Wednesday, March 27, 2019

30 years of the web: a short history of the invention that changed the world

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web as an essential tool for high energy physics at CERN from 1989 to 1994. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist born in London. 

For many of us, the web is a huge part of our lives, enabling us to communicate and access knowledge that would have been unobtainable just a few decades ago. And it all started with one man.

After graduating from Oxford University, Berners-Lee became a software engineer at CERN , the large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists come from all over the world to use its accelerators, but Berners-Lee noticed that they were having difficulty sharing information.

'In those days, there was different information on different computers, but you had to log on to different computers to get at it. Also, sometimes you had to learn a different program on each computer. Often it was just easier to go and ask people when they were having coffee,' Berners-Lee explained in a World Wide Web Consortium interview  (W3C).

Berners-Lee saw a solution to this problem – one that he thought could have broader applications. Already, millions of computers were being connected together through the fast-developing internet , and Berners-Lee realised these computers could share information by using an emerging technology called hypertext.

In March 1989, Berners-Lee laid out his vision for what would become the web in a document called Information Management: A Proposal . But Berners-Lee’s initial proposal was not immediately accepted. In fact, his boss at the time, Mike Sendall, wrote 'vague but exciting' on its cover. The web was never an official CERN project, but Sendall managed to give Berners-Lee time to work on it in September 1990. Berners-Lee started the work on a NeXT computer , one of Steve Jobs’ early products.

Labor to re-instate living wage

26 March 2019

A Shorten Labor government will replace the minimum wage with a living wage, ensuring that no full-time worker lives in poverty.

The return to a living wage – an idea which was first implemented in Australia more than 110 years ago, would be significant step forward in the fight against low wage growth and poverty in this country.

The ALPs policy would require the FWC to consider what minimum wage is necessary to ensure a comfortable life for a full-time worker and then they would determine how it would be phased in.

Business in Australia is driven by domestic consumption and this in turn is driven by wages. An end to low wage growth would benefit small and medium businesses.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “The living wage is an Australian idea, it’s time it was bought back. It is the essence of a fair go – workers should not be working full-time hours and earn poverty wages.
  • “Unfortunately, the living wage has been eroded over time, and now the Fair Work Commission points out that the minimum wage does not lift all workers who rely on it out of poverty and the current rules prevent them from fixing it.
  • “The re-establishment of a living wage would ensure that full time work means a comfortable life and enough money to live on, not simply to avoid starvation.

“It is essential that working people start getting the pay rises they deserve because at the moment they are not. Wages are not keeping up with rising costs of living. This is an essential and fantastic first step to fixing our broken wages rules and stands in contrast to years of inaction from the Morrison Government, who now admit that low wage growth is not a side-effect but a design feature of their economic policies.”

ACOSS – Townsville City Council endorses increase to Newstart

Townsville City Council endorses increase to Newstart and ACOSS calls on federal politicians to follow suit 

Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) congratulates Townsville Council for officially endorsing the ‘Raise the Rate’ campaign, a national campaign, which calls on the Federal Government and Opposition to raise the rate of Newstart.

Townsville is within one of the most marginal federal electorates in Australia and there are 7,087 local Newstart recipients.

The ‘Raise the Rate’ campaign is visiting Townsville today to meet with local residents receiving the Newstart Allowance. 

The campaign will be hosting a community forum that will hear from local residents receiving Newstart who will share their stories about how tough it is to survive on the current rate of $40 per day.

ACOSS CEO Dr. Cassandra Goldie said:

  • “We commend Townsville City Council for standing up and being a voice for residents who are struggling to make ends meet. We call on federal political leaders, who will likely be visiting Townsville in the federal election, to listen to the local community and follow the Council’s example.
  • “Australia’s income support system was designed to help people when they are going through tough times to support them into suitable paid work. But Newstart is not working – the rate has not been increased in real terms for 25 years while living costs for people on low incomes have gone through the roof.
  • “The current rate of $40 per day is too low to give people the support they need and forces them into a cycle of debt, social isolation and humiliation that undermines their efforts to find suitable work and risks them slipping through the cracks into a cycle of poverty.
  • “Raising the rate by about $10 per day will strengthen Newstart by easing financial stress so people looking for employment have the best chance to get into the workforce."

Analysis released by ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service) has revealed that raising the rate of Newstart by $75 a week will generate an additional $35.57 million in income for the Townsville economy in the first year.

The Raise the Rate campaign has seen business groups, charities, unions and local councils (26 across the country, representing over 1.8 million residents) unite to call on the government to raise the rate of Newstart, the payment for people looking for paid work, which has not been raised in real terms for over two decades.

Media contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155

Vatican women editors resign from women's magazine

Lucetta Scaraffia said there were 11 women on the magazine and they had all resigned

The all-women board on the Vatican women's magazine have resigned citing a campaign to discredit them and put them "under the direct control of men".

Founder Lucetta Scaraffia said pressure on staff at Women Church World had intensified after it had published reports about sexual abuse of nuns by other members of the clergy.

The magazine comes as a monthly supplement in the Vatican daily paper.

Her criticism was made in an open letter to Pope Francis.

Last month, the Pope publicly acknowledged that nuns had been abused by the clergy and said the Church was still attempting to address the "scandal". He was speaking days after Women Church World highlighted a culture of abuse of women.

Pope says priests kept nuns as sex slaves
Ex-nuns share stories of Church abuse

Why did the editors quit?

"We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimisation," said Ms Scaraffia, in a letter addressed to Pope Francis. She said later that there were 11 women on the magazine and they had all quit.

The magazine has appeared as a monthly supplement in the Vatican newspaper
Launched in 2012, Women Church World is published every month in Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano and is the only Vatican publication exclusively run by women.

It was seen as a turning point in the treatment of women's issues by both the newspaper and the wider Vatican and was published in Spanish, French and online in English.

For the first time, a group of independent women had been able to work at the heart of the Vatican, with the support of two popes, said Ms Scaraffia, referring to Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI.

It seems a vital initiative has been reduced to silence, and we return to the antiquated... custom of selecting, under direct male control, those women considered trustworthy"

Although they had not been first to speak of exploitation and sexual abuse that nuns had suffered, they had reported it after the facts had emerged, and had received letters from ordained women who had told of their experiences, she said. "We could no longer stay silent," she wrote.

But she said the Vatican newspaper's new editor, Andrea Monda, had tried to control the magazine's editorial line and bring in external collaborators. The freedom of speech - "parresia" - that Pope Francis had so often sought was being abandoned.

"They are returning to the practice of selecting women who ensure obedience," she said.

Mr Monda reacted on Tuesday with a promise to continue publishing Women Church World and he denied that anyone had been selected on the basis of obedience.

He insisted he had guaranteed the magazine's board complete autonomy and had not undermined them.

"In no way have I chosen anyone, man or woman, with the criterion of obedience," Mr Monda said in a statement.

Morrison 'blew up' bipartisan compromise on encryption

Government and opposition locked in battle over laws to allow security and intelligence agencies access to encrypted telecommunications

Amy Remeikis

The powerful parliamentary security and intelligence committee was working towards a compromise position on the government’s controversial encryption legislation before Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton “blew the process up”, Penny Wong said.

The government and opposition are locked in an increasingly nasty battle over the proposed laws, which would allow security and intelligence agencies access to encrypted telecommunications through enforced “back doors”.

But the legislation, which the government has vowed to pass this week, has been criticised by stakeholders as being too broad and potentially placing at risk Australia’s national security.

Wong, speaking to the ABC, said the prime minister was “seeking to create a fight to distract attention from things like Julia Banks moving to the crossbench”.

Labor dissent on encryption bill a rare break in security bipartisanship

“The bill, as it is currently drafted, will make Australia less safe,” Wong said.

  • “Let me read one small part of a transcript from a company which is responsible for encryption, not only of some of Australia’s defence agencies and the AFP, but the US military.
  • “And it says about the bill, ‘it compromises the security of citizens, businesses and governments. It will be easier for cyber criminals, terrorists, to target systems and to be able to break into those systems.’ So this is evidence from this company.
  • “We have said we are willing to pass a bill by Thursday, which gives appropriate powers, these powers, to national security agencies with appropriate oversight to target criminals and people who are being investigated for child sex crimes.
  • “Scott Morrison doesn’t want that. He wants a fight, and I think compromising Australia’s national security for those reasons is really beneath the prime minister.”

The bipartisan security committee, which is examining the legislation, has found itself caught in the middle, and for the first time in a decade, will not agree on a position when its report on the legislation is handed down next week.

Labor committee MPs have already telegraphed they will be handing down a dissenting report after the committee was unable to find an agreeable position, after a compromise position of passing interim laws giving security agencies the powers they want, while the rest of the bill was examined, was rejected by the government.

The government has used Labor’s reticence to accuse the opposition of being soft on terrorism. In the weeks leading up to the split, Dutton had put increasing pressure to speed up the committee deliberations, so the government could pass the bill as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

US – Boeing’s mistakes

There is no small complexity in the task of carrying hundreds of people through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour. More than 100,000 airliners take off and land each day, but two deadly air crashes in six months have shocked passengers, regulators, and industry alike.

Crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max in Indonesia and Ethiopia offer a window into all that complexity. Boeing and its CEO Dennis Muilenburg want the story to be simple: a software problem that can be fixed with a quick patch. But that doesn’t capture the mistakes made by Boeing and American aviation regulators in certifying the plane to carry passengers.

By now, you may well have heard of MCAS, software that automatically pitches 737 Maxes downward to avoid stalling in mid-air. It exists only because Boeing wanted to upgrade its 737 without changing it fundamentally—so it added new engines that made the aircraft more likely to stall, rather than starting from scratch. In the emerging picture of the two accidents, the software failed because the mechanical sensor it depended on also malfunctioned.

But all that pales next to what will likely be the highlight of investigations into the incident: the training and user experience of the people in the cockpits. Pilots did not have sufficient training to understand how MCAS worked, and two vital safety features—a display showing what the sensor detected, and a light warning if other sensors disagreed—were optional extras.

Minimizing training and cockpit changes was an economic decision: The upgraded plane would be more attractive to potential purchasers if they did not have to spend expensive hours retraining their pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration determined Boeing’s training and safety plans were fine. Now, investigators want to know why. The answers could be costly for Boeing, and for America’s reputation as a leader in the safe deployment of aviation technology.

Software is easy to blame, because for many people, computer science is a mystery. But these crashes emerged from an experience we’re all familiar with: the pressure to deliver on a tight timetable, the temptation to cut corners, and the hope that in a big, complex world, one little kludge won’t mess up the whole program.

Friday, March 22, 2019

NYT – Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, has been exemplary in her response

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, has been exemplary in her response to the massacre in Christchurch, where 50 Muslims were killed in two mosques by an Australian white supremacist and his accomplices.

Ms. Arden provided a frame for national grief by embracing the Muslim immigrant community and by firmly insisting, in a tweet after the attack, “Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities — New Zealand is their home — they are us.” She set the tone for the country’s response, framed the incident as a terrorist attack and insisted that her country will reject violent extremism.

Ms. Ardern, 38, took over as prime minister in October 2017, after generating a measure of “Jacindamania” and leading her New Zealand Labour Party to victory. Her stature as a serious progressive politician has not been affected by her celebrity status; Ms. Ardern leads in polls even as some of her policies receive mixed reviews.

Christchurch marks a turning point for Ms. Ardern and for New Zealand. She has set high benchmarks for messaging and leadership during this crisis. She is expected to unveil specific proposals to reform the country’s gun laws before Monday. Ms Ardern, wearing a black scarf, comforted families of the victims — a remarkable gesture given the reactions Muslim women’s headgear provokes in many Western countries.

New Zealanders have followed their leader’s example. Citizens are declaring that the attacker does not speak for them, donations are pouring in for families, condolence books are being signed, flowers placed in front of mosques. On Sunday, church congregations sang New Zealand’s soaring national anthem that speaks about “men of every creed and race” gathering before God’s face in a “free land.”

Through the aftermath, Ms. Ardern has consciously sought to reinforce state ideology and elevate it above private prejudice. She recognizes politics as the domain that decides a nation’s values and is providing strong narrative direction for a society suddenly dealing with exposed fault lines. She is reminding Kiwis to come to terms with the altered composition of her nation and, in fact, told Donald Trump that the best way he could support New Zealand was by offering “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.”

On Tuesday, while speaking in the Parliament, she told the grieving families, “We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage.” And in a pathbreaking gesture, Ms. Ardern said she will never mention the name of the terrorist, thus withholding the notoriety he sought. She implored others to “speak the names of those who were lost, rather than name of the man who took them.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking to reporters on Saturday, in Wellington, New Zealand.

Ms. Ardern is emerging as the definitive progressive antithesis to the crowded field of right-wing strongmen like President Trump, Viktor Orban of Hungary and Narendra Modi of India, whose careers thrive on illiberal, anti-Muslim rhetoric.

ACTU – Change the Rules election campaign kicks off in Boothby

21 March 2019

Working people and volunteers from in and around the electorate of Boothby, which centers on Southern Adelaide will gather on Thursday evening to kick off the Change the Rules election campaign.

Last year, Australian workers took to the streets in record numbers to change the rules so that working people can win a fair go, fair pay rises, and jobs we can count on.

Boothby is currently held by LNP MP Nicole Flint on a margin of 7.1%.

  • What: Change the Rules election kick-off, Boothby
  • Where: Club Marion, Hills Rooms, 262 Sturt Road, Marion South Australia (parking at Westfield Marion)
  • When: Thursday 21 March, 6pm (interviews can be arranged between 5.30 and 6pm)
  • Who: Working people from in and around Boothby and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus. 

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

  • “People in Adelaide need good, secure jobs and fair pay rises but the Morrison Government and big business are standing in the way of this. We are ready to restore the fair go.
  • “We are ready to take action to change the government and win more secure jobs and fair pay rises.
  • “Anyone who wants to live in a better, fairer country, who wants more secure jobs and fairer pay rises should attend these events and join the movement for change.”


Thursday, March 21, 2019

ACTU – Change the Rules election campaign kicks off in Leichhardt

20 March 2019

Working people and volunteers from in and around the electorate of Leichhardt, which centers on Cairns in Queensland will gather on Wednesday evening to kick off the Change the Rules election campaign.

Last year, Australian workers took to the streets in record numbers to change the rules so that working people can win a fair go, fair pay rises, and jobs we can count on.

To Change the Rules, we need to change the government. This year we are moving from winning the argument to winning the fight.

Leichhardt is currently held by LNP MP Warren Entsch, who voted eight times to cut penalty rates, 12 times to give corporate tax cuts to the big banks, 26 times to block the Banking Royal Commission and seven times to cut funding to local schools.

  • What: Change the Rules election kick-off, Leichhardt
  • Where: Cairns Sheridan Hotel, 295 Sheridan Street, Cairns
  • When: Wednesday 20 March, 6pm
  • Who: Working people from in and around Leichhardt, ACTU President Michele O’Neil, 
  • Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  • “People in Cairns and across the peninsula need good, secure jobs and fair pay rises but the Morrison Government and big business are standing in the way of this. We are ready to restore the fair go.
  • “We are ready to take action to change the government and win more secure jobs and fair pay rises.
  • “Anyone who wants to live in a better, fairer country, who wants more secure jobs and fairer pay rises should attend these events and join the movement for change.”

Quotes attributable to QCU Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford

  • “Workers in Leichhardt need jobs they can count on and pay rises that keep up with the cost of living.
  • “Instead we have a government that has supported cuts to penalty rates on weekends and public holidays, cuts that will be felt around Cairns over the coming months with public holidays like Anzac Day, Easter and Labour Day. More than 9300 workers in Leichhardt and their families are impacted by the penalty rates cuts and will be worse off because of the Morrison Government.”

Brexit – May asks for more time on Brexit

In the game of deal, no deal, or delay, Parliament rejected May’s Brexit deal again, by another large, if slightly less humiliatingly large, margin than during the initial vote in January — but also voted against leaving the EU without a deal in place. Parliament also agreed to ask for some sort of postponement to the Brexit deadline.

The prime minister made it clear she preferred a short extension — just until June 30 — and said she would ask for a short “technical” extension if Parliament finally sucked it up and voted for her Brexit deal on March 20. If MPs did not, she would be forced to go to the EU and ask for a postponement that was more open-ended and potentially longer-term.

May’s stance was basically: back my deal, or who knows how long this Brexit thing will drag out. That ultimatum targeted the hardline Conservative members of her party who are adamantly pro-Leave (and want to do so on March 29) and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has refused to budge on the Irish backstop issue.

But May’s attempts to win support — which were shaky at best, according to reports — got completely, and unexpectedly, sidelined by Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.

Bercow is a former Conservative Party member (the speaker gives up his or her party affiliation) who’s become something of a Brexit celebrity because of his fun neckties and his very distinct way of calling for “order” in the House of Commons. Oh, also because he’s given May’s government fits by helping Parliament take back some control over the Brexit process.

Bercow did this in a huge, and somewhat controversial, way this week when he said that May could not bring back her Brexit deal for a third vote because it was “substantially the same” as the one Parliament rejected March 12. Bercow relied on parliamentary rules dating back to 1604, in what he called a “strong and longstanding convention.”

This left May with no chance to bring her deal for a vote on March 20, and forced her to ask the EU for an extension without a clear solution to the UK political impasse. Of course, as her letter to the EU revealed, her plan actually hasn’t changed — she still wants to bring her deal for a third vote.

“It seems as if the only plan is an extension, which is more time to do what she’s already tried already, which is to basically try to strong-arm Parliament to agree to her deal for fear of either no deal or no Brexit,” Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London, told me.

The EU has said repeatedly that the current deal is final, so the prospects of a substantially different agreement are nil. Experts told me there’s wiggle room in Bercow’s ruling; for example, he might try to say that since approving a deal is contingent on an extension, the situation is different. Or members of Parliament can potentially vote to suspend the Parliamentary rule.

EU leaders are meeting this week. But don’t expect a decision just yet.
EU leaders will meet this week in Brussels to discuss whether to give the UK an extension. But EU officials have said not to expect a final decision after the summit — and they will likely need to hold an emergency summit next week, potentially as late as March 28.

Tusk’s statement on Wednesday in response to May’s letter indicated that the EU had little appetite to drag Brexit out much longer, and that an extension would depend on the UK finally passing the deal on that third try. That means May will have to bring her vote next early next week — and, according to Tusk, it will need to succeed.

All 27 EU member states must ultimately agree to an extension, but countries are divided on what to do. France has taken a hard line, saying it wants the UK to offer a credible path forward. Ireland, which has the most at stake, has asked the EU to “cut them some slack.”

The EU has also indicated that any extension would be slightly shorter — likely until May 23. That date marks the start of European Parliament elections, and both the UK and the EU are wary about granting a postponement that would require the soon-to-depart UK to participate in this process.

Technically, the new European Parliament opens at the start of July (which is why the prime minister selected June 30 as the new Brexit date), but the Europeans are apparently wary of running so close to that deadline given how Brexit negotiations have played out so far.

“The concern from the EU side is, ‘Is this extra couple of months really going to make any difference to anything?’” Simon Usherwood, deputy director of UK in a Changing Europe, an independent think tank, told me.

The EU has “seen all the votes that have happened last week, they’ve seen all the chaos and confusion, and all Theresa May is telling them in the letter today is, ‘I just need one more push and I’ll be there, and I’ll be fine,’ and that doesn’t sound very convincing to the EU,” Usherwood said.

May and Tusk are both talking about a short-term delay, but any extension longer than a few months raises its own problems — the big one still being the European Parliament elections. A significant delay also seems unlikely unless there’s a clear change in Brexit — such as a second referendum, or possible general elections. Otherwise, many more months to keep debating the same deal makes little sense.

Then there’s always the very real chance that May does bring the Brexit deal for a third vote and it fails yet again. And if that happens, well, who knows.

A no-deal Brexit on March 29 is still the default. This is all very confusing, but the gist of all this is that May asked the EU for a Brexit extension, and the EU countries are going to get together and ultimately deny or approve the request.

The EU isn’t seeking to hide its frustration with the UK over all this. Or, as a German minister put it, the bloc is “exhausted” by Brexit. Actually, even the UK is fed up with the UK.

Monday, March 18, 2019

ACTU – Change the Rules election campaign kicks off in Bass

18 March 2019

Change the Rules election campaign kicks off in BassWorking people and volunteers from in and around the electorate of Bass, which covers the north-east of Tasmania, will gather on Monday evening to kick off the Change the Rules election campaign.

Last year, working people took to the streets in record numbers to change the rules so that working people can win a fair go, fair pay rises, and jobs we can count on.

To Change the Rules, we need to change the government. This year we are moving from winning the argument to winning the fight.

What: Change the Rules election kick-off, Bass

Where: Launceston Workers Club, 66 Elizabeth St, Launceston

When: Monday 18 March, 5pm (Interviews) 5:30pm (Meeting, vision only)

Who: Working people from in and around Bass, Unions Tasmania Secretary Jessica Munday, ACTU President Michele O’Neil

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

  • “People in Bass and across Tasmania need good, secure jobs and fair pay rises but the Morrison Government and big business are standing in the way of this. We are ready to restore the fair go.
  • “We are ready to take action to change the government and win more secure jobs and fair pay rises.
  • “Anyone who wants to live in a better, fairer country, who wants more secure jobs and fairer pay rises should attend these events and join the movement for change.”

Quotes attributable to Unions Tasmania Secretary Jessica Munday:

  • “Working people in Tasmania need more secure jobs and pay that keeps pace with costs of living.
  • “Across the state are people struggling with living costs and a state government hostile to our rights.
  • “Change the Rules volunteers in Bass and across Tasmania will be knocking on doors and hitting the streets between now and the Federal election to change the federal government, change the rules and restore a fair go for working people.”

ACOSS – Universal dental care more important, less expensive, than tax cuts

The Australian Council of Social Service is firmly opposed to more tax cuts in the upcoming budget, instead calling on government to invest in strengthening our income support system and delivering quality services, including dental care.

Australian Council of Social Service CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, welcomed the Grattan Institute’s calls today for staged introduction of universal dental care, saying:

  • “The Grattan Institute’s plan for universal dental care would cost $5.6 billion a year. This is half of the cost of bringing forward the already-announced tax cuts for the top 20% of taxpayers, and half the cost of tax cuts modelled in today’s report by Deloitte Access Economics.
  • “Now is not the time for more tax cuts, as Deloitte also urges. This Government has already cut personal income tax cuts twice:
  • $4 billion per annum in personal income tax cuts for people on $80,000 or more; and
  • $140 billion over six years which, when fully implemented, will give the greatest benefit to the top 20%, and cost the budget $11 billion per annum for just the top 20%.
  • "These tax cuts are on top of the proposed $65 billion over 10 years in corporate tax cuts.  Tax cuts for corporations with turnover of $50 million or less have already been legislated.
  • "We need to give urgent priority to lifting up the incomes of people on the lowest and funding for quality essential services, including dental care, a major gap in our universal health system.
  • “Decent dental care in Australia is becoming restricted to people on high incomes. The Grattan Institute report released today warns that two million people on low to modest incomes are avoiding visits to the dentist for routine checkups. Even when someone has a dental health crisis, many languish on long public waiting lists.  
  •  “When people have major dental problems that go untreated, it impacts on their ability to live their lives, including to eat well, secure employment, and be engaged in their communities. People struggling from below the poverty line are the most acutely affected by the lack of universal dental care services.
  • “We should be able to enjoy the collective peace of mind that there is enough funding for the services we need, such as quality education, healthcare and a decent income support system. More tax cuts put this at great risk, as we know from the experience of tax cuts in the 2000s that led to harsh spending cuts a decade later.
  • “Along with Increasing Newstart Allowance and restoring cuts to other payments such as Family Tax Benefits, taking the first step towards a universal dental health scheme would cost less than planned high-end tax cuts and provide a greater boost to flagging economic growth,” Dr Goldie said.

Japan – Investors Back Renewables

Energy analysts forecast 'the end of coal' in Asia as Japanese investors back renewables
Australia’s largest export customer for thermal coal is scrapping plans to build power plants

An offshore wind turbine off the coast of Naraha in Fukushima, Japan. Across the country, 13 offshore wind projects are undergoing environmental impact assessments.

Major Japanese investors, including those most indebted to coal, are seeking to back large-scale renewables projects across Asia, marking a “monumental” shift that energy market analysts say is “the start of the end for thermal coal”.

At the same time, Japanese banks and trading houses are walking away from coal investments, selling out of Australian mines and scrapping plans to build coal-fired power.

Japan is Australia’s largest export customer for thermal coal. Of the proposed pipeline of coal power projects in Japan in 2015, figures from the Global Coal Plant tracker show three-quarters are now unlikely to proceed.

The most recent proposal likely to be shelved, a 1.3GW coal-fired power station in Akita, in Japan’s north-west coastal region, follows the cancellation of two others earlier this year. Sojitz Corporation this week announced further divestment from thermal coal, following Itochu announcing a coal exit last month, and Mitsui in November.

The RBA has sounded the climate change alarm. Time to sit up and take notice

Sources in the Asian renewable and energy finance sectors say Japanese banks, trading houses and two prominent state-backed enterprises – the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Japan International Cooperation Agency – have in recent months expressed their intention to invest more heavily in the renewables sector.

The increased interest in renewables comes, notably, from investors and companies with existing exposure to coal. Demand for electricity in Japan is declining, as the population declines. In that market, coal appears to be crowded out by additional capacity provided by nuclear restarts, solar and other renewables.

Other developers have their eyes on Akita, which is next to the Sea of Japan, as a site for offshore wind developments.

Across Japan, 13 offshore wind projects are undergoing environmental impact assessments, with the total investment opportunities worth up to 2 trillion yen (A$25bn), according to Mizuho Bank estimates published this week.

Kimiko Hirata, the international director of Japan’s Kiko Network, a climate action campaign group, said she had noticed a shift in sentiment among several big players in the Japanese business world.

“From last year we’ve seen some changes from the major banks and megabanks and also insurance companies as well as trading companies, their positions have changed on coal power policy,” she said.

“So we are clearly seeing that they’re thinking that continued support for coal power, both domestic and international, is no longer acceptable by the international community and also in Japan. We very much welcome the big change happening.”

Hirata cautioned, however, that many of these financiers’ policy changes related to entirely new coal projects, not ones already in the pipeline. Kiko’s own figures show plans for a total of 15GW of coal-fired power remained active, with some plants under construction and due to start operating next year.

Campaigners are awaiting the release of a long-term strategy to guide Japan’s approach to tackling climate change up to 2050, believing it will be a key test of the government’s seriousness.

The government is tipped to release it in the lead-up to June’s G20 summit in Osaka, where prime minister Shinzo Abe has signalled he wants to show leadership on climate change.

Some members of Abe’s cabinet have been pushing for stronger climate action.

Kono has argued this is too low, considering the sector already provides 24% of the global energy mix. “As Japanese foreign minister, I consider these circumstances lamentable,” he said last year.

The government’s latest energy plan suggests fossil fuels will still account for 56% of the energy mix in 2030, while nuclear will account for 20% to 22%.

The developers behind the Akita proposal are reviewing their plan and considering other options, including biomass and liquefied natural gas, according to local media reports. Comment has been sought from regional utility Kansai Electric Power and the investment company Marubeni, but sources familiar with the matter believe a decision is likely to be announced within weeks.

Asked about the review of the Akita project on Friday, Australia’s trade minister, Simon Birmingham, told ABC radio the government was aware there would be a transition in the global economy away from thermal coal.

“We do urge countries to make as ambitious commitments as they can, but the long-term projections are that the demand for Australian thermal coal in these markets remains very strong,” Birmingham said.

Tim Buckley, the director of energy finance studies for the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said any shift in Japan was monumental for the rest of Asia.

“This is the start of the end for thermal coal,” Buckley said. “When Japan moves, it’s not just Japan. It is … our number one thermal coal customer, but it’s also the funder of the growth agenda that the coal industry has been relying on.”

Most international projections – including those that envisage little action to address climate change – rely on an assumption that thermal coal demand from developed countries such as Japan will decline in the coming decades.

NYT – New Zealand grieves victims of mosque shootings

New Zealand tried to come to grips with grief and horror unlike anything in its modern history after a gunman targeted worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, killing at least 50. 

Twelve of the injured, including a 4-year-old girl, remained in critical condition.

The country’s small Muslim community grappled with the loss. And the police arrested a suspect, Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, who has been charged with murder.

He posted a racist manifesto online and streamed live video of the killings on Facebook. Our tech correspondent called it a mass murder of, and for, the internet. Follow the latest updates here.
Interviews and videos suggest that a bystander and police preparedness may have helped limit the death toll.

Gun debate: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised stricter gun controls. But the issue could be divisive in New Zealand, where there are more than 1.2 million firearms among a population of 4.6 million. We compared the rules for buying a gun in 16 countries.

In Australia: A far-right senator who blamed the attacks on immigration was egged by a teenage boy, and responded with punches.

ACOSS – Not the time for more tax cuts: time to boost Newstart and minimum wages

Unlike tax cuts, raising Newstart and the minimum wage will effectively reduce poverty and boost the economy, argues The Australian Council of Social Service’s submission to the Fair Work Commission on the minimum wage.

CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, Cassandra Goldie, said: “Instead of handing out tax cuts as misguided election sweeteners, the government should take real action to tackle poverty and strengthen the economy.

  •  “Both an urgent $75 per week rise in Newstart and a substantial rise in minimum wages are the fundamental steps we must take in any serious effort to reducing poverty.
  •  “People on the lowest incomes – including Newstart and minimum wages – must spend the money they receive to cover the very basics like food and rent, so boosting their incomes is a far more effective way to bolster economic growth than more tax cuts.
  •  “A rise in Newstart would particularly benefit businesses in the regions struggling the most with high unemployment.
  •  “Increasing Newstart and the minimum wage would increase consumer spending, creating new jobs; while at the same time, a stronger Newstart would give people the support they need to get through tough times and into these jobs.
  •  “One in six children live in poverty in our wealthy country and in order to reduce child poverty we need to reverse government funding cuts to family payments and expressly consider these cuts in the setting of the minimum wage.
  •  “In the past decade, more than $12 billion has been cut from payments for individuals and families with low incomes, including by dumping all single parent families from the single parent payment on to the low Newstart Allowance once their youngest child turns eight.
  •  “We need government and business to both play their part to for people on the lowest 40% of incomes - both people relying on income support and wage earners, who in reality are often the same people at different stages of life, sometimes week to week,”
  •  “We are the richest country in the world and no one should live in poverty, whether they have paid work or not. This requires action from both government and business,” Dr Goldie said.

Twenty-five years ago, when Newstart Allowance was last increased, the minimum wage was around 60% of the median fulltime wage and Newstart Allowance was 25% of the minimum wage (before tax).

Up to the GFC in 2008, most incomes grew strongly, especially corporate profits. There was also a dramatic rise in housing costs. Yet Newstart and minimum wages (two of the main incomes of the lowest 40% of households by income) have barely grown above inflation.

In 2018, the minimum wage was just 49% of the median fulltime wage (a relative decline of 18%). Having been frozen in real terms since 1994, Newstart Allowance fell behind even further (by 24%), to 19% of the median wage.

Although this decline in the lowest incomes was partly compensated by lower unemployment and more paid working hours, those who lacked the opportunity to obtain employment or more working hours fell behind the rest of the community, increasing poverty and inequality.

Media contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Corbyn Young People and Climate

Published: 22:45 Friday, 15 March 2019

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour: It’s past time all of us stopped looking the other way

By taking to the streets today to make their voices heard, young people are educating us about how important tackling climate change is to their generation. 

They are right to be worried about what kind of planet they will inherit and right to demand far-reaching action. Governments cannot sit back, leaving major decisions to market forces. It hasn’t worked and it never will. Polluting corporations will never do anything serious to solve the crisis.

Schools Come Out For Climate

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Brexit crisis shows that the Conservatives have lost the ability to change

New Statesman

In a crisis, the reactions of people under pressure often reveal something deeper, not just about their psychology but their overall destiny. The same is true for political parties. And what this week’s events are showing, as the Brexit agenda slides out of Theresa May’s control, is pretty fundamental for the Conservative Party. It has lost its capacity to adapt.

The signal fact is not that May suffered two historic defeats in parliament over the Withdrawal Agreement. It is that, for two years during the exit negotiations, she consistently drew indefensible “red lines” and then retreated from them to even shakier and less defensible positions. In sports parlance that would be called “losing” — and that Britain was defeated is a truth few politicians want to recognise.

Britain lost the Brexit negotiations because no possible form of Brexit was acceptable to those who want Brexit. They did not want a Canada-style free trade agreement because it would require an economically united Ireland. They did not want a Norway-style deal because it would kill the dream of turning Britain into an offshore venue for tax evasion and cheap labour.

May continually tried to achieve the impossible and, because of that, failed to achieve what was possible. She chose delay, obfuscation, blackmail and bribery as her tactics and they did not work. The result is a government that is about to lose control of the parliamentary agenda and fall apart in office.

If we trace the root cause of this malfunction, for an institution that deems itself the natural party of government, it is to be found in the class dynamics that are emerging in most Western economies, as their elites grapple with the failure of the neoliberal system.

There are now three types of Tory politician. First, the nationalist neoliberal, who wants to break up the multilateral system and use the resulting chaos to impose further austerity and privatisation, using racism and misogyny to assemble a mass electoral base. At the other end are the liberal multilateralists who — like Emmanuel Macron in France — have begun to realise they need a de facto coalition with the centre and centre left to revive consent for globalisation. In the middle are people “born to rule”.

Neoliberalism is a system formed through the coercive introduction of market relationships into all forms of social life. Because it worked for so long, it has produced — via the PPE course at Oxford, the legal profession, the business schools and a pampered upper stratum of the media — a class of people who seem pre-programmed to operate its institutions. Because, as a requirement of the neoliberal system, government departments became powerful siloes of business influence, being a minister came to feel like being a senior civil servant, only dimmer and more flamboyant.

If you want avatars for these three factions of modern Toryism, you could take Jacob Rees-Mogg as the representative of the nationalists, media select committee chair Damian Collins for the liberal wing and, as a specimen of flamboyant technocratic dimness, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

All parties in a first-past-the-post system have to be coalitions, but they are usually coalitions for pulling in the same direction. The Conservative Party, instead, has become a coalition for pulling in opposite directions. All want to save neoliberalism but none of them has a realistic understanding of how.

And while all the focus today is on the rebels — Rees-Mogg and the ERG versus Nick Boles, Oliver Letwin and the other Europhiles — the strategic problem lies with the born-to-rulers. If the instructions for running a neoliberal economy have been drummed into your brain, from your days at the Oxford Union to the small talk at last week’s Spectator cocktail party, it becomes very difficult to adapt to a situation where they no longer work.

You do not only end up like May — shipwrecked, her political capital spent; you end up like Williamson threatening to dispatch non-existent aircraft carrier groups to the South China Sea, celebrating your own “lethality” even as you fail to punch your way out of a paper bag. For May’s inner team, the HQ is now the frontline, and the strategy amounts to not retreating into the river. They have no reserves ready to envelop the enemy — and indeed, they have too many enemies to cope with.

This is why I am utterly unmoved by the fact that the Tories remain, for now, at around 40 per cent in the polls. Politics is easy when every newspaper supports you and is prepared to peddle lies on your behalf; when the broadcast media is full of chums who think and speak like you; when, in addition to that, you have the civil service holding your hand and an ever-present cadre from the dark-money think-tanks to recycle your claims to credibility on breakfast-time TV.

A general election would level all that, and it is pretty obvious why May and her fragmented administration would go out of their way to avoid one. Because their ultimate enemy is history. The economic system they’ve learned to operate no longer delivers, even for the small business owners, pensioners and professional classes that form Toryism’s grassroots. Consent for the present system is evaporating. Culturally, the Conservative Party feels as distant from modern Britain as it did in the early 1960s, when the David Frost and Paul Foot generation tore them to shreds.

When history is against you, even technical brilliance counts for nothing. Failure to realise this was the consistent reason why dictators and monarchs fell — but the Tory party always had good antennae for the forces of destiny. It survived the mass enfranchisement of the working class, the rise of monopoly capitalism, the triumph of Keynesian economic management techniques and the 1960s revolution in social attitudes by embracing change. This time around it seems incapable of understanding that the world has turned.

The obvious way out — both for the good of Britain and for the Tories themselves – would be to ditch May, reconfigure the Brexit offer around a Norway-style deal, and declare an end to austerity, pledging to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and mend the social divides using the medicinal powers of the magic money tree.

But she cannot bring herself to do it. It would split the Tory party and, at any subsequent election, the angry mob of English nationalists who’ve swarmed into and around the Tories would either stay at home or vote for a new, rival hard Brexit formation. That would hand the progressive majority of the British electorate something it has not had since the 1960s: power with a radically different project to that of the right (Tony Blair’s was a radically similar project to the right’s).

Labour, by contrast, though routinely vilified as hopeless, has in fact proved resilient and adaptive in this crisis. Its Brexit team, led by Keir Starmer, went into the crucial day on Tuesday confident in their own legal judgements about May’s last-minute codicil in a way that was totally absent from the opposite side.

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, who were once despised by the centrist nabobs of People’s Vote campaign, are now secretly respected by them. Corbyn’s strategy has been to pursue the only rational solution at every stage. He forced the meaningful vote; he forced the transition arrangements; he forced the Tories back over one red line after another; he will force no deal off the table and — simply by grinding the Tories to pieces — he will force them to ditch May. With a few dishonourable exceptions, the Parliamentary Labour Party have — with not much credit — played the grinding game loyally.

To me, this shows, despite the bitter arguments within Labourism, that it is a more effective and adaptive force than the Tories. All parts of it understand the need for radical change and it is a mass movement whose enthusiasm survives wave after wave of smears and slanders.

The next steps are, I’m afraid, to continue grinding. The critical task is to prevent May using any short delay to Article 50 to stage a third game of brinkmanship. Parliament must take control. Unlike the zealots of the People’s Vote movement, I don’t want to kill the Norway option. If that is what emerges, it is the most sensible way to mitigate the concerns of Brexit voters over migration and sovereignty while retaining a close strategic relationship to Europe.

But Norway-plus is so unlike what the xenophobic right fought for that it provides an even greater rationale for a second referendum to ratify it. If you would rather remain and reform the EU, giving parliament a shot at a negotiated soft Brexit and putting it to the people is the only remaining route to that. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

UK – Parliament rejects May’s Brexit deal again

British lawmakers voted against Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal plan, adding to the confusion as a deadline to leave the E.U. nears.

Hours before the vote, Mrs. May’s attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, offered his analysis of the Irish backstop — a mechanism that would avoid erecting a hard border, with checkpoints for goods, between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Britain withdraws from the E.U.

Mr. Cox said that the extra assurances Mrs. May had negotiated with European officials didn’t resolve any legal concerns and could keep Britain trapped in the trading bloc indefinitely, an assessment that likely rankled hard-line pro-Brexiteers.

What next? Lawmakers will now shift their focus to another crucial vote tomorrow on whether to leave the E.U. without a deal. Most lawmakers are opposed to that option, which could then increase pressure on Mrs. May to delay Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Britain is trapped in a political labyrinth with no apparent exit. Every turn leads to a brick wall. And the paths are stalked by a zombie prime minister, who can be neither killed off nor brought back to the land of the living. How, and when, will the country wake up from this seemingly never-ending nightmare?

No single tunnel seems to have a light at the end of it. First, there's Prime Minister Theresa May's deal with the European Union - surely now buried for the last time, after a second huge defeat on Wednesday morning.

May has trowelled layer upon layer of tweak and complexity onto the plan, to try to win over sceptical MPs to a compromise, halfway-house Brexit. By seeking to please everyone, she has pleased no one.

Prime Minister Theresa May is at the mercy of a divided parliament, locking the government into a perpetual impasse.

The European Union, led by Ireland, won't agree to the changes that would get it past her own party. Her own party won't agree to it unless the EU budges. Stalemate.

ACTU – More scrutiny needed on Self-Managed Funds

13 March 2019

The ACTU supports calls for an inquiry examining the under-performance of small self-managed super funds (SMSFs) after the productivity commission revealed that SMSFs with less than $500,000 perform ‘significantly worse’ than regular super funds.

Industry super funds consistently out-perform bank-owned funds and are consistently trying to find ways to provide better outcomes for members.

Too many workers are duped into starting an SMSF when the experts know accounts with relatively small balances will not perform well.

The Productivity Commission report raises questions about the value being provided to customers by SMSFs and this should be thoroughly investigated.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:

  • “There should be consistent scrutiny of any super funds which are not providing for members.
  • “The Productivity Report raises serious concerns about the performance of these funds and the security of the retirement of their members.
  • “The banks sell SMSFs to low super balance workers because they can charge massive fees, take a large cut of investment returns with little to no scrutiny.
  • “Industry funds have been shown to be consistently out-performing all other types of funds – the funds which are failing their members should be exposed to extensive scrutiny.”

ACTU – Minimum wage: Fair Work should close the poverty gap over 2 years

13 March 2019

The Fair Work Commission should close the gap between the minimum wage and the OECD definition of relative poverty within 2 years so that no full-time worker is living in poverty, starting with a 6% increase this year a– or $43 per week.

Currently the minimum wage is below the OECD definition of relative poverty, which is 60% of median earnings. A 10.7% increase – or $72.80 per week – would be necessary this year to guarantee no full-time Australian worker lives below the poverty line.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the Fair Work Commission should close the gap over the next two years, starting with a $43 per week increase this year, and assuming a 1.5% increase in the median next year an additional 5.5% in 2020.

In the Fair Work Commission’s previous determinations, it has admitted that Australia’s minimum wage of $18.93 per hour – $37,398 per annum – leaves many people working full-time in poverty.

Australians living on the minimum wage desperately need a pay rise to help them make ends meet as the cost of living continues to rise faster than wages.

The business lobby’s argument that wages growth hurts the economy has always been wrong but has increasingly lost favor with even some of the most conservative economists and institutions.

There are 2.23 million award minimum dependent workers in Australia and boosting their wages will result in more demand, greater economic activity and create jobs.

Quotes attributable to Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary

  • “No one in Australia should be forced to work below the poverty line but that is exactly what the current minimum wage guarantees.”
  • “Within two years, we can make sure no full-time working Australian lives in poverty while also stimulating spending and generating economic activity and growth.”
  • “We also need to change the rules so that our minimum wage is one that people can live on – this is the basis of the fair go.”
  • “In arguing against raising the minimum wage to a living wage, the business lobby and the Morrison Government are saying that it is ok for Australians to live below the poverty line.”
  • “It shows exactly how out of touch big corporations and the Morrison Government are from every day Australians that they think workers living in poverty is an acceptable outcome of their wages policy.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tim Berners Lee – 30 Years of the Web

11 March 2019

He made the comments in an exclusive interview to mark 30 years since he submitted his proposal for the web.

Sir Tim said people had realised how their data could be "manipulated" after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

However, he said he felt problems such as data breaches, hacking and misinformation could be tackled.

In an open letter also published on Monday, the web's creator acknowledged that many people doubted the web could be a force for good.

He had his own anxieties about the web's future, he told the BBC: "I'm very concerned about nastiness and misinformation spreading."

But he said he felt that people were beginning to better understand the risks they faced as web users.
"When the Cambridge Analytica thing went down [people] realised that elections had been manipulated using data that they contributed."

He added that in recent years he has increasingly felt that the principles of an open web need to be safeguarded.

In his letter, Sir Tim outlined three specific areas of "dysfunction" that he said were harming the web today:

  • malicious activity such as hacking and harassment
  • problematic system design such as business models that reward clickbait
  • unintended consequences, such as aggressive or polarised discussions

These things could be dealt with, in part, through new laws and systems that limit bad behaviour online, he said.

He cited the Contract for the Web project, which he helped to launch late last year.

But initiatives like this would require all of society to contribute - from members of the public to business and political leaders.

"We need open web champions within government - civil servants and elected officials who will take action when private sector interests threaten the public good and who will stand up to protect the open web," he wrote.

Wandering round the data centre at Cern, Sir Tim Berners-Lee was in a playful mood, remembering how he'd plugged the very first web server into the centre's uninterruptible power supply over Christmas so that nobody would switch it off - only for the whole place to be powered down.

But as we talked about what had happened since he submitted his proposal for the web 30 years ago - described by his boss as "vague but exciting" - Sir Tim's mood darkened. In the last few years, he told me, he'd realised it was not enough to just campaign for an open web and leave people to their own devices.

Sîr Tim has a plan - the Contract for the Web - to put things back on the right track but it depends on governments and corporations doing their part, and the citizens of the web pressing them to act.

When, as my last question, I asked Sir Tim whether the overall impact of the web had been good, I expected an upbeat answer.

Instead, gesturing to indicate an upward and then a downward curve, he said that after a good first 15 years, things had turned bad and a "mid-course correction" was needed.

His brilliant creation has grown into a troubled adolescent - and Sir Tim sees it as his personal mission to put the web back on the right track.

Sir Tim's vision was "at once utopian and realistic", said Jonathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.

It rested on the idea that a free and open web would empower its users, rather than reduce them to simply being consumers, he explained.

"I see Tim's letter not only as a call to build a better web, but to rededicate ourselves to the core principles it embodies," he told the BBC.

Those principles, he said, included universality of access and transparency - the ability to see and understand how web applications work.

NSW Labor Confirmes Plastic Bag Ban

Big news: NSW Labor has just confirmed that it will deliver a ban on plastic bags in NSW in the first 100 days, if it wins the next election.

And that’s not all. NSW Labor have also pledged to phase out single-use plastic cups and straws in NSW, as well as implementing a recycling, resource recovery and waste council to manage the landfill crisis.

This is HUGE. And to make sure this actually happens we need to do two things, right now:

Congratulate NSW Labor for demonstrating leadership on environmental issues.
Show the Berejiklian Government that tons of people want to see an end to plastic pollution, no matter who wins the election.
Share the news right now to make sure this flies far and wide.

With one side of politics taking this seriously, we are close to winning a ban on plastic bags this year! With more single-use plastic products replaced soon. But the current NSW Government have avoided this issue for many years (and through many environment ministers). This is despite the government’s own advice that more than 10 million bags will enter the NSW environment each year, threatening marine life

We need to reward leadership, when it happens, and remind those leaders who aren’t keeping up that we are watching their every move.

Share this story so that NSW Labor and Liberals know where you stand on plastic pollution.

We know the major parties are watching every popular issue closely. And with two weeks to go to the state election, our actions couldn’t be more impactful.

Now - let’s show them we’re all on board.

Nic and the team at Greenpeace Australia Pacific

PS: this is a really big deal. Plastic pollution is getting out of control. It’s in our water, our food and new evidence shows how it’s getting into our bodies. And NSW is one of the world’s biggest massive waste producers, per capita. We can win this if we show our strength together, right now. And when we win this, we will have cut substantially cut one of the largest sources of plastic pollution in NSW. Let’s do this!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Regenerative agriculture finds solid backing as decades of success show real Renewal

View of a regenerative farm from the air with conventional farms looking pretty brown in comparison.A study of regenerative agriculture has found the method can improve biodiversity and farmer wellbeing.

Boorowa farmer Charlie Arnott has experienced the immense toll of drought on his cattle, his business and his wellbeing, but he has found a way through it all.

Fifteen years ago, reeling from the effects of the Millennium drought, he attended a workshop on regenerative agriculture that radically changed the way he farmed and, he believes, saved his life.

"I was doing a really good job of killing a lot of stuff to try and grow food, which is kind of crazy," Mr Arnott said.

Farmer Charlie Arnott standing in a paddock with three other people from the local Landcare group.
Regenerative farmer Charlie Arnott explains some of the principles to the local Landcare group.

He had been farming conventionally using pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, but the course taught him how to partner with nature instead of trying to control it.

It has turned around his farm's capacity to deal with drought and he currently has plenty of water and grass for his livestock even as the drought in NSW intensifies.

"We haven't fed for 15 years [because] we measure how much grass we have, we know how many animals we have to eat that grass and a very simple calculation gives us the amount of time that that grass is available before it runs out," Mr Arnott said.

From a desert to a paradise

Another farmer in Boorowa, David Marsh, began his journey into regenerative agriculture in the 1980s, after a drought brought him to the edge of ruin.

"In 1982 we reduced our numbers far too late, like so many … and we turned this place into a desert," Mr Marsh said.

Sheep stand around behind a farm vehicle in the 1982 drought on David Marsh's farm.
The 1982 drought turned David Marsh's Boorowa farm into a desert.

The same spot in 2019 shows how regenerative agriculture has turned his farm around. (

"In that time you couldn't give sheep away and I promised I wouldn't do that again."

He began adopting regenerative practices in 1999, increasing the amount of native vegetation and tree coverage on his property from just 3 per cent to 20 per cent.

He believes trees and native grasses are fundamentally important to farming because they capture carbon from the atmosphere and their deep-rooted systems recycle nutrients from the soil.

The other key change he made was to switch from a "set stocking" rate to planning grazing according to what the landscape could support.

He has a mob of more than 300 cattle, many with calves at foot, and he grazes them in small areas, leaving most of the farm free of animals so it can recover.

"We've got over 100 paddocks and [the cattle] are gradually moving around the place through all those paddocks.

If conditions are dry he destocks.

"I guess in the past, we were trying to run fixed enterprises in an incredibly variable climate and you can do that, but a lot of the time you're going to be spending a lot of money [on feed]," Mr Marsh said.

Like Charlie Arnott he matches his livestock numbers to the amount of feed he has.

"The whole thing we're doing here is trying to fit into the way the world works rather than trying to bend the world to our will."

A big mob of cattle are moving from a small paddock to another with fresh green grass after 24 hours.

Keeping cattle in bigger mobs and moving them around the farm gives the farm environment time to rest and recover.

National study shows regenerative farmers doing better

A study commissioned by the Federal Department of Environment found that regenerative management practices "have the potential to increase the health of Australia's grassy woodlands and at the same time improve financial and farmer wellbeing".

Mark Gardner from Vanguard Business Services said the survey of 16 farms compared incomes against conventional farming systems using ABARES and Australian Bureau of Statistics figures over a 10-year period.

It showed that regenerative farmers had above average profit levels, especially in dry years.

Farmer David Marsh leaning on a fence post with cattle and green grass in the background.
David Marsh says regenerative farming techniques have transformed his property.

That has certainly been David Marsh's experience.

For years he struggled to pay back the farm debt, but that changed when he stopped spending money on chemicals and fertilisers.

"Every 10 years we'd run into a dry period and take a large step in reverse, but now our costs are so low it's hard not to make a profit," he said.

Farmers are not rushing to change their farming practices however.

For Mr Marsh, Mr Arnott and many others, it can be difficult to make the initial change.

"I had to put a lot of history aside, what my Dad taught me, what I did for many years … [so] the first paddock I had to change was the one between my ears," Mr Arnott said.

The journey begins

Bookham farmers Kylie and Oliver Kimpton are right at the beginning of their regenerative journey.

Like many farmers, Kylie Kimpton found it difficult to put her grass ahead of her animals and destock.

"The first truck that drove out, I almost shed a tear but we could see the potential," she said.

The cost of setting up a farm for rotational grazing can also be an obstacle because it requires additional fencing and watering points, plus it takes time to move the stock every day, but the Kimptons have been surprised at how quickly their land has responded.

"I started fencing off one paddock on our property and the grasses came back. Even with the minimal amount of rain that we've had it was really encouraging," Ms Kimpton said.

A mob of about 350 cattle in health green pasture of David Marsh's farm at Boorowa.
David Marsh still runs a large number of cattle, but they are kept in mobs and rotationally grazed which preserves the vegetation on his farm. (ABC News: Olivia Ralph)
Ms Kimpton said the Boorowa Landcare movement had been an important support.

Coordinator Linda Cavanagh said they worked with new members wherever they were at in their journey.

"We meet people at their level and encourage them to make some changes on their properties and the way that they do their grazing management," Ms Cavanagh said.

Support is also available through the NSW Farm Innovation Fund, which can provide money to fence off paddocks, wildlife corridors and riverbanks for regeneration, or to works to control erosion and soil degradation.

Vale Bill Berry

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Popova 1920

ACTU – Fels report falls short on worker protections

7 March 2019

The peak body for working people has expressed disappointment with the key recommendations of a Morrison Government report into migrant worker exploitation as materially inadequate.

The report from the Migrant Worker Taskforce chaired by Alan Fels recommends a “light touch” regulatory approach to the labour hire industry.

The labour hire recommendations are restricted to a small number of industries and will fail to prevent the use of labour hire companies to drive down wages and conditions.

The report fails to acknowledge the critical role of unions in the enforcement of employment standards. The Morrison Government’s constant attack on union and workers’ rights allows those employers who want to rip off workers, including migrant workers to act with impunity.

If the Morrison Government was serious about enforcement they would not be trying to change the laws to make it harder for workers to get access to union representation in the workplace.  

The taskforce was established shortly after the election of the Turnbull Government in 2016 and has spent the best part of three years reaching its findings.

Dave Rovics on Venezuela

From Singer Songwriter Dave Rovics

Let's just back up in Venezuela to what we know for sure, to recent history. In the years following the election of Hugo Chavez, millions of people were brought out of poverty, millions of people got medical care who hadn't had it before, schools and hospitals and farmer collectives opened up all over the country, and Venezuela became a beacon for socialism and democracy for many people around the world, including within the United States.

Venezuela's Bank of the South liberated many countries from the intentionally destructive strings attached to IMF loans. Millions of people in many other countries benefited from the generosity of the Bolivarian Revolution's internationalist programs, including people struggling to pay their heating bills in cities like Boston and Chicago.

So why is it that they don't talk about the Venezuelan opposition attempting to launch another in a series of other attempted coups?

Why don't they talk about the crash in the price of oil that so affected this still largely oil-based economy?

Why don't they talk about how free and fair the UN and the Carter Center said all the elections were?
Why don't they focus on the massive differences between Venezuela and Cuba, such as the very active rightwing media in Venezuela that the government there allows to exist, in the name of pluralism?

Why do they only talk about the similarities between these two countries? Why don't they mention that most of those tens of thousands of Cubans in Venezuela their rightwing guests keep ranting about are doctors and nurses?

Why don't they talk about the billions of dollars in assets that have been seized and are being withheld by the US, the UK, and other states? Why do they only go on and on about how Venezuela's problems are supposedly all to do with Maduro's corruption?

Why don't they ever interview the many experts from the UN and other organizations who have a completely different version of reality from the one being presented on Newshour or in the pages of the New York Times?

It's not a cut-and-dried, simple answer. But with regards to the many journalists and politicians who are otherwise well-meaning but are currently falling in line behind US imperialism once again and acting like they have lost any capacity for critical thought, it is their ignorance of history that allows them to be used thus.

Because if we're not sure of all the sources of information or of the root causes for everything that is happening in a given instance, if we know how things went before, we have some solid basis for interpreting what is going on now.

For example, in another South American country when another popular socialist was elected in a landslide and started lifting millions of his country's people out of poverty through his extremely popular socialist policies,

Here's what happened: the US government, through the CIA and other agencies, organized a massive campaign to destabilize Chilean society and destroy the Chilean economy, while cultivating a CIA-trained general within the Chilean military to seize power in a violent coup, which resulted in a military dictatorship that lasted decades and led to untold thousands being tortured and killed by sadistic, US-trained Chilean soldiers and government agents.

The CIA-led coup in Guatemala in 1954 led to decades of a genocidal, fascist dictatorship and hundreds of thousands tortured and killed, all with active, constant US support.

There are 35 countries in the Americas from Canada to Argentina, and the United States has invaded every single one of them, often multiple times.

The corruption and poverty in Haiti is a direct consequence of centuries of US and French interventionism, which began immediately after the Haitian Revolution, during which the entire country was destroyed and a third of the population was killed.

You cannot find a country in the Americas that doesn't have a history of the US, France, the UK, and other colonial powers siding with dictators against popular movements and the governments that sometimes come to power as a result of such movements in places like Guatemala, Chile, Haiti, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

Friday, March 08, 2019

MUA – International support for campaign to save jobs of Australian seafarers sacked by BHP

Canadian union leader pledges international support for campaign to save jobs of Australian seafarers sacked by BHP / BlueScope

Posted by Mua communications on March 07, 2019

The President of the Seafarers International Union of Canada this morning met with seafarers in Port Kembla to pledge international support for their campaign to save the Australian shipping industry.

SIU President Jim Given, who also chairs the International Transport Workers’ Federation cabotage taskforce, announced that the federation was planning a global day of action to support the 80 seafarers who lost their jobs when BHP and BlueScope axed the last Australian-crewed iron ore vessels in January.

Mr Given said union members around the world would take part in a series of actions to pressure the miner and steel producer over their treatment of Australian seafarers.

  • “The whole of the global union federation is watching Australia right now,” Mr Given said.
  • “Your country is at a crossroads, with a government that seems intent to see what remains of your domestic shipping industry killed off and replaced by exploited foreign labour.
  • “The upcoming election is a referendum on the future of Australian shipping after the Opposition Labor Party announced a series of welcome policies to create a strategic fleet of Australian-crewed vessels along with strengthening of coastal shipping regulation.
  • “Canada was at a very similar crossroads not so long ago, but thanks to the campaigning of workers we have seen the introduction of strong coastal shipping laws that have revitalised our industry.”

Mr Given said Canada had put in place a tough system that mandates that ships operating in Canadian waters must use Canadian or permanent resident workers and can only use foreign workers when Canadians are unavailable.

  • “Those regulations not only help promote continued investments in the Canadian fleet of vessels and Canadian seafarers, they also ensure the timely and safe transportation of Canadian cargoes,” he said.
  • “The law protects our economy and our environment by ensuring we have the best-trained, most-qualified sailors navigating Canada’s waterways.”

Mr Given said he was in Australia as part of the ITF cabotage taskforce to examine failings in the nation’s legislative and regulatory frameworks.

  • “Cabotage refers to the transportation goods or people between two points in the same country,” he said.
  • “The absence of enforced cabotage laws in Australia has meant that rather than invest in Australian vessels crewed with local workers, shipping companies have turned to foreign ships known for exploiting low-wage labour.
  • “The fight to save the jobs of these seafarers sacked by BHP and BlueScope is part of a much bigger fight to restore Australia’s shipping industry by guaranteeing local workers paid a decent wage carry out this vital coastal shipping trade.”

Thursday, March 07, 2019

ACOSS – Energy Efficiency Not New Coal

ACOSS calls on the Federal Government to reject calls for building new coal-fired power stations, which are expensive and contribute to dangerous climate change, and to instead invest in energy efficiency.

ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “Calls by National MPs to build new coal-fired power stations, which investors repeatedly say are more expensive to build than wind and solar, are absolutely the wrong solution and must be immediately rejected. 

  • “It’s crucial we find ways to achieve a faster transition to clean energy. Government investment in energy efficiency and solar will reduce both carbon emissions and bills for people on low incomes.
  • “Research by ACOSS and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, shows that investment in energy efficiency and solar is one of the best ways to cut energy bills.
  •  “A $5,000 investment by government in energy efficiency for houses would save up to $929 per year in electricity bills, and a mandatory energy efficiency standard on rental properties could provide greater savings, up to $1,139 per year.
  •  “Governments also need to improve people’s capacity to pay their bills. Lowest income households spend, on average, 6.4% of their income on energy bills compared to highest income, spending 1.4%, on average. 
  •  “Mandating minimum standards on rental properties and providing the right financial incentive for landlords to comply, together with lifting incomes for people, through raising Newstart and improving energy concessions, would make the big difference to people on low-incomes struggling to cool their home in summer and feed their family,” Dr Goldie said.

ACOSS Climate Change and Energy Adviser, Kellie Caught said: 

  • “This summer’s extreme weather events like the floods in Queensland, fires in Victoria and Western Australia, which have been made worse by climate change, have destroyed people’s homes and impacted livelihoods and health, especially for people experiencing poverty and disadvantage.
  • “There is no room for ignoring the science when it comes to protecting people’s lives and livelihoods, we must rapidly shift away from fossil fuels like coal to clean energy sources. People on low-incomes must be supported.” 

Media contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

ACTU – Are you feeling the pinch of rising cost of living

Are you feeling the pinch of rising cost of living, with wages & pensions that just don’t keep up?

You are not alone.

Today we’ve released a report showing Australians are experiencing the largest fall in living standards in 30 years.

Can you help us launch our plan to tackle inequality by sharing this article on Facebook?

The report shows that the number of Australian billionaires has quadrupled over the past decade and Australian CEOs were paid more in the first five days of 2018 than an average worker earned the entire year.

The evidence of rising inequality is undeniable, yet the Morrison Government continue to deny it is even a problem.

Can you take action by sharing this with your friends and family?

If we don’t change course, Australia will go further down the road of entrenching Americanised working conditions: where dead-end jobs, long working hours, no holidays, zero job security and poverty pay levels become the norm.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Our plan to tackle inequality and raise the living standards of all Australians includes:

  • Restoring balance to workplace negotiations.
  • Investing in schools & hospitals
  • Raising Newstart
  • Creating secure jobs that people can count on
  • Curbing excessive corporate power
  • Ensuring big business & the very rich pay their fair share of tax

Australian Unions Team

International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on the 8th of March and is a day to reflect on how far we have come and how far we still have to go to truly achieve gender equality.

UN Women’s global theme for IWD 2019 is ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’, linking with the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s focus on social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure.

In Australia, for IWD 2019, UN Women NC Australia is joining forces with Chief Executive Women and Male Champions of Change – the two preeminent organisations focused on women in leadership and gender equality in business – to showcase our best event series yet, from 5-8 March, focused on our national theme, ‘More Powerful Together’.

Australia’s IWD 2019 theme, More Powerful Together, recognises the important role we all play – as women, men, non-binary and gender diverse people. It takes all of us, working in collaboration and across that which sometimes divides us, breaking down stereotypes and gendered roles to create a world where women and girls everywhere have equal rights and opportunities.

By attending our International Women’s Day events and making a donation, you will support UN Women’s work to transform the lives of women and girls around the world, for the better.