Monday, 2 August 2010

The Dunny Tax

A few years back, hundreds were poisoned and one person died from polluted oysters at Forster NSW. The most likely cause was a sewage truck illegally dumping its load into the river, upstream of the oyster beds, to avoid paying dumping fees.
Although it could not be supported by evidence, many municipal councils saw that tragic event as an opportunity to blame on-site sewage disposal and impose a substantial operating fee on all existing systems.

Shortly before that event, streams that supplied drinking water to our local towns had been tested for pollution. No pollution was detected, indicating a likelihood farmers along the stream were maintaining their systems well.

This ‘bush ballad’ was my response. It was widely distributed at the time and is credited with being a factor in the substantial official back-down that followed.

To give my American friends a fighting chance to understand the vernacular, a few common Aussie terms are explained.

Dunny = Outhouse
Bloke = Aussie man
‘Roos = Kangaroos.
Arse = Rectum
Poo, poop, turd = Faeces.
Few bob = Vary small amount of money, literally a few shilling or 10c coins.
Mates = Close friends, here suggesting a modicum of corruption.


Word has gone out to the farms and the spreads,
That our local council got into its head
The notion that all the old WC’s
Must have a license to work properly.

What good this will do is anyone’s guess!
A license won’t add or subtract from the mess
Which doesn’t appear to exist they’ve admitted
But it will raise more taxes, for that it’s well fitted!

It seems that the water that flows from my farm
Must carry nutrients, and cause alarm
To an expert in town (pulling really big money),
Who must find a culprit, and points to my dunny!

Now, I’ve thought about this for quite a few days
And found it’s not quite like the city bloke says.
Most of the nutrients dumped on my ground
Are from natural causes. Here’s what I found.

The family weighs in with a kilo of faeces
Per day, give or take a few bits and paeces.
The horses and cows, thirty five in the herd,
Donate half a tonne of choice urine and turd.

The birds of the bush and the grass and the sky
Dump fifty kilos a day from on high.
Then wallabies, ‘roos and the bandicoots too
They all do their bit, with mounds of fresh poo.

Now with a shovel, I find under the grass
Millions of worms, and each has an arse
At one end, which leaves in its wake
A trail of fresh poop, each a gram, give or take.

And then with a microscope what is revealed?
Billions and billions of critters concealed.
And what do I find as I spy on their functions?
That they all eat and shit, each the tiniest fraction.

But added together, I can’t fudge the figures,
The microbes are champs with a total that’s bigger
Than all of the animals, birds, worms and lizards.
Hundreds of tons a day pass through their gizzards.

Now the math is quite simple, it seems that the fraction
Of the total excreta from bowel contraction
Produced by the humans in this residence,
Is one hundred thousandth of half a percent!

And now that the figures have all been digested
And all the bull shit has been tested and rested,
The reason the council wants my last few bob,
Is to keep all their bureaucrat mates in a job!


  1. Love it Srafford - a similair thing happened here (not the food poisoning bit) but the councils decided to levy a tax on manure heaps in stable yards. We lived in a very horsey area and they produce a fair amount each day - so the yard owners started dumping, no wonder all the roses were so beautiful in and around Surrey!

  2. Thanks for raising awareness on this very distressful issues.

    You do have a very creative way to do so! very creative.

  3. Oh, gosh, not the kind of piece to read with my morning Cheerios! (Actually, Staff, it's very well done)

  4. Perhaps you've suggested a new reference book (needing to be written), "A World's Glossary of Aussie Terms"? Just having fun here. Of course, if the shoe were to be worn on the other foot, some 'American' language terms surely might need, ah clarification, for our Australian and other friends worldwide.

    The dung heap bush ballad (better be smiling when you write that) pointedly illustrates ineffective, inaccurate, and ultimately unjust use of governmental powers. Is there similar inspiration for you to write an influential piece based on some implementations of 'Cap and Tax' laws? One might jump this comment as an opportunity to wax or rail on man-made global warming. Please also see the potential 'Politician's Hoax'.

    Just curious here regarding perspectives of citizens from other countries. Currently, some well known cobblers of American public policy are debating how (or even if) to create new 'Cap and Tax' laws in our country. What should we consider or even avoid


  5. I'm certain the 'powers that be' threw up their arms in utter hopelessness having been confronted with that masterpiece. Maybe you could trot on over here and help us fight the folk who want to enclose our lovely water irrigation canals in ugly piping!!!!

  6. Madambutterfly, maybe there is an altruistic motivation in tryng to cut down the amount of run off from animal faeces in piles on farms. If only you were not so far away I'd buy it!

    gabriela, actually here the poem evokes a laugh. Nothing like a bit of fun to highlight the stupidity.

    Willow, as you are a mathematician, you will apprecaiate this. Leonie, my farmhand was asked if the sources and amounts of faeces quoted were accurate. Straight faced she said, 'Knowing him, (meaning me) they probably were!' I said nothing.

    Qwkdrw. Most Australians have been raised on a diet of American TV shows, so we are virtually 'bi-lingual'!

    However with your questions on Cap and Trade, you have raised some very vexed issues which I will address more fully in a blog later. However, for starters, as serious as climate change is, the first major breakdown of natural systems is happening out of sight in the oceans.
    Already Krill is down 40% and dropping because ocean CO2 has doubled since it was first measured.
    CO2 reacts with water. H2O+CO2 yields HCO3 an acid that reacts with Calcium preventing calcium based organism from forming skeletons.

    OK, so simply put, unless we urgently stop producing CO2, we will lose that whole food chain, starting with krill, arguably the most important in the oceans.

    The idea that somewhow something will happen to fix it is naive and to imagine any democratic government, so influenced by special interest groups as ours, to effectively intervene without being forced into it by an angry electorate is even more naive. As I so ineffectively said in my play '20-20 Vision' twenty years ago, 'coal is natures hazardous waste dump and we are exhuming it'. Of course, oil is too, but no matter, we are well on the way to major mayhem and we will not act in time. Just ask any environmental scientist.
    Here we have our mosty likely new prime minister saying 'climate change is bunkum!' This, despite his own party having commissioned a report that delivered a dire warning on the folly of promoting ignorance, will be the basis for government policy if he gets in and will be trotteed out to spoil any policies put forward by any government as happened three years ago when he defeated his previous (environmentally aware) leader.

    Cap and trade is the most effective way I know of ensuring carbon reduction. The best available advice is that it must be reduced to zero and quick but so much of our industry has been built (and continues to be built) on coal and oil, that only an imposed cap will do it. The trade part allows carbon dependant industries to continue trading (at greater cost) while they adjust to using renewable fuels. All energy will be more expensive but so were replacement refrigeration gases when CFC's were banned! We just have to do it.

    I might be worth noting that Germany, the only country with Green Party members in government leads the world with over 40% renewable energy, while remaining the strongest economy in Europe. Food for thought!

  7. bravo! this has to be the best protest pieces i have ever read!! not only that but the investigation that went into building your prose was seriously interesting. it amazes me how well you rhymed words such as feces but, in proving your point, you pulled it off eloquently, stafford!

  8. oh, this is BRILLIANT!!

    I moved with the horsey-set in days gone by and we were forever under scrutiny for our manure taxes levied here in Canada for shit yet..yet...but of course, the politicians would be bankrupted by such a tax. (weak, yet

    My Nanna used to write these sorts of scathing social commentary-type made me smile to read this. She would love it!!


  9. love it stafford...the power of ones pen is mighty...good job using yours to make a difference...and a good smile to boot as your protest...thanks for the key as well to understanding...smiles.

  10. Some how I imagine those thee little monkeys, with hands over their eyes, and their ears, only the last one is talking, knowing nothing, but just saying words, without truth. That is the government I see.

  11. Sheri, well, one has to bend things a little. I could have quoted Mr Jinx: 'hate those meeces to pieces!' or how about 'hate those meece's faeces to pieces?'

    mel, love the joke and agree with the sentiment.

    annell, there you had Lehmann Brothers who could 'not be allowed to fail' so (reportedly) their greed was rewarded with a massive bail out, which they (reportedly) paid themselves in undeserved bonuses. Here we had a long considered tax review that came up with a need to tax non-renewable resources. That was met with a $100 million TV ad campaign paid for by the two or three biggest mining companies. That campaign (we can afford a $100 mil for ads, but we can't afford the taxes) may well have brought down a reformist government and put other reforms like climate change and women's rights back ten years. Governments are afraid of big interest groups and it shows as timidity. We, Australia and the US, are the world's number one and two worst polluters but seem incapable of supporting politicians in overcoming ignorance and inertia to make real changes. Of course media, besotted with celebs, and searching for controversy over substance is not likely to present unpalatable news or give us 'boring' policy detail!
    Voters need to apply 'due dilligence' but while ever politics remains a blood sport there is no chance of that!

    Brian Miller, yes. I was there when the Chief of Health read the poem, laughed then turned to the guy designing the licensing program, a bureaucrat, and said, 'he's right you know!'

  12. Fabulous poem, Stafford. I never liked oysters, anyway.

  13. Fantastic and funny (though putting me off my food a little) - thought your comment on climate change was even better :)


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