The promotion of lunacy 2: what are ‘prevailing community standards’?

A few weeks ago FOBIF wrote to several responsible persons/agencies complaining about car advertising which promoted unsafe and environmentally irresponsible driving. Recipients included the state Minister for road safety, the Federal Council for Automotive Industries, local MPs and the Ad Standards Bureau. We’ve had answers from Maree Edwards (a politely sympathetic letter) and the Ad Standards bureau, the federal body supervising the voluntary code of the industry.

The bureau’s letter notifies us that our complaint ‘is scheduled for submission to the Ad Standards Community Panel. A copy of it will be provided to all members of the Panel in order to help them in their determination of your complaint. We will also send a copy of your correspondence to the advertiser in question for comment. Any comments we receive from the advertiser will be submitted to the Panel for consideration together with your complaint…details of your complaint may be made available to researchers from time to time to enable Ad Standards to remain up to date on community attitudes and concerns about advertising.’

The Ad Standards community panel is the ‘centre piece of the self regulation system.’ It consists of 18 people from around the country not directly connected to the advertising industry. They’re from an interesting range of backgrounds, though none of them list ‘conservation’ as a major interest. We are assured that ‘The Community Panel discharges its responsibilities with fairness, impartiality and with a keen sense of prevailing community values in its broadest sense. Its task is often a difficult one and the outcomes of its determinations will not and cannot please everyone.’

We wait with interest to see what ‘prevailing community values in its broadest sense’ means. A cynical glance over a range of current television commercials might lead us to conclude that the community puts great value on being yelled at by trashed up celebrities urging us to buy unnecessary stuff. But we’ll avoid cynicism for the time being.

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In a different light … an exhibition by David Oldfield

David next of one of his photo exhibits showing Acacia melanoxylon in visible light and the same image in UV light.

David points out in an introductory pamphlet that camera manufacturers go to great lengths to make sure that digital sensors in their cameras will never see Ultraviolet (UV) light as it messes with the colours. However images taken under UV light can reveal how insects see flowers:

It has been known for many years, since the days of black and white film in fact, that many flowers have dark patterns visible under UV light but not visible to the naked eye. On the basis of much scientific work on honey bee vision, the eyes of pollinating insects are known to be sensitive to UV, blue and green light, and it is widely believed that such UV patterns, known as ‘nectar guides’, assist pollinating insects to find the nectar or pollen on the flower.

With a history of photography going back to childhood, David started to take UV flower photographs in 2013. He soon realised that nobody was taking such photos of Australian native flowers and thus began his groundbreaking work in this area. 

You can see David’s beautifully presented photos at the Newstead Arts Hub until 23rd June, open every Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. The Hub will also be open on Queens Birthday Monday 11th June.

If you would like to find out how to take UV flower photographs and see more of David’s work, have a look at 

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Life and death in the fire zone

The brilliant green in the photo below is Funaria hygrometrica, a moss which flourishes in fire ash. If you look closely you can see it’s growing in the ashes of a fallen tree. Harder to see, but still there, are dozens of small mushrooms, as well as a patch of fire fungus, Pyronema omphalodes ,also confined only to this ash rich line. That brilliant green patch is an intriguing sign of nature’s complex response to fire, still not properly understood.

Funaria hygrometrica on the ash of a tree trunk, Fryers Ridge May 25: the moss flourishes in post fire situations.

The rest of the scene is pretty desolate: it’s the margins of the Fryers Ridge Road, scene of a DELWP management burn last year [Cypress Drive, fire number CAS 066]. The severity of the burn on the steep slope below the ridge has scorched almost all trees to the crown, and most now look in crisis, with epicormic growth on nearly all of them. The slope is practically bare of ground cover.

Not all of the burn area is as bad as this: but enough of it is so severely burned that we have to ask the question, again: if it’s not the Department’s intention to destroy big trees, why does it inevitably do so?

The steep slope below Fryers Ridge road, near Timmins Track: fire managers aim to burn the bark off the Stringybarks. When the fire gets too high up the trunk, the tree is at risk.

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Here’s an unexpected fire problem

The photo below shows solar panels at the foot of the Fryers Forest fire tower. One has been smashed by rocks tossed over the quite high fence surrounding the tower.

Attacks on fire towers are not unheard of—reports from Gippsland last year included a depressing list of destructive actions: broken windows, graffiti, damaged ladders. One fire watcher reported being shot at…

There’s no easy solution to the problems of stupidity and mindless destructiveness: but given the importance of arson and vandalism in the fire equation, it’s hard to over emphasise the value of community education in making people aware of the responsibility we all have in dealing with the fire threat: more evidence that fire management is a lot more than just fuel reduction.

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Killing weeds, spreading weeds

Mount Alexander Shire decided last week to continue using Glyphosate as part of its weed killing programs. The chemical is a constituent of the widely used weedkiller Roundup. There is evidence that, at least in some usages, it may cause serious health problems, including cancer: courts in the US have recently awarded huge damages against producer Bayer Montsanto because of the health impacts on workers heavily involved in using the chemical; and legal and political wrangles in Europe have increased pressure on agricultural producers to come up with an alternative.

Stinkwort on a Castlemaine roadside: it’s a pity Council is controlling weeds and apparently spreading them at the same time.


Glyphosate is, however, still authorised for use in Australia, and research is not conclusive about the level at which it becomes harmful not only to people, but to soil fertility.

In the mean time, here’s a simpler weed control challenge for the shire: how about we stop spreading weeds around on our machines?

A very large proportion of local roads which have undergone works of some kind in recent years have been infested with Stinkwort. It’s very clear that the weed has been spread on council machinery.

According to the late Ern Perkins’s Castlemaine Plant List, Stinkwort ‘ is a noxious weed and listed Restricted in central Victoria.  It grows strongly during the dry late summer months when most other vegetation is dormant. The plant taints dairy products and meat, can cause stock death by poisoning and bowel damage by the fluffy seed heads, and can cause dermatitis in humans.’

FOBIF has been hammering this drum for nearly ten years now. Protocols for cleaning machinery are pretty accessible. We’ve written to Council to suggest they be acted on.

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FOBIF tilts at a very large windmill

Readers will remember our irritation at the plethora of Television commercials for recreational vehicles, encouraging irresponsible and environmentally damaging driving practices. We’ve decided to see if we can get an opinion on this matter from responsible authorities, and have written the  enquiry below to the Minister Road Safety, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and others. We’re not optimistic about a response. The gist of the letter follows [we’ll print responses if any as they come]:

We draw your attention to the current Television advertising campaign for Suzuki with the slogan ‘for fun’s sake’. The video can be found at . It has run frequently on broadcasts of AFL football. The film features a car careering through water and mud, and mindlessly circling a suburban roundabout.

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Along the ridges

A small group of walkers embarked on FOBIF’s May expedition to the south end of the Diggings Park.  The group followed one of the little known ridges between Helge Track and Sebastopol Creek before angling up Stones Gully to return. There are impressively large trees in this part of the park, and those on the higher ridges had suffered epic damage in recent storms: some had snapped off mid-trunk, others had virtually disintegrated as they fell.

Wildflowers are still rare in this part of the bush, though there’s impressive moss cover after recent rains, and the large mats of Matted Bush Pea along Wewak track promise good displays in the coming Spring.  Walkers survived a zig zag route around numerous fallen trees without mishap, and a, er, small miscalculation of the route length by leader Bernard Slattery has so far led to no litigation. Yes, it was 9 kilometres, not 7.

Fungi expert, Joy Clusker, sent us these photos. 

More photos from the walk.

Next month’s walk will be led by Jeremy Holland in a great part of Mount Alexander. See the program for details.

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Mining in the Muckleford Forest?

FOBIF has supported an objection by the Muckleford Forest Friends group to a mining exploration application for the forest by Kalamazoo resources.

Our objection is based on extreme caution about such exploration, mixed with bad experience with exploration and sampling exercises in the past. If you want an example, have a look at Dunn’s Reef in the adjoining Maldon Historic Reserve: the surrounding bush still hasn’t recovered from reckless bulldozing dating back 15 years.

The relevant parts of the Friends’ objection are set out below:

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An indigenous management plan for Kalimna Park?

Dja Dja Wurrung project officer Harley Douglas met with representatives from the Friends of Kalimna Park last weekend to discuss a projected management plan for the park. FOBIF was represented at the meeting.

The state government has allocated $200,000 for the development of the plan in the park and at Wildflower Drive in Bendigo. Further finance is available for implementation of the plan.

As we’ve previously reported, the Dja Dja Wurrung co-management plan Dhelkunya Ja (Healing Country) offers numerous creative possibilities for improved management of public land in our region (see our posts here here and here). We’ll report on further developments in this area in due course.

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Call for an effective deer strategy

It’s becoming increasingly obvious even to those not interested in conservation that deer are now a serious problem in large areas of Victoria. Reports of serious damage to wineries, and safety concerns over illegal shooting and potential road accidents appear to have increase political pressure for control that the trashing of our bushland hasn’t been able to do.

FOBIF has joined its name to an open letter calling for a strong and effective feral deer management strategy for Victoria. The letter was coordinated by the Victorian National Parks Association, and has been signed by over 90 Landcare organisations, leading ecologists, agricultural groups and a range of other affected organisations and groups from across the state. The substance of the letter is as follows:

We are concerned that Victoria’s Draft Deer Management Strategy (2018) fell far short of addressing the considerable problems feral deer bring to peri-urban and regional communities, and to wetlands, catchments and the natural environment. We offer here some recommendations for the final strategy; it is a critical opportunity to control deer populations and to reverse the increasing impacts they are having.We agree with the rough estimate for the state’s deer population, as documented in the draft strategy, at ‘between several hundred thousand up to one million or more’. The population is growing rapidly at an exponential rate, and far exceeds the capacity for control by recreational hunters. Research into the native habitats of the four main species of deer in Victoria indicates that they can continue to extend their range, potentially occupying almost every habitat in the nation. Victoria’s biodiversity is at risk. Deer are seriously impacting Victoria’s finest natural areas, from the coast to the Grampians, from rainforest gullies to the high country. Almost every type of native plant is browsed by Sambar Deer, and trampling, breaking and ringbarking plants by antler rubbing all add to those impacts. Decades of volunteer and government-funded revegetation programs across Victoria have already been damaged or are now threatened by deer. The two largest species of deer, Sambar and Red, are both adapted to wet climates and make extensive use of bogs and wetlands where their wallowing, trampling and browsing has a major impact on water quality and quantity in our catchments.The livelihoods of farmers, especially in orchards, vineyards and market gardens, are being threatened; even backyards and gardens are invaded. The growth of illegal hunting due to the easy availability of deer has become a safety concern in many rural and semi-rural areas. Deer are an increasing hazard on our roads.

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