February 23rd 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

EDITORIAL Resistance grows to Beijing's soft-power push

CANBERRA OBSERVED Climate change: deadly ... to political leaders

TECHNOLOGY Electric cars: UK taxpayers subsidise rich greenies


CYBER SECURITY Chinese smartphone threat extends way beyond Huawei

SOCIETY Such grandeur of spirit

POLITICS John Hewson should have as sturdy a Constitution

FINANCE Hayne royal commission sets agenda for bank reform

FAMILY RELATIONS Dad: a girl's first and most influential love

COMMENTARY Words gone feral: rights and equality

MEDICINE AND CULTURE Book captures tragedy of falling foul of a fanatic

SOCIETY AND CULTURE A dog's life: reflections of a grey nomad


MUSIC Serialism a killer: Ideas tend to get in the way

CINEMA Cold Pursuit: Revenge served up manic

BOOK REVIEW Why the West and nowhere else

BOOK REVIEW The escalation of horror and atrocity


FAMILY AND SOCIETY The end of Liberalism

SPECIAL EDITORIAL Has Cardinal George Pell been wrongly convicted?

Books promotion page


News Weekly, February 23, 2019


Petrol rationing an historical fact

In his timely article, “Running on nearly empty” (News Weekly, February 9, 2019), Chris McCormack stated that the Energy Department said Australia had never had a fuel crisis. This claim also appeared in The Australian (January 7, 2019, pp 1 & 4) when the Department suggested (p4) that there had “never been a serious interruption to Australia’s supply”.

This is historically incorrect. Australia’s chaotic wartime petrol restrictions, introduced in 1940, were only finally ruled invalid in June 1949, by the High Court in Wagner v Gall (1949) 70 CRL 413 43: 72.

Nevertheless, four years after the defeat of Japan, the Chifley government insisted that fuel rationing was necessary and prepared legislation to continue restrictions from late October 1949 a few weeks out from the federal election.

At the time, private motorists were restricted to about 25 to 65 kilometres travel per week, depending on individual cases. (See Brian Carroll, The Menzies Years, Cassell, 1977)

Chifley’s mistake over petrol rationing was a major reason for Robert Menzies’ election victory that December. However, the impact of petrol rationing in Australia was enormous and caused hardship to businesses, private citizens, agriculture, all transportation, especially taxis, and, of course, the manufacturing industry.

Australia’s harsh wartime fuel rationing system was dictated by the British, who not only controlled and diverted its tanker fleets supplying Australia, but who also had major problems with their foreign exchange against the U.S. dollar.

Australia’s fuel reserves are at a critical level. In the event of a naval crisis in the Indian Ocean or the South China Sea our “just-in-time” fuel imports would be thrown into chaos. From South Korea, alone, in 2012–13, we imported 400,00 tonnes of refined fuel per day.

There is an intimate relationship between the uninterrupted seaborne arrival of refined liquid fuels into Australia and the preservation of our national independence. Any nation interdicting that flow of fuels would not only starve us, but would subjugate us economically and politically to its will.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) promotion of “oil tickets” as part of Australia’s fuel security regime is a tangled sticky web. South Korea has massive oil storage and refining capacity and is willing to “warehouse” oil ticket stocks for other countries. Consequently, South Korea on the surface is a quick-fix option for Australia to have its offshore IEA oil tickets warehoused.

In the event of a crisis in the South China Sea, or an aggressive move by North Korea, South Korea can legally seize and hold Australia’s oil reserves in that country, leaving us up a well-known creek.

The only viable solution is that the Federal Government build in-country strategic fuel storage capacity, revitalise refineries for all fuel processing, allow and encourage oil exploration on land and offshore, and build up a stronger navy to protect our vital sea lanes.

The reality is that there is no political will in Canberra to act, because we have forgotten our history.

Tony O’Brien,
Romsey, Vic.


Merit and good works

Geoff Grace (News Weekly, February 9, 2019) in his response to Peter Westmore’s December 15 article, states that it is Christ’s death on the cross, not our attempts at perfection, that merits our salvation. I agree with that statement in the sense that all salvation comes from Christ’s death on the cross, but not in a sense that would exclude the necessity of good works on our part.

As St James says: “A man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Christ himself stressed the necessity of good works for salvation, as when he said that people will go to heaven or hell depending on the charity they exercised during their life on earth (Matthew 25).

And, when the rich young man asked him what good deed he must do to have eternal life, Jesus said to keep the Commandments (Matthew 19:16ff).

Christ made salvation possible for us by his death on the cross, but we must cooperate with his grace by our free actions, and in that sense we merit our salvation.

John Young,
Melbourne, Vic.


LPG and related matters

News Weekly (February 9, 2019) raises the issue of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) conversion, but it doesn’t state the obvious: why do carmakers make nice cars and then others want them cut up and altered to run on LPG? Why not just make a car that is designed and manufactured to run on LPG in the first place?

For many years there were “green” subsidies for Australian car manufacturers, and the LPG cars Holden produced did not come off the assembly line, they got some of their petrol cars, took them out the back to a workshop and cut them up to fit LPG into them. And pocketed the subsidies.

Gas conversion is expensive. It only pays back if you use the car a lot. The taxi industry embraced it for years. With the advent of hybrid petrol-electric vehicle, it is much more economic for them to buy a vehicle that comes off the assembly line as a petrol-electric hybrid (that is, it is not a petrol car that came off the assembly line and then was cut up to fit an electric motor and battery!).

I note that the article suggests a “gas reservation policy” like Western Australia’s be applied in all states, but then goes on to say this will ensure supplies of LPG. It won’t: it will ensure supplies of LNG (liquefied natural gas)!

LPG is a by-product of petrol production and depends on it, so it can never replace petrol. LPG is a mixture of ethane and propane, so a carbon-to-hydrogen ration of either 1:3 or 3:8; whereas LNG is nearly all methane, with a ration of 1:4. So, even lower carbon-dioxide emissions when burned for energy than LPG, without the need for refining oil.

If current world parity LNG gas prices were applied, a vehicle could be filled for about 30¢ a litre. Apparently because of the higher pressure of methane than ethane, a stronger, heavier tank is required, making it unsuitable for small light vehicles (or rather, uneconomic because of the higher price of gas tanks made from lighter metals such as titanium).

LNG could also replace coal in power stations. Perhaps some engineers and economists could enlighten News Weekly readers why this is happening overseas (Thailand produces all its electricity from LNG) but not so much here, only as an emergency backup?

Dr Philip Dawson,
Low Head, Tas.


Fish caught in quagmire

The latest hot news story from the Darling River is the mass fish-kill. Mismanagement has been rightly blamed for the fish-kills but few have delved deeply into the political quagmire that caused this disaster. Nor have they investigated the known history of the river which has dried up on more than one occasion.

A close look at history would reveal that that there was once a vibrant river trade on the Darling River, which was always at the mercy of the fluctuating river levels caused by droughts and floods. In some years, the river was too low for paddle steamers. But during floods, paddle steamers could leave the river and cut across country. In one flood, a paddle steamer steamed up the Paroo River to the Queensland border, almost 300 kilometres from the Darling River.

In drought it was not uncommon for paddle steamers to be stranded. The Jane Eliza holds the dubious record of three years stranded in the Darling. One steamer full of potatoes was stranded by a low river, and was stuck for so long that the canny captain got the crew to plant the potatoes on the bank. When the river rose, the crew dug up the bounty of their labour and proceeded on their way with a harvest three times the original cargo!

With history as a backdrop it is possible to get a better understanding of this latest calamity. River management was dealt an almost mortal blow in the early 1980s after Bob Hawke and Paul Keating won a hotly contested election. They benefitted from an environmentalist-led campaign to stop a dam in southwest Tasmania. Back then the green movement apparently preferred coal-fired power stations to hydropower plants.

Since that victory back in the 1980s, no government has been courageous enough to consider building new dams.

The success of the environmental movement in stopping the Franklin dam in Tasmania has meant that the northern rivers of New South Wales were never seriously considered for development to the same extent as the Snowy system in the south of the state. Thus NSW’s big coastal river systems were not diverted to support irrigation and hydropower schemes.

Had the northern flood waters been diverted inland to the Darling River, the pressure on the Murray River would have been eased and more environmental flows could be contemplated along the Murray, Darling and Snowy rivers.

M. Murray,
Junee, NSW


Banks’ social propaganda

I have little pity for the banking institutions in their present predicament following the findings of the royal commission. As a bank customer, I objected to their support for same-sex marriage and other social issues.

Many of my friends also voiced their disapproval of a corporate business institution meddling in issues out of their field of expertise, with the sole intention of furthering their own economic agenda. How disgraceful.

Furthermore, I am angry that my savings, and those of millions of other bank customers, were robbed to pay for expensive propaganda in the same-sex marriage plebiscite to further the banks’ own ends.

Deirdre Lyra,
Maida Vale, WA

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm