Desalination plant bill will take decades to pay off


Governments no doubt love how they can make taxpayers foot the bill for their own mistakes

Back in 2007, under the influence of people like Tim Flannery who implied that the dams may never fill again, the then Victorian Labor government commissioned the southern hemisphere’s largest desalination plant at Wonthaggi in the state’s south-east.

In reality, Victoria was in the middle of one of Australia’s regular droughts, which broke in 2010 as it always does. Since it opened in 2012, the desalination plant has been unused.

While this was one of many desalination plants built around the country (see the results here and here), this one was particularly notorious for its $6 billion construction cost, obscenely generous working conditions and alleged involvement of undesirable elements. If the construction costs weren’t bad enough, the repayment terms negotiated by the government amounted to $18 billion over the 27 years to 2039 – and that is without ordering any water. Yes, if you actually want any water it costs extra.

Today’s Herald Sun reports that Melbourne Water has proposed that repayments now be spread over 60 years rather than 27 years, to allow household water bills to be reduced by a total of $100 over the next five years. This proposal sounds suspiciously like toll road operator Transurban’s plan to build some roads and tunnels in Melbourne’s west in exchange for extending tolls on its flagship CityLink project from 2035 to 2050.

Forcing our grandchildren and great grandchildren to pay, so that water bills can be cut in the lead-up to the 2018 state election is a shocking idea. This proposal should be rejected, and taxpayers in other states alert to any similar proposals in the future.


BMW ad banned for encouraging dangerous driving

Following complaints from just three viewers, this BMW television ad was banned in the United Kingdom, for supposedly encouraging “irresponsible and potentially dangerous driving.” Take a look:

This looks less like a dangerous ad, and more like an advertising standards bureau that doesn’t have enough work to do.


Climate change credibility under question


The New York Times has published a report claiming that the Chinese government has been sprung understating its national coal consumption, and noting that this could “complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming.”

This is putting it mildly. The whole of the UN’s approach to climate change depends on countries being “honest” about carbon dioxide emissions and targets. That China’s figures are already being questioned should be particularly embarrassing for environmentalists, given how they have consistently praised China for its Paris targets (even though China is actually increasing emissions by 150 per cent, which alarmists spin as reducing “emissions intensity“).

Interestingly, despite a largely compliant media, scientific and political community, campaigners have been unable to keep a lid on a number of inconvenient truths over the last month.

In mid-October, the prominent Sierra Club found itself unable to explain the 18 year pause in global temperature increases and the Indian village of Dharnai’s failed flirtation with a localized energy grid revealed the emptiness of green propaganda.

Only three days after I highlighted the potential for future power blackouts due to its increasing reliance on windfarms and a single interconnector with Victoria, South Australia suffered a blackout due to an unexplained interconnector failure. Incredibly, the ABC found another culprit for the problem (check the story’s first line…).

In France, a popular weatherman has been sacked for questioning climate change, and in the UK, as warned in FreedomWatch in July, the National Grid has for the first time used new emergency measures to pay businesses to reduce electricity consumption. Britain’s wind farms were generating only 0.5 per cent of the nation’s power or barely 3 per cent of their installed capacity.

With the science increasingly contested and renewables-rich power networks already under strain, environmentalists will be desperately hoping the New York Times story does not get legs.


High Court finds procedural fairness denied

Interesting case decided in the High Court this week:

Judges unanimously found the man, referred to only as WZARH, who arrived at Christmas Island in 2010, presented his case for refugee protection to an independent reviewer.

But his case was taken over by a second reviewer who rejected the claim after considering the transcript and audio recording of the first interview and without conducting a second interview.

The judges ruled that procedural fairness required that the man be informed the review process had changed, allowing him to be heard on how it should proceed.

See the summary, and the Court’s full judgment here.


“So no one else had to read what I had to”

Check out this bizarre video posted on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Youtube channel:

In case you missed, here’s a screenshot of the best (worst) part, where the offended narrator touts the power of the AHRC to demand website remove content “so no-one else had to read” what they had to:


Taxpayers have no business funding an organisation touting its ability to restrict our liberties”just like that”. It should be abolished.


New gambling tax thought bubble would hurt more than help


A common complaint about gambling taxation levied by the states and territories is that by virtue of receiving over $5 billion per annum from these taxes, governments become addicted to gambling itself.

But with the federal government itself crippled by a persistent overspending problem, it was only a matter of time before someone in Canberra would float thought bubbles to take their slice of the gambling revenue pie.

And so it is with news Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie is suggesting a new federal gambling tax:

The guts of the proposal would see a uniform tax applied to the gaming industry, with revenue to be distributed across the states that currently regulate the industry. Some revenue would be reserved for regional development projects and for harm minimisation programs.

Based on the reporting, and a reading of her submission to the Tax Review in June this year, the proposal for additional taxes on gamblers seems predicated on a desire to quell online gaming – particularly the sports betting market – presently accessed by Australians.

Regardless of whether the betting games are being played in a hotel or a casino, or on somebody’s smartphone, the fact is that taxes on gambling tend to be regressive in their incidence.

When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull mentions that “fairness” ought to be a criterion when judging the efficacy of policy change, it becomes entirely appropriate to ask if a proposed new federal gambling tax is at all reasonable.

Senator McKenzie might decry the lack of a “national approach” to the gambling issues that concern her, but intimating that federal intervention in this area will come without cost remains very much an open question.


Melbourne school bemoans the need for students to learn facts and be competitive


In a Victorian first, Preshil school is set to phase out the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and replace it with the International Baccalaureate. Principal Marilyn Smith explained that the decision to scrap the VCE was due to “it’s narrow focus on competition” and a need for learning that didn’t revolve around “just learning conventional facts”.

The decision follows in the steps of a growing progressive Left trend to erase competition from all walks of life and create a magical utopia where everyone is a success story simply because they exist. This ideology also manifests itself in some junior sports where scores are no longer kept, or in the most utterly insane cases, where teams that lose by more than 5 goals are declared the winner!

It’s nice to think that, after millennia of striving for a better life, free of war, poverty, hard labour and disease, we can simply down our tools and finally bask in the warm and fuzzy glow of life. A life where we can all just stop competing, be nice to one another, and where nobody ever has to feel sad or disappointed ever again. Oh, and we can stop worrying about learning those pesky “conventional facts”.

Back in the real world, however, we see that it is in fact a desire for a better life that motivates us to compete and constantly better our past efforts. Nowhere is this more evident than in the continual growth of free and competitive markets around the world, lifting people out of poverty on an unprecedented scale. Rather than holding us back from from a better life, competition is delivering us to it.


No, India still wants coal


Despite Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) claims in today’s Australian, India is not seeking to “get away from its reliance on fossil fuels.”

In fact, the best part of the ACF’s opinion piece was its reference to the IPA’s June paper which found that increasing Australian coal exports to India would allow at least 82 million extra people each year to access a safe and reliable supply of electricity.

India’s power capacity has quadrupled over the past twenty five years and is expected to more than triple again over the next fifteen as it tries to get over 300 million people on to the electricity grid. This massive increase in electricity demand and plans for India to become a manufacturing powerhouse is not going to be met by localised renewables.

While India aims to have 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity (note that this is capacity, not output) by the early 2020s, the International Energy Agency has found that India will also build an additional 342 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity capacity by 2040, and become the world’s second largest coal-fired power producer behind China.

Yes, more than 2,000 people died in this year’s tragic heatwave, but less people would have died if they had access to air conditioning, refrigerated medicines and better quality housing.

Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg’s recent comments on coal appear to have put the environmental movement into a state of shock, derailing its plans for a crescendo of one-way propaganda in the lead-up to the Paris climate change talks.

If the Indian market had no interest in Australian coal, then Indian companies wouldn’t be coming to Australia to develop mines – and environmentalists wouldn’t be so desperate to lock them out. The solutions to energy poverty are complex but are not advanced by unilaterally banning electricity from selected sources.


Ban first, ask questions later


Earlier this year, Australia’s medicines and medical devices regulator published a 134-word introduction to e-cigarettes on its website:

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigs, are devices for making mists for inhalation, that usually simulate the act of cigarette smoking. Electronic cigarettes are sometimes marketed as an option to help people quit smoking, or as a tobacco replacement.

Unlike Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products, which have been rigorously assessed for efficacy and safety and, therefore, approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use as aids in withdrawal from smoking, no assessment of electronic cigarettes has been undertaken and, therefore, the quality and safety of electronic cigarettes is not known.

The Australian Government is concerned about the use of electronic cigarettes in Australia. The impact of wide scale use of these devices on tobacco use is not known, and the outcome in the community could be harmful.

The claim that “no assessment of electronic cigarettes has been undertaken and, therefore, the quality and safety of electronic cigarettes is not known” is simply false. There have been hundreds of studies testing the quality and safety of e-cigarettes. Any search in a medical journal database yields countless results. Some people have even helpfully summarised and provided links to the various studies, and published them online (like this one covering the hundreds of studies published in 2014 and 2015.)

The more fundamental issue is the assumption – “The impact of wide scale use of these devices on tobacco use is not known, and the outcome in the community could be harmful.” Obviously that’s true. But the wide scale use of e-cigs could also be massively beneficial.

And in fact that’s precisely what’s borne out in the research. Overwhelmingly, the evidence points towards very significant health benefits, particularly to current smokers.

The TGA’s guiding philosophy is one of banning first, and asking questions later. And as we’ve discovered recently sometimes they don’t even bother asking the questions:

British and American Tobacco has launched legal action against the Therapeutic Goods Administration claiming that the health authority did not even consider an application to have its Voke nicotine inhaler listed, much like other nicotine products that could help smokers quit the habit.

BAT’s nicotine product arm, Nicovations, has filed a claim in the Federal Court claiming that the TGA erred by not even reviewing­ the application, with Britain’s Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency recently allowing the product to be licensed like other nicotine-quitting products.


Enrol now or else!


Alex Greenwich MP

Almost every parent will at some stage applied the “if you don’t do a) you won’t get b)” formula with their children. Most parents also realise that, at some point, they need to stop the “if you don’t tidy your room you can’t watch TV” or “if you don’t eat your vegetables you won’t get dessert” routines and trust that, as their children reach adulthood, they can work out for themselves whether they want tidy rooms or vegetables.

However, at the same stage in young people’s lives that parents are moving away from using the formula, the independent member for Sydney in the NSW parliament, Alex Greenwich, wants the government to spring into action and adopt it.

At a recent meeting organised by the pop culture website Junkee, Greenwich suggested applying the formula to enrolling to vote. Under Greenwich’s plan, young adults would not be allowed to get a driver’s licence, or proof of age card, unless they have done the political equivalent of tidying their rooms and eating their vegies, by proving that they are on the electoral role.

Paradoxically, Greenwich is a supporter of lowering the voting age to 16, believing that young people have the maturity to vote, but then he wants to infantilise them, by saying that they need to be forced onto the roll.

Greenwich has suggested that one reason why young people were reluctant to enrol was fear of getting fined if they failed to vote. Of course, the obvious solution to this problem would be to make voting voluntary. However, politicians like Greenwich never err on the side of people making their own decisions when the opportunity to dream up a more coercive solution is available.