Push to put commercial water interests before environment

Commercial interests should come before the environment during times of drought, a state parliamentary committee recommends.
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The committee, dominated by government and Christian Democratic Party MPs, has recommended amendments to the NSW Water Management Act to ensure the commercial water supply for towns and industry are ”prioritised above environmental needs”.

As the legislation stands, environmental needs are given second priority below that of providing a domestic supply of water to towns, utilities and landholders. The commercial supply of water for towns and utilities is third priority.

Under the recommendation of the standing committee on state development, the commercial supply would replace environmental needs as the second priority.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the committee’s recommendation to prioritise the water needs of abattoirs and mines before the environment was short-sighted and would ultimately cost jobs.

”The irrigators saw this inquiry as an opportunity to have another go at reducing environmental flows to get access to even more water for themselves,” Dr Kaye said.

”The committee should have taken a longer term view and rejected the false choice between sustaining employment and the health of the rivers, streams and wetlands. It should have pushed the modern adaptive management approach of encouraging industries and agriculture to become more efficient and flexible in their water usage.”

National Party MP Rick Colless, who chaired the committee, which included two Labor MPs, said the main aim of the recommendation was to secure water supply for permanent crops including orchards and grape vines. He said the committee also wanted to guarantee a water supply for industry including abattoirs.

”We see that jobs and wealth-creating industry need to be assured they are going to have a reliable supply of water during times of drought,” Mr Colless said. ”Certainly those industries must be looked after to make sure jobs are kept in regional areas.

”There are no Greens on that committee so they were not exposed to the evidence we took.”

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Teen on hunger strike to protest his detention

MORE asylum seekers could join in a hunger strike at Pontville detention centre unless they are lifted from the “bureaucratic nightmare” of uncertain detention, a Tasmanian refugee advocate has said.
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A 16-year-old Afghani boy at the centre has been on a hunger strike since Friday.

The boy told the ABC on Sunday he was acting in protest against being held in detention for seven months because he believed some people he travelled to Australia with had been released.

It is the first reported hunger strike at the centre and comes just two weeks after six detainees were hospitalised in a brawl over a game of pool.

That incident was just a week after a detainee and a detention centre worker were injured in another reported fight.

Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support founder Emily Conolan said all the incidents could be traced to the uncertainty caused by longer periods in detention, after funding to community detention programs was cut.

Ms Conolan said everyone she visited at the centre said they could cope if they knew how long they would be detained for and could look to the future.

“It’s an act of desperation and a cry for help of people that feel that they have no other option to express themselves but self- harm,” she said.

A spokesman from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said the boy was being closely monitored.

A 16-year-old Afghani boy at the Pontville detention centre has been on a hunger strike since Friday. A refugee advocate warns more asylum seekers could join the strike.

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Man blamed by accused for shooting was still in bed, court told

As Michael Allan Jacobs lay injured outside a block of flats in Tamworth, police heard him name Terry Price as the man who shot Senior Constable David Rixon.
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But when Terrance James Price appeared in the NSW Supreme Court on Monday, he told the jury at Mr Jacobs’ murder trial he was in bed at his father’s unit on the morning of March 2 last year, the day the police officer was shot.

”I could hear my father talking to someone and I got up to look who it was and I saw police all around the house. They came and put me up against the wall and said I was under arrest,” Mr Price said.

”I was standing at the front door … and my girlfriend yelled out to me and said the police were saying I’d shot a police officer that morning and I said I’d just got out of bed.”

Mr Jacobs, 49, has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

The court has been told the police officer followed Mr Jacobs to the flats on Lorraine Street, where he was shot while attempting to administer a breath test.

Mr Jacobs was also injured, having been shot by Senior Constable Rixon, the jury has been told.

Several police officers who responded to the shooting have told the jury they heard Mr Jacobs say the gunman was Mr Price, who denied any knowledge or involvement when he was arrested.

Mr Price told the court he had previously driven down Lorraine Street, but had never stopped.

”Did you go there at all on the second of March, 2012?” Crown prosecutor Pat Barrett asked.

”No,” Mr Price said.

”Did you at any time shoot at a policeman?”

”No.”

”Did you at any time shoot Senior Constable David Rixon?”

”No.”

The court heard police found heroin in Mr Price’s father’s unit when they searched it that day.

The jury heard that Mr Price was charged with four drug offences in June 2012 and served 10 months in jail.

Defence barrister Tim Hoyle, SC, asked Mr Price if he ”loathed” Mr Jacobs for directing police to him.

”You hate him?” Mr Hoyle asked.

”Yes.” Mr Price said.

The trial continues before Justice Richard Button.

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State to show its ability on disability

TASMANIA’S version of the new National Disability Insurance Scheme was launched in Devonport yesterday.
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Braddon Labor MHR Sid Sidebottom represented Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin at the launch, who was interstate attending one of the other first national rollouts.

Tasmania has been selected as the national trial site for 15 to 24-year-olds entering the new scheme.

Over the next three years it is expected that nearly 1000 young Tasmanians will start to receive the services that they need directly after consultation with planners from the new scheme.

Seven planners have been appointed to the state with three based in the North.

Ms Macklin described yesterday’s launch at various sites across the country as a momentous day.

“It is clear to me that one of the most frustrating things about our current system for people with disability and their families is that they have not been treated as individuals,” Ms Macklin said.

“So even though they might want a carer to assist them for three hours on a Wednesday so they can get out to do their weekly shop and meet a friend for coffee, the area they live in only has carers available for two hours on a Monday evening.

“To many Australians having a choice over when you go to the shops is hardly remarkable – DisabilityCare will make that choice a reality for Australians with disability as well.”

Tasmanian Human Services Minister Cassy O’Connor said that the state government had worked closely with the disability and community sector to get the state ready for yesterday’s launch.

“We’re providing up to $2million a year on top of our projected budget spend of $17.9million on disability services for 15 to 24-year- olds,” Ms O’Connor said.

Support through the previous scheme will be maintained until they have individual plans and support arrangements with the new DisabilityCare Australia, she said.

Jenny Macklin

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3.05% rate rise approved

A 3.05 PER cent rate rise for the Northern Midlands was approved for the 2013-14 financial year at last week’s council meeting.
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The council approved its $16.2million budget, highlighting a $7.4 million capital works program.

Northern Midlands Mayor Kim Polley said the rise was in accordance with local government CPI and would be used to maintain existing service levels, fund new initiatives and continue to allocate funds to municipal infrastructure.

Cr Polley said all Northern Midlands properties were given new Assessed Annual Value ratings, which would be used to calculate new rate percentages from July.

She said a differential rating system would be applied for various land use categories in an attempt to raise equal revenue to the 2012-13 financial year.

Northern Midlands residents were also warned that a 4.5 per cent state government bushfire levy would remain.

Cr Polley said although the council was required to collect payments, the fee was a state government initiative with proceeds going to the Tasmania Fire Service.

The council’s $3.2million allocation for roads includes partial reconstructions of Bishopsbourne, Barton, Mt Joy and Green Rises roads, kerb and reconstruction of sections of Napoleon Street and Main Road, Perth, Pultney and Pakenham streets in Longford, and William Street and Main Road, Cressy.

Cr Polley said the council’s 2013-14 annual plan outlined further special projects, capital works and other tasks and targets for the next year.For more information go to www.northernmidlands.tas.gov.au.

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How far to go?

IN his letter (June 27) Norm McIlfatrick, of DIER, argues for support for reduced rural speed limits on the basis that “this strategy can save lives”.
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The very statement attempts to shut down any counter argument on the basis that it trivialises the tragedy of the road toll and lacks compassion.

Even so, the argument needs to be put in broader context.

Many things we do are inherently risky, be it smoking, drinking alcohol, extreme sports or myriad other activities – including driving.

Yet, even if it would save many lives, injuries and diseases the government does not regulate such activities beyond a certain point.

They know that, in a western, liberal democracy, freedom of speech and action combined with individual responsibility is at the core of the success of our societies.

To regulate in a way that turns safe and responsible behaviour into an offence is to provoke a backlash, especially if the behaviour does not harm others.

I suggest this is why 80 per cent of Tasmanians are so sceptical of the current proposal, and the more individuals actually use our rural roads, the stronger their resistance is.

The proposed speed limit reduction is based on theoretical modelling (the Power Model), which says that reduced speeds reduce the consequences of accident (obviously).

On this basis MUARC has recommended to the government that the Midland Highway limit should be reduced to 100km/h, which the government has rejected.

The modelling also says a reduction of speed from 100 to 90km/h would reduce serious casualties by 27 per cent whereas a reduction to 70km/h would reduce them by 66 per cent, yet I don’t see the government arguing openly for the larger reduction.

The government is going as far as it hopes it can get away with whereas, by its own argument, it should go much further if saving lives was the key criterion.

The government’s own statistics on rural road crashes indicate that speed is not the problem, so this initiative is not well targeted.

– PETER LESCHEN, Birchs Bay.

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$75m taxpayer burden avoids $1.75b liability, says Treasurer

The first state-owned power station put up for sale by the O’Farrell government, Eraring Energy, has been sold for $50 million in a deal that also releases the state from a $1.75 billion obligation to supply it with cheap coal from a new mine at Cobbora, near Mudgee.
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But NSW taxpayers will end up $75 million out of pocket as the decision to break the coal supply contract means millions of dollars in compensation has to be paid to Eraring’s new owner, Origin Energy.

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird announced the sale of Eraring Energy to Origin Energy on Monday, saying it was ”above retention value”.

Under the deal, which is expected to be completed by August 1, the government has agreed to pay Origin $300 million compensation for the right to break a contract guaranteeing Eraring cheap coal supplied from the Cobbora mine.

The contract was signed as part of the previous government’s sale of electricity trading rights, under which Eraring’s electricity output was sold to Origin shortly before the 2011 state election.

As part of that sale, Eraring was guaranteed cheap coal supplied by the planned Cobbora mine, which was to be built by the state government, in an attempt to boost the value of its generation rights.

But a recent review of the Cobbora deal by the former Treasury official Kerry Schott found Cobbora would cost ”at least” $1.4 billion to develop – money that would never be recovered by the sale of its coal because the contracted supply prices were ”well below cost”.

Dr Schott is advising the O’Farrell government on its sale of the state-owned generation companies Eraring Energy, Macquarie Generation and Delta Electricity, from which it anticipates proceeds of up to $3 billion.

Mr Baird said the former government’s sale, known as the gentrader transaction, was ”a shocker”. He said the sale of Eraring and cancellation of the Cobbora contract was ”a fantastic financial result for the state”.

”What the state has avoided, effectively for a payment of $75 million, is a $1.75 billion liability,” he said. ”That’s what was left behind by the former transaction done in the dying days of the Keneally government”.

Mr Baird said the $1.75 billion liability was comprised of the estimated $1.5 billion cost of building the Cobbora mine and $250 million in ”liquidated damages” expected to be payable to Origin Energy.

Under the terms of the gentrader transaction, liquidated damages were payable by the state-owned power stations when they were unable to supply the contracted amount of electricity to the new owners of the trading rights.

Mr Baird said after ”residual cash” held by Eraring was retained by the state, taxpayers were out of pocket by $75 million.

The Cobbora coal contracts with Macquarie Generation and Delta Electricity had also been ”terminated”, Mr Baird said, as the companies had been able to source ”alternative supply”.

He said falling coal prices and excess supply meant the government could source the coal at similar cost to that promised in the Cobbora coal contracts. Despite this, Mr Baird said the government would proceed with the Cobbora mine because, without the contracts, it was ”now a commercial entity”. Planning approval was expected by the end of the year.

The government remains in negotiations with TruEnergy over the sale of Delta West power station, whose generation rights it purchased in the gentrader transaction but without a coal supply contract with Cobbora.

BusinessDay- Page 23

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Lions chief aims for growth

HARMONY and garnering new members are the aims of the incoming George Town Lions Club president.
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Margaret Gibbons formally took over the role at the club’s change- over dinner on Saturday night.

Mrs Gibbons has been a member of the club since 2010.

“I joined because we had the time now – when you are younger you are focused on your children, your family, your work, but we just found that we had the time to give something back,” she said.

“I had heard a fair bit about it as the club does a lot of work in the community.”

Mrs Gibbons said she would like to see the demographic of the group expand.

However, she said she wouldn’t be a tough leader.

“I’m not going to go in with a heavy hand; harmony in the club is the most important thing in my mind,” she said.

“Raising money is important but not to forget that people are limited with what they can do.”

Mrs Gibbons said she looked forward to working with other groups and organisations in the municipality.

“I would like to work more closely with the Rotary Club and the George Town Council,” she said.

“The new president of the Rotary Club has also said that she wants the same thing, so hopefully we will be able to do that.”

Mrs Gibbons moved to the township from Launceston 29 years ago with her husband, Harvey, of Longford.

“I love small towns. We get to know everybody and I love the beach – even though I’m not a swimmer. It’s the fresh seaside air,” she said.

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Foragers find bush flavours to tantalise city’s palate

Harvest: Bartenders Christopher Thomas and Byron Woolfrey pick grevillea garnishes in Potts Point for cocktails at Trolley’d. Photo: Marco Del GrandeDanish chef Rene Redzepi, possibly the world’s most famous forager, says he still craves the Australian bush foods he ate in the company of the Iga Warta and Wardandi indigenous people three years ago.
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”They blow my mind and still stand out. [They gave me] some of the most interesting food experiences of my career,” he said. ”So many new delicious flavours, so much forgotten wisdom to be relearned.”

Mr Redzepi, chef at the world’s No.2 restaurant, Noma in Denmark, will return to Sydney in October for the relaunch of Good Food Month, Australia’s biggest festival of food, talented cooks and notable restaurants created 15 years ago.

His passion for foraging and using native ingredients not only placed Noma on the map but triggered a small culinary revolution. The initial ignorance he displayed towards Australian bush food did ruffle a few industry feathers but he came around in the end and still kicked off a trend.

Since then, the buzz around bush foods has not died down. Chefs Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong continue to develop popular dishes using native ingredients. In the past three months, two beverage businesses have opened, wholly focused on native ingredients.

Bartenders Byron Woolfrey and Christopher Thomas started Trolley’d in April, using a fleet of old Ansett trolleys converted into mobile cocktail bars. Mr Woolfrey said Mr Redzepi’s philosophy inspired them to serve every cocktail with ”a native twist”.

”I appreciate how Rene Redzepi made these native foods so available,” he said. ”It’s helped people understand there is a whole world around us we can thrive off.”

As urban foragers, picking riberries off lilly pilly trees – ”before the birds get them or before they hit the ground” – and small edible violets is a normal part of their working day.

”There are native gingers in parklands and lemon myrtle growing on our balconies,” Mr Woolfrey said. ”Our lemon myrtle punch with aniseed myrtle tea, lemon and gin is really popular.”

Camilla Strang experimented with native flavours in Orange for a year before releasing two cordial drinks in April.

She will be selling lemon cordial flavoured with lemon myrtle and Kakadu plum, and an apple cordial blended with native ginger and rosella flower at the Pyrmont growers market on Saturday.

”People have been so happy to see a product utilising our Australian plants,” said Ms Strang, director of Millamolong Australia, maker of Milla Cordial. ”These foods have been used for healing and cooking for hundreds of years.”

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Thieves make off with safe from hotel

BRAZEN thieves made off with a safe weighing more than 200 kilograms from the Deloraine Hotel early yesterday morning.
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The safe, which contained a large amount of cash, was stolen about 2am.

Deloraine Police acting Inspector Craig Fox said CCTV footage had confirmed at least two offenders broke into the hotel in the early hours of Monday and removed the safe with the use of a trolley found at the premises.

It is believed the weekend’s takings were in the safe at the time of the break-in.

Acting Inspector Fox said police were investigating all avenues of inquiry in relation to the incident, but said they couldn’t rule out that the thieves were targeting the safe in particular or that they had prior knowledge of the premises.

Police have called for any members of the community who may have witnessed the incident or witnessed a vehicle, likely a flat-tray or a vehicle towing a trailer, leaving the premises about 2am on Monday to contact Deloraine police on 131444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800333000.

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