Wednesday 31 March 2010

David and Goliath. Yamba versus McDonald's

On Tuesday 30 March 2010 a community meeting was called at Yamba to discuss opposition to multinational McDonald's move to establish a 24 hour drive-through food franchise in that coastal town.

The meeting was well attended and the crowd spilled out of the space and onto the street.

Yamba Chamber of Commerce, Valley Watch and Coast Care all spoke out against the McDonald's development application, as did local residents and some small business owners.

A number of Clarence Valley shire councillors attended the meeting and it was obvious that they had already started to receive emails lobbying against the fast food giant's plans.

The meeting convenor invited anyone who supported having a McDonald's in Yamba to the microphone to put forward their views. No-one came forward.

Some background:

The NSW Food Authority keeps what is popularly known as a name and shame file.

In 2009 no Yamba restaurant, cafe or small take-away food business was listed on this file.
However the multinational fast food company McDonald's was mentioned six times.Three times under management by franchise operators and another three times under its own Australian management.

Penalties were issued for Mcdonald's at Armidale, Lithgow, Penrith, Randwick (twice) and Ultimo.

Examples of official findings regarding these outlets:

  • Fail to take all practicable measures to eradicate and prevent the harbourage of pests - live cockroaches observed on the premises
  • Fail to maintain the food premises to the required standard of cleanliness
  • Fail to take all practicable measures to eradicate and prevent the harbourage of pests - live cockroaches observed in the food preparation area
  • Fail to take all practicable measures to eradicate and prevent the harbourage of pests - Customer complaint of fly found in burger. Several flies found in food preparation area

While elsewhere in Australia in April 2009 at 3am; McFilthy - you want gastro with that?

Graphic from NO to McDonalds in YAMBA at Facebook

Third world medicine on the NSW North Coast?

Premier Keneally needs to shift her focus from early electioneering and seriously address funding and service delivery failures in NSW North Coast public hospitals.

This report in The Northern Star last week is yet another pitiful example of how this region is being short-changed by the Keneally Government's management of NSW Health:

AN ELDERLY man suffering from asbestosis had to call Triple-0 from his hospital bed in Lismore Base to get help from a nurse.
Eighty-seven-year old World War II veteran Kevin Park called the emergency number after night shift failed to hear the brass bell he was given as a replacement to the electronic call system at the hospital, which is still not operational.
Yesterday a still angry Mr Park said after ringing the bell for 45 minutes, 'desperate times demanded desperate action'.
"This is like the Third World. We are being treated like dogs."
Patients in Lismore Base's surgical ward were issued with brass bells four weeks ago after both the emergency and nurse call systems failed.
North Coast Area Health last night offered the air force veteran from Iluka an apology 'for any distress that may have been caused to Mr Park and his family'.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

The Hamburgler fights back against Yamba?

Yamba went public in the media last week about its opposition to the McDonald's Restaurants move to establish one of its fast food outlets in Treelands Drive.

A Facebook page was also created called NO to McDonalds in Yamba.

Shortly thereafter another Facebook page sprang up, YES to McDonalds in Yamba (snapshot above). This page looks suspiciously like it was created by the multinational food franchise, its publicists or a company employee or two - perhaps even their family members.

It has all the hallmarks; links to the official company website and multiple promos for McDonald's goods and activities.
However, like the Hamburgler, the page hides behind a mask and doesn't openly declare its creator's identity.

Just after the above post was published the YES to McDonalds in Yamba page posted this:
Noticed something so fun today, some people think this site (page) has been setup by McDonald's Australia......
I am a local who has lived in Townsend, Yamba and Maclean for plenty of years. I have family up and down the Clarence Valley and my Parents have been local residents for 13+ years.
So NO this isn't a corporate site. It's a personal FAN site which is pointing out all the POSITIVES!
The jury's still out on this claim.

Whaling: Japan doesn't have an exclusive right to claim cultural connection in southern waters

The Government of Japan and Japanese whalers have repeatedly made extravagant claims that they have the right to kill whales for their meat based on what is called a cultural tradition of eating whale meat.

Here in Australia a vital part of our society, tribal groups and traditional land owners on the coast, arguably have older and probably stronger cultural ties to whales.

Whale Dreaming © Y. Bundle 2007 This work arose from a dream Yaraan received. It is about the Whale Dreaming songline connected to Keerray Woorroong Country along the coast near Warrnambool. In her dream the Old People told Yaraan the story of the Southern Right Whale and their journey to our waters to give birth to their young. They told her the secret of the whales and the knowledge they bring. This work tells their story.

On gurrawul, the whale, according to the Yuin people of south eastern Australia:

MAX DULUMUNMUN HARRISON: We have our three markings which are so important - spiritual, physical and mental. That they must have the markings to participate in this particular kind of whale dreaming ceremony. The whales were elders once that walked the land and the whales then got permission to go out into gadu, the ocean, to look after the food and the medicines that are all out there in the ocean, because they're the fellas then, that we must respect. And, of course, every time that a whales beaches itself, to come in, it's regurgitating the law. And that is so important. If the law is not regurgitated, then our mob will roam this country aimlessly without culture. And for the eastern seaboard people, that's something I am trying to keep alive so that they can stand up and talk about culture. So that they can participate in a simple ceremony of respecting the whale that's out there in gadu, the ocean.

Monday 29 March 2010

Federal Election 2010: so you like the idea of local hospital boards?

The Federal Coalition and their leader, Tony Abbott, may not have revealed much in the way of a national health policy for Australia to date, but the mantra they are all chanting as they move about electorates is local hospital boards.

So how does Opposition Leader Abbott see these boards functioning in a health system he describes (in his latest book Battlelines) as not needing "fundamental restructuring or gargantuan amounts of additional funding"?

Well, he sees these "hospital boards with clout" - apparently run by medical professionals, probably unqualified but prominent local business people and some community representatives - having an ability to vary public hospital staff wages in a two-tiered system if necessary (with newer staff being paid less as a budget-saving measure) and an ability "to contract out hospital management to a private operator" as another budget measure.

Possibilities which would more than likely horrify communities on the North Coast and in other NSW rural and regional areas.

Elsewhere Abbott claims; Boards would appoint hospital CEOs and, with the CEO, manage hospital budgets. Government would appoint boards and set hospitals’ funding levels but wouldn’t be able to cut funding when hospitals raise money from private patients or fundraising.

All in all, this sounds like a recipe for health service delivery disaster in the public sector.

Gawd 'elp us! Maccas wants to invade Yamba

It's bad enough that Yamba is going through a bit of a bad patch which sees a clutch of small businesses up for sale. Now those mum and dad operated food outlets in its second shopping precinct are under threat, as that giant plastic food producer McDonald's has lodged a development application with Clarence Valley Council.

If the bush telegraph holds true, many Yamba-ites are not amused. I can't wait to hear from Maud!

"McDonald's Australia Limited lodged a development application (DA) with Clarence Valley Council this week for a 112-seat outlet, complete with drive-through, playground and McCafe, to be built on the Treelands Drive Cinema site.
The development, which received strong opposition from the Yamba Chamber of Commerce, would require the demolition of the current temporary cinema shed and the removal of some trees. An extension of the Coldstream Street cinemas was approved by council last week.
A 10-metre high, 3.6 metre wide giant M sign is also proposed for the new Maccas site, which will also provide 32 car parking spaces with access from Treelands Drive.
Yamba Chamber of Commerce president Daniel Reeves said he was 'completely against' a McDonald's coming to Yamba and he believed most of the chamber's membership would feel the same way because of the increased competition and the loss of the small town culture.
"I don't think it's the right time for Yamba to have a Maccas – I can't see a market in their demographic," Mr Reeves said.
"We seem to have a different culture in Yamba – not so much a chain culture, with a couple of exceptions ... it's about protecting the businesses we've got.
"Change such as this, it changes the economic status – if a place is big enough to have a maccas it loses that small town feel." {From The Daily Examiner on 24th March 2010}

McDonald's in Yamba..........
Allowing a McDonald's in Yamba would be a huge mistake for the town voted Best Town in Australia in 2009 - we need to protect the culture of Yamba that brings us so many tourists - a small, slow-paced, beachside town with an amazing coastline, great people and excellent dining options.
Yes, a McDonald's would provide a few jobs for young locals but also be aware that McDonald's restaurants generally use no local produce such as meat, bread, fruit or vegetables.
No local companies will provide any of the packaging, cardboard or paper used.
Also the restaurant will create a mass of rubbish - I can guarantee we will soon be seeing the golden arches floating in and on our beautiful beaches.
Also with the premises intending on being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, this will provide another hot spot for antisocial behaviour.
If you feel strongly about fighting this proposal of a McDonald's in Yamba, then you must act now and submit an objection to council before it is too late. We must make a stand .
NAME, ADDRESS SUPPLIED, Yamba. {The Daily Examiner letter to editor on 26th} March 2010}

Online poll in The Daily Examiner on the day article was published.

Remember this? "On March 31st 1999 the Court of Appeal added to those damning findings. Lord Justices Pill, May and Keane ruled that it was fair comment to say that McDonald's employees worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions", and true that "if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease." {McSpotlight press release on 6th May 2004}

Graphic found at Google Images

Sunday 28 March 2010

Competitor Number 41 please return to the finish line - your party needs you!

Abbott's posed pre-race photograph

Australian Leader of the Opposition and self-styled fitness template, Tony Abbott, was competitor Number 41 in a field of 1,529 to 1,540 others entered in the Ironman Australia Triathlon on Sunday 28 March 2010 at Port Macquarie.

Fifty-three year old Abbott ranked 1,425 (div.pos. 120) in the 2.4 mile swim, 1213 (div. pos. 91) in the 112 mile bike ride and, 1170 (div. pos. 83) in the 26.2 mile run leg of the triathlon - subject to adjustment.

Despite his obvious enthusiasm for the chase perhaps he really should stick with his day job. Because it really was a chase - he was still manfully pedalling through the last stages of the bike leg while the front runners were three-quarters of the way through the final run stage of the event and his own run was still dragging on long after the leading pack had passed the finish line.

It may seem a hard position to take when viewing an event with a big field over a long course, one which saw some participants fail to finish the run before the triathlon results were called.

However this is a middle-aged politician with a history of using his bare chest and crotch physical fitness to pimp for votes and, much older men on the NSW North Coast competing for pleasure in similar events in the past managed to officially finish with very respectable times under their belts.

After all, when it comes down to the crunch, most people want to see economic, environmental and social policy rather than hairy pecs in an election year.

Here is Tony's official race record.

The McGrath Foundation public relations misstep

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. However in an election year charities should be more than a little wary about what those words might be saying if manipulative politicians are involved.

Shoulders back and best foot forward, as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott uses the McGrath Foundation to relentlessly promote himself in March 2010.

What the tax man saw....

While we wait to find out exactly what is in the Henry Tax Review, the Australian Taxation Office has published its latest statistics which are in a nutshell:

For the 2007–08 income year:

  • 14.8 million returns were lodged, an increase of 6.7% from 2006–07
  • 12,640,767 individuals lodged tax returns
  • individual returns represented 85.2% of all returns lodged
  • the proportion of individuals lodging returns using e–tax increased to 17.7%
  • $7.7 billion in tax bonus payments were paid to 8.8 million individuals based on their 2007–08 tax return.
  • 79.5% of individuals were salary and wage earners
  • 13.7% of companies were in the rental, hiring and real estate services industry
  • 25.9% of partnerships were in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry
  • 17.8% of trusts were in the rental, hiring and real estate services industry
  • trusts experienced the largest growth in the number of returns lodged, with an increase of 8.3% from 2006–07
  • individuals accounted for 19.6% of total income, 62.5% of taxable income and 64.4% of net tax
  • companies accounted for 76.1% of total income, 26.7% of taxable income and 30.6% of net tax
  • super funds accounted for 4.3% of total income, 10.7% of taxable income and 5.0% of net tax
  • transfers providing assistance to families and individuals (excluding the one-off tax bonus payment) totalled more than $2.4 billion, a 2.1% decrease from 2006–07.

For the 2008–09 financial year:

  • 2.6% fewer fringe benefits tax returns were lodged than in 2007–08
  • fringe benefits tax collections totalled $3.4 billion, a decrease of 1.3% from 2007–08
  • GST liabilities were $41.5 billion, a decrease of less than 1% from 2007–08
  • excise liabilities were $24.3 billion, an increase of 3.1% from 2007–08 liabilities
  • liabilities from the wine equalisation tax were $729 million, a 13.2% increase from 2007–08
  • luxury car tax liabilities were $376 million, a decrease of 15.9% from 2007–08
  • PAYG withholding liabilities were $116.9 billion, an increase of 2.0% from 2007–08
  • PAYG instalments were $65.1 billion, a decrease of 7.4% from 2007–08
  • During the 2008–09 financial year there were 410,318 self-managed super funds, with a total of 772,300 members.
For those completely spellbound by figures, the complete document and chapter downloads can be found here.

Saturday 27 March 2010

This blog can no longer be seen in China. Can yours?

In January 2010 Open Net Initiative reported that more than half a billion Internet users are being filtered worldwide:

So, just how many people are censored online around the world? We have estimated a number based on the number of Internet users that reside in countries which practice substantial filtering--in terms of the number of sites and/or type of content blocked. The number we have come up with is 563,018,414, or approximately 32% of all Internet users.

This is the international censorship club Prime Minister Rudd and Communications Minister Conroy want Australia to join?

Because North Coast Voices is hosted by Google's and, Google is currently in dispute with the Chinese Government, it appears that we may be blocked by government censors in China.
Although we only had occasional visitors from mainland China it is still disappointing to find that we appear to be inaccessible now.

Google reports via its Mainland China service availability site:

This page offers a summary of Google service accessibility from within mainland China. The status is determined at the level of the service and may not reflect individual experiences. Unless otherwise noted, this status information applies to consumer services as well as services for organizations using Google.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society (Harvard University) Herdict states that:

  • China has 10,212 reports of inaccessible sites (1,550 are unique)
  • China has 5,478 reports of accessible sites (1,822 are unique)
  • China is ranked 1 in number of reports.
Currently listed as predominately inaccessible in that country are Internet websites such as Scribd, The Huffington Post, BBC and the search engine Bing, along with Twitter and email services Gmail and Hotmail.

Herdict graph of Blogger access in China

In January 2010 Open Net Initiative reported on Chinese search engines; Foreign visitors to Baidu are not exempt from the blocking: If a search contains blocked phrases, Baidu will lock the user out of the search engine for five minutes. A search for the term Google returns normal results, while a search for the URL of the Google blog brings about a lockout (warning: you will actually be barred from Baidu for five minutes). The same scenario occurred when searching on QQ, Sogou, and

A Saturday saunter through Northern Rivers art

Karyn Fendley
Cradle Mountain

Matthew Farrell Alchemical Bottle Allegria 5,6,&9, 2009

Liz Deckers
Project Oh Dolly (5)

From the Arts Northern Rivers-Visual Arts Network

Friday 26 March 2010

Vale Patricia Wrightson

Patricia Wrightson author and long-time Clarence Valley resident died this month.

Patricia Wrightson, who died this week aged 88, was one of the first children's writers to use Australian places and idioms in her novels. [Many of her works draw on Australian mythology.] Born in the northern NSW town of Lismore, Wrightson's first books were published in the 1950's, and she continued writing until ill health forced her retirement in the late 1990's.

In 1999, the NSW Premier's literary awards honoured Ms Wrightson by naming their children's literary prize after her. Minister for the Arts, Virginia Judge, yesterday acclaimed Ms Wrightson as an "Australian literary great". (As reported in The Australian, March 25, 12:00 am.)

Ms. Wrightson was one of Australia's best known children's authors. She worked as assistant editor of School Magazine from 1964-1970 and became editor in 1970 until 1975. Her first children's book The Crooked Snake, written in 1955 won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year 1956. With a writing career of nearly fifty years, Ms. Wrightson won that award again for The Nargun and The Stars (1973), The Ice is Coming (1977), A Little Fear (1983). High commendations were awarded for The Bunyip Hole (1958), The Feather Star (1962), I Own the Racecourse! (1968) which was also the CBCA Book of the year in 1969, An Older Kind of Magic (1972), Behind the Wind (1981), Balyet (1989) was shortlisted for Older Readers 1990, The Sugar-gum Tree (1991) was shortlisted for Younger Readers in 1992, Rattler's Place (1997) was named an Honour Book for Younger Readers in 1998.

Ms. Wrightson received the Dromkeen Medal in 1984, the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1986 and delivered the annual Arbuthnot Lecture in 1985.

In a 1991 Horn Book Magazine article, Wrightson describes the roots of writing:

"The necessary, natural struggle to tell a story is always new, but the roots were there already: hiding in yourself, planted by your inheritance to be discovered through need. They were deep and strong... the roots of writing are deeper than you think. "Deeper Than you Think." by: Wrightson, Patricia, Horn Book Magazine, Vol. 67, Issue 2.

Photograph from The National Library of Australia

Australian federal election 2010: a garden trowel analysis of Teh Worms

Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott with the Channel 7 polygraph 'worm'

Apparently many Federal Coalition MPs and associated political hacks just can't believe that their favourite verbal street brawler might just turn out to be the one politician in 2010 that most of Australia secretly loves to hate.

To the last person the Coalition has forgotten the considerable negative baggage Tony Abbott has acquired over the years and haven't factored in the possibility of a quiet desire to 'pay back' this man for years of arrogant, sneering, judgmental and plain offensive statements made about various sections of Australian society.

Indeed, since 1994 Abbott's cast his net so wide that it would be hard to find an extended family with a single member he has not offended at one time or another.

Rather than face this possibility right now, Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane simply launched himself into the stratosphere obviously hoping to meet up with Major Tom:

Today Tony Abbott clearly established himself as an alternate Prime Minister. He showed the people of Australia he was up to the job. The Prime Minister just waffled.

Assorted Coalition sympathizers have decided that they are more than a little suspicious of those Channel 9 and Channel 7 Leaders' Debate audience response 'worms' - maybe it's all a bit of a conspiracy or even a really big one.

Journalist Adam Carroll writing in The Daily Examiner on Wednesday 24 March 2010 is also a trifle uneasy:

SO, what to make of yesterday's debate between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the man who wants his job, Tony Abbott?
If Channel Nine's worm is to be believed, the Prime Minister romped it in.
The worm, or the people controlling it at least, didn't appear to like what Mr Abbott had to say about health, the area for which he was responsible for a time in the Howard government.
The result - the worm had Mr Rudd winning 71-29 - should be viewed with a deal of scepticism. There's no way Mr Rudd won the debate by that margin, if indeed he won it at all.
Either the room was unintentionally stacked with rusted on Labor supporters, or the 'wormers' had preconceived views about Mr Abbott.
Whatever the reason, the worm plunged through the floor each time it was the Opposition Leader's turn to speak. Sometimes it headed south even before he opened his mouth.
The worm is an unnecessary distraction and should be retired for future debates.
It was disappointing Mr Rudd did not use the debate to reveal more detail about his proposed changes to the health system.
Perhaps he should have been pressed a tad harder on that front.
It was also evident the Coalition will need to undertake some serious policy work in areas like health if it is to land any blows on the Rudd Government.
Vague as he might have been about Labor's health plan, Mr Rudd at least appears to be speaking to people in a way the Coalition is not on this important topic. His message is clear: 'I'm willing to do something to improve the system'.
Mr Abbott is unlikely to make any significant policy announcements until much closer to the election. That's not unusual.
However, his tendency to try and score cheap political points fell flat each and every time yesterday, a sign people want to hear constructive debate about issues such as health, free of negativity. And in an election year, this can only be a good thing. Let's hope both sides of politics heed the message.

Go to Possum Comitiatus over at Pollytics for a discussion on the merits of the two methods used to track responses during this debate:

Channel Nine's worm used market research firm Ekas to source their actual participants. Ekas runs a large online panel from which self-identified undecided voters were selected to man the worm handsets – with each participant getting paid $50 to attend the shindig. The actual audience response technology however was provided by a different company, IML Australia.

Channel 7 on the other hand used Roy Morgan to not only source participants, but to provide the Roy Morgan Reactor technology to do the audience response tracking. The people selected by Morgan to participate were a cross-section of all voters (not just Undecideds that Channel Nine used) that approximately reflected the current state of voting intentions. These folks too were paid $50 to participate.

First Dog on the Moon from Crikey refuses to take the matter seriously and was at his rollicking best in this absurd cartoon last Wednesday:

Thursday 25 March 2010

Brolgas fly into the Clarence Valley

Once again the Clarence Valley has been visited by some remarkable wildlife. About 60 Brolgas (Grus rubicunda) have taken up residence in the Lawrence area as part of their nomadic response to seasonal rain.

These graceful birds are one of our larger species of bird; with a wing span over 2 metres. The large outspread wings feature in the spectacular courtship rituals for which these birds are renowned. These elaborate rituals of the Brolga are important to indigenous culture. An Aboriginal legend tells of a beautiful young woman who loved to dance. She was turned into a tall, slender bird. The intricate brolga dance is replicated in some of the Aboriginal dances.
The Brolga is a grey crane with a distinct red head and a dark dewlap under the chin – characteristics which can be seen in this photo (© Linda Wright). The legs are dark grey and extend behind the tail when the bird is in flight. The males and females are similar in appearance. Brolgas generally live in flocks on large open wetlands, grassy plains, coastal mudflats and irrigated croplands, where they feed on vegetable matter such as tubers, grains and grasses, as well as some insects and small animals. Brolgas form island nests, which may protect them from some feral predators such as foxes and cats.

Our wetlands provide critical habitat for many migratory or nomadic species that visit the Clarence Valley, and is one of the primary reasons why these areas should be preserved. Indeed, protection of the natural wetland system, including both temporary and permanent inundation of freshwater, intertidal and estuarine areas is important for most of our wildlife.

As well as dependence on limited wetlands, the Brolga faces several challenges for which it has poor recovery potential. Their population and range has been significantly reduced since European settlement. Though these birds are widespread in northern Australia they are considered vulnerable in New South Wales. So we are lucky to see this number visiting, and lucky to have the wetlands to support them.

To view an active display of these beautiful birds visit

Imelda Jennings
Wildlife SOS

* GuestSpeak is a feature of North Coast Voices allowing Northern Rivers residents to make satirical or serious comment on issues that concern them. Posts of 250-300 words or less can be submitted to ncvguestspeak at live dot com dot au for consideration.

Another Abbott-ism

Australian Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Tony Abbott MHR, is certainly value for money when it comes to value-laden judgements and snappy one liners.

This is my favourite of the moment:

Endemic substance abuse and family violence..........They're the all-but-inevitable result of too many people with not enough to do...

Yes, you heard it in his Battlelines first. Boredom is the root of some of our most serious social problems.

Mr. Abbott's level of certainty is er, monumental.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Pushing that misogynistic boulder up Mount Everest

There's no denying that the Australian baby boomer generation have lived through widespread social change.

Morphing social mores and technological evolution over the last seventy years (rather than violent national revolution) mean that our lives bear little resemblance to what they were in the late 1940s and early 1950s when we first started to look at life around us.

Women have probably noticed the change more because we have gone from an obligatory post-puberty shackling with girdles, suspender belts, gloves and hats each time we wanted to leave the house to a free and easy form of dress and, these days are not automatically directed away from higher education and a career towards early motherhood and domestic slavery.

Yet from a female perspective there are still constant reminders of how puny that progress actually is when a young man happily ensconced with wife and children can widely email this 'joke':

What do you say to a woman with 2 black eyes?
Nothing, she's been told twice already.

It's enough to make one cry.

Evil eastern religions are working for the devil says former exorcist bishop

Page 10 of "The Daily Examiner" on Monday 22nd March 2010:
"ALL those evil eastern religions are working for the devil and are trying to trap our souls with wicked devices such as yoga, tai chi and reiki massage.
And let's not start on Harry Potter and Twilight - both are rickety paths to the fires of hell.
At least these are the claims of Bishop Julian Porteous, the second in charge of the Australian Catholic hierarchy who was quoted in yesterday's Sun-Herald.
Bishop Porteous warned people who practiced yoga, reiki and tai chi could find themselves "in the grip of demonic forces" by embracing the underlying religious beliefs of these de-stressing techniques.
Aside from the complete cultural ignorance of such claims, Bishop Porteous, in his blind recruitment grab aimed at the gullible, would be laughable if he wasn't in such a powerful position within the church.
An organisation plagued with claims it has harboured and protected paedophiles en masse for decades can hardly be calling other religions evil. Wasn't there something about people in glass houses in that Bible book?
Such ill-informed posturing does nothing to swell the church's diminishing numbers and only serves to push the community further in a secular direction."
With a groundswell of interest in atheism of late, religious leaders need to contribute sensibly to the issues of the day if they are to be taken seriously and their faith heard.
All those blood-thirsty Buddhists probably meditate everyday I reckon."
This 61 year-old bishop is also known for his dislike of priestly jokes; "There has been a tendency for people to feel a joke at the end of the Mass is something to leave people with a smile, but I personally don't think it is appropriate" and was Sydney's locum exorcist for five years.
Bishop Porteous holds the titular See of Urusi in Northern Africa and thinks that climate change science claims are "sometimes exorbitant" and sees the 2009 Victorian bushfires as some form of national purification by fire.
The last a rather uncomfortable if subdued echo of the more extremist views of Danny Naylor.
Sorta makes me wonder if Bishop Porteous shares Catch the Fire Ministries' take on the Equal Opportunity Bill 2010.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Two Australian Leaders: popularity polling and that polygraph worm

Well, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott can't say that he wasn't warned. Talking heads from the medical fraternity, at least one well-known journalist and even ordinary voters told him before he went into today's televised Leaders' Debate that he would be wise to present Coalition policy and not indulge in politicking.

Instead Abbott lead with his jaw and the Channel 7/Morgan Research handpicked audience with their fingers on the polygraph worm obliged by landing a blow on that jaw at almost every opportunity.

I had made myself a coffee which almost stood to attention on the amount of caffeine it contained, in anticipation of a nail bitingly tense debate.

Halfway through I abandoned the coffee and took up my knitting, as the worm spent most of its time on the middle line or in positive territory when Kevin Rudd was speaking and, on the middle line or in negative territory when Tony Abbott had the floor.

Attacks on the Prime Minister, mention of that so-called 'great big new tax' and even talk of the failed national roof insulation scheme did not move Abbott out from under the wrong side of that visual opinion line - in fact he was a distinct medical flatline when he refused to talk about any Coalition health policy he intends to take to the federal election.

All this merely confirms what Essential Media has been saying for some time, Kevin Rudd is still popular with the electorate and currently 'owns' health policy.

Excerpt from the Essential Report survey results (based on an estimated 1,000 respondents) taken between 16-21 March 2010:

Better Prime Minister – Rudd or Abbott

Q. Regardless of your likely party choice for the next election, which of the leaders – Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott – do you think overall would be the best Prime Minister?

21 Dec 09 - 22 March 10

Kevin Rudd 51% - 50%

Tony Abbott 25% - 30%

Don't know 24% - 19%

When it comes to a choice between Rudd and Abbott as better Prime Minister, 50% selected Rudd and 30% selected Abbott. The results for Rudd shifted slightly (-1%) since we last asked this question in December 2009. However, there has been a five percent increase in the number of people that prefer Abbott and a decrease in the number of people that don't know (-5%).

Results followed party lines – 92% of Labor voters chose Rudd and 74% of Coalition voters chose Abbott. 64% of Green voters selected Rudd and 11% of Green voters selected Abbott.

People aged 65 years and over were more likely to think Abbott would make a better Prime Minister (42%) while 18 – 24 year olds were more likely to indicate they don't know who would make a better Prime Minister out of Rudd and Abbott (28%).

Federal takeover of hospitals and health services

Q. Do you support or oppose the Federal Government's plan to take over the responsibility for funding hospitals and health services from the State Governments?


Total support 58%

Total oppose 12%

Strongly support 25%

Support 33%

Neither support nor oppose 21%

Oppose 7%

Strongly oppose 5%

Don't know 9%

Over half (58%) of those surveyed support the Federal Government's plan to take over responsibility for funding hospitals and health services from the State Governments, 12% oppose, 21% neither support nor oppose and 9% don't know.

79% of Labor voters, 46% of Coalition voters and 55% of Green voters support a Federal takeover for funding of hospitals and health services. 27% of Coalition voters neither support nor oppose the plan and 22% oppose it.

People in NSW were more likely than those in other states to support a Federal takeover (64%). 55% of people in Queensland and 52% in Victoria support the plan.

Males were more likely than females to support the plan (61% v 56%). Support for a Federal takeover was highest amongst 55 – 64 year olds (67%).

In February this year we asked the Australian public whether they support or oppose a Federal takeover of hospitals. The results showed that 58% supported a Federal takeover, 10% opposed it, 19% neither supported nor opposed and 13% didn't know.

Power suppliers to raise average prices by up to 42%. NSW Government offers pensioners extra $15 annual rebate to cope.

As at 30 June 2009, there were twenty-nine power companies holding electricity retail supplier licences in NSW and Energy Australia, Integral Energy and Country Energy account for approximately 81% this retail market.

Integral Energy, Energy Australia and Country Energy are all owned by the New South Wales Government.

The Review of regulated retail tariffs and charges for electricity 2010-2013: Electricity — Final Report March 2010 shows that:

Integral Energy average regulated retail tariffs will rise by 7% in 2010-11, 14% in 2011-12 and 20% in 2012-13.
Energy Australia average regulated retail tariffs will rise by 10% in 2010-11, 16% in 2011-12 and 25% in 2012-13.
Country Energy average regulated retail tariffs will rise by 13% in 2010-11, 17% in 2011-12 and 24% in 2012-13.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal stated in a recent media release:

From 1 July 2010, average annual prices will increase by 7% for Integral Energy customers, 10% for EnergyAustralia customers, and 13% for Country Energy customers.
Over the next 3 years to June 2013, average prices will increase by a cumulative total of 20% for Integral Energy, 36% for EnergyAustralia, and 42% for Country Energy.
IPART Acting Chairman and CEO Mr Jim Cox said: "The network increases, which were determined by the AER, will allow network service providers to increase investment in infrastructure and improve network security and reliability of supply in line with the new licence conditions imposed by the NSW Government".

For single Aged, Disability or Veterans' Affairs pensioners living alone this will possibly mean a cost increase of somewhere between $30+ for the very power frugal over the coming winter to $65+ for those who need to regularly put the electric heater on to keep warm.

In the 2008-09 financial year 2,659 pensioners had their electricity disconnected at least once over that time. One has to wonder how many more will find themselves in this position in 2010-11.

Somehow I don't think that NSW Energy Minister John Robertson's promise that the Government would increase rebates from $130 to $145 a year to more than one million consumers to help cover the costs of the rise will ease concerns felt in may low-income households.

Google Earth is not an accurate measuring tool, but try telling that to one roof insulation installer

Random Google Earth snapshot

Think there's too much fuss being made about some of the problems gathered around the federal home roof insulation scheme?
Might be time to think again because more of those suspect firms who joined the subsidized feeding frenzy are being uncovered each day.
This was reported last week in a local newspaper:
“As an example of the nature of the compliance issues being dealt with by the department, one company in northern NSW, which has claimed $9.6 million under the program, is being investigated in relation to over 100 complaints concerning electrification of foil insulation, dangerous electrical practices, damage to ceilings and roof coverings as well as phantom installations,” Mr Combet said.
“I am advised that all payments to this company have been suspended and action is being taken to rectify safety matters and to reclaim government funds.”
Now it seems there is also mention of a NSW North Coast operator who advertised roof insulation installation under the scheme and then stated to at least one potential customer that there was no need to come out and measure the roof as dimensions could be gathered from a Google Earth satellite snapshot. I kid you not.
This rather haphazard firm tried to convince the dubious homeowner that it didn't matter what internal ceiling types she had; that the far from accurately scaled
outside snapshot would tell them all.
The home owner declined to proceed as she knew that pink batts would not be suitable for the cathedral ceilings in parts of the house and she had little confidence that she would receive an accurate quote for the rest of the roof area.

This same company was one of those which had the hide to front the Prime Minister in Canberra complaining about the scheme's suspension.
Local wags are running odds on the company mentioned by Combet and the company known locally to be offering Google Earth measuring being one and the same.

Monday 22 March 2010

Show me the policy, Mr. Abbott!

It would appear that during the faux federal election campaign Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is not taking the forthcoming Leaders' Debate seriously and expects to use it to mount a series of questions rather than give any genuine outline of the health policy the Coalition intends to take into the formal campaign.

This attittude is not always playing well in the regions if the following emailed letter is any indication:

Hon. Tony Abbott MHR
Leader of the Opposition
Parliament House
Canberra ACT

22 March 2010

Dear Sir,

I have read with interest your reported comments on the forthcoming "Leaders' Debate" this week which is intended to address the subject of health care.

I am concerned that these comments appear to indicate that you have no intention of broadly outlining the Coalition health policy you intend to take to the Australian electorate later this year.

As an ordinary voter I would appreciate less politicking and more respect for the general public, who deserve the longest possible time to compare competing policies before going to the polling booths.

Quite frankly even the most pyrotechnic of debating styles will fail to impress my household if all it turns out to be is flash and no substance.


[Name and address redacted]

Nationals' Hartsuyker receives a slap down form Labor's Saffin

On the matter of a formal application to disperse roosting bats from land adjoining Maclean High School, last week Federal Labor MP for Page Janelle Saffin finally had enough of Federal Nationals MP for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker:

“I can say in response to Luke Hartsukyer’s silly comments, that the only one feeling the pressure is Luke himself, for not doing his job and helping to resolve it much earlier, and for deceiving the people, by not working on the plan from the beginning; a plan that requires, short, medium and long-term goals, which is what I have done since I was first asked for some assistance.
“Luke, I am going to offer you some unsolicited advice, and it goes like this:
“The best thing you can do, is to leave the people alone, leave the public servants alone and let them get on with their job of resolving this problem to the satisfaction of the students, staff and parents.
“It really does not need any more grandstanding and attacks on me ... people are weary with it.
“You carping does nothing to advance the safety and health needs of the school community.
“Given it is your electorate, I am trying to help you do your work, that you seem unable or unwilling to do.”

Keneally for Canberra? Bite your tongue!

Crikey was peddling a rumour last Wednesday, which if true might see NSW Premier K-K-Keneally neutralised on the Canberra back bench or holding a federal ministry if one unnamed electorate was silly enough to fall in behind her.....
"I have heard a rumour that Kristina Keneally has been promised a federal seat if she can do a "good enough" job at the next election..."
Just what the country needs. Yet another über-ambitious pollie down in Canberra who mistakes media bites and PR spin for actual policy creation.
The ethnocentric Keneally would be a disaster on the national stage.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Setting the council cat among the ratepayer pigeons in the Clarence Valley

The Daily Examiner reported on 19 March:

CLARENCE Valley residents may be hit with a rate increase of 8.15 per cent next year.
The Minister for Local Government recently announced that all councils could raise their general rate revenue by 2.6 per cent above the current level, but in a bid to raise an additional $1.3 million to finance capital works, Clarence Valley Council is seeking approval to raise rates by an extra 5.55 per cent.
.....the average rate for properties across the Valley varied between minimum and fixed rates and were determined by dollar value....

“It is hard to compare rates between shires because we have 15 different rate structures Valley-wide,”

Mention of a possible rate increase always raises the collective blood pressure of Clarence Valley ratepayers and differences of opinion between the Hinterland and Coast surface.

Clarence Valley Council is expected to run a series of community consultation meetings some time in the future and ratepayers would do well to attend these as well as keep an eye on proceedings as set out below.

Media Release: 17 March 2010

Clarence Valley Rates get a Special Meeting

An Extraordinary Meeting of Clarence Valley Council will be held in Maclean at 5.00 pm Tuesday 23 March 2010.
The single topic for discussion is whether to increase property rates next year to finance specific capital works.
A Workshop held on 16 March and attended by all Councillors and senior Council staff considered aspects of the Council's budget for 2010/11. A report to the Workshop from the Council's General Manager, Stuart McPherson, encouraged consideration of asking the Minister for Local Government, the Hon Barbara Perry MP, for approval to increase general rate revenue by an additional 5.55% in 2010/11. The Minister recently announced that all Councils could raise their general rate revenue by 2.6% above the 2009/10 level.
Mr McPherson reported that an extra 5.55% above the 2.6% increase, would provide an additional $1.3m next year and in subsequent years and would be used for clearly identified additional capital works and programs. These programs were described in Mr McPherson's report as "Main Street Programs", "Public and Community Halls and Libraries", "Town and Village Footpaths and Cycleways", "Rural Roads Improvements" and "Community Recreation Facilities Improvements".
The Extraordinary Meeting is open to the public and attendance is invited.

Authorised by: Stuart McPherson, General Manager 02 6643 0212 or 0429 903 758

Greenpeace & Rest of the World v Nestlé & Others

Greenpeace advertisement from Holland

From the Greenpeace website:

What can we say? You all rock! You've taken our Kit Kat campaign and made it your own and we just have to stand back in awe of it all. We'll keep this blog post updated with all the latest creative Kit Kat campaign tactics provided by you - the online community who has taken our video and our campaign message and really run with it!
Views on all the versions of our 'Have a break?' video (some uploaded by us - some uploaded by you) are now 281.085 and rising!
Nestle suffering social media rampage as company stocks falls

An example of what's happening now on the Nestlé Facebook page:

Mark Wood Dear Nestle, not a greenie, but your business isn't worth the damage palm oil does. Please discontinue using palm oil in all your products, not just Kit Kats. It's not even a high grade ingredient. You're one of the world's largest companies, perhaps it's time to become one of the most responsible?

Next time you reach for a chocolate, lolly, biscuit, cake, icecream or frozen dessert on the supermarket shelf - ask yourself if it is really worth all that environmental destruction.

Greenpeace's Caught Red Handed PDF file.
Nestlé Australia official response and a news report on the company's 'unofficial' response.

Orangutan baby photograph from Google Images

Sir, how dare you traduce earthworms in that manner!

Last Monday 'Granny Herald' reported that perennial Pom Richard Dawkins has a low opinion of both Aussie Senator Steve Fielding and earthworms everywhere:
"I can give you a devastating argument against religion in two words," Williams said in his introduction.
"Senator Fielding. Richard Dawkins said his IQ is lower than an earthworm, but I think earthworms are useful."
Dr Dawkins and Senator Fielding appeared on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday, where they clashed over the senator's belief in creationism."
Here is the Q&A exchange in all its glory as a hapless, intellectually challenged senator tries to defend his belief in Creationism and support for Intelligent Design.

However what is really interesting is this little piece of blatant political distortion in the same program:
"STEVE FIELDING: Look, it may be that you've read more than I have, Tony, but, look, at the end of the - look, for example, I mean my faith if personal. I don't think I've ever really come out and spoken about it. It's the media that have quizzed me more on it than I've actually gone out and actually spoken on it. In actual fact I first met the Prime Minister when I was first elected and it's funny, you know, he sat there, pulled out his Bible out of his top pocket and started to lecture me and give me a sermon and I thought, that's interesting. I've never done that to anyone and here's the Prime Minister, first meeting, never met the guy, he pulls out his Bible. He's probably still got it in his top pocket, I think. But look, it's not - I think it's very personal and I think that, look, I've got my decision making - my core decision-making team. I have a Jew and an atheist. I think you should be making policy on common sense and what is best for Australia. I don't think that, you know, Australians like the idea of having it driven by religion and that is the truth, Tony. I've never raised the issue. It's very personal to me. I've never gone out and done what Kevin Rudd's done - meet someone for the first time..."
Clue to a truth stretch being underway here?
When was the last time you saw a Bible with readable-sized print capable of fitting in a "top pocket"? And if his first meeting with Rudd was when "I was first elected" that would've been sometime in 2004-05. Rudd was then in Opposition as the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. He didn't become PM until 2007.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Tasmania & South Australia elections: state of play on the night Saturday 20 March 2010 [Links]

Summary of online predictions on the morning of Saturday 20 March 2010; Tasmania will have a hung parliament and South Australia is too close to call.

Online information on the night:

Electoral Commission SA State Election 2010 here, with live election results after 6pm on 20 March.

Tasmanian Electoral Commission 2010 House of Assembly Elections here, first preference results available after 6.30pm on 20 March.

ABC Elections website including:

Live coverage for South Australia here, with information on electorates, candidates, polling booths and results.

Live coverage for Tasmania here, with information on electorates, candidates, polling booths and results.

Adelaide Now online live reports here, with analysis, video.

Country Voice (SA) blog going live on the night here, with special emphasis on country South Australia.

The Advocate (Tasmania) online, up to date reports from 5pm onwards here.

The Mercury (Tasmania) online, live blogging after 5pm here and readers can join in.

Antony Green's Election Blog on the night and on Twitter @ABCElections

Crikey's Election Central blog promises to cover both South Australia and Tasmania on the night.

The Tally Room blog open thread on the night here about both state elections.