Letters to the editor - Feb 16
It may be noted that the one solar/Earth year 'dry' cycle that I predicted arrived over Australia exactly on time (January 1, 2012.) As it moved across the planet (30 degrees longitude/month) from east to west, it broke up the monsoon cloud moving from west to east into storm cells and rain bands that precipitated mainly off the Queensland/northern NSW coast. Similarly the southern lows were dissipated and pushed further south. This explains the complete lack of cyclone activity over Australia since mid December. It also explains the lack of explanation from the Bureau of Meteorology, which could not blame their usual scapegoat (El Nino/La Nina) because the rain events were coming from the 'wrong' direction and at the same time the cyclones were disappearing before their very eyes.
The vanguard of the 'dry' cycle has now reached the western coast of the continent (note the break-up of Cyclone Igor off Western Australia.)
Australia has eleven months to go in this 'dry' cycle, but is one of the last countries affected in the orbit. A two solar/Earth year 'wet'/normal period should begin over China in the next month, making the coming European summer a 'wet' one. An updated version of Tomorrow's Weather by Alex S Gaddes, 1990 (with 'dry' cycle forecasts to 2055) is available as a free pdf from email@example.com.
On October 22, 1882, the finest building in Australia, the Sydney Garden Palace, believed to house the convict records, burned to the ground.
Like a phoenix, there rose from the ashes, Australia's Bunyip Aristocracy. Hyphens and apostrophes began to appear where there had been no previous sightings.
The watchman on duty, an Irish ex-convict, pleased that he thought that if he opened doors and windows, the wind would blow the fire out, "as you blow out a candle before you go to bed". The inquiry took into account the "lack of intelligence of the Irish race" and he passed into shameful obscurity, which was just as well, as within a year, his financial star went into swift and mysterious ascendant.
There was one set of records that didn't burn, not of the ancestor, but the ancestress. It wasn't the girl who came as a free settler, or the girl who came in a convict ship. The girl who could bring down the "Bunyip Aristocracy" was the girl who met the boat.
Aborigines are the closest dark race in the world to the white. Within 20 years of white settlement, there were light-skinned, fair haired, blue-eyed daughter of Aborigine mothers and Nordic convicts.
The British Government had a mortal fear of the bloodline being contaminated by "native blood". There were families who made good, and who, after a generation, went to Britain, taking their rogue gene with them, sometimes into the great houses.
The wicked old chicken, under a cunning guise, has come home to roost. Under Australian law, car thieves, killed in a police chase, if assessed as being Aborigines, are classed as a "death in custody".
Many Aborigines see this as the writing into law the great lie that Aborigines have no decision making faculties.
I am a keen gardener and enjoy the column "Growing Gardens" by Anita Morton. In the recent article on the firespike plant, Anita suggests that the flowers do not attract our native nectar-feeding birds. I am happy to report that the flowers on my firespike plant (grown from a cutting as Anita recommends) are regularly visited by the brown honeyeater and the noisy miner. An added attraction of this lovely, old fashioned shrub.
Local government may be efficient when it comes to handling the three Rs of roads, rates and rubbish (although some may dispute this), but clearly less so when it comes to a fourth one, reading.
As North Coast MLC Catherine Cusack has made clear, the Richmond-Tweed library shemozzle requires proper resolution, and it seems highly unlikely this will come from Lismore City Council being allowed to hold the reins.
The independent model operated successfully under its director, Martin Field, hailed when he took up the job and reviled when the regional model was disbanded.
Councils should stick to their core responsibilities, and leave culture in the hands of those best suited to fostering it across the broader community.
At a time when the borrowing and reading of books needs encouraging, and as a result the library system requires good service management, it is a great shame to see councils seeking to control functions in which they clearly lack expertise.
How ironic that, with local government elections in the wind, it requires another politician, in the form of the hard-working Ms Cusack, to play the role of honest broker in an attempt to bring the councils to book.
I write as a former and future Northern Rivers resident, and a current ratepayer of Byron Shire.
Rous in the dark
There has been comment in the media about a possible conflict of interest between Cr Stuart George, who has taken a job with the coal seam gas miner (CSG) Metgasco as a land administration officer, and his role as a Richmond Valley councillor.
I believe the serious conflict of interest is between his employment and his position on Rous Water board as a representative of Richmond Valley Council. I believe his employment places him inevitably and 'structurally' in a position of conflict of interest in relation to the stewardship duties of the Rous board. Rous Water has one purpose 'providing a healthy, reliable and an ecologically sustainable supply of water to present and future generations of consumers' (Rous Water's Financial Report 2010/11). The extraction of CSG threatens water systems. The water produced from the gas wells is saline and likely to contain harmful chemicals from the coal seam. In the Northern Rivers, there is already evidence that 'holding ponds' for this produced water has leaked into the surrounding environment - a risk in a high rainfall area. Given the connectivity of aquifers and surface water systems, there is risk of contamination of water used for drinking or farming.
It is worth highlighting the sheer scale of water produced from CSG wells. Metgasco could well need to be safely disposing of 7.3 gigalitres per annum. That is nearly 3000 Olympic swimming pools of contaminated water. That estimate is supported by Santos GM for Energy in NSW (ABC Rural November 25, 2011): "The amount of water that we would expect, on average, to take out of a development would be something like five to seven gigalitres."
Even this is not the whole story on water. On the figures mentioned above Metgasco would have to safely dispose of 14,600 tonnes of salt per year.
This problem of contaminated water is worsened by the total inadequacy of the regulatory systems surrounding CSG. There is no requirement that Rous Water be notified if approval is being sought by a CSG mining company to drill near, or upstream, of the Lismore (Wilson) Water Source. Rous Water is kept in the dark while mining companies are able, in complete secrecy, to negotiate contracts with landowners, and to seek and attain approval through the Department of Industry and Investment.
Problems with the legislative framework are evident in the fact that currently CSG corporations are about to drill exploratory wells in the catchments of both the Sydney and Wollongong water supplies. When so much is unknown about impacts on water, this is evidence of a startling lack of checks and balances in the regulatory process, and of a reckless disregard for the precautionary principle by gas extraction companies.
In view of all these risks and legislative inadequacies, I do not believe that a person in Mr George's position who is working for Metgasco, a corporation whose activities put at risk our domestic and agricultural water supply, should continue to be a representative on Rous Water for Richmond Valley Council.
Cr Simon Clough
A big thank you to those people who gave me such a wonderful Christmas present by stealing my cattle yards from Millgate Road at Blue Knob. I know our community would agree you are "low lifes" and the lowest of the low. I am offering a $600 reward for information leading to the arrest of these scumbags and recovery of my steel galvanized cattle yards. I am sure the decent members of our community can help. Please contact me on 0488 674 777.
Viva la Cuban revolution
Since it's been mentioned by my fan-mailers often enough, I thought I'd present a few facts on socialist Cuba.
In 2009, Cuba rated 52nd out of 182 countries with a "Human Development Index" (measure of productivity per capita) of 0.863, which is remarkably high considering its GDP per capita places it at 95. Cuba also significantly out-performs the rest of Latin America in terms of infant mortality, morbidity, educational attainment and an array of other social and health indicators. Cubans receive low housing and transportation costs, free education, health care and food subsidies. Corruption is far lower than in most countries in Latin America.
While the capitalists had their World Economic Forum (WEF), those seeking an alternative to capitalism had their World Social Forum (WSF) in Latin America, at Porto Alegre, Brazil. Like the WEF, their theme was "capitalist crisis - social and environmental justice". With massive protests against the unfairness of capitalism across the world (last October 15 in about 1000 cities across 82 countries, not mentioned in our capitalist press), the WSF attracted 40,000 activists (also unreported) where the Venezuelan Socialist Revolution was highlighted and defended.
In Latin America, following Cuba and Venezuela, so far Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have shown definite socialist leanings, while a few more could very possibly follow.
Viva la revolution!
Nothing says dumbing down like having the head of a university Health and Human Sciences department, Professor Ian Graham, voice support for pseudo-science re homeopathy.
Homeopathy is an oxymoron called 'vibrational medicine'. With homeopathy, the more dilute the 'nosode' (potion) the stronger the medicine. Homeopathic medicine has no active ingredient. Homeopathy relies on the water molecule being transmitted the property of the herb, snake venom, or whatever is the source material.
Scientific studies have proven there is no medicinal benefit from any homeopathic preparation excluding placebo effect.
The historical fact people have been utilising homeopathy for more than 200 years is uttered by the professor in supporting homeopathy. For more than 1500 years, and even today, millions believe Jesus rose from the dead, and is on his way back.
I moved here eight years ago and fell in love with the city of Lismore. I found everyone was so nice and friendly, and it's a joy to go downtown to the CBD where people are so helpful. I am 85 years of age and have trouble seeing as clearly as I used to, so having people who are willing to come to my aide is very much appreciated. Coming to Lismore was the best move I ever made.
Sabrina Baltruweit's visit to the Dresden War Museum in Germany (Echo, January 5) and her continuing efforts to broaden how the consequences of war are understood is inspirational.
Lismore's own RaHOW group (Remembering and Healing Old Wounds) of which she is a founding member is at the forefront of cultural change. This change is of particular relevance to Australia, which has a tradition of involving itself in foreign wars. Our enthusiasm for war has repeatedly seen Australian troops in places far from home supporting causes that had nothing to do with our own defence (the Dardanelles in Turkey are 15,000 kilometres away!) With the sole exception of the Pacific War in the early 1940s, Australia has never been directly threatened and, since the arrival of the First Fleet 224 years ago, has never experienced an armed occupation.
We are fortunate enough to live in one of the most peaceful, stable parts of the world. Yet in spite of this blessing we have volunteered for long and unnecessary journeys in the pursuit of war. Each year we commemorate this fact, yet questions like 'what did we achieve' are rigorously ignored. What outcome was equal to the loss of all those lives? When I have asked these questions in public, even those who have participated in war have been unable to furnish an answer.
The absence of an answer usually indicates that something needs to be found.
In this case, it is our willingness to learn from the past and to honour our fallen by 'not' repeating their mistake. Sabrina Baltruweit and the RAHOW group are leading the way towards a more forgiving, peace-loving future that offers a positive complement to AZAC celebrations.
Please visit the RaHOW website at www.rahow.org/home and offer your support. It is time for us to actually 'keep the peace' by staying at home and behaving like the peaceful nation we imagine ourselves to be.
R J Poole
I write in support of Wadzy's letter 'Grow your own system' (Echo, February 9). The old 'isms' have failed us and we should no longer be having the debate of socialism v capitalism and left v right. It's time to embrace localisation and invest our efforts into developing greater levels of self sufficiency and autonomy in our region. Only in this way can we attain any real security in food supply and energy generation, provide jobs and keep the money circulating locally. The alternative is to allow ourselves to be further exploited by profit-driven multinational corporations, and have our very viable agricultural lands turned into quarries.
On ABC radio last week I heard some disturbing information relating to the ongoing sell off of the farm and our diminishing ability to provide for ourselves - 80% of Australia's fresh food production as supplied by Coles/Woolworths is controlled by five main suppliers; 75% of the Australian sugar industry has been bought out by foreign concerns in the past year (NSW Sugar co-operatives being some of the last remaining); and Golden Circle, now owned by Heinz, is no longer canning in Australia. SPC, a once strong Aussie-owned, co-operatively-run canning operation has been bought out and closed down by Coca Cola.
We seriously need to look at how, over time, we can progressively supply our own needs in food and other essentials. We can survey the residents of our region and establish a priority list for local production and manufacture on the basis of what is most doable and in universal demand. At the same time we need to work out ways we can attract much greater consumer support for products grown and made locally. Regional branding and innovative marketing campaigns are needed. Even if we produce one product at a time we will end up a lot more empowered and independent in the long run.
While we're no longer in a position to nationalise our industry and resources, we can make efforts to 'regionalise' our assets and reclaim control over our future in this incredibly rich Northern Rivers region.
Deficit and deceit
The Ratepayers Association of Lismore Incorporated has been questioning Lismore City Council's (LCC) accounts for nearly a year. We were particularly concerned by misleading statements made by Council indicating that it had a balanced budget. So last week when LCC released its quarterly results declaring an operating result from continuing operations, a deficit of $10.59 million, we were not that surprised.
Many media outlets have now picked up the story.
These deficits indicate that LCC is in an unstainable position as it cannot and indeed has not been able to replace ageing infrastructure when required, as witnessed by our appalling roads and overflowing sewers. We are in effect using up the efforts of previous generations to sustain our current lifestyles. And by borrowing large amounts of money we are mortgaging our future generations as well. This is not sustainable.
LCC simply cannot afford to continue to try to be everything to everybody. Choices must be made. The Ratepayers Association believes this is a no-brainer. Concentrate on the core services of roads, water, sewerage and garbage, (we would also include parks and gardens, sporting fields and libraries), improve efficiency, and stop wasting money on policies and projects we simply cannot afford.
Every citizen within the Lismore City Council Local Government Area has to live within their means and so should LCC. LCC already has the highest rates on the North Coast so there is no excuse to increase them beyond the rate pegging amount.
It should come as no surprise that Australia's big four banks would chose to ignore the Reserve Bank's interest rate recommendations.
The Reserve Bank has been a paper tiger ever since Hawke and Keating sold us out to the big boys of the banking world in the 1980s. The banks are so sure of themselves that, regardless of their ever- growing obscene profits, they expect no serious backlash from sacking hundreds of employees, citing the high cost of borrowing money from overseas.
This excuse is, at best, a half truth, that money representing about 7% of their total lending, the actual figure being dictated by a bank in Switzerland. The rest is created out of thin air as usual, and put into circulation as a debt to the bank. Because the funds to cover the interest bill are not created at the same time that loans are made, this debt can never be repaid, only transferred to someone or to somewhere else. It is only through lots of bankruptcies and writing off 'bad' loans that the system appears to work at all.
Debt is THE weapon of mass destruction. It is the catalyst responsible for degraded environments, depleted resources of all kinds, and fractured communities.
Today's Europe with its common currency zone demonstrates this.
Should the Greeks default, rather than live as serfs under the IMF, resurrect the drachma and revive their local economy, as the Argentines did in 2002 after four years of IMF rules had trashed what remained of their economy, there is a danger that the people in the other Euro debtor nations will wake up to the banker's confidence tricks.
Can European woes happen in this country? You can put money on it! While people here criticise the banks for their excessive fees or suggest childish rules to increase 'competition' they don't tackle the major cause, that creation and control of our money supply is in private hands. Constitutionally it should be the job of the federal government, on behalf of the Australian people, and then the profits would benefit the Australian public.
We'll never wake up to the deception while ever we continue believing the nonsense that you can borrow your way out of debt, or you can reduce inflation by increasing prices (by raising interest rates), or that high, variable interest rates are 'normal'. How I yearn for a brave politician to put real monetary reform on the agenda. This is unlikely while ever the Corporate Party is in power in Canberra. Regardless of whether it is the Labor branch or the Liberal/National branch, our current financial dictatorship will conduct its business as usual.
Save the Green Jobs
It's disappointing to hear that the National Green Jobs Corp program (NGJC) funding may not continue past June this year. EnviTE has been providing accredited training in the important areas of Conservation and Land Management through NGJC. The courses have been run in conjunction with Ballina Shire Council and Jali LALC (Local Aboriginal Land Council).
These courses have been highly successful with most graduates going on to further study in this area or employment. Participants learn practical skills such as environmental restoration through the identification and planting of trees, constructing walkways and viewing platforms, weed removal etc.
To date, Ballina NGJC teams have contributed over 12,000 hours of labour to the local community. This is equivalent to over $400,000 of commercial labour.
Not only are these young people completing important work which would otherwise not be completed, they are also able to continue working with local Landcare groups and volunteers to pass on the skills that they have learned.
It's great to hear that Janelle Saffin will be taking a local petition to federal ministers urging them to continue funding these courses into the future.
The skills that these unique courses offer are in great need and provide so many benefits not only to participants but the wider community through enhanced access and enjoyment of our parks and reserves. The petition can be found at www.envite.org.au. Please take the time to sign it to increase the likelihood that these courses can continue to operate into the future.
Cr Jeff Johnson
It seems quite bizarre that the GMs at Ballina and Tweed are paranoid about their perceived "loss of control" should the RTRL revert to the previously successful county council model now that it is legitimately able to do so, yet they are more than willing to hand over total control to Lismore without bothering to look into the implications of their decision.
They have neglected to seek independent legal advice, as the GM at Byron Council was wise enough to do, and are prepared to sign a blank cheque allowing Lismore to make all the decisions. This shows scant regard for the future financial wellbeing of the libraries in their respective areas.
All this in spite of the fact that LCC is currently running at a deficit of more than $10m, faces the likelihood of a court case with regard to claims for back pay for a shortfall in wages for library staff since Lismore's takeover, and has a less than enviable financial track record.
Add to this the fact that the RTRL was reported as a "basket case" and arguably the worst library in the State in a consultant's report to the State Library when Lismore had full control of the library back in 1996 when the former GM at LCC, Paul O'Sullivan, was the executive member.
The only reason the library is still in such splendid condition in spite of the vagaries of the past 18 months is due to the expertise of Martin Field and the dedicated team of librarians who put in such a sterling effort during the 14 years prior to Lismore's hostile takeover in 2010.
It would be a tragedy if the trust, co-operation and goodwill that existed for so long is destroyed due to the upheaval Lismore has caused. Misinformation persists and an unbiased, well-informed opinion from an outside source seems to be the only way forward.
My family, home and property are the ones that are most affected by this development, and for Mr Champion to say issues regarding this proposal have been only minor and have been addressed is outrageous. If these are minor, why has it taken two LEC cases, large amounts of amendments to multiple EA categories, and six years to get to this point? Many properties will be totally or partially sterilised if this development is given approval.
Senior Commissioner Tim Moore's comment the "Woolley Bund was the primary issue of concern for refusing the application" in the last LEC case still remains the primary concern regarding visual, noise, water and property devaluation to me.
The remaining bunds were built to overcome an erroneous noise report in DA 2005/999. The background noise level of 41dB was later confirmed incorrect in court by the applicant's barrister in the recent court case. LCC only became aware of this problem when surrounding properties started complaining about excessive noise from the quarry.
New noise tests were performed to confirm the background noise level at my property as being 32dB.
The bunds only became aware to me after they were built. The DA modification was considered only minor by the applicant and was not displayed. This 'Delegated Authority' decision was made by a former LCC employee of the previous council. To go from trees 280 meters away surrounding the quarry pit to a three metre mound 15 metres away from my home is major. The removed bund was built to block visual and noise problems for an area to the west of my property which has no bearing on this application. The removal of this bund had sound levels in my loungeroom of 79dB.
Senior Commissioner Tim Moore in his summary of refusal referred to these as "unapproved earthen mounds". Also, "The visual impact on the Woolley property, when coupled with the duration for which the obstruction would be necessary for the life of the expanded quarry, is, on balance in our opinion, unacceptable and is sufficiently so as to warrant refusal of the reconstruction of this bund."
These mounds are now to be used to block the construction of the proposed Bund A. Nothing has changed. I still have no view, which I did have before.
Another concern is dirty water run-off. With turbidity and dissolved solids readings coming from the project site extremely raised compared to unpolluted run-off close by. This problem has only been happening since the emergency quarry exit road was resurfaced in 2007, and now after heavy downpours deposits muddy silt over my lower paddocks, neighbouring properties and then enters Tucki Creek to empty in the Tuckean Swamp.
Conflict with this quarry is ongoing as DA95/230 lodged with Council on the 16/06/95 doesn't recognise my property or home as ever existing in all mapping or any other parts of the EIS, although it had been developed by this developer eight years earlier. It seems if we didn't exist we couldn't complain. The very many concerns with this proposal are not new; Mr Champion has had years to put a viable proposal forward. Perhaps the fact he has not been able to in the face of the many attempts means that is just not possible.