Return of the Inland Sea?

I well remember being taught about this at school in the early 1950s when I was in Sutherland in this class:

We didn’t learn much about the First Australians — despite there being at least two of them in this class, which we didn’t know at the time — but we did learn a lot about white explorers and their search for the mythical Inland Sea.

Mind you there was/is a real one — but not quite what those explorers envisaged:

Now it appears the Inland Sea is returning… It may be around for a while yet, and the effects have been devastating.

The flattest place in the Southern Hemisphere is turning into a vast inland sea as floodwater from two major river systems and months of rain transform the landscape.

  • Floodwater from the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers, along with persistent rain, have created an inland sea on the Hay Plains
  • Families are being split apart due to numerous access roads being inundated
  • Floodwater is expected to remain in the region until the New Year

The inundation is also transforming how Hay Plains residents go about their lives in south-west NSW.

Riverina’s Hay Plains fill with floodwater to form inland sea at Booligal

This is ongoing…

November 2019 — fires

Who can forget? And it started so early in the season and went on for so long.

Memory and apprehension: what will tomorrow bring?

Posted on  by Neil

Usually at this time of the year I focus on 11 November, Remembrance Day, but this year so many memories are being laid down here in Oz, good and bad. Good? Not a fan of Scott Morrison, but I pay my respects to this, which can’t possibly be faked.


And I am going to get the elephant in the room over with quickly by saying simply: YES — THERE IS A BLOODY GREAT ELEPHANT IN THIS ROOM! And we need to deal with it! Unlike Morrison’s deputy who has been banging on about those cliched “pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies.” Shame on you, McCormack! Try this for size: from a former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner: This is not normal: what’s different about the NSW mega fires.

I write this piece reluctantly, because there are still possible fire victims unaccounted for; people have lost loved ones; and hundreds of families have lost their homes. My heart goes out to them. I don’t want to detract in any way from the vital safety messages that our fire commissioners and Premier will be making about Tuesday’s fire potential.

And cool as ever, writing these days from Armidale, Jim Belshaw: Fires, drought and climate change within New England.

So what about tomorrow, Tuesday 12 November? This: note that the term CATASTROPHIC is used for Greater Sydney (Blue Mountains and down to The Shire) and Greater Hunter —  the first time the Sydney region has been rated at that level since the new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009. The Gong is EXTREME. The NSW Premier has already declared a State of Emergency.


Here is where we have fires right now:


And for those overseas, let me post this so you get an idea of the territory involved:


On October 25 I asked: Wonder what this year’s bushfire season will bring? Could be dramatic….. Well, now we know. So far. AND IT’S NOT SUMMER YET!

The million (and more) hectare fires

Posted on  by Neil

And that’s just New South Wales. And that’s just so far… Of the many images we have seen, this one from Harringtom NSW stands out:


Fortunately yesterday we here in the Illawarra were spared serious fires, though not the catastrophic weather conditions. Here in West Wollongong it hit 39 C around 3 pm, and the wind at times was strong. The most obvious sign was the haze, a mixture of smoke and dust. When the southerly came at last the temperature soon dropped 10 degrees, but sadly no rain, and in the foreseeable future no sign of rain.

The bush near here is certainly ready to burn. As a neighbour pointed out there hasn’t been a major burn-out since 2001 — and I recalled that one because it was on Christmas Day, and I saw it not from The Gong but from Paddington in Sydney. On the way home from Christmas Lunch at the Dowager Empress’s place to Elizabeth Street Surry Hills I saw, to the south, great clouds of smoke.  And the post is still lurking in cyberspace!

I am just back from Christmas lunch with the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong. His Atlantic salmon was to die for, and the tamarind prawns were–oh my God, I don’t usually eat prawns, but they were wonderful. The Christmas cake was a genuine Mrs Beeton recipe (with a whole bottle of brandy); it was light yet flavoursome. There is no doubt the Empress has a talent. I would have loved to have shared this day with the Crown Prince, I really would, but that could not be. Sirdan was there, and Paul Davis and another friend of DEHK’s.

On DEHK’s new DVD and digital TV we saw several episodes of Queer as Folk, which is not on free-to-air TV here. It is such a shame that SBS did not get it for late night viewing, because it is actually very good indeed. I would like the chance to see it again.

Walking home was an apocalyptic experience. The ground is yellow with smoke as bushfires ring Sydney. It is very hot and there are strong winds. The south and west of the city looked to be totally in flames from the vantage point of the inner city. According to the latest news the Blue Mountains are very bad, and the road north may soon be closed. To the south around Appin seems also to be bad. M. has headed north but would have got through before the problem arose.

Ironically, given the past few days, that Christmas M. (Michael) was heading for Laurieton!

Today our attention is especially on Queensland, but it does need to be said that this is just the beginning of months in which we very likely will see yesterday’s catastrophic conditions return.

Back to the Elephant in the Room again — and I really do commend again Jim Belshaw’s post. Let me also commend a recent (31 October 2019) opinion piece in the New York Times by Katherine Hayhoe, a professor at the Climate Center at Texas Tech University, and an evangelical Christian.

An important and successful part of that framing has been to cast climate change as an alternate religion. This is sometimes subtle, as the church sign that reads, “On Judgment Day, you’ll meet Father God not Mother Earth.” Other times this point is made much more blatantly, like when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Glenn Beck in 2015 that “climate change is not a science, it’s a religion…”

…my favorite question is the one I often hear from fellow Christians: “Do you believe in climate change?”….

As I always do now when someone asks this, I explained that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally, I went on to explain why it matters: because real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering….

I want to make one rather obvious point: it is not quite correct to say that climate change CAUSES bush fires. Lots of things, including arson, cause fires. What climate change has done however is to magnify the CONDITIONS where bush fires are likely to be worse and more frequent. To me this is hardly controversial!

On the other hand there is finger-pointing on the subject of hazard reduction. Now clearly hazard reduction is a good thing. But I urge you to read Factcheck: Is there really a green conspiracy to stop bushfire hazard reduction? by Graham Readfern.

Large parts of New South Wales have been in the grip of catastrophic fire weather this week as firefighters desperately work to save homes, properties and lives.

But as firefighters try and beat back the bushfires, a familiar blame game began with critics pointing fingers at “greenies”, claiming they get in the way of hazard reduction efforts that might have reduced the size and scale of the disaster.

“These are very tired and very old conspiracy theories that get a run after most major fires,” says Prof Ross Bradstock, the director of the centre for environmental risk management of bushfires at the University of Wollongong, who has been researching bushfires for 40 years.

“They’ve been extensively dealt with in many inquiries.”…

Sadly, silly and unfortunate things have been said on several sides by politicians who really should know better. I quite agree with the Sydney Morning Herald’s David Crowe on this:

The loss of Australians’ homes, and sometimes their lives, should shame politicians who exploit human misery to score points against their enemies. Yet the politicians cannot help themselves….

… For some politicians, everything about you is seen through the prism of partisanship. Even your death.

When [Barnaby] Joyce called in to radio station 2GB later in the day, he sounded under huge stress as he tried to save his parents’ home in country NSW, but the damage from his earlier remark was already done.

This was a dismal but predictable sight for anyone who has watched the decline of Australian politics over the past decade.

I am not going to dignify Barnaby’s remark by quoting it! And Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John was not much better.


What might have been yesterday, or what might be! This photo of Mount Keira — so close to me — was taken I believe during the 1968 fires. Found on Facebook but the source is elusive, but it is a real photo. Scary, eh! Showed it to an old lady here at Diggers who remembered it happening.


Update 11/11 1.20 pm — The Gong now CATASTROPHIC!


And there was a lot more to come…

A great full-length documentary on that fire season.

Music will resume shortly…

Meanwhile some great things relating to yesterday’s post have come my way. First, a 2020 interview with Mike McClelland about that powerful song about Trumpism “Letter to America”. Not dark yet — but getting there has resonance again, sadly.

Vlad Vexler, a Russian-born and Oxford-educated political philosopher in London said some very perceptive things about the way the world was going in 2018. About it he says:

This is a little audio except from a 2018 talk on democracy. I mention the 2016 US election, Clinton and Trump.

Some brief reassurances –

– Crisis is NOT an unnatural state for democracy.

– The history of democracy shows us that they are both fragile and robust. They don’t just melt when existentially challenged.

– As difficult as it is, we have to admit that our democracies are entering a different era.

– We need to understand this new era, and live in it, truthfully and hopefully.

And here is another take from Vlad:

CHAPTERS 00:00 Predictions for 2030 in democracy, climate, culture wars

00:20 Canadian Prepper video on the world in 2030

01:28 Extreme right will embrace climate science; eco fascism (PREDICTION 1)

03:27 Tip for preppers on how to talk about the climate crisis

04:34 Prepping community and climate advocacy community should talk

05:52 Democratic decline in 2030 (PREDICTION 2)

07:45 Wokeism, cancel culture, political correctness will decline by 2030 (PREDICTION 3)

09:04 How Wokeism obstructs real politics

I am not entirely happy about his take on “wokeism” — I would rather not reward those who trot out this cliche de jour! In some ways I consider myself “woke” as an alternative to “zombified” — though I also deplore judgementalism or purism/puritanism.

Only on some matters, mind! I can also be conservative on some matters. It’s known as being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

I had a bit of a rant a few days back when I was slapped with accusations of being a “useful idiot” and a “Murdoch/Clive Palmer shill” because I walked and chewed gum on a friend’s site, having there respectfully said that while I deplored what the police here in NSW had done in raiding a camp containing a small group of now notorious but in their way effective practitioners of “direct action” on the climate crisis, I also rejected their tactics as self-dramatising, drawing attention to the spectacle of their action rather than the actual climate crisis, and ultimately counter-productive as most people regarded them as total ratbags. Also their actions succeeded only too well in disrupting not only people’s lives, but (and I did not make this specific point) had unintended consequences such as preventing such things as urgent medical supplies being delivered on time.

In March for example I said on Facebook:

Where I stand on climate change is crystal clear from what I share here and in blog post after blog post! No-one can have any doubts about that, And yes, I do support the School Strike days.

But this? I am FAR from comfortable. Dramatic, no doubt.

How do they justify all the other outcomes of their actions? What vital imports, including foodstuffs, medical supplies and heaven knows what else are “collateral damage” in protests which, my gut tells me, recruit more previously uncommitted people to the exact opposite of what the protesters apparently want? Not to mention the disruption to so many simply doing legitimate jobs.

I am ambivalent about protests like this, always have been. For example no way do I think gluing myself to a footpath would affect world policies on the climate crisis… It may just make heaps or people angry with the “dickheads” thinking it is a good idea.

The kind of incident I am referring to is reported here.

Protesters block the Princes Highway at Sylvania. 

My friend in his June post had — based on knowing the people concerned — testified to their good intentions, good character and clearly sympathised with them. Fair enough. I accept that.

The recent events concerning the group and the over-zealous police response are discussed here. It was these events I alluded to on my friend’s post. On Facebook I wrote:

I can support points made in this while not supporting particular tactics on climate change, which I still believe are deeply counter-productive. The focus shifts to the protesters and their dramatic actions, and in my view away from the actual climate crisis.

Their actions alienate me, and I am and have been all this century a very loud advocate of real action on climate change.

Most people I know are simply pissed off by all the drama. Their view that those advocating climate action are all ratbags tends to be confirmed by such actions, along too often with a concomitant scepticism about the need for action. I base all that on actually talking to people.

Recently I expressed such reservations on a friend’s FB post — the friend being someone I have known who is a supporter of the protesters. I respect his viewpoint and the point he made about the characters of those organising the protest — points I accept.

I did not appreciate some goon who knows nothing about me commenting thus: “Oh good. Tone trolling. Definitely not a useful idiot for the people trying to prevent action on climate change. Definitely not a Clive Palmer stooge who got taken in by Murdoch’s pervasive propaganda. You, sir are a proud free thinker ™.”

That is a splendid example of the crap that passes for comment on social media. Calling me “a Clive Palmer stooge” is however one of the funniest things I have ever read about myself. Me who consistently refers to the FAKE UAP! Who kept calling Craig Kelly Clive’s sock puppet! And so on….

But the omniscient commenter had no way of knowing that aside from their chutzpah in casting me in the role that suited them!

OK, rant done. But here for reference is the exact wording of the comment that got me going…

 Oh good. Tone trolling. Definitely not a useful idiot for the people trying to prevent action on climate change.

Definitely not a Clive Palmer stooge who got taken in by Murdoch’s pervasive propaganda. You, sir are a proud free thinker ™.

I promise music next time!

February 2020 we were just emerging from that bushfire season

So I thought reprising a relevant entry from this blog would be apt.

Also I am still percolating those developments from my Facebook world! And referring to the previous post here, this is what at the time of writing (1.45 pm Sunday) the average views per day look like:

I might add that one development connected to the recent conversations on Facebook has been to introduce a former Wollongong High colleague and very close friend in those days, Rosemary, to my Joshua Lee Turner fandom. Her response:

I listened, I took your suggestion, I searched your blog……and learned so much more about this impressive young man and his equally impressive music. Thank you Neil for opening a new world of pleasure for me… When many musical artists are so synthetic and ego driven I am loving his humility and sincerity as he shares songs he loves and his original compositions . I now look forward to your next Josh Turner offering.

Yesterday’s Josh Turner offering was a 1934 classic:

Now to February 2020:

Sharing some great TV as bushfire season goes on but must be nearing end…

Posted on  by Neil

Thank God for the ABC, not just for the following three programs last Monday night but for the many intelligent analyses there of our UNPRECEDENTED — since European settlement at least — bushfire season, but for the sterling work the local radio stations have been doing keeping up with warnings in real time. That includes here in Wollongong, where thus far we have been unbelievably lucky in that we have avoided major bushfires, though the chances must have been very real.

I have in mind later to write a really personal post about this past season which has delivered some unexpected outcomes, even for me, and for my extended family.

But for now, ABC on Monday night.

First came Four Corners:


This special bushfire edition of Four Corners is presented by Hamish Macdonald.

“We can’t get any help…the truck is burning.” NSW Fire crew, Nowra

They are the videos that stopped the nation and stunned the world – images from the firegrounds capturing the ferocity of the bushfires that have raged around Australia this black summer.

“Mate you need to get out! Don’t go back in there!” Police Officer, Peregian Beach QLD

These videos have been viewed tens of millions of times, but who filmed them and how did their stories end?

“All of the sudden, it was right upon us, within seconds. And we had time to say, ‘Get in the house.’ We got in the house, and it just exploded all around us.” Resident, Kangaroo Island SA

On Monday Four Corners brings you the people and the stories behind the heart-stopping footage seen around the world.

“The hose is burnt! The hose is burnt!” Resident, East Gippsland VIC

A team of reporters and producers have fanned out across the country to track down the Australians who found themselves in the centre of the firestorms. What emerges are incredible stories of survival, bravery and heartbreak.

“Dad was a person that liked to help people, and exactly the same for my brother…They’re going to be missed, and we just hope that I can fill their shoes. It’s tough going.” Brother, Cobargo NSW

From the cabins of firetrucks driving into the inferno to families retreating to the beaches as the flames grew ever closer, these stories from the frontlines are both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

“We could feel that heat coming through the truck. We could see the flames coming in horizontally… we’re beginning to make our retreat when the truck came to a complete standstill.” NSW Fire crew, Nowra

There is also a transcript, but do watch it if you can. Words failed me as I watched, and still do!

Next a blistering exposure of the Fools and Drongos that infest Sky News In The Dark and Murdochiana more generally. If you think I am being “mean”, just watch as these recalcitrants are vivisected before your very eyes!  Transcripts of these national embarrassments are available. For example:

And welcome to Groundhog Day, where the loudest voices at News Corp are adamant that the summer’s terrifying bushfires have nothing to do with climate change.

Or, if they have, there’s nothing we can do about it.

And, as always, welcome back to News Corp’s team of hand-picked, highly-paid columnists and TV hosts on Sky, who are leading the chorus:

PETA CREDLIN: So, let me deal with the issue head on. Does climate change cause these fires? No.

– Credlin, Sky News, 20 January, 2020

CHRIS KENNY: … So that’s the key. The drought. And if drought can’t be blamed on climate change you can’t blame the fires on climate change, especially when so many are deliberately lit …

– The Kenny Report, Sky News, 11 December, 2019

ALAN JONES: What’s burning in Victoria are eucalypts. What’s burning in South Australia are eucalypts … When are we going to wake up and stop using this as an excuse to justify the climate change hoax?

– Richo & Jones, Sky News, 29 January, 2019

Passionate denial that the bushfires should make us act on climate change runs right across the Murdoch media in this country reaching an audience of millions.

I no longer have the patience to tolerate such buffoonery!

Finally, #QandA has been reinvented under the leadership of Hamish Macdonald, and what a good look it now is! I had almost given up on QandA, but I’ll now be back for sure. And among politicians Andrew Constance is now my hero!

There were many revelations during the show, some of them much more important than Senator Jim Molan’s foot-in-the-mouth moment. This for example from Andrew Constance:

When I took off from home, I could hear it. The power of the heatwave off it, I thought I was going to melt. When I got in the car, the car gauge was at 58 degrees and it wasn’t going south. And, you know, I just don’t know how we didn’t lose hundreds of people there. And, Hamish, to your point about mental health, I’m the first to put my hand up – I’ve cried, I’ve been hugged, I’ve been loved. But the trauma of this is so profound, and it’s affecting thousands of people across our regions, and we need help. And I mean, this is why today…


Andrew, have you had help yet?


I’ve had a couple of phone calls from people. I’ve certainly had my colleagues, in some cases, running around saying they’re worried about me. But I’m drawing strength from my neighbours and Jen and the kids. Yeah, I’m going to need proper counselling. Absolutely, Hamish, I’m going to need proper counselling, and that’s why I’ve been vocal about this. Males in particular hide this up and bottle it up. And, you know, I’ve had farmers cry. I had a mate today cry as he was waiting for the fire to come to his place this morning.

Update 12 February

The next episode of #QandA delivered a very useful minimally partisan discussion of what might be done in future here in Australia to address climate change.


Jennifer Westacott, can, should, business do it themselves regardless of whether government is providing the big plan of action?



Well, business is already doing lots of things in this space, and we can talk about some of those examples. But to your very important question, I think we’ve all got a responsibility to kind of find a way through this, and that starts with, where do we want to be? You know, and the science tells us that where we need to be is a net zero emissions by 2050.

So, let’s start there and let’s work our way… What are the milestones? How do we hold ourselves accountable? What are the technologies? How do we create jobs in regions? What are the new jobs? How do we accelerate technology? How do we do this in a way that preserves affordability, keeps prices down? How do we do it in a way that keeps reliability up? How do we do it in a way that grows the economy? How do we do it in a way that brings the community with us?

2021 replay — 9 — August

Look, all I am going to do today is pick my own favourite… But, to start I see that at the end of the month I had summarised thus:

Last of August 2021 — and a sad note

Posted on  by Neil

Usually I post some kind of statistical summary of the month around the last day. Yesterday I did one on Facebook.

And yes, the blog has already hit most views for 2021 — 1,585 this month so far, compared with 1,558 in March, the previous best of 2021. May 2020 still beats both at 1,945. Back in 2014 three months were 2k or better — September, October and December. On averages per day September 2014 is best. This month will definitely go past 1,600.

I am of course writing this the day before it appears in public, giving me the opportunity to update before then — and find typos! The other thing as I write is that in less than an hour the NSW Premier is to give her COVID update. When I posted Sunday’s shocker my cousin Julie, who happens to be a PhD and a health physician in Queensland commented: “Brace yourself for the next few announcements.” And indeed we are!

UPDATE: So yesterday there were 1,290 new cases in NSW. Sunday was 1,218 — and that was a record.

dec23 015
The photos on this post are of a part of East Redfern where I used to spend much time.

OK — so there were 31 posts in August, and the final score was 1,631 views from 513 visits with 141 likes. The sad events I refer to have since resolved!

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 40 — our town and some brilliant finds

Posted on  by Neil

Yes, the 40th in the series! OMG! Longer actually, as our lockdown began 26 June. So Day 61 in fact.

In accordance with NSW Health advice Saturday 26th June Collegians will be closing its venues from 4pm today. This includes:

Collegians Wollongong, Collegians Balgownie, Collegians Illawarra Leagues, Collegians Figtree & Collegians Port Kembla

At this stage we hope to re-open our doors on Saturday 10th July in accordance with the end of the lock down Midnight Friday 9th July. Pending further advice from NSW Health.

Thank you for your understanding. Stay safe and take care. Collegians Management

Well here we still are… As I have said City Diggers is taking advantage of the lockdown to do major renovations.

The coffee shop bar yesterday!

Talked to a club friend from early on in my return to The Gong, Steve Hitchens, about this yesterday on the phone. BIG changes. But as I said to him, I hope the Bistro menu is better than it was in the lead-up to lockdown — the reason I and Maurice and many others migrated to Illawarra Leagues. Be interested to see the changes though.

Speaking of The Gong, on Thursday I went to town to the chemist as I had to renew some medication. Waiting for the bus at this bus stop I had a conversation which I later reported on Facebook:

At the bus stop in The Gong this morning — a woman around my age was consulting the bus timetable as I scanned the intersection of Crown and Keira for a bus…

“Are they after you?” she suddenly said.

Apparently some kind of police or public order officers had just gone past. I hadn’t noticed…

She laughed and said, “You never know these days, do you?”

We chatted about how things were going. “It’s bad,” she said.

“Yes, but our parents lived through the War,” I replied. “This is not as bad.”

She agreed. “Yes, I was born just after and I remember…”

And told stories of shortages and rations.

“I was born during,” I replied. “And I think now we should be tapping into the spirit our parents had back then.”

“True,” she replied. And went on her way.My bus arrived. A 39. Good, Mount Keira Road service. And I was the only passenger.

Meanwhile the internet continues to deliver, especially through Facebook, some amazing things.

First a family history treasure from the Wollondilly Historical Page on Facebook. I have colourised the image.

John (Jack) Whitfield (1864-1956) joined the Police Force as a Probationary Constable on 28th October 1889. Previous to this he worked as a sawyer with his father W.J.J. Whitfield at his Bluegum Creek Sawmill near the Thirlmere Lakes.John Whitfield was the last constable with the Police Force at Appin. The Court House/Police Station was closed in 1933. Photograph from Whitfield family collection.

Uncle John deserves colour! I met him when I was a kid, but I hardly remember him I’m afraid. I better remember his brother Bill and indeed his other brother, my grandfather Tom. And his sister Annie, who attended the reception in Shellharbour in 1972 for my gold medal Olympian cousin Beverley.

Then on a completely different tack is this brilliant video from journalist George Monbiot on climate change.

So very true! I am ashamed to see that Aussie motormouths like Alan Jones PhD (not) are a significant part of the picture! Game, set and match George! He uses plain and sometimes Anglo-Saxon words at times — perfectly justified, in my view! But if you are a bit precious about such things. be warned if the letter F frightens you….

Yes, I know absolutely dreadful things have been happening in Afghanistan. On Facebook first thing yesterday I wrote:

I will not spend too much time on this but like everyone I will be following these events closely. Nothing but absolute revulsion can be our attitude, There is nothing good about ISIS, nothing worthy in their cause or their tactics. They appear to hate everyone except themselves.

Any here or in the USA who turns this into partisan politics of any kind is simply contemptible.

But soon after I did share an item from blogging and FB friend in California, Kanani Fong with this note:

Kanani Fong shared this saying “I thought of this photo this morning, when I heard the news about the Kabul airport. It was the last image I saw last night before tucking in. The Marines have always brought a dose of safety and clarity wherever they go. Much love to their family, friends, and fellow Marines.”

Her husband worked as a surgeon with the US military in Afghanistan. She was involved in that excellent documentary Restrepo.

NOTE: 30th December — Facebook has delivered in the past few days some even more amazing family history — but I will save that for New Year! This post ends the month-by-month replays. Tomorrow I aim to summarise how the blog has gone all year.