Monthly Archives: September 2018

Release virus to rid Australia of carp, fishers, farmers and environmentalists declare

Carp circle in Sullivans Creek at the Australian National University. The presence of carp is a major cause of the decline in native fish numbers. Photo: Danswell StarrsA virus that kills carp should be used to help rid Australian rivers of the destructive feral fish species, a unique coalition of anglers, farmers and conservationists have declared.

Some of the nation’s biggest fishing, farming and green groups say governments now have a once in a generation opportunity to use “biological controls” for carp, and they should commit funds to that end.

Carp, an introduced species, is the bane of many fishermen and their presence is a major cause of the decline in native fish numbers in numerous freshwater ecosystems, in particular the Murray-Darling Basin.

By feeding on river bottoms, carp cloud water, harming native fish’s ability to breed and feed and reducing river plant growth. Carp can also feed on young fish and compete with native species for habitat.

In recent years hopes have been raised that Australian carp numbers could be dramatically reduced by introducing a virus that originally emerged in Europe in the 1990s.

Allan Hansard, who heads the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, said if the virus was effective, inland waterways could be returned to conditions close to what they were before carp were brought to Australia.

“People say inland waterways like the Murray-Darling used to be clear, wouldn’t it be great to see that,” Mr Hansard said.

The groups behind the push include the fishing foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation, National Farmers’ Federation, Invasive  Species Council and the National Irrigators’ Council.

CSIRO has been studying the virus – called Koi herpesvirus – at laboratories near Geelong since 2007. The head of the project at CSIRO, Dr Ken McColl, said it could kill up to 70 to 90 per cent of carp.

CSIRO has been testing to see whether releasing the virus would pose any threat to Australian fish species. So far the research had shown no ill effects, Dr McColl said.

Carp are now the most abundant large freshwater fish in some areas, including most of the Murray-Darling Basin.Photo: Department of Primary Industries, NSW

Testing had also occurred on invertebrates, mammals and birds. Dr McColl said that in Europe, the virus had never spread to other species or humans.

Dr McColl said final testing was being completed this year on two fish types and, assuming that went well, he believed the virus would not pose risks to humans and other species if its release was given the go-ahead.

“It’s potentially a white knight for removing, or at least reducing carp numbers significantly in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Dr McColl said.

Acting campaigns director at the Australia Conservation Foundation, Jonathan La Nauze, told Fairfax Media any government hesitancy to back the use the carp virus might be about the potential clean-up effort it would require.

He said the sheer numbers of carp in Australian rivers – in the Murray-Darling carp makes up over 80 per cent of fish biomass – meant the virus could result in millions of tonnes of dead fish that need to be removed.

In the statement the groups say community engagement and clean-up efforts would need to accompany the virus’ release.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said any proposals to help eradicate carp would be considered “exclusively on the basis of science, and against the most rigorous standards”.

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Goulburn Mulwaree Council holds extraordinary meeting to discuss council mergers

Goulburn-Mulwaree council’s proposed redrawing of council boundaries. Photo: SuppliedA Goulburn Mulwaree Council proposal to redraw its boundaries to include Braidwood but cut out Bungendore has disappointed those residents left on the outside.

Goulburn councillors will be asked to endorse a “preferred option” at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday night for absorbing the Palerang Council area.

Under state government plans announced last year, 109 regional councils would be turned into 87, with Palerang to be redistributed between Goulburn and Queanbeyan.

A Braidwood resident said the councils which would absorb Palerang were like a “pack of hyenas awaiting the death of an animal and squabbling over what bits they wish to consume”.

Residents of Bungendore – which is not included in Goulburn Council’s redrawing of boundaries – have written to the council asking to be included in its boundaries in any submission to the NSW government.

President of the Bungendore Residents Group John Taylor said Goulburn would be a “much better fit” for Bungendore than the alternative Queanbeyan.

“There is concern by many in the Palerang area, and particularly the Bungendore community, with any proposal to amalgamate with Queanbeyan City Council,” Mr Taylor wrote.

“Goulburn-Mulwaree Council has more relevant expertise than Queanbeyan, with rural villages, rural lands, and agri-business and heritage preservation; and the communities have similar expectations in terms of demands for services, infrastructure and facilities.”

Mr Taylor also requested another month to prepare a proposal for another option, which split Palerang north-south, as opposed to the current east-west split.

Palerang councillor Peter Marshall said it was “extremely disappointing” to see the Goulburn proposal developed “without any discussion with Palerang Council nor its community”.

“Palerang councillors are the elected representatives of the Palerang community, and it is disrespectful in the extreme for this to occur,” he wrote.

Goulburn Council general manager Warwick Bennett said the council meeting was just the beginning of an eight-week process, and they still had a “lot of talking to do”.

Submissions to the state government are due by February 28.

The Goulburn Council meeting on Wednesday will also ask councillors to endorse spending $60,000 on community consultation – including a phone survey – and a financial consultant.

“We have to put in a boundary that’s relevant to communities, not relevant to us,” Mr Bennett said. “Not necessarily what we as council or council workers want, it’s what’s right for the community and it’s really important that we focus on that.”

After community consultation, the council would meet again to reconsider its position on excluding Bungendore from its proposal, Mr Bennett said.

Braidwood resident Danny King has also written to Goulburn Council arguing against the council’s proposed boundary redraw.

He said the redraw looked like an attempt to “grab some of the more populated and higher rated rural residential areas around Bywong and Wamboin whilst looking to avoid some of the less populated areas south of the Kings Highway and Braidwood”.

“I also fail to understand why Braidwood and Bungendore are mapped to appear like a couple of pimples protruding from the main bodies of their respective councils seemingly waiting to be squeezed and popped.”

The proposal Goulburn councillors will be asked to endorse has the new council area bounded by the Federal Highway to the west, the ACT Border and Kings Highway to the south, Eurobodalla and Shoalhaven Council boundaries to the east and the current Goulburn Mulwaree Council boundary to the north and north-eastern boundaries.

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Cyber bullies hounding public servants

Workplace anti-bullying efforts are failing to protect state and federal public servants. Photo: SuppliedMore public service news

Cyber bullies are stalking government workplaces across Australia, exploiting a “cyber underground” where they can harass or intimidate their colleagues with impunity, according to new academic research.

The Queensland University of Technology study found workplace anti-bullying efforts were failing to protect state and federal public servants from web-based harassment and abuse.

Victims told the researchers that some online behaviour was more confronting than “traditional” face-to-face harassment, with employees vulnerable to their tormentors even at home and some finding themselves hounded from job to job, and even from state to state.

A set of three studies involving more than 600 public sector workers from across Australia found 72 per cent of participants reported suffering or witnessing cyber bullying at work during the previous six months, with 74 per cent ranking their workplace as highly stressful.

Researcher Felicity Lawrence says that even one defamatory video, post or comment had the capacity to go viral, and once posted online could prove hard to remove and could shatter an employee’s reputation and career

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Dr Lawrence conducted surveys and face-to-face interviews during her two-year study with public servants ranging in rank from the most junior to departmental bosses and found that no one was safe from cyber bullying.

One senior manager ended up in hospital after she was powerless to stop a website set up by vengeful employees and dedicated to defaming her, while another public servant quit her job and fled interstate but continued to be pursued online by malicious former colleagues.

“At every level and every position that reported to me, everyone is aware of the potential for cyber bullying and its potential impact,” Dr Lawrence told Fairfax.

“Public servants felt they were being bullied in the workplace through work email, telephone call, text messaging and text messages.

“But the No. 1 was email, work email was the thing that everyone mentioned, it can be internal, from other public servants and or from clients and it is at all levels, not just junior staff.

“The fact that this kind of activity can be anonymous, as a manager, as a secretary, as a junior member of staff, you don’t know necessarily who is cyber bullying you because people can hide behind technology.”

With “traditional” workplace bullying thought to cost the Australian economy up to $36 billion a year, Dr Lawrence believes the cost of cyber bullying on productivity could be “profound”.

Many of the victims who spoke to the university said it was difficult to hold their abusers to account, with many anti-bullying protocols and procedures dating from the 1990s hopelessly inadequate to deal with high-tech harassment.

“The public servants I surveyed indicated that there’s a kind of ‘cyber-underground’ that has created a hidden negative online workplace culture where some employees feel they are free to harass and bully one another and yet remain unaccountable for their behaviour,” Dr Lawrence said.”In this respect, my research has significant implications for employers under their duty of care obligations within the Work Health Safety Act 2011.”One practical solution to mitigate workplace cyber bullying would be to develop federal anti-cyber bullying legislation covering all Australian workplaces.

“Organisations should also be establishing clear policies supported by management along with effective training and education programs to address the issue.”

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Susan Parsons: Why Benn Sutcliffe is the mulch king of Latham in Canberra

Benn Sutcliffe with Queensland arrowroot in his Latham garden. Photo: Melissa Adams

Globe artichoke in Benn Sutcliffe’s Latham garden. Photo: Melissa Adams

A saxophonist who doesn’t like gardening blows our way into the new year. Benn Sutcliffe, with his wife Kristin, creates a musical family that lives in Latham. He teaches clarinet and saxophone and plays with a number of local groups but the sax was quiet on our visit as one of his young children was asleep.

Five years ago his front yard was all lawn. He mulched half of it with a few hundred square metres of recycled cardboard, about 300 bags of oak leaves from the Ainslie Arts Centre, around 100 bags of coffee grinds from local cafes, grass clippings from his neighbours and from the laneway across the road (which he mowed), plus a load of lucerne. Mulch 30 centimetres deep turned into a first layer of real soil five millimetres deep and into that he sowed green manure and some pioneer crops. Among them was wild buckwheat which is good for the soil and also a bee attractor. He now has more than 100mm of amazing soil in places.

Benn says his garden is a long-term experiment. He tries different things each year and how much he plants depends on his schedule but it is mainly inspired by permaculture and Jackie French’s book The Wilderness Garden (French is a gardening columnist for Canberra Times’ Relax magazine). No matter what he plants, it gets heavily mulched and fed each year and he has never had to weed the front yard garden and it has never been dug.

At one point he was making about 12 cubic metres of hot compost at a time but it was too labour intensive with young children around so his main source of fertiliser is seven worm farms, some of which are built into the ground, some of which are mobile. At present he has a worm farm made from broccoli boxes.

Benn says he can’t stand double handling so, early on, he rejected the more usual worm farm sold by garden centres. He uses autumn leaves from his trees each year and owns a huge mulcher to recycle all of his prunings. There is one compost bay and he makes a proper batch each year. Masses of comfrey are planted next to every fruit tree and grown to use as mulch in summer. Comfrey is a micro nutrient accumulator, says Benn, and is also used to make garden tea, a liquid fertiliser.

An edible plant in his garden that Benn calls “particularly cool” is Queensland arrowroot (Canna edulis). Benn says the tuber is a carbohydrate staple (tapioca flour) or can be sliced into chips and fried or grated for fritters. He slices and soaks the rhizome in water for 20 minutes to remove excess starch.

The growing area is not vast but, due to rich soil, it can be planted very tightly and Benn likes to create micro climates within the garden to allow unusual plants to grow. We walked along narrow paths past bronze and wild fennel, warrigal greens, rhubarb, jerusalem artichokes, borage, tarragon, parsley and Peruvian ground apple (yacon). The asparagus patch provided such a good crop they were giving spears away.

Then I spied a species of santolina. It was the olive herb (S. rosmarinifolia) which a pal had recently bought with some excitement at the Melbourne Garden Festival. Olive herb is a cold and drought hardy perennial and the leaves have a strong aroma of olives. Benn says in spring you would swear you were eating an olive. During summer it smells more like pine and the yellow button flowers are a bee forage.

A pair of globe artichokes were divided and more planted to create an impenetrable hedge as a windbreak. Just before Christmas they were coming into flower. There are black currants, jostaberries, blueberries, wolf and goji berries, gooseberries, youngberry, strawberries, raspberries, lemons, oranges, limes, pomegranate, persimmon, crab apples, cherries, feijoa, loquat and olive trees.

Five years ago, with one of his students who was getting into gardening, Benn traded heads of Patrice Newell’s purple garlic for a small fig tree. The family makes a pickle from their wild fennel and garlic, chilli and olives.

Various protector plants or bee attractors include lavender, rue, tansy and vetch. There is lemon balm, valerian, lemon verbena, oregano, chives, sage, thyme, lovage and dandelion greens. Some plants like dill, coriander and parsley are wasp attractors that eat wasps off citrus. A favourite plant is a white moscato grapevine given to Benn by an old Croatian bloke up the road.

Yet, despite all these edible plants, Benn says the best thing about a garden is to sit under a shady tree and relax among the bounty.

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.

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Australia v India: Indian captain MS Dhoni hints at DRS conspiracy

How it happened: Australia v IndiaSmith and Bailey star as Australia chase down 309

MS Dhoni has hinted at a DRS conspiracy against the touring Indians, saying 50-50 decisions do not go in his team’s favour in the wake of centurion George Bailey being given not out first ball.

With Australia struggling at 2-21, Bailey glanced a ball to the leg-side which was caught by Dhoni. There was half an appeal and umpire Richard Kettleborough was unmoved.

Replays – using Hot Spot technology – showed the ball flicked Bailey’s glove. From there the 33-year-old bludgeoned a century in a record-breaking stand with Steve Smith which helped Australia chase down India’s 309.

Dhoni was asked whether he felt India was punished in 50-50 decisions because its board – the BCCI – will not adopt the technology, to which the skipper replied: “I may agree with you.”

He also asked another reporter: “Are you indirectly saying that we don’t get decisions in our favour because we don’t use DRS?” before giving his thoughts on the Bailey non-dismissal.

“It could have [changed the outcome of game], but at the same time, we need to push the umpires to make the right decision and you have to see how many 50-50 decisions doesn’t go in our favour and it always happens. Then [in that case] you have to take it, but I’m still not convinced about DRS.”

Speaking after Dhoni at the post-match press conference, Bailey lit the fuse on a sensitive matter by cheekily implying if DRS was used in the series he might have been in a bit of trouble.

“Yeah, it just caught the thigh guard a little bit I reckon,” said Bailey with a smile. “It would have been interesting on DRS to have a look at that wouldn’t it?”

The BCCI remains unmoved on its anti-technology stance with president Shashank Manohar saying in December that unless DRS became “foolproof” the Indians would continue to refuse the technology.

Dhoni tiptoed the question as to whether the whole playing group was united on the issue of DRS before going on to give his explanation of why he thinks the technology does not work.

“I tell you what DRS should be; it should be the decision making system,” Dhoni said. “If you see the deviations in DRS, there are quite a few deviations, even the makers agree that there’s a bit of deviation that can happen.

“Now you have to also take into account whether it was given not out or not. If it’s given out, it needs to touch the stump, if it’s not out then half the ball needs to hit the stump. That itself makes the variables too big and in cricket every inch matters, it’s millimetres that really matters.

“It has to be plain and simple, you don’t want to put too many things in consideration. Now for example you take DRS in an LBW decision – what really changes everything is whether the decision was given in favour or not and it can mean a margin of one inch and in cricket that’s very big.” 

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