Australia ‘8th least sustainable nation’

If the rest of the world lived the lifestyle led by the average Australian, it would take almost four planets to sustain us, according to a World Wildlife Fund report.


Australia was eighth in a list of 152 countries in the biennial Living Planet Report which ranked their destruction of the world’s natural resources.

Australia improved its ranking slightly over the past two years, falling from fifth to eighth in the world’s most unsustainable nations, but the report said 3.8 planets would still be required to support the world’s population if everyone lived like the average Australian.

The report measures the amount of natural resources needed to sustain each person’s lifestyle, or ecological footprint, which is expressed in units called global hectares (gha).

For Australians, 6.8 gha per person is needed each year to sustain our lifestyles, thanks largely to our carbon emissions and grazing footprint.

This compares to 8 gha for those in the United States, 4.9 gha for United Kingdom residents and 2.2 gha for people living in China.

The nation with the largest ecological footprint is the United Arab Emirates at 10.7 gha per person.

The report found that mankind’s demand on the planet’s natural resources has doubled since 1966 and we’re currently using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities.

It said carbon pollution is a major culprit in driving the planet into ecological overdraft.

WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman says the federal government must put a price on carbon pollution.

“This is the most economically efficient and environmentally effective way of reducing Australia’s emissions,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“Business and individuals also have a role to play in lessening our impact on the environment.

“We must reconsider our choices concerning energy efficiency, transport, food, electrical products, living and office space and disposal of waste.”

Demographer and social commentator Bernard Salt wonders if the report took into account the size of Australia and the spread of its population.

“I’m not disputing the figures but I wonder if there isn’t a factor reflecting the nature of the continent – it’s a big open country with transportation costs between places expensive in terms of fossil fuel,” Mr Salt told AAP.

“The report is a helpful reminder that we need to be more efficient but we do need to view these figures in their proper context.”

Opposition calls for insulation inquiry

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt has called for a judicial inquiry into the federal government’s botched home insulation scheme, which he described as “rotten to the core”.


The axed stimulus scheme was linked to four deaths and a score of house fires.

The commonwealth auditor-general’s assessment of the scheme has found issues of safety and fraud became so widespread that the environment department became overwhelmed by the number of claims being received.

Mr Hunt said the auditor-general was unable to make recommendations about the program because the government had refused to release cabinet papers about its knowledge of the scheme.

He called for a judicial inquiry into the program, saying it was “rotten to the core”. “The auditor-general was prevented from examining the links between the program and the deaths of four young men,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

He criticised the “very narrow” terms of reference of the inquiry.

“The auditor-general was not able to inquire into the heart of the matter, the four tragic deaths associated with the program, and the auditor-general was not in a position to give recommendations given that the program was terminated.

“It is time now that (former environment minister) Peter Garrett should do the honourable thing and resign immediately.

“If not, then Julia Gillard must sack him.” He said the report confirmed that the government had prioritised economic stimulus over safety despite departmental warnings.

“This report is a fatal indictment of ministerial responsibility, of Peter Garrett’s ministerial career and of the tragedies which flowed under the home insulation program from faulty design and arrogant government,” Mr Hunt said.

“It was the decision of the gang of four to put stimulus over safety, which caused fraud, fire, failure on a massive scale and above all else contributed to the possible deaths of four beautiful young men.”

Of 13,808 insulated roofs inspected up to March, at least 29 per cent were found to have some level of deficiency, ranging from minor quality issues to serious safety concerns, the report said.

Mr Hunt said that meant up to 300,000 homes with “dangerous or dodgy” roofs remained unchecked for fire risk.

He said more than $800 million has been set aside for inspections under the home insulation safety scheme in the budget.

“It should be used because it has already been provisioned to protect existing homeowners who are at risk,” Mr Hunt said.

CBA says rate pain on the horizon

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ralph Norris says the rising cost of funding will push up interest rates independent of changes to the central bank’s cash rate.


“There is no doubt when we look at the current cost of funding that rates are going to increase,” Mr Norris told media following a business lunch in Sydney on Thursday.

“As I said in my address today, the additional cost of liquidity and the additional cost of capital is going to have an upward pressure on interest rates going forward.

“Movements in bank funding costs are impacted by more than just the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) cash rate.” Mr Norris said global pressures on funding costs would persist while market volatility and sovereign debt issues remained.

“Until we see some sort of normality get back into markets, but I don’t see that happening quickly.

“The cost of debt is now significantly impacted by what is now known as the risk premium.” Mr Norris said the Commonwealth Bank had a “significant tranche” of funding on its books that continues to roll at a higher cost.

He said the cost of funding from domestic savings had risen 126 basis points since the global financial crisis began in earnest over two years ago. The cost of obtaining offshore funding had risen 140 basis points, he said.

“The crisis really started in earnest two years ago, and we have been funding out to five years,” he said.

“There is still a significant tranche of funds on our books to roll at the new higher rates.”

The RBA board next meets to decide on interest rates on November 2. The RBA’s cash rate stands at 4.5 per cent, having last increased the rate by a quarter of a percentage point in May.

Pond drained in search for Aussie girl

Authorities searching for the body of Australian girl Zahra Baker began draining a pond near her father’s workplace on Wednesday, while her stepmother remained in custody after appearing in court.


Authorities worked late into Wednesday night to drain the pond near a property owned by Real Tree Services, the tree trimming company where Adam Baker, Zahra’s Australian father, is employed, The Charlotte Observer reported on its website.

Adam Baker and his wife Elisa, who is Zahra’s American stepmother, remain suspects in the disappearance of the 10-year-old girl, who authorities believe has been murdered.

She was reported missing from her home in Hickory, North Carolina, on Saturday.

Elisa Baker appeared in court on Wednesday charged over a fake ransom note, while Adam Baker was reportedly on the scene as authorities searched for his daughter’s body on Tuesday.

About 15-25 investigators were working past nightfall on Wednesday in cool, damp weather to drain the pond, CNN reported.

The pond is next to the bushland owned by Real Tree Services that police and cadaver sniffing dogs searched on Tuesday night.

The search included inspections of mulching machinery and large piles of wood chips.

Zahra’s father frequently worked there hauling loads of wood and brush to be fed into a wood chipper and turned into mulch, witnesses told CNN.

Adam Baker was on the scene during the Tuesday night search aimed at finding his daughter’s body, Burke County Sheriff John T McDevitt told CNN on Tuesday night.

“He seems concerned,” Mr McDevitt said.

“But I don’t know how sincere his concern is.”

Meanwhile, Elisa Baker, appeared in a US court on Wednesday, facing an obstruction of justice charge for writing a fake ransom note demanding $US1 million.

The note was found on a car windshield at the family’s home in Hickory, North Carolina, at the weekend, before Zahra was reported missing.

Elisa Baker remains in custody on $US40,000 bail and her lawyer, D Scott Reilly, told the court he planned to file a motion to have the bond amount reduced in an attempt to win her release.

When judge Gregory Hayes asked Elisa Baker if she understood the charge against her and if she had any questions for him, she replied in quiet “yes” and “no” answers.

Mystery continues to surround the disappearance of Zahra, who had her lower left leg amputated five years ago after a battle with bone cancer. The cancer also resulted in Zahra needing hearing aids.

Lieutenant Becky Weatherman of the Burke County Sheriff’s Office said the lack of specifics on where to look was making the search more difficult, the Observer reported.

“It’s very hard,” she said. “Especially if (someone) buried underground or you don’t know where exactly to look.”

The FBI has been called in to assist local police with the search and conduct any needed laboratory work.

Hickory locals held a candlelight vigil for Zahra outside East Hickory Baptist Church on Wednesday night.

Calls for law reform after abortion case

Pro-choice advocates have welcomed the acquittal of a Cairns couple charged over a home abortion and have called on the Queensland Government to reform the law.


A Cairns jury on Thursday took less than an hour to find Tegan Simone Leach, 21, and her partner Sergie Brennan not guilty of charges of procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion following a three-day trial.

The verdict was greeted with cheers and applause from the public gallery while a teary Ms Leach hugged her legal team and family members.

Pro-choice campaigner Dr Caroline De Costa said she was delighted with the jury’s verdict and called on the Queensland parliament to reform the law so no-one is ever charged with the offence again.

“This sends a very strong message about what the people of Queensland feel about the abortion laws,” she told reporters outside court.

“This law was written in 1899, it is no longer relevant to the practice of abortion in 2010 or what the general pubic think.”

However, Cherish Life Queensland president Teresa Martin said the group would lobby MPs to maintain the current law.

She said pregnant women who did not want to keep their child should be aware they had other options such as adoption.

“We don’t believe that abortion ever helps a situation, it does harm, it harms physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally,” she said.

Premier Anna Bligh, who has said she is in favour of reforming the law, has refused to allow a private member’s bill on the matter because she does not believe it has the support of a majority of MPs.

The couple were charged after police found empty blister packets of abortion drugs RU486 and Misoprostol during a search of their home on an unrelated matter in February last year.

Under Queensland law, abortion is illegal except to protect the mother’s life or her physical or mental wellbeing.

RU486 and Misoprostol are legally available in Queensland but their use is heavily restricted.

The couple are the first ever to be charged with the offence in Queensland.

Have faith in me: Ponting

Australian captain Ricky Ponting remains defiant in the face of the team’s worst Test match losing streak in

22 years, saying he still believes he’s the man for the job.


Speaking in Sydney after his arrival home from India, where the Australians lost the Test series 2-0, Ponting brushed aside calls for him to step down as captain.

When asked if he still feels he’s the person to lead the side Ponting was unwavering.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’ve got no doubt about that all.

“It was disappointing over there (India) … but that’s the game of cricket.

“I’m still learning about my own game and my captaincy and if the other players can learn a bit from that trip then it should hold us in good stead for the summer.

“I’m trying to do my best as captain to help some of these guys through some difficult times.

“That’s all I can continue to do.

“I give my absolute best as always, ever since I’ve been the Australian captain, to be the best leader I can be and be the best player I can be and if I get criticised for that along the way then I can’t do anything about that.”

One of his critics has been former Test spinner Shane Warne who used social networking site Twitter to question Ponting’s captaincy during the second Test.

“I told him (Warne) I was a bit disappointed and that what he had to say was very unfair,” Ponting said.

“Warnie has a lot of followers (on Twitter) following what he has to say and probably some of those followers now might start believing what he’s had to say, so that’s disappointing.

“It’s one person’s opinion on one little aspect of one little part of the two Test matches that we’ve played.

“It’s done and dusted now, we’ve got to move on and start preparing for the Ashes.”

With less than a month before the first Test at the Gabba Ponting feels selections may be more open than usual with domestic players possibly getting a chance to shine in light of the Test team’s form slump.

“It’s very rare that we lose three games in a row so I’m sure the selectors will have a few things that they’re thinking about over the next few weeks.

“With the Shield season already underway there have been some great standout performances already.

“So all that guys that are outside the team can do is perform well and keep putting their name up in front of the selectors.”

Aussies’ worst Test streak in 22 years

Australia will enter the Ashes series saddled with their worst Test match losing streak for 22 years after India glided to a seven-wicket victory on the final day of the second Test at Bangalore.


Not since the first three matches of the 1988-89 home series against the West Indies have Australia lost three in a row, but they have now managed to do so again by failing to crack the Indian batting on a wearing pitch.

The result had a further Ashes implication, dropping Australia down to fifth in the ICC world rankings, behind England. India maintained their comfortable hold on the No.1 ranking, a deserved accolade on the strength of a commanding fourth innings chase.

Despite the early loss of Virender Sehwag to the bowling of Ben Hilfenhaus (1-27), the Indian pursuit was both nerveless and rapid, with the young duo of Cheteshwar Pujara (72) and Murali Vijay (37) wresting control.

Sachin Tendulkar (53no to follow his first innings 214) then shepherded India to a 2-0 series win alongside Rahul Dravid (21no).

Aside from the unstinting Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson (0-42) and debutant Peter George (0-29) could not find their best, while Nathan Hauritz (1-76) was attacked mercilessly.

India’s target was kept below the 216 chased so narrowly in Mohali last week by the reverse swing of Zaheer Khan (3-41) and Sreesanth (2-48), who accounted for the final three wickets on Wednesday.

Resuming at 7-202 with a lead of 185, the Australians added only a further 21 to their overnight tally as the ball swerved about treacherously.

India’s chase began with a boundary to Vijay from Hilfenhaus, and in the second over Australian hands went to heads when Mike Hussey grassed a difficult chance from Sehwag.

However the tourists have done very well to plan for Sehwag in this series, and once again he was out to a lifting delivery, this time snicking Hilfenhaus behind where Tim Paine took a sharp catch. Surprisingly the new batsman was not longtime No.3 Dravid but Pujara, who was dismissed cheaply in the first innings.

Given a chance here, he was quickly into stride, punching Johnson through the covers and then launching a murderous assault on Hauritz. His first over went for 12 runs and second for 10, as the hosts galloped to 1-73 in 12 overs by the interval – at which time Shane Warne criticised Ponting’s field settings for Hauritz via his Twitter account.

Ponting resorted to George and allrounder Shane Watson (1-20) after lunch, and had success when Vijay was lbw to the latter.

That brought Tendulkar to the crease, and he was to continue batting in the same regal manner of the first innings.

At the other end Pujara was barely troubled and it was a shock when he played down the wrong line at Hauritz and was bowled.

Dravid appeared in good touch when he walked out, and he and Tendulkar collected the final runs without any of the tension that had wracked the final moments of the epic first Test at Mohali.

Premier says BHP can’t overcome concerns

Saskatchewan’s premier said on Friday that BHP Billiton “can’t overcome” his concerns about a foreign takeover of Potash Corp and he asserted Canada’s prime minister made a mistake when he called the company American-controlled.


Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall made the remarks to The Associated Press after publicly rejecting the bid on Thursday.

Andrew Mackenzie, Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton’s chief executive, non-ferrous, said on Thursday he remained confident he can win over the province.

But Wall said it just isn’t in the strategic interest of Canada to allow a foreign takeover of a company that controls more than 25 per cent of the world’s reserves of potash.

“You can’t overcome that,” Wall said in an interview in his office.

BHP Billiton launched a hostile $38.6 billion takeover bid in August for the world’s largest fertiliser company after Potash Corp directors called BHP’s $130 a share offer wholly inadequate.

Potash, a key fertiliser ingredient, is critical to international food security.

Canada’s federal government can block a foreign takeover if it’s not a “net benefit” to Canada, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper government had asked for Wall’s input.

Harper was at odds with Wall this week when he described the deal in Parliament as a “proposal for an American-controlled company to be taken over by an Australian-controlled company.”

Potash Corp’s headquarters is listed as being in Saskatchewan but the chief executive and many top executives are American and live and work in the Chicago area.

Wall said Harper just made a mistake.

“I’ve been in question period and made mistakes before and he made a mistake because it’s factually an error,” said Wall, adding that eight of the 12 board members are Canadian and that 38 per cent of the shares are controlled by Americans.

“It is a Canadian company.”

But Sara MacIntyre, a spokeswoman for Harper, said the prime minister wasn’t mistaken.

“The company is headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois, and the prime minister was referring to the fact that Canadian shareholders don’t own a majority of Potash Corp. and the misconception that the company is still owned by the Saskatchewan province,” MacIntyre said.

By saying the corporate headquarters are in the US, the Harper government appears to be signalling that the company isn’t in need of protection from a foreign takeover.

Wall called it a tough decision to reject the bid but noted Australia blocked Shell’s attempted acquisition of Australian oil fields in 2001.

The premier said Saskatchewan is still open to foreign investment and said a mass email was sent out on Thursday to companies and associations making it clear that nothing has changed in their growth agenda.

Wall disputes the notion he made the decision because of Saskatchewan’s reputation as Canada’s most left-of-centre province.

“Don’t compare us to the 1970s, compare us to 2001 in Australia, compare us to decisions America has made in their strategic interests,” Wall said.

Wall said other countries would laugh the bid off the table.

The federal government is due to announce a decision by November 3. Canada’s main opposition parties are against the deal.

Canadian opposition lawmaker Ralph Goodale, who represents a Saskatchewan district in Ottawa, has said he’d be shocked if the federal government didn’t support the province.

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, is hoping to profit from what it expects will be rising fertiliser demand in China and India.

As the world’s population grows, more food is needed and more fertiliser to grow crops. Demand for potash, a potassium compound also used in industry, is getting a boost from rising demand from emerging giants China and India – the main markets for potash, along with the US and Brazil.

Shares of Potash Corp. closed down 91 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $141.79 on the New York Stock Exchange. Potash shares had soared to more than $230 just before the global recession hit in 2008.

Potash Corp is a former government-owned company that was created after the government nationalised many smaller US potash companies based in Saskatchewan. The provincial government later privatised the company.

Brisbane to get superfast broadband

Brisbane is set to become the nation’s first city to have super-fast fibre optic broadband running through its sewage pipes.


Work on the fibre optic network would start in early 2011 at no cost to ratepayers, Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman announced on Thursday.

Mr Newman said the infrastructure would not double up on the federal government’s National Broadband Network (NBN).

“We wish to have no disagreement with NBN (but) as the mayor of Brisbane and as a person serving one million people in this city I want them to get this infrastructure now,” Mr Newman told Brisbane reporters.

Mr Newman said he had approached NBN officials about adopting this technology, whereby fibre optic cables are fed to homes through sewerage pipes.

The NBN officials told him that they already had a deal with Telstra but that he was welcome to go ahead with his plan, he said.

“NBN has said consistently that as long as you have an open access fibre infrastructure, they won’t come in on the top of you and I hope that would be the case,” Mr Newman said.

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the federal government welcomed the Liberal lord mayor’s recognition that fibre-to-the-home was the future technology for Australians, despite opposition to the NBN from federal coalition MPs.

Multinational company i3 Asia-Pacific has promised to provide the technology within four years, with plans to roll it out to 15,000 homes a month.

The i3 group’s CEO, Elfed Thomas, announced it would cost the company about $600 million to roll out the network compared with the $43 billion NBN project.

Mr Newman said every residential and commercial street had a sewage pipe.

“The little cable will snake its way up the 9500km of sewers in Brisbane just outside people’s front doors, and they have the technology to get it out of the sewer without impacting on the

operation of the sewer and run it into the premises,” he said.

“So it cuts down this huge cost of digging up streets and laying down conduits.”

The scheme is expected to provide broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, which would allow large files like movies or video conferences to be downloaded or streamed in seconds.

Australia drops to fifth in Test ranking

Australia’s beaten Test players will fly home on Thursday while a pared back limited overs squad prepares to face India in three matches.


Captain Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson have all been rested from the series, while Test match specialists Simon Katich, Peter George and Marcus North are also on their way to home ports.

They will have an opportunity to rest and also re-adjust to Australian conditions, their mastery of which will be pivotal to the quest for the Ashes.

Australia will enter the Ashes series on the back of their worst Test match losing streak for 22 years after India cruised to a seven-wicket victory in Bangalore.

Australia last lost three in a row in 1988-89 and have now dropped to fifth on the ICC rankings, behind England.

Captain Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Mitcehll Johnson have all been rested from the three-match one-day series beginning this weekend and will fly home today with Test specialists Simon Katich, Peter George and Marcus North.

Ponting said his men had to re-train their sights quickly on the home summer.

“We played very, very well for the majority of the first Test. We played pretty well for the majority of this Test match,” said Ponting after a seven-wicket loss in the second Test.

“India deserve to have won both the games but I think, even if you ask them, they’d be a bit flattered by that end result.

“There have been some positives, some negatives, but we’ve got to move on pretty quickly now.

“Our next Test is at the Gabba against England at the start of the Ashes series and we have to make sure we play five good, long, tough days of Test match cricket then.”

The one-day series will provide a challenge for vice-captain Michael Clarke, who made only 35 runs from four completed innings in the Test series.

It will also offer a chance for Nathan Hauritz to repair some of the damage to his standing that was meted out by India’s Test batsmen, who limited him to just six wickets at a cost of 65 apiece while he leaked 4.3 runs per over.

India, meanwhile, have chosen to rest frontline players Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha during the limited-overs series.

They will also be without the Delhi trio of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma due to injuries.

The three-match series will be held at Kochi (October 17), Vizag (October 20) and Margao, Goa (October 24).