On 31 March Brisbane's Courier Mail Newspaper reported that the proponents of the proposal to build a high residential development on a concrete slab above the Northern half of the Brisbane River adjoining the Central Business District had declined to put their case at a public debate to be organised by the Brisbane Institute.
Rising Tide Newcastle is calling for an immediate response from the Federal Government after one of the world's foremost climate scientists wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling on him to halt plans for more coal mining and exporting, and put a ban on new coal fired power stations.
The letter's author, Dr. James Hansen, is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute, and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. His letter states that:
“ ... there are plans for continuing mining of coal, export of coal, and construction of new coal-fired power plants around the world, including in Australia, plants that would have a lifetime of half a century or more. Your leadership in halting these plans could seed a transition that is needed to solve the global warming problem.
“Choices among alternative energy sources - renewable energies, energy efficiency, nuclear power, fossil fuels with carbon capture - these are local matters. But decision to phase out coal use unless the CO2 is captured is a global imperative, if we are to preserve the wonders of nature, our coastlines, and our social and economic well being. If we continue to build coal-fired power plants without carbon capture, we will lock in future climate disasters associated with passing climate tipping points. We must solve the coal problem now.”
Climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle have been calling for a ban on new coal projects in the Hunter Region, and said today that the Federal Government is under international scrutiny for our massive coal industry expansion. Group spokesperson Steve Phillips said: “This letter, from one of the most respected climatologists in the world, makes it clear that a ban on new coal projects is a common sense and necessary response to the global climate crisis.”
“There is increasing international pressure on Australia to get serious about climate change, as this letter shows. Our single biggest contribution to the problem is coal exports, and our national response to the problem must confront that reality.
“Kevin Rudd has so far ignored community demands for a ban on new coal projects. He surely cannot ignore the same demands from the world's leading climate scientists.”
James Hansen will be sending a similar letter to the Premier's of Australia's states. The letter can als be viewed as a pdf file here.
Philippe Legrain's puerile veneration of globalization and free market economics is, for its outrageous simplicity, alluring to some in the same way that Ayn Rand's uncompromising fantasies drew a cult following. His call for open borders is so boldly brazen that it disarms many of his incredulous audience in the manner that Milton Friedman or Julian Simon did theirs.
The editorial writers of newspapers from Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, including the Courier Mail and The Australian, are not shy in showing their contempt for public opinion whenever it runs counter to the powerful vested interests they represent. Examples from recent years include their support for:
The Queensland Government’s so-called "affordable housing strategy," signed in July with no community consultation, establishes an Urban Land Development Authority with sweeping powers, including the power to amalgamate land, to acquire land in its own right, and to on-sell their land with development rights to particular private developers.
The justification provided for such sweeping powers being given to the new authority is to speed up approvals. It has long been a complaint of industry that the approval process for development is slow and therefore costly resulting in higher prices to home buyers. The enabling legislation pushed through Parliament, again without any consultation and with unseemly haste, of course strips away some current protections.
Under the new legislation, the Minister can declare areas of land for urban development or as major development areas. In these areas, the Act removes the community’s right to appeal approvals, overrides provisions in local government planning schemes that protect steep slopes, floodplains and waterways and removes restrictions in state legislation designed to protect endangered vegetation and waterways from destruction. It also removes the requirements for assessment with regard to contaminated land, heritage places and many other values.
With these policies, "ecological sustainability" has been abandoned in favour of "growth at any cost" development. Premier Beattie, once seen as a bit of a champion of environmental protection and community participation in the planning process, has, after removing the hard-won environmental gains of his nine years as Premier with this legislation, now handed over the reins to an eager new Premier Anna Bligh.
In response to media earlier this year calling for a population cap, Ms Bligh said that we need more growth "in order to create demand to maintain the jobs of people currently employed in construction." At the same time, the state government also claims that we need more skilled migrants to build the infrastructure needed to cope with the demands caused by Queensland’s population growth (also, no doubt, more taxpayers to pay for these major infrastructure projects). In other words, we have no choice but to grow our population in order to deal with problems caused by past population growth!
Housing affordability is an issue for all of the community and there are many ways to make housing more affordable, not the least of which is to lower the demand. The declaration of land as urban without any regard for the views of existing residents, the costs of infrastructure, the provision of open space or the local constraints to development is a betrayal of everything the Beattie government said that it represented. Now it seems they believe they have no choice but to continue to grow the population. It appears the Queensland government has fallen for the growth lobby’s arguments hook, line and sinker.
By Sheila Davis a member of Sustainable Population Australia
A beautiful and historic holiday retreat for workers' children bought by the NSW union movement back in the '40s in the Ku-ring-gai National Park north of Sydney is threatened by developers, assisted by their bidders at the helm of the NSW government, Premier Morris Iemma, Treasurer Michael Costa and Minister for Planning Freank Sartor. The group Friends of Currawong has launched a public campaign to prevent Camp Currawong being turned into yet another playground for the world's wealthy elite, "something ike St Tropez".
This story will be told on tonight's (Thursday 27 March 2008) viewing on ABC television's The 7.30 report.
Sold for $15 million in February 2007 by Unions NSW secretary John Robertson, Currawong is now in the hands of the developers Eduard Litver and Allen Linz, who are at the same time turning Bondi waterfront into "something like St Tropez". The broker of the sale was one David Tanevski who is also linked by a maze of business deals to Linz, Litver and formerly to one Michael Costa, as secretary of Unions NSW and now NSW treasurer.
Currawong is a developer's wet dream. Or would be, were the beachfront not currently occupied by a charming collection of shacks and a farmhouse described by Heritage NSW as possessing "state historical significance as the most intact remaining . mid-20th century, union-organised workers' holiday camp in NSW and probably Australia".
The developers have persuaded Minister for Planning and Heritage Frank Sartor that Currawong is scarcely worth noticing, much less listing, while simultaneously claiming it is so significant it is a Part 3A State Significant Development Site (automatically suspending all heritage and environmental safeguards).
Currawong is too important and sensitive to be governed by the Heritage Council. Too important and sensitive not to be exploited for a fast buck by ALP-connected developers. And too important and sensitive not to have the minister's personal thumbprint on such development.
Friends of Currawong are still in there fighting to save it. It would take about sixteen paragraphs to tell you about the ups and downs. It is great that (at least part of the saga) is on the 7.30 Report tonight#main_fn1">1.
Jo Holder & Shane Withington
Co-convenors, Friends of Currawong
Jo - 0406 537933
Brian McConnell, President of the ACT group Friends and Families for Drug Law Reform (www.ffdlr.org.au) wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 6 March 2008.
The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
An open letter seeking evidence-based drug policies
Dear Prime Minister,
A number of days ago you said that you were preparing to make an announcement on illicit drugs. You have also said that you are determined to tackle homelessness, mental health, education, child protection, and other social problems and that you would bring evidence to bear in policies of your government.
Evidence shows that drugs are a potent factor in a high percentage of all these social problems. No substantial headway in removing the social problems that you have so clearly identified will ever be made unless drug policy is seriously examined. Priority must be given to improving functionality of people with drug problems. But should not necessarily be making them drug free nor attempting to rid Australia of all drugs.
It is these latter issues that has formed the core of thinking about and the implementation of Australia’s drug policy.
The outcome of that policy has been somewhat different from that which was expected. We now have a very large profitable black market that has more and better resources than law enforcement; we now have more potent concentrated drugs that are easier to smuggle, some of which need to be injected or inhaled for effect – practices that are not without their extreme dangers. The black market appears to be unstoppable and when squeezed responds like a balloon, bulging with a new more potent drug or the emergence of a new, more cunning Mr Big.
There have been costs - financial costs of in excess of $7 billion a year for governments and business. Despite the best evidence saying that $1 spent on drug treatment is up to seven times more effective in reducing supply of drugs, Australian governments spend three times more on law enforcement.
And yet we do not evaluate the effectiveness of our law enforcement approach. The national Crime Authority, shortly before it was abolished, stated that law enforcement only captured about 13% of the heroin that came into the country. Thus failing to capture 87% of the imported heroin in that year. Experts have indicated that a capture rate of better than 60% is needed to have any impact on the drug market – a figure that is unlikely to be achieved under current practices.
Laws have been tightened and harsher penalties introduced and yet we have the worst epidemic of the drug "ice" coupled with the resurgence of heroin. The outcome of those laws has not effected the market but has widened the net, potentially capturing more users, not dealers, and expanding the population of our jails of which about 80% are there for drug related reasons.
But there are social costs also of our present approach to dealing with illicit drugs. There is an incalculable cost to families. We also know that treatment services are needed yet they are under-resourced. The potential clients of those services have been marginalised and ostracized by society such that many are reluctant to use those services. They are treated punitively by many services that should be there to help and often without thought of the consequences – in the case of my own son, at the time a recent university graduate, who had overdosed and awoke in hospital to the police at the end of his bed eager to make a bust. My son panicked, took a hurried holiday and overdosed and died away from the treatment and family support that he desperately needed. It was an opportunity and a life unnecessarily lost. Many families have similar tragic stories.
Prime Minister let me be clear, I am not saying that drugs are without danger. They all have dangers, including alcohol as you have noted. It is simply that our attempts to stop their use has not been as effective as it could be and that our approach has introduced many more dangers, sometimes more dangerous than the drugs themselves. Addictive substances whether they be illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco are not ordinary commodities and should not be treated as such. Nor am I saying all those who use drugs are saints. Many are foolish or reckless young people. But they do not deserve to die because of our indifference to the need to provide the right services. Nor do they deserve to have their life chances destroyed because they have attracted a criminal record for their foolishness.
I know that finding the right balance of solutions will not be easy. We have yet to find that balance. Illicit drug policies need to be based on evidence and importantly all such policies need to be objectively evaluated from a broad perspective at regular intervals. The results of that evaluation would inform the next iteration of drug policy.
Before making your policy announcement on illicit drugs I ask, no plead that you subject it to at least the following tests:
- Does it provide the best return on investment, in social as well as economic terms, and does it cause the least possible harm to individuals as well as society;
- Has the past primary focus on the elimination of supply been the most effective means of reducing harms or is there a better and more balanced alternative?
- Does this policy response best address problems associated with those who are dependent on illicit drugs and those users who are not?
- Are these measures likely to be most effective in reducing availability?
- Does it adopt different strategies to deal with particular drugs having regard to their different harms?
Prime Minister I am at your disposal should you wish to discuss these matters further.
Rupert Murdoch's Australian Newspaper in an article Migrant workers scoring top pay" has made use of figures which which purportedly show that immigrants earn more, rather than less than their Australian equivalents, , as if to answer any possible objection to Australia's current record high rate of immigration.
If the Canada of 1965 could have been preserved in aspic its medicare system might have been viable. But how is it now to contend with the massive numbers who make major claims on hospital services?
Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper recently posed the question "Have these been the most boring elections?". This triggered an exchange of e-mails which began when Independent Mayoral candidate James Sinnamon wrote an open letter to the Courier Mail's City Hall reporter.
Media Release from Senator Andrew Bartlett 8 March 2008
Queensland Senator Andrew Bartlett has called on the federal Labor government to set up a public inquiry into allegations of bribery and intimidation by Australian government and wool industry officials.
Newspaper reports say many large clothing retailers in Sweden have banned Australian wool products; Sweden's Minister for Agriculture Eskil Erlandsson has urged consumers to boycott Australian wool and there are alleged bribes by a representative of the Australian Wool and Sheep Industry Taskforce, accompanied by an Australian Embassy official.
"These are serious allegations which need to be openly investigated," Senator Bartlett said.
"It is bad enough that people from taxpayer backed bodies and industries are alleged to be trying to silence animal welfare activists who want to expose cruelty to Australian animals. But the allegation that an Australian Embassy official in Sweden has also been involved is extremely serious.
"Australian Wool Innovations has a history of intimidating those who try to highlight the cruelty involved in mulesing of sheep and the live export industry, including trying to misuse the Trade Practices Act to run drawn out and expensive legal action against ordinary Australians."
"The live export industry has also used disinformation as a regular tactic for many years to try to deflect repeated evidence of immense cruelty.
"Despite these practices and the continuing animal cruelty, both major parties have continued to support government resources being put into maintaining and growing these industries.
"These industries and the federal government have the right to put an argument as to why the cruelty involved in the industries might be justifiable. But they should not be trying to silence those who disagree, particularly at the taxpayers' expense," Senator Bartlett concluded.
Media contact - Tracee McPate - 0417 607 655
t: 07 3252 7101 local call cost (Qld): 1300 301 879 f: 07 3252 8957
e: senator.bartlett|AT|aph gov au web: www.andrewbartlett.com
These articles came to me by way of the NSW Greens E- brief from the NSW Greens Office. To receive a regular e-brief, email andrewm AT nsw greens org au
Residents must have a voice in who runs their council
With local government elections scheduled for mid-September this year, the state government has been busy sacking councils to try to divert attention away from its Ministers’ relationships with property developers. The State government has ignored the democratic right of residents of Port Macquarie and Wollongong to elect the people who represent them on local councils, and instead imposed an Administrator who is totally unaccountable to the local community. With elections only a matter of months away, if genuine incompetence and corruption has occurred, it would have been appropriate to appoint an Administrator until the scheduled elections, but it is totally inappropriate for that Administrator to hold power until September 2012.
Royal Commission needed into relationship between Labor donors and ministers
Sylvia Hale called this week for a Royal Commission into
the relationship between property developers, their political donations and the decisions of Labor government Ministers. See also SMH story Sartor and One Burwood project of 27 Feb 08.
Independent Mayoral candidate calls for root cause of housing unaffordability to be tackled
Media release 3 March 2008
by James Sinnamon : Independent Candidate for Mayor of Brisbane>
2008 Brisbane City Council Election
James Sinnamon, an independent candidate for Lord Mayor of Brisbane, called upon Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to tackle the real cause of housing inflation rather than to apply band-aid measures at the expense of taxpayers.
"When all policy is supposed to be driven by hard economics, it is astonishing that the added demand for housing caused by record high immigration is barely discussed," said Mr Sinnamon.
"Back in 2004 when profits from property investments momentarily slumped, the property sector demanded, and got, from Prime Minister John Howard, record high immigration. As a result, Australia's population has risen by a further 1.2 million in just four years, housing costs have hit the stratosphere, and housing repossessions have reached 800 per week with a further 300,000 households at risk with the latest threatened interest rate rise."
"Property investors have got their wish," said Mr Sinnamon, "and the rest of us are paying the price."
"Mr Rudd needs to decide whether he will continue to serve the interests of the property sector or whether he will provide ordinary Australians with affordable housing, but he cannot do both."
Contact phone 0412 319669
For further media releases, visit candobetter.wikispaces.com/Media
1. "She's one in 21 million as Australia comes of age", Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Jun 07 and Australian Bureau of Statistics population clock.
2. An economist representing the real estate industry on Radio Australia's "Australia Talks back" of Wednesday 20 May 2004 said repeatedly that increasing immigration would fix the claimed woes of property investors.
3. House Flu , The Age 24 Feb 2008
REALITY AS A LINGUISTIC FILTER OF GROWTHISM
"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end, we shall make thought-crime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it." A character in Orwell's 1984.
This was originally published on the www.bluewedges.org with the Title "Fishermen prefer caution". Earlier the Murdoch-owned Herald Sun newspaper, echoing claims of the Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC), had given dredging a clean bill of health in the story Port "Phillip Bay given all-clear after dredging" claiming that miracuously that "water is now clearer at Rosebud than before the $1 billion project began".
“With the dredge in the South, the water is getting more murky and cloudy, and there aren’t many fish either”. Mr. Buck has received reports from fellow anglers from as far north as Parkdale that water quality has dropped dramatically since dredging began. “I have also been told about sick and dead penguins and scallops showing signs of obvious distress in the south of the bay. The murky plume is easily seen even from the MODIS website satellite photos, stretching towards the north of the Bay. There’s no doubt it is affecting water quality, but at least it’s not toxic as well as murky - yet. It will be a different story if the dredge starts work on the underwater hazardous waste facility for storing the toxic Yarra sludge” he says.
Mr. Buck says rather than trust the PoMC data he would prefer to listen to the advice of independent scientists such as Mr. Chris Mardon#main_fn1">1 who says:
“Ideally the sediment should not be disturbed at all. Toxins attach to fine clay particles and will be partially released into the water if the Yarra bed is dug up. Many of these particles will be carried down the bay towards Ricketts Point by natural currents. PoMC data indicates beaches from Port Melbourne to Brighton will be affected by the dredging plume.”
“Dredged Yarra sediments will be carried by barge to the proposed dumping ground in the middle of the Bay west of Ricketts Point. Recent experiments where clean mussels were brought from the south of the Bay and suspended over the existing spoil ground showed that the mussels became contaminated in a matter of a few weeks#main_fn2">2.
PoMC’s consultant (Golder) undertook a fish contamination model to estimate likely contamination in a limited number of fish species. Technically, their data met an Australian standard (ANZFA MRL), but that is because that list is limited in its scope. They totally ignored some toxins and one toxin they chose to evaluate is not listed (PAH, or Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). PAH is both toxic and known to cause cancer.
The Victorian EPA used the US EPA screening values in its recent study #main_fn3">3 into the suitability of fish for human consumption from the Lower Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers. That study resulted in the Victorian Department of Human Services warning to keep consumption of fish taken from this area to very small amounts, especially for pregnant women and children. If the EPA values are applied to the PoMC’s fish data, (and why weren’t they?) the results ring alarm bells, especially PAH in mussels from the Yarra, Hobson’s Bay and St. Kilda areas. PoMC’s own data indicates the concentration of PAH in fish tissues could be hundreds of times the safe levels recommended by the Victorian EPA and the Victorian DHS (see summary spreadsheet compiled from PoMC data).
The Victorian EPA study found mercury and dioxins in fish from the Yarra, so the absence of mercury and dioxins information in the PoMC data is curious to say the very least. Dioxins are extremely hazardous environmental pollutants which bioaccumulate, attaching to fat cells in the body, and are known to cause birth defects, cell mutations and cancer.
“Why would you want to fish in the Bay if the PoMC ever start the toxic waste facility?” asks Mr. Buck.
Blue Wedges spokespersons: Trevor Buck, John Willis: 0407 053 484, 0427 777 747
#main_fn1">1. Mr. Mardon is a chemical engineer, who worked in the chemical industry for 5 years then as a research scientist with CSIRO until his retirement.
#main_fn2">2. Bioaccumulation Study SKM April 2006
#main_fn3">3. EPA publication: Maribyrnong and Yarra estuaries: investigation of contamination in fish January 2007
These were obitained with a google news search using the terms:
Port Phillip Bay dredging
Dredging off Brighton The Age - 28 Feb 2008
Queen of the Netherlands set for toxic dig Melbourne Herald Sun - 28 Feb 2008
New review planned for dredging The Age - 28 Feb 2008 (Comment: on this issue, the Liberal and National Parties in Victoria are taking a stance in favour of the environment and accountability. For this they should be applauded, whatever might otherwise be critically said of the environmental records of these parties at both the state and federal levels.)
Nationals back Libs on dredgingThe Age - 28 Feb 2008
Please help Moreton Bay's threatened marine wildlife today. Give 5 minutes
of your time to sign this online letter to the Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation asking for greater protection in the Marine Park, then forward to your friends and family.
Over the summer the Queensland Government released a draft zoning plan for Moreton Bay, earmarking a mere 15% protection in Marine National Park zones. These are areas where we are free to enter- to swim, boat, dive, and snorkel - but where all wildlife is safe from harm
While 15% is better than the current protection of less than 1%, it does not go far enough for our threatened wildlife.
Marine scientists around the globe say that it is critical that at least 30% of all ocean habitats, such as seagrasses and corals, are given Marine National Park status.
Our chance to support our turtles and dugongs is closing fast. Public comments are due by 5pm Friday 7 March 2008. Moreton Bay Marine Park is only reviewed every ten years, so this is a once in a decade opportunity.
How you can help
- Click here! Act now and sign the letter;
- Once you have had your say please forward this email to your friends and family asking them to sign and circulate it to their networks.
With overwhelming public support we really do believe that the Government will provide more than just a mere 15% protection for our precious marine wildlife.
Don't let this chance go by. Our turtles, dugongs and other wildlife need your support today. Your grandchildren will thank you for it.