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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Costa's jackboot march to power privatisation and a quick exit to the corporate sector?
Mood:  not sure
Topic: nsw govt


The cynicism of the Iemma Govt knows no bounds.

Alex Mitchell, veteran of Fairfax now retired and sometime contributor to crikey.com.au had a strident attack yesterday on Verity Firth MP over her cynical air quality claims for Sydney just prior to the federal election. Indeed we made some comments amplifying just how cynical:

Note to Sydney: It's not lawnmowers harming foetuses

Similarly Gavin Gatenby who is known to be behind the Nick Possum column in the Sydney City Hub and online here had a cracking lead letter in Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald 8th Jan 08 about squandered motorway funds called  

Letters: An oil crisis long expected, but the roads just keep coming

Point well made by alter ego to bushy Nick Possum in his own Chandler-esque Aussie genre that somehow captures the fear and loathing of cynical sleazy NSW, and especially Sydney, politics so well:

And tucked away in the specialist Local Govt pages of the Herald is this diplomatic outrage at more cynical corrupt alteration of pro developer planning rules by Minister Sartor:

Planners in two camps on proposed reforms

The same minister rebuffed by the courts here for abuse of the envrionment

Court agrees climate-change risk rules out housing plan

Truly the Sydney Morning Herald can at times lay claim to being the most important newspaper in Australia for getting to the heart of things.

And the doozy of them all, the $15 billion public utility selloff announced in the confusion of a federal govt transition in late Nov 07, with subsequent exhaustion of unions and public both, barely 8 months after going to the NSW election with no such policy.

There aint nothing that doesn't stink about this timing. From the ex unionist Costa as installed Treasurer who now champions the role of private industry to run a natural power monopoly, to the Premier's use of public money to promote sleazy tv PR, when the ALP condemned the Howard Govt for same.

The ALP itself is greatly disturbed which is saying something given it has been compromised and corrupted by decades of big business donations. This assertion is borne out by the article page 2 of the Sydney Daily Telegraph today:

police clash with protestors outside parliament in 2001   Unions wage war on power sale

EXCLUSIVE: UNIONS are revolting against Morris Iemma's power sell-off - organising a protest outside Parliament House to rival the famous 2001 blockade.

The ALP hierarchy in NSW can't be trusted on money being the subtext to this of 3rd Jan 2008:

Campaign … Michael Costa and Morris Iemma.

Iemma denies privatisation price rise link - National - smh.com.au 

and this 'enough rope' effort of Costa in person in the opinion pages same day:

Unions' electricity reforms scare campaign just isn't based on facts

Costa indeed appears to have been caught (how unsurprising) lying about the affect of price increases after privatisation here in Victoria and in the UK as per these letters in the Sydney Morning Herald 4th Jan 2008:

Costa caught out
Michael Costa writes that "in Britain prices are now substantially lower than they were before" privatisation ("Unions' electricity reforms scare campaign just isn't based on facts", January 3). A British Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology report says that "household electricity bills have risen by 45 per cent since 2003".

British Energy, which supplies one-fifth of Britain's power, was sold for £2.1 billion in 1996 and had to be saved from bankruptcy in 2002 by the taxpayer chipping in £3 billion. Since then taxpayer liability has increased to £5.3 billion ($11.9 billion), according to the National Audit Office. But the shareholders are doing fine, thanks very much.

Jim Iveson Hornsby Heights

Mr Costa, would you please provide references as to where privatising electricity provision has improved service and reduced prices to consumers?

New Zealand has had woeful problems, with Auckland being blacked out for days. Melbourne lives with brown-outs in summer and winter. South Australia has prices that are rising far more quickly than inflation. Rural England lives with the real issue of random black-outs.

Your attempt to deflect the focus onto a union bash is not only a poor distraction, it may be outright deceit.

Brian Kelly Carlingford

Not beyond a bit of scare-mongering himself, Michael Costa's main justification for privatising the electricity industry is that spending $15 billion by the NSW Government would "reduce spending in other areas such as education, health and other essential services".

What seems to have escaped Mr Costa's and the Premier's attention is that the people don't want this privatisation, the proposal was not given any publicity in last year's election campaign and, because of blatant examples of profiteering in other privatisations, no one trusts what may be said in advance or the strength of any controls relating to pricing as this is just part of the spin to get the deal over the line.

Ross Butler Rodd Point

We read about a meeting of unionsts there in Sussex street Jan 8th 2008

 Unions wary of advisers for power privatisation

We wonder if Michael Costa who is now treasurer though never elected to Parliament in his own name, can still recall the values behind the mural in the foyer there at Sussex St, as shown above? Costa is a 'growth economics at any cost' kind of guy. Grow the cake, trickle down economics, bugger the environment exemplified by the hyper expansion of Port Botany which brings us indirectly back to air quality impacts for millions of Sydneysiders (diesel trains, truck tunnel stacks). 

Costa similarly won't have any problems with the creative destruction of capitalism trashing the public power assets on the basis that more money will be released and somehow (?) distribute to the benefit of NSW families. Or more like some very select or already very rich share owning and corporate executive families.

On the other hand John Robertson in charge of Unions NSW today, successor to Costa, was in the vanguard of the Walk Against Warming climate change rally in 2006 or so.

 Secretary John Robertson
Secretary John Robertson

He might think the way forward to benefit ALL NSW families is to actually get our green energy house in order, best done within the paradigm of the public sector? He would probably be right. We tend to trust John Robertson alot more than Michael Costa on such matters. Robertson has delegated the lead role in the anti privatisation campaign to another unionist speaker but we imagine he is right in there too.

And groups such as Public Interest Advocacy Centre here via one of the citizen email strings:

UTS/PIAC Report on Electricity Privatisation

A report commissioned by PIAC into the findings of the Owen Report into the future of electricity in NSW was released on 10 December 2008, the same day the NSW Government announced its intention to sell off the
State-owned power stations and energy retailers. The report, which was prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, reviews the economic, environmental and consumer impacts of the recommendations of the Owen Report. The UTS report argues that the recommendations made by Owen are based on flawed assumptions, such as that NSW needs to privatise the industry to pay for new power stations.

PIAC is concerned that privatisation will not result in lower prices or better service and will adversely effect low-income and disadvantaged households.

PIAC's view is that instead of building new coal- or gas- fired power stations, the NSW Government should be investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Electricity supply in NSW: alternatives to privatisation 10 December 2007

We rang PIAC and chatted to policy officer Mark Byrne and they are upgrading their web based information further on this topic soon. This sounds wise because PIAC had quite a role to play back in the 1997 privatisation controversy also (as did this writer).

We continue to suggest that wiser financial path forward for this ALP-Iemma Govt is to follow the bipartisan Public Account Committee report of 1991 to separate out the finances of the plantation versus native forest sector. Then sell the former for about $1 billion as a big boost to the public revenue for infrastructure and breaking a loss making native forest industry on the public teat to the tune of we estimate $100M per year either as

1. locked up capital in an essentially private sector activity or

2. lost revenue squandered on native forest subsidies for free roading, bureaucracy etc

Referencing for this submission is here:

Friday, 4 January 2008
Postscript #1
We didn't realise Mark Byrne of Public Interest Advocacy Centre had this rather cutting pursuasive letter in the Sydney Morning Herald same day 9th Jan 2008:

And Mark Byrne here at Online Opinon 


Posted by editor at 11:27 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008 3:41 PM EADT
Democrats Abroad gear up for Sydney Mardi Gras outreach March 1st this election year
Mood:  energetic
Topic: culture

Picture: images being considered in float decorations namely Thomas Jefferson on a coin, Democrats donkey (!?), and of course the White House itself.

The Sydney Mardi Gras is usually viewed by hundreds of thousands of straight people every year but is actually an event to publicise the existence and culture of the gay and lesbian sections of society of presumably 5-10%.

It's been going for years and has become an orthodox communication strategy for politicians right along the spectrum to promote their particular credentials whether for pride, tolerance, theatrical culture, safety, health initiatives or whatever. It's not for the ultra right Christian extremists (who have a real problem with protecting God's creation like the environment, let alone other human beings), distinct from the moderate Christians, and so anyone to the left of the anti science creationsits usually get involved in some way. Audience or marcher.

We interviewed an organiser for the Democrats Abroad Downunder here in Sydney yesterday who is pulling together the decorations for their 2 tonne truck and float. He reckons about 90%+ of the DA supporting the float will be straights, as per the general proportions. The last time they had a float was in 2004 in the last USA presidential election. Let's hope democracy and the best candidate wins otherwise the future looks grim ....

Sydney's public culture is at times exuberant and colourful not least the summer festive season right now. At a business enterprise seminar yesterday we chatted to a musician/clothes designer with body art that called up the omens of Shakespeare's raven, and the treasure political parties desire: The tattoo seemed somehow appropriate to a story about political theatre in this the most brash, USA style of Australian cities.



Posted by editor at 10:43 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008 11:19 AM EADT
Big Media, indy blogosphere bump and grind
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: independent media


We recently wrote to the ABC Media Report about this interesting by play in the life of the daily slogger/micro news blogger:

You may know I edit a micro news blog service with about 12K readers per month e.g. this one:


The significance is that I never get many comments as its too clunky for public interaction. (I want more to get in the head of the Big Media, not impress punters as such). The Sydney Indymedia are much better at this aspect [offset by open slather editorial approach] there.

My reason for the background is, on the string above no less than 9 comments which is unprecedented. Meaning Tim Blair has his right wing (extremist?) cheer squad either in or out of NewsLimited who patrol their champion's 'reputation' in typical aggressive style.

Till recently Simon Benson at the Tele added me to his unsolicited email list for his blog URL to stump up some decent/friendly comments. This appears to be a job metric there now at News Ltd? No. of comments = popular, effective journo?

Certainly my piece on Blair was potentially damaging to his  career, and his neocon mates seemed to know it. Especially the bit about Fairfax scoop in Rupert's home town.

To me these are interesting blog based power dynamics of the Big Media/Blogosphere ie Fourth/Fifth estate.

tel. 0410 558838

Posted by editor at 10:14 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008 10:36 AM EADT
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
Pentagon-Bush Republican regime playing Iranian politics in New Hampshire?
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: peace


Like most wonks we take an interest in the Obama phenomenon.

Malaysia Star
     Obama at 39, McCain at 32, in new poll - 21 hours ago
by John McCormick NASHUA, NH -- Sen. Barack Obama has jumped into double-digit lead in the latest CNN/WMUR nightly tracking poll for New Hampshire. ...

Our question is:

Will Republicans outside of Iowa, and New Hampshire voting in primary preselections later tonight, be of similar ilk i.e. pissed at President GW Bush and wanting a change along with Democrat voters but so antagonistic to Hilary/Bill Clinton that they prefer Democrat Obama?

At least in sufficient numbers to remove the Grand Old Party aka Republicans from the White House in USA national elections in Nov 2008?

If this is a real threat to the Republicans as in Iowa then we greatly fear the USA relations, or non relations, with Iran will become a dangerous dimension of the domestic primaries to preselect Republican and Democrat candidates.

No less than Robert Macnamarra in the chilling documentary

The Fog of War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

instructed all future generations and governments on about 11 sobering lessons he took out of his incredible war mongering career: One of these lessons (so compelling after the David Kelly docudrama The Government Inspector last night on ABC TV re Iraq war and missing WMD):

6. Get the data:

Which we at SAM here interpret as: Get your facts right - in the film he refers to a naval clash near Vietnam in the early 60ies, which later turned out to be bogus analysis of what actually transpired. But the diplomatic and political consequence was set in train (or manipulated?) leading to USA open warfare in Vietnam.

All the newswires today are running a story that Iran and the USA navy have had a tense stand off and near run conflict in the Straits of Homouz (spelling?). 

Iranian boats harass US navy in Strait of Hormuz: Pentagon ...

Iranian speedboats threaten US Navy ship - ABC News (Australian ...

Sound familiar? Complete with the Iranians denial of a real clash and that there was nothing unusual in the dynamic of this latest interaction in Hormuz.

Only it's the New Hampshire primaries today?

What is even more concerning is that there is a well known policy point of contention between the rising Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton going into the New Hampshire primary vote later tonight (our Sydney time).

The Pentagon and/or the Bush regime wouldn't be promoting potential warlike conflict with Iran in its PR for the base political reason of sewing dissension in the Democrat camp? And to damage Barak Obama? Surely not.

Yet this election blog from the US does make it clear the opportunity and motive of the Republicans to do just that back in Oct 2007:

Obama Attacks Hillary Over Iran Vote; Camp Hillary Hits Back

Barack Obama has now joined John Edwards in slamming Hillary for her vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which says Iran is responsible for problems in Iraq and designates the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization:

"Senator Clinton obviously in 2002 voted to authorize the war in Iraq," Obama told ABC News' Sunlen Miller. "And her willingness to once again extend to the president the benefit of the doubt I think indicates that she hasn't fully learned some of the lessons that we saw back in 2002."

"We have to be very cautious in how we approach these kinds of issues, because we've already seen enormous damage done to U.S.'s prestige around the world, the U.S.'s strategic interests in the world," he added. "Part of the reason Iran has been strengthened is because of that war that had been authorized in Iraq."

The Hillary campaign has just hit back in this statement sent over to us moments ago by Hillary spokesperson Phil Singer in which he says Obama's attack is motivated by dropping poll numbers and a "flagging" campaign:

It's unfortunate that Senator Obama is resorting to the same old attack politics as his poll numbers start falling. He knows that Senator Clinton was one of the first in Congress to say that Bush must seek an explicit authorization from Congress for any military action against Iran and that she is the lead co-sponsor of legislation by Jim Webb to prohibit funds for military action in Iran without approval from Congress. A flagging campaign is not an excuse to distort anyone’s record.

Hillary supporters will also note that Obama co-sponsored a bill designating the Iran Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, though the Obama campaign has said that their objection to Kyl wasn't to that facet of it but to the fact that it blamed Iran for problems in Iraq.

Late Update: Obama spokesman Bill Burton emails this response to Camp Hillary's response:

"It's clear that Senator Clinton can get irritated by questions about her Iran vote but the Lieberman-Kyl amendment does indeed make a case that military action against Iran could be a part of the ongoing war in Iraq. And in 2002, the vote to authorize war in Iraq was not a vote for diplomacy and inspectors. Senator Obama is focused instead on ending this war in Iraq, and preventing another disastrous foreign policy mistake."


Postscript #1 9th Jan 2007

Leftish columnist Phillip Adams fears for Obama's ability to survive the very frightening violence of US culture in a very factual and tightly written piece. It's a very fair and prominent piece there in the so called 'Govt Gazette': 8th Jan 08 Obama must be wary of the assassin's gun | The Australian

It reminds us of this thrilling finale of West Wing TV show series 1 referred to here by the ever helpful Wikipedia entry:

List of The West Wing episodes

specifically this one      "What Kind of Day Has It Been"

The West Wing episode   
Bartlet being ushered away during the shooting

which played way back in 1999-2000 indicating how behind the viewing times Australia really was given we got to see it about 2005 here(?). This has changed apparently these days with much greater synchrony of international scheduling in the age of internet download threats.

This episode virtually guarranteed a series 2 if only to answer the question: What the f*** happaned?! Answer - the good guys all survive with mercurial/goofy Josh Lyman character recovering in hospital. Unlike Benizir Bhutoo RIP in Pakistan recently. For real. Good article Mr Adams.

We once saw Mark Latham as the 2004 electoral aspirant for John Howard's crown in a Darling Habour forecourt next to the roadway as we innocently drove our van in there to get some pics of the ALP national conference.  If memory serves the eager still hopeful Mark was hob knobbing with the odd press gallery reptile including Matt Price out in the open exposed to the public.

We distinctly recall thinking this public access to a VIP is not so secure or wise for a guy doing so well in the polls at that time at least. On the other hand maybe we were so well known for our scruffy strict adherence to Gandhi philosophy by those ever alert CBD surviellance cameras it was all in hand? Who would know? We can say we once unwisely drove a donated unregistered (by a few days) van through the CBD and sure enough were booked and fined a painful $550 for our sin (in 2006) by an unmarked police car. Number plate recognition software? One wonders.

Posted by editor at 7:40 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008 10:02 AM EADT
Monday, 7 January 2008
Don't lose the plot: Brian
Mood:  mischievious
Topic: culture

YouTube - Life of Brian

You are all individuals! ... Monty Python's Life of Brian ...

Posted by editor at 10:02 AM EADT
Tim Blair damaging the News Ltd/Sydney Daily Telegraph brand?
Mood:  not sure
Topic: big media

Tim Blair has taken his Karl Rove style 'attack the left' rhetoric out for another spin with his 'pimp my ride' theme in his Saturday column here:

 "Pimp my clapped-out ex-soviet, Afghan ride"

The idea in a nutshell is that the famous David Hicks, released from gaol after several years of high legal controversy over human rights abuse, is actually a beaten down 'old model car' hardly worth the time and investment of 'left wing' (read Fairfax, ABC, blogosphere) journalists. These folks are 'pimping the ride' which is a tv show about doing up old cars, like reality makeovers to lose weight, or get a cosmetic upgrade.

So much for explaining some one else's joke. It always loses something in translation. It's true Blair is genuinely funny as a right winger which is a rare quality on that side of politics.

But Blair's joke has a real cost and likely he is the biggest fool over the subject matter of David Hicks. How so?

1. No matter the merits or lack thereof of the character of chicken boner, kangaroo shooter, military adventurer, heterosexual (as below) Hicks he is and has always been an Australian citizen. What value?

After 5 years with no fair legal process Australians across the political spectrum were disgusted, not least in the hands of a longstanding ally who appeared to debase their own constitutional guarantee of human rights:

PM tells the party: I could free Hicks - but won't - National ...

Chorus of discontent ... protesters gather outside Parliament House yesterday to demand the release of David Hicks from the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

So Blair is insulting all Australian citizens who felt that degree of solidarity if they were to get in trouble abroad, or to put it another way, Blair is insulting all those readers to their face. That damages the News Ltd brand in the market. Blair may not have noticed but his political crutch in this respect, John Howard, was resoundingly rejected by the voters on Nov 24th.

There is a truth in group dynamics that Blair completely misconceives: When someone stuffs up and everyone knows it, everyone watches to see if the punishment is proportionate and merciful. If it is, everyone, not just the transgressor takes comfort from that and reassurance that they are safe in such a community dynamic, because down the track being frail humans, it may be the shoe on their foot one day. It may be their turn. They need to have faith in the system to feel safe themselves, regardless of Hicks.

Because the greater truth is that no one is perfect, and no doubt Tim Blair as well. What skeletons he must have.

To bully the wrongdoer excessively might attract a gang of jackals for the melodramatic entertainment in the short term like children in a playground fight, but even the cruel barrackers are ever more insecure in themselves. It's a system based on fear, not truth. On pain, not love. And that in the end means less readers for Blair's paper to avoid his ugly sadism.

2. The rival reporters Blair likes to sledge were essentially champions for the rule of law. Settled law. Not make it up as you go law like Gitmo and the military commissions. That's the slippery slide to fascism. Blair comes across as a fascist. Australians don't like fascists, even funny ones. We fought the whole second world war to destroy fascism as a philosophy, but interestingly that didn't stop the CIA adopting NAZI intelligence officers as POWs to learn their techniques, according to a 1997 Discovery Channel 3 hour documentary called CIA Secrets (e.g. Marrickville Library). Blair is on the wrong side of history. Indeed he conspicuously avoids for his satire any mention of the CIA film footage of torture that has been so controversial these last several weeks. Cute selectivity that by BlairT.

3. Sour grapes. Fairfax got a 3 day scoop on News Ltd e.g. Blair's own paper, with picture of David and father Terry Hicks in a public park in Adelaide published Jan 1st 2008:

Hicks says he's doing just fine

The image “http://www.smh.com.au/text/ffximage/2007/12/31/davidhicks_wideweb__470x311.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The symbolic significance of this in the international media industry is 'large'. This is the great  Rupert Murdoch's home town no less where his career at the top of the News Limited multinational behemoth started, and they missed the picture story. Gazumped by the loathed Fairfax. With the tabloids, in the words of journo Paul Barry, so called "news driven" to be beaten by days let alone hours to the story really is professionally embarrassing. No wonder Blair is trying to pick a fight to change the focus. But it's a figleaf really. News Ltd dropped the ball in the silly season, a bit like Howard did in the election. In short BlairT is a loser.

4. The second last sentence allegedly quotes David Hicks in a letter in his young 20ies with a crude reference to sex he wants to have when he gets back. Written perhaps when he found himself dominated by male company in far flung places 8 years ago before he got a Muslim religious experience. Such crudities are spoken in every footy dressing shed every Saturday across the land, not that we ever felt comfortable about that even as a teenager.

So where did Blair get the letter to quote? Is it satire or real? Why the bottom of the fourth column? [The real answer is found in the postscript #1 below: Editor 10th Jan 2008] Could it be because it reveals a back channel of political, illegal leaking by the security industry to Blair in News Ltd, like the infamous leak of the Wilkie documents to Andrew Bolt at sister paper HeraldSun in Melbourne?

[actually Blair looks to be in the clear on this, says its from an article in the Bulletin 2006 i.e. open source: Ed Jan 10th 2008. We withdraw any speculative imputations about big Tim in this respect.]

Journalists in general need to be cautious these days in light of the Haneef Case farce re political (arguably) illegal leaking by security industry/media complex forcing other sections of the media to take their discipline, with a real journalist Hedley Thomas taking a Walkley Award based on the real transcript in the Haneef case.


Postscript #1 10th January 2008

As suggested by some moderate and some more rabid contributors in the comment section, responding to our point 4 above, the phrase attributed to David Hicks as a direct quote from one of his private letters, we are told has been in the public domain since a Bulletin article of 2006. Indeed we are told by no less than Tim Blair who rang this morning 10/1/08 to politely request a correction, as is his (legal) right. To his credit requesting not a deletion but a correction (strike through was his suggestion).

You will notice we generously employed the use of questions marks to speculate as to the legal or illegal sourcing of the Hicks letter/quote. In that sense we think it was a legally safe speculation in print. We are happy to say Tim Blair is in the clear assuming the Bulletin story exists which we do. We accept prima facie his position the quote was tucked away in his 4th column because it was in fact old news. We are told the Bulletin story is linked by reference on the Tim Blair blog page itself now in rebuttal. Does this put the Bulletin in the clear as to their source? The subtext seems to be his old flat mate, pen pal sold them to The Bulletin when she saw her own book opportunity close down. Quite a betrayal if that was the source but also says ASIO took the letters which leaves open which source, with flat mate as a false trail? What for instance does this mean:

Those seeking to tap the original material written by Hicks and kept over the years by Fletcher will now have to seek the co--operation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

About 18 months ago, ASIO officers came to Fletcher's house and, she says, politely but firmly told her: "You give us what we want or we will just have to pull your house apart and take it." They took the originals.

"They took the originals." Cute eh? Did flat mate Fletcher have copies which she sold as implied by quotes all through the story? Did ASIO vet and approve the Bulletin story? Did indeed the Bulletin "seek the cooperation" of ASIO. Did ASIO effectively play politics in green lighting their publication?

Curiously, the story in The Bulletin has no byline, which is suggestive of 1. fear of official retribution for an individual journo, or 2 fear of getting caught doing ASIO's dirty work. No byline on serious stories effectively puts the imprimatur of the whole publication on the line saying, you go the story you go the whole business.

Is Tim Blair an accessory after the fact to republishing via open source political postures in support of ASIO/security services/Howard Govt regime blackening of Hicks name under the Howard regime? Indeed the Bulletin reference in context by Hicks wanting sex is said to be light hearted, black humour after 4 years in gaol. Not much of a thought crime really.

Suffice to say the to and fro does underlie the general interest to avoid even by way of mere suggestion here on SAM the intense legal and political consequences that may go with political leaking of national security information (eg Bolt/Wilkie of 2004, Haneef 2007-08). Mr Haneef and his lawyers, Hedly Thomas and his paper The Australian have to a significant degree shut down such PR trickery that seems to have festered under PM Howard.

..................Postscript #2 10th Jan 08

We spoke again to Tim Blair to note our adjustments in light of his feedback, and his position is The Bulletin where he used to work got the letters from the flatmate not ASIO as implied by the extensive quoting of the flatmate. Blair implies its not national security but other trivial information about Hicks. He didn't know there was no byline on the story (which there isn't on the web version) and said he had worked for 20 years as a journo.

We say it's not altogether clear what is and isn't trivial national security information regarding Hicks. We say this still leaves the situation quite ambiguous as to whether ASIO did provide the letters to The Bulletin as opposed to the interview of flatmate, and in any case whether ASIO approved of the article being published, or  vetted it. We just don't know. Maybe The Bulletin might help us? Assuming of course that it wasn't Blair's own story from when he worked there. That would be too much duplicity.

Nor do we blame Blair in terms of free speech for using as much open source as he can to push his barrow. We could hardly complain about that here even if on the other side of the political fence.

Postscript #3 10th Jan 2008

The editor of the Bulletin advises their Sept 06 story was by Bernard Lagan, its an oversight not being on the webpage, that the letters were provided by the flatmate Louise Fletcher, and there was no role by ASIO in any of this.either vetting or approving. That's a lid on this thread I would say.

Posted by editor at 8:52 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008 2:53 PM EADT
Sunday, 6 January 2008
Racist greenwashing of Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine in central NSW, first Carr now Iemma Govt?
Mood:  sharp
Topic: nsw govt

Sun rises over the waters of Lake Cowal - the dawning of another day across this timeless and priceless jewel of nature.



Neville 'Chappy' Williams, Wiradjuri Traditional Owner, Lake Cowal, and Arinya Freeman (Wiradjuri Nation) listen to a webcast of Uncle Chappy's confrontation with Barrick Gold's founder and Chairman, Peter Munk at Barrisk's AGM on May 2nd, 2007 in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Allan Cedillo Lissner/GlobalAware.org
For more photos from actions in Canada


1998-2008 Lake Cowal scandal in Central NSW,$6M slush fund for select green groups, cyanide leaching for gold, pit as deep as Centrepoint Tower is high. Globally on average 79 tonnes of waste is produced for every ounce of gold. More info and links here


One imagines with rainfall reaching south eastern Australia now that we might expect to see beautiful natural scenes of vibrant ecology at Lake Cowal in central NSW. Well we would except that a huge cyanide gold mine was officially approved by the Carr Govt in 1999, and eventually opened in late 2006 after a slump in the gold price caused a delay. Here are some of the wonders of Lake Cowal when it last had rainfall in the mid 1990ies:




Diversity of life at the mouth of Bland Creek, Lake Cowal's inflow.

Diversity of life at the mouth of Bland Creek, Lake Cowal's inflow. 


Lake Cowal viewed from Wamboyne Mountain, showing lignum beds.
Lake Cowal viewed from Wamboyne Mountain, showing lignum beds. 


Pelicans by the flock hunting through the shallows of Lake Cowal.
Pelicans by the flock hunting through the shallows of Lake Cowal.


One imagines the cyanide will not be much good for rare and beautiful critters like this:


The rare Freckled Duck, a frequent inhabitant of Lake Cowal.

The rare Freckled Duck, a frequent inhabitant of Lake Cowal.  


The rare and beautiful Superb Parrot lives in the woodlands surrounding Lake Cowal.
The rare and beautiful Superb Parrot lives in the woodlands surrounding Lake Cowal. 


But it's not just the locals who get upset about the cyanide. It comes from the big city of Sydney and likely is a serious safety concern here too:



       Protestors have gathered outside Pacific National freight yard in Chullora to blockade trucks carrying cyanide.

ABC News: Protestors have gathered outside Pacific National freight yard in Chullora to blockade trucks carrying cyanide. (ABC News) 2nd May 2007

Concerned citizens have gathered at Chullora in western Sydney to protest against the multinational mining company Barrick Gold.

The protest was part of an International Day of Action against the company.

Barrick Gold has mines across the globe, including North and South America, Africa and Australia.

Protestors gathered at the entrance to transport company, Pacific National, on Dasea street, to blockade trucks carrying cyanide to Barrick's mine at Lake Cowal.

"Cyanide Watch" organiser, Graeme Dunstan, says he wants to know how much cyanide is being transported on Sydney roads.

"We want communities to know about the possible threat from a cyanide spill to their public health and water ways," he said.

Mr Dunstan says the maker of the cyanide, Orica, the transporter Pacific National, and the New South Wales Planning Minister are withholding information about how much cyanide is being trucked around the state.

"If the government won't tell us how much cyanide is being carried, if the carrier Pacific National say they can't tell us, and Orica are refusing to tell us, how are we going to find out?" he said.

"If they won't tell us, we're going to ask the truck drivers direct. We'll stand in front of the trucks and demand to know."

"We're going to make sure they become visible, we are going to drag them into accountability."

But Barrick Gold says it is committed to ensuring that the environment and local communities are protected.

The company's community relations manager, Bill Shallvey, says strict safety precautions are in place to prevent spillages and accidents.

"The company has always been open about how much cyanide is being transported to site. These figures appear on our Environment Impact Statement," he said.

"These figures state there are in excess of 6,000 of cyanide tonnes per annum for the Lake Cowal project."

"Barrick is the first mine globally that has been certified under the International Cyanide Management Code. And we also choose to buy our cyanide off Orica, which is also a signatory to that code."

"And that code is actually voluntary. It involves the safe transport, manufacturing, handling of materials, emergency response planning and community consultation."

Mr Shallvey says Mr Dunstan's claim that Barrick Gold is withholding information is unfounded.

"We don't hide these things," he said.

"I don't think Mr Dunstan has anything better to do, and he misleads a lot of young people that don't know any better. Mr Dunstan encourages these people to trespass on site and do things that are very dangerous."


Aboriginal significance of Lake Cowal

more images here at savelakecowal.org

Picture above Wiradjuri Elders Neville "Chappy" Williams (third from left) and Ron Gardner (back to camera in wheelchair) in tense negotiations with Barrick's Steve Robinson (fourth from left) while other Barrick staff and protestors look on. Barrick Gold office foyer, Perth Western Australia 11 July 2007.
Photo: Jane Morrison

Picture above Neville "Chappy" Williams, Wiradjuri Traditional Owner addressing protestors outside the Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation (WCC)'s office, Condobolin, Saturday 7 April 2007. Barrick Gold funds the WCC through a secret agreement that the majority of the Wiradjuri Nation
has not authorised. Photo: Jane Morrison

Lake Cowal is the sacred land of the Aboriginal Wiradjuri people.  Neville Williams from the 'Save Lake Cowal' campaign:


"Lake Cowal, it's part of the Wiradjuri nation, it's a dreaming place. We are part of the land since time begun, the natural way."


The land surrounding Lake Cowal has a rich cultural heritage according to Williams, who travelled the area with his grandfather in the 1940s and 50s.


"It is filled with marked trees, very old trees, shields and all sorts of sacred objects," he says. "The area is very, very rich in Aboriginal artefacts and cultural objects; stone axes, very small blades and microlits are still being found at Lake Cowal. I see it as ludicrous that in the Land and Environmental Court the judges said at various times that the crown owns the artefacts. Well, let me tell you that the Crown doesn't own the artefacts, we inherited them, they were made by our old people and they belong to us."


The land is also regarded as sacred for the Wiradjuri nation because, as explained by Williams, a huge Aboriginal massacre occurred at Lake Cowal in the late 1800s.


"Marshall law was enforced on my people, by mountain settlers, when killing Aboriginals wasn't murder," says Williams.


Williams believes the drilling at the open-cut gold mine is drilling into the spirits of the Wiradjuri ancestors.


"If I smashed my way into a cathedral, tipped the alter over, pushed the priest out of the way and grabbed the bible and tore a heap of chapters out I would be arrested," says Williams. "I feel that the Government and the mining company have absolutely no regard for our culture."


Picture above: Protesters at the Lake Cowal gold mining site. PHOTO: Natalie Kent 2004


We at SAM strongly believe in this campaign having raised several thousand dollars to bring a cyanide mining expert from the United States for legal evidence to tackle the similarly wrong headed Timbarra gold mine around 1999/2000.


However a select group of favoured green groups have preferred to 'work with' the mining company in a blatant greenwashing exercise involving big dollars to these craven green groups:


"The current members of the Foundation include the Total Environment Centre, National Parks Association, Nature Conservation Council and Barrick Australia Limited. The Lake Cowal Foundation is managed by a Board of Directors represented by five Directors including two environmental NGO representatives, a local landholder representing the Bland Shire Community, one independent scientist and a representative from Barrick."at http://lakecowalfoundation.org.au/index.cfm?objectid=9F3C510A-91EB-7705-7630C4979809223D


The Sydney Daily Telegraph exposed the terms of the greenwashing Trust fund in June1997 via admirable reportage of Simon Benson (on or about 9 June 1997) in


“$6m for greens in mine deal”. “Green MP Ian Cohen, who has campaigned against the mine on the basis it may leach cyanide from waste ponds into wetlands, was outraged at the deal, as were the local environment groups.”


The extract from the Telegraph article reads:



‘Provided that construction of the Cowal Gold Mine is commenced, North agrees to make the following donations:


(a) $100,000 per year during the construction period and the production life of the mine;


(b) up to $100,000 per year during the production life of the mine to match dollar for dollar monies that are donated to the Trust from other sources.'


How much money have these select green groups obtained and how has it been spent over the last 10 years? If construction and operation only since 2004 due to delay around a slump in the gold price, and finally opened by Premier Iemma in late 2006, we are already talking 4 x $100K = $400,000 to trusty select green groups, not counting any dollar for dollar matching of donations from other sources (govt? public?) by the miners, with an eventual limit of $6 million from the miners. Has any environmental benefit really accrued? Or was it a grotesque sell out as suspected by many people?


The spin from one big hungry green group for this juicy deal with the mining industry is here:


Mining - Negotiating the pitfalls


“At Lake Cowal, approval for North's deep open-cut gold mine intruding into a section of the lake came after a second Commission of Inquiry was conducted to evaluate a revised proposal with lesser cyanide levels; power lines relocated away from bird flight paths; and other modifications. The initial development application was rejected as unacceptable by Premier Carr in a decision announced during the 1996 Brisbane Ramsar Convention meeting, fulfilling a promise to Milo Dunphy shortly before his death (see also NPJ August 1999).


“In this, as in so many other ventures, the influential drivers for mine approval were the potential profits for the company itself and those who wanted to boost a local economy in decline. However, lateral thinkers in the company, the unions and the environment movement proposed exploring the possibility for common ground should the mine get the go-ahead.


“This led to the adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding (NPA is one of the signatories) to establish an Environmental Trust, aimed at improving conservation management and protection of significant wetland values. This move is probably a first, reflecting a generational change of approach from the mining industry, and could serve as a pilot.


"While no compensation for loss of wetland integrity, it nevertheless is intended to ensure some of the mining profits contribute to longterm environmental benefits alongside the economic ones. These include protection of important remaining wetland values, native vegetation and associated natural and Aboriginal heritage values around Lake Cowal; and potentially to help offset the threats of salinity, due to past clearing and changed water regimes associated with irrigation and dryland farming.


“Many will be watching to see whether the hoped-for outcomes will be achieved over time as people, and possibly even mine ownership, changes.”


Anne Reeves NPA Journal , October 1999


If pressed these select green groups on the drip will say they opposed the cyanide mine at Lake Cowal in the mid 1990ies and this is almost certainly true. But we don't recall any such campaigning by these groups in the late1990ies once they fell under the influence of Jeff Angel: They took the money over the heads of the local opposition and regional green movement and especially Traditional Owners and nascent Green Party all under the guidance of Jeff Angel as new sole director of the Total Environment Centre. That's the truth of the matter.


Aboriginal Traditional Owners oppose the mine at Lake Cowal outright, most notably spokesperson Neville Williams, as do most ethical green organisations:


From: "benny zable" To: [independent green groups]Sent: Thursday, November 09, 2006 10:37 PM Subject: Re: Lake Cowal Foundation

> Dear Ruth [Rosenhek Rainforest Information Centre] and Jane
> Thank you for sending me this!
> I am am outraged by this finding. I had no idea about this agreement. This
> is a big betrayal.
  We need some sort of liason between us and the Total
> Environment Centre and Co. This is not OK to have a Total Environment Centre
> making such deals, that compets with Uncle Chappy, Friends of the Earth, the
> Rainforest Information Centre and other environmental groups who have put
> resources and time to protest to expose and act on what is clearly an abuse
> of Aboriginal heritage and environmental degredation. To set up a foundation
> for Lake Cowal preservation first and formost needs the permission and
> endorsement from Uncle Chappy let alone to make a monetry deal.
> Have they held discussions with Uncle Chappy?
> Who where the parties that authorised these deals?
> How long has this foundation been in operation?
> Are they aware of our ongoing campaign?
> I will raise this with folks at the Rainbow Chai Tent on Sunday.
> We need some explenations. There is also some rumors of a sell out by the
> Total Environment Centre on the Anvil Hill mine . Is this true?  What are
> the facts?
> We need transperancy and acountability in the environmental movement.
> What about a conference with all the players associated with the Lake Cowal
> campaign including those on the front line?
> Benny Zable
>>From: Ruth Rosenhek <
>>To: [independent green groups]
>>Subject: Re: Lake Cowal Foundation
>>Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 19:12:08 +1100
>>my gawd, what a farce!  Check out this paragraph:
>><<The COI found that the project could be developed and operated in a
>>manner that was compatible with the environmental values of Lake Cowal. The
>>Cowal Gold Mine was met with some opposition from Environmental groups and
>>organizations. After considerable consultation with these groups, a
>>Memorandum of Understanding was signed and the Lake Cowal Foundation (LCF),
>>a not for profit Environmental Trust was established in June 2000 with the
>>objective of protecting and enhancing the natural environment in the Lake
>>Cowal region. The Lake Cowal Foundation is primarily sponsored through a
>>negotiated royalty from the Cowal Gold Project, for the life of the gold
>>project. During the operational life of the mine, payments exceeding $2
>>million are expected to be made to the Lake Cowal Foundation.>>
>>Sure, we need to respond but there is so much to respond to!
>>for the Earth
>>At 12:01 PM +1100 9/11/06, Jane Morrison wrote:
>>>Hi All,
>>>I thought you might like to know that the Lake Cowal Foundation has a
>>>website and is calling for donations to "conserve the lake"!!


How did this disgraceful state of affairs of financial compromise of the green movement come about? We submit the chronology occurred like this, not least the handover of control of the Total Environment Centre from Milo Dunphy to trusty Jeff Angel in 1997:


 15/3/04...The dirty Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine trust terms discussed here in 'Lake Cowal and real politik of mining decisions under Carr govt' 




Thursday, 16 August 2007 Is Jeff Angel an ALP collaborator in environmental destruction? 


Traditional Owner Neville Williams had a very significant interim legal win in early November 2004 at the link below and his campaign continues with much support as per the links below:


* 2 May 2007 Lake Cowal goldmining boss "so sorry" for desecration | Sydney ...

* 9 April 2007 14 Protestors Arrested at Wiradjuri Lake Cowal Demonstration ... 

* Wednesday, 31 January 2007 Angelic greenwashing of water guzzling cyanide gold mine at Lake Cowal

* Nov 06 - Alarm of independent greens over miner 'Environment Foundation' pay off to badly compromised 'peak' greens

* 3rd Nov 06 - Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine chewing up farmers drought water, 20m water table drops to 50 m depth!

* 29/09/06 Opposition to the "Official" opening of Lake Cowal Gold Mine.

* Feb 2005 - What is the real price of gold? by Natalie Kent and Sandra Reidenbach, UTS School of Journalism, Sydney

* November 5th 2004 interim legal victory against Lake Cowal mine infrastructure

* 3rd May 2004 Five arrested at Lake Cowal protecting sacred Wiradjuri land

* 29 April 2004 Police bulldozers at protest camp

* 15/3/04...The dirty Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine trust terms discussed here in 'Lake Cowal and real politik of mining decisions under Carr govt'


More background with links for active public interest groups involved in the Lake Cowal issue and definitely on the side of goodness and light, in our humble opinion anyway ...


Rainforest Information Centre

Lee Rhiannon, NSW Greens Parliamentarian

Peacebus direct action group

Friends of the Earth International 


Also see the video produced by Rainforest Information Centre web link above and refer to this letter following from civil society groups to Barrick Gold multinational:


PO Box 368, Lismore, NSW 2480
61 (02) 66213294

Peter Munk, Chairman
Barrick Gold Corporation
Royal Bank Plaza -Suite 2700
Canada M5J 2J3

January 3, 2002


Dear Mr. Munk,

This letter is to officially inform you of our urgent request that the gold mining project planned for Lake Cowal, an area that is listed on the Register of the National Estate as well as the Directory of Important Wetlands, be immediately halted and that no further mining activities or related work occur now or in the future at the Lake Cowal site or surroundings.

The Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal -- Nature Conservation Council, Friends of the Earth - Australia, The NSW Greens, Mineral Policy Institute, Central West Branch of The Wilderness Society, Central West Environment Council, Rainforest Information Centre, Humane Society International and others -- aims to protect the Lake Cowal region against high risk extractive industries such as gold mining and to restore the land in and around the Lake to a healthy vibrant ecosystem.

It is unacceptable to risk cyanide spills, acid mine drainage and heavy metals, to name but

a few of the possible consequences, in this important listed area. A spill of cyanide laced wastewater could wipe out the entire wetland and related waterways. With the region being prone to floods, these sorts of risks are vastly increased.

In addition, the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal supports the Aboriginal community of Condobolin who have declared their opposition to the Lake Cowal gold mine project. It is the Coalition's understanding that Homestake/Barrick and their predecessors have not properly consulted with many traditional owners from the region.

Homestake/Barrick should reconsider this undertaking. We believe that there are alternative means of revenue generation possible for this region that would benefit both land and people.

Many of the Coalition member groups have been involved in an extensive and successful campaign to shut down the Timbarra Gold Mine in Northern New South Wales. This mine was proclaimed to be of the highest environmental standards and yet is now seen to be a disgrace by the industry itself with a slumping heap leach pad and several overflows from ponds containing contaminated water.

The environmental and human rights record of Homestake/Barrick has already been marred by a number of infamous violations including the 1997 civil suit filed by the US Department of Justice, the State of South Dakota and the Cheyenne River Sioux against Homestake, the May 1998 spill of cyanide-laced tailings from the Homestake Mine into Whitewood Creek and current allegations against Barrick in Tanzania.


We urge you to work towards restoring your corporations' reputation by abandoning the Lake Cowal project forthwith. To proceed further would be to engage in a costly and long drawn out conflict with environmental defenders of NSW and Australia.

Clean water more precious than gold.

Please advise us of your decision at your soonest convenience.

Yours respectfully,

the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal
Friends of the Earth - Australia
Nature Conservation Council (Sydney)
Central West Branch TWS (Orange)
Mineral Policy Institute (Sydney)
The Greens NSW (Sydney)
Rainforest Information (Centre Lismore)
Central West Environment Council
Nimbin Environment Centre (Nimbin)
Humane Society International (Avalon, NSW)



Campaign website of the Save Lake Cowal Coalition involving Ruth Rosenhek of Rainforest Information Centre.




Lake Cowal threatened!!

Waterbirds fly at dusk, Lake Cowal, NSW, Australia.
Waterbirds fly at dusk, Lake Cowal, NSW, Australia.
Waterfowl, including the rare Freckled Duck.
Waterfowl, including the rare Freckled Duck.
Healthy lignum, waterbird nesting habitat, Lake Cowal.
Healthy lignum, waterbird nesting habitat, Lake Cowal.
Flooded lignum and canegrass, Lake Cowal, important wetland habitat.
Flooded lignum and canegrass, Lake Cowal, important wetland habitat.

One of the most precious freshwater wetland complexes in eastern Australia, Lake Cowal, central New South Wales, is threatened with a proposed open-cut cyanide-leach mine and toxic tailings dams!

Lake Cowal is a National Estate wetland of immense biological and cultural importance. It is a major habitat for migratory and nomadic waterbirds on a national scale, a sacred place for the Wiradjuri people, and a favoured destination for many outdoor enthusiasts.

Conservation organisations, both government and community, believe that the fragile ecology of this wetland is no place for a toxic mine.

Enjoy this photographic tour of Lake Cowal, then please visit the link provided below to participate in the email campaign.


Diversity of life at the mouth of Bland Creek, Lake Cowal's inflow.
Diversity of life at the mouth of Bland Creek, Lake Cowal's inflow.  

Thousands of visitors have enjoyed Lake Cowal over the years.
Thousands of visitors have enjoyed Lake Cowal over the years.  

Lake Cowal viewed from Wamboyne Mountain, showing lignum beds.
Lake Cowal viewed from Wamboyne Mountain, showing lignum beds.  



Pelicans by the flock hunting through the shallows of Lake Cowal.
Pelicans by the flock hunting through the shallows of Lake Cowal.
Stormclouds over a flooded Lake Cowal.
Stormclouds over a flooded Lake Cowal.
Receding waters leave milfoil and river red gums.
Receding waters leave milfoil and river red gums.  
Rufous Night Herons gather near their nesting colony in flooded Lake Cowal forest.
Rufous Night Herons gather near their nesting colony in flooded Lake Cowal forest.  
Sacred Ibis arrive to roost for the night,  Lake Cowal.
Sacred Ibis arrive to roost for the night, Lake Cowal.  
Family of Great Crested Grebe on Lake Cowal, one of the multitude of waterbirds which raise their young on the lake.
Family of Great Crested Grebe on Lake Cowal, one of the multitude of waterbirds which raise their young on the lake.  
Squadron of pelicans hunt in the river red gum flooded forest, Lake Cowal.
Squadron of pelicans hunt in the river red gum flooded forest, Lake Cowal.  
Flock of Straw-necked Ibis wheel on thermals above the nesting colony in Lake Cowal lignum.
Flock of Straw-necked Ibis wheel on thermals above the nesting colony in Lake Cowal lignum.  
Wandering Whistle Duck photographed at Lake Cowal, far from its northern habitats. The lake is a meeting place for nomadic waterbirds from all over Australia.
Wandering Whistle Duck photographed at Lake Cowal, far from its northern habitats. The lake is a meeting place for nomadic waterbirds from all over Australia.  
The rare Freckled Duck, a frequent inhabitant of Lake Cowal.
The rare Freckled Duck, a frequent inhabitant of Lake Cowal.  
Male Blue-billed Ducks display during the breeding season, one of the rarer waterbird species which use Lake Cowal.
Male Blue-billed Ducks display during the breeding season, one of the rarer waterbird species which use Lake Cowal.  
Yellow-billed Spoonbill catches prey by feel in its special bill.
Yellow-billed Spoonbill catches prey by feel in its special bill.  
White-necked or Pacific Heron hunts in old-growth river red gum flooded forest.
White-necked or Pacific Heron hunts in old-growth river red gum flooded forest.  
Great Egrets hunt in the wetland shallows, along with herons, ibis and spoonbills.
Great Egrets hunt in the wetland shallows, along with herons, ibis and spoonbills.  
Nest and eggs of a Magpie Goose pair which nested on Lake Cowal in 1989. The lake supports unusual wildlife for its latitude.
Nest and eggs of a Magpie Goose pair which nested on Lake Cowal in 1989. The lake supports unusual wildlife for its latitude.  
The rare and beautiful Superb Parrot lives in the woodlands surrounding Lake Cowal.
The rare and beautiful Superb Parrot lives in the woodlands surrounding Lake Cowal.  
Windmill in water shows the ephemeral nature of Lake Cowal, the wet and dry phases of which are both of ecological importance to the functioning of its ecosystem, and to agriculture and fisheries.
Windmill in water shows the ephemeral nature of Lake Cowal, the wet and dry phases of which are both of ecological importance to the functioning of its ecosystem, and to agriculture and fisheries.  
People as well as wildlife flock to the lake to enjoy its natural values. Campers at Lake Cowal.
People as well as wildlife flock to the lake to enjoy its natural values. Campers at Lake Cowal.  


A White-faced Heron preens to protect its wings while at peace in the productive shallows of Lake Cowal. Everyone needs to protect and care for their assets.  

A White-faced Heron preens to protect its wings while at peace in the productive shallows of Lake Cowal. Everyone needs to protect and care for their assets.


Hope you enjoyed this tour of Lake Cowal. If you would like to see the lake and wetlands stay this way, please take a moment to participate in the email campaign:


Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal 

Sun rises over the waters of Lake Cowal - the dawning of another day across this timeless and priceless jewel of nature.

Sun rises over the waters of Lake Cowal - the dawning of another day across this timeless and priceless jewel of nature.  



Posted by editor at 11:06 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 6 January 2008 12:14 PM EADT
Friday, 4 January 2008
Win win win: How Iemma can book $1B, save the environment and avoid power privatisation political meltdown in NSW
Mood:  special
Topic: nsw govt
This view of Chipstop group below to Garnaut Inquiry is bound to gain traction if only for group survival instinct:
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 10:16 AM
Subject: [chipstop] “End woodchipping to stop climate change,” say conservationists

“End woodchipping to stop climate change,” say conservationists
Conservationists are asking the new federal Government to stop native forest woodchipping as a way to avert climate change.
In a submission to the Garnaut Review, the Chipstop group has argued that forests are worth more as carbon sinks than they are as woodchips.
Spokesperson, Ms Harriett Swift says that now that Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, there is potential for native forests to be protected as carbon offsets, as permitted under Article 3.4.
“Australia subsidises the protection of native forests in South East Asia while continuing to destroy its own forests.”
“In international forums such as the recent Bali conference, Australia will have far greater credibility if it protects its own native forests,” she says.
In SE NSW, the vast majority of trees logged end up as woodchips. In the Eden region, for example, approximately 95% of timber felled is woodchipped. 
“As paper products, these have a life of two to three years.”
“Even manufactured wood products are mostly low value, short lived items such as pallets, which usually end up as landfill or are chipped as mulch within a very few years,” she says.
Forest destruction has been estimated to release hundreds of tonnes of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere for every hectare logged, depending on the forest type.
“In addition, trucks delivering loads to the mill travel 14.5 million kilometres per year, generating a further 2 million tonnes of CO2 per year.”
“To make matters worse, in both NSW and Victoria, the native forest woodchipping industry is subsidised.”
“NSW revenue from pulpwood royalties is about $3.5 million less than the cost to Forests NSW of running its woodchipping operations.”
“Last year, VicForests returned a $17,000 loss to Victoria for the logging of native forests.”
“Other costs to the community from woodchipping include the loss of water quality and quantity, degradation of topsoils, damage to roads and other infrastructure. In addition, it is impossible to quantify the loss of wildlife and habitat.”
“In these circumstances, we believe it is reckless and absurd to continue native forest woodchipping, when forests are worth so much more as carbon sinks.”
“We also reject burning native forest wood to generate power for the same reasons,” Ms Swift said.
3 January 2008
02 64923267, 0414908997


Between 2,500 and 3,000 trees from SE NSW and East Gippsland are cut down every working day to supply the Eden chipmill
CHIPSTOP campaign against woodchipping the SE forests, 02-64923134, PO Box 797 Bega NSW 2550 Australia, http://www.chipstop.forests.org.au
Notice similarly in the piece by the very brown Michael Costa about the big ticket item of sell off of $15B public electricity assets to his reference to the big unions submission to the Owen Inquiry regarding climate and power generation (and this is very significant as you will see):
The unions' scare campaign is hypocritical, because it's their own plans for the power industry that would drive up prices. In their submission to the Owen inquiry Unions NSW called for the phasing out of coal and gas-fired generation in favour of solar and wind. Given the high cost of renewable energy compared with existing plants, the unions' plans guarantee immediate higher prices.
[bold added]
in  Unions' electricity reforms just scare campaign 3rd January 2008 Costa says the govt needs $2-$3 billion revenue fast as follows:

The Australian energy market is already highly competitive, and many customers of public utilities already choose private retailers.

The Government is not in a position to make the $2 billion-$3 billion investment to meet this competition without cutting back spending elsewhere.

Increasing private investment in the electricity sector is the best way to protect the jobs of existing employees and create new jobs as expansion and investment take place, while enabling the Government to get on with its core service delivery priorities.

[bold added]

But Costa is wrong. Power is an essential service with a natural monopoly and not suitable for privatisation if the public want to keep a sovereign govt that is not a wholly owned subsidiary of ruthless private corporations. Most people intuitively understand this.

This is why Carr failed in 1997 at his own ALP conference. But the lust of a Premier for a bucket of money is well understood hence we wrote back in February 2003 in a prescient way (or 4 years premature depending on how you look at it):

21/2/03 Sale of NSW electricity assets by NSW ALP after 2003 election?

Yet the Iemma Govt can go a long way to finding the money in other places, and none better than the revenue currently being used to crank the financial viability of the native forest woodchipping industry. [And see postscript below re tollway subsidy in the Herald today.] Yes, that's right - the public plantation estate - which is simply an agricultural crop for most intents and purposes now. There is no real reason to keep it in public ownership provided there are decent and sensible environmental safeguards, of equal or better nature to farming generally. There is the added dimension of fire suppression for public safety but that's well within the wit of the private sector if only to protect their own asset. More on this very substantial asset here:

17/2/2000 ...Plantation based economics of the current logging industry in NSW

And here is a summary of the 'pre privatisation' policy setting of this ALP Govt to date from 2005, namely corporatisation:

18/2/05... latest govt position on asset realization, break up of NSW Forestry dodgy $ diversions from public plantations

We have been proposing the asset realization of the $1Billion public plantation estate for about 3 years now. The Green Party are against it for public ownership ideological reasons. Respected resource economist Judith Adjani (Clark) is against it for similar arguments of public sector govt capacity to reform manufacturing jobs and profits in the wood industry out of native forests. But they are both wrong in our humble view. How so?

One must appreciate the role of  land baron political economics not simply clinical efficiencies of resource/manufacturing economics, because we don't live in such a rational world free of biased access or systemic bureaucratic corruption of the public estate.

The plantations which are profitable and dominate wood volumes are cranking the native forest  sector which is loss making for clearance of same for more defacto and then inevitably official plantation and then privatised plantation. The public are being denied their plantation revenue profits today off public land, which revenue is (corruptly) diverted to the private native forest interests(truck owners, logging contractors, chipmill owners, Japanese corporations etc) and to justify wages of NSW Forestry bureaucrats. A real bootstraps financial exercise off the public natural estate helping to grow the spread of the essentially private plantation sector.

As the ex CEO of the huge dominating CSR at the Adjani/Clark book launch (Gleebooks) late 2007 pointed out politely,  Adjani doesn't appreciate the land baron politics of this situation in native forest logging. But we do after 15 years of tackling the criminal sector: It's about privatising with creeping conversion the higher rainfall state forest areas over decades into higher profitability far more economically efficient treefarm estate,  using public's own plantation revenue to destroy their remaining natural forest estate. This way they effectively get the public land and rainfall free, rather than pay for private tree farm development on existing private cleared land.

It's very cute and very corrupt promoted with truckloads of bogus science.

It's not about 'existing plantation versus native forest' models of wood production or differential product lines to market. The native forest loggers (union and industry) already agree with Adjani/Clark's well worn thesis that plantations are better for jobs, wood production volumes and profits. Only they don't want to switch over, they want all native forest cleared to treefarm, in a huge conversion project, slowly steadily over a decade or two. It's that big and cynical and greedy.

If we as the public and ethical government don't cut off the woodchipper's financial crank of loss making native forests (in their hands) they will all be converted to private plantation by a future govt and sold as inappropriate to the public sector. You mark my words. The only way to stop this dynamic responsibly is to remove the revenue of the public plantations from the corrupt NSW forestry agency in collusion with this conversion process. That is to effectively bankrupt NSW State Forestry and fold native forests into national parks as water, ecosystem and tourism asset, and leave the loggers to do their private tree farming within an environmentally decent regulatory framework on their own land just like other agriculture. In this respect tree farming is just like wheat.

The power industry privatisation political meltdown can similarly be avoided, of huge importance to the unions, the Greens and the public by providing crucial revenue to begin that reform process in clean green energy production. Costa's brown endless consumption growth vision for the energy sector must be rejected as ecologically insane. Rather the value of the plantations built up on the public estate over decades is realised but also hypothecated into a sustainable future for NSW. Yes it does mean loss of some public control of plantations. But it's worth it. More than that. It's the right thing for immediate damage control beyond academic economic theories of idealistic Adjani (I fully concede) this last 15 years to actually stop massive vandalism across South East Australia. Adjani's agenda for the 'best profile for reform of the manufacturing sector' within a public sector paradigm in the age of a high employment mining boom is not the priority for the environment. It's to stop such as this as soon as humanly possible to keep our carbon store, stop the systemic industry drying out of forests leading to intense bushfire and conservation generally:



 ....in Tasmania

 ....in South East NSW

Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2008 6:57 PM
Subject: [chipstop] Maiden voyage breaks record

From Eden Magnet today:
03 January 2008 - 10:09AM

Maiden voyage breaks record

Bulk woodchip carrier, Silver Pegasus safely completed her maiden voyage to Eden on Thursday, December 27 after leaving the Ohshima shipping yard in Japan on December 14, 2007.
Arriving with a crew of 21, the 210-meter vessel, with a gross registered tonnage of 43,621 has the latest in navigation and cargo equipment on board.
The cost of the round trip from Japan to Australia is said to be more than $1.2 million.
Managing director of SEFE, Toshihiro Eguchi and his family, along with representatives from SVITZER and Twofold Bay harbour pilot Jo Clark, were invited to inspect the ship and witness the presentation of a commemorative plaque to master captain, Sin Sang Tae.
Discussing the year's sales, corporate affairs manager of South East Fibre Exports, Vince Phillips said the Silver Pegasus' shipment would break sales records.
"The load of about 46,000 ton will take us to another record sale,” Mr Phillips said.
"I think we have done a total of a million and sixty thousand for the 2007 calendar year... beating last year’s sales record by about ten thousand ton," Mr Phillips said.
Mr Phillips said that this year's record export volume was an unexpected result given wet weather during the year but production was boosted in volume by access to bushfire affected timber.
The planned export of plantation pine woodchips in coming years means SEFE expects to maintain these levels.
The Silver Pegasus is purpose built and has six holds each with a 10 tonne capacity.
A 9195-kilowatt engine gives her about 12 and a half thousand-horse power and a top speed of 14.2 knots.
Owned by NYK, an international shipping company, Silver Pegasus will be charted by South East Fibre Export to transport wood chip to the port of Muroran in Japan.


Between 2,500 and 3,000 trees from SE NSW and East Gippsland are cut down every working day to supply the Eden chipmill
CHIPSTOP campaign against woodchipping the SE forests, 02-64923134, PO Box 797 Bega NSW 2550 Australia, http://www.chipstop.forests.org.au

Postscript #1 4th Jan 2008

It appears the Sydney Morning Herald has identified another many hundreds of million$ that can or should have been saved for critical infrastructure investment as reported here:

Toll bribe will cost $860m CASHBACK, the road toll subsidy on the M4 and M5 motorways, could be the most expensive broken election promise in NSW history. By the time the subsidy expires on the M4 in 2010, the total bill is forecast to have climbed to about $860 million.

And their cartoon correctly identifies the very dark shade of brown of Treasurer Costa in love with his endless growth economics much like John Howard ex PM:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Friday, January 4, 2008
Illustration: Alan Moir

Posted by editor at 1:38 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 5 January 2008 8:59 AM EADT
Xstrata and Barrick involved in highly contoversial mine conflicts in Phillipines, PNG
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: human rights

The Big Media is rightly reporting terrible fatal unravelling of democracy in Kenya reinforcing the significance of a strong Australian Electoral Commission here in Australia Nov 24 federal election. Thank God for strong institutions who do their job. The unsung heroes of peace and stability. But we have major human rights concerns closer to home too:

What makes rebel leftists in Mindanao, Phillipines demand a 'revolutionary tax' and then bomb and destroy a mine majority owned by Xstrata? Is it cynicism learnt from their corporate capitalist masters, looking for their cut of the action, or do they have a social justice case?

Map of the Philippines showing the island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao

It starts to look alot more than ideology or greed when in relation to the same controversy a local Catholic bishop is reportedly motivated to "lead some opposition to mine development, warning of environmental damage"?


Rebels raid gold mine | The Australian 3rd Jan 2008

[full copy cut and paste above]

Perhaps because it's happened before:

24/12/04...Newmont mining in Indonesia accused again of mercury pollution: Bloomberg via SMH

Xstrata is a quite a controversial mining multinational in recent Australian history too with its attempt to takeover uranium miner WMC which failed in 2005. Some interesting reference material about that here:

Big Media here:

21/2/05... flagship '4 Corners' ABC exposes Glencore's sinister control of Xtrata assets eg bid target WMC U-mine at Olympic Dam - 1/3 world's uranium

21/2/05...New Xstrata, Glencore links emerge: AAP via SMH

21/2/05...Xstrata's links tarnish WMC takeover deal

14/2/05...Analysis of Glencore/Xstrata sordid history and bid for U-mine re Treasurer Costello's bid validation, by senior finance writer for News Ltd

Following little media here

12 Feb 2005 Costello assists corporate terrorist Glencore via Xtrata bid for U ...

11th Feb 2005 'Sordid' Swiss link undermines Xstrata's bid for WMC's U- mine at ...

8th Feb 2005 Shell failled bid for Woodside a precedent re Xtrata/WMC concerns ...

Xstrata was deemed not fit to own WMC by most thinking Australians but it seems they are good enough to manage the environment in the Phillipines? Doubtful. They also dominate coal mining in NSW Hunter Valley, an activity that should be banned sooner rather than later if we want any world at all ie dangerous greenhouse gases:

 Xstrata climbs over Resource bid


Similarly what makes this dysfunction in PNG happen as reported in the same story tucked away in The Australian yesterday and no other press on our doorstep involving major Australian based companies?:

* A MAN has been killed in a gun battle between police and illegal miners near Barrick's giant Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea.

According to Enga Province Police Commander Michael Chare, the man was among a number of armed illegal miners searching for gold at the mine and was shot after the group opened fire, sparking a five-minute gun battle.

Hundreds of illegal miners risk injury and death each night to descend steep cliffs into the Porgera open pit to hunt for gold.

Additional reporting: Reuters, AAP [bold added]

in Rebels raid gold mine | The Australian p17 3rd Jan 2008


Let's not forget charming cyanide miner Barrick Gold on the home front too which is sucking the water table dry and vandalising Lake Cowal as here:

Nov 06 - Alarm of independent greens over miner 'Environment Foundation' pay off to badly compromised 'peak' greens

3rd Nov 06 - Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine chewing up farmers drought water, 20m water table drops to 50 m depth!

Feb 2005 - What is the real price of gold? by Natalie Kent and Sandra Reidenbach, UTS School of Journalism, Sydney

November 5th 2004 interim legal victory against Lake Cowal mine infrastructure

15/3/04...The dirty Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine trust terms discussed here in 'Lake Cowal and real politik of mining decisions under Carr govt'

     activist school educators 31 Jan to 14th Feb 2005      lakecowalactivists.jpg
     The cyanide mine at Lake Cowal as deep as Centrepoint Tower in Sydney

As much as the Big Media and corporate Australia want to quarantine such human rights, economic justice and environmental sustainability issues from local domestic press the reality is likely very connected. One imagines for instance many many willfully ignorant superannuation and other share market investors with their piece of the action in Xstrata, Glencore, and Barrick in their various corporate manifestations. The question becomes morally, what's the the difference between those shareholders and the gun toting leftists? Different tools? 

Posted by editor at 11:35 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 5 January 2008 9:48 AM EADT
Readership pageviews of this SAM micro news website, 2007 and monthly figures
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: independent media



So ... that was micro news blog year for SAM 2007. We are flat out consolidating our other website environmental reference material into SAM. Our annual page views* in a state and federal election year for this quite political micro indy community media service has been ... drum roll please:


After consolidation of our ecology action website into SAM underway here the figure rises some 19K (2005-07). This is a nice number I guess. A ton in cricket terms. But not very probitive of influence expressed through the device of first rough draft which may be adopted to some degree by big commerical media under huge time and employment pressure. We feel they do. Why? Because they now have the benefit of our broad professional and personal history to judge for themselves our credibility. Not least capacity for keyword search on Google right back to 1987 as a trademarks examiner once in the Canberra public service. And our substantial files reflecting 10 years or more of ngo history especially pre search engine. This also reassures us making for less defensive prose. It has also prompted an interest in our journlist grandfather we never met, namely Eric McLoughlin, who played quite a role in the Petrov Affair of the 1950ies..

And how does the editor feel? Well we need a flat top liquid crystal (LCD) display screen preferably 19in, but 17in would be fine, to save our eyes which every morning have a weepy quality from the cathode ray display (CRD) we have used all this year.

But overall we feel satisfied at having a constructive honest and ecological effect on other media and politics both, as practised here in Sydney Australia. The key to this is non profit, sole trader status but also hard won expertise (including legal survival skills). Secondly we feel we have much improved our writing and production values - which follows the discipline of the daily slog. But it all started with deciding to have a go supercharged with stubborn determination.

Also we feel the turning point in our creativity and God given insight was actually 18 months ago, pre SAM, when against all family tradition we went teatotal (50% coffee). What a dangerous drug it really is for sensitive intelligent types. A real downer and muddler even for our quite low consumption. More recently extraction of a troublesome molar, and exercise regime, has kicked us along again.

We also feel a regular inspiration still over engagement with the Big Media from our humble perch. They definitely feel our mosquito bite. And even to some degree a rapproachment. Similarly with the organisers of Sydney Indymedia which is much more interactive than SAM will ever be but also far more chaotic standards of content.

As far as paid advertising service goes it's been token so far and we haven't really figured this side of things out. But we are enthusiastic too, so maybe in 2008. We know enough that we have a saleable product. Also that this makes other minor media nervous. We know this will be the real focus of interest of many in the Big (and not) Media and indeed party politics/NGO all Working for the Man as wage slaves. Often the first and revealing question others ask (eg shadow AG NSW, former chief of NSW Nature Conservation Council) in terms of showing their own character is "Where does your money come from?".

It's a fair question in terms of integrity and independence (in 2007 it was grovel labour like gardening at a community centre, and street press delivery for a small indy company) but a sad one too in terms of actual purpose namely fair media and good governance not least ecological sustainability (eg downshifting). The question to us is about career rivalry when we strive for vocation. Having said that we rather like shelter and food in the fridge and basic utilities. After that we are just scared for the future not least dangerous climate.

And lastly for the quietly menacing gentleman from the Kangaroo Shooters industry group earlier this year (after we wrote here and here about potential lethal hydatid associated with offal to dogs to you) some free market research 3rd Jan 08 on the discounted product marked down from $7+ a kg Marrickville Woolworths to can't sell it $2.50:



* Previous monthly reader pageview figures for 2007 verified by screen shot (web host provider monthly pageview account details) posted on or about 4th day of the month found in this thread:

  • November 10,220
  • October - 9, 100 
  • Sept -  8,100 (roughly, no screenshot)
  • August - 8,845
  • July - 7475
  • June - 9675
  • May  - 9, 059
  • April  - 12,087
  • March  - 6,684
  • February - 5,372
  • January 07 -  2800 (3rd Jan - 3rd Feb 07)

Posted by editor at 8:57 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 4 January 2008 10:45 AM EADT

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