Friday, August 14, 2020

Indigenous Australians 'farmed bananas 2,000 years ago'

Bananas originated in S.E. Asia so this is possible.  Note that this finding is NOT about Aborigines.  The Torres Strait Islands were and are inhabited by Melanesians.  And Melanesians have always maintained gardens

So it does not "dispel the myth that Australia's native peoples were solely "hunter-gatherers"".  Melanesians are not Aborigines. The two are very distinct races

The phrase "Australia's native peoples" is a deliberate attempt to cloud the identity of the farmers concerned.  Melanesians originated in New Guinea but some moved South into the Torres Strait.  They did not settle in Australia.  In a legacy from colonial times, the Islanders are now however Australian citizens

Archaeologists say they have found ancient banana farms once managed by Australia's Indigenous peoples.

The sites, which date back 2,145 years, were found on a tiny island north of the mainland in the Torres Strait.

Researchers found banana microfossils, stone tools, charcoal and a series of retaining walls at the site.

It further dispels the myth that Australia's native peoples were solely "hunter-gatherers", researchers said.

The findings from Mabuyag Island were released by a team from the Australian National University and the University of Sydney on Wednesday.

"Our research shows the ancestors of the Goegmulgal people of Mabuyag were engaged in complex and diverse cultivation and horticultural practices in the western Torres Strait at least 2,000 years ago," lead researcher Robert Williams said.

The archaeologists found gardening tools as well as retaining walls at the site

The agricultural system reflected the local regional diet at the time which included staples such as yams, taro and bananas.

"Food is an important part of Indigenous culture and identity and this research shows the age and time depth of these practices," said Mr Williams.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are widely misconceived to have been nomadic hunter-gatherers in the time before British colonisation.


COVID restrictions hitting food supply

Aussie farmers are pleading for “agriculture permits” and exemptions to keep the country fed, as border shutdowns hit supply chains and spark fears of cost increases and food shortages.

Farming groups, including the National Farmers Federation, AusVeg, Shearing Contractors Association, Australian Livestock & Property Agents Association and Melbourne Market Authority, held emergency talks on Wednesday to find a way through the looming crisis.

Industry groups have called for a single “farmer permit” for Victorian farmers who need to cross into NSW or Queensland, and floated the idea of dedicated bridges for contractors crossing regularly.

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said: “We don’t farm for New South Wales, we don’t farm for Victoria or South Australia — we farm for the whole country.”

Among the industry’s concerns are:

* A lack of seasonal workers to pick fruit and vegetables;

* Livestock across borders that farmers can’t access or care for could die;

* Pregnant sheep and cows being left unattended;

* Specialist workers like shearers being forced to travel through major city hubs and quarantine for two weeks; and

* Crops could be destroyed as farmers cannot access them to irrigate and treat for insects and fungi.

Mr Jochinke said burecreats had not consulted industry when imposing the harsh restrictions have left farmers battling red tape.

“Farmers are absolutely frustrated along with the whole agricultural industry,” he said.

“I have had farmers on the phone crying because they are worried about their livestock.

“It’s putting pressure on production and the food supply chain.”

A litany of complaints from farmers reveal that they have battled to easily access properties across borders, with one even told he could be granted a permit if he pretended to work as a bus driver.

Mr Jochinke said shoppers could see cost increases or shortages on supermarket shelves if the supply chain issues weren’t addressed.

“You can’t re-ripen fruit and you can’t stop wool from growing,” he said.

“When we see an area running short of shearers or where fruit is not being picked, you can’t get that back and all this relates to cost, relates to choice in the supermarket.”

Permits exist for workers to cross the border but some farmers say they have not been included in the eligibility criteria, have to repeatedly fill out permit force and, in some cases, cannot cross the border near where they live and must instead drive to 100km to enter interstate.

Some specialist workers have also been forced to fly to major hubs like Sydney and fear they are putting themselves at risk by entering “hot spots” rather than simply driving through country council areas with few cases.

Mr Jochinke said he did not “want a free for all” but the current restrictions needed to be changed to prioritise health and the industry.

AusVeg national public affairs manager Tyson Cattle said the lack of international workers would have a massive impact and could not be filled by the domestic market.

Currently seasonal workers have been given exemptions to move across borders but Mr Cattle said “ we expect it’s going to get really tight in November and toward the end of the year.”

“Pickers and packers are right at the start of the food chain, without that the rest of the supply chain falls over,” he said.

Shearing Contractors Association secretary Jason Letchford said workers were being forced to fly through major hubs and drive hundreds of kilometres to work.

In many cases, especially between Victoria and New South Wales, the permits were taking two weeks to process and being rejected.

“The problem is its a very transient workforce that follows the work and they can’t do that at the moment,” he said.


Backpackers to pick fruit, mind children under pilot proposal by farm and tourism groups

The National Farmers' Federation and the Backpacker and Youth Tourism Advisory Panel are framing a proposal that would initially allow 150 backpackers to travel to Australia, as soon as October.

The proposal, which is yet to go to government, would permit holidaymakers from countries with low COVID-19 infection rates to travel to Australia.

It is not clear how the cost of quarantining the backpackers on arrival would be covered.

The ABC understands the pilot would be used to employ backpackers on farms or as au pairs, after the positions had initially been offered to local workers.

The Federal Government recently approved a similar pilot in the Northern Territory, which allows workers from Vanuatu on the seasonal worker program to enter the country, despite Australia's ban on international travellers.

Under the NT program, farmers are expected to cover the cost of two weeks in quarantine at a rate of $2,500 per worker.

About 170 workers are expected to arrive in the NT by the end of the month.

Australia's farm sector is heavily reliant on migration labour.

However, growers have become increasingly concerned about how they will harvest spring and summer crops under the COVID-19 restrictions that have reduced backpacker travel.

At a recent parliamentary inquiry into the working-holidaymaker program, NFF spokesman Ben Rogers said the number of backpackers in Australia had fallen from 140,000 in March to about 80,000 in June.

"We look at around 40,000 working in the sector per annum, so there would be enough provided they could move around the country and go to where that work is," Mr Rogers told the inquiry.

He said the NFF was working with the Backpacker Youth Tourism Advisory Panel to develop "a COVID-safe pathway proposal" that would allow backpackers into Australia in a "highly controlled manner".

"The rollout would have to be cautious.

"But with appropriate safeguards it's hard to imagine what rational objection their could be," Mr Rogers said.

In its submission to the same inquiry, the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance referred to a report from EY Consultants that found there were 50,000-71,000 short-term roles in fresh produce throughout the year.

AFPA said backpackers contributed $13 billion to the national economy and filled 127,000 jobs across the fresh-food sector, including in retail and manufacturing.

Australia isn't expected to open its borders to international travellers until next year, but in April the Government announced it would allow some foreigners already in Australia to extend their visas.

According to Home Affairs, 401 people on the working holidaymaker program and more than 3,550 on the seasonal worker program have been granted the extension.

Tourism-style campaign to lure workers

The working holidaymaker inquiry heard about different initiatives to attract workers to the horticulture industry, inlcuding a proposal by AFPA to pay Australians who were unemployed because of the pandemic $1,200 to relocate for work.

When asked about initiatives to incentivise workers Mr Rogers said the former Seasonal Worker Incentive Trial, which encouraged welfare recipients to work on farms, hadn't initially been a huge success.

But he said "circumstances have changed fairly dramatically, and in a few months the program could be rolled out again and given another go".

Committee member and Liberal MP John Alexander also raised several ideas, including a Tourism Australia-type campaign to attract workers.


It's too early to pick a winner in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, Australian scientists tell the Federal Government

As pressure grows across the world to lock in a supply of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Australian Academy of Science's latest update to the Federal Government advises it is still "too early" and backs Australia's current wait-and-see approach.

The yet-to-be-published advice from 15 of Australia's most prominent researchers and scientists — which is currently being peer-reviewed — has been passed on to Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel.

The scientists are part of Australia's COVID-19 Rapid Research Information Forum, which is helping guide decisions by Health Minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison on which vaccines to prioritise.

It is understood the latest review, the third so far since the pandemic began, will advise the Federal Government that no clear victor has yet emerged.

On Tuesday Russia became the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine, despite less than two months of human testing.

The lead author of the Australian Academy of Science report, vaccine expert Tony Cunningham, said with about 30 vaccine candidates in clinical trials and a handful in phase 3 trials — amongst a field of 160 vaccine candidates worldwide — picking the right vaccine was still a guessing game.

"It's like betting on a horse race," he said. "You don't want to buy in and then pick the wrong one. 

"The first ones across the line are not always going to be the ones to work".

Despite this advice, it is understood the Federal Government is moving swiftly to lock in agreements across the world, with Australia targeting a vaccine being developed by Oxford University.

The Oxford vaccine has entered phase 3 trials and the UK Government has moved to shore up its supply, reserving 100 million doses.

In the global race to find a cure for COVID-19, Australia has to decide which candidate it will back, but the Government is taking a wait-and-see approach.

In the US, the leading candidate Moderna, which is also in phase 3 trials, is being funded by the US Government's Operation Warp Speed program.

The Trump administration announced this week it had locked in 100 million doses, with the option to purchase another 400 million, at a value of about $1.9 billion.

Australia's Federal Government is yet to lock in any supply of any vaccine, but the global jostling for position has triggered some movement.

In addition to its previously announced backing of the University of Queensland's vaccine, the Government is understood to be pushing ahead with advanced talks with international firms, as well as manufacturers, with significant announcements imminent.

Billions are being poured into the race to find a coronavirus vaccine, with the winner owning a powerful political tool. During the last pandemic an Australian company got there first.

A spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt's office said the Government was taking "targeted action".

"Our strategy is four-fold: research, purchasing agreements, international agreements and onshore manufacturing," the spokesman said.

"Direct procurement with leading international vaccine candidates is highly advanced with multiple candidates."


 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

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