Wednesday, August 05, 2015

A Few Lawn Myths

Everyone seems to be an expert when it comes to taking care of lawns. You’ve probably got a few ideas yourself about the best way to mow and how much water it needs to keep it looking healthy and luscious. But there are quite a lot of misconceptions about lawn care out there, so here are a few to keep you from making some common mistakes.
Lawn Myth #1. You need to water every day for the best results.
In fact watering, every day is more likely to encourage weed growth and a shallow root system, and a shallow root system means your lawn is susceptible to pests and diseases. To encourage a strong root system that can stand up to drought conditions or water restrictions, water deeply once or twice a week [ maybe three times in very hot conditions].
Lawn Myth #2: If I cut the grass really short I won’t need to mow as much.
Cutting grass too short can cause your lawn a whole host of problems and mowing will be the least of your worries. As well as sending your lawn into physiological shock, lawn scalping can leave it stressed out and prone to weed growth, shallow roots and environmental damage. For best results only remove one-third of the grass blade when mowing.
Lawn Myth #3: Removing grass clippings is best.
Grass clippings are full of nutrients like nitrogen that fertilise your lawn, so removing them may look tidier but is depriving your lawn of essential organic matter. A mulch of short clippings will quickly decompose and will save you money on fertiliser, not to mention time spent on removal and disposal. Consider investing in a mulching mower that does the job for you.
Lawn Myth #4: Always mow grass the same way.
It’s easy to get into the habit of mowing your lawn the same way but always cutting in the same direction can cause turf strain and restrict grass growth. Make a point of changing the direction every time you mow.
Lawn Myth #5: Grass should not be mown when wet.
Mowing wet grass isn’t a good idea because you’ll end up with clumps of grass clippings all over your lawn and the finish won’t be as neat. You’ll also end up with a carpet of wet grass under your mower. You could also slip more easily. But if you have to mow it won’t actually damage your lawn as long as you rake up clumps the to allow sunlight and aeration. Really though - it is best to try and mow on another - dry -  day if you can!
Lawn Myth #6: You can aerate your lawn with spiked shoes.

Putting on spiked shoes and walking around your lawn won’t aerate it, despite what the manufacturers may tell you, as they will only impact a small area. Coring will help with aeration and allows the soil profile to be changed. The very best aeration occurs when a tyne is driven into the ground and moved to break or loosen the soil under the grass layer but not disturb the lawn. Machines that achieve this loosening effect are referred to as “Heaving Type” aerators. This loosens the soil deeper down to encourage the roots to grow deeper. A deeper root system means that moisture is available for longer. This type of aeration also allows bad gas to escape and oxygen to penetrate the soil. A looser soil down deeper allows fertilizer to penetrate deeper so be used when required by the grass. More difficult to do for small areas but small hollow tyned coring aerators can be hired, and are okay. Use coarse sand to fill the core holes.  Using sand as a base is a sensible option  for turf areas - it does not compact easily.
These came from another source - but they are sound advice for  most homeowners.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Australian Cattle - Live Export to China Agreed

​China: new market for livestock exports

20 July 2015​
Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, has today announced a breakthrough in live cattle export trade negotiations with China.

Minister Joyce said the Australian and Chinese veterinary authorities were in the process of formalising agreement on animal health certification requirements, which would allow industry to begin to prepare the commercial and ESCAS arrangements for trade to commence.  “I was very pleased today to sign the agreement of health conditions for trade of Australian feeder and slaughter cattle to China—now it’s over to my counterpart, Minister Zhi Shuping, to sign on the dotted line and finalise the agreement between our two nations,” Minister Joyce said.

“Over the past five years we’ve had a significant trade in breeder cattle with China, primarily for dairy heifers. Now, I’m pleased to announce we are a step closer to the commencement in trade in live slaughter and feeder cattle to China. “Getting the groundwork right for any new market can take time, and now the industry can prepare to begin this trade.

“This will be the seventh livestock slaughter cattle export market that I’ve opened since becoming Minister—adding to Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Cambodia and Thailand.

“Market access is a major priority for the Australian Government—we have sent a clear message—Australia is open for business.  “And it’s not just our cattle producers who are experiencing greater market access opportunities, with the announcement earlier this year of agreed health protocols for breeder deer to Malaysia, and breeder sheep and goats to the Philippines.

“The Australian Government has worked hard to make sure our livestock producers and exporters have every opportunity to trade with other nations.

“Once the agreement is formalised, exporters will be able to begin working with importers in China to implement the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) and establish supply chains that meet those requirements.

“This industry is a real Australian success story. We are known world-wide for our high-quality and reliable livestock trade, and now industry has another opportunity for trade to increase,” Minister Joyce said.
brahman cattle - NT

That is the formal PR media release.

More work yet, and the big question will be............where are the cattle coming from since we already have large  boxed beef sales to China..

There is no slaughter agreement nor supply chain arrangements and anyway, why not slaughter here in Australia as we do now?

Yes, some positive news after Indonesia dropped the import quota to less than 30% of the previous quarter.  They might come to rue that decision, or will NT and other northern pastoralists continue to support the Indonesian trade?  It could be 6 months before live cattle start moving to China for slaughter, there is much to be done.  In the meantime, will the import permits to Indonesia increase?

The talk is a million head of cattle per year to China within 10 years.  It might be a tough gig to get that number which is basically double the already 1 million exported live to other Asian countries !  It is a numbers game and with more cows being slaughtered, where are the breeders coming from to achieve those numbers?

Curiously, a Chinese completed the purchase of a large pastoral property on the NT / Qld border earlier this week, for about A$46 million, including the stock.  Not sure I believe in coincidence!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Is Biosecurity Adequate in Northern Australia?

There is a lot of  future for north Australia that is dependent on effective biosecurity in the region.

Over the past several years the litany of biosecurity breaches seems to be significant :
  • Panama disease in a major production area of bananas in north Queensland - Tropical Race 4 [ TR4] a highly pathogenic variant
  • known areas of the same disease around Darwin, and banning bananas being grown in some NT areas, and restrictions on banana plant movements
  • a major effort at eradication of Banana Freckle disease near Darwin  after the exotic disease was found in the NT
  • Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus in curcurbits, especially melons, in the NT in 2014 and adjacent states also potentially infected, but not all jurisdictions are looking yet
  • an Asian Bee colony discovered in Darwin in the last few days, after hitching a ride on a caravan, but with an absent queen - who is suspected of absconding with a new colony and may be setting up locally [ if that establishes then there will be mayhem]
Asian honey bees

  • culicoides driven diseases also seem to be increasing - with blue tongue arriving many years ago from wind borne insects, and more recently a few more cases of chikungunya around the north [ at least so far the mosquito involved in spread does not seem to be around]; dengue outbreaks in some locations in north Queensland [ although the Australian derived disease in mosquities - Wolbachia may be a great agent to make a difference] if needed, as well as considerable issues surrounding other mosquito diseases such as Ross River Fever and variants as well as Murray Valley Encephalitis.  
We would like to see more agricultural development in the north of Australia, but biosecurity does need to be remembered......and emphasised.

While there has been money marked to be used for improved biosecurity in the north the track record is not all that encouraging.  And one must not forget human diseases either.

A meeting this week included a presentation on the dollars to be allocated to biosecurity improvements, R and D, upgraded awareness etc.  And presented by someone from outside the north Australia area seemed to leave local north Australia scientists and producers rather underwhelmed.  Some stated that industry  - a very diverse one at that - is not being adequately consulted or even advised.  One thinks of plant based industries - but often just the major ones of temperate Australia, but seems to forget fish farms, prawn farms, crocodiles and other non mainstream animal industries let alone the plant and animal based industries that thrive in the north - nurseries, asian vegetables, sugar, chia, cattle, pastures etc.  Are they being assessed adequately for biosecurity threats?

These are recent media release on new measures in biosecurity for north Australia, but there is little detail.  Finding any information on detail is also VERY difficult, as it seems to be hidden away from easy access.

Biosecurity might not be very sexy in terms of rural development - but it is important, and needs greater highlighting of what is being planned.

Friday, July 03, 2015

What is Warming the World?

This set of recent data from NASA has been picked up by Bloomberg and spread rather more widely in the business community.

I believe it does provide a lot of easily seen information to rebut the climate change deniers.  Will they accept any data?

It seems the strongest cohort of climate change deniers are located in the US political system along with the lobbyists who gild their cages and support their political campaigns.

While there is leadership around, it needs to do more.

The link is to a graphic infographic.  

Well worth watching, clearly showing the overriding effects of greenhouse gases, predominantly, carbon dioxide on global temperatures.

Interestingly............some very hot weather in Europe right now, with Paris recording the hottest day ever yesterday - over 40C,  and London also having very hot, near record breaking high temperatures.

Friday, June 26, 2015

No Early Rainy Season Onset for 2015

Can the new science of wet season onset help the cattle/ pastoral industry of north Australia?

It is actually not that new but has been refined to provide a regular update from late June through August, with a monthly update to be provided.

Early indications are for a later than normal onset of the wet season. the information to understand what it covers, which is basically enough rain to start pasture growth [ 50mm].

Quite a strong percentage showing a highly probable late start to the rainy season, or as shown - a low chance of early season rain.

More information here - and the infographic is an extract from today's post on the seasonal outlook.

The Bureau's new northern rainfall onset outlook provides guidance on rainfall timing within the first months of the Australian northern wet season.

The northern rainfall onset occurs when enough rain has fallen to stimulate plant growth after the dry season. This is defined as the date after 1 September when a location has received a total rainfall accumulation of at least 50 mm. The outlook is the percentage likelihood of the rainfall onset beginning earlier than normal.

The outlook will be updated monthly from June to August.
Low chance of early rainfall onset for much of northern Australia
  • Areas with a less than 40% chance of an early rainfall onset include northwestern Western Australia, the Top End of the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula and parts of inland Queensland.
  • With El NiƱo conditions in the tropical Pacific, an earlier than normal onset is less likely.

Northern rainfall onset map
Map showing chance of observing early onset (%)
More information
Media liaison: 03 9669 4057

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Food Wastage in the USA is Huge - and Growing!

Americans throw away nearly half of their food every year, waste worth roughly $165 billion annually, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report estimates that the average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food. Even worse, there is evidence that there has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s.

It’s especially troubling that at the same time, one in seven Americans, more than 46 million people, including 12 million children, don’t know where their next meal is coming from, according to a study by Feeding America.

Meanwhile, the rest of America continues to throw away unspoiled nutritious food. If we cut our food waste even by a third, there would be enough food for all those people who must rely on food banks and hand-outs to be fully fed.

Why Waste So Much Food?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a typical American household discards 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk, in addition to plenty of fruits and veggies. 

This is because consumers buy more than they can eat, so the food goes bad, or our meals are just too big to eat. 

There is also  too much reliance on “sell-by” and “use-by” dates; these are not federally regulated in the US and do not indicate safety, except on certain baby foods. Most foods can be safely consumed well after their use-by dates. (Here’s a guide to help you decipher what those labels mean.)

Restaurant portions are also generally huge, and often not fully consumed. Clearly, these runaway portion sizes in the American food industry exacerbate the waste issue.”From 1982–2002, the average pizza slice grew 70 percent in calories. The average chicken Caesar salad doubled in calories, and the average chocolate chip cookie quadrupled,” the NRDC study reveals

As NPR reports, farming practices are not without some blame for food wastage as they also account for some of the food waste. 

Peter Lehner, from the NRDC, explains that if food isn’t sold to the best buyer, it can end up in a landfill. “anywhere from 1 percent to 30 percent of farmers’ crops don’t make it to market,” says Lehner. “The prices for fresh fruits and vegetables can go up and down quite a bit, and farmers may plant thinking they will get one price, but, by the time harvest comes around, there’s another price, and it’s not even worth it for them to get to the market.”

It is not just the USA though, with a number of other countries also contributors to significant food waste.

Recently one leading tourist hotel in Switzerland [ a country noted for frugal living] has placed notices in the hotel and especially in restaurants to exhort customers to only take what they need from especially buffets and similar openly available food in eateries within the hotel, following very significant amounts of food being left behind after meals.  This has actually seen a very significant reduction in food waste within the hotel.  In their case, it was mostly Asian tourists who were the culprits.

Have a look yourself the next time you are eating out, especially if it is a buffet breakfast or dinner.  Is there significant food left as table waste?  You might be surprised.

We should all be mindful of how much food is wasted and ensure we do our bit to minimise food waste.  It does save money at your home, and helps the environment too.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pope Francis Pushes for Environment and Climate Change Sensibility - Encyclical 2015

Yes, the Pope has spoken out on the environment.  A link will take you the document in English but it is also available in a number of other world languages including Arabic too.

Available publicly the day after the Australian document on developing north Australia is ironic. That document continues to foster debate in Australia today, with extensive media coverage and more expected in coming weeks and months.

The Pope does not pull any punches in his encyclical and quite clearly in layman's terms comes out to support the premise that a major cause of climate change has been and is now, atmosphere changes from increased levels of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels also leading to other effects.

He uses clear, easy to read language and does document material, relying on scientific evidence.

There are a few excerpts around with this one which appeared on the ABC web site in Australia a reasonable overview  -

" Pope Francis has issued a major encyclical on the environment, called Laudato Si (Praise Be), On the Care of Our Common Home. Here are some key excerpts from the official English version:
On climate change and its causes
In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the Earth's orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun's rays reflected by the Earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.

On dangers to the planet
If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world's population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.
Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet's capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.
On consumption, sustainable development and wealth disparity
We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.
We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste, which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.

On fossil fuels
There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced - for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies.
We know that technology based on the use of highly-polluting fossil fuels - especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas - needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions. But the international community has still not reached adequate agreements about the responsibility for paying the costs of this energy transition.
On political myopia and bureaucratic inertia
Recent world summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.
A politics concerned with immediate results, supported by consumerist sectors of the population, is driven to produce short-term growth. In response to electoral interests, governments are reluctant to upset the public with measures, which could affect the level of consumption or create risks for foreign investment. The myopia of power politics delays the inclusion of a far-sighted environmental agenda within the overall agenda of governments.
On market forces and carbon credits
Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximising profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.
The strategy of buying and selling "carbon credits" can lead to a new form of speculation, which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.

On relationship between banks, environment and production
Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system. A power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery. The financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world.
Production is not always rational, and is usually tied to economic variables which assign to products a value that does not necessarily correspond to their real worth. This frequently leads to an overproduction of some commodities, with unnecessary impact on the environment and with negative results on regional economies.
The financial bubble also tends to be a productive bubble. The problem of the real economy is not confronted with vigour, yet it is the real economy which makes diversification and improvement in production possible, helps companies to function well, and enables small and medium businesses to develop and create employment.

On effect of mining on the environment and local people
Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
The export of raw materials to satisfy markets in the industrialised north has caused harm locally, as for example in mercury pollution in gold mining or sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining. There is a pressing need to calculate the use of environmental space throughout the world for depositing gas residues which have been accumulating for two centuries and have created a situation which currently affects all the countries of the world.
In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there - a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.

On public pressure on companies and boycotts

A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.  "

The full document is about 82 pages and if interested in the environment is essential reading, covering ethical issues about the environment and how it has influenced social and moral issues.

I am sure it will not be forgotten as ordinary citizens, scientists and politicians pore over the document in the coming weeks and months.

The Pope carries a bit of clout, and the document and various extracts will be widely read .......worldwide.

Will it influence the world's politicians?  Early days, but the US President has reacted positively to the material.

Lets hope that a decent outcome can be achieved later in 2015 at the climate summit in Paris.  The Pope seems to believe that significant change is needed..........for the world and us.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Development of North Australia - Real Progress to Start??

Newly released today is the Australian government white paper on north Australia, along with actual $$ to do some things.

Lots of people and organisations are poring over the document today, but it seems to have been broadly well received do far.

Check it out yourself, with the web address to access it at the bottom of the press release.

As someone living in north Australia it is a long felt need to invest and do more in north Australia but successive governments have seemed reluctant to really commit the money to develop the region, especially on a long term basis.

Lets consider the issue in five years???

Our North, Our Future: A Vision for Developing North Australia

18 June 2015
Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
Minister for Trade and Investment

The Government has today released its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia: Our North, Our Future.

This is Australia’s first White Paper on developing Northern Australia, building on our Green Paper and pre-election statement.

It is an essential part of our plan for a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.

With a land mass covering over three million square kilometres, and a population of over one million people, the north has untapped potential.

It is home to some of our most treasured icons including the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics of Queensland, Uluru, Kakadu and Cable Beach.

The White Paper is a roadmap for achieving our vision for the north by 2035 and we are starting work right away – alongside the people who live and do business in the north.

We have set out an ambitious long term reform agenda for the north because a strong north means a strong nation.

The White Paper delivers an initial investment of $1.2 billion.This is in addition to the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to provide concessional finance for infrastructure projects in the north.

The Commonwealth Government has already committed nearly $5 billion of its $50 billion nationwide investment in transport infrastructure to the north (including $3 billion for northern sections of the Bruce Highway, $172.2 million for the North West Coastal Highway and $90 million for the Northern Territory Regional Roads Productivity Package).

The White Paper includes measures to unlock the north’s potential across six key areas: simpler land arrangements to support investment; developing the north’s water resources;  growing the north as a business, trade and investment gateway; investing in infrastructure to lower business and household costs; reducing barriers to employing people; and improving governance.

Land in the north has the potential to support greater and more diverse economic activity. But the complexity of land arrangements has slowed development to date.

The Government is supporting simpler and more secure land arrangements in the north, by investing:
• $20.4 million to support native title bodies to realise their potential and negotiate more efficiently with business;
• $17 million to support secure property rights for cadastral surveys, area mapping and township leases; and
• $10.6 million for pilot land tenure reforms to help fund ‘next steps’ for projects that demonstrate the benefits of tenure reform, particularly on pastoral leases.

The Government will also work with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to:
• reduce native title costs and delays – the Government wants all existing native title claims settled in the next 10 years; and
• allow Indigenous Australians to borrow against or lease out exclusive native title land.

The Government will support the development of more water resources in the north by establishing a $200 million Water Infrastructure Development Fund. The Fund will provide up to $5 million for a feasibility analysis for the Nullinga Dam near Cairns, and up to $5 million for a detailed examination of land-use suitability for Ord Stage 3.
Secure water rights will be a condition for any water delivered through new Commonwealth funded water infrastructure.
The Government will also provide $15 million for water resource assessments of the Mitchell River (Queensland), West Kimberley (Western Australia) and Darwin region (Northern Territory).

More business, trade and investment means stronger growth, more jobs, higher incomes and better living standards in the north and across Australia.

The proximity to the fast-growing Asian and tropical regions means boundless opportunities where demand for Australian goods and services is reaching unprecedented levels.

The Government will help attract more investors to the north by:
• hosting a major northern investment forum in Darwin in late 2015 to bring together international investors, supported by the new investment prospectus: “Northern Australia emerging opportunities in an advanced economy”;
• setting up a new $75 million Cooperative Research Centre on Developing Northern Australia;
• investing $15.3 million to position the north as a global leader in tropical health;
• providing $12.4 million for Indigenous Ranger groups to expand biosecurity surveillance, with further details on biosecurity to be announced in the forthcoming Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper; and
• helping business enter new markets and supply chains by increasing access to the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme and Industry Skills Fund.

For too long, governments have tied up investment in unnecessary red tape. The Government will end these delays by partnering with the Northern Territory Government to establish a ‘single point of entry’ in Darwin to streamline regulatory processes and cut red tape for major investors.

The Government will also remove excessive regulatory burden by streamlining and simplifying cultural heritage, fisheries, and wildlife trade regulations, and supporting northern industries including fisheries and crocodile trade.

Infrastructure is critical to fast tracking growth and unlocking the north’s economic potential.

The Commonwealth Government will focus on funding high priority infrastructure through:
• a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, providing concessional loans for major infrastructure in the north and supporting projects prioritised on the new infrastructure pipeline;
• a new $600 million roads package to improve key roads in the north, including consideration of upgrades for the Arnhem, Barkly, Flinders, Great Northern, Savannah and Hann highways, the Outback Way and the Tanami Road;
• a $100 million beef roads fund which will help improve cattle supply chains;
• investing $39.6 million to upgrade airstrips and subsidise air services in remote Australia; and
• investing $5 million in rail freight analyses — starting with a pre-feasibility analyses of the Mount Isa to Tennant Creek railway and an upgrade of the Townsville to Mount Isa line.

The north’s workforce needs are unique. Many businesses effectively shut down or cut back during the wet season; working long hours in the dry season. For example, tourism workers often need to work outside standard hours, while mining or agriculture workers can be required to stay onsite for extended periods of time.

The Government will build on existing initiatives across Australia, including reforms to higher education, skills and training and the $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business Package to create the right conditions for small business to grow and create new jobs.

The Government is also helping more Australians to work in the north by:
• assisting the Northern Territory Government to streamline recognition of occupational licenses from other jurisdictions, abolishing red tape and expanding job opportunities;
• supporting northern business to invest in the skills of their workforce with additional assistance under the Industry Skills Fund; and
• supporting remote job seekers to work in real jobs through reforms to the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme.

To complement our investment, we will continue to work with Indigenous Australians, the northern jurisdictions and industry so the north can reach its full potential.

The Northern Australia Strategic Partnership — the biannual gathering of First Ministers from the Commonwealth and northern jurisdictions — will be made permanent.

The Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia has been continued for the life of the Parliament to ensure ongoing bipartisan support for developing the north.

Shifting the Office of Northern Australia to the north will also increase links between the north and the Commonwealth.

Northern Australia can grasp its full potential and become an economic powerhouse within our great country.

We will drive down the costs of operating in the north for business; making it a more attractive place to invest and work.

By building a prosperous north, we will build a better future for all Australians.

More information on the White Paper is available at:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Megatrends - Seven to Watch Out For

There have been plenty of previous books about the future, with a noted one Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. How right was he in his prognosis on the future? Have you read it?  

Then there were two books by John Naisbett on the 80s and 90s - both titled Megatrends.
Similar books have continued over the years, albeit slowly in recent years so it must be about time for another one.
It does not mean to say they are right or wrong either as thinking about how the future may unfold can be a serious planning issue.  Many factors of influence are already fixed in place NOW, and will influence what happens.
Then there are the so called "black Swan "events - rare but influential.  Can they be predicted?
Maybe read this new book and see what factors are at work now that will have influence.
No, I have not read it - quite new in fact, with the press release about the book only dated early May.  Not too many reviews round yet, as I write this on 8 May 2015.

Dr Stefan Hajkowicz is an expert in foresight, which uses economics, geography and decision theory to plan for an uncertain future. He is principal scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency.

What will the future look like?

How will technology development change the way we live, work and play?

How should we respond to change?

These are some of the questions that we need to answer if we're to make wise choices and make a better world.

In a new book from CSIRO Publishing, Global Megatrends: Seven Patterns of Change Shaping Our Future, author Stefan Hajkowicz identifies seven patterns to tell a story about how the world will change over the next 20 years.

"Megatrends are gradual yet powerful trajectories of change that have the potential to throw companies, individuals and societies into ‘freefall'," Dr Hajkowicz said.  "Moments of freefall will happen to you, your company, your society and the world.

That's assured.

It's not whether change will happen that matters, but when and how you respond."  "The financial collapse of stock markets, terrorist strikes, technology disruptors, democratic elections in eastern bloc countries and the fall of the Berlin Wall were relatively sudden events - when viewed over history - but they did not occur in isolation."  "The change heralded by megatrends lies beyond our direct control but not beyond our influence.

By getting a picture of how the world is changing and what these megatrends are, we can alter our destiny."

The seven patterns outlined in the book are:
  • More from less - Increasing demand for limited natural resources and a scarcity of these resources
  • Going, going... gone? -A window of opportunity to protect biodiversity, habitats and the global climate
  • The Silk Highway - Rapid economic growth and urbanisation in Asia and the developing world
  • Forever young - An ageing population, changed retirement patterns, chronic illness and rising healthcare expenditure 
  • Virtually here - Digital technology reshaping retail and office precincts, city design and function and labour markets
  • Great expectations - Changing consumer expectations for services, experiences and social interaction, and
  • An imperative to innovate - Technological advancement is accelerating and it is creating new markets and extinguishing existing ones.

The book captures the thinking of many dedicated scientists and researchers who have devoted their careers to exploring and understanding change, and draws on hundreds of reports and peer-reviewed references.

It is an easy-to-read tool that can be used by businesses, governments, researchers and students to anticipate and plan for the future.  "The seven megatrends are all about the signals that lead-up to a moment of freefall. They are taking the world into new territory, creating new risks and new opportunities."

Global Megatrends: Seven Patterns of Change Shaping Our Future, by Stefan Hajkowicz, available from 1 May 2015 in book shops and online, $35.00, paperback, 216pp, ISBN: 9781486301409.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Are YOU Making the Best Moves in Developing More Sales

If you are in business then you need to be a salesman.  That applies to rural industries as well.  Whether selling beef cattle, advising farmers or dealing with agricultural input products we all need to practice selling what we do and developing our product knowledge, to customers or potential customers.

The term “born salesman” is something that gets thrown around a lot in sales circles. Very often, when we think of a successful model for selling, we think of the guy who just oozes charisma. This is the type of person that can work a room like nobody else and has prospects and referrals booking up all their available free time.

But that probably doesn’t describe 99% of people in sales positions right now, and probably does not describe you, the reader. But does that mean that all hope is lost?

Of course not! Successful salesmen are made, not born. Here are 5 habits that can make you into a highly successful salesman:
1) They use CRM Software to track prospects – This is absolutely vital in this day and age. CRM software makes it possible to keep touching the prospects at set intervals. Most salesman are horrible at following up with prospects and that’s horrible for them because sales IS a numbers game. Even if you can’t physically see the prospect to make a call, very sophisticated CRM allows you to email/direct mail at set intervals. This is automated prospecting and needs to be in any serious salesman’s arsenal.

2) They use multiple channels to keep in touch – Like I mentioned previously about CRM Software, it’s sometimes not possible to actually see a prospect. So if that’s the case, you want to make sure you place a phone call, send a note, use cross referrals from close associates, create an online presence - send an email, or write a blog. Help them with their decision making and improve your visibility.  Attacking a prospect from all angles makes you more visible without necessarily being a burden on the prospect.

3) They keep in touch with customers post-sale – Successful salesman realize that their work is not done after the big sale. After the sale is where you establish the trust of being an advisor to them.

4) They ask for referrals – Most salesmen say they ask for referrals, but very few do it effectively. Saying “I’d appreciate it if you pass the word around about me” is not asking for referrals. Be direct and to the point about who they might be able to refer to you. If you are doing a good job for them, they should be happy to refer clients to you.

5) They treat customers like gold – This should seem obvious, but it’s not always. Current customers are your #1 priority and should always remain that way. Only after you exceed the needs of your clients do you begin your prospecting. That doesn’t mean that you go overboard, but you need to make sure they are happy. Retaining customers is every bit as important, maybe even more important according to many pundits, as getting new ones.

The above tips are hardly new or amazing, but still relevant.  

If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to sales success. 

Remember that being a successful salesman does not mean that you have to charm your way into every sale, but it does mean that you’re committed to following a system that will result in more leads into your sales funnel. The more leads in the funnel and the more touches you have with that prospect, the more sales you will have. The only difficult part is keeping track of who you talked to and when, but with technology these days, there is no excuse for not following up on quality leads.

Do not forget honesty - which might mean turning a prospect away, particularly where you believe the product you have may not meet their needs.  We need to sometimes do this with our turf seed, where possible clients have unrealistic expectations or are located in areas that are unsuitable.  You can sometimes be surprised how this approach can lead to new sales, often from unexpected sources.

[partially based on an article by Leslie Neal on

Friday, May 08, 2015

Northern Beef Producers Not Sustainable

It is beef week in Rockhampton this week, the biggest gathering of beef producers around Australia. A simple take home message from elder statesman of the northern beef industry assessment says that over 80% of producers are not sustainable - they are slowly going broke!
Methods to fix this and raise productivity have been developing over the past 40 years in many areas, with the less variable areas of the north better positioned generally.  Gains in productivity in some herds including a few modest sized ones were outstanding - with calving especially now being around 80% and still rising, often due to quite ruthless culling of non productive cows.

Whether it is better calving %, breed selection for higher productivity, bull performance, nutrition, new labour saving technology, remote operational systems and so on, many of the solutions to bring increases in productivity are well known...........and hardly rocket science.  Yes, they need integrating but a start can be made.

Some 20% are doing a-okay, but this shocking 80% are not.

I have not seen the regional breakdown.........but there has been a few years of drought across NW Queensland, which might be part of the story.  And the drier inland areas are inherently highly variable - but to some extent that can be planned for too, it happens inevitably!

Read the article.....sobering reading, but even better read the report on the industry. 

Do something - if you are a beef producer in the north.

Northern beef producers not sustainable
Prices received by Top End cattlemen were having no impact on their profitability

ONLY 20 per cent of beef producers in northern Australia are economically sustainable in the long term, says veteran farm business consultant Phil Holmes.

The other 80pc have almost no skills in finance and debt management, and little understanding of the key profit drivers in their herds.

They also have a poor attitude to adopting new technologies to increase the efficiency of their businesses, and have a poor capacity to manage climate risks.

Mr Holmes outlined this bleak view of the performance of beef farms in the Top End to a Meat and Livestock Australia producer forum at Beef 2015 in Rockhampton.

He draw on the findings of the latest Northern Beef Situation Analysis, which was first produced in 2013 and has now been updated. Mr Holmes was involved in the preparation of both reports, which covered 14 regions across northern Australia.

The latest report was based on 12 years of data and focused on eight performance criteria around the ability of a business to generate enough profit to cover operating expenses and capital investment, and repay debt on time while providing returns to the owners comparable to the standard average annual wage.

Businesses also needed to be able to maintain equity at 85pc, survive succession planning with the farm and family intact and the retiring generation with enough money to enjoy independent lives.

Only 20pc of beef businesses in northern Australia measured up, Mr Holmes said.

The “big picture” for the other 80pc was to lift the productivity of their herds, land and people, but he couldn’t see that happening despite the ready availability of the knowledge and research findings to achieve increased profitability.

He said the market would most likely solve the problem and suggested astute buyers may get some bargains in three or four years' time.

Many northern Australian beef producers had been swept up in the property price bubble in 2002 which had resulted in ridiculous land prices.

'High' beef prices

Equally ridiculous was current talk about high beef prices which, in real terms, were on a par with those of 1985, Mr Holmes said.

He said prices received by Top End cattlemen were having no impact on their profitability.

The big driver of profitability was productivity gains – or the lack of them for most producers – in herd performance, along with the need to reduce business costs.

Reproduction rates and genetics had to be improved and mortality rates reduced to lift productivity gains beyond their average of just one per cent a year in northern Australia’s beef sector.

Meanwhile, the industry’s terms of trade were shrinking by two per cent a year. The scene was set for many producers to go out backwards, Mr Holmes said.  A more productive herd would also reduce grazing pressure and improve environmental sustainability.  Operating costs such as labour and investment spending needed to be tailored to have the most impact in terms of productivity and profits.

The rule should be one full-time employee per 2000 AEs (adult equivalents), Mr Holmes said.