Nuclear should be part of the energy mix

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The Herald Sun is this morning speculating that the federal government’s proposed appointment of Monash University Chancellor Alan Finkel as Australia’s new Chief Scientist may signal a renewed interest in nuclear power.

While the appointment is yet to be confirmed, and there is no evidence that if Dr Finkel is appointed it will be due to his views on nuclear power, it does serve to highlight that there is another potential source of baseload power for the National Electricity Market that isn’t coal, gas or renewables.

Here is a link to an article that Dr Finkel wrote for Monash in 2013 which explains how nuclear is an important part of the European energy mix.

The USA’s Nuclear Energy Institute points out that 30 countries currently operate nuclear power plants and that nuclear is responsible for over 10 per cent of the world’s electricity, and South Australia is currently running a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission to examine its potential to participate in nuclear mining, processing, electricity and disposal.

A sensible approach to baseload power in Australia would be for each state to play to its strengths – meaning Queensland and NSW go with black coal, Victoria brown coal, Tasmania hydro-electric power and South Australia nuclear power.

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Queensland lockout laws will not be supported by crossbench MPs

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Great news out of Queensland, as crossbench MPs have revealed they will not support state government plans to introduce lockout laws:

Labor is due to introduce its statewide lockout laws — including a ban on shots and high-alcohol drinks after midnight followed by a 1am lockout and a ban on the sale of alcohol in clubs and pubs after 3am — before the end of the year.

But the Katter’s Australian Party has revealed it will not support the laws when they come to a vote.

They have secured the backing of fellow crossbencher Billy Gordon who told The Sunday Mail he would not vote for the policy in its current form.

Their decision means the Government will not have the numbers on the floor of the hung Parliament to get its changes across the line.

Lockout proposals are borne from ‘a moral panic that has no empirical foundation whatsoever‘, and punishes the many for the sins of the few. It’s great to see Queensland will not go ahead with this.

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Call for ICAC commissioner to stand aside

Serious questions about the conduct of the ICAC commissioner have led to calls for her to stand aside ($):

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has been urged to stand aside its commissioner, Megan Latham, pending an investigation into possible ­corruption and criminality inside the agency.

One of the key members of ICAC’s parliamentary oversight committee has called for an ­acting commissioner to oversee a corruption inquiry to determine which ICAC officer leaked prosecutor Margaret Cunneen’s ­private text messages to her boss. This comes as the corruption watchdog was strongly criticised by its former chief investigator, Clive Small, who raised the prospect of government intervention, and the former commonwealth solicitor-general David Bennett QC who said Ms Latham’s performance as commissioner had been “irrational” and seemingly motivated by “malice”.

“There has to be an investigation,” said Trevor Khan, a ­Nationals member of the Legislative Council who sits on ICAC’s oversight committee. “If it is by ICAC it would require somebody to act as commissioner other than the existing commissioner. It needs to be somebody independent. The problem in a matter such as this is you just don’t know where responsibility lies. If it is somebody senior in the organisation it would always be open to concern that, if it were the current commissioner undertaking the investigation, she would be seen as too close to those involved in any improper conduct.”

The call for Ms Latham to stand aside has been triggered by exclusive reports in The Australian that ICAC caused a feud between Ms Cunneen and her boss, Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb SC, by giving him text messages in which Ms Cunneen was critical of his performance in court.

Read more at The Australian ($).

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Cutting off someone else’s legs to make you look taller

Bjorn Lomborg’s excellent piece in yesterday’s Australian highlights the flawed economics of solar and wind power.

It also complements a recent Bloomberg article about how the increasing footprint of wind and solar in energy markets is eating into the economics of existing fossil fuel plants. It’s a great read – not so much for its apparent endorsement of crony capitalism as for its clear illustration of how government subsidized and mandated renewable energy policies are actively seeking to make commercial fossil fuel power stations uneconomic, so that renewables can compete.

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While this article doesn’t talk directly about Australia, the recently announced closure of Alinta Energy’s South Australian operations is an example of this in practice and its intended outcome here.

Fossil fuel power stations are the backbone of world electricity networks. As referenced in the article, coal, oil and gas are typically able to generate electricity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, (and for 40-50 years according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) needing only occasional down time for maintenance. This usually equates to about 80-90% of their capacity.

Solar power stations however typically deliver 20% of their capacity (night, clouds and winter are a problem) and wind 33% (no wind or too much wind is a problem). According to the IEA, wind and solar power stations also typically have half the plant life of fossil fuel plants. What is also never included in the comparative economic cost of wind and solar is that a fossil plant usually has to be on standby somewhere to generate power in calm or non-sunny conditions.

If fossil fuel power stations were being displaced by better fuels, technology or processes, it would be creative destruction and a normal part of capitalism. However this is using the financial power of government to cripple commercial products and replace them with less productive alternatives, which we will all pay for in the long run.

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Top 3 articles from this week you must read

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Bret Stephens

1) In the Spring edition of the City Journal, Steven Malanga documents who is really behind the “grassroots” environmental movement in California

2) On Monday, the Scientific American published a fascinating account of a failed Greenpeace renewable energy experiment in India, and how coal really does trump solar

3) Also on Monday, in an excellent Wall Street Journal article, Bret Stephens called on Europe to remember its Judeo-Christian inheritance.

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Email: Support for freedom of speech continues to grow

While the prime minister has kicked it “into the long grass“, support within the Coalition for freedom of speech continues to grow.

There are now 13 senators who are public in their support of changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. (See the full list on FreedomWatch here).

Last week, Senator Zed Seselja was the latest to join the call for free speech, with this 11 minute speech in the Senate. It is a must watch.

This week, Prime Minister Turnbull rejected the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to freedom of speech (which the IPA’s Simon Breheny suggested they take up last week) saying “the government has no plans to change the Racial Discrimination Act at all”.

Continue Reading →

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Powerful labour monopolies must be broken

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Today’s Australian Financial Review editorial on the Fair Work Commission and superannuation governance is a very powerful endorsement of the need to reform the insular and uncompetitive industrial relations club.

All organisations are vulnerable to corruption, no matter what the rules. But the Labor-union nexus is prone to it because of its governance, even though most people who enter its ranks do so with the best of intentions.

At the heart of this are the industrial relations laws that grant unions monopoly rights over the supply of labour, in particular industries or trades.

These monopoly rights, sometimes backed by the threat of violence, remove the accountability of competition to represent the interests of employees.

Instead, control of the labour monopolies is politicised and merged into the political wing of the labour movement, producing a system based on power and patronage.

This system must be changed.

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LISTEN: Chris Berg talks food trucks on 3AW

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Anybody who has been to a major American city in the last decade will have been impressed by the large number of food trucks dotting their sidewalks.

Earlier this morning I was interviewed by Neil Mitchell on 3AW to explain why we don’t see similar offerings in Melbourne. The answer, unsurprisingly, is the arcane regulatory hoops and rent-seeking prohibitions that keep food trucks mostly off our streets. Councils have limited the number of trucks allowed in their suburbs to protect existing restaurants from competition.

During the course of the interview, a number of food truck operators called in with their experiences about how hard it is to operate across Victoria, and how the permit system is holding back food diversity and choice.

You can listen to the interview here. And I wrote about food trucks in the Sunday Age back in 2013.

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The problems with a sugar tax

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Professor Chaloupka

Taxpayers in Western Australia have copped a double whammy from the visit to Perth of University of Illinois at Chicago professor Frank Chaloupka.

Firstly, their state’s Health Department has helped fund Chaloupka’s trip. Secondly, Chaloupka wants to increase their taxes, specifically to introduce a sugar tax.

As Healthway’s 2015 Visiting Fellow, Chaloupka is busily addressing conferences and talking directly to government and health officials. It should be noted that Chaloupka is not a professor in any health related field, but rather a professor of economics, hence his focus on taxation. He is pushing a sugar tax claiming that children and low-income groups needed to be discouraged from consuming a major driver of obesity.

However, there are significant problems with a sugar tax. If targeted at low-income groups, it is a highly regressive from of taxation which may produce perverse health outcomes. It will also be the thin end of the wedge for, if we get a sugar tax, there will surely then be calls for a salt tax, a general junk food tax and even a red meat tax.

The push for a sugar tax is certainly not unique to Australia. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver recently addressed a Health Select Committee at Westminster. As well as arguing for a whole suite of advertising restrictions, he wanted a sugar tax imposed for at least three years.

Of course, the likes of Chaloupka and Oliver never argue for restrictions on what they eat themselves or what can be cooked in high class restaurants, only on what others can consume. And it is no coincidence that so-called ‘public health’ advocates link children and low income people in their demands, because they seem to want to infantilise all of society.

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Government hoists the white flag on academic freedom

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Yesterday, the federal government surrendered to the hysterical demands of the vocal minority to Bjørn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre.

Sarah Martin reported in The Australian today: 

The Institute of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank, accused the government of “hoisting the white flag” on academic freedom.

… IPA executive director John Roskam said the move was “terribly disappointing”.

“I think it is a victory for censorship. I think it is a victory for closed minds,” [Roskam] said. “It is a terribly disappointing day for Australian universities and for academic freedom.”

Read the full article here.

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