Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Leftist view of the Cologne attacks

Australia has a far-Leftist webzine called "New Matilda" that I often read to get near to where the Leftist beating heart lies. It is not in mainstream politics so its writers can let it all hang out.  And they are of course enthusiastic defenders of Islam. Leftist haters and Muslim haters understand one another.  So I was interested to read their take on the mass sex attacks by young Muslim males on German women in Cologne on New Year's eve.

A recent article in "New Matilda" by one Randa Abdel-Fattah (I dare not guess his/her religion) gives a take on it.  Like most "New Matilda" articles it is long and rambling so I am not going to reproduce any of it but it can be summed up quite simply.  It is of course yet another exercise in moral equivalence and its central contention is that condemnation of the Cologne events is "racist".

Why is it racist?  Because Westerners too have done bad things in the past and we do not condemn such attacks when they are committed by white men.  That's the argument.

It is difficult to know where to start in refuting such a feeble argument but let's start with its central pillar: that the Syrians and others in Cologne were "brown".  I quote "Is the concern about sexual assault against women, or sexual assault against women when the perpetrators are brown men?"

As far as I know, Syrians would normally be classed as white.  They are not as fair as Northern Europeans but are pretty similar to Italians, who are undoubtedly white.  Let that slide however.  Maybe we are racist about off-white people.

That's not very plausible, however.  Not very long ago Australia's most populous State, New South Wales, was almost entirely run by people of Italian and Greek ancestry -- the Iemma administration.  And they were voted into power by the people of NSW.

So the question is whether we are equally scandalized by the same class of offence when it is committed by white and off-white people.  Abdel-Fattah obviously thinks we are not.  But he has a problem:  Where has there been anything remotely equivalent to the Cologne events that was committed by white people?  There has not been, of course.

So fat Abdul trawls through history back to the '50s to find some bad deeds committed by white men.  And he finds a few.  Even if we allow such things as comparable, however, he would have to show that they were not condemned by other whites.  He does not even attempt to do that.  His article is an outpouring of hate.  It is nothing logical

I think he should be called Abdul Fathead.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

An extraordinary outpouring of hate for Australia day

On 26th January, Australians  celebrate the arrival of the first British settlers in Australia.  We celebrate it as the founding of our nation, which it is.  As the Left try their best to rip away all of our traditions, it has become an increasingly popular day.  People like their connections to their past so those connections we still have become better appreciated.  The supermarkets  sell all sorts of patriotic merchandise and you will see lots of cars driving around with Australian flags fluttering from them -- a flag in which the Union Flag of the U.K. is quartered.  No ambiguity about our British origins there!

The far-Left do however condemn the day.  Just as they condemn Columbus day in America, they call Australia day, invasion day.   They regard the prior Aboriginal population as dispossessed. The fact that the Aborigines dispossessed the prior Negrito or "pygmy" race they cover up.  But I come from a part of Australia that was the last redoubt of the pygmies so I know the facts of the matter.  I have actually seen some of their descendants.

So it was fairly predictable that the far-Leftist Australian webzine "New Matilda" would publish a prolonged howl of rage in the lead up to this year's celebration.  I am rather amazed by how prolix it is.  It is a very long screed that finds many ways to repeat its condemnations. It must be driven by a white-hot   furnace of hate.  I give just a few excerpts from it below.  I am not going to attempt rejoinders to any of the hate-speech.  It is just a re-run of all the old Leftist themes so one would have to rehash most of politics if one wished to refute its assertions.  Suffice it to say that it is just about as unbalanced a critique as you could get, unbalanced almost to the point of mental illness.

My family do celebrate the day in the traditional way, with a get together over a  BBQ at my brother's place.  I think we upset the Leftist stereotype a bit however, as our family includes some people of both Aboriginal and Han Chinese ancestry.  All are native-born Australians, however and we do take a considerable interest in our ancestry  -- with which we are well-pleased.

Some excerpts from "New Matilda":


We can all agree that Australia Day is a sickening celebration of jingoism and toxic masculinity that buries beneath its own excretion the invasion, dispossession and genocide on which this nation was built. The argument that Australia Day is just like 1988 satirical science fiction action horror film They Live is more contentious, though no less true.

There's the dominant ideological view of Australia Day which is a god awful hotpot of clich‚s, BBQs, boats and militant racism. Then there's the critique which contains some hard truths about the Indigenous population, asylum seekers, environmental destruction, poverty, homelessness, alcoholism, mental illness and domestic abuse.

This reality is painful for many and leads to aggressive opposition. It explains a lot about the public discourse of our national day, mainstream responses to daily examples of sexism by public figures, and probably the comment section at the end of this article.

Aussies love their garbage ideology.

The two-minute music video is an ultra-conservative fantasy draft of every boring clich‚ you've ever heard about Australia. Set to the tune of Outcast's party anthem `Hey Ya!', it flashes through images of flag umbrellas, the harbour bridge, koalas and kangaroos, BBQs, the baggy green, fireworks, novelty size things, beaches, Uluru, white people, mullets, singlets, cork hats, sports, vegemite, boomerangs, lamingtons, VB and Midnight Oil.

Worse than this inventory of the who's who of the 1970s are the capitalist, gendered and racist messages the song reproduces. We're supposed to `Thank God for our resources coz they are the sources for our wealthy land' as we see footage of mining and the smiling faces of Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer. Thanks be to our capitalist overlords for destroying the environment and feeding us hatred of women and minorities.

We're told `mateship is forever', oh except if you made it to the continent first, you don't eat pork, or you arrived here by boat recently. In fairness, in between all the white people drinking and eating baby sheep, Indigenous folks do get a run. Though only really for their paintings which white people like to hang on the wall, for their athletic ability which white people are obsessed with, and for their dancing which white people like as entertainment.

We also learn that it's cool to binge drink and it makes us really happy. Let's not forget the suffocating masculinity which drowns most of the song. Australia at its core is all about mining, cooking BBQs, being mates, having a beer with the fellas, big things, watching cricket, mullets, singlets and go karting.

It also goes to Zizek's point that ideology is not something imposed on us but instead a spontaneous and natural expression of how we see the world.

As you bowl a few bouncers this Oz Day, recognise that we've never really owned our bloody history of invasion, dispossession, and genocide. Violence and disease decimated the estimated 750,000 Indigenous people living here across 400 nations in 1788. By 1920 there remained 60,000 and they were labelled a `dying race'.

While Paul Keating once gave a nice speech in Redfern and Kevin Rudd said sorry to the Stolen Generations, mainstream Australia has never properly come to terms with our violent past and our discriminatory present. Howard derided an honest reckoning as a `black armband view of history', while in contemporary politics, Abbott said there was `nothing but bush' before white settlement and Bill Shorten can't even bring himself to say the word invasion, opting for the more anodyne `settlement'.

Our failure to fully recognise past atrocities bleeds into our continued execution of them. A long line of white governments have denied Aboriginal people the right to self-determination and as a result these communities suffer the grossest social, economic, legal and political inequality.

Life expectancy is about fifteen years lower, infant mortality three times higher and youth incarceration 24 times higher compared to these rates for non-Indigenous Australians. Meanwhile the Recognise campaign stumbles on interminably to distract us all from the slashing of Indigenous services, the closure of Indigenous communities and the urgent need for a Treaty.

As you drive your Ute to Bondi next Tuesday, see that for a society founded by boat people, we have very little empathy for them. Australia runs remote pacific prison camps with endemic physical and sexual abuse, described by Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry as `factories for producing mental illness'.

Our detention regime has killed Reza Barati, Hamid Kehazaei, Fazel Chegeni and over 30 other innocent people since 2000, and deported many others to their deaths in their home countries. 159 children currently languish behind barbed wire offshore and on the mainland, while in Nauru, children are forced into schools where they are abused and sexually harassed.

Over 100 nations lined up late last year to spotlight our crimes against humanity. In 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found Australia had committed 143 violations of international law. We've breached not only the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture.

Take a moment during `Fitzy and Wippa's Blokey Bonanza' to think about how Australia not only systematically abuses the rights of Indigenous peoples and asylum seekers, but also ruthlessly despoils the environment. Since coming to power in 2013 the Coalition government has really stepped up the assault on the natural world. They've tried to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania's World Heritage listed forests and weaken the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, hoping to hand over environmental powers to the states. They've reviewed marine reserves and defunded environmental defender's offices and the CSIRO.

They've dismantled our climate policy, attacked the renewable energy industry and approved mega-mines in Queensland which alone will be the world's seventh largest polluter. They've approved dredging and an immense coal port expansion on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef. They've retained $10 billion a year in fossil fuel subsidies. Meanwhile, 2015 was in the top 5 hottest years ever for Australia, climate change is intensifying floods and bushfires across the country, and Peter Dutton thinks it's a good time to have a laugh about entire Pacific Islands going under water. Lol Peter, Lol.

As you re-watch `The Best of The Footy Show 1994-2002' for the 10th time, spare a thought for Muslims who experience racism at three times the national average as Bolt, Jones, Morrison, Abbott and the like stoke Islamophobia, riots and Reclaim Australia.

As you rub sun cream on your pet Koala's back, cast your mind to a decade of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and the over 1 million civilians Australia and our allies have killed in the process. See Australia's shared responsibility in the destabilisation of the Middle East, the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis.

As you tuck into a vegemite coated novelty sized lamington, try not to throw up as you read that Australia's wealthiest 1 per cent have more money than 60 per cent of the population, and the nine richest people have more than the bottom 20 per cent. Know that the gap between rich and poor has grown by 13 per cent over the past decade and will jump another 10 per cent over the next 10 years. While the Australian media cares a great deal about which mansion our $200 million Prime Minister might grace with his presence, it seems to give less than two shits that there are 105,237 people without a bed to sleep in. Perhaps you could have a couple over at your spare mansion tonight Mr Turnbull?


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Capacity Factors And Coffee Shops: A Beginner's Guide To Understanding The Challenges Facing Wind Farms

Geoff Russell, a rational Greenie, uses the numbers to show at length below what an absurdity wind farms are.  He shows that there is no way they can be the mainstay of an electricity supply.  He favours nukes as a carbon-free power supply

It's still `all about the baseload', writes Geoff Russell, in this simple guide to understanding the limitations of energy sources like wind farms.

Renewable-only advocates claim that we can build a reliable, clean electricity system using mostly unreliable sources; like wind and solar power. And of course we can; the theory is simple, just build enough of them.

Coffee shops operate rather like our current electricity system; there are a few permanent staff who are analogous to what are called baseload power stations. Additional staff are hired to cover the busy period(s) and correspond typically to gas fired generators.

The renewable alternative is like running a coffee shop with a crew of footloose narcoleptics who arrive if and when they feel like it and who can nod off with little notice. Would this work? Of course; just hire enough of them.

Any criticisms of renewable plans is typically subjected to execution by slogan: That's soooo last millennium; baseload is a myth!

I've used something like this coffee shop analogy elsewhere, but it doesn't capture other critical features of electricity sources . let's begin with the capacity factor.

Capacity factor

When someone talks about a "100 megawatt" wind farm, this refers to its maximum power output when the wind is blowing hard. Energy is power multiplied by time, so if it's windy for 24 hours you'll get 24 x 100 = 2400 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electrical energy. But actual output over the course of a year is obviously only a percentage of the maximum possible and that percentage is measured and called the capacity factor; typically about 33 percent for wind.

A rooftop solar system is also labelled according to its maximum output and also has a capacity factor. averaging 14 percent in Australia but only 9 or 10 percent in the UK or Germany.

Nuclear plants also have capacity factors because they usually need to be taken off line every year or two for refuelling. Typical percentages are 90 in the US and 96 in South Korea.

You can't compare electricity sources without understanding capacity factors. Since the capacity factor of a nuclear plant is about 90 percent and that of rooftop solar is about 14 percent and because 90/14 = 6.429, then you'd need to install 9,000 megawatts worth of solar panels to match the amount of electricity you'd get from a 1400 megawatt South Korean APR1400 nuclear reactor over a year (6.429 x 1400 = 9,000).

Which is more than double the 4041 megawatts installed in Australia between 2007 and the end of 2014.

Matching supply and demand

But 9,000 megawatts of solar panels is still very different to 1,400 megawatts of nuclear, even if both produce the same amount of electricity annually. With 9,000 megawatts of PV panels, you don't control the output and on any day it will range from nothing at night through to 9,000 megawatts if it's hot, cloudless and the right time of day.

In contrast, 1,400 megawatts of nuclear power can be adjusted to match demand; turn it down, turn it up.

Below is a picture of the output of some German nuclear plants. Note that the output of one plant, KKI 1 (Isar), is pretty constant. That plant began operation in 1979, which is about the vintage of the seemingly immortal but obviously false anti-nuclear claim that nuclear plants can't follow load; see Margaret Beavis's recent NM article for a 2015 misstatement.

Brokdorf, on the other hand, is a little newer and has been operating since 1986 and has no trouble ramping up and down. Not only can most nuclear plants load-follow (this is the technical term), it's increasingly necessary in Germany because of the growth of wind and solar; it's a thankless task but somebody has to do it!

Now you understand why it's silly to do what non-technical journalists like Bernard Keane have done, and compare costs per kilowatt of solar with those of nuclear without understanding the capacity factor; let alone grid costs or load-following.

But the capacity factor is also important for another deeper reason and it will take us back to that coffee shop.

First, imagine a small city with a constant electrical demand of 1,000 megawatts and a wind farm supplying, on average, 333 megawatts. Assume the rest is supplied by gas. Given the capacity factor of wind, we can infer that the peak output of that wind farm is about 1,000 megawatts.

What happens to excess electricity?

Now consider what happens if you triple the size of your wind farm.  Since you now have (a maximum of) 3,000 megawatts of wind power, you'll be averaging 0.33 x 3,000 x 24 megawatt-hours (of energy) per day; which is 100 percent of demand; excellent.

But what happens when it's really windy? The output is then triple the demand; so, without storage, that electricity gets dumped.

Dumping electricity on your neighbours isn't a nice thing to do if they don't need it at the time.

Wind farms, like any low capacity factor unreliable electricity source, are fine when they are a small contributor to a large grid, but not so fine when their surges are large relative to the demand on the grid; then they become a veritable bull in a china shop.

How does this look in coffee shop terms? If you run your coffee shop with a large bunch of narcoleptic staff, then some of the time they'll all be awake and rearing to go, but there'll be few customers and your staff will be twiddling their thumbs at best and getting in each others way at worst.

But perhaps the analogy is broken? Instead of a single wind farm, we could have multiple farms spread over a huge area and interconnected so that the wind must surely even out; never blowing hard (nor totally calm) at all sites. Certainly this sounds plausible. but what actually happens?

John Morgan looked at the Australian data on wind power in an article a couple of months ago on bravenewclimate.com.

In the 12 months to September 2015, Australia had 3,753 megawatts of wind power across the National Electricity Market (which excludes WA which isn't connected) and the daily average output ranged from 2.7 percent (101 megawatts for 24 hours) to 86 percent (3,227 megawatts for 24 hours).

This isn't so different from what would happen with a single 3,753 megawatt wind farm. So despite expectations, there were times when it was pretty windy almost everywhere and other times, including runs of multiple days, when it was pretty damn still almost everywhere.

The overall capacity factor was measured at 29 percent. So despite expectations, many wind farms, even in a big country like Australia, aren't that much different to one very big one. And you really do have to worry about being becalmed.

I argued in my last New Matilda article that wasting battery capacity papering over the deficiencies of wind and solar will reduce our ability to solve our clean transportation problems.

Copper plates and real networks

Clearly if many wind farms are intended to even out supply, then they need to be interconnected.

A study commonly cited in Australia supporting the feasibility of a 100 percent renewable system is that of Elliston, Diesendorf and MacGill.

One assumption of that study was that electricity can flow freely from where-ever it is generated to where-ever it is needed.

This is called the "copper plate" assumption; it assumes the continent is just one massive copper plate conducting electricity everywhere at high speed.

But real interconnectors have to be built, and how much connectivity do low capacity factor sources need? A European study found that the grid capacity to transfer electricity under a 100 percent renewable scenario needs to be ramped up by between 5.7 and 11.5 times; depending on the quality of service required.

The "flow freely" assumption occupied just one sentence of the Australian study but conceals a wealth of problems and complexity. The EU goal is that member countries provide interconnection capacity equal to just 10 percent of installed capacity. by 2020.

The need for extra national interconnections is mirrored internally within the larger countries by the need for extra internal interconnections. In Germany this is being implemented under the Power Grid Expansion Act (EnLAG) involving 3,800 kilometers of new extra-high voltage lines.

These lines aren't being built without protest. The path of least resistance will be wildlife habitat; to avoid concerns both real and imagined over reducing property prices and health risks.

To extend the coffee shop analogy to cover distributed wind farms, we move from a single shop to a WindyBucks Chain of shops spread over the country.

The European study implies that making this work will require not just extra staff but a fleet of lightening fast taxis to shunt the staff around from shop to shop. This is so that when we have too many baristas in Cairns, we can shunt them down to cover for those having a kip in Hobart.

Again, the theory is simple; just add another layer of duct tape until it holds together.

Markets, profits and planning

There's one not so obvious way in which the coffee shop analogy breaks down. Coffee shop staff get paid by the hour, not by the number of coffees they make; but users of electricity pay for what they use, not for what is generated.

Does anybody want to pay 10 times the going rate for a coffee just because there happen to be 10 grinning baristas twiddling their thumbs behind the Espresso machine?

If not, then consider what happens to electricity prices during our imagined tripling of wind capacity. Remember, we started by assuming wind provided about 30 percent of electrical energy, so when we triple the number of farms and the wind is blowing pretty strongly everywhere, they'll be generating about triple what we want.

In a free electricity market where suppliers bid for electricity, the price will dive. So while it's very profitable to build a wind farm when total wind energy is less than the capacity factor, it soon becomes very unprofitable because nobody wants your product; you also create a mess that somebody has to clean up by building extra grid magic to handle power surges.

Why didn't people see this coming a decade ago? Probably somebody did, but they were "Sooo last millennium"!

This article has tried to explain as non-technically as possible some of the problems that arise as penetration rates of intermittent electricity sources rise. I've used wind as a concrete example, but the same problems occur with any low capacity factor sources.

It may help people understand why Germany is burning half of her forestry output for electricity to provide some level of baseload power amid the renewable chaos. She could be, and should be, maximally expanding forests to draw down carbon, but instead, her logging and fuel crop industries are booming.

But the German use of baseload biomass to paper over renewable deficiencies isn't just a love of lumberjacks and hatred for wildlife - when AEMO (Australian Electricity Market Operator) reported in 2013 on the feasibility of 100 percent renewable electricity, both her scenarios were "Sooo Last Millenium" and postulated a baseload system underneath the wind and solar components; either biomass (Log, Slash, Truck and Burn) like the Germans, or geothermal (ironically driven by heat from radioactive decay within the earth).

Technical readers should consult John Morgan's articles a and b in addition to the various papers and studies he mentions.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Why Are We Still Working?

Australian Leftist site "New Matilda" published recently an article under the above heading that has received some attention in Leftist circles. It is a long and rambling article in a typically Leftist way.  Verbosity is used to substitute for clarity of thought.  So I have had to read it twice to follow what the author was getting at. But an early paragraph summarizes the inspiration of the article:

"As long ago as 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by now, people in technologically advanced societies wouldn’t need to work much at all. When Keynes said this, advances in technology were yielding extraordinary increases in productivity. The implications seemed obvious. If it took less time to produce what we needed, surely we’d work less."

And the author, basically, does not know the answer to the puzzle in that. Along the way, he comes out with nonsense like "we have also seen a vast proliferation of new jobs that only seem to exist to keep people working"

He makes some reasonably accurate generalizations such as "Instead of everyone working less, what seems to be happening is that experienced workers, in professions which are still in demand, are working more, while the young, the old, and those with skills which no longer attract investment have difficulty finding work"

And you are supposed to be outraged by that instead of seeking to understand it.  The effects of credentialism, for instance, go unmentioned. See here and  here as starting points on that topic.

But eventually we get to the point of the article:  "Capital, like technology, is largely blind to human need. Capital goes where the profit is. If there was profit in healing minds and saving species, some of it would go there. While there is more profit in alcohol, gambling and deforestation, more of it will go there"

Which is of course a classic Leftist fallacy, a direct descendant of the Communist motto:  "From each according to his ability and to each according to his need".  It's "the system" that is at fault, you see.  Society is not ordered in the way the Leftist wants.  Leftist priorities are not the normal human priorities.  So the existing human priorities must be CHANGED!  And Communism certainly tried that.

OK:  The fallacy that our apparently young thinker has fallen into is that capitalism does not reflect human needs.  Yet it in fact does exactly that.  People communicate their needs very graphically by putting their hands in their pockets and buying what they want.  Capitalism is the most basic form of democracy.  The individual makes his/her own choices about his/her own life.

Confronted with that, the Leftist immediately subsides into authoritarianism.  People must have their choices taken away and have BETTER choices enforced!  Our present writer is not explicit about that but even a little knowledge of history will tell you where that sort of thinking leads -- to brutal tyranny, not the promised Garden of Eden.

And what the Communist motto overlooks is that people's needs are infinite.  So neither capitalism nor Communism will ever satisfy them fully.

An example of that which has been rather bemusing to me lately is the upsurge in cruising.  People go aboard large and lavishly appointed ships and sail around in circles!  You couldn't make it up!  And people of quite humble background are doing it -- and doing it often.  That is so much so that I have acquired the polite habit of asking friends:  "When is your next cruise?".

So what is going on?  What has happened is that the super-efficient ship-construction techniques of places like the Meyer Werft in Germany (Which is located INLAND!) has brought down the cost of ships -- and third-world crews have cut the cost of operating them.  And the very big cruise ships of today also make good use of economies of scale.  So the bottom line is that the cost of cruising is now well within the reach of average people. So it has become a "need" for quite a few people I know.  They feel that their life is enhanced by it.  And who am I to say it is not?  A Green/Leftist would say it is not but I am a true-blue conservative.

So that is the reason we keep working.  The ingenuity of the many people who create capitalism provides so many attractive things that we want them.  And we have to work to fulfill those wants.

But it an individual choice.  It may be apparent that I don't go cruising.  I have a comfortable income in my old age but I live simply and end up giving away twice what I spend on myself.  I do eat out on many occasions but usually at places where I can get a dinner for $10!  You might be surprised at how good such dinners can be.

So what capitalism provides is individual CHOICE.  That would seem hard to criticize but in their authoritarian way, the Green/Left do criticize it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The evils of land clearing

Humanity has been clearing native vegetation for thousands of years to make way for crops and grazing animals.  But that is now all WRONG, apparently.  There is a great shriek about it below.  It's "environmental destruction" apparently.

Human modification of the landscape has been pervasive in Europe and yet Europe has a lot of very nice places to be.  Try Austria's
Salzkammergut, for instance, centered around an old salt mine (as the name implies).  I can hear the shrieks now:  A MINE?  Mines can never be good to a Greenie.  Yet people take vacations in the Salzkammergut to enjoy the beautiful environment.   People have been modifying the environment there since ancient times in fact. Hallstatt is in the Salzkammergut, if you know your archaeology.

Hallstatt -- a site of ecocide?

And what about Italy? People have been marching to and fro and modifying the environment there for around 3,000 years. Yet many places in Italy -- such as Umbria -- are regarded as places of great beauty. Tourists flock to Italy in large numbers to see its beautiful landscapes and its modified environments. But they are just cattle to Greenie elitists, of course. Greenie elitists have THE TRUTH -- or they think they do.

Umbria -- Some of that awful farmland, no less

Why should Australia be different?  Why can we not modify our environment into something we like better?  Let us CHOOSE our environment rather than stay stuck with the native environment.

Why should we not?  They offer two arguments below:  The first is that land clearing will increase global warming -- but if that were a serious argument they would have offered some figure for the climate sensitivity to CO2.  They do not.  And they would find themselves in a morass if they did.

The second argument is that clearing reduces biodiversity.  But it may or may not, depending on how the clearing is managed. And the reduced biodiversity in Europe seems to have done nobody any harm.

But even if we accept that all biodiversity is good and needed, it can be managed without blanket bans on all change.  Farmers often leave a bit of the native vegetation alone for various reasons.  The big disincentive to doing so is the fear of future Greenie blanket bans.  Farmers clear everything while they can.  So a program to reward farmers for setting aside pockets of native vegetation would do a whole lot more good than trying to stop clearing altogether.

NSW is set to join Queensland in tearing up key environmental legislation. The likely result will be widespread land-clearing and a greater contribution to climate change, writes Dr Mehreen Faruqi.

Imagine you were the NSW Premier in possession of a crystal ball, gazing into which you could see the consequences of your own policies. Suppose what you saw was what you were warned of all along: widespread land clearing and environmental destruction. Well, for Premier Mike Baird, a glimpse of the future is just north of the border, in Queensland.

Two years ago, the Queensland Newman government severely undermined native vegetation rules, resulting in the doubling of land clearing, the removal of almost 300,000 hectares of bushland (20 times the size of the Royal National Park in Sydney) and the release of 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, further exacerbating climate change.

Despite this damning evidence, the Baird Government is green lighting land clearing by pushing ahead with abolishing native vegetation protection laws in New South Wales. This is nothing less than attempting ecocide.

The NSW Native Vegetation Act 2003 has generally been credited with ending broad-scale land clearing in a state where 61 per cent of the original native vegetation has been cleared, thinned or significantly disturbed since European colonisation, most of it in the last 50 years.

According to a WWF report, the introduction of this Act saw an 88-fold decrease of felling, as well as preventing the deaths of thousands of native animals.

Not only is native vegetation crucial for biodiversity protection, it also improves farm land value and increases production outcomes. However, native vegetation management on private land has long been perceived as a battleground between landholders and conservationists, stirring up controversy between private property rights and the public interest.

Politically, the National Party has been a key opponent of biodiversity laws that require some form of permission and oversight before landholders can clear native vegetation. Not surprisingly, the unravelling of the Native Vegetation Act commenced in the first term of the Liberal National Government taking power in NSW.

In 2013, the then-Deputy Premier and Nationals leader Andrew Stoner foreshadowed the comprehensive overhaul of all biodiversity protection legislation. A range of new regulations soon followed, which allowed the removal of paddock trees and thinning of native vegetation to go ahead without the need for vegetation management plans.

Since these changes, more than 6,000 trees have been chopped. Even the Shooters & Fishers – key Upper House votes – have waded into this conflict, with a bill that, if enacted, would have done irreparable damage to biodiversity and native vegetation in NSW.

The next and perhaps most disastrous move is the report of the so-called ‘Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review’.

Even though more than 80 per cent of the submissions to the review called for retaining or strengthening protections, the recommendations call for the wholesale repeal of the Native Vegetation Act. It will also repeal the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 Act, and include only parts of them in a mooted new Act.

This will be coupled with an expansion of the flawed biodiversity offsets policy. Once biodiversity is lost, it is often permanent.

The Review recommended that the Native Vegetation Act should be repealed because it had not stopped biodiversity loss. This unsophisticated approach completely ignores the huge reduction of broad-scale clearing as a result of strong laws (despite inadequate resourcing for their enforcement). Moreover, it has turned a blind eye to the multitude of government policies that result in major biodiversity losses, for example, mining approvals that clear swathes of forest and habitat.

The new regime proposed by the Biodiversity Legislation Review is set up to fail. Clearing will be allowed even if it does not improve or maintain environmental outcomes. Under the brave new world of environmental (mis)management, already under-resourced local councils will be lumped with an unprecedented workload to deal with land clearing on a case-by-case basis, with no overarching state-wide environmental oversight.

While the anti-environment Nationals and the Shooters and Fishers are looking forward to ripping up the Native Vegetation Act this year, environment groups, conservationists and the Greens are gearing up for a vigorous fight to stop this destruction of native vegetation and wildlife.

It doesn’t need to be this way. There is enough evidence to prove that weakening biodiversity protections will lead to an increase in land clearing leading to further fragmentation of precious ecosystems. At a time when climate change is taking bite we need more, not less preservation.