Australian news, and some related international items

South Australia, and all of us, need better environmental protection from chemical and radiation dangers

exclamation-Cancer danger in Adelaide suburb -

Dennis Matthews 22 July 14 The problems being experienced at Clovelly Park are the product of a society that gave low priority to environmental health. Environment Ministers and Environmental Protection Authorities either didn’t exist or were given very low priority.

Like the residents of Clovelly Park, Environment Minister Ian Hunter is the victim of a past over which he had little control. The trichloroethylene (TCE) story should be a warning to this generation but there is no evidence that it is being heeded.

Scientists and technologists are busy developing new products with very little thought to their environmental health impact. Our water and soil resources are under constant attack. The environment portfolio is under-resourced and going backwards.

Our aim should now be to prevent a new generation of environmental health threats by giving higher status to the environment portfolio and by encouraging our scientists and technologists to give more attention to the environmental health consequences of their products.

July 22, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia’s top newspaper deplores Abbott’s repeal of the carbon tax

Repeal of carbon tax shames our nation

The Age July 21, 2014   Editorial

  The overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists concur: the emission of greenhouse gasses as a result of human activity is contributing to a rise in temperate and to the resulting climate change that poses nothing short of an existential threat. So this newspaper has consistently advocated for our governments to act decisively on behalf of future generations to combat global warming. Economists the world over agree the most effective way to reduce the danger is to put a price on carbon emissions. We are appalled, then, that the Coalition has repealed the carbon tax, which was a transitional step towards an emissions trading scheme the like of which is working in Europe and elsewhere.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott claims to accept the science, and indeed has a policy to cut emissions. It’s called Direct Action, but is better thought of as limp inaction, for it is essentially a scheme to plant tress and spend about $2.5 billion paying selected businesses to reduce pollution. Incidentally, that is significantly less than the cost of the tax Mr Abbott, a man who claims to be against new and/or higher taxes, wants to levy on business to pay for his excessively generous paid parental leave scheme. Direct Action is unlikely to go anywhere near reducing emissions to the bipartisan target of a minimum of 5 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020.

Australia, the nation with the highest level of emissions per capita, is now left in a lamentable limbo; not only has the price on carbon been removed, the first time a government has wound back action on climate change, yet even the Direct Action plan has been stymied by the Palmer United Party, led by a man with a massive and direct interest in coal mining.

The Coalition has regressed astonishingly; Mr Abbott’s political hero and mentor, former prime minister John Howard, took an emissions trading scheme to the 2007 election.

The Age applauds Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s statement that he and the ALP continue to support an emissions trading scheme……..:


July 21, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Hope for uranium business success in Western Australia are ill-founded

graph-uranum-glutAnalyst cites challenges to WA Govt’s uranium hopes, ABC News,   17 Jul 2014,”………Independent analyst Peter Strachan says the uranium price needs to improve for that aspiration to be achieved.

“I don’t see anything happening in Western Australia until the price looks like it’s improving,” he said.

“All the industry players are saying there’s a fundamental mismatch between supply and demand at the moment.”

He says it may be some time before the uranium price improves.

Mr Strachan says the public perception of the industry also needs to change for the Government’s dream to become a reality.

“The social licence to operate is pretty well everything these days,” he said.

July 19, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Investors staying away from uranium – with good reason

graph-down-uraniumA watching brief on next uranium powers  THE AUSTRALIAN JULY 18, 2014  SAGELY, uranium investors yesterday treated news of an imminent reboot of Japan’s nuclear industry as a handy boost to sentiment but not much else.

Don’t expect uranium prices — wallowing at nine-year lows — to recover in a hurry: the market remains in a glut and most transactions are on long-term contracts.

Japan’s nuclear watchdog approved two reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant to be restarted, presaging the revival of more of 48 Nipponese reactors.

The sector has been shut down since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Before this “incident” — the industry’s preferred description of the near meltdown — Japan was one-third reliant on nuclear energy. The ensuing carnage saw dozens of uranium projects cancelled and delayed, with our own Paladin Energy putting its Kayelekera plant in Malawi on care and maintenance…….

July 19, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Renewable energy for remote mining in Chile – a model for Australia?

antnuke-relevantSpeaking to The Australian, EY global mining and metals leader Mike Elliott lauded the use of solar power by Codelco to power its mining operations, and recommended that members of the resources sector in Australia follow suit.
Is Renewable Energy the Future of Mining?
  17 July 14,
The remote and energy-intensive nature of mining operations make them ideal candidates for the use of renewable power sources. Efforts by the Chilean mining industry to power its operations using renewable energy have been hailed as the future trajectory of development for the global resources sector.

Continue reading

July 17, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Certainty is offered to business by the current climate policy

Milne,-Christine-13One good reason why business should back the carbon price CHRISTINE MILNE ABC Environment11 JUL 2014  Certainty is offered to business by the current climate policy. The best opportunity Australian business has of policy certainty as the world moves to address global warming is to actively support emissions trading now.

AUSTRALIAN BUSINESS SHOULD tell Tony Abbott that he is killing certainty in Australia and that it is bad for business.

The golden rule of business is certainty. Not just in the short term but for decades to come, because unlike government, business deals in long term strategy and investment not just three year electoral cycles………

The choice for business is the certainty of the current law against the risks associated with chaos and dislocation of erratic policy and inevitable steep adjustment as emission reduction targets are increased.

Business groups have warned against yet another policy vacuum, like the one that followed the Rudd Labor government’s 2009 decision to dump any significant response to the greatest moral challenge of our time. And so they should.

In the south we have had Hydro Tasmania saying they will have to let 100 staff, or 10 per cent of its workforce go in the absence of a carbon price that would continue to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. They pass this revenue on to the state government to spend on concession payments, schools and hospitals.

In the north, we have the Kimberly Land Council also set to lose millions from working on country. They won’t have a market to sell their carbon credits into anymore. The government’s so-called Direct Action is not a substitute market.

The fact is, there already exists a legislative framework for bringing down carbon pollution that businesses know they can work within, and in which investors can have confidence. Following the chaos of the last few days in the Senate, the alternatives are a gamble that Australian businesses shouldn’t take.

I am calling on Australian business to lead by calling on the Abbott government to end the nonsense of ‘axing the tax’, and instead embrace the certainty provided by the existing emissions trading scheme. It is the best chance we have of getting certainty on global warming policy in Australia at the lowest possible cost to business and the economy.

With an 18 per cent emissions reduction target in place since 31 May 2014, we can move immediately to flexible pricing to risk-proof Australian business and give ourselves a head start and competitive advantage as the rest of the world moves to conclude a treaty in 2015. Australia stands exposed to retaliatory non trade tariff barriers if we fail to commit to our fair share of emissions reduction. Already we are being left behind as China, the UK and USA negotiate economic agreements on green finance and technology………

As the Committee for Economic Development of Australia has noted, our economy will be seriously exposed in two ways if we don’t take serious action.

“The first area that leaves our economy exposed if we don’t take action relates to the consequences of increasing extreme weather events and the economic and social impact that these events have on Australia’s production capacity,” it said.

The second area was on the availability of finance. “Australia is reliant on foreign capital to fund major projects and new developments in international climate change policy are likely to impact international capital flow and investment decision making.”……..


July 14, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Rich fossil fuel polluters would benefit from abolition of Renewable Energy Target

Abolishing renewable energy target rewards rich polluters July 10, 2014 Matt Grundoff Why is there such a big push on to scrap the renewable energy target? My report for The Australia Institute, Fighting dirty on clean energy, released on Thursday, found the same as most other energy analyses: that the target will decrease electricity prices, not increase them.

To find out why there’s such an opposition to the target, all you need to do is follow the money. The biggest winners from scrapping  the target are the existing fossil fuel electricity generators, to the tune of $13 billion.

The target is injecting new supplies of energy into a shrinking market and this added competition is forcing down the wholesale price of electricity. Coal-fired power stations are being mothballed and, worst of all, from the point of view of the incumbent generators, renewables are moderating peak power prices. These peak prices are very important to their profitability, with research showing that 25 per cent of revenue is earned on just 40 hours of generation each year.

Like many big industries with strong lobbying power, the fossil fuel power generators have been calling for the target to be scrapped or weakened.  Arguing that new competition is cutting their profitability is not going to generate much sympathy.

The other big problem the industry has is that renewable energy and the target are popular with the public. Polling done for my report found that 86 per cent of people want more renewable energy, and 79 per cent want the government to support an expansion of renewable energy. Seventy-one per cent of people supported the target and 68 per cent agreed with the 20 per cent target or thought it should be higher. With such strong support for renewable energy and the target, how are industry and the government going to bring it down?

When industry or government wants to make a change, public relations 101 says to emphasise any benefit to the public, whether said benefit exists or not. This is especially true if that change profits a vested interest.

Enter the government’s latest RET review.

This review has been designed to put cost of living pressures front and centre. Rather than have the Climate Change Authority do the review, as specified in legislation, the government has instead hand-picked a special squad of climate sceptics, free marketers and former fossil fuel energy interests. It’s led by self-declared climate change sceptic Dick Warburton.

This is clearly a review designed to reach a predetermined outcome. It is designed to exaggerate the tiny impact the RET has had on electricity prices, believed to be between 3 and 4½ per cent. It also needs to ignore that the doubling of electricity prices which has occurred over the last six years is largely due to poles-and-wires upgrades.

Most importantly from the point of view of the incumbent generators, it needs to ignore the uncomfortable fact that most respected energy consultants have found that the RET will actually reduce electricity prices in the next few years.

The reason that fossil fuel generators want the RET gone is the same reason that the RET is going to deliver lower power bills to consumers. More competition and lower peak prices all lead to lower electricity bills. Scrapping the RET has been estimated to cost electricity users $500 million over the next 10 years.

So far, the RET review has not gone completely to plan. A preliminary result from the modelling work commissioned by the review team has shown what all the other energy modellers have found. The RET is going to make electricity prices lower, not higher.

With Clive Palmer announcing he will not support changes to the RET, the new Senate seems closed to any change the industry might want. But don’t expect it to stop trying.

When the results of the RET review are released, expect to see a lot of focus on very small increases in electricity prices and little on the long-term impact of the RET. Industry lobby groups don’t give up easily, not when there are billions of dollars riding on the outcome.

Matt Grudnoff is a senior economist at The Australia Institute and the author of Fighting Dirty on Clean Energy. 




July 12, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Crash or crash through Abbott crashes on trying to repeal carbon tax

Milne,-Christine-1PM Abbott exposes government incompetenc 10 Jul 2014  Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne says the Australian people have seen today how the Abbott government will crash in its attempts to manipulate the Senate on carbon pricing and its destructive budget.

“The only thing that is clear today is that the Prime Minister has failed. This is government by incompetence. Deals in back rooms designed to stitch up the Senate have come unstuck. Tony Abbott is a crash or crash through Prime Minister, and today he crashed,” said Senator Milne.

“This is chaotic and it shows complete contempt for the processes of the Senate. The government gagged the debate then had to filibuster when the amendments came unstuck. The whole thing came to pieces.

“This is going to characterise this whole period of government unless Tony Abbott learns to respect the Senate and give it time to be an effective house of review.

“Nobody really understands, including the government it seems, what the Palmer political party’s amendment will deliver.

“The government says it hates red tape and green tape but apparently it loves yellow tape.

“The good news today is that we still have a carbon price in Australia. We still have a price on pollution that is bringing down emissions as we speak,” said Senator Milne.

“It’s not over yet. The government can try again to repeal it, but the Greens will fight every step of the way to keep making the polluters pay.

“This is now the second double dissolution trigger the Greens have helped deliver the government, after twice saving the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Tony Abbott has threatened an early election, but is he really game to pull the trigger?”

July 10, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Repeal of Australia’s carbon tax voted down in the Senate

Abbott-chicken-littleRicky Muir and Palmer United senators vote with Greens and Labor against repeal of carbon tax, SMH, July 10, 2014 -  National political reporter The Senate has voted down the government’s third attempt to repeal the carbon tax after a chaotic morning in which the Palmer United Party backed out of its agreement to support the bills.

PUP senators and Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir sided with Labor and the Greens to defeat the abolition of the carbon tax, with a final vote just after 12.30pm rejecting the repeal 37 votes to 35.

The decision is a major setback for Prime Minister Tony Abbott who had expected that the scrapping of the carbon tax would be the first order of business of the new Senate. But those plans were thrown into disarray on Thursday, when PUP senators refused to back the repeal arguing an amendment drafted by the government to guarantee savings for consumers did not reflect a deal done between the two parties.

That amendment was beefed up by the PUP overnight to include stiff penalties for any company that failed to pass the full savings from the carbon tax repeal within 12 months……

In defending his party’s decision, Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer said his senators had been ”doubled crossed” by the government and as a result they abandoned the deal and sided with the opposition.

However, the government maintains that the amendment put forward by Mr Palmer was unconstitutional because it would have constituted a money bill, which by definition cannot originate in the Senate.

The Abbott government had expected to be celebrating the achievement of its long-cherished ambition to axe Labor’s price on carbon this week, but instead has found itself scrambling day by day to negotiate with an unpredictable crossbench.

Mr Palmer had earlier on Thursday confirmed that his senators would not vote for the carbon tax repeal on Thursday, saying amendments had been lodged with the Senate Clerk’s office at 8.30am.

”We asked that it be distributed and we had a violent action from government, a violent reaction I would say,” Mr Palmer said.

July 10, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

$15 billion in investment as Abbott govt tries to trash renewable energy industries

Abbott-destroys-renewablesClean energy sector warns on RET  STAFF REPORTER  9 July 14, The clean energy industry has hit back at calls for changes to the current renewable energy target, warning that $15 billion in investment could be at risk along with Australia’s profile as a low sovereign risk country, The Australian reports.

Australia’s largest infrastructure investor, IFM Investors, and Spanish firm Acciona have both said they could avoid Australia as a future investment destination should a push to alter the RET succeed.

“If governments flip-flop with policy to the extent that they drive the renewable energy sector out of this country and foreign investors away from this country, don’t expect to be able to attract them back in a hurry,” Andrew Thomson, managing director of Acciona Energy in Australia, said, according to The Australian.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Brett Himbury, chief executive of IFM, who noted the long timeframe for renewable energy investments meant policy uncertainty could cripple the sector.

The comments come amid a push from 25 lower house Coalition MPs to make changes to the current renewables scheme.

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

Industry minister, Ian MacFarlane, pre-empting Parliament over Australian Renewable Energy Agency – Christine Milne

Milne,-Christine-13Ricky Muir seeking to save the Australian Renewable Energy Agency  , political editor, Tuesday 8 July 2014 “……….Given that Arena may now not be abolished, the Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, has written to the industry minister, Ian MacFarlane, complaining that he is pre-empting the parliament by refused to renew the contracts of Arena board members.

MacFarlane’s actions will mean that within a few weeks the secretary of the industry department is the only remaining board member of a multi-million-dollar authority.

“As you will be aware, Arena is a statutory authority, and the future of the institution is not subject to the government’s sole discretion. I therefore urge you to appoint board members until the will of the parliament is clear,” she wrote.

“Without appointing board members, the government would frustrate the intention of the act and place an undue workload on the secretary of the department,” she wrote.

Regarding Muir’s amendment, Milne said “the Greens welcome Ricky Muir’s support for the renewable energy agency and we hope that he will bring his Palmer United party colleagues along with him.”…..

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

Three cheers for South Australia’s renewable energy progress, and rejection of nuclear power

Map-South-Australia-windDennis Matthews, 8 July 14, I’m not a nuclear physicist, although I suspect I know a lot more about the subject than the average journalist or even a Professor of Climate Change cum nuclear policy expert.

My faith in the Australian people is reinforced by their consistent rejection of nuclear power, and this includes the Liberal Government that  abandoned its plans to build a nuclear power station in NSW; it came as no surprise that the main driver for that plant was nuclear weapons aspirations.

For all of those sensible Australians from all sides of politics, who could think for themselves, to see the huge strides that solar and wind energy have made, not just in South Australia  but in Australia and the world as a whole, must be very gratifying.

Whilst other countries are now struggling with the aftermath of  nuclear fervor Australia has by-passed that whole sorry saga. With only one relatively small nuclear reactor in operation and minimal nuclear waste to be managed, Australia can hold its head high on the world stage.

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

Japan’s P.M. in Australia- talks with Abbott will ignore Fukushima!

Abe,-Shinzo-nukeAbbott and Abe should be talking about Fukushima Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making an official visit to Australia this week talking free trade and increased resource and defence co-operation. But he should be talking about Australia’s role in fueling Fukushima, says Dave Sweeney.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be courted in Canberra this week. In chats with Tony Abbott both PM’s will no doubt be happy to discuss trade and troops. What is less likely to make the cut – but deserves top billing – is Australia’s role and responsibility in the continuing Fukushima nuclear disaster. Three years on the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl has left a legacy of silent towns and shattered lives and continues to dog and derail Abe’s enthusiastic but deeply contested efforts to re-start Japan’s reactors.

It would be fitting for the Australian and Japanese PM’s to acknowledge the October 2011 statement by Robert Floyd, the director general of DFAT’s Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, that confirmed to the parliament that “Australian obligated nuclear material [uranium] was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors”.

It would be timely for the leaders to commit to an independent cost-benefit assessment of Australia’s uranium trade, as directly requested by the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon in the wake of the accident and supported by a recent Senate Inquiry as a pre-condition before any planned new uranium sales. Aptly enough, the Australian uranium sector has been hard hit by the market fallout from Fukushima and low uranium prices have seen existing uranium mines close down. New uranium mining projects are being delayed and the sector is in serious trouble. And that’s before mentioning spills such as the December 2013 uranium tank collapse and the leak at Rio Tinto’s Ranger mine in Kakadu. Ranger got the federal go ahead to resume processing operations last month but the troubled site remains under pressure and under-performing.

Australia also continues to uncritically supply our existing uranium customers, despite evidence of unsafe practices in countries like South Korea. Our yellowcake deal with Russia also deserves greater scrutiny, especially in the light of escalating tensions in Ukraine, as the International Atomic Energy Agency has not carried out any inspections there since at least 2001. We aggressively push new uranium deals to countries like India, whose nuclear industry has been called unsafe by its own auditor general, and which point blank refuses to sign the global nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

PM Abe’s visit is an ideal time to reflect on the very nature of Australia’s uranium – it is not like any other mineral.

Uranium can fuel both nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons and it all becomes radioactive waste. Australia is home to around 40% of the worlds’ uranium, and the decisions we make matter. In the shadow of Fukushima, we need to review the costs and consequences of our uranium trade at home and abroad and act on the UN’s Inquiry call.

If our political leaders continue to put the interests of a high risk, low return industrial sector before those of our nation and region, the consequence is that it is likely that Australia’s uranium sector will fuel future Fukushima’s.

It is said that those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them – we must not allow this to happen. It is time for an independent assessment of the domestic and international costs and consequences of Australia’s uranium trade and it is time for our leaders to acknowledge the increasingly obvious – our shared energy future is renewable, not radioactive.

July 7, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Illawarra Aboriginal leader Sharralyn Robinson rejects Tony Abbott’s “unsettled Australia” views

Illawarra Aboriginal leader reacts to Abbott’s ‘unsettled’ speech, Illawarra Mercury By BEN LANGFORD July 4, 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments that Australia was “unsettled” before British “foreign investment” arrived in 1788 were out of step with a great number of Australians who recognised Aboriginal history, Illawarra Aboriginal leader Sharralyn Robinson said on Friday.

Mr Abbott surprised many with his comments, made in a speech about foreign investment on Thursday night.

“Our country is unimaginable without foreign investment,” Mr Abbott said.

“I guess our country owes its existence to a form of foreign investment by the British government in the then unsettled or, um, scarcely settled, Great South Land.”

Ms Robinson, the acting chief executive of the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, said more than 40,000 years of Aboriginal history needed to be remembered.

“It’s very disturbing to think we’ve got a Prime Minister who isn’t aware of what was here prior to invasion,” she said. “This country was very settled. We had our laws in place, we had our Parliament houses, our opera houses, our hospitals, our homes.”

Ms Robinson said most Australians did not cling to the myth that Australia was uninhabited…….

Mr Abbott’s comments exposed him to criticism that he had not moved on from the old doctrine of terra nullius – nobody’s land – that was dumped by the High Court last century.

Northern Territory Labor senator Nova Peris said Mr Abbott’s comments were “highly offensive, dismissive of indigenous peoples and simply incorrect”……

July 7, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia in desperate need of true history education, and a Treaty with Indigenous people

text TreatyTony Abbott, terra nullius and Warren Mundine, Independent Australia Natalie Cromb 4 July 2014, “……..This government, and all governments that seek to enact laws in this manner, need a history lesson. A truthful history lesson.

The crux of the matter is that European people settled on land belonging to the Indigenous inhabitants under the falsehood of terra nullius and, thereafter, the settlers imposed English law upon the Indigenous inhabitants, including laws which sought to disperse them from the lands to which they belonged on a spiritual level, and further to diminish and/or destroy the families and culture with which they identified.

This history, however bleak and embarrassing to Australians – and Tony Abbott – is what actually did occur.

Australia needs a leader and a government that will look at the history of this nation and utilise this history as a lesson in tolerance and how to be more appreciative of a culture that owned and cared for this land for at least 40,000 years before European settlement occurred.

This nation needs leaders that understand the racial divide of this nation and how to go about correcting and bridging this divide.

There are two key and pressing ways in which to make the first steps to effect dramatic change that will bridge this divide. The first is education and the second is a treaty. Continue reading

July 7, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment


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