Thursday, 18 August 2022

Still no assurances that increased heavy rainfall episodes in south east Australia have gone and 'normal' seasonal weather returned

 

Unfortunately it appears that north-east NSW can not yet rest easy.....


ABC News, 16 August 2022:


The odds of there being a third sodden summer in a row have shortened now the Bureau of Meteorology has declared a La Niña alert.


Renewed cooling in the tropical Pacific Ocean and models indicating La Niña is likely during spring and early summer have prompted the BOM to raise the El Niño Southern Oscillation Index scale to "alert", the last step before an official La Niña.


Four of seven climate models it surveys suggest La Niña could return by early to mid spring. The remaining three suggest levels will remain neutral but close to the La Niña threshold through to the end of 2022.


If the climate driver is declared, it would be the third consecutive La Niña summer.


Triple-dip La Niñas are relatively rare, having only occurred twice since 1950, in 1973-76 and 1998-2001.


But with catchments already primed and water storages full, the third wet year could signal disaster.


National water storage levels are currently sitting at 71.3 per cent, up 5 per cent on last year, while the Murray-Darling Basin is sitting at 92.2 per cent, up 12.4 per cent on this time last year.


Many dams up and down the east coast are now sitting at or over capacity….


With catchments sodden, it won't take much before the water has nowhere to go…..


This year the rainfall is being further charged by a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which has already been declared.


Much like a La Niña, a negative IOD means there is extra moisture available, this time in the north-west.


Frontal systems can then tap into that moisture and drag it across the country, typically bringing wetter than average conditions for south-eastern Australia in winter and spring until the monsoon moves down and breaks up the cycle in early summer.


All La Niñas and IODs are different and there are no guarantees when it comes to forecasting.


But even if the Bureau's official La Niña thresholds are not met this summer, above average sea surface temperatures will likely aid rainfall.


At this point, there is a strong chance of a third La Niña, acting on already primed catchments, with a complementary IOD, which is likely to bring more rounds of flooding rains this spring and summer....


Insurance News, 16 August 2022:


Flood fears increase as likelihood of rare triple-dip La Nina rises


The Bureau of Meteorology has today issued a La Nina alert, meaning there’s now a 70% chance that the flood-inducing climate driver will develop this year.


It would be the third La Nina in a row – something that has only happened twice since 1950 – leading to fears of more heavy rain along the already flood-hit east coast of Australia.....


Australian Bureau of Meteorology, ENSO Outlook An alert system for the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, 16 August 2022:


ENSO Outlook moves to La Niña ALERT


The ENSO Outlook has [moved] to La Niña ALERT. This means that even though the El Niño–Southern Oscillation is currently neutral, the chance of La Niña forming in the coming months has increased to around 70%. This is roughly three times the normal likelihood of an event forming in any year.


This status change follows a renewal of cooling in the tropical Pacific Ocean towards La Niña thresholds over recent weeks, as well as the persistence of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) at La Niña levels and strengthened trade winds at La Niña levels. Climate models indicate further cooling is likely, with four of seven models suggesting La Niña could return by early-to-mid southern hemisphere spring.


A La Niña ALERT is not a guarantee that La Niña will occur, rather it is an indication that most of the typical precursors of an event are in place. La Niña conditions increase the chance of above average spring and summer rainfall in northern and eastern Australia.


Bureau climatologists will continue to closely monitor conditions in the tropical Pacific as well as model outlooks for further signs of La Niña re-emergence.


"The chance of a La Niña developing in the coming season has increased. When these criteria have been met in the past, a La Niña event has developed around 70% of the time.".....













La Niña Alert


Any three of the following criteria need to be satisfied:


  • Sea surface temperature: A clear cooling trend has been observed in the NINO3 or NINO3.4 regions of the Pacific Ocean during the past three to six months.

  • Winds: Trade winds have been stronger than average in the western or central equatorial Pacific Ocean during any two of the last three months.

  • SOI: The two-month average SOI is +7 or higher.

  • Models: A majority of surveyed climate models show sustained cooling to at least 0.8 °C below average in the NINO3 or NINO3.4 regions of the Pacific Ocean by the late winter or spring.


Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Former prime minister Scott Morrison exposed as organizing a dangerous clandestine political power grab in 2020-2021

 

On Monday 15 August 2022 Australia learned that before Scott Morrison lead his government to electoral defeat on 21 May 2022 he had made a secret power grab at ministerial level in at least five key federal portfolios.


The news came in a published edited excerpt of a soon to be released book “Plagued” by two journalists turned authors, who were to all intents and purposes quite unperturbed by the power grab and perhaps are relying to heavily on pro-Morrison sources for a timeline and explanation of events.


By Tuesday details were being fleshed out in a Prime Minister Albanese press conference, in mainstream media articles and on social media.


What the citizens of Australian learned is as follows.


Between March 2020 and May 2021 Prime Minister Morrison, already having the existing ministerial responsibility for the portfolio of Prime Minister and Cabinet and still being Minister for the Public Service, secretly became a multiple ‘co-minister’ and, as yet there is no proof offered that he did not remain a multiple ‘co-minister’ until 23 May 2022.


Morrison became portfolio ‘co-ministers’ with:


1. Greg Hunt on 14 March 2020, the then Minister for Health from 24.1.2017 to 23.5.2022;


2. Mathias Cormann on 30 March 2020, the then Minister for Finance from 28.8.2018 to 30.10.2020 and subsequently Simon Birmingham Minister for Finance from 30.10.2020 to 23.5.2022;


3. It appears that from 15 April 2021 Morrison may also have been a secret minister with some portfolio power during the period Angus Taylor was Acting Minister for Industry, Science and Technology from 19.9.2021 to 8.10.2021 and then permanent Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction from 8.10.2021 to 23.5.2022. He was indeed a co-minister when Keith Pitt became the Minister for Resources and Water from 2.7.2021 to 23.5.2022;


4. Karen Andrews on 6 May 2021, the then Minister for Home Affairs from 30.3.2021 to 23.5.2022. On 6 May when Morrison became a 'co-minister' the Minister for Home Affairs had administrative & legal powers derived from a portfolio covering immigration, cyber security, the Australian Federal Police and the domestic intelligence agency, ASIO; and


5. Josh Frydenberg on 6 May 2021, the then Treasurer from 28.8.2018 to 23.5.2022.


Given that over the time Scott Morrison was prime minister there were three versions of a full ministry list – the first ministry on 26 August 2018, the reshuffle on 26 May 2019 and the second ministry on 8 October 2021 – it appears that other former ministers may be in the process of finding out that Morrison saw himself as ‘owning’ their ministries as well.


I refer to ministers “finding out”, because apart from Greg Hunt who knew from the very beginning, no other minister whose ministerial power was deliberately weakened by this political 'land grab' had any idea at the time that Morrison could at anytime meddle in their portfolios or countermand their decisions at will. Keith Pitt only appears to have found out after the fact, when he had a decision made as resource minister countermanded by Morrison on political grounds.


ABC News confirmed that Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo was never informed that the Prime Minister had also been sworn into the portfolio in May 2021, alongside existing minister Karen Andrews.


The former Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce alleges that he had known Morrison was joint Minister for Resources with Pitt since sometime in December 2021. He also chose to remain silent on the issue.


From the outside looking in and based on an unfolding situation, it would appear that in the days or weeks before 14 March 2021 there were two original political co-conspirators, Scott Morrison and then Attorney-General Christian Porter. 

At some point before 14 March Minister for Health Greg Hunt agreed to be a ‘co-minister’, with Morrison the behind-the-scenes second health minister no-one would know about. 

An obliging and unquestioning Governor-General agreed to appoint Morrison by administrative instrument as a minister responsible for the health portfolio and later as a minister in four other portfolios. Allegedly assenting to Morrison becoming minister based solely on Morrison’s own advice as a member of and chief advisor on the Federal Executive Council and, just as obligingly failing to mention this fact to a soul. 


It would seem that the ease with which Morrison had expanded his political and legal powers in health and finance may have gone to his head. For over the next 14 months Morrison indulged his ego and political greed for power by making himself a co-minister with direct administrative power over at least another three portfolios.


Speaking on 2GB radio on Tuesday 16 August Morrison admits to giving himself ministerial power in relation to health, finance and resources portfolios but did not recall any others.


There is a strong suspicion that the range of powers Scott Morrison gave himself may be revealed as much wider than previously thought. The Advocate on 16 August 2022 reported that; An administrative arrangements order for the social services portfolio was signed by Mr Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley on June 28, 2021, on top of him being privately sworn in to other ministries.


It should be noted that a number of previous Administrative Arrangements Orders coming into effect from February 2020 onwards and co-signed by the current Governor-General and then Prime Minister Morrison, had their schedules amended by Orders in Council dated 5 March, 2 &15 April 2020 and 10 & 28 June, 2 July 2021.


Additionally, there is speculation in the media that another former Morrison Government cabinet minister (besides Hunt and Porter) had to have known in March 2020 that Morrison was planning a takeover of the health and finance portfolios.


UPDATE



BACKGROUND


The Australian Online, Monday 15 August 2022:


Secret plan


By March 18, Covid-19 was spreading internationally and in the Australian community. Australia’s daily case numbers were running in triple digits. The pace of the virus was accelerating and with vastly more serious measures likely to be required, Morrison was worried that even national cabinet might not always be able to act quickly enough.


He and Hunt had been considering a drastic measure, invoking the emergency powers – the so-called trumping provisions – under the little-known section 475 of the Biosecurity Act which would empower the Governor-General to declare a “human biosecurity emergency”.


A declaration under section 475 gave Hunt as health minister exclusive and extraordinary powers. He, and only he, could personally make directives that overrode any other law and were not disallowable by parliament. He had authority to direct any citizen in the country to do something, or not do something, to prevent spread of the disease.


Morrison knew that if he asked the Governor-General to invoke section 475, he effectively would be handing Hunt control of the country. If they were going to use them, Morrison wanted protocols set up as well as a formal process to impose constraints. The protocols required the minister to provide written medical advice and advance notice of his intentions to the national security cabinet.


However, Morrison wasn’t satisfied, feeling that there needed to be more checks and balances before any single minister could wield such powers. One option was to delegate the powers to cabinet, but attorney-general Christian Porter’s advice was these powers could not be delegated and could reside only with the health minister.


Morrison then hatched a radical and until now secret plan with Porter’s approval. He would swear himself in as health minister alongside Hunt. Such a move was without precedent, let alone being done in secret, but the trio saw it as an elegant solution to the problem they were trying to solve – safeguarding against any one minister having absolute power.


Porter advised that it could be done through an administrative instrument and didn’t need appointment by the Governor-General, with no constitutional barrier to having two ministers appointed to administer the same portfolio.


I trust you, mate,” Morrison told Hunt, “but I’m swearing myself in as health minister, too.”


It would also be useful if one of them caught Covid and became incapacitated. Hunt not only accepted the measure but welcomed it. Considering the economic measures the government was taking, and the significant fiscal implications and debt that was being incurred, Morrison also swore himself in as finance minister alongside Mathias Cormann. He wanted to ensure there were two people who had their hands on the purse strings.


This is an edited extract from Plagued by Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers, published by Pantera Press. Out Tuesday.


Scott Morrison's 16 August 2022 Facebook response to being discovered, in which he appears to argue that the risk of ministers being incapacitated by COVID-19 required their ministerial powers to be solely concentrated in his person rather than in the pool of around 30 other ministers and 17 assistant ministers:


Scott Morrison (ScoMo)


The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession required an unprecedented policy response from our Government.


These were extraordinary times and they required extraordinary measures to respond. Our Government’s overriding objective was to save lives and livelihoods, which we achieved. To achieve this we needed to ensure continuity of government and robust administrative arrangements to deal with the unexpected in what was a period of constant uncertainty during the nation’s biggest crisis outside of wartime.


Information and advice changed daily and even hourly. Meetings with Ministers, officials and advisers were constant, as was liaison with industry and other stakeholders as we were dealing with everything from supply chain shocks to business closures, the overwhelming of the social security and hospital system and the sourcing of critical medical supplies and workforce. The prospect of civil disruption, extensive fatalities and economic collapse was real, especially in the early stages, which was occurring in other parts of the world.


The risk of Ministers becoming incapacitated, sick, hospitalised, incapable of doing their work at a critical hour or even fatality was very real. The Home Affairs Minister was struck down with COVID-19 early in the pandemic and the UK Prime Minister was on a ventilator and facing the very real prospect of dying of COVID-19.


The Parliament was suspended from sitting for a time and Cabinet and others meetings were unable to be held face to face, as occurred with businesses and the public more generally.


As Prime Minister I considered it necessary to put in place safeguards, redundancies and contingencies to ensure the continuity and effective operation of Government during this crisis period, which extended for the full period of my term.


To ensure oversight, the Government, with the support of the Opposition, established a concurrent public Senate Inquiry into the management of COVID that effectively ran for the duration of my term as Prime Minister.


In addition I took the precaution of being given authority to administer various departments of state should the need arise due to incapacity of a Minister or in the national interest. This was done in relation to departments where Ministers were vested with specific powers under their legislation that were not subject to oversight by Cabinet, including significant financial authorities.


Given the significant nature of many of these powers I considered this to be a prudent and responsible action as Prime Minister.


It is not uncommon for multiple Ministers to be sworn to administer the same Department. However, given that such additional Ministers were in a more junior position in the relevant Departments, and would not be familiar with all the details of the pandemic response, I considered it appropriate that the redundancy be put in place at a higher level within the Government and not at a more junior level.


The major Department for which this was considered was the Health Department, given the extensive powers afforded to the Minister by the Biosecurity Act. This was put in place on March 14, 2020. The Department of Finance was added on March 30, 2020.


As an added administrative precaution, as a ‘belts and braces’ approach, the Departments of Treasury and Home Affairs were added some time after in May 2021. I did not consider it was likely that it would be necessary to exercise powers in these areas, but the future was very difficult to predict during the pandemic. As events demonstrated with the resurgence of COVID-19 in the second half of 2021, we could never take certainty for granted. In hindsight these arrangements were unnecessary and until seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today, I had not recollected these arrangements having been put in place. There was a lot going on at the time.


Thankfully it was not necessary for me to trigger use of any of these powers. In the event that I would have to use such powers I would have done so disclosing the authority by which I was making such decisions. The authority was pre approved to ensure there would be no delay in being able to make decisions or take actions should the need arise.


The crisis was a highly dynamic environment and it was important to plan ahead and take what precautions could lawfully be put in place to ensure I could act, as Prime Minister, if needed.


It is important to note that throughout this time Ministers in all Departments, where I was provided with authority to act, exercised full control of their Departments and portfolios without intervention. Ministerial briefs were not copied to me as Prime Minister in a co-Minister capacity, as this was not the nature of the arrangement. These arrangements were there as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ safeguard. I also did not wish Ministers to be second guessing themselves or for there to be the appearance to be a right of appeal or any diminishing of their authority to exercise their responsibilities, as this was not the intention of putting these arrangements in place. I simply wanted them to get on with their job, which they did admirably and I am grateful for their service.


The decision in relation to the Department of Industry, Energy and Resources was undertaken in April 2021 for separate reasons. This was the consequence of my decision to consider the issues of the PEP11 license directly. Under the legislation the decision is not taken by Cabinet, but unilaterally by a Minister with authority to administer that Department. I sought and was provided with the authority to administer matters in relation to this Department and considered this issue observing all the necessary advice and issues pertaining to the matter before making a decision, without prejudice, which I announced publicly. Once having been given the authority to consider this matter I advised the Minister of my intention to do so and proceeded to consider the matter. I retained full confidence in Minister Pitt who

I was pleased to have serve in my Ministry. I believe I made the right decision in the national interest. This was the only matter I involved myself directly with in this or any other Department.


The use of the powers by a Prime Minister to exercise authority to administer Departments has clearly caused concern. I regret this, but acted in good faith in a crisis.


I used such powers on one occasion only. I did not seek to interfere with Ministers in the conduct of their portfolio as there were no circumstances that warranted their use, except in the case of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources which I have explained.


The pandemic has been a difficult time for Australia, although we have performed better than almost any other developed country in the world. There is no guide book in these circumstances and there is much commentary that will be offered in hindsight from the comfort of relatively calmer conditions. It is not surprising that some of this commentary will have a partisan or other motive, but that’s politics. In a democracy it is a positive thing for these issues to be discussed and for experience to inform future decisions and I hope my statement will help inform that process.


I have endeavoured to set out the context and reasoning for the decisions I took as Prime Minister in a highly unusual time. I did so in good faith, seeking to exercise my responsibilities as Prime Minister which exceeded those of any other member of the Government, or Parliament. For any offence to my colleagues I apologise. I led an outstanding team who did an excellent job and provided me great service and loyalty as Ministers.



Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Southern Right Whale and her small 'white' calf spotted in NSW coastal waters on their way to Antarctica

 

Southern Right Whale & her white calf
IMAGE: 
Right Whale ID program volunteer drone operator Maree Jackson


NSW Dept. of Planning and Environment, media release, 12 August 2022:


LEAVE THE LITTLE ‘WHITE’ WHALE ALONE


Four pairs of mother-and-calf southern right whales have been seen in NSW waters so far this winter – but one pair is slapping up a frenzy on social media.


The calf in this pair is mostly white, as seen in vision taken from high above, reminding people of the famous humpback Migaloo.


However, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Marine Wildlife Team Project Officer Andrew Marshall said while the sighting was exciting, whale fans needed to stay well clear of the family.


It is illegal to approach any closer than 300 metres when a calf is present, if you are on a vessel, including surfboards, paddleboards and kayaks. Drones must legally stay at least 100 metres above the animals.


The calf appears to be white but is actually brindle,” Mr Marshall said.


Its ‘white’ areas will darken to grey as it ages – it’s one of around 1-in-30 southern right whale calves born with brindle colouring.


This is a rare event to see a virtually white brindle calf, as southern right whales are mostly very dark, although some have splashes of white called a blaze.


If you look closely at the video you can also see pale grey areas on the mother, who also carries the recessive brindle gene,” he said.


The vision was captured off the south coast recently by accredited drone volunteer, Maree Jackson, from the NSW Government’s Right Whale ID research program to monitor the whales.


Maree used her camera’s zoom function from above the legal height of 100 metres to capture the ‘white’ calf surfacing for a breath while swimming alongside its mother.


Her drone approached at 100 metres then used a 7x optical zoom to capture the stunning close-ups.


Curious onlookers are reminded to keep back and give the nursing mother and calf space to rest undisturbed,” Mr Marshall said.


A calf needs up to 300 litres of milk a day to gain the weight needed for the 5000-kilometre swim back down to Antarctic waters in the coming month, so both the mother and calf need to be left alone so they can rest and feel safe.”


Now in its second year, the Right Whale ID Program uses highly trained volunteer drone operators to photograph the unique white head-markings on each southern right whale.


The Right Whale ID program operates as part of the Marine Estate Management Strategy, working with volunteer drone operators to collect important information about southern right whales to assist in their management, protection and conservation.


Southern Right Whale & her 'white' calf
Vision: Created by 
Right Whale ID program volunteer drone operator Maree Jackson


BACKGROUND






Monday, 15 August 2022

Yamba Residents Group formed in response to inappropriate overdevelopment of a flood prone small coastal town

 

Clarence Valley Independent, 10 August 2022:


A new Yamba Residents Group was born, and unanimous opposition was shown to the sale of the Wooli Street hall by council at a community meeting on Saturday.


The public meeting was convened to highlight issues impacting the community including developments at Park Avenue, Orion Drive and West Yamba, the Yamba bypass and the proposed sale of the Woolli Street hall by Clarence Valley Council.


The meeting began with a screening of Suburban Intensification of Regional Towns – Urban and Environmental Planning Issues, a film by Dr Tony Matthews, senior lecturer in Urban and Environmental Planning at Griffith University.


Clarence Valley Councillors Bill Day, Debrah Novak and Steve Pickering all attended the meeting in the packed hall that the community showed it was willing to fight for.


The video, which was prepared for a meeting in 2021, illustrated seven possible issues facing the Yamba and wider Lower Clarence communities as a result of intensive residential developments such as those planned for Yamba.


Dr Matthews said the community will face issues including Traffic Congestion, Environmental Degradation, Limited Internet, Lack of Urban Greenery, Infrastructure Lags, Excessive Densities and Disappearing Backyards, many of which he said can snowball into social and health impacts on nearby residents.


Lynne Cairns then spoke about the 136 moveable home development proposed by the Homeland group for Yamba’s Park Avenue, which is currently before the Northern Regional Planning Panel for determination.


Mrs Cairns showed photos and videos of stormwater inundation in this year’s floods of properties around the Park Avenue site, which will raise by up to 1.6 metres of fill if developed, in Telopea Avenue, Yamba Road, Treelands Drive, Park Avenue and Shores Drive.


It is going to be reconvened on the week of the 22nd of August, so we really need people to put in more submissions,” she said.


This will be the last time you have a chance to make an impact on this development and I believe this development is just a forerunner for the future of developments in Yamba.”


Trisha Bowes then spoke about the expansion of Yamba’s Palm Lake Resort on Orion Drive, stating since the initial Development Application DA was approved, the developer has applied to modify the DA for 81 double storey houses up to nine metres in height (increased from 78 houses).


Their latest modification is to say, on 3.4 hectares of land we are going to put 81 double storey houses, plus a clubhouse,” she said.


Ms Bowes questioned how the modification, which would see 81 double storey houses in a facility designed for seniors and people with a disability, was suitable for its target population.


What they then say is we’re putting a lift in there…81 lifts,” she said.


The people don’t own the land and when they buy a house they will say if you want a lift you have to pay for one and you can’t relocate it.”


Another modification to the DA, Ms Bowes said, was to move the location of the clubhouse and change the site boundaries to allow them to put the additional three houses in.


Ms Bowes reminded everyone they only have until this Friday, August 12, to lodge submissions with council concerning the proposed amendments to the DA.


Long term Yamba resident Col Shepherd then spoke about the proposed Yamba bypass, something he has been told ‘you won’t see that in your lifetime’ numerous times by council since the 1970’s.


Over the years, Mr Shepherd said there had been numerous variations of what the bypass would look like.


Initially the idea was that there would be a bypass that would act as an alternative route from the vicinity of Oyster Channel approximately 500 metres to the south of Yamba Road, and proceed into the central part of town, he said.


Since then, there has been change, after change…so much so that we are now talking about a bypass that is primarily from Shores Drive to town, or thereabouts.”


Since the late 1990’s costing of $6.5 million, Mr Shephard said environmental studies had forced route changes and this year council had allocated $150,000 for ‘scoping studies’ into what is required for a bypass.


Helen Tyas Tunggal was the next to speak on the growing development zone of West Yamba.


Ms Tyas Tunggal showed photos and videos of the area, which was first gazetted as West Yamba, now known as Crystal Waters, plus images and maps of the original West Yamba and Wyura areas.


The audience also saw images of more than five sites that are planned, or development was underway on Carrs Drive, West Yamba.


After a short break, Graeme Granleese then addressed the meeting on the proposed sale of the Wooli Street Hall.


He said in 2018 council resolved to expand the Treelands Drive precinct at a cost of $11.5 million and they applied for a grant of $9.9 million, with the shortfall to be covered by council.


The other source of possible funds for this contribution is the sale of the Wooli St library and hall,” council staff reported at the time.


Mr Granleese said a recent valuation of the Wooli Street hall and library was $2.8 million


At the July 26 council meeting, Mr Granleese said it was revealed that the sale of Wooli Street hall would be used to cover the shortfall for the Treelands Drive upgrade.


Fears were expressed that once council rezones the Wooli Street hall site it could open the door to potential multi-level developments on the land.


Bobby McCaughey then also spoke passionately about the Wooli Street Hall and the diverse range of community activities it has hosted over the years…..


The full article can be read here.