Social conservatism saw Katter beat Greens

Bob Katter’s son Rob Katter is Katter’s Australian Party’s new member for Mount Isa. Photo: Melissa NorthTHE political spectrum mightn’t figure it, but by his own admission freshly minted right-wing Mt Isa MP Rob Katter shares more than a few political views with the left-wing Queensland Greens Party.

On issues like coal seam gas and the power of Coles and Woolworths, Mr Katter aligns with the Greens, though it “hurts (him) politically to admit it”.

But when it comes to social platforms on issues such as same sex marriage and gun laws, the line of his father’s Bob Katter’s Australian Party is the polar opposite than the position taken by their Greens rivals.

KAP won at least two seats at the state general election at the weekend while the Greens again won none. The newer party attracted 11.6 per cent of the vote state-wide, compared with the Greens’ 7.4 per cent, although KAP state leader Aidan McLindon lost his seat of Beaudesert.

So what has KAP got that the Greens don’t, and what do the results say about voters in Queensland?

Australian National University political marketing lecturer Andrew Hughes said a drop in the Greens’ primary vote could be partly put down to voters tarring the party with the same brush as ousted Labor leader Anna Bligh.

But running alongside strong anti-government sentiment, particularly in the west and north of the state, was an undercurrent of social conservatism, Mr Hughes said.

Deakin University political lecturer Geoff Robinson agreed and said the swing right spoke to the long held view Queensland was Australia’s most conservative state.

When compared to the lower house gains made by the Greens in the New South Wales general election last year, Mr Robinson said the Queensland result suggested progressive platforms had less traction north of the border.

In NSW, the Greens claimed one seat and 10.28 per cent of the primary vote last year.

In Queensland, the party will not have any representatives in the Legislative Assembly and registered a 1.1 per cent drop in the primary vote state-wide.

This result to date puts the party 4 percentage points behind KAP, which claimed 11.6 per cent of the primary vote overall, which Mr Hughes said was enough for KAP to be considered “a lot more than a bunch of rednecks that drive utes with guns in the back”.

Dr Robinson said the result showed there was still strength for “this really traditional, social conservatism in Queensland which the old National Party was very much associated with under Joh Bjelke-Petersen”.

Queensland Greens convener Andrew Bartlett said there was no doubt Queensland had a strong conservative bias, but was eager to avoid the “Sir Joh stereotype”.

Mr Bartlett said fears Queensland had devolved to the “redneckery of the past” had to be deflated.

But Rob Katter, who won with an almost 22 per cent swing against Labor, said “going backwards” was exactly where KAP aimed to go.

“I see myself as a true conservative,” Mr Katter said.

“I get incensed when I hear people saying we’ve split the conservative vote; there is no other conservative vote. We’re the real conservatives who care about small business and private enterprise and the family unit.

“I mean, look at [the LNP] social policy on gay marriage and those things – how can you even begin to call them conservatives when they’re [supporting same-sex marriage]?”

Mr Katter said many people in regional and rural Queensland were frustrated by what they saw as social policy being “dictated by green-thinking academics” based in Brisbane and the southeast.

“They’re looking for a real conservative alternative – and I’m happy to take criticism for being conservative because at least you know where I stand,” he said.

“The irony is the only other party that has a set of core principles is the Greens party.

“I don’t agree with them, and the word ‘green’ is political poison around [Mt Isa], but at least you have a sense on where they’re going to vote on any issue.”

Still, Dr Robinson said social conservatism was a declining force in Queensland politics, despite the election of two KAP MPs and some “very conservative people” under the LNP banner.

“That’s been a bit of an issue down in Victoria actually,” Dr Robinson said.

“Sometimes issues around human rights and so-on sets up tension between the small l Liberals like [Premier Ted] Baillieu and the more conservative people in the party.

“But then Bligh’s government was also pretty socially conservative – look at abortion law reform, they didn’t do anything about that.”

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Cassowary Coast drying out

AFTER one or two days of heavy downpours, north Queensland’s Cassowary Coast is drying out, allowing flood waters to recede and the clean-up to begin.

Amongst the wettest near the coast in the last 24 hours were Cooktown with 100mm, Cardwell with 84mm. Inland there were much heavier falls. Mt Sophia, south of Cairns recorded 272mm, and this comes on top of 214mm the previous 24 hours. This makes it their wettest two-day spell in eight years. It has now had more than 1300mm this month.

The last few days of heavy rain and storms has caused a few problems, exacerbated by an already water-logged ground. Only a week ago there had been a week’s worth of heavy downpours from an active monsoon. As a result of a wet few weeks, this has led to landslides, which blocked some roads.

This month both Cardwell and Cairns have had more than 900mm of rain, more than double their monthly average. This is now Cardwell’s wettest March in 29 years and Cairns’ wettest March in eight years.

The main area of heavy rain and storms has now moved to northern Cape York, where Coen has had more than 40mm since last night.

For the Cassowary Coast all that is left is a few showers and storms, which are relatively light and generally bringing daily totals of less than 20mm.

In the next few days a ridge of high pressure will strengthen over the region, causing showers to become lighter and less frequent. It may even dry out completely by the weekend.

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Stormy end to Darwin’s monsoon season

DARWIN is expecting a stormy end to the monsoon season although despite this late burst of wet weather, the city’s current rank for March rainfall will remain unchanged.

The monsoon season, which drives northern Australia’s Wet Season, officially ends on March 31st.

The first half of March was markedly wet in Darwin, even by Top End standards. An active monsoon dumped a total of 270mm of rain over the city in the first 12 days, making this the wettest March in seven years.

Then on March 14th, a tropical low teetering on the edge of becoming a tropical cyclone moved into the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf and soaked Darwin with another 203mm in less than 24 hours.

In contrast to the beginning of March, Darwin has so far seen less than 40mm in the second half bringing the running total to 568mm as of 9am on Tuesday 27th.

With just four days remaining until the start of April, Darwin is not expected to match the 690mm that fell during March 2007 with the help of Tropical Cyclone George.

Showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop in Darwin from tonight and continue on-and-off until Friday. During this time, the city may see another 30-50mm.

If Darwin reaches 600mm by the end of the month, it will be only the fifth time that’s happened during March in at least 72 years.

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Changes to Riverland fund

THE State Government said it has moved to increase benefits arising from the $20 million Riverland Sustainable Futures Fund by introducing a two-stage application process and a closing date.

Regional Development Minister Gail Gago said the Fund had proved highly successful and the Government was determined to ensure the best-possible outcomes for the Riverland.

“The Fund has so far committed about $8.9 million to 15 projects, generating approximately 116 jobs for the regional community,” Ms Gago said.

“This leaves $11.1 million available to be allocated by June 2014.

“I’m concerned that if grants continue to be assessed on a date-received basis, high-value projects with outstanding merit could miss out.

“The new application process addresses this by introducing an Expressions of Interest stage in the first instance, closing April 30.

“These will be shortlisted against the essential criteria and best-value applicants will be asked to lodge a full application on a no-commitment basis by June 22, 2012.”

Stage two will involve assessing full applications against the Fund’s essential criteria including local strategic priorities, economic impact and commercial viability.

“All applications will be assessed at the same time on a truly competitive basis, rather than as they are received,” the Minister said.

“The Fund is starting to make a real impact on the ground in the region and we want to draw out any projects that will make a lasting impact, rather than miss a great opportunity.

“This revised application process provides fairness and certainty for proponents.

“Applications currently under consideration from the previous process will be assessed and the outcome known by the end of April 2012.”

The Labor Government established the Fund to assist with industry restructuring and to promote sustainable economic and social development in the Riverland following a severe drought and depressed economic circumstances.

“The $20 million fund is accessible by industry and businesses to bolster projects that improve infrastructure, support industry attraction and help grow existing businesses,” Ms Gago said.

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More foreign fish with your chips

WILL marine parks mean more foreign fish on our plates?

The peak industry body representing professional fishing in the state says despite our massive coastline, 70 per cent of the fish we eat is imported and a new plan will only increase that to about 80 per cent.

Western Australian Fishing Industry Council chairman Brad Adams said a Federal Government plan to create a Commonwealth marine park in the south-west region was a big concern for the industry.

He said while the Ngari Capes Marine Park which was announced by state Environment Minister Bill Marmion on the weekend would not have a huge impact on the industry, the national plan was a big concern.

“It is looking at preserving 30 per cent of Australian waters in marine parks,” Mr Adams said.

“Such large sanctuary zones will affect the commercial industry.”

“No one has told me what the point of the sanctuary zone is; the fisheries industry is already sustainable.

“We are already importing 70 per cent of our fish, it’ll mean we will import 80 per cent of fish from countries that don’t have sustainable fishing plans like we do,” Mr Adams said.

He said part of the plan would cover gill net fishing in a section of the South-West between Bunbury and Windy Harbour would and reduce the amount of shark caught in the area by 25 per cent.

“That means 25 per cent less shark from that area in your fish and chips,” Mr Adams said.

He said the plan would also abolish two trawling licenses in the area, which would mean a reduced haul of local scallops.

“Any loss of fishing is a concern, the fishing industry has been under attack by green groups for years now,” Mr Adams said.

He said the plan would lock up the state’s future food security.

“It’s in our best interests to have a stable fishing industry,” Mr Adams said

“We already have the best managed fisheries in the world.”

He said the plan would simply open up the area for fishing operations from foreign countries.

“Who will police these massive areas of ocean?” Mr Adams said.

“We are inviting foreign countries to come in and fish our marine stocks.”

Tim Nicol from the Conservation Council of WA said the WAFIC was missing the point if they thought marine parks were about sustainable fishing.

“It’s about protecting marine life, protecting special places and the animals that live in those areas,” he said.

Mr Nicol said while some may evaluate fishing as sustainable, marine environments could still benefit from protection.

“You really can’t tell what a marine environment is like without the impact of fishing, without removing it,” he said.

Mr Nicol said the abundance of fish could increase without commercial fishing and areas could recover dramatically to an extent that some people were not aware could exist.

“At the moment less than one per cent of our marine environments are put aside for conservation,” he said.

Mr Nicol said voluntary reporting of gill net fishing, used to catch sharks, meant the true impact on animals like endangered sea lions was not commonly reported.

He said estimations based on observer reports in South Australia calculated that 374 sea lions were killed as a result of gill net fishing each breading season which lasts 18 months.

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CBH takes to the road to visit growers

THE CBH Group will soon be undertaking a series of meetings across the Wheatbelt to update grower members on important developments at the co-operative.

Updates will include information on the investment in rail assets and network infrastructure, quality optimisation, market outlook and corporate strategy for 2012 and Grain Express.

Meetings will be held at eight different venues from March 26 to April 19 including the Merredin Regional Community and Leisure Centre on April 16 and the Corrigin Hotel on April 17, both from 4pm-6pm.

Chief executive officer Andy Crane said growers and their families should have now received invitations to the meetings and he encouraged all to attend.

Dr Crane will join chairman Neil Wandel, general manager operations Colin Tutt and CBH Grain acting general manager Bryce Banfield in hosting the meetings.

“There are several major initiatives in progress which will improve the value we return to growers in coming months and years and it is important that growers hear more about these developments before the new season gets underway,” Dr Crane said.

“We want to use the meetings to demonstrate more clearly the specific value the co-operative returns to growers and the measures used to prove this.

“I am encouraging growers to come and hear about our grower value return on capital measure.

“As the biggest grain exporter in WA, CBH also believes it is timely to give our members an update on the grain market outlook and our market development activities.”

A sundowner will be held after each meeting from 6pm-8pm.

All growers and their families are invited to attend for a light dinner and refreshments.

For more information on the meetings and to register their interest, growers should contact the Grower Service Centre on 1800 199 083.

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Overloaded coal wagons scrutinised

Dust-up: Loaded coal trains entering Port Waratah’s coal terminal at Carrington. Coal trains will now be scrutinised for overloading. Picture: Matthew Kelly

TRAINS entering Huntercoal terminals will now be scrutinised for overloading, which may result to coal being spilt while in transit.

The operators of the state’s fourcoal shipping terminals willwork with the NSW Environment Protection Authority to develop a monitoring and reporting program on the condition of loaded coal wagons arriving at their premises.

It follows sustained community pressure about the environmental and health impacts of coal that falls off loaded and unloaded wagons.

The program, which will begin in February,requires that all trains entering the coal terminals will be assessed for any loading issues that may have contributed to coal being spilt from the train’s wagons.

“The program will help assess any detrimental impacts associated with the activity of coal transport by rail from coal mines to the coal terminals,” EPA Hunter manager Adam Gilligan said.

Mr Gilligan said monitoring the condition of coal trains as they leave each coal mine in NSW would be a resource intensive activity that would penalise mines which load wagons in accordance with best practice.

“By focussing this program on the four terminals that receive the coal, the EPA will receive valuable information about those mines that load trains poorly. This will allow the EPA to focus our regulatory response on poor performers in this industry,” Mr Gilligan said.

However, Correct Planning for Mayfield group spokesman John L Hayes said the measure was inadequate.

“Any action on this issue is welcome, but this is simply time delaying,” he said.

“Our group has provided a significant amount of photographic evidence…they don’t need to gather more information; they need to start enforcing the rules.”

The wagon monitoring program is designed to complement the Upper Hunter particle characterisation study and the Lower Hunter dust deposition studies.

It follows the EPA’s compliance audit program which checked that coal train loading and unloading facilities were keeping dust emissions under control.

The audits focused on ensuring that appropriate management procedures are in place to prevent or minimise the loss of coal and coal dust emissions during the rail transportation of coal to the port facilities, and during the return of empty wagons from the port facilities.

“These EIPs demonstrate a willingness on the part of the coal terminal operators to play their part in addressing an issue that is of community concern across the whole coal logistics operation,” Mr Gilligan said.

Online sales forge ahead

AuctionsPlus general manager Gary Dick says the internet-based marketer is a cost-effective method for buying and selling livestock. In the past couple of years it has seen huge gains in numbers.LIVESTOCK producers are embracing virtual saleyard AuctionsPlus more than ever before from their paddocks and farm offices.

The internet-based livestock marketer has undergone tremendous growth in the past two years with sheep numbers jumping 46 per cent in 2009-10 and cattle making big gains last year, up 45pc.

Now in its 25th year of operation, the marketer makes up to 2.5m sheep and 250,000 cattle transactions online each year.

AuctionsPlus general manager Gary Dick said South Australia had been at the forefront of rapid rises, accounting for about 15pc of total sheep numbers in 2010-11 similar to throughput in Victoria.

Speaking at the recent Cleanskin Australia Symposium in Adelaide, he said AuctionsPlus offered a cost-effective buying and selling method.

He praised the way the cleanskin breeds had made use of the technology, with many of their stud sales interfaced with AuctionsPlus and strong uptake of limit bidding.

Mr Dick said there had been a number of major changes since the first sale in 1987 including a move by producers to use AuctionsPlus rather than sitting in the offices of their agents.

“The new program is so user friendly and the internet is more portable than ever before,” he said.

“With wireless toggles farmers can log-on in the paddock and do their business but they can log-off the sale if it gets too dear and they haven’t spent too much time,” he said.

In its early days, Mr Dick said, AuctionsPlus had a more even distributon of prime to store stock but it had carved out a real niche for store lambs and cattle.

“In Tasmania at certain times of the year, we account for 40pc of all stock,” he said. “It varies from year to year but we would be 12-15pc of the national turn-off of sheep and 5-6pc for cattle.”

There was more faith in the accuracy of AuctionsPlus assessors and nearly all the auction listings had photos.

Many studs used YouTube to upload video footage and AuctionsPlus was testing video streaming for live auctions.

The seedstock producers who have persisted with it are being rewarded with good online competition.

“In the early days, we were in at the starting prices but now people have been more selective on the better lines,” Mr Dick said.

“We were still in the bidding in the $26,000 bulls at Te Mania (Angus stud sale).”

Sheep sales are held each Tuesday and Thursday and cattle sales on Friday, with all agents having access to the system.

Mr Dick’s advice to those using AuctionsPlus was to pick a good agent, be happy with the assessment of the livestock, and always price stock at market value.

“Last week we had a 95pc clearance of cattle but it comes down to producers putting a realistic price on their stock,” he said.

AuctionsPlus’ core business will continue to be livestock but in August last year it launched WooltradePlus and has been selling 3000 to 3500 bales a week on the system plus 1000 bales per week as bid and offer.

Machinery auctions have been conducted on request and last October AuctionsPlus interfaced a Waternet water auction, which grossed $18m.

“The future has arrived and the technology has arrived, so adopt it,” he said.

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Drug blitz at Narrandera: two arrested

FIRST it was Wagga, now police are blitzing suspected drug suppliers at Narrandera, making two arrests and warning more are coming.

Police attached to Strike Force Taco, formed in July to investigate the continuing supply of illegal drugs in the Griffith Local Area Command, pounced on Wednesday.

Just after 10am they descended on a Dundas Street house where they arrested 43-year-old Anthony Lee Riddell.

He was charged with one count of ongoing supply ofmethamphetamine, four counts of supplying methamphetamine and three counts of supplying cannabis.

Riddell was locked up overnight Wednesday but was granted bail in Wagga Local Court on Thursday morning on the condition he not take drugs, report to police twice weekly and appear in Narrandera Local Court on February 19.

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, police executed a search warrant on a Grosvenor Street house where they allegedly found cash and the drug ice.

They arrested a 37-year-old man at the property and charged him at Narrandera police station with knowingly take part in the supply of a prohibited drug and possessing a prohibited drug.

He was given police bail ahead facing Narrandera Local Court on February 19.

Griffith Local Area Command crime manager, Detective Acting Inspector Tim Clark, said search warrants were also executed at homes in Watermain Street and Lady Loch Crescent where police seized cash, electronic storage devices, cannabis and drug equipment.

“Investigations are continuing and further arrests are expected,” Inspector Clark said.

He said the house raids were the culmination of many hours of focused police work.

“We believe these arrests will have a significant impact on the supply of illegal drugs in the local area,” Inspector Clark said.“I want to send a clear message that the supply of illicit drugs will not be tolerated.”

Strike Force Calyx in Wagga resulted in more than 50 arrests earlier this year.

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Peas bring new hope for Aust pulse growth

Croppers have two new pea varieties for the coming season.THE Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has developed two early flowering field pea varieties with improved resistance to bacterial blight which it hopes will help boost the area sown to pulses across southern Australia in coming seasons.

These new varieties were developed under the national program, Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA), with support from Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the Department.

DPI’s Tony Leonforte, who leads the PBA field pea program, said both would be grown commercially for the first time this season.

“While they were mainly targeted for regions prone to bacterial blight, both varieties have high yield potential and wide adaptation across cropping zones,” Mr Leonforte said.

“The varieties were bred using extensive disease screening at Horsham and Wagga Wagga (NSW) and, under high disease pressure, have minimal yield loss compared to susceptible varieties such as Kaspa.

“PBA Percy has a slightly higher level of bacterial blight tolerance while PBA Oura is more broadly adapted and produces a more harvestable crop because it grows semi-erect.

“Once bacterial blight infects a crop there are very few crop management options available for growers to reduce risk of crop failure so the release of these more resistant varieties has been a high industry priority,” he said.

Mr Leonforte said new research at Horsham was also underway to better understand both the disease and the resistance mechanisms available in the pea species to help the future breeding effort.

“Together with the short season varieties PBA Gunyah and PBA Twilight released in the program, PBA expects to see a significant uptake of the field pea crop in drier areas including the Victorian Mallee,” Mr Leonforte said.

“We are hoping the new varieties will boost the overall level of pulses grown in south eastern Australia to help underpin productivity, profitability and sustainability in cropping regions.

“These two varieties provide an important new and productive choice for croppers in their program, especially in areas where blight has hampered production in the past.”

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