Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government’s controversial Nuclear Waste Bill delayed – not yet debated in Senate

10 Oct 20, The dump legislation didn’t make it on to the Senate floor for debate and voting …

I think the government just ran out of time, they didn’t withdraw the Bill

So over the next week Non Government Organisations,  and farmers and Traditional Owner s will be discussing how best to use the next month

October 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Clean-up for Ranger uranium mine. Rum Jungle mine still a polluted mess


October 10, 2020 Posted by | Northern Territory, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association gets $millions from uranium mining: need for Royal Commission into Native Title

October 10, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

China’s dramatic plan for switch to renewables – a warning to Australia’s fossil-fuel economy

October 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australia needs a permanent war crimes investigation unit

Australia needs a permanent war crimes investigation unit, The Age, By Rawan Arraf

October 7, 2020 — The public has been shocked by revelation after revelation of serious allegations of war crimes committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. There’s been a steady stream of statements from the Defence Minister and, most recently, the Chief of the Army, preparing us for worse to come.

At the conclusion of Justice Paul Brereton’s Afghanistan inquiry we know there will be more referrals to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation of war crimes allegations.

We know so far that Brereton’s inquiry has investigated more than 55 incidents of alleged unlawful killings and cruel treatment of Afghan civilians and captured combatants. We know that the AFP is investigating at least three incidents, and it has been put on notice to prepare for more.

Our legal centre was established to push Australia to undertake more investigations and prosecutions into international crimes and to contribute to the global effort to end the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of these crimes. It has been saying for some time that the AFP needs specialist training, skills, and resources to undertake such investigations. Experience shows that authorities often find the challenges involved in investigating and prosecuting crimes committed extraterritorially daunting, and consequently choose not to prioritise these cases………….

Rawan Arraf is principal lawyer and director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, a legal centre that has been working with survivor and victims’ communities on criminal complaints to the Australian Federal Police.

October 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia now the worst OECD country for climate change action

Back of the pack: Australia now the worst OECD country for climate change action, The New Daily, Cait Kelly, 7 Oct 20, Australia has become the worst-performing of all OECD countries when it comes to climate change, and will soon become a global pariah unless federal policies change fast, experts warn.It comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first democratic leader to outline a green-centred plan for rebuilding the country and creating jobs when the coronavirus crisis ends.

One of Australia’s leading experts in climate change, Professor Will Steffen said the UK’s announcement has left Australia in the dust.

“The UK is the first country to put forward a concrete plan but other OECD counties, particularly the Nordic ones – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – already have advanced plans,” he told The New Daily. 

“We and the United States are stumbling around while most European countries are trying to get it done.”

He said depending on how the US election plays out, Australia could soon become an outlier.

We’re pretty much alone now and who knows how the US is going to go,” Professor Steffen said.   If the election changes the government, you’ll see much more action on climate change. They’ve got great wind resources. They’ve got enormous tech capability. If they get the politics right, they could change fast.

We have enormous renewable sources, but we’re being held back by politics.”

The stark warning we have fallen behind the pack comes as new analysis from WWF reveals that in terms of committing to stimulus spending on renewables, Australia lags even further behind.

We are currently spending five times less than the conservative UK government and 10 times less than South Korea – a major trading partner……….

The government has focused Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19 on fossil fuels, namely gas. …….

October 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Morrison government again fails on climate ation, snubs renewable energy

Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland  When it comes to action on climate change, Tuesday’s federal budget delivered by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was a real – though not unexpected – disappointment which favoured polluting technologies over a clean energy future.It included money to upgrade a coal-fired power station in New South Wales, and confirmed A$50 million previously announced to develop carbon capture and storage. The government will also spend A$52.9 million expanding Australia’s gas industry.

But investment in renewable energy was largely shunned. Notably, the government allocated just A$5 million for electric vehicles. It confirmed funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for another decade, but the money is far less than what’s needed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the Morrison government abandon long-held dogma on debt and deficits. However, the federal budget shows when it comes to climate and energy, the government is singing from the same old songbook.

A techno-fix

The budget doubled down on the Morrison government’s rhetoric of “technology, not taxes”, by choosing preferred technologies for investment.

This “picking winners” approach would have some chance of addressing climate change if it were based on a comprehensive analysis of the best path to zero emissions. But instead, the government has largely made offerings at the altars of technologies worshipped by the conservative side of politics.

The government will spend an as-yet undisclosed sum, possibly A$11 million, to refurbish the Vales Point coal-fired power station. The commitment to this coal infrastructure, co-owned by prominent Liberal party donor Trevor St Baker, is a disgraceful misuse of public money. It will also do little to halt the steady decline of coal-fired power generation.

As previously announced, the government will spend A$52.9 million to support the gas industry, which Frydenberg says will lower prices and support more manufacturing jobs. It includes money for gas infrastructure planning and to open up five gas basins, starting with Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory.

The budget confirms A$50 million for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to fund projects to cut emissions from industry. But proving the viability of large-scale CCS projects is extremely difficult, as experience in the United States and Canada has shown. In this context, allocating just A$50 million to get the technology off the ground is simply laughable.

History suggests the spending offers little return on investment. Research by the Australia Institute in 2017 revealed federal governments have spent A$1.3 billion in taxpayers’ money on CCS projects, with very little to show for it.

Renewables snubbed

Meanwhile, last night’s budget largely shunned investment in renewable energy.

The budget confirmed A$1.4 billion in ARENA funding for a further ten years, including a pretty paltry A$223.9 million over the next four years. Separately, the government will also seek to pass legislation to change ARENA’s investment mandate, enabling it to fund gas and carbon capture projects.

The government has allocated a tiny A$5 million towards electric vehicle development, including money towards a manufacturing facility in South Australia. It’s good to see electric vehicles on the government’s radar. But the commitment is dwarfed by investment overseas, including a reported US$300 billion set aside by global car makers over the next decade to bring electric vehicles to mass production.

The measly spending on clean energy technology does not make economic sense. The renewable energy sector is standing by to slash emissions and deliver lower energy prices – if only the right policy environment existed.

The budget was also an opportunity for the government to ditch its irrational opposition to carbon pricing. Recent research has comprehensively shown carbon pricing slows growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Vehement carbon pricing critics, such as conservatives Tony Abbott, Craig Kelly and Barnaby Joyce, are now either discredited or out of parliament altogether. And scores of countries around the world have implemented some form of price on carbon.

A global outlier

Most obviously, the budget was an opportunity to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, as many developed countries have done.

The Morrison government has already used dodgy accounting tricks to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement commitment – reducing emissions by 26% on 2005 levels. The absence of a net-zero target suggests the government intends to allow emissions to grow indefinitely after 2030.

This approach is out of step with many of Australia’s international peers. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, now the clear favourite to win the US election in November, is campaigning on what has been described as “the most aggressive climate platform” ever put forward by a presidential nominee.

October 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Labor likely to amend the Nuclear Waste Bill, removing certainty about the Napandee dump happening

October 6, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste dump – a Federal abuse of a small rural town

Regina McKenzie   Fight To Stop a Nuclear Waste Dump in South Australia, 6 Oct 20
To watch the horror of a rural town, being torn apart , the tremendous amount of stress the people of Kimba are facing, wether it be the yes or no camp, no one deserves this.
I know that heavy weight of having this nuclear waste dump like a dark foreboding shadow hanging over your once secure close knit community, watching family, friends and acquaintance being ripped apart , the helplessness ones feels watching everything disintegrate around you.
DIIS have a lot to answer for the emotional and mental abuse this waste dump as caused on these small rural towns, separated from the rest of South Australia to bear such a large responsibility and to leave the rest of South Australia to watch in horror these little town tear each other apart, the mental anguish that will forever scar us, the rifts in family, and friends , what a pitiful federal government to do this to us, its abuse on a grand scale

October 6, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Federal nuclear waste dump, health, South Australia | Leave a comment

Federal government hiding its toxic nuclear waste Act under the cover of budget fuss

From A letter from Dr Margaret Beavis,
DR MARGARET BEAVIS, Medical Association for  Prevention of War, 6 Oct 20,
“Hiding behind the budget media extravaganza, tomorrow the Government will hold a senate vote to lock in Kimba as the site for highly radioactive nuclear waste.
The bill will deny any juridical oversight or review, despite major flaws in the proposal. The proposed “temporary storage” of nuclear waste in Kimba is a second -rate cheap solution.
Countries like Finland are spending $5bn on deep geoplogical disposal which is world’s best practice.
In contrast, this plan cost-shifts on to future generations, who are left to do the job properly at great expense.
There are many other problems. These include deliberately misleading marketing, a deciding vote using a biased sample and a complete disregard of traditional owners,
Claims that moving the waste is urgently needed to continue nuclear medicine are patently false.  The federal nuclear regulator, ARPNSA, has been crystal clear that there is absolutely no rush. Low-level waste has been the main focus, yet the elephant in the room is intermediate waste that stays radioactive for 10,000 years.
The people of Kimba remain deeply divided.. Kimba’s vote was biased towards businesses who may profit from the facility. It excluded farmers who live near the site.
At Hawker last ye ar, a much more appropriate 50km radius was used, and the proposal was clearly rejected.
This bill locks in a second-rate process and a second-rate facility that will be a major liability for South Australians in the future. There is plenty of time to do it right.
It is an old political trick to release bad news when no-one is paying attention, known as “taking out the trash”.
But this time the trash is highly radioactive. If this legislation passes, it will come back and haunt South Australians for generations to come.”

October 6, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Divisions in Labor, over nuclear waste dump plan

Federal Labor divided over plans to block SA’s nuclear waste dump facility, The Age, By Rob Harris, October 5, 2020 — A 40-year effort to establish a nuclear waste dump in remote South Australia faces a rocky passage through Federal Parliament after Labor signalled it is prepared to block the Morrison government’s attempts to resolve the long-running debate.

The decision, rubber-stamped by the federal caucus in lengthy debate on Monday, has sparked further divisions within the opposition, with veteran senators Alex Gallacher and Kim Carr expressing fierce criticism of their party’s position.

There are also concerns within federal Labor that its stance could unwittingly hand Prime Minister Scott Morrison a double-dissolution trigger should the crossbench sink the laws.

The government intends to introduce legislation to finally establish a low- and medium-level nuclear waste facility at Napandee, a farm on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, having spent seven years and more than $60 million finding a suitable home……..

Labor will seek to amend the laws so that the minister responsible, Resources Minister Keith Pitt, can use existing powers to nominate any site under the current legislation. Labor says the changes would still give the local community access to a significant community fund on offer and would ensure the decision be subject to a judicial review.

Seven Labor MPs spoke up in the debate over the legislation, which lasted for more than an hour………

Opposition science spokesman Brendan O’Connor said federal Labor supported the need for a national facility to store radioactive waste.

This government has had existing powers under the current legislation for the past seven years to determine a site, but under the guise of compensation has sought to remove proper scrutiny, through this proposed legislation,” he said.

“This is a contentious issue and should be subject to the highest levels of scrutiny to ensure that the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice have been applied given the national significance of this matter.”……..

A Senate committee last month recommended the legislation be supported but three members – the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young, Independent senator Rex Patrick and Labor senator Jenny McAllister – issued dissenting reports.

Senator McAllister said the proposed facility had not received the support of the relevant traditional owners in South Australia.

October 6, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Pretty despicable -tax breaks for company exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, UAE.

Tax break for weapons exports to Mid-East countries accused of war crimes, Michael West Media, by Michelle Fahy | Oct 6, 2020   Australian weapons manufacturer Electro Optic Systems, with financial support from the federal and ACT governments, is capitalising on the ‘growth market’ of the Middle East, one of the world’s most volatile regions. Michelle Fahy reports.

As has been reported repeatedly, remote weapons systems manufactured by EOS are being exported to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia despite both countries being accused of war crimes. Numerous UN reports have detailed shocking human rights violations over the six years of the Yemen war.

After a shutdown due to Covid-19, EOS announced last month that it is exporting again.

EOS and the federal government have been asked repeatedly for proof that its weapons are not being used in Yemen. “Trust us,” is the standard response.

Assurances from a company chasing millions in profit and a government intent on catapulting Australia into the global top 10 of weapons exporters seem to be the best the public can expect in terms of accountability.

There is zero transparency when it comes to Australian weapons exports………..

Government support for EOS

EOS has received extensive government support, including an exemption from paying state payroll tax. Under questioning last November by the ACT Greens, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT Government provided support to EOS (PDF p44), “principally for its space industry related activity”. While EOS separates its space industry work from its weapons side, both companies operate in the same group under the same board……..

EOS has so far supplied the UAE and Saudi with its remote weapons systems. The systems are mounted on armoured vehicles and can incorporate a light cannon, machine gun, grenade launcher or anti-tank missile, which EOS does not manufacture. The system enables the weapon to be operated from inside the vehicle, which makes the soldier safer. It can identify targets and automatically aim the weapon, making the firing of the weapon faster and more accurate. In military parlance, the system enhances lethality. See it in action here.

The claim that it was not a weapons manufacturer may have been technically correct when asserted by EOS and Barr, but that is no longer the case.

Last month EOS announced it had moved into production with a new range of directed energy (laser) weapons. The weapons are being marketed by EOS as ‘drone kill’ technology (counter unmanned aircraft system or CUAS). EOS says “CUAS are entirely defensive systems”. The potential market is large. EOS has named its new range of weapons Mopoke, after the small native Australian owl.

EOS has not disclosed its list of interested customers for Mopoke, but industry insiders – such as AuManufacturing – have noted that its first customers are likely to come from the Middle East, given drone attacks on infrastructure there……….

EOS is now unequivocally a weapons manufacturer, and likely to soon start exporting its weapons to the Middle East.

Supplying weapons to war crimes accused

Melissa Parke, a lawyer, former federal Labor MP, and human rights expert, is one of three UN-appointed Eminent Experts on Yemen. Parke told SBS Dateline last year:

“No country can claim not to be aware of the violations being perpetrated in Yemen. To continue to provide weapons in the knowledge of such violations is both morally and legally hazardous.”

A former secretary of the Defence Department, Paul Barratt, has also stated his position on these weapon sales:

“Regardless of whether Australian-made weapons [are] crossing the border into Yemen, Australia now has a national policy which seeks and facilitates weapons sales with countries that stand accused of gross violations of human rights and likely war crimes. When did this particular trade in arms become official Australian policy? As a country that routinely asks other countries to abide by the rules-based international order, it would seem hypocritical, at best, that Australia is now willing to … make a profit from weapons sales to nations that are openly flouting this international order.”……….

In addition to ministerial lobbying, EOS Defence Systems has received federal financial support, including:

  • $3.7 million from Defence between 2013 and 2016
  • $41.5 million performance bond from Export Finance Australia (EFIC) (PDF p66)

The company has also gained from influential appointments to its board. Former Chief of Army, Peter Leahy, joined the EOS board in May 2009, just 10 months after retiring as army chief. In April 2016 Leahy was joined by former Chief of Air Force, Geoff Brown, less than 10 months after he had retired from the air force……

October 6, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian State laws have weak environmental standards

Major gaps’: no state meets national environment standards, The Age, Mike Foley, October 4, 2020 —  State and territory governments should make major reforms to their environmental laws and increase compliance regimes to meet the national standards, new research has found.

The findings are revealed in a report from the “Places You Love” alliance of conservation groups, released on Monday, which found “not only does no state or territory law meet national standards, but in some jurisdictions, the environmental protections in state and territory laws have actually been weakened”.

This week the Senate is set to debate the federal government’s bill to hand approval powers for major projects to state governments, in a bid to remove bureaucratic duplication and speed-up project development to boost the economy.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley has pledged that any changes to The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act will not reduce current level of environmental regulation…….

Ms Ley has been criticised by environment groups for rushing her bill through Parliament. It passed the lower house in August and could be enacted as soon as next week – ahead of a major review of the laws by former competition watchdog boss Professor Graeme Samuel, which is due by the end of October.

Professor Samuel said Australia’s “current environmental trajectory is unsustainable”. National laws were “not fit to address current or future environmental challenges”, he said, while for industry they are “ineffective and inefficient”…….

The EPBC Act was enacted in 1999 and created a list of “matters of national environmental significance”, including World Heritage areas, internationally listed wetlands and threatened species. While state laws do include some protections for these matters, federal government has wielded the most powerful protections for the past two decades.

The report found no state or territory legislation met the necessary suite of “national environmental standards required to protect matters of national environmental significance”.

Protection of threatened species habitat from development is one of the most significant functions of the EPBC Act. States run their own offset policies, which can allow developers who destroy protected habitat to mitigate the damage by protecting or restoring habitat somewhere else. State offset standards frequently do not meet national standards……..

October 5, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Grossly inadequate Senate report on National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill

The report released on 14 September 2020 by the majority of the Senate committee inquiring into the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Site Specification,Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill  is  both grossly deficient and biased and does no credit to the members of the committee.

I can only put this down to a combination of lack of knowledge and possibly even ignorance on the part of both the committee members and the researchers from the committee secretariat of the subject of the inquiry which is of major and lasting importance to all of Australia and needs more than truck driving experience for its proper consideration.

While I do not intend to comment on all of the report in detail I will refer to some aspects of the introduction being chapter 1 including the conduct of the inquiry but more extensively to the second part of the report dealing with support for the legislative changes and the evidence of the witnesses who appeared before the committee.


……… In describing the background for the inquiry the committee has relied on rather older information which is surprising considering the very recent developments in the field of nuclear waste management which have been completely ignored in the report.
……. it seems that the committee has heavily relied on the explanatory memorandum accompanying the bill and the subsequent ministerial statements and responses having blithely accepted them with little or no proper scrutiny of their content and accuracy.
This also applies to the submissions by ANSTO and the Department of Industry Science Energy and Resources which did not elicit any questioning or testing of the accuracy of their content.
……….. the heart of the intended legislative changes  will remove various fundamental rights including seeking judicial and administrative reviews.
……….. It should have been obvious to the committee that the Barngarla will under no circumstances permit the storage and disposal of nuclear waste in any part of their lands within South Australia irrespective of what discussions and negotiations may take place even with an independent mediator.
………. The conduct of the inquiry also leaves a lot to be desired since the committee failed – and seemingly deliberately – to call any experts on nuclear waste from overseas to provide proper advice and suggestions to the committee instead of relying exclusively on the technical evidence by or on behalf of the government.
This makes the majority report even less credible which is already the view of some overseas experts who are surprised at the deficiencies in the evidence to justify the main recommendation of the report.
……. many of the supporting views are said to be based on general scientific or technical reasons but  some of these are made in sheer and blind acceptance of the government’s information without any testing or examination of their veracity..
………… The concept of the local agricultural industry coexisting with the nuclear facility is completely disingenuous as is amply demonstrated by recent situations overseas including in particular in France and to suggest that the facility will not affect the agricultural environment and produce of Kimba is nonsensical.
What is more the report has completely ignored the provisions of the Disposal Facilities Code (2018) of ARPANSA which provides at section 3.1.22 as to the criteria for the selection of a non-radiological site that “the immediate vicinity of the facility has no known significant natural resources   ………… and has little or no potential for agriculture or outdoor recreational use”
It follows that these two factors significantly displace the perceived economic benefits which should be a major consideration as to the facility’s proposed establishment..
………..from surveys a large percentage of up to 80% of the South Australian population is against the facility which is also the stated position of the state’s parliamentary opposition.
The submissions in support of the facility by the three presumably knowledgeable bodies being the Nuclear Association and Academy of Science together with the local Chamber of Mines and Energy failed to provide any really technical or scientific information and seemed to more of a political nature judging by their brevity which I understood in the case of the Nuclear Association and probably the Chamber was to enable the start of a nuclear energy industry in this country.
Again it has surprised me that the committee did not seek any meaningful explanations from these groups as presumably they would hold themselves out as having some expertise with regard to nuclear waste.
The evidence and submissions in support of the facility by the local community including the District Council are self servicing and appear to swayed by the perceived financial grants and benefits provided by the government which surely must be understood to be creating a false economy doomed to ultimate failure……….
Perhaps the most glaring examples of the insular and ignorant conduct of the community  supporters of the facility are their contentions that its establishment and the voting for its acceptance are applicable and relevant only to Kimba. Considering the importance of this issue to the whole nation and that it is to intended to be a central national facility it should and must extend well beyond their unrealistic and quite selfish attitude by is seen by their rather ludicrous contentions.
What is even more critical is that the inquiry made no attempt to ascertain the accuracy of these claims despite their national significance………..
What really makes the majority report so unconvincing is that none of the evidence has been questioned or tested as to its competence and accuracy and the committee as chosen not to call evidence from international experts who would very quickly show the incompetence of the government as to the underlying technical issues of the inquiry to justify the legislative changes.
This becomes even worse when a principal witness on behalf of the government is accused of lying which in a court of law would have lead to a preferment for perjury……….
………. the government has rejected many requests for detailed information of the radionuclides inventories and funding for an independent assessment and scrutiny of the government’s proposals which will no doubt be a consideration for ARPANSA in dealing with the licence applications
Unlike the committee stating “that the issue of radioactive material is an emotive one” it is in fact very important and scientifically technical especially as it concerns present and long term safety of the whole population.
The committee has badly failed in its inquiry in both testing the credibility of the claims by the government and other supporters of the facility proposal and in neglecting any examination of the lack of expected and prescribed requirements including among other things the safety case and the radionuclides counts.

October 2, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, spinbuster | Leave a comment

 Pine Gap could play role in accidental US-China nuclear fight 


 Pine Gap could play role in accidental US-China nuclear fight  NT News, 30 Sept 20

Heightened US-China tensions have increased the risk of an accidental nuclear exchange between the two superpowers — and whether or not the Northern Territory’s Pine Gap surveillance base is playing a role in hyping this up needs to be looked at ……. (subscribers only)

October 1, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment