Sunday, 31 May 2009

Want a dirty weekend next weekend?


Then get down and get dirty at the Australian Singles Marbles Championships
next weekend in Brunswick Heads.

The Championships are part of the
Brunswick Heads 9th Old and Gold
Festival.

Players are advised that "Brunwick Heads" Rules will apply, with t
he Championships being played “FOR FAIR”, so all marbles will be returned to their owners.

Other significant rules include:

* Glass Marbles are to be no bigger than 3/4” (three-quarters of an inch). Agates & Steelies are banned.

* The order of shooting will be determined by “lagging”. Closest shoot or toss to designated line.

* Players can either shoot with their “TAW”(their shooting marble) off the ground or knuckled down outside or on the edge of the ring.

* Fudging is a foul shoot & next player takes turn.

* Shooters are not permitted to step/walk inside the ring.

REFEREE & TOURNAMENT ORGANISER’S DECISIONS ARE FINAL.

Click here for more information about the Old and Gold Festival.

And the Speaker of the House went like... Ck Ck Boom


With the Federal Opposition benches doing their level best to disrupt House of Representatives sitting days last week, one sometimes feels sorry for The Speaker Harry Jenkins and the obvious wear and tear his tonsils endure as those on his left act like hyperactive jacks-in-the-box.

However, The Speaker does eventually hold the upper hand when faced with the usual suspects and is not averse to showing them the door.

What a pity that MPs Abbott, Baldwin, Bishop, Dutton, Haase, Hockey, Pyne, Randall, Robert, Turnbull and Tuckey feel that wasting time on childish tantrums is a legitimate part of their job descriptions.

Their combined behaviour is now so tiresome that I feel like breaking out the popcorn whenever I hear the echo of a ck ck boom from the Chair.

Excerpts from Open Australia Hansard records:

(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The member for Cook will resume his seat.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: I understand. The member for Paterson will resume his seat.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Treasurer will relate his response to the question and he will refer to members by their titles.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The member for Blair has the call.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The member for Canning will resume his seat.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. I think I created some confusion—I am not sure how. Before greeting our distinguished visitor, I was going to ask the Prime Minister whether he had concluded his answer. The Prime Minister, I think, had anticipated your point of order and had sat down. I call the Prime Minister.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Sturt will resume his seat. Now hop up and do your stunt. I am ruling it out of order—
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Sturt will resume his seat. I thank him for supporting my case.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Dickson is warned!
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The Leader of the Opposition is warned.
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Fadden is warned!
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Fadden will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a).
(28 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The honourable member for Fadden is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours.
(27 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Canning will resume his seat. While I do not adjudicate on personal explanations, I am not sure whether it was the member for Canning or the member for La Trobe who was at greater distress over that article.
(27 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Warringah will resume his seat. I say to the member for Warringah that I am not dissuaded by his argument from my actions, but I indicate to the member for Sturt that it is a really surprising set of behaviours, to come into the chamber and within five minutes think that he can prattle on without having the call. Like with the display of posters and other things, it is in the...
(27 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The Treasurer is responding to the question.
(27 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Canning is warned!
(27 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for O'Connor will leave the chamber under 94(a) for one hour. The member for O'Connor then left the chamber.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The member for O'Connor will resume his seat. Having been given an A for his first effort, that was nearly a fail, but he has made his point.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The member for Dickson will resume his seat.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for North Sydney will resume his seat. The Treasurer will respond to the question.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The member for Mackellar will resume her seat.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: So you are not interested in a response to your point of order. There is no point of order and the honourable member for Sturt knows it quite well.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The member for Sturt is warned. Member for Oxley, there is no need for any encouragement.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The honourable member for Sturt is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours under standing order 94(b). The member for Sturt then left the chamber.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: I call the member for North Sydney to order. The member for Dickson will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a). The Treasurer will respond to the question. The member for Dickson then left the chamber.
(26 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: Order! The member for Paterson may leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94(a). The member for Paterson then left the chamber.
(25 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Cowper will resume his seat. I have indicated that the Deputy Prime Minister is responding to the question.
(25 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Sturt will resume his seat—and he is warned, not because he raised a point of order but for the way in which he handled himself at the dispatch box. That was not my recollection of the question. The member has indicated that he was trying to change the question to make it in order.
(25 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Dickson will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has the call.
(25 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The question is related to gross debt. The Prime Minister, as I have said, knows of the requirement to make his response relevant to the question.
(25 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: I name the member for Kalgoorlie!
(25 May 2009) Harry Jenkins: The member for Kalgoorlie is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours. The member for Kalgoorlie then left the chamber.

The question of West Yamba


Image from Clarence Valley Council

From The Daily Examiner letters column 27 & 28 May 2009:

West Yamba Flooded

GIVEN the recent discussion regarding the development of West Yamba, it is timely that we have been inundated by widespread flooding.
Anyone who has ventured along Carrs Drive within recent days, the site for the proposed
suburb of 1000 dwellings, would wonder at the wisdom of such planning.
Much of the area has been submerged under water, including sections of the road.
It could be argued that these are extreme conditions and unlikely to impinge on future development. However, it is only eight years since we had cyclonic conditions in Yamba in early March 2001, with localised flooding.
Added to this are the problems of global warming, which will exacerbate severe weather condi tions such as flooding.
The costs and the inconvenience of relocating victims of flooding, as well as attendant expenses of infrastructure, landfill requirements and compromising a wetlands area, among other issues, all indicate the foolishness of development of West Yamba underscored by flooding of recent days.

S HUXTABLE,
Yamba


Thoughts on the 2009 floods

ONCE again in the North Coast we faced the danger of flood inundation and especially in Yamba the danger of being cut off from the mainland.
If anybody ventured down Carrs Drive in West Yamba last Friday they would have noticed the land flooded, this is just the area that the proposed West Yamba development be placed.
I along with thousands of others in West Yamba live in filled flood plains but those were decisions made 20 years ago.
With modern knowledge the filling in of these flood plain releases is reckless.

P STEPHEN,
Yamba

Obama and Korea: is Kim winning the latest battle of wills?

PBS Online news in-depth cover Tracking Nuclear Proliferation 27th May 2009

According to an opinion piece in the U.K. Telegraph last Friday President Obama is losing the PR battle on this one:

"Kim Jong-il, the charismatic and popular (if you are a Pyongyang resident and covet a life expectancy of more than 24 hours) Dear Leader of North Korea, is on his sixth or seventh missile this week. See the pretty vapour trails streak across Asian skies, in an impressive firework display to celebrate the arrival of President Pantywaist in the Oval Office.
School's out! Suddenly it is playtime for all the naughtier elements in the more "reclusive" parts of the world who enjoy kicking Uncle Sam's butt but didn't much relish tangling with Dick Cheney and (what was that other guy's name?). This time Comrade Kim is really throwing his toys out of the playpen. He has even unilaterally revoked the 1953 armistice between the Korean War belligerents, which means, in case anybody is interested, that North and South Korea are once more at war.
So, what is the response of the Messiah in the Oval Office? Really severe rhetoric, is the answer. The soundbite manufacturers have been burning the midnight oil and the auto-cue is going into meltdown. So is the confidence of Asian leaders. The word is out: the most powerful nation on earth has got itself a pussycat for a president and all the bad guys are queuing up to give him the finger."

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Conroy's 'voluntary mandatory' national Internet filtering scheme

The Australian Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy appears to be finally losing it, if this exchange posted at Somebody Think of the Children is any indication.

"Mandatory ISP filtering would conceivably involve legislation … voluntary is available currently to ISPs," Senator Conroy said. "One option is potentially legislation. One other option is that it could be (on a) voluntary basis that they (ISPs) could voluntarily agree to introduce it."

In response Senator Minchin said he had never heard of a voluntary mandatory system. Senator Conroy responded with "well they could agree to all introduce it".

Disability Discrimination Legal Centre is coming to Lismore & Ballina - 1 June 2009


On 2.00pm – 4.30pm, Monday 1 June 2009 The Disability Discrimination Legal Centre (DDLC) are coming to Lismore to provide an information workshop on disability discrimination & the law. On 10.00am – 12.30pm, Tuesday 2 June 2009 The Disability Discrimination Legal Centre (DDLC) are coming to Ballina. The NSW DDLC was set up in 1994 to help people with disability to use disability discrimination laws. Our role is to provide accurate and easy to comprehend advice to people with disability in NSW who want to make a complaint of disability discrimination.

The Lismore venue is the Goonellabah Community Centre,27 Oliver Avenue, Goonellabah. Light refreshments & tea/coffee will be provided.
The Ballina venue is the Bullinah Aboriginal Health Service, 120 Tamar Street, Ballina. Light refreshments & tea/coffee will be provided.


[NRSDC June 2009 news letter]

A jaw-dropping quote of the week


"Pretending to be impartial, the self-segregating personalities drawn to media careers overwhelmingly take a side, and that side is rarely ours. Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow's conventional wisdom."
{Ralph Peters in The Journal of International Security Affairs on 25th May 2009}

Friday, 29 May 2009

An ugly side of Yamba, Australia's Best Town


The flood brought out the best and worst of Yamba. Many people, especially SES volunteers, were superb, but some greedy business operators saw the flood as an opportunity to line their pockets.

A letters contributor in The Sydney Morning Herald has highlighted Yamba's ugly side.

Flood victims hung out to dry

Being a city bloke, I had been under the misconception that small towns pulled together in a crisis and extended a hand to those in need. It doesn't appear to be the case with Yamba, on the Clarence River, which is still cut off by the floods.

My in-laws, who are age pensioners, arrived there on Monday last week for three nights at a caravan park. Nine days later, they were paying full price for a motel room after moving from the park, where "company policy" required the manager to continue to charge full price for their flimsy cabin near the rising river.

Other guests in town are running out of money and their predicament seems to be met with "tut tut" statements from the locals. City folk like me will remember this sort of opportunism the next time we are asked to feel sorry for small-town folk.

Henry Lebovic Haberfield

Petiton against the decline of Maclean District Hospital autonomy


The Daily Examiner 13 May 2009

Lower Clarence Valley residents, unhappy with the proposed loss of the positions of chief executive officer and director of nursing at Maclean District Hospital, have started a petition to the NSW Minister for Health.
This petiton can currently be signed at Yamba.
As the flood waters are receeding it is expected that from today on copies of the petiton will also be at Iluka, Maclean, Woodford Island and villages elsewhere on the Clarence Coast.
If you consider that a hospital is better run when it is managed locally then this is your chance to say so.
If you want to check where the nearest copy of the petition is, call Jim Agnew on 0419 193 525.

One American perspective on Obama's response to Korean nuclear gamesmanship

U.S. comedian Andy Borowitz takes a look at Obama's response to recent events in Korea:

One day after North Korea launched a successful test of a nuclear weapon, President Obama said that the United States was prepared to respond to the threat with "the strongest possible adjectives."

In remarks to reporters at the White House, Mr. Obama said that North Korea should fear the "full force and might of the United States' arsenal of adjectives" and called the missile test "reckless, reprehensible, objectionable, senseless, egregious and condemnable."

Standing at the President's side, Vice President Joseph Biden weighed in with some tough adjectives of his own, branding North Korean President Kim Jong-Il "totally wack and illin'."

Later in the day, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the North Korean nuclear test "supercilious and jejune," leading some in diplomatic circles to worry that the U.S. might be running out of appropriate adjectives with which to craft its response.

But President Obama attempted to calm those fears, saying that the United States was prepared to "scour the thesaurus" to come up with additional adjectives and was "prepared to use adverbs" if necessary.

"Let's be clear: we are not taking adverbs off the table," Mr. Obama said. "If the need arises, we will use them forcefully, aggressively, swiftly, overwhelmingly and commandingly."

More from Andy Borowitz here.

As Carley saw it [Lower Clarence flood photos]


Clarence River lapping Maclean levee wall, May 2009

Carley Grayson has posted twenty Clarence River flood pictures at Captured By Carley.

It's hit 'em when they're down time at Fiscal Star


On Tuesday Fiscal Star released its May 2009 report on local government sustainability.

NSW North Coast councils Ballina Shire, Byron Shire, Coffs Harbour City, Richmond Valley, Tweed Shire, Lismore City, Clarence Valley, Belligen are all listed as 'unsustainable'.

This is the definition of sustainability used; "A council's existing policies are assessed as financially 'sustainable' only if any operating deficit, infrastructure backlog or excessive net financial liabilities that presently exists could be corrected without the council having to resort in future to substantial adjustments to its existing revenue-raising and/or expenditure."

Bl**dy brilliant fellas - the flood waters haven't even receded yet and our noses are being rubbed in the fact that decades of cost-shifting by the big boys in Canberra and Sydney will probably see rate hikes across the Northern Rivers in the next few years (except of course for Grafton which seems to have perfected a perfect beggar's lurch whenever it approaches Clarence Valley Council).

Still, I'm not too sure that I trust this starry research mob, as they have only bothered with what the report calls the top 100 councils and Kyogle Shire doesn't rate a mention even though this area is usually an active partner in whatever cost-sharing measures the Northern Rivers manages to establish.

If you want to read the short Fiscal Star-Dexia puff piece go here.
If you want to read the full 2009 Review of NSW Local Government Financial Sustainability go here.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Proud descendant of the Yaegl people is joint winner of inaugural Emerging and Young Artist Award





Jessica Birk

A young Indigenous artist living and born on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Jessica is a proud descendant of the Yaegl people, from northern NSW, on the mighty Clarence River.

Jessica's work was recognised on Wednesday night at the Australia Council's National Indigenous Arts Awards. At a ceremony at the Opera House, she and another printmaker, Fiona Elisala, from the Torres Strait Islands, were named joint winners of the inaugural Emerging and Young Artist Award.


Birk, 24, has exhibited her work with some of Sydney's most prominent indigenous artists, including Bronwyn Bancroft and Sally Morgan.


She met Bancroft as a child at Cromer Public School, when the artist helped the students with a mural.


"She was incredibly inspirational to me when I was a kid and when I met up with her in later life, she became a mentor," Birk says.


Like many artists, she uses her work to express her mixed heritage. Unlike many, she finds it easy to reconcile the two halves of her upbringing.


"You can belong to more than one place and more than one culture," she says.


"Belonging on the northern beaches is something I've grown into.

Belonging up there [in the Clarence Valley] was something I was born into - a gift from my ancestors and my family." SMH ( 27/05/2009)

One-off Federal Government cash payment for victims of May 2009 flooding on the NSW North Coast


The Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin has activated the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment, which is a one-off immediate payment of $1000 to adults and $400 to children.

Victims of May 2009 flooding on the NSW North Coast will be eligible for this payment through Centrelink if:

  • a person is seriously injured, or
  • a person is;
    • the immediate family member of an Australian killed, and
    • the appropriate immediate family member to make a claim for the AGDRP for that deceased person in respect of the disaster (note only 1 person can be paid in respect to each deceased person).
  • a person's principal place of residence has been destroyed;
  • a person's principal place of residence has sustained major damage;
  • a person is a principal carer of a dependent child, and
    • the Dependent Child is seriously injured; or
    • the Dependent Child is an immediate family member of an Australian killed and the Principal Carer is the only and most appropriate person to make a claim for the AGDRP in respect of the deceased Australian; or
    • the Dependent Child's principal place of residence has been destroyed; or
    • the Dependent Child's principal place of residence has sustained major damage.
For more information on eligibility or if you have any queries contact Centrelink on 180 2233.

AGDRP Storms and Flooding in South East QLD and Northern NSW - May 2009 Centrelink AGDRP claim form

According to Centrelink claims for this payment can be lodged until 25 November 2009.

A teeth grind about rural assistance


Yesterday I rang the Rural Assistance Authority to see if I could get some help in repairing a flood-damaged boundary fence. The internal fences I consider to be my problem.

I explained that the neighbour's section of the boundary fence had suffered terminal injuries. It was not all that healthy before this flood.

I had been down there as the water receded - taking all the rubbish off the fence and propping it up, joining up broken wire. The repair job is very shaky; a frog phart at forty paces will knock it over.

The helpful man on the other end of the line did point out that it was my neighbour's responsibility, and I agreed wholeheartedly, but since my neighbour has been placed in receivership by the bank I did not think that he could possibly help.

We then got into what the grant was all about. If you are eligible you can spend up to $15,000 on flood related expenditure; you present the receipts and the money is refunded.
This is great if you happen to have $15,000 on hand to spend, can get a loan or an overdraft that is not maxed out.
If I had that amount of money in the bank or on hand I would not have to ask for the grant.

Then we came to the eligibility for this grant. Over 50% of your income for the last 3 years has to have come from the farm. I wonder how many of the farms in this region would qualify, since most will have one partner working off farm to provide the security a family needs.

There did not seem to be any consideration of the past seasons or farming conditions in the area. The fact that most of the farms are too small to provide an income sufficient to properly support a family is also overlooked.

This seems to be a Claytons grant, the grant that you have when you are not having a grant.
Well done governments; another grant which plays out well in the media but with a very limited cost for the government.

NSW North Coast pension, benefit and allowance snapshot

The Commonwealth Department of Human Services did a breakdown of those receiving a government pension, benefit or allowance as of 1 January 2009.

On the NSW North Coast the recipient numbers for Age, Disability, Carer, Lone Parent, Widow, Wife, Partner, Newstart, Youth, Family Tax and Rent Assistance cash transfers are as follows.

Age Pension recipients, but not including those receiving Veterans Affairs pensions:

RICHMOND 17,226 PAGE 18,707 COWPER 19,586

Disability Support Pension figures are:

RICHMOND 7,143 PAGE 8,411 COWPER 8,335

Those receiving Carer Allowance or Carer Payment:

RICHMOND 4,816 PAGE 6,277 COWPER 6,608

Those lone parents receiving a Parenting Payment:

RICHMOND 3,220 PAGE 3,454 COWPER 3,972

Both categories of Wife's Pension:

RICHMOND 223 PAGE 324 COWPER 380

Newstart figures:

RICHMOND 4,659 PAGE 4,898 COWPER 5,707

Widows Allowance:

RICHMOND 336 PAGE 299 COWPER 341

Both types of Youth Allowance:

RICHMOND 2,195 PAGE 2,577 COWPER 3,064

Partner Allowance recipients:

RICHMOND 276 PAGE 326 COWPER 451

Family Tax Benefit A & B numbers:

RICHMOND 23,139 PAGE 24,085 COWPER 25,050

Rent Assistance received:

RICHMOND 13,567 PAGE 11,955 COWPER 13,030

* Not all those receiving these benefits had been assigned an electorate by Human Services so numbers may be slightly higher than those stated. Electoral boundaries are those in place in 2007.

Can 'Truffles' Turnbull ever lie straight in bed?


Australian Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has been named in the latest BRW Rich List with a cool $178 million beside his name.
However, this is what Truffles had to say to the media:
''They have no idea. It is a speculative figure,'' he told reporters in Canberra.
''It's flattering but there are many people in the parliament that have done well in their business lives.''
''Probably few have done as well as Mr (Prime Minister Kevin) Rudd and his wife Therese Rein. I wish them well for it, I applaud them for their success.''
Now the Rudd-Rein family may be wealthy but they are nowhere near entering this Rich List - something Truffles knows full well.
Just as we lowly plebs also realise that even during a global economic recession Truffles appears to have enjoyed a considerable increase in his personal wealth.
In a recent North Coast Voices post It's nice to be recession proof at the top of the political pile looking down his 2008 income was thought to be around $39 million dollars less.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Yamba in flood: from the air and on the ground


TOP: The Daily Examiner photograph of Yamba from the air showing a section of Crystal Waters, Oyster Cove and West Yamba.
MIDDLE: Fletchers Fotographics' Dave Brandon photograph of flooding during the night.
BOTTOM: Vicki James blog had this shot of Shores Drive, Yamba.

The Member for Page rises to her feet in praise of local emergencey services and residents during May 2009 flood


From OpenAustralia this week:

Janelle Saffin (Page, Australian Labor Party) Hansard source

I would like to give the House an update on the major flooding that has had a devastating impact on the cities, towns and rural areas across my electorate of Page this week and, indeed, in the neighbouring electorates of Richmond, Cowper and Lyne and in South-East Queensland. Our trade subcommittee, which I chair, was due to hold hearings in Melbourne last Thursday and Friday but I cancelled at the first hint of what was to come as I received briefings on and read the weather forecasts for the Northern Rivers and South-East Queensland, which showed a deterioration in the weather.

Even though we did not go on to a big flood alert I knew from experience, having lived in a flood-prone area for a long time, what was about to come. I wanted to do what I could to help the New South Wales State Emergency Services, all the local volunteers, the police, the local councils, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter service, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the fire brigades in what has been a magnificent flood coordination effort on the ground, in the air and on the water.

Tragically, the floods were fatal, claiming two lives: a 70-year-old man died in his submerged car in floodwaters south of Coffs Harbour last Friday night and another man died earlier in Queensland. I know that everyone in this House sends their deep condolences to their families.

Today's Northern Star newspaper carries a story of how four Bexhill residents, Allen Petty, Glenn and Kerri Nelson and Ben Saunders, used a canoe to save a backpacker, Jodie, from a near drowning just north of Lismore. While the foursome underplayed their heroic actions, they deserve the highest praise.

I really want to pay tribute to another small army of heroes: the 400-odd State Emergency Services volunteers in the Northern Rivers and the mid-North Coast who worked long shifts around the clock to prepare local communities for nature's onslaught and to execute evacuation plans. In the Clarence Valley around Grafton they doorknocked over 10,000 people, warning them and having them prepare. Everybody was brought into service to ensure that we were well and truly prepared.

We also had SES people there from all over the state, and I thank them. They have received an estimated 2,700 requests for assistance since last Tuesday and have performed more than 200 flood rescue operations, such as assisted evacuations, resupplying food and medical supplies to isolated properties and helping with stock as well. Regional SES controllers Richmond-Tweed's Scott Hanckel in the north and Dave Mackey in the south have kept me briefed on the flood situations, as have local mayors and senior police. I also had firsthand experience.

I would also like to personally thank my colleague the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, for flying to Lismore on Saturday to announce that the Commonwealth government would be providing financial assistance to communities affected by heavy rainfall and flooding. I also thank the Prime Minister for his announcement in this place today of additional assistance, because that will really help those people who have been devastated by floods, both the individuals and particularly our producers: our rural sector and small businesses. Those cash grants of up to $15,000 where they have to expend money getting themselves back in order through the floods will be very welcome indeed. In fact, I have had thankyou calls from farmers tonight for that.

The New South Wales Premier, Nathan Rees, and the state Minister for Emergency Services, Steve Whan, also came to the region and to Lismore to declare a natural disaster zone, pledge assistance and start working closely with the Commonwealth on a recovery plan for the region. The emergency services minister was originally there to open a fire station. The weather changed and he stayed and was there for most of the flood.

The New South Wales government have appointed former New South Wales police commissioner Ken Moroney as recovery coordinator for the North Coast floods, a welcome appointment. Mr Moroney, who was stationed as a police commander in Lismore from the early seventies until the early eighties and experienced the major flood of 1974, this morning held meetings with key personnel in Lismore and this afternoon flew to Grafton to make assessments.

I would also like to thank the ABC, who did a magnificent job yet again in a time of disaster. They stayed on air 24/7 and made sure that the whole community had reports that were up to date, timely and accurate. We gave the message over and over to everybody to have their ears tuned to the ABC. (Time expired)

One last nasty shot from Sol Trujillo and one Telstra customer's reply

Sol Trujillo came in as CEO of Australia's main telecommunications company, Telstra, in the wake of an unpopular part-privatisation of this federal government business unit.
He leaves after less than four years with (by Australian standards) an obscene amount of money in his pocket, after presiding over a prolonged share worth loss which saw many ordinary mums and dads lose money and customer complaints about the telco's service rise by 240% to record levels.

Yesterday ABC News ran an audio bite which had Sol hitting out at his lucrative milch cow in a very nasty fashion by accusing us of being racist towards him.

Now there is no mistaking the public perception that Sol was arrogant and inept as Telstra's chief executive officer, however I doubt that this view had a racist basis.
If anything the dislike was initially a cultural response to his particularly aggressive US-style of business management and communication, which was perceived through Aussie eyes as common hustling.
Over the couse of his time at Telstra initial attitudes became entrenched as downright animosity when he demanded and got those fat, fat, fat salary packages - around AU $13.4 million annually in 2008 and a generous tax break on leaving the company.

In fact the principal mention of Sol Trujillo's racial ancestry can be found in his own boasting bio blurb.

So, Sol; your ancestry was never an issue with the Australian public - it was your bl**dy grasping greed!
And that's the honest opinion of a fair dinkum Telstra customer.

Pic from Granny Herald "catch the vision or catch the bus" article in July 2005.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Flooding down on the farm

I knew we were in trouble when the termites stopped eating the wood in the old house and started to build boats.

Cruise liners these were if you compare their size to the construction.


I kept an eye on how things were progressing at the dock side - the front veranda.

It is a hive of activity and when the ants arrived, bringing all sorts of goods to the dock, I was sure that the termites were selling tickets for this cruise.


My suspicions were confirmed on Saturday morning as the flood levels rose and the termite ships started to float away in the flood waters.

Yes, there were ants onboard.


I don't think they appreciated my ticker tape send off, I generously threw a toilet roll at the departing armada.

The insects left on the docks were very agitated and things were looking nasty so I hastily retreated.


The floods have abated, but the termites are still building and the ants are arriving in greater numbers.

I don't know if this means another east coast low is on its way down here in June or July or if the termites are just cashing in on the gullibility of the ants.


Only time will tell.

Memo to Minister Keneally: Yamba streets flooded again last night

Kristina Keneally, NSW Minister for Planning, are you listening?

Monday night's high tide produced the third consecutive night of flooding in many parts of Yamba.

And, it's no surprise!

If Minister Keneally cares to ask the residents of the flooded areas what they think about their recent experiences she'll be told that the flooding was exacerbated by developments that have seen low-lying wet land areas filled by developers.

If proposals for further development in West Yamba, which are currently on the Minister's table, get the nod prospects for local residents are indeed very grim.

Pic: smh.com.au

Church of Scientology on trial in France on charges of organised fraud

... and the case could lead to the nationwide dissolution of the controversial organisation.

The so-called church is accused of targeting vulnerable people for commercial gain.

France, which categorises Scientology as a sect, has previously convicted several individual Scientologists of fraud over the past decades – most notably its science fiction-writing creator, L Ron Hubbard, in 1978.

The Guardian reports that the case stems from the testimony of a French woman who filed an official complaint against the organisation in 1998.

Lawyers for Aude-Claire Malton claim Scientologists preyed upon her at a time when she was "very psychologically fragile", pressuring her into spending €21,000 (£18,000) – her life savings – on products including "purification packs" and vitamins.

The investigating magistrate in charge of bringing the case against the church, Jean-Christophe Hullin, said the church, which has been glamourised by Hollywood members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, made a profit by placing individuals in a "state of subjection". The organisation, he argued, is "first and foremost a commercial business" whose actions reveal "a real obsession for financial remuneration".

Marohasy shows her ignorance on NSW North Coast flooding


When the first inklings appeared of a coming May 2009 flood event in the Clarence Valley one local warned me that such flooding would be used to raise the issue of further damming in the Clarence River catchment area.

Sure enough, yesterday climate change denialist Jennifer Marohasy opened her mouth and displayed a level of ignorance which quite frankly surprised:

It doesn't matter what time of year you drive through this region, known as the Northern Rivers District, it is always green and the wide Clarence is always brimming with water.

Oh dear, let's ignore the fact that the Clarence River is salt from above Grafton right down to the river mouth, that it appears to brim with water because of a strong tidal influence, stay silent on the fact that there is a large dam on one of its principal freshwater tributaries and let's also conveniently forget that the Clarence Valley goes in and out of drought with the same regularity as the rest of the NSW North Coast.

I honestly don't have the patience to correct the many misconceptions on which her post is based, so I'll just refer all to the blog A Clarence Valley Protest which was created during the last big John Howard - Malcolm Turnbull push to rob the Clarence catchment of its fresh water and, which includes the political response at local, state and federal level.

NSW North Coast flood photos sent to local media


With newspapers being in short supply on the NSW North Coast at present due to the number of roads still cut by water, here is a link to a bundle of flood photographs sent to the media by local residents.


A fun piece of trivia from Core Economics


Sometimes the trivia machine works overtime and produces grin-inducing posts such as "Was someone short of fact checkers?" with statistics like this:
Australian PM Physical Data
I always wanted to know that Kevin Rudd was 2.5cms taller than John Howard!
As the PM data spreadsheet is a work in progress, join in and give Alistair a bit more info.

Pic from Wikipedia

Monday, 25 May 2009

Maclean begins its post-flood clean up

Jane Beeby posted these great photos at Flickr.

They were taken in low-lying areas of Maclean on Sunday, close to the street leading to Mareeba Nursing Home where staff and volunteers did a magnificent job looking after seventy-one aged residents during a very difficult week.

McDonald's receives a fail in both staff and customer relations

From The Daily Examiner letters to the editor column last Friday:


Bad Experience

I AM writing to you about something I witnessed one night recently. I was at McDonald's on the highway at Grafton having some time with my family after work.
We were sitting having coffee when I heard some shouting and yelling. At first I thought a customer was abusing the staff but on looking, what I saw shocked me no end.

A manager was screaming at the girls on staff and calling them names and yelling in their faces.

The whole restaurant stopped and people were so uncomfortable. We let it slide, but after it kept going a man confronted the manager and asked him to cut it out and treat the workers with respect.

The manager told this customer to leave and there was a discussion and the customer sat back down. I was so embarrassed for the girls on the counter how this manager belittled and demeaned them in front of customers and his attitude towards the customer who spoke up in defence of these girls.

He was basically told it was none of his business and to go away. I remember when customer service was a priority at any store and this just shows why a lot of kids hate to work for companies like this.

I would hate to think that this is normal, but after seeing this manager talking down to the customer I believe that McDonald's Grafton may have a bad .' attitude towards staff and customers.
The kids give up their time to earn some money and feel better about themselves. I am writing as I believe it's about time someone spoke up for these kids and how they were treated.


KYLIE NOY,
Coutts Crossing.

ABC North Coast Radio was doing an excellent job reporting on the floods and then, along came Martin....

I was in awe of ABC North Coast Radio this week.
It covered the flood situation on the NSW North Coast extensively and professionally.
In fact, if it were not for questions asked of emergency services by its on-air staff quite a few areas wouldn't have had much information on what was happening locally as flood waters rose.
Then I heard the dulcet tones of Martin (who once hailed from ABC 2NR) and I awaited the inevitable.
Martin did not disappoint during one on-air conversation.
He casually dismissed the fact that a Yamba caller was cut off from reaching high ground at Yamba Hill by flood water across the main road as being nothing much - because she was not in 'Yamba proper'.
Of course the caller's concerns were similar to those of at least another 2,500 residents in that same section of Yamba (which as any fool would be aware had experienced steady urban growth for the last fifteen years and was very much within the town boundaries).
Fair dinkum, that bloke doesn't deserve to be anywhere near an ABC microphone.
Send him back down south.

To all the other ABC radio staffers who showed the rest of the mainstream media what excellence sounds like - well done!

Thanks to Clarencegirl for the LOL.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Yamba Surf Life Saving Club battered by May storms

This is how Yamba fondly recalls its 100 year-old surf life saving club down on Main Beach.

Unfortunately this is how the club building looks during severe storm weather.


How long will the present 78 year-old building be able to stand this increasingly frequent pounding?

Top picture of YLSC after renovations - from Google Images
Bottom picture of YLSC during May 2009 storms - from The Daily Examiner

The Battle of the Rates continues in The Daily Examiner as Orams gets trounced


The rate debate

IN response to Graham Orams' letter (Rate Response, DEX May 13) I would like to make three points.
Firstly, I was pleased to read that Graham accepts that in reality 'Residential A (Yamba,
Wooloweyah) and D (inc Angourie) pay higher rates than Grafton... because of higher average land values'.

It is in recognition of the huge range in 'land values' across the Valley that CVC sets different ad valorem rates for different areas and rightly so.
A flat dollar-value rate would see some residents paying ridiculously high amounts. Secondly, Graham stands by the claim that 'dollar-for-dollar, Grafton and Junction Hill residents still pay the highest rates'.
This is a claim which has been repeated by a number of others in recent months and it is false.
The 2008/09 CVC Management Plan (p66) shows that Residential B (Maclean, Lawrence, Townsend) at an ad valorem rate. of 0.6320 is the highest.
What is more, the 2009/10 CVC Plan (p68) shows that Res B (Maclean, Townsend) at 0.7181 and Res F (Lawrence) at 0.7040 will both be significantly higher than 'Grafton' at 0.6049.
Despite being false, this claim was used to lobby for relative rate reductions in the 2009/10 Plan.
It has succeeded in having Grafton rates frozen while all other areas will be increased by
3.5 per cent or more, particularly Maclean (2009/2010 CVC Plan pp65-6e).
Thirdly, Graham uses a hypothetical Grafton property with a rateable land value (not market value) of $700,000 to again try to suggest that Angourie residents are not paying enough. This is misinformation at best.
In the interests of fair debate, I provide the following real figures calculated from the CVC Management Plans relating to residential properties: In 2008/09 Residential
A (inc Angourie) made up 4.6 per cent of residential properties in the Valley but contributed 5.7 per cent of the residential rates or 1.24 times their share.
Residential D (Yamba, Wooloweyah) had 15.9 per cent of properties and contributed 19 per cent of the rates, 1.19 times their share.

Residential E (Grafton, Junction Hill) had 34.6 per cent of the properties and contributed 39 per cent of the rates, 1.13 times their share.
These figures show that 'Grafton' residents have indeed been paying more than their fair share.
But so too are Residential A and D.
To claim that Res A and D should pay even more has nothing to do with equity.

The CVC Plan for 2009/10 (p65) acknowledges the imbalance and attempts 'to achieve a little more equity' as Graham puts it.
However, it focuses only on reducing Grafton's share and increasing 'Maclean and Lawrence'.
In light of the actual figures I am not sure why Res A and D were not given similar relief,
particularly when their land values will continue to rise faster than other areas in the Valley.

In 2009/10, there will be little change in the share paid by Res A and D while Res E will reduce their contribution to 1.09 times their share -a significant win for 'Grafton' ratepayers, not so for A and D.
Put simply, Grafton rates have been held at 2008/9 levels while all others have gone up, some significantly more than others.
Their valiant attempt to establish fair and equitable rates will always be a problem while
ever they are tied to 'land values'.
This juggling act will be repeated every year.
I urge CVC to move away from this method and adopt a better and fairer rating model in future years.
I would strongly urge all residents to look at the Draft CVC Management Plan 2009/10, available from council offices and on the CVC website, to make your own informed judgement based on real facts.
There is a public meeting at Iluka Community Hall -Wednesday, May 20, 5pm and at Treelands Drive Community Centre Yamba -Thursday, May 21, 5pm.
Public meetings in other centres were held last week.

Also be aware that submissions regarding the Draft will be accepted up to Friday, June 5.

RON LOVERIDGE, [The Daily Examiner, 20 May 2009]

The American Academy Of Environmental Medicine Calls For Immediate Moratorium On Genetically Modified Foods

Press Advisory
May 19,


The American Academy Of Environmental Medicine Calls For
Immediate Moratorium On Genetically Modified Foods

Wichita, KS - The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) today released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that "GM foods pose a serious health risk" and calling for a moratorium on GM foods. Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes "there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects" and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health."
The AAEM calls for:

  • A moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term safety testing and labeling of GM food.
  • Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GM foods.
  • Physicians to consider the role of GM foods in their patients' disease processes.
  • More independent long term scientific studies to begin gathering data to investigate the role of GM foods on human health.

"Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients' and the public's health," said Dr. Amy Dean, PR chair and Board Member of AAEM.

"Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions," said Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, President of AAEM. "The most common foods in North America which are consumed that are GMO are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oil."

The AAEM's position paper on Genetically Modified foods can be found at
http:aaemonline.org/gmopost.html.

AAEM is an international association of physicians and other professionals dedicated to addressing the clinical aspects of environmental health. More information is available at
www.aaemonline.org.

-more-

About AAEM The American Academy of Environmental Medicine was founded in 1965, and is an international association of physicians and other professionals interested in the clinical aspects of humans and their environment. The Academy is interested in expanding the knowledge of interactions between human individuals and their environment, as these may be demonstrated to be reflected in their total health. The AAEM provides research and education in the recognition, treatment and prevention of illnesses induced by exposures to biological and chemical agents encountered in air, food and water. ###

Saturday, 23 May 2009

NSW Northern Rivers flood information updates 23.05.09


Photo of the Clarence River at Grafton from The Daily Examiner

Latest river heights courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Issued at 5.15am on Saturday, 23 May 2009:

Lower Clarence River
Clarence R at Lilydale 4.30am Sat 17.16 falling Plot Table
Orara R at Karangi 4.30am Sat 2.71 rising Plot Table
Orara R at Glenreagh** 4.30am Sat 10.41 falling moderate Plot Table
Orara R at Bawden Bridge** 4.30am Sat 17.92 rising Plot Table
Clarence R at Rogans Br. 3.30pm Fri 12.92 rising Plot Table
Clarence R at Grafton (Prince St) 4.00am Sat 7.36 rising major Plot Table
Clarence R at Ulmarra 4.30am Sat 5.74 rising major Plot Table
Clarence R at Brushgrove 4.30am Sat 4.64 rising moderate Plot Table
Coldstream R at Tyndale 4.30am Sat 4.34 steady Plot Table
Clarence R at Maclean 4.30am Sat 2.83 rising major Plot Table
Clarence R at Palmers Channel 3.30pm Fri 1.12 steady Plot Table
Clarence R at Yamba 8.30pm Fri 2.03 falling Plot Table

Wooli River
Wooli R at Caravan Park 4.56am Sat 0.90 rising Plot Table
Wooli R at Entrance 12.00pm Fri 0.27 rising Plot Table
Woolgoolga Ck at Woolgoolga 4.00am Sat 0.75 steady Plot Table

River heights for the Tweed, Richmond and Upper Clarence areas here.

Predicted River Heights/Flows:
Grafton - peaking near 7.3 metres with major flooding- remain above major flood level over the weekend
Ulmarra - peak near 5.8 metres around 5 am (23/05/09) with major flooding
Maclean - peak near 3.2 metres around 6 pm (23/05/09) with major flooding coinciding with the high tide.

Road closures in the Clarence Valley here.

Latest weather warnings for the New South Wales here.

Photograph of the Lismore district from The Northern Star

Splendour in the Grass, Belongil Fields Byron Bay, 25-26 July 2009


Splendour In the Grass is an annual music, arts and youth culture event which has taken place on the outskirts of Byron Bay each July/August since 2001.
As well as the latest and best in music from Australia and overseas, the festival also features local arts and crafts, creative performance and cuisine.

The festival is on the top of most discerning Australian music fan's wish-lists of must-go Festivals, which combined with the event's relatively small capacity compared to many of the summer festivals, results in feverish activity on the day tickets go on sale. This year's festival will be the eighth Splendour In the Grass. The two-day event accommodates 17,500 people and has sold out in advance in each year of its existence, often within hours of going on sale – all tickets to last year's festival were snapped up in just 5 hours, while the preceding three years' events sold out in a little over a day.

Many who attend choose to immerse themselves in the full 'Splendour experience' by taking advantage of the on-site camping adjacent to the festival site. Campers set up their tents right outside the festival gates and quickly establish their own Splendour village for the weekend.

For all things splendid and ticket info go here. Camping and event tickets have sold out.
If you missed out on tickets ... don't despair, we’ve got some news that will cheer you up. From 9.00am June 15th those who bought Splendour in the Grass tickets but can no longer attend will have the option to offer them for re-sale (less booking and admin fees) via www.qjump.com.au so that those who didn’t secure a ticket in the general release have a chance to grab one. For more info on this re-sale option, head to www.splendourinthegrass.com/faqs. We also have a number of sideshows happening this July, with more to be announced over the coming weeks.

A little weekend pollie trivia....


Last time I looked (was about Wednesday) over at Twitter KevinRuddPM had 44,443 followers (181 updates) and TurnbullMalcolm had 10,301 followers (481 updates).
Sorta like the opinion polls isn't it?

Friday, 22 May 2009

Clarence River flooding 22.05.09

ABC North Coast Radio today:

Thousands of residents in northern New South Wales have been asked to evacuate, as the Clarence and Wilson Rivers threaten to flood surrounding towns.

At least 9,000 Grafton residents have been told to leave, with the town predicted to flood tonight.

However, there are differing reports about the number of residents being asked to evacuate, with the SES putting the figure at about 20,000.

Residents in villages north of Grafton around the Lower Clarence River have also been told to evacuate.

Earlier, more than 5,000 people left the city of Lismore over concerns the Wilsons River would peak.

SES spokesman Dave Mackey says the Clarence River in Grafton could reach 7.8 metres about midnight.

"Given the fact that we've had so much rainfall and it doesn't seem to be letting up too much, that prediction of 7.8 is very close to [the] levee overtopping," he said.

"At this stage we do not believe it is worth waiting until dark to make a call for an evacuation.

"This height water is below the levee but the following areas will be inundated: the town of Grafton and low-lying areas of South Grafton, except for Bent Street Hill and the high ground to the Armidale Road.

"Residents and business owners in Grafton and the lower parts of South Grafton are to activate their personal and business flood plans and evacuate as soon as possible."

Mr Mackey says an evacuation coordination centre has been established at the Coffs Harbour Showground.

He says residents who are able to drive themselves out should head south on the Pacific Highway.

Mr Mackey says residents in Grafton can expect the worst if the towns get flooded.

"Power supplies will need to be shut down. Telephone services will fail, which means people will not be able to call for help," he said.

"Sewerage facilities will fail with raw sewage possibly entering houses. Roads will become flooded and vehicle movement will be restricted."

Ulmarra and Brushgrove residents have also been ordered to evacuate.

The Pacific Highway is cut by water at Maclean and the only road inland from Yamba is cut by water.

The Wilsons River is beginning to recede, but Lismore residents cannot access their homes and businesses yet.

The Tweed, Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle and the Clarence Valley local government areas have all been declared disaster areas by the NSW Government.