Ideology clouding climate debate: Flannery

The federal government’s former chief climate adviser says political ideology is obscuring the reality of climate change and renewable energy.

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Professor Tim Flannery has told a Brisbane conference Australia risks falling behind other countries in the green energy market if it does not accept “facts on the ground” regarding climate change.

Prof Flannery was sacked as head of the federal Climate Commission when Prime Minister Tony Abbott shut it down in September.

Speaking at an event run by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on Wednesday, he declined to comment directly on the federal government’s climate strategy.

But he said: “There are ideological positions which tend to obscure the reality of what is happening.

“That is something we cannot afford, particularly in this area, just because the changes are so great and so fast.

“We need to focus objectively on the best outcomes rather than what would be ideologically acceptable.”

Siemens Energy’s chief technology officer, Professor Dr Michael Weinhold, also spoke at the event about renewable energy systems in countries including Germany, which he said generated about 10 times as much electricity from solar power than Australia.

Prof Flannery said there was a “fundamental revolution” going on around the world.

“Many of the problems and issues Germany is facing, we will be facing in years to come,” he said.

“And many of the opportunities Germany is grasping now, we will have the potential to grasp in future.”

The 2007 Australian of the Year, Prof Flannery is now the chief climate councillor at the donation-funded Australian Climate Council.

It was launched after the government axed the taxpayer-funded commission set up in 2010 by the former Labor government to increase public awareness of climate-change science.

The commission was shut down on the second day of the coalition government.

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Shooting forces delay of Philippines mass burials: mayor

“We had finished digging the mass burial site.

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We had the truck loaded with bodies…but…there was some shooting….they could not proceed,” Alfred Romualdez said.

   

Forensics officers “were with them. But on their way there, they were asked to go back by the security escorts,” he said.

Follow the major developments of the Typhoon Haiyan aftermath with our Story Stream

   

“They were ordered to turn around by the (police).”

   

The delay is a further setback to authorities’ efforts to remove the scores of bodies that still litter streets in the areas worst hit by the enormous storm last Friday.

   

Doctors are warning that in the tropical heat of the Philippines, the bodies will soon become a source of disease.

   

Correspondents in the area report the smell of corpses hanging in the air while an official said the recovery of bodies had stopped because they “ran out of bags”.

FILIPINOS RUSH TO HELP TYPHOON SURVIVORS

Meanwhile, Filipinos abroad, who have spent harrowing days trying to contact loved ones after a typhoon devastated their homeland, are mobilising to send relief, despite misgivings about corrupt local officials pocketing aid on the ground.

With thousands feared dead and aid only trickling in after Super Typhoon Haiyan laid waste to entire coastal towns on Friday, many among the 10-million-strong nation are still frantically trying to find out if their relatives are alive and their homes still standing.

And from Asian capitals to the US and Europe, Filipino communities are taking to churches and social media sites to raise funds for communities left with nothing – and growing increasingly desperate.

SBS Radio’s Filipino program will host a two-hour radiothon on Friday (November 15) to raise funds for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines. The radiothon, airing in conjunction with the Australian Red Cross, will be broadcast on Friday from 10am to noon (AEST) on SBS Radio 2.

More information on how you can help can be found here.

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In-form North eyes Test return

Former Test batsman Marcus North continued his fine recent form with his second Sheffield Shield hundred of the summer for Western Australia against South Australia at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday.

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North scored a patient 110 off 213 balls to put the Warriors on track before Ashton Agar (39 not out) and Sam Whiteman (30no) combined for an unbeaten 69-run stand as the visitors finished the day on 6-269.

Redbacks captain Johan Botha (4-71) was the pick of the home side’s bowlers and grabbed the vital scalp of North, while fellow spin bowler Adam Zampa (2-63) also chipped in.

After securing a draw for the Warriors against Victoria with a classy 118no in the Shield opener at the MCG two weeks ago, North ground out another century to repel the Redbacks and is now eyeing a Test recall.

The 34-year-old is the competition’s leading run-scorer thus far and his return to form comes on the back of a tough 2012-13 domestic season which saw him relinquish the captaincy and consider quitting cricket after being dropped to club level.

But North, who scored five tons in 21 Tests, is now hoping to follow in the footsteps of former WA teammate Chris Rogers and earn a Test return in his mid-30s.

Rogers was recalled for the last Ashes series at the age of 35 following a domestic purple patch when most considered his Test career over following his sole appearance in the baggy green five years ago.

“The tough times I’ve had in the last year or so is probably making me more determined. I’m hungrier in the position I am now,” North said.

“This is arguably one of my better domestic starts to the season and I want to build on it; make it last the whole season.

“I enjoyed every opportunity I got to play for Australia, it was some of the best years of my career and I never took it granted.

“I’ve just got to score a truck load more runs, keep enjoying my cricket and you never know.”

North admits he has felt revitalised in his new role at the top of the order and credited coach and former Test opener Justin Langer for the switch that has allowed him to find rhythm again.

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Pell welcomes critical report

The Catholic Church’s “institutional failure” to respond appropriately to child abuse extends to its leader in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, a parliamentary inquiry reports.

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But Cardinal Pell says he welcomes the Victorian inquiry’s report and supports many of its recommendations.

The parliamentary inquiry into child abuse took Cardinal Pell to task in its report over his attempt to separate the church as a whole from the actions of senior religious figures it said had “minimalised and trivialised” the issue.

In a swipe at Cardinal Pell’s evidence, its report said that following repeated questioning he agreed some bishops and religious superiors had covered up the issue.

“That is quite different from the whole church … the whole church is not guilty of that,” he told the inquiry.

Cardinal Pell denied claims the church had trivialised child sex abuse.

“By the standards of common decency and by today’s standards, church authorities were not only slow to deal with the abuse, but sometimes did not deal with it in any appropriate way at all. This is indefensible,” Cardinal Pell said.

The committee also challenged Cardinal Pell over a speech he gave in Ireland in 2011 in which he said a Supreme Court judge had advised him the sex abuse scandal “would bleed us to death” if not cleaned up.

Its report said Cardinal Pell – the archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001 – seemed to indicate the church’s central aim was to safeguard its own interests.

The committee also rejected evidence of other church leaders that awareness of sexual abuse was “slow to percolate through society and the church”.

“Rather than being instrumental in exposing the issue and the extent of the problem, the Catholic Church in Victoria minimalised and trivialised the problem, contributed to abuse not being disclosed and ensured the community remained uninformed,” the report said.

Cardinal Pell said he supported recommendations for the creation of a government-established independent, alternative avenue for justice for victims of child abuse.

He said a recommendation for the Catholic Church to become incorporated, and therefore capable of being sued, was being examined.

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Syrian army seizes town south of capital

The Syrian army has seized a town south of Damascus in its campaign to cut off eastern neighbourhoods of the capital that are home to rebels, state television says.

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“The army has taken town of Hujeira,” the television channel said on Wednesday.

The military has for months edged closer to rebel positions in the southern districts of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The town is totally under the control of the army after three days of fighting. This has tightened the noose on armed terrorist groups,” said a senior regime security official.

“It gives a new dimension to securing the southern entrance of Damascus and cutting supply lines to the terrorist groups present south of Damascus,” he told AFP.

President Bashar al-Assad’s regime branded opponents as “terrorists” when Arab Spring-inspired protests broke out in March 2011, before the movement took up arms.

The relentless fighting is estimated to have killed more than 120,000 people, uprooted millions from their homes and trapped tens of thousands of civilians.

Meanwhile jihadist rebels in Aleppo in northern Syria have called for mass mobilisation to counter regime advances on the country’s former commercial hub after a string of setbacks for the Islamists.

Watchdog the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) put out an urgent bulletin on Tuesday.

It called on “all brigades and Muslims to arms to face off against the enemy which is attacking Islamic territory”.

“Those with a valid excuse not to fight must supply weapons and money,” added the communique, which acknowledged “many losses in fighting for Base 80, Khanasser and Sfeira”.

It said President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, which it dubbed “the Alawite army”, had taken “part of the road linking Khanasser, Tal-Aran and Sfeira because of the weakness of rebel groups”.

The bulletin put this down to “many rebel units withdrawing from the combat zone”.

Six Islamist rebel groups, among them Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and Liwa al-Tawhid, had on Monday issued a general call to arms in Aleppo “to face up to regime attacks”.

A military source said on Monday the army had secured most of the area around Aleppo International Airport and could reopen the facility which fighting has kept closed for nearly a year.

This came after regime forces retook Base 80, a strategic facility charged with securing the airport just outside the country’s second city.

Aleppo airport was closed at the start of the year amid security concerns as rebels launched a campaign to seize several airfields in the area.

Advances by the army follow the fall of Sfeira southeast of Aleppo. It was recaptured by regime troops at the beginning of November, after months in rebel hands.

Both state media and the Observatory said on Monday the army had also secured Tal-Aran town, one of the last areas under rebel control on the Sfeira-Aleppo road.

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