Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Queensland water utility wins appeal against 2011 flood damages ruling

The Wivenhoe dam could easily have stopped the flood but it was mismanaged by the bureaucrats in charge of it -- who ignored their own manual.

This judgment says that the operators can do what they want as long as they agree with one-another! This should go to the High Court

State-owned dam operator Seqwater has won an appeal against a landmark ruling on the 2011 Queensland floods.

In 2019, the Supreme Court in New South Wales found the Queensland government, Sunwater and Seqwater, had acted negligently and had contributed to the disaster.

It was ruled engineers had failed to follow their own flood mitigation manual, leading them to release large volumes of water at the height of the flood, damaging more properties.

A judge ordered more than 6,500 victims whose homes or businesses were damaged were entitled to almost $900 million in compensation.

Two of the defendants agreed to pay their share of the settlement but Seqwater — which was found liable for 50 per cent — appealed against the decision on a number of grounds.

During a hearing in May, Seqwater argued engineers had acted appropriately and the decisions about water releases were suitable.

In a published judgment today, three NSW Court of Appeal judges ruled the engineers "acted by way of consensus" and "ultimately" followed the strategy determined by the senior flood operations engineer and were not in breach of the Civil Liability Act.

"Failure by Seqwater's flood engineers to depart from that strategy was not proven to be in breach," the judges found.

"Even if their conduct departed from the manual, that did not of itself entail a breach of that standard."

Ipswich councillor and Goodna flood victim Paul Tully slammed the unexpected decision as a "kick in the guts" to many still-struggling flood victims.

"This decision defies commonsense and logic given that SunWater and the state government have already accepted they were jointly liable for the flood," Mr Tully said.

"We now have the bizarre situation where the state government and SunWater have agreed to pay $440 million as their assessed 50 per cent liability, while Seqwater has squirmed out of its responsibility on a legal technicality."

Mr Tully accused Seqwater of legal delaying tactics over 10 years "lacking one iota of justice, common decency or fair play".

"In the past decade, many flood victims have passed away, marriages have failed and people have suffered mental breakdowns as a result of the legal delays."

The judgment also rejected the initial judge's determination that losses had been caused by the "cumulative effect" of several breaches by the flood engineers.

"That approach was artificial … and assumed that each flood engineer could and should exercise independent judgment," the judges found. "The flood engineers acted in a collaborative manner … all were liable for each breach. "The fact that a particular engineer was on duty at a particular time was not a critical factor."

The matter was dismissed and the respondent was ordered to pay costs.


Queensland bans single-use plastics

Queensland has banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates, as well as containers and cups made from expanded polystyrene.

Initially announced in March, businesses had until September 1 to stop using items listed under the first stage of the state government ban.

The plan received huge support from the community during consultations, with 94 per cent of 20,000 respondents supporting the proposal.

The related legislation also makes provision for more single-use items to be banned through regulation in the future.

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon confirmed earlier this year more restrictions are likely in the future.

“There’s been a lot of commentary around things like coffee cups, a range of other plastics, so we’ll be making sure that we’re consulting widely around what the next phase of those products is,” she said in March.

“Queensland really is ahead when it comes to the rest of the country on single-use plastics, but we want to make sure that we’re continuing to progress with this.”


Western Sydney curfew 'doesn't work' and was only brought in because of 'media pressure'

The deputy premier has launched a scathing attack on the curfews imposed on residents in Western Sydney, claiming the controversial measure simply 'doesn't work'.

John Barilaro broke rank with his superior Gladys Berejiklian by claiming curfews do more harm than good during a regional Covid update on Monday.

Mr Barilaro was asked by reporters if he would consider enforcing a similar 9pm-5am curfew in the city of Dubbo and other regional communities, which have suffered a surge in cases.

He responded by saying the measure 'didn't work' and had only been imposed in the first place after pressure was applied by media outlets.

It is just one of several controversial Covid restrictions imposed on Australians despite not being based on health advice, including closing children's playgrounds, a draconian one-hour exercise limits and bringing in similar curfews in Victoria.

'I am going to say that and I can get away with saying that,' Mr Barilaro said.

Locked-down residents in 12 LGAs of concern in Greater Sydney are not permitted to leave their homes from 9pm-5am unless they are an authorised worker or involved in an emergency or need medical care.

Curfews were also brought in during Victoria's cripping lockdown last year, despite officials admitting it was only introduced to help police control the movement of people - and was not based on any health advice.

There are currently 1,071 Covid-19 patients in NSW in hospital, with 177 in intensive care and 67 ventilated.


How ‘insane’ QLD fishing laws could raise the price of seafood

New fishing rules seven years in the making are being blasted as “insane” and the “last nail in the coffin” for commercial Queensland fishers.

The new harvest strategies bringing the state’s total to 15 include commercial operators having to report bycatch discarded back into the ocean for the first time.

Mackay Fish Market owner David Caracciolo said the laws — affecting the mud crab, east coast inshore, trawl fin fish fisheries and more — were “ridiculous” and hastily rolled-out.

“At midnight every night, (commercial fishers) have to report their catch in before they start fishing the next day,” Mr Caracciolo said. “Things have to be telephoned in at midnight, paperwork’s got to be done on the boat.

“These guys are in boats 14 to 20 feet (4.2m to 6m) long, in the oceans or the creeks or whatever, operating in blowing winds, rain, all that sort of stuff.

“Products have to be weighed at a designated point at a landing point or a boat ramp approved by Fisheries.

“They’ve just made it that difficult for fishermen to operate under that they’ll exit the industry voluntarily.”

Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said there would be a transitional period until December 31 with the department focusing on education to help fishers adjust. “Enforcement action may be taken, however, in the case of intentional, repeated or serious noncompliance,” Mr Furner said.

Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Simon Miller said the rules also set new catch limits for barramundi, crabs and prawns among other species for both commercial and recreational fishers.

“At the moment, there’s no reporting requirements for recreational fishers, there’s just bag limits and size limits,” the fishing spokesman said.

Mr Miller explained catch quotas were localised to different regions; for example, if Mackay’s barramundi levels stooped, the catch limit would be reduced accordingly, and vice versa.

He said the majority of Queensland’s “table” fish were nearing target sustainability levels while other species such as scallops, snapper and pearl perch were in a “bad place”.

He welcomed the new strategies but said the government must support small-scale fishers for whom the majority were responsible stewards of the ocean.

He also said more needed to be done for Queensland to become the “gold standard” of sustainable fishing, pushing for cameras on boats particularly in higher-risk gill net and trawl fisheries.

Mr Miller said the AMCS also wanted temporary halts on gillnet fishing if and when too many protected species were caught — such as dugongs, turtles, dolphins and sawfish — to allow populations to recover. “It’s vitally important we protect these species,” Mr Miller said.

Mr Caracciolo said the suggestions were “totally ridiculous” with gillnetters attending their nets “all the time”, adding shark populations were thriving and he could not recall the last time a commercial fisher interacted with a dugong.

He further slammed the catch quotas as a “total minefield”, “hinged on discrimination” and introduced for political appeasement. “We’re just totally under the belief that the commercial sector is the one that is the scapegoat and we’re the ones that are penalised,” Mr Caracciolo said.

“People who are going to suffer out there besides the fishers is the market, the consumers. “If they do have wild caught fish, it’ll be that expensive they won’t be able to touch it.

“It’ll increase imports, that’s what’s going to happen. “We’ve got the third biggest ocean mass in the world and we’ve got the smallest fishing industry.”


Australia’s education minister says he doesn’t want students to be taught ‘hatred’ of Australia

Australia’s education minister has said he doesn’t want students to leave school with “a hatred” of their country, in a ramping up of his rhetoric about the draft national curriculum.

Alan Tudge, who has spent months campaigning against elements of the proposed new curriculum, said if students did not learn about Australia’s “great successes” they were “not going to protect it as a million Australians have through their military service”.

In an at-times combative interview with the ABC’s youth radio station Triple J, the federal education minister indicated he believed Anzac Day should be “presented as the most sacred of all days in Australia” rather than “contested”.

“I want people to come out having learnt about our country with a love of it rather than a hatred of it,” Tudge said, without explaining how the content might encourage students to hate Australia.

He said he was concerned the proposed history curriculum – particularly for years seven to 10 – “paints an overly negative view of Australia”. He cited the way Anzac Day was presented as one of the “things which I don’t like”.

In the proposed new curriculum, a portion of year 9 history dealing with the first world war includes “the commemoration of World War I, including different historical interpretations and contested debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend and the war”.

The content may include “debating the difference between commemoration and celebration of war”.

In the interview on the Hack current affairs program on Tuesday evening, Tudge said Anzac Day was “not a contested idea apart from an absolute fringe element in our society”.

“Instead of Anzac Day being presented as the most sacred of all days in Australia, where we stop, we reflect, we commemorate the hundred thousand people who have died for our freedoms … it’s presented as a contested idea,” Tudge said.

The existing version of the year 9 history curriculum already includes a similar form of words about “the commemoration of World War I, including debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend”, but without the word “contested”.

During the interview, Tudge said he accepted the curriculum “should be teaching accuracy”, adding that year 7 history “doesn’t even mention Captain James Cook – a very significant person in the history of the world and particularly significant for Australia”.

However, the draft curriculum documents do mention Cook earlier – in year 4 – during a section on the “causes for the establishment of the first British colony in Australia”.

Under questioning from Hack presenter Avani Dias, Tudge said there “should be opportunities to reflect from different perspectives, particularly from Indigenous perspectives” but “we’ve just got to get the balance right”.

“You know, this country, Avani, is a magnet for millions of people to want to come to, right? Now why is that? It’s not because we’re this horrible, terrible, racist, sexist country. It’s because we’re one of greatest egalitarian free countries in the world,” Tudge said.

Dias countered that “a lot of people, minister, would probably disagree with some of those things”, including First Nations people who “would argue that perhaps the balance has been in the opposite direction until now – that we’ve been teaching too much about post-1788 as opposed to what happened before that, or the effects of colonisation”.

Asked what he would say to any Indigenous Australians with such concerns, Tudge suggested the interviewer should name names.

“Well, (A) I’d want to know which individuals you’re referring to, but (B) I would ask you: name me a single country in the world at any time in the world’s history which is not as free and as egalitarian as Australia is today,” Tudge said.

The minister acknowledged there had been “some dreadful instances in our history, absolutely”. Tudge said that before entering parliament he had spent three years working with Indigenous leader Noel Pearson in Cape York and there was “still a lot of deep hurt and trauma”.

But he argued the balance of the proposed curriculum was “out of whack” and students needed to understand why “almost uniquely in the history of the world Australia is such a wealthy, liberal, free egalitarian society”.

“If you don’t understand that deeply, then you’re not going to protect it as a million Australians have through their military service and a hundred thousand people have died in the protection of those things and defending them.”

The curriculum review is yet to be completed, with final revisions due to be provided to Tudge and state and territory education ministers for approval by the end of 2021.

Tudge’s current campaign against elements of the proposal is the latest chapter in Australia’s so-called history wars, which included then prime minister John Howard saying in the 1990s that he rejected “the black armband view of Australian history”.

Julia Gillard, announcing the new national curriculum in 2010, said it presented neither a “black armband nor white blindfold” view of history.

In 2014 Tony Abbott’s government launched a curriculum review with a goal of removing “partisan bias”.

The then education minister, Christopher Pyne, called for more prominence to be given to Anzac Day and for the curriculum to “celebrate Australia” and said he didn’t mind “if the left want to have a fight with the Coalition about Australia’s history”


Sweden v Australia — where would you rather be as COVID evolves and spreads?

James Baillieu

Eighteen months into the COVID pandemic, the outcomes in my mother’s birthplace of Sweden and my birthplace of Australia could not be more stark.

Sweden met the challenge of the virus threat guided by medical advice and a bipartisan and multidisciplinary panel of experts. It is clear its approach has delivered far better results. Today Sweden is thriving and is one of the freest, happiest and healthiest countries.

In comparison, Australia’s rolling lockdowns could be the most damaging public policy mistake since federation. Never has government policy so heartlessly transferred harm from the very elderly on to our children.

Why did Sweden succeed so comprehensively where Australia has failed so dismally? My seven years working at McKinsey & Co taught me a fundamental truth: “What gets measured gets managed.”

In Sweden, policymakers identified what success for the whole of society would look like (short-, medium- and long-term) and then measured their actions. Policies had to be evidence-based and their full costs (societal as well as economic) expressly measured before implementation.

But Australian politicians have not clearly defined what success looks like and therefore have been measuring the wrong things. Narrow epidemiological medical advice has been followed without considering the broader costs and impacts. Politicians have been monomaniacally focused on daily case and death metrics.

Calamitous consequences have been inflicted on Australians.

The rolling lockdown policy is causing cruel trauma to millions of children who need to learn, socialise, play and burn off energy — with an increase in youth suicides, record hospitalisations for self-harm, depression, anguish and adverse educational outcomes. Closing schools is a perverse and unprecedented action with long-term damaging consequences. In Victoria even playgrounds were shut for a time.

We have fought wars against totalitarian regimes for our freedoms, but we have become a dictatorship by stealth under lockdown. Basic liberties stripped away, arbitrary edicts issued, protests outlawed, curfews declared, a “ring of steel” imposed, and the military in NSW engaged to enforce decrees.

Australians are forbidden to leave the country. Society has become so Kafkaesque that Victorians were told not to remove masks when drinking alcohol outside the home.

Whole sectors of the economy have been gutted by the lockdowns causing bankruptcy, ruin and despair. The rest of the economy has been propped up by massive debt stimulus of hundreds of billions of dollars that our children will have to repay in the future.

COVID is not the Black Death that killed 50% of the population over four years in the 1350s. The mortality rate globally for COVID is about 0.1%-0.25% of the population.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says if we had done nothing at all in Australia we may have had 30,000 deaths. To put that in context, about 170,000 Australians die every year, and just under 85,000 hospitalisations are palliative care. The average age of a COVID death in Australia is 86 — four years higher than the average life expectancy — and most COVID deaths also have a serious illness, such as dementia or heart disease. Many people who are infected never know they have it, and for healthy people under 50 it is often no more dangerous than the flu.

In Sweden, COVID policy was under the leadership of epidemiologist Dr Anders Tegnell, the independent steward of the nation’s health.

All of society’s well-being was considered in policy decisions, not just COVID. Policy had to be evidence-based. No policy could be implemented without considering the broad costs. Mild physical distancing restrictions were introduced and Swedes were mostly allowed to decide what precautions to take.

There were no border closures; there were no lockdowns. ICU capacity was doubled; hospitals were stretched, but not overloaded. Sweden’s COVID death toll of 0.14% of the population was nearly all people who had a short time to live. Deaths compare well with the UK (0.18%) and the US (0.21%).

The economy took a small hit but has rebounded and as the rest of the world experiences new surges, Sweden’s weekly average COVID deaths have been zero over the past month.

But most importantly, Swedes maintained all their democratic rights and freedoms. Tegnell declared lockdowns anti-democratic and unsustainable and kept schools open. He was vociferously criticised by experts the world over and at one point even the king of Sweden despaired of his policies.

But his critics focused on COVID metrics only. He acknowledges some mistakes were made, but Tegnell has been vindicated. Sweden is the world’s success story managing the COVID policy trade-offs holistically.

Australian politicians are addicted to tyranny and fearmongering. We must learn from Sweden. Our policies must always be measured by what is good for the whole of society.

End the lockdowns immediately. Restore our rights and freedoms. Stop harming our children and instead protect them.




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