Thursday, 31 January 2013

Oh dear, what a way to start our longest ever election campaign : Craig Thompson arrested and facing multiple fraud charges

Remember when PM Julia Gillard told us the embattled Member for Dobell had her full support, how times change as today she ducked for cover during a media conference in flood-bound Bundaberg when news of Craig Thompson's arrest broke. No comment, we are here to talk about the floods..
from the Courier Mail ( his solicitor has since  denied he refused to turn himself in):

SUSPENDED Labor MP Craig Thomson was arrested in his electorate office this afternoon after he refused to surrender himself to Victorian police.
NSW detective superintendent Colin Dyson said Mr Thomson was charged with one arrest warrant and served with paper relating to 149 charges.
He said Mr Thomson had been invited to surrender himself in Victoria prior to Christmas, but refused.
Det Supt Dyson said he could not comment on the Victorian police probe, but added Mr Thomson “remains a person of interest” in a NSW police probe.
NSW Police’s Operation Carnarvon is investigating allegations of fraud committed against the Health Services Union.
"He remains a person of interest in the Strike Force Carnarvon inquiry," Det Supt Colin Dyson said.....

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Magic-gas Discovery by Viv Forbes

It has been discovered that Australian coal has a magical property – it is one of a small group of coals which produces an invisible gas with super-natural properties.

This magic gas, carbon dioxide, first became famous for its claimed ability to warm the whole world, thus removing the threat of a new ice age. The British academic who reported this magic power claimed that winter snow would become “a very rare and exciting event”.


Then an Australian guru predicted that just a tiny addition of magic-gas to the atmosphere would abolish floods, and billions of dollars were spent constructing water desalination plants to combat his forecast of never-ending droughts.

Cartoon by Paul Zanetti


Then after massive snows in Britain and huge floods in Australia, it was widely reported that magic-gas could produce both heatwaves and snowstorms, floods and droughts and even bushfires, cyclones and tornadoes, depending on the way the political winds were blowing in that country.

Strangely, only a few countries are able to produce “magic-gas”. A special exclusive club called the Kyoto Club was formed for these lucky countries. Membership fees are stratospheric, but members are rewarded with invitations to lavish UN conventions at top tourist destinations. However, many founding members have allowed their membership to lapse, leaving only EU, Australia and New Zealand as fully paid up members.

Coals burnt in Russia, India, China, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Canada and USA produce carbon dioxide but their gas apparently lacks the magic climate-altering properties of Australian magic-gas. Amazingly, these properties are lost if Australian coal is burnt overseas – once loaded on a ship the magic disappears.

There are a few unpatriotic Australians who think the whole “magic-gas” thing is a big con, and just an excuse for a new tax. Worried that the world may become sceptical of the magic-gas story, CSIRO has been charged to re-educate these dangerous and deluded sceptics.

Vast sums are also being spent by academics to invent more climate-bending properties for carbon dioxide, and regular dramatic announcements are expected on the ABC and the BBC.

Cartoon by John Spooner

Monday, 28 January 2013

Blokes, man flu is real

The trauma has just been renewed, the old wounds reopened, just recently I had a bout of the dreaded man flu and in summer time to make it all the worst. Right when a man is most vulnerable, when the sinuses are blocked up, every bone is aching, a tightening sensation of the skull any exertion is as ponderous as a moon  walk we have to endure on top of it all the uncaring implied remarks that men just aren’t as tough as women.

We seek refuge of the armchair, comforted by the sport on TV and hanging on for dear life to one of life’s essentials, the remote control; make simple requests to aid the recovery from our plight such as the medicine found in the “square bear”.  Surely in our condition a rum every half hour is needed?  We are told that we are the ones that sound like a bear; well maybe the man flu does make you grumpy. That the point it is one of life’s most debilitating diseases and us mere males are scorned in our suffering.

But be reassured my friends for man flu is real and has now been scientifically proven to be so. This very week news has come via The Examiner in Tasmania, Research backs up 'man flu' sufferers, that reports on the findings from a university in Britain

Britain’s Durham University, has reached the conclusion that men really do suffer more with coughs and colds as they have more temperature receptors in the brain.
Dr Ellison said the difference lies in the area of the brain which balances a variety of bodily mechanisms, including temperature.
Men and women start out as equals in dealing with colds because the area, known as the preoptic nucleus, is the same size in children.
But when boys hit puberty testosterone starts to act on the area, which is in the brain’s hypothalamus and attached to a hormone gland, making it larger.
Dr Ellison, a senior lecturer at Durham, said: ‘’When you have a cold one of the things that happens is you get an increase in temperature to fight off the bugs.
‘’The bugs can’t survive at higher temperatures. When your immune system is under attack the preoptic nucleus increases temperature to kill off the bugs.
‘’But men have more temperature receptors because that area of the brain is bigger in men than women.
‘’So men run a higher temperature and feel rougher – and if they complain they feel rough then maybe they’re right.’’

Lot of big words in there but maybe our standing in family unit can be restored; maybe we are the stronger sex after all. We should remember this doctors name who vindicated our right to complain about the crippling fate of the man flu.  What’s his name, I hear you ask?  Well the article says Neuroscientist Amanda Ellison.

Amanda! Maybe this is a bit like saying, ‘I’m the boss of the house because my wife allows me to say that? 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Road trip – Murray’s Mouth

Leaving the Adelaide Hills it wasn’t an over taxing drive to reach Mount Gambier that night and there was time to pull over occasionally at whatever took our fancy. The first place we pulled up was where the Murray River empties into Lake Alexandrina at Wellington. Now the locals and the SA tourist mob may disagree but I don’t believe that this is any well-known tourist spot; what motivated me to check out this spot was the debate over the last few years on the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The plan was finalised at end of last year with no one completely happy with the outcome other than glad that they could move onto other things from a prolonged debate over many years. As a member of the Australian Environment Foundation I was aware of their Rivers Need Estuaries campaign. A very rough summary of the AEF argument was that massive amounts of mega litres was to be taken from upstream irrigators under the MDBP possibly destroying the economic and social futures to keep the lower lakes, Lake Alexandrina & Lake Albert, in the unnatural state of being continually freshwater. That in the 1940’s barrages were built to keep sea water out of the lower lakes and prior to this the lower lakes were an estuary system that changed from freshwater in wet seasons with the Murray running and it drier years the seawater coming into the system. The AEF sought to remove the barrages which would have meant that irrigators around the lower lakes who since the 1940’s made use of the continual source of suitable water would lose out but AEF argued that it was better to fully compensate the few rather than drastic cuts to much larger productive areas upstream. I won’t bore you with any more, if interested go the Rivers Need Estuaries link and to this speech by Dr Jennifer Marohasy to the Sydney Institute.

           What did we see; the Murray was running high and from the wet years 2010 and 2011 Lake Alexandrina from a distance looked as if it was full. Where we crossed the river on the ferry the land was very low lying. As a farmer the salt lakes didn’t inspire me. There certainly far better land upstream in SA that was being irrigated. But this was only one spot on a very big lake system; I was only an interstater blowing by and no doubt influenced by state parochialism.

I gained a brief SA perspective that afternoon when I stopped for a prearranged coffee with a couple of online contacts in the seaside town of Robe. South Aussie’s feel that they have improved their water effientcies dramatically over the last decade especially upgrading infrastructure and they were not using a greater amount of water and it was time for the States upstream to do likewise. BTW if you travelling the Princess Highway on route to see the Great Ocean road make the detour to Robe and even stay a while, we were very pleasantly surprised in our 1 hour stopover.

The other stop we made that day was a lookout on a mini peninsular with views of the Coorong. The day we were there didn’t do any justice to what is by all accounts a very special spot. If you need to be enlightened to what the collective conscientious within the car of the best description to the smell; SA tourism would like you not to ask.
Previous related posts

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Here in Gladstone we are measuring the rain in metres (be careful what you wish for)

While southerners and some in other parts of Queensland are praying for rain or doing collective rain dances, up here around Gladstone we are measuring the rainfall in the past few days in feet (or metres if you prefer).
Three months with little or no rain, now multiple highway and roads cut, flood alerts issued, and still it's raining. Earlier this morning our total had reached 1050 mls or 42 inches or over a metre. I sent this email to family members about 7.30 am today:

"Well we are now past 1050 mls  or 42 inches on the old scale since it started a couple of days ago which is mind boggling. Highest one day rain ever for yesterday.  460 mm or over  18 inches in the 24 hrs to noon on Friday. It's still raining and an emergency flood alert has been issued for homes along the Boyne River which is expected to peak at 8.45 this morning. Awoonga Dam is 4.8 metres over the spillway which is higher than the flood level two years ago. Can't get to the dam but might venture over to Boyne Island later for some pics. 
Wind gusts over 90 km/hr in Gladstone yesterday. Apart from a couple of pot plants blown over, we have fared very well although the yard is pretty soggy. 
I don't remember seeing rain like this before here. We were stuck at Tewantin during the Jan 2011 floods but as I said, the dam level did not reach this height. If old Noah was around now he would be building an ark for sure."
Well the houses at the Boyne mouth  did survive this morning's high tide unscathed but with water lapping their front yards. However they are not out of the woods (water) yet the dam is now 5.5 metres or more than a metre above the 2011 level over the spillway, and could reach 7.5 metres over. I tried to post some photos I took this morning but the link options look different and I lost the whole post. Will try again later.
I don't think they wanted a water view this close to the homes near the river mouth at Boyne Island. Note though that the water, fed by  an overflow from Awoonga Dam more than 5r metres above the spillway, is relatively clean.

Meanwhile just up the highway at Mt Larcom Peter Neilsen posted this update on Geoff Brown's discussion this morning:
 "Peter Neilsen January 26, 2013 at 11:53 AM
Latest for Mt Larcom. The total known rainfall for period 9-00pm Wednesday night to 9-00am Saturday morning is approx 54 INCHES . Exact amount is largely unknown because I had to estimate the rainfall because the gauge overflowed when I dared to go to bed to get some sleep.

The total for the 24 hours would be 755mm plus because of not having an exact reading.
My gauge is only a 6 inch (150mm) one but I access it from my front landing and do not have to go downstairs to read it.
When it stops raining I am going to have to pull the weather station down and clear out the spider that has crawled into the "tipping bucket" mechanism and stopped the bucket from tipping.

When It overflowed this morning, I estimated the rainfall for the 6.5 hours from 2-00am to 8-30am (when I finally dragged myself out of bed).
The rainfall for 1 hour from 8-30 til 9-30 was 72mm which would have given a reading of 468mm for the 6.5 hour period. This would mean a 24 HOUR reading of 755mm (or a bit over 30 inches.

The estimate would have been a bit on the conservative side because I took the 1 hour reading just before the rain eased. It had been raining much harder during the entire night."

If you think we are exaggerating, here are some Observer links. Amazingly no serious flooding inundating houses around here yet although there could be some up in the Boyne Valley.

The beach near Canoe Point just after high tide this morning.

The night before all the rain started. Freddo enjoying the dog's water bowl verandah spa bath. No shortage of water now.
Update Sunday morning hundreds evacuated and hundreds more out sightseeing:

What difference would another metre make to these very expensive riverside properties?
Latest updates at The Observer:

Friday, 25 January 2013

Fiscal Cliffs

OK you most likely to have seen this one in an email someone has sent you but I believe it illustrates very clearly to a household level just what is the size of debts that governments can rack up on our behalf.
Now some homework - can someone repeat the same formula used here to illustrate the US debt to the Australian situation?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A day in the Ourimbah.

This morning it was very misty. It was a fairly chilly morning for a January on the NSW Central Coast.

The day ran through the full range of seasons. The temperature rose to around 32ÂșC and then we experienced a thunderstorm and lightning around 5pm. That cleared the atmosphere and before sundown, the same scene looked radiant.

Can a ‘good’ farmer in Australia still earn a good living?

Given that there will always be good years and bad years, can a ‘good’ farmer in Australia still earn (on average) a good living?

I doubt there is anyone in Australia, no matter how disconnected from the madding crowd they may be in their multi-million dollar capital city penthouse, who isn’t aware of a sense of crisis in our rural economy. So in terms of my question, what’s ‘good’? Let’s say money – wise, would $80K +  after tax, as a running 7 year average, be fair? And farming – wise (taking farming in a broad sense to include croppers, graziers, orchardists, other fruit and veg growers etc), would that be someone applying the latest proven technological and agriscience knowhow? If the answer is “No”, then I humbly think we have a big national problem.

Firstly though, a little background / history. Whilst a capital city dweller for coming on 50 years (never in a penthouse however J), my formative years, up to early teens, were spent in or around the Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Murgon / Kingaroy districts. Back in those days when we still had droughts, floods, fires and gluts, farmers generally were looked up to as much for the fact that they were the ones driving big cars, sending their kids to grammar schools and so on, as much as for their hard work and productivity. The rest of the rural communities worked in shops, for the railway, the PMG, at the mills, in garages, drove trucks and buses, ran small stores, taught and nursed etc. Few of them showed the trappings of wealth, save for the odd very successful medical / dental practitioner, engineer, architect, stock and station agent or the owners of emporiums like Millroys in Rocky, or Buss & Turner’s in Bundy. Successful farmers were the landed gentry, but that never included small (subsistence) dairy farmers. Later on, in the early 60s, I enjoyed the eye – opening experience of getting to know some of the largest grazing properties west of Collinsville, and their legendry family owners were plain evidence that the landed gentry were still alive and well!
Sorry for the big segue, back to the question! Accepting that the vicissitudes of the weather will always impose cyclical problems, and we are certainly experiencing them right now, are all farmers being robbed and bankrupted by unfair, uninformed government regulation? Such as locking up of land for carbon credits, ‘green’ policies precluding proper fire protection and the live export fiasco? And as many now seem to be claiming, the ‘robber baron’ foreclosure actions of the self – same banks that played a key role in saving Oz from the depths of the GFC fallout, and remain the cornerstone of millions of superfunds?
Or, are ‘good’ farmers following sound agrinomical and management principles still able to ‘do OK’, managing their relationships with banks and government?.

Coming from a city background in business and finance (not banking!) as I do, I could assure any reader that I have known a heap of small businesses, and big ones too, that have sadly gone down due to the economy and changed circumstances. In many cases, no fault of their own, other than perhaps of not having ‘read the signs’, and adapted. Some complained bitterly of the support available to farmers and farming organisations but not to them, pointing out that those organisations continually fought to reduce / remove tariffs which supported other industry. Sadly that’s life and while bank lending is no doubt an important part of the mix, in the harsh world of survival, is it the entire cause of failures? So is farming so different? Are 3rd generation plus farmers failing because the banks pulled the plug on them unfairly, in hard times, or as some ‘globalists’ might say, are they also victims of bad management, lack of forward planning and ‘we’re farmers, and therefore owed a living’ mentality? Or perhaps above all, of poor, fragmented and unsophisticated representation in what is an increasingly competitive and technological world? The ubiquitous small corner stores of the 50s – 60s are long gone, as increasingly are stand alone pharmacies, medical practices, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers ........

I really worry about this, I think it is an extremely important question. What do you think?

Cheers al

Monday, 21 January 2013

Serious health concerns over Gladstone oysters

By John Mikkelsen – Saturday 19th January, 2012
IGNORANCE is said to be bliss, but  medical and science experts have pointed out it could have serious consequences when it comes to contaminated seafood, including oysters.
Gladstone residents and tourists remain largely unaware of dangers from potentially contaminated oysters and shellfish following toxic algae blooms and the presence of heavy metals detected last year. However, in NSW authorities were quick to issue an official warning about contaminated Sydney oysters in the lead up to the Christmas holidays..
Toxic lyngbya majuscula algae was positively identified in Gladstone Harbour last year following the hospitalisation of two Turkey Beach fishers, and poisonous diatoms, another form of marine algae, were also detected, but no health warnings were issued.
The risks of consuming possibly contaminated local shellfish including oysters were recently highlighted by aquatic disease specialist Dr Matt Landos following extensive research in Gladstone waters.
Dr Landos told the Queensland Telegraph that shellfish populations exposed to the increased sediment load generated by dredging were likely to have been significantly impacted.
“The timing of mortality of oysters (and other aquatic biota) suggests that sediment re-suspension and associated increased metal exposures from the dredging and disposal project has contributed to oyster mortalities.
Rio Tinto hired a private ecotoxicology firm to undertake oyster testing in Gladstone harbour in 2012, but the results which were very clearly not good for the oysters remained suppressed,” Dr Landos claimed.
He explained that oysters are routinely used to assess toxicity of water and as “sentinels for accumulation of metals”.
While Queensland health authorities have failed to act, their NSW counterparts issued an immediate health alert  following the discovery of contaminated oysters in Botany Bay after the toxic algae outbreak there.
They warned against eating oysters, clam, crabs and abalone, and an environmental medicine specialist, Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, believes similar warnings should have been issued previously at Gladstone.
 Dr Jeremijenko has also called for the monitoring of oysters in Gladstone waters following the continuing controversy over the health of local seafood and other marine animals.
Dredging has been blamed as the most likely cause of the fish disease by Dr Landos, but this has been denied by Gladstone Ports Corporation and Fisheries Queensland which both blame the floods two years ago.
Dr Jeremijenko also believes the dredging and the disturbance of toxic compounds in the silt is responsible, and he has also warned that extreme cases of toxic algae poisoning could result in human fatality.
He told The Telegraph yesterday that monitoring should be conducted for dangerous algae, including the type which produces paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) as found in Botany Bay.
“There should be a program of monitoring the Gladstone oysters for toxins such as heavy metals and PSP toxins, but currently this is either not being done or the data is not being made public.
“ In Gladstone Harbour, despite far greater environmental pollution and industrial activity than Botany Bay, there are no warnings about the oysters and whether they are safe to eat.
“What we now know is that an independent scientist has found them to be affected.
“ Gladstone harbour has had multiple toxic algal blooms associated with high turbidity and high nutrient levels, but the algae associated with these blooms has not always been identified.
 PSP can be fatal in extreme cases and children are more susceptible.
“Despite destruction of oyster habitat, diseased oyster shells and collapse of stock, the State’s willingness to monitor and protect the oysters in the harbour, and the people that eat them, is lacking”.
Dr Jeremijenko said another study in Gladstone Harbour a decade ago during a previous dredging program had also found that oysters were taking up toxins such as heavy metals, arsenic and aluminium and “the closer to the dredging, the worse it was”.
“The authorities should be lobbied now to take appropriate measurements and do this as part of the UNESCO- recommended Gladstone Enquiry,” he said.

Alien Environment Fuels Firestorms by Viv Forbes

A recent report from friends who suffered terrible losses of buildings, fences, pasture and cattle in the Coonabarabran fire commenced with the ominous and oft-repeated message: “a raging fire came out of the National Park straight for us”.

There is only one way to limit fire damage – reduce the fuel available.

Fuel load can be reduced in three ways – by grazing animals, by planned small “cool” fires, or by mechanical reduction with slashers, mulchers or dozers.

Australia’s grassland landscape was created and managed by generations of Aborigines who were masters at using man’s most useful tool – fire. Every explorer from Abel Tasman (1642) and Captain Cook (1770) onwards noted the smoke in the sky and the burnt trees whenever they landed. This burning created the open grassland landscapes that dominated pre-European Australia. Aborigines lit fires continually, so their small patchwork fires caused no permanent damage to the environment and created and maintained the healthy grasslands on which many animals and Aborigines depended.

Misguided tree lovers and green politicians have locked the gates on ever-increasing areas of land for trees, parks, heritage, wilderness, habitat, weekend retreats, carbon sequestration etc. Never before on this ancient continent has anyone tried to ban land use or limit bush fires on certain land. The short-sighted policy of surrounding their massive land-banks with fences, locked gates and fire bans has created a new alien environment in Australia. They have created tinder boxes where the growth of woody weeds and the accumulation of dead vegetation in eucalypt re-growth create the perfect environment for fierce fires. Once ignited by lightning, carelessness or arson, the inevitable fire-storms incinerate the park trees and wildlife, and then invade the unfortunate neighbouring properties.

Many of today’s locked-up areas were created to sequester carbon to fulfil Kyoto obligations. Who pays the carbon tax on the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by wild fires?

The green bureaucracies and politicians are clearly mis-managing their huge land-bank. Aborigines and graziers did a far better job. There should be a moratorium on locking up any more land and a return to sustainable management for existing land holdings.  

Viv Forbes,
Rosewood    Qld   Australia
Previous related discussions

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Wes Allen critiques a discussion paper by Joe Postma

Elizebeth's brother Dr David Weston (Wes) Allen has written a critique of a discussion paper by Joe Postma.  I have posted it on the NCTCS blog.  (Here)  Most of us will remember John Byatt, who has almost congratulated Wes in a comment  HERE  - "I do not know why you bother Wes, but well done,"

Never thought the day would come.

Road trip – Barossa Valley

As someone who enjoys more than the odd drop of port, the fruits of the Barossa are well appreciated. This was also the first time that I went back to visit where Samuel Stiller and family first settled at Bethany near Tanunda after arriving on Australian shores in 1844.

Although the landscape was dry as to be expected for localities within a winter rainfall paten, the scenery was still pleasant. I’m told it’s at its best in the spring. Driving around the Adelaide Hills & the Barossa the towns are close together. The Qld measurement of how many stubbies between towns wouldn’t apply; you would be flat out consistently downing one. We were warned not to park under red gums searching for shade as on warm days visibly sound limbs fall off without warning. Check out the photo below for the sign we found on a tree near the Friedensberg cemetery where the maternal ancestor of my wife’s family is buried who coincidently immigrated to Australia on the same boat as my family.
Besides a couple of days relaxing we spent one day following up the movements back in the mid 1800’s of my wife’s family. One day going up into the mallee country at Lowbank where my great grandfather & as a young man my grandfather farmed. Where my great grandmother died in 1928 aged 49; where the drought in the early 1930’s was that bad that the few remaining livestock were fed off the thatch off the roofs of the buildings; the farm was surrendered to the bank and with what little processions the family still had moved to Qld where my great grandfathers brothers had pioneered settlement in the Downfall Creek valley. Then one day was spent at Bethany in the Barossa valley.

The first photo above is one I took from a high hill overlooking Bethany; all the buildings at the base of the hill belong to the two branches of the Stiller family who have remained on the original land. Until recent times the next three strips of land belonged to the family. Sadly modern day commercial pressures upon the small traditional vineyards are such that they are no longer viable. Not only has vineyards with greater scale as we saw at Griffiths in NSW on the way home have had an impact but also the market has been distorted by large investment scheme funds. One branch of the family has pulled their vines out and the other has very recently sold their vineyard fields and is looking to sell the house as well.

This quote comes from Random House, Discover Australia, Motoring Guide 1997 edition found in a short entry about Bethany.

This was the first major Barossa settlement founded in 1842 when more than 20 German Lutheran families arrived from Silesia to escape religious persecution. The original cottages stretched along the village street with farming strips reaching back behind them across to the village common; this was the pattern in Silesia.

Refer again to the first photo and you can see what can be called the village street across the upper left hand side of the photo. The houses for the village settlement are on this street & each parcel of land is a long narrow piece going back behind the cottages. This form of village settlement is again mentioned in this South Australian History web site as well as how the village employed a shepherd to care for the livestock on the village common. The village common was where I took the photo from. Talking to a younger cousin of my grandfather who is still in residence; he told me of how the shepherd would pick up the few milking cows from each little farm along the village street each morning & take them up to the common. Those cows would get so use to the routine that in the evening as he brought them back down the village street they would by themselves drop off into the correct farm yard to where they belonged. The shepherd’s cottage as it stands today is the last photo below.
Previous related discussion, Road trip - Broken Hill

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Where the Global Warming Hoax Was Born

I wonder how many have seen this Special Report at the link below?

The AGW scam apparently began at the 1975 'Endangered Atmosphere' Conference in North Carolina.

I think it is something about which people should be aware.

The report was published in the Fall 2007 edition of the 21st Century Science & Technology magazine.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead
 stressed throughout her presentation the need for consensus, an end-product free from any troubling "internal scientific controversies" that might "blur the need for action."

 She believed in population control.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Road trip - Broken Hill

Last night we arrived home after a couple week break on a road trip that covered a total of 6,015 km’s. It was a complete break as there was no facebook, internet TV or even radio news. The road trip turned out as real history tour especially going to places significant in the 1880’s; maybe not all of national significance but of importance to my own family history.

After leaving Qld from the in-laws place near St George we crossed the border at Hebel and a 13 ½ hour travelling time, arrived at Broken Hill.
Broken Hill was a very pleasant surprise, we had booked a 2 night stay which is a full day of sightseeing but we found that Broken Hill offered enough to keep you interested for a 4 night stop over. There is nearby Silverton, art galleries included that of Pro Harts that we visited, museums, mine tours, lookouts at sunset and soak in some rather unique architecture.

Photo - Pro Hart's famous painted Rolls Royce
From memory the Broken Hill mining of silver, lead & zinc got going in the late 1880’s when the gold rush era was a fading memory. It was very important to the Australian economy in the depression in the 1890’s. BHP became one of Australia’s largest companies and in doing so it contributing to Australia developing a manufacturing industry throughout the first part of the 1900’s.

In context of the current debate of resource activity impacting upon agricultural production it is very safe to say that Broken Hill mining activity never took out any prime agricultural land.

Photo - Old buildings at Silverton
Lastly I can highly recommend the accommodation we booked at Jadan Cottages; well renovated old building, very thoughtfull provisions for the travelling family and at a very reasonable cost. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Will Australia be 'The Biggest Loser" as the US eats into the gas market?

AUSTRALIA will be the biggest loser among liquefied natural gas exporters if US LNG production takes off in a meaningful way, with more exports displaced than any other nation because of the high costs of building new projects.
The finding, in a Deloitte report commissioned by US LNG proponent Cheniere Energy, comes as global engineering contractor KBR - a leader in West Australian projects - says work on US LNG projects is starting to grow as work in Australia dwindles because of surging costs.
The Australian reports if a substantial amount of US LNG is exported to Asia, it could displace the equivalent of one $20 billion project in Australia..
KBR chief executive William Utt said price hikes in Australia meant opportunities for his company were falling.
The nine million tonnes a year of potentially displaced Australian LNG production would be the same amount as the $US20b Australia Pacific LNG project in Gladstone is aiming to produce.
 My Comment: The Australian industry claims it has contracts in place (including the burgeoning CSG/ LNG industry in Central Queensland) so time will tell if these will be honoured when cheaper shale gas is available from the US and probably other overseas competitors. Or will a cash strapped government be called on to prop up the expensive new process here, which is battling controversy on many fronts, mainly environmental issues?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

French focus on threats to Great Barrier Reef

The following is a media release just received from Australian environmental group Save the Reef. Recently some of us were told this was a local issue of no interest to the general community on "that" site. But it is still very much in the international focus. See the Planet Hope video at

Save the Reef media release.
9 January 2013
International embarrasment  - Great Barrier Reef Dumpsite

French television internationally embarrassed Australia by airing news about the Great Barrier Reef "dump site".   In a 10 minute program the French interviewed Gladstone fishermen with their sick fish and ruined livelihood and discussed the Abbot Point expansion.   France had no problems discussing how Australia is risking their World Heritage Status with plans to expand Abbot Point and dump dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  (This plan was mostly ignored by Australian TV when released)    The decision makers in France would most likely have seen this news program and it will not aid Australia's case which will be presented on 1st February 2012 to UNESCO (who have threatened to put the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area on the "In-Danger" list). 

Save the Reef has condemned the Abbot Point expansion.  A report by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning found Abbott Point was under utilized and its use has been declining over the past three years, operating at just 27% capacity last year.  There is no need to expand Abbott Point and use the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as a dump site for 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil right now when UNESCO is about to make a decision to put the Great Barrier Reef on the In Danger list"  stated Dr Andrew Jeremijenko.  "Dumping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a new low for Australia. Lower then the current Gladstone Ports dump site in the World Heritage Area.  The claims that dumping in the marine park 8km from Holbourne Island National park in the Whitsundays will not cause harm are unbelievable."   
The Government continues to 
ignore the UNESCO recommendation and released its 10 year Port Strategy with its plans to expand ports like Abbot Point throughout the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. They intend to continue to use the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area as a dredge spoil dumping zone despite 91% of people opposing it and plan to start charging to dump spoil in the marine park despite UNESCO's recommendation to improve water quality.  The government have relaxed the water quality limits and allowed dredging over the limits.  They fined the dredgers a paltry $6600 for dumping tonnes of their spoils illegally in the World Heritage Area and passed new legislation so that mines can dump their waste water (the equivalent of half of Sydney Harbour) which will flow into the Great Barrier Reef.  
 “The government is defying UNESCO.  It not only recommended expansion of ports that don’t need to be expanded, it also relaxed the coastal development laws, despite UNESCO expressing extreme concern about  “the unprecedented scale of coastal development.” said Dr Andrew Jeremijenko. 

The state has announced its 3 month inquiry into the Health Payroll,  but has failed to announce the UNESCO recommended inquiry into Gladstone Harbour and Curtis Island including its expansion into the pristine Keppel Bay.   The local council, the state member and the Federal member, all oppose the expansion of Gladstone ports into the Fitzroy  Delta and Keppel Bay, home to the rare Snubfin dolphin.     

Jeff Seeney called UNESCO a "bunch of international beurocrats" and Campbell Newmans response to the UNESCO recommendations was “...We are in the coal business…"    While the world is watching us and making a decision about our ability to protect the World Heritage Area, these comments can only be described as "grossly incompetent".  

Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, spokesperson for Save the Reef, said   “The Queensland Government is not only risking the World Heritage Listing by defying UNESCO recommendations unnecessarily, it is risking our reputation as custodians of the Great Barrier Reef, a world wonder, a tourism icon and our national treasure.   The World Heritage “In Danger” listing would make us polluters of the reef, instead of protectors of the reef.  It would be a worldwide embarrassment.  It is no wonder the French journalists filmed a story when they saw it for themselves."
There is no need to ignore UNESCO.  There is no need to expand the ports.  Coal can use existing ports.   Our Reef has lost over 50% of its coral and the “In Danger” list is likely.   If we won’t protect the Great Barrier Reef, we won’t protect anything.