Thursday, 31 March 2016

How to turn a NSW North Coast family beach from terrific to toxic

In 2014 Evans Head on the NSW Far North Coast scored a 100% rating for having a good or very good rating on all its beaches, with Main Beach being scored Very Good in the State of the Beaches 2013-14 report.

Main Beach, Evans Head, 1 October 2014
Twenty-one months on from that environmental accolade and this is Main Beach sand as at 20 March 2016
The Northern Star, 24 June 2015:

DREDGING will start this week on the Evans River and boat harbour at Evans Head.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the NSW Government contributed more than $550,000 toward the Evans Head dredging project. 
"The works are funded under the NSW Government's Dredging of Priority Waterways on the North Coast program which supports commercial fishing fleets and leisure boating through navigational dredging," he said.
"Maintaining access to coastal river entrances and harbours is vital to regional economies and this program focuses on work between Forster and Tweed Heads with provision of work at other locations.
"The work at Evans Head was due to commence this week (22 June) to dredge 18,000 cubic metres of clean marine sand from the Evans River navigation channel that will be used to renourish the beach area between the Evans River northern breakwater and the Beach Street carpark.
"Another 2,000 cubic metres of sediment will be dredged from the boat harbour and pumped into geotextile bags. "
Once dewatered, the sediment will then be transported offsite to a licensed landfill facility.
"The dredging contract for the $564,225 project was awarded to National Dredging Services, a local company based in Yamba," Mr Gulaptis said…..

Echo NetDaily, 1 February 2016:
In a letter to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development group has blasted the Crown Lands department for the quality of spoil dumped on Main Beach last year during dredging operations.

Group spokesperson Dr Richard Gates said ‘In my view the whole dredging process has damaged the beach and the contaminated spoil has probably acted to attract sharks to the area via direct or indirect means’.

Dr Gates said photographic evidence showed that Crown Lands and other departments had failed to ensure that the quality of spoil dumped on Main Beach was consistent with the natural sands of the area.

Photos show black sludge containing material such as oyster shells being dumped on the beach, or being released into the ocean.

He said the Richmond Valley Council had been left to try clean up the mess.

‘In my view there needs to be a thorough review of this whole process,’ he said.

‘Richmond Valley Council has been left to clean up a contaminated beach.  Who will be picking up the bill?

‘And I would like to know why material incompatible with the beach and the ocean was dumped on the Main Beach at Evans Head and who made the decision to allow that to happen.

‘Where were the monitoring authorities and why was no oversight given to the process by independent agencies?

Echo NetDaily, 29 March 2016:
A residents’ group in Evans Head is demanding that a dredge operator pay to clean up Evans Head’s Main Beach after dumping contaminated material on it.
The material, which includes oyster shells, shell fragments, shards of glass, metal cans and organic matters, has resulted in visitors avoiding the beach, and some getting cut feet.
The Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Incorporated (EHRSDI) has lodged a complaint about the dumping, and is now asking why the Richmond Valley Council is moving the contaminated material further up the beach.
EHRSDI spokesman Dr Richard Gates said the contaminated spoil dumped on the Main Beach opposite the Surf Club during a dredging program last year in the Evans River.
‘A comprehensive photographic record shows that not only was a considerable amount of the spoil not compatible with the beach but that the spoil was taken from parts of the Evans River which were identified as being not appropriate for the beach,’ Dr Gates said.
‘That material should have been removed and bunded as happened with contaminated material from the boat harbour.
He said despite repeated attempts by council to clean the beach of the contamination with a raking program the shell fragments and glass, etc., continue to appear.
‘And a sand cliff has formed at the beach which makes it difficult for Surf Life Saving to get its rescue equipment to the water,’ he said…..
Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development Inc. had this to say on Facebook, 23 March 2016:

So what has the EPA had to say about problems with dredging at Evans Head? Well here is their response with names removed.

They received comprehensive information from us about what had happened:

"Thank you for your emails of 19, 22 and 23 November 2015 regarding the dredging works in the Evans River. I appreciate you taking the time to bring these issues to our attention. 

Given that Crown Lands is responsible for assessing and approving the works in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, it is appropriate to discuss the content of the REF with Crown Lands. Towards this end I understand that Mr XXXXXXXXXXXX of Crown Lands contacted you last week to discuss the issues you have raised with the project. 

Crown Lands is currently undertaking a number of navigation dredging projects in the north coast region. Some of these have been recently completed, including the Evans River project. 

The EPA has received several complaints regarding these dredging projects and has conducted inspections in responding to these complaints. This culminated in a recent meeting with Crown Lands regarding the environmental performance of dredging projects in the region. This meeting focused on the environmental issues which have been identified and discussed future refinements to the assessment and management processes to deliver enhanced environmental outcomes in the future. 

In response Crown Lands has agreed to revise its current processes in the following manner :
• A more robust assessment of potential sediment disposal locations;
• A more robust assessment of sediment dewatering methodologies that are to be based on site specific sediment characteristics;
• Improved community consultation;
• Improved management and supervision of dredging contractors; and
• Improved water quality management.
Given the nature of the issues which have been identified during the current dredging program the EPA will be closely monitoring future dredging projects. 
If you identify any further issues with future dredging programs I encourage you to contact our Environment Line on 131 555.”

So they had a bit of chat with Crown Lands about getting dredging projects right in future!!!!!! Wait a moment. We're missing something here. So there is a major stuff up with a beach in a community which depends on tourism for its survival and all the EPA can do is make it a 'learning experience' for another government department. Where is the chat with the operator?

You and I stuff up and government agencies are all over us. A powerful department and its contractor stuff up big time and all that happens is they have a chat and are told to learn from their experience so that they can get it right next our expense!!!! In our view we are being failed badly, very badly yet again by our environment protection authority which is fundamentally a licencing agency for pollution. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. If you are concerned about the beach and what is happening and you think there is a risk to the public there is always the Environment Line 131 555. And you don't need to give your name.

Both the operator and NSW Department of Primary Industries have a lot to answer for.

National Dredging Services (NDS) states it carries a $20 million public liability insurance policy on its works sites – perhaps the good people of Evans Head should be contacting the company and its insurer to inquire as to what a policy of this type actually covers and ask if the company also carries additional insurance.

Australian Right nailed by Rundle

The Saturday Newspaper, 26 March 2016:

The Australian right survives because it is supported by hothouse institutions: the loss-making parts of News Corp, oxymoronically named "think tanks", which take anonymous corporate money to lobby for their industries and then claim tax-deductible charitable status, and the cocooned political process that pipes wacko right-wing fantasists up from student politics through these think tanks and into the senate without encountering democracy at any point.

Such right politics thrives on fear, uncertainty and nostalgia. With a quarter-century of growth, we have very little of that, at least in the all-encompassing sense. The population has become not only more prosperous, but more progressive – values that were once the preserve of the smaller culture or knowledge-producer class are now general. Support for same-sex marriage and multi-ethnic life, alongside suspicion of Western military adventures and pro-choice abortion politics, are now spread among 70 per cent of the population. The conservative right has struggled to accept this. It believed that residual conservative values – for harsh immigration policies, for Anzac – suggested a silent conservative majority out there. They believed that Tony Abbott, rising to power on a promise of running Labor's programs while being not Labor, could then become a powerful author of the conservative rollback.

But Abbott failed because the conservative faultline runs through the man himself. Abbott is no Ted Cruz, a man forged in the heat of a great and confident national political tradition. He's a searching neurotic product of a convert Catholic family, deeply conflicted about the role ordained to him – "Tony will be pope or PM," parents and family said – expressing his European reactionary mindset, pre-1789, in the manner laid out by B. A. Santamaria in his last decades, as a politics of pessimism and noble failure. There was little attempt to create a coherent 21st-century right, as David Cameron has in Britain, and in its absence self-indulgence took over, as marked by the soap opera hysteria at the heart of it, recounted by Niki Savva. It may or may not be embellished in the telling, but who doubts its substance? People leading serious political revolutions don't get caught up in some mash-up of House of Cards and Gossip Girl. People for whom politics has ceased to provide a meaningful vocation do.

There was an emotional decadence at the heart of the Abbott government, a result of its attempt to project its right-wing fantasies onto a country that no longer felt defined by them. What's happening now is simply the endgame of the Abbott push, and the right-wing culture politics attached to it.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

While we're on the subject of political donations to the Liberal Party - perhaps voters should look more closely at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's past and present

Senator Arthur Sinodinos is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Liberal Party of Australia election campaign fundraising…….

In 2003 Malcolm Bligh Turnbull stepped down as Liberal Party treasurer to stand as a candidate in the seat of Wentworth at the 2004 federal election.

Former federal Liberal Party treasurer Michael Yabsley and then federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull appear to have created the Wentworth Forum on 25 May 2007 with the listed address Suite 505, 80 William Street, East Sydney,  NSW 2011. It was not originally listed as an associated entity.

It said of itself:

The Wentworth Forum is a fundraising initiative to engage members of the Wentworth community and other personal supporters of Malcolm Turnbull.
The Forum presents a dynamic range of small events to further thought leadership on the future of Australia, and how best to safeguard and ensure our continuing development as a nation. Membership of the Wentworth Forum is by private subscription and details are available by contacting The Wentworth Forum.

The Wentworth Forum was almost immediately noticed by the Murdoch media.

The Daily Telegraph, 1 August 2007:

FOR most Australians $55,000 is a lottery win, but for the richest politician in Australia - Malcolm Turnbull - it's the entry fee to his elite election fundraising club.
The Environment Minister has asked his well-heeled Eastern Suburbs supporters to fork out between $5500 and $55,000 for membership to the Wentworth Forum, a think-tank whose main aim is to get him re-elected.
And he's even throwing party at his harbourside mansion as part of the campaign, with a guest appearance from Prime Minister John Howard.
Mr Turnbull, a former merchant banker, said he needs the money because the Liberal Party is at a financial disadvantage to Labor, which he claims receives a "torrent of cash" from the unions.
"I couldn't be more concerned, I'm totally concerned, I do not take Wentworth for granted," the Member for Wentworth said.

In August 2008 the federal Labor Government introduced the Tax Laws Amendment (Political Contributions And Gifts) Bill 2008 to remove tax deductibility for contributions and gifts to political parties, independent members and independent candidates. This became law in early 2010.

Before then, in 2009, the media began to look once more at Turnbull’s forum and it is said to have ceased operation in that same year. Though it remains a registered business name in NSW (BN98292798) and still keeps a website with contact details at

NEARLY 20 individuals or families listed among Australia's richest 200 have contributed to Malcolm Turnbull's electorate fund-raising machine, which has collected more than $1.4 million since 2007.

Contributors to the Opposition Leader's fund-raising arm, the Wentworth Forum, include the Seven Network chairman, Kerry Stokes; the Westfield founder, Frank Lowy; the former Macquarie Bank boss, Alan Moss; and the Aussie Home Loans chief, John Symond.

Others include the former chief of the failed investment bank Babcock & Brown, Phil Green; the boss of Meriton, Harry Triguboff; the property developer Bob Rose and Ros Packer.
Mr Turnbull, a former merchant banker, is listed by BRW among Australia's richest 200 people. The forum is run by the federal Liberal Party treasurer and Mr Turnbull's long-time friend, Michael Yabsley.

It was set up in 2007 when Mr Turnbull was environment minister in the Howard government. At that time, electoral boundary changes had made Wentworth a less safe seat for the Liberals.

Regarded as the country's most sophisticated political fund-raising machine, the forum offers membership packages that give the most generous supporters more opportunities to gain
access to Mr Turnbull.

It costs $5500 to be a "member", $11,000 to be a "sponsor", $16,500 to be a "patron", $25,500 to be a "benefactor" and $55,000 to be a "governor".

A governor can host boardroom events, and gets two tables at big functions featuring Mr Turnbull, and attendance at an exclusive dinner for supporters.

Members receive one seat at a big function and three tickets to boardroom events.

Disclosure of the forum's methods has prompted charges that Mr Turnbull has put himself up for sale.

"That's the first time we've seen it so clearly … It is spelt out what you will have and how often you will see that person," said the NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who with an academic, Norman Thompson, has scrutinised the forum's operations.

As a backbencher in 2005, Mr Turnbull proposed a ban on donations from companies, unions and foreigners. Individuals would be allowed to donate subject to an annual cap.

A spokesman for Mr Turnbull said yesterday that the forum's activities were similar to those of "many other fund-raising forums used by both political parties"……

An analysis of forum donations, fund-raising events and memberships between 2007 and last December shows Mr Turnbull received more than $1.4 million. He personally contributed about $10,000 in catering for forum events.

Most of the money was raised before the 2007 federal election.

The forum has accepted money from British American Tobacco, with a senior executive paying $16,500 for a "patron" membership this financial year.

Other contributors include the Sydney multimillionaire Matt Handbury, co-founder of the Australian Rain Corporation and nephew of the News Corporation chief, Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Handbury's company received a $10 million grant from Mr Turnbull when he was environment minister not long before the 2007 election.

From August 2007 to last December companies and people associated with Mr Stokes have contributed $44,000 to the forum.

New Matilda, 15 July 2009:

Turnbull’s fundraising efforts have been largely managed by his friend — and veteran Liberal Party fundraiser — Michael Yabsley. With their intimate knowledge of how to tap rivers of gold from wealthy Australian donors, these two have proved to be a formidable team.

Yabsley brought considerable experience to the task of establishing the Wentworth Forum. Significantly, as Chair of the NSW Liberal Party’s Millennium Forum, Yabsley introduced a new style of political fundraising in Australia, one which put access to leading politicians centre stage when donations were solicited.….

The individuals who have contributed to the Forum are a Who’s Who of Sydney’s finance, law and property worlds. At least 17 — including Turnbull himself, who has donated catering for Forum events — have been listed at least once during the past three years in the list of Australia’s 200 richest people, published annually in the Business Review Weekly…..

Throughout 2007, the money rolled in for Turnbull; the Forum raised over $1.1 million for his re-election campaign. A total of 92 individuals joined the Forum in this period, mainly as Members or Sponsors. There were only 10 people among the Patron and Benefactor group and one Governor…..

The Forum continues to raise money for Turnbull. The latest figures for the six months up to December 2008 show that it raised over $300,000 for the 2008–2009 year. Most of this money was from membership renewals, which provide the many levels of access to Turnbull. Only about $17,000 came from direct donations. More money will be received throughout 2009 as people renew their memberships.

One of the more contentious donors to the Forum is British American Tobacco Australia (BAT). Early on, only small amounts of money were paid by BAT for attendance at fundraising events. Then in December 2008, Bede Fennell, who is the Head of Public Affairs for BAT Australia, paid $8250 for a half-year Patron membership in the Forum to take effect in 2009. A further $16,500 was paid for a Patron membership in 2009–10. The Liberal Party reported this money as received from BAT.

The Wentworth Forum activities do not sit easily with Turnbull’s earlier reform zeal for electoral funding when he was a humble backbencher.

In a February 2005 email to Woollahra councillors, he went on the public record in opposition to donations from companies and other groups. He wrote, "no political donations should be allowed unless they are: from citizens and/or persons on the electoral roll (i.e., no companies, unions, associations etc); subject to a cap; and donors should certify that the donation is either their own or their spouse’s money and has not been given to them by a third party."

Interestingly, in these comments Turnbull did not mention a cap on a candidate’s own money, which leaves him, as a very wealthy individual, with a distinct advantage. He spent over $600,000 of his money on the 2004 election. It is not known if the NSW Liberal Party also spent funds in Wentworth since this information is not required to be disclosed to the Australian Electoral Commission.

In his time as federal Opposition Leader, Turnbull has thwarted electoral funding reform, quite possibly judging that the current system gives the Liberals an advantage. When federal Labor and the Greens combined in 2009 voting to ban foreign donations and make contributions from other sources more transparent, the Coalition and Senator Fielding defeated it in the Senate….., 29 August 2009:

GODWIN Grech, the Treasury official at the centre of the fake email affair, proposed a fee deal to the merchant bank running the OzCar fund whose chairman was a key backer and personal donor to Malcolm Turnbull.

The effect of the deal was to enable Credit Suisse, the bank hired by Treasury to implement OzCar, to maintain its $5 million in fees, despite the fund being scaled back from $2 billion to $1.3bn.

The Weekend Australian can reveal that John O'Sullivan, the chairman of investment banking for Credit Suisse, donated more than $20,000 to the Wentworth Forum, the Opposition Leader's political fighting fund.

Mr O'Sullivan is president of the federal electorate conference in Mr Turnbull's Sydney electorate of Wentworth and a member of the Opposition Leader's Point Piper branch.

The OzCar affair was the subject of a recent report by Auditor-General Ian McPhee, which criticised Mr Grech's conduct in the OzCar affair and accused him of at times acting in a partisan fashion…..

The Wentworth Forum surfaced in the public record again in 2011.

Submission to the inquiry into the funding of political parties and election campaigns, Dr Norman Thompson, Director NSW Greens Political Donation Research Project, June 2011:
Almost all candidates running on a political party’s ticket submit nil returns to the AEC after each federal election in spite of many spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their campaigns and probably receiving similar amounts for their campaign funds. When some candidates report expenditure but no donations received, I have been told that this involves a candidate spending his or her own funds on their campaigns.

Malcolm Turnbull is an excellent example of this. It is only because his Wentworth Forum disclosed membership data to the NSW EFA but not the AEC that we know this fundraising body collected at least $1.1 million for his campaign in the run-up to the 2007 federal election.  Local observers estimate he spent far in excess of a million dollars on this campaign.

Yet, Mr Turnbull submitted a return to the AEC after the 2007 election in which he reported no donations received and less than $72,000 spent.  As I stated above, I have been advised that when expenditure is reported by lower house candidates this is usually their personal money if they reported receiving no donations. Obviously Turnbull’s donations were funnelled through the head office of the NSW Liberal Party. This appears to happen with almost all candidates who run on a political party’s ticket, hiding the identities of who financially supports these candidates.

In December 2011 the Joint Standing Committee Report on the funding of political parties and election campaigns also made passing reference to The Wentworth Forum, but essentially since then there has been little mention of how Prime Minister Turnbull goes about fundraising for his own re-election campaigns.

In 2012-13 the Liberal Party reported more than $73 million in revenue to the Australian Electoral Commission, of which $14.1 million came from the party’s NSW Division.

By 2013-14 the NSW Division was reporting revenue of $19.6 million and in 2014-15 $20.4 million.

Australian Federal Election 2016; debt, credit and GDP

So how is Australia’s economy faring under the Abbott-Turnbull Government in the lead-up to the 3 May 2016 federal budget and the following general election?

The underlying cash balance for the 2015-16 financial year to 29 February 2016 was a deficit of $38,719 million.1
The fiscal balance for the 2015-16 financial year to 29 February 2016 was a deficit of $35,292 million…..

Total revenue was $1,223 million lower than the MYEFO profile, primarily due to lower than expected taxation revenue and dividend income.
Total expenses were $2,831 million lower than the MYEFO profile, primarily due to lower than expected supply of goods and services, wages and salaries and grants expenses…..

Net worth is negative $352,423 million;
Net debt is $287,920 million; and
Net financial liabilities are $516,561 million.

Financial Review, 28 March 2016:

Australia is one of seven countries that Forbes magazine says is the "most likely to suffer a debt crisis" within the next three years. 

China, whose economy has faltered in the past two years, comes No. 1 on the list of seven, but Australia is No. 2. Sweden, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada and Norway complete the list of infamy.

Using data for both private and public debt compiled by Switzerland-based Bank of International Settlements, the magazine looks at the rate of growth of credit compared with gross domestic product, paying particular attention to when credit growth begins to fall……

"The bottom line is that private sector expenditure in an economy can be measured as the sum of GDP plus the change in credit, and crises occur when (a) the ratio of private debt to GDP is large; (b) growing quickly compared to GDP," the magazine says.

When credit growth slips as servicing debt exhausts funds available to finance it, "new borrowers baulk at entry costs to house purchases, and numerous euphoric and Ponzi-based debt-financed schemes fail" leading to a change in available credit.

Australia, like the other six countries on the list, fill the two key prerequisites, a high level of private debt to GDP, and a rapid growth of that ratio in the last few years, the report says.
Economic crises often coincide with private debt exceeding 1.5 times GDP and the level of private debt grows by about 20 per cent over a five-year period.

The Guardian, 15 January 2016:

The results are in: Australian households have more debt compared to the size of the country’s economy than any other in the world.

Research by the Federal Reserve has shown the consolidated household debt to GDP ratio increased the most for Australia between 1960 and 2010 out of a select group of OECD nations. Australia’s household sector has accumulated massive unconsolidated debt compared with other countries. As of the third quarter of 2015, it now has the world’s most indebted household sector relative to GDP, according to LF Economics’ analysis of national statistics……

Australia has around $2 trillion in unconsolidated household debt relative to $1.6 trillion in GDP. Australia’s ratio is 123.08%.....

Australian property investors and homeowners are burdened with massive mortgages, especially new and marginal entrants. Unlike winning a gold medal at the Olympics, having the world’s most indebted household sector is not an achievement the nation should be proud of. This is where Australia’s real debt and deficit problem lies, not in the public sector.


1. Compare with the 2013-14 financial year to 30 September 2013 which covers the last eight months of the former federal Labor government:

The underlying cash balance for the 2013-14 financial year to 30 September 2013 was a deficit of $22,929 million.
The fiscal balance for the 2013-14 financial year to 30 September 2013 was a deficit of $19,659 million…..

Total revenue was $4,580 million lower than the Budget profile primarily due to lower than expected taxation revenue. This reflects lower than expected individuals and other withholding taxation, company tax, superannuation fund tax and resource rent taxes.
Total expenses were $4,636 million lower than the Budget profile primarily due to lower than expected grants and subsidies, suppliers and personal benefits expenditure.  This is in part consistent with reduced expenditure during the election caretaker period and reflecting timing differences, particularly for grants and subsidies…...

The net worth of the General Government sector is a negative net asset position of $220,670 million at 30 September 2013.
The net debt of the General Government sector is $174,557 million at 30 September 2013.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: a picture's worth a thousand words

Financial Review 28 March 2016

And you thought local government amalgamation news couldn't get any worse......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2016:

NSW councillors have been told to reapply for their jobs, as the NSW government lays the groundwork to terminate existing councils as early as next month and begin amalgamations.

On Thursday, all councillors received a letter from the Minister for Local Government Paul Toole, telling them he was considering interim arrangements for councils until elections are held after September. He said he was looking at options of a single person acting as administrator of a new merged council, or the continuation in office of some or all of the councillors in the new larger council area.

Councillors have been ordered to  submit an expression of interest by April 15, explaining why they would be suitable for the interim council or why they are qualified to act as an administrator.

General managers and mayors are also required to apply for the jobs in the new larger councils.

This is despite the Boundaries Commission still having to report on the merger proposals, most of which are being resisted by existing councils.

Most public inquiries have finished and the delegates for each council area are preparing their reports. They will then go to the minister and to the boundaries commission. The minister then makes a decision to accept or reject the finding on the merger. But given this is the minister's blueprint, most councils expect him to forge ahead with mergers, possibly as soon at the end of April…..

To date a search of the NSW Boundaries Commission website does not list Tweed Shire Council, Ballina Shire Council, Byron Shire Council, Clarence Valley Council, Lismore City Council, Richmond Valley Council and Kyogle Council (which comprise the NSW Northern Rivers region) as being affected by this round of local government amalgamations.

However, it would be foolish of local communities to ignore the fact that some Northern Rivers mayors and general managers would favour amalgamation - seeing it as the road to increased personal incomes, greater power and wider political influence - and indeed may be quietly indicating to the Baird Government that amalgamation into a larger local government area is their preference.

VALE: The Great Barrier Reef

Of the 520 reefs surveyed only four showed no evidence of bleaching
ABC News, 28 March 2016

Aerial snaphot of coral bleaching, Great Barrie Reef, 2016

Scientist witnesses severe coral bleaching

James Cook University scientists have described scenes of widespread damage as coral bleaching extends its reach in the northern Great Barrier Reef.

Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jodie Rummer from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has just returned from more than a month at Lizard Island Research Station in the Northern Great Barrier Reef, and she is appalled by the extent of the bleaching.

“I witnessed a sight underwater that no marine biologist, and no person with a love and appreciation for the natural world for that matter, wants to see,” she said.

Dr Rummer has been undertaking research on the island since January 2012, one of the most pristine sites in the entire Great Barrier Reef. She has spent the past five weeks underwater, studying the effects of the extreme heat on the physiology of reef fishes.

“The bleaching now is not just restricted to the hard corals. There’s also extensive bleaching in the soft corals, and it is also affecting anemones and giant clams.”
Dr Rummer called the event “catastrophic”. She said fish were still abundant but is worried for the future.

“We know that many of these tropical populations of reef fishes cannot tolerate dramatic increases in temperatures for extended periods of time. So it may be just a matter of time before the fish start feeling the heat as well. We’re watching them closely.” The latest Bureau of Meteorology forecasts suggest that temperatures will remain well above average through the month of March.

Dr Rummer said the heat comes hard on the heels of cyclones that had also had an impact on the northern Reef.

“This year, the combination of El Niño, climate change, and an extended period of hot summer days when the tide was exceptionally low has caused many of the corals that survived last year’s cyclone to lose their symbiotic algae and start bleaching.”

She said aerial surveys planned in the coming days by the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce will systematically measure the extent of the phenomenon.

Note to editors:
Coral bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, like heightened sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, called ‘zooxanthellae’. The loss of these colourful algae causes the corals to turn white, and ‘bleach’. Bleached corals can recover if the temperature drops and zooxanthellae are able to recolonise them, otherwise the coral may die.
The National Coral Bleaching Taskforce was convened in 2015 to co-ordinate research effort among Australia’s marine science community in the event of a mass bleaching event in Australia. The taskforce draws together 10 research institutions across Australia to co-ordinate the efforts of over 300 scientists.
The associated research institutions are, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, James Cook University, NOAA, University of Queensland, University of Sydney, University of Western Australia, WA Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Global warming is claiming the life of The Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage natural wonder which can be seen from outer space.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Japan admits to mass slaughter of pregnant minke whales during Antarctic breeding season

Tokyo: Japan's whaling fleet returned on Thursday from its Antarctic hunt after a year-long suspension with a take of more than 300 whales, including pregnant females.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop, prompting it to call off its hunt that season, although it said at the time it intended to resume later.
Japan then amended its plan for the next season to cut the number of minke whales it aimed to take by two-thirds from previous hunts.
Its fleet set out in December despite international criticism, including from important ally the United States.
The final ships of the four-vessel whaling fleet returned to Shimonoseki in southwestern Japan on Thursday, having achieved the goal of 333 minke whales, the Fisheries Agency said.
Of these, 103 were males and 230 were females, with 90 per cent of the mature females pregnant.

National Geographic, 25 March 2016:

Flouting an international ruling, Japan resumed minke whaling for ‘scientific purposes’ during breeding season….

After the international court ruling, Japan halted its whaling activities briefly, but then resolved to begin whaling again in the  2015-2016 season. It revised its program to be more scientific, and it lowered its quota of whales by about two-thirds.

Still, many scientists derided the new plan, and the International Whaling Commission could not reach a consensus on whether it met requirements. And while the quota reduction looked good on paper, it didn’t make much of a difference in practice, according to Astrid Fuchs, the whaling program manager for the nonprofit organization Whale and Dolphin Conservation. In previous years, Japan has killed between 200-400 Antarctic minke whales each year. This year’s 333 isn’t out of the ordinary.

Also part of its plan: targeting females. Japan maintains that it must capture and kill juvenile and adult females in order to determine the age at which minke whales reach sexual maturity. Japan wants to use this data in its quest to demonstrate the minke whale population is healthy enough for regular whaling, Fuchs said.

And because it’s breeding time in the southern seas, 90 percent of the females Japanese whalers killed were pregnant.

The expedition was part of a 12-year plan to kill nearly 4,000 whales in Antarctic waters. The conservation status of Antarctic minke whales is unclear, but some analyses have found a 60 percent reduction when comparing the 1978–91 period and the 1991–2004 period, which would qualify it for endangered status.

Anyone wishing to politely make their views on Japanese whaling in the South Ocean/Antarctica known to the Government of Japan can do so with these contact details:


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
1-6-1 Nagata-cho
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968 JAPAN
Tel: +81-3-5253-2111
E-mail form:
Public Relations Fax: +81-3-3581-3883


Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida
Foreign Affairs online comment page:


Minister of Agriculture, Forestry And Fisheries Hiroshi Moriyama
1-2-1 Ksumigaseki
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8907 JAPAN
Fax: +81-3-3502-0794
E-mail form:


Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Australia Sumio Kusaka
Embassy of Japan in Australia
112 Empire Circuit, Yarralumla
Canberra A.C.T.2600

Australian Federal Election 2016: is the Liberal Party ripping itself apart in lead-up to polling day?

These days the Liberal Party of Australia is making Labor look like amateurs when it comes to internal party division and dissent.

ABC News, 25 February 2016:

A retired state Liberal MP, Charlie Lynn, who served for almost 20 years and was suspended from the party for speaking out on 7.30, has delivered a stinging rebuke to the state branch of the party, accusing it of acting like the Kremlin.

Charlie Lynn was suspended along with former federal Parliamentary Secretary, Ross Cameron, and branch member, Juris Laucis, by the party's acting State Director, Simon McInnes, for criticising NSW Liberal party pre-selection processes.

The Daily Telegraph, 11 March 2016:

PENRITH councillor Marcus Cornish has been suspended from the Liberal Party for six months after an email he wrote for party members was leaked.
At close of business on Friday, February 19, the conservative councillor — who has sided with the party for about 12 years — received the news by email, claiming he was “bringing the party into disrepute in an election year”.
Cr Cornish said: “All I am trying to do is keep democracy alive … if arguments aren’t heard for and against on things, then the people are not really heard.

The Australian, 20 March 2016:

The Liberal Party has erupted in a furious brawl over the role of ­lobbyists in selecting Senate ­candidates after a “farcical” vote on the weekend that defied Malcolm Turnbull, sought to undermine a federal minister and cost retired general Jim Molan a seat in parliament. In a test of money and power, party officials allowed lobbyists Michael Photios and Nick Campbell to step in at the last minute to help decide the NSW Liberal candidates for the Senate at the next election, sparking claims of “corruption” in the process.

The state executive will meet within days to rectify part of the outcome by confirming the Minister for International Development Concetta Fierravanti-Wells at the top of the ticket, but the party faces a wider challenge over the failure to notify candidates of the late switch to the preselection panel.

“The anger is so wide over this that the challenge could come from anywhere,” one Liberal Party member said yesterday, as those involved in the preselection said the result would have been ­completely different if the state executive had not intervened.

While Tony Abbott decreed two years ago that lobbyists could not hold positions as party officials — forcing Mr Photios off the state executive — the surprise move last Friday saw Mr Photios and Mr Campbell take the place of two members of the state executive in the Senate preselection panel.

The move was approved by the state executive, which is controlled by the moderate wing of the party, and was overseen by state party director Chris Stone, who was the returning officer in the preselection and until three weeks ago was an employee of Premier State Consulting, the lobbying firm run by Mr Photios and Mr Campbell.

The preselection vote on Saturday installed Hollie Hughes as the leading candidate, followed by Senator Fierravanti-Wells and Mr Molan, in defiance of the view from the Prime Minister and others that the Minister for International Development should gain the No 1 spot. Mr Molan was the special envoy of Operation Sov­ereign Borders.

The Australian was told Mr Photios and Mr Campbell ­“cajoled” preselectors and “worked the room” to ensure the outcome, exercising influence that has become a commonplace but contentious aspect of NSW preselections.

Sky News, 21 March 2016:

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has taken a swipe at the way Liberal preselections are held in NSW, 'daring' the state executive to suspend his membership for speaking out against the process.

Last month, three liberal members - including Sky News contributor Ross Cameron - were suspended from the party over their calls for direct preselection of candidates via plebiscites.
Tony Abbott, who supports the party's Howard Reforms, told Sky News the men 'were making perfectly reasonable points about the factional stitch up that we've seen again and again in the NSW Liberal Party - they were just saying what needed to be said.'

The former PM also issued a directive to the party in NSW - 'In a sense I dare the state executive to suspend me for saying we need reform in the NSW Liberal Party,' Mr Abbott said.

ABC News, 22 March 2016:

Four sitting West Australian federal Liberal MPs are being challenged for preselection in their seats ahead of this year's election, and a wide range of candidates have nominated for the new seat of Burt.

As previously confirmed, former State Liberal Party Director Ben Morton will try to topple Dennis Jensen in Tangney, where Dr Jensen has twice before lost the support of local members before being endorsed by the party's State Council.

In the seat of Swan, Steve Irons will be challenged by Suncorp Insurance state manager Carl Pallier; Durack MP Melissa Price will battle against geologist David Archibald; and Bunbury local Ben Small will take on Forrest MP Nola Marino.

The Australian, 24 March 2016:

Julie Bishop is in it and so is Arthur Sinodinos. Lucy Turnbull is a foundation member.
Yet the “inner circle” at the top of the federal government does not seem to include Scott Morrison.
Malcolm Turnbull yesterday acknowledged that the Treasurer was not part of the small group told beforehand that the federal budget would be brought forward a week to prepare for a July 2 election.
“I did not call Scott Morrison on Sunday night. No, I did not,” the Prime Minister told the Nine Network’s Lisa Wilkinson yesterday when pressed on the matter. “It was a very small circle,” he added.
The impression is that Morris­on is a mere comet in the Turnbull solar system, circling close to the sun on some occasions while hurtling into the distance on others.
This has observers mystified. How could the Treasurer not be told as soon as possible of the final decision to bring forward the budget — the document that has his name on its title page?

The Australian, 24 March 2016:

Malcolm Turnbull criticised Scott Morrison over his handling of the GST in front of cabinet colleagues during a dinner at The Lodge.
Some of the Treasurer’s colleagues saw the Prime Minister’s remarks at the February 21 dinner­ as a dressing-down.
The Australian understands Mr Turnbull told Mr Morrison his continued hard sell on raising the GST had shown the government in a bad light and was causing it difficulty.
The dinner at The Lodge that Sunday night was not a full meeting of the cabinet, but many ministers attended. The Prime Minister is also understood over the course of that weekend to have asked the Treasurer to pull back on his media commitments, concerned at his poor performance that week at the National Press Club and in a series of talkback radio intervi­ews, where he spoke about “unicorns” and “pixie horses” and was criticised for lacking vision.
The following day, Newspoll in The Australian showed the government had lost its two-party-preferred lead over Labor and was tied at 50-50, which Mr Turnbull is understood to have sheeted home to Mr Morrison’s poor media performance.
It was the first concerning poll for Mr Turnbull, ending his personal honeymoon. Before then, the Coalition had held a two-party-preferred lead of 53 per cent to 47 per cent for three months.
When The Australian put questions to the offices of Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull about the terse exchange during the dinner, ­neither denied it had occurred.

The Australian, 24 March 2016:

Abbott likes to give the impression he is helping, but he knows full well he is not. He must know that because he is not totally stupid.
It may satisfy his bloodlust, and those egging him on, to see Turnbull lose the election, but the Liberal Party will not thank him, except for that unhinged, ground-zero minority that wants to see the Liberal Party razed under Turnbull and Bill Shorten become prime minister.


The Star, 23 March 2016:

“It’s very easy for me to campaign ... because the Turnbull government is running on the Abbott government’s record,” said Abbot in an interview with Sky News yesterday.
“It’s a very strong record,” he said, citing the hardline immigration policy that deterred the flow of asylum seeker boats, and a string of free trade agreements.
Abbott remains in parliament but had pledged not to interfere after Turnbull’s takeover, promising on his departure there would be “no wrecking, no undermining, no sniping”.
However, he has continued to intervene, to the delight of a hardcore of right-wing lawmakers who reputedly still entertain the thought of returning him to the top job in the near future.
Turnbull, who has lambasted Abbott’s economic management, hit back last Friday against the putdown which could spell trouble ahead of general elections which he has said could come as soon as July.
“He’s not right,” the prime minister said of his predecessor. “The bottom line is there is continuity and there is change.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2016:

Howard government minister Peter Reith has told Tony Abbott to "keep his head down", warning he would endanger his reputation in the Liberal Party if he persisted in undermining Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Coalition figures are nervous about Mr Abbott's plans to campaign in marginal seats during the upcoming federal election, amid consistent signs the former prime minister is reneging on his promise not to undermine the government……
Mr Abbott's burst of public activity, including newspaper interviews and television appearances, has rattled Coalition figures within and outside the Parliament. Mr Reith warned it had the potential to damage his the former PM's standing within the Liberal Party. "He really does need to keep his head down for his own sake, otherwise he will be trashing his own reputation," he said.