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Australia

Sep 18, 2017

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Clean coal” constitutes a process whereby power-generating efficiency is increased by about 30% and CO2 emission is reduced by approximately 30%. For conventional coal-fired power generation, heat from coal burned at a temperature of around 700 degrees Celsius produces steam, which rotates a turbine. A CoolGen’s plant is totally different as it roasts coal at above 1300 degrees while simultaneously blowing oxygen over it in order to convert the solid fuel into a gas. The system can drastically cut the discharge of CO2 because it uses gas from the roasted coal to generate power instead of burning the rock.

The concept of creating commercially viable ways of stopping the carbon emissions from coal-fired electricity plants has been the holy grail of the fossil fuel industry for decades. The cost of building the required infrastructure would be enormous and the time periods involved may be too long to prevent the risk, identified by the consensus of expert scientists, of potentially catastrophic climate change.

The production of “clean coal” is not problem-free. For example, Southern Co’s dream of a fully functional “clean coal” power plant is facing setbacks. The company is trying to build the first power plant of its kind able to burn coal and capture about 65% of the carbon-dioxide emissions. But the project has faced repeated delays and cost overruns. Since last year, as the facility began to test the equipment, it has experienced leaks and other problems that have pushed back when the facility would be fully operational.

Even if the problems associated with “clean coal” are overcome, saving about one third of emissions from coal, this would hardly retard the advent of dangerous climate change. Global reserves of coal, if exploited, would increase emissions by many tens, to more than a hundred, parts per million (see Figure 1), which is enough to lead to catastrophic melting of the Greenland ice sheet, a large part of the Antarctic ice sheet and a rise of sea level on the scale of many metres. There are sufficient coal, oil, gas and unconventional sources of fossil fuel (see Figure 1) to raise global temperature by several degrees Celsius, well above the threshold of the great ice sheets.

Figure 1. Estimates of fossil fuel resources and equivalent atmospheric CO2 levels, including (1) emissions to date; (2) estimated reserves, and (3) recoverable resources (2.12 GtC = ~1 ppm CO2). (Hansen 2012a; Hansen et al. 2012b)

Global CO2 emissions for 2016 were 36.4 GtCO2 (billion ton CO2). Australia’s contribution to such developments is not minor.

Australia’s projected emissions for 2016 are 559 MtCO2 (0.559 GtCO2). So, Australian domestic emission per capita for the Australian population (24 million) is 23.3 ton CO2 per year, or ~67 ton CO2 when combined with carbon export.

Compare with emissions per capita in other major emitting countries:

Figure 2. CO2 emissions per capita from fossil-fuel use and cement production in the top five emitting countries and European Union.

Despite the dire warning of climate scientists, underpinned by the current spate of extreme weather events around the world, the government appears to be bent on promoting coal-fired power generation.

Claims that carbon capture and storage might be able to “cut emissions from fossil fuels by up to 90 per cent” are difficult to support. There are 17 successful projects across the globe, storing about 30 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. This is about 1000 times less than the global emission of CO2 — 36400 MtCO2 (million ton CO2).

It is all reminiscent of the earlier promise of safe storage of nuclear high radiation nuclear waste, RADWASTE, which remained unfulfilled due to high costs and other problems

On August 12, 2010, Malcolm Turnbull, now Prime Minister, stated:

“We are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we’ve got…. We know that the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic. We know that extreme weather events are occurring with greater and greater frequency and while it is never possible to point to one drought or one storm or one flood and say that particular incident is caused by global warming, we know that these trends are entirely consistent with the climate change forecasts with the climate models that the scientists are relying on…. We as a human species have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us.”

However, on June 21, 2017, he declared the government was open to using “clean coal” technology to replace existing generators as he emphasised the need to prevent price rises and power outages across the national electricity market: “I’ve said in the past that I think that, as Australia is the largest seaborne exporter of coal, it would be good if we had a state-of-the-art, clean-coal power station in Australia.”

Not that any government in the world is listening to what climate science is saying. Global warming due to human-made gases, mainly CO2, is already higher than 1.0 degree Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius over the continents. Deleterious climate impacts and extreme weather events are growing worldwide, including as recent mega-floods and wild fires demonstrate.

More warming is in the pipeline. The Earth is out of energy balance, with absorbed solar energy exceeding planetary heat radiation. Maintaining a climate that resembles that of the last 8000 years (the Holocene), the world of stable shorelines in which civilisation developed, requires rapidly reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions as well as major CO2 sequestration efforts such as using sea grass plantations, biochar and chemical sequestration methods.

As George Orwell’s Newspeak principles indicate, changing the language alters peoples’ way of thinking. The clever switch from the terms “climate change” and “global warming” to “energy security” and “power blackouts” engenders fear in people regarding the immediate future at the expense of mitigation measures in protection of the planetary biosphere. However, as stated by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate adviser to the German government: “We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.

Environment

Sep 4, 2017

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As extreme hurricanes and extensive wildfires proliferate around the globe, an internet search suggests that, in reporting these events, the words “climate change” are rare. Some exceptions include the SMH and The Guardian, but numerous ABC reports of the Houston floods have neglected to mention climate change at all (for example here, here, here, here and here).

This contrasts with many reports in international journals confirming the relationship between carbon emissions, global warming and extreme weather events.

There is no lack of claims on climate denial websites to suggest extreme weather events have no relation to global warming — now about 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than 250 years ago — as exemplified by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, or Dr Roy Spencer, or as reported in Jezebel

It is often stated that single climate events do not necessarily represent the effect of climate change, and statements such as “once in 50 years” are common. But the incidence of extreme weather events has been rising as the Earth warms, as stated by the IPCC (2012 ):

“Models project substantial warming in temperature extremes by the end of the 21st century. It is virtually certain that increases in the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes and decreases in cold extremes will occur in the 21st century on the global scale. It is very likely that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, or heat waves, will increase over most land areas. Based on the A1B and A2 emissions scenarios, a 1-in-20 year hottest day is likely to become a 1-in-2 year event by the end of the 21st century in most regions, except in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, where it is likely to become a 1-in-5 year event ”.

[Chris Uhlmann joins Barnaby in blaming wind energy for SA’s blackout. They are dead wrong.]

The rise in meteorological and hydrological events is recorded by the Munich-Re institute, as in the figure below:

Up-to-date evidence for developments in the atmosphere is presented by NASA. The physics of this trend are elementary: as global temperatures rise evaporation from the oceans increases, forming migrating cyclonic cells. The moisture needs to be dumped somewhere. Lightning strikes ignite forest fires. As temperatures rise hot air plumes migrate from desert regions into cultivated and forest regions, creating conditions for wildfires.

The rise in land temperatures results in an increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves and fires, at a rate about two to three fold during 1980–2012.

[How denialists Kenny and Bolt royally screwed up reporting of climate paper]

According to the extract of climatologists Sefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou’s report “Increase of extreme events in a warming world“:

“We find that the number of record-breaking events increases approximately in proportion to the ratio of warming trend to short-term standard deviation. Short-term variability thus decreases the number of heat extremes, whereas a climatic warming increases it.”

Similar anomalies were reported by Hansen et al. in 2012, stating:

“The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased. An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3sigma) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area.”

None of the above appears to trouble law makers in the most heavily carbon polluting nations, including Australia, in the process of opening coal mega-mines and exporting more than twice its domestic carbon consumption, where the total carbon emission from combined domestic use and export is one of the world’s highest.

It will be a cold, cold day before News Corp abandons its love of obsessive, crackpot climate change stories. Indeed that was exactly the story in the Oz yesterday — a Graham Lloyd exclusive, sorry, a GRAHAM LLOYD EXCLUSIVE, alleging skullduggery at the Bureau of Meteorology. This was after — prepare TO BE HORRIFIED — a couple of low-side temperature findings from high-altitude stations near Goulburn did not appear online for a period.

The readings — of -10.4 degrees — went below the standard calibration of the meters, so the automated reporting system excluded them, before human examination. This is standard scientific procedure. But not for the tinfoil hat/one-world government/chemtrails crowd, for whom it is clearly more evidence of the global climate conspiracy hoax.

The “logic” of this is that the Big Climate Change/George Soros/Platecucks cabal is deleting results across the world, because if anyone were to discover that it hit -10.4 in the Snowy at the end of July, the whole of climate change science would collapse in an instant. Tinfoilers obsess over the idea that because it got cold somewhere, catastrophic climate change, and the rise of new sustained average high temperatures inimical to human life, aren’t occurring.

The centrepiece of this story is investigations by a mountain man named Lance Pidgeon, variously described as an “amateur” or “bush” meteorologist. Pidgeon is well-known around the traps, for trawling through decades of pre-1910 temperature listings, to argue that the Bureau of Meteorology is excluding data, etc, etc. He’s often featured on the website of Joanne Nova, whose Skeptics Handbook was distributed in the US by the Exxon-funded Heartland Institute (i.e. Exxon). Nova is a former children’s broadcaster (credits include Space Cadets).

In this case, Pidgeon has been feted by Jennifer Marohasy, who has edited the IPA’s latest climate change denialist volume, which included the deranged rant by Clive James published in the Oz a couple of months ago. Lloyd’s beat-up is then linked to a typically sane and measured piece by Maaaaurice Newman, which claims that the entire world climate monitoring system can now not be trusted. How will we now monitor contamination of our precious bodily fluids?

The usual storm in a tinfoil hat, in other words. It does contain one interesting variation — in a story that explicitly quotes and names BOM head Andrew Johnson, Lloyd states:

“… the peak weather agency was caught tampering with cold winter temperature logs on at least two occasions.”

That’s not a reported accusation by others: it’s a direct claim by Lloyd about BOM and an attack on the professional reputation of its leader. ‘Twere me, I would be consulting a lawyer or two about an accusation of surreptitious tampering with government records. Maybe things will get hotter a little closer to Surry Hills soon.

Environment

Jul 11, 2017

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Last week, Chris Kenny and Andrew Bolt broke a story that Kenny said deserved to be on front pages everywhere. But the story didn’t make a front page anywhere. Because the story didn’t exist.

With knowing nods, winks and half smiles, Kenny told his exclusive band of viewers of his “Heads Up” segment on Sky News to prepare for something momentous. This was, he told us breathlessly, a “very, very dramatic story” about “serious science”.

“There’s been quite a dramatic paper released by some of the world’s leading climate scientists,” Kenny went on, pausing for effect.

Kenny was referring to a new paper published in Nature Geoscience journal — “Causes of differences in model and satellite tropospheric warming rates” — by several eminent climate scholars, including lead author Benjamin Santer, as well as the extensively awarded Michael E. Mann.

The Nature Geoscience paper is about the difference between observed and modeled temperature rises, analysing “global-mean tropospheric temperatures from satellites and climate model simulations to examine whether warming rate differences over the satellite era can be explained by internal climate variability alone”.

But Kenny knew better, cleverly revealing the real story: “a global warming pause”.

Wrong. There is no global warming pause, as has been widely and repeatedly made clear, for example, here, here and here. Even worse, the paper he referred to said nothing of the sort.

About five seconds into Kenny’s TV, ahem, “report”, he decided to stop being even slightly accurate. “What they’re saying here is that the warming they have on their graphs, on their modelling, is much higher than the warming that has actually occurred.”   

The paper didn’t say this either.

Kenny then went on to quote repeatedly and triumphantly from the paper’s abstract, not the paper itself. Which is a bit weird. It’s like quoting from the back cover of a book, not the book itself. (The abstract of academic papers is typically publicly available, whereas the papers themselves are usually restricted to researchers or universities.) For such a huge, serious science story, wouldn’t you cite the actual paper? Unless, of course, you don’t have access to the paper. And if you don’t have access, have you actually read the thing?

Kenny quoted the last line of the paper’s abstract:

“We conclude that model overestimation of tropospheric warming in the early twenty-first century is partly due to systematic deficiencies in some of the post-2000 external forcings used in the model simulations.”

This, he said, meant that scientists were overstating temperatures. Hence the momentousness of his”story”. Problem is, the paper didn’t say this at all.

If he’d read the last line of the paper itself — and it’s questionable as to whether he read the paper at all — he would have read this:  

“Although scientific discussion about the causes of short-term differences between modelled and observed warming rates is likely to continue, this discussion does not cast doubt on the reality of long-term anthropogenic warming.”

Kenny didn’t report this, though. If he had, he wouldn’t have much of a story. However, he did claim that the paper showed that climate scientists’ models were wrong, that temperatures were overstated and therefore climate change wasn’t such a problem.

Kenny is the earthly representative of his spiritual mentor, Andrew Bolt, who misreported the same story, but went one further, saying that the paper’s lead author, “leading alarmist Ben Santer, now admits the world isn’t warming as predicted by global warming models”.

Not only is Bolt’s report as untrue as Kenny’s — if not more so — but Santer has been at pains to make clear the opposite is the case. For example, he published a fact sheet to accompany the paper Kenny and Bolt reported on. Wait a moment, I here you say, there was a fact sheet? Indeed. As Santer explained to me:

“The aim of the fact sheet was to reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation of key findings of our paper. But no matter how carefully or cautiously a paper is written, it is impossible to guard against wilful misrepresentation of results. Sadly, such wilful misrepresentation is now an expected outcome after each paper I publish.”

Funnily enough, the fact sheet completely contradicts what Kenny and Bolt reported. For example, it says this:

Do the problems in representing these external cooling influences point to systematic errors in how sensitive the models are to human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) increases?

Answer: No, not at all. We are talking about known, well-studied problems with some of the external, climate-influencing “forcing factors” that were used in the model simulations. These problems have nothing to do with the issue of how sensitive models are to GHG increases.

The fact sheet also discusses cooling and, also rejects the notion that there’s been a pause that Kenny and Bolt reported, saying this:

In a recent paper in Scientific Reports, you find that satellite measurements do not show any signs of “leveling off” of tropospheric warming over the past two decades. Aren’t those findings at odds with the findings of the Nature Geoscience paper?

Answer: No. The findings of the two papers are entirely consistent. The Scientific Reports paper compares the satellite tropospheric temperature trend over the past 20 years with many samples of 20-year trends obtained from model simulations of natural internal climate variability. Even though the most recent 20-year warming trend is smaller than in earlier parts of the satellite record, it is still significantly larger than the range of 20-year trends caused by internal climate variability alone. From our Scientific Reports study, there is no evidence that satellite data show “levelling off” of tropospheric warming in the last two decades.

Despite a fact sheet accompanying the scientific paper they claim to be reporting on, Kenny, Bolt and a bunch of other climate sceptics have reported the exact opposite — Bolt in particular, who is syndicated internationally, especially on a host of foetid climate-denying blogs. His sloppiness — and perhaps dishonesty — in reporting this paper has already been widely disseminated.

This is but one example of what regularly happens if there’s a difference between complex climate models and reality, a difference regularly exploited to suggest climate change isn’t happening or is in doubt.

But take a step back for a moment and think about modelling anything: how you will brush your teeth compared to how you did brush your teeth; modelling economic outcomes versus actual economic outcomes; or modelling visitor numbers compared to actual visitor numbers. There will always be differences because models and reality aren’t the same thing. This is despite the fact that climate models are actually accurate (for example, see this, this and this).

Climate change should be in the headlines every day, and so should all the other problems that constitute the Anthropocene era we’re living in, but they rarely are. The only front page Kenny’s story should be seen on is that of a Press Council adjudication.

United States

Jun 19, 2017

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In a few years’ time, the inevitable analysis of the Trump presidency and its historical legacy will begin. Political commentators and historians from across the world will weigh in on Trump’s foreign and domestic policies, his political convictions, his opinion polls, his rapport with his colleagues and fellow world leaders and his responses to national and international crises. Each will evaluate the enigma that is Donald J. Trump, and each will attempt to answer that age-old question of American democracy: was he a good leader?

The answer, of course, will be no. They will find him to be the president who single-handedly destroyed everything America once stood for, and believed in.

Since the turn of the 19th century, the United States of America has been convinced of its divine right to lead other nations — to be a world power concerned with the protection of all benevolent states and the beneficial spread of Liberalism. From this stemmed the idea of “American exceptionalism”, an unwavering belief that America’s unimpeachable democracy and capitalism makes it a nation superior to all others — a vanguard of morality, equality, justice, sovereignty, freedom, and free economic enterprise.

For hundreds of years, America has seen its position as world superpower epitomised by a single passage from the Bible: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14-16). Like a beacon of hope, America has strode through the world confident in its ability to be the defender of liberalism and protector and benefactor of its allies. From World War I to the fight against terrorism in recent years, the world has looked to America to lead the way in taking action to achieve world security against various existential threats.

The election of Donald Trump has now changed all this.

In the course of a few months, Trump has had no scruples in shattering every image of respectability and superiority the US once held in the international arena. The world has seen his unhinged tweets, his juvenile treatment of leaders of strong allies like Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, they have heard his well-documented and offensive views on women, Muslims, Mexicans and various minority groups and they have seen a leader facing threats of impeachment over allegations of Russian election interference less than half a year into the tenure of his presidency.

[Rundle: it’s Watergate on speed now]

These numerous controversies have tarnished that once spotless city shining on a hill. Courtesy of Trump, American democracy has become a rusted and crumbling shack, seemingly susceptible to foreign interference and blackened by the numerous scandals of its elected leader.

But most crucially, the global community bore witness to the single most horrific point of his leadership, the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Climate Accord. In that one move, Trump transformed America from a “Nation of Exceptionalism”, to a “Nation of Dereliction”, failing to fulfil its global duty of achieving global security from one of the greatest threats the world has ever seen: climate change. Under Trump, America has joined the likes of Syria in refusing to co-operate with the world to act while there is still time left to do so.

In his address to the nation on June 1 to justify his withdrawal, Trump made the following statements:

“So we’re getting out. But will we start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine …

“Thus as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund, which is costing the United States a vast fortune.”

The scientific facts are clear: if mankind fails to take action to stop human-induced climate change, we will see a scale of destruction as catastrophic, if not more so, as a nuclear strike by North Korea. Sea levels will continue to rise, a greater number of species of animals will become extinct, Earth’s temperature will continue to increase at an alarming rate, air quality will continue to decline, the numbers of climate change refugees will grow rapidly, and finite natural resources will dwindle at such a rate that they will eventually become a source of multinational conflict and war.

For the first time in an extremely long time, America has turned its back on a global security threat that grows daily.

For the first time in a long time, we are seeing an unexceptional nation that failed to show leadership when leadership was needed most.

In the coming years, this moment will be remembered as a turning point for America’s position in the world.

Environment

Jun 14, 2017

5 comments

As Tony Abbott and a group of climate denialists look to hold the government to ransom over energy policy, it’s worth remembering just how comprehensively they’ve failed in policy terms since Abbott destroyed Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership the first time around over the issue in 2009.

Sure, yes, Tony Abbott was a failure as prime minister — the worst in Australia’s history, so godawful his own party dispatched him much faster than Labor punted Kevin Rudd. But not that failure.

[Abbott-Turnbull: it’s on, but there’s a third player]

And, yes, despite Abbott’s insistence “climate science is crap” and that global warming had halted, the five hottest years in human history have occurred since 2009, with 2017 currently on track to be the second hottest year ever after 2016. But not that failure, either.

And, OK, Australia’s emissions, after falling between 2010 and 2015, resumed growing under Abbott’s prime ministership, according to the government’s own data. But no, not that failure.

It’s their failure by their very own metric, according to the very basis on which they blocked effective climate action — power prices. Power prices would fall by 9% as a result of the abolition of Labor’s “great big new tax on everything”, the Abbott government and its hollow opportunists like Greg Hunt blithely predicted.

Prices did fall, true — though very few Australians got the vaunted 9%. Prices in Melbourne fell by around 6% after the repeal in 2014, according to ABS CPI data. They fell just over 7% in Sydney. They didn’t fall in Brisbane — in fact they went up just under 20% (thanks, Campbell Newman). They were flat in Adelaide and fell by around 4.5% in Perth. Only in Hobart did the hype match and beat the forecasts, with prices falling 13%.

[LET the fight begin — Turnbull must defeat Abbott over energy]

Thereafter, of course, prices shot back up. In Perth, they’ve since risen nearly 10%. They fell in South Australia in 2015 and early 2016 but since then they’ve increased by more than they fell. In Brisbane, prices have increased too, though only at a fraction of the Campbell Newman surge. In Melbourne, prices went up 5% in 2015 and up over 7% in the year to March 2017. And in Sydney, in 2016, prices went up over 10%.

Everywhere except in Hobart, the small price falls produced by getting rid of the carbon price have vanished. Bang. Gone. Thanks for coming. Don’t let angry consumers kick you in the bum on the way out.

All wiped out by the ongoing clusterfuck that is energy policy, especially on the east coast. And all that’s before another wave of massive power price rises this year that are rolling out across the eastern states right now.

And while there’s plenty of responsibility to go around, and not just among politicians and bureaucrats, for the debacle of an elaborately designed electricity market that has delivered massive price rises and blackouts, the climate denialists get most of it. It’s the regulatory uncertainty they have engineered and investment drought it led to since 2009 that is delivering the latest round of power prices. Every electricity bill is a hate letter from denialists, who promised cheaper power and delivered rise after rise after rise to households.

Now we’re back for another round of what is dubbed the climate wars but is probably more accurately described as denialists’ war against reality. Fueled by ideology and the donations of fossil fuels companies, they rejected the views of scientists about the existence of climate change, then they rejected the views of economists about using a market-based mechanism; now they’re rejecting the views of investors, who regard funding coal-fired power as having all the appeal of investing in industrial whaling.

[Don’t ignore the profound electoral anger about power prices and corporate greed]

In truth, denialists have never been genuinely interested in the welfare of households — and certainly not of the child occupants of those households, who will inherit a hotter, more extreme and more economically fragile planet from us. Their focus has always been on prosecuting a culture war against the left and protecting the interests of powerful companies that benefit from being able to impose their costs on the rest of us and on future generations. Now we’re back with the long party room meetings, the conflicting accounts of who said what, the leader under pressure, the mutterings about leadership. Except this time it’s within government.

But at least denialists are consistent. They have the same refusal to accept reality that they’ve displayed over the last decade. And they offer the same outcomes to Australian households: ever-higher electricity prices. We must all suffer, it seems, for the ideological fetish of a few angry old men.

Crikey Worm

Jun 9, 2017

5 comments

TODAY IN TRUMP

Former FBI director James Comey has gone on the record in front of a Senate Select Committee today, accusing Donald Trump of firing him because of his Bureau’s Russia investigation, alleging the administration defamed him and lied, and testifying that Trump personally pushed him to drop an investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Comey also revealed he told a friend to leak his memo of the meeting to a reporter in response to a tweet from Trump warning Comey that he should hope there aren’t any recordings of their conversations.

We’ll have a full report on the two days of tumult surrounding Comey’s testimony in Crikey later today.

COME WHAT MAY

Voting has closed in Britain’s general election, with the day marked by long lines outside voting stations around the country. The final poll had the Conservative party up by 12 points, though polls put the party’s lead between one and 12. It is not the result Prime Minister Theresa May hoped for when she called the election seven weeks ago. Guy Rundle will have his report live from the scene in today’s Crikey Insider. — The Guardian / Reuters

FINKEL NOT FICKLE ON ENERGY SOURCES

This afternoon, Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel will release his long-awaited review of the security of the energy market after briefing leaders at the COAG meeting in Hobart. Multiple reports from Fairfax and News Corp this morning suggest that the review will say that the clean energy target will have the lowest impact on power prices — even lower than doing nothing. A clean energy target would begin operating by 2020, with Australia keeping the renewable energy target until then. The Australian refers to the proposal as “all carrot and no stick” because energy producers would be rewarded for investing in clean energy, but not penalised via a carbon tax. 

To avoid another Hazelwood situation — which was closed down with just six months warning — the Finkel report will reportedly recommend a three-year lead time for the shutdown of coal-fired power stations.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has extended an olive branch to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull indicating that Labor could potentially support a low energy target, and put the climate change political fight to bed, but as always, the backbench of the Coalition may cause trouble. Reports suggest that Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has been briefing the right wing rump of the Coalition backbench ahead of the report’s release to try to get them on board.

STATES PROPOSE FEDERAL JAIL

Ahead of today’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting in Hobart, the Herald Sun reports that Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia are pushing for a proposal for federal prisons to house the most dangerous prisons — including those charged with terrorism offences. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been fighting with the states all week over who exactly should have responsibility for parole for terror suspects. Fairfax reports today that figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the number of people in prisons has surged by 40% in the past five years.

Early reports had claimed that the Brighton gunman Yacqub Khayre was blocked from federal deradicalisation programs, but it has been reported today that Khayre was involved in Victorian deradicalisation programs in the six months before this week’s terror attack. The Australian reports, however, that the Islamic Council of Victoria has withdrawn support for the state-based program. In New South Wales, the The Daily Telegraph reports that while 100 inmates are being monitored, just 12 have gone through that state’s own deradicalisation program.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson wrote a letter to the prime minister calling for actual internment camps for people on what she believes are “terrorist watch lists” (the government has confirmed no such list exists, just active ASIO investigations) until we can be sure they are safe. Human Rights groups have called the proposal deeply disturbing.

As Crikey Worm publishes, Victoria Police are undertaking a counter-terrorism operation related to the Brighton siege in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

YOU CALLED ME

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has a letter in the Australian Financial Review today claiming that he finds it hard to hold out hope that Turnbull will ban foreign donations when Turnbull blocked Rudd’s attempts to reform political donations in 2008. Rudd claims that the legislation was a first step that would have changed the whole donations game. 

“It was intended as the first stage of donation reform, but even that would have given Australia a fairer and more transparent system of political donations, still sadly lacking today,” he wrote.

The Australian also reports that Dr Chau Chak Wing — one of the donors making headlines over his support for Labor and the Coalition — has said that he made donations to the major parties in response to approaches for donations from those parties. In fact, the paper states, a senior member of the PM’s election campaign team directly solicited Chau for a donation at last year’s election — well after ASIO chief Duncan Lewis had warned the parties on accepting donations from Chinese-born billionaires with ties to China’s communist party.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Hanson gags ABC over leaked tapes.

Google scrambles to fix Google Maps renaming Margaret Court Arena.

WHAT’S ON FOR TODAY?

Hobart: State and territory leaders meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for COAG.

Hobart: Chief scientist Alan Finkel‘s report on the security of the energy market is expected to be released at 2pm.

Canberra: Attorney-General George Brandis to open National Archives Facility.

THE COMMENTARIAT

No magic bullets in Alan Finkel’s review — Graham Lloyd (The Australian $): “The long-term trend towards renewable energy may be clear. But there is a danger the response to today’s energy market blueprint from the Chief Scientist will be clouded by climate-change ideology and naked politics at the expense of sensible long-term strategy.”

Donations and Alan Finkel will raise Canberra’s temperature — Laura Tingle (Australian Financial Review $): “The risks in energy and climate change policy now, it seems, come from lone wolf operators like Tony Abbott rather than the powerful institutions of our economy.”

Saying ‘enough is enough’ is to misunderstand terrorism completely — Waleed Aly (The Age): “The truth is that while hard police power is undoubtedly important, the track record of governments trying to eliminate terrorism predominantly by force isn’t an encouraging one.”

THE WORLD

Qatar’s leaders have struck a defiant tone in the wake of a worsening diplomatic fallout with major regional powers including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE. Foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani vowed to continue pursuing the country’s independent foreign policy, and dismissed the impact of a blockade on the country. “We can live forever like this, we are well prepared,” he said. The country has been boosted by assistance from Turkey and Iran, while President Donald Trump appears to have eased back his initially ardent support for Saudi Arabia. — Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING

Statement for the record, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (James B Comey): “When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, ‘I want to talk about Mike Flynn.'”

The 6 things that need to happen for Labour to win (New Statesman): “Based on what happened in 2015, it’s quite possible that Labour MPs in big cities will increase their majorities, but those in small town England will have a catastrophic night.”

The loneliness of Donald Trump (Literary Hub): “I have often run across men (and rarely, but not never, women) who have become so powerful in their lives that there is no one to tell them when they are cruel, wrong, foolish, absurd, repugnant. In the end there is no one else in their world, because when you are not willing to hear how others feel, what others need, when you do not care, you are not willing to acknowledge others’ existence. It is as if these petty tyrants live in a world without honest mirrors, without others, without gravity, and they are buffered from the consequences of their failures.”

The curious case of the disappearing nuts (Outside): “In California, millions of dollars’ worth of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are disappearing. Farmers are perplexed, the cops are confused, and the crooks are getting richer.”

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Crikey Worm

Jun 8, 2017

5 comments

BRIGHTON FALLOUT CONTINUES

On day three of the reaction to the Brighton terror incident, the focus has shifted to what the security and law enforcement agencies were doing in the lead up to the attack. The Age reports that the man who killed serviced apartments clerk Kai Hao on Monday, Yacqub Khayre, was recommended to be involved in deradicalisation programs in 2011, but this was rejected by law enforcement agencies. The AFP has denied this, stating it is a matter for the states. The Australian also reports this morning that ASIO had lost track of Khayre, and had to ask the Victorian parole board for his mobile number in May. It could be something to do with ASIO’s workload, which is at more than 400 cases at the moment (The Daily Telegraph has claimed this story as an exclusive, but Attorney-General George Brandis dropped the figure in an interview with 2GB yesterday).

The Daily Telegraph also reports that the NSW Government will today announce that 100 police officers in the riot squad in Sydney will be armed with M4 Colt Carbine weapons as part of the government’s first response to the Lindt cafe siege inquiry.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has also come out and suggested that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s idea that the federal attorney-general should have the final say on parole would be “dangerous”.

LET IT GO, LET IT GO

After a decade of war between the political parties over climate change, there are signs that there might be peace in our time. Maybe. Ahead of the release of the Finkel Report on the energy sector on Friday, Bluescope Steel CEO Paul O’Malley has told The Australian that the steel giant backs a Low Emissions Target, and follows opposition leader Bill Shorten signalling that Labor would be open to the idea of a well-constructed LET. But, like clockwork, former prime minister Tony Abbott has signaled he may be opposed to an LET, now that it looks like it might actually resolve the divisive political issue.

“The Liberal Party has got to be the party of cheap power, let Labor be the party of expensive power,” he said. Energy businesses want certainty on policy for investment, but it seems unlikely they’re about to get it if Abbott is planning to lead a backbench revolt.

There is also expected to be new rules for renewable energy projects like solar and wind farms, to require them to have storage or back-up energy supplies in the event that there isn’t enough being generated to support the network.

INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS VICTIMS OF ANTI-ADANI CAMPAIGN

Indigenous academic Marcia Langton has used the annual mining industry lecture in Melbourne to state that the Greens and environment groups have delayed the passage of native title reforms in parliament in order to use the current state of the laws in their campaign against the Adani coal mine. Langton says the green groups are presenting “small handful” of Indigenous activists as representing the whole, and often rely on flimsy evidence in their opposition to the project. It wasn’t just the Greens that have delayed the passage of the legislation. The government attempted to bring on the legislation for debate in the senate before the budget estimates period last month and extend the sitting until it was passed, but there were no negotiations with Labor before it made this move, so the vote to extend the sitting never got up. It will return to parliament next week.

ATO WANTS $1 BILLION FROM CHEVRON

Fairfax reports today that due to the interest associated with the $340 million transfer pricing case Chevron lost against the Australian Taxation Office in April, the ATO is claiming Chevron owes the Australian taxpayers over $1 billion in back taxes with interest.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Rushed changes to 457 visa laws are unlawful, say senior migration lawyers.

Man involved in car fire at Australian Christian Lobby HQ pleads not guilty due to mental impairment.

Bernardi calls for ABC to ditch Al Jazeera.

Housing prices the biggest threat to the economy.

WHAT’S ON FOR TODAY

SydneyDirections hearing for Adam Cranston, the son of deputy ATO Commissioner Michael Cranston over the $165 million tax fraud case.

Sydney: Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek to speak at Gerard Henderson‘s Sydney Institute this evening.

Canberra: Hearing for the parliamentary inquiry into research for cancers with low survival rates.

Melbourne: Rebel Wilson defamation trial continues.

St George: One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is at the Isolated Children’s Parents conference in Queensland.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Time fascists were victims instead — Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun $): “I hit the head of one so hard that my knuckles are still tender, and when he was down, legs sprawled apart, I kicked.”

Uluru proposals deserve better than a knee-jerk reaction — Fred Chany (The Age): “Is giving people a chance to be heard so radical? Surely it is a conservative position to want Parliament to look and listen before it makes yet another legislative leap?”

We have word for it: opportunity — Niki Savva (The Australian $): “Malcolm Turnbull will decide [on a reshuffle], but after the Islamist attacks in Manchester, before even London and Brighton, the mood was hardening against delay, with momentum building for action sooner rather than later.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

Former FBI chief James Comey has released a lengthy statement ahead of his highly anticipated testimony before Congress tomorrow. Comey alleges that President Donald Trump demanded his loyalty at one point, and in another meeting asked aides to leave before imploring Comey to drop an investigation into his former National Security advisor Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,” Trump allegedly said.

Trump also asked Comey to help lift “the cloud” of the FBI’s probe into his presidential campaign. Uncomfortable being left alone with the President, Comey recorded the interactions in a series of memos.

Trump has also announced his new pick for FBI director, unveiling Christopher Wray, a Bush-era Justice Department official who represented Chris Christie as he was investigated over the “Bridgegate” scandal. 

THE WORLD

Twin attacks in the Iranian capital Tehran have left 12 dead after suicide bombers and gunmen struck both the parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. The powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards blamed Saudi Arabia for the attack, while the Islamic State claimed responsibility. Such attacks are rare in Iran, and the incident is likely to empower hardliners in the country, to the detriment of recently re-elected President Hassan Rouhani. — Reuters

Iraqi Kurds will hold an independence referendum on September 25. Quasi-official, the vote will be used to pressure the central Iraqi government if it is successful. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

How Donald Trump shifted kids-cancer charity money into his business (Forbes): “In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free — that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.”

The radical crusade of Mike Pence (Rolling Stone): “Pence is the nation’s 48th vice president. Nine vice presidents have assumed the presidency as a result of death or resignation. That’s a 19 per cent ascendancy rate. Between Trump’s trigger-happy Twitter persona, the ethical nightmare of his business empire, his KFC addiction and possible entanglements with Vladimir Putin, I’d say the chances for Mike Pence are more than 50-50.”

Egypt: the new dictatorship (New York Review of Books): “Recent events in Egypt have raised the question of whether the tradeoff General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has offered the Egyptian public — keeping them safe in exchange for an authoritarian state and far-reaching restrictions on civil society — is working.”

The oldest human fossils ever discovered have stories to tell (The New Yorker): “In any case, there was a long period — two hundred thousand years, it now appears — during which ‘human culture’ involved only stone tools, as with pretty much every other Paleolithic hominin. Were we like them, or were they like us? “

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Crikey Worm

Jun 7, 2017

5 comments

BRIGHTON SIEGE PUTS FOCUS ON PAROLE

“How was he on parole?” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said of Yacqub Khayre, the Somalian refugee shot dead by police in Brighton, Victoria yesterday after taking a sex worker hostage and killing the receptionist who worked in the serviced apartments. The Herald Sun reports that Khayre had a long history of thefts and assaults, and setting fire to prisons. The Age reports that Khayre was charged and acquitted over plans for a suicide attack on the Holsworthy army barracks, and he was considered a “peripheral player” in an anti-terror investigation. He was released on parole in December 2016, despite reportedly little belief he could be rehabilitated.

The Victorian opposition is calling on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to resign over the incident, but Andrews accused them of grandstanding, pointing out that Khayre was sentenced under the former Liberal state government. Turnbull has said that parole laws would be a focus of Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting, and The Australian reports that the PM will push for uniform parole laws across Australia.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten focused his attention on internet giants Twitter, Google, and Facebook, calling for “big internet” to step in and fight terrorism online.

ADANI GETS NOD, NEEDS CASH

The $16.5 billion Adani coal mine in Queensland has the green light after seven years of court cases and approvals processes. The Courier-Mail reports that some of those alleged thousands of jobs that the project will bring to the region will come very soon, with Downer Group and AECOM commencing mine development and the rail link, and Adani’s regional headquarters to be set up in Townsville.

There is still a $3.3 billion funding hole that Adani will need to fill before the first stage of the mine is complete, including the $1 billion the mining giant wants from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. Environment groups have told The Australian they will amp up pressure to sway the NAIF against giving the loan to Adani. NAIF should make its decision before the end of this year.

DONATIONS, DONATIONS

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was fired up after being inundated with questions by a journalist at an event yesterday over Labor Senator Sam Dastyari‘s lobbying on the behalf of a Chinese donor to the Labor party. Shorten said Dastyari had paid the price over his “indiscretion” last year in resigning from the shadow ministry. Turnbull said that Dastyari still had questions to answer, while 4 Corners also revealed that former Coalition minister Andrew Robb walked out from parliament into an $880,000-per year part time consulting job with a Chinese billionaire. Both Labor and the Coalition support a ban on foreign political donations, but the government has yet to introduce any legislation into parliament to support this policy since Turnbull announced it at the National Press Club at the start of this year.

Part of what still needs to be worked out will be whether foreign donations will be banned for third party organisations — like GetUp, or environment groups, or the Institute of Public Affairs — as well as political parties.

THE NUMBER TO REMEMBER: $18.29

That’s the new hourly rate for the minimum wage. The Fair Work Commission yesterday ordered a 3.3% rise in the minimum wage of $0.59 per hour to $18.29 per hour — or $22.20 extra per week. It is much less than the $45 per week sought by unions, and the Fair Work Commission said that research has said that modest and regular increases in wages do not increase unemployment, and yet some are still crying poor, claiming that the increase will cost jobs. One expert quoted in the AFR suggests that the Fair Work Commission is engaged in “magic pudding talk“. ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said that the decision showed the system was broken and would keep people who are working in poverty.

HE REALLY SAID THAT

“Well, Islamophobia hasn’t killed anyone. Islamist terrorism has now killed tens of thousands of people, that’s why it is absolutely critical that there be the strongest possible response at every level.” — Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Security agencies have said the former PM should know better, and it comes just after Islamophobia resulted in the murder of two men on a train in Portland.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Andrew Bolt fights back, throws punches after protesters “spray” him.

Pisasale had $50,000 in cash at airport before raids and resignation.

Xenophon urges GetUp deputy chair to quit Press Council.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Prince Harry is in Sydney to launch the Invictus Games.

Sydney: The final day of Eddie Obeid‘s appeal hearing will be held.

Canberra: Former US Director of Intelligence James Clapper to deliver a speech at the National Press Club.

Melbourne: Education minister Simon Birmingham to deliver a speech at the Parent Engagement Conference.

Brisbane: A protest by doctors and students against CBA investing in the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine is planned.

Perth: AMEC Mining Conference gets underway.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Adani’s trick of the ‘green light’ — Matthew Stevens (Australian Financial Review $): “My concern is that the economics of this mine and rail project appear to be so shaky that the two proponents (yes, there are two) require direct taxpayer funding in the form of a large, long, low-cost loan from the Commonwealth and a generous, cash-flow sustaining, royalty concession by the state.” 

Fair Work Commission shows caution on minimum wage ruling — Ewin Hannan (The Australian $): “Neither unions nor ­employers are happy at the commission continuing its practice of splitting the difference between their competing claims.”

If major party politicians want to avoid oblivion they will embrace donation reform — Nick O’Malley (The Age): “Each year the same handful of industries and interest groups — developers, gambling, unions, resources, tobacco and pharmaceuticals chief among them — pour buckets of money over our politicians while they continue to insist it has no affect on how they run their diaries or departments.”

Faux Muslim leaders worse than no leaders at all — Janet Albrechtsen (The Australian $): “If you’re not familiar with Khan, picture Waleed Aly.”

TODAY IN TRUMP

Donald Trump has bragged about his role in moving Saudi Arabia to diplomatically isolate US ally Qatar. “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology,” he tweeted. “Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!”

The brag has put Trump at odds with his Secretaries of State and Defence, as well as the Pentagon, which has a key airbase in the now isolated Gulf country from which attacks on the Islamic State are launched. Qatar has often been accused of funding violent Islamist groups in the region — but so too has Saudi Arabia.

THE WORLD

A man has been shot by police outside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris after hitting an officer with a hammer and yelling “this is for Syria”. Holidaying families were forced to shelter inside the building as the incident took place. French prosecutors have opened a terrorism investigation. — Reuters

A 25-year-old American has been charged after allegedly leaking documents to news website The InterceptReality Leigh Winner was arrested before the website published the resulting story, which detailed an attack by Russian hackers targeting US election officials. It is the first leak prosecution since Donald Trump became president. — Washington Post

“Rideshare” service Uber has fired more than 20 staff after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. The company has been on the defensive since a blog post aired allegations about poor treatment of women in the workplace. Senior executives are thought to be among those dismissed. — Bloomberg

WHAT WE’RE READING

Top-secret NSA report details Russian hacking effort days before 2016 election (The Intercept): “The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into US voting systems than was previously understood.”

Qatar crisis: This is why Saudi Arabia and its allies have suddenly cut ties to their Sunni Arab neighbour (The Independent): “Under Mr Trump, the degree of protection it can expect from the US is uncertain and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, eager to secure his own path to the Saudi throne, cannot afford a failure. He may even want to go the limit and eliminate Qatar as an independent state, the first time this has happened in the Gulf since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.”

We found Mike Flynn’s secret Twitter account (Daily Beast): “In March 2015, zulutym tweeted a picture at Flynn Jr. ‘The ability to speak multiple languages is an asset, but the ability to keep your mouth shut in any language is priceless,’ the image’s caption read.”

Popular people live longer (New York Times): “Research suggests that despite the great temptations to gain status, those who achieve it ultimately experience greater unhappiness and dissatisfaction, while those who are likable have far greater satisfaction and success.”

How being a news junkie makes you racist (Ozy): “We all have that racist aunt, or that friend who says questionable things about the news without really understanding what’s going on. But staying well-informed helps the masses understand nuance and avoid the prejudices of ignorance, right? Not so fast. Recent research suggests that the more news you watch, the more Islamophobic you become.”

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Crikey Worm

Jun 6, 2017

5 comments

SHOOTOUT IN BRIGHTON

A gunman shot dead by Victoria Police overnight in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton was believed to be known by counter-terrorism police but was considered low risk. He was on parole at the time of the shooting, and is alleged to have made a call to the Channel 7 newsroom stating “this is for IS” and “this is for “Al-Qaeda”, according to the Herald Sun. The man involved was holding a woman hostage, and another man was found dead. Three police were injured in a shootout with the gunman.

PM CALLS FOR ENCRYPTION CRACKDOWN

Following the attacks in London on the weekend, an Australian woman is still missing, amid fears she was in the London Bridge area at the time of the attack. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — who is a fan of using encryption apps himself — has called on companies like WhatsApp to provide access to encrypted communications to law enforcement agencies, and has joined UK Prime Minister Theresa May in calling for social media companies such as Facebook to crack down on terrorists using their services. Last week the PM met with local social media executives and the heads of Australia’s telecommunications companies for a cyber security roundtable. The Australian also reports that the Turnbull government has settled on a new national security portfolio modelled after the UK version, rather than the often suggested US Department of Homeland Security.

At the Council of Australian Governments meeting on Friday, the PM is also trying to get the state premiers on board with security upgrades to stadiums around Australia. In the Coalition partyroom last week, the PM mentioned the need for upgrades to these public areas — such as bollards to prevent cars from getting into pedestrian areas.

QUE QATAR, QATAR

The nation of Qatar has been thrown into turmoil after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain simultaneously turned on their ally. Usually a member of the Sunni-majority coalition of states that counter-balances Iran, Qatar’s erstwhile allies are reportedly furious over its alleged support for terrorism, particularly for the waning Muslim Brotherhood group. Once a close follower of Saudi Arabia, the small country has recently sought a more independent foreign policy.

The diplomatic freeze could be a disaster for Qatar, which is now blocked from using the airspace of several of its neighbours and relies heavily on Saudi Arabia for food imports, now blocked. It’s also a nightmare for the US. President Donald Trump recently visited Saudi Arabia and lavished praise on the country, while Qatar hosts a key US military base. — Reuters

ASIO WARNS ON DONATIONS

Australia’s top spy agency warned Australian political parties from taking donations from two Chinese businessmen — Huang Xiangmo and Chau Chak Wing — because of their alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party, Fairfax Media and the ABC reports. The two men and their associates are reported to have made $6.7 million in donations in Australia, including $1 million to Labor and the Coalition after the parties were warned by ASIO. Labor Senator Sam Dastyari has also defended his repeated calls to Immigration to help Huang’s citizenship application, saying he was helping a constituent. Former Trade Minister Andrew Robb is also reportedly receiving $880,000 per year in his part-time consulting job with Communist Party-linked billionaire Ye Cheng.

ALP BACKS LOW EMISSIONS TARGET

The Australian Financial Review reports that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has signalled that Labor could support a low emissions target — something that would allow subsidies to go to “clean coal” as well as renewable energy — if it is recommended by the Finkel report out on Friday. Labor wants an emissions intensity scheme, but the Coalition is completely opposed. Labor’s shadow energy minister Mark Butler, however, has suggested that a LET would be the third-best option behind carbon pricing and emissions intensity schemes. The Business Council of Australia also backs a LETThe Australian reports.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has reportedly also been hitting the phones with the right wing rump of the Liberals such as Eric Abetz and Andrew Hastie urging calm over the climate change review and assuring them of the need to stay in the Paris agreement after US President Donald Trump announced the US would withdraw from the agreement.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Disgraced former US General and CIA director David Petraeus to speak at a $10,000 per-table fundraiser for the Liberals later this month.

Sunday penalty rate cut to be phased in by 2020, angering both unions and retailers. 

The Victorian Liberals are considering suing its biggest funding source, the Cormack Foundation, for withholding funding.

Catholic schools defend their own funding model, and fight against the government’s proposed changes.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Sydney: Cities minister Paul Fletcher and his assistant minister Angus Taylor in Western Sydney for a tourism forum.

Sydney: Day two in disgraced former Labor state minister Eddie Obeid‘s appeal hearing.

Sydney: RBA board meeting and interest rates decision.

Melbourne: Fair Work Commission hands down annual minimum wage decision.

Melbourne: Rebel Wilson defamation trial continues.

Hobart: Tasmanian government budget estimates hearings.

THE COMMENTARIAT

We should follow Met’s lead on rapid response — Paul Maley (The Australian $): “By all means give the military the lead in responding to complex attacks such as sieges or hijackings, but the first priority should be to give local police the training and firepower they need to respond to the rudimentary terrorism they are most likely to confront. What’s more, they need it now.”

Housing affordability package gives voters what they want but not what they need — John Daley and Brendan Coates (The Age): “The fact is that foreigners don’t own much of our housing — perhaps 2 per cent of the value of the residential stock.”

London terror attack: open to Islamist delusions — Greg Sheridan (The Australian $): “For the political discourse and broad culture in many Muslim societies — even notionally democratic societies such as Indonesia or Turkey, and among Western Muslims as well — includes what can only be described as myths and paranoid fantasies as a staple.”

Australia must prepare to counter terrorism before attacks — Jim Molan (Herald Sun $): “Does Australia need to be badly hit to learn what the UK is learning?”

TODAY IN TRUMP

Donald Trump will not prevent former FBI director James Comey from testifying before Congress later this week. The president is able to claim executive privileged in some cases, raising the prospect that Trump could have tried to shut down Comey’s testimony. But the White House said this will not happen, and experts have added the president would be on weak legal ground even if he tried.

Perhaps disappointed to let a potential controversy slide, Trump has taken to Twitter to attack London Mayor Sadiq Khan for the second day in a row.

THE WORLD

Two of the three men responsible for the London Bridge terror attack have been named. The first was Khuram Butt, a 27-year-old born in Pakistan. The second was Rachid Redouane, a 30-year-old thought to be Moroccan-Libyan. Redouane was not known to police, though there had been public complaints and an investigation into Butt previously. — BBC

WHAT WE’RE READING

 Donald Trump’s triumph of stupidity (Spiegel Online): “German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the last one to speak, according to the secret minutes taken last Friday afternoon in the luxurious conference hotel in the Sicilian town of Taormina — meeting notes that DER SPIEGEL has been given access to. Leaders of the world’s seven most powerful economies were gathered around the table and the issues under discussion were the global economy and sustainable development.”

How Arab countries’ decision to break ties with Qatar complicates things for the US (BuzzFeed): “Numerous Saudi and UAE attempts to rally the Muslim world against Iran over the years have faltered. Researchers and diplomats say the attempt to bludgeon Qatar into aligning its policies with the rest of the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council could just as easily push it closer to the strategic orbit of Iran, Turkey, or Russia.”

Tom Price bought drug stocks. Then he pushed pharma’s agenda in Australia (ProPublica): “In Canberra, Price and another Republican, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, pressured senior Australian trade officials to modify their position on the 12-year extension, according to a congressional aide who was on the trip. The Australians explained that they had no intention of changing their laws or rules in ways that could increase drug prices. Price and Kline continued pushing, according to the aide, asking for a side letter or other written guidance that the period would be extended in Australia even if it weren’t spelled out in the TPP itself.”

Drug deaths in America are rising faster than ever (New York Times): “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.”

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