Green Exaggeration and Hysteria

Some of the more radical environmentalists have really become something of an alternative religion. They can be just as zealous and crusading as any religious person can. And they can often play fast and loose with the facts to ensure maximum scare value in their messages.

Indeed, there has been a long history of this gloom and doom, Chicken Little routine. Every decade there is some new catastrophe about to wipe out mankind, and unless we act now, and take radical steps, we are all doomed.

Now there is nothing wrong with taking care of planet earth, and there is nothing wrong with taking sensible measures to remedy scientifically-proven problems. But often the hype and hysteria far outstrip the reality. And so too does the rhetoric.

A good case in point concerns recent comments by our Environment Minister, Peter Garrett. It seems the former rock star is concerned that the world is awash in plastic bags. So he wants to slug poor consumers every time they use them, or ban them altogether. As usual, with these sorts of government led remedies, it is the poor who will suffer the most.

Consider another example – one of many. Back a few years ago our elites decided to ban all petrol containing lead. And before that, they charged extra for that petrol – usually called Super, or some such thing. The idea was to discourage motorists from using the environmentally unfriendly fuel by making them pay more for it, and eventually, banning it outright.

But guess who were the big losers here? You got it – poor people. Like me. Older cars ran on Super. And who had older cars? Poor people. Richer people had newer cars, so they could run on Unleaded fuel, which was cheaper than Super. So the poor were really doubly penalised here. They had to pay more for their petrol, and they couldn’t afford the new cars.

And when Super was phased out altogether, what happened to the hapless poor folk whose cars ran only on Super? They were simply left stranded. They had to purchase newer cars that were able to take Unleaded fuel. But of course the poor were the ones who could not afford newer cars in the first place.

So well-meaning policies often hurt the poorest the most. And so too would the 10 cents a bag – or dollar a bag – scheme, or whatever price they put on them. Or banning them, and making other alternatives which will cost more. The rich won’t give a rip. They can afford to throw money around like that. But the poor cannot.

Andrew Bolt had a great column on this yesterday. He is worth quoting at length:

“Here we go again – another green crusade in which facts are invented to scare you into doing something dumb. This time our evangelical Environment Minister says he’ll this year take away your plastic shopping bags – the ones that are so useful that we use more than 4 billion of them each year to cart home our shopping. What must we use instead to carry home the fortnightly shopping: suitcases? Rolls of green bin liners?”

“And how annoying not to have those plastic bags to reuse for everything from wrapping leftovers and wet clothes to picking up manure. In fact, I could use one right now to hold the manure Garrett has used to justify this feel-good ban that will cost us millions and gain us zip. Let me demonstrate, by fact-checking some of the claims Garrett has made to justify his ban.”

“Garrett claim #1: ‘I think everybody agrees that having 4 billion plastic bags floating around Australia’s environment is not desirable.’ Pardon? We have 4 billion bags just floating around as if tossed out of a window? In fact, the Productivity Commission in 2006 reported that of the 4 billion shopping bags we use each year, just 0.8 per cent becomes litter. The rest are buried in landfill, recycled or reused, and aren’t ‘floating’ anywhere. And how handy those bags are even when buried. The Commission marvelled: ‘It appears that plastic bags may have some landfill management benefits including stabilising qualities, leachate minimisation and minimising greenhouse gas emissions.’ You really want some litter to clean up, Peter? Crack down instead on those billions of foul cigarette stubs.

“Garrett claim #2: ‘I remember that incredible story about a whale, I think it was beached somewhere in France, and it had 800 kilos worth of plastic bags and rubbish inside it, when they opened it up.’ Wow, a whale that can fit almost a tonne of plastic bags in its stomach must be so gargantuan as to make Moby Dick seem a tadpole. But let’s peer more closely into the gut of Garrett’s giga-whale, which washed up on a beach in Normandy in 2002, and count all those shopping bags found inside by researchers from the University of Caen.”

“Here we go: One, two . . . Er, two. Two. Yes, that’s Garrett’s incredible 800kg of plastic bags. Oh, and then there was that other unspecified ‘rubbish’ he mentioned: two English plastic-and-foil crisp packets, seven bin liners, bits of seven transparent plastic bags and one food container. Total wet weight: 800 grams, not Garrett’s 800kg. Conclusion: Ban bin liners instead.”

“Garrett claim #3: ‘There are some 4 billion of these plastic bags floating around . . . ending up affecting our wildlife . . .’ Here Garrett refers to the greatest hoax of all – those endless claims that a Newfoundland study found plastic bags killed more than 100,000 marine mammals every year. This claim – originally made by environmental consultants Nolan-ITU in a report commissioned by the then Howard government – was accepted as true by a credulous Senate environment committee inquiry in 2002, and has been hyped ever since by green groups such as Planet Ark.”

“South Australia’s Labor Government even peddles the claim today on its Zero Waste website to justify its own planned ban on bags. Small problem: the claim is completely false. As Nolan-ITU belatedly admitted four years later, it had misread that Newfoundland study, which actually said 100,000 animals might be killed – or injured – by discarded fishing nets and lines, and not by plastic bags, which it hadn’t mentioned at all. Conclusion: Ban fishing nets instead. Yet how fast that fake story of the mammal-choking bags raced around the world. The reason so many green campaigners greedily repeated it was that no other study has to this day linked plastic bags to widespread animal deaths, no matter how hard those little Garretts looked for proof.”

OK, so Garrett got it wrong on everything he said. But can we ease up on plastic bags? Sure, we can cut back, and try to use cloth bags more often. The point is, making outlandish and fact-less claims helps no one here. But this is so typical of the green zealots.

Concludes Bolt: “Fact: People love plastic bags too much to give them up even if made to pay. Ask Ireland, which imposed a levy on bags only to find more than ever were being used, with only a small cut in the number turning up as litter. And the Productivity Commission warned a levy or ban wouldn’t work any better here: ‘A cost-benefit study commissioned by the governments shows that the benefits of a phase out or a per-unit charge would be significantly outweighed by the costs.’ It concluded: ‘A more cost-effective approach would be to target littering directly.’ How about that? Just hit the naughty litterer, not the struggling shopper, the food-wrapping clean fiend and the civic pooper-scooper.”

By all means let’s have some concern for the environment. But let that concern be level-headed and evidence-based. We don’t need any more panic-mongering and guilt-tripping by wealthy bureaucrats, politicians and rock stars.,21985,23359068-25717,00.html

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17 Replies to “Green Exaggeration and Hysteria”

  1. At least there was some logic behind the leaded petrol issue unlike with global warming alarmism. I didn’t like the change to unleaded either especially when there was an increase of excise tax placed on leaded to discourage its use. Then even when a lead replacement petrol (LRP) was substituted for the leaded version, did the extra excise come off? Of course not. So we had to pay a premium (due to a tax that was originally imposed to discourage the use of petrol containing lead) for a product that now contained no lead! What I used to do was just use unleaded and add my own octane booster to it. The combined price per litre was probably higher that a litre of LRP but at least I had the satisfaction of knowing that the government wasn’t getting as much tax!

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  2. You and Andrew make good pals together. You both have not done the research necessary to speak to this issue intelligently. The “poor people” are the ones who suffer? And the “struggling shoppers?” God you make us humans seem like complete hopeless cases who couldn’t possibly survive the hardship of having to live without plastic bags being readily available to us for free at all retail stores. We are all basically lazy creatures of convenience and it isn’t good enough to say “we’ll try harder to remember our bags” because we don’t! In Ireland as soon as they imposed a tax on plastic bags use went down 94%. I don’t know where ANdrew got his information.
    You can’t say that “poor people” will be affected because they have to use reusable bags now. Reusable bags are not expensive. Consumers whether they be rich, poor or middle of the road all need to be more responsible and bring their own bags it’s true but banning petrochemical plastic bags may force retailers to only supply biodegradable alternatives that will at least break down into something healthy instead of filling our landfills with toxic waste not to mention the ocean and the rest of the environment. No we don’t want consumers switching to corn or soy-based bags solely either. BRING YOUR OWN BAGS!!! But Peter Garrett is not exaggerating in all of his claims. Quit trying to demonize him for being environmentally conscious and try looking at the petroleum industry and where we have gotten to over the past 30 or 40 years or so. Just try going shopping and not ending up with a dozen items of plastic content or in plastic containers or plastic packaging. It’s sick! And until we start taking drastic measures and saying we don’t want plastic anymore unless it is made from a biodegradable base product, things will continue to get drastically worse for the planet. Open your eyes! The hysteria hasn’t yet begun.
    CaroleAnn Leishman

  3. Thanks CaroleAnn

    But evidently their bin liner usage rose so much that the Irish Customs office reported the total tonnage of imported plastic bags increased since the 2001 levy. It seems that people simply bought more bin liners to replace free carrier bags, so the volume of waste stayed the same. Moreover, there was an increase in the use of paper bags which in fact is worse for the environment. Studies have found that the manufacture of plastic bags uses one third of the energy, results in half the pollution and one eighth of the raw material requirement of paper bag production.

    Finally, after the first year of operation the Irish tax has cost small to medium retailers an estimated 24.3 million Euros. That means poorer people in smaller businesses.

    So once again, facts are better than hysteria.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. CaroleAnn Leishman rails against the petroleum industry but I dare say she has driven or ridden in a car once or twice in her life. There are so many green hypocrites about today who enjoy all the benefits of modern industrialised economies but at the same time would like to see it all shut down.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  5. CaroleAnn,
    Begging your pardon, but does truth matter to you and your green supporters?
    Peter Garrett claimed that 800 kg of plastic bags were found in that whale in France, but there were only two bags, plus a handful of other waste products.
    You cited how in Ireland after the tax was brought in the use of plastic bags went down by 94%, but ignored the drastic increase in use of plastic bin liners etc. Real scientific method looks at ALL the relevant data to form a comprehensive picture, not merely the data which happens to suit a preconceived agenda. I am old enough to have seen how the “green lobby” consistently flouts proper scientific method in this and other ways such that I have no confidence whatever in their “studies”. They are suitable only for the rubbish bin (duly lined with a plastic bin liner).

    Another matter:
    Peter Garrett in Parliament this week sneered at anyone who pointed to warming on other planets in the solar system as evidence that it is the sun, not human activity, which is responsible for global warming. Well, this just happens to an observed phenomenon (I have seen this reported on several astronomical websites). But in response Garrett just trots out the “science-is-settled” mantra.
    It was Einstein who observed that it takes only one scientist to be right for progress to be made, never mind what a hundred others may say in unison otherwise (or words to that effect). Does Garrett claim to know more about scientific method than Einstein??
    Garret the scientist? Pardon while I chortle.

    Let truth triumph over hysterics and bluster!!

    Murray Adamthwaite

  6. CaroleAnn, where are your assertions now? Is even one of your points valid? Or will you just go on believing the hype, rather than trying to sift through issues thoughtfully?

    I really don’t understand why some rail against plastic shopping bags. Most people I know keep them for re-use as bin-liners (instead of buying additional plastic to use once) and there have been many, many times they have been useful to me to minimize spillages when carrying lunch or other food to work in a backpack or sports bag. Not to mention dirty or smelly clothes if you have to carry change of clothes also (along with other stuff you want kept separate.) I usually get 3 or 4 uses out of each one of those. Sometimes, much, much more.

    Plastic is part of life, get over it – whilst we can minimize its use, its clear from practical living that in many cases (when you add up the total costs and impacts) it is superior than any other alternative. And as far as I’m aware, much of it is recycled anyway.

    And, btw, I do most of my grocery shopping in small runs on my bike using my backpack. But I do this mostly for fitness and cost reasons. And it wasn’t much fun when the yoghurt container broke open a few weeks back. Used quite a bit of precious water cleaning that up…

    Mark Rabich

  7. Garrett the scientist? How about the equally chortlable alGore the scientist. Al Gore only has a B.A. in Government (no higher degree achieved, no science degrees)
    The Education of Al Gore (The Washington Times)

    Last Sunday, The Washington Post reproduced Mr. Gore’s Harvard transcript as well as his grades and scores at the elite St. Albans high school and later at Vanderbilt University’s divinity and law schools. In a word, the transcripts reveal that Mr. Gore’s post-secondary academic performance was rather dismal, particularly in the field of science.

    Now, admittedly, education is a lifelong process, and Mr. Gore may well have learned a thing or two since he dropped out of Vanderbilt twice. It is well-worth noting, however, that throughout middle-age, Mr. Gore has shown unmistakable signs of being a slow learner still. After all, it did take him three decades to understand the health consequences of smoking, a period during which Mr. Gore received thousands of dollars in contributions from tobacco companies and the Gore family farm profitably grew tobacco as a cash crop. Still, all caveats aside, Mr. Gore’s grades do offer a tantalizing peek at his formal economic and scientific education.

    Despite Mr. Gore’s image as star pupil, the kid most likely to be the first to raise his hand in class, it seems that Mr. Gore barely applied himself during his years as an undergraduate and graduate student. Indeed, his sophomore year at Harvard, The Post notes, was “the year Gore’s classmates remember him spending a notable amount of time in the Dunster House basement lounge shooting pool, watching television, eating hamburgers and occasionally smoking marijuana.” Please, take a moment to appreciate the scene painted in that one sentence.

    In introductory economics, the only economics course Mr. Gore ever took, he received a C-, which goes a long way toward explaining his December remark that he would consider raising taxes should the economy fall into recession.

    Mr. Gore’s high school performance on the college board achievement tests in physics (488 out of 800 “terrible,” St. Albans retired teacher and assistant headmaster John Davis told The Post) and chemistry (519 out of 800 “He didn’t do too well in chemistry,” Mr. Davis observed) suggests that Mr. Gore would have trouble with science for the rest of his life. At Harvard and Vanderbilt, Mr. Gore continued bumbling along.

    As a Harvard sophomore, scholar Al “earned” a D in Natural Sciences 6 in a course presciently named “Man’s Place in Nature.” That was the year he evidently spent more time smoking cannabis than studying its place among other plants within the ecosystem. His senior year, Mr. Gore received a C+ in Natural Sciences 118.

    At Vanderbilt divinity school, Mr. Gore took a course in theology and natural science. The assigned readings included the apocalyptic, and widely discredited “Limits to Growth,” which formed much of the foundation for “Earth in the Balance.” It is said that Mr. Gore failed to hand in his book report on time. Thus, his incomplete grade turned into an F, one of five Fs Mr. Gore received at divinity school, which may well be a worldwide record.

    Both Garrett and Gore would know much less about infrared absorption than those who graduated from my first year chemistry class.

    “Do you realize that absorption has a logarithmic dependence on concentration as per the Beer–Lambert Law?”

    Garrett and Gore: “What’s logarithmic? Do you mean that more logs produced by lumber mills make a difference? We knew they were evil for chopping down trees!”

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  8. CaroleAnn,

    In my experience of the type of people that hold your kind of opinion, most own two vehicles (including a four wheel drive), travel often on airliners, have few or no children, spending their sizable incomes on, well, stuff, for themselves – materialistic stuff. They feel a sense of ‘achievement’ in ‘helping the planet’ by using no plastic bags for example, but their self interested lifestyles are a contradiction to their beliefs. Unless they really live their green beliefs, a bunch of hypoocrites is all that comes to mind.

    Teresa Binder

  9. Just to comment, and show that all Canadians aren’t misled by false science (far too common in our world today). I will make a few observations:

    First, I will recommend reading the information at:

    Then, I will suggest that those of you who are capable of basic math, run through the exercise of calculating the effect of CO2 on global temperature. You don’t need to be accurate. The results are astounding, if you simply take the worst case (as claimed by the green nut cases), and figure out what the absolute worst case could ever be. I will leave that to your own research, but the basic results are, that two things would happen, if ALL of the CO2 was to be removed from the atmosphere, today. First, the earth’s global temperature would drop by something less than 2C (probably, less than 1C). And second EVERYTHING would die. Considering that man made CO2 is only a small part of ALL of the CO2, on earth, and CO2 is essential for life, it would make sense to use a little common sense about what the eco nutcases are telling us. I am not really sure what difference 0.00006C would make, if ALL man made CO2 was eliminated, but that would result in about 90% of the human race either starving to death, or freezing to death. Of course, that does seem to be the ultimate goal of many of those who think man made CO2 should be eliminated.

    I am not even going to comment on plastic bags, other than to note that the biggest problem with them, is that people don’t always dispose of them properly, which does contribute to litter. Of course, that seems to be a problem with those who do such things, and not with plastic bags themselves. There is a general lack of respect, period, not just a lack of respect for the environment, that is becoming pervasive in the world today, and that is where the problems lie.

    Some comments, that have been generally ignored, that one needs to think about:

    Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen – Sir John Houghton, first chairman of IPCC

    Consensus is the business of politics. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period. – Michael Crichton

    Focusing on man-made global warming is “self-delusion on a grand scale”. — William Kininmonth, former head of the National Climate Centre, part of the Bureau of Meteorology (Australia).

    Patrick Moore, the former founding member of Greenpeace, long since a critic, said, “It is the environmental movement itself that is the primary impediment to the reduction of CO2 emission and fossil fuel consumption because they refuse to support the obvious alternatives” of nuclear power and hydro power.

    Representative Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Committee on Resources, will tell anyone who will listen that “for the foreseeable future, America has no shortage of oil or other traditional energy resources. Washington, D.C., has a shortage of the political will required to let American workers go get it.”

    The Kyoto Protocol is a political solution to a non-existent problem without scientific justification. Dr. Timothy Ball, Canada’s First Climatology Ph. D.

    If, back in the mid-nineties, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would not exist because we would have concluded it was not necessary. Dr. Tim Patterson, Professor of Geology, Department of Earth Sciences Carleton University

    Enough said. The real scientists are ignored, while the pretend scientists are held aloft, and cheered by the ignorant masses.

    Don’t believe everything you think.

    Doug Bissett

  10. Michael Duffy: “Is the Earth still warming?”

    Dr Jennifer Marohasy: “No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you’d expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years.”

    Duffy: “Is this a matter of any controversy?”

    Marohasy: “Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued … This is not what you’d expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you’d expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up … So (it’s) very unexpected, not something that’s being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it’s very significant.”

    More at Climate facts to warm to by Christopher Pearson.

    You can hear the program here. She explains that data from NASA’s Aqua satellite show that there are strong negative feedback mechanisms that mitigate the warming effects of CO2. She also points out economic projections that proposed climate change policies will make us much poorer but have hardly have any effect on climate. Indeed, she argues that warming is better for us than cooling, and points out that CO2 is plant food.

    Let’s hope people see sense about this before Mizz Wong and Crazy Garrett stuff up our economy by billions to appease the Green Gods, but make little climatic difference.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  11. Jonathan,

    Jennifer Marohasy is a spokesperson for the IPA, and can be expected to push a neo-con viewpoint. All claims about global warming need to be examined against the evidence of course, but this one simply doesn’t stack up.

    The last two years have indeed seen a modest decline in global temperatures, but the reasons are well understood as effects of the El Nino/La Nina cycle and the sunspot cycle. It was disingenuous of Marohasy to compare current temperatures with 1998. That year was the peak of an El Nino spike whereas we are currently seeing a La Nina event and we are also now at the bottom of the sunspot cycle. Both these effects contribute to cooling.

    But these are mere fluctuations around the trend line, as can be seen if you were to seriously examine the data. They are no different from previous spikes that have fluctuated either side of the temperature trend line, which slopes upward at an alarming rate.

    The climate denialists have to do a lot better than pumping out dishonest “folk science” propaganda if they expect to be taken seriously.

    Steve Angelino, WA

  12. So Steve Angelino is involved with the fanatically misotheist Unbelief mob. Was there a point to the attack on the affiliation of Dr Marohasy, a genuine scientist who doesn’t follow the crowd on warm-mongering? Her full interview covered the main points.

    Oh, your fellow misotheist Ian “I am a professor” Plimer has recently pointed out that most CO2 in our atmosphere comes from volcanoes—even just the one volcano, Milos in Greece, produces 2%, more than the percentage produced by Australia’s industry. And he says that even if he were wrong, whatever sacrifices that our government impose on us will be futile because of the huge economies of India and China:

    If we think the citizens of India and China will forego wealth and a higher standard of living for the good of the world, then we have kangaroos in the top paddock.

    Whatever Australia does will have no effect on India and China, will have no effect on global atmospheric emissions and will only contract our economy.

    You can be sure that Mizz Penny Wong and Kevin “I’m married to a millionaire” Rudd won’t be the ones making the sacrifices they impose upon others. In this they will be following hypocritical greenies who fly everywhere in their CO2-spewing private jets (Arnie, Laurie David the producer of alGore’s movie).

    See also Andrew Bolt’s column, Warming theory going down, down, citing Professor Bob Carter:

    For the last three years, satellite-measured average global temperature has been declining. Given the occurrence also of record low winter temperatures and massive snowfalls across both hemispheres this year, IPCC members have now entered panic mode, the whites of their eyes being clearly visible as they seek to defend their now unsustainable hypothesis of dangerous, human-caused global warming.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  13. Jonathan, your contemptuous and insulting responses to anyone who disagrees with you are the main reasons I will not again take part in Bill’s blog. Truth without love (spell it respect if you like) is no more than a weapon to batter people with. I can’t see the Spirit of Christ, no matter how true the words.
    David Esdaile

  14. The Light Bulb and the Road to Serfdom
    By Johnnie B. Byrd

    Economist Friedrich Hayek (1899–1992) dedicated The Road to Serfdom to the “socialists of both parties.” Our so-called federal energy policy should be likewise dedicated.

    Enter the condemned incandescent light bulb, the caricature for modern U.S. energy policy. Hayek would not be shocked since he knew and understood the socialist heart and the forces that drive a society to socialism—down the road to serfdom.

    All this serves the socialists’ interest in assuring us a future with less energy where only the government knows the best per capita energy consumption for each citizen (or “serf”).

    The desire to take Australia down the road to serfdom is present in the Labor party in spades, with ecomaniac Garrett and the Labor states wanting to ban or tax plastic bags, and Mizz Wong wanting us to pay double or more for our power and fuel. But the dithering defeated Libs have their share, e.g. Limousine Lefty Malcolm Turnbull’s equally serf-making ban on incandescent bulbs.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  15. RAPID ROUNDUP: Is the Earth cooling? – experts respond
    11 April 08

    William Kininmonth is a meteorologist and an outspoken critic of global warming and the Kyoto Protocol. He was head of the National Climate Centre at the Bureau of Meteorology from 1986 to 1998.

    “Info Note No. 44 issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) underscores why the public should take no notice of climate predictions for months, years or centuries ahead.

    In the Note, the Secretary General of WMO discussed the potential for the current La Niña to extend into a second year and then concluded, with remarkable candidness, that ‘The likelihood of the current La Niña continuing for such a period will remain unclear for some months’. Clearly the climate scientists, with all their elaborate computer models, cannot predict even a few months in advance.

    It should be recalled that in January 2007 the UK Meteorological Office, with much fanfare, predicted that the then current El Niño event would continue through 2007 and that 2007 would be the warmest year on record. The prediction was spectacularly wrong. The El Niño was soon replaced by a La Niña event and the global temperature fell 0.6°C in the 12 months to January 2008, effectively wiping off a century of ‘global warming’.

    1998 remains the warmest year of the climate record and the headline beginning ‘Global warming continues…’ is clearly misleading. No amount of spin can disguise the fact that there are many unknowns and uncertainties about the climate system. There is no compelling evidence that carbon dioxide has any significant control over the direction of global temperature and climate. The processes that regulate the interannual to decadal fluctuations of climate are poorly understood and, as yet, unpredictable.”

    What’s the chance of the Australian Science and Media Centre asking Kininmonth for his opinion again, let alone Chairman KRudd’s summit? That would spoil the “debate is over” mantra.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

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