Australian news, and some related international items

This week: Nuclear Royal Commission and and other Nuke and Climate News in Australia

a-cat-CANSouth Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission. Still time to send in submissions.  Closing date for Issues Papers 2 & 3 , and for a submission covering all four issues is August 3rd.

When I got  a policeman to witness my last 2 submissions, he said (completely unexpectedly and unsolicited by me) “You won’t win., you know. They’ll do it. They’ve got all the money”

Yes, it’s a shonky Royal Commission, with Kevin Scarce’s shares in Rio Tinto, and the Commission’s heavies connected to nuclear agencies.

But – as Redgum said, 20 years ago “If you don’t fight, you lose”

Pro Nuclear Royal Commission Pushes on With Determination, calls for tenders.

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

Northern Territory development : Aboriginal owners asked to agree to extinguish native title.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Tony Abbott’s sly way of stopping action on climate change. Labor leader Bill Shorten foresees a climate change election.  Climate change harming wine industry (nuclear power would, too) They are using giant $55,000 electric fans. (Apparently these are not ugly, like wind turbines?)

Bjorn Lomborg’s Climate Consensus Centre for Flinders University?   Flinders University students to fight this plan.

Australian Labor Party delegates vote for 50 per cent renewable energy plan. VICTORIAN Liberal MP Sarah Henderson breaks ranks, supports investment in renewables. Poll finds 60% believe carbon tax had little or no effect on electricity bills.

TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP  Tobacco corporation Philip Morris sues Australia over cigarette plain packaging. Labor Senator Wong fights TPP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses


July 29, 2015 Posted by | Christina reviews | 1 Comment

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

Simplified UN draft on climate, for Paris negotiations

flag-UN.New UN document seeks to simplify Paris climate negotiations

The United Nations has released a streamlined negotiating text in a bid to help nations agree on a climate deal during talks in Paris later this year.

UN officials say the 83-page document delivers a clearer picture of a possible agreement, by offering an climate-changeinsight into which parts of a treaty could be enshrined in international law.

But while some organisations say the move will help to cut through red tape, others say the UN paper failed to address human rights.

Oxfam Australia is one organisation that’s examined the plan, and its Food, Climate and Humanitarian Advocacy manager Kelly Dent says while some aspects of the paper are positive, there is not enough mention of climate adaptation – an increasingly important issue for the Pacific.

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear Power’s poor future: costs of decommissioning and waste disposal

text-relevantNuclear a ‘technology of the past’, Mail & Guardian, 27 JUL 2015 SIPHO KINGS

“……….Speaking to the Mail & Guardian earlier this year, Steve Thomas, a professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, said, “It was always extremely doubtful whether Russia could provide the finance for all the nuclear power projects it claimed to be close to winning well before the oil price collapse.”

With the number of nuclear plants decreasing each year – there are now 388 in operation around the world – the energy source now accounts for around 4% of the global energy mix. According to the International Energy Agency three-quarters of these will be reaching the end of their operational life in the next decade.


Slivyak says this is where the last two big problems with a nuclear build come in: their cost to decommission, and the nuclear waste left over. “If you go with nuclear energy now, you have to stick with that technology for a century.” This includes a minimum of a decade in construction – with some plants taking three decades – and 60-years of operation before at least three decades of decommissioning, he says.

“In the US the cost of decommissioning is worked out at the same as the cost of building a new plant.”…………


July 29, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Modular #nuclear power is just as costly as the old reactors

text-relevantLast month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was folding a division to manage construction of new reactors back into the division from which it was pulled a few years ago, acknowledging a nuclear renaissance hasn’t materialized

Prefab Nuclear Plants Prove Just as Expensive Modular method has run into costly delays and concerns about who will bear the brunt of the expense., WSJ,  By REBECCA SMITH July 27, 2015

text-SMRsBuilding nuclear reactors out of factory-produced modules was supposed to make their construction swifter and cheaper, leading to a new boom in nuclear energy.

But two U.S. sites where nuclear reactors are under construction have been hit with costly delays that have shaken faith in the new construction method and created problems concerning who will bear the added expense.

“Modular construction has not worked out to be the solution that the utilities promised,” said Robert B. Baker, an energy lawyer at Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP in Atlanta and former member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, the state utility authority.

The new building technique calls for fabricating big sections of plants in factories and then hauling them by rail to power-plant sites for final assembly. The method was supposed to prevent a repeat of the notorious delays and cost overruns that marred the last nuclear construction cycle in the 1980s.

It hasn’t worked. Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Horsham Rural City Council in a dilemma over waste with radioactive content

Council and EPA considering miner’s plan to dump 20 years of interstate waste south of Horsham, Weekly Times, 28 july 15  A RURAL council must decide if Iluka Resources can continue using a pit south of Horsham to dump mine waste — low-level radioactive byproducts and concrete and steel that has been in contact with radioactive material — from old Victorian mines and active sites interstate……….


July 29, 2015 Posted by | General News | 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

Poll finds 60% believe carbon tax had little or no effect on electricity bills

Abbott-chicken-littleOnly 21% of voters polled believe that the carbon price had a large impact on power prices and just 9% thought the repeal had pushed prices down

July 29, 2015 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment