Australian news, and some related international items

Coalition to divert renewable energy funding away from wind and solar

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, solar, wind | Leave a comment

In tropical areas, increasing heat and humidity will make life almost unbearable

These impacts will be stronger in the seasonally wet tropics (such as the Northern Territory of Australia), where more extreme warming is expected than in the equatorial zone.

Predictions for Darwin, in northern Australia, suggest an increase in days with temperatures above 35℃ from 11 days a year in 2015 to an average of 43 days under the mid-range emission scenario (IPCC’s RCP4.5 scenario) by 2030 and an average of 111 (range 54-211) days by 2090. Under the higher emission scenario (IPCC’s RCP8.5), an average of 265 days above 35℃ could be reached by 2090.

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australian government never intended to follow the advice of the review on environmental law

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

‘Gas-led recovery’ may actually deter energy investment: Experts

September 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

South Australian Labor calls on the Federal Government to halt its plans to dump nuclear waste at Kimba.

SUSAN CLOSE MP Shadow Minister for Environment and Water EDDIE HUGHES MP Member for Giles 15 Sept 20, 
Kimba site selection process flawed, waste dump plans must be scrapped
South Australian Labor is calling on the Federal Government to halt its plans to dump nuclear waste at Kimba. The  The decision follows the release of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee report on the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020.
The report found there was a deliberate attempt to remove judicial review rights from the Barngarla people and the farming community of the Kimba area.
In June this year, the Federal Opposition voted against this legislation in the House of Representatives.

SA Labor has consistently expressed its concerns about the site selection process and the lack of consultation with native title holders. Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Environment Susan Close

This was a dreadful process from start to finish, resulting in fractures within the local community over the dump.
The SA ALP has committed to traditional owners having a right of veto over any nuclear waste sites, yet the federal government has shown no respect to the local Aboriginal people.
Quotes attributable to Member for Giles Eddie Hughes

This report clearly reflects that any mediation undertaken with the Barngarla people did not have any legal or political weight.
This has been a very divisive process from the beginning due to individual land owners nominating the sites.
Instead of rushing this quick fix by dumping in SA, the federal government should do the work on a long-term plan for the management of nuclear waste in Australia.
We clearly have an obligation to manage our domestic nuclear waste in a responsible way for the long term. This proposal falls far short of meeting that obligation.

September 15, 2020 Posted by | Federal nuclear waste dump, politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Observations on the Senate Radioactive Waste Inquiry Report

Key messages:

  • Report has failed to provide a compelling case for the need for the proposed changes and the legal override
  • The fact that there are multiple responses and findings highlights there is no broad political consensus – this mirrors that there is no broad community support
  • This report does not provide certainty for the project – it remains unproven, unwelcome and this unfinished business will remain the focus of active contest.

The majority report – Coalition (and I presume but am not certain, some Labor members) predictably recommend the legislation be advanced.

Jenny McAllister – (Labor) has an individual dissenting report that changing the process ‘should not proceed at this time’

Rex Patrick – Independent – has a dissenting report stating the process has been flawed and improper and the waste should go to Woomera

The Greens – have a dissenting report that the legislation should not be advanced and that an inquiry into alternative management options and a consultation with transport corridor communities take place.

The majority reports recommends that the legislation be advanced – with the sop that the department and Barngarla ‘discuss issues and find a pathway for on-going consultation’, including through an independent mediator. These folks are graduates in the school that no doesn’t mean no – it means not yet.

September 15, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Not welcome, not needed: Community alliance united in response to divided Senate report on Kimba radioactive waste plan

  September 15, 2020 ‒   Federal government plans to transport, dump and store radioactive waste in South Australia are not needed, not welcome and will be actively contested says the South Australian community based No Dump Alliance.

This statement comes in response to a new Senate report into plans to change the federal radioactive waste laws by removing the community’s right of legal review.

The government controlled Senate Committee report had multiple conflicting findings which highlights the lack of political consensus. The report does not present a compelling case for the proposed changes including the legal override. In the three minority reports Committee members have raised serious concerns and opposition including over the heavy handed legal exclusion, the denial of Aboriginal and wider community rights and protections and the lack of proven need for the planned national facility.

“In the 21st Century it is unacceptable to try and airbrush away Aboriginal peoples concern over nuclear risks”, said NDA spokesperson Karina Lester. “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 federal plan has attracted many critics as the government has failed to demonstrate that moving waste to Kimba is either necessary or responsible.

“This plan is a clear example of government overreach,” said NDA spokesperson and state secretary of the Maritime Union Jamie Newlyn. “South Australian communities have not had any say in the controversial plan but would face increased radioactive transport risks. The plan is deeply deficient and the process is fatally flawed”.

NDA member groups have committed to escalate their efforts around the Kimba waste push and will work against the federal government’s move to reduce community and environment protections in the Senate.

“We have a long, proud and united history of overturning radioactive waste plans in SA,” said Karina Lester. “From the senior desert law women the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta challenging Federal waste dump plans in the late 90’s and early 2000’s to the Scarce Royal Commission (2015-2017) our community has taken action to protect and stand up for our state. The federal government – and the Marshall government – should be under no illusions – this will be opposed”.

September 15, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Critical mass in Canberra puts nuclear dump in doubt

September 15, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Senate inquiry recommends passing nuclear waste site at Napandee, South Australia

Senate inquiry recommends passing nuclear waste site at Napandee, South Australia, ABC North and West SA, By Gary-Jon Lysaght and Gabriella Marchant

Posted 2hhours ago, updated 1hhour ago  The Senate Economics Committee has recommended that Parliament pass legislation that would make Napandee, a farm on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, the site for a low and medium-level nuclear waste facility……

Dissent in the ranks

While the committee as a whole recommended the amendments be passed, there were three MPs who opposed the decision — the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young, independent senator Rex Patrick and Labor senator Jenny McAllister.

“The proposed facility has not received the support of the relevant traditional owners, or of many other First Nations representatives in South Australia,” Ms McAllister wrote in the report.

“In particular, the process undertaken to assess community attitudes to the facility has been criticised as inadequate by the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation on the grounds that its members were excluded from participating in the community ballot commissioned to assess sentiment.”

But South Australian Labor senator Alex Gallacher, who is also on the committee, said Ms McAllister’s views did not represent the entire party.

“There’s a variety of views in the Labor party,” he said………

Mr Patrick said the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), a large defence testing arena in outback SA, should still be considered as a potential site.

“Defence creates an argument that says there is nowhere within the Woomera Prohibited Area you can put a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility,” he said.

“My report goes to all the areas within the WPA that have never been subject to any testing.”

Traditional owners ‘excluded from vote’

A community ballot was held at Kimba in 2019, which showed more than 60 per cent of the Kimba community supported the facility.

But the traditional owners of the region, the Barngarla, were not included in the vote, because it was limited to those living in the Kimba Council area.

Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation chairman Jason Bilney said the Senate should vote the bill down.

“If the Government would only include traditional owners as a whole from the start and let Barngarla be a part of the process,” he said.

“We were excluded from the vote.”

Mr Bilney said he was concerned the proposed legislation effectively removed citizens’ ability to challenge the Government’s selection of the site in the courts.

“They’ve announced the site, why can’t they just give a reason why they picked the site, and we all have the right to question why they picked it?” he said.

“What have they got to hide, now they want to go and take away the judicial review?”

September 15, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Dissent and anger: Senate divided over nuke dump push

 14 Sept 20  Four separate reports released today by the Senate committee investigating the Federal Government Bill to create a nuclear waste facility at Kimba shows deep divisions over whether the waste dump should proceed on agricultural land in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

“Not one, but three, separate dissenting reports shows a very divided Senate Committee,” said Craig Wilkins, Chief Executive of Conservation SA.

“This is on top of a contested community ballot, and fierce opposition from the Barngarla Traditional Owners.

“The community is split, and so is the Senate.

“This is completely at odds with Federal Government rhetoric of only proceeding with facility if there is clear majority community support.

The Inquiry into the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 has spawned four reports:  the Government majority report which predictably backs the facility and three dissenting reports which all strongly oppose – Senators Jenny McAllister (Labor), Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens) and Rex Patrick (Independent).

“The Federal Government process has been flawed from day one.

“There is clear and continuing opposition from Barngarla Traditional Owners, which the majority report acknowledges. Yet, they still recommend the naming of Kimba as the waste facility site despite this opposition.

“There is also clear evidence from the Senate Inquiry that this Bill was created for the express purpose of wiping out the right of community members to legally challenge the process of locating the facility at Kimba.

“If the Federal Government is confident they have the decision right, they don’t need this Bill to start building the dump.

“But clearly they fear that a court will find their process has been shoddy, so they need this Bill to override that right.

“That’s appalling, and it’s good that it’s been called out by three of the four Senate reports.

“This Senate Inquiry does not provide certainty for the project – it remains unproven, unwelcome and this unfinished business will continue to be opposed until a more respectful and credible process is advanced,” he said.

For further comment: Craig Wilkins 0417 879 439

September 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Australian politics: Deep disagreement on federal radioactive waste plan

The growing uncertainty and contest over Federal Government plans to advance a national radioactive waste facility at Kimba on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula has been highlighted today in a new Senate report.

The Senate report reflects growing divisions about how to manage radioactive waste in Australia, with government members supporting the plan while Labor, Green and independent Senators raised serious concerns and reservations or actively opposed the plan.

The report was set up to examine controversial changes to national radioactive waste laws in order to the secure the Kimba site and then remove this decision from judicial review.

“This is a deeply deficient plan based on a flawed and constrained process,” said Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney. “That one Committee inquiry has generated four separate responses from Senators shows there is no consensus on the plan”.

“The government dominated majority report predictably supports the waste plan, while the three other responses are critical of the approach”.

“The government’s plan would lead to sub-optimal radioactive waste management outcomes and is actively contested by many in the wider region, including the Barngarla Traditional Owners who have been consistently excluded from the consultation process.”

The federal waste plan has drawn criticism and opposition from a range of civil society and community groups and South Australia’s Labor opposition. Federal Labor voted against the plan in the House of Representatives in June. Key concerns with the plan include:

  • There is no pressing need for a centralised national waste storage site. The federal nuclear regulator ARPANSA says there is no urgency to move the most problematic waste from where it is stored at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisations (ANSTO) reactor site at Lucas Heights.
  • The unnecessary double-handling and transport of intermediate level waste from an above-ground extended interim storage facility at ANSTO to an above-ground extended interim storage facility in a less resourced regional area is inconsistent with best practice.
  • The bill would disproportionately and adversely affect Barngarla Traditional Owners.
  • There has been no consultation outside the immediate region. Communities on the wider Eyre Peninsula and along the extensive transport corridors have not been consulted.

“This is not a credible plan,” said Dave Sweeney, “it is a politicised and fragile promise.”

“Australians deserve better than an approach which lacks credibility, is inconsistent with international standards and shirks hard question about what to do with the worst waste.”

For context or comment contact Dave Sweeney on 0408 317 812

Read ACF’s 3-page background brief on the federal radioactive waste plans

September 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Australia’s environmental law: the danger in moving powers to the States

‘We are relying on a pinky promise’: The problem with the Government moving its environmental powers to states, ABC , By national science, technology and environment reporter Michael Slezak,   13 Sept, 20

As the NSW Government descends into chaos over koala protections, the Federal Government is in a scramble trying to hand over its environmental powers to the states.

Just over a month ago — perhaps an eternity in the political news cycle — Environment Minister Sussan Ley welcomed a landmark review into our national environment laws by reaching across the aisle…….

After years of partisanship on what to do with the laws, Professor Graeme Samuel’s recommendations laid out a middle path. It delivered the deregulation sought by the Morrison Government, while protecting the environment with fundamental safeguards.

With that middle path laid out, Labor also came to the table, dropping their long-held opposition to deregulation.

Fast-forward just five weeks and the Government introduced amendments which, to a large degree, rehashed Abbott-era deregulation amendments, without yet introducing the fundamental protections recommended by Professor Samuel.

And partisanship is back at full throttle.

The Government rushed the amendment through the upper house, quashing debate. The crossbench and Labor called foul, and now conservationists have written to the United Nations calling for it to “express alarm” about the changes. And now the crossbenchers in the Senate appear set to block the bill.

How did we get here and where is all this going? And what could all this mean for the environment?

An old policy by a new name

For years, the Coalition has had one overriding reform planned for Australia’s environmental laws: devolving federal assessment and approval powers to the states.

When a proposed project — think a mine, farm or building — has the potential to damage matters of national environmental significance, it requires environmental approval from both state and federal governments.

Under Abbott, the devolution of federal approval powers to states was called a “one stop shop”. It’s been relabelled “single touch approval” under Morrison but it’s the same thing.

Graeme Samuel’s review recommended that devolution of powers to states proceed with some key safeguards to ensure the environment is protected.

Samuel called for an “independent cop on the beat” — a regulator that would function at arm’s length from the minister. That was immediately rejected.

But crucially, Samuel said the deregulation must be built on what he called “national standards” that would ensure state processes protected the environment. He described these as the “foundation for effective regulation”.

Minister Ley immediately accepted that recommendation.

But last week she introduced a bill to Parliament that devolved approval powers to states, without any reference to national standards.

Rather than allow a parliamentary debate of the matter, the Government rushed it through the House of Representatives, blocking debate, stopping crossbenchers from moving amendments to the bill and sent it straight to the Senate — although too late for it to be considered there this month.

Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers were furious, claiming that democracy was under threat. That anger seemed to jump to the Senate, with crossbenchers now looking to vote the bill down.

The missing national standards

The Minister still insists there will be national standards; that they will be legally enforceable; and they will be “Commonwealth led”. So why weren’t they in that bill?

In an interview with the ABC last week, Minister Ley said the Government already had a bill “ready” that would set up the framework for national standards and would introduce it soon………….

Does it matter?

Dr Megan Evans, an environmental policy expert from UNSW, says the law passed by the lower house gives the minister too much latitude to set the standards.

“It provides the Commonwealth with total discretion over the terms if entering into a bilateral agreement,” Dr Evans said. “This means we are relying on a pinky promise from the Government.”

Dr Peter Burnett from the ANU College of Law said “the mode of setting the Standards does make a difference”. According to him, it’s a matter of who will be able to enforce those standards.

“If they form part of a bilateral agreement between two governments, then it is likely that only the Commonwealth could take action against a state that did not comply with the standards, as only the parties to an agreement can enforce it,” Dr Burnett said.

If the standards were in federal legislation, then it is likely that third parties — like environmental groups — could challenge non-compliance by states in court.

And who’s enforcing the laws could make all the difference.

Of all the threatened species habitat cleared since the laws were first put in place, only seven per cent of it was even assessed under the act.

And according to the Auditor General, among projects that were assessed and approved by the Federal Government, 80 per cent were non-compliant or contained errors.

But how the Government will get these standards agreed to by states — without money on the table to help apply them — is still up in the air.

And this week in NSW, we saw just how fraught state environmental laws can be.

September 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Does Australia really need nuclear submarines, and the whole nuclear shebang

September 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Following the UK court hearing on the extradition of Julian Assange

Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 8, Craig Murray  September 10, 2020  The great question after yesterday’s hearing was whether prosecution counsel James Lewis QC would continue to charge at defence witnesses like a deranged berserker (spoiler – he would), and more importantly, why?

QC’s representing governments usually seek to radiate calm control, and treat defence arguments as almost beneath their notice, certainly as no conceivable threat to the majestic thinking of the state. Lewis instead resembled a starving terrier kept away from a prime sausage by a steel fence whose manufacture and appearance was far beyond his comprehension.

Perhaps he has toothache.


The first defence witness this morning was Professor Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. He has written 9 books on the War on Terror, and has been for 15 years responsible for MOD contracts on training of armed forces in law and ethics of conflict. Rogers appeared by videolink from Bradford.

Prof Rogers’ full witness statement is here.

Edward Fitzgerald QC asked Prof Rogers whether Julian Assange’s views are political (this goes to article 4 in the UK/US extradition treaty against political extradition). Prof Rogers replied that “Assange is very clearly a person of strong political opinions.”

Fitzgerald then asked Prof Rogers to expound on the significance of the revelations from Chelsea Manning on Afghanistan. Prof Rogers responded that in 2001 there had been a very strong commitment in the United States to going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Easy initial military victories led to a feeling the nation had “got back on track”. George W Bush’s first state of the union address had the atmosphere of a victory rally. But Wikileaks’ revelations in the leaked war logs reinforced the view of some analysts that this was not a true picture, that the war in Afghanistan had gone wrong from the start. It contradicted the government line that Afghanistan was a success. Similarly the Wikileaks evidence published in 2011 had confirmed very strongly that the Iraq War had gone badly wrong, when the US official narrative had been one of success.

Wikileaks had for example proven from the war logs that there were a minimum of 15,000 more civilian deaths than had been reckoned by Iraq Body Count. These Wikileaks exposures of the failures of these wars had contributed in large part to a much greater subsequent reluctance of western powers to go to war at an early stage.

Fitzgerald said that para 8 of Rogers’ report suggests that Assange was motivated by his political views and referenced his speech to the United Nations. Was his intention to influence political actions by the USA?

Rogers replied yes. Assange had stated that he was not against the USA and there were good people in the USA who held differing views. He plainly hoped to influence US policy. Rogers also referenced the statement by Mairead Maguire in nominating Julian for the Nobel Peace Prize:

Julian Assange and his colleagues in Wikileaks have shown on numerous occasions that they are one of the last outlets of true democracy and their work for our freedom and speech. Their work for true peace by making public our governments’ actions at home and abroad has enlightened us to their atrocities carried out in the name of so-called democracy around the world.

Rogers stated that Assange had a clear and coherent political philosophy. He had set it out in particular in the campaign of the Wikileaks Party for a Senate seat in Australia. It was based on human rights and a belief in transparency and accountability of organisations. It was essentially libertarian in nature. It embraced not just government transparency, but also transparency in corporations, trade unions and NGOs. It amounted to a very clear political philosophy. Assange adopted a clear political stance that did not align with conventional party politics but incorporated coherent beliefs that had attracted growing support in recent years.

Fitzgerald asked how this related to the Trump administration. Rogers said that Trump was a threat to Wikileaks because he comes from a position of quite extreme hostility to transparency and accountability in his administration. Fitzgerald suggested the incoming Trump administration had demonstrated this hostility to Assange and desire to prosecute. Rogers replied that yes, the hostility had been evidenced in a series of statements right across the senior members of the Trump administration. It was motivated by Trump’s characterisation of any adverse information as “fake news”.

Fitzgerald asked whether the motivation for the current prosecution was criminal or political? Rogers replied “the latter”. This was a part of the atypical behaviour of the Trump administration; it prosecutes on political motivation. They see openness as a particular threat to this administration. This also related to Trump’s obsessive dislike of his predecessor. His administration would prosecute Assange precisely because Obama did not prosecute Assange. Also the incoming Trump administration had been extremely annoyed by the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence, a decision they had no power to revoke. For that the prosecution of Assange could be vicarious revenge.

Several senior administration members had advocated extremely long jail sentences for Assange and some had even mooted the death penalty, although Rogers realised that was technically impossible through this process.

Fitzgerald asked whether Assange’s political opinions were of a type protected by the Refugee Convention. Rogers replied yes. Persecution for political opinion is a solid reason to ask for refugee status. Assange’s actions are motivated by his political stance. Finally Fitzgerald then asked whether Rogers saw political significance in the fact that Assange was not prosecuted under Obama. Rogers replied yes, he did. This case is plainly affected by fundamental political motivation emanating from Trump himself.

James Lewis QC then rose to cross-examine for the prosecution. His first question was “what is a political opinion?” Rogers replied that a political opinion takes a particular stance on the political process and does so openly. It relates to the governance of communities, from nations down to smaller units……….

September 13, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media | Leave a comment

A legal win for Adani, against climate activist Ben Pennings

Adani granted injunction to stop activist Ben Pennings using ‘confidential material’ABC 11 Sept 20,   Mining giant Adani has been granted an injunction ordering an activist to stop using “confidential material” it claims is frustrating the development of its mine and rail network in the Galilee Basin.

Key points:

  • The legal action is against Brisbane activist Ben Pennings
  • Mr Pennings is accused of demanding contractors to cease working with Adani
  • Justice Martin found the “Stop Adani” movement had caused at least three contractors to withdraw

Adani launched legal action in the Supreme Court in Brisbane against activist Ben Pennings, claiming he had continually demanded contractors who had agreements with the mining company to terminate or withdraw from negotiations.

Adani also argued Mr Pennings would encourage others to provide confidential information to an ongoing campaign —The Galilee Blockade — concerning plans and operations at the site.

Today’s order comes after Adani twice failed to secure a search order to seize evidence from Mr Penning’s home.

…… Under the injunction orders handed down this morning, Mr Pennings will be required to remove certain social media posts and be prevented from using confidential information obtained through campaigns run by him.

Activist accused of ‘intimidation and conspiracy’

Outside court, Mr Pennings said he would respect the court’s injunction but was “very concerned” about ongoing civil action in which Adani accused Mr Pennings of a “breach of confidence, inducing breach of contract, intimidation and conspiracy”.

“I have a family at home, kids, a kid with a disability,” Mr Pennings said.

“If Adani is successful with their civil action, I’ll have to sell my house, and that’s really difficult for my family, but Adani seem determined to hurt me.

“I don’t believe I should have to sell my suburban family home in Aspley to make an Indian multi-billionaire even richer.

“The ‘Stop Adani’ movement is massive. I’m just one passionate person. They really can’t sue all of us.”……….

September 12, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | Leave a comment