29 May, 2015

A Great Raffle Win- Darwin For Only The Second Time

Sunday 24th May, 2015
With our Bourke Races raffle winnings (return tickets and accommodation) we flew out of Sydney packed into a very full Qantas 737. I had both my Apple devices tuned into the pilots navigation app, OzRunways, which provides your position and track utilising GPS technology. For an as yet undetermined reason the bigger screened Ipad is not engaging the GPS, but is fine with the map. Conversely, the Iphone works like a charm, but with the disadvantage of the small screen-so I used them in tandem. The maps are identical and the Ipad would be fine on its own if only the GPS was working.
It is a four hour flight, but given the mostly cloudless skies I found it fascinating. Was able to reinforce my rivers geography. Got a good view of the Macquarie and Warren town, the Darling and Bourke and thence the Warrego (Ford's Bridge), Cuttaburra (Yantabulla), Paroo,Bulloo, Wilson, Coopers Creek, Farrars Creek, Diamantina, and Georgina.
Familiar (at least by name) properties we flew over and in some cases identified the homestead, included Latoka and Janbeth (Bourke),Currawinya, Plevna Downs, Malagarga, Headingly, Monkira, Cluny, Lake Nash, Austral Downs, Avon Downs, Anthony's Lagoon, and Brunette Downs. Also got a good look (from 36000 feet) of the Katherine River and Katherine Gorge, which we will see from the ground tomorrow.

This is by far the best look I have ever had of the Barkly Tableland, which continues to fascinate me and which I remain determined to see from the ground, hopefully in a good season. I was pleasantly surprised at the sight of water in waterholes and swamps. I think the country is much drier east of our track.

After a long wait at the airport for the shuffle to depart we were fortunate for the Sky Casino Hotel to be the first drop-off. Comfortable first floor room with a lovely view out to sea. We couldn't wait to get down to the beach and visit the Sunday market in the adjoining park. Lots of trinkets and food options. Afterwards we had an idyylic dinner in the Italian restaurant being part of the Casino Complex, watching a spectacular sunset.

Monday 25th May
After a 5:30am room service breakfast we were the second couple to board the tour coach for the Katherine Gorge tour. That meant we got a front row seat with big panoramic windows in front of us  as we headed down the Stuart Highway. The outskirts of Darwin are a series of what our driver/guide called settlements. He couldn't bring himmself to call them suburbs as the landscape meant that they were quite separate. It somehow reminded me of developing China. You lay down a road and industry and accommodation gets built around it. The new AACo. abattoirs a very impressive building some kms south of the city centre. Passed lots of road trains with three of four trailers (dogs) loaded with weaner cattle heading north-no doubt heading for a depot prior to being exported live. First stop was the War Graves Cemetry at Adelaide River. Adelaide River a well presented little town with the war graves beautifully maintained. As usual one is shocked by the young age of all those killed. As you go down the Highway you pass a number of airstrips built by the Americans in WW2, parallel  to the Highway. The thinking being that the Japs would not recognise them as airstrips with the aircraft hidden back in the bush. Next stop was Emerald Springs Roadhouse for a late breakfast cum morning tea. Here we returned for dinner on the way home. Then on to the very beautiful Edith Falls, where Gail left her hat and water bottle on a rock after vainly posing for a photograph!

The country from Darwin to Katherine is generally "challenging", a word used by Clyde pilots when encountering "shithouse" weather.

Katherine's main asset is the western flowing river. It joins the Daly before flowing into the Timor Sea. Upstream is the Katherine Gorge which appears to be a significant water storage. From a water supply resource (irrigation) I have much to learn. I was very surprised at its scale, nothing like the impression  from the air. It is reminiscent of the Kimberley coast with towering cliffs and water 40 metres deep at the deepest point. (Photos to come). 

The trip home was a long haul. Drove into Darwin at 9:00PM-a fifteen hour day! But, very worthwhile. Again I was reminded of the value of "managing by walking around". There is no substitute for actually seeing things first hand and talking to those on the spot.

Tuesday, 26th May
Today was designated a "rest day". Had a leisurely breakfast in a chaotic, but pleasant Casino dining room and after it warmed up headed for downtown Darwin. Was so hot decided to get a taxi and walk back. Did some shopping-including the inevitable post cards and bought a few items. Gail has been complaining about my baggy unsightly shorts and the only suitable ones we could find were a horrendously expensive pair from RM Williams. This had the benefit of no other customers in the shop and undivided attention compared with the next door store where it was impossible to even get an acknowledgement! Their must be an opportunity for an entrepreneurial person to do some retail staff training. Darwin has a real cosmopolitan friendly feel about it with the Chinese and islander presence very apparent. The walk "home" was extremely hot, but only a couple of kms. As usual Gail's thermostat didn't work too well and she was pooped on arrival back at the Casino. 

We had our usual (second time) dinner as the sunset over the water then fiddled around writing this and watching TV.

Wednesday, 27th May
Another 5:30 room breakfast before again heading by tourist bus (front seats again) down the Stuart Highway to Pine River and turning east onto the Arnhem Highway thru' Humpdy Doo (visions of Bill Gunn, Art Linkleter, geese and failed rice production)  to Bark Hut Resort. Considerable agriculture around Humpdy Doo. Was surprised how quickly we crossed the Adelaide River and came across the Marrakai Plains and some extensive wetlands. Visited Nourlangie Rock with its aboriginal paintings and a knowledgeable recitation from our vociferous guide.Thence further south to Cooinda Lodge then the highlight of the day-a barge trip on Yellow Water in the upper reaches of the misnamed South Alligator River. Teeming bird life, interesting array of wetland flaura and crocadiles galore. We elected to take the 55 minute fly over. Images of very large scale Toorale and Oxley. The most spectacular part was not so much the wetlands, but the sheer ruggedness of the Arnhem escarpment. We took off from Cooinda and flew over the extensive wetlands, then along the escarpment  before flying over the the non-operative Ranger Uranium Mine before landing at Jabiru. We rejoined those who stayed on the ground and then headed east again, changed buses at the Aurora Resort before the long drive back to Darwin. This trip was enhanced by a most efficient personable young female bus driver who managed to get us all delivered to our respective accommodation by 8:00PM in time to watch most of the NSW/Queensland State of Origin Rugby League match. This time a 14 hour, very fulfilling day!

Thursday, 28th May
With some misgivings we headed off on a 5 hour tour of Darwin sights and museums. First call a somewhat mundane visit to the underground fuel storages (tunnels) built after the first Japanese bombing of Darwin and never actually used. Then to the Aviation Heritage Centre from where Gail and I were the only ones to take up the offer of a 15 minute helicopter ride over Darwin city and immediate surrounds. We were so glad we did as it was a wonderful way to get the city in perspective. I offered the other passengers the opportunity of viewing our photos at $10 a pop to offset our costs. There were no takers! Inside the Centre was a massive U.S. B52 bomber and good examples of the various aircraft used by the RAAF over the years-from gypsy moths, sabres, meteors, F111's, etc.
We then went to the old Qantas hanger for a display of old vehicles before going on to the Military Museum which was very well set up including a graphic "film" of the Darwin first bombing. Lunch was a meat pie from the tour owners favourite bakery eaten on the harbourside park at Fanny Bay across the road from Foxy Robinson's mansion.

Friday, 29th May
The trip home provided another opportunity to view the country we had visited and the Barkly Tableland again. With the Iphone providing GPS position on the OzRunways map and with the telescopic lens attached to my camera I had a ball.Rather than repeat it all here I will put a link to my photos for the whole trip. Suffice to say that we had a good tail wind and spent most of the journey at37/38,000 feet cruising at over 500nts (1000kms) per hour. After flying over the Adelaide, Mary and West Alligator rivers and to the east of Katherine Gorge we then flew to the east, but within sight of the Stuart Highway for quite a long way.Flew right over Eva Downs and then Rockhampton, Alroy, Georgina, and Monkira Stations. Got a good look at the Channel Country rivers including the Georgina, Diamantina, Cooper, and Wilson before cloud and glare prevented further visual navigation.

So finished a most informative and interesting six days. Link to photos.

26 May, 2015

Here We Go again-Churches and Climate Change

Here we go again. Climate change is apparently confronting the world with imminent catastrophe. 

Our churches have fallen in love with climate change

Peter Kurti | The Spectator | 15 May 2015
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Greenhouses gases such as CO2 are allegedly warming the planet to such an extent that life as we know it will be destroyed, bringing with it apocalyptic famine, devastation and disease. We’ve heard the warning before and now we are hearing it again. But this time the warning comes not from a confraternity of scientists or television personalities, but with the full authority of an English bishop.
Nicholas Holtham, the Church of England Bishop of Salisbury, warns that climate change is the world’s most urgent moral problem, saying, “It imposes the heaviest burden on the poorest and least complicit in a way that is simply immoral.” But is this really about morality? Or is it a grab for the hearts, minds and wallets from younger generations who have turned away from traditional religion?
Climate change is the new, fashionable cause promoted by the Christian churches. The discomfiting experience of extreme weather events coupled with a prophetic compulsion to anticipate the worst for human society, rather than the best, has fuelled an alarmist response that is unwarranted by a cool analysis of the scientific study of climate change. Nonetheless, the churches want to be seen to be doing something about climate change.
In England, the Methodist Church has shed its shares in companies that mine fossil fuels. Now the Church of England is taking action and has decided to dump its £12 million holding (out of a total investment fund of £5.2 billion) in coal and tar mining companies. It may also decide soon to rid itself of its remaining holdings in fossil fuel companies. In Australia, the Anglican Church is already fired up about climate change and divesting from mining companies. Meanwhile, the Catholics are getting ready for what Pope Francis is soon going to say on the subject.
Faced both with shrinking numbers and ballooning irrelevance in recent years, the churches are desperate to burnish their reputation to attract a new generation of believers. Frustrated by loss of influence and authority, churches in the affluent, secular Western world have been searching for a new challenge to demonstrate their relevance and compassion.
Climate change alarmism and global salvationism are perfect as quasi-religious elements that can fill the void left by the decline of Christianity in the West. They combine a fear of an impending apocalypse with an urgent summons to immediate repentance which appeals to our very human feelings of guilt and unworthiness. No wonder climate alarmists declare that climate change is the greatest moral threat facing humankind today.
The catch-phrase for that new challenge of repentance is ‘energy transition’. According to the churches’ leading theologians, it’s all about managing the change to a ‘low carbon economy’. That’s carbon as in ‘carbon dioxide’, of course. CO2. The stuff plants love and on which all human life depends. We’re not talking about ‘carbon’ as in graphite and diamonds. But alarmists have obscured this by dropping the word ‘dioxide’ and insisting that any form of energy that produces carbon dioxide emissions is ‘dirty’.
The latest round of alarmism has been fuelled by recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which wants governments to conclude a binding global decarbonisation agreement. Carbon-confused latte-sipping inner city elites lap it up, just as they lapped up the inconvenient and mischievous truths propounded by Al Gore in his science fiction flop An Inconvenient Truth.
But the really inconvenient truth is that the evidence on which the IPCC relies does not justify the alarm. Take human health. Climate change is supposed to lead to an increase in tropical diseases such as dengue fever. But as Nigel Lawson, former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasurer) and founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation ( a think-tank that includes a different Church of England bishop as one of its trustees) has pointed out, the IPCC coyly admits other ‘stressors’ might have a greater impact on human health and well-being. According to Lawson, the IPCC conspicuously fails to take proper account of the fact that “the biggest health risk in the world today, particularly of course in the developing world, is poverty.” 
Yet with their divestment campaign and their drive for the transition to a low-carbon (and eventually no-carbon) economy, zealous churches are only going to make life harder for the poor. Energy prices have been on the rise for some time. Divesting from coal is only going to increase the cost of power and make it harder for the poor to heat their homes.
“We use fossil fuels not because we love them,” says Nigel Lawson, “or because we are in thrall to the multinational oil companies, but simply because they provide far and away the cheapest source of large-scale energy.” Cheaper energy leads to faster economic development which is the surest way to eradicate poverty. And there is a world of difference, he says, between developing more efficient use of fossil fuels and abandoning them altogether.  
The push to ‘decarbonise’ the economy rather than promote fuel efficiency suggests Christian churches are not especially concerned to protect the jobs and livelihoods of those who live in coalmining regions. Nor do they seem concerned with improving access to cheap energy sources in the developing world to promote economic growth that will deliver millions of people from the scourges of malnutrition, preventable disease, and premature death.
The sharp, carbon-edged truth is that the churches are keen to adopt climate change as a cause to help them connect with the young, the disaffected, and the disillusioned. It’s a gesture that has little to do with morality.
Hundreds of refugees drown in the Mediterranean; religious war rages in the Middle East, spilling onto the streets of European capital cities; disease and famine ravage impoverished regions of the world; and a bloated welfare state condemns many to intergenerational poverty and dysfunction.
Climate alarmists in Christian churches such as the Church of England obviously thinks those issues are only lesser moral problems. And that is surely the most immoral gesture of all.
Rev Peter Kurti is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies

22 May, 2015

21 May, 2015

Cotton Picking Fingers

How is this for efficient harvesting in a much maligned Australian rural industry. The cotton industry is huge in global terms and by whatever measure you like-research, water use efficiency,yields per hectare etc.; Australia is the world leader.

08 May, 2015

Bourke Show Trip May 2015

I have had a habit of attending the Bourke Show. It is a great little one day event, including most years a ram sale. It is one of the few places where the merino stud breeders of the Macquarie, the Riverina and South Australia, all of whom have clients in the area, show their wares. Over the years it has had some notable personalities do the official opening. This year it was to be my my old mate Les Walsh who spent 40 years as the Dalgety/Landmark Partner-Manager in Bourke, so I decided I would attend. This notwithstanding that we were in Bourke on a few weeks previously for the big Easter Bourke Reunion.
Dalgety Bourke key staff in 1960-all deceased except me From LtoR- Ron Ney,me,Jim Garnsey and Peter Garry. Photo taken in 2002.

We left a very wet Sydney on Friday 1st May on a big round trip (link to map) so as to also take in a visit to Gail's favourite elderly cousin, Midge O'Halloran, at Condobolin.

Day 1
Up the M1 expressway to the turn-off onto the new M15 (Hunter Expressway) which I was keen to use for the first time, then along the Golden Highway thru' the very wet Hunter Valley to Denman. A lovely Devonshire Tea at our favourite coffee shop at Sandy Hollow thence through Merriwa, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Gilgandra to Coonamble. Called to see John Brien, my long time agent friend, who was "riding camels" in the Middle East, but had a cup of coffee with his successor David Chadwick and got the local "news". So far the country all green and in good order.

We had arranged to spend the night at former Clyde property "Pier Pier" with Phil and Liz Woodhill who were the Clyde Managers in my time. It was just like old times and they thoughtfully had their Overseer and Jackaroo for dinner just as we would have done in days gone by. So good to see them both looking so fit and enjoying life in their usual enthusiastic manner. Country as dry as a chip from about "Pier Pier" onwards and the "Pier Pier" flock down from the usual 12,000 breeding ewes to only 3700-and they were being hand fed! Massive new woolshed very impressive. Phil told me that they were not getting a lot of flooding in the "Cutbushes" and "Eden" marsh country in spite of constant small flows and there was a Government plan to eliminate the so called "By-pass Channel" in return for which the Government was providing capped and piped bore water to downstream Macquarie River graziers for stock watering purposes. With wool prices much improved in recent days, and booming sheep and cattle prices, the old addage of "just add water" is very apt.

Day 2
We followed the gravel road down to near Carinda and then the very good newish bitumen into Walgett. The country got even drier as we got closer to Walgett and continued horrific after we took the western road (Kamilaroi Highway) to Brewarrina. I read afterwards that Brewarrina had had 50mm of rain in the previous 48 hours, but there wasn't much sign of it. "Beemery" mid way between Bre and Bourke looked pretty awful.
The Bourke Show was well attended, but given dry conditions there was no actual ram sale, but several studs had rams on show. We were pleased to be invited by President Scott Mitchell to join the Committee for a very nice lunch. Les Walsh gave a very complete, yet brief speech in opening the show, which was well received. The trophy for the best cotton crop was again not awarded, but I have Ian Cole trying to find who has it and get the competition reactivated for future years. Gail and I attended a very nicely conducted Evening Service at the Anglican Church where we made up 50% of the congregation!
Consistent with past Show day practice we had dinner at the Port of Bourke Hotel with Les and Francis Walsh, but this time we didn't shout all and sundry for dinner! We stayed in my favourite suite-The Mona Lisa-at the Riverside Motel.

Day 3
We headed off down the Kidman Way to Cobar at about 10:00AM. The country which is hard bushy land in the best of times, was made even worse by the current drought. The Cobar main street was closed for re-surfacing so we kept moving to Mount Hope. If anything this country was even worse and the "road kill" was massive-'roos, goats, pigs and the odd sheep. I was concerned that I did not hit a 'roo in my flash BMW and in fact did not come close whilst motoring at a fair bat. Close to Mt Hope were a number of properties which appeared to be only running goats and which were eaten into the ground. To my surprise the pub was in operation and we had a hamburger lunch before turning south east to Euabalong. I was reminded of the pioneering work which Jock Bremner did in trying to farm the Mt. Hope mallee country when we were at Hillston in the late 1960's. Some are still at it. It was only as we approached the Lachlan flood plain near Euabalong that we struck green feed and from then on the country was great all the way back to Sydney. We mistakenly crossed the river at Euabalong and had a gravel road (Lachlan Valley Way) until about 15kms from Condobolin. Had we stayed on the northern side we would have had a sealed road almost the whole way. However, it was interesting to be on a different track and it is clear that the Lachlan when in flood, floods to the south as it does upstream of Condobolin and we passed thru' some very attractive country.
After stocking up with afternoon tea requisites we arrived at the O'Halloran house where with a bought in Chinese dinner we passed some four hours with Midge and Jim, both of whom are now in their 90's. We were pleased to see their daughter Joy who dropped in while we were there. Tired from all the driving we had an early night at our usual Condo motel.

Day 4
I was frustrated by not being ready to leave until after 9:00am.
Took a walk over the Lachlan before heading off on one of my favourite drives-following the south side of the Lachlan upstream to Forbes. We stayed on the Lachlan Valley Way all the way south/south-east through Cowra and Boorowa until we joined the Hume Expressway near Yass. My navigation system tell me that this is about 100km longer than coming straight over the Blue Mountains, but only some 20 minutes longer. Arrived home early evening, but somewhat weary from all the driving.