Friday 31 January 2020

Clarence Valley, Lismore & Richmond Valley get $1 million each from Drought Communities Programme after discovery of yet another alleged Morrison Government 2019 election campaign funding rort caused grant criteria to be revised & broadened

The Daily Examiner, 29 January 2020:

Yes, the Clarence Valley has been 100% drought affected with most of the land officially in either the Drought or Severe Drought categories.

This along with the bushfires has makes 2019-20 a horror year for farmers and graziers.

So this federal government grant is most welcome.

However, Clarence Valley local government area - like Lismore and Richmond Valley - only became eligible when criteria for assistance was changed after it was discovered that, just an in the 'sports rorts affair', there had been an apparent manipulation of a grant programme's funding allocations just prior to the May 2019 federal election - when of the 14 councils announced eligible as a Coalition election commitment 13 were in Coalition-held electorates and just one was not as it was held by an Independent.

The plus for Nationals MP for Page, Kevin Hogan, is that now instead of one council in his electorate being given a Drought Communities Programme grant, there are now three four.

Richmond Valley, another Northern Rivers local government area, also receives a grant of $1 million. However it is in a federal electorate which has been held by the Australian Labor Party since 2004. 

Somewhat ironic that a move by Morrison & Co to assist Coalition electorates has ended up giving this particular Labor electorate a windfall.

Public art with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as its subject is popping up here and there

One example at an unnamed coastal town....

Thursday 30 January 2020

Australia's 2019-20 bushfire season expected to increase total global atmospheric greenhouse gases by est. 2 per cent this year

According to NOAA Climate.govThe global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2018 was 407.4 parts per million (ppm for short), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.

With the ability of Australia's east coast forests to act as carbon sinks severely impacted by bushfires and air pollutants released by these fires to date circumnavigating the earth, it was to be expected that the amount of carbon dioxide parts per million in the atmosphere will rise sharply in 2020.

UK Met Office, media release, 24 January 2020:

A forecast of the atmospheric concentration of carbon-dioxide shows that 2020 will witness one of the largest annual rises in concentration since measurements began at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, 1958.

During the year the atmospheric concentration of CO₂ is expected to peak above 417 parts per million in May, while the average for the year is forecast to be 414.2 ± 0.6ppm. This annual average represents a 2.74 ± 0.57 ppm rise on the average for 2019. While human-caused emissions cause the CO₂ rise in concentration, impacts of weather patterns on global ecosystems are predicted to increase the rise by 10% this year. Emissions from the recent Australian bushfires contribute up to one-fifth of this increase.

Professor Richard Betts MBE, of the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter, said: “Although the series of annual levels of CO₂ have always seen a year-on-year increase since 1958, driven by fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the rate of rise isn’t perfectly even because there are fluctuations in the response of ecosystem carbon sinks, especially tropical forests. Overall these are expected to be weaker than normal for a second year running.”

Weather patterns linked to year-by-year swings in Pacific Ocean temperatures are known to affect the uptake of carbon-dioxide by land ecosystems. In years with a warmer tropical Pacific, many regions become warmer and drier, which limits the ability of plants to grow and absorb CO₂ and increases the risk of wildfires which release further emissions. Along with other weather patterns and human-induced climate change, this has contributed to the recent hot, dry weather in Australia, which played a key role in the severity of the bushfires.

Professor Betts added: “The success of our previous forecasts has shown that the year-to-year variability in the rate of rise of CO₂ in the atmosphere is affected more by the strength of ecosystem carbon sinks and sources than year-to-year changes in human-induced emissions. Nevertheless, the anthropogenic emissions are still the overall driver of the long-term rise in concentrations.”

The CO₂ concentrations at Mauna Loa are measured by the Scripps Institution for Oceanography at UC San Diego and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Fire emissions are monitored by the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED).

The 2020 CO₂ forecast is available here.

As far as I can tell, it is likely that before 2020 draws to an end the atmosphere above the Australian land mass and coastal waters will probably contain at least est. 406.138 to 411 parts per million of carbon dioxide.

A carbon dioxide concentration of 400 parts per million is considered unsafe - a danger warning - and Morrison Government denialist-based climate change policy is making sure that we are now well and truly exceeding that figure.

The average surface temperatures over the Australian continent and its surrounding oceans have increased by nearly 1°C since the beginning of the 20th century.

This global rise saw land surface temperature in the NSW Northern rivers region rise by somewhere between 1°C and 1.4°C by 2014, with most of that warming occurring since 1950.

How hot will this region become in 2020?

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Tree canopy loss in NSW Northern Rivers from Clarence Valley LGA to NSW-Qld border by January 2020

Firegrounds post major fires which were actively burning in September 2019 to January 2020, mapped by

Southernmost half of coastal Bundjalung National Park showing full canopy loss

Degrees of canopy loss in the Cloud Creek and Guy Fawkes region

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Mullum Flickerfest and Byron All Shorts film festival 30 January to 1 February 2020 at Mullumbimby Civic Hall

29th International Short Film Festival

Tour Date: Thursday 30 January - Saturday 1 February 2020

Thu 30th Jan, 8.00pm - Best Of International Shorts - 2020 Tour - $25/ $22con (inc pre-screening drinks & nibbles)

Fri 31st Jan, 8.00pm - Best Of Australian Shorts - 2020 Tour - $16/ $14con

Sat 1st Feb, 8.00pm - Short Laughs Comedy - 2020 Tour - $16/ $14con

Sat 1st Feb, 4pm – Byron All Shorts – Nth Rivers Short Film comp (Prog announced early Jan) – $14/ $12
Festival Pass: $55/45
Full Programme, Information & Bookings:
Venue: Mullumbimby Civic Hall
Doors Open: 1 hr prior to sessions
Opening Night Party starts: 7pm
Tickets: through; (or at the door).

Flickerfest CafeOpen daily: 1hr prior to sessions.
Serving delicious organic treats & drinks.

Some of the short films being shown:

German film ‘The Jackpot
Australian comedy ‘Chicken’ 
Animated film Rebooted’ 
Australian film  ‘Its Christmas
Drama  ‘A Day In Your Life’ 
Comedy ‘A Family Affair
12 short films from around the NSW Northern Rivers

Lismore Diocese in the NSW Northern Rivers region once again focus of historical child sexual abuse allegations

Former Catholic priest Clarence David Anderson died in retirement at Toowoombah Qld in April 1996 and peacefully rests in a Goonellabah NSW cemetery, but his alleged victims are still seeking justice....

Newcastle Herald, 23 January 2020: 

A PARISH priest is suing a NSW Catholic diocese and an order of nuns [believed to be the Presentation Sisters] in what is believed to be the first Australian case of a serving Catholic priest seeking compensation for alleged child sexual abuse by a priest. 

 The Diocese of Lismore has denied liability for alleged crimes by the late charismatic "surfer priest" Clarence "David" Anderson against the then 12-year-old altar boy in the 1960s, and has given notice it will seek a permanent stay against the priest's case in the NSW Supreme Court. 

The move, initiated by the diocese last week, means survivors are "back to square one" in some dioceses despite legal reforms following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the priest's lawyer Mark Barrow said. 

The permanent stay application is despite the diocese offering compensation to two families in 2004 who alleged Anderson sexually abused two brothers aged 9 and 14 in the Macksville area between 1966 and 1968, and two other brothers, aged 9 and 15, in Tweed Heads parish in 1969.

Melbourne-based Broken Rites put the two families in touch with each other after both were told they were the first to complain about Anderson, and that the diocese had no knowledge of allegations about him. Anderson was a priest for just seven years. One of his alleged victims was advised by the Diocese of Lismore in 2002 that Anderson resigned in 1970. He died in 1996......

The Guardian, 25 January 2020:

The abuse is said to have occurred at a church on the north coast of New South Wales, which sat on the grounds of a boarding school....

It is the second time in recent months that the diocese has attempted to have an abuse case thrown out due to delay.
In December, the Lismore diocese successfully applied to permanently stay a case brought by a woman who alleged she was abused in the 1940s by a priest named John Curran, who has since died.
The church’s approach to delay conflicts with findings of the child abuse royal commission.
According to Broken Rites; In 2020, a legal firm is acting for eleven of Father David Anderson's victims, suing the Lismore Catholic Diocese for compensation.

Monday 27 January 2020

Clarence Valley Council fights to limit access to its local government register of councillors' interests

And local government wonders why it has such a bad reputation across Australia.......

Clarence Valley councillors (left to right)
Back Row: Andrew Baker, Debrah Novak, Karen Toms, Richie Williamson, Peter Ellem, Greg Clancy
Front Row; Jim Simmons, Arthur Lysaught, Jason Kingsley
IMAGE: Clarence Valley Independent, 22 January 2020

Clarence Valley Independent, 22 January 2020:

Five of the valley’s councillors have remained staunch in their opposition to uploading their annual disclosure of interest returns to Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) website. 

Councillors Williamson, Lysaught, Baker, Kingsley and Ellem were unmoved by a NSW Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) statement that called out the councillors’ decision at the November council meeting. 

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd said that CVC and two other councils had “publicly stated their intention to adopt practices that appear to offend the requirements of the GIPA Act [Government Information (Public Access) Act] and Guideline 1”. 

“The resolutions by councils, as they seek to deviate from clear requirements under the GIPA Act, and justify non-compliance for privacy reasons will be something I consider carefully,” she said. 

The mayor, Jim Simmons, and councillors Toms and Novak (Cr Clancy was absent due to illness) supported the failed rescission motion, which was tabled by Cr Toms and co-signed by councillors Novak and Clancy. 

During questions before debate on the matter, Cr Baker asked if there was “any legislation” that compels CVC to upload the declarations. General manager Ashley Lindsay said “there is” and that CVC would have to provide a “reason why the declarations of interest are not provided on the website”. 

Councillor Lysaught asked if rejecting the rescission motion would constitute “any formal breach” of regulations. Mr Lindsay said he had received “a number of correspondences” from the IPC and that they had “already put us on notice to show cause why [the disclosures] were not on the web”. 

Councillor Toms argued that CVC was duty-bound to comply with what she said was “legislation” and quoted from the IPC’s Information Access Guideline regarding the “mandatory proactive release” requirements” for “open access Information”. 

The guideline and the GIPA Act do, however, provide for exceptions, provided a council can prove uploading the disclosures “would impose unreasonable costs on the council, or if the council determined there was an overriding public interest against disclosing the information”. 

Neither of those concepts have been the subject of a councillor decision.

Councillor Toms said she hoped she had “convinced” the other councillors, “now that the Privacy Commission has written to the general manager with a ‘please explain’”. 

She said she was “a bit disappointed” that she had not seen the letter from the IPC. 

“It should have been shared with councillors,” she said..... 

CVC’s current policy is to make the disclosure available on request in the presence of a CVC officer.

Read the full article here.

Australia Institute Survey Reveals: Bushfires Cost 1.8 million Work Days, Leave 5 Million Sick from Smoke

The Australia Institute, media release, 23 January 2020: 

Survey Reveals: Bushfires Cost 1.8 million Work Days, Leave 5 Million Sick from Smoke 

New national survey research from The Australia Institute reveals most Australians have been personally impacted by the bushfires and smoke, including millions missing work or suffering health impacts. 

Additionally, the research shows concern about the impacts of climate change are especially high among those directly affected by the fires, as is the wish for the Government to do more to reduce carbon emissions. 

Key points 

- 57% of respondents reported some kind of direct impact from the bushfires and smoke. 

- 26% of survey respondents experienced negative health impacts from the fires’ smoke, representing 5.1 million Australian adults. 
  • Health impacts were more widely reported in NSW (35%) and Victoria (29%). 
- 17% of full time workers and 8% of part time workers, representing 1.8 million Australians, reported they had missed work due to the fires. 
  • This alone is estimated to have costed more than $1.3 billion in lost economic production, assuming only one lost day per worker. 
- Direct experience of impacts was associated with stronger concern about climate change. 

“Australia is in the grip of a national climate disaster. The social, economic and medical impacts are vast and only just starting to become clear,” said Tom Swann, senior researcher at the Australia Institute. 

“Our research shows that it’s likely more than 5 million Australian adults, along with many children, have suffered negative health impacts as a result of the fires and at least 1.5 million have missed work. 

“Even looking simply at lost work days, the bill is in the billions of dollars. The broader impacts and recovery efforts will cost many billions more and take many years. That is why it is so concerning that rising emissions threaten to make events like this even more common in the future. 

“Putting a levy on fossil fuel producers and establishing a National Climate Disaster Fund would move some of the financial burden of these events from the households, businesses and taxpayers that are currently forced to pick up the tab. 

“This research suggests that, as Australians face the escalating impacts of climate change in their own lives, calls for policies that reduce carbon emissions will continue to grow.” 

A polling brief, including detailed results, is available here.

Sunday 26 January 2020

Who is Responsible for the Australian Bushfire Crisis?

A Rational Fear at

Given the last seven years is anyone surprised that Australia has slipped once again in the international perceived corruption rankings?

Transparency International's Corruption Transparency Index ranks 180 countries by the perceived levels of public sector corruption. 

In 2019 Australia was one of only three countries highlighted as examples of the 21 countries countries who scores had markedly declined between 2012 and 2019 - Australia dropping 8 points from 85 out of 100 in 2012 (when it was the 7th least corrupt nation) to 77 out of 100 in 2019. 

It should be noted that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison federal Coalition government came to power in September 2013. 

Transparency International's 2019 report points the finger at Australia's poor performance with regard to rules around campaign financing, donations and grants.

Stating of counties such as Australia that; unfair and opaque political financing and undue influence in decisionmaking and lobbying by powerful corporate interest groups, result in stagnation or decline in control of corruption. [my highlighting]

It would appear that it is not just "the Twitter crazies" who are concerned about the possibly higher levels of corruption in Australian federal, state & local governments and the public service.

It comes as no surprise that the report rated New Zealand (along with Denmark) as the perceived least corrupt nation. Once again shaming its near neighbour and ally Australia by comparison.

Saturday 25 January 2020

Cartoon of the Week

Page One Images of the Week

The Daily Examiner, 17 January 2020:

Upper Clarence ecosytem buckling under stress of drought and bushfire.

The images of the river are from the Tabulam area, near Clarence River Wilderness Lodge.

The dead fish are from BIg Fish Flat, an area known for the protected eastern freshwater cod now only found in this river and commonly known as Clarence River Cod.

Quotes of the Week

"The big issues for anyone interested in a future on this continent – energy, water and climate – remained unaddressed. Mining and Murdoch maintained their vice-like grip on Australian politics and the minds of the masses. The rich got richer, and the poor got homeless.”  [Journalist David Lowe writing in Echo NetDaily, 17 January 2020]

"Right now the government is indulging in the equivalent of responding to polio by promising to invest in more iron lungs. And bizarrely, it is getting credit for it. Adaptation is not mitigation." [Journalist Greg Jericho writing in The Guardian, 19 January 2020]

Friday 24 January 2020

Regional community transport pilot program for seniors offering a NSW Government sponsored $250 Westpac Visa Card for personal travel costs commences 29 January 2020 - how to apply

Older residents in Ballina Shire Council, Byron Shire Council, Kyogle Council, Lismore City Council, Richmond Valley Council and Tweed Shire Council and Clarence Valley Council areas in the Northern Rivers region may be eligible to participate in the NSW Government two-year trial of a new a community transport scheme, Regional Seniors Travel Card (RSTC).

The trial offers a $250 prepaid card to eligible seniors in regional, rural and remote areas to be used towards the purchase of fuel and transportation services, such as taxi services and NSW TrainLink train and coach services.

Applications will open on 29 January 2020 and cards will be distributed from mid-February 2020.

The RSTC is issued by Westpac as a Visa card and no user fees apply to this card.

Applications for the 2020 RSTC will close on 30 November 2020.

The application period for the 2021 RSTCs is 1 December 2020 - 30 November 2021. 

Thursday 23 January 2020

Chromium-6: bushfire temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees can endanger human health long after the flames have gone out

"Fire-induced oxidation of Fe oxide-bound Cr(III) may represent a largely unexplored, yet globally-significant pathway for the natural formation of hazardous Cr(VI) in soil." [Burton E.D. el al, April 2019]

Echo NetDaily, 15 January 2020:

Scientists from Southern Cross University have made a startling discovery about the lethal threat of soils scorched by bushfires. 

The team, led by Professor Ed Burton, has found the naturally occurring metal chromium 3 can be converted by extreme bushfire heat into the highly toxic and cancerous chromium 6. 

Professor Ed Burton of Southern Cross Geoscience is looking at the levels of a toxic element in bushfire affected soil. 

Chromium 6 is the substance spotlighted by renowned American environmentalist Erin Brockovich, who blew the whistle on high concentrations in the water supply of her home town in southern California.

Professor Burton’s breakthrough research has confirmed bushfire temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees can endanger human health long after the flames have gone out. 

‘We’ve seen bushfires create conditions in the surface soil that transform the safe, naturally occurring chromium-3 into the toxic, cancer-causing chromium-6,’ Professor Burton said. 

‘Chromium-6 can cause lung cancer and leach into waterways.’ 

Professor Burton, an expert on the geochemistry and mineralogy of soils, sediments and groundwater systems, said frontline firefighters were immediately at risk but the contamination of water within catchment areas posed a wider threat. 

‘We know that firefighters have higher incidences of chromium in their urine and are more susceptible to cancer than other groups....

See the following peer-reviewed articles concerning the carcinogen Chromium-6:

Burton, E.D., Choppala, G., Karimian, N., Johnston, S.G. (2019) A new pathway for hexavalent chromium formation in soil: Fire-induced alterations of iron oxides. Environmental Pollution 247, 618-625; and 

Burton, E.D., Choppala, G., Vithana, C., Hockmann, K., Johnston, S.G. (2019) Chromium(VI) formation via heating of Cr(III)-Fe(III)-(oxy)hydroxides: A pathway for fire-induced soil pollution. Chemosphere 222, 440-444.

It should be noted that wildfires can also affect and possibly increase the mobility of other minerals naturally found in the soil. 

Initial research suggests that an example of this may be the carcinogen, arsenicAdditionally, past research suggests the potential of higher mercury content in freshwater fish after wildfire events.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Open Letter from the NSW South Coast: Dear Mr Morrison

Excerpt from Nick Hopkins open letter published in The Canberra Times, 17 January 2020: 

Today I stand by the smouldering ruins of my beautiful home on the NSW South Coast. Since New Year's Day, climate change has suddenly become very personal for me.

Like thousands of others, Nick Hopkins and Heike Sutherland are dealing with the loss of their family home. Picture: Supplied
You have said you understand my grief. I have heard you are a religious man. My fervent hope is that your God grants you the humility to admit that you do not understand me at all. You have stood by as members of your party have insulted, belittled and ignored people like me when we urged you and your predecessors to take climate change more seriously.
You took no action when my Deputy Prime Minister called people like me a raving lunatic when we dared to link the bushfire emergency to climate change. By your silence you are complicit. May your God grant you the wisdom to understand that my rage at you and your predecessors is an entirely rational response to a set of present and oncoming unnatural disasters from which you have failed to protect me.
You have said you understand my suffering. My heartfelt desire is that your God grants you the ability to see how hollow and insincere that feels to me when you (and Labor) continue to promote the thermal coal industry, which is fanning the flames of intense suffering of humans and animals worldwide. Australian coal is out there in the world being burnt every day and night. Please Mr Morrison, if only for God's sake, join the dots.

If you come to console me in my time of grief, I will not shake your hand until you and your colleagues promise to refuse donations from all fossil fuel companies. I would dearly like to be consoled by you, but I am choking on the hypocrisy of your actions. Until you get serious about political donation reform, your pronouncements will always be tainted by the stench of your largest donors.

You will not earn my respect until you and your colleagues dare to take the Australian public on a journey to transition away from thermal coal mining and exports. Tobacco farmers in the US transitioned away from their industry when the link between cigarettes and cancer become public. And when the link between asbestos and mesothelioma was understood, we left all known reserves in the ground. However, now that the link between the burning of coal and disastrous weather events is well established, both you and the opposition have thrown your support behind opening up the Galilee Basin, starting with the Adani mine.....

Read the full letter here.