Evidence that agreement is hard. If evidence was needed about the difficulty of reaching a world wide agreement on steps to combat climate change, then the current shenanigans in the Australian Parliament provides it. It appears as if it will be impossible for Australian delegates to the forthcoming Copenhagen Conference to set off with a policy position endorsed by the two major political parties let alone one that is embraced by Nationals and Greens and well as Labor and Liberal. Vested self interests, with winning the next election the key among them, is the motivating force rather than any commitment to what may be necessary in the best interests of the future of the planet. How much harder will it be to get agreement when there are politicians from a 100 or more countries who all have hanging on to their own power uppermost in their minds?

I’m so old that I won’t have to worry about the consequences of global warming, but getting our government working on the contingency plans that will be necessary in Australia if temperatures do keep rising would seem a sensible position to me.

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen in preparation for the world’s environmental talk fest a group of distinguished scientists has prepared a Synthesis Report based on the latest scientific evidence presented to a preliminary conference to the main event. After reading the six key messages from the experts our politicians should have their heads in shame.

The outcome in Iran. Predicting the final outcome in Iran is just getting harder and harder with orthodox journalism being severely restricted and the citizen efforts via the internet having the problem that we don’t know anything about the track record and hence reliability of the bloggers. The best I can do is turn again to the Crikey Iran Electoral Indicator for guidance. The current probabilities based on the opinions in the prediction markets are:

It has certainly been a volatile Indicator.

Do harsher penalties lead to fewer accidents? The seemingly inexorable growth of new laws goes on and on. I was particularly taken by news of this one in this morning’s Melbourne Age: Tougher laws to deter reckless cycling. According to Victorian Roads Minister Tim Pallas, the aim is to help police tackle reckless riding and reduce the likelihood of pedestrians, other cyclists or drivers suffering serious injury. “We’re driving home to cyclists the need for them to obey road laws or be punished,” he said at his obligatory photo opportunity launch held at a Bourke Street bike shop. From now on cyclists found to have killed or seriously injured a pedestrian will face up to five years’ jail or a $68,000 fine.

Some important suggested changes to secrecy laws. The Australian Law Reform Commission this morning released a discussion paper on its Review of Secrecy Laws. At first glance it suggests some sensible changes to the current 537 separate secrecy provisions scattered through 175 pieces of Federal legislation that the Commission has identified. Chief among the draft recommendations is a proposal for a new new general secrecy offence that should only impose criminal liability where a particular disclosure did, was reasonably likely to, or was intended to:

  • Harm the national security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth;
  • Prejudice the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of criminal offences, breaches of a law imposing a penalty or sanction, the enforcement of laws relating to the confiscation of the proceeds of crime, or the protection of the public revenue;
  • Endanger the life or physical safety of any person;
  • Pose a serious threat to public health or public safety;
  • Have a substantial adverse effect on personal privacy; or
  • Have a substantial adverse effect on a person in respect of his or her lawful business or professional affairs or on the business, commercial or financial affairs of an organisation.