Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday news post Saturday morning

I spent yesterday morning on Bondi Beach with son William and the afternoon smashing golf balls at a practice range in the Macquarie University grounds. It was a glorious Sydney day with an overwhelmingly blue sky – only a little cloud in the west. I am as pink as a lobster in most of the areas that the 30+ sunscreen lotion didn’t reach. As I have written before on this blog, there are few places on this planet that I enjoy more than crass, brassy Sydney with its magnificent natural beauty and its aggressive local inhabitants. As I am interested in roads and transport economics I enjoyed several trips through the Cross City Tunnel and the new (very useful) Lane Cove Tunnel. I had heard there were problems of patronage – not evident while I traveled yesterday – lots of traffic including many large trucks. My old stomping ground at Macquarie University has matured into a great setting for a university.

I was going to write a deep introspective piece on the significance of beach culture to an aging, rotund, ex-surfer but there wasn’t anything deep to say – I just still dig it – 30 years flew bye in a flash and it was clear that the important, ingrained things like the love of salt water, sand, boobs and the sensuous joys of sunlight, hot sand and cool ocean do not change! I don’t actually surf much these days – in the main I just float around aimlessly like a largish blob of jelly that gets clobbered by the shore-break. I do however get real vicarious pleasure watching William do what I did as a kid.

There was also quite a lot that was interesting in the news recently.

1. It is clear Rudd has a climate change policy equivalent to the Coalition. Get rid of the talk about ‘flexibility’ and ‘concern’ he has done nothing in Bali that is not symbolic. Rudd claims to be playing ‘hardball’ with the US but US government officials say they see no difference between his policies and those of John Howard. Nor do I. The Europeans understand Rudd well – his conservative instincts run at least as deeply as those of John Howard but he lacks Howard’s ability to be non-committal when he is out of his depth. His attempts to hang future Labor policy on the research outputs of Ross Garnaut are remarkably foolish - Garnaut will not tell us anything new.

Rudd will turn out to be a disappointing Prime Minister for all voters. This gpoes beyond partisan politics. He is an unimaginative bureaucrat who will never deliver much. He mimics Tony Blair but lacks Blair's talent.

2. The news that the Arctic Ocean might be ice-free by 2012 - rather than the previous worst-case scenario of 2040 - illustrates the gravity of the climate change issue. Water floating into the Arctic Ocean is 3.5 degrees warmer than its historical mean so the ice is disappearing quickly – the ice pack is half its size of four years ago. The canary is whistling loud and clear.
In other news scientists claim the Great Barrier Reef is already probably irreparably damaged by climate change.

The Liberals were foolish on climate change and so too is the Labor Party. Politicians have short-term time horizons and none in Australia recognise the need for an urgent response to a serious situation that could become catastrophic.

3. The Rudd Government says it will accumulate data to prepare a legal challenge to Japanese whaling in Australian Antarctic Waters. Big deal – the Japanese have already stated they welcome a legal challenge because they know they will survive such. On most of the ‘environmental sentiment’ issues I am convinced Rudd will progressively reveal himself to be feeble – the trade unionist rump of his party will foster this weakness.

4. With evidence of gross ineffectiveness in its indigenous policies Queensland government Ministers have put a gag on public servants speaking about hundreds of child abuse cases on Cape York. The Labor Party wishes to protect its record for verbose declarations of a sense of injustice in aboriginal, affairs and continue to ignore arguments that Territory-style interventions – which already seem to be working by the way – might work well in our deep north. Peter Beattie is sniping from the sidelines – a media tart flog he will always be.

The counteraction to community outrage to the 10-year old girl from Aurukun continues to develop and will (my prediction goes) evolve into a considered justification for the non-sentencing decision. Eventually Federal intervention into indigenous affairs in Queensland is essential but watch the left fight this one!

In my view Judge Sarah Bradley is unfit to be working on the bench – her views amount to the claim that black kids deserve lower levels of protection than white kids. Moreover, her assertions that aboriginals should not be jailed for serious assaults because too many are already in jail are inappropriate for someone seeking to uphold the law and not her concern.

Deep thought: The supporters of our claimed collective white guilt for the ‘Stolen Generations’ are inflicting more human misery on aboriginals than any other group. Their lies and assertions of implied white guilt destroy the lives of young black girls and boys now. The premise is that us white folk are rotten, through and through so don’t accept any intervention involving white folks. The premise is wrong.

5. Marcus Einfeld, a former leading judge, the foundation President of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission faces 13 charges including perverting the course of justice, making use of a false instrument and perjury in relation to a traffic fine case. I am pleased to see equal conviction opportunities present themselves for Einfeld and hope that, if he is convicted, of these offenses he goes to jail. A significant side benefit would be that we would hear less of this gas-filled windbag. Of course, he has not been convicted of anything else and deserves a fair trial just like any other man in the street.

6. The Pope has become a nun and is living in East Brunswick with Norman Gunston. No, not really, but State and Federal Governments will cough up $41 million to compensate Randwick Racecourse for be vacated for 10 weeks in preparation for the six day World Youth Day Papal Mass when an estimated 500,000 Aussies will line up to listen to some pointless, remarks. The smart money says he will urge that the ‘world should strive for peace’ and ‘reject violence’. Overall the community will be slugged about $95 million for this advice. Special legislation over a period of six months (why so long?) has been introduced by the State Government to ensure the Holy Father gets adequate security. I’d prefer that a 'user-pays' principle be applied and that public money be spent on things that provide greater payoffs.

Saturday is sunny and clear - off to lunch at Palm Beach with golf in afternoon at Bayview. Someone has to do it - as they say.

Update: My golf wasn't that wonderful but Bayview is the extreme end of Pittwater with lots of rainforest pockets and wetlands/estuaries. During my golf round I saw lots of native bird species including White-bellied sea eagle, Spangled drongo, Dollarbirds and Sacred kingfishers. A new potential sport occurs to me: golf-cum-birdwatching!

Update 2: The Drongos, Dollarbirds, Kingfishers are northern migrants. So too is the Koel that disturbs my sleep each morning from about 5-30AM each morning here in Sydney's inner west.


Anonymous said...

Sensational description of your connection to the beach Harry. We have a young girl from Switzerland staying with us at present, and one of the joys most weekends is the look on her face when she sees a beach - and we haven't left Victoria yet. Can't wait 'til she sees some of the best in the country.

On the conflation of violence to aboriginal children/stolen generation issues, I think you're well wide of the mark. Mark U put it very succinctly in his comments in the previous thread. I whole heartedly endorse the need for a national recognition of past errors, but believe the timing is now long gone for that recognition to be a building block in the spiritual rescue of a culture that's cleary imploding in remote areas.

Noel Pearson is spot on again today as he hits on the corrosive nature of passive welfare as a real touchstone in his Australian column. Welfare is necessary, but needs to have some perameters set by people on the ground, in the communities.

The crisis is unique and specific, and needs unique & specific attention over a long period, with targets set along the way. Small targets that eventually contribute to a healthy future. And it needs/needed to be an inclusive process that all Australians can feel part of, and proud of - not a bitter dispute with two clear poles of opinion - the bloody echo chamber that it has become.

Anonymous said...

On 3, I dont think Australia has any "Antarctic Waters" it is all International.

The idea that Australia has rights to portions of Antarctica is a notion supported by no one. If Australia goes to court they will lose and Japans hand will be strengthened.

On Bali, Rudd will have to take care to protect our resource sector, Australia is unique in this respect and cannot afford to give away business for the sake of consensus.

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked our tunnels, Harry. About the Xcity in particular, since the aim is to keep cars out of the city centre, why is the tunnel user paying the toll and not the city entrant? Could a renegotiation to this end not be a win/win for both parties to the BOOT contract?

hc said...

Tolls should be related to congestion not cost recovery - so I agree with you. Those congesting the city should be taxed and, up until the point where congestion occurs, travel in the tunnel should be free with its services delivered by taxpayers.

I have called for renegotiation of similar contracts involving CityLink in Melbourne.

kipwatson said...

We conservatives believed Kevin Rudd was faking conservatism before the election -- as did the Labor Party faithful. I am as pleased as they are dismayed to see he actually does appear to be a conservative of sorts.

I rejoice when I hear of ice melting. The real climate catastrophe we face long term (over centuries or millennia) is the return of an Ice Age. If climatologists truly thought long term they would be trying to increase global warming, not arrest it.

If only the CO2 theory was true, we might be able to avoid the ice. How sad that it is all junk science.

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