As Australian Conservative Politicians Laugh about COALPHOBIA the rest of us quietly install our cheap and effective Solar Systems.

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Whether or not you believe in global warming is irrelevant.

The sun is free and if you are lucky enough to live in Australialand we get a lot of it.

In fact, we sometimes get too much – it helps to make us the skin cancer capital of the world, wreaks havoc with the paintwork on our red cars, breaks down our washing pegs, turns our hair to straw and our washing to cardboard but we still love it because it’s FREE energy. ¬†Yay!

The other week, with Sydney just about to experience its hottest days on record Scott Morrison indulged himself in a little show-and-tell, bringing a lump of coal into parliament, declaring that ‘coal is our future’ and laughing heartily at the Lefties, accusing them of Coalophobia for wanting to move away from this black gold.

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You can’t blame them on one hand. It would be fair to say that Australia was built on Rock and Coal and it is equally fair to say that thousands of Australians still rely on our coal industry for their weekly wage packets but are they reason enough to keep us locked into a technology that is running out of steam?

I think not, especially given that these days many of us are employed in industries that didn’t exist 50 or even 20 years ago – there are plenty of opportunities out there for jobs and growth building but coal ‘ain’t one of them. Surely with a bit of fore-thought and planning we can create a clean energy jobs market, I mean the solar panels don’t make themselves, they have to be installed, maintained and improved. ¬†Then there’s other clean energy engineering problems to be solved, improvements to be invested in and minds to be engaged.

Australia is in danger of falling behind.

Actually Australia already is behind in terms of government leadership because while the coal is being passed around the parliament a quiet solar revolution is unfolding in and around suburbia and nobody gives a shit about what the pollies think or whether they or anyone else believes in global warming, climate change or coalophobia. People are just doing it because it is cheap.

Two years ago we purchased our property out west and a rough estimate for installing enough solar and battery storage for a family of four was $40-$50,000.  Last week I was quoted around $15,000.  Amazing!

We are not yet fully ready to install solar out west as we are yet to build our house but it is coming. ¬†Talking to our suburban friends and neighbours they are already ahead of us. After taking advantage of government subsidies and rebates a few years back now that the rebate has all but run out the next logical step is storage and unplugging from the grid. ¬†Again I’m not talking here about a colony of greenies living in a woodland forest far, far away from reality. I’m talking engineers, doctors, nurses, ¬†teachers, ¬†builders, ¬†architects, therapists and shop assistants. ¬†People who just got a calculator and worked out that they will be better off going it alone.

And that worries me a bit.

My lefty side comes out right about now and says that’s all very well for those of us that can fork out the $15K or whatever, those of us that own their own house and can make a long-term investment but what about the renters, the elderly, the young and the broke? ¬†Aren’t they the people who the government should be looking after?

Sadly it looks like these guys are left with coal and coal-fired power stations that are old and suffering from under-investment because their rich investors are taking advice from their insurance people and waiting to see what new and sustainable energy policies are coming into law.  As more and more people take themselves off the grid the cost of supplying those left increases.  Lose, lose for the government.  Oh dear.

Now I get why Australian politicians are doing what they are doing but it won’t wash for too much longer because¬†people need power and no matter how much money the government pushes into clean coal advertising, clean coal is going to reach a point where it is just too dear when compared to the ever decreasing costs of solar. Sure you can throw in the diversion of ‘base load power’ and ‘jobs’ and whatever but that won’t wash for long either as soon everyone will know someone who lives a life of luxury off-the-grid with no power bills and anyway, solar is only one possible future solution, it just happens to be quite an obvious one for this sunburned country to excel at.
On that note, Australia has so much to offer the world in terms of alternative energy sources, so much so in fact that only a dinosaur would stick to coal. ¬†And look, a dinosaur is exactly the meme good old progressive politician Cory Bernardi chose to make his point earlier this week. ¬†He’s clearly a man to watch……

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Talking about wasting money, what does this tell you about Badgerys Creek…..

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The Blue Mountains council is being attacked from the inside on a couple of points at the moment, not least about the $130,000 that has been used to fund the ‘anti airport’ campaign. This is particularly sad as the attack is coming from people who voted in support of the very decisions they are now disputing (which include but are not limited to the airport spend). There defence is that ‘this is just politics’ but in defence of my disgust for this type of behaviour I’d say that this is the very reason the two major parties are losing ground and becoming irrelevant – a situation that would not necessarily be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that the gap in our political landscape is largely being replaced by parties with much more extreme agendas (maybe that’s what they want…).

There is another sub-plot to the councils financial management story going on too, along the same lines of financial management/ priorities but not as ‘pro Badgerys’ as the others but I’ll save that for another day.

Anyway, on the subject of wasting money we have exhibit A, the share price for Sydney Airport Pty:

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This charts the movement of Sydney Airport Stock price over the last two years. Oct 2015 – Badgerys Creek EIS announced, share price dances around in an upwards direction. September – share price drops from 7.5 to 6.5 – over 13% fall as the final EIS is announced (maybe they saw how unimpressive it was, just like we did). Jan 2017 – share price is 5.89 which is just below what it was before the initial EIS was unravelled in October 2015.

This update was brought to you by a graph of what actually happened rather than the spin the Telegraph like to shove down our throats.

The data is available here for anyone who likes to analyse it for themselves ūüôā https://au.finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=SYD.AX

The fact that this airport proposal looks to be financially dubious and that the information provided by the government has failed to drive up the share price of Sydney Airport at this point gives me some degree of hope that they are seeing what we see.

It is all so easy to write off protesters and those in opposition to a big project like this as being anti-progress, ¬†short-sighted, change-phobic, ¬†romantic, out-of-touch or otherwise but I beg to differ. Sure I’m against the airport for a range of environmental and lifestyle reasons some of which may seem frivolous but at the end of the day I’m also against this airport because financially it doesn’t look to be stacking up.

Australia is not Europe or Asia and has never been on an international trade route.  Our geographical isolation is the reason for our rich cultural heritage, the diversity in our plants and animals and our exotic appeal. Neither do we have the geographical infrastructure to become like the Americas (which are only 7 hours from that other mega-business centre of Europe), we are a large dry country full of desert.

I believe that the whole of Australia will have a much brighter and more prosperous future once it stops trying to become something it is not and embraces everything it is. Badgerys Creek is, in my view yet another attempt for us (Sydney) to compete with Asia when in reality it might just as well leave us broke, hot and living in high-rise boxes that line a road to nowhere.

So, I implore my Blue Mountains councillors to stop, think and look at what is going on here.  We can do better, we might even be able to lead the way in this but to do that will take bravery and bravery starts with acknowledging the truth.

 

A bird needs both wings to fly

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I only realised that my political views were a bit more left than right when I took part in the ABC’s Vote Compass ¬†in 2013. ¬†I still couldn’t vote at that time as I wasn’t a citizen and as such found the result interesting, amusing even but certainly not life-defining. ¬†Even though I came out as more left that right it was only just. ¬†I polled strongly liberal on all things money and slightly more green on matters of the environment. ¬†Trying to be all things to all people or just pretty remarkably normal? I’d go with the latter.

By the next election in 2016 I could vote and this time my vote compass showed that I’d swung far more to the left – maybe even radically so! ¬†As a scientist I found myself feeling much more skeptical of this result than I had of the 2013 findings – surely this level of swing is minor radicalism? ¬†I didn’t feel radical. I hadn’t even read the list of left-wing propaganda that lefties are so often accused of parroting. ¬† The left-wing agenda was something that I was not in on.

But I left it at that and voted the way that made sense to me.

It’s only a few months since that last election and the world of politics has gotten very nasty and that’s made me think.

I haven’t fundamentally changed much since I was a teenager back in the UK, a teenager living in a conservative household, reading the Daily Mail and the Sunday Telegraph, studying chemistry and dreaming of owning my own home and becoming a company Director…..

The world is what has changed and it has changed in a sick way that is obsessed with pigeon holing the whole of humanity into left-wing or right-wing boxes as if there is no possibility of seeing the good (and bad) in both thus totally ignoring the place where I suspect most of us really sit.

And I’m worried about that.

When things become so black and white the atmosphere changes. ¬†It becomes harder to have a conversation with people from the ‘other side’ to you as it seems so pointless when ‘they’ are less on another page than reading from another book entirely! ¬†We have a situation where common sense has been branded as a conservative construct and where anything to do with gender issues, equality, the environment and benefits is radical left-wing. ¬†But where have those thoughts come from?

I don’t know but I do have my suspicions.

You only have to observe the comments under a slightly controversial Facebook post to see how quickly people stop talking and start trading insults. ¬†I used to watch football (both soccer and Rugby – soccer crowds in England in the 1990’s were more violent and aggressive than the Rugby crowds so I’ll use that analogy). ¬† Soccer crowds were separated by entrances on opposing sides of the stadium – left and right. ¬†Once inside the chanting would start – depending on who was playing this could either be light-hearted banter or downright nasty goading. ¬†Whichever it was there was an undeniable air of ‘why the F would anyone even think of supporting them’ directed at the opposition. ¬†It was just unconscionable.

And that’s what politics is beginning to feel like.

We’ve chosen or been allotted sides.

These sides then define, not only how we vote but everything about us. We become bleeding heart lefty snowflakes or racist right-wing bigots full stop.

So who benefits from this?

Well a few months ago I might have sounded like a complete fruit loop for saying this but these days the proof is in the pudding – the political landscape has shifted and we can all see it with our own eyes.

The media love a good fight, it sells papers, makes great click bait and generally gets people addicted in a ‘what’s going to happen next’ kind of way. ¬†So while the media don’t necessarily have the power to start this once that fire has been lit they will at best hide the hose pipe and at worst fan the flames.

But they are not the only ones.

Politicians also know and take advantage of the fact that when we are passionate and angry we are less likely to think rationally, examine the evidence with a fine tooth comb and ask questions to help us understand.  What we tend to do instead is either accept or reject outright what is put in front of us, blinded by our own passions.  I think this is where we are now and sadly we are falling into its trap.

I would have said a month ago that politicians have more control over the media now than ever (professional lobbyists etc) but after reading some Australian history from the early 1900s that simply isn’t true. ¬†Australia’s second Prime Minister, Deakin was adept at prepping the soil for his future political policies by writing either overtly or under a pseudonym in the national papers. ¬†Just like when you are weaning babies, you have to introduce a new food (or new idea) a few times for the baby to get used to it – the same can be said for policy and if you can get into people’s hearts and minds without them realising you are 3/4’s of the way to a win!

Of course these days we have social media to counter and temper the influence of the professional media – we can all ‘create’ news be it by blogging, tweeting, Facebook status updating or sharing or snap chatting. ¬†However, we are shouting into a crowded market that has already been primed for left or right so it is more likely that you get lost in your own echo chamber than find your way into the hearts and minds of the opposition – to do that requires the development of a platform and in this political climate you won’t stand on a neutral one for long before someone shoves you either to the left or to the right!

So what can we do?

I don’t think there are any quick fixes that we can employ to help prevent us from falling into a left or right identity pot (unless we want to) but there are some slow ones and I guess it all starts with becoming aware of how the world is being divided.

I truly believe that we still have more in common than what divides us and as such will continue to try to seek out both sides of the story even when it doesn’t suit me and my personal tastes and views to do so. ¬†This divide and conquer mentality is not going to end well as it is simply not natural. ¬†As I said in my title, a bird needs both wings to fly but not only that, a bird also needs its core, ¬†its centre and I’m happy to stay centred for now.

The politicians right to change their mind.

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Democracy defined on Wikipedia:

noun
A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
A state governed under a system of democracy.
Control of an organization or group by the majority of its members.
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It is not a crime for a politician to ¬†change their mind, in fact, in an every-changing world it would be odd not to at times. New facts come to light, the political landscape shifts, ¬†events outside of your control change the trajectory of the future. ¬†A strong and flexible mind is a wonderful thing. ¬†However, when you are an elected member of a democratic system your ‘mind’¬†is not completely your own. ¬†What I mean here is that your public mind, what you stand for what got you elected is something bigger than you, ¬†that is your mandate.
mandate
an official order or commission to do something.
the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.
If, as a politician  you want to change your mandate you should be able to put aside your own ego and follow due process in order to avoid undermining the democratic system and losing political capital.
Well that’s the theory anyway.
It does seem¬†to have become the norm to expect politicians to say anything to get the job then do anything to keep (or progress) their power. ¬†Not all politicians do this of course, one doesn’t stop becoming a free-willed (to whatever extent that exists), morally grounded individual just because they got elected but some do behave in a way that leaves you questioning their motives and when they do certain sections of the media seem to love it, possibly even encourage it.
This race to the bottom has, in my opinion made it so easy for people like Trump to get in while saying things that are, at times outrageous, by contradicting himself and even telling it how it clearly isn’t – bare-faced lying. ¬†We have a situation where the boy cried wolf so many times that some are now outraged when¬†these political types actually do what they said they would do! ¬†Seriously, on the Trump issue, in his defence, he is at least getting on with the stuff he promised and didn’t contradict ¬†which I reluctantly applaud him for while at the same time cringing at what this says about us as a society. ¬†And no, I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary and neither do I fawn over Obama but that’s¬†not a discussion for today and this isn’t a discussion about Trump.
I attended the Blue Mountains council meeting last night where councillors were asked to publicly state their support for the councils position (opposition) on the proposed Badgerys¬†Creek Airport. ¬†Two didn’t vote in support of maintaining the councils opposition¬†and that’s fine – council is exactly the place for good, robust debate and discussion to take place and there is no crime in holding a counter view. ¬†However, this whole situation came about because of an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 21st December. ¬†Here it is if you are interested.
I can only speculate at why the two councillors involved opted for this course of action (running straight to the media on 21st December rather than respecting the official channels) and that won’t be helpful as speculation is not fact. I¬†was disappointed¬†see the way these councillors turned on their mandate and their fellow councillors and did this. ¬†While disappointed I wasn’t entirely surprised,¬†I kind of sort of felt this brewing for a month or two now but am not really in a position to do much more than write on here which is fine. ¬†My disappointment stemmed from the¬†depth of the bile and posturing displayed in how this played out both in the newspaper and on the radio. ¬†I am not ashamed to say that I expected more from these two people.
So some background/ context. 
¬†Both of these Councillors are on the public record as having voted for the councils current position with regards to Badgerys Creek on previous occasions and are also on record as opposing the Airport when questioned before the election (which was only a short time ago). One of the councillors had been present and voted for the spending that has been questioned and has been on council long enough to be aware of its financial position. ¬†In a time when many councils have faced mergers after failing the Liberal State Governments Fit for Future audit the Blue Mountains got through – a fact that wasn’t mentioned in the click-bait headline.
The bottom line here for me is that two councillors are playing games with our democratic process,  disregarding their mandate and dragging the councils name into disrepute.
And that’s not all.
Not only did one of those two councillors see fit to take their gripes to the media (he’s not the first, I lived in the UK long enough to see this all the time but like we always say to the kids – two wrongs don’t make a right), that same councillor also felt entitled enough to spend the whole 1 1/2 hours of the meeting time when this was being discussed on his Facebook messenger to two colleagues in the audience who just happened to be standing next to me. I won’t out them on here but I just hope they understand what they are contributing to and I really do hope that one day they care (again I’m talking about the democratic process and not specifically the airport)). Further, ¬†there were even giggles at one point when one audience member (another) suggested that the behaviour of these two councillors was ‘just politics’ insinuating that we should somehow just accept that as par for the course. ¬†Well I’m¬†not prepared to do that.
So lying and wasting everyone’s time and bringing a council whose mayor got re-elected with a dramatically increased majority vote into disrepute is funny?
That saying one thing before the election then doing another when elected and without first taking your changed mandate to the people is just what politicians do?
There was nothing funny about last night.
And there is nothing funny about the trajectory the world is on.
If people keep behaving like this Badgerys Creek airport will be the least of our troubles.
Politicians do have a right to change their minds but that right comes with responsibilities and in this case it is to respect the democratic process.
So can we all do that please?