Saturday, 10 August 2019

Tweets of the Week

Last night’s talking point at the table of knowledge

There’s no prize for correctly guessing the main item of discussion at the table of knowledge at the local watering hole last night.

Basil: “The voting for/against the bill to decriminalise abortion in the NSW Legislative Assembly on Thursday night was 59 Ayes and 31 Noes. My simple understanding of arithmetic says 59+31= 90, but there are 93 members of the Assembly, so what happened to the other three votes?”

Albert: “Well, I suspect the Speaker in the Assembly, Jonathan O’Dea, the Liberal Party MP for Davison, wasn’t required to exercise any right to vote, so had a very silent and private vote which he kept very close to his chest.”

Basil: “Okay, that accounts for 91, but what about the other two votes?”

Paddy (he’s our deep thinking member who knows a thing or two about just about everything but isn’t one to burst onto the scene and steal someone else’s thunder): “Seriously, fellas, it was just a simple matter of ticking the names of those who voted off a list of the names of all MLAs. According to my add-ups, take-aways and gazintas ... .”

Frank (interrupting): “Yes! My inspection of the names listed under the Ayes and Noes revealed the absence of two MLA’s names, Mark Coure (Liberal MP for Oakley) and Sonia Hornery (ALP MP for Wallsend).”

Charlie: “Hey, my mate who knows someone who knows someone told me that Ms Hornery had previously shown her hand as a prospective Aye in earlier votes in the debate and had also spoken along those lines. However, she was unwell and not in the Assembly when the final vote was taken, so it’s a pretty fair call to say she would have been an Aye.”

Basil: “Okay, but what about the other vote, that of Mark Coure?”

Errol: “Who’s Mark Coure?”

Paddy: “Exactly! Nuff said!”

Footnote: to be fair to Mr Coure, anyone with information about him in relation to this matter is asked to provide that information in the comments section below

Friday, 9 August 2019

NSW lower house votes to decriminalise abortion. Check out how MPs voted

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Abortion is set to be decriminalised in NSW, after lower house MPs voted to remove terminations from the state's criminal code.The bill to decriminalise abortion passed 59 to 31, but it created a split within the Liberals, with many of the party's 35 MPs opposed the bill.

The NSW Legislative Assembly’s Votes and Proceedings for 8 August 2019 shows how MPs voted:


Ms Aitchison, Mr Anderson, Mr Ayres, Mr Barilaro, Mr Barr, Ms Berejiklian, Mr Butler, Ms Car, Ms Catley, Mr Chanthivong, Mr Clancy, Mr Constance, Ms Cooke, Ms Cotsis, Mr Crakanthorp, Mr Daley, Mrs Dalton, Mr Dominello, Mr Donato, Ms Doyle, Mr Evans, Mr Greenwich, Mr Griffin, Mr Gulaptis, Mrs Hancock, Mr Harris, Ms Harrison, Ms Haylen, Mr Hazzard, Mr Henskens, Mr Hoenig, Mr Kean, Ms Leong, Mr Lynch, Mr Marshall, Ms McKay, Mr Mehan, Mr Minns, Dr O’Neill, Mr Park, Mr Parker, Mrs Pavey, Mr Piper, Mr Provest, Ms Saffin, Mr Saunders, Mr Scully, Mr Singh, Ms Smith, Ms Tesch, Mr Toole, Ms Voltz, Mr Ward, Mr Warren, Ms Washington, Mrs Williams and Ms Wilson.
 Tellers: Mr Crouch and Ms Watson


Mr Atalla, Mr Bali, Mr Bromhead, Mrs Davies, Mr Dib, Mr Elliott, Ms Finn, Ms Gibbons, Mr Johnsen, Mr Kamper, Dr Lee, Ms Lindsay, Dr McDermott, Dr McGirr, Ms Mihailuk, Mr Perrottet, Ms Petinos, Ms Preston, Mr Roberts, Mr Sidgreaves, Mr Sidoti, Mr Smith, Mr Speakman, Mr Stokes, Mr Taylor, Mrs Tuckerman, Ms Upton, Mr Williams and Mr Zangari.
Tellers: Mr Conolly and Mr Lalich

Clarence River under stress as it passes through Kyogle region

The Daily Examiner, 5 August 2019, p.13:

“It's pretty bad,” was how one Tabulam resident described the current state of the once mighty Clarence River. 

Residents have stopped pumping water from the river because of blue-green algae caused by low water levels. 

Three of four water trucks pass Mr McMillan’s front door every day, taking water from the river and he said they are likely to be doing this legally but it wouldn’t be helping with the river flow. 

“In 1991 people used to have ski boats and put them in behind the police station and ski upstream,” he said. 

Now that same area is a pasture with no sign of the river, the small flow hidden behind mounds.

Further upstream past the Tabulam Bridge there is an island of sand that was never there before, Mr McMillan said.... 

 “Council is aware that some residents supplement their rainwater tank supply with water sourced from the Clarence River. With the flows in the Clarence so low at present, it is likely that the ability to source this supplementary supply would be compromised.”.....

Thursday, 8 August 2019

FBI believes conspiracy theory-driven extremists are likely to be active during the 2020 presidential election cycle

FBI Intelligence Bulletin, excerpt, 30 May 2019

Yahoo! News, 2 August 2019:

The FBI for the first time has identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat, according to a previously unpublicized document obtained by Yahoo News. (Read the document below.)

The FBI intelligence bulletin from the bureau’s Phoenix field office, dated May 30, 2019, describes “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat, and notes that it is the first such report to do so. It lists a number of arrests, including some that haven’t been publicized, related to violent incidents motivated by fringe beliefs.

The document specifically mentions QAnon, a shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Trump, and Pizzagate, the theory that a pedophile ring including Clinton associates was being run out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant (which didn’t actually have a basement).

“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. It also goes on to say the FBI believes conspiracy theory-driven extremists are likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle.

The FBI said another factor driving the intensity of this threat is “the uncovering of real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures.” The FBI does not specify which political leaders or which cover-ups it was referring to.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 August 2019:

At a few minutes before 11 am on Saturday in El Paso, Texas, a gunman in his early 20s opened fire on a crowd of shoppers in a mall killing at least 20 and wounding dozens of others, placing the suspect’s rampage among the top ten deadliest mass shootings in US history.....

As hospitals in the local area deal with what can only be described as the bloody battlefield carnage, federal and state authorities are moving closer towards establishing the suspect’s motive for carrying out the mass casualty attack.

Federal law enforcement investigators have told CNN that they are reviewing writings they believe to have been posted online by the suspect, Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white man from Dallas, but are yet to publicly confirm.
Essentially, the gunman’s alleged manifesto reads as a carbon copy of that espoused by those who carried out the recent and respective attacks on the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

"This is a response to the Hispanic invasion," it reads, according to the FBI. It then goes on to accuse the Democratic Party of "pandering to the Hispanic voting bloc”, while also expressing his contempt for “race mixing” and support for “sending them back.”

These right-wing extremists are not only channelling neo-Nazi borne “Great Replacement” conspiracy theories, which frame demographic change as a threat to white Europeans, but also taking a cue from the words and policies of President Donald Trump.
It was only two weeks ago when Trump inspired an auditorium full of his supporters to chant “send her back” in reference to the country’s first elected black Muslim congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and migrated to the US as the young daughter of refugee parents.
Earlier in the year, Trump smeared all immigrants approaching the US-Mexico border as invaders when he said, “People hate the word ‘invasion', but that’s what it is.”
Trump has also referred to Latin American refugees and asylum seekers as “rapists”, “criminals”, drug dealers” and “terrorists”.
It’s worth remembering that when a Rwandan politician described Rwanda’s Tutsi minority as “cockroaches” it started a genocide that resulted in the deaths of upwards of one million people in that country.....

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Under Prime Minister Scott Morrison's own peculiar mix of politics & social engineering the 'haves' are relentlessly screwing the 'have nots' into the ground

ABC News, 2 August 2019: 

Whistleblowers are warning a $351 million Government program aimed at getting parents back to work is exploiting vulnerable single mothers, and even the homeless. 

Key points: 

ParentsNext is a $351 million scheme to get parents on welfare to meet work and study goals, then return to the workforce 

Employment service providers receive $600 for every client who is on ParentsNext 

Whistleblowers say service providers have kept parents in the scheme who should be exempt. 

At the centre of the controversy is ParentsNext, a program some people must take part in to receive parenting payments from Centrelink. 

It is also the first Australia-wide program to allow private employment service providers to decide who must participate. 

Background Briefing has interviewed current and former employees in Australia's lucrative employment services sector who claim some caseworkers are pressured to sign up and retain people who face significant personal crises, even though departmental guidelines stipulate they should be exempted. 

Homeless but signed up anyway Mel, 33, is one of more than 3,000 homeless Australians who've been signed up to the compulsory employment training program ParentsNext despite having no fixed address to take a shower or prepare a warm meal for her kids. 

A mother of four, Mel's spent more than two years on Tasmania's public housing waiting list. 

She was furious when she received a letter demanding she undergo an eligibility assessment for ParentsNext or else her parenting payments would be cut off. 

 "It's degrading, it's making us feel like we're lazy, like we're not doing nothing for our kids," said Mel, whose last name is being withheld for privacy reasons. Guidelines from the Department of Jobs specify Centrelink could have exempted her from participating on the grounds of her homelessness. 

Mel was instead referred to a local not-for-profit community provider, Workskills, which were paid a government fee just for her turning up. Under ParentsNext, employment service providers are paid $600 for each new recipient they take on. 

Mel was exempted at her first meeting with Workskills, but will be re-examined for eligibility in 12 months. She says she can't understand why the Department did not exempt her at the outset.

Despite being exempted from ParentsNext, last week Mel's parenting payment was cut off after she forgot to tick a box declaring her zero income to Centrelink.

ABCBackground Briefing, "Welfare to Worse", 2 August 2019 podcast here.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

The awful truth that over 8 million* Australians refuse to face

The Monthly, August 2019:

In June, I delivered a keynote presentation on Australia’s vulnerability to climate change and our policy challenges at the annual meeting of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the main conference for those working in the climate science community. I saw it as an opportunity to summarise the post-election political and scientific reality we now face.

As one of the dozen or so Australian lead authors on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report, currently underway, I have a deep appreciation of the speed and severity of climate change unfolding across the planet. Last year I was also appointed as one of the scientific advisers to the Climate Council, Australia’s leading independent body providing expert advice to the public on climate science and policy. In short, I am in the confronting position of being one of the few Australians who sees the terrifying reality of the climate crisis.

Preparing for this talk I experienced something gut-wrenching. It was the realisation that there is now nowhere to hide from the terrible truth…...

The results coming out of the climate science community at the moment are, even for experts, similarly alarming.

One common metric used to investigate the effects of global warming is known as “equilibrium climate sensitivity”, defined as the full amount of global surface warming that will eventually occur in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations compared to pre-industrial times. It’s sometimes referred to as the holy grail of climate science because it helps quantify the specific risks posed to human society as the planet continues to warm.

We know that CO2 concentrations have risen from pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million (ppm) to approximately 410 ppm today, the highest recorded in at least three million years. Without major mitigation efforts, we are likely to reach 560 ppm by around 2060.

When the IPCC’s fifth assessment report was published in 2013, it estimated that such a doubling of CO2 was likely to produce warming within the range of 1.5 to 4.5°C as the Earth reaches a new equilibrium. However, preliminary estimates calculated from the latest global climate models (being used in the current IPCC assessment, due out in 2021) are far higher than with the previous generation of models. Early reports are predicting that a doubling of CO2 may in fact produce between 2.8 and 5.8°C of warming. Incredibly, at least eight of the latest models produced by leading research centres in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and France are showing climate sensitivity of 5°C or warmer.

When these results were first released at a climate modelling workshop in March this year, a flurry of panicked emails from my IPCC colleagues flooded my inbox. What if the models are right? Has the Earth already crossed some kind of tipping point? Are we experiencing abrupt climate change right now?

The model runs aren’t all available yet, but when many of the most advanced models in the world are independently reproducing the same disturbing results, it’s hard not to worry.
When the UN’s Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015, it defined a specific goal: to keep global warming to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels (defined as the climate conditions experienced during the 1850–1900 period). While admirable in intent, the agreement did not impose legally binding limits on signatory nations and contained no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, each country committed to publicly disclosed Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce emissions. In essence, it is up to each nation to act in the public interest.

Even achieving the most ambitious goal of 1.5°C will see the further destruction of between 70 and 90 per cent of reef-building corals compared to today, according to the IPCC’s “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C”, released last October. With 2°C of warming, a staggering 99 per cent of tropical coral reefs disappear. An entire component of the Earth’s biosphere – our planetary life support system – would be eliminated. The knock-on effects on the 25 per cent of all marine life that depends on coral reefs would be profound and immeasurable.

So how is the Paris Agreement actually panning out?

In 2017, we reached 1°C of warming above global pre-industrial conditions. According to the UN Environment Programme’s “Emissions Gap Report”, released in November 2018, current unconditional NDCs will see global average temperature rise by 2.9 to 3.4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century.

To restrict warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the world needs to triple its current emission reduction pledges. If that’s not bad enough, to restrict global warming to 1.5°C, global ambition needs to increase fivefold.

Meanwhile, the Australian federal government has a target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, which experts believe is more aligned with global warming of 3 to 4°C. Despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claim that we will meet our Paris Agreement commitments “in a canter”, the UNEP report clearly identifies Australia as one of the G20 nations that will fall short of achieving its already inadequate NDCs by 2030.

Even with the 1°C of warming we’ve already experienced, 50 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef is dead. We are witnessing catastrophic ecosystem collapse of the largest living organism on the planet. As I share this horrifying information with audiences around the country, I often pause to allow people to try and really take that information in.

Increasingly after my speaking events, I catch myself unexpectedly weeping in my hotel room or on flights home. Every now and then, the reality of what the science is saying manages to thaw the emotionally frozen part of myself I need to maintain to do my job. In those moments, what surfaces is pure grief. It’s the only feeling that comes close to the pain I felt processing the severity of my dad’s brain injury. Being willing to acknowledge the arrival of the point of no return is an act of bravery.

But these days my grief is rapidly being superseded by rage. Volcanically explosive rage. Because in the very same IPCC report that outlines the details of the impending apocalypse, the climate science community clearly stated that limiting warming to 1.5°C is geophysically possible.

Past emissions alone are unlikely to raise global average temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC report states that any further warming beyond the 1°C already recorded would likely be less than 0.5°C over the next 20 to 30 years, if all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were reduced to zero immediately. That is, if we act urgently, it is technically feasible to turn things around. The only thing missing is strong global policy.
Although the very foundation of human civilisation is at stake, the world is on track to seriously overshoot our UN targets. Worse still, global carbon emissions are still rising. In response, scientists are prioritising research on how the planet has responded during other warm periods in the Earth’s history.

The most comprehensive summary of conditions experienced during past warm periods in the Earth’s recent history was published in June 2018 in one of our leading journals, Nature Geoscience, by 59 leading experts from 17 countries. The report concluded that warming of between 1.5 and 2°C in the past was enough to see significant shifts in climate zones, and land and aquatic ecosystems “spatially reorganize”.

These changes triggered substantial long-term melting of ice in Greenland and Antarctica, unleashing 6 to 13 metres of global sea-level rise lasting thousands of years.

Examining the Earth’s climatic past tells us that even between 1.5 and 2°C of warming sees the world reconfigure in ways that people don’t yet appreciate. All bets are off between 3 and 4°C, where we are currently headed. Parts of Australia will become uninhabitable, as other areas of our country become increasingly ravaged by extreme weather events.

This year the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society’s annual conference was held in Darwin, where the infamous Cyclone Tracy struck on Christmas Day in 1974, virtually demolishing the entire city. More than 70 per cent of the city’s buildings, including 80 per cent of its houses, were destroyed. Seventy-one people were killed and most of the 48,000 residents made homeless. Conditions were so dire that around 36,000 people were evacuated, many by military aircraft. It was a disaster of monumental proportions.

As I collated this information for my presentation, it became clear to me that Cyclone Tracy is a warning. Without major action, we will see tropical cyclones drifting into areas on the southern edge of current cyclone zones, into places such as south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales, where infrastructure is not ready to cope with cyclonic conditions.

These areas currently house more than 3.6 million people; we simply aren’t prepared for what is upon us.....


* the over "8 million Australians" are the 8,018,310 voters who did not give their first preference vote at the May 2019 federal election to a political party with a solid climate change policy.