Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The thieves at the top are after our cash

Talk about a desperate, cash-strapped  Federal Government. Where is our money safe these days (under the mattress?). The old saying "Safe as a bank" apparently no longer applies if you stash your cash in an interest bearing account and leave it for a rainy day:

HOUSEHOLDS face losing up to $109 million from their family savings as the Federal government moves to seize cash from inactive bank accounts.
After legislation was rushed through parliament, the government will from May 31 be able to transfer all money from accounts that have not been used for three years into their own revenues.
This will mean that accounts with anything from $1 upwards that have not had any deposit or withdrawals in the past three years will be transferred to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.
The law is forecast to raise $109 million this year as inactive accounts for three years or more are raided by Treasury. OPINION: Just another boost for the coffers
The money can be reclaimed from ASIC but the process can take months.
Experts warn this will have a negative impact on people that may have put money away in a special account for their children's education or decided to put an inheritance in a separate account for a rainy day.
The previous legislation allowed for bank accounts to remain inactive for up to 7 years before the money was transferred to ASIC.
Do you have a bank account you haven't used for three years? If so, contact us at Australian Bankers Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg said there is no benefit for consumers from the changes.
"It is very hard to see why this needed to be rushed through but there have been suggestions it was done more for the government's own financial circumstances rather than customers needs," he said.
Mr Munchenberg warned that unaware customers face having accounts frozen and could face months of delays trying to reclaim their won money from ASIC.
This cash grab comes as economists warn the government is on track to hand down a $15 billion budget deficit in May as company tax receipts collapse.
Before Christmas, Treasurer Wayne Swan junked the government's previously "rock solid" promise to produce a surplus in 2012-13.
The government had also been committed to surpluses in future financial years, too.
But despite the introduction of some tough cost-cutting measures, the latest research from global bank UBS forecasts the May budget will show a $12 billion black hole in revenues and cost overruns of about $3 billion. The biggest pain is coming from the expected $8 billion fall in taxes from the corporate sector.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Our History in Two Minutes

From the creation of the planet to the space age - our history in two minutes.

We are sorry the Gillard Government is using our (borrowed) money on Electioneering.

Lasith Malinga
The Gillard Government has launched the "Don't be Sorry" campaign. SRI Lankan cricketers Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan will front an Australian Government campaign to discourage asylum seekers from taking boat journeys to Australia. (LINK)

Seems good so far. But wait, (as they say), there's more!

So are they going to broadcast it in Sri Lanka where it will directly reach potential illegal immigrants?


The campaign will air on radio, TV, and online and and ethnic community newspapers in six languages, Immigration and Citizenship Minister Brendan O’Connor told Meet the Press
Mr O'Connor said the government wanted people to tell their friends and family about the risks involved in trying to reach Australia by boat.
It's more likely that it is supple election advertising to try to show voters that they Gillard Government is doing (NOT) something about the boat people problem. However the money won't come out of Labor Party election funds but out of even more borrowing on behalf of the Australian people.

Gladstone Ports Corporation swimming in sea of controversy

My article published in Saturday's Queensland Telegraph, also in The Great Barrier Reef Blog at
gives some historical context to the ports chief's axing.

By John Mikkelsen

Gladstone Ports Corporation seems to be battling a sea of controversy including last week’s announcement that CEO  Leo Zussino’s employment contract  would end in August, against his wishes to remain at the helm.

The announcement by board chairman Mark Brodie, backed by Premier Campbell Newman, sent shock waves through the rapidly expanding industrial city. But many considered Mr Zussino was on borrowed time under the new LNP regime following the axing of former chairman Mr Ian Brusasco and several other board members including a former mayor and strong supporter, Peter Corones, last year.

Headlines involving the ports corporation did not end with Mr Zussino’s impending departure. Days later a national newspaper broke the news of a new federal investigation into claims it had breached environmental audit conditions surrounding the highly controversial Western Basin Dredging and Disposal project. This came hot on the heels of other media reports involving claims by an independent scientist that two varieties of seagrass in the inner harbour were in danger of becoming extinct, and local speculation over the make-up of a new science panel to monitor water quality in the harbour. 

The biggest talking point however, has been Mr Zussino’s looming departure. Despite praise by both Mr Brodie and Mr Newman of his dedicated service to the GPC over 21 years, the first nine years as board chairman, then as CEO, he was told it was time for a change and the introduction of new blood.

But the truth is, his long time at the tiller guiding the GPC through a period of  undeniably rapid growth in sometimes troubled waters, was almost brought to an early end when the  machinations of politics first threatened his visionary plans .

Gladstone residents with long memories will recall the now little known fact that following the ousting of long term Labor premier Wayne Goss in 1996, the new coalition premier Rob Borbidge, attempted a customary political hatchet job on ports chiefs, including Mr Zussino.  (Borbidge became premier in a hung parliament with the backing of Gladstone Independent, Liz Cunningham).

But the Nationals leader apparently backed off in the face of what he was convinced was a strong show of support for Mr Zussino from various community and local government figureheads. This even included the Catholic Parish Priest of the day a Fr John Begg, who went to bat for the Gladstone ports chairman publicly as well as within his Star of the Sea congregation.
Ironically, Mr Zussino held his job a lot longer than Mr Borbidge who was defeated just two years later by Peter Beattie.

Those decrying such political manoeuvrings then and now, could also be reminded that a former Gladstone Port Authority chairman, Graham Fenton had been unceremoniously and abruptly dumped from his position not long after Wayne Goss first came to power as Labor premier back in December 1989. He was replaced then by Mr Zussino, a strong Labor supporter. Later Zussino made the transition to CEO following the retirement of his former mentor and long serving chief executive, the late Reg Tanna.

And so the rudder turns, but on the surface now, there is no bitterness shown by either party. Mr Zussino has told media that he had offered to stay on to guide the next stages of Gladstone Harbour’s major growth. On one TV news bulletin he said he had no intention of “going off and growing roses” and would probably seek a position in private enterprise.
Mr Zussino has also said he had not been told there were political motivations behind the decision to drop him, and that he had always kept his political beliefs separate from his working life.
"It was decided that there was an issue in succession planning (for GPC) and a new CEO had to come in some time. I am devoted to the port. I would have been happy to stay.
But there comes a time when there needs to be change and the chairman and the board decided that (this) is the time.
He said he had offered to complete the transition required to accommodate the 60mtpa of new trade resulting from the LNG industry, the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal and increased coal exports from existing terminals.
However, in the interest of leadership succession planning, it was decided that there was benefit in the new CEO being fully immersed in the significant transformation process to accommodate the expansion in an orderly manner.
Mr Brodie said Mr Zussino’s passion and determination towards his role was well known and he had placed the GPC in a strong position.
It plans to have an interim CEO in place by June so the new chief executive could work alongside Mr Zussino until the end of August to help ensure a smooth transition.
Mr Newman gave a similar tribute to Mr Zussino’s service at a media conference but when asked, “Was he pushed?”,he replied:
“His contract wasn’t renewed. That’s the point. I mean he hasn’t been, his contract was up for renewal and the Ports Corporation Board have chosen not to renew it”.
Meanwhile some major environmental groups have been scathing in their criticism. Save the Reef claimed that during Mr  Zussino’s term as CEO “an environmental disaster” had  unfolded in Gladstone Harbour.
“The World Heritage Area, dugong sanctuary and turtle haven was turned into a massive oil, gas and coal hub which had led to a UNESCO mission visit, following an expression of extreme concern about the LNG developments ,” according to spokesman Dr Andrew Jeremijenko.
Co-ordinator of Australians for Animals, Ms Sue Arnold said it was “ gratifying to know that Leo Zussino will not have his contract renewed”.
“Mr Zussino’s  role as CEO of Gladstone Ports Corporation was summed up by Campbell Newman last year in a letter to me over a highly misleading press release disseminated by GPC.    
“Premier Newman wrote: ‘The past attitude of GPC on environmental matters has been a source of alarm to my government." 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Barnaby Joyce doorstop - Coalition Dams Report

Ten days ago Senator Barnaby Joyce made this opening statement to the assembled media at the doors to the Senate in what is known as a 'doorstop'. I thought it worthwhile to revisit this issue, one that leads to wider questions of balanced development, nation building, food security and oppotunities for regional areas.

Barnaby found it neccessary to make a doorstop appearance because that morning slashed across all major newspapers were articles based on the leaking of the Coalition's draft policy discussion paper for water management of Australia. This is but one example,Tony Abbott's bold water plan leaked 

I will copy the questions and answers that followed in the first comment below. I don't believe that any copyright applies as this doorstop transcript has been made freely available from Senator Joyce's office.

Photo sourced The Age

You have probably read the front page of the paper and the discussion in regards to the Coalition Dams Taskforce. I think it is really important that we deal with this issue in a positive way. The Australian people want to take the next step. The Australian people want the vision that takes them ahead, that has the capacity to grow the size of our economy to grow areas of opportunity and to create a mechanism to assist us in paying the debt the Labor Party has left behind.

Now water is wealth. Efficient storage and usage of water that is environmentally responsible gives our nation a great capacity to take that next step. There is no one here today who is not the benefactor of public works, of dams the capacity to store water. Let’s face it out in the country you can build it all yourself.  We should not be scared of taking the next step. One of the greatest engineering feat of this nation is not that far from here, which is the Snowy Mountain Scheme which is something even to this day people use as a legacy that makes them feel proud of who they are as Australians. They bought in so many people who were immigrants who helped to construct this nation and so I believe the Australian people will be ready to go on a, progress a stage in their life with a new government that is going to take us the next step forward. 

Now I know there will be cynics out there that say that every dam is evil and to anything to do with dams is environmental vandalism. Some of these people you can never make happy. In fact there are probably many in the Greens who want to pull the dams we’ve got down.

What I can say anecdotally is the investment made some time ago in the town I live in St George, for public infrastructure for a dam is now responsible for a community that was built around it. It produces between three-quarters and a billion dollars worth of renewable    income every year predominantly through irrigation. Who are the benefactors of that? It is every person who collects tax revenue from that area and all the people who have the jobs in that area. When you look at it, there are 5,000 people who live in that area so it’s a pretty good return for us all.

Photo source The Punch

Friday, 22 February 2013

Australians, in many ways we are truly rich

Around the same time the article, Foreign Investment Rules by Jo Rea was published on this site, a facebook friend posted this meme. Jo’s article was about how International tribunals deliberating upon breaches of international investment rules by nation states from third world countries do not take into consideration factors such as human rights or the environment which has a detrimental impact upon these nations’ citizens, resources and genuine conservation.

With this meme I believe that my facebook friend was trying to say that only in the wealthy first world countries we have the luxury to go beyond our own or our community’s immediate survival and have the time and resources to radicalise good basic care of animals to become animal rights activists or a campaigner for a vegan lifestyle. I believe that the same could be said for having a hands on approach to good basic conservation efforts and taking that to a level of radical environmentalism at the expense of all other endeavours, even human life itself. 

I can remember back in 1988 when I attended a national youth rally in Canberra where a speaker of some talent told those of us in the forum something like that if you own a car, just your average car that is reliable and if you own a house even if it is a basic cottage and if you are holding down a job even if it is of humble employment; then you are amongst the richest 5% of the world’s population.

Isn’t it just so easy to always look with envy to those few who have greater economic wealth and not see the millions worst off than you? 

But should measurement of wealth only be determined by the amount of dollars in the bank?

I wish to introduce you to a website that is usually brimming with positivity, About Marc and Angel Hack Life and this article from last year, 10 Reasons You Are Rich. It is very short so with apologies I will copy it in full. 

Even in times of financial uncertainty, it’s always important to keep things in perspective.

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.
- Henry David Thoreau

1.    You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.

2.    You didn’t go to sleep outside.

3.    You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning.

4.    You hardly broke a sweat today.

5.    You didn’t spend a minute in fear.

6.    You have access to clean drinking water.

7.    You have access to medical care.

8.    You have access to the Internet.

9.    You can read.

10.  You have the right to vote.

Some might say you are rich, so remember to be grateful for all the things you do have. 

So when you are next complaining about your lot in life try & remember the image above and this fellow trying to source the most essential element for human survival from a puddle that has been trampled by wildlife and would most likely include animal urine and faeces. Perhaps we should turn our mind to how we could help our fellow man which is what Torben Vestergaard of Holland did with his invention of The Lifestraw. Follow the link it’s very interesting.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Exodus progress #2

This little blogger site has been going for roughly three months now since an unplanned departure from a community site that most of us were long term members.

To give you an idea of how the site is going I will give you some stats available from those of us with access to the dashboard. When we started off we very quickly climbed to over 100 views (people reading our discussions) per day. For the first few weeks this was helped thanks those from the old site checking up on us but by the time that interest died down we were had others interested enough to read our material. For the last month we are consistently staying above 200 views every day.

It is interesting to see were our views come from. The majority are Australian but the United States has for the duration maintained the number two spot. The number three spot has been maintained until this last week by the good citizens of France who of late are under challenge for this spot from people viewing from Sweden. I don’t know why this is so but I hope that those reading our discussions from overseas are gaining a positive benefit for doing so.

Just what discussions are people viewing on this site? Well out in the lead of all time views is Preventive Burning that was published back on December 8th last year but in spite of that is every day for over a month it is the clear leader. We do have an audience interested in updates about the Peter Spencer case for example for today’s views the discussion SPENCER GAINS GROUND IN FEDERAL COURT is running third. The discussions about coal seam gas and the Gladstone Harbour that John Mikkelsen and myself write have a solid audience. Other discussions that have enjoyed a run are, Can a ‘good’ farmer still make a good living? and Lenders Mortgage Insurance  - The Ned Kelly of the insurance industry. Jo Rea has with her very first discussion published this week is running very strongly – Foreign investment rules

 Cartoon sourced from Crock by Bill Rechin

The disappointing aspect is the number of comments each discussion is attracting. I would like to know the reason why.  Are you just happy to read what is going on without participating? Are you having trouble making a comment to a discussion? I know of two people who were having trouble making comments and with help are now contributing. If you are having difficulty with some aspect of the site, click on the Help tab at the top of the page. If you are able to comment, leave your question in the Help comment box. If not the sites email address is

In the first open newsletter, Exodus Progress, I said that this blogger site was a transition vehicle and that are new site was to be built. Obviously that hasn’t occurred as of yet. We got a fair way in determining what to do before the pleasant disruption of the Christmas period and then I went on my first holidays for years in which I wrote about here, here & here. I came home to deteriorating seasonal conditions on my farm and had to swing into action to prevent a lot of hungry cattle with no feed in the near future. I was saved at the 11th hour by rain and then came the Australia day floods. I have been doing work for Property Rights Australia including submission writing and this last week had to appear before a Parliamentary Committee Hearing in Brisbane on behalf of PRA. Work wise this is a very busy time on the farm until about May and I can’t see myself doing much about a new site until then.

In the meantime I’m very interested to know if you are having any trouble contributing to the site. What are your suggestions to improvements to this site? Please reply by commenting below or sending an email by the address above.

So the summary of the exodus progress is that we are wandering in the wilderness but be assured we will be out of it before 40 years.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Foreign Investment Rules

Australia is a signatory to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It was formed under the umbrella of the World Bank.

It is essentially an International Tribunal which settles disputes between foreign investors and nation states. Its charter is unequivocally to serve the interests of foreign investors and it does not take into consideration factors such as human rights nor the environment.

There are some international rules but it is also governed by the various treaties and free trade agreements between countries. This means that the rules will be different for investors from different countries depending on what treaties are signed with their home countries.

Most of the time the countries which find themselves before these tribunals are developing countries from Africa, Asia Central and Eastern Europe, South America and Asia with some countries appearing multiple times. Modern developed economies are rarely called to appear although I did see one case against NZ which was settled by arbitration and there was one case against the US.

The costs of appearing are enormous and the fines imposed against countries found to have breached conventions against foreign investors are into the $US100m range.

There are protections against obvious things such as nationalisation and acquisition of property without compensation. Provision of security is covered which could explain why security forces are used so often (sometimes brutally) to clear indigenous populations from logging, mining and farming concessions and (perhaps surprisingly) game parks run by conservation organisations.

International Investment Agreements (IIA) usually impose few obligations on investors but host countries commonly have many obligations. For example they are required to ensure that businesses have the resources to operate.

In reality this means that for an agricultural enterprise for example, water must be provided. This is the case even if local people and crops are perishing.

It is also commonplace in international agreements that an investor is able to operate their business in accordance with their own needs so that even in a time of famine restricting the export of food by a foreign investor may be a breach of international law.

One would hope that a country like Australia has managed to reserve for itself adherence to local laws covering things such as water (where entitlement is often reduced during a drought or to preserve an aquifer) and export where rules for many commodities such as beef are very strict and have evolved over time as a matter of necessity.


However the notes on a case of a US company seeking compensation for expropriated land offer some insight.

 The Tribunal is satisfied that the rules and principles

of Costa Rican law which it must take into account, relating to the

appraisal and valuation of expropriated property, are generally consistent

with the accepted principles of public international law on

the same subject. To the extent that there may be any inconsistency

between the two bodies of law, the rules of public international law

must prevail. Were this not so in relation to takings of property,

the protection of international law would be denied to the foreign

investor and the purpose of the ICSID Convention would, in this

respect, be frustrated.


I would like to speculate now on attitudes to movements such as Lock the Gate. Governments are particularly sensitive to these movements and the degree of support they have enjoyed.

From a government perspective though, foreign companies have been guaranteed access to their resource and recent legislation which allows CSG companies unlimited access to the water they require. If they cannot provide this, the question is, “Where does this leave us internationally?”

To move a little further down the track, companies would also have been guaranteed, before making sizable investments, that they would have the means to export their product. It appears that in order to fulfil that promise in any sort of a timeframe the ecology of places such as Gladstone Harbour will continue to be sacrificed. The fishers of the Harbour are simply caught in the crossfire.

Whether the foreign investment is industrial mining, farming or logging in most countries in the world where secure property rights are not clear and even in some places where they are clear local people are mostly collateral damage.

In many forests around the world the traditional inhabitants rarely have title. In Australia, farmers have title to the land but not the resources, nor, it appears, the water underneath.

The question remains, “What compromises will we need to make when we do start to welcome large foreign investors in our farming and grazing lands?”

Green groups and others recently have been asking government if they are able to put a stop to CSG projects if they are shown to be causing environmental or massive environmental damage (there may be a difference legally).

There is no doubt that advanced economies go out of their way to maintain their credentials as secure places to invest.

Where does this leave us with an industry that has been hastily rolled out?





Heavy steel pipeline twisted by Mother Nature's fury

(Thanks to Dale Stiller for his earlier brief post  and grazier Will Wilson who supplied the graphic photos. This was published in today's Queensland Telegraph).

By John Mikkelsen

 MOTHER Nature’s awesome power was demonstrated during the Australia Day weekend floods, when these huge steel gas pipes near Mt Larcom were washed away and bent like drink straws.

One pipe came to rest across Mt Alma Road near Larcom Creek. It was moved off the road by Will Wilson of Calliope Station, using his grader.

Mr Wilson said several hundred metres of the QGC gas pipeline sections were picked up by the flood waters and floated a similar distance from where they had been resting on mounds of dirt on the neighbouring Wycheproof cattle property owned by Tom Chapman.

“The pipes were kinked in two places and shot across the road near Larcom Creek. There were three or four places where the pipes floated off and the floods also washed topsoil from the pipeline works onto our land.

“We had 810mm of  rain, making those three days not only the wettest rain event since 1905 when our Calliope Station records started, but also the wettest January and February on record, without any other days included,”  Mr Wilson said.

The pipes are 42 inch diameter and about .75 of an inch thick and are part of the pipeline construction stretching more than 500km from the Surat Basin gasfields to the QCLNG plant under construction on Curtis Island. QGC was asked for a comment on the flood damage and how construction on the pipeline and LNG plant may have been affected, but nothing was received before the Telegraph’s deadline.

Australian manufacturers were unable to supply steel pipe to the size and specification required and the QGC pipeline is using imported Chinese steel which met government requirements.

Following the floods, rival LNG company Santos said its GLNG site on Curtis Island and its pipeline route had escaped the floods without major incidents, but its pipeline construction is understood to be not as advanced as the QGC project.

It said foundations had now been laid on Curtis Island for the LNG plant and two LNG tanks.

The Queensland Gas Company (QCLNG), Santos/Petronas (GLNG), Royal Dutch/Shell (Arrow LNG) and Origin/ConocoPhillips (APLNG) are all planning to build LNG plants on Curtis Island with a workforce of more than 3000 required for the construction of each plant.
Meanwhile controversy surrounds the earlier project approvals under the Bligh Labor Government, with  Premier Campbell Newman this week backing calls for the Crime and Misconduct Commission to probe the former government's rushed approval of two of the State's biggest CSG projects.
Following a Courier Mail report based on FOI  statements from senior public servants, Mr Newman told media he shared concerns by environmentalist Drew Hutton about the approvals process.
 He said if Mr Hutton (president of the anti-CSG group, Lock the Gate Alliance) had not referred the matter to the CMC, he would have.
"I believe that the companies concerned are companies that will do this right," Mr Newman said.
"I have no concerns at this time about anything they are doing but in terms of the (approval) process and what may or may not have happened, well Drew Hutton is right to raise those concerns.
"I share those concerns and I think the CMC should be looking at it."
Earlier, The Courier-Mail reported that two of Queensland's largest CSG projects were approved by public servants panicked by a Bligh government order to sign off on them quickly.
Public servants at the two departments tasked with giving the official go-ahead to Queensland's burgeoning coal seam gas industry were allegedly pressured  by Bligh government demands that two of the gigantic projects be approved within weeks of each other.
Documents obtained by the newspaper investigation reportedly revealed that as the $18 billion Santos GLNG project was nearing its approval in May 2010, public servants were hit with the demands from the government to also undertake the $16 billion QGC project - and then the Origin-led APLNG proposal, approved in November of the same year.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

PRA: Inquiry Gasfield Commission Bill

This week the Qld Parliament's State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee is holding hearings from those who placed submissions to its inquiry into the Gasfield Commission Bill 2012.

Property Rights Australia made a submission and it can be found at the Committee’s webpage amongst 16 other submissions.

Following consultation with five other people I wrote the first draft of PRA’s submission and with the help of fellow board members Joanne Rea, Ashley McKay and also Bill Blake of McKays Solicitors it was tidied up to the finished product. BTW Ashley’s surname and the name of the firm that Bill works under is coincidental.  

The following was my opening address to the committee at the hearing held at Parliament House in Brisbane on Wednesday. After the opening address the committee asked Bill Blake and myself questions about the submission. 

Property Rights Australia represents the interests of landowners specifically the property rights of landowners.

The purpose of the GasFields Commission is stated in the Bill to manage & improve sustainable co-existence

Current legislation ensures an imbalance of power between Resource Authorities, Landowners and the Community.  To date there have been problems with the agricultural industries and the CSG industries coexisting and friction created when trying to exercise the complexities of different parties having different rights over the same patch of ground.

Sustained Agriculture, Water and Community must be the GasFields Commission’s highest priority (or equal priority to that enjoyed by Resource Holders) if real co-existence is to be achieved.

If you the committee fulfil your role to define and enable the GasFields Commission to have a positive, constructive role, then the GasFields Commission will be better empowered to protect the interests of the State, Landowners and the community, particularly with respect to the critical importance of sustainable agriculture and water.

PRA strongly emphasises that the Bill gives the GasFields Commission a lot of power.  Our recommended amendments will further increase that power.

Proper checks and balances must be maintained to protect the interests of all parties if real co-existence is to be achieved.

PRA are in principle opposed to a non judicial body having judicial powers. This opposition is compounded when there is no right of appeal through the common court system. This is based on practical experience of the Vegetation Management Act.

When considering PRA’s submissions, we request that the Committee consider that PRA’s recommendations are dependent upon one and other to provide proper checks and balances.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dredging resumed at the height of Gladstone's record flood

This article was published in today's Queensland Telegraph. Fair minded people might question how dredging at the height of a record flood which left a plume photographed by an astronaut in space days later, could be reconciled with claimed environmental safeguards.

 Above: The fast Dutch dredge Rotterdam sails past Tannum Sands on return from the spoil dumping grounds off Facing Island. Photos taken four days after dredging resumed On January 27, the day the Boyne River peaked at 8.3metres over the Awoonga Dam spillway.
This vessel was washed away from its mooring and foundered near the Boyne mouth. Photo taken the morning that Gladstone Ports Corporation resumed its major dredging project. Apparently turbidity readings showed it was safe to dredge.

Photos and article by John Mikkelsen

GLADSTONE Ports Corporation resumed its controversial  major harbour dredging  at the height of the Australia Day weekend floods, after a brief halt.

This was revealed by a GPC spokesperson in response to questions by The Queensland Telegraph following the re-appearance of the dredges Rotterdam and Al Mahar in harbour waters, which still appeared to be visibly murky from flood waters.

The Rotterdam is a fast, self-propelled trailing suction hopper dredge which dumps spoil at East Banks, off shore near Facing Island. It featured recently in a French TV Planet Hope news feature which focussed on the port developments at Gladstone and Abbot Point. Al Mahaar is a non self-propelled suction cutter dredge.

According to the GPC spokesperson, the dredges resumed operating at 6 am on Sunday, January 27, which was several hours before the Awoonga Dam spillway reached a record overflow height of 8.3 metres and houses downstream at Benaraby and low-lying sections of Boyne/ Tannum were inundated. More than 200 people sought refuge at emergency centres set up at Tanyalla in Tannum Sands and the PCYC in Gladstone. The overflow was about twice the height of the 2010 – 2011 event.

These are facts which we present without comment as historical context. Our questions and replies by the GPC spokesperson on Monday (February 4) are also presented without embellishment below.

“Q. What is the current status of dredging and turbidity? 
A. Dredging stopped when harbour was closed by MSQ at 6pm Thursday 24 January and recommenced when harbour was opened with all dredges operating at 6am on Sunday 27 January.   The initial response to the recent flood event in the Western Basin was extremely high turbidity (300+ NTU). Since the flows have slowed down the harbour is now a mixture of sea water and freshwater. The brackish water leads to the ‘flocculation’ of suspended particles and this causes suspended material that causes turbidity to reduce. This is most pronounced at the surface of the water column and is likely to be the reason for the low turbidity currently being observed in the basin. During our routine monthly monitoring last week we observed very high turbidity in the lower water column, further supporting the process previously described (Jan 2013 WQ report will be related in late Feb on In the medium term this material will settle to the seabed, but if a high energy event occurs (i.e. storm event with strong wind) this material is likely to be resuspended into the water column. This process is not new to the western basin, or any other nearshore marine environment, and has been observed in the past.  Turbidity and Light graphs are updated daily on the Western Basin Port Project website.

Q. Are there any other dredges operating and when did the Rotterdam actually re-commence dredging?  
A. As above.  (There is currently two dredges working on the WBDDP, the Rotterdam and the Al Mahaar.  However, the Castor works periodically on the WBDDP.  All this information is available on the website.

Q. Is it too early to tell how the floods have impacted the shipping channels here (and at Burnett Heads and Port Alma?)
A. At this time surveys are taking place to determine if the floods have impacted shipping channels. Once complete for Gladstone, Port Alma and Bundaberg will be done when safe to do so”.

Meanwhile, an environmental group has questioned how an astronaut saw and photographed the flood plumes on Tuesday, February 29 as published in last Saturday’s Telegraph while harbour monitors apparently showed no problems with turbidity.

Save the Reef said the dramatic pictures of the Queensland flood plume taken by astronauts showed a brown muddy harbour from outer space, “yet Gladstone Ports Corporation’s  water quality monitoring program says it is safe to dredge the inner harbour.

“If Gladstone Ports Corporation’s light monitors say conditions are OK in a flood plume, there must be a problem,” according to spokesperson Dr Libby Connors.

She said Environment Minister Andrew Powell had expressed his concern that the plume would deposit sediment on seagrass meadows, severely damaging them.

‘Despite high turbidity, the light monitoring continues to indicate there is no problem but any lay person can see from the flood plume photos that light cannot reach the harbour floor and the seagrass will struggle to survive, “ she claimed.

“Save the Reef says that these events provide more data for UNESCO to question the capacity of the Queensland and Australian Governments to manage the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”

(The Federal Government  reported to UNESCO on the management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area as requested on Friday, February 1. If UNESCO rejects the report, the Great Barrier Reef may be placed on the "In Danger" list).

Friday, 8 February 2013

Green tape on farming has disastrous wider impacts

Cross posted under IPA’s copyright policy from an article by Peter Gregory

Agricultural blocks squander our chance to play vital food role

Bad policies underpinned by warped environmental priorities don't just hold back agriculture in Queensland and hurt farmers in the state.
They have a disastrous impact on poor people living in the region.
Australia has long been a net exporter of food, currently producing enough to feed 60 million people. Queensland has the largest area of agricultural land of any Australian state and produces almost a quarter of the nation's gross value of agricultural commodities. Australia and Queensland could double their agricultural output if it weren't for policies that block agricultural development.
Dam building, for example, has been blacklisted from state and federal policy agendas for two decades because of pressure from green activists. Queensland has only built three dams in the past decade, compared to 15 in the 1990s and 20 in the 1980s. Yet the CSIRO cites lack of water availability for why 5 to 17 million hectares of arable land in Australia's north isn't used for agriculture.
Food prices in the Asia-Pacific have doubled in the past decade. If Queensland was to operate at anywhere near its agricultural potential, the resultant increase in supply would ease this pressure for millions of the world's poorest.
In light of the 578 million people in the Asia-Pacific who are malnourished and the 3.3 million children under the age of five who die each year from hunger and malnutrition globally, this state of affairs should be viewed as the disgrace that it is.
As assistant director-general of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation Hiroyuki Konuma rightly said last year, "huge investments in the agricultural sector" are needed to address malnutrition in the region.
Undoubtedly, Queensland is blessed with incredible natural treasures that warrant protection from the effects of building dams.
But not all of the state is the Great Barrier Reef or the Daintree Rainforest.
Likewise, live cattle exports were halted to Indonesia last year in the wake of a Four Corners report depicting horrific treatment of the animals. There were further calls to ban live exports after similarly barbaric treatment of sheep was filmed in Pakistan.
Beef is Queensland's largest rural-based industry and its second biggest export industry (behind coal). The state easily has the largest beef industry in Australia, providing almost two-thirds of Australia's beef exports to high-value, premium overseas markets.
But it could be even bigger and more beneficial to Queenslanders and those beyond our shores.
Maltreatment of animals is reprehensible and efforts must be made to prevent it from happening again. But Indonesia sources 25 per cent of its beef from Australia. And there are 65 million people living in extreme poverty in Indonesia and Pakistan combined.
Incredibly, in combination with policy decisions made by the Indonesian Government as a result, the ban caused beef prices to double in Indonesia, denying poor people access to an important source of nutrition.
Putting aside the fact that there are ways to solve this problem without completely halting live exports, do supporters of the measure really think that animal welfare is more important than the lives of some of the world's poorest people?
A further barrier to Queensland fulfilling its agricultural potential are farm labour costs, which rose 151 per cent between 1996 and 2008 in Australia.
This rise was substantially contributed to by the scrapping of individual workplace agreements.
This, in combination with other burdens such as the carbon tax and the duplication of state and federal environmental regulation, has made it less profitable to run a farm and discourages investment in increasing production.
For example, after being subjected to a three-year-long approval process that cost more than $30,000 to meet state and federal obligations just to grow a cassava crop, one Burdekin farmer commented, "once you realise all this (regulation), you would never start".
It has been argued long and hard by those who support agricultural development - and oppose the blacklisting of dam building, a ban on live exports and the over-regulation of Queensland's agricultural sector - that such policy positions put Queensland industry and jobs in peril.
They are right. But these are not the only considerations in play.
Queensland's agricultural sector can feed millions of people in the region - many of whom are extremely poor. But the state is passing up the opportunity to be Asia's food bowl on the basis of environmental claims that are questionable at best

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Natures power

This is a quick post to reflect on the sheer power of flood waters. This is not meant to be a criticism of the CSG industry; ex cyclone Oswell caught a lot of people out and when you have to cross a flood plain and a heavy rain event occurs the proverbial can happen.

Photo sourced from Beef Central, Oswald leaves trail of delight and despair
This is a photo of 30 lengths 42 inch diameter gas pipes that were welded together across a flood plain at Calliope, inland from Gladstone, sitting on mounds of dirt in preparation to be buried. The wall thickness of these pipes are about 3/4 inch. Individually each pipe length weights about 4.4 tonne. Not only did the water shift the pipes across the flood plain but also kinked the pipe. 
That's right, kinked, there must have been an incredible amount of force in the water to do that!
The pipe construction company would know how much hydraulic force it takes to bend a pipe. They do come along with a machine to make up some of the lesser degree bends on the pipeline easement. They bend x amount of degrees then move along x inches to bend the x amount of degrees again. They keep doing this until the right size bend is created. They have to make it gradually and smooth because the industry sends "pigs" up inside the pipe for various reasons.