Ministers agree to national power plan

State and federal energy ministers have agreed on a national plan to bolster the grid with spare capacity in renewable energy storage and gas.

What we know:

  • Federal and state energy ministers held crisis talks on Wednesday to address the power price surge in eastern Australia (The Age); 
  • The ministers agreed to design a capacity mechanism to pay providers for guaranteeing power supplies that can be called upon when needed, rather than only for the power they produce (ABC); 
  • The former Coalition government’s controversial effort to install a similar mechanism failed out of concern it would prolong the life of fossil fuel generators;
  • The Australian Energy Market Operator will additionally be empowered to procure gas and store it for emergency release during shortages (The Conversation); 
  • Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen would not be drawn on the inclusion of coal in the new capacity mechanism, but said he thought the “principles are pretty clear that it should support new technologies”;
  • The communiqué out of the meeting stipulated it should explore funding only spare capacity in renewable energy and storage — although gas and coal could still be included in the final design (AFR $); 
  • Ministers will consider potential design options at its next meeting in July (Renew Economy). 
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Plastics on beaches drops by a third

Plastic littering Australian beaches has declined by a third in just six years, according to a new study.

What we know:

  • The study, published in the One Earth journal today, showed there was on average 29% less plastic on beaches in 2019 compared to 2013 (AAP); 
  • The CSIRO conducted 563 coastal surveys and interviewed waste managers across 32 local governments;
  • The researchers found that although Australia’s plastic use has remained constant since 2013, local governments are getting better at preventing and cleaning up waste (Cosmos); 
  • Household collection services involving multiple waste and recycling streams had the biggest impact, with increases in waste levies having the second-largest effect;
  • Activities such as Clean Up Australia Day and community surveillance programs had also helped, along with single use plastic bans;
  • On June 1 NSW became the last state in Australia to ban single use plastic bags, ahead of a November ban on single-use plastic straws and polystyrene foodware (Food Mag); 
  • Although less of it is ending up on beaches, Australia still produces 2.5m tonnes of plastic waste each year, with attention turning to finding plastic alternatives;
  • The CSIRO aims to reduce plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 80% by 2030.
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ABC stamps out library staff

The ABC plans to axe the jobs of nearly 60 archivists and librarians, and get journalists to archive their own stories.

Under the plan journalists will search for archival material themselves and log the metadata of new material into the system (The Guardian). 

In addition to the 57 job cuts, a further 17 archivist contract positions will be abolished.

Sound libraries will no longer add new commercial music releases to the music bank and producers must access music for programs themselves.

The Community and Public Sector Union said the move was “devastating news for many ABC staff and has come as a shock to teams across the country”.

The ABC said the redundancies came about as a part of the broadcaster’s transition to digital and on-demand services, and to improve workflow and efficiency.

The job cuts follow the dismantling of the ABC’s historic sound and reference libraries in 2018 (Music Australia). 

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Watchdog ignores falsified birth dates

Australia’s law enforcement integrity watchdog has refused to investigate federal police who used false dates of birth on legal documents to prosecute children as adult people smugglers.

Police have been caught relying on flawed evidence to alter the dates of birth given to them by Indonesian children found crewing asylum boats in 2009 and 2010 (The Guardian). 

The new dates were based on a discredited technique using X-rays of the boys’ wrists.

Lawyers for a 13-year-old boy jailed as an adult accused the AFP of engaging in “misfeasance in public office”.

In April, six Indonesian children wrongly jailed in Australia as adults won an appeal against their convictions in the WA court of appeal.

The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity responded to a complaint about the issue by saying it was not about corruption so did not fall within its remit.

The refusal raises questions about who independently oversees and investigates police conduct when allegations fall below the threshold of corruption.

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Ukraine to publish Book of Executioners

Ukraine is launching a “Book of Executioners” detailing allegations of war crimes committed during Russia’s occupation.

Ukrainian prosecutors say they have registered more than 12,000 alleged war crimes involving more than 600 suspects since the invasion began (Reuters). 

“Next week, a special publication is to be launched — ‘The Book of Executioners’ — an information system to collect confirmation of data about war criminals, criminals from the Russian army,” said President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Volunteers have been tasked with exhuming bodies of civilians allegedly executed by Russian soldiers (Al Jazeera).  

The UN estimates more than 4000 civilians have been killed since the invasion began, but the real number is likely higher with satellite imagery appearing to show mass graves in occupied territory.

Russian officials have dismissed pictures showing alleged mass executions in the town of Bucha as “fabrications” staged by Ukrainian authorities.

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Lifted the back of her skirt and petticoats and, for a few seconds, pressed her underwear-clad posterior against the foyer window.

The WA Supreme Court overturns the disorderly behaviour conviction of a clown accused of exposing themselves at a climate protest outside Chevron’s Perth office. The clown deployed the classic “I was wearing polka-dotted pantaloons under my skirt” defence (ABC).

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Postscript: NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Has a Pet Rock!

Perseverance acquired an unwanted hitchhiker — a rock — stuck in one of its wheels in February. What is surprising is that the rock is still there, riding on the left front wheel for over 8km. Fortunately, it isn’t doing any damage (Sci Tech Daily).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.