Thursday 30 April 2009

Five views of Obama's first 100 days

The Wall Street Journal:

Just as the times of Barack Obama defy the easy descriptions and old labels, so too does the man himself.
Indeed, if the first 100 days of President Obama's term have proved anything, it is that he is a hard man to classify. He has confounded, at one time or another, people at just about every spot across the political spectrum. He likes big and activist government, but he isn't a classic liberal. He is more of a social engineer than a guardian of the old welfare state.
He's phenomenally popular among Democrats, but has found the most support for some of his foreign-policy moves among Republicans. He's pulling combat troops out of Iraq, but more slowly than he once promised -- and at the same time has laid plans to add more troops in Afghanistan than the Bush administration envisioned.
Asked whether there is yet a discernible Obama doctrine in foreign affairs, a longtime national security operative pauses and responds: "If there is a doctrine, it would have to be engagement." Which is more a tactic than a doctrine.
He sometimes sounds like a protectionist, but so far has acted mostly like a free-trader. He talks a lot about fiscal discipline, yet is overseeing the nation's first trillion-dollar deficits. He's made history as America's first African-American president, yet probably talks less about race than did the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

From Fact Check:

After 100 days in office, we find President Obama is sticking to the facts – mostly.

Nevertheless, we find that the president has occasionally made claims that put him and his policies in a better light than the facts warrant. He has claimed that private economists agreed with the forecast in his budget, when they were really more pessimistic. He's used Bush-like budget-speak trying to sound frugal while raising spending to previously unimagined levels. And he has exaggerated the problems his proposals aim to cure by misstating facts about school drop-out rates and oil imports.

At the same time, there's been no shortage of dubious claims made about the president by his political opponents. Republicans have falsely claimed that Obama planned to spend billions on a levitating train and that his stimulus bill would require doctors to follow government orders on what medical treatments can and can't be prescribed, among other nonsense.

And those whoppers are mild compared with some of the positively deranged claims flying about the Internet. No, the national service bill Obama signed won't prevent anybody from going to church, for example. And no, he's not trying to send Social Security checks to illegal immigrants

Market Watch from Dow Jones:

President Barack Obama reaches the 100 days milestone "more popular than his policies," says MarketWatch reporter Robert Schroeder. And it's a mixed milestone, with some major accomplishments, but a lot of uncertainty about the next 100 days and beyond. "He can point to several things such as the stimulus, children's health insurance, the plans to withdraw from Iraq," says Schroeder. "But there are still lots of people out there in the country, including many who voted for him, who are still unemployed, anxious."

From the Centre for Public Integrity:

From his first day in office, President Obama has spoken about transparency in government. He has added the word accountability to many of the initiatives of his administration. There is indeed a better sense of openness in government that we can all applaud. The Center is happy to have faster responses to our Freedom of Information Requests. However, even as we mark the President's first 100 days in office, the Center for Public Integrity is only too well aware of the many ways that government still misses opportunities for even greater transparency and accountability in the public interest. Our mission and our work remain the same, to make institutional power more transparent and accountable through our original investigative journalism.

The best example of what this means is our recent investigative work: digging into the Climate Lobby funneling money to the Congress and the so-called "Clean Coal" campaign; uncovering the home appraisal bubble pushed by lenders; and revealing the steep drop in Pentagon fraud and corruption cases while the number of federal contracts to private industry soared.

The Sydney Morning Herald:

As the economy has worsened in the first three months of this year and credit markets remain sclerotic, complaints are growing from Wall Street to Washington that Obama is doing too much, spreading himself too thin.
Almost in the same breath, though, there has been criticism that he has ducked hard decisions, such as postponing a commission on the social security system in the face of Democrat opposition, or not pushing ahead with a ban on assault weapons after another spate of mass shootings.
The New York Times wrote this week: "His early willingness to deal or fold has left commentators, and some loyal Democrats, wondering: where's the fight?"
"The thing we still don't know about him is what he is willing to fight for," Leonard Burman, an economist at the Urban Institute, and a Treasury department official in the Clinton administration, was quoted as saying. "It's hard to think of a place where he's taken a really hard position."

Rudd is Obama's bitch

If I held any remnant hope that a change in government meant Australia's foreign policy was no longer dictated by Washington, that fell away yesterday when Kevin Rudd announced that he would be sending more Aussie soldiers to the US & NATO alliance war in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
When Rudd fronted the cameras to tell us he was sending more troops into harm's way
he mentioned the US President by name at least 5 times.
And don't think it wasn't noticed that this announcement was timed to take advantage of whatever nationalistic sentiments were still in the air after ANZAC Day.

The hunt is on for 1.2 million 'missing' Australian voters

There are over 1.2 million people in the Australian population who are eligible to vote but who haven't registered with the Australian Electoral Commission according to a recent media release.

Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn said the AEC was stepping up its efforts to find these missing Australians and encourage them to enrol to vote.
"We are currently sending over 550,000 personally addressed letters across the country to where we think these Australians—about half of those missing from the electoral roll—might be living.
The mail-out package will include an enrolment form and reply paid envelope.

I will be interested to see how this drive to find these 'missing' voters turns out.

Because I can't help wondering just how many are phantoms created by incorrectly spelt names being originally entered into government digital databases.

I once had a digital shadow because one letter was left off my name during an AEC update of the rolls and this caused me no end of problems at the polling booth until it was sorted.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Who reads Bolt and Blair anyway? An update

I've often wondered who actually reads Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair's MSM blogs.
It seems I'm not alone in this as it is mentioned from time to time in the blogosphere.

Google Trends cannot give a definitive answer, but it most usefully supplied this short profile of who visits websites in 2009.

It is likely that those who read Murdoch's online newspapers mostly hail from Australia and America, favour the Herald-Sun, are sports fans and look up telephone numbers on the Internet.

Not the same profile as those visiting the Prime Minister's official website , the Australian Financial Review online, Crikey's website, the Club Troppo blog or even visitors to local newspaper the Northern Star .

Byron Shire Echo finds itself kissed by the pawn fairy?

Smack bang in the middle of a Byron Shire Echo article on 21st April 2009 about an upcoming event involving school children came this little line.

I'm still wondering what it's all about.
What one earth is mention of an American site like this doing on a free online newspaper?
Will the Byron Shire Echo be the first NSW North Coast newspaper to make it onto Conroy's URL blacklist? {smiling evilly}

The Byron Shire Echo's woes continue.
I'm told that visitors to its website on 6 May 2009 found that they had been diverted to yet another p#rn site and a video involving a group grope.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

South Park's ignorance of Australian politics only refects the rest of the world

There have been a number of mentions of a recent episode of the animated comedy South Park which depicted the Australian Prime Minister as John Howard instead of Kevin Rudd.

I honestly don't think the issue rates much attention, because it only reflects the real level of the world's knowledge of Australia and this lack of depth has been well-known for years.

Kevin Rudd and Labor coming to power in 2007 may have created a wave of interest across the nation but in general the world shrugged, yawned and rolled over.

Here are Google Trends for the terms Kevin Rudd and Prime Minister Rudd (January 2007 to date) showing the spatial distribution of Internet searches using that search engine.

"prime minister rudd"

It is evident that only in Australia is there enough interest in Kevin Rudd to drive high volume search traffic.

If anyone thought otherwise then they have been reading too much into national mainstream media reports since Kevin 07 and his team contested the last federal election.

The hunt for a perfect hamburger is taken seriously in Grafton NSW

M. Allison writing a letter to The Daily Examiner editor defines the perfect hamburger on 23 April 2009.

Then on 25 April, according to Clarrie Rivers who sent on these images, the burghers of Grafton bit back.

Click images to enlarge

The Iced Vo-Vo War and how to survive it

ABC News gave us the good oil on that Iced Vo-Vo war between Arnott's Biscuits and Krispy Creme.
It's a case of duelling lawyers at dawn.
But before anyone starts to beat the patriotic drum and talk about Aussie icons - both these companies are U.S. clones.
Arnott's is owned by the multinational Campbell Soup Company and Krispy Creme is an international franchise.
The Iced Vo-Vo is now about as Australian as the doughnut and quality was substituted after 1997.
So go for each other's throats fellas, because in all this a dinkum Aussie has the neutrality of the Swiss (and those of us who remember when a local biscuit really was a cut above the Yanks best will look on with amusment as you fling money at law firms during this global recession).

Put the kettle on will ya, Darl and bring in a few of those bickies from the CWA.....

Pic from Nice cup of tea and a sit down

Monday 27 April 2009

Is Clarence Valley Council being honest with NSW Planning Minister Keneally over proposed West Yamba development?

In February this year Clarence Valley Council resolved to accept the Maclean Local Environmental Plan 2001 (West Yamba Amendment) and sent this planning instrument down to the NSW Minister for Planning Kristina Keneally for her consent.

But was Clarence Valley Council completely honest with the Minister?

Nowhere in the West Yamba Amendment and accompanying documents does Council point out that most of the land directly below Sullivan's Lane in West Yamba is now privately owned land and has been since the late 1990s.

Clarence Valley Council is always at pains to refer to this land as "Other land, owned by Birrigan Gargle Local Aboriginal Land Council and land subject to a Land Claim, south of Sullivan's Road is not included in the Draft LEP" and words to that effect in other parts of the documents.

However, these documents also show that Council expects to funnel natural drainage/storm water/flood waters, displaced by West Yamba development landfill, onto this privately-owned environmentally sensitive land "south of Sullivan's Road" via a designated unfilled floodway/drainage corridor with a relatively narrow end point.
Thereby potentially increasing the amount of such water flowing across this land and possibly causing more damage than might naturally occur.

Section of the Draft West Yamba LEP Map showing the floodway/drainage corridor

The Clarence Valley Council map shown here clearly shows the floodway/drainage corridor (used to mitigate required landfill in the proposed large-scale development) is intended to deposit water onto Lot 201 DP729134, a 229.6ha lot owned outright by Birrigan Gargle Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Indeed if Council's own documents are to be believed, the development of West Yamba could not go ahead unless Yaegl land is used as a dumping ground for drainage and flooding problems associated with this proposed development.

The last time I noticed, Australian law still allowed a property owner to sue state and/or local government for that kind of arbitrary action.

Which may explain why Clarence Valley Council appears to be attempting to massage the facts in order to obscure ownership details in documents before the Minister.

Sometimes being that cute can backfire - especially when the ghost of Rylands v Fletcher still roams court corridors in Australia.

And now there are eight........

According to Computer World there is another ISP signing on for the Rudd-Conroy mandatory national ISP-level Internet filtering scheme 'live' trial:

Optus joins seven other ISPs in participating in the filtering - Primus Telecommunications, Highway 1, Nelson Bay Online, Netforce, OMNIconnect, TECH 2U and Webshield.

Well that makes eight ISPs that I'll be buying goods and services from when Hades freezes over.

Farming in a Changing Climate workshops at Casino and Grafton 5th & 12th May 2009

The NSW Dept of Primary Industires is running a three day workshop spread over 6 weeks to assist landholders prepare and adapt their property for climate risk, in Casino starting 5 May and in Grafton starting 12 May 2009.

This course is registered under the Commonwealth Government's FarmReady program.
Eligible primary producers can be reimbursed for the cost of this course.
See the FarmReady website for more details.

The course aims to:
  • Encourage appropriate responses to climate change such as high flow pumping and appropriate on farm water storage.
  • Provide training in strategies to improve rainfall utilisation which do not significantly impact catchment flows.
  • Provide training tailored to landscapes and soils that will allow landowners to improve the resilience of their properties to climatic impacts.
  • Promote measures that contribute to carbon sequestration and soil health.
  • Integrate training with the Community Support Officers and available incentive funding to promote the maximal conversion of plans into on ground works.

Pre-registration is required. Contact Greg Reid on (02) 6626.1213 or

Sunday 26 April 2009

She who shall remain nameless baked some hash cookies.....

Shades of the 1960s and children of the revolution........

It was reported this week that a woman was arrested for selling cannabis cookies and chocs (as well as funny cigarettes) when police did a foot patrol of the Nimbin Museum on the NSW North Coast late last year.

This week the Lismore magistrate was obviously in a realistic mood.
He sentenced, then suspend this and put in place a short good behaviour bond for the hapless chef.

I hadn't realised that anyone still made hash cookies.
Well, live and learn.

What were those naughty little Nimbinites thinking?

Picture from Google Images

Annual Bangalow Billy Cart Derby, Sunday 17 May 2009

The Annual Bangalow Billy Cart Derby will be held on Sunday 17th May 2009 when the main street of Bangalow becomes a race track , for kids of all ages to have fun on Bangalow's big day.

A new attraction this year will be the Schools Billy Cart Challenge Race. This is probably the first ' schools challenge race ' ever to be held in Australia. It will be run as a separate race entry where all the schools entries compete against other schools.

All Primary Schools are invited to enter, and as an added incentive $1,500.00 in prize money will be given to the P.& C. Association of the winning and runner-up schools. The cart drivers ( boys or girls ) will be primary school students 12 years and under. Just imagine brightly painted Billy Carts with ' catchy ' names then add scores of kids cheering for their school, competing in traditional rivalries, such as Byron v Mullumbimby.
We are very keen to introduce these races as we feel that teaching children road safety can't start early enough. The NSW Police Dept., N.R.M.A., Youth Services, Local Community Groups, Shire Councils all support this event.

The day will commence with the ...' Blessing of the Carts ' followed by the Junior heats. There is a category to suit everyone, for boys and girls from age 5 through to ' opens '. There is Traditional, Homegrown, Novelty and Professional categories for the Carts. Race classifications are for age-groups 5-7 ; 8-11 ; 12-15 and open age. Also included are; Tag- team, Mothers and Celebrity races.

At 12-30 p.m. there is the Grand Parade which includes Community, Sporting, and other groups. Also participating over the years have been Pipe Bands, Vintage Cars and Motor Bikes, Fire Brigades and Samba Bands, schools, kindergartens, pony clubs, scouts and a few local heroes.
Everyone is invited to participate in this Award Winning, " not for profit " Community Event where all the proceeds are distributed to local charities and fundraisers. Start building your cart now to promote your business or group, we want to see lots of new entries and innovations, but make sure it has safe brakes and steering. This event is really well covered by T.V. Radio and Press so you will be able to see your cart flying down the main street of Bangalow and everyone having a great time.

Contact details : Tony Heeson

(02) 66 87 2580 or 0419 715 098

Go to for further details and entry forms

A word about national borders for the record..........

..........I'm not afraid of refugees in general or boat people in particular.
I don't hate the idea of these desperate people or wish to deny them safe harbour in Australia.
I take as much notice of Turnbull's little rants as I did of Howard's and I think Rudd's people smugglers are the scum of the earth line is simple-minded demonising which doesn't do a thing to address the problem of commercial smuggling.
So will both sides of the divide in Canberra just get over it.
Maybe then certain small minds in the mainstream media will quit their hysterics and we'll be able to avoid another boring earbashing.

Saturday 25 April 2009

What some people will pay for a spot in local government

Figures released by the NSW Election Funding Authority show that Pat Comben, a former minister in the Queensland Government, had what it took to win one of the nine spots on Clarence Valley Council at the 2008 elections.

To secure a spot at the CVC decision makers' table, Comben spent $6855.50.

Daylight was second, followed by other biggish spenders Karen Toms ($3057.25) and Craig Howe ($2481.98).

Joining Comben, Toms and Howe at the decision makers' table are Richie Williamson ($1263.03), Ian Dinham ($969.96), Jim Simmons ($937.50), Sue Hughes ($374.40), Margaret McKenna ($70) and Ian Tiley (Nil).

Yes, Ian Tiley didn't spend a cent! Well, that's what his declaration to the EFA states.

Tiley wasn't the only candidate who didn't put his hand in his pocket. EFA documents show there were others.

Still, to this day, a number of candidates are yet to reveal how much the exercise cost them.

Here's what the candidates said they spent:

GRACE CLAGUE No details provided
IAN DINHAM $ 969.96
TERRENCE FLANAGAN No details provided
CRAIG HOWE $ 2,481.98
DENISE HYDE $ 1,533.60
KURT KRISTOFFERSEN No details provided
MAURICE MAHER $ 1,748.60
BRENDAN MORANT No details provided
DONALD PHILBROOK No details provided
KAREN TOMS $ 3,057.25

Go here to see copies of candidates' declarations to the EFA.

Remembering both partners in the legend on Anzac Day 2009

Australian and New Zealand soldiers resting at Gallipoli 1915
Images from Wikipedia and the Corbis Collection

Why war is hell

Paul Mitchell bravely lifts the curtain on a timely reminder of why war is really hell for everyone.

Drinking to their deaths on Anzac Day

Crikey reader Paul Mitchell writes:

World War II veteran Keith sits on the beach in the TV ad and reflects on the death of his mate Jack. I think of my late grandfather, but Keith's stubby and the empty chair beside him don't remind me of Bill's war deeds.

I'm proud of Bill, who fought in the Middle East and Crete. He arrived back in Australia with a wounded knee and arm, but played and umpired 500 games of football. He should never have been at war -- he signed up at 16 -- but he's one of the many we remember every Anzac Day...........

As well as physical wounds, my grandfather received deep psychological damage. Post-traumatic stress disorder was unknown in the '40s, and there were no counselling services. So he did what many of his mates did: numbed the pain with grog.

Bill drank solidly for 52 years and his liver, kidneys and spleen were shot when he died. But the alcohol didn't just affect his body: he was a violent alcoholic who created a warzone. He physically and psychologically abused his wife and kids, and the effects continue: his four children have had psychological problems; two of his sons have been alcoholics (with four marriages between them) and one of their daughters suicided.......

Keith's trembling voice as he talks about his mate reminds me of my grandfather's on the rare occasions he allowed the terrified boy inside himself to remember the war. I want to raise a glass to Keith, Bill and all the men and women like them. But respect for those who have lived through domestic warzones means I won't.

Friday 24 April 2009

Australian state government hires spies

Last Friday The Sydney Morning Herald reported on an Australian company which contracts to supply open intelligence to business and government:

David Vaile, executive director of UNSW's Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, believes SR7 may be acting unethically and said he suspected companies were using dirt gathered from social networking sites as an excuse to fire people due to the challenging economic climate.

He said the practice could backfire when the economy turns around as people would refuse to work for or trust companies that spied on staff.

He said the issue raised questions over where the boundary is between public and private comments.

Here's what the company says about itself:

We provide protection and strategy for brands and reputations.

While one of its published case studies is quite frankly fascinating:

SR7 undertook a comprehensive audit for a leading State Government department to identify on-line risks to the organization and its business units with exposure to social media.
The assessment unearthed a series of online activities by employees and stakeholders, acting as an early warning system for key decision makers.
SR7 provided counsel and advice on mitigation strategies for implementation by the relevant agencies.

So which public servants were being spied on and in what state and which government department was silly enough to contract out this strange work to a company that brags like this?

Happy birthday, Mr. Shakespeare.

With his actual birth date unknown, the arrival of William Shakespeare into the world is usually celebrated in April on St. George's Day.

He may have written wildly inaccurate history into his plays, have littered the whole with crude stereotypes - but oh, the language soars.

Living as he did in the 16th century, William would of course find the modern world passing strange and, perhaps even stranger should he come to hear of Australia.

However there are some things he would recognize - national finances are precarious, soldiers are fighting overseas, terrorism and treason are often topics of the day and the government censor is beginning to breathe more heavily over shoulders.

Photograph: BBC News

Rudd's 2020 continues to underwhelm at my house

The official view from Canberra in the wake of that basically elitist gabfest; "The Australia 2020 Summit was held on 19 and 20 April 2008 at Parliament House in Canberra, bringing together 1,000 participants from across the nation and generating more than 900 ideas."

The media view on Wednesday; "JUST nine new ideas from nearly 1000 developed by Kevin Rudd's 2020 Summit talkfest are set to be adopted. But the most popular one, for Australia to become a republic appears to have sunk without a trace."

Apparently Rudders favours:
"A national "golden gurus'' mentoring program;
$50 million for the development of a bionic eye;
The creation of a civilian corps help out in war zones and natural disasters;
A dedicated ABC children's TV channel;
A new indigenous cultural education centre;
A PM's award scheme to boost Asian links;

A "roundtable" for business and schools; and,
A high-speed broadband for vocational education organizations."

As well as:
"A Skills for the Carbon Challenge initiative to equip workers and business with green skills"

Well, I guess vocational education organizations will be underwhelmed, since Rudders has already announced a national high-speed broadband for every town of 1,000 souls or more.
Likewise the various inventor's of bionic eyes will probably be grateful for further funding, but also might've preferred to have had that money during the hard slog of creating medical prosethesis.
While the Republic Movement will be livid and plotting dire revenge.

Now we hear that the PM wants a 2020 summit every few years.
I think all those in-flight gourmet meals must be going to more than Rudders' chin line when he come up with a mish mash idea like that.
After all - Cate Blanchett might not want to have another baby every few years!

For what it's worth here's the report Responding to the Australia 2020 Summit.

Thursday 23 April 2009

The International Monetary Fund report pretends to tell us something we didn't already know (transcript)

With so much media coverage of the global financial crisis it would be hard not to understand that toxic debt is actually higher than originally anticipated, working capital is hard to find and, in the case of Australia, that the national economy was bound to go into recession this year, government revenue fall and unemployment deepen.

So the International Monetary Fund's April 2009 report on global financial stability does not report the unexpected:

The global financial system remains under severe stress as the crisis broadens to include households, corporations, and the banking sectors in both advanced and emerging market countries. Shrinking economic activity has put further pressure on banks' balance sheets as asset values continue to degrade, threatening their capital adequacy and further discouraging fresh lending. Thus, credit growth is slowing, and even turning negative, adding even more downward pressure on economic activity. Substantial private sector adjustment and public support packages are already being implemented and are contributing to some early signs ofstabilization. Even so, further decisive and effective policy actions and international coordination are needed to sustain this improvement, to restore public confidence in financial institutions, and to normalize conditions in markets. The key challenge is to break the downward spiral between the financial system and the global economy. Promising efforts are already under way for the redesign of the global financial system that should provide a more stable and resilient platform for sustained economic growth.To mend the financial sector, policies are needed to remove strains in funding markets forbanks and corporates, repair bank balance sheets, restore cross-border capital flows (particularly toemerging market countries); and limit the unintended side effects of the policies being implemented to combat the crisis. All these objectives will require strong political commitment under difficult circumstances and further enhancement of international cooperation. Such international commitment and determination to address the challenges posed by the crisis are growing, as displayed by the outcome of the G-20 summit in early April. Without a thorough cleansing of banks' balance sheets of impaired assets, accompanied by restructuring and, where needed, recapitalization, risks remain that banks' problems will continue to exert downward pressure on economic activity. Though subject to a number of assumptions, our best estimate of writedowns on U.S.-originated assets to be suffered by all holders since the outbreak of the crisis until 2010 has increased from $2.2 trillion in the January 2009 Global Financial StabilityReport (GFSR) Update to $2.7 trillion, largely as a result of the worsening base-case scenario for economic growth. In this GFSR, estimates for writedowns have been extended to include other mature market-originated assets and, while the information underpinning these scenarios is more uncertain, such estimates suggest writedowns could reach a total of around $4 trillion, about two thirds of which would be incurred by banks. There has been some improvement in interbank markets over the last few months, but funding strains persist and banks' access to longer-term funding as maturities come due is diminished. While in many jurisdictions banks can now issue government-guaranteed, longer-term debt, their funding gap remains large. As a result, many corporations are unable to obtain banksupplied working capital and some are having difficulty raising longer-term debt, except at much more elevated yields.

Global Financial Stability Report, April 2009 Summary Version and Statistical Appendix

Preschoolers vs patients in development tiff

How many medical practices are there in Yamba?
Three, four - for a population of around 6,000?

Now yet another one is being considered by Clarence Valley Council in a section of the existing Kangabunnaby's child care centre building.

Yet another parking nightmare in the making for land that was zoned residential in the original cul-de-sac subdivision.
If passed, Kangabunnaby's would change from a 90-child facility down to one that caters for 54 children, with a total of 12 car spaces for staff and parents; and three consulting suites that shared nine car spaces plus two disabled car spaces.

Local mums are not amused and, one has to suspect that a development application fix may be in place when you see a proposed small medical practice described in the local media as a super clinic.

My nose tells me that if the application gets passed, within two years the owners will close the childcare centre and submit another DA for commercial premises.
Even more parking woes!

Clarence Floodplain Project in top 25 outstanding Aus-NZ projects announced by the Global Restoration Network

Jabiru at Little Broadwater on the Clarence Floodplain
Photograph: Clarence Valley Council

The Global Restoration Network and its cross-Tasman expert panel has just announced the top 25 outstanding ecological restoration projects being undertaken in Australian and New Zealand.

The Clarence Floodplain Project was included in this list and was also in the top 17 highly commended projects category.

Well done Clarence Valley Council and landholders and industry partners in this ongoing program.

I really shouldna, but WTF

It seems there can't be that many Aussies using Twitter because Cursebird, the real-time feed which records tweets using those b-a-d words, only had around 1.41% of tweets with the word b@stard included.
So where the bluidy hell are ya?

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Possum on Turnbull's political free fall

Because of late I have neglected that ex-merchant banker who leads the Federal Coalition Opposition, here is Possum Comitiatus in Tuesday's Crikey:

This appears to be one of those "Holy cascading waterfalls of public disapproval Batman!" type events.

If we head on over to the historical satisfaction ratings of Opposition Leaders ,the only previous example that seems remotely comparable to Turnbull’s performance in the metrics is that of his Lordship, Alexander Downer.


Well said Possum.

I suspect that the next viable leader of the party is still in nappies, because it will take that sort of generational change to revive the post-Howard corpse.

And who said it wouldn't go to his head.......

Barack Obama is President of the United States of America - arguably the most powerful political position going, backed as it is by America's military might.

However, there is a global financial crisis and America is suffering. In March 2009 the official U.S. unemployment rate reached a 25 year high and over 13 million people (reputedly the highest absolute number on record) are wondering where their next pay check will come from.

The U.S. federal government is not as popular as the Obama Administration had hoped when it came to power after the 2007 presidential election. Tea parties to demonstrate against the taxpayer-funded financial bailout of Wall Street are the order of the day.

So is President Obama taking note of the mood of the nation and exercising a little fiscal restraint at the White House?

Not if this media snippet in the Mail Online is anything to go by:

When you're the president of the United States, only the best pizza will do - even if that means flying a chef 860 miles.

Chris Sommers, 33, jetted into Washington from St Louis, Missouri, on Thursday with a suitcase of dough, cheese and pans to prepare food for the Obamas and their staff.

He had apparently been handpicked after the President had tasted his pizzas on the campaign trail last autumn.

The NSW North Coast Local Government Stakes winners of 2007 and bets laid

In that race for the mayoral seat just how did NSW North Coast mayors' campaign spending compare at the 2007 local government election of shire councillors?

According to their own disclosure declarations of political donations and campaign expenditure:

Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Williamson spend $1,263.03 of his own money (mostly outlaid on newspaper and radio advertising) and nobody else chipped in any cash or kind help it seems.

Ballina Mayor Phil Silver splurged $8,941.36 from his personal kitty (spending it for the better part on newspaper, radio and cinema adverts with the odd poster thrown in) and no-one gave him a single cent as a donation.

Byron Mayor Jan Barham declared that she spent nothing and received nothing, presumably because she was running on a Greens group ticket.

Kyogle Mayor Ross Brown who heads a council representing only a few thousand punters, spent accordingly at $100 from his own wallet (paid down entirely at the local newspaper's advertising department) and not a brass razoo was sent his way from any other source.

Tweed Mayor Joan Van Lieshout (who ran as part of a NSW Liberals group ticket) spent nothing to get elected to council and, despite a fundraiser event, received no individual political donations, but Peiter Van Lieshout gave a $12,425.40 cheque to the ticket campaign which was spent on almost every form of campaigning known.

Coffs Mayor Keith Rhoades was another candidate who spent and received no money in his own right, but the group ticket of which he was a part laid out $9,250 and received $1,700 in donations (most of which was spent on TV and newspaper adverts).

Richmond Mayor Col Sullivan managed to risk $6,068.56 of his private moolah on the group ticket, which was a big part of total group candidate contributions of $10,068.56 (mainly spent on newspaper ads and flyers as well as someone to distribute these).

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Free TV fails bush viewers

Techno dinosaur Southern Cross Television's viewers don't rate

Channel Ten has been crowing about its fantastic new 24/7 sports channel, Channel One .



Well, it might be IF viewers live in metropolitan areas.

Channel Ten's programs in the bush are broadcast by the techno dinosaur Southern Cross Television, which reckons it will have things together by July.

Here's a tip: Given Southern Cross's track record, punters should take the odds that it will start showing One programs after Christmas ... perhaps!

How serious is local government about protecting against climate change impacts? Not very it seems, if it is Clarence Valley Council

On 17 April 2009 The Daily Examiner ran a front page article about Yamba at the mouth of the Clarence River on the NSW North Coast; Yamba Prone to Disaster?

Yesterday it posted online a letter to the editor on the same subject:

YAMBA is a town of approximately 6000 residents sitting on predominately low-lying land surrounded on all four sides by tidal bodies of water and tethered to the mainland by a strip of land approximately 1.25 kilometres wide, according to a scaled map.

On April 17, The Daily Examiner published a front page article Yamba Prone To Disaster?

This article pointed out that Yamba will have difficulties coping with the predicted bigger floods of longer duration and increasingly severe storms accompanied by storm surges.

Part of this difficulty is the limited evacuation options open to residents should Yamba Road be cut by floodwater in any of the three to four places it has been cut in the past, thereby denying access to high ground at Yamba Hill for a considerable number of residents and/or preventing movement inland towards Maclean or the Pacific Highway.

Floodwater in certain side roads or across Angourie Road will also cause problems for residents seeking high ground.

The Daily Examiner article went on to say that the State Emergency Service (SES) was concerned about this situation and that its submission to Clarence Valley Council regarding proposed large-scale urban development in Yamba recommended in effect that the Maclean Local Environmental Plan 2001 (LEP) amendment for West Yamba be deferred pending further study.

The SES were right to draw council's attention to the problems which may be experienced as severe weather events become more common.

According to Clarence Valley Council documents, Yamba flooding can occur because of a combination of high river flows, high ocean levels, wind-wave action along the foreshore or from intense rain over the local catchment (Webb, McKeown and Associates, 2009, 'Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Plan').

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a storm surge is a large amount of water pushed towards the shore, which combining with the existing tide and/or floodwater, raises the mean water level by 15 feet or more depending on the inclination of the underwater shelf leading to the foreshore.

Wind-driven waves are superimposed on this surge and the total effect is often swift and destructive flooding of coastal areas (, April 18, 2009).

It is easy for the average person to recall that in the last decade storm surges have caused loss of life in America, India, South-East Asia and New Guinea.

It is also easy for Yamba locals to recall that severe 'east-coast lows' are sometimes preceded by days of rain and have been known to follow close on the heels of a Clarence Valley flood.

So here we have a town, with a large retiree population, two aged-care facilities and more than a few people without a car, faced with the probability that from now on it will be more vulnerable in floods and severe storms and, that there may be some risk to life as well as anywhere between $1.9 million to $113.7 million worth of property damage from any one severe adverse weather event (Webb, McKeown and Associates, 2009, 'Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Plan').

What does Clarence Valley Council do when faced with this risk scenario?

Does it look at the recent reports from reputable CSIRO researchers which state that sea levels are rising faster than was thought (University of Copenhagen, 2009, Climate Change International Scientific Congress) and move to protect existing residents by immediately beginning to organise a co-ordinated emergency evacuation plan? No, it does not.

What is does is decide to progress the proposed development of West Yamba (based on what appears to be 2007 predicted sea-level data), thereby eventually adding another 2000 to 2500 people to an already vulnerable population and taking away yet another section of local flood storage land, at the same time deciding that it will ask for money from a cash-strapped NSW Government to put together some sort of plan with the help of emergency services at some indefinite point in the future.

Why does it do this?

Well, on reading council's February 24, 2009 ordinary monthly meeting minutes and attachments, it appears that it has accepted the argument that to defer the LEP amendment would not be 'considered reasonable'. So intent are our nine councillors on appeasing a select group of property speculators and so determined are they to widen the Yamba rate base, that these same councillors are willing to ignore their duty of care and the risk to residents' lives in favour of being 'reasonable'.

Clarence Valley Council obviously has not taken note of the fact that should individuals in the expanded Yamba population experience property loss or loss of a family member as a result of predicted flooding/surges, it would be within the realms of possibility that council would face both individual litigation and a class action.

Our nine councillors should also remember that, in certain circumstances, they do not have full indemnity for the resolutions they pass. Or perhaps they do remember and that is the reason for the deafening silence on the subject of Yamba since they passed the West Yamba amendment?


Biotech: the unmet promise of genetically engineered crops?

In the face of a review of GM crop yield studies which concluded that there was no appreciable difference between crops grown from conventional and genetically modified seed, talk of herbicide resistant weeds being associated with land used for GM crops and the banning of GM maize MON 10 by Germany on environmental grounds, the big biotech companies are pretending that is still business as usual.

And if you are a large multinational corporation like Monsanto, with lobbyist tentacles reaching into so many national or state governments around the world, I expect that it really is business as usual.

So usual that it is thinking of starting yet another court case in its pursuit of the 'golden' apex of a global agricultural food chain.

Still it doesn't hurt if you also create a slice of corporate propaganda like this:

View and Download this Ad
from Monsanto website

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

Dear Mal, Get a life!

Is it just me or does anyone else feel thoroughly browned off with Aussie Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull's constant carping?

Fair Work Australia is wrong, the stimulus packages are bad, the ETS is a disaster, giving extra money to the poor is a waste of dollars, a budget in deficit is the end of the world as we know it, Rudd is a villain and Swan an idiot, the country's being invaded by boat people, we should be told why SEIV 36 blew up before the police investigation is finalised, there's a conspiracy under the bed and its name is Labor, blah, blah, blah............

Mal -

Monday 20 April 2009

Fred Nile's mob shaft Gordon Moyes

A fraction too much friction between NSW Upper House Members

Years of mud slinging and arm wrestling in the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) reached a climax on the weekend when Fred Nile's mob expelled Gordon Moyes from the party.

While many seasoned political observers have thought the two CDP members would finally settle their differences using the pistols-at-dawn way of doing things, Nile's mob moved against Moyes at a meeting of the CDP state council over the weekend. The council voted to uphold the decision made in March to expel Dr Moyes.

The Age reports that Moyes has had discussions about becoming the state's first Family First parliamentarian after being expelled from the Christian Democratic Party (CDP).

In a statement posted on his website Moyes said he would remain in NSW politics despite his expulsion.

“I was expelled not because of any moral, sexual, financial or any other kind of unacceptable Christian behaviour but because I have some different views to the leader and believe the Management committee to be dysfunctional. Differing with our Leader is regarded as disloyalty and being critical of our Management Committee effectiveness is regarded as grounds for expulsion.”

The CDP accused Moyes of many things at Saturday's meeting, but perhaps a couple of the more interesting charges were that Moyes was:

1. a Freemason (Moyes: "I was not and had never been a freemason.") and

2. involved in witchcraft (Moyes: "For the life of me I cannot think what that was for. Did I once quote Macbeth?")

EFA 2008 political donation and election expenditure disclosures published online today at 10 am

Declarations disclosing political donations and electoral expenditure lodged under the Election Funding and Disclosures Act 1981 will be made available to the public on Monday 20 April, 2009.

The Election Funding Authority (EFA) will publish the declarations and disclosure data live on its website at 10.00am.

The disclosures cover the reporting period from 1 July 2008 – 31 December 2008.
This reporting period includes the September 2008 NSW Local Government election activity.

All disclosure data will be searchable by category and will be downloadable.

Data entry is based on information as provided in the declarations of disclosures lodged with the EFA.
Under new reporting rules, declarations of disclosures must be lodged with the EFA every six months.

Campaigning for 2010 starts early in one US state

Believe it or not, it seems America is beginning to gear up for the campaign trail leading to 2 November 2010.
This email from Massachusetts showed up in my Inbox this week.

Dear Friends:
Please join Governor Deval Patrick at a grassroots organizing meeting for supporters and volunteers today, April 16th at 3:30 at Rachel's Lakeside Restaurant on Route 6 in Dartmouth. The Governor will be speaking about his upcoming governing agenda in 2009 and some of his long-term priorities. We will also be discussing ways for you to get involved and help the Governor now and looking toward 2010 and the re-election campaign. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks, Clare Kelly

Clare Kelly
Deval Patrick Committee

The Democrat governor has his own website and Twitter and, of course he's asking for political donations.
Given he was elected with about 56 per cent of the vote last time, it is puzzling to find his campaign committee kitty virtually empty at $3,200 and other campaign funds only reaching somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000.
Is it the tough economic climate or is he an inept governor?

The fact that he appears to be campaigning in far away Australia among people ineligible to vote in US elections may give a hint.

Best online quotes seen recently

Richard Farmer writing in Crikey on 17th April 2007.

It's when MSM sites like this herd the dross of the internet into advertising, by tickling the bigoted little underbellies of their audience with pig-ignorant bullshit being masqueraded around as "fact" and Caped Crusader for the Cretinous.
Possum Comititatus writing about the Herald Sun and journalist Andrew Bolt in Pollytics on 17th April 2007.

WE'VE already seen pictures of his eye ... now we have the first image of the hand of God.
Wishful thinking on the part of an unknown journalist when looking at a NASA photograph on 16th April 2009.

Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).
Legend at the bottom of the page on the XKCD.COM web site.

A WEEK ago Susan Boyle was an unemployed 47-year-old single cat owner who had never been kissed.
David Murray writing in the Herald Sun hits all the stereotypes when reporting the bravura performance of a televised talent show contestant on 18th April 2009.

Sunday 19 April 2009

When Rupert loved Google

Remembering Rupert Murdoch's recent dummy spit about how Google was stealing his mojo and costing his media empire money by running the news aggregate site Google News, it was interesting to stumble upon this little snippet from 2006.

It appears that Rupert's love is a fickle thing - it only lasts as long as the economic good times.

Crime rates: who's up and who's down on the Northern Rivers

Surfing the Net this week I was greeted with a call for more police to tackle crime from Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest in the Far North Coaster.
At the same time The Daily Examiner had police boasting about a fall in the local crime rate and Police Minister Tony Kelly announcing a state-wide reduction in crime.
So how are we actually doing?
Well, it seems the North Coast can still preen its feathers when it comes to how we compare with the rest of NSW.
Overall we've either half the state crime rate (or are holding steady on low percentages) for robbery with any sort of weapon, stealing from a person or fraud.
Although there were low numbers of reported sexual assaults; unfortunately in the Kyogle and Richmond Valley areas sexual assaults were above the state average in 2008, with rates for all reported forms of sexual assault in the Richmond Valley at least doubling.
There were five murders last year on the North Coast (although that's one up from 2007) and our biggest incident numbers were for malicious property damage, but even that was roughly the same as last year.
And when you look at individual council areas it was obvious that malicious damage had fallen in Ballina and Coffs Harbour and assaults had fallen in the Clarence Valley and Ballina.
Break and enters did not grow last year either across the North Coast, though that doesn't lessen the shock for those who found that they'd been burgled.
The exception to this was Byron Bay - where stealing from a dwelling appears to be something of a growth industry.
As for Richmond-Tweed; its physical assault numbers were down on the previous year's figures also, but its break and enter dwelling rates were at least double the state average.
Combined with the 2008 sexual assault rate, this isn't a good look for the area.
So perhaps Geoff Provest has a case for calling on NSW Police to consider beefing up its presence there or at least reviewing local practice.
The fact remains of course that the North Coast overall crime rate hasn't really grown between 2007 and 2008.
The full gen for the whole of NSW is here.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Meet the MP for Page Janelle Saffin

Photograph from

Federal MP for Page Janelle Saffin will be at Ballina Markets on Sunday 19 April (10am) and at Casino Markets (11am) on Sunday 26 April 2009.

Go along and say hello. Bend her ear about your area.
If you don't tell her what you think she'll never know.

Ms. Saffin will also be hosting a forum on proposed changes to how meat quality is assessed and labelled at the Lismore Workers Club on Friday 8 May (2pm-4pm).
Phone her Lismore office on 6621 9909 to register an interest.

Lismore Lantern Parade, Satuday 20 June 2009

It is only a couple of months until that wonderful spectacle the Lismore Lantern Parade.

To remind everyone of how special it is to enter the parade or watch from the sidelines, here are some photographs by Tapperboy of the 2008 parade found at Flickr.

Hopefully Tapperboy will be snapping away this year as well.

Lantern making workshops are being held this month starting on Saturday 18 April and going to 30 May.
You can get details or book a place by phoning 6622 6333 or 6621 2464.

Friday 17 April 2009

Clarence Valley whodunnit

Snapshot from Media Watch
Courtesy of Clarrie Rivers

Ever since ABC TV Media Watch featured The Daily Examiner editor Peter Chapman's ill-fated foray into gender politics, some Clarence Valley residents have been wondering who sent off that copy of Chapman's "Comment" article.

One person caused a smile by suggesting that it would be impossible to tell whodunnit due to the number of those already annoyed with Chapman and that "the perp could've come from a cast of thousands".

While on the subject of The Daily Examiner, this was sent to me yesterday as an example of advertising thinly disguised as news. Something which appears to be cropping up too frequently under Chapman's editorship.

Click to enlarge image

So you want to look through my medical records?

Seems that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Health Minister Nicola Roxon and Human Services Minister Joe Ludwig think it's a beaut idea to have faceless Medicare bureaucrats trawling through the local doctor's patient records just in case he or she is trying to defraud the Commonwealth.
Matching everything (from that brush with the kid's head lice, those uncomfortable haemorrhoids, that dose of the clap, problem with alcohol or recent unplanned pregnancy) to a Medicare billing form with your name on it within 2 years of the date on the audit notice.

But that's not all!
The local hospital, medical specialists and corporate practices can also be asked to hand over your medical records on demand, as well as aboriginal health workers; audiologists; clinical psychologists; diabetes educators; dieticians; exercise physiologists; mental health nurses; occupational therapists; psychologists; socialworkers; and speech pathologists.
Wait there's more!
Not only does Medicare get to look at all those medical records - it gets to take away and keep the originals.
Which means that your confidential records are in yet another government data base.
The doctor's solicitor can also obtain a copy of removed records, so there's yet another person keeking at your maladies.

As to which practitioners will be audited - well it's all a bit of a lottery really because at the moment the government is sorta promising (with fingers crossed behind a few backs) that there will only be 2,500 of these snooping expeditions each year.
Retaining any form of patient confidentiality? Well it's easy to recall those times when Centrelink staff or police officers have been caught out snooping on relllies or selling information from government data bases.

Joe Ludwig expects to have this hunt 'n' hound firmly in place by July this year.
If you want to have a say in all this go to this page on the Department of Health and Aging website for details of the draft legislation which turned up very quietly last Thursday.
You have under 24th April to make a submission.