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Weekend reflections

March 27th, 2009

It’s time once again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

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  1. observa
    March 27th, 2009 at 22:50 | #1

    The GFC has been taking up a fair bit of the world’s attention at present but it seems to me there’d be one country at present saying- ‘What GFC?’ That’s Iraq and they’d be saying it largely because of where they’ve just been and where they’re rapidly going now. By all accounts their economy and outlook is positively smiling and forward looking in contrast to much of the world about them. That’s not surprising when you’ve been to hell and back. OTOH their juxtaposition presents a clear problem for countries like Syria and Iran now, which was always the object of Blair(mainly) and Bush’s Beacon of Light approach to Iraq, made even more poignant now by the GFC swirling all about. As far as the bad war goes, as I’ve said previously, it remains to be seen wherher history and perhaps a GFC will judge the Blairs, Bushes and Howards as great statesmen or naive fools within the forseeable future.

    I’ve noticed a curious silence from the good war crowd of late, as the death toll mounts and all is not going quite as well as the bad war outcome appears to be. They must be pondering those wise words now, that there is little to choose between a morally unjust but practical war and their morally just but impractical one. On that point I note the Rudd Govt has made statements that they know their good war may be unpopular but essentially it’s important to stay the course until it’s mission accomplished. Interestingly enough the opposition are beginning to ask how and when that will be and you might recall I did envision a future with Labor stalwartly staying the course, with a Liberal Opposition wanting to bring the boys home and I’d suggest we’ve just had a whiff of it.

    Resolute Rudd will no doubt have none of such defeatist talk and will be all the way with the new Obama administration no doubt-

    ‘Three senior US administration officials said in a briefing before the announcement that Washington will reach out to Russia, China, India and even Iran in an “aggressive regional effort” that also recognises Pakistan as part of the theater of war.

    “For the first time, we are approaching this problem as two countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan – but one challenge and one theatre for our diplomacy and our reconstruction efforts to work in. We see this as an integrated problem,” said one of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.’

    Hmmm…sounds like the good war is getting bigger and better although thankfully-

    ‘”This is not a reversion to a narrow War on Terror focus,” Alex Thier, an Afghanistan expert at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, said.

    He said that although the Obama administration was talking about going after al-Qaeda, it was also committing to a broader effort to stabilise Afghanistan.

    “This is a comprehensive approach to dealing with a critical, unstable region,” he said.’

    What say you all to this new comprehensive approach of the Rudd Govt?

  2. Hermit
    March 28th, 2009 at 09:15 | #2

    I don’t know if others caught the National Press Club speech by Belinda Robinson of the petroleum exploration association. The speech argued that Australia’s natural gas and coal seam gas was a path to salvation. Unlike say North America we may have up to a century of gas therefore Australia was obliged to both export LNG and switch from coal to gas fired electrical generation.

    Maybe so but gas is both finite and carbon based. Higher priority domestic uses are compressed gas as a diesel substitute and for making essential nitrogen fertiliser. There are other even lower carbon and longer term ways to make electricity so LNG export and domestic electricity should be bottom of the priority list. In WA Alan Carpenter hinted at this but there is no national policy.

    The other thing that occurred to me during the speech is that the claim LNG is ‘trade exposed’ for ETS purposes is spurious. All LNG is exported and therefore exempt from the ETS. Just a few percent of the gas piped into the Karratha and Darwin LNG plants is used to drive generators and thereby liable to CO2 penalties. Thus LNG has a massive advantage under the ETS compared to say aluminium where all the fossil fuel burning is done in Australia. In an extraordinary move the industry was granted 60% free permits. The ETS/CPRS is on the wrong foot before it has even started.

  3. Salient Green
    March 28th, 2009 at 14:06 | #3

    Re – Belinda Robinson “we may have up to a century of gas therefore Australia was obliged to both export LNG and switch from coal to gas fired electrical generation.”

    I can’t see how we are ‘obliged’ to export anything let alone our natural gas which could replace a large part of our fuel imports. It’s just more of globalisation’s trade for trade’s sake. Mindless churning and wasted resources.

    We probably are obliged to switch from coal to gas generation in the short term, but there may be a better EROEI by gasifying coal in new highly efficient co-generating plants above ground with existing transport infrastructure.

    As Hermit said, their are other lower carbon ways of generating electricity in the longer term and we are obliged to make a good effort to use them. We are also obliged to use fossil fuels as efficiently as technology will allow and obliged to use all our energy as efficiently as technology will allow. Which we aren’t.

  4. gerard
    March 28th, 2009 at 18:20 | #4

    So much for the “education revolution”. The University of Queensland has cut its library opening hours by 12 hours per week, citing financial pressure. The Social Sciences and Humanities Library and Physics and Engineering Libraries now close at 8pm Mon to Thurs and 5pm Friday. This sort of thing never happened during all the years of Howards cuts, and now that we have such an “education revolution” government the university is suddenly too poor to keep its libraries open late (despite hiking tuition fees year after year in good times and bad).

    Today UQ is a second-rate university that charges first-rate university fees.

  5. philip travers
    March 28th, 2009 at 19:00 | #5

    I was once again shocked by the misery of our near neighbour Indonesia, with a flood killing at least 50 people and many houses lost.They, the Indonesians gave us recently 1 million dollars re the Victorian fires.I think the government should now give that million back quickly,and decide to have guest workers working alongside Australians in places like Lysaghts, near Hastings in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.We could also hurry up the problem of West Papua by inviting all officials of Jakarta direction to go fishing in Tasmania,and have Bob Brown as their tourist guide.Anything in Queensland for Indonesians!?No!? Cannot even keep a way of leaving the Libraries open for students let alone folk like me, who get nowhere because the Education policies of Federal Governments successively have never got it right for poorer Australians.Well I am sick of it,and compete openly now against any sitting members of any parliament by my own thoughts on such sites as this one.What are we doing as a nation thinking it is important to produce nitrogenous fertiliser via means above!? If we do develop Nitrogen in this manner,why isnt it used experimentally at coal fired power stations!? Anyone in Parliamentary land or Academia know what I mean!? If not let the students discover how!Lets have a boat load of unemployed Jakartains,unofficially visit our shores and see if we can employ them in a ways that dont compete with Australians or others,and actually get paid well and enjoy their stay whilst Jakarta recovers.Eg. Rabbits in Western Australia are a problem.The mouth of the Murray needs a solution now, but what!? Sea water that is filtered going back into the lake and river and mouth of the Murray.No hurry if everyone knows it needs to be done,and is the only solution employing Australian engineers etc. with Jakarta holidaying working labor.Some work there on that job,and other to boost the farm productivity by organic means and tree planting etc.And work out on the ocean.Students of a engineering type need also to look at the great oozing thing Santos had something to do with,and by some sort of treatment turn it into useful benign building material!

  6. Alice
    March 28th, 2009 at 23:18 | #6

    Gerard#3

    UQ is not the only second rate uni that charges first rate fees….ask the government why it keeps treating teriary education as a growing export market with no investment in capital.

  7. Ikonoclast
    March 29th, 2009 at 12:05 | #7

    Gerard at #4. I too am disappointed at Rudd’s so-called “education revolution”. Rudd delivers stimulus packages (sensible enough in the current circumstances) and then wants to claw it back from the education budget. This makes no sense at all.

    To my mind;

    Point 1. We still need to invest far more in education including tertiary eduaction. we need to bring back free tertiary education as it was in my day. (I’m 54.) If we could afford it then we can more than afford it now.

    Point 2. Stimulus package spending should be a one-off that is never clawed back; certainly not while the recession is still on and certainly never out of the education budget in any part of the economic cycle.

    I wonder at Rudd and Gillard. Do they really understand what is required or are they just populist opportunists concerned with retaining power?

    (Rhetorical question as I know the answer now.)

  8. Alice
    March 29th, 2009 at 13:01 | #8

    Id argue that nearly all “first rate” unis have become second rate unis. First rate is a misnomer these days. Too many managers and bureacrats in between funding and service and quality, not enough rooms and teachers and too many senior academics have lost their power to creeping managerialism / technocrats / bureacrats. What does uni in the 2000s remind me of …oh thats it!!, the health sector where doctors are being ordered to invent “virtual beds” in “virtual wards” to keep the KPIs in order for the area health suits. This is a revolution? Its a devaluation!

  9. March 29th, 2009 at 15:50 | #9

    Courier Mail, ABC back housing Department of Main Roads land grab

    On 25 March Madonna King, the morning presenter of Brisbane’s local ABC radio station gave her listeners a small glimpse of how the Queensland Government’s frenzy of road construction is destroying the lives of many ordinary citizens. However, the case of those standing up to the Government was undermined when she stated that ‘you can’t stop progress’, a view which curiously echoes what was stated in the previous day’s editorial in the Courier Mail, which her husband is editor of.

  10. nanks
    March 29th, 2009 at 20:09 | #10

    re UQ library – quite likely the cutbacks would be due to worsening exchange rate for the Oz$ impacting on journal subscriptions. Of course this is in the context of being in a country that is not a big funder of tertiary education anyway. Re Rudd and ed – I can’t recall any commitment to increasing real funding to tertiary education – ie funding that will impact on academic conditions, staff-student ratios, and so on. I mainly recall increased student numbers (underfunded) and new compliance regimes

  11. Socrates
    March 30th, 2009 at 07:50 | #11

    As an engineer who has worked on road projects before, I have to say I am pleased that the CM and ABC are finally seeing through the often quite false claims of people who complain when land is acquired for road projects. Despite the impression from the movie “The Castle” there is a clear legal process (Acquisition of Land Act) that is designed to protect peope’s rights, including their right of appeal over the settlement amount (though not the decision to resume). In my experience most of the problems occur when people have an inflated view of the value of their property (often after the market turns) and expect it to be delivered via public funds.

    QDMR staff are usually not permitted to comment on individual cases. There have been many times when people claim they have not been consulted, when in fact there are minutes of multiple meetins on file. The article linked to by daggett contains a list of dubious cases, none of which involved Qld Main Roads!

    If there is a problem it is the lack of past planning to avoid these problems in the first place. ut that is almost invariably due to the directions of politicians, not public servants. South East Qld grew at faster than the ABS “high” series population forecast since 2001; the need for aditional infrastructure (whether road or public transport) is inenvitable. And yes, people have land acquired for rail and busway projects too. I know because I have worked on them.

  12. nanks
    March 30th, 2009 at 07:59 | #12

    Nonetheless, when you have your land acquired (or amenity degraded) due to govt intervention then you have effectively been colonised in the interests of someone else. ‘Public good’ arguments and due process only confirm that.

  13. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    March 30th, 2009 at 08:08 | #13

    Andrew Norton is running a survey to see how peoples political identity correlates with their policy beliefs. You can find it here:-

    http://freeonlinesurveys.com/rendersurvey.asp?sid=ywc78p9rv4bt7xs569553

    Your identity in this context is what you call yourself. Be it conservative, social democrat, libertarian or otherwise.

  14. March 30th, 2009 at 15:17 | #14

    Socrates,

    The decision by the DMR to seize Frank Sosso’s house was unfair on many levels. It was certainly not done consultatively. The consultation process set up was a sham and when Frank’s son John managed to attend a secret ‘consultation’ that he was not meant to attend and put to the engineer a simple question:

    Why will there be 7 lanes in one direction and only 2 in the other?

    … he did not get an answer.

    All this could be easily shown if both the ABC and the Courier Mail did their job and reported the issue properly.

    It is unfair at the broader level, because the very need to build and expand so many roads was only created by the Queensland Government’s own grossly irresponsible policy of encouraging population growth (also compounded by the Rudd Government’s totally idiotic policy of permitting record high immigration even in the midst of a recession).

    The evidence of the Beattie and Bligh government’s own role in bringing about the problems that their despotic seizures of peoples’ homes are supposed to solve can be found in the section “End Queensland Government encouragement of population growth” in the article “Why I am contesting the Queensland state elections as an independent” of 9 March.

  15. Socrates
    March 31st, 2009 at 08:57 | #15

    daggett

    I just found the MPPL project on QDMR’s website and downloaded the newsletter. Therye appears to have been a study going on with opportunities to comment since at least July last year. Once a decision on a preferred option is made the consultation is over how acquisition occurs, and the legal process is to ensure that a fair price, plus reasonable costs, are paid. The decision to acquire though is up to the minister. So the consultation now is not about whether or not that happens. It is consultation, not public participation in the decision making. Mr Sosso can challenge the ministers decision under the Judicial Review act in Qld if he wishes.

    Fairness is a question of the reasons for the decision. It is often the case that governments need to compulsorily acquire land for a public purpose. I see that the MPPL intersection is part of the main access to the South East Freeway, so I am not surprised they need more land. If there was no practical alternative here then its a question of who loses their land, not if it happens. In a saner world someone should have set aside corridors for such roads 30 years ago, but various governments in Qld from Joh onwards refused to do that. So now there is no solution that is painless.

    As for the comments on population growth, I partly agree. Population growth is the problem. However the boom in immigration was under Howard not Rudd; Rudd has reduced the numbers. AFAIK Australian state governments do not have the power to halt interstate migration, which is the cause of population growth in Qld, not overseas immigration. The cause of interstate migration is almost invariably job supply; thus people tend to leave SA and Tasmania and migrate to QLD and WA. Beatty and Bligh areguilty of taking credit for something they neither caused not can control. I agree they should do more to stop urban sprawl and get higher density; that would reduce the need for outer suburban road construction and make public transport more viable. Of course, that would aso have prevented people like Mr Sosso subdividing his own land for more houses, as he appears to have done. But as I said before, even to build rail lines or busways land is still required, so this problem won’t go away any time soon.

  16. April 1st, 2009 at 13:03 | #16

    (A longer post vanished into a black hole yesterday. Let’s see if I have better luck, breaking it down into parts.)

    Socrates,

    Department of Main Roads ‘consultation’

    Whether or not the plans were first announced in July 2008, it is clear that few, if any, of the affected residents were aware of the plans until early this year. It’s certainly easy for people, particularly elderly people, to miss this when the announcements are made within the brochures which arrive amidst piles of junk mail.

    In my own experience with the North South Bypass Tunnel, the Hale Street Bridge and the Northern link, even when residents do participate in these consultations their views are ignored and the Government goes ahead and does what it decided to do in the first place.

    They never listen when compelling cases are put to them. The only time they listen is when they are forced to by the overwhelming weight of public opinion. This happened with Bligh’s North Bank plans which were so universally offensive that even the normally atomised Brisbane public were able to mobilise to force Bligh to back down, but only after many months of intense activism.

    Of the 13 ‘local residents’ invited to attend the ‘consultation’ only 5 were from the suburb and only 2 were from actual road that would be affected. John Sosso went along anyway even though he wasn’t invited.

    The ‘answer’ given by an engineer to John Sosso’s question mentioned above:

    “Why will there be 7 lanes in one direction and only 2 in the other?”

    … was:

    “We’ll take note of your comments.”

    Otherwise, the engineers present only deferred to the Public Relations people.

    A submission made by the RACQ was also ignored.

    Of course, there is no absolute right for any community to prevent governments taking measures that would genuinely benefit the ‘greater good’, but this in not the case here and it is not the case at more than one level.

    Links to documents including the newsletter of July 2008, referred to by Socrates, can be found here.

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