Sunday 31 August 2008

So you think you can run a council.....(4)

Oh dear, the 2008 Clarence Valley local government election is shaping up to be wall-to-wall heartburn for North Coast Voices.

In a field of predominately first-time or previously unsuccessful candidates, Liza Bloomer of Grafton stands out as almost as bad as it gets with a 2 out of 10 on my ballot meter.

Not only did she burble out nothing but buzz words during the Yamba Chamber of Commerce Meet the Candidates night last week - now I discover two linked election campaign websites maintained by Ms. Bloomer which have the hide to not only contain very limited contact details, but also attempt to prohibit contact if we were to have our own telephone numbers (silent or otherwise) legitimately withheld.

Here is
what Liza says:
Contact Liza via email: or call her on: 0407 29 77 64 (withheld numbers will not be answered).

As Ms. Bloomer has seen fit to give out the mobile number attached to her business, here is the address published on her business website: 6 Queen St, Grafton, NSW, 2460, Australia.

Now if anyone has concerns about any printed election material derived from the two campaign websites and feel that this breaches the
advertising rules (clauses 5 & 10 ) set out at by the NSW Electoral Commission, they will at least have one physical address to which they can refer.

It's all about political accountability, Elizabeth Anne.

Hold on a mo, Joe!

According to ABC News last week, Joe Ludwig was talking up a digital welfare debit card:
"The federal Human Services Minister says almost all of welfare recipients in prescribed areas of the Northern Territory are now having half of their payments quarantined."

He also went on to say that "about 500 Northern Territory businesses have expressed an interest in accepting the new welfare debit card." and "there is wide support for the new welfare debit card".

Widespread support from which group, Senator?
The indigenous communities, the 400 people who have so far managed to avoid having their welfare payments quarantined?

Oh, you meant the 500 Northern Territory business owners and the big supermarket chains!
Joe, a dingo has more honour than the Labor Right these days.

Saturday 30 August 2008

McCain's VP is an anthropomorphic climate change sceptic?

Greenpeace is less than impressed by Republican presidential candidate John McCain choosing the very conservative Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, as his vice-presidential running mate.
It has produced a
brief environmental history for this candidate.

Along with a link to the history DeSmogBlog sent out an email alerting everyone to the fact that Sarah said:

"A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made. "

Given that women are generally considered to be more aware and concerned about global warming issues, this bid for the female vote may not have the bounce that the McCain camp obviously hopes for among some groups of American voters.

Monatge from DeSmogBlog

US 08: Denver Sermon on the Mount

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has released the transcript of his acceptance speech.

Like most of his major speeches this much anticipated delivery was essentially more of an optimistic sermon and less of a comprehensive and firm commitment to specific policy.

What Obama does promise Americans is tax cuts, heavier reliance on nuclear power, more gas exploration, investment in clean technology, federal budget cuts and a hawkish foreign policy.

All the rest is a clever use of wordy smoke and mirrors, because the measures broadly mentioned could not deliver a universal benefit to the target groups within the American established political and social systems.

The speech very cleverly contained a number of colourful sound bites and predictably attacked McCain.

As we all saw on television, Obama's rhetoric sent Democratic convention delegates wild in Denver.
Will they survive the inevitable disappointment if Obama gains the presidency?

One has to wish Barack Obama well in his bid for the U.S. presidency, because this bid signals a positive change for the status of African-Americans.

However, from an outsider's perspective, Obama appears to be the usual political fantasist in a two-man race between political hucksters.

Saturday's favourite cat LOL

Boy the Wonder Cat did a double take and then crossed his legs in sympathy when he saw this LOL on the monitor.
Serves him right - he is always trying to sit on the keyboard!

LOL found with those funny folks over at I Can Has Cheezburger

Friday 29 August 2008

What you won't read at Fairfax websites

Readers of the Fairfax group's websites can expect to read distorted views of things associated with that lot.

For example, readers should not expect to see the following item reported by Fairfax.

Today, Friday August 29,
Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton was sacked for refusing to write his weekly column during the strike.

The Australian newspaper reports:
Carlton, a member of the journalists' union, the MEAA, took the stand on the grounds that filing the column amounted to crossing a picket line.

He told ABC Radio in Sydney off air that he could not discuss the situation on the ABC because of his contract with Fairfax Radio, which owns 2UE, where he does the breakfast show.

But ABC Radio said he had confirmed that he had been "let go" for not filing the column for the Saturday edition.

Fairfax Media staff in Sydney and Melbourne went on strike yesterday until Monday over the company's plans to cut 550 jobs.

Save The Long Paddock!

Scientists and conservationists say vital wildlife corridors will be lost forever if state governments sell off a network of stock routes in Queensland and NSW.

"A review has recommended to the (NSW) government that travelling stock routes should be ceded back to the Department of Lands unless the local boards can provide a business case for their retention, which means they have to be profitable.
"This means the Department of Lands can do whatever they see fit with their routes, they can lease them or sell them or do whatever they like."
In 1975, the stock routes covered 2.3 million hectares but the area had shrunk to about 600,000 hectares in 2001, with much of the land bought up by landowners of adjoining properties.
The government would now probably look at the routes individually, not as part of a network, she said.
"The drovers and environmentalists agree that the network should stay connected and not as bits and pieces of land that all have different values with different developments on them," she said.

Come on bloggers - a lot of you would only be a grandparent or two away from the farm.
Do something!

Photographs from Farm4 at Flickr, The Sydney Morning Herald and

Monsanto and Edelman provide a giggle or two

They say all things come to he who waits.

While North Coast Voices has to confess that it was more a case of 'we didn't have the time right now' to chase up the names than one of stealthily waiting for
Monsanto lobbyists in Australia to raise their heads, the result has been the same.

Along with the regular 'Mr. Monsanto' another visitor to our blog turned up yesterday morning - one Edelman PR in Washington DC.

Edelman PR - Asian Pacific (with offices in Sydney and Melbourne) lists Monsanto as a client in India.

However, this company is entirely absent to date from the
Australian Government Lobbyists Register.

One could conclude that this company was not active as an Australian lobbyist at the federal level; but with domestic clients such as Coca-Cola, Samsung, Pfizer, Shell, The Scotts Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, Boots Healthcare, BristolMyersSquibb, CSL, iiNet and Origin, it is an unlikely that this is the case.

The fact that Edelman has Monsanto as a client rather puts a whole new light on its own
Food and Wellness Report 2007.
Researching websites and digital social networks in which to embed the GM giant's message perhaps?

Versailles in Macquarie Street

The NSW Government adjourned the electricity privatisation debate and vote in the Upper House of Parliament yesterday.
The matter of adjournment was put to the vote and the plan was for the bill to come before parliament again on 23 September 2008.

According to the Fairfax media;
"During the Opposition's address, Mr Costa said: ''this is a joke'' and left the house. Members of the public gallery applauded as he left."

ABC News also reported;
"New South Wales Treasurer Michael Costa says he is thinking about quitting politics as his electricity privatisation plans head for certain defeat in State Parliament today."

NSW unions thought that privatisation was now off the agenda and potential buyers were snakey;
"The New South Wales business community is "dismayed" by the collapse of the Iemma Government's electricity privatisation plan, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) says."

Bring it on Iemma was full of bluster before the bill debate began, but the best he could do in the immediate aftermath was issue a media release about a mini-budget (due to the 'loss' of the supposed $15 billion coming from sale of assets) before skittering into the bunker.

What is an indisputable fact is that Iemma and Costa recalled parliament from recess with no hope of having the numbers and cost the state's bottom line around
$500,000 it could ill afford.
He did this because yesterday was a piece of theatre only - designed to allow King Louis Iemma to
bypass parliament and go ahead with Marie Antoinette Costa's sell off.

With New South Wales Government now residing in Versailles, I wonder where they will build Petit Trianon?
Maud up the street doesn't care much where they plonk the fancy real estate. She has her knitting needles out and is busying practising her Thérèse Defarge lines.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Exclusive Brethren off the hook, again!

The move in the Australian Senate by The Greens to have a wide-ranging inquiry into the activities of the Exclusive Brethren religious sect was blocked today (28/08/2008) by the combined vote of Government (Labor) and Opposition (Liberals and Nationals) senators.

The only senator to side with The Greens was the Independent Nick Xenophon.

How sad! reports

The Australian Greens, who proposed the inquiry, said the Brethren was preventing its young members from undertaking tertiary education courses and forcing young women into arranged marriages.

"The light of day needs to be shone onto the activities of the sect," Greens leader Senator Bob Brown said.

Those activities included making large political donations to the Coalition.

Costa the Political Thug is out-of-control

NSW Labor Government Treasurer, Michael Costa, has gone so far over the line he is now a mere dot on the horizon.

Costa the political thug, the ultra bully, has been sprung according to The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.

"MICHAEL COSTA has been threatening Labor MPs that their electorates will be starved of funding unless they support the Iemma Government's bid to privatise the power industry."

It seems that the foul-mouthed Dr. Evil just doesn't understand that these sitting MPs were not elected by voters to represent the Iemma Government.
Voters elected them to represent the will of their electorate and the majority of people in NSW appear to be against the privatisation of NSW electricity assets.

Costa is quick to complain when others mention his bi-polar disorder, but slow to recognise that he is obviously not always in control of his impulses.

Right now those impulses are leading him to subvert the democratic process.

Question Time In Canberra. Did my eyes deceive me?

During yesterday's televised Parliament Question Time did I really see Federal Minister for Ageing and Member for Richmond, Justine Elliot, get to her feet and say that the Commonwealth Dental Scheme had been reintroduced for teens and aged Australians?
What is it with Aussie pollies? Do none of them consider Disability Support pensioners worthy of automatic inclusion in dental, health and welfare policy.
Why do they always have to be shamed into it?
Justine, I expected better of you!

Wednesday 27 August 2008

How deeply is Monsanto embedded with the Australian Government?

It has been reported that Monsanto spent $ 1.3 million in the first quarter of 2008 on lobbying in the U.S.

Monsanto also appears to have embedded at least one employee of
a lobbyist firm it uses, Ogilvy Government Relations, in the Obama for America campaign team.

Given the flurry of lobbying activity which usually surrounds any new regime such as the Rudd Government, one has to wonder exactly who is lobbying for Monsanto in Australia besides those farmer groups that the GM seed monolith is currently fostering.

While that question remains unanswered everyone on the newly updated
Australian Government Lobbyists Register remains suspect.

Slyest comment on Obama-Biden so far

A tonsorial political comment from the folks at The Huffington Post

One facinating fact about this week's U.S. Democratic Convention is that it reportedly has A budget of some 60 million US dollars, 50,000 participants, including 15,000 journalists.
It is hard to imagine a more profligate political system than the one which has evolved in America.
Bread and circus rules.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Senator Brown moves to have Exclusive Brethren examined

Finally, someone in Australia's Federal Parliament has been shown to have sufficient gumption to have the Exclusive Brethren examined in relation to its shady operations.

ABC News has reported that the Leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, has moved a notice of motion to refer a number of matters concerning the Exclusive Brethren Christian sect to the Senate's Community Affairs Committee.

Senator Brown wants the Committee to examine public funding and tax arrangements which may advantage Brethren members.

He says the inquiry would examine the education opportunities for Brethren children, who are not allowed to attend tertiary institutions.

"It would also perhaps look at the $10 million paid to five Brethren schools around Australia in January this year, those schools have a population combined of just 2,000 students," he said.

So you think you can run a council....(3)

This letter to the editor published in The Daily Examiner, Grafton, says it all.

NSW local government election time has rolled round again and local candidates are beginning to come out of the woodwork.

I see that the Nationals Jeremy Challacombe has publicly put up his hand and declares that almost obligatory commitment; "Mr Challacombe singled out the Clarence River for special attention. "I believe our river is the focus of our Valley," [DEX online,5 August 2008].

Unfortunately for Mr. Challacombe, many in the Clarence Valley have a longer memory than he obviously gives credit for and, it doesn't take long to hunt up his real attitude to the river catchment and our economic dependence on its continued health.

For instance in "The Daily Examiner" a couple of months back, Mr. Challacombe was careful not to mention how he voted (or if he voted at all) on the motion passed by that Nationals NSW party conference, a conference which coincidentally saw him installed as vice-chair of the state party [DEX,June 18,p.3].

In this article he apparently sought to misdirect the reader to the dissenting vote by his wife on the motion to "support greater efforts to reduce the amount of eastern water lost to the ocean and campaign for more in-depth investigations into finding ways to turn this water inland." [ibid]

This motion was nothing more than another bite at the Howard Government's 2006-07 proposal to rob the Clarence River catchment of its vital freshwater flows.
Despite Mr. Challacombe attempting to portray it as "more about better water management than about river diversion." [ibid]
Something he would have known was not the true story given his past employment by North Coast Water.

As vice-chair Mr. Challacombe has an obligation to support this successful Nationals state party resolution on water diversion and, his candidature at the forthcoming Clarence Valley local government election is a clear case of a conflict of interest given Clarence Valley Council's longstanding and well-documented resolve to protect the Clarence River and its tributaries from both further damming and diversion.

If it's any comfort to Mr. Challacombe, I'm not too impressed either by local Anglican Reverend Pat Comben thinking it might be a good idea to marry church and state by being elected to local government. [,7 August 2008]

I would have thought the dismal showing of faith-based parties at the November 2007 federal election might have indicated to the good reverend just how disenchanted the electorate might have become to priests in politics.

Judith M. Melville

Best Monsanto quotes

"What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain" - Robert Fraley, co-president of Monsanto's agricultural sector 1996, in the Farm Journal. Quoted in: Flint J. (1998) Agricultural industry giants moving towards genetic monopolism. Telepolis, Heise.

"People will have Roundup Ready soya whether they like it or not" - Ann Foster, spokesperson for Monsanto in Britian, as quoted in The Nation magazine from article "The Politics of Food" [47] by Maria Margaronis December 27, 1999 issue

Greetings to our Monsanto visitor routing through Europe late yesterday afternoon AEST.
Nice to see you'll are still reading!

Rudd oversteps the line on his way to becoming John Howard Lite

The Prime Minister is either getting a little too big for his boots or has been listening to Jackboot Jenny Macklin again.
Now he wants to cut or suspend welfare payments, for up to 3 months, in families where a child is a chronic truant.
Yeah, that'd be right.
Cushioned by his family money, our Kev wants to make it even harder for ordinary people to put food on the table - in a simplistic attempt to curb truancy.
What next? Making everyone go to Sunday services before they can get their pensions?
Shame on Julia for encouraging him in this highhanded bullying.

Monday 25 August 2008

Naughty, naughty, Monsanto

As U.S. multinational Monsanto appears to have the ear of Australian governments and seems determined to establish a strong GM crop presence in this country, perhaps it's time to look at the company's track record regarding corporate ethics.
Here is a list compiled from a cursory look using Google.

Oct 1998
Playing God in the garden article in The New York Times.
I thought about Maryanski's candid and wondrous explanations the next time I met Phil Angell, who again cited the critical role of the F.D.A. in assuring Americans that biotech food is safe. But this time he went even further. ''Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,'' he said. ''Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.'s job.''

Aug 1999
Monsanto GM food ads found to mislead
Monsanto, the US based food company, has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading the public about its genetically modified food and crops. In a report published today, the authority has upheld four complaints made by environmental groups about Monsanto's 1998 UK advertising campaign.

Aug 2000
Philadelphia Jury Rules against Monsanto in Chemical Contamination Case
Aug. 24--A Philadelphia jury stunned the Monsanto Co. yesterday by ruling that the company should pay $90 million in damages to the state of Pennsylvania for selling defective and toxic PCBs that left PennDot's Harrisburg headquarters contaminated after a 1994 fire.

Mar 2001
Italian police raid Monsanto GM stockpile according to BBC News report.
Police in Italy have raided a warehouse of US biotech company Monsanto and seized 112 tonnes of genetically modified maize, the use of which is illegal in that country.

Feb 2002
Monsanto Held Liable For PCB Dumping article in The Washington Post.
An Alabama jury yesterday found that Monsanto Co. engaged in "outrageous" behavior by releasing tons of PCBs into the city of Anniston and covering up its actions for decades, handing 3,500 local residents a huge victory in a landmark environmental lawsuit.

Oct 2003
Monsanto Fined for Crop Tests; Modified Corn, Cotton Improperly Handled
Monsanto Co. and its research partners paid $63,000 in fines for previously undisclosed violations in 2001 in testing genetically modified crops, the government said yesterday.

Dec 2004
Monsanto 'cheated' farmers, India panel claims
More than two years after the controversy, a House panel has recommended compensation for the farmers from multinational seed company, Monsanto, holding the company responsible for the non-flowering of maize seeds supplied to farmers in the name of Cargill 900 M.

Jan. 2005

A Columnist Backed by Monsanto
Michael Fumento's failure to disclose payments to him in 1999 from the agribusiness giant has now caused Scripps Howard to sever its ties to him Scripps Howard News Service announced Jan. 13 that it's severing its business relationship with columnist Michael Fumento, who's also a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. The move comes after inquiries from BusinessWeek Online about payments Fumento received from agribusiness giant Monsanto (
MON ) -- a frequent subject of praise in Fumento's opinion columns and a book.

Dec 2007
Monsanto busted for contempt of Advertising Authority in South Africa
Transcript of the advertisement

This list was ready for posting last Friday, but I decided to tease 'Mr. Monsanto' who twice clicked onto North Coast Voices early that morning in the obvious expectation of yet another mention.

On ya, Rudders!!

So said Rudders:
"KEVIN Rudd has challenged business leaders to accept the cost of combating climate change.
A day after the Business Council of Australia warned that companies would move offshore unless the Government fundamentally rethought its proposed emissions trading scheme, the Prime Minister declared himself ready for a "vigorous debate"."

On ya, Kev! But don't be a dope and enter into a 'debate' with big business - it's the Aussie voters who gave you the brief.

A new look for George Dubbya

Image found at New Matilda/PollieGraph - always an interesting read.

Sunday 24 August 2008

Thumbnail sketch of Senator Joe Biden drawn from the Antipodes

In the last few hours Joseph Robinette Biden Jnr. has given his first vice-presidential candidate speech.

The speech played heavily on his supposed hard work in the U.S. Senate since 1972 and his modest financial circumstances.

Well it seems that Biden (along with Obama and McCain) does not have an enviable record in the Senate.
During the current Congress he has missed 193 votes or 30% of all occasions on which he could have voted.
That makes him the fifth highest scoring senator on the current missed votes list.

The Washington Post has a list of all missed votes since he entered the Senate

As for his income, on his Senate webpage Biden admits to: $
165,200 Senate salary and $20,500 from teaching. In a 2005 ranking of the 100 senators for wealth, he was 99th.

Interestingly he doesn't mention extra monies received for sitting on numerous Senate committees and we don't know whether that book deal brought home the bacon.
While his 2006 Senate
financial disclosure report available online shows that he also has a personal investment portfolio, a pension plan and his wife draws a teaching salary.

Senator Biden unsuccessfully stood for Democratic pre-selection in the 2007 presidential race and withdrew from the 1998 race when it was reported that he had plagiarised a number of speeches, including a speech by U.K. Labor Party leader, Neil McKinnock.

According to Famous Plagarists:
Joe Biden’s history of plagiarism and “stressless scholarship” gave plenty of ammo to his enemies, one of them choosing to circulate a so-called “attack video” to demonstrate Biden’s outright plagiarism of a British politician’s speech. But this appropriation from Neal Kinnock was not the first occurrence of unacknowledged lifting by the senator from Delaware. In 1965 Biden plagiarized while writing a paper as a student at the Syracuse University Law School in a legal methods course which he failed because of that copied paper.

The senator also came to public attention for his behaviour during the
Thomas-Hill hearings.

National Review online reports that Biden is also quite famous for being a lifelong sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease:
According to The New Republic, in October 2001, Biden encountered a group of airline pilots and flight attendants who wanted his help in passing emergency benefits for laid-off airline workers. "I hope you will support my work on Amtrak as much as I have supported you," Biden told them. "If not, I will screw you badly."

A list of his classic political slips here.

So to recap. Joe Biden is your typical candidate.
He massages his personal history by 'borrowing' the words and personal anecdotes of another, where possible avoids mentioning the real extent of his income, rewrites politcal history, turns up in the Senate when he wants to and generally tries to throw his weight around.

In other words - a 26-year political job horse who now relies on a wing and a prayer to get by in the U.S. Congress.
Definitely not the
statesman with sound judgment praised by Obama in Springfield - more like the usual pitcher of warm spit.

A choice which offers little hope of change to the rest of the world

Some more Northern Rivers art




Ooops! It just slipped out and got away: Obama

From one American on the world wide web (just before Press TV Iran posted a story leaking Biden as Obama's running mate, with Indian media not far behind):

"Obama hoodwinked people into giving him their address and phone number so he can build a larger database. It is 10 pm EST and no text message!! People could've just wait until a little bit longer until tomorrow morning to see who will be the VP in Springfield, IL.
WHAT A SHAM!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: Krist Aug 22, 2008 10:00:54 PM"

Does this mean that Osama B. probably received the news before Krist? [smiles evilly]

And this from Seattlest:

Did you get a text message? Because we signed up for the damned text, and got nothing. Thank God for our internet addiction, though, because we got it from as soon as we got home from being out. Obama chose Biden. We can all exhale.

I wonder how much all this cost the Obama campaign?

One view of Planet Iemma

"You can bet that Iemma and all those other foreign names down in Sydney have taken wads of money from the Chinese to privatise our electricity."
Longtime member of a local Australian Labor Party branch this week.

Saturday 23 August 2008

The Next Vice President: that infamous text message in email version

----- Original Message -----
From: Barack Obama
To: [edited]
Sent: Saturday, August 23, 2008 7:29 PM
Subject: The Next Vice President

[edited] --

I have some important news that I want to make official.
I've chosen Joe Biden to be my running mate.
Joe and I will appear for the first time as running mates this afternoon in Springfield, Illinois -- the same place this campaign began more than 19 months ago.
I'm excited about hitting the campaign trail with Joe, but the two of us can't do this alone.
We need your help to keep building this movement for change.
Please let Joe know that you're glad he's part of our team.
Share your personal welcome note and we'll make sure he gets it:

Thanks for your support,


P.S. -- Make sure to turn on your TV at 2:00 p.m. Central Time to join us or watch online at

Business Council of Australia in 2008: Irresponsiblity Unlimited

Thursday's press release from the Business Council of Australia let the cat out of the bag - business is not interested in doing anything about climate change and especially not interested in an effective national emissions trading scheme.

Ever since we set up our first crude commercial efforts at Botany Bay in the late 1700s, business big and small has been producing consumable goods and services laced with a good measure of pollution.
In 2008 this peak body still wants business to get a free ride to continue polluting with greenhouse gases.

BCA President Greig Gailey today launched the BCA paper, Modelling Success: Designing an ETS that Works, incorporating research from Port Jackson Partners Limited (PJPL) examining the impacts of the proposed emissions trading scheme on 14 businesses across a range of sectors including minerals processing, manufacturing, oil refining, coal mining and sugar milling.
Mr Gailey said: “In releasing its Green Paper the government has invited input into the final design of its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). The BCA fully supports adopting a comprehensive emissions trading scheme as the best way to reduce emissions, but getting the design detail right is critical”.
“The Green Paper puts Australia on a path to addressing climate change challenges through a partnership between business, government and the community. But the scheme must send the right signals to businesses,” he said.

The "right signals" Mr. Gailey speaks of are apparently for government to essentially change nothing, except for a bit of window dressing which would allow business to be 'paid' for doing nothing and fully pass on the supposed cost of this inaction to the consumer.

I'm predicting that the Business Council of Australia will suddenly discover the vital necessity of a nuclear power industry to ensure that they can all point to something which would allow, by misdirection, their 'big bag of nothing' to continue.

The 'study':
Modelling Success: Designing an ETS that Works
Tip - page 3 starts the real laughs coming.

Obesity epidemic? What obesity epidemic?

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in training to join Health Minister Nicola Roxon's obesity 'epidemic'?

Friday 22 August 2008

So you think you can run a council....(2)

Life is full of not so gentle ironies.

The Clarence Valley has been fighting off irrational water raiders for years, due to the terminal decline of the Murray Darling Basin river systems and the ongoing greed of irrigators from within this basin.

Now former Queensland Goss Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Rev. Pat Comben (who held that ministerial post during a period when the rapacious Cubbie Station was allowed to continue sucking the northern basin dry) wants to be elected to Clarence Valley Council this September.

Somehow I don't think Reverend Comben will be getting the 'green' vote within the electorate.

Crikey yesterday on the subject of Cubbie Station

US08: Would you buy a used car from these men?

Last week both U.S. presidential candidates fronted the Saddleback Church and shovelled manure in an attempt to become America's 'pastor-in-chief' [Transcript of proceeding here].

With McCain blatantly stealing gulag memories and Obama doing his best to out-Christian Christos, I thought I would look at other aspects of both candidates.

Republican presidential candidate, John McCain

McCain has a history of telling pork pies about his first marriage. Here is the latest from Yahoo! News

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - An old lawsuit on record at the city courthouse reveals a moment of friction between John McCain's mother and his ex-wife. Years later, McCain and his former wife presented a united front in a lawsuit of their own.

McCain, the Republican candidate for president, calls the first lawsuit a mistake and says he never authorized the second. Both legal actions were settled out of court before they went to trial.

Curiously, although the records clearly list the plaintiffs, McCain's campaign says his mother's 1980 lawsuit was filed "unintentionally" and that the Arizona senator didn't know about or authorize the 1990 lawsuit with his ex-wife, Carol. And McCain's 96-year-old mother, Roberta, says she never sued Carol.
Others involved dispute those assertions.----
In his e-mail, Bounds said McCain "had no knowledge of the suit: He did not authorize the suit or participate in its filing."
But the lawyer who represented the McCains said she did indeed speak to McCain and get his permission to sue on his behalf.
"You can be sure that I talked to and got the permission of any client who is listed as a plaintiff," said attorney Barbara P. Beach.

McCain has been a U.S. senator since 1991 and in this Senate term he has missed 407 votes or 64% of all votes he could have cast.

His Senate voting record is here.

McCain raised $27 million in donations this July and is charging people $7 for one of his campaign posters for the front yard (comes with a free bumper sticker)

Democrat presidential candidate, Barack Obama

Obama's image of a fair fighter takes a bit of a blow. The pre-written email chain he has set up could get unwitting 'disciples' into trouble.
Inviting others to put their names to a letter calling one of the co-authors of a book a vile smear-peddler, religiously bigoted, a paranoid and hateful man is not the actions of a balanced individual.

Obama makes much of his commitment to liberty and justice for all and understanding of the struggles of 'ordinary' Americans. However, as a first term senator he has missed at least 290 Senate votes since April 2005 or 46% of the total votes in which he could have represented his constituents.

Here is his Senate voting record courtesy of The Washington Post.

Obama raised $51 million in donations this July and charges $8 dollars each for a campaign poster for the front yard.

U.S. opinion polls show that the race remains tight between Obama and McCain and it seems that Barack has finally been reduced to 'kissing' babies, while John remains old no matter where the photo shoot occurs.

Photos from Fox News and The Washington Post

Fatherhood Festival, Bangalow, 4-7 September 2008

Question, Share, Celebrate. The 2008 Northern Rivers Fatherhood Festival aims to do all this with its rich, three day program of concerts, comedy, art and conversations. These events will touch your heart and stimulate your mind.

Performers this year include Australian Idol winner, singer and writer Damien Leith along with Blues and roots master guitarist Jeff Lang.
A special highlight this year will be two talks on Friday September 5 and Saturday September 6, by world best selling author and speaker Steve Biddulph.
Steve's books include Raising Boys, Manhood, The Secret of Happy Children and more.

Tickets cost $12 or $10 concession and can be purchased through Southern Cross Credit Union, Barebones Artspace at Bangalow and Mullumbimby Bookshop.
Inquiries: (02) 6684.2309.

Thursday 21 August 2008

'Mr. Monsanto' bravely soldiers on through hyperspace

It seems that biotech/chemical giant Monsanto just can't help itself recently. It has to have a daily peek at North Coast Voices.

Not once, not twice, but three times it visited in the early hours of yesterday morning our time.
And, bless its sweet little toes, even some of those commenting on our posts were pursued back through hyperspace to see where they came from.

What is fascinating about Monsanto's obsessive blog monitoring is that it is inadvertently networking Australians who have concerns about genetically modified crops and food, but who haven't sought to contact others before.

North Coast Voices remains very happy to indulge 'Mr. Monsanto', so here is a little something for the 'employee extraordinaire' to read today.

Monsanto's U.S. website helpfully provides a little financial information on share performance.

In the spirit of ethical investing, perhaps readers world-wide might check their portfolios for Monsanto stock and adjust accordingly.

One has to wonder if Monsanto will continue to enjoy investor confidence, in light of the fact that not only has consumer resistance obliged it to try and off-load its dairy synthetic hormone business this year - last year the U.S. Patent Office reviewed and rejected four of its existing GM patents and the European Patent Office revoked a GM soyabean patent.

See here for previous post about Monsanto's monitoring.

Crikey takes a tilt at political opinion polls

From Crikey yesterday.

Today's Crikey poll has revealed that almost 20% of Australian voters would like to see A Presentable Fellow With A Nice Hat as the next leader of the federal Liberal Party.
The poll, which closed at 9.30am today, sampled the views of 588 respondents, with A Presentable Fellow With A Nice Hat garnering 19.2% of the vote, just ahead of Kevin Rudd's Cat with 18.7%

Poor Brendan Nelson's hair only scored 5.60% of the vote, thereby coming in second last.
Full poll table here.

The sports industry is full of Oliver Twists

I let my digits loose on Google late yesterday afternoon to find out why "athletes need more funding".
Suddenly the computer screen was filled with bitches, moans and groans from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and whatever sporting rep could get themselves published on the subject.

Each and every one yelling about standards, inequalities and the overwhelming need for government to fork out more money so that every Tom, Dick and Harriett could turn themselves in top-notch professional athletes.

Well I'll be b*ggered if I will agree that government should do more for these jocks.

There are still too many people living in poverty in Australia, health services which are spread too thin, inadequate community care of the very young and very old, and vast inequalities in access to decent education.

So to everyone from the Australian Olympic Committee, Institute of Sports, down to Alan Thompson and the newest Olympian - don't even think of bringing the begging bowls out after the Aussie teams come back from Beijing.

Your gold, silver and bronze just don't stack up against the real problems this country has to fix and Federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis would be mad to ask for more money for her portfolio which already has a budget of around $260 million.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Saddest baby whale in the deep blue sea: photos

Colin, the abandoned or orphaned baby humpback whale discovered trying to suckle from a yacht at Pittwater in Sydney Harbour this week.

Photos from The Daily Telegraph and NECN

Spectre of the death of grass: GMO licenses in Australia

If one traces back to historical origin most of the world's cereal crops, one finds that they were first wild grasses either native to specific areas or more widely spread across regions.

One of the fears about genetically modified organisms (GMO) is the possibility of contamination and weakening of the genetic material of traditional grains used for commercial cropping.
My principal fear has always been that GMOs would make their way into grasses and go on to weaken the genetic robustness of both wild and cultivated varieties.

The death of grass is one possibility for a continent such as Australia if things go badly wrong (after all the country has a history of introduced biological controls getting out of hand and introduced plants/animals overwhelming native habitat/populations).

Australia has moved one step closer to being vulnerable to this scenario, with limited GM Canola crops due for harvest next month and the consideration of licenses to test plant:

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator is also considering a license for GM Torenia, a flowing creeper which has only been commercially available here for about 5 years but which has already become a non-indigenous weed in parts of Africa, USA and Asia.

Of further concern is the test plot application for GM Sugarcane in Burdekin, Caboolture, Hitchinbrook, Cairns, Bunderberg and Mackay areas of Queensland, along with further GM Cotton plots in Narrabri, NSW and Balranald, Bourke, Central Darling, Carathool, Coonamble, Hay, Lachlan, Lake Tandou, Moree Plains, Narrabri, Narromine, Walgett and Warren; Queensland shires of Balonne, Brisbane, Chinchilla, Jondaryan, Murilla, Paroo, Pittsworth, Tara, Toowoomba, Waggamba and Wambo; and the Western Australia shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley.

Unsurprisingly, amongst the named applicants are GM seed giants, Monsanto and Bayer.

Some of these limited GMO release applications are listed as having been open to submissions to OGTR before consent is granted.
Now I didn't see any newspaper advertisements notifying these applications - did you?

Given the importance of sugar crops to parts of the NSW Northern Rivers, it is time we all became more vigilant concerning the introduction of genetically modified material into Australia.

P.S. A little light reading for 'Mr. Monsanto'.


List of Victoria's top chefs opposed to GM food

Greenpeace on the GM-free Chefs Charter and online petition to the Rudd Government

What are you waiting for Iemma - Noah's Ark?

Now a boffin from the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and a proff from the ANU are warning us all that sea levels may rise even further than expected before the century ends.
With "700,000 homes located within 3km of the coast and less than six metres above sea level" Australia is running out of time.
"Speaking on the first day of the Coast to Coast 2008 Conference in Darwin, Dr Mummery said there were "major information gaps'' in Australia.
Preliminary modelling has found that if there is a rise in sea levels, 269,505 houses could be at risk in NSW and 2,875 houses in the NT.
Dr Mummery - from the federal government's Department of Climate Change - said a rise of only one metre could put a number of Gold Coast properties at risk and impact on canal development."
You don't have to be Einstein to see how things might shape up for the NSW North Coast on these projections.
So where're the maps, Morrie?
We know you have them - fork 'em over so we can all plan an orderly retreat from the sea if need be.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Coastal developers, take note

A piece hidden away in The Sydney Morning Herald (Tuesday 19 August 2008) should be compulsory reading for all persons associated with local government, and especially those in coastal areas of Australia.

The Herald reports:

Sea levels thwart new homes
A decision by Victoria's Civil and Administrative Tribunal to overturn a South Gippsland Shire approval for six new homes because of the potential effect of rising sea levels could have ramifications for coastal areas around Australia. The tribunal found a "reasonably forseeable risk" of inundation, which it deemed unacceptable.

EnviroInfo has this to say about the decision:

Environment Defenders Office Victorian Principal Solicitor, Brendan Sydes, says the tribunal’s decision that the likelihood of sea level rises should be considered by councils when making planning decisions could have significance within Victoria and nationally.

Mr Sydes says VCAT’s decision may be an indication of the approach planning tribunals nationally could take when considering planning decisions made in coastal areas.

The case before VCAT involved the assessment of six planing permits granted by the regional South Gippsland Shire Council for dwellings located in a farming zone close to the coast.

In making its decision to overturn the council’s planning approval of the dwellings, VCAT considered the potential impact of sea level rises caused by climate change on the proposed developments.

To this end, the tribunal found increases in the severity of storm events and rising sea levels would create a “reasonably foreseeable risk” of inundation of the land and proposed dwellings, which VCAT deemed to be “unacceptable”.

While the tribunal noted the relevance of climate change considerations to planning decision-making processes is presently in an “evolutionary phase”, it concluded that sea level rise and the risk of coastal inundation are “relevant matters to consider in appropriate circumstances”.

The tribunal said climate change would lead to extreme weather conditions beyond the historical record that planners rely on when assessing the potential future impact on proposed developments.

Read the VCAT’s decision here.

Hey, 'Mr. Monsanto' - are you enjoying this blog?

It seems that North Coast Voices may have joined the growing list of blogs being monitored by that genetically modified seed production giant, Monsanto.

Last week WaterDragon mentioned the Australian state of play concerning genetically modified canola and, up pops Monsanto (St. Louis, Missouri USA) scanning our site six hours later at 6.56am on the same day.
Monsanto also clicked the linked items.

In June Gristmill reported receiving a cease and desist letter from Monsanto's legal office.
At the same time it was reported that Monsanto was hiring a social media specialist to monitor Internet blogs.

We have decided to make the new 'Mr. Monsanto' very happy with today's Internet hunt and publish a form letter found at the Australian Network of Concerned Farmers:

To farmers considering growing GM canola or crops, ………………(date)

On behalf of growers wishing to remain GM-free, I wish to notify you of our intention for our property and produce to remain GM-free and of the risk that the planting of any GM crops on your property poses to our properties. Accordingly, we are also notifying you that we will not accept the burden of any damage, or loss, which may be consequent on any decision by you to grow GM crops. Should you wish to grow GM canola or other GM crops, you must ensure none of your GM crop or residue escapes and contaminates our land holdings or otherwise causes damage or loss.

Governments have recommended common law as suitable for recovering any damage and economic loss associated with GM crops. Therefore we will be seeking legal recourse if GM crops result in any costs, damage or economic loss including, but not limited to:

  • Testing costs or additional contractual requirements required due to market perception that your choice to grow GM crops will cause contamination of our crops and/or produce.
  • Segregation costs over and above what is currently required.
  • Loss of market access or market premium due to detection of GM in our produce or an inability to prove a GM-free status.
  • Loss of certification if applicable.
  • New control measures required to remove canola from grain sold including any grading at outturn.
  • Any payments due or deducted as end-point royalty or user fees from GM companies for unintentional GM use.
  • Any costs associated with destroying unauthorised GM crops on our property.
  • Spray drift from post emergent glyphosate or glufosinate ammonium.
  • All associated and consequent costs and all legal costs.

We emphasise that this list is not closed, and the nature of GM technology means that the scope of potential damage and downstream effects may be far-reaching and significant. We accordingly are putting you on notice so you are aware that these and other scenarios and losses are fully foreseeable and not remote from any action taken by you to plant GM seeds.

While it is our preferred option to ensure the company selling you GM seeds is liable for any economic, environmental or health losses, we regret to inform you that as a GM grower, you will be held jointly and severally liable for any loss we experience. We suggest that you ensure that your insurance covers you for any future claims made against you.

Please be advised that following crop management plans or coexistence principles will not provide sufficient mitigation or afford you an adequate legal defence as these plans are based on an assumption that non-GM growers will accept unrealistic impositions. Management impositions NOT accepted include, but are not limited to:

  • A "tolerance level" of GM contamination which will not be accepted in either seed or produce for market as these limits are set on labelling requirements for GM if applicable, not for non-GM products. As GM canola oil escapes a label for GM in Australia, to give consumers the promised choice, a "GM-free" or "Non-GM" label will be required. Any grower whose produce bears a "GM-free" label can be in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974 if any amount of GM is detected in the product, even if unintentional. Action has recently been taken successfully against a company for false and misleading labelling when 0.007% GM was detected in both "GM-free" and "Non-GM" labelled products.
  • Providing 5 metre or larger buffer zones on non-GM properties where produce derived from these buffer zones are not to be marketed as "GM-free".
  • Responsibility for notification to the GM companies if unwanted GM plants are found on our property, following recommendations for volunteer control at our expense and allowing the GM companies access to assess if contamination was suitably controlled.
  • Any fees applicable for growing GM crops if contamination is not controlled or a GM-free status is not proven unless the GM crop was deliberately planted.
  • Sowing crops any differently to what is current best management practise (eg sowing crops off-season to avoid coinciding flowering times).
  • Application of additional chemicals or tillage to control unwanted GM plants on our property.
  • Routinely testing for GM.
  • Cleaning out machinery more than is normally required.
  • Compulsory quality assurance or identity preservation requirements.
  • Loss of ability to save crop seed for replanting.
  • To market produce co-mingled with GM produce if there is any sign of market rejection for GM.

As a precaution, we will be retaining seed samples pre seeding and post harvest and collecting any evidence of economic loss we have experienced.

Thank you.

….……………………………(signature) ……………………………(witness signature)

………..………………………… (name) ………..………………………(witness name)

…………………………………(address) ………..……………………(witness address)

…………………………………………… ………………………………………………….

Note: Please retain a copy of this letter.

Update 19.08.08:

Good morning, Monsanto. So nice of you to drop in four times this morning by 9am AEST. I'm particularly impressed that you spent over 41 minutes at North Coast Voices on one visit alone. You are turning out to be a real inspiration to WaterDragon who tells me that there is another Monsanto-related post on the way.