Thursday, February 13, 2020

Australia faces annual $29bn climate bill

A “business as usual” response to climate change will cost Australia at least $29 billion a year, according to a new study. The World Wide Fund for Nature report projected that Australia’s economy will be the fifth worst-affected over the next three decades. This was a best-case scenario, and did not factor in the cost of more intense bushfires. “Because so much of Australia’s population, infrastructure and service sector output is concentrated in coastal areas, we are more vulnerable than most to sea-level rise and storm surges,” said WWF-Australia economist Joshua Bishop. The modelling shows that the global price of some key commodities will rise by almost 10 per cent. The report noted that environmentally friendly land-use management techniques alone could halve the hit to national GDP. The news comes as an Australian Conservation Foundation analysis found that the fossil-fuel industry has doubled its donations to the major parties in the past four years.

Coronavirus crackdown: Chinese academics are putting their names to a petition calling for freedom of speech, in response to China’s secretive handling of the coronavirus outbreak. The South China Morning Post reports that the petition calls for a national day for freedom of speech on February 6, the date that doctor Li Wenliang died from the virus that he was punished for first raising the alarm about. The petition, addressed to the National People’s Congress, lists four other demands: to protect people’s right to freedom of expression; to discuss the issue at NPC meetings; to ensure no one is punished, threatened, interrogated, censored or locked up for their speech; and to give equitable treatment to people from the virus epicentre of Hubei province. Some of the signatories have already had social media accounts blocked.

Religious discrimination division: NSW Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says her party’s religious discrimination bill does not adequately protect religious groups and should be scrapped in favour of a single framework for all anti-discrimination laws. Attorney-General Christian Porter says he will undertake yet another round of consultations with community and religious groups before introducing it to parliament. Fierravanti-Wells has also spoken out about the bushfire crisis, calling for the use of “communications meta-data” to investigate a completely unfounded conspiracy theory that “ecoterrorists” were behind the summer’s unprecedented bushfires.

Submarines contract: The French company responsible for Australia’s $80 billion Future Sub­marines program says local firms may not get half of the value of the contracts, reports The Australian ($). Naval Group Australia chief executive John Davis refused to confirm whether the Australian ­industry content for the submarines would reach 50 per cent. Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said the company should not abandon commitments to local industry.


“The forced resignation of Bridget McKenzie has failed to avert further scrutiny of the controversial grants ... One Liberal observed to The Saturday Paper this week: ‘Bridget was following orders. There’s no doubt about it.’ A new examination of the grants by O’Neill, an associate professor of accounting, has also revealed anomalies in the published totals for the grants program and amounts paid to various organisations.”


“At Baptcare Sanctuary – a supported accommodation service for asylum seekers who have experienced homelessness – they’re planting new gardens ... ‘I would see a person moving outside of their inner world, which was a dark, enfolding place, to be actively caring for a plant,’ Maddock says. The project was ‘a revelation’, says Barr. At its completion, residents said: ‘I will come out of myself because the plant needs me’; ‘I want to keep my plant alive and I want to keep myself alive’; ‘When my hands touched the soil, I woke up.’”


“A publicist, French and not at all out of place in the elegant surrounds, leads me past the colonial-style Churchill Bar, outside through an orange grove and towards a secluded tower. On its roof, amid ornate lounges and hooded lanterns, a cluster of officious women are micromanaging an androgynous figure.’”


“The Department of Education, Skills and Employment issued advice earlier this week on how students ‘may’ be able to get back to Australia via a third country and provided examples. ‘A student leaves mainland China on 3 Feb 2020 and goes to Malaysia. Provided the student does not return to mainland China they could enter Australia on 17 Feb 2020,’ one example said.”


“Helen, who is of Chinese descent, travelled home to Malaysia on January 24 to visit family and friends for the Lunar New Year celebrations ... She said she flew back to Perth on February 4, arriving home at 4:00am to discover the locks had been changed and a note taped to the front door. ‘House in lockdown due to coronavirus. Due to your failure to stay in contact with me with World Health Organisation GLOBAL EMERGENCY over coronavirus you are no longer welcome in this house.’”


“Federal ministers say they have a ten year plan of slowly de-escalating the disasters with slightly less bad disasters. ‘First we’ll use the hail to build some dams, that’ll control the flooding,’ explained the Prime Minister. ‘Then we’ll use next year’s bushfires to slowly evaporate the water and ice into the atmosphere. Then, when the next dust storm rolls through, it’ll provide seeding to condensate the evaporated water back into rain, and using some cyclones to direct it out over rural communities, voila, drought solved.’”

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