Showing posts with label Northern Rivers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northern Rivers. Show all posts

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

More than 60 per cent of businesses in Byron Bay are now relying on JobKeeper to stay afloat


The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 July 2020:

In Byron Bay, sales of a $9.30 large green G-Force smoothie reveal how the COVID-19 wave has dumped on the NSW tourist town. 


In good times, with 2.4 million visitors a year ranging from backpackers to festival goers and others looking for yoga, surf and a healthy lifestyle, Byron can support six smoothie businesses. 

One of them, Sweet Byron, would sell 19 of these large green smoothies a day.   

Then coronavirus hit, forcing the closure of domestic and international borders. Byron's foreign visitors dried up, and its English language schools nearly emptied. 

 COVID-19 caused the cancellation of weddings and events such as the Writers Festival and the Splendour in the Grass misic festival, which usually provide a boost in the slow winter months. 

Ninety per cent of shops, hotels and restaurants in the town closed. When they reopened before school holidays, the streets were empty and Sweet Byron was lucky if it sold two Gforce Smoothies. 

Those students and backpackers who had remained headed north when the Queensland border re-opened earlier this month. 

More than 60 per cent of businesses in Byron are now relying on JobKeeper to stay afloat, according to a map by data analytics company Taylor Fry released last week

This is the most in any local government area in Australia and double the number in capital cities. 

Without JobKeeper Mika Cohen, the owner of the Sweet Byron smoothie shop, said his business wouldn't survive. 

Smoothie sales bounced back during the recent school holidays after coronavirus travel restrictions lifted and the town filled with families who followed the sun north. 

Mr Cohen was back to selling 8 Gforce Smoothies a day, still less than half the number he sold pre-COVID. 

With nearly all of Byron's economy tied to tourism, hospitality and the creative arts, Byron mayor Simon Richardson said the pandemic has delivered a "triple whammy". 

"It is really dangerous times for us," he said. 

Hotel bookings looked healthy for summer, but if the town doesn't get that "fattening" he feared it could "lurch into real danger". 

Hotel owner Christian Millett said Byron had been a stable market all year long, in the past. But after coronavirus shut down weddings and festivals, Mr Millett said he would not have been been able to justify keeping his doors open outside of school holidays if he wasn't receiving JobKeeper.....

Taylor Fry's analysis found smaller firms in retail, hospitality, manufacturing and construction sectors are especially dependent on JobKeeper to retain their staff...... 

When the tourism dried up, it affected the rest of the region with "all the pork and tomatoes, macadamia and the mueslis which aren't being bought".

Cr Richardson said there was a "false sense of affluence" associated with Byron because of its multimillion-dollar beach houses and movie-star residents like Chris Hemsworth. 

"For every $10 million house at Wattegos Beach there are 10 homes that are in some of the poorest areas in NSW," he said. 

Four areas in the LGA are among the most disadvantaged 20 per cent in Australia, and two are among the most affluent..... 

Rents are also high, and Cr Richardson said he has seen more people couch surfing after losing their jobs. A shopkeeper said his landlord wanted to restore rents to pre-COVID levels after providing discounts earlier: "In this time, we can't afford the full rent for the premises ... because there are 60 to 40 per cent fewer tourists." 

Taylor Fry's principal Alan Greenfield said without JobKeeper he was nervous about the future of regional tourist towns, especially if restrictions on travel continued. "If locals can't see a future where they live, they might be inclined to move away." 

Simon Westaway, the executive director of the Australian Tourism Industry Council, said the impact of COVID-19 on his 10,000 members had been "diabolical". Unlike other industries, it had been hard for tourist operators to "pivot" to other business. 

Even if people could travel, the impact of continuing uncertainty over jobs and rising mortgage stress – estimated to grow to $200 billion from $60 billon now – meant visitors were not necessarily buying the most expensive "smoothie". 

"You put all these figures together, and you go wowie kazowie, who is in a mindset to have a decent holiday? Let alone if you are allowed out [by governments]. " 

Although business was down now, surf school director and founder of Let's Go Surfing Brenda Miley said Byron was an aspirational place that will bounce back. "Everyone wants to go there. It is well worn trek from Bondi to Byron, and that all came together last school holidays." 

 She thinks it will be booked out next summer if government restrictions on travel aren't in place. "People who were planning to go skiing in Colorado or France are so happy to go to Byron and surf for a week or two," she said.

Percentage of NSW Northern Rivers Businesses relying on JobKeeper Payments by Local Government Area - as of 22 July 2020 

  • Byron 60.39%
  • Tweed 47.79%
  • Ballina 39.56%
  • Clarence Valley 34.52%
  • Lismore 35.05%
  • Richmond Valley 27.45%
  • Kyogle 21.3%

Friday, 17 July 2020

COVID-19 has returned to the NSW Northern Rivers after 48 days free of active infection


Northern NSW Local Health District, media release, 16 July 2020:

One case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the last 24 hours in the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD). 


This brings the total cases to 56, as at 8pm Wednesday, 15 July. 

The new case is a person who travelled to Northern NSW from Melbourne, arriving at Ballina airport on Sunday, 12 July on Jetstar flight JQ466. This person was screened on arrival at Ballina airport. 

Since arriving in Northern NSW, this person has been in mandatory 14-day self-isolation. 

Any potential close contacts are being followed up. 

Of the 56 cases in Northern NSW Local Health District, 53 have recovered. There are no cases being treated in hospital. 

NNSWLHD cases by likely source of infection: 

Overseas or interstate acquired – 52 
Locally acquired –contact of a confirmed case or in a known cluster – 2 Locally acquired – source not identified – 1 
Under investigation – 1 
Total 56 

NNSWLHD is encouraging anyone with symptoms, however mild, to self-isolate and get tested. Anyone with symptoms is also advised to refrain from visiting aged care facilities and hospitals. Everyone is also reminded to maintain physical distancing and hand hygiene. 

Anyone who is unable to practise physical distancing should wear a mask. 

More than 4,900 people have been tested during the last fortnight in NNSWLHD. 

Testing is free and available to everyone in the region, including visitors. The site locations are/can be found at: https://nnswlhd.health.nsw.gov.au/about/covid-19-clinic-information/

Monday, 29 June 2020

Murdoch & Costello may be doing their best to kill off print newspapers in Australia but some country towns are fighting back


ABC News, 26 June 2020:

As News Corp prints its final print editions of 125 titles, entrepreneurial publishers are considering how to fill the void. Newspaper editor Jeff Gibbs has employed 12 staff in the past week, picking up journalists made redundant by News Corp in northern New South Wales. 

Mr Gibbs said the opportunity presented by News Corp was too good to pass up. "We decided that the community needed a community newspaper and so we banded together and thought, 'right, let's do this,'" Mr Gibbs said. 


Jeff Gibbs thinks many readers and advertisers are not ready to go digital.(Supplied: Northern Rivers Times
From offices in Casino, Mr Gibbs and his staff are preparing the first edition of The Northern Rivers Times. 
Mr Gibbs said he had done the sums, and could make the numbers add up producing a weekly free publication with an initial print run of 15,000 covering the NSW Northern Rivers region, from Tweed Heads to Grafton.

"There's a number of ways of doing it and it's purely through advertising," Mr Gibbs said. "We're doing it all in house, we're not farming anything out. 

"I don't know what News Corp's business model was, but I can't see why they couldn't make it work." 

Mr Gibbs said it was his firm belief that a lot of readers and advertisers were not ready to go digital, particularly in areas with poor internet coverage.

Other print mastheads which have launched since those previously servicing rural/regional communities announced closures:

Southern Highland Express established June 2020 & published weekly. Price $2

Yass Valley Times established June 2020 & published weekly.

Hunter River Times established June 2020 & published fortnightly. Free

Naracoorte Community News established May 2020 & published weekly. Price $2

Ararat Advocate established May 2020 & published weekly.

Braidwood Changing Times established April 2020 & published fortnightly. Free

If you live in these areas please consider placing your business advertising, community notices, or personal notices in these new papers.

Print is much easier on the eye than News Corp and Nine digital newspaper editions, which in the end carry very little local news.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Prevalence of amphetamine possession and/or use in the NSW Northern Rivers region


On 7 May 2019 The Sydney Morning Herald reported that:

Amphetamine possession in NSW has risen by 250 per cent over the past decade….
The alarming statistics, which also showed possession in some parts of the state had skyrocketed by up to 1000 per cent, were presented on Tuesday at the special commission of inquiry into the drug ice commissioned by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The following statistics indicate the prevelance of amphetamine use and possession in the NSW Northern Rivers region in 2020.


NSW RECORDED CRIME STATISTICS APRIL 2019-MARCH 2020

Tweed LGA:

Possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population – 150.9

Byron Bay LGA:

Possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population – 147.5

Clarence Valley LGA:

Possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population – 135.

Lismore City LGA:

Possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population – 120.9

Richmond Valley LGA:

Possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population – 111.1

Ballina LGA:

Possession &/o use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population – 79.6

Kyogle LGA:

Possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population – 45.1

The two year trend and annual percentage change for all seven Northern Rivers local government areas appears to be stable.

By way of general comparison, Coffs Harbour LGA on the mid-North Coast had a possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population of 177.7, Port Macquarie-Hastings LGA a rate of 132.3, Newcastle LGA 127.4, Sydney LGA 363.8 (up 25.4% on two year trend & annual percentage change) and New South Wales 103.1 (up 12.8% on two year trend & annual percentage change). 

After the COVID-19 global pandenic was declared on 11 March 2020 the six week period after social distancing was imposed (15 March – 26 April, 2020) saw overall drug possession fall by 4% in New South Wales.

Note:

Rate per 100,000 head of population does not necessarily represent a high number of incidents. For example, in 2019 the Clarence Valley possession &/or use of amphetamines rate per 100,000 head of population was 147.2 based on a total of 76 recorded incidents.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Job losses in the NSW Northern Rivers region due to COVID-19 pandemic


In the December quarter of 2019 the NSW Northern Rivers region had a labour force population of est. 144,083 people across seven local government areas.

The unemployment rate varied in council areas from 3% (Ballina) up to 6.4% (Clarence Valley). 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics by April 2020 job vacancies had fallen by 50% in NSW and the state unemployment rate was 6%. Of those with employment 14% were classed as underemployed.

Job Losses In Northern Rivers Region Due To COVID-19 from 14 March 2020 to 2 May 2020 according to Australian Development Strategies

Page electorate - est. 4,581 jobs

Richmond electorate - est. 5,217 jobs

These figures indicate that an est. 16% of jobs no longer existed in the Northern Rivers region after COVID-19 public health measures were imposed.

It is not known how many businesses are receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy of $1,500 per fortnight for workers they have retained to date.

Notes

Australian Electoral Commission states:

  • Page covers an area from Sapphire Beach in the south to Nimbin in the north on the coastal side, and from Nymboida in the south to the Queensland border on the inland side. The main towns include Casino, Dunoon, Evans Head, Grafton, Iluka, Kyogle, Lismore, Nimbin, Sapphire Beach and Wooli.  
  • Richmond covers an area from the New South Wales/Queensland border in the north to Ballina and Pimlico in the south. The main towns include Ballina, Bangalow, Brunswick Heads, Burringbar, Byron Bay, Hastings Point, Kingscliff, Lennox Head, Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah, Suffolk Park, and Tweed Heads. 

Sunday, 31 May 2020

News Corp goes digital & withdraws from print media in the NSW Northern Rivers region - with small print 'community' mastheads disappearing entirely


Last year News Corp told its shareholders that: "In addition, the Company has divested and may in the future divest certain assets or businesses that no longer fit with its strategic direction or growth targets."

It seems that such an event came to pass in May 2020, not quite four years after News Corp purchased so many of those print newspapers it is now closing down entirely or reinventing as purely digital news platforms.

Perhaps the clue to this restructuring is in the fact that this multinational media corporation mentioned "loss" or "losses" at least 223 times in its Annual Report 2019.

With News Corp owning 150 print newspapers, at the end May 2019 its readership across all mastheads only appeared to reach a weekly average of est. 7.7 million out of a nation of over 25 million people.

However, the Northern Rivers is the only NSW region being completely restructured - losing five small print 'community' newspapers entirely and six of its print news mastheads becoming digital news platforms only from Monday 29 June 2020.

News Corp Australia, media release, 27 May 2020: 

News Corp Australia announces portfolio changes 

The Executive Chairman of News Corp Australasia, Mr Michael Miller, today announced significant changes to News Corp Australia’s publishing portfolio. 

Mr Miller said that over recent months News Corp had undertaken a comprehensive review of its regional and community newspapers. This review considered the ongoing consumer shift to reading and subscribing to news online, and the acceleration of businesses using digital advertising.  

“COVID-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing. Despite the audiences of News Corp’s digital mastheads growing more than 60 per cent as Australians turned to trusted media sources during the peak of the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, print advertising spending which contributes the majority of our revenues, has accelerated its decline,” Mr Miller said. 

“Consequently, to meet these changing trends, we are reshaping News Corp Australia to focus on where consumers and businesses are moving and to strengthen our position as Australia’s leading digital news media company. This will involve employing more digital only journalists and making investments in digital advertising and marketing solutions for our partners.” 

Mr Miller said News Corp’s portfolio review highlighted that many of our print mastheads were challenged, and the double impact of COVID-19 and the tech platforms not remunerating the local publisher whose content they profit from, had, unfortunately, made them unsustainable publications. 

He said the portfolio changes being implemented would mean that from Monday June 29 the bulk of News Corp’s regional and community titles would move to purely digital publishing. 

“More than 375 journalists will be specifically covering regional and community news and information. They will continue to serve, and live in, their local communities with the majority in regional Queensland where we have most of our titles,” Mr Miller said. 

“More than 640,000 Australians, our latest figures show, are currently subscribing to News Corp’s digital news content and subscriptions are growing at an annual rate of 24 per cent. 

“Much of this growth is from local news, where subscribers have more than doubled in the past year. In regional Queensland more than 80,000 people have digital subscriptions and this number has grown by more than 40 per cent this year. 

“I’m confident that these numbers will accelerate through dedicated and constant digital publishing and continuing to serve the local communities whose trust and community commitment the mastheads have developed over decades. 

“Over the past 19 months News has launched 16 new digital only local mastheads. In total we will now publish 92 digital only regional and community mastheads, each offering readers rolling coverage, electronic alerts and newsletters, richer audio and video content and deeper local sport coverage and community debate. 

“At the same time, News Corp’s major mastheads in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide – The Courier-Mail, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and The Advertiser – will now become more state focused with increased regional content and will partner with our regional and community local titles in their states to ensure we deliver compelling journalism to Australian consumers regardless of where they live. 

Subscribers wherever they live will now have access to the best of News Corp’s local, regional, state, national and international news, sport, features and columnists.” 

Describing the changes being announced today, Mr Miller said: “These initiatives are significant. They will involve fundamental changes to how we operate our business but they are necessary. Together with senior executive and editorial appointments announced recently, they will enable us to be more effective in driving further success in the growth areas News Corp is excelling in such as digital advertising products, solutions and subscriptions and will embed a more collaborative way of working to maximise our sport and news coverage, hyper local digital subscriptions and the success of our all-important weekend editions.” 

Today’s announcements to News Corp’s publishing portfolio will mean some job roles will change and regretfully, will lead to job losses. Mr Miller said that for those employees impacted by the changes, he wanted to thank them personally for their professionalism, dedication and contribution. 

“They have provided News with invaluable years of service. Their passionate commitment to the communities in which they live and work and their role in ensuring these have been informed and served by trusted local media has been substantial,” he said. 

Commercially, these portfolio changes will make News less complex for its partners to leverage and will build on the innovations it already has in place. 

This includes: 

  • News Xtend which is now Australia’s top digital marketing agency for small and medium enterprises; 
  • News Connect data platform which ensures businesses reach the right consumer segments wanting to pay for their products and services through its specialist ability to access two billion consumption signals from 12 million Australians; 
  • Australia’s number one digital publisher for news, real estate, business, sport and fantasy sport, food, fashion, health and beauty, parenting and women’s lifestyle; 
  • Digital powerhouse news.com.au which has increased its audience more than 30 per cent in the past two months to more than 12.2 million monthly users; 
  • A leader in audio and video with News’ data now showing award-winning podcast downloads of more than five million monthly and digital video views topping 100 million monthly, up 45 per cent in a year; 
  • Monday’s launch of BINGE entertainment streaming service which joins Foxtel and the Kayo sport streaming service as the nation’s premium subscription broadcasters; 
  • REA Group which is Australia’s clear leader for real estate digital services and investing in Asia and the United States, through its 20 per cent stake in Move, Inc. 

In conclusion, Mr Miller said: “News Corp remains committed to Australia’s regions and communities and the initiatives we are implementing today represent a detailed, considered strategy to ensure we will better serve our journalism to Australians who live outside its major cities. 

“News Corp and its employees also will retain at their creative core their passion for championing, and advocating for an ever improving Australia. As our country emerges in coming weeks from the lockdown enforced on us by the threat of COVID-19 into a ‘new normal’, we will ensure these values that separate News Corp from other media companies are even stronger than ever.” 

Consequently, News Corp Australia is announcing today that: 

Our major regional titles – The Hobart Mercury, NT News, Cairns Post, Townsville Bulletin, Gold Coast Bulletin, Toowoomba Chronicle and Geelong Advertiser – will continue to publish both in print and digitally. 

The following regional titles will become digital only: Queensland – Mackay Daily Mercury, Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, Gladstone Observer, Bundaberg News Mail, Fraser Coast Chronicle, Gympie Times, Sunshine Coast Daily, Queensland Times, Warwick Daily News, Central and North Burnett Times, Central Queensland News, Chinchilla News, Dalby Herald. Gatton Star, Noosa News, South Burnett Times, Stanthorpe Border Post, Western Star, Western Times, Whitsunday Times, Whitsunday Coast Guardian and Bowen Independent, news from the towns covered by the Atherton Tablelander, Northern Miner, Post Douglas & Mossman Gazette and Burdekin Advocate will continue to appear, as it does currently, under the regional sections of the Cairns Post and Townsville Bulletin; 
NSW – Tweed Daily News, Ballina Advocate, Byron Shire News, Coffs Coast Advocate, Grafton Daily Examiner and Lismore Northern Star; Northern Territory – The Centralian Advocate. 

The bulk of titles in our community groups – NewsLocal in NSW/ACT, Leader in Melbourne, Quest in Brisbane and Messenger in Adelaide – will become digital only. Community print editions were suspended early in April because of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions. 

The community titles to be digital-only news services are: Melbourne Leader titles – Stonnington, Mornington Peninsula, Knox, Whitehorse, Monash, Northern, Whittlesea, Maroondah, Moorabbin, Mordialloc Chelsea, Moreland, Lilydale and Yarra Valley, Frankston, Bayside, Caulfield Port Phillip, Cranbourne, Greater Dandenong, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong, Wyndham; 

NewsLocal in NSW and ACT – Fairfield Advance, Penrith Press, Macarthur Chronicle, Blacktown Advocate, Canterbury Bankstown Express, Central Coast Express, Hills Shire Times, Hornsby Advocate, Liverpool Leader, Manly Daily, Northern District Times, Parramatta Advertiser, Inner West Courier, Southern Courier, Illawarra Star, Wagga Wagga News, St George Shire Standard, Canberra Star, Newcastle News, Blue Mountains News, Central Sydney, South Coast News; 

Quest in Queensland – Albert and Logan News, Caboolture Herald, Westside News, Pine Rivers Press, Redcliffe and Bayside Herald, South-West News, Wynnum Herald, North Lakes Times, Redlands Community News, Springfield News; 

Messenger in SA – Messenger South Plus; Messenger East Plus, Messenger North, Messenger West, Messenger City, Adelaide Hills and Upper Spencer Gulf. 

Three Sydney community titles, Wentworth Courier, Mosman Daily and North Shore Times, which are distributed in the city’s most affluent suburbs, will resume print editions. 

Some small print newspapers will cease publication, but the local journalism coverage of their area will continue, feeding into the digital masthead for their regional community. The regional titles to cease publication are: Queensland – Buderim Chronicle, Caloundra Weekly, Capricorn Coast Mirror, Coolum News, Nambour Weekly, Ipswich Advertiser, Kawana/Maroochy Weekly, Gold Coast Sun, Hervey Bay Independent, Maryborough Herald, Balonne Beacon, Surat Basin News, Herbert River Express, Innisfail Advocate, Central Telegraph; NSW – Coastal Views, Northern Rivers Echo, Richmond River Express Examiner; Tasmania – Tasmanian Country; Specialist – Big Rigs, Rural Weekly, Seniors. 

Additionally, we will streamline our community titles and will publish local stories under their regional or city-based masthead. The community titles which will cease publication are: Leader titles in Victoria – Manningham, Preston, Diamond Valley, Heidelberg, Sunbury Macedon, Progress and Northcote; NewsLocal in NSW – Rouse Hill Times; Quest in Queensland – Northside Chronicle/Bayside Star, North-West News, South-East Advertiser, Southern Star, Bribie Weekly; and South Australia – Messenger Coast Plus. [my yellow highlighting]

Friday, 29 May 2020

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Will Scotty From Marketing's pet National COVID-19 Coordination Commission recommend lifting the Coal Seam Gas Moratorium in place across the NSW Northern Rivers region?


"Nev Power: The Prime Minister 'rang me ... and said your country needs you.' "  [Financial Review, 3 April 2020]


On 20 March 2020 Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison created the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) to “ coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic” and “advise the Prime Minister on all non-health aspects of the pandemic response”.

This is a list of NCCC commission members and key staff for the period 23 March to 22 September 2020 with remuneration for their services where known:

Chairman
Neville Power, Deputy Chairman of Strike Energy Ltd an oil and gas exploration company – remuneration by PM&C contract $294,079.50. Power has announced he is temporarily stepping aside from his position at Strike Energy to avoid perceptions of conflict of interest. However, he appears to be retaining 12,612,885 fully paid Strike Energy shares (worth in the vicinity of $2.4 milllion) & options on 6 million more held by his own Myube discretionary investment trust.

Deputy Chairman
David Thodey, Chairman CSIRO – paid expenses only

Commissioners
Greg Combet, consultant, Chairman of IFM Investors and Industry Super Australia - remuneration by PM&C contract $118,800
Jane Halton, board member ANZ, Clayton Utz, Crown Resorts, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, US Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and
chairman of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, COTA, Crown Sydney and Vault Systems - remuneration by PM&C contract $118,800
Paul Little, property developer, Chairman and Founder of the Little Group, Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and Skalata Ventures - remuneration by PM&C contract $108,000 for 2 days per week
Catherine Tanna, Managing Director of EnergyAustralia, board member Reserve Bank of Australia and Business Council of Australia – remuneration by PM&C contract $54,000 for 1 day per week

Key Staff
Peter Harris, public policy adviser, CEO of NCCC – remuneration N/K
Executive Assistant to Chairman NCCC – remuneration by PM&C contract $73,000 paid into the same Myube discretionary investment trust as the remuneration received by NCCC Chairman.

Advisors
Andrew N. Liveris, special advisor to NCCC, board member IBM, Worley Parsons, Saudi Aramco, on advisory board of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and NEOM, controversial former Chairman & CEO of Dow Chemical and Trump supporter– remuneration N/K

For the more than $885,479 in taxpayer dollars spent on this commission over a six month period, Australia gets a website of sorts pmc.gov.au/nccc along with a Twitter account NCCCgovau and, what is shaping up to be a lack of transparency and accountability concerning advice this commission gives behind closed doors to government.

According to The Guardian on 21 May 2020:

A leaked draft report by a manufacturing taskforce advising the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) recommends the Morrison government make sweeping changes to “create the market” for gas and build fossil fuel infrastructure that would operate for decades.

Its vision includes Canberra underwriting an increased national gas supply, government agencies partnering with companies to accelerate development of new fields such as the Northern Territory’s vast Beetaloo Basin, and states introducing subsidy schemes for gas-fired power plants.

It says the federal government should help develop gas pipelines between eastern states and the north, and potentially a $6bn trans-Australian pipeline between the east and west, by either taking an equity position, minority share or underwriting investments.

The taskforce, headed by….Saudi Aramco board member Andrew Liveris, positions lower-cost gas as the answer to building a transformed manufacturing sector that it says could support at least 85,000 direct jobs, and hundreds of thousands more indirectly.

But it does not consider alternatives to gas, or what happens if greenhouse gas emissions are cut as promised under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Gas is usually described as having half the emissions of coal when burned, though recent studies have suggested it could be more.

The Liveris report does not mention climate change, Australia’s emissions reduction targets or the financial risk, flagged by institutions in Australia and overseas, of investing in fossil fuel as emissions are cut.

While several assessments have found renewable energy backed by storage is now the cheapest option for new electricity generation, the report says gas is “key to driving down electricity cost and improving investment in globally competitive advanced industry”.

Its focus is consistent with the NCCC chairman, Nev Power, a former Fortescue Metals chief and current board member at gas company Strike Energy, who has said in interviews that cheap gas would be critical to Australia’s future. Gas has been strongly backed by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, who has argued for a gas-fired recovery from the pandemic.

According to Friends of the Earth Australia the leaked document also suggests lifting the coal seam gas moratorium in New South Wales, which is an issue I’m sure the Northern Rivers region will be keeping a close eye on. 

UPDATE 

The Guardian, 5 June 2020: 

Officials from Scott Morrison’s department are refusing to release conflict of interest disclosures from members of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission so they can be scrutinised by the public because the declarations are provided “in confidence”. 

The departmental pushback has come in responses to questions on-notice from the Senate committee examining the government’s response to the pandemic. 

Controversy has been escalating about the potential for conflicts of interest among the commissioners handpicked by the prime minister to provide advice at the height of the coronavirus crisis. 

The high-powered coordination commission, headed by the former Fortescue Metals chief Nev Power, has a broad remit, advising the government on all non-health aspects of its pandemic response. 

But concerns have been raised about the lack of transparency of the group’s deliberations, and the absence of a conventional governance framework for a taxpayer-funded enterprise. 

The NCCC has a budget of more than $5m.... 

The Guardian, 3 May 2020:

When the Daily Telegraph reported last week that a fertiliser plant in Narrabri being advanced by a West Australian businessman had topped the list of the projects being promoted by the National Covid Coordination Commission, there was some surprise. 

Vikas Rambal and Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers are not exactly household names, and the controversial Narrabri coal seam gas project – which would provide the cheap gas that the fertiliser project depends on – is yet to be approved by the New South Wales government.... 

Rambal has not yet sought planning approval of the $1.9bn project and the only tangible signs are press releases promising 700 jobs and a non-binding agreement with the coal seam gas project’s owner, Santos..... 

The Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2020:

Mr Rambal’s plant would create up to 800 jobs during construction and 70 to 80 permanent­ roles in Narrabri, supplying farmers in a 300km radius. “It’s a huge project,”  Mr Rambal, who is also advancing a $4.5 billion fertiliser plant in WA, told The Daily Telegraph. 

He said Mr Power’s Commission could help by picking up the phone to politicians to remove roadblocks and speed up approvals. 

Mr Taylor said making more fertiliser was a “cracking opportunity” for Australia and would help achieve the government’s goal of growing agriculture to a $100 billion-a-year industry by 2030. 

He said he was focused on making more gas available. 

“I like to think of the other side of COVID-19 as being a gas-fired recovery,” Mr Taylor said. 

“We want to see the NSW government get on with (the approvals process for the Santos project).”  In January, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wanted a final decision on the proposal by June 30. 

That now looks unlikely. The Independent Planning Commission is yet to receive a referral from the NSW Department of Planning. The IPC will take 12 weeks to make its ruling. 

It is unclear if the COVID-19 Commission is now attempting to hurry up the Department­ of Planning.....


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Evidence koalas still living in Iluka area in 2020


A koala in Iluka, December 2017

The Daily Examiner, 18 May 2020:

The words excited and elated aren’t often associated with the discovery of poo, but last week in Iluka they certainly were. 


The devastating impact of bushfires on the koalas across the North Coast has been well documented and teams continue to scour bushland to try to assess the impact on local populations. 

NSW National Parks has been at the forefront of the effort, undertaking bushfire recovery surveys with the help of local Landcare groups and volunteers. 

So when Iluka Landcare volunteer Jeff Thomas found a number of koala scats at the base of red gums in the area between Iluka Bluff Rd and Iluka, he was understandably excited. 

“I couldn’t wait to ring Kay Jeffery, president of the Iluka Landcare group, and tell her and the Landcare team the good news.” 

The find was significant as the area had been regenerated through years of hard work by the group to clear lantana and wattle which had been planted after sand mining ceased on the peninsula. 

“I was so excited when we found the scats, particularly in an area that has been ­restored,” Mr Thomas said. 

“It’s good to see all their hard work paid off.” The discovery was aided by Max, one of NSW National Parks’ canine recruits who has been specially trained to sniff out and find koala scats. 

Ms Jeffery was overjoyed to hear the news, as the Landcare veteran said it was the culmination of a vision. 

“I was absolutely elated to hear that all the hard work and careful planning 24 years ago had resulted in koalas ­inhabiting the site,” she said....