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Media

Sep 26, 2013

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Ratepayers’ hidden agenda. At first glance, the story that aired on Monday night seems like a fairly standard report from A Current Affair about a fairly standard state of affairs: ratepayers who aren’t happy with their local council. Are they ever? Melton City Council meetings have apparently been playing out like a soap opera, and ACA has identified the main players as a mayor accused (and cleared) of bribery, alleged councillor infighting (quelle horreur!) and a group of residents who, according to ACA, “just want to be heard” …

A Current Affair

What ACA fails to mention is that a number of these residents are adherents to a fringe ideology known as the Sovereign Citizen Movement, and their true concerns extend well beyond council infighting to the illegitimacy of all local, state and federal government law, as well as the threat of a hidden One World Government. So just a bit different then.

Leading the charge against Melton City Council is resident and mother Rena Illiades. In the report, she softly explains in a sentence that ACA didn’t feel needed an ending: “These people are upset, they’re genuinely upset, and when they’re not getting the answers.” On a Sovereign Citizen podcast, The Repurposing, however, she explains that she doesn’t believe in local councils at all, although she notes that she also doesn’t believe in Santa Claus but still puts a Christmas tree out come December. Also featured on the report is property owner Sam Ganci, being dragged from the council meeting by police after having “lost his cool”. On Facebook, Ganci rails against United Nations conspiracies, Fabians and the corrupt legal system.

Two Victorian Sovereign Citizens have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act in the past fortnight. According to their supporters, a group that includes Illiades and Ganci, they had been doing nothing more than filing liens against law enforcement officers and informing people of their rights. The Sovereign Citizens have long been considered an occasional annoyance by police for refusing to comply with orders and filing reams of non-binding legalistic documents — so-called “paper terrorism” — but local law enforcement may be beginning to take the Sovereign Citizen Movement more seriously after the arrest of two Las Vegas adherents for allegedly planning to kidnap, “try” and execute police officers. — Cam Smith

Cater misses boat on Flannery. Curse of the paper deadline, again. In yesterday’s Australian, Nick Cater began an article — which, like all Cater articles looks like a set of offcuts of other Cater articles — with this lead:

“WELL, that was easy. The climate tsar is deposed on Thursday, and by the weekend everyone has forgotten about it.”

Well, they had — until Monday, when Tim Flannery announced that the Climate Commission would continue on a voluntary basis. As reported on Tuesday on page one of, erm, The Australian, wherein the latest half-yard of Cater can be found. Damn you, liberal elites. — Guy Rundle

Fin typo sighting. The page three lead in this morning’s edition of The Australian Financial Review (“China Cools on chilled beef imports“) starts: “China has banned imports of chilled Australian beef sighting concerns over food safety …”

AFR

We think they mean cited. Anyone sighted a good subeditor lately? Glenn Dyer

Bat-man returns in the Tele. Just when we thought the Daily Tele was through with weird photoshops (they have been light on in recent weeks; perhaps the Abbott government doesn’t provide as much grist for the digital mischief mill than the Rudd government?), the front page today carries a story about plans to divert the Pacific Highway upgrade to avoid destroying a colony of endangered bats. In addition to the over-the-top anti-environmental language (“after learning this newspaper was set to expose the farce last night, Premier Barry O’Farrell immediately … requested an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott to discuss slashing the federal green tape that is holding up the project and potentially costing lives …”), the story is illustrated with a picture of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell as a bat …

Daily Telegraph

They’re lovin’ it at Ten. Channel Ten is putting the breakfast into breakfast TV. Australia’s smallest McDonald’s will be set up in the studio of Wake Up, Ten’s new breakfast show, to serve up hash browns and Egg McMuffins to presenters and crew. Will hosts Natarsha Belling, James Mathison and Natasha Exelby be hoeing into frappes and hotcakes on air? The press release contains a lot of jargon about an “on-air, digital and social eco-system”, but news presenter Nuala Hafner will miss out — she’ll be broadcasting from Melbourne’s Fed Square.

Savvy stuff from Bully boffins. This appeared in the Townsville Bulletin‘s Savvy section, as part of “The Thursday Biff with CK & Blake from 106.3 FM”. CK may need to put away the D-pad and pick up a math book — and a grammar guide …

Video of the day. Remember when Bob Hawke told Australia, “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum”? It’s 30 years to the day …

Environment

Feb 24, 2010

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Pink batts aren’t the only bats that will be preying on Peter Garrett’s mind at the moment.

Of the many native species the Minister has responsibility for in his environment portfolio, probably none cause as much public and political controversy as flying-foxes — that is, fruit bats. Within the next two months, the Minister will have to make a decision on whether to approve the proposal by Botanic Gardens Trust to disperse, by means of noise harassment, the colony of grey-headed flying-foxes from Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney.

There will be immense political pressure on the Minister to approve the action. The gardens are within the NSW environment portfolio and, to date, the state bureaucracy has done everything it can to ensure the dispersal goes ahead. All that stands between the Botanic Gardens Trust and some bat harassing is Commonwealth approval.

But to approve the dispersal, currently the subject of a referral under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Minister will have to place a higher value on the preservation of exotic plant exhibits in the gardens than on the protection of a federally listed threatened species.

There is a body of evidence that shows that dispersals generally don’t work and are likely to have serious implications for the bats’ welfare and breeding success.

Problematically for him, the Minister’s own department recently listed for public comment the Draft National Recovery Plan for the grey-headed flying fox. This draft, endorsed by the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (of which Botanic Gardens Trust is a part), contains criteria that will be used to determine whether habitat should be classified as critical for the survival of the species. The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney meets every single one of the criteria.

Loss of such habitat is highlighted as being a high priority threat to the recovery of the species. Approving a dispersal would be akin to dismantling a policy before the ink is even dry on the signatures.

Approving the Royal Botanic Gardens dispersal will inevitably have a domino affect on those areas of conflict where residents feel that flying fox colonies are diminishing their quality of life but are being stonewalled when it comes to applications to disperse the bats. Maclean, on the mid-north coast of NSW, is a site of ongoing conflict; Singleton in the Hunter Valley is another with a long-term history of bat-related stress and it’s only a matter of time before Kareela in Sydney’s south and Bowraville on the mid-north coast turn into political problem areas because of flying-fox conflicts.

If the Minster approves the dispersal of the colony at the Botanic Gardens — where human conflict with the bats is minimal and no one can seriously claim that their quality of life is being degraded — how will he then be able to stare down applicants at sites where there is obvious conflict but don’t have the loose change to spend on the extensive applications and approvals process (Botanic Gardens Trust has a budget for the dispersal that far exceeds what a local council could ever commit)?

Garrett’s bat problem is only going to get worse.

Environment

Sep 8, 2009

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Learning from animals

Ten things that science and technology have pilfered from the animal kingdom, including bullet trains mimicked on kingfisher bills and vibrating walking sticks that copy bat technology (ever heard of 'blind as a bat'?).

Politics

Oct 1, 2007

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One of the surprise results of the last federal election was the defeat of Labor rising star Christian Zarah by the dour Liberal Russell Broadbent in Gippsland. Fran Bailey’s opposition last week to wind turbines at near the Victorian township of Daylesford has a similar potential to buck the swing to Labor.

Though initially popular in Daylesford, wind turbines have become less popular as local residents learned more about them. Fran Bailey well knows that it is the electorate, not some glib national policy on climate change, that will decide her fate come election day.

Indeed, Bailey’s opposition to the Daylesford project has global precedents — Scotland, Spain, France and the USA have all seen protests over planned wind farms.

As the most visually obvious action against climate change, wind power has spawned a multi million dollar industry aided by governments all too keen to show that they are “acting”. The ALP is “locked on” to wind power as are all the major local international conservation groups. Planning processes have been fast tracked for wind farms in Victoria with specially appointed panels given the final say on approval, thereby cutting out local councils.

One of the problems (and there are many) is the numbers of birds and bats that turbines kill, and the amount of time turbines have to be shutdown to avoid this mortality. Although their blades appear to spin slowly to the naked eye the blade tip speeds on larger mills can exceed 300 kph. At these speeds they also generate spirals of turbulent air that are deadly to small birds and bats. Larger birds like eagles are smashed to a feathery pulp.

In Tasmania, the Woolnorth windfarm in the northwest has been operated by the roaring forties since 2003. The initial environmental assessments did not predict any significant mortality of birds or bats. However some years down the track the story has changed. On ABC TV’s Tasmanian Stateline program it was revealed the week before last that two Tasmanian wedgetail eagles had been killed there in the last month. Rare compared to their mainland cousins, it was revealed that 10 wedge tail eagles had been killed since 2003. The company was fined $3000 per bird.

Mark Kelleher (for the company) stated: “…at Bluff Point, we had six in a 10 month period. With the measures we put in place, operators there, automatic shut down for certain wind speeds and directions that had been identified with high risk times, we haven’t had any eagle collisions there now for about a year.”

The variety and numbers of birds and bats killed by wind turbines is likely due to their poor siting. While conservation/environment departments in governments around the world may have a handle on land based distribution of birds and bats their migratory routes are in fact being discovered when they are killed by turbines. With Australian turbines on private land under lucrative contracts and little monitoring, their full impact is yet to be determined.

In the USA the deaths of more than 40,000 small bats annually is only now being revealed and many of the turbines at the famous Altamont windfarm in California have been shutdown to protect eagles.

Recent large windfarms have been approved and are being considered for Western Victoria well within the range of brolgas which environmental consultants say will not be impacted. How long will the public tick “green energy” and pay more to kill birds and bats so as they can claim to be green? Maybe Fran Bailey can claim some environmental credibility for her stance after all.