Election minus five weeks

Candidates on both sides of the aisle drop out of contention, Peter Dutton suffers a self-inflicted wound in Dickson, and Shooters Fishers and Farmers rein in their expectations.

Two days in the campaign, and already much to relate:

• Labor’s audacious gambit of running former Fremantle MP Melissa Parke in Curtin has proved short-lived, after a controversy brewed over comments she had made critical of Israel. Parke announced her withdrawal after the Herald Sun presented the Labor campaign with claims she had told a meeting of WA Labor for Palestine that she could “remember vividly” – presumably not from first-hand experience – a pregnant refugee being ordered to drink bleach at a Gaza checkpoint. Parke is also said to have spoken of Israel’s “influence in our political system and foreign policy”, no doubt bringing to the party hierarchy’s mind the turmoil that has lately engulfed the British Labour Party in relation to such matters. In her statement last night, Parke said her views were “well known, but I don’t want them to be a running distraction from electing a Labor government”. James Campbell of the Herald Sun notes the forum was also attended by Parkes’ successor in Fremantle, Josh Wilson.

• Meanwhile, Liberal Party vetting processes have caused the withdrawal on Section 44 grounds of three candidates in who-cares seats in Melbourne. They are Cooper candidate Helen Jackson, who dug her heels in when told her no-chance candidacy required her to abandon her job at Australia Post, so that the integrity of executive-legislative relations might be preserved; Lalor candidate Kate Oski, who is in danger of being Polish; and Wills candidate Vaishali Ghosh, who was, as The Age put it in a report I hope no one from overseas reads, “forced to step aside over her Indian heritage”.

• Peter Dutton has been under fire for his rhetorical overreach against Ali France, the Labor candidate in his marginal seat of Dickson. Dutton accused France, who had her leg amputated after being hit by a car in 2011, of “using her disability as an excuse” for not moving into the electorate. France lives a short distance outside it, and points to the $100,000 of her compensation money she has spent making her existing home fully wheelchair accessible. Labor has taken the opportunity to point to Dutton’s failed attempt from 2009 to move to the safer seat of McPherson on the Gold Coast, where he owns a $2.3 million beachside holiday home, and by all accounts spends a great deal of his time. Dutton refused to apologise for the comments yesterday, while Scott Morrison baselessly asserted that they were taken out of context.

Greg Brown of The Australian reports Robert Borsak, leader of Shooters Fishers and Farmers and one of the party’s state upper house MPs, concedes the party is struggling to recruit candidates, and will not repeat its state election feat of winning seats in the lower house. Nonetheless, it has Orange deputy mayor Sam Romano lined up as its candidate for Calare and plans to run in Eden-Monaro, Parkes and possibly New England. This follows suggestions the party might pose a threat to the Nationals in Parkes and Farrer, which largely correspond with the state seats of Barwon and Murray, which the party won at last month’s state election. Calare encompasses Orange, which Shooters have held since a November 2016 by-election.

• “I don’t trust our polling at all”, says “a senior federal Liberal MP” cited by John Ferguson in The Australian, apropos the party’s prospects in Victoria. It is not clear if the source was being optimistic or pessimistic, but the report identifies a range of opinion within the Liberal camp extending from only two or three losses in Victoria – likewise identified as a “worst case scenario” by Labor sources – to as many as seven.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

1,433 comments on “Election minus five weeks”

  1. KJ

    You blithely talk about nuclear power as if it is a viable option that can just be accomplished in a couple of years time span. This is just not the case. All over the world, nuclear plants have been commenced, then abandoned, years behind schedule, and with massive cost overruns. The biggest nuclear power plant company, Westinghouse, then owned by Toshiba, filed for banktruptcy in the USA. Two plants in South Carolina, being built by Westinghouse, were abandoned 3 years behind schedule, less than 40% complete, after spending $9 billion, which was more than the contracted completion cost. The Westinghouse company has since been taken over by a private investment company.

    This is a typical story, unfortunately. The nuclear industry is very good at boasting about new ‘contracts’, but very poor indeed in actually completing plants, and bringing them on line.

  2. WeWantPaul, what has actually happened? You mean deaths from nuclear?

    More people have been killed by roof top solar than by nuclear. You want to run that line with nuclear, you need to run it with solar and wind also.

    Briefly, plenty of R&D advancements still to come with nuclear. To say otherwise is incredibly naive.

  3. ‘Base load’ simply misnames the need to run coal-fired boilers at night when there is little or no demand for the electricity they could produce. There is an inbuilt inefficiency in this. The cost of day-time electricity reflects the losses involved in running boilers when they’re running way below their break-even output level. Coal-fired boilers can never price-out electricity at its marginal cost. The same is probably also true of nuclear reactors, which cannot be shut down overnight and restarted at sunrise.

  4. “More people have been killed by roof top solar than by nuclear. ”

    Hmmm… a bit arguable if you consider casualties from contamination incidents. Minor things like Chernobyl…….

  5. WeWantPaul @ #993 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 1:38 pm

    Also, scare campaigns, such as that against nuclear, works more than facts.

    You really can’t call a position based on something that has actually happened ‘a scare campaign’, doing so gives the arguments around it a very Abbottesque flavour.

    The arguements about where to place a nuclear power plant would probably last 20 years (including court cases) before they could start building and commissioning. Reference the waste disposal site. This would be 100x worse.

  6. In the argument about nuclear power, it seems to be assumed that nuclear is emission free.
    My understanding is that it produces large amounts of radioactive waste that has to be buried for thousands of years, preferably in Aboriginal tribal grounds. Doesn’t that count as pollution?
    Of course CO2 and CH4 are nasty but so is Sr90
    If you use hydrogen cell technology, for cars, your car produces WATER! Drought striken farmers will bless you!

  7. “However, we are just at the bottom of the curve with renewables. The gains will come exponentially.”

    Solar really is the power of the future. Go and look up into the sky tonight. Every one of those stars you can see, plus the zillions more that you can’t see, are all massive solar generators. The universe is literally full of solar power. It’s probably the one thing we won’t need to take with us if humans ever travel to distant stars. It’s already there just waiting for us to arrive.

  8. Donald J. TrumpVerified account@realDonaldTrump
    2h2 hours ago
    Just out: The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities. We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!

    Laughable. Trump would kill for the huge budget surplus the state of California is running, compared to the record deficit the Trump Administration has racked up. We know who the poor economic manager really is!

  9. “More people have been killed by roof top solar than by nuclear.”

    The relatives of the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki may strongly disagree with that comment.

  10. shiftaling @ #999 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 1:47 pm

    What’s the solution for the very long term management of nuclear waste? In the absence of that it’s lunacy

    Quick answer is Deep Burial. The issue is how you define “safe”. Some nuclear waste remains dangerous for 10,000s of years. Nevertheless there are proposed engineering solutions. And BTW Australia is uniquely “blessed” as a nuclear waste repository. We could live off the money other countries pay us to look after the waste. Sort of a reverse Arab Oil situation. (I think this was actually proposed to the Hawke or Keating government, and rejected.)

  11. KJ

    I see that you have quoted the ‘over 50 plants under construction’ figure quoted by the industry lobby group the ‘World Nuclear Association’. I took a screen shot of their table for 2018. It is worth noting that their current list of plants coming on line in 2019 consists almost completely of plants that they listed as coming on line in 2018 last year. They have listed Olkiluoto 3 as coming on line every year for the last 8 years. The company itself says 2020. The plant cost triple the contracted amount.

    Nuclear is very attractive in theory. Much less so in practical, built reality , especially in countries that are not autocracies.

  12. Laura Tingle @latingle
    4h4 hours ago

    From a friend: Winx for PM!
    Way ahead in the polls.
    Vegan.
    Intelligent.
    Doesn’t shoot her mouth off.
    Woman.
    Finishes super-strong.
    Certified s44-compliant.
    Good nag > knackers nags.
    Resuscitates the ‘donkey vote’.
    Minor methane issues only.

  13. “What’s the solution for the very long term management of nuclear waste? In the absence of that it’s lunacy”

    From what I’ve read* – possibly recycling the worst parts – those transauric elements – into starter rods for thorium sub critical reactors: apparently the waste is consumed and the byproducts are low level waste that can then be stored in something like CSIRO’s synrock for about 200 years before the level of radiation returns to about background levels. This turns a 100,000+ year mega problem into a manageable 200 off year problem.

    * relying on my faulty memory of a 15 year old Cosmos magazine article.

    Edited to add in link to that Cosmos article I referred to:
    http://energy.cleartheair.org.hk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Thorium.pdf

  14. Late Riser @2:04
    So U propose that OZ is a superb rubbish dump? Let’s set up convict colonies as well. Oh we tried that!! Hell we sub contract that sort of thing to Nauru

  15. Gippslander says:
    Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    In the argument about nuclear power, it seems to be assumed that nuclear is emission free.
    My understanding is that it produces large amounts of radioactive waste that has to be buried for thousands of years, preferably in Aboriginal tribal grounds. Doesn’t that count as pollution?
    Of course CO2 and CH4 are nasty but so is Sr90
    If you use hydrogen cell technology, for cars, your car produces WATER! Drought striken farmers will bless you!

    Water and water vapour are greenhouse substances.

    Just compare the temperature on cloudy and clear nights.

    Just saying! 🙂

  16. Gippslander, to be clearer. The argument is that if it doesn’t make sense in Australia it doesn’t make sense anywhere. That it was ever contemplated was down to three things: (1) Stable geology. (2) Stable society. (3) Low population density.

  17. B in M N @2:13
    “Water and water vapour are greenhouse substances.”
    Oh God! We’ve got to get rid of Clouds! I know, let’s seed them with AgI. As for the Oceans, lets dry them up with plaster of Paris!

  18. KJ @ #989 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 1:32 pm

    Sceptic, there are currently 50 plants under construction worldwide in 15 different countries.

    All I really want is for it not to be illegal, for regulations to be equivalent for all energy sources and for a carbon price so that the market has the opportunity to choose.

    @C@t, I can’t stand the federal Liberal Government. There are plenty of people who have no association with conservative politics at all that are not anti nuclear.

    Also, the Liberal approach really highlights the situation well. Without nuclear, you have coal or gas. Also, scare campaigns, such as that against nuclear, works more than facts.

    I have studied this issue and even my preferred modality of Nuclear Power generation:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_modular_reactor

    The PBMR is characterised by inherent safety features, which mean that no human error or equipment failure can cause an accident that would harm the public

    has been mothballed, which this paper explains the reasons for:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20120111154905/http://juwel.fz-juelich.de:8080/dspace/bitstream/2128/3136/1/Juel_4275_Moormann.pdf

    So, basically, there is no safe method of producing nuclear power, even if it may be true that it does not produce the sort of emissions that lead to Anthropogenic Climate Change. It has its own set of problems which also affect our world in a negative way.

  19. Late Riser @ #1014 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 2:04 pm

    shiftaling @ #999 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 1:47 pm

    What’s the solution for the very long term management of nuclear waste? In the absence of that it’s lunacy

    Quick answer is Deep Burial. The issue is how you define “safe”. Some nuclear waste remains dangerous for 10,000s of years. Nevertheless there are proposed engineering solutions. And BTW Australia is uniquely “blessed” as a nuclear waste repository. We could live off the money other countries pay us to look after the waste. Sort of a reverse Arab Oil situation. (I think this was actually proposed to the Hawke or Keating government, and rejected.)

    1 February 2014: Designed to last ten thousand years, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site approximately 26 miles (42 km) east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, United States, had its first leak of airborne radioactive materials.[91][92] 140 employees working underground at the time were sheltered indoors. Thirteen of these tested positive for internal radioactive contamination increasing their risk for future cancers or health issues. A second leak at the plant occurred shortly after the first, releasing plutonium and other radiotoxins causing concern to nearby communities. The source of the drum rupture has been traced to the use of organic kitty litter at the WCRRF packaging facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the drum was packaged and prepared for shipment.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents_and_incidents#Radiation_and_other_accidents_and_incidents

  20. Love the complaining about nuclear waste but not solar waste.
    Waste will also be used in new tech reactors.

    Rooftop solar has a mortality rate of of 440 people per pWh.
    Nuclear is 90 people per pWh. This includes even the largest disasters.

  21. C@t

    One correction to your comment. There is no safe method of producing electricity.

    What you need to discuss is the scale. Everything we do has a mortality risk. Bridges and tunnels are likely to have a higher mortality rate than renewables or nuclear. Yet we don’t stop these because we understand the benefits outweigh the unfortunate costs.

    Sorry, I’ve sidetracked the thread. I’ll change my topic of conversation now.

  22. frednk: “Nuclear is finished; to much real estate involved when their is an accident.”

    Correct – Nuclear is a “land factor” based method of energy production

    That’s why the land speculators (= rentiers) like to promote it.

    Coal is the same (resource extraction is likewise a land factor)

    We need to move to energy production with higher capital factors (and ideally high labour factors too) and when land factors are involved, make sure it is very low value land (Australia has a real advantage in this respect)

    So:
    – rooftop solar: high capital factor, moderate labour factor, otherwise unused land factor (roof tops)
    – large scale solar with storage: high capital factor (even better if directly attached to energy consuming businesses such as greenhouse, smelters, etc) , moderate-low labour factor (but higher if attached to energy consuming businesses), moderate land factor, but fortuitously is out best on low-value land (e.g. Pt Augusta, Whyalla etc.)
    – on shore wind farm: high capital factor, moderate-low labour factor, moderate land factor (best if integrated into lowish value farming land (e.g. Jamestown)
    – off shore wind farm (stalled in Aus?): high capital factor, moderate-low labour factor, low land factor? (off shore currently unused?)
    – wave farm (stalled in Aus and elsewhere?): high capital factor, moderate-low labour factor, low land factor? (off shore currently unused?). Perhaps good for island areas not currently well served (e.g. Kangaroo Island?)
    – hydro with dams: moderate capital factor, low labour factor (post construction)?, high land factor
    – storage/pumped in dams: increased capital factor, increased labour factor, increased? land factor
    – storage/pumped in caves etc: increased capital factor, increased labour factor, reduced land factor (currently unused land)

    etc.

  23. From Cosmos, April 2006:

    “According to Reza Hashemi-Nezhad, a nuclear physicist at the University of Sydney who has been studying the thorium fuel cycle, the most important point is that they both can absorb neutrons and transmute into fissile elements. “From the neutron-absorption point of view, U-238 is very similar to Th-232”, he said.
    It’s these similarities that make thorium a potential alternative fuel for nuclear reactors.
    What makes thorium suitable as a nuclear fuel is that it is fertile, much like U-238.
    Natural thorium (Th-232) absorbs a neutron and quickly transmutes into unstable Th-233 and then into protactinium Pa-233, before quickly decaying into U-233, says Hashemi- Nezhad. The beauty of this complicated process is that the U-233 that’s produced at the end of this breeding process is similar to U-235 and is fissile, making it suitable as a nuclear fuel. In this way, it talks like uranium and walks like uranium, but it ain’t your common-or-garden variety uranium.
    And this is where it gets interesting: thorium has a very different fuel cycle to uranium.
    As a result, the waste produced from burning thorium in a reactor is dramatically less radioactive than conventional nuclear waste.
    unique differences between thorium and uranium that make it a potentially superior fuel. First of all,
    But it’s the
    unlike U-235 and Pu-239, thorium is not fissile, so no matter how much thorium you pack together, it
    will not start splitting atoms and blow up. This is because it cannot undergo nuclear fission by itself
    and it cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction once one starts. It’s a wannabe atom splitter incapable
    of taking the grand title.
    significant benefit of thorium’s journey comes from the fact that it is a lighter element than uranium.
    Th
    The most
    While it’s fertile, it doesn’t produce as many heavy and as many highly radioactive by-products. The
    absence of U-238 in the process also means that no plutonium is bred in the reactor.
    Where a uranium-fuelled reactor like many of those operating today
    might generate a tonne of high-level waste that stays toxic for tens of thousands of years, a reactor
    fuelled only by thorium will generate a fraction of this amount. And it would stay radioactive for only
    500 years – after which it would be as manageable as coal ash.
    Th
    Thorium
    So not only would there be less waste, the waste generated would need to be locked up for only five per cent of the time compared to most nuclear waste. Not surprisingly, the technical challenges in storing a smaller amount for 500 years are much lower than engineering something to be solid, secure and discreet for 10,000 years.
    This is especially significant when it comes to plutonium, which has proven very hard to dispose of using conventional means.

    So not only would there be less waste, the waste generated would need to be locked up for only five per cent of the time compared to most nuclear waste. Not surprisingly, the technical challenges in storing a smaller amount for 500 years are much lower than engineering something to be solid, secure and discreet for 10,000 years.
    This is especially significant when it comes to plutonium, which has proven very hard to dispose of using conventional means.
    Current programs used for the disposal of plutonium reactor by-products and weapons-grade material using the MOX process are both expensive and complex. Furthermore, thorium proponents say that in conventional reactors, MOX fuel doesn’t use plutonium as efficiently nor in the same volumes as thorium fuel would at lower cost.
    So thorium might just be able to kill two birds with one stone. Not only does a thorium- fuelled reactor produce significantly less high-level waste, but it can also dispose of the decommissioned nuclear weapons and highly radioactive waste from nuclear reactors using more conventional fuels. Oh yes, it can also generate electricity.
    SO WHY ISN’T EVERYONE using thorium reactors? The main drawback to thorium is that it’s not vigorously fissile, and it needs a source of neutrons to kick off the reaction.
    Unlike enriched uranium, which can be left to its own devices to start producing power, thorium needs a bit of coaxing.
    Thorium also cannot maintain criticality on its own; that is, it can’t sustain a nuclear reaction once it has been started. This means the U-233 produced at the end of the thorium fuel cycle doesn’t pump out enough neutrons when it splits to keep the reaction self-sustaining: eventually the reaction fizzles out. It’s why a reactor using thorium fuel is often called a ‘sub-critical’ reactor.
    The main stumbling block until now has been how to provide thorium fuel with enough neutrons to keep the reaction going, and do so in an efficient and economical way.
    In recent years two new technologies have been developed to do just this.
    One company that has already begun developing thorium-fuelled nuclear power is the aptly named Thorium Power, based just outside Washington DC. The way Thorium Power gets around the sub- criticality of thorium is to create mixed fuels using a combination of enriched uranium, plutonium and thorium.
    At the centre of the fuel rod is the ‘seed’ for the reaction, which contains plutonium.
    Wrapped around the core is the ‘blanket’, which is made from a mixture of uranium and thorium. The seed then provides the necessary neutrons to the blanket to kick-start the thorium fuel cycle. Meanwhile, the plutonium and uranium are also undergoing fission.
    The primary benefit of Thorium Power’s system is that it can be used in existing nuclear plants with slight modification, such as Russian VVER-1000 reactors. Seth Grae, president and chief executive of Thorium Power, and his team are actively working with the Russians to develop a commercial product by the end of this decade. They already have thorium fuel running in the IR-8 research reactor at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow.
    “In the first quarter of 2008, we expect to have lead test assemblies in a full-size commercial nuclear power plant in Russia,” said Grae.
    But wait, there’s more: thorium has another remarkable property. Add plutonium to the mix
    – or any other radioactive actinide – and the thorium fuel process will actually incinerate
    these elements. That’s right: it will chew up old nuclear waste as part of the power-generation process. It could not only generate power, but also act as a waste disposal plant
    for some of humanity’s most heinous toxic waste.”

  24. Barney, yes, water vapour is a greenhouse gas. But once it reaches a certain concentration it condenses into clouds and falls back out of the sky. CO2 doesn’t do that it just increases and increases.

  25. E. G. Theodore
    It’s the accidents. Coal destroys square miles of low grade country ( fly over the open cuts in Queensland if you don’t believe). Nuclear accidents destroy 100 sq miles of prime real estate.

  26. @KJ

    Ignorance is a bliss.

    Coal has over 100,000 deaths global
    Coal has 170,000 deaths in China.
    Coal in US over 10,000 deaths.

    280,000 or more deaths by Coal alone.

    36,000 deaths by Oil.
    4,000 Natural Gas.
    24,000 Biofuel/biomass.

    440 deaths by Solar.

    I know exactly where you get your source from!

  27. Tom, I was involved in some of the statistical design studies for the WIPP. Not the handling mind you, which seems to be where the releases occurred that you linked to. (And would be occurring in more than one location in the USA as they continue to put off long term storage.) The team I was with had the job of figuring out how it could all go wrong.

    The principle behind the WIPP is that salt creeps shut and entombs whatever you bury. The biggest technical unknown turned out to be the water penetration rate that would eventually rust out the drums, pressurise the salt and force the radioactive daughter products back into the “environment”. The other unknown was societal drift. It is impossible to predict who or what would be controlling the area of the WIPP in 10,000 years.

  28. KJ @ #1033 Sunday, April 14th, 2019 – 2:27 pm

    C@t

    One correction to your comment. There is no safe method of producing electricity.

    What you need to discuss is the scale. Everything we do has a mortality risk. Bridges and tunnels are likely to have a higher mortality rate than renewables or nuclear. Yet we don’t stop these because we understand the benefits outweigh the unfortunate costs.

    However, as E.G.Theodore has outlined, we have a plethora of safer alternatives to Nuclear Power. Oh, and the Solar didn’t kill the people, poor WHS killed the people in the Solar Industry.

  29. Andrew_Earlwood,
    Guess who has the world’s largest supply of Thorium?

    Australia. And India. In fact, one of those deposits is here on the Central Coast of NSW.

  30. Has anyone given a thought to what might happen – as far as electricity production is concerned – if there is, say, a major volcanic eruption, or perhaps a largish (but not extinction-level) bolide collision with Earth causing a “nuclear winter” that substantially limits solar radiation reaching solar cells worldwide?

    And yes, I know there will be many other ramifications, such as crop failures, storms etc.

    But I guess what I’m asking is whether we shouldn’t keep at least some fossil, and perhaps nuclear generation capability as a national “reserve tank”?

    No ideological responses please. This is not an ideological question.

  31. “At the centre of the fuel rod is the ‘seed’ for the reaction, which contains plutonium.
    Wrapped around the core is the ‘blanket’, which is made from a mixture of uranium and thorium.”

    So a thorium reactor would actually be a plutonium-uranium-thorium reactor.

    That’s reassuring.

    No wonder there isn’t a single commercial “thorium” reactor in the world.

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