Monday, June 24, 2013

Aboriginal group to challenge shale gas agreement - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Aboriginal group to challenge shale gas agreement - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The chief executive officer of Aboriginal charitable trust KRED, Wayne Bergmann, talks to Andrew O'Connor about a plan to challenge the validity of a State Agreement with the proponents of a plan to extract shale gas from the Canning Basin.
Source: 7pm TV News WA | Duration: 5min 22sec



    Native title challenge to gas bill

    ".....Premier Colin Barnett was quick to talk up the Canning Basin's shale gas potential when Woodside walked away from an onshore gas plant at James Price Point, saying it was inevitable those resources would be exploited.

    While he has pointed to the US shale boom, industry experts say the Canning Basin has a different geology and IS UNLIKELY to replicate the same level of success."

  2. "While the State Agreement has been a fillip, Buru's shares have dropped sharply over the past year as the market awaits news of exploration success. Mr Wulff said weak global markets were having an impact but defended Buru's potential, and reiterated the company was separately on track for production from its Ungani oilfield this year.

    His comments came as Premier Colin Barnett yesterday said the WA Government would press on with controversial plans to acquire land at James Price Point, north of Broome, for use for offshore Browse Basin and, eventually, Canning Basin gas processing."




    Slugcatcher's take on Wulff's comments :

    "“Buru new hope for NW Shelf project” said the heading on a story that must have caused Coleman to wonder who had spiked his morning bowl of Wheaties.

    In fact it wasn’t the Wheaties that caused the problem, it was comments attributed to the chief executive of Buru, Keiran Wulff.

    “Our intention is very much to pipe gas to a pipeline in Port Hedland or into the wider Pilbara, [but] there are an awful lot of expensive LNG developments along the NW Shelf that are going to be short on gas [in coming] decades,” Wulff is reported to have said.


    As far as The Slug can see the only shortage, if indeed it is a shortage, is in the supply of gas available to one project, Woodside’s Pluto development. Everyone else seems to have oodles of the stuff, and that’s before considering the mothballed gas deposits of conventional gas that could be easily connected to Pluto – at the right price.

    Rather than being a “new hope” for the NW Shelf a more appropriate observation about Buru’s plans to be a major supplier of gas might have been “what gas”.

    In time, Buru could discover commercial quantities of gas in its Canning Basin tenements. It certainly has not done that yet so to talk about being a supplier before you drill the holes and get the gas to flow is premature to say the least.

    In fact, it’s just as premature as the head of Occidental Petroleum, Armand Hammer, was 30 years ago when he famously described the Canning Basin as “bigger than Libya” thanks to one tiny oil discovery at Blina. He was wrong."




    Gazprom, Japan Sign MoU for Vladivostok LNG

    Japan Far East Gas Co., Ltd. (JFG), a company established by INPEX, ITOCHU, Japan Petroleum Exploration (JAPEX), Marubeni and ITOCHU Oil Exploration (CIECO), has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the natural gas liquefaction project in the Vladivostok area with Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom.

    JFG and Gazprom conducted a joint feasibility study (FS) for the natural gas utilization project in the Vladivostok area during year 2011 and 2012. Following the result of the above-mentioned study, this MOU was signed between JFG and Gazprom regarding the discussions on foundation of a joint project company as well as joint marketing activity in Japan, which would contribute to the realization of Vladivostok LNG project.

    Realization of this project is considered to be very important for the stable LNG supply to not only Japan but also to the other Asian countries, and will contribute to the diversification of Russia’s gas (LNG) export sources.


    1. Buru could be 20 years away from finding enough gas to "back fill" anything!

      Who knows what will happen in the next 20 years?

      Or 10?


    Then we had this just the other day :

    China oil deal puts pressure on WA

    A historic $292 billion oil deal between Russia and China will put pressure on WA as an emerging energy supplier to China, according to industry insiders.

    In a wake-up call for the local energy market, which supplies a small but growing chunk of China's energy needs through liquefied natural gas, the China-Russia deal is a sign that China - Australia's biggest trade partner - is expanding its horizons to feed its energy-hungry population.


    China is WA's second-biggest importer of LNG behind Japan, however industry experts expect China to soon take over as its population becomes more energy-intensive.

    The implications of the China-Russia tie-up on WA's burgeoning LNG sector will send shivers down the spine of the cash-strapped State Government, which has been hanging its hat on the future development of WA's gas reserves as the iron ore sector plateaus.


    CNPC Buys 20 Pct Stake in Yamal LNG Project, Russia

    NOVATEK and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) on Friday concluded a framework agreement on cooperation within the Yamal LNG project.

    The agreement provides for:
    ◾acquisition by CNPC of a 20% stake in the Project;
    ◾conclusion of a long-term contract for supply of at least 3 million tons of LNG per annum; and
    ◾active assistance in organizing the provision of external financing for the Project from the Chinese financial institutions.

    The acquisition of a 20% stake in the Project by CNPC is estimated to be closed by 1 October 2013.

    Chairman of the Board of Directors of CNPC Zhou Jiping stated: “We are glad to conclude this agreement with NOVATEK on our entrance into the Yamal LNG project based on vast conventional gas reserves, guaranteeing long-term sustainable supplies of LNG to China. We acknowledge that Russia is giving a lot of attention to its expansion into the international LNG markets and we welcome the increase in Russian LNG supplies to China”.


    Rosneft Reveals LNG Accords with Japanese Firms

    Rosneft President and Chairman of the Management Board Igor Sechin and Managing Executive Officer, Regional CEO for Europe & CIS of Marubeni Corporation Motoo Uchiyama signed a Heads of Agreement for sale and purchase of liquefied natural gas (HoA) at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum. LNG will be delivered to Marubeni under a new LNG project Rosneft intends to develop in the Russian Far East.


    CEAA Invites Public to Comment on Prince Rupert LNG Project (Canada)

    As part of the strengthened and modernized Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) put in place to support the government’s Responsible Resource Development Initiative, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency commenced a federal environmental assessment for the proposed Prince Rupert LNG Project located in British Columbia.

    The Agency invites the public to comment on which aspects of the environment may be affected by this project and what should be examined during the environmental assessment.


    Rosneft, ExxonMobil to Move on Next Planning Phase for LNG Project in Russian Far East

    Rosneft and ExxonMobil announced the achievement of several milestones under their 2011 Strategic Cooperation Agreement, including joint venture formation for the Kara Sea and Black Sea projects, and establishing foundations for joint ventures to explore seven other licenses in the Russian Arctic and to manage the joint West Siberia tight oil project. The companies have also agreed to move to the next planning phase for an LNG development in the Russian Far East.


    Alaska SC LNG Project Starts Summer Field Work

    ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and TransCanada have begun summer field work as part of their activities associated with a staged pre-FEED (front end engineering design) for the Alaska South Central LNG (SC LNG) project. This summer field work will employ approximately 150 people.


    PetroChina Starts Work on First Shale Gas Pipeline in Sichuan

    Petro China the nation’s largest oil producer, began construction on the country’s first pipeline dedicated to transporting shale gas.

    The pipeline will span 93 kilometers (58 miles) from Sichuan province’s Changning block and will have a daily transport volume of 4.5 million cubic meters, China National Petroleum Corp., PetroChina’s parent, said in a statement on its website today. It will link with an existing pipeline that carries gas to Yunnan province.

    PetroChina didn’t provide information on when it will be completed or on production of the Changning block.

    China has the world’s largest shale gas resources, estimated at 4,746 trillion cubic feet (134.4 trillion cubic meters), according to data from the Ministry of Land and Resources and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Within China, Sichuan has the largest potential, according to a report last week by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.



    NuEnergy of Australia Optimistic on African Shale-Gas Finds




    NuEnergy Gas Ltd. (NGY), an Australian power-development company, said it’s optimistic of making significant shale-gas finds in eastern Africa, where it has begun exploration.

    The company is starting to search for shale gas in Malawi, has applied for permits in Tanzania and is looking to explore in Zambia, Mozambique and other eastern African nations, Chairman Graeme Robertson said in a phone interview on June 18.

    While there has been a boom in shale-gas production worldwide in nations including the U.S. and Australia, only a handful of countries in Africa are working to develop reserves. South Africa, which has the world’s fifth-biggest reserves, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are among the countries on the continent with the most shale-gas potential, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

    “If you look at maps of shale gas resources in the world, there is a big blank south of the Sahara,” Robertson said. “We are quite optimistic that we will be able to find some good shale-gas resources.”




    1. Oil India, ONGC to Buy Mozambique Gas Stake; Kazakh Deal Looms

      NEW DELHI - State run Oil India Ltd. and Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Tuesday said they will pay $2.48 billion for a 10% stake in an offshore Mozambique gas field, just one week before the deadline for an ONGC bid for Kazakhstan oil assets costing more than twice this amount.

      The two ventures underscore the urgency India is showing in acquiring foreign oil and gas overseas to help bridge its growing energy deficit and import bills. ONGC said last year it will need to invest as much as $20 billion to realize its target of a sevenfold increase in oil and gas output from overseas by 2030.


      "East Africa is coming up as the hottest energy destination. All the major energy companies are there. Entry of more Indian companies in Mozambique, given the country's dependence on energy imports and falling local output, is indeed a good news," said Praveen Kumar, head of south Asia at consultancy FACTS Global Energy in Singapore.

      "The kind of money we are talking about for such energy deals is huge. The state-run companies have deep pockets and also the government backing so I don't see a problem funding wise," he said.


      China Gas Industry to Be Worth 670 Bln Cubic Meters by 2020, Report Says

      “Research Report on China’s Natural Gas Industry Chain, 2013-2017” is the new market research reports added to store. This report predicts that the supply volume of natural gas will reach 300 billion cubic meters by 2015 and it is likely to reach 670 billion cubic meters (850 million tons of standard coal) by 2020.

      According to conservative estimates, the Chinese government will strengthen unconventional gas import if the exploitation does not go well. Regardless of the quality of domestic natural gas, it is predicted that natural gas will be dominant in primary energy in China by 2020. Meanwhile, the entire industry chain of natural gas will also achieve great development.


      The reserves of conventional natural gas and unconventional natural gas are extremely abundant in China. According to the third national evaluation on petroleum & natural gas resources from China Ministry of Land and Resources,

      As for many enterprises in the natural gas industry, there are many investment opportunities in the coming years.


    2. Steel Cutting Ceremony Held for Petronas FLNG, Malaysia

      Petronas held steel cutting ceremony for its floating LNG facility. The ceremony was led by PETRONAS’ President and Group CEO, Tan Sri Dato’ Shamsul Azhar Abbas and was jointly hosted by Technip’s President & CEO Mr. Thierry Pilenko and DSME’s President & CEO Mr. Jaeho Ko.

      PETRONAS signed the engineering, procurement, construction, installation and commissioning contract for the project with the Technip and DSME consortium in June 2012.

      The floating LNG facility will be located in Malaysia’s Kanowit gas field, 180 kilometres offshore Sarawak and will have the capacity to produce 1.2 mtpa of LNG per year.

      Once operational, the facility is expected to change the landscape of the LNG business where the liquefaction, production and offloading processes of LNG, previously only possible at onshore plants are now able to be carried out hundreds of kilometres away from land and closer to offshore gas sources.

      As such, the facility will also play a significant role in efforts to unlock the gas reserves in Malaysia’s remote and stranded fields currently deemed uneconomical to develop and evacuate.

  5. Don't forget our old friends in Ireland.


    Oil and Gas: What's In It For The Irish?

    Since Providence Resources plc scored a major success with its Barryroe discovery in the spring of 2012 off the south coast of Ireland in the Celtic Sea, offshore Ireland has seen increasing interest not only from junior explorers but from super majors like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Spain's Repsol S.A.


    All of this is very exciting for ExxonMobil, Repsol and for investors in juniors like Providence. But what will Ireland, and the Irish people in particular, get from the exploitation of the country's offshore resources?

    Amid a general downturn in Ireland’s economy since the advent of the eurozone crisis, various voices from within the country have emerged that have been highly critical of the Irish government’s relationship with the oil industry. Describing the situation as "The Great Oil and Gas Giveaway" campaigning groups such as Own Our Oil and Shell to Sea are concerned that rules introduced by Ireland decades ago are, in their current form, too heavily weighted in favor of exploration companies – particularly when compared to the rules governing oil and gas exploration in other western European countries like Norway and the UK.

    Among their concerns are:
    •no royalties are paid to the state
    •resources found can be exported directly abroad (so that Ireland will not necessarily enhance its energy security by allowing exploration in its territory)
    •resources found do not have to be landed in Ireland or use Irish services or workers for their recovery

    Indeed, the only guaranteed benefit to Ireland is a tax on profits on the sale of the oil or gas (which varies between 25 percent and 40 percent). But the critics say that plenty of this tax revenue will not be seen past exploration and development costs going back 25 years can be written off against it.


    A 'Call to Arms' to Irish Contractors

    In response to questions from Rigzone about what the oil and gas sector can do for Ireland, Providence CEO Tony O'Reilly commented:

    "As an Irish company, Providence has a policy to utilize Irish workers as appropriate. Unfortunately, there are no Irish rig owners (yet) so naturally we have to use international contractors. Hopefully that will change as the industry develops. Likewise, there are limited support service operators – so again, we have to take resources where we can get them from for now."


    "I like to think that we have also elevated the debate, by commissioning the PWC report, on fiscal terms and regulatory issues to ensure that there are clear facts and figures – instead of emotive mis-statements by the anti-oil lobby – that can be used by all stakeholders in ensuring appropriate policies to foster more investment and develop the industry," O'Reilly said.

    "As an active member of IOOA (Irish Offshore Operators Association), we are also trying to educate people on the industry through a media campaign.

    "Finally, we are working with third level institutions to ensure that courses are being introduced - such as geology, engineering, etc. – to create more talent in Ireland. Currently, most graduates have had to go overseas to work, but that will change and an educated workforce will only enhance a growing vibrant industry.

    "So we are doing quite a lot. It is early days but I think we are beginning to see the growth of the industry in Ireland. And of course, every dollar and new job created that comes in is incremental to what we have now."

  6. Woodside in the Eastern Med doldrums....

    Israel: Gas Boom Hampered by Export Problems, Report Says

    The discovery of huge reserves of gas will make Israel – a country once entirely dependent on imported fuel – self-sufficient in electricity production for the first time since its creation in 1948.

    And the offshore gas fields could make the state a major player in the Mediterranean gas market, writes World Review author and energy economist Dr Carole Nakhle, University of Surrey, UK. But the increasing isolation of Israel in the Middle East may hamper any export potential.

    Israel has been discovering gas in its waters since 1999. But the discoveries that substantially altered its energy outlook include: the Mari-B field (30 billion cubic metres – bcm); Tanin (31 bcm); Tamar (246 bcm); and Leviathan (480 bcm). Mari-B is now nearly depleted. Over the next 10 years, Tamar is expected to supply between 50 and 80 per cent of Israel’s gas consumption needs.

    Israel will produce enough gas for its domestic market, and in theory, have enough surplus to export to foreign markets.

    “However, the export potential is fraught with problems given the complex political make-up of the region,” she says.

    “If Israel had a ‘normal’ relationship with its neighbours, an efficient option would have been to connect to the existing network of pipeline, sell the gas regionally and send the rest to Turkey and from there reach out to the European customer.”

    “But because of the prevailing political climate, other more expensive and complex options such as an offshore floating liquified natural gas terminal (FLNG) need to be considered.”

    The dispute with Lebanon over maritime boundaries is ongoing. The civil war in Syria shows no signs of abating and there is the added problem of potential spill-over to neighbouring countries.

    Furthermore, the relationship between Israel and Turkey has been tense. Turkey opposes any hydrocarbon-related deal between Israel and Greek Cyprus until a settlement with Northern Cyprus is reached.

    “Many would argue that Israel is not, politically, an attractive destination for international oil and gas capital.”


      For the second time in a week, the future prospects of Australia’s second largest oil and gas producer, Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL), have hit a political snag that may throw uncertainty on the company’s long-term earnings.


      But does this make Woodside a more risky investment, or are these political issues just inherent business risks faced by all oil and gas companies?

      Governments are always going to be tricky beasts to tackle, especially when it comes to a nation’s energy reserves, which can be huge sources of a wealth at both a state and national level. We saw this last week when Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett threatened to revoke Woodside’s state retention lease for the Browse Basin if it followed through with plans for floating LNG (FLNG) production. This was because it would require the state to forego billions of dollars in benefits and royalties.

      Now Woodside’s US$696 million investment in Israel’s Leviathan gas field Joint Venture faces uncertainty after the Israeli government elected to keep 60% of its natural gas reserves for domestic use, leaving just 40% available to export.


      The political speed bumps should not be thought of as a lingering concern for investors considering Woodside as an addition to their long-term portfolio. Instead they should be thought of as a necessary evil of the large scale production that Woodside operates on. They are the same issues as have affected successful oil giants like BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP), Exxon Mobil and BP for decades.

      Foolish takeaway

      Government negotiations will be an inevitable part of any large-scale growth opportunities Woodside. There will be delays and there will be conflicts. Investors in Woodside’s can have faith in the company’s management, who have proven experience with international production from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and Peru.

  7. OH JOY!!!

    PTTEP Resumes Oil Production at Montara Field

    PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited (PTTEP), announced that PTTEP Australasia (Ashmore Cartier) Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of PTTEP, has started to introduce hydrocarbon to the Montara Venture floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facility at the beginning of June in the Montara field offshore Western Australia.

    The Thailand-based oil and gas company said the Montara Venture FPSO achieved steady production June 12.

    Oil production at the Montara field is projected to ramp up to 21,000 barrels per day (bopd) initially. Production is expected to rise to 30,000 bopd following completion of one additional development well scheduled for the second half of 2013. The first crude oil sales offtake is expected in August this year, PTTEP said in a statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.


    ".....Premier Colin Barnett was quick to talk up the Canning Basin's shale gas potential when Woodside walked away from an onshore gas plant at James Price Point, saying it was inevitable those resources would be exploited.

    While he has pointed to the US shale boom, industry experts say the Canning Basin has a different geology and IS UNLIKELY to replicate the same level of success."





    (the way Barnett is going there may have to be one more down the track somewhere)


  8. Rotary Rig count Australia:11.00 for May 2013

    May 31, 2013 11.00
    April 30, 2013 10.00
    March 31, 2013 8.00
    Feb. 28, 2013 14.00
    Jan. 31, 2013 9.00
    Dec. 31, 2012 11.00
    Nov. 30, 2012 10.00
    Oct. 31, 2012 8.00
    Sept. 30, 2012 8.00
    Aug. 31, 2012 10.00
    July 31, 2012 12.00
    June 30, 2012 11.00
    May 31, 2012 11.00
    April 30, 2012 11.00
    March 31, 2012 9.00
    Feb. 29, 2012 10.00
    Jan. 31, 2012 8.00
    Dec. 31, 2011 7.00
    Nov. 30, 2011 5.00
    Oct. 31, 2011 8.00
    Sept. 30, 2011 8.00
    Aug. 31, 2011 8.00
    July 31, 2011 6.00
    June 30, 2011 6.00
    May 31, 2011 6.00


    US for May 2013 Land rigs = 1,715

    Asia Pacific = 143

    Canada = 126

    Canning Basin WA = 1 Ensign 32 depth rating 3200m

    WA rigs capable of 5000m horizontal drilling = 1 on Barrow Island Chevron.
    "New rig to WA
    Ensign International mobilised the
    new-build ADR1500 (automated drill
    rig) Rig 963 from Houston to Perth in mid-2012 for Chevron’s Barrow Island
    drilling program. The automated drilling
    rig CAN DRILL TO NEARLY 5500 m and has
    been specifically designed to minimise
    its environmental footprint on Barrow
    Island by allowing multiple wells to be
    drilled from a single location. The rig
    is drilling infill oil development wells
    on Barrow Island before commencing
    drilling activities for the Gorgon CO2
    injection project in 2013.


    Jeffrey Haworth
    Director Technology,
    Petroleum and Geothermal
    Petroleum Division :

    "We visited a number of West Texas
    sites including BHP Billiton and
    ConocoPhillips — where advanced
    drilling technologies and hydraulic
    fracturing is being used to safely and
    effectively extract shale gas.

    Our tour also included visits to rig
    manufacturers, to inspect firsthand
    the modern AC hydraulic rigs needed
    to drill the deep horizontal wells for
    shale gas and Halliburton’s research
    facility, where new fracturing fluids
    and cements are developed to
    improve fracturing efficiency and are
    environmentally friendly.

    The visit was an invaluable opportunity
    to learn from a country so advanced in
    shale gas and oil production like the US,
    as WA’s shale and tight gas industry is
    currently in the early exploration phase
    and these technologies will be adopted
    as the industry develops."

    "2012 Overview
    In 2012, there were 12 wells drilled
    and 10 seismic surveys carried out in
    Western Australian State Waters and
    onshore. The greatest activity was in
    the Canning Basin where eight new field
    wildcats and one appraisal well were
    drilled. One well, Evandra 2, was drilled
    in the onshore Perth Basin by AWE
    Limited, and two development wells,
    Bambra 10H ST3 and Barrow G84B MB
    were spudded in the Carnarvon Basin,
    by Apache and Chevron respectively.
    The surveys comprised three 3D seismic
    surveys, two 2D seismic surveys, two
    geochemical and one each of gravity,
    aeromagnetic and electronic spin
    resonance surveys. Details of these
    activities can be found in the tables
    (3&4) at the back of this magazine."

    "Buru plans to build a 2400 kL/d
    (15,000 bbl/d) production facility and
    export terminal on Western Australia’s
    northwest coast to develop the
    Ungani oilfield and has applied for a
    location over the Ungani field ahead
    of submitting an application for a Production Licence. Buru has submitted
    their preliminary Field Development Plan
    to DMP for approval."





  9. According to Barnett on Geoff Hutchinson this morning when he was in Broome a couple of weeks back the Jabbir Jabbir "pleaded" with him to CA JPP!

    For $30 million!

    Guess the premier isn't the only one with that bitter feeling.

    Spiteful policies.

    He also conceded shale gas from the Canning Basin for export would be a long way away but he needed JPP for the export plant.

    BUT no one else does.

  10. THE AFRICAN era of oil and gas is a double-edged sword for Australia. It is a great opportunity for small producers, but it may also dampen the Australian LNG industry.


    A TEAM of researchers from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training are delving into the densest layers of rock, sediment and clay that rule the fate of 97% of the world’s water. Their findings could have ramifications for the coal seam gas industry.

    They hope to understand how water penetrates these stubborn layers deep underground.

    “Since fresh water holds the key to Australia’s future population, food and industries, understanding how water penetrates the various layers underground is central to how we look after and manage it,” NCGRT team member Dr Wendy Timms said.

    “If we cannot tell if an overlying layer is waterproof, we can’t be sure that drilling for gas or burying hazardous wastes may not contaminate other waters above or around it.

    “If we can’t be certain a layer is impermeable, we may not be able to safely store carbon dioxide below it to slow climate change.”

    So far the team has measured about 100 samples of rock collected from major basins across the continent from depths of up to 1km to test the rates water can penetrate them.


    SANTOS has yet to figure out a way forward at Winchester-1 in WA-323-P after the well hit gas higher than anticipated and water started to flow into the well from an over-pressured zone.

    Joint venture partner Octanex told the market today that the well was shut in after it hit an over-pressured zone, leading to an influx of water into the wellbore.

    ....when it drilled deeper it hit an over-pressured zone and an influx of gas and water into the wellbore meant it had to shut the well in.



    Search for shale gas reserves

    Posted Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:39pm AEST

    There is growing concern over plans to exploit the vast shale gas reserves in the Canning Basin in the state's north.

    Claire Moodie

    Source: 7.30 WA | Duration: 7min 27sec

    Topics: broome-6725


    WA Premier strengthens relationship with China

    The WA Premier Colin Barnett says an agreement struck with one of Asia's most influential banks will boost the level of Chinese investment in big projects across the state.

    It has been revealed Mr Barnett signed a memorandum of understanding between Western Australia and the state-owned China Development Bank last July.


    Pilbara most expensive in the country

    Federal Government report has conceded the cost of running a business in the Pilbara is much higher than anywhere else in the country and even most places internationally.

    The Regional Development Australia report also compares the cost of living between the Perth metropolitan area and the Pilbara.

    It found an average water bill in Onslow is 286 per cent higher than what people would pay in Perth.

    And compared to Perth, the cost of education is higher, private rent is 435 per cent more expensive and even home insurance is 393 per cent higher.


    Government apologises for report "oversight"

    The State Government has apologised for a report on Western Australia's cultural diversity which failed to mention indigenous languages or beliefs.

    The report detailed the languages, cultures and religious affiliations of West Australians based on 2011 Census data.

    But it excludes any reference to indigenous languages, religious beliefs or cultures, merely stating 70,000 people identified as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander on the last page of the report.

    An indigenous MP, the Member for the Kimberley Josie Farrer, has described the omission as insulting.


    Auditor General calls for PATS to be tightened

    The Auditor General says processes surrounding the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme need to be strengthened to avoid the potential for fraud and misconduct.

    The Health Department provides subsidies to help regional residents travel to medical specialists, unavailable locally.

    A report tabled in Parliament yesterday shows changes to eligibility criteria and subsidy rates have contributed to a significant increase in demand and costs in the past three years.


    Free ferry rides for Fremantle to Perth commuters during rail shutdown

    Commuters are being offered free ferry rides between Perth and Fremantle next month during planned rail shut-downs.

    Train services will be disrupted on most lines and cancelled entirely on the Fremantle line for two five-day periods, from July 17, to allow for works on the Perth City Link.

    A 300-seat ferry will run five times a day between Barrack Street Jetty in Perth and Fremantle's B Shed, with a one-way journey time of one-hour-and-15-minutes.

  12. Last days of Environment Department before split

    The head of a State Government department about to be split into two says he is expecting a seamless transition.

    The Department of Environment and Conservation will be divided into two new Departments from Monday.

    The Department of Parks and Wildlife will focus on environmental protection and promoting the public use of WA's national parks.

    While the Department of Environmental Regulation will be responsible for land clearing and development applications and pollution control.

    Acting Director-General Jim Sharpe says the division will allow the two services to be delivered more effectively.

    "That's what we're about doing, not only doing it with the funds available, but being more effective with the funds available," he said.

    "I believe from the point of view of the people we work with, and the stakeholders we engage with, it should be totally seamless. There's should not be any change at all.

    "We are going to continue with the same on-ground regional presence in terms of the Department of Parks and Wildlife and also in terms of environmental regulation. And so the accessibility of staff will remain the same."


    Perth could swelter in 50C days: study

    Man-made climate change is likely to have played a role in the "angry" summer Aussies endured this year, researchers say.

    These types of extreme summers will become even more frequent and severe, the study led by the University of Melbourne showed.

    It concluded global warming increased the chances of more "angry" Australian summers by more than five times.

    Study co-author David Karoly said the chance of Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide eventually experiencing 50C days is "quite high" due to ongoing climate change.

    The study showed with more than 90 per cent confidence that human influences on the atmosphere dramatically increased the likelihood of the extreme 2013 summer.

    "This extreme summer is not only remarkable for its record-breaking nature but also because it occurred at a time of weak La Nina to neutral conditions, which generally produces cooler summers," Professor Karoly said.

    Dubbed "Australia’s angry hot summer" by the Climate Commission, parts of WA, Queensland and the Northern Territory experienced their highest temperatures on record in 2013 and much of the country sweltered through temperatures very much above average, Professor Karoly said.

    It was the hottest on observational record.

    Lead study author Sophie Lewis said the angry summer had come at a time when cooler summers were most likely to occur.

    "These types of extreme summers will become even more frequent and more severe in the future," Dr Lewis said.

    The next hottest summer on record occurred in 1998.

    Dr Lewis said for the period of 2006 to 2020, modelling showed summers like 1998 would occur once every 16 years when only natural climate forces were at play.
    However, when human influences such as greenhouse gases were introduced, they happened almost one every two years.

  13. State-sanctioned torture can never be justified

    What with all the distractions from Canberra many important things have sailed by, relatively unnoticed: a High Court decision striking down the Australian Crime Commission's power to interrogate accused people before trial, a report from the NSW Police Integrity Commission recommending perjury charges against officers involved in the death of Adam Salter, and the fate of whales at the International Court of Justice.

    Another quiet episode that wafted under the radar on Wednesday was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It marks the anniversary of the UN anti-torture convention which took effect on June 26, 1987. Australia is one of the signatories to the convention and has also ratified it.

    There is also an optional protocol under the convention that would permit UN inspectors into Australia's detention centres to check whether everything is as it should be. Unsurprisingly, the Howard government refused to sign the optional protocol. That was left to the first Rudd government, which also got Parliament to pass amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code extending the penalties to acts of torture committed within Australia.


    The British government is believed to have made 400 settlements with Iraqis mistreated by British forces. Britain has also paid out about £1 million to a former resident, Shaker Aamer, after claims that he was mistreated by the Americans in Guantá´namo Bay. He is still being held at the Bay.

    There's also the case of Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi, to whom the Brits have forked out £2.2 million for participating in his family's abduction by the CIA and his rendition to Libya for torture by Muammar Gaddafi.

    There have been cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

    Khaled El-Masri received an award of £49,000 from the ECHR against Macedonia for his mistaken rendition by the CIA.

    The woman running that flawed operation has been identified as Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. She was never disciplined, instead going on to head the bin Laden unit and used as the model for the American heroine Maya in Zero Dark Thirty.

    One official has gone to jail for participating in the CIA extraordinary rendition and torture program: an Italian intelligence chief.

    The only other prisoner is John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer and whistleblower, who is locked up in the US for exposing details of waterboarding and disclosing the identity of an undercover agent.

    An Open Society Justice Initiative report lists Australia as among 54 countries that have aided CIA secret detention, extraordinary rendition and torture. Other rule-of-law countries listed are Sweden, Germany, Canada and Britain.

    We are in the picture because of the Mamdouh Habib case, where there is evidence Australian officials were present while he was tortured in Egypt.

    The other aspects of torture that should not be neglected are the unreliable ''intelligence'' that it delivers, and the tainting of evidence such that the trials of some pretty gruesome terrorism suspects are put indefinitely on hold.

    Happy Torture Day.

  14. Hundreds expected at state memorial service for Mr Yunupingu

    Hundreds of people are expected to attend today's state memorial service for the former frontman of Yothu Yindi.

    Mr Yunupingu died earlier this month aged 56 at his home in Yirrkala community, after a long battle with kidney disease.

    He will be remembered today at Gulkula, the site of the Yothu Yindi Foundation's annual Garma music festival, which is 40 kilometres from the township of Nhulunbuy.

    Hundreds of guests are due to attend the service, and a number of politicians and prominent Australian musicians have already flown in.

    It is understood Qantas had to organise a larger plane than usual to fly to Nhulunbuy, and local hotels in the town are bursting with guests.

    Paul Kelly, who co-wrote Yothu Yindi's international hit Treaty, arrived on a flight from Darwin yesterday morning.

    Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and a number of federal MPs and Northern Territory MLAs from both sides will also be there.

    With a view of the ocean in the distance, 450 chairs have been placed in front of a small stage in an undercover area at Gulkula.

    Federal MP and former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett will act as the master of ceremonies.


    From the bush behind the last row of seats, Bungul dancers from Mr Yunupingu's Gumatj clan will emerge. It is one of the first performances those at the service will see.

    Mr Yunupingu's nephew and renowned Australian musician Gurrumul Yunupingu is also expected to perform.

    Organisers are preparing for a continuous stream of artists who want to pay their respects to the 1992 Australian of the Year through music.

    East Journey is a young Aboriginal band from Mr Yunupingu's Yolngu homelands.

    The group was mentored by Mr Yunupingu and will perform his favourite song of theirs.


    Yothu Yindi band mate Witiyana Marika is also mourning Mr Yunupingu's death.

    "He wanted to achieve for his people a treaty, for rights for the people, equal rights," he said.

    "He inspired other people to be like him.

    "He wasn't a politician, but [will be remembered for] the understanding he took to the people, to the world, through music. I miss him very much."

    Mr Marika adds he hopes Yothu Yindi will one day make music again, in a show of respect for Mr Yunupingu.

    It is yet to be decided when a private funeral for Mr Yunupingu will be held.


  15. Study questions rock art style shift

    NEW research has attributed the change between particular rock art styles in the Kimberley to a climate shift thousands of years ago, which indicates the demise of a society of early humans and the emergence of their successors.

    University of Queensland climatologist and Associate Professor Hamish McGowan has produced a paper showing evidence of an arid phase in the Kimberley’s climate from the mid-Holocene period (11,500 years ago to present).

    He says palynological evidence from a sedimentary core sample at Black Springs in the northwest Kimberley suggests a catastrophic culture and population collapse, brought about by climate change, accounted for the demise of the Gwion-Gwion or Bradshaw rock art style.

    “The vegetation record … shows evidence of a slightly wetter environment around 4600 yrs B.P. before becoming progressively drier until around 3200 to 2800 yrs B.P.,” Prof McGowan says.

    “Very dry conditions followed from about 2750 yrs B.P. to around 1300 yrs B.P.”

    He says that a different society of people may have colonised the region, producing Wanjina paintings at least 1200 years after the earlier style ceased production.

    UWA archaeologist and Winthrop Professor Peter Veth says while the palynological evidence is a valuable discovery, archaeological evidence does not support the notion of a people dying out.

    He cites observations from excavations and other studies of sites which had been occupied near-continuously for 35-42,000 years.

    “When new kinds of technologies get introduced, they don’t actually correlate with that mid-Holocene change in climate,” W/Prof Veth says.


  16. Saturday, September 15th, 2012 Digital imaging reveals ancient rock art Scientists working in the central Kimberley have uncovered ancient Goonyandi rock art using digital technology. - See more at:




    Tsunami finding rocks research

    The first time it occurred to Phillip Playford that tsunamis could have hit the WA coast was when he saw giant blocks of limestone stranded above cliffs on Legendre Island as he sailed past the Pilbara landmark in 1977.

    Then in 2009 the geologist was sailing past Koks Island, near Shark Bay, on the Leeuwin when he noticed similar limestone chunks on the flat surface of the island.

    But it was not until 2010, while surveying at Shark Bay, that he was able to find evidence the blocks were the result of huge tsunamis that pummelled the WA coast before white settlement, eroding cliffs and throwing the giant boulders up to hundreds of metres inland.

    The waves would probably have killed thousands of Aboriginal people when they slammed into the coast from Shark Bay to beyond the Northern Territory border and are probably responsible for the unique sculptured coastline of the Kimberley.

    Dr Playford said the tsunami deposits in WA were some of the biggest anywhere in the world and were probably from tsunamis that reached about 20m high with a run-up height of up to 35m.

    He said the biggest block he knew of, on Dirk Hartog Island, weighed about 700 tonnes.

    "That's been moved about 250m inland and 15m above sea level and the only way it could have been moved there is by a huge tsunami," he said.

    Dr Playford said the most recent tsunami deposits had been dated as from 2900 years ago and the oldest from more than 5000 years ago.

    "But there's one date that suggests as recently as 600 years ago," he said. "There clearly have been several tsunamis."

    The finding is the latest discovery in an extraordinary life for Dr Playford.

    He made headlines in 1954 when as a fresh-faced 22-year-old he rediscovered the wreck of the Zuytdorp, a Dutch East India company ship that sank north of Kalbarri in 1712.

    Then in the 1960s, Dr Playford travelled to the Great Sandy Desert and met Aboriginal communities who had never come across white people before, taking many photographs. Now, when he is 81, his tsunami research marks yet another incredible contribution to the State's history from the former director of the Geological Survey of WA.

    "Most tsunami deposits are subtle but these ones along here sure aren't," Dr Playford said.

    "And the amazing thing is they've gone almost unreported, left to a fellow like me in the closing phases of my career to have found them."

    It is not known what caused the tsunamis but Dr Playford has three theories about what could be responsible - movement along local faults, the impact of one or several asteroids in the Indian Ocean or landslides on the slope of the Continental Shelf.

    He said there was no telling when another tsunami of the same magnitude might hit WA.

    "If it hit today it would have catastrophic consequences . . . but it might be tomorrow or it might be 10,000 years, no one knows," he said.

    Dr Playford's research is to be published in a Geological Survey of WA bulletin on Shark Bay and he has given talks about the findings to the Royal Society of WA and the Kimberley Society.


  17. Saturday, June 29th, 2013 Government drilling grants total $188,000 The state government has granted $188,000 for exploration drilling programs in the Kimberley.


    In all, 61 mineral and petroleum projects have been offered co-funding of nearly $7.2 million through the program, which is part of the State’s Exploration Incentive Scheme (EIS). Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion said the projects would involve drilling for a wide spectrum of commodities across 2013-14.


    Sunday, June 30th, 2013 Opinion: Scott Ludlam on anti-fracking legislation Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the Greens tried to legislate to protect groundwater from hydraulic fracturing last week.


    “The Greens were the lone Party … voting in favour of modifying the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013” Senator Ludlam said “The argument that shale and tight gas extraction does not pose risks to water doesn’t hold; evidence from the US shows that 6-7% of shale gas wells fail within one year of construction and more than 60 per cent fail after 30 years. “Another problem that has occurred in the USA has been when the stored waste water, containing toxic fracking fluids, has spilled and contaminated water supply – and then there is the vast amount of water required per frack.” You can read his media release here


    Availability of Equipment
    and Services

    There is currently a lack of modern
    drilling rigs capable of deep, horizontal
    drilling, with only one rig in operation
    at the time of writing. However, new
    and renovated rigs are near to
    being ready to operate.

    There are no
    hydraulic fracturing spreads or other
    service units yet available without
    mobilisation from the east coast or
    overseas locations. There is a need for
    additional facilities, which often include
    basic infrastructure, such as pipelines,
    roads, and general services.

    With the emergence of one new
    drilling company and the predicted
    arrival of a modern AC hydraulic
    rig later this year, DMP will in future
    find it hard to accept “force majeure”
    on the lack of equipment as a
    valid reason for deferring well


    How soon will there be shale and tight
    gas and oil production in Western
    Australia? A reasonable sequence for
    development would be:

    • Proof of concept flows in vertical wells
    • Horizontal wells and
    multi-stage fracturing
    • Proof of concept flows in
    horizontal wells
    • Appraisal seismic, drilling,
    hydraulic fracture stimulation and
    testing to achieve certified reserves
    • Gas marketing and contracting
    • Construction of facilities,
    including pipelines
    • Drilling of development wells
    DMP has no applications for hydraulic
    fracture stimulation or horizontal drilling
    at the time of writing.

    Although some extended well testing
    production could occur in two to three
    years, it seems reasonable to forecast,
    given the hurdles outlined above, that
    it could take eight to ten years to have
    substantial production.


    Australia: Santos Seeks Pilliga Exploration Program Approval

    Santos is seeking approval for a more focussed exploration and appraisal program targeting areas in and around the Pilliga Forest in north-west NSW.

    The more narrow Narrabri focus is designed to ascertain the commercial and technical viability of a gas development project to develop the resources in the Pilliga Forest.


    Santos has chosen to refer the proposed exploration program to the Commonwealth Government for assessment under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

    The referred exploration activity includes the recommencement of two existing pilots shut in when Santos took over the Narrabri operations from Eastern Star Gas, the drilling of one additional corehole, 12 additional pilot wells and the re-entry of three other existing wells. Associated flow lines to transport gas and water between the pilots and facilities will also be referred.

    The exploration program also requires various State Government approvals.

  18. Fracking the nation: the dash for gas beneath rural Britain

    With inland gas reserves said to be enough to meet the UK's needs for 25 years, even the most picturesque of places are being eyed up by prospectors


    Compton Martin is not the most obvious place to have a conversation about drilling for gas, and what's already happening in US states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio. It sits on the northern edge of the Mendip Hills, in the famously picturesque Chew Valley. It may say something about the place that it still has a functioning village water pump.

    At a bus stop, I meet two local mums: Chloe Mann, 35, and Sarah Kirwan, 39. "It's quiet little village," says Mann, a mother of two who works part-time at a law firm. "It feels like a lovely little enclave of the countryside. We always feel like it's Hobbitshire – a green valley where nothing happens."

    But something big may be about to. Since 2008, in partnership with an AUSTRALIAN firm called EDEN ENERGY, a Welsh company named UK Methane has owned Petroleum Exploration and Development Licenses that cover large swathes of countryside south of Bristol, some of which sits on top of the old North Somerset coalfield. In March this year, the firm's director, one Gerwyn Williams, publicly announced that he was interested in test-drilling for gas in Compton Martin, and the nearby village of Ston Easton.


    So shale gas could meet demand for 40 years. What then?

    Britain's new gas capacity is much hyped, but the fracking path will most likely lead to the lights going out regardless


    For a moment, let's take the shale gas evangelists at their word. Britain has stumbled on a pile of carbon cash in its cellar, the energy equivalent of finding a stack of ugly but valuable china in the attic. With North Sea oil and gas in decline and global markets volatile and pricey, suddenly there seems a sure way to deliver the government's promise of building 40 new gas power stations. By odd coincidence, newly estimated gas resources in the Bowland shale could meet our demand for gas for 40 years.

    Wonderful for some, but then what? Fast forward to July 2053 and where will we be? We will have a household and national energy infrastructure hopelessly dependent on an exhausted fuel source, and a climate pushed past the point of no return, warming catastrophically due to the burning of fossil fuels. The government's own committee on climate change has pointed out that this would likely put the UK the wrong side of legally binding commitments to reduce emissions.

    Communities that took the £100,000 bribe to accept a gas-fracking well and the parsimonious 1% of revenue will end up feeling like every other community around the world touched by the resource curse: wondering what happened to them. They will be left with the environmental legacy of extraction, locked in to ever costlier fossil fuels, precious little in pocket and with children growing up in a world marked by climatic upheaval.


  19. Coal facing a 'structural decline'

    COLIN Barnett has delivered a downbeat outlook for Australia's two most valuable export commodities, arguing that coal is facing a long-term structural decline and warning that the iron ore industry's period of record growth has ended.

    But the West Australian Premier told The Australian & Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum in Perth yesterday that he did not believe his state was facing a recession as some had predicted.

    He said while the WA resources sector would suffer cyclical peaks and troughs, it would continue to drive growth for decades.

    But Mr Barnett's gloomy outlook for commodities contrasted sharply with his upbeat assessment at the same Perth event a year ago when both coal and iron ore were trading well above present levels.

    He saved his most dire warning for coal, which is produced mainly in NSW and Queensland rather than WA.

    "The change in the coal price is beyond cyclical: it is a structural change," he said. "And while coal remains the world's most used fuel for power generation and other purposes, the world is making policy decisions which mean that coal usage, in my view, will progressively decline. It's a long-term structural change and that should not be dismissed as something that is purely cyclical."

    Mr Barnett said the days of rapid growth in Chinese steel production had finished, and he believed there would be no major expansion in the Pilbara iron ore industry once the present rounds by BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals were completed.


    'Market forces drive energy security'

    WEST Australian Premier Colin Barnett has defended the state's contentious domestic gas policy, despite suggestions from Santos and BHP Billiton that the stance is slowing the growth of a shale gas industry that could drive up supplies.

    Speaking at The Australian & Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum in Perth yesterday, senior Santos executive John Anderson said the US had been able to deliver a dramatic improvement in its energy security through free markets rather than government policy.

    Mr Anderson said a surge in the Henry Hub gas price helped inspire a wave of shale-gas exploration in the US that defined massive reserves of shale gas and a steep downturn in gas prices, with the country now working towards becoming an LNG exporter.

    "Five or six years ago, there was an estimate that the amount of LNG imports in the US was going to be around 80 million tonnes per annum," Mr Anderson said.

    "That has completely flipped around. Now, they're looking at exporting LNG. It eventuated because there was a pricing signal to come and invest in that (shale gas) play."

    Mr Anderson said it was pricing, rather than policy restrictions, that had encouraged Santos to invest in developing WA gas projects for the domestic market.

    Mr Barnett said that while he didn't disagree with Mr Anderson's comments about the US, he continued to believe a domestic gas policy was necessary.

    "I think one of the great weaknesses of Australia is that energy is clearly critical for the nations in this century, we have great energy resources, and yet we really don't have an energy policy," Mr Barnett said.

    "All we can do to a limited extent in Western Australia is ensure at least some of that gas comes into the domestic market and I think that's sensible. Virtually every other country around the world has got an approach to its energy resources except for Australia."

    BHP Billiton iron ore chief Jimmy Wilson said that while the company was "completely neutral" on the domestic gas issue, given BHP is both a major gas producer and energy consumer, Western Australia's shale gas potential could be better realised if the market was left alone.


  20. US House Votes to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

    WASHINGTON - The U.S. House voted Friday to open up the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to oil and natural gas drilling, passing a bill that has little chance of becoming law but marks the latest effort by Republicans to portray President Barack Obama as an enemy of fossil fuels.

    The bill forces the Obama administration to offer drilling leases off the coasts of Virginia, South Carolina and California. The administration has not offered leases in these areas although Congress lifted a formal ban on drilling there in 2008.

    The bill also directs the Obama administration to revise its five-year leasing plan, which determines which areas will be offered for new drilling in the next five years. Separately, it allows coastal states to collect a portion of federal energy royalties.

    The Republican-led House passed a similar piece of legislation last year.

    The White House threatened to veto the measure, saying "the bill would undermine the targeted, science-based, and regionally-tailored offshore development strategy" that is currently in effect.

    The bill's passage, by a 235-186 vote, followed the release earlier this week of Mr. Obama's new climate change plan. The initiative included new rules to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.


    Gazprom to Launch Two LNG Plants in 2018, Russia

    Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee held at the Company’s headquarters a meeting dedicated to the company’s promising liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, namely LNG plants in the Primorye Territory and Leningrad Region.

    It was noted that the Vladivostok-LNG project with a minimum annual capacity of 15 million tons was progressing on schedule, with the first train to be commissioned in 2018.

    A special-purpose company – Gazprom LNG Vladivostok – is being set up now for the purposes of the project. VNIPIgazdobycha was chosen as the general designer of the LNG plant. Work is underway on design specifications.

    Gazprom compiled a list of potential strategic partners, whose overall stake in the project might amount to 49 per cent, provided they purchased at least 6 million tons of LNG to be produced within the project. In addition, working meetings were held with several companies capable of building the LNG plant under an EPC contract, with the emphasis placed on their interest in the project.

    Work is in progress on the preparation of a resource base for the Vladivostok-LNG project. This year will see the commissioning of the Kirinskoye field offshore Sakhalin. In 2013 and 2014 four exploratory wells will be constructed at the Yuzhno-Kirinskoye field for preparing it for commercial development. It is planned to perform large-scale 3D seismic surveys and build several prospecting wells at the Ayashsky and Vostochno-Odoptinsky blocks within the Sakhalin III project.

    Pro-active efforts are being made to market the gas of the Vladivostok-LNG project and talks are underway with potential customers in Asia-Pacific.

    Gazprom started implementing another LNG plant project. To be constructed in the Leningrad Region, the plant will have an annual capacity of up to 10 million tons of LNG. Preliminary feasibility studies underpinning the economic viability of the project are already over, and a basic technical concept is developed. At the moment, two construction sites for the LNG plant are under review. The first train is planned to be operational in 2018.

    The meeting resulted in assigning tasks related to developing an Investment Rationale to be completed in the first half of 2014, performing a feasibility study of the construction options and devising a comprehensive Action Plan for the project.

  21. California set to swelter in heatwave temperature of 53C

    A potentially deadly heatwave is expected to bear down on the United States' south-west, with temperatures in California's Death Valley forecast to hit 53 degrees Celsius.

    The severe heat will be only slightly lower than the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth - 57 degrees in the same location 100 years ago.

    Similar temperatures are predicted in the states of Arizona and Nevada.

    Weather forecasters say the mercury could reach 40 to 50 degrees Celsius in the deserts in southern Arizona.


    Cities in the region are opening cooling centres and officials fear the heat could delay air travel.

    The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning that is current for the entire weekend.

    "Exceedingly high temperatures can cause heat-related illness, including death," it said.

    The agency added that residents without air-conditioning are most vulnerable.

    It said the city of Phoenix is expected to reach 48 degrees Celsius, further increasing the risk of heat stroke and exhaustion.

    'Too hot to touch'

    Arizona resident Michael Fedo says the heat feels like an invisible wall that has forced his family to install black-out shades on every window in their house.

    "It's almost the same thing which you get when you have your oven pre-heated and you open the oven door and you get that wash of heat over you - times 100," he said.

    "As soon as that door opens it's there, it's always there, it's just permeating to the core of your being."

    Another Arizona resident, Ray Huffer, says the heat is making some things too hot to touch.

    "The metal that you touch on the door to get in your house, you need to have a cloth on it, you have to have a towel with you to touch the steering wheel," he said.

    "An extended heatwave like this, five, six, seven days, the workers can't go roofing, asphalt doesn't harden, all kinds of economic things have to literally stop."




    Minister moves to address prison officer concerns

    The Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis has announced he will introduce tougher disciplinary measures for prison officers who bring the department into disrepute.

    The announcement follows revelations several prison officers in Western Australia had developed social connections with members of motorcycle gangs.

    Last year, the Department of Corrective Services launched an internal inquiry into the relationship between prison officers and inmates affiliated with bikie gangs.

    It is believed up to 10 officers were part of that investigation and their names were later leaked.

    Mr Francis says the investigation and subsequent leak were only brought to his attention yesterday.

    "I am extremely concerned by the reports," he said.


    He says he plans to introduce legislation that would see officers face tougher disciplinary measures.

    "That will include taking them out of the current system of discipline and moving them into the Public Sector Management Act and also bringing in a system where the Commissioner for Corrective Services can have a loss of confidence provision for dismissal.

    The Prison Officers Union has raised concerns about the integrity of the department's investigative unit following the leak which it says could put officers' welfare at risk.



    Australian given 40-year sentence in US for 'heinous' child sex abuse

    AN Australian man who bought a baby boy for $US8000 ($8659) with his partner, sexually abused the child and gave the child to other paedophiles to molest, has been sentenced to 40 years' prison in the US.

    Judge Sarah Evans Barker, while sentencing the 42-year-old in the US District Court in Indianapolis, said he deserved a harsher punishment but accepted the plea deal because she did not want to subject jurors to the disturbing evidence.

    Prosecutors discovered videos and photos of the man, his domestic partner, also an Australian, and other men in Australia, the US, Germany and France abusing the child from the age of two to six. There was evidence that the abuse began before the child was two.

    “For more than one year and across three continents, these men submitted this young child to some of the most heinous acts of exploitation that this office has ever seen,'' US Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Joe Hogsett said after the sentencing.


    The 40-year sentence was the maximum available for the conspiracy to sexually exploit a minor and conspiracy to possess child pornography charges the man entered guilty pleas to.

    His partner has also entered guilty pleas and will be sentenced later this year.

    The court heard the two men, who had been living in California, bought the newborn boy for $US8000 in an undisclosed country and use falsified documents in Los Angeles in an attempt to adopt him.

    The boy was rescued by US authorities and is being cared for in California.




    1. BUSWELL is still too scared to have an enquiry into the taxi industry despite ongoing arrests for serious sex crimes.

      Why is this behaviour tolerated?

      Some culture we have - it stinks!

    2. Police vow to smash paedophile ring that abused boy trafficked by adoptive parents

      Police have vowed to hunt down every member of an international paedophile network that sexually abused a boy who was trafficked by his adoptive parents.

      Australian man Peter Truong and his partner Mark Newton bought the child, who the ABC will call Boy 1, from Russia in 2005.

      His birth papers were falsified to list Newton as his biological father, paving the way for Boy 1 to be adopted and brought to Queensland.

      Police say the men allowed at least eight men in several different countries, including Australia, the US, Germany and France, to molest the boy when he was between two and six years old.

      US authorities have also found videos involving two more boys at Truong and Newton's Cairns home.

      At the weekend, Newton was sentenced to 40 years in jail for his crimes. Truong is awaiting his sentence, while two other American men have also been charged.

      Queensland police officer Jon Rouse, who investigates online child exploitation as part of Taskforce Argos, says authorities will not rest until all the men involved in the network are behind bars.

      "With this network, rest assured that we will pursue them to the ends of the Earth to make sure each and every one of them faces justice for what their role has been in crimes against this child," he told 7.30.

      "The purchase of the child for the explicit and sole purpose of exploiting him across a network of men is incredibly depraved and very sad tale for that little boy."

      Truong and Newton evaded detection for six years, until a chance discovery exposed their depraved life and their paedophile network.


      One video showed Boy 1 performing sex acts on Newton with a disturbing level of sophistication when he was not even two years old.

      When he turned five, in one month alone Newton videoed himself engaging in sexual activity with Boy 1 on more than a dozen different occasions.

      "One way they controlled and manipulated this child was to appear to the outside world as a good parent," said Steven Debrota, the deputy US attorney in Indianapolis.

      "One of the things they did was they trained this child how to answer questions for particular investigators.

      "So this was a psychological manipulation of the child."

      ABC local radio presenter Ginger Gorman, who interviewed Truong and Newton before their crimes were exposed, agrees the pair put on a loving front.

      "I felt no sense anything was wrong. For all intents and purposes this appeared to be a loving family and a loving household. I've gone over and over about it in my brain and I did not feel anything was wrong," she said.

      Videos show other boys abused

      US authorities also found videos involving two more boys at Truong and Newton's Cairns home.

      "I can't say too much about the identity of that child," Mr Debrota said. "I can say that the victimisation of Boy 2 occurred in Australia.

      "Under US law we can't say very much to identify Boy 1 or Boy 2, but it is the case and we can confirm that the conspiracy we allege involving Boy 1, Boy 2 and others was international in scope."

      Police also found chat logs between Truong and Newton and a New Zealand man in which they bragged about how they had been having sex with Boy 1 since he was little.

      They also bragged they had given him to several other men around the world for sex, including two American men who were being investigated by police.

      Mr Debrota says the two US men allegedly became involved with Boy 1 when he was aged five.

      The four men form part of a network known broadly as Boy Lovers - men who believe the sexual abuse and rape of boys aged between two and 10 is a form of consensual love between man and boy.

      In 2009 the network's chatboard was smashed in a series of global raids, with several Australian men arrested.

      Boy 1 remains in state care in the US.

  23. Crunch meeting over future of Browse

    The future of the stalled multi-billion dollar Browse gas project will be discussed when the joint venture partners meet for talks tomorrow.

    The troubled project, believed to be worth between $30 billion and $90 billion, is led by Woodside, who want to exploit three gas fields off the north-west coast of WA.

    Premier Colin Barnett has said a July 1 crunch meeting would be held between venture partners Shell, BP, Japan Australia LNG and PetroChina International Investment.

    It is believed the Perth meeting concerns Woodside's preference for floating processing, whereby Browse Basin gas will be processed on a large purpose-built vessel stationed far off the coast.

    This has angered Mr Barnett, who was determined to see onshore processing and the subsequent flow of local jobs.

    His Government is pressing ahead with land acquisition at James Price Point, setting aside space for future gas developments.
    After years of work on the project, and resistance on environmental grounds, Woodside scratched plans to build an onshore processing plant in April, saying it would not deliver the returns the company needed.

  24. Burke tipped to get immigration in cabinet

    Tony Burke will be given charge of the government's asylum-seeker policy when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announces his new cabinet on Monday.

    Mr Burke, a Gillard supporter who offered his resignation from cabinet following last Wednesday's leadership spill, will take on the immigration portfolio.

    He'll become Labor's the third immigration minister since 2010 to take on border protection, which is one of the biggest issues facing the government.

    Mr Burke has vowed to confront the coalition over its promise to turn back the boats.


    Another major portfolio, environment and climate change, will be handed to Mark Butler, Fairfax newspapers report.


    Mark Christopher Butler (born 8 July 1970) has been the Australian Labor Party representative for the electoral division of Port Adelaide in north-western Adelaide, South Australia since the 2007 federal election, succeeding prior Labor MP Rod Sawford.

    In a 2009 Rudd Ministry reshuffle, Butler was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Health. On 14 September 2010, he was sworn in as Minister for Mental Health and Ageing in the Second Gillard Ministry.[1]

    On 12 September 2011 he was given the added responsibility of Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform.

    On 14 December 2011, Butler's ministry was renamed Mental Health and Aged Care, and he became a member of Cabinet.[2]

    Butler was head of the left Labor faction in South Australia,[3] until federal responsibilities saw him step back from the role to be replaced by David Gray, a staffer of Butler's, and an advisor to the Miscellaneous Workers Union.[4]

    Butler is a great great-grandson and great grand-son respectively of conservative former Premiers Sir Richard B. Butler and Sir Richard L. Butler.


  25. FLNG should maximise jobs: Santos

    OIL and gas producer Santos says the industry's embrace of revolutionary floating LNG technology is being driven by high costs and remote discoveries but must also be accompanied by a push to maximise the creation of jobs for Australians.

    In a sign of the industry's concern over the opposition to FLNG by unions and the West Australian government, Santos senior executive John Anderson said most companies were being driven to use the technology out of necessity.

    "There are some players who do see it as a break in play that they need to master, which they can then apply elsewhere globally, but I think the great majority of participants in the industry are not driven to do FLNG for its own sake," he told The Australian and Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum in Perth.

    "If they could do a robust land-based project, they would."

    Amid predictions that the use of FLNG is set to double between now and 2030, Mr Anderson, who is head of Santos in WA and the Northern Territory, said the industry should focus on maximising Australian jobs on all projects.


    "When we go and invest in overseas countries like Indonesia, it's predominantly Indonesian nationals and, in fact, an Indonesian national heads up our operation," he said.

    Unions have stepped up their campaign against FLNG, claiming it will rob Australia of thousands of construction jobs that are generated by companies building land-based gas plants.

    Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell is using floating LNG technology for its $12 billion Prelude project off the WA coast. Prelude will be the largest floating structure ever built and will be moored about 200km from the WA coast during its 25 years of production.

    But the facilities that will be used to process the gas and export it are being built in Korea, Dubai, Japan and other parts of the world.

    On Friday, Shell issued an update on the Prelude project, saying it was on schedule and activity was ramping up at locations around the world.

    Shell Australia's former chairwoman Ann Pickard, who has touted FLNG as the saviour of the high-cost industry in Australia, has previously said the Prelude project will be "full of Australians" during its operational stage.

    "I think the more important things are the operation and maintenance jobs that are going to last for 20-25 years," she told a conference earlier this year.

    "They don't tend to put the stress on the communities that construction jobs do."

    Woodside Petroleum is also considering using FLNG to develop its massive Browse gasfields after this year abandoning plans for an onshore processing plant at James Price Point in WA's Kimberley region.

    It is believed the future of the Browse gas project will be discussed today when Woodside and its fellow joint venture partners meet for talks.

  26. FLNG...cont...

    WA Premier Colin Barnett told the forum on Friday that he remained opposed to FLNG for larger projects, including Browse, but believed it was suitable for smaller fields such as Prelude.

    "I'm not a fan of floating LNG," he said.

    "It is yet to be done on a large scale; the first will be the Prelude project. The state government supported that because it is a comparatively small field.

    "I don't support it on the larger fields that aren't all that remote."

    Mr Barnett warned the industry that the government had a commercial interest in ensuring gas was processed onshore because the state owned the resource.

    "The role of a government is to facilitate and make sure everything is fair, but when you have state ownership of the resource, the state has got a commercial interest," he said.

    "And if you look at many of the countries around the world that produce oil and gas, they have production-sharing arrangements.

    "So the company goes out there, spends the money, produces it, but hands over a large amount of the production to the host government.

    "Now, we don't do that in Australia, and that's a good thing. But we, nevertheless, do have a commercial interest, and one of those commercial interests is to see that gas come onshore."

    Mr Anderson said the move to FLNG was being sparked by the rising costs of developing onshore projects in Australia and the fact that gas discoveries were increasingly being made in more remote locations.

    He said it was important to keep in mind that of the seven LNG plants being built in Australia, only one was using FLNG technology.

  27. $150m Muja loan mystery

    WA Treasury's Annual Report on State Finances - the document that records WA's official financial position - has never recorded Verve Energy's guarantee of the $150 million loan taken out to finance the botched Muja AB refurbishment project, in possible breach of accounting standards and WA law.

    Treasurer Troy Buswell blamed Verve for the omission, which means annual reports in 2010-11 and 2011-12 did not accurately reflect the true position of the State's books.

    The $150 million loan was taken out in 2010 by Inalco, a shelf company of Geelong engineering firm Kempe, which was Verve's joint venture partner in Vinalco, the corporate entity responsible for the bungled refurbishment.

    Verve guaranteed the loan, effectively placing taxpayers on the hook in the event the joint venture failed.

    The Muja AB refurbishment has been halted by the Government amid massive cost blowouts caused by corroded boiler tubes that were not properly inspected before the refurbishment plan was approved.

    Kempe has run into financial trouble and has been trying to exit the joint venture for a year. The power station is currently producing only half of its intended power output and Premier Colin Barnett says it is unlikely the Government will ever complete the project.

    On Thursday, Mr Buswell told Parliament Treasury was aware that Verve had guaranteed the loan and the Government was of the view that the guarantee was "appropriate" based on Verve's assessment of Kempe's financial capacity.

    However, the guarantee was never listed as a contingent liability in the State's official accounts, as it should have been.

    Asked why, Mr Buswell told The West Australian on Friday night in a statement: "Verve's guarantee of the loan was not disclosed as a contingent liability in ARSF in 2010-11 or 2011-12 on account of Verve not adequately highlighting the guarantee in its advice to Treasury.

    "The process around disclosure of contingent liabilities will be strengthened in the 2012-13 ARSF."

    Yesterday, Mr Buswell admitted this was "not good enough".

    Shadow energy minister Bill Johnston said Mr Buswell had effectively admitted Verve had been involved in a "potentially unlawful" withholding of material facts about WA's formal Government accounts. Verve refused to comment.

    "It is totally unacceptable that Verve and (former energy minister) Peter Collier have failed to disclose this massive contingent liability," Mr Johnston said.

    "This strikes at the heart of the integrity of the finances of Western Australia.

    "Mr Collier either knew about Verve's failure or was completely negligent in his ministerial responsibilities.

    "Either way he now has no option but to resign, because providing honest financial reporting is central to ministerial responsibility."


  28. Suicide officer racially abused

    Evidence that a prison officer was racially abused and routinely bullied by colleagues before he took his own life was not passed on to police or the State Coroner by the Department of Corrective Services.

    On Friday, the department said it was unable to find any reports about the suicide despite The West Australian having copies of two department documents dealing with the death in May last year.

    Written by an investigator and the director of the department's internal investigations unit, the documents include information from workmates that Mandeep Singh, 24, was regularly referred to as a "f…… raghead" and "curry muncher" at Hakea Prison.

    According to the documents, one officer "firmly believed that the bullying and harassment of Singh contributed significantly to him taking his own life".

    Mr Singh, who was from India, left a suicide note that indicated he was not coping with a family issue back home. Combined with the racism, the officers said that "Singh regularly received abusive calls from someone within the prison . . . where he was abused and the person then hung up".

    That information was emailed up the department's chain of command and was known to people who worked closely with then-corrective services commissioner Ian Johnson.

    The West Australian can also reveal that soon after a female prison officer announced her retirement from Bunbury Prison in 2011, she was the target of hate mail sent to her home. She received a farewell card containing 20 cents and two notes.

    "We'll miss you like a hole in the head," the first read. "What a useless, rorting waste of space you were. Rest assured you were hated here. We send you nothing but bad wishes."

    The anonymous author also said the prison officer had a "pathetic work ethic" because she was "part tarbrush".

    An internal investigation identified the prison officer responsible for the card but his victim was not given an opportunity to speak at a disciplinary tribunal.

    In the end, commissioner Johnson decided to demote rather than sack the officer, John Garwood.

    "Mr Garwood will be required to personally attend my office in order that I can express to him personally my complete abhorrence regarding his actions," Mr Johnson said in a letter to the victim.

    WA Prison Officers Union secretary John Welch said he was surprised no action was taken against any officers in relation to the racism directed at Mr Singh.
    "We have no truck whatsoever when any of our members act in that way," Mr Welch said.

  29. WA can give money to oil and gas/mining drilling but not food.

    Remote food costs soar as wages and freight spiral

    The owner of some of WA's most isolated community stores says residents are paying as much as $4.50 for a litre of milk as freight and wage costs spiral.

    Peter Grundy's company Remote CMS manages Aboriginal community shops across the Pilbara and Kimberley.

    They are usually the only place for hundreds of kilometres where residents can buy food.

    Because of the enormous distances and difficult terrain, freight costs are as much as $50,000 a month for stores like that in the Kimberley community of Kalumburu.

    Mr Grundy says he cannot see how exorbitant food costs can be brought down.

    He says it is a difficult situation.

    "The model of operating is just higher than it is in a mainstream town," he said.

    "The extra burden of freight is an example of one, the wages could be another.

    "If you have someone living at a remote community, you've got to house them and pay for power; the cost of the electricity can be double or triple."

    Mr Grundy says the freight cost for Kalumburu, on the northern tip of the Kimberley, has climbed to $50,000 a month, as produce has to come by barge from Darwin.

    "It does put an extraordinary amount of pressure on families and people," he said.

    "So many consultants and other people have written about the high cost of freight, the high cost of power, but I just can't see how you can avoid the costs.

    "Doing things remote is just more expensive."

    Communities stores contacted by the ABC in recent weeks were selling food and drink at triple and quadruple the cost of produce in Perth.


    Government announces review of Aboriginal patrols

    A review is underway into the effectiveness of - and value for money provided by - Aboriginal community patrols in Western Australia.

    Aboriginal community patrols operate mostly at night and target anti-social behaviour and crime hotspots both in metropolitan Perth and in regional centres such as Kununurra, Carnarvon and Broome.

    Members of the patrols pick up intoxicated and at-risk adults from the streets and transfer them to their home, a refuge or a sobering up shelter.

    The initiative stems from the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

    The State Government has been a strong supporter of the patrols and increased total funding for them to almost $6 million a year in the last budget.

    Now the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has awarded a $70 thousand contract to a private consulting firm to undertake a review of the initiative.

  30. Gas needs to play role in transition to cleaner energy sector, says Chancellor of Monash University

    Australia should develop a national strategy to guide the transition of its energy sector to a cleaner future, the Chancellor of Melbourne's Monash University has said.

    Dr Alan Finkel believes that to effectively address climate change, Australia must derive its electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

    But he says natural gas will also need to play a prominent role due to the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy.

    "Whether it is conventional, shale or coal seam, natural gas is, of course, a carbon-emitting fossil fuel," he wrote in an opinion piece for ABC Environment.

    "But it has far lower emissions than its relatives.


    Andrew Dillon, general manager of corporate affairs for the Energy Supply Association of Australia, welcomed Dr Finkel's ideas.

    "This is a useful contribution to the current debate about Australia's energy future. Chancellor Finkel's proposal to greatly increase the use of electric vehicles over time makes sense. EVs will be a better ride for both consumers and the environment," he said.

    However, Leigh Ewbank, spokesman for environmental group Yes 2 Renewables, said that talk of gas was a distraction.

    "The fugitive emissions of methane from unconventional gas production vary from 1 to 8 per cent of production. If fugitive methane emissions are above 2 per cent then that would make the climate impact of gas worse than coal."

    While he supported Dr Finkel's calls for a national strategy, Mr Ewbank urged a vision that skipped past a reliance on any fossil fuel.

    "Today, wind energy is the cheapest new-build electricity source in Australia, and solar is getting cheaper each year.

    "Gas, on the other hand, will get more expensive over time. Australia can leap frog increasingly expensive fossil fuels by switching straight to renewables."



    Australian Greens Concerned about Protection of Groundwater Supplies from Shale Gas Extraction

    The Australian Greens are concerned about protecting WA’s water supplies from a future shale gas industry after the old parties today again turned down moves to impose Federal environmental regulations on shale and tight gas fracking.

    “The Greens were the lone Party today voting in favour of modifying the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013 to include protection of groundwater supplies from shale and tight gas extraction alongside protection from the coal seam gas industry,” Senator Ludlam said.

    “The argument that shale and tight gas extraction does not pose risks to water doesn’t hold; evidence from the US shows that 6-7% of shale gas wells fail within one year of construction and more than 60 per cent fail after 30 years.

    “Another problem that has occurred in the USA has been when the stored waste water, containing toxic fracking fluids, has spilled and contaminated water supply – and then there is the vast amount of water required per frack.

    “The WA Government is subsidising plans for the growth of a massive shale and tight gas industry in WA, to operate across the Kimberley, Mid-West and parts of the South-West – in many areas, where water supply and protection are already concerns.

    “It is not okay to say ‘we haven’t yet had massive problems with water and fracking in WA so we don’t need to deal with it’; we should get the environmental regulations in place now, before damage is done and livelihoods are affected.

    “It is also not enough to say that State-based regulations will manage the risks: the Barnett Government has said shale and tight gas fracking will be regulated by the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum – the same department that is promoting a massive expansion of the industry and which operates under an Act that has limited legal provisions pertaining to protecting the environment.”


    Minister in the dark over Muja

    Energy Minister Mike Nahan says he does not know how much revenue Verve's half-completed Muja AB refurbishment is generating, despite claims by the Premier Colin Barnett that the botched joint venture is profitable

    Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said it was clear Dr Nahan had "absolutely no idea how much revenue this debacle is generating".
    "This means the minister has no idea how much will actually be lost," Mr Wyatt said.
    "Despite the Premier and Energy Minister saying that the Muja debacle will still be profitable, the reality is that this will be nothing but a loss to the WA taxpayer."


    Francis critical of corrective services management

    WA's Corrective Services Minister says he is not satisfied with how the former head of his department handled cultural issues in the state's prisons.

    The comments come after reports of prison officers socialising with organised crime figures and allegations of bullying and harassment in the department.

    The former Corrective Services commissioner Ian Johnson was dumped from the role in April.
    "It is unacceptable to practice bullying, racism, harassment, sexism and for prison officers to associate with criminals.

    "It is absolutely unacceptable."


    Boosting pay for MPs will attract competent people: COLLIER (COL-LIAR)

    A State Government frontbencher says the base salary of politicians may need to be boosted to attract competent people into the profession.

    The Salaries and Allowances Tribunal is conducting a review of the pay and entitlements that MPs receive.

    Currently, a state MPs base rate is about $149,000 compared to a federal MPs rate of $190,000.

    It comes after the tribunal ruled that WA politicians, judges and departments would receive a 2.6 per cent pay rise.

    The Education Minister Peter Collier says while money is not a motivating factor for many politicians, it can provide an added incentive.

    "From my perspective, when I went into politics, the money wasn't an issue," he said.

    "But, I will say we've got to be mindful of the fact that if we're going to attract people to the profession of politics we have to look at salaries."

    The State Opposition says it is not surprised some government MPs are fighting for better pay.

    The shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt says the Government's recent decision to grant several political staffers high pay rises would have left many politicians feeling disgruntled.

    "What you're seeing from some of the Liberal backbench, it sounds like they're concerned about Colin Barnett increasing his personal staff by tens of thousands of dollars at a time when he's demanding austerity from the public sector," he said.




    Sold to a Hong Kong outfit for $23 million - a loss to REY.

  33. NSW.

    State risks 29,000 mining jobs

    THE NSW Minerals Council has warned that the state risks 29,000 jobs and $10.3 billion in lost investments over the next 20 years if resources projects continue to be hit with approvals delays of 12 months or more.

    New research, commissioned by the council, highlights the repeated concerns voiced by the sector that the planning system is denting resources investments and creating a level of uncertainty that is likely to result in mass job cuts.

    NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said the research, which forms part of its submission on the state's draft review of the planning system, confirmed the scale of what was at stake unless the problems were fixed through the new bill the Liberal government was set to introduce into parliament this year.

    "Overall the government is aware that unless they get the planning system right, there is going to be a significant economic cost," he said.


    The research, by PwC, shows that project delays of 12 months or more would cost NSW, over the next 20 years, 29,000 jobs across the state, $10.3bn in lost investment and $600 million a year in lost mining royalties.

    Mining giant Rio Tinto backed the NSW Minerals Council's call for urgent changes to the state's planning system to prevent further job losses and encourage future investment.

    "We need immediate action from the NSW government to restore certainty and consistency to the planning system for major mining projects," Rio Tinto chief executive energy Harry Kenyon-Slaney said.

    Rio's planned extension of its Warkworth mine, 15km southwest of Singleton, has been a casualty of the NSW planning system despite receiving ministerial approval in February. In April the NSW Land and Environment Court put a stop to the plans. It was the first time a NSW court had overturned a major project approval to extend an existing open-cut mine.

    "Employees at our Mount Thorley Warkworth mine are now victims of the uncertainty that the poorly designed NSW planning system has created," Mr Kenyon-Slaney said.

    Mr Galilee added that to avoid an economic body blow of the magnitude identified in the PwC report, the NSW government needed to replace the present broken planning system with a more efficient system that provided certainty and consistency for mining projects.

    A spokesman from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure said its initial assessment of the council's submission, including the PwC research, indicated that it overstated alleged mining project delays by failing to take into account the time proponents took to prepare their applications and respond to submissions.

    "Additionally, several of the mining projects mentioned in the submission involved complex issues where the proponents had failed to adequately address potential impacts," the spokesman said. "In these cases, it was necessary for the department to subject the projects to further examination."

    Mr Galilee said the council and many of its members had been in and out of ministers' offices over recent months to highlight the concerns directly.

    "It is also fair to say that there are still some sections of the government who don't seem to understand that mining is a strategic industry for NSW and is fundamentally important to the strength of the economy."

  34. Desal water props up dams

    Perth's dams have almost stopped supplying the city and broader South West with drinking water earlier than predicted five years ago in a worst-case scenario.

    As the Weather Bureau said dry, sunny winters such as the current one in Perth were fast becoming normal, the Water Corporation laid bare the extent to which the city depends on desalination plants.

    Former Water Corp boss Jim Gill warned in 2008 that under extreme circumstances Perth's dams could become redundant by 2015 but the utility said yesterday the changes were already happening.

    In a series of blunt answers, the corporation said the only thing that had prevented the dams being taken offline in recent years was the desalinated water and groundwater used to top them up.

    Under the corporation's policies, water in its metropolitan dams is deemed "unusable" once storage levels fall below 110 billion litres, largely because of the concentrations of organic matter left over.

    As of yesterday, the Water Corp's dams were at 25 per cent capacity and holding 154 billion litres, the third-lowest level on record behind July 2007 and July 2011, when they were at about 24 per cent.


    Doctors warn of corridor care

    Perth hospitals have been forced to install extra power points and emergency bells in ward corridors to cope with having more patients than beds.

    The Health Department confirmed the practice after sources told The West Australian about the use of "corridor care" - patients kept on trolley beds in the middle of rooms or in hallways at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

    They claimed the move - known as going "over-census" or having more patients than the beds allowed - was used routinely at several hospitals to avoid the bad look of full emergency departments and ambulance ramping.

    On Monday last week, ambulances ramped outside Perth hospitals for a total of 242 hours, including more than 90 hours at Royal Perth Hospital.

    A department spokesman said public hospital wards went over-census to ease pressure on full emergency departments and reduce ramping.

    "Patients who are admitted promptly to a ward, even if it is over-census, have better outcomes than if they remain in the care of paramedics ramping or spend too long in an emergency department waiting for an inpatient bed," he said.

    WA hospitals had been fitted with power points and emergency bells in such areas to maintain patient safety.


    Minister warned of prison leaks

    Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis was warned in writing six weeks ago that sensitive documents had been leaked from within the department's internal investigations unit and that corruption, intimidation and incompetence were rife in the prisons agency.

    Mr Francis, who said on Saturday he was surprised and alarmed by coverage in The West Australian, was copied into a four-page email from an IIU investigator on May 8 to a senior department executive.

    The author also said the minister needed to be briefed "on the alleged corruption, incompetence and bullying" in the department.

    But Mr Francis responded on ministerial letterhead on May 24, by telling the investigator that he could not get involved because their letter was about workers compensation.

    "Thank you for raising your concerns with me and I trust this information is of some assistance to you," he wrote.

    The investigator then sent a further letter to one of Mr Francis' staff. "I simply can't get anywhere," they wrote.

    "I only resorted to contacting the minister, having exhausted all my options."

  35. Guar: The perfect crop for northern Australia?

    It's a crop used globally by the cattle industry, the health food industry and even the mining industry, and now it's being trialled across northern Australia.

    It's a legume called guar.

    It's grown in India and Pakistan and could be the cash crop northern Australia has been searching for.

    The Australian Guar Company (AGC) wants to establish an industry across Australia's north and is doing trials at the moment in north Queensland and the Northern Territory.

    The company's national operations manager, Tony Matchett, says a trial crop near Katherine (Northern Territory) has just been harvested and the results were pleasing.

    "We planted a small block west of Katherine and it certainly showed some promising signs," he said.

    "We've just harvested about 10 tonnes, which was a little bit better than I expected given the (poor wet) season we've had,

    "We've learnt a lot about things we need to do in terms of weed management and getting our plant population right, but yeah, the signs have been encouraging from this first trial."

    AGC will soon be planting another trial crop in the Northern Territory, but this time in the Douglas Daly region.

    It's also trialling the crop near Charters Towers and Georgetown in north Queensland.

    Tony Matchett says demand for the crop is huge and his company has plans to grow the crop right across northern Australia.

    "We've got plans to grow guar from Townsville, right up through the Gulf and Cape, throughout the Territory, and right across the Kimberley from the Ord to Broome," he said.

    "Demand is driving us to get this industry established and commercial as quick as possible,

    "We're just ensuring we get the right varieties and growers, because if the growers aren't happy with it, or it's not giving them the returns, then it's not going to work,

    "But we're really confident that we're going to have a substantial area growing guar over the next five years with hopefully hundreds of thousands of acres, because that's where the potential is."

    The demand and price for guar is rising quickly across the world, because of its use in hydraulic fracturing by oil and gas companies.

    Derivatives of guar gum thickens the slurry of water, sand and chemicals pumped into wells during the fracking process, helping to increase viscosity, reduce fluid loss and decrease fluid friction.

  36. Guar

    Not to be confused with Gaur or Gwar.


    Guar bean cluster

    Scientific classification

    Kingdom: Plantae
    (unranked): Angiosperms
    (unranked): Eudicots
    (unranked): Rosids
    Order: Fabales
    Family: Fabaceae
    Genus: Cyamopsis
    Species: C. tetragonoloba

    Binomial name

    Cyamopsis tetragonoloba
    (L.) Taub.


    Cyamopsis psoralioides L.

    The Guar or cluster bean (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) is an annual legume and the source of guar gum. It is also known as Gavar, Guwar or Guvar bean.

    The origin of Cyamopsis tetragonoloba is unknown, since it has never been found in the wild.[1] It is assumed to have developed from the African species C. senegalesis. It was further domesticated in India and Pakistan, where it has been cultivated for many centuries.[2] Guar grows well in arid to semiarid areas, but frequent rainfall is necessary. This legume is a very valuable plant within a crop rotation cycle, as it lives in symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.[3] In fact, agriculturists in semi-arid regions of Rajasthan follow crop-rotation and use Guar as a source to replenish the soil with essential fertilizers and nitrogen fixation, before the next crop. Guar as a plant has a multitude of different functions for human and animal nutrition but its gelling agent containing seeds (guar gum) are today the most important use.[2] Demand is rising rapidly due to industrial use of guar gum in hydraulic fracturing (oil shale gas).[2] About 80% of world production occurs in India and Pakistan, but, due to strong demand, the plant is being introduced into new areas.

  37. I think their weak spot is the lack of drilling rigs in Australia that can drill down to the 5000 mtrs for horizontal fracking.The huge cost in mobilising these giant rigs and the huge day rate charged for the hire - any delays are a disaster.And in the north of the country there is usually one road in and one road out.If you imagine similar actions as JPP in the more isolated areas these rigs will operate in the potential for disruption is massive.Not to mention the 100's of truck loads of stuff they need to get out to the rig and the stuff to come back out.Hmmm....
    And then there is the fracking crews.......more convoys...
    Perhaps a whip around to outfit a 4wd with a spectrometer and other instruments to measure methane emissions and take water samples etc.

  38. Woodside dives on downgrade

    Shares in Woodside Petroleum have slumped this afternoon, after the company lowered its production guidance by more than 5 per cent.

    The downgrade comes on the day Woodside mourns the death of the man considered its founder, Geoff Donaldson.

    Woodside reported today that LNG production for 2013 would be no more than 89 million barrels of oil equivalent, after previously suggesting production could be as high as 94.

    The slump is mostly due to an unplanned shutdown at the company's flagship Pluto LNG asset off the WA coast.


    Problems there have been compounded by refurbishment over-runs at the company's Vincent asset, which is also off the north-west of WA.

    Woodside shares had been steady around $35.30 for most of the day, but release of the news saw the stock plummet as low as $34.05 within minutes. Shares finished the day down 3.4 per cent to $34.62.

    The bad news has virtually eroded the gains made by Woodside shares late last week when the company continued its plan to internationalise its portfolio by buying into two offshore permits on the west coast of Ireland.

    Mr Donaldson was foundation investor in the company and was chairman for 28 of its first 30 years, and Woodside today announced that he had passed away late last week.

    Woodside was named after a small town in eastern Victoria where it was exploring at the time, but Mr Donaldson was instrumental in the company changing its focus to Western Australia, where it remains based today.

    Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman said Mr Donaldson was a pioneer of the Australian oil and gas industry and would always be remembered as a crucial player in the formation of the company.






    Woodside cuts production guidance, blames problems at Pluto plant

    WOODSIDE Petroleum has downgraded its annual production guidance after technical glitches forced it to shut down its Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.

    Australia's second-biggest oil company behind BHP Billiton said it now expected output for the year to December 31 to range between 85 million and 89 million barrels of oil equivalent. That compares with previous guidance of between 88 million and 94 million.

    Woodside said production at the Pluto LNG plant in Western Australia was interrupted by an unplanned shutdown of its LNG processing unit, without providing any more detail. Production at Pluto was expected to commence "shortly", Woodside said in a statement.

    It also partly blamed the downgrade on delays to a planned upgrade of its floating oil-processing vessel, Vincent, offshore WA. Production at Vincent was expected to restart in October, Woodside said.

    1. For anyone who missed it :

      Pluto = the Lemon

      JPP = the Scrubber (as in the one that got away)

      Sunrise = the Dog

  40. Oh sh*t!
    Don't say they've looked away from JPP at last?

    What a useless mob of ASS HATS!

    Chamber floats push for LNG benefits

    The Broome Chamber of Commerce is hoping Shell will increase its engagement with the local community as it pushes ahead with its floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off the Kimberley coast.

    The company's general manager yesterday told a conference in Perth, the Prelude project will generate $45 billion to the Australian company, a quarter of that in taxes.

    That is despite the floating technology being constructed in South Korea and Dubai and the Prelude reserves being located about 500 kilometres off the WA coast.

    The chamber's MaryAnne Pederson says the community needs to try its best to ensure as much of the benefits as possible flow to Broome.

    "There already been some transport and logistics activity and supply base activity but we would very much like to engage with Shell and their contactors to ensure there's a lot more opportunity for people and businesses in Broome," she said.


    Maybe they can get Barnett to stop scaring the sh*t out of Woodside and let them have their support base for their FLNG out of Broome Port?

    No one hold their breath but.

    Broome is an ASS HAT town.

  41. As mentioned before - this was always going to happen.

    Unexpected outage hits Pluto

    Woodside Petroleum's spectacular run at its flagship $15 billion Pluto LNG project has come to a halt, with the company saying an unexpected outage at the plant had temporarily wiped about three weeks production from its books.

    The Pluto shutdown occurred last week for unspecified technical reasons, and will cut about 2 million barrels of oil equivalent from the petroleum major's expected production this year.

    It will also force the deferral of some LNG cargoes to Asia.

    WA's second-biggest company also announced that it was having trouble restarting its Vincent floating oil production storage and offloading vessel, which would shave another 1mboe from its expected annual output.

    As a result, Woodside's full-year production is now expected to be between 85mboe and 89mboe, down from its original target range of 88mboe to 94mboe.

    Despite the glitches, the company in net terms is still ahead of where it expected to be when Pluto's first shipment left its Karratha plant last April.

    From the start, Pluto exceeded expectations.

    Forecast to operate at 36 per cent of its 4.3 million tonne-a-year LNG capacity in its first two months, Pluto performed at levels of 80 per cent, prompting Woodside to substantially upgrade its full-year oil and gas output range for 2012.

    The company banked more than $US200 million in extra revenue because of the outperformance over the first six months of the plant's operation, which in part was behind Woodside's decision to declare a special dividend earlier this year.

    It used its April annual meeting to announce a return of $US519 million of surplus funds to shareholders, and flagged that it expected its dividend payout ratio to equal 80 per cent of underlying net profit over "several years".

    Like other big resources companies, including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, Woodside had been under pressure to balance calls for instant shareholder returns against investing heavily in long-dated growth options. Despite the payout, Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman has continued to pursue growth options offshore, including most recently in Ireland.

    The announcement that it was deferring production knocked Woodside's shares as much as 4.9 per cent lower immediately after the announcement, in a weak market. However, they recovered to close down $1.20, or 3.3 per cent, at $34.62. A Woodside spokeswoman said Pluto would restart "shortly".
    Pluto's early success had eased some of the pain from the project, which had an initial budget of about $12 billion and was more than one year late. Lucky numbers 7 The number of years between gas being discovered and Pluto's first shipment of LNG.



  42. New Standard Energy to Drill in Australia After Securing Rig

    New Standard Energy Ltd. (New Standard) announced it will resume drilling operations towards the end of 2013 after it signed a Drilling Services Agreement (DSA) for a firm two well program with the option for an additional two wells at New Standard’s election. This arrangement will provide New Standard with flexibility as operator of all its joint ventures and projects to allocate drilling slots as exploration programs are firmed up over the coming 6-12 months.

    Subject to final approvals, drilling will commence at the company’s Merlinleigh Project in the onshore Carnarvon Basin in late 2013, to be followed by up to three wells in the Canning Basin after the wet season in mid-2014.

    New Standard chose to commence the DSA at Merlinleigh rather than in the Canning Basin, with a primary consideration for the Company being the prohibitive cost to mobilize and demobilize the rig for one well in the Canning Basin prior to the 2013-14 wet season. New Standard and its joint venture partners have agreed to defer drilling the Goldwyer until next year to allow sufficient time for the parties to assess and agree plans for completing Phase 1 and provide an opportunity for costs to potentially be shared across multiple wells.

    New Standard Managing Director Phil Thick said the company was pleased to be headed into drilling activity again after an exhaustive search for a suitable rig and drilling contractor to conduct operations efficiently and safely.

    “Securing a suitable drilling contractor in such a highly competitive market is a great achievement for New Standard and reflects the continued dedication and hard work of our team. This is a great result and we are excited to be able to recommence our drilling operations later this year,” he said.

    New Standard is confident it has selected the most competitive and competent contractor for its proposed 2013-14 drilling program following a highly detailed due diligence process and proactive two-way engagement with Enerdrill. The decision to contract Enerdrill’s Rig #3 was also supported by joint venture partner ConocoPhillips.

    In addition to attractive commercial terms the fit-for-purpose rig, frontier drilling experience and the close geographic proximity as a Western Australia-based company were three important factors when selecting Enerdrill. In addition, due diligence and rig inspections undertaken by New Standard management have confirmed that the rig and drilling contractor are capable of meeting the strict safety and drilling requirements expected by the joint venture parties. New Standard has also reserved the right to undertake further audits and inspections prior to drilling.

    Enerdrill’s Rig #3 has been extensively refurbished and with a vertical depth rating of 17,060 feet (5,200 meters), has the capacity to drill all of New Standard’s potential wells being considered for 2013-14.

  43. New Standard cont...

    Goldwyer Project and Laurel Project

    Activity is due to recommence in the Canning Basin on New Standard’s other two projects in mid 2014 to minimize the impact of seasonal weather on drilling and mobilization operations and costs.

    Once the Enerdrill Rig #3 is released from operations at Condon #1 it is likely to be utilized by another operator before it is mobilized to the Canning Basin in mid 2014.

    As part of the plans to revisit drilling the Goldwyer Project in 2014, New Standard and its joint venture partners have committed an additional $1.3 million (AUD 1.4 million) over and above the existing Phase 1 financial commitments. This additional commitment will be paid by joint venture parties in proportion to their participating interests (i.e. New Standard 25 percent), and will go towards additional geological and geophysical work on the Goldwyer Project that was not contemplated in the original farm-out program.

    This additional work is scheduled to be completed before the end of the year and will utilize the extra time afforded by the Merlinleigh drilling program to further advance the Goldwyer Project. It includes integrating the data from the Nicolay #1 and Gibb Maitland #1 wells with a vast set of other data from the area, seismic reprocessing and interpretation, geological mapping and further well sample analysis.

    This technical work will assist the joint venture to determine and agree a plan for completion of Phase 1. New Standard believes this additional work will provide the best opportunity of achieving positive results to assist with moving forward to Phase 2 of the farm-in agreement.

    In addition, substantial seismic interpretation and geochemistry work is currently underway to determine the best drill targets for potential drilling on the Laurel Project in 2014.

    Further information and updates for both of these projects will follow in due course.

  44. Airport chief says floating LNG plans already helping Broome

    The chief executive of Broome International Airport says the benefits of offshore oil and gas projects are already being felt in the town, even if the public is unaware of them.

    Shell expects its first-ever floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) project to deliver $45 billion to the Australian economy.

    The Prelude Project, off the Kimberley coast, is expected to start production in 2017.

    It is one of the Browse gas projects Broome is trying to position itself to become the primary supply base for.

    The Premier has criticised the use of offshore technology, saying it reduces the economic benefits for Western Australian communities.

    Broome International Airport's Nick Belyea says the movement of oil and gas-related travel is already helping.

    "It helps to increase the visitation of passengers through the airport which also helps us keep our airline schedules in place," he said.

    "These are pretty much corporate customers rather than tourists but in our view they go hand-in-hand."

    The head of Broome's port says it is not yet clear what economic benefits there will be for the town when the floating LNG project gets up and running.

    Vic Justice says it is unclear how much of the workforce and freight required for the project will be delivered via Broome.

    "We haven't yet had any explanation as to what the support requirements are," he said.

    "What I would like to see is Broome providing support and employment opportunities in support of the total freight task."

  45. Cowper calls for protection of property rights

    Former Western Australian Liberal minister Murray Cowper has accused the State Government of deliberately flouting its commitments to protect the property rights of private landowners.

    Mr Cowper says proposed changes to the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act will trample the rights of hundreds of farmers in his Murray-Wellington electorate.

    The changes allow for the storage of greenhouse gases underground.

    Mr Cowper says there has been much rhetoric from the Barnett Government about the need to protect property rights but the Bill goes against that by giving drillers access to private land without compensation or recourse.

    "Premier Barnett when he was the leader of the Opposition back in 2005 said that we'd do something about this and he hasn't," he said.

    The Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion says operations on private land cannot be commenced unless agreement on compensation has been reached with private property owners.


    Tourism a jobs winner

    Tourism will overtake mining and construction as one of the biggest employers in WA, according to statistics to be released today.

    The annual "report card" compiled by Tourism Research Australia showed tourism jobs in WA grew 11.25 per cent to 89,000 in the past financial year, the biggest increase of any State.

    Tourism accounts for 7 per cent of all jobs in the State, just behind mining with 8 per cent, construction 10 per cent and health care and social assistance, the top employer with 11 per cent.

    Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall said tourism would become more important to the WA economy as the resources boom slowed.

    "The trend is for tourism jobs to grow as mining jobs decline," he said. "With the lower Australian dollar, cheaper hotel rates and more flights to Perth, WA can win back the leisure tourists we lost over the last few years."

    Mr Hall said in all other States tourism employed more people than mining.

    "Tourism would create more jobs than mining in WA, too, if it got the same backing from government," he said. "Over the next few years, tourism can replace the lost mining jobs, so long as WA doesn't keep putting all its eggs in the resources basket."

    He called on the State Government to invest in promoting WA as a holiday destination and create new jobs in the sector.

    "Mining accounts for 35.9 per cent of the WA economy, but only 8.3 per cent of the jobs," he said.

    "The money is tied up in mine sites, ports and trucks, not people.

    "Mining is capital intensive. Tourism is labour intensive."

    Owen Williams, director of Segway Tours WA, said it was time for WA's tourism industry to blossom.

    Mr Williams, who expects to start Segway tours of Perth city next month, said there was big demand for innovative tourism businesses.
    "With the devaluation of the Australian dollar, mining slowing and increased interest from the Chinese market, I think this demand for new tourism experiences will only go up," he said.

  46. State, federal governments get wake-up call on looming gas price hike

    STATE and federal governments will be urged today to face up to the massive structural change to be wrought on the domestic gas market when Queensland's three LNG export projects begin to soak up huge volumes of gas, potentially sending the price of gas soaring.

    A peak industry body is warning that demand for gas from the existing LNG projects and the new Queensland projects will be almost triple that of the entire domestic market, increasing the urgency for a policy framework designed to avoid the potential for "market failure" with unsustainably high prices in domestic markets that would harm the manufacturing, agricultural and construction sectors.

    In a position paper to be released today, the Australian Pipeline Industry Association argues that now is the time for governments to adopt forward-thinking policies to ensure the nation makes the most of its gas reserves.

    APIA is a key player in the energy industry, because pipelines are the link between supply and demand, giving it a unique insight into industry dynamics.


    The group's chief executive, Cheryl Cartwright, told The Australian that much has been said about the domestic supply squeeze that could occur when the $60 billion in Queensland LNG export projects come on line in the next few years.

    "The only answer is to access broader supply from as many sources as possible, as soon as possible," she said.

    "Australia has an abundant supply of natural gas.

    "It is time for policymakers to set in place a system that will ensure that the nation benefits from exports and domestic use of natural gas."

    Gas (wholesale) prices on the east coast are now being set at $6-$9 a gigajoule, compared with the $3-$4 a gigajoule range of the last decade.


    .....Its push comes ahead of the federal election and amid simmering resentment in the electorate over the cost of energy.

    The first proposal is for a technology-neutral energy investment policy, forcing renewables, clean coal, gas and any low-emission technologies to compete for investment funds.

    "This would not be in the form of grants -- rather, a form of co-investment on the basis of competitive bidding," Ms Cartwright said.

    The second proposal is for a technology-neutral carbon reduction scheme for electricity sector emissions.

    "Rather than trying to pick winners -- currently the renewable energy industry -- this policy would let all technologies including gas compete for funding on the basis of economic reduction of emissions," Ms Cartwright said.

    "Such policies would provide appropriate signals to investors in the supply and generation sectors that there is a future for natural gas in Australia.

    "With such long lead times required for this investment, announcements now would help to secure our environmental and energy security future."

  47. Don't fall for China's spell, warns Howard

    FORMER prime minister John Howard has warned Australia not to become mesmerised by China, and instead focus on maintaining an efficient and productive economy.

    In a major speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Mr Howard said he believed Australia must stay diversified and not become reliant on the mining industry.

    China is Australia's largest trading partner, with trade between the two nations now up to $US130 billion a year.

    It is also the largest buyer of Australian commodities, but demand could fall sharply if China's economy starts to weaken.

    Mr Howard also said there were transmission risks for the Australian economy as China developed and its economy modernised.

    "That is why it's important to have a developed economy, it's important not to get mesmerised by China," he said.

    "At the same time, we have to make sure we don't squander the natural advantages that we have.


    China can't be taken for granted

    SENIOR mining industry figure Andrew Michelmore has warned that China has growing concerns about Australia's attractiveness as an investment destination even though state-owned companies are looking to exploit distressed asset values.

    His warning comes as newly installed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has already called time on the mining boom.

    But Mr Michelmore says that with China's new leadership setting the groundwork for "stronger for longer" growth rates of 7-7.5 per cent, the federal government should be aiming to restore its investment appeal.

    Mr Michelmore is uniquely positioned to talk about the challenges facing the local industry and its interaction with China. He is chief executive of the Melbourne-managed, Hong Kong-listed and Chinese state-controlled MMG.

    Mr Michelmore also became the new chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia last week.

    China is the world's biggest consumer of minerals. In the two years after the 2007 start to the global financial crisis, it was an opportunistic investor of more than $60 billion in the Australian resources sector.


    THE INTERESTING FIGURES IN THE ABOVE STORIES ARE - US$130 BILLION A YEAR trade between the two nations....and....$60 BILLION in the resources sector.

    The reason I put those two there was to put the next story into a money perspective.

    See "OUT OF AFRICA" below.


    "International pressure on Australian miners operating overseas is rising, with a new report by social justice group ActionAid claiming poor countries are losing more than $130 billion in tax revenues by giving generous tax breaks to big companies, including Australian miners."

    Out of Africa, tax tricks emerge

    It was buried in a long and all-encompassing speech.

    But to those in business attuned to the language, the Tax Office's warning to the Minerals Council of Australia in April could not have been any clearer: we know what you're doing, and we're coming after you.

    And since Deputy Commissioner Mark Konza met the powerful mining group to warn that offshore restructuring was coming under the microscope, the Tax Office has gone even further.

    It is working hard to catch up with the sophisticated profit-shifting techniques that developed among miners as rapidly as the mining boom itself.

    ''There's a view among some companies that if everyone is doing the same thing, then they're all relatively safe,'' Mr Konza told Weekend Business, describing the logic that has led up to two-thirds of Australia's top-100 listed companies, many of them miners, to rely heavily on tax havens and low-tax jurisdictions.

    ''It's concerning when you see people take things that are legal, put them on steroids, and try to get so much out of the arrangement that they lose contact with reality.''

    Mr Konza's investigations add to the pressure on multinational resources companies operating in the developing world, with the OECD, non-government organisations and the African Development Bank all calling for more transparency around their activities.

    In the Tax Office's 26 investigations into suspected profit-shifting, 15 of which are in the energy and resources sector, Mr Konza is looking for what he calls ''absurd'' financial information.

    Fuelled by a funding boost received in the last federal budget, he signalled an additional 60 investigations, 20 of which will target energy and resources companies.

    While mining companies are not a deliberate target, they make up a third of cases because of their sheer size and profits.

    ''Mining has been very profitable in the last decade,'' Mr Konza said. ''They're still making good profits, and of course the question arises, well, is there some way we could pay a lower portion of tax on these profits?''

    On Monday, BusinessDay revealed that a new Tax Office taskforce would trawl through the contracts of suspicious subsidiaries and offshore accounts used by some of Australia's biggest companies.

    Mr Konza, who heads the taskforce, said while miners were by no means alone, it had become common for those in the resources sector to set up complex ''value chains'' that extended way beyond their operations in Africa or south-east Asia and their headquarters in Perth.

  49. Out of Africa...cont...(Australian Uranium miner Paladin in it deep)

    The British Virgin Islands and Bermuda are well-known tax havens, but Fairfax Media has discovered that ASX-100 companies have no fewer than 22 subsidiaries registered in Mauritius, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean that often acts as a conduit for investment in Africa and India.

    ''They'll say, OK well, yes we dig up the minerals here in Australia, but this company located in another country - they're the ones that find the buyers,'' Mr Konza said.

    ''So we wonder whether these functions really are being done in the other place.''

    Mr Konza said the Tax Office was scrutinising companies that established offshore ''marketing hub'' arrangements, an increasingly common move among multinational energy and resources companies. But he warned that investigations could take several years because of the required economic analysis, and the difficulty of getting ''secrecy jurisdictions'' to co-operate.

    ''What we're finding are instances where we think the prices being paid to the company in the low-tax jurisdictions are very, very high.

    ''Often intangibles are moved, things like rights to market, so you have to find out whether they have really moved … You need to interview their officers to see how they actually conduct their business.''

    With about 240 Australian mining companies operating in Africa, the Tax Office is being forced to consider the problem on a much more global level.

    ''The reality is, Africa is being ripped off big time,'' African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka told Reuters last month.

    Speaking before the G8 summit, which brings together the leaders of the world's richest nations, Mr Kaberuka was giving a frank assessment of the foreign companies that mine Africa's resources - a business that non-government organisations complain enriches shareholders but does little for local people.

    ''Africa wants to grow itself out of poverty through trade and investment - part of doing so is to ensure there is transparency and sound governance in the natural resources sector,'' Mr Kaberuka said.

    International pressure on Australian miners operating overseas is rising, with a new report by social justice group ActionAid claiming poor countries are losing more than $130 billion in tax revenues by giving generous tax breaks to big companies, including Australian miners.

    ''In most cases, these are backroom deals signed directly with politicians with little or no parliamentary scrutiny,'' ActionAid Australia head of campaigns Mark Chenery said.

    ''We know Australian miners are benefiting from these deals.''

    Uranium producer Paladin Energy is one Australian miner under scrutiny for its tax arrangements in Malawi, where it runs a mine in Karonga.

    A report by Norwegian Church Aid alleges there are discrepancies between Paladin's reported tax and the tax it actually pays the Malawian government, and says other payments by Paladin in Malawi are lower than the company reports.

    The group alleges that although Paladin claims to have paid $US9.6 million last year, figures obtained by the aid organisation show it paid just $US5.75 million.

    As part of a detailed response, a Paladin spokesman said the company was ''fully aware of the report and we strongly dispute all the claims made in the report''. He said taxes paid to the Malawi government last year totalled $7.8 million and raised issue with other figures provided in the report. The company did not respond to questions about its subsidiary in Mauritius.

  50. Out of Africa...cont...

    (News Corp - who spent a great deal of time calling The Protectors all sorts of names for denying Aboriginals money from the JPP gas hub - one of the worst offenders)

    Paladin is just one of the Australian companies using Mauritius as a stepping stone, where it has a subsidiary, Langer Heinrich Mauritius Holdings, as do eight ASX-100 companies.

    In addition to its white sand beaches, casinos and luxury resorts, the tiny island's attractions include a favourable tax treaty that exempts Mauritian investors from capital gains tax in India.

    In 2011, it was ranked 33rd on the Tax Justice Network's Financial Secrecy Index, criticised for its banking secrecy, lack of company ownership records and lax trust rules.

    In recent months, Indian politicians have turned their ire on the tax treaty, saying ''post-box companies'' in Mauritius are used by both foreign multinationals and rich Indians to avoid paying tax in India.

    These allegations have been denied by the Mauritian authorities and the island's financial services industry.

    However, Fairfax Media found that all but three of 22 Mauritian subsidiaries of ASX-100 companies were classic ''post-box companies'' that gave a registered address care of an accountant or company registration service.

    Of them, News Corp is the biggest user of Mauritian companies. Before its split last month into a publishing arm and a broadcasting company, the Murdoch empire controlled 14 entities in Mauritius, most giving an address care of offshore company formation group Multiconsult in the island's capital, Port Louis.

    Some of the News companies seem related to Murdoch's pan-Asian TV service, STAR. However, others bear cryptic names such as Buzzer Investments, Acetic Investments and Riddle Investments.

    A News Corp spokesman declined to comment.

    Telstra, Transfield Services and AMP have used their Mauritian subsidiaries to invest in India.

    Telstra declined to comment specifically on its Mauritian subsidiary, Reach Holdings, but has previously said it was a holding company for operations in India.

    Recycler Sims Metal Management said its subsidiary in Mauritius, Sims Group Mauritius, was also used to invest in India but was in the process of being wound up.

    Rio Tinto's two Mauritian companies, ProMark Services and Carrier Holdings, were acquired by the group in its 2011 takeover of Riversdale Mining, which has operations in Mozambique. Rio Tinto declined to comment.

    ''To be candid, it should have been shut down years ago - we simply haven't got around to doing so,'' Transfield Services spokesman David Jamieson said.

    ''No funds have ever moved through it.''

    AMP spokeswoman Lara Evans said its Mauritian subsidiary was used to invest in Indian assets on behalf of the group's clients.

    ''This subsidiary has been liquidated and the proceeds repatriated back to investors,'' she said.

    The government is under increasing pressure to introduce disclosure laws that would force companies to report what they pay governments in every country they operate in. Such disclosure laws would bring Australia in line with the US, the European Union and Canada.

    Under the US and EU legislation, companies are required to reveal how much they pay a foreign government in taxes, royalties, fees, licences and bonuses. In Europe, they are also forced to disclose any social payments they make, such as building a school.

    Advocacy group Publish What You Pay says ''country-by-country'' disclosure laws would protect poor as well as wealthy nations from corporate tax-dodging. ''We're talking huge sums that dwarf aid,'' spokeswoman Claire Spoors said.


    "The land parcels will be mainly conservation areas and reserves but will also include some government properties in the metropolitan area and South West."

    "Mr Barnett said "This is the largest land settlement in Australian history and it's a very sophisticated agreement," he said.

    "It will give economic independence, pride and dignity to Aboriginal people into the future.

    "Nothing happens overnight but we expect this arrangement will help lift outcomes in Aboriginal health, education and employment over time.""


    WA native title offer lifted to $1.3b

    The State Government's offer to settle native title claims over Perth and the South West has been expanded and increased, taking the cash and land package to an estimated $1.3 billion.

    Premier Colin Barnett handed a Cabinet-approved agreement to Noongar leaders yesterday, which, if accepted, will be the biggest settlement of its kind in Australia.

    In return for giving up land rights over 106 local government areas, the estimated 35,000 Noongar people would receive an indexed sum of $50 million each year for 12 years into a perpetual trust for economic projects and cultural and social programs.

    The trust capital would be preserved and accumulate under the management of a board of trustees, including members from the Government and Noongar leadership.

    The offer of government land, estimated last year to be between 100,000ha and 200,000ha, is likely to reach 320,000ha. The original cash and land package was estimated at $1 billion.

    The land parcels will be mainly conservation areas and reserves but will also include some government properties in the metropolitan area and South West.

    Mr Barnett said that if Noongar groups accepted the offer, the first payment would be made next July.

    "This is the largest land settlement in Australian history and it's a very sophisticated agreement," he said.

    "It will give economic independence, pride and dignity to Aboriginal people into the future.

    "Nothing happens overnight but we expect this arrangement will help lift outcomes in Aboriginal health, education and employment over time."

    South West Land and Sea Council chief executive Glen Kelly, who has been negotiating the deal for several years, said he believed it would get enough support in the Aboriginal community to be ratified.

    The SWLSC has held hundreds of community meetings to get a consensus among the families involved in six native title areas that form the single claimant group.

    "Sometimes you meet with resistance but quietly behind the scenes there are many, many Noongars who want this to go ahead and actually want us to do it quicker," Mr Kelly said. "We are taking the cautious approach because we need to consult and get it right."
    Mr Kelly said an important addition to the package was about 120 government-owned houses that would be transferred to the trust to form the basis of a Noongar housing estate, which the elders wanted to develop and expand over time for ownership, rental tenancies and emergency accommodation.

  52. Spy linked to visa rort claims

    A Russian spy has been revealed as a key figure in alleged visa rorts that resulted in Russians moving to WA to work for an ill-fated nickel miner.

    Elena Vavilova was arrested by the FBI in 2010 in the biggest espionage scandal since the end of the Cold War that caught 10 Russian spies living in the US.

    Using the false name Tracey Lee Ann Foley, Ms Vavilova worked as a real estate agent in Massachusetts while reporting intelligence gathered from business and political contacts back to Moscow.

    She was repatriated to Russia where she was decorated by leader Vladimir Putin.

    Within six months, Ms Vavilova was appointed "adviser to director of international production assets" at Norilsk Nickel. The company, which has offices in West Perth, operated a nickel mine at Lake Johnston, 130km west of Norseman.

    Ms Vavilova is described in Norilsk Nickel Australia documents as senior human resources manager. One of her roles was to make travel arrangements for more than a dozen Russian nationals who were sponsored for temporary visas in WA by Norilsk.

    The company recently closed its Lake Johnston operations. _The Weekend West _has spoken to former employees who have accused the company of misusing temporary work visas to move unqualified Russian managers to Australia.

    Though there is no direct evidence Norilsk used the 457 visa system to bring Russian intelligence agents to Australia, _The Weekend West _has established that last year Ms Vavilova helped a Russian mine worker enter WA after fleeing Botswana where he was facing minor charges. Botswana media later accused the man of being a Russian spy, which the company denied.
    Australian Federal Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation declined to comment.


    Keep private sector out of rail: expert

    A transport planning expert has warned the Barnett Government against private sector involvement in its rail plans in a further blow to its public transport strategy.

    After Tony Abbott's confirmation that a Federal coalition government would not help pay for the MAX light rail and airport rail link projects, Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Troy Buswell both signalled an expectation of private investment.

    Melbourne University lecturer in transport planning John Stone said yesterday public-private partnerships needed caution.

    Dr Stone told ABC Radio the shift to private sector transport operators in Melbourne had led to higher fares.

    He said private operators needed "cast-iron guarantees" on returns for investment.

    "It means that any problem that comes up in the projects ends up coming back on the public purse," he said.

    "So, it's much more important that we try to find a way of the public keeping control of these projects."

    Dr Stone described Mr Abbott's comments that he favoured roads over rail as "looking back to the 50s".


    Mr Wyatt said the Muja AB power station disaster was proof the Government could not be trusted with a joint venture partnership.


    ""It seems to me the policies and procedures there to deal with the sorts of issues I have raised are just smokescreens designed to wear you down until you go away," she said."

    Prison whistleblower sent on leave

    One of the whistleblowers behind this week's revelations about the Department of Corrective Services has been ordered in writing to take indefinite leave despite her role in bringing corruption and misconduct to the public's attention.

    The investigator from the department's professional standards division was stunned to receive the letter on Thursday - the day before she was scheduled to return to work.

    While wanting to remain anonymous, the investigator told The Weekend West that she believed the department had "lost its moral compass".

    "It seems to me the policies and procedures there to deal with the sorts of issues I have raised are just smokescreens designed to wear you down until you go away," she said.

    The department has faced revelations about improper associations between prison officers and organised crime figures, the leaking of sensitive documents and that a toxic culture of bullying still exists.

    There was also evidence that a network of investigators from several government departments shared "intelligence" with one another about staff they did not like.

    One of the whistleblower's colleagues, who referred to women in an email as BMWs - bitching, moaning women - remains in his job.

    Hundreds of emails proved that the investigator and her boss were being undermined, which prompted the head of professional standards Terry Buckingham to suspend a member of the internal investigations unit.

    "That didn't address the situation I was in," the whistleblower said. "The test of integrity seems to be that if no one knows, then it's OK."

    Yesterday, Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis said he would raise concerns about his department with Public Sector Commissioner Mal Wauchope.

    It is understood he also plans to meet the investigator, who believes her future in the department is now untenable, next week.

    The WA Prison Officers Union said it was keen to discuss the IIU with the minister. "There are continuing worries on the part of prison officers that those tasked with managing the security risks in prisons are not up to the job," union secretary John Welch said.

    The whistleblower believes evidence supporting her claims was withheld from one inquiry and as a result they were labelled "frivolous and vexatious". That finding followed a consultant lawyer's report supporting her claims.


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