Sunday, 11 December 2016

Community anger over South Grafton asbestos contamination not allayed by public meeting

On Thursday 1 December 2016 Clarence Valley Council held a public meeting on the subject of its asbestos removal strategy during site remediation prior to re-development of the site as a 'super depot'.
Asbestos removal will reportedly add an est. $2.5 million to the re-development $13.3 million cost. 
The Daily Examiner, 5 December 2016, Clarence Valley Council depot site plan
The Daily Examiner, letter to the editor, 5 December 2016, p.12:

Inquiry needed

Last night I attended a meeting at the Clarence Valley Council chambers, where the public was invited to be updated about the asbestos that has been uncovered at the site of the new council depot in Tyson St.

The overwhelming emotion at the meeting was one of anger, as council's director of works attempted to explain away what many see as criminal culpability.

Last year, council management was warned by a former employee that over a long period of time broken asbestos material had been buried at the site. However, rather than properly address the issue, council opted to deny there was any problem, accusing those who spoke up on the matter of being trouble-makers, scaremongers and liars.

In an attempt to quell rising concern, council instructed a firm of specialists to undertake investigations at the site. However, those instructions were to test samples from stockpiles, omitting any request to search for buried material.

Of course nothing was found, which allowed council to release a media statement which your newspaper reported (March 8), under the banner headline "Council depot site clear of asbestos".

That story contained the unequivocal statement that: "Further testing of the site has reinforced earlier findings saying it poses no risk from asbestos."

Ultimately, of course, some two weeks after excavation work had commenced, asbestos was uncovered, and during those two weeks dust was observed rising from the works, while high school students carried on activities as usual just across the fence. Nearby residents also reported the dust settling on their homes and yards.

The general public learned of the asbestos discovery with the release of papers for council's November meeting, where we read the extraordinary admission that, "A quantity of asbestos containing material was always expected to be encountered on-site" - finally acknowledging that they knew it was there all the time.

The acknowledgement that they deliberately misled the public, potentially exposing residents and many hundreds of students to deadly asbestos is, in my opinion, criminal.

After discovering asbestos at the site, workers began sieving and stockpiling what the EPA later confirmed is contaminated material. The fact that the EPA didn't inspect the site until almost two weeks after the asbestos was uncovered should also be investigated.

During those two weeks, there was no public statement made, no warning signs were erected, and contrary to assurances by council that nearby property owners and the high school had been told, many residents claimed they had received no such advice.

An assurance at the meeting that air quality is now being monitored, and that levels of whatever is floating around in the air are within guidelines, is hardly comforting, and there was no explanation of what particulate matter is being inhaled by those unfortunate enough to live or study in close proximity to the works.

One thing is certain, that anger will remain until digging up more polluted material is halted, the contaminated material is safely removed as required under the law, and a full inquiry held into how this whole shameful debacle was ever allowed to occur.

John Edwards

The Daily Examiner, 5 December 2016:

WORK on the Clarence Valley Council's $13 million super depot should stop immediately following the discovery of about 900kg of bonded asbestos on the site, say South Grafton residents.

At a public meeting on Thursday, called to discuss the issue, South Grafton resident Mark Butler said work should cease until further extensive testing on the site was done.

Mr Butler, who can see the depot 500m from his house in Moorehead Dr, said there needed to be deep core drilling of the entire site to discover the amount of asbestos that had been dumped on the site.

He described the initial testing as flawed because it was only done on selected parts of the site.

"Basically the council was saying drill here, drill there and, when they didn't find anything, they went ahead with it," Mr Butler said.

"But anecdotally lots of people knew there had been asbestos dumped at the site for more than 40 years.

"And now they've been proven right."

Mr Butler said the council should consider closing the site and completely sealing it, if it turned out there was more asbestos there than had been uncovered.

"Basically (the) council does not know what's there and, until they do, they should stop work and do more testing to find out.

"There's always been problems with the way the council pushed this depot through, but we've got to this point.

"Now they have to make sure what they do from now on does not create a medical emergency."

Mr Butler was critical of the way the council ran the public meeting, but said it did give residents a chance to have their say.

"The feeling I got was the council was trying to control it and tried to shut down any difficult questions," Mr Butler said.

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons was at the meeting and shared the concerns of residents, especially the worries about the proximity to South Grafton High School.

"At least we should look at stopping work until the start of the school holidays," Cr Simmons said.

The mayor was also surprised to learn the contractors, Hutchinsons Builders, had not installed air monitoring stations beyond the boundaries of the site on the corner of Rushforth Rd and Tyson St.

"I don't understand why they haven't done that," he said.

However, Cr Simmons was confident the contractors had the expertise to deal with the find.

Cr Simmons said the absence of the Environmental Protection Agency from the meeting had concerned him.

"I understand they had their reasons ... but I plan to get in contact with them," he said.

He was also surprised spokespeople from other government agencies, like WorkSafe, did not have more input at the meeting.

The mayor said the council owned the site and was obliged to remediate it.

"We would have had to fix it up whether or not there was a depot going on it," he said.

"There was a lot of emotion at that meeting, perhaps rightly so.

"Council needs to address their concerns about the asbestos on the site and also the dust which is blowing onto the properties."


WorkCover NSW, Fact Sheet, Bonded Asbestos:


When asbestos fibres are bonded to another material, such as a cement or resin binder, it is known as bonded asbestos. It cannot be crumbled, pulverised or reduced to a powder by hand pressure when dry. Common uses in buildings include: flat (fibro), corrugated or compressed asbestos-cement (AC) sheeting; water, drainage and flue pipes and floor tiles.

If fire, hail, or illegal water blasting damages bonded asbestos, it may become friable asbestos material. A WorkCover licensed friable asbestos removalist must always carry out the removal of friable asbestos. They must also obtain a site-specific permit from WorkCover to carry out this type of work.

A WorkCover asbestos licence is required to remove 10 square metres or more of bonded asbestos (the size of a small bathroom). The reduction will result in more situations where a licence is required to remove bonded asbestos in NSW. The requirements for friable asbestos are unchanged….

A licence holder with a bonded asbestos removal licence can remove any amount of bonded asbestos provided they notify WorkCover at least seven days before commencing work. Bonded asbestos licence holders are not allowed to remove, repair or disturb any amount of friable asbestos.

Clarence Valley Independent, 9 November 2016:

The map provided to John Edwards, which purports to be a representation of a map given to Clarence Valley Council (CVC) by a former employee, who raised concerns that broken asbestos pipes were dumped within the top red circle and in other areas (not marked) at the site of the new CVC depot at South Grafton. Image: Contributed.

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has released a map that marks where asbestos was allegedly buried at the site of the new ‘super’ depot under construction at Tyson Street, South Grafton.

The Clarence Environment Centre’s John Edwards was given the map after an appeal against CVC’s rejection of his formal GIPA (Government Information (Public Access)).

A former employee alerted the council, last year, regarding his concerns that fill placed at the site following the decommissioning of the sewerage treatment plant (STP) may have included broken asbestos pipes.

The man told the Independent that he had given the original map to council; and his main concern was the STP’s former sludge lagoon, which is marked on the map given to Mr Edwards.

The former employee said the lagoon was filled over an 18-month to two-year period in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

He said many truckloads of fill, which may have included broken concrete asbestos pipes, building waste and other rubble, were put into the hole, which was then covered with “two to three foot of top soil”…..

Looking at the various public documents – the site’s remediation action plan and supplementary soil investigations prepared by consultants WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff – it’s not clear where or how deep test holes/pits were dug.

A letter and map advising of supplementary soil investigations does not appear to concur with an email (obtained via Mr Edward’s GIPA) from the council’s water cycle manager, Greg Mashiah, to WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Mr Mashiah’s email requests that “four additional test pits to be sampled; 2 in each circle”, which are marked in red with a cross on the supplied map – the one beneath the ‘former sludge pond’ was concerned with possible buried jars of mercury…..

Is it time to abandon Facebook?

We’ve all heard about “fake news” and how it now pervades our daily life.

What we are not always aware of is how social media sites like Facebook aggregate the news to focus on what our browsing history tells it we may like and, how it indiscriminately serves up these fake sites as genuine news in the feeds it presents online.

Fake news sites are not satire or comedy - they have been deliberately created to sway public opinion and voted intention.

As The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 2 December  2016:

Here's the thing: Facebook is using an algorithm to provide you "news" that it thinks you want to see. So, if Facebook has identified you as someone who supports Trump, it will pump in things like this deceptively-edited clip that you will, almost certainly, take as gospel truth. You likely won't dig deeper into the story to make sure that the clip is legit; it affirms your view that Obama and Democrats are bad and are encouraging illegal behaviour and, therefore, requires no checking.  It's literally too good to check.

This creates a dangerous echo chamber during periods of social or political unrest and even during run-of-the-mill election campaigns.

The mainstream media – now bereft of the financial and journalistic manpower resources in had in former times to explore or fully investigate issues often becomes part of that echo chamber.

Thus we find the likes of Anthony John Abbott and Donald John Trump (who were either enthusiastically promoted in the media or not critically evaluated sufficiently) elected to the most powerful positions in their respective countries.

I have to honestly say that in my opinion Facebook since its inception has been the worst offender when it comes to promoting extreme right-wing or downright fascist politicians, falsely labelled lobby groups and fake news sites.

To date Facebook’s alleged response to public criticism of its news algorithm has been less than effective.

I suggest that Australian readers of online news who wish to keep abreast of genuine domestic and international news reports avoid Facebook until Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates he is serious about delivering legitimate news on his social media platform.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Friday, 9 December 2016

The need for bee protection recognized, 29 November 2016:

After the two-year moratorium on three types of neonicotinoid pesticides, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) this month issued an unfavourable opinion on two of the chemicals, for uses that are still authorised. EurActiv’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

Following EFSA’s conclusions confirming the toxicity of neonicotinoids for pollinators, the European Commission issued a moratorium on three chemicals: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. This moratorium expired in December 2015 and is currently being reviewed at European level.

But the scope of the suspension was narrow. It only applied to the treatment of seeds or soils for crops that are attractive to bees (except greenhouse crops and winter cereals) and the spraying of crops that attract the pollinators (except post-flowering and greenhouse crops).

According to a new opinion issued by EFSA, several uses of two of these chemicals (clothianidin and imidacloprid, produced by Bayer), including the treatment of winter cereals, still pose significant threats to pollinators such as bees and bumblebees. Only the report on thiametoxam is still to be delivered, and a similar conclusion is expected.

The two-year European moratorium (2013-2015) is currently under review, and these latest opinions from EFSA could lead to the implementation of a total ban. An outcome supported by the European Pesticide Action Network (PAN), which says these products are “near the end”.

France’s biodiversity bill, published in August, foresees a complete ban on neonicotinoids in September 2018, with possible derogations until 2020.

Chronic exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides has been linked to reduced survival of pollinating insects at both the individual and colony level, but so far only experimentally. Analyses of large-scale datasets to investigate the real-world links between the use of neonicotinoids and pollinator mortality are lacking. Moreover, the impacts of neonicotinoid seed coatings in reducing subsequent applications of foliar insecticide sprays and increasing crop yield are not known, despite the supposed benefits of this practice driving widespread use. Here, we combine large-scale pesticide usage and yield observations from oilseed rape with those detailing honey bee colony losses over an 11 year period, and reveal a correlation between honey bee colony losses and national-scale imidacloprid (a neonicotinoid) usage patterns across England and Wales.

The Australasian Beekeeper, 30 August 2016:

Honey bee populations in Australia are in crisis. The numbers of bees under the care of commercial honey producers are at an all time low. Commercial beekeepers wintering losses of thirty per cent are now accepted as the norm, according to Des Cannon, Editor of The ABK. Bee diseases have never been more prevalent in Australia. Every commercial beekeeper is battling disease and this battle is a full time job. A battle fought by beekeepers alone at the expense of their own time and money.

Eight out of ten (or more) commercial beekeepers are reliant on antibiotic to keep their bees alive. The choice is between dosing or death. Contamination of honey with antibiotic is a live issue. Yet the Australian government, honey packers and pesticide companies have not acknowledged the battle our beekeepers are fighting. In fact, it is a massive cover up. If we haven’t got a problem, we can’t fix it.

The frontline brandished by government, honey packers and pesticide companies to defer any concern for the honeybee is that ‘the Australian honeybee is not in decline, despite the increased use of this group of insecticides [sic. neonicotinoids] in agriculture and horticulture since the mid 1990’s’. This statement was taken from the ‘Overview Report, Neonicotinoids and the health of honeybees in Australia’, 2014, published by the APVMA, author Les Davis1. An unfounded statement and simplistic argument, contrary to the anecdotal evidence of beekeepers Australia wide. Estimates of hive numbers alone are not a true barometer of the health of Australian bees, the old law is ‘breed bees or gather honey’. Beekeepers today are faced with a situation of constantly see-sawing hive numbers as hives collapse and are supported back to health. Most hives in Australia right now are way down on bee numbers. Len Walker of Inverell, the head of one of Australia’s most experienced beekeeping families, claims fifty per cent losses of hives in his country. He states that a real sign of the present weakened bee populations is the fact that bees need to be checked for strength prior to going onto almonds.

Despite the government asserting good bee health in Australia, estimates of bee populations published by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and cited by the APVMA in correspondence to me still show a decline in managed hives. From 2006-2007 to 2014 there was a decline of 81,765 hives2. This makes the statement that ‘Australian honeybee populations are not in decline’ from the APVMA 2014 Neonicotinoid report a sham, if not a shame.

The European Union, Canada and the United States of America have partially or completely banned neonicotinoids based on a mounting body of scientific concern. The Australian government at least concedes the likelihood of complex sublethal effects of neonicotinoids, yet has not taken a stand on the use of neonics, which should be the underpinnings of any environmental management.

This begs the question to whose interests are the government vested in? The long-term sustainability of our beekeeping industry and food security or the dollar interest of pesticide corporations? Pesticide corporations continue to have a field day in Australia at the expense of our honeybees and beekeepers’ pockets.

There are over 900 scientific, peer-reviewed studies globally indicating that neonics are having severe negative effects on pollinators and suggesting regulatory agencies apply principles of prevention and precaution to all neonicotinoids.

The European Academies Science Advisory Council (April 2015)3, World Integrated Assessment advisory committee (Jan 2015)4 and the Belgian Superior Health Council (June 2016)5 have all reached the same conclusion through comprehensive reviews of independent and industry sponsored science. Furthermore they state that there are gaps in the science examining the complexity of ecosystem-wide sublethal effects. They raise concerns for the persistence, mobility and water solubility of neonicotinoids and call for a review of the adequacy of current toxic reference levels upon which the ‘safety’ of neonics are being reasoned3,4,5. Resultant is an EU wide ban of thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid. And the EU continues to review these pesticides and tighten regulations for all neonicotinoids. Montreal, Canada called a total moratorium on the use of all neonicotinoids on December 10, 2015. The irrefutable consensus is that neonics harm the honeybee. So why is Australia so far behind the rest of the world?......

In Australia neonicotinoids are everywhere. They are the most widely used pesticides. It is important to understand the way neonicotinoids operate within ecosystems and the neurological system of the honeybee to understand the full threat of these pesticides. What we are up against are chemicals that have insidious sublethal and complicated effects on bees and these effects are difficult to assess.

The honeybee is a highly social insect and relies on complex communication and navigational skills for foraging behaviour and hive survival. Previous studies have examined individual field behaviour only. But it is the ‘system’ aspect that needs to be observed9,10. Neonics disrupt and incapacitate the honeybee’s abilities to communicate and navigate; as a result the critical function at the colony level is damaged and breaks down6. Bees require a lot of grooming within the hive to survive. The last thing you feel like doing when you are sick is brushing your wife’s hair.

Neonicotinoids are completely water soluble and biologically persistent with a half-life of 19 years in heavy soil16. Seeds coated with neonicotinoid will contain the pesticide throughout the grown plant. The honeybee is routinely and chronically exposed to neonicotinoids by consuming pollen, guttation drops, nectar and honeydew11,13.

Treated seeds contains the highest concentrations of neonicotinoids. The broadscale use of neonics to coat seed rather than the discriminatory use of these pesticides as a last resort has become common practice in Australia, a practice banned in the EU and criticised widely3,4,5. The amount required for sublethal effects is three parts per billion. This equates to a pin prick divided many times in the bottom of a litre bottle. The coating on one clover seed in a litre of water is enough to kill your hive. The neonicotinoid on one coated corn seed is enough to kill 80,000 bees. One individual canola seed may contain 1 milligram of active ingredient4,13,14,16,18.

You may need to wonder about the water soluble neonicotinoid coating on hundreds of thousands of canola seeds after two inches of rain. Bees drink a lot of water. And where are your bees drinking from? Everyone has seen bees lined up around pools of muddy water in the canola paddocks. This is a main entrance into your beehives15.

Partial restrictions on neonics to crops that bees aren’t attracted to are futile due to the solubility of these compounds. Corridors and verges of native flora adjacent to agricultural lands (Ti-tree species near sugar-cane, and turnip weed as particularly important examples) are contaminated with neonic pesticides. The contamination from agricultural land is so far widespread, affecting underground water tables, wetlands, creeks and river systems and binding to soils4,15…….


And so the downward spiral continues.........


30 November 2016
Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016

The Turnbull Government has secured support from all states and territories for the High Risk Terrorist Offenders Bill.
The Australian Government, backed by all states and territories, has accepted all 24 recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), including that the Bill be passed.
The Bill, including amendments, will return for debate in the Senate today and is expected to pass the Parliament this week.
This Bill further strengthens Australia's national security laws and counter-terrorism framework by enabling continued detention of terrorist offenders who present an unacceptable risk to the community at the end of their custodial sentences.
For this to happen, a Supreme Court would need to be satisfied to a high degree of probability, on the basis of admissible evidence, that the offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorism offence if released into the community.
Implementing the Committee's recommendations will enhance operational safeguards and ensure adequate and effective oversight.
As recommended by the Committee, the Government has developed an Implementation Plan. This includes further detail on, and timeframes for, the key operational elements of the scheme, such as developing risk assessment tools and detention arrangements for offenders. This is being done in close consultation with the states and territories.
Amendments made to the Bill include:
  • when sentencing an offender convicted under any of the provisions of the Criminal Code to which the continuing detention scheme applies, the sentencing court must warn the offender that an application for continuing detention could be considered;
  • the application for a continuing detention order, or review of a continuing detention order, must include a copy of any material in the possession of the Attorney-General or any statements of facts that the Attorney-General is aware of that would reasonably be regarded as supporting a finding that an order should not be made;
  • the continuing detention scheme must be subject to a sunset period of 10 years after the day the Bill receives Royal Assent;
  • the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) must complete a review of the continuing detention scheme five years after the day the Bill receives Royal Assent; and
  • the PJCIS must review the continuing detention scheme six years after the day the Bill receives Royal Assent.
The Government thanks the Committee for its valuable bipartisan work.
The Government also thanks the states and territories for their ongoing partnership with the Commonwealth in protecting the community from terrorism.
The PJCIS Report is available on the Report PDF page of the Parliament of Australia website.
The Implementation Plan is available on the Implementation plan page of the Parliament of Australia website.

Recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the Government's response

Government Response
The Committee recommends that, following the consideration of the other recommendations listed in this Report, the Government obtains legal advice from the Solicitor-General, or equivalent, on the final form of the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016.
The Committee recommends that proposed section 105A.3 in the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to remove from the scope of offences section 80(B) of the Criminal Code, which refers to treason.
The Committee recommends that proposed section 105A.3 in the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to remove from the scope of offences subsections 119.7(2) and (3) of the Criminal Code, which refer to publishing recruitment advertisements.
The Committee recommends that the Explanatory Memorandum to the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to clarify the interaction between parole and bail provisions, and make explicit that:
  • a person is not eligible for parole if that person is subject to a continuing detention order,
  • a person detained for the purposes of giving effect to a continuing detention order is not entitled to seek bail, and
  • a person subject to a continuing detention order and charged with a further offence is entitled to make an application for bail for that offence.
The Committee recommends that the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to provide that an application for a continuing detention order may be commenced up to 12 months (rather than six months) prior to the completion of an offender's sentence, in order to provide all parties additional time to prepare and for the offender to seek legal representation.
The Committee recommends that, to avoid a potential ambiguity, proposed section 105A.8 of the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to make clear that the rules of evidence apply to the matters the Court is required to have regard to in its decision as to whether the terrorist offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorism offence if released into the community.
The Committee recommends that the Explanatory Memorandum to the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to provide greater clarity to the definition of ‘relevant expert' in proposed section 105A.2. This should include examples of persons who may potentially fall within the category ‘any other expert' at item (d) of the definition.
The Committee recommends that proposed sub section 105A.6(7) of the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to replace the word ‘must' with ‘may' so that the expert's report may include the matters listed in paragraphs (a) to (h).
The Committee recommends that the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 and Explanatory Memorandum be amended to make explicit that each party is able to bring forward their preferred relevant expert, or experts, and that the Court will then determine the admissibility of each expert's evidence.
The Committee recommends that the Explanatory Memorandum to the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to make explicit that a Court may appoint a relevant expert at any point during continuing detention order proceedings.
The Committee recommends that the Explanatory Memorandum to the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to make explicit that an offender is to be provided in a timely manner with information to be relied on in an application for a continuing detention order.
The Committee recommends that the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended so that if an offender, through no fault of his or her own, is unable to obtain legal representation:
  • the Court has the explicit power to stay proceedings for a continuing detention order, and
  • the Court is empowered to make an order for reasonable costs to be funded to enable the offender to obtain legal representation.
The Committee recommends that the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to require documents related to a continuing detention order to be given to the offender's legal representative. If the offender does not have a legal representative, the documents may be delivered to the chief executive officer of the offender's prison as currently provided for in the Bill.
The Committee recommends that the Explanatory Memorandum to the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to clarify what is proposed by a ‘rehearing' as set out in proposed section 105A.17, namely
  • what matters may be considered within a rehearing, and
  • the types of circumstances that would constitute ‘special grounds' to allow new evidence to be introduced during a rehearing.
The Committee recommends that the Government clarify the process for the initiation of a periodic review of a continuing detention order in the Explanatory Memorandum, and, if necessary, in the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016.
The Committee recommends that, for the avoidance of doubt, the Government should amend Division 104 of the Criminal Code to make explicit that a control order can be applied for and obtained while an individual is in prison, but that the controls imposed by that order would not apply until the person is released.
The Committee further recommends that the Government consider whether the existing control order regime could be further improved to most effectively operate alongside the proposed continuing detention order regime. Any potential changes should be developed in time to be considered as part of the reviews of the control order legislation to be completed by the INSLM by 7 September 2017 and the PJCIS by 7 March 2018.
The Committee recommends that the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be amended to require a Court, when sentencing an offender convicted under any of the provisions of the Criminal Code that apply to the continuing detention order regime, to warn the offender that an application for post-sentence detention could be considered.
The Committee recommends that the continuing detention order regime be subject to an initial sunset period that expires 10 years after passage of the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016.
The Committee recommends that the Intelligence Services Act 2001 be amended to require the PJCIS to complete a review of the continuing detention order regime at Division 105A of the Criminal Code six years after passage of the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016.
The Committee recommends that the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010 be amended to require the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor to complete a review of the continuing detention order regime at Division 105A of the Criminal Code five years after passage of the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016.
The Committee recommends that the Government appoint a new Independent National Security Legislation Monitor as soon as possible.
The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General provide the Committee with a clear development and implementation plan that includes timeframes to assist detailed consideration of the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016. This plan should be provided prior to the second reading debate in the Senate.
The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General provide the Committee a timetable for implementation of any outstanding matters being considered by the Implementation Working Group by 30 June 2017. The Attorney-General's report should include information about:
  • the general categorisation and qualifications of relevant experts,
  • the development and validation of risk assessment tools,
  • conditions of detention, including any agreements reached with States and Territories on housing arrangements, and
  • progress in adapting the existing oversight mechanisms for use in the continuing detention order regime.
The report should also include any other matters relevant to implementation of the regime.
The Committee recommends that, following implementation of the recommendations in this report, the Criminal Code Amendment (High Risk Terrorist Offenders) Bill 2016 be passed.

This bill was read for the third time in the Senate on 1 December 2016 will now become law sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

How the Clarence Valley council rates and charges fight played out at the end of 2016

It would be foolish to think that the issue of Clarence Valley Council rates and charges has been permanently settled since the local government election in September this year.

The constant pressure of cost-shifting by state and federal governments means that regional councils in particular are prone to financial stress.

The fact that during previous elected terms Council in the Chamber appears to have agreed to expenditure which exacerbated this situation is regrettable but remains something that has to be faced. 

I await the beginning of the 2017 local government year with interest.

The current state of play……

The Daily Examiner, 19 October 2016:

NEW Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons has used his casting vote twice to ensure his council applied for a special rate variation.

At Tuesday's council meeting a Mayoral Minute calling for an organisation review of the council and a general manager's report outlining a Fit for the Future Improvement Plan and Special Rate Variation were fiercely debated.

The Mayoral minute ostensibly called for the appointment of a consultant to review the council's organisation, but quickly moved to debate on the SRV.

In his minute the mayor said the council needed make an application for an SRV in case it becomes necessary once the review was completed.

In debate he repeatedly stressed this was not an application for an SRV. He said this could only happen at budget time in June next year.

But for some councillors the SRV was totally off limits.

Councillors Peter Ellem and Greg Clancy said they would not vote in favour of any motion in favour of an SRV.

And Cr Andrew Baker said an SRV was an admission the council was not prepared to do the hard work in balancing the budget.

The voting was Crs Jason Kingsley, Richie Williamson, Arthur Lysaught and Jim Simmons in favour.
Against: Crs Baker, Ellem, Clancy and Debrah Novak.

The Daily Examiner, 1 December 2016:

CLARENCE Valley Council has missed its State Government-imposed deadline to submit a plan to show it will become Fit for the Future.

At an extraordinary meeting in Maclean yesterday, councillors voted down a staff-prepared proposal which included an application for a 9% special rates variation.

The deadline for the council to submit its proposal to the Office of Local Government was midnight last night, which the council general manager Scott Greensill said could not be met.

The gallery was filled with council staff, who came to see the outcome, which according to information in the report to the meeting could result in the loss of 63 jobs at the council over the next nine years.

Mayor Jim Simmons, who spoke in favour of the plan, used his casting vote to defeat the proposal.

His reasoning was that a councillor missing from the meeting, Cr Greg Clancy, was a strong opponent of the SRV proposal.

"This proposal would only be voted down at the next meeting in December, so I will vote against it now," he said.

Cr Andrew Baker foreshadowed a lengthy nine-point motion during question time. An amendment from Cr Karen Toms reduced this to eight points when he agreed to remove a section relating to council's tourism services.

This became the motion on the defeat of the officer's recommendation……

Cr Peter Ellem supported Cr Baker's motion.

He said the opposition to it was coming from a rump of the former council and council staff who had failed to listen adequately to the new members of council and the public.

He said the job losses and figures in the report were designed to scare councillors into voting in favour of an SRV, which he said the community could not afford.

That final Council resolution set out below is one that was amended by Williamson/Lysaught during the preceding motion vote which occurred sometime between 3.10pm and 4.06pm.

The Mayor adjourned the meeting at 4.06 pm and resumed at 4.13 pm.


That Council:
1. Adopt a Fit for the Future Continual Compliance Policy for immediate implementation and a Nil-Deficit General Fund Budget Policy for 2017/18 and subsequent years with each General Fund Budget to encompass at least:
a. Operating Performance Ratio at or better than breakeven to satisfy Benchmark 1.
b. Building and Infrastructure Renewal at or better than 100% to meet or exceed Benchmark 3.
c. Infrastructure Backlog Ratio of 2% or less to satisfy Benchmark 5, after an initial utilization of
$17.7 million of own Capital Reserves is applied to infrastructure backlog reduction by the
actions required at 3 and 4 below.
d. Asset Maintenance Ratio of 100% or more to meet or exceed Benchmark 5.
e. Already-adopted efficiency measures, revenue increases, expenditure reductions and other
measures adopted for financial sustainability purposes.

2. Commence Fit for the Future Continuing Compliance immediately by:
a. Adjusting the 2016/17 adopted budget deficit by any amounts realised from the adoption of
this resolution and,
b. Adjusting current budget projections to include the results of a Business Case review of the
Depot Rationalisation Project that is to include current known costs and projections together
with the items at 7a, 7b and 7c below and with this revised business case to be reported to
Council February 2017 and,
c. Implementing the actions required in following Sections 3 to 8 inclusive.

3. Adopt a Fleet Financing Policy that requires all fleet renewals and acquisitions to be financed by external commercial financing where item cost is prorated monthly over the planned economic life of the asset.

4. Create an Infrastructure Backlog Accelerated Reduction Reserve of $17.7 million by the transfer of all of the Fleet Reserve Fund of $10 million or such other final amount when calculated and by additional capital to emerge from the adoption of the Fleet Financing Policy and:
a. Apply Internal Fleet Hire funds emerging from this Fleet Financing Policy estimated: $3.53m
remaining 6 months 2016/17, $3.33m 2017/18, $1.1 million 2018/19, $0.41 million 2019/20,
$0.14 million 2020/21 for an estimated total $8.6 million over 54 months and subject to final
calculation amount to be inserted here to firstly reach the $17.7 million required for the
Infrastructure Backlog Accelerated Reduction Reserve amount and then to apply to other
Benchmark shortfalls and,
b. Apply fleet disposal income funds emerging at end of economic life disposal of fleet items
estimated at $8 million over 48 to 60 months and subject to final calculation amount to be
inserted here to firstly reach the $17.7 million required for the Infrastructure Backlog
Accelerated Reduction Reserve amount and then to apply to other Benchmark shortfalls.

5. After accounting for the adopted forecast reductions that will result from depot rationalisation  natural attrition and other adopted efficiency savings measures, develop a workforce model that results in no nett reduction of adjusted workforce numbers with such model to be developed by inclusion of selected reductions to consultant and contract engagements in favour of maintaining at least current Council FTE workforce numbers.

6. Receive a report to the February 2017 Ordinary meeting and to subsequent meetings as necessary with such report to include:
a. Options and variations available for delivery of this resolution and,
b. Effects of implementation on subsequent budget forecasts and,
c. The capability and constraints of this resolution being implemented by existing Council
management expertise alone and,
d. The likely cost and benefit of further resolving the implementation of this resolution by the
engagement of external administration services.

7. Adopt a Business Case Reporting to Council Policy for pre-acquisition reporting on all proposed capital acquisitions of $100,000 or above to show all financial costs and benefits and alternatives if any with each report to include:
a. The Cost of Funds using best commercial borrowing rates available to Council at the time
b. The Cost of Funds using best commercial investment rates available to Council at the time
c. Any depreciation amounts attributable to the expected life of the acquisition.

8. Make a Fit for The Future Submission to the Office of Local Government showing the amended budget results and forecasts resulting from adoption of this resolution Sections 1 to 7 inclusive together with any other already-adopted future savings and revenue-increase measures to be implemented by Council to achieve financial sustainability.

Cr Williamson and Cr Lysaught left the meeting at 4.41 pm prior to the voting taking place. [my red bolding]

Voting recorded as follows
For: Simmons, Ellem, Novak, Toms, Baker
Against: Kingsley