Dog whistling in the park


It could be said that Senator Pauline Hanson and the other One Nation senators have ridden the coat tails of racism and bigotry to reach the lofty heights of the Red Chamber on Capital Hill in Canberra. Hanson will tell you that she sincerely holds those views and while it demonstrates her ignorance of how discrimination adversely affects the society we all live in, she and her fellow One Nation members are entitled to their opinion.

There are, however, problems when others such as the political parties that can actually achieve government in Australia adopt the dog whistling policies of fringe parties such as Hanson’s for the political expedience of winning an election over the ‘other guys’.

Like a lot of communities around Australia, the one I live in has a Facebook group that has the usual subject matter that you would expect, dining recommendations, local events, complaints about government services, who has spare moving boxes and other equally life changing issues. The group in my area has around 10,000 members and while it claims to represent a post code, there is considerable overlap to surrounding areas. The local politicians are active members and frequently comment on local issues that are discussed – suggesting that the group is seen as representing a reasonable cross section of the region it claims to support.

Recently on the local Facebook group, a mother posted a comment (in sorrow) reporting that her three year old son was playing in a local park and walked over to some other kids about the same age who were playing together. He asked if he could join the game. Apparently the response from the other kids was ‘we don’t play with Asians’.

As you would hopefully expect, most of the comments on the thread are comprised of various community members decrying the absolute racism and discrimination displayed by the group of young kids. They also rightly question where the parents were, why didn’t they step in or apologise to the mother or her child. All valid questions, and the parents of the other kids have been silent (assuming they are members of the Facebook group). However, there is a bigger issue here. Clearly the ‘jump to the right’ by the major political parties to attempt to win at all costs has made some people feel that teaching their pre-school kids to be racist is perfectly ok.

It’s not ok: and here’s why.

Every person in Australia is either an immigrant to this country or is descended from one. It doesn’t matter that your ancestors walked across a land bridge up to 65,000 years ago , floated in on a boat sometime since 1788 or arrived in more recent times in a plane – you are an immigrant.

According to Stanford University’s Tech Museum of Innovation, there are very few differences in people that are due to DNA
So what is the average amount of difference between people of different ethnic groups? Scientists have found that 85% of all human genetic variation exists within human populations while only 15% exists between all the different ethnic groups.

And most of these differences aren't what you'd think they'd be. A few are the obvious traits we've talked about -- hair and eye colour, eye shape, hair texture, etc. And a few we haven't talked about like lactose intolerance.
Therefore, while there is a good chance that there are genetic variations between you and your next door neighbour, it’s pretty certain that the variations are not due to different ethnic origin or religion.

Racism in Australia seems to be a common topic on Quora – a US domiciled blog site that seeks opinion and factual comment on questions posed by others. There is a ‘Racism in Australia’ subject on the site and frankly there is no consensus to form an opinion as there is a lot of personal opinion. However, this article by Jenna Price in The Sydney Morning Herald from June 2016 would suggest that Shannon Murdoch (apparently no relation to the proprietors of News Corp) has certainly experienced racism on a regular basis
Someone will clutch their shoulder bag more tightly. Or lock their door. Pull their kids away. Ignore her. Walk up to her as she browses in a shop and tell her as she examines something that 'you know, you have to pay for that'. Ignore her and make sure she knows she is being ignored.

"I don't understand how you can treat someone as if they are so different to you when it's just skin. At a systematic level, I understand it; at a historic level, I understand it. There are many levels at which I get it. It's not as if I am naïve to the stuff that is behind it. But as person-to-person, I don't know how you walk up to someone and say something so cruel, so demeaning, so dehumanising, that discounts their personhood."
Shannon Murdoch is an Australian citizen, an African American by birth and the holder of a PhD in Education.

But it shouldn’t be like this. While there was not universal approval, Australia generally has welcomed waves of immigration from various parts of the world for most of the 20th century. It probably isn’t a co-incidence that the majority of immigrants through various decades came from countries that Australia has fought wars against in the decade or two preceding the immigration events. As examples, in the 1950’s and 1960’s a large number of southern Europeans came to call Australia home, followed by refugees from the Vietnam War in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Interestingly, there was support for these programs from both major political parties.

It all changed with the federal election campaign in 2001. In the wake of the airliners being flown into the World Trade Centre in New York during September of that year, then Prime Minister John Howard, faced with an imminent loss, exploited the rescue of a number of refugees en route to Australia from a sinking fishing boat by a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa. Not stopping to contemplate the damage he would cause,
John Howard declared: "We simply cannot allow a situation to develop where Australia is seen around the world as a country of easy destination." Norway's Foreign Minister, Thorbjoern Jagland told the United Nations: "Australia's attitude to the refugee incident is unacceptable and inhumane and contravening international law."
The ultimate in the hypocrisy was Howard’s Liberal Party, in this ABCTV Lateline story claiming the Tampa had no influence
LYNTON CROSBY [Liberal Campaign Director]: The most important specific reason cited by voters for voting Liberal was our strength of economic and financial management.

SARAH CLARKE [ABC Reporter]: Lies, says the Opposition and the Democrats.

NATASHA STOT DESPOJA, AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS LEADER (MELBOURNE): For them to argue that it was simply about economic management or indeed any other broader domestic issues is false.

TIM GARTRELL, LABOR ASSISTANT NATIONAL SECRETARY (CANBERRA): This is quite simply not in line with what happened on election day.

This is post-election rewriting to say it was actually about economic management -- it wasn't.

SARAH CLARKE: In the final days before the election, Labor says polling had Kim Beazley narrowing the gap, gaining ground selling domestic issues. That is, until the asylum seeker debate again came to the fore.

TIM GARTRELL: We turned the corner on domestic issues.We were pretty much getting to a situation of neck-and-neck and I think the Liberal Party decided to hit the button -- hit that refugee button -- which is what they did.

And the facts speak for themselves.
Former Prime Ministers Rudd, Gillard and Abbott also campaigned against humane treatment of refugees by increasing the severity of Howard’s punitive measures. ‘Stopping the boats’ (AKA demonising refugees) is one of the claimed successes of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, despite the questionable tactic of not allowing refugees being able to claim asylum in a country of their choice. Ironically, NXT Senator Stirling Griff discovered during Senate Estimates Hearings this year there were approximately 65,000 visa overstayers resident in Australia. Overstaying a visa is actually illegal (unlike seeking asylum)
"Given that almost 20,000 illegal overstayers have been in Australia for more than 15 years, it makes a mockery of the border protection focus on so called boat people and their lack of Australian placement," he said.

"Most of these almost 65,000 would have travelled to Australia by air and the overwhelming majority have settled into Australian life, with little – if any – regard for our laws and responsibilities.

"The department stated that it was a fair estimate that 20,000 were also working illegally. That's at least 20,000 illegal overstayers taking Australian jobs."
It seems to be a direct result of ‘winner at all cost’ politics that victimises a small group of people who have attempted to seek asylum in Australia. Boat people are not illegally seeking entry into this (or any other) country, unlike those who overstay visas. However, the ongoing jihad against those that ‘look different’ or pray to a different God as demonstrated by asylum seekers sailing to Australia in unseaworthy fishing boats by elected and wannabe politicians has repercussions to Australian society now and in the future.

For those that couldn’t give a toss about morals and ethics, such as those politicians using refugees for political gain, there is also an economic cost to racism
Dr Amanuel Elias from the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) has calculated racial discrimination cost the Australian economy an estimated $44.9 billion, or 3.6 per cent of GDP, each year in the decade from 2001-11.

Dr Elias explained that being able to quantify the cost of racism to Australian society is a crucial step towards addressing racial discrimination.

“Racial discrimination costs society in both a microeconomic sense, such as indirect costs related to the labour market; and a macroeconomic sense, such as intangibles related to negative physical and mental health,” Dr Elias said.
So much for the ‘better economic management’ of the Coalition Governments! The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the contribution of various industries to the GDP in the 2012 Australian Year Book . The cost of racism in this country exceeded a number of services and took half of the benefit of the mining industry to Australia’s economy. Dr Elias went on to comment:
“In countries like Australia, where subtle interpersonal racism exists along with some forms of institutional discrimination, anti-discrimination interventions require relatively moderate spending.”

According to Dr Elias, the good news is that racial discrimination is a preventable social phenomenon.
The boy in the local playground was born in Australia, as probably were his tormentors. His genetics are similar to yours and mine (as well as those of his tormentors). It is a really strange society that obsesses over refugees who come by fishing boat, claiming they are potentially a risk to the security and well-being of the country and ignoring the elephant in the room presented by the 65,000 visa overstayers who probably received far less scrutiny than asylum seekers when they made their application to visit Australia.

The only good news here is that the local kid’s mum posted her message on Facebook late Saturday morning. By 3pm, an open playdate had been arranged by others to include the tormented boy at a local park, a local business was supplying some ‘party food’, another one provided a decorated cake and a third business provided a gift for the boy and another for his family. Thankfully the majority of my community can see through the blatant racism promoted by the two major political parties. Unfortunately, the actions of the three year old tormentors will continue to be a drain on the morals, ethics and economy of Australia for a considerable period into the future, unless our political leaders start to lead the anti-discrimination conversation.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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Is Donald Trump mad?



No, I don’t mean ‘hopping mad’. We know that he is hopping mad with the media and its ‘fake news’, with CNN particularly, and with some of its commentators whom he has chosen to label as intellectually deficient, and unpleasant to the eyes (bleeding from a face lift!).

We know he is hopping mad about the criticism he attracts. We know he prefers admiration, adulation, even reverence. We know he craves the hero worship he received as host and star in his TV reality show The Apprentice. We know he needs his image to be polished endlessly. Fame is almost more important to him than fortune.

No, I mean ‘mad’ in the clinical sense, in the sense of the many synonyms of the word: mentally disturbed, insane, lunatic, maniacal, even crazy or crazed. Some peri-clinical synonyms of ‘mad’ too might be applicable: unstable, erratic, unsafe, dangerous, perilous, foolish, senseless.

‘Mad’ derives in part from the Old English ‘gemædde’: ‘out of one’s mind’, ‘extremely stupid’, ‘insane’ or ‘foolish’.

Do you see a nexus between these words and Trump’s behaviour?

Let me present you with some evidence so that you can make up your own mind about whether Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America is indeed ‘mad’.

First, look at a report in The Guardian of what ABC political commentator Chris Uhlmann had to say at the conclusion of the recent G20 meeting in Hamburg. Do watch the video; it will become a collectors’ item.
Speaking on Sunday from the G20 conference in Hamburg, Uhlmann said Trump had shown ‘no desire and no capacity to lead the world’ and was himself ‘the biggest threat to the values of the west’.

He was an uneasy, lonely, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense that some of the leaders are trying to find the best way to work around him, Uhlmann said.

Where was the G20 statement condemning North Korea which would have put pressure on China and Russia? Other leaders expected it, they were prepared to back it, but it never came.

Uhlmann said Trump was obsessed with ‘burnishing his celebrity’ and had ‘diminished’ his own nation to the benefit of Russia and China.

We learned that Donald Trump has pressed fast-forward on the decline of the United States as a global leader. He managed to isolate his nation, to confuse and alienate his allies and to diminish America.

[He is] a man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as president at war with the west’s institutions like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.
So astute was Uhlmann’s analysis that the video of it soon became viral, drawing complimentary remarks from observers of international politics.

Look at the essence of his analysis. Keep in mind that he is referring to the man who occupies the most powerful position in the world, a position that demands leadership in today’s complex global environment where everything is interconnected.

First, Uhlmann concludes that Trump has 'no desire and no capacity to lead the world'. The world’s media reaction to Uhlmann’s analysis was strongly affirmatory; clearly many agreed. How can a man in Trump’s position eschew leadership and show no capacity for it? Does this fit synonyms of ‘mad’ such as: ‘foolish’, ‘senseless’, ‘ill-advised’, or even ‘unsafe’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘perilous’?

Uhlmann concluded that Trump had 'managed to isolate his nation, to confuse and alienate his allies, and to diminish America.' He went onto say that this defect rendered Trump 'the biggest threat to the values of the west'. What words apply to this assertion? Mentally disturbed, even insane?

Writing in news.com.au, in an article titled: Radical new plan to remove ‘incapacitated’ President Trump, Liz Burke makes this assessment:
US politicians are so seriously concerned about President Donald Trump’s sanity they are making a plan that could see him removed from the White House over it.

A group of Democrats has put forward a bill to propose a committee that could declare Mr Trump ‘incapacitated’ and remove him from office.

The increasing level of concern over the deteriorating situation in the White House comes as questions have been raised over the President’s state of mind following a series of bizarre and even aggressive tweets.

Mr Trump at the weekend shared a violent video in which he was shown wrestling to the ground and repeatedly striking a man whose face was covered by a CNN logo. This followed a series of personal attacks on a female journalist, and railing against the MSNBC breakfast program she hosts.

In another tweet, the President conceded his use of social media was 'not presidential', but declared a new term for his style: ‘MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL’.

Others have declared it crazy, unusual, and concerning, and are making moves to use his unusual behaviour to end the celebrity businessman-turned-politician’s presidential term.
The evidence suggesting ‘madness’ accumulates.

David Renmick, editor of The New Yorker in an article titled American Dignity on the Fourth of July writes inter alia:
Donald Trump...has no interest in the wholeness of reality. He descends from the lineage of the Know-Nothings, the doomsayers and the fabulists, the nativists and the hucksters.

The thematic shift from Obama to Trump has been from ‘lifting as we climb’ to ‘raising the drawbridge and bolting the door’. Trump may operate a twenty-first-century Twitter machine, but he is still a frontier-era drummer peddling snake oil, juniper tar, and Dr. Tabler’s Buckeye Pile Cure for profit from the back of a dusty wagon.
Further on Renmick writes:
Trump is hardly the first bad President in American history – he has not had adequate time to eclipse, in deed, the very worst – but when has any politician done so much, so quickly, to demean his office, his country, and even the language in which he attempts to speak?

Every day, Trump wakes up and erodes the dignity of the Presidency a little more. He tells a lie. He tells another. He trolls Arnold Schwarzenegger. He trolls the press, bellowing ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘fake news!’

He shoves aside a Balkan head of state. He summons his Cabinet members to have them swear fealty to his awesomeness. He leers at an Irish journalist.

Last Thursday, he tweeted at Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC: 'I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came . . . to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!'

The President’s misogyny and his indecency are well established. When is it time to question his mental stability?
Returning to the G20, what was Trump thinking when he delegated his 35 year old favourite daughter Ivanka to sit in for him among world leaders: Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan? Usually high-ranking public officials are delegated this task. Historian Anne Applebaum took to Twitter to denounce what she described 'an unelected, unqualified, unprepared New York socialite' being seen as 'the best person to represent American national interests'.



Trump defended
his action with these words: 'I’m very proud of my daughter, Ivanka – always have been, from day one I have to tell you, from day one...She’s always been great. She’s a champion. If she weren’t my daughter, it would be so much easier for her. Might be the only bad thing she has going, if you want to know the truth.'

Ivanka was given the official title of 'First Daughter and Advisor to the President' early in the administration, amid outcry that an unofficial role exempted her from ethics rules.

Is this behaviour an example of an unbalanced person?

Read what another writer at The New Yorker, Evan Osnos, had to say in an article written back in May: Is political hubris an illness? He begins: 
In February, 2009, the British medical journal Brain published an article on the intersection of health and politics titled Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder? The authors were David Owen, the former British Foreign Secretary, who is also a physician and neuroscientist, and Jonathan Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, who has studied the mental health of politicians. They proposed the creation of a psychiatric disorder for leaders who exhibited, among other qualities, 'impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice, and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.'
Sound familiar? Do these words apply to Trump?

Further on Osnos uses these words:
President Donald Trump, in the months since he entered the White House, has become a kind of international case study of mental health’s role in politics. To his friends and allies, he elicits an array of anodyne, even appealing, adjectives: unpredictable, fearless, irascible, sly. Many of his counterparts in diplomacy, and in American politics, are rapidly shedding the euphemisms that they once used to express their appraisals, however.

When Trump, after a confused viewing of a Fox News segment, urged people at a rally 'to look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?', suggesting that an incident – which no one could identify; nothing notable had happened the night before – had something to do with Sweden being overrun by refugees, Swedes reached a judgment. 'They thought the man had gone bananas', Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former Prime Minister and foreign minister, told Susan Glasser, of Politico, in an interview published this week. 'It was a somewhat unsettling thing to see the president of the United States without any factual basis whatsoever lunge out against a small country in the way that he did.'

Though politicians often accuse each other of being crazy, Trump has inspired a more clinical and sober discussion. (In the magazine this week, I write about proposals in Congress to assess the President’s mental health.) In recent days, the discussion of Trump’s stability has entered a blunter phase.

Over the weekend, Trump made a series of bizarre comments, including questioning the history of the Civil War, saying he was ‘looking at’ breaking up banks (prompting a stock-market slide), and demonstrating unfamiliarity with basics of the health-care bill known as Trumpcare. The Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told an interviewer that it was 'among the most bizarre recent twenty-four hours in American Presidential history', adding, 'It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the President.' Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman, told his television audience, 'My mother’s had dementia for ten years…That sounds like the sort of thing my mother would say today.'
Finally let’s hear from our own Julia Gillard, recently appointed head of Beyond Blue, who cautions against throwing around the charge of being mentally ill as an insult. But she did weigh into Donald Trump’s odd Twitter behaviour, acknowledging there will be questions about his mental health, acknowledging that some had a genuine concern for the president: 'I know that some people in the US, some commentators are not proffering that analysis by way of insult, they’re actually saying it because they are genuinely concerned. But I do think if President Trump continues with some of the tweeting etcetera that we’ve seen, that this will be in the dialogue.'

Let’s end on that sober note before this piece becomes too long.

With the evidence and the opinions quoted above, what do you make of it all? Recall the words that are used to describe ‘madness’: mentally disturbed, insane, lunatic, maniacal, crazy, unstable, erratic, unsafe, dangerous, perilous, foolish, senseless, and impractical.

Ask yourself, does Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, show signs of madness as described above?



I’ve made up my mind.

Let us know what you think in ‘Comments’ below.

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More power to you


Rather than writing another article this week about the great Abbott versus Turnbull war on ideology, causing your and my excitement level to maybe rise sharply and rate as ‘slightly interested’, let’s look at some positive events that are occurring right here in Australia.

Even if you have been living under a rock for the past ten years, you have probably heard of Tesla. Elon Musk is the co-founder, CEO and product architect of the company which produces electric vehicles, solar roofs and battery products, and while he might not be the perfect human being, according to his Wikipedia entry, his $15.2 Billion wealth started with a $2,000 seed fund from his father.

In a number of countries around the world (including Australia and New Zealand), you can convert a 6-figure sum into a Tesla vehicle. Apparently, they are quite good albeit expensive. They even have a reasonable range from the battery. When you choose to take your car interstate, Tesla is building a network of ‘superchargers’ which will recharge your shiny new Tesla car in the time it takes to buy a coffee (with an optional smashed avo bruschetta?) as well as a network of chargers at destinations such as motels, tourist attractions and so on that can be used to top up the car while you are otherwise engaged.

While battery or hybrid (battery assisted internal combustion) engine cars are still a novelty in Australia, it isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere in the world. From 2019, all new Volvo’s will have electric assistance or be fully electric. Volkswagen also recently announced that they would be introducing a range of fully electric vehicles in 2020 claiming they had the skills and experience to take on Tesla because of their economies of scale and manufacturing know-how. Nissan, Renault and other companies also offer fully electric vehicles in some countries around the world. Nissan offers the fully electric Leaf in Australia.

The Tesla Model S was the best-selling individual car model in Norway (618 sales) in September 2013 followed by the Nissan Leaf (716 cars) in October 2013, primarily because the Norwegian Government (who wisely invested their mining revenue from oil rather than buying votes as the Howard Australian Government chose to do with the tax receipts from our mining boom) supports free charging stations, eliminates some taxes and vehicle usage charges and has legislated for electric vehicles to be able to use bus lanes. In January 2017, half the new cars registered in Norway were fully electric or hybrid. Certainly, the smaller distances travelled in Norway also helps, but most car trips in Australia are also within the range of most electric vehicles.

Elon Musk was recently in South Australia signing a contract to build ‘the world’s largest lithium battery’ in 100 days, to store the power generated by a wind farm there. He has promised that if the system isn’t working in the timeframe – it’s free (there is sadly no mention of free steak knives also being included if South Australia buys two battery farms). Musk probably has some idea of his chances – certainly you take risks in converting $2,000 into $15 Billion – but it seems the risks he takes pay off more often than they fail.

The first question to ask is – can he do it? While the battery will be considerably larger than the existing ‘largest battery in the world’, the apparent answer is ‘yes he thinks he can’. At the opening of the current ‘largest battery in the world’ installation at Ontario (California), again built by Tesla, their Chief Technical Officer commented
“Essentially, we can go and pour a slab and install the basic wiring, but each one of our Powerpacks is quite self-contained,” said J. B. Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer.

All of the batteries, cooling and safety systems, and other equipment are inside the casings, ready to load onto delivery trucks. “Our vehicle work lays a lot of the architectural foundation for this,” Mr. Straubel said. “It’s not as if we’re starting from scratch.”
In the same article, The New York Times reported
California is on track to have an overabundance of energy during the day, when its many solar panels are producing energy, but that supply drops sharply as the sun sets, precisely when demand rises, with residents heading home to use appliances and, increasingly, to charge cars.

The state’s aging nuclear plants have been closed or are being phased out, putting even more pressure on utilities to find other ways to feed the grid. Storage is a natural solution, utility executives say, helping to smooth variations in the power flow from rooftop customers and when solar falls off and conventional plants have not yet filled the gap.

Ronald O. Nichols, president of Southern California Edison, said the utility was looking for more ways to use that energy, instead of curtailing solar production, “which makes no greenhouse-gas-reduction sense.” By 2024, the California system is expected to have far too much energy for at least a few hours each day, he said, adding, “We want to find a way to use that energy productively, and battery storage is certainly a piece of that.”

The utility’s need for storage was amplified after the sudden closing of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2013. To fill that gap — and fulfill a state mandate to add storage to its energy portfolio — the utility awarded several contracts for battery storage.

When the scale of the 2015 leak at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility in the San Fernando Valley became clear, the commission moved to streamline the process for storage projects. That led to the Tesla project at the Mira Loma substation and an electricity purchase agreement from a similar battery project that AltaGas had installed at its natural gas generator in Pomona. Another large battery installation that was part of the response, from a company called AES for a separate regional utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, is nearing full operation in Escondido.
Sounds like a similar situation to Australia, doesn’t it? It’s also pretty obvious from The New York Times report that California at least has ruled out building any more nuclear (or coal for that matter) electricity generation facilities. While Australia has no nuclear power generation, we do have an aging fleet of coal powered generation plant and the ‘sudden’ closure of the Hazelwood plant threw up a number of concerns that the demand for power especially in the Southern states might not be met during the summer of 2017/2018.

While Turnbull and Energy Minister Frydenburg and others are still bashing South Australia around the ears over energy security, the world is clearly moving on. Tim Hollo, the Executive Director of the Green Institute observed on The Guardian’s website recently
For months now, Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg, various fossil fuel energy executives and media commentators like Paul Kelly have been rabbiting on about the “energy trilemma”. It’s their contention that energy policy must deal with cost, reliability and emissions, and that it is impossible to achieve all three at the same time. Conveniently, they choose to put emissions at the bottom of this list and bury it under a pile of coal, which they claim is cheap and reliable.

This is not true. Not even close to it. It doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.

Renewable energy, which obviously wins on emissions, is now beating coal on cost. What’s more, with an energy grid managed effectively by people who want renewables to succeed, it is no less reliable than fossil fuels. The fact that arch-conservative, Cory Bernardi, was recently revealed to have installed rooftop solar panels demonstrates that these people do not even believe their own rhetoric. They have just chosen to throw truth onto the fire of climate change for political reasons.
While using wind generation to charge grid scale batteries is a new concept for Australia, California has demonstrated that the concept is not only practical, it’s working as renewable energy generation from solar panels on domestic household roofs is being stored in bulk for use in peak periods. Victoria thinks storage is an option as well. The Victorian Government opened a tender earlier this year for up to 100MW of grid-scale energy storage by 2018.

An increasing number of Australians also have solar panels on the roof at home and it is becoming increasingly common to read about large scale solar farms being established particularly in Queensland – near Toowoomba, at Valdora on the Sunshine Coast, near Clare in the Burdekin and near Gympie just to name a few. Origin Energy signed up to purchase all the energy produced from the farm near Clare so the energy resellers are on board as well.

Just as in the US, Australia seems to be embracing renewables, in spite of the government’s less than stellar support for renewable energy and meaningful emissions reductions. While Cory Bernardi claims his solar array installation is for self-sufficiency, solar panels don’t work at night unless there is a battery. According to RenewEconomy, Bernardi is looking at batteries as well
but not until he has monitored his solar generation profile for a while, to work out what size storage system he should get. Very sensible. More points to Bernardi.

Whatever he opts for – and we will keep readers posted on that – let’s hope it performs at a standard higher than the Senator’s opinion of grid-scale battery storage.

“Musk’s numbers and promises (on battery storage for SA) don’t stack up but the SA and federal governments are already taking the bait,” Bernardi wrote in a blog titled “Beware of the Smooth Salesman,” in March.

“After years of peddling fanciful green dreams and endorsing windmills and solar panels as the answer to our growing energy needs, they are close to admitting defeat.

“SA Premier Weatherill yesterday commissioned a new gas power plant and ‘battery storage’. While the proposed power plant isn’t big enough, if it does run out of juice I calculate that Musk’s batteries will provide several minutes’ worth of power before needing a recharge!” he wrote.
While Bernardi is going to install a battery system on his solar system to ensure he has power in the future, he doesn’t believe the same strategy would work on a larger scale. There seems to be a large disconnect between Bernardi’s personal and public actions. Turnbull also has a large solar array on his roof with battery storage.

At this stage who knows if Musk will be supplying Tesla’s battery system for a profit or for free, but the chances of the system failing to store the energy supplied by the wind farm are considerably less than Turnbull, Frydenburg and Bernardi winning the argument that renewable energy is less efficient or more costly than fossil fuelled alternatives.

Trump has justifiably faced scorn from around the world for choosing to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement to monitor and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. In reality Turnbull and Frydenburg are no better, supporting the fraudulent concept of ‘clean coal’ domestically, as Trump has done. Interestingly, Turnbull sided with the majority at the recent G20 Meeting in Hamburg, where the ‘G19’ didn’t support Trumps insistence on including ‘clean coal’ in the final communique.
In confirming a communique had been agreed, Dr Merkel took at pot shot at US President Donald Trump, saying she was pleased all countries – with the exception of the US – agreed the Paris climate accord was irreversible.

She said the remaining 19 countries had made a commitment to move swiftly to implement the accord, and that differences with the US had been "noted".
While Turnbull supports emissions reductions and climate protection measures while outside of the country, it seems he has a different message domestically. As is the case in Trump’s America, some states are going it alone and showing the Australian arch-conservatives up for the self-serving, self-interested rent seekers they really are.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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Look out for dinosaurs


Creationists will tell you that life on earth began around 6000 years ago when the good (Christian) lord decided to make a world over 6 days – because on the 7th, he rested. Other faiths and cultures also have mythical stories of how the earth was created, which probably suits the fundamentalists in most religious or cultural groupings. Evolution is a far more common belief. There are museums full of evidence of the process of evolution - how small simple structures became large complex structures, demonstrating the ebb and flow of different life forms at different periods of the earth’s history. Creationists have a leg each side of an interesting barbed-wire fence – having a literal belief in a religious text because they can’t cope with the uncertainty of the alternative but sufficient trust that they will be able to pay off their house from future earnings.

Those who have rationalised that evolution is far more probable that creationism would be aware that at some point in the past one hundred thousand years of the earth’s history a large meteor (Chicxulub) landed off the coast of current day Mexico and changed the world’s plant and animal life forever. The meteor is believed to have made a hole in the ground 180 km wide and 900 metres deep. Scientists attribute it to be the cause of the mass extinction of life on earth that, to a large extent, eliminated the dinosaurs. According to National Geographic
Exactly how the Chicxulub impact caused Earth's mass extinctions is not known. Scientists imagine three possible scenarios: Some think the impact threw massive quantities of dust into the atmosphere which blocked the sun and arrested plant growth. Others believe sulphur released by the impact lead to global sulfuric acid clouds that blocked the sun and also fell as acid rain. Another possibility is that red-hot debris from the falling asteroid or comet triggered global wildfires.
It is unfortunate in some ways that a dinosaur or other animal didn’t pick up a pen and paper to record the event to the extent required by those looking for ‘first person’ narratives. It may have made those who believe in creationism somewhat less sceptical of the existence of the world prior to the time of their cultural or religious belief. If nothing else, a narrative would have made it easier to rationalise the science surrounding evolution for those who need documentation and certainty.

Really it doesn’t matter for the sake of this conversation which theory is correct (or if there is an alternative), the upshot was that a lot of dinosaurs and other animals woke up that morning ready for another day of doing whatever they did – and the world changed completely by the time they died (or retired for the evening – depending what theory you believe).

There are a lot of similarities between the dinosaurs who never saw it coming and some notable personalities today when you think about it.

In recent weeks, former PM Tony Abbott has made speeches to well-known conservative ‘think tanks’, the IPA and Centre for Independent Studies, giving his recipe for the return of ‘genuine conservative values’ to the LNP Government. As Peter Harcher observes
Unpopular Abbott doesn't expect that he'd win the widespread acclaim of the people with backbench speech-making or political snarkery.

No, he's targeting the Liberal Party's conservative base as a way of building an internal campaigning energy.

He has proposed a lengthening list of policies. All stand in conflict with those of the government. Most stand in conflict with his own policies when he was prime minister.

But, as the old adage goes, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and Abbott certainly seems untroubled by the jarring fact that his ideas today clash with the actual policies of his government yesterday.

Abbott in power pursued the national immigration intake around the standard annual equivalent of around 1 per cent of the population. This slows the ageing of the population, contains the blowout in federal health and aged care costs that come with ageing, and continues the historical trajectory of nation-building.

Abbott in pursuit of power now proposes cutting the immigration intake, perhaps by as much as half, to ease pressure on house prices and job seekers.

Abbott in power was unable to stop the relentless blowouts in government spending and debt. Today he demands there be zero new government spending, outside defence.

Abbott as prime minister wanted the next generation of submarines to run on diesel and to be built in Japan. Abbott as aspirant wants Australia to consider nuclear-powered subs, bought from the US, Britain or France.
In another Fairfax Media report, Abbott canvasses
three energy policy measures to put downward pressure on power prices: freezing the renewable energy target at 15 per cent, a moratorium on new wind farms, and for the federal government to potentially go it alone and build a new coal-fired power station.

Mr Abbott also called for immigration to be slashed temporarily to put downward pressure on house prices and upward pressure on wages, and advocated banning all new spending except on defence and infrastructure.

And he had a blunt message for people hoping he may quit politics: "I'm in no hurry to leave public life because we need strong Liberal conservative voices now, more than ever."

His comments at an Institute of Public Affairs event in Brisbane this morning are the clearest statement yet of an alternative policy program.
Those who can remember Abbott as Opposition Leader would be familiar with the pattern. Abbott was the one who promised to pay back the ‘government debt’, the ALP NBN was ’unaffordable’ (the LNP process was promised to be significantly cheaper), that Labor’s Emissions Trading Scheme would result in $100 lamb roasts and his immediate removal of same once in power would strip $500 per annum from domestic power bills. Of course, none of the promises were fulfilled.

It doesn’t stop there. Abbott has a philosophical objection to what are increasingly mainstream values such as same sex marriage, ‘foreigners’ taking over Australia and assistance for those that need a ‘leg-up’ in society.

Abbott is aided and abetted by conservative commentators such as Andrew Bolt – who went to town over the recent comments by ‘senior Cabinet member’ Christopher Pyne claiming that same sex marriage legislation was coming sooner rather than later because the ‘progressive’ side of the Liberal Party was in ascendance. We can only assume there was an interesting discussion between Pyne and Turnbull over how the comments would be seen just as there seemed to be some positive news coming from Canberra.

It’s almost as if winning the ideological divide in the Liberal Party is more important than government. Abbott is younger that Turnbull, so there is a reasonable assumption that, should he and the electors in his area choose, Abbott could be around far longer than Turnbull. He seems to be making a push for a return of the leadership to his ‘safe hands’ post Turnbull. In some ways, the games playing out at the moment are similar to the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years of the ALP, and we all know how that ended. Peace was declared only after the removal of both protagonists.

Perhaps surprisingly, the LNP is not the only political party that is facing internal warfare over policy and practice. The NSW Greens are a separate entity to the Australian Greens and NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon was recently excluded from federal party room discussions on contentious issues as she ‘authorised’ a publicity leaflet circulating in NSW critical of the Gonski 2.0 education funding package at the same time as she was participating in the party room discussion determining if the Greens should support the legislation.

With news reports discussing why the Greens across the rest of Australia call the NSW party ‘watermelons’ - green outside and red (communist) inside - and the NSW party calling the rest of Australia ‘tree tories’ as they will negotiate for an ideologically better but not necessarily ideologically pure outcome, you could probably put money on this really not ending well.

Both Abbott and Rhiannon would probably argue that they are the holders of the ideological hearts of their respective parties. They are entitled to their opinions. It does beg the question however why there is a line in the sand on ideological purity? Society changes opinion over time as circumstances change. Abbott will tell you that same sex marriage is against the doctrines of his particular Christian religion and he’s right – it is. However, the same Christian religion occasionally goes through a process of review and amending the doctrines, the most recent example being Vatican Council 2 in the 1960s. Who knows, the next review may change the Catholic Church doctrine on a number of contentious issues.

Rhiannon’s particular version of the Greens has roots in socialism rather than environmental activism so you could argue they are there for the battle rather than obtaining a compromise result.

Reality would suggest that there are few absolutes that will never change, based on new information or circumstances. Abbott may believe that his version of ‘conservative values’ is the ideal way to run a country and Rhiannon may believe that ideological purity on policy such as school funding is more important than incremental improvement. The concept is similar to deciding 20 years ago that you will only spend $300,000 on a house in one of the east coast capital cities once you have saved the cash to do so. Conceptually you now have your $300,000 burning a hole in your pocket and are ready to go. Practically, the cash you have saved will give you very little (if any) choice if you are not prepared to change your ideological purity to meet the current reality when you consider Brisbane, the east coast capital with the cheapest house prices, has a median price of $635,000.

Are people like Abbott (and his fellow travellers) and Rhiannon the dinosaurs of the current age? The dinosaurs had a small window to change when the meteor hit and those that could adapt; survived. While ideology is important, reality will suggest that your ideology does not necessarily equate with mine, or anyone else’s, or even be relevant when community attitudes change. Compromise is the essence of living in a society. To require absolute ideological purity according to your particular world view can only lead to one outcome – all the Liberal Party and Greens have to do is cast their minds back to the ALP of 2010 to 2013 to see their probable future.

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