July 26, 2011 | Graham

Will closing Tassie wood pulp mill endanger Sumatran tiger?

Will closing Tassie wood pulp mill endanger Sumatran tiger? Well it’s at least as plausible as the claim made by Greenpeace that IGA is endangering the tiger because it buys toilet paper from Asia Pulp and Paper which logs in Sumatra.

If pulp milling stops in Tasmania, demand for pulp won’t go away, and the source of supply will shift, to places like Sumatra.

Here’s Greenpeace’s justification of their claim:

Sydney, Tuesday 26 July 2011: Shocking new video footage, showing the agonising death of an endangered tiger, has been released today by Greenpeace, along with revelations linking the destruction of tiger habitats with toilet paper being sold in IGA supermarkets across Australia.

The video footage shows a Sumatran tiger, one of only around 400 remaining in the wild, caught in a wild boar trap.The tiger’s rainforest habitat is being destroyed by the notorious Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) (1), forcing the tiger to hunt for food in areas close to human activity. (2)

APP has aggressive expansion plans in Australia. Through its Australian affiliate Solaris, APP has opened a new $20 million facility in Sydney. APP’s toilet paper is being bought by IGA supermarkets and sold under the IGA-owned Black & Gold and IGA Signature brands. This contract makes IGA one of the biggest customers of APP products in Australia.

Last week Jan Cameron (founder of Kathmandu) and Graeme Wood (founder of Wotif) bought the Triabunna woodchip mill so that they could close it down. The consequences of this will be decreased supplies of woodchip from Australia and an increase in potential markets for APP and their ilk. There will always be a need for paper. It’s not as though people are going to stop wiping their bottoms after going to the toilet.

I’m waiting with baited breath for Greenpeace to announce a letter-writing campaign urging Cameron and Wood to keep the mill open. Or perhaps GetUp can organise boycotts of their businesses.

Posted by Graham at 8:10 am | Comments (3) |
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July 25, 2011 | Graham

Is On Line Opinion a “lefty blog”?

Writing for that right-wing blog The Australian Caroline Overington refers to On Line Opinion as a “lefty blog”:

THE campaign by those affiliated with the ABC to prevent SkyNews from winning the $220 million licence to run Australia Network continues. This week’s contribution comes from one Tania Penovic, who has written an essay for the lefty blog Online Opinion entitled: “Sky should now withdraw its Australia Network tender”. Why? Because, Penovic says, “News (Corporation) has demonstrated a willingness in the past to exploit business opportunities by compromising broadcasting.” For the umpteenth time, SkyNews is not owned by News Corporation. Sky is two-thirds owned by Seven and Nine. News has got a third of the final third. But who is Penovic, anyway? She’s an academic, of course, and she’s a member of the ABC Advisory Council, appointments to which are made by … yes, the ABC Board.

A bit more research might have been in order, although given that we have been in existence for 12 years and I write regularly for The Australian with On Line Opinion in my byline, you would have thought Caroline might have a better idea of the provenance of OLO.

First, we’re not a blog, at least no more than The Australian is a blog. The 12,337 articles that we have published are not “blog” posts, and their 3,910 authors are a who’s who of Australian politics and commentary, and include every prime minister since we started publishing.

Second, we are a modernist and enlightenment project. We apply the scientific method to debate, seeking to publish thesis and antithesis on as many issues as we can. Of course, like most publications we find that those on the left are more prolific writers than those on the right, so we tend to get more contributions from that direction.

As a former state Vice-President and Campaign Chairman of the Queensland Liberal Party I am frequently accused of bias, and in truth, while I think the editing is even-handed, I would expect that exposed to both sides of the spectrum my side of the argument will actually do best.

Certainly our open publishing stance has antagonised many on the left, such as Clive Hamilton, who believes we should be boycotted because of our commitment to exploring the flaws in scientific arguments on climate change. There is some evidence that his boycott has had some success.

Of more success is the boycott late last year of our site by some advertisers because we dared to carry this article criticising gay marriage and the motives of those pushing for it. This was because, despite the fact that we had carried three times as many articles supporting gay marriage as opposing it, gay activists, including this man, Gregory Storer, decided there was only one point of view we could carry. Not only was this action very probably illegal (but who has the budget to find out), but it deprived us of tens and thousands of dollars in advertising dollars, and was the first real experience that I have had of  brown-shirt activism.

At the time The Australian’s columnist Christopher Pearson sprang to our defence calling us “a well-regarded e-journal” (have a word to Caroline Christopher). The Australian Christian Lobby and Jim Wallace also prosecuted our case.

The Penovic article is a case in point of how we operate. I actually found it on the blog of the Castan Centre and asked if we could republish it. Pieces like this by a member of the ABC Advisory Board do not deserve to languish on a university blog site.

I don’t personally agree with it, but that is not the test as to whether something gets published.

In fact my position on the News brouhaha is that it is being hysterically fanned by those who have a vested interest in nobbling Newscorp. And virtually all of those who are capable of publishing articles on the Newscorp problems are either Newscorp itself, or commercial rivals, while those who write them mostly work for News or her competitors. We’re all compromised, I as much as others, although I do manage to walk both sides of the fence.

The Greens and the Labor Party are a different case, with the Greens’ policy containing a disguised intention to nobble News under the guise of competition policy.  (For the Greens’ attitude to free speech see Clive Hamilton above). These are organisations who would be lauding Murdoch if he agreed with them, but want to flay him because he doesn’t, as in a post- and pre-enlightenment view of the world this is evidence of bias.

(In the case of the British Labour Party it is even more complicated. They never complained about Rupert when he supported them.)

So is On Line Opinion a “lefty blog”? I don’t think so, but in the best traditions of the Internet, and the Enlightenment, why don’t you tell me in the discussion thread below?

Posted by Graham at 9:59 pm | Comments (23) |
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July 24, 2011 | Ronda Jambe

The pea, the shell and the Euro

Recently in Naples we saw the classic pea and shell game being played on the street. The shell master wasn’t always winning, either, and sometimes he had to pay out to his sharp-eyed betters.

The markets are now playing a similar game with the banks around bets over where the debt will be hidden when the sleight of hand with the European Central Bank comes to a halt.

The governments want to cover up Greece’s debt in ways that don’t make it too obvious that they, too, are vulnerable. They want every shell to conceal a pea: the Greek government should appear to be solvent, the banks should retain a shell of profitability, and the Euro-zone funders, especially Germany and France, should give the impression of  having acted prudently for their electorates.

This smooth shifting of debt and blame is also intended to cover up the way those same ‘responsible’ countries allowed Greece to enter the Euro in the first place, and then neglected to ensure that the Greek government lived up to the privilege.

Thomas Friedman describes Greece as similar to a petrol-soaked economy, except that the goodies came from the EU, not petrol. But Greece squandered the opportunity, and used the largess coming its way to create lots of fluffy government contracts with little improvement to productivity or entrepreneurial capacity.

Now all the shells have been lifted, and it seems there is just a puny single pea that has to cover a lot of bets, and save a lot of faces.

A similar game is playing out in the US, where the nearly inevitable partial (or ‘technical’) default of the government on August 2 will put another notch on the stranglehold that debt has created for that country.

Overreach and collapse. Lack of reality checks and boundless, foaming at the mouth assumptions of endless growth, without putting in the necessary hard yards to make that dream possible.

I wish a better grip on reality would take hold in those Australians who, like the American Republicans, just say ‘no’ and keep denying that we desperately need to show leadership and bite the bullet on de-carbonising our economy. The resource party won’t go on forever, and we need a plan for how Australia will face the freight train that is coming at us from the future and the challenges of the next 30-50 years.

Cadel Evans has put in the hard yards: we saw him arrive in Paris today and gave him a rousing cheer. I just hope he isn’t paid in Euros.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 5:47 pm | Comments Off on The pea, the shell and the Euro |
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July 19, 2011 | Graham

Another Hockey Stick

Here’s another hockey stick graph. Interesting to compare it to the Michael Mann Hockey Stick that Al Gore used so effectively.


Temperature and CO2 correlation for 20,000 years


Gore’s Hockey Stick uses just the last five percent of this gr aph and makes you think that the temperature is about to explode. This graph shows some quite different things.

First, CO2 goes up more or less in lock-step with temperature for most of the graph, but generally lagging the temperature increases. It is only at the end that CO2 goes up without an increase in temperature.

This suggests that something is driving CO2 concentrations now other than what drove it before. I’m happy to accept that this “something” is man-made emissions.

However, while CO2 emissions climb significantly in the last few decades temperature does not follow suit and correlation appears to be broken.

There is another correlation that doesn’t appear to hold too well either. The warming effect of CO2 is logarithmic so if it is causing the warming it shouldn’t be tracking in lock-step with it, as it does for almost the entire 20,000 years. It should be increasing faster than the temperature.

Why isn’t it?

One reason could be that the CO2 increase is driven by outgassing from the oceans. As the oceans warm gasses are less soluble and they go out of solution into the atmosphere. This is a linear relationship which could be consistent with this graph.

This is certainly a graph that makes you think twice about the assumptions underlying the catastrophic AGW hypothesis.


Posted by Graham at 7:52 am | Comments (9) |
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July 11, 2011 | Ronda Jambe

Yes, yes, please tax us on carbon

It takes big news for Australia to rate a mention in Europe, but the carbon tax was all over CNN in Italy. A big tick to Julia for having the guts to put together a plan that covers most of the issues, isn’t too hard on business and doesn’t over-compensate richer households.

At last we are seeing some leadership on this globally critical issue.

Anyone who doubts climate change will end up like the dinosaurs, and, as mentioned in a comment on one of Graham’s blogs, the Age of the Anthropocene is now upon us.

That is a coin termed by scientist Paul Crutzen for the changes our species has brought to the ecosystem. And it was also the cover story of a recent Economist magazine, in case you think I read it in the whole earth catalog.

No wonder there is confusion about the impacts, or the patterns being altered or created. We may be the dominant species (for now), able to affect the nitrogen, carbon, water and other cycles, but we are not fully able to comprehend, much less control, the consequences, unintended or not, of our behaviour. Any more than wolves are able to work out or even express awareness when their prey gets over-eaten and their baby wolves starve. Are we really so arrogant to think we are so much smarter?

It is time for us to get behind our leader and buckle down for the ride ahead. Latest predictions say there is no hope of avoiding 4 degrees of warming this century. Adaptation is now the only way forward.

That sand some of us still have our heads in is going to get very warm indeed.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 6:49 am | Comments (6) |

July 04, 2011 | Graham

Still waiting Gerry

Gerry Harvey is taking a battering from the Internet. First from online competitors to his bricks and mortar retailing operation, now from online vigilantes who are organising a boycott of his stores because he is selling furniture made from legally (yes, you did read that right) harvested Australian timber.

I’m still happy to talk to him, even more so for his second problem.

When we set up On Line Opinion one of our major concerns was the potential for the Internet to break into ghettoes and descend into mob behaviour. That was 12 years ago, and that behaviour is now upon us, and I’m no longer sure that the OLO solution is the one that is going to work. Unfortunately, I think you are going to have to fight fire with fire.

This campaign against Harvey Norman is completely unfair. HN’s use of the timber is completely legal, and completely ethical, even by the standards that conservationists apply. The fact that it is sent to China to be processed is a xenophobic red-herring and only has bearing on trade policy.

If these “environmentalists” were really concerned about preserving native forests they would be campaigning about the tonnes of furniture sold in Australia every year made from illegally logged timber in places like Niu Guini, Indonesia and Fiji, instead of timber legally and sustainably logged in Australia.

The bodies running the campaign at this stage are Markets for Change and GetUp.

I used to think of them as panhandling for social goods, but that is too benign a view. They’re really freelancing stand-over merchants who get their fee not from the victim, but from the vigilantes who pay to be part of the experience. It’s an online business model a bit like big game hunting.

I’d really like to talk to you Gerry.

Posted by Graham at 1:36 pm | Comments (3) |
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July 04, 2011 | Graham

Can’t help myself

Bob Brown tells us that because of global warming storms are getting more severe. Kevin Rudd told us that because of global warming we were in drought.

Now the CSIRO tells us that we were in drought because storms were weaker.

Dr Jorgen Frederiksen from the the CSIRO says there has been a 50-year decrease in the average intensity of storms hitting Australia, a trend which is forecast to continue for another 50 years.

Well, they can’t all be right.

Does global warming increase or decrease storm intensity?

And why is it that the decrease in storm intensity is forecast to stop in 50 years? Are they assuming carbon mitigation strategies will start to work then, or is it something that arises from business as usual? Or is there some other natural cycle?

50 years is a pretty good forecasting horizon, because by that time the forecaster won’t be around to be held accountable.

You can read the whole paper here. I suspect my journalistic colleagues haven’t, or the answers to some of my questions above would be in the news reports.  If you want to help us all out, please check the paper out and let me know the answers.

Posted by Graham at 12:51 pm | Comments (6) |
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July 02, 2011 | Nattavud

Will Yingluck be the first Female Prime Minister of Thailand?

by Nattavud Pimpa


Ms.Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra, has brought various interesting dimensions to the contemporary Thai politics. Apart from being the potential first female Prime Minister (PM) of Thailand (and 16th female PM in the World), Yingluck focuses on her political policies, not the segregation between the yellow-shirt and red-shirt people. A number of Pheu Thai Party’s campaigns are populist policies, focusing on the majority of poor rural Thais.  Obviously, her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was successful in promoting populist policies such as the war against drugs, 30 Bath health scheme, or One-Tambon-One Product. The majority of poor Thais seem to believe that such populist policies can improve their quality of living, although some economists, social policy analysts and health practitioners warned of their consequences.

Yingluck is perceived to be the clone of her brother.  As a successful business woman, she has been working in the telecommunication industry under the shadow of her brother. In her current role as the leader of Pheu Thai party, it is commonly known that she is acting on behalf of her brother and one of the key agendas is calling on the amnesty for Thaksin Shinawtra. Meanwhile, Ms Yingluck is running a slick and brilliant campaign. She deserves credit for a conciliatory tone. She promises not to avenge the coup or to rush into pardoning. She also denies issues on bringing home her brother. However, there are doubts about her sincerity, worries about her inexperience and a real fear that her brother may overrule her and rush home after the election. Thaksin’s return may probably be disastrous, taking the country back to the segregation among yellow and red shirt camps. Another potential risk is that Pheu Thai’s spending promises prove ruinous; though with luck, Yingluck may not realise that Thailand cannot afford her most extravagant promises. Some of her proposed projects and policies are too grand, fuelling doubts over the government’s ability to manage and finance them.

Having said that, a number of Thaksin’s supporters tend to transfer their hopes to Yingluck and dream of the prosperous era of Thailand. Like her brother, Yingluck and her party focus on financial return and welfare issues in their campaigns. These policies worked perfectly when her brother was in power and claimed that his interest was on poor Thais who have long felt marginalised in an over-centralised country dominated by a Bangkok elite.

At the time of writing this article, Pheu Thai has pulled ahead in the polls. It means that Yingluck is now one-step closer to become the first female PM in the history of Thailand. However, the big questions that remain unanswered include (a) if she wins, how long would the government last? and (b) How can the government under female leadership survive the military intervention (or even coup d’eta)?  Like most developing nations in the world, political affairs in Thailand have long been ruled and controlled by the army.  Having overthrown her brother in a coup and backed the toppling of elected pro-Thaksin governments through parliamentary and legal manoeuvres, the army may not fully support a Pheu Thai victory. Abhisit Vejjajiwa, the current PM, may take this point to form a coalition government with the small parties such as Bhumjai Thai and Chart Thai Pattana. This may lead Thailand to another conflict among Pheu Thai supporters, the Democrats, the Thai army and the elites who seem to enjoy their influential status in the Thai society.


Yingluck appears to be a charismatic and strong leader in the media, although a lot of Thais start to question her ability to control some experienced politicians, and to form the government. She may use her flexibility and strong personality to negotiate with the army, some small parties and even the democrats to reform the political system in Thailand.  Will she emerge as a politician in her own right, or be content to remain merely as a clone for her brother? Only time will tell.


Nattavud Pimpa is a senior lecturer in international management at RMIT University.

Posted by Nattavud at 11:33 am | Comments (2) |