Howdy Folks,
                    With all Political parties supporting clarification of
Property Rights , we will leave the election alone this edition and
concentrate on discussions. Thanks to those who have written in.

(1) SA research team wins international award for water resources management
(2) The need for a bi partisan  Australian vision - Richard Makim
(3) Coalition promises to review Biodiversity Conservation Act
(4) Science and water creates angst in NSW
(5) Koala controversy on Kangaroo Island
(6) Exploitative primary industries? - Ken Weeks
(7) Leon Ashby replies
(8) Criticism of the Skeptical Environmentalist article
(9) Vegetation thickening research should reduce Australia`s greenhouse gases
figures by 20%
(10) Bill Soko comments on population limits and laws
(11) Leon Ashby replies
(12) National Science Policies for Australia? - Emeritus Professor Lance

(1) SA research team wins international award for water resources management

An SA team researching water storage in aquifers, has won an International
Water Prize for Innovation in Water Resources Management. Over the last eight
years, the CSIRO and the Water Resources Department, has found it's possible
to use aquifers, to store urban storm water, and then re-use it for
irrigation. Russ Martin from the Department says this re-use of water will
take pressure off the Murray River, and protect the marine environment, by
stopping storm water running into the sea. He says wetlands are used to clean
the dirty water, before it's pumped into the underground aquifer.  Because
it's a confined aquifer and has a clay layer on top and beneath it, and then
the sandstone or limestone in between is where the water is actually stored
and the water typically moves very, very slowly.  As a result, all of the
water we inject stays around the well and it only moves out about 50 odd
metres from the injection well, so we can recover that quite easily.

* We wonder how this research will affect the understanding of water movement
 where there is rainfall recharge of aquifers

(2) The need for a bi partisan  Australian vision

From Richard Makim (Julia Creek, Qld)
 I believe we have to try for a National Vision of what we want from this
Country . Our developement now, or lack of it, is very piecemeal or ad
hoc. I haven't put much thought into how to achieve this, but obviously the
present adversarial political forum wouldn't work. To get it right would
have to be positve outcome driven and inclusive. We don't seem to have a
national think tank[ bi-partisan] that  acts in this way and it shows. At
the moment our Democracy is driven by squeaky wheels, never acting in concert
or co-operation for the best informed outcome. The squeaky wheel with easy
access to media, tends to get the charmed run, irrespective of right or

Ayn Rand was eerily close to what I am trying to express with, "Neither a
man nor a nation can exist without some form of philosophy. A man has the
free will to think or not; if he does not, he takes what he gets. The free
will of a nation is its intellectuals; the rest of the country takes what
they offer; they set the terms, the values, the course, the goal.
In the absence of intellectual opposition, the rebels' notions will
gradually come to be absorbed into the culture.

The uncontested absurdities of today are accepted slogans of tomorrow. They
come to be accepted by degrees, by precedent, by implication, by erosion, by
default, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the
other- until the
day they are suddenly declared to be the country's official ideology".

As a result of agriculture not supplying this intellectual opposition, and
only crying 'foul', crying 'poor', 'unfair' or just plain crying, we have
ourselves to blame for our present situation. And we are still waiting for
someone else to fix it. The world has changed dramatically since the
previous approach worked early last century. And more to the point, we are a
highly urbanised country now.

We have plenty of crocs coming out of the swamp. We have been ' up to our
ass in gators' for some time. It has become politically and environmentally
incorrect to drain the swamp or exterminate the 'gators'. Even if we had the
time, or know-how, or thought it was our job. One approach could be to feed
the crocs well, pay them close attention and treat them with respect. The
occasional 'rogue croc' needs putting in a museum with the other dinosaurs
it didn't have the decency to follow.

 My greetings to Jock. The fact that we are still on the issue 15 yrs
on, means it wasn't put away and is the saga of agripolitics. Jock's advice
from the last go round would be invaluable reconnaissance for another try.
Events , people, mindsets, approaches and a host of other variables change.
If we don't learn and change, we might as well take the earlier advice, or
join the old croc in the glass case.

The 'Them and Us' situation is really more of the same. Poor conflict
resolution. Indifferent research and communication. we mostly have more in
common with our adversaries than we think. Again the 'rogue croc' remedy
applies. Also to ours on the agricultural side as well - we have our share

To not get our ground work and home work in order and to head off into legal
work and compensations etc. with a hostile "other side" is fraught with
danger. I may be cynical, but it's a while since I saw law deliver justice,
certainly not quickly or affordably. And particularly not if it's building
it's precedence on paradigm block country.

I haven't noticed agriculture anywhere near united or organised enough to
use any sacred cows of reserves even emotional enough on a wide front to
agree to. I'm not sure I do myself. What I have noticed in the last few
forays agriculture went into, that the other side was better organised,
better equipped, knew what it wanted, had a good strategy, sympathetic media
and was well healed. We turned what should have been an ally into an
adversary, and largely got done.

Regards, Richard Makim

(3) Coalition promises to review Biodiversity Conservation Act

 National Party Leader, John Anderson, has promised to review the Environment
and Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act as it doesn't seem to provide
for compensation in cases where land clearing is prevented and that it allows
a third party to take a landholder to court over their farming practices.
(4) Science and water creates angst in NSW

The NSW Government has moved to hose down fears that irrigation industries
may be compromised by a new move designed to protect threatened species. The
NSW Scientific Committee has made a preliminary determination that altering
the natural flows of rivers threatens native species. The Government
maintains that the water reforms still offer irrigators security despite this
scientific determination.

(5) Koala controversy on Kangaroo Island

 A report by the government's Wildlife Advisory Committee has found the
sterilisation and translocation of the animals will be the most successful
way to reduce and control the number of koalas long term. Recent surveys have
shown that about 27,000 koala's live on the island and that number needs to
be reduced dramatically to protect the Manna Gum tree. In 1996 National Parks
and Wildlife began reducing the number of koalas in the Cygnet River region
of the island using a sterilisation and translocation program.
The State Government's koala program is a 100% failure, according to
Parndarna farmer Terry Bennet. He believes people on the island know what is
best for the island and that it can only sustain between 3000 and 5000
koalas. He says landowners are already culling the animals on their
properties without permission. Mr Bennet says the koalas are still there and
they haven't sterilised them all and they are still breeding up and the
numbers are still increasing and they are targeting the trees and our
riverine areas and they are being stripped of spectacular trees that are now
all dead in the tops. . He says there are some areas that have been
completely killed off, with a five kilometre stretch along the Cygnet River
and all the Manna Gums are dead. He says the solution is to cull them and put
them in a hole and it is already being done by landowners who have given up
waiting for politicians and National Parks and Wildlife to do the right
thing. He says they cull the koalas and keep quite about it  Numbers have not
only dropped and the trees all have their leaves back and are looking

* This illustrates how centralised environmental decision making does not
work. Why not some commonsense and allow local landholders to develope local
plans including harvesting, exporting , or culling, so a stable 5,000 or so  
remain on the Island?

 (6) Exploitative primary industries?

From Ken Weeks

Hello Leon -

I am a veterinarian retired from 42 years in rural veterinary science. My
family background is rural also.

For many years now I have become increasingly concerned by the accelerating  
deterioration of our fragile Australian environment under the pressure of
exploitative primary industries, especially forestry and agriculture in its
broadest sense. Major river systems such as the Murray-Darling and the
Murrumbidgee are well recognised as being in serious trouble that will be
incredibly difficult and expensive, if not impossible, to fix. Salting is now
a significant problem in Australian agriculture. Widespread and recently
accelerating loss of habitat ( by virtue of vastly improved tree clearing
technology ) throughout Australia since white settlement is mainly
responsible for a shameful list of extinctions and ongoing serious depletions
of native animals and birds.

Extensive destruction of nearly all our rainforest must have caused losses in
valuable biodiversity, of which we are not even aware. These unnecessary
negative impacts from white settlement are well recognised, and they are not
the complete list by any means. The question is, what can be done to “stop
the rot”, attempt to repair the damage, and arrive at a balance such that the
future will be sustainable for all the interdependent elements in this
continent’s environmental wellbeing?
People, such as I imagine members of  “Landholders for the Environment”
ought to be, would have a major part to play in the recovery, first of all,
by (a) understanding clearly and accepting the problems, by (b) having the
desire to rectify them, and then by (c) pursuing as vigorously as may be the
optimum paths to their solution. The essential prerequisite for (a) and (c)
is an objective appraisal of the collective quality research and literature
relevant to the problems we need to fix.

Sadly, we do not yet have all the knowledge we would seem to need for
completing the task, so a corollary to this would be strong effective support
for obtaining it as quickly as we can. Nevertheless, there is a great deal we
already do know, so lack of secure knowledge cannot be used as an excuse for
not getting on with the job. Waiting until we thought we had all the answers
would be a dishonest and dangerous pretext for “fiddling while Rome burns”.

 It would be unreasonable to suggest that the responsibility for all this
does not lie with the whole Australian community. What I do suggest, though,
is that the primary industries part of it, especially, stop doing any further
damage, selfishly or through ignorance, while the collective solutions are
worked out ( tree clearing for instance ).

Ken Wells.
(7) Leon Ashby replies

Hi Ken, Your comments on directions for Landholders for the environment is
very much our aims. The difficulty is that those landholders who are getting
good results and reversing land degradation are not promoted and our methods
are not always "politically correct" .

Most of the media and populace and politicians are years behind in
understanding how to manage the different areas of Australia with the
appropriate tools. Things such as

* How  grazing management can be used to improve grasses, water cycles and
soil life.
* How fire and treepulling management that also can improve the overall
balance required to achieve improved soils and landscape goals,
* Why declining perennial grass cover (not tree clearing) is the major cause
of hydrological imbalance that sometimes results in dryland salinity
* How pasture cropping can reduce the periods of soil being bare and reduce
soil erosion and improve water holding ability of the soil.
* How waterspreading management can reduce erosion and improve rainfall
* How  variable retention forestry can keep overall biodiversity stable while
harvesting forests sustainably
(click on grazing  fire  treepulling  or salinity or research for further
explanations from our web site)

Many of us would love to get on with the job, but the conflict with laws and
ideologies is so great, we have to get political because we are being
prevented from caring for the land. For example
 When a landholders cause a minor ecological setback in order to gain greater
ecological health he is often criticised, but doctors performing open heart
surgery or dentists pulling teeth, also cause short term negative results in
order to get greater beneficial ones, and they are thanked.  
Also, there is no appreciation in the community that good land management
needs to be flexible.
Managing any living thing requires flexibility. I expect that when you
diagnose animals, you ask questions about the animal to try to understand as
much as possible about it before you decide what is (hopefully) the best
action to take. You don`t make decisions by government decree. You base it on
your 42 years of knowledge & experience, and what outcome the owner needs or
would like.

Landholders see land management decision making in the same way, using our
years of experience and improving knowledge, & not the idealologies of people
with next to no land management experience.

Your assumption  that land clearing is the cause of many extinctions, also
needs some comment.

The Australian mega fauna extinctions listed in Tim Flannery`s book the
future eaters show that lots of extinctions have no connection with land
clearing (which was not around when these species became extinct).

The reason for many (most?) extinctions is the competitive exclusion
principle. This is stated as"two species that have exactly the same
requirements cannot coexist in the same habitat." (pg 122, Environmental
Science - Botkin & Keller)

Many people would say the extinction of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) and
several small Australian mammals have been due to the dingoe and rabbit in
accord with this principle.
The institute of Public Affairs has said this

In terms of extinctions, the (ACF/NFF)report notes that since European
settlement some 20 mammals have become extinct and suggests that 97 plant
species are also known to be extinct. While any species loss is a matter of
regret, two factors need to be considered in addressing these sorts of

First, the extent of the loss comprises about 7 per cent of the pre-European
mammals and a tiny fraction of the 25,000 plant and 40,000 plus other
vegetation species identified in Australia

The loss was not caused by deliberate extirpation but as a CONSEQUENCE OF NEW
SPECIES. The previous isolation of Australia made it inevitable that native
species would be vulnerable to competition of new strains. Other isolated
areas like Hawaii and the south west of the US suffered comparable species


 In that period, the premium on species preservation was much weaker than it
is today. If it has not been  arrested, species loss has certainly been
considerably reduced in recent decades. This casts doubt on the estimates of
future loss ("3329 plant categories threatened" and an estimated "50% of
Australia's woodland birds will become extinct') in the ACF/NFF report. Such
figures also seem to be considerably higher than those in the OECD
Environmental Data Compendium, 1999, which records 1,085 plant species as
threatened out of 25,000 (or 4 per cent) and 50 threatened bird species out
of 777 (or 6 per cent).

So what I am saying is, since
(1) Species loss largely occurred prior to 1920 mostly due to new species
(2) And there was no mechanical land clearing prior to 1920,
(3) That much of Northern Australia (and some southern areas) have increased
in tree density after white settlement (1870`s) due to the reduced fire
regime (see Tree increase
 ) and
(4) All endangered ecosystems and endangered species and habitat are now
protected, (or at least should be)

When these facts are added up, tree pulling is not the threat to species
extinctions that is being claimed.

(8) Criticism of the Skeptical Environmentalist article

From Steve Davis (Green activist)

I challenge you to provide the following link
regarding Lomborg. (the author)

In case you weren't aware, Lomborg's background is as a statistician, a
training which has left him well-equipped to tell lies by manipulating
figures in order to jump on the anti-environmentalist bandwagon.

Anyway, let you readers look at this http://www.au.dk/~cesamat/debate.html
(click here)

All the best

Steve Davis
* Hi Steve, I notice your reference to "anti environmentalists". Most
Landholders would consider themselves to be "practical green", or "light
green", rather than anti environmentalist. We are however anti "environmental
propaganda" that does not have a basis in logical thought, practical
experience, good science or justice for all.
 ...... I`m sure Landholders would like to know what sort of perspective
Green activists, such as yourself use for determining your views?  - Leon


(9) Vegetation thickening research should reduce Australia`s greenhouse gases
figures by 20%  

From Dr Bill Burrows

Thanks for your comments acknowledging our data documenting the
proliferation ("thickening") of woody plants in Queensland's grazed
woodlands (i.e. on the 99+% of such communities NOT being cleared each
year!).  The 'new' study looking at thickening of native woody vegetation
you referred to is actually an expansion of past research and is being
co-ordinated by myself.  We have secured support from colleagues in the
Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting to undertake this
latest work.  It involves scientists from CSIRO, Adelaide; ANU, Canberra;
Qld Dept of Natural Resources & Mines as well as the woodland management
group within QDPI.  This new detailed study utilises the differing stable
carbon isotope signatures left behind in soils by woody plants, compared
with tropical grasses, to derive the vegetation history of a site.

Our aim is to provide additional evidence that observed woody plant
thickening is man induced.  If we are successful the carbon sink in these
woodlands, resulting from the increased woody plant growth, should be
included in the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.  It would also reduce
Australia's net greenhouse gas emissions in 1990 (the baseline year for
Kyoto Protocol accounting) by 20+%.  Further it should alert landholders and
land administrators to the fact that retained woodland areas on grazing
lands will inevitably decline in livestock carrying capacity if management
doesn't address the issue, or is constrained from doing so.
(10) Bill Soko comments on population limits and laws


Another big subject -- ecological limits are there but do move around.  It
have to
predict what vector will actually kill or crash populations but the trend is
important.....   for example the issue of over population: disaster  may not
as simple starvation ....   it may come from lack of balanced nutrition,
pollution,  wars fighting for control of turf (resources) or new diseases
like aids or water shortages.  Remember parts of the world or getting poorer
resource terms and in rather desperate straights.  Anyone who thinks the world
population is not a threat to all humanity simply has not lived in India,
Pakistan, China or Mexico City.  

Also the fact that the pop appears to have stabilised in developed countries
simply mean that the natural limits have been met .....   slowing pop may
mean we have reached our limits ,,,,,,,   the danger is that we probably have
overshot the mark and
things will catch up in the coming years.....

You complain about more regulation for farmers ........  welcome to the new
.....  a world where people live closer together and demand actions from their
neighbours that do not threaten their lifestyle or safety.   More people more
rules.......    and you also complain about lower real incomes ............
the club .....   the standard of living for lower and middle Aussies, Euros,
etc has been dropping for the last 10-20 yrs ......   and its not over yet
.......   not by a long shot.

good luck, Bill
(11) Leon Ashby replies

G`day Bill,
               Two comments,
(1) Developed countries (e.g. Australia) starting to stabilize their
population due to having reached natural limits would be disputed by many

From our farming experience,  we can see huge potential to have our country
producing many times more food, fibre and energy in a sustainable way. This
could mean Australia COULD  have either a much larger population, or a stable
population with lots more wealth.
Professor Lance Endersbee has more to say about this, on this email, but just
one example I can give you is that in Israel, they have technology which
allows thousands of people to live comfortably in communities in their
deserts, by recycling water for many uses, many times over. The Israeli
professor I talked to last year was flabbergasted at the potential of
Australia`s inland if we adopted their technology.

Assuming stable politics, efficient transport etc, the world`s potential for
sustainable production and therefore population is limited by.

(a) How much we can distribute water over the landscape resulting in how much
biomass of useful plants we can produce and

(b) What standard of living we want / need.

The other point I would like to comment on is the "more people, more rules"

We view laws for the "protection of the innocent" and not for "controlling
the masses"

Every society I can think of  which has had one class of people making laws
to control some or most of the others ends up violating human rights to it`s
own people, and a revolution usually results later.

Our current path of Governments trying to control certain landholders is one
such example of an attempt to controlling some of the masses.
In a democracy, we should have "the people" defining where and when the
innocent need protection, rather than having "elected dictatorships" where an
environment minister  is a dictator to land managers.

And finally

(12) National Science Policies for Australia?

Excerts from Emeritus Professor Lance Endersbee notes


 World Growth

The world population increases at the rate of Australia`s population every 3

Asia`s population increases at the rate of Australia`s population every 6

 Australia has the potential to greatly increase food output for a world that
faces serious food shortages.  My recent studies have indicated that
virtually all of the major groundwater basins in the world have been
exploited almost to extinction, partly because of misunderstandings about
recharge.  This decline of water supplies has serious consequences for food
production in several poor countries.

Australia can readily support a substantial additional population, especially
in the potentially irrigable areas across northern Australia.
In view of the present calamitous world situation, with dislocation of large
populations, and migration of peoples, it is prudent to anticipate increasing
demand for food, and for Australia to plan on ways of increasing food output.


I suggest that the present waste and inefficient use of water in the
Murray-Darling Basin reveals the potential to at least double the output of
irrigable crops for the same volume of water as we now use. This would
require the redesign and rebuilding of much of our irrigation distribution
systems, the opening up of new lands for irrigation, and also the closure of
some low lands that should never have been irrigated anyway.

Such an approach would work wonders in correcting our dry land salinity, and
correcting the degradation of the rivers.  I think it would be shown that it
is just not economic to waste water and land the way we do.

To proceed along these lines we need to put in place a national team of top
level engineers and scientists to consider the Basin as a whole,
independently of state interests, and to develop strategic plans for all
parts of the Basin.  Rebuilding and redevelopment could then start on all
those areas showing the best prospects.  Such a positive plan for the Basin
would inevitably generate a large demand for research and scientific studies,
and stimulate interest in food processing and other manufacture. I favour a
10 year investment and action plan.

Whenever I make proposals along these lines politicians always ask ' how much
will it cost'. The better way to look at the matter is to consider the
benefits, and then to assess the prospects for the quickest returns.  The
total value of output in the Murray-Darling Basin is probably about $25
billion per annum, including all crops and food processing.  We are looking
at a potential increase in value of output of the same magnitude. That would
easily justify capital works of several billion dollars.  The real question
is when do we start.


In a world of strong population pressures, and the migration of hungry and
frightened people, it is incumbent on Australia to consider our response to
these human needs.

In the decade of the fifties, the population of Australia increased by 25 per
cent.  There was increasing prosperity and full employment.  Major
development projects were in hand at state and national levels, including the
snowy Scheme.  We can do the same again.  The Australian population could be
increased from the present 20 million to 25 million by the year 2010.

I think it would be quite reasonable to embark on a program of national
development projects, to accept a prospective increase in population of 25
per cent over the next decade, and to take these into account in our science


Over the past decade there have been some quite extraordinary changes in
Australia - in government, the private sector, and society.  At the heart of
these changes lies the increased exposure to globalisation and market forces,
and the reduced role of government in planning, funding and building for the

Until this change, virtually all of the major public infrastructure of
Australia was funded and built by governments - electricity, water,
irrigation, drainage, roads, airports, telephone services etc.

Despite criticisms by those advocating privatisation, the government
utilities were very capable, and staffed with conscientious professionals.  
They operated at world levels of efficiency, and were well aware of world
best practice.  They trained their staff well, including apprentices and
cadets, and were a source of skilled people for the nation.  They planned on
a long-term basis.  The government utilities were financially efficient, and
their bond raisings were eagerly filled by investors, including super funds,
who saw advantage in the long term security.

All of this changed dramatically during the decade of the nineties - in the
name of privatisation and market forces.  It is not generally recognised that
in terms of total 'sales' of government utilities, Australia led the world in
the decade to 1997.  We are now second to Brazil.   The chart shows the
company we keep. It is much worse on a per capita basis!.

A similar pattern of sales occurred in the private sector, with Australian
companies suffering the same fate as our public utilities.  A characteristic
feature in both the public and private sector was downsizing, a related
emphasis on short-term returns, and less or no planning.  Laboratories were
closed.  Engineering teams were reduced or eliminated.

What is important from the point of view of science policy is that a vast
range of quality professional capability and training has simply been wiped
out, in both the public and private sectors.  There is less need for trade
training.  Government technical schools have closed.

The emphasis on market forces has also meant the end of company loyalty, and
of company obligations to their staff.  We seem to have lost the ideal of the
dedicated public servant.

People in jobs are now responsible for their own professional development
throughout their working life.  This has thrown greater burdens on the
universities and colleges, as well as the people involved.

All of this has profoundly disturbing consequences in national terms.  We
have now effectively lost the interest and motivation of the downsized
generation, and many young people, especially boys.


In the present problems of the nation there is no alternative other than
government leadership at the national level.  We are at the end of state
based development.  The states are busily selling their public infrastructure
and leaving the field.

There are very serious national problems, and there are national solutions,
and these solutions include major public works in water, transport, energy,
and related mining and industry projects.  But there is no federal ministry
of national development, as that might offend the states.  A department of
national development should be a first priority after the election.

Over the past ten years I have been working on conceptual plans for several
national projects for national development.  I believe they are all feasible
and economic.

In the north of Australia the summer monsoonal rains cause widespread
flooding every year.  There are potential sites for reservoirs to capture
part of these floods, and vast areas of potentially irrigable land downstream
and in nearby catchments.  The Flinders, Victoria and Fitzroy Rivers and
others all show excellent prospects for economic development on a very large
scale.  Some small areas have been considered in the past for cotton and
found uneconomic. But now there is a growing demand in our region for fruit
and vegetables to feed large and rapidly growing cities. With fast freight
shipping and air services to markets in Asia and the Middle East these
irrigation areas would develop and prosper.