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Tag Archives: Department of the Environment

Why the bloody hell are you doing this?

tourismTo those who find the title offensive, I apologise.  I got my inspiration from the former chief executive of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison, who asked the rest of the world: ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’

According to a government paper released in July 2013, Tourism’s Contribution to the Australian Economy, the tourism industry employs 908,434 persons or 7.9% of total Australian employment (Direct – 531,900 persons, Indirect – 376,534 persons). Mining, by comparison, employs 2.4% of the workforce with this figure set to drop.

In 2011-12, tourism’s contribution to Australia’s GDP was $87.3 billion or 5.9% of total GDP (Direct GDP – $41.0 billion, Indirect GDP – $46.2 billion). In the same year, mining contributed 9.6% of GDP.

In the long term, total tourism GDP rose at an average annual rate of 4.6 per cent between 1997–98 and 2011–12 and it is continuing to grow with short-term visitor arrivals to Australia forecast to grow to 7.0 million in 2014–15. Inbound expenditure is forecast to grow on average 3.5 per cent per annum and reach $39 billion by 2022–23.

In summary, tourism is a big employer and a growing industry which makes a substantial contribution to our economy. Unlike mining, the majority of the profits from this industry remain in Australia. Unlike manufacturing, it doesn’t move operations offshore to save money (unless you count Qantas). Whole communities are built around tourism which does not all of a sudden decide to close like factories or mines do.

So how is the Abbott government protecting this most important industry?

According to Wikipedia

“Popular Australian destinations include the coastal cities of Sydney and Melbourne, as well as other high profile destinations including regional Queensland, the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef. Uluru and the Australian outback are other popular locations, as is Tasmanian wilderness. The unique Australian wildlife is also another significant point of interest in the country’s tourism.”

We are covering regional Queensland with mines. We are dumping dredge on the reef which will now become a highway for huge tankers. We are getting rid of World Heritage listing so we can log the Tasmanian forests. We are getting rid of marine parks so we can kill more marine life. And in the most foolhardy step of all, we are refusing to take action on climate change which will put all these national treasures at risk and make large parts of the country virtually uninhabitable.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has said the closure of the Climate Change Authority was part of a push to reduce bureaucracy, and climate change advice could come from the federal environment department, CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.

He then promptly cut hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO in November

“The Federal Government says as many as 600 jobs will be cut at Australia’s pre-eminent science and research organisation.”

and hundreds more in March.

Hundreds more job cuts are looming at the CSIRO as the peak science body pushes through its biggest restructure in decades. The job cuts are on top of the ban on renewing the jobs of CSIRO’s temps and contractors, revealed by Fairfax last year, which has caused the group’s head count to fall from 6500 to fewer than 6100.”

The same thing happened at the Department of the Environment.

“About 480 public servants will lose their jobs at Environment, on top of 190 bureaucrats who have already gone, and hundreds of programs and activities will either be modified or axed in a sweeping restructure as the department tries to cope with dwindling funds and efficiency dividend cuts.”

The Bureau of Meteorology had its budget slashed by $13 million last year and now runs commercial ads on its website. Robert Crawford, a communications professor at University of Technology Sydney, said

”There could be a temptation to reduce funding, but you wouldn’t want them to become dependent on outside revenue because advertisers can always walk away.”

Bernie Fraser, Climate Change Authority chairman, said public servants did good work, but did not have the freedom and opportunity to deliver well-considered, independent advice in the manner of the authority, Reserve Bank or Productivity Commission.

”On a subject as complex as climate change, I would have thought every government – whatever its complexion – would want to get good independent advice. I find it a bit frustrating this opportunity … seems to be foreclosing a bit with the present government. I think that’s a disappointment.”

Tony Abbott continues to show his utter disregard for the environment and climate science. When addressing a timber industry dinner, despite Heritage Listing and dire warnings about deforestation, he said

We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest. Getting that 74,000 hectares out of World Heritage Listing, … will be an important sign to you, to Tasmanians, to the world, that we support the timber industry.”

Despite the cuts we see elsewhere, Abbott found the money to set up a new Forestry Advisory Council to support the timber industry.

Now we hear that Parks Australia, which administers the six Commonwealth National Parks, including Kakadu, Uluru, Christmas Island, and Canberra’s National Botanic Gardens, as well as 58 marine reserves, will face funding cuts which will cause it to consider raising money by raising visitors’ fees, allowing more commercial tourist infrastructure – like hotels – to be built or even selling naming rights.

Also, the Hobart-based Australian Antarctic Division has had $100 million cut from its funding and will have to seek commercial sponsorship from private corporations for future research.

This government is hellbent on a short term grab for cash. Investors advise that there is a very small window for making a profit from coal – it is most definitely not an investment for the future. So what do we do? Approve massive new coal mines and port expansion on the reef. Renewable energy is a growing industry so what do we do? Wind back subsidies and review the renewable energy target and send investors scurrying. Selling profitable assets to build roads is a hugely retrograde step. Not only do we forego future revenue and leave the cupboard bare, the employment generated during construction is not ongoing, and does nothing to address the problem of pollution caused by an increasing number of cars clogging our cities. Obviously urban rail, public transport, bike lanes, high speed rail, and a second airport for Sydney are more pressing priorities.

We live in a beautiful country. Even if you are not willing to fight for it for purely aesthetic reasons, sacrificing everything for mining makes no economic sense. We are sacrificing tourism and manufacturing, our health and our home, all for a dying industry. This government might get to a surplus a couple of years earlier – so what? The cost of irreversible damage is far too high.

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