Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A wild and woolly Christmas, a tornado and Boxing Day

Chistmas Day in Australia was eventful.  Storm clouds were brewing up during the morning, then late in the afternoon the skies opened up.  High intensity thunderstorm cells dumped very heavy rain at some locations, and hail that broke the windows of parked cars.

Section of train line were badly damaged near Hurstbridge when floodwater washed away the track ballast.

A tornado was even forecast for western Melbourne. It duly arrived at Fiskville and Keilor Downs where it caused some local damage to properties.  This is the only actual tornado in Melbourne that I can recall.

There was some rain early Boxing Day but the storms had subsided.  Lena, Chloe and I did a family to the National Art Gallery of Victoria (curious name!) and visited Picasso's Weeping Woman among many other fine paintings.

We stopped at Waffle On for a nice waffle and a chat with Marc.  Then we visited Myer's famous Christmas windows, which were fun and not too crowded, before heading home on the train.

Chloe asked "why is it called Boxing Day?".  I wasn't too sure so I looked it up.  It turned out to be a good question.  

The exact etymology of Boxing Day is unclear. There are several competing theories. The tradition has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions. The European tradition has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown and there are some claims that it goes back to the late Roman/early Christian era; metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen.

In the United Kingdom, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: wealthy landowners allowed their servants were allowed to take the 26th off to visit their families. The employers gave each servant a box containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

In many Western countries, Boxing Day has become synonymous with consumption, where many line up at department stores in search of bargains at "Boxing Day sales". Many products are bought for their reduced price rather than for real need.

There is an opportunity for us to rediscover the traditional roots of Boxing Day and give a gift to someone who may need it. Using up leftovers from the Christmas Day dinner is also a good practice.

All the best for the New Year.

Photo slideshow

External links

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Baillieu government must stop logging Victorian rainforest

Local conservationists have yet again had to take court action and use blockades to stop VicForests, the Victorian Government's logging business, from logging protected rainforest in East Gippsland.

VicForests have form. They were found guilty of breaking the law relating the protection of endangered species in Brown Mountain's forest in the Supreme Court in August 2010.  Over a year later, despite a court order, they are yet to pay the court costs awarded against them to Environment East Gippsland.

In July this year, VicForests started logging forest near Sylvia Creek that is home to Leadbeaters Possum. They were stopped by another court order following legal action initiated by local environment group MyEnvironment.  This court case, scheduled to be heard early next year, is again about VicForests ignoring the laws concerned with protecting endangered species.

The Baillieu government's response to VicForest's illegal and unethical practices is to reward them with 20 year contracts for logging our remaining native forests, indemnify their contracts, allow them to determine the amount of forest they can log and allow them to log forests in reserves, parks and water catchments.

The Baillieu government has also announced an intention to change the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act to that a bureaucrat can exempt VicForests from complying with it, thereby allowing them to log forests that are and should be protected.

There is a whiff of cronyism and corruption about VicForests too.  Graeme Stoney, Premier Ted Baillieu's brother in law, has been recently appointed to the VicForests board by the government.  Stoney has also recently been active behind the scenes coordinating the return of cattle to graze in the Alpine National Park under the bogus pretext of "research into the role of cattle in bushfire mitigation".

The native forest logging industry is in terminal decline. Regional Forests Agreements have failed. The global market for woodchips, the major "product" that comes from out native forests, has collapsed.  Despite accelerating logging, jobs continue to decline.  The industry is largely automated now.

In addition, the wholesale conversion of native forests into plantations by continued logging and burning is simply not sustainable, as scientists such as Professor David Lindenmeyer have stated.

There is enough plantation resource available in Victoria right now to supply our timber and pulp needs.  The Victorian government should get out of the logging business, get rid of VicForests, and support our sustainable plantation-based timber and wood products industries.

Our native forests should be protected for the carbon they store, their biodiversity, their function as water catchments and because they are wonderful places to visit.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Durban Climate Change Conference fails miserably with a whimper

After three decades of scientific evidence - and warnings - that we are now experiencing dangerous climate change, I had some hope that the Durban Climate Change Conference (COP17) would at last result in some real global action to tackle carbon emissions - and endorse forest protection.

Unfortunately, this has not happened.

After several days of fraught "negotiations" the outcome (curiously described by some as a "breakthrough") seems to be

"a commitment to develop a agreement between all countries by 2015, that will take effect in 2020".

This quite obviously means no real action on reducing carbon emissions, protecting forests, or addressing the chronic imbalance between First World and Third World economies.

Unfortunately, this is yet another pointer that the end of the world as we know it is looming.

This outcome fails the following key tests: 
  • Are global emissions going down? No.
  • When will emissions go down and atmospheric CO2 be stabilised or decline? Don't know. 
It appears that for all the rhetoric, the bottom line is that First World countries really don't want to stop excessive emissions and some Developing Nations don't want to give up their "right" to increase them. 

So if Governments, nations and the United Nations can't take action on climate change, it looks like you and I have to.

Friday, December 09, 2011

LETTER: Please maintain New York state ban on fracking and criminalize the practice

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I am writing to demand that you permanently maintain New York State’s fracking ban. Fracking is a completely unacceptable practice that destroys water, land, air and people. It should be criminal.

It is very wrong to blow up Earth, destroying scarce water, for limited fossil fuel energy with no climate benefits as claimed. New York State must not allow ecosystems to be destroyed. The best path is to transition from unsustainable energy use to 100% renewable energy, along with dramatic energy efficiency and energy conservation improvements.

The DEC public comment process has been a deeply flawed sham – asking for public opinion while the decision has already been made to start fracking. The revised draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (rdSGEIS) is little more than greenwash, as it would allow fracking in 85% of New York's Marcellus Shale, injecting hundreds of billions of gallons of toxic fluid that will never be recovered, and will find their way into New York state's water.

Most importantly, it fails to provide long-term protection of drinking water sources. It does not analyze fracking’s health impacts, doesn’t ban the use of known carcinogens, provides no specific plans for disposal of hazardous fracking wastes and may impede local governments from banning this deadly practice.

The practice of fracking will never be environmentally acceptable, much less sustainable, and the temporary ban must become permanent. Failure on your part to do so will make you personally responsible for vast water contamination that will poison the New York citizens you have sworn to serve. It would also certainly have major repercussions for your re-election prospects.

The world is watching – do what is right for the people, water, sustainable livelihoods, and ecology – not the energy oligarchy.

With grave concern,

Peter Campbell

NOTE: You can send your own email on this important issue here: Don’t Frack with Our Water: Support New York State Residents in Maintaining the Ban

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Submission on the proposed Basin Plan

TO: Murray Darling Basin Authority
DATE: 6 December 2011


I have visited the Murray Darling basin on many occasions, from the headwaters of the Murray River at Cowambat Flat all the way to the lower lakes of the Murray mouth and the Coorong.

The river system is remarkable. Its natural systems are unique in Australia and irreplaceable.

It has been obvious for decades that too much water was being drawn from the system, mainly for agricultural use. I studied Agricultural Science at Latrobe university, during which I learnt that much of the irrigation infrastructure was very wasteful of water, including open channels, flood irrigation of dairy pastures, sprinkler irrigation systems and even rice cultivation.

South Australia has born the brunt of the problems with drastic depletion of the river flow in its lower reaches and serious pollution of the water by heavy salt burdens and agricultural chemicals. Adelaide still sources the majority of its drinking wate from the Murray River.

The drastic impacts on the lower Murray, its lakes and the Coorong during the recent 10 year drought were unacceptable. Some lakes drained, exposed soils became acidified and toxic, and sea water threatened to invade the freshwater system and severly impact its freshwater ecosystem.

Regular flushing of the river system - as used to happen during regular floods - is essential for its health.

Appropriate regular ecological flows are essential for preserving the integrity and life of the Murray Darling system. I understand that scientists have recommended a minimum of 4000 gigalitres.

Reducing ecological flows in response to political campaigns and pressure from industries that continue to demand unsustainable quantities of water from the system will damage and even kill the system. When this happens, the industries will be forced to reduce their water use - they cannot use water that is not there.

The 2750GL now recommended by the Authority is not enough to save the system.

In addition, the doubling of extraction from groundwater resources is also likely to deplete aquifers.

The low environmental water flow and more extraction of groundwater will put ecosystems, communities and industries at risk.

The Plan must halt the decline of waterbirds, fish, red gums, flora and fauna, reduce blue-green algae outbreaks and improve water quality. A minimum of 4000 gigalitres is necessary to achieve this.
Peter Campbell

Information about how to make a submission is here: Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hays Paddock Plan and Pavilion - please conduct proper community consultation

Open letter to Boroondara Councillors

Boroondara Councillors,

I provided input to the Hays Paddock Plan that open space should be maintained and development of the pavilion should comply with Council's Sustainable Building Policy and retain its current footprint. 
The pavilion should cater for all park users rather than being focused on sporting clubs.  I also support improved cycling access to and through the park to make it easier for residents to visit without using a car.
Boroondara Council has ignored the community input to the plan and that of the Steering Committee and is proceeding with expanding the pavilion to accommodate only the interests of the Old Xaverians soccer club.  This will reduce the open space in the park and is quite inappropriate.  Any development of the Pavilion must surely also comply with the Sustainable Building Policy.
I ask the Council to conduct proper community consultation and establish an Advisory Committee that represents all park users, noting that Hays Paddock is not a sports reserve and the majority of usage is walking, dog walking, enjoying the quiet bushland setting, visiting the playground with children and meeting with and relaxing with friends.

I received an information leaflet and feedback form today from Council on the Draft Boroondara Open Space Strategy.  My preliminary and immediate feedback is "please preserve the open space in Hays Paddock that is currently mostly used for nature conservation and passive outdoor enjoyment".

Yours faithfully,

Peter Campbell
Maling Ward resident

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Tarkine wilderness deserves World Heritage Protection now

Dear Minister Burke,

I am writing to ask you to immediately place the Tarkine on the National Heritage List, to ensure that any impacts to national heritage values from the mining proposals currently are properly assessed.

I visited the Tarkine for an extended bushwalk in 2003.  The natural heritage values were obvious and very signficant, including remote coast line, aboriginal relics and massive sand dunes.  Unfortunately, degradation was occuring right in front of our with four wheel drive and all terrain vehicles and trail bikes traversing the highest sand dunes and frequently driving over aboriginal middens.  Cattle grazing was having a signficant impact too.  Their excrement was contaminating creeks, they were causing severe erosion along much of the coast line and they were spreading noxious weeds such as thistles.

You can view photos of our trip here: http://bit.ly/sdnCIc

As you know, the Tarkine has been under consideration for heritage listing since 2004, and while the Australian Heritage Council is finalising its advice to you, the priceless values of the Tarkine may be lost forever unless you grant it an emergency heritage listing.

If you do not list the Tarkine, only potential impacts to federally listed threatened species will be considered, and there will be no assessment or protection for the Tarkine’s renowned wilderness, geological, cultural, flora and fauna diversity and natural history values. None of these matters will be assessed by the state government.

The Tarkine is the last disease-free refuge for the endangered Tasmanian Devil. Because the Tarkine is not on the National Heritage List, damage as a result of mining exploration, including extensive roading and clearing for test drill sites has not been subject to any environmental impact assessment - yet your government has previously recognized that roading poses a significant threat to the Tasmanian Devil, and granted emergency heritage listing for this reason. Why won’t you do so now?

I call upon you as Environment Minister to use the powers available to you to ensure that the Tarkine and the Tasmanian Devil are afforded the highest level of protection. Please place the Tarkine on the National Heritage List, or provide me with the reasons why you as Environment Minister are placing the interests of mining ahead of conservation.

Peter Campbell

Tarkine photos

Victoria must keep the 20% emissions reduction target

Dear Premier Baillieu and Dr Lynne Williams,

CC: Hon Michael O’Brien, Minister for Energy and Resources
Hon Ryan Smith, Minister for Environment and Climate Change
Hon Peter Ryan, Deputy Premier
Hon Kim Wells, Treasurer

Re: Review of Climate Change Act

I support the Victorian Climate Change Act and would be deeply disappointed if Victoria’s target to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20 percent by 2020 was abandoned.

I note that the Climate Change Act 2010 passed both Parliamentary chambers unopposed. The Coalition participated in the Parliamentary debates at length and stated publicly on numerous occasions that it accepted the 20 percent emissions reduction target.

I understand that the current review is a legislative requirement as outlined in the Climate Change Act due to the introduction of a price on carbon. I’m calling on your government to ensure this review strengthens, rather than weakens our state government action on climate change.

I support the Act, and encourage the Baillieu Government to ensure Victoria takes leading action on climate change in addition to the national price on carbon because:

  • The 20 percent target will attract investment in clean energy jobs and industries in Victoria;
  • There will still be market failures under a price on carbon. We will still need to support energy efficiency measures, remove fossil fuel subsidies, support public good research and development and overcome barriers to clean energy deployment. 
  • The price on carbon does not cover all sectors of the economy. In particular we need state policies to address emissions from transport and agriculture;
  • Victoria’s 20 percent target is stronger than Australia’s national target and therefore   represents a bridge between where we are now on emissions nationally and where the science tells us we need to be;

I am deeply disappointed by the series of actions the Baillieu Government has taken to dismantle Victorian climate policy since being elected. I call on the Government to take this opportunity to change direction on the environment and climate change. I trust that this review is about developing a policy agenda that faces up to the challenge of climate change and this government’s responsibility to act, rather than shirking our responsibilities to current and future generations.

I have previously provided submissions to the Victorian Government about the urgent need for strong emission reduction targets and am very disappointed to see Victoria is now moving backwards on this.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Campbell

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A network of safe cycling routes is needed across Melbourne.

The tragic death of James Cross while cycling (Age 26/11) highlights the urgent need for a safe cycling network across Melbourne.

Improved driver education and a statutory one-metre distance between cars and bikes would help reduce "dooring" and other car-bicycle impacts.

However, many people don't use bikes for local trips and travelling to the city because they don't feel safe on our roads, even if they have rudimentary bike lanes on them.

Building dedicated cycling routes and separating bicycle lanes from cars would encourage many people to cycle who otherwise wouldn't and would greatly improve safety for those who already do.

We need a network of bicycle routes across Melbourne with safe separation between bicycles and cars.

We also need "strict liability" - an automatic assumption in law that responsibility rests with the less vulnerable road user. This is widely implemented in Europe, and means that responsibility for road accidents cascades down the chain from trucks to pedestrians. E.g. trucks -> cars -> bicyles -> pedestrians.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Peter Slipper "sinks the slipper"

Today was an interesting day in Australian politics.  I was out and about when I noticed some tweets coming through about Harry Jenkins resigning as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Australia's national parliament.

He made an interesting speech which you can read here:  Harry Jenkins' resignation speech

He started with a heartfelt acknowledgement of the Ngunnawal people as the indigenous traditional owners of the land where Canberra is located.

He cited a desire to be able to participate in policy and parliamentary debate as his main reason for resigning. He thanked his staff, his wife and his family for their support.  Finishing with:

I go placidly with my humour intact. I wish you all well.

The political interest came about when Peter Slipper, a Liberal MP, was voted in as his replacement, thereby increasing the numbers of the Labor Government by one (with Harry Jenkins rejoining active duties) and the Coalition losing one (with Peter Slipper leaving the Coalition and not having a vote as Speaker).

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott apparently didn't see this coming and proceeded to do what he always does - attack the Labor Government and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.   I don't agree his interpretation of his role "to provide an alternative government and to criticise the current government".  He and all his fellow opposition member's primary role is to represent their electorates, not keep endlessly carping about the government.

It will be interesting to see how this pans outs.  The Labor government cannot now be held over a barrel by any one of the cross benchers - Windsor, Wilkie, Oakeshott, Katter or Bandt.  They can still collectively influence voting on legislation, but individually they now can't.

Personally, I would like to poker machine restrictions proceed - either mandatory pre-commitment or a $1 maximum bet - as problem gambling is a major concern that government and the gambling industry has been unwilling to address properly to date.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The entire First World financial system is a ponzy scheme

Today, "contagion fears sliced $23b off the Australian stock market".  Australian shares have been up and down tens of billions numerous times over the last year, in fact since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

Why should debt concerns in Greece, Italy, Spain or Portugal have such effect on Australia when we are in the middle of a resources boom supplying China's economic growth?

It seems to be all about perception.  If some nations default in Europe then the first world's tangled web of loans and dodgy investments begins to unravel.  Then we get a run on banks and mass "withdrawal of participation" in the financial system, with trust broken.  This could end up in a 1930s style depression.

So the First World's financial system is a giant interconnected ponzy scheme teetering on the brink of collapse.  Last ones out lose all their money.  Banks close their doors.  Countries go broke.  Currencies collapse.

After largesse by various governments and politicians over decades, with unregulated dodgy financial trickery rampant, the solution is "austerity measures" on the hapless populations that pay the taxes.

Another solution is "Quantitative Easing" - which the United States is doing - which effectively means printing more money without producing, making or growing anything.

It seems to we need to redesign our financial system to eliminate speculation, waste, corruption and the endless fixation on endless growth.

In essence, this is a core concern of the Occupy Movement.

Here is a good video from The Guardian that explains some details about wealth and income distribution changes in the United States

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Jon Faine vs Robert Doyle on Radio 774 8 Nov

I listened to Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s interview with Jon Faine on Radio 774 this morning and was very surprised to hear that Robert Doyle does not support an independent inquiry into the Occupy Melbourne eviction and the methods used.

He seemed to get quite angry at Jon Faine’s observations about the eviction of Occupy Melbourne protesters from the Melbourne City Square and was evasive when asked about the violence that occurred.

He was strongly opposed to an independent inquiry into the decisions and events surrounding the the eviction yet he stated that the correct actions were taken by him and the Police and that were “issues of public safety, malcontents, people looking for trouble, elements of professional protest, and people posing a risk to public safety”.

If that is the case, then what does Robert Doyle have to fear from an independent inquiry?  I am left wondering if he has something to hide.   The information I have seen to date does not back Robert Doyle claims.

Doyle even cautioned Jon Faine that he “must be careful about what he says and not over react”

I have seen many images and videos of violence during the eviction.  I think an independent inquiry is essential to determine exactly what happened. Violence against passive protesters is not acceptable in our society.

External links

Australia's carbon price arrives

Today, the Australian Senate voted on and passed the suite of Clean Energy Bills that have been a long time coming, and are primarily the work of the Multiparty Climate Change Committee.

This is wonderful news.  It is a shame it has taken so long for us to finally price pollution and provide leadership and and incentives for a clean energy future.

Well done Julia Gillard, The Labor Government, the MPCCC, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshott, all the Greens in the senate - particularly Christine Milne and Bob Brown and their advisors - and Adam Bandt in the House of Representatives.

Hard work by all concerned, and a proud and momentous day for Australia.

It was interesting that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott chose to be absent from Australia on this day, despite his vocal and trenchant opposition to pricing pollution.  It was also interesting that Malcolm Turnbull chose to vote against the legislation in the House of Representatives, despite his support of emissions trading and putting a price on carbon.

What our parliamentarians say doesn't matter nearly as much as how they vote.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy Melbourne protest removed with Police force

The Occupy Melbourne protest that has been running for a week in Melbourne's City Square was broken up today when Police forceably evicted protesters after Lord Mayor Robert Doyle issued an eviction notice.

The protest, largely against corporate greed, had been running in a peaceful and non-violent way for a week.

Interestingly, Melbourne City Square is itself a victim of corporate greed - half of it was sold by Melbourne City Council years ago to developers who built a hotel and shop complex on it, leaving a much smaller portion of it for the public.

Our elected leaders are out of touch with the people.  Violence does not solve problems, it creates them.  I think the increasing concentration of wealth in our society does not bode well for the future. I also think that the banks who caused the GFC through dodgy and illegal practices were rewarded by taxpayer funded bail-outs provided by politicians - and are continuing on with similar practices.

Things need to change. Protests such as those held by the Occupy movement are valid and part of a vibrant democracy.  Quashing them with force is counterproductive and illustrates which politicians and governments are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Australia finally gets a price on carbon

The minority government in Australia has delivered a reform that no "majority" government (Labor or Coalition) could or would deliver.   This is a good day for those who want some action on climate change rather than endless political bickering and even denial.

The impetus for the carbon price legislation has been provided by many over a long period.  There have been several "Walk against warming" events over the last decade which demonstrated public support for real action on climate change.

The Australian Climate Action Summit in 2009 called for Labor's fatally compromised CPRS to be ditched, and for investment to be directed towards 100% renewable energy.  Both these objectives have now been met:
  • The Greens opposed the CRPS and it was voted down.  
  • The Clean Energy Future package that has just been voted for is greatly superior to it, and includes significant funds for investing in clean energy.   
Here is an interesting quote from Crikey:

Pretty much all the innovations in the package are Greens ideas, the fundamental one being targets recommended by the Climate Change Authority and the big renewables funds with independent boards determining how the money should be spent. And the expanded Productivity Commission role in immediately reviewing compensation to emissions intensive trade-exposed industries. And the Australian Energy Market Operator will include scenario planning for 100% renewable energy. Four key advisers - Milne policy adviser Oliver Woldring, Bandt spinner Damien Lawson, powerful Bob Brown chief-of-staff Ben Oquist and Milne media adviser Tim Hollo - were at the centre of the negotiations.

This would not have happened but for the people in Melbourne who voted Green for Adam Bandt and for the Greens in the Senate in 2010.

And this would not have happened without broad public support and a long history of community pressure to steer us away from a fossil fuel-addicted economy towards a clean green renewable energy-based economy.  So lets celebrate!

But this is only one step.  The next one should be to immediately protect Australia's native forests from logging and allow them to restore their carbon stocks. This alone could reduce Australia’s emissions by 5%.

The benefits of a minority government will be further demonstrated when Labor's ridiculous, inhumane and very expensive legislation for offshore processing of asylum seekers will be voted down later this week.

External links

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A 4 week nightmare with Telstra

I was convinced by a door-to-door salesman about a month ago to move our home phone and Internet to Telstra after 10 years on Optus.

He assured me the cable Internet was very fast and very reliable.  Unfortunately, Telstra and their cable Internet are not.

If you are thinking of moving to Telstra, I recommend you don't.

If they don't sort their mess out, they will lose most of their customer base and the business will continue to decline.  Let's hope they wake up before end-game.

Below is a summary of a letter I sent the David Thodey, the Telstra CEO, advising him of our tales of woe.

David Thodey
Chief Executive Officer
Telstra Corporation Ltd
242 Exhibition Street Melbourne VIC 3000

Dear Mr Thodey,

I wish to express my extreme dissatisfaction with my recent dealings with Telstra.  I recently moved back to Telstra on a "cap bundle" after 10 years on Optus.

Over the last 4 weeks I have spent more time on the phone (over 10 hours) to Telstra than I spent with Optus over 10 years.

  • Major issues getting Internet service provided.  It took over 12 days and several telephone calls to get it connected, even though it was part of a "bundle".
  • I rang the Complaints Department and lodged a complaint that I was without the Internet for a 10 day period, and that scheduled commitments were not met.
  • The Internet connection was the booked for next door, which a required another phone call to Telstra and further rescheduling.
Ongoing dropouts not resolved
  • Over the next week, we experienced several drop outs, and spent hours on the phone talking to various people in the Call Centres
  • A couple of time I was able to restore the service, but it was running very slow with DNS timeouts, then dropping out again.
  • Several more phone calls, then technicians came twice and said "there was no signal in the street", then it started working.  But they did not log a problem with the network department.
  • I lodged another complaint, then got another modem.  The problems appeared to be fixed. 
More service disruption
  • The Internet then functioned OK for about a week and was OK, but still not fast.  
  • Working from home, the Internet dropped out again. I couldn't restore it by resetting the modem.
  • Further lengthy calls to Telstra, more diagnostics (turn modem off, reset it, reboot PC etc) which did not fix the problem.   I lodged another complaint about the service and lack of problem resolution.
Backup Telstra Wifi Modem failed and not replaced.
  • The Telstra Wifi Modem I had for backup Internet also failed - I could not connect to it via wifi.  After more diagnosis over the phone they told me what I told them - that the wifi connection was not working.
  • Telstra Camberwell said they had no technician there so they couldn't do anything. I told them I had been advised by the call centre that the modem would be replaced.  They said they would have send it to Sydney to get it looked at, and they could not give me a replacement until this happened.  They gave me a loan USB modem, which does not work.
Service restored, but widespread problems apparent in suburb
  • Another Service Stream technical came and after fiddling with the modem as able to get it working again.  
  • He said there was (still) a weak signal in the street, and the network people would need to look at it (apparently the same problem I reported about 2 weeks ago).  He said the there were also problems impacting Surrey Hills, Canterbury and Camberwell.
  • Telstra complaints told me that may complaint yesterday was "not recorded as a complaint" despite my specific request for it to be.
  • I advised the previous complaints manager that  I was completely frustrated by Telstra's appalling customer service, inability to provide a  basic Internet connection service, and inability to resolve problems, and that I was changing to another provider for the phone and Internet.  Telstra them offered to not change us exit or cancellation fees.
Network techs visit for the first time
  • Advised me that "the readings were too high and the hub in the street was out of alignment and needed adjustment, and once that was done the service would be restored".  And it was.  Hallelujah.  They had only just been notified of a problem!
  • The next day another Network tech came and replaced the box/plate in the street outside are residence, and the speed improved.  He was capable and friendly.
  • I was contacted by a new Case Manager who apologised for all the delays and hassles and said that David Thodey and received my letter and that steps would be taken to resolve the service and escalation problems I had encountered.  
  • I advised that we have decided to move to another phone and Internet provider (iiNet) as we have little faith that Telstra will be able to provide ongoing reliable Internet or resolve any future problems.
Telstra must be spending an excessive amount on foreign Call Centres and complaints staff to deal with ongoing occurrence and escalation of service issues that are not resolved.

As a Telstra shareholder, I consider this to be gross mismanagement of the company.  Telstra has been unable to provide me with a basic functional Internet service, and the customer service has been extremely poor.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Campbell.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Politics and right-wing Tea Party holds United States and the world hostage

The budget negotiations just about to conclude in the United States is another example on how Western democracies are failing.

Essentially, the right wing Tea Party faction of the Republicans adopted an ideological position and refused to support any increase in the debt ceiling for the United States government.  They locked the entire Republican party into a position where they were basically not negotiating.

In doing so, the held a metaphorical gun at President Obama, the United States economy and the global economy.  This was a very dangerous game of brinkmanship with potentially very serious consequences.

Who were they "democratically representing" with their actions?  Clearly not a majority of Americans, and clearly not the rest of the world.  To me this is more evidence of the end of the world as we know it.

The deal is not yet done, but here is my take on the current positions:

Spending cuts (first round):  Immediately spending cuts of $US917 billion dollars between 2012 and 2021, in the form of caps on discretionary spending. These cuts come from funding authorised at will by Congress - not from entitlements such as Social Security and the Medicare health care program for the elderly.  

If this means the homeless are not disadvantaged, and unemployment benefits are not affected, this appear to be reasonable.

Spending cuts (second round): A special committee in Congress is established - evenly divided between Obama's Democratic Party and Boehner's Republican Party - to find $US1.5 trillion in further cuts from all areas.   The committee is required to come up with proposals by November 23. Both the House of Representatives and Senate would then vote on those proposals by December 23, in up-or-down decisions in which lawmakers would not be able to make amendments.  If the committee process fails, then cuts of $US1.2 trillion would automatically come into force -- divided evenly between military and non-military spending, but not touching Medicare and Social Security.  The Congressional Budget Office said that the total package would result in at least $US2.1 trillion in deficit reduction by 2021 compared with March 2011.

No amendments to proposals is not democratic.  The special committee has extraordinary powers.

Debt ceiling: An increase in the debt limit by between $US2.1 and $US2.4 trillion is authorised. The United States hit its current ceiling of $US14.3 trillion on May 16 and will start running short of cash at midnight Tuesday (2pm AEST on Wednesday).   This covers US debt until the start of 2013 - a key goal for Obama who wants to avoid a similar showdown with Congress during his re-election bid next year.

This represents a win for Obama.

Defence spending:  Cut $US350 billion in defense spending over the next 10 years as part of the first batch of cuts. The special committee would look at further cuts.  The US military budget last year was around $US700 billion, by far the largest in the world, but the figure is certain to come down as the United States winds down commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Republicans have argued against steep defense cuts, saying there is insufficient thought on the strategic implications.  Republicans have vowed to resist steep defense cuts in the special committee. The White House hopes the threat of the automatic cuts if the committee fails - which would amount to $US600 billion - would serve as leverage to press Republicans on the panel.

This is the first major battleground.  Essentially, there will be some reduction in the extremely high defense expenditure - which is the most signficant budget item - but Republicans want it maintained.

Taxes: The package would not increase taxes, a key Republican demand. Liberal Democrats have been strongly critical, saying that the United States should not consider major spending cuts at a time of a weak economy without also raising revenue.  The White House said that Obama could still fight to restore tax rates on wealthy Americans - bringing in nearly $US1 trillion in revenue. Obama's Republican predecessor George W. Bush lowered the taxes on the wealthy but the cuts are set to expire at the end of 2012.  Democrats have also said that the special committee could propose to raise revenue by cutting subsidies to the oil and gas industries, but Republicans have rejected the idea.

This is the second major battleground.  Essentially, Republicans want to protect wealthy people from tax increases, while the Democrats want to be increase their taxes.  Quite clearly, wealthy people can afford to pay more tax.

Constitutional amendment. The package calls for Congress to vote by the end of the year on an amendment to the US Constitution that requires a balanced budget, a long standing proposal of conservative Republicans who say the country must keep its finances in order. If Congress approves the amendment, Obama would be authorised to seek another $US1.5 trillion hike in the debt ceiling.  Many Democrats argue that the amendment is a gimmick that would not make sense in a future crisis. Amending the founding US document is an arduous process, requiring two-thirds votes by both the House of Representatives and Senate and ratification from legislatures of at least 38 of the 50 states.

A constitutional amendment for dealing with budgets?  Surely there are more pressing issues?

Education: The bill preserves President Barack Obama's initiative to help needy students. So-called Pell Grants provide up to $US5550 to students who would not otherwise be able to afford university attendance.  The plan provides $US17 billion for the program in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. But the blueprint also cuts $US21.6 billion between 2012 to 2021 from student loans, in part by eliminating a subsidy that allows graduate students to defer payment while still in school.

Hitting students with more financial imposts is surely not a good thing.  Its amazing how the lowest paid and most vulnerable and needy people in America are neglected for targeted for "spending cuts" yet the wealthy sail on regardless.

In conclusion.

This deal looks certain to further increase the divide between the wealthy and lower income sections of American society, with little or no input from the American public.

Borrowing costs will go up when the United States looses its AAA credit rating, and share markets around the world have fallen and are in turmoil due to the uncertainty this process has caused.

The Republicans are playing a game of Russian roulette with the entire world.

External links

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We need to transition from coal to 100% renewable energy

An open letter to Michael O'Brien MP, Minister for Energy and Resources, Victorian Government


I was very surprised to hear you on 774 radio on Monday 11/7 advocating the continued burning of Victoria's brown coal as the energy source for our future.  We need to transition form coal to renewable energy over the next two decades to reduce our very high carbon emissions associated with stationary energy.

A transition to gas is not desirable either - as it is just another fossil fuel.

Spending public money on CCS is not justified either - the technology is unproven and will be very expensive.

We need to invest in 100% renewable energy technologies that are available now - such as concentrated solar energy with molten salt storage, and wind power.


Peter Campbell

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why do we lock up asylum seekers?

There are two answers to this question, and neither of them are nice.

1. We lock them up in mandatory detention as a deterrent to others.

2. For political reasons.

Why should we NOT lock them up?

It is a breach of human rights.
They have done nothing wrong.
Prolonged incarceration causes psychological damage
It is inhumane.
It is very expensive.
It portrays a very negative view of Australia.

In Australia, there is bipartisan support for mandatory detention between the Labor party and the Liberal/National coalition.  But they spend a lot of time scoring "political points" off each other on issues like how many boats are coming and how tough their respective policies are.

This is immoral and wrong.  It just should not be happending in a society that calls itself civilised.

Australia has had waves of immigration, both "legal" and refugees, including Greeks, Turks, Hong Kong Chinese, Italians, Vietnamese (many in boats) to name a few.

Claims that asylum seekers are a "border security issues" and are "terrorists" have emanated from some Australian politicians.  This polarises public opinion and slanders hapless asylum seekers, who of course have no right of reply from behind the razor wire.

We should simply allow asylum seekers to live within our society, assess their claims, and send the cheats home.  It is time our politicians stopped grandstanding and breaching human rights and international conventions.  

We need leadership on this issue, not gutter sniping and political trench warfare.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

All Victorians must have equal protection from discrimination under Victorian Equal Opportunity laws

Below is an open letter I have sent to Robert Clark, my local member of parliament, about the Baillieu governments alarming intention to provide permanent exemptions that will allow some religious organisations to discriminate against Victorians.

You can sign and online petition about this, and send an email to your local MP from the Equal Rights Victoria website.


Dear Robert

I am contacting you to express my strong objection to the Liberal government’s intention to strengthen the rights of religious organisations and individuals to discriminate against and abuse others who don’t agree with them.

I fully endorse people’s right to freedom of religious thought, worship and practice. However this does not mean that religious individuals and organisations should therefore have the right to impose their beliefs on others who don’t agree with them - particularly when this occurs in non-religious/mainstream or secular settings.

It is appropriate that people with religious beliefs be able to say who can or cannot join their congregation or attend one of their religious ceremonies or be appointed as a priest/ pastor etc. However when a religious organisation or individual is engaged in the provision of things such as education, health, welfare or commercial/retail services, they should have to comply with the anti-discrimination laws in the same way that everyone does.

To give religious people and organisations additional legal privileges and protections over other groups in society is totally against notions of fairness and social justice. It also goes against all efforts to create and maintain a society in which citizens welcome diversity and understand that although we all have human rights, we also have responsibilities to respect the equal rights of others. It is absurd that a government would excuse or pardon one groups’ discrimination against others just because it was done of the basis of their particular spiritual beliefs.

By strengthening the exemptions in the Equal Opportunity Act, major harm will continue to be inflicted on the health and wellbeing of significant numbers of the population. For example, there would be some 500,000 individuals in Victoria that identify as same sex attracted and research clearly shows higher rates of depression, anxiety, self harm and suicide attempts amongst these citizens (especially young people). This is not the result of anything arising from their sexual orientation but the direct impact of isolation, discrimination and abuse they experience in the community. Religious belief is often used as the justification/explanation for such discrimination.

As my local member of parliament I urge you to take steps to stop the unequal and unfair endorsement of additional privileges and rights for religious individuals/organisations in this state’s human rights law.

Robert, I believe it is very important that all Victorians be treated equally and protected against discrimination.


Peter Campbell

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Fast Trains for Australia

Below is a letter I have sent to Victorian Senators Kim Carr (Labor), Stephen Conroy (Labor), Steve Fielding (Family First), Gavin Marshall (Labor) using this website: Fast Trains for Australia


It's time Australia invested in a high speed rail on the East Coast corridor (linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne).

The existing rail services between Australia's major cities are slow, infrequent, and can be more expensive than air travel!  They are also slower than bus services.

The aviation industry is responsible for 3.5% of anthropogenic cimate change (IPCC), while average passenger kilometres are increasing by 5% each year. We cannot afford for aviation to continue expanding. But we do want to travel between our cities!

Aside from the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, road congestion already costs Australia $10 billion a year. And Australia's population is expected to increase to 26.7 million by 2026 and 36 million by 2056.

Modelling indicates it would cost around $13 billion to build the corridor today, but if it's put off it the cost could balloon to $57 billion by 2030.

High-speed rail is being rolled out in countries across Europe, the US and Asia as a way to link up major cities, reduce congestion and battle pollution.

Please know that we Australians want to get with the program!

Yours sincerely,
Peter Campbell

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why did Julia Gillard rule out a carbon tax last year?

During the "cut and thrust" of a close Australian federal election campaign in 2010, Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister said something remarkable.

The election was characterised by the usual claims and counter claims about a variety of the "usual issues" such as health, education, the economy, taxation and budget deficits.  There was also contention about some tentative Government policies designed to help us move to a low-carbon future such as the poorly implemented and managed home insulation scheme, green loans and solar panel rebates.

Climate change was the elephant in the room.  The Labor government's previous attempt to push through an Emissions Trading Scheme (the CPRS) had failed for two main reasons:
  • The Liberals broke their bipartisan support for it when Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader.  Abbott's basic position was a mixture of denial that climate is happening and obscure objections to the proposed market-based mechanism for limiting carbon pollution.
  • The Greens and other independents did not support the CPRS because they judged it was far to generous to the big polluters and would not have been effective in reducing carbon pollution.
Kevin Rudd, who was prime minister at the time, lost his nerve and didn't call a double dissolution election on this issue.  Instead he back-flipped and delayed the introduction of the CPRS, an action that he had strongly criticised the Liberals for during the 2007 Federal election campaign.  The so-called "gang of four" - Julia Gillard (Deputy PM), Wayne Swan (Treasurer) and Linsday Tanner (Finance) along with Kevin Rudd collectively agreed to go soft on climate change.

Julia Gillard then rolled Kevin Rudd and became the prime minister in the run up to the election.  She was supported by some strong factional players, including Paul Howes (secretary of the Australian Workers Union), who has subsequently stated that "climate change policy must not cost a single worker's job".

Back to the question.  Tony Abbot was running (and still is) an effective misinformation campaign about climate change and carbon pricing that Labor party campaign people felt was getting significant traction with voters.  He was claiming that the CPRS was a "great big new tax" and that Labor would bring in a carbon tax.

With the failure of the CPRS (ETS), a carbon tax was the only quick and effective means of pricing carbon pollution left.  It was worthy of immediate consideration.  However, Julia Gillard specifically ruled it out in the closing weeks of the election campaign by stating "there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead".  

I thought at the time that this was an ill-considered statement designed to take the wind out of Tony Abbott's sails.  In short, political considerations during the election campaign ruled out a viable policy option that had been suggested and endorsed by Professor Ross Garnaut, the government's own advisor on climate change policy.

Fast forward to 2011.  To form a minority government, Julia Gillard had to gain the support of the Greens and two out of the three lower house independents.  Part of the deal was formation of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee.  The Liberals and Nationals, still stuck in a degree of climate change denial,  "spat the dummy" and refused to participate.  The others on the committee, a mix of Labor, Greens and independent MPs, resolved during 2011 that a carbon tax was indeed a valid and effective mechanism for pricing carbon.

Julia Gillard is now been constantly and relentlessly criticised by the Liberal National coalition for breaking her promise about never introducing a carbon tax.   Yes, she made a stupid promise.  However, a price on carbon is one essential measure for reducing carbon emissions.  But it is only one of many needed.  

It is also subject to the same corruptive influence that fatally compromised the CPRS - industry groups lobbying for special consideration, financial assistance and low carbon tax price - which of course means they just keep polluting.  The fact that many large industry players are opposing the carbon tax is a good thing.  We need to curb excessive profits reaped from carbon pollution and transition to a lower carbon economy.

The proposed carbon pricing mechanism is not even actually a tax.  It is set price on carbon that is likely to only apply to the top 100 listed companies in Australia, which could face an annual carbon cost of $3.3 billion if the government imposes a $25 per tonne price on carbon.

Low income households are already suffering from large increases in their energy bills without a carbon price.  Part of the proceeds of the carbon price will be directed to compensating them for their energy costs so they will end up better off when the carbon price is in place.

Along the journey to carbon price, presumably in response to some agitation by industry and some right-wing unions such as the AWU, Julia Gillard also decided to criticise the Greens at the Gough Whitlam oration in April 2011 with the following statements: 

"The Greens wrongly reject the moral imperative to a strong economy. The Greens have some worthy ideas and many of their supporters sincerely want a better politics in our country. 

"They have good intentions but fail to understand the centrepiece of our big picture - the people Labor strives to represent need work.

"And the Greens will never embrace Labor’s delight at sharing the values of everyday Australians, in our cities, suburbs, towns and bush, who day after day do the right thing, leading purposeful and dignified lives, driven by love of family and nation."

This is just more nasty, spiteful and divisive poll-driven politics. It demonstrates a basic failure of leadership by Julia Gillard and alienates a lot of people who voted for Labor either directly or via their preferences with the expectation they would deliver real action on climate change. 

The right wing media in Australia - most notable the Murdoch press including the Australian and the Herald Sun - jumped on these comments and have embarked on their own campaign to attack the Greens, Labor and any sort of price on carbon.  They are clearly in the thrall of large polluting industries who don't want to change, and are aligned with and supporting the Tony Abbott-lead conservative opposition in this regards.  This is not news - it is ill-informed opinion, and a public relations smear campaign.

A carbon price in excess of $50 per tonne is required to shift investment decisions towards renewable energy rather than natural gas.  A lower carbon price will result in a massive investment shift from coal-fired power to gas-fired power.  Unfortunately, while gas is more efficient than coal as an energy source, it will still produce huge quantities of carbon emissions.  I predict that the Gillard Government will announce a carbon price of $15 per tonne, which would be an abject failure.

So in summary, the broad policy measures we need to tackle climate change include:
  • A carbon price on pollution in the range of $50 to $100 per tonne. 
  • 7 star national building energy ratings.  Our current state standards are lame and a dog's breakfast.
  • Mandatory energy efficiency standards for appliances in line with european standards
  • A national feed-in tariff  to boost investment in large scale 100% renewable energy such as wind and concentrated solar
  • Standard distributed local solar energy production plants of remote communities - possible based on the CSIRO parabolic solar dish system
  • Major investment in low-carbon public transport systems in both city and rural areas.  This should be mostly rail systems powered by electricity
  • Local low-carbon water storage and conservation measures such as rainwater tanks and urban storm water collection to avoid the construction and use of massive energy guzzling desalination plants.
  • Protect Australia's remaining old growth forests to keep the carbon they store safe, and allow logged forests to regrow and sequester more carbon.  Shift all timber production to plantations.
Unfortunately, or political system and leaders seem to be mired is a sideshow prize fight about only one issue - a price on carbon.  

Gillard is bad, but Abbott is worse.  His plan to hand about billions of our money (yours and mine) to large corporates without any tangible or effective carbon emissions resulting is a complete sham.

Both Gillard and Abbott really need to lift their game.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oil price rises and natural calamities threaten the global economy

It is interesting to note the effect of oil price rises and natural disasters on the global economy, and Western economies in particular.

Three recent examples are:
  • The 2011 Australian floods
  • Increased oil prices due to unrest and regime change in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly the civil war in Libya
  • The devastating Japanese earthquake of 11 March 2011

Oil price rises put immediate pressure on items like:
  • Retail expenditure - household disposable income drops when fuel prices rise and people stop spending
  • Inflation - price rises effectively devalue the currency
  • Increase transport costs - leading to an increase in business costs and price rises for many other good and products, including food.
  • A negative impact on exporters
In summary, higher oil prices act as a brake on global economic growth.  This may not be a bad thing as unlimited growth is clearly not sustainable.

However, it seems that governments and policy makers are not dealing with the reality of peak oil, rising oil prices and transitioning to the low-oil and low-carbon economies we need to cope with depletion of fossil fuels and emission reductions to help combat climate change.

Petrol has reached around AUD $1.50 a litre in Australia.

What will the impacts be when it reaches $3.00, then $5.00, and eventually $10.00 a litre?  Very serious, it would appear.

Australia's oil and gas industry is worth $28 billion in the 2009-2010 year.  We would be better off spending a large proportion of this money on transitioning to sustainable transport and energy use.

The devastating Japanese earthquake of 11 March 2011 has caused jitters throughout the global economy.  While the earth quake is not associated with climate change, it demonstrates how disruptive natural calamities can be.

It is clear that we should reduce carbon emissions locally and globally to help reduce or prevent events linked by science to climate change such as floods, droughts and bushfires.

External links

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Libya: No-Fly Zone

Dear United Nations Security Council delegates,

I call on you to take immediate steps to impose a no-fly zone under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to stop the aerial bombings of civilians in Libya and restore access for humanitarian flights to Libyan air space.

Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed in Libya be stopped.


Peter Campbell

You can send the United Nations a letter about this here: http://www.avaaz.org/en/libya_no_fly_zone_1/?cl=974061205&v=8575

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Tropical cyclone Yasi - Australia's worst cyclone?

Tropical cyclone Yasi is bearing down on far north Queensland.  The forecast predictions are for conditions that may be the worst (strongest) ever cyclone to impact Australia.  The cyclone has been upgraded to Level 5  - the  highest.

My thoughts are with FNQ friends.  Stay safe folks.

Cyclone Yasi details:
  • 500km wide
  • 200km eye
  • 7m storm surge expected
  • 1000m rainfall expected
  • Landfall just south or Cairns expected, 1am on Thursday 3 Feb 11
Here is the wind forecast, as at 10am Wed 2 Feb 2011
  • Maximum winds to 115 knots near the centre.
  • Winds above 64 knots within  30 nautical miles in northern semi-circle and within 50 nautical miles in southern semi-circle with phenomenal seas.
  • Winds above 48 knots within 90 nautical miles in northern semi-circle and within 130 nautical miles in southern semi-circle with very rough to high seas and heavy swell
  • Winds above 34 knots within 190 nautical miles in northern semi-circle and within 280 nautical miles in southern semi-circle with rough to very rough seas and moderate to heavy swell.
Here are some selected forecast diagrams and charts, all derived from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology unless otherwise credited.

Pressure chart - 0800 Wed 2 Feb 11

Pressure chart - 0200 Thursday 3 Feb 11

Sea Level pressure chart prognosis

National weather radar as at 01/02/11 21:40

Satellite photo - NASA Modis Rapid Response
Enhanced satellite image.  Source www.goes.noaa.gove
This is another example of an extreme weather event - of which scientists such as Graeme Pearman (ex CSIRO), Barrie Pittock (ex CSIRO) and David Karoly (University of Melbourne) have been warning will increase in both frequency and severity, due to climate change.

This is more evidence that we need a fund for addressing the catastrophic effects of climate change - such as floods, bushfires and cyclones, rather than just a one year "flood levy" just announced by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

External links

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Grand Prix support continued by Baillieu Liberal government

Melbourne has hosted the Australian Grand Prix car race since 1996.  The race moved to Melbourne from Adelaide under the then Kennett Liberal government.  At the time, there was much controversy about the financial benefits of the race at the time, and the environmental and social impacts of holding it on a street circuit around Melbourne's Albert Park lake.

Subsequent Bracks and Brumby Labor governments continued to provide unconditional support for the race.  The Victorian government has consistently refused to disclose the amount of public money provided to race organisers and promoters.  It is in the range of tens of millions of dollars.

Successive governments have also claimed that the benefits to Melbourne and Victoria outweigh the costs, but have provide no evidence of this.

This is public money, so the public has the right to know how it is spent, and on what basis.  Hiding this expenditure is simply not acceptable.

It is therefore very disappointing that the recently elected Baillieu government has chosen to continue funding the Grand Prix, holding it on the Albert Park circuit, and to also withhold the information on public money spent on the race.

This is after Ted Baillieu's claim to provide "transparent and good government".

Successive governments have simply failed to assess public opinion on this issue.  Majority community opinion remains untested, and our democratic system has failing to provide and opportunity for anyone to vote on this matter.

We need a plebiscite on this issue now.

125 scientists condemn basis for "alpine grazing trial"

A letter to Robert Clark (MP), Ted Baillieu (Premier), Ryan Smith (Minister for Environment and Climate Change), Peter Walsh (Minister for Agriculture and Food Security)

Robert, Ryan, Peter and Ted,

I note that 125 scientists have now stated that your the "trials of alpine grazing to test bushfire mitigation" lack scientific integrity.   This includes 11 professors and nine associate professors.

The also state, correctly, that government has potentially broken federal environment (EPBC) law.

As per my previous correspondence, this pre-emptive and ill-considered move is bad for everyone other than a few select families (about 12 I think).

It is also quite obvious to all that cattle don't eat eucalyptus trees or leaf litter, and any "trampling effect" is negligible.

Your government should act for the people, and base decisions on good practice and good process.  Re-introducing cattle to National Parks under a sham pretext fails on all these counts.

I urge you to reconsider this action immediately.

Regards, Peter

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Strategies for dealing with Queensland and Victorian floods

Here is a post I put on Facebook recently, and the comments  it attracted.   It is interesting to note divergent opinions on the responsibilities of state governments and developers.

It is however very clear that a lot of homes have been built on areas known to be subject to regular flooding, with little or no effective measures to protect the.

What about marking the highest water levels of recent floods then elevating houses on posts above this where possible (e.g. up to say 4-5m max height above ground level) and consider carefully what to do about the rest. Perhaps they should be rezoned as high flood risk and residents assisted to relocate to higher ground?

15 Jan 2011

Glenn It seems that developers have the final say on what land is to be developed. They are in the business of making money. If they can get away with building houses on flood prone land then they will. They call it capitalism. I call it greed.

Kieran When it comes to developers, everyone calls it GREED.

Peter Campbell Yes, its greed. But what is the cost? At around $10b+ for the Queensland floods, this money would be better spent preventing future flood impacts and another $10b+ costs for the next flood(s). Governments should regulate this.

Heather What has happened in Aust, Brazil, Sri lanka,Bangladesh etc is tragic -but now wait for class actions in negligence against developers and those issuing planning and building permits,particularly by those with insurance probs.The one positive to come out of this situation is that finally authorities are realising that the statistics haven't lied-what all of us have known for 20 years-climate change is happening and proactive preparations need to be undertaken to ensure that societies are protected as best they can be.Smart developers will realise this and develop accordingly.

Simon Developers fault? Developers greed? What? It is a failure of regulation and politicians...the developers can only do what they are allowed to so to blame them is simply ignoring (or absolving) the real issue that it is a failure of government. And after our recent decade long experience in Victoria it also isnt a simple political 'left' or 'right' wing issue either...it comes down to the morals and values of those who set policy.

Harriett Many Brisbane residents were offered buy-backs of their property by the council and they refused.

Danny Developers aren't passive victims of government regulations. Developers in Australia regularly suborn local and state governments and get zoning regulations overridden or modified to suit them. Half the problem with the "morals and values of those who set policy" comes from corruption, in which property developers have a starring role.

Simon ‎" Developers in Australia regularly suborn local and state governments " No, they may 'attempt' to but if they succeed it is due to those that allow it to happen!! The kind of thinking that says it is all the ‘big bad property developer’ is the real problem as we are not making the policy and regulation makers responsible for their actions!! All vested interest groups try and influence and sway policy, the greens certainly do, as do the pro lifers etc. etc. So the issue is with the policy makers and regulators and it is they who need to be held accountable…to do otherwise (and/or blame the vested interest group trying to sway them) is to absolve them of the very responsibility they should be held to account for.

Danny Problems with the political process can't be separated from the rest of society. It's not a coincidence that the most corrupt and least transparent countries in the world also have massive levels of wealth and income inequality. We need to regulate corruption at _both_ ends, by coming down on the people who pay bribes as well as those who take them.

Tom Wrong Simon. 4 years at Waverley Council says you are wrong, wrong, wrong and talking through your hat as well. The donors control the govt who monster the local councils, and the NSW EP&A Act - you could drive a B double through it - and take over planning controls when it doesn't work. Latest example is state govt sell out of Wagga Wagga planning to smear campaign of the developers.

Michael "Transparent Ted" is a property developer by trade isn't he. Maybe he'll make everyone relocate to Dinner Plain, with all the cattle?

Peter Campbell I thought the "other John Howard" in Sea Change was an accurate simile of real life. He wdas busy flogging off Porpoise Spit to Japanese Developers (pre Japan's recession), and ramming through developments regardless of local and environmental impact. In our society, money buys votes, and developers pressure councils and even get their candidates onto them. I agree with Danny, about taking action against bribe takers and givers. Lets see if the anti-corruption commission deals with this.

Simon I agree with Danny too...as the politicians set the process then so to they need to set the standard, leaders set the standards not society. Every time a person says no to being lobbied, coerced or worse they set a higher standard and challenge the (sad) theories of the like who say it is all the nasty developers/donors and nobody else has any power...bollocks, if the NSW govt. grew some stones, if the local govt. wouldn’t be bullied then the issues of Tom's concern wouldn’t occur. That they do is an indictment on those who allowed it. Leadership starts from the top down. If we follow the logic of the power is all with the donor/developer etc. then the Greens are now at the behest of their political donor?? I would like to think not...

Simon Agree Peter, we do need adequate oversight and appropriate bodies to control these sorts of dubious and even fraudulent activities…but it will still come down to those who set the terms of reference and those who actually act/are appointed to those bodies to be moral centered. Sorry to bang on about it ;)

Heather Like Simon I have extremely strong views about the need for an anti-corruption commission which can deal with local govt and govt departments. Yes, I have had an unpleasant experience and all that I can say is thank goodness for the independence of VCAT!

External links