Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Gas approval opens ‘climate floodgates’

The Morrison government has granted environmental approval to the $3.6 billion Narrabri gas project in New South Wales, despite concerns it could contaminate groundwater and fuel the climate crisis. The approval allows gas giant Santos to drill 850 wells in grazing land and the Pilliga forest to extract up to 200 terajoules of gas a day for 20 years. Santos said it would start a 12 to 18-month appraisal program before making a final investment decision. Environment Minister Sussan Ley said conditions included an “early-warning system” for impacts on groundwater, and powers to force work to stop. Climate change impacts are not part of the assessment. The New South Wales government also backed the project, saying it would investigate the Narrabri area as a location for a special precinct to streamline further approvals. As critics vow to keep fighting the development, Federal Greens leader Adam Bandt said that by “cracking open the Narrabri gas wells, Sussan Ley is opening the floodgates for decades of climate damage”.

The Victorian Government unveiled nearly $50 billion in spending in its state budget on Tuesday to kickstart an economy reeling from months of strict lockdown conditions. Measures include a temporary waiver of up to 50 per cent of stamp duty on most newly built or off-the-plan homes, $5.3 billion for new public housing, and $250 million to subsidise the wages of at least 10,000 workers. Businesses will get a tax credit of 10 cents for every dollar they increase taxable Victorian wages, while an additional 80,000 free TAFE and training places will be offered in courses linked to in-demand jobs.

The NSW government is set to further ease Covid-19 restrictions on December 1, coinciding with an announcement that the Queensland government will reopen the border between the two states on the same date. Pubs and restaurants will be allowed one person per two square metres and 30 people will be able to visit a home. It comes as Premier Gladys Berejiklian faces pressure over revelations she went to state parliament while awaiting results from a coronavirus test, ignoring her own government’s directives to the general public over self-isolation.

A taskforce appointed by the NSW government will investigate the food delivery industry following the deaths of five workers in the past two months. Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said the taskforce, to be led by SafeWork and Transport NSW, would look at whether tighter safety regulations are needed to better protect riders. The Transport Workers’ Union has called on the federal government to investigate online food delivery platforms, warning the “carnage” of rider deaths should prompt regulation of the gig economy. The union highlighted a lack of training and personal protective equipment for riders as key issues.

Prizes and $170,000 in prize money were awarded to 17 recipients on Tuesday evening at the annual Eureka Awards for science. Award winners include a Victorian coastal monitoring program that uses drones to produce 3D models measuring shoreline change and the work of researcher Dr Qilin Wang from Sydney's University of Technology that used byproducts of sewage to capture energy to power treatment of waste water. Ceridwen Dovey was recognised for her science writing in The Monthly on the race to privatise the moon

How the government makes your mental health worse
A landmark report has quantified the economic and social cost of Australia’s mental health crisis. Today, Rick Morton how the government’s social policies are causing harm to our most vulnerable communities.

“The committee has been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry precipitated by Rio’s actions at Juukan ... Four core members of the committee – Entsch, Dodson, Labor MP Warren Snowdon and Greens senator Rachel Siewert – travelled to Juukan. All four spoke with The Saturday Paper this week about what they saw. ‘Devastation,’ says Entsch. ‘Absolute devastation.’”

“Thanks to rapid growth, funding tensions and decades of shifting government policies, Australian universities have become almost impossible to manage ... federations of often-warring faculties, departments and disciplines. There is little trust or goodwill. Management becomes a matter of metrics, rules and compliance, of carrots and sticks. Now, after a long period of rapid growth, universities have lost the flow of dollars from international students, which in some cases accounted for up to 38 per cent of revenue.”

“At this point we’re about 30 pages in. I’m thinking, Please hurry: the glaciers are melting. But we still have a lot to get through, including (not necessarily in this order) a survey of the Enlightenment, an exposition on democracy and its crises, Australian talkback radio (and Jones’s pioneering contribution to it), abacuses and looms, and the advent of the Digital Age, complete with brief disquisitions on Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Wikipedia.”

“The Trump administration is racing against legal deadlines and a merciless regulatory calendar in its last-ditch effort to sell drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in at noon on Jan. 20. Even if the White House succeeds in clearing those hurdles, it’ll still face the cold reality of the market: funding for Arctic drilling is becoming harder and harder to find.”

“A dozen south-western Native American tribes have strong cultural ties to Oak Flat. But the Trump administration, in its waning days, has embarked on a rushed effort to transfer ownership of the area to a mining company with ties to the destruction of an Aboriginal site in Australia ... the beneficiaries will be a company called Resolution Copper and its two Anglo-Australian parent firms, the mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP.”

“In addition to its cost-effectiveness, supporters say online psychological support is convenient, private and timely. Digital strategist and writer Anna Spargo-Ryan started looking into self-guided apps as a stopgap between sessions with her psychologist. ‘My therapist also records guided meditation and hypnosis to CD, but as technology has changed I found I needed something that would work better with my lifestyle,’ she says. ‘I don’t own a CD player anymore except in my car, which is not an ideal place for hypnosis.’”

“In a world wounded by ugliness and misery, beauty is what we yearn to find and, better still, create. A city as beautiful as Sydney should be filled with beautiful architecture. So, at the risk of torpedoing any hopes I had of hosting the NSW Architecture Awards next year – or ever – here’s my list of Buildings Whose Reduction to Rubble Would Make Sydney a More Beautiful City.”

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