Thursday, June 28, 2007

Howard needs to address the causes of aboriginal community issues, not just the symptoms

John Howard’s recent announcement of sending police and troops to address the “emergency” that he has declared concerning aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory will not address the many causes of this situation.

Indigenous Australians are facing huge problems including low life expectancy, high infant mortality rates, high rates of diseases such as diabetes, along with drug and substance abuse problems with petrol sniffing, alcohol and kava.

The recent “Little Children are Sacred” report also highlighted another symptom of social breakdown and dysfunction – the sexual abuse of children.

None of these problems are new, yet John Howard suddenly declares an emergency.

It is not surprising that people in these communities are scared and frightened by the prospect of the army and police arriving. They clearly haven’t been widely consulted about these measures and whether they will work. Just imagine if a section of non-aboriginal Australia was suddenly subjected to the same measures.

It also appears that many of the 97 recommendations in the report are being ignored, with one of the report authors Rex Wild QC criticising the Howard government’s actions.

While Mr Howard has expressed some displeasure at being accused of playing politics with this issue, it is hard to believe that this is just another political wedge tactic to catch out Kevin Rudd and create more community dissent about the appropriate course of action to take. Why is Mr Howard and Mr Brough castigating the States and the Northern Territory for inaction on these problems when they have been doing nothing about it during two terms of government either?

Unfortunately, Kevjn Rudd is playing politics too by fully supporting Howard’s police action initiative. It has been left to some Labor State premiers to question Howard’s motives and point out that police action on its own won’t solve all the problems.

This is a matter of human rights and fair treatment of indigenous Australians. There is a law and order issue, but this is a symptom of the problem with a "law and order crackdown" being yet another ill informed attempt at "cure".

Rudd needs to stand up and state what is wrong with Howard's position on this.

What about prevention? What about building resilience in these communities? What about allowing people to develop their own meaning and path in life? Why is there no discussion of prevention measures or causes? Why are we sending in police prior to consulting with the communities in question?

The Howard government's anti-reconciliation, anti-land rights and anti-multiculturalism stances are all implicated as contributing factors to the problems faced by Indigenous Australians.

We need a non-political approach to these problems that carefully assesses all the report’s recommendations and engages the communities involved. There are opportunities to build on the some success stories among indigenous Australians. We need real consultation and leadership on this, not political maneuvering and point scoring.


PM's 'got it wrong' on abuse plan

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stop logging Melbourne's catchments to save water

Letter to the editor

It is encouraging to hear that the announced desalination plant for Melbourne (Australian 20/6) will be carbon neutral. However the renewable energy it will consume would be better utilised supplying Melbourne which is now struggling for power during peak load times.

Following the doctrine that prevention is better than cure, the Bracks government should end all logging of our old growth forests and water catchments.

Considering the Thomson catchment, which supplies over 50% of Melbourne's water during drought years:
  • Over 50% of the Thomson catchment has now been logged.
  • The area most heavily logged produces 70% of the water.
  • This is causing the loss of 20 gigalitres of water each year from the catchment, which amounts to the water used by about 100,000 households.
The image below shows the extensive patchwork logged forest in the Thomson catchment, circa 1995.

Around 90% of Melbourne's tap water comes from 157,000 hectares of native forest spread across our water catchments. These forests have the prime purpose of harvesting drinking water. Scientific studies have confirmed that logging causes the loss of at least 30 gigalitres from these catchments each year. These losses are equivalent to the current water use of 150,000 Melbourne households per year. Over the last 30 years a third of these catchments have been logged.

The value of the water lost subsequent to logging far exceeds the low value of the woodchips, timber and royalties. Victorians would be $147m better off per year if logging of catchments stopped.

Melbourne Water should buy out the timber licenses for the Thomson and Yarra tributary catchments at an estimated cost of $3.9 million, rather than spend the estimated $20 million to bring the Tarago catchment back into the domestic water supply system.

If the Bracks government were to stop logging our native forest, adopt further conservation measures and encourage every household to use a water tank, we may not even need the $5 billion desalination plant which will double the cost of water bills.

The UK Stern Report estimates that deforestation represents more than 18% of global carbon emissions, so protecting protecting our forests from logging has the added benefit of ensuring the carbon they store stays there and does not further contribute to climate change.

City counts cost of logging, The Age

Monday, June 11, 2007

Australia should embrace the clean energy industry

Here is an excellent letter to the editor of The Age that points out that the Howard Government is guilty of extreme economic negligence by deliberately ignoring the fantastic opportunity for Australia to develop jobs and exports in the clean energy industry.

The European example points out on what Australia is missing out on:

  • In 2006 in Europe $38b was invested in the renewable energy industry
  • In 2007 it is projected that renewable energy industry investments will increase to $45b
  • Nuclear provides about 6% of Europe’s energy and is being phased out
  • On current trends renewable energy is predicted to be cost competitive with coal by 2015
  • The renewable energy industry employs approximately 500,000 people while the coal industry employs about 30,000
  • In 2006 wind energy output exceeded nuclear energy output on one day in Germany
  • In 2006 in France, energy production from nuclear was halved due to a shortage of water to cool the power stations.
  • Germany has now mandated that new houses must produce 20% of their power needs
  • The EU is currently considering increasing their Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) to 20%
It is interesting that emission trading in Europe has not assisted renewable energy, it has only improved efficiencies of fossil fuel use. So John Howard's future dated "response to climate change" is far to little, far too late.

What a waste
Vivienne Gray, Williamstown
Published in The Age on Saturday 10 June 2007. (Source)

Why does our Prime Minister always stress the economic costs of adjustments needed to address global warming, and not the economic opportunities?

Andrew Stephens' article (3/6) highlights how Australia has lost out over the past few years. The Federal Government has failed to foster technologies and industries that could have ensured our ongoing prosperity and at the same time helped reduce our greenhouse emissions. As a result, many thousands of "green-collar" jobs have been created offshore.

The last decade gave us a chance to make progressive adjustments to our fossil-fuelled energy industries. But in the face of government inaction, we now have to take more drastic steps and, if Howard is to be believed, we'll need a network of nuclear power plants.

So, we can forget about being the "clever country". The Federal Government's vision will ensure we remain the world's quarry - mining coal (until no one will buy it) and uranium. Our existing power plants will be replaced with equally ugly nuclear power plants.

Oh, and we'll take the world's nuclear waste, too. At least we'll lead in something.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mother's climate action and John Howard's response

Here is an inspiring video made by some people who care about climate change - the Blackheath Climate Action Now! Group in Sydney.

Local community action like this will really make a difference to our politicians, who are currently unwilling to take real action on climate change.

John Howard won't commit to any emission reduction targets until after the election - probably because his targets will be so weak they won't make any difference. His emissions trading scheme won't really address climate change either. His obsession with nuclear power won't help either - it wouldn't be ready in time and isn't renewable energy.

Kevin Rudd has only committed to 60% emission reductions by 2050. However, with no 2010 or 2020 targets, Australia's carbon emissions would continue to grow - up to a 20% increase by 2020, so 2050 targets on their own are basically useless.

Let your local member know that you care about climate change, and that you want real action on climate change.

For more details on what our leaders should do to really take action on climate change, visit The BigSwitch.

Here is a leak of John Howard's response - his upcoming PR campaign on climate change - from the Getup climate change campaign

Monday, June 04, 2007

Logging our native forests is just not on

The recent high score awarded to the logging industry by the EPA for complying with environmental requirements (Age, Business 4/6) unfortunately doesn't take into account the huge impact that logging and burning native forests has on biodiversity, the survival of endangered species such as Leadbeaters Possum, or the resulting loss of water from our catchments.

Reporting high compliance levels with the weak and substandard Code of Forest Practice is hardly a commendable outcome. I have witnessed at first hand numerous breaches of the Code, and the rampant forest destruction that results even when the Code is adhered to. For example,
most habitat trees left recently logged Yalmy forests in East Gippsland have now died.

The Government is wasting a lot of taxpayers money doing questionable audits on an industry now almost exclusively focussed on producing low-value woodchips that are nearly all exported. The audits don't include the huge carbon emissions that result when the logged forests are burnt. These native forests should be protected both to address climate change, and to ensure they can be enjoyed by future generations. Treating them like de facto plantations is just not on.

Logging audit gets high score

Saturday, June 02, 2007

LETTERS: We can pursue ambitious cuts and also grow the economy

It is encouraging to see that many are seeing through the Howard's government spin and hyperbole on climate change. Here are some letters from the Australian on June 2, 2006 that cut to the chase:

Chris Cuthbert
Epping, NSW

The climate change sceptics and the merely querulous have had a good run on the letters page this week (Geoffrey Luck, 30/5; Tom Biegler, 31/5; J. Morrissey, 1/6), so it might be time to present the other side of the debate.

The science by now is solid. The true scientists and the professional sceptics can debate the issue for the next 50 years, and new research will extend our knowledge and modify some conclusions as to the road ahead, but this won’t change the main conclusions: the world is heading for big trouble and we’re overdue in taking some serious corrective action.

Corrective action will not destroy economies or even put them under great strain. This was stated very clearly in the Stern report and also in two local reports, the latest by the CSIRO. Their conclusions? We can adopt challenging emission targets, do our best to meet them, and also grow our economy.

The do-nothing alternative is just not acceptable. To state the obvious, the economy is a fully owned subsidiary of the environment. A damaged environment equals a damaged economy. Anyone who doubts that had better read some Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Australia is one of the countries that will definitely be worse off.

If we decide to wait for everyone else, our international reputation in relation to this very significant issue will be even lower than it is today. To take just one example: the Indonesian archipelago is made up of 27,000 islands, 8000 of which are inhabited. Thousands of these islands will be under threat from rising sea levels and storm surge, if not by 2030 or 2050 then certainly by the end of the century. The vast numbers of people displaced will look south to observe a rich, complacent and uncaring land taking a free ride. What’s the point of individual Australians and our governments sending aid to these people every year and then washing them out of house and home?

Bruce Jame
Tea Tree Gully, SA

In the carbon trading and global warming debate, many people seem to think that if carbon dioxide emissions generated in Australia are reduced, there will be a commensurate reduction in the rate of Australia’s climate change. This is not so. We are almost totally dependent on what happens in the large industrial and developing countries, the US and China in particular.

What we do may be useful in consciousness-raising and setting a good example, but in practical terms will have very little effect and may come at a considerable cost. John Howard’s reluctance to promote emission targets and carbon trading may be influenced by this, but he does not say so. This is because he’s desperately trying to appear to be doing something that will make a difference and thereby curry favour with the electorate. For whatever reasons, other political leaders and global warming activists, who must know better, do not point out the futility of carbon trading unless it’s part of an effective global scheme.

Matt Mushalik
Epping, NSW

The Prime Minister recommends a cautious approach to the adoption of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nature doesn’t care about the PM’s – or anyone else’s – opinion about the pace of reducing greenhouse, it just responds to our emissions. If emissions don’t go down year on year, we’ll pay the price.

All our politicians need to attend a training course in climate physics. And the electorate will have to put pressure on all political parties. The solution is a re-industrialisation of Australia on the basis of renewable energies with technologies developed at our universities. They are ready. We can start today.

Natasha Hildebrand-Lockie

Yarraville, Vic

John Gava ("Cut gases or cop the cold shoulder”, Opinion, 31/5) overlooked three important reasons why Australia must significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

First, Australia’s annual contribution is 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions; we should, therefore, be responsible for our contribution. If every country reduced their own contribution and stopped worrying about other countries’ contribution, then the problem would be solved.

Second, Gava claims that “our production of greenhouse gases is so minuscule compared with the rest of the world”. In reality,
Australia’s emission levels are on par with many industrialised countries, such as France and Italy, and only 20 per cent lower than that of the UK. If Australia argues that our emissions are too insignificant to require action, then so could the vast majority of countries – and global warming will never be addressed.

Third, Australia can act as a convincing example to the highest emitting nations of how it’s possible to progress, cost effectively, to a low-carbon economy. In this way, Australia has the potential to make a huge contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and this shouldn’t be trivialised.

Mike Driscoll
Adelaide, SA

AS part of any carbon trading initiative, a carbon tariff should be imposed on imported goods proportional to the country of origin’s carbon emissions. This would serve to protect the economies of emissions-abiding countries from imports from non-abiding countries.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Howard greenwashes climate change with weak carbon emissions scheme

Howard's proposed carbon emissions trading is just a greenwash that won't address climate change. It is too little and too late.

Emissions trading in Europe (where they have been doing it for years) has not benefited the development of renewable energy.

With no (or soft) targets/limits, there won't be any reduction in carbon emissions. At least $35 per tonne for carbon is required before wind can compete on a level field with coal. $50 per tonne is required to make carbon capture/sequestration competitive due to its very high development cost (and don't forget the risk that it may not actually be economically feasible).

Permits must be auctioned, not given away to polluters. Otherwise the highest emitters such as coal fired power stations get a free concession to pollute, and the value of the permits is devalued.

Permits must be temporary licences, not property rights, otherwise owners will claim compensation from taxpayers when they lose them if we actually do succeed in cutting emissions.

Howard has quite obviously been forced by public opinion to reluctantly do something to look like he is addressing climate change. Unsurprisingly, he has failed to address the root cause - which is the burning of fossil fuels.

Malcolm Turnbull has just stated that "the long term direction is for zero emission energy", but the Howard government is light years away from this and is giving $500m to the coal industry.

Here is the roadmap they are studiously ignoring:

  • Reduce consumption through efficiency measures.
  • Boost renewable energy such as biomass, wind, and solar and zero emission geothermal energy and reduce coal-fired generation
  • Gas can be used for power generation to transition to lower emissions
  • Set scientifically backed emission reduction targets of 20% by 2020 (at a minimum) and up to 80% by 2050
  • Use the world global average temperature to measure progress; if it keeps rising more stringent measures are immediately required.

Kevin Rudd is avoiding any short term targets for emission reductions too, so Labor's policy for reducing carbon emissions is currently not much better than Howard's.

We need a paradigm shift to a new jobs-rich economy based on renewable energy. With both major parties dodging and weaving on this, the only clear option to safeguard our future is to vote Green.