Monday, 28 April 2014

The Land, Coal Seam Gas and Coexistence

by Muhammad Makki

A snapshot to visualise and to give a glimpse of understanding -

The Land, Coal Seam Gas and Coexistence

First published as a shorter version in the Have Your Say column Courier Mail Saturday April 26
Muhammad Makki
It was getting much cooler in Goombi as the sun set after a bright and dry day. I was driving back to Chinchilla on a dusty unsealed road after meeting a landholder who hosts CSG- LNG pipeline. Something she had said to me through a piqued face stuck in my brain:

"Why don’t you open up your backyard and the front gate and let CSG in and then see how it goes” or let me say “suck it and see”."

The quiet country, with agriculture as a dominant avocation, is now depressed, and is experiencing a rapid change under the influence of coal seam gas (CSG) development. As the evening wore on in the Western Downs it reminded me of the ‘pain’ of being overridden, disempowered, exhausted and under siege, every day. Here now the sun sets quietly, full of stories unheard. The rules of the country and the complexion of country life are changing imperceptibly and the once fantasised setting is dissolving into doubts because of escalating CSG developments. Who cares if the very fabric of a farmer’s land is negatively impacted somewhere deep in the country; a world away from the sports clubs, fancy restaurants and cosy cafes of Brisbane.

Imagine morning on a farm, sitting on a chair watching dawn break, enjoying the tranquillity of your surroundings with a coffee listening to the birds and thinking, ‘What to be done today?’ – moments just singing out. The land, like an old trusted friend, brings freedom and long, honest working hours bring pleasure at the end of the day.

But your life is turned upside down as soon you open a letter from a CSG company titled, ‘Proposed Infrastructure for Your Land’. As soon you opened the letter your life becomes so stressful, with endless pressures and everything seems to be at stake: the farm, business, pride and motivation for being on the land. And then imagine yourself reading repeatedly the sentence:

“if we are unable to reach mutually acceptable access and compensation agreement, [the company] may, as a last resort, ask the Coordinator-General to acquire interests in land on behalf of [company] for the purpose of the project”.

You should know that you don’t have any legal power or right to say, ‘No.’; you simply have to ‘suck it up’. One can see the fear right there in your eyes, as clear as anything. 
Painting – ‘The letter and the landholder’ by Muhammad Makki
And then soon you will find yourself in a state of emotional stress, engaged in countless hours of reading and replying to emails, letters, phone calls, attending community meetings, information sessions, asking questions and trying to find answers, and attempting to make sense of complicated scientific terms. And imagine when you’re dealing and negotiating with more than one CSG proponent. This takes time, and when you are responsible for thousands of acres land and livestock that number in the hundreds, there is no time to waste. 

Imagine also restrained by a limited bank balance that you don’t have many moves left, and you are compelled to sign the agreement with CSG companies. Picture your paddocks and land becoming work sites for months, trampled by beeping utes going up and down and unknown persons on your property at times working around the clock under floodlights. Your land is overwhelmed by gravel or cement well pads, fenced with connecting roads, access points, underground power, gas and water pipelines, vents, and compressor stations. You discover that the auto steer tractor you purchased at enormous cost is no longer usable, because of the underground pipes and other infrastructure has fragmented the paddocks into odd shapes. And you notice that your cattle don’t utilise all the grass, now covered in dust because of the traffic. You worry about your underground water disappearing due to the CSG companies ‘de-pressurising’ the adjacent aquifer. You have to check and ensure now that there is no loss arising from CSG activities on your land and have to double check that gates shut properly, fences are in place, and cattle are not being exposed to plastic left lying about or any other dangerous substance. And let’s not imagine the ongoing management cost you will face for the pipeline and gas wells, which will be there for 30 to 40 years.

And now imagine your life is ‘Gas Gas and just Gas’. You will be known by the moniker, ‘Gas’, when you introduce yourself to someone in Toowoomba, Brisbane or elsewhere. At any funeral, birthday party or community hall the conversation will eventually come to CSG, and soon you will be sick of it.

And now you won’t remember the last time you had the luxury of thinking about improving livestock genetics, soil, pastures, ground cover and moisture retention; or even tennis, footy and cricket. There is no time for that anymore, and your confidence and motivation as a landholder is simply eroded.

Now the land might seem to be just a place to bury the broken dreams.

 There is no doubt that CSG industry has learnt and improved through the years, but the industry must realise that there is no fast lane out there in the country and it is the industry out of step with the pace of life of agriculturalists attuned to the variance of season and weather. If the industry does not learn these lessons, anti CSG movement is well positioned to slow the pace of development. There is no other way except for industry to reduce the severity of impacts on landholders and to reduce their distrust and doubts.

Note: This article is the personal opinion of the writer based on fieldwork experience and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of any particular institution or organization. 

Contributor Muhammad Makki is a PhD researcher at School of Journalism and Communication & Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) at Sustainable Mineral Institute, The University of Queensland.

Previous published related posts

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Weather vs Climate

by Viv Forbes

The weather at any spot is usually defined by max/min temperatures, humidity, precipitation and wind strength/direction. Weather varies hourly, daily, season-to-season and place-to-place. These weather measurements at any place can be averaged over various time periods.

Climate is defined as the average of thirty years of weather. Mark Twain explained the difference: “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get”.

Weather statistics can be averaged over larger areas, such by region, state, continent or the globe. This is a mathematical abstraction, becoming less accurate and less meaningful as the time or area covered increases. A global average annual temperature which (after debatable adjustments) includes winter in the Antarctic and summer in the Sahara is irrelevant. No one lives in the global average temperature.

Weather and climate have been so politicised that most commentaries are now merely propaganda.

In the Brave New World of global warming alarmists, a long frigid winter is “just weather”, but one stinking hot summer day is “clear evidence of dangerous man-made climate change”.

And despite an un-predicted 17 years of stable global temperature trends, their prophets still chant their doleful dirge: “Unless we have a carbon tax, extreme weather disasters are coming your way soon”.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


Lewis Gordon Blackmore was the 7th Child of Edward Gordon Blackmore and Eleanora Elizabeth Blackmore (Nee Farr) Born Adelaide SA 21st May 1886 - Killed in action 23rd July, 1916 at Pozieres, France

From the excerpts below all young men have hopes and dreams that in this instance were cut short but have given us the freedom do live our own lives without much thought for the alternative

Lewis’ letters to brother John Coleridge Blackmore (my Grandfather)

June 24thAs the Russians are doing so well and the Hun appear to have failed at Verdun I may be coming home earlier than I thought, of course not this year, and I can assure you I hope to return to the life on the land. We have had a fair amount of wet weather of late; it is wonderful how we escape colds. I really think we are getting immune to the ills of the flesh….”

June 29th “How is land selling now? I have great ideas of sneaking out near the Warrumbungle Mts and buying a place if we can raise the wind….”

July 17th “Well old sport, we shall be busy now so letters may be a bit irregular, but shall drop you a line at every opportunity.”

Then in a letter from Eric Shelly –

“We moved up on the village of Pozieres on the night of July 19th and it was well into the morning of the 20th by the time we had taken over from the Tommies. Lew’s battalion were in the front. All that day, the next and the next, we lay quiet letting the artillery do its work. The attack was timed for 12.30am on the night of the 22nd-23rd July. Two minutes prior to that time we started a violent artillery bombardment, then over our men went to the German first line and took it. For 30 minutes there raged another artillery bombardment our guns having lifted their range to the German 2nd line, then a signal and over we went again. As close as I can gather this is where poor old Lew went down. The boy knew no pain thank God, a machine gun bullet got him in the forehead and he died instantly. I saw him a few hours previously and he went into it laughing and joking and full of hope and the surety he was coming out as well as he went in”

From Informant Cadet Pte Thos. 3261

Lewis Gordon Blackmore buried approx location at junction of Pozieres Trench and OG1
“On Sunday, 23rd July I saw above-named killed, struck by a machine gun bullet. We were attacking Pozieres about 1 am. I saw that Blackmore was dead. An Australian, short, thick-set, dark, clean shaven, about twenty three”

From Service Records:-

“Buried just to the right of the right communication trench leading to Old German No 1 Trench near Pozieres.”

“(No Grave No, No cemetery and no clergyman. He was buried in the heat of the action)”


An Account of the Pozierers Battle of 23rd-24th July 1916

During the night of Saturday-Sunday, July 22nd-23rd, the troops took up their positions for the attack on the village. The attack was to be made upon the eastern and southern faces of the position by Australian troops and English Territorials. The English were to advance from the direction of Ovillers Hill and Mash Valley, upon the cemetery and that straggling end or outlier of the village which stretched out towards Thiepval. Their right was to rest upon the Albert-Bapaume Road, their left on the strong, newly converted enemy lines on Ovillers Hill.

The Australian left was to touch the English right at the road, to push up, in the main direction of the road, from Suicide Corner and Contalmaison, by way of the spur, the Quarry Road, and Hospital Road, so as to close in on the village from the southeast.

The Australian right, forming up from about Contalmaison Villa, outside Little Bazentin Wood, to O.G. 1, with their faces to the west, were to charge across the plateau, taking whatever trenches there might be in their path, right into the village, through the wood or copse, and across the gardens to the houses. It was known that the garrison of Pozières had been relieved by a fresh division, and that, like other enemy reliefs, this division had brought in plenty of food and drink.

The attack had been prepared by some days of shelling over the whole area. Not much of the village was standing, though one observer speaks of some parts of red-tiled roofs near the cemetery. The smash and ruin were general, but the place was not obliterated, nor were all the trees razed. The weather had cleared. It was hot, dry, dusty weather, with much haze and stillness in the air.

At midnight on the 22nd-23rd of July the attack was timed to begin. It was the first big fight in which the Australians had been engaged since the Battle of Gallipoli, almost a year before. Then they had fallen in in the night for an attack in the dark, which won only glory and regret. This time the battle was to be one of the hardest of the war, and there was to be glory for all and regret for very many, and the prize was to be the key to the ridge of Bapaume beyond the skyline, with possible victory and peace.

At midnight, when the men had reached their starting-places, the attack began, and a great wave of Australian infantry went across the plateau towards the east of the village. A part of this wave attacked the enemy who were still holding out in O.G. 1. The rest crossed the plateau, got into one enemy line, which was lightly held or held only by dead men, took it, got into another (really the sunken track of the light railway) which was held more strongly, took that, and so, by successive rushes, and by countless acts of dash and daring, trying (as it happened) to find objectives which our guns had utterly destroyed, they reached the outskirts of the place, across a wreck of a part of the wood. They made a line from about the southern end of the village to their starting-place near Bazentin Wood.

When the daylight came on that Sunday morning, the Australians were in the village, on the eastern side of the road with the road as their front. Beyond the road they had to their front the tumbled bricks of the main part of the village. To their right, they had a markless wilderness of plateau tilting very slightly upwards to the crest on which the O.G. lines ran.

Australians who were there have given accounts of the fighting which won them this position, but, as usually happens in a night attack, those who were there saw little. It seems to be agreed that the second enemy trench was more strongly held than the outer line, and that the right of the attack, which came under direct enfilading fire from the O.Gs., had the hardest task. Some have said that the eastern outskirts of the village were lightly held by the enemy, and that not more than 200 enemy dead were found in that part of the field after the charge, which is very likely, for it was the enemy's custom to hold an advanced post with a few men and many machine guns.

Pozieres before and after artillery bombardment

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

WWF: Seductive songs of sustainability

Last week the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef met in Brisbane and in various media leading members were at pains to give assurance that there was nothing to fear. It is interesting how the language has changed from the original roundtable meeting in Denver 2010, to the presumptuous launch of the Australian Roundtable [ See: here & here ] at Beef week 2012 that failed after grassroots resistance, to the current day. All in the effort to entice Australian beef producers to the GRSB sustainability principles.

In last week’s issue of the Queensland Country Life Ruaraidh  Petre, Executive Director, GRSB, in a lot of feel good words carefully avoided any mention of the roughly 15 other commodity roundtables both active and proposed and the instigator of them all WWF. Petre repeats the current GRSB mantra that its critics are fearful and adds the charge of conspiracy theorists.
Senator Ron Boswell on the facing page strongly warns against involvement with GRSB. Boswell is at the end of a long distinguished career. He has no need to whip up any fear campaign for re-election; this is more a question of legacy, a deep felt desire that an agreement perilous to the long term future of the beef industry does not slip in at the end of his watch. Boswell, as has Property Rights Australia, has done research beyond the confines that Petre and Cattle Council Australia would like to keep our attention. Our warnings are based on real data.

Then on the opinion page of last week’s issue are the words of incoming Senator David Leyonhjelm. He outlines the familiar course used in creating a commodity roundtable; once in place fees introduced, standards raised and governments pressured to make the code mandatory. Leyonhjelm writes that the beneficial promises made for sustainability certification will be mere noise and the downside of not participating, bluff.

 PRA urges beef producers to be very sceptical of the assurance that WWF is but one voice on the roundtable. WWF had gained ascendancy over the major players even before it was convened. The last resistance was supressed in the lead up to the soy roundtable. [See: here, here ]The campaign against soy was based largely on production in Brazil. Nowadays the environmental groups have so much control that Jason Clay from WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative can blazingly state in public that WWF will instigate a finance roundtable which will include principles for sustainable lending in Brazil first because, “that is where we have the most traction.” It appears the traction is so complete in Brazil that Greenpeace was recently reported as directing beef processors including JBS where they could or could not buy cattle from.
Beware that our industry does not become shipwrecked listening to the sirens singing seductive songs of sustainability.

Previous published related post
Are they awake?  

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


By Bill Dahlheimer

Photo sourced here


Sixty nine Christmases, I’ve seen go by.
Oh, how those years have seemed to fly!
Primary school, Secondary and Correspondence helped me stand tall,
Then shearing and contracting; working at all.
Born on the land, my life I would spend,
until the day came when the Bank said they’d lend!
The farm and community; they were my whole life,
And then I met this fine girl, and now she’s my wife.
706 Healeys Road - Campbells Camp, Brigalow
Photo sourced here
For four years I chaired the school P & C board;
our children with apprenticeships was my reward.
The tennis club, bus runs and for the Hall;
We served on committees for them all. 

Our community and local industry; our time we did lend,
Then we moved to our new farm and we started again.
Our farm we selected twenty seven years ago;
A fertile, quiet place where Cobb and his coaches did go,
on the Condamine River where mostly good waters flow

 706 Healy's Crossing Road Brigalow QLD 4412 Real Estate Photo 3

Pork and beef production; they were our ‘call’,
Three times Champion at the Australia Pork Fair
These wins made us feel that we had done it all.
And our beautiful Brahmans they too shone through
all over Australia and New Caledonia too!
The demand for our breeders it was so strong…
But now it’s all gone …. we know what went wrong.
our bacon you see; it now comes from abroad,
And so pig producers have gone in great hoard.
And the live cattle exports, as we all know
Were shut down by a man we all know as Joe!
He and his cronies insulted our trading mate,
So they in their turn simply closed the import gate.
And I wonder how cruelly those unsold cattle did die,
In the drought that followed, beneath the clear sky.
And the people who watched their whole herd perish,
They took their lives too that they did once cherish.
Tangalooma Brahman Stud; photo sourced here 
Now at the end of our toils we hope in our twilight years,
for some reward for all of that blood, sweat and tears.
But when a buyer he did finally come,
One look to our south and he sure did a run!
The Mine, to our south means our farm just won’t sell.
We ask for fair compensation; a fair swing of the bell?
But their answer seems to tell us, “go to bloody hell!”
We are just ‘whingers’, but I don’t think that’s right,
They aren’t the ones, who lie awake at night,
And pray to the Lord, “don’t let That Dog bite!”
They send in some cleaners to wipe down our wall,
And a filter for drinking, they also install,
While sadly our bank balance continues to fall.
Very soon now, there will be none left at all!
For banks, they won’t lend on a farm you can’t sell,
I can hear echoes; they are starting to yell.

Now the company could buy us if they had the will,
They’ve got country that’s surplus just over the hill.
It’s not that this farm will just disappear;
When the mining is finished it still will be here.
Kogan Creek
Kogan Creek power station Photo sourced here
 You ask me how I feel, my very good friend.
When I think of my wife who I have condemned?
For Lynn, too, waits for the banker to knock.
And the two of us may soon walk away from our block
….with nothing to show but hard work and our age.
We worked for retirement; not for this rage!
Now we both know how the other does feel,
And we know in our hearts we have got a raw deal.
We worked ninety-five hours each week,
So at the end of our labours, some pleasure we seek.
Now we hold each other so that black dog won’t come;
And we pray that tomorrow a miracle is done;
That we will have laughter, good cheer and great fun;
Because without one, we will be out in the street,
Among many, like us we are sure we will meet.
                                  The bureaucrats you see, they don’t understand.
They think you must be indigenous to have love for the land.
Our forefathers who lie in Flanders Field,
or who fought in trenches on Gallipoli’s steep hills
Turn in their graves at the ‘democracy’ instilled.

Their descendants they thought would have honey and milk;
Their beds; they would be sheeted in silk!
They never allowed for the power of the dollar to come,
And that the morality they fought for would be given the bum.
Now the directors of companies should take a close look
at the courage and commitment that these diggers took.
Then maybe just maybe, they could open their heart?
Because we are too old to go back to the start!

Monday, 14 April 2014


In 1976 I moved to Central Queensland to work with local Stock & Station Agent.
Not many years before in the 1960’s a whole new frontier was opened up to new settlers with the Brigalow Development Scheme. If you were lucky you might be able to go into a ballot with the Queensland Government to draw a block. The block you drew was virgin Brigalow scrub and once you had pulled, burnt, grassed and watered your block, and satisfied the government’s development conditions, you would get title to it.
<span class="caption-caption">Typical Brigalow and Belah 'scrub' country interspaced with Box and Sandalwood Forest (overlooking site of experimental plots)</span>. <br />From <span class="caption-book">Queensland Agricultural Journal</span>, 1930, collection of <span class="caption-contributor">Fryer Library, UQ</span>.
Photo sourced Queensland Places - Brigalow belt
As most new settlers had little money to back them they had to spend most of their earnings developing their blocks so many lived in basic camps and sheds in what was a new frontier. Many stories abounded about life on the Brigalow blocks.

One such story was about a settler (who we shall call Settler) who had drawn a block that had two bores for water beside a creek that was also just near the neighbour’s boundary.
As mentioned, almost without exception, Brigalow settlers were always strapped for cash and so when the neighbour approached Settler with a suggestion that he knew someone, who had a property some distance away, who was looking for agistment and that he was offering an extremely generous price, Settler readily accepted.
As Settler had no yards, the cattle were unloaded at the neighbour's and put through the fence between the two bores.
On Settlers first inspection of the agisted cattle, after their arrival, he felt that there were far more cattle in his property than had been agreed.
In those days they had no phones at all, let alone mobiles and no electricity, so communicating something like a complaint about excessive cattle numbers could take some days.
So Settler approached the neighbour about it and was informed that he was also agisting cattle for the same person and that they were from the same mob. The neighbour suggested that some cattle may have got through the fence, which was in poor condition, to get back with their mates, but he would contact the stock owner about it. Settler asked for a paddock count.
Apparently it took some time before the stock owner and the neighbour arrived with horses to muster and do a paddock count, certainly far longer than any reasonable person would expect, so consequently, Settler was already well and truly “off side” when they arrived.
The cattle were mustered into a corner at one of the bores where the stock owner suggested that Settler count them along the fence whilst the stock owner and the neighbour held them back.
Each time the count started, Settler could hear the stock owner ” boring it into them” so that they raced along the fence 10 or twelve abreast, impossible to count and it was obvious that they didn’t want an accurate count.
The count was subsequently abandoned with Settler insisting that three quarters of the mob be removed. This was done with reluctant help from the stock owner.
Brigalow suckers axed at Hannasford, 1939
Photo sourced Qld historical Atlas

Back at camp, Settler declared that the stock owner was not to be trusted and sent someone to patrol the boundary each morning on horseback to look for tracks. There often were.
Settler would also drive his old truck down to the bore in the evenings and check to see if anything was going on. He usually took a .303 rifle with him.
One evening, it was just coming on dark, when Settler encountered the stock owner and the neighbour with a mob of cattle near the bore. Settler was enraged.
Settler was not sure what they were doing, but it appeared they had just bought a mob into Settlers property and were holding them at the bore. They certainly had no right to be there and tried to beat a hasty retreat.
It was dark enough not to be able to see clearly but there is no doubting who they were and Settler pulled out the .303 and fired a shot in their direction. At this, there were cattle running in all directions, men yelling and general pandemonium. Settler quickly jumped into the truck and returned to his camp. Settler had an awful feeling that he may have shot someone.
A few days later the Police Sergeant from a nearby town paid Settler a visit. After the Police sergeant left Settler said that a complaint had been made by the stock owner and that one of his men had been shot through the leg and his horse had been killed. There was, however, no dead horse at the location of the shooting.
Whether someone had been shot or grazed by the bullet or not, we still don’t know. Settler felt that the whole complaint to the Police may have been an exaggeration in the hopes that the Police visit to Settler would deter him from any further action.
In any case, apparently the Sergeant had given him a lecture on the consequences of shooting someone.
The whole agistment deal was a disaster, the stock owner hadn’t paid and owing to the overstocking Settler had no grass, so you can only imagine Settler’s utter amazement when he looked up one morning, at the sound of a vehicle, to see the stock owner coming down the track.
At the sight of the stock owner, Settler was heading inside for the gun. The stock owner stopped about 100 metres from the camp and got out of his vehicle with his hands in the air (like you would if you were being arrested at gunpoint).
The stock owner then shouted:-
”Settler, I hear you want to sell the place”.
On hearing these words Settler’s demeanour changed in an instant and he said:-
“Come in and have a drink”