Friday 31 May 2019

Pampas Grass as decoration for your wedding? Don’t even think about it!

An ACT park ranger spraying the noxious weed Pampas Grass (Cortaderia species)
on a road verge.

According to the NSW Dept of Primary Industries

Pampas grass grows in clumps about 1 – 1.5 m across, with fluffy flower heads on tall stems. Common pampas grass is up to 6 m tall when in flower. Pink pampas grass is up to 4 m tall when in flower.  

Pampas grass outcompetes native vegetation, is a fire hazard, harbours vermin and could threaten forestry.

However, it has apparently become popular with brides-to-be...............

ABC News, 29 May 2019:

Biosecurity officers have raided florists on the north coast of New South Wales to seize an illegal noxious weed popularised by so-called Instagram weddings.

Pampas grass is native to South America and is considered a weed in most Australian states and territories as it competes with native vegetation and is a fire hazard.

It is a highly invasive plant, with each flower head producing up to 100,000 seeds that can spread to a 25-kilometre radius, and is banned from sale in the Greater Sydney, Hunter, south-east and north coast regions of NSW.

Kim Curtis from Rous County Council said officers had seized the outlawed grass from three locations in the Byron Bay and Tweed regions over the past two weeks.

"It's scary, the seeds on pampas grass can travel for kilometres and it could create another outbreak of a high-priority weed that farmers have to deal with for years to come," she said.

A wedding planner in Byron Bay, Che Devlin, said brides started asking for the wheat-coloured decorative grass for their big days after photos from a Byron Bay hinterland wedding, featuring the grass, went viral on Instagram in 2017.

Mr Devlin said after the council had informed florists that the plant was banned on the north coast there had been an attempt to steer people away from the weed towards native plants.

However he said it could be difficult to dissuade a bride who had a certain aesthetic in mind.

"The hard thing is, a lot of these florists, if they say no to a bride then that bride will go to the florist who will say yes, so it becomes an economical thing," Mr Devlin said.

Florist Jaala Mills, who co-owns Bower Botanicals in Byron Bay, has worked on a number of local pampas grass weddings.

She said her business had not been involved in the recent pampa grass seizures and that her team had made every effort to ensure the grass was not harmful to the environment.

"We imported the grass in from California," she said.

"It was quarantined in Australia and it went through a process of irradiation to kill the seeds and then we had documentation from customs saying we were legally allowed to have it."

Ms Mills said most florists wanted to do the right thing but there was confusion in the industry about whether they were allowed to hire out grass that had been treated to kill the seeds.

"I wish someone could come out and say exactly what the deal is," she said.

"We want clarification. We hear rumours you can be slapped with a fine for $60,000 but we don't know for sure."....

When a Coffs Harbour hotel makes it onto an undesirable list

In 2008 the NSW Government commenced a Violent Venues Scheme to monitor alcohol-related violence in hotels and bars.

This scheme publishes reports twice a year on rounds commencing 1 June and 1 December each year.

In 2019 the number of licensed premises on the NSW Government’s violent venues list has halved from 12 to 6 in the past six months, with no venues in the most restrictive level one category of 18 or more violent incidents over a twelve month period.

There are 6 licensed premises in the next category below of 12 to 17 violent incidents over a twelve month period.

Venues on the list face strict conditions and increased monitoring by Liquor & Gaming NSW.

The Coastal Hotel Bar & Restaurant at Coffs Harbour is in this second category this year to date with 13 violent incidents recorded.

While in 2017 it was included in the second category with 13 violent incidents.

According to Liquor & Gaming NSW:

Level 2 venues are subject to three additional special conditions:

1. Cessation of alcohol services 30 minutes prior to close
2. No glass containers to be used after midnight
3. 10 minute alcohol sales time out every hour after midnight or active distribution of water and/or food.

Level 2 venues also have to maintain a register during opening hours.

Thursday 30 May 2019

How the Prime Minister is reorganising our lives in 2019

On the day Scott Morrison arranged to be sworn-in as Australian prime minister for the second time he also made a few administrative changes.

From now on the Dept. of Human Services, which delivers social and health payments through such services such as Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support, will have the word "Human" erased from its title.

It will now be called Services Australia. A neutral name which will probably make privatisation of its more human service components that much easier down the track.

Services Australia has also been expanded to include responsibility for whole of government service delivery. 

The new Minister for Government Services and Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme is noneother than the Qld Liberal MP for Fadden Stuart Robert, who in 2016 resigned as the Minister for Human Services after questions were raised over his fitness for officeThus proving that when it comes to political probity it's not what you did in the past but who you pray with now that matters.

The new Minister for Families and Social Services was listed on 26 May 2019 as Liberal Senator for South Australia Anne Rushton. However, there is no mention of that title in her official parliamentary profile to date. 

Morrison has also decided that settlement services for refugees and humanitarian migrants are being transferred from the Social Services portfolio to the Home Affairs portfolio, giving the Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton control of every aspect of the lives of those seeking asylum or resettlement in Australia.

These and other changes are set out below........

United Nations asked to pass judgement on the impact of Australian Morrison Government's climate change 'denialism'

The Conversation, May 2019:

Climate change threatens Australia in many different ways, and can devastate rural and urban communities alike. For Torres Strait Islanders, it’s a crisis that’s washing away their homes, infrastructure and even cemeteries.

The failure to take action on this crisis has led a group of Torres Strait Islanders to lodge a climate change case with the United Nations Human Rights Committee against the Australian federal government.

It’s the first time the Australian government has been taken to the UN for their failure to take action on climate change. And its the first time people living on a low lying island have taken action against any government.

This case – and other parallel cases – demonstrate that climate change is “fundamentally a human rights issue”, with First Nations most vulnerable to the brunt of a changing climate.

The group of Torres Strait Islanders lodging this appeal argue that the Australian government has failed to take adequate action on climate change. They allege that the re-elected Coalition government has not only steered Australia off track in meeting globally agreed emissionsreductions, but has set us on course for climate catastrophe.

In doing so, Torres Strait Islanders argue that the government has failed to uphold human rights obligations and violated their rights to culture, family and life.

This case is a show of defiance in the face of Australia’s years of political inertia and turmoil over climate change.

It is the first time people living on a low-lying island – acutely vulnerable in the face of rising sea levels – have brought action against a government. But it may also be a sign of things to come, as more small island nations face impending climate change threats…..

The Guardian, 13 May 2019:

The complaint will assert that the Morrison government has failed to take adequate action to reduce emissions or pursue proper adaptation measures on the islands and, as a consequence, has failed fundamental human rights obligations to Torres Strait Islander people.

One of the complainants, sixth-generation Warraber man, Kabay Tamu, said in a statement: “When erosion happens, and the lands get taken away by the seas, it’s like a piece of us that gets taken with it – a piece of our heart, a piece of our body. That’s why it has an effect on us. Not only the islands but us, as people.

“We have a sacred site here, which we are connected to spiritually. And disconnecting people from the land, and from the spirits of the land, is devastating.
 “It’s devastating to even imagine that my grandchildren or my great-grandchildren being forced to leave because of the effects that are out of our hands.

“We’re currently seeing the effects of climate change on our islands daily, with rising seas, tidal surges, coastal erosion and inundation of our communities.”

The non-profit coordinating the complaint by the Torres Strait Islanders says this will be the first climate change litigation brought against the Australian government based on a human rights complaint, and also the first legal action worldwide brought by inhabitants of low-lying islands against a nation state.

Lawyers with environmental law non-profit ClientEarth, are representing the islanders, with support from British-based barristers.

The UN Human Rights Committee is a body of 18 legal experts that sits in Geneva. The committee monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The complainants are alleging that Australia has violated article 27, the right to culture; article 17, the right to be free from arbitrary interference with privacy, family and home; and article 6, the right to life.

According to briefing material supplied by ClientEarth, the complaint alleges these rights have been violated both by Australia’s insufficient greenhouse gas mitigation targets and plans, and by its failure to fund adequate coastal defence and resilience measures on the islands, such as seawalls.

Lawyers for the islanders allege that the catastrophic nature of the predicted future impacts of climate change on the Torres Strait Islands, including the total submergence of ancestral homelands, is a sufficiently severe impact as to constitute a violation of the rights to culture, family and life.

The islanders want the government to commit at least $20m for emergency measures such as seawalls, as requested by local authorities, and sustained investment in long-term adaptation measures to ensure the islands can continue to be inhabited.

They want a commitment to reduce emissions by at least 65% below 2005 levels by 2030 and going net zero before 2050 and a phase out of thermal coal, both for domestic electricity generation and export markets....

The weather is slowly getting colder, but before minds turn to the thought of glowing fire in the hearth remember this....

Sitting before a glowing fire on a cold winter's night is something many people have done at some point in their lives.

However, this has fast become a luxury we as a society can no longer afford.

Because now when we go firewood gathering, sadly we are often taking the last remaining homes in that locality of Australian hollow nesting native birds, small marsupials, reptiles, frogs & insects.

Other things to remember about firewood gathering.......

Fines apply for removing fallen timber or trees from national parks or nature reserves.
Collecting wood from Travelling Stock Reserves is illegal in New South Wales and you can be fined if caught.

If you'd like to collect firewood for personal use from a state forest within NSW you need to apply for a permit and any timber taken must be paid for in advance.

Firewood permits are available online from the Forestry Corporation of NSW at:  These permits only allow the collection of fallen timber and fines apply if rules are broken.

Removing fallen timber from roadside reserves is prohibited by many councils, so please check with your local council before considering collecting firewood from these areas.

Clearing of native vegetation on rural land is legislated by the Local Land Services Act 2013external link and the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016external link

Clearing of native vegetation in urban areas and land zoned for environmental protection is legislated by the NSW Vegetation SEPPexternal link.

Please report suspected unlawful native vegetation clearing to OEH. 
You can contact Environment Line on 131 555 or send an email to

Illegal activity can also be reported to Local Land Services on 1300 795 299 or by contacting your local police station.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

AMA accuses Morrison Government of deliberately constraining supply of public hospital services

ABC News, 24 May 2019:

"Have you got insurance?"

It is one of the first questions any patient is asked when they walk into an emergency room in the United States, no matter how sick they are.

And now Australian doctors are warning our own health system is shifting towards a similar US managed care model — a patchwork of private and public systems, where health insurers hold an increasing amount of power.

The president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Dr Tony Bartone, made the comments as he addressed the group's national conference in Brisbane on Friday.

It was the first time Dr Bartone has spoken since the Coalition was returned to power, and he gave an unusually scathing assessment of Australia's health system and the Federal Government.

He called for further private health reforms, telling doctors the increasing corporatisation of the private health system had given insurers unprecedented power within the health sector.

Dr Bartone warned that could lead to a system similar to the model in the US, where patients experience significant variations in care depending on their insurance cover.

"Insurers should not determine the provision of treatment in Australia, they should not interfere with the clinical judgement of qualified and experienced doctors," he said.

"Australians do not support a US-style managed care health system, and neither does the AMA."

The AMA has consistently called for more money for public hospitals, and on Friday Dr Bartone went even further as he accused the government of "making a choice" to constrain the supply of public hospital services.

"Let me be clear. Public hospital capacity is determined by funding," he said.

"The consequences are significant. They can include increased complications, delayed care, delayed pain relief, and longer length of stay for admitted patients."

Dr Bartone said the system was "stretched so tight" elective surgeries were being cancelled.

"Our public health system should be better than this. It is unacceptable our public hospitals have been reduced to this," he said.

"Our public hospitals are struggling and require new funding to be better tomorrow.....

Bad 4WD behaviour causing significant damage to the South Ballina Beach and its ecology

South Ballina Beach. Photo Ballina Beach Village in Echo NetDaily, 27 November 2018

The Northern Star, 25 May 2019, p.9:

Poor behaviour from some 4WD users have attracted the ire of Ballina Shire Council once again.

Councillor Sharon Cadwallader brought a motion before Thursday’s general meeting to further consult on what could be done to address the issue of some 4WDers putting wildlife and the dunes at risk on South Ballina and Seven Mile Beaches.

Richard Gates, who spoke to the council in support of the motion, said bad 4WD behaviour was causing “significant damage to the beach and its ecology”, evident in declining pied oystercatcher and pippie numbers. Cr Cadwallader welcomed extra patrols planned for both beaches next financial year, but said that wasn’t enough and suggested a permit system be added to South Ballina Beach, similar to the permit for Seven Mile Beach.

Councillors agreed the matter was complex in that the National Parks and Wildlife Service had care of South Ballina’s beach, and that a co-ordinated approach would be needed with the Richmond Valley Council to cover the entire beach to Evans Head.

“There’s got to be a concerted effort,” Cr Cadwallader said.
“We’re not just going to sit by and watch this beautiful beach of ours become desecrated.”

She showed her fellow councillors photos, taken on the weekend, of the southern beach trashed with rubbish including dumped tents and camping chairs.

Other images showed the dunes at Seven Mile Beach riddled with tyre marks.

Cr Ben Smith said the State Government was “very much aware” of the dilemma and pointed out it “didn’t really get much traction” in the lead up to the March state election, despite noise from the council.

Many councillors saw the need for action and Cr Cadwallader’s motion was carried unanimously.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government May 2019: new crew on the political ‘Titanic’

With no plans to genuinely address climate change mitigation, in denial concerning the slowing national economy and pretending that Australia is not in breach of its human rights obligations on two fronts (treatment of Aboriginal adults & children and detained asylum seekers), Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott 'Liar from the Shire' Morrison released his new ministry list on 26 May 2019.

Coal Seam Gas: Queensland supplies a timely lesson for the rest of Australia

ABC News, 26 May 2016:

The risk of spreading toxic groundwater from one of Queensland's worst environmental contaminations has prompted a ban on coal seam gas drilling in an area where companies are already extracting gas.

The State Government quietly created a no-go zone for gas extraction 10 kilometres around the former Linc Energy site in the Southern Inland, at Hopeland, burying the decision in an environmental approval issued to Arrow Energy in December.

Despite the ban, Arrow and QGC still have permission to extract gas within the zone.

On a separate, neighbouring mining lease — approved in August — Arrow gained approval to ramp up six existing "pilot" wells for commercial production.

Farmers said they were alarmed by the revelation and want state officials to come clean about the risks of groundwater contamination spreading under prime grazing and cropping land.

The ban is the first public admission that a burgeoning CSG industry could aggravate the Linc contamination, where toxic gases were released into groundwater by a now-illegal process called underground coal gasification.

Cotton grower Brian Bender's Hopeland property is split by the two Arrow tenements — where CSG extraction is banned on one side but not the other.

"I think it's a bit of a joke, really — there are no lines underground," Mr Bender said….

The ABC understands tests on groundwater contamination were being examined by a trio of experts who would be called as state witnesses in a criminal prosecution of five former Linc executives next month.

The failed company was convicted and fined a record $4.5 million last May for causing serious environmental harm through its underground coal gasification (UCG) plant.

The District Court heard in that trial that it could take up to 20 years for groundwater to recover from Linc's attempts at the now-illegal UCG process, which allowed toxic gases to escape through fractured rock.

At the time, the state's then-environment minister described the contamination as "the biggest pollution event probably in Queensland's history".

A week before Christmas, Arrow gained approval for 70 wells on a gas tenement to the north-east of the former Linc site.

It is part of its $10 billion Surat Gas Project, which Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promoted in a February media release as Queensland's "biggest resources project since 2011".

Ms Palaszczuk's release made no mention of the gas extraction no-go zone.

But the state's Department of Environment and Science approval said Arrow "must not locate any [CSG] production wells within 10 kilometres [of the Linc site]".

"The extraction of groundwater as part of the petroleum activity(ies) from underground aquifers must not directly or indirectly influence the mobilisation of existing groundwater contamination on [the Linc site]," the environmental authority said.

It said the department may force Arrow to model CSG impacts on "groundwater contamination around [the Linc site] at any time" and present its findings within a month.

But there were no such conditions for gas drilling in the neighbouring Arrow tenement that surrounds the former Linc site, where six wells were approved in August…..

But will the Morrison federal government or the remaining seven state and territory governments learn from Queensland's disasterous mistakes?

Apparently not.........

2GB Radio, 24 May 2019:

The Minister for Resources is urging the New South Wales government to approve the state’s biggest gas project.

Santos Narrabri Gas Project is aiming to develop gas reserves in northwest New South Wales that could supply half of the state’s gas needs.

The Resources Minister Matt Canavan tells Ray Hadley almost all of NSW’s gas comes from other states.

“The problem with that is, of course, it costs a lot of money to transport gas long distances, so that has pushed the price up for Sydney based users of gas.

“Things have changed and we need to reflect that.”

The Canberra Times, 18 April 2019:

Federal Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan was in Darwin on April 17 to publicise an April 2 federal budget announcement of $8.4 million in funding to fast-track development of gas reserves in the Northern Territory's Beetaloo Basin.

"We want to get on with the job. We want to get the gas up out of the ground and into people's homes and businesses as quickly as we can," Senator Canavan said in a statement….

The Beetaloo Basin is about 500km south-east of Darwin in the Sturt Plateau region between the towns of Katherine and Elliott and includes pastoral land and indigenous communities. Around 70 per cent of the Territory's shale gas resources are estimated to lie in the Beetaloo Basin, reserves that could potentially raise Australia's global ranking of gas resources from seventh to sixth. Farmers, businesses and industry are divided over whether fracking should be permitted because of the risk of pollution to rivers and bores. Pro-fracking advocates argue it will be a boon for jobs and economic growth.

Monday 27 May 2019

Australia 2019: women are still dying violently in unacceptably high numbers

Counting Dead Women, 25 May 2019
On average at least one woman a week is dying violently in Australia this year.  

I say "at least" because the figure above is mainly based on media reports of deaths - how many go unnoticed by the nightly news or daily newspapers is unknown.

Looking back on past posts on North Coast Voices it appears that an average of 1 to 2 female deaths by violence per week is how the years since 2014 have ended.

Despite the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government periodically talking up its approach to ending violence against women the situation is littled changed because women are still dying in unacceptably high numbers.

Byron DA for largest coastal solar farm in NSW being progressed

Myocum district, Byron Shire

The Northern Star
, 25 May 2019, p.8:

A solar farm flagged for Byron Shire would be the biggest of its kind east of the ranges in New South Wales, according to Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson.

Cr Richardson said the “massive” five megawatt solar farm planned for land adjacent to the shire’s tip at Myocum would be a wise investment.

Coolamon Energy lodged a development application for the $6.5 million project last month, which proposes building the large-scale facility at Grays Lane, with the solar panels covering 6.3ha of the 73.53ha site.

At a meeting on Thursday councillors voted to spend $465,000 on a final feasibility study for the project.

Cr Richardson said the council had already done a lot of business modelling and cost-benefit analysis for the project.

In the DA, construction is estimated to take 12-14 weeks.

The applicant claimed the project would create jobs and help meet Byron Shire’s electricity demands.

Sunday 26 May 2019

via @AnitaHess
Anniversary of the 1997 report Bringing Them Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families

Trump accuses Australia of interfering in 2016 American presidential election process?

Will there be a falling out between the Bobbsey Twins?

It seems the world leader Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott 'Liar from the Shire' Morrison openly admires and, whose dress, mannerisms and tactics he apes, is no longer happy with the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition Government., 25 May 2019:

US President Donald Trump has announced he wants Australia’s role in sparking the FBI probe into links between Russia and his election campaign examined by US Attorney-General William Barr.

Despite Australia’s historically strong alliance with the United States, President Trump specifically named Australia as a nation whose part in what he calls the “Russia hoax” must be thoroughly investigated.

“What I’ve done is I’ve declassified everything,” Mr Trump told AAP reporters at the White House on Friday before departing on a trip to Japan.

“He can look and I hope he looks at the UK and I hope he looks at Australia and I hope he looks at Ukraine.

“I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.”

The reason behind this sudden urge to hit out at Australia? 

Well, that's not hard to find.

Ex- Donald Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos - out of prison after a short stay for lying to the FBI - in what appears to be an attempt to rid himself of a well-deserved reputation for indiscreet tongue wagging is now asserting that he was the victim of a set-up.

Trump who himself has a reputation for believing a thousand impossible or implausible tales before breakfast has obviously been following @GeorgePapa19's conspiracy tweets.

*Photos used in montage from Google Images

Gunditjmara: honouring the past and the present

The Guardian, 10 January 2017. Photo Budj Bim

The Guardian, 23 May 2019. Photo Denis Rose

The volanic eruption of Budj Bim (Mt. Eccles) around 30,000 years ago was witnessed by the Gunditjmara people and the subsequent lava flow formed rock over an area 18 kms long & 8 kms wide.

This easily worked, durable rock turned the people into stone masons and around 6,600 years ago allowed them to create one of the world's largest aquaculture systems.

The Guardian, 23 May 2019:

A 6,600-year-old, highly sophisticated aquaculture system developed by the Gunditjmara people will be formally considered for a place on the Unescoworld heritage list and, if successful, would become the first Australian site listed exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural value.

Known as the Budj Bim cultural landscape, the site in south-west Victoria is home to a long dormant volcano, which was the source of the Tyrendarra lava flow.

The Gunditjmara people used the volcanic rock to manage water flows from nearby Lake Condah to exploit eels as a food source, constructing an advanced system of channels and weirs. They manipulated water flows to trap and farm migrating eels and fish for food. It is one of the oldest aquaculture systems in the world.

On Tuesday night in Paris, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places around the world, officially recommended world heritage status for Budj Bim. The nomination will be formally considered by the world heritage committee in the final step in the process in July.

The Budj Bim cultural landscape is largely managed by the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, who also protect the Gunditjmara-owned properties along the lava flow. The project manager and also elder, Denis Rose, said the homes challenge the idea that all Aboriginal people were hunter-gatherers.

“There are around 200 registered and recorded stone house sites, so people were living a sedentary life,” Rose said. “The area had such a reliable water supply from Darlot Creek, and the traditional name for that creek is Killara, which means ‘always there’. It’s a very appropriate name because even during the dry this year, it was still running.”

The Gunditjmara traditional owners have led the process to have Budj Bim added to the world heritage list, and Rose said the recognition would lead to the site being better protected and managed.

Read the full article here.