Treasurer Hockey takes his lead from the King of Bhutan.

The small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is famous, in as much as it is, for evaluating all its actions based on the Gross National Happiness.

This morning Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has taken a lead from Bhutan on rejecting the foreign takeover of GrainCorp by Archer Daniel Midlands. Hockey’s early morning press conference sets out the actions, and reasoning. It sounded like it was carefully scripted in an attempt to cover all the relevant issues, and leave the minimum scope for legal challenge.

In my paraphrasing: Hockey noted this is the first rejection, in 131 applications since he was Treasurer. Hockey adding he viewed permanent conditions as impractical, and unreasonable. That this rejection is occurring at a specific time and market condition and that in future it may well be possible for an “accept” to occur. But the interesting element for rejection was the strong public interest and the anticipated reduction of public support of Foreign Investment.

The logic seems to be 1) It is in the national interest to have foreign investment. 2) FI approvals only take place with public support, or at least public passivity. 3) ADM is sufficiently high profile that an approval will generate public resistance in future. THEREFORE it is in the national interest to reject this foreign investment to ensure further foreign investment.

A difficult decision, and a complex sell. It will be interesting to see how it plays in the broad Australian media, the Australian business media, and in the US business media.

I think Joe has added to the Gross Nationals Happiness.


Tasmania’s Hare Clarke – count back, raises political zombies

Tasmania’s wonderful Hare Clarke system has numerous quirks.  With 5 members elected in each of the 5 electorates around the state minor parties get well represented in the State Lower House.  Tasmania is the “home” of The Greens.

In discussing the coming State election with another political tragic today, we pondered what Bryan Green’s approach might be.  Having been deputy Premier, Minister of numerous departments, and having had a long political career already would his heart really be in running again to be party of a Labor rump, Shadow minister for half the government, and political dead meat?

Would he run, simply to spite Brenton Best?

And what is the process of filling casual vacancies in Tasmania’s lower house?  One of the interesting things which the HC system brings is an election process somewhat similar to the Federal Senate but a “filling casual vacancy” process which is quite different.

Casual vacancies are filled by a count back using the voting records retained from the previous election.  Candidates are eligible for the count back if they were unelected candidates in the seat at the last election.  If they agree to contest the Tasmanian Electoral Commission conducts a “final seat” count much as it would in a normal election with the outgoing candidate’s quota of votes being distributed.

There is no requirement for the newly elected candidate to be of the same party, although in almost all instances they are.  (The one exception 1965 to 2010 being Jan 1983, during the 82-86 term, Bob Brown was elected on count back for The Greens, replacing Norman Sanders an elected Australian Democrat).

Interestingly both ALP Premiers Paul Lennon, and David Bartlett were initially elected to the Parliament by countback.

So in summary this time round in Braddon if either Brenton Best or Bryan Green wish to thwart the career of the other by winning election, AND retiring, it is likely that the system would elect on count back the other’s local nemesis.

The current Aus/Indo “spying” spat is costing lives

As far as I can see it has gone largely uncommented, but in watching (on delay) 4 Corners from Monday I was astonished to hear of a breakdown of basic day to day interaction between the nations.

4 Corners reported that Indonesia had denied an Australian request to allow an Australian plane overfly the in distress asylum seeker boat, which was within Indonesian airspace.  As seems not uncommon, some passengers on the vessel had i-phone technology that gave gps location, and were calling Australian agencies seeking help.

The Australian plane was not able to overfly the vessel, neither nation got rescue vessels to the site, and very many people lost their lives.

I do recognise that the Australian domestic media reportage of the intransigence of the government, and the subsequent related (though not directly) loss of life, is very different than it would be if it had been the Australian government at fault.

I struggle to understand the Indonesian response to the spying, or indeed what they now expect from Australia.

I don’t see that Australia should rush to “fix” the spying issue, with Indonesia. 

However there should be a real level of urgency in seeing that the current difficulties do not increase the loss of life at sea.

IPCC5 – the science settled (or otherwise) – ducks comment on the policy response

In almost all confidence tricks, illusions, or items of stage magic there is a significant step at which the illusion is created. The step is ALWAYS far earlier than the mug assumes, even after having been conned. The “reveal” almost always occurs well AFTER the switch has been safely completed, and if needed the trick can be extended for as long as is necessary to achieve the switch. The switch occurs in this controlled and earlier moment: an apparently insignificant, or at least incidental event where a moment of humour, or distraction, can further shield the switch.

The woman disappears from the box (or at least the bottom half of the box) not while the stage magician is struggling to push the metal dividers through her torso, but from the moment she slips effortlessly into the box. The magician’s effort? – that’s merely part of the razzmatazz. The attractive assistant’s effortlessness? – well what were you looking at? The sequencing of her “feet” appearing at the end of the box, or something attractive and shimmering somewhere else?

No matter how closely you scrutinise the “reveal” you will never discover the “magic” because what is being “revealed” is entirely free deception, so devoid of sleight of hand, that all you are left with is an sense of the incredible – “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it”. In fact a good illusionist will draw you in to search the “reveal” for the magic, confident that you won’t find it, BECAUSE it didn’t happen then.


Anthropogenic global warming, predominantly CO2 emissions, is a settled science truth. The modern global economy is heavily reliant on energy, often in non-obvious ways, and our energy is heavily reliant on combustion of various fuels. Food, and health services, are two life critical areas that are surprisingly dependant on fossil fuels in various steps of the systems.

To reduce the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere by humans, the response can be categorised in to one of three ways: Abatement, Removal, or Management.

Carbon Dioxide Abatement – reducing the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere.

Carbon Dioxide Removal – technologies that will remove CO2 either at emitted source, or from the environment.

Solar Radiation Management – technologies that will reduce the planetary thermal gain from the sun, giving an equivalent (and this is the challenge) planetary climate effect.


IPCC5 has now been revealed. The Warsaw Climate Change Conference is occurring from 11 to 22 November 2013. And the science is settled. Only so called embarrassing dinosaurs such as Australia are not signing up to deep cuts to future CO2 emissions. (Just as a quiet aside Japan post Fukushima is walking away from nuclear power, AND walking away from commitments to 25% reductions on 1990 emissions levels. Japanese abatement has been strongly premised on 30% nuclear power generation, something which is not now going to occur, and at least as a negotiating point Japan is at -ve 3% reduction).

And the science is VERY settled. “The Physical Science Basis” IPCC5 report is 2,216 pages of incredibly impressive science. How could anyone credibly argue against it – I certainly couldn’t.

But the “con” is in substituting the very settled, very comprehensive, modelling and measurement of global warming with the very NOT comprehensive, very NOT modelled, and very NOT measured evaluation of policy response. Let me say it very clearly, because this is the illusion – the “science” referred to is NOT the policy response of abatement, but is the measurement and modelling of the effect. The settle science is ONLY referring to the “phenomena” not the “policy response”.

In fact hiding in plain view are around 2,000 words in which the illusion is described. The policy response of abatement, over other strategies is simply not meaningfully addressed by IPCC.

7.7.4 Synthesis on Solar Radiation Management Methods

But the level of understanding about SRM is low, and it is difficult to assess feasibility and efficacy because of remaining uncertainties in important climate processes and the interactions among those processes. Although SRM research is still in its infancy, enough is known to identify some potential benefits, which must be weighed against known side effects (there could also be side effects that have not yet been identified).

Understanding is “low” does not match a “Science is settled” view.

Carbon Dioxide Removal Methods

An intentional removal of CO2 by CDR methods will be partially offset by the response of the oceanic and terrestrial carbon reservoirs if the CO2 atmospheric concentration is reduced. This is because some oceanic and terrestrial carbon reservoirs will outgas to the atmosphere the anthropogenic CO2 that had previously been stored. To completely offset past anthropogenic CO2 emissions, CDR techniques would therefore need to remove not just the CO2 that has accumulated in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times, but also the anthropogenic carbon previously taken up by the terrestrial biosphere and the ocean. Biological and most chemical weathering CDR methods cannot be scaled up indefinitely and are necessarily limited by various physical or environmental constraints such as competing demands for land. Assuming a maximum CDR sequestration rate of 200 PgC per century from a combination of CDR methods, it would take about one and half centuries to remove the CO2 emitted in the last 50 years, making it difficult—even for a suite of additive CDR methods—to mitigate climate change rapidly. Direct air capture methods could in principle operate much more rapidly, but may be limited by large-scale implementation, including energy use and environmental constraints.

If SRM were used in order to avoid some consequences of increasing CO2 concentrations, the risks, side effects and shortcomings would clearly increase as the scale of SRM increase. Approaches have been proposed to use a time-limited amount of SRM along with aggressive strategies for reducing CO2 concentrations to help avoid transitions across climate thresholds or tipping points that would be unavoidable otherwise; assessment of such approaches would require a very careful risk benefit analysis that goes much beyond this report.

It is important to understand that this is IPCC commentary on IPCC process – not some extremist denier. If a policy response OTHER than abatement is undertaken then IPCC5 suggests – assessment of such approaches would require a very careful risk benefit analysis that goes much beyond this report.

And THAT is very far from what is publically understood. The current public, and indeed policy making, understanding is that the science on climate change is settled, the ONLY response is abatement, and the debate, such as it is, is only over how much, and how soon.

The current understanding is it is reasonable to be NOT pursuing Removal or Management and this in the words of IPCC5 “goes much beyond this report”.


Using IPCC5 data… where are we now?

0.8C is the temperature rise already being experienced

0.3C is the additional temperature rise which will be experienced due to already released CO2

2.0C is the target maximum temperature rise for the future

No policy alternative to abatement is being researched to a reasonable level of confidence. Global Climate Change Conferences are earnestly making binding commitments to 5% and even 25% reductions in carbon emissions, when clearly the figures need to be nearer to 80% and 95%.

The science of anthropogenic climate change may well be settled. However the global policy response is anything but settled, is riddled with inconsistencies, and cannot conceivably deliver on its stated aims, of limit temperature rise to 2C if the only policy being pursued is abatement.

None of this would over worry me, excepting two points. First, there is an enormous opportunity cost to the $B and $T being spent on abatement without any reasonable expectation of success (limiting temperature gain to 2C). I am thinking Micah challenge, elimination of Malaria, water and sanitation for all, AND $T left for other things. Second, when this particular circus unwinds the credibility of science based policy making will be substantially damaged. I don’t expect this to me soon, but I do expect this to be in my lifetime.

I would invite you to read IPCC5 “The Physical Science Basis” – particularly Chapter 7. It in the words of the IPCC themselves very clearly lays out that the policy response is not “settled science”.

NBN – no cost benefit needed? wanted? or published???

Australian’s have an expression for wasting money for little result.

Goofy Stephen Conroy produced an NBN of ever increasing size. And while it was often sold on the spurious basis of we couldn’t imagine what we would do with so great a data super highway, it would be unimaginably great, and as such mere details such as cost benefit analysis were irrelevant.

However for the last 3 years the Gillard/Rudd governments DID have a cost benefit analysis to hand. Lazard, a consultacy the ALP used for NBN management both before and after this specific report, came to the conclusion that the Conroy NBN would be result in a net destruction of $31,000,000,000.00 – shorthand A$31B.

This is a lot of money by any measure.

I think, the only NBN nonsense I have been more offended by is listening to Stephen Conroy in the days after the election explaining that the NBN was actually a very troubled project, and that it was all the fault of the build contractors.

McKim sacrificing the interests of an “Arctic 30” Aussie for opportunistic local gain

Nick McKim has called on the Tasmanian State Parliament to write directly to Russian President Vladimir Puttin, seeking the release of one of the Australian’s currently held by the Russians as one of the “Arctic 30”.  The basis of this pleading is that “on any test his incarceration is not reasonable”.

This is probably somewhat less inane than the repetitious chanting of “peaceful protest” at every opportunity, it is however still a quite ludicrous action.  More importantly it is entirely, and ONLY self serving.

First, dealing with other nations on issues such as these is unequivocally, a Federal issue, not a State issue.

Second, McKim has as much access to DFAT briefings as me – that is none.  Any commentary, or action is outside the DFAT response.

Third, “not reasonable” is a feeble argument.  It is either legal, and within due Russian legal process, OR it is not.  “Not reasonable” is gratutious and provocative comment.  No country appreciates unsolicited negative commentary about their legal process as “not reasonable”.

So what is going on with Nick McKim calling on the State Parliament to act with respect to the Artic 30?  The argument is not going to be well received by the Russians, and as such will either do nothing for the Arctic 30, or in fact, hinder the resolution of their difficulties.

Where it will play well, is with the idealistic and somewhat naïve locals.

Today is Remembrance Day

My Uncle Keith, navigated Lancaster’s in WW2. I like that the war memorial in Canberra has “G for George” a Lancaster in which he flew, as part of its very impressive display.

Keith turned up to the UK, from training in Canada, during the “Battle for Britain” when the life expectancy of an average British Fighter pilot had dropped under 7 days. He was part of Bomber Command where an aviator needed to complete 30 missions to be “retired”. When he first flew no single aviator had survived 30 missions.

He was shot down on a predictably disastrous clear night full moon mission, and spend time in a German POW camp in the east of Germany, and then survived a forced march in winter during the closing days of the war.

He carried the burden of his war time experience, at real personal cost, for the rest of his life. He was in very many ways not special or unique in his service history and sacrifice.

Today is Remembrance Day.