Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Harmless pesticide still used in Australia -- ozone "hole"  regardless

In their role as sand in the gears of civilization, Greenies constantly find reasons to ban useful chemicals,  making pest and weed control difficult and raising costs.  We need therefore to look at where a ban is really needed.  In this case the reason for the ban is a laugh.  Methyl bromide was banned because it allegedly harmed the ozone layer. 

But even though the ozone layer "protections" were put in place long ago, the "hole" in the ozone layer waxes and wanes as it always did.  The "protections" have protected nothing. The ozone "hole" is now properly regarded as just another failed Greenie scare.  Although official meteorological records of the "hole" are no doubt still available, nobody I know even bothers to track it anymore. 

So the ban on Methyl bromide should in fact now be lifted completely -- giving farmers and others a colorless, odorless, nonflammable fumigant to use, where appropriate

About 70 per cent of Australian strawberries are being grown on runners that have been fumigated with an environmentally damaging pesticide that has been banned around the world.

Methyl bromide is an odourless and colourless gas which was banned under the United Nations Montreal Protocol in 1989 because it depletes the ozone layer.

Australia agreed to phase it out by 2005 but a decade later, nine strawberry runner growers at Toolangi, in Victoria's Yarra Valley, are still using nearly 30 tonnes a year.

They produce 100 million strawberry runners annually, which in turn generate about 70 per cent of Australian strawberries.

Each year they apply to the UN for a critical use exemption from the ban, claiming the alternatives are financially crippling.

The co-chair of the UN Methyl Bromide Technical Options committee, Dr Ian Porter, said the situation was frustrating.

"Internationally, we've gotten rid of 85 per cent of methyl bromide, and it's a great win for mankind — in fact it's the best environmental gain that's been made," he said.

"[The strawberry runner growers] want to get rid of it, but there's a responsibility to provide high-health runners for the industry.

"It's frustrating ... but we don't want industries to fall over economically or technically. We don't want more disease or pests in Australia."

Environmental Justice Australia said it was concerned the growers were using a loophole to continue their use of methyl bromide.

"I think if people did know more about this issue, they'd be very concerned that the strawberries they're consuming are contributing to this significant environmental issue," chief executive Brendan Sydes said.

"There was a commitment to phase out this chemical by 2005 and yet, despite that, we're continuing to use it in this industry. It's a real concern.

"I think it's a real failure of the industry to come up with some alternative methods of producing strawberry runners, but also of the government to insist on compliance with this important regulatory regime."

Prices would increase to $10 a punnet: industry

The strawberry growers said if they were forced to stop using methyl bromide, the viability of the $400 million strawberry industry would be "compromised" and 15,000 jobs jeopardised.

The industry estimated their costs could soar by 500 per cent if they were to switch to soilless growing systems, similar to those used in parts of Europe.

The runner industry has invested more than $700,000 on research and development to find alternatives to methyl bromide.

That cost would be passed on to consumers, and a punnet of strawberries could end up costing more than $10.

"You imagine turning 100 hectares immediately into glass houses, and the impact that would have," Dr Porter said.

"It's just not the least bit economical at this stage.

"It's tough to weigh up economics, it's one of our challenges. Will consumers pay $10 a punnet? I don't know."


Banks oppose the federal deposits tax plan

Taxing people's savings?  Even though they have already paid tax on the money when they earned it?

AUSTRALIA'S banks and credit unions want the federal government to scrap plans for a tax on bank deposits.

THE bank deposits insurance levy is likely to be unveiled in the May budget as part of a move to raise $500 million a year.
Sources have told the Australian Financial Review the coalition government would proceed with a bank tax, a tax first proposed by Labor ahead of the 2013 election.

Labor had proposed a 0.05 per cent levy on every deposit of up to $250,000.

The Australian Banker's Association (ABA), which represents 23 banks operating locally, said the tax would hurt savers and self-funded retirees already struggling with low interest rates.

"Millions of Australians, including many self-funded retirees, rely on their savings to fund their current and future prosperity and they should not be punished by a new tax," ABA chief executive Steven Munchenberg said.  "The levy (plan) should be scrapped."

The ABA said banks would have to pass on the costs to customers, adding that it had opposed the deposit levy when the Rudd government proposed the idea during the election campaign.

The ABA released a report on Friday arguing that the banks paid $13 billion in taxes to Australian governments in 2014, including $11 billion in company tax.

The Customer Owned Banking Association, which represents credit unions and building societies, also wants the government to dump the idea.

"This is a tax on the savings of ordinary Australians," the group's chief executive Mark Degotardi said.

He noted that a month before the 2013 election, Treasurer Joe Hockey had described such a tax as "not good public policy".


Liberal Party the big winner with Chinese voters after NSW Labor and unions ‘racist’ campaign backfires

Leftists are racist or anti-racist as it suits them.  They have no lasting principles

LABOR and the unions’ “racist” campaign against Chinese investment in the state’s electricity network is being blamed for a swing towards the Liberal Party in seats such as Oatley, in Sydney’s southwest, that have substantial Chinese populations.

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey described the anti-Chinese scaremongering of Labor and the unions as “backdoor xenophobia”.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union began TV ads last Monday warning that leasing 49 per cent of the electricity to a foreign country was “just not on”.

The union also said the NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance was having “secret” meetings with representatives of the Chinese government over the leasing plan.

Mr Hockey said yesterday the campaign against Chinese investment in the state’s publicly-owned poles and wires network was an example of “backdoor xenophobia that Australians hate”.

“There was an element of xenophobia and racism involved in the NSW Labor campaign that I have not seen in more than 20 years in politics,” Mr Hockey said.

“It was outrageous for a mainstream party to engage in the racism that the Labor Party engaged in.”

During the campaign, Opposition Leader Luke Foley said he did not trust the Foreign Investment Review Board to protect NSW residents in the event of a power sale to Chinese interests.

Mr Foley also said Chinese investment could present a security risk and claimed ASIO would be interested in it.

Despite the widespread ­opposition to Labor and the unions’ scaremongering, Mr Foley defended Labor’s campaign yesterday.

“My view is the very large swing to Labor – 9 per cent swing, a 14-seat lift – was based in part on the unpopularity of Mr Baird’s privatisation policy,” he said. “I also presented a swag of other policies to the electorate – positive plans.

“I said on day one I would lead a party of policies, never a mere party of protest, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

But senior Liberal sources said the strongest gains in Oatley were in booths with a high Chinese population.

A senior Liberal source said the union-Labor campaign had been grossly offensive to voters of Chinese descent.

“If you are Chinese, or of Chinese descent, a small business person, or a professional person in Oatley, and you saw that being played out, not only is it offensive culturally, and racially, but it is just stupid,” the source said.

But a Labor source claimed the anti-Chinese scare tactics did not affect the Oatley result, instead putting Mr Coure’s remarkable win down to the fact that he is a hugely popular local member.

“He was the only MP in focus groups that people could name,” the Labor Party source said yesterday. “He is extremely well-known and very popular.”

The electorate of Oatley in southern Sydney takes in the suburbs of Hurstville, Penshurst, Oatley and Mortdale.

With a swing of 3.1 per cent, it was one of five seats that swung towards the Liberals, the others being East Hills (0.8 per cent), Drummoyne (2.7 per cent), Seven Hills (0.6 per cent) and Parramatta (2.2 per cent).


Sacked Queensland MP Billy Gordon won’t resign as chaos grips government

Aborigines tend to be feckless but Mr Gordon's behaviour is worse than most.  Even his own mother feared him

THE Premier is putting her leadership on the line to get rid of him but the criminal MP who could crash Queensland is refusing to budge in a bid for “natural justice”.

Just two months after narrowly negotiating power over the state by forming a minority government with the support of an independent MP, the Labor Party has been thrown into crisis with Cooke MP Billy Gordon’s criminal history threatening to derail the government.

The rookie MP was one of the stars of the January election which saw Labor claw back power after being spectacularly thrown out in the previous vote.

His win was celebrated by the party as the vote saw him installed as one of the party’s two first indigenous parliamentarians.

But at the weekend there was no cause for celebration as Mr Gordon admitted to a string of undeclared criminal offences, including a violence order, leading a “shocked” and “appalled” Ms Palaszczuk to give him the boot.


The furious Premier was forced on Friday night to refer Mr Gordon to police amid allegations he abused a former partner during their relationship a decade ago.

It was also revealed he had concealed a string of criminal offences, admitting only to a 1987 juvenile offence of breaking and stealing and two driving disqualifications during his preselection process, and twice signed a form saying he had nothing more to declare.

In a statement, Mr Gordon admitted to “serious contact with the criminal justice system”, and said his issues ranged from failure to lodge tax returns, failure to pay appropriate child support and most significantly allegations of domestic violence.

In his statement issued yesterday the troubled MP said there were no excuses for his behaviour, but did make reference to his difficult childhood.

“Throughout my life I have had to overcome many challenges and adversities. In particular as a young indigenous boy,” he said.

“Growing up in a family that had its challenges and was far from perfect were both my mother and father struggled daily to keep the family together.”

Some of his admissions include:

 *  Breaking, entering and stealing in 1987 in Innisfail.

 *  Breaking and entering with intent, attempted breaking and entering and stealing in 1990 in Atherton.

 *  Breach of probation in 1992 in Atherton.

 *  Public nuisance in 1996 in Normanton.

 *  Breach of bail conditions in 1999 (stemming from not attending a court summons from the 1996 incident).

 *  Twice had driver’s licence suspended for unlicensed driving (2004 and 2008).

In relation to a 2008 Apprehended Violence Order, Mr Gordon admitted he was served the order as a result of a complaint by his mother, but as it was not heard in court it did not form part of his criminal history.

“My mother at the time was concerned that I was going to return to a relationship with an ex-partner (we were at said ex-partner’s residence) and I asked her to leave in a manner that she found threatening,” he said.  “My mother has confirmed to me that there were no allegations of physical violence made with respect to this incident.”

Mr Gordon said he had “managed to piece together a positive and constructive life” from his “troubled and fractured past”.

Annastacia Palaszczuk has put her government on the line by sacking first-time MP Billy Gordon from the Labor Party.

She is also demanding Mr Gordon’s resignation from the parliament so a by-election can be held in his Far North Queensland seat — but that decision is up to him.

If Labor were to lose that contest to the Liberal National Party, both parties would be left with 43 seats.


Miners agree on new national park for WA’s Kimberley region, Australia's biggest

A new national park that will be the biggest in Australia is set to be created in Western Australia's Kimberley region after two major mining companies relinquished their tenements.

Rio Tinto and Alcoa Australia have given up their rights to mine the Mitchell Plateau in the north-west of the Kimberley, a region of significant biological diversity, encompassing spectacular gorges and waterfalls.

Premier Colin Barnett said on Tuesday he would introduce legislation into WA Parliament to terminate a State Agreement which would have seen an alumina refinery and bauxite mine allowed in the region.

The spectacular Mitchell Falls are located on the remote Plateau, which will be protected under a new agreement.
The spectacular Mitchell Falls are located on the remote Plateau, which will be protected under a new agreement. Photo: Adam Monk
"This is the most significant conservation achievement in WA's history," he said.

The proposal will allow more than 175,000 hectares of land on the Mitchell Plateau to be protected.

"The new national park will encompass the existing Prince Regent, Mitchell River and Lawley River national parks and will become Australia's biggest national park," he said.

Mr Barnett said the termination of the Alumina Refinery (Mitchell Plateau) Agreement 1971 would include the Mitchell Plateau in the proposed Kimberley National Park which would extend more than two million hectares and be surrounded on its coastal boundary by new marine parks.

"The Mitchell Plateau and the Mitchell Falls are spectacular and unique landscapes in Australia and will be the jewels in the crown of the new Kimberley National Park," he said.

"I am delighted that thanks to this agreement, this extraordinary landscape will now be conserved."

Previous agreements between the state government and the miners were intended to facilitate the development of bauxite mining and an alumina refinery on the Mitchell Plateau, when economic conditions were favourable.

Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh said the miner had taken notice of significant changes in public attitudes towards mining and the environment.  "We need to move with the times," Mr Walsh said.

It's expected that numerous endangered animals in the region, such as the northern quoll, the rough-scaled python and various turtles, will have a greater chance of survival with the creation of the park.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said the government's Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy was delivering more resources for the protection of the Kimberley than ever before.

"The strategy involves the creation of almost five million hectares of interconnected marine and national parks across the Kimberley, which will support the delivery of research and on ground conservation work to protect the region's unique plants and animals," Mr Jacob said.

"This is also generating employment opportunities for Aboriginal communities and supporting environmentally sensitive nature-based tourism."

The government announced it would continue to work with the traditional owners in the area, the Dambimangari, Wunambal-Gaambera and Wilinggin, to create and jointly manage the proposed Kimberley National Park.


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