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New wave of locusts in state’s south

FARMERS’ hopes that rains had averted a locust plague have been dashed – a ”second wave” has hatched in southern NSW.
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Large locust bands have been sighted in crops and pastures around Corowa. Aerial surveillance has found other clusters on the ground around Albury and Deniliquin, said the NSW deputy plague locust commissioner, Suzanne Robinson.

Spur-throated locusts, cousins of the Australian plague locusts, have damaged citrus orchards and cotton crops in the state’s north-west, she said. They had been sighted from Brewarrina to Cobar.

She said this species prefers tropical and wet conditions and does not aggregate in dense bands, making control more difficult. ”Spur-throated locusts cannot be seen from the air, meaning aerial surveillance is not possible,” she said.

Australian plague locusts, as well as feasting on the greenery made lush by rain and floods, are leaving vivid marks on southern highways after hatching from eggs laid on cleared roadside land, said the Corowa Shire mayor, Fred Longmire. ”It’s like someone splashed the road with red dye,” he said.

The postmaster in the village of Balldale, Bernie Carter, told him locusts had swarmed over the entire road along the 200 metres between its pub and post office.

”People are a little bit anxious about it,” said Mr Longmire, who fears that thick foliage will make it hard to find and spray locusts and in autumn another wave will eat the green shoots of new crops.

Many farmers had harvested their summer crops, which were badly damaged but high yielding because of rain, he said.

Ms Robinson said the fresh spike of locust sightings in the south followed intense adult activity late last year, particularly around Albury, Corowa, Gundagai and Wagga Wagga.

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Push to sack the Union Jack

MORE than a dozen former Australians of the Year have sparked a fresh debate on the national flag, saying the time for change is long overdue.
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In an unprecedented show of strength and purpose, the award recipients signed a statement saying the present flag is a transitional symbol that “highlights and promotes the flag of another nation”, the British Union Jack.

The current design was a source of confusion overseas and considerable embarrassment at home, Patrick McGorry, the outgoing 2010 award winner, said yesterday.

“It’s time Australia grew up. Right now, it’s a bit like a slowly maturing Generation Y adolescent, a 27-year-old who just won’t leave home,” he said, calling on the nation to move belatedly into “independent adulthood”.

Professor McGorry, a mental health expert who believes a new flag is now an “achievable goal” on the way to the greater prize of a republic, is one of 15 former winners to have signed a statement calling for change.

Other signatories include clean-up campaigner Ian Kiernan (Australian of the Year 1994), swimmers Dawn Fraser (1964) and Shane Gould (1972) and scientists Sir Gustav Nossal (2000), Ian Frazer (2006) and Tim Flannery (2007).

Ausflag, which drafted the statement, believes it can secure support from other award recipients, including runner Cathy Freeman (1998). It is understood only a few of the previous winners approached withheld support.

“This is a major breakthrough, backed by some of the nation’s most respected people,” said Harold Scruby, who founded Ausflag in 1981.

“We must boldly take the next step and define ourselves confidently and distinctly before the world. Our new flag must be unambiguously and inclusively Australian, representing all of us equally.

“We believe the time has come to embrace a flag worthy of our sovereign, independent, mature, egalitarian nation; our own flag.”

The proposal, which comes after a series of unsuccessful moves to replace the flag, calls on Parliament to produce a design which, “like our national anthem, can be put to a plebiscite of the Australian people”.

Supporters concede that, like devising an acceptable model for a republic, designing a flag to meet Australia’s needs will not be easy. “So much mythology is involved that a redesign will always be contentious,” said Mr Kiernan.

Ausflag alone has promoted three design competitions: in 1986 leading up to the bicentenary; in 1993 after Sydney won the right to host the 2000 Olympics, and in 1998 in the run-up to the new millennium.

Not surprisingly, though the signatories insist the process should not be divisive, they have different views both on the shortcomings of the present flag and the design of what might replace it.

For example, retired public administrator Lowitja O’Donoghue (1984) said the current design “symbolises dispossession and oppression . . . represents a monoculture and intolerance” towards indigenous people.

But she does not propose replacing it with the Aboriginal flag. “We have lost so much, I’m afraid. We don’t want to lose our flag,” Dr O’Donoghue said.

Professor McGorry said: “I am sure some people will say, ‘Oh, this is not the time, Australia has other priorities.’ But that’s pathetic. Governments can deal with dozens, hundreds of issues at one time. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, you know.”

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Reformers, performers, librarians, contrarians: awards are for all

AS IS customary, a cast of hundreds has been honoured this Australia Day, for services to everything from librarianship to tent boxing.
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The honour roll includes a smattering of household names, such as chef Ian Parmenter, former Australian Medical Association chief Mukesh Haikerwal and fashion designer Liz Davenport. Former treasurer Peter Costello receives the top award. He has been made a Companion of the Order of Australia, along with army chief Ken Gillespie and Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley.

But the list is mostly filled with those who have dedicated themselves to the community largely without wider public recognition, be it out of duty, compassion or compulsion.

Radiographer Mary Nolan began fighting for better accommodation for young people with acquired brain injuries after her son Chris Nolan suffered a multiple organ collapse that resulted in permanent brain injury and was forced to live in a nursing home for the aged.

“It’s a real mix of feelings, a sense of real privilege and also of being humbled, because this belongs to not just me but to a lot of others who’ve gone on this journey the last 14 years,” Mrs Nolan said from the family’s farm near Meredith yesterday.

Today she becomes a member of the general division of the Order of Australia.

Her son remains in an aged care facility in Melbourne, but before he was struck down he was one of the founders of the much-loved Meredith Music Festival, for which many would gladly see him honoured for services to rock’n’roll.

Elsewhere in country Victoria, Dimboola farmer Darryl Argall has also been made a member of the general division for prolific community work and fierce advocacy for water reform and land care. “Volunteerism in the rural areas is exceptional, everybody is a volunteer in one form or another, it’s as simple as that. Life wouldn’t go on without it,” Mr Argall said.

A little more than 10 years ago, during the drought, when he was Dimboola Shire mayor, Mr Argall stood on the dry bed of the Wimmera River with then premier Steve Bracks and pressed him on the need for water reform to avert the potential death of farming communities in the Wimmera-Mallee.

Yesterday he acknowledged the superb irony of being honoured days after a flood had passed through his town, as he spoke to The Age from a fishing boat on the swollen Wimmera River, stopping to reel in a redfin mid-interview.

But he warned that the recent rains were no cause for complacency. “I think we’re going to have a lot more of these severe weather events, whether it’s drought or it’s rain,” he said.

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The hottest weather this summer is upon us

Sydney is tipped to reach 33 degrees today, which would make it the hottest Australia day in 31 years of records.
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The interior was baking yesterday with temperatures reaching up to 48 degrees at Woomera, 14 degrees above the average and the warmest in 61 years for January.

A severe fire danger warning was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology for South Australia in; the Northwest Pastoral, Northeast Pastoral, West Coast, Eastern Eyre Peninsula, Flinders, Mid North and Riverland districts. Gusty northerly winds and the extreme heat have brought the fire prone conditions.

Western NSW sizzled on Tuesday with temperatures reaching into the low 40s. Lightning Ridge recorded 43 degrees, which is 7 above average and the warmest day in seven years for January.

We are experiencing the hottest weather of the summer so far due to clearer skies over the interior, which have allowed heat to build over the past several days.

This heat will continue to move east today, with Australia day to promote water based activities across NSW and QLD.

A cool southerly change will drop temperatures in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne on Friday.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The hottest weather this summer is upon us

The interior was baking yesterday with temperatures reaching up to 48 degrees at Woomera, 14 degrees above the average and the warmest in 61 years for January.
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A severe fire danger warning was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology for South Australia in; the Northwest Pastoral, Northeast Pastoral, West Coast, Eastern Eyre Peninsula, Flinders, Mid North and Riverland districts. Gusty northerly winds and the extreme heat have brought the fire prone conditions.

Western NSW sizzled on Tuesday with temperatures reaching into the low 40s. Lightning Ridge recorded 43 degrees, which is 7 above average and the warmest day in seven years for January.

We are experiencing the hottest weather of the summer so far due to clearer skies over the interior, which have allowed heat to build over the past several days.

This heat will continue to move east today, with Australia day to promote water based activities across NSW and QLD.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Filing from the front

Hugh Stevenson Roberton – or “Peter Snodgrass”.
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HUGH Stevenson Roberton is arguably the most remarkable person who has written for The Land – a farmer and farm leader, columnist, author, soldier, Menzies government minister and Australia’s first ambassador to Ireland.

And for most of his stellar career he kept writing his fortnightly articles for The Land under the pseudonym “Peter Snodgrass”, the name of a character in a play written by his father, Sir Hugh Roberton, a famous Scottish choral music composer and conductor.

Roberton had carried his Hermes typewriter in a metal box during his stint as an anti-tank gunner with the 9th Division in the Middle East during the Second World War so he could keep writing his columns for The Land.

His commanding officer turned a blind eye when he tossed away his gas mask and spare pair of boots so he could carry his typewriter, nor did he ever have any problems with wartime censors.

* Read more about some of The Land’s legendary columnists in our 100-page Centenary liftout free inside the January 27 issue.

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Dairy despair at Coles cut

THE Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has hit out at the decision by supermarket giant Coles to cut the price of its ‘supermarket brand’ milk, warning that the move will place significant financial strain and pressure on already stressed farming families.
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Earlier today, Coles announced that it would be taking advantage of the earnings downturn faced by rival Woolworths to launch a heavily discounted milk offer to tempt shoppers into its supermarkets.

QDO President Brian Tessmann said dairy farmers across the country woke this morning to the unpleasant news, and said that milk prices are under unsustainable downward pressure from the retailers.

Coles will terminate its Smart Buy milk brand and reduce the price of its house brand milk to become its new flagship offering.

The price of a Coles brand two-litre carton of lite milk will come down to $2, a 33 per cent discount in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Coles full-cream milk will also be cut down to $2.

“We are now facing the bleak prospect of retail milk prices reaching a point that is unsustainable for the milk value chain. This will flow back through the processing sector and ultimately to farmers,” said Mr Tessmann.

“It is kicking family farmers when they are down. This is happening at a time when the industry is battling the devastation of the massive Queensland floods.

“These floods are taking a heavy financial and emotional toll on farmers, and for Coles to give farmers this announcement on Australia Day is cruel and insensitive. We want our farmers to have confidence in the future and to be rebuilding their businesses after the flood,” said Mr Tessman.

The QDO said that what is ultimately a publicity ploy from Coles will mean farmers will ultimately be paying for the advertising bill.

Mr Tessman said that Coles’ assertion that the price drop would not affect milk processors and dairy farmers was simply wrong.

“We know from a recent Senate Inquiry that the growing trend toward supermarket brand milk is putting a squeeze on the value chain and ultimately the farmer. This price drop will increase the price difference between large retailer ‘supermarket brand’ milk and milk processor branded milk. So of course shoppers will opt for supermarket brand milk and, with that, lower returns go to processors and that will flow on to the farm gate.

“We know that already the price differential between supermarket-brand and branded milk sucks about $90 million from the value chain in Queensland alone every year,” said Mr Tessman.

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Swan opts to fight states, not the miners

Wayne Swan.This time last year, Wayne Swan had spent his holidays reading a top-secret copy of the Henry review, which urged a 40 per cent tax on the mining industry.
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A year on, with one prime minister removed after taking on the miners, the Treasurer’s holiday reading was a far cry from Dr Henry’s tome.

Shortly before Christmas, the former BHP chairman Don Argus handed Swan a report outlining the much watered-down resource rent tax, which has been welcomed by the big miners.

But although he now has much of the industry on side, Swan’s quest to extract more tax from the mining industry is far from over.

After what he admits was a ”bruising” encounter with mining heavyweights in 2010, Swan has effectively swapped a fight with the miners for a stoush with the states.

He is now pleading with Queensland and Western Australia to cap future mining royalties to keep the industry competitive – and the states are having none of it.

Swan’s decision to take on the states raises questions about just how powerful the mining heavyweights have become, with the industry expected to resume hostilities if the government cannot get the states on side.

Making matters more complex, Swan’s showdown with the states comes amid growing evidence Australia should be saving more of the proceeds from the once-in-a-century resources bonanza.

In the turbulent weeks after Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd, quelling the mining industry’s anger was a top priority in Canberra.

She largely achieved this in early July, signing a breakthrough agreement with the big three – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – to soften the tax considerably.

Rather than the 40 per cent tax proposed by Henry, it was agreed miners would pay effective tax rates of 22.5 per cent and enjoy generous deductions. Miners called off their anti-government ad campaign, and restarted work on shelved projects worth billions to the economy.

But although Gillard’s deal with the miners was hailed as a smart political move at the time, it now looks like a temporary solution.

In the secret July negotiations, the boss of BHP, Marius Kloppers, insisted that all state royalties – including future increases – would be refunded by the federal government.

Canberra later hinted it might not credit all future royalties because this would amount to writing states a blank cheque, but Argus’s report affirmed that all future royalties should be refunded.

Swan is widely expected to adopt this recommendation, and has already called on states to promise they won’t increase royalties.

However, the request has been met with vocal opposition from the premiers of Queensland and Western Australia, setting the scene for heated negotiations this year.

The floods – expected to slash Queensland’s royalty revenue – add another layer of complexity. Nevertheless, Swan has elected to fight the states rather than risk provoking the miners. His willingness to do so raises questions about just how powerful the mining industry has become.

The opposition’s spokesman on mining, Ian Macfarlane, says it is now clear the government rushed to sign a deal without fully understanding the consequences. While he opposes the tax in principle, Macfarlane also recognises the power the Big Three held over government.

”I suspect that the government has got itself so far in that they will have to bow down to the mining companies. They got skinned and that’s a fact,” he says.

”The mining companies have achieved the effective abolition of state royalties.” Macfarlane doesn’t blame the miners for this – instead pointing the finger at Canberra’s failure to consult with the industry and states before it announced the original 40 per cent tax.

On the government’s side, the Labor senator Doug Cameron is even more frank about how miners have thrown their weight around this year. ”I think the behaviour of the miners is the most overt case of big business using their power and privileged place in society to protect their own individual interests,” Cameron says.

”This is going to be something that is debated for many years, in relation to how you can ensure the national interest is placed before the interests of mega-rich mining magnates.” More sympathetic observers, however, say the miners were able to make a convincing argument against paying more tax because the public identified with the industry.

A former head of the Minerals Council, David Buckingham, says miners benefited from a perception that the industry had been an important factor in Australia weathering the global financial crisis. Over the previous decade, he says, the industry had also remade its public image around its handling of environmental and Aboriginal issues.

”There’s been an evolution in the position of the industry. I don’t think it’s simply been a case of a big ugly industry using its muscle,” says Buckingham, who supported the concept of a super profits tax.

Whatever the reasons for the government’s backdown, the miners’ strong influence over government will linger.

If Canberra cannot reach a deal with the states, miners have made it clear they will consider restarting their campaign of destabilisation.

In the weeks before Christmas, the boss of Xstrata Coal, Peter Freyberg, repeated his warning that the company would review $20 billion in planned projects if the government failed to refund all royalties.

Indeed, some official sources suggest the mining companies are deliberately seeking to exploit the government’s razor-thin majority in the lower house in anticipation of the debate heating up.

Small miners – who remain deeply opposed to the tax – would only need to convince a few rural independents to oppose the tax to defeat it. Coalition senators are now leading an inquiry which has aired small miners’ concerns, and is scrutinising the government’s deal with the big three.

In spite of this tension between the government and smaller miners over the tax, there is growing economic evidence that now is the right time for a meaningful resource rent tax. In November, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said the government’s mining tax was too narrow – and it should tax more products than iron ore, coal and gas.

While it supported the tax overall, the OECD said this focus on only parts of the resources sector could distort investment and would hurt its ability to raise revenue.

The governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, has also reminded the government that with a once-in-a-century mining boom gathering pace, now could be a good time to increase public sector saving.

In a November speech, he suggested a ”stabilisation fund” that could offset some of the volatility of a commodities boom led by China and India. Stevens didn’t mention the mining tax – but it’s increasingly clear the watered-down MRRT won’t be taking much heat out of the mining boom.

An economist at the Grattan Institute, Saul Eslake, is blunt when asked if the tax could help deal with some of the challenges of the two-speed economy. ”No, because it was not intended to, and now it would seem there are so few companies that are going to pay it,” Eslake says.

Even among companies which will pay the tax – it only applies to those earning more than $50 million a year – there are doubts it will raise the revenue Canberra claims.

According to official estimates, it will raise $7.4 billion, down from the previous $10.5 billion predicted before the election and $12 billion under Rudd’s super profits tax.

The government says the latest revision was driven by the strong Australian dollar, but analysts say the forecast was more likely slashed after officials consulted with companies about how the tax would be paid in practice.

And with each downgrade in how much revenue it will raise, the government is also pushing the friendship with the Greens, needed to pass it through the Senate in 2011.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, sent the government a reminder in late December that his support is not guaranteed. He described the tax as a ”patched-up deal between the government and the mining barons”. He prefers the 40 per cent tax favoured by Rudd, and it is not clear whether he will support the mineral resource rent tax.

Cobbling together support from Brown, miners and the premiers of mining boom states won’t be easy. But this is the task facing Swan if he is to make the mining tax a reality.

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US approves E15 fuel use

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced the approval of E15 for use in vehicles built from 2001 to 2006 on Friday.
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EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says the decision was a result of Department of Energy completing tests showing that E15 did not pose a problem in new cars and light trucks.

Groups such as Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association praised the move as did several others, while other groups were less enthusiastic and condemned the action.

The US National Corn Growers Association was one of the organizations that fell in the pro column. NCGA Chairman Darrin Ihnen called the announcement welcome news and said that the organization was pleased with the agency’s conclusion that the use of higher blends of ethanol in vehicles is safe.

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, was also pleased. He called the decision the right conclusion and said this also helps address the ethanol blend wall by providing greater market access for the ethanol industry and for farmers who produce clean, renewable energy solutions for our country.

Several politicians also voiced their support including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Senators Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

However, coming down against the decision were a number of livestock organizations including the US National Pork Producers Association.

Randy Spronk, chairman of NPPC’s Environment Committee, said, “It’s very disappointing that the administration made this decision given the rising price of corn and the lower estimate for this year’s corn harvest that recently was announced.”

Another opponent of the decision was the US National Chicken Council, which called it “another giveaway to ethanol interests” and shows EPA will not balance broad national interests on the issue.

“E15 may be good for ethanol producers and corn farmers, but it is clearly detrimental to all other interested parties,” said Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist for NCC. “To the extent EPA and the ethanol industry actually manage to force more ethanol into the nation’s motor gasoline, they will put even more pressure on the already very tight supply of corn.”

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GRDC Qld Updates confront global challenges

QUEENSLAND grain advisers and growers will gain a better insight into their role in the global soft commodities trade at the upcoming series of Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Updates.
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Emeritus Professor Gordon MacAulay, principle economist at Better Research and Innovation (BRI Australia), will present the latest information on Australia’s place in the global wheat market and what international customers are saying about Australian wheat and its performance at the three Updates to be held in Queensland in coming weeks.

His presentation will feature at the events to be held at the Miles Memorial Club on March 1, the Goondiwindi Community Centre on March 2-3, and at Nindigully Hall on March 4.

The Updates will feature packed programs focussing on innovative responses to the challenges of modern farming, including disease risks for 2011 in the wake of the wet summer; the latest research into nematodes; and how to make more efficient use of nitrogen applications. Local issues relevant to each of the host regions will also be addressed.

GRDC northern panel chairman James Clark, said the three Updates to be held in southern Queensland during March would bring growers and advisers together with researchers.

“The GRDC updates deliver new data, practical advice and locally-focussed information to advisers and growers, with the agendas developed specifically in response to feedback from grains advisers,” Mr Clark said.

“It is a chance to understand how research levies are being invested by GRDC, which manages a northern region-specific research program of more than $25 million per year.

“This research is not only scientifically valid, but responsive to current needs and issues of producers, and is directly influenced by local and regional grower priorities.

“This is a prime opportunity for grains advisers to tap in to the latest research that will keep their advice at the cutting edge – benefiting their clients’ businesses by boosting productivity and sustainability.”

Some of the topics featured at the Updates include:

Cereal diseases – 2010 saw high levels of foliar and cereal head diseases in many parts of the northern grains region. What are the implications for 2011 and how can the risks best be managed. (Greg Platz, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), and Steve Simpfendorfer, Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW).Insights into nematode management – many growers have them but are unaware. Picking the right cereal variety can improve profit by a staggering $500/ha. (Steve Simpfendorfer, I&I NSW; Kirsty Owen, Jason Sheedy & Roslyn Reen, DEEDI).Chickpea disease risks in 2011 – the wet end to 2010 and the outbreaks of ascochyta and botrytis grey mould will have implications for 2011 variety and paddock selection. (Kevin Moore, I&I NSW; Mal Ryley, DEEDI).Getting the right N strategy for 2011 after a big year in 2010 – How much N did big pulse crops contribute? Options and risks when getting seasonally responsive N into the system. (David Herridge, I&I NSW; David Lester, DEEDI).Managing problem weeds like feathertop Rhodes grass and glyphosate resistance – What’s happening, how effective are the different control options and strategies to assist management. (Various speakers at Goondiwindi and Nindigully)To register contact John Cameron or Erica McKay on 02 9482 4930 or email [email protected]南京夜网419论坛 . For details of the agendas for each Update or for more information, visit 梧桐夜网grdc南京夜网419论坛/updatedates

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