Australian news, and some related international items

Effusive (?nauseating) meeting as Trump’s Vice President visits Australia, seeks support for attack on North Korea

Mike Pence in Australia says US and allies ready to tackle North Korea Vice-president and Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull call on China to apply pressure but stress regime’s nuclear aims cannot be tolerated, Guardian, Ben Doherty, 22 Apr 17, All options including military action are “on the table” to deal with the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons, Mike Pence has said during a trip to Australia. But the US vice-president stressed he expects China to bring its influence to bear against the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

Pence said three times during a press conference with the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, that “all options are on the table” and refused to rule out military action against the recalcitrant nuclear-armed regime.

“While all options are on the table, let me assure you the US will continue to work closely with Australian and our other allies in the region, and with China, to bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on the regime in Pyongyang until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program,” Pence said.

“But if China is unable to deal with North Korea, the United States and our allies will.”

Pence’s rhetoric was a continuation of the bombastic line he has run throughout his swing through the Asia-Pacific, visiting South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and finally, Australia.


He said a generation of “strategic patience” with the North Korean regime, under Kim Jong-Il and then his son, Kim Jong-un, had failed utterly and the Trump administration was determined to pressure North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons.

“The era of strategic patience is over,” he reiterated.

North Korea has accused the US of warmongering on the Korean peninsula, saying the Trump administration was creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment”……

The White House suffered acute embarrassment this week after Donald Trump boasted he had sent an “armada” to the Sea of Japan as a warning to North Korea.

The USS Carl Vinson strike group was in fact more than 5,000km from the Korean peninsula and headed in the opposite direction. The ships were hastily turned around.

Pence said the group was now headed for waters off the Korean peninsula and would be in the Sea of Japan within days, “before the end of the month”.

The issue of North Korea dominated Pence’s meeting with Turnbull and the foreign minister, Julie Bishop……..

Pence also hinted at a presidential visit this year, saying he expected Trump to visit the Asia-Pacific “in the fall”, Australia’s spring.

A visit by the US president to the region could be reasonably expected to include a stopover at its closest and most steadfast ally in the region.

The joint press conference between Turnbull and Pence was full of the usual lavish bilateral praise that accompanies a US leader’s visit to Australia. Turnbull praised the “Pax Americana” provided by long-standing US interest and intervention in the Pacific.

“And the US understand that they have no stronger, more committed, more loyal partner, ally than Australia.”

Pence said the US had no more steadfast ally than Australia, particularly in conflict, noting that Australia had fought alongside the US in every major war of the last century. “From the Coral Sea to Kandahar our friendship has been forged in the fires of sacrifice.”

April 22, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia all too ready to join America in fighting World War 3

China is Australia’s largest trading partner in terms of imports and exports and Australia is fifth on China’s trade league table, so some stability in the relationship is – you might think – important to both sides.

So why then is the Australian government so willing to back the US in its containment and encirclement strategy when it comes to China?

The Australian media has been full of alarming – and alarmist – stories about China’s military expansion into the South China Sea and the base-building in the Spratly Islands. However, there is little news and even less analysis about the forward bases that the U.S. has in the region, all with nuclear and non-nuclear missile capability and all within close striking distance of every major Chinese city.

Why would Australia want to be militarily aggressive towards such an important regional neighbour?

Are we already fighting World War 3?,10220

 Martin Hirst 21 April 2017Since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House the world appears to be moving closer to a catastrophic military conflict that threatens nuclear Armageddon. In this first in a series, political editor Dr Martin Hirst assesses the possibility that we’re already fighting World War Three.

‘The fear of war hangs over society. This is almost literally true, for it is not the invader in the streets but the warhead exploding on us which dominates our nightmares.’

~ Martin Shaw, Dialectics of War, 1988

THIS IS A SERIES that looks at global flashpoints and their potential to blast the world into a nuclear nightmare. It was once unthinkable that strategic nuclear weapons might be used in a world-wide war, but now we need to start thinking it is more likely than not.

And just this month, Donald J Trump caused the “Mother of all bombs” to be dropped in Afghanistan to explode over… we may never know what exactly.

Are we already inside World War Three?

In this series, I will look at Asia, the Middle East and Europe as places where potential nuclear trigger points might occur and then, on a brighter note, I’ll offer some suggestions about how we might stop it.

Let’s begin on our own doorstep.

We are not neutral

We are not neutral and we never have been. Australia is a willing and active partner in many of today’s global conflicts. Despite contrary propaganda, this does not make us safer, it increases the risk that we will be a target too.

Pine Gap makes us a target for Chinese and possibly North Korean and Russian nukes. I’m more worried about China and Russia because they both have nuclear-capable submarines that can reach us almost undetected.

When 1,250 US marines flew into Darwin this week, the NewsCorpse rag that dominates Northern Territory journalism, the NT News, could hardly contain its jingoistic excitement, declaring on page one that they are “ready to fight” against “our” common enemies. Continue reading

April 22, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Donald Trump wants to rip up Iran nuclear deal, but can’t: it’s an international agreement

Why Trump Can’t Rip Up Iran’s Internationally Brokered Nuclear Deal , Sputnik News 21 Apr 17   While the Trump administration admitted that Iran has complied with the 2015 nuclear agreement, it continues to send mixed signals to Tehran, accusing the latter of sponsoring terrorism. Speaking to Sputnik Persian, Hamid Gholamzadeh assumed that Washington is looking for any excuse to rip the deal up.

Although the Trump administration admitted Tuesday that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement and extended the sanctions relief given to Tehran, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leveled criticism at Iran on Wednesday, dubbing the deal a “failed approach.”

Tillerson emphasized that the US is going to carry out a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, which, according to the Secretary of State, is about to follow in North Korea’s footsteps.

“The Trump administration is currently conducting across the entire government a review of our Iran policy… an unchecked Iran has the potential to follow the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it. The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach,” Tillerson said as quoted by CNBC……..

Speaking to Sputnik Persian, Hamed Mousavi, a professor at the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Tehran, highlighted that Iran’s nuclear agreement is an international deal in the first place.

“One should pay attention to a few points, in particular, the multilateral nature of the obligations under the JCPOA. The US should not forget that a nuclear deal is not a bilateral agreement between [Washington] and Iran. The United States cannot unilaterally abolish the international agreement that was signed by Iran and several other countries and which was approved by the UN Security Council. This is contrary to international law,” Mousavi emphasized.

Grigory Yarygin, Associate Professor at the Department of American Studies of the School of International Relations at St.Petersburg State University, echoed Mousavi.

“This nuclear deal was concluded not only between Tehran and Washington, but it is Iran’s deal with six international mediators. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the attempt to cancel this deal will succeed,” Yarygin told Radio Sputnik.

“We must understand that at the international level, significant efforts were made… to ease tensions between Iran and the United States and prevented possible tragic consequences related to the [Iranian] nuclear program,” he said.

For his part, Hamid Gholamzadeh, an expert on North America and English Chief Editor of Mehr News Agency, suggested in an interview with Sputnik Persian that Washington is looking for an excuse to undermine the deal.

“The US has recognized that Iran is fulfilling its obligations. But this did not convince them. Therefore, the US is looking for new pretexts, which they want to prove using the relevant documents. Despite the reaffirmation of Iran’s commitment to its obligations, the US accused it of supporting terrorism in order to obtain a justification [for imposing sanctions],” Gholamzadeh explained.

“I believe that the US will play out its own scenario: they will try to reimpose the sanctions, unless Europe, Russia and China, as the main negotiators, try to prevent these plans,” he added.

The question then arises as to why the new administration is pushing ahead with its plan to rip the Iran nuclear deal up?

Robbie Gramer of Foreign Policy magazine believes that Donald Trump is seeking to restore US-Saudi relations, which were undermined by the US nuclear deal struck under Obama………


April 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Adani’s Coal Mine Is A Dud

Dear reader, I’m asking you to imagine the unimaginable.

Imagine that Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin is economically viable.

Imagine that there is an assured market for coal over the life of the mine – the next 40 to 60 years. Thermal coal prices will recover and stay high. That’s because developments in solar, wind and other renewable technologies will grind to a halt. There will be no further improvements in battery technologies. In spite of worsening damage from extreme weather events and the collapse of some of the world’s agricultural regions, governments will follow Trump’s lead and abandon efforts to address global climate change.

OK, it’s hard to put yourself into the mindset of Barnaby Joyce, Mathias Cormann or Matthew Canavan, and it’s even harder to suspend disbelief as some of the more intelligent members of the Coalition Government have done, but have a go for five minutes.

The trouble is that the Carmichael mine would still bring no worthwhile economic benefits to Australia, and would certainly not justify a $900 million concessional loan from Joyce’s National Party Slush Fund (aka “The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility”).

There would be some new jobs, but not many……..

Unless the executives of Adani have been on the same recreational substances as Joyce, Cormann, Canavan and Trump, they would surely know that thermal coal has no future……..

Even if Adani could forestall import bans and crowd out renewable developments, however, on a world scale that would not support coal prices, as other countries turn away from coal, leaving plenty of spare capacity. In a world of low demand and therefore low prices for coal, it would be easy for Adani to “renegotiate” royalty payments to the Queensland government. That is, to threaten to close the show down unless the government reduces or abolishes its royalties, leaving nothing for Australia except for a huge hole in the ground, damaged aquifers, an insult to the land’s traditional custodians, the carcass of abandoned mine equipment, a railroad to nowhere, and a ruined national reputation as a responsible global citizen.

Economists taking a long-term view of this project see it as a dud. But when we’re dealing with two governments, one federal the other state, clinging on to office without parliamentary majorities and desperate to pull off a big project, economic responsibility is easily sacrificed.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

19 big South Australian industrial users join to buy electricity in bulk: a path to more wind and solar projects?

Industrial bulk-buy could open path for more wind and solar projects, REneweconomy

The South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME) this week won approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for 19 big industrial users to band together to negotiate long-term electricity contracts, having grown tired of the soaring prices and short-term contracts being offered by the state’s retail oligopoly.

The companies – which include Nyrstar, Arrium, Oz Minerals, and a collection of high profile auto groups, food companies, retailers, wineries and universities (see full list below) – account for 15 per cent of the state’s electricity demand.

Most have been hit with electricity price rises of between 30 and 80 per cent in the last year, and are now paying between 8c/kWh and 15c/kWh for their electricity, and are unable to get any long-term contracts.

SACOME’s Rebecca Knol says the tender is not designed to favour one technology or another, and they would welcome either renewables or gas. “We are not predicting the outcome,” she told RenewEconomy. “We don’t have a preference.”

The move, she says, is more about challenging the pricing power of the retail oligopoly. “By aggregating their load, they will improve their individual bargaining position and be able to establish more cost-competitive supply contracts,” Knol said.

But a quick glance at prices for new wind and solar farms, and for gas generation, puts renewables in the driving seat.

Wind and solar farms are being delivered for around 7c/kWh, but even the short-run marginal cost of gas generators (i.e.. the fuel and maintenance cost) ranges from 7c/kWh to more than 12c/kWh………

The total load of 19 industrial users (19 companies, 24 installations) is 246MW at peak, and represents annual demand of 1,957GWh. Most interestingly for the wind and solar plants, the businesses are offering an 11 year contract – a length of contract that has been all but impossible to secure from large retailers.

“We are looking for opportunities to improve the electricity price so our businesses can stay competitive,” Knol says. “What we are hoping is that they do see this as opportunity to change the wholesale market. It could bring on a new generator, or it could be with an existing generator.”

Australian corporates have been slow to engage with renewable energy developers – possibly given the fact that the fall in wind and solar costs below the prevailing wholesale price of electricity is only very recent.

Queensland zinc refiner Sun Metals, that state’s largest single energy user, is one exception, having decided to build its own 116MW solar farm, rather than commission a third party. The Sunshine Coast Council is also building its own 15MW solar farm in south-east Queensland…..

The original application included: Nyrstar, Arrium, OZ Minerals, Hillgrove Resources, Rex Minerals, Seeley International, SMR Automotive, Thomas Foods and Intercast & Forge.

Since the application was made in January 2017, Peregrine Corporation, Foodland, Independent Grocers of Australia (IGA), Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Orora Glass, Brickworks, Flinders University and the University of South Australia have also come on board.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

Group of mental health experts consider Donald Trump to be “paranoid and delusional”

Donald Trump has ‘dangerous mental illness’, say psychiatry experts at Yale conference Mental health experts say President is ‘paranoid and delusional’, Independent UK, 21 Apr 17 May Bulman  @maybulman Donald Trump has a “dangerous mental illness” and is not fit to lead the US, a group of psychiatrists has warned during a conference at Yale University.

Mental health experts claimed the President was “paranoid and delusional”, and said it was their “ethical responsibility” to warn the American public about the “dangers” Mr Trump’s psychological state poses to the country. Continue reading

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In 2017 the world has reached the 410 parts per million Co2 threshold

We just reached the 410 parts per million Co2 threshold  By Brian Kahn on 21 April 2017  Climate Central

The world just passed another round-numbered climate milestone. Scientists predicted it would happen this year and lo and behold, it has.

On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.

In what’s become a spring tradition like Passover and Easter, carbon dioxide has set a record high each year since measurements began. It stood at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm.

“Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

Earlier this year, U.K. Met Office scientists issued their first-ever carbon dioxide forecast. They projected carbon dioxide could reach 410 ppm in March and almost certainly would by April. Their forecast has been borne out with Tuesday’s daily record. They project that the monthly average will peak near 407 ppm in May, setting a monthly record.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years due to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.

“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”

Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.

All of these impacts will last longer and intensify into the future even if we cut carbon emissions. But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.

Right now we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate change in Bangladesh – already an unfolding tragedy

The Unfolding Tragedy of Climate Change in Bangladesh A three-foot rise in sea level would submerge almost 20 percent of the country and displace more than 30 million people—and the actual rise by 2100 could be significantly more, Scientific American, By Robert Glennon on April 21, 2017 

In some places, the impact of climate change is obvious. In others, scientists predict that climate change will occur based on elaborate computer models. In Bangladesh, it is already happening at a scale that involves unprecedented human tragedy……….. Continue reading

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tasmania’s $3 billion hydro plans – some doubts, with Victoria’s renewable energy and batteries rising

Plunging battery costs raise doubts over Tasmania’s $3 billion hydro plans  By Giles Parkinson on 21 April 2017

Tasmania’s plans for a $3 billion investment in new pumped hydro schemes and a new link to the mainland may turn out to be little more than damp squib, given concerns raised by two new studies in the proposal.

The idea of adding 2,500MW of pumped hydro into Tasmania’s existing hydro system – and using this and its considerable wind resources as a “renewable energy battery” for the mainland – was unveiled with much fanfare by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, premier Will Hodgman and Hydro Tasmania on Thursday.

But the crucial ingredient in the plan is the construction of a new $1 billion inter-connector to carry all that renewable power to the mainland. And a study by John Tamblyn released on the same day raises considerable doubts about the economic viability of such an investment.

In one “neutral” scenario, drawn up by the Australian Energy Market Operator, the benefits might outweigh costs over a 20 year period by just $20 million. And these benefits might be eroded if battery storage costs continue to fall and utility-scale batteries become widespread, as many predict.

Further complicating the matter is Victoria’s own renewable energy target, which will likely deliver 5,000MW of new capacity by 2025.

“That means that building new renewable generation in Tasmania (1,200MW of wind), timed to coincide with commissioning of the second Bass Strait inter-connector, would not increase projected market benefits,” the report says. Instead, it is likely to “lead to oversupply in the southern regions (Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia).” Continue reading

April 22, 2017 Posted by | energy, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Switch from coal to gas – still polluting. Turnbull also touts hydro-power

More hydro power on federal agenda, Herald Sun, Katina Curtis, Australian Associated Press, April 20, 2017 Malcolm Turnbull is boosting his renewable energy credentials by providing federal funding for another study into expanding Australia’s hydro storage, this time in Tasmania.

It comes as Labor accuses the prime minister of giving gas companies a wet lettuce leaf flogging in his bid to persuade them to increase domestic supply.

Mr Turnbull also confirmed on Thursday his government is looking at building a multi-billion dollar pipeline to bring gas from Western Australia to the east coast – an idea climate experts dismiss as ridiculous and expensive…….

However, energy expert Andrew Stock, from the Climate Council, dismissed it as an idea that would lock in high power prices.

“LNG export pricing out of the west coast plus transportation through a multi-billion dollar pipeline doesn’t make for cheap gas,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Stock was launching a new Climate Council report warning switching from coal to gas power will do nothing to lower electricity bills and will be nearly as polluting.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Australian values on climate- Bugger you mate, I’m alright Jack!

Selective Impact of Climate Change. Time to question Australian Values?  John Pratt. 21 Apr 17   In some popular accounts of the future depredations of climate change, there is a tendency to suggest that its effects will be felt more or less democratically around the globe ― that we will all suffer to some degree, if not equally, from the bad things that happen as temperatures rise.

And it’s certainly true that everyone on this planet will feel the effects of global warming in some fashion, but don’t for a second imagine that the harshest effects will be distributed anything but deeply inequitably.

It won’t even be a complicated equation.

As with so much else, those at the bottom rungs of society ― the poor, the marginalized, and those in countries already at or near the edge ― will suffer so much more (and so much earlier) than those at the top and in the most developed, wealthiest countries.

(AUSTRALIAN VALUE NUMBER ONE: Bugger you mate, I’m alright Jack!) Continue reading

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment