Letter to the editor: Sydney Morning Herald February 16, 2009

Prevent bushfires, don't just suppress them

Michael Duffy highlights well the key points of the current national tragedy still unfolding ("Heed wisdom or perish", February 14-15).

Peter Spencer's cool burning of his property in the southern highlands replicates the firestick burning of the Aboriginal people so well documented. Before 1939 mountain cattlemen in Victoria used the same technique until stopped by the then forests commission.

The cattlemen and other bush workers became fearful of the "dirty" bush that developed and watched it all incinerate in the fires of 1939.

Judge Stretton, who presided over the royal commission into the fires, stated: "Fire management must be the paramount concern of the forest manager." Clearly, this wisdom has not been heeded and many have perished since.

Fire science concepts are not hard to grasp, even for politicians, as there are only three fundamental aspects: temperature, fuel and ignition.

Temperature and ignition will not be controlled by man. Fuel loads can and must be controlled if we are to adapt successfully to fire in the landscape. The continuing focus on fire suppression rather than fire prevention will result in an increasingly frequent and more intense series of disasters, detrimental to both people and the environment.

Max Rheese
executive director
Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the editor: The Australian January 05, 2009

Bad environmental policy

NEW national parks along the Murray River will not save the red gum forests as reported in The Australian ("National parks to protect red gums”, 31/12). The Victorian Government has decided these parks will operate under an unchanged, failed land management regime that has seen thousands of hectares of red gums protected by national park status, die in the last 12 months.

In the Murray Sunset National Park this year, 840 hectares of red gum protected for 20 years were declared dead, thousands more are dead and dying in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park just upstream. They are suffering a chronic lack of water; national park status will not change that.

The Victorian public has been dudded by Premier John Brumby and green groups who did a deal at the 2006 election to create red gum national parks. The announcement by Brumby has nothing to do with the environment and all to do with green politics.

Fifty-five per cent of Victorian public land is already protected by national or state park or nature reserve, yet we are continually told biodiversity is in decline. If that is so, then it is the land management model that has failed—the number of hectares classed as parks is irrelevant.

Victorians already suffering a policy-induced water shortage imposed by this government will now suffer further decline of the red gum forests because of bad environmental policy that has already proved a failure.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the editor: The Australian December 8, 2008

Emissions Trading

THE onerous implications of just one segment of the policy detail with regard to the introduction of an emissions trading scheme became apparent on the floor of the Senate last week, highlighted in the article “Communities sacrificed to carbon sinks” (6-7/12).

Contemplation by the parliament of taxpayer-funded concessions to schemes that will lock agricultural land into permanent carbon sinks and seriously undermine Australia’s food production beggars belief.

Bad legislation that betrayed constituents was reportedly on the mind of Fiona Nash when she crossed the Senate floor. Sadly, a greater number of her colleagues did not share her clarity of thought.

Permanent carbon sinks will not aid the forestry or agriculture sectors, will not enhance GDP and will cost the taxpayer a fortune, as will the introduction of this poorly conceived emissions trading scheme.

Adapting to ever-present climate change will mean changes to agriculture production to maximise yield and minimise impact on the environment. It does not mean shutting down viable food production and sacrificing rural Australia on the altar of citycentric climate change policy that has no proven outcome.

Max Rheese
Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the editor: The Age November 13, 2008

Surely, the aims of "environmentalists" in their outcry over timber harvesting at Brown Mountain would fall within the "wise use principles" of conservation? Full protection for a portion of the forest for all time, sustainable use of a portion of the forest for human endeavour and the regeneration of harvested forest.

This is what happens now. Australian forestry is among the best and most regulated in the world and we should all support the good environmental outcomes that flow from that. We do not have to look far to see the alternative.

The emotional claptrap put forward by various writers (Letters, 12/11), — failing to recognise that more than 90% of Victoria's forests are permanently reserved — does little to foster the integrity of the environment movement.

The fact is fire is the ultimate determinant of forest structure in Victoria; therefore the environment movement should be bringing pressure to bear on land managers to better manage our forests for fire, rather than campaigns based on ideology that aim to have the remaining 9% of forest locked up.

Sustainable use with adequate protection, not preservation, is the key to conservation.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the editor: The Land October 9, 2008

SIR: Neither Australia's chief scientist, Dr Jim Peacock, nor Victoria's chief scientist, Sir Gustav Nossal, share the view expressed by Louise Sales, anti-GM campaigner for Greenpeace ("UN thumps GM", The Land, September 25, p27), that genetically modified crops have no role to play in solving the world's food crisis when they advised their respective governments to adopt GM crops.

Nor it seems do the ever-increasing number of farmers across the world, including Australia, who are embracing GM crops in the expectation of increased yields and better crop performance.

The last thing farmers need is the UN or ideologues from Greenpeace telling them what they should, or should not, be planting on their own farms.

Executive Director,
Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the editor: The Age June 23, 2008

The rationale for ending the moratorium on GM crops as spelt out by Sir Gustav Nossal GM food can help ease hungershould reassure those in the community who have concerns on new technologies that relate to food production.

Sir Gustav’s panel voted unanimously for lifting the moratorium, this decision was supported by the Victorian government and opposition, the then Federal government and opposition, as well as Australia’s Chief Scientist, Jim Peacock.  This decision, no doubt, was based on science and evidence that has been freely available for some time.

GM crops have a part to play in helping to increase yields from finite arable land at a time of food shortages in some parts of the world.

The environmental benefits of GM crops through the reduction in use of pesticides and the ability to use biodegradable herbicides have been demonstrated through the growing of GM cotton in Australia for the last 11 years.  These benefits will now be available in food production.

Farmers and the environment deserve to have available the full suite of tools to produce the maximum yield, with the smallest ecological footprint, GM crops are a step forward in that direction.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation 

Letter to the editor: The Australian, June 6, 2008

Ross Garnaut Too hot an issue to ignore 6/6 should join the rest of us in the real world to hear our concerns about the proposed radical restructuring of the Australian economy that will result from the introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

Garnaut talks of “climate change mitigation decisions” and “the passage of time is rapidly reducing the scope for choice among policies affecting climate outcomes” as if he believes recommended policy will have some effect on climate!

The foundation argument of climate alarmists: that increased levels of CO2 leads to a global temperature increase of some significance have been disproved.  Not to mention that temperatures have not increased for ten years, whilst atmospheric levels of CO2 have continued to rise.

To contemplate committing to a scheme that will alter the lives of everyone in the country, which is based on a “balance of probabilities” indicates how this process has a life of its own that is not based on science, logic or the real world.

If Garnaut and the government want to talk about adapting the country as best we can to climate change – we are listening.  If the discussion is going to be about how we lessen our impact on climate, or heaven forbid – mitigate climate change – then spare us.

The country has some serious environmental issues that require serious resources to bring about change, wasting our time and money on trying to change climate is something only bureaucrats and politicians would contemplate.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the editor: Weekly Times, May 30, 2008

Lorraine Leach Trees real value in forests WT 21/5 highlights the value of forests in mitigating some influences of climate change as well as the role of forests in water yield.

The Bureau of Rural Sciences last week released the State of Forests Report for 2008 which also highlights these issues.  This independent government report supports the Victorian Association of Forest Industries statements where it states “The harvesting and regeneration of native forest in the Thomson catchment is limited to 0.3% of the catchment in any one year”.  The requirement to adhere to this is audited by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report also highlights the significant role the forest industry plays in mitigating climate change. 

However, the critical determinant of water yield in any catchment is fire and this is evidenced by the efforts undertaken by DSE to prevent fire entering the Thomson catchment during the Alpine fires of 2006.  One fire in the catchment will have more effect on water yield than 100 years of sustainable timber harvesting.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the editor: The Age, November 30, 2007

(Similar letters also published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian.)

Decision a win for science over ideology

COMMENTS by Premier Brumby on the lifting of the moratorium on genetically modified crops in Victoria that his Government is a supporter of science should be reassuring to all Victorians. The Government needs to be applauded for making the decision based on science and not ideology or emotion. The facts are these: overwhelming scientific evidence supports the social, environmental and economic benefits of GM crops.

The Government has consulted all stakeholder groups over a considerable period of time, despite the assertions of those opposed, and has made a decision that it sees in the best interests of the community based on the advice of its chief scientist.

All major players, including the Government, support adequate labelling requirements so that consumers have a choice on what they buy. Farmers now have a choice that will make them competitive on world markets and they can choose not to grow GM crops.

The environment will be the big winner in the adoption of GM cropping by Victorian farmers as the smaller ecological footprint of GM food production has been clearly demonstrated around the world during the past 10 years. GM food production will enhance our clean, green image with the proven reduction in the use of chemicals.

Max Rheese, executive director,
Australian Environment Foundation, Benalla, Vic.

LETTER OF THE WEEK - The Land, November 1, 2007

Hijacked by hyperbole in environment debate

SIR: Two articles in The Land of October 25 highlight an issue that should be of continuing concernto your readers: the hijacking of the environmental agenda by minority groups using their ideologyas a platform for change.

Ian Causley, the retiring Member for the seat of Page ("Fresh page for man who spoke his mind",  p6), tells us: "Our democracy had been hijacked by minority groups prone to hyperbole, which wereinfluencing the views of city people and politicians to the detriment of rural industries andcommunities."

He cites two examples of where we have lost the plot in the management of public resources:  forestry and the Murray-Darling.

The continuing saga of invasive native species (woody weeds) in the Central West could be addedto those examples.

In the same edition, Ian Lobban from the Victorian Farmers Federation, commenting in the article,
"Conservation a threat" (Southern regional edition, p1), tells us the Victorian EnvironmentalAssessment Council (VEAC) recommendations for the red gum forests along the Murray River "havethe potential to shut down farming and recreational industries".

The Australian Environment Foundation endorses the sentiments expressed and believes anyenvironmental issue that is tackled using science and empirical evidence will deliver the rightoutcomes.

Sadly, the woody weeds issue is a prime example of ideology triumphing over science and evidence;  the VEAC proposals for the red gum forests are another.

Duncan Malcolm, the chair of VEAC, is quoted in the article as saying: "The health of the river redgum forests along the Murray River is far worse than expected" - as one would expect after 10 yearsof drought.

However, reducing the area of State forest available for timber harvesting, banning campfires,  reducing access for camping and launching of boats, reclassifying State game reserves into natureconservation reserves, and increasing the size of national parks by 300 per cent will not changethat one bit.

These changes will reduce or exclude the use of public land by change of land tenure.

By themselves they will not lead to better land management.

We all support more water for the red gum forests - we do not support changes that will furthermarginalise small rural communities for no net environmental gain.

Similar proposals will be suggested for red gum forests in NSW by the National Parks Association.

Rural people should reflect on the statements of Mr Causley and Mr Lobban and decide how muchthey have to lose before they act to save their environment.

Executive director,
Australian Environment Foundation, Benalla, Vic.

Letter to the editor: The Weekly Times, October 31, 2007

River Plan will Sink

Draft proposals for the changed management of public land along the Murray River by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council have ignited community passion and galvanised the mood of local communities in the face of further regulation of their activities on public land.

The draft proposals, released for public discussion in July, recommended a number of major changes in the Murray River region.

These included the establishment of five new national parks, large reductions in timber harvesting, an end to cattle grazing in many areas of public land, the re-classification of 23 state game reserves to exclude hunting, bans on camp fires, reduced camping opportunity and less access to the river.

The major proposal from the investigation is an overbank flood of 4000GL every five years to relieve stress on the red gum forests, due to a lack of natural flooding.

But what is the true picture of red gum forests? Can they be saved only by a massive 4000GL flood — roughly equal to the capacity of Dartmouth dam — or have the massive changes to the floodplain in the past century made that sort of event impossible to achieve?

Even if the water was available, it would be worth in excess of $5 billion.

Can we afford $1 billion a year in environmental flows? Is this the best use of our water or our financial resources?

Some environmentalists say relieving the stress on the forest is worth any amount of water at any cost, but it is clear that not all of the forest is under stress. It is equally clear that the regulation of water, primarily to suit agriculture, has had an effect on the forest that reducing timber harvesting, hunting or camp fires will not alleviate.

The allocation of water to the red gum forests is of such paramount importance and potentially impacts on so many stakeholders in the wider Murray Darling Basin that it should be considered separately from the other recommendations contained within the draft proposals.

Protection and successful management of the natural environment will succeed when it takes into account the needs of the people, in balance with the needs of the environment.

Max Rheese, Executive Director, Australian Environment Foundation

Letter to the Editor: The Age, 6th October 2007

More National Parks not the Answer

MATT Ruchel from the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) does not articulate the main issue of concern to local communities in his article "Red gums are not just a green issue" (BusinessDay, 5/10), which is the VNPA campaign to create more national parks from accessible state forest.

Most people are not opposed to sensible proposals for increased environmental flows along the Murray River — if there was some prospect of the water being available — but are very concerned at the proposed 300 per cent increase in national parks.

Mr Brumby recognises that the draft proposals are not sensible and has informed the community of his Government's intentions, to dispel concerns.

All people who use the red gum forests and the Murray River agree that many areas are stressed by 10 years of drought.

The fix for that is rain, not changing the land status to national parks.

The Government has a long way to go to regain people's confidence in public land management. Everyone agrees that public land could be better managed, but creating national parks is not the default action to achieve that.

Max Rheese, executive director, Australian Environment Foundation

'A sniff of what you spread on the garden'

Andrew Bolt's favourable opinion piece on the AEF in the Melbourne Herald Sun (7th September 2007).

Letter to the Editor: The Land, 5th July 2007

A Three Dud Trick

Sir:  Bevan O’Regan hits the nail on the head in Coal for Clearing, (The Land, June 21, p30) when he points out the apparent collusion between state and federal governments over land clearing to serve their own agendas.

State governments in Queensland and New South Wales enacted native vegetation laws at the urging of environment groups on the premise that current land clearing regimes were bad for the environment. 

The debacle in both these states where 20 million hectares has now succumbed to invasive native species is testament to the folly of environmental management based on ideology rather than science.  Farmers dudded once.

There was no argument from the federal government over forced reductions in ‘land clearing’ as this was the mechanism to achieve targets at Kyoto.  Farmers dudded a second time.

The Australian Farm Institute has correctly been telling farmers for years that land use changes that enhance the environment are not being credited to agriculture – financially or politically.  Farmers dudded a third time.

In the same The Land (p6), Senator Barnaby Joyce exhorts farmers to battle against government at all levels - “from impinging on the fundamental right of people on the land to their free ownership and free title”.  Senator Joyce says his fear is that farmers will be pawns in the race to address climate change. 

Well, farmers are being treated like pawns now and have been for more than a decade.

The current system of representation on the issues of land clearing, property rights, carbon sequestration and credits for the farming community could stand much improvement.

Farmers should be encouraged and rewarded for improving the environment not penalised for trying to make a living from the land.

Senator Joyce’s call for a senate inquiry into property rights deserves the support of all farmers and farming organisations.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation


Letter to the Editor: Weekly Times, 3 April 2007

Having read the articles about GM choices W/T 28/3 Seed of doubt or hope and numerous independent studies released this year on the clear benefits of GM crops to the environment and the farming community, it seems this debate has little to do with facts and much to do with values.

Gene Ethics wishes to impose its values on GM crops on the community.  They do not want the government to allow consumers or farmers the right to choose.

Nowhere in the world, including Australia, have farmers been forced to grow GM crops – it is their choice. 

If those opposed to GM crops are so confident of the claims they make against GM technology – let them choose.

Australian farmers and consumers have shown themselves to be pretty savvy when it comes to making choices that affect their livelihoods and their quality of life.  Farmers will not invest their time, effort and money in technology they do not have faith in or a market for.

Australians value the freedom to make choices that affect their quality of life.

Anti GM proponents oppose those values by denying us our freedom to choose.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation


Push grows for GM cotton

(From an article printed in The Age March 9th 2007)

Senator Bill Heffernan who has been appointed by the Prime Minister to head a federal inquiry into developing agriculture in northern Australia has called for a rethink on attitudes to genetically modified crops and their application in Australia.

His statements were welcomed by the chairman of the Australian Environment Foundation, Don Burke who said “Claims that GM crops are not safe or good for the environment were nonsense”

Australian Conservation Foundation executive director, Don Henry said the ACF opposed all GM crops.

Cotton Australia chief executive director, Adam Kay said that the introduction of GM crops had seen a reduction of in the use of pesticides by 80 per cent.  Cotton growers had improved their water use by 11 per cent since 1999.  GM cotton had been successfully trialled at Kununurra in Western Australia and Katherine in the Northern Territory.

Mr Kay said that cotton growers wanted the option of growing GM crops.

Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator had been established to conduct scientific assessment of GM crops and the Australian Government supported that process.


Letter to the Editor: Stock and Land, 8th March 2007 

Stop playing the man instead of the ball

The Australian Environment Foundation agrees with a number of points that Katherine Wilson [Industry interests must be revealed 8/2] makes in her letter.

AEF is indeed worlds apart from most other environment groups, as the AEF values science and evidence over rhetoric and ideology in the debate on environmental issues.

AEF does agree with the rosy claims made about biotech crops in two independent studies released last month which the Gene Ethics Network attempted to rebut.

Katherine’s letter attacks the messenger not the message.  She was silent on the rosy claims contained in the research.

AEF also agree with the principle of transparency in the public debate and call upon the Gene Ethics Network to reveal the extent of funding it has received from the Australian Conservation Foundation or for the ACF to list its donors and sponsors on its website in the manner that the AEF does.  Katherine could also be transparent about her associations as well.

AEF does not and has not received any financial backing from the Institute of Public Affairs.  The AEF and the IPA do share some common values and one director of the AEF is a Senior Fellow of the IPA.  This has been publicly disclosed many times and the AEF Values and Objectives are published on our website at www.aefweb.info 

Katherine could have done the environment debate a service by debating the issue but has taken the well worn path used by many green groups when their argument falters for lack of evidence – playing the man instead of the ball.

Max Rheese
Executive Director
Australian Environment Foundation


Don Burke backs farmers’ war on woody weeds

Dubbo Daily Liberal, 26 February 2007

High-profile environmentalist and celebrity gardener Don Burke will head a forum in Dubbo this week which aims to pressure the State Government into reversing "draconian vegetation laws" that are threatening to bankrupt some farmers. (more ...)


Letter to the Editor: The Age, 23rd November 2006

At last some facts on water

Hoorah to Mark Poynter [The Age 23/11/06] for outlining the facts on our water resources and how to obtain more water per hectare from our catchments by selective logging.

With water storages across the state at very low levels, any sustainable practice, that for “every 1000 hectares thinned is expected to deliver an additional 1 billion litres” should be adopted without delay.
The facts show that active management of catchments by selective logging will be beneficial to water yield over the long term. This practice would also ensure sustainable management of our timber resource.
Both issues are critical to future growth in Victoria; therefore they should be decided on evidence and fact rather than misinformation and rhetoric that has characterised the debate on forestry in this state.

Max Rheese, Executive director
Australian Environment Foundation, Benalla


Letter to the Editor: The Age, 16th Novmber 2006

It aint necessarily so

Leslie Cannold (Opinion, 14/11) states that the Australian Environment Foundation "campaigns for weaker environmental laws"; there is not a thread of evidence to support such a claim.

She further states that the Institute of Public Affairs contributed to the establishment of "front groups" such as the AEF. 

If this infers that the AEF and its members are a mouthpiece for the IPA, then this is not supported by fact.  If it implies the AEF and IPA members share common values that require debate supported by evidence and fact then this is true.

Max Rheese, executive director, AEF


ABC Online, 18th November, 2006

Gunns wins environmental award
The Gunns timber company has won a national environmental award for its management of natural grasslands on its Surrey Hillls estate near Burnie in Tasmania.

The award has been presented by Australian Environment Foundation chairman and television personality Don Burke.

Mr Burke says grassy ecosystems are among the world's most endangered plant communities.

"A significant proportion of these sorts of grasslands in Australia actually occur here in Tasmania, and they have some of the greatest diversity of species in those grasslands that you would find," he said.

"They are quite a precious thing and they are only in small areas, so they're just one of those areas where if you blink they could be gone forever."



GM Crops the Smart Choice

Weekly Times (Australia), October 25, 2006

Peter Hill may not want GM food, but the world needs GM food (WT, October 11).

We have to learn to farm smarter if we are to feed a growing world population from the same amount of arable land and with no more water. GM crops have the potential to yield as much -- with less water in some cases -- using up to 80 per cent less chemicals and offering protection from frost.

This is something that Goulburn Valley fruit growers would be keen to explore. Indeed, GM food crops have the potential to reduce the ecological footprint of food production while increasing yields.

For these reasons, the Australian Environment Foundation supports the controlled introduction of GM crops to all states.

- Max Rheese, executive director, Australian Environment Foundation, Benalla

ABC Online:

Environment Group AEF Honours Gunns

29th September

Timber company, Gunns Limited, has won a national environmental award for the management of grasslands and an endangered butterfly species in Tasmania's north-west.

The award was given out by the Australian Environment Foundation, which was launched last year.

The foundation promotes itself as a science and evidence-based environmental movement. It has links to the Institute of Public Affairs and the timber industry.

Gunns north-west manager, Brian Hayes, says the company actively manages sub-alpine grasslands in the north-west, which is an essential habitat for the rare Ptunnarra Brown Butterfly.

He says the recognition is an honour, particularly as many people do not associate Gunns Ltd with environmental protection.

"It is very easy for people to overlook the very good work that is done by professional people within the industry, there are many things that are done that don't achieve the public and media recognition," he said.

"I might point out, of our total estate of about 205 thousand hectares in Tasmania, about 37 thousand hectares is set aside for conservation and reservation purposes."



ABC Radio National: Counterpoint

6th August 2006

Over-fished or over-regulated?

According to marine biologist Dr Walter Starck, Australia has the most over-managed, heavily restricted and least productive fishery industry in the world. He'll be speaking at the upcoming Australian Environment Foundation inaugural conference. We're also joined by chair of the foundation, Don Burke, to hear why Australia needs another environment group.

Listen and/or read the transcript: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/counterpoint/stories/2006/1732277.htm 



7:31AM AEST Thursday, 20 July 2006

There is a lot of pressure on Toowoomba residents heading into the July 29th Water Futures Poll with TV identity Don Burke entering the debate calling for a yes vote. He says the decision will impact on the rest of the country. 

Landline, ABC TV, 14th August 2005

Burke ready to bloom in new role

Don Burke is interviewed by Joanne Shoebridge from ABC Television's Landline about the need for a new approach to environmental issues.  To view the interview click here,http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2005/s1436505.htm .


Farm Online, 27th July 2005 

Don Burke to head fight for balanced environmentalism

Don Burke, Aussie icon and a pioneer Australian environmentalist, has become Chair of new environment group the Australian Environment Foundation.

The AEF was born out of frustration with the tunnel-vision approach of the green movement and its lack of inclusiveness for communities and human participation in and management of the environment.

As such Mr Burke wasted no time in calling for a new approach to environmental issues.

"The established environment groups are too preoccupied with headlines and publicity stunts rather than the hard work of finding enduring solutions," Mr Burke said.

"They are poor at following through, and often seem unreasonably prejudiced against people and industry.

"The AEF wants to promote honest debate and discussion and a more evidence-based approach."

Mr Burke nominated national park management as a good example.

"Once a National Park has been declared, the old conservation movement too often decamped without asking whether the resources or the will were there to properly maintain these areas.

"The result is National Parks full of feral weeds and prone to destructive wild fires.

"Then there are global issues. What is the role for Australia in feeding, clothing and providing energy to the rapidly growing Asian economies? How do we cope with legitimate human aspirations in a world of limited resources?"

Mr Burke says the AEF is about innovative solutions for real world problems.

"We are a fresh group taking a fresh approach recognizing that the old conservation paradigms don't always suit," he said.

"We are really talking about the beginnings a whole new environment movement."

Don Burke is a founding member of: Year of the Tree, Greening Australia, and Decade of the Tree & Sustainable Development Australia. He was President of the Australian Institute of Horticulture (NSW) during which time he initiated the first ever environmental weed legislation in NSW.

Mr Burke has served as a board member of Landcare Australia and with Simon Crean, initiated the National Registration Authority for Agricultural & Veterinary Chemicals (now called the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority).



Crikey, 26th July 2005

Greens' blue pushing red, By Christian Kerr

Expect the row between the new Australian Environment Foundation and the Australian Conservation Foundation to step up a notch. The AEF has just appointed Don Burke – yes, that Don Burke – as its chair. He's marked his appointment with these comments:

The established environment groups are too preoccupied with headlines and publicity stunts rather than the hard work of finding enduring solutions. They are poor at following through, and often seem unreasonably prejudiced against people and industry.

The AEF wants to promote honest debate and discussion and a more evidence-based approach…

Once a National Park has been declared, the old conservation movement too often decamped without asking whether the resources or the will were there to properly maintain these areas. The result is National Parks are full of feral weeds and prone to destructive wild fires.

Then there are global issues. What is the role for Australia in feeding, clothing and providing energy to the rapidly growing Asian economies? How do we cope with legitimate human aspirations in a world of limited resources?

The AEF is about innovative solutions for real world problems. We are a fresh group taking a fresh approach recognising that the old conservation paradigms don't always suit.”

Burke is an immediately recognisable figure. He has strong credentials as a founding member of the Year of the Tree, Greening Australia, the Decade of the Tree and Sustainable Development Australia. He has been a board member of Landcare Australia and helped get the first ever environmental weed legislation in NSW during his time as president of the state branch of the Australian Institute of Horticulture.

He isn't as scary-looking as Peter Garrett – but his appointment will give the big boys of the green lobby a fright. The ACF has already sicked m'learned friends on to the AEF alleging a Trademark Infringement on the basis of its name.

Stay tuned for a brawl over what being an environmental organisation is all about.


The Age, 26th July 2005

Garden guru tips a bucket on greenies
By Liz Minchin

Former TV gardening guru Don Burke has taken a dig at Australia's mainstream green movement after becoming head of a new environment group linked to a conservative Melbourne think tank.

Now chairman of the Australian Environment Foundation, the horticulturist and former Landcare Australia board member declared, "The greatest threat to the world's environment is the conservation movement.
"I'm very annoyed with the conservation movement and feeling a bit desperate, in that I think conservationists did a brilliant job 30 years ago at making us all aware of the massive problems facing the planet, but they've failed miserably since then.

"The reason is that the moment (they) succeeded in changing the attitudes of the world, they became obsolete . . . You can't stop the world changing . . . The challenge is to work out how we can adapt to change."
Burke has taken over from Jennifer Marohasy, director of the environment unit at the Collins Street-based Institute of Public Affairs, also the registered place of business for the Australian Environment Foundation.

The Land & The Queensland Country Life, 16th June 2005

Spot the difference?

A COUPLE of events last week caused me to wonder how many shades of green there are in the environment.



Northern Daily Leader (Tamworth), 8 June 2005

People unite to deliver 'real' environment message
AUSTRALIA has a new environment movement and, after its official launch at Tenterfield on Sunday, it promises to be a vigorous organisation with a difference.



ABC Online, 8th June 2005

Name game upsets Aust Conservation Foundation
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has written to a newly-launched organisation asking it to drop its name because it is too similar to their 40-year-old trademark.

The new Melbourne-based group has links to the timber industry.



Crikey, 8th June 2005 

 13. Bitter internal stoush among "grass roots" greens

Christian Kerr writes:

The latest green shoot, the Australian Environmental Foundation, launched on Sunday, has received an interesting “christening present” from what it calls “the establishment Australian Conservation Foundation” – a solicitor's letter trying to prevent the launch.

Is the ACF trying to impose a monoculture? Strangling a young seedling? Keeping the offshoots trimmed back? Make sure that life is just a bed of roses – or at least a comfy duopoly – for themselves and the WWF?

Is there some shrubhugger subtlety we're missing here or what? A spectacular spit seems to be on. Have a look at the new boys' and girls' media release here.
AEF spokesperson Kersten Gentle said that the AEF is a grassroots environmental organisation which stresses an evidence-based approach to the environment and wants to ensure that scarce resources are directed to areas of most need.

"There is precious little money available for the environment as it is. We shouldn't be wasting what is available lining the pockets of intellectual property lawyers."

Ms Gentle said that the ACF was alleging a Trademark Infringement on the basis of the name of the new organisation and its emblem.

"Apparently the ACF believe that they are the only ones entitled to use the words Australian and Foundation and anyone else using them is trying to “pass themselves off” as the ACF."
Ouch! Some green shoots have prickles. Others are poisonous.

The Age, 8th June 2005

Cool reception for new green group
By Melissa Fyfe


Tenterfield Star, 7th June 2005

Environment Launch