Sunday, August 11, 2019

Great Barrier Reef run-off rules rile farmers

This is all about another unproven Greenie theory.  There is no good evidence that farm runoff damages the reef.  There is in fact good evidence that it does not. There is practically no agriculture bordering the reef in the top half of the Eastern Cape York peninsula yet there has been a lot of reef damage there.  Farmers are being burdened by restrictions and bureaucracy for no proven benefit

Contentious moves to put added restrictions on farmers and development have emotions running high along this stretch of the central Queensland coast. The state Labor government is planning new legislation that will provide for much greater supervision of agricultural practices.

“Onshore activity will always have an impact,” Dunlop says. “The question is where the intervention point should be. Nutrient loads are coming out of the Fitzroy River and from developments from population growth along the coast. There is discharge from ­inadequate sewage treatment works and manure from household pets from all these coastal suburbs.”

The duty of care, Dunlop says, should be bigger than beating up on farmers.

Great Barrier Reef protection regulations already apply to the environmentally relevant ­activities of all commercial sugar ­cane cultivation and grazing on properties of more than 2000ha in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday catchment areas. Canegrowers and graziers are required to comply with farming practices that include applying fertilisers and chemicals using prescribed methodologies and keeping associated records. But until now there have been no restrictions in the Fitzroy and Burnett-Mary reef catchments.

The new legislation, which could be voted on as early as this month, will set nutrient and sediment pollution load limits for each of the six reef catchments and will limit fertiliser use for sugar cane, grazing, bananas, other horticulture crops and grains production and to agricultural activities in all Great Barrier Reef catchments.

Advisers will be required to keep records of farms they work with and provide them to governments on request. Requests could also be made for agricultural data that may assist in determining where over-application of fertiliser is occurring. Measures will also be introduced to address extra nutrient and sediment loads from new cropping to achieve no net ­decline in reef water quality from new developments.

A parliamentary committee has said it is satisfied there is sufficient evidence that links agricultural land use with adverse effects to water quality, and that this ­affects the Great Barrier Reef.

It has not accepted arguments that there is insufficient evidence to make this connection. The committee notes the difficulties in capturing the data specific to indivi­dual properties and says “scientific modelling is an adequate and ­reliable way of providing and ­assessing data”.

The new laws will require data from the agricultural sector that may assist in determining where over-application of fertiliser, and therefore high rates of nutrient run-off, may be occurring.

It is intended that the new laws will begin later this year, with imple­mentation staged across three years. There will be heavy fines for non-compliance. Controversially, the limits set in legislation can be changed in future by the director-general without having to go back to parliament.

Bundaberg Canegrowers is leading the charge against the new laws. “They are assuming we are dumb as dogs and we are farming like grandad used to with horses,” Bundaberg Canegrowers chief executive Dale Holliss says.

His group is questioning the rationale for extending laws to a region with a vastly different climate and rainfall. Holliss fears that once introduced, the targets set for improved water quality simply cannot be met. Canegrowers see the regulations as part of a broader political push that is loaded with unintended consequences for the rural sector.

“It hasn’t been thought through,” Holliss says. “Everyone cares but why are you imposing more regulation on our struggling economy? Vegetables from this region are sold to major super­markets right around the nation.

“The Bundaberg region supplies 80 per cent of Australia’s sweet potatoes, 42 per cent of avocado and 40 per cent of maca­damia. It supplies the largest field-grown tomatoes in the country.”

Together with grazing, all will be captured by the new laws.

Holliss says he believes sugar cane has been singled out because there are not many votes in it and the industry is visible.

“Cane is not king here but it is a cornerstone tenant,” he says. “The irrigation system here that makes everything possible is as a result of cane. The port is as a result of cane. The foundry is as a result of cane.”

Analysis by canegrowers shows that for every dollar earned by cane there is a $6.20 return to the Queensland economy.

For Holliss, it smacks of politics. “A lot of this comes back to people in southeast Queensland trying to shore up votes and selling the bush out of it,” he says.

Research by farm groups claims that if all cane were removed from the system, it would still not be sufficient to meet the targets. Most sediment comes from natural processes.

However, Capricorn Conservation Council spokeswoman Sherie Bruce says the regulations are needed to maintain the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status.

“To keep UNESCO World Heritage status they have to comply with outcomes, so the science is showing we are not going to meet those outcomes on water quality,” Bruce says.

She says self-regulation is favoured by the industry but it has failed. “The LNP allowed that to happen for a long time and then you can see only 3 per cent undertook self-regulation and the rest didn’t want to do it.

“To get the outcome they want for water quality to protect the reef, the state government committee recommended that regulation was the way to go,” she says.

“The Queensland government has an obligation under UNESCO to introduce that.” Bruce says she can understand that farmers are saying they have an issue with the data, but “I don’t have a problem”, she says. “It is peer-reviewed.”

Conservation groups cite a ­recent paper in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, which found corals in the central and southern sections of the reef would need improvements in water quality of between 6 per cent and 17 per cent to keep their recovery rates in line with projected ­increases in coral bleaching.

Australian Marine Conservation Society director Imogen Zethoven says the canegrowers’ campaign is “disappointing” when the reef needs all the help it can get. “Getting the water cleaned up was a key promise that Australia made to the World Heritage committee when it was considering putting the reef on the ‘in danger’ list in 2015,” Zethoven says.

She says the science showing that the reef’s corals are being hit hard by climate change and poor water quality is overwhelming.

A 2017 scientific consensus statement says improving the quality of the water flowing from the land to the reef is critical for the Great Barrier Reef’s long-term health and resilience to the effects of climate change. The statement says sediments, nutrients and pesticides flowing into reef waters ­affect the health of coral and seagrass habitats, making the reef less able to withstand or recover from events such as the coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017.

Holliss isn’t completely buying it. “My personal view is I think there is that much money around associated with reef science and lots of people find reasons to investigate things so they can get that rich succulent funding stream into their area.”

But Zethoven says “the fact that the canegrowers group is also now trying to attack the science, while claiming they are doing the right thing to protect it, is deeply disappointing”.

When it conducted its inquiry into the new legislation, the parliamentary committee received submissions from around the world including the US, Canada, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands, as well as conservation groups and farmers.

The Environmental Defenders Office told the committee that a failure to act appropriately would result in Queensland and Australia not meeting their commitments as a state and a nation to improve our management of the reef.

“We will be shamed in the face of the international community, let alone have the prospect of a dead reef in the decade to come,” the EDO said.

Several submissions were received from individuals and businesses who identified as working in the agricultural industry in a reef catchment area.

“The majority of these submitters did not support the bill,” the committee report says. But it has recommended the bill be passed.

Tourism operator and reef guardian Peter Gash has sympathies for all sides.

“Down here the southern reef has the geographical advantage that it is further off the coast and any run-off that happens generally doesn’t reach it,” says Gash. “In my time I have only seen run-off get to Lady Elliot (island) once from a big flood on the Burnett.

“I come from the farm. I can see both sides. The first thing we need to do is stop overreacting. We all need to work together as partners. Certainly there is no doubt that some run-offs can do some damage to the reefs, but how much and where is it worse than others and how can we work with our farming practices to improve that?”

Gash says farmers have every right to be concerned. “Farmers are long-term thinkers,” he says. “I don’t think there is any doubt that there have been some things done that farmers look back on now and go, ‘I wish grandpa didn’t do that.’

“But it’s not just farming. It ­applies to industrial and residential developments as well.”


Malcolm Turnbull a snake, fake: Farage

Nigel Farage has labelled Malcolm Turnbull a snake as he celebrated Australia and Britain's shift from "trendy, metro" leaders to real conservative leaders.

Introduced as "quite possibly" the next British prime minister, the Eurosceptic and right-wing figure on Saturday addressed a crowd of about 500 at the Conservative Political Action Conference Australia in Sydney.

Mr Farage told the adoring crowd prime minister Scott Morrison's election victory in May seemed impossible, after the recent hijacking of the Liberal party by "the other side".

"Malcolm Turnbull ... pretended to be a conservative but actually turned out to be a snake," he said, to applause.

"You've now got someone conservative, mainstream media (and) those in the middle of Melbourne and Sydney may not like him," he said of Mr Morrison. "But out where real people live, they voted for him."

He said he had thought "the greenies had taken over this country", especially after heading to Melbourne and having 600 people rally against him.

The UK member of the European Parliament for the past two decades was a crucial figure in the 2016 Brexit referendum's Leave campaign.

He now leads the newly-established Brexit party, which unexpectedly won the most UK seats of any party in the European Parliament election in May.

Mr Farage said the right-wing revolt was moving across the West, against parties that said they were conservative but run by leaders who were nothing of the kind. "(Former conservative UK prime minister) David Cameron was someone who was not conservative at all but a part of the trendy, metro, liberal elite masquerading as a conservative."

Mr Farage, who wants a no-deal Brexit, said he wanted the UK free of Europe so it could re-engage with its real friends in the world. "Australia is right up there at the top of my personal list," he said.

He said he wanted a complete rebalancing of where Britain was in the world, an increased engagement with Commonwealth countries and fewer people forced into universities.


Paul Keating dismantles Labor’s excuse for losing the election

Bill Shorten knew exactly who to blame in the wake of Labor’s shock defeat. But that excuse has now collapsed, thanks to a former Labor PM.

Bill Shorten was quick to blame others in the wake of his shock election defeat. He cast Labor as the victim of corporate interests, lies from the government and an “unprecedented” scare campaign. “Obviously we were up against corporate leviathans, a financial behemoth, spending an unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars advertising, telling lies, spreading fear. They got what they wanted,” Mr Shorten told his colleagues on May 30, the day Anthony Albanese was formally endorsed as his replacement.

“Powerful vested interests campaigned against us, through sections of the media itself. And they got what they wanted. “I understand that neither of these challenges disappeared on election night. They’re still out there for us to face. It is important we face them with courage and honesty, with principle, and with unity.”

According to this interpretation of Labor’s loss, Mr Shorten had the right policies, but fell victim to a dishonest, negative campaign from the government. Think of the Opposition’s proposed changes to franking credits, which Scott Morrison labelled a “retiree tax” to devastating effect.

The Prime Minister also hammered Mr Shorten on the unspecified cost of his emissions reduction policies and his plans to raise taxes on wealthier Australians.

Now a former Labor prime minister, Paul Keating, has slapped down Mr Shorten’s excuse and placed the blame squarely on him.

“Wasn’t one of the lessons of the election campaign that oppositions shouldn’t be brave?” ABC journalist Laura Tingle asked Mr Keating on 7.30 last night.

“No. I don’t think it is one of the lessons at all,” Mr Keating responded. “If you are talking about the Labor Party and why it lost the election, it failed to understand the middle class economy that Bob Hawke and I created for Australia.

“So much of the Labor Party’s policies were devoted to the bottom end of the workforce and the community, paid for by cuts in tax expenditures (i.e. tax increases).

“If the cuts in tax expenditures had have been employed in reducing tax rates then it would have been a big tax reform, and I believe a much more successful outcome.

“But instead of that the Labor Party was actually increasing the top rate of tax from 45 to 47 per cent, which of course you know, in public, I opposed.”

The shorter version is that Mr Keating believes Labor neglected the middle class in favour of a high-taxing agenda that was ultimately rejected by voters. In other words, the policies were wrong.

Labor is currently reviewing its performance in the election campaign, and its new leader, Mr Albanese, has indicated its more controversial policies could be scrapped.

We should also point out that Mr Shorten did acknowledge his own culpability during an interview with the ABC last week — albeit very briefly. “That’s why I stood down, absolutely. You have to take some responsibility,” he said.


New push to deport immigrants convicted of serious violent crimes and sex offences carrying jail terms of two years or more

More migrants convicted of serious crimes would face deportation under a proposal to toughen Australia's migration laws.

Immigration Minister David Coleman is urging Labor to support changes to migration laws that would lower the bar for criminals' visas to be cancelled.

Under the proposal, criminals would automatically fail the character test if they were convicted of a designated offence that carries a jail term of two or more years.

Designated crimes would include violent offences such as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and threatening violence and possessing a weapon.

Sexual assault and sharing of an indecent images without consent would also be covered, along with breaches of protection orders.

'These are crimes that inflict long lasting trauma on the victims and their friends and family,' Mr Coleman said on Thursday.

'They are abhorrent and those foreign criminals who commit them are not welcome in our country.'

The coalition is pressuring Labor to support the bill, which has been referred to a Senate committee for an inquiry.

While the opposition was against the changes before the election, backing existing law, it has now reserved a position until review of the bill is complete.

Mr Coleman said Labor should explain why it doesn't support the laws which target sex offenders, violent thugs and people who commit crimes against women and children. 'How can Labor possibly justify their stance on this law? Their position is outrageous,' he said.

Civil liberties groups and lawyers have also questioned the need for tougher laws to crackdown on deportations.


Universities need to listen to what students want from their degrees

University students have become "customers" and if universities are uncomfortable with that idea they are out of touch.

The chief executive of study support service, Studiosity, Michael Larsen, said a  survey of student experience showed the demand-driven system has shifted what students expect to get from higher education and many universities are running hard to catch up.

The survey asked 1100 students to rate their satisfaction with university education. Nearly 49 per cent said the did not believe the course they were studying was worth the money it cost. More than 55 per cent said it would "take years to pay off my student loan".

That was despite the fact only 16 per cent thought what they learnt at university could have been learnt in a job. And only 10 per cent felt the quality of what they learnt at university was not of a high standard.

"Value is a big part of the student experience," Mr Larsen said. "Everyone in society has become a consumer. Services like Netflix and Menulog have changed expectations. The availability and immediacy of those services has raised the bar for what students experience."

He said the demand-driven system meant everyone who wanted to go to university could get there. But combined with the high cost of a degree there were far more people in the system who felt they weren't getting value for money.

"Not all universities see students as customers and are quite confronted by that idea. That's a shame. Universities need to improve the student experience," Mr Larsen said.

Student responses to the survey question "Was your degree worth the money?" included, "I feel many people still go out from uni unprepared because they haven't actually experienced the world" , "It's very theoretical, not very practical based learning like you deal with in the workplace" and "what I am learning seems more theory based and not very practical".

The chief academic officer at Studiosity and former pro vice chancellor, learning and teaching, at Sydney University, Judyth Sachs said the survey showed the quality of university education was not in question but the high cost showed there was a disconnect as far as students were concerned.

Professor Judyth Sachs says universities are out of touch.

"Universities have to do more on employability, on soft skills and being able to work in a team."

She said nearly 19 per cent of students in the survey said they didn't feel they had learnt enough to be job ready.

"In some professional areas like engineering and psychology this has been going on for a long time. But for arts degree or generalist science degrees there has to be an employability focus.

"It's government policy that universities respond to performance indicators," Professor Sachs said.

The most important of these was the governments' Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey of attrition, retention and employability which will feed into the new performance-driven funding from 2020 under a Coalition government.

Labor has also said it will look at performance funding if it wins power in May.

"It's about making the universities more accountable. Given government is spending more money than ever on higher education, it has to get more accountability and responsibility from unis."

She said universities also needed to pay more attention to engagement in the first months of an undergraduate degree which was where there were high levels of drop-out.

"There's a broad disconnect. Students come to uni without any peer group.  Lots of them don't know how to navigate their way. Especially if they're first in family and alone at university; it's large, informal and chaotic but they're expected to perform.

"I was provost at Macquarie University for 12 years. Retention rates were high. But we found lots of the first in family didn't have the cultural capital to be self supporting."

She said a drawback of the QILT survey was it pushed universities to focus on "technocratic"  solutions when what they needed to think about was how to ensure students were successful.

"We're not just talking about academic terms. It's the value-add of soft skills, it's about producing productive and successful citizens.

Among international students, 42 per cent thought the degree was not worth the cost and of these 37 per cent said they didn't feel they'd learnt enough to be "job ready".

Mr Larsen said, "With the cost of higher education on the rise, proving consistent value-add will be a challenge for universities."

Only 16 per cent of students in the survey said their experience of university was better than they expected. One of them added, "I thought it would feel more like a community."


 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...

In my (admittedly limited) experience of modern Tertiary-level learning, there is a significant enough cohort of students who believe that they are purchasing the degree itself, not the opportunity to study for and earn the degree. They believe that the University has no right to deliver a fail grade. I failed some people in third-year finals because they clearly demonstrated that they had not learned basic first-year drug calculations.

(hint: they were diversities who thought that copying WAS learning).