Hi everyone,
                  This edition there are more controversial issues raised.
Thanks to everyone sending in comments and snippets of info.

We hope you keep your computer virus protection updated. We had 8 emails sent
to us this week with viruses on them.
(1) A reminder on government papers / policy calling for comments
(2) New call for fox bounty
(3) Review of 1080
(4) Spud reactor helps the environment
(5) Climate change for agriculture
(6) Rally against Native Vegetation planning
(7) Farmers fly a kite - GST on fresh food for environmental work
(8) Burdekin water revolt
(9) Cotton development pros and cons
(10) SAFF looks to unblock the funding impasse over the SE drain system
(11) Pakistan raised beds
(12) Opposition`s new shadow Ag & environment ministers
(13) TAS NHT Brain Drain
(14) Rodney & Katie ? comment on water
(15) Hot rock development
(16) Thermal powered station in Mildura
(16) David Chambers - Sustainability comments
(17) Dingoes in danger of extinction due to hybridisation with domestic dogs
(18) Wild dog summit
(19) Orchid in reserve needs cattle grazing
(20) Controversial comments by SA environmental biologist David Paton on
complexities of bird conservation
(21) Endangered Wombats under pressure from Dingoes
(22) Conservation and production need be understood where they can overlap
and where they can`t - Leon Ashby
(23) Population and flexible international employment practices - Ian Mott
(24) Skeptical Environmentalist Book reviews (book will be available in Aust
in Feb)

(1) A reminder on government papers / policies calling for comments

 Environmental management systems (EMS)  framework   
www.affa.gov.au/ems_framework or click here

The Govt web site says there are 5 principles they are suggesting

(1) voluntary and industry and /or community led
(2) simple, cost effective, user friendly, able to be phased in at any
leveland provide clear advantages to the adopting enterprise
(3) Adaptable and provide for continuous improvement.
(4) Consistent with existing internationally recognisedsystems and be capable
of independant audit
(5) Demonstrate links between competativenesss and natural resource
management objectives.

However Qld Landholder reps who went to NSW for an EMS conference kept
hearing the word "mandatory" being said.
Margaret House (Qld) says "Govt`s will stuff this good idea up if they
strangle it with their control tenticles and override landholder leadership."

email your views to ems@affa.gov.au

esearch.htm or click here

(2) New call for fox bounty

The Australian Local Government Association is calling on the Federal and all
State governments to establish a national strategy to control foxes.  Mayor
of the Murray Shire, Brian Sharp raised the idea of a nationally-adopted
bounty on all foxes killed.
(3) Review of 1080
The National Registration Authority says it will begin a review next year,
into whether the uses of 1080 have to change, due to the accidental poisoning
of other animals. The N.R.A. says the fox bait has resulted in the death of
native fauna and domestic dogs.

(4) Spud reactor helps the environment

In a world first, a Tasmanian company is using a super-spud biological
reactor, to clean up a chemical waste dump on the outskirts of Burnie. It`s
75-metres long, contains 500-tonnes of potatoes and eats toxic waste
(5) Climate change for agriculture

 According to CSIRO modelling, if carbon dioxide levels double, and the air
temperature goes up by 2 degrees, it's expected crop yields could increase by
a third. Dr Mark Howden, a research scientist at the CSIRO says crops may
become more water efficient because of climate change too. Some of the bad
ramifications however  include - decrease in protein in wheat crops, and an
increased number of pests to invade southern Australia

(6) Rally against NSW Native Vegetation planning

Hundreds of people rallyed at the Grafton Showground against the Native
Vegetation Plans, being developed for the Clarence and Richnmond Valleys.
After three years of meetings, farmers and forestors alike, are furious with
how the plans are unfolding. They claim they're inequitable and threaten the
very livelihood of many living and working in the timber communities. Akin to
the conflict surfacing through the inland, particularly at Walgett and
Nyngan, the Committees drawing-up the plans are also under fire for failing
to adequately represent the "true" interests.
(7) Farmers fly a kite - GST on fresh food for environmental work

The NSW Farmers Association says paying for environmental repair cannot fall
soley on the shoulders of the resource users, namely the farmers. Instead,
the Association argues a "green tax" is needed, to help pay for the work
required to improve our land and water.  Policy Director, Mick Keogh,
believes the best way to apply that tax, would be by imposing a Goods and
Services Tax on fresh food.
(8) QLD Burdekin water revolt

 Burdekin irrigators rejected a state government proposal to reduce their
water charges. Burdekin irrigators have been withholding part payment of
their water bills from Sunwater for almost 12 months, claiming they're the
only channel irrigators in the state expected to pay more than the cost of
recovery. They now collectively owe around 3 million dollars in outstanding
dues and Sunwater is threatening legal action to recover the money. The
Minister for Natural Resources, Stephen Robertson says he's disappointed with
the grower's unaminous rejection of the deal and says the offer of a
statewide review of water pricing policy could even be withdrawn.

 Ron Mullin says there seems to be a lack of preparedness for the government
to sit down with industry and develop a responsible rural water policy.

* Russ McNee says the irrigators are prepared to battle this out in court if
need be
(9) Cotton development pros and cons

 Research into cotton has been underway since the mid nineties in regions
like the Ord, North Queensland as well as at the Katherine Research Station.
Intial estimates indicate there is potential to grow cotton on 21 potential
sites, 200-thousand hectares across Northern Australia. A recent report in
the Australian News Paper highlighted conservation concerns like tree
clearing and irrigation. The CRC for Cotton is looking at the feasability of
growing cotton in northern areas. Steve Yeates has completed a report.
Meanwhile conservation groups are concerned about the potential impact of
growing cotton in the north and say that other sustainable crops should be
looked at. They are concerned that cotton will ruin the ecology once and for
all in what has other-wise been a pristine region.
(10) SAFF looks to unblock the funding impasse over the SE drain system

 While local landholders and state and federal governments have funded
construction of the huge northern outlet drain, also known as Tom
Brinkworth's spectacular water valley gorge, budget overuns have meant there
is no money left to finish off the all-important inter-connecting drains.
Landholders are adament that they won't pay anymore. They claim the main
reason the project is overbudget is that bureaucrats have imposed all sorts
of expensive environmental add-ons which weren't part of the original plans.
The state and federal governments claim this was always a project to help the
environment, not just agriculture, so can a compromise be reached?

SAFF's Natural Resources Chairman Kent Martin says there's another nine
million dollars required and a component from federal and a component from
the state government, there will have to be a component from the local
community. He says there is real potential for the in-kind work that
landowners have put in throughout the scheme to be revalued and this
contribution would offset the dollar contribution. Salt land agronomy,
revegetation of wetlands, ecotourism and a whole range of things that have
had input from farmers all along that have not properly been valued. He says
one quick example is revegetation and people only look at the original
concept and they didn't look at the long-term work and when we talk about
revegetation, we talk about work that goes on for 50 or 100 years, so
landowners inputs need to be looked at in that context.

(11) Pakistan raised beds

Raised beds used on Pakistani farms have been hailed a huge success. There's
always been a shortage of water and land in Pakistan, and for years farmers
have relied upon flood irrigation for crops. But in a bid to save water,
contain waterlogging and prevent the buildup of salinity, farmers are now
turning to raised beds. The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council came
across raised beds after a visit to WA in 1996 and since then they have been
working in with the WA  Department of Agriculture.
(12) Opposition`s new shadow Ag & Environment Ministers

Simon Crean has appointed Tasmanian senator Kerry O`Brien as shadow Ag
Minister, Kelvin Thomson as shadow Environment Minister , and Kirsten
Livermore (Qld) as his parliamentary secretary

(13) TAS NHT Brain Drain

Money for stage one of the Natural Heritage Trust ends in September next
year, forcing the three hundred staff of NHT-funded projects in Tasmania to
look elsewhere for work. Already a number of skilled staff are leaving their
jobs and in some cases leaving the State.
(14) Rodney & Katie ? comment on water

  Water in Australia is effectively common property
-- owned by the crown.  It is to be distributed "in fairness to all
interests".  On
irrigation systems water allocations are sold on a basic ration system.  They
can be
subject to change if "situations warrant" -- natural events or other
demanding a shift in share.  At present in areas without a WAMP there is no
compensation. Users had the right to water on a term basis -- generally
With a Wamp it is a guaranteed allocation subject to natural availability  10
to my knowledge.   It is not in the public interest to allocate all available
to fixed interests forever.  The only certainty is that, in future, many
others will
want a share of every resource.

Unallocated water is still in the public domain and no one can claim
for missing out on future uses like expanding a crop.

* Are there ways to increase water availability for ALL uses? e.g. recycling
and / or desalinising sea water
Israel is transforming areas of desert with both these methods.

(15) Hot rock development

Paul Walmsley says the potential new energy source aiming to develop energy
from thermal-heated rocks beneath the earth, is not only green but will also
help business in south-west western Queensland.

"It would help any power company that's looking to meet Kyoto protocols...and
from a regional perspective, it could act as a great way of providing
incentives to new business in western Queensland as a way of looking at
providing equity in power supply in rural areas," he said.

In 10 years time, Western Queensland could be powered by 'hot rocks' . The
Hot Rocks Project began in Longreach two years ago by the commuity-based
Desert Energy Group who developed a seven-stage plan to establish a power
station using the unique underground resource in the region. If successful a
geothermal power station in Western Queensland would be large enough to power
all of Australia.
(16) Thermal powered station in Mildura

The world’s first large-scale solar thermal power station could be up and
running in Australia by 2005. Set to be the tallest human-made structure on
the planet, the proponents say the solar tower will cost $700-million to
build and produce enough power to fuel a regional city.

It sounds like a hare-brained scheme, but Environmission, the small company
behind it, has got some high profile supporters. The first plant is likely to
be located near Mildura. It will consist of two parts: a massive circular
solar collector at the base, and a giant tower reaching into the sky that’ll
produce power by moving hot air.

The designer, Professor Jorg Schlaich from the University of Stuttgart, has
also developed a test model in Spain

It will have a 1,000 metre reinforced concrete tower in the middle of a very
large greenhouse in the order of 5 kilometres diameter.

The actual solar collector will be made of glass or plastic, it’s a simple
technology where air underneath the collector will be heated, and as hot air
rises, and it’ll be drawn by the roof sloping towards the base of the tower,
and at the tower the wind speed will reach 15 metres a second, which is quite
strong, and the updraft of the tower will cause the kinetic energy, which
obviously then drives the turbines at the base of the tower.

 the base of the tower will be something between 170 to 200 metres, which
makes it as wide as the MCG  

The size is required to allow it to produce 200 megaWatts of energy, enough
power to feed  all the homes of a city like Hobart, including the industrial

(16) From David Chambers - Sustainability comments

Hi Leon,

Just a comment to add to Dan McLuskey's really good article on

Many have argued what defines sustainability. I would like to perhaps state
the obvious that "sustainability is achieved with a balance that can be
maintained towards infinity"

The world's ecosystem evolved to achieve a balance approaching this
definition. It has been very evident that the over development of one
species population creates an imbalance that usually results in a
destruction of many species including the dominant consuming species.

Dan mentions the increasing population of our species and "can we provide
for this?"  It should be obvious to all that our continued expansion is the
major contributor to a lack of realisable sustainability. Unfortunately
therefore sustainability is not achievable in the forseeable future as
population and consumption radically increase. It has been argued that in
the past we have increased efficiency of production etc. to sustain a
increased population (this does not mean sustainability). It should by now
be clear that this can not continue indefinitely ie towards infinity. The
evidence is upon us with the apparently irreconcilable greed of cities
consuming resources contrasting with the struggle to efficiently utilise
resources at considerable cost to primary producers.

At some stage in the immediate future our world civilisation needs to
consider the limits (not just how many will fit Australia). It is entirely
possible that we may extinguish masses of population through disease,
starvation or lack of water. Not a pleasant thought but study of our history
and that of other species indicates that imposed population control does
happen. Yes we are a real problem for the eco-system even though many are
trying to find a solution, the majority live for today only.

What level of human population can be sustainable??  The Aboriginals have
been lauded for their sustainable way of life mainly because their
population and consumption was not a major impact. Nevertheless they are
credited with playing a major role in wiping out some of the cumbersome
marsupials in the ancient history of this land.

Like Dan we must look at the entire system of which Agriculture is a


David Chambers (Land Management Society)

(17) Dingoes in danger of extinction due to hybridisation with domestic dogs
From Dr John Kingston (Qld MP)

The Univerisity of NSW is going to research how to test for pure dingoe
More info is on
http://www.bioc.unsw.edu.au/anw/dingo.html   or  click here
(18) Wild dog summit

Experts will gather at a meeting in Wodonga on February the 22nd, organised
by the Victoria and New South Wales Wild Dog Control Co-ordinating Committee.
The meeting aims to develop a national approach to the problem, which
landholders claim is out of control.
(19) Orchid needs cattle gazing
From a Weekly Times letter to the editor

The letter stated a case where a rare orchid was discovered in an unused
reserve which was being leased to a cattle grazier, as was the case for the
last 100 years. The cattle were then removed to conserve the orchid, but
after several years the orchid is being out competed by other plants. The
writer suggested reintroduction of the cattle would assist in the orchids
survival chances.
(20) SA environmental biologist David Paton discusses complexities of bird
From Acres (newspaper) Nov / Dec 2001 edition

A very good article called "time running out for disappearing birds"
illustrates the complexities involved with conservation of birds. Some of
David Paton`s points include

* A pair of small "restless fly catchers" (insect eaters) may need up to 50
Ha to survive
* Fragmented areas may be of little value to some species
* Reveg programmes have not looked at the diversity of vegetation needed for
different  bird species
* Lack of monitoring of NHT projects gives no indication if the money was
well spent or wasted.
* In many instances tree plantings do not provide good habitat for declining
bird species and some encourage pest species which conflict with those in
need of preservation.
* Many Australian birds have specific ties with their food sources (seeds &
* Landholders "doing the right thing" fencing off areas of remnant vegetation
to protect it against grazing could be doing the wrong thing for some bird
species if they don`t control pest plants in the fenced off area.

Dr Paton is calling for many things including

* Good farmland to be retired and reestablished with appropriate vegetation.
* Landholders to be paid for monitoring and managing land for wildlife /
* Focussing on treeplanting for multiple benefits including food sources and
habitat for declining bird species
* Detailed planning on a regional scale
* Moving away from monocultures in horticulture & forestry
* Culling some aggressive bird species (that outcompete declining species)
* Culling some Koalas which have extended outside their natural habitats and
upset the former conditions for declining bird species.
(21) Endangered Wombats under pressure from Dingoes

It has been reported that 10 endangered northern hairynosed wombat had been
killed by dingoes recently. Only 110 are known to remain which is a
considerable increase from their lowest numbers of 30 some years ago.

 (22) Conservation and production need be understood where they can overlap
and where they can`t - Leon Ashby

You will notice the number of animals management issues this edition which
indicate successful conservation needs to be as intense and flexible as
successful farming. Would anyone care to comment on the following suggestions.

# Many native species are (or could be) a part of a production enterprise and
therefore be conserved via  commercial means. (and excess numbers sold as
pets or for food, fur etc)
# National parks could be managed for conservation by private people in a
partly commercial way, if a correct understanding about fire, grazing,
culling (harvesting of some prolific species) was promoted to the community
People (graziers?) could apply to manage a park while a govt dept monitors
the land . Stock, fire and all other management tools would be permitted so
the manager could keep specified conservation species in good numbers. The
manager could make some of his income from the stock and some from achieving
conservation targets.

Would better conservation be achieved this way, at far less cost to the


(23) Population and flexible international employment practices - Ian Mott

Dear Leon,

An interesting discussion with Bill Soko on population. Bill seems to be
well versed in reasons why things can't be done.

The key question in population is not how many but, rather, on what basis.
Australian industries routinely compete in world markets that are subsidised
by migrants as well as tax payers.

The US sugar industry is a good example. US sugar is harvested by Cuban
labourers at a fraction of the wages of mr average USA. They are not
permanent resident Cuban/Americans who enjoy full access to the US job
market. They are temporary workers who must return to Cuba at the end of
each season.

They (and uncle Fidel) gladly accept wages that are barely subsistence by US
standards but are much more than the Cuban average annual income. No US jobs
are "taken" by these workers because the jobs simply would not exist at
normal US wage rates.

A similar, but defacto, situation applies in all the South West States where
mostly illegal Mexican workers are the backbone of all agriculture.

The US is not alone. The Singaporean building industry is dependent on
temporary Indonesian labourers. The same applies for Malaysia where illegal
Indonesian workers have a blind eye turned to them during booms but are
deported en-masse in recessionary times.

Where would the German Mark be without Turkish, and now East European, guest
workers who can live 20 or 30 years in the country without gaining the
rights and income benefits that come with citizenship?

But the prize must go to the Saudi's who's entire economy is run by various
nationalities who are employed under temporary Visas and paid on a scale
based on their country of origin. So a hospital would have Canadian nurses
paid on a premium on Canadian wages and Philippine nurses paid on  a premium
on Philippine wages.  The same applies in construction, Australian
Engineers, Bangladesh labourers, Philippine accountants etc.

In fact, everyone is doing it but us. They maintain the international
competitiveness of their businesses by adjusting the mix of locals and other
nationalities. This has both a price effect as well as productivity,
training and technology effects.  They compensate for an excess of unskilled
workers from one nationality by adding a highly skilled employee from

What does this mean for land management?

This has some interesting implications for Australian land management. Why,
for example, is it quite appropriate for Australians to wear Nike shoes made
by cheap international labour but environmental good works can only be done
(in fact not get done) by high cost local labour?

Regrowth control as part of pasture maintenance has only become a political
issue since cost/price pressures demanded broadscale clearing by Dozer and
chain rather than the traditional burning and ringbarking.

The Australian public rightly proclaimed by referendum that the Murri
workers who had been doing this job were Australians who had the right to
Australian working conditions. This raised the cost of this activity to the
point where the job disappeared, replaced by the far more visible, and
ecologically insensitive, chaining.

No one bothered to ask the question - How many of those Murri jobs could
have been maintained if a portion of the gang was made up of cheaper guest

We seem to be very clever at spending $50,000 per head/year on sending
illegals to Nauru while we determine if they can have the full benefits of
permanent residence. But can't imagine what sort of ecological repairs a
single farming family could achieve with a team of workers being paid even 4
or 5 times what they would earn back in Kabul. (if there was a job/house in

Care would obviously be needed to ensure that mainstream jobs are not eroded
but if we are, as we are constantly told we must be, exposed to the full
rigours of globalisation, then lets have full access to all the benefits,
not just all the pain.

Ian Mott
(22) Skeptical Environmentalist Book will be available in Aust in Feb

Here are some interesting reviews from the web

From Matt Ridley - The Daily Telegraph (London)  
...he has put his conclusions in a remarkable book, probably the most
important book on the environment ever written. Its importance lies partly in
its relentless statistics. With 173 charts, nine tables and a staggering
2,930 footnotes, The Skeptical Environmentalist will be a source of reference
for years to come. But it is also a readable, accessible and simple account
of the state of the world, told as much in the illuminating charts as in the
text itself. And it is a fascinating polemic, too.

From ... Grundle
"The Skeptical Environmentalist" by Bjorn Lomborg is a wonderful book about
the environment. The book is very logical and rational. It's full of facts,
data, and empirical evidence. The book would make an excellent source of
information for anyone who cares about the environment.

Just as interesting as the book is, is the story of how the book came to be.
About 30 years ago, a bunch of radical environmental doomsayers made a bunch
of predictions. According to them, before the year 2000, all sorts of
terrible things were going to happen: the world would be in the middle of an
ice age, there would be no trees left, most people in the U.S. and in the
rest of the world would have starved to death, the air pollution would be so
bad that everyone would have to wear a gas mask, there would be a major
reduction in global life expectancy, the entire country of England would not
exist, the entire South American rainforest would be gone, half the species
of the world would be extinct, and the world's supplies of oil, copper, gold,
natural gas, tin, zinc, mercury, and lead would all be gone.

But the doomsayers had a "solution" to all of these problems. Their
"solution" was to bring an end to capitalism and economic growth. They wanted
all the governments of the world to pass legislation to halt economic growth.
They wanted the government to take control of all economic activity, and all
natural resources.

Well, we ignored their advice. On the contrary, since then, world GNP has
more than doubled. And it's precisely because of
capitalism and economic growth that we were able to avoid these catastrophes.
Capitalism and economic growth gave us the ability to pay for the invention
and use of new technology to make the environment better. The air and water
are cleaner now than 30 years ago. There are more trees today. Adjusted for
inflation, prices of oil, copper, and all those other natural resources have
gone down, which means that the supply of known available resources has gone
up. Technology makes it easier and easier to find things and extract them.
And technology makes it easier and easier to invent and use substitutes.
Because of economic growth, we now use fiber optics. Compared to copper wire,
a fiber optic cable uses fewer materials, but carries more information.
Because of all the farming technology that doomsayers hate (pesticides,
genetic engineering, biotech, chemical fertilizer) we now grow more food on
less land. So some past farmland is now set aside as a forest preserve. The
average person in the world eats more calories today than ever before. Global
life expectancy keeps going up and up. England still exists. The amazon rain
forest hasn't even come close to disappearing. The vast majority of the
world's species are still intact. The world has not entered into an ice age.

So, the doomsayers said that capitalism and economic growth would cause all
sorts of problems. But in reality, capitalism and economic growth made things
better. So the doomsayers were wrong.

So, along comes a guy named Julian Simon. He explained why the doomsayers
were wrong. He explained that things had gotten better. And he explained that
capitalism and economic growth were the reason that things had gotten better.
His best book is "The Ultimate Resource 2," which I highly recommend.

Well, the doomsayers became very angry at Simon. They called him all sorts of
nasty names. They hated him with a passion. They tried very hard to discredit

But there's one thing that the doomsayers never did: they never provided any
actual evidence to explain why Simon was wrong.

Furthermore, the doomsayers continued to make all sorts of doomsayer
predictions for the future. For example, the Earth Day 2000 special issue of
Time magazine is full of doomsayer predictions.

Then along comes Bjorn Lomborg. He was sure that Simon was wrong. After all,
everyone "knew" that Simon was wrong. But unlike Simon's other critics,
Lomborg decided to do actual research. So he spent a lot of time doing
intense, detailed research. And much to his surprise, he ended up proving
that Simon was right.

And that's why "The Skeptical Environmentalist" is such a great book. It's a
great book because it's based on logic, rational thinking, data, facts, and
empirical evidence. If everyone reads "The Skeptical Environmentalist," then
the doomsayers will be exposed as the liars and frauds that they are.

As it stands right now, the doomsayers can continue to get away with making
their bogus statements, because most people are unaware of what has been
happening in the real world.

The doomsayers like to take advantage of the fact that most people aren't
aware of their past bogus predictions. Younger people have never heard about
these failed predictions of the past, and older people forget that the
predictions had ever been made. The mainstream media treats the doomsayers as
being credible, and labels them as being "experts on the environment." Anyone
who disagrees with the doomsayers gets labeled as being "uncaring" or as
being "against the environment." The doomsayers prey upon the ignorance of
their audience. The best thing that people like Bjorn Lomborg can do to deal
with this is to tell the truth. In the debate over the environment, the truth
is the best weapon.


From Professor Lars Kristoferson, Secretary General, WWF Sweden
‘When Lomborg concludes that ‘ … the loss of the world’s rainforests, of
fertile agricultural land, the ozone layer and of the climate balance are
terrible …’ I agree. But we also need debate, and this book provides us with
that in generous amounts. If you, like I do, belong to the people who dare to
think the world is making some progress, but always with mistakes to be
corrected, this book makes important reading.’

To read the first chapter or order the book over the net click