Greens want electricity price regulation

The Greens are calling for the regulation of state electricity prices by the end of the year to drive down the cost of energy.

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NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia should be given until the end of 2017 to re-regulate electricity prices, the Greens say.

And if the states fail to do so, the party wants the commonwealth to put the Australian Energy Regulator in charge of pricing.

“Deregulating electricity prices has failed. It is time the government stepped in and capped electricity prices,” Greens MP Adam Bandt said on Tuesday night.

Under the Greens proposal, retailers would be required to provide a default standard offer based on the average regulated price in the ACT, above which retailers could not charge.

The cap would be determined by the states or the AER, and would result in prices in NSW, Victoria, SA and southeast Queensland being effectively frozen at or below 2017 levels in real terms, the Greens say.

They say based on a typical household, yearly bills are on average $2771 in SA, $2218 in Victoria and $2198 in NSW – all of which have been deregulated. This compares with $1576 in the ACT, which is still regulated.

The Greens proposals come on the eve of electricity company chiefs being hauled before the prime minister’s office to outline how they can help lower prices.

Energy Australia, Momentum Energy, Simply Energy, Alinta Energy, Origin Energy, AGL and Snowy Hydro are expected to front up on Wednesday, together with peak body the Australian Energy Council.

Malcolm Turnbull says households are paying far higher electricity prices than needed because they aren’t getting the best possible deals.

He blames a lack of transparency by retailers and the difficulty in switching providers.

Kenyans flock to vote in high-stakes elections

From first-time voters to those bent with age, from urbanites to ethnic Samburu warriors draped in colourful beads and carrying spears, thousands descended upon polling stations long before dawn to cast their ballots.

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“I really hope for a change of leadership, I really hope for a change in the way we do politics. I want corruption out of the country”, said Mary Wangu, 42, at a Nairobi polling station.

However after over six hours of queuing she said she was “fed up” at the slow voting process.

Electoral commission (IEBC) chief Wafula Chebukati said “voting was going smoothly” despite minor delays, technical hiccups and heavy rain slowing the process at some of the 41,000 polling stations.

All eyes are on the biometric voter identification and tallying system which suffered severe glitches in 2013 polls. The system is seen as crucial to a smooth election amid opposition accusations of a plot to rig the vote.

Kenyan voters queue as they wait to cast their votes at a polling station in the Kibera slum in Nairobi.EPA

No strangers to violent polls

Kenyans are no strangers to violent polls, and tensions have soared over fraud claims and the murder of an official in charge of the electronic voting system in the final days of campaigning.

Tuesday’s elections are taking place a decade after a shambolic 2007 vote — which foreign observers agreed was riddled with irregularities — sparked violence which left more than 1,100 people dead and 600,000 displaced.

The IEBC moved quickly to deal with complaints Tuesday, removing clerks in a polling station where ballot papers were pre-marked as “rejected”.

In the port city of Mombasa a clerk was arrested for issuing double ballot papers to certan voters, local police said.

“I voted Raila, because he will be so much better to us. But if he does not win, it’s ok. It’s a democracy after all. Really, there’s no need for violence,” said Tom Mboya, 43, who works in construction and voted in the capital’s largest slum Kibera.

Polling station clerks for the 2017 Kenyan General Elections discuss at a polling station in Nairobi, on August 07, 2017. (Getty)AFP

Will of the people

The election is set to be the final showdown of a dynastic rivalry that has lasted more than half a century since the presidential candidates’ fathers Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Odinga went from allies in the struggle for independence to bitter rivals.

The men belong to two of Kenya’s main ethnic groups, Kenyatta from the Kikuyu, the largest, and Odinga from the Luo.

Both have secured formidable alliances with other influential communities in a country where voting takes place largely along tribal lines.

Odinga, 72, the flagbearer for the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, is taking his fourth and likely final stab at the presidency. He claims elections in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him.

“In the unlikely event that I lose I don’t need a speech, I will just speak from my heart,” Odinga said shortly before voting.

Both he and Kenyatta cast their votes shortly before midday.

“To my competitors, in the event that they lose they should be able to accept the will of the people. I also want to say that if I lose, I will accept the will of the people,” said Kenyatta.

Development, corruption

Kenyatta, 55, is seeking re-election after a first term in which he oversaw a massive infrastructure drive and steady economic growth of more than five percent.

“Kenyatta has done a tremendous job, he has improved communications, built roads and other infrastructure, he has to keep the job,” said Sashikat Bhaga, 68, in the Nairobi suburb of Parklands, home to many Kenyans of Indian or Pakistani origin.

However Kenyatta is criticised for soaring food prices — with prices jumping 20 percent year-on-year in May — and massive corruption scandals on his watch.

The devolution of power to Kenya’s 47 counties after a post-conflict constitutional reform means elections are now a complex affair, with citizens casting six different ballots.

More than 150,000 members of the security forces have been deployed for polling day.

The international community is also keeping close tabs on the election in a country considered a bastion of stability in east Africa and a key partner in the fight against the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab.

Hundreds of foreign observers, including former US secretary of state John Kerry and former South African president Thabo Mbeki, as well as delegations from the European Union, are overseeing the election.

There are more than 19 million registered voters in the nation of 48 million. Half are aged under 35.

Counting will begin immediately after voting ends at 5 pm (1400 GMT). Polling stations where voting got under way late will remain open for longer, the IEBC said.

First results are expected around Wednesday. Officials have a week to release final results.

Related Reading

Teaching kids how to seek consent, not just the ability to say ‘no’

‘But what if we’re both drunk?’

The first time a teenage boy asked me that, I was stumped.

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If people can’t consent to sex when they’re drunk, then neither person can be deemed to have consented if they are both under the influence. So, is it sexual assault if they’re both drunk? And if so, of whom?

It’s a great question and one that I have been asked many times since.

In thinking about it, I realised there is a clear and simple answer to the question: the difficulty arose because we’re not properly understanding the issue of consent.

For so long we have focused on the message that ‘No means no!’ and everyone must immediately respect a clear and assertive ‘no’.

But there is a problem with that message. Saying ‘no’ can be, and tragically, often is, a difficult thing for some people to articulate.

When we teach consent education in kindergarten or the lower years of primary school, we ask all the children to adopt their fiercest pose. With hands on hips, their spines stiff and tops of their heads reaching to the ceiling, they thrust out a hand and yell, ‘STOP! Don’t touch me! I don’t like it!’.

This week on Insight

When I introduce the concept of consent and assertive communication to twelve year olds, I receive a markedly different response. These more mature students clearly understand that they have the right to say no to being touched, it’s equally evident that they struggle with the practice of saying no. I’m met by a myriad of reasons why these older children might fail to speak out. 

We talk about non-sexual touch – hugging, tackling or sitting pressed against a friend – and whether they would verbally communicate feeling discomfort in these situations. Many of the boys feel able to say something. Most of the girls don’t.

Girls are worried about hurting their friends’ feelings, being ostracised from a social group or disappointing someone in a position of power or authority. They put their own needs aside to meet the perceived needs of others.

Children, regardless of gender, express fear of getting into trouble if they say no to an adult, and concern that they will be physically hurt if they say no to an older child or student with a history of bullying.

Why we are perpetuating a culture that places the onus on the vulnerable person to say ‘no’, when really what we should be doing is asking our children to check in with people every time they want to instigate touch? 

Studies repeatedly show us that while everyone is at risk of sexual assault, some people are more vulnerable than others, and run a far greater risk of abuse. Over-represented in sexual assault statistics are people with less structural and/or physical power; children, women, LGBTIQ people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with a disability. In fact, 90 per cent of women with an intellectual disability are sexually assaulted across their lifetimes.

And it’s exactly the people at greatest risk who are least likely to think they can say ‘no’ without repercussions of some kind.

When two people enter into an interaction, one will generally hold greater power. This will be projected onto the other person who then feels less able to communicate non-consent clearly without fear of backlash.

The question that really needs to be addressed here is: why we are perpetuating a culture that places the onus on the vulnerable person to say ‘no’, when really what we should be doing is asking our children to check in with people every time they want to instigate touch? If they don’t hear a clear yes, they should be learning to back up, give the other person space and foster a situation where the person can more clearly articulate their needs. Giving that space may give the person permission to say no, or not yet, or yes to this touch but not to other touch.

If we foster a culture of consent, then children will grow up knowing that every touch they instigate is welcome and wanted. Because they checked first.

Now, when teens ask me, ‘what if we’re both drunk?’ my response is clear: ‘Ask yourself honestly who holds the power in the situation and think of that person as the designated driver. It’s the designated driver’s responsibility to make sure they stay sober enough to drive and that they get everyone home safe and sound.’ 

 

Deanne Carson is a guest on this week’s Insight, which looks at how people understand and navigate consent. She runs Body Safety Australia, which educates parents and children on protection from sexual abuse.

Watch the full episode of Consent online now:

Further viewing

High school students learn to navigate the grey areas of consent

“When she said she wanted to go lie down and wanted me to come and snuggle with her, what was I supposed to think? Of course I thought she wanted to have sex,” reads a Year 9 student to the class.

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The student is reading a fictional scenario from the Respectful Relationships program, which is being implemented across Victorian schools following a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The program aims to build a culture of respect and equality and part of the curriculum specifically teaches about consent.

Insight visited Maryborough Education Centre and observed Year 9 and 10 students exploring what consent means through the fictional teenage couple, ‘Sam’ and ‘Zoe’. The couple attend a party and after they both have some beer Zoe starts to feel tired and goes to lie down, eventually they have sex.

The class hears two different perspectives, from ‘Zoe’: “The next thing I know he’s all over me, forcing me to have sex with him.”

And from ‘Sam’: “She did grumble a bit when I started to undress her but I just thought she wanted to be persuaded.”

The students are then asked to discuss both experiences and the issues arising from the interaction. “He might have just thought that she wanted it even though she didn’t say yes, but she didn’t really try to stop it either,” a student says.

Another student offers his view: “I reckon they’re both correct stories, except it is just seen from a different view on both sides.”

The issue of consent has been making headlines across the country, following an AHRC report that revealed 6 per cent of university students were sexually assaulted in 2015/16. The report recommended universities provide students with education about consent and respectful relationships.

According to high school teacher, Alicia Cassidy, the Respectful Relationships program has provided the opportunity to explicitly explore consent. She says: “Previously we have only talked about sex education in regards to reproductive systems, contraception and STI’s. We haven’t really focused too much on the relationship aspect. The kids have really taken it on board and listened really well.”

Previously we have only talked about sex education in regards to reproductive systems, contraception and STI’s. We haven’t really focused too much on the relationship aspect. The kids have really taken it on board and listened really well.

The need for better education on sex and consent was expressed by young people on an upcoming Insight episode, where some admitted their sex education came via pornography.

On learning about sex and consent, one young woman said: “You do have to go to something like pornography, you go to something like the internet. We don’t have these conversations in a sexual education context. We don’t talk about if something happens, if suddenly something changes when you’re having an interaction, what do you do?”

Insight host Jenny Brockie asked the audience: “What happens if you decide halfway through sex that you don’t want to do it?”

Lauren says she feels pressure to keep going out of guilt: “The first thing that will pop into my head is like, I’ll feel bad, I feel like I’m annoying him because he’s got this huge erection and what’s he going to do now, get blue balls?”

Jean Paul offers a male perspective: “But I think a lot of people are trained from a very young age, through pornography that women don’t ever say no once they say yes.”

 

On this week’s Insight, young people dish the dirt on sex and sexting – and how they navigate consent around both issues. Watch the full episode online here:

South Africa’s President Zuma faces no-confidence vote

Criticism of Zuma from within the African National Congress (ANC) has grown over corruption scandals and economic woes, and the celebrated party of Nelson Mandela has declined sharply at the polls.

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But the ANC — which holds a large majority in parliament — said it expected its members to easily defeat the no-confidence motion.

Several opposition parties led thousands of anti-Zuma protesters to the national assembly in Cape Town ahead of the parliamentary session due to begin at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT).

“ANC MPs now have no excuse. They must use their vote… to remove Jacob Zuma,” the main opposition Democratic Alliance party said after the speaker of parliament made a surprise decision Monday to hold the ballot in secret.

Zuma has survived several previous parliamentary votes that were held without secret balloting.

A 201-vote majority would be needed to remove him from power, and the ANC holds 249 seats in the 400-seat parliament. His cabinet would also be forced to resign.

“Mbete’s decision was made knowing that Zuma will be secure,” said Darias Jonker of the New York-based Eurasia political analysis consultancy.

“The vast majority of ANC MPs are not willing to risk the stability of the party in order to remove Zuma in this fashion.”

Zuma, 75, is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, and as president before the 2019 general election — lessening pressure for his party to trigger imminent change.

ANC loses its lustre 

The secret ballot has been subject to a long legal battle waged by opposition parties, who hope that ANC lawmakers will now be emboldened to vote against him without fear of intimidation.

But ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu told reporters Tuesday that lawmakers would “fight for the unity of our party”.

“We will vote against this motion,” he said. “We can’t vote with the opposition to remove our own government.”

Mthembu last week acknowledged recent criticism of the party, including the impact of a cabinet reshuffle in March when respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan was replaced with a Zuma loyalist.

Gordhan’s sacking led to a string of downgrades to South Africa’s credit rating as well as causing the rand currency to tumble.

Public support for the ANC, which swept to power under Mandela in the first non-racial elections in 1994, slipped to 55 percent in last year’s local polls — its worst-ever result.

A handful of MPs, including Gordhan, have joined calls from anti-apartheid veterans and trade unions for Zuma to resign, as South Africa endures record unemployment and a recession.

Zuma has been engulfed by corruption allegations since coming to office in 2009.

A court last year found him guilty of violating the constitution after he refused to repay taxpayers’ money used to refurbish his private rural house.

He has been accused of being in the sway of the wealthy Gupta business family, allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.

He is also fighting a court order that could reinstate almost 800 corruption charges against him over a multi-billion dollar arms deal in the 1990s.

Zuma is seen as favouring his ex-wife, former African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him ahead of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.