Australian news, and some related international items

Water, basic services denied to a Central Australian Aboriginal community

Protesters rally at Bess Price’s office after water supply cut at Aboriginal community of Whitegate  Holding signs that included “turn on the tap” and “water is a human right”, dozens of people have protested against a decision to cut off water to an Aboriginal community in Central Australia.

The protesters included MLA Alison Anderson – formerly of the Country Liberal Party and now a member of the Palmer United Party – who shed tears as she discussed the treatment of Aboriginal people in Alice Springs.

She repeated past claims that the Country Liberal Party that rules the Northern Territory was racist.”This is not anything to do with squatters, this is to do with people who actually own the country,” Ms Anderson said. “If this was happening at the back of Palmerston or Fannie Bay it wouldn’t be tolerated by anybody, but it is happening to Aboriginal people.”

The rally of about 60 people was held outside the Alice Springs office of NT Community Services Minister Bess Price, who has defended a decision to cut off water to Whitegate, a small community on the town’s outskirts with between four and 30 residents.

Water to Whitegate was cut off about a month ago, leaving its residents fearful for their future. They were thrown a lifeline last week when the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation offered to supply the community with water for 12 months.

But protesters have called for a more permanent solution.

The NT Government said it told residents before the water was turned off, although this has been disputed by some of the residents of the community.

The traditional owners – Felicity Hayes and her family – were granted native title on the land in the 1970s, but it was never gazetted as one of Alice Springs official town camps.Ms Hayes spoke at the protest about her family’s right to live at the camp.”I want the government to know that we are traditional owners of Alice Springs and I want them to know that we are human beings as well, and to be treated like Australians.”

Because it is not an official camp, Whitegate residents, who live in tin sheds, do not get basic services, including electricity.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Western Australia warning on cancer risks of tanning beds

Letter by Australian Medical Association state president Michael Gannon urges tanning bed ban KARA VICKERY HEALTH REPORTER PERTHNOW SEPTEMBER 13, 2014 THE state’s top doctor’s group has written to every state MP calling for immediate action to ban tanning beds.

In the letter, the Australian Medical Association state president Michael Gannon accused Health Minister Kim Hames of an “inexcusable” lack of leadership on the issue.

Dr Gannon’s letter also warns WA is at risk of becoming a “solarium tourism” destination at the start of 2015, when tanning beds are outlawed in all other states.

It comes as Labor has vowed to introduce laws to ban tanning beds from January 1…….

September 16, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Cancer Council Queensland warns on UV radiation danger

UV-radiationMackay sun-lovers face a deadly risk for a tan, Daily Mercury, 15 Sept 14 FAR too many of Mackay’s young residents sizzle their skin – risking a leathery complexion and cancer – for the love of a good tan.

The Cancer Council Queensland says its figures show more than 83% of Mackay residents aged 18-34 get sunburnt each year. The sunburn figures drop back to 63 % for people aged 35-54, and to 28% for those aged over 55.

This averages out to around 60% of adults getting sunburnt every year. With summer fast approaching and the UV risk increasing, Cancer Council Queensland is again warning of the dangers of too much exposure to the sun.

Cancer Council spokeswoman Katie Clift said sunburn was linked to all skin cancers, including potentially deadly melanomas.

“Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world,” Ms Clift said.

“Around 3000 melanoma and 133,000 non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed across the state each year.

“In Mackay alone, around 80 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year.

“And about 99% of all skin cancer cases are caused by exposure to UV radiation.”……

September 16, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia no longer ready to cope financially with the new climate changed world

Parkinson-Report-Can Australia prosper in a 2°C finance world? REneweconomy, By Giles Parkinson on 11 September 2014Global investment bank HSBC has coined a new expression: 2°C finance. It uses it to describe massive licks of capital that will flow into low carbon investments – a tipping point that is nearing as renewable energy costs fall, the world edges towards a “Universal Climate Agreement” in Paris next year, and governments realise the cost of doing nothing.

In a new report dubbed Keeping it Cool; Financing a 2°C World, the economists at HSBC says there is now clear momentum towards a low-carbon global economy.

“We think the drivers for the transition are falling in to place now,” they write.

“1 We have the real possibility of a universal climate agreement to be signed in Paris in December next year;

“2 The cost of renewables has fallen significantly even before the full costs to the economy (of high-carbon) are priced-in; and

“3 We are beginning to understand how to better price-in other climate risks which would make low-carbon options not just economical but also beneficial.”

Australia might have been well placed to benefit from this and attract some of the hundreds of billions of 2°C finance – money that HSBC says is consistent with a 2°C world – given its carbon price, renewable energy target, and other measures.

Those, however, are now either gone (in the case of carbon pricing) or neutered (in the case of renewables). Energy efficiency schemes are being wound back, and in their place is the government’s controversial Direct Action plan – capped at $2.5 billion – and the Green Army, a program of cheap young labour for environmental projects.

The HSBC report highlights a couple of key factors of a low-carbon economy, and what it means for governments. Here are a few of them, and an observation fromRenewEconomy on how the Australian government will be doing……….

“Over the longer term we expect carbon to be priced and this should naturally favour lower carbon projects. In addition, the carbon price should rise as climate policies change (e.g. subsidy removal; increased urgency of reacting to the climate impact) and the external costs of high carbon projects are better priced-in (i.e. pollution damage, health costs). Essentially, we think it’s going to become more expensive to emit in the future.

“Pricing carbon is a slow process. In the meantime, the rewards can be enhanced by giving low-carbon a “leg up” via mechanisms like feed-in-tariffs. To make these work, policy commitment is key since policy drivers can create the right signals to grow markets and increase revenue potential. For example, targets for renewable energy as a percentage of the overall energy mix.”

HSBC argues that a climate agreement in Paris next year would be a key policy signal that shows political commitment to the transition to a low-carbon world. As a result, both industry and financiers should then be more willing to invest in projects that help deliver this transition because they would come with more assurance that the associated returns are less risky.

Continue reading

September 15, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia’s situation on renewable energy targets

Coal and where Australia stands on renewable energy targets September 15, 2014   Colleen Ricci writes on Issues in the News for Education online“……..-What about Australia?

Despite a tentative global shift away from coal, Prime Minister Abbott says there would be “few things more damaging to our future” than leaving coal in the ground and insists that it will continue to “fuel human progress” as an “affordable energy source”. He says Australia should be an “energy superpower” and use “nature’s gifts” to supply the world’s energy. While agreeing that it is “prudent” to reduce carbon emissions where possible, Mr Abbott says that this should not be accomplished by “ostracising any particular fuel” or “harming economic growth”.

In providing the bulk of Australia’s electricity and billions of dollars to the economy through thriving exports, the fossil fuel industry continues to be supported by government policies with taxpayer funded subsidies, tax incentives and infrastructure approvals. However many argue that despite these benefits, there are public health and environmental issues that cannot be ignored. For example, the potential damage to the Great Barrier Reef as a result of the increased shipping of coal exports. Others say we can’t be “the world’s quarry” forever; suggesting that the nation’s future could be equally prosperous by further harnessing Australia’s other abundant “natural gifts” such as wind and sunshine and investing even more in clean energy.

What happened at Victoria’s Hazelwood Mine?

In Victoria, brown coal production occurs in the Latrobe Valley at the Hazelwood, Loy Yang and Yallourn power plants. Earlier this year, when embers from a nearby forest fire took hold in the Hazelwood mine, the public health costs associated with coalmining became apparent for many Australians. The fire burned for 45 days, releasing toxic smoke, carbon monoxide and ash across surrounding towns. Thousands of residents were affected and complained of blood noses, headaches and sore eyes. Others with existing health conditions experienced a worsening of symptoms.

Research indicates that the human impacts from coal emissions include lung cancer, bronchial and respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease: more than200,000 coal-related deaths occur around the world annually. In Australia, coal-emission related health impacts cost $2.6 billion each year. Many argue that it should be mandatory for all coalmines to regularly monitor air, soil and water quality and are alarmed that this isn’t common practice.

What is the Renewable Energy Target?

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme was designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2020. At a cost of $22 billion, it is one of the measures intended to help Australia cut greenhouse emissions by 5 per cent (on 2000 levels) by 2020: a target both major political parties are ostensibly committed to. Current figures indicate that the RET will overtake its target and reach more than 25 per cent by 2020; partially due to falling electricity demand brought on by the decline in manufacturing and improved household efficiencies.

However, a recent review of the RET commissioned by the federal government has led to fears for the scheme’s future. Headed by self-professed climate sceptic Dick Warburton, the review makes numerous recommendations, including the option to scale back the target. It claims the RET is increasing the electricity supply at a time when demand is falling and consequently driving down wholesale electricity prices. The panellists further argue that renewable energy investment is not “justifiable” when “lower-cost alternatives” already exist in the economy.

Many are angered by this assessment, saying it misses the point of the RET entirely. They say that increasing the amount of renewable energy in the system should result in less dependence on fossil fuels; asserting that the scheme is therefore working exactly as intended and should be left alone.

Recent Headlines

“The RET may be a success, but that’s exactly why its on the Coalition hitlist” The Guardian, August 29

“Exporting dirty habit makes for a grubby future” The Age, August 9

“BHP chief Mackenzie defends coal industry despite leftist leanings” Sydney Morning Herald, August 4

“We must kill dirty coal before it kills us” The Age, September 3



September 15, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

WA’s clean energy industry up in arms over possible changes to the Renewable Energy Target 

see-this.wayVIDEO: The green energy sector fires up 12 Sep 2014, 

Claire Moodie

Source: 7.30 WA | Duration: 7min 41sec


September 13, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott’s messy attempt to rub Aboriginal affairs

Mundine-and-AbbottTony Abbott’s indigenous takeover in ‘disarray’, The Age September 12, 2014 –   Reporter for The Canberra Times Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s takeover of indigenous affairs is in “disarray”, public service insiders allege, with hundreds of specialist public servants retrenched, funding and programs stalled and staff morale in the “doldrums”.

Senior leaders in the Prime Minister and Cabinet department’s Indigenous Affairs Group have based themselves in Canberra’s dress circle, nearly 10 kilometres away from their rank-and-file workers, who are still reeling after repeated restructures to their workplaces.

The internal problems have emerged on the eve of the Prime Minister’s trip to Arnhem Land, part of his pledge to be “a prime minister for indigenous affairs” that also included the takeover by PM&C of indigenous functions from several other government agencies…….:

September 13, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Digging up trouble: NSW uranium plan is risky and flawed

text-uranium-hype11 Sept 14, Development of a uranium exploration and mining industry should not be permitted in NSW because it poses an unprecedented threat to the environment and public health, community groups have warned.   NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts announced today that six companies have the opportunity to apply for uranium exploration licences near Broken Hill, Dubbo and Cobar. [1]

Groups opposed to uranium exploration and mining in NSW said the government had no mandate to lift the 28-year-old ban on uranium exploration.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “The uranium exploration ban was removed in 2012 without consultation with, or a mandate from, the people of NSW.  “Uranium exploration presents a very real risk to the environment, workers and local communities in NSW.

“It is disingenuous for Minister Roberts to say on one hand that the ban on uranium mining remains in place while on the other discussing uranium export safeguards and preparing the ground for a full-scale nuclear industry in NSW.”

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney said: “It is only three years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster – directly fuelled by Australian uranium – reminded the world about the dangers of nuclear energy and the contaminating uranium trade.

“Since Fukushima the Australian uranium industry has been under-performing and under pressure. This is no time to give a green light to yellow cake, and the door should not be opened further in NSW to this high-risk, low-return sector.”

Beyond Nuclear Initiative convenor Natalie Wasley said: “A broad coalition of organisations, including environmental groups, health organisations, trade unions and others in NSW signed on to the Uranium Free Charter. [2]

“The charter details concerns over the impact of uranium mining and the wider nuclear industry on communities, workers and the environment, and calls for a shared energy future that is renewable, not radioactive. Attempts to further develop the uranium industry in NSW will be strongly challenged. We urge the NSW Government not to progress down the yellowcake road. ”

September 11, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Bernie Fraser calls for extending the deadline for reaching the Renewable Energy Target

Fraser,-BernieCall to extend deadline for reaching Renewable Energy Target  THE AUSTRALIAN, Sid Maher
 ANNABEL HEPWORTH  11 Sept 14 THE nation’s climate change adviser has called for the deadline for reaching the Renewable Energy Target to be extended to allow time to build political consensus as Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane ramped up calls for Labor to do a deal on the issue.

Bernie Fraser, the chairman of the Climate Change Authority, yesterday called for the timeline for a 41,000GWh target to be extended a few years beyond 2020 to provide confidence for the industry’s bankers.

He also called for the government to examine using some of its Direct Action climate change funds to help close inefficient coal-fired power stations, thereby eliminating some of the overcapacity in the system and making room for cleaner generation capacity. Last month, a ­report by the Energy Market Operator found Australia was facing the biggest power glut in the history of the national electricity market, with surplus ­capacity potentially between 7650 megawatts and 8950MW……..

September 11, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

In selling uranium to India, Australia is blatantly violating Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Australia blatantly violates the NPT, Iran held to different standar

As if we needed any more proof that the “Iranian nuclear threat” is just a cooked-up pretextwhich is unrelated to any actual nuclear threat, Australia (which holds about 1/3rd of the world’s uranium reserves) has decided to sell uranium to India. That such a deal violates the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, doesn’t seem to be an issue to anyone. Note the absence of handwringing editorials at the Washington Post and NY Times about the sanctity of international arms treaties etc.

And why should it be a problem, considering that a few years ago the US agreed to violate the same NPT by sharing nuclear technology with India in exchange for buying India’s vote against Iran at the IAEA Board (which sent Iran’s file to the UN Security Council even though Iran had not breached the NPT?)

On the eve of his visit to New Delhi, US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns has said that with India voting in favour of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] resolution on Iran’s nuclear programme, Congressional opposition to the Indo-US nuclear agreement has disappeared and both sides would meet their commitments before President George W. Bush visits India next year.

Of course the US and Australia claim that this stuff is going to non-military use in India but all that means is that the deal would free-up India’s other resources to be used for non-civilian use. There’s nothing in the NPT which allows signatories to make such exceptions anyway.

Now in the meantime, while the US (and Australia) are blatantly violating their own obligations under the NPT, they’re demanding that Iran apply even greater restrictions on its nuclear program than the NPT requires, by for example giving up uranium enrichment. These excessive demands that violate Iran’s legal rights are clearly intended to scuttle the talks, and to keep the “crisis” alive. The US has no intention of peacefully resolving the nuclear dispute with Iran, no matter what.

September 9, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Labor will not agree with Abbott on changing Renewable Energy Target

Labor rejects Tony Abbott’s renewable energy olive branch September 8, 2014   Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald Hopes of a bipartisan accord to break an impasse over the renewable energy target have dimmed, with Labor saying it won’t be a party to a broken election promise by the government.

The stance comes as a new report showed Australia leading the world over the past two years in achieving economic growth while shrinking greenhouse gas emissions – a standing now at risk without a price on carbon and uncertainty all but halting new investment in large-scale renewable energy.

Mark Butler, Labor’s climate change spokesman, said the government had reneged on its promise to leave the renewable energy target unchanged.

“The Abbott government shattered any notion of bipartisanship on the RET when it walked away from its election commitment to keep the existing 41,000 [gigawatt-hour] by 2020 target,” Mr Butler said………

Popular support for renewables, particularly rooftop solar, has made any retreat on renewables politically risky, while the Palmer United Party has vowed to block any changes until after the next election.

Industry supporters also point to the Warburton review’s own findings that consumers will be better off under the current setting from about 2020. They also highlight the potential to further cut carbon emissions from the electricity sector – a source of one-third of Australia’s total – while also attracting $15 billion in investment by the decade’s end….

A freeze in renewable energy would also undermine Australia’s efforts to reduce the carbon-intensity of the economy.

A new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers named Australia as the world’s “unexpected champion”, leading efforts for a second year running to cut emissions even as the economy expanded.

Australia managed a 7.2 per cent cut in the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions per dollar of economic activity in 2013, compared with a global cut of 1.2 per cent, according to PwC’s Low Carbon Economy Index.

Last year Australia was the only country to exceed the estimated 6.2 per cent cut in carbon intensity needed each year globally until 2100 if the world is to keep global warming to within the 2 degrees most nations have agreed to, PwC said.

Read more:

September 9, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Is Tony Abbott being forced to waver in his anti-renewable energy fervor?

solar-panels-and-moneyGovernment might give ground on renewable energy target, SMH September 7, 2014 Tom Arup and Lisa Cox Confidence is growing that a workable deal could be salvaged on Australia’s renewable energy target with suggestions the Abbott government will give ground amid a backlash from industry and backbench MPs.

After intense lobbying in Canberra last week members of the renewable energy industry left the nation’s capital buoyed that the government’s attack on clean energy appeared to be in retreat.

They found a Coalition backbench increasingly agitated about the fallout of ending support for renewables and fears too harsh a stance could create another unnecessary distraction like the now-abandoned reforms to section 18C of the racial discrimination act.

The negative response to the Warburton review of the target, released last month, was also viewed as having hurt the cause of those looking to axe the scheme.

That review – headed by businessman and climate change sceptic Dick Warburton – recommended Australia’s target to have at least 20 per cent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 be either closed to new projects or scaled back dramatically on the basis of yearly reviews.

But those options have been largely dismissed as unattractive, even within government. And Coalition sources also said the political argument that the target pushed up household electricity prices was “largely dead” thanks to modelling commissioned for the review that found bills would in fact fall from 2021 if it was kept.

Big energy companies, who want the target scaled back to reflect falling electricity demand (an option dubbed “real 20 per cent”), have also been left privately confused at the review panel’s recommendation to tack on yearly reviews to that option, which is regarded as unworkable due to business needs for greater certainty.

Senior Coalition figures are now flagging they will have to try cut a deal with Labor, which wants little  or no change to the target.

But without bipartisan support, the political cloud hanging over the industry will continue, and investment dollars for new wind and solar farms, that have ground halt, will not return……….

While the government is still pursuing changes to the target for large-scale projects, it has rejected the Warburton review’s recommendation that support for rooftop solar be closed immediately. But phasing it out more quickly remains under consideration.

Read more:

September 8, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Serious security implications in Australia’s sale of uranium to India

India-uranium1Old mistakes in New Delhi: Australian irresponsibility and Indian uranium sales, Online opinion By Dave Sweeney, 5 Sept 14,  Before jetting off to India today to sign a controversial uranium export deal set in motion seven years ago by John Howard, Prime Minister Tony Abbott made an extraordinary admission. “If we are prepared to sell uranium to Russia, and we’ve been prepared to do that in the past, surely we ought to be prepared to provide uranium to India under suitable safeguards,” he told ABC television last night.

Abbott’s logic, that Australia is already selling uranium to an increasingly aggressive and expansionist country – so what’s the problem, is the starters gun in a radioactive race to the bottom. It reflects a disturbing retreat from reason and responsibility in policy and raises questions the PM needs to answer before putting pen to paper for a photo opportunity in India.
safety-symbolDespite assurances of ‘peaceful purposes’, this sales deal has serious nuclear security implications. Even if all goes well, and in the shadow of Fukushima that is a big assumption, it will free up India’s domestic uranium stocks for military use and do nothing to advance Indian non-proliferation or reduce the continuing tension with nuclear rival Pakistan.
The sale of uranium to India, a nuclear armed nation that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor subject to full international nuclear safeguards but is engaged in an active nuclear weapons expansion program, is also in direct conflict with Australia’s obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.
While the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is intent on expanding India’s civil and military nuclear ambitions, large question marks remain over the adequacy of safety and security arrangements covering India’s nuclear sector. In 2012 the Indian Auditor General released a damning report warning of a ‘Fukushima or Chernobyl-like disaster if the nuclear safety issue is not addressed’.
This frank assessment came from India’s own senior officials. Fast forward to 2014 and the issues identified by the Auditor General have not been addressed and there is no certainty they ever will be. The safety of India’s nuclear reactors remains shaky, the sectors regulation and governance deficient and the costs of errors extraordinary……..

Yes, Mr Abbott, Australia has unwisely provided uranium to Russia in the past. But instead of this becoming a justification for opening up new uranium sales in increasingly insecure and conflict-prone regions we should instead be drawing a lesson about the need to tread more carefully with our uranium supplies in the future.

Uranium is not just another mineral. It fuels nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons and it all becomes nuclear waste. As home to around a third of the worlds’ uranium supply Australia’s decisions matter and this is an important moment to comprehensively re-consider the domestic and international costs and consequences of our uranium sales.

Tony Abbott has no excuse or mandate to put the promise of small time corporate profit ahead of the reality of severe and sustained human and environmental radioactive risk.

September 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

World leaders call for new effort on nuclear disarmament

New push needed to stop nukes: leaders   4 Sept 14 FORMER prime ministers, foreign and defence ministers have urged all nations to put new effort into nuclear disarmament.

THE call comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott prepares to sign a nuclear co-operation deal with India despite that country not having signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Twenty-nine political, diplomatic, military and scientific leaders from 14 Asia-Pacific countries have signed what has been called the Jakarta Declaration on Nuclear Weapons.The declaration urges all nuclear-armed states, and allies such as Australia who rely on their nuclear protection, to commit to “no first use” of nuclear weapons.It also calls for a convention to be negotiated making the “no first use” a binding commitment by the US, Russia, China, India, North Korea and Pakistan.

As Asia is the only region in the world where nuclear stockpiles are growing, the group urged at least a freeze on present arsenals, and their reduction over time to the lowest levels “consistent with maintaining minimum effective retaliatory capability”.All nuclear-armed states should also take their nuclear weapons off high operational alert and separate warheads from land and air-based delivery vehicles.

Group convenor, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, said a renewed sense of urgency was needed to deal with the risks posed by the world’s 16,000 remaining nuclear weapons.”It’s time for leaders to listen, and act,” he said.The Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament was formed in 2011.The declaration text was agreed in Jakarta on August 18 and released on Thursday.Signatories include former NZ prime ministers Geoffrey Palmer and James Bolger, former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser, former Pakistan joint chiefs of staff chairman Jehangir Karamat and former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

September 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Nuclear deal between Australia and India – video link

Video lnk India-Australia seal nuclear deal 05 Sep 2014

September 6, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment


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