Australian news, and some related international items

From October 6, the Australian Senate will discuss the NATIONAL ISSUE of the Napandee nuclear waste dump plan

The Senate returns on October 6th. At some time there will be a vote on what is indeed this national issue. The stakes remain high.

The federal nuclear dump is a national issue,  Michele Madigan, 22 September 2020

It may have taken five years but in the last session of the recently completed Senate Inquiry, finally a government department bureaucrat has used the phrase — ‘…it is a national issue.
Well certainly — ‘When it suits,’ one might respond. This is because the federal nuclear dump has never been a national issue from a government perspective when it has come to the right to have a say about it. In fact it has never been even a South Australian issue. One evening on a radio talkback session earlier this year, the federal member for Grey which includes the Kimba site, was shocked to hear any objection from a person like myself who didn’t live within the Kimba council voting zone. Pure shock. Astonishment. What could I be thinking of that I could have a say or even an opinion!
In other words I was not one of the just 824 (less than 300th of one per cent) of South Australians who were decreed eligible to speak about the storage of radioactive waste which will remain toxic for every South Australian generation.

Moreover, despite the former responsible Minister Matt Canavan’s repeated assertions that submissions from others outside the extraordinary narrow designated voting zone was a possible way to influence proceedings — there seems to have been no recorded mention of any of the 2789 submissions. With some of extraordinary length and scholarship, 94.5 per cent were against the federal nuclear waste proposal. They were seemingly ignored; one wonders were they even read?

From July 28th to August 28th, there have been four Senate Inquiry sessions concerning the Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill 2020, all by video link. During the Inquiry sessions it became obvious which three Senators had done their careful homework with penetrating questions to witnesses on either side of the debate.


Extreme concern about the issue was expressed by the Chair of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, Jason Bilney and by other Barngarla people; by Peter Woolford, farmer President of the No Radioactive waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA group; by Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the single environmentalist invited to be a witness. On the other hand, there was spirited defence of the project, including every aspect of the process by the two senior government officials; by the landholder of the chosen site and by Kimba council representatives. There was an eager willingness by some Senators to positively enable these latter presentations.

On Monday 13th of September, the Senate report was released. Predictably in a Coalition led Inquiry, the report recommends the Senate proceed to vote yes to the plan on the Minister designated site on Barngarla country in agricultural land at the Kimba region Eyre Peninsula site.

However three Senators contributed separate dissenting reports released concurrently with the main report. Labor’s Jenny McAllister, formerly Centre Alliance and now Independent South Australian Rex Patrick, and the Green’s Sarah Hanson-Young SA all recommended that the legislation not go ahead. There were a number of reasons cited by the dissenting Senators.

The context of this ‘national issue’ declaration cited above by the Department was a defence of the strategy to take the Napandee (Kimba region) site to the Parliamentary vote — ensuring that if the proposed legislation is passed by the Senate, there will be no opportunity to take any aspect of the decision making to court. In the words of Labor Senator Jenny McAllister in her dissenting report: ‘In evidence to the committee, the Department confirmed that the effect of the change proposed in the legislation is to remove the requirements for procedural fairness in the selection of the site.’

As well, Senator Rex Patrick’s dissenting report included an emphasis on the heavily redacted nature of the government officials’ documentation: ‘The Department has, through its interaction with the committee, demonstrated a predisposition to secrecy—undue secrecy—in relation to provision of process information to the very people who pay them and who they are supposed to serve.’

The Greens’ summary was included in their final recommendation: ‘The Australian Greens believe the Federal Government has no mandate to situate a radioactive waste management facility in South Australia. It has mismanaged the site selection process, fallen short of international best practice and failed to secure the consent of traditional owners. For these reasons the Australian Greens recommend that this bill not be passed.’

No Dump Alliance is a group of organisations including First Nations, public health, trade union, faith and environment groups, academics and concerned individuals concerned about this matter. Revered SA theologian and international author Denis Edwards was an identified member.

On the release of the Senate report, NDA released their own media statement in which spokesperson Karina Lester (pictured), daughter of late former NDA Patron Yami Lester was clear: ‘In the 21st Century it is unacceptable to try and airbrush away Aboriginal peoples concern over nuclear risks. The Barngarla Native Title holders were excluded from the Kimba community ballot about the waste plan and now the federal government is trying to deny them the right to contest the plan in court. This is not only unfair to the Barngarla people but a clear insult to the concerns expressed by Aboriginal people from right across South Australia to any dumping and storage of radioactive waste on our traditional lands from outside the state’.

The Senate returns on October 6th. At some time there will be a vote on what is indeed this national issue. The stakes remain high.

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Medical experts testify to court on Julian Assange’s precarious mental health

Assange faces “very high risk of suicide,” medical expert tells court, WSWS, By Thomas Scripps and Laura Tiernan, 23 September 2020

Medical evidence was produced in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing yesterday detailing the terrible harm done to the heroic journalist by a decade of state-orchestrated persecution.

The day was given over to the examination of Professor Michael Kopelman who testified to Assange’s mental health. Kopelman is a psychiatrist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychiatry at Kings College London. He has given expert evidence in multiple extradition cases on behalf of both the defence and the prosecution. In assessing Assange, he conducted seventeen visits in 2019 and additional visits in 2020, constructed a “full family history” and a “full personal psychiatric history,” and carried out “interviews with his family and lifelong friends.”

His findings constitute a clear bar to Assange’s extradition to the United States. Under Section 91 of the UK Extradition Act (2003), extradition is prohibited if “the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.”

Under Section 87, extradition is prohibited if it is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 3 of the ECHR states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Medical evidence speaking to these bars has played a critical role in previous US-UK extradition hearings, for example in the case of Lauri Love. The risk of notoriously poor conditions in US prisons exacerbating mental illness is an important factor.

Assange’s case meets these criteria. The details in today’s WSWS coverage are being reported consistent with the “sensitivity” called for by defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC, on behalf of his client. Nonetheless they make overwhelmingly clear the “unjust and oppressive” treatment to which Assange has already been subjected.

Assange, Kopelman told the court, has experienced periods of serious mental illness in his earlier life. Since being confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy and then Belmarsh maximum security prison, these issues have resurfaced and worsened. Assange has suffered symptoms of severe and recurrent depression. Those symptoms have included “loss of sleep, loss of weight, a sense of pre-occupation and helplessness” and auditory hallucinations which Kopelman summarised as “derogatory and persecutory.”

They have also included “suicidal preoccupations.” Kopelman told the court, “There are… an abundance of known risk factors in Mr Assange’s case” and that Assange has “made various plans and undergone various preparations.” He gave his opinion that there was a “very high risk of suicide.”

These symptoms and risks, Kopelman explained, are exacerbated by an anxiety disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and by a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Kopelman cited a paper by world-leading autism expert Dr Simon Baron-Cohen which found that the lifetime experience of suicidal thoughts in those with Asperger’s “was more than nine times higher than in the general population in England.”

Explaining the impact of the US government’s persecution, Kopelman said, “The risk of suicide arises out of the clinical factors of depression and the other diagnoses, but it is the imminence of extradition and/or an actual extradition that will trigger the attempt, in my opinion.”

If Assange were to be incarcerated in the US and segregated from other prisoners, Kopelman gave his opinion that the WikiLeaks founder would “deteriorate substantially” and see an “exacerbation” of his “suicidal ideas.” This would “amount to psychological harm and severe psychological suffering.”

Kopelman’s evidence confirms the warnings made since November 2019 by Doctors for Assange, representing hundreds of medical professionals from around the world, that Assange is suffering “psychological torture” and “could die in prison.” It underlines in distressing detail UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer’s comment regarding Assange’s treatment that “psychological torture is not torture-lite. Psychological torture aims to wreck and destroy the person’s personality and identity… to make them break.”

Assange’s year-and-a-half long incarceration at Belmarsh has been designed to achieve this objective. It has profoundly undermined, in numerous ways, his legal right to prepare his defence against extradition. Kopelman reported yesterday that Assange has repeatedly complained that the medication taken for his mental health has caused him “difficulty in thinking, in memorising [and] in concentration.”

During the morning’s cross examination, Kopelman forcefully rebuffed prosecution lawyer James Lewis QC’s challenge to his credentials. He said solicitors had called him several times in recent years saying that Lewis himself was “keen to have your services” in an extradition case.

In the afternoon, cross-examination continued, with Lewis challenging the veracity of Kopelman’s diagnosis, and claiming that Assange’s appearance was “wholly inconsistent with someone who is severely or moderately-severely depressed and with psychotic symptoms.”

Kopelman replied, “Could we go back a step?” Having seen Assange between May 30 and December [2019], “I thought he was severely depressed, suicidal and was experiencing hallucinations.”…………..

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian scientists censored on speaking about climate change

 Censored: Australian scientists say suppression of environment research is getting worse
Survey finds that many researchers are banned from speaking about their work or have had their research altered to downplay risks.  Nature ,
Dyani Lewis, 22 Sept 20,   Environmental scientists in Australia say that they are under increasing pressure from their employers to downplay research findings or avoid communicating them at all. More than half of the respondents to an online survey thought that constraints on speaking publicly on issues such as threatened species, urban development, mining, logging and climate change had become worse in recent years1.

The findings, published this month in Conservation Letters, reflect how politicized debates about environmental policy in Australia have become, says Saul Cunningham, an environmental scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra. “We need our publicly funded institutions to be more vocal in defending the importance of an independent voice based on research,” he says.

Australian scientists aren’t the only ones who have reported interference in science or pressure — particularly from government employers — to downplay research findings. Scientists in the United StatesCanada and Brazil have also

Scale of the problem

Two hundred and twenty scientists in Australia responded to the survey, which was organized by the Ecological Society of Australia and ran from October 2018 until February 2019. Some of the respondents worked in government; others worked in universities or in industry, such as environmental consultancies or non-governmental organizations.

The results show that government and industry scientists experienced greater constraints from their employers than did university staff. Among government employees, about half were prohibited from speaking publicly about their research, compared with 38% employed in industry and 9% of university staff. Three-quarters of those surveyed also reported self-censoring their work (see ‘Scientists silenced’)……….

One-third of government respondents and 30% of industry employees also reported that their employers or managers had modified their work to downplay or mislead the public on the environmental impacts of activities such as logging and mining. ……….

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Medical groups are urging Greg Hunt to include climate change in 10-year health strategy

Medical groups are astonished climate change isn’t mentioned in the consultation paper to develop a 10-year national preventative health strategy.
SBS, 22  Sept 20

A national preventative health strategy is useless if it doesn’t address the risks of climate change, experts have told the responsible minister.

Numerous health groups from across the country have signed a joint statement to Health Minister Greg Hunt calling for climate change to be a key part of the national preventative health strategy.

The strategy is currently being developed, with public feedback on its consultation paper open until the end of the month.

Climate change isn’t mentioned in the paper despite health groups telling the government about the risks it poses to health……….

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, health | Leave a comment

Julian Assange dragged from embassy “on the orders of the president”

Explosive evidence from Trump insider,Assange dragged from embassy “on the orders of the president”, WSWS, By Laura Tiernan and Thomas Scripps, 22 September 2020

Alt-right media personality Cassandra Fairbanks’ witness testimony was read out in court yesterday, providing evidence that Julian Assange’s April 2019 arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London was politically motivated and directed by United States President Donald Trump.

Fairbanks testified that Arthur Schwartz, a wealthy Republican Party donor and key Trump ally, had told her that Assange was taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy “on orders from the president.” The conversation between Schwartz and Fairbanks occurred in September 2019 and was recorded by Fairbanks.

Schwartz, a frequent visitor to the White House and “informal adviser” or “fixer” to Donald Trump Jr., told Fairbanks the president’s orders were conveyed via US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who brokered a deal with the Ecuadorian government for Assange’s removal. Grenell was appointed acting director of national intelligence by Trump in February this year, holding the position until May.

Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, spelled out the significance of Fairbanks’ disclosures, telling Judge Vanessa Baraitser they were, “evidence of the declared intentions of those at the top who planned the prosecution and the eviction from the embassy.”

Fairbanks, who writes for the pro-Trump Gateway Pundit, is a prominent Assange supporter who visited the WikiLeaks founder at the Embassy on two key occasions. Her evidence was read into proceedings yesterday afternoon unopposed, with Fitzgerald explaining, “My learned friend [James Lewis QC for the prosecution] reserves the right to say ‘because she’s a supporter of Julian Assange you must take that into account in weighing her evidence.’ But we say [her evidence] is true.”

Given her close connections to leading figures in the Trump administration’s fascistic entourage, Fairbanks is uniquely positioned to expose key aspects of the politically motivated vendetta against the WikiLeaks founder. Throughout the extradition hearing, lawyers for the US government have repeatedly claimed the charges against Assange under the Espionage Act are motivated by “criminal justice concerns” and are “not political.”

Fairbanks’ evidence shreds the official narrative of the Department of Justice (DoJ) that Assange was arrested on April 11, 2019 in relation to “hacking.” In a phone call with Schwartz on October 30, 2018, he made clear that Assange would be arrested as political payback for his role in “the Manning case,” i.e., the disclosure by US Army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning of US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq……………

Speaking outside the court, Assange’s father, John Shipton, said, “Today we had the prosecution trying to prove that water runs uphill and up is down. … The defence replied and conclusively demonstrated that it was David Leigh [who caused the unredacted cables to be released]. We can only conclude from the amount of time that the prosecution spent defending David Leigh that David Leigh is a state asset.”

At the end of the hearing’s morning session, an exchange between District Judge Vanessa Baraitser and the legal teams pointed to further restrictions being imposed on the defence’s ability to present its case.

Seizing on the delays caused by a potential COVID-19 outbreak in the first week of the hearing, Baraitser insisted that the defence prepare a timetable that allowed the hearing to “finish within two weeks.” When the defence replied that this would leave no time for closing submissions, she reacted enthusiastically to the suggestion of prosecution lawyer James Lewis QC that these could be submitted in written form and summarised in just half a day each for the prosecution and the defence. A final decision is forthcoming.

The hearing continues today………

September 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal | Leave a comment

Tesla big battery in South Australia delivers stunning windfall profits — RenewEconomy

Tesla big battery at Hornsdale delivers windfall profits after stepping in stabilise the grid this year, meaning total profits now nearly equal Neoen’s construction costs. The post Tesla big battery in South Australia delivers stunning windfall profits appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Tesla big battery in South Australia delivers stunning windfall profits — RenewEconomy

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s mining giants still tied to lobby groups blocking climate action — RenewEconomy

In the wake of Covid-19, the fossil fuel lobby has ramped up its anti-climate campaigns, and their ties to Australia’s companies and the Morrison government are stronger than ever. The post Australia’s mining giants still tied to lobby groups blocking climate action appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Australia’s mining giants still tied to lobby groups blocking climate action — RenewEconomy

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

September 23 Energy News — geoharvey

Science and Technology: ¶ “Everything You Need To Know About Tesla’s New 4680 Battery Cell” • Tesla didn’t hold back at Battery Day, announcing a new tabless 4680 cell form factor. The battery has increasee energy density, thermal characteristics similar to smaller cells, improved the power-to-weight ratio, and lower cost, with its manufacturing streamlined. [CleanTechnica] […]

September 23 Energy News — geoharvey

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yates Electrical to develop 20MW of small-scale solar farms in new partnership — RenewEconomy

Starting with 4MW in Renmark and 2MW in Bowmans, YES Group inks deal with Sustainable Energy Infrastructure to build 20MW of small solar farms across S.A. and Victoria. The post Yates Electrical to develop 20MW of small-scale solar farms in new partnership appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Yates Electrical to develop 20MW of small-scale solar farms in new partnership — RenewEconomy

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Groundhog Day: Coalition’s hostility to renewables barely shifted since Howard era — RenewEconomy

Culture wars, lies about targets and baselines, support for fossil fuels and naked hostility to renewables: What has changed for the Coalition since 2004? The post Groundhog Day: Coalition’s hostility to renewables barely shifted since Howard era appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Groundhog Day: Coalition’s hostility to renewables barely shifted since Howard era — RenewEconomy

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s first big solar battery discovers highs and lows of energy market — RenewEconomy

Gannawarra battery has made money and provided valuable services to the grid, and also discovered some potential problems, such as hefty network charges and limitations of market rules. The post Australia’s first big solar battery discovers highs and lows of energy market appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Australia’s first big solar battery discovers highs and lows of energy market — RenewEconomy

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Morrison’s gas push isn’t about energy security, it’s about ideology at any cost — RenewEconomy

Experts say a wave of cheap, renewable energy will wipe away the need for new gas fields, pipelines and power stations. Their arguments make sense. The post Morrison’s gas push isn’t about energy security, it’s about ideology at any cost appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Morrison’s gas push isn’t about energy security, it’s about ideology at any cost — RenewEconomy

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment