Jul 29

I We Must Dig Deep II  Sound Bytes II More strange bedfellows II Inside Assad’s Syria II Helsinki – Syrian peace deal brokered II Israel’s humanitarian flight II Labor’s Super Saturday II

Welcome to the July Blog

Contents:  II We Must Dig Deep II  Sounds Bytes II More strange bedfellows II Inside Assad’s Syria II Helsinki – Syrian peace deal brokered II Israel’s humanitarian flight II Labor’s Super Saturday II

As everyone who has bothered to read my monthly blog knows, I consulted on content and payment in June to no avail.  Thinking long and hard whether or not to continue I received this email:  Don’t give up we need more realistic news reporting…we don’t get it on TV anymore and if Gov gets its way our very few journos will be financially strangled or silenced with anti terrorism laws.  Am not sure how long I will continue but for the moment – you have the privilege of enjoying my writing 🙂 

 In May I reported on the $443 million given in the Federal budget to a little known private foundation run by oil and airline executives. Now two months down the track, there is a Senate Inquiry in Brisbane today questioning why tax payers money has been redirected from AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science, the CSIRO and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority,  to the GBR Foundation which is chaired by a former boss of Esso, the Commonwealth Bank and th BCA – the big end of town.  Call me a cynic but if the Government thinks big business will replenish its electoral coffers as a result,  I doubt it.  In any case, Labor has the Unions and of course the Liberal Coalition has the Murdoch press.   I’d say its evens.

Dig Deeper says the Cairns Post – R U Kidding?

The Cairns Port Authority has State approval for widening, lengthening and increasing the depth of the shipping channel already.   According to Ports North, the declared depth for the proposed channel deepening is -9.4m LAT, compared to the current channel declared depth of -8.3m LAT. The complaint on the front page of the Cairns Post (July),  that the dredging will not allow 320m cruise liners in,  is tedious. 

The channel will allow cruise liners of 300m in.  Those advocating for more dredging need to be mindful of the fact that the Cairns economy is dependent on tourism. 

The Brisbane, a cutter suction dredge barge, dumping dredge material from the Port of Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area / Marine Park.

The existing Dredge Material Placement Area (DMPA) is located at S16º47’24” E145º48’48” which is approximately only 9km north of the Cairns Port.  You can see our mountains clearly.

(Source: CAFNEC)…Trinity Bay is an eyesore at low tide and I would suggest part of the problem is the sediment/turbidity drifting towards the coast from dredge spoil – settling and coagulating.  

The DMPA diameter is 1 nautical mile (1,852m) and covers approximately 269ha. This site has been in use since 1990. But dredging goes back a long way in Cairns to 1913, when the spoil was originally used for land reclamation of the Portsmith area.  Chris Calcino rightly points out that the Federal Government’s Reef 2050 plan does not restrict the size of dredging work, it just means the Port Authority has to find onshore placement.   The problem here is that the Federal Government only excludes capital works dredging spoil, maintenance dreading seems to be okay !

The map  illustrates the planned expansion of the existing dredge dumping area within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.   The estimated capital dredging quantity for the channel design is 5,073,600 cubic metres. A dredging production rate of around 180,000 cubic metres per week can be expected. Based on the estimated capital dredging quantity, the dredging programme will be about 28 weeks.  

The estimated annual maintenance dredging for the proposed improved channel is 580,000 cubic metres. By comparison, the current average annual maintenance dredging is around 320,000 cubic metres. It is suggested the increased dredging will seriously affect the northern beaches.  (Sources: Map, Ports Nth, Cairns Shipping Development Project, and cartoon – Cairns Post 16 Aug, 2014).  

Swimming at Trinity Beach in July I noticed the water was brown and beneath my feet instead of course sand,  there was an oily mud extremely similar to dredge spoil which settles on the bottom when calm.  The sandy beach was full of tourists and families enjoying the summer holidays.  Apart from the turbidity,  the dredged spoil contains lead, cadmium and arsenic, how do I know this,  I’ve had it analysed.

In October 1990 some friends and I collected and bottled the putrid mud from the seafront of Trinity Bay.  We sold it at the local Rusty’s market in sealed glass specimen bottles.

At $2,  it was well received.  Our stall also had a poster “Dumping Mud is Dumb”.    That year the dredging had been increased by 300% to allow an oil tanker through.  Mud balls as thick as my fist appeared on the beaches at Holloways and a small child playing in the putrid mud below the rocks at Machans, nearly drowned in front of my very eyes.  A tractor lent by the local farmer,  pulled him out, after attempts by locals with ropes, had failed. (Source: Cairns Post & Sunday Mail,  October 1990.)

That was 1990, Cairns now has a Cruise Liner Terminal and the surrounding parklands are full of tourists and families enjoying the winter sunshine.  No one can deny that the Port Authority has improved access to the waterfront and created beautiful parklands in the process.  Yes – numerous surveys have shown locals are in favour of more cruise liners and they believe the channel should be widened as do our politicians and indeed that is precisely what is going to happen.

In February this year details of a $120 million upgrade to the Port of Cairns was reported by the relevant ministers, the Honourable Cameron Dick and the Honourable Mark Bailey.  Economic modelling suggests the project will deliver an $850 million boost to tourism in FNQ.  Construction is scheduled to start in early 2019.

What is frightening is the intention to dump dredge spoil within the GBRMP at all.  The project still awaits Federal Government environmental approval.   In May 2015 the then Minister for the Environment, Hon Greg Hunt MP signed off on The Reef 2050 Plan including regulations to ban the disposal of capital dredge material in the Great Barrier Reef marine Park.

The ban applies to all present and future applications for capital dredge disposal.  This means that the capital dredge disposal for the Cairns North Proposal will have to be addressed.  The assumption here is that this dredge spoil will have to be treated and used as land fill.  So when the Cairns Post advocates for more and bigger cruise liners to enter Cairns,  remember there is the downside to the dredging and its environmental impacts in a World Heritage listed area.

As one of the holidaymakers interviewed for the Cairns Post article (News 06, 19 July, 2018)) said “…giving development priority over the environment  [is] counter-productive.  Without the environment people won’t come.”

Trump Less…

Whatever this man says or does has implications globally.  His meeting on July 16 with Putin showed him cowering beside a relaxed open Putin clearly enjoying the spectacle.  Writing in ‘The Saturday Paper’ Martin McKenzie-Murray said, “…the best thing I read on Helsinki this week was an open letter to Trump written by Anthony Maslin.  (Pictured below: Anthony Maslin and Rin Norris with their three children before the fateful day – Source The Guardian Newspaper.)

Maslin’s three young children and their grandfather were blown to bits four years ago almost to the day (July 17, 2014), when a Russian BUK missile blew Malaysia Airlines MH17 up over Ukraine.  Russia suggests Ukraine was responsible but on May 25 a journalism think tank in the UK, identified Olle Ivanikoff,  a High ranking Russian Intelligence officer in the area at the time,  as a key suspect.   The missile was fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists and transported into rebel-held territory from Russia.

Anthony Maslin’s letter to Trump … “Mr Trump – You invented and speak a lot about ‘fake news’.  But let’s try talking about something that’s not fake – let’s call them irrefutable facts.  That passenger flight MH17 was shot out of the sky and 298 innocent people were murdered is an irrefutable fact. That the plane was hit by a Russian missile has been proven to be an irrefutable fact. That this killed our 3 beautiful children and their grandfather and destroyed our life and many other lives is an irrefutable fact. That the man whose arse you’ve been kissing did this, and continues to lie about it, is an irrefutable fact.

So you don’t need to look it up,  irrefutable means impossible to deny or disprove.  It’s not anger that I feel towards the two of you, …it’s much much worse – it’s pity.  You have no empathy for your fellow man, and you clearly have no idea what love is.  So you have nothing.”  

The Australian Government is intent on holding Russia to account for the tragedy and is seeking compensation for the 38 Australians murdered on the flight. Suspects charged with involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur) over war-torn eastern Ukraine will be tried in the Netherlands after Russia blocked efforts to create an international tribunal. Dutch prosecutors have said in the past that they are likely to file murder and possibly war crimes charges.


Designer babies – The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said changing the DNA of a human embryo could be ‘morally permissible’ if it was in the future child’s interests and did not add to the kinds of inequalities that divide society.  The report does not call for a change in UK law but urges more research …looks like the flood gates are about to open!  (Source: The Guardian Weekly, 27 July, 2018)

Google slap but that’s all it is… a $5.1 billion dollar fine by securing the deominance of its search engine on Android phones.  Google’s value is $720 billion.  Yes just a slap.  

More strange bed fellows – Reporting in The Weekend Australian, World News July 1,  Amanda Hodge wrote,  Malaysia’s democracy champion Anwar Ibrahim (see Malaysia’s Mandela in my Map blog) who was himself imprisoned for ten years on trumped up sodomy charges and released only recently, was seen praising the election victory of Erdogan in Ankara, this week.  Turkey’s autocratic ruler is fighting against so-called Kurdish militants in eastern Turkey and Syria. 

In Turkey more than 160,000 people have been arrested since the 2016 coup failed.  A further 100,00 have lost their jobs (civil service, academics and media) amid deteriorating human and democratic rights.  It was however to the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur that Anwar Ibrahim turned in 2008 when facing a second spurious sodomy charge – perhaps it’s payback time.  

To be fair to Turkey,  more than 3.5 million people displaced by the 8 year war in Syria, have sought refuge in Turkey.   Their numbers via births and new arrivals are increasing by approx 1000 people a day.  (Source: Brookings Institution, Washington).

Inside Assad’s Syria …VICE on HBO  … an excellent report by young journalist Isabel Yeung, Jan 11, 2018

World democracies

“Mass migration, terrorism, transnational criminal activity and international economic upheavals bring a longing for order”,  wrote Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’S former Supreme Allied Commander in Time magazine, July 23, 2018.  “That seems to be the driver of creeping authoritarianism [ – that lack of order].  Today…one could be forgiven for believing that democracy has ended.  Russia and China are trending toward one-man rule, [as is] Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Turkey, Hungary and Poland, similarly with Duterte in the Philippines.”   But argues Stavridis,  Spring has persisted in Tunisia, Chile, Indonesia and South Korea.  Most of the world’s most developed countries are still committed democracies – Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Germany and the United States.

Helsinki – brokered Syrian peace deal

John Bradley reveals an outstanding case for hope,  with “The rehabilitation of Assad” in The Spectator this week (21 July, 2018).  “…few noticed the most tangible outcome of this week’s Helsinki summit.”   Senior US and Russian diplomats in close coordination with leaders from mutual ally Israel – brokered a deal to end the Syrian civil war. 

The solution was apparently Bashar al-Assad.   The Syrian Government, directed by Russia, is to offer guarantees to Israel regarding the Jewish state’s security.  With Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backing Israel,  and Turkey in line with Russia,  the deal was done.  Trump is eager to withdraw the 2000 US special forces still stationed in Syria.  Benjamin Netanyahu days before the Helsinki summit, had another meeting with Putin in Moscow,  his ninth in 18 months. 

Israel’s concern was Iran,  and the Iranian forces settling down in Syria with the Hezbollah fighters – they should return to their own countries.  Putin seemed to agree to keep everyone far from the Israeli border and then announced a $50 billion direct Russian investment in Iran’s oil and gas sectors.  Hezbollah can now retreat and Iran can save grace.  Syria is now a Russian protectorate. 

Trump then trumpeted “I made clear we will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against Isis,  he said in Helsinki.”   An extraordinary statement.   And Russia now has a warm water port on the Mediterranean coast.







The monstrous dictator has won – Bashar al-Assad has bombed, gassed and starved his enemies out of the biggest cities.  Half a million of his own people have died, 6 million are displaced …similar numbers of refugees have fled.  Assad’s survival is a lesson in the art of butchery.  

Writing for the Economist “It would be no surprise if Syrian refugees many times more numerous than the 750,000 Palestinians uprooted during the birth of Israel,  became similarly radicalised.  Refugees are straining services in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey,  it is reported.  Now Assad will have to beg to rebuild the devastation he has wreaked. ”  I doubt begging is in his DNA.  (Source:  The Economist, The Weekend Australian, June 30-July 1, 2018)

Israel humanitarian flight 

Patrick Wintour writing for The Guardian Weekly (27 July) reported  “Members of the White Helmets were thought likely to be targeted by the Syrian army once it regained control of south-west Syria over the coming week.  The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict at great risk to their own,”  writes Wintour. 

In my Blog dated October 2016, I put together a piece on theWhite Helmets, Syria’s angels. Trained on how to search collapsed buildings, put out fires, handle unexploded bombs and chemical attack, the White Helmets themselves are under fire.  Three of their own buildings were bombed in Aleppo. One hundred and forty one White Helmets were killed many the result of so called two-tap strikes, where the Assad regime or Russian aircraft circle back and make a run at the first responders who have scrambled to aid survivors.

This is precisely why Israel evacuated 98 White Helmets from Syria’s northern border to Jordan last week.  A total of 422 people were rescued by Israeli Defense forces  on Sat 21 July, 2018,  at the request of the US, UK, Canada, Germany and others.  It was an important humanitarian gesture by Israel.

But hundreds of these rescue workers still remain in Syria at risk of being systematically targeted as the Syrian regime. The northwest is the last major area still held by rebels. Idlib faces frequent bombardment and President Bashar Assad has said it is now his target. Assad has accused the White Helmets of being an Al-Qaeda front. Adding to his fear of capture, Ayed (a white Helmet left behind) said that when the army advanced into his district of the southwest this month, it seized paperwork at the White Helmets base. (Image- Zuma Press).

“The most important thing is the names and identities of the volunteers, and our special identification cards. This is what damages us the most. The papers and the names were not destroyed, they are now in the hands of the regime,” he said.  Let us hope these brave volunteers don’t end up in a blood bath.  (Source: Syriadirect.org   23 July 2018)

Labor’s Super Saturday

Lastly –  A jubilant Bill Shorten has hailed his party’s success in the Super Saturday by-elections as a signpost for Labor to win at the next election, with the party regaining all four of their seats.  A message for Alexander Downer – keep your comments to yourself, bad loser. (Source image: adelaidenow.com.au)

Quote of the month:   No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted – Aesop’s Fables from The Lion and the Mouse, Greek, died 564 BC.

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    • Evelyne Lewiston on July 30, 2018 at 6:17 am
    • Reply

    Is 5 pages beyond the wit of man to read? I wonder.

    • Jennifer Carr on August 1, 2018 at 10:34 pm
    • Reply

    Glad to see your BLOG continuing for now…Many thanks for ‘heads up’, re: Vietnam…

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