Sunday, 26 February 2017

Whatever happened to Metgasco Limited?

After Metgasco Limited left the NSW Northern Rivers region with its pockets stuffed full of compensation dollars because local communities resisted its efforts to create a coal seam gas industry in the middle of biodiverse, culturally rich and productive rural landscapes, it temporarily sank from sight.

According to Metgasco:

Metgasco appears to be partly or wholly exploring on land over which the Wongkamara peoples hold Native Title.

The company has another project underway in the Gulf of Mexico where it has acquired farm-in rights from Byron Energy Ltd in exchange for an est. A$1.3m investment – thereby deploying  approx. 27% of Metgasco’s current financial resources.

Peter Henderson, the CEO that Metgasco let go in May 2016 with a $300,000 handshake, was last heard of looking for work with Perth-based Tap Oil Limited.

"We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump's speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president"

Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, 13 February 2017:

To the Editor:
Charles M. Blow (column,, Feb. 9) describes Donald Trump’s constant need “to grind the opposition underfoot.” As mental health professionals, we share Mr. Blow’s concern.
Silence from the country’s mental health organizations has been due to a self-imposed dictum about evaluating public figures (the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 Goldwater Rule). But this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer.
Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists).
In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Dr. Dodes is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Schachter is a former chairman of the Committee on Research Proposals, International Psychoanalytic Association. The letter was also signed by 33 other psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

Full signature list:

Joseph Abrahams, M.D.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

"Blinky Bill" visits a couple of Iluka residents in February 2017


Delightful video and photograph of a koala in Spenser Street, Iluka NSW, by Lisa Shaw from the Green Room café at Iluka.

Ken Nicholl from Iluka Landcare transferred this little koala to a koala food tree next door.

An Iluka resident tells me that this koala was approximately 1km from the proposed subdivision of Lot 99 Hickey Street, Iluka, a parcel of land which also reportedly contains koala food trees.

Coal and Climate Change protests in the Northern Rivers

Echo NetDaily, 20 February 2017:

‘Building the biggest coal mine on earth is, at this point in human history, the dumbest idea on earth,’ said Bill McKibben, co-founder of
Adani Carmichael Coal mine is still looking for major investors to get off the ground and Westpac Bank is a possible investor.  Lismore Environment Centre is rallying the community together this morning at 10am outside the Westpac Bank, Molesworth Street, Lismore to highlight opposition to funding of the mine.
‘Twelve investment banks including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and HSBC have ruled out investing in Adani. The other three major banks in Australia have been backing away from it, but not Westpac. Westpac’s approval could throw open the doors for investors sitting on the sidelines. We want to show Westpac this is not a good decision for them to make,’ said George Pick from the Lismore Environment Centre.
‘This project is one of the single biggest threats in the entire world to our climate. The Queensland and federal governments are pulling out all the stops to facilitate the Adani Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin even though it’s economically unviable. Westpac needs to realise that investing in this mine will hurt their brand. Our community cares about climate change and investing in Adani will be a big mistake.’ he said.
Taking 12 billion litres of water a year the project will dewater two local springs that are Great Artesian Basin recharge springs, and will mine through the Carmichael river.
‘In Queensland, new water laws passed last year which mean that whilst Adani has to apply for a water licence local communities have no right to object to any licences that are granted,’ said Lismore City councillor Elly Bird, who will be speaking at the event.

The Daily Examiner, 21 February 2017, p.8:

Following backlash from his somewhat wooden 'ask the PM' video, a tough week was topped off for MP Luke Hartsuyker when a number of residents rallied outside his office for action on climate change.
With residents bringing a dummy with a print-out face, a makeshift Hartsuyker sat idly on a blow-up beach chair among the protesters.
Dressed for the beach and equipped with water pistols and floatation devices, the Coffs Coast Climate Action Group called for government action on climate change.
"We're here today to join the dots for My Hartsuyker - to beat the heat, we must leave coal in the ground and urgently transition to 100% renewable energy," said Liisa Rusanen, a member of the group.
"This summer we've had record-breaking heatwaves in many parts of the country. Unprecedented hot spells are taking their toll on the elderly and children, droughts in some areas are impacting food production, while others are battling bushfire.
"This is what climate scientists have been warning us about for decades, yet our politicians are playing with coal and putting our future at risk."
The group delivered a petition to the office of over 300 signatures, calling on the federal government to "declare a climate emergency and initiate a society-wide mobilisation to stop climate change".
Mr Hartsuyker, however, was not present at his office during the protest.

Quotes of the Week

“Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” [Senior White House adviser on immigration issues, Stephen Miller, quoted in The Guardian, 13 February 2017]

FORD: That’s a White House advisor, right?
BRZEZINSKI: Oh my God. That’s not even funny. You can’t even —
SCARBOROUGH: Oh my God. It’s so much worse than I ever thought.
BRZEZINSKI: It’s much worse. It’s much worse.
[Excerpt from transcript of MSNBC Morning Joe broadcast as quoted in Shareblue, 13 February 2017]

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued. [Journalist and political commentator David Brooks writing in The New York Times, 17 February 2017]

Friday, 24 February 2017

Will cuts to Sunday penalty rates become a textbook example of unintended consequences?

ABC News, 23 February 2017:

Let's start by calling a spade a spade. Sunday penalty rates have been cut by the Fair Work Commission. Not "equalised" or "brought in line" with Saturday rates. Cut.

Business, big and small, has been seeking this cut for years, saying Sunday penalties are a legacy of a bygone era where families went to church — one that's costing them a tidy sum.

They also argue it's a legacy that's been costing jobs, with many employers choosing not to open on Sundays, or to maintain just a skeleton staff (although ask yourself, just how many retailers, restaurants, cafes and bars are actually shut on Sunday?).

But the cuts to Sunday penalty rates could become a textbook example of unintended consequences, where a move supposed to increase employment instead hurts the economy and increases business failures and job losses.

Why? Because the hundreds of thousands of retail and hospitality workers affected by this decision are also customers.

What do you think happens when you cut someone's pay packet by as much as 25 per cent for their Sunday shifts?

(For a typical permanent retail worker on the award who always works Sunday shifts this will cut their annual pay by about $3,500).

They either have to work more, or they have to cut their spending to match their new, lower wage.

Given that unemployment is stubbornly high at 5.7 per cent, and underemployment is near record levels, it seems unlikely they'll actually be able to get more work to make up the lost pay — and, remember, these staff already work Sundays, so it's not like they'll benefit from any increase in jobs on that day.

According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) an est. 850,300 people were employed in the accommodation and food industry sector in November 2016 as their main job and another est. 1.25 million people have their main job in the retail sector [ABS 6291.0.55.003 - Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Nov 2016].

An est. 54.7 percent of female employees in the accommodation/food industry work part-time and an est. 45.3 per cent males do likewise. While in retail an est. 54.6 per cent of females and 45.3 per cent of males work part-time.

In accommodation/food businesses part time employees work for an average of 16.1 hours while in the retail trade part-time employees work for an average of 16.7 hours.

Underemployment appears to be highest in the food and hospitality sector, third highest in the retail sector and females highest in both sectors. [Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Gender composition of the workforce: by industry, April 2016]

Females with only one job were more likely to work on weekends - 73% compared to 68% for males.

These statistics tend to confirm that “hundreds of thousands” of single person and family households will be hit by cuts to Sunday penalty rates as set out in the Fair Work Commission’s 4 yearly review of modern awards – Penalty Rates Decision covering Hospitality, Fast Food, Retail and Pharmacy Awards and, I have no doubt that their loss of income will affect local economies to a significant degree.

Award Sunday Penalty Rate

Hospitality Award full-time and part-time employees: (no change for casuals) 175 per cent -> 150 per cent

Fast Food Award (Level 1 employees only)
Full-time and part-time employees: 150 per cent ->125 per cent
Casual employees: 175 per cent ->150 per cent

Retail Award Full-time and part-time employees: 200 per cent ->150 per cent
Casual employees: 200 per cent ->175 per cent

Pharmacy Award
(7.00 am – 9.00 pm only)
Full-time and part-time employees: 200 per cent ->150 per cent
Casual employees: 200 per cent ->175 per cent

Local and regional economies on the NSW North Coast - where often low levels of employment opportunity combined with the fact that few hospitality/food outlets in tourism-orientated towns and none of the big retail stores currently close on a Sunday anyway - suggest that this wages cut will be nothing more than a straight forward cost saving for local businesses, with no or very little additional full-time, part-time or casual employment eventuating.

That a backlash to the Fair Work Commission decision appears inevitable is indicated by this online poll active on the day the decision was published:

Narrabri Shire Council caught red handed

Clarence Valley readers might remember Narrabri Shire Council as one of those NSW local governments pushing to dam and divert the Clarence River and interested in creating a Yamba mega port.

Now they have apparently been caught red handed attempting to stack an online survey in favour of coal seam gas mining in the Pilliga area: