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The most important news today – run on the front page and in the editorial of the AFR - was the record fine of $1.5 mn imposed on the CFMEU by the Victorian Supreme Court. This fine was for four counts of criminal contempt over a series of blockades of sites of Grocon, whose costs are also to be met by the union (Boral has also been adversely affected in Victoria by CFMEU action blocking the use of its concrete there). A further two convictions for civil contempt  involved additional fines on CFMEU of $250,000. For the first time a Victorian minister has called on the Victorian Labor leader to sever ties he established with the union.

It is of some interest that the fines are imposed by the Victorian Supreme Court, not by Fair Work Australia. It is not clear to me whether action was sought from FWA but action along these lines is clearly necessary if union activism is to be deterred. However, the revelation that the CFMEU has net assets of nearly $52m, almost certainly coming mostly from “donations” from corporations, indicates how difficult it will be to minimise its disruptive activity under existing regulatory legislation.

The IPCC report of Working Group 11 on “Impacts, Vulnerability, Adaptation”, released in Tokyo, has also been given coverage but not with much enthusiasm except in The Age, which gave it front page treatment. The ABC’s 7.30 report (attached) also conducted an interview with one of the IPCC’s lead authors (Field) but he was most unconvincing when outlining the dangerous threats allegedly faced by the world.

One reason for the lack of enthusiasm (on which see Terry McCrann’s article below) may be that the IPCC’s 5th effort involves the separate publication of four reports over the period from September 2013 to April 2014, followed by a Synthesis report in Paris in October 2014 at which the warmists’ aim is to secure an international agreement on reducing emissions. With the continuing “hiatus” in temperatures, reports of looming danger are difficult to get across.



Public not buying a climate apocalypse

Article by Terry McCrann published in the Herald Sun, April 1, 2014

THE good sense and informed self-interest — the wisdom of (Aussie) crowds — shines through in a scientific poll from Galaxy Research on attitudes to Global Warming (sic).

The poll result can be captured in two conclusions. We don’t believe it’s necessarily happening — to coin a phrase; we are mostly climate sceptics now. And therefore, we sure as hell ain’t prepared to pay real dollars to ‘stop it’.

Sorry, I should have written that Galaxy polled attitudes to ‘Climate Change (in the absence of Global Warming)’.

That’s of course, the missing Global Warming that was predicted as undeniably certain by all the science-is-certain experts — who are now all united in scouring the planet to find where the hell it’s gone.

They seem to have settled on the deep oceans — a theory which, conveniently, can’t be checked, because there’s no historical data.

We don’t know deep ocean temperatures even 50 far less 200 or more years ago. Captain James Cook might have roamed the globe, but he unaccountably forgot to take the temperature thousands of feet below his Endeavour, along the way.

The Galaxy Poll was commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs ‘think tank’. That will immediately have the grasping-at straws warmists dismissing it as denialist propaganda.

But the poll was done by Galaxy, not the IPA. It scientifically and rigorously assesses attitudes. Indeed, if anything the questions should favour the warmist opinion.

The easiest thing in the world is for someone to demonstrate they are ‘right thinking’ by endorsing ‘Climate Change ne Global Warming’.

The second easiest thing is to tell a pollster that of course they would be prepared to spend money to save the planet by stopping it; as opposed to having to hand over real cash right then.

Yet the poll which has been conducted since 2010 has shown very little change; and provides very little joy to the warmist cause, despite its ratcheting up of its ‘end of the world’ and ‘climate change is already here in your street and inside your house and it’s nasty’ rhetoric.

We are getting another dose of that rhetoric right now with the release yesterday of the UN IPCC’s final draft of its fifth report.

We’ve been getting warm-ups of the ‘end is nigher’ in the pages of Climate Central Australia — The Age. This included yesterday a spread across p2-3, warning of catastrophic devastation to be wreaked on your favourite cup of coffee.

No doubt today’s Age will be effectively an edition of the Climate Apocalypse Daily, plus some briefs on the real news.

Yet despite all this relentless (climate) fear and (carbon) loathing, pumped out not just by the Fairfax dailys, their ABC, and indeed also the NewsCorp papers, despite their supposed denalism, the Australian public remained stolidly unmoved.

In 2010, the Galaxy poll showed 35 per cent endorsement of the proposition that “the world is warming and man’s emissions are to blame”. The latest poll showed it had edged up only to 37 per cent.

Yes, this was significantly higher than those endorsing the proposition that “the variation in global temperature is just part of the natural cycle of nature”; which had dipped from 26 per cent in 2010 to 24 per cent now. The really significant number was the unchanged 38 per cent endorsing the proposition “there is conflicting evidence and I’m not sure what the truth is”.

By any objective — as opposed to theologically warmist — assessment, this is the rational attitude. Both in response to the reality of the highly, at least, conflicted evidence; and the huge costs of doing something to stop a problem that might not exist.

And in the specific Australian case, we could not stop anyway. Cut our emissions by 100 per cent; that is to say, close the country down; and we would cut global and indeed Australian warming — sorry, ‘Climate Change’ — by effectively zero.

So the poll shows a clear majority of 62 per cent of Australians are either sceptical or denialist. As a consequence, we are increasingly unwilling to throw money at ‘the problem (sic)’.

In 2010 some 15 per cent of poll respondents were prepared to pay $1000 or more a year in higher taxes and utility charges to fight global warming. Now only 11 per cent are.

There is a very, very clear plurality of 41 per cent that are willing to pay nothing, zero, zip — who, my comment, presumably want the carbon tax to go; and that it should be followed quick smart out the door by the expensive rort of wind and solar power.

This is up from 35 per cent in 2010.

Now true, about a similar number — 43 per cent — were prepared to pay between $100 and $500 a year. But that was down from 48 per cent.

And 25 per cent were in the clearly token category of being willing to pay $300 or less. That’s to say, they would be prepared to give up just one coffee a week to avert the very climate catastrophe that, among other things, The Age has warned us, will wreak such havoc on their coffee drinking.

Is The Age surprised by the lack of public enthusiasm? It shouldn’t be, on its ‘don’t mention the war’ approach to the symbolic pointlessness of the latest “Earth Hour,” of which it and its Sydney sibling used to be so enthusiastic about.

The IPA poll was conducted over the weekend. It was also the weekend of ‘Earth Hour’. Yet there wasn’t a single mention of it in either The Age or the SMH yesterday. Not even in one of the other global warming stories.

The Age had room for a largish pic of naked bike riders aimed at, well, showing a bunch of exhibitionists — and indeed, a portfolio of pics online.

But it couldn’t find room to celebrate and encourage those prepared to go without light for one whole hour on a Saturday night of all nights, to save the planet.

World already feeling effects of climate change, says UN report

Article by Tom Arup and Lisa Cox published in The Age, April 1, 2014

IPCC report: 'Australia going in the wrong direction'

Labor and the Coalition are still divided on climate change policy as the IPCC hands down their latest report.

Climate change is being felt in all corners of the globe and some parts of the natural world may already be changing irreversibly, an assessment by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found.

The report on the impact of climate change - released on Monday and the first of its kind in seven years - stresses the likelihood of an increase in severe and irreversible damage to the planet if high greenhouse gas emissions continue and the planet warms significantly.

The report is the result of years of work by 309 lead global researchers. It is the second part of the panel's fifth assessment of climate change.

A new report says declining rainfall in southern NSW and Victoria is among the threats faced by Australia.

Amid changes already observed in Australia is warming of surface air and oceans and changes to precipitation. Ocean climate zones are shifting, with the East Australian Current moving 350 kilometres south in the past 60 years.

Threats identified for Australia by the report include more coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef; declines in rainfall in southern NSW and Victoria and a 20- to 40 per cent increase in Melbourne days over 35 degrees by 2035.

Changes are also being observed broadly around the world, including to water systems, wildlife and crops. There are early warning signs Arctic sea ice and corals are already changing irreversibly.

The average global temperature has risen 0.85 since 1880. Threats become high to very high under four degrees warming. Risks under this scenario include severe damage to human and eco-systems, substantial species extinction and threats to global food security.

Dr Chris Field, co-chairman of the research team behind the report, said climate change was not something that was far off in the future.

''We look around the world and see widespread impacts of the climate changes that have already occurred. Many of these have real consequences,'' he said.

''Vulnerability, the susceptibility to be harmed by climate change, is really widespread in society. There are vulnerable people, vulnerable activities, distributed around the world.''

Amid the projections for the world as climate change worsens this century is a rising risk of species extinction; the effect on crops; displacement of more people and significant economic losses.

The report says the world's poor will be most under stress as climate hazards multiply their problems. But the impact of recent bushfires and floods show lack of preparedness in all countries, regardless of development level.

Asked for a response to the report, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said CSIRO had cautioned against attributing any particular weather to climate change: ''Australia's is a land of droughts and flooding rains. Always has been, always will be,'' he said.

Mr Abbott said he was happy the government had pledged strong climate change action heading into the election, but said the carbon tax was a ''very dumb policy''.

Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler said the report's contents were ''very, very serious'' and it was a wake-up call for the government to reassess its climate position.

Greens leader Christine Milne called on the government to abandon ''the foolish strategy'' of axing Australia's carbon price.

The IPCC report says there is still uncertainty about the timing and severity of climate change and pitches the challenge as needing to identify and manage the risks.

The summary identifies eight global risks it considers highly probable and irreversible.

They include death, injury and disrupted livelihoods due to storm surges; coastal flooding and sea-level rise in low-lying areas; breakdown of critical services such as electricity, water supply and emergency services due to extreme weather; food insecurity due to warming; drought, flood and extreme rainfall, particularly in poorer countries.

A third part of the report about ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be released in mid April.

Climate report puts heat on ag

Article by Joanna Mather published in the Australian Financial Review, 1 April, 2014

AUSTRALIA could become a net importer of wheat under severe climate change scenarios, says the latest report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

However, extra rainfall could boost rice and sugar cane yields.

The lead authors say Australia has experienced a near 1 degree temperature rise over the past 100 years and faces another rise of up to 5 degrees over the next century unless carbon emissions are quickly reduced. They offer an outlook for industries including agriculture, ­tourism and mining.

Wheat production in high rainfall areas such as southern Victoria could increase but in drier South Australia, crops would suffer, the report says.

"Under the more severe climate ­scenarios and without adaptation, ­Australia could become a net importer of wheat," it says.

John Cole, executive director of the Institute for Resilient Regions at the University of Southern Queensland, said the report identified risks for the agriculture and tourism sectors.

"Climate change is already impacting negatively on a wide range of ­vulnerable regions and crop yields and promises to further diminish the productivity of our fisheries, particularly those in tropical waters," he said.

"Impacts will be felt in rural communities in altered patterns of farm incomes and spending, major upgrades in farm production and irrigation ­efficiency or, in other cases, likely shifts in production to other areas as is being proposed for lands adjacent to the Gulf of Carpentaria to be developed for intensive agriculture."

For wine grapes, climate change will lead to "earlier bud burst, ripening and harvest for most regions and ­scenarios", the report says.

There is also potential for cultivation of cooler and higher areas, and expansion into new areas such as Tasmania.

A 3 per cent temperature increase would produce a 4 per cent reduction in gross value of the beef, sheep and wool sectors, the report says.

A study of 25 sites in southern Australia – an area that produces 85 per cent of sheep and 40 per cent of beef production by value – found declining productivity at most sites by the 2050s because of a shorter growing season due to rainfall and temperature change.

The report, released in Japan, cites rising sea levels, loss of animal habitat, increasing heatwaves and droughts as a "very real and immediate threat to ­Australia's society and economy".

The Great Barrier Reef faces "irreparable damage" within 25 years. Other areas of vulnerability by 2050, under medium emissions, include the Kakadu wetlands and alpine regions.

The outlook for tourism is mixed. Economic modelling suggests the Australian alpine region would suffer as a result of less snow, whereas ­destinations such as Margaret River in Western Australia could be more attractive thanks to higher temperatures and lower rainfall.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the CSIRO had urged caution against linking any natural event to human-induced climate change.

"Australia is a land of droughts and flooding rains, always has been, always will be," he said.

Barbara Norman, director of ­Canberra Urban and Regional Futures at the University of Canberra, said there were increasing risks to coastal infrastructure including road and rail networks.

Clean out the CFMEU, says Simon Crean

Article by Mathew Dunckley published in the Australian Financial Review, March 31, 2014

The Supreme Court has handed down a $1.25 million fine against the CFMEU for blockading Grocon’s Myer Emporium site in Melbourne.

The labour movement’s leadership must take swift action against the ­militant construction union after a record court fine and unprecedented criminal sanction for its blockade of a Grocon building site in Melbourne, says former Labor leader Simon Crean.

Mr Crean said the ACTU leadership had a responsibility to act after the ­Victorian Supreme Court issued a $1.25 million fine and unprecedented criminal convictions to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union union for contempt of court.

“They need to get their house in order. They need to control the rogue elements; they need to show that they can do it as they have in the past,” said Mr Crean, who was president of the ACTU for five years and was a minister in the last two Labor governments.

Asked for past examples of the labour movement reining in unions, Mr Crean identified the 1986 de-registration of the scandal-ridden Building Labourers Federation which was supported by the ACTU, and the 1989 pilots’ strike in which the ACTU intervened.

“I still think it is the responsibility of the current leadership to hold the good name of the unions to the fore and not allow it to be sullied by union action.

“You can’t expect solidarity for actions that aren’t sanctioned by the collective,” he said.

There is frustration in the Labor Party the CFMEU’s militant behaviour and recent allegations of corruption are hurting the union movement’s reputation. The union defied court orders and refused to lift a blockade of Grocon sites for several days in 2012 in a dispute over the appointment of safety officers.

The union was on Monday convicted on five counts of criminal contempt for defying the court orders, fined $250,000 on four of those counts and $150,000 on the fifth count. It was fined $100,000 on two counts of civil contempt for preventing deliveries to a building project on Collins Street in the heart of central Melbourne.

The union must pay Grocon’s legal costs, likely to be well over $1 million.

It faces a damages claim from ­Grocon estimated at $10 million and a contempt case brought by a supplier to Grocon, Boral.

Industrial lawyers said it was an important case because it was taken through to judgment when usually the sides settled. It comes after the Productivity Commission recently indicated it believed penalties for disorderly ­industrial behaviour were insufficient.

Repeated contempts

Judge Tony Cavanough said the repeated contempts were exceptionally serious and the union had in some cases breached court orders to lift the blockade “almost immediately” after they were served.

“They warrant explicit classification as criminal contempts, perhaps for the first time in the Australian industrial context,” he said.

“The court must visit the defiance of the CFMEU with a penalty which will not only adequately respond to the scale of the defiance but also act as a general and specific deterrent.

“No fines of the level previously imposed could do that.

“It is no answer for the CFMEU to say that it was, at the same time, seeking to make what it regarded as an important point in its industrial dispute with ­Grocon. The end does not justify the means. The means involved flagrant, prolonged, deliberate defiance of the orders of this court.”

Master Builders Australia chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch agreed with Mr Crean and called on union leaders to condemn the actions of the CFMEU.

“The building unions should hang their heads in shame; what we should hear is a chorus of condemnation from the broader union movement but I suspect this will not occur,” he said.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver criticised Mr Crean for airing his views in public. “We appreciate that people have views on the union movement; however, at a time when workers and their representatives are under an unprecedented attack from conservatives that want to weaken the union movement, a phone call would be appreciated instead of views being raised via the media,” he said.

Former Labor premier John Cain described the recent conduct as a “bit of a demo” and it did not compare with that of the BLF.

“This is just pussy-footing about with a bit of an industrial action for a ­laudable cause,” he said.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, facing a close Senate election in Western Australia, said the ­blockades were a serious error of judgment by the construction union.

“The deliberate and inexcusable behaviour of senior officials of the CFMEU in Victoria was completely unacceptable. The whole episode is a complete waste of time and money,” he said. “The actions and decisions of a few unfortunately reflect on a movement that by and large are working every day for better pay and conditions of their members.”

CFMEU state secretary John Setka said the blockade at the Myer Emporium site was about safety and pointed to the 23 deaths in the industry since 2012. “The union is not seeking to be above the law,” he said.

“We want to save lives.”

‘Old-style bullying and intimidation’

Grocon said the case was a “defining moment” for the industry. “It should be clear to the Victorian CFMEU that ­old-style bullying and intimidation has no place in a modern workplace or the broader union movement,” it said.

“The construction industry must take a stand to eradicate this sort of lawless behaviour and require all players to simply obey the law.”

Justice Cavanough said the union was capable of paying the fine.

He said in his judgment the union had cash in the bank of $12.4 million and net assets of nearly $52 million.

State Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the Labor Party should immediately sever ties with the CFMEU.

“This union is affiliated to the Labor Party. Today is an important day for [state Opposition Leader] Daniel Andrews’ leadership.

“He has to sack the CFMEU not back them, this is a rogue union.”

Mr Andrews said the behaviour of the union was “appalling” but he refused to comment when asked if the CFMEU still belonged in the Labor Party.

Mr Crean said the size of the fines showed the current regulatory system was working. He said he believed the Labor Party had made it clear that it would not “tolerate rogue action by anyone in the union movement.

“It is purely an issue for the trade union movement,” he said although he added he expected the Labor Party would be taking a keen interest.

He said the national leadership of the CFMEU also had to take action to ensure that they “don’t allow that sort of action in their name to be taken again”.

Mr Crean said the fines were costly but so too was the disruption to the economy and broader economy from the turmoil.

“There is always an obligation on the union movement to ensure that economic progress, investment is undertaken, that is ultimately what will generate growth and jobs and opportunities for the members,” he said.

The judgment prompted renewed calls for the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) which Labor and the Greens have blocked in the Senate.

“The penalty is unprecedented in size and reflects the ongoing actions of a union’s disregard for the rule of law and standards of behaviour that apply to everyone else,” Employment Minister Eric Abetz said.

“Today’s penalty is yet one more reason why Bill Shorten and Labor must stop running a protection racket for union bosses engaged in illegal and unlawful behaviour.”

Labor must not allow itself to be a prisoner of unions

Editorial published in The Australian, April 1, 2014

GIVEN two union leaders with senior roles in the Labor Party were sentenced to jail last week for stealing money, and a royal commission into union corruption is under way, you would think unions would be keeping a low profile. If they wanted to arrest the decline in membership — now just 13 per cent of the private-sector workforce — and regain any sort of influence, let alone respect, this would be a sensible strategy.

But Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, would prefer to trash the remaining morsel of credibility unions have left. Mr Sheldon has threatened a campaign of “civil disobedience” unless the TWU receives job guarantees from Qantas.

Sabre-rattling of this kind is to be expected from militant unionists. The problem for Mr Sheldon is that he is also Labor’s national vice-president.

Worse, his rally was attended by Labor MPs, including federal deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.

Does Ms Plibersek condone unionists wreaking havoc by blocking roads to stop travellers accessing airports? Moreover, does the Labor Party, in which Ms Plibersek and Mr Sheldon hold senior positions, support activity that skirts, if not breaks, the law?

Unions are understandably concerned about possible job losses at Qantas. But the airline needs to cut costs and restructure its operations to save jobs, if not the airline itself. Union leaders and past MPs, who recognised the need to support the national interest rather than maintain fidelity to a fading cause, would understand this.

It underscores a larger problem for Labor: it has become a prisoner of the unions. The party, formed by organised labour in 1891, is today suffocated by these archaic links. Writing in these pages yesterday, former Labor national president Stephen Loosley suggested Labor should make votes at conferences — where unions are dominant — non-binding. This would help to break the union stranglehold on the party. Yet if delegates to state conferences remain half appointed by union secretaries, then the unions will continue to exercise undue influence over administrative bodies, the selection of candidates and officials and, critically, policy.

There is no case for unions to appoint 50 per cent of conference delegates but represent only 18 per cent of all full-time employees. Nor is requiring party members to be union members justified.

Union influence inside Labor reached its apogee when Julia Gillard told the Australian Workers Union conference last year that she did not lead a social democratic party but a party of labour. Yet it was not a surprise given her government’s retrograde workplace and industry policies. Labor must rise to the challenge of reforming the party-union nexus. Bill Shorten, a former AWU national secretary, has not yet shown that he understands the problem or is prepared to fix it.

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