Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lundy's Opt-out Option for Internet Filter

Hope this story about a possible opt-out option for Conroy's internet filter is accurate and has some legs:

A SPLIT has emerged in Labor ranks over Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's filter plan to limit internet porn after a backbencher confirmed she would seek to amend the legislation.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy plans to propose a filter “opt out” when the legislation goes before caucus.
Labor split as Kate Lundy proposes 'opt out' to Conroy ISP filter (The Australian, 24 FEb 2010)
I'm pessimistic as Senator Conroy has shown little interest in finding a consensus on this issue.

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Garrett Not Only One Who is Accountable to Voters

While Peter Garrett is under siege over insulationgate, we can only hope that those who are baying for blood will remember their concerns next time that Occupational Health & Safety on the political agenda.

The level of noise in parliament seems to be drowning out the blocking of the Youth Allowance and the Medicare Rebate bills. Nick Xenophon’s lame defence of his no-vote on the latter, yesterday on ABC Breakfast, was appalling. Seems that the conservatives will staunchly defend upper-middle-class welfare to the end.

The Senate is being used to disrupt effective government. At the same time Abbott continues to chant his spin that Rudd is a do-nothing PM. He can't have it both ways. If Labor had done nothing about the GFC then we'd have no problems with the insulation scheme.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Age: Sloppy, Sexist Journalism

The sub-editors at Fairfax can't be accused of being politically correct or factually correct for that matter.

This morning's story was headed, Senate to quiz Garrett's men:

Officials from Peter Garrett's department will be questioned at a Senate hearing today on the Environment Minister's response to a report warning of safety problems with the $2.45 billion insulation rebate.
The truth, had the newspaper bothered to find out, was that the lead witness was the head of the Environment Department, Department secretary Robyn Kruk:
The public servant in charge of Peter Garrett's Environment Department has apologised for the deaths of installers working under the Federal Government's scrapped home insulation scheme.

Department secretary Robyn Kruk was appearing at a Senate inquiry in Canberra as Environment Minister Mr Garrett prepared for another grilling over the insulation scheme fiasco in Question Time today.
Department head says sorry for insulation deaths
After 11 years without paper deliveries, I'm glad that The St.Kilda Football Club has a Friday-to-Monday Age subscription for $1.00 per week. This kind of sloppy, sexist journalism isn't worth full price.

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Vindaloo Against Violence Goes Viral

Cross post from Global Voices:

Migrants are always praised for broadening the food we eat. The multicultural cuisine cliché is being put to good use this Wednesday 24 February. This follows the furore caused by violence against Indians living in Australia. Better community relations are being promoted through our restaurants.
Australia: Vindaloo Against Violence Goes Viral

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Academy Awards Contenders: The Hurt Locker and Crazy Heart

A couple of reviews of Oscar contenders doing the rounds at present:

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is a well crafted film, with a tight, engrossing script by Mark Boal. It is visually appealing if that term can be used to describe Baghdad’s urban battleground. It tells the story of a US army bomb disposal team in Iraq in 2004.
It’s hard not to have problems with subject matter that is not only very confronting but whose multiple layers will appeal to diverse audiences. The horror and inhumanity of war may well be lost on those looking for an action adventure. You have to wonder whether this is an intentional marketing tool. The official website talks about “the military’s unrecognised heroes”.


Writer/director Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart is the country music version of The Wrestler. A has-been loner struggles to regain career, love and self-respect. While alcohol runs his life, singing legend Bad Blake’s life consists of a downward spiral of one-night stands of both varieties. Bowling alleys, bars and baby-boomer groupies.

After four previous nominations, Jeff Bridges might pull off the Best Actor Oscar that eluded Mickey Rourke last year. He was robbed, of course. Bridges’ gravely voice and roadmap face are tailor-made for his role. He oozes authenticity from start to finish or perhaps it’s just sweat. If it’s not the Academy Award makeup, then Jeff should take the cure immediately.


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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Climate Change: Read the Science

From Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with thanks to Clarencegirl at North Coast Voices for her link:

Richard Somerville, a distinguished professor emeritus and research professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, issued the following statement in response to a recent request to address claims recently made by climate change denialists:

1. The essential findings of mainstream climate change science are firm. This is solid settled science. The world is warming. There are many kinds of evidence: air temperatures, ocean temperatures, melting ice, rising sea levels, and much more. Human activities are the main cause. The warming is not natural. It is not due to the sun, for example. We know this because we can measure the effect of man-made carbon dioxide and it is much stronger than that of the sun, which we also measure.

2. The greenhouse effect is well understood. It is as real as gravity. The foundations of the science are more than 150 years old. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat. We know carbon dioxide is increasing because we measure it. We know the increase is due to human activities like burning fossil fuels because we can analyze the chemical evidence for that.

3. Our climate predictions are coming true. Many observed climate changes, like rising sea level, are occurring at the high end of the predicted changes. Some changes, like melting sea ice, are happening faster than the anticipated worst case. Unless mankind takes strong steps to halt and reverse the rapid global increase of fossil fuel use and the other activities that cause climate change, and does so in a very few years, severe climate change is inevitable. Urgent action is needed if global warming is to be limited to moderate levels.

4. The standard skeptical arguments have been refuted many times over. The refutations are on many web sites and in many books. For example, natural climate change like ice ages is irrelevant to the current warming. We know why ice ages come and go. That is due to changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun, changes that take thousands of years. The warming that is occurring now, over just a few decades, cannot possibly be caused by such slow-acting processes. But it can be caused by man-made changes in the greenhouse effect.

5. Science has its own high standards. It does not work by unqualified people making claims on television or the Internet. It works by scientists doing research and publishing it in carefully reviewed research journals. Other scientists examine the research and repeat it and extend it. Valid results are confirmed, and wrong ones are exposed and abandoned. Science is self-correcting. People who are not experts, who are not trained and experienced in this field, who do not do research and publish it following standard scientific practice, are not doing science. When they claim that they are the real experts, they are just plain wrong.

6. The leading scientific organizations of the world, like national academies of science and professional scientific societies, have carefully examined the results of climate science and endorsed these results. It is silly to imagine that thousands of climate scientists worldwide are engaged in a massive conspiracy to fool everybody. The first thing that the world needs to do if it is going to confront the challenge of climate change wisely is to learn about what science has discovered and accept it.

A Response to Climate Change Denialism

Time to rekindle the debate. Send the SIO link to any doubters you know.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Burqa Strains Multicultural Australia

A cross post from Global Voices:

Since the proposed bans on the wearing of the burqa in France, the issue has been simmering in the Australian blogosphere. An Australian radio shock-jock, and ex-police officer, drew criticism recently over his opposition to the wearing of the burqa in public.

Michael Smith argued that bank staff and shop assistants are concerned with possible criminal misuse. He also suggested that young children are frightened by encounters with women wearing the “full-on burqa”, comparing it to “kids crying, getting the fright of their lives when seeing Santa Claus”.
Burqa Strains Multicultural Australia

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Tony Abbott's Plans: Ahead to the Past

We are getting a clearer picture of Opposition policies under Tony Abbott. It's full steam ahead to the past, circa 2004 to 2007:

Work Choices Light
Global Warming Slack
Hospital Boards Slight
Medibank Private Fire Sale
Refugee Reject
The attacks on Kevin Rudd are cleverly crafted but contradiction ridden:
  • The government does nothing (but it does it too quickly and it's too grand).
  • The deficit is too high (but revenue raising Bills are routinely blocked in the Senate)
  • The stimulus spending is trivial and ineffective (but local Liberals will take credit for new classrooms in their electorates)
  • The PM gives long, complex answers (when simpleton solutions make better sound-bites).
Will we see a triumph of cliché over substance in this year's election? Populism over policy?

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Altona By-election Swing No Surprise

Serious followers of Victorian politics should not have been surprised by the double figure (12% with over 80% of the enrolled voters counted) swing against the Brumby Labor government in yesterday's Altona By-election.

The Liberal Opposition leader, Ted Baillieu, has worked the issues and the media with uncharacteristic energy and finesse over the summer (Vic Opposition Take a Summer Break from Their Lethargy). The outgoing member Lynne Kosky was seen as incompetent at best and her transport portfolio has been imploding for some time. The controversy surrounding violence against Indians (Australia: Indian Homicide Reignites Racism Ruckus) underlined law and order issues that are the daily headlines of the daily papers and TV news.

To top it off Federal Labor had its worst week in recent memory.

More in-depth analysis of the result and reactions to it later in the week.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Malcolm Turnbull Spells Out the Climate Challenge

A cross post from Global Voices: Australia: Climate Change Election a Step Closer

Even before the Copenhagen Climate Change conference the Australian Opposition parties had dumped their support for a Cap and Trade scheme and their leader Malcolm Turnbull. Last week new Liberal party leader and global warming sceptic Tony Abbott released an alternative carbon emissions plan.

Meanwhile Kevin Rudd’s government has reintroduced its Emissions Trading Scheme to the House of Representatives where Turnbull crossed the floor to vote against his own party. Last year the ETS was blocked twice by the Senate after the Opposition dumped a negotiated deal.
Turnbull's full speech to parliament is a must read. There's a link in the GV post.

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A Little Bit of Climate Science

Another report that is bound to get the hackles up of the climate sceptics and deniers: 'Climate Change Update 2009' from the Research Service of the Victorian Parliamentary Library.

It was produced in December so it's bound to have some flaws. Given the weight of evidence, it certainly is a massive conspiracy by scientists to bring about dictatorial world government.

Their thoughts:

One of the key notions to emerge in the science this year has been the understanding that, far from being an event that can be transformed in one or two generations, climate change is a process of centuries duration. The implications of this understanding for the development of policy are immense.
Climate change update 2009
For the dedicated sceptic, it must be an onerous task sifting through the very extensive list of publications in the References section. Perhaps they'd be better off doing some science of their own. Not!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Altona By-election Battles On

Transport and law 'n order have always been the main game in this Saturday's Altona by-election in Victoria. They will certainly be at top of the list at November's State election.

WHILE the Altona by-election war of words heated up between the two main parties last week, nominees continued to campaign heavily on the issue of public transport in the West.
ALP candidate Jill Hennessy said she believed the state of public transport was good, but could always be improved.

However, Liberal Party candidate Mark Rose said the state of public transport in Victoria was an “absolute joke.”
Transport battle (Williamstown, Altona, Laverton Star 9 Feb 2010)
Despite the relatively low profile of the campaign and predictions of a low turnout, some pundits are expecting a higher than average by-election swing against the Brumby government. Expect lots of spin either way on Sunday.

More at Red Bluff.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Kowanyama Dreaming

Not your average police station wall. This painting by Colin Higgins (2002) is in Kowanyama aboriginal community on Queensland's Cape York.

It's great country:

Photos: Courtesy of Heather Milton

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