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Daily Archives: March 30, 2009

Power outage

Note: 6.45pm is when the lights came back on in Surry Hills.

There have been power blackouts across central Sydney and the city’s east.

Energy Australia says it is investigating the problem, but says that the power supply to two major substations cut out.

"Our crews are finding what caused them to switch off, and when they do they can re-route the supply and get power back to everybody," said spokeswoman Kylie Yates.

She says around 70,000 homes and business have been affected.

The power cuts began about 4:45pm AEDT.

Energy Australia says it does not know when power will be restored.

The Roads and Traffic Authority’s spokesman Alec Brown says power failure is causing major disruption on the roads.

"There are up to 100 sets of traffic lights affected by the current outage," he said.

The Fire Brigade says dozens of people stranded in lifts have had to be rescued.

The Sydney Opera House has announced that it is cancelling all performances tonight, while CityRail says its trains have not been affected because they are serviced by a different power supply. – ABC.

A kind of involuntary Earth Hour or two…

Update 31 March

See Sydney’s terrorism warnings fail in blackout.

The New South Wales Government has admitted central Sydney’s counter-terrorism emergency warning system has no battery backup, after questions about why it was not activated during yesterday’s massive blackout in the CBD and the city’s east.

The Government has publicly apologised for the two-hour power failure, which blacked out about 70,000 homes and businesses and knocked out 140 sets of traffic lights from 4:30pm (AEDT).

Major roads, including the Harbour Tunnel and the Eastern Distributor, were closed and dozens of people had to be rescued from 34 lifts.

Back-up generators at St Vincent’s Hospital also failed but it says critical patient care was not compromised…

This morning, NSW Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan was forced to concede that the emergency warning system would not have worked anyway.

"There is no battery backup for the system. When the system was designed, it was felt that wasn’t necessary," he said. "They did a risk analysis of when and how this would be used and it was felt at the time that battery backup was not required…”

The blackout has also raised new questions about the state’s power infrastructure.

A major electricity cable has been pinpointed as the source of the power failure. Energy Australia says it could take several months to restore supply from the cable but extra power has been allocated to the CBD in the meantime.

Spokeswoman Kylie Yates says Energy Australia’s fail-safe system automatically shut down the three other major cables when the first one failed. She says it even triggered the backup supply to shut down in order to limit any further damage.

"It’s highly unusual that our backup supply would also be triggered but we needed to be extra cautious and extra prudent and only restore that backup once we were fully certain that it was safe to do so," she said…

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2009 in Australia, local, Surry Hills

 

A rather odd argument?

I remember without much pleasure the Paul Sheehan of a decade or so ago when I thought of him as “the thinking person’s Pauline Hanson”. What he had to say then about people like M was distinctly warped and unhelpful. In recent times he has addressed himself rather often to the topic of Muslims. You may go back two years to see what I had to say about him then: Paul Sheehan again. (There’s a bit of a connection also – tangentially – to Jim Belshaw’s recent post Saturday Morning Musings – Muslim prayer rooms and the importance of checking one’s facts.)

Today Sheehan argues that Islamophobia is a fabrication.

I’ve been considering a request from a post-graduate student who wants to do a thesis on Islamophobia in Australia. She writes: "I am researching the topic Islamophobia, and I am trying to prove whether Islamophobia is based on religion fear or cultural fear of Islam."

What about proving that Islamophobia exists at all? That would be the logical, ethical and scholarly starting point. But it appears the outcome has already been decided. This would fit the prevailing orthodoxy in academia that the default position for Muslims in Australia is victim. The jargon, "Islamophobia" is part of this ideological construct. Literally, it means fear of Muslims.

I reflected on all this while on holiday in Malaysia and the Maldives last week. This was my twelfth visit to Muslim societies because I do not "fear" Muslims and do not "fear" Islam. Yes, there is ample evidence that Australians have become uneasy about Muslims in general and hostile in specific cases, but this is about cause and effect…

This is suspiciously like “some of my best friends are Jewish” particularly when it is followed by a litany of bad news stories about Aussie thugs and crims of a generally Middle Eastern or Muslim background, the cumulative effect of which must be distrust of such groups as a whole, despite his opening disclaimer.

I would agree that terms like “Islamophobe” and “racist” are sometimes tossed around thoughtlessly, but that does not prove in any way that there isn’t a strong irrational or visceral component in the reactions of some people which can fairly be termed a phobia. Nor, when you think about it, does Sheehan pursue cause and effect very far. Cause seems to end on the Islamic or Middle Eastern side of the equation every time. Strange, that.

I am of course not denying there is a problem; neither, I would suggest, do thoughtful Muslim Australians.

Update 31 March

Irfan Yusuf has a piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Australian Muslims not a monolith. It appears it is coincidental, as he addresses Rev Fred Nile’s and Andrew Bolt’s unhelpful interventions rather than Paul Sheehan’s, but the cap fits.

…On the ABC’s Q&A program on Thursday, columnist Andrew Bolt spoke of "a rejectionist strand" that made Muslim immigration experience different to the experiences of Greek and Italian migrants. Again, the underlying assumptions are based on ignorance. To speak of a recent singular wave of Muslim migration is to engage in historical revisionism. Virtually all waves of migration incorporated an element of Muslims, including Europeans from Albania and the former Yugoslavia .

Some Muslims came as refugees, others as skilled or business migrants. Some have hardly been out of an immigration detention centre for a few years. Others are descended from Afghan cameleers who married indigenous women in the 19th century.

Yet, for some reason, Australian Muslims are treated as some kind of monolith. We hear pundits and self-serving religious leaders speak of a mythical entity called the "Muslim community". The idea that Muslims define themselves primarily by their religion sounds ridiculous when one considers that membership of the Lebanese Moslems Association is limited to adult males eligible for Lebanese citizenship. Yet what happens at this Lakemba mosque is somehow a reflection of 300,000-odd Australians who feel inclined to tick the "Muslim" box on their census forms.

Are such prejudices widespread? Could they lead to violence? It’s hard to say, though some comments published on popular blogs are not promising. Bolt’s blog carries comments calling for a "Carthaginian solution" to be adopted against Muslim countries. One comment this month ended with: "Drop the bomb, kill them all." Another spoke of "a number or an above average percentage in the Lebanese/Arab/Muslim of south-west Sydney who are short-tempered, relatively thick, criminal, and fundamentally violent".

And it took a complaint from an executive member of a Muslim religious body before this remark was removed: "Bombing them, back to the stone age where their politico-religious philosophy belongs, would indeed be the only thing they understand … Islam has no such thing as a peace treaty … You don’t negotiate with that, you shoot it."…