Clive M. Pearson. B.Sc. Special Physics (Lond), C.Eng.
Postal: 26 Davey Street, Elizabeth Park, SA 5113
Telephone: Australia +61 08 8252 1637
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New Industries For Australia
The time has come to take a fresh look at global markets, and choose a path towards a competitive low-carbon economy.
We can expand our aluminium, zinc and copper refining processes. We can install electric furnaces to produce special steels and other alloys. We can process mineral sands and rare earths to produce materials for high tech manufacturing. We can take up the slack in the car components industry, by manufacturing robotics components. We can revitalise Whyalla by re-opening the 70,000 tonne dockyard and port facility, to build the defence fleet supply vessels, submarines, and floating power stations/water purification plants for local and export markets.
This is all dependent upon producing cheap, non-polluting base-load electric power. Read how we can do this on Environmental Control Systems (www.nvicon.org) by clicking here
I was puzzled the other day by a TV report which claimed serious problems in disposing of scrap electronic equipment. It was said that all of those of analogue TV sets, hi-fi's, set-top boxes, games controllers, computers, etc. contained highly carcinogenic materials. Then the penny dropped! All of these items contain printed circuit boards, which are referred to in the industry as p.c.b.'s. They are quite harmless and non-toxic.
However, we should be very much concerned by the toxic properties of PCB's, poly-chlorinated-biphenyls, which are used as insulating oils in hermeticallysealed transformers and capacitors. PCB's were often used in the power factor correction capacitors, which are fitted to the mercury vapour fluorescent light units, commonly used in offices and factories. When such a capacitor fails, it may rupture the casing and release PCB into the room. I personally believe that this may have been the cause, some years ago, of the cancer cluster in the ABC Brisbane studios.
Now That I'm 80....
Ten years ago, when I turned 70, I retired. Like all other retirees, I believed that I would enjoy boundless leisure and achieve ambitious hobby targets:-
"What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare...."
I resolved that, if I were to be spared to the age of 80, I would pursue three aims, namely to regain fluency in the French language; to acquire sufficient knowledge of German so that I could understand articles in the language of Beethoven, Liszt and Schiller; and to learn to play the organ (bother it, I have six of them in the house!). I am ashamed that, although I have been very busy, I have achieved none of these aims.
Now that I'm 80, I'm like Thomas Hardy's character "Old Armitage" in that I spend much of my time dozing in my armchair. I'm rather arthritic, so I mimic the agility of the three-toed sloth, and move slowly and ponderously from one handhold to the next. Each morning, I accurately dispense my dozen or so life-saving medications, so I'm confident that I still have mental capacity. I'm not delusional, and had a productive professional career of more than 50 years. So what should I resolve for the next 10 years?
I am touched by the opening chapter of Daphne De Maurier's novel "Rebecca", in which the heroine dreams wistfully of a return to her earlier life. My dreams, however, are of a future which I will not live to see.
This morning, I dreamt that I was sitting at my desk and received a large envelope by courier. Inside was a cardboard box, containing a neat stack of about 200 freshly-printed foolscap pages. I had time to glance at the title page, before I woke up. The publication was a plan for the future of Australia.
Like Pharaoh, I believe that dreams have significance. I now know what I should attempt to achieve.
As I recall, when the ALP was in power, they imposed a $6 pharmacy prescription fee upon pensioners, with a cap of $600 per annum. Of course, this was a far greater imposition than the Coalition's planned $7 fee for a GP consultation.
The Opposition is now suggesting that impecunious patients may substitute hospital Emergency Department visits for a GP consultation, in order to save the fee. Just how out of touch are you, Mr. Shorten? By the time the patient has covered the extra cost of travel, paid the hospital car parking fee, and waited in a queue for several hours for attention, a $7 GP consultation fee will seem to be a real bargain.
I will have no difficulty in making my contribution to my local clinic each fortrnight, when I pay my other expenses from my pension.
(My wife and I are able to live in relative comfort on the age pension, able to afford some of life's luxuries and to engage in stimulating and active hobbies. But then, we eat frugally but well as part of our medical regime, we don't eat out, we don't smoke, we drink alcohol and soft drinks only occasionally, and we're too decrepit to party or to attend rock concerts.)
Saving The Megabucks
Last month (see below) I commented that the Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft project is an expensive luxury - facing mounting costs, delays and performance problems. Moreover, by the time it is delivered, the ADF will have no operational role for this category of aircraft. The sooner we withdraw from this project, and order drone aircraft, surface to air missiles, and ground support helicopters, the sooner we will be able to afford our improved welfare, health, education and infrastructure projects.
We can also save unpredictable expenditure if we satisfy our submarine requirements with follow-on orders for the Collins Class Submarine. There is no more suitable and available vessel of proven design.
Life After Parental Leave
There is no doubt that the future physical and mental health of a child is more assured if the mother develops a strong bond, and preferably breast feeds the infant, during the first six months of life.
However, with the passing of the support previously provided by the nuclear family, it is very difficult for the mother to resume her career after taking paid parental leave. The cost of child care and transport may consume most of the mother's earnings.
If the nature of the mother's job permits work at home, then with the advent of increased NBN coverage, video conferencing, and flexible working hours, child care facilities may be unnecessary.
Alternatively, I suggest the establishment of child care co-operatives, in which the mothers could each work without pay for one day per week. The co-operative would have to employ professionally-qualified staff to manage the centre, supervise the volunteer staff, and provide on-the-job mothercraft training to the mothers. The fees charged for child care could be substantially reduced, with considerable economic benefit to the mothers.
In the case of larger employers, a child care co-operative could be established in-house, giving the added benefit of lunch-time access to children by the parents.
School-Based Vocational Training
In the '70s, when I was State Manager for a distributor of forest products, the local Port Adelaide Girls' High School ran a very successful Year 12 Vocational Training Course for those students who did not wish to apply for university entry. Four days per week were devoted to skills training and workplace visits, one day per week each student engaged in work experience with local employers. Each period of work experience was for 3 months, so that the students gained experience of job interviews and were able to assess the nature of the work in 3 or 4 different industries. There was a strict embargo against the poaching of a talented student from the scheme.
We and other local employers tried to make the work experience as realistic as possible. By the year's end, the students were able to make an informed career choice. Most secured permanent employment within a month of leaving school.
There has been, for many years, a problem in the varying educational standard of persons entering their first year of further education. It is suggested that there should be a "Year 13" syllabus for basic science, English language, mathematics, keyboard operation, and office computer applications. This could become the standard first year prerequisite for all degree, diploma and apprenticeship courses.
Countering Youth Unemployment
Many years ago, the Government of the day introduced the Regional Employment Development (R.E.D.) Scheme. As I recall, local government authorities were allocated funds (which would otherwise have been disbursed as unemployment benefits by Centrelink) to employ jobless persons on the maintenance of parks and gardens, for 6 months. It was essentially "work for the dole" on community development. Many of the participants benefitted from job training, developed a work ethic, and progressed to permanent work.
The introduction of 12 month traineeships by the ADF is an excellent initiative, and should be funded by the Government. Now that the war in Afghanistan has ended, the ADF may become more involved in regional development within Australia. The ADF has the equipment and capability for civil engineering and housing projects, and for disaster relief. It can provide worthwhile vocational training in these activities, to the long term unemployed. In some cases, the trainees may become recruits to the ADF.
High Speed Rail
The advocates of the High Speed Rail Project propose to spend $100Bn + to provide 350km/hr peak speed intercity rail links between Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne, to be completed by 2065. Based upon an estimated annual passenger load of 84 million (more than 200,00 passengers each day, 365 days per year - really?) they expect that the project will pay for itself within 40 years, and will thereafter operate without subsidies.
Of course, it is unlikely that the Project will be completed for the originally estimated price, so shall we say that $200Bn + is a more probable final cost?
By 2065, the National Broadband Network will be well and truly completed, and high performance video conferencing will have replaced virtually all across-the-table conferences involving interstate participants. Forget the estimate of 84 million passengers per year, only holidaymakers and tourists will wish to use intercity rail services, and they usually like to view the scenary. For the longer routes, it is proposed to have stops at regional centres, so the high speed transport will only be available for one or two non-stopping express trains each day.
We will be paying a very high price for a service which will be obsolete, long before it becomes operational.
With the phasing-out of fossil fuels, I believe that our future rail system will be used mainly to replace road freight and passenger services, by hydrogen- or electrically-powered standard gauge networks. This will be necessary throughout the country, not just between the eastern State Capitals.
We should be aiming to improve the efficiency of rail freight handling, through freight hubs to interface with local freight distribution services. Tasmania badly needs a container terminal.
Our plans for the level of defence force staffing and for defence materiel procurement should be derived from a careful assessment of our future operational needs. But are they? Without disclosure to the public of the perceived future role of the defence forces, we will never know. Nor can we have any confidence in the benefits of the substantial commitment of the national economy to defence procurement. So, let's try to guess what we really need.
Firstly, we should consider the potential threat of terrorist actions within our nation. These would probably be limited to physical damage or cyber attacks upon our communications networks and utilities control systems; sabotage of public utilities; deployment and detonation of explosive devices; kidnapping or attacking groups of people; contamination of water supplies; hijacking or destruction of transport vehicles and systems. Since we have rigorous customs inspection of incoming goods, it is unlikely that terrorist groups will be able to smuggle nuclear or large conventional weapons into Australia. At present, we rely upon ASIS and the Federal and State Police services to prevent, and to counter, internal terrorist threats. Our security services use conventional small weapons, possibly to the level of the R.P.G.
Secondly, we should consider our border security. Since we have no land borders, we must defend ourselves only against seaborne and airborne threats. The smuggling of contraband and people into Australia is detected by our conventional radar and O.T.H.R. systems, by manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, by satellite imaging systems, and by patrol boats. While it is most unlikely that we will ever again experience an aerial attack upon Australia by conventional aircraft, such as was suffered by Darwin in WW2, it is possible that we could in the future be attacked by long range ballistic missiles, or by surface vessel- or submarine-launched ballistic missiles. To provide for this threat, we need a Patriot or similar missile defence system, and conventionally-powered submarines, such as the Collins Class submarines, plus surface vessels with sub-hunting and missile weapons systems, and anti-submrine helicopters. It is difficult to envisage a border defence role for the Joint Strike Aircraft.
Thirdly, we may in future possibly be involved in regional conflicts, but these are more likely to be small-scale peace-keeping operations, rather than major conflicts involving sophisticated weapons. The only apparent potential aggressor is North Korea, but they do not have the weapons delivery capacity to threaten Australia. It is unlikely that they will be able develop a longer range strike capacity in the next ten years. Except in support of our allies in a major global conflict, we do not seem to have a requirement for the Joint Strike Aircraft. For regional operations, we need helicopters for troop deployment and close support. Rather than strike aircraft, we would derive more benefit from the much less expensive remotely-controlled drone aircraft, which could readily be manufactured in Australia.
So, how can we justify an involvement in the Joint Strike Aircraft Project when it will have no applications by the time it becomes operational in 2020? How can we justify an additional open-ended $12Bn + contract for extra aircraft? Have our planners been watching too many Starwars films?
Why are we scouring the rest of the world for some other country's conventional submarine of unproven performance, when we already have the most suitable operational submarine in production in Australia.
I thought that we were determined to spend our money wisely. Forgive me if I'm wrong.
For authentic and well-documented information upon climate change, visit the website of Professor Barry Brook, bravenewclimate.com.
My Contact Details:-
Clive Pearson, B.Sc. Special Physics (Lond), C.Eng.
Email: email@example.com, Tel: 8 8252 1637
Address: 26 Davey Street, Elizabeth Park, S.A. 5113
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