Sunday, May 28, 2017

A secretive EPA in Australia

NSW home owners could be living near contaminated land without knowing because the state's environmental watchdog has failed to disclose the information, a government review has found.

The NSW Environmental Protection Authority told the review it decided not to declare all contaminated residential sites because it could "affect the valuation of a property".

The report was led by Macquarie University Professor Mark Taylor who found the EPA failed to make the information public even when the "contamination is significant enough to warrant regulation".

While the EPA is committed to declaring contamination on and near commercial and industrial land, the review found it "generally does not declare off-site residential land to avoid unnecessarily blighting that land and causing undue concern".

The review continues to say the EPA first determines if the contamination poses health or environmental risks before it decides to disclose the information to residents.

The review found two examples where off-site residential properties near "significantly contaminated" sites were not declared to affected residents and no reason was provided why in the EPA's briefing notes.

The EPA says in the report it is investigating the matter.

The environmental watchdog has committed to a revised declaration process, which will assure a more "standardised approach", but decisions to declare or not declare the contamination will continue to be made on a "case-by-case basis", the report says.

However, the EPA will not declare all contaminated sites that are deemed "significant enough to warrant regulation".

In a statement released on Sunday, the EPA says if the contaminated site poses an impact on neighbouring properties, it's up to the council to reveal that information and in cases of significantly contaminated sites, the information is "added to the public record, published in the Government Gazette, notification is provided to the landowner, polluter, land occupier and local council or authority".

"Local authorities are then tasked to record this information on property planning certificates issued under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act," the EPA said in the statement.

The environmental watchdog noted NSW had some of the strictest reporting requirements in Australia, and "human health and the environment are the priority".

"Property value never overrides the EPA's protection of human health and the environment regarding significantly contaminated sites," the EPA said.


The arrogance of a Greenie

"We have to lead the government in what we want"

SO MANY people feel like they can’t make a difference nowadays but not Dayne Pratzky aka the Frackman.

Eight years ago he started a war with the coal seam gas industry that left him financially and emotionally drained but still angry enough to rip out the gas connection in his new house. “I will not have a part of it, I will not be held hostage to the gas industry in cooking and heating,” Pratzky told

Pratzky, who has embraced solar power at home, gained infamy when he appeared in the hit 2015 movie Frackman about his fight against gas companies who wanted to drill on his property in Queensland’s Darling Downs.

While he now lives in Forster in NSW’s Mid North Coast, Pratzky does not think he lost, despite the high price he’s paid for his activism. “I’ve lost eight years of my life, I’ve financially ruined myself and it will take time to get back on my feet but I’ll be back, I’m not finished.”

Pratzky believes he also helped others, and contributed to destroying the onshore gas industry in Australia. Since then the Victorian government has banned all onshore gas exploration and production, and there are delays over projects in NSW and the NT.

“You could say I lost but you could also say I won because the industry’s social licence has been destroyed,” Pratzky said.

“They are losing the PR battle and people don’t trust the oil and gas industry. “There’s no place for it in this country, and I’m proud of that.”

Ultimately Pratzky believes companies will never be a match for passionate people. “They do this for a job, they get paid, go home and do something else. But activists go home and eat and breathe it, that’s why you can’t beat activists because they are doing it because they want to. You can’t beat passion.”

Asked whether he had any regrets, Pratzky reckons he would have gone even harder. “I realise that being a passenger in policy, it’s no way forward,” he said. “We are having things that are not good for us forced down our throats.

“The government doesn’t lead, it follows. We have to lead the government in what we want.”

Far from feeling disempowered, Pratzky believes the rise of social media has enabled people to fight for what they believed in more than ever before. “Now I say if you’re not an activist, you’re just a whinger — there’s no excuse anymore,” Pratzky said.

“You used to have to fight to get yourself in the media, it would have to be a great story for them to get involved, but part of our rise to notoriety was because of social media.

“We had the ability to get the message out and it’s changed society. “You can be a keyboard warrior now, you can write a letter, join a group and educate yourself far easier than before.”

And contrary to what many people think, Pratzky said activists were not the rainbow-clothes wearing, bong smoking rabble they were often made out to be.

Pratzky, a carpenter and builder enjoys pig-shooting, is himself an unlikely activist and he said the social aspect of activism was actually the best part about it.

“The best thing is the people you meet ... they are absolutely phenomenal people, good Aussies, that’s why I stay involved, to help them save their properties,” he said.

“It’s not the ‘usual suspects’, it’s normal people trying to protect their way of life and business.”

Pratzky, who will be sharing his experiences during a talk at the Opera House on Saturday, wants to continue encouraging people to stand up for what they believe in.

“You’ve got to put yourself out there,” he said. “If there’s something wrong in our area, you should know about it,” he said.

“I’m a custodian of society, we all are. If you don’t want to live in a gun-filled and drug-filled society like America, you’ve got to fight to keep Australia the way it is now.”


Australian spy boss sparks row over refugees

ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis has declined to elaborate on his claim that there is “absolutely no evidence” of a link between Australia’s refugee intake and ­terrorism, despite multiple Islamic terrorist acts in the past three years involving individuals on ­humanitarian visas, or their children.

One Nation seized on Mr Lewis’s comments, with Queensland senator Malcolm Roberts tweeting: “If ASIO can’t see a link between refugees and terrorism we are in far greater danger than I thought.”

Labor MP Anne Aly, an Islamic radicalisation expert, supported Mr Lewis, while Philip Ruddock, a former Liberal immigration minister and attorney-general, said while one could not ignore the issue, “simply to blame all refugees is over-simplistic”.

On Thursday, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson grilled Mr Lewis, a former special forces commander, in a Senate estimates hearing about Islam, radicalisation, refugees and terrorism.

She first asked Mr Lewis if he could confirm that the four terrorist attacks and the 12 foiled on Australian soil were “committed by Muslims”.

Mr Lewis replied: “Certainly of the 12 thwarted attacks, one of those indeed involved a right-wing extremist, so, the answer is ‘no’, they have not always been carried out by Muslims.”

During the exchanges, the ASIO chief said: “We’re not interested in religion. We are interested in whether an individual is exhibiting or practising violence.”

Senator Hanson then asked: “Do you believe that the threat is being brought in possibly from Middle Eastern refugees that are coming out to Australia?”

Mr Lewis replied: “I have abso­lutely no evidence to suggest there is a connection between refugees and terrorism.”

Islamic State-inspired gunman Man Haron Monis, who took hostages and killed one of them during the Lindt cafe siege in 2014, came to Australia on a business visa before successfully applying for asylum.

Abdul Numan Haider, the Melbourne 18-year-old killed after attacking police with a knife three months earlier, was an Afghan-born Australian citizen whose family arrived as refugees.

Farhad Jabar, the 15-year-old jihadist who killed NSW police civilian accountant Curtis Cheng in Sydney in 2015 was an Iranian-born Australian citizen of Kurdish-Iraqi background whose family came as refugees.

At least a dozen other first or second-generation Muslim ­mi­grants have been convicted of terror-related charges.

Senator Roberts last night told The Weekend Australian: “We see a lot of terrorism around the world from refugees who have come in particularly from Islamic countries. Most people so far have hidden the obvious correlation between Islam and terrorism and refused to discuss it.

“We’re stunned that ASIO doesn’t do that, and that the Australian Federal Police doesn’t.”

Mr Lewis declined to answer questions requesting he expand on his statements in Senate estimates. He has previously sparked controversy for what some conservative Coalition MPs saw as an effort to play down the threat of ­Islamic radicalisation.

In 2015, The Australian revealed Mr Lewis had telephoned MPs publicly critical of attitudes within the Australian Muslim community, asking them to use the “soothing language favoured by Malcolm Turnbull in their public discussion of Islam”.

Speaking from Liberia last night, Mr Ruddock said it would be unrealistic to say immigration and refugee questions “play no role in relation to trying to resolve difficult issues”, but he said “integrity in selection is always of the ­utmost importance. Some of the people you cite were never refugees and deceived us in relation in to their entitlements.

“Monis was never a refugee. He clearly had difficult psychological problems.”

Mr Ruddock noted many of those who had committed ­Islamic-inspired terrorism here had been born in Australia, and said the question was “why have we failed to pass on our values”, particularly respecting the law.

Dr Aly said: “I think Duncan Lewis knows more than Pauline Hanson, and if Duncan Lewis is saying that, we should be paying attention to him.”

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined to comment.


Mining revival

House-buyers seeking a bargain amid the wreckage of Australia's mining boom might want to get in quick.

Port Hedland, a shipping hub for the Pilbara iron ore region in Western Australia, saw house prices collapse nearly 70 per cent in the past four years as workers lost their jobs and left amid the end of a resources investment boom. But prices there have reached a bottom and are now even rising.

Brighter spots in housing is one of three chunks of evidence adding to a growing sense that resource-based state economies are improving. The RBA's liaison with businesses and its data analysis show emerging signs that the Queensland and WA slowdowns are coming to an end, it said earlier this month. The regions' jobs markets, meanwhile, showed a healthy pickup in April.

The recent commodities rally has laid a foundation for recovery. While the price of iron ore — the country's biggest export — has slipped after unexpectedly rebounding toward the end of last year, it remains well above the lows beneath $US40 seen in late 2015. Still, there is potential for the steel-making metal to fall further as No 1 trading partner China stockpiles its holdings.

Port Hedland last month approved BHP Billiton's request to boost the amount of iron ore it ships through the port by 5 million tonnes to 275 million tonnes a year, after the miner initially sought an increase to 290 million tonnes. Coal-mining Queensland, meanwhile, is starting to reap benefits from large-scale liquefied natural gas projects coming on stream.

A CoreLogic report earlier this month found that many mining towns across the country were seeing sales volumes of houses lift and the rate of price declines starting to slow. But it's still a far cry from the good times, when median prices in the fly-ridden, cyclone-prone outpost of Karratha, the Pilbara's biggest town, topped Sydney's by 49 per cent.

Nobody's expecting a return to the boom years, when mining workers with no degrees were commanding salaries akin to that of Wall Street bankers. The bonanza lasted for much of the decade though 2012. But recent green shoots bolster the RBA's case that the unwinding of the mining investment boom is almost done, as the central bank seeks to diversify the economy toward services industries.

Drivers of growth in mining states appear to be broader-based than just commodities. WA is getting a $2.3 billion overhaul of its roads and rails, with a new 60,000-seat stadium also under construction, while works are well underway on the Gold Coast in preparation for the city hosting next year's Commonwealth Games.

Queensland "has got a pretty good spread of industries, for example tourism and education, so once the worst of this mining pullback is done, then the prospects are pretty good", said Steven Milch, chief economist at Suncorp Corporate Services.

'Slowly picking up'

Deloitte Access Economics is also optimistic about Queensland. It forecasts the north-east state to grow 4.5 per cent in fiscal 2018, outstripping NSW's 3 per cent and Victoria's 3.4 per cent. Growth in WA, the state hardest hit by the mining downturn, is tipped to accelerate from 0.2 per cent in fiscal 2018 to 2.2 per cent the next year.

ANZ Bank gave a tempered assessment in a May survey: "While activity in Western Australia continues to expand well below trend pace, the weight of the downturn is lifting." The bank's Queensland index also improved, but it said that labour-market slack was still a drag on economic activity.

April data showed improvement in the resource states' job markets. Queensland added a net 62,100 roles in the six months through April, the most of any state during the period. WA's jobless rate dropped 0.6 per centage points to 5.9 per cent, the biggest decline in almost two years.

"It is busy over here," said Guy Fulcher, a recruitment consultant at Zenith Search agency in Perth. "It's been slowly picking up in the past 12 months. It's still nowhere near where it was in the boom time, but compared with how quiet it was, it's a lot better."

'Skull and crossbones'

With soaring property prices in Sydney and Melbourne far out of reach for many workers, some economists also expect to see northward migration to Queensland increase. That might go some way to easing an apartment supply glut in Brisbane, which the RBA has identified as a significant restraint on prices in the state's biggest city.

It's still a stretch to suggest that resurgent mining states can pick up Australia's growth baton should east-coast property markets stutter.

Back in Port Hedland's real estate market, Dunning said he's also seen a sharp drop in rental vacancies, usually a sign that employers are in hiring mode, while buyer demand is almost entirely from owner-occupiers. He says the real gains won't come until a different type of bargain hunter reappears.

"Nothing will happen dramatically until the investors start to come back," said Dunning. "For investors, Port Hedland has got a skull and crossbones on it."

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

Paul said...

So, one Right-Wing extremist invalidates the observation that multiple other "terror" attacks have been Muslim initiated and inspired?

Oh, well that's alright then. I feel safer already.