Australian news, and some related international items

Tobacco corporation Philip Morris sues Australia over cigarette plain packaging

ISDS provisions have been criticised by the High Court Chief Justice Robert French and the Productivity Commission which warned they gave foreigners greater legal rights than Australian companies, exposed local business to potentially large liabilities and were red tape-heavy.

There are concerns similar provisions in the yet-to-be-concluded 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, it would constrain the listing and pricing of medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

justiceTobacco giant sues Australia, The West Australian, Andrew Probyn July 28, 2015,  More than $50 million of taxpayer money is expected to go up in smoke defending cigarette plain packaging in a secretive international tribunal in Singapore.

But costs will pile much higher if Australia loses on its first defence that Philip Morris indulged in cynical “venue shopping” by shifting its headquarters to Hong Kong to sue Australia.

The West Australian can reveal the Attorney-General’s Department, which is running the case in defence of plain packaging, called former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan as a witness before a special tribunal sitting in Singapore back in February.  Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Labor Senator Wong fights TPP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses

logo-anti-TPPISDS clauses give foreign investors the right to sue governments if the company’s business interests are adversely affected by national policy. The Asian arm of the tobacco multinational Philip Morris is challenging the Australian government over plain packaging laws, despite the company already losing a case in the Australian courts.

Penny Wong backs fight against free-trade clauses that let companies sue Australia 

Labor’s trade spokeswoman supports motion to remove investor state dispute settlement clauses from existing trade agreements Labor has committed to remove investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses from existing trade agreements, including the Chinese and Korean free trade agreements (FTA) recently signed by the Abbott government.

The motion was supported by the opposition trade spokeswoman, Penny Wong.

The motion, moved by New South Wales MP Pat Conroy, would also mean a Labor government would work to reform ISDS tribunals to remove “perceived conflicts of interest” of judges determining disputes.

Conroy said: “When the Productivity Commission, the chief justice of the high court and a range of academics say ISDS must be reformed, it is time to fix this system that undermines our sovereignty.” Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian mining companies’ shameful record in Africa

Australia sells itself as a nation that can teach the world about responsible mining – Afghanistan is one willing student – but the record suggests our corporations have a callous disregard for the rights of civilians.

Why is it left to US NGOs to expose Australian mining’s wrongdoing in Africa? , Guardian , 27 july 15

There are hundreds of Australian mining companies working in Africa, but just one full-time Australian journalist. What does that mean for accountability? Australian miners are making a killing overseas. With little regulation or oversight, billions of dollars are being made in some of the most remote places on Earth.

The necessity of partnering with autocratic regimes has proved no impediment to investment. Human rights have been breached. Victims are largely invisible.

None of this should be surprising. If Australian companies operating internationally are mentioned in the media, it appears in the business pages and discusses the strengths of a CEO or share price. Rio Tinto, for example, receives largely uncritical coverage despite in the 1980s the corporation facing serious allegations of human rights abuses around the world, including in Papua New Guinea.

Two American non-profit media organisations, the Centre for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, recently bucked the trend and released a stunning report, Fatal Extraction, on Australian mining companies working in Africa (in which no allegations were made against Rio Tinto). How revealing that this research was led from America and not Australia itself.

The findings of the report, produced in collaboration with African journalists on the ground, were shocking.

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Malawi, grim details of death, maiming and police and army brutality were revealed. Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Increasing anxiety over secret Trans Pacific Partnership

text-TPP-Avaaz-petitionSecrecy Around TPP Fuels Suspicions, Worries,, 27 July 15,    After chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are leaked to Wikileaks, critics and backers of the controversial proposal are out in full force. With a Maui meeting looming, how will it affect the country and its industry? WASHINGTON, D.C. — Higher costs for needed generic drugs. Longer copyright protections than the global standard. Foreign investors empowered to overrule governments. A more tightly-regulated Internet.

Those are some of the potential pitfalls from any deal that could emerge from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country free-trade and investment pact shrouded in secrecy as negotiations head into the final stage in Hawaii next week.

A handful of draft chapters of the TPP, leaked via Wikileaks, have highlighted the proposed treaty’s heavy emphasis on expanding protections for corporate rights and assets like intellectual property — patents, copyrights and databases — that are far more valuable to advanced economy corporations than traditional cargo trade. Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Answer points to #NuclearCommissionSAust Issues Paper 3 – Electricity Generation – this week’s theme

Submissions on this Issue are due by August 3rd. Check  tips on submitting.

3.2 Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected to the NEM? 

There are commercial technologies available, such as the General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor, that would be available in the next two decades.  However, this is the same type of reactor as the ones at Fukushima Daiichi, and has been known to have safety flaws. (1)  Then there is the Generation 3+ EPR reactor, currently being built at Olkiluoto, Finland, and at Flamanville, France. However, this might not be available within two decades. The history of its development is one of delays and over-running costs.(2)  Recently, cracks in its pressure vessel have caused problems, that shed doubt on its safety. (3)

There are no “emerging” technologies that are at all likely to be available within the next two decades. The Generation IV reactors include : the Gas-cooled Fast Reactor (GFR), the Leadcooled Fast Reactor (LFR), the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), the Supercritical Water-cooled Reactor (SCWR), the Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) and the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR). (4)

The French Radiological Protection Agency (IRSN) has carried out a review of these systems from the point of view of safety and radiation protection. On the basis of its examination, IRSN considers the SFR system to be the only one of the six to have reached a degree of maturity compatible with the construction of a Generation IV reactor prototype during the first half of the 21st century.

Even then this will depend on further studies.   DECC estimate in their 2013 Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap that the first commercial Generation IV reactors should be operating by 2040. (4)

3.3. Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected in an off-grid setting? 

The suggested Small Modular Reactors , including the PRISM reactor have serious disadvantages, especially economiic ones . SMRs are likely to have higher costs per unit of output than conventional reactors. (5) Even if SMRs could eventually be more cost-effective than larger reactors due to mass production, this advantage would only come into play if large numbers of SMRs were ordered. But utilities are unlikely to order an SMR until they are seen to produce competitively priced electricity. This Catch-22 suggests the technology will require significant government financial help to get off the ground.

Even industry executives and regulators believe the SMR technology will have costs that are substantially higher than the failed “nuclear renaissance” technology on a per unit of output. The higher costs result from

  • lost economies of scale in containment structures, dedicated systems for control,

management and emergency response, and the cost of licensing and security,

  • operating costs between one-fifth and one-quarter higher, and
  • decommissioning costs between two and three times as high.(6)

As to these “off-grid” technologies being available within the next two decades, I have been unable to find any credible reference that states that this is the case. I conclude that, even if design and testing of these small reactors were to be completed, it would be many decades before they would be commercially available. For reasons of regulatory processes, but more importantly, of uncertainty over economic viability, commercial availability is decades away, if ever to be achieved. (7)

3.4. What factors affect the assessment of viability for installing any facility to generate electricity in the NEM? 

The major factor in assessing the viability of installing nuclear power for electricity generation in South Australia is the increasing practical and economic success of the alternative – truly modern power – renewable energy. (8)  Combine that progress with the revolutionary developments in battery storage, and nuclear reactors of any size look like unnecessary and uneconomic dinosaurs in the electricity providing sector.(9)

3.7. What place is there in the generation market, if any, for electricity generated from nuclear fuels to play in the medium or long term? 

Referring to my answers to previous questions, I would have to say – No place.

3.8   What issues should be considered in a comparative analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources? What are the most important issues?

The most important issues are health, safety and environmental protection. Nuclear power of whatever design loses out on all those counts.(10)

However, that hardly matters in a world where economics is king. Fortunately as nuclear power is widely recognised now to be getting more and more expensive, while renewable energy and energy efficient technologies are getting cheaper, it is indeed economics that provide the killer disadvantage for nuclear power (9)

3.11. How might a comparison of the emission of greenhouse gases from generating electricity in South Australia from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources be quantified, assessed or modelled? 

For one thing,  Greenhouse gases are emitted at all stages of the nuclear fuel chain. (10)  However, in practical terms, nuclear power as a solution to climate change, is irrelevant – action on climate change is needed now , not in 20 -30 years.(11)  Furthermore, climate change itself makes nuclear power an impractical and increasingly dangerous solution. – water shortage, water over-heating, (12) sea level rise (13) Storm surges (14)

3.12  and 313 . What are the wastes (other than greenhouse gases) produced in generating electricity from nuclear and other fuels and technologies?

What risks for health and safety? 

Nuclear reactors produce dangerously toxic radioactive isotopes, come previous unknown on the planet, – plutonium – decaying to three types of radiation – alpha, beta, and gamma, caesium 137, iodine 131 , strontium 90  (15)  No other technologies produce these toxic, carcinogenic wastes.





(4) Generation IV International Forum 2. IRSN 27th April 2015

Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap: Future Pathways, Dec 2013

Nuclear Engineering International 2013














July 28, 2015 Posted by | Nuclear Royal Commission | Leave a comment

#NuclearCommissionSAust’s Issues Paper 3 – designed to please the nuclear corporations!

a-cat-CANI am currently struggling with my Submission to the Commission on the questions in Issues Paper 3  – “Electricity Generation From Nuclear Fuels”. it’s a doozy. They’ve excelled themselves this time – with questions designed to elicit lovely answers from nuclear companies Transatomic, Bill Gates’ Terra Power , SNC Lavalin, NuScale, – anyone but you and me.

Given that the nuclear lobby’s plan is for Australia to be the guinea pigs for new untested (not yet existent) gee whiz reactors, Those companies are gonna love questions like this:

3.2 Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected to the NEM?

3.3. Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected in an off-grid setting?

3.6. What are the specific models and case studies that demonstrate the best practice for the establishment and operation of new facilities for the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels?

SMRs Australia


July 27, 2015 Posted by | Christina reviews, Nuclear Royal Commission | Leave a comment

Pro Nuclear Royal Commission Pushes on With Determination

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAIN

Computational General Equilibrium Modelling Assessments for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission

Issued by Attorney Generals Department

Request for Tender

AGD 027826
Computational General Equilibrium Modelling Assessments for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission
24 July 2015 10 August 2015 Link to Tender
AGD 027828
Quantitative Analyses and Initial Business Case for establishing a Nuclear Power Plant and Systems in South Australia

July 27, 2015 Posted by | Nuclear Royal Commission | Leave a comment

Climate change brings bushfires – a terrible risk to nuclear facilities

If the radiation leak lasts more than a few hours, there is no viable safe plan. If the radiation plume passes, the ground will probably still be contaminated

Wildfires also threaten Nuclear Waste and Nuclear Waste Shipments

highly-recommendedWildfires and Nuclear Don’t Mix: Lessons from San Onofre and Chernobyl to Australia  [good text-relevantphotos]  miningawareness  27 July 15 As the deadline looms (3 Aug.) for comments regarding the risks of the nuclear fuel chain for South Australia – whether uranium mining, which is already occurring, or any proposed additions (uranium enrichment, nuclear energy, nuclear waste), foremost in everyone’s minds should be the scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINrisk of Bushfires (Wildfires), as well as endangerment to the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) aquifer, upon which so much of Australia is dependent for water, and which is being depleted, and most assuredly contaminated, by uranium and other mining: (Australia’s uranium mining “generates less than 0.2 per cent of national export revenue and accounts for less than 0.02 per cent of jobs in Australia. it is laying waste to the land and provided nuclear fuel for Fukushima)

The Australian climate is generally hot, dry and prone to drought. At any time of the year, some parts of Australia are prone to bushfires with the widely varied fire seasons reflected in the continent’s different weather patterns. For most of southern Australia, the danger period is summer and autumn.”

bushfire & rad gif

2015 Wildfires Near Chernobyl

In April of this year, and again from the end of June into mid July, hundreds of firefighters in the Ukraine bravely battled fires in the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Smoldering peat fires were the hardest to put out.
While this represents a serious danger to Europe, it received shockingly little media coverage. Continue reading

July 27, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, Nuclear Royal Commission, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australian Labor Party delegates vote for 50 per cent renewable energy plan

ballot-boxSmLabor supports higher renewables target Delegates at the ALP national conference have passed a motion to aspire to a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. SBS News  25 JUL 2015 AUSTRALIA SHOULD BE ASPIRING TO A TARGET OF 50 PER CENT RENEWABLE ENERGY BY 2030, LABOR SAYS.

Climate action groups rallied in support as a motion to increase the target was passed by delegates at the ALP national conference in Melbourne on Saturday.

“Labor will take a 50 per cent goal for renewable energy by 2030 to the election … because we know renewable energy will be a central part, not just of Australia’s energy system, but of our industrial and jobs base as well,” opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler said……… Continue reading

July 27, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | 1 Comment

Al Gore’s visit and Victoria’s Climate Charter proposal

a-cat-CANAl Gore is visiting Australia to promote action on climate change. Still, we have to watch out that he is not on the “nuclear for climate” bandwagon.

A good sign is that Gore has recently been criticised by the pro nuclear front group Breakthrough Institute for being “sceptical” about nuclear power’s future.


On Monday, Environmental Justice Australia will release a proposal for a Victorian Climate Charter, which it says is modelled on the state’s existing Human Rights Charter.

Gore,-Al-climateAl Gore flies into Australia to push momentum towards Paris climate summit July 27, 2015   Environment editor, The Age   Former United States vice-president Al Gore has flown into Australia for a whistlestop tour that includes meetings with state government ministers and senior business figures as part of efforts to build global momentum towards the Paris climate change summit later this year.

Mr Gore arrived in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, heading to a speaking engagement and then dinner with Victorian ministers and senior executives from major companies, including BHP, National Australia Bank and Qantas, to discuss climate change and the importance of the Paris meeting, at which it is hoped a new international agreement to curb global warming will be signed……..

Ministers from Labor-led Victoria, Queensland and South Australia will attend Monday’s meeting with Mr Gore. Conservative-led NSW will send a senior public servant, as will Labor-led ACT. Tasmania, Northern Territory and Western Australia will not be represented. Continue reading

July 27, 2015 Posted by | climate change - global warming, politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Climate change harming wine industry (nuclear power would, too)

a-cat-CANI think that it is criminal of Australia’s government to deny action on climate change. And for a “pro business” government, what can they be thinking? Abbott’s “go slow” policy on climate action is harming so many businesses, and so many jobs.  Now it’s the wine industry! Sacré bleu !

When Abbott finally decides that climate change matters, (i.e when he openly touts nuclear power), let’s not forget that nuclear power endangers the wine industry, too!

wine threat

Climate change hitting where it hurts: your wine, The Age, 27 July   BusinessDay contributing editor Spend a day at a wine grape growers’ summit and, among many other things, you’re left with no doubt about the reality of climate change.

Spend another day with a savvy grape grower touring the Barossa and you’re left with no doubt about the cost of it and the uncertainty about where it’s heading.

That’s not news for those who follow the wine industry closely at the production level, but for those of us who concentrate on consumption, the matter-of-factness of the change is rather startling.

Grapes ripening a month earlier, the compression of what were the usual different ripening times of different varieties, the search for varieties capable of handling hotter weather, the hunt for new terroir as climate bands move, the threat to traditional varieties in regions whose reputations depend on them.

 Would you believe French champagne houses are buying fields in Britain?

Sweden, an important customer for Australian wine makers, now has a fledgling wine industry as a result of longer, warmer summers.

But you don’t have to go to the other end of the earth to see the story. Turns out climate change is a force in developing the Tasmanian industry as warmer weather leads mainland producers to invest in the island’s cooler climate. There’s no end of science on the issue, if that counts any more……….

And this is climate change, not just global warming. The heat is there, but the Scholz fields copped a frost that they hadn’t seen before, wiping out the crop. OK, it was a 1-in-100-year event – except that it happened again the next year. Now giant $55,000 electric fans increasingly dot vineyards, automatically triggered into action by a thermometer to suck in higher, warmer air and blow it across the vines to fight the killing drop of cold air.

July 27, 2015 Posted by | climate change - global warming, South Australia | Leave a comment

Federal Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese opposes Australian further involvement in nuclear fuel chain

Albanese, AnthonyPremier Jay Weatherill at loggerheads with senior Labor members over nuclear industry, GST, Perth Now July 24, 2015 PETER JEAN CHRIS RUSSELL The Advertiser “…….Federal Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese yesterday declared his opposition to any further Australian involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle and to the importation of nuclear waste, while Labor leader Bill Shorten reiterated his hostility to raising the GST.

Mr Albanese – who unsuccessfully stood for the Labor leadership after the last federal election – yesterday said it was too dangerous for Australia to become more involved in the nuclear fuel cycle.

“My position on the nuclear fuel cycle is clear,’’ Mr Albanese told an anti-nuclear weapons event held on the sidelines of the ALP conference.“Until the issues of nuclear waste and nuclear proliferation are satisfactorily solved, I oppose any further Australian involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.“Nuclear waste created today, remains an issue for generations to come.’’

Mr Albanese’s opposition to nuclear energy is heavily influenced by his close friendship with former Labor MP Tom Uren, who died earlier this year. As a prisoner of the Japanese in 1945, Mr Uren saw the mushroom cloud from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki……..

Labor’s platform commits the party in government to prohibiting “the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia.’’

 Any addition to the nuclear industry in Australia would require both state and federal legislative change.

An anti-nuclear section of the Federal Labor policy platform will be left in place at Labor’s national conference in Melbourne this weekend……..

Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, the head of South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, said yesterday if he was to recommend an expansion of the industry, national support would be crucial.“There would be no opportunity ­- in my view – without bipartisan support both at the federal and state level to make the investment that would be necessary,” he said………

July 25, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Dr Helen Caldicott’s Submission on all 4 Nuclear Royal Commission Issues Papers

Caldicott-2013Submission to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, by  on July 24, 2015  I begin my submission to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission by posting an article which I wrote for the Australian Medical Student Journal, which outlines in some detail the medical implications of the whole nuclear fuel chain.

The impact of the nuclear crisis on global health

Due to my personal concerns regarding the ignorance of the world’s media and politicians about radiation biology after the dreadful accident at Fukushima in Japan, I organized a 2 day symposium at the NY Academy of Medicine on March 11 and 12, 2013 … [ to read the full text of this article, click on this link: The link will open in a new tab or window. Close it to return to this page ]

Now to answer some of the questions posed by the Royal Commission Continue reading

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Nuclear Royal Commission | Leave a comment

Nuclear Royal Commission back from overseas jaunt

Nuclear commission takes overseas experiences on board as SA considers uranium industry expansion, ABC News By Nicola Gage, 24 July 15,  South Australia’s nuclear royal commissioner Kevin Scarce says he is “nowhere near” making a recommendation to government on the potential for an expanded industry in the state after a research trip to Asia, Europe, the United States and Canada…….The commission received 90 submissions from companies and individuals in its first round of public feedback, which has now closed…….[n.b second round of submissions closes on August 3rd]

…….The commission will visit remote and regional communities for a second time over the next fortnight in an effort to keep them informed about the process.

Public hearings are expected to commence from September, with a final report due in May.       

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Nuclear Royal Commission | Leave a comment

50% renewable energy goal will effectively bring Australia up with world leaders

creativity50% renewable energy would put Australia in line with leading nations, The Conversation,  Professor of Strategic Management, Macquarie Graduate School of Management at Macquarie University, 25 July 15 Opposition leader Bill Shorten told the Labor Party conference this morning that the party’s policy should be for 50% of electricity to come from renewables by 2030.

This would bring Australia abreast with its international competitors such as California, with its recently announced target of 50% of electricity from renewables by 2030, and Germany, where the Energiewende(“energy transformation”) will see the country commit to 40-45% non-nuclear green power by 2020, and 55-60% by 2035.

Shorten’s move is a major break with previous ALP policy, and promises to be so effective in building a new power sector to eclipse the present fossil-fuelled sector that it already has the conservative side of politics foaming at the mouth. Continue reading

July 25, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | 1 Comment


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