Sunday, November 3, 2013

Comments on Aquis development from Denis Walls

There are a few local blogs in our part of the world that give an alternative voice to the MSN drivel that is fed to us daily in the Far North. One of these is Cairns Hillbilly Watch and although I don't always agree with the comments posted, frequently the author/s hit the nail right on the head. The response from the comments section often make for an interesting read also and I am sticking my neck out by assuming I would have Denis Wall's permission to reproduce his comments on the controversial Aquis casino development here.

Here is the link to Cairns Hillbilly Watch where the comments were originally posted

"I have five key points to make about Aquis which I will have to send as five separate posts because of space limitations. Here is the first: First, city, regional and coastal planning schemes will be overturned if this development is approved. These plans are the result of lengthy consultation and reflect community consensus about the nature of development and where our urban footprint should lie in relation to varied social, economic and environmental criteria. These plans are the result, however imperfect, of democracy in action. For example, the Regional Plan for FNQ 2009-2031 envisages our region as a world class, ecologically sustainable tourism destination. It is intended to protect areas with landscape and rural production values like the northern beaches from incompatible developments such as Aquis. The construction of a 27 storey tower and three 18 storey buildings at Yorkeys Knob, on a known flood plain, as proposed by this development, is inconsistent with the existing local planning scheme and the regional plan. It will create a dangerous precedent leaving the door open for further high-rise developments on the northern beaches.

Second, the cost benefit analysis of this development for the local economy requires closer examination. The economic viability of the current development proposal needs to be demonstrated. There is no published business plan for its $4.2 billion construction and advertised $2 billion annual turnover. Nor is any information available regarding the investors, except Mr Tony Fung who is the sole owner of the proponent company Aquis Resort at the Great Barrier Reef Pty Ltd. There is a long history of broken promises and environmental damage as a consequence of large, failed developments in Far North Queensland. One need only look to Port Hinchinbrook or False Cape as recent examples, and both of these are on a scale that pales into insignificance compared to Aquis. It is also important to scrutinise the future of the Chinese tourism market on which this development depends. Who can guarantee that many thousands of Chinese visitors will travel long distances to an expensive destination like Cairns when Chinese-speaking Macau, with its numerous casinos, is right next door? Cairns has already learnt of the inherent danger of depending on the Asian tourism market which can be significantly affected by a wide range of factors including economic downturns, the high Australian dollar, extreme weather, disease outbreaks and increasing travel costs. The FNQ regional economic development strategy has recognised that it is essential to diversify the Cairns economy, but if Aquis proceeds the local economy will be overly dependent on one company in one sector of a very risk exposed industry over which we will have no control. The assumption that the development will provide residents with large scale permanent employment also needs to be questioned. Far North Queensland’s main training provider, TNQTAFE, is experiencing sweeping budget cuts and cannot provide quality training for local jobs’ growth on the scale envisaged by Aquis. In addition, few locals can speak Chinese and, in consequence, the resort may prefer to employ Chinese workers. This should not be construed as a criticism of Chinese workers but raises the question of how many long term jobs this development will really create for local residents.

Third, the economic and social impact of the casino, which is the key component of the Aquis development, is a major concern. Significantly, the current Cairns casino struggled for many years to break even. Following the recent state government decision to allow seven casinos in Queensland, doubts have already been expressed that even Brisbane, with a population of over 2 million, may not be able to sustain two casinos. While the Aquis casino is primarily designed for the additional tourists it will attract, it is reasonable to ask how Cairns, with a population of only 150,000, could support two casinos. At the very least it will severely impact on the operation of the existing casino while employment in businesses in the Cairns Central Business District may also be affected as jobs move to this mega development attracted by its range of retail and tourism activities. Researchers Francis Markham, from the Australian National University (ANU), and Martin Young, from Southern Cross University, are among many who have written about the negative impacts of gambling on communities. “When locals spend money at casinos, it drains income from other businesses, or syphons household savings into the pockets of multinational corporations and billionaires like James Packer” . They also state: “recent research suggests that poker machines in casinos are more dangerous than those in clubs or hotels (and) there is good reason to worry that the expansion of existing casinos and the development of new ones will only increase the harm gambling does to the Australian community” . Chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, Tim Costello, emphasises the point. “If you spend $1 million on gambling, you create two or three jobs, $1 million on hospitality you get 20 jobs, on retail 100 jobs. High rollers only ever account for 11 per cent in the casino. The rest of casino profits are accounted for by 'the grind' a term used for locals, largely playing pokies and tables.” Between $7 million and $11 million is lost on pokies every month in Far North Queensland alone . Another significant community concern and potential social harm of a mega-casino development near Cairns is the fear of organised criminal activity similar to that reported over the last two years at Sydney’s Star Casino.

 Fourth, there are many environmental concerns linked to the Aquis development proposal. Where, for example, will the massive amount of excavated and potential acid sulphate soil waste be dumped and treated? In addition, scientific studies and topography point to a possible change in the course of the Barron River through Thomatis Creek adjacent to the development site. The latter is the shorter and steeper route to the sea and conditions already exist for this to occur in the event of major flooding. Finally, and most importantly, there will be an inevitable and detrimental change to the character of Cairns and the Marlin Coast from a moderately sized eco-tourism destination in keeping with the environment, to an artificial gamblers’ paradise which will dramatically increase population and most likely result in more such high-rise mega-developments. The construction and operation of Aquis will lead, by conservative estimates including Aquis’s own projections, to a 25% increase in population over the next five years. This is quite out of keeping with the nature of development in Cairns over the last 20 years which has seen steady 2% annual population growth largely allowing the city to keep pace with physical and social infrastructure demands. A population of around 200,000 by 2018 would place enormous pressures on our geographically constrained environment. The natural environment and quality of life that characterise Cairns will be threatened. Increased population density will require more housing and high-rise buildings and further widening of highways. Water, waste and sewerage systems will be severely stretched and more schools and hospitals will be required. Noise levels, both during construction and afterwards with the increase in air traffic, will have a significant impact on locals’ quality of life. Clearly the Aquis proposal at Yorkeys Knob merits considerable discussion and review. Such deliberation is essential before state and federal governments sanction a development which is likely to have irrevocable, adverse, long term consequences, transforming Cairns and its current environment and lifestyle forever.

 The last paragraph should have said, 'state and local governments'. Apologies for the typo. It is clearly vital that concerned members of the community make their voices heard as loudly and clearly as possible given the headlong rush by local, state and federal politicians as well as News Ltd into supporting this unknown development behemoth."

Friday, November 1, 2013

Standing up to the man!

Despite releasing this information sheet the politically conservative Cairns Regional Council has decide to step back in time to a mentality of Nature Bad / Development Good that has pervaded the Far North in previous decades. This in turn has fired up several groups such as  Save our Flying Foxes to fight back with advertising  to support the iconic bat colony that draws thousands of tourists to our little 'city'.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Barry Jones: the 2013 election and the death of rationality

Barry Jones: the 2013 election and the death of rationality

By Barry Jones, University of Melbourne

As somebody with a lifelong, but not very happy, involvement in politics, I must declare an interest, as a life member of the ALP. Nevertheless, I think I can be objective in describing the decay of our political system. I was one of many who thought that the 2010 election would be the worst in our modern history for the debased quality of political discourse, but all indications are that the 2013 election is on track to be even worse.

Lindsay Tanner contends that 1993, when he was elected to the House of Representatives, was the high point of rationality in Australian politics but by 2010, when he left, it had sunk to an abyss of populism, despite our rising participation rates in education.

Party spin-doctors, on both sides of politics, work on the assumption that by this stage in the election cycle about 80% of voters have already decided how they will vote, and that short of some major event (cabinet ministers charged with felony, perhaps) nothing that is said or done in the campaign will change that. The 20% who are uncommitted, profiling suggests, are neither interested nor involved in the issues, do not much care about the outcome, are largely voting because they are obliged to do it, and will make up their minds on the day – perhaps as they stand in line waiting to receive their ballots.

Reaching these voters is not by raising serious issues, setting out a vision or challenge, by emphasising fear (“you don’t realise how bad things are…you are at risk…”) or by entertaining them, appealing to quick jokey references, as with Twitter, or offering bribes, the appeal to greed. Some elements in the media play up to this approach with trivialising gimmicks, for example interviewing a cat for his/her political opinions on Channel 9.

Geoff Kitney wrote an important article for the Australian Financial Review – Vote for Abbott, and vote against politics – describing Abbott as the anti-politics politician, who puts a heavy emphasis on appealing to those (many?) reluctant voters who say: “I can’t stand politics, and don’t even pretend to understand it”. This does not just discourage debate on complex issues, it kills it. There may be even a bonus for non-involvement, to be told: “don’t feel badly about knowing so little – celebrate it”.

Former finance minister Lindsay Tanner says political discourse had worsened badly by the time he left parliament. AAP/Alan Porritt

Despite Australia’s high formal levels of literacy, politicians are increasingly dedicated to delivering three word slogans (“stop the boats!”) – now degenerating even more to the use of one word, repeated three times (“Cut! Cut! Cut!” or “Lie! Lie! Lie!”).

There is an exaggerated emphasis on “gotcha!” moments – Tony Abbott and his suppository, Kevin Rudd and the make-up lady, moronic candidates in swinging seats. In the last months of Julia Gillard’s period as prime minister, in two separate incidents, sandwiches (vegemite and salami as it happens) were thrown at her at schools, for reasons which have never been clarified. The incidents became big news stories, so much so that they crowded out major announcements about the Gonski reforms that she was planning to make.

Often politicians acquiesce in the trivialising, for example Kevin Rudd and his availability for selfies, Tony Abbott gyrating at a boot-camp, and his “dad moments”. We should have a minute’s silence to reflect on the contribution of Julie Bishop, Warren Truss and Clive Palmer to the campaign.

The Murdoch factor will have an increasingly strong influence on political outcomes in Australia. About 65% of Australian newspaper readers already make a democratic choice to buy News Corp journals, and the figure approaches 100% in Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart where readers have the choice of Murdoch or Murdoch, unless they can find the Financial Review. It is a dangerous area to speculate about.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard and former education minister Peter Garrett announce the Gonski education funding reforms in 2012. AAP/Alan Porritt

The Murdoch papers are no longer reporting the news, but shaping it. They no longer claim objectivity but have become players, powerful advocates on policy issues: hostile to the science of climate change, harsh on refugees, indifferent to the environment, protective of the mining industry, trashing the record of the 43rd parliament, and promoting a dichotomy of uncritical praise and contemptuous loathing. Does it affect outcomes? I am sure that it does, and obviously advertisers think so.

There should be appropriate recognition of the major achievement of the 43rd Australian House of Representatives, the much traduced “hung parliament”, which lasted its full term, and passed 580 bills, 87% of them with Opposition support, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski reforms. Julia Gillard deserves credit for maintaining support from independents and never facing a censure motion.

I have been involved in politics for a long time – far too long – but I have never observed such levels of loathing, personal hatred for political figures. Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Windsor have been subject to unprecedentedly vindictive attacks, as has Tony Abbott to a degree and John Howard in his time. It is one of the ugliest factors in our public life.

Despite the exponential increases in public education and access to information in the past century, the quality of political debate appears to have become increasingly unsophisticated, appealing to the lowest common denominator of understanding. Does anyone’s vote change after seeing a Prime Minister or Opposition Leader in a supermarket or factory? I am open to persuasion but I doubt it.

The environment has essentially fallen off the political agenda. It was a big issue in 1983 (on the Tasmanian dams controversy) and in 2007 when Kevin Rudd referred to climate change as the “greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”. Morgan polls indicated that in 2008 35% of Australians nominated the environment as a major issue: by 2013 this has fallen to 7%.

Climate change is referred to during the election in a few passing sentences, essentially as if the carbon pricing or emissions trading scheme (ETS) measures were all about promoting clean air/clean energy, with no references to the role of “greenhouse gases” in trapping and retaining heat, and their impact on climate change and extreme weather events. There is no attempt to grapple with the issue and to explain the long term implications of a two or three degree increase in global temperatures. One side is feeble, the other mendacious. There is barely any reference to planning for a post-carbon economy, other than vague references to “new jobs”.

There will be no serious debate about taxation in this campaign. Australia must have more revenue, to maintain appropriate levels of education, health, infrastructure and social security for a growing, ageing population, especially measures which will keep older Australians  fit, active, independent and out of institutions. The recommendations of the 2010 Henry Review should be revisited and applied, rejecting the populist argument that only cutting taxation (and expenditure) will improve quality of life. Taxation is the price we pay for civilisation.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey will, if elected, inherit an economy in excellent shape by global standards. AAP/Penny BRadfield

The political debate about the state of the Australian economy is an affront to rationality.

Australia has had 21 unbroken years of economic growth, has been praised by the IMF and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz as having had the best policy response to the Global Financial Crisis, with lower unemployment than most OECD countries, with low interest rates, a AAA credit rating from all three major agencies, enjoyed by very few national economies, a low level of international debt, high levels of foreign investment, ranking next to Norway on the Human Development Index (HDI), and one of the lowest taxation rates in the OECD, ahead of the US, but well behind the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Canada, New Zealand, and a little behind Japan. Is this good news or bad news? It looks like good news to me.

Of course, I recognise that there has been a continuity of economic policy going back through Gillard, Rudd (the first time), Howard, Keating and Hawke.

Despite Australia’s very high ranking internationally, the level of political discourse on economics is so debased that polling indicates very high levels of anxiety about the economy. Citizens can hardly believe the international comparisons – the reasons being that they are only exposed, day by day, to one economy and objective evidence from far away is not compelling psychologically.

I have watched, with some pain, election telecasts being given by the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, somebody who I have always had some regard for, balanced, recognisably human, and not a fanatic, with touches of self-mockery.

He could have taken a more subtle, nuanced  approach in his pitch, saying, perhaps, “while it is true that Australia has had some outstanding successes, such as the AAA rating and 21 unbroken years of growth, nevertheless there are some worrying indications that…”, and go on from there.

Instead, he plays the catastrophist card, that the past six years had left the Australian economy as a smoking ruin, and the rest of the world is looking to see when Australia will turn the lights back on. Catastrophic? Disaster? Tsunami? The clear suggestion is that practically every nation, with the possible exception of Somalia, is performing better economically than Australia.

Does Joe Hockey really believe what he is saying? I hope not. He certainly would not want to be questioned, or sign an affidavit, about it. But I suspect he might say: “the rules of the game have changed. In politics, one can say anything – whatever it takes to win”. My side of politics is not spotless in this area either: Graham Richardson’s book Whatever It Takes set the standard.

This article is taken from the Samuel Alexander Lecture delivered at Wesley College on August 27, 2013.
Barry Jones is a member of the Australian Labor Party, was Minister for Science in the Hawke Labor government (1983-1990), and was a former National President of the ALP (1992-2000; 2005-06).
The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation.
          Read the original article.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kamerunga is headlining Cairns Festival's free Carnival on Collins concert in the salubrious surrounds of the Botanic Gardens on Sunday (2pm-3pm). Look forward to seeing y'all there.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Port Douglas

It's easy these days to get sick of life  in Cairns Vegas, the new Nevada of the north so a brief escape to the relative tranquility of Port Douglas, roughly an hour up the road is just what you sometimes need..

Saturday, August 17, 2013

More on the NBN v "Fraudband"

Our neighbouring suburbs have it. Hope we don't have to put up with the second rate version if / when it arrives after the election.


Friday, July 5, 2013

.... and another one, Mathematics

British poet Hollie McNish addressed immigration prejudice recently in a colourful spoken word poem called 'Mathematics' which which has gone viral.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


UK rapper and poet Kate Tempest showing us how the Bard is still very relevant in today's world.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some more great musical talent from Far North Queensland Originally from Cairns, Kate Leopold has been touring around Northern new South Wales and has had her music featured on Triple J's Unearthed

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

National Broadband Network Explained

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

A tale of two NBNs: the Coalition's broadband policy explained

By Karl Schaffarczyk, University of Canberra

Today in Australia, the Coalition released its policy on the National Broadband Network (NBN). So what is the proposal?

Amid rhetoric claiming Labor government inefficiency, cost blowouts and failure to meet roll-out targets, the Opposition leader Tony Abbott and shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled the detail of the efficient, value-for-money NBN we should expect under a Coalition government.

The plan calls for the existing NBN rollout to stop, and be restarted using Fibre to the Node (FTTN) technology. FTTN involves delivering optical fibre to a shared “cabinet”, which in turn provides internet access to customers within one kilometre – necessitating the placement of many cabinets throughout suburbs and towns.

This differs from the existing plan for the NBN, as supported by the Labor government, which will deliver Fibre to the Home, or FTTH.

Household equipment in a typical FTTH NBN installation. Alan Kerlin

FTTH, as the name suggests, involves installing optical fibre directly to houses, apartment buildings and businesses to provide high‐speed internet access. The fibre goes to what’s known as a fibre access node (FAN) – comparable to a telephone exchange – which can service many suburbs.

The Coalition’s plan flies in the face of advice the Australian Competiton and Consumer Commission (ACCC) gave the government in 2006.

The advice highlighted the high costs of installing nodes, and described an FTTN network as:

not so much a stepping stone towards a future FTTH network as a distinct network alternative.

Labor’s vision

To better understand what the Coalition is offering, we should understand the NBN being rolled out today:

Lukas Coch/EPA

The NBN is designed to deliver high-speed broadband Australia-wide using three delivery methods:

  • Fibre to the Home

  • fixed wireless

  • satellite

  • Fixed wireless and satellite are uncontroversial – both sides of politics support these key technologies in regional and remote areas.

    FTTH vs FTTN

    Fibre to the Home is planned for 93% of Australian households.

    To do this, the NBN uses an implementation called Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) – the main advantage of which being that it operates without any powered equipment between a house and the fibre access node.

    That means greater reliability due to fewer points of failure, and lower running costs due to lower electricity consumption, fewer deployed electronics, and so on.

    Passive fibre networks are cost-efficient by sharing a single fibre across 32 homes. Mathew McBride

    Speeds offered to each customer under the existing NBN plan are potentially as high as 1,000Mb/s – around 500 times faster than most Australian broadband users utilise currently – but an expectation of between a quarter and a half of those speeds is more realistic.

    Presently the NBN offers speeds of up to 100Mb/s.

    The main drawback of a FTTH system is the reliance on fibre optic cables. The cables must be drawn through existing conduit, or laid in new trenches to each house in the coverage area.

    The labour costs of doing this are huge and increase the total cost of rolling out the network by double or triple when compared to a cheaper FTTN network.

    Passive optical network implementations similar to GPON have a proven track-record in countries such as South Korea and Japan – where access to high-speed broadband has been taken for granted for years.

    The Coalition’s vision

    The Fibre to the Node system promoted by the Coalition does have several advantages.

    The installation of the network will be significantly quicker – the Coalition claims their NBN will reach most Australians by the end of their first term in 2016, compared to the current estimated completion date of 2021 – as FTTN networks re-task existing copper phone lines.

    Technologies such as very-high-bitrate digital subscriber line (VDSL) and asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) will be used to deliver data to customers' home.

    In short, because existing phone lines are used, significant capital costs are avoided because there is no need to lay fibre to every household.

    Fibre to the Node explained.

    Using VDSL, theoretical speeds of up to 200Mb/s are achievable (under perfect conditions) – but it has been pointed out these speeds rapidly drop off as the houses become more distant from the node.

    One kilometre drops the speeds to a very ADSL2-like 30Mb/s, and two kilometres from the node provides no advantage over sticking with ADSL2, which many people will currently be using.


    The biggest issue with a FTTN version of the NBN is not if it can be done, but how consistent, and how reliable, this network can be. It has been claimed by some that Telstra’s copper network is “rooted”; although Telstra has hit back, claiming approximately 1% of all services experience a fault each year.



    Responding to this concern, Mr Turnbull announced that mouldering copper would be dealt with on a business-case basis – either the copper would be repaired, or replaced with fibre.

    Today’s announcement also devoted some time to discussing how technology always progresses, and so copper can be pushed to carry more data as improvements are made.

    Vectoring was specifically mentioned – a technology that continually fine-tunes the connection between the end-user and the network, and allows significant improvement in speeds.

    But critics have pointed out that vectoring may still be years away.

    Costs of maintaining FTTN

    While the Coalition’s policy today focused on the installation cost of a FTTN network, claiming savings of billions of dollars, little acknowledgement has been given to the cost of maintaining a FTTN network.

    According to the ACCC, up to 90% of the costs of running a FTTN network relate to maintaining the nodes.

    In the US, the broadband and telecommunications company Verizon cited significant savings of US$110 for each household on fibre compared to copper.

    Comparing the policies

    The costs of rolling out FTTN then upgrading to FTTH is prohibitive.

    FttH. dvanzuijlekom

    The Labor party policy of deploying the NBN as FTTH can be summarised as having an initially painful installation cost, but offering a more consistent outcome with greater spare capacity to meet future needs.

    By comparison, the Coalition policy can be described as quick and dirty: the network will be available to more Australians earlier, and will cost less up-front, but will attract ongoing maintenance costs, and be expensive to upgrade as demand grows.
    Karl Schaffarczyk lives in a Canberra suburb where the NBN is due commence construction within one year.
    The Conversation
            This article was originally published at The Conversation.
              Read the original article.

    Moonrise over Wellington

    Full Moon Silhouettes from Mark Gee on Vimeo.

    It is a 3 minute video clip of the full moon rising over Wellington, New Zealand. It was shot , on a calm summer evening, as people gathered on the Mt. Victoria Lookout point to watch the moon rise.

    This stunning video is one single real-time shot, with no manipulation whatsoever. The camera was placed on a hillside over 2 kilometres from the Lookout point, and was shot with the equivalent of a 1300mm lens.

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    Life in the Tropics

    The wet season in far North Queensland (what there was of it) is nearly over.





    It's so good to get back out into the garden again!

    Saturday, March 9, 2013

    New Film Pulls No Punches To Expose Climate Denial Machine

    Greedy Lying Bastards, New Film Pulls No Punches To Expose Climate Denial Machine (via Desmogblog)

    Greedy Lying Bastards is a new film hitting mainstream theaters nationwide in the U.S. this weekend. If you like DeSmogBlog, you're going to love this film. Here's the Rotten Tomatoes review including theater times, etc. (Feel free to add your own star rating!)  The film, produced by actress Daryl…

    Minute Earth

    Hello World! We are MinuteEarth! Join us in appreciation of beauty, mystery, and SCIENCE! Here's our first video: from the creators of MinutePhysics

    Saturday, February 16, 2013

    Russian meteor unrelated to asteroid passing

    This NASA animation shows the relationship of the directions of the Russian meteor and the passing of Asteroid DA14 It believes the meteor, probably asteroid in origin was a coincidence rather than part of an asteroid stream. More from The Universe Today

    Russian weather satellite footage of meteor

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    Cape York for World Heritage listing: is it ready?

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

    By Nick Skilton, University of Wollongong
    World Heritage sites in Australia have often been born out of battles between conservationists and development-oriented state governments. Little regard has been paid to land owners: until now.
    February marks an annual deadline for new site nominations. In 2013, the Federal Government aims to submit a Cape York site nomination to UNESCO. Working towards this deadline raises problematic issues. Interestingly, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has publicly statedthat a nomination can only proceed with the consent of Traditional Owners. This is unusual because it potentially gives Traditional Owners the final word on nomination.
    Cape York is surrounded by two other World Heritage sites, the Great Barrier Reef and the Queensland Wet Tropics. Cape York residents are therefore no strangers to World Heritage issues. Far-north Queensland has well-documented natural “outstanding universal values” under World Heritage criteria.
    Historically, peak interest groups were not opposed to joining together to further a World Heritage agenda for Cape York, as demonstrated by the aspirational 1996 Cape York Heads of Agreement. However, 30 years of inaction on economic issues, poor infrastructure, and failed policies now form a background for oppositional politics in Cape York. The organisations that confront conservation, pastoral, or Aboriginal issues in Cape York must deal with legacy and ongoing tensions that converge on the subject of World Heritage. These include the contentious Wild Rivers Act 2005 and “consultation fatigue”.
    Since the Queensland Liberal National Party government committed to repealing Wild Rivers, a major obstacle preventing inter-organisational cooperation on ascertaining heritage values and explaining World Heritage to communities has been removed.
    What then is the problem?

    Seisia, Cape York. hindesite/Flickr

    The tyranny of distance and the legacy of bureaucracy

    Cape York in many ways exemplifies the new frontier of transforming remote places into conservation estates, and many pastoralists and Aboriginal groups are disgruntled with the way the conservation agenda for Cape York has defined the recent political trajectory of the region. For them, Wild Rivers was an indicator of policy and governance that failed the test of inclusion for community engagement and consultation in Cape York.
    “Consultation fatigue” is common throughout Cape York communities, Aboriginal or otherwise, largely due to the many bureaucratic and academic studies that have been conducted with little material results. Breaking through consultation fatigue to achieve the requisite “informed consent” should raise serious concerns about a February 2013 nomination deadline.
    At last year’s World Heritage Symposium in Cairns, some speakers warned that the considerable resources invested in the nomination process meant failure to proceed with a nomination would be an unacceptable outcome. In my recent research, one interviewee argued that “people are being consulted about things that aren’t really their concern or agenda”.

    Lockhart River Cairns Peace by Peace

    These issues, combined with pre-existing consultation fatigue, begins to lend the issue of consent an unsettlingly coercive colouring. Under such circumstances, government acquisition and return of pastoral land to Aboriginal people in exchange for supporting conservation objectives may appear to be a form of bribery – a bribery of customary Aboriginal land no less.
    Much of the conservation agenda, including Wild Rivers and World Heritage, is aimed at preventing increased mining (despite some Aboriginal support for mines). World Heritage is seen as an opportunity to develop an alternative conservation economy. This would include carbon farming, increased tourism and a number of other initiatives. It broadly aligns with Jon Altman’s “hybrid economy” modelling of market, state and customary components.
    The conservation economy fails to address what many see as more pressing economic concerns such as infrastructure (which will in turn facilitate tourism) and land tenure restrictions in an area geographically distant from the traditional market economy. These two issues and more could be included in a broad-scale economic plan for the region, but to date no plan has ever been drafted.
    The federal or state government should consider this a fundamental step in explaining World Heritage opportunities when consulting with communities.

    Confronting the issues

    Across-the-board support for increased tourism is just one of many issues that could be used to build bilateral support and inter-organisational trust in the region. Problematically, where there is opportunity for agreement, past infractions and ideological conflict prevent cooperation.
    Ideological conflict can stem from the culture of the organisation, or from particular people in positions of authority. The remote and parochial nature of the region means that people have often had a long time to develop particular grievances – perceived or otherwise – against other organisation members.

    Abattoir Swamp, Cape York Charlie Brewer

    To facilitate an inclusive World Heritage listing, should it go ahead, organisational figures may be required to confront their prejudices for the sake of representing the region’s heritage values.
    Recent developments, such as the withdrawal of the Queensland government from the World Heritage consultation process they have been facilitating for the last two years (citing procedural duplication with the Federal Government), will only seed more distrust and confusion for World Heritage within communities.
    February 2013 may be a good opportunity to find closure on a 30 year issue. However, this deadline places unnecessary strain on community engagement and marginalises those that do not wish to participate. Responsibly resolving inter-organisational disputes without a looming deadline will be central to an empowered community that protects what is important to it. Only then should World Heritage follow.
    Nick Skilton 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.

    Friday, January 25, 2013

    Kamerunga plays at the Cairns Casino on Australia Day holiday

    Catch KAMERUNGA in concert free of charge at the Cairns Casino (Vertigo Bar) on Australia Day Monday (Jan 28th) between 8pm and 10pm in what might well be the band's only local performance in 2013. Kamerunga will be preceded by Snake Gully (6pm-8pm). Kamerunga audio and video located at:

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Do bushfires emit more carbon than burning coal?

    Fact check: do bushfires emit more carbon than burning coal?

    By Philip Gibbons, Australian National University

    “Indeed I guess there’ll be more CO2 emissions from these fires than there will be from coal-fired power stations for decades.” – acting Opposition leader, Warren Truss, January 9, 2013

    On Wednesday, leader of the National Party and acting Opposition Leader, Warren Truss claimed carbon emissions from the current bushfires are equivalent to decades of carbon emissions from coal-fired power.

    The current bushfires are so large that the statement by Warren Truss seems plausible.

    This spurred me to do some research to find out.

    Coal-fired power stations in Australia emit around 200 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This does not include emissions from our coal exports.

    Around 30 tonnes of CO2 per forested hectare were emitted by the Black Saturday Fires in 2009.

    Bushfires this year have so far burned around 130,000ha of forest, so have emitted nearly 4 million tonnes of CO2.

    So, the bushfires this year have emitted an amount of CO2 equivalent to 2% of Australia’s annual emissions from coal-fired power.

    The current bushfires must burn an area of forest greater than Tasmania to generate CO2 emissions equivalent to a year of burning coal for electricity.

    And the current bushfires must burn an area of forest the size of New South Wales to generate CO2 emissions equivalent to a decade of burning coal for electricity.

    However, the carbon emitted from bushfires is not permanent. Eucalypt forest regenerates after fire, and will quickly begin to sequester from the atmosphere the carbon that has been lost from the current bushfires.

    The same cannot be said of coal-fired power stations.

    Warren Truss’ statement reflects a view that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are insignificant relative to natural events such as bushfires that have occurred for millennia in Australia.

    However, when one drills into the data, the current bushfires provide a stark illustration of the opposite: the amount of carbon that is emitted by bushfires is insignificant relative to our principle sources of greenhouse gas emissions such as coal-fired power.

    Read more about the relationship between bushfires and emissions.

    Philip Gibbons receives funding from the Australian Government, the Government of the Australian Capital Territory and the Australian Research Council.

    The Conversation

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

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    Mark and Carlie's Excellent Adventure

    Mark and Carlie Schmitt, former owners of El Mundo Tapas in Edge Hill are now embarking on a round the world bike adventure:

    You can follow their adventures on their blog

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Blast from the past: Georgia Lee

    From YouTube: "Australian Indigenous (aboriginal) cabaret singer and occasional actress Georgia Lee - otherwise known as Dulcie Pitt - was a habitué of the bohemian world of artists like Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale and the jazz and blues nightclub circuit in Sydney and Melbourne during the 1950s.

    The girl from Cairns (northern Queensland) eventually sang with the bandleader Geraldo and his light orchestra in London in BBC radio broadcasts. A nervous collapse and homesickness put an end to her international career but she continued to sing in Australia and was even belatedly crowned the Queen of Jazz. In 1962, she released what's believed to be the first full-length studio album to be recorded by an Indigenous artist, Georgia Lee Sings the Blues Down Under. She was also one of the first artists to be recorded in full stereo."

    This video contains three excerpts from the album :

    1. 'Nobody Knows the Trouble I have Seen'
    2. 'Born To be Blue'
    3. 'Down Under Blues'