Saturday, December 22, 2012

Music from Queensland's far north

The CAM TV is an internet TV show showcasing Cairns Area Musicians. Cairns is a city in Tropical North Queensland, Australia and is a hot-bed of talented musicians. This show aims to showcase these musicians to the world and also publicise the Cairns area as a place to come to see great live music.
So-Called Skeptics Clinging To Slippery Strands Of Climate Science Denial (via Desmogblog)

This a guest post by Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, of the University of Western Australia. THE guy next to you in the pub turns around and says, “Popcorn doesn’t exist”... and he adds, “but it grows naturally on trees! And it’s good for you!” Popcorn doesn’t exist but grows naturally…

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Federal Govt gives massive subdivision at Ella Bay the green light

An idea of what will be developed with the blessing of state and federal government.......

 Meet the locals whose habitat could be now endangered....

The threat already imposed on the local wildlife without the pressure of extra traffic, people, dogs, cats etc.

WIN local news item
Satori Resorts Stage 1 plans

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vale Ken McKay

The Far North lost one of its finest singer-songwriters earlier this week with the sad passing of Ken McKay.

This is Ken's song, 'Christmas Time Up North'

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Crocodile culls won't solve crocodile attacks

Another article reposted from The Conversation that is pertinent to our part of the world also. The local media and politicians on several occasions have  tried to gee up public reaction over 'rogue' crocodiles around Cairns.

Crocodile culls won't solve crocodile attacks

By Grahame Webb, Charles Darwin University
There have been two fatal saltwater crocodile attacks on people in the Northern Territory (NT) in the last four weeks. Calls to “cull” the wild population of crocodiles have inevitably surfaced. More school children in the NT will be assigned projects aimed at assessing the arguments for and against culling. More tourists will learn about the NT through the media, and in a macabre twist, there will be an increase in tourist bookings.
There is no way of avoiding nor sugarcoating the predatory nature of saltwater crocodiles. If you dive off the Adelaide River bridge, 60 km east of Darwin’s city centre, and start swimming, there is 100% chance of being taken by a saltwater crocodile. It is not the same as swimming with sharks.
The central problem is that there are now a lot of crocodiles in the NT, and for many people the solution to the problem of crocodile attacks lies in reducing the number of crocodiles by culling. But it is not so simple.
For over four decades the crocodile population in the NT has been increasing, crocodile attacks have been occurring, and calls for culling have been raised. But politicians in the NT, where most crocodiles in northern Australia live, have not authorised a widespread cull.
Residents in the NT generally support that decision – although sometimes begrudgingly. Their decision has little to do with ecology, biology, Archesorial ancestry or the intrinsic value of crocodiles, which people such as myself hold dearly. It is because the public and politicians accept that the benefits of abundant saltwater crocodiles ultimately outweigh the costs.
Conserving wildlife that prey on people is one of the world’s great challenges. Most predators were historically eradicated as pests; if they had a valuable skin, well all the more reason to rid the world of them.

A valuable skin was a historically powerful incentive to eradicate crocodiles. In the NT it’s now an incentive to conserve. Grahame Webb

It was only as biological extinction loomed – the risk of losing the last one – that the net values changed. Positive values were attributed to avoiding extinction, and because attacks were rare or non-existent due to population depletion, the negative values had essentially disappeared.
But where predator conservation action is successful, the threat of extinction dissipates (along with the positive values attributed to overcoming it), and the negative values escalate as more and more attacks occur. Calls for action (culling) escalate and a political problem emerges. People have always seen themselves as having rights to be protected from marauding wild animals.
In the NT, depleted saltwater crocodile populations were protected in 1971. Since then the wild population has expanded some 20 times in abundance and 100 times in biomass. The role of competing “values” in paving the way for that recovery was recognised in the early 1980s and remains central to their management today.
Commercial use based on both ranching (collecting and selling wild eggs), and limited direct wild harvesting, is clearly biologically sustainable and allows landowners to benefit financially from the increasing number of crocodiles on their lands.
Crocodile farming, based largely on ranching (collecting and selling wild eggs), generates some $25 million per year in skin sales for the international high fashion industry and has extensive commercial flow-on effects in the community. Tourism, based on wild and captive crocodiles, is the mainstay of the “Top End” tourist industry.
Tourism is everyone’s business in the NT. It is the second largest industry and biggest employer of people. National and international documentaries and media attention on the NT’s successful crocodile management program is arguably the primary vehicle through which Top End tourism is promoted against competing destinations.
Against these positive values, associated with having abundant crocodiles, a refined public education program ensures residents and visitors are well-informed about “crocodile safety”. An active problem crocodile program is dedicated to trying to keep crocodiles extinct in Darwin Harbour, where most people live, and to removing individual crocodiles that cause problems in remote communities – thereby reducing negative values.
So there are areas in the NT where abundant crocodiles are favoured and appreciated, and areas where they are not. It is not a perfect system, but it has worked remarkably well. Widespread culling, with the general goal of reducing the total population in all areas, has not been implemented because it would come at a cost to those benefiting from having abundant crocodiles in most areas.

NT tourism in the ‘Top End’ would be nowhere without the croc. May Martin

Issues like “trophy hunting” are not about improving public safety, but rather about finding more ways in which landowners can gain more commercial returns from killing the same crocodile than they can do now to sell its skin.
Steadily improving the problem crocodile program, especially in Darwin Harbour, involves strategic culling at a level that does improve public safety – taking out every crocodile possible. A strong case may be made for eradicating saltwater crocodiles that move well-upstream, out of core areas, and become established in new areas from which they have not been known historically – an increasing risk to people.
Such management decisions, in the case of the NT, need to be made in the context of risk assessment within the NT. Pragmatism with crocodile management is a critical ingredient.
The idea that culling the wild population as a whole would help public safety may be true if the cull was very severe, and aimed at bringing the population back to the pre-protection levels. However, if the population was reduced by say one half: “which politician would say it is now safe to go back into the water?”.
It clearly would not be safe. Is it safer to see abundant crocodiles in a wetland, where swimming would not even be considered, or be lulled into a false sense of security by having a lesser number of more wary crocodiles?
Then there is the response to culling. It could stimulate an increase in the wild population, as occurred with caimans in Venezuela. It is crocodiles that are controlling the size of the wild crocodile population, and if the larger ones are selectively removed, the population could be expected to expand.
In any overview, selective culling has a role to play in the overall management of crocodiles, but is not the public safety panacea that it may superficially appear to be.
Grahame Webb has been funded by grants from ARC, RIRDC and others for crocodile research in wild and captive situations.
The Conversation
This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Landfill Harmonic - instruments from recycled materials

Short from a soon to be released film "Landfill Harmonic." The film introduces the town of Cateura, a slum in Paraguay built atop a landfill where residents have created music from the trash heaped upon them. Scouring the rubbish, the determined music-lovers have built violins, cellos, and other classical instruments, resulting in the "Recycled Orchestra."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Queensland shrugs off a clean energy future

An interesting insight into clean energy in Queensland, in particular, Far North Queensland.

Queensland presently has the lowest share of renewables in the National Electricity Market in terms of wind farms with just the 12 MW Windy Hill wind farm near Ravenshoe, compared to more than 1,200 MW of registered wind capacity in South Australia. The number of new wind projects proposed is minimal and some are faced with political resistance from locals such as the Mt Emerald proposal near  Walkamin on the Atherton Tablelands.
Queensland shrugs off a clean energy future

Monday, December 3, 2012

Australia risks repeating US mistakes on teacher bonus pay

An interesting article from The Conversation reprinted here:

By Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

Bonus payments for teachers based partly on student results put Australia at risk of following the US in encouraging educators to “game the system”, a US education expert has said.

The Australian government has introduced a new teacher assessment model under which teachers undergo annual performance reviews. Those who do well can apply for certification as a Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher. If they achieve certification, they will be eligible for a reward payment of $7500 or $10,000, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations said.

Teacher performance will be based on lesson observations, student results, parental feedback, and contribution to the school community, a departmental fact sheet said.

The government said the system is designed to reward good teachers but unions and some educators have decried it as unfair to include test results as a measure of teacher performance.

In his keynote address at the 2012 joint International Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education and the Asia Pacific Educational Research Association, Professor David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, warned against using student test scores to measure good teaching.

“Your Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is on board with other GERM (global education reform movement) advocates in wanting achievement test scores to be a part of teacher evaluations. And as I understand it, she will use those scores to provide bonuses to ‘high performers’ beginning in 2014,” he said.

“While the weight given to the test scores in the evaluations is presently low, I predict that the importance of the test scores in determining a ‘high performer’ will go up in the next few years, crowding out the other ways she hopes to measure effectiveness. I also predict that there will be increased gaming of the evaluation system by teachers and administrators, as now occurs in the USA.”

Professor Berliner gave the example of a study of Houston teachers that showed how teachers quickly learned to seek mid-level students or well-behaved middle class low achieving children, “because they are the ‘money kids’.”

“They are the ones that are likely to gain the most and get you a bonus. To be avoided like the plague, say these teachers, are English language learners and gifted students because they don’t show growth on the tests, and thus you could get fired or receive no bonus if you teach those kinds of students.”

The system also allowed principals to punish disliked teachers by ensuring that they get the students expected to show the least growth on test scores.

Professor Berliner decried what he described as “misplaced worship of numbers as seen in the Western countries that try to quantify teacher effects on students.”

Because test results can be influenced by so many factors, some teachers occasionally have a ‘bad year’ of results followed by a ‘good year’, even when their teaching methods or work ethic has not changed.

“The implications of these results for Gillard’s scheme are clear. The likelihood of a high performer really being one a year later is not as sure a bet as she thinks,” said Professor Berliner.

David Zyngier, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, echoed Professor Berliner’s sentiments.

“There is no robust evidence anywhere in the world that suggests that performance pay has increased teacher performance or enhanced student achievement. It only serves to act as a divisive instrument, a very blunt instrument in the staff room,” he said.

“It’s a way of shifting the blame downwards. Instead of resourcing our schools properly and equitably, let’s blame those people – teachers – who can least impact on disadvantage themselves.”

Underperfoming teachers should be treated the same way as an underperforming worker in any profession, by “giving them the tools to improve their work over a designated period of time” with consequences for those who fail to improve, he said.

“The whole notion of performance pay is part of this neo-liberal package, to try and control what our teachers are doing based on the assumption we cannot trust them to be left alone to do what they are well educated to do.”

Professor Barry McGaw, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne said nationwide tests such as the NAPLAN were useful but not as a method of assessing teacher performance.

“It makes sense for schools but not for individual teachers,” he said.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why we should pull the plug on privatising electricity

By Philip Soos, Deakin University

Surging power prices are having savage consequences for household discretionary incomes. Some would blame the government’s carbon tax, but the real culprit is price gouging. Judging from the pronouncements of government and industry — including mainstream economists — privatisation is the practical solution to achieve low prices. Indeed, Australian state governments have embarked upon privatisation programs to varying degrees since the 1990s.

There is only one small problem with privatisation: the long-term history of the electricity industry has shown it almost always leads to disaster. University of Wollongong professor, Sharon Beder, has provided the evidence in the book Power Play: The Fight to Control the World’s Electricity. It supplies much needed historical context to the battle between public and private ownership played out over more than one hundred years in the United States and Britain, and the last couple of decades in Australia, Brazil and India.

Beder shows throughout this history, industry practised the modern art of propaganda, conducting public relations blitzes to convince consumers private ownership was superior, despite public anger with poor service and unjust pricing. Although industry attempted to equate public ownership of electricity monopolies with communism, they had no principled dispute with monopolies as long as ownership, control, profits and decision-making were private.

Australian governments once wholly owned the four sectors comprising the electricity industry: generation, transmission (large networks), distribution (local networks), and retailers. These sectors have been split into competing firms and spun off.

The natural monopoly character of the electricity industry makes designing competition difficult. Generators have large fixed capital costs, meaning oligopolistic competition will feature. In transmission and distribution, duplicative infrastructure is wasteful and precludes competition. Retailers tend to follow the same oligopolistic pattern as generators (TRUEnergy, AGL and Origin Energy).

The National Electricity Market (NEM) was instituted to increase competition, but is beset with problems. For instance, the transmission losses over the interconnectors range from 40 to 90% and a powerful oligopolistic industry still dominates the market.

A primary argument for privatisation is the issue of moral hazard under public ownership. While this is certainly true, history has shown something rather interesting: privatisation instead enhances moral hazard. Firms will leverage their market dominance to often blackmail the government with bankruptcy and blackouts if regulators do not raise prices, thereby risking the wider economy.

Other times, firms will teeter on the brink of insolvency because of ill-informed decisions, usually over long-term capital investments that have never become profitable. Accordingly, firms pressure regulators to increase prices to cover sunk costs. An astounding fact revealed by Beder is that the electricity industry is one of the most bailed-out in history, perhaps second only to the banking sector.

These bailouts, however, do not generate the publicity that surrounds banking bailouts. It is often done on the sly, with regulators approving substantial price increases and governments providing massive taxpayer-funded subsidies and below market rate loans. Typically, years elapse before the public discovers the truth.

As Beder documents, privatisation almost always results in escalating electricity prices, even at times when total demand is falling. Rolling blackouts may also occur as rising prices don’t provide a market signal to increase generating capacity; firms instead turn off generators to ensure prices skyrocket, creating a positive feedback loop.

While raising prices in the short-term is indeed profitable for industry, in the long-term it has the potential to backfire. The reason is the emerging alternative electricity source for households: solar power. This has grown exponentially in recent years, as the cost of solar panels fell by an impressive 42% in 2011. Grid parity may be achieved soon when the cost of solar panels equals purchasing electricity from the grid.

The solar panel revolution threatens both the generating and network firms whose revenues and profits depend upon supplying increasing amounts of electricity. They are fighting back by making it difficult and costly to connect the solar panels to the grid as an anti-competitive strategy, which is probably the single most important issue regarding the installation of solar panels.

Publicly owned electricity systems are beset with their own problems. Cost-plus accounting is a “spend more, earn more” incentive, resulting in gold-plating (over-investment) in the network infrastructure, which obliges higher prices. Prices also increased ahead of privatisation so the government receives a higher return and ensures privatisation cannot be blamed for the inevitable rises. Pricing formulas based upon asset values ensure that the remaining publicly-owned systems act as private ones, increasing asset values and hence profits, regardless of whether it is necessary, again raising prices.

Unlike privatised firms, however, price gouging by public firms can return the profits (indirectly) to the taxpayer rather than to owners and managers. With public ownership, customers as citizens can influence the public policy process; privatisation neuters this lever.

The electricity industry has been purposely reshaped via neoliberal ideology from a system of public subsidy, public profit into public subsidy, private profit where risks and costs are socialised but profits and power are privatised. Industry today is like a restaurant menu: there are multiple retailers, offering a variety of plans and prices that appears to offer consumer choice.

Unfortunately, none of the options available include inexpensive electricity. Citizens and customers have no influence over how the menu is constructed; instead, they are offered the illusion of choice. The business model that retailers operate under is inefficient and does not serve consumers well. Also, industry works to silence those who speak out against it.

Much like the privatisation and deregulation of the financial sector that promised choice and efficiency according to pseudo-scientific economic models, it has instead resulted in endless financial disasters, coming after a period of apparent tranquillity. The costs to governments vastly exceed all the costs and problems of public ownership.

Economist Steve Keen has shown that the models used by economists to prove that electricity privatisation functions more efficiently are lacking due to three issues: a monopolistic industry structure may be more welfare enhancing than a competitive one, spot markets are subject to speculative volatility, and enforcing marginal cost pricing can potentially bankrupt firms. Neoclassical theory is biased towards market outcomes, but only due to the numerous nonsensical assumptions needed to make models “work” while ignoring the large body of empirical literature that show these models are false and misleading.

Economists advocating and devising privatisation programs are themselves beset with conflicts of interest. Many are employed by, consult for, manage, and/or own organisations with a direct interest in profiting from privatisation. Listening to the pronouncements of conflicted persons and organisations is similar to letting Big Tobacco determine the direction and outcomes of medical science.

When privatisation results in diametrically opposite outcomes to those claimed, supporters – governments, industry, think-tanks and the corporate media – offer an ad infinitum argument: the problems were caused by too little privatisation. It is only when the predations of industry become obscene, as with California’s energy crisis, will governments step in to deal with the problem.

Given the historical trends documented by Beder, it is likely that Australia’s privatised electricity industry will follow in the same direction as its historical counterparts. As Mark Twain observed, history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Philip Soos does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cairns FNQ Eclipse Links

Everything you need to know about next Wednesday's eclipse!

Australia’s Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region is the only place in the world where you can experience the full glory of earth’s total solar eclipse from 5.45am to 7.40am Eastern standard Time on Wednesday 14 November 2012.

Video streaming by Ustream
Excellent sites for information: Eclipse 2012 (includes live video links)   Eclipse 2012  Festival and links

Thursday, November 8, 2012

18th Crocodile Trophy on SBS

Enjoy the highlights of the 18th Crocodile Trophy on SBS Cycling Central  on November 11 at 5pm Sydney time - fantastic footage of the hardest, longest and most adventurous mountain bike race in the world -

That's Cycling Central TV, Sunday 5pm on SBS ONE and streaming online.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Madame Butterfly simulcast to all regional centres - except Cairns?

Who says Cairns lacks culture.

 "Audiences in Ayr, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Mackay, Maryborough, Rockhampton, Toowoomba and Townsville will have the opportunity to simultaneously experience this magnificent performance of Madama Butterfly, Puccini’s story of tradition, romance, yearning, and sacrifice, and one of Opera Australia’s most celebrated productions."

 But no Cairns??? More...
                             ABC 7:30 Report

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ken McKay benefit

A very special event has been set down for Thursday, November 22 (from 7:00pm) at the

Barron Valley Hotel in Atherton (there will be a $20 entry fee). Some of the finest local musicians will be performing in honour of Ken McKay, the region's finest singer-songwriter (in my professional estimation). As well as raising funds for Ken's battle with cancer, the event will pay tribute to a memorable career that has yielded classics like 'Bartalumba Bay' and 'Gloria'.

Tony Hillier :    The Ken McKay story

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sarus Cranes Atherton Tablelands

Apparently they are on the endangered list so it was good to see such a large number in one location on the way from Malanda to Atherton on the weekend.  Flocks of these birds can be seen up here at sunset at this time of the year, heading to wherever they go to roost (like Bromfield Swamp).

Sarus cranes are closely related to the Brolga and can often be seen together in flocks more here

Found this video of the fascinating Saurus crane courting ritual.

and some slightly smaller brolgas strutting their stuff....

Friday, October 12, 2012

Plans to change alcohol laws in communities

Article from 'The Conversation' by Peter d'Abbs
Professor of Substance Misuse Studies, Menzies School of Health Research at Menzies School of Health Research

The newly elected conservative governments in Queensland and the Northern Territory have opened the way to relaxing laws restricting access to alcohol in Aboriginal communities.

In Queensland, a number of observers including Aboriginal leaders Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton and Warren Mundine, have expressed their dismay and argued the case against plans to dismantle the restrictions, pointing to the high levels of alcohol-related violence and social dysfunction prevalent prior to the restrictions being introduced from 2002 onwards, and to evidence of improvements in areas such as assaults and school attendance.

Friday, October 5, 2012

East Trinity under pressure again

There is growing political interest in revisiting the proposal of developing the eastern side of Trinity Inlet. In fact there is a fanciful idea being put forward at the moment for the disposal of dredge spoil to reclaim the area for housing development. At this point it might pay to have a look at some important historical aspects of this area.

Catalyst: Saving Acid Wetlands - ABC TV Science
This link takes you to a Catalyst story from May 2011 regarding the work that has gone into reclaiming the wetlands as a nature reserve and the removal of acid sulphate soils.

Denis Walls of the Cairns Wetland Park committee 2011


The East Trinity Reserve:

"Some people have short memories. The East Trinity wetlands, which I and my colleagues have previously promoted for a 'Cairns Wetlands Park', is now a government owned protected area, was subject to a decade of debate and a supposedly final resolution adopted. A failed sugar cane enterprise resulted in a serious acid sulphate problem. Urban development was proposed by various developers and rejected by community and government. As a result the various decisions, the land was acquired from the developers by Government for a wetlands reserve and a world best practice acid sulphate remediation process was put in place. Now, through some bizarre twist, dumping of dredge spoil on the remediated wetlands is being claimed to have 'environmental (and economic) benefits'. The truth of the matter is that any proposal for land reclamation of the East Trinity wetlands can only be about development for there are no environmental benefits, only impacts. And the loss of an opportunity to establish a world class Cairns Wetlands Park as an environmental, educational and tourism facility on the doorstep of the CBD."
 Peter Hitchcock AM

Cairns based international environment and heritage consultant

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Moving Day - an Australian Short Film

Jason Wingrove is an internationally awarded freelance director of drama, documentary and short films as well as comedy and performance commercials.

Moving Day from Jason Wingrove on Vimeo.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Qld Government to force PV owners to sell ALL their electricity to retailers?

Found this article in the Climate Spectator.

Qld Government to force PV owners to sell all their electricity to retailers The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA), in a recently released issues paper, has suggested that solar PV owners only be paid the wholesale market value of electricity for ALL generation their systems produce.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Classy Cairns TV advertisements from long ago...

Special thanks to Rob Pyne. You know you must come close to qualifying as a Cairns local if you can remember the businesses, locations and the fashions in these old -and just a bit corny:-) - Cairns ads of yesteryear. Love those long white socks!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Her Rights at Work (R-rated) » The Looking Glass

Her Rights at Work (R-rated) » The Looking Glass The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister By Anne Summers AO Ph.D 2012 Human Rights and Social Justice Lecture University of Newcastle 31 August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Simulated flyover of Asteroid Vesta

And now for something completely different! A simulated flyover of the most intriguing landmarks on giant asteroid Vesta, as seen by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The Dawn spacecraft is planned leave Vesta around Sept. 4 after a 14-month stay at the 530km long asteroid. The journey to Ceres should take around 2.5 years, with Dawn reaching the dwarf planet in early 2015.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Talking Dog

A guy is driving around the back blocks of  Cape York and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house:-
'Talking Dog For Sale'

He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

'You talk?' he asks.

'Yep,' the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says 'So, what's your story?'

The Lab looks up and says, 'Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told ASIO.

In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.'

'I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running...

But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.'
'I got married, had a lot of puppies, and now I'm just retired.'

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

'Ten dollars,' the guy says.

'Ten dollars? This dog is amazing!

Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?'

'Because he's such a Bullshitter.

He's never been out of the yard'

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weddings Parties Anything

A Tale They Won't Believe  tells of an historical event of the 1820s. Alexander Pearce, a poorly behaved convict prone to escape attempts, was sent to Sarah Island for his transgressions. Located on the remote west coast of Tasmania, it was one of colonial Australia's worst penal settlements - and it wasn't long before the austere conditions and brutal workload drove Pearce to organise an escape with seven other convicts. As they moved inward through the thick and hostile mountain wilderness, unable to find or hunt food they resorted to murder and cannibalism, the weakest of the gang always falling prey to the others. Pearce was the last man standing and survived 'on the run' for some time - however he was recaptured, sent back to Sarah Island and once again participated in the cannibalisation of a fellow inmate. He was eventually hung in 1824.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Garden Bugs

As usual at this time of the year there is the daily patrol of the vegie patch looking for not so friendly insects. It's always a good idea to take the camera.

This birdwing chrysalis has finally hatched!
Looking very serious!
 Not sure if I should be worried about these guys.
 This fellow has a taste for white wine.
How many spots do the good ones have?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Views of the Earth like you've never seen!

Cairns 50 - 60+ years ago

I have seen this photograph before but I'm unable to acknowledge its source or the year it was taken (possibly pre World War 2) but it shows the area along the base of Mt Whitfield which is now of course the sprawling suburbs of Edge Hill and Whitfield. Redlynch Valley can be seen in the background.  I remember reading somewhere that there were large army camps established around this area during WW2.

More photographs can be found on The Pteropus Follow Me on Pinterest page.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Movie - Bimblebox

Movie Viewing today Sunday 22 July 5.30-7.30pm Urchins Rooms 2 and 3 Reef Hotel Casino, 35-41 Wharf Street, Cairns $10 cash donation at the door ($8 concession) [which will go to the campaign and costs of event] Bimblebox, the documentary, explores the huge Australian coal export industry from the grassroots up. The film features many prominent members of the debate against coal expansion in Australia including Guy Pearse (Global Change Institute), Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (University of Queensland) and Matthew Wright (Beyond Zero Emissions) and the music of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. More from

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creek beautification update

As can be seen here the creek easement beautification project is moving along nicely.
Also a great way to cut home reno costs by saving on Council dumping fees and creating a stunning view at the same time.

The CRC's contribution?

On the upside it is much quieter now since the kookaburras' ten year old termite nesting site was destroyed. There was however a faint call in the distance last night from an orange footed scrub fowl somewhere further down from ground zero. Your turn is coming.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Derelict North Head Manly ferry on Trinity Inlet

This retired Manly ferry which can be seen on the eastern side of Trinity Inlet will be turning 100 next year - hopefully.

Built as Barrenjoey (1913) at Morts Dock Sydney, the North Head serviced the Sydney-Manly route for over 70 years. More information about its colourful history and a picture of her in better days can be found HERE

Friday, July 6, 2012

Mission Beach Cassowary survives devastating cyclone – but not crossing the road

The cassowary population of Mission Beach, considered the highest in Australia, was estimated to be approximately 110 in 2007. Numbers are now down to about 40. Over 60 cassowary deaths have been recorded at Mission Beach due to vehicle strikes since 1992. Pic by Campbell Clarke (WTMA).
More from Rainforest Rescue:
Mission Beach Cassowary survives devastating cyclone – but not crossing the road

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Higgs Boson explained

Animation of a Higgs Field from The Conversation (with comments from the experts). 

As mind stretching as the concept may seem to be, here is a pretty good explanation from a CERN physicist. He has even prepared written notes for it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Article from "The Conversation" Tony Abbott cannot escape the international climate game

Tony Abbott cannot escape the international climate game

By Daniel Bray, La Trobe University

What’s in a name? Well, like “Montague” and “Capulet” in Shakespeare’s play, names matter quite a lot in the tribal world of Australian climate politics. The notion of a “carbon tax” has struck a raw nerve in the Australian public. It will be the rallying cry for the Opposition all the way to the next election.

But as Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott slug it out, we shouldn’t forget the international politics of climate change. International developments suggest Australia will need far-reaching climate policies no matter which party forms government in the next decade.

What remains of the Australian climate debate has descended into a desperate struggle for government between Labor and the Coalition. Abbott won the opening round in this fight by successfully framing Labor’s policy as a “carbon tax”.

This is how almost everyone talks about it today, even the Prime Minister, who promised she wouldn’t introduce one. The Government made a serious mistake when it allowed its carbon price to be painted as a “great big new tax on everything”. This simple rhetorical act now reminds everyone of Gillard’s “lie” whenever climate change enters the conversation.

But it should be remembered that international developments can have dramatic effects on Australian climate politics. Labor’s dire position can in large part be attributed to the perceived lack of progress in the international climate change negotiations. Kevin Rudd never really recovered from Copenhagen and its failure to produce binding post-Kyoto targets. The Australian public were largely with him on the carbon price until then.

The problem for democratic governments is that climate change politics is a two-level game. Leaders must simultaneously negotiate with domestic and international constituencies in order to produce climate change policies.

At the domestic level, the game involves listening to the concerns of the citizens and interest groups, assuaging their fears (often through compensation) and generally convincing them to support climate action. At the international level, the game involves crafting effective agreements that meet the needs of other countries but do not hurt groups at home.

This creates enormous political difficulties for democratic governments. Labor’s strategy thus far has been to tell the Australian public it is not leading the world, while at the same time trying to demonstrate to the world that it is leading.

This apparent contradiction arises because the Government must calm domestic fears that Australia is making itself economically uncompetitive by doing more than other countries, while also providing the leadership expected of rich countries given their historical responsibility for the problem and their superior capacity to fix it. The principle that rich countries like Australia should lead is enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is a key demand of developing countries.

Abbott will inherit this two-level game if he becomes the next Prime Minister. So far the Coalition hasn’t worried too much about the international context. This was understandable when the negotiations seemed dead. But since 2010, at least 89 countries have made non-binding pledges to limit GHG emissions, including China and India. Some commentators point out that non-binding targets are meaningless. But in December all countries agreed in Durban to be part of a legally binding treaty by 2015. Existing pledges will presumably be used as the basis of this global agreement.

This means that a future Abbott Government will have to negotiate a legally binding reduction to Australia’s carbon emissions in its first term. It might choose to play hardball and let the burden fall on other countries. This would put Australia in breach of its responsibilities under the UNFCCC. Australia would also be free-riding on the cuts of other countries, which is fundamentally unjust for a rich country and will damage our diplomatic relationships, particularly with the developing world. Australia would then be isolated in global climate change negotiations.

It is more likely that Abbott will be forced to do something. The Coalition has made a bipartisan commitment to a 5% reduction by 2020, rising to 15% or 25% if other countries act. If Abbott sticks with these targets, his $3.2bn direct action plan won’t do the trick. A larger and more comprehensive policy will be required for cuts of 15% or 25%.

At that point, the Coalition will be drawn to the most cost-effective policy option: a carbon price. Abbott might then have to sell a policy to the Australian public that he vehemently contested in opposition. To be successful, he will need to be a better salesman than Gillard. So you can be sure he won’t be calling it a “carbon tax”. But that which we call a carbon tax by any other name will still be a necessary feat.

Daniel Bray does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation
This article was originally published at The Conversation.
          Read the original article.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Busker in Brisbane

One thing you don't see much of around Cairns anymore are buskers, or maybe I don't frequent the right parts of the Town Centre. The sight of saxaphonists, violinists, poets, and even a tap dancer on recent trip to Brisbane jogged my memory back  to years ago when you would see the odd busker gracing street corners in Cairns. Whatever happened to them?
 This particular busker discovered in Adelaide St down from City Hall would have to be very careful where to set up for his performance.

I also found evidence of possible alien invasion - which would explain the strange  political events that have been happening in our state in recent months leading to scenes such as this protest against Campbell Newman's sacking of 20,000 public servants.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Insect of the day

Maybe someone will tell me name of this insect that I photographed inside looking out. What I do know though is that I should think about cleaning the  window! I think that is still debris from last year's Cyclone Yasi.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gone in seconds

This termite nest to the right of this tree has been here for at least ten years and has been a nest site for our clan of local kookaburras for as many years. The branch was damaged courtesy of cyclone Yasi but it wasn't posing any threat to nearby properties. Today, a local resident took it upon himself to destroy the nest in an attempt to 'beautify'  a seasonal creek easement on Council land. I have emailed the Council to see if this person had permission and whether the loppers who did the job were Council workers. While this person's ideal of removing singapore daisy and coconut trees that are growing there is commendable his idea of what  he is doing looks pretty limited as some of the 'new' plantings consist of pest exotics. Not to mention the heavy handed use of pesticides used to kill the grass and weeds along the water course. Sadly our days of juvenile kookas, orange footed scrub fowl and lace monitors wandering into our back yard now appear to be numbered.
Gone in seconds...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mission Beach Cassowary Spotting

Spent a few days in Mission Beach with some visitors from the cold south staying with us and of course we had to go cassowary spotting. Fortunately we had some success!
Making itself at home at one of the local businesses.

Ninety percent of  the local drivers appear to follow the speed limit. It's the other ten percent that must be a worry for these birds.
More information about the Mission Beach cassowaries and the local conservation group -
Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation

Make your own pop song -DarwinTunes medley at 3520 generations by uncoolbob

With the diminishing quality of popular music the perfect pop tune can be created by a computer program and the input of listeners without the need for an actual songwriter, according to a new British study.

Visit Darwin Tunes
UPDATE: From The Conversation Blog "DarwinTunes: when you get that feeling it’s, uh, sexual hearing?"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Proposed Coral Sea Marine Park

More information and fact sheets are available here:

Big splash: welcome back to top-shelf marine conservation

By Geoffrey Wescott, Deakin University


Geoffrey Wescott has received funding from the ARC for a coastally related project in the past. He is a Vice President of the Australian Coastal Society.
This article is reposted from the Conversation

The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.
Funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Deakin, Flinders, La Trobe, Murdoch, QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, UTAS and VU.

Today’s announcement of a national network of marine parks is really a memorable day for Australian nature conservation.
The political rhetoric and self-congratulation associated with major events is often overstated. But whilst there are qualifications about aspects of today’s declaration of a very substantial suite of marine protected areas (MPAs) it is truly a global milestone and does place Australia back at the global forefront of marine conservation and marine-protected-area declarations.
This is a very positive outcome for current and future generations and should be viewed as major step forward for marine conservation both in Australia and in the world.
The extent of marine-protected areas (MPAs) globally trails a great distance behind the extent of land national parks and conservation areas, both in total area and the percentage of sea/ land covered – despite oceans making up 70% of the surface area of the planet. These MPAs are declared for the same objectives as land parks, i.e. to protect the ecological processes, flora, fauna, and geological features of special places in perpetuity.
Within these MPAs there are a range of levels of protection which is reflected in their classification using the categorisation system of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Category 1 and 2 reserves are regarded as being highly protected and usually are referred to as “no-take” MPAS as they exclude the extraction of both living and non-living natural resources and organisms. These are the terrestrial equivalent of national parks and sanctuaries. The extent of these in today’s declaration is the major reflection of the value of these reserves to nature conservation. Multiple-use areas of the MPAs allow other uses to occur and gain lower IUCN category ratings.
The Government’s announcement today is a very important one and does return Australia to leadership in MPA declaration.
There will be criticisms of the MPAs – some will be driven by understandable self-interest (e.g., from recreational and commercial fishers) but the boundaries of the MPAs have been drawn after considerable public consultation, and it appears that any commercial fishery losses will be compensated to the same extent as those fishers displaced when Howard Government Minister David Kemp last placed Australia in a global leadership position in 2003 with a sixfold increase in the high protection “no-take” area in that global icon, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
There will be also comment about the extent and boundaries of specific MPAs (and the absence of others). In particular, it does appear at first glance that the areas in the Great Australia Bight, for instance, have rather unusual boundaries and are not as extensive (comprehensive and representative are the technical terms) as their natural values would lead one to presume.
This would appear to reflect the primacy of the oil and gas industries, and their apparent strong influence over the Minister, Martin Ferguson (who curiously represents an inner urban seat in Melbourne with a 20%+ Greens vote and may be under some pressure there at the next election). The oil and gas industry always gets what it wants and this appears to be the case here again.
Nevertheless panning out again and looking at the whole of the system, it is large and diverse and probably exhibits as not only the largest MPA system of any nation in the world but also probably the most comprehensive in terms of its range across the tremendously diverse large marine ecosystems and marine bioregions of Australia’s enormous marine territory (twice the area of our land mass).
The next step will be ensure these are fully declared and then to prepare proper implementation and management plans to ensure these are protected areas in practice as well as in theory.
Then the focus will return to the state governments who control the coastal waters of Australia (with the exception of the Great Barrier Reef), i.e. the area out to (usually) three nautical miles off shore. In these coastal waters, where human use is much more intensive and land practises impact heavily on the health of the marine ecosystems (over 70% of marine pollution comes from land), the extent of MPAs and particularly highly protected MPAS (Category 1 and 2 of the IUCN) is only a small fraction of the equivalent land parks in the states. Here we need a lot more effort to ensure the Federal system of MPAs is replicated closer to shore.
In conclusion whilst there can and should be discussion of specific aspects of some of the new MPAs this is a day to celebrate – well done Australia.
Comments welcome HERE.
Geoffrey Wescott has received funding from the ARC for a coastaly related project in the past. He is a Vice President of the Australian Coastal Society.
The Conversation
This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thank You Hater! - by Clever Pie and Isabel Fay

A comedian's mock musical tribute to the online "trolls" who targeted her has gone viral on a day when a woman in the same situation won legal backing to have her tormenters' identities disclosed.
Read the story from the Guardian HERE

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cairns Blues festival

The 4th Annual Cairns Blues Festival is on this weekend. More info here...

 Eugene 'Hideaway' Bridges (2007)

  Jesse Deane Freeman

Thomasina Winslow

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A word from former Mayor Val Schier

With the local council elections over and the Cairns Entertainment Precinct and its funding now appearing to be dead in the water, former Cairns Regional Council Mayor Val Schier  has contributed these thoughts to the Support for the Cairns Entertainment Facebook page:

Mayor Val Schier I have been asked to put into writing some things I said last night about the CEP at our celebration of my term in council. - what Mayor Manning is proposing is NOT a precinct; it's a cheaper theatre on another site far less spectacular than what was proposed - the CEP which my Council had ready to go for only $57M (and I say only because no-one objected when we spent $112M of ratepayers money upgrading 4 sewage treatment plants in my term of council) was a master-planned precinct that contained:
 1. An 1100 seat theatre.
 2. a huge open, covered plaza area, 5 metres above ground level (no storm surge issues) for people to take their families to watch cruise liners and big navy ships.
 3. a 500 seat amphitheatre with a screen for watching films, sports events etc.
 4. Whites shed refurbished to reveal the historical sugar bagging equipment high up in the ceiling, a reminder of our heritage with interpretive signage
 5. Huge spaces underneath the sugar bagging machinery that could have been used to generate income: an art gallery? artists and craftspeople working spaces? (not to compete with CBD traders)
 6. A community kitchen in the middle for events like celebrating the Samoan independence day or anniversary of Mabo Day.
 7. A link to the Convention Centre to enable more exhibition space for lucrative conventions that generate so much income into our community.
 8. a link with the Cruise liner terminal to make an extraordinary experience for visiting tourists
 9. a rehearsal space that could double as a theatre for smaller events.
ALL this AND no disruption to the working port and the cruise liners, navy ships, coastal shipping happening in front of it; AND still room for wharves 7 and 8 to double in size; AND still room for doubling navy expansion
 I don't grieve the loss of the mayoralty, but today I mourn the loss of the CEP for my granddaughter and the people of the Cairns region who will never have ths extraordinary waterfront development that would have put cranes over the sky initially, stimulated business confidence and attracted that much-needed private sector investment that Cairns so desperately needs. So much potential, now gone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Support for the Cairns Entertainment Precinct

A support group for the Cairns Entertainment Precinct has been organised in response to comments recently made by the Queensland premier and dutifully supported by the local LNP member for Cairns that the funds could possibly be withdrawn.

"Recent developments about the Cairns Entertainment Precinct are sparking some doubt within the community. My stance is that Cairns needs this precinct and without going into arguments about the location and technicalities it would be a shame to lose the funding and postpone it for longer than necessary. Please invite all your friends to this group and get the support noticed! If you support having an Entertainment Precinct in Cairns please join the group even if you want some development plans changed - you can post your ideas or changes you would like to see on this page. This is the voice of the community!"

If you support the CEP, please  join this group

Monday, April 16, 2012

Great Barrier Reef dying beneath its crown of thorns

  Article republished from The Conversation:

        Another wave is coming: the coral-killing crown of thorns starfish.
The Great Barrier Reef is under attack from a range of enemies including climate change effects (coral bleaching, increased severe storms, and ocean acidification), pollutant discharge from the land, coastal development, and damage from fishing.

As a result, coral cover is in severe decline, seagrass has declined dramatically in the last few years, while numbers of megafauna including dugong, turtles, sharks and some dolphins have greatly reduced population numbers.

In particular for coral, analysis of coral cover data from about 1960 onwards suggests that cover across the GBR has fallen from about 50% in the 1960s to about 16% now. As yet unpublished estimates by Dr Glenn De'ath and his colleagues suggest that if current trends continue coral cover could be as low as 5% in 20 years.

A diver examines a devastated area of the Great Barrier Reef, which is rapidly losing its coral cover. AAP/James Cook University

Coral-eating crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) (COTS) have caused widespread damage to many coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific over the past five decades as population “explosions” have occurred at regular intervals. On the GBR the greatest cause of coral mortality in recent decades is COTS ahead of other major causes such as cyclones, bleaching and coral diseases. COTS were probably the major cause of coral mortality in the period from 1960 to 1985 also but our data is less complete for this period. Kate Osborne and her co-researchers found that COTS were responsible for 36.7% of the coral damage above all other causes including storms (33.8%), disease (6.5%), bleaching (5.6%) and unknown or multiple causes (17.4%).

Starfish offensives come in waves. AAP/In Touch Media

There have been three major periods (“waves”) of COTS outbreaks on the GBR: 1962 – 1976; 1978 – 1991; 1993 – 2005; and it is now accepted that we are at the beginning of the next wave which appears to have started off Cairns in 2009. Each wave started near Cairns and spread through larval dispersion up and down the GBR generally as far as Princess Charlotte Bay in the north and Mackay in the south. If the current wave moves in a similar way we can expect starfish populations to progress throughout the central GBR over the next 10 years or so.

Vanishing beauty. AAP/James Cook University

The impact of outbreaks on the GBR is a major concern to the multi-billion dollar tourism industry. Over a number of years, there was an outbreak on reefs between Cairns and the Whitsundays which was estimated to cost tourism operators, and the Queensland and Australian Governments about $3 million a year for control measures.

The cause of the outbreaks remains a controversial issue despite years of research.  Hypotheses have included that (1) population outbreaks are a natural phenomenon due to the inherently unstable population sizes of highly fecund organisms such as COTS; (2) outbreaks are due to anthropogenic changes to the environment of the starfish with a range of possible anthropogenic causes including: removal of adult and/or juvenile predators; destruction of larval predators e.g. corals, by construction activities on reefs; and larval food supply (phytoplankton) enhancement from nutrient enriched terrestrial run-off.

It is now well established that the large scale outbreaks seen on the GBR since 1962 are most likely to have been caused by nutrient enrichment associated with increased discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus from the land due to increased soil erosion and large scale fertiliser use. Increased nutrients drive phytoplankton blooms with increased biomass and also a shift to larger phytoplankton types more palatable to COTS larvae as food.  Removal of predators (especially fish) is also implicated as a secondary cause.

There is some evidence that the increase in the area of no-take zones in 2004 has had significant success, as COTS numbers on closed reefs are lower than on reefs open to fishing. Site specific management (through removal) has been successful at a local scale, although it is very labour intensive. With the initiation of the fourth wave of outbreaks now confirmed it is clear that water quality management under the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (implemented in 2008) has not had time to prevent further outbreaks. However further water quality management will be critical to minimise future outbreaks.

In conclusion we can state unequivocally that COTS remain the greatest threat to the coral of the GBR and thus also indirectly to coral reef fish, although obviously of lesser threat to seagrass, dugongs, and some other megafauna.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
            Read the original article.