Saturday, May 3, 2014

The day the climate movement shifted gear in Australia | CounterActCounterAct

The day the climate movement shifted gear in Australia | CounterActCounterAct

It didn’t really rate much of a mention. A small local piece on the regional New South Wales news a couple of days ago, about the biggest day in court Narrabri had ever seen. 83 people were arrested in a single day on the 31st March in a significant action that involved the occupation of Whitehaven’s proposed mine expansion. In court on the 29th April, Over 100 people who had put their bodies on the line in recent months to stop destructive fossil fuel industries operating in the Leard and Pilliga forests were heard in court. Around 60 people received $300 fines for minor trespass charges. Some people are contesting charges. I am one of them.

I was proud to stand that day with doctors and teachers, with retirees and students. I was proud to stand with Bill Ryan, 92 year old Kokoda veteran. I was proud to share a paddy wagon with Ros Druce, local farmer who has bravely taken the step of being the first Maules Creek resident to be arrested defending her land. I was proud to stand with Marion Gevers, mother of Jonathan Moylan who decided it was time to stand up to this industry too, and support her son and the campaign. I was proud to stand with the young university students from Canberra who took a big leap out of their comfort zone by participating in this action.
Whilst there have been mass arrest actions in Australia before we are seeing a paradigm shift. By my estimate, well over half of the people arrested on March 31st were first timers. It was the first time a local farmer, Ros Druce, had been arrested. We had elders like Bill Ryan. We had doctors, nurses and teachers. We had people who were hoping not to get arrested but knew the risks. We stopped work for a day on a massive construction site despite significant police and security resources being deployed against us. And we did it peacefully and with dignity. People involved now have a powerful story to share with friends and family who will very likely support their brave actions. Without mainstream media giving this significant groundswell the attention it deserves it is up to us to tell our stories.
The police are playing hard ball now. At the action they arrested the media crew, our police liaison contact and went in early to grab people they knew could be good spokespeople, or support others in the action.



    The Leard Forest Maules Creek coal mine ecological disaster

     Lachlan Barker 24 April 2014, 12:30pm

    The land set aside to offset the rare forest being bulldozed for the Maules Creek coal mine in NSW has been shown to be totally wrong, but Whitehaven Coal couldn’t care less. Lachlan Barker reports.

    NORTH-WEST OF TAMWORTH, in the rural belt of NSW, a David and Goliath battle is on.

    Big Coal, represented by Whitehaven and Idimetsu Kosan, with the backing of The Minister for Making a Lot of Money out of Coal, Greg Hunt, are desperate to destroy a unique piece of ecology in the quest for coal profit.

    Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine is located within the Leard Forest and the Leard Forest is what the coal company seeks to destroy.

    There are four mines in play: Maules Creek, Tarrawonga, Boggabri, and nearby Goonbri.

    Local ecologist Phil Spark says that in the end the companies wish to bulldoze 3,400 hectares in and around Leard Forest to allow mining activities.

    This is bad enough ‒ sheer destruction for profit ‒ but what’s worse, the “offset” for these mines is totally and utterly bogus.

    Let's start with offsetting — what is it?

    Offsetting is a procedure that anyone ‒ be it a company or private landholder ‒ has to go through if they wish to destroy a piece of ecology.

    So if you wish, say, to build a new housing development and have to bulldoze a 50 hectare stand of tree 'X', then to "offset" it, you will have to find another 50 hectare stand of the same type of tree, and preserve that.

    And the law of offsetting is the nub of the furore over Leard Forest.

    Within Leard Forest are the last large stands White Box Gum Grassy Woodland, in good order, on Earth.

    Local ecologist Wendy Hawes described it to me as:

    "… the last of the last.”

    To do the bulldozing for Maules Creek, Whitehaven are required to find another 554 hectares of White Box Gum Grassy Woodland, in good order, and preserve that.

    But, these days, with the amount of damage we have done to this continent, finding a matching bit of ecosystem is becoming increasingly difficult.

    And in the case of Leard Forest — impossible.


    The Coalition's Direct gateway to corruption

    Today we saw more Liberal Party corruption exposed by the NSW ICAC — meanwhile, the same party continues with its misguided plan to pay polluters. Bob Ellis says this is a wide gateway to corruption.

    IT’S HARD TO THINK of a wider gateway to corruption than the paying-the-biggest-polluters legislation pitched to us by Greg Hunt.

    A company has to cut back by, say, one per cent the carbon it puts in the air and someone has to measure this.

    If he says: yes, too right, it’s down to 99 percent, that company gets fifty million dollars. If he says: no, bad luck, it’s as bad as it was, or worse, the company gets nothing, not even a fine.

    It would be hard to find a job more suitable for Arthur Sinodinos, provider of clean sewage to Nick Di Girolamo in times past, or John Elliott, say, or Jodee Rich.

    Who gets this job? And what is he paid? How do we know he’s not paid extra, a half million, say, as ‘commission’ for drop-kicking fifty million a big polluter’s way?

    What is truly amazing is the penalty for a big polluter that pollutes even more — which is no penalty at all.

    Killing the planet, it seems, is not even a misdemeanour now. If you do it, you pay less than a parking fine — you pay nothing at all.

    And next year, when the age of entitlement is over and corporate welfare is ended once and for all, a big polluting corporation gets $50 million for farting at the atmosphere one per cent less often and pays not a cent to the virtuous judge who signs the money over.

  2. Ben & Jerry's referred to consumer watchdog over save-the-reef campaign

    Ice-cream company’s ‘mistruths could cost jobs’, says Queensland LNP senator elect who has written to the ACCC

    A Queensland senator elect has referred Ben & Jerry’s to Australia’s consumer watchdog for its advocacy efforts against development around the Great Barrier Reef.

    The international ice-cream company has been campaigning against dredging and dumping near the reef. The company has been going on the road delivering free ice-cream around the country to raise alarm about the future of the reef.

    Queensland LNP senator elect Matthew Canavan said he wrote to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday to consider the company’s conduct.

    “Australia has strict laws to protect consumers against misleading and deceptive behaviour,” he said. “These mistruths could cost jobs and development in regional Queensland. It’s irresponsible behaviour from a company that should know better.”

    The Queensland premier Campbell Newman also said on Thursday: “The World Wildlife Fund can make such false assertions, so be it. But a company is bound by consumer law and can’t make false and misleading statements and they are making false and misleading statements when it comes to this.”

    A spokeswoman for the ACCC said in a statement on Friday it would “consider matters raised” but that it would not discuss specific matters at this stage.

    “In deciding what approach to take, the ACCC would assess concerns raised against its compliance and enforcement policy,” the spokeswoman said.

    The Queensland government is also urging a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s over its involvement in the campaign. Its environment minister Andrew Powell said the company had signed up to a campaign of “lies and deceit”.

    The dredging of the reef has drawn criticism from a range of environmental and international groups. On Thursday the world heritage organisation Unesco released a highly critical report on the process, and said it would be recommending the reef for consideration on the “world heritage in danger” list.

  3. Joe Hockey finds wind turbines offensive

    These kind of wtf moments seem to come every day from this worst-government-in-Australian-history Government.

    "I drive to Canberra to go to Parliament ... and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive,” Mr Hockey told Alan Jones on 2GB. “I think they’re a blight on the landscape.”

    Well, there has been much falling-about-uproarious-laughter-tinged-with-bitterness in the media and internet about this, much probably transmitted on those mobile phone towers I find utterly offensive. All along the lines of wind farms being a lot less visually offensive than coal mines. Not so much "I know that I shall never see a coal mine lovely as a tree", but "I know that I shall never see a CSG field lovely as a wind farm".

    All jolly good fun along the lines of the "you gotta laugh or you'll cry" school of political commentary. But for gorsake stop laughing, this is serious.


    Joe Hockey warns clean energy and 'utterly offensive' windfarms are in his budget crosshairs

    ........................NSW Greens upper house member John Kaye said the Treasurer's comments were a worrying signal that the federal and NSW Coalition governments were preparing to undermine Australia’s renewable energy industry.

    “Pandering to the Flat Earth, anti-wind brigade, crosses both parties of the Coalition and the federal-state divide,” Dr Kaye said.

    “It's yet another sign that the Renewable Energy Target is likely to be decimated, with Australia losing opportunities for investment in rural communities, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and thousands of new jobs,” he said.

    The Abbott government has appointed businessman and climate change sceptic Dick Warburton to lead a panel to review the target. The current goal is for 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy, or more than 20 per cent, to be supplied by 2020.

    “The Treasurer has a right to his opinion, but the majority of Australians like the look of wind turbines,” said Clean Energy Council deputy chief executive Kane Thornton.

    “The Bungendore Chamber of Commerce – which is close to Lake George and the wind farms in question – even has wind turbines in its logo and on its website,” Mr Thornton said.

    “The idea of producing clean energy from the sun, the wind and the waves typically attracts support of upwards of 75 per cent among Australians,” he said.


    In March, Mr Stokes, the MP for Pittwater, praised the ACT government for its “bold and innovative” renewable energy policies that had created a ring of wind farms around the capital including Collector, Crookwell and Bungendore.

    ''From a NSW government perspective, we acknowledge that this provides some wonderful opportunities for jobs and investment in regional parts of NSW that could really do with those opportunities,'' Mr Stokes told the Canberra Times.

    Two weeks later, though, Ms Goward, then Family and Community Services Minister, told ABC TV news wind farms are "divisive" and that "communities … hate them".

    ‘‘If Canberra wants wind farms, they should build them here at Red Hill,” Ms Goward, the MP for Goulburn, said. “Instead of looking out of their windows at the beautiful blue Brindabellas with the snow on the mountains, [Canberrans] will look out at hideous turbines.’’

    "As the fate of the dozens of wind farm proposals in NSW hang in the balance, the two ministers will be working for very different outcomes," Dr Kaye said.

    "The Greens are calling for the Baird government to recognise the economic and environmental benefits of the most cost-effective form of renewable energy and drop their war on wind," he said.

  4. We had the "big lie" from Woodside & co. - now Abbott and his fake emergencies do the same.

    "When you are telling stories about bogey-men to impressionable minds, it is irrelevant whether the bogey-man is real or not — all that is required is that it produces the desired emotional response, as it is that response that is imprinted long-term in receptive minds. Thus, the Coalition had absolutely no reservations about pulling out the bogey man of debt — as they don't about debt's bogey-colleagues of asylum seekers, Islam, dole-bludgers, government waste, lefties, socialists, Communists, greenies, bikies, or whoever may seem like a threat in the minds of ordinary Australians.

    The technique is an ancient one — it is that of the 'big lie'.

    Adolf Hitler explained the big lie his infamous prison cell treatise Mein Kampf [IA emphasis]:

    '... in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.'

    Everything done by the Government subsequent to the election has been aimed at continuing the public's acceptance of the 'big lie' about public debt, as it is intrinsic in providing political cover for the budget they have long planned to deliver.


    The Australia Institute has, indeed, detailed a compelling list of more than $40 billion worth of comparatively easy revenue raising measures that would not inflict a scintilla of hurt on the economy or the poor and underprivileged. These, of course, were not even considered by the Commission of Audit and are consistently deflected by Joe Hockey.

    That's because none of those measures would be palatable to, for instance, Gina Rinehart — which says all you need to know about who really runs Australia.

  5. Koch brothers face an unexpected new foe: tea party conservatives

    In their quest to cripple solar power and protect the profits of their fossil fuels-based businesses, the Koch brothers have run into an unexpected and potent adversary: tea party conservatives.

    Recently, I wrote about how the billionaire Koch boys, conservative state legislators and big utilities are leading the charge in several states to force private citizens with solar panels on their homes to pay extra fees to be connected to the power grid. At the time it looked as if they had won a big victory in Oklahoma, where the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a bill authorizing just such a fee scheme.

    It turns out all the hard work of the anti-solar forces was immediately blunted by an executive order issued by Gov. Mary Fallin. The order directs the state energy commission to impose solar fees only as a last resort and to continue making expansion of solar power a priority.

    The question is how a Republican governor in a deep red state can go against the Kochs, the most notable financial contributors to right wing causes in the country. The answer is that among the thousands of people who are installing solar panels on their roofs (at an estimated rate of one new system every four minutes) are a whole bunch of independent-minded folks with strong libertarian impulses. They may or may not belong to the tea party, but they want to be able to fend for themselves without big government or big business telling them what they can and can’t do.

    To these conservative-minded citizens, the extra fee being pushed by the Kochs and the utilities is the worst thing in the world: a tax.

    “Monopoly utilities want to extinguish the independent rooftop solar market in America to protect their socialist control of how we get our electricity.” That assertion comes from the website of a group named TUSK, or Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed. It is a coalition of conservatives led by former California Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr. that, so far, has been very successful in beating back the energy industry attack.

    Their next big fight may be in Arizona, where Goldwater’s father, the former senator and Republican presidential candidate, is venerated. There the utilities have managed to get a monthly $5 fee — or tax — slapped on the bills of ratepayers with home solar units. But the state’s largest utility company, Arizona Public Service, one of the many holdings of Pinnacle West Capital Corp., wanted so much more. They had sought a fee of $50 to $100 but got into trouble themselves by conducting a surreptitious campaign against solar users funded by “dark money” and then repeatedly lying about what they were up to. The Koch brothers are alleged to be among the sources of the mysterious funding.

    Now Arizona Public Service is pushing a tax on solar companies that lease solar systems to homeowners. This new tactic could be blocked by another female Republican governor, Jan Brewer, who is sometimes called “the solar queen.” If she decides to step in she will have the backing of Goldwater and plenty of conservatives who like getting their power from the sun and not from some giant monopoly.

    The Koch brothers must be befuddled. All this time they thought they had bought and paid for the loyalty of tea party folks. Now, it turns out they are dealing with genuine rebels who look at the pushy billionaires as just another manifestation of King George III.

  6. Barack Obama's emissions plan comes under new line of attack

    Documents reveal co-ordinated campaign by influential lobbyists working to block the regulation of power plant emissions

    The central pillar of Barack Obama's climate change agenda has come under a new line of co-ordinated attack from influential lobbying networks involving Republican politicians and big business.

    The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a free market group of state legislators funded in part by coal and oil companies such as Peabody Energy and Koch Industries, launched a much broader style of campaigning in 2014 to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

    Documents obtained by the Guardian offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Alec as the organisation tried to drum up opposition from coal, oil and electricity industry groups and state officials.

    The documents showed Alec adopting a new tactic of encouraging state attorney generals to bring lawsuits against the new EPA regulations – and so sink the emissions controls before they come into effect. Alec also encouraged legislators to lobby attorney generals and governors in other states on the EPA rules, the documents showed.

    Meanwhile, Alec legislators introduced about a dozen anti-EPA bills in states including Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

    Alec is expected to reassess its strategy against the EPA rules on 2 May during a meeting of its energy and environment taskforce in Kansas city. Alec also organised a field trip to a coal-fired power plant during the meeting, according to the agenda posted on the Alec website.

    The current campaign emerged on the sidelines of Alec's annual meeting in Washington DC last December when the energy, environment and agriculture taskforce met behind closed doors to discuss how to mobilise state attorney generals, pro-industry groups and power companies to block the EPA.

    The strategy was a departure for Alec, which has a reputation for crafting and promoting pro-industry legislation in the states, but has not generally been involved in broader campaigning.

    Alec followed up on the roundtable by hosting a briefing from Nebraska's attorney general, Jon Bruning, author of a legal brief challenging the EPA's authority to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    Bruning, who is also running for governor of Nebraska, has led opposition from attorney generals to the EPA regulations – 17 of whom signed on to his brief.

    In the conference call, Alec members discussed reaching out to attorney generals and other officials to consolidate opposition to the EPA regulations.