Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s dangerous uranium deal with India

India-uranium1Papering the cracks: Australia’s dangerous uranium deal with India,9803   5 December 2016, Thanks to new legislation, Australian uranium mining corporations are now free to be irresponsible without fear of legal recourse. Dave Sweeney reports.

LATE ON THE LAST NIGHT of the last sitting of Federal Parliament for season 2017, Australia’s two major parties passed a new law that is civil by name, but it is desperately uncivil in nature.

The Indian Civil Nuclear Transfers Act exists to provide certainty to Australian uranium producers who want to sell the controversial product to India.

In 2015, a detailed investigation by the Federal Parliament’s treaties committee found there were serious and unresolved nuclear safety, security and governance issues with the proposed sales plan. It also found a high level of legal uncertainty.

Expert witnesses, including Australian National University professor of international law Don Rothwell and former senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office (ASNO) director general John Carlson, also highlighted that the plan was in conflict with both Australian domestic law and existing international treaty provisions, most notably the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty…….

So Australian uranium miners, who supplied the product that directly fuelled Fukushima, are now legally covered from any challenge over a highly contested plan to sell to India.

This move highlights the extent and the risks of the Coalition Government’s preoccupation with ending civil society access to legal recourse. Further, fast-tracking legal favours to provide industry certainty simply highlights how profoundly uncertain this industry is.

Following Fukushima, the global uranium market has crashed, as has the value of uranium stocks. Uranium operations are on hold; extended care and maintenance are well behind planning schedules and prices, profits and employment numbers have gone south.

IBIS Worlds March 2015 market report said only 987 people are employed in Australia’s uranium industry. Few jobs and dollars, considerable damage at home and escalating risk abroad.

The fragile economics of the uranium sector make it understandable that the industry is pushing for every potential market but fail to explain why our Federal Government is so intent on trying to pick winners with a sector that is clearly losing. Sadly and unreasonably, the India uranium deal has become seen as a litmus test for bilateral relations.

Talk of a massive surge in exports is fanciful, and promoting Australian uranium as the answer to Indian energy poverty is more convenient than credible. Political proponents of the trade are driven less by substance than style — the symbolism of Australia and India on the same page and open for business.

In a telling reference, the recent review of the new law highlighted the importance of the ‘foreign policy backdrop to Australia’s nuclear trade with India‘.

Sending political signals through trade is not unusual, but to do so by ignoring substantive warning signals is unwise. When those warnings and that trade relate to nuclear materials, it is deeply irresponsible.

Buttressing flawed trade deals with bolt-on legislative exemptions is poor policy and practice, and while all trades have trade-offs, this one risks far too much.

December 5, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The mirage of South Australia as world’s nuclear waste dump

As a basis for investing billions of dollars in an infrastructure project, it’s not so appealing. There’s a long and sorry history of roads and bridges to nowhere in particular, built on the basis of optimistic projections about the demand they would generate.

Typically, these projects involve massive cost overruns. But, as Bent Flyvbjerg shows in his book Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition, it’s the failure of the projected demand to materialise that’s the most important reason these projects are financial disaster.

The scale of megaprojects makes it difficult to apply standard techniques of benefit-cost analysis in the past. But the big problem, illustrated by the TV series Utopia is that such projects capture the imagination of political (and sometimes business) leaders who choose to dismiss the dreary complaints of economists, and like the Hollywood hero, dream big dreams.

New Matilda’s resident pro-nuke activist, Geoff Russell, illustrates the kind of magical thinking that is going on here. In the comments thread following a lengthy tirade against the ‘citizen’s jury’ that rejected the project, he states ‘I have no idea if the waste business case stacked up’. He has made similar comments about his ignorance of the economics of nuclear power in the past. Continue reading

November 30, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Derek Abbott – a thought on the vulnerability of nuclear waste dumps

abbott-derekDerek Abbott to Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, 28 Nov 16 

The problem with nuke dumps is you can’t operate them as a commercial operation…one unforeseen accidental leak and you can kiss your cash flow good bye, as it takes years to re-open. This could send our State broke.

November 27, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Firefighters Alliance calls for action on climate change

climate-AustWe must face facts on climate change, The Examiner,   “……As director of the Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance, I seek out the latest information on climate change and bushfires.

I’ve heard from Australia’s top scientists, the Bureau of Meteorology and read up on reputable global research.

The hard work and expertise of climate scientists gives us the opportunity to understand and respond to the challenges climate change creates for Australian firefighters.

Unfortunately, Australia’s response is limited by those prepared to ignore the professionals and listen to people who tell them what they want to hear. Spend five minutes on the internet to find any opinion on climate change you want.

A lot of it based on theories that make the wire stick water finder look credible in comparison.

Some discussion goes beyond the whacky, and is part of well-organised campaigns representing particular interest groups.

Me and my fellow firefighters need sensible action on climate change. We don’t have the luxury of looking for people to tell us what we want to hear as we’re dealing with the consequences already.

It’s time to respect and value our climate professionals, and time to demand that leaders face facts.

Dean McNulty is a professional firefighter and director of the Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance.

November 27, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

South Australian Labor voters to vote Liberal because of the nuclear waste issue?

text politicsHere’s what one Labor voter thought, and wrote: 

To: South Australian ALP Members of State and Federal Parliament

Dear Sir/Madam

Note that this issue is one of the few issues that would induce me to preference the Liberal Party over the Labor Party. I have never preferenced the Liberals in my life and do not wish to start now, but I feel I would have no choice if the South Australian ALP continues with the Premier’s current stance. I am therefore writing to you in the hope that you will persuade him to publicly reject an international nuclear waste dump, or oust him as Premier and leader of the South Australian ALP.

I was grudgingly willing to cooperate with the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, even though I believed it was biased, in the hope that it would kill off once and for all the push for nuclear energy, uranium enrichment, etc. To a large extent it did that. Despite its strong pro-nuclear bias, the Royal Commission was still unable to recommend that SA pursue these nuclear activities.

I was grudgingly willing to cooperate with the nuclear waste dump debate, which I also believed was biased, in the hope that South Australian citizens would reject the proposal. They have done that, despite the bias and the fact that the question posed to the Citizens Jury was loaded to produce a conditional go-ahead. Insider reports and the Citizens Jury’s official report suggest that the facilitation of the jury process was also biased in that direction.

Unfortunately, this consultation process has down grave damage to the Premier’s own push for participatory democracy, including deliberative tools such as Citizens Juries. I supported the Premier in this, but the way this process was conducted and the Premier’s response have given Citizens Juries a bad name. Nevertheless, despite these flaws, ordinary citizens gave clear and independent voice to their views. The democratic process was thus enhanced in spite of attempts to manipulate the outcome.

But the Premier’s response to the Citizens Jury’s verdict, and to the results of the wider consultation, has pushed me over the edge. I cannot support a party that will take South Australia down this track. I will preference Liberals at the next state election unless the South Australian ALP reverses direction on this issue. I imagine that I am not alone in this. With the Premier’s foolhardy policy you are risking dislodging rusted on Labor supporters.

Please take action so that I and many others like me do not have to preference the Liberals at the next state election.

November 25, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

What did Jay Weatherill do wrong on the nuclear waste issue?

Weatherill glowDennis Matthews, 24 Nov 16 Former Cabinet Minister in the Weatherill government, Patrick Conlon, asks what did Jay Weatherill do wrong on the nuclear waste issue (The Advertiser, 17/12/16).

Firstly, Weatherill set up a Royal Commission with a highly biased terms of reference. Secondly, he appointed a Commissioner who was perceived as biased . Thirdly, the Commission was perceived as stacked in favour of getting a go-ahead for expanding the nuclear industry in SA.

The report of the Royal Commission went down like a lead balloon. Claiming that he hadn’t made up his mind on expanding the nuclear industry, Weatherill initiated a “Citizens Jury”. When the citizens failed to give him the answer he wanted he called for a referendum on the issue.

This whole process has been one of outsourcing, a well-known strategy for distancing the government from any flak that may eventuate, at a cost to the tax-payer of the order of $10 million. Conlon calls these actions “courageous”. I suggest that the average voter will see them as cowardly and reckless.


November 24, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

NASA politely debunks Australian climate denying crank Malcolm Roberts

NASA director debunks Malcolm Roberts’ theory on climate data manipulation in polite letter ABC News, 24 Nov 16   In a politely worded letter, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has addressed One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts’ concerns that the organisation’s data on climate change has been manipulated.

In a rare occurrence, director Gavin Schmidt personally wrote a letter in response to Senator Roberts’ request for information about the NASA GISTEMP analysis of global surface temperature history.

The GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) is an estimate of global surface temperature change.

In the letter obtained by Fairfax Media and circulated widely on social media, the NASA scientist directed Senator Roberts to a number of links on the NASA website that published the entirety of NASA’s raw data and the code they use to analyse that data…..

“Finally, might I suggest that you avail yourself to the resources provided by the Bureau of Meteorology or CSIRO in Australia for further details on this topic,” the letter concluded.

This out-of-the-ordinary step taken by the NASA director was not the first time Senator Roberts has come up against a scientist over climate change…….

November 24, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Missy Higgins urges us all – read Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”

Missy Higgins: how an obsession with apocalyptic climate fiction changed my life
The singer reveals what Emily St John Mandel, James Bradley and Naomi Klein taught her about facing the future,
Guardian, Missy Higgins, 22 Nov 16, 

“……….One day, Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything entered my periphery and something twigged. I realised all the post-apocalyptic cli-fi books had led me to this moment. Enough of the fiction. Enough of the hinting. If the world was going to end, I wanted to read the facts. Hit me in the face with them, fuck it, let’s do this.

Well, This Changes Everything did just that. If you do nothing else, just read the introduction to this most terrifying of apocalyptic non-fiction books. To learn that the very thing that drives our culture – profit and growth – is the very thing that is going to kill us was more terrifying than any flu pandemic story I’d read thus far.


That at the root of our problem is possibly who we are as a species seemed more hopeless and paralysing than any zombie apocalypse. Then, when Klein spoke about the very real prospect of our children having to battle serious environmental collapse in their lifetime, I just fell apart.

The creature inside me was thrashing about. “What have I done?” There my son was, glowing in all his angelic innocence, playing with the product of this sick, disposable dream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to collapse down to my knees, hold him and tell him I was sorry. That I didn’t know what the future held and I was scared. So scared. But instead, I watched him in all his wonder, in his blissful little bubble and I stayed there. If only for a sweet, sweet moment, I stayed there and I forgot…..

November 23, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Derek Abbott’s Thought For The Day – wasting South Australia’s funds on nuclear waste

abbott-derekDerek Abbott to Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, 22 Nov 16   Thought for the day: A nuclear dump is a rather enormous investment for something so risky and contentious. To go down that path represents an opportunity cost: the missed opportunity for putting that same investment elsewhere in ventures with less risk, better payoff, and with zero contentiousness.

Jay’s approach was flawed from the outset. It presented the public with one single risky business case, without any context of what other business directions the State might be well suited for and what we are good at doing.

To raise a nuclear dump scheme out of vacuum is a non-starter. If Jay wants true democracy and true public engagement, then why not appoint a panel of 350 members of the public to listen to experts on the South Australian economy in general and brainstorm ideas for the future? Let the ideas come from within that build upon on South Australia’s known strengths and talents. Engage us in finding the idea in the first place. Do not take one single-minded idea and thrust it upon us, as that isn’t really considering the bigger picture and taking into account the opportunity cost.

Imposing a single poorly contextualised idea upon us and spending $13 million of our money on trying very hard to convince us is not democracy. It’s called lobbying and manipulating the public.

November 23, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

‘Serious’ alarm at Rio Tinto scandal

Mining giant Rio Tinto has come under attack from the World Bank over a $US10 million corruption scandal…. (subscribers only) .

November 19, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Next big thing: Selling solar power to neighbours

People without solar cells are choosing to pay a premium for solar power generated by their neighbours...(subscribers only)

November 19, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Death of a town … or a rebirth?

WITH the entire Territory community of Jabiru under threat, many are hoping a new direction could be the answer.. (subscribers only)

November 19, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Weatherill’s nuclear plebiscite idea – a desperate ploy to get a different answer?

plebisciteThe only rational explanation for Weatherill’s decision to hold a public vote is that he is hoping for a different outcome. It’s a political tactic with a very notable recent precedent…….

Weatherill has invested a lot of political capital in his nuclear waste proposal. He funded the Royal Commission and the citizens’ jury process. But by pressing the plebiscite button as a way to end the ongoing impasse, he risks running foul of the same problems. 

SA doesn’t need a nuclear plebiscite – Weatherill just needs to make a decision, November 16, 2016 , The Conversation, Ian Lowe.Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill’s announcement of a non-binding public vote, no earlier than 2018, on his proposed high-level nuclear waste storage facility looks like an act of political desperation……

The way ahead was not straightforward, however, with the community clearly divided. Public meetings convened by those opposed to the proposal saw packed halls, and thousands turned up to a rally outside Parliament House. Indigenous groups are particularly hostile to the prospect of overseas radioactive waste being brought onto their land.

Next, a citizens’ jury was appointed to offer a verdict on the issue. The randomly selected individuals interrogated experts with a range of views and probed the findings of the Royal Commission in great detail over several days. Their two-thirds majority view that the scheme should be dropped was seen by many as sounding its death knell.

The jury’s scepticism is understandable. After deep probing of the estimates, they concluded that the numbers are very rubbery. Moreover, recent examples like the Royal Adelaide Hospital redevelopment do not inspire public confidence in the state government’s ability to manage a complex project within a fixed budget. So the jury decided that the probability of a good financial outcome was not high enough to justify risking billions of dollars of public money developing the waste management system.

Pressing the plebiscite button

It’s difficult to know why we need a plebiscite on top of all this. If government members want to know what well-informed members of the public think, they can read the report of their own citizens’ jury. If they want to know what relatively uninformed members of the public think, they can consult opinion polls. And if they want to know what members of the public think after being systematically fed slanted information, they can check the polls conducted by The Advertiser. Continue reading

November 18, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

South Australian nuclear event cancelled for the second time

The scheduled Uniting Church ‘Unclear or Nuclear’ event on the 25th Nov has been shelved for the second time.

Scarce poisoned chalicePerhaps the CJ outcome spooked Kev – who may only feel comfortable appearing b4 a subscribed amenable audience accompanied by security.

More from ENUFF at

November 18, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Why did Australian politicians and media ignore the historic UN anti nuclear weapons conference?

At last, great news. Yet, the newspapers scarcely mentioned it. TV stations said nothing. What happened?

Was this because our Government’s representatives at the UN voted against the resolution? Why the silence? Some Australians knew the resolution was being debated and were awaiting the result yet there was no mention of our Government’s decision or speeches, like those from Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh, in favour of the bid. Continue reading

November 18, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment