Friday, 16 August 2019

Australia’s Capitalist Climate Change Diplomacy (2)

Locator map of Tuvalu. [A]

Previous to his political career as backstabber COALition federal leader, Scott Morrison’s professional experience was in tourism, marketing, public relations, advertising.

That experience shows in this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu. In a moment you’ll understand.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Being Ripped Off?

Or reaching the “heights of unlawfulness”.

In Australia, when we are not learning of workers being ripped off by their bosses, we learn of people on social security being ripped off by Centrelink.

As a service to readers of this blog, I’ve been researching what possible actions one can take in those cases. Here is a short list of resources.

Friday, 26 July 2019

The Good Capitalist.

Some twenty five years ago I was going through a rough patch. In addition to difficult personal circumstances, I was broke. Much more to the point, I desperately needed a job.

That’s when I met Kevin (not his real name). Kevin hired me.

Before that meeting, I would describe myself as no more than vaguely leftish. After it, I was on my way to becoming a Marxist.

But this is not your usual Dickensian tale of misery.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

The Week That Was: Economic Parasitism.

Slavery was profitable to the slaveholder because slaves produced more for him than what he spent in their maintenance. Masters didn’t pay slaves their labour. Of what slaves produced in their labour time, a fraction went to their maintenance; the master kept the rest for himself. That much is evident, even to economists.

Things are evident, too, in the case of medieval serfs (although here I wouldn’t be surprised one had to draw a picture for economists, usually ignorant of history). During a part of their working week serfs worked the land his lord allocated to their maintenance; the rest of the week they worked the land the lord reserved for himself.

Those remarks are useful to understand contemporary Australia.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Quo Vadis Australia?

Although under the extremely competent management of the COALition (particularly of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg), the Australian economy, ungrateful that it is, is not doing well. It is not for nothing, I suppose, the RBA has cut interest rates to historical lows … twice … in two consecutive months.

But how worried should Australians be?

Well, I am no expert. It would be hard for me to say. So, I decided to find out what the experts have to say.

The problem is that they give conflicting messages. Philip Lowe, for instance, the RBA governor,  says everything is under control. Steve Keen, however, believes there is a 95% probability of a recession in the next two years.

That, as readers might have guessed, left me uneasy.

Monday, 8 July 2019

This is Why the COALition is Victorious (Updated).

There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning -- Warren Buffett.

As reported here over a week ago, the Morrison government is again launching an offensive against the organised trade union movement. John Setka and the CFMEU are the pretext du jour chosen to justify their eternal class war on workers on behalf of capitalists.

Just today the alliance of coal-mining big business and their political cheerleaders achieved another victory against workers


Friday, 5 July 2019

The No-Surprises Country.

Labor’s electoral defeats aside, Australia is a most predictable place.

Tuesday the House of Representatives passed the “Morrison” income tax cuts and to no one’s surprise Thursday night it was the turn of the Senate, where it passed with no amendment whatsoever. The COALition, with the complicity of every party and independent (the Greens and independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie excepted) ruthlessly threw four out of every ten Australians under the bus. Australians like this young couple and their infant son:

(Frankly, I’m not interested in Josh Frydenberg’s sophistry. The less I see his ugly, porcine mugshot, the better. I don’t care either about Anthony Albanese’s spin.)

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Take that, Bitches (2)


Another matter the COALition government is readying itself to tackle is industrial relations/labour laws. Unlike the “Morrison” tax cuts -- virtually their only proposal -- they never said a word about IR in the election campaign. In fact and to the best of my knowledge, with the partial exception of Georgina Downer, Liberal candidate for the seat of Mayo (South Australia), the COALition carefully avoided that subject. (It was a sensible decision, too: Downer lost to Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie.)

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Another Nail in Labor’s Coffin?

When Parliament reconvenes next month the first order of business will be the “Morrison” personal income tax cuts. In fact, a legacy of Malcolm Turnbull, the “Morrison” cuts were proposed slightly over a year ago -- when Turnbull was PM and Scott Morrison was federal Treasurer -- together with a bill cutting corporate taxes. Given the numbers in Parliament at the time, Turnbull had to dump the corporate cuts and months later the COALition dumped him and the Treasurer was promoted to PM.

The personal cuts weren’t particularly popular either. Labor opposed that bill then. But Labor lost the election. The COALition won. Parliament numbers changed.

During the elections, other than opposing every single proposal Labor put forward, virtually the COALition’s only proposal was the personal cuts.

So, what should be Labor’s stance on that issue now? Should they oppose that bill? Should they support it?

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Police State: is This the New Normal?

In Australia, freedoms of speech and press are not constitutionally protected.

Last week the Australian Federal Police, which reports to Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton -- himself a representative of the COALition far Right and former policeman -- legally raided the Canberra home of journalist Annika Smethurst (News Corp Australia) and the offices of the ABC.

Both  Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison deny previous knowledge of the raids, and, whether by accident or design, both were in official visits overseas when they took place, all but out of reach of the media. They claim the raids were instigated by the higher echelons of the defense and police bureaucracies acting with absolute independence of their political bosses, the relevant ministers (Dutton being one of them).

Criminal charges against leakers and journalists (and, presumably, against their publishers although no one really expects News Corp being charged) have not been ruled out.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Getting all Tied Up (5)

This series considers Paul Mason’s “Risks are ‘a Thing’… and so is the Death of Capitalism”, a critique of MMT.

In the previous post I argued that Mason’ s choice of Prof. Ferguson’s views as emblematic of the theoretical differences between Marxism and MMT was problematic.

Thus, so far in this series I’ve focused on things I believe Mason got wrong. But it’s time to go into the things he got right.

There may not be a theoretically “irreconcilable split” between Marxism and MMT, as Ferguson claims. However, to me and in terms of policy recommendation, things look different. Mason pointed to this passage in Ferguson’s article
“Rather it [MMT] implicitly de-prioritizes gravity’s causality in political and economic processes, showing how the ideal conditions the real via money’s distributed pyramidal structure”.
That was a good choice.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Take that, Bitches.

In the wake of the botched Hayne Royal Commission on Banking, yesterday the RBA finally decided to cut interest rates to a historical low of 1.25%: a drop of 25 basis points.

The RBA governor, Philip Lowe, using the insipid bureaucratese spoken at the RBA, explained that was meant to “help make further inroads into the spare capacity in the economy”, which in English means something like they are trying to start the faltering economy run by those clowns who just got re-elected on their claims of being great economic managers.

The idea is to make loan repayments to banks more affordable to consumers and investors, to try and avoid a recession.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Election Post Mortem.

Why did the Australian Labor Party lose the “unlosable” 2019 federal elections is the question keeping all and sundry busy lately.

That I’ve seen, the best take on that question by far came from Annabel Crabb, the ABC’s chief political writer. Those who know me may say that’s predictable -- it’s no secret to them I’m her fan.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Getting all Tied Up (4)

This series considers Paul Mason’s “Risks are ‘a Thing’… and so is the Death of Capitalism”, a critique of MMT.

In the previous post I argued that Prof. Tcherneva’s quote doesn’t support Mason’s “finding” of a monetary theory of value native to MMT.

To buttress his case on the alleged differences between MMT and Marxism Mason invokes Prof. Scott Ferguson’s article “Some Remarks on MMT & Marxism”, from where Mason takes this quote, which, in his opinion, sums up neatly said differences:
Marxism assumes that money is a private, alienating, and crisis-ridden exchange relationship that ought to be overcome. Yet MMT holds money to be a boundless public utility that, while by no means untroubled, is well-equipped to actualize radical collectivist ends.
Ferguson’s views on the differences between Marxism and MMT are the subject of this post.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Workers’ Mail: “We Are Not Going Away”.

It ain’t over until it’s over, for Australian workers and for kids fighting for climate change action. Yep, we got knocked down. But we get up again. As that old Chumbawamba song says: They’re never gonna keep us down.

First, Sally McManus’ message to us, workers and trade union members:

Friday, 24 May 2019

Getting all Tied Up (3)

This series considers Paul Mason’s “Risks are ‘a Thing’… and so is the Death of Capitalism”, a critique of MMT.

Mason believes to have detected in MMT a monetary theory of value. In the previous post I argued that is just a mirage. So, where did he take a wrong turn?

Much like Marxists, MMTers write a lot. Out of the ever expanding MMT literature, academic and popular, this single sentence, taken from one of Prof. Pavlina Tcherneva’s papers, is the smoking gun proving the existence of an MMT ToV: “since the currency is a public monopoly, the government has at its disposal a direct way of determining its value (Mason’s emphasis).

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

What’s Wrong with the CFMEU-QLD?

In the aftermath of these disastrous federal elections, that is a question that all of us, Australian workers and trade union members who took to social media and attended rallies and street protests and donated our money and our time by volunteering should be asking ourselves.

Under the leadership of Sally McManus and Michele O’Neil, we proudly fought back against the COALition’s class warfare against workers all over Australia. We campaigned to see an end to the COALition’s endless efforts to erode our wages and our working conditions. We did that not only in our own names, but in the names of all workers in this country.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Why Didn’t Anyone See it Coming?

That’s not the question talking heads are asking; they are busy thinking about the whys and hows of the election results. Deep thoughts.

However, they should stop and ask themselves precisely that question. More precisely, how come Newspoll, YouGov/Galaxy, Ipsos, Essential, and Roy Morgan, all trusted opinion pollsters, could miss so badly the result of the 2019 election?

Aggregate of two-party-preferred election polling for the 2019 Australian federal election. [A]

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Elections: the Morning After.


It’s a good thing that, in the great scheme of things, Australia is not a major CO2 emitter and, therefore, the solution to the looming climate catastrophe (to say nothing of the simultaneous mass extinction) does not depend on Australia.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Getting all Tied Up (2)

This series considers Paul Mason’s “Risks are ‘a Thing’… and so is the Death of Capitalism”, a critique of MMT.

The previous post discussed Mason’s political doubts about tying the Green New Deal to MMT. Although that is evidently an urgent concern, by itself it has little theoretical implications for Marxists. The focus of this and the next posts are the two subheadings “What does MMT say?”, “What’s wrong with MMT?”, where Mason expresses his views on what MMT is.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Dorman è Mobile, Qual Piuma al Vento.

You've got to love petty bourgeois intellectuals.

Peter Dorman on May 10

In a Marxian view of the world, the class structure of a given society generates a set of objective interests. Classes are constituted in part through their shared interests, and the ideological/purposive aspect pertains to becoming a class for itself and not just in itself. The role of ideas is to transform objective into perceived and then mobilizing interests.
That’s a rather deterministic conception of politics, to put it mildly. (...).
Marx’ theory of class interest is too schematic and incomplete even on its own terms.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Living Beyond the Planet’s Means.

Or killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.


This is as much an attempt to explain the predicament humanity is facing right now to economists and politicians and journalists -- fixated as they are on Government budgets -- as it is to the wider public.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Getting all Tied Up.

(right-click to open a larger image in a separate tab)

The big and tiresome MMT versus everybody else punch-up seems to be abating. Finally. Readers may guess the whole thing has left me unimpressed.

But my expectations about the part of the debate involving mainstream economists were low to begin with, so their bit in the debate didn’t surprise me. What surprised me, in the worst possible way, was how awful the MMT/Marxists debate was.

Commenting recently on that, Prof. Bill Mitchell, one of MMT founders, writes that Marxists are getting all tied up on MMT.

As both a Marxist and a sort of MMT sympathiser, I reached the conclusion he is right, unfortunately. But there’s more to that.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

This is the Situation.

Those more circumspect may dislike what they are about to read. However, I don’t think it inaccurate to conclude that our planet is dying, capitalism is killing it and we have little time to do something to avoid that.


Monday, 6 May 2019

Can You Trust These People?

Can you trust fanatical free-marketeer ideologues from the Institute of Public Affairs Liberal politicians?


What would account for that miraculous change of heart?

Friday, 3 May 2019

Bits and Pieces: Aussie Elections.


A perennial whinge of liberal/Leftish middle-class intellectuals, at least in rich English-speaking countries, is the torpitude and turpitude of their local “(white) working class”. Because of its innate intellectual and moral weakness, the “(white) working class” must of necessity subordinate itself to a higher authority. Luckily, that authority is precisely the one those esteemed intellectuals are selflessly willing to provide.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

How Much is your Child’s Life Worth to You?

A few days ago Christian Stöcker (Der Spiegel Online, April 26) proposed his readers a thought experiment. Before casting their votes in the next elections, Australian readers would do well to think about it:
Imagine this: You and your partner have a child of primary-school age with a rare hereditary disease. By the time they’re 18, they will begin to experience increasingly severe pain and other unpleasant side effects. Their life expectancy will be severely reduced.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Indonesia: Overwork Kills more Than 270 in 10 Days.

Those guys were lifted from poverty and the Government saved money in the process: the twin goals of globalisation. Right now Australian employers and Scott Morrison must be drawing plans to replicate that achievement here.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Workers’ Mail: ACTU’s TV Ad Campaign.

Email from Sally McManus:
Today we’re launching the biggest ad campaign we have ever run. And we wanted you to see it first. [link to adds page]
This election is about deciding what sort of Australia we want to be. We can either lock in US-style low wages & inequality or Change the Rules.
Our TV ads give voice to millions of working people that are experiencing insecure work & stagnant wages.
Can you help us get this ad on TV by chipping in here? [link to donate page]
The Liberals are spending millions on TV ads to further the big business agenda – we need your help to ensure that working people are heard on every television and radio across the country.
Share the ads with your co-workers, your family, your friends on every social media platform that you use.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to correct the power imbalance that has shifted too far in favour of big business.
Together we can Change the Rules.
In unity,
Sally McManus

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t claim McManus is a Commie. In spite of which, I think she is doing a very good job. Much better than the Australian norm.

If readers can, please, consider donating. Alternatively, volunteering is also appreciated.

In the name of our families, friends and communities, in the name of our environment and our future, it’s time to stop the Morrison corrupt gang of leeches of the leeches and their Murdoch presstitute cheerleaders. Remember Menindee and Adani. Remember the impunity for banking scammers. Remember Barnaby Joyce’s 80 million bucks #Watergate. Remember the weekend penalty rates cuts for us and the tax cuts for their rich patrons.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Oceania: Extinction.

Lake Gunn, New Zealand. [A]

Aotearoa New Zealand, much like Australia, is a rich country. Much more than Australia, NZ is world-famous for its astounding natural beauty and its blessed climate. Even if readers never visited it, film franchises like The Lord of the Rings have showcased its magnificent natural scenery.

That beauty, peacefulness (somewhat tainted now by the recent and regrettable Christchurch events), and geographical isolation have made of NZ attractive to many. Just a couple of years ago, even Silicon Valley billionaires -- most notably Peter Thiel -- “discovered” NZ as a kind of “apocalypse insurance” or, as I prefer to call it, up-market Doomsday prepping destination.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Unfrequently Asked Questions: What’s the Lumpenproletariat?

Reading Marx and Engels one sometimes find the terms “Lumpenproletariat” and “Aristocracy of Labour”. In some ways the mirror image of each other, those concepts seem to be much more prominent in the writings of later Marxists than in those of Marx and Engels. To the best of my knowledge, the main references in the works of Marx and Engels are (in chronological order): The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), The Class Struggles in France (1850) and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852).

But what are they? We’ll leave Aristocracy of Labour for another opportunity. So, what is the Lumpenproletariat?

Monday, 15 April 2019

Bits and Pieces: is the Government the Problem or the Solution?

I’m sure readers have heard libertarians and free-marketeers roaring or wailing -- fire in their hearts or tears in their eyes -- that the Government is not the solution, but the problem. Lefties (Anarchists and similar excepted), on the other hand, sing hymns to the virtues of Government intervention.

Who is right (lower case)? The Right or the Left?

Sorry, fellow Lefties. At least in Australia, Righties have good reason to believe the Government is crap. Believe it or not.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Liberal Democracy and Ideology as Farce.

I believe liberal democracy, at least as practiced in Western advanced nations, is a farce. I’m sure readers have noticed. In fact, I suspect many would agree.

Some, however, may object to that.

Well, I’ll attempt to substantiate my claim. To that end I’ll use a local example. Overseas readers are free to judge whether that kind of thing could happen in their own places of residence.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Australian Workers? Present!

The ACTU #ChangeTheRules Melbourne rally yesterday was, by all accounts, a success. Estimates put the crowd at tens of thousands, maybe over one hundred thousand, attendants. We are talking about workers from a number of unions, white and non-white, whether born in Australia or overseas, presumably of all religions and identities. Kids from the School Strike 4 Climate, I believe, were also present, together with vegans from the Monday protest.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

The Australian Comedy in Three Headlines.

What a difference a day makes.
Twenty four little hours.

This was news earlier today (check the times in the following screenshots):


Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Bits and Pieces: Workers’ Mail.

Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), is promoting the Change The Rules campaign and calling workers to take part in it. On April 10 the ACTU is taking to the streets with a national political protest for fair wage rises and better job security.

The campaign received a significant boost recently when Bill Shorten, Federal Opposition Leader, committed Labor to replace the minimum wage with a living wage.

Can we count on you to be there?

Friday, 22 March 2019

Elections in NSW.

Today is election day in New South Wales. As citizens, we are asked to choose among alternatives often hard to distinguish.

In NSW the main socialist party is the Socialist Alliance. These are their policies. They publish the Green Left Weekly. I sympathise with them, without fully embracing that option. In electoral terms their chances are reduced. I’d give them the highest preference, not because I’d expect them to win, but to send a message: if my higher preference is not elected, the vote “flows” to the lower preferences.

My second preference could involve the Greens.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Gods Must be Crazy.

Capitalism in crisis? Never! Things are getting better and better.

Don’t believe me?

For one, Trump now is defending Clinton.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Sydney: Schools Strike 4 Climate.

Before commenting on the Schools Strike 4 Climate, I would like to express my solidarity to our New Zealand friends and neighbours in this dark hour and especially to the Kiwi Islamic community. To my deepest shame and regret, an Australian was involved.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

The Children’s Crusade.

(Source. Credit: NSW Aboriginal Land Council)

The Darling disaster affected locals. Towns and isolated homesteads lost their water supply and with it their future existence was endangered. In addition to that, Aboriginal nations are seeing their ancestral land for tens of thousands of years destroyed.

They are among the first Australian human victims of climate change.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Inmates are Running the Asylum.

I live here. What happens in New South Wales and Australia has to interest me. Overseas readers, however, may feel differently.

Ultimately, it’s up to them, but I still think this subject shall be relevant to readers abroad.

It’s not just parochialism that compels me to write about the Murray-Darling Basin. As climate changes, rain patterns are bound to change. Rain is bound to become scarce in areas where it was abundant. I’ve presented this chart before:
(source: PDF)
This nightmare may be coming soon to rural areas near you. If Australia is any indication, the future of our species is bleak.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Australia: Is Decoupling THE Solution?

Things got hot (pun intended) last Sunday for Barrie Cassidy and Angus Taylor (COALition MP). Cassidy, host of Insiders, interviewed Taylor via remote link. Whether by design or chance, I can’t tell, but that may have saved Cassidy much grief.

The interview soon veered towards the subject of the COALition Government’s record on greenhouse gas emissions reduction. You see, the Commonwealth compiles and periodically releases data on that (with an unexplained delay). The latest release includes yearly data only to 2016, but quarterly data to the September 2018 quarter.


Above you see a screen capture of the latest official data release’s webpage.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Only in Shtraya, Mite.

Out on its own: Australia the only country to use climate funding to upgrade coal-fired plants
Green finance experts say Australia is out of step with World Bank, Europe and the US, which are using funding to combat global warming
By Adam Morton, March 1, 2019 04.00 AEDT

Told yah so: moolah for the mates.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Unnoticed Death.


This was a deadly summer for Australian fauna.

In this blog I’ve reported a number of animal mass death tolls ranging from a few tens of large mammals (wild horses and donkeys) and hundreds of birds, to hundreds of thousands of cattle and maybe millions of fish, with intermediate numbers ranging in their thousands or tens of thousands for wild camels and flying foxes and farm chickens.

Monday, 25 February 2019

ScoMo Speaks his Mind.

(source, sort of)

If the people behind Macquarie Dictionary ever decide to produce an illustrated dictionary, they can’t go wrong if they use Scott Morrison’s photo to illustrate the definition of “bullshitter”. It also works for the phrase “full of shit”.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Parallel Lives.

(Right-click to open in a separate tab)

I think it fair to say that as recently as last year, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) was largely a preserve of a few respected but otherwise obscure academics outside of the mainstream. Active on social media, the founders (for lack of a better word) over time gathered a growing band of online enthusiasts, a few of them extremely qualified and talented[*], a great majority merely vocal, and another minority equally loud and barely distinguishable from the majority, except in one respect: their interest in self-promotion.[$]

Nothing of that involves a judgement on the theoretical merits (or lack thereof) of MMT. Frankly, that’s well above my pay grade. Rather, that’s a statement of fact, however simplified, general, or blunt: fairly or not, MMT was at the fringe, generally ignored by mainstream pundits, to say nothing of economists. Worse, whenever that unspoken rule was broken and MMT was at all mentioned, it was with a sort of condescending dismissal.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Bits and Pieces: “Perfect Storm” Edition.


It may be silly, but I am relieved this hellish Australian summer is all but over.

And there are good news. On the plus side, a few local events, apparently of global relevance, give some reason to rejoice.

The first one happened on February 8.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Why I Have no Faith in Leftish/Liberal Intellectuals.

So far, New South Wales had been spared the bushfires that in the last three months devastated all the other east coast states of Australia: Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. No longer:

Crews rush to contain northern NSW bushfires before hot spell arrives
  • Firefighters working through the weekend as blaze destroys 22 homes and damages 15
By Australian Associated Press, Sat 16 Feb 2019 09.14 AEDT

After a PR exercise meant to highlight their conservationist bona fide and save some 100 Murray cods, after leaving hundreds of thousands if not millions to die, WaterNSW decreed the death of the Lower Darling, to free more water for large irrigators in northern NSW and southern QLD:

All the Lower Darling's fish 'could be dead by the end of summer', 
with flows from lakes now cut
By ABC 7.30 and national rural and regional correspondent Dominique Schwartz and the Specialist Reporting Team's Penny Timms. Updated Thursday at 2:50pm

And here I have to deal with American liberal/leftish intellectuals. Madness may be infectious.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Sydney Research: Insect Population’s Catastrophic Collapse.

The recently published article “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers”, by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo from the Sydney Institute of Agriculture in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences (University of Sydney), and Kris A.G. Wyckhuys (University of Queensland and the Institute of Plant Protection, China Academy of Agricultural Sciences) has received abundant popular news media coverage and it has created justified anxiety among the public.

I think it is always a good idea to refer readers to the source. So, these are the highlights of the paper and its abstract, verbatim:

  • Over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction.
  • Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and dung beetles (Coleoptera) are the taxa most affected.
  • Four aquatic taxa are imperiled and have already lost a large proportion of species.
  • Habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines.
  • Agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are additional causes.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Malcolm Harris: “Kids These Days”.

This is a different post. It may sound too pessimistic, even by my own already pessimistic standards, but that’s not what makes it different. What makes it different it that this is also a rather personal post. That may make it less than interesting to the general reader. More sensitive readers may find it depressing.

At any rate, I understand if they leave at this point.

Menindee Lakes: Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

While we were distracted by the Banking Royal Commission fizzer -- which not for predictable was less attention-grabbing -- Michael McCormack and Niall Blair demonstrated why they are successful politicians and why it will take radical changes to our society if we want to save the Australian environment and our civilisation and ourselves.

Yesterday the news started with a PR exercise:


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Jon Mott: “Tough Talk, Soft Recommendations”.

Or “The roaring mountain just gave birth to a mouse!”

By now, readers of this blog have heard heaps about the SA Murray-Darling Royal Commission. Now it’s time to hear about its bigger sister, the federal and formidably named Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, whose final report was tabled with great fanfare last Monday, days after its humbler South Australian counterpart.

That’s all the rage among the cognoscenti.

For about a year inhabitants of this Great Southern Land have nightly witnessed dramatic exchanges between counsels assisting the Royal Commission and financial big wigs; we’ve all learned of heart-breaking victims of financial wrongdoing. The drama only reached a climax in the act of delivery of the report, when Royal Commissioner Kenneth Hayne refused to shake the very visible hand of Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (who just a few days earlier had praised the invisible hand of capitalism).

So, as I like to ask in circumstances like this, what happened? What was done?

Monday, 4 February 2019

Water: War of the Words.

SA Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick believes growing cotton for export in a dry country like Australia doesn’t make much sense and proposes to have cotton export legally banned.

From a broader, collective perspective, he certainly has a point: cotton consumes too much water. There are, however, other considerations. For one, cotton isn’t the only large water consumer. There’s also rice (yes, rice, which grows in flooded paddies, believe it or not) in the valleys of the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers, in NSW and Victoria .

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Reality versus Prediction: Too Much, Too Little?

Too much rain in north-east Queensland:


Too little in Tasmania and Victoria (and South Australia and New South Wales). The cake, however, went to Tassie and VIC: the dry and hot conditions led those states straight into protracted and geographically extended bushfires.

Friday, 1 February 2019

The Menindee Fish Kill Whodunit: Solved!

Ever since the Menindee catastrophe happened our beloved leaders have offered their explanations for the mystery: dats Shtraya, mite, sometimes it dont rain (Michael McCormack); Phillip Glyde would probably say something about “evaporation”. Perhaps we should pray to Gawd, would be Scott Morrison’s wisdom.

Well, mystery solved.

Cotton farms at Bullamon Plains, Queensland. This
farm is a Cubbie style operation. Image Credits: Rex Patrick.

The Moonie river passing Bullamon Plains
farm and the offtake channel. Image Credits: Rex Patrick.

Vast expanses of cotton fields and associated
water storages in Queensland. Image Credits: Rex Patrick.

You be the Judge.

Asked by [ABC TV Question and Answer show presenter Tony] Jones if he believed the drought was linked to human-induced climate change, [high-school graduate, National Party MP and Federal Agriculture Minister David] Littleproud said: “Look, that’s a big call.”
“I don’t give a rats if it’s man-made or not,” he added, saying that people were already under financial pressure and could not afford higher power bills. (source)

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Murray-Darling Royal Commission Reports.


The shock of this latest Menindee mass fish kill distracted me from other matters. Apologies to readers.

Monday, 28 January 2019

A Prayer.

Earthrise. [A]

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)

With those words, Bill Anders, lunar module pilot of the Apollo 8 mission, began the crew’s Christmas Eve 1968 message to the peoples of the Earth. That blue and white sphere, so beautiful and tiny and delicate, emerging from beyond the grey and lifeless lunar horizon, greeted Apollo 8 as it finished its flight over the dark side of the Moon.

Anders himself took that photo.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Water and Death and Fire.

28-01-2019. Third mass fish death in Menindee in less than two months.


What that photo shows is not scum floating on the water. It’s small fish, dead.

Witnesses to both events give their impressions:
“This is likely worse than the last time,” said local Graeme McCrabb, who on Monday morning was down at the water’s edge at the back of the township, above Weir 32. (here)
What we are seeing is probably the last lot of fish that are here now,” he said. “There will be none left.” (here)
Frankly, I’m lost for words. We may have seen how a river dies.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Menindee Fish Kill: Questions and Answers.

Maryanne Slattery and co-author Rod Campbell, for The Australia Institute, released a week ago a paper structured as a question and answer session about the Menindee environmental catastrophe. Regrettably, their release was given scarce media coverage. I could find only Anne Davies’ brief account (January 19).

Friday, 25 January 2019

… And that was Then.

Do you remember the table showing new temperature records from the previous post? This table:

South Australia,
January 2019
Town         Temperature
Adelaide          46.6ºC
Ceduna            48.6ºC
Leigh Creek       46.9ºC
Minlaton          45.7ºC
Port Augusta      49.5ºC
Port Pirie        47.8ºC
Whyalla           48.5ºC

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Australian Extreme Heatwave: this is Now …

The weather news in the last few days before Australia Day:



New Records:

South Australia, 
January 2019
Town         Temperature
Adelaide          46.6ºC
Ceduna            48.6ºC
Leigh Creek       46.9ºC
Minlaton          45.7ºC
Port Augusta      49.5ºC
Port Pirie        47.8ºC
Whyalla           48.5ºC

Remember those records. Tomorrow you’ll see why.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Northern Territory: Mass Death of Brumbies.


In the same note: informal reports of mass death of camels (!) near Docker River. Both brumbies (feral horses) and camels are introduced species.

24-01-2019. Rangers culled another 55 struggling horses.

Tim Clancy, from the NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said that according to the latest data available, there could be up to a quarter of a million brumbies in Central Australia. Although charismatic among the public, brumbies cause significant environmental damage, particularly during droughts, when they concentrate around waterholes, contributing thereby to erosion and damages to the vegetation.

25-01-2019. Western Australia:


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Bits and Pieces: Australia-2019, Europe-1919.

I wasn’t aware that last year South Australia had a State-level Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission. It’s due to formally report no later than February 1.

The royal commissioner, Bret Walker, proposed to extend the inquiry to cover the recent Lower Darling mass fish kill. The SA Government (National-Liberal Coalition), through its Attorney General, Vickie Chapman, declined the offer.

It is expected the report will include “adverse assessments of many governmental decisions and processes”. After being urged by Walker to publish the report immediately after delivery, AG Chapman did not guarantee a publication date, causing concern among SA-based politicians. They fear the SA Government could delay the publication of the report until after the NSW State elections, scheduled for March. Gladys Berejiklian (National-Liberal Coalition) is the incumbent NSW Premier.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Australia’s Capitalist Climate Change Diplomacy.

PM Scott Morrison is touring Australia’s Pacific neighbours Fiji and Vanuatu, to kick-start bilateral talks with their governments. An unusual move for an Australian PM, it was prompted by concerns over the expansion of Chinese influence in the South Pacific.

Traditionally, Australian governments have followed a more charity-like approach in their attempts to foster goodwill (or project soft power, if you prefer) among our poorer neighbours. Historically, this took the form of international aid and/or disaster relief. As the Commonwealth cuts international aid budgets, the idea now is to counter Chinese political and economic clout with small Pacific nations by more business-like means.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Heatwave in Images.

After a slow start, summer hit Australia with a vengeance.


Dats Shtraya, Mite.

Acting PM Michael McCormack offers his scientific assessment of the Darling River disaster: Sometimes it rain, sometimes it dont. Dats Shtraya, mite.

The man blabbered the official party line and that’s it. End of story. No mismanagement, no water over-extraction, no climate change, no nothing. Everybody did their best. That’s nobody’s fault. It just didn’t work.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Monday, 14 January 2019

Menindee: an Act of God?

Screen capture from ABC Broken Hill website, taken at 18:41 (AEDT)

Yesterday Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud met with the water “managers” of the affected states in the Murray-Darling Basin to decide what to do about this mess, report Carrie Fellner and David Wroe, from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Judging by Littleproud’s announcements, not much:
He said he’d offered NSW “any assistance it requires as it responds to these incidents, and to rebuild fish stocks when it rains” and announced $5 million for a native fish management and recovery strategy that would come from MDBA coffers.
$5 million.

Given the high temperature and luminosity prevailing in regional NSW, a new algal bloom is being forecast any time in the next few days. More mass fish death is predicted.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Devil in the Details: Algal Blooms.

It is accepted that the recent mass fish kill in the Darling River was triggered by an “algal bloom”. But what on earth is an algal bloom?

Believe it or not, I think some basic, high-school level science could throw considerable light on the whole catastrophe, counter some misconceptions about it and offer valuable, if sobering, lessons for the Left.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Darling Dilemma.

2018 annual rainfall compared to historical
rainfall observations. (source)

The Darling River is no longer flowing for lack of water and what little water there is for human and non-human consumption is contaminated with masses of rotting dead fish.

NSW independent MP Jeremy Buckingham’s personal account of the situation around Menindee:

NSW MP vomits after witnessing mass fish deaths in Darling River
By Rachel Clun. 10 January 2019 — 11:35am.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Second in Less Than a Month: Mass Fish Death.

A second mass death of Darling River fish -- just reported by ABC News Online -- comes less than a month after the events of December 20th -- mentioned here -- and it appears to be of larger proportions. ABC News reports up to a million dead fish, versus ten thousand in December.


Sunday, 6 January 2019

“Losing a Third of the Species on a Hot Afternoon”.

I try to keep up to date with environmental news. Yet, I missed this one:


09-01-2019. Importance of flying foxes (Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government):
Flying-foxes are crucial to keeping native forests healthy. They play an important role in dispersing seeds and pollinating flowering plants. Because flying-foxes are highly mobile, seeds can be moved locally and over great distances. (...)
High mobility also makes flying-foxes very effective as forest pollinators. Pollen sticks to their furry bodies and as they crawl from flower to flower, and fly from tree to tree, they pollinate the flowers and aid in the production of honey.

Friday, 4 January 2019

L'Apocalypse des Animaux.

I stole the title of this post from an old Vangelis album.


The dramatic Queensland bushfires monopolised the public’s attention during a few weeks in late November/early December. That’s understandable. Events of such magnitude, where human lives and property are visibly at stake in our own TV screens, have a way to grab our attention. The media coverage was extensive.

At about the same time, however, the Australian media reported other events. Although I’ve discussed them with some friends, I doubt the wider public really noticed, for they didn’t receive the same level of coverage.

Still, I feel obliged to not let those perhaps deceptively little tragedies pass unacknowledged.