Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Palmer coal mine dwarfs Adani

Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal has applied for a mining lease and environmental assessment to build a coalmine four times the size of Adani’s Carmichael mine in the Queensland Galilee Basin, reports Guardian Australia. If burned, coal in the west Queensland seam alone could shift the earth’s climate a third of the way to 2 degrees of warming. Palmer, who spent upwards of $60m in political advertising in the run up to the federal election, is also planning to build a coal-fired power station in the state. The news comes as Senator Malcolm Roberts accuses the Bureau of Meteorology of removing a graph that “goes against the narrative of the climate extremists” in a Senate estimates hearing. In the hearing Greens Senator Hanson-Young asked if the Morrison government had been briefed regarding “the climate emergency”. Climate Change and Energy Innovation deputy secretary Jo Evans replied that she does not use such terminology, preferring to “stick to a factual description”.

Assange denied: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has had his application denied to delay a hearing on his prospective extradition to the United States on espionage charges. In his first public appearance in months, Assange reportedly appeared gaunt and unwell, and struggled to recall his name and age. His legal team requested a delay to the hearing, scheduled for February 2020, to consider the Spanish National Court’s new investigation into allegations that a Spanish security firm had spied on Assange’s quarters in the Ecuadorian embassy, on behalf of US intelligence agencies. 

Whistleblower concerns: More than 50 senior academics have signed an open letter calling on Murdoch University to drop its case against a whistleblower who raised concerns about the welfare of international students. According to the ABC, Murdoch University claims international student numbers have dropped due to the allegations made by Associate Professor Gerd Schroder-Turk and two other academics. The open letter states that the case sets a “dangerous precedent for all Australian universities”. In other whistleblower news, “Witness K” lawyer Bernard Collaery has called for the establishment of a new independent parliamentary body for defence and intelligence whistleblowers. Collaery helped expose Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste during oil and gas negotiations in 2006.

Music festivals threaten to leave: Some of the biggest music festivals in New South Wales are threatening to leave the state as the Berejiklian government pushes ahead with legislation for an “unworkable” safety regime. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival, Laneway Festival and Groovin the Moo are among the festivals threatening to leave over the lack of a music industry roundtable as part of the proposed new laws. The news comes as the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission heard there were 143 strip searches at Splendour in the Grass in 2018, including seven young people. A 16-year-old girl forced to strip in front of police after a false detection by a sniffer dog told an inquiry she “could not stop crying”.

Restarting robo-debt
An error at the Department of Human Services caused the original robo-debt algorithm to restart, issuing thousands of unchecked debt notices. Royce Kurmelovs on how the program operates and why the government persists with it – in spite of its flaws.


“New rules designed to ‘minimise’ the practice of physically restraining or doping elderly residents in nursing homes are so poorly written they will backfire and lead to a rise in the use of chemical control, experts have warned. The federal government’s own aged-care watchdog, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC), raised concerns during a blink-and-you’d-miss-it consultation period for the new principles, asking whether they would actually see overprescribing ‘legitimised’.”


“The AHRC has now also confirmed that not only have the numbers of people experiencing sexual harassment actually increased since Me Too, but, paradoxically, the rate of reporting has decreased from 32 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2018. So, what is the enduring significance of Me Too in Australia? Moreover, where can the movement go to next and is it even possible for it to correct course?”


“When I listen back to the tape, I’m surprised by all the normal cafe sounds – the snippets of conversation from the next table, the music ... I also realise that I can’t picture our meeting other than the odd occasional image. Sitting down at a table set up with a laptop. A waiter bringing over a coffee. Instead, what I imagine is a series of rooms filled with rocks. I can see a snowman, trapped in a cage. There’s a photograph of a man using a blowtorch on a glacier. And over the top of it all is Geraldine Barlow’s calm voice, talking through the ways these images connect.”


“The NBN rollout has ensured that Australia has among the most equitable access to high speed broadband. Australia’s broadband speed and access is more equitable and evenly distributed than in many peer countries. After the NBN is complete, Australia would rank 10th among OECD countries in terms of internet equality.”


“A controversial report that claims Australia’s broadband network is among the world’s best has been torn apart by independent experts ... it states that ‘all countries excluding Australia are held constant at 2016 OECD distribution and speed tiers’, while Australia’s ranking is based on 2021 forecasts. Dr Brooks slammed the assumption as ‘laughable’.”


“A Bangladeshi lawmaker has been expelled from university after allegedly hiring as many as eight lookalikes to take exams in her place, officials said on Monday. Tamanna Nusrat, from the ruling Awami League party, is accused of paying the lookalikes to pretend to be her in at least 13 tests. The scandal emerged after private broadcaster Nagorik TV entered a test hall and confronted one of the women posing as Nusrat in a video that went viral.”

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