A few weeks ago I had an idea.
It was motivated by what started as the perfect opportunity to catch up on reading - the christmas holidays. Perched on a couch in a shack by the beach I spend countless, uninterrupted, guilt free hours pouring through text. A handful of novels moved across my lap along with a few newspapers (and of course an endless stream of online articles). In the newspapers particularly, I started to notice a variety of tones.
I was curious. Would it be possible to detect the kinds of emotion expressed in text? Surely authors have an emotional style, a subtext that subtly makes its way through to the reader. Perhaps I could measure it.
If you are familiar with NLP (Natural Language Processing) you are probably familiar with sentiment analysis. It’s a term that describes the process of detecting, classifying, and measuring psychological characteristics of text - such as subjectiveness, opinion, or emotion. The most common application, so far, is a positive-negative rating for text. As you might imagine this is hugely valuable in categorising product reviews (think Amazon). But there is so much more to sentiment analysis waiting to be unlocked.
NLP has taken some big strides over the past few years. Deep neural networks, in particular transformers, have broken records across the board. Transformers are a neural network structure specifically designed for parsing text. They make it possible to learn patterns in text, which depending on how you train the network, allow machines to perform exceptionally well in tasks such as language translation and text prediction.
Side note: If you haven’t seen it already, check out the huggingface demo.
In order to have a good chance of classifying emotion in text we need a sophisticated model that has learned a lot of patterns in common text. Luckily NVidia has done the leg work here. Building on some amazing work by OpenAI, NVidia trained a transformer on 40GB of text and then published their work on github - (thankyou!)
This is where I started.
NVidia took their transformer and fine tuned a classifier at the end of the network to predict 8 different emotions based on Plutchik’s Wheel. Plutchik’s wheel is a neat idea that spatially and colorfully lays out emotions. Each emotion is paired with an opposite emotion (similar to the way opposite colors are laid out on a color wheel).
The dataset used for fine tuning the emotion classification was a dataset of tweets with manually labelled emotions.
Naturally this dataset likely suffers from class imbalance and bias - something to keep in mind.
Ok - Let’s try!
I gathered six articles from the Weekend Australian and started feeding them into the AI. Now since NVidia trained this network on tweets I found it worked best sentence by sentence (large amounts of text consumed a lot of GPU memory!).
Here are three sentences taken at random with a plot of the emotions detected.
"Millions of them will return to Beijing, all while the coronavirus continues to spread with alarming speed."
"The drive itself is one of the worlds most monotonous, with speed limits that change constantly, but be under no illusion: a car is essential for any trip to the region."
"So while hearing at the Sydney plot about Food Scraps Friday and the benefits of composting, all I could think of was Dad in an old tweed jacket and a floppy hat and me being entrusted with a trowel, the soporific buzz of summer bees, and tea taken in sturdy Thermos cups."
Wow… It actually works.
This is where it starts to get really interesting.
Now that we can measure the relative emotion in text we can start to identify emotion en masse.
The key here, in my mind, is how this information is represented.
What if we take the colors of Plutchik’s Wheel and use them to color the emotion in text.
We could color newspaper articles to show emotion. Angry articles become red, sad blue, fearful green, and so on.
Let’s take those six articles and reprint a page of the Australian - with emotional coloring.
A quick glance at the articles
|$2B deal opens way to green power-up
||About government investment in NSW renewable energy
|Hunkering down for travellers' return
||About potentially virus infected Chinese travellers' returning to Beijing
|The Power of Place
||About olfactory memories and community
|Beyond The Vines
||About Margret River as a tourist destination
|Fight for Higher Ground
||About Parks Victoria’s banning of rock climbing in the Grampians
|Industry Funds desperate to protect $3 Trillion
||About disputed details of compulsory superannuation
So on February 1st 2020 The Weekend Australian would look something like this…
February 1, 2020 | The Weekend Australian
$2bn deal opens way to green power-up
A funding deal signed between the NSW government and the commonwealth on Friday will see the state reach its ambitious emissions reduction target of 35 per cent by 2030, with the bilateral pact set to significantly increase the states reliance on renewable power and wean it off fossil fuels.
The money comprises $2bn split between state and federal funding grants and low-interest loans that will be aimed at giving businesses incentives to reduce their carbon output.
But the headline announcement is a $1bn federal government commitment to underwrite the transmission lines and interconnectors that will allow NSW to make its greatest commitment to renewable energy in the states history.
NSW will establish the nations first Renewable Energy Zone in the states central west, a site dotted with solar, wind and hydrogen farms that are expected to generate 3000 megawatts of energy, or roughly a quarter of the states total electricity needs.
To ensure this electricity doesnt fail during peak periods, the federal government has also agreed to underwrite the interconnectors that will link the state to the Snowy Hydro power generator and to Queenslands coal-fired energy plants in case of an emergency shortage.
A senior NSW government source told The Weekend Australian that this deal would allow the state to reach its 35 per cent reduction target, based on modelling already conducted for the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
Weve done the modelling.
This package will see NSW hit 35 per cent of emissions, the source said, adding that the challenge with renewables had always been a logistical problem around transmission, which this package finally solves.
This is about modernising the electricity system to cater for the new technologies emerging.
The money paves the way for NSW to begin implementing a blueprint, mapped out last year by the Australian Energy Market Operator, to increase its reliance on solar, wind and hydrogen energy, all cheap sources of power that are expected to lower the price of household energy.
It is doing this to capitalise on its ageing portfolio of coal-fired power stations; four out of the states five remaining coal-fired generators are set to reach the end of their technical lives by 2035, according to a recent DPIE report, beginning with Liddell power station in 2023.
The AEMOs report identified three NSW sites that are best suited for the construction of Renewable Energy Zones.
One, which will now proceed, is in the central west.
A further two are located in the Hunter and New England regions.
This will see a huge injection of renewables into the grid, said NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean.
Right now weve got $24bn in renewable projects waiting to be built.
But in order to obtain the $960m committed by the federal government, the NSW government had to sign a memorandum of understanding with the commonwealth to ensure that an extra 70 petajoules of gas could be supplied to the east coast market each year.
Mr Morrison on Friday spruiked gas as the way forward to bring down carbon emissions and prices.
There is no credible plan to lower emissions and keep electricity prices down that does not involve the greater use of gas as an important transition fuel, the Prime Minister said.
Hunkering down for travellers’ return
They are coming.
Over the next few days, hundreds of millions of people will travel across China.
Millions of them will return to Beijing, all while the coronavirus continues to spread with alarming speed.
If someone tells you they are not worried, they are telling you a lie, Zhang Li, 70, says as he and his dog walk outside their hutong home north of the Forbidden City.
His biggest fear is outsiders, those millions who work but were not born in Beijing and will soon return after the new year holiday.
Many of the face mask-wearing citizens in Beijing, which currently has more than 130 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and one fatality, share his concerns.
They fear a repeat of the 2003 SARS coronavirus, which ravaged the city with 2521 cases and 190 deaths.
A few numbers are particularly unsettling about the new virus that emerged just over a month ago in Wuhan, closer to Beijing than the southern province of Guangdong that nursed SARS.
This week, Wuhans mayor, Zhou Xianwang, revealed that about five million residents had left the city before it was totally locked down on January 23.
Where did that five million go?
Chinas state-controlled media this week reported that 60-70 per cent, or up to 3.5 million, travelled to other cities, towns and villages in Hubei, the central Chinese province of which Wuhan is the capital.
That leaves another 1.5 million who travelled further.
Many took buses or trains to surrounding provinces.
And many flew.
Hundreds went to Australia, although Thailand was their most popular overseas destination, according to departure data released by Flight Master, a travel platform in China.
Up to 10,000 flew from Wuhan to Bangkok between December 30 and January 22.
The most popular destination for Wuhans flying travellers was Beijing.
Flight Master said in the three weeks before the lockdown, more than 65,000 people flew from Wuhan to the capital.
Beijings local government is trying to get in contact with all residents there who have a residency card (a hukou) from Wuhan.
Zhao Xilu, 78, says local government inspectors had been in touch with his Wuhan-born daughter-in-law three or four times to ask if she had returned to the Hubei capital over the break.
She had stayed in Beijing, where she now lives.
The authorities nosiness comforted Mr Zhao, demonstrating that they were taking the virus seriously.
And he reckons Beijing is a good place to be as it spreads.
Im not very worried.
Its the capital, so more attention is being paid to this city, he says, enjoying the sun on a perch looking over the Drum Tower, one of Beijings majestic imperial buildings.
Other sights in the city are less comforting.
When they leave their apartments, Beijngers now leave compounds closed to all but residents.
If they catch the subway which many are petrified to do right now, despite teams dousing it in sanitiser they have their temperatures checked with thermometer guns.
And then there are the dreaded hospitals.
Dont go to the hospital.
There are sick people there.
You will get sick, a young Beijing policewoman tells me after she checks my temperature with a thermometer gun to the forehead.
I asked what would happen to me if it had registered a high reading.
Would I be taken to a hospital for a check up?
Dont go to the hospital, she repeats, under her blue surgical mask.
Fortunately, a reading of 36.2C meant I didnt have to risk a visit to one.
Before the millions return, many are making the most of the uncommonly open spaces.
A father and his nine-year-old son, a defender in the Flying Bears ice hockey team, are practising puck skills on the frozen river that follows the northern side of Beijings second ring road.
The father declines to give his name to avoid getting in trouble with his state employer for talking to the international media.
He does, however, pass on some good advice: follow the medical guidance to wash your hands, wear face masks in crowded spaces and keep a distance from sick people.But secondly, you need to take care of your body to strengthen your own immunity, he says, before skating after his son.
The Power of Place
A family member has recently been made president of a community garden in a suburb of Sydneys inner west.
A local primary school has given up a paddock for the estate and everyone is digging in, as it were, including students as young as five, their parents and grandparents, and neighbours up and down the street.
Im sure there are many similar examples across Australia but to me its a revelation.
I was recently asked, among guests around a dinner table, to disclose my first clear childhood memory and whether it related to smell.
Luckily there was time, between a lot of related banter, to come up with my answer.
The damp woolly smell of our Westie terrier, Jock, I replied, in winter on a rainy night at the cinema.
Eyebrows were raised.
No, a plain old English picture-house where dogs were allowed and the usherettes put out water bowls up and down the aisle.
I always had an aisle seat and Jock was tied to its leg.
Another guest hastily cut in with her story, as clearly I must be barking mad.
But its true and now after visiting my stepdaughters community garden, I realise another powerful memory has been awoken.
And thats of my father taking me to our allotment in Wimbledon, before we moved to Surrey and acquired lawns and flower beds.
Its the smell of rich, wormy earth and greenness, which I have always imagined, unlike other colours, has a defining, fecund odour all its own.
So while hearing at the Sydney plot about Food Scraps Friday and the benefits of composting, all I could think of was Dad in an old tweed jacket and a floppy hat and me being entrusted with a trowel, the soporific buzz of summer bees, and tea taken in sturdy Thermos cups.
Travel can be the most nostalgic of pastimes, too, even when a destination is first encountered.
Deja vu is an overworked term but it does exist and is potent.
We may think weve been to a place before, even though we know thats not possible.
I remember walking streets in a French village years ago and instinctively knowing the turns.
I phoned Dad and asked if wed ever holidayed there as a family when I was very small.
I knew I hadnt been to my stepdaughters garden until my recent visit but my mind told me otherwise.
That awakening of memories and the giddy scent and aura of times past can be spooky but also enriching.I close my eyes and know Jock would have always been with us on the weekly allotment visits, chasing birds and investigating curious smells up and down the garden.
Beyond the Vines
Theres more to the Margaret River than wine
Margaret River is a brand recognised all over, like Noosa or the Great Ocean Road.
Say Margaret River to a Westie though, or more recognisably Margs, and it means a particular town and, possibly, the surfing beaches at the mouth of the river, at Prevelly.
What the rest of the country thinks of as Margaret River is really Down South to locals: the 100km stretch between Dunsborough in the north and Augusta in the south; between the capes, Naturaliste and Leeuwin.
Between these two handy geographical, and literal, beacons lies an impressive diversity of natural beauty and man-made attractions youd be a fool to miss.
The drive itself is one of the worlds most monotonous, with speed limits that change constantly, but be under no illusion: a car is essential for any trip to the region.
SAND AND SURF If its beaches youre after, and WAs white sand beaches are probably the best in the country, the north end of the cape region is where its at.
On Geographe Bay lies a series of stunning, sheltered family bays and beaches.
Bunker Bay and Eagle Bay are the picks for independents, but Castle Rock and Meelup, with toilet facilities and parking, will suit families with younger kids.
This is where youll find the second homes of Perths ridiculously well-to-do.
On the Indian Ocean side, Yallingup is the busiest surf beach, for good reason.
Like River Mouth, Smiths and most of the major beaches, its patrolled in summer.
For a bit of solitude, try Indjidup and hike in to the so-called natural spa, or seek out the hidden aquarium at Smiths.
With a 4WD and an alert ear for local knowledge, the keen surfer will find a host of little-known breaks such as Bears, Gallows and Honeycombs to tap into.
Further south, hardcore surfers will love the home of the Margaret River Pro, the Main Break off Prevelly, as well as Redgate and Gnarabup.
Hamelin Bays almost-tame stingrays virtually have an Instagram page of their own.
Wherever you go, the water is superb but only a fool would swim without considering the possibility of sharks; margaretriver.com.
TAKE THE TOWN The town of Margaret River is a bustling mix of pubs, restaurants, cafes, boutiques, galleries and surf shops.
Once the province of backpackers and surfers, these days its a thriving centre and home to artists, winemakers, craft distillers and a flourishing mountain bike scene.
Many visitors base themselves here to experience the forests, bushwalking and caves.
The Cape to Cape walking track offers incredible views of the spectacular Indian Ocean coastline linking both ends of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
Four dramatic limestone caves open to the public take you deep into the areas prehistoric past through fossils and crystal formations.
Walk Into Luxury offers multi-day explorations of the Cape to Cape and Bibbulmun tracks, staying in boutique properties along the way.
A trip to the 80m-tall karri trees of Boranup Forest, a biodiversity hotspot, is a must; capetocapetrack.com.au; walkintoluxury.com.au.
LOCAL HEROES Margaret Rivers farmers market, held every Saturday, showcases high quality wares from the districts food producers, such as Margaret River Venison, Gabriel Chocolate, Olio Bello (excellent oil) and Giniversity.
If you thought the wine scene was competitive, try the many coffee vendors.
In Margaret River I recommend Sidekick Cafe; in Dunsborough, head for Merchant and Maker;margaretriverfarmersmarket.com.au; distillery.com.au/margaret-river; merchantandmaker.com.au.
SIP TIPS Midway down Caves Road, home to some of Australias best-known wine producers, youll find Gracetown, the perfect base for exploring the great vineyards of the region.
Strike out from this hamlet of contrasting fibro surf shacks and mansions to hit icons such as Vasse Felix, Pierro and Howard Park.
Margaret River has some of the countrys most sophisticated cellar doors but there are also hidden gems to be found in tin sheds off the back roads.
Of the 175 wineries in the appellation, plenty are delivering exceptional examples of the classics but there is a lot of interesting low-intervention and biodynamic winemaking taking place.
Newer, smaller wine producers such as Woodlands, Deep Woods or Victory Point offer a simple, rustic opportunity to sample special wines and meet the people behind the bottles.
We like the earthy informality (not to mention the plonk) at Wilyabrups Cullen.
One thing is for sure: you will never drink wines such as the famed Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay or the Cullen Diana Madeline (cabernet merlot) at better restaurant prices than in their own dining rooms.
Taste, eat, buy.
CULTURE AND COUNTRY Margaret River Discovery Co takes guests on a canoe trip before heading to a waterhole to spot marron and learn about indigenous culture.
Theres lunch at Fraser Gallop Estate followed by a walk along the Wilyabrup Cliffs.
Guests of Bushtucker Tours also explore the river before enjoying a lunch of wild foods such as emu, kangaroo and crocodile.
Wadandi man Josh Whiteland offers cultural activities through his Koomal Dreaming Cultural Experiences, including visits to Ngilgi Cave near Yallingup to hear Dreaming stories, didgeridoo performances, fire-making and an introduction to bush medicine; margaret-riverdiscovery.com.au; bushtuckertours.com; koomaldreaming.com.au.
EATING OUT Theres no shortage of dining options in Margaret River.
Eagle Bays eponymous brewery is an easy choice for families, serving up share plates and pizza.
Wills Domain, Amelia Park, Vasse Felix, Cullen and Leeuwin Estate are all quality wine producers that make a big effort for diners.
In Dunsborough, Yarri Restaurant+Bar and Blue Manna Bistro are the best choices; at Yallingup the quirky Barnyard 1978 (days only) is consistently good and at Wilyabrup, Chows Table, next to House of Cards Wine, offers one of the regions few Asian choices.
Margaret Rivers Pizzica and Settlers Tavern the latter a rollicking pub with a nationally renowned wine list are proven commodities.
Sadly, getting food and wine near the water in WA is difficult.
Bunkers Beach House, at Bunker Bay, a lovely, long beach with a surf swell at one end, is the perfect location; bunkersbeachhouse.com.au.
GET A TICKET Foodies flock to the region for Gourmet Escape, which has now also embraced Perth and the Swan Valley.
Its a bit of an ego-fest for visiting chefs but it takes place in some beautiful locations, with a festival village at Leeuwin Estate.
The Margaret River Pro (April-May) and Iron Man WA (December) attract legions of local and international athletes.
The Leeuwin Estate Concert is taking a break this year and will return in 2021; past performers have included Carole King, Tom Jones, Sting and Paul Kelly; gourmetescape.com.au; worldsurfleague.com;leeuwinestate.com.au.
STAYING INFor a seaside villa-style hotel your one choice is The Pullman at Bunker Bay.
Seaside apartment style is at Smiths Beach Resort or try the villa-style developments on Geographe Bay.
For a country estate vibe, Cape Lodge is the cream; spa-cations are at Bodhi J at Injidup Spa.
Exclusive Escapes and Private Properties dominate the holiday rental market; accorhotels.com; regencybeachclub.com; bodhij.com.au; capelodge.com.au; smithsbeachresort.com.au; exclusiveescapes.com.au; privateproperties.com.au.
Fight For Higher Ground
Rock climbers are battling bans from some of the best sites in Australia
For months men and women with clipboards, hard hats and hi-vis jackets have been quietly deliberating among the cliffs in the back blocks of the Grampians National Park, low-key participants in what has become Australias seminal public land access dispute.
With specialist surveying tools, the groups have been examining the environmental and cultural heritage impacts of well over a century of white Australian influence in a grand bush setting known to Aboriginal tribes for 22,000 years.
It is widely accepted that Parks Victoria and its predecessors have dropped the environmental ball in recent decades in the outer areas of the park, allowing the Grampians to be degraded by vandalism and at times cavalier behaviour that has alarmed indigenous and green groups.
However, just who committed much of the harm is wide open to debate, given the cross-section of people who visit the park every year from local towns, cities and overseas, arriving on foot, motorbikes, four-wheel drives and even from the air.
At the same time, Parks Victoria has picked an unprecedented fight with the Australian rock climbing fraternity, which has broad implications for recreational access to national and state parks across the country.
The impact, while not as symbolically significant as the end of climbing at Uluru, has the potential to snowball across Australias parks, ski fields, mountain biking tracks and climbing theatres as greater power is handed to indigenous co-managers.
With workers in the final stages of surveying large tracts of the Grampians land, Parks Victoria and the traditional owners are planning what sort of access climbers and others will have to the area, potentially maintaining or even widening the effective climbing ban on 500sq km of the park.
Within the current ban areas lie some of the worlds best rock climbing sites.
Local businesses such as Mount Zero Log Cabins in the northern Grampians are reporting dramatic cuts in revenue, in the order of 25 per cent.
Ive got to tell you, I was a bit pissed off about the way Parks Victoria went about it, businessman Neil Heaney tells The Weekend Australian.
They are picking on the wrong people They (the climbers) are deeply respectful people.
There is broad acceptance in the climbing community that there is capacity for its members to overhaul some practices and a willingness to help address core issues such as the undermining of vegetation and the need to remove chalk remnants in key areas.
Smear campaign But there is also growing concern that the Parks Victoria narrative has been bolstered by a series of legally unverifiable, anti-climbing claims that included the false assertion that a climbing bolt had been put through art.
In fact, it was past government workers who desecrated the site.
Valid questions are being asked about whether Environment Minister Lily DAmbrosio has been accurately briefed about who is responsible for the most serious harm and whether or not climbers are victims of an excessive spin campaign.
Simon Carter, a climbing photographer with a global following, believes climbers are victims of a sophisticated campaign of vilification.
I believe climbers have been scapegoated to distract from far, far more serious impacts that are occurring to the cultural and environmental values of the park, appalling mismanagement and a sneaky move towards the commercialisation and commodification of our national parks, he says.
The legal determination behind it (the climbing bans) is based on observations and research undertaken at other locations, not based on anything that has actually occurred in the Grampians.
Rock climbers have been wrongly vilified by parks staff or consultants in what I can only describe as a smear campaign based on absolute falsehoods.
For example, rock climbers were accused of placing safety bolts into Aboriginal rock art.
Climbers had done no such thing, not even close, but then Parks published a bolt-in-rock-art photo on its website as some evidence of climbers impacts.
But the bolt had been placed by land managers, not climbers.
It was a fabrication.
And photos sent by Parks Victoria in briefing papers to the Minister for the Environment show chain-sawing of trees, fireplaces and other impacts that almost certainly had nothing to do with rock climbers.
Evidence doubts Last March DAmbrosio was sent a series of photographs from Parks Victoria chief executive Matthew Jackson purporting to show evidence of climber damage, except many of the photos Jackson sent to his minister failed to meet any serious legal test.
Instead, what DAmbrosio received was a series of pictures in which environmental harm had occurred, but with no actual proof of who committed the harm.
Yet this was crucial timing, occurring when the government had doubled down on the climbing community.
While different scenarios, the incident is similar to the photographs released by the Howard government in 2001 during the children overboard crisis.
In this, there were photos showing that something had happened, but no serious evidence that supported the governments narrative.
Of the eight images sent to DAmbrosio, only one shows verifiable harm by climbers; this is of persistent use of chalk at one location to help people negotiate a climbing route.
No one would doubt this as climber damage; the rest show a fireplace with nobody around it, a log that had been cut with a chainsaw by an unknown person and some stone stacks created by someone who is not in the picture.
Several other images are of damage to vegetation at Venus Baths, near Halls Gap, which has become a popular site for the climbing discipline called bouldering.
What should have been articulated to the minister is that Venus Baths also happens to be one of the most visited tourism hot spots in the Grampians, three hours drive west of Melbourne.
It is an easy walk for parents with young families, who have trampled through the area for many decades because it is in close proximity to the main town in the park.
Without addressing specific questions on the accuracy of the photographs showing climbing damage, Jackson said in an email: Information and updates are regularly provided to the Minister for Environment as per standard briefing processes.
On the question of who is responsible for the damage, he said: Parks Victoria has continually provided updates on direct recreational impacts in the Grampians to members of the rock climbing roundtable, including updates from independent experts of the impacts of rock climbing at sensitive rock art sites.
Parks Victoria has specifically informed members of the rock climbing roundtable that not all recreational impacts are caused by rock climbers.
Assault on art Parks Victoria has been savaged by climbers and some local businesses for the unilateral bans, which were imposed without any meaningful warning, partly on the basis that the Grampians contain as much as 90 per cent of the indigenous rock art in southeastern Australia.
The Grampians Mount Arapiles Australias rock climbing mecca has just had a major outcrop declared out of bounds because of unspecified cultural heritage discoveries.
Taylors Rock is one of the cradles of rock climbing education in Australia and is a key part of the adventure sport economy that underpins the nearby Natimuk community, 330km northwest of Melbourne.
Ben Gunn, an archaeologist and rock art specialist who recently wrote a paper on the effects of climbing in the Grampians, says he has no doubt who causes the most damage in the park.
He also acknowledges that much of the indigenous art cant even be seen with the naked eye and damage may be inadvertent.
With the explosion of rock climbers in recent years, it is they who currently pose the greatest human threat to cultural heritage sites within the Grampians National Park and surrounding sandstone ranges and potentially to other national and state parks elsewhere in Australia, he wrote with several authors including Jake Goodes, brother of football great Adam Goodes.
Gunn has outraged climbers by claiming that some in their midst were behind graffiti in parts of the wider park; again, climbers want to see the proof of this to a legal standard.
Much of the graffiti in the Greater Gariwerd (Grampians) has not been produced by rock climbers, Gunn wrote.
In other instances, particularly at Lil-Lil, it is all too apparent that rock climbers are at fault.
At Lil-Lil, some graffiti has been deliberately placed over rock art and the damage is permanent.
Others have been racially offensive or, through the production of pseudo rock art, deprecating to Aboriginal people and the majority of non-Aboriginal Australians.
Chalking, he wrote, was classed as damage comparable to graffiti.
Whether this claim about chalking as graffiti passes the legal test is questionable, particularly if people do not know there is art where they are climbing.
Australian Climbing Association Victoria president Mike Tomkins is open to overhauling some climbing practices to protect indigenous art, but says accusations of climbers writing over art and carving words into rock walls are false and unverifiable.
You cant prove it.
You cannot pin that on climbers.
All the locations have been visited before there were even climbers, Tomkins says.
While the climbing community has been divided about how to deal with the crisis, there is deep angst about the way the pursuit has been characterised.
Climbers have congregated for decades at the Grampians and Mount Arapiles has traditionally been strongly green and sympathetic to the indigenous plight.
Others are highly sceptical, also, about figures used by Parks to suggest an unprecedented rise in climber numbers in recent years, arguing that while there is an uplift in interest, Parks Victoria has greatly exaggerated the number of extra climbers by misreading the statistics.
Uncle Ron Marks, a Wotjobaluk elder with close ties to Mount Arapiles and the Grampians, has worked in cultural education for decades, teaching about indigenous history.
He wants a pragmatic approach that protects heritage, but enables people to go about their business in the knowledge that at Mount Arapiles, for example, the indigenous connection is long-running.
He warns the kerfuffle affecting climbing at both locations is having a clear impact.
You look at it from a business point of view, people are suffering, he tells The Weekend Australian.Meanwhile, climbers are locked in a form of political purgatory, with no clear line of sight to when the ascension to higher ground will be guaranteed.
Industry Funds Desperate to Protect $3 Trillion
With its vast pool of savings, super remains a key battleground of the economy
There is an almighty bun fight going on behind the scenes about two key aspects of our system of compulsory superannuation.
Its contested and bitter.
The stakes are high for the key players.
The first issue relates to the legislated increase in the superannuation guarantee charge, which is planned to rise to 10 per cent from July 2021, with further rises of 0.5 percentage points every July until it reaches 12 per cent in July 2025.
Unless the legislation is changed, this is what will occur.
The second issue relates to how default funds are established and whether or not the Future Fund should be included in some way as one of these funds.
Default funds are those that receive the superannuation contributions of workers who do not make a deliberate choice about their preferred fund.
In addition, for many workers covered by enterprise agreements that nominate a single superannuation fund (generally related to the union that is party to the agreement), they have no choice of fund.
There are essentially two views within the government.
The first is that the SGC increase can go ahead it may be difficult to get the legislation changed in any case but that the Future Fund should be brought into the suite of available funds in some way.
The second viewpoint is that future SGC increases must be cancelled or indefinitely postponed but the Future Fund should continue to play its role without any extension beyond its present remit.
In other words, the current funds would continue to dominate the superannuation space.
One compromise position is that the SGC should rise by only 0.25 percentage points each year, reaching 12 per cent in 2030.
There is precedent for a smaller rise in the charge.
When it comes to the position of the industry super funds the retail funds are out of the game in terms of pushing policy positions and the banks are desperately seeking to get out of superannuation they have concerns that either issue is even being raised.
Desperate for the extra flow of funds of a higher SGC think of the associated fees and charges a lot of energy is being directed to any commentator or researcher who queries the case for the SGC increase.
A recent example was a paper released by Australian National University associate professor Geoffrey Warren.
He argues that the rationale for a uniform rise in the SGC is not well-based, in part because there is so much heterogeneity among current workers.
For low-income earners, the rise in the SGC is punitive because they are forced to forgo present income, which they arent well-placed to do.
For high-income earners, an increase in the SGC will simply increase their retirement incomes, which are already sufficient under the present 9.5 per cent.
And for those in the middle and in combination with the asset test within the Age Pension, raising the SGC will lead to many of them being highly taxed as their pension income is reduced as their assets rise above the threshold figure (about $400,000 for a couple).
The conclusion is that the optimal SGC varies substantially depending on the members income and a one-size-fits-all contribution rate is both inefficient and inequitable.
The point is also made that most analyses completely ignore the contribution of private savings to retirement incomes.
Unsurprisingly, the industry super funds are none too impressed by this research, coming as it does on the heels of similar research from the Grattan Institute.
Going on the attack, the peak body for industry superannuation, Industry Super Australia, makes the ludicrous claim that the researchers have a created a fantasy world where every Australian is a single man who is in the workforce women do not exist and no parent takes time out of work to raise children.
The reason for this attack has nothing to do with the quality of the work but the dislike of the conclusion that there is no case for increasing the SGC.
We have also witnessed the extraordinary decision of AustralianSuper to raise its administration fees, this time based on the balances of its members.
The rate struck will be 0.04 per cent.
This is in addition to the increase that was announced in March last year, when the annual flat administration fee was raised from $78 to $117.
But heres the real rub: AustralianSuper is blaming the governments Protecting Your Super legislation in which inactive low-balance accounts are being removed from the funds and sent to the Australian Taxation Office.
This is a clear admission that this industry fund was bleeding the members of these accounts to cross-subsidise other members.
The bigger issue is the excessive fees and charges that are levied by the funds both industry and retail and the failure of these fees and charges to fall even in the context of the large rise in funds under management consequent upon the compulsory nature of superannuation.
It is estimated that there is now close to $3 trillion in the superannuation pool.
These fees and charges are two to three times higher than those of similar products overseas.
In particular, the notion that members are charged an investment fee in proportion to the size of their balances is impossible to justify.
As chairman of the Future Fund, Peter Costello, has remarked, the compulsory nature of superannuation means that competition in the industry is muted but that competition would drive down fees and charges.
This is where the inclusion of the Future Fund in some way as a default fund comes in.
Given its extraordinarily strong brand recognition, it just may be that bringing the Future Fund into the pool of options for superannuation members could be the trigger that leads to much lower fees and charges.
Bear in mind, the investment cost of running the Future Fund is substantially below almost all superannuation funds.
Needless to say, the industry super funds forcefully oppose the inclusion of the Future Fund in any form as part of the superannuation landscape.
This bun fight needs to be viewed in the context of the present retirement income review being chaired by former Treasury official Mike Callaghan.
While the review will not produce recommendations, the aim is to improve our understanding of the operation of the current retirement income system and the outcomes it is delivering for Australians.
The review will consider the contribution of the three pillars of retirement income the Age Pension, superannuation and private savings as well as the distributional impact across the population and over time.
It will also look at the impact of current policy setting on public finances.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that there are critical weaknesses in aspects of our system of compulsory superannuation that mean the system overall is failing to deliver on its promises.
There is scant evidence the proportion of the population that will rely, in full or part, on the Age Pension will be much affected.
Moreover, it is absolutely the case that the fees and charges are excessive by any measure.Notwithstanding the governments attempt to deal with the problem of multiple accounts, its not certain that this problem wont simply recur and young people, in particular, will continue to be ripped off.
Immediately this is quite compelling. The fearful article about deadly virus infected Chinese (top right) is mostly green (fear).
The article about travelling to sunny Margret River (middle right) is a pale yellow (joy).
The article uncovering the poor treatment and characterisation of rock climbers by Parks Victoria (bottom left) features a lot of pink (disgust).
The article about heated disputes over superannuation policy (bottom right) is a mix of red (anger) and orange (anticipation).
We can take the average emotional score across each article and build an emotional grade.
Each articles emotional grade can be shown as a histogram representing its emotional content.
This gives us a quick idea of what emotions are most prevalent in a piece of text.
The emotional grade is effectively a consumer guidance tool.
Much like the STAR Energy Rating for appliances or the Health Star Rating for food.
One could imagine a world where publications come with a small emotional icon in the bottom corner.
It is clear today that the rate of information creation has far outpaced the rate that we can consume it. Thoughtfully reading all of our social news feeds, the local and world news, our emails and personal messages is not timely possible. We cannot realistically read all of the newspapers in the world to understand the universal point of view. To better interpret and understand the world we require a different approach.
As I mused through articles and books over christmas I was struck by the curiosity of revealing patterns - particularly around emotion. In one dimension this is possible with sentiment analysis. Not too surprisingly, the ML tools today perform particularly well at this task. I think it is very likely that tools created over the past few years will unlock huge value across industries, it’s simply a matter of where and when they are usefully applied.
I want to understand how opinions, beliefs, and information are spread through the media. For that I need three things; data, models to interpret the data, and a unique way to condense the result into a meaningful representation. A way to make the invisible patterns visible.
I have a few ideas on where to take this…