To Canstruct: Please reconsider taking on Nauru

My Email to Canstruct

Hi Folks,

Disappointed you are considering becoming further complicit in the Australian Governments continuing abuse of our Human Rights obligations.

Until we all tell the Government the majority of Australians want no business in abuse they will continue with this trainwreck of a policy.

I see from your website you have a history of carrying out projects of impact on the well-being of communities by the provision of much needed infrastructure.

Taking on the Nauru contract appears to be moving the company in exactly the opposite direction.

As a QLDer, I hope you reconsider this contract – Australia needs to be better than the actions of our current ethically challenged federal Government.

Brian Hobby

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Email to Energy and Water Minister Hon Mark Bailey


I received a very nice response from the department stating that they couldn’t see changes to the FiT scheme to allow for battery substitution in the foreseeable future.

I’ll be updating my existing inverter to the latest that will allow more panels while keeping my current feed in tariff – I’ll also be watching the storage market with ROI spreadsheet in hand to see when I can take my major loads offline and maximise export to the grid.

Original Post:

I sent the following off to the Hon Mark Bailey on the 20th Jan 2017, I’d heard rumours that in QLD we may potentially get the option to trade FIT for Storage so I thought I’d ask the relevant Ministerial department 😀

Email Contents:

I was wondering if any further thoughts or progress on changes to policy allowing a battery buyout approach for existing 44cents feed in tariff residents.

I saw reported locally that it was being considered.
and agree fully with Simon Hackett in this space

I’m currently looking at changing / updating my solar system and if the possibility existed for me to exchange my 44cent FIT for storage I’d jump at it.

If there are no changes in the near future my current plan is to effectively take my entire house off grid behind the existing system and export all generation at the current high feed in rate. From my measured history of 4000kWh per annum of generation I expect that would earn me $15,000 through to 2028 which easily would fund such a plan.

I would prefer to upgrade the existing solution (which I can’t do at present) with added storage and sell into the NEM via Reposit and Diamond Energy’s grid credits program – this would have the added bonus for the local distribution of letting me aid in reducing the peak load requirements.

I’m an early adopter in this space and have had solar on my roof since 2009, would like to be part of helping us all move to a lower carbon economy.

Look forward to a reply detailing how and when I might be able to “trade in” my FIT for storage.

Thoughts and comments:

I’ve had the usual polite reply and will update this post with the actual reply as and when it shows up.

Time for more Collusion on Tax?

I don’t mind paying tax

That might sound odd to many, but living in Australia I like the benefits paying my tax brings.

I have public health that works – when my son had a nasty attack of croup when young we had paramedics arrive within minutes and the hospital was exceptional in their care and attention.

All courtesy of Tax.

In a society that historically looks after the less fortunate as one would look after your mate, tax is the thing that allows that to happen.

Think of it as distributed “mateship” 😀

We also benefit from a public school system that on the whole does an excellent job of education – my son attends the local public High School and it is doing a fine job of making him learn, and more importantly think.

Businesses and Tax

Businesses and Global companies currently seem to be doing a great job of avoiding paying any tax at all – and complaining bitterly if they do.

Most of them claim they want “political stability” an “educated workforce” with the “skills to grow their business” as key to where they will locate their operations.

Hmmmm, know what provides those things they want? Generally Governments via funding supported by taxable income. I see very few companies running universities training the graduates they require for engineering, commerce, PR or HR.

So to me it seems like businesses appear that they do not want to contribute to help provide the things they say that they want? I have a sneaking suspicion that you would hear Facebook, Apple, Google and similar screaming very loudly if they suddenly couldn’t find any programmers because none were trained as the Universities folded due to lack of funding.

Why is it happening

It’s my very simplistic view it’s because currently global laws are different country to country and smart lawyers and accountants have found ways to let the companies “shop around” to find the lowest (or no) tax approach.

Secondly in some countries they literally buy the government – looking at you America at present and Australia’s policical donations policies.

It appears that the big finance advisors are doing a great job of informing many how to minimise tax with “Double Irish Dutch sandwich” double speak and similar – it almost looks like their could be collusion… surely not.

Is More Collusion the answer?

I was having a random thought while walking the dog, as you do, and wondered what if all Governments took a leaf out of the “Companies Book” and globally colluded on minimum Tax Rates and approaches.

Something simple like 25% of all profits made by any entity in any country is paid in tax in that country – doesn’t matter if it is an arm of a multinational, you pay locally on what you make locally.

And a few riders on inter business entity loan interest rates while we are at it along the lines of loans to be sourced from local finance institutions if possible in the first instance. If not, then there better be a VERY good reason for interest rates to be higher than best current global commercial rates…..

Not suggesting for a moment that anyone drop tax rates if they are higher (go Norway) but that Governments collude and put a brick under the minimum rate globally so we (and companies) get the services, stability, skills and societies we say we want.

If it’s the same minimum everywhere it would have the potential to stop the shopping around and many of the constant complaints of “it’s lower in Singapore, Ireland, Holland, Panama, etc”

Nothing comes for free, and tax is what we currently choose to fund those things that keep society functioning, so how about more companies actually contribute to help support those things they say they want delivered.

Hunting an Electric Vehicle in Australia

In search of my electric car

I’ve wanted to own an electric vehicle for many years now. The one I really want no one makes yet and is potentially going to be as rare as a unicorn.

It’s a 5 seat fully electric convertible with over 200km of range

(it also needs to be “cool” enough that my teenage son will consent to being dropped off at school in it occasionally.)

Why do I want one?

I’m an engineer, electric cars make sense to me and I’ve wanted one for a long time. I’m also rather passionate about my personal footprint on the planet and an EV makes sense for that.

But, it needs to meet a few fairly specific conditions to make it into our house:

  • We are hot hatch fans (current cars VW Golf hatch and Golf Cabriolet)
  • Needs to seat 5 (family plus school friends / grandparents)
  • Needs over 200km range, because Australia, or PHEV with 50km EV range for  zero emission commute
  • Can probably stretch to $70k ish as we can trade in

I’ve been following Fully Charged on Youtube and am rather envious of many cars that would almost meet our needs, problem is, we can’t get them in Australia.

So what can I get?

So what has crossed my radar and why don’t I have one yet?

  • BMW i3, test drove, son won’t be seen dead in it – sorry design folks, missed with the cool kids
  • VW Golf GTE, would do the trick, I’ve been asking VW Australia for 3 years when it’s coming in – crickets! Would prefer a Polo GTE but that’s not in the wild yet
  • Nissan Leaf – Range and see the i3 😀
  • GM Volt – 4 seats and can’t buy here anymore
  • GM Bolt – currently not going to be available here
  • Renault Zoe ZE 40 – would probably buy tomorrow if they had a red one and imported into Australia – I asked and they don’t intend bringing it in
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV – see the i3 and teenage son
  • Mitsubishi Outlander – I must be the only male I know that doesn’t want an SUV, and neither does my wife
  • Tesla – the 3 might do it for me, but 2 years away minimum at this point. Rest of the range is too big to fit in my garage or my budget
  • Audi A3 e-tron – hmmm this one has potential………… drives well and the teenager doesn’t hate it…………….

Decision time

I’m going to give it a few months to see if VW, Renault or GM bring something in that I can compare the A3 e-tron to – I don’t hold out much hope given their poor record so far.

I am early adopter in the sustainability space, my first solar panels went up in 2008 and I’ve been attempting to get my family into a zero/low emission car since they’ve been on the market.

I’ve been let down badly by Australia’s political lack of vision in addressing emission reduction. A few appropriate policy levers could have seen Australia at the front of the “innovation” pack and still having a car industry.

I suspect that later this year you may well find me commuting fossil free – either by A3 e-tron or my Smart Motion electric bike.

Someone has to start the ball rolling to convince the rest 😀

piccy of Audi A3 e-tron

Getting ready for #DivestmentDay

Change is difficult for nearly everyone, I had been a customer of the Commonwealth Bank for over 18 years. It was comfortable – easy to just leave things as they were.


I almost got motivated last year when Market Forces had the first divestment day, but after a quick look I decided it was all too hard as I had far too many financial bits to move around. This year I made a decision I would divest from the various mainstream financial institutions that I was using and shift to ones that better align with my personal philosophy.

When I include my super, loans, shares and various other bits I’ve shifted about $500,000 from mainstream financial institutions to ones I’m more comfortable with; note it’s more – not completely comfortable, I may yet move my super again from UniSuper to Future Super.

This is a brief overview of the process I went through in case it helps anyone else divest from their existing financial institutions; it could be a bit overwhelming if you have not shifted your finances around before.

First figure out what you need from your new institutions

What do you need from a bank / or super fund? Me, I needed the following:

  • Transaction account
  • Account for my son to continue his education on money matters
  • Credit card  – with built in travel insurance
  • Share portfolio management capability
  • Need to take cash money out of an ATM in NZ without incurring instant interest
  • House loans; at a competitive rate
  • Socially Responsible super investment (not certain I’m there on this one yet)

I started with the excellent guides at Market Forces on switching banks and investigated the possible options that would work for my finances.

For us Bendigo Bank seemed the best fit and their board making a firm commitment to not funding the fossil fuel industry was what finally convinced me to choose them as my new bank. They met all my criteria, overseas cash works via having a debit MasterCard linked to my transaction account. My super is with UniSuper at present in Socially Responsible and Global Green investment options – that is a work in progress……

Changing banks…..

This is the long part. They don’t make it very easy, the government put “easy switching” in place but that only applies to direct debits from your account – not transactions on your credit card. Where you have a monthly bill for insurance, for example, that is charged directly to the credit card this you have to change yourself.

I’m fairly organised and could lay my hands on the last 12 months of statements to check what had been paid as direct debit, what was direct on the credit card, what was from scheduled BPay and what was set up as BPay direct.

First step

Open your all your new accounts at your low carbon bank of choice, easy bit done!

Second step

Get them to aid in submitting the change of direct debit – or find the change of account form on your suppliers website and submit it.

I had the interesting experience that one of my suppliers wanted a followup “real dead tree copy” of their own change of DD form after they had received the “govt” one, or “the payment may revert to the original account”. My advice here would be do it yourself once is likely to end up being simplest.

BPay is easy, copy all the details from one banks online site to the other (or re input as the bills come in).

BPay direct if you have it set up is harder – you must de-register the connection from your current bank before attempting to set it up with the new bank or it will be rejected and fail.

All those people who charge your credit card monthly for insurance (and stuff) and annually for website hosting etc depending on your finances. Google is your friend for finding their contact details – I found most of them very helpful, it’s effectively updating your credit card details which can occur due to fraud or lost cards, not just changing banks. It’s normal and they are used to it. Look for online options with your providers as well – my internet service provider for example lets you change the card online, as does World Vision and Get Up.

To help here’s a list of things I encountered that needed either accounts or credit card details changed:

  • Pay, talk to your work and change where it goes – I could do mine online myself, you may not be so lucky
  • Super payments – does your work sort that out or do you have to do something?
  • House, investment or personal loans – you may need to change default payment and redraw details
  • Insurance, car, house, boat, life, medical, pet, income protection etc
  • Do you have shares? where do the dividend payments go?
  • MediBank refunds, have you got your bank account registered? You can change this online through MyGov.
  • Do you have subscriptions paper, news, music services (Pandora, Rdio), foxtel…..
  • Online shopping iTunes, Amazon, and PayPal
  • Internet services ISP, web hosting, image hosting, gaming accounts
  • Do you donate to charity and do they bill your credit card? Mine do.
  • Do you have investment property and pay land tax, rates, collect rent?
  • Are you living in a city with toll roads and do you have an account?
  • Look through your statement for the last 12 months and see what goes out regularly you may find stuff you can stop that you’d forgotten you pay for 😀

If you are moving shares as I did they all seem to have a nice form that allows you to move your CHESS sponsored shares from one provider to another in a single transaction. I took the opportunity to shift some issuer sponsored shares to CHESS as well to tidy things up while I was at it.

Third Step

Don’t close your old accounts yet, I waited over a month and left some money in the old account “just in case”; proved wise as that is when I found that the government form isn’t perfect and it can be better to do the change yourself. I also had a glitch with one insurance company where 2 out of the 3 payments changed but their system had a “moment” and left one pointing at the old credit card.

Fourth step

Close your accounts and make sure the bank you depart from and the one you arrive at know why – be public about it! Good form letters here at Market Forces.

My customised one to CBA here.

In conclusion

I was very public about my closing of accounts in Brisbane today, it felt empowering to know that I’ve made a small difference by changing how I direct my money.

It’s all about the money really for those of us in Australia. When there is complete policy and action failure by all levels of government there is very little else we have left to use as a lever to move our society in the direction of a low carbon future.

I know I’d like to leave the world in a fit state for my son and future generations so I’m trying to do my small bit to assist.

Hope some of you out there find this useful.

Regards Brian




Higher education needs to be accessible to all

My submission to the Senate….

Dear Senators,

I was the first of my family and the only one of 3 kids in the house to go to university; it was several years back now when it was almost free for anyone to maximise their academic potential.

I have an Electrical engineering degree and I hope that as a result I’ve made a positive difference to our society that more than repays the investment that it made in my education.

If fees were at the levels they are today I have a strong suspicion that I would not have bothered with university and potentially become a tradesman like my father; if fees rise to the level they are anticipated to then I definitely would not have been attending.

My view is that investing in education from schools through to tertiary is an investment in the country’s future that more than repays itself over time.

I think the reasons that countries like Germany continue to perform well is that they understand that a society that easily allows everyone to achieve what they are capable of helps all of society.

Recently Germany started down the path of fees and are in the process of rescinding that decision for the most part

I believe that the proposed fee changes to higher education will stop many people gaining the knowledge and skills that could assist our society in adapting to a changing planet and changing global world.

Please ensure these changes do not occur and if possible look at ways of making education more accessible for all that wish to pursue it.

Brian Hobby

Demand Side Energy Management – My Swimming Pool’s Journey

Up front: savings in energy likely to be over 1 kW; was 1.7 kW to run the 2 x pumps, now likely to be 530 W and possibly as low as 365 W for both.


Let me explain what I’ve worked through and how I’ve done it – all off the shelf but you obviously need to look at your own setup and do your own calculations.

Anyone that owns a pool knows that it is high on the list after the air conditioner in eating energy; I also happen to have 3kW of solar on the roof and it dawned on me a while back that when the pool filter and heating pump’s are running during daylight hours I’m not exporting power at all and only reducing my consumption.

So here is my pool plumbing basic diagram, I’ve left off controllers and non return valves in the interests of simplicity

.Pool Schematic


When normally filtering one pump is running and when there is sufficient heat and the pool needs heating the solar controller kicks in and circulates the the water through the collector on the roof.

I got out the trusty power meter and measured the 2 pumps before the change to see what difference it would make


So you can see from above that the main pump was drawing 875 W and the boost pump 821 W, I plugged them both in and got confirmation of about 1700 Watts to be filtering and heating my pool.

So what did I do? I’ve been fine tuning the system for a while and have recently updated to the Viron eQulibrium salt water chlorinator. It was time to go the whole way and add the chlorine sensor and the P320 pump to let it run in full auto mode and manage my pool for me.

I’ve also had a bee in my bonnet about the solar boost pump, the flow to the roof was managed in classic HVAC style, oversize the pump and then throttle the flow to what was needed. This meant that the pump consumes full power to give less than full flow – my engineering brain was somewhat offended by this.

My research turned up a couple of options, the one I’ve used is an Invertek Pool Pump Energy saver based on their E2 range, you may need to hunt around to find one. Mine came from Ideal Electrical; the other option I turned up was from Future Wave Energy which does pretty much the same thing.

I wanted to fiddle with mine, and possibly in the future add sensors so I went the Invertek as it has that capability.

So I changed the CX240 for the P320 and put the Invertek drive between my solar controller and the pump and lit everything up.


The way the system works is the eQulibrium controller on the right is in charge, it starts the main pump at high speed for purge and after a couple of minutes drops it back to medium (driving the kreepy krauly), once it has turned over the pool 1.5 times it drops to low and samples the water with the pH and chlorine sensors and will wind up to medium and add acid and make chlorine if required.

The solar controller in the middle measures the pool and roof temp and decides if we need heat, it then fires up the invertek which runs the existing CX180 drive at the correct speed for the solar heating – thanks to the guys at the suppliers of my solar system who were happy to tell me how to tune the flow needed.

So the numbers – first the P320 in High, Med, and Low at the settings I need for my pool:


Now the boost will be working alongside the Medium or Low speeds so here are those. First the medium set up,  yes I edited on the Hz to the drive image, but we have medium P320 and Boost at 32 Hz is 1.9 A giving 536 Watts total compared to 1700 watts original for filter and boost.

If you look back up the top you will see the usual filter only was over 800 Watts so the solar boost is more than free 😀


and the low speed numbers giving 365 W once the pool has turned over 1.5 times but still needs heating.


We wouldn’t be complete without a comparison table so here goes:


So, it’s been a bit of a journey, hopefully the above is of use to some of you out there in helping to minimise the energy demand of your swimming pool.

Once you start understanding the most efficient way to run the pump is adjusting the pump and not the water it’s amazing what you can do for your energy efficiency!

My child asks why, Why, WHY? WHY!

By Brian Hobby

Do your offspring drive you batty with the “why?” question?

This was our approach with the boy of many, many, many, many questions……

As our boy got to the 3 to 4 year old inquisitive stage his thirst for knowledge sent him down the why,why,why,why,why path.

I think it is even worse than the “are we there yet?” question as that is confined to the car and was easily diverted with I spy at that age.

The nominal adults in the house were discussing the shift at length and my wife said “why don’t we try what my parents did to me?” I asked her to tell me more….

Well it turns out that it was no more than explaining to the lad that “why?” was not a valid question and that neither parent would be answering it from now on! If he wanted an answer then he needed to think about what it was that he “actually” wanted to know and ask exactly that. Starting with why was OK but there needed to be more words to follow it.

As with all things parenting, we both applied it consistently, when we got a why, we would go “that’s not a real question, what do you actually want to know?” In fairly short order we had interesting discussions on why the sky was blue, why there are so many different types of cars, what are clouds and where did the earth planet come from. The trick was to start with a simple explanation and see if that answered it, if not then get slightly more detailed and check again. Often once he knew the simple answer he was happy and went back to thinking up the next real question!

For us it worked a treat! Interestingly talking to his 1st year teacher at the parent teacher interview she commented that “your son asks such interesting and well thought out questions” we looked at each other, grinned, and told her why.

Payback is sweet, not long ago the lad was explaining something to us as we were traveling in the car and I asked why? He explained, I asked why again – to which he retorted, Dad “why isn’t a proper question” I think we taught him well!


The Blank Slate, scarier than public speaking?

by Brian Hobby


The empty page, inviting the first words…….

I think I find it scarier and more difficult than public speaking.

We’ve all been there, “I’d like a report on……” that comes from your manager, in my role as an engineer “I need to design something that………” or in my spare time as a community theatre tech “We’ve found a really good play, bit technically challenging though, thought you might have some ideas……”

Where do you start?

I know where I usually go – is there some prior art I can steal shamelessly from, ah reuse appropriately with permission. Works well for reports in large companies, usually someone has done it before and it at least gives you an approach. There’s lots of report writing advice out there as well that you can benefit from. But something that no one has done before, a clean unblemished sheet of paper waiting for your thoughts and ideas to flow across it’s surface? That’s intimidating!

Engineers generally have standards to work to, but they are what I term “current best accepted practice” and they are continually updated (slowly and deliberately) as technology changes and new materials are created for us to fiddle with and understand – concrete and electricity were new fangled things once. Where do these ideas come from?

I think it is my theatre technical design that gives me the most insight into ideas and the generation of something new and unique.

For me it goes like this, I get handed a script, I read it – several times usually, with a notepad by my side to jot down what passages make me feel; if I get glimpses of what I think may work on stage, note those too. Then put it all aside, let the subconscious work on it. I’m a great believer in letting the subconscious do it’s work, it’s not for nothing that we say “let’s sleep on it”.

I then discuss with the director and creative team what they have in their head as a vision of what they would like to see on stage, and what glimpses and thoughts have fleetingly occurred to me; then I re-read the script and make copious notes about lighting and sound; all in pencil as they will change! I generally find at this point I have lots of ideas as my subconscious has been brewing on it for sometime.

The rest is as with many things the 99% perspiration that  goes into many of our endeavours, the sheer grunt work of making it happen.

I find a similar process works for me in the reports and engineering space, do the initial reading / research / background, ask your subconscious some questions and park it for a while. Sometimes that can be be over lunch while I get away from my desk (you do get away from your desk I hope?) and do something else; if time permits it may be a few days. I usually find when I come back to the blank sheet it is crying out for my thoughts and ideas.

So yes a blank sheet is a very scary proposition for me, partly because I often have no idea where to start; and partly because I have no idea what journey it may take me on…….

Climate Change, Politics, and 9 year olds……

by Brian Hobby

Driving home from burning sausages for the intermission nibbles at my community theatre of choice my son and I were chatting as you do – about the weather – and that led to the topic of climate change; followed closely by politics.

Warning; the lad is the progeny of an engineer and a chemist so he leans in the maths/science direction.

His immediate statements were “what do the scientists say?” followed closely by “What is the government doing to solve it, because science says it’s occurring so it’s the government’s job to act on what the scientists say ……” (very evidence based is my son and not big on religion either)

His view is that the evidence is in so we should all act on it, and as the government is charged with doing the correct thing for the people it governs it is their “job” to get on with it.

Sometimes I wish I could see things with the clarity of a 9 year old!

I had to disappoint him with the fact that the current government didn’t even have a minister for science, let alone have a decent plan to deal with climate change. His response was pretty much “WHAT!” Followed closely by so what do the government actually care about? That got me thinking, how to break the major parties down into chunks digestible by a 9 year old……..

So I went, the Liberal party tends to be about letting business get on with it and letting the market sort things out. Unfortunately this often means it’s about the money, and some people think that money is only important thing. He quickly said what about friends and the environment, if you don’t have them money isn’t much use!

Then I said, the usual opposition party is Labor, they came originally from the trades areas – you know builders and all the people that helped extend the house. They tend to be about a fair society, making sure there is medical care for everyone and that no one gets left out; oh and they did an ok job of starting on the climate change problem. Hmmm he went.

Ok I said, then we get to the smaller parties like the Greens, their main areas of interest tend to be looking after the environment, but they also want to look after all the people like Labor and encourage more cycling and thinking about how to do things smarter; oh they are also for making sure everyone gets a good education and acting on what science tells us.

The discussion ranged far and wide across what it all meant and what can we do about it, how does voting work and could 1 vote make a difference. In the current Senate election I said it has literally come to 1 vote deciding the outcome – WOW he responded.

As we closed on home and the impending bath and bedtime stories, he confided quietly to me “I think I like the Greens the best