(1) Vic Voluntary bush conservation scheme
(2) Clearing in Badgingarra WA
(3) NCC report on water reforms
(4) Rising NFF concern over property rights
(5) WA water protection zones
(6) Irrigators liable over salinity?
(7) Dr Bill Burrows investigates woody "flips"
(8)Rising CO2, What`s in store for savannas
(9) Protest ideas & Discussion

 Our news this week is, we will begin lobbying all aussie
politicians very shortly. There are a number of photos we would love to have
before we began, but the time has come to make a start.
Dennis Fahey is being interviewed this week by the Townsville Bulletin. They
wanted an interview about his organic Wagyu cattle enterprise, but Dennis
said he will only do an interview on the burning issue of getting certainty
of property rights or compensation when environmental laws restrict
businesses like his. He wants to develop international markets but will not
sign off  until he can be sure his enterprise will not be caught in some
restriction or other.  Australia`s lack of property rights protection for
innovative people having a go has wrecked enough livelihoods and Dennis
doesn`t want to be another.

There are some water issues under reform across Australia at the moment and
we have a brief rundown for you but first.

Victoria will put up $400,000 to trial a voluntary bush conservation scheme.
The Victorian Govt said Landholders can tender for the funds setting out what
they will protect and how they will manage their area of land.
We welcome this idea which is similar to a NSW trial also.
   It does nothing however for those who have been forced to "lockup areas"
with no compensation and the loss of their property rights.

More Details over Badgingarra (WA) clearing   
Craig Underwood (WA) visited the property of John Stephanelli last week and
said the 500ha of  land cleared without a permit was next to 20,000 acres of
national park and that there was a substantial area of retained bush left on
the property, so the clearing was not outside the (illegal)  code of 20 %
retention area. - (The code is only a departmental agreement and not a
properly debated piece of legislation.)
Craig is quietly planning to organise a protest in Perth, should the WA govt
bring in legislation with $500,000 fines for illegal land clearing without
just property rights protection / payments, (which seems likely at this
If anyone wants to contact Craig his phone no is 0896 521136 - weekends are

Now to some water issues - This is from the QFF weekly bulletin

 National Competition Council report on the Implementation of Water Reforms
The NCC is expected to release its report on the implementation of water
reforms in the next few weeks. The report will deal with the on
â˜on-the-groundâ™ outcomes of water reforms in:
Rural water pricing and cost recovery
Environmental allocations or provisions for the environment
Water quality issues
Trading arrangements
Institutional reforms

A framework for the assessment was released in January and was backed by a
series of additional papers on â˜hot spotâ™ areas such as rural water pricing,
new investment in rural water infrastructure, institutional reform,
environmental requirements in water reform and defining water property rights.
Issues raised by QFF with the NCC include:
1.  The Water Act 2000 does not provide for existing water entitlements to be
recognised in water resource planning.  Where it is necessary to reduce
existing entitlements to achieve environmental flow requirements then
entitlement holders must have an effective right of appeal now and when the
plans are reviewed and there must be provision for compensation for any
adverse impacts. -

This is from the WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association

17 May 2001

The erosion of private property rights is rapidly overtaking world trade as
the priority concern for Australian rural landowners, according to
Pastoralists and Graziersâ™ Association president, Barry Court.

He said land and water compensation issues dominated debate at last weekâ™s
51st annual meeting of the National Farmersâ™ Federation.

 âœThe President of the IFAP, Gerard Doornbos of the Netherlands summed up the
concerns of Australiaâ™s rural landowners when he told NFF:

âœOne must question why when they see so many government and non-government
people within the United Nations and other global bodies making decisions
affecting farmland without consulting the farmers.â

Mr Court said moves by government agencies in Australia to diminish the
property rights of rural Australians were rapidly gaining pace.

âœAnd landowners are beginning to realise that it is no good fighting to gain
access to overseas markets for their produce if they are denied access to the
water they need, or if certain production systems are banned or controlled.â™  

Mr Court said PGA had also warned NFF that native title (NT) issues may soon
begin to influence the management of water in Australia.

â˜Future governments may find it more expedient to add a native title
component to the water allocation/management process, than to meet NT
compensation or other claims.

 âœAdd this to the new provisions already going in to the water equation to
provide free water for the environment and there is a cost structure
potential that will be far too high for many commercial water users.â

âœSimilar impositions are occurring with private land, where individuals are
being refused permission to clear vegetation, or to develop certain

âœNFF now strongly supports the long held view of PGA, that where a private
property right is taken or diminished in the community interest, the
landowner must be fully compensated.â
Craig Underwood (Jurian Bay, WA) has alerted us to the following issue

This issue is highlighted on the water and rivers commission (WA) web site
(www.wrc.wa.gov.au) dealing with the land use compatability in public
drinking water source areas

In short it says there are 3 priorities (degrees) of protection and that many
activities will be considered incompatible (and possibly restricted or
stopped??) in public drinking water source areas (this is for both runoff and
underground sourced water) - things like
land subdivision
golf courses,
rifle ranges,
farm stay accommodation,
broad acre livestock grazing,
aqua culture,
feed lots,
broad acre cropping,
farm supply centres,
fertilizer depots,
milk transfer depots,
major transport routes,
and heaps more.

We believe the approach of Governments is to ignore consultation on this
issue if the Queensland experience is anything to go by.

Some of the above things have  been imposed on areas of the Desert Uplands in
Qld because the govt assumed there is a recharge area for the Great Artesian
Basin there (which many landholders refute with good evidence - see "news" on
the web site).  The local community and especially the affected landholders
were not listened to for one second when the supposed consultation process
was being undertaken.
The legislation these restrictions came under was for the Cooper Creek
catchment water management plan and it should not have had restrictions for
the Great Artesian Basin anyway, but never the less, it was brought in and is
now an impediment to starting new industries such as Aquaculture, and

Our view is that there may indeed be a need for water quality planning but it
is the community concerned that should formulate any guidelines or
restrictions and not the bureacratic aristocracy.
This is from  ABC radio

Proposal to make irrigators financially liable for salinity meets with
Irrigators could be held financially accountable for salinity problems in the
River Murray. That's under a 15-year River Murray Salinity Strategy released
yesterday by State Minister for Water Resources Mark Brindal. It also
outlines more stringent planning requirements for future irrigation
developments. Minister Brindal says to extract water is a privilege not a
right. He says it is not unreasonable for those making a profit out of
irrigation to pay for any damage caused. But are irrigators to blame and what
about other contributors? Chief Executive of the Central Irigation Trust Jeff
Parish says irrigators won't accept sole responsibility and says huge
improvements have already been made to irrigation practices in an effort to
reduce salinity. Mr Parish says it's not about billing irrigators or fixing
blame, its about identifying where the problems are, its about developing the
solutions and it's about building partnerships to address them. He doesn't
believe it's at all about saying we'll blame this one sector and we'll make
this one sector pay.

(*Two points about Mark Brindals approach - It ignores the fact that when
irrigating began noone knew salinity was going to be a major problem and
secondly, should it be is brought in, then surely governments should be
billed for  encouraging  and introducing
*the cane toad  
*Prickly Acacia (a weed of national significance) and
*obligatory tree clearing without leaving sufficient retention areas
to name just some environmental blunders governments have helped make.)
This is from Dr Bill Burrows (QLD Beef Institute)

G'day Leon
I noted your reference to 2 examples of gidgee & blackwood proliferation in
 News & Views.  As you are aware I'm particularly interested in
identifying sites in Qld with strong anecdotal, historical, photographic etc
evidence of 'flips' to woody plant dominance from previously more "open"
states.  Perhaps you might seek further identification of such sites in your
e-mail group?  We are currently expanding our stable carbon isotope analyses
of Qld woodland soils & better knowlege of such sites could be a useful
adjunct to these studies e.g. some sites could then be included in targeted
sampling - should the particular landholders be agreeable of course.
Dr Bill Burrows
(*Does anyone else know of other similar sites that Bill could do more
investigation on - his email is BurrowB@prose.dpi.qld.gov.au)
Now for some news on CO2  from the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for
tropical savannas

  Rising CO2: whatâ™s in store for the savannas?
Rising levels of carbon dioxide may well change fundamental aspects of
Australiaâ™s savannas: trees could out-compete grasses, the grasses, while
growing better, may be less nutritious for the animals that feed on them. A
new study outside Townsville will measure some of these changes so land
managers can plan for the future.

 CSIROâ™s Andrew Ash and Mike Whiting are working on experiments where several
plots simulate current carbon dioxide levels (370 parts per million), two
will have 450 ppmâ”levels weâ™ll be living with in about 30 yearsâ”and the last
two 550 ppm, CO2, the level predicted for 2050.
The study, a collaboration between CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, James Cook
University and Queensland Nickel Industries (QNI), is the first of its kind
not only in the savannas, but also Australia. Called a Free Air Carbon
Dioxide Enrichment study (FACE) it will pipe different levels of carbon
dioxide over six 15 m round plots, each containing native grasses and trees,
over the next five years.

While there are a number of FACE studies in operation overseas, only a couple
involve natural or semi-natural systems. âœMost are looking at crops,
plantation forests and improved pastures,â explained CSIROâ™s Andrew Ash, one
of the leaders of the study. âœFrom existing work we can probably plot the
growth of individual species. But we canâ™t predict the response of what will
happen between species in a real ecosystem. That is the real unknown, and one
of great importance, that this study allows us to do.â

The projectâ™s co-leader, JCU eco-physiologist Joe Holtum, will study
potential impacts on plant physiology: from changes in competition between
trees and grasses and between the grasses themselves, to changes in soil
composition and plant defence mechanisms. In the long term, he hopes to set
up collaborative studies to examine what might happen to the insects that
depend on the flowers and seeds of the plants.

Another issue the study will shed some light on is one of carbon storage by
looking at carbon flow through the ecosystem. Australiaâ™s savannas are
important stores of carbon, and it is estimated they currently contain 33 per
cent of Australiaâ™s terrestrial carbon overall, a proportion which may
increase as CO2 levels rise.

The study area is dominated by tussock perennial grasses with the main
species being Kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra), Golden beard grass
(Chrysopogon fallax) and Wanderrie grass (Eriachne obtusa). The plots do not
have mature trees or shrubs in them so two native species from the immediate
area, Acacia holosericea (soap bush) and Eucalyptus crebra (narrow leaf
ironbark) were planted to study tree-grass interactions.

Work performed on the effects of elevated CO2 on savanna grassesâ”again by
CSIRO and JCUâ”suggests that the grasses grow better because they use water
more efficiently under higher amounts of CO2. If this is correct, there may
be more water available in the soil, and shrubs and trees could do better.

One of the potential results, says Andrew, might be an increased woody layer
across the savannas. Another is that with greater water-use efficiency,
savanna systems might become less prone to the effects of drought, and
produce a more stable supply of forage from year to year. The FACE study will
help answer these questions.

âœWeâ™re also looking at the effect of grass quality and quantity from the
pastoral perspective,â said Andrew. The experiment simulates grazing effects
and high nutrient growing conditions as well as a more natural low-nutrient
regime. âœWe know that under high CO2 grass grows more, but it could be at the
expense of forage quality. You might be able to grow more, but animals might
not do as well.â

The grazing simulation will also help give a better picture of just how
grazing affects carbon storage. Apart from the woody layer, most carbon is
actually stored under perennial grasses. So, if these grasses are overgrazed,
a lot of carbon will be lost from the system.
and finally some discussion on protest ideas
this is from Ian Mott (Forest Growers Association) who has sent some notes on
effective rural protests in response to Craig Underwood`s Slowing traffic and
Hay bale thoughts

The idea of taking some sort of material to town to protest on the issues is
a good one but I think the material of choice should be the entire contents
of a hectare of brigalow regrowth. (it would need to be cut at ground level
rather than pulled or ploughed) This should then be stuck back into holes in
the grounds of Parliament House Canberra at the same spacing that it
occurred naturally.

This would provide visual evidence that;
1) its regrowth clearing not pristine old growth
2) there is another 30 million hectares of this stuff in our paddocks
3) it is cluttering up our business in the same way that it is cluttering up
their lawn
4) it's only habitat value is as a superior hunting ground for feral

The medium is, indeed, the message. But the follow up message should be;
"If you want to make our vegetation your business then we'll deliver the
next load to 1) the middle of the Harbour Bridge, 2) the freeway from the
airport, 3) the key intersections that will most disrupt their normal day".

It is easy and cheap for urban dwellers to mount a protest outside
parliament. They can even do it at lunch time and not miss any pay. Country
people cannot and should not play the same game because it would cost each
participant more than 2 days lost productivity and 6 to 8 days lost profit.

Better to schedule our effort so that a few make a very effective
contribution each time but repeat the same dose with other small groups
until the urbanites get heartily sick of it all.

The French farmers, (acknowledged world best practice in getting favourable
political outcomes for rural minorities) have proven that it is the most
productive bit of value adding that can be done with farm produce. They take
a truck load of pig shit and convert it into a million bucks worth of

And they focus on the choke points, the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, the
Paris ring road etc, because they know that politicians only jump when the
urban public gets grumpy. And nothing makes them more grumpy than being
stuck in a traffic jam caused by incompetent bureaucrats and politicians.

They only swear at the farmers the first time it happens, the second, third
and subsequent time they swear at the politicians who still haven't resolved
the issue.
Just remember, we have 30 million traffic jams. One good traffic jam is
worth more than $300,000 while a politician needs a $100,000 to get

I leave you with one more final thought.

"Once one has already demonstrated the capacity to go for the groin, one
need only stand close and grin with malice to have their undivided

 There has been two WA newspaper reports with Agriculture minister Kim Chance
suggesting that there are "confidential talks" going on between governments
concerning things such as Qld`s vegetation compensation arrangements.

If there is no movement towards a national approach to the loss of water and
land management rights shortly - should we be ready to get a protest

 Dennis Fahey believes a protest in Canberra would be the go, and some
"French imagination"  should be used.
He suggests the issues of unpaid for "public good" conservation, the loss of
property rights and the lack of proper management in national parks, could be
highlighted by flying over parliament house several times dropping weed
seeds, and pamphlets as part of the protest.

Leon Ashby has suggested people drive slowly into Canberra just before
parliament house opens to ensure parliamentarians  attention and attend a
question and answer session with the environment spokesperson from each
political party (they would be invited in advance).
Should there be no resolution to the issues then we could release some feral
cats, rabbits, foxes, dingoes, or feral pigs (that we bring with us)   spray
painted messages can be put on them and then release them around parliament

These are only suggestions. What other ideas are there?   This is just to see
what options could be considered so that if there is no real political
progress, we can have things ready to roll.