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Tag Archives: Mining

Is the Australian government linked to atrocities overseas?

My name is Tracie Aylmer. I am an international criminal lawyer specialising in the International Criminal Court.

It has come to my attention that a number of Australian government officials may have enabled and caused corruption that directly affects the UN Security Council. Any application towards obtaining a placement on the Security Council should therefore be rejected.

The information is as follows:

  • The Australian government pays subsidies to Australian mining companies. The amount of subsidies keeps increasing, but the link shows the amount per year from two years ago. This amount will not have decreased in any hurry.
  • Mining companies do not pay the required amount of tax in Australia according to its domestic laws. Taxes are instead diverted to tax havens in complicated schemes in order to neglect paying billions in Australia.
  • The billions the Australian mining companies receive directly and indirectly from the Australian government are helping to pay for atrocities in countries such as Africa here, here and here. South America here as well as North America here.
  • In addition, the Australian government are advertising the Australian mining companies within these countries, thereby drawing a link between the Australian government and the Australian mining companies. This also means that our taxpayer funds are being diverted, in order to directly create atrocities overseas, with the Australian government complicit.
  • The billions that are received from the Australian government to Australian mining companies are taxpayer funds – public moneys that the Australian people do not realise are being placed otherwise than what they were meant for.
  • In particular, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, investigations have occurred by the International Criminal Court here as well as with the UN Security Council here.
  • The Central African Republic is another example, with two investigations by the International Criminal Court underway.
  • It can therefore be said that the Australian mining companies – paid for by the Australian government with public taxpayer funds – are creating atrocities in several key areas around the world, that are being investigated by public international authorities such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.
  • The Australian government must be held responsible for these actions by public international authorities.

With the above, I wish to advise that due to the extraordinary evidence against the Australian government and Australian mining companies, any application to the United Nations Security Council MUST be rejected. Australia is NOT a responsible international authority.

 

Wonderful Humanitarians – The Altruism of Our New Coal Miners

“Coal is good for humanity, coal is good for prosperity, coal is an essential part of our economic future, here in Australia, and right around the world.”

Tony Abbott.

Now you’ve probably read something about the wonderful humanitarian efforts of Adani and Shenhua and their plans to create thousands of jobs with new coal mines. Of course, when I say “thousands” that’s at the upper estimate, so a more realistic estimate might be dozens of jobs by the time both mines are operational. Mainly in the PR industry.

But I can’t help but wonder what makes these companies so altruistic. Why start a big new coal mine when you could buy one? And when I say “you”, I’m not speaking generally, I mean you personally. If you don’t think you have the money I’ll lend it to you.

Actually, in fairness, I should say that we may have missed our chance because the mine I’m referring to was actually sold the other day. Price? $1. Maybe we could offer the new owners $2 and give them the chance to double their money in a week. The mine I’m referring to is Isaac Plains, so you can check that I’m not making it up by clicking the link.

But don’t worry there are plenty of other mines for sale. Just Google “coal mines for sale Australia” and you’ll see plenty.

Which makes the plans by Adani and Shenhua seem terribly generous. They’re going to all that trouble to set up a new mine when a mine like Isaac Plains – which a Japanese firm bought for $430 million in 2011 – can be snapped up for small change… literally. Those two companies must surely be just thinking of Australians and how they can help us out by starting a brand new mine in an industry which has about as much future as a buggy whip company. (Although “Fifty Shades of Grey” has led to a bit of a resurgence in those…)

I can see no other reason about from sheer altruism for them embarking on these projects. Although I am overlooking sheer incompetence.

I mean, Shehua Australia Holdings, for example, don’t seem all that good at financial management, filing its accounts late in 2014. And 2013. Mm, oh 2012 as well. But wait in 2011… nah, sorry, they were late then as well. Ok, anyone can be late. I mean, it’s not against the law. Oh, the Coorporations Act? Let’s not get technical. If it was good enough for the Abbott Government to break the law by releasing the Intergenerational Report late, it should be good enough for a company.

Univeristy of NSW lecturer, Jeff Knapp seems to think that Shenhua is pretty sloppy with their adherence to the rules, pointing out that they made a basic mistake in 2012 by including interest paid as cash paid to suppliers and employers in their financial report, but then he’s an academic, so what would he know. According to Knapp this a pretty basic mistake, but then he also thought that refusing to release tax details of millionaires for fear of kidnapping was pretty silly, so like all those interested in accounting, he clearly has an anti-Abbott agenda.

So let’s hear a big cheer for these two companies who are doing something out of the goodness of their hearts and not simply out for profit, like the wind and solar industries.

And as they’re not established industries – after all, clean coal is still in the development phase – perhaps we could get the Clean Energy Finance Coorporation to lend them some money, because they’ll have a pretty hard job getting it from a bank!

Gee, I hope that’s not another idea of mine that the Abbott Government steal.

 

Australian Compendium

By Keith Davis

There is so much to love about Australia. We love living here, and visiting celebrities are wise enough to say how much they love visiting here. We see ourselves as egalitarian, as fair and open-minded, as welcoming, and as free as the kangaroos jumping about in the paddocks. We are also a tad delusional.

Firstly, Australia actually is a great place to live, and nothing that follows can detract from that. The problems lurking just beneath the surface of our mythical landscape do not diminish the possibility of opportunity that exists here. Secondly, even the poor can still, at least for the moment, access our beaches and public BBQs … so our true cultural roots remain homogenous and open to all.

But on with it. What is actually happening in Australia?

Aboriginal People: They remain dispossessed. Our Government is dithering about the wording of the Referendum that is meant to finally acknowledge the very existence of Aboriginal People. Indigenous People have been here for over 60,000 years, and probably a lot more than that, and the rest of us have been here for just over 200 years … so it is fairly clear who should be having a Referendum to recognise whom.

Social Justice: In an all pervading sense, if Social Justice existed here in Australia then we would not have our current dire need for the proliferation of Organisations and Charities who exist to strongly fight for the establishment of social justice here in Australia.

Politics: It would be great to actually have some. Currently we are saddled with a Two Party System where the main focus of either side is the gaining and retention of power. The Liberal and Labor Parties might just as well formalise things and form the LibLab Coalition because it is becoming a little hard to differentiate between them.

The majority of our current crop of politicians are mediocre power junkies and Party sponsored head-nodders.

The Politics of Hate that are emanating out of Canberra are having the inevitable effect … small nationalistic minds are hitting the streets. Fear and suppression are rearing their ugly heads.

The Age of the Independents appears to be coming. Meanwhile, the country lurches onwards to . . .

Gender Equality: Where pay in Australia is concerned it pays to be male. Where securing a position in middle or higher management is concerned it pays to be male. I have always wondered why women don’t simply just all walk off the job and bring the whole lurching unfair edifice to a screeching crumbling halt in a nanosecond. If they all walked out at once then equal opportunity and equal pay would suddenly appear like manna from heaven. Perhaps that will happen one day.

Religion: Some say that it is a mass delusion, some say that it is not. Some religious people do exceptionally good work here in Australia and they fight for victims who exist because of our lack of social justice.

Others simply feather their own nests and rob their congregations blind. Like anything else here in Australia religion is a mixed bag, there is good and bad, but it has strongly insinuated itself into the core of our federal government, and that is quite clearly bad.

War: Putting aside (but never forgetting) the historical attempted genocide of Aboriginal People, and the flattening of the Eureka Stockade, Australia has latterly been free of open warfare on our continental mainland.

We have fought in a couple of major and righteous wars, and we have fought in far too many dodgy and unnecessary wars. No doubt Indigenous People and Asylum Seekers might have a slightly different view to the rest of us when it comes to defining what war actually is. However, we all get to wake up each morning without the smell of cordite in our nostrils, or the sight of a newly created line of bomb craters … and we need to remind our federal government that most of us do not want to jump into the next handiest ‘war coalition’.

Growth: We are told that the world will end without this thing called growth. To gain this growth, and bigger houses, and bigger cars, and bigger televisions, both members of Australian couples have to work full time, and have to bung their children into institutionalised childcare. The kids are probably thinking ‘bugger this growth thing, I would like to grow up in the loving arms of my parents’.

Growth gives us alienated kids and a mega-tonnage of discarded instantly obsolescent electronic technology buried in our landfills. If Australia had smaller houses, smaller cars, and fewer greedy aspirational types – we might have happier kids and we might actually grow as a nation.

Environment: We could lead the world in the uptake of renewable energy technology … but instead of that we lurch about in the coalfields. Australia is madly digging up anything out of the ground that will fuel the engine of ‘growth’ around the world and we continue to gaily contribute to the continual pollution of our planetary atmosphere.

We degrade our own environment and we allow a very small number of people, who are no more important than you or I, to become sickeningly rich on the environmentally destructive proceeds. Money, growth, power, and not giving a stuff, are doing injurious harm to our Australian environment.

Freedom: We are free from starvation, but we are not free. We are free from civil war, but we are not free. We are currently mainly free from totalitarian suppression, but we are not free.

We are a controlled people – controlled by the ‘growth’ wish, controlled and socially engineered by our governments, controlled and manipulated by our advertising industry, controlled and constrained by our own collective small thinking.

We wave and claim our mythical flag of freedom, we wrap ourselves up in it, we broadcast it to the world, and we forget that to an outside observer we simply appear to be using the ephemeral strands of the mythology of Australia to weave a shroud of our own making.

Now, having said all that – there is nowhere else I’d rather live. The wonderful thing about faults … and Australia is replete with them … is that they can be rectified.

So let’s continue to agitate for the establishment of a better Australia!

 

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

 

Let’s not forget the poor miners . . .

I'm sure they'll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

I’m sure they’ll also rejoice to see the end of the mining tax (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

The high-fiving over the repeal of the carbon tax made me despair at the ignorance of our government – a battle lost but the war continues.

The Abbott government is preparing to axe the mining tax as its repeal bill passed the lower house for a second time on Thursday, with the government limiting debate to under two hours.

The coalition says the mining tax has failed to do its job, raising only $340 million since its introduction. Parliamentary secretary to the minister for finance Michael McCormack also said the tax undermined confidence in Australia as an investment destination and its reputation as resource supplier, which raises the obvious question asked by Chris Bowen, “If it doesn’t raise enough money, then how does it damage the mining industry?”

The total revenue in 2012 for BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside Petroleum, Newcrest and Xstrata was A$167.23 billion. Add to that the revenues of the self-defined “small” miners. Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting alone made a $1.2 billion net profit in 2012. It is projected that in the next decade they will make at least another $600 billion

State governments will hand over $17.6 billion in mining subsidies over the next four years. The federal government will contribute $4.5 billion a year. That’s $36 billion over the next four years given to companies who are making superprofits from mining our limited resources. That would pay for a real NBN, or high speed rail, or all the programs that have been slashed by the Coalition and then some.

We are told we must encourage investment by mining companies because they underpin our economy. And yet the facts do not bear this out.

Take Glencore for example, our third largest mining company, who, according to an article in the SMH, paid no tax on the $15 billion profit they made over the last three years. To achieve this they employed aggressive tax avoidance measures, borrowing money at 9% and then relending it in interest free loans. Their profits largely go offshore to foreign shareholders.

”The truth is that Glencore Coal Investments Australia’s operations in Australia are, because of the Group’s business model, branch operations of the Swiss-domiciled parent entity, which uses the now dormant legal shell of an Australian body corporate in an attempt to hide the reality of its branch business in Australia.”

The company disputes this, saying it has paid approximately $3.4 billion in taxes and royalties in Australia over the last three years. Even if this is true, it’s a damn fine return for selling something you don’t own. I wonder how much it has received in subsidies during that time.

Mining companies are also unreliable employers. They quickly sack employees, often on the basis of what the resource market is doing, because profit is paramount.

In March the Australian reported:

“Glencore’s Ravensworth underground operation will be the first coal mine suspended by the Switzerland-based resources titan due to the sharp slide in prices for the fuel, although this follows hundreds of job cuts over the past year as the company looked to bolster the profitability of its sites.”

Followed by this in the Courier Mail last month:

“SWISS mining giant Glencore will shut its Newlands underground coal mine in central Queensland with the loss of 50 jobs next month, but eventually 196 jobs when production ceases next year.

Last year about 450 workers were axed from Newlands and Oaky Creek as the company restructured.”

Over the past two years, coal producers have slashed 12,000 jobs—more than 1,500 destroyed in the Hunter Valley and 8,000 in Queensland—with impunity.

Glencore’s Peter Freyberg claimed that the industry “isn’t as competitive as it should be,” and warned that “productivity, industrial relations and regulatory settings were factors impacting the industry’s competitiveness.”

The mining companies want the ability to hire and fire at will and “flexibility” to make instantaneous changes to work practices, such as shift rosters and the use of contract labour, to meet shifting production demands.

In February, the Abbott government quietly reopened a visa loophole that will allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, in a move that unions say will bring back widespread rorting of the system.

Before the loophole was closed in 2013 by the Labor government, companies in the mining, construction and IT industries were knowingly hiring hundreds more foreign workers than they had applied for.

In one example, an employer was granted approval for 100 visas over three years, but in 18 months he had brought in 800 workers under the 457 visa.

In the Coalition’s bid to remove all ”red tape” from the 457 skilled migrant visa, employers will not be penalised or scrutinised if they hire more foreign staff than they applied for.

Before the cap was introduced in 2013, the number of 457 visas was quickly rising. In the financial year 2009/10 there were 67,980 visas granted. By 2012/13 there were 126,350 visas granted, statistics from the Department of Immigration show.

The Coalition has put together a panel to review 457 visas. In typical fashion, they have changed the rules before the panel has done its review though, considering the panel members, its recommendations will probably be in line with whatever the business sector wants. There are four members on the panel: John Azarias, from Deloitte Australia; Professor Peter McDonald, of the Australian National University; Katie Malyon, from Ernst & Young; and Jenny Lambert, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

FIFO work arrangements, meant for special circumstances such as geographical isolation, are now increasingly becoming the order of the day.

Gone are the days when companies invested in social infrastructure such as housing, schools and hospitals to make mining towns liveable. These days more than 100,000 workers spend up to 5 weeks at a time away from their families. FIFO workers report high levels of stress and there is a high level of turnover; one out of three FIFO workers will not last more than a year on the job. And for those who do find themselves living in mining towns, the pressure on local transport, housing and hospitals is creating significant social problems.

Following their A$22 million scaremongering TV ad campaign, the revamped Mining Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) now only applies to 22.5 per cent of the mining magnates’ profits, after a questionable “extraction allowance”. And that 22.5 per cent only applies only on coal and iron ore and only on companies that make over $50m in profit.

The Greens asked the PBO to calculate how much could be raised from increasing the tax rate to 40 per cent, plugging loopholes and including all minerals that make super profits, such as gold.

The office said these measures would raise $26.2 billion in the years to 2016/17.

PEFO anticipated $4.4 billion in revenue would be collected from the watered down mining tax over the forward estimates. MYEFO cut that to $3.4 billion. The Coalition intend to give up this revenue at the expense of the following spending commitments:

  1. Abolishing the low income superannuation contribution, with an estimated saving of $3.8 billion. This policy required the Commonwealth Government pay up to $500 a year to the superannuation accounts of certain low income earners.

  2. Unwinding the instant asset write-off for small business with a $5,000 threshold, saving $2.3 billion. This policy allowed small businesses to write off depreciating assets costing less than $6,500, and the first $5,000 was offset against the mining tax.

  3. Slowing the superannuation guarantee increase so it remains fixed at 9.25 per cent until 2016–17 before increasing incrementally to reach 12 per cent by 2021–22. Estimated saving $1.6 billion.

  4. Discontinuing the company loss carry-back, a benefit for small businesses, saving $950 million.

  5. Dismantling the accelerated depreciation for motor vehicles, saving $450 million.

  6. Ending geothermal exploration treatment, saving $10 million.

  7. Scrapping the Income Support Bonus, which includes payments to the children of veterans and is a lump-sum supplementary payment made twice a year to people on certain income support payment. Estimated saving $1.1 billion.

  8. Abolishing the Schoolkids Bonus, a lump-sum payment to parents of school-aged children twice a year. It is the largest single savings measure in the repeal bill, estimated at over $5.2 billion, even though the Schoolkids Bonus was not from the mining tax, but an alternative payment which replaced the previous Education Tax refund.

Why we are encouraging people to come and dig up our finite resources with foreign workers to send the profits overseas, subsidising them to do so, eliminating environmental safeguards and workplace conditions, and then repealing a small tax on their superprofits, is absolutely beyond me. And as can be seen by the above list, it is largely middle and low income earners and small businesses who will pay for this largesse shown to the mining companies who rape our nation to fill their shareholders’ purses.

Life according to the Coalition.

Why the bloody hell are you doing this?

tourism To 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.

My Country! A poem for our time…

I love a sunburnt country

A land of dames and knights,

Of rugged radio shock jocks

Who tell us of our rights.

I love her racist free speech

Now we have no 18C

Her bigots do have rights, you know,

The great white land for me.

I love our English PM

Who tells us what to think

On tax and debt and Labor

And how his doesn’t stink!

Our trees are made for chopping

Our seas are made quite deep

Just because there’s dumping –

No reason to lose sleep!

A resource rich mine country,

Which makes our country grand

All you who would now tax this,

You will not understand

Though our Earth holds many minerals

And there’s oil in our seas

Unless we own a company,

We have no right to these!

Core of my heart, my country!

No Holdens, Ansett, Ford,

When companies die on Liberals’ watch

We see these things ignored

But lose a hundred jobs when Labor’s in,

We know just who to name:

The papers make it front page news

The PM is to blame!

I love a sunburnt country

A land of knights and dames,

Of Andrew Bolt’s hurt feelings

And all his counterclaims

When people say our history

Shouldn’t always make us proud –

He’ll say free speech is relative

And some people are too loud.

ANDEV: the Tony Abbott policy announcement when you don’t have a policy announcement

Mining companies are one of the biggest Liberal party donors. Is it sheer coincidence that some of Abbott’s known policies reflect what Gina Rinehart and the big mining companies want?

We are all aware that Abbott has promised to repeal the carbon and mining tax; two taxes that Gina Rinehart (and others in the resource industry) have been publicly opposed to. However, the coincidence between Abbott’s policies and what Gina and the other big companies want, does not end with the repeal of these two taxes.

Gina Rinehart, besides being possibly the richest woman in the world, is also chairperson of a group called ANDEV and ANDEV want their own special economic zone in the north of Australia; an area where most of our mineral wealth is situated. Gina’s father had a similar vision.

On the ANDEV website, under the title “What needs to be done” there is a list and this list is eerily similar to some of the policies and ideas that Abbott has made public:

  • Special Economic Zone in the North
  • One-stop-shops for regulation (to cut “green-tape”)
  • Regional skilled migration visas (457 visas).

Abbott has given indication to a “One-stop-shop” for environmental approvals to cut “green tape” and even used the same terminology that is on the ANDEV website (as have the state LNPs).

Abbott has also indicated that he will consider expanding the 457 visa program and recently the Liberal party blocked a bill that would have ensured that 457 visa workers are only employed as a last resort, when suitably qualified local labour is not available.

Special economic zones (SEZs), while good for wealthy investors-do not offer any benefits for others, due to SEZs avoiding many of the costs of taxation, labour standards, safety and environmental regulations, to which other sectors in the same country must adhere to when doing business.

Another concern with SEZs is the displacement of locals. The host country and the developer require land, and this land is often taken from locals at very low prices. This is a concern, as a large percentage of land in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal owned.

Sadly, it appears that Tony Abbott and the Liberal party are putting the economic concerns of the big mining companies and multi-national oil and gas corporations ahead of our needs and the protection of the environment. If Abbott is elected, do not be surprised if all of the land north of the Tropic of Capricorn is made available to Gina and Co. as a tax free haven that is free from environmental regulation and has a lower standard of employee rights and conditions.

Thanks to The Daily Telegraph Pole Facebook group for this post. The aim of this group is to expose, and provide balance, to the bias and lies being spread by Politicians and the Media.

Update: It is interesting to note how consistent this ‘vision’ is to one of the IPA’s radical ideas to transform Australia:

42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

The IPA (Institute of Public Affairs) is a free market right wing think tank that is funded by some of Australia’s major companies and is closely aligned to the Liberal Party. It’s members include Rupert Murdoch and yes, Gina Rinehart.

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