Saturday, 1 November 2014

Headline of the Week

Time Magazine online

Political Cartoon of the Week

How the world sees Abbott's Australia

Headline at German language on 27 October 2014:

Australien – der Folterstaat
…..Verst├╝mmelungen und Selbstmorde sind in den Lagern Alltag. Selbst Kinder leben hinter Stacheldraht, dem Wahnsinn nahe. Und das Volk klatscht Beifall.

Australia - State of torture
….mutilations and suicides are everyday life in the camps. Even children live behind barbed wire, close to madness. And the people applauded. [Google Translate]

Friday, 31 October 2014

Abbott's new Internet Tax

Abbott & Co, fearful of having their own political tactics used against them, have in their joint not-so-confidential party discussions provided the Australian public with a convenient tag for the latest ‘national security’ measure - the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014.

Coincidentally, after the Internet Tax tag became public the Abbott Government announced that it was deferring a parliamentary vote on the bill until next year.

Deputy-Premier Troy Grant introduces himself to the NSW North Coast in exactly the wrong way

If there was an issue so big that it is recognised by both government and industry as being close to the hearts of a great many residents and electors living on the NSW North Coast, it is community opposition to coal seam and tight gas exploration and potential production.

So what did the Nationals do on one of Troy Grant’s early visits as Nationals leader and deputy premier of the state – they start a donnybrook that will have people shaking their heads and saying; Told you the Nats were for all for 1,000 well strong gasfields in our paddocks.

Grant needs to keep better control of his troops if he wants the Nationals to hold regional seats in the March 2015 state election and, he needs to recognise that commercial gasfields will ruin the North Coast's clean green image which underpins local economies.

Echo Netdaily 27 October 2014:

Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall has launched a scathing attack on state MP Geoff Provest and deputy premier Troy Grant, accusing the two National Party politicians of trying to gag him over his stand against coal-seam gas (CSG) mining.
The defiant dummy-spit came on the eve of a media event organised by the two MPs yesterday at which they announced funding for a new tourism sign on the highway at the Queensland border.
Despite being snubbed for what he wanted to say, the Tweed mayor went along to the highway-edge announcement.
The row erupted on Friday when Mr Provest emailed council general manager Troy Green to tell him to trash a draft press release on the funding announcement because the mayor had made comments he didn’t like.
Cr Bagnall, who was elected mayor just last month, said his comments for the draft release had welcomed the funding for the sign, adding that Tweed council had taken the initiative to promote tourism by installing new signs ‘explaining the indigenous meaning of some village names, and that the shire also had plans for Gasfield Free signs’.
But Mr Provest saw red when he read the draft and fired off an email to council to say he found the mayor’s comments ‘totally inappropriate’.
‘Commenting about the gas field free signs just shows a lack of integrity and professionalism,’ Mr Provest said, accusing Cr Bagnall of taking an ‘opportunity to have little digs at the state government’.
The Tweed MP then told council it would ‘not be required to make any official comment’.
Cr Bagnall told Echonetdaily he was furious at being ‘snubbed and told to shut up’, saying new deputy premier Mr Grant was a staunch supporter of CSG and would not have liked ‘any mention of CSG”.
‘But I won’t be silenced,’ the mayor said….
Cr Bagnall said Mr Grant was on the record as describing those opposing CSG exploration as ‘scaremongering’.
He said he would always stand up for Tweed residents’ opposition to CSG and unconventional gas exploration.
“The deputy premier is the second most powerful elected NSW politician, but he does not have a right to tell me what to think or say,’ Cr Bagnall said.
‘I stand with our community and oppose harmful coal seam gas mining and I will never be silenced by CSG supporters like the Nationals’ deputy premier or Geoff Provest,’ the mayor said….

A word portrait of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Cabinet ministers

The ideology-based wrecking ball that is the Abbott Government can possibly be explained thus…………………..

Kruger  and I published a paper that documented how, in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize -- scratch that, cannot recognize -- just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.  Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight:  for poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack.  To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent.  Poor performers -- and we are all poor performers at some things -- fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack. 
What's curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious.  Instead the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge….. [Rabett Run, 24 October 2014]

Successful negotiation of everyday life would seem to require people to possess insight about deficiencies in their intellectual and social skills. However, people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence. This lack of awareness arises because poor performers are doubly cursed: Their lack of skill deprives them not only of the ability to produce correct responses, but also of the expertise necessary to surmise that they are not producing them. People base their perceptions of performance, in part, on their preconceived notions about their skills. Because these notions often do not correlate with objective performance, they can lead people to make judgments about their performance that have little to do with actual accomplishment. [Dunning, David et al, June 2003]

The electorate's response to the Abbott Government post-September 2013 may be explained by this......

Fremdscham (the noun) describes the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are. Fremdscham occurs when someone who should feel embarrassed for themselves simply is not, and you start feeling embarrassment in their place. It is at the heart of beloved "mockumentaries" such as The Office, Modern Family, or Ricky Gervais' Extras. It is also what makes the auditions for American Idol, Britain's got Talent and Deutschland Sucht den Superstar so discomfortingly entertaining…
Besides the emotional response, Fremdscham-inducing events and items (such as this creationist video) also usually cause one to ask this question: "how on earth can these people be unaware of how stupid they are being right now?". [Daniel R. Hawes, 6 June 2010]

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Northern Rivers communities welcome new Labor Party policy on Coal Seam Gas which now includes the Clarence Valley

The NSW Labor Party realised that it had blundered in excising the Clarence Valley from its ‘CSG Free’ Northern Rivers policy and, yesterday corrected this new policy to include the valley, its water catchment, bio-diverse environment, vibrant communities and local economy.


Northern Rivers communities welcome new Labor Party policy on CSG

Community groups in the Northern Rivers have applauded today’s policy announcement from the NSW Labor Party that adds the Clarence LGA to their proposed ban on CSG mining in the Northern Rivers.
“This is a very welcome announcement from the NSW Labor Party and brings the Northern Rivers one step closer to being gasfield free,” said Gasfield Free spokesperson Dean Draper.
“We congratulate John Robertson and the ALP for showing leadership and foresight on this issue and responding to the concerns of communities across the region.”
“We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of Janelle Saffin and Justine Elliot who have put considerable effort into representing the community’s concerns on this issue over the last few years,” he said.
“The communities of the Clarence will be delighted to be added to the proposed protection zone in the Northern Rivers,” said Lynette Eggins of Clarence Alliance Against CSG.
“We are united with other communities in the region in our opposition to unconventional gas extraction and will be joining people from across the region at the big rally in Lismore on Saturday.”
“With both Labor and the Greens supporting protection for our region it is now clear that the National Party are out on a limb.”
“It is high time our local Nationals MP’s took decisive action to support the community and advocate within government for the gas licences across the region to be cancelled,” she said.

Media release courtesy of Gasfield Free Northern Rivers and Yuraygir Coast and Range Alliance.

Echo Netdaily 29 October 2014:

Under the policy, Labor will not allow new CSG exploration licenses, will refuse to grant CSG extraction licenses, reject renewals of existing licenses and refuse any applications to expand existing operations in the Northern Rivers.
Labor leader John Robertson – who copped a stern talking to from Knitting Nannas in Lismore for forgetting the Clarence – said the inclusion of the Clarence Valley local government area brought Labor’s policy in line with the decision of the NSW Labor conference in July this year.
Mr Robertson was joined by Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord and Labor’s candidate for Clarence Trent Gilbert in Grafton to make the formal announcement.
‘Last month I announced that Labor would ensure that the northern rivers region would be CSG and unconventional gas-free – and now the Clarence Valley will be included,’ Mr Robertson said.
‘The Northern Rivers is a unique region that is underpinned by its reputation as a pristine environment – and the Clarence Valley will now receive the same protections as the rest of the region under Labor.’

The Daily Examiner, 30 October 2014, Page 3:

COALDALE farmer Allan Reardon is not a man you would normally find anywhere near a Labor Party gathering.
But when it's about coal seam gas mining, his passions are ignited
Mr Reardon made the long trip from his farm at Coaldale, north of Grafton, to hear NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson announce the Clarence Valley had been included in the opposition's Gas Free Northern River declaration.
"I'm not a Labor man," was all he said of his political allegiance.
"But I'm pleased to hear the Labor Party is against allowing coal seam gas mining in the area. I would like to see the Nationals and Liberal Party do the same thing.
"The region's landowners are doing it tough enough without the stress of having the threat of gas mining thrust on them."

If it looks like a Lavoisier, walks like a Lavoisier, talks like a Lavoisier - is it a Lavoisier?

Self-made millionaire Maurice Lionel Newman is well-known as one of the founding board members of the neo-con think tank, the Centre For Independent Studies (CIS) and a member of the ultra conservative Mont Pelerin Society (MPS).

However, The Guardian on 28 October 2014 indicates that his views may have veered even further to the right than the CIS and MPS:

Tony Abbott’s top business adviser, Maurice Newman, has lashed out at the UN response to the Ebola outbreak and labelled the world body a “refuge of anti-western authoritarians bent on achieving one-world government”…..
“The IPCC is an advocacy group dedicated to wealth redistribution,” he writes. “Its links to Greenpeace and WWF [World Wildlife Fund] are deep. It panders to gender balance and regional representation, not scientific excellence.”
Newman has chaired the advisory council since the group’s formation in September 2013, just days after the federal election…..

Earlier, in December 2013 The Guardian reported that Newman had:

accused the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of “dishonesty and deceit” as it focuses on “exploiting the masses and extracting more money” in a climate crusade.

While in October 2014 The Sydney Morning Herald 1 October 2014 observed:

Mr Newman questioned the way the bureau adjusts historical data, which he equates to manipulation of Australia's temperature records.

This rhetoric is suspiciously reminiscent of a far-right clutch of domestic nutters, the Lavoisier Group which apparently believe that forces of darkness control the science journals, government departments, public institutes and universities and is rabidly anti-United Nations.

This group was started by Ray Evansa former Western Mining Corporation executive who before his death this year had been a member of both the CIS and MPS.

It is looking more and more like Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is drawing his advice from individuals and organisations which have parted company with reality.  


The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2024, Maurice Newman, the million-dollar smiler

* Photograph from The Sydney Morning Herald

A not so small gas industry issue that APPEA won't be running to the media about

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association is a very vocal lobbyist on behalf of the gas industry. It frequently seeks to demonise individuals who oppose the growth in unconventional gasfields.

APPEA states; Concern about security of gas supplies in NSW is justified. However, household gas supplies are likely to be unaffected. Most of the impact in terms of physical supply and pricing will be felt by large energy-intensive businesses and Australia’s resources industry is calling on The Greens and the Lock the Gate Alliance to denounce civil disobedience action at work sites across the country before someone is seriously injured. The APPEA and MCA recognise there is legitimate interest among landholders and communities on how resources are produced. Those issues are best addressed through open and transparent dialogue based on facts rather than through fear and threatening behaviour. In recent weeks we’ve witnessed protesters chain themselves to vehicles, dangle from machinery dressed as bats, lie in the path of vehicles and intimidate landholders who are happy to have exploration take place on their properties.
The reality is that wholesale and retail as prices are not increasing due to gas shortages at national, state or even regional level. 

Neither is the fact that domestic LNG gas prices are linked to an international benchmark and, the more expensive wholesale unconventional domestic gas price will be be linked to export market prices, the only reasons business and residential bills will rise.

Unlawful cartel behaviour is also an issue driving up retail gas prices.

On 3 January 2014 the Eastern Australia Domestic Gas Market Study (BREE report) was released which highlighted the difficulties inherent in a pricing model that is opaque because the terms, conditions and pricing agreements of bilateral contracts are confidential. This lack of transparency hampers price discovery when there is a change in the market, as information is not available outside contracting parties, particularly in a timeframe that is relevant to pricing in a dynamic market. 

Crikey observed on 28 February 2014:

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), the gas industry’s peak body, breezily welcomed the BREE report, particularly the emphasis on removing regulatory impediments to new supply and the rejection of calls for national reservation, and saying it confirmed the “market is indeed working”. APPEA ignored the governance and competition issues raised by BREE, but pointed to nine publicly announced (but confidential) wholesale gas contracts to argue there was already “abundant information” in the market, and it focused instead on the need to quickly bring on new supply. APPEA chief executive David Byeer followed up with an op-ed in The Australian Financial Review.

To date APPEA remains silent on this judgment involving SPEED-E-GAS (NSW) owned by Origin Energy LPG Limited a subsidiary of Origin Energy Limited .......


* (c) Amount of loss or damage caused
123.  It is not possible to quantify the number of customers denied the opportunity of a price reduction for Forklift Gas in Sydney due to the existence and implementation of the Understanding, or the period of time for which those customers were denied that opportunity.
124.   However, having regard to the facts and matters set out at Section B(1) above (Forklift Gas), [13]-[16] and [18] above and that the number of potential customers that could be affected grew over the Relevant Period, the inference to be drawn is that the existence and implementation of the Understanding resulted in a very large number of customers being denied a competitive offer that otherwise would have been made. The extent of the loss or damage is able to be assessed to a limited extent by the fact that, as Renegade described the position, when a discounted price was offered by one of the two companies to a customer of the other, the customer who was the subject of such competition typically obtained a discount in the order of $7 or 20% (the average effect of such instances of competition - again, relative to original price): see [15] above.
125.  Further, it is important to note that, as described at [16] above, Renegade regularly increased its prices for all, or almost all of its LPG customers in line with increases in an index known as the Saudi Gate Price. Those increases occurred as frequently as monthly when the Saudi Gate Price was rising, but only on one occasion when the Saudi Gate Price was not rising. The Saudi Gate Price fluctuated both up and down from time to time. Except for high volume customers, Renegade did not generally reduce its prices when the Saudi Gate Price reduced. As a result, over time the margin earned by Renegade from each customer would usually increase.

* 1. Corporations
  1. The penalties to be imposed on Renegade ($4.8 million over 52 months) and Speed-E-Gas ($3.1 million payable within 30 days) are appropriate. They are equally culpable and responsible.
312.  The difference between the two penalties reflects, among other things, a difference in the discount for Renegade’s belated “plea” before trial and for Speed-E-Gas’ early and substantial cooperation with the ACCC investigation and early “plea”.

* (c) Conclusion
  1. The declarations at paragraphs 8 and 9 of Annexure A have utility. In the absence of them, the contravening conduct would not otherwise be clearly identified. There is also public interest to be served in making the declarations. They will serve as a warning to others who may contemplate making or giving effect to contracts, arrangements or understandings between competitors by which they allocate customers between them. Given the seriousness of the conduct and the period over which it occurred, this is a case where the circumstances call for the marking of the Court’s disapproval of the contravening conduct. Speed-E-Gas’ conduct contravened the Act through a deliberate, largely covert, long standing cartel arrangement, which had the potential to adversely affect a high proportion of manufacturing and distribution businesses across Sydney and which likely had an adverse effect on those businesses that were denied the opportunity of receiving a price competitive offer from Speed-E-Gas during the Relevant Period and from 24 July 2009 to July 2011.
310.  The parity of penalties to be imposed upon the respondents must be considered.
1. Corporations
311.  The penalties to be imposed on Renegade ($4.8 million over 52 months) and Speed-E-Gas ($3.1 million payable within 30 days) are appropriate. They are equally culpable and responsible.
312. The difference between the two penalties reflects, among other things, a difference in the discount for Renegade’s belated “plea” before trial and for Speed-E-Gas’ early and substantial cooperation with the ACCC investigation and early “plea”.
2. Natural persons
313.  As noted above, in assessing parity for the natural person respondents it is appropriate to consider both disqualification orders and pecuniary penalties: Kerkhoffs at [17]-[21].
314.  Mr Berman is to pay a pecuniary penalty of $250,000 and be disqualified for 3 years. Mr Smith is to pay a pecuniary penalty of $100,000. Mr Wilson is to pay a pecuniary penalty of $50,000. There is parity in the orders proposed against Mr Berman and the pecuniary penalties proposed to be imposed on Mr Smith and Mr Wilson having regard to Mr Berman’s greater culpability and, on the other side, Mr Smith’s and Mr Wilson’s cooperation with the ACCC.
315. The ACCC submitted (and I accept) that the culpability of both Mr Wilson and Mr Smith is significantly less than that of Mr Berman. Each was subject to the direction of his manager, and for the majority of the Relevant Period, the active collusion underpinning of the Understanding occurred directly between Mr Berman and Mr Hobby with Mr Smith and Mr Wilson responsible for implementing their instructions consequent upon that collusion. In relation to Mr Smith and Mr Wilson, during the Relevant Period, each was broadly equally culpable and responsible for the contravening conduct.
316. Mr Smith is to pay a pecuniary penalty of $100,000 while Mr Wilson is to pay $50,000. Mr Wilson is entitled to a substantial discount because of his cooperation with the ACCC. Mr Smith is entitled to a lesser discount because his cooperation came later. Further, Mr Smith enjoys a much higher income than Mr Wilson and otherwise has a significantly greater capacity to pay. While a penalty of more than $50,000 imposed upon Mr Wilson would be likely to exceed any amount required for specific deterrence, a penalty of that amount imposed upon Mr Smith would be inadequate for that purpose.
317. For those reasons, I accept that there is appropriate parity between the penalties proposed to be imposed upon each of the respondents. [my red bolding]