Monday, October 23, 2006

Australia's national sandwich-spread now banned in the USA

The fact that generations of Australians have grown up on it does not matter to America's food-freaks. And note what the "illegal" ingredient is: A vitamin!

The United States has slapped a ban on Vegemite, outraging Australian expatriates there. The bizarre crackdown was prompted because Vegemite contains folate, which in the US can be added only to breads and cereals.

Expatriates say that enforcement of the ban has been stepped up recently and is ruining lifelong traditions of having Vegemite on toast for breakfast. Former Geelong man Daniel Fogarty, who now lives in Calgary, Canada, said he was stunned when searched while crossing the US border recently. "The border guard asked us if we were carrying any Vegemite," Mr Fogarty said. "I was flabbergasted." Paul Watkins, who owns a store called About Australia in San Antonio, Texas, said he had been forced to stop importing Vegemite six months ago. "We have completely stopped bringing it in," he said. "(US authorities) have made a stance and there is nothing that can be done about it."


Greenies condemn trees!

We can't have renewable resources, can we?

Billions of litres of water are being sucked out of the badly needed supplies of Victorian towns to feed an increasing number of vast tree plantations that have been branded "out of control". Massive areas of Victorian bush and farmland have been transformed by uniform tracts of pine and blue gum plantation that have a damaging environmental effect on the state's natural water catchments.

Now, with Victoria suffering its worst drought ever, federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran has called for tighter controls on the commercial operators of the plantations, most of which are used for woodchips and paper. He wants to see plantation owners charged for the water they use by purchasing water entitlements similar to those used in irrigation systems. His call comes as environmentalists and conservative rural communities join forces to fight further expansion of the softwood and hardwood plantations, which have federal and state government backing.

Uncontrolled expansion of pine and blue gum monocultures is estimated to have depleted the supplies of up to 130 towns and regional cities. Affected towns include Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, some parts of western Melbourne and smaller towns in the north-east, central highlands, Gippsland and the Otways. For Victorian Farmers Federation Gippsland water utility chairman Rob Grant, plantations are acting like "thieves that can pickpocket without being seen" because of their ability to trap surface water and soak up groundwater before it reaches rivers and tributaries. "Our sustainable production should be looked at holistically," he said.

Gippsland East MP Craig Ingram said no issue caused more anger in his electorate than people getting "plantations in their backyards". "What I have tried to get the Government to do is to acknowledge the problem," he said. "The problem with governments is they are locked into plantation strategies."

CSIRO research has found that in an 800millimetre annual rainfall zone, conversion from annual pastures to trees resulted in water loss of 1.5 million litres a year for each hectare planted. Almost 400,000 hectares are now covered with plantations with the area expected to treble in the next 15 years. Federal parliamentary secretary for water Malcolm Turnbull has suggested cutting down trees as a way of restoring flows in some catchments.

But the impact on water supplies is just one area of concern for local communities and environmentalists. Private companies and managed investment schemes - which can attract investors by offering lucrative tax breaks - are accused of artificially inflating the prices of rural properties with aggressive acquisitions. There also is concern about increased fire risk from densely planted blue gums and aerial spraying of pesticides to kill natural vegetation regrowth and insects.

Friends of the Earth water expert Anthony Amis said aerial pesticide spraying had led to contamination of domestic drink water supplies in tanks, rivers and reservoirs. Mr Amis was instrumental in exposing the contamination of Geelong's water supply over an 18-month period from 2004 with the herbicide hexazinone from a pine plantation 50 kilometres upstream. However, none of Victoria's urban or regional water authorities, catchment management authorities or the Environmental Protection Agency test for the herbicides and pesticides used in plantations. "We would like to see (the plantations) retired out of these domestic water supplies," Mr Amis said.

State and federal governments continue to promote private forestry in water catchments as an environmentally sustainable solution to logging in old-growth forests and natural reserves. More than 6 million hectares of privately owned farmland in catchment areas has been identified by the Department of Primary Industry as suitable for forestry. The department has suggested how much companies might be expected to pay local farmers for their properties.

Local and offshore businesses with established plantations in catchments include Australian paper manufacturer PaperlinX, Australian Newsprint Mill, managed investment schemes such as Timbercorp, Macquarie Bank and Great Southern Pty Ltd, an American insurance conglomerate operating as Hancock Plantations and Japan's largest comic book publisher, whose plantations are managed by Midway. A spokesman for Victorian Water Minister John Thwaites declined to discuss the impact of timber harvesting in the state forests that supply water to Melbourne.


Victorian government connives at continued police corruption

Despite strong evidence that corruption in the Victorian police goes well beyond five bent drug squad cops - including deep into the murderous gangland war - the state will not get a royal commission to clean out the force. Just weeks before the state election and with the powerful police union circling, neither the Bracks Government nor the Liberal Opposition is countenancing an official inquiry to flush out more crooked police. With the Government and the police hierarchy insisting that corruption is in hand and exists only in pockets, the Opposition has now also stepped back from its push just two years ago for a royal commission.

Yet, despite various convictions of mid- to high-ranking officers, nobody in management has ever been held accountable. And exhausted members of the Ceja Taskforce openly say they were only ever given the resources to fully investigate priority cases, leaving many other allegations against police untested. Former internal affairs investigator Simon Illingworth, who quit the force in 2004 after enduring threats and intimidation, says force command is not interested in cleaning out Victoria's police force and is disappointed that the state Opposition has lost its will. "Both the Government and force command want to say they've got a clean force without really taking the steps to insure that they really do have a clean police force," Mr Illingworth said. "Of course, this goes up the tree further than those that have been charged. If you accepted the pay for a supervisory position, then you have a duty to carry it out. What were the managers doing?"

While the jailing of a senior drug squad detective Wayne Geoffrey Strawhorn brought corruption to a head this week, the issue has been boiling for years and largely ignored by a sceptical Melbourne media reluctant to think the worst of the state police force. In the past five years, there have been at least two double murders tainted by the possible involvement of corrupt police, the closure of the drug and armed robbery squads amid reports of appalling behaviour, and a raft of police charged. As well, internal affairs investigators have been subjected to threats and left hung out dry, with some struggling to return to normal duties.

After asserting that the corruption was an isolated problem, the state Government, cowed by the Police Association, baulked at a royal commission but was finally forced to establish the Office of Police Integrity, an arm of the Ombudsman's office, in November 2004. But those investigating corruption say the OPI is not enough. Detective Sergeant Bill Patten, who spoke out in the Melbourne media yesterday, said up to two dozen officers had escaped sanction or prosecutions. He has already been contacted by command to ask who else he had spoken to, and to offer him belated counselling, as command goes into damage control.

Although Christine Nixon can claim credit for moving against errant members, the full extent of the police force's corruption may never be known. With internal polling showing the corruption issue has failed to gain traction in Victoria, the Bracks Government has also remained committed to the status quo. Despite this week's revelations, Premier Steve Bracks continues to claim the problem is being dealt with.


Another Victorian cop runs true to form

They PROTECT lawbreakers as often as they pursue them

Victoria police has launched an internal affairs investigation after learning an officer was at the centre of a vicious, racially motivated bashing of an orthodox Jew. A spokesman said Vicpol's Ethical Standards Department had launched the investigation after learning the officer was with a group of country footballers who bashed Menachem Vorchheimer in Caulfield last Saturday as he was walking near his synagogue.

Mr Vorchheimer, who was given a black eye in the attack as he tried to protect two children aged six and three, said he was racially abused. He said the footballers yelled "F*** off Jews" and "Go the Nazis". The footballers also stole Mr Vorchheimer's hat, and punched him as passers-by attempted to help. "This is Melbourne. This shouldn't happen. They stole my religious items, which are very important to me. it was in front of my children," he said.

Mr Vorchheimer said he approached their bus driver, an off-duty police officer, to ask where they were from. "The driver never assaulted me or yelled any abuse but he wouldn't tell me where (the players) were from. I would have thought an officer of the law had a duty to behave in a more ethical manner," Mr Vorchheimer. Internal affairs have launched parallel investigations into the assault after learning the bus driver was an officer.

Mr Vorchheimer said the president of the Ocean Grove Football Club had offered an apology, but the players involved had yet to admit to racially or physically abusing him. "I bear no ill-will towards the club, but I would like an apology from the players concerned," he said. Ocean Grove Football Club president Michael Vines, who has offered an unconditional apology to Mr Vorchheimer, said the players involved faced expulsion from the club. The Islamic Council of Victoria and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry have also condemned the attack.


1 comment:

Colin Campbell said...

The Vegemite story is debunked by Slate. Only half the story it seems. I put it on my blog, because it was a quirky story.