Category Archives: Commentary

We live in a time of climate breakdown with no moral leadership


But we can take action

“ While we’re stuck inside our homes, we can effect change by putting our money where our mouth is and ending the fossil fuel era.

SIX YEARS AGO I found myself trying to find shade from the mid-morning sun while having a chat with a farmer, Rick Laird. We were chained together, six metres above the ground, on the deck of an enormous super digger in a clearing in what would become Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine.

I had gone up to Maules Creek to show solidarity with the community protesting against the mine; to add my voice to the hundreds of others who joined the Leard blockade and had been arrested. From farmers to uni students, scientists and university professors, and the unforgettable 92-year-old second world war veteran, Bill Ryan. There I met Rick. A farmer, father and volunteer firefighter who had never taken part in any climate action before.

SEEN ABOVE: David Pocock with farmer Rick Laird. (District Bulletin archives, December 2014, p1; via

Rick is a fifth-generation farmer; Leard state forest, 8,000 hectares of box gum woodland between Narrabri and Boggabri in the north-west of New South Wales, was named after his forebears. The coalmine we were trying to stop is just a few kilometres from his property and 4km from his kids’ school. Rick grew up on and around the rugby field, so he swung past the blockade camp in the morning to satisfy his curiosity about me being there. We chatted about farming, life in the country, his family and their ties to the area. Then we talked about the mine. He explained how he thought it was going to affect his farm, his community and his kids’ lives. He came back later in the day and we talked over lunch. I could sense we were both grappling with how to respond to these challenges. How do you make decisions? What are you willing to do in the face of injustice? The next day we locked on together.   CONTINUE READING

RELATED STORY:  Destruction of the Leard and threat to the Pilliga concerns everyone.  Maria Taylor. The District Bulletin, March 2016. pp7–10.


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24 scientists wrote to these officials about flawed and cruel aerial baiting with 1080 poison


(underway now in NSW, regardless)

17 February 2020

To:   The Honourable Sussan Ley MP Minister for Environment, Australia
Address: Parliament House  CANBERRA ACT  2600

cc: The Honourable David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture, Australia (

cc: The Honourable Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Victoria (

cc: The Honourable Jaclyn Symes, Minister for Agriculture, Victoria (

cc: The Honourable Matthew Kean MP, Minister for Energy and Environment, New South Wales (

cc: The Honourable Adam Marshall MP, Minister for Agriculture, New South Wales (

cc: Dr Sally Box, Threatened Species Commissioner (

Re: dingo (wild dog) baiting in South-eastern Australia and bushfire recovery

Dear Minister/s,

The undersigned wish to express our expert opinion on the status of dingoes across Australia in light of the current bushfire emergency. At the time of writing, more than 10 million hectares has been burnt across Australia, including 1.2 million hectares in Victoria and 4.9 million hectares in New South Wales. Across south-eastern Australia this represents burning of major dingo habitat zones in National Parks and State Forests.

[Signatories are experts from the following fields: predator ecology, biology, archaeology, cultural heritage, social science, humanities, animal behaviour and genetics].

We commend the Federal, NSW and VIC State Governments for their focus on assisting fauna and flora recovery after the catastrophic 2019֪–2020 bushfire season, however, the proposed ‘feral predator’ aerial baiting plans are counterproductive to that aim.

In particular, we wish to express concern about plans to undertake widespread 1080 “wild dog” aerial baiting across burnt habitat in NSW and VIC.

No existing knowledge — impacts on native predators, eg quolls, dingos and goannas

Aerial baiting with 1080 poison poses an unacceptable risk to native predators such as quolls, dingoes and varanids because it is unknown if food scarcity in burnt landscape may increase bait consumption leading to poisoning of quolls or varanids. Furthermore, dingoes are highly susceptible to 1080 baiting and are included as a direct target of “wild dog” baiting efforts.

Importantly, best-practice guidelines to limit 1080 baiting impacts on quolls suggests that all baits should be buried to a depth of more than 10cm and “aerial or broadcast surface baiting should only be used in areas where it can be demonstrated that there is a low risk to spot-tailed quoll populations.” (EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.4 — Significant impact guidelines for the endangered spot-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus maculatus (southeastern mainland population) and the use of 1080.)

Currently it is unknown how quolls and other non-target species will be impacted by aerial baiting in burnt habitat. Arguably, the recently proposed NSW “wildlife and conservation bushfire recovery” plan should be referred to the Federal Environment Minister under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for assessment.

Killing dingos exactly wrong thing to do if you want to suppress cats and foxes

Dingoes are the sole non-human land-based top predator on the Australian mainland. Their importance to the ecological health and resilience of Australian ecosystems cannot be overstated, from regulating wild herbivore abundance (eg various kangaroo species), to reducing the impacts of feral mesopredators (cats, foxes) on native marsupials (Johnson & VanDerWal 2009; Wallach et al. 2010; Letnic et al. 2012; Letnic et al. 2013; Newsome et al. 2015; Morris & Letnic 2017).

It would be hypothesised that continued dramatic reduction of dingo populations, by aerial baiting, will enable introduced mesopredators such as foxes and cats to exploit burnt areas unchecked, posing a high risk to threatened native species. The impacts of feral cats and red foxes are likely to be amplified in disturbed ecosystems, such as those burnt by bushfires. Indiscriminate and non-target specific lethal management should not be implemented if there is a risk to the persistence of threatened native fauna or ecosystem resilience.

Aerial baiting in bushfire affected south-eastern Australia is an unacceptable risk to native carnivores.

Here’s what SHOULD be happening post fire

We would urge the Federal, NSW and VIC State Governments to focus bushfire recovery efforts on proactive evidence-based measures including:

  • Installation of exclusion fences to protect recovering vegetation and wildlife communities (short-term).
  • Targeting lethal control measures to key refuge areas and important sites for remaining populations of threatened species.
  • Limiting lethal control to targeted methods such as shooting, trapping or ground-baiting where steps are taken to limit non-target bait consumption.
  • Providing supplemental shelter, food and water to identified remaining populations of threatened species.
  • Increasing post-fire weed control to protect regeneration efforts.


IMAGE: Susan Cruttenden.


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