Australia

What could possibly go wrong?

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From Jo Nova

“SA Government has just agreed to run itself for 20 years off a plant that is a copy of Crescent Dunes in the US. It’s paying twice the price of wholesale coal power, the US plant took 5 years to build and worked for 1 year and 1 month before breaking down for 8 months.

Crescent Dunes only works at a 16% capacity factor which means a 150MW version would average only 24MW. Winter generation is a mere one third of summer (though there is only one year of data to go on!) SA may well be better off if Parliament has to shut down for winter, but how do you run hospitals and schools on one-third of the power?

What could possibly go wrong?”

80,000 litres of diesel an hour to save renewable energy failure

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You have to laugh at the irony. In order to make up for South Australia’s misguided renewable energy policy which has been the cause of numerous blackouts, 9 diesel generators costing $111mn will use 80,000 litres of diesel per hour to keep the lights on during power shortages. Had the Port Augusta coal fired plant not been ceremoniously dynamited as a virtue signaling exercise, South Australian tax payers would be $100mn better off as a start. Energy Plan Implementation ED Sam Crafter said after the initial 13-month period, there was an option to extend the lease for a further 12 months. There also was an option to walk away at the end of 25 months. So if South Australia chooses to extend the lease of the generators for another 12 months the cost won’t be included in the $111m. It is hard not to laugh at the irony of governments who make such appalling choices and cover up their mistakes by stealing more from taxpayers who they never properly showed costings to in the first place. Is it any wonder South Australia has the highest energy costs in the world, the highest unemployment rate in the country and the slowest growth. Don’t be surprised if Premier Jay Weatherill sees this as a fair price to pay to save the planet, even if South Australia is crushed in the process.

What do we really want from an army?

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It is a serious question. What do we really want from our armed forces? We pay billions in taxes to hopefully arm them to the teeth with the best technology, skills, training and capabilities to win wars should we ever find ourselves in one. Victory is the only choice in war. The ideal scenario is to make the enemy fear you enough such as you won’t end up in battle. However the military should never be a place that is used to test social experiments.

Then why the push for making the military or any other emergency service anything other than the best? Gender balance and diversity are irrelevant. News has resurfaced that the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) are being set gender recruitment targets. It is insanity. Merit should be the only criteria. If 100% of them happen to be women based on merit then so be it but setting gender targets as a slated goal is obtuse. If more women wish to join the armed forces through desire, hunger and passion than men then that is expressing a clear will.

Eligibility standards are being lowered to help hit diversity targets. You can see the standards difference in these two charts posted by the ADF.

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Recruiters at the ADF have been told they must hire women or face relocation if they don’t comply. The recruiters say there are no jobs available for men in the in the infantry as a rifleman or artilleryman. But these positions are marked as ‘recruit immediately’ if a female applies. If a 50kg woman is in the artillery a 43.2kg M-107 shell is over 80% of her weight. An 80kg man would be lifting the same shells at around half of his weight. This is basic physics.

The West Australian newspaper reported one recruiter who said, “This is political correctness gone mad. I don’t care if it is a man or a woman – I just want to get the best person for the job.”

Yet the political correctness is promoted from the top. Defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, stressed the importance of diversity for the ADF. “A diverse workforce is all about capability. The greater our diversity, the greater the range of ideas and insights to challenge the accepted norm, assess the risks, see them from a different perspective, and develop creative solutions.”

Let us not confuse diversity with skills. In WW2, the US Army employed Native American Indians to work in intelligence. The idea that their native tongue was next to impossible to decode if transmissions were intercepted by the enemy. The US military wasn’t making a diversity play to even out race, gender or religion. It was employing a clear tactical advantage to help win a war. Such intelligence is vital in planning battles and tactics. The enemy wants to know our plans in advance such they can ambush or counter. The Navaho language meant the Japanese intelligence forces were completely flummoxed and suffered huge losses as a result. The merit was the rarity of the Navaho language, a skill no one else had. Think of how hard the British worked at breaking the codes of the German Enigma machines at Bletchley Park. Skill is is the defining factor.

It gets more ridiculous. One senior retired military contact has said that those who are recruited are now allowed to raise a red card in protest if a drill-sergeant is offending their sensitivities. Seriously? Surely an army is as strong as its weakest link and if leaders can’t drill discipline into his or her troops what hope have they in battle? Perhaps they can just disobey orders and avoid a court martial because they deployed a red card on the battlefield. Surely no one joins the army expecting it to be a life of late morning lie-ins, frequent recreation and late nights at the bar.

The military should never be a social experiment. It is off limits. This is not to say women should not have a chance to join it. In fact the desire to serve one’s country is indeed an excellent trait to have but putting in place a system that excludes Victor, a fitness freak with a black belt in martial arts from joining the infantry, for Victoria, a lady with a BMI of 30 makes no sense. If Victoria is the black-belted gym junkie and Victor is a slob then of course it makes sense to recruit her.

At the end of the day with bullets whizzing around and artillery shells exploding around them it is not hard to envisage that every soldier looks to the person to the left or right of them wondering only about their capability to do the job, not celebrating the army’s pro-diversity drive. Anything that potentially damages morale should be avoided at all costs. Dropping standards for both genders is fraught with long term risks and turning the ADF into an organization that puts more emphasis on feeling warm and cuddly versus a gung-ho group of steely-eyed effective combat troops lowers our capability to defend.

We must move on from this politically correct nonsense because in the end it will literally kill us. Then again we are getting our submarines built in Australia, not because they will be better built but because our defence capability took a back seat to buying votes. Don’t think our enemies aren’t always keeping on top of our (growing lack of ) capabilities.

The Wolf who cried “Boy”

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North Korea’s threat to fire a nuclear missile at Guam should the US try anything to jeopardize the hermit kingdom’s nuclear programme is more the domain of an hysteric media for now. He is the wolf crying boy – “I will eat your sheep when I wish, what are you going to do about it?” Of course, no sane government can dismiss his threats. The 33-year old leader has assassinated subjects and relatives who he feared might pose a challenge to him. He taunts his enemies in full knowledge the collateral damage the West may suffer would likely be factor fold higher than he stands to lose. North Korea’s GDP is estimated to be around $12 billion annually. Tokyo’s GDP is estimated to be around $1.5 trillion, 125x larger. Seoul’s GDP is around $780 billion (65x North Korea) but is located in shelling distance. From a purely militaristic standpoint, North Korea doesn’t stand a chance. The US has spy satellites parked permanently over North Korea surveilling troop movements, missile test sites and US submarines will have constant watch over Pyongyang’s naval activity. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is not a bargaining chip in this case. While it does raise the ‘risk’ factor, it is not enough to exclude war on the peninsula.

The problem is that all the while no action is taken, PyongYang’s arsenal grows more sophisticated. Kim has no plans to halt his development. In 1994 then President Bill Clinton came closest to taking action against its nuclear capability but in the end chose diplomacy. We are 23 years on and the capabilities are such that this game has increasingly limited life span. Trump made his thoughts clear in a 1995 interview. Try to talk him out and if all else fails take the military option

The more advanced his arsenal becomes, the more weight his demands carry. Kim is in his 30s. Assuming the West does nothing, there is another three decades of threats and bellicose to consider. Over time its weapons programme will be sufficiently credible to hit Washington DC. Just like Russian missiles in Cuba, America will not allow a condition which could threaten it to exist.

North Korea has 3 main nuclear missile launch sites (Musudan-Ri,  Punggye-Ri and Tongchang-Ri) among the fourteen nuclear facilities ranging from R&D, power generation,  mining and refined fissile material production. A surgical strike would be difficult to achieve without North Korea getting away a few missiles itself.

Why Guam? Of course one can view his threat in several ways. One, Guam is the current realistic technical capability of his nuclear weapons, two; Kim hasn’t said he’ll strike Washington DC which should be interpreted as evidence that he is not completely deranged and bragging about capabilities he does not yet have, three; he could theoretically bomb the US military installations in Okinawa which is closer than Guam and more likely to score a relative hit but he has been careful not to drag Japan into this contest (yet) and finally; his nuclear programme is his only bargaining chip. Were Kim to cease his atomic aspirations, he would literally be a sitting duck. He knows – as did his father and grandfather before him – the regime survives on the will of the Rest of the World to appease it. If he has no trump card, the RoW can ignore it.

On April 10th this year, China’s special envoy on the North Korean nuclear programme, Wu Dawei, visited Seoul with the idea of pushing a harder UN resolution in case of another nuclear test. In the short term China is hoping a short term halt to coal imports will bring Kim Jong-Un to heel they have not ruled out removing him entirely. It is the least preferred option but Trump’s moves will only mean China is being forced to up the ante. However China has been lamenting that it can’t force Kim to come to heel. Once again this is partly China testing the will of Trump versus his predecessor. Do not think for one second that China hasn’t been channeling Sun Tzu as to how it can pull off a geopolitical masterstroke by bringing Kim to heel and the US to back down. This is becoming harder to achieve, even more so with an unpredictable president.

Let us not forget the strategic benefits of North Korea to China. It provides a buffer to the US friendly South Korea and keeps furthering China’s status as a dominant force (economically and militarily) in the region. One of the last things China wants is the equivalent population of Australia (24 million) as refugees on its northern border. Best it remains contained inside a regime presiding over a tiny economy. Even less desirable is a US invasion/strike which puts a US protectorate on China’s doorstep.

Global markets are not reacting too erratically to this crisis. They are collectively taking the path of most common scenario vis-a-vis history to date. Minor risk on. Even Korean CDS spreads, at 14 year highs (61) remain well down on GFC and the death of Kim Jong-Il. However a president who wants to reassert US foreign policy after 8 years of willful abuse under his predecessor may be more than willing to take decisive action and put an end to the North Korean problem. He won’t risk it unless his generals can give a very high level of assurance the collateral damage will be minimal

While some media want to believe that Trump is itching for a war in North Korea or Iran to resurrect his sliding poll numbers, that is an obtuse way of thinking. North Korea is a growing threat. Pure and simple. If North Korea gets a capability to potentially hit the US mainland then that is untenable. Any country that threatens to attack another puts itself on a geopolitical chess board of its own making. This is dragging China into a game it would rather not play but inevitably Beijing realizes that it has to take control before Trump takes it from them leaving them in the worst of all worlds.

Cooler heads to prevail? Maybe but something suggests that North Korea is brewing beyond what markets are currently pricing.

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Australia vs Japan – Coca Cola Index

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Whenever buying a Coke in Australia it is hard not to notice the exorbitant prices for a 500ml bottle – usually around $4. Here in parts of Japan you can pick up a 500ml Coke for less than $1. In convenience stores 500ml Coke sells for ¥129 or around $1.50. Either way Japan is a bargain basement country which is often contrary to expectations.

Victorian government wants to take control of parenting

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It shouldn’t surprise coming from the Marxist Victorian government but the idea for girls as young as 11 to get access to the contraceptive pill without consent from the parents is plain irresponsible. Most parents worry about their kids. What they eat and what they put in their bodies. It isn’t they turn a blind eye to their kids potentially engaging in underage intercourse. Some kids may only want it to reduce pain during their menstrual cycle but to have a government provide a service which deliberately allows kids to bypass parental approval is downright wrong. Why does the state have a role giving kids who clearly aren’t of a sufficient mental maturity to fully comprehend what they are taking and then enable them to hide it from their guardians? It is hard enough tying to get kids to listen and become model citizens.

Allowing the government to effectively endorse actions that effectively suggest to kids they don’t need their parents consent opens a whole new can of worms about disobedience.

Why not just give kids the vote at age 11 if they’re of sufficient mental faculty, pay their taxes and contribute to society?

On the bright side at least it isn’t as bad as Bill  89 in Ottawa which allows the state to take custody of children from parents who don’t accept their kids gender identity.

Pauline Hanson TV special in Japan tomorrow

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TV Tokyo will broadcast a Pauline Hanson special tomorrow. Interesting to see how they portray her. The blurb is as follows:

いまオーストラリアでホームレスが増加しているという。シドニーでは1年で25%も急増、200人に1人がホームレスなのだ。その原因が移民だという。そんな移民を排斥しようという極右政党まで現れた。ポーリン・ハンソン率いるワンネーションだ。ポーリンはその過激な発言から「オーストラリアのトランプ」の異名を持つ。反移民・反イスラムを訴え、2016年の選挙で60万票を獲得した。

“Australia is witnessing an acceleration in homeless. Sydney has seen a 25% increase over the last year with 1 person in 200 now homeless. The reason is said to be immigration. There is now a extreme right wing party which seeks to boycott immigrants. It is the One Nation Party led by Pauline Hanson.  Due to her strong rhetoric she is being named the “Aussie Trump”. Her anti-immigrant anti-Islam stance won her 600,000 votes in the 2016 election.”

It will be interesting to see how she is portrayed by the Japanese media. It is quite rare to see Aussie politics make it to Japanese TV but it is telling to see that her views are making waves enough for it to be broadcast. If only Turnbull had such impact – well to tell the truth the only impact he had was sinking the Japanese subs deal which brought widespread negative press. This is how he was pilloried.