Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Turnbull plan to privatise urban-regional water authorities off the agenda until after federal election

It has been reported that the Federal Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, has failed to get Cabinet support for his planned $5.5 billion buy into and eventual privatisation of metropolitan and regional water authorities.
See link:

It appears that the Howard Government doesn't want to rock the water boat anymore during this Federal Election campaign.
Given its track record, this push against regional water authorities in particular will reactivate if a Coalition government is re-elected.
One has to worry about the eventual fate of North Coast Water and the possible loss of local control over this Clarence Valley Council business unit.

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Monday, 29 October 2007

What the Clarence Valley is fighting for (12)

[Image displayed at Google Images,26 September 2007]
The Clarence River at Maclean.

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Saturday, 27 October 2007

John Howard reconsiders Kyoto and turns it down, again?

John Howard and his Cabinet appear to have reconsidered their position on the Kyoto Protocol six weeks ago and, decided for party political reasons not to endorse this international agreement in the lead up to the Federal Election.
The Howard Government's short-sighted approach to climate change and national water security continues.
See link:

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Thursday, 25 October 2007

A re-elected Howard's next move to nationalise water supply and infrastructure?

The Prime Minster is notorious for attempting to get his way by using incremental steps.
Having gained a large measure of control over the Murray-Darling river systems, is John Howard now preparing to move on Australian urban water supply, infrastructure and pricing?
See link:

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Monday, 22 October 2007

Overall findings of the first biennial assessment of the National Water Initiative - Clarence still in danger

Today the Prime Minister released the C'wealth Water Commission first biennial assessment of the National Water Initiative.

This documents states that there should "be consideration all water supply options".

It further recommends removal of '"policy bans" on any water supply option and require objective consideration of all options (including recycled water, desalination, rural-to-urban trade, new dams, inter-basin transfers, and cross-border transfers)'.

It seems that no matter what the considered opinion of the Clarence Valley community is, in relation to the inadvisability of interbasin water transfer, the Howard Government will not be brooked in its desire to steal our freshwater.

Full copy of the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative:


Abetz promises what he can't deliver on Clarence River

It was reported in the media today that the Federal Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, Eric Abetz, has told the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative that "the Howard-Vaile Government will not - ever- build the dam" on the Clarence River [The Daily Examiner,Grafton,"Coalition, Labor rule out dam on the Clarence",22 October 2007,p.3].

Now Senator Abetz cannot offer such a guarantee into the future when John Howard has already signalled that he will not serve a full-term as Prime Minister if re-elected.

It is also passing strange that the senator would attempt to make this promise, when both Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard have verbally and in writing danced around the issue of Clarence water diversion in an effort to avoid saying the words "never ever".

John Howard's latest avoidance of a never-ever pledge occurred as recently as a fortnight ago, when he briefly visited the Clarence Valley.

In June this year Senator Abetz himself voted down a motion calling for the protection of the Clarence River.

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Saturday, 20 October 2007

Clarence River water diversion to SE Queensland more expensive than Traveston Crossing Dam

The recently released Traveston Crossing Dam Environmental Impact Statement cites a dam on the Clarence River diverting water into south-east Queensland at Wyaralong 2007-2056, as being $650-51 million more expensive than building a major dam on Queensland's Mary River and also more expensive than a desalination plant on the Sunshine Coast.
See link:

From a Queensland perspective, this would cost such a Clarence diversion at an estimated $1,0340 million.
On economic grounds, it seems that Messrs. Howard and Turnbull have backed the least preferred option.

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Friday, 19 October 2007

Are those water raiders at it again?

Tenterfield Shire Council supports diversion of Clarence River catchment water into north-west NSW via the western fall of the Murray Darling river system.

Last year Council declared itself ready to immediately begin construction of a dam on the Mole River. A dam on this river features as a preferred option in some schemes to divert Clarence freshwater inland.

On 18 October 2007 Tenterfield Shire Council announced that it is again going to ask government to consider a dam on the Mole River [Channel 7,News,18 October 2007].

Although this announcement doesn't specifically mention the Clarence, the annual gigalitres quoted by Council as available from such a dam are remarkably similar to volumes previously cited in relation to schemes for a Mole dam receiving water from the Clarence River catchment area.

This latest lobbying by Tenterfield Shire Council may be an attempt to create in principle support for a Mole River dam, with the expectation that the push to fill it from the Clarence River system will come later.

I note that although the unregulated flow from the upper Mole River currently dilutes arsenic contamination from a large old mine within its catchment, as late as last year iron and nickel contamination in river water was still so high that it would not be recommended for crop irrigation, stock water or human consumption.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Threat of Howard-Turnbull water raid still worries local government

"The dam diversion is still very much an issue, because I listened to the Prime Minister last week say that because the Queensland and NSW Governments didn't want to do it, it wouldn't happen. The reality is if John Howard is re-elected, he has the constitutional wear-with-all and a friendly senate until June next year, and he could make it happen," he said.
"We need the Prime Minister to come out and say 'there will never ever be a dam on the Clarence' - that's what we need."
[Clarence Valley Mayor in Clarence Valley Review,"Mayor,Green Group Skeptical",17 October 2007,p.5]

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Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Albanese on the Howard-Turnbull water raid

"A Rudd Labor Government will scrap Mr Howard and Mr Turnbull's plan to dam the Clarence and Tweed Rivers.

In April 2007, Mr Howard strongly supported damming the Clarence, saying it "passed the pub test".

That's why he commissioned a study which Malcolm Turnbull strongly supported.

Locals have a right to be confused about and cynical about Mr Howard's motives. He will say whatever it takes to win the election.

If the Howard Government is re-elected on 24 November they will pursue their plans for the dam, either before or after John Howard retires.

Labor unequivocally opposes a dam on the Clarence River, and only a Rudd Labor Government will stop the dam." [Antony Albanese MP, joint media release with Paul Sekfy,15 October 2007]

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Monday, 15 October 2007

Rumour hath it............(12)

A quiet little rumour has surfaced recently. To wit, that Malcolm Turnbull will attempt to wedge Rudd and Bligh over the proposed Traveston Crossing dam, by putting forward a NSW Northern Rivers interbasin transfer as an alternative to placing a large dam on the Mary River.
In the process hoping to garner votes from a presumably grateful southern Queensland.
Rumour has its money on such a proposal once more featuring the Clarence River catchment area.

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Who uses all our water?

"The dots on this graph relate to how much we spend. These are the 1400 or so statistical local areas that make up our evidence base for thinking about water and all things in Australia. You wouldn't have to be a great and deep statistician to work out that there's a fairly linear relationship there: the more you spend, all other things being equal, the more water you use across your full consumption budget. And so the lower spenders in Australia are doing about 0.5 ML a year, the big spenders about 1 ML." [Foran,B,March 2007]
See link for 2007 Fenner Conference on the Environment:

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What the Clarence Valley is fighting for (11)

[Image displayed at abc.net.au,15 October 2007]
View of the freshwater flow in the upper Clarence River

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Sunday, 14 October 2007

Australia votes!

The Prime Minister has finally called the Federal Election for 24 November 2007.
According to John Howard: "The writs will issue on the 17th of October, the (electoral) rolls will close on the 22nd of October, the nominations will close on the first of November." [www.news.com.au,14 October 2007]
The Prime Minister announced an incorrect date.
See link for correct dates:
Australian Electoral Commission


Saturday, 13 October 2007

Climate Change Will Impact Global River Flow, Scientists Warn

Science Daily article warning of worldwide climate change impacts on rivers, especially rivers already compromised by dams or extensive development.
See link:
Something the Clarence Valley has been trying to tell the various elements in the Howard-Turnbull attempted water heist.

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Are we there yet?

Australian media speculation is mounting concerning the date on which John Howard will call the federal election.
Punters appear to favour an announcement sometime today.
Many Clarence Valley residents would welcome an announcement sooner rather than later, as the phoney election campaign has begun to irritate.
With Labor supporting the Valley's opposition to any Clarence water diversion scheme and the Liberal-Nationals coalition supporting those water theft proposals, the federal election outcome will go a long way to deciding the future of the Clarence River and its communities.

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Friday, 12 October 2007

Time gentlemen, please

Both major parties accused of porkbarrelling water funding in the lead up to Federal Election 2007.
See link:
While ever the politicians fail to properly address water scarcity in the Murray-Darling Basin, the Clarence River system remains at risk of continuing to be seen as a political quick fix to satisfy thirsty irrigators.

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Thursday, 11 October 2007

Flannery discusses greenhouse gas levels - the bad news

"TIM FLANNERY: That's right. We thought we'd be at that threshold within about a decade, we thought we had that much time. But the new data indicates that in about mid 2005 we crossed that threshold. So as of mid 2005, there was about 455 parts per million of what's called carbon dioxide equivalent. And that's a figure that's gathered by taking the potential of all of the 30 greenhouse gases and converting them into carbon dioxide potential, so we call it CO2 equivalent." [ABC Television,"Lateline,8 October 2007]
See link for full transcript:

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How your electorate ranks in the run up to the Federal Election 2007

Ever wondered how many people in your electorate are connected to the Internet and, therefore might be reading a political blog or two?
Or how many 'persons of no religion' there are who may potentially be miffed by the Howard-Abbott brand of politico-religious philosophy?
Would the Howard-Andrews view of migration possibly impact in the electorate? 
Read the Australian Parliamentary Library's 10 October 2007 research paper on electoral division rankings.
See link:


Clarence Valley disappointed with Howard

Clarence Valley Mayor and Clarence River Professional Fishermen's Association representative disappointed with John Howard's failure to guarantee no further Federal Government push to dam the Clarence River.
See link:

Many Valley residents are privately commenting that a re-elected Howard Government would more than likely begin the second stage of a Clarence River water raid within the first twelve months of its return to office.

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Yoicks! We've been porkbarrelled with strings attached

The Prime Minister, Hon. John Winston Howard, came to Grafton in the marginal electorate of Page on 10 October 2007.
While there he announced $18 million dollars of Commonwealth funding to upgrade Grafton Hospital accident and emergency department as well as three operating theatres.

However, this funding is dependent on Grafton Hospital re-establishing the archaic local hospital board system.
See link:http://abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/10/10/2056173.htm?section=justin

While many Clarence Valley residents would be glad of any additional health funding, few would see this as adequate compensation for the fact that under John Howard's 'reign' the Commonwealth has let it constitutional responsibility for health services drop to only around 41 per cent of total NSW public hospital funding.

Most Valley residents would recall the fact that the Howard Government has been boasting for years about its healthy budget surpluses and, wonder why it is only in the phoney election campaign that Grafton Hospital is being offered in principal additional funding.

Myself, nothing will compensate me for having to wait six hours and fifteen minutes on a hard chair in the waitingroom of Grafton emergency department until I could be admitted for surgery after an accident.

Shame, Howard, shame.


Wednesday, 10 October 2007

"North Coast Voices" perspective

"Some rivers are more equal than others

Yesterday, Malcolm Turnbull unequivocally stated that the Commonwealth would not dam the North Coast's Oxley River.
Today in Grafton, John Howard would not state that a re-elected Howard Government would not dam the Clarence River. No matter who asked him, or how they phrased their question, John Howard just could not say those words.
It seems that Mr. Howard believes that some North Coast rivers and dependant communities are more equal than others."
[Blog post at http://northcoastvoices.blogspot.com,10 October 2007]

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Coastal shipping more environmentally friendly

The Australia Institute has released a report, "Climate Change and Australian Coastal Shipping", which  finds that while coastal shipping accounts for 22 percent of domestic freight movement but only 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
The NSW Northern Rivers and, the Clarence Valley in particular, continue to support commercial coastal shipping.

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Malcolm Turnbull yells "uncle"

Malcolm Turnbull has finally hit further investigation of NSW Northern Rivers water diversion options on the head.
The Oxley River is apparently safe from any interbasin water transfer, but thus far, nobody in the Clarence Valley appears to have received a firm assurance that the Clarence River system will be safe from water raiders if the Howard Government is returned after the Federal Election.
'The National Water Commission will not be progressing further work to investigate the options identified by the SMEC report "Integrated Water Supply Options for North East NSW and South East Queensland".' [Malcolm Turnbull,letter to Dr. Sue Page,9 October 2007].

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It's about time Mr Howard

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Roderic Gill on those water raiders

A critical perspective on the investigation into potential Clarence River water diversion:

"Further north in the State of New South Wales, an old and previously rejected proposal to pipe water from the coastal river systems is back on the agenda. The proposal is to construct a massive storage on the upper tributaries of the Clarence River system and divert water inland to the Border Rivers system. While the same objections that ruled this out last time are still in place, those once defeated proponants are keeping pace with these times of heightened community concerns over water shortages to feed the idea back into the current water crisis-framed public agenda.......

It has taken the current Australian water crisis to put the Clarence diversion proposal back on the agenda. Responding to what must be extraordinary political pressures, the Federal Government's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, commissioned a study undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) to examine options for securing water supplies for the South East Queensland (SEQ) region of the country; a region that is currently at the limits of economic and community resilience as it hits the overwhelming constraint of finite water resources....

With their report done, it is now, apparently, time for the Minister to solicit feedback. And to begin a 'consultative process' with the relevant States. Most interestingly, this rhetoric seemed to overlook the possibility of direct consultation with the actual communities involved, including engagement with the associated local councils. ......

 The Minister's commissioning of a report on 'feasible' options has followed an expert, top-down pathway. The Minister initiated the search for 'expert' views on available options. It is more than interesting that an engineering-focused consultancy was employed as this is reflective of a desire to articulate options from within that perspective (to enquire into what can be 'constructed' in order to mitigate prevalent water shortages). It is pertinent that the opening investigation was not into prevailing understandings of the water shortage issues, of trying to understand the behaviour of water users, to understand the aspirations of all concerned, or to understand how water resources are perceived. The opening setting here was, in other words, not to do with improving understandings of the prevailing 'culture of water use'. The opening setting was one of fixing a problem via engineering solutions, rather than via the promulgation of behaviour change.......

The role of an appropriately talented facilitator is to maintain the learning possibilities that will invariably ensue from discursively embracing conversations. The role of government is to be part of this process and listen to it. The role of government is to empower this kind of process. This is not what Minister Turnbull is doing at this point." [Gill,Roderic,(2007)"When the Rivers Run Dry: lessons from the drought",ch 5,excerpts]

Full chapter at:

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Monday, 8 October 2007

Rumour hath it............(11)

Rumour is fairly shouting that far from ruling out a dam on the NSW North Coast's Oxley River, Malcolm Turnbull sent a letter which was less than emphatic in rejecting this interbasin water transfer option.
See link showing what the Minister was thought to have said at his meeting with a representative of the Save the Caldera Rivers Campaign:

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It's the phoney election campaign - don't call us, we'll call you

It's now six days since I telephoned the National Water Commission to enquire whether the second phase investigation (into NSW Northern Rivers water diversion options) terms of reference have been completed.
The promised return call answering my query is yet to eventuate.
Is the phoney election campaign beginning to influence response to electorally sensitive issues such as proposed Clarence River water diversion?

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Sunday, 7 October 2007

John Howard to visit the Clarence Valley

John Howard is to attend an invitation-only morning tea in the Clarence Valley on Wednesday 10 October and, attend the official opening of new facilities at Grafton Hockey Fields [The Daily Examiner,Grafton,"Howard on the way",5 October 2007,p. 1].

Word is that John Howard's staff are none too pleased that his visit was outed so early.

Valley residents are waiting to see if the Prime Minister:
a) mispronounces the names of both Nationals standing in Page and Cowper;
b) announces Commonwealth funding for the Pacific Highway upgrade and, includes previous funding commitments in the newly announced total amount;
c) urges Clarence Valley residents to push for local hospital boards;
d) offers to 'buy' Grafton Hospital for one dollar;
e) again urges Clarence Valley residents not to be parochial about Clarence River water;
f) mentions his family connection with the Clarence Valley but gives a sanitised rendition of history; or
g) forgets entirely which marginal seat he is actually visiting on the day.

The overall Valley attitude to this visit is "Ho hum", with only rusted on Libs and Nats expected to want to see the man.
It is interesting to note that Antony Green characterizes Page as the most rural electorate at risk of falling to Labor.

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Saturday, 6 October 2007

Rumour hath it...........(10)

Rumour is whispering that Malcolm Turnbull has privately abandoned any pretence that the Howard Government is interested in interbasin water transfers from the NSW Northern Rivers, except for water diversion from the Clarence River catchment.

Rumour is also speculating that Nationals candidate for Richmond, Sue Page, is working hard to limit knowledge of private undertakings on water diversion made by Turnbull to residents in the Richmond/Tweed catchments.

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Friday, 5 October 2007

Howard Government spends to tell local government the bl**dy obvious

On 3 October 2007 Malcolm Turnbull released a report into climate change adaptation actions for local government.
See link:

The Howard Government spent $70,804.67 [Dept. of Environment and Heritage,annual report 05-06] to have the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) take almost sixteen months to produce a report which reiterates the obvious to Australian local government.

Simultaneously a pitifully small amount of $4 million in new funding was announced by Mr. Turnbull "to help local governments and professional and educational organisations build their capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change."

It seems that the Howard Government continues to see political window dressing as a legitimate response to potential climate change impacts predicted for local government areas like the Clarence Valley.

The NSW Northern Rivers local government areas alone could legitimately spend the entire $4 million in building capacity to respond to climate change.

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Thursday, 4 October 2007

Bushfires in Bundjalung National Park

[Image displayed at northernstar.com.au,4 October 2007]
The night sky during bush fires in the northern section of Bundjalung National Park.

Approximately 2,500 hectares of Bundjalung National Park has been burnt out by bush fires thought to have been deliberately lit. The Clarence Valley village of Woombah on the lower river has been on alert. [The Daily Examiner,Grafton,"Woombah on alert",p.1]
Climate change predictions for the NSW Northern Rivers region may see the number of naturally occurring bush fires increase.

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Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Climate Change in Australia - CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research

Link to October 2007 CSIRO technical report on climate change in Australia:

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Monday, 1 October 2007

Australian water scarcity and demand - something to think about

Something to think about as the Howard Government fails to come to grips with the over-allocation of water licenses and in an effort to win the 2007 Federal Election refuses to meet the challenge of inappropriate levels of irrigated land, while at the same time in an effort to placate the Nationals continues to support further investigation of Clarence River catchment water diversion.

What hope will Australia have, when it is led by a Prime Minister still lost in the romantic notion that: "You don't always score these things with total logicality. There is emotion in it, because we see farming as part of Australia and it is something very distinctive, the bush, the country. "Battling on the land is part of our identity and we don't want to let go of it." [Australian General News,story no. 7849,28 September 2007]

Australia has received numerous warnings that it needs to rethink its 1950s mindset.
"KERRY O'BRIEN: To pick up again on our earlier issue of climate change, which is being blamed increasingly for prolonged drought and chronic water shortages across much of Australia, there was plenty of food for thought - some of it highly contentious - at an international conference on water in Canberra today. For instance, one of the world's leading experts on water planning points out that as much as 70 times more water is needed to grow food as we would use for domestic consumption. Frank Rijsberman is director-general of the International Water Management Institute based in Sri Lanka, and he paints a picture where water will inevitably become more and more expensive and where in Australia we will have to think less and less about dams, and more and more funneling water away from agriculture, or at least switching away from heavily water-dependent crops. Not a point of view many farmers will be rushing to embrace. I spoke with Frank Rijsberman from our Canberra studio late today. You say that up to two thirds of the world will face or is likely to face water scarcity in coming decades. Where does Australia sit in that scenario?"
[www.abc.net.au,"7.39 Report",transcript,16 August 2006]
See link for full transcript:

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