Can coal seam gas and food security coexist?

One of Australia’s major coal seam gas (CSG) explorers has defended the practice, saying it can coexist with food security and agriculture.

Chief executive of Santos, David Knox, has told ABC Radio he supports further scientific research but drilling should continue while it is conducted.

A senate report concluded the CSG industry is moving too quickly and is not allowing for research to be conducted on the impact CSG projects have on groundwater and food security.

Knox has denied the moratorium on CSG exploration wanted by the government is necessary, saying the only way more information can be found is to conduct the drilling.

“In doing that we wouldn’t go with the science,” he told ABC Radio.

“In order to go with the science we need to get into and we need to drill wells, we need to do exploration and then we use that information to feed into the science so we can absolutely answer the key questions and demonstrate that we can continue.

“But we have to do that work otherwise there’s obviously no basis for us to move forward.

“This industry is not a new industry, it’s been producing gas for 15 years.

“We produce about 70 per cent of Queensland’s gas right now, 30 per cent of eastern Australia.

“And the key thing from our perspective is absolutely we support really good science.’’

Knox did admit the industry as a whole needs to improve safety and security of the CSG exploration to lessen the impact on other sectors, including agriculture.

“We can all lift our game and we’ve got to lift our game.

“None of us are perfect, we wouldn’t claim that but we’ve all got to lift our game, we’ve all got to do better and what I say basically is, the expression I use is, we’ve got to raise the bar and we’ve got to practice high jump not limbo dancing.

“We’ve really got to raise our game.

“What’s new here is that we are basically working in conjunction with farmers.

“We don’t put fences up around what we do, we have to work with them and therefore we need really good regulations, really good science, we do need to do an excellent job of explaining what we do and how we do it.

The debate over the dangers of CSG has been raging all year, with a moratorium placed on all new projects in May aiming to solve the disputes between farmers and miners.

All new CSG and petroleum projects were banned in New South Wales until it could be proven the operations will not damage land or water resources.

Senator Bill Heffernan, who is chairing a senate inquiry into coal seam gas extraction beginning in July told Australian Mining gas companies are using “cowboy regulation” in the David and Goliath battle against individual farmers.

“The present regulation of coal seam gas mining is wild western regulation,” he told Australian Mining.

“If one farmer is against it, they go around them and literally surround them rather than taking them to court, so they then have no choice but to surrender.

“These companies are multi billion dollar companies with a global agenda and if they have the right to overpower the individual farmer."

The findings in the senate inquiry released this week has made damning findings against Australia’s $60 billion coal seam gas industry and recommended expansions be halted in sensitive areas.

In the most detailed analysis of the industry to date, the report has found the benefits of the CSG industry are a “relatively short-term prospect”.

A full transcript and audio of Knox’s interview on the ABC is available on its website.

Bananas not diseased, just stressed

Bananas in an Atherton Tableland plantation were mostly likely suffering a stress-related disorder, not a disease as originally thought, experts say.

Boisecurity has lifted the quarantine on the bananas from Queensland’s north after ruling out Panama Disease, ABC Rural reports.

The propertyhas been quarantined since September following reports from the owner that the bananas were showing symptoms resembling Panama Disease Tropical Race 4.

But now, general manager for Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity Dr Rex Williams tells the ABC, the latest test results confirmed banana plants were likely suffering a stress-related disorder and not diseased.

Image: Australian Bananas

QLD dairy farmers leaving industry; Parmalat considers move to NSW

Queensland milk supplier Parmalat is considering a move down to Sydney, after it secured contracts with farmers in New South Wales over the last four months.

About 130 million litres of milk per year has been secured by Parmalat in the deals with NSW suppliers, Farm Weekly reports.

The milk will fill the Lidcombe plant, in Sydney’s southwest, and will include production of the controversial Woolworths homebrand milk.

The debate over the milk price wars that began mid-year, are still continuing, with experts saying the $1 per litre on milk initiated by Woolworths’ arch rival Coles will drive dairy farmers out of business.

The contract with the supermarket giant is worth more that 110 million litres of milk per year, compared to Parmalat’s Pura milk sales which total 60 million litres per year in NSW.

Parmalat have sourced recruits from the Southern Highlands, South Coast, Manning and Hunter Valley.

Up to 14 million litres will be provided per year by a farm in the Shoalhaven Valley.

Parmalat is also considering transferring some of its Pauls modified milk production, including Skinny Milk and PhysiCAL, to the Sydney plant.

"Trying to service the Australian market with milk processed in Queensland milk is not so sensible in the long term," Parmalat Commercial Development general manager Vince Houlihan told Farm Weekly.

Houlihan anticipates many of the almost 700 dairy farmers in Queensland will leave the industry within the next decade.

The average age of dairy farmers in the sunny state is 61, higher than that in NSW.

"NSW has quite a few older farmers in a similar position – we’re on the cusp of a general shift in numbers out of the industry leaving fewer farms to rely on, particularly in northern climate zones," he said
Meanwhile, increasing volumes of surplus cream produced as part of the milk modification process made Sydney a likely candidate for cream and custard product production, supplemented by extra milk sourced in NSW.

"We are steadily increasing our operations at Lidcombe and maybe next year we’ll be able to use the plant for more product consolidation," Mr Houlihan said.

However, Parmalat’s expanded processing activity in NSW would not make up for a trend towards dairy processing shifting further south to Victoria.

Dairy Farmers Milk Co-operative (DFMC) chairman, Ian Zandstra, told Farm Weekly that while his members would earn less for their 340m litres supplied this year, Parmalat had probably cut the base farmgate price by about three cents a litre by signing new recruits, meaning farmers would earn less than most DFMC members.

Image: Weekly Times Now

Five fire crews needed for QLD food factory fire

A factory fire at a Queensland food processing facility required five fire crews on Monday.

The pump fire occurred at a facility on Qantas Drive at Eagle Farm, News Ltd reports.

A Queensland Fire and Rescue Services Spokesperson told New Ltd crews were called to the site just before 3pm.

When they arrived, smoke was billowing from the premises, staff were evacuated and oil pumps to the building disconnected.

There have not been any injuries reported from the incident.

Image: QLD government

Queensland Sugar chief executive resigns

Queensland’s sugar marketing body has announced the resignation of its chief executive, but says people should not lose confidence in the group.

Chairman Allan Winney announced Neil Taylor will retire from Queensland Sugar Limited next month to a role outside the sugar industry.

“Neil Taylor joined QSL in August 2009 and has managed the business of the sugar marketer and logistics provider through some of the most challenging times for the Australian sugar industry, two back-to-back seasons impacted by extraordinary weather and a period of significant takeover activity and industry consolidation.,” Winney said.

“During that time he has made a significant contribution to reshaping QSL into a more commercial company and demonstrated strong leadership to the organisation.

“Mr Taylor has developed an excellent management team and leaves the organisation in very good shape for the future.”

Following last year’s failed season and delivery shortfall, a major review of QSL was conducted, costing the industry over $105 million.

Location of Australia’s first drink canning plant in two decades revealed

The location for Australia’s first drink canning manufacturing plant to be built in 20 years has been announced.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said Visy one of the world’s leading packaging, paper and recycling companies, had chosen Stapylton on the Gold Coast as the site for the new $86M beverage can manufacturing plant.

"The State Government’s Trade and Investment Queensland office and the Gold Coast City Council have convinced Visy that Queensland is the right destination for this world-class facility," she said.

"I met personally with representatives from Visy during the recent investment tour of Melbourne and Sydney and I’m delighted that they have chosen Queensland and the Gold Coast in particular to build this factory.

"Visy’s facility will incorporate global leading-edge technology – it’ll be streets ahead of any other canning facility in the nation.

"This is really positive news for Queensland’s manufacturing industry.

"It’s great news too for the rapidly growing regional area between Logan and the Gold Coast as 44 permanent jobs will be created at the plant and 150 jobs during the 6 month construction phase.

"Once it’s up and running the plant will produce large volumes of export quality beverage cans and will supply customers in Queensland, interstate and overseas."

The food manufacturing industry has taken a beating in recent times, with the high cost of doing business in Australia leading many companies to send their operations offshore.

But with the dollar falling to a 10-month low recently, there is renewed hope the industry could survive.

Bligh said the shell of the plant should be up by January 2012 and cans were expected to start rolling off production lines around July.

"The company had been considering expanding either one of their Sydney or Melbourne canning facilities but it’s a real feather in Queensland’s cap to have the company decide on us instead."

Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke said securing the Visy canning operation in the South East was a great outcome for the city and Queensland.

"Council has been working hard through its Investment Attraction Program to bolster investment here on the coast and deliver more local jobs.

“This outcome highlights the importance of local and state governments working together for the benefit of the city."

Visy new plant will be adjacent to their current operation in Stapylton, a state-of-the-art corrugated cardboard box factory which opened with State Government assistance in 2006.

"The company’s expansion has excellent potential to develop a manufacturing and packaging industry cluster around the Stapylton site as this has been the result of Visy expansion elsewhere in Australia," Bligh said.

"By attracting and re-attracting big players like Visy to Queensland, the State Government helps keep industry investment and development on the boil."

Visy’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Daly said the state-of-the-art beverage canning facility would add to Visy’s extensive operations in Queensland.

"We already employ almost 600 people in Queensland across our various recycling, paper making and packaging activities and the State continues to be major source of growth for us.

"This new canning facility will put a national spotlight on Queensland manufacturing because the plant will be the most modern constructed in Australia using latest available technology.

He said Queensland was chosen as the site for the new facility because of its strong prospects for future growth, proximity to major customers and because expanding on the site of Visy’s existing corrugated box factory at Staplyton made sound commercial sense.

"We also found the Queensland Government, the Gold Coast Council and their representatives very proactive in encouraging our plans for this plant and for our future planned investments in the State," he said.

Daly met with Premier and Minister for Reconstruction Anna Bligh and Treasurer Fraser in Melbourne during their recent Investment Roadshow which provided the opportunity for Bligh and Fraser to seal the investment deal.

Image: Getty Images

Burger joint neighbouring homeless shelter uses syringes as promotional tool

A burger franchise in Brisbane that is next door to a homeless shelter is sending out 20 000 pens that look like blood-filled syringes to appeal to the drug user who frequent the accommodation.

A local social service made complaints about the marketing gimmick by Burger Urge on Brunswick Street, which is using the syringes to promote its new menu, featuring options including “Lamb Phetamine,” and “Beef Injection,” ranges.

Police subsequently visited the store and said they had “a number of concerns” about the pens.

Rod Kelly, general manager of the 139 Club homeless shelter next door, said is using the promotional tools “without any thought of moral and community responsibility,” and has urged people to strongly consider making purchases from the outlet.

"I am unable to see any synergy or strategic direction between serving food to the local community and promoting a business through what appears to be a blood-filled syringe," he told News Ltd.

Kelly is in charge of Queensland’s biggest homeless day centre, which supports up to 70,000 people each year, many of whom are battling drug and alcohol addiction.

"I’m an ex-intravenous drug user and, in the early days when I was getting clean, if I saw that in my letterbox it would have made me want to start using again," he said.

"Imagine going to your letterbox … to find a syringe filled with what looks like blood," he said.

"Parents will be asking their children to check the mailbox only to find a pen that looks identical to a hypodermic syringe."

The Courier-Mail questioned Burger Urge co-owner Sean Carthey over the move, asking if he was comfortable about using drug addiction to sell burgers to people suffering physical and mental illness caused by drug use.

"Yeah, that’s a fair comment," he responded.

"Umm … I am comfortable with it because we talked about it long and hard and, at the end of the day, if someone can’t pick up a syringe and realise that it’s a pen, you know.

"It doesn’t say ‘drug addiction’ on the pen, it says ‘taste addiction’," he said.

"I am comfortable with it.

“Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I don’t know."

Image: News Ltd

New QLD beef extension officer appointed

A new North West Queensland beef extension officer to support industry opportunities has been appointed as part of the state government overhaul to minimise the impact of mining on the Great Barrier Reef.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin today welcomed Emma Hegarty to her new role in Department of Employment Economic Development and Innovation and said her role to support the beef industry will have unique challenges.

Hegarty’s appointment comes after the announcement of four new beef extension officers and an agricultural economist, employed to help producers minimise the impact of grazing practices on the Great Barrier Reef.

"We believe the Queensland beef Industry has a very positive future and as such we are firmly committed to supporting the industry’s development," Mulherin said.

"However, we also acknowledge there are a number of challenges facing the beef industry in Queensland today.

"Ms Hegarty’s new role as a north-west beef extension officer will help the Queensland Government in supporting these opportunities and addressing the current challenges in the beef industry.

"Equipped with a rural background and a passion for beef science, Ms Hegarty has joined Agri-Science Queensland’s FutureBeef team t o support producers in an area that carries a large proportion of the State’s beef herd.

"FutureBeef is about bringing the latest research technologies and best management practices to Queensland beef businesses.

Member for Mount Isa Betty Kiernan welcomed the move, saying the new extension position is a positive step for the North West Queensland region.

"The new position will help support the industry in the region which ranges from the beef breeding properties in the northern and southern Gulf and the fattening and backgrounding Mitchell grass downs area," Kiernan said.

"Ms Hegarty will join Rebecca Matthews in the north-west, who has been based in Cloncurry as a Beef extension officer since 2009."

Hegarty brings with her personal knowledge and business understanding of the issues she will deal with.

"I grew up on a property west of Longreach and am pleased to be back in a rural area, using my skills and experience to support producers and the beef industry," Ms Hega rty said

"As well as completing a Bachelor of Livestock Science, I have been employed in the livestock nutrition and meat processing fields.

"In my previous roles I’ve worked on abattoir research and development projects and advised producers on nutritional management and supplementation of their herds," she said.

"I’m also a committee member of the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association (ICMJ) and in 2009, travelled to the US as a member of a meat judging team."

"I’ve begun working on projects including $avannaPlan and Climate Clever Beef, aimed at improving the sustainability and resilience of the beef industry," she said.

"I’m determined to get out of the office as much as possible to liaise with and advise beef industry stakeholders face to face.

"As the position is stakeholder funded, I’ m involved in an interesting mix of relevant projects and work with producers, local government and resource management groups."

"We’re all committed to working for an economically resilient and environmentally sustainable Queensland beef industry," she said.

Image: Department of Primary Industries


Farming land is safe: CSG miners

Executives of some of the major coal seam gas (CSG) miners have faced questioning at a committee hearing in Canberra over the damage being done to farming land.

CSG producers sought to assure farmers and politicians that the operation does not threaten the environment and can coexist with food production in rural regions, but Senators do not appear to be convinced, the ABC reports.

Santos vice president James Baulderstone said he wants critics of CSG to recognise that he has agricultural roots.

“I grew up and went to school in a small rural community in the Murray-Mallee.

“My father is a third generation farmer.

“With this background, I have a personal interest in and commitment to ensuring that Santos treats the landholders with whom it works as I would expect my father to be treated.”

The ABC reports Senators at the committee hearing yesterday did not seem convinced of the good intentions of CSG miners and along with local communities are still concerned about the possible contamination of aquifers used by farmers.

But Mark Macfarlane told the ABC communities and Senators should not be concerned.

“Water used by farmers, they are separated from the coal seams by hundreds of metres of impervious rock,” he said.

“There can be no contamination of the surface aquifers.”

Senator Bill Heffernan, who is leading the Inquiry into CSG in Australia to end what he calls “cowboy regulation” said the major concern is the use of fracking to break up the coal seam.

He said some fracking material has been discovered in acquifers, calling into question the claims from CSG companies that the process is safe.

Heffernan asked a company spokesman how a contaminated aquifer can be fixed, and he replied “Go back firstly to the well construction tanks –“ before Heffernan interrupted, saying it was unknown how to solve such a problem.

“No, no, but if it happens, how do you fix it?” he asked

“The answer is you don’t know, I don’t know. There’s no known technique.”

The companies faced questioning from the Senators about how they would enforce their right to access farming land, and Baulderstone claimed Santos would not be forcing farmers to allow them onto land.


“We have to have respectful relations with our community,” he said.

“We employ locals, if a farmer does not want us on his property, we will not be going through that gate.”

But Deborah Kerr from the National Farmers’ Federation told the committee Australia is facing a crisis where the ability to farm is being threatened by mining and urbanism.

“The amount of land that we’ve had for agriculture is declining because all of those things and yet we haven’t had a discussion about the value of our food production because quite frankly, we haven’t starved here in Australia.”

On Monday a medical doctor and expert on environmental health, climate change and world civilisation says the regulations governing mining in Australia are outdated and it’s damaging the food industry.

Image: Drill Blast



Coal Seam Gas reform needed to protect food: professor

A medical doctor and expert on environmental health, climate change and world civilisation says the regulations governing mining in Australia are outdated and it’s damaging the food industry.

David Shearman is a Professor of Medicine at Adelaide University and Board Member of the International Climate and Health Council and the International Society of Doctors for the Environment.

He believes the Senate Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas (CSG) currently underway in New South Wales will begin the reform process on regulation for the industry.

“Enough evidence has emerged at the Senate Inquiry into coal seam gas to merit significant reform orchestrated by the Federal Government,” Shearman writes on the ABC.

“The New South Wales inquiry, followed no doubt by those in other states, is likely to illustrate the need for national action.”

Regulation outdated

Shearman believes there are two fundamental issues between the CSG industry and food production, the first being the outdated regulations governing the industry.

“The state mining acts were enacted at a time when the true meaning of the word ‘sustainability’ was defined but not accepted,” he writes.

“We are now in a different world where mining should not have primacy over food production; that is not to say that we do not need resource extraction but we need it under rules that favour a long-term human and healthy existence rather than short-term profit. “

“What has been happening to rural communities under coal seam gas and coal exploration has been outrageous.

“They have had insecurity imposed upon them and all the health impacts that accompany possible displacement.

“Not a way to treat the custodians of land and food resources.”

The Inquiry into the controversial coal seam gas industry, led by Senator Bill Heffernan aims to end what he calls the “cowboy regulation” where major gas companies use their power to push farmers out of areas.

Fracking controversy

Shearman has echoed the concerns over the controversial ‘fracking’ process and its potential damage to nearby aquifers and groundwater in a submission of Doctors for the Environment Australia to the Senate.

“We expressed concern not only with the hazards of the chemicals which may be used in fracking but also with those arising in coal seams themselves which may be brought to the surface,” Shearman wrote on The Drum.

“This flow-back water can contain volatile organic compounds, high concentrations of ions such as calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, strontium, and also radioactive substances.

“Potential long-term hazards are cancer and deformities.”

Shearman wrote that after multiple companies and governments denying the detrimental effects of the mining, a spokesman for the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association admitted "good management could minimise the risks of water contamination, but never eliminate them".

Last month the NSW Government extended the moratorium on all new CSG projects in the state.

Shearman believes many of the contracts approving CSG projects were signed while reports on water contamination and health impacts were still ongoing.

He said the government needs to be more transparent on the medical and public health experts it consults for projects in Australia and should make any risks identified more readily available.

After beginning in Queensland, the Inquiry has moved to New South Wales and is also expected to include other Australian states.

Shearman believes that under the 2001 national Health Impact Assessment Guidelines, the state should be doing more to ensure the health and safety of Australians.

“These were the public health responsibilities of state and federal governments to prevent harm by conducting careful scientific assessment of possible hazards, their risks and methods of prevention,” he wrote.

“Coal seam gas mining is spreading across the continent.

“Its impacts are and will be assessed in each state by different processes of variable quality.

“We need reassurance of the existence and quality of health assessment.

“Reform is needed.

“Reform cannot go through the usual processes of incessant Federal versus State argument for much of Australia’s aquifer system will be polluted before agreement is reached.

“Much of the concern also extends to approval of coal mining where environmental impact assessment processes are poorly advertised and incomplete in the assessment of health impacts.

Food vs Mining

Despite the NSW government’s pledge to lessen the conflicts between mining and agriculture, Shearman believes the issues are not being properly dealt with.

“The community health impacts of coal mining and combustion are largely unaddressed in Australia.

“As with coal seam gas good productive agricultural land is lost and there is harm to rural communities.

“The state mining acts must be reformed with nationwide regulation to preserve some uniform landowner rights and recognise the need for sustainable food production from unpolluted land.

“These state acts originating in the 1850s are more attuned to land grabs in developing countries and they now prevent Australia moving to sustainable practice.”

Shearman believes the impact of CSG mining will be significant and is urging the government to take action now to prevent a long-term disaster.

“There have been many lessons in public health, one of which – asbestos – is still with us and bringing suffering to many; this should tell the Federal Government to act now to produce a transparent national health impact process for major national industries and to provide overriding reform of the mining acts.”

To view Professor Shearman’s article in full on The Drum, click here.



Abattoir proposed for north Qld

Posted by Rita Mu

The Queensland Government is planning to build a new meat processing facility to help boost the state’s beef and cattle industry.

Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies, Tim Mulherin, said the Department of Economic Development and Innovation was currently preparing a report outlining the commercial viability of a new abattoir in north Queensland.

According to Mulherin, a new facility would allow more than three million cattle in north and northwest Queensland to be processed locally.

"Over-dependence on a single export market and the lack of competition for meat processing capacity in northern Australia are significant issues for the industry," Mulherin said.

"The recent suspension of the live export trade by the Federal Government has highlighted these problems and put more than 60,000 tonnes of beef a year at risk.”

Mulherin said a local abattoir would also reduce the need to truck cattle large distances to southern processing plants and provide alternative markets for producers.

"An enormous swathe of Australian cattle country currently isn’t served by local meat processing facilities – if you draw a line diagonally from just above Townsville to Perth, you would find no abattoirs north of this line,” he said.

Cattle company AACo has welcomed the initiative, saying a new abattoir would help increase industry competitiveness.

The exact location for the potential abattoir has not been decided.

"The investigation will take into account a number of factors including market and workforce potential, logistics and transport infrastructure,” Member for Mount Isa Betty Kiernan said.

A feasibility study into building a new abattoir is expected to be completed by December 2011. Results of this study will be made available to prospective investors.


Inghams recalls Brannans Marinated Whole Chicken

Posted by Rita Mu

Inghams is recalling its Brannans Marinated Whole Chickens from supermarket shelves after discovering they could contain undeclared allergens such as soy, oats, rye, fish, sesame seeds and sulphites.

The recall includes all products marked with use-by-dates between 27 June 2011 and 05 July 2011.

Brannans Marinated Whole Chickens are sold in Aldi stores across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory.

Food authorities have advised consumers who have a soy, oat, rye, fish, sesame seed or sulphite allergy or intolerance to not consume this product.

Customers should return the products to the place of purchase for a full refund.

For further information please call Inghams Enterprise on 1800 262 088.

Arnott’s Brisbane factory makeover to cost 140 jobs

Posted by Rita Mu

A hundred and forty full-time workers at Arnott’s will lose their jobs once the company’s Brisbane factory gets a $67 million makeover next year.

The Virginia factory, which makes up 40 per cent of Arnott’s biscuit business, makes Shapes, Cruskits, Monte Carlo, Scotch Finger, Shortbread Cream and Family Assorted biscuits.

The reported that Arnott’s was planning to introduce a new production line by August 2012 to boost its production capacity from 44,000 to more than 55,000 tonnes.

Spokesman Craig Funnell said the automated line would lead to the loss of 140 full-time and 50 casual jobs from December 2012.

"Around 99 per cent of all Arnotts biscuits we sell in Australia are made in Australia," he told

"To keep it that way, we have to continue to find ways to compete more effectively in the marketplace, especially against cheaper imported products."



Qld launches $2m food policy

Posted by Rita Mu

The Queensland Government has announced a new food policy today as part of its 2011-12 State Budget.

An initial $2 million has been allocated to support initiatives related to the Food for a Growing Economy policy, which is built around seven themes such as environmental protection, health and land use planning.

"With Queensland’s food value chain worth $18.7 billion to the state economy and a workforce of around 267,000, it’s critical we plan for future growth in the industry,” said Tim Mulherin, Queensland’s Minister for Food and Agriculture.

Mulherin said increasing demand for food stemming from population growth and rising affluence in developing countries presented significant opportunities for Queensland as a food exporter.

"The policy, which we are releasing for public comment, is first and foremost an economic development policy to maximise the economic growth of businesses across the food sector.

"…Given that we currently export 80 per cent of the food we produce, this policy sets out strategies to create job opportunities and wealth for Queenslanders, as well as outlining initiatives for working with key stakeholders to maximise industry growth.”

More details about Queensland’s new food policy is available HERE. The consultation period is open until 16 August 2011.


McDonald’s feels the bite after jobs go to mining

As the skills shortage becomes increasingly dire and jobs in the mining and resource sectors offering huge financial incentives for employees, a Queensland McDonald’s has been forced to recruit staff from capital cities.

Burger flippers are in short supply in Mount Isa and the fast-food giant has resorted to importing workers from Brisbane, New Limited reports.

Teenagers usually make up a large portion of staff at McDonald’s outlets, but in the Mount Isa region, the high-paying jobs in the mines are far more attractive.

The wages, combined with flexible rosters and graduate and career advancement programs have lured many away from the traditional retail and fast-food roles and into the mines.

Small businesses are also struggling to compete with the offers mining companies are making.

Like the mining industry, which incorporates travel into many positions, especially with fly-in fly-out (FIFO) roles, the Mount Isa McDonald’s has become the first to offer covering travel costs for those willing to take a full time job.

The full-time role at the fast-food chain would pay $718 per week, and employees who stay four months are entitled to a free return bus trip to Brisbane, while those who stay six months can have a return plane ride covered.

Manager Joy Mendoza said the company struggled to fill vacancies locally and decided to advertise the position in Brisbane as an opportunity to see the Outback.

"We’re really understaffed and we wanted to attract people," she told News Limited.

"I was quite overwhelmed with the response.

“They’re actually interested in coming up to Mount Isa and some are saying they just want to give it a try."

Mount Isa Chamber of Commerce President Brett Peterson said young people can double the amount they would be paid in retail or food employment with a role in the mines.

The high wages in mining towns contribute to the high cost of living, with Moranbah in the Bowen Basin named the most expensive place to live in the state.

At a mining camp near Moranbah, a kitchen hand can earn up to $85 000 and maintenance and office employees can make double what they would in a similar role outside the mining industry.

[Jessica Burke is a journalist at Australian Mining Magazine]


Qld food bowl protected from mining developments

A new and unprecedented government policy has been brought in to protect Queensland croplands from mining and other developments.

Queensland Environment Minister Kate Jones said the ban would safeguard parts of the Surat Basin in southern Queensland and the Emerald and Springsure region, from encroachment by mining, which would render the land unusable for food growing.

In a statement Ms Jones declared that ”as of today, resource development projects, such as mining, that are not well advanced in the approvals process will be subject to the full effect of the legislation to be introduced later this year”.

”The protection areas … have been defined as they are under intense and imminent development pressure.”
The implementation of the strategic cropping land (SCL) policy was designed to prompt miners to plan projects so that they can coexist with agricultural land – although it was stressed that allowance will be consider should the resource not be found elsewhere in the state.

Ms Jones has released final maps and announced that much of southern Queensland, as well as the Emerald and Springsure region, will be granted the highest level of protection as Strategic Cropping Land Protection Areas.

Resource development projects, such as mining, that are not well advanced in the approvals process will be subject to the full effect of the legislation to be introduced later this year.

“We are leading the nation in policy that safeguards our best cropping land – other states are now following suit,” Ms Jones said.

“Through this policy, we are protecting our important food bowls across the state.

“We gave a commitment to rural Queensland, particularly communities of the Surat Basin, that we would introduce a policy that would deal with the increasing land use competition in their area.

“Today our government makes good on that commitment.

“From today, new mining projects that will permanently render strategic cropping land unusable in the Protection Areas will not be able to go ahead.”

Jones said the Queensland Protection Areas, in Southern Queensland and the Emerald-Springsure region, have been defined as they are under intense and imminent development pressure.

The Southern Queensland Protection Area will give soils in the Darling Downs, the Granite Belt, the Lockyer and Fassifern Valleys and the South Burnett region the highest level of protection from mining, urban development and other permanent, high impact projects.

Outside these Protection Areas, defined as the Strategic Cropping Land Management Area, projects will need to avoid permanently rendering cropping land unusable and mitigate any unavoidable impacts.


Image courtesy of

Tight security saves Qld strawberry farm

Posted by Rita Mu

Tight security has saved 170-acres of strawberries from being poisoned at a farm in Queensland.

According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, staff at Gowinta Farms at Beerwah, on the Sunshine Coast, detected poison in the farm’s water stores last Tuesday.

The farm faced a similar attack in 2009, which wiped out tomato and cucumber crops. Following this attack, the farm implemented a water draining system that operated on a daily basis and begun conducting water quality tests regularly.

Spokesman James Ashby told the AAP that the latest attack was a good example of the benefits of investing in tight security measures.

Those responsible for the latest poisoning attack have not been identified. Police are currently investigating the incident.

Image: Gowinta Farms on the Sunshine Coast, Source:

Farmers’ market founder appointed QLD food ambassador

Posted by Rita Mu

A food consultant has been appointed the inaugural role of Queensland’s Food Fellow.

The state’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies, Tim Mulherin, said Co-founder of Brisbane’s Farmers’ market, Alison Alexander, would act as the state’s ambassador for food by profiling and promoting regional produce.

"Queensland has so much to celebrate about our food and our primary producers," Mulherin said.

"…Who better to tell the world about the diversity and quality of Queensland produce than one of our most respected food opinion leaders.”

Queensland’s $18.5 billion food industry employs 267,000 people and contributes to around one quarter of the country’s food exports.

Over the next two years, Alexander will travel across Queensland and to Sydney and Melbourne to profile the food and innovative food science of Queensland.

She will work with the Department of Economic Development and Innovation to develop projects aimed at Queensland’s regional produce, which includes tropical fruit, winter vegetables, North Queensland barramundi, Hervey Bay scallops and Kingaroy pork.

"Alison is renowned for her encyclopaedic food knowledge, her celebration of Queensland producers and her unwavering support for the food professionals who present our food to both Australian and international consumers," Mulherin said.

"Alison hails from rural Queensland. She grew up in Mt Sylvia and attended school in Toowoomba.

“I congratulate and welcome Alison as the first Queensland Food Fellow and I’m proud to have her on board to help put Queensland and our food industry on the map."

Image: Queensland’s new food ambassador – Alison Alexander, Source:

New Woolworths food labelling to support North QLD producers

Woolworths has shown support for North Queensland’s primary producers with a new food labelling initiative that will allow customers to identify locally grown produce.

QLD Premier Anna Bligh congratulated Woolworths on its ‘North QLD Grown’ labelling initiative.

"Every day, QLD and Australian consumers [will] have the opportunity to feast on an incredible array of freshly grown North Queensland produce from seafood to beef, vegetables and tropical and exotic fruit,” she said.

According to Ms Bligh, North QLD’s agribusiness generates in excess of $3 billion in farm gate value each year and the industry is growing at five per cent per annum.

Member for Townsville Mandy Johnstone said the labelling initiative would appear on all North QLD sourced fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh seafood.

"The labelling will clearly identify what produce comes from North QLD and we’ll be supporting our local farmers and local jobs every time we buy food with one of these labels on it," Ms Johnstone said.

Irrigators urged to take part in review process

The Queensland Competition Authority are urging for irrigators and industries to provide feedback and comments on a review of rural irrigation pricing, the Minister for Natural Resources Stephen Robertson said today.

"The QCA is engaging with stakeholders by conducting public meetings and inviting submissions on all relevant issues,” Mr Robertson said.

"It is not helpful that the Queensland Farmers’ Federation today has pre-empted the outcome of that process with unsubstantiated claims that the review will put ‘upward pressure’ on irrigation prices.”

Mr Robertson said the Queensland Government had built safeguards into future pricing processes designed to help irrigators and their industries.

"To ensure we continue to have a viable and strong irrigation sector, new prices will not be greater than the irrigation sector’s capacity to pay and these prices will be phased in over a period of up to 15 years to allow irrigators time to adjust to the new arrangements,” he said.

"Rather than criticise the review process, I urge the Queensland Farmers’ Federation and its members to allow the QCA to make a fair and balanced assessment taking into account submissions from all stakeholders."

The Queensland Government will make a final decision on the future irrigation water price path after reviewing the QCA’s final recommendations, Mr Robertson said.