Opposition. There are concerns of what is occurring overseas, in Europe. The Asian region which we are a part of is still seen as going strong.

...Have Australians become too lazy or disinterested, that they refuse to take the time or effort to listen for themselves and accept unquestioning much of what is written and said in the media.

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Radio National's Background briefing - The Lord Monckton roadshow 17 July 2011
The Scottish peer Lord Monckton has been raising hell against the carbon tax in barnstorming rallies and public meetings around the country. But just who is Lord Monckton and who are the forces behind him? Chief amongst them a mysterious group called the Galileo Movement and mining magnate and now media player Gina Rinehart. Reporter Wendy Carlisle
Audio and transcript available.

Media Watch Personal or policy? You be the judge 18 July 2011

A look at the very unbalanced radio station 2GB.

Video and transcript available.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Regime Change Rupert Murdoch Style

My latest post for Global Voices:

Australia: Regime Change Rupert Murdoch Style

It is a sign of the times when John Hartigan, News Limited’s head in Australia, has to defend his newspapers’ aggressive approach to the Gillard government. Murdoch’s Oz media have been accused of abusing their power with a campaign for regime change. The announcement of the carbon pricing and emissions trading scheme is the latest battleground.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Murdoch Press Ignore 4 Degrees Climate Change Conference

Try googling 'Four Degrees or More' or 'Schellnhuber' to see how much coverage the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference received this week. Fairfax had a series of articles and the ABC interviewed him on TV and radio.

The sole contribution from Rupert Murdoch's News Limited stable ignored the science and picked up on the sensational. The story in today's Australian is headed: Climate anger dangerous, says German physicist If you were expecting some of his global warming tipping point scenarios, forget it. Somehow they heard about the stoush at his Keynote address on Tuesday night:
ANGER against scientists involved in the climate debate is reaching dangerous levels and it's only a matter of time before one is murdered, says leading German physicist Hans Schellnhuber.

...While he was opening a recent climate conference in Melbourne, a man in the front row waved a noose at him. "I was confronted with a death threat when I gave my public lecture," Professor Schellnhuber said.

"Somebody got to his feet and showed me a rope with a noose.

"He showed me this hangman's rope and he said: 'Mr Schellnhuber, welcome to Australia'."

The man and three friends went on to interject during the lecture.
It's amazing that it took two journalists, Brendan Nicholson and Lauren Wilson, to write such a short piece.

They could have had the exclusive if they'd turned up, but reporting the arguments in favour of strong climate action is not part of Murdoch's agenda to destroy the carbon tax and the Gillard government.

Shame! Rupert, Shame!

Even Fairfax's Maribyrnong Weekly had coverage: Too hot to handle: can we afford a 4-degree rise?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Jackboot's On the Other Foot

Recently Lord Monckton, displaying a swastika, called Ross Garnaut a fascist. If you’re German and a climate scientist then you’ve probably come to expect the term Nazi to be thrown at you but not necessarily a noose.

The scene:

Melbourne University 7 PM 12 July 2011

The event:

The Critical Decade, the keynote address for the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference

The speaker:

Professor Schellnhuber, Head of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and Chair of the German Government's Advisory Council on Global Change

The protestors:

4 Citizens Electoral Council members

The Stoush:

As we entered the building, people were handing out leaflets for and against climate action. It didn’t take much grey matter to work out there would be some political theatre coming up. As the good professor began to speak, a protestor leapt to his feet in the second row and waved a very large noose. He yelled about a climate conspiracy involving Queen Elizabeth, the royal family, and green Nazis. He was taken by the arm by a senior academic who vigorously escorted him from the auditorium.

A series of interruptions followed. Next up was Doug Mitchell, a familiar face from Ross Garnaut’s recent talk at Melbourne University about the 2011 Update to his 2008 Climate Change Review. Mitchell had started a provocative verbal assault on Garnaut during question time but was relieved of the microphone by another assertive academic before getting to his question. I captured the incident on video:

This time he ran down the steps towards the stage, yelling slogans and accusations. He too was removed.

There were two more subdued outbreaks. They had obviously either skipped or failed Agitator Histrionics 101. As indicated in an earlier post, Professor Schellnhuber is clearly used to this kind of protest and seemed a bit surprised that the count stopped at four. Unfortunately, I could not find the incidents on the official video of the address.

As they were ejected, they accused the organisers of not letting them speak. The audience applauded when they were forcibly removed. It seems they came to listen to rational discussion not hysterical insults. The use of the noose was a reminder that some of the scientists in the hall have recently received death threats. To their credit the protestors were not hiding behind anonymity. Nor do I mean to imply any connection between them and the death threats.

Was it a case of quashing political dissent or a defence of the right to speak in public without harassment or abuse? More likely it’s just a healthy, if somewhat bizarre, part of our democracy. Both sides undoubtedly thought that the jackboot’s on the other foot. We lowered the bar of public behaviour when highly offensive and personal comments were not loudly condemned during the Murray Darling plan consultation meetings in October 2010.

But as they say, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the limelight. Most of the audience seemed more concerned with the threats posed by the global warming scenarios explored by the professor.

When I edited my video Million of Low Carbon Jobs, I left out the incident above. The mainstream media are already obsessed with theatrical sideshows and stunts without adding more. Fringe dwellers like the CEC don’t need extra oxygen or carbon dioxide for that matter. But after Tuesday night, it seems impossible to ignore the low level of ‘debate’ that Australian politics has descended to. A couple of examples from their literature should suffice:

Anyway it wasn’t the most dramatic piece of stagecraft I’ve seen at a political meeting. WhenJohn Gorton launched his 1970 half-Senate election campaign at Springvale Civic Centre, a group of anti-Vietnam war demonstrators displayed large cardboard coffins they had snuck into the hall in pieces. Some Young Liberals attacked them. Guess who was arrested? A very young Laurie Oakes told me that he had threatened to make the police front-page news on The Sun newspaper if they didn’t release the protesters. Which they did.

Some of the more extraordinary views that surface during public debates, such as those of the CEC, are cause for reflection. What tortured paths bring one to the realisation that global warming is a monarchist, green nazi conspiracy. Why are some people drawn to gurus such as the CEC’s idol Lyndon LaRouche?

Just goes to show that there’s no such thing as normal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Climate Change: Critical Decade or Fumbled Future

If the world manages to achieve the kind of international agreement that is needed on global warming, it could be down to the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a physicist. According to Professor Hans Joachin Schellnhuber, she even understands some of the mathematics.

The Critical Decade, the keynote address for the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference, was not all doom and gloom but it is difficult to recall the optimistic bits.

The Professor maintains there is “something revolutionary happening in Germany”. It has taken a U-turn on nuclear power as the answer to reducing carbon emissions but “will honour its climate protection pledges” through renewable energy and other measures. He hopes this "post fossil-fuel/nuclear era" will be a step in the transition to a low carbon world.

He stressed the pressures on traditional democracy. We need to "extend or even transcend traditional democratic processes" to take into account the interests of “the generations not yet born …across space and time”.

He stressed that these processes must be “guided by insight” - in particular the insight of science but also of economics.

He presented a number of tipping point scenarios, some involving runaway greenhouse dynamics that 4+ degrees could bring:
  1. Collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet
  2. Permafrost melting
  3. Methane Hydrates release
Each of these would be irreversible in the short term. He was talking about 1000+ years.

In response to audience questions, he contended that use of natural gas is the best transition but not for the long run without capture and storage by carbon sequestration. He also sees use of biomass as part of the solution. His view on the future of nuclear energy is that it is too expensive if all the real costs are taken into consideration.

If "generational" democracy is the key to embracing real action, the preponderance of baby boomers at the address is a major concern. Gen X and Y - where are you?

For more on the The Critical Decade, please visit Climate: Taming the Unchained Goddess

Update: Professor Schellnhuber was interviewed on ABC TV's Lateline: A carbon price label is all-important: Schellnhuber:

There is also a transcript at the link.

Climate: Taming the Unchained Goddess

The Murdoch media, the shock jocks and TV breakfast shows and much of the other mainstream media are obviously too scared to leave home at night as a result of the carbon tax fear and loathing they’ve been spreading. Perhaps it's the dreaded bird-brain flu.

Or ironically it may have just been Melbourne University’s cold winter evening that kept them away. One way or the other they missed out on lots of sensational footage when Professor Hans Joachin Schellnhuber gave his public address for the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference. The Age had a report on his worst-case scenarios from earlier in the day. There was plenty of gloom mixed with formidable science:
Agricultural systems have broken down, crops yields decimated. Human health is tested by extremes beyond the endurance of many citizens. Shorelines and the island homes of Pacific neighbours - communities who have contributed nothing to rising greenhouse gases - are consumed by rising tides. Coral reefs erode and lifeless oxygen-starved ''holes'' grow in the ocean depths, the physics and chemistry of the water having been utterly changed.

Professor Schellnhuber, the director of the Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chairman of the German Scientific Advisory Council, conjures up the future with a selection of graphs and tables composed from observations and modelling.
The end of the world is nigh? It's just a matter of degrees, says one expert (The Age 13 July 2011)
The cameras would have loved the contribution from four Citizens Electoral Council alternative thinkers whose series of loud interruptions included a very theatrical noose and accusations of a conspiracy lead by none other than Her Majesty ERII and her “green Nazis”. They underestimated the senior academic who vigorously escorted the ringleader out of the auditorium. Professor Schellnhuber is head of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and Chair of the German Government's Advisory Council on Global Change. He is clearly used to this kind of protest and seemed disappointed that the count stopped at four. Anyway more about this challenged band of activists in another post.

There was lots of stuff about tipping points and runaway greenhouse dynamics but I’ll also leave that to the next post.

As we choose our future, it must be an informed choice not one based on political and economic populism and propaganda.

To finish, a little bit of Frank Capra’s 1958 The Unchained Goddess that the prof shared with us:

Update from the conference:

A media release from the CSIRO +4ºC scenarios for Australia's future climate:
A CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship climate researcher, Dr Whetton said that, compared to annual average temperatures recorded in 1850, a 4ºC warming might occur by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions stay high.
"Rapid global warming of 4ºC would be unlike anything experienced before by modern human societies – presenting us with huge challenges in terms of our ability to adapt," Dr Whetton said
She said according to a review of recent climate models by CSIRO and Melbourne University, Australian climate changes at 4ºC or more of global warming include:

  • Temperature increases of about 3ºC to 5ºC in coastal areas and 4ºC to 6ºC in inland areas
  • Likely declines of annual rainfall in southern Australia, particularly in winter, of up to about 50% but uncertain rainfall changes in other regions
  • Marked increases of potential evaporation of about 5% to 20%
  • More droughts in southern Australia
  • Snow cover duration falling to zero in most alpine regions.

Update 2: The video and audio of the address are available at: Live @ Melbourne

Monday, July 11, 2011

First Net Reactions to Carbon Pricing Package

Cross post of my Global Voices roundup on the first web reactions to Julia Gillard's announcement of a carbon price and clean energy package:

Australia Unveils Carbon Pricing Package

Australians remain divided after Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement of aClean Energy package with a carbon price of $A 23 per tonne and an emissions trading scheme from 2015. Crikey had an early summary, and the rest of the local blogosphere was also quick off the mark.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Car Insurance Fine Print a One-Way Street

Catch 22 Car insurance clause. We recently had our car stolen and it was not recovered. Our insurance through APIA (Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency) was paid out. In fact they are agents for AAMI for car insurance.

When I asked if there was any refund for the remaining 7 months the answer was no. If you pay annually you lose the lot. If you pay monthly, the remainder is deducted from your pay out. It is in the Policy booklet. I was told it's not fine print. It's on Page 31. You can't transfer the leftover to a new vehicle either.

It was suggested to me when phoning to register a complaint that it would be a waste of time complaining or trying to get it changed. It's apparently LAW law. Every insurance company does it. I checked a Commonwealth Bank (CommInsure) policy booklet and they have a similar statement but it is less specific - not mentioning monthly instalments just 'unpaid premium' (Section 6.4.10).

When the insurance company takes ownership of an uncovered vehicle when they pay out, they collect the remainder of the Registration and Third Party fees. It does not get added to your pay out.

It is a one way street.

Just glad I'm a Senior and not a Pensioner.