Australian news, and some related international items

Divestment movement shows up Tony Abbott’s short-sighted view on the economy

Milne,-Christine-1Fossil fuel divestments are putting the Abbott government on notice, Saturday 18 October 2014   ANU’s decision to end investment in fossil fuels is democracy up against crony capitalism The decision by the Australian National University to end its investment in fossil fuels is a bellwether moment for Australia. It’s democracy up against crony capitalism, science up against ideology and renewable energy against the old polluting industries.

Tony Abbott’s derision of ANU as “stupid” is a raw ideological refusal to face three key facts:

1. If we are to constrain global warming to less than two degrees, Australia’s remaining fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned. Not by any country, not ever.

2. Australians are already experiencing the effects of climate change, through more frequent and intense extreme weather events. We must stop it getting worse.

3. People can take control of their power bills, take control of their money, and they don’t need to wait for governments.

While climate policy is being torn apart and emissions that came down under the carbon price are going up again, it’s heartening to see that thousands of Australians already know they can take the power back. National Divestment Day events are underway today in Hobart, Lismore, Ballina, Geraldton, Maroochydoore and Darwin, with more tomorrow in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Coffs Harbour.

The divestment movement is putting the Abbott government on notice. People are voting with their wallets – as are churches like the Uniting Church and the Perth diocese of the Anglican Church, and super funds like Local Government Super – all moving their money out of companies that profit from fossil fuels. Now the option is there, students can even invest their minds and fees in a uni that shares their values.

People are changing the direction of our economy, but Abbott’s only response has been to call them stupid and declare that “coal is good for humanity”. What a desperate statement from a man exposed as governing for the big end of town…….

What Abbott’s efforts amount to is “economic suicide,” to quote an adviser to the German Chancellor. The divestment movement proves that Australians won’t be left behind, even if our government is determined to cling to the age of fossil fuels. It’s a bellwether moment and the pendulum is swinging away from the Abbott government, towards restoring our democracy, towards science and towards a clean energy future.

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

Tony Abbott’s comments on coal make prize-winning author cringe

Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan ‘ashamed to be Australian’ over Tony Abbott’s coal comments ABC News 15 Oct 14 Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan, winner of the prestigious 2014 Man Booker literary award, says Tony Abbott’s comments that “coal is good for humanity” make him “ashamed to be Australian”.

Flanagan took out the 50,000-pound ($88,000) prize, announced in London, for his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North…….

Flanagan a better ambassador than PM: Bob Brown

Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said Flanagan had become the ambassador for Australia the Prime Minister had failed to be.

“Tony Abbott’s ‘shirtfronting’ approach to global diplomacy is a matter of shame for many, many Australians, but Flanagan restores our pride in Australia.

“He’s the… thoughtful, far-visioned, compassionate intellect that our Prime Minister isn’t,” he said…….

October 18, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

‘Devastating impact’ on Australia by cutting renewable energy

REUTERS SUMMIT-Australia faces ‘devastating impact’ by cutting renewable energy target -lawmaker Oct 15, 2014 (For other news from the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit, click here) By Byron Kaye SYDNEY Oct 15 (Reuters) – Plans by Australia to cut back its renewable energy target would have a “devastating impact” on investment in the country’s sustainable power generation industry, a senior opposition lawmaker said.

Australia is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitting countries per person but has seen declining electricity use in the past five years amid rising power bills and cheaper renewable energy options such as rooftop solar.

As such, the government led by conservative prime minister Tony Abbott wants to redefine a renewable energy target (RET) set by a previous centre-left government in 2009. Instead of a fixed amount then equivalent to 20 percent of projected energy use in 2020, the government wants to aim for 20 percent of actual energy use, which is far less.

To reach the target, the government subsidises companies which invest in renewable energy as well as households and small businesses which opt to use such energy. But the cost of renewable energy is higher than the subsidies, so companies pass on costs to customers.

The government and opposition are now negotiating new terms of the RET in hope of giving investors confidence beyond the three-year electoral cycle.

But they face a deadlock with neither side apparently willing to give ground.

“It would have a devastating impact,” Mark Butler, environment spokesman for the opposition Labor party told the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit on Wednesday when asked about the government’s so-called real 20 percent target.

“It would largely kill any chance of significant new investment. It would collapse the certificate price to the point where even the existing investments would be seriously compromised.”……….


Australian aluminium miners have argued they deserve an exemption from paying any additional costs associated with the RET in their energy bills because sharp falls in the metal’s spot price have put significant pressure on their industry.

Butler said Labor may agree to exempt the aluminium industry, but rather than force households and other industries to subsidise the 2,000 gigawatt hours used by that industry, it could cut the target by that amount.,,,,,,,,

October 18, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Abbott to close Co-operative Research Centres, in favour of science in the service of big business

Abbott-fiddling-global-warmAbbott govt to terminate CRCs for new plan, Herald Sun AAP OCTOBER 14, 2014
THE federal government will pump $188.5 million into new Industry Growth Centres to provide infrastructure in five key sectors of the economy in a move that will spell the end of Cooperative Research Centres……..
The CRC program was established by the Hawke Labor government in 1991. They unite universities, industry and government agencies in research on topics ranging from cell therapy to space environment management.There are 36 CRCs currently in progress…….

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

The Abbott government’s agenda heading down the authoritarian path

Abbott’s thuggish agenda steers country down authoritarian path  Old Dog Thoughts, 14 Oct 124 THE Abbott Government is a regime with a taste for authoritarianism the like of which we have not seen in Australia since World War II.

It is using the pretext of a terrorist group called ISIS, operating thousands of miles from this island continent, to strip freedoms and empower security and police agencies in a way that is frightening, so frightening in fact that the venerable Washington Post last week described Australia as a “national security state”.

The authoritarianism of the Abbott Government also manifests itself in seeking to suborn the ABC and turn it into a tame propagandist for the reactive conservatism of Mr Abbott and thuggish lieutenants like Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General George Brandis. Sounding more like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe or Russia’s Vladimir Putin than the leader of a democratic country, Mr Abbott once complained that the ABC is too often not on the side of Australia. A troubling comment and symptomatic of the intolerance of dissent and critical commentary that is part and parcel of the modus operandi of the Abbott Government……….

All this — anti terror laws, Abbott’s patting the ABC on the back for being loyal and Mr Morrison’s legal bullying — in only a month. But look at the pattern. This is a government obsessed with secrecy and pumping taxpayers’ dollars into police, spies and the military. It is a government that berates its critics in a way that makes former Liberal prime minister John Howard look positively tolerant.

Australia suffers from having no real check on an authoritarian leader like Mr Abbott. In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper shares many of the unfortunate undemocratic traits of Mr Abbott, but he is fortunately constrained by a cultural and legal commitment in that country to citizens having enforceable protections via a human rights charter. Even in the US, citizens have more protection against authoritarian actions than is the case in Australia.

Maybe Australians don’t care. After all, this country started its European days by wiping out indigenous Australians and as a jail for the UK. It is a country that has never had to struggle to maintain democracy. It is a lazy democracy as a result and easily scared by mythical invaders from elsewhere.

It would be a pity if the Abbott Government were allowed to continue along the authoritarian path it is taking this country down. But it will only stop if Australians realise that the democracy they think exists is being dismantled by a bunch of thugs running Canberra, and a weak opposition in the form of an unprincipled ALP.

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

Dr Helen Caldicott at USA’s National Press Club – on danger of nuclear war

Caldicott-2013Activist urges alternative strategy to U.S.-Russia relations, and nuclear disarmament  October 8, 2014 | By Joshua Higgins

With ongoing crises ranging from terrorism to Ebola, policymakers, the media and the public are overlooking a threat that could wipe out the entire human race, a 1985 Nobel Peace Prize nominee said at a National Press Club Newsmakers news conference on Wednesday.

That issue, Helen Caldicott said, is nuclear war.

Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia over conflict in Ukraine pose a worldwide nuclear risk, according to the Australian physician and civil activist who also is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary. Both the U.S. and Russia have access to the button that could launch nuclear missiles at Washington, New York, Boston, and other urban centers, she said, adding that the threat goes beyond politics and foreign policy to the health of the global population.

“It’s a medical issue,” Caldicott said at the Newsmakers event. “And it will create the final epidemic of the human race.”

Caldicott, who helped establish Physicians for Social Responsibility, warned some U.S. strategies could do more harm than good, given that Russia holds a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.

“You don’t provoke paranoid countries armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons,” she said, making the case for education through the media as a critical way to expose the issue.

Public awareness can generate enough political capital for leaders in the science and health communities to inform policymakers about the risks to public health and to the global ecosystem that stem from nuclear arms.

“I honestly don’t know how we’re all still here,” Caldicott said.

Still, she said the U.S. can “lead by example” by generating a dialogue on nuclear weapons and urging international disarmament efforts.

While President Barack Obama has expressed support for nuclear disarmament, global challenges such as the Islamic State terrorist threats and Ebola outbreaks have prevented him from acting, Caldicott noted.

“We’ve got a good man,” she said. “But the forces have overwhelmed him.”

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

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will not help Abbott to gut the Renewable Energy Target

Shorten, BillBill Shorten vows to fight to save renewable energy target (273 comments)  Labor leader says opposition is not prepared to help gut a scheme which has delivered investment and jobs , deputy political editor theguardian.comFriday 10 October 2014 Bill Shorten says Labor will offer a helping hand to aluminium by exempting the sector from Australia’s renewable energy target – but he says the opposition is not prepared to help the Abbott government gut a scheme which has delivered significant new investment, and created jobs……….
Comment by Alpo88 10 October 2014

The RET must be as core to Labor as Medicare and funding for education. This government doesn’t deserve any help or compromise…. it just deserves the sack!…. The sooner, the better. Aluminium smelters should be only given a temporary reprieve if the socioeconomic issues involved are truly relevant (a clear rationale must be made public, by the way). But they should be asked to prepare and follow a gradual program of adaptation that must be concluded by a given date.

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

Until Oct 20 public can comment on Wiluna uranium project environmental scoping document (ESD)

text-Please-NoteToro releases Wiluna environmental report for public input Mining Weekly By: Natalie Greve  6th October 2014 JOHANNESBURG ( – Following an environmental assessment, uranium developer Toro Energy has released the environmental scoping document (ESD) for the planned extension of the company’s wholly-owned Wiluna uranium project, in Western Australia .

This followed prior approval by the state and federal governments for the establishment of a processing facility and the start of mining at Wiluna’s Centipede and Lake Way deposits.

The ESD provided information about Toro’s plans to integrate two additional deposits at Millipede and Lake Maitland into an expanded Wiluna project and identified the key environmental issues to be addressed during further government assessment of the project.

Interest parties would be able to make comments about the document to the Western Australian Protection Authority until October 20 and Toro would be required to respond to these inputs before producing a final ESD.

This would guide the preparation of a Public Environmental Review, which continued the government’s assessment and approval process………

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

Senator Christine Milne standing firm against change to RET that will benefit big polluters

Milne-Chris-smGreens leader stands against aluminium sector The Examiner By DANIEL McCULLOCH Oct. 8, 2014 GREENS leader Christine Milne has ramped up calls against offering aluminium smelters a full exemption from the Renewable Energy Target amid mounting support for the move among her political opponents.

Federal Coalition and Labor MPs are expected to enter negotiations over the future of the target later this week, after the Clean Energy Council backed calls to exclude the aluminium sector.

The renewable energy industry body said it would support a full exemption if it would guarantee bipartisan support for the RET and restored stability to the renewable energy and aluminium industries.

Their support follows backing for a full exemption from the Australian Workers Union, and has been mooted as making a deal on the scheme’s future between the political foes almost certain.

Senator Milne said she was disappointed by the council’s intervention. ‘‘To cave in to government pressures and the big polluters is frankly pathetic,’’ she said.

Senator Milne urged the Labor Party not to ‘‘brown down’’ the scheme by excluding big electricity users, saying the move would completely undermine the target’s purpose………

Senator Milne urged a different approach to the better-than-expected RET progress.

‘‘There is absolutely no doubt there is a surplus across the Australian energy sector,’’ she said.

‘‘That’s why its the best opportunity we’ve ever had to shut down coal-fired generation.’’

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

Wind power company hoping that Renewable Energy Target will survive

wind-turb-smWind producer Infigen grows hopeful over Renewable Energy Target survival October 7, 2014  Angela Macdonald-Smith Infigen Energy chief executive Miles George says asset write-downs would be premature for the wind power producer, given increasing signs that the Renewable Energy Target may survive with only relatively minor changes.

Mr George said the assumptions behind IFM Investors’ hefty write-down of its Pacific Hydro business revealed by Fairfax Media this week seemed “very conservative”.

But Mr George said he was hopeful of a better outcome on the RET that would avoid any need for impairments of Infigen’s $900 million Australian business.

In revaluing its Pacific Hydro investment, IFM has assumed that Australia’s 41,000 gigawatt-hours target for renewable energy in 2020 is adjusted to represent a “real 20 per cent” of electricity demand, rather than about 26 to 28 per cent, as it is on track to reach.

But Mr George said that did not look a likely outcome, given the findings of the review of the RET led by Dick Warburton.

“The whole debate has moved well beyond a real 20 per cent now; we’re talking about something much closer to no change,” Mr George said in an interview.

He pointed to a possible outcome where the regulations were modified to exempt the aluminium sector from the RET liabilities, but that the 41,000 gigawatt-hour target remained largely intact, except perhaps for a “tiny” reduction that could be required to achieve bipartisan support from the government and Labor. Continue reading

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

Labor prepared to exempt aluminium from Renewable Energy Target

Labor willing to back plan to exempt aluminium industry from RET ‘We’ve agreed to engage in discussions on the basis that the government doesn’t try and wreck the renewable energy target,’ Bill Shorten says   and, Tuesday 7 October 2014 Labor has confirmed it is prepared to accept a proposal to exempt the aluminium industry from the renewable energy target……..

For months, Coalition MPs have been calling for an expansion of the existing partial exemption for aluminium smelting, an industry that uses a lot of electricity. In September the Australian Workers Union backed the aluminium exemption calls.

Labor’s general position is to oppose changes to the RET, but it signalled on Tuesday that it was prepared to negotiate on an exemption for aluminium.

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, underlined the importance of having a “meaningful renewable energy target” while leaving the door open to a limited compromise.

“We’ve agreed to engage in discussions on the basis that the government doesn’t try and wreck the renewable energy target,” he said on Tuesday. “Specifically, we’re open to the suggestion that the aluminium industry, with all the jobs which are involved there, deserves to be looked at in a special case……..But the Greens leader, Christine Milne, accused Labor of bowing to pressure from the AWU to exempt aluminium from the RET, thereby teaming up with the government to “brown down” the scheme.

Milne said the government was determined “to attack the renewable energy industry”. “I’m very disappointed that the Clean Energy Council has decided to cave into pressure from the big polluters,” she said…….

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

Australia’s renewable energy investment at record lows, but global investment rising

Global clean energy investment up, Australia at record lows, Perth Now  STAFF REPORTER OCTOBER 06, 2014 World clean energy investment in the first three quarters of this year was 16% ahead of the same period of 2013, at $US175.1bn , making it almost certain that 2014 will produce a bounce-back in dollars invested after two years of decline.

Figures published today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, based on its real-time data transactions and projects, show that clean energy investment in the July-to-September quarter was $US55bn, up 12% from the $US48.9bn achieved in Q3 2013. The third quarter is generally weaker than the second quarter, as it was this year, with the Q3 total 16% down on a strong $US65.2bn in Q2 2014.

Meanwhile, BNEF says Australia’s has continued its dismal 2014 in the most recent quarter. Only $A193m was invested in new large-scale renewable energy projects in the calendar third quarter of 2014 in Australia, bringing year-to-date investment to $A238m. The Q3 figure is down 78% on the $A861m invested in the same quarter last year.

BNEF said of the the seven projects financed this year, none were backed by non-government lenders.
“The severe downturn in investment – and total freeze in private investment – has been caused by the Abbott government’s review of the Renewable Energy Target. Its controversial review panel recommended scrapping the target or radically diminishing it in August, but the government is yet to announce its position and faces blockage in the Senate to changes,” BNEF said.

Meanwhile, back on the international scene, the highlight of the global third quarter was a leap in Chinese solar investment to a new record of $US12.2bn, up from $US7.5bn in Q3 2013 and $US8bn in Q2 2014. Continue reading

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

Australia’s historic involvement in use and abuse of nuclear energy

Since Hiroshima: Australia’s Active Involvement in the Use and Abuse of Nuclear Energy Sunday, 05 October 2014 09:59By Lindsay FitzclarenceTruthout |Pandora’s Promise, a 2013 documentary, mobilizes the voices, expertise and credibility of a number of prominent commentators who speak out in favor of nuclear energy (1). In the film, Stewart Brand, once a critic, recants his former positions to advocate the use of nuclear energy as a way of combatting the perils and dangers associated with greenhouse gas-producing carbon fuels. Brand’s new eco-political platform represents much of the spin and simplified logic of those on the bandwagon that might now be “branded”: No to Carbon Yes to Nuclear.

In an article titled “Remembering Hiroshima in an Age of Neoliberal Barbarism,” Henry Giroux (2) provides a timely provocation and reminder for those rushing to jump on board this pronuclear movement. With regard to the events surrounding the use of atomic bombs in Japan in 1945 Giroux asserts:

“Historical memory is not simply being rewritten but is disappearing.  . . . History under the reign of neoliberalism has been either cleansed of its most critical impulses and dangerous memories, or it has been reduced to a contrived narrative that sustains the fictions and ideologies of the rich and powerful.” (3)

Within the context of current debates about “climate change” and “appropriate fuel sources” for these turbulent times, the nuclear power industries are making a powerful global pitch as dramatized by the messages of Pandora’s Promise. This article takes up Giroux’s storyline by outlining an account of the nuclear power story in Australia. The narrative contains content that is little known within Australia, let alone in the wider global community……….

This willingness to be involved in the first phase of the nuclear fuel cycle needs to be interpreted against the backdrop of cultural ignorance, political duplicity and neocolonial arrogance and exploitation. It is around this matter that Henry Giroux’s observation about the redemptive politics in remembering Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) becomes relevant. What is required in Australia, and elsewhere, is a politics of reclaiming a radical imagination and accepting responsibility to take part in activities aimed at avoiding these tragedies that must be better understood in order not to be repeated

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

Northern Territory pastoral stations to get our radioactive trash returned from France?

text-wise-owlPastoral stations may host nuclear waste dump site after Muckaty ruled out, Macfarlane says ABC News 3 Oct 14 Australia’s first nuclear waste dump could be built on a pastoral station, Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane says.

Since the Northern Land Council withdrew a nomination to host the site at Muckaty Station, the Northern Territory’s two land councils have had exclusive rights to nominate other sites.

But neither put one forward and the deadline for submissions expired on Tuesday.

Mr Macfarlane told SBS a new round of submissions, which were to open November 10, would be open to pastoral lease holders.

The ABC understood at least one pastoral station in the NT had expressed interest.

“The reality is that we need to get this built,” Mr Macfarlane said.  Our challenge is to ensure we can get the nuclear waste out of the basements of buildings in capital cities. “If I need a site – and I do need a site that is clear of dispute and clear of title – then obviously a freehold title, perhaps a grazing property, would be suitable”……..

Clock ticking to build permanent waste storage site   More than 11 tonnes of nuclear waste were to return to Australia next year after being sent to France more than a decade ago.  Under an agreement with France Australia was required to take back the reprocessed waste in 2015.

Earlier this week, NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said his government might consider offering up a site…….

October 3, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Tony Abbot’s ‘suicide strategy’ on coal is not winning friends for Australia

Abbott-fiddling-global-warmMerkel adviser lashes Abbott’s ‘suicide strategy’ on coal, SMH, October 2, 2014 – Lisa Cox National political reporter A lead adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on climate policy has attacked Australia’s complacency on global warming and described the Abbott government’s championing of the coal industry as an economic “suicide strategy”.
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said most countries had given up on Australia setting tougher targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the country was now viewed alongside Canada as not contributing its fair share to global efforts to reduce climate change.
Professor Schellnhuber, a former personal adviser to Chancellor Merkel, co-chairs the German Advisory Council on Global Change, which advises the Merkel government on environment policy – the equivalent of Australia’s Climate Change Authority.
Professor Schellnhuber was dismissive of the Abbott government’s direct action policy, which is still in limbo after the axing of the former Labor government’s carbon tax, describing it as “weak” and he criticised a “ridiculous” energy green paper published the day before the UN summit that advocated greater coal use in decades to come.

He said calling for continued coal use was not only poor climate policy, it made little sense economically when the rest of the world was turning to renewable energy.
“China will soon come up to peak coal consumption,” he said.
“Other Asian economies might peak even sooner.
“It’s almost a suicide strategy for the Australian economy.”
His comments come after countries savaged Australia’s performance at a special climate summit of world leaders in New York last week, where US President Barack Obama said combatting global warming was a joint effort by all nations and “nobody gets a pass”…….
Professor Schellnhuber said instead of backing away from policies such as Australia’s renewable energy target, the Abbott government should be exploiting Australia’s enviable position as the country with the “biggest potential” to produce renewable energy.
He said this was especially important when Australia was one of the continents most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which would hit the country in the form of unprecedented heatwaves, fires and coral bleaching.
“If Australia just sits there and says we offer our cheap coal but we have no manufacturing industry, we have slipped from renewables, these are dire prospects for the economy of your country,” he said.
“It’s bad for Australia because you might miss the innovation train.


October 3, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment


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