Saturday, 30 August 2014

PRA: Hearing into new Qld resources bill

Qld parliament AREC Chair Ian Rickuss & deputy Chair
Jackie Trand. Photo sourced Qld Country Life

On behalf of property Rights Australia, chair Joanne Rea appeared before hearing at MacKay 20th August  into the Mineral & Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill. The following is Joanne's opening statement to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee

Property Rights Australia believes that this Bill severely erodes many of the protections and rights of landowners for the benefit of resources industries. In fact we believe it to be one of the greatest abrogations of landowner rights since the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

Some of our concerns are outlined in our submission but it is not exhaustive. They are concerns that are shared by many landowner representatives and by legal professionals specialising in representing landowners. PRA highly recommends the submission by Shine lawyers.

We have heard the Premier and Ministers say, when asked about landowner concerns that the resources companies and related infrastructure will create very many jobs and the royalties will fund infrastructure. Such statements imply that resource development and landowner concerns are mutually exclusive. This is not the case.

 We are constantly told of the billions of dollars in revenue which will benefit the state and we are well aware of the above average wages and conditions paid to mine workers and contractors. However, landowners are approached with an attitude of penury and meanness.

If resource companies want a relatively trouble free path they should approach landowners with a fair offer of recompense from the beginning, negotiate in good faith, not waste their time, apply pressure, bully, ignore concerns, renege on agreements and use various other bluff and deception tactics. They should also be mindful of local knowledge. Lobbying Government for changes to legislation which erode the rights of landowners because they are getting resistance to their unfair tactics is unacceptable.

Landowners feel that they have been thrown to the wolves with the lack of protection of their property rights under pieces of legislation like this. Commercial agreements alone are not possible without built in protection when one party to negotiations is an unwilling party whose time commitment is a cost and the companies who have full time paid professionals. This factor is frequently taken advantage of.

The balance of power in negotiations with resource companies has always been in favour of the resource companies and changes to legislation including those in this Bill have eroded almost every bargaining chip landowners may have had and handed the entire box and dice to the resources companies.

The superior fire power of the resources sector has won the day with this proposed legislation and the property rights of landowners are being disregarded. This is not the treatment that we expect from any Government which should be should be concerned about private property rights which are the cornerstone of our free market system.

All in all there is too much left to regulation rather than in the legislation, there are too many things which are not defined and landowner’s rights have been severely curtailed. This legislation should be deferred and taken back to the drawing board. It is entirely inappropriate that resource companies have damaged their own reputations as honest and good faith negotiators and then ask the government to fix their problems by legislation which damages landowner’s rights to the enjoyment of their property. It is very obvious that this legislation was “industry directed” for the benefit of resources companies and that landowner rights will be severely damaged. PRA does not support the further erosion of property rights by yet another government. It would appear that there are no major parties whose philosophical principle is to uncompromisingly to protect private property rights, a valuable and recognised cornerstone of our society and the ability of businesses to operate securely.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Powerlink may listen; but do they hear

By Kerry Ladbrook
First published as a letter to the editor, Queensland country Life August 14 2014
Hear No Evil Foundation Sticker
Image sourced [here]

Reading the CEO of Powerlink Qld Merryn York’s Letter(QCL 31st July 2014), I must agree Powerlink do listen but do they hear?
As a directly impacted landholder by PQ development and a Board Member for Property Rights Australia, I hear many things both current and in the past on the antics of PQ and the outcomes.
It is fortunate for Powerlink the Woodduck Landholder Group’s independent inquiry by McCullough- Robertson  Lawyers(QCL 24th July 2014), did not expand into the entire affected North West Surat Basin.  The inquiry would have been more reflective of Powerlink Qld’s pressured and often dishonest consultation practises commonly used in their process.

Jump back in time and there are stories eerily similar to Woodduck where landholders  with powerlines already constructed  are continuing to be ignored by PQ for appropriate compensation payment.

The Acquisition of Land Act 1967 encourages this type of arrogant behaviour when resuming land and easements.   Resumption for commercial activity must be negotiated on a commercial basis with negotiated landholder access(S15 Resumption),  not as compulsory acquisition . Landholders are reluctant sellers and should be compensated as such.  Annual payments should be mandatory, not associated with the dangling of a carrot as is currently occurring with Santos and Origin.

PRA hear continual trouble with the ALA 1967 beyond Powerlink’s activity in the NW Surat basin; Sunshine Coast with Powerlink & SEQ Water/The Ipswich Motorway with Main Roads/ the Gallilee Basin with Rail corridors and  which will also have future development from Powerlink. 

Merryn York, consultation requires much more than just listening and no amount of external reviews will address this unless PQ can be trusted and made responsible for what they say and agree to.  People should not be going through such a difficult process to find a fair outcome.

Ideally Government Owned Corporation Shareholding Ministers Seeney, McArdle & Nichol need to implement changes for which ministerial designation must occur under the Sustainable Planning Act that is more rigorous  than that just the timely supply of infrastructure, in addition to improving the process of deriving a Conduct & Compensation Agreement (CCA) for the project.

As an urgent first step, where the project is for private profit, the State Government needs to at least implement a change to the ALA to ensure that landholders can negotiate both access conditions and compensation(CCA)  in a similar way to the P&G Act, and as a requirement before the Notice of Intention to Resume (NIR) is issued.
Previously published related articles


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Russian sanctions are the least of our agriculture sector's problems

By Mark McGovern, Queensland University of Technology

First published at The Conversation 

Australia’s dairy sector will lose out due to Russian sanctions,
but there are bigger issues in play. Anatoly Maltsev/AAP
Russia’s targeting of $A400 million of Australian food exports and the government’s muddled response are just the latest setback for a sector struggling under failed policy approaches.

Agriculture is Australia’s only “strongly competitive industry”, according to recent reports from consulting firm McKinsey and the Business Council of Australia (BCA). Yet, the industry is today characterised by high levels of debt, low farm income, depleted reserves, increasing levels of insolvency and rising poverty. Why the mismatch?

Productivity is high in agriculture. Indeed productivity performance has been outstanding. Yet profits and incomes have been miserable for years. To top it off ABARE reports current Queensland farm incomes as the lowest for 37 years (which is when their figures began).

We’re measuring the wrong things

Measures of both competitiveness and productivity can increase when an industry is in decline. Today, agriculture is not where we hoped it would be. Existing policies and thinking have not delivered gains for agriculture in real terms (as evident in the graph) or Australia (as rising net overseas obligations demonstrate). Continuing them is folly.

A rocky path of questionable returns.
McGovern, M. (2013). Repositioning Rural Australia. Choices in Agricultural Policy: Rationalise or Reconstruct? Merredin WA, Muntadgin Profit Farmers.

Disappointingly, this failed stance sits behind the “new“ veneer in the BCA’s “Building Australia’s Comparative Advantage”. Under its dated take on comparative advantage, economies of scale still rule. The productivity mantra is repeated regularly but profit is never mentioned by the BCA, and incidentally mentioned only twice by McKinsey. Yet profit and sustainable incomes lie at the heart of sound business and investment servicing.

It’s 1997 thinking. Then, Minister for Primary Industries John Anderson convened a Rural Finance Summit in Canberra. The thrust was similar. Scale was the saviour and the message was that over a quarter of farmers must go. We overachieved - more than 40% or 103,000 farmers went during the Howard-Anderson era.

The reality is economies of scale require enterprises to increase operational size, utilise the latest technology (such as limited till farming and GPS navigation), employ advanced managerial systems and so on. Increased farm size requires larger machinery and equipment to replace labour intensive farming. All this takes money, yet financial considerations have been essentially absent.

Farm sector reforms have now created a sector with 20% of farmers producing around 80% of output from an increasingly untenable financial basis. Aggregation costs were neglected.

As asset inflation was thought never to end, debt-to-equity loans were not designed to be repaid from income. Capital gains would pick up any shortfall. But as stresses built and the GFC unfolded with pervasive capital losses, the economies of scale arguments and poor lending collapsed. Untenable loan-to-valuation ratios ushered in a financial crisis in national food production.

Large highly mechanised “efficient” enterprises were suddenly expected to repay multi-million dollar debts from insufficient income. Foreign buyers acquired most significant Australian food manufacturers and many farms.

What next?

Untenable financial arrangements need restructuring. The sector needs recapitalisation, new institutional arrangements and, for a time, a hands-on approach from government.

Today, the numbers of bank foreclosures and bankruptcy proceedings challenge the mantra makers. Financial numbers that don’t add up, and often never did, trash empty pseudo-economic rhetoric. Incomes going nowhere will not service the recent debt run up, as is evident in the graph below. Systemic failures allowed this development.

Debt has outpaced the ability to service it.
Ben Rees (2013) Reconstruct or Rationalise Agriculture? Compiled from: NVFP, ABARE, Commodity Statistics, Rural Debt , RBA online, Table D9

Yet, despite Foreign Minister Julie Bishop stating “the Australian government will do everything in its power to minimise the impact on Australian farmers“ of the $400 million disruption from Russia, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce “would hope that we’re able to manage it without direct assistance”. Ongoing "do nothing (but hope)” emptiness is destructive. Why is abject market appeasement still the first preference in Canberra - but not elsewhere?

The real structural reform needed is in industry, governmental and BCA thinking. Scale and competitiveness policies that have failed to deliver need to be discarded, not re-veneered.

Real solutions require substantial considerations of income, investment and profitability under uncertainty. Finance matters as do market and supply chain realities. Policy makers have avoided these things for too long, to the great cost to agriculture, other infected industries and Australia.

Ironically today, the despised low-productivity small farmer with household off-farm employment may be more solvent than the aggregator or the competitive.
The Conversation

Mark McGovern is an active member of the Rural Finance Roundtable Working Group.
This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Carbon Dioxide is a Weather Wimp and a Climate Pygmy

The Sun and Solar Cycles rule the Climate;
Wind and Water rule the Weather;
Carbon Dioxide is a Weather Wimp and a Climate Pygmy.

by Viv Forbes

Rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is blamed for every weather emergency, but as a weather maker, water is far more important.

Without water, Earth’s weather would be dramatically different. We would have no clouds, no rain or snow, no rain or hail storms, no hurricanes, no seas, rivers, lakes or ice sheets – just cold, cloudless nights and hot, clear days with dry winds and fierce dust storms; a dead planet like Mars.

Water has many weather effects. It cools Earth’s surface by evaporation, and transfers that heat to the upper atmosphere as it condenses into drops of rain, hail or snow. Water forms the wispy high cirrus and stratus clouds, the fluffy fair-weather cumulus and the ominous nimbus thunderheads that can produce rain, hail and storms as well as cyclones, hurricanes and tornados. Some high clouds help to retain surface heat while lower clouds shade and cool the surface as they intercept and reflect incoming solar radiation.

Where there is no water in the atmosphere we get hot deserts like Sahara or frigid deserts like Antarctica. And when solar energy wanes, as in ice ages, it is water, not carbon dioxide, that creates a real climate emergency with life-killing sheets of ice.

Carbon dioxide exists in the atmosphere and the oceans as a trace amount of invisible, non-toxic, non-flammable gas – quite a boring unspectacular gas really. But it gets the gold medal for feeding the biosphere – it is the gas of life and increased carbon dioxide is responsible for the recent measurable greening of the planet.

In theory, carbon dioxide can warm the climate by retaining surface heat. However, its so-called “greenhouse effect”, has never been quantified in climate records despite being given a key role in IPCC climate models. There is no evidence that carbon dioxide is creating dangerous global warming. Water vapour has a far bigger “greenhouse effect” over more radiation bands, and there is far more of it - Earth’s atmosphere has about 8,500 times more water than carbon dioxide. Earth’s water cycle also has a large moderating effect on any greenhouse warming from carbon dioxide. A climate tax on water makes as much sense as a tax on carbon.

In our great climate machine, the sun is the combustion chamber, the oceans are the stabilising flywheel and carbon dioxide is merely the temperature gauge – its concentration in the atmosphere rises as the oceans get warm and expel some of their dissolved CO2.

The sun and cycles in the solar system rule Earth’s long term climate. Solar energy drives winds and water to create the complexities of the weather. Carbon dioxide is a climate pygmy and largely irrelevant in creating the daily weather.

We have enough real environmental problems on Earth without inventing climate crises supposedly caused by the relatively trivial quantities of carbon dioxide recycled by man’s industries and machines.

Water vapour and carbon dioxide are the gases of life – the biosphere needs more of both. We should stop all foolish attempts to capture and bury carbon dioxide and devote those resources to capture and store fresh water.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

An original MEMBER of the Green's Party pulling Lee Rhiannon into line

It is time someone took Lee Rhiannon to task whom I consider to be a traitor to Australia.

It was posted on Lee Rhiannon's Facebook page and copied by others who have posted it on Facebook where I received it within a group on Fb.  on Friday 8th August.  I cannot say for sure when she posted the admonishing.

Marit Hegge knows the history of the Greens very well and explains when she last attended a meeting of the Greens.