Diggings 20 May 2022

Posting this on the eve of the Australian Federal election 2022 so can’t resist leading with a cute story about what I consider the great Oz food icon of the 21st century – the Democracy Sausage. Lots of other good diggings in this issue also including the exciting ongoing revelations of Aboriginal foodways 65,000 in the practising from the Madjedbebe rock shelter and, on the downside, the continuing disgraceful meals being dished out in aged care.

Cathy Wicox in the Sydney Morning Herald 20 May 2022

Democracy sausage under threat as millions vote early

One thing that unites all Australian voters at election time is the sanctity of the democracy sausage. This year, the voting ritual may be under threat after more than 6 million Australians voted early or applied for a postal vote instead of lining up to vote, and buy a snag, on May 21.


65,000 years of food scraps found at Kakadu tell a story of resilience amid changing climate, sea levels and vegetation

For 65,000 years, Bininj – the local Kundjeihmi word for Aboriginal people – have returned to Madjedbebe rock shelter on Mirarr Country in the Kakadu region (in the Northern Territory). Over this immense span of time, the environment around the rock shelter has changed dramatically. Our paper, [published last week](https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1ezuT-4PS2FMJ) in Quaternary Science Reviews, uses ancient scraps of plant foods, once charred in the site’s fireplaces, to explore how Aboriginal communities camping at the site responded to these changes. This cooking debris tells a story of resilience in the face of changing climate, sea levels and vegetation.


Precolonial First Nations oyster fisheries sustained millennia of intense harvests, study shows

Oyster fisheries in Australia and North America survived for up to 10,000 years prior to colonisation, sustaining First Nations communities even under intense harvest, according to new research. The study calls for Indigenous knowledge to be incorporated into managing oyster reefs today. Oyster fisheries have declined globally in modern times: an estimated 85% of 19th-century oyster reef area has been lost in the past 200 years.


Australian authorities to buy out fisheries, citing climate crisis

The Greens healthy oceans spokesperson, Peter Whish-Wilson, said it marked “the first time we’re having a discussion about the impacts of climate change on fisheries and ultimately on exports and fishing communities”. “I think it’s long overdue because the climate impacts have been there for some time and there’s been a failure to acknowledge that in any formal sense,” he said. “To see a fishery essentially shut down over climate change, it’s a worrying precedent.


Heinz’s Decades-Long Attempt to Convince Australia That Ketchup Is Awesome

Heinz has struggled to make the case that ketchup is a worthy alternative to the condiment that most Australians grew up with. Not that they haven’t tried. In 1991, for example, per the industry periodical Food Australia, Heinz launched a cookbook to tell the public that its ketchup was distinct from tomato sauce. “Heinz Tomato Ketchup Marketing Manager Martin Dowling said that Australians need to be educated that tomato ketchup is different, it is not tomato sauce with an American name,” the article stated. It also pointed out that American-style ketchup made up just 3.4 percent of the market at the time, an increase from two percent, but still anemic compared to how Heinz ketchup does in other markets.


Bungled fuel tax change could hit households $20 a week, truckers warn

Truck drivers are warning households face paying $20 extra a week for grocery essentials because the federal Coalition has bungled a centrepiece of its budget cost-of-living measure to cut the cost of petrol. In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a copy of which has been obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 11 trucking organisations demanded an immediate meeting with him to work out a solution to the “unintended consequences” caused by the effective abolition of the fuel tax credit.


Yes, $5 for lettuce is too much. Government should act to stem the rising cost of healthy eating

The latest data tell us the fruit and veg in our shopping baskets costs, on average, 6.7% more than this time last year. Some items rose by far more. A cucumber, for example, went from A$2.20 last year to A$3.70 this year. The cost of lettuce has become a touchstone during the current election campaign. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports fruit and vegetable prices have gone up because supply chains were affected by the COVID pandemic (for example, border closures and loss of farm workers), floods, and international conflict (increasing fuel and transport costs). But takeaway foods only went up by 0.7%.


Rose Bay latest front in supermarkets’ bid to woo grocery shoppers

Sydney’s eastern suburbs are the latest front in the campaign by supermarket giants to appeal to customer desire for greater convenience with a proposed drive-through-only grocery shopping experience. Customers are already offered drone deliveries, self-service apps and contactless pick-up from stores wanting to capitalise on the rising demand for online grocery shopping since the start of the pandemic. But the proposed Woolworths in Rose Bay goes one step further and is billed as a “direct to boot” supermarket where orders are made online and picked up at an allocated time window.


Aged care homes don’t need ‘evidence’ on food spending to receive government funding, with a third still spending less than $10 a day

Aged care operators will receive an extra $3 billion in government funding to improve food, but have been told they do not need to provide “spreadsheets or evidence” of how much they are spending in order to get the cash. Instead, providers have to answer two questions each quarter regarding how much they spend on food prepared on and off-site.


Labor’s proposed Pacific labour scheme reforms might be good soft diplomacy but will it address worker exploitation?

Labour migration has also been shaped by the interests of Australian agricultural and horticulture sectors keen to fill a labour shortage. In revisions of the Pacific labour program under the Coalition, industry interests have been prioritised ahead of workers. And while Labor’s focus on increasing numbers of the overall intake through permanent residency is welcome, it raises questions about how it will ensure greater protections for workers. The extent to which its plan will protect Pacific Islanders from exploitation is not clearly outlined in their policy platform. It only promises a “review” of the scheme and the provision of “whistle-blower” status to all temporary migrant workers.


Caesar’s favourite herb was the Viagra of ancient Rome. Until climate change killed it off

Exports brought wealth, which meant expansion. The Greeks and the Romans, who took control of Cyrenaica about 90BC, cut down forests on the plateau to build bigger and better houses and to clear land for crops for the growing population. eforestation changed rainfall patterns, causing greater erosion on the hillsides where silphium grew, which Pollaro said was confirmed by excavations at Haua Fteah cave near Benghazi. Silphium’s microclimate was ruined and it disappeared quite rapidly.


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