Thursday 29 February 2024

And in the Australian Senate this week they were arguing over a difference of five minutes.......

How to shut down the Australian Senate in under 14 minutes, during an argument over a five minute difference between allotted speaking times OR one of the many ways members of parliament choose to waste Treasury funds.

Player Cheat Sheet:

Labor Senator Sue Lines for Western Australia, President of the Senate. 

Labor Senator Loiuse Pratt for Western Australia, Acting Deputy President of the Senate

Liberal Senator Maria Kovacic for New South Wales 

Labor Senator Helen Polley for Tasmania 

Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe for Victoria 

Liberal Senator Paul Scarr for Queensland

Labor Senator Murray Watt for Queensland.

Senate Hansard, 27 February 2024, pages 101-103:

Note: My yellow highlighting throughout the excerpt

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Pratt): Senator Polley, if you could just pause for a moment— Senator Kovacic?

Senator Kovacic: I've been waiting here for over an hour and 15 minutes, as the schedule has shifted around over and over.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: If you are seeking a point of order—

Senator Kovacic: It's five minutes—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: No. Senator Scarr was the first speaker when no-one jumped up before then. We immediately went into 10 minutes right from the outset. Some people spoke for less than 10 minutes, as a courtesy to the chamber. But under the standing orders anyone can now speak for 10, because that is what—

Senator Thorpe: We weren't told that by the last speaker—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I beg your pardon? Senator Thorpe!

Senator Thorpe: We weren't told that by the last speaker! We were told by the person—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, sit down now! You won't get the call at all unless you sit down now. Senator Scarr?

Senator Scarr: Acting Deputy President, my understanding was that we were going through the 10 minutes and then we were starting with the five minutes with Senator McCarthy. So, Senator McCarthy has spoken. Senator Sharma spoke. We're now onto Senator Polley. My understanding—and I think the Acting Deputy President who was in the chair indicated we were on five minutes—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Scarr, I understand what the President indicated. Senator McCarthy spoke for 10 minutes—

Senator Thorpe: No she didn't!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: and that is because she had agreement to move from the list to do a 10-minute speech. So, I'm just going according to the standing orders.

Senator Thorpe: We were told five minutes!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senators! It is a courtesy to the chamber—

Senator Thorpe interjecting—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Stop! Stop interjecting, Senator Thorpe, and I will tell you what the rules are.

Senator Thorpe: Wake up, because you've been asleep in that chair, and I have a mother who lost a son to your system—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, sit down now!

Senator Thorpe interjecting —

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, you will come to order.

Senator Thorpe: Wake up! Wake up!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, I've been listening intently to the speeches before me— 

Senator Thorpe: No, you have not—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Polley's speech on dementia and the speech on concussion, which I note you were taking a deep interest in because of your parliamentary work.

Senator Thorpe interjecting—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Kovacic, I'm sure you're very glad you took a point of order! Please, both of you sit down and I will allow Senator Polley to continue. Senator Polley, you have the call.

Senator Thorpe: We were told five minutes. How can you as the chair change the rules? How can you come in and change the rules?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Polley has the call.

Senator Thorpe: How come all of us heard one thing and you heard something different?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, you have the call.

Senator POLLEY: I'd like—

Senator Thorpe: No. A point of order!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, what is your point of order?

Senator POLLEY: You're delaying it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Kovacic, you're on your feet. Senator Polley, my apologies. 

Senator Thorpe: Where's the President? Where's the President? Where's the President?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Kovacic, what's your point of order, please?

Senator Kovacic: I have been on my feet for quite some time—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Yes, I understand that.

Senator Kovacic: I'm ready to sit down. I don't think it's appropriate for to you reflect on whether I'm happy that I raised a point of order. I raised it because it was appropriate and we wanted to understand when we would be able to speak. I don't think that was too much for either of us to ask.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Kovacic, I will reflect on that as chair. Senator Thorpe?

Senator Thorpe: I'd like, respectfully, for your conduct to be reviewed by the President, who should be in the seat dealing with this issue right now because we are being done over by you and them.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: By all means. Senator Polley?

Senator Thorpe: Point of order, now that the President is in the chair—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, the way adjournment operates is by agreement. Senator McGrath made an ruling earlier because when we went to adjournment tonight there was not one senator on the five-minute list in the chamber, so he quite properly went to the 10-minute speakers and then reverted to the five-minute speakers. Senator Pratt has explained that. Senator Polley has the call. I'm going to give her the call. 

Senator Thorpe: A point of order. That was not properly explained [inaudible]—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, please resume your seat. I'm not entertaining any more points of order. Please resume your seat. I've ordered and the matter is finished with. I have been watching adjournment since it began.

Senator Thorpe: Of course you have, so you should know.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, resume your seat. I will order that you no longer be heard.

Senator Thorpe interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Thorpe, you will no longer be heard.

Senator Thorpe: Have you made that ruling?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley?

Senator POLLEY: I was about to conclude my remarks—

Senator Thorpe: Point of order: are you telling me that I can't be heard? Because I want to know. Is that right? Is that what's happening?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, please resume your seat. Senator Thorpe, I have ordered that you no longer be heard. Please resume your seat.

Senator Thorpe: I'm not going to leave this chamber. I will read now.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, please continue. 

Senator POLLEY: As I was saying, President, I was about to conclude my remarks on what I think—

Senator Thorpe interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, please resume your seat.

Senator Thorpe interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Minister Watt?

Senator Watt: I ask that the Senate now be adjourned. Question agreed

Senate adjourned at 20:49 

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Newspoll 2024: fourteen months out from the likely date of the next Australian federal election and the Coalition is limping along


The Australian, Newspoll, 25 February 2024:

Two Party Preferred Voting Intention January 2019 to February 2024
IMAGE: The Australian, 25.02.24
Click on image to enlarge


Australian Labor 33 (down 1)

Liberal-Nationals Coalition — 36 (no change)

The Greens — 12 (no change)

One Nation — 6 (no change)

Others — 13 (up 2)


Australian Labor 52 (no change)

Liberal-Nationals Coalition — 48 (no change)


Anthony Albanese — 47 (up 1)

Peter Dutton — 35 (no change)



Approve — 43 (up 1)

Disapprove — 51 (no change)


Approve — 37 (no change)

Disapprove — 51 (up 1) 


Results are based on the responses of 1,245 participants in the YouGov survey, which are weighted to be representative of the population by age, gender, education, AEC region, household income, weighting by past vote (Federal vote and Voice referendum). This Newspoll was published in The Australian on 25.02.24

At this point in time the expectation is that Australian will go to a federal general election sometime in May 2025, roughly 14 months away. 

Fourteen months out from the May 2022 federal election in the 21 February 2021 Newspoll, Labor's primary vote stood at 36 to the Liberal-Nationals Coalition's 42.

While Labor and the Coalition stood neck and neck on the two party preferred graph at 50 points.

At the actual general election on 21 May 2022 Labor won government with a House of Representatives count of 77 seats to the Coalition's 58 seats - with minor parties & independents holding 16 seats - giving the Albanese Government a one seat majority. The Newspoll of 13 May 2023 had posited a Labor win of 54 to the Coalition's 48.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Australia's Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance [MEAA] joins international fundraiser to help feed those journalists still alive & working in starving, war-torn Gaza. Can you spare a few dollars to help put a vegetable basket together?


ECHO, 26 February 2024:

Image used in MEAA’s campaign to raise funds for
Palestinian journalists. PIC Sam Wallman
Photos, footage, audio and news reports from the middle east show nearly everyone in the Gaza is struggling to find food and essential medical supplies, including reporters.

But the demand for their work only intensifies as the war continues.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance [MEAA], which represents many Australian journalists, has joined a global fundraiser to help feed journalists working in the Gaza.

Money raised is to go directly towards fresh vegetables supplies and hygiene kits for around 1200 journalists and their families on contact lists held by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

Palestinian journalists are the eyes of the world on Gaza,’ MEAA said in an email sent to members on Friday.

These workers continue under fire, without essential needs such as food, water and basic hygiene supplies,’ the email read.

The scarcity of these basic necessities in the territory has resulted in a surge in prices, making them unaffordable for many.’

MEAA says each vegetable basket costs about $AUD54 and each hygiene kit costs $AUD77.

More than 100 reporters killed in Gaza since October

News reports from the Gaza are a tradition almost as long as the post-war creation of Israel itself.

But just as medics and aid-workers are complaining of a lack of respect for their work and an inability to carry out first aid owing to hospitals and aid trucks becoming targets of war, so too are journalists being tested to their limits and beyond.

More than a hundred journalists have been killed in Gaza since the Israel Defense Forces started its operation there in October last year, the International Federation for Journalists [IFJ] reports.

The IFJ has launched the food fundraiser as part of a solidarity campaign with Palestinian reporters today.

Union backs call for better Israel-Palestine war coverage

MEAA’s appeal comes after the organisation said it had joined more than 80 journalist unions and associations around the world in early November 2023 calling for the Israeli government to ‘take explicit steps to protect the lives of journalists covering the war in Gaza, in accordance with international law’.

All but five of 39 journalists reported as killed on the job in the Gaza at the time were Palestinian.

Later that month, the union said it was endorsing an open letter from a group of Australian journalist members regarding media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Reporters on the frontline missing in action

Other examples of recent wars such as in Syria and Yemen have shown what happens when reporters are unable to perform their work effectively.

The UN has said several times in recent years that the subsequent humanitarian crisis in Yemen was the world’s worst, with millions of children said to have died from preventable disease and / or starvation.

Yet there are many Australians who are not aware of the fighting in Yemen largely thanks to a lack of mainstream media coverage.

Meanwhile, reporters hoping to inform the world of atrocities during Syria’s recent military decimation and mass refugee exodus were rarely able to reach the warzone......

MEAA  website, retrieved 26 February 2024:

Gaza Journalists Appeal

The current conflict in Gaza has had unprecedented and devastating effects on journalists in Palestine.

MEAA has launched a new fundraising appeal as part of an international effort to support Palestinian journalists, through the Media Safety & Solidarity Fund. Donations will provide basic food and health supplies for journalists in Gaza and their families.

Every cent donated will be distributed through the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, the official affiliate of the IFJ, to provide material support for journalists in Gaza to continue to be able to do their jobs.

Since the conflict began, the PJS has sought to support Gaza journalists with tents, food baskets, power banks (mobile charging batteries), wheat, flour, cash assistance and other basic needs.

Right now, what is most needed are fresh vegetables supplies and hygiene kits for journalists families.

Each vegetable basket costs $US35 (about $54) and each hygiene kit costs $US50 (about $77). The PJS has about 1200 journalists on its contact lists.


Monday 26 February 2024

A little bit about the second set of International Court of Justice hearings in 2024 concerning 'The Question of Palestine'

Because The Question of Palestine, the nature of political and diplomatic processes undertaken to resolve this 76 year-old question — in order that Palestine is recognised under international law as a sovereign state whose citizens enjoy the full range of humanitarian and political rights and protections — will in large measure define the status and gravitas accorded to the United Nations going forward by nation states as the world moves further into an epoch of climatic, geo-political and social disruption, it does no harm to be watchful as events unfold. 

Additionally, mainstream media coverage has been rather limited in Australia concerning legal deliberations relating to Palestine since the International Court of Justice Order of 26 January 2024 and the Australian Government has been noticeable by its silence on the most recent hearings.

So here is a basic record of what occurred after the United Nation General Assembly's 12 page Request for an Advisory Opinion pursuant to General Assembly resolution 77/247 of 30 December 2022, with regard to Legal Consequences Arising From The Policies And Practices Of Israel In The Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem, began six days of public hearings on Monday 19 February 2024, at 10 a.m. at the Peace Palace, with President Salam presiding.

The Court was asked to render an opinion on the following basis:

considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, and the advisory opinion of the Court of 9 July 2004:

(a) What are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures?

(b) How do the policies and practices of Israel referred to in paragraph 18 (a) above affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?” 

The public hearings......


The State of #Palestine opens the public hearings in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, before the #ICJ


The #Netherlands#Bangladesh and #Belgium present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

#Belize#Bolivia #Brazil and #Chile present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem



#Colombia#Cuba#Egyptthe #UAE and #USA present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

 #Russia#France#TheGambia#Guyana and #Hungary present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem


#China#Iran#Iraq#Ireland#Japan and #Jordan present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

#Kuwait#Lebanon#Libya #Luxembourg#Malaysia and #Mauritius present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem


#Namibia#Norway#Oman#Pakistan#Indonesia and #Qatar present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

#UnitedKingdom#Slovenia#Sudan#Switzerland#Syria and #Tunisia present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem


#Türkiye, #Zambia, #League of Arab States, #Organisation for Islamic Cooperation and #Africa Union present their oral statements in the advisory proceedings on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

NOTE: Verbatim records of all oral proceedings can be found at:


Earlier, on 16 February 2024 in the matter of the Republic of South Africa v The State of Israel the International Court of Justice issued this media release in response to the situation in Rafah in the far south of the Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt:

Thursday 22 February 2024

North Coast Voices Notice 22.02.24


Apologies to North Coast Voices' readers. There will be no daily posts until Monday 26 February 2024.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Not a good look for the start of the 2024 local government year in the Clarence Valley, NSW


The local government year begins in the Clarence Valley at the end of February each year with the holding of an Ordinary Monthly Meeting.

In 2024 this first meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 27 February.

So it came as something of a surprise when the current Clarence Valley Mayor briefed a local newspaper thus.....

ClarenceValley Independent, 14 February 2024:

An extraordinary meeting of Clarence Valley Council has been called for tomorrow, Thursday, February 15, where councillors are set to discuss the Performance Review of General Manager, Laura Black.

Clarence Valley Council Mayor, Peter Johnstone provided the CV Independent with embargoed details about the meeting to meet our print deadline, prior to the meeting agenda being made public.

Cr Johnstone said he will be putting forward a motion that council:

Note the Annual Performance Management report from the Performance Management Review Panel.

Endorse the recommendation from the Performance Management Review Panel to award the General Manager a 2 per-cent pay rise under paragraph 8.3 of the Standard Contract of Employment for General Managers of Local Councils in New South Wales with the increase backdated to October 7, 2023.

Based on the General Manager’s current salary of $342,696.93, Cr Johnstone said the amount of the pay rise will be about $7200.

In accordance with the Code of Meeting Practice the extraordinary meeting will be livestreamed on council’s website, but it may go into a confidential session if required, which will not be broadcast.

Clarence Valley Council awarded General Manager Laura

Black a 2 per cent pay rise backdated to 7 October 2023 following a split vote of 5 to 4 at an extraordinary meeting of council on 15 February 2024. With those 'For' being Mayor Johnstone & Crs. Whaites, Novak, Toms, Pickering and those 'Against' being Deputy Mayor Smith & Crs. Tiley, Clancy, Day.

The pay rise was an obvious workaround of the NSW Government freeze on annual pay rises for politicians and senior staff, which included local government general managers.

Ms Black's salary before the pay rise was endorsed by council was $342,696.93. With the rise her annual salary is likely to be in excess of 349,550, with an additional backdated windfall of almost $3,000.

A rescission motion lodged against the decision to award the General Manager a pay rise will be heard at the Ordinary General Meeting on 27 February.

The Northern Rivers Times reported that an extraordinary meeting had already been called for 15 February when the Mayor appears to have announced a second extraordinary meeting:

IMAGE: Northern Rivers Times, 14 February 2024

One can only speculate what the phrase "some matters concerning senior staff" actually means and whether it might have been intended to include the general manger on issues unrelated to the annual salary.

Reportedly in an interview on Loving Life FM 103.1 on the morning of Friday 16 February, Mayor Peter Johnstone appeared to disavow the fact that he had called another extraordinary meeting separate in nature from the original extraordinary meeting (later withdrawn) which intended to discuss matters concerning council staff.

Given that on the day there was also a tussle to keep the meeting's motion debate in the Chamber in closed session and forever away from public scrutiny, this matter is likely to fester and affect the collegiate atmosphere expected of the third tier of government.

In this writer's opinion Peter Johnstone was never a wise choice for mayor and this is not the first time his actions have borne out that view. 

The mayor holds office until the next NSW local government elections on 24 September 2024.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Australian Bureau of Meteorology partners with European Centre to ensure more eyes on Earth


Copernicus Sentinel Satellites providing all weather, day & night Earth-observation data to feed into a range of services for monitoring weather, land & ocean environments and supporting civil security activities. IMAGE: The European Space Agency

Australian Bureau of Meteorology, media release, 16 February 2024:

The Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau) has signed an agreement with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on collaboration, data and knowledge sharing and capability exchange programs.

A five-year strategic relationship agreement was signed this week by the Bureau's CEO and Director, Dr Andrew Johnson, and the Centre's Director-General, Dr Florence Rabier.

The Bureau has been invited to work with ECMWF as part of the Copernicus Climate Change Service. Copernicus is the Earth observation component of the European Union’s space programme and includes satellite and in situ observations combined with expert modelling to provide services such as the Climate Change Service implemented by ECMWF.

Under this agreement we are adding long-range global forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology’s Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator – also known as ACCESS – to the Copernicus multi-model global ensemble. ACCESS will join other world-leading models, demonstrating the importance of scientific collaboration and of Australia’s contribution to the international community," Dr Rabier said.

This is an important ongoing partnership for ECMWF, the benefits of which will be felt worldwide in the ensemble forecasts produced. It will also lead to further improvements in weather and climate modelling and research conducted in Europe and Australia.”

ACCESS is the Bureau's extended and long-range forecast system. It is a state-of-the-art dynamical (physics-based) forecast modelling system, which uses ocean, atmosphere, ice and land observations to initiate forecasts for the season ahead.

There are eight contributors to the ECMWF Copernicus multi-system global ensemble and the addition of the Bureau's ACCESS forecasts brings this total to nine.

"This new agreement enables the Bureau to access more comprehensive data from some of the world’s best forecast models to support and improve its own services," Dr Johnson said.

"It also provides more opportunities for joint research projects exploring weather and climate impacts in the southern hemisphere and around the globe."

"This is a huge accomplishment for the Bureau and Australia. The benefits of this partnership will lead to future improvements in Australian weather and climate products and services for the benefit of the Australian community."

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 35 states. It is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its Member States. The ECMWF was established in 1975 and its purpose – then as now – was to pool Europe's meteorological resources to produce accurate climate data and medium-range forecasts - ECMWF |Advancing global NWP through international collaboration. It implements the Copernicus Climate Change Service and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service on behalf of the European Commission. Homepage | Copernicus.

The Bureau of Meteorology is Australia's national weather, climate, oceans, water and space weather agency. Its expertise and services assist Australians in dealing with the harsh realities of their natural environment, including drought, floods, fires, storms, tsunami and tropical cyclones. Through regular forecasts, warnings, monitoring and advice spanning the Australian region and Antarctic territory, the Bureau provides one of the most fundamental and widely used services of government - Australia's official weather forecasts & weather radar - Bureau of Meteorology (

Monday 19 February 2024

That Australia faces rising air, land & sea surface temperatures is a situation that can no longer be denied and yet federal, state and local governments are not fully addressing the thermal mass of subdivision & individual residential dwelling design


The fact that ambient air temperature, lad surface and sea surface temperatures are rising across the Australian continent can no longer be denied.

GRAPH: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

In New South Wales generally average maximum temperatures in the month of January 2024 ranged from around 24°C to 36-39°C, spiked by days on end of heatwave temperatures which often broke temperature records for individual localities.

MAPPING:  Australian Bureau of Meteorology

In the north-east coastal zone of the state the minimum air temperature was 1°C higher and maximum air temperature 1-2°C higher than they were between 1981-2010.

In January the highest Northern Rivers region minimum & maximum recorded daily temperature range was:

Evans Head 24.838°C

Grafton 24.537.6°C

Yamba 25.637.2°C

Murwillumbah 27.1—36.2°C

Casino 27.1—36.2°C

Lismore 24.5—35.6°C

Tabulam 23.0—34.9°C

Byron Bay 25.6—32.7°C

Ballina 24.934.2°C

Note: These are the nine official Bureau of Meteorology weather stations in the Northern Rivers region.

Yet despite all this new subdivision schemes and housing designs are paying little more than lip service to sustainability and mitigating the thermal load of both the internal road networks of these subdivisions or the collective & individual loads of dwelling contained there in.

Apparently, multi-dwelling structures that increasing look like a collection of boxes are skating through BASIX requirements on the presumption that each individual box within these boxes will be fully air conditioned at some point before occupation or that if ceiling fans are fitted to some of the rooms then this will mitigate heat.

An assumption which:

(i) takes no account of the increasing stress air conditioning places on a household's cost of living. Because the price per kilowatt hour & associated charges of residential electricity supply continues to rise and commonly these multiple dwelling boxes are not built with any rooftop solar power grid to mitigate cost;

(ii) completely ignores the increasing risk of destructive storms causing levels of damage to power supply infrastructure that cuts power supply to both collections of streets or entire towns for days/weeks at a time. As occurred in heatwave conditions in 2024; and

(iii) appears to leave the thermal load of closely clustered internal roads out of the equation completely.

I expect the latest collection of boxes being considered by Clarence Valley Council will also get the nod because I have yet to see this local government apply the full suite of climate change policies to every development application before deciding consent. The heat footprint of an application rarely rates a mention in Council-in-the-Chamber debates or elicits questions to senior staff attending. Neither are there many mentions of the heat island affect caused by new roads, pavements and driveways. Nor does the wind resistance factor of a proposed building arise - and given the entire Clarence Coast is now in a cyclone risk zone that borders on the negligent when assessing new development applications.

Artists impression of street view of 6 Yamba Road, Yamba proposed subdivision. IMAGE: BDA

Set out below are some basic facts about how the freestanding houses, town houses, duplexes, units and flats we live in attract and retain heat.

Australian Government, Your Home, retrieved 19 February 2024:

Passive Design

What is thermal mass?

In simple terms, thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb, store and release heat. Materials such as concrete, bricks and tiles absorb and store heat. They are therefore said to have high thermal mass. Materials such as timber and cloth do not absorb and store heat and are said to have low thermal mass.

In considering thermal mass, you will also need to consider thermal lag. Thermal lag is the rate at which heat is absorbed and released by a material. Materials with long thermal lag times (for example, brick and concrete) will absorb and release heat slowly; materials with short thermal lag times (for example, steel) will absorb and release heat quickly.

Thermal mass

Thermal mass, or the ability to store heat, is also known as volumetric heat capacity (VHC). VHC is calculated by multiplying the specific heat capacity by the density of a material:

  • Specific heat capacity is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1kg of a material by 1°C.

  • Density is the weight per unit volume of a material (ie how much a cubic metre the material weighs).

The higher the VHC, the higher the thermal mass.

Water has the highest VHC of any common material. The following table shows that it takes 4186 kilojoules (kJ) of energy to raise the temperature of 1 cubic metre of water by 1°C, whereas it takes only 2060kJ to raise the temperature of an equal volume of concrete by the same amount. In other words, water has around twice the heat storage capacity of concrete. The VHC of rock usually ranges between brick and concrete, depending on density. Most common building materials with high VHC also tend to be quite conductive, making them poor insulators.

Thermal lag

How fast heat is absorbed and released by uninsulated material is referred to as thermal lag. It is influenced by:

  • heat capacity of the material

  • conductivity of the material

  • difference in temperature (known as the temperature differential or ΔT) between each face of the material

  • thickness of the material

  • surface area of the material

  • texture, colour and surface coatings (for example, dark, matte or textured surfaces absorb and re-radiate more energy than light, smooth, reflective surfaces)

  • exposure of the material to air movement and air speed.

To be effective in most climates, thermal mass should be able to absorb and re-radiate close to its full heat storage capacity in a single day–night (diurnal) cycle.

In moderate climates, a 12-hour lag cycle is ideal. In colder climates subject to long cloudy periods, lags of up to 7 days can be useful, providing there is enough solar exposed glazing to ‘charge’ the thermal mass in sunny weather.

Embodied energy

Some high thermal mass materials, such as concrete, cement-stabilised rammed earth, and brick, have high embodied energy when used in the quantities required. This highlights the importance of using such construction only where it delivers a clear thermal benefit. When used appropriately, the savings in heating and cooling energy from the thermal mass can outweigh the cost of its embodied energy over the lifetime of the building. Consideration should be given to using high thermal mass materials with lower embodied energy, such as water, adobe or recycled brick.

Why is thermal mass important?

When used correctly, materials with high thermal mass can significantly increase comfort and reduce energy use in your home. Thermal mass acts as a thermal battery to moderate internal temperatures by averaging out day−night (diurnal) extremes.

In winter, thermal mass can absorb heat during the day from direct sunlight. It re-radiates this warmth back into the home throughout the night.

In summer, thermal mass can be used to keep the home cool. If the sun is blocked from reaching the mass (for example, with shading), the mass will instead absorb warmth from inside the home. You can then allow cool breezes and convection currents to pass over the thermal mass overnight to draw out the stored energy.

Conversely, poor use of thermal mass can reduce comfort and increase energy use. Inappropriate thermal mass can absorb all the heat you produce on a winter night or radiate heat to you all night as you try to sleep during a summer heatwave.....