Sunday, 21 November 2021

Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to view the very real danger that Australia is heading towards political violence from extremist mobs as all just part of the game to keep him in power


The Monthly, 18 November 2021:

 Scott Morrison is, if nothing else, painfully predictable. As many (including myself) anticipated on Tuesday, the prime minister’s belated condemnation of the threatening mob outside the Victorian Parliament was always going to come with a “but” – a dog whistle to the protesters, an endorsement of their cause, a swipe at overbearing state governments. Today, following the disturbing news that a right-wing extremist had been charged over threats to kill the Victorian premier, and reports that neo-Nazis, seeking to radicalise other protesters, had infiltrated rallies against the state’s pandemic bill (not to mention anti-vaxxers’ rape and death threats forcing the shutdown of the WA premier’s office), Morrison did exactly as expected.

Asked this morning for his response to the violence being incited against politicians, the PM said that threats and intimidation had no place in Australia. But after a few cursory sentences about “civil society” and “respect” (just enough for many media outlets to report it as a rebuke), Morrison pivoted to justification and understanding. “There are many people who are feeling frustrated,” he said, arguing that it was time for governments to stop “telling Australians what to do”. “Australians have done an amazing job when it comes to leading us through this pandemic, but now it’s time for governments to step back. And for Australians to take their lives back,” he added ominously.

Morrison’s sympathy for the “frustrated” protesters has more than a minor whiff of Donald Trump’s “very fine people” comments after the deadly Charlottesville riots, not to mention the “I know how you feel” video during the also-deadly January 6 Capitol insurrection. While some media outlets declared that Morrison had “hit out” at the protesters, there’s little doubt that, as with Trump’s comments, the dog whistle was louder than the denunciation.

Eighty per cent of the PM’s answer, in fact, was focused on the protestors’ justified frustrations and state government overreach, with an added pushback against mandates and restrictions for the unvaccinated (policies to which, as Niki Savva notes, he owes the impressive vaccination rates he loves to crow about). People should be able to get a coffee in Brisbane, added Morrison, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated – a swipe at the Queensland government’s newly announced restrictions. (The state government has since labelled Morrison’s comments a “reckless” undermining of its vaccination efforts.) There’s little doubt that Morrison is trying to appease some of his own senators, who are still vowing to withhold their votes unless he pushes back against mandates. But he’s also indulging the “frustrated” protesters, with little concern for the dangerous levels of misinformation flying about......

Guy knows that the Victorian government needs some sort of bill to be able to manage the pandemic – which is very much ongoing – beyond December, and as supporting crossbencher MP Fiona Patten noted on RN Breakfast, the alternative (state of emergency legislation) “is far more draconian than the legislation we were trying to put through”. But once again, the facts don’t really matter to the PM – all that matters is that the very “frustrated” people know he’s in their corner, even if it means encouraging extremists and continuing to confuse those they are seeking to influence.

This is all getting very real and very dangerous, and many fear that we are on a dark path to the kinds of political violence increasingly being seen in the US and the UK. But to Scott Morrison, it is just another game.

Read the full article here.




7 News, 17 November 2021:

WA Premier Mark McGowan’s electoral office has been closed due to ongoing security risks.

In a doorstop interview on Wednesday, McGowan revealed that his Rockingham office had been the target of death threats and bomb threats ever since the state government announced mandatory vaccination for much of the state’s workforce.

A week after an armoured tank rolled up outside his electoral office, McGowan has confirmed that his staffers had even been subjected to rape threats.

Friday, 19 November 2021

A win for Ballina Shire Council and its Local Environmental Plan


IMAGE: White v Ballina Shire Council [2021] NSWLEC 1468

Echo, 16 November 2021:

A new precedent has been set in the NSW Land and Environment Court (LEC) that could give property investors and developers a reason to rethink project designs.

It’s cost Ballina Shire ratepayers around $100,000 of the council’s budget to win the landmark case but independent councillor and Labor mayoral candidate Keith Williams says the benefits to the environment and for protecting local planning rules are priceless.

I actually trained as an environmental economist,’ Cr Williams told The Echo on Monday, ‘we tried to measure the environmental value of what we’re protecting by doing this stuff but it’s impossible to come up with the figure’.

Court decision proves council staff advice wrong

Ballina Shire councillors elected to take on the case against council staff advice.

But whereas certain Byron Shire Council candidates accuse staff of pursuing their own agendas and undermining elected representatives, Cr Williams chose to give the Ballina team the benefit of the doubt by emphasising how uncharted the legal waters of the local case were.

The Echo has so far been unable to contact the property owners in question, Jason and Joanne White, who last month appealed a council decision against their plans to build a new house on their rural block along Newrybar’s Old Byron Bay Road.

The block is part of a protected environmental area between one and two kilometres long on a ridgeline known as the Scenic Escarpment.

It’s a little bit of our 1987 local environment plan (LEP) that we’ve hung on to, because the state government won’t let us have environment zones,’ Cr Williams said.

So in Ballina, we actually decided that we wouldn’t adopt the new zones and we would leave a whole bunch of things as what’s called “deferred matters” in our new LEP,’ he said, ‘and so the old provisions for 1987 still apply’…..

The trouble with causeways

The main concern, and the focus of the case, was a driveway the Whites had illegally built in 2016.

The driveway included a causeway across a creek, effectively blocking it in some places, Cr Williams said, and made of compressed gravel that posed a threat to water quality as it eventually eroded and leaked silt.

Cr Williams said the driveway was also a threat to the rest of the rainforest because it could change the way water flowed and was absorbed during rain.

In the neighbouring Byron Shire, the council had, in recent years, started to shift away from causeways in favour of bridges owing to adverse environmental impacts on rivers and creeks.

But in Ballina, the council was so far powerless to have the Whites remove the driveway and causeway, despite successfully prosecuting them over the unauthorised project in an earlier court case.

The property owners received fines but the court failed to give deconstruction orders, Cr Williams said.

Walking the road to destruction

Instead, the Whites lodged a development application [DA] with the council to knock down their existing roadside house in favour of a new one nestled further back in the forest.

Council staff told councillors at the time they could vote only on the matter of the house and couldn’t take the illegal driveway into account because it had already been built and therefore wasn’t part of the DA, even though anyone living in or visiting the new house would presumably rely on the driveway to get there.

Councillors initially accepted the staff advice and approved the DA before carrying out a site visit and having second thoughts, Cr Williams said.

We went and walked the road, we went and walked down into this rainforest gully, and it was really the few of us standing there at once going, how can this be?’ Cr Williams said.

You know, that’s when we began to really question: is us approving this DA really approving this road?’

Councils on notice to stop ignoring unauthorised works in new Das

The councillors’ concerns inspired Cr Williams to declare a rescission motion against the DA’s approval that won majority council support and sparked another legal battle with the Whites.

Contrary to what council staff had advised, the LEC found that because the 2016 works weren’t authorised and never had been, councillors had to do the new DA assessment from the land’s pre-2016 status.

That’s a really clear instruction now to all the councillors and to all those councillors’ staff that where there is illegal works, that’s not your starting point,’ Cr Williams said.

Your starting point is actually what was the state before those illegal works were done and if those illegal works aren’t rectified by your DA, should you really be approving it?’

Two wrongs don’t make a right: Labor candidate tells developers they can’t ‘cover’ breaches later

Cr Williams said the LEC didn’t typically award costs but he believed the expensive case would ultimately save the council money as it was a preventative outcome.

Mr and Mrs White now owned a road that led to effectively nowhere and Cr Williams said one of the key criteria for determining whether or not they could build a new house on the block was whether or not there was already a suitable site elsewhere.

One of the foundational issues here is that there is because there’s already another house on the block,’ Cr Williams said.

I think the message is to developers that you need to work with us,’ the mayoral candidate told The Echo, ‘if you do the wrong thing we’re not just going to allow you to cover it up later on’.

Cr Williams praised the efforts of the Scenic Escarpment Protection Alliance, a group made up mostly of the Whites’ neighbours, and others who supported the council in court.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

COVIDIOT Liberal Members of NSW & Vic state parliaments openly supporting their threatening, aggressive QAnon and anti-vax "friends".

The Saturday Paper, Post, 17 November 2021, excerpt:

In Victoria:

  • Up to 500 protesters occupying the steps of Parliament forcibly ejected a journalist and issued violent threats, including one speaker who said of Premier Daniel Andrews, “I look forward to the day I get to see you dance on the end of a rope” (The Age);

  • Video of the protesters shows them gathered around a wooden gallows on Monday chanting “Freedom”, “Traitor”, and “Hang Dan Andrews” while attempting to place the head of an inflatable doll of the premier through the noose;

  • Four state Liberal MPs mingled with the protesters on Tuesday, including Bernie Finn, who last week shared a doctored picture of Andrews dressed as Adolf Hitler;

  • Finn posted a selfie with the mob, which he described as “a couple of thousand of my closest friends”;

  • The protests are against a bill that gives the premier and health minister the power to declare a pandemic and make public health orders, with debate extending late last night (7News);

  • It is all but guaranteed to pass after the government made amendments to secure the support of three crossbench MPs, including that parliament will be given immediate ability to scrutinise any order (The Guardian).


  • Premier Dominic Perrottet dumped a bill seeking to expand the state’s Covid-19 emergency powers until 2023 (The Australian);

  • It had been approved by cabinet but faced opposition from Liberal backbenchers in a bitter partyroom backlash;

  • Health Minister Brad Hazzard had been pushing to retain the powers to require quarantine or self-isolation for people exposed to Covid-19 (7News);

  • Perrottet said he’d defer the decision on extending the powers until 2022.

COVID-19 Update: Northern NSW 16 November 2021


As at 8pm on 16 November 2021 there have now been 177 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the 7 local government arears within the Northern NSW Local Health District since 13 September 2021 when the Delta Variant Outbreal first reached Northern NSW reached .

A total of 64 of these confirmed COVID-19 infections (36.15 per cent of all Northern NSW cases since 13 September 2021) have been recorded in the first 16 days since NSW Premier & Liberal MP for Epping Dominic Perrottet opened up Northern NSW to Greater Sydney, interstate & overseas travellers. That is equivalent to 4 new COVID-19 infections a day.


Tweed Shire - 7 cases + 2 infections contracted elsewhere in NSW

Byron Bay - 7 cases + 2 confirmed infections within the LGA not entered into NNSWLHD records as these individuals were no longer in the region.

Ballina - 15 cases

Kyogle - 22 cases

Richmond Valley - 25 cases + 1 case confirmed on 10 Nov 2021 where infection was contracted overseas

Lismore City - 42 cases

Clarence Valley - 59 cases.

AS of 14 November 2021 the fully vaccinated rate for the 16 years old to 90 years and over resident population in Northern NSW was:

Tweed Shire – 83.3%

Byron Bay – 78.7%

Ballina 92.6%

Kyogle – 84.9%

Richmond Valley – 86.4%

Lismore City – 86.2%

Clarence Valley – 89.2%

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Queensland white shoe brigade onboard as owner of around 33.49ha of James Creek land has another run at overdevelopment


The Daily Examiner online, 12 November 2021:

The James Creek plan could see hundreds of residential lots opened up.

The current proposal at Lot 104 James Creek Road, James Creek was lodged by Madison Ruygrok through Kahuna No 1 Pty Ltd. If approved by Clarence Valley Council it would see 327 residential lots, one commercial lot and two open-space lots created.

According to civil engineering drawings prepared by Geolink in October this year, the majority of proposed sites would be between 600-799 square metres in size with the subdivision to be delivered in five stages with most to have two or three sub-stages.

It’s not the first time the site has raised the ire of nearby residents so it is expected there will be some strong opposition to the most recent plan.

In the March 2014 fiery remarks were hurled from the public gallery as James Creek residents watched Clarence Valley councillors agree to rezone the lot from primary production to general residential and medium density residential.

Then, in November 2020, multiple submissions were made opposing a development application that proposed 336 residential lots, four drainage reserves, one commercial lot and one public reserve.

However, residents against the development were relieved to discover that a month later, the application was withdrawn.

But despite their best efforts to thwart that development, a future of medium to high-density housing in this quiet, semi rural Lower Clarence suburb seems inevitable.

Over a decade ago, James Creek was targeted as an ideal spot for urban growth.

According to the Mid-North Coast Regional Strategy 2006-2013, James Creek was identified as an area for proposed future urban release, along with Gulmarrad and West Yamba.

Residents and members of the community have until December 3 to make a submission to Clarence Valley Council on the development application (number SUB2021/0042).

The owner & only listed shareholder of Kahuna No.1 Pty Ltd is Billabong founder Gordon Stanley Merchant of Tungan Qld and Madison Ruygrok is currently listed as a Town Planner with Place Design Group Pty Ltd of Fortitude Valley Qld.

Oddly in SUB2021/0042 - currently before Clarence Valley Council - it lists the developer of the land as The Trustee for MPD INVESTMENTS UNIT TRUST not Kahuna No1.

Presumably The Trustee for MPD Investments Unit Trust - an entity created in 2021 with an ABN registered in Queensland - is associated with Gordon Merchant.

Mr. Merchant's financial difficulties became known when the Australian Taxation Office reportedly penalised him around $13 million "after an audit by the tax office has ended with Mr Merchant being disqualified for “recklessly contravening” superannuation laws, as well as owing $45m in back tax".  

Administrative Decisions Tribunal April 2021 records show that Mr. Merchant lodged an Income Tax Objection in October 2020 and, he remains disqualified from acting as trustee or responsible officer of corporate trustees of superannuation entities, under subsections 126A(2) and 126A(3) of the SIS Act. 

One has to wonder if either Kahuna No 1, MPD Investments Pty Ltd or The Trustee for MPD Investments Unit Trust are financially secure enough to meet all the fees and charges associated with this development application and commencement of works. 

Or indeed if it is wise to pack an est. 818 persons into such a sardine tin housing estate on approx. 33.49ha between Maclean and Yamba in what is essentially still an agricultural area on a sensitive part of the flood plain where floodwaters are  liable to cut off access to & egress from farms and urban areas in a strong flooding event.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Northern Rivers couple Pat and John Edwards inducted into the Allen Strom Hall of Fame at the Nature Conservation Council’s 2021 NSW Environment Awards


Clarence Valley Independent, 10 November 2021:

John and Pat Edwards were inducted into the Allen Strom Hall of Fame at the Nature Conservation Council’s NSW Environment Awards over the weekend. Image: Contributed

Clarence Valley environmental defenders John and Pat Edwards were inducted into the Allen Strom Hall of Fame at the Nature Conservation Council’s NSW Environment Awards.

The awards, which were conducted via a Zoom meeting on Saturday November 6, “celebrate the outstanding commitment and achievement of campaigners, grassroots environmentalists and conservation groups across the state”.

The Nature Conservation Council’s hall of fame was established in memory of the late Allen Strom’s untiring dedication to conservation and education in NSW,” the conservation council’s website states.

Individuals for this award have been actively involved in the conservation movement for many years, have made a constant and invaluable contribution to the environment and have displayed qualities of integrity, reliability and commitment.”

Mr Edwards said he was honoured that he and his wife, Pat, were inducted into the hall of fame, however, he was a little shy about the attention.

I always find these things embarrassing,” he said, “I’d rather be off in a corner doing my own thing, Pat is much the same.

We do the things we do because we believe in them.

We have five lovely grandchildren who deserve to experience a world like the one we grew up in – one of the things our generation has done is stuff it up for them; so whatever we can do to conserve nature is worth doing.”

Mr Edwards has been one of the people integral in conducting the Clarence Catchment Alliance’s ‘No Mines Clarence Valley’ campaign.....

Read the full article here.