Sunshine Coast not so sunny

August 5, 2012

Mining magnate Clive Palmer has plans to turn Queensland’s Sunshine Coast into one of the world’s top tourist destinations:

His plans include an international airport, a 1000-room beachfront hotel, and  a 400-person ocean-going hovercraft service between Brisbane’s CBD to Coolum.

In the video on the link above (1:07)  he speaks about the Sunshine Coast being depressed with high unemployment.

That confirms our observation, on a two-day sunshine fix at Noosa last week, that the Sunshine Coast’s economy was far from sunny.

Last time we were there, about four years ago, the town was bustling. This time it was quiet with several empty shops and lots of for sale and lease signs on buildings.

The weather was cool by local standards which might have been keeping people indoors but locals we talked to said it had been a quiet winter.

The high dollar won’t be helping tourism, nor will high prices. People complain about the cost of food here, it was more expensive there even before we converted our currency. Main courses were rarely less than $A35 and often more than $A40 which was at least 10% more than was usual in cafés and restaurants we ate at when we were in Europe in June.

We spoke about our observations with farmers at a dinner in Sydney on Thursday. They said we were seeing the slower side of the two-speed economy. Mining is booming, farming’s generally okay and so are the businesses which service and supply them but the rest of the economy is struggling.

Even though it was cool, the sun was shining in Noosa but there was a chill in the economic air.

Palmer’s plan is likely to be controversial but it could be what’s needed to bring some heat back to the Sunshine Coast’s economy.

 

 

 


Labor decimated

March 25, 2012

The Australian Labor Party has been decimated in the Queensland State Elections

Disaffected voters deserted the government to deliver Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman a massive majority, while Ms Bligh was left fighting for political survival in her own seat.

With 70 per cent of the vote counted, Labor had scraped together just six seats, with the LNP picking up 75 in a 16 per cent statewide swing against the government. Labor needs nine seats to retain party status. Among the casualties were six Labor ministers, including Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser.

The victory puts the former Brisbane lord mayor into the record books for landing the premiership without having served a day in parliament.

Australian friends who are staying with us said that Anna Bligh was well regarded for her handling of last year’s floods and Cyclone Yasi but too many other factors were against her and her party.

They expect this to have repercussions at Federal level, making Julia Gillard’s position even more precarious and that Kevin Rudd might be stupid enough to have another tilt at the leadership.

While Australia is enjoying a mineral boom and farming is doing well, the rest of the economy is sluggish.

They said people are grumpy, Labor was spending too much and too many factions made it unstable.

 


Not always the lucky country

January 14, 2011

Daytime temperatures never got lower than the mid 30s when we were in the Northern Territory and Northern Western Australia in August and we were very aware of the fire danger.

We were also conscious of humidity but the locals told us this was nothing, it was still the Dry and we wouldn’t know humidity until we’d been there in the Wet.

It was difficult for us to understand what somewhere so dry could be like in the wet. An average rainfall of 800mm ( a little more than 30 inches) is less than half as much again as North Otago’s, but it’s a lot when most of it falls from late November until March.

The stations we visited were geared for both the Wet and the Dry. Calving was timed to coincide with peak feed and allow most stock to be fattened and sold before the rains came. Most workers went away for summer with only a skeleton staff were kept on to look after stock which remained.

It seemed to be a very tough life to us and not just because of the climate. Katherine and Kununurra are thousands of kilometres away from reasonable population centres which could provide domestic markets so cattle was shipped live to Indonesia and exactly what they could sell was subject to changing whims of the government there. It had recently decided it wanted to be self-sufficient in beef in a few years and dropped the live weight of cattle it would accept. That was forcing the stations to rework their budgets and would have a significant negative effect on the bottom line.

But the people we spoke to loved it. They might go over to Queensland for a holiday during the wet but they were always happy to get back home.

They’ll be on holiday now, I hope it’s not in the area which has been flooded.

We often look in wonder, sometimes even envy, at our neighbours across the ditch but it’s not always the lucky country.

Australia was generous in its support for us after the Canterbury earthquake and during the Pike River mine disaster, now it’s our turn to help them.

Most of our banks are accepting donations. Red Cross is sending a team across to help and you can make an online donation here.


Banana campaign is bananas

April 21, 2009

An Australian wasn’t happy when she discovered a foreign banana in the breakfast Qantas served to her on a flight home from New Zealand.

Toni Rogers says she’s shocked the national carrier is serving bananas from the Philippines given the amount of media coverage the imports issue has had.. . . 

“It was also the fact that it was Qantas, if it was Air New Zealand I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought,” Ms Rogers says. . .

“That’s probably what concerned me more than anything else, Qantas was serving Filipino bananas in preference to our local growers,” Ms Rogers says.

She was also worried about how the bananas are disposed of and the potential quarantine threat they may posse people get them through airprot quarantine systems.

The Australian banana industry says it’s comfortable with the checks and balances in place to ensure fresh fruit doesn’t breach border biosecurity.

It’s more concerned about why the national carrier isn’t serving Australian bananas on trans-Tasman flights.

CEO Tony Heidrich says given the publicity surrounding the Philippine banana imports, this could be potentially damaging to Qantas. . .

“I think any Australian would like to see our national carrier supporting Australian industries, just as Australians try and support Qantas on the routes they operate.”

If the banana industry isn’t concerned about biosecurity breaches the issue isn’t fear of pests and disseases it’s nationalism.

The national airline should carry the nation’s produce, right? Not necessarily, there are other factors to keep in mind including cost and the trade implications.

If Australian bananas are more expensive would passengers still want them to be supplied in preference to bananas, or any other fruit, from elsewhere? And if they want Australian bananas on Australian planes will they accept that airlines from other countries favour produce from their own producers rather than from Australia?

New Zealand and Australia have the strictest biosecurity border controls I’ve encountered and for very good reaons. We’re both surrounded by sea with no very close neighbours which should make it easier to keep out unwanted pests and diseases, and primary industry is very important to our economies.

But we both need to be very careful about pretending to play the biosecurity card when what were really doing is playing the protectionist one.

Buying local pulls the heartstrings, but it’s not necessarily best.

Hat Tip: Larvatus Prodeo   , go on click on it because something which starts with: Everyone knows that Kiwis constantly try to subvert our Australian way of life. They did it, for example by sending us Jo Bjelke-Petersen back in 1913 and then again with Russell Crowe. . . . is worth reading 🙂


Too little and too much

February 18, 2009

Phone calls to friends in Australia last night reinforced the tragic irony of  toom little water in one area and too much in another.

A family in Victoria is waiting anxiously as fire, albeit slow burning, approaches one of their properties.

While other friends who farm in northern New South Wales are dealing with floods after several years battling the dry.

The ABC reports that these are drought breaking rains.

Further to the north and west in Bourke, authorities are tallying up the damage bill after three quarters of the towns annual rainfall came down in 15 hours on the weekend. This in a town that just recently saw an exodus of a fifth of its population because of the drought.

Our  friends haven’t lost stock and are grateful the flooding round them is not nearly as bad as that in Quensland.

Thousands of kilometres away in Queensland, the towns of Normanton and Karumba have been cut off for six weeks and may have to tough it out for another month. Emergency services are ensuring people get the basics like food and medicine, but industries are struggling.
. . . In Karumba, businesses can’t get the goods they need to keep the local economy going and they’re warning job losses are on the way.

The local council estimates that stock losses may run to 100,000 and some graziers may have lost up to two years’ profits.

. . . Further up the river, people shifted 20,000 head out of the floodwaters and up onto higher ground. But then, a lot of that higher ground has gone underwater.


Fire kills in the south, floods kill in the north

February 8, 2009

Today’s high temperatures, accompanied by strong winds, have set the fire danger on much of the east coast to extreme.

But in Australia it’s not just a risk, bush fires are raging across Victoria.

A friend whose house burned down years ago said the greatest loss was of photos and treasures, not necessarily valuable in a monetary way but because of personal associations.

However, those are only things and can’t be compared with loss of life and 76 people are now confirmed dead as a result of the Victorian fires.

Kevin Rudd said hell and its fury  had been unleashed on the state.

At the same time, in a tragic irony, Queensland is under flood.

More than 60 per cent of Queensland is under water – 1 million square kilometers, or twice the area of Spain. Ingham has been hardest hit, with 2,900 homes damaged or flooded in a weekend storm and hundreds of people evacuated.

The main cities on northern Queensland’s coast, Townsville and Cairns, were flooded in January storms and are still receiving daily rain. The main highways to Townsville were cut off by water this week and some northern towns have been isolated for weeks.

The devastation is not restricted to property, three people are missing, including a five year old who it is feared was taken by a crocodile.


Blackout blues

February 3, 2009

There’s no convenient time for a power cut and it’s small consolation for the individuals and businesses inconvenienced by the loss of supply  in Auckland today that it happened while it was still light.

The power went off in Northern Queensland  from Ayr to Cooktown just after we arrived in Townsville 12 days ago. It was early evening which wouldn’t be quite so bad here as it was there where the sun goes down about 7pm.

I had to drive to a hen party and had a local navigating who helped me at intersections. My brother got safely to the stag party by luck alone because he drove through the city oblivious to the fact that the traffic lights were out.

No-one will be impressed by the explanation for today’s power cut – one transformer down for routine maintenance and a problem with a second which put two much pressure on the third.

But that’s probably not as bad as the cause of the problem in Queensland – bird droppings  from nesting eagles.


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