NewsCO.com.au – Do you want the good news or the bad news?

February 17, 2017

Posted

February 18, 2017 07:36:21

2017 has gotten off to a wild start. What else might be in store?

We asked scientists, futurists and analysts to share what they’re worried about — and excited about — for the rest of the year.

So go ahead and decide whether you want to escape the bad news, or wallow in your anxieties.

Excite Me

Islamic State looks to be on the ropes

While the global terrorist threat is unlikely to dissipate, the Islamic State organisation is on the ropes and may be militarily defeated in 2017, according to security expert James Brown.

“I think the campaign is making a lot of ground, they’re destroying that organisation tactically as well as strategically and the Iraqis have almost taken control of more than half of Mosul, and that is actually a growing success story assuming things don’t get further complicated by Donald Trump’s strategy for the Middle East — but that is potentially a bright spot on the horizon for the next 12 months.”

Brown is confident the instability that allowed IS to flourish in Iraq is beginning to subside.

“In Iraq they are making a degree of progress in terms of firming up the internal strength of Iraq both politically and militarily.

“Syria is still a quagmire but if there is something to look forward to in the US-Russia rapprochement it’s that there might be new options on the table for dealing with the Syrian problem. But that will still be slow, that won’t happen as quickly as the defeat of ISIS this year.”

We can track deforestation in real time — from space

While deforestation and illegal developments have long been among the world’s most serious environmental issues, environmentalists now have a high-tech friend in their corner.

“Improving satellite and computer technologies are giving us ever-better ways to track illegal environmental activities, such as deforestation, logging, fires, mining and poaching — in near-real time,” Dr Bill Laurance from the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science says.

“The pace of technological improvements and practical applications is roaring ahead.

“For instance, we can now see even narrow roads beneath dense rainforests, which used to be very difficult to recognise, and see small scars on the rainforest floor from wildfires.

“We’re almost at the stage where we can tell individual tree species apart in rainforests simply from the complex spectral signatures they give off when viewed at visible and infrared light wavelengths. This will be tremendously valuable for mapping different forest types in places like the Amazon and Borneo, where many thousands of tree species coexist.”

Dr Laurance says the technology has been used to great effect in the Amazon, where rates of deforestation have fallen by more than 75 per cent in the past decade.

“Brazil’s PRODES and DETER programs deserve special mention because they link near-real-time information on threats to forests with information on land-ownership status so that illegal activities can be rapidly detected and the relevant enforcement agencies can be alerted.”

Biometrics will help idiot-proof tech security

As 2017 looks to continue the trend of hacks and security breaches becoming an increasingly common part of our lives, there is one bright spot for technology expert Troy Hunt: the use of biometrics, our fingerprints or other body parts to provide security.

“Biometrics is probably the biggest thing that I could point to in recent times which has actually had a positive impact on security without having a negative impact on usability,” Hunt says.

He adds they’ve gone a long way to overcoming the human failings around security.

“We always sort of say, ‘you shouldn’t reuse your passwords, you should create unique ones’, which is good security advice but terrible usability advice, because now you’re saying, ‘Basically you’ve got to go and get a password manager,’ that’s the only way you actually are going to be able to do that.

“Biometrics and in particular things like touch ID has been fantastic because now we’re saying, ‘Look you really should have a PIN on your phone’ except PINs are crap because you’ve got to remember to put them in every time and it’s a barrier to entry. And Apple has gone to the point where they’ve said ‘If you pick up your phone with your thumb on the home button, that’s it you’re in.’ And the useability barrier totally disappears.”

He says while biometrics aren’t perfect, it’s important that people are realistic about where the threats to their security are actually coming from.

“People are often at one end of the extreme or the other, so they’re either re-using all their passwords and not giving a shit, or they’re tin-foil hat brigade. And I think the trick is finding the right balance here.

“People go, ‘well if you get enough gummy bears and you create a perfect mould of a perfect fingerprint that people have left on a glass and go all James Bond, you can get into the phone.’

“I’m not worried about that! I’m worried about the guy at the bar, I’m worried about the kids picking it up, and that is the threat factor for 99 per cent of people. It is not the state-sponsored actor who really wants to get into your phone or the scientist who has a programmable logic board and gummy bears.”

We might save the leadbeater’s possum … might

While ecologist Emma Burns is fairly pessimistic about the year ahead on the environmental front, there is one thing she holds out hope may happen: the end of logging in the native ash forests in Victoria, which may save the leadbeater’s possum from extinction — if we’re lucky.

“I am really hopeful that 2017 will be the year of change for the mountain ash forests in Victoria, and that the native logging of that system will cease.”

She says there is widespread acceptance from everyone involved that this needs to be done if we are to save the forests and the creatures that live there.

Her optimism is cautious, however: she says there still is a significant chance the changes won’t have come in time to save the leadbeater’s possum. But at least now there is a chance.

She says it is not as simple as just ending logging — extra work needs to be done to try save the possum.

“That’s the issue with many of our ecosystems, it’s not enough to just say I’ll stop doing that … the legacy effects, in ecology we often refer to it as your extinction debt. Like if you’re carrying this debt, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing today, we will realise extinctions in the future based on previous management.

“To that degree it’s going to be difficult to be positive, because even if we make positive change we’ll still experience bad outcomes in the short terms, but it’s like that avoided-loss discussion — that it would have been a lot worse if we hadn’t made those decisions.”

Machines could start reading your mind

2017 will be the year computers and humans start talking to each other, like really talking, according to futurist Ross Dawson, who also says there are some surprises in store for humanity as artificial intelligence becomes even more intertwined in our lives.

“The accelerating pace of a number of different technologies, in particular artificial intelligence, greatly facilitates how we can interact with machines,” he says.

“The ability to use our voices to control our machines, which is obviously not new, the promise is that even within the coming year, the developments in capabilities of the technology will mean that we can start to have far more natural fluid conversations with machines.”

Dawson says we are going to be interacting with AI in a much more natural way by the end of 2017, but that is just the beginning.

“Some of the more exciting developments are around thought interfaces, so using our thoughts to control machines.

“A lot of this is underpinned by new approaches to AI, this is underpinned by increasing processing power, but advances in machine learning, and deep learning which are particular approaches to artificial intelligence have been absolutely extraordinary in terms of their capabilities — including speech recognition, and the ability to be able to create natural responses.

“One thing, which already has happened, is essentially computer-mediated telepathy.

“It’s not necessarily going to be something which all of us are doing by the end of 2017, but we will start to see more and more examples and a further degree of development of the ability for us to basically transfer our thoughts to others just by thinking.

“Essentially they use sensors around our brain to detect brain activity, and to pick those up and to then use something in proximity to our brain to evoke that particular thought.

“We already are able to get a sense of some of the images people are thinking about in their own mind through external sensors, and it is possible that we can start to evoke some of those images in other people’s minds using external sensors.”

If this conjures visions of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a leather jacket, you might be surprised to learn Dawson envisages a different future for how humans and machines interact.

“The reality is we will be more emotionally engaged with robots, we already have begun to have emotional relationships with robots — a cute little robot pet for instance — but as we can start to have conversations with them I think many people will be surprised at how they actually have feelings about what they know is ‘just a program’.

“We are walking into a world where we will have significant emotional ties to some of these technologies.

“There are many people that may think this is a terrible thing, but that is just the nature of who we are, we are emotional beings, and when we start to have interactions we will become emotionally engaged. We’ve already had significant use of therapeutic robots for aged care and dementia, we’ve also seen for example robots that clear landmines in Afghanistan have been given names by their handlers — they start to feel an identity with these robots, which are going out to defuse mines.

“We certainly emotionally bond with our pets and I think to a certain extent we bond with our tools — a mechanic can have a favourite tool — but now when they start to interact with us it is just expressing the nature out of our humanity that we will be emotionally engaging sometimes deeply.”

Three-parent babies will overcome deadly diseases

While three-parent babies might seem like the scary first steps towards a dystopian designer future, the breakthrough actually offers hope to parents who until have had to face the risk of children born with serious congenital disorders.

Dr Joe Milton from the Australian Science Media Centre says three-parent babies is an exciting thing that sounds scary.

“Last year in September we were introduced to the very first human being who has DNA from more than two people. It was a five-month-old little boy and American scientists had used and IVF technique called mitochondrial DNA transfer — and the idea of using that technique is to avoid some pretty nasty rare genetic diseases,” he says.

“The technique involves taking the mother’s unfertilised egg and an unfertilised egg from a donor who has healthy mitochondria. Then the nucleus of [the donor’s] egg that contains the vast majority of the DNA — but not the mitochondrial DNA — is removed, and the nucleus of the [mother’s] egg is also removed and her nucleus is then placed in the egg of the donor.

“So the egg has the mother’s nuclear DNA, and that’s most of the DNA that goes on to make us who we are, but healthy mitochondrial DNA from the donor.”

Milton says the success of this technology will see more children born this way.

“Another technique has been approved for use in the UK … so it will probably be quite soon that we start to see babies being born in the UK that also carry the DNA of three people.

“Now the reason it sounds scary is that when people hear ‘three-parent babies’, they probably immediately start to think about designer babies, and this idea that we’re tinkering with nature, but actually the contribution of that donor who provides the DNA for the mitochondria, is very, very small indeed compared to the total amount of DNA. Humans have about 20,000 genes that code for proteins, and the mitochondria have 37.”

We’ll most likely keep the same PM all year

While the Federal Government hasn’t had an entirely auspicious start to the year, Australian National University professor of politics John Wanna says Australians should hopefully be in for a quieter year in Canberra.

“After the turbulence of 2016, I think the Turnbull Government will gradually settle down in 2017,” he says.

“I think the Government has gradually come to realise their precarious position, and accepted that they have got to deal positively with the Senate crossbench. If Turnbull can pull off a few wins, get a decent budget out mid-year, he might be in a much better position this time next year.”

Wanna says that despite the many “loose cannons” on the crossbench, Labor and the Greens might compromise more and offer a more stable Parliament in 2017.

“We may find the Greens under [Richard] Di Natale actually broker more deals with the Government, because if they want anything out of policy, if they keep saying ‘no’, they are not going to get anything.”

Wanna says some Labor MPs like Chris Bowen and Andrew Leigh were also trying to push Labor towards greater consensus with the Government, or at least minimise points of difference.

People might actually start listening to the UN

With a long history of failing to live up to its utopian ideals, putting a bet on the UN in 2017 is a bit of a long shot, but for migration expert Jiyoung Song, the appointment of new secretary-general Antonio Guterres might be exactly what the organisation needs to cut through.

“After a bit of disappointment that the new UN secretary-general was not a woman, I’m hopeful that Guterres, a former head of the UN’s refugee agency, may lead reforms of the UN, challenge Trump’s rampant racism, and respond to the migrant and refugee crises worldwide.”

Song says early signs indicate that Guterres is looking to make changes in the organisation that could help the UN challenge the rise of nationalism.

“Unlike his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, who lacked charisma and effective communication skills, Guterres is known as an outspoken public figure.”

She says as governments around the world adopt harsher border security policies, the UN is likely to become a key figure in the fight for refugee rights around the world.

“The IOM and the UNHCR have already released a statement against Trump’s executive order, that it’s discriminatory, illiberal and and undemocratic practice by the United States. So the UN is stepping up, especially the UNHCR.”

Blackout crises could force action on energy

While the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have seen the energy sector in the news for all the wrong reasons, the Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood is pretty upbeat about the prospects for reform in the year ahead.

“I’m very hopeful that in the great tradition of never wasting a good crisis … that they create an opportunity and the momentum for politicians to act or be seen to act [on energy and climate policy].”

Wood says he is hopeful that a series of events, including the South Australian blackouts, the sale of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria and the failure of the Basslink power supply between Tasmania and Victoria during 2016, could crystallise politicians’ attention on climate and energy policy.

He is also optimistic that a joint statement from a large group of companies, urgently calling for the Government to reform the energy system to be affordable and reliable as Australia moves away from energy generated by burning carbon, could put enough pressure on PM Malcolm Turnbull to act.

“These are not environmental crazies, these are serious business people who are saying you can’t destroy one of the fundamental economic drivers of our economy.”

We’ll have more TV than we can watch

The golden era of television is set to continue, and according to Dr Marc C-Scott from Victoria University, Australians are going to be inundated with more choice than every before.

The digital media expert says Stan will remain the only local video-on-demand service, but Amazon Prime has just been introduced to join international competitor Netflix. The rights to Presto — a joint venture between Foxtel and Seven — have been bought by Foxtel, who he says will be trying to get users to their Foxtel player.

But he says Australians have been used to free television since 1956 and have been slow to embrace pay TV, as shown by a slow take-up of Foxtel.

“But in saying that, Netflix has very much taken off.

“Twenty-five per cent of Australians have access to Netflix and it’s only been around 20 months.

“It’s showing that Australians are willing to pay for content if it is at the right price.”

But he says people will have to choose their service because buying them all will amount to around $50 a month, which historically the market has been unwilling to pay.

C-Scott says that free-to-air television is not dead yet and will still have a presence in 2017, but there will be a big shift in how the networks use their digital channels and distribute content online.

“They will want to be known as being across all screens, not just being known as being at the front of the TV and Seven will be one of the ones that push that quite heavily.”

Scare Me

North Korea will go nuclear — unless someone stops it

For all the talk of a possible escalation of tensions between China and Donald Trump’s America, it’s another country led by a polarising figure with interesting hair that Lowy Institute security expert James Brown thinks we should be most worried about: North Korea.

“North Korea is the most urgent and pressing security concern for our region. You basically face the choice between North Korea becoming a nuclear power with intercontinental ballistic missiles some time during Trump’s first term, or the US and its allies taking steps to stop that happening — and both of those are pretty concerning prospects.”

While the US and China have previously worked together to manage North Korea this is going to be complicated by the new US President.

“China is on the horns of a dilemma here itself, it doesn’t want to hurry along a situation in which the US might expand its influence on the Korean Peninsula, but by the same token it doesn’t want a nuclear rogue state on its border either,” Brown says.

“So there is more that China can do to pressure North Korea, but not a lot more.”

He says Australia will have no choice but to become involved.

“Australia is really engaged in Korea [and the region] in ways that a lot of people don’t realise. We’re part of the military armistice commission there, one of our Air Force officers commands the UN rear headquarters in Japan, which would be one of the major points if there was any sort of crisis and the UN had to respond. We’ve got trade interests there as well so it’s pretty critical to us.”

Trump’s trade agenda risks jobs and growth

Normally a politician following through on their promises is something to celebrate, but for economist Saul Eslake that might not be the case with US president Donald Trump.

“Financial markets since the election campaign, until the inaugural speech, had been working on the assumption that Trump would be fairly selective in pursuing the things he spoke about during the election campaign, choosing only to do … the things that the markets believe will boost economic growth — like cutting taxes to companies and spending more on defence and infrastructure, whilst not doing the things that markets believe would be damaging to economic growth such as starting a trade war in China,” he says.

“However the inaugural speech was a particularly bleak and aggressive recitation of an intention to do a lot of things that I think are potentially damaging, not only to the US economy but to the global economy as well.

“In particular his statement that protection brings prosperity and strength sounded almost Orwellian.”

Eslake says that if Trump is serious about protectionism it bodes ill for the world, and it will hit economic growth and drive up unemployment.

“From an Australian perspective, first is the impact those policies will have on the global economy, second the impact that any retaliatory measures taken by other countries adversely affected by those measures could have, and I’m thinking here specifically of China, and third the extent to which Trump’s protectionist tendencies will be emulated by Australian politicians.

“The very use of the term protection is deliberately meant to sound as though it’s a good thing. Protecting people and their jobs from rapacious foreigners.

“And so people have been taught to think that tariffs are something you make foreigners pay to get their goods into your country — which sounds like a good thing. Except that it’s false. What tariffs are is something you make your own consumers pay to keep foreign goods out of the country.”

Eslake is also fearful that Trump will drive other countries to follow suit, including Australia.

“It’s also the case, and this partly explains the appeal of people like Trump and other nativists in Europe, and people like Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon here in Australia, that the benefits of more liberal trade have not been fairly and equitably shared,” he says.

“Certainly consumers have benefited from lower prices for goods that are now imported and that benefit has been poorly explained, but the consequences in terms of jobs have been disproportionately felt by working-class households and they haven’t been fully compensated for that by those who’ve gained.

“There are two choices for Australian, and other, politicians. The easy and lazy thing is simply to say well this is how the world now is, Trump’s economic policies are increasingly popular they’re easy to sell, and we should just simply copy them here.

“The more challenging but I think ultimately more appropriate way of responding to it is first of all to do something that Australian politicians haven’t done for more than 25 years, which is to articulate in ways that the broader public can understand the benefits of more liberal trade and the costs of protection.

“And secondly, to implement policies that ensure that the benefits and costs of a more liberal trading arrangement are fairly and equitably shared. Again that’s something that proponents of free trade, both in government and out, haven’t really sought to do.”

You’ve already been hacked — you just don’t know it yet

With hacks playing a role in who became the most powerful person in the world, 2016 may become the year that internet security went mainstream.

But security expert Troy Hunt says it’s probably too late to do anything about the next major hack.

With news emerging that a number of prominent Australian politician have been caught up the Yahoo hacking scandal, Hunt says these events are likely to get more common.

“The thing that strikes me in retrospect — and looking forward — is how many incidents there are we just don’t know about yet. They’re out there, they’re going to have major impacts on organisations, so the damage is already done it’s just yet to hit the headlines.

“When we look at 2016 and see things like LinkedIn, Dropbox, and the really big one Yahoo, these incidents happened years ago, and we just went along blissfully unaware throughout much of 2016 before it emerged that there is all this personal data that’s been shared around, sold and traded.

“And as we go ahead in 2017 I think we’re going to see all these incidents that may have happened years ago and we’ll only just learn about them.”

He is also thinks while financial breaches have traditionally been considered the most important of breaches, people need to become aware of the impact leaks of personal data can be.

“It’s a funny thing where people get so concerned about financial data more so than other classes of information, and I think a lot of this has to about how companies communicate data breaches: one of the first things we focus on is ‘Good news, your credit card is OK’.

“That sort of prioritisation is a little bit misplaced, for a few reasons. One of those reasons is the banks are very good at giving you fraud protection.

“Compare that to the credentials for your email address being stolen, now someone has got control of all your accounts, now they can go an reset your password, now they can start to infiltrate your social networks, and just do all sorts of really nasty things that can make life really hard for you.

“We also see a lot of data compromised that is irrevocable — you see people’s birthdays exposed, the secret questions and answers exposed, once your mother’s maiden name is known, that’s game over — you don’t get to change that like a password, and you don’t get fraud protection.”

Climate change could release diseases frozen for millennia

While climate change looks set to have devastating impacts around the globe, one of the lesser-known implications is the release of deadly diseases locked in the permafrost, according to Dr Joe Milton from the Australian Science Media Centre.

“This has already started to happen,” he says. “In August, a 12-year-old in Siberia died of anthrax, and anthrax hadn’t been in that area since 1941, so the bacterium that causes anthrax must have been frozen there since 1941, if not long before that.

“And as there were unusually high temperatures — which we’re going to see more and more of — the permafrost melted [and] released the bacteria, killed this boy, 72 other people were hospitalised and 2,300 reindeer died of anthrax.”

Milton says the big reason to be worried is no-one knows exactly what is in there, and there could be diseases that could cause a global pandemic.

“That is something we’re going to hear more and more of as the ice around the world melts, and we just don’t know what could be in there.

“It’s completely unpredictable … we could find ourselves facing something like Spanish flu again.”

We don’t know what Donald Trump will do

For security expert James Brown, one of the most dangerous things about new US President Donald Trump is his unpredictability.

“The direction and volatility of US foreign policy is a concern, we just don’t know what type of role the US is going to take in the world in the next 12 months,” he explains.

“There are some contradictory signals from Trump and the people around Trump. So just the level of uncertainty around US global engagement, and the volatility of the signals that Trump is sending creates a degree of instability that is of concern to Australia.

“This uncertainty means that countries like Australia and other powers like Japan, even the UK, Singapore they need to be a little bit defensive and hedge against the fact that we might not be able to get a clear sense of what US intentions are, or that the US might not engage at all, so people are getting a little defensive about that.”

Brown says Trump’s willingness to question treaties such as NATO that underpin the global order has major implications for Australia, which much like many countries in Asia, is heavily reliant on the US for its security.

“In Trump’s policy platform there’s a lot of criticism of alliances, and the value of alliances, and so in the very least Australia is going to have to make the case why its alliance with America delivers value and why it’s in both of our interests to continue it.”

Australia’s refugee deal won’t end detention limbo

While all sides of politics welcomed the news that the Turnbull Government had negotiated an agreement with the US to resettle refugees currently held on Nauru and Manus Island, migration expert Dr Jiyoung Song says this relief is likely to be short-lived.

“Last September at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants in New York, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that his Government would take central American refugees from the Costa Rica refugee camp run by the US. In return, the US would take refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres although the Government denied a swap deal,” she says.

While it appears to have survived Donald Trump’s sweeping immigration crackdown, there are still no details on exactly how and when the deal will take place, and Dr Song says she expects only a few refugees will wind up being settled in the US.

“When it comes to the Australia-US refugee deal, the deal is made, but a critical detail is the implementation — how many will actually go, when will they go, and what kind of people will they select, what are the criteria. All these details are unknown to the public,” Song says.

“Australia will likely take less than 10 central American refugees from the US-led Costa Rica camp, and in return the Trump administration is likely to select those family-oriented groups with small children who are likely to have Christian faith, rather than Muslim refugees, so it actually doesn’t contradict with his executive order.”

She says a visit to Nauru last November by US officials gives a clue as to how the deal will proceed.

“On Nauru in November last year there were 383 [people], including 44 children, and [there were] 871 on Manus Island. But the 871 detainees on Manus Island are all single men, who may be seen as a higher security risk for the US,” she says.

“Last year in November the US sent a team to discuss the details with the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, so that team visited Nauru, not Manus Island.

“I think the reason why they visited Nauru was to see potential refugees that could be transferred to the US, and among the 383 detainees they will probably select those Christian minorities from Muslim-majority countries, who have small children.

“So they will probably select a few, around 10, so that way both Trump and Turnbull can say we made a deal and implemented it.”

Song says 2017 is likely to get even worse for the millions of people around the world who have fled their homes, as Trump’s crackdown spawns imitators around the globe.

The extinction crisis will continue in Northern Australia — and few will notice

When the wilds of northern Australia make the news, it’s often as part of utopian visions of regional politicians as a food-bowl for Asia, or an untapped resource to secure Australia’s future.

But for ecologist Emma Burns, northern Australia should be making the news for another reason, one that’s far more disturbing.

“Mammal decline in northern Australia, even though people like to refer to it as an intact system, is basically catastrophic,” she says.

“But the national conversation we’re having at the moment is about developing the north — it’s not about arresting species extinction and species decline in the north, it’s ‘oh that’s a bit sad, so how do we develop the north’.

“Despite places like Kakadu being held up as examples of pristine wilderness, since the 1970s mammal populations have been collapsing all across the top of the country.”

Burns says that while scientists don’t know exactly what is causing these declines, feral cats and the loss of Indigenous fire practices are likely playing a role.

“They don’t really understand what’s driving the decline, they think it’s to do with changed fire practice, so it’s not so much agricultural development or mining,” she says.

“For example they regularly burn that system now, and cats have adapted and they hunt on the fire front and so the predation rates from cats have gone through the roof, because they’re quite intelligent and so the population dynamics are really getting whacked by invasive species coupled with land management practice.”

The deficit is only getting worse

John Wanna, ANU professor of politics, says with deficits set to increase by more than $10 billion in coming years, the Government is signalling it is not serious about budget repair.

“Things (with the deficit) are getting worse not better, despite minor correctives, it’s not actually correcting, it’s just reducing how much worse it is getting — there’s a huge problem there,” he says.

“The Government have to manage the budget better and there’s not much evidence of them doing that. Things are getting worse, not better.”

Wanna says the Government needs to manage its relations with the states better and look to the Hawke/Keating and to some extent the Howard years, when the federal government used the states to drive the economy.

“But the Commonwealth Government has walked away from that now,” he says . “They need to work with the states to make their economies more productive.”

Inaction on climate change could spread

With Donald Trump already rolling back efforts by the Obama administration to combat climate change, Tony Wood, an energy expert from the Grattan Institute is fearful this will have run-on effects in Australia.

“My biggest concern is that on climate change we just wallow around and in the worst case, the conservative hard right, what we would call the climate deniers within the Coalition Government, just keep pushing to the extreme point where Australia could even — either implicitly or explicitly — walk away from its commitment to the Paris agreement,” he says.

Wood says he is worried the Government will just “muddle along” on climate policy.

“That could be a really ugly outcome because it fundamentally fails to provide any clarity, credibility or predictability for investment to address the bigger issues of (energy) affordability and security.”

He says Donald Trump’s climate policy will fuel dissent in the Coalition.

“His position will give ammunition to the people in the domestic policy scene to say, ‘well, Trump’s not doing it and neither should we’.”

More streaming will make it harder for the Australian TV industry to compete

We’re living in a golden age of television but according to Dr Marc C-Scott, lecturer in screen media, all this choice may cause big problems for the Australian TV industry this year.

C-Scott’s concern is that if international services like Netflix keep coming in but don’t want to invest locally, then the Australian television industry, and particularly jobs, will suffer.

“If [international providers] decide Australia is not a big enough market, and they are not willing to invest, there’s a limit as to where the Australian providers can distribute its content to,” he says.

“If free-to-air are trying to cut costs based on the competition with Netflix, they may not commission those bigger Australian productions that we have seen and so then that’s a flow-on effect to the industry.

“So that’s going to have some interesting flow-on effects for Australian content.”

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