Friday, 31 July 2009

Water Security Hall of Shame for South Australian would be water raiders

South Australian LGA Water Security Hall of Shame

It isn't only Alexandrina Council in South Australia which doesn't seem to understand that it would be environmental vandalism of the worst sort to attempt to cure a desperate lack of water security in one inland catchment area ie., the Murray Darling Basin, by placing a relatively healthy coastal catchment at risk by diverting part of its freshwater flow which sustains both a growing population base, significant primary industry and a large, productive estuary system and wetlands.

There are other local governments which appear to be hitching their star to an impossible dream with clearly no understanding of either geography or hydrology, particularly when it comes to Coorong District Council's idea that damming the headwaters of the Clarence River would actually result in high water volumes comparable to the Snowy Mountain Scheme.

In the Clarence Valley locals are well aware that these headwaters are often so sparse that it is almost possible to leap the flow in a single bound.

What is also most noticeable is that these councils are all singing from the same song sheet.

Here is the beginning of the 2009 Water Security Hall of Shame:

Victor Harbour Council:


Moved: Cr P Chigwidden Seconded: Cr P Lewis
That Council forward a letter to the Secretary of the Murray Darling Association (MDA) Region 6 Committee in support of the following recommendations:
1. That the MDA Conference expresses its dismay at the outcome of the deliberations regarding the final results of the inter-government agreement on the governance of the Basin andcalls upon the Federal Government to intervene and take overthe governance arrangements and to create a truly independent Murray Darling Basin Authority; and
2. That the MDA Conference call for the Federal Government to re-examine the question of the Clarence River Diversion Studyrelative to water flows through the Murray Darling System.

Mid Murray Council :

Region 6 - Murray Darling Association:

11120/2 Cr Bormann moved that Council support Region 6 of the Murray Darling Association in putting forward the Notice of Motion to its National Conference calling for the Federal Government to re-examine the question of the Clarence River Diversion Study, relative to water flows through the Murray Darling River System.
Seconded Cr Burgess.

Councillor Wright moves;
"That The Coorong District Council, through Region 6 of the Murray Darling Association, request that the new Murray Darling Basin Authority ask the Federal Government to re-examine the Clarence River Diversion Proposal relative to water flows through the Murray Darling River System.
Cr. Peter Wright
The request would proceed via a Notice of Motion to be presented at the 2009 Annual General Meeting of the Murray Darling Association.
This proposed diversion of the Clarence River was first discussed in the 1930's. More recently, the Fraser Liberal Government allocated $4 million to fund a feasibility study into the scheme. This was subsequently discontinued by the Hawke Labor Government.
The proposal, if feasible, would involve the construction of a head water dam on the Clarence River, with a 22km tunnel under the Gibralta Ranges in Northern NSW. This tunnel would emerge on the Murray Darling Basin side of the Ranges and feed into the Beardy River, then the McIntyre River and ultimately, into the Basin. The Gibralta Ranges are situated in one of the highest rainfall areas in Australia. The Clarence River is like most east coast rivers in that it is very short, with a high volume discharge into the sea during high volume events.
Benefits of the scheme include:
The capacity of the dams would have a storage ability approaching that of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
The capacity of head water storage would provide flood control to the Clarence Valley.
The diversion would only require 24% of the total maximum storage volume to provide similar volumes of water to the Basin as the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
No pumping of water is required – the entire scheme would be gravity-fed.
The generation of hydroelectricity is another major benefit.
This Notice of Motion is not a request to build the scheme, but to revisit it in the context of recent climatic events and over-allocations in the Murray Darling Basin.
Cr. Peter Wright
Moved Cr. Wright Sec. Cr. Bland that The Coorong District Council, through Region 6 of the Murray Darling Association, request that the new Murray Darling Basin Authority ask theFederal Government to re-examine the Clarence River Diversion Proposal relative to water flows through the Murray Darling River System.

I, Councillor Bob England having complied with the requirements of Regulation 13 of the Local Government (Procedures at Meetings) Regulations 2000, hereby give Notice of the following motion to be submitted at the meeting of the Council of theRural City of Murray Bridge to be held on 14 April, 2009 at 7 pm.
I will move:
That Rural City of Murray Bridge note that Region 6 of the Murray Darling Association intends moving a resolution along the following lines at the September AGM of the MDA:
That Region 6 calls on the Murray Darling Association to urge the Federal Government to re-examine the Clarence River Diversion.
Cr England moved
That Rural City of Murray Bridge note that Region 6 of the Murray Darling Association intends moving a resolution along the following lines at the September AGM of the MDA:
That Region 6 calls on the Murray Darling Association to urge the Federal Government to re-examine the Clarence River Diversion Study relative to water flows through the Murray Darling River system.
Seconded by Cr Schubert and CARRIED

There aren't any jobs on a dead planet**

By the time Kevin Rudd had closed comment on the inaugural Focus on Climate Change post at PM's Blog last week there were 939 published comments listed.

This was a fairly respectable response given that all participants had to register, comment was moderated and, comment publication was restricted to business hours which meant that there was limited debate on opinions put forward.

This week it appears that the Prime Minister via his second post wants a very brief snapshot of the nation's reaction to the NHHC report on health care reform, because there are less than four full days allotted for comment.

By 12.45pm on Tuesday 28 July 2009 there were a mere 20 comments on his health post, which worked out at only 1.1 comments per hour since that post went online.

Oh, and by the way, the Prime Minster's second post is erroneously tagged as a health blog when in fact it is a post on the PM's Blog - a mildly annoying little error.

** Line from a comment on Australian Prime Minister's first post on his new official blog.


no_filter_YambaPM's Blog a fail with only 97 comments on his health reform post? Or too early to tell? from web

Monotremes: Looking for love in all the wrong places

Photograph from Deography

It's Echidna (Spiny Anteater) breeding season once more and those cute little spiny monotremes are on the move across the NSW North Coast.
Because echidna trains and lone animals sometimes wander across roads or into urban areas, please take care when driving on local roads and be mindful that it may be an amorous
anteater which has your dog barking to get out at night and not someone you need to see off the property.
Echidas move suprisingly quickly so there is no need to interfere with any trek across your garden.
Confronting an animal will only cause it to dig-in and raise its spines.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Those pesky water raiders are after Clarence River catchment fresh water again

From A Clarence Valley Protest today:

Alexandrina Council water raiders refuse to take resounding "No" for an answer

Given that the Clarence Valley has firmly said no to any Clarence River catchment freshwater diversion scheme it is surprising to find that some people cannot abide having their will crossed.

36.1 Clarence River Diversion Study - Cr Tuckwell
File Ref: 9.24.1
Officer: Councillor Frank Tuckwell

A proposed submission to the 2009 National Conference of the Murray Darling Association to be held in the Playford Council area, SA in September 2009.

The Process
The Murray Darling Association (Region 6) at their February meeting passed a resolution requesting its five member Council's support for placing a Notice of Motion in reference to the Clarence River Diversion Study on the AGM of the National Conference to be held at Playford in September. It is important that all member Councils respond before April 30 to allow the Region 6 Board to prepare a full submission to the MDA Federal Board meeting in May. This will allow any redrafting that may be required to be done to be completed and returned to the Federal Board by June.

The Proposal
As this Council has led and supported this proposal for the past two years, once again we have the opportunity to lead the call for a Clarence River Diversion Study to be placed before the Federal Government by the National Conference of the Murray Darling Association. The MDA has for almost thirty years pressed for a complete scientific, environmental and engineering study for this proposal. The concept has been called for from within the Basin by its communities since the 1930's and it gained support of the Fraser Government who put $4M on its estimates to do the study. However they were succeeded by the Hawke Government who had other important priorities, so the proposal lapsed Now more than ever it is important that this proposal be put into the political field again. The worst drought the Basin has lived through has ironically seen massive flooding on almost all of the east coast rivers just scores of kilometres across the Great Divide from the dry Basin.
There are many calls for pipelines and other schemes to provide large scale water diversion to the lower sections of the continent, but the MDA has been both consistent and persistent in pursuing the Clarence River Study. Once again the MDA stresses that in calling for the study that this is not a question of whether the Diversion shall or shall not be built, but that as a matter of urgency this important study should be carried out to determine which case is proven.

That the Alexandrina Council supports Region 6 of the Murray Darling Association in putting forward the Notice of Motion to its National Conference calling for the Federal Government to re-examine the question of the Clarence River Diversion Study, relative to water flows through the Murray Darling River System

See: Council_Agenda_6th_April_2009.pdf

U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues highlights exploitative natural resource development still an issue

In May 2009 the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues welcomed Australia's belated endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

One of the aims of that declaration is; The free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples must be obtained before investments are made on projects affecting their lands, territories and resources and before such projects are brought into indigenous lands and territories.

However, from reading the forum's Report on the eighth session, it is obvious that concerns remain about how nations access natural resources or create infrastructure on land or territories owned by indigenous peoples.

The Permanent Forum has paid particular attention to the significant increase in the infrastructure budget of the World Bank, from $15 billion to $45 billion in 2009, for the primary economies of developing States. The implications of this development in relation to the respect and protection of indigenous peoples' rights have to be clearly understood, and the imperative of getting the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples affected by infrastructure projects has to be guaranteed. The Forum also urges the World Bank to provide additional operational budget to manage this large increase in infrastructure spending. The Permanent Forum reiterates its previous recommendations that the World Bank revise its operational safeguard policies to be consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Amnesty International (Australia) sending butterflies to Rudd in support of justice for WW2 'comfort women'

Amnesty International (Australia) is running a campaign in support of the rights of World War Two comfort women and invites people to create and send a butterfly to the Prime Minister:

Their chosen symbol of hope is the butterfly.
We're going to cover the web in beautiful butterflies in the run up to August 15th - the anniversary of WWII's end - to highlight this hidden tragedy.
Each butterfly will represent a message to the Australian PM to pass a motion urging the Japan Government to recognise and compensate survivors. In all this time, Australia is one of the few Allied countries that hasn't stood up and called the Japanese Government to account.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Monsanto thinks there is something 'magical' about GM pollination of non-GM crops.....

There is no doubt about it, Monsanto & Co employees are a scary group when they start to blog.

Earlier this month in a post titled I am Monsanto one of these happy clappy souls decided to pose a rather sarcastic hypothetical question; Did you know that pollen from our genetically-modified crops will magically migrate into another farmer's field and contaminate his crop?

Apparently (if one is a Monsanto employee) the well-known natural processes known as pollen drift and cross fertilisation are not within the bounds of our world - for GM traits to be found in non-GM crops or GM plants to be discovered in non-GM fields then something otherworldly has to have occurred.

This will come as a complete surprise to biologists and agronomists:

However Monsanto employees are not finished with spin on the company blog Monsanto according to Monsanto.

In another post called Agent Orange and Monsanto the case is made for a benign and patriotic Monsanto participating in deliberate dioxin contamination on a large scale because; The U.S. government, under the Defense Production Act, directed seven companies – including Monsanto, which was then primarily a chemical company – to manufacture the material.

Yes, the President made me do it appears to be the argument here.

A government contract defence that U.S. courts have not apparently fully supported, as there was a 1984 case in which in has been reported that Judge Weinstein encouraged settlement and eventually directed Monsanto to pay over a large percentage of an $180 million out of court settlement in favour of American veterans.

However, in a classic look-here-not-there manoeuvre Monsanto directs our attention to the unsuccessful 2004 litigation by Vietnamese veterans in which it was also a co-defendant.
All the while remaining silent on the fact that sales of Agent Orange and Lasso were basically what kept Monsanto's agricultural chemical division in the black during the 1960s and the Viet Nam War.

Now I have been wondering of late why it is that Monsanto employees are so cavalier with how they use available fact and historical record.

I refuse to believe that their obvious youth (in comparison to North Coast Voices authors) is a significant factor because older people do not have a monopoly on commonsense or knowledge.

So I am left with the possibility that Monsanto's corporate culture is so intense that employees are totally indoctrinated by the end of their first year with the firm and thereafter are incapable of recognising that Monsanto & Co hasn't been a uniformly ethical company from its inception up to the more recent past.

Graphic from

In June 2009 the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by the Secretary of the Dept of Agriculture et al (including Monsanto Company as Defendant-intervenor-Appellant) and upheld a lower court injunction against the USDA's deregulation determination re GMO perennial alfalfa.
Geertson Seed Farms et al had sought relief from the US courts, in part on the grounds that there was a need to wait until there had been sufficient investigation of the potential for pollen drift and cross-pollination.

FactCheck highlights disappointing Obama health care spin

As one of the many millions of outsiders looking in on American society it is hard to argue against a much needed reform of the U.S. health care system.

As often as I complain about the failings of Australia's universal hospital/health care system, I am always grateful for its existence when I compare it to somewhere like America.

One has to wish President Obama well in his effort to expand health insurance so that it acts more like an albeit very limited safety net for U.S. citizens.

However, on 22 July 2009 Obama put his position on the current health debate at a press conference in much the same way he has conducted his part in debate on many other issues and FactCheck has again caught him out:

President Obama tried to sell his health care overhaul in prime time, mangling some facts in the process. He also strained to make the job sound easier to pay for than experts predict.

  • Obama promised once again that a health care overhaul "will be paid for." But congressional budget experts say the bills they've seen so far would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit over the next decade.
  • He said the plan "that I put forward" would cover at least 97 percent of all Americans. Actually, the plan he campaigned on would cover far less than that, and only one of the bills now being considered in Congress would do that.
  • He said the "average American family is paying thousands" as part of their premiums to cover uncompensated care for the uninsured, implying that expanded coverage will slash insurance costs. But the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation puts the cost per family figure at $200.
  • Obama claimed his budget "reduced federal spending over the next 10 years by $2.2 trillion" compared with where it was headed before. Not true. Even figures from his own budget experts don't support that. The Congressional Budget Office projects a $2.7 trillion increase, not a $2.2 trillion cut.
  • The president said that the United States spends $6,000 more on average than other countries on health care. Actually, U.S. per capita spending is about $2,500 more than the next highest-spending country. Obama's figure was a White House-calculated per-family estimate.
Full FactCheck article Facts vs. Obama

President Obama's remarks at an Ohio 'town hall' meeting concerning proposed health care reform, 23 July 2009.
DemConWatch: pre-delivery transcript and video of President Obama's speech on proposed health care reform, Press Conference, 22 July 2009.
US President Obama's Q&A with reporters: Press Conference 22 July 2009
President Obama's Weekly Address: Health Care Reform Cannot Wait, 18 July 2009.

Byron Bay Writers Festival, 7-9 August 2009

The Byron Bay Writers Festival (established in 1997) is coming around again from Friday 7 August through to Sunday 9 August 2009.

The festival kicks off with Friday's poetry competition and progresses though a packed weekend,
with everyone from Tom Keneally, Roy Masters, Peter Singer, Geoffrey Robinson, David Williamson, Anne Summers, Kerry O'Brien, Bob Ellis, Wendy Harmer, Rachel Perkins, though to author and blogger Irfan Yusuf taking part.

Full festival program can be found here.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Can't get to see your G.P. for a month? Worried about that long wait at accident and emergency? Been on an elective surgery list for a year?

Can't get to see your G.P. for a month? Worried about that long wait at hospital accident and emergency? Overwhelmed by the thought of a day-long trip to see a specialist? Upset by the fact that a family member is hundreds or thousands of kilometres away receiving in-patient treatment? Concerned that you won't survive a life-threatening disease because poorer health outcomes sometimes correlate with life in the regions? Indignant that you can get elective surgery within two months if you have the money to pay but are on a waiting list for twelve months if you are poor? Think your local district hospital won't be there at the end of the year if this area health service cost cutting keeps up?

Well these are pretty common worries for many Australians living in rural and regional areas. But never fear - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is out there clutching his copy of A healthier future for all Australians - Final Report June 2009.

The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission may say that; The health of our people is critical to our national economy, our national security and, arguably, our national identity. Our own health and the health of our families are key determinants of our wellbeing. Health is one of the most important issues for the Australian people, and it is an issue upon which they rightly expect strong leadership from governments.

However don't expect significant federal-state consultation on the report's recommendations before the next federal election.

The Liberals and Nationals won't add anything constructive to consideration of the public health service as they don't want timely consultation because it will take away an election campaign stick that it can use to beat the Rudd Government about the head and, Labor won't be rushing forward either because it will be easier to continue promising golden health reform in the lead-up to polling day than it will be to defend leaks about inevitable federal-state consultation hiccups.

As for those medieval guild relics, the 'gentlemen's' unions covering general practitioners and medical specialists - well they won't be doing more than blowing obstructive hot air until someone promises them that there will be a larger user pays component favouring their pockets in any national health system.

So. Can't get to see your G.P. for a month? Worried about that long wait at hospital accident and emergency? Overwhelmed by the thought of a day-long trip to see a specialist? Upset by the fact that a family member is hundreds or thousands of kilometres away receiving in-patient treatment? Concerned that you won't survive a life-threatening disease because poorer health outcomes sometimes correlate with life in the regions?Indignant that you can get elective surgery within two months if you have the money to pay but are on a waiting list for twelve months if you are poor? Think your local district hospital won't be there at the end of the year if this area health service cost cutting keeps up? Get used to it and hope that you survive until that shining day when Kevin Rudd finally 'fixes' the public health system.

A healthier future for all Australians - Final Report June 2009:

Executive Summary


First Dog and Ned the Bear with a few home truths about the Moon and Mars...

Sometimes when the mainstream media is in full flight commemorative flight as it was last week over the 40th anniversary of the U.S. landing on the Moon, one can sometimes feel out of sync with supposed public sentiment when thoughts and memories don't appear to coincide with mass recollection.

However, in this instance all those not in lock step were rescued by First Dog on the Moon and Ned the Bear.

Click on images to enlarge

Thank the gods for Australian cartoonists.

Cartoons from First Dog at Crikey and Ned the Bear

Monday, 27 July 2009

Regional arts - what do you want to see happen in your area? Survey

Regional Arts Australia is conducting a survey this month:

What do you want for the arts in your community?

Do you want more creative and artistic opportunities in your local community? How can the arts play a stronger role in your region? Regional Arts Australia encourages you, your colleagues and friends to help shape the creative future of regional communities as part of a national survey. The survey results will be combined with the outcomes from a series of public consultations to find out what communities really want and to help regional Arts Australia determine its future directions. Click
HERE to take the survey.

End-of-life decision-making: a disturbing observation by the NSW Ombudsman

Click image to enlarge

Excerpt from NSW Ombudsman March 2008 submission to the Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in NSW Hospitals.

Remember when? Seattle 1999

From Seattle Times 1999 photo gallery

It is ten years ago this November that the World Trade Organisation convened its 1999 ministerial conference in Seattle ,Washington USA and, what the media dubbed The Battle of Seattle anti-globalisation protests began.

This is what the Washington education department is telling current students about that five-day protest which brought the WTO to its knees:

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Blistering blizzards, Batman! Turnbull wants weak national emissions trading scheme just like Rudd - who would've guessed?

Breakdown showing percentages of get-out-of-gaol-free cards availble to greenhouse gas emitters until 2026 in the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill aka U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act 2009.

If you thought that the Rudd Government's plan to compensate industry super polluters was a fizzer (to such a degree that a national emissions trading scheme would see virtually no significant change for the better in relation to Australia's greenhouse gas pollution) then hang on to your hats as Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party pretend to engage with the thorny issue of climate change by putting forward these nine demands:

Specific Issues

1. An Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) should offer no less protection for jobs, small business and industry than an American ETS which is being developed and is presently in the form of the Waxman Markey Bill which has been approved by the House of Representatives but is yet to pass the US Senate. The final form of any legislation may be materially different from Waxman Markey and will not be known until later in the year.

2. To that end there must be an effective mechanism, such as a regular review by the Productivity Commission or a similar expert independent body, to ensure that the Australian ETS does not materially disadvantage Australian industries and workers relative to American industries and workers. The legislation must bind the Government to correct any disadvantage identified by the review process.

3. In order to ensure that an Australian ETS does not simply result in futile carbon and production leakage – exporting the emissions and the jobs – Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed industries (EITEs) should at least be on a level playing field with the United States and other advanced economies and should therefore receive full compensation for higher energy costs until the bulk of their competitors (measured as in Waxman Markey by global market share) face a similar carbon cost.

4. Fugitive methane emissions from coal mining should be treated in the same way as they are in the United States and Europe.

5. As in the Waxman Markey legislation agricultural emissions should be excluded from the scheme and agricultural offsets (eg. biosequestration or green carbon) should be included. Australia's greatest near term potential of reducing its CO2 emissions are to be found in the better management of our own landscape.

6. The scheme design must ensure that general increases in electricity prices are no greater than comparable countries to minimise the impact on all trade exposed industries, to reduce the need to compensate for households and to avoid a needlessly high increase in taxation.

7. In order to ensure continuity of electricity supply, electricity generators should be fairly and adequately compensated for loss of asset value to ensure capacity to invest in new abatement technology and to fund maintenance of existing facilities for energy security purposes.

8. Effective incentives and/or credits must be established to capture the substantial abatement opportunities offered by energy efficiency, especially in buildings.

9. There must be adequate incentives for voluntary action which can be added to Australia's 2020 target.

Besides simply restating some of the broad aims already expressed by government, it appears that Turnbull would like Australia to adopt certain aspects of the proposed U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act 2009.
Yet another watered down climate change bill.
Just as importantly, he does not want to enact our own emissions trading scheme until after the Americans have theirs in place.

Now attempting to tie Australia's legislative response to an American timetable is a nice time waster, as this yet unborn act only passed the U.S. lower house by 7 votes and is facing a hostile upper house before it can be become legislation, with no guarantee that the eventual act will even remotely resemble the current bill or that its final provisions will be seen in a favourable light by the rest of the world.

Indeed (like the Rudd Government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Act here in Australia) in America there are citizens who believe that the proposed Clean Energy and Security Act is so weak that it should never become law, others who simply see it as better than nothing, Republicans in the U.S. Senate who won't rule out blocking it and, many Americans who see it as a free give-away to major polluters.

While Turnbull obviously hopes that he can put off the evil day when he actually has to genuinely address emissions trading, his principle aim appears to be to further increase protection and compensation for Australia's super polluters under any national scheme.
Which may please his mates at Goldman Sachs whilst ever that group is involved with energy and mining industries, but may not appeal to the international community generally because Turnbull's solution seems to favour tariffs.

Turnbull's favourite climate change bill.

Graphic form The Wall Street Journal online.

Bless their cute curly heads! Monsanto blogs on morality

From Monsanto according to Monsanto post on 20 July 2009:

In this video I discussed the issue of other farmers saving patented seed with farmers who don't believe in that type of farming practice.

If you think about it, it's pretty simple. The law is the law. When you sign an agreement, you must obey that agreement. Just like when I buy a CD of my favorite artist (which I do have quite the collection), I don't burn it for friends. At the same time, I download quite a bit of songs to jam to on my iPod and I buy each and every one of those songs from iTunes.

Although these examples are on a much smaller scale, it's the right thing to do.

My parents raised me to always do the right thing, even if it costs more or doesn't seem like the most appealing option. I was raised on good morals, which I credit and thank my parents daily for. Just as I was raised on these morals, so were the two farmers featured in this video.

I hope you see it that way.

Leaving aside the ungainly stretch inherent in likening perpetual seed patents to music copyright, the irony of Monsanto blogging about morals is readily apparent.

This is the same company which spent years happily spreading dioxin/PCB contamination across the world. Here is a brief potted history of its recent transgressions and another about heavy metal contamination due to Monsanto mining operations.

Sadly Monsanto does not appear to see that its recalcitrant past concerning environmental degradation and denial of human rights makes a mockery of its current claim that; The law is the law.

Picture from Google Images

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Fairfax misleading digital headline of the week

First Australians were Indian: research was the headline posted on The Sydney Morning Herald website on Thursday 23 July 2009.

Now that isn't exactly what is in the body of the newspaper article (which rather looks to be based on a media release) and it's definitely not what is in the published research Reconstructing Indian-Australian phylogenetic link.

What the researchers appear to be asserting is that early Australians were descended from out-of-Africa migration.

The complete mtDNA sequencing indicate that both Australians and New Guineans exclusively belongs to the out-of-Africa founder types M and N, thus ultimately descended from the same African emigrants ~50 to 70 kyBP, as all other Eurasians.

The researchers, who based their finding on the particular mtDNA sequences of 8 Indians and 6 Aboriginals, are postulating a migration journey which took the ancestors of Australia's traditional owners along what is known as the southern route (Horn of Africa to the Persian/Arabian Gulf and further along the tropical coast of the Indian Ocean to southeast Asia and Australasia) ~ 60 to 50 thousand years before the present day and that migration likely occurred before or at the beginning of N group population growth in pre-history India.

Pity that The Sydney Morning Herald decided on the colourful headline, the published research deserved better.

A new version of events.....

Friday, 24 July 2009

Unimpressive polling at The Daily Examiner, Grafton

These poll results for the morning of 24 July 2009 look rather impressive on The Daily Examiner's website.

However, the lack of any total number of votes received being identified means that no-one realises that the 84% of respondents voting "Yes" actually only represents about 17 people.

This is not the only APN News & Media website which carries these misleading poll layouts.

But what could one expect from a regional newspaper chain which is busily pursuing a tabloid reputation similar to The Daily do-you-know-the-truth-or-do-you-read-the Telegraph?

Any online polling the reader happens to see under the mastheads below should be treated with some caution if a respondent total is not displayed.

A word about bureaucratic corruption in 2009

Next week Brisbane is hosting the Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference 2009 over four days from 28 July to 31 July.

It is held in Australia every two years, and is a joint initiative of the Crime and Misconduct Commission (QLD), the Independent Commission Against Corruption (NSW), and the Corruption and Crime Commission (WA).

This is a significant opportunity for Australian and international public officials to learn about contemporary anti-corruption trends and strategies, and to network with senior representatives of leading Australian public sector agencies. This year's conference will also be of particular interest to health administrators, tertiary institutions and agencies providing services in remote locations, with sessions focussing on each of these areas.

Given the vastly enlarged data bases that the Rudd Government is envisioning as vital for the so-called digital information age, one has to hope that some senior public servants attend this conference on behalf of the Federal Minister for Medical ID Cards in 2010, Chris Bowen and the Minister for Let's Revive Howard Government Lame Ideas, Nicola Roxon.

Let us also hope that local government bureaucracy receives more than just a mention in the last day's hijinks:

The conference will conclude with Kerry O'Brien hosting an entertaining and informative hypothetical with an anti-corruption bent exploring the topic 'Queensland — beautiful one day and desperate for the developer dollar the next!'

Bring that Resources Minister under control!

The Australian Greens have found a novel way of hitting back at the planned expansion of uranium mining in this country and they are looking for 87,930 signatures for the mass mail out to the Batman electorate.

If you would like to draw Martin Ferguson's attention to the possibility that the Rudd Government's
desire to create more uranium mines may not be supported by his fellow Australians, then hit the links in Scott Ludlum's letter and tell the minister so.

Dear friend,

Would you allow a secretive US arms company to mine uranium in your backyard? Neither would we!

So help us tell our politicians that Australia doesn't need more uranium mines.

It's easy to approve a new uranium mine when it is out of sight and out of mind – but just because we don't see a place every day doesn't mean that we should risk ruining it forever.

That's how the Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson are able to approve environmentally destructive projects like General Atomics new Beverley 4 Mile mine, 500 kilometres north of Adelaide.

We need your help to send a backyard message to Minister Ferguson, in his home electorate of Batman.

If this acid leaching mine opens, Australia will have five uranium mines either working or approved, with more in the pipeline. Along with the expansion of other mines it adds up to a potential trebling in Australia's uranium exports - three times the waste, three times the worry, three times the risk.

The Australian Government allows our uranium to be sold to nuclear weapon states such as China. Uranium sold for nuclear power frees up uranium for nuclear weapons so our exports directly or indirectly fuel growing nuclear instability and intensify threats across our region and around the world.

That's why it's important to let our politicians know, in their own backyards, that this massive expansion of uranium mining must stop.

With your help, we are proposing to send the postcard below to every voter in Batman, the backyard of the Resources Minister Martin Ferguson.

All you have to do is sign on to our Backyard Message to Batman campaign to get the message out.

For every signature that we receive one postcard will be sent to a voter in Batman asking them to bring their local member under control.

It's as simple as that.

Help send a backyard message to Batman's 87,930 voters – that should get Minister Ferguson's attention...

Yours sincerely
Scott Ludlam
Australian Greens Senator for WA and spokesperson on nuclear issues

P.S. After you've added your name, don't forget to forward the message to your friends to spread the word even further.

If you want to show Peter Garrett that he can no longer trade on his old Oils cred you can email Peter here.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Excuse me while I turn my head and barf

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is less than five months away, and with no benchmarks set to measure compliance the world's leaders recently decided to agree to keeping global warming at no more than 2 Celsius - practically guaranteeing massive environmental degradation across Australia.

Now I find that in their wisdom the organisers of this conference have paid out good money for a dinky little website called Hopenhagen at which we are supposed to lodge a 10-word expression of what gives us hope.

WTF? How can the world have hope if all its leaders are doing is playing at finding solutions for climate change instead of actually doing something right NOW.

Coffs Harbour

How many acute care beds are there in NSW North Coast hospitals?

North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) covers an area of 25,570 square kilometres extending from Port Macquarie in the south, Queensland in the north and westward to the Great Dividing Range and there are over 480,675 people living within these boundaries according to the area health service.

Also according to the NCAHS website in 2005 there was
a total of 21 public hospitals, with approx. 1384 acute care beds offered at the public/private hospitals in the Area.

Which works out at no more than 2.9 acute care beds to every 1,000 North Coast residents and, even less available to patients without private medical insurance if one was able to extract private hospital beds from the bundled NCAHS 2005 figure.

In 2007 Peter Roberts and Paul Cunningham told a NSW inquiry that NSW had only 1.1 acute care beds in private hospitals per 1,000 population and 2.7 acute care beds in public hospitals per 1,000 people.

Now Professor Peter Collingdon informs us in 2009 that:
In Australia we have 38% less beds than in 1981 when there were 6.4 acute care hospital beds for every 1000 people. There are now only four beds per 1000 people available. Only 2.7 of these beds are available in the public sector -- where the sickest patients are looked after. [,20 July 2009]

Which indicates that little is changing for the better in health services when it comes to bed numbers.

Given the relentless NCAHS cost-cutting, staff and bed reduction drive of recent years, perhaps Chief Executive Officer Chris Crawford could favour us all with details of the current ratio of acute care beds in NSW North Coast public hospitals to every 1,000 head of population.

Damning praise and rough criticism for Peter and Malcolm

From the pen of Howard apologista Peter van Onselen in his The Australian article The good oil: Peter Garrett knows his job.

If Garrett doesn't have a line in the sand, he is a sell-out, make no mistake. But if he does, and so long as he hasn't crossed it, he has become a pragmatic politician holding on to a few convictions along the way. Howard would be proud.


Liberal Party Senator Wilson Tuckey assessing the quality of his leader, Malcolm Turnbull in a Herald Sun article on 22 July 2009.

"The issue of the arrogance and inexperience of our leader on the issue of the emission trading scheme has to be addressed"

Double ouch with pike!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Ugg Boot trademark fight goes on and Deckers does not cover itself in glory

I'm sure everyone will remember that protracted legal battle over who had rights over the term Ug, Ugg or Ugh boots, in which little Aussie battlers were able to convince the Registrar of Trade Marks that these terms in themselves were generic and therefore beyond trademark in Australia by U.S. Deckers Outdoor Corporation (with the exception of one particular graphic representation of a certain trademark incorporating the word UGG).

In the initial Registrar of Trade Marks decision in 2006 it was stated:

34. The evidence overwhelming supports the proposition that the terms UGH BOOT(S), UG BOOT(S) and UGG BOOT(S) are interchangeably used to describe a specific style of sheepskin boot and are the first and most natural way in which to describe these goods which should innocently come to the minds of people making this particular style of sheepskin boot. The terms thus lack any inherent capacity to distinguish the particular goods. The Yellow Pages®, Internet, magazine and dictionary uses of these terms make it quite clear that these terms are generic – they are the most immediate and natural ways in which to refer to a particular style of sheepskin boot.4 They are terms which are required by other traders without any improper motive to describe those boots. The terms, (as opposed to the registered trade mark), are in all senses analogous to the terms SCHOOLIES - Sports Break Travel Pty Ltd v P & O Holidays Ltd, (2000) 50 IPR 51 or CAPS THE GAME - Powell v Glow Zone Products Pty Ltd (1997) 39 IPR 506.

IP Australia now has this fact sheet on its website explaining the current situation as it interprets it, with this particular rider:

The Internet provides easy access to global markets and takes no account of national borders. If you are trading on the Internet you need to understand the laws of the country into which you are selling goods or services. If you place an offer for sale on the Internet in Australia that invites purchase from overseas, this can amount to trading overseas and could leave you vulnerable to legal action and expensive litigation. Likewise an overseas proprietor selling goods in Australia via the Internet may infringe an Australian trade mark.

Decker Outdoor Corporation was such a bad sport about its Australian loss that it apparently attempted to scare away Internet trade from the small Australian company, which led opposition to its attempt to expand the Decker trademark, by creating (it's winter here in Australia, so if you have a little cash to spare why don't you click onto the real Aussie site owned by West Australians Bruce and Bronwyn McDougall and order a pair of Ugg boots to keep those feet warm).

The company also took out additional overseas trademarks using the word UGG, of which some are included in a rolling list of 33 marks in the United States alone.

It seems that in July 2009 the ever-litigious Deckers now has Google Inc in its sights and its legal team is demanding that the Internet search engine cease index listing over thirty websites displaying and selling ugg boots.

Thankfully, it appears that Google is not rushing to obey the dictates of this international marketplace bully as the named websites and goods images were still visible at the time of writing this post.

Graphic from Google Images

Biodiversity Summit in Canberra 8 August 2009

Biodiversity for Climate Protection

Biodiversity Summit 2009, with keynote speaker Dr Rachel Warren.

Aiming to better understand the connections between biodiversity and climate, and why protecting natural ecosystems is essential to tackle the climate crisis .

The climate crisis is transforming biodiversity policy, demanding rapid fundamental change to protect and restore the natural environment. The Biodiversity Summit 2009 will review how natural ecosystems contribute to mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis, including the role of terrestrial ecosystems in the global carbon cycle and carbon storage and the contribution of biodiversity to the resilience of natural ecosystems, particularly in the face of climate change. The Summit will also analyse the policy implications flowing from the need to protect and restore natural ecosystems for climate change mitigation and adaptation and discuss implementation strategies and tools.
The program for the day will include presentations, workshops and discussion. Participants will have an opportunity to offer workshops; and round table sessions will cover issues like how to 'frame' the policy debate, identifying key issues that need to be addressed, and how the policy agenda is to be taken forward. Everyone interested in biodiversity and climate will find it relevant – researchers, lawyers, land managers, policy-makers, activists and individuals.

When: Saturday, 8 August 2009, 9am to 5pm
Venue: Canberra Institute of Technology, K Block, Constitution Ave, Canberra
Registration fees: Standard $95, low income $55

List of speakers