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Monday, October 31, 2005

New study considers eyesight-learning problems link.

New study considers eyesight-learning problems link. 01/11/2005. ABC News Online

It is hoped a new Tasmanian study will help improve literacy rates in schools.

The collaborative study is looking at the link between poor eyesight and learning difficulties.

Normally in vision testing, each eye is examined separately but researchers believe binocular vision may help children develop the ability to read.

Chief researcher Anne-Louise Ponsonby says the Literacy Pathways study is looking at how coordinating both eyes helps learning.

"There are some eye exercises and mediation work that can assist people whose eyes aren't fully coordinated and tracking," she said.

Professor Allan Carmichael from the University of Tasmania says during the next 10 months children with literacy problems in all southern Tasmanian schools will be screened and given appropriate eye exercises.

"If it's found to be effective here then it can certainly be implemented in other education services elsewhere," he said.

About 10 per cent of primary school children have difficulty learning to read.

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Betfair agency likely to get go-ahead.

Betfair agency likely to get go-ahead. 01/11/2005. ABC News Online

There is to be a new entrant into Australia's betting market which will allow punters to back a horse to lose.

Online betting exchange Betfair UK has been in negotiations with the Tasmanian Government to obtain a licence to operate in Australia.

It is understood Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon will make an announcement later this week that Betfair will be given the green light to begin its operations.

Racing Victoria's chief steward Des Gleeson who oversees Australia's biggest horseracing events, including the Melbourne Cup, says he and many others in the racing industry are against the concept.

"Race clubs and the racing industry generally provides excellent prize money to encourage horses, to encourage connections of horses to win races," he said.

"By providing an exchange which encourages people to back losers I think is the wrong way to go because it's far easier to get a horse to lose a race than it is to win a race."

Andrew Twaites from Betfair denies the racing industry will suffer.

"All we want to do is compete in this marketplace. We offer a good deal for punters, we will operate in a niche part of the market, we're not going to take over the industry and we promise a good return for the racing industry," he said.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Parliament concerns

Stateline Tasmania

AIRLIE WARD: Tasmania is heading into an election year. It will be the third election of a smaller 25-member House of Assembly. The smaller parliament was designed to hinder the election of the Greens and assure majority government. But it hasn't worked and some commentators believe Tasmania could still end up with a minority government next year. Does the smaller parliament work effectively. Has it been good for democracy? Or has it led to unelected public servants doing the work of MPs?

The Labor Party had a tumultuous accord with the Greens in the early 1990s and Tony Rundle's Liberal government was frustrated in its bid to govern in minority with Greens support. In 1998, Jim Bacon, as then leader of the opposition, put forward legislation to cut the number of parliamentarians and create a 25-member House of Assembly and 15-seat upper house. The cut was partly to placate public anger over a 40% pay rise that politicians had voted for themselves. But the major parties made no secret of the fact that they also hoped it would get the Greens off their back and out of the parliamentary system.

JIM BACON, 1998: What we have done is respond to the overwhelming demands of the Tasmanian people to have less members of parliament. It is automatic. It is just common logic that if you make something smaller it is harder to get into.

AIRLIE WARD: It almost worked. In 1998 the Greens were reduced to just one member. Chairs were removed and Peg Putt brought her own into the chamber to create a cross bench. But in 2002 the Greens got three more seats and the Liberal Party was cut to just seven members. So for this term the Government has had two Oppositions. Political commentator Wayne Crawford says the consequence has actually been a diminished Opposition to the Government because the Liberals and the Greens are also opposing each other.

WAYNE CRAWFORD, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Jim Bacon played on this to a great extent. After the last election he said he would recognise the fact there were now two Oppositions and he would give Peg Putt a car and the Greens some staff and so forth. What that did was not to make the Greens stronger, but to mean that the Greens were competing directly with the Opposition for media exposure, for public exposure. So it's divide and conquer. But the Government is dividing the Opposition and conquering it. It's not the Opposition dividing the Government.

AIRLIE WARD: Mr Crawford has been reporting on Tasmanian politics for more than 30 years.

WAYNE CRAWFORD: I think it's been disastrous, to be honest, for a number of reasons. One is that there is just not the critical mass of members to draw on now for all sorts of things, including Cabinet, including committees. You've got no backbench on the Government side to speak of, which means that if Cabinet makes a decision, Cabinet, plus the Government leader, plus the parliamentary secretary have a majority in the Caucus. So any Cabinet decision is going to be rolled through the Caucus without any dissent. So you've really got Cabinet running the parliament without any Opposition to speak of.

AIRLIE WARD: Former member for Gordon Peter Schulze was the only member of the upper house to vote against reducing the size of both houses in 1998.

PETER SCHULZE, FORMER MLC: Unfortunately, my concerns have been realised and when you look at the current parliament in terms of its structure, they're short of talent, they're short of debate, it costs more, and in actual fact they talked about cutting the numbers to save money. It didn't save a dollar, it costs more. We have a greater level of bureaucracy. We have a lower level of democracy.

AIRLIE WARD: Last year the Liberal Party estimated that the cost of parliament had increased by about $5 million a year since 1998, about a million of that for Government spin doctors. And they're not the only ones to have tallied up the Government's PR machine.

WAYNE CRAWFORD: About a year ago, I suppose, I went through and counted up the number of journalists that are employed by the Government. I think it came to 65 or something. This Government has more spinners than any other government, in my experience. They're not all press secretaries, they're not all overtly spinners, they're not all people that we see. Some of them are hidden deep in the departments.

AIRLIE WARD: Political analyst Richard Herr says the smaller parliament has reduced democracy.

RICHARD HERR, POLITICAL SCIENTIST: A smaller number of ministers trying to cope with the workload that was done by a much larger group of ministers previously means that they've had more minders and we've indeed over the last several years or more now seen the influence that minders have on decisions and the way government generally works in Tasmania.

AIRLIE WARD: As a result, he says accountability and transparency are diminished.

RICHARD HERR: People who are not elected, not accountable directly to the people being more influential, super-size departments - that is departments that have been combined in order to make it easier for ministers to meet their ministerial roles and that means, again, senior civil servants and minders making critical decisions about what goes forward to the minister and from the minister into cabinet. So there are a lot of reasons why accountability, transparency and public access have all been diminished.

AIRLIE WARD: Member for Nelson Jim Wilkinson voted for the reduction in parliament in 1998. If he had his time again Mr Wilkinson says he'd change his vote.

JIM WILKINSON, MLC: If history repeated itself in the very near future I'd be voting against it because I think people can see that the lesser number of parliamentarians, in the House of Assembly especially, means not for good legislation.

AIRLIE WARD: He says at times only one member from the lower house turns up for committee meetings.

JIM WILKINSON: If you haven't got the people to do it, then you can't do the job you're supposed to do. Without the differing views that are obtained by numbers on committees I don't think you get the best outcome.

AIRLIE WARD: Part of the thinking behind the reduction was also that Tasmania was over-governed. But Mr Wilkinson says that in politics, as in sport, you still need to field a full team.

JIM WILKINSON: You get to a situation where, in health, it's such a huge portfolio - it not only takes in health but it takes in police, it takes in housing - and you can see that one person can't properly do the job. What's happened? They've called on a former premier, Doug Lowe, to go and give them assistance in relation to the Royal Hobart Hospital, a bit like your American system where you employ people to do a job which years ago ministers were doing.

AIRLIE WARD: Richard Herr says the smaller parliament has meant fewer sitting days - this year 40 sitting days are scheduled - and fewer bills. In 1999, 107 bills received royal assent, 103 in 2000 and 123 in 2001. For the next three years - 65, 74 and 74.

RICHARD HERR: Since the reduction in the size of the parliament both have gone down and gone down significantly and the reason for that seems at least to be in part there are fewer people to debate bills, fewer people to investigate matters. If you compare the amount of legislation before the reduction and since there doesn't seem to be a reason for that reduction other than ministers must be busy doing their administrative role rather than their legislative role.

AIRLIE WARD: But it would be a brave politician to lobby for more parliamentarians.

Mountain bike riders call for wider recognition and support

PM - Mountain bike riders call for wider recognition and support

MARK COLVIN: As Australia's best mountain bike riders gather in Hobart, proponents of the sport say authorities can no longer ignore its growing popularity.

They want special mountain bike parks, which supporters say are needed for both environmental and social reasons.

The riders say the sport can no longer be looked on as just a fad, and a new Tasmanian development should be regarded as a blueprint for the future.

Tim Jeanes reports.

(sound of people riding bikes)

TIM JEANES: It's practice time for Australia's National Mountain Bike Series, which begins tomorrow.

The racing is centred on what's regarded as the biggest and best mountain cross course in Australia – at Glenorchy on the outskirts of Hobart.

Local Bushcare officer Luke Chiu has studied the impact of mountain biking, and says the large-scale park, with three courses, represents the way of the future.

LUKE CHIU: It's gone well beyond the point where it's looked at as a fad. It's here to stay. If you're in Hobart you only have to look around to see how many bikes there are.

Such a small city as well, supporting so many bike shops that you'll see mountain bike parks in pretty much all the capital cities or all the major cities.

I think that's definitely the way that it's moving.

TIM JEANES: The Executive Officer for Mountain Bike Australia, Tony Scott, says local councils need to be at the forefront of change and recognise the sport's health benefits and its social benefits in keeping children out of trouble.

TONY SCOTT: Very cost effective, very safe. I think the councils will be absolutely staggered as to what the usage would be.

Not only that, they’re virtually graffiti proof as well.

I think other councils and other government instrumentalities around the country are going to look at what's happened in Glenorchy very carefully and start to think, well, if they can do it, then here's a little – quote, unquote – council in Tasmania.

TIM JEANES: Luke Chiu says mountain biking in traditional national park settings can cause environmental damage and conflict with other users.

LUKE CHIU: Some people have issues with, you know, perhaps, something as esoteric as their quality of experience.

For instance, if a bike rider's out for an exciting sort of risky experience and the walker's out for a relaxing experience, you know, it could interfere with that.

TIM JEANES: Tony Scott says purpose built parks helps alleviate this sort of conflict, with their potential starting to catch on in areas including Sydney.

TONY SCOTT: Sydney Olympic Park has seen that this is something to go for.

They're now in the final stages of finishing a mountain cross course. So these type of things are certainly going to be the way of the future.

MARK COLVIN: The Executive Officer of Mountain Bike Australia, Tony Scott, with Tim Jeanes.

Numbers dip on all three ferries

The Mercury: Numbers dip on all three ferries [31oct05]

PASSENGER numbers on the three Spirit of Tasmania ferries fell by more than 40,000 in 2004-05.

Despite a $10.9 million marketing blitz last year, passenger numbers fell from 505,587 to 463,000.

A $13 million loss of revenue and the effect of more expensive fuel is expected to contribute to an operating loss of about $35 million as predicted in Budget estimates this year.

The Federal Government paid $32.4 million under the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme in 2004-05 compared with $34.7 million the previous financial year.

The figures show $4.2 million was paid under the scheme for the Spirit of Tasmania III -- about 27,500 vehicles translating to about 63,000 passengers

Spirit I and Spirit II from Devonport to Melbourne carried 184,000 vehicles containing just over 400,000 passengers.

The decline in Devonport-Melbourne passengers has been overshadowed by the doubts about Spirit III and the leaking of Treasury analysis. However, the Melbourne route has also raised concerns and the TT-Line recently ramped up marketing for this run by $1.5 million.

Other sources have suggested interstate arrivals have fallen 5 per cent so far this financial year.

TT-Line chief executive Peter Simmons would not comment on the passenger numbers.

A Bureau of Transport and Resource Economics report showed earlier this month that airlines were winning the battle with the TT-Line -- especially on Sydney routes.

Airline passenger movements into and out of Tasmania increased from 2.1 million to 2.4 million to July.

There was a 65 per cent increase in passengers from Hobart to Sydney and an 83 per cent increase from Launceston to Sydney.

Budget papers show the State Government paid $61.3 million relating to sea travel in 2004-05: a $40 million equity injection, $17 million to pay off debt on original Spirit of Tasmania and $4.3 million for interest payments on Spirit I.

In 2005-06 sea travel costs will total $75 million: $39.5 million to pay off Spirit I, a $25 million equity injection to cover Spirit III losses, $2.1 million for interest costs on Spirit I, $2 million for marketing in New South Wales and $6.2 million for principal and interest on the original Spirit of Tasmania.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tasmania remains committed to GM-free status.

Tasmania remains committed to GM-free status. 30/10/2005. ABC News Online

The Tasmanian Government has restated its commitment to a ban on genetically modified (GM) foods, despite voting for a more relaxed national policy on the issue.

Australian primary industries ministers, including Tasmanian Minister Steve Kons, voted on Wednesday to allow 0.5 per cent contamination of GM canola seeds in all states.

That raised doubts over Tasmania's GM-free status.

In a statement, Mr Kons says the move reflects an understanding that zero tolerance of GM material is not achievable in other states with more canola production.

But a spokesman for Mr Kons says Tasmania will not be allowing itself the 0.5 per cent leeway.

He says the Government still intends to keep Tasmania totally GM-free.
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Friday, October 28, 2005

Conservationists blamed for Forestry's profit plunge.

Conservationists blamed for Forestry's profit plunge. 28/10/2005. ABC News Online

Forestry Tasmania has partly blamed conservationists for a drop in annual profits.

Forestry's annual report reveals its pre-tax profit fell by more than $6 million last financial year.

Forestry Tasmania says it has had a particularly challenging year.

It recorded a profit of $18.5 million, down from $24.6 last financial year.

Forestry's chief financial officer, Penny Egan, says the drop is due to higher fuel and freight costs as well as a downturn in the international market for pulpwood.

"It's really predominantly been caused by the environmental campaign in Japan and the market has reacted to that," she said.

Ms Egan says there has also been a lower return on assets from almost 2.9 per cent in 2003-2004 to 2.1 per cent last financial year.

Earlier this year the Productivity Commission criticised Forestry's low rate of return for taxpayers.

Forestry Tasmania has also expressed concern about a requirement to meet community service obligations totalling more than $7 million.
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Grid to slow spread of tassie devil disease.

Grid to slow spread of tassie devil disease. 29/10/2005. ABC News Online

Tasmanian devil researchers are hoping a cattle grid-style barrier will slow the spread of the devil facial tumour disease in the state's south-east.

A recent pilot study that involved trapping and culling sick devils appears to have prevented a population crash on the Forestier and Tasman peninsulas.

Now work is focused on isolating devils on the peninsulas by discouraging them from crossing the bridge at Dunalley, which is the only link to the mainland.

John Hamilton, from the Tasmanian Devil Park, says several grids will be trialed to find one the devils do not like walking over.

But he says no grid will completely halt the spread of the disease.

"The indications are that tasmanian devils can swim quite well and whether the special devil-proof grid on the Duinalley Bridge is enough [who knows] but it's a start," he said.

"I think we've just got to make progress."
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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Gunns talks up pulp mill at AGM.

Gunns talks up pulp mill at AGM. 27/10/2005. ABC News Online

Falling share prices and the pulp mill development have been high on the agenda at the Gunns annual general meeting.

The company was worth $1.6 billion in January, but has slipped to $930 million.

In the past month, shares have fallen 15 per cent to $2.80, while the All Ordinaries Index has fallen 4 per cent.

Around 30 shareholders attended the meeting at Gunns's head office in Launceston this morning.

Shareholder activist Stephen Mayne says chairman John Gay told the meeting he believed negative publicity was contributing to falling share prices.

Mr Mayne also says there were mixed feelings about the pulp mill proposal.

"I think shareholders are ambivalent about the pulp mill," Mr Mayne said.

"They want something that will increase the share price and all they've had since it's been announce is a significant slump in the share price.

"There's a big worry that a company that's only worth $900 million can build a pulp mill worth $1.3 billion."

Mr Gay says there are few negative feelings about the mill and shareholders are confident about the company's future.

"We're not too bad, we're still forecasting $95-100 million profit. We are in Tasmania and, if you look at the companies as the same size as us, we're probably making more profits by up to 50 per cent in the average," he said.

Mr Gay says the Australian dollar and freight are causing some problems, but things will pick up.

"I believe that the long term future of the company is excellent," he said.

"Wood fibre in the world market is getting shorter, resources around the world are getting less, more pulp mills are being built around the world, which makes demand greater, and the future of the forest-based industry on plantations will be fabulous."

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Govt hails Budget surplus.

Govt hails Budget surplus. 27/10/2005. ABC News Online

The Tasmanian Government has hailed its unexpected windfall surplus as proof of strong economic management and financial responsibility.

A report of final Budget outcomes has recorded another big increase in stamp duty and payroll tax payments, resulting in a $211 million Budget surplus.

General government debt has been eliminated but unfunded superannuation and debt carried by Government business enterprises is $3.8 billion.

The Government says most of the surplus is committed.

State Opposition treasury spokesman Brett Whiteley says it is underestimating revenue to enable a pre-election spend.

"This Government has got form when it comes to the under-estimation of receipts," he said.

"It's not something that's just popped its head up in the last few minutes.

"They continually do it, they budgeted for a fiscal surplus last year of $15 million, they ended up with a fiscal surplus well over $200 million

Basslink's $2.3b sting

The Mercury: Basslink's $2.3b sting [28oct05]

TASMANIAN taxpayers are stuck with an obligation to pay $2.3 billion over the next 25 years to the British company that owns and operates the new Basslink power link to the mainland.

The annual report of Hydro Tasmania, tabled in Parliament yesterday, revealed for the first time that the Tasmanian fee to use the electricity cable connection will be about $92 million a year until 2030.

But the State Government, which owns Hydro Tasmania, is confident it will more than cover the costs of the $92 million Basslink fee by selling locally produced power to Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales in periods of peak demand.

Energy Minister Bryan Green said there was a large, unmet demand for electricity on the mainland during summer, which meant there were opportunities to sell Tasmanian power at very high prices.

But the Government was clearly worried about negative fallout from revealing its $2.3 billion Basslink fee.

IXL project wins major prize

The Mercury: IXL project wins major prize [28oct05]

THE IXL redevelopment on the Hobart waterfront last night won a major prize in Sydney at the Royal Australian Institute of Architects national awards.

The project, which includes the Henry Jones Art Hotel, by Tasmanian firm Morris-Nunn & Associates, was joint winner of the RAIA National Jury Award with a Melbourne housing project by Williams Boag Architects.

The judges described the project as "remarkable", the hotel as one of "idiosyncratic luxury" and the atrium behind it of being in the tradition of "great public spaces".

The Mercury: Limelight Lara laughs off the `Paris' potshots [28oct05]

The Mercury: Limelight Lara laughs off the `Paris' potshots [28oct05]

ECONOMIC Development Minister Lara Giddings has laughed off comments by the State Opposition comparing her to the limelight-loving celebrity socialite Paris Hilton.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Brett Whiteley this week dubbed Ms Giddings "Paris Giddings", saying her department's annual report looked more like a calendar than a political document.

The report featured six glossy photos of Ms Giddings, including one full-page shot.

Ms Giddings had previously been dubbed by Liberal MP Michael Hodgman "the head girl" - a reference to her school-girl style of answering questions.

The Opposition also questioned an apparent 360 per cent jump in advertising and promotional spending in Ms Giddings' department.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cricket Bat Invention

Stateline Tasmania

AIRLIE WARD: Like tennis rackets, cricket bats have what's called a "sweet spot". It's the area on the bat which gives the batsman maximum reward for effort. Now a Tasmanian builder has come up with a new design which enhances that sweet spot and also strengthens bats against breakages. Ron Sears is hoping his engineering effort will be revolutionary in the cricket world. Fiona Blackwood explains.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: Like the 123-year old Ashes series cricket bat design is steeped in history.

GEORGE BAILEY: I think cricket's one of the sports where the gear has - especially cricket bats - apart from minor changes haven't really changed for over 100 years.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: There's been a bit of tinkering with the shape of the bat and they're certainly a lot lighter these days. But they're also prone to breakages.

GLEN HUGHES: Breakages with bats, these days being such a popular sport, is quite regular. Bats aren't really made to stand for two or three years. They're made in mass production so the actual longevity of the actually bats is pretty short these days.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: Glen Hughes had been delivering his broken bats to builder Ron Sears for repairs.

RON SEARS: The damage on bats that would be passed on to me from cricketers and quite often it was the edges that was the big problem so I looked at this first up, to probably enhance the edges of the bat in order to limit and from there on it grew and I could then see the huge scope that was available to do what I've done.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: Over the past two years Ron Sears has been fiddling with design ideas until he came up with a way of strengthening the bat.

RON SEARS: This is an insert. As you can see, it's got a bend in it. What we do is take a groove out of the edge of the bat and this is then inserted into the bat but in the opposite fashion.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: The insert also serves another purpose. Because it has a spring to it it enhances the bat's sweet spot.

RON SEARS: It transfers the energy of a mishit shot back to the handle rather than twisting the bat as such and giving the batsman a hard time with that so it's got a double pronged attack.

AIRLIE WARD: Tests of the new bat are proving promising.

GEORGE BAILEY: The obvious difference that I've found straight away is that you can't jar the bat so even a couple that I hit pretty badly still seemed to come off the bat with a much better pace and much easier on the hands than the bats I've used without the spring-loaded tension.

GLENN HUGHES: It's very similar to the tightening of a tennis racket, the reprogramming of that. We've seen players use a different tightness. this has the same rebounding effect. It's like the ball hitting the bat sweetly all the time. The noise just makes it very, very easy to say that bat is working to its maximum effect. Ron Sears is in in the process of obtaining a world wide patent on his invention.

RON SEARS: It's taken a lot of time. It might look simple, Fiona, but there's been quite a bit of thought and errors along the way, changes, but this, I'm just about there.

FIONA BLACKWOOD: It's almost like reinventing the wheel and for this builder with 40 years experience under his belt it's his ultimate dream to revolutionise the way cricket bats are made.

Tas surplus balloons.

Tas surplus balloons. 27/10/2005. ABC News Online

Tasmania is officially net debt free and the surplus has ballooned to $211 million.

The Treasurer's annual financial report has been tabled in Parliament.

The report into the 2004-2005 financial year shows Tasmania is net debt free, with financial assets exceeding gross debt by $28 million.

The fiscal surplus has increased by more than $100 million since the May Budget to $211 million because of increases in taxation revenue and GST payments from the Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, total state debts, of unfunded superannuation liability, borrowings and GBE debt, is around $3.8 million

Aurora posts $49m profit

The Mercury: Aurora posts $49m profit [27oct05]

GOVERNMENT-owned power company Aurora Energy recorded a before-tax profit of $49 million in 2004-05.

With income from local electricity and gas markets, it returned $36 million of this profit to the Tasmanian Government in dividends.

Aurora's performance details were in its annual report for the 2004-05 financial year, tabled in State Parliament yesterday.

Performance highlights included:

An after-tax profit of $30 million

Energy sales reaching a new high of 10,027 gigawatt hours;

Improvements in supply reliability and safety performance;

The introduction of a $100,000-a-year hardship policy to protect financially vulnerable electricity customers;

Increased emphasis on community safety.
Energy Minister Bryan Green said Aurora's performance indicated it was particularly well placed to meet the challenges posed by Tasmania's entry into the national electricity market in May 2005 and the start of competition from mid-2006 onwards.

The annual report of the Office of the Energy Regulator revealed that the cost of Transend's North East area upgrade blew out from $17 million to $31 million because it did not start work on the project quickly enough.

Tourist dollars top $1 billion

The Mercury: Tourist dollars top $1 billion [27oct05]

BUSHWALKERS and wildlife lovers boosted tourism income above $1 billion last year.

Visitors spent $1081 million in Tasmania, up about 1 per cent, the annual report by Tourism Tasmania shows.

Those from interstate spent $907 million and overseas visitors $175 million.

The natural environment was identified as the state`s greatest tourism asset at the May launch of the Tasmanian Wildlife Tourism Strategy, which is working on promoting great wildlife sites.

Among "niche" tourism activities identified in the report, wildlife viewing was second only to bushwalking in drawcards.

Spending dropped marginally to $403 million among tourists who listed wildlife viewing as an interest, and it fell 6 per cent among those keen on bushwalking, but they still spent nearly $660 million.

Adventure activities lifted, with bicycle or mountain bike riders spending $28 million, up 15 per cent.

Trout-fishing visitors spent $45 million, 14 per cent less. But general fishing tourists spent 10 per cent more to $61 million.

Those who enjoyed visiting gardens brought in $355 million, which was a 9 per cent slip.

Nineteen per cent of tourists arrived by sea, just under one-fifth of all visitors, which was a drop of 12 per cent to 146,000.

The number of air travellers, making up 81 per cent, grew 7 per cent to 611,200.

Meanwhile, the three new Spirit of Tasmania ships have brought 528,500 interstate and overseas visitors to Tasmania in the three years since Spirit I and II were launched in September 2002.

Government TT-Line Minister Bryan Green told Parliament yesterday these visitors together injected $1113 million in Tasmania during the same period.

Mr Green said the economic benefit of Spirit I and II from Melbourne, and Spirit III from Sydney was $440 million more than sea-route tourists spent in the previous three years.

Tourism figures show that visitors who arrive in Tasmania by ship stay longer, spend more and go to regional areas more frequently, spreading the economic benefits more evenly throughout the community.

"The Government's decision to retain Spirit III has given Tasmania's tourism a solid foundation for development," Mr Green said, predicting that sea passengers would inject a further $320 million into Tasmania's economy this financial year.

"We recognise that the Spirits have provided the catalyst for growth in the tourism industry and have shared this wealth across the state," Mr Green said.

"The ships also provide a very real economic benefit themselves directly employing 450 Tasmanians, with 200 of them relying on Spirit III."

Australian navy denies links to whale strandings -

Australian navy denies links to whale strandings - Yahoo! News

SYDNEY (AFP) - The Australian navy denied its ships were behind two mysterious mass strandings in 24 hours that left 130 pilot whales dead on the coast of the island state of Tasmania

Wildlife rangers said a pod of about 80 pilot whales beached themselves at Marion Bay late Tuesday, just hours after nearly 60 of the animals died in an earlier mass stranding in the same spot.

An Australian Defence Force (ADF) spokesman confirmed two naval ships had been operating in the area using short-range, high-frequency sonar as they searched for remnants of an historic ship wreck.

Greens senator Christine Milne said an investigation should be launched into whether the sonar had contributed to the strandings.

"We know that high-intensity sonar, which some military vessels use, can disrupt the navigation system of whales and dolphins," she told reporters.

However, the ADF said the two ships were anchored far to the west in Hobart when the first stranding occurred and their presence had no bearing on the second.

"The later presence of the two ships in the stranding area is purely coincidental and is considered unrelated to the cause of the strandings, which are considered by many to be a natural phenomena that occurs regularly in the Tasmanian area at this time of year," he said.

Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Liz Wren said dozens of volunteers and wildlife officials were involved in the rescue effort.

"When we got here this morning there were about 70 dead whales scattered over a stretch of about a kilometer (half a mile) of beach," she said.

"We've been able to put eight back in the water, but I'm afraid the rest died," she told AFP by mobile phone from the beach. "It's really terrible."

Pilot whales, which are actually a large species of dolphin that can grow up to six metres (20 foot) long, frequently beach themselves in a phenomenon that remains a mystery to scientists.

Another parks and wildlife official, Ingrid Albion, said it appeared that one disorientated pilot whale in the first group may have led the entire pod to a stranding.

"Maybe they've come in close looking for food, maybe the tide's been a bit different," she said on Australia Broadcasting Corporation radio.

"They use sonar so they can get confused when they come into sandy beaches," she said.

"Only one of them has to get in trouble and make a wrong turn and they'll actually call the rest of the pod to them."

On Tuesday, rescuers managed to push 10 of 67 stranded whales back out to sea.

Tasmania's rugged coastline has one of the highest stranding rates in the world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

State lifts moratorium on devil movements [

The Mercury: State lifts moratorium on devil movements [26oct05]

TASMANIA had lifted a ban on moving devils out of the state, Environment Minister Judy Jackson told Parliament yesterday.

An East Coast wildlife park is hoping its long-missed devil, Lucky, will be able to come home under the ban changes.

The Greens asked what scientific discoveries had been made that allowed devils to be moved, despite previous refusals to requests from overseas and interstate experts to obtain a devil.

The movement moratorium was declared because of the risk of spreading the devil disease to other devils or to other animal species.

But changes were made shortly before Premier Paul Lennon moved to send baby devils to Denmark as a present to mark the birth of Crown Princess Mary's son.

Paper accused of ferry sink bid

The Mercury: Paper accused of ferry sink bid [26oct05]

THE State Government launched a stinging attack on The Mercury newspaper yesterday, accusing it of waging a campaign against the Spirit of Tasmania III.

Premier Paul Lennon told Parliament the newspaper's decision to publish details of a leaked report on the future of the Spirit III ferry by Treasury, originally presented to Cabinet in March, showed a determination to "scuttle the ship".

The leaked report, obtained exclusively by The Mercury, reveals Treasury strongly advised the Government to sell the Sydney-Devonport vessel after it suffered more than $28 million in losses in its first year.

It argued that owning a third ferry to encourage Sydney and NSW tourists to travel to Tasmania would never be financially viable and would cost the state at least $145 million over the next six years.

It also questioned the wisdom of paying a taxpayer-funded subsidy equivalent to $2500 for every passenger brought to Tasmania on Spirit III, when they only spent $1900 in the state.

Whale tragedy

The Mercury: Whale tragedy [26oct05]

UP to 60 long-fin pilot whales died in a tragic mass stranding on Tasmania's south-east coast yesterday.

Rescuers were working frantically last night to save 11 whales that survived the beaching at Marion Bay, near Copping.

Authorities were alerted to the stranding just after 11am yesterday but rescuers arrived to find most of the whales already dead.

Parks and Wildlife Service rescuer Ingrid Albion said volunteers and authorities had refloated a number of whales by mid-afternoon.

"Every live whale we have found we've rescued," Ms Albion said.

Rescuers were trying to send the whales they had refloated back to sea as a pod, she said.

"If we can put them together as one group that's our best chance," she said.

Yesterday's stranding was the second major beaching at Marion Bay in eight years.

More than 100 whales died in a series of strandings on the East Coast, including Marion Bay, in October 1998.

Parks and Wildlife Service senior marine biologist Rosemary Gales said two pods of whales were involved in the stranding yesterday.

The tragedy claimed all but seven whales from a pod of 60 as well as three from a pod of seven.

Dr Gales said a member of the public reported the stranding of the larger pod at the south-east end of Marion Bay.

"Seven of these whales have been refloated and rescuers are using boats to help encourage these whales into deeper water," she said.

The second smaller pod had been discovered early in the afternoon at the northern end of Long Spit, further south of Marion Bay, Dr Gales said.

"Four of these whales were refloated but three had already died," she said.

About 80 scientists, rangers, police officers and volunteers joined the rescue effort.

Dr Gales said the long-fin pilot whales were a very social animal, which tended to travel in family groups of up to 100.

Ms Albion said the stranding could be linked to the strong bonds between whales in a pod.

"If one whale is in trouble, it will call the others who will try to rescue it," she said.

For this reason, it was vital to try to send the whales back to sea as a group, Ms Albion said.

Dr Gales said the rescue efforts would go on into last night.

Volunteers reported seeing the bodies of several small dolphins among the dead whales from the larger pod.

The most recent mass whale stranding in Tasmania, at Trial Harbour, near Strahan, killed 20 sperm whales in December.
A month earlier a pod of 53 pilot whales beached at Maria Island less than a day after 97 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins died on King Island.

No need for Zinifex concern: analysts

MiningNews.net + No need for Zinifex concern: analysts

ANALYSTS at UBS and Goldman Sachs JB Were have been unmoved by Zinifex's somewhat disappointing September quarter results released yesterday, with the strong zinc price and outlook a key factor in the miner's favour.

UBS said the production report was not the start Zinifex would have been looking for in fiscal 2006 – but it was "recoverable – while JB Were said the output was "a little behind our estimates".

Both brokerages maintained their investment stance on the company, with UBS rating the stock a "Buy 2", and JB Were calling Zinifex a "short term marketperform" and a "long term buy".

Headline lead and zinc metal production was reportedly down 13% and 4% quarter-on-quarter respectively, and 7% (in both metals) year-on-year.

Zinifex's Century mine produced 126,200t of zinc and 31,600t of lead, while the Rosebery mine yielded 19,900t of zinc and 5600t of lead.

Zinc metal smelted totalled 154,300t, while lead came in at 54,800t. Smelter issues were the principle reasons for the shortfall in expected production.

In terms of outlook, UBS said the zinc price, power costs at the Budel smelter, and treatment charges (especially in relation to the future of the Clarkesville refinery) were the main issues to watch.

Shares in Zinifex were of 7c at $4.70 in midday trade.

Click here to read the rest of today's news stories.

Early days at the Century operation

Bluestone presses ahead

MiningNews.net Bluestone presses ahead

BLUESTONE Tin directors will lead the way in a $15.4 million equity raising planned by the struggling tin miner.

A non-renounceable rights issue sees shares offered at 14c on a 2-for-5 basis. Each new share comes with a bonus option convertible at 20c before the end of 2008.

The company said it had been advised that "certain" directors of the company will take up around 40%, commensurate with their holdings.

The funds are earmarked to continue Bluestone's investment at Renison (including Rentails), Mt Bischoff and Collingwood, and to provide working capital. The company also said it remains in discussions with financiers to establish working capital and debt facilities to fund current and future developments within its tin strategy.

Bluestone was recently forced to suspend production at its Renison mine in Tasmania due to the low tin price and operational performance, but it continues to push ahead with development of the Collingwood tin mine in Queensland and a feasibility study for the Rentails project.

The company believes the outlook for tin remains positive, with the collapse of the price to around $A8500 per tonne from the $A13,000/t it was trading at when Bluestone's IPO took place attributed to the rapid growth in small scale mining that has occurred in Indonesia.

According to Bluestone, this growth followed the change in status of tin from a strategic mineral to a free mineral commodity and transfer of management of tin mining to provincial and district government. Bluestone said industry reports do not consider such levels of unofficial production are sustainable in the long term.

Collingwood is seen as viable even at the current tin price, with average operating costs of $A6400/t and total costs of $A7700/t. Bluestone has decided to become owner-operator at the 3500t per annum tin project, with first concentrate expected to be ready to be shipped in December.

Meantime a tin price of $A10,000/t is believed necessary to re-commence production at the Renison operation, with the company aiming to re-start at maximum concentrator capacity (750,000tpa) to ensure efficiencies of the high fixed cost plant.

Underground ore from the namesake mine plus open cut ore from Mt Bischoff will feed the concentrator.

Shares in Bluestone were up 0.5c at 14c in morning trade.

Click here to read the rest of today's news stories.

Renison tin operation

Many Australians prefer Danish princess as their monarch

NewsFromRussia.Com Many Australians prefer Danish princess as their monarch

More Australians would prefer Australian-born Danish Crown Princess Mary as their next monarch rather than Britain's Prince Charles, but the top choice was Charles' son, Prince William, a survey showed Monday.

Australia is a former British colony and Charles' mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is its monarch, although many Australians would prefer to sever the constitutional tie by making their country a republic.

Princess Mary, a 33-year-old former Sydney real estate agent born in Tasmania state, has been the toast of Australia and Denmark since the birth of her baby boy on Oct. 15.

An Internet poll conducted after Princess Mary and her husband, Crown Prince Frederik, became first-time parents highlights how popular the couple have become in her home country.

Princess Mary and Prince Frederik out-polled Prince Charles and his wife Camilla six to one _ 42 percent to 7 percent _ on the question of who was preferred to become Australia's head of state after Queen Elizabeth. The poll did not specify whether Princess Mary or Prince Frederick would hypothetically be Australia's ruler.

However, Prince Charles' eldest son, Prince William, was favored as the next monarch by 48 percent of the 10,000 respondents to the New Idea/Channel Seven Sunrise poll, conducted by an Australian magazine and a national television program.

The survey found respondents strongly backed Princess Mary's decision to raise her son without round-the-clock nannies, and 91 percent believed she should keep working.

Most Australians also favored naming the child Christian in keeping with a 446-year-old Danish court tradition that has Frederik and Christian as alternating names for kings of Denmark.

Those surveyed also hoped the boy would come to Australia for part of his education. The survey's margin of error was not available, AP reports.

A. A.

Zinifex bullish on zinc price

Zinifex bullish on zinc price - Breaking News - Business - Breaking News

Zinc and lead miner Zinifex delivered a bullish assessment of the strength of metal prices over the next two years.

Zinifex chief executive Greg Gailey said zinc prices in the September quarter had risen to their highest level for eight years and that tight supply meant prices looked set to stay high for the next couple of years.

"The paucity of new projects in the pipeline and the long lead times associated with new developments is expected to continue to restrict concentrate availability, which will in turn limit metal production and thus sustain high prices," Mr Gailey said.

Mr Gailey said new production was not meeting demand and the zinc stockpiles of the London Metal Exchange are being drawn down, falling 13 per cent during the quarter.

The Melbourne-based miner released production figures for the September quarter which showed its mining operations remaining healthy, but revealed some disappointments in its smelting operations.

Production from Zinifex's two Australian mines was up one per cent on the previous corresponding period.

This was thanks to lead production which reached 37,163 tonnes, up more than 38 per cent on the previous comparable period, as the miner hit higher ore grades.

Production from Zinifex's four smelters was down by six per cent compared to the previous comparable period, due to planned shutdowns and breakdowns.

Zinifex said that electricity costs at its Budel refinery in the Netherlands continued to be driven up by high global oil prices and "carbon dioxide imposts".

The company said it was reducing power consumption during periods of peak prices and had raised its concerns about high prices with the Netherlands government.

Macquarie Bank mining analyst Ben Lyons backed the company's strategy of cutting production at Budel when prices were high.

"We would prefer them to follow that strategy rather than to operate at 100 per cent and incur the higher energy costs," he said.

Mr Lyons said the mining results were in line with Macquarie's expectations and that the company's positive outlook on prices had been more bullish than expected.

Macquarie upgraded its price target for Zinifex shares from $5 per share to $6, citing continued zinc price momentum.

Zinifex closed up 10 cents on $4.77 on Tuesday.

Betfair decision 'within 10 days'

Betfair decision 'within 10 days' - Breaking News - Business - Breaking News

The future of Betfair could be known within 10 days.

Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon told parliament the government was close to deciding if it would grant the UK-based betting exchange its controversial first Australian licence.

He said he expected to be in a position "within 10 days" to make the announcement.

Mr Lennon's willingness to consider the Kerry Packer-backed proposal has sparked outrage in the international racing community.

Opposition racing minister Sue Napier tabled copies of letters to the premier from racing associations around the world, urging him to deny the licence.

Countries which had written included Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and South Africa.

Mrs Napier said in a statement the level of opposition was a "serious wake-up call" to the premier.

"The time has well and truly come for the premier to act in the best interests of the racing industry in Tasmania and the thousands of people who rely on it for their livelihoods, and rule out the licensing of Betfair in Tasmania before Tasmania becomes a pariah of the racing world," she said

Monday, October 24, 2005

Excellence on a mountain

AFTER designing 184 courses in 17 countries, Glen Jacobs knows a mountain bike park.

And the Cairns-New York-Zurich-based designer hails Glenorchy as equal to anything in the world.

"This area has got so much to offer," Jacobs said yesterday. "It is an unbelievable venue on the world scene. It is right up there."

This weekend, Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park will host Tasmania's inaugural round of the national series, with more than 300 riders, including American world champion Jill Kintner, competing in downhill, cross country and mountain-cross disciplines.

"The downhill is absolutely brilliant, I haven't seen anything like it for a few years," said Jacobs who was a designer and consultant on the project.

Hobart holds world focus in pirate fight

A GLOBAL crackdown on fishing pirates is being ramped up from the new Hobart headquarters of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Yesterday international delegates descended on the former Hutchins School in Hobart's Macquarie St, revamped to house the secretariat of the commission, or CCAMLR.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer -- whose father attended the school -- and State Economic Development Minister Lara Giddings opened the purpose-built secretariat, complete with booths with translators who have arrived along with delegates from Namibia to Norway and Uruguay.

"Australia is proud to be the host country of CCAMLR. We're a strong advocate for both the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources and the suppression of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the Southern Ocean," Mr Downer said.

During the next fortnight delegates from CCAMLR members and observer states will take part in the meeting

Poppy, pea crops suffer in big wet

PEA and poppy growers appear to have been the hardest hit by northern Tasmania's wet spring, with forecasts pea yields could be down as much as 20 per cent, and the poppy harvest down 10 per cent.

With a wet start to spring already delaying planting, farmers are struggling to get machinery onto their fields to get crops in the ground.

Poppy Growers Association chief executive Keith Rice said the next few weeks were critical for the lucrative crop.

"If it dries out too quickly, then you run the risk of having a hard crust develop on the soil, and the plants can't break through that," he said.

Mr Rice said the impact of the wet weather would affect all growers differently

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ports expansion hinges on rail freight decision

The new head of TasPorts is awaiting a clearer picture on the future of Tasmania's rail network before committing to an expanded role for the state's ports.

The company that runs the rail freight service, Pacific National, wants $100 million in Commonwealth-state funds for infrastructure improvements to continue its container freight service.

At the same time, Pacific National's parent companies are engaged in a bitter takeover battle.

TasPorts will run the ports of Bell Bay, Devonport, Burnie and Hobart from next year.

Company chief executive Bernie Smith, says it is too early to say whether there will be a role for TasPorts if the rail freight service does shut down.

"We'll keep in contact with the State Government and see what it is that they intend doing about it and whether there's some way that we can assist," he said.

In other developments:
The future of rail freight business Pacific National remains uncertain as the takeover battle between its parent companies becomes increasingly bitter. (Full Story)
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States' maths curriculums 'chaotic'

A study by the Melbourne-based International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics has described year 12 maths across the country as chaotic.

However, the centre's director is not calling for a national maths curriculum and has accused "curriculum bureaucrats" of wanting to lower standards.

The federally-funded organisation's study looked at the curriculum of all states and finds students in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia are missing out on "harder topics" crucial to tertiary education.

Centre director Professor Garth Gaudry says it means those students end up doing catch-up courses at university.

"Within their own state they're going to be handicapped when they go into quantitative studies at university because universities can't spend their time doing catch-up courses," he said.

"Every catch-up course costs the student or parent money. If they go interstate as students do these days on scholarships then if their home state is not expecting as much as the state they're going to then they're really disadvantaged."

Professor Gaudry says the topics left out of maths courses in SA, WA and Queensland are core mainstream areas.

"Their place is taken by relatively easy things which students can pick up very quickly by themselves," he said.

National curriculum

But Professor Gaudry is wary of calls for a national curriculum.

"Because if that were to happen we'd once again see the negative influence of powerful educationist and curriculum bureaucrats and we'd end up with lowest common denominator courses as the attempts to do this in the early 1990s showed," he said.

"People such as myself and top teachers have been marginalised in curriculum matters and the big influence is by professors of education whose main objective seems to be to lower standards.

"The same goes for curriculum bureaucrats within the boards of studies - this seems to be their abiding objective. "

Professor Gaudry wants to see a national audit of maths classes to put pressure on the states.

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It's a dog's life on the show circuit

THEY say every dog has its day, and nearly 600 had theirs at the Dogfest '05 free family day at the Brighton Showgrounds yesterday.

About 1000 dog lovers turned out for the annual event, which this year featured a sort of canine United Nations of dogs originating from all around the world, from big Siberian huskies through to a pocket-sized Chinese crested hairless.

More than 100 different breeds were on display, including an Italian lagotto, a Finnish lapphund, a Chinese shar-pei, a Tibetan terrier, German shepherds and a Sky terrier -- originally from Wales -- which was named Best In Show.

Organised annually for the past nine years by the Hobart Dog Club, Dogfest is aimed at encouraging responsible pet ownership and giving the public a chance to see show dogs in a less formal setting.

Dog Club promotions officer Lindy Cleeland said organisers were ecstatic with the huge number of entries, considering the current high cost of petrol and travel.

More of Tassie on the map

TAXI and delivery drivers will have fewer hassles finding addresses in Bagdad, Dromedary and Grindelwald after the small towns were included in the Tasmanian motorists' "bible" for the first time.

The popular Tasmap Tasmanian Towns Street Atlas has been revised, redesigned and expanded for 2005 to reflect the state's growth in the four years since the last edition was published.

The seventh edition features 51 towns and localities that were not previously listed including Bagdad, Devon Hills, Dromedary, Acacia Hills, Grindelwald, Lachlan and Southport.

Planning Minister Judy Jackson said the atlas had been expanded to accommodate the changing nature of urban Tasmania.

"The DPIWE map-makers are recording the growth of relatively new localities, the expansion of long-existing towns and the further development of urban areas," she said.

Air travel to Tassie just soaring

AIRLINE travel to and from Tasmania is soaring, with a 15 per cent rise on four major routes in the year to July 31, 2005.

Nationally, the number of passenger trips increased by 9.9 per cent to 40.57 million for the year.

Bureau of Tranport and Resource Economics figures showed Tasmanian routes recorded a 16 per cent increase to 2.47 million passenger movements for the year.

BTRE said a doubling in capacity on Hobart-Sydney and Launceston-Sydney routes led to 65 per cent and 83 per cent increases in passenger numbers, respectively.

Hobart to Brisbane movements increased 81 per cent after Jetstar began flying the route in December, 2004

Hobart voters find it a yawn

HOBART is in line to have Tasmania's worst voter turnout despite the hottest mayoral contest in years.

The results of the three-way battle to become Lord Mayor of Hobart could be known as early as tomorrow evening.

Despite the field, Hobart voters could either be the most apathetic or tardiest.

Ballot papers have to be at the Tasmanian Electoral Commission by 10am tomorrow.

But only about 37 per cent of Hobart's enrolled voters had cast their preference by Friday.

Spirit III's dire straits

THE struggling Spirit of Tasmania III ferry service to Sydney will never be profitable unless it is 90 per cent full on all voyages, with each passenger paying more than $385 one-way.

More likely, according to top-secret Treasury estimates, retaining the regular Spirit III service to Sydney will cost $420 million over the next six years, with probably only $275 million to be recouped in fares.

This startling figure is contained in a secret Treasury document on the future of Spirit III presented to State Cabinet in March and leaked this week to The Mercury.

The same report also condemns the Government's rationale that retaining the Sydney ship can be justified on the broader tourism benefits it generates for Tasmania.

"There seems little point in providing passenger capacity if the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits it generates," Treasury trumpets, predicting continued losses of $8 million to $15 million a year on Spirit III.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mayor welcomes power upgrade.

Mayor welcomes power upgrade. 18/10/2005. ABC News Online

Tasmania's West Tamar region is to receive a $5 million power upgrade to be completed over the next five years.

Aurora Energy will carry out the work in three stages, the first to include improving power supplies for residents in areas including Beaconsfield, Beauty Point and Greens Beach.

West Tamar Mayor Barry Easther says the announcement is welcomed and long overdue.

"There are many areas in our municipality that have suffered a lot of outages over the last few years and those outages are becoming more frequent and I'm sure this upgrading work will be well on the way to eliminating some of those," he said.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of residences and a lot of businesses that will be very, very pleased with this announcement."

How Van Diemen lost his namesake

The Mercury: How Van Diemen lost his namesake [19oct05]

MOST Tasmanians will know that this state used to be called Van Diemen's Land, but how many people know how the name change to Tasmania came about?

State parliamentary librarian Terry Newman suspected not many, so he decided to set out the facts.

His new book, Becoming Tasmania: renaming Van Diemen's Land, covers the history of the state's name from the origins of Van Diemen's Land to the reasons it was eventually changed.

"It came a lot from questions from tourists coming in to Parliament House," Mr Newman said.

"They would ask how did it happen, why is it called Tasmania, who was Tasman, who was Van Diemen and so on.

I thought if the tourists don't know then it's likely that Tasmanians don't know and when I started doing the research I discovered that I didn't know."

According to Mr Newman, people were using the name Tasmania as early as 1808, as a tribute to Dutch seaman Abel Tasman, who named the island Van Diemen's Land when he visited it in 1642.

Public pressure for an official name change increased during the 1840s and 1850s as people sought a way to separate themselves from the "convict stain" of the island's recent past.

In 1854 the Legislative Council agreed to the renaming to Tasmania, Queen Victoria signed the documents the following year and the name was officially changed on January 1, 1856.

"It was a long time before people forgot the [old] name, but it was never truly forgotten because there were times in the 1870s when people were sentenced for crimes in England and they were frightened of being sent to Van Diemen's Land," Mr Newman said.

Mr Newman's research into the state's name was a side project to his main work of the past five years: a book about the first 150 years of the Tasmanian Parliament.

He spoke to historians at the University of Tasmania, who told him that no book had been written on the subject of the name change before so he made it his mission to write one.

The book, which was launched last night, retails for $29.99 and will be available at bookshops state-wide.

Science warms to a frozen mission

The Mercury: Science warms to a frozen mission [19oct05]

ANTARCTICA'S environment will come under the microscope during this summer's research season with climate change and human impact on the agenda.

The Antarctic research vessel Aurora Australis left Hobart yesterday on its first voyage south for the warm months.

Among those on board are scientists Martin Riddle and Mike Craven who will perform important research into environmental changes in the region.

Dr Riddle is studying the impact of human activity in Antarctica, particularly around Australia's Casey Station.

He said they would be testing a new clean-up process on the site of an oil spill five years ago.

In-situ remediation is standard practice in the rest of the world but has never been tried in the Antarctic," he said.

"It's just a matter of encouraging natural microbial processes.

"Things happen very slowly in the Antarctic because of the cold and the lack of water."

Dr Riddle said by applying extra heat, water and nutrients a 10-year process of breaking down contaminants could take as little as six weeks.

He said there was between one million and ten million cubic metres of contaminated material in the Antarctic.

"About two thirds of that would be soil contaminated by spilt oil, and a little bit of oil goes a long way," he said.

Dr Riddle said waste management procedures in the Antarctic had come a long way since the 1980s.

"We hope the techniques we develop will be used for other countries working in and around the Antarctic."

Looking even deeper, Mr Craven's team will be drilling holes through the Amery Ice Shelf to examine the effects of climate change on the ice and sea beneath it.

"Ice shelves are important because they contact both the atmosphere above and the sea water below, so any changes in temperature or currents can quickly affect them," he said.

"We already have two holes through the shelf and we plan to supplement those by going 130km further inland and looking at the transition from the coast to the higher mountains."

There are 114 people on board Aurora Australis for the first voyage. It will return to Hobart at the end of November.

Musical art ... played to perfection

The Mercury: Musical art ... played to perfection [19oct05]

ALTHOUGH he's still in primary school, Melfred Lijauco's music has already reached perfection.

The 11-year-old from Hobart, who plays violin and piano, has just collected his third perfect score in a music examination.

Melfred's prowess is so remarkable he was last week filmed to feature in a promotional DVD for the St Cecilia's School of Music to be distributed to music teachers and students around the world.

"It is most unusual to get 100 per cent in a music examination," said St Cecilia's director Matthews Tyson.

"But Melfred has achieved 100 per cent three times now, from different examiners."

Mr Tyson, who has been with the Launceston-based music school for three decades, said Tyson was one of the most remarkable children he had ever met.

"I have seen hundreds of extremely capable musicians over the last 30 years and I would have no hesitation in saying Melfred is amongst the top 10 of thousands of students I have come across in that time," he said.

Melfred's teacher Margaret Hewett has known for some time that she has a star in the making.

The Grade 5 student, who practises two hours a day, first started piano at age six and violin at seven.

"He is a child prodigy," Ms Hewett said. "Melfred is the best I have ever seen, he will go a long way."

The young star said he loved playing music, and his ambition lay in the pleasure of expressing himself and sharing his talent with others. "I just hope I can make a lot of people happy, he said.

In July he took out the award for most outstanding performer in the Hobart Eisteddfod and recently won six sections of the St Cecilia Performance Challenge in Launceston.

Mr Tyson said the film crew that took footage of Melfred playing last week was clearly moved by the 11-year-old's music.

"The film crew just stopped in their tracks," he said.

The St Cecilia's DVD has been made with funds from a Federal Government grant, which will also help the school set up online music courses. The Tasmanian school is one of the largest in Australia and reaches students across the world.

The DVD will show the diversity and breadth of St Cecilia's courses and help promote the school to countries throughout the world.

Hobart fireworks to welcome birth

The Mercury: Hobart fireworks to welcome birth [19oct05]

ALL stops have been pulled out to organise tonight's activities on the Hobart waterfront to mark the birth of a son to Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.

Last night a freight vessel was travelling from Melbourne with fireworks for a planned 10-minute display on the River Derwent.

On-shore entertainment will occur between Princes No 1 and 2 sheds, starting at 7pm. This will include a bonfire, to be lit about 7.15pm, and the fireworks, planned to start about 8.15pm.

The fireworks display, to be launched from a barge, will be staged by Sydney company Howard and Sons Pyrotechnics.

Company director Andrew Howard promised an extraordinary display despite it being organised at such short notice

Monday, October 17, 2005

Govt up-beat about business outlook report.

Govt up-beat about business outlook report. 17/10/2005. ABC News Online

The Tasmanian Government has hailed a moderately positive business outlook report as proof that the economy is still going strongly.

It has seized upon the more favourable aspects of the latest report by the self-described pessimists at Access Economics.

It is not unusual for Access Economics to give a gloomy outlook for Tasmania but Economic Development Minister Lara Giddings says this time the negative aspects are diluted by some more up-beat comments.

The outlook predicts strong growth in employment and international exports and tourist arrivals.

"This report has a lot more optimism about it in their future forecasts," Ms Giddings said.

But the report says stalled housing prices and weakening population growth mean the good news is only temporary.

Damon Thomas from the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the concerns are justified.

"Without wishing to be a 'doomsayer' we have been concerned at what appears to be a 'plateaued' economy," he said.

Mr Thomas says a pulp mill would be the state's saving grace

Every cow wants to look pretty

The Mercury: Every cow wants to look pretty [18oct05]

SHOW time in Hobart is nearly here and even the cows are having their last-minute haircuts so they can look their best.

Cattle fitter Matt Templeton, from Pakenham in Victoria, works as a professional cow stylist, a job that has taken him around Australia and across the globe.

Yesterday, he was putting the finishing touches to a jersey cow belonging to exhibitor Lisa Thompson of Bracknell.

"I grew up on a dairy farm, Dad showed cows and so have I since I was about four -- and this aspect has become a lot more professional over about the past 10 years," Mr Templeton said.

"I went overseas when I was 18 and the way they did it over there was so much more professional."

Deadly rivulet spill blamed on factory

The Mercury: Deadly rivulet spill blamed on factory [18oct05]

HUNDREDS of fish have been killed by a "slug" of ammonia in New Town Rivulet, Tasmania's head of environmental management said yesterday.

The ammonia detected was at least 60 times the level toxic to fish, Warren Jones said.

National Foods' Pura Milk factory at Lenah Valley was found to be the source of the ammonia.

Mr Jones said potential fines and offences carried penalties of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The only fish identified so far is brown trout, but I'd be surprised if there weren't other impacts," Mr Jones said.

Better rail advocate to head probe [18oct05]

The Mercury: Better rail advocate to head probe [18oct05]

A SENIOR Tasmanian transport bureaucrat who told the Federal Government last year that the Tasmanian rail network needed a $215 million upgrade is to head up a joint study.

Railway industry sources believe Scott Dobie, general manager of Infrastructure Policy and Planning with the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, will conduct the study, along with Jim Wolff from the Department of Transport and Regional Services.

The study was agreed by state and federal governments to decide whether they should take over the rail track.

Rail operator Pacific National Tasmania has made a decision to quit container transport.

Continuing corporate warfare between Pacific National's partners, Toll Holdings and Patrick Corporation, makes the shutdown more likely.

Mr Dobie wrote to a senior federal transport bureaucrat in April last year recommending upgrades on the Bell Bay line, Derwent Valley line beyond Boyer, passing loops on the North West line and a realignment of the southern rail corridor.

Mr Dobie's comments back those by PNT.

"Pacific National and its predecessor Tasrail have been making submissions to government for various levels of specific and general assistance ever since privatisation in 1997," PNT chief executive Neil MacKinnon told customers last week.

Transport Minister Warren Truss will meet the rail industry tomorrow to discuss the terms of reference.

The study is due to be completed by November 15 for a decision on November 30.

It is understood the terms of reference would also include:

The economic impact of a cessation of rail services in Tasmania.

The value of rail to Tasmania.

A validation of the PNT infrastructure cost estimates.

An analysis of financial information from PNT.
PNT believes government has to take back the rail tracks and commit to investment of about $78 million over the next 10 years and maintenance of $4 million a year.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tom, Dick, Harry And Linden

The sun shone, the bees swarmed out in force and the mowers hummed in unison down the street. The growth on everything green has been phenominal for Tasmania this year. The shifts between the hot, warm sun and cool rain has promoted the burst of buds and stems far beyond any expectations. Usually I look at my spring growth and miss the Queensland climate where there is two growth spurts in the garden that leaves any planting I do here far behind. The native shrubs I planted to disguise my front yard from the onslaught of toxic road fumes took five years to establish here, but in Queensland it would have taken two.

But this spring is different. The lawn reaches shaggy lengths in a week, flowers are full and large, growth long and lush. I hope we continue to get the rain, just enough to keep the growth happening, and the sunshine, but not too harsh, and then all will be peaches in the garden of Tasmania. I can dream, can't I?

Life on the Edge

Life on the Edge

Windgrove is a 100 acre coastal property in Tasmania that borders Roaring Beach and the Great Southern Ocean. This weblog documents, through photos and writings, the comings and goings of life here on a weekly basis.

Welcome to Windgrove

Welcome to Windgrove

"A stone for Peace"

"Life at the Edge" — the Windgrove Journal

Code of conduct recommended to regulate winegrapes' sale.

Code of conduct recommended to regulate winegrapes' sale. 14/10/2005. ABC News Online

The wine industry has been dogged by falling prices and increasing oversupply but according to a new report, lack of representation and information is holding producers back.

A Senate committee inquiry into the industry has released its findings and is recommending a mandatory code of conduct be established to regulate the sale of winegrapes.

The report also suggests changes to the Trade Practices Act to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) increased power when contracts are changed.

Committee chairman Democrats Senator Andrew Murray says a separate industry representative group needs to be set up because growers concerns are not being heard.

"Their voice is muted, it's not well heard. Most parliamentarians of any length of service are very experienced as to who have strong lobbying presence and who has a strong ability to make their case in Canberra and in the states, and the grape growers just aren't strong enough," he said.

Sobering warning for Tasmania's economy

The Mercury: Sobering warning for Tasmania's economy [17oct05]

LEADING economic consultancy, Access Economics, has once again warned the Tasmanian public that the prosperous good times of the past four years are nearly over.

Publishing its quarterly economic outlook for the nation, Access Economics admitted that Tasmania's recovery had been impressive, and that it had successfully "thrown off the final overhang from the tough years" of the mid to late 1990s.

"Its economy has grown solidly amid a surge of stronger investment spending in business and housing construction, its houses joined the national price boom late and prices have only just stopped rising," the Access Economics report said.

It claims once booming population growth is on the "slippery slide", halving over the past year compared to the end of 2003.

"Although Tassie seems well removed from the bad old days of stagnant population and weak business investment, recent trends have been of concern on both fronts," it said.

In particular, the economists said that because Tasmania has lagged in the national housing boom, it has still to suffer the many negatives associated with the stalled housing process.

But Economic Development Minister Lara Giddings was upbeat about the report.

She said it was good to see Access acknowledging the Tasmanian economy of today was a far cry from that which the Labor Government inherited in the late 1990s.

Ms Giddings said Tasmania had just posted its 41st consecutive month of employment growth and the workforce participation rate had exceeded 60 per cent for the first time in nine years.

Cable car rides again

The Mercury: Cable car rides again [17oct05]

A CABLE car on Mt Wellington is back on the political agenda.

Liberal deputy leader Will Hodgman made the suggestion yesterday -- and gained enthusiastic support from Hobart mayoral candidate Marti Zucco.

Mr Hodgman said a recent trip to New Zealand proved to him it was possible to build an "aesthetically unobtrusive" cable car.

He said Hobart should engage in a fresh debate about the possibility of a cable car.

"We should look seriously at an appropriate and environmentally sensitive facility of this type to enhance Hobart's potential as a tourism drawcard and promote economic development," Mr Hodgman said.

Purls of love for Tasmania's little prince -

Purls of love for Tasmania's little prince - National - theage.com.au

Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin' every piece with love …

— Coat of Many Colours, Dolly Parton

NOT a rag in sight. Instead, a suit of tiny garments, knitted from fine Tasmanian baby wool, and with warm love, too.

"I'm sure that's what a lot of women feel about what they make, sewing love in every stitch, like the Dolly Parton song," said Kerry Edwards.

"And this baby is special. No one will have as many functions to look the best at."

The baby in question is the first-born son of Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.

For the birth of this first prince of Tasmanian parentage, a group of Hobart women poured their feelings for the city's former Mary Donaldson, and her husband, into a traditional layette — a co-ordinated outfit of baby clothes.

"We're hoping he will wear them in health and happiness," Mrs Edwards said. "We will understand if that doesn't happen, and they go to someone else. We hope that whoever wears them knows what went into them

Ready to meet the rigours of the coming Danish winter, the set includes bonnets, leggings and vests, pilchers (nappy overpants) and angel tops (bed smocks).

The masterpiece, Mrs Edwards said, was a floating, delicately worked shawl knitted by Dehlia Wattke of Glenorchy. Patterns in some of the garments echo Nordic motifs. All are flawlessly knitted in a cream wool from the now-closed Coats Patons factory in Launceston.

Mrs Edwards, a historian who grew up in Sydney's St George district, and lives in Sandy Bay, said the layette project was taken on by six members of the Hobart Machine Knitters Group.

"We thoroughly enjoyed the process," Mrs Edwards said. "We had extra meetings, checking the quality controls. We were quite fastidious."

The layette should be robust enough to pass on to other royal babies.

Call to save skyline land

The Mercury: Call to save skyline land [17oct05]

HOBART City Council should offer to restart negotiations with the owners of a huge parcel of Hobart's skyline that is up for sale, a council alderman says.

Alderman Jeff Briscoe says the council must recommence negotiations with the Dorney family, who own 31ha of undeveloped land at Porter Hill.

The land, which stretches from Lower Sandy Bay to Mt Nelson, is being sold off by tender as a potential 78-lot subdivision.

But many in the community believe the land should be acquired with public money and preserved as community bushland.

Tenders for Porter Hill, also known as Fort Nelson, close at the end of this month.

Post-natal euphoria as glogg flows freely

The Mercury: Post-natal euphoria as glogg flows freely [17oct05]

CROWN Princess Mary of Denmark's first baby is being widely celebrated.

The State Government yesterday promised a present for the royal baby and Hobart City Council is likely to create a giant card for well-wishers to sign.

Kingborough Council lit bonfires at dusk last night in line with Viking tradition, and in Hobart's Danish community, glogg, the national drink, flowed.

Danish community spokesman Erik Madsen said the royal birth was a momentous occasion for all Danes, but particularly for Danish Tasmanians.

"We are absolutely over the moon to think the king after Frederick will be half-Tasmanian," he said.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

$56m to support forestry changes

The Mercury: $56m to support forestry changes [15oct05]

A $56 MILLION assistance package will help Tasmania's forestry industry adjust from old-growth to smaller plantation and regrowth logs, the State and Federal Governments said yesterday.

They jointly called for applications under three programs designed to re-tool the state's forestry industry.

The move is part of the Community Forest Agreement, announced at the last federal election.

Federal Forestry Minister Ian MacDonald and state Resources Minister Bryan Green said $42 million was available to assist investment in the hardwood sector.

Another $10 million was available for the softwood industry and $4 million for use by country sawmills

Hydro wins China wind-farm deal

The Mercury: Hydro wins China wind-farm deal [15oct05]

HYDRO Tasmania will build a major wind farm in China as part of its partnership with an Asian energy company.

Hydro chairman David Crean said its joint venture with CLP Power Asia, Roaring 40s, would be building in the world's fastest-growing economy.

Roaring 40s will partner the Datang Jilin Power Generation Company to build a 50 megawatt Shuangliao wind farm in China's Jilin province, in the northeast on the border with Mongolia.

Dr Crean made the announcement from Beijing at the signing of the agreement with Datang Jilin's parent company.

"This is a major announcement for Roaring 40s and Hydro Tasmania," Dr Crean said.

Clear Networks - Better Broadband for Australia

Clear Networks - Better Broadband for Australia

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Art Prize

Art Prize

The Hutchins Art Prize is an acquisitive art prize for works on paper. Artists throughout Australasia may enter. Total prize money currently is AU$11,000.00 and is underwritten by The Hutchins Foundation.

2005 marked the ninth year of The Hutchins Art Prize and its continued growth from humble beginnings has been most rewarding. Since its inception in 1997 the Prize has grown in stature and has become recognised as one of the leading awards of its genre in Australia. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of entries and in the huge number of enquiries each year.

From 2007, The Hutchins Art Prize will become a biennial award. The change to a two year format will allow greater prize money to be offered whilst expanding the competition's national profile.

From the numerous entries received, the judges select approximately sixty works which are then presented in The Finalists’ Exhibition. From the Finalists, the Judges select a winner and two runners-up. The winner receives $8,000.00 and both runners-up receive $1,000.00.

The Finalists’ Exhibition is held at The Long Gallery, Salamanca Place, Hobart, and gives art lovers and students a unique opportunity to examine a collection of work by many of Australia’s emerging and established artists.

In addition to supporting artists who choose to make works on paper, a prime objective of the Prize is to highlight the commitment of The Hutchins School to fostering cultural activities for its students. Students are encouraged to engage with the exhibition of the work of the finalists, and parents and the wider community are presented with a broader prospective of the School.

View the 2005 Finalists

Outback Plus The Hutchins Prize

Tasmanian Printmaker - Linden Langdon (Home Page)

Perhaps it was destined to be - I have made a shift in the mountain photo blog to include some of the fantastic outback photos that come my way through my families visits to the red centre. I am destined to get there myself, oneday, as it seems not only to be a powerful magnet for the family, but also a undeniable source of creative energy. Maybe its the landscape - so surreal and in contrast with the coastal regions of Australia, or maybe its history, of people and culture. Anyway, I hope they are enjoyed by those who view them!

The Hutchins Art Prize is happening on the local art scene, and its a big event. As a works on paper competition, it attracts a huge following, and the current prize of $11,000 is not to be sneezed at. They are switching to a biennial format as of 2007, and I wonder if this is in response to the large amount of interest the competition generates, and all the associated admin work, or to do with what seems to be a shift in the expectation of events to be biennial rather than annual. The Tasmanian Living Artist Week, for example, is shifting to biennial, with a literature focus on the alternating year. Perhaps this is a good thing for all, giving more time for the artist to work, possibly a higher prize contribution (as suggested by the Hutchins admin) and allowing people to work up interest in the idea of the exhibition, rather than it coming around rapidly on an annual basis. Just a thought. Anyway, The Hutchins finalists are online, and it is an excellent collection of work to scroll through.

Council supports mining exploration tax break push.

Council supports mining exploration tax break push. 13/10/2005. ABC News Online

The Minerals Council of Australia will support a proposal to offer tax breaks for mining companies exploring for new energy and mineral deposits.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has confirmed he will put a tax break plan to Cabinet, aimed at inclusion in next year's Budget.

Australia has fallen from being the second largest mineral and commodity explorer to the fifth in the world, at a time of high oil, coal and metal prices.

Minerals Council chief executive officer Mitch Hooke denies the tax concessions are about lining the pockets of mining companies and says they will ease impediments to exploration.

"If you're a junior explorer and you're not generating income, you don't have income to offset tax losses," he said.

"So the idea we have is to extend those tax losses to an investor, hence the flow through share scheme and so this is not about creating incentives for the mining industry at a time when the community would conceive as a boom time, this is about correcting what economists call a market failure."

Cray tale that's all good for Tassie

The Mercury: Cray tale that's all good for Tassie [14oct05]

SOUTHERN rock lobster has reigned supreme in a culinary battle pitting lobster species from around the nation against each other.

The local lobster, also caught in Victoria and South Australia, triumphed last night over lobster species from New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

Mercure Hotel's acclaimed executive chef Roger Lancia prepared four dishes to showcase each region's finest lobster for judges.

The taste-off was part of the Fourth National Rock Lobster Congress, which continues today in Hobart.

South Australian delegate Jill Cutting, in the lobster industry for 35 years, played cheerleader for the southern rock lobster.

Ms Cutting put more than her best foot forward to entice the judges, including State Opposition leader Rene Hidding, into a favourable verdict.

"I'm using what I've got to give it a bit of sex appeal," Ms Cutting said.

As Mr Hidding and fellow judges, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute director, Professor Colin Buxton, and South Australian John Hughes, sampled southern rock lobster, Ms Cutting talked it up: "The southern fish is the best. Look how bright and red it is. The flesh is nice and tight and it's got a flavour all of its own."

Mr Lancia served the southern rock lobster with a traditional garlic butter sauce flavoured with dijon mustard.

Tropical "painted" lobster from Queensland was served as sashimi on tempura zucchini with the Italian condiment vincotto.

Mr Lancia tossed West Australian lobster through linguine with baby fennel and truffle oil while the contender from New South Wales was char-grilled and served with wild rocket leaves, extra virgin olive oil and salted ewes' milk ricotta.