Monday, May 21, 2012

Cockatoos come before people

The irony is that these birds are worth thousands of dollars overseas -- but it is forbidden to export them.  Trapping and exporting them would be to everybody's benefit but bone-headed regulations stand in the way

WHITE cockatoos - not bats - are in plague proportions in Atherton, south of Cairns, and locals want the Queensland Government to consider a kill permit.  The far north rural hub is under siege from thousands of protected sulphur-crested white cockatoos and locals want some shot or poisoned.

Huge flocks roost in the trees next to the Atherton Hospital directly in the flight path of the rescue helicopter, make a racket, strip and kill old gum trees, and ravage corn and peanut crops.

Council staff have started blasting the air with special blank cartridges called Bird Frite to try to scare away the birds.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the kill permit for bats, revealed by The Courier-Mail last week, was only a last-resort option for farmers, with no intent to deploy it in urban areas.

"The intent is to still look at relocating bats," Mr Powell said.   He said there was no plan to extend it to the cockatoos.

Tablelands Mayor Rosa Lee Long said she hoped Bird Frite would not shift the problem to another part of town.  "They are lovely birds, very pretty to look at, but they are a noisy nuisance and make a terrible mess," she said.

"The only other option is a cull.  "It is a bit like the bats, if they are in plague proportions, they may need a cull to bring back a balance."

She urged the Government to consider extending lethal Damage Mitigation Permits to bats, dingoes, wild dogs, crocodiles and parrots.

"Like bats, dingoes, and crocodiles, the cockatoos are protected species. No one likes to kill anything, but our priority must be to protect the health, life and limb of people over wild creatures."

Pensioner Gaye Webster, in her 80s, lives under some of the favoured roosting trees of the vast flocks. She wants a cull.

"Shoot them," Mrs Webster said. "Kill off a few cockys. The mess they make is absolutely disgusting.  "Bushies reckon it only takes a couple of dead cockatoos to scare the whole lot off.  "It is like these bats and the Hendra virus. Give me the poison, I'll dish it up to them.  "People against a cull are the ones who don't have to live with them."

Alex Adoberg, who owns the Atherton Hinterland Motel, said he was opposed to killing the parrots. But the Bird Frite program, trialled last year, did not seem very effective, he said.  "They seem to lift off and then come back and land again. I'd prefer to keep trying to scare them off, I don't like the idea of a cull."

He said the biggest threat - other than farmers losing entire crops in a day - was the risk posed to incoming helicopter pilots.   "They lift off out of the trees straight into the helicopter flight path. That is the scariest part."


Some optimism about Australia's security

Excerpts from an interesting Leftist critique below.  I tend to agree that Australia faces no foreseeable danger from invasion.  The rest of the world is so preoccupied with its own problems and concerns that is unlikely that we are even on anybody's radar

As the inhabitants of an island continent that shares no land borders with other nations, Australia is well placed to avoid conflict with its neighbours. This is because most wars are about territory and the position of borders.

Thankfully, our forebears managed to secure the whole continent for themselves rather than having to share it with another European nation. The colonies and their successor states subsequently held together as one federation. As a result, we have avoided the potential for conflict that a divided continent would create.

Despite this, we have feared being displaced, particularly by the rise of different Asian nations and by our slowness to populate and develop the continent. When we had just 5 million people, and the numbers across the north barely filled a sizeable town, it is not surprising that Australians feared invasion. There was also a conviction back then that practically all the continent was capable of being occupied.

Now we openly acknowledge that two thirds of the continent is arid or semi-arid and Australia will never support a population comparable to that of other continents. At the same time, we have experienced a fivefold increase in our population and some of the isolated settlements across the north have grown into cities.

Rather than huddling in south-eastern cities, and presenting a relatively empty north to the world, Australians have developed mineral and other resources in the tropics and established new settlements to support those developments. It has now become much more difficult for outsiders to argue, as they used to do, that Australians were not making adequate use of the continent.

Apart from having a more secure hold on the continent, there has been another fundamental change in our defence position. Instead of posing threats to our sovereignty, a range of powerful Asian nations now have a strong interest in protecting Australia as a secure source of raw materials and food and as a market for their excess consumer products.

Indeed, a potential invasion of Australia would probably cause more alarm in Beijing, Tokyo and New Delhi than it would in Washington. This dramatic change in our circumstances requires us to make a fundamental reappraisal of our defence policy and the amount that we spend on it.

The next thing we should do is make a more realistic prediction of the likely future threats to our security. During the 20th century, there was much talk of protecting our sea lanes and maritime approaches. While we certainly need to be able to assert our authority in Australian waters, the idea of protecting our sea-borne trade routes and maritime approaches needs to be rethought.

The idea of protecting our sea lanes originated when Australia's trade was principally with Britain and Europe and the security of those trade routes was an economic necessity. It also suited Britain to have us concentrate our defence spending on the navy. But today, our trade routes are principally to China and other Asian nations, who were the source of the supposed earlier threat and now are just as concerned about keeping those trade routes secure. It is difficult to see from where any future threat might come.

There might be a theoretical risk from Indonesia, but any such risk is only going to be exacerbated by Australia starting a regional arms race with Jakarta. Instead, Australia needs to continue the sort of confidence-building and military co-operation that has been the hallmark of our recent relations with Indonesia.

With no serious threat to our possession of one of the most defendable territories on earth, it is time for Australia to set aside its historic fears of invasion and adopt a defence policy and budget that suits our circumstances


Conservative Qld. Premier to legislate for  tough new workplace powers to break strikes

THE Newman Government will give itself tough strike-breaking powers, including ordering public servants back to work, fining individual workers, and capping pay rises.

In a move that has been compared to the Howard government's controversial WorkChoices, the LNP is set to overhaul industrial relations laws to minimise trouble while it reforms the public service.

The proposed changes introduced to State Parliament include new powers for the Attorney-General to order striking public servants back to work in drawn-out disputes.  Those who fail to comply face $2700 individual fines, or $13,500 for unions.

The Government will also be able to bypass unions and put pay offers directly to a vote, in a change that reflects the Federal Government's Fair Work Act.

And the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission will have to consider the state's ability to afford public service pay rises, which could effectively cap them, to avoid a repeat of last year's bitter police pay battle.  The QIRC granted Queensland's 10,500 police an 11.1 per cent rise over three years, 3.6 per cent more than the former Labor government wanted to pay.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said his Bill would ensure the state had an affordable public service that "delivered for all Queenslanders".

But unions are concerned the changes are aimed at suppressing a worker's ability to strike ahead of massive reforms and job cuts planned by the Government.

Industrial action is already being discussed by staff at the Department of Communities, which is being hit hard by the dismissal of hundreds of temporary workers.

Alex Scott, from the Queensland public sector union Together, said there was growing concern about moves to redefine some frontline workers as "non-frontline" to maximise opportunities for job cuts.

Electrical Trades Union secretary Peter Simpson said he believed there was a hidden agenda to bring government-owned corporations (GOCs) such as Energex, Ergon and Queensland Rail back under the public service.  "Bringing them together under one director-general would eliminate a lot of duplication but also a hell of a lot of jobs," Mr Simpson said.

He said the law changes would ensure any strike action was minimised.

Another area of concern to unions was the "workplace and productivity reforms" being sought by the Government in return for a maximum 3 per cent pay rise for public servants.  As yet, the Government has refused to say what the reforms will involve.

Mr Scott said a failure to focus on reforms that delivered services to the community would result in industrial action.

"What we're seeing at the moment, with things like cuts to tea and coffee, isn't about revitalising services," he said.

Beth Mohle, from the Queensland Nurses Union, echoed Mr Scott's concerns, despite her union being the first to reach agreement with the Government on a 3 per cent-a-year pay deal.

"Even though there's been reassurances, it's obvious from the legislation it's about containing costs for government," Ms Mohle said. "There is a concern about the implications for us in the long term."


How $1.5b Federal budget surplus hides $8.7b deficit

Left-leaning economist Ross Gittins comments below as politely as he can on a very shonky budget

What if I told you the true expected budget balance for next financial year wasn't the much trumpeted surplus of $1.5 billion but a carefully buried deficit of $8.7 billion?

I'd be justified in making such a statement because that deficit figure is officially known as the "headline cash balance" and, as a journalist, I'm in the headline business.

I'd also be justified in drawing it to your attention because the government in its budget papers has made no effort to convince us the headline figure is of no macro-economic significance - rather, we should focus solely on the "underlying cash balance" of a $1.5 billion surplus.

Indeed, I'm not sure the headline figure is of no macro significance. Why not? Because I happen to know - no thanks to the government - that the difference between the two figures includes, among various things, the government's spending on the rollout of the national broadband network.

That's of no macro-economic significance? That has no effect on economic activity? Don't think so, chaps.

I'd really like to be able to tell you just what the transactions are that explain the difference between the headline and the underlying balances. But if there's a table anywhere in the voluminous budget papers spelling that out, I can't find it.

I'm sure if the econocrats had their way there'd be such a table, but the preference of the politicians and their private-office spin doctors is to conceal rather than explain. And even just the figure for the ironically titled headline balance has been carefully hidden to ensure it doesn't hit the headlines.

It didn't rate a mention in the Treasurer's budget speech; in the multicoloured Budget Overview document it was included as a "memo item" (that is, they don't tell you how it was arrived at) on page 36.

In the budget papers proper, it went unmentioned in budget statement 1 (also known as the budget overview) and got a single mention on page 9 of budget statement 3.

The hiding of the headline deficit is just one example of the way the budget papers are becoming less informative rather than more, and the way the government's spin doctors are turning them into an exercise in media management rather than transparency and accountability.

The budget speech used to be a thorough and trustworthy exposition of the new measures announced in the budget; these days it's a made-for-television rave about the budget's good points.

I suspect one reason the budget papers have become less rather than more user-friendly over the years is the spin doctors' desire to drive journalists away from the budget papers proper to the multicoloured Budget Overview, known to econocrats as "the glossy".

It's glossy by name and gloss by nature, putting the best gloss possible on the budget and focusing on whatever messages the government is trying to peddle.

It offers a seemingly useful list of the "major savings" announced in the budget, but you can't be sure all the "saves" you'd like to know about are listed. The single line for "other" savings accounts for almost a quarter of the total.

But that's honest compared with the list of "major initiatives" announced in the budget, otherwise known as "spends". It's a table without totals, meaning it doesn't even have a line for "other" spending. If it did, other would account for almost a third of the total.


1 comment:

Paul said...

The cockatoos moved in after cyclone Larry a few years back, and have never really left. They are big, well fed, and have an appetite form lemons and passionfruit, which we have since given up trying to grow.