May 2016 wrap-up

This blog’s average daily reads is down for May at 37, the same as December 2015.


Wollongong Harbour June 2011

The most viewed posts in May 2016 have been:

  1. Home page / Archives 614 views in May 2016
  2. All my posts 25
  3. Recently on TV: India, Europe, China 20
  4. So I tried ABC’s “Vote Compass” 18
  5. The silence of the trams 16
  6. Ziggy’s House of Nomms 16
  7. So April 2016 goes… 14
  8. Random Friday memory 17 – Caringbah 1965 11
  9. The last Lord Mayor of Wollongong? Maybe… 11
  10. Yes we have an election in Oz 10
  11. …’cause I’m a union man… 9
  12. At last! Sound and sensible journalism on our schools 9
  13. Tom Thumb Lagoon 9
  14. DNA Nation: sticking with SBS tonight for sure! 8
  15. Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV 8

Last night’s leaders’ debate and TV this week

9C here in West Wollongong this morning. Just thought I’d mention it.

Last night’s leaders’ debate was a lacklustre affair generally. Lots of verbiage we’ve heard before. Never such an exciting time to be a rooster, and so on… But sadly it did spark up when asylum seekers were mentioned.

Mr Turnbull said the nation’s borders were at risk from a Labor government, arguing the former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd wound back asylum seeker legislation so far it led to an increase in people travelling to Australia by boat.

“[People smugglers], they’re out there marketing now, telling their customers that if Labor is elected it will be all on again,” Mr Turnbull said. “Bill says that’s not the case but, of course, they know what Labor was like in government just as we do.”

It led to a fiery response from the Opposition Leader.

“Shame on you Mr Turnbull for what you just said,” Mr Shorten shot back. “I have made it very clear what the Labor government would do. We would defeat the people smugglers. We accept the role of boat turn-backs as we should because we don’t want to see the people smugglers back in business. Mr Turnbull is playing with fire when he says that somehow Labor would be a better deal, and he shouldn’t say that because he just conceded in his own remarks that the people smugglers are efficient and watching every bit of the debate.”

Shows where the race to the bottom has left us, or rather those stuck on Nauru and Manus. Labor’s idea of approaching UNHCR asap to attain resettlement solutions is the nearest to light on this issue. Rather than argue more I commend my recent posts on the matter.

Later this week two promising TV premieres on ABC. First, Revolution School on Tuesday.


…”Reducing class size, private schooling and giving parents choice does not make a difference to the quality of education,” says Professor John Hattie of Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education in the show. What does make a difference is teachers who give a damn, and who have the skills and resources to bring the kids with them on the journey.

It’s not all success stories, though. There are some insanely difficult children and, it must be said, parents. Not all of them are going to have the outcome the school might have hoped for. Not every teacher is a Robin Williams whispering “carpe diem” in the ears of students who only need a nudge to become extraordinary. Sometimes merely avoiding outright failure will count as a massive success.

I’ve seen the first two episodes (all that were available for previewing at the time of writing) and I’m hooked. I want to know what happens to Tiarne, the aggressively disruptive 15-year-old who knows she has a problem but does not have the skills to fix it. I want to know whether the school’s revamped approach to literacy really does improve outcomes across the board. I want to know if the kids in the Darrabi program – designed to help the strugglers catch up – come to see school as anything more than a theatre in which to act out their fantasies of rebellion…

And from The Educator:

n 2008, despite having been opened for just six years, the school was ranked in the bottom 10% of schools in Victoria, based on its Year 12 scores.

Today, with more than 1,100 students from 42 different nationalities, Kambrya has both high and low achievers, as well as students who are struggling with serious behavioural difficulties and learning challenges…

Over the past four years, Kambrya’s Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) median study score has placed it among the top 25-30% of state schools in Victoria.

“This reflects the fantastic work of all teachers in the school. And we genuinely believe that our students are capable of further improvement,” [Principal] Muscat told The Educator. “In 2008, Kambrya College was a dysfunctional and chaotic school, so in that year, a new leadership team embarked on the excruciating process of rebuilding. We selected the Zbar/Kimber/Marshall model of school improvement and immediately commenced work on the ‘Preconditions for Improvement’.”

Muscat said this model focused on building strong and stable leadership with a shared vision, establishing an orderly learning environment, focusing on what matters most and building teacher efficacy.

I note a NSW public school following a similar model. I’ll be watching this series with interest.

Then on Thursday there is the intriguing Clever Man.


See Wikipedia:

Cleverman is an upcoming American-Australian-New Zealand television drama series based on an original concept by Ryan Griffen. The series will air on ABC in Australia and SundanceTV in the United States in 2016.

The six-part drama series reflects on racism, asylum seekers and border protection. Its central story revolves around two estranged indigenous brothers who are forced together to fight for their own survival. Otherworldly dreamtime creatures also emerge into this real world dystopian landscape…

And Red Arrow TV:

Set in the near future, a species from ancient mythology must live amongst humans and battle for survival in a world that wants to silence, exploit and destroy them.

At the heart of the story are two estranged brothers, Koen and Waruu West, who are forced together to fight against terrifying enemies – both human and not of this world. But can Koen, a man bestowed with a powerful gift and destined to become the Cleverman, learn to harness his power before everything around him crumbles?

By turns smart, sexy, bloody, thought-provoking and startlingly original, “Cleverman” combines compelling character-driven storytelling with powerful themes and thrilling action, to appeal to fans of all genres.

Directed by Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Septembers of Shiraz) and Leah Purcell, an acclaimed ensemble cast includes Scottish actor Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Golden Globe nominee Frances O’Connor (The Missing), Logie Award winner Deborah Mailman (The Sapphires), Hunter Page-Lochard (The Sapphires), Rob Collins (The Lion King) and Stef Dawson (The Hunger Games).

Creatures and effects are by Jacob Nash (Bangarra Dance Theatre) and the world-renowned Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, King Kong, Avatar, The Amazing Spider-Man 3, Godzilla).

Well, let’s see if it lives up to the strong pre-publicity. There’s certainly talent aplenty involved.

Everyone’s travelling….

In my case in time rather than space…


That was recently posted on Facebook’s Old Sydney Album.  It shows Taylor Square in 1959 – the year I did the Leaving Certificate at nearby Sydney Boys High. I may even have been on that tram…  The photo is taken from outside the Oxford Hotel.

Meanwhile at least four of the people I know are gallivanting around the world right now. My cousin Helen and her husband Jim sent me a postcard from Arles in the south of France. Not this one, but it will do as a stand-in:


They are nor just gallivanting as part of their itinerary is visiting their son in Sweden.

Speaking of France, M is currently there on the first leg of quite a long European tour. He is also experimenting with his camera it seems. This is his take on the artists’ market in Montmartre.


Finally, Chris T, my usual Saturday lunch companion, is gourmet travelling in Japan, after which Germany…

I am in West Wollongong, where it is still coolish…

Talking in Diggers – and a sad anniversary

Down here in The Gong we are all rather fond of our local WIN News.


Newsreader Geoff Phillips (that’s him on the left) is a regular diner at Diggers. We always check his tie to see if the same one will appear on the news that night. But we are now a touch concerned by the changes to come from July 1. See WIN News TV ratings risk in Network Ten switch – and yes that story does appear to be by James Joyce!

Bruce Gordon’s WIN TV will struggle to maintain its current levels of local content in regional areas when the loss of popular shows like The Voice, The Block and rugby league coverage hits its ratings and revenue.

That’s the warning from media experts following WIN’s confirmation that it will switch to showing Network Ten programs on July 1.

WIN chief executive Andrew Lancaster said his network would retain its 16 local news bulletins when its 30-year association with Nine ends and it starts relaying Ten’s shows to Canberra, Wollongong, southern NSW,  Victoria and Queensland….

Mr Allen, managing director of Essence Media & Fusion Strategy, said a battle for local news viewers plus Ten’s prime-time content, which trails Seven and Nine in the ratings, would squeeze WIN.

“It would be folly for WIN to think they can hang on to the news ratings they currently hold,” Mr Allen said.

“And when they don’t hold on to those ratings … they will have to revisit the economics and that will either mean slimming down the amount of local news content and/or consolidating their bureaus. Within six months they will know.”…

And we’re wondering about the rest of the Rugby League season too, as that is free-to-air only on Nine.

But even more yesterday we realised that a year has gone by since this:

Bruce Johnson 1954-2015

Posted on May 27, 2015 by Neil

Diggers today.



As soon as I came in today I heard that Bruce Johnson, a great friend in recent times, has passed away. We had some very memorable conversations.

Hard to believe how time has flown.

Our Indian summer (autumn?) over at last?

Yes, it is cool – 12C at 7.30 this morning – here in The Gong and in Sydney. Been some spectacular seas lately too. Check this from The Illawarra Mercury.


Photo by Jon Harris: Werri Beach last Wednesday

See El Nino bows out after driving year of record heat as La Nina lurks in the wings.

Globally, the past 12 months have each set a record for that month, with four of the past five months smashing records for how much temperatures have departed from the long-term norms.

The El Nino was one of the three biggest on record, similar in size to the 1997-98 and 1982-83 events, Karl Braganza, head of climate monitoring at the bureau, said.

“The last 12 months to April have been the warmest on record for Australia,” Dr Braganza said. “And this month’s been pretty warm too.”

See details for April in Sydney from the Bureau of Meteorology.

Sydney in April 2016: Warmest April day on record

April was a very warm month for Sydney with locations in both coastal and western regions recording their warmest April day on record. Many areas recorded the warmest maximum and minimum temperatures for at least 20 years, with Sydney Observatory Hill temperatures ranking in the top five warmest on record. It was mostly dry across the metropolitan region with the exception of some coastal fringes which recorded above average rainfall.

  • Warmest April day on record for several locations
  • Fifth-warmest maximum temperatures
  • Equal-warmest minimum temperatures
  • Equal-second-warmest mean temperatures
  • Heavy rain day at the start of the month, dry and mostly sunny overall

Any of you remember my old sparring partner Kevin from Louisiana? He arrived with this 2006 post: Does Tim Blair still do global warming jokes? Some of the other comments there are classics, by the way. Kevin stuck around for several years, proving to be quite interesting and definitely human at various times. I note he appears to have stopped blogging. Anyway, one thing Kevin said was a simple way to refute “global warming” was to judge from your skin. Trouble with that is that all your skin can sense is the here and now, in other words weather. Climate being the average of weather events over a period, usually thirty years, requires rather more sophisticated instruments. Mind you, the skin test here in The Gong until a few days ago would certainly incline one to credit “global warming.”  Of course the other issue is that my skin “measures” just one spot on the globe. Somewhere else and it would suggest “global cooling” perhaps.

Let me commend Real Climate again. It has the advantage of actually being written by real climate scientists. There is a discussion thread called Unforced variations. And there are blog posts, the latest being Scientists getting organized to help readers sort fact from fiction in climate change media coverage.

While 2016 is on track to easily surpass 2015 as the warmest year on record, some headlines, in otherwise prestigious news outlets, are still claiming that “2015 Was Not Even Close To Hottest Year On Record” (Forbes, Jan 2016) or that the “Planet is not overheating…” (The Times of London, Feb 2016). Media misrepresentation confuses the public and prevents our policy makers from developing a well-informed perspective, and making evidence-based decisions.

Professor Lord Krebs recently argued in an opinion piece in The Conversation that “accurate reporting of science matters” and that it is part of scientists’ professional duty to “challenge poor media reporting on climate change”. He concluded that “if enough [scientists] do so regularly, [science reporting] will improve – to the benefit of scientists, the public and indeed journalism itself.”

This is precisely what a new project called Climate Feedback is doing: giving hundreds of scientists around the world the opportunity to not only challenge unscientific reporting of climate change, but also to highlight and support accurate science journalism…

For an example of how it works, see how 14 scientists recently analyzed a piece published by Bjorn Lomborg in The Telegraph and rated its overall scientific credibility to be “low to very low”. Articles like this one are particularly misleading because they sound reasonable and scientific at first glance, due to the author’s reference of scientific studies. But when scientists –some of whom actually wrote the articles cited– were invited to provide feedback, they explained that the author had misrepresented scientific research to reach unsupported conclusions…

Do also explore our own John Cook’s Eureka Prize winning site Skeptical Science.

Lastly, for those wondering about who runs Skeptical Science, the website is maintained by John Cook. I studied physics at the University of Queensland but currently, I’m not a professional scientist – I run this website as a layman. People sometimes wonder why I spend so much time on this site and which group backs me. No group funds me. I receive no funding other than the occasional Paypal donations…

My motivations are two-fold: as a parent, I care about the world my daughter will grow up in and as a Christian, I feel a strong obligation to the poor and vulnerable who are hardest hit by climate change. Of course these are very personal reasons – I’m sure everyone comes at this from different angles. I go more deeply into my motivations in Why I care about climate change

Skeptical Science has evolved from a small blog into a community of intelligent, engaged people with a commitment to science and our climate.

Finally a couple of news items. The first from Huffington Post is in fact written by someone who mostly writes sports journalism, but it is a pretty good summary of recent weather: Sydney And Melbourne Copping Record May Heat.

First up, some dramatic statistics to illustrate the unprecedented Australian temperature anomalies being experienced in Australia this month. Then we’ll hear from an expert on why it’s happening.

  • Sydney is a whopping 4.9 degrees above average for May. Sydney’s average May daily maximum temperature is usually 19.5. The average is 24.3 degrees so far this month.
  • One more time for emphasis, Sydney is almost FIVE DEGREES ABOVE AVERAGE for a whole month. Wow.
  • In fact, the Sydney maximum has topped 20 every day in May so far. Tuesday hit 28. The COLDEST day of the month was 1.3 degrees ABOVE the average.
  • Hot streaks do not usually last this long. Not even close.
  • Melbourne temperatures are also way up this month. It’s May 2016 average of 20.3 degrees (to date) is 3.6 degrees above the long term May daily average of 16.7.
  • It’s a similar picture across Australia. Canberra is nearly four degrees above average so far this May, Hobart and Brisbane three degrees, Adelaide nearly two degrees, and Darwin and Perth both one degree.
  • The fact that it’s much warmer than usual across Australia is very much in keeping with the long term Australian trend (depicted below), as well as global data showing that the world just had its hottest ever seven months — and its hottest April by a huge margin

Sadly our current government is rather pathetic, just one aspect of the disappointment one has with Malcolm Turnbull who once called that current policy “bullshit”.

But hang on! Look at Malcolm Turnbull’s blog!

So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, or lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.

First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.

To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money.

Somebody has to pay.

So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, “bullshit.” Moreover he knows it…

Second, see Climate policy report hailed by Greg Hunt written by former Liberal candidate. Mr Hunt is our ultra-beige Environment Minister.