Saturday, 25 June 2022

Quote of the Year

 

“In parliament house’s ministerial wing on Monday, shredding machines were working flat out, fragments of their massive output leaving a light snowstorm on the blue corridor carpet as it was carted away. Cardboard boxes had been delivered; enormous wheelie bins were everywhere. How many hours had gone into preparing and working on all those papers suddenly no longer needed, or needing quick and confidential disposal?”  [Michelle GrattanEveningReport.nz, 23 May 2022, on the subject of the former Morrison Government's departure from Parliament House of Australia]

 

Cartoons of the Week


Fiona Katauskas

David Rowe

John Shakespeare

 
Fiona Katauskas


Friday, 24 June 2022

Prime Minister Albanese & Environment Minister Plibersek need to urgently re-evaluate the former Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government policy as it pertains to native forestry agreements along the 100km wide & 1,973km long NSW mainland coastal zone

 

The EPA has fined the Forestry Corporation over a Coffs Coast logging operation. IMAGE: ABC News, 13 November 2013

















The Forestry Corporation of NSW is a state-owned corporation which has been 'managing' state forests for the last 106 years. Amongst other names, it has conducted business as Forestry Commission of New South WalesState Forests (NSW) and Forests NSW.


Currently this corporation appears to control approximately two million hectares of forested land (including est. 270,000 hectares set aside for commercial soft & hardwood plantations) and produces approximately 14 per cent of Australia's annual wood product. 


Marching hand in hand with the growth of Forestry Corporation of NSW has been a loss of native animals due to logging. 


Australia-wide such native forestry logging was calculated by the World Wildlife Fund as averaging 1.5 million native animal deaths a year between 1998-99 to 2005-06 and 2 million a year between 2006-07 to 2014-15According to NSW EPA State of the Environment ReportAs at 2020–21, 1,043 species and 115 ecological communities are listed as threatened under NSW legislation including 78 species declared extinct.


Much of the current business and operational practices put in place by Forestry Corporation of NSW rely on the three NSW Regional Forestry Agreements (RFAs) signed by the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth of Australia between 1999 and 2001 and amended/extended by successive federal Coalition governments with little thought to either the Commonwealth's existing legislated obligations or changing levels of risk to individual species or local/state-wide habitat range.


Many residents in Northern NSW consider the North East RFA which covers logging in the coastal area between Sydney and the Queensland border as particularly egregious. In part because it exempts logging in native forests from federal biodiversity law.


In my opinion the state-owned forestry corporation is a bad actor across the board. If one looks closely at how the NSW Government deals with its infractions, it is clear that the government of the day, a number of government agencies and Forestry Corporation of NSW have developed a bureaucratic and legal dance. A dance which allows the Corporation to ignore both its legislatively imposed restrictions and its social obligations to communities within the state's extensive coastal zone, in order to continue pursuing its commercial objectives by cavalierly logging native forests for maximum wood extraction and what looks suspiciously like frequently contrived minimum penalties.


Nature Conservation Council (NSW), media release, 20 June 2022:


Forestry Corp pinged for logging environmentally significant forests after the Black Summer bushfires


Just days after being fined $135,000 for destroying koala habitat on the mid-north coast, Forestry Corporation now faces charges it illegally logged a Category 1 Environmentally Significant Area in the Yambulla State Forest after the Black Summer Bushfires. [1]


While the charges are yet to be proven, the fact the EPA launched this prosecution rings alarm bells,” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said.


On Friday, Forestry Corp was fined for wiping out significant koala habitat. [2] On Monday they are being prosecute for logging forests that were ruled out of bounds after the fires.


What more evidence does the government need before it orders a comprehensive independent review of Forestry Corporation to ensure it acts lawfully and sustainably?”


In this latest action, the EPA alleges Forestry Corp breached conditions imposed to aid the recovery of the Yambulla State Forest near Eden after the 2019-20 bushfires.


The EPA says that between March and July 2020, Forestry Corp contractors logged 53 trees in a Category 1 Environmentally Significant Area in the Yambulla State Forest.


EPA Acting Executive Director Regulatory Operations Greg Sheehy said the EPA imposed these Site-Specific Operating Conditions to protect areas in forests of environmental importance that were less affected by the fires.


Mr Sheehy said in a statement released by the EPA:


Bushland along our South Coast was severely damaged by the devastating fires, and the EPA established additional protections for bushfire affected forests like the Yambulla State Forest in order to limit further harm


These conditions were imposed to prevent FCNSW harvesting trees in areas considered environmentally significant that were less damaged or completely untouched by the fires.


The additional protections, applied to certain forests in NSW were designed to help wildlife and biodiversity recover in key regions.


These laws protect areas in our forests that may be home to important shelters and food resources for local wildlife or unique native plants.”


Last Friday, Forestry Corp was fined $135,600 fine for destroying koala habitat and ordered to pay $150,000 of the EPA’s legal cost.


As Forestry Corp is a company owned wholly by the NSW Government, the fines will ultimately be paid by NSW taxpayers.


REFERENCES


[1] FCNSW in court for alleged breaches of 2019/20 bushfire harvest rules, EPA, 20 June 2022


[2] Fines will never replace critical koala habitat destroyed by Forestry Corporation, 16-6-22, NCC


In 2018 Forestry Corporation NSW committed a series of offences between April and November of that year.


Prosecution of these offences did not begin until 2020 and culminated in a two day hearing in June 2022.


NSW Environmental Protection Agency (NSW EPA), media release, 16 June 2022:


Forestry Corporation NSW fined for forestry activities near Coffs Harbour


Fines and costs totalling $285,600 have been levelled against Forestry Corporation NSW (FCNSW) after the Land and Environment Court found tree felling in exclusion zones had done “actual harm” to koala habitat in Wild Cattle Creek Forest near Coffs Harbour.


The Land and Environment Court handed down a fine of $135,600 and ordered FCNSW to pay the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA)’s legal and investigation costs of $150,000 after FCNSW pleaded guilty to four charges brought by the EPA.


EPA Executive Director Regulatory Operations Carmen Dwyer said the prosecution sent a clear message to the forestry industry and operators.


All forestry operators have a responsibility to protect the environment and comply with the law when carrying out tree harvesting activities,” Ms Dwyer said.


Breaches of the forestry laws will be investigated and those responsible will be held to account.”


The felling was carried out by FCNSW contractors in 2018.


Two charges were for the felling of trees in protected rainforest areas, a third charge was for the felling of two trees in an exclusion zone around warm temperate rainforest, and the fourth was for felling four trees and other forestry activities in a Koala Exclusion Zone.


The non-compliant activities carried out in the Koala Exclusion Zone attracted the largest fine of $60,000.


Justice Robson accepted there had been harm to Koala habitat as a result of the non-compliant activities.


The felling of the large Eucalyptus trees and the construction or operation of snig tracks were highly likely to have had an adverse impact by reducing the size and the quality of the habitat available to the breeding female and offspring,” Justice Robson said.


As such, I accept the position adopted by the prosecutor and find that there has been actual harm.”


The EPA commenced the prosecution in 2020 after a long investigation into FCNSW’s activities in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest in 2018.


Strict operating rules are in place to protect precious wildlife, such as the Koala. Exclusion Zones, which are a critical part of preserving the habitat of koalas to ensure their survival in this forest.


Disregarding the rules and harvesting trees in these areas can put animals under increased stress,” Ms Dwyer said.


The offence relating to Koala Exclusion Zones carries a maximum penalty of $440,000, while the other three offences carry a maximum penalty of $110,000 each.


SEE Environment Protection Authority v Forestry Corporation of New South Wales [2022] NSWLEC 70 (9 June 2022)


Some other instances (updated)


EPA fines FCNSW $15,000 for allegedly failing to comply with post-fire conditions South Brooman State Forest, media release, 23 June 2022– launch of prosecution


Forestry Corporation fo NSW fined by EPA for destroying native animal habitat, media release,11 April 2022 – total fines $45,000


Forestry Corporation of NSW fined by EPA for failing to mark out a prohibited logging zone, media release, 18 February 2021 – fine $15,000


Forestry Corporation fined for failing to mark out a prohibited logging zone, media release, 26 February 2021 – fine $30,000 plus a warning


Environment Protection Authority v John Michelin & Son Pty Ltd [2019] NSWLEC 88 (19 June 2019) sub-licensee of Forestry NSW, penalty $43,550 plus costs


Environment Protection Authority v Forestry Commission of New South Wales [2013] NSWLEC 101 (10 July 2013) – $35,000 penalty plus costs


Director-General, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water v Forestry Commission of New South Wales [2011] NSWLEC 102 (8 June 2011) – $5,600 penalty plus costs.


Thursday, 23 June 2022

Twice the numbers of Australian residents than previously reported - est. 3.90 million people - contracted SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 between the beginning of December 2021 and end of February 2022

 

An estimated 3,905,966 Australian residents contracted SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 (probably the Omicron or Omicron sub-variants) between the beginning of December 2021 and end of February 2022.


That is 3.9 million people infected in a three month period.


According to NCIRSAustralian COVID-19 Serosurveillance Network:

"Prevalence of anti-nucleocapsid antibodies was 17.0% (16.0–18.0) overall. Seroprevalence was highest in Queensland (25.8%; 23.3–28.5), followed by Victoria (22.6%; 20.1–25.2) and NSW (21.4%; 19.1–23.9). Seroprevalence was lowest, at 0.5% (0.2–1.2) in WA (Figure 4A). No differences in seroprevalence across jurisdictions were observed following age adjustment compared with unadjusted seroprevalence..."  [my yellow highlighting]


On the last day of February 2022 there were still 204,973 confirmed active COVID-19 cases across Australia and the daily number of confirmed active cases steadily grew during March before peaking at 483,680 cases as the month ended.


On 3 April national confirmed active Covid-19 daily cases reached 502,377 before slowly falling to remain stubbornly well above 400,000 until mid-April when cases number began to fall again.


On 1 May 2022 Australia had 326,554 confirmed active COVID-19 cases, by 16 May 385,923 & by 31 May 278,717.


As of 4pm on Monday, 20 June 2022, Australia-wide there were est. 211,622 active cases of COVID-19 recorded by the Australian Government Dept. Of Health.


All these March to June 2022 figures are considered to also be a significant under reporting of actual infection numbers in the general population.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




Media release, 20 June 2022:


National antibody study confirms COVID-19 cases higher than reported


  • At least 17% of Australian adults are estimated to have recently had COVID-19 at the end of February 2022.

  • Adults aged 18–29 years had the highest proportion of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • Queensland had the highest antibody positivity rate, while Western Australia had the lowest.

  • The next blood donor survey and a paediatric serosurvey have commenced and will provide an updated snapshot to mid-June 2022.


It is estimated that at the end of February 2022 at least 17% of the Australian adult population had recently been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to results released today from Australia’s most recent serosurvey of antibodies to the virus in blood donors. The vast majority of these infections are believed to have occurred during the Omicron wave that began in December 2021. Based on survey results, the proportion of people infected was at least twice as high as indicated by cases reported to authorities at the end of February 2022[my yellow highlighting]


The serosurvey was conducted by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, in collaboration with Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory at the Doherty Institute and other research partners.


The highest proportion of adults with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 was in Queensland (26%), followed by Victoria (23%) and New South Wales (21%), while Western Australia had the lowest (0.5%).


The serosurvey method detects higher proportions of infection than routine surveillance based on cases diagnosed and reported at the time of infection, which misses people who didn’t present for a test or whose positive test result was not reported to authorities.


The national antibody survey was conducted in late February to early March 2022, approximately 6 weeks after the peak of the Omicron wave in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Victoria and prior to substantial transmission in Western Australia.


The general pattern of antibody positivity in blood donors was consistent with the pattern in reported cases to the end of February 2022: New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland having had big outbreaks, and Western Australia having very limited community transmission,” says Dr Dorothy Machalek, lead investigator on the project from the Kirby Institute. “Similarly, young blood donors had the highest rate of infection, matching higher reported case numbers in this age group.”


Researchers examined 5,185 de-identified samples from Australian blood donors aged 18–89 years for evidence of COVID-19–related antibodies. Two types of antibody to SAR-CoV-2 were tested: antibody to the nucleocapsid protein, which provides an indication of past infection, and antibody to the spike protein, which can indicate past infection and/or vaccination.


Evidence of past infection was highest among donors aged 18–29 years at 27.2%, declining with increasing age to 6.4% in donors aged 70–89 years across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. In Western Australia, evidence of recent infection was extremely low across all age groups. Nationally, the proportion of the population with antibodies to the spike protein was far higher, at around 98%.


As expected a very high proportion of the blood donors had antibodies to the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus, with little variation by age group and sex. This was likely due to high vaccination rates among blood donors, as well as in the wider population,” says Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of NCIRS and Professor at The University of Sydney.


Future rounds of the blood donor serosurvey will allow us to understand how many infections occur throughout 2022,” Professor Macartney said. “We are also conducting a second national paediatric serosurvey that started collection in June and this will give us better insights into transmission in children and teenagers.”


The ongoing blood donor survey, co-led by the Kirby Institute and NCIRS in collaboration with Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, also involves investigators at the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory at the Doherty Institute, NSW Health Pathology ICPMR, The University of Sydney and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.


The residual blood donation samples used in the survey were obtained from Lifeblood’s processing centres across the country and delinked from any identifying information apart from age, sex and post code. Individual results can therefore not be provided back to blood donors.


Australian Red Cross Lifeblood encourages anyone wanting to contribute to this type of research to become a regular donor. There are many benefits to donating, including finding out your blood type,” says Professor David Irving, Director of Research and Development at Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.

The next round of the Lifeblood donor survey has commenced from mid-June. This time point will estimate SARS-CoV-2 antibody prevalence following the spread of the Omicron BA.2 and other subvariants. Data are provided to all states, territories and the Commonwealth Government under the Australian National Disease Surveillance Plan for COVID-19.


Read the full report here


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies among Australian blood donors, February–March 2022, The Australian COVID-19 Serosurveillance Network, Final report, 3 June 2022, p. 7. Click on image to enlarge


SOURCES


A collection of infographics providing a quick view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Australia since 5 April 2020.




Wednesday, 22 June 2022

NSW Perrottet Government in full election mode 9 months out from the state election and its hypocrisy is showing beneath a cloak of environmental concern



ARR News, 20 June 2022:


Australian Rural & Regional News has asked a few questions for the Ministers, set out below the release.


Matt Kean, NSW Treasurer, Minister for Energy (NSW), James Griffin, Minister for Environment and Heritage (NSW), Dugald Saunders, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Western New South Wales (NSW), Joint Media Release, 19 June 2022


Farmers around the State will be supported to adopt additional sustainable practices through a groundbreaking $206 million program delivered in the NSW Budget.


Treasurer Matt Kean said this landmark investment will reward farmers who voluntarily reduce their carbon emissions and protect biodiversity.


This is great news for farmers and the environment. This funding will help improve biodiversity and lower emissions across NSW, and our farmers will receive tangible benefits for sustainable land management practices,” Mr Kean said.


Mr Kean said NSW has an early mover advantage to secure a leading position in the emerging global marketplace for low carbon food and fibre from producers who are also improving our biodiversity.


This new era of natural capital could unlock up to $10 billion of ‘Environment, Social and Governance’ financing in Australia,” Mr Kean said.


Natural capital will reduce farmers’ risks from climate change and biodiversity loss while improving long-term farm productivity.”


Minister for Environment James Griffin said the Sustainable Farming Program will help to shore up the long-term health of the environment and the agricultural sector.


This $206 million new program is completely voluntary. We’re proposing to develop an accreditation scheme for farmers who manage their land for biodiversity and carbon, while enhancing their productivity,” Mr Griffin said.


Just as we know what the Forestry Stewardship Council certification system represents, this is about developing an easily recognisable accreditation for sustainable farms.


We know that investors and consumers are increasingly looking for sustainably produced products, and this program will support our producers to meet that demand.”


Many farmers are already undertaking sustainable practices as part of their day to day operations and this program represents an opportunity for diversified income, with the program offering farmers payments to secure and maintain accreditation.


In turn, the accreditation has potential to increase their market access globally, helping farmers sell their products at a premium and access emerging environmental markets. The accreditation will not impact existing accreditation schemes such as those used to access the European beef markets.


Accreditation could be achieved by actions such as restoring habitat, fencing for dam and riparian areas, rotating crops, and using best-practice feed and fertiliser practices.


Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW Dugald Saunders said the program will be developed in close consultation with farmers and landowners.


The NSW Government will work with farmers and landholders on options to tap into the emerging natural capital market,” Mr Saunders said.


Farmers in NSW are already natural capital specialists and should be rewarded for the productive and environmental outcomes they generate.


This announcement will give farmers and other landholders more options to diversify their income while maintaining ultimate decision making power on how to sustainably and productively manage their property.”


Farmers will receive a payment for reaching milestones on agreed sustainable practices under an accreditation framework.


The accreditation program will be developed in consultation with stakeholders, and complements existing private land conservation programs offered by the NSW Government.


Learn more: www.environment.nsw.gov.au/sustainable-farming


Questions


Australian Rural & Regional News asked a few questions of the Ministers. Their response will be included here once received.


1. When do you expect the programme to actually start?

2. Who will be the 'stakeholders' to be consulted in regard to the accreditation process?

3. Have there been any community meetings in rural & regional communities to discuss this programme? If not, are they planned as part of the consultation process?


A question not yet being asked is 'How does this media release fit with a Perrottet Government farm forestry policy which encourages farmers to log native timber stands on their land for additional income and to support the dying timber industry, thereby further threatening extinction of the NSW Koala population by 2050?'


With less than 50 per cent of native forests on private land in Northern NSW and a deliberately weakened private native forestry code, that’s a clear threat to what biodiversity and undisturbed habitat remains on local farmland.


And for what? For a very few years worth of construction timber, power poles, flooring, furniture and firewood.


Tuesday, 21 June 2022

2022-23 council rate waiver for eligible flood-affected Northern Rivers residential, farming & business property owners



Clarence Valley Independent, 15 June 2022:


Flood survivors in the Clarence Valley will get their 2022/23 council rates paid by the NSW Government through a $40 million rate relief package to ease the cost of living during their recovery….


Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the funding would cover Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed local government areas.


Northern Rivers residents have been to hell and back, and receiving a rates notice for a home or business they still can barely access is the absolute last thing they need,” he said.


This rates relief is one less thing they need to worry about as they continue to rebuild their lives – and we’ll continue to stand by their side on that journey in the months and years ahead.”


Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the NSW and Commonwealth governments have committed more than $3.5 billion for the clean-up and recovery effort, including a $120 million Local Council Support Package.


The NSW Government will contact eligible ratepayers in the affected LGAs to inform them it will be paying their rates for next year on their behalf,” Ms Cooke said.


The funding will be provided through Service NSW and the payments will be made directly to councils to ensure eligible ratepayers receive the relief automatically, without having to worry about red tape.”


According to Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole those people eligible for a 2022-23 rate waiver are; ratepayers in any of the seven Northern Rivers Local Government Areas (LGAs) who made a successful claim through Service NSW, or whose property has been assessed as damaged, and will cover will cover their residential, commercial and farm rates.