Asian Correspondent » Gavin Atkins Asian Correspondent Tue, 26 May 2015 22:51:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Thanks and farewell Sat, 07 Jan 2012 00:41:40 +0000 I have decided to take an extended break from blogging this year to chase up some other freelance writing opportunities. I am not sure when or if I will be back – it depends on whether the blogging bug returns.

The ShadowLands
blog has been going for three and a half years now, and it’s been a blast.

For the last two years I have been fortunate enough to work for Asian Correspondent, which is an important model for new media, and has already made a valuable, independent contribution to public discourse.

My sincere thanks to James Craven and the team at Hybrid News who have made it happen while allowing me all the freedom in the world.

My special thanks also go to those people who have supported the blog with links and inspiration and put up with my pestering, including Andrew Bolt, blog-father Tim Blair, Boy on a Bike, Theo Spark (look out, contains hot totty), Small Dead Animals, Tizonas, RWDB’s JF Beck and Dan and bloodnut kae.

Extra special thanks to my great online buddy and link provider, JM Heinrichs.

In the meantime, support the Tasmanian timber workers, educate your lefty friends about Israel and then reward them with chocolates.

Even better, why not have a go at starting up your own blog? Go on, I dare you.

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Stuff I wrote somewhere else Thu, 05 Jan 2012 23:33:17 +0000 Here is a selection of articles  published outside Asian Correspondent in recent times…

Online Aunty walks on the left side of the street. Me whinging about online ABC- ironic/hypocritical/ indicative of complex personal contradictions –  take your pick.

Deciphering double speak of the new paradigm. Your Gillard dictionary right there, folks.

Can we afford the World Cup?  Not the most exciting article I ever wrote, but probably the most prescient. Turns out it would have cost us $1.5 billion, nearly as much as the flood levy, but we  were only told afterwards. Our World Cup bid was a disaster, but not as disastrous as winning the bid would have been.

Let the Tank Stream run free.  This article was inspired by the sheer arrogance of commenters at ABC Online when discussing the Murray Darling Basin, and one comment in particular, “Australia’s greatest urban waterways are worth more than your mundane lifestyles.” The Government has since torn up its report that put crustaceans ahead of people. Good.

Labor should stop meddling in markets…Where I argue that the problem with the Government is a comical inability to understand supply and demand.

The shallowness of rating politicians during disasters. My response to the Queensland floods.

If the Egyptians are hungry, let them eat ethanol. The importance of the price of food in international politics is vastly under-rated by western countries IMHO, and ethanol production may already have contributed to political unrest in the middle east. Great headline – wish it was my idea.

Fukushima facts obscured. How the IAEA failed us at Fukushima. (On the subject of nuclear, here’s one I wrote a few years ago – why we should export uranium to India.)

What will we do for a laugh without NSW Labor? The lowest form of humour is better than none at all, I reckon.

Radiation, activists and other hazards: includes a little anecdote explaining how I came to dislike hippies.

Another of my hobbies – whingeing about ABC online.

A little less conversation, a lot more fact checking.

Why it’s time to throw out your fax

My take on Australian of the Year.

Why everybody loves a climate crisis.

A case for fixing the Constitution.

The Culture Wars quiz.

Woohoo – I made it to the Speccie – one of my favourite mags. Why Europe needs a dose of thistle soup.

My AFL rant.

Our golden delusion – Olympic-sized rant this time…

How I got skinny.

My tribute to the Canberra centenary.

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What are your predictions for 2012? Mon, 26 Dec 2011 06:51:14 +0000 It is customary at this time of year for The ShadowLands blog to record its predictions for the coming year. Go on, knock yourself out, and record your own predictions in comments…

• The Australian economy to remain flat, but increasing concerns to emerge about declining income from mining.
• More doubts to be raised about the measurement of Chinese economic growth.
• European economic situation to go from bad to worse cos they ain’t facing up to reality.
• It to become increasingly clear that the National Broadband Network has been a monumental waste of billions of dollars.
• Julia Gillard’s poll numbers to remain flat.
• Carbon price to cause companies to say they will move offshore. Gillard Government to be extremely generous throwing taxpayers’ money at them – causing more companies to claim they will go offshore.
• Gillard to win a challenge to her leadership around March and to eventually take Labor over the waterfall to its heaviest ever defeat.
• Rudd not to get enough numbers to seriously consider any challenge.
• NRL to get a significantly bigger television deal than AFL, causing some confusion in AFL-dominated media pundit land.
• Over and above any other failings, the Federal Speaker to turn out to be hopeless at the job, making Question Time virtually unworkable.
• Forests that have come under the protection of greenies in Tasmania to go up in flames in the summer of 2012/13, killing off many hectares of old growth forest and releasing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.
• Aussie uranium stocks to go gangbusters (Paladin currently $1.41).
• Tim Flannery’s Geodynamics to fail to produce electricity and the share price to halve once again (currently 15).
• The major ramifications from Fukushima to be related to stress, not radiation.
• European elections to favour the Right in a major way.
• The European Left to riot some more, since they’re not really that into the whole democracy thing.
• London Olympics to be fun, but a financial black hole.
• Bob Ellis to be sued – again.
• Populations to continue to increase from places where climate refugees are supposed to come from.
• Break up of ice to be two days later than 2011 in the 2012 Nenana Ice Classic (that would be May 6).
• Gillard to send asylum seekers to Nauru, more or less returning to the Howard Government’s Pacific Solution.
• Gillard to try to find some way to kill off Kevin Rudd.
• Record levels of self harm and disastrous fires in detention centres.
• Following major earthquake everywhere else on the Pacific rim in 2011, a major one to hit the US west coast in 2012.

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Australia’s most appalling big things Sun, 25 Dec 2011 09:06:04 +0000 Back in the 1960s, a far-sighted individual built a 13 metre fibreglass banana as a roadside attraction at Coffs Harbour, on the New South Wales north coast. The Big Banana was one of the first tourist traps of its type, and is still one of the best – offering educational tours and activities, and a range of ghastly souvenirs.

Ever since the success of the Big Banana, towns around Australia have tried to replicate it and always fallen short to some degree. Here are some of Australia’s worst big things.

Ayers Rock, Karuah
The Ayers Rock attraction at Karuah on the mid north coast of NSW is not technically a big thing since it is smaller than the original, but oh my God, it truly is ghastly. This idea was a disastrous investment by the legendary Leyland Brothers. Check out the picture, and I’m sure you’ll agree that nothing quite conveys the cheapness and tawdriness of outback Australia…

The Big Potato, Robertson

The World’s Biggest Sundial, Singleton
The world’s biggest sundial might conceivably be of passing interest to some nerds somewhere if there were not larger sundials around the world. In fact, it turns out that it is the southern hemisphere’s largest one-piece sun dial. Not the worst looking big thing on this list, but possibly the nerdiest, and a grand reminder of regional mediocrity.

The Big Orange, Gayndah
Welcome to Gayndah, home of the world’s most unappetising looking oranges. Note to Gayndah Council: next time, make sure you check whether or not your contractor is colour blind.

The Big Wave, Phillip Island
Just yuck.

The Big Apple, Bacchus Marsh
Who knew that apples from Bacchus Marsh could look like some kind of inflamed, tortured gonad? Thanks, but I’ll have a packet of chips.

The Big Mushroom, Belconnen
Situated in the ACT, I guess this is symbolic of what the government feeds us on and what it does with public funds. The rust somehow just sets it off.

The Giant Koala, Dadswell Bridge
Is it possible to make the world’s cutest animal look completely frightful? Oh yes it is.

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2011: A year in the ShadowLands Sat, 24 Dec 2011 04:02:45 +0000 What a far out year it has been in the ShadowLands.

It was a very ordinary year for disasters beginning with the Queensland floods. I listened into Queensland emergency services radio and made notes.

There was much talk about whether much of the damage from the floods could have been prevented by flood management. Inquiries eventually agreed with the assessment. Poor old Bangkok suffered from similar issues later in the year.

Germaine Greer got carried away by the whole thing, but I guess that’s what she does.

The ShadowLands complained about the conduct of the Ombudsman’s office, suggesting it demonstrated partisanship by releasing a report when news was dominated by a cyclone. Funnily enough, the Ombudsman was forced to resign later in the year after being accused of colluding with the Greens on another issue.

The true heroes of the year, I believe, were the engineers of the buildings in Tokyo.

Alena Composta had me and many others guessing for a while. Turns out she may be some relation to Professor Bunyip. Hoax of the Year, without a doubt.

We put together a radioactive recipe, had a go at John Birmingham, and discovered that a UN agency tried to hide its prediction that there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010 after I examined it. This turned out to be the biggest environment story on the internet for a couple of days and was covered in international media such as Der Spiegel, Fox News, New Scientist and the Wall Street Journal. I was even interviewed by the BBC.

An academic paper more or less vindicated my stance.

I challenged the folk at the ABC website to show they are not biased – and they failed, naturally. A number of these issues were addressed at Senate Estimates.

I loved this quote from the editor of Cosmos magazine, upset the ABC correspondent Mark Willacy by asking questions about his radiation exposure and then writing about it, noted the Greens’ campaign against wind turbines, got carried away on twitter, nearly hooked up with a gorgeous African refugee, hailed the decision by Alan Joyce to ground Qantas (seems to be working out fine for him so far), predicted a bushfire time bomb, and took note of expert opinion about Fukushima.

Then there was stuff I wrote somewhere else.

Jeez, time for a cup of tea and a good lie down.

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Strange fruit – ten weird facts about bananas Fri, 23 Dec 2011 23:04:03 +0000 After a series of cyclones caused a grievous lack of bananas in Australia in 2011, the time has come to reacquaint ourselves with this strange fruit:

10: Banana peels can filter water by absorbing toxins, such as heavy metals in industrial waste like lead, copper, cadmium, and chromium.

9: If you look at bananas under a black light, you will find that they glow blue at the peak of their ripeness.

8: Green banana peels are a source of anti-oxidants, and one study suggests banana peel extract could help treat enlarged prostates.

7: If the sun were made of bananas, it would (initially) be just as hot. Bananas would create just as much pressure and therefore create just as much heat – although it wouldn’t last, since there would be no fusion.

6: Cuban douchebag, Fidel Castro grew up on a 10,000 acre banana plantation.

5: Bananas contain radioactive potassium with a half life of 1.25 billion years. Some say potassium is good for fighting hangovers.

4: If you throw a banana in front of a colony of bees they get really pissed off, because the pheromone that makes bees agitated is the same compound that makes bananas taste like bananas.

3: The banana tree is not a tree, it’s a herb.

2: Because bananas don’t have seeds, popular varieties are at high risk of becoming extinct, should they be attacked by an aggressive disease.

1: Bananas are 80 per cent water, but it is extremely hard to extract banana juice. Indian scientists first found a way to do it in 2005, but the method remains a secret.

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Passing shadows Thu, 22 Dec 2011 23:18:27 +0000 * Why bushwalking in Australia is really not so bad.
* Drug affected? Maybe you’ll appreciate this website.
* Ellen’s back cover.
* Goddawful Christmas portraits.
* Dubstep Christmas light show.
* But how can they really be sure?
* A little inspiration from Steve Jobs.
* More inspiration from Bus 62.
* Rollerdude.
* The toaster museum foundation.
* Sound of a baby rhino.
* Penguin gets the paper.
* Top beards.
* Little things.

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Five top Sydney beaches Tue, 20 Dec 2011 19:37:42 +0000 There aren’t many cities in the world with as many great beaches as Sydney. Here’s your local guide to five of our top beaches, with my ratings mainly based on how good they are for a swim, however, anyone with an ounce of curiosity will find many more great places to get wet. Even if you think you are a good swimmer, visitors are advised to always swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags.

Palm Beach
Palm Beach is where the richest people in Sydney keep holiday houses, with many heading up the northern peninsular at this time of year. People from overseas might find it all strangely familiar as this is the location for many of the scenes for the inexplicably popular soap opera, Home and Away.

The rich and famous are welcome to keep Palm Beach all to themselves as far as I’m concerned, as it’s one of the less attractive swimming beaches in Sydney. The sand is a weird, coarse orange colour, and the surf is quite exposed to the ocean and often too rough to enjoy.

Nevertheless, it’s still worth a visit, with a walk to the Barranjoey Lighthouse always a pleasant outing. I might not rate the beach, but a daytrip is a good day out, particularly with a stop for lunch at the Newport Arms Hotel to introduce you to the joys of nearby Pittwater.

Rating 5/10

A little closer to the city, Manly is a classic Aussie beach, with smooth white sand and a gentle gradient, making it a safe beach for a family swim.

In fact, while they are my least favourite football team, Manly is my favourite Sydney beach – it’s always clean, the mall usually has a good vibe (if you avoid the rowdy pubs late on Friday nights) and the waves are even and rarely too big for an enjoyable dip. A trip on the Manly ferry is almost mandatory for visitors to Sydney, along with a lunch of fish and chips in the mall and an ice cream in the afternoon.

Those who are in the know will follow the promenade around to the right until they come to Shelly Beach, a north facing gem of a beach, perfect for young kids or just a quiet afternoon swim.

Rating 9/10

Balmoral Beach
Situated in an exclusive suburb on beautiful Middle Harbour, Balmoral Beach will suit people who don’t care much for waves.

Balmoral has more of a European vibe than most other Sydney beaches and is a prime spot for viewing hot rich chicks from the north shore… or at least, so some coarse folk of my acquaintance who care for such things tell me. The only down side is it’s a little harder to get to than many other beaches – and there are no waves. Still, a great place to chill out.

Rating 7/10

Bondi Beach
Australia’s most famous beach is also a great clean, swimming beach – though it’s often a bit more challenging than it first appears. Even good swimmers should never swim outside the flagged areas unless you want to appear on an edition of Bondi Rescue. Small kids can paddle safely close to shore but may be best directed to swim in a sea pool at the northern end.

The walk south – the Bondi to Bronte walk – is one of the best things you can do in Sydney, and a drink or a meal at Bondi Icebergs will be slightly over-priced, but worth it for the view. Bondi itself has a few trendy shops that are worth a look. Also, the guys from Bondi Rescue love it when people knock on their door for no reason, especially that cranky old bald bastard. You’ll need to set aside some coin for the parking, or else catch a train to Bondi Junction and get the bus for the last few kilometres.

Rating 8/10

Cronulla has two options, the northern Wanda beach where the teenagers like to hang out, and the cosier South Cronulla which is more popular with families and usually a bit safer. Both are fine for a swim, although the water never seems to be as clean as some other beaches, and conditions are variable.

The walk south of Cronulla to the mouth of Port Hacking is one of the most under-rated activities in Sydney, but is greatly favoured by mums with prams and kids with scooters because there are no steps. Cronulla has the advantage of access by train, and a visit to the beach combined with a trip to the movies or a stroll down the mall are quite tolerable. Parking is free but not easy to find on weekends.

Rating 7/10

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Kim Jong-il (1941 – 2011) – a tribute Mon, 19 Dec 2011 19:47:07 +0000 Ass, block, blockhead, bonehead, bungler, changeling, chump, clot, cretin, dimwit, dolt, donkey, dope, dumbo, dummy, dunce, fathead, fat-head, fool, half-wit, ignoramus, imbecile, lunatic, madman, moron, nincompoop, ninny, nit, nitwit, numskull, lazy tub-o-lard, nut, oaf, retard, simpleton, twit, wanker, booby , bugger, burk, fatty, lump, tub, porker, fatso, lard-ass, cretin, damn fool, dumbbell, hammerhead, jackass, loggerhead, moron, peabrain, pinhead,twerp, twirp, wally, wanker, drongo, dill, beef-witted barnacle, beetle-headed bladder, boil-brained boar pig, clay-brained bum-bailey, crook-pated clack-dish, dizzy-eyed coxcomb, droning dog-hearted codpiece, earth-vexing dewberry, elf-skinned flap-dragon, fat-kidneyed flax-wench, frothy fen-sucked flirt-gill, gleeking flap-mouthed foot-licker, goatish fly-bitten fustilarian, gorbellied folly-fallen giglet, impertinent fool-born gudgeon, infectious full-gorged haggard, jarring guts-griping harpy, loggerheaded half-faced hedge-pig, lumpish hasty-witted horn-beast, mammering hedge-born hugger-mugger, mangled hell-hated joithead mewling idle-headed lewdster, paunchy ill-breeding lout, pribbling ill-nurtured maggot-pie, puking knotty-pated malt-worm, puny milk-livered mammet, qualling motley-minded measle, rank onion-eyed minnow. reeky plume-plucked miscreant, roguish pottle-deep moldwarp, ruttish pox-marked mumble-news, saucy reeling-ripe nut-hook, spleeny rough-hewn pigeon-egg, spongy rude-growing pignut, surly rump-fed puttock, tottering shard-borne pumpion, unmuzzled sheep-biting ratsbane, vain spur-galled scut, venomed swag-bellied skainsmate, villainous tardy-gaited strumpet, warped tickle-brained varlet wayward toad-spotted vassal, weedy unchin-snouted whey-face, yeasty weather-bitten wagtail, a boastful and self-important person; a strutting little fellow, lickspittle, cockalorum, smellfungus, unprincipled nellygoster, ninnyhammer, mulish mumpsimus milksop, clownish lout, shyster, lawyer, mooncalf, awkward hobbledehoy, idiot.

Thank God Kim Jong-il is dead. Good riddance, dickhead.

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Was the Iraq War worth it? Mon, 19 Dec 2011 12:41:44 +0000 With the Americans removing their last troops from Iraq, the question should be asked: was the war really worth it?

The Iraq War has taken a terrible toll – responsible for more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths according to the credible Iraqi Body Count project, and the deaths of more than 4,000 American soldiers. Australia has been very fortunate to have suffered only two deaths.

As bad as this might be, we should remember that the Left once claimed that hundreds of thousands of people were dying in Iraq because of sanctions, before the war. If this was true, then the war caused fewer deaths than the diplomatic phase.

A further question is how many people might have died under the continued rule of Saddam. Forgetting about the plight of the Kurds for one moment, Iran and Iraq have a long history of warfare, with the most recent conflict costing an estimated one million Iraqi lives. With the backing of the United States, there is not going to be another one of these conflicts any time soon.

Perhaps more importantly is the long term affect that the democratisation of Iraq may have in the region. While there is some way to go yet before Iraq – or any other place in the middle east – becomes stable, it seems that the democracy idea is catching on in the middle east.

The capture of Saddam Hussein also means that no tyrant in the middle east will sleep very soundly.

The truth is that it is still too early to say whether the Iraq War will bring the benefits we hope for, but the democratisation of the middle east may yet bolster the argument that it was justified.

(By the way, it’s been a rough year for dictators, what?)

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Why Ricky Ponting should get another chance Sat, 17 Dec 2011 13:09:57 +0000 The great batsman and former Australian cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, lives in my neck of the woods, and I occasionally see him out shopping with his young family.

It’s always funny to see the reactions of locals who try to play it cool and leave him alone, but if there is anyone around who hails from the sub-continent, you can be assured they will shed any inhibitions and approach him for autographs and posed photos.

This possibly sums up how Ricky – formerly the world’s number one batsman and named player of the 2000s – is perceived. He is revered around the world, but under-appreciated in his own country.

Ricky is not at his best form right now, but calls for his sacking are plainly ridiculous. Ponting playing at 70 per cent of his ability is better than any replacement we have available – and the touring battle-hardened Indian team would love nothing better than to hear that we have dumped him.

The problem for cricketers is that commentators of the game have far too much time on their hands, and calling for Ponting’s sacking seems to have become the lazy opinion you need to have to get yourself published.

This guy, writing for the ABC website, takes this predictable road, and even uses the ridiculous method of calculating his average since his last double century – thereby making his performances seem particularly dire. By calculating anyone’s performances by removing the best achievement, every one of us would look pretty ordinary.

The ShadowLands blog headed out on Friday night to watch the inaugural game of the Big Bash 20/20 tournament, between the Sydney Sixers and the Brisbane Heat. It was an entertaining night out, interspersed with some flashes of great quality cricket.

What stood out, however, was how 40-year-old cricketers like Matthew Hayden and Stuart McGill still appeared to be a class above the players who are supposed to be in their prime. Australian cricket is in a period of transition, but the lesson here is that we should make the most of our champions while we still have them.

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Passing shadows Thu, 15 Dec 2011 21:31:24 +0000 * How to identify wood.
* Redneck engineering.
* Baby elephants know it’s Friday.
* Urban mining – way cool.
* A year in lego.
* Vacuum collector.
* Lizard is a player.
* Chauvinist merchandise.
* Bad Christmas decorations.
* Fun with explosives.
* Local news people saying rude things. (NSFW)
* Cool museum.
* Korean kids sing Ramones.
* Owl dog groomer.
* Got 20 minutes for a cool story?

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Duds and diamonds – a review of our 2011 predictions Wed, 14 Dec 2011 19:47:08 +0000 The ShadowLands blog has a nasty habit of checking up on people’s predictions and then making fun of them when they don’t come true.

So the time is well and truly nigh for us to be held accountable for the predictions we made last year. As usual a few of them went well…and a lot of others, erm…never mind.

Here are our predictions, with comments in italics:

 From out of nowhere, Australia to go into light technical recession, in other words, two quarters of negative growth. (Clues in poor Christmas trading, 0.2 percent September growth, drop in consumer confidence, and possible slow down in some Asian export markets). ABC online and Fairfax to bulge at the seams with opinion pieces saying that growth in GDP is irrelevant as a measure of economic health.

Australia did not go into recession, but did suffer one quarter of negative growth. As usual, income from mining saved our bacon as the rest of the economy was flat. Kind of as predicted, Fairfax media decided to abandon GDP and adopt the Wellbeing Index. Seriously, what a load of wank.

 China’s economy to go arse up later in the year, putting us in big, big trouble.

You could not claim this one, but there are some serious rumblings at the moment such as this. The prices of some Australian commodities have fallen significantly, and bigger falls next year could have serious ramifications for us.

 Power bills to become the issue of the year.

I’m not sure it was the issue of the year, but it was certainly in the news a great deal.

 Extreme pressure put on Labor’s carbon price, which they will put off.

This prediction was wrong mainly because even I didn’t think Labor could be so stupid. Labor have legislated a carbon price while the rest of the world walked away from their commitments.

 Aussie dollar to plummet 30 percent by end of the year. (Tip: Buy overseas assets before it happens).

Wrong. It seemed strange and unworldly when the Aussie dollar reached parity with the US dollar, but with the American economy still very sick and Australia powering along, it is now starting to seem normal. Surprisingly, Australian exports remain competitive – which is a testament to the quality of goods we export.

 US economy to show significant signs of improvement.

No, it didn’t – there is still a long way to go.

 Break up of ice to be five days later than 2010 in the 2011 Nenana Ice Classic.

Remarkably, I was spot on.

A tripod on an Alaskan River broke through the ice at about the midpoint of historical results. How is our climate emergency going again?

 Abbott to overtake Gillard as preferred Prime Minister by June.

Newspoll announced at the end of June that Abbott had overtaken Gillard. When I made the prediction, she was leading by 52 to 32.

 Kevin Rudd to be a huge pain in the arse for Gillard.

I think I can claim this one.

 Scandals about the alleged conduct of Bill Shorten to mysteriously emerge at about the same time.

Not true – a relatively quiet year for the oompaloompah.

 Scandal to emerge about mistreatment of asylum seekers in Indonesian detention centres with Australia’s imprimatur.

I think everything else that could be disastrous with the asylum policy happened except this.

 Significant progress in Afghanistan by coalition forces aided greatly by the fact that Paul McGeough is always wrong about this stuff.

A sad year in Afghanistan for Australian troops. It’s difficult to claim progress following a number of casualties caused by Afghans turning their guns on Australians. For better or worse, we are eventually going to have to leave the joint to its own devices.

 The usual numbers of asylum seekers allowed to disappear on boats – but also possibly, a detention centre fire.

Yes, plenty more drownings like this and numerous fires. Ho hum.

 Record levels of self harm detected in detention centres.

A former mental health professional who was Australian of the Year supported the Rudd-Gillard policies on asylum seekers and, yes, there have been hundreds of incidents of self-harm. I guess it’s all good for business.

 Asylum seekers identified as having links with terrorism.

Well, yes, but guess what? Looks like we have to keep them.

 A major terrorist event in western Europe with at least two plotters called Mo.

A guy called Mo – admittedly only one – killed 36 people at a Moscow airport in April.

 The SBS documentary Immigration Nation to be full of the usual inaccurate lefty tosh about racism.

Yes, it was.

 More revelations about breaches of the NRL salary cap involving St George Illawarra, Parramatta, South Sydney or the Gold Coast Titans.

No more salary cap breaches found this year. Accountants undoubtedly getting payrises.

 Israel Folau (AFL) and Greg Inglis (NRL) to suffer shocking season-ending knee injuries.

Didn’t happen. 2012 shapes up as a fascinating year in the battle of the footy codes.

 An Australian pop star to die of a drug overdose.

Surprisingly, none that I am aware of.

 Julian Assange to be acquitted of sexual assault in Sweden and to continue to be the richest and most feted oppressed person in the world.

No trial, but the summary of his status seems apt. He won a Walkley Award.

 Wikileaks, the movie, to be a shocker.

No sign of the movie yet.

New Matilda to collapse into recriminations about money – the way that it always goes in lefty utopias.

Well, kind of. Tim Blair let the favoured journal for the fashionable anti-semite off with a donation to charity. Let’s hope they kiss his effigy every day they turn up for work.

 Liberals to win NSW election by record margin and state of NSW economy found to be worse than they ever thought causing horror budget. Labor defeat to be worse than that predicted by Mumble at The Australian.

It was massive. I was right, Mumble was wrong. The whole horror budget thing was right as well.

 Tim Flannery’s geothermal company Geodynamics’ share price to fall below 20 cents. (It’s currently at 38).

Despite having massive support from the government, Geodynamics share price has indeed halved as predicted.

 Uranium explorer share prices to continue to go gangbusters. Take, for example, Toro Energy, currently at 15 cents.

Dead wrong. My bullishness for uranium stocks was undone by Fukushima. With Toro currently at about 10 cents, interestingly enough, you would still have been better off than investing in Geodynamics – where there was no catastrophic event to speak of other than a general malaise.

 Gillard to finally do something concrete to discourage asylum seekers, but not enough to keep her in the Prime Ministership by the end of 2011.

Wrong and wrong again. Gillard has failed to stop asylum seekers but is somehow still Prime Minister.

 The ALP to endorse gay marriage.

The ALP agreed to allow a conscience vote at its Conference. The key to getting this prediction right was my understanding that Julia Gillard is a liar.

 Gillard Ministers to be pardoned from incompetent and scandalous behaviour because of fear they might bring the whole thing undone.

Craig Thomson anybody?

 Significant discrepancies in newspaper circulation figures to emerge.

A few cases reported overseas, but in Australia, not so much.

 Like Andrew Bolt, News Limited newspapers to benefit from the hail of abuse from the freaked out flower children of the Left and to do better than Fairfax.

It’s difficult to generalise about whether Fairfax is doing better than News in terms of circulation – all are facing challenging times.

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Aussie economy enjoys Bowring bounce Mon, 12 Dec 2011 04:52:53 +0000 Not for the first time, it appears the Australian economy has been buoyed by the forecasts of Hong Kong based journalist, Philip Bowring:

Wayne Swan said yesterday’s official national accounts, showing that the economy grew by 1 per cent in the September quarter and at an annual rate of almost 5 per cent over the past six months, were the best set of growth figures he had seen since Australia emerged from the global financial crisis.

Only a few days earlier, Mr Bowring wrote in Asia Sentinel that:

… the banks are going to have to be much more cautious about future lending which will mean insufficient fuel to keep property prices at today’s elevated levels. Any major decline in the Australian dollar from today’s elevated levels may also make it harder for Australia to cut interest rates for fear of precipitating further currency decline.

The commodity boom is surely ending…

[etc etc.]

The ShadowLands has noted before Mr Bowring’s long and distinguished history of being wrong about the Australian economy and his uncanny ability in recent years to criticise the strongest performing sector of what has been close to the strongest performing economy in the world.

In fact, Phil was even wrong about Australia last century.

One of the odd things about his predictions is his belief that Australia will likely suffer when China’s economy goes bad – but he appears to rarely ever write a critical word about China anywhere else.

Only back in February, he published yet another article about Australia in the Jakarta Globe in which he makes typical mileage out of slurs against Australia as the white trash of Asia. He goes on to incorrectly assert that Australia has enjoyed growth for the last 30 years, forgetting Paul Keating’s famous recession of 1990.

Phil continues with one of his famous predictions:

But do not be surprised if the Aussie dollar is back to 70 US cents before the year is out and tests 50 cents within a dozen years of last hitting that mark in 2001.

Of course, the Aussie dollar remains at about parity with the US – meaning Phil will be wrong about the collapse of the dollar this year, the same as he was wrong about it last year – and many years before.

Personally, I won’t be getting too worried about our prospects – at least until Phil starts getting optimistic.

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A decade of Tim Blair – blogger, legend Sat, 10 Dec 2011 20:46:47 +0000 Blogger/journalist Tim Blair has never been one to take a lot of notice of plaudits, awards or milestones – in fact, he assiduously ignores them – but the recent passing 10-year anniversary of his blog should not go by without comment.

For many Australians of a conservative or libertarian bent, about ten years ago, just reading or watching the news was like being asked to wade through a floating garbage dump of dogma to try and read what was written on the ground. What’s more, most of us were left cursing, as only the most watered down of our thoughts would ever make it through as a letter to the editor.

Tim Blair changed all that with his blog that tackled the idiocies of the left pretty much as they happened. His blog filled a niche that conservatives were crying out for, and his comment sections soon became almost as entertaining as the articles. For many years, his blog readership has rivalled the circulations of major newspapers.

The advent of blogging – and Tim Blair’s blog in particular – represented a kind of slow motion revolution for journalists in this country.

Journos could no longer write anything and get away with it. Those who were slow to pick this up did not fair well, and under Tim’s spotlight, the likes of Margo Kingston, Terry Lane, and Tracee Hutchison all wound up having to find alternative careers.

Many of the origins of what we now call the Culture Wars – which, grossly simplified, pits the lefties of Fairfax and the ABC against the conservatives of News Limited – are also to be found in Tim’s blogs. Although Tim never even worked for News Limited for much of the last decade, as well as being one of the Culture War’s chief chroniclers (a veritable modern day CEW Bean), he has long been a five-star general in the struggle.

Tim is probably Australia’s most awarded blogger, for which he doesn’t care a lot, but the ultimate test of his influence is the number of commentators who have been inspired to go into blogging – currently numbering about 30 (see links to Blairite blogs in the right hand column here).

So while Tim would never think of himself in these terms, there is no doubt that he has been and remains one of Australia’s most influential journalists.

Along the way, he has invented terms such as Blair’s Law and the Gore Effect as well as alerting the world to the alarming tendency of lefties to tilt their heads in photographs.

And when he’s not blogging or editing stuff, he’s busy being Australia’s answer to PJ O’Rourke… Which gets me to thinking – there are way more than enough classic Tim Blair columns to make a book. So why isn’t there one?

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An updated history of last chances to save the world Sat, 10 Dec 2011 01:29:07 +0000 Back in 1992, the Rio Earth Summit was promoted as the last chance to save the planet.

But then, so was Johannesburg in 2002.

But that was before the Bali climate conference became the last chance to save the world in 2007.

And let’s not forget Poznan in 2008 which was the last chance to save the world according to the World Wildlife Fund.

And who could forget the last chance to save the world at Copenhagen, as proposed to us by the UK’s leading expert on climate change, Sir Nicholas Stern.

But now it’s official. This year’s Durban Conference, the United Nation’s Convention on Climate Change, known as COP 17, is once again the last chance to save the world:

Churches claim Durban conference is mankind’s last chance

Rev. Dr. Olav Fyske Tveit, who leads the World Council of Churches, says the upcoming climate conference in South Africa is mankind’s ‘last opportunity’ to address climate change.

The strangest thing about all this is that despite believing that it is now too late, several of these people are at the conference, and their items for discussion are not what to do before the end of the world.

Surely Nicholas Stern would be at home drowning himself in alcohol, or at least, making passionate love to strangers in lifts?

In fact, Stern is not only at the Durban Conference, he holds a number of prominent positions at COP17 and is even offering people advice about cutting down the use of fossil fuels – none of which seem to involve avoiding these kinds of conferences.

Why cutting down fossil fuel usage is of any use while the end of the world is nigh must be anyone’s guess.

But if recent reports are to be believed, it seems unlikely that any binding agreement will be made at Durban to continue the Kyoto protocol, which can mean only one thing: more conferences, and more last chances to save the world.

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Passing Shadows Fri, 09 Dec 2011 00:54:59 +0000 * Banking explained.
* 100 mispronounced words.
* Just call him, “Lucky”.
* How to start an internet argument.
* Hard landing.
* Lesbians who look like Justin Bieber.
* Today’s lecture on brain function.
* A year in pictures.
* Computers play House of the Rising Sun.
* Everything explained. (Thanks JM Heinrichs).
* Can men and women just be friends?
* Online jigsaw puzzle.
* Petition to pardon Alan Turing.
How to rob a bank.

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Australia: Should Fairfax declare its interest in Earth Hour? Mon, 05 Dec 2011 20:01:07 +0000 Eagle-eyed blogger Boy on a Bike has done some research on Earth Hour – the annual event where we are asked to turn off our electricity to raise awareness about carbon dioxide emissions. BOAB uncovers something most of us were not aware of – because Fairfax newspapers never declare it in their gushing coverage of the event – namely that far from just being a sponsor of the Earth Hour, Fairfax actually owns one third of the event.

This information might have been useful for those of us trying to decode some of the dodgy pictures Fairfax sometimes uses to illustrate the event or explain the uncritical broad coverage that it provides.

What’s not so easy to reconcile is how this sits with Fairfax Code of Ethics, namely:


Staff will not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence, or to influence the nature of the Herald’s coverage. Advertising copy which could be confused for editorial should be marked “special promotion.”

The code reflects the Fairfax group’s corporate values statement and incorporates the code of ethics of the Australian Journalists Association.

On the subject of the AJA Code of Ethics (now known as the MEAA) here is another relevant paragraph:

MEAA members engaged in journalism commit themselves to:

5. Disclose conflicts of interest that affect, or could be seen to affect, the accuracy, fairness or independence of your journalism. Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain.

All of this is particularly relevant during the debates about global warming, where WWF has at times taken partisan and influential positions that the media are bound to report on – such as the since discredited assertions about melting glaciers in the Himalayas.

Other stories involving websites owned by Fairfax, like this, are fully declared – so why won’t they declare their part-ownership of Earth Hour?

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Why Fukushima never went close to a ‘China Syndrome’ Sun, 04 Dec 2011 20:22:52 +0000 In a crowded field, this here is a great example of really bad reporting about the Fukushima disaster:

Fukushima plant’s No. 1 reactor was close to full meltdown, new analysis shows.

The stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant came a lot closer to a full “China Syndrome” meltdown than previous company analyses had indicated, though there is no danger of further damage now, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said Wednesday.

In fact, despite that simulations suggest most of the fuel rods in the No 1 reactor melted, the melted gunk known as corium was well contained by the containment vessel. In other words, even though the Fukushima nuclear reactor is an old and outdated design, the containment vessel did the job it was designed and named for by the people who designed and named it.

The facts from the best information available to us right now are these:

The bulk of unit 1’s nuclear fuel went through the bottom of the reactor vessel as well as about 70 centimetres of the drywell concrete below, according to the analysis released today. However, the corium did not breach the steel containment vessel 1.9 metres further down within the concrete, or the boundary of secondary containment some 7.6 metres further still.

Of the 10.2 metres of solid concrete that makes up the floor of the reactor building, the corium is thought to have melted and mixed with the first 70 centimetres only.

In other words, far from being close to a China Syndrome event, (where the fuel rods melt through the ground) the corium actually only melted about 7 per cent of the way through the cement.

The silliest thing about all of this is not so much that the media got it wrong, it’s that they have a fixation with meltdowns in the first place.

The one and only thing that matters about a nuclear accident is not how much fuel rods melt – it’s about the amount of radiation people receive. All indications so far are that it is unlikely anyone has received enough radiation to cause their death.

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Is pot smoke better for your lungs than tobacco? Sun, 04 Dec 2011 07:39:21 +0000 The recent 10th anniversary of the death of George Harrison from lung cancer followed by an ARIA awards show which paid tribute to numerous Australian pop stars who have died early from various forms of cancer got me thinking about this: Is cannabis use better for your lungs than tobacco smoking?

It’s an interesting question, because anti-tobacco smoking campaigns may have had an inadvertent side effect of making people think that your lungs will be fine if you smoke ’natural’ pot, rather than chemical-filled cancer producing tobacco.

Here’s your answer for you:

Smoking a single marijuana joint may be as carcinogenic to the lung as 20 tobacco cigarettes, researchers here determined.

Those who smoked the equivalent of one joint a day for 10 years had a 5.7 times higher lung cancer risk than nonsmokers even after adjusting for tobacco use, reported Richard Beasley, M.B.Ch.B., of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand here, and colleagues in the Feb. 1 issue of the European Respiratory Journal.

The effect on lung cancer risk in the population-based case-control study was even greater than the one joint to five cigarettes equivalency for lung damage previously reported by the research group.

Smoke from cannabis contains up to twice as many carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons and tend to be smoked without filters while inhaling more deeply, leading to higher concentrations of smoke inhaled, the investigators noted.

Stoner types will, and have, tried to find fault with the study, but it defies common sense that inhaling smoke is good for our lungs. Whether it’s tiny particles from pollution, smoke from woodfires, cigarettes or pot, there is no such thing as a good particulate entering your lungs.

This is not to mention the increasing weight of evidence linking heavy pot smoking with schizophrenia – but that’s a whole other story.

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How independent is the Centre for Independent Journalism? Fri, 02 Dec 2011 20:37:24 +0000 The director of the Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney, Professor Wendy Bacon, has come out with a report claiming to show that News Limited is campaigning, rather than reporting on the climate tax.

At least she acknowledges it, but the study was partly funded by the Australian Conservation Foundation. No doubt when the ACF put their often taxpayer funded bucks down, they knew what they were going to get, thanks to an article Bacon published in New Matilda earlier this year. Bacon wrote:

There are two main ways of thinking about freedom of expression in the context of a democracy.

One way concentrates on freedom of the press. This tends to emphasise the importance of an unrestrained press to hold others accountable. From that point of view, the more power the press has the better.

The other way puts the emphasis on communication — access to information and a voice for all groups.

I guess ACF deserve full marks for correctly guessing that the freedom of the press angle is the one she is much less interested in these days. Since if you scratch a lefty you’ll find an authoritarian, she goes on, predictably enough, to call for regulation of News Limited but comes up short when it comes to explaining why it should not apply to anyone else.

The New Matilda article makes a mockery of the claim in the study (page 17) that they chose to study newspapers only because they were easy to study. It is easy to access media monitoring of broadcast media, and ACF certainly could have provided it, or any decent media monitoring service would have provided it for some of those ACF dollars. Make no mistake, the study was always designed to be an attack on News Limited.

There are other clues that bring you to this conclusion, including the finding that Fairfax newspapers gave no space to opinion pieces sceptical of the climate change dogma – however this does not worry Bacon in the slightest.

Another is the strange skating over the fact that government sources were easily the most often used in climate change stories, but no attempt is made to break this down between the media organisations. Surely, this could not have been that hard to do – and the result is that the findings about sources are meaningless. Without seeing their workings, it’s impossible to say, but here’s what I reckon: the findings about sources did not fit the narrative, so they left them out.

This blog attempted a very similar kind of analysis of election comment at compulsory pay ABC website, The Drum last year and was pilloried over there in comments for having poor methodology.

However, it’s hard to see how the methodology differed – subjective opinions have to be made – except that my work was completely transparent, whereas there appears to be no way of checking Bacon’s judgement calls about what constitutes positive, neutral or negative stories. My study was also not funded by a vested interest.

What’s especially interesting is to compare her compliance with taking money from the ACF with her outrage about the sponsorship of the Walkley Awards by Exxon Valdez.

Here’s what she wrote only last year about this:

So I can only say I think it’s inappropriate, an underlying conflict of interest as well. And I would be surprised if many of those attending the conference and some of the other sponsors aren’t actually aware of that at this stage.

A really big obstacle confronting us is the role of spin – in relation to the environment, the role of greenwashing – but altogether the role of public relations in trying to determine that message.

And here:

It’s sadly ironic that as someone who has championed the public right to know, Warren, [from the journalists’union] when asked to reveal the precise details of the relationship with Exxon Mobil, declined because it is “commercially in confidence”.

I guess this means that if we ask her, Bacon will hand over all the details about the payments to UTS by ACF.

In another paper she co-wrote about journalists’ trips being funded by non-government organisations, she wrote:

These arrangements may include an agreement by the journalist to ensure that the aid organization is favourably mentioned, which leaves open the possible allegation that the aid organisations were sponsoring coverage for reasons of organisational self-interest.

They saw the practice as threatening independence and warned that even if no explicit agreement is made to use ‘talent’ supplied by the assisting agency (which often happens), it affects the way in which the story is framed.

In summary, what we have here is a taxpayer funded academic, supported by a largely taxpayer funded quasi non-government organisation supporting the government. Are we really supposed to believe this is the Centre for Independent Journalism?

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Passing shadows Thu, 01 Dec 2011 21:30:16 +0000 * Evil laugh button.
* My hovercraft is full of eels translated.
* Sad puppy.
* Ten things about time.
* How to make a disgusting yet delicious-looking hamburger.
* A bit of history (thanks JM Heinrichs.)
* Big cats and laser pointers.
* Some nice soccer goals.
* Random idea generator.
* Grandma tries pop rocks.
* Last dictator standing. Cool ad.
* How secure is my password? (Maybe advisable just to try passwords like the ones you use.)
* Cool toy.
* Spoon guitar player knows it’s Friday.

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Stupid is as stupid does – the story of the CFMEU and GetUp! Tue, 29 Nov 2011 19:57:33 +0000 Last year, Australia’s Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union made the largest donation that the left-wing activist group GetUp! has ever been willing to admit to so far – a cool $1.12 million.

The money was then used in television advertising that did its darnedest to slur Tony Abbott – and GetUp! has been living off the mythology that it influenced the election ever since.

Now the jobs of hard-working Tasmanian members of the CFMEU are under threat, since GetUp! has started a nonsensical campaign against Australian furniture retailer, Harvey Norman.

Apparently unaware of the uncanny ability of trees to grow again – or the fact that Australian forests are better managed than forests in third world countries – GetUp! is trying to scare shoppers away from the retailer. (Find out more about Harvey Norman furniture, by the way, here. Make sure it’s Australian native wood before you buy.)

Now apart from the monumental stupidity about the fact the CFMEU are major donors to an organisation that wants their members out of jobs, there’s another factor at play here.

This study shows that the loss of jobs in the forestry sector in Tasmania is a significant problem for mental health in the region. Take these quotes for example:

I’m worried about my husband’s health — he’s taking on blocks of four or six hectares just to keep some work in and travelling a long way to them, then doing all the servicing on the machines himself … working 80 hours or more a week for less money than what we used to get, and we’re looking to borrow more money against the house just to stay afloat.

– Harvest and haulage contractor

Our turnover is massively down, and the business will be closing down soon. We used to have 11 people and slowly it’s just gone down and down and down.

We’ve had marriage break ups and all sorts flowing on from the stress, it’s been awful.

– Harvest and haulage contractor

Of course, many of the people who are worst affected will not be members of the CFMEU and not many will be signing up any time soon. Tasmania, by the way, is the only state in Australia where the rate of suicide is on the rise.

Taking all of these factors carefully into account, on behalf of the timber workers of Tasmania and their families, now would be as good a time as any to take the opportunity to tell the folk at GetUp! to go **** themselves.

]]> 0 In praise of The Wiggles Sun, 27 Nov 2011 20:01:54 +0000 One of Australia’s greatest entertainment exports, The Wiggles, were entered into the Australian Recording Industry Association’s (ARIA) Hall of Fame last night.

The Wiggles were introduced by actor David Wenham – and I guess the script writer is to blame, but I thought the introduction was flat and sarcastic, and demonstrated little understanding for the remarkable achievements this group has made.

Yes, The Wiggles have sold millions of CDs and many more DVDs, but perhaps you need to be a parent of a certain age to fully appreciate what this children’s performing group has done.

Far from just being people who are very successful at producing popular music for kids, the Wiggles in fact practically invented a whole new genre.

For parents stuck in a world of inane nursery rhymes, The Wiggles were a godsend, introducing rock and roll to young children and paving the way for many other children’s groups. Much more than that, Wiggles DVDs have an amazing hypnotic effect on kids. As soon as my children were able to sit up, it was possible to put them in front of a television in the knowledge that they would be transfixed watching a Wiggles video for 45 minutes.

To be able to capture the attention of someone with no attention span is nothing short of miraculous, and parents all over the world should be eternally and pathetically grateful for the amazing gift that The Wiggles brought to us.

On another level, The Wiggles have been magnificent ambassadors for Australia – normalising us and creating a positive impression to millions of people around the world before they even get to primary school.

What’s more, just about every Christmas Day I can remember, the Wiggles are usually to be found in a children’s hospital somewhere entertaining the kids.

Being inducted to the ARIA Hall of Fame is a well deserved honour for The Wiggles, but we could do far worse (and we usually do) than name them as Australians of the Year.

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Australia’s ticking bushfire time-bomb Sun, 27 Nov 2011 01:57:17 +0000 It’s still a thing of wonder to me that the former Victorian Government emerged pretty much unscathed from the inquiries into the Black Saturday bushfires that killed 173 people barely two years ago.

The Victorian Government had previously deliberately avoided taking part in national inquiries that might have helped prevent the disaster, and ignored clear warnings about the dire situation that was developing.

This year, it looks like eastern Australia is experiencing a wet La Nina rainfall pattern. Hopefully, this moisture will reduce the chances of major, life-threatening fires on the east coast, but it does mean that fuel for future fires will be building up like the clappers. The bushfire seasons of the summers of 2013 and 14 may yet be worse than anything we have experienced.

In the meantime, Western Australia is Australia’s driest state, and the warnings of this man – clearly a qualified expert on the subject – should be taken very seriously indeed:

Roger Underwood, Chairman of The Bushfire Inc, an organization devoted to improving the standard of bushfire management in Australia, has been warning of potential disaster for many years. At the organisation’s website, Underwood explains:

“For a 25 year period after the 1961 Dwellingup fire there was a comprehensive fuel reduction program in WA forests that gave us a very high level of protection from serious bushfires. Up until about 1985 the majority of the jarrah forest, for example, was burned by low intensity fires every 5-7 years to keep fuel loads down. After that time, the fuel reduction burning program fell away badly and the area of bushfires began to rise. Now, about half the forest area will support an uncontrollable crown fire – a tragic situation.

“There is a similar situation on private land in the South West of the State. For about 25 years the Bush Fires Board and volunteer brigades carried out a vigorous fuel management program, which maintained low fuel loads in rural areas. When the functions of the Bush Fires Board were taken over by FESA, this program also fell away, as FESA’s prime focus is fire suppression, not fuel management.”

The Australian landscapes needs to be actively managed to keep it safe and biologically diverse. This reality is not understood by many of those currently responsible for the development and implementation of land management policy, not just in Western Australia, but across Australia.

And more specifically here:

Mr Underwood the other vulnerable areas of WA this fire season will be: Outer metropolitan areas particularly Perth, Busselton and Bunbury and particularly the Shire of Denmark, where the dense Karri forests generally dry out after Christmas.

“Denmark is a ticking time bomb. If I lived there, I’d be making sure I knew the quickest way to get to the beach.”

With such clear warnings in the public domain, authorities should consider themselves on notice.

What’s more, the situation in Tasmania, where foresters are increasingly being kicked out of the places they have managed for decades, fuel will now be allowed to pile up. As a result, disastrous bushfires in the Apple Isle are surely only a matter of time.

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