Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My email to the 39 Senators who voted for the Carbon Tax Repeal

You recently voted against Australia's carbon tax.

Please do not compromise Australia's RET.

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.

Total Electricty cost increase 2007/08 to present
Wholesale costs 55 5%
Distributor costs & charges 746 70.4%
Carbon Price 172 16.2%
RET 87 8.2%
$1060



You can send your own email to the 39 Senators here: http://www.savetheret.com/

Links

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Is Tony Abbott assembling the apparatus of a fascist state?

Is Tony Abbott assembling the apparatus of a fascist state?

I see some worrying trends, such as:

  • Tell very big lies, such as "I am a conservationist" and "Loggers are conservationists"
  • Backflip on several critical election commitments.
  • Tell further lies such as "I have not told lies, I have not broken election commitments"
  • Pretend there is a "budget emergency" when there isn't - and use this to justify bad policies such as GP CoPayments and dramatically increasing the cost of tertiary education and student HECs debts

  • Criticise the ABC for having a "left-wing bias"
  • Insert Janet Albrechtson  - a trenchant critic of the ABC - onto the ABC and SBS Boards
  • Demonise asylum seekers who attempt to enter Australia by boat, equate them with terrorists, deny them their human rights under the UN Convention for Refugees and incarcerate them in "offshore processing centres" for indefinite periods.  Keep saying that all this is a "border protection issue"
  • Support corporate fossil fuel interests and encourage ongoing carbon pollution despite clear scientific evidence and consensus that carbon emissions are causing global warming
  • Attack and undermine renewable energy projects - with more lies such as "the RET is responsible for electricity prices rises"
While these developments are still a long way from a fascist state, there does seems to be a direction towards this.

Against this trend is the curious Federal push by Abbott to "eliminate red and green tape" and "hand back powers to the (Australian) States"

According to Wikipedia, the characteristics of a fascist state are:
  • Radical authoritarian nationalism
  • Combining more typically right-wing positions with elements of left-wing politics
  • Opposition to liberalism, Marxism, and traditional conservatism. 
  • Unify the nation through an authoritarian state that promoted the mass mobilization of the national community
  • Leadership that initiates a revolutionary political movement aiming to reorganize the nation along principles according to fascist ideology.
  • The veneration of the state
  • Devotion to a strong leader
  • An emphasis on ultra-nationalism and militarism. 
  • Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation,and it asserts that stronger nations have the right to expand their territory by displacing weaker nations.
  • Replaced socialism's focus on class conflict with a focus on conflict between nations and races.
  • A mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky to secure national self-sufficiency and independence through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.
  • Ideological dishonesty
  • Emphasizes direct action, including supporting the legitimacy of political violence, as a core part of its politics
Fascism maybe an old term, usually used pejoratively by political opponents, that maybe no longer relevant in today's world.  Hopefully this is the case.

More on this to follow.

Links

Monday, June 23, 2014

Open letter to Josh Frydenberg: Your attempt to delist Tasmanian forest is very wrong

Open letter

TO: Josh Frydenberg, MP for Kooyong.

I wish to draw to your attention that the Abbott government's attempt to withdraw the World Heritage nomination of Tasmanian forests is very wrong.

Tasmania world heritage area rally: the committee will hand down its decision late on Monday night. Photograph: Rob Blakers/AAP Image
The IUCN has found that, contrary to your government’s claim that the area was heavily degraded, that:
  • 85% of the 74,000 hectares was natural forest 
  • 45% is old-growth forest. 
  • Just 4% could be described as heavily disturbed by logging, roads and other infrastructure. 
Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott have grossly misrepresented this situation and told outright lies about this forest nominated for protection.

I wish you to represent my views on this in the Australian Parliament. Could you please confirm to me when you do this and provide me the the Hansard reference?

Regards, Peter Campbell
Home address supplied

Monday, June 16, 2014

Another war in Iraq?

I protested outside Peter Costello's residence with about 30 other people when John Howard committed Australia to the war in Iraq "against Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction".  At the time, I was concerned that military intervention in Iraq would create ongoing instability in the Middle East and exacerbate terrorism.

Imagine if another nation came to Australia and waged war against us because they thought we were up to no good!

So George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard had their war, without approval from the United Nations, and with no compelling evidence that WMDs were still there.

They may have won some battles, but they were never going to "win the war".

Tens of thousands of Iraquis died.

Sectarian communities such as the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds have become even more polarised

The attempt to force western-style democracy on Iraq has failed.  The dominant Shiite majority has not formed consensus among minorities and corruption is an ongoing problem.

There has been regular suicide bombings and improvised roadside bombs - these have been conducted by "insurgents" - including locals who hate being occupied.

Now ISIS has displaced the shaky Iraqui government forces from the North and are moving towards Baghdad.  A civil war has now started.

Tony Abbott stated to Obama during his visit to the United States that he "wouldn't rule out Australia participating (again) in another military intervention" and that "Australia would support the United States".  So it appears he thinks the decision to commit Australia to another foreign war is his alone, rather than the Australian Parliament.

I don't think any political party (or its Party Room) should have the right to make this decision. I believe that a 75% vote of all Australian parliamentarians should be required for this.

If Australia, the United States and Great Britain go back to Iraq for another war this will solve nothing and create more problems like those we have already seen.

It would be an unwinnable war with catastrophic consequences. 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Napthine Govt spends more on Frankston line upgrade than all other lines combined

Melbourne's metropolitan rail network is in a chronic state of disrepair. The entire system needs a complete overhaul after decades of neglect.  Signals regularly fail,  tracks buckle in the heat, and most stations lack adequate shelter.

No new suburban train lines have been built in Melbourne since the Glen Waverley line in 1932. Critical rail projects that should now be servicing growing communities where over a million people don't have close access to trains include the Rowville line (including Monash Uni and Chadstone), the Doncaster Line (if the East West tollway tunnel proceeds it may never be built).

It is galling to see the Napthine government, driven by politics and its desire to be re-elected, has allocated more funding ($100m) on one line than all other lines combined.

The Bayside Rail Project, that services the marginal seat of Frankson, includes upgrading tracks, repairing overhead wires, painting stations, works on signalling and level crossings and installation of new SPOT monitoring systems which replace mirrors with cameras to provide train drivers with a better view of passengers getting on and off trains at platforms.



The harsh reality is that these type of works are urgently required on all sixteen existing lines. At a rough estimate this could require 1 to 2 $billion.

The overall scope for all Metropolitan rail network projects is:
  • $177 million for eight X’Trapolis trains and associated stabling and signalling. The trains are due to begin running on the network from 2015.
  • $66 million to upgrade the Ringwood station precinct.
  • $2 million to plan for high capacity trains, which will be able to carry more than 1100 passengers.
  • $4.5 million in 2013-14 to develop the pilot High Capacity Signalling project on the Sandringham line.
  • $100 million to upgrade the Frankston line, with additional track, signalling, power and maintenance facility and station upgrades to improve service reliability and enable X’Trapolis trains to run on the Frankston, Williamstown and Werribee lines. 
  • $78 million to continue the rollout of Protective Services Officers (PSOs) at train stations.
  • $10 million to construct a four-level car park at Syndal Station on the Glen Waverley line.
  • Significant funding for the construction of a new train station at Southland, subject to finalisation of commercial negotiations with the owners of Southland Shopping Centre.
100m is allocated to the Frankston line project while only 80.5m is allocated to projects on other specific lines (specific line projects in bold).

While this expenditure on the Frankston line is worthwhile and well overdue, its a great pity that the rest of Melbourne's rail network gets virtually nothing yet again.

We clearly need to separate politics from transport planning to avoid decisions being driven purely for political gain.

Links

Monday, June 02, 2014

A letter to the World Heritage Committee opposing Abbott's attempt to denominate World Heritage listing of Tasmanian forests

 Your Excellency,

I am writing to you as Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, to bring to your attention my deep distress and alarm at the attempt by the Australian Government to remove 74,000 hectares from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage site.


The decision by the World Heritage Committee to include an additional 172,050 hectares within the World Heritage Area in June 2013 had resolved many long standing threats to the Tasmanian World Heritage site and helped end a conflict that had been dividing Tasmanians for decades.

The decision by the then Australian Government to nominate these areas was only possible because of the strong role played by the World Heritage Committee and it's advisory bodies over the previous 25 years. The integrity and persistence of the Committee and its advisory bodies throughout this process has been exemplary.

The proposal before you by the current Australian Government is politically motivated and is contrary to Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the World Heritage Convention.

The Australian Federal Government has submitted evidence to the World Heritage Committee that large sections of the area under review are severely degraded. This is false - less than 10% of the area proposed for de-listing has been disturbed and the vast majority of this World Heritage Area remains untouched, pristine and wilderness quality natural landscapes.

I urge the World Heritage Committee and you as Chair, to continue to uphold the values and principles of the World Heritage Convention and continue to protect these forests from destruction.

I would be grateful if you could draw my concerns (and the concerns of many other Australians) to the attention of the World Heritage Committee.

Link to Getup letter

Friday, May 23, 2014

The ideal method for evaluating the benefit of co-payments is a proper trial

John Kaldor, Nicholas Zwar 
The Australian,  23/05/2014 

THE government’s proposal for a $7 co-payment for GP visits and laboratory tests is one of the
most hotly debated items in last week’s budget.

Putting aside the “broken promises” issue, most of the criticism of the co-payment has revolved around its fairness. In a purely mathematical sense, a co-payment is a proportionately bigger hit for those on lower incomes, but there is a more fundamental question. What will a co-payment actually do to people’s health?

Basic economics says that a cost increase will reduce demand, which means fewer doctor visits and tests. On the surface, that sounds like it would be unhealthy, but what if people were having consultations they did not need?

The government has in fact claimed several major health bene fits for the co-payments. It believes people will look after their health more if they have to contribute directly to the cost of medical services, and GPs with fewer patients will provide better care to those who do show up.

On the other hand, critics of the co-payments say that health will suffer because people deterred by the co-payment will miss out on care that they need to maintain health. What does the scientific evidence tell us about who is right?

Medical science has well- established techniques for deciding what works and what doesn’t. The ideal method for evaluating health benefit is the randomised trial, which compares groups of people allocated to receive competing forms of “intervention”.

The only large-scale randomised trial of co-payments ever conducted was the Rand Health Insurance Experiment, which took place in the US in the late 70s and early 80s. It found those assigned to the co-payments group used fewer medical services than those with free care. Those on lower incomes had poorer outcomes in several areas of health and for people on higher incomes there was no difference in health outcome.

There was also no difference between the free and co-payment groups in the extent to which people looked after their own health in areas such as diet and smoking.

The Rand trial found that the co-payments reduced use of both needed medical care and unnecessary care, suggesting that people may not be good at making the distinction for themselves.

The Rand trial provided the most methodologically rigorous evaluation of the health effect of copayments, but  it took place more than 30 years ago, in a health system very different to ours.

Since, there have been nearly 50 studies, mainly from Western Europe and Canada, that looked at the impact of co-payments.

Although they did not use the randomised trial methodology, this body of evidence is highly relevant to our current debate about the impact of co-payments.

The studies are consistent in showing lower levels of service usage when co-payments are introduced, and are also generally consistent in showing that people on lower incomes reduce service uptake to a greater degree.

For various methodological reasons, the studies are much less informative about whether the reduction in service uptake systematically led to worse health in the population.

To draw such conclusions, longer timeframes and more detailed data are required, and few studies have had sufficient scope to do so. What is clear is that there is absolutely no evidence introducing a co-payment has any benefit for people’s health.

If a pharmaceutical company proposed marketing a drug that had no proven health benefit, and there was some evidence that it was actually harmful to certain population groups, it would not get past first base with regulatory authorities or clinicians.

That is more or less the position we are in with regard to the health impact of co-payments.

In these circumstances, the argument about whether they should be introduced can certainly not be based on their potential for dir ectly improving health.

If co-payments are to be introduced, the current state of the evidence suggests the very process of their introduction should be through a form of trial that is properly resourced, carefully monitored and perhaps restricted in some way before full-scale implementation is considered.

We now have the ability to track health and health service usage through electronic data bases that protect confidentiality.

If there is any sign from such a trial that people in need of care are being deterred from necessary medical attendance as a result of co-payments, let alone experiencing worse health outcomes, the government would then be in a position to react quickly and make needed modifications to maintain confidence in our health system.

John Kaldor is professor of epidemiology and Nicholas Zwar professor of general practice at the University of NSW.