by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
TAS Country : December 23rd 2010
20 Tasmanian Country Friday, December 24, 2010 Opinion Just rotten eggs and lame ducks OVER the FENCE John Rich Why should Tasmanians buy locally when the Government clearly does not have a policy to support that position?' TASMANIAN primary producers would have every right to feel as though the Bartlett Government has abandoned them. Two recent reports indicate a scandalous situation for Tasmanian suppliers of agricultural products. Local egg producers have been passed over in favour of eggs being supplied to the Department of Health and Human Services from Queensland. The same department has also awarded a contract to an interstate supplier for a significant quantity of meat for the hospital system during the next 18 months. The ''lame duck'' excuse for awarding contracts to interstate suppliers is apparently that DHHS has a responsibility to get the best value for taxpayers' dollars. Yes, there is merit in that argument, but in practical terms, there should be a responsibility to give preference to local suppliers. This is a particularly valid point of view considering the Government's position on Tasmania becoming the food bowl for the nation and its television advertisements about Tasmanian produce encouraging Tasmanians to buy locally. Why should Tasmanians buy locally when the Government clearly does not have a policy to support that position? Liberal MP Jeremy Rockliff is correct when he calls on the Government to adopt a Liberal policy that looks at applying a local benefit test. This policy should be adopted immediately by the Government. If it is not adopted, then we should hear the reasons from Mr Bartlett why the Government will not give priority support to Tasmanian primary producers for the supply of produce to all government agencies. I wonder how many other products are being sourced from interstate when they could be purchased locally. This is much more than ''the Government getting value for taxpayers' dollars''. It is about jobs for Tasmanians. In the case of meat, I suspect the playing field is far from level. The Government has a firm policy to reject producers who use hormone growth promotions (HGPs). Tasmania is the only state that does not allow the use of HGPs and this has been the case for many years. But HGPs can legally be used by interstate beef producers. It is well known that the use of HGPs provides a significant economic advantage to farmers. I wonder if the DHHS tender process identifies that only HGP-free meat should be supplied. I doubt it. Because Tasmania is an island, we often face a financial disadvantage against mainland suppliers. Sure we have a number of advantages, including weather and soils. But our costs are adversely impacted by high farm input costs mainly because many items have to be imported. Our scales of operation can also be a disadvantage. Isn't it better for the Government to spend a little extra for local produce than have millions of taxpayers' dollars supporting people who are unemployed as a result of the current tender policies not supporting Tasmanians? It is time for a full review of the Government's tender process, having particular regard for the need to have a clear local benefit test in all situations. Macquarie must pay the piper ON THE BRINK: Grey-headed albatross habitat on Macquarie Island is at risk from the plague of pests. CHEWS THEFAT David Byard Some people will be upset at the collateral damage, but surely the point is that countless numbers of birds will die if the rabbits, mice and rats remain. ' LAST week, I mentioned the poisoning of rats, mice and rabbits on Macquarie Island. Like most Tasmanians, I have heard of Macquarie Island but don't know much about it. It is 1500km south of Tasmania about halfway between here and Antarctica. The main island is 34km long and 5.5km wide at its broadest. The island was heritage listed in 1997, in part because of its exceptional beauty and also because of its importance as a breeding place for birds like the grey headed albatross, for which it is the only breeding site in Australia. This is just one example of several rare and endangered birds that rely on Macquarie Island as a breeding site. Sadly, though, an ecological disaster is emerging with blue petrels and a multitude of other birds finding that their chicks and eggs are under threat from a moving mass of rats and mice. If this was not enough, rabbits are denuding the foliage that is essential to numerous types of birds, and the warrens of an estimated 100,000 rabbit population are causing lethal landslips. Landslips have killed many birds, albatross nests have fallen off unstable ridges smashing eggs and sending chicks plummeting to their doom. Rabbits were introduced to the island in 1879 by New Zealand sealers, most likely as a food source. In 1979, myxomatosis was introduced with some success, causing the rabbit population to drop dramatically. In 2002-2003, another introduced animal, the feral cat, was eradicated. This was a fantastic effort but one that left the remaining rabbits with no predator. With the myxomatosis virus losing its effect, the rabbit population exploded. These factors have combined to bring the island to the brink of an ecological disaster that may cause some bird species to become extinct and alter the island's environment balance forever. Yet, as recently as 2007, the Australian and Tasmania governments remained at loggerheads over who should be responsible for the cost of eradicating feral animals from the island. A decision finally was made and agreement reached to begin poisoning in 2010. This quickly led to about 800 birds being poisoned and a halt being called to the program by then environment minister Peter Garrett. New enviroment minister Tony Burke, after further analysis and consultation on the damage feral animals are causing to the island and its birdlife, has decided to resume the baiting program with the full acknowledgement that some birds will die. Great care, research and science has been used to try to get a poison that some birds will not eat, and the timing has been chosen carefully so that most birds have left the island and are not breeding. Part of the problem before was secondary kills, with rabbits being eaten after being poisoned. This time, there will be a team to pick up the poisoned carcasses. This work will begin in May, 2011. The goal is to destroy as many rabbits as possible with minimal impact on the birdlife. The people handling the baiting say it is impossible to put a figure on how many birds will perish. Once the rabbits are poisoned, a team of people will be employed to pick up the carcasses so that birds cannot get to them. Some people will be upset at the collateral damage, but surely the point is that countless numbers of birds will die if the rabbits, mice and rats remain. Some of these birds will be threatened species and if their breeding grounds are destroyed then they will certainly become extinct. As one sea bird expert states there is no alternative, even though some native species will be affected. The poisoning program after completion is expected to have killed 90% of the rabbits, and the rodents are are expected to be wiped out. This will still leave 10,000 rabbits to be dealt with by highly trained hunting dogs taught not to molest the birdlife. A pack of 12 to 15 dogs, trained at a cost of $10,000 each, will do the work, which is predicted to take up to five years to effect a complete eradication. This may sound like a lot of money and effort, and it is, but to do nothing would condemn Macquarie Island to becoming nothing more than a world heritage listed ecological desert. Surely people like the concerned Friends of Tasmanian Birds should be applauding an initiative that may keep threatened species and other birds alike in a unique and vital environment. Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year.
December 16th 2010
January 6th 2011