Sunday, 24 November 2013

Strong, vibrant agriculture

In the first week of the sitting of the new Federal parliament, the member for New England in NSW rose and gave his maiden speech to the House of Representatives. Barnaby Joyce is not only the new member for New England but also has been appointed Agriculture minister in the Abbott government. Barnaby has been a player in federal politics for some time and is one of the few who has moved from the Senate to the House of Representatives and in a smaller again club of those who have achieved being an elected Senator in one state, Queensland, to another state lower house seat.

Barnaby in his speech talked of family connections in the seat of New England and the importance of agriculture for Australia in the past but what was most refreshing was his support of the family farm and determination for a future of a strong, vibrant agricultural sector. 
Photo Barnaby Joyce sourced from The Land 
“My social belief, like most individuals' social belief, was immensely affected by that same life experience. It was premised on the notion that people who work hard and live decent lives, producing a good that has real worth, should be fairly paid and fairly dealt with. A nation that does not defend these people has lost its more noble instincts. In China this week the ruling Communist Party announced greater property rights for farmers. So this belief is ubiquitous and current. The farming community has always had to live with the belief that we make sacrifices because things will get better, but the better never seems to happen.

Now our debt between government and private sectors is massive. Many major businesses in mining and agriculture are now foreign owned and gone. The family farm of the 1970s is generally unviable, and the deft hand of an external conscience has crystallised so that farm management practices have to conform to a view whose religion is a quasi-alternative environmentalism—of forms, of paperwork and of trees having attained an anthropomorphic character. We have evolved to the ridiculous extent where animal rights are interchangeable with human rights.

My initial introduction to the agriculture portfolio handed over by the previous Labor government replicated the industry. It has been usurped to a point where, in many instances, it is the mere ambassador for agriculture. Water and vegetation are with state and federal environment departments. Sale of many agricultural products and land is with Trade and Treasury. Even determination of the use of agricultural products is held by independent authorities within the agricultural portfolio, with no say by the minister. I commend the Prime Minister for his decision to put forward a white paper to investigate the ways our nation can better deliver an agricultural outcome. If we are solely reliant on mines, we will live in a boom-bust cycle. If our future is only in services then we must contend with lower wages—one click away on the internet—as anything that can be done on the computer can be done somewhere else by someone else at a cheaper rate. We need a strong, vibrant agricultural sector for the future of this nation”.

The speech makes mention of a white paper into agriculture, indications are that is not going to be a token endeavour but a policy area of priority for this government. To hear that the minister, Barnaby Joyce wishes the paper to deliver policy that will rebuild resilience back into agriculture is for farmers like the listening to that first storm sound on a tin roof after prolonged drought. The elation is countered by those thoughts in the back of the mind of needing meaningful follow up to ensure a better future.

Barnaby stepped down from his Senate seat midterm to successfully contest New England. His replacement as the constitution requires is appointed by the Premier of the state of someone from the same party as the retiring member. Barry O’Sullivan was selected by the LNP party and should be the current Qld Senator replacing Barnaby but finds himself in a strange dimension of purgatory as you can read about in this Courier Mail article. Of interest is O’Sullivan’s role in the development of the white paper.  

"I think it's important that Queensland is represented as soon as possible because issues are on foot that need to be dealt with," Mr Joyce told The Courier-Mail.
"The LNP has selected Barry O'Sullivan and it is now for the parliament to send him down."

Mr Joyce is already planning an informal role for Mr O'Sullivan that will put him in an influential position in the development of the Abbott government's Agricultural White Paper.

"If he's sitting in his room at home, he's no use to anyone," he said.
"You have a resource at your disposal for the development of policy and currently that resource is not deployed."

Mr O'Sullivan welcomed the role and said he wanted to travel around Queensland to speak to farmers and other industries and "feed in as much information as I can to the minister for him to consider for his White Paper in 2014."

This white paper is too important for farmers to be affected by a political side show. Agriculture is clearly at crisis point as Ben Rees highlighted in his paper, Agriculture in Crisis - Rationalise or Reconstruct, presented at Merredin, Western Australia on April 15th 2013.  

“Today, rural Australia is at a cross-road: more of the same or, a new direction. For thirty years, the farm sector has been reconstructed and adjusted by successive political administrations and their advisors. The rural sector has been also bullied by community group spokespeople from the, environment, animal welfare, consumer groups and media.

Hopefully, this paper can contribute to understanding the failure of policy and encourage exploration of policies to rebuild a prosperous rural Australia. In this process farmers must recognise their role is to reject rationalisation; and, fight for a new direction.”

There are many farmers who would like to discuss positively solutions to the current crisis facing agriculture with any politician who wishes to come to them for information in the development of the white paper to build a resilient, strong and vibrant agricultural sector.   


Saturday, 23 November 2013

When life gives you lemons

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade jet fuel

An Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology researcher hopes to use a chemical found in lemons and other citrus fruits to make clean, renewable jet fuel. Dr Claudia Vickers is modifying baker’s yeast to produce a synthetic form of the natural chemical limonene at AIBN, based at The University of Queensland.

“Limonene is a volatile chemical that is best known for contributing to the smell of citrus fruits,” Vickers said. “It was first identified in turpentine oil in the late 1800s and is now used as a flavour and fragrance in foods, household cleaning products, and perfumes. It also holds promise as an anti-cancer agent.”

Vickers said the environmental benefits of using limonene as a fuel were particularly exciting. “It might sound unlikely, but limonene one day could be a renewable, clean source of aviation fuel,” she said. “Fifty per cent of a 747’s weight on take-off is its fuel.

Limonene extracted from citrus peel had been used successfully as a jet fuel component in demonstration flights in the past. “However, large-scale limonene production from citrus peel is impractical,” Vickers said. “Producing it in yeast should provide a route to much greater yields of limonene which are easier to extract.”

Limonene yields from the modified yeast are not yet high enough to be commercially viable, but Dr Vickers has plans to further modify the yeast for improved yields. The same technology could be used to make a variety of other sustainable products from limonene, including rubbers, plastics, and paints.

The feasibility research had the backing of industry partners including Boeing , Virgin Australia , Mackay Sugar , IOR Energy and US biotech company Amyris.

A United States Department of Agriculture report predicts “green chemicals” produced using biomass will represent 22 per cent of the chemical market by 2025. A short video on Dr Vickers and her limonene research can be seen here

Article sourced from Friday Offcuts

Monday, 18 November 2013

Coal and gas projects can't be rushed: here's why

by Matthew Currell

New environment minister Greg Hunt recently announced 50 large coal and coal seam gas developments to be pushed through Australia’s environmental approval process, including assessment under the new federal “water trigger” introduced in early 2013.

The proposed mines are predominantly in NSW and Queensland, already sites of conflict over coal exports and CSG. A draft report from the Productivity Commission highlights the central issue: proponents of coal and CSG projects want rapid and simple assessments, while communities and environmental groups want baseline studies, more information and cumulative assessment. All of which cost time and money.
Minister Hunt’s announcement follows strong indications that the federal government wishes to speed up environmental approvals.

The decision to start assessing these 47 projects en masse and so quickly after the election seems to match the pre-election rhetoric. Greg Hunt has also suggested support for adopting an upper time limit, such as nine months for the assessment process.
However, we need to treat these assessments with caution. For many communities that will be affected by the projects the biggest concern is groundwater.

Groundwater: a sensitive resource

Most of the proposed mines will affect groundwater; in many cases from aquifers already used by people and important ecosystems. It’s not realistic to expect proper groundwater assessments be conducted in a nine-month period, or under any other form of “fast-tracking”. Let’s have a look why.
Currently, groundwater supplies about 30% of Australia’s total water use. It is an important resource in a country where most easily accessible surface water is already allocated or used. It is expected to meet a significant proportion of future water demand and help to buffer against a changing climate.
Its worth to the economy is in billions of dollars every year. Many ecosystems also depend on groundwater; recent mapping shows that groundwater is vital for ecosystems right across Australia.
Groundwater can be a highly sensitive resource for a number of reasons. In particular, the time between an impact on groundwater pressure in one area, and a corresponding change in flux of groundwater somewhere else can be lengthy. Aquifers, particularly deep aquifers, can take many thousands of years to recharge and they can be quickly to contaminated or depressurised, but more difficult to fix.

Uncertainty demands caution

Our power as a scientific community to model impacts of major projects on groundwater is still limited, despite today’s sophisticated data collection and computer modelling techniques.
All models used by hydrogeologists are characterised by uncertainty. For example, we generally can’t determine exactly by how much or how quickly one aquifer may register changes in water pressures in response to de-watering somewhere else.

Rather, a range of possible outcomes, with a certain level of confidence could realistically be provided.
Similarly, it is not easy to predict exactly how quickly pollution will move through an aquifer, and whether or when it might ultimately reach a wetland or stream. To make these predictions, extensive field studies and baseline monitoring data need to be put into our models.
In the words of one of our most eminent hydrogeology professors, Dr Craig Simmons, it is time for hydrogeologists to “level” with decision-makers and communities. Groundwater models do not give us a crystal ball to predict future impacts, and they will produce highly uncertain results if time, budget or field data are too limited.
While proponents and governments may not like to hear it, a long period of data collection and hydrogeological investigation is needed to make confident predictions with groundwater models. Proper assessment of the impacts of large coal mining and coal seam gas developments on groundwater are going to need time and resources.
The new government, proponents of major projects and communities need to bear these issues in mind. Approvals may take a long time but to protect such a precious resource as groundwater, it is worth taking it.


Matthew Currell  Lecturer in Hydrogeology, School of Environmental Engineering at RMIT University

Article first published at The Conversation and republished under creative commons

The Conversation

Saturday, 16 November 2013

PRA: November newsletter

Property Rights issues keep on coming thick and
fast. The length of time between newsletters isn't an indication that nothing has been happening rather just how busy the board has been.

Some of the presentations from this last conference are now available on YouTube (links below) with a few more in the process of being edited and will be available soon.

Ashley McKay - 10 years PRA history and achievements
Troy Rowling - How do we get the message across in the city press?
Coal Seam Gas

MLA through RIRDC has a research paper available which discusses co-existence. If anything the paper bears out the claims of our members that negotiating with the various bodies who may want to share your land is time consuming and requires a great deal of personal research. Look at point 1 and how many fields a landowner is advised to become an instant expert in. I cannot disagree. Obtain specialist advice but relying on specialists who do not come with recommendations leaves one open to charlatans. There is no easy road.

These are just a couple of snippets from the paper.
It is likely that a new land use will interfere with the efficient operation of existing farm enterprises and as a consequence could increase production costs and/or lower farm revenue. Accommodation of the new land use may also require a significant time commitment by the landholder. Changes in farm profitability and associated uncertainty could translate into changes in agricultural land values and increased competition for resources, such as water, from the new land use. Increased traffic through or around a property will also increase biosecurity risk, which will need to be addressed
A Checklist of Negotiation Processes for Landholders
1. Inform yourself of all the aspects of the process in which you are involved, such as legal, agronomic, hydrological, biosecurity, etc.

6. Negotiation will take significant time. Previous experience has shown that negotiations for a single

property can take up to 500 hours, with over 100 hours directly interacting with the new land use

proponent in the first six months.

7. Comprehensive documentation is required throughout the negotiation process, including proposals and personnel change and information that may be provided by the new land use proponent e.g. in one situation six sites on a property that were initially discussed ended up being 42.

8. The new land use proponent may be large and unwieldy and routinely turnover staff – do not assume that they all know what is going on at any one time. Insist on an organisational chart and ensure you are working with someone senior enough to make decisions.

9. Ensure there are compensation provisions built into agreements for any change in scope or

construction timetable
The whole paper can be accessed with the following link.

With the plethora of CSG wells, mines and associated infrastructure moving at such a fast speed any cracks in the legislation are becoming visible.

Planning Policy changes
In an upheaval of State planning policy the Qld Govt in a short period of time reviewed, amended and drafted new planning instruments. PRA wrote four separate submissions to four separate planning policies. We found ourselves commenting on draft amendments with various assurances that may mean very little because higher ranked planning policy had yet to be finalised. The drafts up for comment by submission contained repetitive terminology that was not defined and could be made to mean whatever. Although the policies claimed that agriculture was important, mining and coal seam gas activity was given a get out of jail card at every corner with phrases like, “no reasonable alternative.”

Instead of creating planning policy that would stand the test of time and be broad enough to cover all future circumstances the policies made heavy reference to coal seam gas and mining not in an effort to create a level playing field, but in a blatant effort to drive a mine truck or CSG drilling rig through the many loopholes.
The still yet to be defined co-existence was used as a cornerstone but there appears to be no circumstance where coexistence is not possible but rather agriculture has to fit in with the resource sector. The planning policies are creating new land classifications that have the effect of creating unnecessary complexity, confusion and watering down of farmer’s rights.

All agriculture based organisations addressed in detail the many points that were of concern in the submission processes only to be largely ignored. The universal dissatisfaction with the Qld government’s final position on these planning policies is evident in the following newspaper article: Farm 'protection' blasted.

Recent Property Rights cases
Joanne has been giving support via phone calls to a West Australian landowner who successfully defended a prosecution brought on by the WA Dept of environment & conservation (DEC). The case gained the interest of the IPA who issued the following media release: The case of Peter Swift will shock you

The case of the well reported locked gate on the access road to a Georgetown property is a case in point where all government departments seemed powerless to do anything about it in a timely manner. If you haven’t caught up with this case the locked gate wasn’t a landowner locking out a miner rather it was a miner who constructed a fence across an access road to a Georgetown cattle station. No government department was able to detect any illegal act so, it seems, were powerless to do anything. Since the Beef Central article, Mining company fences off NW Qld property, was written, PRA was able to direct the landowner to good legal advice. The case is still ongoing.
A landowner in Southern Queensland appealed to PRA for help in what is one of the worst abuses of property rights we have seen. We were only called in at 1 minute to midnight & were unable to achieve a lot due to some poor legal advice earlier in the case history and, left unguided, a couple of unfortunate decisions by the landowners. The agreement reached included a confidentiality clause. This case highlights that abuse of power perpetuated by quasi government corporations and the importance of obtaining specialist legal advice.

Open mineral exploration holes
Dale has taken a position on the committee of the Basin Sustainability Alliance. BSA works only in the area of coal seam gas and its position is very close to that of PRA.
Dale is giving support to a fellow committee member, water driller Ian Hansen, in his concerns about the many thousands poorly decommissioned exploration holes that could become pathways if a gasfield is constructed in the same locality and the coal measures are depressurised by removing water to allow the gas to travel.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Climate See-saw.

by Viv Forbes
Global Climate is on a See-Saw, not a Tipping Point
Anyone who looks carefully at radiation science and the thermodynamics of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will come to the conclusion that carbon dioxide alone cannot cause a global warming crisis. Even sensible warmists know this.

So warmists invoke “positive feedbacks” or multipliers, which they say will tip earth into runaway global warming.

Their theory is that an initial small warming will increase evaporation of water from the oceans and methane from the tundra. These two “greenhouse gases” will then cause more atmospheric warming, progressively expelling more carbon dioxide from the warming oceans. “Oceans will boil” claimed warmist leader James Hansen. They also claim that after a postulated “tipping point”, Earth will never recover its balmy equilibrium.

However, they ignore substantial negative feedbacks that act to moderate any tendency to excessive global warming. For example, evaporation cools water bodies and carries surface heat into the upper atmosphere where it dissipates to space. Extra evaporation also produces more clouds that reflect heat and cool the surface. Also methane oxidises and extra plant growth absorbs more solar energy, water vapour and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Moreover, the long history of the Earth reveals periods when temperatures and carbon dioxide levels were far higher than today but life flourished and Earth always returned to cooler times – sometimes an ice age. Earth’s climate oscillates like a see-saw, with periodic changes in cycles in the sun and the solar system keeping the see-saw slowly oscillating.

There is no evidence supporting the theory of a global warming tipping point.

Today we live in a balmy climate cycle but in the grand climate cycles, the barren hungry ice is always waiting its turn.

Every human alive today is descended from a long line of smart and adaptable ancestors. Those who stay smart and adaptable will survive future see-saws of the climate

Monday, 11 November 2013

Remembering red poppys; forgetting white feathers

Today is Remembrance day where we stop on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to mark the end of World war 1. This war had a profound affect on Australia; the loss of life as a percentage of this young federated nation was massive. The loss of those young men in the years following the war was sorely felt.
In no way is the posting of this poem is intended to devalue the loss and sacrifice of World war 1. It is done so to remember all of our historical past.

White Features and the Great War
'Unconscionable hectoring',  she said, crushing the feather.
  'Two brothers I've lost. And you, your father and sister.
How much of family must family give? What kin can remain?
  They who sent this decline to give their names,
yet pit your conscience against you and are doubly cowards.
  Show me, George, a singular courage and ignore them.
Attend to me, your pregnant wife and sole companion.
 Stay for the birth; deny this war more death.'
But his eyes were far away and his manner agitated;
  to stay he'd have to volunteer and go.
'Here I have to live', he said, 'whatever I do,
  and here my son, or daughter, will question me.
Unlike some men, I'm capable, have height and health
  and no excuse not to offer; I have to go.'
'It's kicking', she cried of their unborn child. 'Put your hand here.'
  It kicked again. 'It must be a boy', he said.
'I'll keep my head down', he told his wife, embracing fullness.
  He'd cup that kick in his hand till the day he returned.
By Timoshenko Aslanides
This is the entry for the 18th July out of the book AnniVeraries: 366 Linked poems, one based on an historical event for every day of the Australian Year.
Previously published poem by Timoshenko Aslanides

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Petition for a Cost/Benefit Inquiry on Programs to Reduce Emissions

Dear All

I am sending you this message to ask if you would sign the attached petition. A number of colleagues and I have become concerned that billions of taxpayers’ dollars are being spent by our Federal Government on programs designed to reduce fossil fuel emissions but without undertaking a cost/benefit study. The petition seeks to have an inquiry that would do that. I anticipate that an appropriate motion will be moved in the House of Representatives.

By contrast, the Coalition has severely criticised the then Labor Government for launching into the National Broadband Network without a cost/benefit study.  It would be anomalous if it now proceeded  to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on efforts to achieve its carbon dioxide emissions target without doing an objective investigation of the benefits that would accrue to the Australian taxpayer as a result. From spending on infrastructure, health, education, defence and even foreign aid it is possible to see benefit, but the value to Australians from climate programs needs to be made clear.

Des Moore

Formal Preamble

This petition by citizens and taxpayers of Australia draws the attention of the House of Representatives to large sums of Government income that are being spent on programs, subsidies, compensations, commissions, etc. with the aim of achieving a national target of a 5% reduction in the human production of carbon dioxide from that of the year 2000, by 2020, without a high-level, incisive cost/benefit study having been conducted.

The aim is to have the House agree to request that this inquiry be conducted by a Royal Commission to ensure that all evidence is presented under oath.

The Principal Petitioner is Mr Des Moore.   Des has a BSc (Hons) degree from the London School of Economics in 1958 after first graduating in law at the University of Melbourne. He then worked for 28 years in the Commonwealth Treasury, the last five as a Deputy Secretary.

Parliament continues to require petitions to be on paper with handwritten names and signatures (addresses not needed).  A large number of such signatures should get the attention of the Government.  Please print the petition form (attached) and obtain actual signatures from people, then please mail your signed petition forms to the dedicated P.O. Box address:…
Petition,  Noosaville L.P.O,  P.O. Box 651,  Noosaville,  Qld 4566

Also, please forward this email to family, friends, business associates and acquaintances.  It is to be expected that you will receive this email from various people as the widest possible distribution is being aimed for.

We the undersigned, being citizens of Australia, request The House to do all in its power to establish an inquiry to determine the real benefits and the total costs to this nation from Government spending to reduce human production of carbon dioxide and from subsidies for renewable energy and regulations limiting the use of carbon-based fuels.


NAME                                                      SIGNATURE


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Balm for mind and soul

It's quite some time since I posted anything at all on EG. Not because I "fell out of love" or anything sinister! Rather more prosaically, we spent the best part of 2 months overseas and since returning, for one reason on another I seem to have been chasing my tail. Meanwhile as I see on the site, other worthy members, led by the indefatigable Dale, have been fighting the good fight on behalf of our farming friends; as well as the odd bushfire! Thank god for people who care and put in.

Health / quality of life - wise, my immediate family has been fortunate to enjoy some pretty clear air for some time, but more recently a very severe illness has raised its ugly head, in the same way that all families encounter, some randomly (and unfairly) more often than should be their 'share'. I am not all that frequent a visitor to such philosophical thoughts, so I know it behoves me well to stop and think, just how lucky we are in many small, insignificant ways. One of these is that while we live very close to the CBD in a major city on a river which wags from Qld especially delight in saying "runs upside down" (haven't they ever looked at the Brisbane, Burnett, Mary, Fitzroy ........) we can escape from it all via some nice nature walks. I recently sent the following to some friends by email, and thought I might share it with you:

"Aren’t we lucky that we are only a short walk from the Yarra, from where we can meander for hours, up and down, either side, on real bush tracks, safe from lycra warriors of both sexes on paved paths, training for Le Tour, the world mountain bike championships, or whatever. And that we are able to do this, while not taking the future for granted, Late this morning my wife and I set off on a typical, 3 hour walk in weather that alternated between windless, sunny and balmy, to rain driven by semi gales as a series of fronts came through. Afterall, ‘tis Melbourne in Spring :-)

It all reminded me of the great poem by wonderful 19thC English poet and Jesuit (no, not Tony Abbott!  :-) Gerald Manly Hopkins. You know, the one which ends with the following verse:
What would the world be, once bereft
of wet and wildness, let them be left.
Oh let them be left, wildness and wet
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet

Yes, even in the very heart of C21 Melbourne.

So here are a few happy snaps, to show you what I mean – with a hint of civilisation showing through here and there. It was a 12.5km meander, and we are grateful that at our ages, we are able to do, and share such things  ;-)

Cheers  al and barb

PS For non Melbournians, the Yarra is fresh above Dights Falls (nowadays, a small weir) which was the site of the first woollen mills. al

Friday, 8 November 2013

It's time to recognise time

by Kerry Ladbrook
Photo: Wandoan South sub station
How do Powerlink Qld and many of the Coal Seam Gas Companies recognise landholder’s time impacted by their projects in order for these corporations to meet deadlines?  They don’t, but under legislation landholders must engage with them.

How do Government Corporations such as Powerlink Qld recognise their employees meeting deadlines? By paying Staff Performance Pay Bonuses and allowing them to share in a Gainsharing Pool of money if their projects come in under budget. 

In the North West Surat Basin, there has been more “give” than “take” by landholders impacted by a web of high voltage transmission powerlines for the sole benefit of the coal seam gas companies.  Powerlink Qld is undertaking these contracts ignoring landholder input into the proposed study corridors in planning for this infrastructure. Due to inappropriate locations, time wasted by Powerlink employees has been enormous and costly to the Qld Government, CSG and Rural industries.

While Powerlink employees continue to be paid for their mistakes, landholders have to endure even greater impacts upon their time. Farmers are running a business and should not be placed in the position of de facto charities for the benefit of multinational companies.

Time impacts on our business equates to two days per week since first engagement with Powerlink 16 months ago with agreement yet to be reached.  How many family businesses can afford to carry this type of impact without recompense?

The Community Designation Process that Powerlink Qld is allowed to follow is highly pressurised and with less rights than CSG legislation as it comes under the Acquisition of Land Act 1967.

It’s more than time that landholder’s time is recognised. The Queensland government needs to look to positive legislative change for landholders. Recognition of landholder time as separate to other compensation needs to occur.

Allowing for full cost recovery will result in a greater willingness to address issues from the outset.