Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Radioactive Water From Fracking Found In Pennsylvania Streams (Duke University Research) | CleanTechnica

Radioactive Water From Fracking Found In Pennsylvania Streams (Duke University Research) | CleanTechnica

A number of important Pennsylvanian streams — many of which feed into the water supplies of large cities in the state — have become significantly contaminated with radioactive water from fracking operations, new research from Duke University has found.
Radium levels 200 times higher than normal were measured in water downstream of the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility — a facility that processes wastewater from natural gas fracking operations in the state. As well as the extremely high levels of radioactive radium, the tested water contained high levels of bromide — a chemical that when exposed to commonly used water-treatment chemicals creates cancer-causing compounds.
Read more at http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/07/pennsylvania-streams-contaminated-radioactive-water-fracking-research-finds/#IQc78OR3oxWA17oP.99


  1. The continuing story of rhetoric vs reality ft Tangles Abbott & Sweaty Joe.


    PM stumbling around the international stage

    Tony Abbott has lurched from one diplomatic disaster to another as he compounds rookie mistakes with our Asian neighbours.

    .............. Even allowing for inexperience, the Abbott government appears to be setting a new standard for diplomatic ineptitude. The Prime Minister in particular has lurched from one mistake to another, with each episode more ham-fisted than the last.

    Three cases illustrate the point.

    When the Prime Minister left for Indonesia on his first overseas visit, he had a clear set of objectives. He needed agreement on one of three approaches designed to ''stop the boats''.

    A few days earlier, in a meeting in New York, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa blind-sided Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with an uncharacteristically sharp rebuke of the Coalition's plans. He then compounded Bishop's humiliation by leaking the meeting notes - later explaining it as ''a mistake''. The message was clear: Jakarta would not be entertaining policies which encroached on its sovereignty, so don't even bother.

    Abbott returned from his trip humbled and empty-handed.

    Abbott's second diplomatic imbroglio is likely to have more far-reaching consequences. It was to announce a one-year deadline on reaching a free trade agreement with China. On the surface, this might seem sensible.

    In fact, announcing a deadline was a blunder of the first order. Trade deals are among the most exacting form of diplomacy. They involve painstaking negotiations for market access, often over technicalities and in the face of opposition from influential constituencies.

    By injecting artificial urgency, the Prime Minister has pulled the rug from under his own trade negotiators and handed China a massive bargaining advantage. .. For a government determined to put ''economic diplomacy first'', this was a rookie error, indeed.

    The government's most serious foreign policy mistake so far, however, has been its embrace of schoolyard diplomacy. Both Abbott and Bishop have repeatedly, and unnecessarily, gone out of their way to describe Japan as ''Australia's best friend in Asia''.

    The more concerning aspect about this kind of language, however, is what it portends in future.

    .. Today, Japan and China are facing off over disputed islands in the East China Sea. China's strategy aims to exhaust Japan through low-level air and maritime intrusions. Japan's is to tempt China into an overreaction that triggers a regional backlash against Beijing. The risk of war is steadily growing.

    By cuddling up to Japan, the Abbott government is pre-emptively forfeiting that opportunity....


    Joe Hockey expected to take axe to most Labor tax initiatives

    ...............Seven policies will definitely be dumped, including Labor's proposed fringe benefits tax changes for the car industry, tax on superannuation pensions, and changes to thin capitalisation.

    It is understood the Coalition is planning to keep Labor's planned slug on cigarettes in a hike that will see an increase to excise not just once, but four times over the next four years.

    The Coalition will also unwind Labor's plans to try and prevent multinational companies profit shifting, which will cost the budget $1.5 billion.

    Profit shifting occurs when companies use tax arrangements in various countries to minimise the amount of tax they pay.

    .............The Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA)'s Stephen Martin says .............We're echoing the calls from business community leaders that we think substantive change needs to come to company tax to make us internationally competitive," he said.

    "And what with we are saying is the tax base should be broaden and should see an increase in the GST as part of that.

    "These are substantial reforms that require political courage."

  2. Julie Bishop to return to Indonesia for Bali Democracy Forum, expected to face more spying questions

    Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will return to Indonesia today, where she is expected to face more questions about reports of espionage.

    Ms Bishop is attending the Bali Democracy Forum, but her third visit to the country since September is being overshadowed by Indonesia's frustration that Australia will not provide answers about its intelligence-gathering activities.

    There has been a show of deep concern from Indonesia since last week's reports of Australia's embassy being used to collect intelligence as part of a wider espionage program.

    After failing to secure answers from the Australian and US governments, Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa raised the stakes and suggested co-operation and information-sharing in areas like people smuggling would be reviewed.


    No big savings to come from repeal of carbon tax, industry group warns

    One of Australia's largest business groups says consumers may not see a big difference in the price of many products when the carbon tax is removed.

    The Federal Government has asked for public feedback on legislation aimed at getting rid of Labor's carbon tax.

    In its submission, the Australian Industry Group says apart from electricity, many price changes are likely to be limited.

    It says many businesses were not able to pass on the cost of the carbon tax in the first place.

    The group's chief executive, Innes Willox, says that means price cuts will not be as significant.

    "The whole pain of the carbon tax won't go away overnight," he said.

    "Consumers will have to accept that business will have to continue to pass through some costs that they have associated with the carbon tax and its leftovers whenever it is repealed."


    COAG 'fails to deliver on reforms'

    FEDERAL and state leaders have failed to meet targets to lift economic growth and improve services for taxpayers, in a bleak verdict on the national reform agenda as Tony Abbott prepares for a crucial first council with premiers and chief ministers. Ringing the alarm on stalled promises, the agency that monitors national reforms will warn today that Australians are not getting the boost to education, health and indigenous welfare pledged by governments five years ago.

  3. Barnaby Joyce says rugby league expenses were official business

    Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce billed taxpayers more than $4600 for ''official business'' travel to attend rugby league games, including the 2012 State of Origin. The revelations come as the Abbott government hinted it will tighten rules on politicians' entitlements.

    Mr Joyce, who was given free tickets to watch the 2012 State of Origin and NRL finals in corporate boxes, claimed flights to Sydney, Comcars and overnight ''travel allowance'', costing taxpayers $4615. His spokeswoman told Fairfax Media that attending the matches was legitimate ''official business''.

    Finance Minister Mathias Cormann also said he had ''no doubt'' the Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson will recommend improvements to the system, which has allowed a quarter of the Coalition frontbench to claim about $16,000 to attend weddings on the public purse.

    In the latest entitlements controversy, the Agriculture Minister, who has already billed taxpayers for travel associated with two weddings, has claimed flights and travel allowances to attend three rugby league games. Mr Joyce described the travel in his expense claims, recorded in June and September 2012, as, ''Shadow Minister - Official Business''.

    Government rules state that ''official business'' means attendance at ''properly constituted meetings of a government advisory committee or task force provided that the senator or member is a member of the committee or task force''

    It is Mr Joyce's third controversial taxpayer-funded claim revealed by Fairfax Media in recent weeks. Since the Abbott government took office the Agriculture Minister has repaid $650 he billed taxpayers to attend the wedding of his friend, former radio host Michael Smith.

    Yet despite repaying the expenses, Mr Joyce insisted he had done nothing wrong. The wedding, Mr Joyce argued, was ''a work day like any other''.

    ''They're all private functions at which you spend most of the time talking about politics,'' he said.

    Mr Joyce also defended claiming $5500 in ''overseas study tour'' expenses for a stopover in Kuala Lumpur while flying home from the 2011 Indian wedding of the granddaughter of Gina Rinehart's business partner.


    Murdoch wants his pound of flesh

    Having been the largest single contributor to the election of Tony Abbott's Coalition government, Rupert Murdoch is looking for his reward, according to word around the industry. The Sun King - as he has been crowned - is said to have been talking to the freshly minted Canberra legislators about the possibility of acquiring the Ten Network.

    The jungle drums say his agenda also includes discussion on the abolition of anti-siphoning laws restricting the ability of pay-television operator Foxtel to exclusively broadcast first-run premier sports events.

    The lobbying is said to extend to the Foreign Investment Review Board (or at least its ultimate master, Treasurer Joe Hockey) and media regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

    The acquisition of Ten has long been speculated to be on Murdoch's wish list, but under the previous government the notion of doing News Corp any favours was fanciful. It would make perfect sense for Murdoch to revisit this lobbying under the Abbott regime.

  4. 'The claims are exaggerated': John Howard rejects predictions of global warming catastrophe

    London: Former prime minister John Howard has poured scorn on the "alarmist" scientific consensus on global warming in a speech to a gathering of British climate sceptics, comparing those calling for action on climate change to religious zealots.

    Mr Howard said he was an "agnostic" on climate science and he preferred to rely on his instinct, which told him that predictions of doom were exaggerated.

    He also relied on a book written by a prominent climate sceptic, which scientists have attacked as ignorant and misleading.

    And he called on politicians not to be browbeaten into surrendering their role in determining economic policy.

    Nuclear power – a "very clean source of energy" - shale oil and fracking were solutions to the world's energy needs, Mr Howard said.

    Mr Howard's speech in London on Tuesday night was to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank established by Nigel Lawson, one of Britain's most prominent climate change sceptics, former chancellor in the Thatcher government and father of TV chef Nigella.

    Mr Howard revealed before the speech that the only book he had read on climate change was Lawson's An Appeal to Reason: a Cool Look at Global Warming, published in 2008.

    Mr Howard said he read it twice, once when he was writing his autobiography, when he used it to counter advice for stronger action on climate change given to him by government departments when he had been prime minister.

    But the book has been attacked by climate experts.

    Mr Howard quoted as "compelling" one of Mr Lawson's claims in the book: that unmitigated warming would leave future generations 8.4 times better off, compared with 9.4 times richer in the absence of climate change (the book in fact uses the numbers 8.5 and 9.5).

    That calculation is based on "sleight of hand and faulty logic", said Bob Ward, policy director at the London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and it ignores the possibility of warming at the higher end of estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Economic growth in developing countries was much more important than countering global warming, Mr Howard said, and the West had no right to deny economic development to the rest of the world in the name of climate change.

    He accused the IPCC of including "nakedly political agendas" in its advice.

    Mr Howard said he had always been an agnostic on global warming.

    Mr Howard also criticised "zealous advocates of action of global warming" and "alarmists" for attempting to exploit the NSW bushfires in October.

    He pointed out that a big bushfire in Victoria took place 163 years ago, "when the planet was not experiencing any global warming. You might well describe all of this as an inconvenient truth."

    Renewable energy sources should be used when it makes economic sense, but nuclear energy should be used in the long term, and the ‘shale revolution' would be a game-changer in the energy debate, Mr Howard said.

    He said renewable energy should be used only when it was affordable and would not hurt poorer families or developing countries.

    He predicted that shale oil and gas had opened up a "tantalising prospect" of an energy independent US, which would dominate energy policy in that country and would "dwarf" consideration of a carbon trading scheme.

    In Australia, nuclear power should be "kept on the table" and used as it became better value for money.

  5. Carbon emissions must be cut ‘significantly’ by 2020, says UN report

    Failure will mean greater costs and risks and pathway to limiting temperature rise to under 2C will close fast

    The chances of keeping the global temperature increase below 2C will “swiftly diminish” unless the world takes immediate action to escalate cuts in carbon emissions, the United Nations has warned.

    The UN Environment Program said that even if nations meet their current emissions reduction pledges, carbon emissions in 2020 will be eight to 12 gigatonnes above the level required to avoid a costly nosedive in greenhouse gas output.

    The Emissions Gap Report 2013, which was compiled by 44 scientific groups in 17 countries, warns that if the greenhouse “gap” isn’t “closed or significantly narrowed” by 2020, the pathway to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C will be closed.

    At UN talks in 2010, the international community agreed to limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2C by 2100, based on pre-industrial levels.

    Scientists at the recent IPCC gathering warned that the world could emit enough carbon to surpass the 2C limit within 30 years, and this latest UN analysis heightens concerns that the world could be heading for a temperature rise of 4C or even 6C, triggering damaging sea level rises, extreme weather events and food insecurity.

    The Emissions Gap Report, released ahead of climate talks in Warsaw next week, found that although the 2C target could be achieved with higher emissions by 2020, failure to significantly reduce CO2 levels will “exacerbate mitigation challenges” after this time.

    “This will mean much higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium term; greater lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure; greater dependence on often unproven technologies in the medium term; greater costs of mitigation in the medium and long term; and greater risks of failing to meet the 2C target,” the UN Environment Program stated.

    In order to avoid this scenario, the report recommends that emissions should reach a maximum of 44 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2020, falling to 40 gigatonnes by 2025 and further to 22 gigatonnes by 2050.

    However, given that the 2C target was set based on the assumption that action would start in 2010, the report warns it will become “increasingly difficult” to meet this goal. Global greenhouse gas emissions for 2010, the latest year for which data is available, stood at 50.1 gigatonnes.

    Although the report states the window for action is “narrowing”, the 2C target could still be achieved by implementing ambitious emissions reduction promises, tightening the rules of existing pledges and international co-operation on areas such as energy efficiency, renewables and fossil fuel subsidies.

    Last week, the Climate Change Authority said that Australia’s 5% emissions reduction goal is “not a credible option” and should be increased, possibly to 15% or 25%.

    A separate analysis by WWF found that Australia has already burned through two-thirds of its share of a “carbon budget” that would keep the temperature rise under 2C.

  6. Clive Palmer firm fails its 'environmental duty'

    CLIVE Palmer and his coal exploration company in Queensland's Galilee Basin finally fell foul of environmental regulators yesterday after a long-running failure to rehabilitate almost 300 exploration holes on private cattle properties. An Environmental Protection Order was issued yesterday against the Palmer United Party leader's Waratah Coal "for not complying with their general environmental duty requirements" after months of investigation. Local landholders who rely on underground water reservoirs are concerned they have been adversely affected by the drilling.

    A Queensland government spokesman said the order "will require the decommissioning and appropriate rehabilitation, or conversion to water bores of approximately 300 coal exploration drill holes". The maximum penalty for a corporation which fails to comply with such an order is a fine of $1.1 million, while an individual can be imprisoned. The order will require that the work be undertaken in accordance with best-practice methods and with regular updates for owners and regulators.

    Mr Palmer, who began planning his political assault after the Queensland government favoured rival Gina Rinehart's coal project and its multi-billion-dollar infrastructure proposal in central Queensland, was advised yesterday of the order being issued under the Environmental Protection Act.

    The resources tycoon has carried out exploration activities since August 2009 as part of a bid to further his China First Project, however, his expenditure on it has fallen away since he was not given preferred status by the Queensland government.

    The exploration work, however, has continued to have an impact on a number of properties and their businesses. The spokesman said the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection had received "a number of complaints from landholders regarding possible aquifer contamination and the potential for associated impacts on landholder's bores as a result of un-rehabilitated exploration drill holes".

    "Most of these complaints have been regarding approximately 300 exploration drill holes, which have not been decommissioned and extended delays by Waratah in commencing decommissioning activities," he said.

    "Based on the information collected as part of the inspection and subsequent investigation, EHP determined that Waratah had failed to take reasonable and practicable measures to ensure that their general environmental duty was met.

    "The aquifers intersected by the exploration holes could have led to groundwater intermingling with different zones near the Great Artesian Basin, according to a geologist formerly employed by the company, a fully owned subsidiary of Mr Palmer's Mineralogy.

    Mr Palmer has been seeking funds from Chinese and other investors as part of a strategy to develop the coal reserves. He did not respond to questions from The Australian yesterday. Mr Palmer has launched Supreme Court defamation proceedings against the newspaper.

  7. Eyre of tension as states clash

    A MURRAY-DARLING Basin-style brawl is brewing over the Queensland government's plans to scrap wild rivers declarations over the sensitive channel country to enable greater minerals and gas exploration. The issue will be a key concern when state and federal ministers gather in Brisbane today for the annual Lake Eyre Basin group meeting. Both houses of the South Australia parliament are considering a motion condemning Queensland's lack of consultation.

    The chairman of the Lake Eyre Basin Community Advisory Committee, Angus Emmott, said the issue could become a major environmental concern.

    The Queensland changes affect the Cooper Creek and Georgina and Diamantina rivers which make up the world's largest ephemeral water system.Intermittent floodwaters from the three river systems charge Australia's greatest inland lake system, Lake Eyre.

    South Australia, the Northern Territory, and the federal government are signatories to the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement, which aims to ensure the health of the Lake Eyre Basin and avoid any cross-border impacts. South Australian Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter said the Queensland proposals were likely to affect the quality and quantity of water flowing in the Lake Eyre Basin.

    "Any changes to the Cooper Creek and Georgina and Diamantina wild rivers declarations would have a significant cross-border impact on South Australian pastoralists and Lake Eyre Basin communities, so Queensland must consult," Mr Hunter said. "So far it has failed to do so."Mr Hunter said the nation could not afford another Murray-Darling Basin-style debate over the future of the Lake Eyre Basin.

    "It took more than 100 years for everyone to come together to properly manage the Murray-Darling Basin, and we can't afford a similar drawn-out debate over the environmental future of the Lake Eyre Basin," he said.

    A spokesman for Mr Hunter said the parliamentary motion would be considered in the last two sitting weeks before the next state election.Queensland Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps accused South Australia of "rank hypocrisy".

    "I await with great interest to hear at (today's) meeting the measures the South Australian government is putting in place to protect these river systems once they flow across the border," Mr Cripps said. He said the Queensland plan allowed for, at most, 0.4 per cent of the mean annual flow of the Cooper Creek to be drawn from the Queensland side.

    "Open-cut mining will not be allowed in the Channel Country and oil and gas development will be strictly controlled under conditions to be contained in the Environmental Protection Act," he said.

  8. Low income earners struggle in Karratha despite its tag as the richest regional town in Australia

    "Beyond the nice new streets and the six-seven storey buildings we have here now, there's a dark side, a twilight side to Karratha and that's the people in this community who are poor."

    Financial counsellor and social worker Bob Williams understands poverty does not fit in with the public's perception of WA's resources rich Pilbara region.

    It's a tough image to sell when recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Karratha's average income is about $87,000 a year, making it Australia's richest regional town.

    Mr Williams recently listened to a desperate cry for help from a single Karratha mother of two living in a house with no electricity, as she is too poor to pay the bill.

    "It's a never ending cycle," he said.

    "I often think, sometimes these people wake up in the morning and what have they got to look forward to?

    "It's just another day of trying to plan meals on the table, thinking about where they are going to get the money for the rent, where they are going to get money for the electricity this week.

    "Combine that with if you have a sick child, or somebody who's sick in the family, you need medication, you need to keep your phone going.

    "All of this mounts up and it's just not enough money to go around."

    Cost of living is sky high in mining town

    Pilbara Community Legal Service's chief executive, Nanette Williams, who is married to Bob, says despite a slowdown in the mining boom, the cost of living in the Pilbara is still sky high.

    "$87,000 might be the average but whether or not those people are the majority I would doubt," she said.

    "We have low income people and middle income people who are struggling to make ends meet.

    "I'd say quite a high proportion of people in Karratha, Roebourne and Port Hedland would be living in adverse poverty."

    Mrs Williams says many people who visit her and her husband's office asking for help rely on Centrelink allowances for income.

    "By the time they have paid their rent, which is higher here than anywhere else in the state, and their fuel, which is higher here than anywhere else, and their power, which because of the heat they consume more than anywhere else in the state, there is nothing left to purchase food or basic essentials for the kids to go to school," she said.

    Mr Williams says he has dealt with 248 separate cases in the first six months of this year.

    "On a reasonable week I'd be seeing between 20 to 25 people and that figure only increases during the Christmas period," he said.

    KPMG demographer Bernard Salt says people living in the Pilbara have always paid a premium for what most Australians would consider basic essentials; food, power, water, fuel," he said.

    "You need to match up income with expenses as a better way to get a firmer picture of what life is like, what the challenges are, and the areas that we need to address."

    The Williams have lived in Karratha for 35 years and have seen it grow from a tight knit outback community to a bustling mining town full of fluoro shirts and four wheel drives.

    Bob Williams says as the town developed off the back of the resources sector, locals were driven out by the rising costs.

    "You've still got people sleeping in cars, you've still got people sleeping on the back beach," he said.

    "The rangers have a busy time kicking people out of Cattrall Park because they're sleeping there.

    "Some local people were lucky, some managed to get jobs in the resources sector.

    "But some went a bit overboard, bought a flash car, bought a flash boat and now they find they can't keep their payments up, they can't keep up with their mortgages.

    "There's a lot of mortgage stress coming through and I've noticed an increase in bankruptcies."

  9. Low income earners struggle in Karratha despite its tag as the richest regional town in Australia


    Remote location challenging for provision of services

    Mr Salt says the remote location drives up expenses.

    "The bottom line is that it's on the North West shelf, it's not easily accessed, everything has to be transported in, there is still a great competition for labor, and it doesn't have the critical mass that delivers the sort of lifestyle many Australians would want from a major city," he said.

    "So there are challenges with living in that area and those challenges need to be compensated with higher levels of income."

    Shire of Roebourne chief executive Chris Adams acknowledges Karratha has been playing catch up.

    "We've been behind the eight ball in terms of services and infrastructure over the past five years but we are definitely catching up," he said.

    "There's been a huge investment by all tiers of Government and industry into housing and civil infrastructure, so roads and those sorts of things, but also community infrastructure.

    "There have been lots of new sporting facilities, youth facilities and also new commercial and retail facilities, so the place has really grown and it's becoming a place of choice where people want to live.

    "The facilities and services here are as good as they are in the city now."

    Nor have mining companies ignored what is happening in town.

    Mr Williams says the industry has generally been sympathetic to those who are not faring as well as the rest.

    "Rio Tinto, for example, been good enough to donate quite a lot of non perishables to us, which we distribute to the needy," he said.

    "Other companies have donated furniture, bedding, white goods which we've been able to distribute as well."

    He says it's rare that somebody struggling cannot be helped.

    "We do our best for everybody but there are occasions when there's nothing we can do, especially when it comes to accommodation," he said.

    "We've still got people coming into town looking for work and expecting to walk into house straight away.

    "It's not possible, you need to have work and accommodation sorted before you come up here or there's no point."

    At the peak of the boom in 2007, tenants were paying about $2,200 a week on average.

    Despite the cost of rent declining over the past two years, it remains an ongoing problem for locals.

    Mr Williams says all the development in town is encouraging so long as low income earners are not left out of the picture.

    "It's a good thing to see new buildings and the town developing, but let's develop everybody equally, not just the people that have money to spend on property and businesses," he said.

    "We mustn't forget these other people who are doing it tough.

    "That's the dark side, they are there and they won't go away, they are going to be there for quite a long time."

  10. McGowan keen to hear Kimberley education funding fears

    Western Australia's Opposition Leader will visit teachers and parents in the Kimberley to hear concerns, about education funding changes, face to face.

    Schools across the region took part in stop-work meetings last month to protest against the State Government's plans to cut jobs and restructure funding.

    Mark McGowan will hold a public forum in Broome this Saturday, along with the Member for Kimberley, Josie Farrer, and Opposition spokeswoman for education Sue Ellery.

    Mr McGowan says Kimberley schools will be more disadvantaged than others in WA because of their remote nature.

    He says he has added concerns for Kimberley schools and wants to hear from like-minded parents and teachers.

    "So that we can get issues to take up in Parliament to try to get some of these changes put in place by the Government reversed," he said.

    "I want to make sure that the regions in particular don't suffer as a result of these education cuts because regional kids generally have a lesser chance of going to university and ripping resources out of schools will only make that worse."

  11. In the lucky country of Australia apartheid is alive and kicking

    The richest land on Earth writes Aboriginal people out of history and pushes them to the margins. Like South Africa 30 years ago

    John Pilger

    The Guardian, Wednesday 6 November 2013

    The corridors of the Australian parliament are so white you squint. The sound is hushed; the smell is floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon portraits of prime ministers and rows of Aboriginal paintings, suspended on white walls, their blood and tears invisible.

    The parliament stands in Barton, a suburb of Canberra named after the first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, who drew up the White Australia Policy in 1901. "The doctrine of the equality of man," said Barton, "was never intended to apply" to those not British and white-skinned.

    Barton's concern was the Chinese, known as the yellow peril; he made no mention of the oldest, most enduring human presence on Earth: the first Australians. They did not exist. Their sophisticated care of a harsh land was of no interest. Their epic resistance did not happen. Of those who fought the British invaders of Australia, the Sydney Monitor reported in 1838: "It was resolved to exterminate the whole race of blacks in that quarter." Today, the survivors are a shaming national secret.

    The town of Wilcannia, in New South Wales, is twice distinguished. It is a winner of a national Tidy Town award, and its indigenous people have one of the lowest recorded life expectancies. They are usually dead by the age of 35. The Cuban government runs a literacy programme for them, as it does among the poorest of Africa. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, Australia is the richest place on Earth.

    Politicians in Canberra are among the wealthiest citizens. Their self-endowment is legendary. Last year the then minister for indigenous affairs, Jenny Macklin, refurbished her office at a cost to the taxpayer of $331,144. Macklin recently claimed that in government she had made a "huge difference". This is true. During her tenure, the number of Aboriginal people living in slums increased by almost a third, and more than half the money spent on indigenous housing was pocketed by white contractors and a bureaucracy for which she was largely responsible. A typical, dilapidated house in an outback indigenous community must accommodate as many as 25 people. Families, the elderly and disabled people wait years for sanitation that works.

    In 2009 Professor James Anaya, the respected UN Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, described as racist a "state of emergency" that stripped indigenous communities of their tenuous rights and services on the pretext that paedophile gangs were present in "unthinkable" numbers – a claim dismissed as false by police and the Australian Crime Commission. The then opposition spokesman on indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott, told Anaya to "get a life" and not "just listen to the old victim brigade". Abbott is now the prime minister of Australia.

    I drove into the red heart of central Australia and asked Dr Janelle Trees about the "old victim brigade". A GP whose indigenous patients live within a few miles of $1,000-a-night resorts serving Uluru (Ayers Rock), she said: "There is asbestos in Aboriginal homes, and when somebody gets a fibre of asbestos in their lungs and develops mesothelioma, [the government] doesn't care. When the kids have chronic infections and end up adding to these incredible statistics of indigenous people dying of renal disease, and vulnerable to world record rates of rheumatic heart disease, nothing is done. I ask myself: why not?

  12. In the lucky country of Australia apartheid is alive and kicking

    John Pilger ............cont..............

    "Malnutrition is common. I wanted to give a patient an anti-inflammatory for an infection that would have been preventable if living conditions were better, but I couldn't treat her because she didn't have enough food to eat and couldn't ingest the tablets. I feel sometimes … as if I'm dealing with similar conditions as the English working class at the beginning of the industrial revolution."

    In Canberra, in ministerial offices displaying yet more first-nation art, I was told repeatedly how "proud" politicians were of what "we have done for indigenous Australians". When I asked Warren Snowdon – the minister for indigenous health in the Labor government recently replaced by Abbott's conservative coalition – why after almost a quarter of a century representing the poorest, sickest Australians, he had not come up with a solution, he said: "What a stupid question. What a puerile question."

    At the end of Anzac Parade in Canberra rises the Australian National War Memorial, which the historian Henry Reynolds calls "the sacred centre of white nationalism". I was refused permission to film in this great public place. I had made the mistake of expressing an interest in the frontier wars in which black Australians fought the British invasion without guns but with ingenuity and courage – the epitome of the "Anzac tradition".

    Yet, in a country littered with cenotaphs, not one officially commemorates those who fell resisting "one of the greatest appropriations of land in world history", wrote Reynolds in his landmark book Forgotten War. More first-Australians were killed than Native Americans on the American frontier and Maoris in New Zealand. The state of Queensland was a slaughterhouse. An entire people became prisoners of war in their own country, with settlers calling for their extinction. The cattle industry prospered using indigenous men virtually as slave labour. The mining industry today makes profits of a billion dollars a week on indigenous land.

    Suppressing these truths, while venerating Australia's servile role in the colonial wars of Britain and the US, has almost cult status in Canberra today. Reynolds and the few who question it have been smeared and abused. Australia's unique first people are its Untermenschen. As you enter the National War Memorial, indigenous faces are depicted as stone gargoyles alongside kangaroos, reptiles, birds and other "native wildlife".

    When I began filming this secret Australia 30 years ago, a global campaign was under way to end apartheid in South Africa. Having reported from South Africa, I was struck by the similarity of white supremacy and the compliance and defensiveness of liberals. Yet no international opprobrium, no boycotts, disturbed the surface of "lucky" Australia. Watch security guards expel Aboriginal people from shopping malls in Alice Springs; drive the short distance from the suburban barbies of Cromwell Terrace to Whitegate camp, where the tin shacks have no reliable power and water. This is apartheid, or what Reynolds calls "the whispering in our hearts".

    • John Pilger's film Utopia, about Australia, is to be released in British cinemas on 15 November and in Australia in January