G`day Folks,
                   The sattelite TV idea has been recieved well. I made a
gaff last email calling VFF President Peter Walsh, Mal Peters (the NSW
farmers president). My apologies.
On a personal note, Jane & I are selling our Qld property "Barcoorah" -  
mostly for family reasons, so these emails might be a bit irregular in coming
months as we sort things out.

(1) News in brief
(2) Wild dog issues
(3) Peace pipe soothes right to farm disputes
(4) Walgett Native Vegetation group to try again
(5) Request for perpetual lease property rights clarification when opal
mining comes into effect - Denise O`Brien
(6) NSW Catchment Management
(7) Qld`s New Animal Welfare rules
(8) Animal welfare and nature - Leon Ashby
(9) Qld Lease review
(10) Wheat fungus increases yield
(11) Satellite Weather Eye
(12) Politicians invited to forests by timber industry
(13) Mary River Barrage (Qld) causes injustices
(14) Desert Uplands research supports "grazing can improve soil "
(15) More on Bjorn Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist"
(16) Theoretical vs practical - Bill Soko
(17) Invitation to put you views on another forum - On Line opinion
(18) Sattelite TV reaction - various comments

(1) News in brief

A study by the Australian Greenhouse Office looking at the full lifecycle of
ethanol from sugar cane to car exhaust indicates that using low levels of
ethanol as a fuel additive may deliver less greenhouse benefits than the cost
to the environment of it's production
South Australia has had its coolest summer on record, with many regions on
average five degrees cooler than last year's exceptionally hot summer. (over
2 degrees below average)
 Timberworkers for Forests (TAS) is a new group proposing low volume forest
management as an alternative to clearfelling and woodchipping. President of
the new group, Graham Green says Tasmanian forests are being logged
unsustainably and despite the RFA, the industry is loosing jobs.
The first Federal funds to fight foxes in Tas have emerged, with the
Cooperative Research Centre entering the chase. The Pest Animal Control CRC
will use their expertise to rid the state of the pest.  

(2) Wild dog issues

Farmers on the edge of the Big Desert National Park feel they're being
ignored in attempts to control Victoria's wild dog problem. In the last
decade more than five hundred wild dogs have been caught in the desert near
graziers properties. The landholders are concerned that they'll miss out on
any funding to control the problem.
Four hundred people attended a wild dog summit at Wodonga, and called for a
national body to be set up to help fund and co-ordinate the management of
wild dogs.

* Many Qld Shires often destroy up to 1,000 wild dogs a year
Hybrid Dingoes protected in National parks

Alan Wilton`s DNA research is showing that the Australian Dingo is in danger
of extinction from hybridisation in the wild.
Alan could only confidently class dingoes found in dingo farms and tourism
attractions as purebreds.
National parks (which protects dingoes unless they threaten nearby farm
livestock) may be assisting with hybridisation because of the lack of wild
dog management in these areas

(3) Peace pipe soothes right to farm disputes

The graduation of 20 rural mediators today signifies a new era for the right
to farm in Victoria. The Rural Dispute Settlement Centre was set up by the
state government to resolve the increasing number of conflicts between
farmers and their neighbors. The Victorian Farmers Federation wanted specific
"Right to farm" legislation, but it wont happen in the life of this parliment
according to the Bracks government. Instead, the Rural Dispute Settlement
Centre has been created to reduce the number of disputes ending up in court.
Toni Meek, manager for community relations has conducted a number of
mediation sessions and says there is a place for mediation but in some
instances there will never be resolution without more powerful independent
(4) Walgett Native Vegetation group to try again

Land clearing and native vegetation management remains a big issue in the
North West of the State, with over 100 landholders turning up to a meeting in
the little town of Walgett, to discuss their next move in a long running row
with the State Govt. Last year, all of the local landholders on the Walgett
Vegetation Committee, resigned en mass - in protest over a process they say
was bogged in endless beaurocracy. And they set to work on drawing up their
own local Veg Management Plan, outside the official government process.
However, with a new Minister for Land and Water in place, the Chair of the
former Walgett Veg Committee, Michael O'Brien, says ther'll be more
negotations on Native Vegetation.

(5) Request for perpetual lease property rights clarification when opal
mining comes into effect - Denise O`Brien

Hi Leon & Jane, Firstly, thanks for all your efforts in keeping us informed
on so many issues.

However, on a property rights issue, I wanted to bring a matter to your
attention for comment.  The local landholder at the centre of this issue
would be grateful for any help or advice.  The Department for Mineral
Resources has recently approved an opal miner's application for a dam site
for the purpose of washing opal on a perpetual lease property affected by
opal mining.  The dam covering an area of 2 hectares has been excavated and
just waiting on rain before it can be put to use.

 The landholder is deeply concerned that he was not consulted in the matter,
has no idea whether an EIS was carried out and is frankly unsure of his legal
rights.  There is also the matter of access to the site through his property
and areas of legal liability should an accident occur among many other
considerations.  In view of amendments to the NSW Mining Act which treats all
land titles equally this could set a worrying precedent for all landholders.

Any comments?
Denise O'Brien

* If the law was fair, Jane & I believe the situation should be that since
the mining right (& therefore all associated responsibilities) have
overridden all the landholders rights on land designated for mining, the
landholder should not be liable for anything associated with the mining area,
but as these latest amendments are untested, nothing is for certain,
especially since some legislation is badly written
Anyone with a bit of NSW legal knowledge got an answer?

(6) NSW Catchment Management

16 of 19 Catchment-based plans to tackle degradation of the state's land and
waterways have been released by the NSW Minister for Land and Water
Conservation, John Aquilina.The draft catchment blueprints are now on public
display with opportunity for comment up until the end of April.

More than four hundred landholders met in Kempsey to respond to the Mid North
Coast Catchment Blueprint and carried a motion of no-confidence in the
Department of Land and Water

(7) Qld`s New Animal Welfare rules

Queensland's new animal welfare laws  carrying big fines for those who fail
to meet their duty of care. Under the new Act individuals can be fined up to
75-thousand dollars for cruelty to animals and organisations, five times that
amount. The new Animal Care and Protection Act will be enforced by the
Department of Primary Industries and the RSPCA.

* This new law could one day have some sticky situations e.g. in the case of
drought where stock prices are low, therefore feeding or selling stock is not
much of an option and the practice of "opening all the gates" will be
questioned by the DPI. If a landholder was to be prosecuted in such a case,
we imagine QPWS treatment of native animals in a drought would also be
interesting. Maybe someone should document QPWS drought practices for animals
just in case?.

(8) Animal welfare and nature - Leon Ashby

 An animal welfare activist recently made the comment that humans should stop
cruelty to animals or "just let animals be, to live the way nature intended
them to live"
I replied with a letter to the editor saying that nature is cruel to animals
* Many species hunt, kill, maim and eat another - without an anesthetic
* The competative exclusion principle means species sharing the exact same
ecological niche will cause one of those species to become extinct,  
* Droughts, natural fires, diseases etc cause many individual animals to
suffer for long periods of time  
Therefore anyone who is against animal cruelty also should be against
"letting animals be, to live the way nature intended"

(9) Qld Lease review

Over the next 20 years almost half the pastoral leases in Qld will be due for
renewal. There are 15 000 leases in Qld covering 112 million hectares. A
discussion paper has been written which suggests some approaches to the
future management of rural leasehold land. It's called "Managing State Rural
Leasehold Land". The public has until April 1 to make any submissions.
Agforce has just released it's response to the paper Paul Bidwell says the
bottom line is a push for greater security of tenure.

(10) Wheat fungus increases yield

Trials in the south east WA into a naturally occuring fungus have found it
could increase wheat yields by more than 12 percent, and add millions of
dollars to the cereal industry. The penicillum radicum fungus, commercially
known as PR70, promotes growth in wheat crops by extracting valuable
phosphates otherwise bound up in the soil. The fungus trialled in the
Esperance mallee where it was applied as a seed dressing but growers are
warned the fungus isn't a replacement for phosphate and suits specific soil
types such as high reactive iron soils.

(11) Satellite Weather Eye

The most advanced satellite technology ever designed to gather climate data
is being launched from South America. The satellite is part of a 40 million
dollar project between Australia and the United Kingdom. Sea surface
temperatures will be measured from space, providing scientists with the most
extensive data set on climate variation ever recorded.
(12) Politicians invited to forests by timber industry

Neville Smith Timber Industries is inviting 150 politicians, conservationists
and media commentators to fly over forest coops and see for themselves how
the industry operates. Mr Neville Smith says its time for the industry to do
more to win the public relations battle battle over access to forests.

(13) Mary River Barrage (Qld) causes injustices

The Mary River barrage  was planned in 1977 to improve water quality (by
excluding sea water) and  to improve quantity (storage of 9,200 ML) by
raising river levels by 2 metres, without inundating private landholdings.  
After construction in 1982 it has raised the river height 2.9 metres,
inundated considerable private land, as well as assisting floods eroding more
areas into the river.

To date there has been no compensation paid to landholders who have lost
their land, either from inundation, or due to land lost by erosion caused by
the department clearing vegetation next to the river prior to the barrage
being built.
Interestingly landholders who refused the department permission to clear have
more stable banks.

(14) Desert Uplands research supports "grazing can improve soil "

Ashley Adams has faxed the results of soil tests sampled by DNRM from over 50
properties in central and southern Qld.
The research was on resource (soil) condition and trend which mainly looked
at soil carbon levels in identical areas comparing uncleared with cleared (or
at least "pulled country")
Each plot had 25 soil cores taken and analysed. There was comparisons done at
depths of 10 cm, 30 cms and 1 m.

The results are surprising to the researchers because they show Ashley`s
property "Rellim" has increased soil carbon in both Gidgee and Box (Spinifex)
country in comparison with the other sites, - and at all depths.
For example, most (but not all) sites showed soil carbon losses on cleared
country of around 5 % , but on "Rellim" the soil carbon increased by between
6.4 % and 26.5 %. The increases were measurable down to a depth of a metre.
Similar figures were found when soil carbon and litter were analysed.

Other results include
* 11 sites showed increases in soil carbon between the cleared (developed)
site and a nearby uncleared site

* The levels of phosphorus, potassium, and sulphur were higher under Buffel
pasture (cleared) than the Spinifex (uncleared) sites.

Ashley has been using a "holistic / planned" grazing approach on "Rellim" and
says these results verify that DEVELOPMENT  ALONG WITH GOOD PASTURE
MANAGEMENT (e.g. Holistic or planned grazing) can improve the soil fertility
and performance.
Spinifex country (which is under pressure to have development banned) showed
an increase of 15.91 % (or 1.76 tonne/ha) of soil carbon at 10 cms depth
after buffel grass establishment and appropriate grazing management was used

Ashley also believes that laws and guidelines WHICH LIMIT MANAGEMENT OPTIONS
will only prevent landholders creatively improving the land.

For more details of this research contact Ben Harms at harmsb@nrm.qld.gov.au
or Ashley Adams on 0746 575023

 (15) More on Bjorn Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist"

Steve Davis (an activist) has sent us an email with details of a Scientific
American article where four scientists were invited to review Lomborg's work
from the perspectives of (1) global warming, (2) energy, (3) population and
(4) biodiversity
In short, they criticise Lomborg`s conclusions.

Sheila Davis has also written

Things about Lomborg that have to be remembered are:
1) he did no original research
2) the book was not peer reviewed
3) he mixes up correlation and causation
4) his references, although many, are mainly secondary references and often
not relevant to the point he's making
5) he comes to conclusions eg on climate change, that the scientific
community have not yet decided on themselves conclusively indicating he has
not a clue about the nature of science or scientific method.
6) donating money to Greenpeace once does not make him an environmentalist.

As far as I'm concerned, The Skeptical Environmentalist leads people to
complacency at the very time they should feel urgency about the
deteriorating world situation. It is probably the most dangerous book of the

Sheila Davis

Comments from Leon Ashby

Thanks Steve & Sheila for your info & comments
The issue of Lomborgs` book is interesting because it is fast becoming about
discrediting and demonising Lomborg without a precise look at the facts.
Here are my thoughts on some of your points Sheila

1) I believe it is irrelevant that Lomborg did no original research - plenty
of people write good books using other people`s data. What he has done is
merely compile a lot of useful data  from places such as the World bank, the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Health Organisation etc
and put his views (with reasons) to explain the data - Something we all do
when debating an issue.

2) Peer review - In his acknowledgements Lomborg mentions the names of 17
scientists who assisted him by reading different parts of the book and
contributing with constructive criticisms, even if they did not agree with
the overall conclusions

Basically Lomborg has upset many people`s world view with a different world
view that is supported by a lot of data, which seems to shock many people.  

On  a number of occassions I have read or heard people criticise Lomborg, but
when they put their information forward, the content appears to be almost
agreeing with Lomborg, e.g. a radio national program on Saturday where  
Lomborg was criticised for generalising  that the environment is getting
better. The speaker then went on about how the developing world was not doing
well environmentally, while the western world was making very good progress.
- the very things Lomborg detailed. (although the speaker did not mention
specific indicators or evidence that as developing countries become richer,
they GENERALLY IMPROVE their environments as well)

On a web site Lomborg was criticised for saying only 0.7 percent of all
species would become extinct compared with "green" claims of 25 - 50 %. The
writer argued Lomborg was wrong because 0.7% is a actually a lot of species.
In the book Lomborg says while 0.7 % is far less of a concern than 25 - 50 %,
it is still not acceptable. - not a great deal of difference in content, but
a lot of difference in their world view.

I understand your concern with complacency, but no one person has all the
truth about the environment and any book is just a part of the world
community groping for a better picture. Surely we have to become a society
which gets past the froth and bubble and demonising and if the truth turns
out to be that things are mostly improving, then it should be said so.
We need to look at issues in the light of detail of things such as micro
organisms, ecosystems, land functions, and land management goals AND the big
picture simultaneously. Lomborg`s Book is mostly about the big picture. The
more data we get on the big picture, the more we add detailed knowledge of
specifics, then it should become a better "whole" picture.

Rather than a dangerous book, I view Lomborg`s book as a great opportunity
for environmental debate to go further, allowing all sorts of ideas to be
tossed around, so that even better data is found, and better understandings
are achieved - no matter what view anyone has on the book.     

Next edition we hope to look at Lomborg`s mentions of property rights and the
wealth of a country and it`s impact on the environment

(16) Theoretical vs practical - Bill Soko

I attended the "Brisbane River Festival"  in 1999 and will pass on a story.
OK this is from memory but there is a paper on somewhere

The Murrumbidgee "river trust" pulled snags out of a certain section of the
for about 20 years (or more) before someone questioned the budget and the
It seems that over a decade or two over 13,000 snags (they kept good records),
mainly tree trunks and stumps were pulled out of the river.  Local knowledge
that the action would unclog the river and lower flooding.  This view was so
that after hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent,  some academic
the purpose and made a case for protecting fish habitat.

The "river trust" was unconvinced but a university made a study.  It must have
taken a few years because the study found that in flood situations the
removal of
the snags may have lowered the in channel flood height by 50-100mm.   Once the
river over topped the bank then it had nil effect.  Faced with that info the
river managers quickly cut the budget some 90%.  in the early 1990s. They
to realign some bad blockages cut some long ones  and remove .... none(?)  
also started to replant riparian trees on the top of bank to build up a

As a river manager myself, I was amazed a the lack of benefit to flood flows
removal of 13,000 pieces of trees had.  If anyone knows more feel free to

Bill Soko
* This is down my alley Bill,
Having played around with creek & floodplain flows over the last 5 years with
other Landholders at Aramac, I would agree with what you are saying. We were
experimenting with doing the opposite - that is to block creek flows enough
to get them to spread the water wider and slower, thereby reducing erosion
and getting better water infiltration into the hard soils. We called it water
spreading. We have used several methods, the best seemed to be to have
tightly pushed up fallen timber across the ENTIRE creek floodplain and into
the paddock where you wanted to spread it.
In scientific terms, it means to cause a flow restriction by something like
70 - 90 % of it`s unhindered flow to get the water to rise high enough to
spread out.

But back to what you have described Bill. The river flooding - This appears
to be a flow that when it breaks it`s banks, the flow has significantly
decreased it`s TOTAL % flow restriction. In other words the river flow
restriction may have been about 25% (from snags) before the banks were
topped, but once they are topped, the % restriction decreases to about a 5 -
10 % flow restriction. (i.e. the water has more places to flow around on the
floodplain, hence less resistance, therefore there is little / no effect on
flood levels . And (in my experience) restricting a river / creek flow by
just  20 % or less seems to have virtually no increase in water level - the
water just rushes through the remaining 80 % a bit quicker. In other words,
in floods the height of the water is due mostly to flow rate (i.e. flow
resistance is negligable in a flooding situation.)

Anyone who has played around with venturis, water pipe flows, and even
electrical currents deals with the same principles of total flows and
resistances. - Leon
(17) Invitation to put you views on another forum - On Line opinion

Dear Jane and Leon,

I edit On Line Opinion www.onlineopinion.com.au and one of our readers
suggested that you might have something to contribute to our next edition.  
The issue we are looking at is "Can development be environmentally
sustainable?"  Someone in your networks might also be interested.

On Line Opinion is read by many influential Australians, including a large
number of Members of Parliament.  We publish opinion pieces of between 800
and 2,000 words in length.  Our deadline for the next edition is the 10th of

If you can contribute, or help me to find someone who can, I would be very


Graham Young
On Line Opinion
61 7 3252 1470

Anyone want to have a go? - Leon

(18) Sattelite TV reaction - various comments

Well done Leon,

A specialist Farmers TV channel would be the best option. And given the size
and breadth of farmers purchases it may well be fully commercially viable.
Nothing will improve the coverage of rural issues by mainstream media like a
good dose of competition.

But it could also go a lot further. How nice it would be to see my children
watching a soapie where the ignorant, ill-informed baddie is from the city
while the intelligent, sensitive main caste are real people with real farms.

I don't care who does it, Just do
I also suspect that there is some "community funding" for this sort of

Ian Mott

Craig Underwood (WA) has said he fully supports the idea and would like to
see it set up with grass roots control that cannot be overthrown or hijacked.
He would like to see videos made where city development and property
management were videoed over a few years from set positions and the
environmental results compared. Another idea is a "Harry Butler" goes into
the city discovering what is not there anymore, or even some satire comedy
comparing city & rural environments.

Leon/ Jane.

Great idea!
I will raise the issue within Agforce and if required will put my hand up to
be a participant.

I have a view that proposals such as EMS, ALMS and NAPSWQ are reacting to the
symptoms rather than taking a systems approach to the core issues.
Part of the problem is the fact that management systems are vehicles that
deliver standards of management. It is the restrictions resulting from those
standards that cause the reaction.
About time that we realise we are dealing with "charismatics" and
"perceptions". It has become a game of public relations which we are losing.
We must take control of the NR agenda and resolve the inequities in the
consultative frameworks.


Gus. McGown

Mike Price (Qld) was at the launch of the year of the outback at Aramac a few
weeks ago with Peter Beattie and said he believes the time is now right to
get a big picture approach together for a communications strategy which will
get into city homes.

Margaret House (Qld) has commented on the need for grass roots to lead the
NRM charge without government inteference and with something like video
conferencing (perhaps sponsored by companies like Elders, Westfarmers etc)
landholders could participate in a number of groups without being away from
the farm at all. (Margaret uses telephone conferencing with a beefplan group,
and an hour and a half usually gets everything done in time.)

One person (who wishes to remain anonymous) has promised a 5 figure donation
if this idea gets up.

Jane Ashby has suggested some groups which have many sub groups could instead
meet as one Australia wide group requiring just one president, secretary, &
treasurer if they used video conferencing via sattelite TV for their
Jane also says politicians could view the meetings and hear the issues from
the affected individuals, which would assit with lobbying efforts.

Dennis Fahey says he fully supports the sattelte TV conferencing idea and if
news reporting was also done then he would like to see some legal minds being
on the team helping with the legalities of some issues.
Dennis also suggested landholders may be able to set up some sort of
foundation - that is a way of donating funds (with minimal taxing) to a non
profit community group such as a rural / farmers community television
There have also been suggestions of a rural / farmer channel being a means of
giving rural kids an opportunity to be cameramen, video producers, reporters,
script writers, actors etc which could strengthen our community in the arts.

Alan Mackey (singer / songwriter) has offered help with some contacts, ideas,
song writing, production studio etc
I will phone a few people this week about progressing this idea, - things
like the structure of the operation (how it might work), funding, trials,
etc. If anyone wants to have some input behind the scenes - phone 0887 389313

Leon & Jane