Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Clarence Valley Council decides to open its door wide to the cruise ship industry


On 21 November 2017 at Clarence Valley Council’s ordinary monthly meeting Mayor Jim SimmonsDeputy Mayor Jason Kingsley and Crs. Richie WilliamsonArthur Lysaught, and Andrew Baker voted in effect to open council’s doors to the cruise ship industry by indicating in principal support for the Port of Yamba to be a designated cruise ship destination, with the possibility of establishing an international cruise ship terminal within the Clarence River estuary.

The debate in the chamber indicated that councillors received a number of emails on this subject from valley residents and that the majority of these expressed concerns about this Berejiklian Government proposal.

However, community concern was virtually ignored by both council administration and this group of five councillors hell-bent on doing Sydney's bidding after Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis had reportedly lobbied on behalf of the proposal.

As usual Cr. Baker excelled himself when it came to the number of inaccurate statements he could pack into his participation in debate.

Concerned Iluka and Yamba residents now await this…….

FacebookABC North Coast, 21 November 2017:

Billy Walker The Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation held a meeting last week where this issue was raised. Keep an eye out for our response in the local papers in the next week or so.

Turnbull Government lost its majority in the House of Representatives so canceled the lower house convening for next 13 days


This was the timetable for a functioning democratic Australian Parliament in November 2017:

30 October to 12 November – Non sitting days
13 to 16 November – Senate Chamber sits
17 to 26 November – Non sitting days
27 to 30 November – Both Chambers sit, Senate 2/3 Cut Off Thursday, 30 November
1 to 3 December – Non sitting days
4 to 7 December – Both Chambers sit [my yellow highlighting]

This is how a Liberal-Nationals federal government makes a mockery of a democratic federal parliament - because two of its MPs in the House of Representatives having been found to be ineligible to sit are no longer members of the 45th Parliament and therefore the Turnbull Government has lost its majority in the lower house:

The parliament was scheduled for two more weeks of joint sittings of the Senate and the House of Representatives, from November 27 to December 7.

But the amended schedule will see only the Senate return next week as planned. The House of Representatives will come back a week later, from December 4, and then sit a second week, from December 11, if required…..

Manager of government business Christopher Pyne said the cancellation is to ensure the passage of marriage equality and deal with the citizenship crisis before the end of the year — but Labor has accused the government of trying to dodge a commission of inquiry into the banks while it is down two MPs. [BuzzFeed News, 20 November 2017]

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Was the NSW Port Authority even aware of Noble Caledonia cruise line's plan to enter the Port of Yamba in 2018?


On or about 23 October 2017 NSW Minister for Maritime, Roads and Freight Melinda Pavey, along with Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance and Nationals MP for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser, jointly announced “An investigation into a new International Cruise Ship Terminal for the NSW mid North Coast will start as part of a future transport blueprint, with Coffs Harbour and Yamba identified as potential locations.”


So much for the promised “investigation” before the starter's gun was fired.

On 20 November 2017 ABC North Coast's Facebook page revealed that the cruise ship’s scheduled ‘visit’ to Yamba was “not confirmed”:

A UK-based company is advertising an ocean cruise that includes a stop at Yamba.
The website for Noble Caledonia offers places on an Australian Coastal Odyssey which departs from Thursday Island in October next year.
The 90-metre-long Caledonia Sky will sail for 22 nights down Australia's east coast at a cost of more than $19,000 each for about 100 passengers.
One of the destinations listed is the north coast port of Yamba, but the state's Port Authority says there is no confirmed booking for the ship.
The ABC is seeking comment from the company.

Now the Noble Caledonia cruise line can formally request entrance to the Port of Yamba anytime up to 72 hours before “Caledonian Sky”’s arrival - although as an ocean-going ship requiring pilotage it would probably need to announce its intentions and book the pilot much sooner than that - so the Port Authority of NSW probably doesn’t have a confirmed booking yet.

Or is this response by the Port Authority more along the lines of a diplomatic face saver because Minister Pavey hasn’t told this state agency of a seemingly cosy little agreement she has with this cruise line?

Should Lower Clarence residents be checking the political donations register to see if the cruise ship industry has been making political donations to the NSW Nationals recently?

NSW Environmental Defender's Office has served irrigator and Nationals donor Peter Harris a summons demanding he return more than five billion litres of water he is alleged to have illegally taken from the Barwon-Darling River


The Australian, 14 November 2017:

The NSW Environmental Defender’s Office has served irrigator and Nationals donor Peter Harris a summons demanding he return more than five billion litres of water he is alleged to have ­illegally taken from the Barwon-Darling River.

The incidents of alleged water theft are the subject of ICAC, Ombudsman and Office of Water inquiries, which follow the standing down and resignation of former senior NSW water bureaucrat Gavin Hanlon.

It has also been revealed that NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair benefited Mr ­Harris, a cotton farmer, and other irrigators by changing the laws to pardon Mr Harris retrospectively for illegal flood works and that Mr Blair lobbied Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton to change the law to justify a decision to give Mr Harris more water trading rights.

In their action in the Land and Environment Court, the plaintiffs demand “the return of water, up to the equivalent of the total volume ... (to) occur immediately after the water is extracted from the water source and has passed through metering equipment” to measure it, but before it is stored.

Alternatively, the defender’s office is seeking orders so that Mr Harris forfeits his entitlement to the equivalent amount of water in ­future to replenish the river.

The summons was served on Peter James Harris and Jane Maree Harris and the matter is listed for December 8.

The amount of water allegedly taken would fill more than 2000 Olympic swimming pools.

Office chief executive David Morris said the action was being taken because the NSW government was not moving quickly enough to penalise Mr Harris.

“On two occasions EDO NSW has written to the NSW government outlining concerns about potential breaches of the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) and informing the government of intention to commence civil enforcement proceedings,” he said.

“No adequate response has been received from the government. In the face of government inaction, our client (the Inland Rivers Network) has seen no other choice but to commence proceedings in the Land and Environment Court.”

Monday, 20 November 2017

The depths to which xenophobia and bigotry has reduced Australia


Australia began to ignore its obligations under international law in 1992 and its determination to turn back asylum seeker boats and reduce the number of refugees accepted into this country grew apace until this is the situation in November 2017.

The New York Times, 18 November 2017:

Veteran United Nations officials said this month they had never seen a wealthy democracy go to such extremes to punish asylum seekers and push them away.

Papua New Guinea officials and local leaders, enraged at how the camp’s closure was handled, have demanded to know why Australia is not doing more to help the men.

HuffPost, 18 November 2017:

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's main medical association called on Saturday for the government to allow independent doctors and other health experts to help more than 400 asylum seekers languishing inside a recently closed detention center in Papua New Guinea.

The asylum seekers have shut themselves inside the Australian-run Manus Island Centre for the past 18 days, defying attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to close it in a standoff the United Nations describes as a "looming humanitarian crisis".

Australia has shut access to the center, and staff, including doctors, have left, leaving the men without sufficient food, clean water, power or medical care.

Members of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) voted unanimously on Saturday to call on the government to grant access to the center so doctors could assess the men's health, wellbeing and living conditions.

"The AMA has made many representations on this matter, both publicly and in private but, with a worsening and more dangerous situation emerging on Manus, the federal council strongly believes that urgent action and answers are needed," AMA President Michael Gannon said.

The Australian, 17 November 2017:

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has warned New Zealand it may damage its relationship with the government if it chooses to take Manus Island refugees without the approval of Australia.

Mr Dutton said New Zealand and Papua New Guinea “would have to think through” the impact it would have on their relationship with Australia if they made a unilateral agreement to resettle refugees from the offshore detention centre.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put pressure on the Turnbull government to accept its offer to resettle 150 refugees from Manus Island. The PNG Supreme Court ruled last week the asylum-seekers and refugees were probably the responsibility of PNG, opening the door for an agreement to resettle refugees without permission from Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November 2017:

As the Manus Island detention centre stand-off entered its fifth day, Mr Turnbull held talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Sydney, where she formally extended to Mr Turnbull the offer to take in 150 people. "The offer is very genuine and remains on the table," she said.

But Mr Turnbull said Australia remained focused on the US refugee resettlement deal, which has so far resulted in 54 people being resettled. The US deal covers up to 1250 people but US President Donald Trump dislikes it and vetting is taking a long time.

"In the wake of that deal obviously we can consider other ones," Mr Turnbull said. "We thank New Zealand for making an offer – we are not taking it up at this time."

New Zealand first made its offer to Julia Gillard's government in 2013 but it has been rejected by both Labor and the Coalition. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has now called on Mr Turnbull to accept it, saying it is similar to the US deal.

Sky News, 4 November 2017:

The United Nations human rights office has called on Australia to restore food, water and health services to about 600 interned refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, which Canberra cut off three days ago.

The detainees in the Manus Island Centre have defied attempts by the governments of Australia and PNG to close the camp, saying they fear violent reprisals from the local community if they are moved to other 'transit centres'.

'We call on the Australian government ... who interned the men in the first place to immediately provide protection, food, water and other basic services,' UN rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing on Friday.

Australia has an obligation to do so under international human rights law and the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, he said.

There was no immediate comment from Australia or its representatives in Geneva. Its government has said the camp had been ruled illegal by PNG authorities and it had committed to supply other sites for 12 months.

Colville joined the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in warning of an 'unfolding humanitarian emergency' in the centre where asylum seekers began digging wells on Thursday to try to find water as their food supplies dwindled.

The remote Manus Island centre has been a key part of Australia's disputed immigration policy under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, detaining them instead in PNG and Nauru in the South Pacific.

'We repeat our overall concerns about Australian offshore processing centres which are unsustainable, inhumane and contradictory to its human rights obligations,' Colville said.

Around 500 of the men have still not had their asylum claims processed, he said.

Volunteering levels in Australia and on the NSW North Coast


There has been some talk in local media about volunteering levels, with one bright spark suggesting that volunteering be made mandatory.

But are volunteering levels in Australia in such dire straits?

If one looks at available statistics it appears that Australia is fairly well served by people willing to give their time and effort to local communities.

The same can be said for the NSW Mid & Far North Coasts.

Here is a breakdown of volunteering levels.

Volunteering Australia, 27 June 2017:

The 2016 Census revealed that Australia’s population is 23.4 million people. Of this:

* 3.6 million people or 19.0% of the population aged 15 years and over are engaged in voluntary work through an organisation or group.
  This is a 1.2% increase from the 2011 Census  results, where 17.8% of people responded they were engaged in voluntary work.
* The rates of volunteering are highest among males aged 45-54 years at 302,612 people.
* The rates of volunteering are highest among women aged 35-44 at 399,889 people.
* Overall, the rates of volunteering are highest in the 45-54 year age group at 679,602 people.

Prior to release of 2016 Census results the Australian Government released, Giving Australia 2016,  Individuals: Volunteering Overview:

An estimated 43.7% of adult Australians volunteered a total of 932 million hours in the 12 months prior to when surveyed in 2016. On average, volunteers gave 134 hours of their time over 12 months in 2015-16* or about 2.5 hours a week. The median number of hours volunteered annually was 55 hours (half did more and half did less).
*Participants were surveyed over February to September 2016 about giving in the 12 months prior.

Women are more likely to volunteer than men,  people aged between 35 and 44 are more likely to volunteer than other age groups, with 45–54 year olds the second most likely to volunteer, and volunteers 65 years and over volunteered the most hours on average.

Some 38.2% of people responding both volunteered and donated to nonprofit organisations.

The average donation was $1,017.11.



Volunteer Australia, submission, July-August 2017:

A 2017 Senate inquiry report into the Future of Australia’s aged care sector workforce also highlighted this with, “83 per cent of residential facilities and 51 per cent of home care and home support outlets utilising volunteer staff.” The inquiry also heard that “there are five volunteers for every paid worker in the not-for-profit sector, at a value of about $290 billion per annum. In 2016, 23,537 volunteers provided 114,987 hours of care to older Australians in residential facilities.”

North Coast NSW Medicare Local, North Coast Health Needs 2014:

The percentage of people volunteering in each LGA on NCNSW is higher than the NSW average.


Northern Rivers Social Development Council (NRSDC) undertook a Community Wellbeing Survey to measure how people felt about their quality of life and to highlight current social conditions. Forty one percent of people reported they volunteered with a local group (36% nationally). Forty four percent of survey respondents felt valued by society and 90% felt that they could get help from family and friends if needed.

By 2016 these were the volunteer levels across the NSW Northern Rivers region:

* 18.2% of the Tweed LGA population;
* 19.5% of Richmond Valley LGA population;
* 20.7% of the Clarence Valley LGA population;
* 22.9% of the Ballina LGA population;
* 23.2% of the Lismore City LGA population;
* 25.0% of the Byron LGA population;
* 26.1% Kyogle LGA population;

were reporting doing some form of voluntary work in the last twelve months. [ABS Census 2016 & profile.id.com.au]

Overall it appears that an est. 21.1 per cent of the Northern Rivers regional population does voluntary work, which is a higher percentage than the 2016 NSW state benchmark of 18.11 per cent .

Basically volunteer levels in the Northern Rivers are holding steady at last count. Every local volunteer should give themselves a pat on the back!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

FACT CHECK: Size comparison - cargo vessel Island Trader and cruise ship Caledonian Sky


The debate concerning the Sydney-driven proposal to make the Port of Yamba a cruise ship destination continues.

I have noticed there has been some comment on social media that the small cruise ships Yamba could expect to have ‘visit’ would be same size or smaller than the Island Trader which used Yamba as its home port for around 17 years.

The phrase “small cruise ship” is being taken literally and the conclusion invited is that these cruise ships are so small there is nothing to be concerned about.

To assist with a more accurate size comparison I have laid out the dimensions of the cargo vessel MV Island Trader and the passenger ship MV Caledonian Sky below.

The comparison indicates that if the proposal goes ahead the average small cruise ship entering the Clarence River estuary is likely to be at least twice the size of the Island Trader.

# This is MV Island Trader

The Island Trader was built in 1981, has 485 gross tonnage, dead weight of 242t*, is 38.8m long, 9m wide and has a maximum draft of 2.8m.

This cargo vessel is owned by Lord Howe Island Sea Freight Pty Ltd and since 2009 has called Port Macquarie its home port.


# This is the small cruise ship MV Caledonian Sky due to enter Port of Yamba on or about 24 October 2018

The Caledonian Sky was built in 1991, has 4,200 gross tonnage, dead weight of 645t*, is 90.6m long, 15.3m wide and has a maximum draft of 4.25m.

This passenger ship is reportedly owned by Noble Caledonia Limited and is currently sailing under the flag of Bahamas.

* Dead Weight is the maximum weight of the cargo, crew, passengers, stores and bunkers that it can safely carry when loaded so that it settles in the water to the Plimsoll line.