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Tag Archives: Great Barrier Reef

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

 

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.

The Madness of Greg Hunt and the Carmichael Mine

Just in case anyone was left doubting the Abbott government’s disdain for environmental protection, our Environment Minister Greg Hunt has laid that to rest, approving the development of one of the largest coal mines in the world.

The Carmichael mine will be developed by Indian power company Adani. Owned by an Indian billionaire, Adani are sourcing Australian coal to fuel the surging demand for electricity in India.  They hope to begin exporting coal from the mega-mine in 2017.

The coal mine is simply gigantic – the largest Australia has ever seen, and one of the biggest in the world. Consisting of six open cut pits and five underground mines, it will cover an area seven times the size of Sydney Harbour.  The initial stages require the clearing of 20,000 hectares of bushland, home to 60 threatened species of flora and fauna.

Around 60 million tonnes of coal will be sent to the Queensland coast every year by an accompanying $2.1 billion rail corridor, where it will be exported to India from Abbot Point via the Great Barrier Reef.

CO2 emissions from the combusted Carmichael mine coal are estimated at a whopping 128 million tonnes per annum, cancelling out any of the gains made under the government’s pathetic Direct Action policy.  To put that figure in perspective, that’s equal to four times the amount that New Zealand emits in a year.

There were so many reasons not to approve this unprecedented development, both economic and environmental. Greg Hunt, however, was unmoved.

Of foremost concern – Adani’s alarming environmental track record. In India, they have been fined for illegally building on villagers’ land and destroying protected mangrove areas. They have been involved in the large-scale illegal export of iron ore, bribing officials, building an aerodrome without environmental approval, manipulating the approval process, ignoring environmental conditions and non-compliance with environmental monitoring.

Remember the Abbot Point controversy?  Well, Adani were one of the companies behind that too. Adani owns the coal export terminal at Abbot Point.  For the massive volumes of coal to be shipped overseas from their Carmichael mine, they need to expand the terminal to meet the surge in exports, which will see upwards of 450 extra coal ships travelling through the Great Barrier Reef every year.

Safe to say, this is bad news for the reef environment.

The proposed expansion of the coal export terminal requires three million cubic tonnes of seabed to be dredged, and dumped in adjacent waters within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.  Despite concerns within the GBR Marine Park Authority itself and UNESCO, as well as public outcry over the threat to the reef, Greg Hunt approved the dredging.

So toxic and unpopular is the Abbot Point dredging project, even international banks don’t want to be associated with it, with HSBC, Deutsche Bank and The Royal Bank of Scotland withdrawing funding.  But despite this, the Australian government thinks it fine to go ahead.

Despite Adani’s woeful record, Greg Hunt is comfortable allowing them to operate in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the world.  I am not.

The impact on groundwater has been a major cause for concern.  When operational, the mine will extract 12 billion litres annually from local rivers and aquifers, in an agricultural region already prone to drought and dependent largely on water from bores. Hunt assures us that,

“The absolute strictest of conditions have been imposed to ensure the protection of the environment, with a specific focus on the protection of groundwater.”

In what we’ve learned to be the usual Greg Hunt response, he has slapped on a bunch of ‘Conditions’ and ‘Offsets’ to mitigate any environmental damage, 36 in this case, although a Senate enquiry has shown what rubbish these are.

“These 36 conditions complement the conditions imposed by the Queensland Government, and will ensure the proponent meets the highest environmental standards and that all impacts, including cumulative impacts, are avoided, mitigated or offset.” – Greg Hunt

So what are the net benefits for Australians? Economic reports continue to show us that coal is just not profitable anymore.  There are real questions surrounding the viability of Galilee Basin coal projects in the face of a long term, downward trend in global coal prices.  A huge investment in infrastructure by Adani is needed to service the Carmichael mine, which has driven down their potential for profit substantially.

“Good quality steaming coal exported from Australia is fetching about $US67 ($71.30) a tonne in the spot market, which means that after taking borrowing costs into account there would be little profit margin.” – SMH

Any profits made will be channelled overseas to India first, then to other Asian nations who will take on development contracts like Korea, whose company POSCO who will build the rail link. In the absence of a Carbon or Mining Tax, benefits to Australians are small – apart from the promise of employment and regional development.

But at what cost?  A country is more than just an economy.  All Australians will be left with is a massive hole in the ground, linked to a dying reef by a ghost train.  In the mean time, Greg Hunt will twiddle his thumbs, waiting for the years-away clean coal technology to be rolled out.

But there’s still a glimmer of hope.  While the coal mine has been approved, Adani still need to secure billions of dollars of funding before they can begin construction (or destruction in this case).  Greenpeace, together with GetUp, AYCC and Market Forces are campaigning to stop the Big Four Banks from funding Adani.

If Australians continue to show their collective power through grassroots campaigning and action, hopefully our banks will have the sense to ditch this sinking ship.

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

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.

Hot time in Brisbane

Image from news.com.au

Image from news.com.au

In September 2013, then host of the G20, Russia, produced a 27 page long G20 Leaders’ Declaration outlining their future priorities and goals.  Contained in that document was the following:

“We welcome efforts aimed at promoting sustainable development, energy efficiency, inclusive green growth and clean energy technologies and energy security for the long term prosperity and well being of current and future generations in our countries.

It is our common interest to assess existing obstacles and identify opportunities to facilitate more investment into more smart and low-carbon energy infrastructure, particularly in clean and sustainable electricity infrastructure where feasible. In this regard we encourage a closer engagement of private sector and multilateral development banks with the G20 Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG) and call for a dialogue to be launched on its basis in 2014 that will bring interested public sector, market players and international organizations together to discuss the factors hindering energy investment, including in clean and energy efficient technologies and to scope possible measures needed to promote sustainable, affordable, efficient and secure energy supply.”

In Australia, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is doing just that.

“The CEFC investments in renewable technologies span a range of energy sources- wind, solar and bioenergy – and different financial structures. The CEFC has co-financed utility scale investments along with other Australian and international banks, co-financed businesses to maximise their potential use of renewable energy resources, and participated in refinancing deals.”

What’s more, they are attracting investment, creating jobs in new industries, and making a profit for the government while doing it.

“Since its creation 18 months ago, the CEFC has matched private sector funds of $2.90 for each $1 of CEFC investment to catalyse over $1.55  billion in non-CEFC private capital investment in projects and programs, while it has committed $536 million. Those projects account for a reduction in 3.9 million tonnes of carbon.

The CEFC is earning an average return of 7 per cent, and its abolition would cost taxpayers up to ­$200 million annually in lost ­revenue.”

There can be absolutely no justifiable reason for closing down the CEFC.  It is the ultimate example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The 2013 G20 report also said:

“We appreciate the progress achieved since the establishment of the G20 Global Marine Environment Protection (GMEP) Initiative and welcome the launch of the GMEP Initiative website as a key element of the GMEP Mechanism for the voluntary exchange of national best practices to protect the marine environment, in particular to prevent accidents related to offshore oil and gas exploration and development, as well as marine transportation, and to deal with their consequences.”

They must be thrilled to hear this.

“According to a press release from the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation, the peak body representing angler interests nationally, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Government would come good on its promise to “suspend and review” the controversial marine parks process initiated by Labor and the Greens.”

And this:

“Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world’s largest coal ports.

The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point. The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed. The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”

And this:

“While Western Australia’s shark cull policy was meant to protect beachgoers, it has alarmed and horrified marine conservationists since it goes against the global effort to protect the declining shark population.”

Not to mention the whales…really…don’t mention the whales.

Another of the G20 goals was to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

“We reaffirm our commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption over the medium term while being conscious of necessity to provide targeted support for the poorest.”

Christine Lagarde, president of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that climate change is one of the greatest economic threats facing the world.

“The planet is “perilously close” to a climate change tipping point, and requires urgent cooperation between countries, cities and business, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said.

Addressing an audience in London, Lagarde said reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and pricing carbon pollution should be priorities for governments around the world.

“Overcoming climate change is obviously a gigantic project with a multitude of moving parts. I would just like to mention one component of it—making sure that people pay for the damage they cause,” she said. “We are subsidizing the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale.

Both direct subsidies and the loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels ate up almost $2 trillion in 2011—this is about the same as the total GDP of countries like Italy or Russia.”

I wonder if they realise that:

“the Australian Government plans to gift over $10 billion of taxpayer’s money to subsidise fossil fuel use.”

Australia has assumed the presidency of the G20 for 2014 and Tony Abbott has released his agenda.

“Australia’s G20 Presidency in 2014 will structure leaders’ discussion around the key themes of:

  • Promoting stronger economic growth and employment outcomes
  • Making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks

We want to maintain a tight focus on practical outcomes that will lift growth, boost participation, create jobs and build the resilience of the global economy.”

Okay, reasonable goals, but what about clean energy and sustainable practice.  This is what Tony has to say on that:

 “Strengthening energy market resilience

Well-functioning energy markets and reliable supply are essential to every household and business and have a significant impact on the cost of living and the cost of doing business. Emerging economies are expected to account for more than 90 per cent of growth in energy demand to 2035. In 2014 the G20 will support international efforts to improve the operation of global energy markets and increase cooperation between major producers and consumers. The G20 will also explore how it can advance work on energy efficiency and continue its work to improve the transparency of energy markets. These efforts will help position us to meet the energy demands of the future.”

The only environment mentioned in his document is the investment environment.

Abbott and Newman must be expecting a hot old time at the G20 meeting later this year in Queensland.  In typical Queensland fashion, they have made new laws to cope with it.

 “The Queensland Government last night passed legislation to strengthen police powers during the G20 events in Brisbane and Cairns.

The legislation declares special security areas in the two cities, gives police extra search and arrest powers, and creates offences for actions such as crossing barriers and disrupting meetings.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey says locals who do not pass criminal history checks will be denied access to restricted zones and alternative accommodation will be provided at the cost of a few hundred dollars.

“We’re expecting 99 per cent of people being able to go freely once they’ve had their criminal history checks and balances in place.”

The bill prohibits a series of items from G20 zones, including weapons, cans, jars, whips, eggs, insects, reptiles, banners that measure larger than 100cm in height by 200cm in width, and remote-controlled planes.”

I wonder how many patrol cars will be out there armed with Mortein, or capsicum spray for anyone caught with eggs in their groceries.

I would suggest that Tony is more likely to need protection from the people he has screwed over inside the conference centre rather than from the Joe Blakes outside.

The role of government versus the role of our government

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

I recently read an article titled ‘The Responsibilities of Government’ and, whilst I did not agree with everything the author said, a few things really struck a chord with me.

“The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”

The veil of secrecy surrounding this government protects them from their duty of accountability. The blue books advising the incoming government were withheld. Operational and intelligence matters will not be discussed. Crucial trade negotiations regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) are kept secret. Ministers are kept away from the media and all interviews must be approved by the Star Chamber. The media are denied access to our on and offshore detention centres, and now the Salvation Army are to be removed as well. The first sitting of Parliament was delayed, debate has been gagged, and the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) report was not presented before Parliament rose.

Public servants are sacked and reviews are outsourced to the private sector, or consultants are engaged, all of whom seem to have a connection with the Liberal Party and/or big business. They are given little time to review or consult, restricted frames of reference, and unrepresentative panels. Much of what they have been asked to review has already been the subject of recent review, or a review is already underway by government bodies like the Productivity Commission. It seems that these people are being paid a lot of money to give the answers the government wants to hear.

The response to the “critical threat” of climate change has been to undo the action already taken in pricing carbon, to disband all climate change advisory bodies, to decimate the CSIRO, and to refuse to co-operate in international initiatives to deal with this global threat.

Instead we have hastened to approve the biggest coal mines in Australia and the port expansion and railways to support them. Two proposed coal mines in the region could be responsible for an estimated 3.7bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over their lifetimes. Greenpeace estimates if all the Galilee Basin mines hit their maximum potential, 705 million tonnes of CO2 will be released each year. For comparison, Australia’s current annual emissions are in the order of 400 million tonnes.

“The coal to be mined from the Galilee basin and exported through Abbot Point each year which will create more CO2 emissions a year than produced by both Denmark and Portugal combined.”

One of the three terminals was proposed by the Indian resource giant Adani, the second by a joint venture between the Indian company GVK and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal, and the third site was to be developed by BHP Billiton. But BHP recently pulled out of its involvement in the project.

Even though port developers Adani note in their environmental impact statement, submitted to the government, “The current developments (proposed and approved) for port expansion will facilitate the export of coal, the combustion of which is recognised as a significant contributor to greenhouse gases and the global effects of climate change”, climate change was not mentioned in the approval documentation.

Adani was not required to assess downstream effects of the coal passing through its port because, it said, two Federal Court cases over previous, unrelated projects, found that it wouldn’t be necessary. They were only required to report on how port operations may interact with climate change. In order to mitigate the effects of port operation on climate change, Adani proposes that it powers up with renewable energy:

“Adani recognises that measures to reduce [greenhouse gas] (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies or low emissions materials make good business sense. Consequently Adani will commit to reducing GHG emissions through its procurement and operations practices.”

Aside from the irony of a coal port being powered by renewable energy, the ultimate ramifications of the coal being unlocked has not been considered by either the developer or the government in the approval process.

Hunt has also approved the Arrow LNG facility on nearby Curtis Island, as well as its associated transmission pipeline.

This year Unesco’s World Heritage Centre warned that the Great Barrier Reef, which has lost half of its coral cover in the past 30 years, would be placed on its “in-danger” list if there were major new port developments. A study commissioned by the previous Labor government found that dredging spoil dumped at sea travelled further than previously thought, potentially endangering coral and other marine life. The approval documents show the spoil from the dredging will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area.

On Monday the Coalition passed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to strip away any repercussions if the government fails to consider expert advice before approving major developments such as mines and ports, removing the ability for community groups to legally challenge new developments if the environment minister failed to consult approved advice, thus removing the protection that the judicial system could have offered.

Which leads me to the second quote about the responsibilities of government.

“The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and our associated human rights. For the first, government leaders are social servants, since through completing their specific responsibilities they serve society and the people. But above and beyond this they must set an ethical standard, for the people to emulate. For the second, the legal system and associated regulation are the basic means to such protection, along with the institutions of the military, for defense against foreign threats, and the police.”

Whilst we were quick to accede to America’s request to criticise China about a restricted flight zone, we condoned the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and West Papua, and hesitated about action in Syria.

Social and income inequity is widening, exacerbated by this government’s preference for removing benefits from the poor whilst increasing them for the rich.

The vilification of Julia Gillard, the poor behaviour in question time in Parliament, and the rorting of MP’s entitlements, have hardly been ethical standards that the people should emulate.

The courts have been used to play politics as in the case of Peter Slipper, and to block equality laws like gay marriage, environmental laws have been changed, our military are being used to hunt down asylum seekers and our police are busily interrogating anyone caught riding a motor bike.

“Government economic responsibility is also linked to protection from the negative consequences of free markets. The government must defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.

Governments argue that people need to be assisted with the economic competition that now dominates the world. But the real intent of this position is to justify helping corporate interests . . . siding against local workers, consumers and the environment.”

The lack of transparency, consultation, and discussion of possible consequences of our free trade agreements is of great concern. Allowing foreign corporations to dictate to us is a very dangerous path to follow. Instead of protecting us, the government are allowing big business to set the agenda in every area, and facilitating their every request with no thought to legal and social ramifications. There are a few aberrations to this general course. The failure to support Holden will cost many jobs and billions to the economy, and the failure to sell Graincorp has sent a message that we are closed for business.

“Another general role, related to the need for efficiency, is the organization of large-scale projects. It is for this benefit that we accept government involvement in the construction of society’s infrastructure, including roads, posts and telecommunications, and water, sewage and energy utilities. Further, giving government charge over these utilities guarantees that they remain in public hands, and solely dedicated to the common good. If such services are privatized, the owners have a selfish motivation, which could negatively affect the quality of the services.

That such assets should have public ownership is expressed in the idea of the “commons.” They should be owned by and shared between the members of the current population, and preserved for future generations.”

This government’s refusal to accept the necessity of a world class national broadband network (NBN) is baffling. The productivity benefits are huge, and the employment in the construction is significant. The refusal to fund public transport infrastructure is also very short-sighted.

We have already sold many of our valuable assets and the list being suggested for future privatisation seems to grow daily – schools, hospitals, Medibank Private, Australia Post, the ABC, HECS debts. Private businesses must make a profit and are not obliged to continue to provide unprofitable services. This can have dire repercussions for regional Australia, and for the variety of services that can be offered.

“Indeed, while we of course still need a means of defense, including against both external and internal (criminal) aggressors, it seems clear that our greatest need for protection is from other institutions and from the abuses of government itself, particularly its collusion with these other institutions. (Many of the needs that we now have for government are actually to solve the problems that it creates.)”

Who will protect us from this government?

Give Tony a chance! You’re kidding me!

I quite like the Sydney Morning Herald journalist with the acid wit, Mike Carlton. He’s one of the only journalists left in the country in touch with us common folk and besides, any journalist who refers to Andrew Bolt as Melbourne’s village idiot is worth listening to.

Yesterday he asked that we give Tony Abbott a chance to prove himself as Prime Minister. Suggesting that Tony Abbott entered the job the least credentialed of any in living memory he reminds us that:

. . . history shows that the prime ministership can sometimes have transformative powers, elevating those who attain it. Bob Hawke abandoned his boozy larrikin ways to become Labor’s most electorally successful leader. Paul Keating, with no formal education beyond the age of 15, rose to a dazzling command of the policy heights. John Howard, like Abbott also once seen as unelectable, was the towering conservative figure of his generation for nearly 12 years.

It seems only reasonable to wait and see what Abbott makes of it.

It’s a valid point.

I’ve waited four days. He’s the same idiot. Even the Irish have recognised four days of failure with the Irish Times reporting:

Australia’s new prime minister Tony Abbott spent the last past three years destabilising the Labor administration at every opportunity, saying it was the country’s “worst government ever”.

For a thousand days there was no respite from the Abbott attacks, which made it seem like the longest election campaign to date. But when the actual campaign began, Abbott suddenly shifted gear.

The tough campaigner who said the Labor carbon tax would ruin the economy (it didn’t), and whose scare tactics warned of Labor’s “debt and deficit”, accused Rudd of being “so negative”.

The Australian public could have been forgiven for saying, “Mr Pot, let me introduce you to Mr Kettle”. But they didn’t notice, or were way past caring.

Days before the election, the “budget crisis” Abbott said was Labor’s legacy was forgotten. Knowing the election was in the bag, he backed away from his promise to balance the budget within one term. Now it was “within 10 years” (by which time the Liberal-National coalition will be on its fourth term of government if it is still in power).

Having secured victory with a 32-seat majority, Abbott and his cabinet were not sworn in until 11 days after the election. The supposed budget crisis was now just a memory and the asylum-seeker boats he had pledged to stop from day one of winning power kept on coming. Seven of them in fact, containing more than 500 men, women and children from Iran, Afghanistan and other troubled regions of Asia.

But the Liberal Party chief has been true to his view that climate change is “crap”. The climate commission, an independent body set up by the previous government “to provide reliable and authoritative” information has been abolished.

Former chief commissioner Prof Tim Flannery is disillusioned: “We’ve just seen one of the earliest ever starts to the bush-fire season in Sydney following the hottest 12 months on record,” he said.

Not only an idiot but a powerful one.

But let’s not be candid. Give Tony Abbott a chance and he’ll do what?

In his election victory speech, Mr Abbott promised no surprises. He’s had the chance to prove his word is true but that has already been broken to the detriment of at least one set of disadvantaged Australians. He has also broken his word by not following through with his pre-election commitment to Indigenous Australians.

But it is even more frightening if he doesn’t break his word. True to his form will he succumb to the wishes of the IPA and:

Lower the tax-free threshold from $18,200 back to $6000. This will drag more than one million low-income earners back into the tax system. It will also increase the taxes for 6 million Australians earning less than $80,000.

Save families $300 dollars a year of Carbon Tax but cost them $2,300 per year in reinstated tax.

Privatise Medibank.

Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme.

Privatise Australia Post.

Privatise the SBS.

Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function.

Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport.

End all public subsidies to sport and the arts.

Privatise the CSIRO.

Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built.

Abolish the means-tested Schoolkids Bonus that benefits 1.3 million families by providing up to $410 for each primary school child and up to $820 for each high school child.

Abolish the Baby Bonus.

Repeal the mining tax.

Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

Repeal the Fair Work Act.

Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it.

Repeal the marine park Legislation.

Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Abolish the low-income superannuation contribution.

Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling.

Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784.

Abolish the Clean Energy Fund (done already).

Repeal the renewable energy target.

Introduce voluntary voting.

End mandatory disclosures on political donations.

End media blackout in final days of election campaigns.

End public funding to political parties.

Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency.

Abolish the means test on the private health insurance rebate.

Repeal the Alcopops tax.

Means-test Medicare.

Cease subsidising the car industry.

End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia.

Remove anti-dumping laws.

Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification.

Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced ‘.

Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law.

End local content requirements for Australian television stations.

Eliminate media ownership restrictions.

Give Tony Abbott a chance and he’ll also risk the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. According to The Huffington Post:

“Australia is facing a hard choice right now whether to make a quick buck from coal exports or whether to preserve an economically, long-standing national treasure.

” . . . Tony Abbott could overturn all the steps that have been taken domestically to protect the environment, to instead fast track coal export developments and drastically weaken environmental laws that were created to protect the country”.

Give Tony a chance! You’re kidding me!

Mike, it’s insulting to Hawke, Keating and Howard to be compared in some small way with Abbott. Even Howard waited a few years before unleashing his hunger for power and his pandering to the big end of town. Those three men are intellectual giants compared to our new Prime Minister. They also believed, rightly or wrongly (with the exception of Howard on occasions) that most of their actions were in the best interests of the country. Give Tony Abbott a chance and he’ll show us the complete opposite.

Mike, I also think it’s irrelevant if the prime ministership makes a good man out of Tony Abbott. He won’t be remembered for it. Instead, he’ll be remembered as the bloke we gave a chance to run this country and who blew it. Spectacularly.

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