Friday, 21 October 2016

Say No To Shark Nets and watch turtle release at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina at 10am Sunday 23 October 2016

Shark nets are not the answer.
Fundamentally shark nets don't keep people safe and 80% of what they kill will be harmless to humans.
Proponents of shark nets will tell you that there have been no shark attacks at a netted beach in NSW since 1937. Wrong.
NSW Dept of Primary Industries report 27 attacks including one fatality at netted beaches.
Assoc Prof Laurie Laurenson of Deakin University studied 50 years of data from shark mitigation programs (culling and netting). He found no statistical difference in the rate of shark attack and the density of sharks in an area.
The only shark mitigation measure in the world that has proven to be 100% effective is the Shark Spotters program in Cape Town, South Africa. Eleven years and not a single attack, in a very popular beach area with an abundance of White Sharks.
Shark attack is an incredibly rare event. 6 people in a year across the entire planet died from sharks in 2015. Almost everything else you can think of kills more people. More people died taking selfies.
Over the years, I've done a fair number of media interviews. But I have experienced nothing even remotely close to the media feeding frenzy that follows a shark attack.
I was there the day Cooper Allen was bitten a few weeks ago. Even as he was carried down the beach toward the surf club it was clear he would be OK. But still, within an hour, every major news outlet in the country was on the beach, posting hourly updates, gathering enough footage to lead the evening news bulletin. Totally out of proportion to what had actually just occurred.
There is no doubt our community is spooked. There is a genuine fear among our surfers. I regularly hear, "but something must be done". I agree.
We cannot ignore the impact on our community, on the town's reputation, on our tourism and hospitality industries which contribute so much to our local economy.
But we need to look at what hasn't been done yet and what might actually work.
Surf clubs have applied for funding for watch towers. A basic that has still not been funded.

A trial of paid professional shark spotters at Byron Bay was discontinued after no ongoing funding.

The Shark Watch group formed locally with no assistance from Council or the State Government. Specifically designed to keep watch on our surfers 
from headlands using volunteers and drones, the group is still waiting to hear on a funding application for $50,000 to provide equipment and training.
Where are the shark alarms we were promised?
Where are the shark bite first aid kits?
Why do we have a funding program for innovative responses, but the one company that has developed an effective deterrent, Shark Shield, is getting no assistance from government to get their product to market?
All of these things are far more effective in preventing shark attack than nets. But still we wait.
Shark nets are a fishing device, not a barrier. The nets in NSW are 150m long, 6m high and are placed in water 10-12m deep. As a fishing device they 
have the highest by-catch rate of any technique available.
I've spent the last 9 years of my life trying to protect and save our local sea turtle population through Australian Seabird Rescue. All species of sea turtle are at risk of extinction. Everything I've done will be wasted if we introduce shark nets. Quite simply the nets will kill more turtles than we have been able to save.
The 60 bottlenose dolphins that make up the Richmond River pod face decimation, with DPI staff estimating that up to 20 could be killed in the first few months of shark nets.
These are some of the reasons why I'll be joining my colleagues from Seabird Rescue at Lighthouse Beach at 10am this Sunday (23/10).
We'll be releasing Kimba the green sea turtle after 3 months in care. Back to the ocean, where the sharks also live. But the greatest threat to Kimba isn't sharks. It's humans.
Please join us in saying no to shark nets.
* Image from Facebook

Clarence Valley councillors at work post 2016 local government election - everything old is back again

Clarence Valley Council considered Item 14.094/16 DA2016/0281 on 18 October 2016 – A Rotational Outdoor Free Range Piggery upon Lot 51 DP751382, 550 Tullymorgan Road, Lawrence .

The 161ha property at 550 Tullymorgan Road, circa April 2016:

[Images of the property which is currently listed for sale at and was listed in The Daily Examiner in April 2016]

This current application by the Sisson Family Trust is for a 75 sow piggery producing up to 1,500 piglets each year.  A Council staff member is the landowner and presumably a potential beneficiary of the trust.

Bravo to Cr. Greg Clancy for pointing out during the debate the manifest deficiencies in both the applicant & council’s approach to this development application to date.

The site inspection for the purposes of environmental assessment completed on 23 July 2016 only lasting approx. 2 hours which were spent inspecting areas of the site by vehicle and allegedly on foot, including areas proposed for pig paddocks, areas within the 100m buffer to natural waterbodies and bushland in the northern part of the site where pig grazing is not proposed.

Cr. Peter Ellem agreed more rigour should be exercised in the area of environmental/
threatened species assessments. Cr. Andrew Baker urged further expert opinion on EP& A provisions pertaining to the development. 

The Grafton putsch left over from the last council term was gung-ho for approval forthwith and for cutting “red tape”.  In the process putsch member Cr. Lysault demonstrated his ignorance of animal husbandry and farming practices.

Disappointingly this development application received what some would still consider premature consent - with Mayor Jim Simmons, Deputy Mayor Jason Kingsley, Cr. Arthur Lysault, Cr. Richie Williamson  and, first-time councillor Debrah Novak, voting in favour of an application which by council's own admission contained not one contemporary, detailed on the ground flora & fauna field study.

Then there is the matter of the vote in the Chamber.

When the previous council considered this development application at the ordinary meeting of 9 August 2016 there were two declarations of interest by councillors:
By the 18 October ordinary meeting those declarations of interest had shrunk to none registered by Cr. Simmons and apparently downgraded to a Non-Significant Non Pecuniary interest on the part of Cr. Kingsley, allowing both to remain in the Chamber for consideration of and vote in relation to a larger piggery being established on land owned by a member of Clarence Valley Council staff.

In fact the participation of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor in this 5 to 3 vote allowed consent to be granted without further ado:

One would have thought that given the landowner is employed by council and both Crs. Simmons and Kingsley had previously declared an interest a mere ten weeks ago, as newly appointed mayor and deputy mayor they would have exercised an abundance of caution and again excused themselves from considering this item to avoid even a perception of potential bias in favour of the landowner.

Old habits are not necessarily good habits and I hope this newly-elected council will approach the matter of pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests with more diligence over the next four years.

Is "Yes, Minister" syndrome rampant in the Turnbull Government?

In the face of this……

The Guardian, 3 October 2016:

The Coalition, contrary to all perceptions, has been spending at an alarming rate. 

In 2012-13, the last full year of the previous Labor government, the ratio of government spending to GDP was 24.1%. 

In 2014-15, this had risen to 25.6% and, in 2015-16, it rose to 25.7% of GDP. 

The 1.6% of GDP blowout in spending between 2012-13 and 2015-16 is about $26bn and accounts for more than the blowout in the deficit from the time of the 2014 budget.

The deficit blowout fed into the level of government debt as it had to ramp up its borrowing to cover the ever growing shortfall.

Net government debt rose to $296.4bn at June 2016, up from $153bn in June 2013 just before the Coalition took power. 

As a share of GDP, net government debt has risen from 10% to 18%, just off the all-time high in the wake of the second world war. 

When the 2016 Myefo is released before year end, net government debt will be at a 60-year high and rising.

Gross government debt, according to the final budget outcome documents, rose to $420.4bn, or 25.5% of GDP, in June 2016. This is at the highest since 1971-72 when the Vietnam war effort was being funded.

And this......

The Australian Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee was informed on 19 October 2016 that all public health cost-cutting measures previously supported by the Turnbull Government are still being progressed as policy.

The Turnbull Government is doing this…..

The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 October 2016:

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spent an estimated $215,000 or more sending nearly two dozen senior bureaucrats from Canberra to Paris to attend an inhouse talkfest about ways to save money.

Fairfax Media can reveal the two day junket in September included business class return travel for all 23 DFAT officers.

They included John Philp, Australia's former ambassador to Afghanistan and current first assistant secretary of the consular and crisis management division and John Fisher, first assistant secretary of DFAT's corporate management division.

But the entourage, which was hosted for the two day conference by Australia's ambassador to France, Stephen Brady, included a departmental psychologist, a conduct and ethics manager, and a health and safety officer, according to a list of attendees obtained by Fairfax Media.

According to the Qantas website, the cheapest business class "saver" ticket to Paris costs $3800 one-way, indicating the group of 23 cost at least $175,000 in airfares alone for the 48-hour jaunt.

The group stayed at the four-star Mercure Paris Centre Eiffel Tower Hotel where standard rooms for mid-week business travellers start at $530 a night, according to booking websites…..

That figure does not include the as yet unknown cost of getting more than two dozen Europe-based diplomatic staff to Paris.

The conference, hosted at the Australian embassy just near the Eiffel Tower, was held to discuss a project known internally as "Redesign" and aimed at "streamlining work and improving efficiencies at posts in Europe", according to DFAT.

According to a source familiar with the September 7 to 9 conference, some Australian-based participants wondered why the conference could not have been held via a cheaper and perhaps more agile fashion like video conferencing…..

Thursday, 20 October 2016

STATE OF PLAY: Gun importation regulations in Australia and why we are all still vulnerable to the decisions of week-kneed politicians

On 18 October 2016 Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament and the nation that:

Under the current national firearms agreement, lever action shotguns are category A. There has been a move on the COAG committee of justice ministers to have those guns reclassified, which we have supported. Because agreement has not been reached, we put in place an import ban, which expired in August this year, so we have renewed it and we have renewed it indefinitely. What that means, of course, is that—…..

It is not a temporary ban. It is permanent. It is set in stone. It can be amended, but it is there—like any import ban. If the honourable member is seriously interested in the safety of Australians, as I trust we all are, let me explain. Firearms are classified under the national firearms agreement as category A, B, C or D. Category A guns are relatively readily able to be acquired. For category B you need to nominate a specific purpose, like primary production. Firearms in categories C and D are very, very difficult to obtain, and appropriately so. So the debate that is being conducted and has not yet been agreed between the state jurisdictions, who of course have the regulation of firearms, is whether and how the Adler seven-shot lever action gun should be classified. What my government has done is to ensure that no Adler lever action guns with more than five rounds can be imported in any category. They cannot be imported at all….

What we have done is put a stop on it. The fact is that we stand by the national firearms agreement. We want to see it stronger. We are supporting that with an import ban. We are proud of the achievements of John Howard. The action of the opposition in trying to use this as a distraction is a disgrace…..

I tell you that ban will remain in place until such time as there is a satisfactory reclassification of these guns by the COAG committee. That was the purpose of the ban when we first put it in place; that was the purpose when we renewed it. We stand by our commitment for the public safety of Australians.

On 8 August 2016 the Turnbull Government had given effect to the latest version of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956.

These regulations state in part:

Note:       The public interest test under item 8A of Part 1 and the national interest test under item 8B of Part 1 apply in relation to the importation of all the articles to which this Part applies (see subregulation 4F(1A))….

Detachable firearm magazine, having a capacity of more than 5 rounds, for:
(a) semi‑automatic shotguns; or
(b) pump‑action shotguns; or
(c)  fully automatic shotguns;
whether or not attached to a firearm.
The importation must comply with at least 1 of the following tests:
(a) the official purposes test;
(b) the specified person test;
(c) the specified purposes test;
(d) the returned goods test;
(e) the dealer test.

Despite Prime Minister Turnbull's assertion that the Adler A110 shotgun cannot be imported, it appears that there is no longer an absolute ban in place provided any specific application to import this lever action shotgun can meet at least two of seven tests.

Rather alarmingly under the public and national interest tests in the regulations Turnbull refers to, Attorney-General George Brandis may give written permission to import these lethal weapons (which fire a bullet per second) based on his interpretation of public and national interests and the weapon being properly registered/authorized and safely secured once in the country.

Additionally he may certify in writing that in his or her opinion it is in the public interest that responsibility for a permission or a refusal of a permission specified in the certificate should reside solely with the Attorney‑General and should not be reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Mr. Turnbull was careful to avoid the question of how easily the Adler shotgun with less than a five round magazine can be legally converted after importation into an 11 round lever action shotgun. Something which has reportedly been occurring since the Abbott Government first allowed importation of the 4-round version of this shotgun.

Today the NSW Baird Government will consider reclassifying both four and seven-round Adler shotguns to make them more available to shooters, who as a lobby group appear to harbour the strange notion that firearm ownership in this country should be covered by Amendment II of The Constitution of the United States.

Tomorrow 21 October 2016 the eight state and territory police and justice ministers are expected to consider the ban at a scheduled meeting.

Given the lack of spine displayed by politicians these days I am not expecting that public safety will receive more than lip service in any decision they make on the day.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2016:

Tony Abbott has publicly criticised Malcolm Turnbull's failure to rule out trading away elements of Australia's gun laws in exchange for crossbench support for its key industrial relations legislation.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm said on Tuesday the government had reneged on a deal to end the ban on importing the controversial Adler lever-action shotgun into Australia. 

Senator Leyonhjelm warned he wouldn't vote to reinstate the government's construction industry watchdog unless Mr Turnbull agreed to allow the gun to be imported into Australia.

Labor moved to suspend standing orders in the House of Representatives, emboldened by comments from Mr Abbott over the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation.

"Disturbing to see reports of horse-trading on gun laws. ABCC should be supported on its merits," Mr Abbott wrote.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the Liberal Party of entertaining "grubby deals" on gun laws and said reforms championed by former Liberal prime minister John Howard in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre shouldn't be watered down.

The Abbott government had previously agreed to allow the importation of the gun later in 2016, in exchange for Senator Leyonhjelm's support on migration issues.

A deal to introduce a sunset clause came as a review of technical elements of the National Firearms Agreement was under way.

But a temporary ban on the gun was extended before expiring in July.

In August 2015, Senator Leyonhjelm bragged to the Senate about blackmailing the government into adding the 12-month sunset clause to the Adler ban, claiming bureaucrats advising Justice Minister Michael Keenan were incompetent and too closely aligned to an anti-guns agenda. 

The man behind plans to import the Turkish-made gun is Robert Nioa, the son-in-law of Queensland independent MP Bob Katter. 

@CroweDM @ljayes, 18 October 2016
Click on images to enlarge

In 2013-14 115,827 modern guns were imported into Australia, by 2014-15 109,994 modern guns were recorded as coming into the country and in 2015-16 the figure was 104,000 firearms imported.

According to The Conversation on 28 April 2016 there are now an additional 1,026,000 firearms in private hands since the government gun recall after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre and, the total number of registered guns in Australia are in the hands of only est. 6.2 per cent of all households.

It's spring and the smell of entitlement is thick in the air......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 October 2016:

At least four Liberal MPs thrown out by voters at the July federal election have picked up plum jobs as taxpayer-funded advisers to their former colleagues. 
Senate President Stephen Parry revealed in Senate estimates hearings on Monday that he had hired his former Tasmanian colleague, Eric Hutchinson, for a newly-created role in his office.

Mr Hutchinson could be paid up to $160,000 a year including superannuation, depending on his grading. 

Fairfax Media can also reveal that Matt Williams and Karen McNamara, who were both defeated at the July poll, have been employed as advisers by their former colleagues.

Mr Williams, who held the seat of Hindmarsh, is working as a policy adviser to fellow South Australian Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Education.

Ms McNamara, the former member for Dobell on the NSW Central Coast, is working as a part-time adviser to NSW senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

A spokeswoman for Senator Fierravanti-Wells said Ms McNamara, a former lawyer, was advising the minister on seasonal worker policy.

Former Eden Monaro MP Peter Hendy was hired by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as his chief economist after losing the marginal seat.

The practice of "warehousing" - which sees former MPs employed as advisers before making another run for office -  has been used by both sides of politics…..