Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Road congestion to cost Australia $38.8bn

Australia’s major cities are on track to become paralysed with congestion, according to a new audit of infrastructure spending. The Infrastructure Australia report released today finds that congestion cost the economy $19bn in 2016 – a figure that is set to more than double within 12 years. The agency estimates $600bn in new infrastructure spending is needed to keep pace with population growth. Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe said: “The dominance of infill development in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will require investment in high capacity public transport, enhancements to existing energy and water infrastructure, improved shared spaces and a renewal of inner city health and education services.” The most congested road by 2031 in Sydney would be the Harbour Tunnel link between North Sydney and the city centre via the Harbour Tunnel, with the agency estimating 84 per cent of the trip would be spent sitting still.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled $500 million in aid to help Pacific nations invest in renewable energy and “climate and disaster resilience”.  Money will be redirected from existing aid programs. Morrison said the funding “highlights our commitment to not just meeting our emissions reduction obligations at home but supporting our neighbours and friends”. He will join a meeting of Pacific leaders in Tuvalu on Wednesday, where Australia is already attracting criticism for its rising carbon emissions. At a preliminary event, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama asked Australia to transition away from coal as it poses an “existential threat” to Pacific islanders. The event comes as Freedom of Information documents reveal Queensland’s Moranbah North coal mine has nearly doubled its greenhouse gas emissions in two years without penalty through a mechanism in the Coalition’s “direct action” climate policy.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham will today release a list with 236 product names the European Union wants protected in return for a free trade agreement. Under the agreement Australian producers of feta and gruyere cheese, the delicatessen staple prosciutto di Parma and the wine grape liquor grappa would have to change the names of their products as part of a $100 billion trade deal, but wine varieties such as Prosecco are safe. Scotch beef is also on the list, but that claim against relies on Britain staying in the EU. In one case, negotiators are open to adopting the name “Australian Feta”, but draw the line at an EU suggestion that Australian producers call their products “Feta-like”.

Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani has been awarded the 2019 National Biography Award for his memoir No Friend But the Mountains. Mr Boochani was unable to accept the award in person as he remains detained on Manus Island, where he has been for the past six years. The autobiographical account covers Boochani’s journey from Iran to Manus Island, detailing acts of cruelty and constant surveillance he and other detainees have been subjected to. He accepted the $25,000 award via Whatsapp, thanking Australia's literary community for being “part of our resistance in front of this system”.

On politics and gambling
The refusal of the major parties to hold a parliamentary inquiry into Crown Casino speaks to a larger relationship between politics and the gambling lobby. Mike Seccombe on how it’s not just about donations.


“A world-first study from Victoria University has found far-right extremist groups in Australia used saturation media narratives around Safe Schools and so-called African gangs as recruitment tools. The empirical link between these two issues, as well as constant anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric, sheds new light on the way these fringe outfits engorge themselves on mainstream press and politics. The soon-to-be-published research shows violent extremists latch on to and are ‘emboldened’ by news coverage and columns, which they see as adding credibility to their cause.” 


“War is readily characterised as a failure of reason. But that’s not quite true. It is, in fact, a failure to hear reason. The recent loss of Graham Freudenberg – Australia’s greatest speechwriter – compels us once again to listen. We owe him that. With rising geopolitical instability, the value of reason – of the ilk Freudenberg championed – couldn’t be higher. Yet we find ourselves in a vacuum of rhetoric where, according to Scott Morrison, a ‘miracle’ is our best hope and being a ‘quiet Australian’ the noblest virtue.”


“A father storms into the front office of his daughter’s school and begins to shout abuse. He is responding to a text he’s just received in which she tells him she is being bullied. He tells the office staff he wants to march to her classroom and “belt” the bully; they refuse to tell him where his daughter is. In the end, he tries to coerce the principal into going outside so they can ‘sort it out like men’.”


The Labor senator Kim Carr has branded proposed new penalties for encouraging trespass on agricultural land ‘unnecessary’, joining the Law Council in expressing concern about the Coalition’s ‘vegan activist’ bill. Carr said the bill is ‘unlikely to actually be used’ but has the potential for unintended consequences, including limiting trade union activity or for whistleblowers raising animal protection and food safety concerns.”


“Security agencies will gain greater access to encrypted messages after a Labor backdown allowed the Federal Government to pass its legislation on Parliament's final sitting day. Labor had planned to amend the legislation, which it has repeatedly described as flawed. But late on Thursday Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced Labor would pass the laws provided the Coalition agreed to make certain changes in the new year.”


“Founded in 2007, the members all have full-time jobs and families that they balance with their investigations, which are often an all-night ordeal, followed by weeks spent analyzing the hundreds of hours of footage, audio files and EVP recordings. This off-kilter work has led to lifelong friendships — and a sense of purpose. Any case that deals with kids or animals gets pushed to the front of the pile. ‘It’s the mom in us,’ says Carpenter-Chaidez.”


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