Sunday 28 February 2021

Another reason why Australia's remaining native forests should be saved from the loggers - rare bees


An Australian native bee believed extinct is found after a 97 year absence from the records.

Pharohylaeus lactiferus 
IMAGE: James Dorey Photography

The Journal of Hymenoptera Research 81:165-180, 25 February 2021:

Missing for almost 100 years: the rare and potentially threatened bee, Pharohylaeus lactiferus (Hymenoptera, Colletidae)

James B. Dorey


The Australian endemic bee, Pharohylaeus lactiferus (Colletidae: Hylaeinae) is a rare species that requires conservation assessment. Prior to this study, the last published record of this bee species was from 1923 in Queensland, and nothing was known of its biology. Hence, I aimed to locate extant populations, provide biological information and undertake exploratory analyses relevant to its assessment. Pharohylaeus lactiferus was recently rediscovered as a result of extensive sampling of 225 general and 20 targeted sampling sites across New South Wales and Queensland. Collections indicate possible floral and habitat specialisation with specimens only found near Tropical or Sub-Tropical Rainforest and only visiting Stenocarpus sinuatus (Proteaceae) and Brachychiton acerifolius (Malvaceae), to the exclusion of other available floral resources. Three populations were found by sampling bees visiting these plant species along much of the Australian east coast, suggesting population isolation. GIS analyses used to explore habitat destruction in the Wet Tropics and Central Mackay Coast bioregions indicate susceptibility of Queensland rainforests and P. lactiferus populations to bushfires, particularly in the context of a fragmented landscape. Highly fragmented habitat and potential host specialisation might explain the rarity of P. lactiferus. Targeted sampling and demographic analyses are likely required to thoroughly assess the status of this species and others like it.


Conservation, extinction risk, fragmentation, Hylaeinae, invertebrate conservation, Queensland, wildfire, rainforest


The greatest threats to ecosystems and species worldwide are habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation (Vie et al. 2009). Australia has already cleared over 40% of its forests and woodlands since European colonisation, leaving much of the remainder fragmented and degraded (Bradshaw 2012). The vast majority of clearing has occurred on freehold and leasehold land and for animal agriculture (Evans 2016). In particular, Queensland is a contemporary land-clearing hotspot and is responsible for more than half of all land-clearing in Australia over the past four decades (Evans 2016). It is a failing of state and federal government policy and regulation that land clearing in Queensland continues at rates that should be of concern both nationally and internationally (Reside et al. 2017).

Despite the ecological importance of Australian native bees, we know very little about their biology (Batley and Hogendoorn 2009) or conservation status. North Queensland hosts high species richness and endemism (Crisp et al. 2001; Orme et al. 2005; Hurlbert and Jetz 2007) and several bee genera that are found nowhere else in Australia (Houston 2018; Smith 2018). These restricted bee genera include: Ctenoplectra Kirby (Apidae: Apinae), Nomada Scopoli (Apidae: Nomadinae), Mellitidia Guérin-Méneville (Halictidae: Nomiinae), Reepenia Friese (Halictidae: Nomiinae), Patellapis Friese (Halictidae: Halictinae) and Pharohylaeus Michener (Colletidae: Hylaeinae).

Pharohylaeus has only two described species: P. papuaensis Hirashima & Roberts in Papua New Guinea and P. lactiferus (Cockerell) in Australia (Houston 1975; Hirashima and Roberts 1986). Both species are relatively large (9–11 mm), robust, mostly black with distinctive white facial and body markings, and have the first three tergal segments enlarged and enclosing the others. The former is known only from two females which were collected on Syzygium aqueum (Burm.f.) Alston (Myrtaceae) in 1982 (Hirashima and Roberts 1986). No published records of P. lactiferus have been made since the third of January 1923, when three males were collected in the Atherton Tablelands; in May of 1900 a male and a female were collected in Mackay while another female was collected in Kuranda prior to 1910 (Cockerell 1910; Houston 1975). However, the collection localities of these specimens are imprecise and no biological data were recorded.

Due to the dearth of biological information on P. lactiferus prior to this study, I aimed to locate extant populations and contribute biological information as part of a broader bee survey. Because of this, much of what follows are exploratory analyses of the potential risks for P. lactiferus and suggestions for future research. Hence, I undertook a series of post-hoc analyses in order to provide insights into the biology, ecology and potential extinction risks associated with P. lactiferus. I provide insights into the circumstances of the rediscovery of P. lactiferus and what is now known of its floral and habitat associations. I also explore spatial data relating to P. lactiferus (vegetation association, potential fire risks and occurrences) and my sampling methods (for potential biases). The possible floral and habitat specialisation along with the rarity of P. lactiferus raises concerns about its conservation status. I further highlight the need for preservation of remnant vegetation and better arthropod-diversity monitoring, particularly for at-risk and phylogenetically important species.

Methodology can be found here.

Australia's violent far-right racism gets read into the parliamentary record in February 2021

 Labor MP for Scullin Andrew Giles in Australian Parliament, House of Representatives, Hansard, Statements by Members, 24 February 2021:

Mr GILES (Scullin) (13:50): A Neo-Nazi assaulting a woman with a homemade flamethrower—this isn't 1930s fascist Europe; this is happening in Australia in 2021. At a Gosnells shopping centre, near Perth, a man with a Nazi symbol on his forehead used a flamethrower to assault an innocent mother who was shopping with her daughter. The WA police said that, after blasting flames at them, the perpetrator said he was doing this because they were Indigenous. This attack is horrific. I hope that the mother and the daughter are doing okay and that they are getting all the support that they need and deserve.

Neo-Nazis are emerging as one of Australia's biggest security threats. ASIO's director-general, Mike Burgess, has said that cells of right-wing extremists are regularly gathering in Australia to salute the Nazi flag and disperse their hateful ideology. Yet this government's response to the threat has been inadequate, to say the very least. This rise of right-wing extremism, this rise of racism—these things are not happening in a vacuum. Not enough is being done to tackle racism and stamp out right-wing extremism. So I once more call on the Morrison government to finally establish a national antiracism strategy with a zero-tolerance approach to racism at its core.

Police identity kit photo of the alleged assailant:

Saturday 27 February 2021

Satire of the Week

Quotes of the Week


You withhold? That's a choice. I know journalism, I know editing, I know publishing, and I fucking *see* you. You've chosen a side and will not even *seek* the truth.”  [Richard Chirgwin, on the subject of Australian journalism and the Canberra Press Gallery, Twitter, 24 February 2021]

My shirt is not an invitation to rape me. My dress is not an invitation to follow me home. My strappy singlet is not the reason you lost your job. My body is not responsible for your behaviour. [Columnist & standup comedian Mandy Nolan writing in the Echo NetDaily, 16 February 2021]

The News Media Bargaining Code is a small-minded move that will only further cement what the backward NBN began: a smaller, less informed, more conservative and less democratic Australia. A Murdoch backwater, with no way out.”  [Managing editor Michelle Pini, writing in Independent Australia on 24 February 2021]

Re-tweet of the Week



Friday 26 February 2021

Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison relentlessly pursues his personal war on the poor and vulnerable

Australian Prime Minister Scott John Morrison

The Guardian, 23 February 2021:

The strategy behind the federal government’s increase to the jobseeker payment is crystal clear: Scott Morrison will say he is the first leader in almost 30 years to increase the rate of welfare for unemployed people. Never mind that it is only by less than $3.60 per day. Damned if it keeps people in poverty; too bad that it won’t even recover lost ground since the payment was decoupled from (flat) wages growth in 1997.

Already, the new figure represents a $100 per fortnight cut in the rate, as the coronavirus supplement of $150 is due to end on 31 March.

The Morrison government will consider the political issue solved and brand as ungrateful anyone who dares question it.

The prime minister thinks only in the hollow terms of political problems. Humanity does not figure into the equation. Worse, for a man who thinks he knows the answer he has never suffered the real problem. Neither he nor almost anyone in his government has ever had to do the threadbare arithmetic of blunt survival. Never had to make a decision to skip meals or medications to feed a family. Never had a single, sudden expense trigger a five-year debt spiral. There have been no back-to-back years of punishing stress which exacts its toll not only on the mind but on the body, too. His children have not been raised in the kind of penury that scientific studies have shown actually reduce the volume and surface area of brain matter in young people, by as much as 20%. These shrinkages of the brain occur not because of a lack of access to nourishing food (though these are also problems). Nor do they occur because of poorer access to health, dentistry and quality education, although these are all issues, too. I want this to sink in so read it slowly: the studies show our brains fade away precisely because of the stress that poverty breeds in the home. It is the mental and physical exertion that does it; the ambient terror of not knowing how the day will unfold or if you will make it through it. Young children absorb this persistent anxiety in their own bodies, the way our teeth collect and preserve caesium isotopes after radioactive exposure. None of these things has ever applied to Scott Morrison.

The problem is not necessarily that he has not lived this life, but that he refuses to accept the testimony of the millions who have. Millions. It reaches further down, into the public service, where often well-meaning people are forced to reduce the rich and complicated human tapestry to mere budget constraints and policy priorities. For those who have not lived the life of gritty survival, it is difficult to really understand the consequences of enduring scarcity. These aftershocks bleed into every area of government service delivery and into every budget…..

Read the full article here .

The Guardian, 23 February 2021:

Business leaders and welfare advocates have blasted the Morrison government’s decision to establish a hotline for employers to dob in unemployed Australians who refuse job offers, calling the measure out of touch with small business owners who believe “most unemployed people are not dole bludgers”.

Unions have been even more critical of what they see as the “dangerous” hotline, warning it could force women into accepting jobs from employers who treat them poorly or who make “sleazy propositions” to them during an interview.

In revealing a $50-a-fortnight rise to the base rate of jobseeker on Tuesday, the government also announced it would launch “an employer reporting line” to “refer jobseekers who are not genuine about their job search or decline the offer of a job”.

Explaining the government’s reasoning behind the measure, the employment minister, Michaelia Cash, said “you often hear, though, employers saying, ‘Joe applied for a job. He was qualified for the job ... and they said no”.

If someone does apply for a job, they’re offered the job and they’re qualified for the job but they say no, the employer will now be able to contact my department and report that person as failing to accept suitable employment.

This will then mean that my department can follow up with that person or alternatively, Jobactive can follow up with that person, to ascertain exactly why they said no to a suitable job,” Cash said.

Cash said unemployed Australians who were found not to have “a valid reason” for refusing a job “will be breached for that”…..

Thursday 25 February 2021

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the National Party continue laying waste to regional New South Wales


NSW Deputy Premier, leader of the 18 member parliamentary National Party and Minister for Regional New South Wales, John Barilarosits atop a portfolio which holds in its departmental domain an est. 40 per cent of all NSW residents, in around 99 local government areas which produce approximately one-third of the total NSW gross state product.

Barilaro has gathered his own party members as minsters with responsibilities within the department - Nationals MLA for Northern Tablelands and Minister for Agriculture and Western New South Wales Adam Marshall and Nationals MLC and Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor.

There does not seem to be a NSW Liberal Party politician within cooee of the relatively new 'purpose built' regional department.

The only function NSW Premier and Leader of the much larger parliamentary Liberal Party, Gladys Berejiklian, appears to now have with regard to those regional areas of the state is to act as a rubber stamp of approval for Barilaro's wishes - apparently out of fear he may still follow through on his threats to destabilise the state government.

There is little doubt that Berejiklian was weakened by the barely disguised guerrilla war Barilaro conducted (after losing the battle to amend the Land Services Act) using mainstream media as his weapon.

This is the current state of play Ã  la Barilaro when it comes to forests and biodiversity in regional NSW.....

Michael West Media, 19 February 2021:

More than 62% of harvestable native forests were damaged in the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires, according to the NSW government’s own records. Up to 10% of native hardwood forests were lost. Nearly 3 billion animals were killed or displaced, with about 8,000 koalas incinerated on the mid north coast of NSW alone. Some 113 animal species were identified as the highest priorities for urgent management intervention.

Despite this unprecedented damage to forests and wildlife, Deputy Premier John Barilaro is determined that industrial-scale logging will continue in NSW’s burnt and unburnt forests.

When the Environment Protection Authority sought a voluntary halt to logging in a number of state forests in March last year, after intervention by John Barilaro, the NSW Forestry Corporation rejected the request. Barilaro also holds the portfolio of Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade, which covers the timber industry.

The EPA report says logging continued “because John Barilaro asked the [Forestry Corporation] to deliver on contractual obligations”.

Moreover, in the latest round of bushfire recovery pork barrelling announced by Barilaro, he awarded more than $38 million of the $177 million to timber/forestry projects.

These grants came on top of some $46 million that Barilaro’s Department, Regional NSW, awarded to the Forestry Corporation under bushfire recovery measures for urgent infrastructure repairs, nursery expansions and replanting the forest.

Barilaro’s Department of Regional NSW claims that forestry and related industries are responsible for more than 22,300 jobs.

Yet a 2016 report by The Australia Institute estimated that just 600 people were directly employed in the industry. The TAI report also put the economic losses of the native forest industry in NSW at $79 million over the past seven years, meaning that not only are taxpayers propping up an unviable industry, they are also propping up an industry that is adding to environmental destruction.

The Forestry Corporation also rejected a plea from the EPA for extra site-specific conditions to protect koalas.

Environment Protection Authority review

Four months ago, in September 2020, the EPA published a review it had commissioned from Dr Andrew Smith, an acknowledged expert in forest planning and management.

His review was the result of a consultation between the EPA and the Forestry Corporation to develop a suite of site-specific operating conditions to manage environmental risks associated with timber harvesting in burnt landscapes – a result of a “critical shortage of timber” after the bushfires.

Dr Smith’s findings were concerning. In particular Dr Smith noted:

  • Recovery times are likely to be up to 45 years for the koala and 20-120 years for the Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider.

  • Fauna populations are at risk of elimination by timber harvesting under the normal Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals and cause catastrophic population decline in species such as the Koala, Greater Glider and Yellow-bellied Glider.

  • There should be a halt to logging of all unburnt and lightly burnt forests within the net harvest area for 12 months.

But the Forestry Corporation rejected his recommendations and advised the EPA that it intended to return to harvesting in September 2020 as it is “legally obliged to do so in order to meet supply commitments”.

Scientists, conservation organisations, and local communities are appalled by ongoing logging of burnt forests at a time when NSW native forests and wildlife need time to recover. Indigenous rights of native title holders whose land includes forests are also  ignored.

Vulnerable and endangered species

The Forestry Corporation also approves its own harvest plans and is responsible for reporting non compliance.

An analysis of the harvest plans on the Forestry Corporation’s website demonstrates that almost every wildlife species included in logging plans for the north-east forests is either listed on the schedules of the Biodiversity Conservation Act or the Commonwealth EPBC list as vulnerable and endangered species.

Recommended recovery plans have not been developed as required and a significant number of affected species are under consideration for upgrading to endangered status by the Federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

NSW shuts down opposition

The Berejiklian government has also gone to great lengths to ensure no legal challenges can be mounted to prevent this industrial scale logging of NSW forests and the loss of biodiversity. The Premier’s actions strike at the heart of democracy…..

Read the full article here.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian slammed for slashing at least 28 TAFE jobs in Northern Rivers region


Office of the NSW Labor Member for Lismore, media release, 22 February 2021:

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin has condemned the axing of up to 28 TAFE NSW jobs on the Northern Rivers as a betrayal by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who gave an iron-clad promise in 2019 that there would be no public service job cuts in regional and rural New South Wales.


“Deputy Premier John Barilaro and his Nationals are just as responsible here too; not lifting a finger as the Liberals continue with their deliberate actions in dismantling TAFE,” Ms Saffin said.


“How many cuts can our TAFE system take before it is completely decimated?”


TAFE NSW late last week advised the Community Public Sector Union of NSW that the Berijiklian-Barilaro Government is slashing almost 700 frontline TAFE NSW jobs, including 470 regional jobs.


“Figures provided to me by the CPSU-NSW show that we are looking at up to 28 local jobs going under two major restructures – in educational support and in student services, facilities management and logistics,” Ms Saffin said.


“In our Electorate of Lismore, six positions could be cut at the Lismore campus and one at the Murwillumbah Connected Learning Centre.


“In the neighbouring Electorate of Tweed, Kingscliff TAFE will be hardest hit with the Government targeting 12 positions, and in the Ballina Electorate, eight positions at Wollongbar TAFE and one position at Ballina TAFE are under threat.


“I will stand with the TAFE staff and their union, and with TAFE students, to fight these cruel job cuts because local communities cannot afford to see their TAFE campuses run down as the NSW Liberal-Nationals pursue their privatisation push, at the expense of local jobs and economy.


“Enough is enough.”

The problem of illegal camping in NSW coastal towns just never seems to go away


A question that is increasingly facing residents of NSW coastal towns – what do you when a group of loud, sometimes intoxicated people come to holiday right outside your family home? Who use your front lawn as a solid-waste toilet, openly urinate in front of your children, litter the kerb and when they finally leave they are replaced by yet another set of noisy freeloaders.

Council or NPWS fines for camping on streets, in car parks or certain road rest areas, local parks, reserves, foreshores, or other Crown land appear to be barely stemming the influx in some areas.

In New South Wales illegal camping appears to attract a fine of between $1,000 to $5,500. However, I would be surprised if many of these ‘free spirits’ ever pay any fines they incur.

ABC News, 23 February 2021:

Those who flout strict camping regulations risk on-the-spot fines of up to $2,200.(Supplied: Alison Drover)

Edging through the logjam of traffic along Ewingsdale Road, a car horn offers an unlikely reprieve from the tedious hum of engines.

"Welcome to Byron Bay," reads a wooden sign in the distance. "Cheer up, slow down, chill out."

It is, in many ways, an apt reflection of the Byron dichotomy — a city both trapped and liberated by its own reputation.

With roots in the counterculture movement, the coastal paradise is renowned as a mecca for backpackers, the rich and famous and everyone in between.

A place, as one Vanity Fair writer offered, where "nomadic broods" come to "find their tribes on life's journey".

But with Byron's visitor numbers eclipsing its permanent population, the local community has found itself at a crossroads, struggling to reconcile this "free-living" ethos with the inexorable costs of tourism.

And as "van lifers" increasingly seep into the suburbs, it is ordinary residents who have suddenly found themselves bearing the brunt of tourism's ugly side: motorhomes lining residential streets, human waste on front lawns, and authorities trying in vain to keep it under control.

"As an area, we're too open to contradiction," muses Alison Drover, who has lived in Byron for 10 years.

"We're known as being free-spirited and open to everything, but it doesn't really serve us in some ways.

"We're being sort of trampled on."……

Full article here.