Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Tony Abbott, please keep your promise and retain the RET

Open letter to Josh Frydenburg, Kooyong.


Late last year Prime Minister Abbott broke an election promise when he called for devastating cuts to the Renewable Energy Target. 

This week the Abbott government has used national media channels to deliver veiled threats: take our offer to slash the Target to around 31,000 GWh, or we'll walk. 

I ask that you represent my views in the Australian parliament and your Party Room on retaining the RET in its current form. 

Solar energy is a clean renewable solution for the future. You are attacking on solar energy if you reduce the RET, and breaking a clear election promise. 

Please keep the Renewable Energy Target strong. The Renewable Energy Target is one of the most successful pieces of nation building legislation in past years. 

Not only has the Target helped more than 5 million Australians go solar, it also benefits the entire country - increasing investment, growth, jobs and regional development. 

Yours sincerely, 
Peter Campbell
[home address supplied]


You can send an email like this to your local MP, asking them to retain the RET and stop attacking renewable energy, from [here] 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tony Abbott, the Game of Thrones and why party politics is failing

Its interesting to watch the decline of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.  I was concerned when he became Prime Minister that he would not be a good leader.  My worst fears have since been realised.

Tony Abbott: Source

The list of broken promises and bad policies gets longer almost every day, here are just a few:
  • Funding cuts to ABC and SBS (a broken promise and appalling "efficiency levy lie)
  • "Loggers are the ultimate conservationists" and "no more national parks" (appalling lie)
  • "Coal is good for humanity" (appalling lie)
  • Deregulation of university fees - that could result in $100,000 degrees (no policy for this during the 2013 election campaign)
  • Continued incarceration of asylum seekers (including children) in concentration camps and offshore processing centres - a clears breach of human rights and the UN Convention for Refugees. (Note this is also supported by the Labor opposition)
  • Encouraging Islamaphobia is making Australia less safe, rather than considering the causes of radicalisation of the minority who join the likes of ISIS, and how we can prevent this happening.
  • Lifters and Leaners: vilification of low income earners and protection of corporate tax evaders
  • A budget emergency that actually did not exist, but is now being created by the failed LNP budget and policies.
  • Ongoing denial of climate change accompanied by policies that are crippling our transition to renewable energy and a zero carbon future.
  • The proposed GP Copayment - research indicated that this will have a negative effect on health care outcomes and greatly disadvantage low income earners.
All these policies have a common thread - they are based on ideology rather than evidence.

However, for all this I don't just blame Tony Abbott.  

We have serious systemic problems with political parties, where their policies come from, how their leaders are elected, and the basic failure of representational democracy.

Political parties actually only represent their own traditional support bases:
  • Liberal - medium to high income earners, "the big end of town" corporates, media barons etc. Notional "conservatives".
  • Labor - "working families", unions (some but not all), Notional "progressives" etc
  • Greens - conservationists, some unions, progressives disillusioned with Labor and the Coalition
  • Nationals - the notional "rural vote"
The average citizen has next to zero input into party policies.  Many actual party members (a small fraction of voters) also have little or no input to party policies.

Party policies come from secretive processes that are largely controlled by internal and vested interests.

The basic failure of representational democracy is twofold:
  1. Yet we vote for our local Members of Parliament, who are supposed to represent us. In reality, they vote the way their party instructs them most of the time.
  2. Parties have policy platforms during an election that are not binding - promises are routinely broken once government and policies that were not part of their election platform are forced onto society.
Our Prime Ministers are selected by internal party processes such as Party Room votes.  There is never any public participation with this - MPs decided when to sack a sitting Prime Minister and appoint a new one.

Recently, this has been chaotic.

The Labor Party sacked Kevin Rudd due to internal problems they had with his autocratic leadership style.

The Labor Party then sacked Julia Gillard and reappointed Kevin Rudd because nervous Labor MPs thought she couldn't win the 2013 election - which Rudd went on to lose.

Malcolm Turnbull was deposed as Coalition Opposition Leader in 2009 by the Liberal Party room, many of whom were concerned by his bipartisan support for an emissions trading scheme.  Tony Abbott won by one vote and went to become Prime Minister.

Now in 2015, it is evident to the wider electorate that Tony Abbott is manifestly unsuitable for the role of Prime Minister, so nervous back benchers (scared of losing their seats) bring on a "vote of no confidence" in him, which is defeated (61 votes for him, 39 against) with no alternative candidate. 

Since then, Abbott has continued to prove himself incapable of governing the country, he is locked into "attack mode" where he insists he well "beat Bill Shorten" and he continues to bully and threaten anyone who doesn't agree with him such as Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.

It now seems likely that the Coalition Party Room will vote again on who will be Prime Minister (if someone challenges) and that Tony Abbott is considered likely to now lose.

So these are some big problems.  

Here are some possible structural solutions:

Constitutional change: Form governments based on the skills of elected MPs rather than party allegiances and membership

Constitutional change: Ban binding party votes - make every vote a conscience vote

Constitutional change: Provide voters with the opportunity to directly elect political leaders (e.g Prime Minister, Head of State) and move to some form of Republic

Legislative change: Ban large political donations - these fundamentally corrupt politics as they buy influence and large media driven election campaigns.

Constitutional change: Citizen initiated referendums and issue/policy referendums - give voters the opportunity to vote on binding policy matters that governments must then implement.

If we don't reinvigorate our democracy will continue to be subjected to the whims and vagaries of a largely autocratic political elite that don't act in the best interests of the nation and all citizens.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Why roads are not suitable for mass transportation

The now departed Napthine government was hell-bent on spending up to $16b on the "East West link" tollway tunnel project, claiming that it would "be the transport infrastructure that Melbourne needs".  They included fanciful claims including that the new tunnel would:
  • Reduce commute times by 20 minutes
  • Reduce congestion on Hoddle Street
Both claims are patently false.  The Napthine government lost he election held on 29 November and the incoming Premier, Daniel Andrews, has pledged to stop the East West Link road project  proceeding.

Similar claims were made by Jeff Kennet back in the 90s when he claimed the City Link road project, constructed between 1996 and 2000 would "will solve Melbourne's traffic problems". Clearly, it has not.

However, there is another good reason why roads cannot provide a suitable mass transport system for a city such as Melbourne - every driver is a single point of failure.

Nearly every day there is a crash which can close or seriously disrupt traffic on a route.

Six cars and a truck were involved in two crashes on the West Gate Bridge. Photo: Seven News

For example,a crash closed the West Gate Bridge on Tuesday 2 December. Such crashes and closures are now a daily occurrence.

By comparison, trains carry up to 800 passengers with a single driver - and don't have to contend with road intersections and "lane changes".

We need some real political leadership to build more train lines and revise the train network for Melbourne - given that no new suburban rail lines have been built since the Glen Waverley line in 1932.

A dedicated safe bicycle path network should be included too.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Labor finally opposes disastrous East West Tollway Tunnel

Finally, after months of obfuscation and weasel words, the Labor party has stated that they won't honour any contracts signed for the ill-considered East West Link (road tollway tunnel) that the Napthine Liberal National Government is hell bent on building.

Up until now, Labor has said "they oppose the tunnel but they will honour contracts signed by the Napthine government" - which means they effectively supported the tunnel as it would proceed if they win the election.

This was always nonsense as the Victorian Government is NOT exposed to any sovereign risk if bidders for the project know that the next government might not proceed with the project.

Now, at last, Daniel Andrews has made this statement - that if elected, a Labor government will not proceed with the project.

There are very good reasons they should do this, as I presented to the Assessment Panel, including:
  • The project cost/benefit has not been fully disclosed, and what is known has been proven to be false.  The project will not generate a net return to the community, it will be a net cost.
  • The tunnel will not reduce congestion as it will encourage more traffic and the destination of only 95% of people travelling on the Eastern Freeway system is the CBD, north or south, not across to the Tullamarine.
The $8b would be much better invested in upgrading Melbourne's train network, including building new train lines and bike paths such as the North East Bicycle Corridor.  You can also sign this petition to build the NEBC.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Letter to Josh Frydenberg: Please drop your proposed mandatory data retention regime


I ask you to drop your proposed mandatory data retention regime.

Police and intelligence agencies already have broad powers to request information about the communications of specified individuals be retained to support their investigations.

What you are seeking now is for that information to be retained for two years for ALL Australians, even if you're not being investigated.

You  want the following information retained:

Phone calls: detailed records of phone calls you make and receive, including the two numbers. If a mobile phone is involved, that will include the location of that phone, resulting in a detailed record of your location and movements being collected. See this example to understand just how revealing this information can be.
Email: detailed records of who you're sending emails to and receiving them from.

George Brandis provided confusing and conflicting information about whether details of web browsing are to be included.

You do want to retain a record of the address assigned to connections  when you access the Internet (originating IP address). This information will allow the police and ASIO to identify who has visited specific websites that are of interest to them. It will also allow copyright owners (via subpoena) to identify people they believe are infringing their copyright, by downloading or file-sharing.

Even without web browsing information included, a mandatory, society-wide data retention regime represents a massive invasion of the privacy of all Australians. It also subverts the principle of presumption of innocence by treating us all as potential suspects.

There will be substantial costs associated with implementing such a regime. One estimate is that it will add $100 per year to each internet bill.

The massive databases of highly sensitive (and valuable to organised criminals) information will also be highly prone to hacking and misuse, posing genuine threats to the safety of many Australians.

There are already more than sufficient powers available to Australia's intelligence and law enforcement agencies to have information retained about communications involving 'persons of interest'. There is no justification for this information to be retained on the rest of society.

I call on the Federal Government to drop its proposed mandatory, indiscriminate data retention regime, and to treat ordinary, law-abiding Australians as Citizens, Not Suspects.

Regards, Peter Campbell

Sign the Citizens Not Suspects petition, GetUp!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Open letter to Josh Frydenberg: Please retain or increase the RET


You recently voted against Australia's carbon tax.

Please do not compromise Australia's Renewable Energy Target.

The RET is a very important and effective mechanism for transitioning Australia towards zero emissions clean energy.

The RET has only contributed 8% to electricity price increases from 2007/08 to the present.

The Carbon Tax only contributed 16%.

Over this same period distributor costs and charges have contributed 70% to electricity price increases

Investment in renewable energy has risen $5 billion per year.
Renewable energy capacity has almost doubled from 2001 to 2012.
86% of Australians think that Australia needs more renewable energy.
71% of Australians support the RET
90% of Australians want more electricity from solar
80% of Australians want more electricity from wind.

Overall the RET comprises only 3% of the total price of electricity bills.

Please support meaningful action on climate change and transitioning Australia to a new economy with clean energy and associated local industries and jobs.

For example, there are very significant opportunities for local manufacturing and services industry jobs around the Geelong region if more wind farms are built.

Regards, Peter Campbell
[address supplied]

Response from Josh Frydenburg 27/8/14

Dear Mr Campbell

Thank you for writing to me concerning the review into the Renewable Energy Target (RET).  I have noted your views. For your information the review has been established to allow the general public to make submissions to the Government.

As you are aware, the Government has released the Terms of Reference for a review into the RET, upholding a clear commitment to ensure the RET is working efficiently and effectively and to meet a legislative requirement for a review to be conducted in 2014.

An independent expert panel which brings together extensive policy, business and energy sector expertise will lead the review. The chair of the review, Mr Dick Warburton, has had an extensive career in business and industry, including time as a board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia.  Mr Warburton was appointed by the former Climate Change Minister in the Labor Government, Senator Wong, to head its Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed review under the CPRS process.

The Terms of Reference include examining the economic, environmental and social impacts of the RET, in particular the impacts on electricity prices, energy markets, the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households. The review will be mindful of sovereign risk issues in any proposals it may present to the Government. Unlike the pattern from the previous Government, the review will be open and transparent and engage in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, seeking submissions from the public and industry.  The review will be supported by a Secretariat based in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet involving specialists from the Departments of Environment, Industry, Treasury and the Clean Energy Regulator.

The Government will receive the report by the middle of the year and it will provide important input into the Government’s Energy White Paper.

Thank you once again for writing to me about this matter.

Yours sincerely

Josh Frydenberg
Federal Member for Kooyong | Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Parliament House Office | a: R1:44 Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 | p: 02 6277 4606 | f: 02 6277 8546
Electorate Office | a: 695 Burke Road, Camberwell VIC 3124 | p: 03 9882 3677  |  f: 03 9882 3773
Email: josh.frydenberg.mp@aph.gov.au  |  Website: www.joshfrydenberg.com.au

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Get your skin checked regularly for melonomas

I visited my local GP recently when I was recuperating from my broken shoulder.  He also examined my back and said I should get a dark patch of skin checked as it had a darker spot in the centre.

I visited Dr Segal, a dermatologist in Camberwell, who agree it should be removed.  He excised it a week later after I returned from a short holiday in Queensland.  I look at the piece of skin - it was slightly smaller than a 20c piece and had a circle of darker pigmentation about 10mm round with darker spot in the middle.

Four days later I returned to have the dressing changed. Dr Segal informed me that it was a melanoma (skin cancer) about 0.4mm deep, which meant that it was detected early.

Four days later I got the dressing changed again and Dr Segal said that the melonoma showed signs of regression - my body's immune system had been fighting the tumour and it may have been bigger.  He recommended that more surrounding skin and tissue be removed as a precaution -a "wide clearance".

He took more out at about 7 days after the first excision.  The local anaesthetic blocks the pain but once in wore off I certainly felt sore for a couple of days.

The second excision was also sent to pathology and came back clear, so it would seem there will be no further action required.

Skin cancer (Melanoma) is scary - there is no blood test for it, and if they go undetected and spread throughout the body then its virtually a death sentence.

Here's a photo of the second scar.

My back has not been exposed to sun much for the last couple of decades, but I did get sunburnt occasionally during my childhood.

If you don't get your skin checked by your GP or a dermatologist, consider doing so.

I am also now taking Vitamin B3 (Nicotanimide) tablets as they can act to block the immuno-suppression effect that UVA and UVB has on the skin, thereby possibly preventing melanomas forming.