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Tag Archives: Campbell Newman

How do you starve a region of jobs? Just vote LNP!

Most Australians want a good quality of life and a good standard of living.  To achieve this, the availability of jobs in any region is essential. The Liberal National Coalition Government always, always claim to be the Party to look up to when it comes to jobs and business.

We see the main stream media support this claim with positive spin after positive spin in favour of the LNP or derogatory headlines and stories about Labor.  I often wonder if there is a statue of Tony Abbott in the foyer of The Australian or a statue of Campbell Newman and Joh Bjelke-Petersen in the foyer of The Courier Mail; where journalists begin their day by bowing to these statues and vowing to serve them through the course of their duties. Then there are those in the voting public who believe what the Liberal National Coalition say about how they understand business and are great for jobs and repeat it without question.

If you are creating a wealth of jobs, jobseekers must be just lazy…right?

When the LNP believe that they indeed are the best party for jobs and business, it then leads to a false dichotomy that those on unemployment must simply be lazy and that they simply don’t try enough.  Obviously the LNP are in charge, so of course there are plenty of jobs to apply for!

Based on this false dichotomy, the LNP’s approach to assisting the unemployed jobs is to starve community programs of funding and punish the hell out of jobseekers by implementing the worst jobseeker support program in Australia’s history “Job Active.”  Commentary on social media welfare sites from program participants, suggests that Job Active agencies are more focused on who they can get to pull out weeds for free under Abbott’s work for the dole program, than any real constructive assistance.

Commentary and anecdotes on social media also point to a system where there is no money to assist jobseekers find real work and assistance for study is not supported (unless it is pointless in-house training).  With the Newman Government’s changes to vocational education over the last three years coupled with the Abbott Government’s punitive Job Active program, Jobseekers living well below the poverty line must pay out of their own pocket up front costs or pay the course off, as there is no HECS or HELP deferral scheme for many vocational education courses. Those on welfare need to weigh up their options between being able to afford food and housing or an education.  As an Australian, I find this absolutely abhorrent and 100% unacceptable and this destroys this our way of life.

The Palaszczuk Labor Government has just delivered their first budget by Treasurer Curtis Pitt and have invested 34 Million to begin the repair of our vocational sector and TAFE, to provide real training options for jobseekers.  I hope that this will be extended to ensure affordable access for everyone who has the right to an education, including those on welfare payments.

Sadly, also on social media you read the stories of many jobseekers who are anxious, depressed, frustrated, upset and at times indirectly or directly discussing suicide or ‘not living anymore’ as an option.   This is how they are feeling as jobseekers under the Job Active program.  Some of the comments I have read and the stories collected by the Australian Unemployment Union are absolutely heartbreaking.

Nothing like a bit of stigma to get those jobseekers moving…

To degrade the unemployed even further, in some towns like mine you are given a Basic’s card.  Welfare recipients are given a cashless card and a small amount of cash.  This leaves the jobseeker with very little real money to make purchasing decisions with.  The Basics Card also seeks to stigmatise the jobseeker by giving them their own identifier which allows every shop assistant and member of the public at the checkout know that they are on welfare.

Couple this with the rhetoric that comes from the agenda of stigmatisation from the Liberal Government such as backbencher Ewen Jones who said: “look there’s your dole, go home, eat Cheezels, get on the Xbox, kiss you goodbye and we will never see you again’?” Add the sensationalisation of welfare recipients on television and so called ‘current affairs shows’; welfare recipients using a basic card, will be seen automatically by some as no good, lazy, bludging welfare thieves. Terminology used by many avid Liberal supporters which places those on welfare in a criminal category. Welfare recipients are not often seen as human beings who desperately want and actively seek work.

There is absolutely no option for those on welfare to blend in or not stand out as a recipient of welfare. This completely undermines the right to dignity and respect without judgement for so many Australians.  Under the LNP their reasoning is to shame you into finding a job every time you stand at the checkout. The other misunderstanding about the Basic’s card, is that it is available everywhere.   There are only a small number of shops and services which allow purchase with a basics card.  This often forces the jobseeker, living below the poverty line, to spend money at more expensive stores.  In some towns, they have no options at all. This places pressure on their already meagre budget.

So lets see….who should really be punished.  Is it the jobseeker or the Government?  I have completed an analysis of job vacancies in my local area of Central Queensland to find out.

Where have all the jobs gone…Long time passing

The availability of jobs is essential to a productive economy and enables the unemployed to actively apply for employment. Plentiful job vacancies also enable career development for the employed looking for jobs to advance their career.  This opens up lower level jobs for others to apply for. In many cases, highly skilled workers are stuck at the lower end of their professions and not moving on as there are no jobs available to apply for. This puts a constraint on jobseekers seeking entry level jobs. It also puts a constraint on highly skilled jobseekers who also find themselves in the employment queue and now find themselves pulling weeds under work for the dole.

The graph below is job vacancy data for Central Queensland from March, 2012 to January 2015 of the Newman LNP Government and the new Labor Government from Feb 2015 to May 2015. This is where the data availability ceases. There is no data available after May, 2015, but I will be providing follow ups as it comes to hand. (you can click the photo to enlarge). I have completed an analysis on Central Queensland for two reasons.  One is, it is the area I live in and I am very passionate about Central Queensland and the second is to bring some truth to light about how the Newman Govt affected regional areas.  Many believe that due to the Public Service cuts and media around protests, it was mainly Brisbane which had felt the impact. This is not so.

job vacancy growth decline blog

Some Interesting Facts that may get the way of a good LNP Yarn.

Interesting Fact Number 1.

An analysis of job vacancy data for the period of the LNP Newman Government shows a dramatic decline of job vacancies for Central Queensland.  Data available up until May, 2015 shows that in the first four months of the LNP Newman Government, Central Queensland Job vacancies declined by 378 vacancies.  After one year of the Newman Government, there were 1781.7 less job vacancies for Central Queenslanders to apply for. By the end of the Newman Government, there were 2198 less job vacancies advertised in CQ than when the LNP took office.

By comparison, in the first five months of the Palaszczuk Labor Government, Job Vacancies have turned around and job vacancies have increased by 218 jobs for the CQ region in this short time.

Interesting Fact Number 2.

The sharpest decline in job vacancies for any month-to-month period was the period of November to December 2012, which saw a 16% decline in one month for Job Vacancies for CQ jobseekers, under the LNP.

In comparison, the Palaszczuk Labor Government has achieved the highest increase of job vacancies for any month-to-month period for the CQ Region, over the last three years.  For the period from February to March 2015, Job Vacancies in Central Queensland saw a sharp increase of 16%.  This is the highest job vacancy increase for any month-to-month period, since March 2012.  In a few short months, the Labor Government has achieved what the Newman Government could not achieve in their entire period in office. That is, “to understand business and create jobs”  This is an absolute positive and speaks volumes of the quality of MPs within the Palaszczuk Government.  The graph below shows only job classifications with an increase of 20 job vacancies or more. This is not an exhaustive list.

increase Labor feb march

Interesting Fact Number 3

During the period of the LNP Campbell Newman Government, job vacancies in Central Queensland declined by 56%. To put this in real terms, that is 2198 job vacancies not open for Central Queenslanders to apply for under the LNP.  The graph below demonstrates the top 15 job classifications which experienced a decline in job vacancies over the period of the Newman LNP Government.  The only job classification which experienced an increase in job vacancies under the Newman Government were: Farmers and Farm manager (0.9 increase); Carers and Aides (9.2) Education Professionals (12.2 increase) and Medical Practitioners and Nurses (12.8 increase)  These figures are raw numbers, not percentages.  If we look at the success of the Newman Government for Central Queensland, their achievement is basically an increase of 35 job vacancies across four job classifications, and a decline in all other job vacancies for their entire period in Government.

job vacancy decline newman

Interesting Fact Number 4

In the first four months of the Newman Govt, job vacancies in Central Queensland fell by 10%.  In the first four months of the Palaszczuk Govt Jobs vacancies in central QLD increased by 13%

Are Jobseekers as Lazy as the LNP Claim them to be and should they be punished?

The term LNP has been used interchangeably throughout this post, meaning the Liberal National Coalition State and Federal. The LNP use a synthesis of blame and stigma to take the focus off their failings.  The LNP repeat the misguided rhetoric that they are ‘good for jobs’ without question and place blame on everyone else, including the unemployed.  As the data analysis of Job Vacancies for one area in Queensland show, the Abbott Government’s punitive approach is completely uncalled for.  The harsh welfare measures implemented do nothing but feed into the Abbott Government’s agenda of Stigmatisation of those on welfare.  Why? Because there are no better votes for the LNP those those created out of hate, disgust and fear.

My Conclusion?  If you want to starve a region of jobs.  Want to punish the unemployed unnecessarily – Just vote for a Liberal National Government!

Stay tuned for more analysis drilled down on specific classifications and other nerd-filled data excitement!

Originally posted on Polyfeministix

Ooh Ah James McGrath

When Queensland Liberal Senator James McGrath gave his maiden speech in July last year, Doug Cameron described him as a “fruit loop ” and a “Tea Party extremist.”  Perhaps the best appraisal of the speech was by James Colley in his article “Senator James McGrath Is Your Newest Reason To Swear Loudly At The TV.” (worth the read)

The newly elected Senator wasted no time in dramatically outlining his priorities branding himself as a crusader against tyranny.

“The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.

Whether I serve here for 16 days or 16 years, I shall always judge myself on how I have battled against tyranny and fought for the axis of enlightenment—that is, liberty of the individual, a free market, small government and low taxes. I will let others badge and brand and box me, as, in my great broad church that is the Liberal Party, my pew is a moveable feast. I have campaigned against dictator-loving Islamist fundamentalists in the Maldives; Sinn Fein- and PLO-supporting Labour candidates in London; and godless rebranded communists in Mongolia—not to mention the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party!

My life has not been about the pursuit or gain of power but to confiscate power back from government to free people.

From the dockyards of Kronstat to the editorial desk of The Age, the Left always want to control and brutalise. By restricting freedom of speech, they are building Australian gulags for words and thoughts.”

But apparently this freedom does not extend to the ABC who McGrath threatened during his speech saying

“I want to support the ABC. I like the ABC.  Yet while it continues to represent only inner-city leftist views, and funded by our taxes, it is in danger of losing its social licence to operate.  I am calling for a review of the ABC’s charter. And if they fail to make inroads to restore balance, then the ABC should be sold and replaced by a regional and rural broadcasting service. In the meantime, Triple J, because of its demographic dominance and clear ability to stand on its own, should be immediately sold.”

McGrath is now back in the news bemoaning the supposed bias of the ABC’s Q&A programme.

Q&A is the only television program where members of the public can directly ask questions of our elected representatives.  The topics and panel members are usually chosen in response to concerns raised on social media, or events such as the budget or the writer’s festival, or to coincide with the visit of different experts or celebrities.

We have a chance to watch the body language, to see rare glimpses of unscripted responses, to hear differing views from other members of the panel.

The program is usually broadcast from the ABC’s studios in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo.  Anyone wishing to be in the audience can fill in a form on the program’s website, which as well as asking for contact details, asks some questions relating to the applicant’s political views to help “select a diverse and well-balanced audience”.

Perhaps people from the right of politics are not the questioning kind or have no interest in taking part in something on the ABC.  They most certainly are invited.

The most frequently-appearing panellists on Q&A, as of 9 March 2015, were

Coalition: (Total 149)

Christopher Pyne (21), Malcolm Turnbull (21), Barnaby Joyce (16), George Brandis (15), Joe Hockey (14), Julie Bishop (12), Greg Hunt (11), Sophie Mirabella (11), Amanda Vanstone (10), Kelly O’Dwyer (10), Tony Abbott (8)

Labor:  (Total 112)

Tanya Plibersek (21), Bill Shorten (16), Penny Wong (14), Craig Emerson (12), Graham Richardson (12), Chris Bowen (11), Tony Burke (9), Kate Ellis (9), Lindsay Tanner (8)

Minor parties:

Christine Milne (10), Clive Palmer (8)

The Australian:

Janet Albrechtsen (12), Greg Sheridan (11), Judith Sloan (9)

The Guardian:

David Marr (9)

Author:

Germaine Greer (9)

By my count, that is 189 appearances from the right and 140 from the left.

Maths isn’t the only questionable thing about Senator McGrath.

McGrath spent his earliest political days as a teenager, doing volunteer campaign work for the Liberals in the seat of Toowoomba North. “One of those nerdy kids who are right into politics”, he joined the Young Liberals, who he describes as the “true bearers of the flame of liberty and freedom”, while he studied law at Griffith University.

After working on the unsuccessful Liberal campaign in the 2002 South Australian state election, McGrath eventually ended up director of political strategy for Boris Johnson in his successful bid in 2008 to become mayor of London.

Following the election on May 1, McGrath became Johnson’s chief political advisor in office, but it was less than two months before he was sacked.

Johnson had an uneasy relationship with the city’s black community having, as a journalist, previously described black Londoners as “picanninies” and “Africans and their watermelon smiles”.

When, in an interview, it was suggested to McGrath that some black Britons might leave the country if Mr Johnson became mayor, he responded: “Let them go if they don’t like it here.”

McGrath was sacked soon after the matter became public.

Mr Johnson said in a statement that if Mr McGrath had stayed, his comments would have provided “ammunition” for critics of his mayoralty.

McGrath didn’t return straight away to Australia, instead running a successful 2008 election campaign in the Maldives and an unsuccessful one in Sri Lanka in 2009.

Amidst widespread pre-poll violence, allegations of vote-tampering and intimidation in the Sri Lankan election, Mr McGrath, who was working as a campaign adviser to the opposition, blamed Rajapaksa’s domination of election coverage on Government-owned media.

”The coverage Rajapaksa got on state media just destroyed us,” he said.

I would have thought the intimidation and alleged fraud may have been greater concerns but, for a man who mentioned Mark Textor as a teacher and mentor in his maiden speech, I suppose it’s all about the ads.

In 2010, Brian Loughnane suggested McGrath for the job of running the LNP’s federal campaign in Queensland.

In 2011 the then 38 year old campaign director was revealed as the architect behind a scheme to pay disgruntled former Labor staffer and candidate Robert Hough for dirt on government MPs.

The LNP dirt file detailed a minister’s epilepsy and childhood adoption, claims about some politicians’ sexuality, sex lives, drinking habits and health matters, and included details of the schools of the children of government MPs.

Senior LNP figures including president Bruce McIver and aspiring premier Campbell Newman denied knowing about the dirt files until The Courier-Mail raised the matter.

They said LNP campaign director James McGrath and state director Michael O’Dwyer had been “strongly reprimanded” for commissioning the $3075 research but would not be sacked.

The saga came after Mr Newman had accused Labor of unleashing a dirt unit against him and his family after weeks of attention focused on his personal financial interests.

He labelled Premier Anna Bligh as a “sleaze bucket” and said the state was run by “drunks, punks and desperadoes”.

The message seems to be financial dealings are sacrosanct but personal gossip is an acceptable weapon.

Far from this shameful episode ending McGrath’s political career as many suggested it would, we now see him elected to the Federal Senate where he is pushing for the GST to be raised to 15% and broadened to “cover everything”, the abolition of payroll tax and the reduction of company tax, the abolition of the federal departments of health and education, with universities also to be run at a state level, the abolition of compulsory student unionism, and the repeal of Section 18C of the RDA.

“Each year, I will be compiling my own red-tape report to keep my government and my party on the Hayek road—away from serfdom and towards lower regulation, lower taxes and smaller government.”

I will close with the words of Doug Cameron who was “gobsmacked” by Senator McGrath’s maiden speech.

“These are the people that are supposed to be the high-calibre Liberals. If this is the high-calibre Liberals I’d hate to go to a Liberal party branch in Queensland and see the low-lifes in operation.”

Exercising suffrage insufferable without a sausage

It was a bleak day for Democracy in Queensland on Saturday. As voters went to the polls, something important was missing. Those who truly know their onions will be aware that in Australia the sausage looms large in the electoral process.

Here in the Lucky Country we don’t have to catch buses to remote civic halls and queue for hours if we can get there at all to exercise our democratic right and duty.

Our polling stations are conveniently set up in local schools and elections held on a Saturday, a symbol of the universal nature of our suffrage. We vote with our neighbours, as part of a community, and the sausage sizzle is a powerful symbol of that.

So it was with some concern that voters at many polling booths noted a distinct lack of the usual bbq aroma which tends to accompany these things.

Not your Girl Reporter, who was able to feast on the Sausage of Democracy and carry home for later the Scones of Freedom and sweet Raspberry Friands of Unexpected Victory.

But that was in the Independent Socialist Republic of Stafford, and my thanks go to the highly organised Stafford State School Parents & Citizens Association, whose crack troops were mobilised to delicious effect.

Kate Wall tweetHowever, not every polling station was as well-stocked. The Gold Coast Bulletin reported the merest whiff of Democracy plus Onions emanating from only three locations. Ipswich voters also complained of a lack of cake, another essential dimension to our political process.

There were similar tales of woe from the gardens of Toowoomba to the Warrego Plains, on the dusty streets of Mount Isa and in the cosmopolitan playground of Brisbane’s Spring Hill.

Where were the sausages, a bewildered electorate was left to wonder. How can we vote if we don’t have any sausages? Where, oh where, is the promised pork?

What is Democracy without its handmaids the Sausage and the Lamington?

Sausage tweetBewilderment quickly turned to rage.

And, in the middle of a hot and humid Queensland summer, rage comes easily.

Campbell Newman should have been more careful. Calling a snap election in the middle of the long school summer holidays was always going to hit a snag – who, after all, was going to cook the sausages and bake the sweet treats?

The first signs of trouble came early, in his own electorate of Ashgrove.

Newmarket State School, where Newman cast his vote, did manage to lay on a good range of sweet and savoury election toppers.

But a volunteer was heard to chide him for giving them so little notice. It takes time to organise that level of baking and our schools only returned from the long summer break on Tuesday, after the Australia Day weekend.

In other words, they had a mere four days to prepare for what is traditionally one of their biggest fundraisers.

Was this the most egregious act of a controversial reign? Perhaps not. But as a final act of bastardy it’s hard to beat.

Maybe, just maybe, it was the tipping point that turned a wave of protest into a tsunami.

When the bruised and battered Liberal National Party gathers to consider just what went wrong, the role of the sausage in their downfall probably won’t rate a mention.

But know this, all ye who would seek power in Queensland: Deny us our sausage at your peril. There are things we hold dear above all others and our Election Day ritual of a vote, a snag and a catch-up with mates is not to be treated lightly.

Once I was a Girl Reporter, now I’m an interested observer covering the past, present and future of journalism and anything else that takes my fancy. Read more Baxter here. 

Imperfect lessons in democracy

Newman

 

It’s been a quiet campaign in my Brisbane electorate of Stafford, writes Sally Baxter. Not a single piece of election mail has crossed my threshold and no hopeful candidate full of promises has knocked upon my door.

I can see why.

Stafford http://www.abc.net.au/news/qld-election-2015/guide/staf/ was the little electorate with the big 19.1 per cent message for the LNP in the by-election of July 2014. Perfectly reasonable for all parties to assume feelings haven’t changed much here in the interim and to concentrate their efforts and resources elsewhere.

Consequently I’ve been getting my democracy fix vicariously, following events across the state and waiting patiently to wave the sizzled sausage of democracy at my fellow citizens on Saturday.

It’s a tradition I value highly, as I came late to voting.

Hong Kong, where I grew up, was untroubled by democracy.

I did learn about it, mostly from honorary auntie Leela Tankha, whose kitchen was a magnet for a hungry kid when we visited the outlying island of Cheung Chau on weekends.

Leela was a story-teller but the stories she told were dramas of history – from the Mahatma’s salt marches to Britain’s suffragettes – all relayed as if she had just returned from the scene and I was the first person to hear the news.

She’d stand at the stove and stuff me with puris (my favourites) and other treats while telling me grisly tales of the force-feeding of Mrs Pethwick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pankhurst.

She wasn’t a teacher, she was a sub-editor. And a great cook. Food and well told stories – the pattern was set early.

My first recollection of Australian democracy was the Whitlam Dismissal, news of which did reach us in far-off Hong Kong. And that was the first I’d heard of Whitlam. The only thing I was aware of, out in the colonies, was that a democratically elected government had been dismissed by an unelected imperialist.

I’ve since been assured it was way more complicated than that.

And the first time I heard democracy mentioned in the context of Hong Kong’s future was in the early stages of the negotiations between China and the UK in the 1980s.

I was at a dinner of about a dozen people, all Hong Kong Chinese, when conversation turned to what they hoped, expected and feared for the future.

It was our host who proposed something so startling it took us all aback. Why shouldn’t Hong Kong people decide what happens to Hong Kong?

It’s an idea that’s still catching on.

I moved to the UK in 1987 but didn’t realise I was entitled to vote in that year’s general election.

I cast my first ballot in the next council elections with an air of grave solemnity, the hungry ghosts of the suffragettes crowding into the booth beside me and bringing with them a distinct whiff of curry.

I was late to the party but quickly became fascinated by politics in a parliamentary democracy. I came up hard against it in 1990 when the Conservative MP for Eastbourne Ian Gow was assassinated by the IRA.

I was working on the Eastbourne Herald and had assigned a photographer to some local opening Gow was attending that morning. “He hasn’t turned up,” was closely followed by the news of why.

The subsequent by-election didn’t seem like any contest. “You could stick a blue ribbon on a dog in this town and people would vote for it,” the Herald’s local government reporter said sagely.

He was wrong and a Liberal Democrat, David Bellotti, took the seat comfortably by 4,550 votes. Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said the IRA would be toasting his success.

My first general election was in 1992 and all signs pointed to a humiliating defeat for the Tories.

“There’s no way they can win,” I confidently told my father the Big Baxter in one of our trans-Atlantic calls. “They stink like rotting carcasses.”

Just before polling day the Herald’s politics reporter returned from his morning rounds in great excitement. He’d seen the results of the Lib Dems’ internal polling and they were showing a clean sweep of the southeast for the minor party.

That lunchtime three of the Herald’s finest – the politics reporter, the local government reporter and the heavily pregnant business reporter (me) – toured the town looking for a bookie who’d take an accumulator bet on just that outcome.

Not one would.

Conservative candidate Nigel Waterson duly won Eastbourne in John Major’s unlikely victory that year.

That’s polling for you.

I first exercised my democratic duty in an Australian election in 2004. I could have, and should have, voted before then while overseas but I never got that particular memo.

In 2007 I jumped aboard the Kevin 07 Express and was deposited with a clutch of how-to-vote leaflets outside a small primary school on the outer edges of one of Brisbane’s leafy northern suburbs.

Its location wasn’t helped by its omission from the list of polling stations in the local paper. It was a quiet day, with electors flooding through the gates at the uninspiring rate of one or two an hour.

My blue-shirted rival was a skinny old guy named Lance who enjoyed an intense interest in political systems of the world.

On hearing that I had grown up in Hong Kong, he revealed that he had once spent 10 months there in the 1980s.

He outlined the makeup of the Executive and Legislative Councils, both official and unofficial members, at a level of detail with which most long-term Hong Kong residents (myself very much included) would struggle.

Turning his attention to the UK Parliament, Lance described his visit to the House of Commons in the early 1990s. He listed the names of all the MPs he had heard speak and then the names of all of those he had missed.

When he mentioned Winston Churchill’s grandson I attempted a diversion by conjuring visions of Churchill’s granddaughter, frolicking naked at Glastonbury, but Lance was treading a firm path and would have none of it.

I made my escape at around 4pm, tiptoeing past Lance who by now was snoring gently in his chair, blue leaflets clutched to his skinny chest.

And now it’s almost time to exercise my rare and privileged right to vote once more. As for picking a winner, you’ll note my record is undistinguished.

Polling data (which got really troubling today) never looked that flash in Ashgrove during this short, sharp shock of a campaign. Logic always suggested the return of the LNP with a reduced majority and without Campbell Newman at the helm.

Which is why this voter, at least, has never stopped wondering about that apparently non-existent Plan B. At no point in this campaign has it been an irrelevant question and yet it’s hardly been asked, let alone answered.

Don’t believe me? In the words of the Premier, go ahead and Google it.

Until today, there have been a few news items on the subject but hardly as many as you’d expect for such a big and important question for Queensland, and even fewer providing any insight into who the LNP would choose.

When it has been addressed, as in this article in The Australian, the choice seems to fall between Treasurer Tim Nicholls (a pre-merger Liberal) and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg (former Nationals leader and one of the architects of the Liberal National Party).

Now I’m not privy to the inner workings of the LNP but I well remember the former Coalition losing the 2006 election almost as soon as it was called.

Why? Because they couldn’t answer a simple, and reasonable, question from a journalist: Who would be Premier – Nationals Springborg (and Leader of the Coalition) or Liberal Bruce Flegg – in the event the Libs took a majority of seats in the Parliament.

The loss of an election which should have been in the bag prompted the merger in 2008 which gave birth to today’s Liberal National Party but it took the extraordinary step of bringing in outsider Campbell Newman to prise victory from the grasp of a tired ALP in 2012.

What worked in 2012 from the outset has looked shaky in 2015, with polls consistently showing Newman behind in his seat of Ashgrove while pointing to an LNP victory across the state.

Questions about what would happen if that polling was replicated on Saturday have been consistently answered with the frankly unbelievable claim that there is no Plan B and a loss in Ashgrove will condemn Queensland to an ALP government.

In some ways, therefore, it’s 2006 all over again – who will lead Queensland, a former Liberal or a former National?

The failure to address this rather pertinent question may have something to do with the latest swing in support towards the ALP.

The prospect that perhaps there really is no Plan B could, it seems, deliver the impossible. Perhaps the question of who would lead the LNP after Newman should have been addressed earlier.

Queenslanders, no doubt, have been chewing it over for weeks before having to turn up for a sausage and a vote on Saturday. In the end, it’s they who will answer the question, and it’s surely a tricky one.

Good luck, Queensland. See you on the other side.

Further reading:

Queensland Election 2006 – Research brief prepared for the Australian Parliamentary Library by Scott Bennett and Stephen Barber

New political force for Queensland – Marissa Calligeros, Brisbane Times 28 July, 2008

Queensland election 2012: a likely win for Newman and the LNP – Clive Bean, The Conversation 25 January, 2012

Once I was a Girl Reporter, now I’m an interested observer covering the past, present and future of journalism and anything else that takes my fancy. Read more Baxter here. 

 

Think very carefully, Queensland

When Queensland goes to the polls next Saturday they will be voting for their future – the future of their freedom, their democracy, their environment, the Great Barrier Reef, and their children.

Because of Queensland’s chequered political history and the behaviour of the current government, all political parties were recently asked to acknowledge good governance obligations expressed in very simple terms; that is, to:

  • make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations;
  • treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence; and
  • promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions

Bizarrely, the Liberal National Party alone refused to commit to those constraints or to explain its reasons though Newman, under pressure at the leader’s debate, seemed to change his mind (possibly).

It is effectively telling voters that, if it is elected, it will do as it pleases; in effect, it will continue the behaviour which marked its first term and led to its heavy losses in recent by-elections.

With its single house of Parliament and history of political malpractice, Queensland is especially vulnerable to the misuse of political power.

In an article titled “Queensland political ethics:  a perfect oxymoron”, Tony Fitzgerald recently said of the Newman government

“During its brief term in power, the present government treated the community with contempt. From behind a populist facade, it engaged in nepotism, sacked, stacked and otherwise reduced the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, subverted and weakened the state’s anti-corruption commission, made unprecedented attacks on the courts and the judiciary, appointed a totally unsuitable chief justice, reverted to selecting male judges almost exclusively and, from a position of lofty ignorance, dismissed its critics for their effrontery.”

The Q Forum has raised millions of dollars for the Queensland LNP and helped make the party the richest single political organisation in the country, according to the latest Australian Electoral Commission figures.

In July the LNP changed electoral disclosure laws to increase the threshold at which donations had to be declared, from $1,000 to $12,400.

The figure has since been inflation-adjusted to $12,800.

As a result, public disclosures of donations have become far less detailed.

Former Fitzgerald Inquiry special counsel Gary Crooke, who helped jail Queensland government ministers over corruption in the 1980s, described fundraising by charging for access to ministers as a “cancer” that kept coming back in politics and a betrayal of a fundamental public trust.

“They’re at it again with bells on, running these things where they are selling no more and no less than the community’s property that they hold in trust, in order to feather the coffers of a political party,” he said.

Mr Crooke, who also served as Queensland Integrity Commissioner, said such practices were “so unethical and so much in breach of fundamental duty that there should be a law prohibiting it”.

Now we have the bizarre situation of Campbell Newman (and others) suing Alan Jones for his allegations that Newman lied to him about the New Hope mine before the last election.

The decision to allow Acland to mine another 3m tonnes of coal a year was announced on the Friday before Christmas.

New Hope and its parent company, Washington H Soul Pattinson, donated more than $700,000 to the LNP at a state and federal level between 2011 and 2013.

Asked if New Hope’s donations influenced the government’s approval, Newman said: “I will not be commenting on Alan Jones.”

Asked by Guardian Australia if LNP officials had indicated whether the party’s donations had risen since it raised the secrecy threshold, Newman replied that he had “no idea”.

Ian Walker took a donation from a board director of New Hope Coal before his election in 2012 and, as the minister for science, information technology, innovation and the arts, subsequently oversaw the department which cleared levels of air pollution from uncovered coal trains in Brisbane before the expansion of New Hope’s Acland mine.

The pollution study by Walker’s department was released to companies including New Hope a week before it was made public in 2013.

Clean Air Queensland’s organiser Michael Kane claimed the government study clearing the pollution levels by averaging emissions over 24 hours was “absolutely the wrong methodology.”

New Hope’s chairman, Robert Millner, was called before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) in NSW last year over a donations controversy involving another Washington H Soul Pattinson subsidiary of which he was chairman, Brickworks.

Jones has also attacked the government over the energy minister, Mark McArdle, and the environment minister, Andrew Powell, accepting entertainment from New Hope in its corporate box at a Wallabies rugby game in Brisbane in 2013.

But what can we expect when the head of corporate affairs for a mining company has been in charge of developing policy on the environment for Queensland’s ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) since 2012.

James Mackay also worked full-time for the LNP during the 2012 election, while he was being paid $10,000 a month by the company, QCoal.

Mr Mackay has chaired the LNP’s state environment and heritage protection committee, which develops policy for discussion at the party’s annual conference, since being voted on to the committee in 2012.

Shortly after coming to power in 2012 the LNP introduced a bill to remove “green tape” or what it considered to be unnecessary or superfluous environmental regulation.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said at the time that the state was “in the coal business” and if people wanted new schools and hospitals they had to accept that the state needed royalties from coal mining.

QCoal boss Mr Wallin gave $120,000 to the party in two donations just before the 2012 state election.

Campbell Newman is trying to tell us that mining will boost employment.  In 2013-14 it did not even rate in the top ten employers by industry with about a quarter of the number of people employed in health care and social assistance.

The mining lobby keeps telling us about the great contribution it makes to the Australian economy. There is a lot of exaggeration in this and often much worse.

  • As Ross Gittins in the SMH and others point out mining accounts for about 10% of our national production, but only 2% of employment. The large increase in mining investment in recent years has mainly been to purchase equipment from overseas.
  • About 80% of our very profitable mining industry is foreign owned. BHP/Biliton is 76% foreign owned, RioTinto 83% and Xstrata 100%. This means that 80% of mining profits accrue to foreign shareholders and not to Australians. In this situation it is important for the owners of the minerals; we Australians, that we get some worthwhile return either in taxes or royalties.
  • State governments do receive royalties from mining companies for the exploitation of our national resources, but they hand a lot back to the mining companies. According to the Australia Institute, the states gave the mining companies $3.2 billion in concessions last year – mainly in providing railway infrastructure and freight discounts. In Queensland, these concessions or subsidies were equivalent to about 60% of the royalties the Queensland government received.
  • Michael West in the SMH on 27 April 2014 points out that Australia’s largest coal miner, Glencore/Xstrata paid no company tax at all over the last three years despite an income of $15 billion.  According to West it achieved this remarkable result of paying no company tax by paying 9% interest on $3.4 billion in loans from overseas associates.  This 9% incidentally was about double the interest it would have had to pay in the open market or from a bank. Having paid 9% on these borrowings to load up its “costs” in Australia it then lent money to ‘related parties’ interest-free. We are not told who these related parties were. But there is more. Apparently there has been a large increase in Glencore’s coal sales to ‘related companies’ from 27% to 46%. This would seem to indicate transfer pricing to shift income to lower tax countries. In this regard Michael West reported on the complex Glencore company structure. ‘The Glencore structure is now run as a series of business units controlled by one company [Glencore/Xstrata Plc) which is incorporated in the UK, listed on the London and other stock exchanges, with its registered office in Jersey (a tax haven) and its headquarters in Baar, Switzerland. It is probably all legal but is it right?

Indian-based company Adani has a large mine proposal at Carmichael in the Gallilee Basin and needs to build a rail line 388 kilometres to Abbott Point port where the coal will be exported.  Campbell Newman has offered $300 million of taxpayer funds to build the railway despite Adani having trouble finding finance for its mining operation with most financiers saying it is not commercially viable.

Adani plans to export 100 million tonnes a year of coal to India and provide 2400 jobs.

Adani’s chief executive Sandeep Mahta estimates their coal plant generates more than $6 billion in royalties for the Queensland Government in its first decade of operation.

Reef tourism generates over 60,000 jobs and $6 billion a year in revenue to the Queensland economy.

If you agree with Campbell that the coal business is your future and you are prepared to sacrifice the Reef and the revenue and tourism jobs it sustains for a project that the banks won’t touch then you will probably vote for the Coalition.  Get back to me on how that works out.

PS  Could we please have less public kissing.

tony and lisa

 

“1984” is dated, but “2084” is here for the reading . . . (apologies to George Orwell)

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him…

Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours  It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.”

Updated Version

Winston worked in the Ministry of Truth and had been working there since he left High School in 2015, back in the days when people used to wonder where alll the jobs would come from, back in the days when people would retire and spend their final years doing such unproductive things as travelling, gardening or filling the minds of their grandchildren with stories. Thankfully now there was plenty of work. At first, it had simply been correcting the mistakes from the speeches of the Prime Minister, but that had soon grown to correcting the mistakes of the whole government, as well as eliminating from public record things they wish they’d never said. And pretty soon, there was a whole army of people scouring the Internet for mistakes other people had made and correcting them as well.

Why just this week, Winston discovered someone of his age, writing that there had been a time when Melbourne hadn’t been a tropical climate and there were people living in Queensland. Queensland, Winston seemed to remember, had never been inhabited by actual people, and was just one of those mythical places like Atlantis. It was a place that people used as a setting for absurd stories to demonstrate why democracy was such an absurd system where people like the mythical “Campbell Newman” were elected. Using his powers under the law, Winston corrected this person’s recollections, and arranged for the person to be taken to the doctor’s for help.

Last year had been a particularly busy time for the Ministry of Truth, as it marked the seventieth anniversary of Abbott’s ascencion to the role of Imperial Ruler after being chosen by the great god, Rupert. To spoil the occsasion, various people had attempted to spread the idea that back in those days that people had been allowed to vote for their leaders. These anarchists had also suggested that Abbott’s decision to cease making public appearances was because of his refusal to stop writing his own speeches and that he’d been locked in a room, while a group of his associates made all the decisions. They attempted to argue that, if Abbott was actually still Imperial Ruler, he’d be well over a hundred years old. Why that was a problem, Winston couldn’t fathom, people in “The Party” often lived to be hundreds of years old – it was only the workers who died. Mostly, by making a mistake, and usually that meant a risky operation to try and put their brains back into the right position. Apparently an easy operation for qualified surgeons, but there were so few of them, and as this required an emergency procedure, the operations were usually carried out immediately by local managers and security guards, with limited success.

Once, someone had tested Winston by telling him that a “resistance” existed, but Winston wasn’t fooled. He knew this would be someone from “The Party” testing him. When this person suggested to Winston that surely he remembered a time before all this began, but Winston just shook his head, and sipped his drink. “Even if I did,” thought Winston, “I’d be a fool to say anything because, at 86, I’m only fourteen years off my retirement age and Chairman Abbott has issued a decree promising that they won’t be raising it again, and all those who reach it will be sent to any of the twelve inhabitable places in the world with enough food to last them a year.”

Winston smiled, remembering how when his memory was questioned, he could assure the person that he remembered everything clearly. How he’d decided against university because of the cost, and how he’d been offered this job after telling the police about a plan to wear unapproved t-shirts prior to the elections of 2015.

“Elections?” the person interjected, “You remember the elections?”

“What elections,” replied Winston, “I was talking about t-shirts. Nobody said anything about elections.”

“You can trust me,” said the person.

“Of course,” said Winston, making a note to erase all records of this conversation just as soon as went to work, and just to be on the safe side, he decided to erase all records of the person to whom he was conversing…

To Be Discontinued, Owing To Unauthorised Use Of Irony.

“I’m with Stupid” man arrested; imagine if he’d been against Stupid!

Photo: Word Art generator

Photo: Word Art generator

Ok, for those of you who haven’t caught up with the Queensland man who was arrested for standing next to LNP supporters and waving while wearing an “I’m With Stupid” T-Shirt I give you the link “The Courier Mail”‘s report just so you know that it isn’t made up!

Now, because I write on this site, I’m often accused of being a lefty, which is ridiculous because I’m a Capitalist through and through. Any time I see I chance to make money, I’m there, and I’d be as rich as Gina or Rupert if it wasn’t for the fact that – like the current government – I suffer from poor marketing.

I read the article and immediately saw an opportunity to make a few bucks by marketing a t-shirt saying “I’m Not With Stupid – I’m Voting xxx”. Of course, The Greens would be too full of priniciple to replace the xxx with “Green”, and Labor supporters don’t have any money because they’ve put everything on the credit card, so the obvious person to approach with the idea was Clive Palmer.

Initiallly, his representative was very supportive and said that most of the members of his party wanted one. However, when it was discovered that the PUP members, in fact, wanted one with Clive Palmer’s photo instead of Campbell Newman’s, apparently Clive went cold on the idea.

Senator Lambie, on the other hand…

All right, I’m making it up. In a country where people are arrested for creating a public disturbance by waving while wearing a t-shirt, I feel that I have to make that clear. Just as I feel that I feel I need to make it clear that he was lucky that he wasn’t arrested under the VLAD laws.

And, while I’m at it, I also feel that I have to set the record straight on what I wrote about Abbott not visiting South Australia or commenting on their bushfires. He went there “as soon as he could” and offered them $4 million. Which is really extraordinarily generous. After all, he only offered $5 million to Iraq!

Perhaps, John Cleese should have the final say!

Stupidity.

P.S. For those who have pointed out that I posted the wrong link, I’m posting the accident as well, in case anyone is looking for it. (Yes, yes, it is ironic that I post a link on stupidity and it’s the wrong link, yes it is ironic, yes, this is why I could never be a member of Abbott’s front bench because I can actually acknowledge when I make a mistake, and clearly none of them can or we’d have mass resignations and by-elections!) This is the John Lloyd one which I accidentally posted which although it’s a little longer is thoroughly worth it: John Lloyd.

 

Standing up for coal – Abbott and Newman give investment advice

Tony Abbott has told a G20 leaders’ discussion on energy he was “standing up for coal” as the Queensland government prepares to unveil new infrastructure spending to help the development of Australia’s largest coal mine.

Abbott, who recently said coal was “good for humanity”, also endorsed the mine, proposed by the Indian company Adani, to the meeting.

The Australian government has given all environmental and regulatory clearances for the $7.5 billion coal mining, rail and port project, said Gautam Adani, chairman, Adani Group, in an interview to The Indian Express.

And Campbell Newman is happy to put your money where his mouth is.

“We are prepared to invest in core, common-user infrastructure,” Mr Newman said.  “The role of government is to make targeted investments to get something going and exit in a few years’ time.”

Despite poor market conditions, high costs and the massive outpouring of concern over the environmental impacts of their projects, Indian companies GVK and Adani remain hell-bent on opening up the Galilee Basin in Queensland. The smallest mine is as large as Australia’s biggest operating coal mine and the largest, twice the size. All of the proposals in the Galilee Basin would produce enough coal to chew up 7% of the world’s remaining carbon budget, drastically reducing our chances of keeping a lid on global warming.

Adani and fellow Indian company GVK are pushing their projects and Adani wants to start construction early next year, but the key problem is access to funds.

Few banks are willing to lend when coal prices are so low and the industry is facing issues with climate change.

There are also issues with both companies.

Adani Mining Pty Ltd borrowed $516 million from another subsidiary of the Adani Group, Adani Minerals, at an interest rate of 4.25%.  Adani Enterprises, the parent group, borrowed from the banks 2 per cent more cheaply that it charges Adani Mining the subsidiary in Australia for internal loans.

Why would these loans be priced so far above commercial rates?  Potentially they could rack up losses in Australia and rip out equivalent profits to India. Some $10 million a year thereby transferred – 2 per cent on $516 million – tax free to the subcontinent.  Rupert would be proud.

Adani Mining P/L had no revenue and booked a pre-tax loss of $112 million in 2013-14. It spent $75 million on exploration and evaluation of the mining area, which was capitalised, along with $41 million of interest, into the balance sheet rather than expensed against the profit and loss.

Adani Mining’s red ink of $112 million mostly relates to currency losses. All loans are in US dollars with no hedging, giving rise to a loss every time the Australian dollar declines

The total investment so far by the Adani group in Adani Mining is now $984 million and shareholder equity is negative to the tune of $45 million which reflects net borrowings of $1.015 billion in this Australian subsidiary alone.

So we have a company with $1 billion in debt, negative shareholders funds, zero revenue and high cash burn with $15 billion still to spend, and the parent company, Adani Enterprises, has debts of $US12 billion.

Tim Buckley, director at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, puts it bluntly: “This project is not commercially viable”. Apart from the financial deficiencies of the main participants, he says thermal coal is in structural rather than cyclical decline.

In another red flag, Linc Energy accepted $155 million from Adani a couple of months ago for its option in the project. It is worth asking why Linc boss Peter Bond would sell a royalty of $2 billion over 20 years – perhaps worth $600 million today – for just $155 million.

And then there’s GVK.

Despite claiming to be a “leading global infrastructure owner, manager and operator” GVKPIL has no experience operating any business outside of India. It has never successfully built and operated a coal mine – in India or otherwise. GVKPIL has not operated any business in Australia, let alone a US$10bn greenfield project in the face of massive environmental, operational, logistical and financial challenges.

GVKPIL is currently committed to 16 greenfield infrastructure projects across six different asset classes.  Many are behind schedule and / or over budget.

With a market equity capitalisation of only US$243m, GVKPIL is carrying on-balance sheet net debt of US$2.8bn.  It’s share price is at an all time low and has underperformed the Indian index by 80% since 2010.

Building Australia’s largest black thermal coal mine in the untapped Galilee Basin would challenge experienced operators, but the combination of an inexperienced developer, slack demand globally for thermal coal and a deteriorating cost of production scenario in Australia moves the project beyond speculative.

Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting sold a majority stake in two Galilee coal prospects – Kevin’s Corner and Alpha – to GVK in 2011 under a deal believed to include a $1.3 billion upfront payment and a requirement for a $1 billion payment later on. However, the latter payment is still unresolved more than three years on, with Hancock Prospecting listing the unpaid amount at $656 million in its 2013 financial accounts.  Apparently they can’t afford to pay.

That asset was written down to nothing in Hancock Prospecting’s 2014 financial accounts, which were published by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Friday.

“The carrying amounts of the financial assets relating to a coal transaction with GVK … is based on the ability of the purchaser, GVK, to complete the outstanding transaction conditions, which includes the payment of substantial amounts,” the company wrote. “Management believes it is increasingly unlikely that these accounts will be received from GVK.”

According to The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, GVK‘s Alpha project appears likely to remain “stranded in the valley of death”.

Six of the top ten and nine of the top twenty coal funding banks have now stated that they don’t plan to fund the expansion of Abbot Point.  Given the global scale and Australian focus of Galilee Basin projects, the Big Four banks in Australia (Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank) will be critically important to the financing of this multi-billion work.

So far, the banks have been coy about saying anything about the proposals to expand coal exports through the Great Barrier Reef, falling back on sustainability policies that have, in recent years, seen them lend nearly $20 billion to fossil fuels. It has created an absurd situation where banks headquartered in Paris, London, and New York are doing more to stand up and defend the Reef than Australian banks.

It is already costing the banks. Several thousand customers have so far joined the rapidly growing divestment movement, moving to other banks in protest of the big four’s massive lending to the fossil fuel industry. And thousands more, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sit in waiting, ready to shift their business based on whether the Australian banks will stand up and defend the Reef or fund its demise.

Rather than taking investment advice from Abbott and Newman, it’s time for us all to let our banks know what we Australians want.

Sickness Country: Selling Nuclear to the Neighbours

Earlier this month, Tony Abbott travelled to India to seal the deal on a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement which will allow the sale of uranium to the subcontinent. Australia had previously banned the sale of uranium to India, due to its status as a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Australia has the largest known uranium deposits in the world and is the third largest exporter, behind Kazakhstan and Canada. There are currently only three operational mines in Australia – Ranger (NT), Olympic Dam (SA) and Beverley (SA).

Newman brings back uranium mining in QLD

In October 2012, newly elected Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced that the long-standing ban on uranium mining in the state would be lifted. The backflip on his pre-election promise not to pursue uranium mining came shortly after PM Julia Gillard pushed to reopen uranium negotiations with India in 2011.

Although not officially banned until 1989, uranium hasn’t been mined in Queensland since 1982 when the Mary Kathleen mine in the state’s north west was closed for rehabilitation. This is the first mine to be reopened, with the government opening up submissions for its development last July.

The reopening of other closed mine sites in the state is expected to follow. According to the State Government, there are more than 80 known sites containing valuable amounts of uranium, the majority in the state’s north west.

Townsville declares itself nuclear free

One of the largest deposits is just 50km south of Townsville at Ben Lomond. Last mined over 30 years ago, it’s being eyed up by mining companies and the Queensland government is ready and waiting for submissions to redevelop the site.

In response, residents of Townsville declared the city nuclear free earlier this year and have been actively campaigning against the reopening of the mine since the ban was lifted.

“It’s hazardous, it’s very high risk, it’s at the top of a water catchment that’s our backup drinking supply. The risks associated with opening Ben Lomond are simply not acceptable.”  – Deputy Mayor and LNP member Vern Veitch.

Despite being located in a cyclone and flood prone area, State Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps sees no grounds for objection against the Ben Lomond mine arguing that “The EIS process will take into account the prevailing environment and weather patterns of the area and they will have to have contingency plans in place to accommodate that environment.”

Global collapse in uranium price

The global uranium price has plunged since its peak in 2007, now sitting at one quarter of the 2007 price. The Fukushima disaster in 2011 and a huge oversupply in the market are cited as the factors behind the slump. Many find Minister Cripps’ claims of the potential for uranium exports to earn billions of dollars for Queensland extraordinary.

“Australian uranium exports make less than two billion a year. The uranium price has been in free fall since 2007, and with governments around the world shutting down nuclear power stations; 150 nuclear power stations in Europe alone are scheduled for closure with no plans to replace them.”  – Greens nuclear policy spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam.

Uranium mining just doesn’t make economic sense for Queensland. As with the rest of the mining sector, we continue to hear the same rhetoric about job creation and economic opportunities. But the reality is that mining employs far less people than the industry and the government would have us believe.

Environmental impacts

Given the Newman government’s poor track record, there is also scepticism about the so-called “robust framework” in place to protect the environment.

Local graziers of the land surrounding Mary Kathleen mine are deeply concerned about the reopening of the mine, fearing contaminated dust will be blown onto their land and groundwater will be impacted. Third generation grazier Ian Campbell said that the mine’s recovery was mismanaged, leaving behind dead, contaminated land.

“They talk about strict standards but that’s a joke – there are none.” – Grazier Ian Campbell

Though the tailings dam was mostly drained and capped with rock, thirty years on the rate of seepage is much faster than predicted. Metal-rich, radioactive waters have made their way into the local drainage system, contaminating the land and killing vegetation next to the mine.

Since the ban was lifted in 2012, many have questioned whether Queensland ports will be used to export the material, potentially through the Great Barrier Reef.

As it stands, there are no licensed ports in Queensland for the export of uranium. Uranium mined in SA and NT is currently exported through the existing licensed ports in Darwin and South Australia, although if Queensland is to resume mining then it’s a safe bet that it will be exported through Queensland ports.

In 2012, the Port of Townsville applied for uranium to be exported through its ports, due to its proximity to Mary Kathleen and Ben Lomond. It described Townsville as a readily equipped gateway to facilitate the transport of yellowcake.

This has been downplayed, although not ruled out by Cripps, saying the option exists but is unlikely as “the process for establishing a licensed port is quite complex and quite costly.”

QLD passes bill to block mining objections

In light of recent environmental victories against mining companies, the Newman government recently passed a bill to remove public objection rights on mining lease applications.

The Mineral and Energy Resources Bill was opposed by an unlikely team – Labor and Katter’s Australia Party – who feel the bill supports large mining companies at the expense of landholders.

“For example, if Ben Lomond Uranium Mine has a development application, landowners downstream, or the Charters Towers community, have no right to object even if uranium leaks into their water supply.” – Katter MP Shane Knuth

Indigenous Australians disproportionately impacted

It is estimated that 70% of the world’s uranium lies on indigenous lands, a situation that is reflected in Australia. Indigenous communities in Australia are disproportionately affected by the social and environmental impacts of uranium mining.

This occurs in a number of ways – bullying tactics used by mining companies, failure to consult Traditional Owners in a meaningful way, destruction of cultural sites and rock art.

The adverse health impacts from exposure to uranium continue to be downplayed by the Australian mining industry who have a history of non-compliance with environmental regulations. In December of last year, 1 million litres of uranium slurry burst its containment tank at Ranger mine in World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. The same mine has experienced more than 200 spills, leaks and breaches since opening 35 years ago but still continues to operate.

Uranium Pusher of the Pacific

As the so-called ‘Pusher in the Pacific’, does Australia have any ethical obligations when it comes to the export of uranium?

The Japanese PM at the time of the Fukushima disaster recently toured Australia warning politicians and Traditional Owners about the risks of uranium mining. As he reminded us, Australian uranium was powering Fukushima at the time of the meltdown.

Despite not having conducted a nuclear weapons test since 1998, India remains a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is actively expanding its nuclear weapons program. There is no way we can ensure that Australian uranium is only used for peaceful means.

Abbott would have you believe that Australia is saving India by exporting our coal and uranium to their power hungry masses. But is it really ok to export uranium to developing nations, while we don’t pursue nuclear energy ourselves?

You can follow Kate on Twitter @kateokate

Wild Rivers No More: Newman Decision Threatens the Cape

This week, the Queensland Government finalised their repeal of the Wild Rivers Act.

Introduced in 2005 by the Labor government, the Act aimed to protect Queensland’s 13 pristine rivers from the threat of bauxite mining, CSG drilling, major irrigation plans and damming.

The Queensland Government had its repeal in their sights for some time. A draft Cape York Regional Plan was released by the new LNP government in November 2013 which outlined a plan of economic growth through industrialisation, resource sector development and the removal of existing ‘green tape’.

Described it as “flawed, a fraud and a fail”, the government was accused of ignoring areas recognised for their ecological significance, and weakening existing protections.

The draft plan evolved into the Regional Planning Interests Act, which will replace the Wild Rivers legislation.  According to QLD Environment Minister Andrew Powell, the strict environmental protections of Wild Rivers will be maintained, but he does not go so far as to say mining and industry will be ruled out.

“The Government must now, as per the Wild Rivers Act before it, look at any development in that area at a higher environmental bar than what we would anywhere else in the state.” – Andrew Powell

Concerns over Repeal

Under the new legislation, formerly protected zones are termed ‘Strategic Environmental Areas’. Planning approvals for these areas will now be made by either local or State-level government, depending on the nature of the development. While these areas will be protected from some forms of exploitative industry (such as open-cut mining), there are provisions for environmentally damaging activities like strip mining, gas exploration/production and broadacre cropping.

“The repeal of the Wild Rivers Act will once again expose sensitive, pristine rivers to destructive development threats… In its place… weaker policies, regulation and ever-changing maps which will operate without any parliamentary oversight and will lead to arbitrary decision-making.” – Tim Seelig, Wilderness Society

The Channel Country is an area in south west Queensland, also covering parts of South Australia and the Northern Territory. Three protected Wild Rivers run through this region – Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper Creek.  Many Channel Country landholders have reacted strongly against the repeal, saying that the weaker legislation is merely opening up the doors for mining companies to exploit the land.

“My opinion of it is that it’s much weaker legislation that will make it easy for the mining and resources companies to trash our rivers and floodplains in western Queensland, if and when when they want to.” – Grazier Angus Emmott

South Australia’s Minister for Water and the Environment Ian Hunter has also expressed concern, worried about the impact of the weakened legislation on his State’s water supply.

“The changes made to the management of these river networks in Queensland could have serious impacts…. We’ve repeatedly expressed concerns about what these changes will mean for local communities – and are deeply concerned about what this may mean for flows downstream, groundwater recharge and the base level of flows in the Lake Eyre Basin.” – Minister Ian Hunter

Cape York heritage should be protected

The wilderness of the Cape York Peninsula is one of Australia’s most precious.  One of the last wild places on earth it is a biodiversity hotspot, home to undisturbed tropical forests, wetlands and over 300 species of endemic flora and fauna.  The Cape is also a region of rich indigenous culture and heritage, spanning 40,000 years.

Cape York is also one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of Australia, particularly for the indigenous population whose living standards are far below national averages. Roughly two thirds of the Cape identify as indigenous.  A history of dispossession, forced removal from their lands, struggle for land rights, and the lack of economic and educational opportunities have contributed to the serious indigenous disadvantage which exists in the Cape today.

Conservationists have long argued the case for a World Heritage listing for the Cape.  In 2007, the Queensland Government created the Cape York Peninsula Heritage Act which set the terms for the conservation and appropriate development of the region.  This was backed up by the Federal Government’s promise to,

“work with the Queensland Government and traditional owners to pursue World Heritage listing for appropriate areas of Cape York”

But despite promising to protect Cape York during the last election, the QLD Government is now eager to exploit the Cape’s rich mineral wealth and open up the region for resource exploitation.

Despite missing the February 1st deadline to submit a nomination to UNESCO, Environment Minister Greg Hunt assured Australians that the government still supports a heritage listing for the “best of the best” natural areas.  Greens Senator Larissa Waters is sceptical, arguing that this really means protection for areas of no value to the mining industry.

Photo: Wilderness Society

Mixed reactions from Indigenous communities

Indigenous communities were divided over the Wild Rivers legislation, many celebrating the repeal.

Prominent indigenous figures Marcia Langton and Noel Pearson opposed the introduction of the Wild Rivers Act on the grounds that it removed the ability for traditional owners to make decisions about their land, depriving them of economic opportunities.

While there were provisions within the Wild Rivers Act for traditional owners to engage in activities like hunting, fishing, eco-tourism and fire management, large scale development was forbidden.

Many indigenous communities also felt they were not properly consulted during the process.  Others have argued that the majority of traditional owners would not agree with large scale development occurring on their land, so supported measures to keep big mining companies out.

The Queensland government will argue that the new Act better suits the needs of the Cape’s indigenous population, allowing economic activity in the region to diversity and grow.  But while the government speaks of the need to diversify economic activity in the region, development plans seem to be focused on opening up areas to further mining and intensive agriculture.

An alternative model for development

There is an alternative to the LNP Government’s quick-fix, exploitative model.  Conservationists favour working with the land instead of against it, arguing that Cape York can be a world leader in sustainability.

Attaining a World Heritage Listing is central to this plan. World Heritage protection is a flexible regime and will not lock away the entire Cape, protecting some areas while other lands are used for culturally and environmentally appropriate economic purposes.  It recognises the Cape’s long history of sustainable indigenous land management, and that strong indigenous partnerships are central to any successful strategy.

A conservation economy would be central to this strategy.

Sadly, anything resembling a conservation economy is far away as the government continue on their “dig it up, cut it down” path of short term economic gain.  By removing existing environmental safeguards and opening up sensitive lands to damaging resource exploitation, the Regional Planning Interests Act will fail the marginalised Australians of the Cape.

Pokie-Tourism: Campbell Newman’s Dream for our Tropical North

The name Aquis probably doesn’t mean much to you if you live outside Far North Queensland.  If you do, it’s a name that’s been on everyone’s lips for the last year and has dominated local media.

Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort is a mega casino proposed for the sleepy Cairns beach suburb of Yorkeys Knob – a beautiful, but environmentally sensitive and flood prone area on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. At an estimated $8.15 billion to build, it’s a development of unprecedented scale in a city of 150,000 people, and its bold promises to reinvigorate the region have won many followers.  None more so than than the Queensland Government, who have granted it one of two new regional casino licences up for grabs, provided conditions are met.

The Newman Government has been salivating over Queensland’s potential for gambling revenue for some time, obsessed with turning the state into Australia’s own Nevada.  Queensland’s economy has been suffering over the last few years, largely due to the downturn in the mining sector.  Though still hell bent on selling off Queensland’s environment to the highest bidder, Campbell Newman now sees casino revenue as a much needed quick buck, to line the state coffers during these economically challenging times.

But at what cost?

Since Newman opened up bidding for three new casino licences last year, one in Brisbane and two in regional Queensland, developers have been chomping at the bit to get a piece of the action. One of these developers, and the man behind the Cairns mega casino, is Hong Kong billionaire Tony Fung.  His dream?  To turn Cairns into a flashy gambling Mecca to rival Macau.  According to Fung,

“North Queensland is missing the man-made wonder of the world, which is presented in Aquis.”   

Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

Not content with Cairns’ unique, natural wonders – the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest, the endemic wildlife – his vision is one of bright lights, glitz and 24 hour gambling.  And for Fung,  the bigger, the better – everything in his ‘resort’ is super-sized. His target market?  Chinese high rollers, who can gamble their days away while their families enjoy the other facilities – theatres, horse riding, a mega Aquarium, artificial lagoons, shopping, sports stadiums, restaurants, golf courses – visitors won’t ever need to leave the resort.  They won’t even need to use local taxis – on arrival into Cairns airport, they will be chauffeured or transferred by courtesy bus directly to the resort.

At the heart of Fung’s ‘resort’ is a gigantic gambling hub, consisting of two casinos.  Aquis is requesting the same number of pokies as Sydney’s Star City Casino, and more gaming tables than Australia’s two largest casinos (The Crown & Star City) combined.  Fung is also in the midst of taking over Cairns’ existing casino, the Reef Hotel.

Fung submitted his initial Aquis application to the Queensland government last July, who declared it a ‘Coordinated Project’ a mere six days later.  For a multi-billion dollar development next to the world heritage listed waters of the Great Barrier Reef, this is alarmingly fast.  The normal, stringent process of environmental and social assessments can take months, even years to complete. Aquis has bypassed the proper environmental approval process from the beginning.

In a submission to the Department of Environment in April, Fung maintained that Aquis does not require a commonwealth environmental assessment process, as any impacts on the surrounding environment are not significant enough to warrant it. Andrew Picone, FNQ Campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation thinks otherwise, stating,

“We have a developer here who thinks he should be given all the approvals, but there is due process and the community should have its say.”  

Despite a multitude of environmental concerns yet to be sufficiently addressed, the casino licence was recently granted, before the Environmental Impact Statement was even released.  According to Denis Walls, coordinator of local opposition group Aquis Aware,

“We assumed the EIS would come out before the licence was given – I mean, giving a licence to somebody before the EIS is scandalous.”

Without doubt, Far North Queensland is going through some economically challenging times.  With high levels of unemployment, particularly amongst the youth, I understand the need to boost the Cairns economy and to stimulate much needed growth and development in the region.  But using a mega casino as a bandage to fix a flawed economic model will not accomplish this.

Gambling is not a stable source of state revenue.  The success of Aquis is completely dependent on the economies of the Asian tourists that Fung is trying to lure. Most people realise that the Cairns economy is too reliant on tourism and needs to diversify in order grow sustainably. Diversification ensures that the local economy survives through the tourist low season, as well as any global economic downturns which may reduce overseas visitors dramatically.

Even the Cairns Chamber of Commerce listed diversification as one of their top 5 federal election priorities in 2013. Hedging all our bets on Asian tourists to solve economic problems is doomed for failure and is not aligned with the Chamber’s own top priorities.

And what about the tourist sector, the backbone of the Cairns economy?  Sure, Fung will reap the benefits of the gambling high rollers.  But turning the city into a flashy gambling hub has the potential to discourage the huge numbers of existing tourists, who already flock to Cairns for its natural wonders and relaxed, unflashy lifestyle.  According to Tourism Australia’s own research,

“Research… on the drivers of demand for international visitors to Australia shows that our natural attractions are by far the greatest appeal… casinos, bars and nightclubs came at or very near the bottom of the list of 19 appeal factors.”

Perceived benefits to local businesses from the increase in tourist numbers is one of the main reasons that people support the new casino.  But the reality is that local business suffer when you centralise shopping, restaurants, hotels, entertainment into one facility.  With everything in one resort, guests will have significantly reduced need to leave the complex, meaning small business may have to downsize or close altogether.

Tourism and business aside, do we really want Cairns to become the new Macau of Fung’s dreams?  Macau has been plagued by a host of problems since opening up its economy to foreign casinos in 2002 including organised crime, prostitution and environmental degradation.  It’s certainly not something to aspire to, and I question anyone who thinks otherwise.

And the supposed employment of thousands of local workers? Aquis has promised thousands of jobs to Cairns locals during both the construction and operational phases. However, we know the original plans include 1,800 staff accommodation units.  If Aquis will employ locals, why is so much permanent staff accommodation required?   Any construction jobs will be temporary, and will likely consist large numbers of workers from outside the region to meet the skill demand.  Speaking about local labour Justin Fung says,

“Obviously we will have a management team and we need Mandarin and Cantonese speakers … but we remain dedicated to improving the employment rate in Cairns.”   

This means that the front of house staff will need to be Chinese.  In recent months, the Federal Government has been trying to negotiate a free trade deal with China.  In order to clinch the deal, it is willing to consider visa options for skilled workers to come to Australia to work on major Chinese projects.  The free trade deal will certainly benefit Tony Fung if he wishes to use Chinese workers.

But the biggest bone of contention for many is the casino itself.  Does Cairns really need two more casinos? The social impacts of these mega casino in a city which already has high levels of problem gambling have not been adequately explored.  Per capita, Cairns is Queensland’s highest spending pokie city, with the average resident spending $45.41 per month on pokies in 2012.  Those behind Aquis, including the Newman government, insist that the casino will be frequented mostly by wealthy Asian tourists and that negative community impacts will be minimal.

But the Productivity Commission found that high rollers only count for 11% of revenue in casinos, with the rest coming from locals playing cards and pokies.  In addition, studies have proven that big pokies venues are the most dangerous to local communities.

The debate is growing outside of the Far North, with recent national and even international coverage with amusing headlines like, “Hippie Town Seen as New Macau With World’s Biggest Hotel”.   It has also drawn many prominent anti-gambling advocates into the fray.  World Vision CEO Tim Costello, who is also the Chairman of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, has called the plans madness saying,

Their business model, because they’re never up front about it, is always heavily reliant on local custom.”  

South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, has also lent his vocal support to the growing campaign against Aquis.  On June 20th, he will speak at a community forum hosted by Aquis Aware, warning locals of the “fools gold” that is Aquis and the dangers of a gambling resort.

The dream of Aquis has an undeniable lure, especially for those who have been hit hard over the past few years.  It has the potential to change the face of Cairns forever, but I fear it won’t be for the better.

All that glitters is not gold.

If you want to voice your opposition to this mega casino, you can sign the petition: www.communityrun.org/p/StopReefCasino

This article was first published in Kate’s Enviro Blog.

Also by Kate O’Callaghan:

Abbott’s International Tour de Farce

Time to end Tony Abbott’s deceitful debt scare campaign

Let’s get real here and start talking facts. Cold hard incontrovertible facts.

I have already outlined the truth of the situation in, Facts speak for themselves, Australia still lucky country. Now to get into the details.

$44 billion worth of net assets were inherited by the Labor Government in 2007 from John Howard’s Liberal Government.

This is after a strong period of economic growth and private investment following the dot com crash, from 2002 to 2007. Not to mention, ever surging commodity prices and resources demand, mainly from a booming China.

$70 billion of government owned assets were sold off under by Treasurer Costello, most of them at bargain basement rates. Incidentally, as an aside, he now wants the Queensland Government to engage in such reckless practices.

This means the net assets on the books (63% of the overall cash generated from asset sales) were as a result of selling our assets, without a mandate, for much less than they would now be worth if they had been retained.

Almost every other benefit from the mining boom was squandered, as there was abysmal investment in education, health, infrastructure and productivity over 11 ½ years of Coalition rule.

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) recently stated Howard was the most profligate Australian Prime Minister in history. If you take issue with that statement, talk to the experts.

Howard was defeated when there were very few signs of the credit crunch and GFC in evidence.

Since Labor came to power in late 2007, there has been $160 billion in tax receipt write-downs as a result of a weaker global economy.

Between 2004 to 2007 the Howard Government saw $334 billion of upward revisions yet still under invested in crucial sectors and sold off public assets.

Every developed nation entered recession . . .  except for Australia that is.

Image courtesy of the Australian Labor Party

Image courtesy of the Australian Labor Party

Australia took decisive action to stem the impacts of the GFC on jobs and economic growth. The economy is now at trend growth and 926,000 jobs have been created since the GFC. An outstanding result no matter how you slice it.

This meant stimulating the economy with a significant stimulus package of around $52 billion (3% of GDP in today’s terms). A response that was heralded as a model targeted and effective response by the IMF, OECD and World Bank. The OECD praised the package stating it would save 200,000 jobs.

World experts such as Nobel Prize laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz also said the stimulus “served Australia well“.

Without this stimulus, as the world was sinking into a crisis, growth in Australia would have stalled and unemployment would have spiked above 8% leading to a prolonged period of economic hardship for many Australians.

Australia chose to support jobs and growth and to maintain levels of spending in order to support services for the Australian people.

To maintain surpluses over the GFC period – as some in the Coalition seem to suggest Labor should have done – would have been irresponsible.

The Liberal Party's attempt at a counter graphic with no mention of the context of the GFC or that $150B is close to the amount tax receipts have dropped off.

The Liberal Party’s attempt at a counter graphic with no mention of the context of the GFC or that $150B is close to the amount tax receipts have dropped off.

It would have led to the requirement to unleash austerity on all Australians at the worst possible time in the last 80 or so years since the Great Depression.

Cuts would  have been in the realm of $32 billion a year over the last five years. That is 2% of GDP annually, in today’s terms.

This kind of program would have put Campbell Newman to shame and led to further hurt in the Australian community.

The other major contributor to our debt position is the $37.5 billion investment in the NBN. Broadband was an area Howard neglected for his entire term in office.

He didn’t understand that this expenditure is an investment in our future; an asset, not an expense. It will create jobs and growth.

Tony Abbott admits he doesn’t understand broadband either:

The remainder of our gross debt is about $50.5 billion over five years. This is equal to 0.6% of GDP each year in today’s terms.

The numbers sound big, but in the context of our almost $1.6T trillion economy, they are small. The Coalition try to take interest payments and debt out of the wider context because they are large by historical standards. However, to do this without reference to the wider economy, the global scenario and the GFC is just plain deceptive.

They know it too.

I ask you to look at how much debt you personally carry on credit cards and in car and home loans. I can tell you right now it will be more than 10% of your household income (on a net basis). In fact, private debt is a much greater issue than public debt.

Respected economist Stephen Koukoulas called out the scare campaign recently in an e-mail to Labor members and supporters.

Australia has a AAA credit rating from all three major ratings agencies. If we were in such a bad fiscal state we would not only not be one of only seven countries with that honour but we wouldn’t be the only one with a Stable rating from all three. Under Howard and Costello’s so called “Golden Age” this was never achieved and to do it during such turmoil must be acknowledged.

Another graphic showing the growth in the Australian economy compared to others. Now at somewhere in the range of 15% since the GFC. (Courtesy of Independent Australia).

Another graphic showing the growth in the Australian economy compared to others. Now at somewhere in the range of 15% since the GFC. (Courtesy of Independent Australia).

This was only recently reinforced by Fitch when they affirmed their AAA rating for our economy.

A point only further underlined by Dun and Bradstreet’s recent release entitled Australian economy ranked among world’s safest, in which it says:

Solid GDP growth, relative to other developed economies, contributes to Australia’s status as one of the world’s safest trade destinations. Likewise, the nation’s unemployment rate is low, and its annual average inflation remains within the Reserve Bank’s target band. Terms of trade at historical highs and solid commodity prices have also helped Australia avoid much of the turbulence experienced within other advanced economies.

It continues:

Australia’s relative economic strength, which is supported by the country’s mining boom, and its comparatively limited exposure to European markets are key reasons for the nation’s ranking as one of the most attractive trade and investment destinations globally.

This is the reality Tony Abbott and the Coalition want hidden from view. However just because you repeat it, getting louder and louder each time, doesn’t make it true.

Abbott’s deceptions and flat out lies on the economy are even more mind blowing when one considers he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and studied, of all things, economics at the University of Sydney during which he commenced his much fabled entry into student politics.

Former Treasurer Peter Costello has himself, in private conversations, been reported as calling the man that wants be our Prime Minister an “economic illiterate.”

Time we got real.

This government has to invest in your future, your jobs and your country.

The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

Just ask Queenslanders.

(NB: This article rounds our gross debt up to $300B. So in fact our position is currently actually better than presented).

This article was first published on Independent Australia.

Clive Palmer, Abbot Point Bid a Titanic Disaster

Environment writer Kate O’Callaghan investigates the impending ecological disaster facing Abbot Point and the role Clive Palmer might play in it.

Last week, Australia’s favourite mining magnate/politician/conspiracy theorist Clive Palmer made a bid for a stake in the controversial Abbot Point development. The $3 billion expansion of the T2 coal export Terminal was abandoned by BHP Billiton in November and now Clive, and his Waratah Coal company, wants a piece of the action. Few are delighted by this prospect. Palmer has a tumultuous relationship with the QLD Government, and is currently suing Premier Campbell Newman for defamation.

In December, Newman reluctantly approved Clive Palmer’s Galilee-Abbot Point rail link. His previous decision to reject the railway led to Palmer’s fiery exit from his lifelong LNP membership, culminating in the establishment of his Palmer United Party. But it’s us dugong hugging, sea grass loving, reef conservationists who are really concerned. Abbot Point is situated within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, one of the most ecologically sensitive regions on the planet. Given Palmer’s history of environmental infringements and negligence, his potential involvement at Abbot Point is a scary thought.

Toxic Leaks from Queensland Nickel Refinery

Palmer already has a poor track record with the reef with his Queensland Nickel refinery at Yabulu, near Townsville, a repeat environmental offender.

Clive 2

Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

In April, nitrogen and heavy metal laden water from a tailings dam threatened to spill into the Great Barrier Reef and local waterways following heavy rains from Cyclone Ita. According to a government spokeswoman, water was “flowing over the spillway into a downstream water management system”, deeply worrying given the refinery’s position adjacent to the heritage listed reef waters.

Inspectors were sent to the refinery after QLD Environment Minister Andrew Powell expressed his concern about a potential toxic leak into the reef. This lead to a temporary shutdown of operations, although Palmer strenuously denied the closure.

In typical Clive Palmer style (or lack thereof), he criticised NewsCorp for covering the story, claiming thatMurdoch doesn’t like the fact that the Palmer United party will be influential in any proposed media reforms.” He also criticised Campbell Newman and the WWF for attacking his environmental record, stating: “We are 100% compliant with environmental standards . . . these reports only serve to demean the good people of Queensland Nickel”.

This incident came only weeks after newly released documents revealed that the refinery had purposely discharged large volumes of toxic waste into the reef waters in 2009 and 2011, despite being strictly forbidden to do so by the Marine Park Authority.

The documents also showed that the QLD Government was concerned with what it consideredongoing problems with capacity of the water management system” at the plant, which can easily overflow during heavy rain. Minister Powell’s department had given multiple warnings to Palmer to increase the capacity of its tailings dam. Litigation loving Clive has threatened to sue the GBR Marine Park Authority if they pursue legal action against him for discharging the waste.

In a statement, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said: “We have strongly encouraged . . . options that do not entail releasing the material to the environment and to develop a management plan . . . however, GBRMPA does not have legislative control over how the Yabulu tailings dam is managed”. This is the responsibility of the QLD government, who have asked Palmer to expand the containment ponds by November to prevent overflow, or face a $1.1 million fine. But despite repeated environmental infringements at the refinery, Palmer has never been fined or charged, and continues to get away with just a slap on the wrist.

Clive 3

Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

Wendy Tubman of North Queensland Conservation Council has little faith in the QLD Government’s ability to police the refinery, or any company who harms the reef. She argues that: “There’s been a failure on behalf of the Government to actually take action when action should have been taken”.

Waratah Coal issued Environmental Protection Order

Further infringements relate to Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal company. Last year, an Environmental Protection Order was issued against Waratah Coal “for not complying with their general environmental duty requirements”. Palmer failed to rehabilitate 300 coal exploration drill holes made on private cattle property, leaving landholders concerned about contamination of their groundwater supply.

These activities took place from 2009 during Palmer’s attempt to further his Galilee Coal Project, also known as the China First Project. The China First mine in the coal rich Galilee Basin was granted approval in December 2013 and will include 4 underground mines, 2 surface mines and coal processing facilities.

Unfortunately for residents of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge, this means around 4,000 hectares of their much loved refuge will be destroyed for an open-cut coal mine. Ecology expert Clive has assured us that Bimblebox is ‘not important’.

But those of us who will not gain economically from its destruction disagree. The reserve was previously protected from mining, with former QLD Premier Anna Bligh stating that “Labor’s policy would have the effect of ruling out mining in areas like Bimblebox nature refuge”.

Sadly, this promise was not matched by her LNP successor Campbell Newman. As a result of the destruction of over half of the land, Bimblebox will almost certainly lose its ‘refuge’ status, another helpless victim of the fossil fuel industry and Australia’s insatiable appetite for coal.

Most worrying is that the China First Project was approved while Waratah Coal was facing an Environmental Protection Order for failing to rehabilitate exploration holes. It shows just how meaningless environmental protections are to the QLD Government, but when its getting its advice from the coal industry, we can expect nothing less than shady behaviour and favours for big business.

The Abbot Point Gamble

It’s no shock to anyone that Clive Palmer is not a friend of the environment.  Nor is he unaccustomed to the occasional legal battle, either as the defendant or plaintiff.

What’s baffling is his pursuit of the T2 expansion, after BHP Billiton’s smart economic decision to pull out. More and more reports are telling us of the unviability of the Galilee Basin – coal is in structural decline, China’s renewable energy program is soaring, the price of coal has plummeted. The boom days are over. Not to mention the huge international spotlight on the reef, be it from UNESCO or Ben & Jerry’s, which undoubtedly has contributed to the mass withdrawal of companies like LendLease and Anglo Coal from Abbot Point. At home, two separate legal challenges are being fought against the approval, challenges which have the potential to succeed. Grassroots campaigning groups are growing stronger by the day, with a recent victory at Keppel Bay.

For once, economists, industry and environmentalists are in agreement – to pursue the Abbot Point development just doesn’t make sense.

Palmer has not yet been given the go ahead for T2.  Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney advised that a number of companies had expressed interest in taking over the development of T2 stating:The Queensland government is still considering its position with respect to the future development of the port”.

It’s not certain how Palmer’s chances weigh up given that only last week, Seeney called him “a crook” in Parliament. What is certain is the public’s complete lack of faith in the transparency of the government, and in its ability to make decisions in their best interests.

As the price of coal keeps sinking, Clive’s Titanic II seems like a better investment.

Clive 4

Image courtesy of katesenviroblog.com.au

This article was first published on “Kate’s Enviro Blog” and reproduced with permission.

Dear Campbell Newman, I want my freedom back

Newman

The following is a letter sent by one of our readers, Greg Casimaty to the Queensland Premier, Attorney-General, and the Minister for Police on August 14th 2013. Greg is a law-abiding citizen whose only ‘crime’ was to have ridden a motor cycle while visiting Queensland.

There has been no answer to his letter, except the standard governmental reply that it had had been passed onto Mr Dempsey, the Minister for Police (who the letter was also addressed to in the first place).

That was five months ago and Greg is still waiting for a response. What an absolute and complete fail.

Greg has asked that we republish his letter. Like us, you will be appalled at the way he was treated. Here is his letter:

Dear Mr Newman, Mr Beijie and Mr Dempsey,

My name is Greg Casimaty. I live in Hobart and my greatest passion is riding motorcycles. Specifically Harley Davidsons.

I am a 53 year old Tasmanian and have lived in Australia my entire life. I have traveled overseas extensively and once believed that I lived in the greatest Country in the World. Your actions have forced me to reconsider.

My great grand father came to the “Land of Milk & Honey” (yes, Australia) from Greece, fleeing intimidating governance, persecution and ultimately starvation in the 1880s. The legacy provided by my ancestors is of a well known and respected Tasmanian Family who were/are in fact friends and political colleagues of the Newman Family in Tasmania, while we were all still in short pants.

As a card carrying member of the Liberal Party, a businessman and developer, a member of the Clarence Stronger Communities Partnership – Trail Bike Working group, a presenter to the Tasmanian Legislative Council on “Traffic Safety”, a long-term fundraiser for TASBASH & Variety, the Children’s Charity, you need to listen . . .

Recently the Tasmanian Police, the Clarence City Council, and the Motorcycling Australia sanctioned Come’n’Try Day was recently held at my facility “Cambridge Moto”, Hobarts’ only Motorcycle Riding Park. In attendance were politicians David O’Byrne, Will Hodgman, Jacquie Petrusma and Vanessa Goodwin, Clarence Mayor Doug Chipman, John Toohey (Manager Community and Health Services), St Johns Ambulance, the Seven Mile Beach Volunteer Fire Service, RACT, Commander Peter Edwards, Sgt Steve Dine and Const Matt Goodwin from Tasmania Police.

As previously stated “you need to listen” . . .

I am consequently aghast that your actions make me a criminal in the eyes of those who you have subliminally converted, to your floored and biased way of thinking.

I find it incredulous that you think it’s OK to take away the most precious of liberties . . . our freedom.

Due to both business and family commitments I leave a Harley (of which I have 4) on the Gold Coast for transport during my frequent visits, with regular trips to the Sunshine Coast and beyond. During my last visit from Dec 20th – 30th 2013 the Qld attitude towards motorcyclists has changed dramatically. Apart from the police harassment, mothers would shield their young away from my partner (who has a managerial role within the Tasmanian Education Dept) and I, muttering about criminal bikies. We were refused service just because we were carrying helmets. At 53, I had to show ID at a bottle shop.

I was even refused fuel at a service station, by a man who could not speak English.

However, the absolute worst feature (all of your making) is the total disrespect regular law abiding motorists now have for motorcycles. Traveling on Queensland highways is dangerous at the best of times! But with Mr & Mrs Joe Average taking the unprecedented liberty of cutting us off, lane changing upon us, leering, pointing and swearing at us just because of our preferred form of transport, is unequivocally unacceptable in any language.

Your constant spruiking that your actions will not impact on “honest” citizens is totally flawed and factually incorrect. Your Police Commissioner says so.

Because of this I will not accept your reasoning that we are to “accept a little pain”. I am not covered in tattoos and I am not a bikie.

So when you have finished your Police and ASIO checks on me (as expected), how about coming clean with the Australian population and tell us your real motive?

I believe I am a fair man so unlike what you have done to me, I wish to give YOU all an opportunity to explain why you think it’s fair that I should be judged guilty by persons who do not even know me.

Then, gentlemen, you have my blessing to go after anybody who breaks the law.

After all, gentlemen, you insist that the same judgmental treatment aimed at politicians is incorrect and unjust. Do the same rules not apply to regular Australian citizens?

Disappointedly,

Greg Casimaty

Greg has also posted the letter on Mr Newman’s Facebook page a total of four times, and it has been removed on each occasion. He has now been banned from commenting.

All Greg wants to add is that he will not accept that this witch hunt is for safety. His motoring safety was severely decreased because of these VLAD laws.

The Ides of March

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

On the 15th of March 44BC Julius Caesar was murdered, in an act reminiscent of the ritual slaughter of a sheep made to the god Jupiter during the Ides of March.

In 2014 on the Ides of March, Tasmania and South Australia are up for a state election. As is expected by the renowned Australian tradition for voting governments out, rather than voting them in, and by most indicators both the progressive Labor governments are set to be sacrificial Pharmakos.

The trouble with this strange form of political punishment is that it often hurts the citizen voter far more than the purged politicians.  As has been evidenced recently in NSW, QLD and federally, the triumphant conservative governments that have been beneficiaries of this disengaged democracy are rarely interested in what voters need, and more interested in what their corporate backers want.

Getting upset at the nightly news, or posting your ire on social media does not a good democracy make.  Progressive parties like the ALP and the Greens were built on mass movements that banded diverse people together in a fight for a better life, or to build a better balance between our industries and our environment.  As such, for these parties to function at their best requires community involvement.  Failing to get involved with, and then voting out such an elected government is like distaining to train your dog and then getting upset when it soils the carpet.

The conservative Liberal party, and their National party enablers, on the other hand is a party for the corporate and wealthy elite.  They do not need mass support, only your vote come election time.

Of course getting involved in politics is not very Australian, and many voters do not want to be interested.  Australians never had to fight for its democratic freedoms, and so are fairly blaze and ignorant about how it all works.  The result is that voters come to polls every three to four years, having put little thought into what they actually want from their government, complaining about missing out on their Saturday morning and muttering “I just don’t know who to vote for”.

Tasmania and South Australia are faced with a choice to re-elect incumbent progressive governments that they may have genuine grievances with, or bringing in libertarian conservative governments. There would seem to be little choice between the two.  However there are very large differences that a cursory look at the state and federal Liberal parties will clearly illustrate.

For those seeking to convince fellow voters, or those who may themselves be unsure, to assist you I have made a small list below of the kind of thing you can expect under a conservative government.  This list is by no means comprehensive and I am sure that most readers will be able to find far more to add:

In Queensland, the Liberal National government . . .

Cancelled the building of a new Children’s hospital, and will instead be changing it into a five-star hospital “hotel” where family members will be responsible for tending to patients around the clock.

Established a Commission of Audit to rationalize massive cuts to services, health, education, and support a program of extensive privatization.

Refused to sign up to education reform and Gonski co-funding.

Lost thousands of jobs, with unemployment up to 6.1% and rising.

Closed public schools and then sold the land to private developers.

Approved an electricity price rise of 22.6%.

Approved dredging onto the Great Barrier Reef.

Campbell Newman gave himself a pay rise, so that he is now paid the same as the President of the United States.

Established draconian “Anti-bikie” VLAD laws in an attempt to undermine social clubs associated with unionized workers in the building industry.  An industry that Campbell Newman has family ties and personal interests in.

Passed laws that allow police to enter a home without a warrant, arrest and fine a host of party $12,000 if three of his or her guests are intoxicated or use “indecent” language.

Changed Workcover laws to prevent injured workers from claiming health costs associated with an injury at work.

Sold social housing for a profit while increasing costs to the average family to the tune of $600 a year through direct and indirect taxation.

In Victoria, the Liberal Coalition government . . .

Changed protest laws so that the government can decide what a legitimate protest is, and force people to move with threat of arrest or an immediate fine of $500.

Is building a road tunnel, instead of additional and much needed public transport, that will result in huge increases in traffic congestion.

Cut $290 million from TAFE training in 2013, and is planning to cut millions more.

Cut $616 million from health funding, leading to the longest waiting lists for surgery ever – with some 55,000 people waiting months for treatment in 2013.

Courted the vote of disgraced MP Geoff Shaw by assisting him to repeal 2008 law that decriminalized abortion.

Has seen massive increases to wait times at hospital emergency rooms.

Has closed down over 2,000 beds in Victorian hospitals.

Has seen tolls, water, gas and electricity, and property rates increase at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country.

Is continuing to cut Ambulance services and is now attempting to replace trained paramedics with partly trained volunteers.

Unemployment is up to 6.4%, the worst since 2002.

In Western Australia the Liberal National Coalition . . .

Instituted a mindless Shark cull, despite being told it was a bad idea by scientists and fishermen – killing dolphins, seals, sealions, etc and attracting international derision.

Increased electricity prices 45% higher than CPI.

Cut hundreds of support staff from public schools and introduced further funding cuts to public schools.

Established an economic audit to justify cuts and privatization.

Continue to cut health funding and services.

Refused to sign up to education reform and Gonski co-funding.

Cancelled promised public transport improvements and expansions.

Continuing increases in unemployment, jumping from 4.6 to 5.1% in January 2014.

Oversaw an increase in state debt from $3.6 Billion in 2008 to over $18 Billion in 2013, all while overseeing a massive mining boom.

In NSW, the Liberal Coalition government . . .

Made massive cuts to emergency services, leading to closure of Fire Stations and longer wait times for emergency care.

Introduced laws to stop wage increases for public sector workers (including police, fire services and nurses).

Obeyed mining lobby groups and cancelled funding to environmental lawyers, and forbade any state agencies from “providing legal advice to activists and lobby groups”.

Has changed laws, at the behest of big miners like Rio Tinto, giving preference to the ‘economic benefits of coal mines over environmental and social impacts’.

Has opened up national parks to casual hunters and shooters, now wants to roll back marine parks to allow open season on fish reserves.

Sold public owned assets including electricity utilities, ferry services, and ports, leading to higher prices for consumers and huge cuts to services.

Nationally, the Federal Liberal-National government . . .

Has stated it will be pushing for the states to privatize more of their utilities, water, public transport, ports, and services – despite a recent reports from around the world that privatization has been a complete failure.

Established a Commission of Audit to rationalize massive cuts to services, health, education, and support a program of extensive privatization.

Is currently attempting to sell Medibank Private, a government corporation that actually makes money for tax payers, by hiring $2000-a-day spin doctors.

Tried to force SPC management to cut workers wages by up to 40% and cancel all conditions in return for any federal funding assistance.

Cancelled Gonski and education reform, and now Christopher Pyne currently has 2 men reviewing a curriculum that took 6 years and over 20,000 submissions to develop in order to reintroduce a more Christian education.

Has cancelled future Trades Training Centres across the nation.

Is signing up to the Trans-pacific partnership, which will give corporations the right to sue Australian state or federal governments if any changes to health, environment or any law impinge on their profits.

Apparently cancelled climate change, and tried to shut down the Clean Energy Finance corp, which is making $200 million per year for the tax payer, while contributing “more than 50 per cent of the emissions abatement that’s required for the bipartisan 2020 target”

Cancelled Equal access fibre-to-the-home NBN, and now cities, suburbs, regional centres and the bush are going to miss out on the economic and social benefits of broadband infrastructure.

Has broken 25 promises in 150 days; after spending 3 years hounding PM Gillard for breaking 1.

In conclusion

In Rome the death of Caesar saw the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the non-democratic Roman Empire.  This Ides of March sees similar creeping imperial forces on the warpath against the foundations of Australian democracy.  If Liberal-National parties are elected in the upcoming state elections the voters will suffer similar fates to those listed above.

It has fallen to the voters in Tasmania and South Australia to not simply ‘punish’ the Labor governments; but rather consider the very real difference between a progressive parliament or a regressive conservative one.

You get out of government what you put in.  Just ask any lobbyist.

More robust public debate brings more transparent and effective government.

More community involvement and regular petitions brings better policy development.

More awareness of the impact of public policy brings better economic growth and social progress.

Unlike their Liberal opponents, progressive Labor governments will listen to their electorates.

Don’t vote away your freedoms.  Let them know what you want – and get them to do it.

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