Monday, February 23, 2009


Three articles below:

Major Australian political parties in climate of confusion

MALCOLM Turnbull's new focus on greenhouse gas reduction policy is simply a diversion from internal problems in the opposition, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says. The Opposition leader - who has been fending off renewed speculation about the ambitions of Peter Costello - has seized on the Government's emissions trading scheme (ETS) policy, flagging a Senate inquiry to replace the one the Government axed last week.

But today Liberal MPs were unwilling to define their policy with frontbencher Christopher Pyne telling ABC Television: "Everything's on the table.'' Emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb was also reluctant to provide more details. "We will specify that in clearer terms later on,'' he said, when asked for a specific reduction target. Queensland backbencher Stuart Robert was happy to attack the Government, but unable to offer clear advice on where the Opposition was heading. "The Government's ETS will cost jobs,'' Mr Robert said in Canberra.

Mr Turnbull has also signalled a more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target than the Government's 5-15 per cent by 2020, and a less complex scheme for achieving the target. The Government has dismissed the new stance, saying it is a mirage.

However the Government is also grappling with what the final shape of its emissions policy will be. Senator Wong says the Government has always acknowledged the need for additional policies to its planned emissions trading scheme. But turning Australia from one of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world to a low-pollution one requires the "hard'' economic reform of an ETS.

"Mr Turnbull knows this,'' Senator Wong said. The only reason he is walking away from the ETS is because of deep divisions in the Liberal Party, she said. "Many ... simply do not want to take action on climate change.''

Tasmanian Labor MP Dick Adams said he leant toward starting with a lower reduction target. "We can't go about sending our capital offshore and therefore costing us one hell of a lot of jobs. "I'm a minimalist in this debate, let's start, let's get a scheme out there and then let's deal with that over a period of years.''

South Australian Government backbencher Amanda Rishworth said it was hard to believe anything the Opposition said about climate change. "I don't believe what Malcolm Turnbull does say because he's dealing with a party that is filled with climate change sceptics.'' [Heartening news!]


Warmist laws to butcher Australian farm production

The nation's agricultural output would be slashed by $2.4 billion a year by 2020 under Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme. Losses to the farming sector would balloon to $10.9 billion a year by 2030, driven by production declines of more than 25 per cent in the beef and wool industries, a report by the Centre for International Economics has found. The forecasts are based on the federal Government's White Paper assumption that agriculture will have to pay for its emissions by 2016.

The study, prepared for the Australian Farm Institute in conjunction with Australian Wool Innovation and Dairy Australia, finds the sheepmeats, pork and dairy sectors will also be hit hard, with production drops by 2030 of 21 per cent, 10.4 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively. Producers will experience a big rise in ETS-related costs even before agriculture's inclusion in the scheme because of increased energy, fertiliser and transport costs, the study finds.

The increased cost of Australian products is expected to cause export volumes to decline. Exports of beef and sheep are projected to decline by 14 per cent and 10 per cent respectively by 2030 if agriculture is included in an emissions trading scheme. David Pearce, of the Centre for International Economics, said the research body had been surprised by the size of the fallout expected to hit the livestock-based industries of beef, sheepmeat, wool and dairy. "There is a cost increase for the cropping industries but nowhere near as big as for the meat-based," he said. "One of the key things we show is that agriculture will be affected by the scheme whether or not it is a participant. "Parts of agriculture are energy intensive; they use inputs which involve energy, fertilisers, chemicals; they also use a lot of transport in order to shift commodities around the country."

Peter Heelan, 52, who runs cattle at his Ulcanbah Station, 90km from Clermont in central Queensland, said he knew one thing about the Prime Minister's ETS: it was going to cost him money, which could not be worse timed following the floods and droughts that had hit rural Australia in recent years. "Everyone in the bush is hoping the ETS will go away," Mr Heelan said. "We're at the end of the line. We can't pass it on but everything will be passed on to us - the cost of electricity, transport, any fodder you've got to buy, it's all likely to rise. "The ETS will send some people to the wall. I'm sure a lot of bush people have large debts after floods and droughts. Things are tight enough as they are."

Australian Farm Institute head Mick Keogh said the report showed the impact of the emissions trading scheme would be far greater than the projected slowdown under the unlikely worst case scenarios developed by Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. "The biggest threat to agriculture over the next half century is not climate change, it is climate change policy," Mr Keogh said, adding that the ETS had the potential to do profound and long-lasting damage to the sector. "Even the most conservative projection of 9 per cent reduction in the beef industry by 2020 represents $1.5 billion reduction in output, which would lead to a significant loss of job opportunities and major changes to regional economies," Mr Keogh said. "That would amount to a massive change in rural communities."


Increased croc danger due to protection

A different Battle of the Boyne

Dangerous saltwater crocodiles may be expanding into new territory in southern Queensland under a "huge recovery" in numbers, experts have warned. One world-renowned crocodile expert believes Queensland needs to reconsider culling, with increased sightings of maneater-sized reptiles in southern parts of the state. Prominent researchers Professor Grahame Webb, from Darwin, and Professor Gordon Grigg, from the University of Queensland, said the state's existing crocodile management plan was "inadequate". They say there is insufficient data about crocodile movements and numbers.

But Environmental Protection Agency director-general Terry Wall hit back, saying that since November last year, the EPA had responded quickly and effectively to more than 40 separate crocodile reports and incidents around the state [Not counting those who got killed and eaten by crocs, I guess]. "There is no evidence of crocodile populations expanding beyond the accepted range, the southerly extreme of which is the Boyne River," Mr Wall said. "Crocodiles do, from time to time, turn up south of the Boyne and a large animal was shot in the Logan River south of Brisbane in 1905. This is a rare occurrence." He denied there had been any explosion in saltwater crocodile numbers, saying "available data showed population recovery was slow" due to predators eating eggs, the low survival rate of hatchlings and illegal fishing.

But the experts say there has been too little research. Professor Webb, head of the United Nations crocodile specialists group, said claims of a static population were "nonsense". "There has been a huge recovery in population," he said, suggesting it might be time to bring back the gun.

His comments come amid heated debate over culling after the death of crocodile attack victim Jeremy Doble, 5, who was taken by a 4.3m crocodile on the Daintree River on February 8. His parents, Steve and Sharon Doble, who operate crocodile tours, asked that the animal not be harmed. It will be sold to a crocodile farm.

Professor Webb said many Queenslanders appeared to be croc-huggers. "They are a large and dangerous predator that extends up and down the east coast of Queensland," Professor Webb said. "There is nothing wrong with removing crocs by shooting or culling because their populations are robust. "Crocs cause the biggest problem when they suddenly appear in areas, when they are moving around trying to find new territory." Professor Webb said that while the climate and terrain of the Northern Territory and parts of Cape York was ideal for crocodiles, they were known to move as far south as Coffs Harbour in New South Wales.

University of Queensland Emeritus Professor of Zoology Gordon Grigg, who is writing a book on crocodile biology, said the EPA needed to do more regular surveys. "We've had sporadic surveys and I think we'd be better if they were done more frequently," he said. "The EPA needs to know a lot more about the animals, where they are, what numbers, and where they can be in possible conflict with humans." Only then could informed decisions be made about how to handle them.

He said reports of resident crocs in the state's southeast should not be dismissed. "It is certainly not impossible, salties would not be able to breed and raise young as far south as Coffs Harbour or Brisbane, but certainly a largish croc is able to come down this far south. "I suspect if they did come this far they'd be lost, they'd have swum the wrong way, they'd be strays."

Professor Craig Franklin, of the University of Queensland, said humans were encroaching more and more on crocodile territory as people ventured more into their zone. "In the end we have to learn to live alongside crocodiles as we will never completely remove them," he said. "My fear is that people who believe a cull is the solution will ultimately lead people into a false sense of security, simply because you might remove them for the short term, but next week, next month or next year another one will appear in the system."

Estuarine crocodiles, also known as salties, are protected nationally and listed as "vulnerable" in Queensland. Hunting was banned in 1971. It is estimated there are up to 80,000 wild crocodiles around Australia. In 2007, an EPA vessel-based survey of 47 Queensland rivers stretching from the Endeavour River near Cooktown to the Burnett River near Bundaberg, identified 289 crocodiles of varying sizes. The next study is set down for late this year.

Under the latest EPA estuarine crocodile management plan released last month, authorities are allowed to remove up to 50 problem crocodiles a year from the wild to be placed in captive crocodile facility. Last year seven were removed, compared with 12 the previous year. All crocodiles trapped south of the Boyne are removed from the wild. Satellite tracking of three large male crocodiles, between 3m and 4m long, shows the prehistoric creatures can swim up to 30km a day.

One relocated croc swam 400km in 20 days, displaying an impressive homing instinct by returning to within metres of its former territory on the other side of Cape York Peninsula in a single journey. [So much for all the good that relocating them does]



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