ABC 7.30 Report population special (Part 2)

WITH the lobby group PROPERTY COUNCIL holding the reins of Australia it comes as no surprise that those who contributed to a factual interview find it has been left on the cutting room floor …

… BECAUSE the emphasis was on delivering the message that Australia will be 40-plus million people with Sydney and Melbourne 8 million each, and that this is inevitable.

-Sydney’s west will take the lion’s share;  a minimal share for the inner east

A forecaster, originally a food technologist, who appears well nourished claimed Australia can take 200 million people …

-our children will be eating laboratory food

HOW can “A BIG AUSTRALIA” be a question of fairness and morality for Our Children and Grandchildren when we have finite resources

WHERE is the morality in this Nation selling our Property, Our Sovereignty to wealthy foreigners to gain residency simultaneously locking out our families from affordable home ownership and opportunities, AND a future when already we have seen over the past five years the lowest wages growth and high youth underemployment and unemployment?


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CAAN PHOTO:  WENTWORTH POINT:  A local resident revealed in this 7.30 report that the commute to the CBD is a struggle; no park for the children to play; Wentworth Point has been developed for 10 years yet the school only opened early 2018! Another 2300 apartments to dwarf existing development. Mr Lun said:  “I think if I came here now, no, I wouldn’t choose to live here. It will be like a mini Hong Kong, I think.”


ABC 7.30 Report population special (Part 2)

By Leith van Onselen

ABC 7.30 Report last night aired part two of its three-part population special (see my comments on part one here). I haven’t bothered to download it, since I received zero airtime, but you can watch it for yourself here.

Once again, it was a massive disappointment whose critical failure was that it avoided altogether the fact the ‘Big Australia’ mass immigration program is a direct policy choice, not a thing that comes from heaven and there’s nothing we can do.

We are simply told by The ABC that Australia will be 40-plus million people mid-century and Sydney and Melbourne will be 8-million people, so we better get used to it. It’s inevitable.

It even showed Lucy Turnbull’s “three cities” plan without acknowledging that the lion’s share of the population growth is projected to occur in Sydney’s West, while the wealthy Inner East takes minimal additional population.

Sure, the segment gave lip service to some of the pains that come from growth, and featured some sceptics like Dick Smith and Tim Flannery.

But it then brushed those aside as easily managed if we simply plan and invest better, with some soothing words from Infrastructure Australia’s chief (completely ignoring her own organisation’s research and recent warnings), a cookie cutter ANU ‘demographer, a few state and local government representatives, and an “economic and social forecaster” who arrogantly claimed Australia can easily take 200 million people without adversely effecting the environment or quality of life. We are also told that increasing density is good and won’t destroy quality of life.

The overall message from The ABC is that Australia has heaps of space and the population growth is inevitable, so we better get used to it. Of course, I vigorously challenged these claims in my 30-minute interview with Andy Park, but have been completely ignored.

In my interview, I explained that by simply returning immigration back to the historical average of 70,000 per year, we could ensure Australia only hits around 32 million people mid-century, with Sydney and Melbourne only hitting around 6.5 million people, thus safeguarding living standards.

I also debunked the common claims about skills shortages, population ageing, etc, while also calling for a population plebiscite so that Australian voters can determine how big they want the country to become.

All the key parts of my interview have so far been left on the cutting room floor.

Let’s hope part three of this report lifts its game. I am not hopeful.



In the 2nd instalment on Australia’s population growth, Andy Park looks at cities. They draw almost 90 per cent of Australia’s migrants, yet are poorly equipped to manage our burgeoning population.






ABC 7.30 Report Population Special (Part 1)


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JUST as we figured at CAAN the PART 1 Report on Population was disappointing!

BECAUSE the ABC inferred that a population of more than 40-million mid-century is inevitable rather than a direct policy choice.

NOR did the ABC reveal how the federal government massively increased Australia’s immigration intake from the early-2000s!

WHY was it the spokesperson from Infrastructure Australia (IA) – claimed “population growth is an opportunity” when the IA has warned that:

infrastructure is failing to keep pace with population growth

-our living standards in Sydney and Melbourne will be crushed with 7.3 and 7.4 million by 2046



ABC 7.30 Report population special (Part 1)

By Leith van Onselen

ABC 7.30 Report last night aired part one of its three-part population special, which included me as the economist.

While I will reserve judgement until the final two-parts have been aired, my initial gut reaction is disappointing.

The main problem I see with it so far is the ABC has inferred that a population of more than 40-million mid-century is inevitable rather than a direct policy choice.


Nowhere did The ABC clearly show how the federal government massively increased Australia’s immigration intake from the early-2000s:


Nor how immigration is the defacto driver of Australia’s population increase – both directly as migrants step off the plane, as well as indirectly when they have children (then counted as ‘natural increase’).

This was made explicit by the Productivity Commission’s 2016 Migrant Intake Australia report, which showed that Australia’s population would barely increase without immigration:


While the segment at least didn’t include spruiker ‘demographers’ like Liz Allen or Peter McDonald, it instead replaced them with another cookie-cutter demographer from ANU. One wonders why Bob Birrell wasn’t contacted, who has been a strong critique of Australia’s ‘Big Australia’ Program:


Finally, the spokesperson for Infrastructure Australia (IA) claimed that “population growth is an opportunity” – conveniently ignoring that IA has issued several recent stark warnings about infrastructure failing to keep pace with population growth, as well as ignoring IA’s own recent projections showing that living standards in both Sydney and Melbourne will be crushed as their populations surge to 7.4 million and 7.3 million by 2046:


Again, while I will reserve judgement until the final two parts are aired, I am not hopeful that The ABC will analyse this issue correctly and actually inform debate.






Australia’s population growth has radically altered our country over the past few decades, with high net migration, a falling birth rate and an aging population all playing their role. These forces have changed and are changing our cities, our suburbs and our regional areas.




MUCH is being made of the downturn in residential property prices here in the media … but meanwhile to make up for the shortfall in the Chinese buy-up of Aussie Real Estate our agents have set up across Asia …

IS AUSTRALIA STILL “TERRA NULLIUS” … Nobody’s Land?   Enabling foreign buyers to acquire occupation of what we understood to be our land AUSTRALIA?

THE MORRISON GOVERNMENT this week exempted RE AGENTS, Lawyers and Accountants from the Anti-Money Laundering Legislation !!!

The Morrison Government has freed the Real Estate Sector from any obligation or liability in relation to the laundering of “black cash” in Australian Real Estate.

The officials enabling this, along with Developers are profiting from the MISERY of our AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITIES!!

Foreign “so-called” investment is causing the inaccessibility to affordable housing, and the loss of amenity for Australians.

WHY is this being ignored???

With not only RE agencies set up in Singapore but with advertisements in their papers for Australian land and home packages … this would be heaven for Singaporeans, because it does not matter how brilliant, or how innovative Singaporeans are with their skills to manage their population densities with fancy Architectural wonders and engineering feats with their clever solutions in managing tight spaces across their dense urban communities, they are not stupid!!

They are way smarter than us … way more, in fact the whole of Asia is.

Singapore’s mission is to be the Worlds ‘greenest’ city with its towering architecture and blending it with nature … which is fine for their situation, but it is not ideal.

The opportunity to have house and land as we have here would certainly be more appealing even if they don’t live here.  Same goes with Malaysia and the like, and any countries bursting at the seams.

You see, they know that no matter what they come up with to ease their population woes … nothing … NOTHING!!! … compares to what we have here in Australia!

To be able to easily afford and obtain freehold land and have space in the World’s most prized landscape is too good to pass up.

Actually, right across Asia the dream to be able to live a lifestyle free of the busy, hectic and densely urbanised “smog bowls” is like heaven to them.

We can provide them with that dream and more, we are “easy hookers”.

For those in the forefront of the developer and real estate fraternity here it’s the $$$$$$’s that are bedazzling them, and so immense lobbying by them is undertaken and our politicians are sucked in forgetting about what the MAJORITY here think and of the communities future well-being!



Melbourne Freehold Land & House … AD in a Singapore Paper!

 Real Estate Agents, Lawyers & Accountants avoid Money Laundering Laws = Keeping Australian FHBs out …


Australian Property Marketeers turn to India, Vietnam, Indonesia to further boost their coffers





Sustainability is at the centre of the plantscraper phenomenon, combating air pollution and reducing energy costs. Photo: Artist Impression

The Italian architect behind the towers, Stefano Boeri, is overseeing the design of an entire Chinese city to be covered in greenery.


Read more about how sustainability is at the centre of the plantscraper phenomenon to combat pollution, reduce energy costs, to create tranquil places to live; to deal with the PROBLEMS OF URBANISATION.

FOUR CORNERS: Pumped: Who’s benefitting from the billions spent on the MURRAY-DARLING?


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Pumped: Who’s benefitting from the billions spent on the Murray-Darling?


“People are profiteering… It’s the biggest water grab in Australia’s history.” Grazier

In Australia’s most important river system, the water is so precious, it could be liquid gold.

“People want to get water in their hands because if you get water in your hands that’s big money.” Grazier

Stretching from Queensland to South Australia, billions of dollars in tax payers’ money has been poured into rescuing the rivers and streams of the Murray-Darling Basin to save it from environmental collapse.

But nearly five years on from a landmark agreement to restore the river, something is wrong.

“People are beyond angry. I think they’re dismayed. People are very distressed.” Former Murray-Darling Basin Authority official

Along the river system many are saying despite all the promises, water is disappearing from the river.

“We don’t know where that water’s going, and we don’t know what’s happening to that water. It just seems bizarre, and particularly when there are so many major players that are potentially exploiting the system.” Ecologist

On Monday night Four Corners will reveal how the plan to rescue the Murray-Darling Basin river system is being undermined.

“We put up with droughts for hundreds of years. That’s just life living here, but that’s not what happened.” Grazier

Reporter Linton Besser investigates where the money, and the water is going.

“A lot of people take it for granted, like flushing the toilet…I just hope that people with the most money aren’t the people that are getting all the say.” Mayor

He finds communities divided.

“I think for anyone that lives on a river, they know the argument about the people upstream are always the greedy buggers taking all the water, and the people downstream are the people – that you might seek to ignore – who are wasting water. I don’t say that.” Irrigator Lobbyist

With many wondering how they will survive.

“What’s going to happen to the rest of us who are trying to just have a shower, brush our teeth and let our sheep and cattle have a drink of water when you’re standing on the riverbank and all you can see is a puddle of water, but you know that people upstream have huge amounts of water?” Grazier

And questions whether the billions in tax payers’ money has been well spent.

“We all hoped because of the state of the Murray-Darling Basin that the basin plan would essentially take this patient, which was essentially in the intensive care unit, out of the intensive care unit and be able to make it walk again. But essentially the basin plan is not working the way it was meant to work.” Ecologist

Pumped, reported by Linton Besser and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 24th July at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 25th July at 10.00am and Wednesday 26th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.00pm AEST, ABC iview and at

Background Information

Response from NSW Department of Primary Industries
Note: This statement has been edited for privacy reasons.



SARAH FERGUSON, PRESENTER: Welcome to Four Corners.

More than a hundred years of greed, mismanagement and the plundering of one of Australia’s most valuable resources was supposed to end 5 years ago with the introduction of the federal government’s Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money was committed in a hard won deal – to save the inland river system from the ravages of heavy agricultural use – particularly the thirsty work of irrigating the vast cotton plantations of northern NSW and southern Queensland.

Tonight, we raise serious allegations about the way the plan is working, with accusations of illegal water use, pumping water from fragile rivers and tampering with metres.

You’ll also hear recordings of cosy backroom discussions between bureaucrats and the powerful irrigators the plan was supposed to manage.

This investigation by Linton Besser reveals that far from saving the river, the implementation of the plan has helped create a financial windfall for a select few.

LINTON BESSER, REPORTER: At Phil O’Connor’s place family and friends are getting ready for a big weekend of fishing.

Phil puts on a good show.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR, MAYOR OF BREWARRINA: Just grab one of them big ones mate and lug her in.

LINTON BESSER: Here in Brewarrina he’s the local mayor and for a long time he also ran the fishing club.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: I usually wear glasses to do this.

LINTON BESSER: The club’s running its annual competition …

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: Go hard, get ‘im in, get ‘im in.

LINTON BESSER: Brewarrina’s famous carp muster.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: Did ya catch ‘im? Good boy. Bring it up to pop and we can get the $500 and I can put it on the bar.

LINTON BESSER: And how many carp do you pull out of the river?

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: Well last year there was over 2000.

LINTON BESSER: Where do those 2000 carp go?

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: Well we bury them supposedly but the pigs go alright with them.

LINTON BESSER: Over at the RSL, the weigh-in is already underway.

LUKE HERTSLET: She’s all about fun, and trying to get the bloody mongrel carp out of the river of course.

LINTON BESSER: In these small river towns fishing clubs are at the heart of the community.

DAVID HAGARTY, BREWARRINA FISHING CLUB: This year, with a monster 6.752 kg carp is number 327, Matthew Taylor.

LINTON BESSER: Beneath the surface, however, there’s a tension between fishermen and irrigators who pump water from the river.

TOM TAYLOR: We were actually fishing there and your lines were flowing back up the river and we could hear the diesels running and it was the cotton and the river was flowing the wrong way.

LINTON BESSER: That’s how powerful the pumps are?

TOM TAYLOR: That’s how big they are.

LINTON BESSER: This year the Brewarrina Fishing Club has had a rocky time.

It shows a bit of tension in the community, doesn’t it?

DAVID HAGARTY: No, no tension in the community. It’s just we’re not going to talk about it. We don’t need to talk about it.

LINTON BESSER: Its members have split over whether to accept a big donation from a local cotton grower.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: I didn’t want Clyde Cotton money.

But anyway, that was my opinion, I thought I’d contact a couple of club members, they agreed with me, I made the decision, which I was president of the club not to accept the money.

Then the club formed the opinion that I’d made the wrong opinion, so they had a meeting and decided to take the money.

And I resigned because I wouldn’t accept the money because it was sweetening money and I didn’t think it anything more than that.

LINTON BESSER: Phil O’Connor had to resign you know?

LUKE HERTSLET: He did pull out that’s sad because he’s a good bloody man for the job.

LINTON BESSER: Phil O’Connor’s taking us up-river on his well-equipped vessel, decked out with its own barbecue and even a port-a-loo.

A 5-star luxury cruiser.

He heads up here now and then to keep an eye on the local irrigators.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: People come to me in my position as mayor of this town and they suspect things that are going wrong along the river and I’ll try and take it to the authorities the best I can then.

We’re not about stopping irrigation, we’re not about that.

I’m an irrigator myself, so, it’s not about that.

It’s about people doing the right thing for the river and that’s what it’s all about.

LINTON BESSER: Along the way a local fisherman calls out to Phil to stay on the job.

FISHERMAN: Stop all that illegal pumping … dirty bastards!

LINTON BESSER: Fifteen minutes up-stream and we arrive at the first pumps.

They’re not small pumps, are they?

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: Yeah, they’re pretty sort of average size for cotton irrigation I suppose.

LINTON BESSER: These pipes pull billions of litres out of the Barwon River.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: If they’ve got the right to use them and they’re licenced to use them, and they’re adhering to that, no one hasn’t got any problems, have they?

LINTON BESSER: This is one of Clyde Cotton’s properties called Rumleigh on the Barwon River.

It’s a crucial waterway in the Murray-Darling Basin where there’s been bitter tensions over access to water.


Water is the single most important natural resource.

There are operators with really deep pockets, with a lot to lose, a lot at stake, and they’re willing and able to stand up and fight.

LINTON BESSER: Much of this fight has been about cotton.

We all wear cotton practically every day. And it can be a very lucrative crop.

In a good year, producers make tens of millions of dollars growing this stuff, but there’s only one catch – you’ve got to have enough water to begin with.

In the far reaches of north-western New South Wales the land is dry and unforgiving and water is scarce.

So, for decades, behind huge walls of clay and dirt cotton-growers have been building private dams that are simply staggering.


They’re mind boggling.

They’ll take your breath away.

You’re driving along, you drive for kilometres and there’s just walls of storage.

There are farms across this part of Northern New South Wales, that have dams that can hold a sizable proportion of Sydney Harbour.

LINTON BESSER: These storages are owned by a company called Webster Limited.

On this one farm, they have five of them, holding a combined 30-billion-litres of water drawn from the Barwon-Darling.

There used to be a host of smaller irrigators up and down this river system.

But since the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was signed, there’s been huge consolidation.

Now, just two big players own 70 per cent of the water in this river.

One of them – Webster Ltd – now owns more water than anyone else in this country outside the federal government.

It’s a portfolio worth about $300 million.

Webster is chaired by corporate raider Chris Corrigan, famous for busting waterfront unions 20 years ago.

The company – which trades on the securities exchange – plans to grow cotton in a good year and to make even more money in drought by selling its water at a profit to farmers willing to pay.

MARTIN CRABB, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, SHAW AND PARTNERS: If they didn’t plant any cotton, and they had a very high water price, they would make a lot more money selling water than planting cotton.

Which is part of their model.

Their model is if there’s a better price in the open market than actually going through the hassle of growing cotton.

So, although it’s one of Australia’s biggest cotton growers, it could actually make more money by not growing cotton.

MAL PETERS, FORMER MURRAY-DARLING BASIN AUTHORITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: So, when you talk about an irrigation company that has come in, is not there to produce agricultural production but to make profit from selling the water, I don’t think that’s a good outcome for those communities and it certainly not a good outcome for the Australian economy.

So, I don’t support it.

I don’t think they are good things to happen.

LINTON BESSER: In the Barwon-Darling, a new set of water pumping rules introduced by the NSW Government have been a boon for the company.

The rules which came in after extensive lobbying by irrigators allowed them more access to water than prior to 2012 when the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was signed.

University of NSW scientist Richard Kingsford says even buybacks – water bought by the government to save the environment – can now be pumped.

PROFESSOR RICHARD KINGSFORD, DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR ECOSYSTEM SCIENCE, UNSW: What we’re seeing is quite clearly that environmental water bought by taxpayers is going through pumps into storages to grow cotton, and to me that is the biggest problem that we’ve currently got in the way the Barwon-Darling is managed, and it really goes against the whole tenet of the plan.

SUE HIGGINSON: The water was purchased with Australian taxpayer money to go to the environment.

That is a public interest matter, that is a public interest consideration.

LINTON BESSER: How do people feel about that?

BILL JOHNSON: People are, I think they’re beyond angry.

I think they’re dismayed.

People are very distressed.

There’s a small number of large extractors who have benefited and nearly everybody else has paid the price, and that includes all the towns downstream, communities and the river itself.

If you abandon the river, you’re basically abandoning the people.

LINTON BESSER: Former Murray-Darling Basin Authority official Bill Johnson, is showing us where Webster pumps its water.

BILL JOHNSON: This is one of the pump sites for one of the big cotton farms in the area.

LINTON BESSER: Oh my god look at that.

BILL JOHNSON: These big pumps were always used to take the medium and the high flows.

The low flows, you were only allowed to use a pump about this big, 150 mls.

The volume that they could take is much less.

The rules were changed in the Barwon-Darling, so that those low flows could be extracted using these pumps.

LINTON BESSER: Now, even when the river runs low, Webster can use these pumps to take millions of litres of water.

BILL JOHNSON: In the Barwon-Darling, that water is pumped out and stored and used to grow irrigated crops.

It is a subversion of the intent of the basin plan, of the water act and the basin plan.

It undermines, that undercuts the whole intent of the basin plan.

MAL PETERS: The rules were that in a huge flow that was the only time these big pumps could be used.

Well, the rule changes meant that in a low-flow, when there wasn’t much water running down the river, they could kick those big pumps up.

Keeping in mind that you’ve got rural communities downstream.

Farmers who need stock and domestic water.

They won’t be able to access it.

LINTON BESSER: Mal Peters was the former head of the Farmers’ Association in NSW.

And until last year chaired a Murray-Darling Basin Authority committee overseeing the Barwon-Darling River.

He wrote a scathing review of the new river rules.

How did you describe those changes?

MAL PETERS: Oh, bloody disgusting.

I didn’t use that language but, it was most unsatisfactory, because it rendered the whole plan, in my mind, completely null and void because the amount of water that could be taken out was huge.

LINTON BESSER: The rules also allowed water rights to be traded up and down the river triggering a buying spree.

Former cotton farmer Ian Cole lobbied for the new rules and also benefited from them.

IAN COLE, FORMER IRRIGATOR AND IRRIGATOR LOBBYIST: Behind us now we’ve got the first dam that was built on Darling Farms.

LINTON BESSER: After the new rules increased the value of some water licences, Ian Cole put his licence on the market.

In May 2015, you on-sold just the water component.

There are other sales of the land, but you on sold the water at $4.5 million.

Now that’s a significant profit, isn’t it?

IAN COLE: It’s a good profit, yeah.

Yeah, if you put it like that.

I don’t even remember that.

LINTON BESSER: The licence sale was part of a $30 million-dollar deal with Webster Ltd to offload Ian Cole’s family property, Darling Farms at Bourke.

For a decade, no-one had wanted to buy it until after the new water rules came in.

They were rules Ian Cole lobbied for.

The public exhibition for the water plan closed December 2011.

You had a number of meetings and contacts with the government and the ministers involved after that, didn’t you?

IAN COLE: Maybe, I can’t remember.

I possibly did.

I often go and talk to ministers about things, yeah.

LINTON BESSER: Ian Cole knows the big irrigators are being blamed by farmers and towns downstream for a disappearing river.

They’re really upset down there.

They say that they are seeing drastically less water in the river, that it’s affecting their daily life.

IAN COLE: People downstream have always got legitimate concerns as far as I’m concerned.

I think for anyone that lives on a river, they know the argument about the people upstream are always the greedy buggers taking all the water, and the people downstream are the people – that you might seek to ignore – who are wasting water.

I don’t say that.

STUART LE LIEVRE, GRAZIER ‘YATHONGA’: The major irrigators have taken it.

There’s no Darling extraction limits anymore.

There’s no limit on pump sizes.

LINTON BESSER: Can I get you two another one? Any chance of two beers Cath?

Downstream at Louth, there’s no sign of them wasting water.

LEAH LE LIEVRE, GRAZIER ‘DELTA’: I just get a little bit worried about what’s going to happen to the rest of us who are trying to just have a shower, brush our teeth and let our sheep and cattle have a drink of water when you’re standing on the riverbank and all you can see is a puddle of water, but you know that people upstream have huge amounts of water.

LINTON BESSER: Cousins Stuart and Leah Le Lievre say they have seen the water steadily diminish.

STUART LE LIEVRE: There is nothing right about it, none at all.

They neglected 1400 kilometres of river and the communities living on it.

LINTON BESSER: Cath, what about for you? Are you worried about the future of the Louth pub?

CATH MARETT, PUBLICAN, SHINDY’S INN: I’m worried about the future of small business all the way along the Darling.

It’s detrimental for everybody.

It’s detrimental for graziers, it’s detrimental for farmers.

KATE MCBRIDE: So right here’s the point where last year I came with the bikes we rode down into the river bank with the Go-Pros on the top of our head and there was just absolutely nothing.

LINTON BESSER: Kate McBride’s family at Tolarno Station have run sheep for generations.

KATE MCBRIDE: We rode along the bottom of the river and it was absolutely bone dry.

There was hardly any puddles you didn’t have to worry about getting bogged there was just nothing but dirt.

LINTON BESSER: In late 2015 in the midst of a drought the river disappeared for eight months.

Kate’s father and prominent grazier Rob McBride says huge amounts of water were pumped out upstream.

ROB MCBRIDE, GRAZIER, ‘TOLARNO’ STATION: We put up with droughts for hundreds of years in this western division.

That’s just life living here, but that’s not what happened.

We’re fighting man-made disaster, not a natural disaster and that was the difference.

LINTON BESSER: Rob McBride says water is money and it’s moving upriver.

ROB MCBRIDE: It’s changed.

You can take water licences from further down the catchment and you drag it up to the top, everything is changing so rapidly.

People are profiteering.

People want to get water in their hands because if you get water in your hands that’s big money.

It’s the biggest water grab in Australia’s history and they’re just moving, the goalposts are moving further up the catchment.

MAL PETERS: I mean, that’s social engineering.

Transferring wealth from one part of the community to another part, and that’s not acceptable at any level.

PHILLIP GLYDE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MURRAY-DARLING BASIN AUTHORITY: We certainly heard that concern that people downstream feel as though that there’s been too much water taken out both historically but also recently, and that that is in some ways unfair.

LINTON BESSER: Head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority Phillip Glyde says the entire Basin Plan rests on proper accounting of how much water people are taking.

PHILLIP GLYDE: It’s not just the metering, it’s the measurement, the recording, the compliance activities, the enforcement activities are all vital, absolutely vital to having faith in the basin plan.

As water becomes more valuable, people will want to know that it is being used fairly.

LINTON BESSER: Jamie Morgan has grave concerns that in fact water is not being used fairly.

Until last year, Jamie Morgan was the state’s top investigator charged with enforcing the NSW water laws.

JAMIE MORGAN, FORMER MANAGER, DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES STRATEGIC INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: It was clear to me and my team that in that area, it was an area that needed significant compliance attention.

It was clear that not just one property was involved, that there was basically an entire river system that was seriously lacking accountability, and compliance with the water legislation of New South Wales.

LINTON BESSER: Four years ago, Jamie Morgan set up the Strategic Investigations Unit inside the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

It was the Department’s response to two scathing reports which found it had failed to properly investigate and prosecute illegal water works as far back as 2003.

JAMIE MORGAN: The team was put together basically to address the serious non-compliance and designed to bring a uniform approach with highly trained officers across the state.

LINTON BESSER: For more than a year Jamie’s team investigated hundreds of cases all over NSW.

Where they found really alarming problems, though, was in the Barwon-Darling.

JAMIE MORGAN: We checked our case management system, and found a couple of cases that were clearly in need of an inspection.

So, both myself and my senior investigator decided to go out there and spend a week out there conducting investigations in the northwest of the state.

LINTON BESSER: Jamie Morgan’s team took a close look at this cotton farm called Burren Downs at Mungindi near the Queensland border.

They found the meter attached to this pump wasn’t working even as it drew millions of litres of water through this channel and into a vast private dam.

His report to the department said the meter, ‘ … has been tampered with’.

And that, ‘in total it appears that 1.191GL has been taken … in contravention of the WMA [Water Management Act].’

LINTON BESSER: That’s more than one billion litres of water.

JAMIE MORGAN: At the property, we inspected the river pump. It was clear that water had been taken, because the storage dam was filling up, and there was no change in the metre reading.

The metre was the same reading that we had previously obtained at the property.

So, it was clear that water had been taken, but not metered correctly.

LINTON BESSER: The irrigator in the spotlight was cotton-farmer Anthony Barlow.

Anthony Barlow had been pumping during a ban set up to ensure water got down the river to give Broken Hill its drinking supply.

In his formal interview with investigators, he claimed the then NSW minister for water, Kevin Humphries, had given a room full of irrigators permission to pump.

JAMIE MORGAN: The information that I had at the time was that he had been to a community-type meeting, somewhere up in the north, and he had made certain assortations [sic] that he was aware the ban was being lifted.

That wasn’t the information that I had, and as far as I was concerned, the ban was still in place.

It was still a gazetted or advertised ban, and that’s what we were enforcing.

NEALE MAUDE, CAMERAMAN: Yeah, the blokes on his phone looking at us.

LINTON BESSER: Oh g’day Anthony, it’s Linton Besser with ABC Four Corners …

We tried to speak with Anthony Barlow about this.

Anthony Barlow didn’t want to talk to Four Corners.

When I put to him that Kevin Humphries had put to a meeting that he attended that he could pump during 2015, that it was a flow-by-flow embargo he said, ‘well it sounds like you already have the information.’

He said I can’t confirm or deny, but he didn’t want to do an interview.

Another target of state investigators was this massive irrigation farm.

It’s called Miralwyn about 50 kilometres east of Brewarrina.

It’s owned by the same powerful irrigator who owns Clyde Cotton, Peter Harris, whose family’s properties and water licences are worth at least $150 million.

INVESTIGATOR: Okay it’s 1.28 pm on the twentieth of the eighth, 2015.

We’re at the property Miralwyn.

LINTON BESSER: Investigators toured the property checking its meters.

INVESTIGATOR: You can obviously hear the lift pump working and obviously down near the, in the dam, you can see the water pumping in.

LINTON BESSER: And inspecting water levels in its channels and storages.

INVESTIGATOR: It’s come up higher, so it’s quite full.

And obviously it’s, we haven’t copped any rain lately so it’s obviously through the pumping system on the property.

LINTON BESSER: The investigators produced a report on what they found.

When they looked inside the water meters, they saw cables were unplugged suggesting, ‘… possible meter tampering …’

And, ‘… possible pumping outside of required river heights …’

INVESTIGATOR: I require you to answer the following questions.

Warn that if you neglect or fail to answer without lawful excuse you’re guilty of an offence against the Water Management Act 2000.

LINTON BESSER: Investigators recorded a formal interview with Miralwyn’s manager.

INVESTIGATOR: In your diary what, what’s, can you describe the diary to me? What it actually is?

LINTON BESSER: Under NSW law when a meter isn’t working, irrigators must keep a detailed logbook, which the farm manager insisted he’d done.

MIRALWYN MANAGER: Just write down when I had the pump going and I know it pumps 100 megs a day on a high river.

LINTON BESSER: He promised to retrieve the logbook after the interview.

INVESTIGATOR: So, after the interview we can walk over and grab it and have a look at it?


INVESTIGATOR: Okay, and it will be all filled out to the way you’re saying?


LINTON BESSER: But seven minutes later, the tape recorder was turned back on.

INVESIGATOR: So, can you just tell me what’s happened?

MIRALWYN MANAGER: We’ve left the room and I don’t have a record of any, the logbook of the pump.

LINTON BESSER: It turned out Harris’s manager had been lying – there was no logbook.

INVESTIGATOR: Are you aware of any other logbooks around here?

MIRALWYN MANAGER: I’m not aware of any, no.

INVESTIGATOR: For any of the works?


SUE HIGGINSON: The system relies on compliance with having metres that are fully functioning and adhere to a particular standard, or the maintenance of log books.

So, if they’re not working, or they’re not being complied with, those requirements, then that’s an illegal act, and a very significant one at that.

JACK HARRIS: My name is Jack Harris, I’m a third-generation farmer from this area.

LINTON BESSER: Jack Harris is Peter Harris’s 24-year-old son who runs Miralwyn.

Online, he makes light of his family’s access to water calling it, ‘ … just fillin’ the bath.’

And a friend urges him to, ‘ … pump that river dry’, hashtag ‘fukthefrogs.’

INVESTIGATOR: Jack could you just for identification purposes just state your full name and date of birth?

JACK HARRIS: Yeah, Jack William Harris.

LINTON BESSER: When investigators returned to interview Jack Harris he conceded they hadn’t been following the rules.

JACK HARRIS: I understand we probably should be running a diary, which, and we probably will start, you know, from today.

LINTON BESSER: Jack Harris also runs the Clyde Cotton property Rumleigh upstream of Phil O’Connor’s place at Brewarrina.

Last year, on one of his trips up here, Phil O’Connor saw these pipes pulling huge volumes of water out of the river when pumping wasn’t allowed.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: And we come ’round and had a look and there was one of these pumps running, yeah.

And we just recorded the time and the date when it was.

LINTON BESSER: Phil O’Connor’s son shot this mobile phone video.

PHIL O’CONNOR’S SON: It’s Saturday the 13th of February at 1.45. Pump running at Rumleigh Station Brewarrina.

LINTON BESSER: The problem was, the official river heights published that day showed there wasn’t enough water to be legally pumping.

Phil O’Connor passed the video on to a NSW Government investigator.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: That’s what they’ve got the thresholds in place for, you know.

So, let the low flow get down the system, and if people aren’t adhering to the rules, why have any rules, you know? It’s just an absolute joke.

LINTON BESSER: Another Harris property that came to the attention of authorities at Hay was owned by Ron Harris with his brother Peter Harris.

Ron Harris pleaded guilty four years ago to meter-tampering, using a sophisticated technique to jam the meter.

SUE HIGGINSON: The evidence or the facts agreed to the land and environment court prosecution was that he had made a device in his shed, he’d oxy-welded a device that fit perfectly into his water metres, and actually stopped the impeller, which then of course stops the count.

LINTON BESSER: NSW investigators inspecting Miralwyn also found this water channel dug on Harris property through Crown land.

This is a public road coming through this country, and it used to travel straight across here, and up to that major intersection there.

But in about 2015, this giant irrigation channel was built and what’s had to happen is they have rerouted the road to get around this giant culvert.

It was work done by the Harris family, and the allegation is it was all done without any approval.

LINTON BESSER: As we were filming one of Peter Harris’ employees arrived.

So, what’s the issue?

HARRIS EMPLOYEE: You can’t be here?


HARRIS EMPLOYEE: Because this is our property.

LINTON BESSER: No this is a Crown Road.

HARRIS EMPLOYEE: No, it’s not.

LINTON BESSER: Yes, it is.

HARRIS EMPLOYEE: Where you entered that sign there is private property.

LINTON BESSER: I didn’t enter that sign there.

We’ve driven up this public road.

When was that channel built?

Not too happy to have a camera here.

SUE HIGGINSON: Two thousand, five hundred and thirty-one megalitres was actually extracted.

LINTON BESSER: CEO of the Environmental Defender’s Office, Sue Higginson, has been investigating Peter Harris’ farms since last year under instruction from the Australian Conservation Foundation.

SUE HIGGINSON: That’s five times…

LINTON BESSER: Last year, she used freedom of information laws to obtain data which appears to show huge volumes of water have been taken beyond what Peter Harris’ properties are allowed.

SUE HIGGINSON: From the information that we obtained, it would certainly appear on the face of that information that there has been a significant over extraction of water from the system.

The volume of water over extracted was five times that amount that is, that was legally permissible.

LINTON BESSER: The figures indicate those farms pumped at least a billion litres of water more than was allowed.

It was the same year Broken Hill almost ran out of water because not enough water was getting down the Darling River.

SUE HIGGINSON: Look, it raises quite catastrophic pictures in your mind.

So, really, it’s the social inequity that springs up immediately, and passing the burden of drought to your downstream neighbours.

LINTON BESSER: How serious are these breaches, Sue?

SUE HIGGINSON: Look, they’re really serious.

They’re offences under the water laws.

They’re punishable by fines, imprisonment.

LINTON BESSER: What Sue Higginson didn’t know was that Jamie Morgan’s team was already on the case.

JAMIE MORGAN: We were there to conduct a full investigation, in relation to all our specs of water management on the property.

So, we would look at their dams.

We’d look at where the water was going.

And we’d inspect all their works.

In the northwest, the metres I looked at, I didn’t see one that actually worked.

We had cables unplugged, batteries removed, impellers missing.

Basically, they were in a state of disrepair.

LINTON BESSER: Jamie Morgan was so concerned at what they were uncovering along the Barwon-Darling that he sought approval for a major investigation.

JAMIE MORGAN: So, it was my desire to run a proactive operation out in that area and inspect every single river pump at times by boat down the river, identifying where all the extraction points are, confirming that they’re complying with their licence, and if they weren’t, taking action to bring them into compliance.

LINTON BESSER: How did the operation go?

JAMIE MORGAN: It was never approved.


JAMIE MORGAN: I have no idea.

LINTON BESSER: At about the same time that the investigations unit made its request to proceed, Jamie Morgan says the hierarchy went cold on compliance, moving it out of the department and his staff numbers began to fall.

JAMIE MORGAN: I think that it was clear that there was no appetite for compliance anymore.

It was odd timing in my view.

It was only when we went to the northwest of the state, where we found significant problems, that our team was very quickly disbanded after that.

Our briefings weren’t being answered.

And to this day, no one has actually addressed those issues in that area.

LINTON BESSER: There has still been no action taken against Peter Harris’s operations.

NEALE MAUDE: They’re on the phone.

LINTON BESSER: They remain under investigation.

He wasn’t keen to talk to us.

So, my phone just beeped.

And Peter Harris has just texted me.

And he’s written, just remember, do not enter, exclamation mark, exclamation mark.

Irrigators have a direct line to the people who are making the decisions.

The bureaucrat in charge of water in NSW is Gavin Hanlon.

Last year he set up a secretive group with irrigator lobbyists to discuss the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

GAVIN HANLON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL WATER, DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES, NEW SOUTH WALES: Have we gained someone? It worries me when you hear that, hear the beep, because you’re never sure who’s dialing in.

LINTON BESSER: In this recording of one teleconference obtained by Four Corners … Gavin Hanlon offers to share with the group sensitive government data.

GAVIN HANLON: What we might do as well, is set up some sort of, something like drop box, or something like that, where we can stick documents in that we’re sharing, as a, as a just safe way to get information around between us.

LINTON BESSER: Gavin Hanlon indicates he is aware he could be criticized for favouring this group above others.

GAVIN HANLON: I think I can manage that sort of a conversation by being seen to and occasionally meeting with everyone and anyone, but in terms of having structure and detail and discussions in confidence I only do it here.

LINTON BESSER: Gavin Hanlon offers to assist the lobbyists in their fight to get the best deal under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan … by providing them with internal documents stripped of the department’s logos.

GAVIN HANLON: There’s a whole lot of ammunition we’ve got at the moment.

There’s a good discussion to be had with a group like this confidentially about at what point do you roll, and start firing those things off?

We can put together a few paragraphs for you to assist.

IRRIGATOR LOBBYIST: That would be great.

GAVIN HANLON: Obviously we would have to de-badge it.

IRRIGATOR LOBBYIST: Yeah, that would be fabulous.

GAVIN HANLON: We will get some paragraphs or even that paper that we wrote about the holes in the modelling circulated to this group, de-labelled.

LINTON BESSER: Would it be appropriate to quote “de-badge” that information?

SUE HIGGINSON: De-badging documents is something that is entirely inappropriate, unprofessional, and there are freedom of information laws.

We are really struggling to get access to documents lawfully at the moment, and documents that we think we’re really entitled to, members of the community ought to be having access to.

So, providing anybody a sort of material advantage in a position of, in a high-level position, I would suggest, is very inappropriate.

LINTON BESSER: Gavin Hanlon’s group has even discussed what they call ‘Plan B’ …

IRRIGATOR LOBBYIST: Plan B would also be interesting, if there is one.

GAVIN HANLON: Plan B is scary

GROUP PARTICIPANT: Plan C is scary; Plan B is fun!

LINTON BESSER: ‘Plan B’ is the state of NSW walking away from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan altogether.

GAVIN HANLON: Just on what we’ve called Plan B or a Plan or some sort of plan, we have had detailed legal advice on what walking away means, I might get our lawyers to write up a, so I don’t breach legal privilege, I might get them to write up a … one pager that I can share with you guys about what that looks like.

The other part, the in-between plan …there is a provision for the MDBA to step in if they don’t think we’re doing things right.

Before we walk away we would dare them to step in over the top of what we’re doing if we’re acting in good faith, delivering on what we should, and they start carrying on, we would say well we dare you to bloody step in over the top of us.

LINTON BESSER: What would your response but if I told you that Gavin Hanlon was actively discussing with representatives of the irrigation industry a plan to walk away from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan?

SUE HIGGINSON: It just seems highly inappropriate and unprofessional.

When NSW was a participant, a willing participant, we referred our powers, we were a part of a commonwealth and national water initiative, we were part of the Murray-Darling.

To then disrupt that seems terribly unprofessional.

LINTON BESSER: In a statement, Gavin Hanlon said all discussions with irrigators are, ‘… carefully managed under our protocols so that market sensitive information is not released.’

He said he has talked with irrigators about abandoning the Murray-Darling Basin Plan because, ‘ … it is prudent for the NSW Government to consider all possible scenarios for the implementation of the Basin Plan.’

PHILLIP GLYDE: That’s a matter for those states, is you’d understand that there’s a lot of tension and a lot of stress in making the sort of reform that is underway here.

LINTON BESSER: Is it appropriate?

PHILLIP GLYDE: It’s appropriate for the states to argue their own case.

I don’t know what the state governments do but you’d expect them to behave in the best interest of their constituents, to get the best out of the value of the Murray-Darling Basin.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: The Murray-Darling Basin Authority, I think the name should be changed because they don’t seem to have much authority over anything really.

LINTON BESSER: The dying river redgums of the Macquarie Marshes were a wake-up call prompting one of the biggest economic reforms in the country’s history – The Murray-Darling Basin plan.

Now after five years and billions of taxpayer dollars there are real questions about whether Australia’s fragile inland ecosystem has been saved.

RICHARD KINGSFORD: Look, we all hoped because of the state of the Murray-Darling basin that the basin plan would essentially take this patient, which was essentially in the intensive care unit, out of the intensive care unit and be able to make it walk again but essentially the basin plan is not working the way it was meant to work.

The whole idea of water for the environment was that water would come down these river systems and make its way right down to the end.

You know, it would be there for Aboriginal kids to play in at Wilcannia.

It would be there for the environment down at Menindee lakes.

And we don’t know where that water’s going? and we don’t know what’s happening to that water?

It just seems bizarre, and particularly when there are so many major players that are potentially exploiting the system.

LINTON BESSER: The Murray-Darling Basin Plan may not yet have saved the river, but it’s made a fortune for the lucky few.

MAL PETERS: There is no question, in my mind, that the majority of Australians supported the expenditure of a huge amount of money, 13 billion dollars, billion dollars, to fix the river.

If the outcome of it is, that we have a very few number of irrigators that have got a huge windfall out of this, I think everybody will be disgusted.

PHILLIP O’CONNOR: Well, it’s just whether the people care, Linton, whether they care about the river.

There is a lot of people take it for granted, mate, like flushing the toilet.

There will be people that care, and I just hope that people with the most money aren’t the people that are getting all the say and that care about it.

SARAH FERGUSON: Lawyers for cotton famers Peter and Jack Harris wrote to Four Corners on Friday denying any wrongdoing in relation to their use of water.

You can find further responses and details on our website.

Next week the international trade in hi tech on line surveillance tools – that enable governments to spy on their citizens.

See you then.




AUSTRALIA’s population Ponzi scheme

“AUSTRALIA is increasing its population by almost 400,000 a year — natural increase is about 38% of that and net overseas migration is about 62%.

The increase is 1.6% per year. To the non-statistician, that might not sound like much, but it means we would double our population every 44 years at that rate of increase. We are now at 25 million, so that would be 50 million in 2062. ….

MEANWHILE, we have almost 2 million people who want more work but can’t get it, full-time jobs are disappearing, wages have stagnated, private-sector debt has skyrocketed and wealth has concentrated at the big end of town.

What sticks in my craw is the seeming capitulation of both the once-great environmental movement in Australia and the progressive left in general, to the notion of demographic inevitability and Neoliberal orthodoxy.”


WT ****!!


Australia’s population Ponzi scheme

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Australia’s booming population growth is still an issue with no remedy in sight (Image by Dan Jensen)


Australia is running an “investment” scam that relies on an ever-increasing number of punters to join in, writes Stephen Williams.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING for discord between policies that the major parties offer and what most people actually want, it is hard to beat population policy.

Okay, okay, the major parties don’t actually have population policies, they have immigration policies that, as the Productivity Commission says in its 2016 Migrant intake into Australia report, work as de facto population policies.

But let’s start with what most people actually want.

Macro Business’s Leith van Onselen has been relentless in his coverage of the population issue in the past few years and he summarises the recent opinion surveys here.

Van Onselen misses the first Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) survey of 2015, which I spearheaded, although Adjunct Associate Professor Katharine Betts did most of the work.

I also had a minor role in The Australian Population Research Institute survey of 2017 that built upon the 2015 SPA survey.

At the very least these surveys show a clear voter dissatisfaction with our high population trajectory as our major cities become crush-loaded.

Do we have “high” population growth?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics releases a quarterly report that summarises our population numbers.


As you can see, Australia is increasing its population by almost 400,000 a year — natural increase is about 38% of that and net overseas migration is about 62%.

The increase is 1.6% per year. To the non-statistician, that might not sound like much, but it means we would double our population every 44 years at that rate of increase. We are now at 25 million, so that would be 50 million in 2062.

To put that in context, the shit hit the fan in October 2009 when then Treasury head, Ken Henry, expressed concern over our projected population of 35 million people by 2050.

That led to prime minister Kevin Rudd’s baptism of fire when, like a boy scout enthusiastically collecting kindling at his first jamboree, he chortled his enthusiasm for a “big Australia”.

Yes, we could all get nice and cozy around Kev’s big bonfire and toast some marshmallows!

But the public backlash was fierce, with Julia Gillard eventually distinguishing herself from Rudd with the empty phrase “sustainable Australia” rather than big Australia.

Back to reality, comparable countries to Australia have much lower population increases. Japan even has a decrease.

The Federal Government largely determines our population numbers, both through spruiking pronatalism, as former treasurer Peter Costello did in 2004, or through adjusting net overseas migration, with former Prime Minister John Howard turbo-charging it in about 2006.

(Do not confuse our refugee intake with our overall migrant intake — the former tends to be between 3 and 5% of the latter.)

Such high-population increases, mostly through net migration, then allowed successive governments to smugly say the Australian economy was the envy of the world, with a record-breaking run of “economic growth”.

Translation: GDP keeps increasing because you keep adding lots of new people.

Socialist Party@sp_australia

Is overpopulation a problem? We think the problem is not of a moderately increasing population but of a society centred around the unceasing and irrational exploitation of our resources. 

Population debate a distraction from real issues

Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the media about population growth. As Australia surpassed 25 million residents last month, much of the capitalist press used the occasion to play up…

Growth sounds good, doesn’t it? It is the opposite of death, decay or stagnation. But growth can also be a cancer, or a “population Ponzi scheme”.

As I have argued elsewhere, there is good evidence that Australia has gone from economic growth up to the decade of the 1970s to uneconomic growth as the costs of expanding the economy become greater than the benefits.

Expanding the economy wouldn’t be so bad if it led to full employment in good jobs and equitable wealth distribution, with reasonable commute times in efficient public transport, but I could sell you a nice big harbour bridge if you believe we are heading in that direction.

Australian governments have conducted a number of inquiries that were largely, or partly, into our population numbers: The Menzies Government’s Vernon report (1965), the National Population Inquiry (Borrie report, 1975), FitzGerald report (1988), Withers report (1992), Jones report (1994), Sobels report (2010) and the already-mentioned Productivity Commission report on migration (2016).

Space does not permit an analysis here, other than to say that governments generally ignore those reports that tend to highlight a lack of objective or scientific justification for ever-increasing high population increase in a country with Australia’s limited water resources; limited arable land, unpredictable climate, exposure to natural disasters and sensitive biota with record extinction rates.

Indeed, the Australian Academy of Science has been concerned about our population numbers for decades, although you will rarely, if ever, hear population boosters mention this.

As the Academy said in 2010:

‘The Academy has consistently advocated that a large increase in Australia’s population should not take place without a full analysis of the consequences for the environment, in terms of land, water, sustainable agriculture, pressure on native flora and fauna and social issues.’

Sustainable Australia Party@VoteSustainable

Why a 26m population target? | “The Australian Academy of Science reported on population sustainability…” 


People advocating business as usual – or even higher rates of population increase – almost never mention the natural environment, probably because they know next-to-nothing about it and its life-support systems.

On the other hand, people who express concern about our population trajectory often have scientific or environmental credentials, or are at least environmentally literate: contributors to the regular Fenner Conference for the Environment are good examples.

No, it is largely the business community, its think tanks and its big accounting firms that push for a big Australia, with the mainstream media being largely complicit in not challenging base assumptions that the growth agenda is built on.

For instance:

  • What would be an ecologically sustainable population for Australia?
  • What would be an optimal population for Australia?
  • Does expanding the size of the economy always lead to increased well-being?
  • Who are the winners and losers from the current Neoliberal growth strategy?
  • What are the costs and benefits of increasing our population and what weight should we give to these costs and benefits?
  • Why do many successful societies have relatively small populations?
  • What can Australia realistically do to help an overpopulated planet that is still expanding by 80 million people a year?

The population boosters trot out questionable arguments about the dire consequences of an increase in the proportion of older Australians; alleged skills gaps in the native workforce and fatuous ideas to do with “dynamism”.

Meanwhile, we have almost 2 million people who want more work but can’t get it, full-time jobs are disappearing, twages have stagnated, private-sector debt has skyrocketed and wealth has concentrated at the big end of town.

What sticks in my craw is the seeming capitulation of both the once-great environmental movement in Australia and the progressive left in general, to the notion of demographic inevitability and Neoliberal orthodoxy.

In fact, we have a choice, if only we would exercise it.

Melbourne Institute@MelbInstUOM

Population growth needs to be embraced and harnessed says @LordMayorMelb @SallyCapp_ in the @australian today. She will be speaking on this topic at next week: 

Mayor aboard push for big nation

Booming populations are nothing for Australias big cities to be afraid of, says the mayor of the nations fasting-growing capital.

Stephen Williams is a freelance journalist. He has done paid work for Sustainable Population Australia.

The PIE News@ThePIENews

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that what we’re doing is we’re going to better manage population growth.” Australian PM flags push away from cities for 

What is driving “A BIG AUSTRALIA”?

An analysis of “Why do we have a Big Australia”?

For an explanation of why the underlying social or economic factors tend to perpetuate a cross-party ‘Big Australia’ … Treasury, the Reserve Bank, States, and industry, are prominent. ‘Progressive’ or ‘green’ voices tend to align with this dominant group.  

Countervailing scientific concerns around our carrying capacity and State of the Environment!

In Australia, vigorous border control policy covers for vigorous migration policy with stop the boats and detention centres!  Refugees are the scapegoats …

The Electorates concerns tend to be sidelined or patronised by the pro-growth coalition.


Photo:  Maximum rainfall deciles; despite Australia being the driest continent on Earth those driving A Big Australia overlook this fact!

June 1 to August 31 2018


What is driving a ‘Big Australia’?


By Leith van Onselen

The Australian Population Research Institute (APRI) has released a new research report questioning “Why do we have a ‘Big Australia’?”. Below is the Executive Summary:

In part, this report was prompted by a case study of Australia’s 2011 Sustainable Population Strategy. After an impressive process and attractive product, the notable effect was an incumbent government reendorsing the previous government’s big boost to migration.

Hence a question, are there underlying social or economic factors, which tend to perpetuate a cross-party ‘Big Australia’? The answer must be ‘yes’. This report arranges the reasons for this response under six banners.

In short, these are Australian exceptionalism, population strategy, Treasury-GDP dominance, the growth lobby, states’ compliance, and economic biases.

The main banner is that the Treasury pursuit of GDP growth dominates our population policies and projections.

Australian exceptionalism

Australia’s population growth rate is much higher than world or OECD norms.

Overseas and in Australia environmental policies focus on climate change and not population growth.

Nevertheless, globally, it appears that more nations have policies to lower rather than to raise population growth.

Conversely, Australia and certain other developed nations are going for raised growth. But the Australian discourse glosses over our exceptional policy shift.

Our 21st century population spurt is defended as inevitable or normal. Among the rich nations, however, prosperity and living standards are not predicated on high population growth.

Population strategy

The Bring-out-a-Briton ‘Populate or Perish’ policy was a feature of the postwar reconstruction.

Immigration levels receded over the 1970s-1990s, while the neo-liberal economic agenda advanced.

Both main parties supported the migration push of the early 2000s. This came to be justified via labour shortages of the mining boom.

Following the government’s lead, Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Department steered the 2011 Population Strategy away from our high population growth. This evasion has outlived the mining boom, and continues to the present day.

Immigration remains high and, until recently, seldom questioned or discussed. Our 21st century population settings, deemed critical to ‘GDP growth’, are removed from the political contest.

Treasury-GDP dominance

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measure is relatively recent. It began its irresistible rise in the 1940s.

Despite economists’ reservations, and revision efforts, the usual GDP formulation governs Australian and other budgets.

In a default sense only, our population policy resides in the Treasury and is dedicated to supporting growth in aggregate GDP.

Though our 27-year ‘Economic Miracle’ of uninterrupted growth in GDP continues, this growth is now flatter, and the underlying contribution of population growth is vital to it.

Large claims are made for demographic and economic ‘rejuvenation’ through Big Australia. The crucial migration and population plans, however, only appear as ‘technical’ parameters at the back of the budget.

Our national, state, and city plans, simply assume high population growth for decades ahead.

The growth lobby

Over 1972-2006, our population grew, by an average of 210,000 a year. But that average has topped 375,000, over the years since.

Across the political spectrum, a diverse coalition backs this GDP-driven population push. Political parties, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, States, and industry, are prominent. ‘Progressive’ or ‘green’ voices tend to align with this dominant group.

Countervailing scientific concerns around our carrying capacity and State of the Environment are at a discount.

Today the electorate is shying from the dominant program of demographic growth. But their legitimate concerns tend to be sidelined or patronised by the pro-growth coalition.

States’ compliance

The federal budget gets the main GDP boost from population growth. States and cities, while also upping their GSPs (gross state products), pick up the tab for infrastructure and services.

The states are enthusiastic about population growth but their citizens could be forgiven for thinking that the tab is short paid.

Too often, training, education, or transport, planners are ‘caught short’ by rapid growth.

In congested cities that have suffered world-ranking housing unaffordability, many solutions are on the table – after Big Australia has been taken off the table.

City plans for mid-century begin by nearly doubling the population, and then assuming that other variables will fit in.

Some talk of channelling growth away from the cities and into the regions but ‘decentralisation’ has never been a meaningful solution for Australia’s population growth.

Economic biases

Under the lower migration of the 1970s-1990s, GDP growth was usually positive.

Since the 1980s, inequality has climbed.

Many voters and some economists worry that Big Australia itself works against wages, income or wealth equality, and housing affordability. Which is to say, the gains to the few look more assured than the gains for the many.

Benefits to the older, look more assured than benefits to the younger, or to future generations.

Working from international comparisons, it looks as though mass migration may not be the go-to program to update our economy away from its focus on ‘resources-and-services’ and towards an innovation economy.

Nor do federal and state governments underwrite honest infrastructure plans to cover the high population growth.

In conclusion, the economic and fiscal growth machines dominate our population policy and its population ‘projections’.

We’ve climbed well above the OECD population growth averages.

If Big Australia does little for equality of opportunity or future economic pathways, while the environment and services struggle and electors wilt, we ought to revisit the lower population trajectories that applied without harm and not so long ago.

Given the cultural and historical roots of Big Australia, that may not be easy.

Reform would more likely come from political ‘circuit breakers’ than from the bureaucracy.

That is what happened in New Zealand. One party broke ranks, promising to realign population growth with infrastructure capacities.

*In Australia, vigorous border control policy covers for vigorous migration policy.

The Department of Home Affairs pursues both avenues at once. ‘Stop the boats’ and detention programs distract from the Big Australia policy.

The migration shortfalls since 2016-17 have been attributed to stricter security checks against bigger and more connected databases.

The official 2017-18 intake of permanent migrants, 163,000, is still very high – just 10-15 per cent off six years of record highs.

The latest annual net overseas migration (NOM) figures stand well over 200,000. Short to medium term, there may not be any deep reflection on our population policy.

Nevertheless, it’s just possible the disconnection between our population growth and our carrying (and servicing) capacity will eventually produce a real policy shift.

In that, our migration intake would turn back towards the 70,000-90,000 levels of 1992-2002.

Also, we might place the population tab under a ceiling of 1 per cent growth a year, budget for longer-term migration implications along with short-term GDP boosts, reconsider the environmental constraints with a view to something more like a 30m population at 2050, and establish a proper population agency with its own minister.

A grace note would be to shift our Migration and Humanitarian plans away from any ‘border protection’ boasts.

Full report here.




Dry crops around Quirindi

PHOTO: This is the worst drought the Quirindi region has experienced in more than 50 years. (ABC News: Louie Eroglu)



ONE FARMER interviewed said this DROUGHT is worse than the 1965 Drought … because there’s no water, no water anywhere!

AND as a CAAN Commentator noted … “this has not been helped by our current governments freely allowing The Great Artesian Basin water robbery from the Mineral Councils lobbying for more coal mining, in particular the Adani Carmichael Mega Mine!

Our governments are allowing excessive water drawing from the Murray Darling Basin turning two of our main water sources into dead or dying rivers with the largest river almost non existent from the cotton growing area of Northern NSW that is devastating all and sundry downstream, and this I know first hand.

These are just a couple of the unbelievable and incompetent decisions currently made by the Federal and NSW governments … and this has to stop…!!!”

DESPITE this our LNP Governments in NSW and the Commonwealth persist with a high population growth agenda proposing to send migrants to our regions.

The NSW Planning Department has a Greenfields Housing Code for homes on lots as little as 200M2 X 6M2, and an Inland Code!

Proud Country

Posted Mon 1 Oct 2018

Proud Country: A portrait of a community surviving the drought.

“You may be on a bed of roses today, but the thorns always prick. So you just got to pull yourself together. Everyone pull together.” Country Women’s Association Branch Secretary

Four Corners brings you a story from the heart of the drought, a portrait of the land and its people, where the lack of rain is biting hard.

“I’d be joking to say that it’s not tiring and I’m bit too old for this sort of stuff, but anyway, that’s how it is.” Farmer

It’s pushing some to breaking point, but many in this proud country community are doing all they can to give others the strength to carry on.

“Yesterday was very emotional. A little old lady rings me up and she said to me ‘I’m 92 I’m going to give you $2000’ and I thought ‘oh my godfather!'” Country Women’s Association Branch Secretary

The people of Quirindi live and work on rich black soil country that they like to boast is the best in the land. Except when it hasn’t rained properly for more than a year.

“I can remember looking at the cows and thinking, ‘Bloody hell, what are we going to do?'” Farmer

They opened their homes and their lives to reporter Michael Brissenden. Along the way, he encountered characters so large, they could have walked from the pages of Banjo Paterson story.

“Drought has no respect for a person, whether you’re rich or poor.” Country Women’s Association Branch Secretary

From the thriving hub of the Country Women’s Association, to an unexpected local victory on the dusty rugby field, he found people trying to find a sense of purpose and some joy under the relentless sun.

“It’s a tough time at the moment so it’s just good for the town to have something to rally around.” Captain of the Quirindi Lions

Some are finding practical ways to make life that little more bearable with the donation of a haircut or a new pair of jeans.

“If we can make a few people feel a little bit better about themselves and know that there are people out there that care, I think that’s just some small little gesture that we can do.” Hairdresser

Despite their best efforts, you can sense the quiet desperation sitting just below the surface.

“Every week it’s getting worse. You wouldn’t think it could get worse, but it is. It’s just got that real bad feel about it.” Grain supplier

The parched landscape, exquisitely captured by Four Corners’ cameras, reveals the profound impact this drought has had. And with winter slipping away, there are fears for what summer may bring.

“We’re going into the hottest time of the year… the days are hotter, people haven’t got water and there’s no feed. So, time will tell.”

Proud Country, reported by Michael Brissenden and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 1st October at 8.30pm.

It is replayed on Tuesday 2nd October at 1.00pm and Wednesday 3rd at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at



  • Radio Sting:   ABC New England North West weather.

ANNOUNCER: Good morning to you I wish I could tell you that there was rain on the horizon but nothing at this stage that high pressure system sitting squarely above us and bringing us lots of sunshine.

Sunny on the North West Slopes and Plains  and as I said remaining fine for the next three days right across the New England North West actually , wish I could tell you something different.

TONY JACKSON , Farmer : Unfortunately, because of the vastness of the drought and the only really hay that’s around really is in Victoria and South Australia, and so for that reason I never thought I’d ever have to, but we’re having to travel  2,000 kilometres, 1,000 kilometres down, 1,000 kilometres back.

I’d be joking to say that it’s not tiring and I’m bit too old for this sort of stuff, but anyway, that’s how it is.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Tony Jackson didn’t choose to be a truck driver.

But this drought has redefined his world.

Its stripped the entire state of NSW of feed.

Tony Jackson is just back from his 17th trip to Victoria carting hay.

It’s a 12 hour drive each way.


TONY JACKSON: how you going dear?


JAKE ROOTES, Assistant Farm Manager: How’s your drive




TONY JACKSON:  As soon as we get a couple undone Em you can start unloading  if you like.


TONY JACKSON:  You know, it really hit us quick. It really did.


No, it scared me., you know I can remember looking at the cows and thinking, “Bloody hell, what are we going to do?”


That’s horrible. You kind of get a bit of a tremor and you think, “Bloody hell”.


EMMA LAWRENCE, Farmer :  Well he’s not young of course,   it’s been really hard on him,   he’s finding it tough.


He’s getting tired, as you would, I mean he’s doing it by himself, so he doesn’t have anyone there alongside him to keep him company.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  With Tony on the road so much the farming is left to his step daughter, Emma and their assistant farm manager, Jake Rootes.


EMMA LAWRENCE: It’s been horrible, it is sad, we’re just trying to keep the cattle alive so I guess I do get emotional, yeah  all we’re trying is to keep them alive and we’ve got to get what we can get . It’s been hard trying to find the hay this load wasn’t that good but it’s all hay so.


TONY JACKSON: She has a passion for this land and I’ve said to her as long as she looks after me in my old age it’s not going to be sold and it’s hers.


Emma’s had it tougher than I’ve had.


I’ve spent over 60 days away from this place in the last three months in the truck, so I haven’t been here a lot.


Emma’s the one that’s had the hardest job, she’s had a lot harder job than me because she’s looking at the coalface more than I am.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: There’s a punishing monotony to surviving this drought.


Emma and Jake spend every day distributing feed.


EMMA LAWRENCE:  righto I’ll load you up brother.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Emma is desperately trying to save the herd –  and her future.


EMMA LAWRENCE:  I’ll shut these  gates behind you.


JAKE ROOTES : yeah we might be all day.


JAKE ROOTES, Assistant Farm Manager:    we have laughs and jokes and carry on, we have to, or we cry, we laugh or we’ll cry.


If it doesn’t rain well they’ll run out of money.


It’s not just this farm, it’s all other farmers around us.


Poor Emma, she’s 27,28 now.  she thought she would take over the family farm and she might not, because of drought.


EMMA  LAWRENCE : I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else  even though it is horrible, yeah, it’s my home and I love it.



MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: A new day begins with the same cloudless sky and the same questions.


JAKE ROOTES:  You get up at the morning, and go out on the veranda and have a coffee, and you just think, “What’s today going to bring?


How many cows am I going to shoot?


What am I going to do?”


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   After just one night at home Tony is hitting the road again.


TONY JACKSON:  just make sure you get some of that grape marc and try that and I’d even, yeah do something with the wieners and he doesn’t mind  even if you  get half a tonne of it and try it with the cows too.


Put it on the back of the cruiser and mix it up with some cotton seed when you’re feeding cotton seed up there, cause if it’s good we will get a load of it and we’ll get into it quick while we can still get it.


I’ll head off now and I’ll do that banking in Quirindi and I’ll be home I’ll talk to you tonight but I’ll be home hopefully 1,2 o’clock Friday


EMMA LAWRENCE : No worries at all


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: You must know just about every pothole on that road now?


TONY JACKSON: I do know a fair few of them, I’ve known some of them ,no no its fine you know and there’s other truck drivers on the road yeah yeah it’s alright.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: well  good luck safe travels.


TONY JACKSON: Ok thankyou .


EMMA LAWRENCE:   poor Tony, he’s doing two trips a week now .


It started off, he was doing one trip a week and he’d have three, maybe four days at home and then it got worse and worse and we were feeding more and more, so he just had to keep rolling.


That’s what he’s doing at the moment to keep up with us.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Tony Jackson bought here because he believed this valley was safe….tucked up against the Great Dividing Range with some of the best rainfall records  in the district.


This is what a normal year looks like.


Knee high grass and abundant feed.


EMMA LAWRENCE:   like it is an unbelievable difference, because you get used to seeing it the way it is and even when I look back at the photos I just go, “Wow, that’s what it’s usually like.”


We’re not the only ones and we have to remember that.


We’re not the only ones that are shooting cows, and feeding cows, and trying to keep everything alive .


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  Tonight, farmers from around the district are driving in to the Quirindi Rugby Club.


They’ve come to hear what government assistance is now available and how to access it.


SPEAKER1:  Welcome everyone to our drought information evening


SPEAKER2: So be aware of how much you’re using and why your using and reflect on that


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The organisers were expecting about 100 – but 170 people have turned up.


It’s a welcome break for many –  and a chance to talk openly about one of the toughest challenges in these hard times – mental health.


SARAH GREEN, Rural Adversity Mental Health Program : Mental illness is pretty sneaky because you won’t see it coming what happens is as you become unwell you tend to lose sight of the fact that  you are unwell, and It just becomes your normal.


I think it’s really important again to remember again to remember that under prolonged stress decision making goes out the window.


It’s so important for your farm business that you stay well, tough times don’t last tough people do.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Navigating the bureaucratic maze to access available financial help is also a challenge for many – Freight subsidies, farm household allowances, concessional loans are all available.


ALLAN BLEECHMOORE , Dept. Human Services : The biggest message I can give to you tonight is please do not self-assess  , let us assess whether you’re eligible or not  .


Everybody’s circumstances and income and everything is different so do not self-assess let us make that decision, that’s the biggest thing, thankyou .


SARAH GOULDEN , Rural Financial Counselling Service: I’m here to let you know what’s available through the state – so   we’re talking about  NSW government and the Rural Assistance Authority.


FARMER:  what about the people ineligible for it either because they try and get ahead by working off farm or they’ve built up an asset base off farm which is exactly that it’s an asset it’s not cash, what’s going to be done to help all of those people?


SARAH GOULDEN: that’s a great question too  I suggest you ask your local State and Federal  ministers.


FARMER:  I’ve done that


SARAH GOULDEN: Keep on asking, so  you guys need to lobby the people you voted into to represent you


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  The farmers here have had some of their questions answered.


But they’re leaving this meeting tonight still frustrated by the bureaucratic obstacles between them and any financial help.


JOHN HURLEY , Farmer: it’s a waste of time ringing a politician. It is an absolute waste of time.


I started making phone calls last November and then they said there’s no drought relief.


And I kept it up, and kept it up, so I rang them a couple of months ago, I said, “Now we want bulldozers.”


And they said, “What for?” I said, “To bury the cattle!”


And they said, “It’s not come to that yet.”


I said, “It has.”


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  John Hurley’s property is a ten minute drive from Quirindi,  he’s been breeding cattle here since he was 15 years old.


Like a lot of old farmers, he remembers the big drought of 1965 – this one’s worse.


JOHN HURLEY: In 1965, it was grim.
It was a family partnership then and we had nearly 1000 cattle, we had 55 die.


We sent them all over New South Wales,  of course, you could move them around and there was plenty of water.


There’s no feed anywhere now in New South Wales.


There’s nowhere to go and now we’re out of water. The whole countryside is dried up, the water’s gone.


There’s no way out, the costs have just got us beat.


Grain has doubled, cotton seed’s doubled,  hay’s doubled.


it’s just not going to end and   it’s just becoming unbearable and it tests a few of us, I’ll tell you


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: John Hurley has been hand feeding his cattle since April last year .


JOHN HURLEY:  I’ve got to stick at it,  you’ve got to go as long as you can, because you can’t buy these cattle.


You just can’t.


We just keep plodding on, get out the bed at half past six every morning, go and feed the cattle., seven days a week.


It’s a dead end and it’s going to crush a lot of people.


It gets to us, all of us , but you just got to soldier on.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:    It’s not just the cattle he’s fighting to save – this is a bloodline built up over decades.


Every new calf is another mouth to feed but for John Hurley this is what it’s all about.


JOHN HURLEY  : You want to know what makes me get out of bed every morning?


That , breeding cattle better than anybody else’s.


That’s what motivates me, and it’s been my whole life for 63 years, somehow, we’ll keep them alive.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  The arrival of the railway in the 19th century put Quirindi on the map.


The town’s wealth was built on the black soil of the Liverpool Plains.


Now stress like the drought is stealing into every corner of the community.


DR LUQMAN NASAR, Quirindi GP: I have seen extreme surge in severe mental health issues leading from mild-moderate to severe depression, anxiety, very uncertain future and long term   consequences that patients expressed to me as a result of this drought.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  Dr Luqman Nasar runs a clinic on the main street.


He says some of his patients are not filling prescriptions because of the cost.


DR LUQMAN NASAR:    The bottom line comes that at the moment they are struggling to feed their animals.


They’re paying , there is  heaps of cost to feed their animals, so they prefer to keep them alive rather than looking after their health.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But it’s the mental strain that’s taking the biggest toll on his patients and it seems on him as well.


DR LUQMAN NASAR:   A lot of farmers have told this is the worst they have seen in 60 years and this is, they have already, some of them have sold their farms.


Some of them have sold their animals.


Some of them, the animals are already dead.


Some of them, obviously they’re thinking to get their kids out, out of the school.

COLLEEN WILLS , Quirindi Country Women’s Association : I’ll those talking ladies in the kitchen please when you’re ready, DING DING DING


Bring your cup of tea in and we’ll just cover the food over and you’ll  be able to have a bit of lunch.


national anthem


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  Tough times are the bread and butter of the Country Women’s Association.


With Colleen Wills leading the chorus the ladies of the Quirindi CWA are mobilising


CWA LADIES:  Honour to God, loyalty to the throne ,service to the country, through country women for country women by country women.


COLLEEN WILLS: there’s another $500 come from a lady we know very well in Sydney


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The CWA is distributing care packs to farmers too proud to ask.


COLLEEN WILLS:  You can’t really put an estimate how generous people are and all they want is for the farmers, its important, there’s no rules, regulations, we don’t have 8 pages of paperwork or more to fill in.


Yesterday was very emotional again a little old lady rings me up and she said to me I’m 92 I’m going to give you $2000 and I thought oh my godfather and she said,  “you make sure all those farming women get a tube of lipstick” and I thought oh my godfather.


Drought has no respect for person whether you’re rich or poor.


The important thing is to realise is that country women, if they’re on the land themselves, they know who’s hurting, they know, because the price is the same for everybody.


So, they have been actually marvellous in delivering all the goods as they come to hand.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  Every day now Colleen Wills is collecting and distributing donations – leading a grass roots effort to help those in need


YVONNE WYNNE, CWA member:  I’d like people to realise that  this wouldn’t have been coordinated so well without you at the helm .


You work at it night and day and you are to be congratulated and I’d like people to acknowledge all the effort and the work and the time you’ve put in to do all because it wouldn’t have worked like this without you (applause).


And we’ve got to watch her she’ll stretch   herself too far


And she’s too old to do that isn’t she (laughs).


COLLEEN WILLS :  that’s alright, I’ve broad shoulders you know.


COLLEEN WILLS:  I suggested to the ladies, our greatest need was to keep our shops open in our main street.


So the idea was we went around and gave money to the shops to provide vouchers to people in need or who could benefit from them actually to bring people into the main street and support the town.


DION PATTERSON , Hairdresser : Hi Colleen, how are you?


COLLEEN WILLS :  Very well, got to be alright haven’t we .


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  The 250 dollars colleen is giving to the hairdresser today will go towards haircuts and  beauty treatments  for women off the land who might otherwise go without.


DION PATTERSON it’ll be good when we’re able to give It out …and we’re going to add a little bit to it as well,  thank you  very much.

DION PATTERSON:  In a small town like this the locals know who needs it most.


DION PATTERSON, HAIRDRESSER: I had one particular client this week say this is their escape, they get to come in and have an hour of just getting away from looking at dusty paddocks and poor livestock  so if we can make them feel a little bit better with the money that Colleen and her CWA ladies have been donating to the business owners in town, if we can make a few people feel a little bit better about themselves and know that there are people out there that care,  that’s just some small little gesture that we can do.


COLLEEN WILLS: Hello Michael how are you , welcome to Windemere.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   It’s a beautiful spot you’ve got here.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:    Colleen Wills lives on a property a few kilometres out of town.


She’s been a community leader in the district for decades.


COLLEEN WILLS:   never a dull minute  when you live in Quirindi.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Is that right?


COLLEEN WILLS: Never a dull minute  always something to do.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Hers is a wisdom forged from a lifetime on the land.


COLLEEN WILLS: Everything we’re doing is only really a bandaid solution, but hopefully it’s bringing people together to feel that we can all work together and get over these things.


There’s an old saying,  you might  be at the top of the ladder today but one day you got to come down.


You may be on a bed of roses today, but the thorns always prick.


So you just got to pull yourself together, everyone pull together and I’m sure they can make their town great whether it be Quirindi or anywhere else , we’ve all just got to work together for the good of each other .


JOHN WEBSTER, Quirindi Grain:  How you going mate ?


DRIVER: Yeah good


JOHN WEBSTER: Have a good trip ?


DRIVER : Yeah not bad not bad


Well we beat the rain anyway, didn’t have to tarp it (laughs)


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   John Webster has been selling grain and farm supplies in Quirindi for nearly 40 years.


JOHN WEBSTER, Quirindi grain :  There’s a lot of help being given out there, a lot of people are helping people that they don’t want any recognition for you know, which is good, but it’s just getting worse.


You can tell just by talking to people or looking at people, how it’s getting at them you know?


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   John Webster was hoping to retire but the drought has him busier than ever sourcing feed for his increasingly anxious and desperate customers.


Today he’s taking delivery of 10 tonnes of cottonseed from the Riverina – he already has buyers waiting for it.


JOHN WEBSTER :  I’m trying to buy another 200 tonne at the moment, and it just  every day, every deal you’re doing now, you just feel like you’ve loaded a ship.


Because it’s a lot of work to it put it together, you can sell it, but you’ve got to be able to buy it, that’s the big thing.


Everything’s just creeping up in price now too, which is a worry.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Cottonseed that was selling at the beginning of the year for around $200 a tonne – is now selling for over $700.


JOHN WEBSTER:     Yeah ross its john speaking how are you ?


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   John is on the phone day and night working his contacts – chasing feed all over the country.


JOHN WEBSTER:  We started shifting that wheat , they’ve done 3 loads from up at Bellata  so I’ll let you know when we’re finished and you can  start again you know  . 


JOHN WEBSTER:  every week it’s getting worse.


You wouldn’t think it could get worse, but it is. It’s just got that real bad feel about it.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  What sort of impact is it having on the town?


JOHN WEBSTER:  Oh, the town is really suffering,   the business house, the main street here.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Like a lot of small towns this one has been under pressure for decades.


People here can remember when there were six butcher shops on  the main street – today there are none and a lot of the shops here are now empty.


This drought isn’t just drying out the countryside its amplifying and accelerating a decline that’s been underway for years.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Since 1911 Reilly’s Men’s Outfitters has had pride of place on Quirindi’s main street.


John Reilly is the third generation of a country clothing dynasty.


JOHN REILLY:  There’s a mirror there have a look


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:    He knows the hat size of everyone in the district.


JOHN REILLY:   down a bit further mate, that s better


JOHN REILLY , Reilly’s Men’s Outfitters:    Well very  often someone will ring up and they’ll say, ‘You know my hat size, please send me out such and such an Akubra hat’, and you generally know from repetition what their waist size is, what their jacket size is, what their hat size is.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  And what their inside leg measurement is.?


Not all the time.


JOHN REILLY: these are for the high school


LORRAINE REILLY:  oh right, do you need anymore , have you got all yours out?


JOHN REILLY:  I’ve got all the one’s that I want


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  Lorraine Reilly joined an institution when she married John in 2005.


LORRAINE REILLY : so you’re going to drop these over to Wayne today ?

LORRAINE REILLY : There’s really nothing happening in town because the money’s just not there.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  We need those farmers to be making an income so that they can be in town and spending, and of course, that’s a lot less these days.


Reilly’s has also been given money from the CWA.


JOHN REILLY:  I had one gentleman that told me he only 20 dollars left in his bank account and through the generosity of the CWA, I was able to supply him with a pair of jeans for which he was very grateful.


The jeans he had on the day he saw me were all ripped and torn and the next day he had his new jeans on and I was very pleased to see that.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  Changing habits like the rise in online shopping have undercut the business.


The drought hasn’t helped – Reilly’s will shut its doors for good soon.


John doesn’t expect to find a buyer.


JOHN REILLY:   Because of the drought, no one is really interested.


There’s no business confidence in taking on a new venture and unfortunately.


NSW COUNTRY HOUR :   0n ABC  Radio NSW, this is the country hour.


The national grain crop is down to a ten year low but the crop in NSW  is much worse than that less than  half the  normal crop planted less than a quarter of the normal yield now expected and it’s all due to the unrelenting drought.


In NSW we’ve seen dry periods before but we’ve not seen such a widespread dry period right across the state  right across lots of the regions .


We’re heading down a line that will probably tip towards some of the lowest production figures we’ve had on record.


LINDSAY MAYBURY. Harvesting Contractor:   it’s the first time that we haven’t had a winter crop in this area on the Liverpool Plains and it’s a big area, whereas normally .they’re big crops, normally big crops, but this has just gone from that to nothing.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: No crop means no income for contractors like Lindsay Maybury.


LINDSAY MAYBURY:    There’s nothing to the north and that’s 1000k and there’s nothing to the south.


That’s the first time in my 35, 40 years of harvesting that there’s been nothing right through the wheat belt on the west. Nothing at all.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Lindsay has millions of dollars of heavily financed machinery sitting idle.


LINDSAY MAYBURY:  We’ve got seven machines, plus your tractors and you  employ up to eight, nine young fellows,  we’re just going , they’ll be all sitting in the shed.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN : He’s now renegotiating with the bank and his sons are looking for off farm work.


LINDSAY MAYBURY:  We didn’t think this would end up like this.


We thought we’d get through, it’ll be alright, but we’ll get through.


But, now there’s nothing, you may well as say two years of it, been building up, yeah.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  What is that costing you?


LINDSAY MAYBURY: Well, probably half a million. Yeah.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That’s a big whack isn’t it.


LINDSAY MAYBURY :  Yeah , by the time you..


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  For most people in the middle of it surviving drought is a day by day challenge, communities like Quirindi feel it at every level.


Today is the last match of a tough season for the Quirindi Lion’s rugby team.


This year they have at times struggled to field a full team, many of the players have been caught on the land too busy dealing with the drought.


In a small town in a tough year like this rugby is more than a game…it’s a unifying  community event.


RICHARD BRABOOK, Quirindi Rugby Club:  I think the club really provided an outlet ,  I think it does them good to get off the farm, and also their fathers…and mums.


So, I think it gives the whole family a change to get off the place and just forgot about it for a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  Last week they went down 88 – 12.


Today it’s a different story.


RICHARD BRABOOK:   They enjoy themselves and they’re happy,  and yeah, there’s laughter, you know.


It’s all the stuff you want, they’re taking the mickey out of each other, there’s a lot of banter , they’re giving each other a hard time   but they’re looking after each too, you know.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Lions have left their best game for the end of the season…it’s a much needed morale boost.


TOM GRANT, Player : I think it was very good ta big collective effort I think  there’s been a of talk around the town this week about finishing the season strong  going into next year .


It’s a tough time at the moment so it’s just good for the town to have something to rally around , so very good thanks guys .


RICHARD BRABOOK : It was a great day.


The boys are happy, everyone’s happy, the spectators are happy, you know and I think to finish it on that sort of note gets us on a good step for the next season.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  The scale of this drought is truly staggering – it stretches from south west Queensland  through all of NSW and into South Australia.


The Liverpool Plains is almost at the epicentre.


The statistics for January to August this year show 2018 has so far been the warmest and one of the driest periods since records began in the early 1900’s.


Unlike floods and storms droughts creep up on the country.  But is drought a natural disaster or just a part of life here in Australia.?


How much welfare help should farmers be given and why should farmers be bailed out by the tax payer when other businesses aren’t?


They’re all valid questions, the farmers here will tell you the worst time to talk about drought policy is when we’re in the middle of a drought but they would also all agree that what passes for policy at the moment isn’t working.


PAUL NANKEVILL , Economist:  There has been no analyses on what farmers have been doing to become more drought proof, where they’ve been doing it, how they’ve been doing it.


So, policymakers don’t know what measures are going to have a tailored impact.


They just say “Oh, you can have some concessional loans, you can have these grants and whatever.”


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Paul Nankevill is a local farmer and former Quirindi mayor – he’s also been an economic consultant with the World Bank.


He says we need a comprehensive drought policy.


PAUL NANKEVILL:  it is critical that you get drought policy aligned with other policies for the modern era. That is climate change, energy policy, water resource policy to stop the decline of the agriculture sector.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  It’s sale day at the Gunnedah cattle yards.


This is where the years of farming and breeding either pay off or don’t.


Many of those selling today felt they had no choice.


PATRICK PURTLE, Stock & Station Agent:  As you can see today it’s very much a cow and calf yarding, and that’s particular with drought circumstance where people are forced into a decision where they’ve just got to unload.


And you see that today with calves that are split up with our little bobby calves,   a total different scenario than what we’d ordinarily see this time of year.


We have a lot of clients that have been in the mix for 50 and 60 years on the land. And they’re saying that’s the driest time they’ve seen around here.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: This time last year Patrick Purtle was selling fat cattle for record prices , today’s forced sales are pushing prices down.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   If it goes on for much longer, what’s the impact going to be?


PATRICK PURTLE:  Well I think that that is where the real sting in the tail is.


Twelve months down the track is where the real hurt’s going to appear, because people aren’t going to have the numbers to sell.


There’s no income in the mix, and that’ll float through the wall of local businesses and the whole rural community if you’d like,  lack of employment.


I see a real issue with the processing sector going forward.


They’re going to struggle for numbers. It’s created a real dilemma, this drought, and as soon as it’s over with, the better it’ll be for everyone.


On the other side of this drought there is a positive.


The people that have been able to feed and hold this stock, I think they’re going to  be very, very well rewarded.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Always a bit of a gamble though, isn’t it?


PATRICK PURTLE:             Proper gamble at the moment,  the day comes when you don’t know that you can source that fodder, of course that’s where the gamble is.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Emma Lawrence and her family are now trapped in an endless cycle of feeding  – just to keep their stock alive.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:  you’ve made a decision, you’re going to spend all this money and all this work to keep this herd alive, why?


EMMA LAWRENCE:  I believe we probably should’ve sold some cattle a lot earlier, but Tony said, you know, “Well, what if we do hit rain and end up having a good season?


And then we don’t have the stock then and we have to buy them in, cattle prices will probably spike then.


But it’s a good question because at the moment we are questioning ourselves with why have we done this? Why are we feeding them? Should’ve we have sold them?


TONY JACKSON:   After this is over we must be able to trade on.


Now, if we’d simply sold everything, we would never be able to buy them back.


That’s a decision I made, obviously, the wrong one now.


If the season comes good it’ll still be all right, but this is going to hurt for a long time.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:     Every day they live with the consequences of the gamble they’ve taken.


So far, they’ve spent nearly 300 thousand dollars on feed but even that isn’t enough to keep all of the herd alive.


EMMA LAWRENCE :  You never know what you’re going to find up there, if you’re going to find one, or two, or three cows that are down or already died, because they’re calving as well and just doing it the toughest.


You might see one down and you sort of sigh oh there’s another one


I think we’ll have to shoot this one  .


EMMA LAWRENCE :  They won’t get up, they give up pretty well, just get down, just can’t get their front legs up or their back legs, and just pretty well give up.


There’s nothing you can do, you’ve got to put them down humanely, so yeah.


JAKE ROOTES    It is very tough. I’m a tough looking bloke, but any bloke I reckon that has to do that all the time, it’s going to get to them. Anyone would have to have a heart, and I’ve shot over 80 cattle at the moment.


EMMA LAWRENCE:  I guess mentally and physically it’s challenging .


Jake and I always talk amongst ourselves, you know and I’m sure we’d pick up if each other were getting down.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   In the last few weeks there have been a few showers, some of the paddocks have started to show a bit of green but it’s nowhere near enough.


EMMA LAWRENCE:   Cows actually need grass to be up a couple of inches so that they can wrap their tongue around it to eat whereas sheep and horses can get close to the ground with their teeth and eat but cows cant.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast the drought will continue well into next year.


The chances of an el nino which will see reduced rainfall until next Autumn are now put at 50%.


EMMA LAWRENCE: It’s going to take a lot of rain to get it back to how it was, like we need hundreds of millimetres, not in one drop of course.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Despite the grim predictions Tony Jackson tries to see the glass half full – as the farmers like to say – every new day is one day closer to rain.


TONY JACKSON : To not to get any rain until March, that’s never happened in this country since white man’s been here.


That doesn’t mean it can’t, but I don’t believe it will.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   The people of the Liverpool Plains are resilient but after a year of drought farmers here are dreading another hot dry Summer.

JAKE ROOTES:     If it keeps going like this  they can’t afford to keep me going , 12 months down the track I might be without a job, and Emma might be without a farm.


LYNDSAY MAYBURY :    You get sick  of looking at the weather, you know, on TV and then you look at your iPad to see what the weathers going to do.


The unfortunate thing we’re going into a dry, we’re going into a hot time.


We’re going the hottest time of the year and we’ve got no feed now, there’s nothing now.


That’s going to be a big impact, because the days are hotter, people haven’t got water and there’s no feed, so time will tell.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:   Do you think that’s going to  break people?


LINDSAY MAYBURY: Yep I do. I think a lot of people are going to be in trouble.


COLLEEN WILLS:   The fact that a property might be worth a million dollars on paper, according to the Valuer General, does not put bread and butter on their table today.


The best way I think to help farmers and then if you think people are hurting, take them a casserole, a cake,  “How are you?”.


Give them a cup of coffee, there’s a lot of little things you can do which don’t cost a lot of money and show that you care.







ONE FARMER interviewed said this DROUGHT is worse than the 1965 Drought … because there’s no water, no water anywhere!

AND as a CAAN Commentator noted … “this has not been helped by our current governments freely allowing The Great Artesian Basin water robbery from the Mineral Councils lobbying for more coal mining, in particular the Adani Carmichael Mega Mine!

Our governments are allowing excessive water drawing from the Murray Darling Basin turning two of our main water sources into dead or dying rivers with the largest river almost non existent from the cotton growing area of Northern NSW that is devastating all and sundry downstream, and this I know first hand.

These are just a couple of the unbelievable and incompetent decisions currently made by the Federal and NSW governments … and this has to stop…!!!”

THE ABC has compiled 250 Reports on Australia’s current Drought …

Tonight’s Four Corners:  “Proud Country” 1 October 2018


Full coverage: Australia’s drought crisis

Farmers are facing ruin across New South Wales and Queensland in what some are calling the worst drought in living memory, with costs of stock feed and transport spiralling.

If you would like to know how you can help, you can contact the following charities:

Large swathes of eastern Australia have been in drought for periods ranging from a year to seven years, with the record dry conditions prompting calls for further federal and state measures.

Left Hanging … How they’re killing the KOALAS OF WILTON



-relentless semi trailer and car traffic barrelling through core koala habitat

-koalas are now facing a 17,000-lot residential development to engulf this rural area

-court transcripts indicate the contractor understood the clearing was in anticipation of a future land rezoning – six years before the DPE’s exhibition period in 2017

Walker Corporation’s proposed corridor leads into the Nepean Conservation Area, whose sandstone soils do not support koala feed trees

-Council Environmental Officer on viewing the Wilton Southeast zoning on the DPE website discovered that the only documents listed were the developer’s submissions

QUESTIONS  raised for the DOPE …

HOW can this rezoning go through before the biocertification process is complete, and without being assessed under the biodiversity conservation act?

WHY were the Walker zones rammed though with so many unresolved issues?

… Obviously they are happy to pay the fines because in the grand scheme of things it’s a pittance.




Sunday, 30th September 2018


Text: Mick Daley


Stand on busy Picton road at the bridge over Allens Creek, near Wilton NSW and you’ll get a picture of what a koala has to deal with to get to its feed trees. The relentless semi-trailer and car traffic barreling through this core koala habitat has resulted in at least twelve koala deaths over the past two years. But that’s nothing compared to what they’re facing when an anticipated 17,000-lot residential development engulfs this rural area.

The Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) has designated this as the Wilton Priority Growth Area under its Western City District Plan. Just 80km south west of the Sydney CBD, it’s part of the NSW government’s vote-winning solution to the city’s congestion and housing problem. But it’s coming at a high cost.

The Department of Office Environment and Heritage (OEH), the Rural Fire Service (RFS), an independent scientist and the local Wollondilly Council have all weighed in against the existing proposal, saying it goes against long-standing scientific advice and ignores State planning laws. It also threatens the survival of the largest chlamydia-free koala population in NSW.

The DPE’s developer, the Sydney-based Walker Corporation has twice been successfully prosecuted for having illegally cleared areas of sensitive koala habitat, earning them the largest such fine in NSW history. That’s just one of a raft of irregularities that have plagued this controversial project.

Wollondilly Shire Council has lodged an appeal against the DPE in the Land and Environment Court, saying that the rezoning of land in the Wilton South East Precinct ignores scientific advice from the OEH.

Judith Hannan, the Wollondilly Shire Mayor, says Council is not against the development at Wilton. “We’re asking for the reversal of the rezoning, until we get a solid conservation plan sorted out. We feel like there’s a tidal wave coming at us and the koalas are sitting in the path of it.”

Hannan says that long term planning has been inadequate for such a large-scale development and there are insufficient jobs and infrastructure to support it. “There is no reliable public transport to the area, no provision for employment, no integrated health service. How many other things would you like? It’s a nightmare and we don’t have much ability to stop it.”

She says that the koala road-kill problem is at crisis-point. “Even during the last council meeting, someone sent us a live photo of a koala in Appin in the service station and that evening that koala was dead on the road. It was horrendous.”

Councillor Matthew Deeth goes a step further.

“It beggars belief how the planning department makes these decisions. There’s no transparency at all and there’s no response to any of the concerns that council has raised,” he says. “I can’t point to any letters or anything to show they’ve even considered any of our concerns.”

Council’s environmental education officer, Damion Stirling has been at the coal-face of this issue.

“What triggered this for us was the southeast Wilton rezoning (from rural to residential),” he says. “We weren’t informed (by DPE) when that rezoning dropped, we found out through social media. They’ve (DPE) made reference that council had been consulted, but any submissions made were not adopted.

“They even reference measures to minimizing the impact on koalas, but they’re words on the page and we haven’t seen that detail.”

Stirling showed me the roadkill hotspot at Allen’s Creek, in the southeast tip of the proposed development. He says the creek constitutes part of an east-west running corridor that is vital to the survival of these koalas.

This was identified as far back as 2005 as a likely primary koala corridor by Professor Rob Close of the University of Western Sydney, with sightings going back into the Nineties.

The Wilton area was officially recognised as a primary koala corridor in 2007, by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW), the precursor of the OEH.


An OEH spokesperson has confirmed that core koala habitat and primary movement corridors have been identified within this region.

In mid-2016 a pilot study between Appin and Wilton found eight koalas in a week. That was enough information for OEH to fund the Wilton Koala Conservation Project, granted $200,000 from the Saving Our Species fund – the second highest funded project in the state. It’s tracked koalas through the area, specifically along Allen’s Creek, which features a good selection of koala feed trees.

Cate Ryan, a long-time WIRES carer, knows the inevitability of koalas seeking food or mates in the vicinity of Picton Road.

“They’re trying to disperse to other areas and they’re becoming roadkill. The issue with all the koalas is if they become landlocked they’ve got no escape. There’s no feed for them, so they’re coming out onto the roads and they’re getting killed. If they’ve got no underpasses or overpasses they can’t get to other breeding stock, so they become genetically compromised, because they start inbreeding. We’ve already noticed some conditions – smaller koalas, smaller eyes and irregular eye shapes.

“There’s no food out there and what’s up here is dying because of the drought. It’s horrible. I’d hate to be a koala.”

Ryan says the biggest fear is that chlamydia-infected koalas from colonies to the south may move towards Wilton for the same reasons, compromising the health of the local koalas.

“Because these guys here are disease free, they could be used in breeding programs as stock to repopulate areas where they’ve been decimated by disease. There’s a whole lot of things we can look at for the future with these guys, but unless they’re protected, there’s nothing.”

Underneath the highway bridge at Allen’s Creek, Stirling points out a huge culvert that would provide safe access for wandering males and breeding females with back-young, searching for the increasingly rare food trees they need to survive.

“It’s one thing to protect koalas from road kill, but we need to be feeding them into quality habitat corridors that will enable their dispersal,” he said.

“This creek line corridor links all the way down to the Nepean on the other side of Douglas Park. At the northern end of it is the St Mary’s Towers biobank site. There’s breeding females with back-young on there as we speak, identified by OE&H.”

Stirling observes how easily this infrastructure could be adapted to a koala corridor. “Down here you can see the scats and footprints of kangaroos and stuff, so it’s already being used by fauna.

“From Roads and Maritime Services’s point of view, this is an easy win. Even that concrete barrier on the bridge up there is enough to stop a koala trying to cross the road.”


But the development planned by DPE favours a corridor bisecting 23 hectares of land, illegally cleared by the Walker Corporation in 2005. According to Land and Environment Court transcripts they were fined $200,000 for that transgression, at that time one of the largest fines for illegal clearing of vegetation in NSW.

In 2011 Walker were fined an additional $80,000 for illegal clearing at Appin, where their current rezoning proposal is.

Court transcripts indicate that DPE used the same land clearing contractor for both jobs and that the contractor understood the clearing was in anticipation of a future land rezoning – six years before the DPE’s exhibition period in 2017.

Councillor Deeth points out that Walker Corporation’s proposed corridor leads into the Nepean Conservation Area, whose sandstone soils do not support koala feed trees. He says Council is privy to the process followed by OEH, who warned against the DPE proposal.

“They gave advice to the DPE that the Allen’s Creek corridor was the best option for the koalas. The DPE has ignored their advice and instead hired an outside team of consultants to give them another result, an act which I believe is unprecedented in this field.

The OEH is supposed to provide the environmental data and advice to the DPE, to be incorporated into the overall planning. But the OEH has been reduced from a department in its own right to an office advising the DPE and even this status appears to have been sidelined.”

The DPE not only ignored their own environmental office’s advice, but appear to be flouting State Environmental Planning Proposal 44 (SEPP 44). Under that law the DPE is obliged to do a site-specific koala plan and the rezoning of the land should not have happened until a biocertification and vegetation mapping process had been completed.

The reason this has not been completed involves a Kafka-esque bureaucratic turn that belongs in the realm of fiction.

When the state government’s new Biodiversity Act came into force on 24 August last year, Wollondilly Council received a phone call from DPE, telling them its growth area was exempt from the Act for a further 12 months – until the biocertification process was completed.

“We were told the biocertification process would be completed by Feb 2018, then it was June, but it still hasn’t been completed,” said Stirling. “We’ve now been told that the Act won’t come into force until November, 18 months later.”

While the DPE’s rezoning ignores SEPP 44, it also sidelines advice from the Rural Fire Service that the bushland southeast of the proposed development is a major fire risk and would require an exit road bisecting the DPE’s proposed koala corridor.

If the reader were to fancy that the DPE has not been taking this process seriously, they should consider that in January 2018, Wollondilly Council received a draft Development Control Plan (DCP) from DPE. Rather than sending a new document, specifically designed to reflect the area’s ecological sensitivities, they instead sent a tracked changes version of Blacktown Growth Area’s DCP. On the last page was a single picture and two sentences about koalas.

Apart from this slapdash approach, Stirling claims DPE’s process ignores four key recommendations of the NSW chief scientist’s 2016 report – a crucial direction being that the proponents of development must act on evidence.

Indeed, Stirling observes that when he recently looked for submissions over the Wilton Southeast zoning on the DPE website, he discovered that the only documents listed were the developer’s submissions.

“So Council are now GIPAA-ing (Government Information Public Access Act) for those reports and all other submissions around koala habitat that were part of this rezoning.”

Stirling says that even the week before the rezoning, he’d been at a round table meeting called by the DPE to discuss conserving koalas in the region.

“There was no mention that the land around Allen’s Creek was going to be rezoned the following week.”

Stirling has a lot of unanswered questions for the DPE.

“We’re questioning how can this rezoning go through before the biocertification process is complete, and without being assessed under the biodiversity conservation act?

“Why have the DPE proceeded in rezoning this land before that work is finished, on such a significant project?

“Why was that project not profiled in the NSW Koala Strategy, considering it was one of the largest koala funded projects in the state?”

“We’re saying the DPE plan is not appropriate,” he concludes. “It doesn’t even consider that koalas move through the canopies of trees. How are they going to fence the middle of that bushland there to stop the koalas?

“We have to work out what the transition is between protected koala habitat and urban areas. We’ve already got a number of threats – eight koalas killed in eight weeks on Appin Rd, last year 14 koalas killed in two months, so that’s the major threat at the moment. The next threat is development wiping out habitat, then dog attack, fires, weed invasion, so we’re trying to get ahead of the game and say, ok we know where the habitat is, let’s protect it now. We have the knowledge to do best practice, let’s do it, let’s find a balance between conservation and development for housing.”

Councillor Deeth, too, has searching questions.

“I understand that OEH scientists were being pressured from above to tone down their reports to the DPE,” he said.

“Council had an extraordinary meeting a couple of months ago. Our resolution was to GIPAA the government to get the exact communications, exactly what advice was given and what was the response from the DPE around that issue. My understanding was there was real pressure coming from much higher up the chain and we want to understand how their decisions were made.

“Housing at all costs seems to be the department of planning’s motto at the moment. We don’t even know what sort of density we’re looking at within these zones. All we’re suggesting is we want a pause to get this right. There’s nothing wrong with taking a bit more time to actually get it right. You can see from every provision there’s a heap of unresolved issues.

“We have no idea why the Walker zones were rammed though with so many unresolved issues. They’re happy to pay the fines because in the grand scheme of things it’s a pittance.

“We have very little say in this whatsoever. The only thing we’ve got left is advocacy and letting people know what we’re not happy about.”



SYDNEYSIDERS want migration restricted in the city: poll

Were the Poll questions framed for Sydneysiders to send migrants to the regions?

The Premier & her government having achieved a bigger Sydney now wants an even “Better New South Wales” …

Meanwhile the Planning Sinister denies “overdevelopment exists”!


The solution would be a return to the 70,000 annual intake of migrants for the nation; a stop to Visa manipulation of hundreds of thousands!

AFTER THE FACT of the destruction of Our Heritage of the Garden Suburb of Haberfield, Thompson Square Windsor, many Heritage homes demolished for “new resident new homes” …. with toll roads, tunnels, stacks and tentacles

YET the Premier is committed to protecting our way of life! WT *

Sydneysiders want migration restricted in the city: poll

Almost two-thirds of people believe migration to Sydney should be restricted and new arrivals sent to the regions, exclusive polling reveals as the Premier says she wants a better not bigger NSW.

The ReachTel poll for the Herald also shows that overdevelopment remains a key issue for voters, as the state and federal governments face the pressue of worsening congestion and population growth.

“I want NSW to continue to be seen as the magnet for human talent": Gladys Berejiklian.
“I want NSW to continue to be seen as the magnet for human talent”: Gladys Berejiklian.Photo: AAP

The poll results come as the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, signalled plans to slow the intake of some temporary migrants and to encourage new arrivals to settle regionally.

Mr Morrison, with his Immigration Minister David Coleman and Cities Minister Alan Tudge, are looking at simplifying the visa process to get more migrants to move outside the major cities.

More than 63 per cent of voters polled for the Herald supported restricting migrant numbers while 50 per cent opposed more development in Sydney to accommodate population growth.


The Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the debate around population should focus on people and how to” ensure the best quality of life for all of us”.

“I want NSW to continue to be seen as the magnet for human talent,” Ms Berejikian said.

“But I am also fiercely committed to protecting and improving our way of life, and all that we love about our local communities -our parks, our open spaces, our beautiful beaches, waterways and bushland.”

Ms Berejiklian said there needed to be a national debate about population policy and she would be encouraging Mr Morrison to “join me in leading that discussion for the country’s benefit.”

“States are on the frontline of infrastructure and service delivery so it makes sense we should have a say on population policy,” Ms Berejikilan said.

“Rather than talk about a big Australia, we should always strive for a better Australia. We also need to encourage and make it easier for people to consider moving to regional NSW.”

The Migration Council of Australia chief executive Carla Wilshire said redirecting migration to the regions was not going to fix the congestion problems plaguing Sydney and Melbourne.

“I can understand why people in Sydney feel like this but by restricting migration, it doesn’t solve an underlying under-investment in infrastructure and urban transport,” Ms Wilshire said.

The poll of 1627 people taken on Thursday night also asked voters to nominate the issues of concern to them, with the cost of living emerging as the most important to voters.

More than one-quarter of people identifed cost of living as their main concern followed by energy prices and housing affordabilty.

The environment was ahead of hospitals, schools and transport, according to the poll.

The polling also shows that the Coalition and Labor are neck and neck six months out from the state election, with Opposition leader Luke Foley edging ahead of Ms Berejiklian as preferred premier.

The weekend marked six months until the March poll, which is looking increasingly likely to result in a hung parliament. The government has only a six seat majority.

The polling shows the fallout from the bruising leadership spill in Canberra has had an impact in NSW, with 40.4 per cent of voters saying the change in prime minister had altered their view of the state Liberal Party.

The Coalition’s primary vote has slumped to 35.1 per cent, down from 41.9 per cent in March.

Labor’s primary vote has also taken a dip to 31.5 per cent from 32.5 per cent six months ago, the polling shows.

Mr Foley has pushed past Ms Berejiklian as the more popular leader, with 50.2 per cent of voters polled believing Mr Foley would make a better premier.

But despite Mr Foley’s personal standing, only 41.1 per cent of voters think Labor is ready to govern again.


Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor and a former Education Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald