Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government is wrong to boycott UN conference on banning nuclear weapons

Australia should help ban the bomb, 25 Mar 17, The footage is mesmerising as much as it is terrifying. Enormous explosions, wild enough to blow the clouds away, a churning blast wave across the earth as a giant mushroom of dust and smoke slowly rises above. This display of the destructive power of nuclear weapons – seen in newly declassified film of early atomic tests from 1945 and 1962, and now released online – should be seen as a stark warning. Such weapons must never again be used in anger.

The only true guarantee to save humanity from its own destructive ability is to completely rid the world of nuclear weapons stockpiles. Much as we have become inured to the danger over the years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the heightened tension of the Cold War, there is no managing this risk. Too many atomic bombs remain ready to fire at a moment’s notice; there are too many chances for human error that would see a catastrophic mistake.

At a time when the temperament of many leaders is rightly questioned, this should be the time to redouble efforts for nuclear disarmament, rather than trust the luck of the last 70 years will hold.

In that spirit, on Monday, negotiations will commence in New York for a new treaty that would outlaw nuclear weapons – not regulate, but ban the bomb outright. More than 120 countries have pledged to participate. Regrettably, however, Australia is not among them.

The Turnbull government has decided to stand apart from the negotiations believing  that the proposed treaty is not “practical”.

The declared nuclear-armed powers, the US, Russia, France, Britain and China, have refused to participate,  nor will the rogue nuclear states, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, who have developed atomic weapons in the face of international law.

But a proposed ban on nuclear weapons offers the chance for the rest of the world to declare, forthrightly, that it has tired of living under the ever-present threat of annihilation.

Australia’s boycott sends a poor signal about this nation’s commitment to disarmament, especially as a crucial player in the nuclear industry as a supplier of uranium. Such a treaty would carry moral force, to pressure the nuclear-armed powers to fulfil the obligations of what the government presumably does see as a practical agreement, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The genius of that document was to strike a grand bargain between the nuclear-armed countries and the rest of the world; forgo the pursuit of the bomb, and in turn, the nuclear powers agreed to eliminate their own over time. For nations such as Australia, this swayed a decision not to pursue an independent nuclear weapon capacity.

The non-proliferation treaty has been extraordinarily successful, in that no signatory (other than North Korea, who withdrew as a party to the treaty) has developed a nuclear weapon. But the pledge by the nuclear powers to work towards disarmament has been fitful at best and at worst cynical, as the trend appears to be the opposite.

Under the guise of a modernisation program, the United States is actually increasing the destructive yield of its nuclear arsenal, while Donald Trump complains about past disarmament deals with Russia. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has belligerently pushed the flight path of Russia’s strategic bombers closer to European nations in blatant provocation.

The conundrum to solve has always been one of trust. How can anyone be sure that a country would truly surrender its nuclear weapons, and who will have the faith to move first? Australian defence planners may feel a need to rely on the nuclear arsenal of its US ally for deterrence, but that deterrence is only required as long as nuclear weapons exist.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Breitbart media calls Great Barrier Reef bleaching “fake news”

Breitbart’s James Delingpole says reef bleaching is ‘fake news’, hits peak denial.more Graham Readfearn  A claim like this takes lashings of chutzpah, blinkers the size of Trump’s hairspray bill and more hubris than you can shake a branch of dead coral at   24 March 2017 

It takes a very special person to label the photographed, documented, filmed and studied phenomenon of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef“fake news”.

You need lashings of chutzpah, blinkers the size of Donald Trump’s hairspray bill and more hubris than you can shake a branch of dead coral at.

It also helps if you can hide inside the bubble of the hyper-partisan Breitbart media outlet, whose former boss is the US president’s chief strategist.

So our special person is the British journalist James Delingpole who, when he’s not denying the impacts of coral bleaching, is denying the science of human-caused climate change, which he says is “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

Delingpole was offended this week by an editorial in the Washington Post that read: “Humans are killing the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, and there’s nothing Australians on their own can do about it. We are all responsible.”

Delingpole wrote:

Like the thriving polar bear, like the recovering ice caps, like the doing-just-fine Pacific islands, the Great Barrier Reef has become a totem for the liberal-left not because it’s in any kind of danger but because it’s big and famous and photogenic and lots and lots of people would be really sad if it disappeared. But it’s not going to disappear. That’s just a #fakenews lie designed to promote the climate alarmist agenda.

Now before we go on, let’s deal with some language here.

When we talk about the reef dying, what we are talking about are the corals that form the reef’s structure – the things that when in a good state of health can be splendorous enough to support about 69,000 jobs in Queensland and add about $6bn to Australia’s economy every year.

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered mass coral bleaching three times – in 1998, 2002 and 2016 – with a fourth episode now unfolding. The cause is increasing ocean temperatures.

“Is the Great Barrier Reef dying due to climate change caused by man’s selfishness and greed?” asks Delingpole, before giving a long list of people and groups who he thinks will answer yes, including “the Guardian” and “any marine biologist”.

“Have they been out there personally – as I have – to check. No of course not,” says Delingpole.

Yes. James Delingpole has been out there “personally” to check, but all those other people haven’t. He doesn’t say when he went but he has written about one trip before. It was back in late April 2012. Everything was fine, he said, based on that one visit. I can’t find any times when he has mentioned another trip since.

So here’s the rhetorical question – one that I can barely believe I’m asking, even rhetorically.

Why should there not be equivalence between Delingpole’s single trip to the reef (apparently taken 10 years after a previous severe case of bleaching and four years before the one that followed) at one spot on a reef system that spans the size of Italy [takes breath] and the observations of scientists from multiple institutions diving at 150 different locations to verify observations taken by even more scientists in low-flying aircraft traversing the entire length of the reef?

I mean, come on? Why can those two things – Delingpole making a boat trip with mates and a coordinated and exhaustive scientific monitoring and data-gathering exercise – not be the same?

So it seems we are now at a stage where absolutely nothing is real unless you have seen it for yourself, so you can dismiss all of the photographs and video footage of bleached and dead coral, the testimony of countless marine biologists (who, we apparently also have to point out, have been to the reef ) and the observations made by the government agency that manages the reef.

Senator Pauline Hanson and her One Nation climate science-denying colleagues tried to pull a similar stunt last year by taking a dive on a part of the reef that had escaped bleaching and then claiming this as proof that everything was OK everywhere else…….

Government ministers at federal and state levels, of both political stripes, claim they want to protect the reef.

They are running this protection racket, somehow, by continuing to support plans for a coalmine that will be the biggest in the country’s history.

That’s some more hubris right there.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, media, Queensland | Leave a comment

Radioactive soil dumped at Mary Kathleen mine

Cabinet papers: Radioactive soil from UQ dumped at Mary Kathleen mine  January 1, 2017  A HUGE amount of radioactive soil – enough to top-dress a football oval – from the University of Queensland was dumped in the disused Mary Kathleen open-cut uranium mine north of Mount Isa in June 1986 with the approval of the Bjelke-Petersen government.

Cabinet papers released today after 30 years reveal a submission in August 1986 from then mines minister Ivan Gibbs, outlining how 330 cubic metres of contaminated soil was trucked to the mine site and unloaded into the water.

The submission said that in 1984, the UQ Experimental Mine at Indooroopilly was found to have radioactive material from uranium ore samples taken at the Anderson Lode (14km west of Mount Isa).

“Officers of the Health Department carried out a detailed survey of the site and concluded that the pilot plant tailings had caused contamination of the soil under and around the stockpile area, the total mass of contaminated material required to be moved amounting to about 330 cubic metres,” Gibbs’ submission said.

“Discussions were held with officers of my department to identify a suitable site for disposal of the material and I approved for it to be dumped into the abandoned open cut.

“Expert advice has been received that seepage will not take place from the open cut to the surrounding rocks, and studies have shown that the water level in the open cut will stabilise at least 40m below the overflow level.’’

Gibbs said the soil was classed “low specific activity material’’ under the code of practice for the safe transport of radioactive substances. A convoy of trucks transported the soil to the open-cut mine and dumped it below water level. “The access ramp was sealed with large rocks,’’ Gibbs said. “Each truck was washed down and checked for zero radioactive contamination.”

The submission stated that the government was satisfied that material in the abandoned mine would not have any effect on surface or groundwater in the area.

Gibbs said local National Party MP Bob Katter and Mount Isa mayor Tony McGrady objected to the disposal and sought assurances that no more soil would be dumped there.

Gibbs said: “Although it is highly unlikely that the cost of transporting any radioactive material to Mary Kathleen would be justified in future, the possibility of using the abandoned open cut for special cases should not be totally excluded.’’

March 27, 2017 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Matt Canavan wants $1b for Adani coal, and cut environmental groups’ charity status

Canavan wants $1b for Adani, limits to green tax lurks, AFR, 26 Mar 17,  Resources Minister Matt Canavan says it is time for the government to consider restricting the tax-deductible status of politically active green groups………

Stop Bob Brown

The Turnbull government is still considering whether the tax-deductibility of environmental groups should be administered by the Australian Taxation Office instead of the Register of Environmental Organisations and no less than 25 per cent of green group donations should be spent on environmental remediation rather than protests, after a House of Representatives inquiry reporting last May.

The Stop Adani Alliance, a collection of 13 green groups headed by former Greens leader Bob Brown, came to Parliament House last week calling for more scrutiny of a proposed $1 billion taxpayer-funded loan to build a railway line for the Adani Carmichael coal mine in North Queensland.

Senator Canavan told The Australian Financial Review the main opposition to the Adani mine came from “fly-in, fly-out” protesters who did not live in the region……..

$1b for Adani

 There is growing scrutiny of the government agency, the North Australia Infrastructure Facility, responsible for assessing the proposed $1 billion taxpayer loan to Adani and championed by Senator Canavan and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

The agency was established in mid-2016 to disburse a mammoth $5 billion in taxpayer loans but the details of the 47 proposals being considered, and five close to being finalised have been kept secret, raising questions about the agency’s transparency…….

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australian Greens call for an independent energy authority – Renew Australia

Greens push for electricity crisis to be taken out of politicians’ hands, The Age Adam Morton , 25 Mar 17, 

The Greens are pushing for a new public authority to take responsibility for Australia’s beleaguered electricity system out of politicians’ hands.

It follows several organisations, including energy company Origin, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and ClimateWorks, calling for an independent body, similar to the Reserve Bank, to manage what has been described as an energy crisis.

Focus on the future of the electricity system has heightened in the lead-up to the closure this week of Hazelwood, Australia’s oldest and most emissions-intensive power plant, which when fully operational had the capacity to deliver about a quarter of Victoria’s electricity.

The Greens will introduce legislation in the Senate to create what it calls Renew Australia, which it says can short-circuit a stand-off between the federal and state governments by taking responsibility for the transition to a clean electricity supply……

Energy companies, business groups, unions, charities, scientists and environmentalists have called for a bipartisan national plan, including an emissions intensity scheme, to drive a smooth change as greenhouse gas emissions are cut.

The Snowy Hydro Scheme, owned by the NSW, Victorian and federal governments, is the latest to back this sort of scheme. The federal government has rejected this sort of scheme.

Not all the above groups would endorse the Greens’ model, which requires that at least 90 per cent of energy is renewable by 2030, expands the national renewable energy target and introduces a emissions intensity standard that sets out a timetable for the closure of coal-fired power plants.

The authority would cost $500 million and would be expected to leverage $5 billion of energy construction in four years. The Greens also want to create a $250 million clean energy transition fund to help coal communities as plants close and change electricity market rules to make it encourage large-scale battery storage…….

In a submission to an energy security review by chief scientist Alan Finkel, ClimateWorks – a research body affiliated with Monash University – called for an independent statutory body to take over regulatory responsibilities from the COAG Energy Council, which is made up of federal and state energy ministers.

Origin backed the creation of a body similar to the Reserve Bank to manage the shift to lower emissions.

The ACTU called for the introduction of an Energy Transition Authority. Its responsibilities would include managing a planned closure of coal plants and an industry-wide scheme that allowed retrenched coal workers to get jobs at other power stations.

This model has been used at Hazelwood, where some workers will transfer to other Latrobe Valley generators.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | 1 Comment

Success of Australia’s Clean Energy Program

Clean energy grant companies see profits climb, says Department of Industry chief economist, The Age,  Eryk Bagshaw, 26 Mar 17,  “……..a new report from the Department of Industry’s Office of the Chief Economist has found the $1.2 billion Clean Technology Program saw not only gains for Coca Cola, but 547 other projects across Australia, with a 10 per cent reduction in manufacturing emissions.

“Both employment and turnover among these firms grew about 25 per cent faster than similar firms without Clean Tech grants,” the report’s author economist Sasan Bakhtiari found. “Exports grew about 50 per cent faster, but only for those Clean Tech firms already exporting.”

In Gunnedah the local leather processing site replaced lighting, compressed air and water heating systems to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of the facility by 13 per cent and save $95,000 in energy costs per year, while new trout smoking equipment at the Snowy Mountain Trout Farm in Blowering Dam reduced carbon emissions by 84 per cent and banked yearly savings of $3000 in energy costs.

“The majority of grants went to fully Australian-owned firms,” said Dr Bakhtiari. “The program seems to have offered a lifeline to firms that [were performing badly] that eventually enabled them to turn around and start growing jobs. ……

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, efficiency | Leave a comment

Australian Liberals seeking Asian investment for new coal-fired power stations


Resources Minister Matt Canavan is fast-tracking the plan amid a growing fight with Labor and the Greens over support for coal power, as cabinet ministers prepare to decide how to encourage big investors into the market.

Senator Canavan told The Australian there was a “high ­degree of interest” from Asia helping to develop the new power station in northern Queensland, arguing that finance from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund would be needed to give the project long-term certainty…….

As the imminent close of the ageing Hazelwood power station reignites debate about electricity shortages and price spikes, Labor climate change spokesman Mark Butler has declared there is no support from industry to build new coal-fired power stations in Australia.

The Australian Energy ­Council, which represents companies supplying electricity to 10 million homes, warns it has become “very difficult” to finance coal-fired power stations when investors are ramping up wind and solar projects as well as gas generators that provide baseload power with lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

But the government is determined to keep the coal proposal on the agenda by raising the prospect of funding from the northern Australia fund, which is also a potential source of support for the controversial coalmine planned for central Queensland by Indian company Adani.

Senator Canavan said there was “no doubt” of the rudimentary economic and commercial case for a coal-fired power station in northern Queensland but that the government’s challenge was to set the energy market rules to offer certainty…..

A Senate inquiry led by a Labor and Greens majority last year argued for an “orderly retirement” of the nation’s coal-fired power stations but the government believes there is strong support in northern Queensland for a new coal project at a time of rising electricity price

Senator Canavan is examining options for a new power station near the Adani coalmine in the Galilee Basin, in Collinsville, to add to an existing power station or in Gladstone near an existing power station and taking advantage of transmission lines that are already in place.

The Resources Minister, who is also the Minister for Northern Australia and oversees the infrastructure fund, rejected suggestions that the help for a coal-fired power station would be a “subsidy” that meddled with the market….

Mr Butler is warning against the use of taxpayer funds for the rail line to the Adani mine or a new power station, claiming the long-term future for coal is one of decline.

“This is something the coal industry needs to deal with. We’ve said as a federal Labor Party we will not support taxpayers’ money going in to support infrastructure or pay for infrastructure around this (Adani) mine,” he said last week.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Banks won’t back coal plants

This energy may be clean but banks won’t back coal-fired plants, THE AUSTRALIAN, 26 Mar 17 “…..It is no wonder that the government is looking at ways to allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in “clean coal”-fired power stations because the banks and the local financial ­sector are unlikely to do so.

The simple reason for this is that investments in such technologies are too risky for any self-interested bank credit officer to give any proposed clean-coal ­project the thumbs up…..

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s Geoff Summerhayes effectively put banks and other financial institutions on notice that he now ­expects them to take into account “transition” climate risks……

offshore banks would face the same risk hurdles as local banks…

What other forms of funding might be available for a clean coal plant? Offshore banks are a possibility and they have backed syndicates investing in local infra­structure, particularly Chinese and Indian banks. The State Bank of India was slated as a potential provider of a $1bn loan for the Adani coalmine in Queensland, but prospects of that loan being approved dimmed when Reuters reported a bank source as saying “the credit guys are not comfortable with the project”.

This is a salient reminder that offshore banks would face the same risk hurdles as local banks.

Another possibility is that ­private sector superannuation funds or the federal government’s ­Future Fund could provide backing. But they need to confront the big stick from APRA or the Australian Securities & Investments Commission about the need to take into account climate change and associated sovereign risk.

That seems to leave only the government to finance any such projects and, hence, the idea of changing the Clean Energy ­Finance Corporation legislation to allow it to invest in clean coal.

But let’s take stock here: haven’t we just imposed a whole swag of new regulations on banks to stop them from getting involved in lending that is too risky? If the risks around clean coal are too daunting for those irritating banks to take on, why on earth would the taxpayer do so?

Taking into account all of these risks, coupled with the difficulty in offsetting them via the market or through portfolio diversification, and the multitude of uncertainties surrounding any proposals for a clean-coal generator, we should assume that no bank funding will be forthcoming for clean coal- fired power stations.

Rob Henderson is a policy and markets economist and formerly chief economist (markets) with National Australia Bank.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia isolated on UN nuclear treaty boycott

Protest outside Parliament House, Canberra, Tuesday 28th March at 8am

On Monday 27th March, the United Nations will begin the first of two sessions to negotiate a legally binding instrument for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. This conference was launched by a resolution at October’s UN General Assembly, with support from 123 nations.

Australia announced it will boycott the negotiations despite being obliged by Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament in good faith. The Government believes that nuclear weapons should remain an Australian defence option, via the policy of US weapons based ‘extended nuclear deterrence’. This contrasts to strong support for a ban amongst almost all neighbouring countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific.

Protestors will gather outside Parliament at 8am on Tuesday March 28 to support a ban treaty. Speakers will include Senator Lisa Singh, Senator Scott Ludlam and Bishop Pat Power.

The ban treaty negotiations have arisen from a series of conferences examining the devastating and long-term impacts of any nuclear weapon detonation. A critical mass of nations is now pursuing a new legal instrument to outlaw nuclear weapons, creating a global stigma on their production, stockpiling, possession, use and threat of use.

The US Government has pressured its allies not to participate in the negotiations over concerns of the impact a ban will have on the ability to plan for nuclear war. The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, will deliver a statement outside the General Assembly Hall as ban negotiations kick off on Monday.

A new poll* shows that 74% of Australians want the Government to support the UN ban negotiations, while only 10% agree with the boycott.

The major parties are divided on the issue, with the ALP platform firmly supporting “the negotiation of a global treaty banning [nuclear] weapons”. Anthony Albanese MP and Senator Lisa Singh have introduced motions in both chambers urging the Government to participate in the ban negotiations.

Indigenous nuclear test survivor Sue Coleman-Haseldine is in New York to speak at the negotiating conference on the impact of nuclear weapons testing. “The new treaty should make sure that countries have to look after the needs of impacted people. To look after us is also to look after our land,” she said.

“In a time of global insecurity, our world urgently needs this new action plan for pursuing nuclear disarmament – and Australia should embrace it,” said ICAN’s Outreach Coordinator, Gem Romuld.  “The ban negotiations are modelled on comparable bans on chemical and biological weapons and landmines. This is a timely and historic opportunity to make nuclear weapons illegal along with the other weapons of mass destruction”.

“Boycotting the ban talks flies in the face of Australia’s international obligations and casts doubt on our commitment to the UN. Australia must choose the right side of history and join the ban negotiations without delay”.

March 25, 2017 Posted by | ACTION, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Adani mine is this generation’s Franklin River. People power can stop it~ Bob Brown
‘This is the environmental issue of our times and the Great Barrier Reef is at stake. But people standing up for what they believe in has unbeatable power’  24 March 2017:

” … The Adani corporation’s dirty coalmine is an impending disaster with effects which will reach far beyond Australia.
“Everywhere I go people ask me about it.  They cannot believe that, at a time when we should be drastically cutting the pollution which drives global warming, Australia’s authorities would even consider building the world’s biggest export coalmine.

“Lending Mr Adani, a billionaire, a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money to carry this project into reality would be the political mistake of the decade.  The Turnbull government would be literally paying Adani
to ride roughshod over Indigenous rights, to contaminate the groundwater of the Galilee Basin, to consign threatened species to the dustbin of history and to increase the already disastrous impact of coral death worldwide. … “

March 25, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australian government releases rather unsatisfactory climate review, amid resignations of key advisors

Submissions on the paper close at 5pm AEST on 5 May 2017

Coalition sets climate parameters, as two more quit key advisory body, REneweconomy, By  on 24 March 2017, Stage one of the federal government’s 2017 review of climate change policies is finally underway, with the release on Friday of a 40-page discussion paper for public consultation.

The Coalition’s climate review, announced by the Turnbull government in December 2016 and due for completion by the end of the year, was seen by some – at the time – as a positive development; an opportunity for it to get serious about its climate change policy, both current and future.

But the publication of the discussion paper – almost two months behind schedule and amid claims from the federal government’s own Climate Change Authority that it “doesn’t take the issue seriously” – does not immediately inspire confidence. Continue reading

March 25, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Fossil fuel industry screwed Australians: mainstream media helped them

How the fossil fuel industry has screwed energy consumers, REneweconomy, By  on 24 March 2017  As we absorb the hysterical claims – in the ABC, Fairfax, the Murdoch media and commercial TV – about the prospect of imminent power shortages, let’s just cast our eyes back just two and a half years when the fossil fuel industry was predicting …. wait for it …. an unprecedented supply glut.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator at the time, there would be no need for any new generation for up to 10 years in south-eastern Australia, because of what was then described as that “unprecedented glut”.

“What we’re saying is that is that there’s an oversupply of generation capacity at present,” an AEMO spokesman, Joe Adamo, told the ABC at the time. And you can see that from those forecasts there. [graph on original]

The fossil fuel industry and big business seized on those forecasts to argue forcefully that the renewable energy target should be heavily cut, if not scrapped.

The Abbott government needed no encouragement, and despite being foiled by the Senate in its attempts to kill it entirely, it did succeed in cutting the RET, and sparking an investment drought that lasted from 2013 until the end of last year.

As Alan Pears and David Leitch each wrote in separate pieces on Thursday, Australian consumers and businesses are now paying the price for that act of policy vandalism, and the huge delays in investment in renewable energy that occurred thanks to the Abbott government.

Leitch puts the extra cost – in terms of wholesale electricity prices – at more than $11 billion. And soon enough, that will filter through to retail costs, already surging out of control according to a recent study by the Grattan Institute (and many others)……

Fast forward to now, and even though there has been no increase in demand, the fossil fuel industry is revelling in unprecedented profits, as spot and future price soar across the nation – particularly in the coal states.

Because of the lack of competition that could have been introduced if the RET policy was held steady,  the incumbent generators can now use their market power to artificially inflate prices, and somehow convince mainstream media and conservative politicians that it is all the fault of wind and solar.

“It looks like the generators succeeded, as expected, in delaying investment until they could enjoy a price bonanza as they withdraw faster than replacement can get underway now,” says one senior executive, who declined to be named.

Spark Infrastructure, which runs two of the three networks in Victoria, and the only network in South Australia, was not so shy, writing in its submission to the Finkel Review that fossil fuel generators were deliberately dealing in “scarcity” to push up prices.

They did this, it said, by deliberately withdrawing capacity at critical times…….

The South Australian government, to its credit, has decided to try and tackle this nonsense by introducing an “energy supply target”, which seems deliberately calibrated to ensure that the fossil fuel industry does not shut down more capacity, and create more scarcity………

March 25, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, media | Leave a comment

The Waubra anti-wind power campaign still lives!

Can wind turbines make you sick? Debate divides tiny Victorian town of Waubra, ABC Radio, PM  By Danny Tran, 24 Mar 17, In the sleepy Victorian town of Waubra, a bitter feud over wind power is driving a wedge between neighbours and friends.

Key points:

  • There are 79 wind farms in Australia and more than 2,000 turbines producing 5 per cent of the nation’s electricity
  • Waubra’s own wind farm is one of the largest in Australia, with 128 turbines on the properties of 37 farmers
  • Wind turbine syndrome describes symptoms a small number of people claim arise from living near wind farms

About two hours north-west of Melbourne, Waubra produces enough electricity from its wind turbines to power two of Victoria’s largest regional cities.

But after almost a decade of operating, wind power remains a painful issue in the town, which is only home to about 500 people.

Waubra is so synonymous with wind power that opponents have christened the so-called illness that some claim comes with living near turbines “Waubra disease”.

The town might be at loggerheads over whether wind can make you sick, but what does the science say?

What is wind turbine syndrome?

Waubra disease, better known as wind turbine syndrome, describes a range of symptoms a small number of people claim arise from living near wind farms, ranging from headaches to nausea.

It was first coined in 2009 by New York paediatrician Dr Nina Pierpont, who claimed wind turbines disrupted the inner-ear through inaudible, low-frequency vibrations.

The claims were rubbished by science and health bodies across the world, but anti-wind power groups seized on Dr Pierpont’s claims, which quickly spread to Australia.

Experts dismiss wind turbine syndrome as the result of a “nocebo” effect, where negative expectations of symptoms can amplify an actual negative effect — the opposite of a placebo.

But that hasn’t stopped Waubra locals from taking a side………

the Australian Medical Association’s Victorian president, Dr Lorraine Barker, said that anxiety over being near wind turbines can cause symptoms of its own.

“There is no indication that infrasound, for instance, could induce the symptoms … [but] anxiety certainly can,” Dr Barker said.

“Noises that are continuous in the background can be irritating, so that level of irritation may affect someone if they are standing very close to a wind turbine.

“However, infrasound, or the sound that is beyond the detection of the human ear, is not believed to cause harm to humans.”

March 25, 2017 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Adnyamantha Aboriginal elder considering legal action against federal government’s proposed nuclear waste dump

Aboriginal Elder Tony Clark concerned with nuclear waste facility, Transcontinental, Matt Carcich@MattCarcich 23 Mar 2017, Adnyamantha and Kujani Traditional Elder Tony Clark says if the federal government’s proposed nuclear waste facility at Barndioota continues to the next stage, a federal court legal intervention may take place.

Mr Clark has previously led the charge of the Kujani people’s Federal Court win against the federal government’s proposed nuclear waste facility for Woomera in 2004.

The potential intervention would come from a group of Adnyamantha and Kujani people who are concerned the proposed facility holds a significant risk to the survival of the Pungu Purrungha song line.

The songline travels across a body of water more than 70 kilometres in length from Hawker to Lake Torrens, and is an important piece of local Aboriginal history.

It’s also believed to be at least 85,000 years old.

Mr Clark said he’s opposed to the facility and that he and others are not afraid of taking potential legal action. “If they proceed to the next step on our country … then we would look towards seeking legal intervention in the federal courts,” he said.

The proposed site,130 kilometres north of Port Augusta, will store low-level and some intermediate-level nuclear waste. The low level purpose-built repository would be about the size of four Olympic size swimming pools with a 100 hectare buffer on the 25,000 hectare property.

Designs have not been prepared for the national repository but it will be modelled on above-ground storage and disposal facilities overseas……

Mr Clark said the ‘cultural and spiritual well-being’ of the Adnyamantha people is at risk if the facility proceeds, and he believes section 47 of the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act (1989) plays an important role in the facility’s future.

The act states an Aboriginal person may enter, travel across or stay on pastoral land for the purpose of following the traditional pursuits of the Aboriginal people.

Mr Clark said the Adnyamantha people’s cultural and spiritual well-being may be at risk if they can’t access the Pungu Purrungha song line and that this section shows no Pastoralist can stop Aboriginal people accessing a traditional site like the Pungu Purrungha song line.

“Our cultural and spiritual well-being is at risk, along with our physical contact to the land under various acts of parliament, including section 47 of the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act (1989).”

A Spokesperson for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said the (federal) government has said it will deliver a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility in a centralised, purpose-built repository.

“The government has not formed a view that it should be located in Barndioota,” the spokesperson said….. 

March 24, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Opposition to nuclear, South Australia | Leave a comment

Stop Adani Alliance launching by former Greens leader Bob Brown

Former Greens leader Bob Brown to launch alliance to oppose Adani coalmine The Stop Adani Alliance says north Queensland coalmine would ‘fuel catastrophic climate change’, Guardian, , 22 Mar 17, The former Greens leader Bob Brown will launch a new alliance of 13 environmental groups opposed to Adani’s Carmichael coalmine on Wednesday in Canberra.

The Stop Adani Alliance will lobby against the coalmine in northern Queensland, citing new polling that shows three-quarters of Australians oppose subsidies for the mine when told the government plans to loan its owners $1bn.

The alliance’s declaration argues the mine will “fuel catastrophic climate change” because burning 2.3bn tonnes of coal from the mine over 60 years of operation would create 4.6bn tonnes of carbon dioxide. It states the project would “trash Indigenous rights”, citing the fact Adani does not have the consent of the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

The alliance’s members include the Bob Brown Foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation,, Get Up, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

The alliance will call for:

 Urgent and serious action to cut carbon pollution;
  • A complete withdrawal of the Adani Carmichael mine, rail and port project;
  • A ban on new coalmines and expansions in Australia; and
  • An end to public subsidies for polluting projects.

Brown said the groups were “drawing a line in the sand with Adani, just as previous generations did with the Franklin River dam”, a campaign of which he was a leader.

“Adani’s coalmine will be the most dangerous in our history, ramping up global carbon pollution precisely when emissions need to be drastically cut,” he said.

Brown will be joined at the launch in Canberra by alliance spokesman and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Geoff Cousins, and Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network codirector Amelia Telford.

According to a new ReachTel poll taken on 14 March, 74.8% of voters agree that “Adani should fund its own project” rather than rely on a proposed $1bn loan from the federal government.

The poll replicates results in January that showed three-quarters of respondents were opposed to loaning $1bn for a train line to the Adani coalmine.

The government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund granted Adani “conditional approval” for a $1bn loan in December 2016.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment