It is no surprise that the debate around whether or not we should “manage” croc populations re-ignites when attacks like this take place, writes Crikey intern Isabelle Amy.
For the urbanites among us, whose mornings consist of hurriedly sipping coffee while we jostle off the tram, running 10 minutes late for our office jobs, where our ensuing days are spent tapping away under fluorescent lights and imbibing yet more coffee, a crocodile is as other-worldly as the dinosaurs it is so closely related to. But for our brethren up in the wild and sweaty north, crocodiles are a tense and unsettling reality. Especially now that Australia’s crocodile numbers have been restored to the same population level as they were before hunting nearly wiped them out in the late ’70s. That is to say there are about 100,000 of them living in the Northern Territory, and some 50,000 more in Queensland.
On Sunday morning, 18-year-old Lee de Paauw was mauled by a crocodile as he clambered out of the Johnstone River in Innisfail. As he was climbing out of the river, a waiting croc attacked De Paauw and latched onto his arm. The teenager eventually freed himself by repeatedly punching the croc in the head and was helped from the water by his friends.
News of this crocodile attack comes one day after a 35-year-old spear fisherman was reported missing when his empty dinghy and spear gun were found floating in waters just north of Innisfail on Saturday.
It is no surprise that the debate around whether or not we should “manage” croc populations reignites when attacks like this take place. It seems to be human nature to wonder, as our population grows and we encroach further onto traditional croc habitat, whether crocodile numbers ought to be somehow reduced, and therefore the threat to human life decreased.
In the eyes of Graham Webb, renowned crocodile expert and owner of Crocodylus tourist park in the Northern Territory, managing populations is a “common sense call”.
“You can’t sugar coat-crocs,” he said. “It’s easy for people to say that this kid was silly, but young people do things that are a little bit risky sometimes” and they should be able to emerge from their period of risk-taking behaviour with their lives, Webb believes.
There’s mixed conjecture around the most effective approach to reducing incidences of crocodile attacks. While the word “cull” might not sit well with some, others are much more likely to see it as a logical next step to co-existing with crocodiles. Or as Webb asserts, “the value system needs to change … you can’t have the same value system for an endangered species as for a predator whose population levels have been restored”.
He points out that the Northern Territory crocodile population has increased by 20 times what it was before protection, and the biomass (meaning the size and weight of the crocodiles) has increased by 100 times. This is to say that the majority of crocodiles living in the NT are larger animals, with some measuring up to four metres long.
On the topic of crocodile management, Webb would probably describe himself as a realist, and his views may ruffle the feathers of the Bondi urbanite he ascribes to the anti-culling group. “We’re looking at trophy hunting in the NT,” he said when asked about culling. “We would like to have an upmarket hunting industry … that way a hunter from Austria or somewhere who wants to shoot a big croc can come out and do that, he can pay five to ten thousand dollars to the land owner and shoot a crocodile.” Webb believes that this would ensure that crocodiles remain a “valuable resource”, if you will. Webb believes that if the landowner can make good money out of selling crocodiles to wealthy trophy hunters, he or she would look after and preserve them rather than culling them.
Webb points out that crocodile populations have increased dramatically while the population of certain tiger sub-species have continued to decrease worldwide, despite conservation efforts. “That’s because nobody benefits from tigers,” he said; they’re protected and therefore to “use” them, in the way that crocs are used and sold as commercial resources in the NT, is illegal. Webb seems to think that might be the problem. “When it comes to predators the word is pragmatism.”
A slightly alarming suggestion from NT researchers has found that as crocodile populations increase and vicious turf wars break out between these territorial animals, smaller and weaker crocodiles are making their way further south than they’ve ever been before. In light of this, the Queensland government has announced plans to embark on its first ever comprehensive crocodile count, which will give rangers and researchers a clear idea of exactly how many crocs call Queensland home. Even if this count proves that Queensland’s crocodile population is thriving, Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles has confirmed that he favours removal of crocodiles rather than a cull.
Whatever approach is taken towards growing crocodile populations in the NT and Queensland, one things is clear: the water is pretty muddy on this one.
From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Move, nourish, measure up.Fitspo brand Lorna Jane quietly removed a job advertisement from Seek this morning that asked for a “Fit model/receptionist” to work for the company, which specialises in overpriced leggings — with very specific requirements when it comes to the job-seeker’s physical measurements. The job, which seems to be for a receptionist who tries on the clothes, said applicants must adhere to strict size requirements, which were mentioned before the requirements of the role or experience needed. Interestingly, the advertisement seems to assume that applicants will be female, without any exemption from Fair Work Australia to say the company has permission to advertise what is basically an admin role to only one gender (and a specific shape therein). It looks to us like an excuse to hire a receptionist who fits a certain look — but it looks like someone within the company has thought better of it. We asked Lorna Jane why the ad had been taken down and were told by a spokesperson “The ad was removed from Seek this morning as we received a fantastic response, with a large number of applicants responding straight away to be part of our team”. The spokesperson clarified that a “fit model” doesn’t refer to a person’s fitness, but making sure the garments are “true to size”. The spokesperson said:
“As a fit model is only required in a part time capacity, Lorna Jane felt it appropriate to combine this position with the part time receptionist role which is also currently vacant. This combination will be hugely beneficial for the brand allowing the successful applicant to liaise directly with customers on a day-to-day basis, receive their feedback and allow Lorna Jane to deliver an even better product to benefit our customers and their active lifestyles. There are a number of positions within our business that combine roles to accommodate the needs and interests of our staff.”
Lunch now with less source. In a global transparency initiative coming out of New York, News Corp journalists are now required to list exactly who they are meeting in their expense reimbursement forms to management.
The new initiatives has been fiercely opposed by journalists who fear it will compromise their confidential sources, They’ve taken up their concerns to the union, which says management is well aware of the problems with the initiative but “has not offered a suitable alternative”. Crikey understands the local operation to some extent has its hands tied over the measure — it’s come down from on high as a bid to comply with US foreign bribery laws, and is partly in response to claims journalists were regularly bribing cops in the UK.
Of course, journalists could simply lie on their expense forms, but those Crikey spoke to said that wouldn’t be wise in the event the expense forms were used in court. If a journalist is asked why she had lunch with Saucy McSource, and it’s revealed she made the name up, it would cast aspersions on the reliability of the rest of her testimony.
Editors hold a great deal of sway at News Corp, and it’s hard to see any editor loving the new policy. But no solution has yet been reached.
Guess who, don’t sue. Speaking of all things News Corp, which Australian correspondent sent an email asking for, among other things, a pay rise, while accidentally copying in all staff?
Hear ye, hear ye. A tipster tells us that this flyer was sent out to residents of LNP MP Mal Brough’s electorate of Fisher recently. The locals were informed through a “national security update” that ASIO had more than 400 high-priority terrorist investigations on the go, and “our agencies” had thwarted three terrorist plots already this year. It also warns against the internet, as “the online environments has no borders. Propaganda is reaching directly into our homes and families through the internet and social media”. With subtle bold print there’s only a faint whiff of using fear to drive votes.
Pollie spotting. Between labelling traditional marriage “marriage integrity” and appearing on The Bolt Report yesterday, our Social Services Minister was spotted out and about in Melbourne:
“Scott Morrison spotted at Luna Park in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon. Lots of clowns at Luna Park. Wasn’t expecting to see this one there!”
Have you seen a pollie somewhere interesting? You can let us know here.
Goodbye dear iPad, we hardly knew ye. It feels like most of Instagram is filled with holiday snaps from Australians who have decided to forgo our winter and enjoy a northern summer, but it sounds like Oz scribe Darren Davidson’s photos won’t see the light of day. It’s been reported that Davidson and his iPad parted ways in Scotland after a fishing accident. Davidson hasn’t had much luck with his iPad, as it was pinched by the Daily Mail‘s Martin Clarke at last year’s Cannes Lions advertising shindig. He must have been so relieved to make it through this year’s festival with iPad intact, only to lose it weeks later.
Deadly (in more ways than one). The NT government has released its own attempt at “dumb ways to die”, but in true territory fashion, it’s not warning against the dangers of public transport, but crocodiles. The message is great, but the cartoon croc in the video seems too nice to be dangerous.
From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
CEO booted, but why? Staff at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia have been left reeling after CEO Lucy Perry was forced to resign last week with little explanation for the move. Perry wrote in a statement on her Facebook page “my vision for the charity in Australia was bigger than that of the board of directors and I was asked to do things which compromised my integrity” and told Crikey sister site Women’s Agenda that the decision wasn’t mutual. We called the charity today to try to find out more information, and after being referred to a PR company, were told that no further comment would be made apart from the statement on the website. Perry has also been in the media recently after her powerful testimony at the royal commission into child sexual abuse. We’ll be watching this space.
There in black and white. Crikey has long enjoyed publishing pictures of politicians and prominent Australians in their salad days, but we aren’t sure what to say about this one. We are told that it’s a prominent Australian, but can’t confirm who. Can you? We’d love to know your guesses.
Train station bins. Last year after the national security alert level was raised to high, we documented the disappearance of bins throughout train stations in across the country. They have reappeared in both Melbourne and Sydney, with Melbourne’s looking a bit like a giant sick-bag, and Sydney’s looking like this:
A caller to 2UE yesterday said that Sydney’s new bins cost $6000, but today the station reported that it’s actually less than $2500. In Victoria, bins have been replaced at the major train stations, so we asked Metro Trains how the decision for the new bins was made and how much it cost, and were told by spokesperson Larisa Tait:
“Last year, we removed rubbish bins from a number of stations as a precautionary measure as a result of the heightened national security alert level. We are now progressively reinstalling a different style of bin in the locations we removed them from. The new design is simply a hoop with a bag attached, and in the event of it being necessary to remove the bins again, we will simply remove the bags, rather than the entire device.”
Clive makes menu changes. A man was bitten by a crocodile at a golf course in Port Douglas yesterday, after his golf ball landed near the water, disturbing the 1.2-metre salty. The golf course is one of many owned by Clive Palmer, and the member for Fairfax tweeted last night that he wished the man, a “speedy recovery”. He then followed it with this tweet:
Palmer says that crocodile won’t be on menus at his properties because of the incident, but we’re still not sure about the reasoning behind it. Maybe he thinks if his patrons eat less crocodile they will be attacked less? We don’t think it works like that. We contacted Palmer’s spinner, Andrew Crook, this morning to see if we could make sense of it, but didn’t hear back by deadline.
Speaking of crocodiles … The NT News has been nominated for an award for its excellent croc coverage. It’s not a newspaper award, though, it’s the Australian Book Industry Awards, where the paper is listed as the author of What a Croc!, which has been shortlisted in the Illustrated Book of the Year section. We hope it scares away the competition.
Lefties unite — maybe. The UK election is just a few weeks away, and some shrewd lefties have come up with a plan to try and keep the Tories out, but we’re not sure how successful they will be. The website is called “VoteSwap” and this is what it asks voters to do:
“If you’re a Green in a Labour target seat you can pledge to vote Labour to keep a Tory out. In return a Labour supporter in a seat that Labour is unlikely to win or lose pledges to vote Green, ‘lending’ their vote to a seat where it will make a difference. The national vote share does not change, but the number of Tory MPs goes down.”
In the UK, MPs are elected in a first past the post system, making preferences less influential than they are here, and the site is working on the premise of “anything is better than the Tories”. It is an honour system, though, so you have to trust strangers to keep to their word. We’ll be interested to see if it catches on.
Not what you’re looking for. In a sign that it’s never too early to reserve your own domain name, a tipster pointed out to us what users will find when they go tedcruz.com. The Republican presidential hopeful was beaten to register his own name as a domain, meaning that users are directed to a site that tells them to “support President Obama”. Cruz’s own website is tedcruz.org.
Persisting with what isn’t working. The Crikey Political Index as published yesterday tells the story of how the current campaigning by the Prime Minister is not working.
The accompanying commentary is worth repeating:
“In recent weeks Abbott pulled neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the first time, and this week he has streaked ahead, nearly doubling her for coverage, despite the government handing down a budget and the PM’s headline-making tears in Parliament as she delivered the National Disability Insurance Scheme (now DisabilityCare). And that’s the point. It seems likely that the NDIS is playing just as well for Abbott as Gillard, that the ALP may be a lame-duck government and that any policy it makes from now on, unless strongly opposed by Abbott, will be seen just as much his as hers …”
This is a real danger signal for Labor and suggests to me that a major change is needed in its campaign strategy that continues to centre around those daily visits to schools. Education as an issue is just not working. The television news might still be showing Julia Gillard mixing with smiling children but it is just not registering as some kind of overwhelmingly important issue.
A final straw? The end of manufacturing by Ford is surely the end of the slim chance Labor had of being re-elected.
A quote for the day.
Real news up north. The battle for the title of providing the world’s best crocodile coverage is heating up. This morning:
News and views noted along the way.
- Scientists identify molecular trigger for Alzheimer’s disease — “They believe the breakthrough is a vital step closer to increased capabilities for earlier diagnosis of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and opens up possibilities for a new generation of targeted drugs …”
- Italy to outline youth jobs plan as government struggles — “Italy’s new government, already sinking in opinion polls and riven by internal disputes, on Wednesday lays out its plans to address one of the main causes of public anger — soaring unemployment among young people.”
- Millions falling into poverty in recession-racked Italy
- Greek youth unemployment close to 75% in some areas
- Why is Europe so messed up?
- Unlikely heir: Obama returns to Kissinger’s realpolitik
- The banking crisis as a giant carry trade gone wrong — “A pernicious aspect of the Eurozone crisis is the ‘doom loop’ linking European banks and governments.”
- What’s a name worth? — “The Board … recently heard a case requesting that the board classify the word ‘Redskin’ as a derogatory slur. If the board deems the term offensive, the team would no longer be subject to trademark protection essentially meaning that anyone could sell merchandise in the team’s colors and with the words ‘Washington Redskins’.”
- In raw milk case, activists see food freedom on trial
Interest rate rises and stimulus cutback working as planned. Housing finance figures for November released this morning by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the combination of higher interest rates and cuts to first home owner buyer grants are working as expected.
Demand for owner-occupier home loans eased 5.6 per cent in the month with the number of first home buyer commitments as a percentage of total owner occupied housing finance commitments fell, decreasing from 26.0% in October 2009 to 22.1% in November 2009.
Many true words are spoken by mistake. Tennis golden oldie John McEnroe acknowledging yesterday an introduction to the podium by SA Premier Mike Rann – “Thank you randy.” Mr McEnroe later explained he was trying to call the Premier “Ranny” because it was American cyclist Lance Armstrong’s preferred nickname for the state leader.
Who’s to get credit and who’s to get blame? Fascinating to watch the television news reports following up the CommSec judgments on the state of the State economies. The NSW Treasurer, whose state came bottom, found good reason why his Government was not to blame for any problems. The Treasurer of the ACT, which came out on top, calmly accepted the credit for steering the Territory out of the problems of the global financial crisis. It’s a wonderful game this politics.
And still the WA environmental authorities are against killing the beasts with their own CO2.
Legislating better health. There are plenty of calls in Australia for governments to legislate to impose restrictions of one kind or another that are designed to force people into healthier life styles. Hardly a week goes by without the AMA advocating dearer alcohol and restrictions on fast food advertising are being called for more and more frequently. No doubt these advocates of action will take heart from what is going on in Europe at the moment. Der Spiegel reports that the Spanish government wants to ban excessive trans fats, Denmark will soon be taxing sweets and in Romania, Health Minister Attila Cseke has said he would like to see a tax on unhealthy food with the money raised used to “supplement funds needed to run health programs and invest in system infrastructure.” In Germany the Green Party leader Renate Künast wants to ban advertising for sweets aimed at children.
Meanwhile here at home the head of the Federal Health Department Jane Halton is not worrying about legislation to take the anti-smoking campaign a significant stage further. From February 1, employees will be banned from smoking during work hours or ”when representing the department in any capacity”, according to a memo sent to staff at Christmas. Staff will be permitted to smoke only during their meal breaks, but not within 15 metres of their workplace.
The players were found guilty of losing the 17th end of a pool game against Thailand when they dropped four shots to go from a 15-12 lead to trail 15-16. The judgment said the players then tried to retrieve the situation on the final end but lost 17-15. New Zealand’s loss allowed Thailand into the playoffs and eliminated Canada from the medal chase and the Canadians protested.
Arsenic on your cereal. The US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment while conducting an inquiry into “Drinking Water and Public Health Impacts of Coal Combustion Waste Disposal” heard some fascinating evidence from Donald McGraw, an M.D. from Pittsburgh, PA appearing in support of the coal industry. The good doctor had a very laid back attitude to eating a little coal ash on his cereal. See yourself here.