29 May 2017

Four Corners: The Siege

The Four Corners investigation into the Lindt Café Siege:

Part 1


Part 2

21 April 2017

Paris shooting

This from the ABC:

"There was a bus full of police. The man parked just in front of the bus and then he got out a Kalashnikov and then he shot six times," the witness said.
The thing that strikes me is the appallingly bad shooting. You surprise a bunch of fish in a barrel with an automatic rifle and you manage to kill one and injure two. How embarrassing. This is your 15 minutes of fame - your great statement of defiance to the universe - and you don't even bother to do a bit of practice first?

12 March 2017

Prime Directive for Police

“Fiat justitia, ruat caelem” [Let justice be done though the heavens fall] may be apt for a Judge: but it can lead a policeman into tactics disruptive of the very fabric of society."

- Lord Scarman,1981.

19 February 2017

Quote of the Week

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

- GK Chesterton

18 February 2017

We need to talk... about nuclear power

I don't like nuclear power.

I like solar and wind and other clean green renewable options.

The problem with some pro-nuclear people is that they are pro-nuclear. Not that they see nuclear as an inevitable option, or the lesser of two evils, but that they seem to refuse to acknowledge the obvious downside.

And however you might privately think about retuning to pre-industrial times, as a society it is not even worth considering. You will never bring 50%+ of the people with you. Industrial-scale power is here to stay.

So to look at the politically realistic options then:

Renewables will either suffice or they will not.

If they do not, to make up the shortfall you essentially have to choose between coal and nuclear. Which is the lesser of two evils?

This brings us to our story, which could not have been scripted.

Australia, one of the sunniest and windiest places on earth, can survive on renewables alone. Great.

The problem is that the rest of the world cannot.

Given what we know about coal, the shortfall will have to be made up by nuclear.

Australia is the Saudi Arabia of uranium. (It also happens to be the Saudi Arabia of coal.)

So however cleanly and greenly we choose to power ourselves, we still need to power the world.

"But", I hear you say, "we could simply refuse to supply our uranium or coal to the world!"

Yes, we could.

But this is where one problem intersects with another. This is not an isolated technical problem with a technical solution.

Let us put aside the question of the megabucks we could (and currently do) make.

Let us also put aside the fact that coal pollution, nuclear radiation, and climate change do not respect our borders.

If there is going to be nuclear power, then Australia needs to control the radioactive material. This is not about making money by providing the dumping ground. This is about preventing other people from getting their hands on it.

Digging up dirt and selling it, the traditional Australian way, means you make a little bit of money and lose control.

A much better way would be to not sell uranium, but to sell nuclear power. This would mean building, operating, and supplying nuclear power stations for other countries around the world, and reprocessing and storing the waste, as well as decommissioning the power station at the end of its life.

We would also be happy to store the waste of other suppliers, such as Canada and Kazakhstan.

Again, the point of this is not energy, and not even money (although that is a happy side-benefit), but security. The point is to keep control of the world's supply of nuclear material and keep it out of the hands of others, including other governments, all while being the indispensible - perhaps monopoly? - supplier of energy.

This would of course involve a lot of know-how, something Australia lacks (although other countries have the better part of a century's experience).

The best way to build this know-how would be to build our own indigenous nuclear power industry.

I would like to see Australia as the cutting-edge supplier of the world's energy. I would like to see the export of nuclear material banned. I would like to see it shipped oversas, used (preferably in Australian-built and -run reactors), and shipped back home again.

30 January 2017

History suggests Australia could be left behind by the next industrial revolution

By having more egalitarian policies towards

  • suffrage
  • education
  • land policy

today's successful countries, including Australia, became what they are today.

But we can't afford to rest on our laurels: this previous success is in danger:
Home ownership rates are falling and many are shut out of the market. There are substantial funding gaps between private and public schools and we are slipping in global education rankings.

15 January 2017

Frangible bullets

Carrying on from my investigation into the Lindt Cafe siege and similar scenarios, I am investigating frangible bullets.

Frangible bullets are unlike normal bullets. Normal bullets are made of lead. Jacketed bullets (full metal jacket or FMJ, or partially jacketed) are lead with a copper skin (or "jacket") around them. Frangible bullets, however, are made of compressed copper powder. The idea is that when the bullet hits a body or wall, the copper powder crumbles, rather than riccocheting either whole or in fragments.

This is not necessarily a magic bullet - there is always going to be risk involved: the bullet may not crumble fully and fragments may perhaps still riccochet. Also, frangibles can suffer between being drawn from the magazine and striking a target, including especially the moment they are fired from a revolver chamber and enter the barrel: this can be embarrassing on a firing range... and much worse at the end of a siege. Frangibles do seem to have a bit of a reputation for causing difficulties.

Nevertheless, I think it likely that if the NSW Police had been using frangibles, poor Katrina Dawson would still be alive today. Indeed, they should be standard issue. If they give the standard issue Glocks indigestion, then it is the Glocks that should be replaced.

Here is an ad by a manufacturer of frangible bullets that illustrates them beautifully:


You wouldn't do this with a normal bullet. Do NOT try this at home: