Thursday, December 30, 2010

Farewell 2010, G'day 2011

It's been a very quiet year for me as far as blogging is concerned, I've been busy with the house renovations (and fucking lawn mowing, maybe it's time to get a sheep) and have been nursing quite a shitty, unreliable laptop. I'm still renovating but I've had enough of the old lappy and deemed it not worth the expense of fixing so now have a new one which does all sorts of shit so with any luck I'll find the time and inclination to keep this blog updated regularly.

Next year I'm planning a look at the pseudosciences that seem to permeate the environmental movement/industry. I'll probably upset a few people but having spnt far too much time this year trying to get them to answer simple questions I think it was time they were outed.

Farewell 2010 and wishing all the best for 2011, and as always if you have any comments or questions feel free to comment, it's quite rare that I censor/moderate posts (pretty rare that I get them but some people do read this blog).

Ok, back to the beers, good night and best wishes.

the Quoll.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I heard a couple of interesting rumours this week, yet to be fully confirmed but could do with some follow up.

Firstly, apparently the NSW Department of Planning is trying to fast track the Bylong coal development, even going so far as do be doing its preliminary environmental assesment.

And secondly there's been a lot more sightings of deer in the Upper Hunter, including, it is claimed, Elk.

From Wikipedia:

The elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) is one of the largest species of deer in the world and one of the largest land mammals in North America and eastern Asia. In the deer family (Cervidae), only the larger moose (Alces alces), which is called an "elk" in Europe, and the sambar (Rusa unicolor) rival the elk in size. Elk are similar to the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) found in Europe, of which they were long believed to be a subspecies. However, evidence from a 2004 study of the mitochondrial DNA indicates they are a distinct species.

Elk range in forest and forest-edge habitat, feeding on grasses, plants, leaves, and bark. Although native to North America and Eastern Asia, they have adapted well to countries where they have been introduced, including Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. Their great adaptability may threaten endemic species and ecosystems into which they have been introduced.
Yeah, great, it's bad enough running into kangaroos on the road, how long before someone gets taken out by a feral elk? Maybe Santa would like to grab a few spares when he gets here.

I've also heard that some landholders are rumoured to be charging $2500 to shoot one, a great incentive not to get rid of them I suppose.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Save the Bylong Valley!

This just in...

MEDIA RELEASEFor Immediate Release
Sunday, 13th November, 2010
Mining v. agriculture battle arrives in Bylong Valley
The battle for the protection of farming land from mining activity has opened a new
front today, with the announcement of the formation of the Bylong Valley Protection

The new group, established at a community meeting at Bylong over the weekend, has
appointed an interim executive and committee, pending full registration with the
Office of Fair Trading, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
Around 40 people attended the meeting, which was addressed by local eco-tourism
operator Julia Imrie and Cathy Pattullo, a former resident of the Cumbo Valley, which was badly affected by noise from the nearby Wilpinjong mine.
Interim President, local Jodie Nancarrow, said that the name “pretty much says it all.
It’s about protecting the Bylong Valley - and everything that’s so special and unique
about it. And the biggest threat at the moment is mining.” Earlier this year, Anglo
American Coal announced the sale of its proposed Bylong mine to Kepco of Korea
for $403M.

The Bylong Valley – with its celebrated annual charity ‘Mouse Races’ - has become
even better known in recent years with the sealing of the Bylong Valley Way, and is
now a significant tourist gateway from the Upper Hunter to the Central West.
Also under threat from the proposed mining activity is ‘Tarwyn Park’, home of Peter
Andrews’ revolutionary method of landscape restoration and water management,
‘Natural Sequence Farming’, and familiar to many through the ABC’s ‘Australian

[Notes: Bylong is located approximately 90km north-east of Mudgee and 120km west of Muswellbrook. While technically ‘Upper Hunter’ in terms of geography it comes under Mid-Western Regional Council.]

Media Contacts:Jodie Nancarrow – Interim President – 02 63798252
Craig Shaw – Interim Secretary – 0411 101988 (

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Not so "Evil" after all?

A few months ago motorcyclists protested in Sydney over the rising cost of compulsory third party insurance (CTP), placards were waved and chants were raised, the best placard slogan was contributed by yours truly "Evil Keneally can go jump" (like that one? lovely little play on words).

Despite my obvious pride in coming up with that one I do have to admit that maybe NSW State Premier Kristina Keneally is not so evil after all, first she canned the Bickham Coal Mine proposal and now this:

Tillegra Dam plans scrapped
The New South Wales Government has scrapped its plans for the Tillegra Dam in the Hunter region.

Planning Minister Tony Kelly has rejected the proposal and is now outlining his reasons at a media conference in Newcastle, which is also being attended by Premier Kristina Keneally.
The move comes on the back of immense opposition to the project which would have cost nearly $500 million.

The Government had argued the dam was needed to secure long-term water supplies in the Lower Hunter.

The New South Wales Greens said the Government risked losing up to four seats in the Hunter at the next election if it had approved the plan.

Greens MLC John Kaye says the decision to scrap plans for the dam is a huge victory for common sense and the environment, saving Hunter residents from big water bills.

"This was a dam that was never properly justified," he said.

"It's a dam that would have done huge damage to the Lower Hunter wetlands and it's a dam that would have been incredibly expensive. Half a billion dollars [was to be] taken out of the economy of the Hunter for no appreciable gain in water security.

"People in the Hunter understand how unnecessary, how expensive and how damaging this dam will be... [the Premier] will have to account for herself before the voters of the Hunter."

It's amazing how well pollies listen when the polls are telling them people think they stink. It'll be interesting to see what opposition leader Barry O'Farrel has to say about this, especially given his promise to keep the levy on water rates and spend it on something else.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Trying to take the "Con" out of Consultants

Over the past few months I've had some reports land on my desk for me to read and comment on, some haven't been too bad, some have been truly abysmal. So here's the thing, your clients might think they're wonderful but the people who do the reviewing, commenting and sometimes even approving soon get to know who knows what they're talking about and who doesn't. People and companies that hand in good work have an easier time getting through the system, people and companies that hand in shit? Well, they tend to get scrutinised a lot more and it really is a pain for all concerned so in the interest of making it easier for all of us here's some suggestions on how you can improve things.

1) Use the fucking spellcheck and make sure you spell the location of the proposal correctly, it really is unprofessional when you've got the name of the road/town etc right on the title page and wrong everywhere else.

2) Don't get carried away with using big words, they may impress your client but if you've got spelling mistakes through the text as well as a tendency to throw in big words everywhere we'll just think you're an idiot.

3) Botanical nomenclature, serious, go and read up on it, it is capital letter for the first letter of the Genus, lower case for the species and the name should be in italics e.g. Eucalyptus robusta. It shows professionals that you are one too, or at least have a reasonable understanding (and again correct spelling and try to keep up to date with name changes, though the name change thing isn't as vital).

4) Nomenclature again "sp." means single species, "spp." means multiple species, if you don't know the difference learn it and use it otherwise we don't know if you're to multiple species or singular.

5) Ensure adequate time on site, one eight hour visit in winter is not long enough for a flora survey, fauna survey and targetted species survey, really, it's not. And try to get identifications past just the genus level (particularly when there's only three species in that genus in the area and all of them are very distinct)

6) If you're doing a targetted species search for endangered orchids (particularly terrestrial) do it at a time of year the flower is out because otherwise you're not going to fucking find it (and don't bullshit me with your PhD and try to tell me the survey was undertaken by "experienced staff", experienced staff wouldn't make that mistake).

7) Even the most flogged out property will have more than 27 native plant species on 360 Ha of land (and more than 7 native animal species), you have to remember that the document you write may be read by someone that knows the area.

8) Make sure the species you mention in the text are included in your appendix.

9) Mark the fucking location on a map of where you did the survey, don't just give grid co ordinates, it makes work for us and again, we'll think you're an idiot.

10) Use appropriate and recognised methodologies, if you're not sure ask someone and don't go on about which methodologies you didn't use and not tell us about which ones you did otherwise we'll just think you're making up shit.

Start off with those and it will make all of our lives a lot easier and remember if you try bullshitting your way through, you will be found out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Get Fracked!

The movie "Gasland" explores coal seam gas extraction in the US and in particular the process of "fracking" where high pressure chemicals are pumped underground to fracture the coal seam so the gas can be extracted.

If you're interested:
When: Tuesday, November 30 · 6:00pm - 8:30pm
Location: Greater Union Tower Cinemas
King Street
Newcastle, Australia

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Election redux

Did you see that? Just below, Quolltracks scooped the world, although my informants were slightly out and it was Julia Gillard making the announcement with Penny Wong and Tony Burke in attendence, the north coast NSW location was a bit of a surprise as they'd been looking for somewhere in central western NSW.

And now the election has been run and, well... not won, what next? Certainly it will be good for a lot of regional areas that have been poorly represented by the Nationals for many years, but other than that?

Well, the next 10 months will be interesting either way with the Greens only getting control of the Senate after next June (the traditional changeover time for the Senate), till then the conservatives will have control, if Tony Abbott gets in with a minority government expect a rash of contentious legislation to be put up before then, if Gillard scrapes in? She's in a more tricky position having a hostile senate for the next 10 months and being reliant on conservative independents, to get anything remotely contentious through will mean some serious horse trading so will be forced to be fairly cautious till getting a friendlier senate. The problem is that even then the indepeendents will still be calling the shots.

Interesting times indeed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You read it here first

Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong and Agriculture Minister Tony Burke are expected make an announcement on soil carbon this Saturday. Soil carbon has been talked about as being the silver bullet for carbon sequestration but I've yet to see anything other than wishfull thinking to back this up, yes there is potential but the figures seem to me to be wildly optimistic. The Libs had latched onto it a while ago (no doubt trying to appeal to the rural vote), Labor looks set to do the same. We shall wait and see what they come up with.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shameless bump

As there's an election on I figured I'd do my share of throwing shit (though it really wasn't me) and bump this earlier post.

Climate Change didn't all start with Al Gore

Seriously it didn't. I was doing a bit of websurfing last night and was directed to a document in the Nixon library from September 1969 discussing global warming, referring to a document from November 1965.

Seems Al Gore didn't invent it all, the conspiracy must go back even further!

Monday, February 22, 2010

So who'd be a....?????

Further to my last post Clive Hamilton has written on the abuse climate scientists have been subject to...

"In recent months, each time they enter the public debate through a newspaper article or radio interview these scientists are immediately subjected to a torrent of aggressive, abusive and, at times, threatening emails. Apart from the volume and viciousness of the emails, the campaign has two features - it is mostly anonymous and it appears to be orchestrated."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

So who'd be a journo?

I know I really shouldn't but I'm starting to develop a lot of sympathy for the journalists over at The Land. Normally I treat journos with a great deal of suspicion (says he with two in the extended family, though one does sport and the other horsey stuff) and have been known to yell at errors, blunders (and what I at least perceive to be) obvious biases (and don't get me started on science reporting) and quite obviously many others do as well.

Prior to the internet if you felt aggrieved or annoyed at an obvious error or bias it would be dust off the old Remington typewriter and rattle off a missive to the editor. These days with many papers publishing online and allowing reader comments more people are replying to stories (or at least people are replying to more stories - there's a subtle difference which we'll get to later) and doing it instantly without giving a great deal of thought as to what they write (and often without proofreading to see whether the writing make sense). Obviously it's a two edged sword people can write in giving, or asking for, more clarification on a story or giving an alternate view, that's the good side.

The bad? Well that's where we come back to reporting in the Land, it's quite Pavlovian really there are a number of words which will just set people off over there, Carbon Dioxide and Climate being two of the better examples.

Have a look over here.

The story is that rising atmospheric CO2 levels are likely to increase the growth rates of woody weeds, which you'd hardly think was controversial after all one of the sceptics big arguments is that CO2 is just plant food. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. apparently that's all part of the conspiracy as well.

The other part of the story that I find quite interesting is that while C3 plants could benefit from extra CO2, C4 plants (which evolved later in the Earths history when atmospheric carbon dioxide had dropped below about 500 ppm) may be adversly affected (C4's have evolved a mechanism to concentrate CO2).

Quite a number of our important grasses use the C4 photosynthetic pathway, particularly our summer growing and tropical species, any adverse impacts on our summer grasses should be of concern to farmers and graziers and rightly so should be reported but comments such as:

The propaganda is sure being turned on! Two articles of pure bull in a row. One from an economist who would surely have a good understanding of matters of science, followed by a scientist, who surely has abandoned all thought of 'truth'!!

really do have you shaking your head. I do notice that it is mostly the same dozen or so making these sort of comments so there is some hope.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Barnaby "Up to the task"

.......of finding $3.2 billion dollars out of 1400 million. Barnaby, the world's greatest accountant.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's time to spill the beans!

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has been working hard recently to portray himself as a fair dinkum greenie, but I do have to wonder whether his enthusiasm for preserving nature extends to bats. Intrigued?

The story goes like this, shortly after entering Federal Parliament Tony Abbott was given the job of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, specifically looking after Green Corps.

Part of his responsibilities was turning up for launches and graduations, this did have it's hazards, one morning (according to a very trusted source) getting shat upon by a bat (well, flying fox, much bigger, much more shit) at Wingham Brush (near Taree, NSW), turning up to a following event at Lake Macquarie a couple of hours late and with bat shit very prominent on his shirt (and apparently neither tried to hide it nor make a joke of it).

I like bats.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Peter Spencer Case.

We've been hearing an awful lot lately about Peter Spencer, the farmer who's gone on a hunger strike wanting compensation for restrictions placed on him, and other farmers, by both State and Federal laws. There's been an awful lot of noise but very little actual information, so with just a little digging at

I've found both the decision of the Federal Court:
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia (2008) FCA 1256 (26 August 2008)

and the NSW Supreme Court:
Spencer v Australian Capital Territory and Ors (2007) NSWSC 303 (4 April 2007) (against the A.C.T., N.S.W. & Commonwealth Governments).

I'm no lawyer and it's fairly heavy reading and I've only skimmed over it though it is interesting reading, to me the Federal Court appeared more than fair and quite sympathetic to Spencer's plight allowing him to resubmit his statement of claim a number of times but ultimately finding:

211 One cannot but feel the utmost sympathy for Mr Spencer if it be the case that Saarahnlee has been effectively sterilised by the State Statutes, with the effect that he can no longer carry on at Saarahnlee the activities which he was able to carry on prior to the enactment of the State Statutes. The question before the Court, however, is whether he has demonstrated that there is a serious question to be tried as to whether he is entitled to the final relief that he claims against the Commonwealth. Putting it the other way, the question is whether he has any reasonable prospect of obtaining that relief against the Commonwealth. Each question depends upon establishing that the Financial Assistance Act, the Natural Heritage Act or one of the Inter-Governmental Agreements is invalid in so far as it effects or authorises an acquisition or expropriation of part of Mr Spencer’s property in relation to Saarahnlee.

212 I have concluded that neither the Financial Assistance Act nor the Natural Heritage Act is a law with respect to the acquisition of property. Further, neither of those laws effects or authorises any acquisition of property of Mr Spencer’s that has been identified by him in the statement of claim. Similarly, none of the Inter-Governmental Agreements effects or authorises any such acquisition. It follows, in my opinion, that there is no reasonable prospect that Mr Spencer can obtain the final relief claimed in the proceeding. It also follows that there is no serious question to be tried as to whether Mr Spencer is entitled to that relief.

213 Accordingly, Mr Spencer’s application for interlocutory relief must be dismissed. Further, the proceeding itself must be dismissed.

The Spencer v Australian Capital Territory is interesting in that it combines action against the ACT Government for allowing feral animals onto his property with action against the NSW & Commonwealth Governments regarding native vegetation laws and for compensation for the sequestering of 100 000 Tonnes of Carbon/ year on his property (I may have missed it but I saw no mention of how this figure was arrived at).

The judgement concluded:

42 My conclusions may be summarised as follows:

43 The claim against
the State cannot succeed. The State has power to legislate with respect to the
use of land held in fee simple.

44 The claim against the Commonwealth cannot succeed. The claiming of political credit for a result obtained at the expense of a citizen founds no cause of action known to law.

45 The claim against the Territory is defectively pleaded, but it is not unarguable.
While the pleading in that respect should be struck out, there should be leave to replead against the Territory, and the proceedings against the Territory should not be summarily dismissed. However, as I am not satisfied that if the case goes to trial the plaintiff will obtain judgment for substantial damages against the Territory, the conditions for an interim payment are not satisfied.

46 It follows that I will dismiss the proceedings as against the State and the Commonwealth. I will strike out the statement of claim, but with leave to replead a cause of action in nuisance against the Territory. I will dismiss Mr Spencer’s motion for an interim payment.

47 My orders are:

1. Order that as against the second defendant, the State of New South Wales, and the third defendant, the Commonwealth of Australia, the proceedings be dismissed with costs.

2. Order that the statement of claim be struck out, with leave to replead against the first defendant, the Australian Capital Territory, upon condition that the allegations in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the statement of claim, or allegations to substantially the same effect, not be repeated in any amended statement of claim.

3. Order that the plaintiff pay the costs of the second and third defendants of their motions filed respectively on 9 March and 28 February 2007.

4. No order as to the costs of the first defendant’s motion filed on 13 March 2007, to the intent that the plaintiff and the first defendant bear their own costs of that motion.

5. Order that the plaintiff Mr Spencer’s motion filed on 12 March 2007 be dismissed with costs.

48 Ms England suggested that if any part of the proceedings survived, Mr Spencer should be referred to the Pro Bono Scheme. I was myself inclined to share that view, in the hope that it might facilitate the production of an appropriate statement of claim. Mr Spencer, however, does not wish such a referral. That is a pity, since if he has a viable cause of action it is far more likely to be pleaded properly if he has the benefit of legal assistance. But I see little point in compelling him to seek it when he apparently does not want it. If he reconsiders, he can make his own application for a referral.

So the cases against the NSW & Commonwealth Governments were dismissed with costs, the case against the ACT was defectively pleaded however he was given leave to replead with the suggestion he seek Pro Bono legal assistance. There is far more interesting reading in this case but it would appear that between this and the Federal case there has been an improvement in his case pleading.

And there you go, info you're unlikely to find from the usual suspects.