Friday, 30 June 2017

No more business as usual: the corporates stepping up to save the planet

As Trump reneges on climate change commitments, progressive businesses are implementing the measures themselves

Companies are increasingly coming to understand the impact of climate change on their businesses - and stepping up to make changes.
Companies are increasingly coming to understand the impact of climate change on their businesses - and stepping up to make changes. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When the US president, Donald Trump, announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, one might have anticipated a hearty cheer from industry around the world relieved that business as usual could continue.
Instead the opposite has happened. Across the United States, the business community is taking it upon itself to implement the measures needed to address climate change. And in Australia an increasing number of major companies are publicly stating their commitment to addressing climate change, even as the federal government drags its heels on implementing policies to address the crisis. Companies around the world – from small family-run enterprises to Fortune 500 firms – are not only calling for action on climate change but also putting their money where their mouth is.
Lou Leonard, the senior vice president of climate change and energy at WWF, says companies are coming to understand the impact of climate change on their businesses.
“If you’re a company that either grows food in the heartland of the United States or ships it down the Mississippi and out to other countries, or you’re a company that builds the components of wind turbines and solar panels, or you’re a company that has a big retail footprint all over the world, climate change has come to you already,” he says. “I think that the understanding of those impacts has led those companies to again take action to begin to green their own footprint, and their supply chains.”
This understanding has also led to initiatives such as We Are Still In , an open declaration of continued support of climate action to meet the Paris agreement. The letter has now been signed by 1,565 companies and investors, including giants such as Apple, Walmart, Microsoft, Adidas, Facebook and Google, as well as leaders from 208 cities and counties, nine US states and 309 colleges and universities.
Another initiative called Unreasonable Goals, led by the Unreasonable Group, is partnering the private and public sectors – including entities such as the US State Department – to help meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set at the United Nations in 2015.
Daniel Epstein, founder and chief executive of the Unreasonable Group, says he believes business can save the world.
“I’m optimistic because I know that the entrepreneurs we align with at Unreasonable Group are the future titans of industry and because some of the world’s largest companies are now pivoting their entire business models and supply chains to focus on sustainability,” Epstein says.
One of those entrepreneurs is Australian renewable energy company Carnegie Clean Energy, which recently announced it has been selected as the industry partner to lead action on the seventh SDG: affordable and clean energy.
The Carnegie Clean Energy chief executive, Michael Ottaviano, says the aim of the project is not to solve the world’s clean energy problems in one hit, but rather focus on a particular region and provide the benchmark to upscale.
“I think we’re at a point now – and maybe this point has only been reached in the last 12-18 months – where it is now just so apparent that renewable energy is the pathway forward,” Ottaviano says. “It’s no longer just an environmental reason, which is a very good reason, but it’s also an economic reason as well.”
Twenty-four of Apple’s global facilities are now 100% powered by renewable energy – which includes the US and China – and 96% of its global electricity budget comes from renewable sources. Retail giant Walmart is aiming to have 50% of its operations powered by renewable energy, and achieve zero waste to landfill in four of its larger markets, by 2050.
Closer to home, Australian travel company Intrepid Travel has announced it will double the carbon offset contribution it makes for all its United States tours, stating that it can “no longer wait for our government leaders to take action on climate change.”
Their commitment amounts to an additional 3000 tonnes of CO2 being offset this year, on top of Intrepid’s existing commitment to offset all of its trips.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are actually trying to contribute back to areas such as climate change; something that the tourism industry is both impacted by but also a contributor to,” says Intrepid’s Asia Pacific regional director Brett Mitchell.
Intrepid Travel has been carbon neutral since 2010. But these actions come at a cost; Intrepid has spent over $1.5m on renewable energy projects. but Mitchell says it’s definitely a worthwhile investment. “We believe very strongly in climate change; it is real, it does exist, and we need to do something about it.”
A decade ago, business might have been happy to sit back in the absence of political or regulation on climate change and save itself both trouble and cost, but Leonard says that’s no longer the case.
“We realise that our future is wrapped up in the success of this effort and therefore we certainly don’t want the United States to be pulling back, we certainly don’t want to risk trade tariffs on our goods, we don’t want to risk access to markets in other countries,” he says.
Does this mean business alone can deliver what politics cannot? Leonard argues that while companies can take the lead on climate change action in the short term, eventually politicians will need to and create the policy framework to drive rapid reduction in emissions.
In the meantime however, action by industry is filling the gap.
“We need the leadership of real action in the real economy in the United States that can create a bridge to the time when we have the politics that will allow us to get the policy that we need,” Leonard says. “We need that political normalisation that comes when actors like this step up and say this just makes sense.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren HeadshotElizabeth Warren, a fearless consumer advocate who has made her life's work the fight for middle class families, was elected to the United States Senate on November 6, 2012, by the people of Massachusetts.
Elizabeth is recognized as one of the nation's top experts on bankruptcy and the financial pressures facing middle class families, and the Boston Globe has called her "the plainspoken voice of people getting crushed by so many predatory lenders and under regulated banks."
She is widely credited for the original thinking, political courage, and relentless persistence that led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. President Obama asked her to set up the new agency to hold Wall Street banks and other financial institutions accountable, and to protect consumers from financial tricks and traps often hidden in mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Warren served as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Her independent and tireless efforts to protect taxpayers, to hold Wall Street accountable, and to ensure tough oversight of both the Bush and Obama Administrations won praise from both sides of the aisle. The Boston Globe named Elizabeth Warren Bostonian of the Year and TIME Magazine called her a "New Sheriff of Wall Street" for her oversight efforts.
During her campaign for the Senate, Elizabeth promised to fight for middle class families and to make sure that everyone has a fair shot to get ahead. She called for policies that would level the regulatory playing field for small businesses and ensure that everyone - even large and powerful corporations - pays a fair share in taxes and is held accountable for breaking the law.
Endorsing Elizabeth's candidacy, the New Bedford Standard-Times said, "Elizabeth Warren has it right on all the things that matter most to us in SouthCoast and across Massachusetts," with "principles that without a doubt, promote the well-being of the middle class." The Boston Globe called Elizabeth "a fierce advocate for the lot of working families, creating educational opportunities, and expanding medical research." The Springfield Republican said, "We need a voice for working families in Washington again. Elizabeth Warren will give us that voice."
Senator Warren was a law professor for more than 30 years, including nearly 20 years as the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. The graduating class at Harvard twice recognized her with the Sacks-Freund Award for excellence in teaching. She taught courses on commercial law, contracts, and bankruptcy and wrote more than a hundred articles and ten books, including three national best-sellers,  A Fighting Chance, The Two-Income Trap, and All Your Worth. National Law Journal named her one of the Most Influential Lawyers of the Decade, TIME Magazine has named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world three times, and she has been honored by the Massachusetts Women's Bar Association with the Lelia J. Robinson Award.
Elizabeth learned first-hand about the economic pressures facing working families, growing up in a family she says was "on the ragged edge of the middle class." She got married at 19, and after graduating from college, started teaching in elementary school. Her first baby, a daughter Amelia, was born when Elizabeth was 22. When Amelia was two, Elizabeth started law school. Shortly after she graduated, her son Alex was born. Elizabeth hung out a shingle and practiced law out of her living room, but she soon returned to teaching.
Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Houston and Rutgers School of Law. Elizabeth and her husband Bruce Mann have been married for 36 years and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They have three grandchildren.

Sony to start making records again 30 years after abandoning vinyl

Factory south-west of Tokyo will be pressing records by March as demand for format surges

A shop manager shows off a period Japanese pressing of the Beatles’ final studio album, Let It Be, at the RECOfan music shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya district.
A shop manager shows off a period Japanese pressing of the Beatles’ final studio album, Let It Be, at the RECOfan shop in Tokyo. Photograph: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty

Three decades after it abandoned vinyl production, Sony will start making records again amid surging demand.
A factory south-west of Tokyo will churn out freshly pressed records from March, Sony Music Entertainment said on Thursday.
The Japanese company stopped making vinyl records in 1989 as consumers flocked to CDs and other emerging technology. Japan produced nearly 200m records a year in the mid-seventies, according to the country’s recording industry association.
Sony was a large global player in the development of CDs, which have since taken a back seat to downloads and music streaming.
Vinyl has been making a global comeback as it attracts not only nostalgic older consumers but also younger generations.
Japan’s sole record maker, Toyokasei, was struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl demand, the Nikkei newspaper reported. Sony was scrambling to find older engineers familiar with how to make records, it added.
Panasonic relaunched its popular Technics SL-1200 turntable several years ago as the vinyl market gathered pace.
Sony did not say what music it would release in record format. The Nikkei said the lineup would include popular Japanese songs from the past, including Sony-owned titles, as well as chart-topping contemporary albums.
Global vinyl revenue will top $1bn this year while sales of CDs and digital downloads continue to fall, according to estimates from Deloitte consulting firm.
In Britain, where vinyl’s rebirth has been particularly pronounced, records generated more revenue than advertising-backed tiers of streaming platforms last year.

Merkel to put climate change at centre of G20 talks after Trump's Paris pullout

German chancellor says Trump administration’s decision to quit Paris climate agreement means EU must show leadership on issue

German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk on June 29, 2017 at the Chancellery in Berlin ahead of a meeting with European G20 heads of state
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, welcomes the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, in Berlin before a meeting with European G20 heads of state. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Tackling climate change will be one of the central tasks of the upcoming Hamburg G20 summit of the world’s largest economies, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Thursday, following the US withdrawal from the Paris climate pact.
Merkel, who will host the gathering of global leaders in the northern port city, said the climate change scepticism of the Trump administration made it all the more important for the European Union to show leadership.
“Since the decision of the US to quit the Paris climate agreement, we are more determined than ever to make it successful,” she said. “We must tackle this existential challenge, and we cannot wait until every last person on earth has been convinced of the scientific proof.”
When chairing the summit, Merkel said she would seek to guide talks such that they furthered the goals of the Paris deal, but she conceded that differences with the US meant discussions would not be easy.
“The differences are obvious and it would be dishonest to try to cover that up. That I won’t do,” she said, adding that the forum, which meets on 7 and 8 July, would also discuss common approaches to trade, another area in which the Trump administration’s protectionist instincts are at odds with the European Union’s.
“Anybody who believes the problems of the world can be solved with isolationism and protectionism is labouring under a huge error,” Merkel said.
Germany on Thursday rejected a request by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to address ethnic Turks in Germany on the sidelines of the summit.
Berlin-Ankara relations have badly deteriorated amid disputes over Turkey’s mass arrests of alleged state enemies since a failed coup last year and a host of other rights issues.
“I explained weeks ago to my Turkish colleagues that we don’t think that would be a good idea,” the Germany foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said.
Merkel promised a renewed drive with France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, to deepen cooperation within the bloc and the eurozone. She said that far from being weakened by Britain’s vote to quit the EU, the bloc would remain united.
With the fault lines multiplying, Merkel’s western European allies arrived in Berlin on Thursday to draw up a common battle strategy.
“Merkel has called a summit between Europeans because there is a problem with the relationship with Trump,” said a diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity. It’s necessary to ensure European cohesion because within the G20, it’s complicated.”
Besides the transatlantic differences, there was also a new European division growing between east and west particularly on the issue of refugees, said Jean-Dominique Giuliani, the president of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a Paris-based thinktank.
Trump’s anti-immigration stance has emboldened many of the EU’s ex-communist members in the east, which have staunchly opposed Merkel’s pleas to accept larger shares of the refugees who have flocked to Europe.
Trump will head to Warsaw for a summit of central and eastern European leaders likely to include Hungary’s hardline prime minister, Viktor Orbán, a day before the G20, which threatens to deepen divisions.
The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said it was important for Europe to face up to the US confidently. “We do not want to forcefully separate the US from Europe. But what we don’t want either is to appear like an appendage of US policies,” he said.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

The iPhone is the crack cocaine of technology. Don’t celebrate its birthday

Apple’s device, now 10 years old, has ushered in an era of unprecedented connectivity. It has also nurtured widespread, crippling addiction

Steve Jobs launches the iPhone in 2007.
‘One in three adults admits to checking their phone in the middle of the night; 9% say they check their smartphone during sex.’ Steve Jobs launches the iPhone in 2007. Photograph: Kimberly White/Reuters

The pallid blue light of my phone cut through the gloom of my bedroom. I turned over, reached for it and read an email that had just come in. Before putting my phone down again, I looked at the time. 2.03am. “What am I doing?” I asked myself as I drifted back to sleep.
When I woke up four hours later, I reached for my phone – and, out of habit, I began to scroll through social media. One of the first news stories I noticed was that the Apple iPhone has turned 10 years old. I wondered how much our life had changed in that period thanks to this iconic piece of technology. After a quick Google search, I discovered that four in five adults in the UK now have a smartphone, and that the average US citizen looks at their device 46 times a day; if they are 18-24 years old, they look at them 74 times a day. We use our smartphones when walking down the street, watching films, or while in places of religious worship. One in three adults admits to checking their phone in the middle of the night; 12% admit to using their phone while taking a shower; and 9% say they check their smartphone during sex.
Putting down my phone, I started to get ready for the day ahead. As I showered I remembered a strange meeting I had attended a few months earlier. I was in a windowless room filled with top European banking executives. Before the meeting began, the bankers were each handed an envelope and told to put their phone inside. Each dutifully followed orders, sealing up their device and writing their name on the envelope. But within five minutes, I could see these seasoned bankers staring longingly at the package with their name on it.
After 10 minutes, many were physically agitated, drumming their fingers on the table or scribbling manically on the paper in front of them. After 30 minutes, the chairman of the board could no longer stand it – and he ripped open his envelope and began sending messages. When the coffee break finally came, all the others in the audience lunged towards their own envelopes and sighed with relief as they began to scroll through their emails. It was like watching crack addicts getting their first hit of the day.
After getting dressed, I headed out of the door. On the bus, I couldn’t get the memory of these smartphone-obsessed bankers off my mind. I opened up my phone again and discovered that there is an established affliction called “smartphone addiction”. There was even a scientifically validated test I could do to work out how addicted to my smartphone I was. As I read on, I found out that a national research agency in South Korea estimated that 8.4% of young people in that country exhibited smartphone addiction. I suspected the rates could be just as high in Europe and the US.
As the bus filled up, I read about how smartphones often trigger a dump of dopamine – the same hormone which is usually triggered by sex, food, drugs and gambling. I discovered that when addicts were separated from their phones, they would experience mounting anxiety, increase in blood pressure and heart rate – and even phantom sensations of mobile phone vibrations.
I knew that smartphone use was associated with sleeping problems. What I didn’t know was that heavy smartphone users were more likely to have high levels of anxiety and depression.
Getting off the bus, I started wondering why we were so addicted to our devices. As I walked towards my office, I continued my search. It seemed that in the past few years, psychologists have come up with some explanations. The most well-known is the fear of missing out, or Fomo. We keep looking at our phones to be sure we don’t miss out on something which is happening – whether that is an important message or just a piece of incoming news.
As I waited for the lift, I came across two other explanations for our dependency. One was that people just love to touch their phones. Indeed, psychologists have found that people who have very high need for human contact were likely to be even more addicted to their phones. Those with high levels of social anxiety were also more likely to develop a dependency. The socially anxious are people who worry about social interactions and tend to avoid them if possible – and smartphones give them the ideal way of avoiding an encounter they could find disturbing.
Opening my office door, I started to wonder which one of these reasons was behind my own tendencies towards smartphone addiction, which I had been struggling with since I bought my first iPhone 10 years ago. Has this magical little device done more harm than good?

Trump loves attacking women's looks. And America rewards him for it

It’s official. America is stuck in an unrelentingly gruesome Groundhog Day. In the morning, Trump tweets something unhinged and/or misogynistic. Then a slew of commentators express their shock, even though Trump became president on a platform of unhinged misogyny. In the midst of all this, a member of the president’s band of female apologists (Melania, Ivanka, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kellyanne Conway) is summoned to jump to Trump’s defense.
Then we spend the rest of the day enthralled in the reality-TV-style shenanigans while the Trump administration continues to dismantle democracy and hack away at healthcare.
In case you somehow missed the latest drama, here’s a quick recap. On Thursday morning Trump, the man who is president of a supposedly civilized country, took to Twitter to attack the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He reserved most of his vitriol for anchor Mika Brzezinski who he described as “low IQ”, “Crazy”, and “bleeding badly from a facelift.”
If all of this sounds horribly familiar it’s because it is. Trump is constantly attacking women’s looks and clearly has a bizarre obsession with bodily fluids. In 2015, for example, he accused then-Fox News Host Megyn Kelly of unfairly targeting him, saying “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Despite the fact that Trump’s latest tweetstorm was entirely in character for the president, there were some in the media who still managed to express surprise at the outburst. Like Michael Grynbaum at the New York Times, for example, who wrote “President Trump assailed the television host Mika Brzezinski on Thursday in unusually personal and vulgar terms.” Sorry, did he say “unusually”? Exactly where has Grynbaum been for the last year?
And, on CNN, Brian Stelter wrote: “Even by President Trump’s standards, these tweets were shocking.” Again, you’d have to have been hiding under a rock for the last year to think that these latest tweets (although obviously disgusting) were somehow more shocking than the gazillion other ghastly things the president has said and done.
You want to know what’s truly shocking? The fact that, ultimately, Trump’s misogyny doesn’t hurt him at all; if anything it helps him. Sure there may be some short-lived outrage about his comments but let’s all remember how quickly the “grab them by the pussy” incident was forgotten.
 White House: Trump tweets didn’t go too far – video
Trump was elected president even after he was heard boasting about how liked to grab women without their consent – what’s more, 53% of white women voted for him. And if Trump were to run for president again tomorrow I have the feeling that 53% of white women would vote for him again. Misogyny runs deep in America and Trump has always used that to his advantage.
What’s more, internalized misogyny runs deep, too. A study last year by social intelligence company Brandwatch found that women were more likely than men to be misogynistic on Twitter. In an analysis of 19 million public tweets 52% of misogynistic tweets were written by women, and 48% were written by men.
Ed Crook, who lead the research, told Mashable that “women were most likely to use derogatory language pertaining to promiscuity, appearance and animals (eg bitch, cow, mare).” Crook stressed that the study wasn’t mean to vilify women but to demonstrate the “normalizing of misogynistic language.”
And, indeed, Trump’s latest comments about Mika Brzezinski will have done little to hurt him with his most high-profile female supporters. Ann Coulter, for example, tweeted that Trump’s Morning Joe tweets had renewed her love for the president.

Trump’s latest comments aren’t an aberration in America. The fact that the most powerful man in the country is tweeting these things is a sad reflection that misogyny is the status quo.

Trump targets Morning Joe co-hosts in latest Twitter tirade against media

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of Morning Joe, are engaged to be married. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Donald Trump attacked the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday, making an especially crude reference to anchor Mika Brzezinski “bleeding badly” from a facelift.
The president fired off at Brzezinski and co-host Joe Scarborough in a series of tweets posted just before their morning show was drawing to a close.
“I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore),” Trump wrote.
“Then how come low-IQ, crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
This is not the first time Trump has taken aim at Morning Joe – a popular early-morning politics show – for being critical in its coverage of him. But his comments about Brzezinski drew immediate comparisons to Trump’s feud with then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, and his assertion during the election that she had “blood coming out of her wherever” while moderating a Republican primary debate.
“She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions,” Trump said of Kelly in a CNN interview at the time. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base.”
Trump denied he was referring to Kelly’s menstrual cycle, and remained unapologetic despite the subsequent backlash. Trump has a history of making vulgar comments about women – he referred to Rosie O’Donnell as a “fat pig” and a “slob”, and called Arianna Huffington a “dog”. He was criticized this week for making comments about the appearance of Caitriona Perry, an Irish journalist.
Trump once shared a friendly rapport with the Morning Joe hosts, frequently calling in to their program during the Republican primaries. But Trump began levying personal attacks against the duo during the general election, deeming their coverage of him unfair.
Trump once threatened to “tell the real story” of Scarborough’s relationship with Brzezinski (the co-hosts are engaged to be married). In that instance, Trump made similarly gendered remarks about Brzezinski by referring to her as Scarborough’s “very insecure long-time girlfriend” and “a neurotic and not very bright mess”.
While Scarborough and Brzezinski were sighted at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on New Year’s Eve, Scarborough publicly denied they were there to participate in the festivities. “Nothing that Mika and I did in setting up this meeting was any different than what all good reporters and news hosts try to do daily,” Scarborough said in January, adding: “I hope we get the interview.”
Trump’s latest tirade follows a renewal of his attacks on the media, which included a tweet storm on Wednesday against the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN over their recent coverage of his presidency.
  White House: Trump tweets didn’t go too far – video
Melania Trump pledged to combat cyberbullying as first lady, although little action has followed since her husband took office.
In a statement to reporters on Thursday, the first lady’s spokesperson said: “As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”
Top White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed this on Fox News. “This is a president who fights fire with fire, and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media,” Sanders said.
Later at the White House press briefing she denied that Trump had gone too far with the tweets. “I think the president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts, by members on that programme, and I think he’s been very clear that when he gets attacked, he’s going to hit back,” she told reporters. “I think the American people elected somebody who’s tough, who’s smart and who’s a fighter and that’s Donald Trump.”
Sanders complained that Morning Joe had repeatedly used phrases such as “utterly stupid”, “personality disorder” and “mentally ill” in reference to the president and called his allies “liars” to their faces. “He’s not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites, and when they hit him he’s going to hit back,” she added, while insisting that he has never promoted violence.
The deputy press secretary rejected the argument that Trump had been sexist in drawing attention to a woman’s looks. “Look, everyone wants to make this an ‘attack on a woman’. What about the constant attacks that he receives or the rest of us? I’m a woman and I’ve been attacked by this show multiple times but I don’t cry foul because of it. I think you want to create this false narrative: on the one hand let’s treat everybody equally, on the other hand they attack, attack, attack and he responds and apparently that’s wrong.”
But the tweet met immediate condemnation from a number of congressional Republicans. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted: “Mr President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska took a more indirect approach, begging: “Please just stop. This isn’t normal, and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”
Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, the second highest ranking Republican woman in the House of Representatives, tweeted: “This is not OK. As a female in politics I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women.”
Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said the president’s “bullying” tweets were “an attack on women everywhere”.
She said: “Trump has a long pattern of making demeaning, sexist and discriminatory comments about the women who take him on. The fact that they happen frequently doesn’t make them OK. From his Twitter slurs to his policies, we have a president who continues to show us he has no regard for women and whose comments demean the office he holds.”

Brzezinski herself responded on Twitter with an image that appeared to mock the size of the president’s hands.

Farmers join fight against Adani coalmine over environmental concerns

More than 2,000 farmers and agriculture leaders express concern proposed Carmichael coalmine could affect groundwater, biodiversity and climate change

Angus Emmott
Longreach farmer Angus Emmott launched a petition calling on the Queensland government to rescind its commitment to give Adani unlimited free access to groundwater used by farmers. Photograph:

A group of Australian farmers have joined the large coalition of groups fighting against Adani’s giant Carmichael coalmine, after they became concerned about the affects the mine would have on groundwater, biodiversity, rural communities and climate change.
Farmers for Climate Action – a group of more than 2,000 farmers and agriculture leaders concerned about climate change – became the newest group to join the Stop Adani alliance last week, at the same time as one of its members attracted more than 30,000 signatures to a petition calling on the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to rescind her commitment to give Adani unlimited free access to groundwater used by farmers in the region.
Longreach farmer Angus Emmott launched the petition last week; a few days later he had an accident on his farm and had to be airlifted to hospital. When he checked on the number of signatures on Wednesday, he was shocked to see there were nearly 30,000.
“I thought maybe I’d get a thousand signatures,” he told Guardian Australia. “I know a lot of people are concerned – but there’s a difference between being concerned and taking the time to sit down and fill out a petition.”
He said he started the petition after speaking with other farmers who were concerned about the premier’s decision to give Adani an unlimited water licence, he said.
“It’s too big a danger for the future,” Emmott said. “We need clean water. We need good soil. We need food security. And we have the potential to be a leader in renewable energy in Queensland. We don’t need to be reviving an outdated technology.”
Excited by the number of signatures, Emmott decided to try to get a meeting with Palaszczuk and deliver the petition in person. “The doc says I should take it easy after my accident, but as soon as I get the all-clear to travel I’ll fly to Brisbane to deliver the petition in person. I might bring a few other farmers with me too,” he said in an update posted on the petition website.
Emmott said it appeared a lot of farmers have signed the petition, as well as people in cities who share his concerns. He said he hopes to reach 50,000 signatures before he delivers the petition to Palaszczuk.
The Farmers for Climate Action chief executive, Verity Morgan-Schmidt, said the group had decided to join the Stop Adani alliance mainly because of impacts the proposal would have on groundwater, but also because of concerns about biodiversity, rural communities and the climate. The decision brought the number of groups in the Stop Adani alliance to 13.
“No one can tell us, with any confidence, what impact this project could have on water supplies from underground aquifers because there is no independent or government oversight, or trigger levels that would halt mining,” Morgan-Schmidt said.
In April, Palaszczuk announced the Queensland government had granted the mine a free unlimited 60-year water licence. The licence acknowledges this will “have an impact on the underground water levels in the region of the mine” both during and after the planned Carmichael coalmine’s years of operation.
Another major concern about the environmental impacts of the proposed mine has been that it would wipe out the most important habitat of the threatened black-throated finch.
Compensating for the loss of habitat – which Adani has been given federal government approval to do with “biodiversity offsetting” – was not possible since the best remaining habitat would be impacted by the Carmichael mine, according to experts from James Cook University in Townsville.
  Fact v fiction: Adani's Carmichael coal mine – video explainer

Reserve Bank boss Philip Lowe urges workers to push for pay rises

Posted yesterday at 9:23am

It wasn't quite Karl Marx, but, for a central bank boss, it was heady stuff: The Reserve Bank governor, no less, exhorting workers to demand higher pay rises.
One could almost imagine Phil Lowe breaking out into a stirring rendition of The Internationale: "Arise ye workers from your slumber, arise ye prisoners of want ..."
Well, almost.
For decades, calling on the workers to demand wage justice was the last thing you were likely to hear from the boffins who walk the hallowed halls of 65 Martin Place.
On the contrary, workers and unions were admonished for demanding pay rises; blamed for threatening to fuel inflation, undermine the profit share of national income and ruin the economy.
How times have changed. Today, the wage-price spiral is dead and gone. The economy is facing what the Reserve Bank governor calls "a crisis of low pay".
The wage price index, the most reliable indicator of labour costs, is at a record low. The profit share of national income is soaring, while the share going to workers is equal to the lowest level since the Second World War.
Low pay is dragging on economic growth and the stagnation of wages sits uneasily with record household debt levels, creating concerns about what might happen when interest rates begin to rise.

Although the Reserve Bank has denied that wages stagnation threatens financial stability, some experts believe it is a concern.
"I think the reason why this comes out of the central bank, particularly under this governor, is that there is growing concern about default risk in Australian households," said emeritus professor Dick Bryan, a political economist, who for years has been writing about the shifting of financial risk onto workers and household balance sheets.
"From the head of the finance industry in Australia, you would say there are alarm bells. People just don't have enough discretionary income.
"Will they default on their mortgages, or their telephone bills or their electricity bills? But people are in a position where they going to start defaulting on bills if they don't get more income.
"This governor has been talking risk in households and a housing price bubble in a way that previous governors haven't. His comments [on low pay] are acknowledging a vulnerability that was hitherto unacknowledged."

Employment rights have shifted away from workers

But what's the remedy?
The Reserve Bank governor seems to assume that workers have more bargaining power than they realise.
In his recent comments, he argued that workers were not demanding pay rises because they feared job displacement by foreign workers and robots - fears he implied were overblown.
But it may well be that he is underestimating how profoundly structural changes in the world of work, and 30 years of legal changes designed to curb workers' collective power, have undermined the capacity of working people to secure decent pay and conditions.
"Obviously, there is a handful of people at the top of the labour market, senior executives and managers and a few professionals who are able to do really well under a deregulated system," observed Professor Andrew Stewart of Adelaide University, one of Australia's foremost labour law academics.
"But, for most workers, weaker unions, tighter government controls on government spending and outsourced government services are all combining to make it really, really hard for workers to get wage increases."
Governments might have achieved cost-savings and efficiencies from competition reforms that exposed public services to the discipline of the market, competitively tendering work and contracting out services to the lowest bidder, but the gains have often come at the expense of workers' pay and conditions.

Army of precarious workers

Curiously, Phil Lowe downplayed the impact of the decline in secure full-time jobs and the rise of precarious employment as a cause of pay stagnation.
But it's plain that casual workers, workers on short-term contracts and labour hire workers who don't have the security of permanent hire often aren't in a strong position to bargain for better pay.
Just as critically, the risk, or threat, of work being outsourced to casuals and labour hire workers helps to keep permanent staff in line.

Video: The RBA Governor is urging workers to demand better pay (The Business)

There's a giant army of precarious workers.
According to the ABS, in a workforce of 11 million, nearly 2.5 million employees have no paid leave entitlements and about a million workers - one-in-nine - are self-employed contractors, though a share of that group is likely in sham contract arrangements - employees denied the rights and benefits that come with employment.
The change in the workforce that's occurred over the past quarter century is profound.
Some 40 per cent of the workforce was unionised in 1992; now fewer than 15 per cent of workers belong to a union, and unionisation rates in the private sector will soon hit single figures.
These trends aren't unique to Australia and neither is pay stagnation.
Britain, the United States and other countries are all suffering the problem, with declining union density, globalisation putting pressure on wages and the rise of precarious employment in the so-called "gig economy" playing a role.

Most workers now on their own

So dire is the situation in Britain that the chief economist at the Bank of England has likened the situation to the days before the industrial revolution when there were no trade unions and self-employment was rife.
It was widely viewed as self-evident until recently that there was a fundamental inequality between the bargaining power of individual workers and employers, and a need for strong collective bargaining rights.
Now, most workers are on their own.
Yet few countries have gone as far as Australia in denying basic bargaining rights to workers.
"Our laws on industrial action are some of the most restrictive, if not the most restrictive, in the developed world," argues Professor Stewart.

Employees' rights to protect their employment in the negotiation process is also highly circumscribed, with restrictions on the ability of workers and unions to seek clauses limiting the use of casual workers or outsourcing work to labour hire firms.
The 7-Eleven scandal, and numerous other instances that have emerged since, show wage theft - the deliberate and systematic underpayment of wages - is rife.
The ability of unions to police wage theft has been undermined by tough legislative restrictions on unions' rights of entry, so the task has fallen to the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman, which has a fraction of the resources it needs to undertake the daunting task.
Recently, we've seen the Workplace Relations Commission accept employers' arguments that workers should be pushed back onto basic award conditions as the floor for negotiating new pay deals.

Does the RBA need to argue for more union power?

It's a 180-degree turnaround from times not so long gone, when wages in Australia were set by quasi-judicial officers on an industrial tribunal through centralised wage fixing, and the pay gains won by strong unions in the field flowed on to the weak through the award system.
"The whole terms of debate have shifted from that 30-year ago problem that workers would cause inflation and union strength would see wages pushed up and the profit share pushed down and the economy would grind to a halt," noted Professor Bryan.
"We've now flipped over to exactly the opposite problem."
No one is seriously suggesting there be a return to centralised wage fixing.
But there's a strong argument to say that at least part of the reason for the "crisis of low pay" is that the law is skewed too far against working people's rights to collectively bargain.

"It's great to have that ambition of workers being able to demand wage increases," said Professor Andrew Stewart, "but you've got 30 years of policy working against that."
"We have an industrial environment that was designed to disempower workers and disempower unions," added Dick Bryan.
"We are now seeing that it has shifted the power balance way too much in favour of employers and workers aren't getting the share that is needed for economic stability."
The Reserve Bank backed laws designed to undermine labour power in response to concerns - legitimate at the time - about wage inflation.
Is it now willing to consider that the pendulum has swung too far?