Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Murray-Darling review urges climate reform

A new assessment of the Murray-Darling Basin plan finds it requires major reform in 2026 to cope with increased dry periods due to climate change. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s self-assessment finds dry spells will likely occur on average every five years instead of every 10. The body is not proposing to alter the plan before its final review date in 2024, finding that water allocated for the environment cushioned the impact of the most recent drought. The current plan is based on historical rainfall, not the changed rainfall patterns of recent years. The report notes that 12 engineering projects to use water more efficiently are at serious risk of not meeting a 2024 deadline. It also highlights the need to ensure First Nations knowledge is used. To date, the plan has recovered 20 per cent of the water used by farmers before 2012.

Labor is poised to reinstate a medium-term emissions-reduction target in a draft policy to put the nation on track for carbon neutrality by 2050, following a vigorous climate change debate within the party.  The medium-term target for 2030 or 2035 will return to the draft through an amendment led by energy and climate change spokesman Mark Butler, reports The Australian. The draft policy platform will be discussed at Labor’s national conference which will be held over two days from March 30. The preliminary draft platform made no mention of medium-term targets, with former frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon leading resistance to it before he stood down. It comes as a new report by Frontier Economics finds climate action by state governments will put Australia on track for a deeper cut in greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade than  that proposed by the Morrison government.

Asylum seekers detained for 16 months at a hotel in Melbourne will be moved to another location by Australian Border Force, deflating hopes they would be released into the community. About 60 men have been detained at the Mantra Bell City hotel since they were evacuated from offshore detention on Manus Island to receive medical treatment under the now-repealed medical evacuation legislation. The contract with the hotel expires on December 31. It’s not known when the men will be moved or to where.

Google has suffered a global outage overnight, with failures reported across non-search services. The outage exposed the dependence on the Google platform, with businesses unable to perform basic functions and schools forced to close. People who had integrated Google voice command technology at home were unable to turn on the lights or heat their houses. The outage, which lasted less than an hour, was caused by a failure in the company’s authentication tools, a Google spokesperson said. This impacted how users log in to services run by both Google and third parties that rely on Google to verify users.

The Liberal minister forcing action on climate
The Liberal party has historically been handbrake on serious climate action, but in NSW one minister is pushing through ambitious environmental policy. Today, Mike Seccombe talks to Matt Kean, the Liberal minister forcing action on climate change and uniting the Nationals and the Greens.

“The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are being given extra cyber powers to spy on Australians and disrupt computer activity, despite a warning to government that it could turn police into ‘judge, jury and executioner’ and undermine democratic rights. The domestic spying and disruption powers reflect those that the Home Affairs Department had originally proposed to give to the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Australia’s only fully cyber-capable intelligence agency.”

“Soon after the government began its assault on Tigray, Mary says that basic supplies – water, telecommunications, electricity – were cut off in Mekelle, as well as access to local banks and airlines. ‘I immediately just panicked. I obviously had no way of contacting my family and touching base with them or speaking to anyone back home,’ she says. ‘Trying to get information was out of the question.’ The worst was yet to come. Just a few days later, she would witness an airstrike – the first of what would become a regular occurrence.”

“Scrutinising the intertwined couple, Michala Banas pulled out her phone and opened a karma sutra app. ‘So, when you say “from behind”’, she said, ‘let’s have a look at all the options’ … Banas is called on to consult cast and crew to ensure clarity and consent is in place around intimate scenes. In a complex scenario such as in Faust, she’ll collaborate with the director, using tools such as the app or a wooden mannequin doll to demonstrate possibilities. On this particular day, she had an hour to dash from couple to couple and choreograph a position that both parties could comfortably hold for, say, 15 thrusts.”

“Health Minister Greg Hunt says the Federal Government welcomes New Zealand’s announcement of a travel bubble, describing it as the ‘second half of the equation’. New Zealand’s Cabinet agreed in principle to establish a trans-Tasman bubble with Australia early next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday. It would be conditional on coronavirus case levels staying low and pending approval by the Federal Government.”

“Australian coal exports to China have been formally blocked after months of import restrictions that have thrown the $14 billion export industry into turmoil. The decision, taken by China's National Development and Reform Commission at a meeting with 10 Chinese power plants on Saturday and reported by state media on Monday, means Australian coal will be blocked indefinitely while China ramps up imports from Mongolia, Indonesia and Russia, and expands local production.”

“Aiken received a phone call from a lawyer who was acting for a group of residents at Belongil Beach, near Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast, with an offer of help. These residents owned beachside homes that were being threatened by coastal erosion. They were locked in a decades-long battle with the Byron Shire Council, which had a policy of ‘planned retreat’, the gradual ceding of certain, highly vulnerable areas to the sea. The residents wanted their homes physically protected by some kind of sea wall. ‘They were quite wealthy people,’ says Aiken, ‘and they helped us because it was going to help them.’”

“If 2020 were packaged in a box, it would be Darren Cullen’s ‘Jigsaw Jigsaw.’ Just like our repetitive days and seemingly endless fascination with simple pastimes, the 1,000-piece game relies on the Droste effect and features a recursive image that spirals into the same black-and-white puzzle over and over.”

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