Saturday, 27 May 2017

Quotes of the Week

Why do so few make it out of poverty? I can tell you from experience it is not because some have more merit than others. It is because being poor is a high-risk gamble. The asymmetry of outcomes for the poor is so enormous because it is so expensive to be poor. Imagine losing a job because your phone was cut off, or blowing off an exam because you spent the day in the ER dealing with something that preventative care would have avoided completely. Something as simple as that can spark a spiral of adversity almost impossible to recover from. The reality is that when you’re poor, if you make one mistake, you’re done. Everything becomes a sudden-death gamble. [Christian H. Cooper writing at Nautilus on Why Poverty Is Like A Disease, 20 April 2017]

The total rate paid by a high earner on $200,000 is nothing like 50 per cent. The first $18,200 isn't taxed at all because of the tax-free threshold, the next $18,000 is only taxed at 19 per cent, and so on, meaning the total tax taken works out at $71,232 including levies – a rate of 35.6 per cent. [Economic Editor for The Age, Peter Martin, writing on 24 May 2017]

Trump offers proof of 'no Russian ties'

And here it is…………….

Images via Twitter

Friday, 26 May 2017


We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
26 May 2017

Quadrant's post-publication editing does not erase its bitter, tasteless and potentially destructive blunder

Snapshot from Quadrant magazine article “The Manchester Bomber’s ABC Pals” by editor of Quadrant Online Roger Franklin, published 23 May 2017:
via @JoshButler on Twitter

The article then concluded:

Mind you, as Krauss felt his body being penetrated by the Prophet’s shrapnel of nuts, bolts and nails, those goitered eyes might in their last glimmering have caught a glimpse of vindication.

A blast of Manchester dimensions must surely knock over the studio’s lunchroom refrigerator.  Allah only knows how many innocent lives that shocking incident might claim.

The ABC response was appropriate and in the circumstances relatively restrained.

Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) transcript of letter sent to Quadrant magazine editors, 24 May 2017:
Dear Sirs,
Quadrant promotes itself as “the leading general intellectual journal of ideas”. Those words ring hollow in the wake of last night’s vicious and offensive attack on the ABC, its staff and its program guests.
To take issue with our programming and our content is one thing. But to express the wish that, if there were any justice, the horrific terrorist bombing in Manchester would have taken place in the ABC’s Ultimo studio and killed those assembled there is a new low in Australian public debate.
Your subsequent attempt to make amends by changing some of the wording (without acknowledging or apologising for the original article) has done little to undo the damage. The article continues to state that if a blast occurred in one of our studios, none of the likely casualties “would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty.”
Like many others, I am appalled at your willingness to turn an act of terrorism in the United Kingdom into a means of making a political point against those you disagree with. One of the immediate results of this behaviour is that while our staff both here and in Manchester were working long hours to provide extensive coverage of this unfolding tragedy, we were also forced to reassure worried staff who had read your article and call in our own security experts to assess any possible impact flowing from your inflammatory words.
I ask that this response be posted prominently on the Quadrant website, and I also ask that the article, which continues to contain entirely inappropriate comments about possible bombings at the ABC, be removed and apologised for.
Michelle Guthrie
ABC Managing Director
The Clayton's apology from Quadrant followed swiftly even if the promised takedown didn't - the full article (along with its comments section) still being available in Google cache (snapshot 24 May 2017 15:25:33 GMT) late on 25 May - and yes, before anyone asks Google would promptly remove cache at the magazine's request. 

via Twitter

NSW nurses & midwives stand with Pilliga-Narrabri communities against Santos coal seam gas project

“Santos expects to build 850 production wells over the next two decades” within the mining lease. ABC NEWS, 10 April 2017, PHOTO: An aerial shot of the Santos CSG exploration project in the Pilliga. (Audience supplied: Dean Sewell)

Echo NetDaily, 19 May 2017:

Local nurses are voicing their concerns about the threat to health in a submission to the government objecting not only to the Santos Narrabri Coal Seam Gas Project, but to all CSG mining across NSW.

It was following a successful motion put forward by the Lismore Base Hospital branch of the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association that the a submission was lodged.

‘As nurses and midwives we believe that an ecologically sustainable environment promotes health and wellbeing. We are greatly concerned about the health of communities impacted by CSG’, said Heather Ryan Dunn, midwife and Vice President of the Lismore Base branch of the NSWNMA. ‘We also know that climate change is the biggest threat we are currently facing and that decisions made today will impact greatly on future generations.’

The 20 page submission which includes references to CSG well accidents and risks to human health via contaminated water and air pollution, is one of approximately 12,000 already submitted in response to the EIS, a record breaking and resounding ‘no’ from objectors to the project.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

One Nation back in the news again because of staffing choice

It seems it is not only her Chief of Staff James Ashby who keeps thrusting Pauline Hanson’s One Nation into the news……

The Courier Mail, 25 May 2017:

KEY One Nation staffer Sean Black has been arrested by detectives in the latest scandal to engulf the party this week.

His arrest follows explosive tape recordings released revealing party figures discussing ways to “make money” out of the state election.

Black, 39, a senior adviser to Queensland One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, was taken through the Roma Street watch-house just before noon yesterday. He had flown into Brisbane from Canberra on Tuesday night.

He is facing a number of historical charges, three counts of common assault and three counts of assault occasioning bodily harm assault, but The Courier-Mail cannot publish more details for legal reasons.

Complaints were made to the Queensland Police Service late last year.

Black was one of the early recruits to One Nation Senate staff when they were swept to power in last year’s election, taking up his position in September.

He appeared before the Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday afternoon, where it was revealed some of the allegations dated back to 2007….

Mr Black is a media adviser to Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts……

The case will return to court on June 19.

Mr Black was one of the early recruits to One Nation Senate staff when they were swept to power in the 2016 election, taking up his position in September.

The former real estate agent has a long history in politics, as well as volunteering in former LNP MP Michael Pucci’s 2012 election campaign.

He served as a Logan City Councillor for four years, from 2008, and was previously married to fellow councillor Hajnal Ban.


The Courier Mail, 6 February 2017, p.14:

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has given his "full support" to a senior staffer who had domestic violence concerns raised about him.
Senator Roberts' policy adviser Sean Black was swept up in a complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission after it was alleged confidential information may have been given to him.
The complaint alleged Logan councillor Darren Power was told about protective measures put in place to safeguard Mr Black's former partner after she approached council with domestic violence concerns about him.
Cr Power strongly denies being told about the protective measures, claiming the complaint was payback for opposing a controversial development in his council division.
Despite repeated approaches, Mr Black declined to comment on the allegations. In a Facebook post, Senator Roberts defended Mr Black, saying he was a "personal friend" who was a "great asset to our team". "I have seen no evidence of the caricature he is painted to be," Senator Roberts wrote. "He loves his family, has a great sense of humour and is extremely well liked by all those who associate with him."

The Courier Mail, 5 February 2017, p.3:

The CCC refused to confirm a complaint had been received. But a spokeswoman for Logan Mayor Luke Smith declined to comment because of the "involvement" of the CCC.
Mr Black, despite repeated approaches, made no comment for this story but stopped it running in last week's Sunday Mail by applying for an eleventh-hour injunction that prevented its publication.
Those orders were revoked during a closed court application hearing on Monday in Brisbane's Supreme Court.
Cr Power, according to a document obtained by The Sunday Mail, was called into Mayor Smith's office in December for a conversation about the domestic violence concerns against Mr Black.
"I found this unusual as Cr Smith and I have a difficult relationship and we rarely talk in private," Cr Power writes in the document, dated January 22 this year, which was given to Mr Black.
"Cr Smith then told me that he had heard that Sean Black has a habit of domestic violence, that he 'bashed his former wife' and that 'it was just a matter of time before it catches up with him and that the papers are aware', and that 'is (sic) all about to explode' in the media." The long-time councillor, who has been repeatedly elected since 1997, claimed he believed Cr Smith had heard this information directly from Mr Black's former partner: "Cr Smith led me to believe that the story that was about to break in the paper would 'mean Sean Black would be one of the most politically maligned individuals in Australia'," the document says. It was supplied to the CCC as part of the complaint.

The Border Mail, 11 December 2016:

He was forced out of the ALP for his role in a vote-rigging scandal detailed in the Shepherdson corruption inquiry – although he was never charged – and subsequently gravitated towards conservative politics.
In 2008, he was elected to the Logan City Council, where he was accused of bullying and flying into fits of uncontrollable rage.
At one stage, he was banned from entering council chambers or dealing with staff after a string of complaints of intimidation.
The mayor at the time said he had a "sad history of unacceptable behaviour" and ordered special security arrangements for any meetings he attended. Colleagues said he was disruptive and chaotic.
At the time Mr Black admitted to raising his voice and swearing but said the ban was a result of his political enemies trying to silence him.
With One Nation on track to make big gains at the next Queensland election, sources say Mr Black is in the frame as a potential state leader.
While his four years on Logan City Council were tumultuous, he is one of the precious few One Nation figures with experience in elected office….
On his Facebook page, Mr Black has admitted to struggling to control his temper, including last year when he launched into a foul-mouthed rant and threw a coaster at a man wearing an offensive T-shirt about Tony Abbott.
"So today I snapped," he wrote. "Our greatest prime minister, Tony Abbott, is being taunted, derided and dis­respected. I've had a gut full of pansy conservatives who won't stick up for freedom, Tony, or our nation. Time to grow balls and pick some fights folks."

The Courier Mail, 27 February 2015, p.19:

A T-shirt bagging Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sparked a beer-coaster blue involving a former Logan councillor.
In one of the more bizarre political battles of the year, former Logan councillor Sean Black and his mother aimed an outburst at a fellow diner at a suburban restaurant.
The pair threw coasters at a patron at the Beach House restaurant at Garden City, before launching into a foul-mouthed rant and being asked to leave….
Behind his keyboard, Mr Black launched into a tirade to defend Mr Abbott. "Our greatest prime minister, Tony Abbott, is being taunted, derided and dis respected," he wrote. “I’ve had a gut full of pansy conservatives who won't stick up for freedom, Tony, or our nation. Time to grow balls and pick some fights folks."

The Courier Mail, 31 August 2011, p.12:

The State Government has hired private investigators to find out whether a land deal involving married Logan councillors Hajnal and Sean Black was shady.
RISQ Group has been employed by the Department of Local Government and Planning to investigate a conflict of interest over the multimillion-dollar property sale at Park Ridge, south of Brisbane, after claims the couple should have declared a pecuniary interest.
Cr Sean Black said they had "co-operated fully with the department's inquiries".
"The ALP has attempted to have these private family matters investigated for quite some time," he said. "The department, to my understanding from a conversation this morning, will not be prosecuting on any of the matters referred by (Logan MP John) Mickel."
The investigation related to the Blacks' involvement in the sale of a $2.25 million property belonging to an old, sick friend, of whom Hajnal Black (nee Ban) was the power-of-attorney. The Courier-Mail has been told it is still ongoing….
Local Government Minister Paul Lucas said the process was completely independent and challenged Cr Sean Black to take the matter further if he thought it was politically motivated.
"Sean Black has been in more political parties than I've had hot dinners and has managed to cultivate enemies in all of them," Mr Lucas said.
"If Cr Black has issues with process, he is more than welcome to follow other processes, but he won't - he'd much rather sling mud."

ABC Premium News, 31 March 2009:

A Logan councillor insists he will still be able to do his job despite being banned from face-to-face contact with council staff.
Logan Mayor Pam Parker says Councillor Sean Black will only be allowed in council buildings under strict supervision.
Councillor Black will continue representing Logan's Division Four but will be supervised by security when attending Council meetings.
The decision to restrict his movements came after numerous complaints from council staff of abusive behaviour and harassment.
Councillor Parker says there has also been a workers compensation claim lodged for bullying against Councillor Black.
"He has been apologetic for this, he's been apologetic many times for his behaviour," she said.
She say his behaviour cannot be tolerated.
"It's not every day you get a councillor yelling screaming, swearing and showing displays of uncontrollable anger in the work force," she said.
"We have a duty of care and legal liability to protect our staff from this sort of behaviour."
Councillor Black says he did get frustrated and yell and swear at his colleagues but denies he bullied staff.

National Party of Australia demonstrating it is predominately a party of flat-earthers

The Land, 20 May 2017:

A NSW Young Nationals push for an Emission Intensity Scheme has been snuffed out. 

Senior party figures - including Federal Nationals president Larry Anthony and NSW Upper House MP Rick Colless – spoke against the motion put forward by Young Nat Alex Fitzpatrick.

A significant majority voted it down, many delegates even refusing an extension of time for one supporter to discuss the merits of an EIS.

That was Women’s Council representative Claire Coulton – daughter of Federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton – who said “these conversations don’t have to be seen as crazy left-wing ideas.”

Australia's national gas shortage mirage

It is a case of now you see it now you don’t, courtesy of a rapacious gas industry and the governments which blindly support it............


Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) , media release, 28 February 2017:

Australia urgently needs more gas supply and more gas suppliers to head off a supply shortfall forecast for 2019.
APPEA Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Roberts said the report released today by AiGroup shows customers will pay a heavy price for government bans on developing new gas supply.
“Gas is no different to any other commodity – you restrict supply, you push up prices,” Dr Roberts said.
“We have the bizarre situation of State governments banning new gas projects and then complaining about higher gas prices.
“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Productivity Commission and a host of independent commentators all agree that stifling supply can only lead to higher prices.
“Yesterday, the ABS released data showing gas exploration is at its lowest level since 2005.
“Today, the AWU is calling for the Commonwealth to force Australian gas producers to tear up their contracts.  We need billions in investment to unlock new gas supplies but the AWU’s approach would kill investment overnight.
“There is no shortage of gas which can be developed to supply all of our local and export customers.
“Just as our agricultural industries have the capacity to supply export and domestic markets, so does Australia’s east coast gas industry.  Our LNG exporters are also the major suppliers to the domestic market.
“People concerned by the impact of higher gas prices on local customers should be arguing for the removal of unnecessary restrictions on developing new resources, not more heavy-handed regulation.
“The AiGroup report simply reinforces what APPEA has been saying for years – that gas customers will pay higher-than-necessary prices if restrictions on developing new gas projects continue.
Dr Roberts said it was ironic the AWU’s call for intervention to renegotiate export contracts came on the same day that domestically‑focused Cooper Energy and the APA Group announced a $605 million investment in developing the Sole Project to supply east coast gas market.
“Changes that increase the cost of exploration and production in Australia will place future investment – like that required for projects such as Sole – at risk,” he said.


We find that although a “gas-price crisis” exists in eastern-Australia, a gas-supply shortfall is very unlikely to occur. Our review finds that the size of AEMO’s forecast shortfall is very small, amounting to no more than around 0.2% of annual supply.
In addition, only eleven days after announcing its supply-gap concerns, AEMO essentially closed the gap when it published, on its website, updated (lower) electricity-demand forecasts that therefore lead to less demand for electricity generated by burning gas. [University of Melbourne, Australian-German Climate and Energy College, Tim Forcey and Dylan McConnell, 2017, A short-lived gas shortfall]

However, it is also important to note that the total gas supply in Eastern Australia has expanded rapidly in recent years, and the key domestic issue is more to do with the gas price that is now dictated by linkages to international trade, than the supply.
In addition the combination of falling renewable and storage costs means alternative options for the electricity sector will be cheaper than developing relatively expensive unconventional gas resources such as coal seam gas. [University of Melbourne, Australian-German Climate and Energy College, Dylan McConnell, 2017, IS THE AUSTRALIAN GAS SHORTFALL A MYTH?]

The Guardian, 18 May 2017:

A predicted shortage of gas for electricity generation in Australia from 2018 will not eventuate, and the recent surge in domestic prices will not be mitigated by opening up new coal seam gas fields, according to a new report.

In March, the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) predicted that without national reform, Australia would face gas shortages, which would drive power outages, in 2018 and 2019.

“If we do nothing, we’re going to see shortfalls in gas, we’re going to see shortfalls in electricity,” Aemo’s chief operating officer, Mike Cleary, told the ABC at the time.

Despite being described by some as “major”, the actual shortfall of electricity from the gas shortage amounted to the equivalent of less than 24 hours over a 13-year period, according to the new report by Tim Forcey and Dylan McConnell at Melbourne University’s Australian-German climate and energy college.

In any case, less than two weeks after Aemo predicted the shortfall, it published an updated forecast of how much electricity would be needed in the period. It downgraded the previous forecast and completely wiped out the predicted shortage.

The Melbourne University report, which was commissioned by the Wilderness Society and Lock the Gate, also noted that later in March Shell announced it was proceeding with its “Project Ruby” that involved 161 gas wells in Queensland, and also would have closed the shortage, if it were real.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

"This is a contemptible intervention from a pro-mining government to deny the legal rights of Indigenous people"

“Our traditional lands are an interconnected and living whole; a vital cultural landscape. It is central to us as a People, and to the maintenance of our identity, laws and consequent rights. If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land. The scale of this mine means it would have devastating impacts on our native title, ancestral lands and waters, our totemic plants and animals, and our environmental and cultural heritage. It would pollute and drain billions of litres of groundwater, and obliterate important springs systems. It would potentially wipe out threatened and endangered species. It would literally leave a huge black hole, monumental in proportions, where there were once our homelands. These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.”  [Wangan & Jagalingou People, Our Fight]

BuzzFeed News, 18 May 2017:

Human rights lawyer and adjunct professor of law at Macquarie University, George Newhouse, said Brandis' intervention was using native title law against Indigenous Australians rather than assisting them.

"This is a contemptible intervention from a pro-mining government to deny the legal rights of Indigenous people under the Native Title Act 1993," he told BuzzFeed News.

"[The government's] power is being used to obstruct Indigenous land claimants. This discriminatory law only affects Indigenous Australians. The rights of Indigenous people continue to be stripped away for the benefit of big coal miners."

Greens Deputy Leader and Senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters, slammed the intervention, saying the government had sided with Adani over traditional owners.

"Brandis’ attempt to push a bill through the Senate that was designed to ram through the Adani coal mine against the wishes of the local Wangan & Jagalingou people failed, so now he is interfering in their court case," she told BuzzFeed News.

"This isn’t about good reform to Native Title it’s about making things as easy as possible for Adani at the expense of the land rights of First Australians".

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Labor supports the government's proposed amendments to the Native Title act, but declined to comment on Brandis' intervention.

Senator Brandis’ intervention follows his second failure to rush through changes to the Native Title Act. The Attorney General has asked the Court to not make a ruling, but wait for the political process around the Native Title Bill to conclude. The Bill has not passed the Senate because of a lack of consultation with Traditional Owners around the country, and concern about key provisions.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, said, “The Attorney General has made an extraordinary and political intervention in matters before the court. Intervening in our case shows Brandis is working in billionaire Adani’s interests, not ensuring the proper administration of justice. Again, Brandis is making Native Title all about Adani’s mine instead of good law reform.

“Brandis should apply himself to good law reform, and let the court do its work. Instead he’s trying to influence the decisions of a judge in favour of a mining company.
“The Wangan and Jagalingou Council are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement [ILUA] filed by Adani Mining with the National Native Title Tribunal. The ILUA would authorise ‘extinguishment’ of our native title and allow the mine to proceed against our strong objections and our right to say ‘No’.

“The Federal Government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to overturn the ruling in McGlade and protect Adani’s interests. Along with other Traditional Owners, we  continue to demand proper consultations and the necessary time to achieve consent for Native Title amendments”, he said.

While on the other side of the country another opportunistic miner is using Native Title law for his own benefit

SYDNEY, May 18 (Reuters) - Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has used laws designed to protect indigenous land rights to stop prospectors searching for minerals on his West Australian cattle farms, angering both traditional Aboriginal landowners and mining community members.

While tensions between the competing interests of indigenous landholders, pastoral leaseholders and miners on government-controlled land are common, Forrest's approach represents one of the first known examples of a non-Aboriginal successfully using rights afforded to indigenous people to their own advantage.

Native title is a legal doctrine in Australia that recognises indigenous rights to certain parcels of land.

Forrest's use of it is not illegal, but it adds to the fractious relationship he has with some indigenous groups. Different groups have raised concerns over Forrest's cattle interests and have battled over land rights with the company he founded and chairs - Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fourth biggest iron ore miner……

But Matthew Slack, the head of the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corp which oversees native title for the indigenous landowners, said it was "pretty rich" for Forrest to use rights designed to protect indigenous interests.

Thalanyji were also concerned about cattle numbers and water use at Forrest's 2,400 square km (927 sq mile) Minderoo pastoral lease in Western Australia's Pilbara district, he said.

"We are disgusted with Forrest and have been for some time. Slack said. "Our dreamtime creatures can't survive because the river is so low."

EPA terminates private forestry property plan after native forest destroyed in Collombatti near Kempsey NSW

NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), media release, 9 May 2017:

EPA terminates private native forestry property plan in Collombatti

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has terminated a property owner’s authority to log a private native forest following the destruction of a forest at Collombatti near Kempsey.
The EPA investigated the land owner, the holder of a private native forestry property vegetation plan, and found that most of the native forest had been illegally cleared and replaced with a market garden. Sensitive areas, such as streams, were also cleared.
EPA Director of Forestry Michael Hood said EPA officers collected strong evidence against the property owner for land clearing offences.
“We confirmed the area of native forest on the private property had been deliberately cut down to make way for a lemongrass and chili market garden,” Mr Hood said.
“If a person’s authority to conduct a private native forestry operation is misused in this way, the first thing the EPA will do is cancel this legally binding agreement and then stronger regulatory actions should be expected to follow,” he added.
“The work done on this property had nothing to do with sustainable native forestry management.
“A private native forestry property vegetation plan requires that native forests, biodiversity and the environment are protected. As this native forest was not protected, further action is now being taken requiring the land owner to return the environment back to its natural state.
“The EPA is committed to proactively protecting native forest areas across NSW and we encourage ecologically sustainable harvesting practices. The EPA works with other government agencies when regulating the protection of native forests, waterways and the environment,” Mr Hood said.
The community can play an important role in helping the EPA. If you have a concern about illegal logging or knowledge of a particular incident, report it to the Environment Line on 131 555. Environment Line reports are confidential and can be made 24hours a day, 7 days a week.
For more information about the EPA’s role in regulating private native forestry in NSW click here.
Terminations of private native forestry property vegetation plans, penalty notices and fines are just some of the regulatory tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance. For more information about other regulatory tools download a copy of the EPA’s Compliance Policy.

Contact: Public Affairs


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Climate Change: the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Permafrost and thick rock ensure that the seed samples will remain frozen even without power. The Vault is the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply, offering options for future generations to overcome the challenges of climate change and population growth. It will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. It is the final back up.  [The Global Crop Diversity Trust, Svalbard Global Seed Vault, accessed 19 May 2016]

Svalbard Global Seed Vault entrance

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) is now in its ninth year of operation.

The Guardian, 19 May 2016:

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault…..

“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C.

But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”

The Nordic Genetic Resources Center (NordGen) is responsible for the daily management and operations of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the 32 Australian genebanks containing over 1.8 million seeds which are held in this vault along with the seeds of over 4,000 plant species banked by other countries.

This is not the first time this global seed vault has had problems. In 2011 North Coast Voices noted that financial and operational problems were placing the long-tern viability of the vault at risk, including technical problems in 2010 to 2011 concerning construction and temperature control, as well as falling behind on scheduled routine tests for the seed collections and required regeneration to maintain the genebank collection of living seed samples.

Hopefully now that hubris has been publicly flattened by this flooding, the NorGen board of directors will go back to the contingency drawing board and fully re-work risk. After all NordGen noted that the permafrost was not fully re-establishing itself as early as 2008 - the year this vault was officially opened.

Annual Progress Reports

Law Council of Australia hits back at Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's comments attacking independence of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Medianet Logo
AAP Logo
 Medianet Release

17 May 2017 2:25 PM AEST - Minister's comments attacking independence of tribunal were unfortunate, should not be repeated

Comments made by the Immigration Minister on radio attacking the independence of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal were unfortunate and should not be repeated, according to the President of the Law Council of Australia

Speaking on Sydney radio station 2GB, Immigration Minster Peter Dutton said: "When you look at some of the judgements that are made, the sentences that are handed down it's always interesting to go back to have a look at the appointment of the particular Labor Government of the day. Anyway, it's a frustration we live with."

Law Council of Australia President Fiona McLeod SC said the comment was unfortunate and had the potential to undermine the standing and independence of the tribunal.

"The independence of the judiciary, and respect for the role of Courts and tribunals, is a fundamental to the rule of law in Australia," Ms McLeod said.

"The Administrative Appeals Tribunal plays a critical role in overseeing and reviewing decisions made by Federal Government ministers, departments, and agencies every day. For members to face personal criticism for fulfilling their duties is inappropriate. They are reviewing decisions made by government in accordance with law, not personal preference or ideology.

"Justice Duncan Kerr is a highly respected Federal Court judge who has provided excellent service to the Commonwealth during his time as AAT President.

"Members of the government may disagree with decisions made by the AAT, but the Courts and tribunals provide an important check upon the unlawful exercise of power.

"Any suggestion by government that Australian jurists are not acting with independence is dangerous and erosive to our justice system and lies outside Australia's democratic tradition. It undermines the public perception of the legitimate role of the judiciary and weakens the rule of law."

Distributed by AAP Medianet

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Monday, 22 May 2017

A gender lens on the 2017-18 Budget exposes its class-ridden, misogynistic bottom line

In 2014 the Abbott Government ceased the thirty year-old federal government practice of releasing a Women's Budget Statement.

The National Foundation for Australian Women stepped in to fill the gap since then and this month has released its 97-page review of the Turnbull Government’s 2017-18 Budget, Gender lens on the Budget.

This budget review contains little that is unequivocally positive for women and summarises the bad news thus:

Women are overrepresented at lower income levels. Changes to government benefits and increases in taxes have a disproportionate effect on women. ATO statistics recently released show the median income for women was $47,125 in 2014-15, while for men the amount was $61,711.
Effective marginal taxation rates (EMTRs) measure the proportion of each extra dollar of earnings that is lost to both income tax increases and decreases in government benefits (for example, Parenting Payment, Family Tax Benefit, the Age Pension etc).
The increase in the Medicare Levy will affect those on incomes greater than $21,644. For those with eligible children, FTB A payment rates are frozen for two years. Those who pay child care fees will continue to face high EMTRs. University graduates will start repaying loans when they reach income levels of $42,000 per year.
These changes hit those on earning well below the average wage, and are particularly harsh for women. Combined, these changes could lead to effective marginal tax rates of possibly 100% or higher for some women, particularly as Family Tax Benefit Part A begins to decrease at $51,903. Graduates caught between these policies will experience considerable financial stress; graduates earning $51,000, most of whom are likely to be women, will have less disposable income than someone earning $32,000. Changes to penalty rates may also have a significant impact on some graduates if they are extended to the aged and health care sectors as well as the childcare sector.
The point to note is not just the harsh effects on low income women but also that it is not discussed in the Budget papers, with no modelling of the exact EMTRs for different groups of women provided. The way to improve incomes for most women is not to cut taxes but through improved welfare, social investments and increased wages (for example, by taking real action against the spread of precarious low paid work or by opposing cuts to penalty rates). Tax cuts, particularly those for top income earners, lower revenue at a time when investment is needed in public services and social infrastructure. ATO statistics show that in 2013-14 only 17% of women had taxable incomes greater than $80,000. This tax reduction has led to an increase in gender inequality.
Welfare payments to the unemployed are a small part of total welfare outlays. However, as ACOSS points out, the 2014 demonising of recipients continues. Many groups argue for an increase in the value of the Newstart payment, and an increase in Commonwealth rent assistance. What we have instead is ineffectual drug testing, harsh compliance penalties and expanded income management. However, for sole parents there will be a new verification process that is especially demeaning.
There were no measures designed to specifically address gender inequality and the related entrenched financial vulnerability of women….
This Budget fails to address major challenges facing young women in Australia, and has no measures to improve financial, job or housing security for this cohort.
Youth unemployment is at 13.5% of the youth labour force, which is the highest rate in 40 years, and many young people are underemployed (18% of young people in the labour force) (Brotherhood of St Laurence, 2017, 3). Women aged 20-24 have a much higher rate of underemployment than men of the same age (Burgess, 2017). The job market is increasingly casualised and insecure, and as young people have little or no working experience they are more likely than other groups to work in nonpermanent jobs (Brotherhood of St Laurence, 2017, 4). There is nothing in this Budget to address the unemployment or underemployment that young people experience, and which have implications for the economic security of young women…..
The enhanced residency requirements for claimants of the Age Pension and the Disability Support Pension (DSP) from 1 July 2018 will require claimants to have 15 years of continuous Australian residence before being eligible to receive the Age Pension or DSP unless they have:
* 10 years’ continuous Australian residence, with five years of this residence being during their working life (16 years to Age Pension age); or
* 10 years’ continuous Australian residence, without having received an activity tested income support payment for a cumulative period of five years.
Approximately 40% of older Australians are born overseas and the majority of these are women (AIHW 2007, 4). Within CALD communities, as with the broader population, women are more likely to require age pension support because they have less superannuation (from lower paid jobs and from fewer years working). Women are therefore more vulnerable to economic insecurity and should not be punished in old age for being migrants or for not being able to meet the 5 cumulative years of no income support payments during the requisite 15 years’ continuous residency. CALD women are more likely to experience periods of income support due to their family care responsibilities and should not be punished for this.  [my yellow/red highlighting]