Saturday, 27 April 2013

An exchange of values

Upon request this is a reproduction of an exchange via letters to the editor that occurred in the Queensland Country Life. The exchange was about what influence the coal seam gas industry was having on rural property values. About what value sellers of land saw in including CSG infrastructure when advertising property and what value buyers of rural property placed on this land against any property without CSG activity.
The exchange also turned out to be a challenge to place value on factual representation of the situation and to take action to the value of treating landowners with respect.

The origins for this exchange was a radio interview that I heard on ABC's rural radio, The Country hour on the 12th March where Rick Wilkinson the CEO of the industry association, Australian Petroleum Producers and Explorers Association. (APPEA) made some statements that I knew not to be correct and this first letter published on the 21st March was the result.

To listen to what Mr Wilkinson said and what I took exception to go to this page on ABC Rural Radio, CSG industry claims mining is helping property values ; scroll down the page and look for the last audio file, 'The peak body for the coal seam gas industry says property values have not dropped in QLD.'

There was no surprise when there was a return to serve in the letters to the editor on the 4th April by Mr Wilkinson. If you read Mr Wilkinson's letter carefully you will see he negates his own argument especially in his use of the quote from the Valuer-General. He also refers to evidence on the Gasfield Commission web site to support his argument; this can be found on this page titled, Property ads start to list gas among property features.

In the rush to score a point it turned out to be no more than a high slow ball in which I could put away in a letter on the 11th April. Others too believed Mr Wilkinson's statements to be inaccurate and on 25th March in an interview on ABC Rural radio Country hour program, Market yet to make up its mind about CSG, rural property valuer. John Compton made it very clear that there was no evidence that CSG was contributing to any increase in rural property values.

"The coal seam gas industry's effect on land values has not been reflected in the market, according to a Queensland rural property valuer.
John Compton says the market has not had time to digest the CSG industry's impact because industry is still developing.
"At this time, whilst there is little disclosure of CSG development and impact on rural properties, there's no evidence that the rural property investor market is prepared to pay any premium for gas income," he said.
"Up until this point in time, disclosure of CSG development on rural properties, let alone income available, has not been widely advertised. Certainly it hasn't been a feature of rural property advertising.""

Friday, 26 April 2013

Could a Waco- style explosion happen near Gladstone?

Evacuation Grounds is an apt home for this Queensland Telegraph online article quoting the concerns of our own Peter Neilsen. Is Peter being over-alarmist? I don't think so but let's hope we never find out...

By John Mikkelsen

A GLADSTONE district resident claims the region is sitting on a potential time bomb that could rattle windows in Rockhampton, following the devastating explosion that flattened a community on the outskirts of Waco, Texas last week (pictured).
Peter Neilsen, of Mt Larcom, points to the explosives storage facility at Bajool and the Orica chemicals plant at Yarwun, which represent many times more ammonium nitrate than the small amount of ammonium fertiliser blamed for the Texas explosion which caused mass fatalities.
Texan authorities initially said the blast on April 18, thought to have been caused by an industrial accident, had resulted in 15 deaths but subsequent reports have quoted the toll as 25 or possibly as many as 60 or 70.
Neilsen does not present as an overly nervous type, but he is also mindful of the explosion which tore through a natural gas pipeline facility in Raynosa, Mexico last September, killing 26 workers. Massive pipelines to service the multi-billion dollar LNG plants on Curtis Island will also pass close to his town on their way to Gladstone.
“With a combination of the LNG and Orica, Gladstone is sitting on a time bomb,” he claimed.
“The 24.5 metric tonnes of anhydrous ammonia (a much less volatile product than ammonium nitrate) that caused so much destruction in Waco Texas, is less than the load of the highly explosive ammonium nitrate being carried on a single B double trailer.
“We pass many semis and B doubles heading towards the Bruce Highway loaded with ammonium nitrate every time we go to town.
“Just one semi last week had 26 one tonne bags of ammonium nitrate (a normal single trailer load) which is six tonnes more than the material that exploded in Waco and more volatile if it is activated,” Neilsen said.
However a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Mines said the fertiliser plant in Waco was using anhydrous ammonia not ammonium nitrate and in Queensland this product was regulated.
“Most ammonium nitrate is imported through Port Alma south of Rockhampton while smaller quantities may arrive through Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns. All ports have strict security and safety controls in place,” the spokesperson said.
“Significant amounts of ammonium nitrate are also transported by road from ports or manufacturing plants to mines where it is the main ingredient in explosives.
“Transport of ammonium nitrate is subject to strict security and safety provisions and routine vehicle checks.
“Ammonium nitrate must be transported in a locked container or vessel or be under constant surveillance by an authorised person accompanying the load.”
Mr Neilsen said there were also many thousands of tonnes of the highly explosive material stored within a couple of hundred metres of the Bruce Highway at Bajool.
“A couple of years ago there was almost an explosion at the Bajool explosive battery where the thousands of tonnes of explosives are stored.
“A bearing on a conveyor seized and overheated causing the contents of a storage tank to overheat and start to emit vapour that was potentially extremely explosive.
“The highway was closed several kilometres away to the north and south and the surrounding town and residences were being prepared to evacuate for their safety.
“It was stated in the press at the time that if the storage hopper had exploded it would have blown out windows in Rockhampton, 35kms away (in a straight line).”
The Department’s spokesperson said there were significant safety requirements to ensure storage facilities and manufacturing plants were not located in close proximity to populated areas and had effective safety and health risk management plans and security plans in place to minimise the risk of fire or contamination that could lead to an explosion.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Gallipoli Evacuation

John Monash Farewells Gallipoli

If the spark had hissed as it jumped from terminal to wire,
  still it seemed glad of eventual connection:
the mines blew 'Russell's Top', and perhaps a hundred Turk,
  to rubble above a lost Gallipoli.
Dust dropped its veil, and from the length of Sari Bair,
  the rifles raked now - empty allied trenches.
'I was here at the start; have a right to be at the finish.'
  The sentiment was understandable.
The evacuation, unlike the landing, was competent,
  the living hating only to abandon the dead.
Trails of flour or salt or sugar - anything
  which pored out white beneath the winter moon -
were followed in a silence of men and disappointment
  to shore for lighters and transports bound for Lemnos.
Monash could see departure as elaborate military joke,
  but knew that even that would be forgotten,
like all wars, this one already a curious
  museum display of self - firing rifles.
By Timoshenko Aslanides
This is the entry for the 20th December out of the book AnniVeraries: 366 Linked poems, One for every day of the Australian Year.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Carbon Fleecing

The Inaugural Golden Fleece Award – for Flagrant Fleecing of Community Resources by Viv Forbes

 The Carbon Sense Coalition has awarded its Inaugural Golden Fleece Award to Kevin Rudd and coal industry leaders for “flagrant fleecing of community savings in futile ‘research’ on Carbon Capture & Sequestration – a costly and complex process designed to capture and bury carbon dioxide gas produced by burning carbon fuels such as coal, oil and gas”. 

It is obviously possible, in an engineering sense, to collect, separate, compress, pump and pipe gases, so new “research” is largely a waste of money. Engineers know how to do these things, and their likely costs. But only foolish green zealots would think of spending billions to bury a harmless, invisible, life-supporting gas in hopes of cooling the climate some time in the century ahead.


About 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide are produced for every tonne of coal burnt in a power station. To capture, compress and bury it could take at least 30% of the electricity produced, greatly increasing the cost of the limited amount of electricity left for sale - more coal used, increased electricity costs, for ZERO measurable benefits 

We have come to expect stupidity from politicians, but coal industry leaders who agreed to waste money on this should be sued by shareholders for negligence. Maybe they were just drooling at all the extra coal they would sell in order to produce the same electricity? 

Kevin Rudd wins this award for “a Flagrant Fleece of $400 million taken from tax payers to fund the fatuous Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.” There is little to show for the millions already spent except a lot of receipts for high class salaries, consultants, travel, entertainment and “operational expenses”. 

Pumping gases underground is sensible if it brings real benefits such as using waste gases to drive oil recovery from declining oil fields.  

Normally, however, CCS will just produce more expensive electricity.  

This result is not needed as politicians have already invented dozens of ways of doing just that.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Call to halt Gladstone port development proposals

From the Queensland Telegraph which is now finally on line with a website up and running (hallelujah!)

By John Mikkelsen

A MAJOR national conservation group has called for a halt to planning approvals for further port expansion and dredging in Gladstone Harbour until an independent review can give its assessment of development impacts.

The review panel is conducting an investigation for the Federal Government and held meetings in Gladstone last week.
But it is not expected to report its findings until June 30, just outside the deadline originally sought by UNESCO following a delegates’ mission last year.
A halt to further development and dredging approvals was sought by The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) which criticised new development proposals while the review was in progress.
“Planning approval activity such as last week’s release of the channel duplication Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) guidelines continue without the benefit of the review’s report into the impacts of existing development,” the society’s campaign director Felicity Wishart said.
“The Newman Government can’t be much interested in the outcomes of the independent review if it is pushing ahead with fast-tracking industrial activity before the findings on development impacts is released.
“We know Gladstone Harbour and the reef are already under serious stress. Further port expansion, 12 million more cubic metres of dredging and increased shipping would speed up its decline.
“The Gladstone EIS guidelines navigate around the central question: How can you have millions of tonnes of dredge spoil dumped in World Heritage Area marine habitat around Gladstone and thousands more coal ships travelling through the reef every year without significant environmental harm?”
Ms Wishart said she had recently sailed down the Fitzroy Delta and The Narrows into Gladstone Harbour.
“The contrast between the pristine environment to the north and the degradation of the harbour environment is shocking,” she claimed.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Gas Leak Response

Gas Leak!For the whistle blower there is no easy road. Watching Simone Marsh on the Four Corners Gas Leak TV program it was evident the strain she was under. Ms Marsh needs to be congratulated for acting on her convictions and should be given every support.

Photo sourced ABC Four Corners
The account of a witness is very important and I am not downplaying Simone Marsh’s testimony on the Gas Leak’s story when I say that for those who watch the coal seam gas industry closely there was nothing new shown in the story. What Four Corners did was not so much as providing new information this time with the Four Corners brand of investigative journalism but presenting the information to a new audience.

Central to the Gas Leaks story was events in May 2010 when public servants were placed under pressure to approve not just one but two highly complex coal seam gas projects in a very short period of time. Simone Marsh told of how she was pressured into signing off on the projects despite the absence of key information for the crucial ground water studies. This information was revealed back in February by The Courier Mail in the article, Public servants tasked with approving massive CSG projects were blindsided by demands to approve two in two weeks.

 Documents obtained through a Courier-Mail investigation reveal 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 tackle the $16 billion QGC project - and then the Origin-led APLNG proposal, approved in November of the same year.

And just days before the QGC approval was granted, public servants were warning the directors of the government's assessment team that they still had not been given any detailed information on pipelines and the location of wells.

They also warned a long list of environmental issues had not been fully analysed.

The documents obtained by the Courier Mail revealed not only objections by Simone Marsh but also by fellow public servants, Stuart Cameron and Murray Vincent. In an earlier article published December 2011, State knew about CSG problems, in a report way back in 2006 senior government bureaucrat Geoff Edwards warned the government that coal seam gas will have massive impacts.

Mr Edwards said water associated with coal seam gas did contain toxic materials like fluoride, strontium and hydrocarbons.

"Some of the lower seams are contaminated with difficult substances," he said

He calculated about 1.5 million tonnes of salt could be extracted over the life of the projects.

The Mines Minister at the time, Stirling Hinchliffe, downplayed the findings of the report but information I have received recently indicates it was right on the money. This will be a subject for a future post. 

There was no one directly representing either SANTOS or QGC on the Four Corners Gas Leak’s story; however Four Corners did submit questions to the companies and both have made their answers available online. To read the responses click on – SANTOS  - QGC

Left to sweat it out under Four Corners intense questioning was Rick Wilkinson the CEO of the industry association, Australian Petroleum Producers and Explorers Association. (APPEA)  

Santos CEO David Knox What I found interesting was the responses of the two companies in the days following the airing of the Four Corners story. QGC took the path of a low profile must provide a small target. However SANTOS CEO David Knox in various media including a full page ad in the Courier Mail set out to right the “falsehoods” of the 4 Corners Gas leak’s story and to “correct a misleading view of SANTOS.”

Photo SANTOS CEO David Knox sourced ABC Inside Business

Not that SANTOS has been immune from broadcasting falsehoods as evident from the TV ads that it ran in Oct/ Nov last year when "landholder and farming consultant", Warwick Moppett, posing as the owner of NSW prime agricultural land, standing in fields of canola and cotton reciting the benefits of the CSG industry when he in fact lives far away and was on the land without permission. Locals viewing the ad picked up on these anomalies, voiced their outrage on social media and the story was first picked up by New Matilda before receiving widespread media coverage

Of special note amongst Mr. Knox’s media appearances endeavoring to right “misleading views about SANTOS” was an interviewed on the Radio National breakfast program, Wednesday 3rd April, where Fran Kelly gave enough rope that  Mr. Knox made some significant misleading statements of his own.

First there was a very careful attempt to marginalise the evidence that Simone Marsh gave to the Four Corners Gas leak’s story in which Ms Marsh spoke of her concerns at the time that no underground water studies were included in the material she had to assess in the approval process of the SANTOS project.
Mr Knox spoke of a lengthy approval process where extensive water studies were included and that the consultancy firm Golder Associates had prepared an underground water report.
It was indeed a lengthy process and the Golder report was submitted to the Coordinator Generals Department while Ms Marsh worked in the Dept Infrastructure & Planning; a point by its omission allows the audience the possibility to reach a misleading conclusion.  

The Qld Water Commission report was used by Mr Knox to prop up his case. Mr Knox states the belief the QWC report is a “superb piece of work, a very detailed model that supports the original studies we did.”  He also states that the “definitive model by QWC shows impacts will be minimal” and then follows with this extraordinary quote that I’m sure will come back to haunt SANTOS in years to come that “in our area only 3 landowner bores will go dry.”

The effect on underground water is of very high concern for the farming and grazing community; many have read the report and are studying whatever other scientific material that becomes available. To such an audience they could well ask the question, has David Knox read a different QWC report?  In talking  about 'our area' which seems to completely ignore the fact the QWC report was also about cumulative impacts, meaning that all projects are at least partly responsible for impacts across the entire Surat Basin. The QWC report cannot be called definitive; if Mr Knox understood the process the report is but a beginning on a pathway to try to understand a very complex system that is essential to the future of food production for a time well past the CSG industry has burnt itself out. The work is being continued by the renamed Office of Underground Water Assessment which will undertake further collection of data and production of reports on a cyclical basis.

The QWC report does show that there WILL be significant impacts on landowners bores. It is simplistic, incorrect and patronising to make statements such as “QWC report shows that the shallow aquifers where farmers get their water from won’t be affect.” It is almost juvenile to say that “SANTOS drills straws into the gas seam and draw gas out through the straws. They are not connected to the shallow bores that farmers have.” 

What is the level of understanding about coal seam gas in the general population to give SANTOS CEO David Knox the confidence that he could get away making such misleading statements and also that are scientifically flawed? If Mr Knox believes what he was saying is correct, then we really are in trouble.



Sunday, 14 April 2013

Will high speed rail be worth the wait?

Slow to arrive, but will high speed rail be worth the wait?

Republished with permission fromThe Conversation

By James Whitmore, The Conversation

High speed rail travel could begin by 2035: but the plan comes with a price tag of $114 billion. shutterstock

East coast Australian cities could one day be linked by high speed rail, but with a price tag of $114 billion and a 40 year timeframe, according to a study released by the Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.

Under the plan announced today, the 1,748 kilometre network – including 144 kilometres of tunnels – will be completed in stages, linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

The Sydney to Canberra section would be completed in 2035. The last stage, linking the Gold Coast and Newcastle, will be finished in 2058.

The analysis is the second phase of a strategic plan announced in 2010.

The government says despite the large price tag, high speed rail is viable, estimating the network will attract 40% of intercity air passengers by 2065, with 83.6 million passengers expected per year.

We put it to the experts: it’s a long time to wait, and it will cost a lot. Is high speed rail worth it?

Matthew Burke, Senior Research Fellow, Griffith University

The report estimates between 40-60% aviation passengers will transfer to rail. I’m not entirely sure that’s achievable.

If you’re in Coffs Harbour trying to get to Sydney, high speed rail makes sense. A travel time between Sydney and Canberra of an hour down from four makes that a very competitive service.

In a world where oil reserves are constrained, aviation gas may become much more expensive and there may be differences between relative costs. Under those scenarios high speed rail might stack up.

It would make sense to agree and preserve a corridor and plan for a future system but to commence construction only when it’s financially viable.

Should we be doing high speed rail at this point in time with Australian cities the size they are? On a world scale they’re pretty small, the distances between them a very large, and the cost to link them up is enormous.

At the very lowest the cost of high speed rail between Newcastle and Brisbane could be $20 billion, and as high as $40 billion. For $20 billion you could give Brisbane its cross river rail project. You could give the Sunshine Coast its first ever fixed public transport network. You can quadruple the size of the light rail on the Gold coast, and you could still have $10-30 billion left over.

A significant portion of the use that’s projected is for daily commuters who would come from ‘lifestyle’ cities on the outskirts of Sydney and Melbourne travelling to the major centres. These would become the most subsidized commuters in the history of Australian urban settlement. And I’m not sure you could call that travel sustainable even if it’s by rail.

Rico Merkert, Senior Lecturer in Aviation Management, University of Sydney Business School

This is not a new phenomenon. We have seen huge programs in Western Europe: in Spain, France, Germany, even the UK now has a high speed train program connecting London with the North of England. Japan, China and Taiwan do too. At some point we will see high speed trains in Australia. It’s just a question of how soon and at what cost.

It does require informed debate given the large cost and huge up-front investment.

The money could always be spent elsewhere. It would, however, at least in my view, be money well spent, with benefits of $2.30 per $1 spent. Many people will argue that these estimates are optimistic. Construction costs are likely to go up, but still it will still be sensible to look into this more seriously.

There will be quite a lot of demand, particularly on the east coast with Brisbane, Sydney, and Canberra. Sydney to Melbourne is currently the fifth busiest airline route in the world. Brisbane to Sydney is not far behind. There’s quite a lot of potential here as a high speed train could get you from Sydney CBD to Melbourne CBD in under three hours. That’s quite an interesting proposition for a lot of business travellers.

It will be an alternative to airlines. It won’t replace air traffic, because it’s still a lot faster to travel via air. But some travellers based right in the city centre next to the train station might find the offer attractive. In terms of service levels they’re similar to a flight. If the government is not prepared to subsidise these train operations then the prices for these train trips will be slightly higher than those on a [air] carrier (most certainly if it is a low cost carrier, such as Jetstar).

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University

The high speed rail system in Japan was started after the first oil crisis. We’re now up to the fourth or fifth. The European system has developed along those lines as well. You cannot continue to see a future where more and more oil is used. Some countries have made a serious effort to get off it.

I welcome any studies about getting people out of cars and planes and making a more sustainable transport system. If it’s electric it’s potentially much easier to link into the renewable energy system. We’ve got to get off oil especially diesel.

We’ve got to be serious about this, and I wonder how serious it is to propose a project that will cost $114 billion.

I’ve been looking at rail construction costs the past few years and getting more and more angry at how they have ballooned, which is due to unnecessary risk management.

This proposal seems to be beyond any realistic cost to build. Yet we built the southern railway in Perth for $17 million per kilometer. It had tunnels and bridges, overpasses and is essentially high speed rail at 130 kilometre per hour. I understand the high quality track requirements but these numbers seem too high to me.

Phillip Toner, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Sydney

Everyone is in favour of more public transport. But there are a lot of other cheaper, intermediate options. Things like tilt trains that travel quite fast, they require relatively minor modifications to existing rail networks. These trains could cut travel time between urban centres by half.

Even in terms of transport, there a plenty of really high priority options such as improving the freight rail network between Melbourne and Brisbane, and Melbourne to Perth. That’s an absolute priority to get trucks off the road and significantly reduce pollution.

Something would have to happen with air traffic too. While you can get return airfares from Sydney to Melbourne for $100 that is a cheap option. Pollution generated by air traffic is a major problem now, but in the future they could be running on renewable energy. By the time they start working on fast train there will probably be developments in renewable energy such as the introduction of algae-based biofuel.

I can’t help think that the whole thing is to make the government look visionary and nation building. It’s hard to see the case for it considering cheaper options. You’ve just got to consider what else you can do with that sort money, such as investment in Gonski, higher education and the Australian science and technology base.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Empowering Fairleigh


Alison Fairleigh recently won the Qld rural woman of the year award for her work with rural mental health advocacy and promotion of social media as an opportunity to help improve the health and well being of people in rural and remote Australia. From the 7th to 10th of April the National Rural Health Conference was held in Adelaide and as invited speaker Alison gave a truly inspirational presentation.

Photo sourced from Farming ahead online

Please click on the following link and listen to Alison Fairleigh with -

Alison has a blog site called Talking Fairleigh. It has been one of the recommended places to visit by this site; the link along with the last published post can be found in the right hand column of this page under My Blog List. Another recommendation in our list is Michael Trant's, Farmers way of life whom Alison points out in her presentation as a major social media success story for rural people. The #Hadagutful campaign in WA has been a success; it has shown that a minority group, (that is what farmers are these days in Australia), can in the face of economic ruin and facing interest groups of far greater political power, can start to turn the situation around and bring hope.
The Knitting Nannas from the NSW Northern rivers area have shown how by thinking outside the square and using a bit of imagination that the public's attention can be captured and a message delivered with no high budget, no restriction of age and using social media.
As Alison indicated it was completely out of left field that a youtube appeared by a complete unknown, Cassandra McDonald which brought to a halt the efforts from a considerable public relations budget from the supermarket giant, Coles.
Ask An Aussie Farmer face book page has been a major success. Started a little over a year ago it now has over 4,500 likes. The description for the page reads as follows -
Ask An Aussie Farmer"We are a group that is passionate about Australian farming, with expertise and first-hand knowledge across a broad expanse of agriculture in Australia, including access to experts and professionals. We reside all over this country and some even live far away from our shores but are still involved in the diverse industries of Australian agriculture. The reason for hosting this page is so those that live, breath, know, and are enthusiastic about Aussie Ag can answer your questions and tell their stories”
The internet has been a great break through for people who live and work in regional, rural and remote areas. Social media has broken the tyranny of distance. It is no longer the case that you have to physically go to a capital city to get your point of view across; it can all be done from home at very little cost

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Curbing the GW Virus

Curbing the GW Virus? by Viv Forbes

  A virulent virus is being spread at international climate conferences. 

Called the GW Virus (short for Manmade Global Warming Virus), the symptoms are a psychotic fear of the word “carbon”, a compulsion to blame man’s industry for every bad weather event, an urge to weave a warm bias into every weather report and forecast, and a morbid fascination with windmills.  

The GW virus was first identified in the British Parliament in 1988 and spread quickly to the vulnerable BBC. It is an airborne virus and was soon spread by junketing politicians to NASA and the UN, thence to an Earth Conference in Rio in 1992, and then to Kyoto in 1997. The infection peaked in Copenhagen in 2009, when thousands of politicians, academics, officials and reporters became feverish. 

Cartoon by Paul Zanetti

Because of its isolation, Australia had not developed immunity to this virus, and it quickly took root in the ABC, thoroughly infected many politicians especially the governing ALP/Greens coalition, and then spread via government grant meetings to the CSIRO and every University in the land. 

In Australia, incurable cases are sent to an isolation ward called the Climate Commission, headed by chronic MGW sufferer, Tim Flannery. Like vultures perched on a dead tree, these dedicated doomsters see droughts and heat waves in every weather event, even when large areas of the country are suffering floods and unseasonal cold. 

The only protection against the GW virus is immunisation with a shot of climate history vaccine. This helps “at risk” alarmists to accept that there is nothing new about fires, floods, droughts, cyclones, heat waves, snow storms or variations in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

To curb the further spread of this virulent and destructive virus, infected sufferers must be banned from climate conferences and all infected politicians must be quarantined in their offices.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher: obituary
Baroness Thatcher, who has died aged 87 from a stroke, was not only Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, she was also the outstanding peacetime leader of the 20th century.
For more than a decade Margaret Thatcher enjoyed almost unchallenged political mastery, winning three successive general elections. The policies she pursued with ferocious energy and unyielding will resulted in a transformation of Britain’s economic performance

Photo sourced from Washington Post

The above is a quote from the UK newspaper The Telegraph.
The Evacuation Grounds site tries to have a lower key political focus, usually on the main this site's focus on what is occurring in regional and rural Australia; but I think we can make an exception for this world leader who achieved so much.

The Telegraph has a very comprehensive obituary which they have broken down into sections and provided links to each one.
Margaret Thatcher's obituary in full

1. Early life

2. Entering politics

3. Life in the shadow cabinet

4. The rise to leader

5. From Opposition to Government

6. War on the Left and in the Falklands

7. The miners’ strike and her second term

8. Third term in office

9. Ousted from Downing Street and the leadership

10. Life after politics

The Washington Post has published an interesting read Five myths about Margaret Thatcher

"Britain in the early 1970s was decayed, ungovernable and globally irrelevant, done in by the cumulative effect of postwar socialist reforms. Margaret Thatcher, who came to power as the nation’s first female prime minister in 1979, returned Britain to the realm of the great powers. Worshiped, feted, loathed and mocked, she is one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. And now Thatcher, as interpreted by Meryl Streep, will be coming to a theater near you in the movie “The Iron Lady,”opening Dec. 30.
But even those most sympathetic to her tend to misunderstand her personality, her governing style and her accomplishments. Let’s examine these misconceptions."

And finally from, How Margaret Thatcher Brought Economic Freedom to Britain.
This article contains many links and I'll leave you with this quote which tries to answer why the Iron Lady achieved all that she did.

"How did she do it? There are all sorts of possible explanations, including the fact that Britain in the late 1970s, like America, had sunk to such a sorry state that there was a market for solutions that were alternatives to the big-government conventional wisdom. But the point that seems most salient from this distance is Thatcher’s steadfast confidence in the basic principles behind her policies. It was, as she put it in her “Iron Lady” speech, “my defense of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life.”"

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The day the blind saw

The day the blind saw by Gavin Kedar 

There was a gentle tap at the kitchen door as it opened. Mum was expecting it, as our guests would be returning from the sheds, in readiness for the evening meal. Mum broke from her entree preparations to turn and face the back door and greet our guests, a family of 5 from London. What faced her as the door opened, she did not expect!.
‘The day the blind saw’ conjures up some one having been blind and gaining their sight. And, on the other side, us, who are already blessed with sight, witnessing the event. But, what about if you too are ‘blind’, and as the other ‘blind’ party sees for the first time, you too, also experience ‘sight’ for the first time. That is what happened on this summers day in Norfolk, UK, in 1975.

I grew up on a mixed cropping/dairy farm some 3 hrs drive North East of London. When I say ‘grew up on a farm’, I mean my life was literally 110% farming. My best friend was off the farm next door. My first girlfriend was from the farm on the other side of us. All my grandparents farmed, as did their parents, and even all 8 sets of my great, great grandparents. When we visited family, it was mostly on their farms. When they visited us, talk was about the late frosts we had in April, and how the grass was knocked back and the seasons hay crop would be affected, or that the Patterson’s had picked up a prize at the show for their Ayrshire bull. And did you hear how Uncle Tommy had trouble with getting on to fertilise his spring crops, but then, that was often a problem on his heavy land. A cup of tea was followed by the ‘ritual’ farm walk, or if it was too cold or wet, at least a tour around the sheds and inspect the stock, latest piece of machinery, or building alterations.

However, by the 1970’s,farm income was beginning to slip in the UK. People had forgotten the food rationing of the 1940’s, and how farmers had fed the nation with little help from imports during and after the War. Life was great and without much want following the ‘swinging sixties’. People had more leisure time, most owned a car, and exploring the countryside became quite fashionable for weekend and holiday activities.
With this in mind, Mum and Dad decided to supplement the weakening farm income by opening our home up for Bed and Breakfast through the summer months. We had a wide variety of guests, mostly staying for a week. Some were retired couples, occasionally, newlyweds, but mostly, families, wanting to give their children a rural experience, and some fresh country air.

And so the ‘Cardigans’ arrived one Saturday afternoon. Mr and Mrs, with a daughter and 2 sons, aged between 7 and 12. We discovered, through conversation, that both Mr & Mrs Cardigan were well educated and were well qualified in their fields of employment. The first few days, having eaten a hearty farm breakfast, the family would venture off in their car to explore the expanse of the Norfolk countryside. They would return just prior to the evening meal, with tales of their adventures from the day. A stately home and its grand gardens they visited on day one. The next day was of riparian lore, as they hired a motor boat and explored the waterways our part of the country is famous for. Then a trip to our local city to see its majestic Norman castle and awe inspiring cathedral. We had a Wildlife park not too far away; therefore, a ‘safari’ was taken on the fourth day. And so with the week almost past in similar fashion, the Cardigans realized it was their last day in the country, and that they had not really seen much of farm life. A plan was quickly hatched to educate their children in the ways of food production. The family would return early from their last day of explorations in the car, and would witness firsthand the earthy experience of the dairy cow.

Just a little background at this stage. At that time, most urban people in the UK took delivery of milk on their doorsteps every morning. Empty 1 pint glass bottles were placed outside the front door every night, and by breakfast the next day, the empties were replaced with full bottles. The Milkman was quite a part of British daily life, just as much as the Postman.

And so the Cardigans were about to venture forth to the milking parlour. Mum took them to the sheds, as Dad had already begun milking our Ayrshire cows. She told them that they had to be quiet, to keep out of the way of the cows coming into and out of their stalls, and about the general etiquette one observes when cows are being milked. As the Cardigans crept into the parlour, Mum left them to return to her culinary duties.

About 40 minutes later, there was the gentle tap on the kitchen door. The Cardigans, despite all their higher education and skills, entered the kitchen, with expressions and actions that were akin to a native from darkest Borneo having just seen a movie for the first time, or some Amazonia Indians first encounters with radios.
Mum asked if everything was alright, as they seemed somewhat shocked, their faces seemed blank and their mouths resembled some deep limestone caverns. At first they did not reply. Then Mrs Cardigan started to speak, “We…eh…. had no idea….the milk…..the cows, umm….no…it …um…did not realize……” Slowly, the episode was revealed. Walking into that parlour on that summers day in 1975, the Cardigan’s eye’s were opened for the first time. And now, as they told their story, it seemed to confirm the reality that their ‘sight’ was, indeed, real. They began to explain to Mum (who had left school at the age of 14 to help her Dad tend his dairy herd) all the intricacies of milking a cow. How they enter the parlour, are fed a specific feed, depending on each cows situation, how the udder is washed, the cups put on, the vacuum pump and pulsator (Mr was quite articulate at that point), the measuring jar, recording, the way the milk was piped, cooled, and stored in the vat (the children were the most vocal at educating Mum in this subject). Then they told how her husband (my Dad) had explained to them the voyage of the milk via the milk tanker, to the dairy where it was pasturised, processed and bottled, and finally delivered to their door steps in London. Through it all, they seemed to have to pause at times, to check that their ‘sight’ was indeed real.

However, now it was Mum’s turn to have her ‘eyes’ opened. As I mentioned earlier, with such a history steeped in farming, we envisaged that most people, farming or not, had a good idea of how food got to their plate, and clothing on their backs. Especially with the amount of TV people were watching, and availability of many media mediums that were being used by the general public.
Mum asked innocently, “What did you expect “?. I am glad that the Cardigan’s were honest about the answer, and the serious look on their faces told Mum that they indeed were not ‘pulling her leg’. “Well”, began Mr Cardigan, “We thought that when the milkman took our empty bottles in his van, he would drive out to a farm somewhere, and give the bottles to the farmer, who placed a bottle under each teat, and the cow would drop milk in each bottle”. (Somehow the cow knew how to ‘drop’ exactly 1 pint in each bottle) “Then the farmer would put a cap on each bottle, place them in the hand carrier used by the Milkman, who then picked them up in his van to deliver them back to us the next morning”. Mum looked at each Cardigan face in turn, even the children, just to check again if there was any hint of frivolity or jesting. Even a twinkle in an eye.….There was none.

Mum, always a wonderful host and a great conversationalist, was stuck for words, and only the increasing aroma of something starting to become overcooked, enabled her to excuse herself and collect her thoughts. Surely, surely, people in this day and age had some idea, surely. And these folk, well educated, professional jobs, quite well off, surely they knew something about the basics of life??. It seemed not, and so our ‘sight’ as farmers, was gained. We realized for the first time, that some people go through life, eating, drinking, choosing cloths, all things essential for even the most poor and uneducated, yet never an understanding of where it comes from, or how it all gets to them, the consumer.
Previous post by Gavin