Friday, September 12, 2014

Victoria's Strzelecki koalas need Federal protection

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A new report from Friends of the Earth suggests a combined pressure from habitat loss, inbreeding and disease in combination may pose significant threats to the future survival of the koala in Victoria and South Australia, and the group is calling for Federal protection for key populations of the species.

The death of koalas during logging of plantations across Victoria's southwest, and into South Australia, has attracted international attention. A petition to the Victorian government by German environmental group Rainforest Rescue attracted over 85,000 signatures after a July 2013 report on ABC TV's 7:30 Report suggested many koalas had been killed during logging of plantations.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Anthony Amis told Green Left Weekly that the last endemic southern koala population in Victoria, in the Strzelecki Ranges to the southeast of Melbourne, needs to be managed the same as animals that have Federal protection in NSW and QLD, they need to be treated as a separate management unit.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Vic govt on naptime as mine fire poisons Morwell

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Premier Denis Napthine is living up to his new nickname “Naptime” as the Hazelwood coalmine fire continues its terrible impact on the town of Morwell, in Victoria's Latrobe Valley.

The edge of the town is only a few hundred metres from where the fire has been burning since February 9. The plume of toxic smoke and ash from the fire is blanketing the town much of the time.

The unfolding disaster demands an immediate escalation of action, and Greens MLC Greg Barber is right to demand that the government declare a state of emergency, as hard as health minister David Davis denies it is needed.

A Heironymous Bosch painting? No, it's Hazelwood coal mine.

The first priority for emergency action must be the health of the community. Declaring a state of emergency, and providing evacuation centres with some form of accommodation for those who wish to leave, are the bare minimum that needs to be done by the government.

Currently, advice is to leave Morwell if possible. This leaves vulnerable people such as unsupported elderly residents, and people who cannot risk leaving their employment, with no choice but to stay and breathe the toxic smoke.

The mine fire is also highlighting deeper problems. The failures of the private ownership of the power industry and of government regulation are highlighted, as is the inadequacy of Australia's air pollution monitoring and safety standards. The future of employment in the Valley is also brought into question if cost-cutting can cause such disasters as this.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The lies about renewable energy's costs

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The Abbott government is conducting a review of Australia's Renewable Energy Target, which is for 20% of projected energy generation to be from renewables by 2020.

Recent commentary has focused on the scandalous appointment of prominent climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry heavies making the review panel look more like a lynch mob for renewable energy. Dick Warburton, who will head the review, is on the public record denying climate science.

Underlying such scandalous appointments, however, is something simpler and less absurd than flat-earth climate change denial. The big energy generators – private and state entities, who run the big power stations – are finding their profits squeezed by the growth in renewable energy.

Yallourn brown coal power station, Victoria


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Power privatisation blocks climate action

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Published in Chain Reaction and Green Left Weekly, June 2013.

Markets are neither free nor efficient, and they are bad for the environment. Market choice is not cheap. While that may sound like a timeless left-wing credo, it's also a simple assessment of Australia's 20 years of privatisation and market-oriented restructure of electricity supply.

Outside small left-wing dissident circles (from Keynesians to Marxists), operating the power industry according to market principles has become an unquestioned and unspoken assumption.

Reducing this industry's greenhouse emissions has also been seen as fundamentally a matter of market mechanisms, as Australia heads toward an emissions trading scheme. But the history of the past two decades indicates that electricity industry privatisation and imposed market mechanisms have already been a key barrier to reducing emissions and restructuring the industry in a progressive manner.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bass Coast: A turn for the better

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IF YOU install solar panels to offset your entire electricity use, you pay no electricity bill – you may even get a credit. There are options to achieve this on a larger, regional or town scale, if communities work together.

Wonthaggi could supply all its own energy, on an annual basis, from a small wind farm. In fact, it could easily be a net exporter of large amounts of renewable energy, via the electricity grid, as the wind resource in the region is better than most parts of the country.

Crunching the numbers based on the existing information makes this clear.

The small existing Wonthaggi wind farm has a nominal capacity of 12 megawatts (MW) from its six turbines. Its annual output in 2011 was 28.3 gigawatt-hours (GWh). 

With a population of just under 6900 in 2011, Wonthaggi has about a third of the Shire’s mainland population. Assuming a similar proportion of electricity use, that makes about 25 GWh per year energy use (using state government energy use figures from 2007).

That's less than the output of the wind farm. So six two-megawatt turbines can do the job now.

If the aim is energy independence, though, much more can be done.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Misogyny and the left - we need to start practicing what we preach.

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Guest post written by Em BC


TRIGGER WARNING: This article discusses rape, sexual assault, stalking.

I decided to write this after having a very difficult experience. Over the last few months a friend, her ex partner and I have been harassed, stalked, and our reputations dragged through the mud. Friends who have supported us have also been targeted by this harassment.


Most upsetting, the perpetrator has convinced a number of people to support his behavior, believing that he is the real victim. This is despite most of them not knowing any of us, never having bothered to find out the other side of the story, and the individual involved having a history of harassing women. These people, at the harassers word, have gone as far as to discuss whether my friend was raped, decide she was crying wolf, and call up the alleged perpetrator to inform him that they had decided she owed him an apology.

Some of the people who participated in this abuse are well known on the left. And many of them attended Reclaim the Night rallies, one even writing an article about it.

What has also been extremely upsetting is the silence of people who know what's going on. Throughout this process very few people were willing to stick their necks out, and those who did have also been subjected to harassment and bullying. Most people have stayed silent, remained on good terms with the harassers, or have stated that they consider what happened a personal matter.

Unfortunately, this isn't a one off experience. I've been an activist in the radical left for 16 years. During that time I have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, stalked and coerced into a relationship, all by supposedly radical, pro-feminist men. And I've seen this, and worse things, happen repeatedly to other women on the left. I am not only talking about sexual violence and harassment, but all the individual abuse that is directed at women on a routine basis and which undermines our ability to engage in activism.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sydney "riot" - filling vacuum we left

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Most Australians, even anti-racist anti-war protesters, have no idea how much many Muslim communities have faced police-state terror tactics for speaking up - or just for being who they are.   

Waleed Aly hinted at it in his all-too-circumspect piece in the Age today.
"This is the behaviour of a drunkenly humiliated people: swinging wildly with the hope of landing a blow, any blow... it feels powerful. This is why people yell pointlessly or punch walls when frustrated. Outrage and aggression is an intoxicating prospect for the powerless. Accordingly, it is not an option to leave an insult unanswered because that is a sign of weakness.The irony is that it grants power to those offending. It puts them at the centre of your world. "
While we may chuckle at the incongruous metaphor about drunk Moslem fundamentalists, there's lots of reasons for Moslems to be angry at humiliation. Many of them are fairly well known, even if the apologists for war deny their relevance. Others are more sinister and almost unknown to most of the public.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What’s really causing power bills to rise?

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In recent months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has taken to highlighting the role of state electricity utilities in pushing up power prices. Average power bills have been rising rapidly — 69% over four years in NSW.

Gillard said on June 14: “The big mass of the costs, coming out of the new investment in poles and wires — something done by state government — doesn't come with real assistance for families and that's a matter for state governments to address.”

On August 7 she said: “These energy price rises are well above the cost of the introduction of the carbon price and taking action on climate change. Nine cents of every dollar in an electricity bill is for the carbon price — and that’s fully compensated — while 51 cents is for the poles and wires."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sweden may not want to resolve the accusations against Assange

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If we assume (reasonably) that the US' preferred option would be to rendition Assange to some military prison, how does the current situation rate?

They don't have Assange, but neither is he completely free, holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy. His character is under the shadow of the allegations in Sweden. They haven't got all they want, but they are doing as much damage as they can.

 If Sweden or the US gave a guarantee that he would not be extradited or renditioned to the US, then he could go to Sweden and face the legal case there. Even if Sweden simply questioned him in the Ecuadorean embassy, or via video linkup, they could resolve it. But they haven't.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Using coal exports as a lever for climate action

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Co-authored with Zane Alcorn. Originally published at RenewEconomy.

In the first part of this article, we provided evidence that suggests Australia’s current coal exports, and more so their projected doubling by 2020, is unlikely to be replaced by other international coal exporters, should Australia withdraw from the market.

We argued that restricting Australia’s coal exports could constrict the demand for coal – by pushing up the international market price. Our LNG exports could follow a similar path.

We drew on the report Laggard to Leader: How Australia can lead the world to zero carbon prosperity, published by climate and renewables think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions. The argument in that report is for a moratorium on increasing coal and LNG exports, and seeking agreements with other countries to begin phasing out those exports in tandem with deploying and developing renewable energy.

We can get a sense of just how much Australia can affect prices for these commodities, simply by looking at what the January 2011 Queensland floods did to coal prices. Around 34 per cent of Australia’s coal exports were affected (and Australia exports around 27 per cent of the world’s traded coal; that means there was a drop of nearly 10 per cent in traded coal).

While metallurgical (coking) coal prices spiked by as much as 150 per cent, “Thermal coal prices were also pushed up, with the benchmark price for thermal coal to Japan, Australia’s largest coal buyer, settled at a record $129.85 per tonne in April 2011.”