Saturday, April 7, 2012

Big Ted Gets One Right

THREE TARDY but absolutely sincere cheers for Ted Baillieu, of whom this blog previously has found precious little good to say. What has prompted this change of heart? An article in this morning’s Phage which details the Victorian government’s plans to cut funding for the green bureaucracy that, ever since the election, has white-anted the government with lies and leaks while simultaneously pushing policies and theories that do nothing but degrade the bush. Defunding the left is long overdue and this announcement may indicate that the awaited day is finally at hand.

We can expect lots of whining, and five-star ventriloquism, over the weeks to come, which will see those with empires under threat turn to reporters whose understanding of environmental matters extends no further than believing whatever it is the Victoria National Parks Association and sister organisations choose to tell them. The Phage’s Tom Arup – the nitwit-lite version of Adam Morton – has already received the first call, as today’s report makes clear,

Budget cuts and layoffs, Arup reports, mean that professional organisers will no longer be available to summon volunteers to beaches, where they do the worthy work of picking up rubbish. It seems the environmentally aware are absolutely unaware that a discarded can, paper plate or item of washed-up flotsam needs to be picked up unless and until an expert on the government payroll issues that instruction. This deficiency must come as a surprise to Lions clubs and Rotary, which have been doing good works for quite some time without benefit of official instruction.

That is one cheerful aspect of the cutbacks, but it is a relatively minor one. Of greater note is this splendid news: 
Six scientists at the state's biodiversity research agency - the Arthur Rylah Institute - working on vegetation mapping, threatened species and the health of the Murray-Darling, were also told this week their contracts would not be renewed. 
One of the many green lights burning bright at the Rylah Institute is Melbourne University researcher Libby Rumpff, who is memorable for more than her euphonious patronym. Over the course of the past 18 months or so, the Baillieu government has sought to initiate the experimental introduction of 400 cows and steers into the Alpine National Park. Those beasts, whose movements were to be restricted by fences to just a few small plots, were to have been allowed to graze within the test areas’ boundaries as taste and inclination took them, the object being to determine if animals that eat grass and other fire-prone materials might reduce the fuel load and, thus, the risk of catastrophic “hot” bushfires.

The reaction to that modest proposal was screaming outrage, and Ms Rumpff’s green shriek could often be heard above the choir. In April of last year she addressed a nakedly political public meeting in Box Hill Town Hall, where hundreds of city-dwelling bush buffs howled for Baillieu’s head. She also co-authored a strident denunciation of the cattle trial for Andrew Jaspan’s six-million dollar blog, and has been a frequent source of the deep green orthodoxy espoused to the exclusion of any other viewpoint in the pages of The Age. So active has Rumpff been in voicing a distaste for cows one can only wonder if Adam Morton and colleague Melissa Fyfe have her telephone number tattooed on their arms.

What to make of the official wisdom Ms Rumpff represents? Or, of greater practical relevance, what to make of the projects that emanate from it? Let one example serve:

The Victorian National Parks Association is very keen to get rid of willow trees, which are buggers of things and do a good deal of harm to High Country bogs. This crusade is backed by Ms Rumpff’s Rylah Institute which, remember, is also opposed to cattle.

This where everything gets tangled and topsy turvy, because one of the more effective ways of reducing willow growth is to point hungry cows at their shoots, as at least one study in the US has demonstrated beyond doubt. In the US, where willows are quite normal and natural, this is a bad thing. In the High Country, where willows are one of the many invasive species wreaking havoc, it would be a lot more efficient than rounding up a mob of urban volunteers every so often. Mind you, the volunteers’ self-esteem will soar after their current long weekend in the mountains, and this cannot be said of hungry cows.

As for the willows, they will be happier still. The most effective way of tackling them has been ruled out for nothing but reasons of ideology and doctrine, so they will be flinging their windborne seeds next summer and draining with their thirsty roots more alpine bogs.

Laying off half a dozen peddlers of ecological abstractions is a good start. There are, however, legions more who need to be nudged into other lines of work.

A NOTE: To get a glimpse of how complicated modern science has made the business of uprooting weeds, those with a particular interest might find the full versions of this and this enlightening – or scary, depending on how much the reader accepts that man has long been a major influence on the bush, that it can never, ever be returned to some arcadian ideal, and that the paramount goal of professional ecologists should be to stablise the human-bush relationship. If that accord cannot be struck, the High Country will be a very sad and different place 50 years from now.


  1. The Old and Unimproved DaveApril 7, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    "Libby Rumpff, who is memorable for more than her euphonious patronym..."

    "Rumpff"...? Sounds like something the Jetsons' dog Astro would say.

  2. Yeah, the government is out of cash due to the profligacy of the previous government (a chunk of spending in the last year was effectively uncosted) and the order to cull fixed term VPS5 has come in.

    That is fair enough...

    The issue is the axe is being taken to folks that actually do do the scientific work and analysis, not to the seat warmers and shiny bums.

    Those 80-90K per year public servants will be taken off the books, only to be rehired as consultants at ~80-120hr due to the specialised and technical nature of the work.

    You don't work in these areas of the PS for the money.

    I would earn a hell of a lot more in private industry, (and as a centre right libertarian I often laugh at my own hypocrisy for holding one of these positions), but I consider I do provide good value for my taxpayer dollars.

    You do so because the work is technically difficult, scientifically and mathematically interesting and provides a genuine net benefit for the people of the state at a lower cost than going to private consultancies.

    The loss of site specific knowledge will be penny wise, but in the long run, pound foolish.

    But that is the way with government.

    1. PhillipGeorge(c)2012April 7, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      mdh - whatever you earn is a pittance cf:- the desalination disaster or the 700+ million dollars of money to the wind north south pipeline.

      Wanthaggi now has Australia's/ one of the world's most expensive cathedrals to Green Gaian madness - and its commissioners are walking free inspite of the rape of democracy and fraudulent claims. Wanthaggi is a church of ideologues; where everyone must attend - and pay and pay and pay, collectable at every household, monthly, quarterly, backed by sheriffs and process servers.

      GK Chesterton said, misquoting him liberally, when people turn their back on God they don't start believing nothing, they'll believe anything....

      science is become the epistemological blinkers for horses already lame and feeble through neglect.

  3. I'm sure the sacked scientists will be quickly snapped up by the Joolya Government in an effort to bolster the numbers of the many green jobs being created by the carbon 'dioxide' tax.

  4. Memories.....

    I recall an Alaskan fishing trip when a small yellow daisy-like plant from Europe had just colonised and was now everywhere along the roads in Denali National Park.

    The NP staff were in psychological meltdown,
    the sky was falling in,
    the ideology was breeched.

    Pestilence and plague and a Republican Governor were even preferable to the European 'daisy'.

    Million gallon herbicide spraying programs were hatched

    Then the enlightened newly arrived chief of Operations for the Park had the ideologically programmed 'end days' staff gather in a conference room where he preceded to hold a 60 second meeting, saying something like..........

    "This plant has arrived, it will be here forever, get over it, now go back to work".

  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.April 7, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Best and more efficient to hire back a few consultants when you really need input than to keep on a group of paid agitators providing 'science' that isn't really good or required. I accept mdh's point that some ecological workers are worth having; but a great sort-out seems needed nevertheless. Maybe then too scientists of a sensible inclination will do more to stop scientists of the deep green religion from promulgating over-hyped garbage that taints everyone in the end. Warning bells ringing, guys.

  6. Poor fella me ! That is always the way after an alp really petty bougoise government . ..Good luck in a Real job

  7. Walter Plinge of TemplestoweApril 7, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    Thank goodness there were no Libby Rumpfffs around in the 18th century. She would have been shrieking to have Lancelot Brown hung, drawn and quartered. We need a new Capability Brown in these parts. Most of our local parts over overgrown, dead-tree strewn wastelands. Really ugly. But the rats and rabbits have got a 'natural' habitat however.

  8. The Bailieu government hasn't announced the end of VEET etc. yet but after NSW's lead it may well follow. Same reason- Carbon Tax duplication. Also, like NSW, it's creating tonnes of certificates that no one other than electricity companies want to buy...

  9. Sorry but cattle have very little effect on willow other than to neatly prune them to an upside down bowl look.

  10. If we ever get an Adult Government again ,Batchelors of arts may become one of our major exportsv,along with fleeing union and alp credit card users.That will do our reputation good overseas?

  11. Bunyip old chap, that noxious weeds in Victoria are being reclassified and have been having their nomenclature reclassified has been on this reader's radar for quite some time.

    In the DPI prior to Big Ted's plonking of his derriere in the premier's chair, the department was formerly known as the Department of Profiteering Incorporated, some of whose very senior public servants with business sounding titles have now taken life long sabbatical away from public service. The department was so full of of personal and professional accounting misadventures they would have made Alan Bond and WA Inc appear Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn types as appear white collar novices. Strange how the mainstream media misses scoops bent over their computer screens and not actually having real life 3 dimensional contacts or sources. These worthies official titles one and all now read gone droving don't know where the are, in the internal phone directory.

    My source who I will never reveal under threat of duress (a loose $100-00 note in a brown paper bag dropped on a floor adjacent may make one human and could never be deemed a personal threat of any kind, would be different) advises that Premier Ted and his razor toe cutter types have been moving people aside with the age old epithet do you quit or do I call in the rozzers, with said department to become renamed under a quaint historical title the department of Primary Industries and 10% less weight in telephone sanitisers, marketing executives and gender equality placement experts, there is even the odd rumor circulating that there might even be boffin types doing science. It is said the national body, Crooked Scientists Irrelevant Rabid Organisation is having almost massive fits and vapors amongst it's clergy and lay officials at the possibility of that HERETIC Tony Chuck Norris Abbott becoming seated at the big chair in the centre of Parliament House presiding over treasury benches.

    I know all this sounds stranger than fiction, science research in actual science departments, but if one reads recent Labor Party history, one's ability to be astounded diminishes and one's astonishment quotient has been sated for an entire lifetime.

    Professor Rupus Holmes
    Nobel Laureate, Walker Award Winner, Fisherman, Master Mariner and sometime chronicler scribe Investigative Journalist.