Friday 30 April 2010

MadiGrass Festival - Nimbin NSW, 1-2 May 2010

Where the past....

Meets the future.....

Then has fun in the sun and lobbies for all things hemp, including medical mariajuana.

To find out more go to Nimbin MadiGrass.

Photograph from The Northern Rivers Echo

Internet Filtering: It's not about child pornography it's about copyright

American Chamber of Commerce representative at Stockholm conference in 2007, according to Christian Engstrom

McDonald's Corporation: In Litter We Trust

Images of McDonald's litter from around the world including Australia

Despite numerous media releases promising a responsible approach to the waste it produces McDonald's Corporation fast food outlets around the world manage to produce large amounts of branded litter in and around the building.

Local government sometimes tries to curb the litter-making machine by insisting that McDonald's undertake daily 'litter patrols' as one condition of a development consent.

However, this and other measure do not appear to be very effective if this article in the U.K. Daily Echo on 23 April 2010 is any indication:

IT was a mountain of rubbish that had left him McFurious.
The growing mound of burger wrappers along Dave Elgram’s street had not been cleared for so long that he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Armed with a litter-picker the dad of three collected a bin liner full of McDonalds rubbish and tipped it on over the restaurant floor in front of shocked staff.
Now the 44-year-old is vowing to return to the store in Burgess Road every Monday with a fresh bag of rubbish until staff clean up his street.

Likewise, the fact that one NSW councillor could collect a backpack of McDonald's rubbish to show his fellow Wollondilly Shire councillors just last year is hardly reassuring:

``I went to four different McDonald's outlets the other night and was horrified by the rubbish thrown everywhere,'' he said. ``I know it's not McDonald's fault, it's the people who dumped it there but we live in a catchment area and I don't want to see this rubbish in our drinking water.''

In 2008 Choice magazine reported:

Branded litter, such as packaging from McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Cadbury and other retailers, accounts for 24% of the overall waste stream, with highways a major dumping ground, according to an Australia-wide study by Keep Australia Beautiful. The study, released in late September, also reveals that the two biggest culprits are Coca-Cola and McDonald's, which contribute close to 10% each of the branded litter.

These national figures broke down to 14.7% of all branded litter in NSW being McDonald's litter, which was the highest percentage for any branded fast food, drink, or confectionery/snack food items in that state at the time.

In 2010 a two-day litter survey of ten British cities found that McDonald's litter made up 29 percent of all gutter share.

In Litter We Trust could almost be this foreign multinational's official corporate legend.

However this is only a small part of the problem for regional areas such as the Clarence Valley, because eat-in customers at the proposed McDonald's fast food outlet in Yamba will add considerably to local government's landfill waste disposal needs in ever decreasing site options.

Welcome to a new version of......

Geocities-izer has a transformation thing going for websites of your choice.

Here's Tony Abbott with more dancing babies and f@rting men than he knows what to do with.
Tanx Rod3000!

Thursday 29 April 2010

How McDonald's Australia makes its millions

THE local arm of fast-food giant McDonald's doubled its profit last year to $364 million, despite reporting modest sales growth.

McDonald's Australia, which oversees almost 800 franchised restaurants around the country, reported a 6 per cent rise in sales revenue to $898m during the 12 months to December 31, on the strength of restaurant refurbishments and introduction of a premium range of products and healthier menu choices.

Overall revenue for the group rose 40 per cent to $1.7 billion, bolstered by a $308m payment for the sale of intellectual property rights to a related entity, McDonald's Asia Pacific.

This is how McDonald's Australia achieves those profits........

Fast-food giant McDonald's has been referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman for allegedly underpaying some of its workers, after the industrial relations commissioner has thrown out an agreement which would cover the company's 80,000 employees.

Commissioner Donna McKenna rejected a deal between the company and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, saying it fails a no-disadvantage test. The deal would have seen standardised conditions imposed in all states and territories, including rules for rostering, penalty rates and entitlements.

The no-disadvantage test states that employers may remove certain entitlements from work agreements but these must be offset by other benefits.

While McKenna wrote in her ruling that the agreement, which is 111 pages long, contains both advantages and disadvantages, it ultimately poses no net benefit for employees. She also suggested workers could have been underpaid, referring the matter to the Ombudsman.

"I have concluded the agreement would represent an emphatic diminution in overall terms and conditions for the employees who would be subject to its proposed operation," she wrote in the judgement.

"The Agreement not only fails to satisfy the no disadvantage test, on various levels it significantly compromises industrial standards that would be expected for agreement-reliant employees – considering, in particular, that these employees are mostly young and mostly casually employed."

Specifically, the judgement referred to situations that would have seen employees in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland receive pay rises below minimum pay deals over the three-year period of the proposed agreement.

From News Ltd's Business Smarts on the same day:

This year, McDonald's employees would have received the national minimum wage rise, less between $3.84 and $7.50 a week, depending on their state. McDonald's argued this was to offset other benefits.
From July 2011 and July 2012, the increases would be the minimum wage adjustment plus either $2 or $5, depending on the state.....
employees could be asked to work unlimited shifts without a break.

Saffin and Page stay on track

It's good to see two local politicians from opposite sides of the political spectrum come out in favour of public transport on the NSW North Coast.
Although one has to wonder if a wider regional rail service will ever come to pass given the lack of political will prevailing in the NSW Parliament.

The Northern Star on 24 April 2010:

A NEW train line linking Ballina with the Casino-Murwillumbah branch line will have to be built to help the Northern Rivers cope with its booming population, Ballina MP Don Page has said.
Mr Page said he would like to see a new train line running from Byron Bay to Ballina, taking in Lennox Head along the way, and then from Ballina to Lismore, taking in the plateau communities of Alstonville and Wollongbar, to help the region cope with massive growth expected between now and 2036.
The idea has won the support of Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin, who said she wanted itincluded in the integrated transport plan being developed for the region.
She said regular, affordable public transport, already a sore point in the region, was going to become critical as the region’s population grew and aged over the next 26 years.
“Transport is such a critical issue and I see it as becoming more important with the increasing of our population and of our senior population,” Ms Saffin said.
Government figures predict the Northern Rivers’ population will grow by about 70,000 between now and 2036, mostly between Ballina and the Tweed. At the same time, the population is expected to age dramatically, with the number of people aged 65 and over set to nearly treble in some areas, while the number of children aged 14 or under declines slightly.

Australia's other CPI is not looking too flash

"IF, AS an Australian citizen, you perform an act of bribery offshore, you can be fined $1 million, jailed for 10 years and your company can be fined $10 million, which all sounds very proper except that nobody has ever been prosecuted."
James Kirby is not impressed with the fact that Australia doesn't appear willing to use its own laws to nab corrupt individuals and companies - and neither am I.
According to Transparency International (Australia):
The overwhelming majority of the world's leading exporting nations is failing to fully enforce a ban on foreign bribery, reveals Transparency International's (TI) 2009 OECD Anti-bribery Convention Progress Report.
The fifth edition of the yearly report shows that just four of 36 countries party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention are active enforcers. There is moderate enforcement in 11 and little to no enforcement in the 21 remaining countries. Such performance throws into question governments' commitments and threatens to destabilise the definitive legal instrument to fight international bribery.
In 1997, the member states of the OECD adopted the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Hailed as a landmark event in the fight against international corruption, the Convention represented a collective commitment to ban foreign bribery by the governments of the leading industrialised states, which account for the majority of global exports and foreign investment. The Convention entered into force in 1999 and now has 38 parties.

This is what it also said about Australia:
"Australia's slide in its standing as a non-corrupt nation has been halted in the latest international rankings of 180 countries released today by the global anticorruption organisation, Transparency International. Australia has risen to eighth spot from ninth in 2008 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), halting a slide since 2002 when it was considered the least corrupt country in the world. The Chief Executive of Transparency International Australia, Michael Ahrens, said Australia held top spot in 2002 before the exposure of dealings by the Australian Wheat Board with the Middle East, notably the Iraqi Government of Saddam Hussein. New Zealand has now replaced Denmark at the top of the world list as the country perceived as least likely to allow corruption. In the important regional breakdown of the CPI, Australian ranked third for the Asia- Pacific Region behind New Zealand and Singapore. The CPI is a composite index that draws on 13 expert and business surveys to measure the perceived levels of public sector corruption in a given country. Most of the 180 countries in the 2009 index still scored under five on a zero-to-10 scale, with zero perceived as highly corrupt and 10 to mean low levels of corruption; so the corruption challenge remains undeniable in the region and elsewhere. Highest scorers in the 2009 CPI were New Zealand (9.4) Denmark (9.3) Singapore and Sweden (9.2), Switzerland (9.0), Finland and Netherlands (8.7) and Australia, Canada and Iceland (8.7). Fragile, unstable states that are scarred by war and ongoing conflict scored lowest, notably Somalia (1.1), Afghanistan (1.3) Myanmar (1.4), Sudan (1.5) and Iraq (1.5). Mr Ahrens said the German based headquarters of Transparency International has reported that as the world economy shows a tentative recovery and some nations continue to wrestle with ongoing conflict and insecurity, it is clear that no region is immune to corruption...."

Poll results from Transparency International

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Taxation loathing unites us

Death and taxes are considered inevitable and our loathing of the latter appears to jump income levels and political persuasion.

From this week's Essential Report:

61% think Australians pay too much tax and 28% think Australians pay about the right amount.

72% of full‐time workers think we pay too much tax but there were no significant differences by income level.

Labor and Liberal/National voters also gave similar responses.

...those opposed to increasing the GST outnumbered those in favour...

Increasing GST to pay off national debt was strongly rejected (66%).

Let my cyberspace go!

"The internet needs to be free. It needs to be free the way we have said the skies have to be free, outer space has to be free, the polar caps have to be free, the oceans have to be free. They're shared resources of all the people of the world."
US ambassador Jeffrey Bleich

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Tony Kelly & West Yamba: none so blind as those who will not see

Yamba in flood in May 2009
West Yamba shown in the top half of the photograph from The Daily Examiner

Planning Minister Tony Kelly claims he has reviewed all the evidence before approving the development of West Yamba. Did he consider the Yamba Floodplain Risk Management Study (Webb, McKeown and Associates Pty Ltd July 2008) commissioned by Clarence Valley Council? If he did, he is ignoring the following:

 The height of land in West Yamba "generally lies between 1.0m and 1.5m AHD" (p.36) and the 1:100 ARI (once in a hundred years) flood level is 2.34m. The study goes on to say that 'an average of 0.8m of fill across the site is required to meet current Council guidelines'. (That figure itself is conservative, as it implies that the average height of land is 1.54m AHD, somewhat more than the stated 1.0m - 1.5m AHD.)
 1.3 million cubic metres of fill will be required to bring the land to 2.34m AHD (page 37).
 The study acknowledges that it is unlikely that dredging for such a large volume of fill would be approved. Therefore the fill would have to be brought by truck.
This equates to a 20 tonne truck trip every six minutes (including return) for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year for 9.5 years (page 37).
 The Clarence Valley Draft Local Environmental Plan 2010 recommends a floor level of 1:100 ARI plus 0.5 metre freeboard.
 The additional 0.5m freeboard would bring the floor levels for buildings in West Yamba to 2.84m AHD. Even if the whole area is not filled to that level, it is clear that something of the order of 1.8 million cubic metres of fill will be required. It follows that bringing 1.8 million cubic metres will take something in excess of 13 years.

The impact of 270,400 (give or take a few) 20 tonne truck trips on local roads, traffic and the community has also been ignored by the Minister. So has the obvious point that the water which inundates the West Yamba area in times of flood will have to go somewhere – but where? (It should be noted that sea level rise associated with climate change has NOT been included in the consultant’s calculations. CSIRO estimates a rise of up to 0.91 metres by the end of the century – that is, in old terms, another 3 feet!)

Truly there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Gary Whale

* 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 for consideration.

Concrete matters in the Clarence Valley

Questions many in the Clarence Valley and elsewhere on the NSW North Coast ask themselves as unsteady legs or failing eyesight make negotiating those sloped grass strips, laughingly called footpaths, more of an obstacle course than an easy stroll:

Walking in Grafton can be dangerous

I WAS recently visiting a family member in Riverdale Court, Grafton, when I could not believe my eyes?

In this completely brand new homes-built area, I had to wait to park my car. Why?

Because there was an elderly lady walking herself (and her dog) with the use of her 'walking frame' for assistance, that's right, a walker come chair on wheels, on the road because some idiot forgot to include footpaths in this new development area.

Is this now common practice for the new-age CVC (Clarence Valley Council) members?

The grassed 'home fronts' are not 'walker' friendly, and how long will it be before someone sues the CVC for such a bungling oversight?

In this 'new century', the CVC has neglected to include 'pavements' for pedestrians on which to walk.

One can understand older parts of Grafton that do not have 'pavements' for pedestrians, but brand new subdivisions without pavements, it's very hard to believe in 'today's day and age'.

What exactly are those in the CVC responsible for when it comes to OH&S with regards the safety of pedestrians, and why does the CVC spend ever-increasing income from rates on 'superficial' gardens and street gardens that are 'not essential' to the care and well-being of Grafton citizens/folk?

JOSEPH GOLDEN, Summerland Way

[Letter to the Editor, The Daily Examiner, 20 April 2010]

Monday 26 April 2010

Is this your river island dream house? Mapping predicted sea level rise (7)

Google Earth mapping showing the effects of a 1 metre sea level rise in a river delta area on the New South Wales coast, which would possibly see water encroaching on the idllyic river island property pictured above.
The 2009 Federal Government report
Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coasts contains a 'worst case' scenario involving a 1.1 metre sea level rise along the NSW coast sometime within the next 90 years.

Revenge of the Sons of Gwalia

Despite the rather colourful name of the now defunct mining company and associated court case, Sons of Gwalia v Margaretic, the Rudd Government's legislation has the rather dun-colured title of Corporations Amendment (No.2) Bill 2010.

Anyone wanting to have their say on the exposure draft of this bill can do it here.

Sons of Gwalia Limited has a rather fascinating early history and a very complicated one since. There is apparently some $1.2 billion in claims admitted by Sons of Gwalia administrators. About a third of these claims were lodged by shareholders and this legislation may cause them some angst if it muddies the legal waters.

Exposure Draft - Corporations Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2010

Tony Abbott continues his love affair with his own image

Oz Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has posted 26 pics of himself on Flickr (mostly decked out in lycra) and then tweeted the world about it.
Maud up the Street reckons his camera pose is getting a bit of a pelvic thrust to it.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Lest We Forget

THE MOUSE THAT ROARED: est. 80% of Yamba says no to McDonald's Australia

Yamba chamber vice-president Tania Williams, Janet Purcell and others present petitions to council general manager Stuart McPherson. "Eighty per cent of Yamba's population and a majority of the chamber of commerce members are saying no to McDonald's," Ms Williams said.

Yamba residents have posted on Facebook, blogged, written letters to editor, taken out newspaper ads, worn their opposition on T-shirts, signed petitions in their thousands and made submissions to Clarence Valley Council by the 23 April 2010 deadline, in order to oppose the McDonald's Australia development application for a 24 hour eat-in and drive-through fast food outlet in Treelands Drive, Yamba.

There is at least one site inspection, planning committee meeting and a monthly council meeting to go and, as yet it is still not clear that those shire councillors who have been quietly supporting McDonald's (and its politically connected backers) have even paused to think what around 80 per cent community resistance means for the future of local government in the Lower Clarence.

With only eight of the nine shire councillors eligible to consider this application, Mayor Richie Williamson will also be risking his reputation and possibly any political future he may hope for if the ballot is so tight that he must use his casting vote.
As more than one former shire councillor would be able to recall - Yamba never forgets.

Photograph from The Daily Examiner

Abbott's warmongering ways show he's just another pollie willing to advance his own interests on the backs of the fallen

It's almost obscene the way Opposition Leader Tony Abbott seeks every thoughtless opportunity to get his phizog on the screen or his name in print.

Nicely timed in the lead-up to Anzac Day, Phony Tony had this to say to a Lowy Institute audience:
"It's no secret that the Americans would like additional Australian forces in Afghanistan and have refrained from making a formal request only because they have been told that it would be unwelcome. The Government should explain why it's apparently right that NATO countries should commit more troops but not Australia. Putting more troops at risk is not a decision that any Australian government should lightly make but the near certainty of higher casualties has to be weighed against the consequences of failing to shoulder extra responsibilities and the ramifications of any collective loss of nerve by Western powers. How fair is it to leave Australia's security so much in the hands of other countries' soldiers or to expect America and Britain to do nearly all the free world's heavy lifting? If satisfied that the role made strategic sense and was compatible with our other military commitments, a Coalition government would be prepared to consider doing more.
Should it be made, a commitment to do more in Afghanistan would be one sign that Australia is entirely serious about its overseas responsibilities. It would build on the reputation Australia established during the Howard years as a power that well and truly "punched to its weight". "

Yeah, not content with his War on Wimmin, Dole Bludgers and Boat People, Tony lusts to spill some more real blood if he gets into The Lodge and like most pollies the blood he wants to let will not be his own.
Not content that 90,000 international defence personnel from 46 countries are currently deployed in Afghanistan, this poor excuse for a pollie even slips in a suss question about why NATO's supposedly bearing the burden of increased troop commitment in Afghanistan.
NATO of course is quite clear as to why it's in Afghanistan. It took command of the very un-UN International Security Assistance Force in 2003 after the Coalition of the Willing had finished with its invasion of that country and its member countries were expected to increase troop numbers on the ground in order to impose political and social order.
The same day that Abbott posted his p#ss horn speech on the Liberal Party website, the NATO foreign ministers were announcing their intention to hand back more power to the Afghan Government and its own military.

Oh and by the way, cobber. Australia has been punching above its weight in war and peace keeping missions and doing a great deal of heavy lifting ever since we first sent military contingents overseas to assist Britain and her allies.
Just go ask those marching in remembrance today.

Saturday 24 April 2010

McDonald's? Spare us!

McDonald's Australia has a development application before Clarence Valley Council for a 24 hour a day eat-in and drive-through store in the small coastal town of Yamba which has a permanent population of around 6,000 residents and no 24/7 food outlets.

McDonald's recently announced that its Ballina licensee Scott Campbell will also be the licensee for its proposed Yamba fast food store.

Needless to say the ambient temperature in Yamba has risen considerably as a result of McDonald's move on the town and many are not looking forward to increased traffic, more litter and a focal point for anti-social behaviour after the pubs close.

Apparently Mr. Campbell is aware of the general drift of public opinion and is said to be avoiding Yamba at the moment as he fears being "crucified".

A letter to the editor in The Daily Examiner on 19 April 2010:

McDonald's? Spare us

BOTH Jim Agnew and Chris Pontifex in letters both gave stirring and loving platitudes to McDonald's.
However, they seem a little 'selfish' themselves. Firstly, McDonald's is not building McDonald's House in Yamba, they are building a 'restaurant', a 24/7 operation at Treelands Drive.
A multi-million dollar company giving to charity - so they should but it is my experience that the humble wage earner in Australia (and elsewhere) are the people who give more collectively than any big corporation, ie, Boxing Day Tsunami and Haiti.
Jim, you will not be affected by the increased traffic (already a growing problems over the years and petitioned by residents) on Osprey, Treelands, Gumnut/Halyard roads.
The increasing traffic on these roads already is a problem for residents and has still yet to be addressed and solved.
Nor are you a resident who is virtually opposite the proposed structure or living just doors away or backing onto it.
Chris Pontifex claims it is 'just Treelands Drive and not the centre of town' and asks how it could affect the aesthetic value of the town.
It can and will and Treelands and adjoining streets have homes along them still.
It will affect the aesthetic value of these homes, the street and living conditions along that area.
As far as small business is concerned and the claims they are being selfish - many who claim this are not small business owners in the area or if they are, they are not food-related services.
Small businesses operate on small margins and any invasion to this margin by a large multi-million dollar company like McDonald's will ruin them. (Oh Maccas will employ many youth and many small businesses whose owners have mortgages and families and who employ people in this area can no longer operate and have to close because McDonald's takes their custom, ie, the plight that may face Smoko's in the industrial centre).
But wait! You tell me it is a franchise owner and not the multi-million dollar McDonald's who will benefit?
Exactly how many franchises can be operated by one franchisee?
I've spoken to people who have dealt with McDonald's on a sponsoring sporting groups basis - they all tell me the same. The only sponsorship they received was footballs and vouchers.
So much for 'putting so much into the sports groups' in the community.
Small business here does that already and much more than token gestures.
Why can't they just have a small section of a shopping centre - one small shop like other franchise businesses here?
Why can't they be on the highway?
How can you justify a 24/7 store in Yamba when we are not as big as Ballina and Grafton?
We don't need such excess for such a small town.


A Facebook NO to McDonalds in Yamba entry:

Michelle Smith It's not about the food for us, it's simply that we love Yamba as a quaint and peaceful holiday place free from chain-store fast food and commercialism. We have raved about the fact that the town is full of small local businesses, cafes and coffee shops and that we really feel like we've "escaped the city" when we are there. I'd like to say "no" simply so Yamba can keep this identity for us and many many more travellers and visitors who go for the same reason. Yes McDonald's plays a huge role in our Australian way of life, but surely they don't need to [be] quite everywhere?

Meanwhile elsewhere in Australia..........

The Northern Star on 7 January 2010:

POLICE are appealing for witnesses following an assault on a 50-year-old Byron Bay man and a 43-year-old man from Alstonville at McDonald's in Ballina. The incident happened at 4pm on Tuesday when a group of three males were asked to leave the restaurant, and then the grounds, after consuming alcohol and abusing staff and customers. A staff member who asked the group to leave was punched in the face and knocked unconscious momentarily. Another male customer came to his aid and tried to stop the group from leaving the scene, but was punched repeatedly in the face. Both victims were taken to Ballina Hospital, where one of the men was admitted. He was later released.

The Gympie Times on 6 January 2010:

"DISGUSTING", is how Magistrate Dennis Beutel described the behaviour of a drunken teenager at Gympie's McDonalds recently.

The Canberra Times on 5 February 2010:

The court heard......had consumed up to five beers between 5.30pm and 1.30am and had not eaten anything, which it was said contributed to his high breath test reading.
Police noticed the vehicle that evening and saw it pull over into the McDonalds car park.

The Canberra Times on 26 February 2010:

.... pleaded guilty to low- range drink driving and operating a vehicle so the wheels lose traction after he was caught with a blood alcohol reading of .060 in Queanbeyan McDonalds car park at 11.45pm.

The Queensland Times on 22 December 2009:

AN IPSWICH man drove just 200 metres to a fast food restaurant while more than three times the limit because he was hungry, a court heard.
Ipswich Magistrates Court was told 22-year-old Kyron Lee Griffiths had driven to McDonalds and home again on December 3.
He was fined $900 and disqualified from driving for nine months.

The Chronicle on 25 November 2009:

.....yesterday faced court after he assaulted a teenage girl working at McDonald's by grabbing her hair and slamming her head on the counter.
........was a passenger in a vehicle going through the McDonald's drive-through at College View at 12.20am on November 1.
He was drunk and angry because a McDonald's worker could not understand what they were trying to order.

Send kisses to Julia in support of community workers

Want to support a pay increase for Australian community workers?
Send Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Julia Gillard an online 'kiss' postcard at Pay Up - No More Lip Service to Equal Pay:
An the online a campaign of the Australian Services Union (ASU). The ASU is the union of Community Sector Workers.
Community Sector workers are undervalued and underpaid and not properly respected. Their work has traditionally been seen as "women's work" and their wages have been restricted as a result.
In 2010, Unions led by the ASU and supported by the ACTU and the Federal Government are lodging a test case in Fair Work Australia using the new Equal Remuneration Laws embedded in the Fair Work Act. The case will impact the working lives of about 200,000 community workers.
The Community Sector is largely reliant on Government funding to run its essential services and to pay the wages of the workers. Winning the case will prove that these workers are undervalued – but, the case outcome alone will not correct the injustice. Workers need the Government to fund the outcome of the case to make Equal Pay a reality.
As to any hope that this might equate to equal pay for women generally - well that is a very long bow to draw.

Friday 23 April 2010

Here comes the sun......

New images and movies courtesy of NASA at

First Light for the Solar Dynamics Observatory

The subject most Australian politicians don't want to discuss in 2010

Global warming and climate change is one subject that has slipped from the forefront of most Australian political party agendas since the 2009 Copenhagen Summit.

To remind readers that (although the issue is fast becoming an unmentionable one) the urgency of the global problem still exists, here is the outline of an article from the international science journal Nature this month on the current status of international undertakings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

Current national emissions targets can't limit global warming to 2 °C, calculate Joeri Rogelj, Malte Meinshausen and colleagues — they might even lock the world into exceeding 3 °C warming.


  • Nations will probably meet only the lower ends of their emissions pledges in the absence of a binding international agreement
  • Nations can bank an estimated 12 gigatonnes of Co2 equivalents surplus allowances for use after 2012
  • Land-use rules are likely to result in further allowance increases of 0.5 GtCO2-eq per year
  • Global emissions in 2020 could thus be up to 20% higher than today
  • Current pledges mean a greater than 50% chance that warming will exceed 3°C by 2100
  • If nations agree to halve emissions by 2050, there is still a 50% chance that warming will exceed 2°C and will almost certainly exceed 1.5°C

Click on graphs to enlarge

Phony Tony just didn't wanna know....

As Australia's Opposition Leader 'Phony Tony' Abbott revs up with manufactured outrage over Kevin Rudd's health funding deal with the states, a neighbour sent me this evidence that he doesn't listen to voters, even very polite ones:
Your message To: Abbott, Tony (MP)
Subject: Forthcoming Leaders' Debate March 2010
Sent: Mon, 22 Mar 2010 13:11:23 +1000
was deleted without being read on Thu, 22 Apr 2010 02:18:49 +1000

Thursday 22 April 2010

So which blog did an Australian government ask Google to trash?

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Written in 1948, the principle applies aptly to today's Internet -- one of the most important means of free expression in the world. Yet government censorship of the web is growing rapidly: from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content.

So it's no surprise that Google, like other technology and telecommunications companies, regularly receives demands from government agencies to remove content from our services. Of course many of these requests are entirely legitimate, such as requests for the removal of child pornography. We also regularly receive requests from law enforcement agencies to hand over private user data. Again, the vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations. However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.

We are today launching a new
Government Requests tool to give people information about the requests for user data or content removal we receive from government agencies around the world. For this launch, we are using data from July-December, 2009, and we plan to update the data in 6-month increments. Read this post to learn more about our principles surrounding free expression and controversial content on the web.

Here is the raw data for Australian government requests received by Google between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009:
  • 155 data requests
  • 17 removal requests
    • 52.9% of removal requests fully or partially complied with.
    • 1 Blogger
    • 1 Geo (except Street View)
    • 1 Web Search
    • 14 YouTube
This data does not include any blocking requests or requests to remove child pornography and, the statistics primarily cover requests in criminal matters including information concerning Google user account details or products.

Which leaves an interesting question hanging in the air.
Which blog did the Rudd Government (or one of the state governments) ask Google to remove from the Internet and did Google comply?

BBQ Brumby served on a skewer with sauce piquante

If there was an award for questions from the floor after a National Press Club Address, this one should get first prize:

"Mr Brumby, Sue Dunlevy from the Daily Telegraph. You're saying today —  the title of your address is "putting patients first". But it's not something that you're doing in your own hospital system. Victoria's hospitals see fewer emergency and elective surgery patients within the recommended time than hospitals in New South Wales. You spend $123 less per patient than New South Wales. Your hospital system provides fewer beds per thousand people than New South Wales. And your hospital performance has been going backwards for five years. Why should you be regarded as some kind of authority on health? And why should patients in other states have to put up with a second-rate system because someone who can't run his own health system is behaving like a bully?"

You little bewdy, Sue!

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Marine Life Survey finds miracles and wonders

From Marine Life Survey 2009 Image Gallery

The Census of Marine Life (CoML) is a global network of researchers in about 80 nations engaged in a ten-year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the world’s oceans - past, present and future. (

A database that contains 18 million DNA sequences of microbial life has been developed by the International Census of Marine Microbes (ICoMM). 2,000 scientists from over 80 nations have drawn ocean samples from more than 1,200 sites worldwide, making the decade-long project “Census of Marine Life – Making Ocean Life Count” one of the largest global scientific collaborations ever undertaken according to Global Adventure, LLC.

From Census of Hard-To-See Marine Life

Track the geographic locations of the Census of Hard-to-See Marine Life here.

Census of Marine Life website here.

Questions floating out in cyberspace

Ever noticed just how many questions are posed on the Internet?
Here are some of those queries offered up into cyberspace by others and my thoughtless answers:

Q. How are the Eyjafjallajökull eruption emissions counted?
A. By the number of vowels in the volcano's name ;-D

Q. Is there anything Conroy’s said in defence of his Great Wall of Australia that hasn’t been misleading, disingenuous or flat-out lying?
A. NO and NO and NO.

Q. Who is the Devil?
A. That bloke on the left of the dispatch box during Question Time.

Q. What did I do today?
A. Removed those hairs that have migrated from the top of my noggin down to my ears {from the way-too-much-info file}

Q. How do planes stay in the air?
A. Interaction between lift, weight, thrust and drag on the back of five Hail Marys.

Q. Why do people blog?
A. There is no one answer - might as well count pebbles on the beach.

Q. Does God exist?
A. Only if you're afraid of the dark or in the middle of a firefight.

Q. Who's to blame for {fill in the blank}?
A. God or Goldman Sachs - take your pick.

Q. Do we have the right to kill people?
A. Put yourself in front of the executioner/soldier/armed assailant and then ask yourself that question again.

Q. Why do Australians, unlike our western democratic brothers and sisters need the government to tell us what we can access on the internet with no choice in the matter and no details of what is/will be blocked?
A. Well actually we don't, but Rudders right-wing wowsers intend to shaft us anyway.

Q. Why do people hunt innocent animals?
A. Mostly because hunting each other is illegal.

Q. Where do snowflakes come from?
A. They're pieces of cloud shaken loose when angels do the Lindy Hop.

Q. Why do bankers make so much money?
A. Because they usually have governments of the day by the short and curlies and no pollie is game to stop them feeding at the trough.

Q. Vote for change, Nick?
A. Nah - that chap Snowden's too busy trying to avoid expulsion from uni over his homophobic, racist and misogynistic slurs on Twitter.

Q. Why can't humans breathe under water?
A. For the same reason they can't walk on top of it.

Q. Is anyone else suspicious that the press conference is at dinner time?
A. Er, no. If the fourth estate is on duty it's on duty - no time off for an extended nosh on the boss's dollar.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Fight! Fight!

Stupid Fight has turned up on my digital radar:
What's this all about?
FACT: A lot of people on Twitter are stupid. Many of these people follow celebrities and try to send them messages. But which celebrity's fans are most stupid? It's time to find out.

As can be seen, this software places followers of right-wing journo Andrew Bolt and Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in the thick as short planks category. Well - surprise, surprise.

Internet activism against mandatory filtering according to Ben Grubb

Not a bad idea for a young bloke:

"Today the costs of running a blacklist were made clear, showing that the filter could be a very expensive operation.
When a URL is submitted to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) it will cost between $173 and $685 per item to investigate, regardless of whether it is "refused classification" or not.
The dollar value was revealed in answer to Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam who had asked ACMA how much it cost to action URLs submitted for the Classification Board to classify.
"In 2008-09, the average cost to ACMA of investigating an item of online content that was not referred to the Classification Board was approximately $173 per item. For items that were referred to the Classification Board this was $685 per item, which included the cost of the ACMA preparing and administering the referrals," ACMA said.
If I wanted to stymie the filter, I'd just keep bombarding ACMA's online complaint form with questionable URLs. If lots of people did this — and we know there are lots of people who feel strongly about the filter — it would only be a matter of time before the costs blew out to completely unmanageable levels." {Ben Grubb,}

Monday 19 April 2010

Twitter gets all historical

According to the U.K. Telegraph on Saturday last Twitter is being turned into one giant global 'dear diary' in the interests of a social history of our times:
"In an extraordinary agreement with Twitter's founders, the Library of Congress – the world's largest library and America's oldest federal institution – is to create a digital archive of the several billion tweets publicly posted on the social networking site since its inception in 2006.

Kevin Hogan where are you?

In December 2009 the Nats selected Kevin Hogan to run against Labor's Janelle Saffin in the Page electorate on the NSW North Coast.
Since then locals have caught sight of Kevin as he tried to get people to sign Hartsuyker's ill-fated bat petition earlier in the year, a bit later when he went head-to-head with Saffin in a Lismore health debate and then when he popped up to verbally kiss a certain Liberal lycra clad rear end. But we haven't seen hide nor hair of him lately even though he is supposedly travelling around the electorate listening to "concerns".
Is he trying to keep a low profile until the federal election writs are issued or has he absolutely nothing to say that the media has found interesting enough to print?
At this rate I'll turn up to cast my vote knowing nothing about the man except he's rather flat, was formerly a market trader, then it seems a talking head on the tellie and is now some sort of self-employed financial consultant and cow cockie.
If he doesn't speak up soon I might mistake the bloke for that other Kevin Hogan who was recently nabbed trying to pass counterfeit readies in Georgia.
So where the bl**dy hell are you, Kev?

Sunday 18 April 2010

Fess up - you grinned when you heard that Goldman Sachs was charged with fraud, didn't you?

"WALL STREET POWERHOUSE ACCUSED OF FRAUD: The government says Goldman Sachs & Co. sold mortgage investments without telling the buyers that the securities were crafted with input from a client who was betting on them to fail. Goldman denies the civil fraud allegations."
{Google News}

The Commission brings this securities fraud action against Goldman, Sachs & Co. ("GS&Co") and a GS&Co employee, Fabrice Tourre ("Tourre"), for making materially misleading statements and omissions in connection with a synthetic collateralized debt obligation ("CDO") GS&Co structured and marketed to investors. This synthetic CDO, ABACUS 2007AC1, was tied to the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities ("RMBS") and was structured and marketed by GS&Co in early 2007 when the United States housing market and related securities were beginning to show signs of distress. {SEC versus Goldman Sachs & Co. and Another}

I know I had a grin from ear to ear when I heard that the financial anaconda had finally been caught out and I think I'm not alone in that. I'm not sure who demanded trial by jury but I'm willing to bet that there will be few in any American juror pool who will be unaffected by the sub-prime debacle and it aftermath.

"Ever since the financial catastrophe of 2007-08, Goldman Sachs has been hyper-vigilant when it comes to the media. Many like myself have been complained about and rudely denied access. The blogosphere has been patrolled 24/7 so that critics can be promptly pounced on.
Now we know why.
Yesterday's bombshell announcement that Goldman was charged with fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is hardly surprising. This is Wall Street's last survivor, and it is about to be ordered off the island too, so to speak." {My confidence in the SEC is restored}

Tweets on the subject:
timbray: Any morning where Goldman Sachs is getting prosecuted by the Feds is a good morning. Pity it's civil not criminal.
theexpert: Please ... PLEASE, prove to me that Twitter has some relevance. Make Goldman Sachs a trending topic.
bobhayward: RT @Lucas_Wyrsch: In Goldman Sachs We Do Not Trust
KeithSwiderski How can the government sue Goldman Sachs? I thought Goldman Sachs ran the government?

In which era do Australian judges dwell?

Every so often a news report comes along which just confirms my suspicion that Australian judges live in another time and place from the rest of us mere mortals.
The Northern Territory News came up with this last Thursday:
"CHIEF Minister Paul Henderson said yesterday he did not believe a 13-year-old girl could consent to having sex with her teacher.
He made the comments after a Supreme Court judge said a teacher was not a rapist "as that word is ordinarily understood" because there was no evidence the sex he had with his student was not consensual.....
Justice Mildren said the teacher was not a "sexual predator" - but had suffered from a "life of loneliness".
WTF? Sexual abuse of a child is A O.K. if the person with all the power has a lousy life?
Justice Dean Mildren, gawd help us all, lectures to aspiring lawyers at the Northern Territory University besides supplying ready-made justifications to human predators.
Mildren is a serial offender when it comes to offering excuses for those caught abusing children.
This is de judge in 2008:
"Justice Dean seems to think that because teacher Paul Incani was "in love" with his sixteen year-old student {fifteen at time of the offence}, and the student was a "willing" partner in the relationship, that Mr Incani has been poorly treated and deserves to be freed from jail forthwith."

Saturday 17 April 2010

NSW: The prison state

If further evidence is needed to show that the NSW government has adopted a "lock 'em up and throw away the keys" approach to sentencing offenders, look no further than a sentence imposed by a magistrate in a NSW local court this week.

An offender appeared in a local court on a charge of driving with a mid-range prescribed concentration of alcohol. Admittedly the offender wasn't a clean-skin, but when a suggestion was made that the offender be sentenced to periodic detention the magistrate was told by a court officer there were no places available in periodic detention so that was ruled out as an option. Result: the offender was sentenced to six months’ jail. Read a report on the matter here.

Also, NSW magistrates have stated that their hands are often tied in relation to mentally ill persons when they appear in court. Those persons often end up in jail due to the lack of proper facilities that would better cater for their situations.

A magistrate said, “You shouldn’t have mentally ill people in jail – (it's) just not the place for them. There are clearly people who I’ve had before me – if you look at the facts and their background – and clearly there is a mental health issue – and yet a lot of the times they are held in custody when they should really be in hospital."

The magistrate's comment concurred with a media statement from the Mental Health Council of Australia which stated that jail exacerbated mental illness for sufferers, making the system counter productive." Read about this here.

But things don't end there.

Now, the NSW Attorney General, John Hatzistergos, is pushing for violent offenders to be kept in prison beyond their sentences if they show signs of being insufficiently rehabilitated by the NSW prisons system. Hatzistergos reckons special categories of offenders should go to prison for indeterminate periods, until the government decides their time is up. Read more about this here.

Does Target know something about about the Rudd Government's income management scheme that the rest of us don't?

"In its submission to the Senate inquiry into the new policy, the Society of St Vincent de Paul said: "Income management is returning social policy in Australia to the Depression-era Sustenance Allowance, commonly referred to as the 'susso'. The present legislation seeks to turn back the clock to provide the modern equivalent to a food ticket."
Of the 80 welfare organisations that made submissions to the inquiry, only two were in favour. Government reports have noted bad outcomes from income management over the last two years, including the 2008 Yu report and the 2009 productivity report.
The reports said that since income management began domestic violence reports in the targeted communities have increased 61%, substance abuse by 77%, school enrolments have remained unchanged, child malnutrition is higher and the total number of confirmed cases of child abuse rose from 66 in 2006-07 to 227 in 2008-09." {
The Green Left in April 2010}

Nearly fell over backwards this week when I discovered that Target stores in New South Wales are advertising the Rudders-Macklin Centrelink BasicsCard beside their cash registers.
Maud up the Street swears that one store on the North Coast insisted that this income management scheme went operational this month across the state.
Now I know Big Brother government has spread like wildfire in Australia, but surely even Mother Macklin wouldn't impose national welfare payment quarantining for the unemployed, families and students before the NT state-wide trial of this scheme had even commenced.
So has this big multinational chain store got it wrong or is welfare payment rationing being advanced by stealth?
Either way it's not a good look and Maud reckons she's going to think twice about shopping at a store which obviously relishes its role in beating up on the less well-off.