Monday, 28 June 2010

Keep sport healthy

When a drunken Brendan Fevola disgraced himself at last year's Brownlow Medal night, the football community tut-tutted. But the AFL did not do the one thing it needed to do. It did not immediately stop sponsorship of the sport by large alcohol companies.

It was just one more in a string of scandals involving players and alcohol - to say nothing of the problems of fans and alcohol.

Last year the National Preventative Health Taskforce suggested banning alcohol sponsorship of sport, but the AFL was quick to protest. AFL boss Andrew Demetriou said such a ban would "cripple football".

The AFL lists as a Corporate Partner Fosters - the brewing group that makes beers like Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter, as well as Wolf Blass wines. Individual clubs have other alcohol corporations as sponsors.

Sport is about healthy bodies in the peak of condition - something to which alcohol is anathema. When a brewing giant contributes money to a sport like the AFL, it doesn't do so in order to help sport. It does so to sell its product and return profits to shareholders. The lives damaged by excessive consumption of that product are not its concern.

Fosters is also a Commercial Partner of Cricket Australia - even though the captain of the team, Ricky Ponting, has admitted he has an alcohol problem, and Andrew Symonds has admitted to being an alcoholic. How much damage to players and fans will we tolerate so that brewers can make their profits?

Or take the Australian Grand Prix, which lists as sponsors
Don't we have a problem with drinking and driving in this country? On what possible basis can we support associating the two activities in such a prominent, sanctioned way?

It is extraordinary that the Melbourne Cup includes as its sponsors:
The marketing hype of bubbly, celebratory drinks hides the real ugliness of excessive drinking done at the profit of these sponsors. Check out these photos from Crikey - taken at Flemington on the afternoon of last year's Melbourne Cup.

We have a major problem with alcohol in Australia.

Alcohol-fuelled violence, binge drinking, and health problems are the product of an increasingly ugly alcohol culture, which the alcohol industry feeds for its profits. The rest of us pay for the harm caused by alcohol excess.

Wise leadership requires us to take steps to minimize this harm. Just as with tobacco, we should not permit any advertizing by the alcohol industry, but let's start by banning the bizarre sponsorship of sport by these socially harmful products.

External links

Friday, 25 June 2010

Dirty deals

Mining brown coal in the Latrobe Valley

In 1840 Count Paul de Strzelecki travelled through the ranges that now bear his name in South Gippsland. So dense was the forest cover that his party was reduced to felling trees and walking along the fallen trunks - far above the ground on a tangle of vegetation. They reached Westernport Bay a month late, with almost no equipment left, and starving.

Most of that forest was cleared in the 19th and 20th centuries, but there are a few magical patches left - especially in the Tarra-Bulga National Park, where I spent some holidays as a child.

20 million years ago, the forests covering what is now the Latrobe Valley were very similar to the forests through which Strzelecki struggled. As trees died and plant material compacted, they slowly formed brown coal. The layers of brown coal there are up to 400 metres thick. In places it is possible to see entire tree trunks in the upper layers where digging machines are cutting away at the deep seam.

The brown coal layer forms an insulation blanket, and research is under way to see whether the much higher temperatures below that blanket can be used to provide geothermal energy: if so, it will be important to keep the brown coal in place, so we don't let the heat dissipate.

But this week Victorian company Environmental Clean Technologies (don't you just love that name?) has signed the first deal to export Victorian brown coal. The company will send up to 20 million tonnes of processed brown coal to Vietnam every year. (ECT has also been involved in the oxymoronic "clean coal" business.)

Last year the Victorian Government stopped a similar export deal. But they have been studiously silent about this one.

Gillard government Trade Minister Simon Crean - who could veto the export - said that the export of brown coal was good for the economy.

He probably won't be around when we are dealing with the jobs lost from the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry - or the countless other benign industries which will be ruined by climate change.

Starting a new industry of shipping our dirty brown coal into third world countries to burn for fuel is crazy policy.

The signs of the climate crisis are in our face, and yet we are acting as though it is only a question of the money we can make now.

We've just seen a change of national leadership because of a failure to act on the climate crisis. This is a test of our new leadership.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Will Julia succeed?

Will Julia Gillard succeed as Prime Minister in dealing with the issues facing Australia?

Kevin Rudd lost the trust of the Australian people - and his Prime Ministership - because he failed to take action on the climate crisis. Julia Gillard faces the same test.

Many people in the Melbourne electorate have told me they want real and immediate action on climate change and carbon emissions.

Here's some things she could do:
  • Pick up the phone and negotiate with the Greens for a proper solution to the climate crisis.
  • Join with the Greens (and at least two Coalition Senators) to pass a carbon tax - this would apply across all industries, not just mining, with the funds directed towards transitioning to a low carbon economy.
  • Remove perverse taxes that encourage fossil fuel use - such as car leases that require minimum kilometres to be driven, the diesel fuel rebate, and sundry others.
  • Allow tax deductions and/or salary packaging for people who cycle to work.
  • Ditch the $2 billion+ corporate welfare funding for "Clean Coal" geo-sequestration pipe dreams that defy the basic laws of physics, and direct this towards a 100% clean energy program based on concentrated solar with salt storage and wind power.
  • Commence planning for a very fast train project to link Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.
  • Introduce national building standards for 6 Star Rated buildings and retrofit of existing building stock (remembering that proper management of these schemes is basic).
  • Protect native forests from logging to keep their carbon where it is, (and to secure our water supplies and to provide habitat for endangered species).
  • Outlaw the burning of native forest woodchips as a "renewable energy source" - it clearly is not renewable and our forests are worth much more than woodchips.
Over to you, Julia. You can do it, and you will be praised by history - and our grandchildren - if you do.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Fixing trains

At Kensington Station talking to commuters

This morning I was at Kensington Station speaking to commuters and watching them trying to climb on to overcrowded trains. They'd often have to wait for the next one. Is this the best we can do?

1929 timetable for the Essendon line

It's a little hard to read in the copy posted above, but the 1929 Victorian Railways timetable for the Essendon line makes interesting reading.

No less than 81 years ago, there were 17 trains stopping at Kensington on the way to the city between 7.00 am and 9.00 am on weekdays. That's an average of a train every 7 minutes or so.

Today, between 7.00 am and 9.00 am there are just 12 trains - an average of a train every 10 minutes.

The population of Melbourne in 1929 was less than 1 million. Today it is more than 4 million.

Our public transport system is infrequent, overcrowded and unreliable.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

Zurich administers its entire public transport system (which moves more people than Melbourne’s) with just 36 staff (I'm not counting actual drivers). In our “Transport Ticketing Authority” alone – whose only job is to hire someone else to run a ticketing system – we have 104 staff.

A single train moves more people than an entire lane of cars driving past in an hour. Public transport can be efficient – to say nothing of the environmental benefits.

In a recent parliamentary inquiry, Greens MP, Greg Barber, found that Melbourne’s rail managers are guilty of “self-congratulation, complacency and strategic misrepresentation”.

The evidence showed that many ‘reasons’ given for public transport failure were simply excuses for poor planning or justifications for the disastrous adventure of privatisation.

1. Unprecedented summer heat

Melbourne has hot summers. We need to plan for them. The hot weather exposed the fact that we have no effective management of our transport maintenance backlog.

2. Over-crowding: the system is the victim of its own success

The government says that rapid patronage growth causes the crowding that delays trains. This is too convenient. Patronage targets were set almost a decade ago, but new trains are only just arriving. The main cause of over-crowding is poor planning.

3. Connex was bad; Metro will be better

Privatisation has been fraught since its inception due to “aggressive” under-bidding by the operators and the government’s acceptance of demands for extra funding.

4. The system is at capacity

It isn't. As the 1929 timetable shows, we ran far more trains 80 years ago.

Fragmented responsibilities created by privatisation, combined with inadequate planning skills, mean inefficient use of existing tracks and poor design of new projects.

Privatisation complicates and confuses planning for today’s growth in rail patronage. How can it possibly deliver high-quality public transport to meet tomorrow’s challenges?

It's time to fix public transport. We need to:
  • end the current franchise arrangements;
  • create a metropolitan public transport authority and bring in managers with a track record of success to deliver a ‘network’ that meets the needs of our city.
We need a public transport service we can all enjoy.

External Links

Monday, 21 June 2010

Building community - not empires

Carlton's Kathleen Syme Centre would be a great community facility

Kathleen Syme was a journalist and editor with The Age - the newspaper founded by her grandfather David Syme.

For many years Kathleen worked for the welfare of others - particularly women. She served on the board of the Royal Women's Hospital for decades, and in her honour its education centre (former Faraday Street State School No 112) is named the Kathleen Syme Education Centre.

The Women's Hospital has now moved to the corner of Grattan Street and Flemington Road Parkville, and Melbourne University wants to acquire the old hospital site.

Fair enough.

But will the university also be permitted to acquire the Kathleen Syme Education Centre?

Carlton has no public hall and no library. The Kathleen Syme Centre would be an ideal location for these services.

It is true that Melbourne University has a library, but it is not for locals. There is the State Library in the city, but that serves a rather grander function than a local library. There is a library in Rathdowne Street North Carlton, run by the City of Yarra. But for those in Carlton there is nothing.

Nor does the community have anywhere to meet. Meetings are often held at Melbourne University, but members of the public generally can't book space there - unless they are prepared to pay top dollar. Otherwise we have to go to the back rooms of pubs or to a church hall - such as St Jude's or the Church of All Nations - when public meeting space should be basic public infrastructure.

Carlton has a long and wonderful history - I lived for years next door to an elderly Italian couple, she having come out to Australia as a mail order bride in the 1930s. The football club (I confess I am not a supporter!) also has a proud history. Wouldn't it be great to have a place in the heart of Carlton to celebrate this heritage?

Carlton's postcode - 3053 - has the highest poverty rate of any postcode in Melbourne. It is an area that needs more community services, not less.

Carlton has never had its own local government, and it falls within the City of Melbourne. The City Council is willing and able to buy the Kathleen Syme Centre for a community space to meet the needs of Carlton residents. It has already done the same for Southbank and East Melbourne.

So what's the problem?

The problem is that the State government keeps blocking the acquisition. Formerly part of the Royal Women's, the Centre is currently under the control of the Minister for Health - Daniel Andrews. He and his Department don't want to sell one of their assets for community use.

It's empire building instead of community building.

When dealing with government assets, our government must take seriously the needs of the community.

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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Yarra CarPark

Yarra Park on a match day - a scandalous way to treat a heritage park

Yarra Park is part of the "emerald necklace" of parkland that surrounds inner Melbourne. It embodies the vision of Governor Charles La Trobe and planner Robert Hoddle for open space around the central city where the people of the new settlement could breathe and find rest and inspiration.

It is a large park of over 35 hectares (excluding sports grounds) around the MCG.

The park has two scarred trees - linking our age with the stewardship of the Wurundjeri people, who roamed this area for generations, time out of mind. There are many other old and significant trees.

Yarra Park is also important historically as the site where Australian Rules football originated, with the first recorded games being played here in 1858. Then known as Melbourne's "village green", Yarra Park contained the city's first recreation reserve.

It was here that the athletes of the world came for the Olympic Games in 1956, and for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.

For residents of East Melbourne and Jolimont, and of Richmond across Punt Road, Yarra Park is a place for recreation and reflection, for jogging, walking the dog, picnics, and just taking a quiet stroll.

It seems barely credible that anyone would take the crass decision to use this precious green space as somewhere to park cars for over 220 days a year - but that is the situation which has come about through a failure of leadership by successive governments. The park is used for parking by thousands of patrons visiting the MCG - even though there are good public transport alternatives all around. Parking thousands of cars on Yarra Park degrades this green space: it causes obvious damage to the lawns, and by compacting the soil is also killing the trees.

Is this the way we treat this historic legacy - as a cut price parking lot?

The Commonwealth Games were held at the MCG in 2006, and they were run without any parking on Yarra Park. Public transport was easily able to cope with the very high demand.

The community and the Melbourne City Council were working towards complete removal of parking from Yarra Park, but then in 2009 the Brumby government stymied them. Supported in parliament by the Liberal Party, Labor handed management of this park to the MCG Trust. This was done expressly to facilitate ongoing parking on Yarra Park. As the Minister's media release blandly put it:
The legislation also ensures adequate parking to support major events at the MCG.
The Greens opposed the move at every turn: the parks and gardens of Melbourne are the envy of the world.

This park belongs to the people of Melbourne and should not be handed to a private corporation like the MCG. Too much public space has been corporatized as it is.

It's fun going to the cricket or the footy at the MCG - how much better it would be, instead of dodging revving cars and picking our way past their churned up mud, to stroll through pleasant parkland to get there.

Since the government's decision, the Heritage Council has determined - over objection from the MCG and others - that Yarra Park is "of cultural heritage significance and should be included on the Heritage Register". The government ought to take note of this landmark decision. They should immediately remove the blight of parked cars from our heritage.

There is no justification for putting cars on the lawns and under the trees of Yarra Park. It should remain what it was always intended to be - a park for people, not for cars.

External links

MYKI Mouse

Many disabled commuters cannot reach high enough to use MYKI

In December 2007 Perth commuters saw the opening of the Mandurah Line. It is over 70 kilometres long, including a lengthy underground section. It has 11 stations, including two underground stations. It carries 60,000 people a day. It has rail lines that do not buckle in the heat.

The cost of the line itself was less than a billion dollars, but as part of the project the government also purchased a fleet of trains and carried out a number of other improvement works - totalling $1.4 billion.

Here in Melbourne we've spent the same amount on the MYKI ticket system - which is not even properly operational. It is a staggering waste of money.

Back in January I tried to buy a MYKI card on-line, in order to take advantage of the discount for buying early. Despite filling out all the form - including credit card details - I got a message on screen saying they were unable to process my application at this time and to try again. I did, with the same result. I sent an email to the address provided for difficulties. I have never had a response.

MYKI was supposed to be a "smart card" which would take account of the complexities of Melbourne's fares, and automatically calculate the cheapest.

But this week we've seen the city saver fare scrapped because MYKI could not calculate it.

Some 35,000 people use city saver tickets each day, and now they will have to pay 90 cents more for each trip. So commuters are having to pay more for a system which was supposed to make it easier for us.

And this follows the scrapping of the "short trip" ticket - which allowed a commuter to travel several stops one way. When that ticket was abolished, many inner Melbourne travellers found their commuting expenses going up 70%.

MYKI is already causing significant delays at train stations. Many platforms only allow one person at a time to exit, and even the few commuters with MYKIs cause significant bottlenecks as they "touch off".

If we have to touch off when alighting from trams, the delays at each stop will considerably slow tram journeys.

Because MYKI scanners are higher off the ground than Metcard validators, many disabled travellers cannot use them - breaching anti-discrimination laws.

It is hard to believe you could blow $1.4 billion on a dodgy ticketing system like MYKI.

That's enough to build over a hundred kilometres of railway track. Or we might want to do what they did with the Mandurah line and have less distance but a long underground section and a whole lot of new trains as well.

With $1.4 billion, we could buy 93 new six-carriage trains and still have enough left over to train 200 new drivers. Imagine how that investment would make our system more frequent and efficient.

It's hard not to be angry about MYKI. We will never get that money back.

But it's only the tip of the iceberg - we have not had a proper focus on public transport in the Victorian government for many years, so commuters have to put up with an infrequent, unreliable, overcrowded and poorly staffed service - a service that doesn't even run 24 hours a day in our 24 hour city.

Smart utilization of our trains, trams and buses could give us a great public transport system. With peak oil making cars much more expensive, and with the climate crisis crying out for carbon efficiency in transport, it's time we took the needs of public transport seriously.

External Links

Monday, 14 June 2010

Where does your vote preference go?

People ask me a lot of questions about preferences such as:

"Where will you give your preferences?"

"Isn't a vote for the Greens a wasted vote?"

"If I vote 1 Green, won't I risk electing the major party I don't want?"

"Do I have to follow your how-to-vote card if I vote Green?"

The simple answer is it's your choice: You choose where your vote preference goes.
You do not need to be dictated to by parties on how to vote. Your vote and your preference should not be directed by political deals you had nothing to do with.

The most important thing is that you vote "1" Green. After that, it's up to you.
In the lower house, political parties don't "direct" preferences or "give" preferences - they print how-to-vote cards. However, these are only a guide - the decision is yours. You choose where your preference goes by how you allocate numbers to the rest of the candidates after your first one.

For your vote to be valid, you must place a different number in every square of your ballot paper.

The Greens are not a preference machine
The Greens are not a preference machine for any other party. I am not standing to get someone else elected. I want to be elected as your parliamentary representative for Melbourne and to implement the policies and values that are important to our supporters and beneficial to the residents of Melbourne.

Public funding
Your vote for the Greens is not wasted. Whichever party you put number 1 is paid public funding for that vote - and that has a real impact on the ability of a small party like the Greens to campaign. to stimulate debate on important issues and to put forward alternative policies to those of the large old political parties. The amount is currently about $1.40 per first preference vote in Victorian elections. It's more for federal elections.

Here in Victoria, electoral funding may only be paid to a party if they have already spent it on the campaign. In other words, parties may be reimbursed for expenses, but may not use the election as a money-making exercise.

After the last State election, the following amounts were paid to political parties

Labor $3,282,127.23
Liberal $2,684,173.46
Nationals $367,761.28
Greens $788,662.84

So if you give your first preference to the Greens, you are directing public funding to them - and away from the old political parties.

Your local representative
In the lower house you vote for a local representative who will work for you. Local members can have a real impact on decision-making. If you vote for me as your local representative I won't be hamstrung by a party machine trying to be all things to all people. Your vote is a powerful statement of the values you want to see reflected in parliament.

Your vote for me will not be wasted - if elected I will strive to represent you in the Victorian parliament, and if I'm not elected the message sent by a strong Greens vote in Melbourne will certainly be heard and will influence whoever is elected.

Double value voting!
The cartoon at the top of this post shows how the preference votes are counted. Electoral officers take the candidate who comes last and distribute their preferences to the other candidates, and then the candidate who comes second last, and so on until one candidate has over 50% of the vote.

When the Greens come third (or lower) their votes are distributed and your second preference will be passed on to the party of your second choice as a vote of full value. In effect, your vote counts twice.

Special arrangements for the Upper House
In the Upper House (the Legislative Council), there are many candidates. You can number them all sequentially, and make the decision on preferencing for yourself, but any mistake in numbering them makes the whole vote invalid.

To avoid this problem you can put a "1" above the line in the box for the party of your choice - and then your preferences are distributed according to that party's preference allocation that is usually shown on their how-to-vote cards. By law parties must register their preferences for this purpose with the Electoral Office. You can ask to see how those preferences will be distributed if you vote "above the line".

If you want more information on this on election day please ask your friendly Greens volunteers handing out how-to-vote cards.

No decision on how-to-vote cards yet
In the Melbourne lower house (Legislative Assembly) electorate, where I am standing, there is no "above the line" voting - and voters have to number all the squares. The Greens have not yet made any decision about our how-to-vote cards. We will finalize this closer to the election, depending on the candidates and the policies, and I will put a copy on this blog when it is available.

Don't risk putting the Greens second
In this seat of Melbourne the Greens have now come second for several elections - which means the preferences on our votes have not been distributed at all - it has come down to a choice between Labor and the Greens. That means that if you vote Labor "1" and then Greens "2" the second preference for the Greens will never be counted. It is the same as putting the Greens last.

The Greens will also need preferences from other candidates
We are not likely to win the seat of Melbourne on first preferences, so we will be hoping to gain second preferences from those who would give their first vote to someone other than Labor or the Greens. How other parties suggest preferences on their how-to-vote cards is up to them, but remember that the final choice is yours, not theirs.

Melbourne is very close - every vote will count
The vote in Melbourne is very close. Last time, after preferences, Labor's Bronwyn Pike received a total of 16,544 votes, and the Greens' Richard Di Natale received 15,345 votes. On these figures, if only 600 voters changed from Labor to the Greens this time, we would win the seat. If you are one of these 600 voters, you can create history by electing me as the first ever Greens member of parliament for the State seat of Melbourne.

The Melbourne electorate will be decided on a handful of votes - every one of them is powerful.

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Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Year Without a Summer

Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland - in eruption this year

On 11 April 1815 the British ship Benares was in port at Makassar in the southern Celebes, when the officers and crew heard a growing fusillade of loud cannon fire. She sailed south to investigate.

It was the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and unbeknown to those in the East Indies, Napoleon had been restored to power in France a few weeks earlier for what would be known as the Hundred Days.

The Benares could find nothing, and returned to port, but on 19 April the explosions resumed with such intensity that they shook houses and ships.

The captain of the Benares again sailed south, under a sky dark with ash, and with cinders raining down onto the deck of his ship.

On the northern tip of the island of Sumbawa (two islands to the east of Bali) stood the volcano Mount Tambora, and it had erupted.

Once the eruption was over, Mount Tambora was fully 1,300 metres shorter than it had been previously.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles - Lieutenant Governor of Java - wrote:
The area over which tremulous noises and other volcanic effects extended was one thousand English miles [ie 1,600 kilometres] in circumference, including the whole of the Molucca Islands, Java, a considerable portion of Celebes, Sumatra, and Borneo. ... Violent whirlwinds carried men, horses, cattle, and whatever came within their influence, into the air.
Tens of thousands died, both from the blast itself and from famine caused by the rain of ash which buried crops.

The discharge from the Mount Tambora eruption was far greater than that from Krakatoa in 1883, and over one hundred times greater than that from the Mount St Helens eruption of 1980. The Mount Tambora eruption remains the most powerful in recorded history.

Following the eruption of Tambora, volcanic dust at high altitudes provided a shield from solar radiation, and led to much lower surface temperatures around the globe.

The following year, 1816, has been known ever since as "the year without a summer". In the bitter cold, crops failed and many died in Europe and the Americas. Percy Shelley entertained house guests in Geneva, and the weather remained so bitter that they could not go out. To amuse them Mary Shelley composed her masterpiece "Frankenstein" - the first work of science fiction.

This year we have seen the eruption of the Iceland volcano with the almost unpronounceable name Eyjafjallajökull. Ash clouds from the eruption have affected air travel, and they have no doubt prevented some of the sun's warmth reaching the Earth - which should reduce global warming for a time.

Those who want to make a killing from the climate crisis have been spruiking a geoengineering solution - mimicking the action of volcanoes by injecting millions of tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.

This scary option has been identified as having many dangers - including interference with major weather patterns such as the Indian monsoon. It would also mean we would not see a blue sky during the years when these aerosols linger in the atmosphere.

Playing around with this expensive and risky option is one way to avoid taking real action to attenuate carbon emissions and live sustainably.

This year Victoria's Brumby government was the sole sponsor of an invitation-only conference of geoengineers and venture capitalists in California to discuss this Frankenstein solution to the climate crisis.

A further "debriefing" from the conference is planned in Melbourne shortly.
The Victorian government already has a shameful dirty brown coal legacy: when Hazelwood (the developed world's dirtiest power station) was due to close in 2005, the government extended its life to 2031. Spending money on geoengineering strategies takes us further backwards: it is not only dangerous, it leads Victoria away from a carbon-free, sustainable future.

There are enough natural disasters in the world without making our own.

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Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Kutikina Cave

Kutikina Cave on the lower Franklin River - photo Mike Martyn

On Boxing Day 1982, with a group of friends, I left the Collingwood River Bridge on the Lyell Highway in Tasmania and rafted down to the Franklin River. For the next ten days we made our way down this wilderness river - through its great reaches and ravines, its gorges and islands, past wonderful waterfalls and rapids - to join the blockade to stop the damming of the Franklin for power that no one needed.

Along the lower reaches of the river, using written instructions which had been hard to obtain, we searched around the limestone cliffs and eventually found Kutikina Cave – which had only been discovered a short time before.

This cave was inhabited for a period of 9,000 years, commencing 20,000 years ago and concluding some 11,000 years ago.

It was a cave about twice the size of a suburban house, divided into two large chambers, with shafts of light from hidden openings high above.

There was a small area, about a metre square, which had been the subject of a preliminary dig, and was carefully lined with river stones to protect it. Flakes of stone - which I understood to be scraping tools or something of that kind - littered the floor of the cave.

In one corner near the main entrance had been the fireplace. The black of the smoke was still there.

At the back of the fire a fissure dropped down some way. It was filled with bones - bones which had been picked clean by families who lived there long before the times of the Old Testament. Bones of animals you would not find anywhere nearby today, some of which were long since extinct.

I stood there on a rainy morning, looking out into a world of tree ferns, and tried to imagine what it must have been like for those people.

As I stood there in awe, elected politicians, public servants and contractors were working to ensure that all this – which had only just been discovered – would be flooded and lost forever.

To those of us involved in the Franklin campaign, it seemed unthinkable that they should succeed. The whole area had just been inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Area.

From the cave we went back out to our rafts and continued down to the Gordon River - where we were immediately circled by a police launch.

It was a life-changing experience being involved in the Franklin campaign, and it is wonderful that the river flows free to the sea today.

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