Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Josh Frydenberg please strengthen Australia's environment laws that protect our wildlife and precious places

Dear Josh,

The current independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) released its interim report in July 2020, with the final report due in October. 

The interim report found that Australia’s environment is in an unsustainable state of decline and recommends a full suite of reforms to turn this around, including national environmental standards to protect wildlife and ecosystems, an independent watchdog to enforce the law and proper community participation in and oversight of the decisions governments make.

But the Morrison Government is this week rushing a bill before Parliament that would hand environmental protections over to the states before the independent review is finished and without strong assurance safeguards in place. 

The Morrison Government has also rejected calls for an independent watchdog, despite a recent Auditor-General report outlining ongoing, systemic failures by the Environment Department to enforce the laws and manage conflicts of interest.

Any amendments to the EPBC Act brought to Parliament to facilitate bilateral approval agreements with State Governments should be treated with scepticism. Without vital safeguards in place, the Government’s bill represents a hasty and thoughtless devolvement of Commonwealth powers and responsibilities to states and local governments that are often the proponents of regulated projects. 

Right now, there's been no consideration of its contents and implications, and the process is rushed and hasty - it’s time to slow down and get it right.

I ask you and your Senate colleagues to: 

  • Oppose attempts to rush through amendments to the EPBC Act that could make our environment laws even weaker;
  • Ensure the Morrison Gov’ts bill is given the full and proper scrutiny it requires, including whether it contains sufficient safeguards to ensure environment laws will be transparently and rigorously enforced; and 
  • Support important reforms to fix our failed environment laws including strong national environmental standards to protect wildlife and ecosystems, an independent watchdog to enforce the law and proper community participation in and oversight of the decisions governments make.

In a country still reeling from the ecological catastrophe of the 2019-20 bushfires, we need national leadership to safeguard the ecosystems that support us, build resilience in the face of climate change, support communities to recover and protect our globally important wildlife.

You have the power to ensure our precious wildlife and forests don’t go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger. We need your leadership now.

Yours sincerely, 

Peter Campbell

(address supplied)

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Coronavirus is extremely infectious - a cautionary tale

This is an example of how incredibly infections the coranavirus that causes COVID-19 disease is.

A worker in a Dandenong factory contracted the disease at work, he commuted to a medium size town in Gippsland daily.  The infection spread to his teenage children before any symptoms were visible.

The children travelled to school on a school bus shared by three secondary schools in or near the town.

Students and teachers at all schools subequently tested positive for COVID-19 - the schools were then closed and deep cleaned, along with the buses.  

Contract tracing and isolation contained this outbreak that started from one person.

The virus can spread easily in a confined space with people - such as a bus, classroom, dinner party, family meal or church service - without anybody showing symptoms.  It can spread by aerosol (tiny droplets suspended in the air) and people just breathing that air.  Coughs and sneezes are not required to spread it (unlike the flu).

Lockdowns are vitally important to drive large case numbers and resultant deaths down.

Social distance and masks are vitally important to stop it spreading.

State and federal Liberal MPs continually attacking Dan Andrews and the public health response measures in Victoria are compromising efforts to contain the pandemic and putting lives at risk.  

This is not the time for petty politics.

Politically motivated attacks on the considerable efforts by contact tracing teams and health care workers in Victoria is causing them distress and also angering the Victorian community.

If Australia had similar public health response measures to the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden we would have over 12,500 more deaths.

See also

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Wattle Park fountain in a sad state of disrepair

Wattle Park in Burwood is a large park which has some lovely native bush and forest areas in addition to a sport oval and a playground.

Over the years I have visited the derelict fountain which is located to the west of the Monsborough Drive, the narrow rode inside the park.

The fountain is in a state of disrepair. The main fountain was impressive but lies in fragments today.

I cannot find any significant historical records about the fountain, its creation and demise remain a mystery.

The fountain in its heyday, circa 1900. Source 

Wattle Park fountain, circa 1950. Source

Wattle Park fountain, circa 1980. Source.

In August 2020, the fountain is in ruins, only fragments remain.


Saturday, August 08, 2020

Political attacks are compromising COVID-19 public health response measures in Victoria

I am an emergency services volunteer. We don't start reviewing mistakes halfway through a job, we don't challenge the leadership, we get on with the job.  Afterwards there is a formal debrief. 

Australia has been relatively successful so far in minimising COVID-19 infections and deaths compared with many other countries.  Here are comparative stats to date: 

Source: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Source: https://ourworldindata.org/

New Zealand has succeeded in eliminating COVID-19 community transmission at this point in time.

Australia was initially successful in suppressing, but not eliminating, the virus.  However, a significant outbreak occurred in Victoria around 24 June 2020, with daily cases still over 400 as at 8 July 2020. 

Reasons for this second outbreak include:

  • Private security guards spreading COVID-19 from quarantined returned travellers to the community (an Inquiry is in place to investigate this)
  • Outbreaks in some meat processing facilities.
  • Outbreaks in aged care facilities - apparently partly due to lowly paid casual workers getting infected and moving between facilities.  Aged care is a federal government responsibility.

Significant interventions to reduce community transitions include:

  • Lockdown of several suburbs with high community transmission
  • Lockdown some community housing hotspots for 2 weeks
  • Stage 3 Lockdown of Greater Melbourne and Mitchell council areas
  • Stage 4 Lockdown of Greater Melbourne and Geelong Council areas and Stage 3 Lockdown of the rest of Victoria (current situation)
See Victoria's restriction levels for more information 

Premier Dan Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, along with selected government ministers and other senior public servants, provide daily updates on cases, deaths and public health measures.

Questions are asked by media representatives at these updates. Some choose to abuse this privilege by repeatedly asking the same question (e.g. about the failure to contain the virus in hotel quarantine) and they do this in an aggressive manner.  The main offender is Rachel Baxendale of the Murdoch owned Australian newspaper.

Wall of shame

These questions align with ongoing criticism of public health response measures (including lockdowns) and personal attacks on both Dan Andrews and Brett Sutton by current and former Liberal MPs. Here are the offenders:

  • Scott Morrison (Prime Minister)
  • Tim Smith (State MP, Kew)
  • Georgie Crozer (State, Southern Metropolitan Region)
  • Michael O'Brien (State, Opposition leader)
  • Jeff Kennett (Former Premier)
  • Tim Wilson (Federal, Goldstein)
  • Josh Frydenberg (Federal Treasurer, Kooyong)
  • Peter Dutton (Federal, QLD)
  • Gladys Berejiklian (NSW Premier)
  • David Davis (State, Southern Metropolitan Region)
  • Katie Allen (Federal, Prahran)
  • Sarah Henderson (Federal, Victorian Senator)
  • Tony Abbott (ex Prime Minister)
  • Greg Hunt (Federal, Flinders)
  • Allan Tudge (Federal, Aston)
  • Bridget Mackenzie (Federal, Victorian Senator)
  • David Southwick (State, Caulfied)
  • David Sharma (Federal, Wentworth)
  • Edward O'Donohue (State, Eastern Victoria)
Reactionary commentators also attacking Dan Andrews include:
  • Andrew Bolt (Heraldsun, Murdoch owned)
  • Ray Hadley (2GB radio in Sydney. owned by Nine Entertainment Co.)
  • Alan Jones (Skynews, Murdoch owned)
  • Rachel Baxendale (Heraldsun, Murdoch owned)
  • Sophie Elsworth (Newscorp, Murdoch owned)
  • Adam Creighton (Economics editor, The Australian, Murdoch owned)
  • Rita Panahi (Opinion writer, Heraldsun, Murdoch owned)
  • Alex White (news.com.au, Murdoch owned)
  • Sophie Smith (independent sports journalist)
  • Philip Coorey (Australian Financial Review)
  • Chris Uhlmann (Nine News)
I am an emergency services volunteer. We don't start reviewing mistakes halfway through a job, we don't challenge the leadership, we get on with the job.  Afterwards there is a formal debrief. 

This "holding to account" nonsense by some journalists and self-serving members of parliament is a coordinated campaign to attack Dan Andrew's leadership for political gain.

In doing so they give out mixed messages that undermine public health response measures and the leadership required to deal with the incredibly infectious and sometimes lethal COVID-19 pandemic.

I call on the people named above to stop their coordinated campaign to tear down Dan Andrews that is putting Australians in harm's way. 

I also call on Scott Morrison to put a stop to this too.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Donald Campbell 1878-1934

Donald Campbell (1878-1934) is my great grandfather on my father's side.

Donald Campbell, from records and notes from my father Douglas, was born in Barogill, Parish of Canisbay (near Castle Mey) on 13 July 1878. He was a champion ploughman and lived near Watten, inland from Wick, Caithness in the north of Scotland. 

When living in Caithness he was a member of the 1st Sutherland Highland Regiment with the Volunteer Rifle Corps (VRC).

He moved to Leith, Edinburgh around or before 1900 where he met and married his first wife Margaret Cunningham (1878-1926) on 1 Jun 1900. He worked as a lorryman at a flour mill. 

His children were:
  • James Campbell (1902-1913) - died young, possibly from cortical syncope and/or insipidus diabetes
  • Isabella Campbell (Bella, 1903 - 1990). I visited Bella in Scotland in 1985, descendents living in Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • William Campbell (1905-1968) - my grandfather who emigrated to Australia, descendents living in Australia, 
  • Donald Campbell (1907-1972) - emigrated to Australia, descendants living in Australia
  • Peter Hay Campbell (1911-1942)  - killed in WW2
The family lived at 25 Halmyre Street in Leith.

Donald transferred to the 5th V.B. Royal Scots (information from war pension record dated 6 April 1908). He was a good marksman.  A relative in Edinburgh sent me these photos of a medal he won in the Royal Scots.

General Competition, 1st Prize, Sergt D. Campbell, 1 Coy, 1907
6th Volunteer Battalion The Royal Scots

General Competition, 1st Prize, Sergt D. Campbell, 1 Coy, 1907

He was injured on the troop train that crashed in the Gretna Green train disaster during World War 1 on 22nd May, 1915. He told his men to put their feet up to avoid injury. Some 500 officers and men of the Leith Battalion of the Royal Scots Regiment were on the train. 232 were killed and 230 injured in Britain’s worst ever train crash.

Donald's first wife Margaret died in 1926.

His second marriage was to his first cousin Catherine Campbell in South Leith Parish Church on 4 Jul 1929.

Donald Campbell died in 1934 of pneumonia in Murray's Royal Asylum, Perthshire, Scotland, a mental health facility.

Margo, a distant relative (4th cousin) in Scotland located these details which were unknown by surviving relatives in Australia.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Peter Dutton, the Minister for Everything except his own portfolio

Peter Dutton seems free and willing to comment on every part of government except his own - the mega Department of Home Affairs.

Peter Dutton (ABC News,: Jed Cooper)

Catastrophic bushfires season of 2019-20

Dutton was mostly silent during the catastrophic bushfires season of 2019-20 even though the federal body Emergency Management is now part of Home Affairs and their brief is to 
"lead the Australian Government disaster and emergency management response."

Dutton did make a false accusation that arsonists were to largely blame for the bushfires.

For the duration of the bushfires, Dutton was simply missing in action.

Early response to COVID-19 Pandemic response in Australia

Peter Dutton was also very quiet during the early response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He did state that in response to people hoarding toilet paper that "We will come down like a tonne of bricks on those individuals because I think they’re the ones that have created this pattern of behaviour with hoarding and clearing shelves and normally sensible people have been wrapped in this because they’ve panicked when they’ve seen the shelves empty" 

On Friday 13 March it was announced the Peter Dutton had tested positive to COVID-19 after returning from the United States. He had met with other government ministers earlier in the week so there were concerns he may have spread the infection.

The Ruby Princess debacle

On 19 March the cruise ship Ruby Princess berthed in Sydney Harbour and thousands of passengers were allowed to disembark without any health checks or instructions to self-quarantine, despite the knowledge that people on the ship were ill with COVID-19 symptoms.

Australian Border Force, also under Home Affairs has responsibility at airports and seaports for: 
  • "We protect Australia's border and enable legitimate travel and trade. 
  • "We safeguard our border from people who seek to commit immigration fraud or threaten Australia's safety and security.
  • "We use the Incoming Passenger Card as a declaration of person's entry into Australia, and to provide information on a person's health, character details and biosecurity information."
Yet the Ruby Princess passengers were allowed to disembark, apparently without any involvement from Border Force, or a decision within Border Force was made to allow them to.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship has been the epicentre of Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak, with 600 cases and 19 deaths recorded from passengers on board.

Dutton refuses to answer questions about this or to take any responsibility for the apparent errors made by Border Force. Instead he has attempted to shift blame to NSW Health and NSW Police.

The distractions

Since the Ruby Princess, Dutton has commented on various matters in other portfolios including:
Peter Dutton weighs in regularly across multiple government portfolios, usually with a strong criticisms, yet he is seeminly unable to answer any questions about Home Affairs.

It is possible that all these attacks are distractions from his own responsibilities.  

Dutton's ambition to be Prime Minister might also be in play, he could be circling for a spill.

Dutton's aggressive stance on China, under the guise of a global #COVID19 investigation, has now started a trade war with China at a time Australia when we can least afford it.

The various ministers listed above should handle the matters they are responsible for and Dutton should focus on his day job.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Sweden has adopted in interesting approach to COVID-19

Sweden has adopted no lock-down and voluntary social distancing for COVID-19.

As at Friday 8 May 2020 11:00 AEST they have 24,623 reported cases and 3,040 deaths. They have less than half the population of Australia (6,900 cases, 97 deaths).

Sweden's daily cases of COVID-19 are not decreasing.

Sweden is conducting an interesting experiment. Not all Swedes agree.

It will be interesting to see in the long term how Sweden's death rate and economic impact compares with countries that have adopted a harder lock-down approach to COVID-19