Thursday, September 30, 2021

Prohibition doesn't work for Aborigines either

Alcohol could be sold on Mornington Island again in a bid to reduce the deadly prevalence of home brew, following a long-running campaign by the local council.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the State Government is seriously considering the reintroduction, that would allow moderated sales from a tavern in the Gulf of Carpentaria community.

Environment Minister and ministerial champion for the island, Meaghan Scanlon, visited the remote Indigenous community this week following harrowing stories of overcrowding in homes, high unemployment and shocking health statistics in this newspaper in May.

Following intensive discussions with the Mornington Shire Council, and seeing first-hand the issues affecting the community, the State Government is also poised to commit to an audit of taxpayer-funded services to determine whether the millions of dollars being spent were achieving the desired outcomes.

The Courier-Mail accompanied Ms Scanlon on her first visit to the island.

Assistant Minister Lance McCallum, Queensland Health director-general John Wakefield and other government officials also visited this week, and heard Mayor Kyle Yanner make the heartbreaking admission that he was now “immune to death”.

He said 19 locals had died for various reasons last year.

“We grieve on a regular basis,” Cr Yanner told leaders while at the local cemetery where there are many graves for people under the age of 50. “I’m out of tears.” The Mayor, who lost three brothers in a year, said residents were drinking their lives away.

“Until we get this law scrapped, which is discriminatory of its own, we’re going nowhere,” he said.

By making it legal, only selling mid-strength alcohol and moderating the amount sold, the council believes less home brew would be consumed.

In a bid to kerb its prevalence, the local grocery store has restricted the sale of sugar – allowing only two packets per person, each day.

Councillor David Barnes said the “myth” of a dry community needed to be exposed and expunged. “Prohibition has become part of the problem,” he said. “It hasn’t led to a community that is healthier.”

Cr Barnes said while there were no AA meetings on the island, he hoped to be running some soon.

Ms Scanlon told The Courier-Mailwhile the alcohol ban, which was introduced about a decade ago, had good intentions, there were “clearly” some adverse side effects.

“It is complex though,” she said. “I don’t think it’s an easy fix and so we do need to consider it with everything in mind, but very clearly we’ve heard some very strong views … from the community around things needing to change.”


Coal prices are roaring back amid a global energy crunch

Soaring coal prices have placed Australia’s mining and energy exports on track to reach a record $349 billion this year even as the value of the nation’s biggest export, iron ore, appears to have peaked.

Markets for thermal coal, used for power generation, are booming around the world as a global recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic drives up demand for energy. Metallurgical coal used in steel-making has also touched new highs as supply shortages combine with rebounding industrial activity.

Federal government trade data to be released on Thursday reveals an expected 10 per cent rise in resources and energy earnings to hit an all-time high of $349 billion in 2021-22, before falling back to $299 billion in 2022-23.

“The sector has gone from strength to strength and is performing better than it was pre-pandemic,” Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt said.

Coal producers were hit hard in 2020 as the shock of the pandemic pummelled prices and a diplomatic feud led to China banning Australian coal shipments. The sector has also been under mounting pressure as global warming concerns cause investors to flee, while the United Nations, ahead of an upcoming climate summit in Glasgow, is calling on all countries to commit to phasing out thermal coal between 2030-40.

Although this year’s price rally signifies coal’s enduring near-term demand as an abundant source of energy, the federal Industry Department notes the commodity faces “significant competing forces”.

“Recent revenue surges are likely to run up against longer-term structural issues in the coal market,” it said. ”Investor and policy pressure has grown in recent years, and the global coal-fired power plant construction pipeline has contracted since 2015.”

Still, the share prices of ASX-listed coal miners have been rallying in the past month. Investment bank Morgan Stanley described Whitehaven Coal, whose value has jumped almost 50 per cent since August, as a “cash machine” amid expectations of higher coal prices lasting well into 2022.

Prices for the key steel-making ingredient iron ore, however, have been falling rapidly. China, by far the world’s biggest consumer of the commodity, has been seeking to cut steel mills’ output and tackle carbon emissions for the third straight month.

After hitting a record $US230 a tonne in May, iron ore has had its value slashed in half and is now trading below $US110 a tonne, hammering the share prices of the mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue.

UBS analyst Myles Allsop said Chinese steel production had weakened since July as Beijing put pressure on provinces to materially cut energy consumption and intensity to meet targeted emissions cuts of 3 per cent year-on-year. Problems plaguing top Chinese property developer Evergrande had also triggered a slowdown in construction reducing steel demand, he said.

Australia’s iron ore exports reached a record $153 billion in 2021 on the back of an aggressive infrastructure building blitz in China and weaker iron ore output from mines in Brazil, but is forecast to fall by as much as 35 per cent by 2022-23.


Rainbow Beach businesses weigh in on Fraser Island name change to K’gari

Reception to the State Government decision to call the Fraser Island world heritage area by its original Indigenous name K’gari continues to be overwhelmingly positive, though a longtime Rainbow Beach businessman said one key detail remained unclear: who will pay?

Retired businessman Tony Stewart questioned the need for the change, saying the question of who would pick up the bill remained unanswered. “What’s this going to cost to change all the signage and marketing?” Mr Stewart said.

The State Government announced on Sunday its commitment to renaming the world heritage area centred on Fraser Island, the waters around it and parts of the mainland coast.

The move was celebrated the same day at a ceremony on the island with Butchulla elders and representatives.

Mr Stewart questioned the move and what it would cost the State Government, which did not seem to have any money for major safety fixes to the main roads between Rainbow Beach and Gympie.

Over the past two decades this stretch has been deadlier than any other in the Gympie region except the Bruce Highway; from 2000-2018 Tin Can Bay Rd was the site of 14 deaths in 13 fatal crashes.

Mr Stewart has been campaigning for safety upgrades to the stretch. “(The state) hasn’t got money to fix our road,” Mr Stewart said.

The change was something he said he could not “see the point of”, and said it reminded him of efforts to change the name of a national park in Victoria before the turn of the century.

“I saw this when they renamed the Grampians,” Mr Stewart said. “It caused a big backlash down there.”

Wolf Rock Dive owner James Nelson said he understood why that would be a concern, but at the end of the day all marketing had to be replaced eventually.

“I’d wait until things looked a bit tired and swap (the names) out,” Mr Nelson said.

The name change had other benefits, too.

As a former United Kingdom resident Mr Nelson said that country was full of places named things like “Fraser”.

“There’s something quite cool about coming to another country and having an exotic local name,” he said.

Rainbow Beach Adventure Centre 4WD owner Wendy Shaw was “perfectly happy” with the change.

Ms Shaw, whose company hires out 4WDs for tourists to explore the Cooloola Coast and K’gari, said the renaming highlighted the island‘s native history. “It‘s just respectful to put the name back as it always should have been,” she said.

There was no fear of a potential drop in tourism either. “It‘s still going to have the Fraser Island name around,” she said.

Cooloola Coast businesswoman Ruth Modin has owned the Rainbow Beach Foodworks for decades and said the name change would not damage tourism in the region. “It will have no impact on tourism,” Mrs Modin said.

An online News Corp poll run at the time of the announcement revealed 70 per cent of those who voted disagreed with the name change.


Northern Territory buffalo is going to waste, but these feral beasts could be our new beef

Adrian Phillips jokes he's probably got buffalo blood running in his veins, such is his passion for the wild animals.

Watching the former chopper pilot, contract musterer and butcher patiently coax a mob of wild buffalo through a set of yards on a Top End property, it's clear he does have a kind of "buffalo whisperer" ability.

He's a straight-shooting, rugged cattleman born and raised in the Northern Territory, where he claims buffalo helped give him a leg up in life when he did not have two cents to rub together.

"It was the buffalo that made money, [it's] black gold in the Territory, hey," he said.

He now runs around 700 buffalo and 3,500 cattle on a property on the Mary River about 100 kilometres south-east of Darwin.

"I put the buffalo in paddocks on marginal country where cattle don't do well," he said.

His buffalo are mostly destined for live export, but he is eyeing off a new market — domestic high-end meat production using the Riverine breed.

"They are bred for dairy buffalo, but they yield exceptional-quality meat and really good. There's [a] massive demand for the meat from the restaurant trade. So I'd like to see that line of buffalo go paddock to plate," Mr Phillips said.

"I call it Top End wagyu. Look, it's good eating beef. They hold white fat and good white fat there."

Demand for Australian buffalo
With cattle prices currently sky high, exporters like Patrick Underwood from Australian Cattle Enterprises said he was also seeing demand for buffalo surge.

Countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and some smaller nations are all putting orders in for Australian buffalo.

"So, there's been a big disruption to that supply throughout that market. Also, Australian cattle are so expensive, they're very expensive, and the supply is short. So buffalo is seen as a genuine alternative," he said.

Mr Underwood said buffalo were fetching 10 per cent more than last year, when 10,000 head were exported through the Darwin Port, the highest numbers to date.

The industry is feeling optimistic but also anxious the opportunity does not get squandered.

Louise Bilato heads up the Northern Territory Buffalo Industry Association.

"There's been ups and downs in the industry. We really feel that this is a period of huge opportunity where the industry can have a whole series of disparate aspects come together," Ms Bilato said.

"Obviously, because of COVID, some of the suppliers internationally are no longer there and Indonesia particularly is very keen not just to have our live buffalo but also to get boxed buffalo meat."

A game-changer was the reopening of the Rum Jungle abattoir near Darwin in December 2019. It processed 7,000 buffalo this year.

The meatworks can take the animals that are rejected or unsuitable for live export.

"That is the one big thing that has changed that has now gone from 20 per cent or 30 per cent of the animals could be sold to right now, nearly 100 per cent could be sold," Mr Phillips said.

Shooting to waste

In a world where waste is increasingly a dirty word, there are also environmental aspects.

A renewed buffalo trade could help keep control of the animals on Indigenous lands where they can wreak havoc. In some areas, buffalo are culled rather than mustered and sold.

"So this shooting to waste is ridiculous. Yes, we need to manage numbers because it does create [an] environmental impact. And we see that but hey, let's get together and get contractors out there," said Mr Phillips.

Louise Bilato said they could take up to 30,000 animals each year and not make an impact on the 180,000 roaming in Arnhem Land.

She said there's also a need for more pastoralist or Indigenous landowners to "background" buffalo like Adrian Phillips is doing and retain young animals to be fattened during, and traded in, the wet season when contract mustering crews cannot get in.

Exporters say the consistency in supply would also help them sell the product.

"We'd like to see people spend money in infrastructure. And I think as an exporter, we should pay a premium for buffalo during the wet season to encourage that year-round aspect," Mr Underwood said.

Mr Phillips and his family are keen to see black gold reign once more.

"Make something really happen, you know, but if we want to keep going around in circles like we are, you're gonna kiss it all goodbye."


ATAR delay offers a silver lining for stressed Canberra year 12 students ahead of university

The release of the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) has been delayed to January 20 after the NSW Higher School Certificate final exams were also postponed due to school closures.

The University of Canberra has one of the earliest semester start dates in the country on February 7.

The University Admissions Centre (UAC) announced the first ATAR entry round would happen on January 26 which leaves a very short time for prospective UC students to receive an offer, decide to accept it and if necessary relocate to Canberra in time for the first week of class.

Deputy vice-chancellor academic Professor Geoff Crisp said the university had decided to have three rounds of the school recommendation scheme, instead of only one round, as well as an additional round of early offers based on year 11 results on January 13.

No matter what entry method they use, students will have guaranteed accommodation on campus if they're coming from interstate.

"It's a difficult time for everyone at the moment with the COVID lockdown, but of course, [there's] this additional stress of wondering whether you'll get into the course you want. We just want to make sure that we put their minds at ease as much as we can," Professor Crisp said.

At the Australian National University, classes start later on February 21 but the university has been working closely with UAC on a revised schedule so that students can get offers and start in time for semester 1.

ANU's deputy vice-chancellor (academic) Professor Grady Venville said the majority of applicants had already received offers as part of the university's direct entry process.

"Any student who has been given an offer and who finishes Year 12 will be able to study at ANU in 2022. Any student who has not yet received an offer to ANU should apply in the regular way through UAC," she said.

The ANU has issued 4561 early offers for 2022, which is down from 5341 offers given this time last year as travel restrictions and lockdowns impact on demand from interstate students.

"To all Year 12 students impacted by this delay, we say keep focused on completing your studies," Professor Venville said.

"We are proud and impressed that you are completing your senior secondary studies in the middle of a global pandemic. You should be proud too."

Year 12 student Rohan Jones, who is waiting to find out if he has been accepted to study psychological science at Southern Cross University, said the delay to the ATAR could put more pressure on students in their final term.

"There might be some feelings of regret for some people. There might be like, 'I could have tried harder'. And I think it's definitely adding a lot more stress for lots of students," he said.

Fynn Jammer is trying to decide whether he will take up an early offer from the University of Canberra to study business, innovation and entrepreneurship or take a gap year to explore Australia.

He said universities moving away from an ATAR score for entry was a positive step.

"I think is a very important skill to build a portfolio to show your creative works, to show who I am as a person as opposed to just a number that you then get an offer."




No comments: