Thailand to remain open for tourism, despite mourning period for dead Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Thailand remains open for tourism despite being in mourning for its beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the country’s tourist board has insisted.


In a statement to the media, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Chris Lee said: “There has been some incorrect reporting and we would like to clarify [the situation]. Our tourism activity will not be affected. We will just show sensitivity.

“There are two periods of mourning,” added Lee. “The first is a one-month period of mourning, up to November 13, which applies to everyone. At that time bars are still open, alcohol is still being served, but they may close early.”

Lee also sought to dispel any rumours created by misinformation. “Despite reports, tourists don’t have to wear black on the beach. It’s simply that the Thai authorities are asking people to be respectful. For example, that they do not wear any ‘flamboyant clothes’ in public areas.”

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, until last week the world’s longest reigning monarch, was announced on October 13. He was 88.

“His Majesty is considered to be an almost god-like figure to his people,” said Lee Cobaj, Telegraph Travel’s Thailand expert. “The atmosphere across Thailand is one of deep loss, with friends and families gathering together to mourn and pray for their King.”

Over the weekend, Bangkok’s Red Light District shut down for the mourning period and Khaosan Road – a notorious party spot, popular with backpackers – was also subdued. Holidaymakers could still enjoy a quiet alcoholic drink in discreet paper cups, but only until midnight on police orders. Nightclubs were closed and music was banned.

The island of Ko Phangan, famed for its Full Moon beach party, announced that the festival – which was due to take place on October 17 – had been cancelled.

The period of mourning has divided opinion among holidaymakers. Tourist Danny Cheaton, an electrician from Burnley,said he was sanguine about the toned-down atmosphere. “I’ve been here before and this street is usually chaotic,” he said. “But things are better than I was expecting.”

But other tourists have complained to UK media that their holidays have been “ruined” by the restraints on entertainment. Liam Pearce, a welder from North Wales who is due to visit Thailand for a two week holiday, told MailOnline: “I’m really disappointed.  It’s basically my whole holiday ruined… My friends are out there already and they said the only places open at night are pharmacies. That’s hardly going to be much fun.”

TAT has released details of the expected disruption at popular tourist sites. The Grand Palace and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha – where the king’s funeral took place – will be closed until October 20, but most attractions are open as usual.

In addition, TAT has produced guidelines for tourists who are due to visit Thailand during the mourning period. Recommendations include wearing “sombre and respectful clothing when in public” and refraining from “inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour”.

“All transport, banks, hospitals and other public services will be operating as usual,” continued the statement from TAT. “The related authorities have stepped up safety and security measures for all Thais and visitors to facilitate their travelling around the country.”

Smart Traveller have issues a high degree of caution for travellers heading to Thailand “due to the possibility of civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack, including in Bangkok and Phuket.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has also issued guidance for Britons visiting Thailand. “You should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time,” it said.

“Access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars and shopping areas may be restricted and you should behave respectfully when in public areas; if possible, wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public; check local media regularly and follow the advice of local authorities.”

The Telegraph, London

See also: Tourists warned not to behave badly

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Thailand

The eight-year hitch: controversial Shenhua Watermark coal mine to pass kill date

The mine is opposed by green groups and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Andrew Meares The proposed site for the coal mine. Photo: Louise Kennerley


The disturbance area of the Shenhua Watermark coal mine is 1½ times larger than the City of Sydney. Photo: Fairfax Media

It has been 2916 days since controversial former state Labor minister Ian Macdonald issued China’s state-owned Shenhua a licence to explore for coal in Australia’s richest farming region, the Liverpool Plains, in return for a $300 million cash payment to the NSW government.

On Saturday, a key date – the 2920th day or eight years since the exploration licence for the Watermark mine was issued – will be tripped.

A clause in the original 2008 exploration licence allows for the state government to cancel the project after eight years if no “substantial development” of the mine has occurred.

Shenhua has spent more than $500 million on licences, approvals and the purchase of 40 properties but Watermark remains little more than the overgrown home to some grazing cattle, according to its nearest neighbour.

The mine is opposed by green groups and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce.

Three local groups fighting the mine have seized on the clause in the 2008 exploration licence and written to NSW Energy Minister Anthony Roberts asking the government to sink the controversial project once and for all.

“Shenhua’s exploration licence [2008] as renewed in 2012 stipulates that if the licence holder fails to commence ‘substantial development’ of a mine in the area within eight years of the grant of the original exploration licence, the mining minister has the power to cancel the exploration licence in accordance with Mining Act processes. The Mining Act makes it clear that the title holder is not entitled to compensation merely because the authority is cancelled,” the letter co-signed by SOS Liverpool Plains, Lock the Gate and Upper Mooki Landcare.

But Mr Roberts’ office has revealed to Fairfax Media that Shenhua has applied for an exemption to the kill date and the government is considering its request.

In August, the NSW government dispensed with another controversial Liverpool Plains coal project, BHP Billiton’s proposed Caroona mine, 20 kilometres from Shenhua Watermark after paying the company $220 million to buyback its $100 million exploration licence.

Premier Mike Baird said “coal mining under these highly fertile black soil plains …. poses too great a risk for the future of this food bowl”.

But any prospect of Shenhua walking away from the Liverpool Plains appear remote, despite the assessment of some mining economists that the mine has become commercially-unviable due to years of depressed coal prices.

Mr Roberts’ office said Shenhua had officially requested an exemption from the 2008 clause under a provision that allows the minister to extend the licence if there is a “reasonable excuse …. and intention to proceed with mine development”.

“The condition only allows cancellation of the licence if there are no reasonable excuses for not substantially commencing the mine development within eight years of the grant of the original exploration licence,” said a spokesman for Mr Roberts.

“The company has applied for a suspension of the condition, as the company contends it has made all reasonable efforts to comply with this provision, but has been prevented due to numerous legal and other regulatory interventions which are outside of its control.

“The Division of Resources and Energy is reviewing this application and will be providing an advice to the Minister. The Minister is yet to receive the advice; therefore no comments on the determination can be made at this stage.”

Mr Roberts’ office said the government remains in negotiations with Shenhua at excising parts of the mine title that encroach onto the strategic agricultural land of the Liverpool Plains.

But SOS Liverpool Plains spokeswoman Rosemary Nankivell said eight years was long enough for local farmers to live with the prospect of a mine.

“We’re over it. It’s been eight years, they are not doing anything and what gives them the right to hang around leaving everyone else in limbo while other major agricultural projects don’t go ahead because people don’t know if there’s going to be a mine here?” she said.

Cotton and wheat grower John Hamparsum, whose property adjoins the Watermark site said no major development or drilling had taken place.

“It’s just noxious weeds growing and some cattle on land that’s been leased,” he said.

Shenhua’s Australian office in Gunnedah did not return calls from Fairfax Media.

Jeremy Buckingham, the NSW Greens MP who has spent years on the fight against Shenhua, said: “The Shenhua Watermark coal mine is a reckless proposition in the middle of our most fertile farm land and the entire licence should be cancelled or bought-back, not just part of the licence.”

Mr Joyce has been asked for comment.

Follow us on Twitter

NSW drivers will need income protection insurance under proposed CTP changes, say lawyers

NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello is planning to overhaul the compulsory third party insurance scheme. Photo: Anthony Johnson The NSW Government is planning to overhaul the state’s compulsory green slip insurance scheme. Photo: Supplied



Drivers and pedestrians will need to buy income protection insurance to maintain their current level of cover if the NSW Government’s green slip reforms go ahead, personal injury lawyers warn.

At present, an innocent victim of a motor accident who sustains injuries has the right to receive payments to cover medical costs, legal costs, and lost wages.

The Baird government plans to overhaul the “unsustainable” green slip – also known as compulsory third party insurance – scheme, proposing to transfer those with less serious injuries onto a workers’ compensation-type scheme with a maximum cover of five years.

But under the proposed scheme, the Australian Lawyers Alliance says a 35-year-old, non-smoking woman on a full-time wage would have to pay $600 a year in private income protection insurance premiums to maintain her current level of income cover.

“The government is not content with creating a scheme that will line the pockets of insurers by reducing the value of claims made by NSW drivers and pedestrians, but now they are going to force people to take out additional costly insurance from those very same insurers,” said Andrew Stone from the Alliance.

“This move is going to hit hard-working families on a budget – the self-employed, tradies and manual workers need an income safety net to keep paying the bills for them and their families if injured.”

NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello​ said the Alliance’s claims were “alarmist and misleading” and the reforms will not require people to take out income cover.

“Under the current green slip scheme, injured people have to wait three to five years on average to receive income payments, from which significant legal fees are then deducted,” he said.

“Where the current system can leave people in financial stress and further traumatised by extended dispute resolution processes, the reforms will provide people with access for the first time to weekly income support if they need time off work to recover.”

He said the reforms would drive down premiums and improve support for injured people. He added that both lawyers and insurers were likely to make less money.

“It is not fair only 45 cents in every green slip dollar goes to injured road users, nor is it fair that NSW motorists are being asked to pay the highest premiums in the country,” he said.

Both the Alliance and the Law Society of NSW are campaigning against the reforms, based on concerns about the watered down right to receive compensation for lost income.

They also fear the reforms will lead to insurance companies, rather than doctors, gaining control over directing medical treatment and more motor victims fighting insurance companies without legal representation.

“The legal profession has put forward alternative proposals that deliver reduced premiums whilst preserving many of the benefits of the current scheme,” said Gary Ulman​, president of the society.

About three years ago, Nathan Aylward​ suffered bleeding in the brain and injuries to his right eye, neck, right hand and knee after a 60-tonne truck struck his stationary vehicle just outside of Ballina, on the NSW North Coast.

He said some surgeries were delayed because he had to fight with his insurer for approval

He was eventually awarded $280,000 plus costs from the Transport Accident Commission after extensive negotiations. Part of that covered economic loss – about $21,620.00 for the past and $50,000.00 for the future.

“If the new plans go through, it’s a backward step. There’s no doubt I would’ve received a far smaller amount,” he said.

The Alliance said under the proposed scheme, Mr Aylward would not have received any allowance for future economic loss.

The Insurance Council of Australia said it didn’t believe the reforms would lead to an increase in the take-up of income protection insurance.

“Under the proposed reforms, injured road users will receive money for treatment and loss of income for up to five years,” said it spokesman Campbell Fuller.

“The final report of the CTP Reference Panel report indicates the number of minor-to-moderately-injured road users who still need treatment after five years is extremely small, and the report outlines options to provide them extra assistance,” he said.

“Many Australians already have income protection insurance through their superannuation fund or an arrangement with their employer.”

In addition, the council said the proposed no-fault scheme would provide benefits to about 7000 injured road users each year who at present aren’t eligible to claim any meaningful compensation.

Alex Collie head of the Institute for Safety Compensation and Recovery Research at Monash University in Victoria, said he supports the reforms and rubbished the lawyers’ claims about the loss of income cover.

“The research evidence supports the proposed scheme design as being better for the health and recovery of injured people than the current scheme,” he said.

“The future system will provide access to income benefits to all injured motorists from early after the injury, which our studies have shown is important in enabling those people to meet their current living expenses while they are recovering from their injury.”

Savvy Consumer – Interact with us on Facebook

ACCC warns on Tabcorp and Tatts tie-up

ACCC chairman Rod Sims. Photo: Jesse MarlowThe planned merger between Tatts Holdings and Tabcorp Group to create a $10 billion gaming behemoth raises “major concerns”, according to the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.


ACCC approval is proving a major hurdle for a merger deal, the details of which are expected to be released on Wednesday after Tatts and Tabcorp exit their respective trading halts.

The potential tie-up  is expected to also face scrutiny from state governments.

Tatts and Tabcorp are expected to present a merger of equals to shareholders, where both entities will end up with a 50 per cent stake in the combined entity.

Speculation is now focusing on who will take the reins at the merged group, with some in the market tipping Tatts chief executive Robbie Cook as the boss of the merged group over Tabcorp chief David Attenborough and Tabcorp chairman Paula Dwyer pipping Tatts chairman Harry Boon to the role of chairman of the combined entity.

A tie-up would also need to deal with Tabcorp’s legal issues. The company is currently subject to legal action from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre for 236 breaches of anti-money laundering laws after it failed to tell the regulator TAB accounts had been opened under false names and used by organised crime figures.

On Tuesday, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said it was very early in the process, but the regulator would be looking at the role of online gaming in potentially competing with a merged entity made up of Tatts and Tabcorp.

“Clearly there’s a lot of overlap between what Tatts and Tabcorp do. I’m aware of a lot of overlap, I probably don’t know the industry well enough to know the extent of it. So on the overlap issue there’s major concern,” he said at a conference in Sydney.

Mr Sims said the ACCC would also weigh up whether there was enough new online competition to “constrain” the merged entity.

“That’s going to depend on breaking into certain markets,” Mr Sims said.

Both Tatts and Tabcorp supply fixed-odds and sports wagering services and Tabcorp operates the Victorian and NSW totaliser pools (TAB) while Tatts operates UniTAB, the totaliser for Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. Poker machines and lotteries/Keno are also an area of potential concern, an ACCC spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for the Victorian government said it would consider the implications of a merger when more information was available.

The Victorian government’s review is expected to focus on the implications the merger would have on their compliance with the Gambling Regulation Act.

Both companies hold separate licences in Victoria and it is unclear whether one of the cost savings of the merger would be cancelling one of those licences and whether the Act would allow for a change of control of the licence.

Queensland Racing Minister Grace Grace said she was concerned about potential job losses resulting from the merger.

“That’s why I’ll be seeking assurances about its potential impacts on workers and industry participants, and that any merger will help to grow and prosper racing in Queensland,” Ms Grace said.

A spokesman for the NSW government said it was a matter for the companies involved.

In late 2015, both companies walked away from a tie-up deal after Tabcorp’s share price fell and the parties were unable to agree to a merger ratio.

The combined group could create savings of up to $100 million a year, or $1 billion over 10 years, through consolidating IT platforms and administrative functions, staff cuts and consolidating into a single head office in Brisbane or Melbourne.

Analyst sources said a combined entity would be able to share its customer databases, potentially providing new streams of revenue.

“It would also have a greater ability to invest offshore,” one analyst, who declined to be named, said.

The merger talks come just a week after NSW overturned its ban on greyhound racing, which represents about 5 per cent of Tabcorp’s total wagering turnover. Tatts has a much smaller exposure to the NSW greyhound racing industry.

Building industry’s future

Advertising FeatureThis advertising feature is sponsored by the following business. Click the link to learn more:


HIA-CSR Hunter Housing and Kitchen & Bathroom Awards REVEALING: The awards shine a light for those looking to be inspired by innovative techniques in building as well as the latest trends in kitchens and bathrooms.

Tonight the highest honours will be presented to the residential building industry by the Housing Industry Association, at the annual HIA-CSR Hunter Housing and Kitchen & Bathroom Awards.

HUGE: A total of 60 awards will be presented at Wests City before a capacity crowd of local industry leaders and peers from across the Hunter and Central Coast regions.

In total 60 awards will be presented at Wests City before a capacity crowd of local industry leaders and peers from across the Hunter and Central Coast regions.

Independently judged by industry professionals, the awards acknowledge the talent of builders, designers, suppliers and manufacturers who plan and construct quality new homes, townhouses, renovations, kitchens, bathrooms and more.

“The HIA-CSR Hunter Housing and Kitchen and Bathroom Awards recognise the craftsmanship and excellence of HIA members and I congratulate all Hunter Award entrants and finalists,”HIA Executive Director – Hunter,Craig Jennion, said

“Each year an exceptional calibre of entries is presented and this year is no different, a reflection of the hard work and dedication HIA members continue to display.

“From sustainable initiatives to incredible workmanship, a record number of over 170 entries were received and we are proud to call these entrants HIA members.”

Regionally it has been another sound year for the industry. Latest ABS figures on detached new home building approvals indicate that activity across the HIA Hunter region continued to increase in the year to July, up five per cent compared to 2014.

This result demonstrates that low interest rates are facilitating a sustained recovery in new home building, adding to the evidence that our local residential building industry is on a strong footing and this contributes to the long-term prospects for the Hunter region.

The award winners will be featured on the Regional Housing Awards page of the HIA HousingLocal website early next week. To view these pages visit www.housinglocal杭州

“I’m sure that those who view the images will appreciate the build quality and design excellence that HIA members are achieving across a range of projects both large and small,” Mr Jennion said.

EDITORIAL: Maitland forum on amphetamine addiction

ONE of the biggest shifts in the Australian drug market over the past decade or so has been the rise of ice amphetamine.


Old fears about addicts drifting into deathly overdoses on heroin have been replaced with the tales of ambulance workers and police having to wrestle down crazed amphetamine users who’ve gone two or three days without sleep.

The reasons behind the switch from heroin to amphetamine are complex and international. The shift may have started after 9-11, when theinvasion of Afghanistan cut supplies of raw opium, leadingcriminal syndicates to invest instead in amphetamine factories. Regardless of cause, ice is by farthe most popular and powerful powder drug on Australian streets, and its unpredictable impacts have put fear into the families of drug users, and created new problems for the agencies who have to deal with those under the influence.

To help those with concerns, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation is hosting its latest“Breaking The Ice” forum at East Maitland Bowling Club on Wednesday, October 26.

Organisers say the forum will provide expert information about ice by “cutting through rumours and misinformation about drugs”. Those taking part can have their “questions answered during a panel discussion where the audience will be encouraged to ask questions of our panelists”.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation website –adf杭州.au –contains helpful informationabout ice use. To counter the natural fear factor, the foundationnotes that despite an “enormous amount of attention” given to ice, “only a small number of people use ice regularly and only a small proportion of users will experience problems”.

That said, reliance onice amphetamine is a serious situation and one that will often have a dramatic impact on the family and friends of someone in the grip of addiction.

While some politicians still talk ofa“war on drugs”, such rhetoric carries little weight at an individual level. Unfortunately, as one drug and alcohol worker told theNewcastle Herald,there is no authorised replacement drugfor ice in the way that methadone is prescribed for heroin users.From this worker’s perspective, problems with ice abuse in the Hunter region are continuing to grow. Even so, amphetamine addiction can be beaten. Butas the foundation recognises, the person with the habit has to want to stopfor the treatment to succeed.

ISSUE: 38,366

YouTube recruits Dwayne Johnson for new sci-fi series Lifeline

Bankable: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who starred in the high grossing San Andreas, earned $US64.5 million in the past year. Photo: Mario AnzuoniYouTube’s new weapon in their fight for a chunk of Netflix’s online streaming audience? It’s not cute kitties or viral pranksters, anymore – it’s the world’s highest paid actor, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.


The website, which has recently made major moves towards creating original content for its YouTube Red subscription streaming service, overnight announced a handful of new programs slated to premiere on the service in 2017.

Among those is The Rock’s Lifeline, an eight-episode sci-fi action series centred on an insurance company that “sends its agents 33 days into the future to prevent the accidental deaths of its clients”.

Other big-name programs include Impulse, a sci-fi thriller from director Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Edge Of Tomorrow) about a young girl uncovering her teleportation abilities, and a yet untitled comedy about professional gamers from Dan Harmon (Community, Rick & Morty).

Johnson, who was recently named the world’s highest paid actor by Forbes magazine following last year’s haul of $US64.5 million ($84.4 million), is also among YouTube’s most popular celebrities, with over 1.36 million subscribers, highlighting the site’s strategy to utilise its own biggest names to expand YouTube Red (the service costs $11.99 per month in Australia and New Zealand).

“Our thesis is simple: identify YouTube’s most engaging stars and top genres, and invest in the content that fans tell us they want. In other words, let our community drive our content,” YouTube’s global head of content Susanne Daniels said in a keynote address at industry conference Mipcom yesterday, in which she announced the slate of new programs. Cool news as @SevenBucksProd & @Studio71 are partnering up with @YouTube Red for our sci-fi action thriller series #Lifeline in 2017. pic.twitter杭州m/LYdMViXZXn— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) October 17, 2016

The news follows on from YouTube’s other already announced programs, which include a series based on the Step Up franchise, executive produced by its original stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum and also set to premiere in 2017.

Suspended rail line beneath Sydney Harbour Bridge ‘$400m costlier’ than tunnel

A suspended carriageway would have cost $400 million more than a tunnel. Photo: Sarah Keayes The carriageway would limit the ability for ships to pass beneath the bridge. Photo: Christopher Pearce


The state government considered bolting on a carriageway beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge or building a viaduct above two lanes of traffic for a new metro rail line but eventually decided tunnelling under the harbour was the best option.

In laying out the justification for the second stage of the $20 billion-plus rail project, a truncated version of its business case reveals that a suspended carriageway or a viaduct would have cost at least $400 million more than tunnelling under the harbour.

The two options for running a new metro line on the bridge also had a “number of constraints”, such as posing a barrier to ships passing beneath or detracting from one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.

“These options would also have broader network impacts during construction and operation (particularly in terms of access to the Sydney CBD for other transport modes). Consequently, these options were not progressed further,” it said.

Another option to run the metro line along lanes seven and eight on the bridge would have required connections at either end of the bridge to tunnels for the metro line.

“Unlike the tunnel option [beneath the harbour], use of the Sydney Harbour Bridge would require the use of existing suburban rail stations and platforms at North Sydney and Wynyard,” the business case summary said.

“The use of existing infrastructure for the project would largely result in replication of the existing T1 North Shore Line and would not provide additional rail services to new areas.”

The government eventually opted for the second stage of the metro line to run under the harbour from Chatswood to Sydney’s CBD, and on to Sydenham and Bankstown.

It has put a price tag of between $10.5 billion and $11.5 billion on the second stage, while the cost of the first section from Sydney’s north west to Chatswood is $8.3 billion. The latter is due to open in 2019.

The business case summary also shows that the government considered a conversion of the existing Bankstown Line to allow it to carry metro trains to be one of the “less complex options” when it weighed up the route for Australia’s largest rail project.

The Bankstown Line needed less infrastructure work to convert to a metro service when compared with other lines such as the South or Illawarra. The latter would have required extra tunnels and tracks, and “significant enabling works such as alternative freight routes”, it said.

The conversion of 13.5 kilometres of track between Bankstown and Sydenham will be one of the most disruptive parts of the project. Tens of thousands of commuters will be forced to catch buses for more than six months during construction.

Critics have questioned the rationale for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on converting a line that is under-used by commuters.

They have also criticised plans for an extra 36,000 dwellings to be built along the Bankstown-Sydenham corridor over the next two decades.

But the business case summary, released on Tuesday, said converting the Bankstown Line between Sydenham and Bankstown would “improve network reliability by reducing the number of rail lines sharing the same existing tracks”.

It would also “unlock capacity” at Central Station – the city’s busiest – and “significantly reduce platform and train crowding”.

“The T3 Bankstown Line does not share operations with other lines or rail freight. It would therefore be less complex to convert and segregate from the existing rail network when compared with other lines.”

Labor transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay accused the Baird government of drip-feeding information about the multibillion-dollar project and called on it to release the full business case “which they have been sitting on for six months”.

“”It is clear the government has failed to learn the lesson from WestConnex, which has operated in secrecy,” she said.

“It needs to come clean on how much fare revenue it will get; how it will be paid for, including how much will be raised by high-rise development above stations; and the level of disruption it will cause to residents along the Bankstown Line.”

Malcolm Turnbull will finally introduce electronic voting. Wait…for the Parliament?

MPs cross the floor during a division at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares Coalition frontbenchers during a division in the House of Representatives in March, 2015. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen


The division on the second reading of the Omnibus Bill at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 14 September 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew Meares

MPs could soon be able to vote in Canberra without leaving their green leather seats. Just by swiping a smart card. How marvellous.

No counting off votes by whips. Perhaps even no damning or humiliating pictures of the nation’s privileged representatives being seen to line up like sheep on an issue, and being accountable to constituents and/or colleagues for their actions.

Nup. Swipe a card, press a button. Matter dispatched. Problem resolved.

That’s right, with all the challenges facing this country from entrenched poverty, to national security, from homelessness, to runaway pharmaceutical costs, species loss, and aged care, the Turnbull cabinet has put “The Fixer” on to the pressing urgency of establishing electronic voting in the House of Representatives.

Perhaps Christopher Pyne will go further and propose the extension of electronic voting facilities on bills from the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge at Canberra’s schmick new airport. At least that way he could gather up those pesky WA MPs running for the last plane out on a Thursday.

Pyne has been handed the job of constructing a cabinet submission on the best way to introduce electronic House voting procedures.

To what end you may well ask?

What’s the problem really?

Clearly, if there is a problem of major logistical dimensions associated with voting in Australia, it ain’t the tiny matter of a few overpaid MPs being into a formal division.

It’s voting itself – in general elections.

As we saw again in the recent post-election debacle, the result was not known on the night. Indeed, it took weeks to determine the outcome in some seats.

The overwhelming problem in Australia is not parliament but the antiquated pencil-and-paper voting system for the selection of MPs.

This is a process in which imprecision, ambiguity, and the potential for both administrative error and malfeasance are rife.

Malcolm Turnbull is to be congratulated for his willingness to embrace technology where the opportunity provides.

But presenting solutions, especially expensive and time-consuming ones, to problems that have never been laid out, and may not even exist, is a classic error of politics.

Updating voting procedures in the chambers is a 20th-order issue, whereas fixing the electoral system is right up the top.

Perhaps the only public interest argument in favour of electronic voting is that it might, “might” that is, facilitate some MPs voting more often according to their own judgment, if freed from the peer pressure of having to physically cross the floor from colleagues.

But even for this argument to hold water is a pretty poor commentary on the courage and independence of our federal representatives.

Follow us on Twitter

Super typhoons and a soaking for Australia: weird weather explained

Typhoon Haima is expected to reach category 5 strength by Wednesday. Photo: The Weather Channel Haitians, hard hit by Hurricane Matthew, await aid from a US helicopter earlier this month. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell


As the Philippines braces for its second major typhoon in just five days, a Canadian glacier spawns a giant iceberg and eastern Australia mops up from a record wet spell, climate scientists can pick from a world of weird weather to highlight evidence of global warming under way.

Just days after nations agreed to curb production of greenhouse gases 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a fortnight before the Paris climate agreement comes into force on November 4, many regions are experiencing bizarre conditions.

September continued the run of exceptional global warmth, with last month narrowly edging last year as the hottest September on record, NASA, the US space agency, said overnight.

After data adjustments, NASA said 11 of the past 12 months had set monthly high-temperature records. (See chart below). This year is on course to smash previous records for annual heat set in 2015 and in the year before that.

Climate scientists, such as NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, emphasise that while individual weather events and even monthly rankings may be newsworthy, “they are not nearly as important as long-term trends”.

Here, though, there are many worrying pointers.

The Philippines is facing the potential for a category 5-strength typhoon Haima just days after typhoon Sarika blew through, leaving a trial of death and destruction that has now extended to neighbours Vietnam and China.

Recent research indicates the western Pacific is experiencing stronger cyclones with the frequency increasing as much as four-fold. Porcupine spike

In Canada, the Porcupine Glacier in British Columbia retreated more than two kilometres “in one leap”, when a major iceberg broke off during the summer, The Globe and Mail reported recently. (See their chart below:)

Mauri Pelto, professor of environmental science at Nichols College in Massachusetts, said he couldn’t identify a bigger iceberg carved from a Canadian glacier in a quarter century of work.

“It’s just a highlight example of what’s happening [from climate change],” Dr. Pelto was quoted as saying. “I have worked on over 200 glaciers just in that area, and all but one have been retreating.”

The behaviour of ice of a different kind caught the attention of  Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW.

After rivalling previously lows in 2007 and 2012, this year’s recovery of Arctic sea ice as winter approaches has slowed sharply, placing it again at record low levels. (See chart below, supplied via Zack Labe, from the University of California, Irvine.)

With less sea ice, more of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the Arctic seas rather than reflected back to space, accelerating the pace of warming in an area that’s warming faster than almost anywhere else.

“It’s moving outside it’s normal operating range,” Professor Pitman said of the sea ice trend. “Climate extremes are emerging much faster than climate scientists thought.” Rain extremes

While major weather events can’t all be attributed to climate change rather than natural variability, a warming world makes them more likely.

Scientists, for instance, estimate that the atmosphere can hold 7 per cent more moisture for each degree of warming – and we’ve had at least that since the Industrial Revolution triggered a rapid increase in greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and land-clearing for agriculture.

Hurricane Matthew, which scrapped along the east coast of the US earlier this month, is estimated to have dumped as much 52 trillion litres on the US, triggering widespread flooding, according to Ryan Maue, a US-based meteorologist.

Typhoon Sarika, which left at least 25 dead in the Philippines last week, is now expected to bring flooding rains to south-east China.

Behind Sarika, though, looms a more powerful storm, super typhoon Haima, which is likely to generate peak gusts of more than 300 km/h by Wednesday as it nears the northern Philippine island of Luzon.

“[A]long with the dangers of storm surge flooding and damaging winds, rainfall flooding and landslides would also be major threats in Luzon, given saturated ground from Sarika,” the weather杭州m website said in a report. “More than a foot of rain could fall over northern portions of Luzon as Haima moves through.”

Much of eastern Australia has copped its drenching in recent weeks, although the rains have fortunately been more spread out.

As the Bureau of Meteorology said in a special climate statement last week, the Murray Darling Basin had its wettest September on record, continuing a string of wet months.

“The May to September period was Australia’s wettest on record, with each of the five individual months ranking in the 10 wettest in the last 117 years,” the report said. ‘Off the charts’

“You’re seeing more extreme events and in most of the parts of climate that affect people,” Professor Pitman said.

Heatwaves, for instance, that used to last typically three days, might be stretching in some places out to 10 days.

“It’s like Usain Bolt doing a 4-second,100-metre run,” he said. “It’s completely off the charts.”

Professor Pitman’s centre will shift more of its focus to the study of climate extremes after securing funds from the Australian Research Council last month.

“There is some emerging evidence that the system is redefining itself,” Professor Pitman said.

Follow Peter Hannam on Twitter and Facebook.