Australia

Crikey Worm: Power to the people

ELECTRIC BLUES

In an extraordinary move to control electricity prices and shortages, the regulator has switched off the market and taken control for the first time in more than two decades, the Herald Sun ($) reports. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said the risk of blackouts has passed (for now) but warned customers would feel the cost of the cap on regulators down the line, as The Australian ($) reports. Last night, NSW Treasurer Matt Kean told Sydney residents to limit their use between 5:30pm and 8:30pm, while staff at Sydney hospitals were told to take emergency measures to save power, news.com.au reports.

So what does this all mean? Basically, as wholesale electricity prices surged this week, there was a price cap placed on our generators of $300 per megawatt-hour to protect consumers — but some generators say they would’ve been operating at a loss under that cap, so they withheld their power. See, normally generators themselves decide whether to put their power in the market based on prices — while the AEMO fills in any gaps (the union reckons ($) this means our electricity suffers from “rampant profiteering and price gouging,” but that’s privatisation, baby).

When the AEMO realised it was filling in up to a fifth of Australia’s electricity this week, it knew the market wasn’t working. So the AEMO took control, meaning it can now see the total electricity available and direct the generators to bring their power online as needed. So what is causing all of this? Gas-fired power is up 34.6% in May, The Age reports — and that’s down to several things. Firstly, it’s freezing, and everyone’s heating their homes and businesses a lot more. Secondly, there are about 3000 megawatts of coal-fired power offline because of unplanned outages and maintenance. Thirdly, the conflict in Ukraine saw a global shortage of oil. Fourthly, it hasn’t been very sunny — there’s actually been a 27% drop in solar generation from April to May.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

In sweeping education reforms sure to buoy families, NSW and Victorian kids will get another full year of schooling — called pre-kindergarten in NSW and pre-prep in Victoria, the SMH reports. It won’t be mandatory, but if takeup isn’t strong the governments might make it so. The pilot for pre-kindergarten will kick off in NSW next year — it’ll cost families at first, but will be free “eventually”, the paper says. In Victoria, it’ll double the hours in the existing program from 15 to 30 hours, The Age adds. So what will it look like? It’ll be five days a week of play-based learning that’ll make the transition to kindergarten a bit easier — and help educators spot any early developmental issues.

In Victoria, further education reforms will see 15 hours of kindergarten become free for all three- and four-year-olds from next year too, the Herald Sun ($) continues. That’ll save parents up to $2500 a child. The flow-on effects will be far-reaching — more hours of care for kids means more parents (particularly women) can get back into the workforce, and that’s good news for our labour shortage. The cost-saving will also boost families as inflation continues to climb — the average cost of childcare is $110 a day according to the Grattan Institute, which is mind-boggling considering many Australian workers don’t even earn that in a day. The reforms also means oodles of new jobs in care.

GREEN IS THE COLOUR

Newly elected Victorian Greens convener Linda Gale co-authored a document that argued against a workshop about trans-exclusionary rhetoric, Guardian Australia reports. Greens senator Janet Rice says Gale’s position is untenable unless she goes back on the “transphobic” document — Gale responded with a statement saying she backed trans rights, and would fight for them. So what did the document say? It argued that statements like “there are two sexes”, “the science is not conclusive”, or “trans women aren’t the same as biological women” shouldn’t be banned because robust debate is part of the Greens ethos. But high profile Greens are backing Rice’s tweet which says transphobia has no place in the Greens — it was retweeted by Mehreen FaruqiLarissa Walsh, and Jordon Steele-John, as well as recently elected Griffith MP Max ChandlerMather, New South Wales MP Jenny Leong, and former Richmond candidate Gabrielle de Vietri.

It’s not the only instance of a Greens figure in hot water. Last week Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor apologised after tweeting her support of actor Johnny Depp in his high-profile defamation case against his former wife Amber Heard. O’Connor also referenced the trial in state parliament a couple weeks back in criticising Labor’s Michelle O’Byrne, whom O’Connor said was “about as good at that lectern as Amber Heard is in the Johnny Depp trial, a total fake” (O’Connor later withdrew it), as ABC reports. Feminist writer Clementine Ford highlighted O’Connor’s tweet and said it was a “slap in the face” to Tasmanian survivors of domestic abuse. Depp was awarded a hefty payout in the defamation case, unlike a British court which found Heard’s claims of abuse to be substantially true.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

It’s not the sort of thing British pensioner Doug James would usually do, but when his son asked him to go to a rock’n’roll concert, the 67-year-old figured, well, why not? He wasn’t getting any younger, and besides, “I want to do things I’ve not done,” he later told the BBC. The father-son duo were watching band The Killers perform when James spotted a young girl in a wheelchair crowd surfing ahead, much to the delight of the fans carrying her. So James asked “this great bunch of lads,” should I do that too? James was suddenly hoisted on top of the raucous crowd who were only too willing to pass him around, describing it as a sensation a bit like swimming. He says he instantly felt like a kid again, so elated by the fun of it, and the crowd was going wild cheering him on.

He did knock his head after being dropped once, but he barely noticed it — lead rocker Brandon Flowers did though, and stopped the gig. The crowd manoeuvred the white-haired James above their heads until he passed over the stage’s security gate, and into a big hug from Flowers himself, much to the screaming delight of fans. The band later tweeted a photo of the embrace, saying “there’s no age limit for rock’n’roll!”. James says sometimes you’ve just gotta go for it, as The Guardian continues. “For someone like me, 67 years old, a pensioner, making 50,000 people laugh, making The Killers laugh, you can’t not do it”. His son was a little more nervous, however, saying he was chasing through the crowd following his dad (who was by this stage imitating swimming) telling people “That’s my dad! Be careful with him!”.

Folks, my late dad would’ve been 66 years old today. I’m missing him a lot, and I know he would’ve loved reading this story. I’m wishing you the courage of Doug James this morning — life is short, so just go for it.

SAY WHAT?

They could move here and have a much better and more affordable life, own their own home and have money left over. It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned.

Mark McGowan

Go west, the premier says — he says WA has the country’s lowest unemployment rate (2.9%) “by a long way” and the highest participation rate, so they could do with the new blood. Plus, he says, his state has the cheapest housing, the highest average weekly earnings, and “a great lifestyle”.

China’s crisis of confidence: has Xi taken a giant leap backwards?

“Nevertheless, China’s meteoric rise, fuelled by annual GDP growth above 6%, appears over. Yes, China’s economy has been cooling for years, plagued by systematic deficiencies like chronic overinvestment, massive debt loads, and a shrinking workforce, which has put enormous stresses on China’s finances.

“But these systematic trends have been exacerbated, perhaps irreversibly, by China’s disastrous pandemic response, where the lack of an effective domestic vaccine and the CCP’s unwillingness to approve and purchase Western ones have made rolling lockdowns a permanent way of life. So far, the CCP’s containment measures have resulted in plummeting industrial output, surging unemployment, capital flight, and a sinking currency.”

The Rebel Wilson story is a statement about the SMH’s news culture — and that’s a big problem

“But in attempting to out Wilson, [Andrew Hornery] and his editors crossed a line. This story is primarily a failure of leadership; of the editorial and commercial custodians who seem to misunderstand what the SMH actually stands for. What makes this worse is that although both The Age and the SMH are distinctive by not being News Corp, they increasingly seem to want to ape its excesses.

“When it comes to quality journalism, reputations take many years to build (191 in the case of The Sydney Morning Herald). The awful realisation following the Wilson fiasco is that in the current media hyper-climate it could all unravel in the pursuit of more and more eyeballs.”

CryptoCam: if you know someone who owns crypto, give them a hug

“The former is much bigger than even the massive cryptocurrency industry. Inflation has skyrocketed. Central banks are cranking up interest rates. The stimulus being handed out by governments around the world to counteract the COVID-19 economic shock is long gone.

“All this means that there’s less money sloshing around the economy that can be tipped into the crypto industry (or other things, as you might gather from looking at the ASX recently). Plus in these cold, cold conditions, people are selling off their cryptocurrencies too. The latter cause is linked to the former.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

80% of Gaza children suffer depression after 15 years of blockade (Al Jazeera)

Saudi authorities seize rainbow toys for promoting homosexuality (BBC)

US home equity hits highest level on record — $27.8 trillion (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

‘The same as how Australia treats the 501s’: Samoan deportee calls Government hypocritical (NZ Herald)

Self-driving and driver-assist technology linked to hundreds of crashes, US data shows (The New York Times)

‘We do not accept your apology,’ activist tells Toronto’s police chief after race-based data released (CBC)

[NZ] Economic slowdown fears mount ahead of new GDP data (Stuff)

Over a third of US population urged to stay indoors amid record-breaking heat (The Guardian)

THE COMMENTARIAT

This 5.2% decision on the minimum wage could shift the trajectory for all workersJohn Buchanan (The Conversation): “For the majority of workers — about 35% of whom are covered by an enterprise bargaining agreement and 38% on over-award payments or individual contracts — the decision’s impact will be indirect, though potentially significant. Wage setting involves a combination of both market and institutional forces. The lower bound of wages is set by the social security system — unemployment benefits, aged pensions and the like.

“The upper bound is set by profitability in the most prosperous enterprises. Institutional forces such as employers’ policies, unions, labour laws and customary notions of ‘the going rate’ — as well as the level of supply and demand for workers with particular skills — shape the ultimate outcome within these upper and lower bounds. This is where the expert panel’s decision is significant. It has implicitly challenged the strictures placed on wage increases by both federal and state governments over the past decade.”

First Nations psychologists are decolonising the health system one yarn at a timeVanessa Edwige, Joanna Alexi, Belle Selkirk, Pat Dudgeon (IndigenousX): “For Aboriginal people, wellbeing is seen as holistic, with mental health inseparable from connections to family, culture and Country. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have thrived in Australia for more than 60,000 years and are among the oldest continuing cultures worldwide. In this time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relational ways of being, knowing and doing kept families and communities well and ensured their continual survival for thousands of generations.

“Due to the devastating impacts of colonisation, and resultant social inequities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health and wellbeing are significantly lower than other Australians. The need for Indigenous Australians to be their own narrators is more important than ever. Compared to other Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are almost three times more likely to experience high psychological distress, twice as likely to be hospitalised for a mental health condition, and twice as likely to die by suicide. For young people, this rate is even higher. System changes and Indigenous paradigms of wellbeing represent a clear path forward to address the disproportionate mental health risks experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Human Rights advocate Behrouz Boochani and SBS’s Kumi Taguchi are among the speakers at the Advancing Multicultural Australia conference held at Sofitel Melbourne.

  • Writer Paul Dalla Rosa will discuss his new short story collection, An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life, at The Wheeler Centre.

Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Writer Ashley Goldberg will talk about her new book, Abomination, at Avid Reader bookshop. You can also catch this one online.

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