Tasmania is dreaming big time. The Liberal government is plotting to transform the state into an environmental tourism capital to attract globe trotters. It comes as no surprise that conservation groups are blocking the proposed project and say the World Heritage Site will be exploited for development; a trade off to draw 1.5 million visitors a year by 2020.
The Office of Will Hogman, premier of Tasmania, has been advertising the mega-tourism plan approved by Matthew Groom, minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage. Last year, it called for EOI (Expression of Interests) from private developers to submit proposals. Out of 37 who submitted interests, 23 have been shortlisted as of December.
Stage 1 involved assessment of proposals against various criteria including appropriateness of the proposed project to the site. Building and operational qualifications of the proponent were also reviewed, as well as the financial capability of the proponent to carry out the proposal.
Shortlisted developers are now being asked to proceed to Stage 2. Final selection is set to be done by March 13.
Groom, in a press statement, said his government is determined to open Tasmania for tourism investments that will create jobs for many Tasmanians. He promised the natural and cultural values of national parks and World Heritage Area will be fully protected.
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers 1.4 million hectares, almost a fifth of the total area of Tasmania. It encompasses 19 national parks and more than 800 reserves.
The heritage area is well-known for its teeming and diverse native flora and fauna, along with unique landscape, pristine coastlines, and tangible and intangible Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural values reflecting thousands of years of living culture.
Conservation groups have been up in arms to oppose the development project. Tasmania’s leading environment organisations are calling for local, national and global support to stop what they call “an intrusion” into the Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area.
The Bob Brown Foundation in Tasmania and Friends of the Earth in Melbourne, respectively, are spearheading to organise meetings and rallies to lambast the Liberal government. Environmental top guns will be holding the microphones in Melbourne like Bob Brown, The Wilderness Society’s Vica Bayley, Tasmanian Greens Leader and Bass MHA Kim Booth, and Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Adam Thompson. In Hobart, on 3 March, speakers will include World Heritage expert Jamie Kirkpatrick, environmentalist Bob Brown, champion orienteerer and runner Hanny Allston, and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Ruth Langford.
Bob Brown Foundation’s spokesperson Jenny Weber said the Tasmanian government is opening the Tasmanian wilderness’ World Heritage Area to logging, mining and invasive tourism projects.
Weber admits there are positive aspects of the proposals like the Gordon River experience by World Heritage Cruises. However, 2-4 days package tours, for example, require construction of accommodation facilities like private huts. Weber foresees “the largest expansion of hut intrusions into the wilderness.”
Bob Brown also said, “A circuit around Cradle Mountain with a proposed ‘lodge’. What’s next a circuit around Federation Peak with a lodge? No absurdity is off the agenda in this process of opening the World Heritage Area to such intrusions.”
Robert Campbell from the Tasmanian National Parks Association lamented, “Our National Parks are a legacy handed down to us by Tasmanians who had the foresight to preserve what they held to be precious. They are not the Government’s to give away or auction off to the highest bidder…”
Indeed, known as one of the last frontiers of untouched wilderness, Tasmania’s pristine wonders is open for business.
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Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) is facing an uncertain future with a recent report showing that investment in large-scale renewable energy has nose-dived over the past year.
Investment in renewable energy worldwide is up by 16%, in a stark contrast with Australia’s figure which dropped by 88%.
The Climate Council said the future of Australia’s renewable energy industry remains highly uncertain due to the lack of a clear federal government renewable energy policy.
The RET aims to achieve 20% of the country’s power supply from renewables. About 89% of Australians support the initiative.
Activist group GetUp blames Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with his pro-capitalist, pro-coal agenda which favours power companies such as Origin, AGL and Energy Australia.
GetUp said since 2001 the RET has been responsible for a massive $20 billion in investment into the Australian economy creating over 24,000 new jobs and lower power bills for consumers.
Nearly 24,000 GetUp members made their voices heard by making a submission to the government’s review of the RET. In addition, over 5,000 GetUp members have switched from Origin, AGL and Energy Australia to renewable energy companies such as Powershop as part of a campaign to make consumers’ voices heard.
With the RET’s future hanging in the balance new investment in renewables has fallen to a 13-year low, the group said.
GetUp noted this is ironic considering the fact that the Government’s former Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Liberal Party Senator Simon Birmingham admitted in 2013 that the real driver of investment in renewable energy has been and continues to be the RET. The senator was quoted as saying, “We have always supported the RET and continue to offer bi-partisan support for this scheme. It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”
Beyond Zero Emission (BZE) is also driving a campaign to discourage Australians from supporting the three main power companies. Although the three companies provide energy to the majority of Australians, the group said they have been actively campaigning to dismantle the RET.
Many Australians can opt for greener alternatives to the big three power suppliers. Victoria residents can switch to Powershop or Diamond Energy while consumers from South Australia, New South Wales or South East Queensland can switch to Diamond Energy.
World leaders will gather in Paris in December this year to determine the rules for a new global agreement to limit global greenhouse emissions and temperature below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Australia’s major trading partners have been building significant momentum to make ambitious contributions toward their post-2020 national targets. The Climate Change Authority (CCA) suggests that nationally determined contribution to reduce emissions, agreed by Australia, will be central in determining the climate policy framework that will cover and impact companies covered under any emissions reduction initiative. The Authority adds:
This is an important time to convene business, government and NGOs for a mature, constructive dialogue about what should be the nature of Australia’s commitment, why it is in our best interests to actively participate in the negotiations and to share views to understand the economic, environmental and social implications for business.
The CCA finds Australia’s emission reduction target (5 % reduction by 2020) to be too low and out of step with its allies and trading partners.
By Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon Feb 12, 2015
The 2010 Sydney Peace Prize and Right Livelihood Award recipient Dr. Vandana Shiva is coming to Sydney, Feb 20, to share her continuing fight to save seeds, farmers, and food from corporate monopolies. The internationally renowned environmental and agricultural activist will be speaking at the Teachers Federation Conference Centre hosted by the GM-free Australia Alliance and Sydney Food Fairness Alliance.
Dr. Shiva will discuss the need for a transition to ecological farming systems and regenerative agriculture to secure food supplies for the future — in stark contrast to the current unsustainable globalised food industries which are based on agrichemicals, seed patents, and genetically modified (GMO) crops.
Shiva explained that globalized industrialized food is too costly for the Earth, for the farmers, for people’s health. She said the Earth can no longer carry the burden of groundwater mining, pesticide pollution, disappearance of species, and destabilization of the climate adding
“Farmers can no longer carry the burden of debt, which is inevitable in industrial farming with its high costs of production. It is incapable of producing safe, culturally appropriate, tasty, quality food. And it is incapable of producing enough food for all because it is wasteful of land, water and energy. Industrial agriculture uses ten times more energy than it produces. It is thus ten times less efficient.”
Organisers noted a few GMO fiascos, including a $15 million GM ‘super banana’ developed by Dr. James Dale at QUT in Australia. Financially backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ‘super banana’ recently had human feeding trials at Iowa State University experimenting on female students but they were delayed due to diligence problems.
Another GM ‘golden’ rice feeding trials were carried out at Tufts University in Boston, but were exposed as a scandal last year.
In Uganda, the GMO pro-vitamin A-enriched banana, supposedly being developed to deal with Vitamin A deficiency has been rejected as unwelcome by African civil society in a recent open letter by AFSA (African Food Sovereignty Alliance).
Adam Breasley, event spokesperson said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded GMO ‘super banana’ coming out of the Queensland University of Technology. However, Dr Shiva has rightfully spoken out against it. Shiva found the super banana not an invention, but an act of ‘biopiracy’ against neighbouring Pacific peoples’ traditional knowledge and biodiversity.
Fran Murrell, president of GM-Free Australia said, “The Earth and human communities cannot bear the hidden ecological, economic and social costs of high input industrial farming any longer. The monocultures depend on constant inputs of diminishing oil, phosphate, land and water resources, so we must change.”
“We don’t need more false claims of GMOs based on piracy of indigenous biodiversity and knowledge. The GMO banana project based on biopiracy must stop”, said Shiva.
Spinifex Press will publish essays on “Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard” edited by Dr Shiva this month.
Booking details HERE.
The Great Barrier Reef is facing serious threats from climate change, and ongoing coal projects make it even worse. The Carmichael Mine Project, located in the Galilee Basin, will go ahead despite warnings that coal transported from the mining site to the Abbot Point Port will cause irreparable damage to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
A new scientific study says the reef could be destroyed by environmental change before the end of the century. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Bureau of Meteorology (MOB) forecast that Australia will be hit hard by climate change as temperatures will rise of up to 5.1C by 2090. Scientists under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have agreed a limit of 2C if the earth is to avert catastrophe.
CSIRO’s principal scientist, Kevin Hennessy, said the inland will be most affected but one of the most dramatic transformations are set to take place in the seas that surround Australia, which will warm between 2C to 4C unless carbon emissions are cut.
On average, four metric tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted to the atmosphere per person per year, representing an increase of 30% over the last 250 years. The IPCC monitors these changes.
The effect of climate change is already changing the Reef. The Department of Environmentalso confirms sea and air temperatures will continue to rise, along with sea levels, and the ocean is sure to become more acidic. These changes affect reef species and habitats, as well as ecosystem processes, and the industries and communities that depend on the Reef.
Tourism, commercial fishing and recreational fishing on the reef together contribute $6.9 billion to the national economy per year. Unusually warm sea temperatures have already caused serious and lasting damage to 16% of the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced eight mass bleaching events since 1979, triggered by unusually high sea surface temperatures. The most widespread events occurred in 1998 and 2002 with more than 50% of reefs bleached. Coral bleaching is a natural process but the rate is increasing faster than ever before.
The Federal Government gave a green light to the coal project despite warnings from the United Nations that it will put the Reef at risk. Predictions also suggest that the Carmichael mine could produce an extra 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over the mine’s lifetime, representing a quarter of Australia’s annual emissions. The pollution from the entire Galilee Basin, if all projects go ahead, will be more than Australia’s entire annual greenhouse gas pollution.
“That intermediate emissions scenario would have significant effects for Australia,” Hennessy said. “Coral reefs are sensitive to even small changes in ocean temperature and a 1C rise would have severe implications for the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo reef.
The forecast is grim for the Great Barrier Reef and if Australia cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions the future could be very challenging, the CSIRO scientist said.
A top conservation group based in Tasmania is urging the University of Adelaide to dissociate itself from the ruling elite of Sarawak after a book exposed the corruption behind the destruction of tropical rainforests of Sarawak in the province of Borneo, Malaysia.
Details of the alleged crimes and the ruling elite’s link to government, financial institutions, and business tycoons are exposed in the book, Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia, written by human rights activist-environmentalist Lukas Straumann, who is also executive director of the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF). Launched last year, a copy has already been sent to the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Warren Bebbington.
‘Money Logging’ investigates the corruption and the environmental destruction of Sarawak, the author explained. It provides details how the Taib family became billionaires during the 33-year rule of their family head as Chief Minister. The book also investigates how Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud and his four children and his siblings amassed massive wealth. Taib is the ex-brother in law of current Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem.
The book claims that nearly 95 percent of Sarawak’s intact forest is already gone, prompting former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to describe it as, “probably the biggest environmental crime in our times.”
The Malaysian government tried to block the release of the book, according to BMF, especially during the 50th session of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) in Yokohama, Japan. The conservation group said the Malaysian delegation ordered the lock out BMF and thwarted publicity of the book in the conference foyer. ITTO council chairman Rob Busnik confirmed the Malaysian delegation had orders “from the highest levels of government in Kuala Lumpur” to stop the presentation of the book.
In Australia, the book alarmed Adelaide University which has a relationship with Taib’s group. Professor Bebbington said that the university had refused a request made by Taib to attend its 140th Anniversary Gala Dinner last year.
Jenny Weber, the Bob Brown Foundation’s campaign manager and long-time campaigner in solidarity with Sarawak’s indigenous peoples, called for swift action from Adelaide University’s Estates Committee to abandon association with Taib Mahmud.
Weber said the university needs to sever its association with Taib Mahmud’s name off the university’s court, adding that Staumanns’ book has provided compelling evidence condemning Taib Mahmud’s ruling elite and their corrupt behaviour. Weber continued that the book is further proof that Taib Mahmud is not an individual that an Australian university should associate with.
The BMF is also calling on to the Australian politicians in the Federal and Tasmanian Parliaments to review relationships with Ta-Ann, a company mentioned in the book. According to Weber, the Australian government has provided public monies of AUS$50m to one of the six most evil logging companies named in Straumann’s book.
The university’s students group Say No To Taib Court at Adelaide University is joining the call to pressure the university to sever the association.
The BMF has long been one of the most vocal environmental groups that has been fighting against the destruction of Sarawak’s rainforest. Straumann said the research for the book started in 2010 but the book itself draws on his experience as BMF director for 10 years.
“Most information is from public records, such as company registries in Malaysia, Canada, the United States of America, Australia, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. But I have also conducted a large number of interviews with indigenous representatives, lawyers, NGO campaigners, politicians and business people,” Straumann said in an interview.
Straumann said that most of the information in the book has already been provided to relevant authorities, but the book would give the readers a better understanding of what has been happening and continues to happen in Sarawak.
Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent
Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders, the policy of turning back the boats carrying asylum seekers has proven to be effective against people smuggling, at least, from the point of view of Australia’s right-wing Coalition Government.
This explains why the government is unmoved by hunger strikes, self-harm, and suicide threats by detainees at the Manus Island Detention Centre in Papua New Guinea.
Human rights advocates have criticised the deplorable conditions of detainees. In Manus, two have been killed: Reza Berati, an Iranian, was murdered in February last year inside the facility, allegedly by members of staff who were supposedly keeping the detainees safe; and in September last year, Hamid Kehazaei, another Iranian, died of a foot infection (septicaemia) due to apparent medical negligence.
Last week about 700 detainees launched another hunger strike drawing media attention worldwide. Desperate and hopeless, reports said they want to die. Some sewed their lips, ate razor blades, and attempted to hang themselves.
Abbott boasted the success of the operation 100 days after he took his oath of office despite criticisms from human rights advocates. His operation has also been causing strains on diplomatic relations with neighbouring Asian countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and India.
The Prime Minister claimed victory with his no-boat policy. He said he had stopped boat arrivals.
“We can say to all of the people who scoffed, we can say to all of the people who said it couldn’t be done … that it was just a simple slogan – that it can be done,” Abbott said.
The Liberal Party also posted on its Facebook page a statistic comparing the number of boat arrivals in 2013 before Abbott took office against 2014 figure after he took office.
Labor MPs are now seeking to unwind the Abbott Government’s successful border protection strategies that are stopping the boats.
SHARE if you think Labor should learn from their mistakes on border security.
Liberal supporters making comments on the post said asylum seekers are economic refugees who paid people smugglers to bring them to Australia by boat. They accused asylum seekersof being parasites looking for dole outs from the government. One supporter commented:
Most people I see on here who oppose what the libs have done with border control need to get out in the real world! Most of these people are economic refuges looking for had outs from our goverment… Anybody that does not believe there are no sleeper terrorist among these people, I have some fairies in my garden I want to sell you.Well done Morrison these people have no idea the great job you have done!
The Coalition government can only reiterate that Manus detention centre was inherited from the previous Labor government of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
Various dumping grounds have been considered since Abbott rose to power, including non-signatories to the UN Convention on Refugees, like Cambodia.
In early 2014, Abbott struck a controversial $40m deal to resettle refugees in Cambodia. The deal was signed in September, but many of the details are still unknown or unclear. Under the deal, Australia pledged to provide refugees with settlement support for 12 months, including basic needs and daily subsistence, language and vocational training, education in local schools, and health services.
Critics lambast the deal, including human rights groups in Cambodia, who argue the country is poorly suited to accept and support refugees. For one thing, Cambodia remains one of the world’s most corrupt nations (156th on the Transparency International list of 175 countries) and has, according to Human Rights Watch, “a terrible record for protecting refugees and is mired in serious human rights abuses”.
India has also been considered as a dumping ground – causing uproar from “a proud and sometimes unruly democracy of 1 billion people, which is unlikely to appreciate being used as Australia’s people-dumping ground.”
A retired senior Indian intelligence official said, “We have tens of thousands of Tibetan, Myanmarese, Sri Lankan refugees and many millions of Bangladeshis, possibly an Australia in terms of numbers.” A foreign policy expert and director of the Takshashila Institution in Bangalore also commented that Australia’s legalistic argument about a migration exclusion zone “does not befit a liberal democracy” and that he is “sympathetic to Australia’s need to prevent illegal immigration but this is a moral and legal sleight of hand.”
Barrister Julian Burnside wrote in the ABC Drum:
There is not much doubt that our treatment of asylum seekers in Manus constitutes a crime against humanity. This is a matter of legal analysis, not political rhetoric. The hard facts about the horrific conditions on Manus Island that I’ve outlined above may not be enough to shock us, but the one thing that really might shock us is to see Abbott, (Tony) Morrison and (Peter) Dutton prosecuted in the International Criminal Court for those crimes. That’s a pro bono case I would gladly prosecute.
A zero-emission electric vehicle that runs on hydrogen has arrived in Australia. Emitting only water, Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) will be Australia’s first and only hydrogen car refueller to be installed at Hyundai headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney. Testing and demonstration drives are expected to begin any time from now.
Built in Ulsan, South Korea, it is the first hydrogen-powered car to be permanently imported into the country. The vehicle is the first component of Hyundai’s plan to operate a test fleet of ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles in Australia. As such, it represents a pioneering step toward the commercial availability of emissions-free hydrogen powered vehicles in Australia.
Mr Charlie Kim, chief executive officer, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) said the company became the first automobile manufacturer in the world to begin mass-production of a hydrogen-powered vehicle,” adding “This gave HMCA the ability to order a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle in the same way as we order any other new Hyundai car. Now we have one, and we believe this fantastic car will help demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as a green transport solution for Australia.”
Hyundai has now begun the installation of Australia’s only Hydrogen Refuelling Station (HRS) at its headquarters in Macquarie Park using hydrogen provided by gas partner Coregas Australia. The HRS, supplied by American company Air Products, has passed all planning permissions from Ryde Council and is expected to be fully operational early in 2015 after testing is completed during December
“Ultimately, we see no reason why Australians should not enjoy the same environmental solutions as consumers in other markets,” continued Mr Kim. “Hyundai strongly supports the idea of a ‘Hydrogen Highway’ in Australia like those already in operation overseas, and we are committed to working with local partners to try to facilitate this.”
Read more about the specifications of the car on Hyundai Australia here.
On the sidelines of Operation Icefish, the Sea Shepherd group saw one of the most spectacular sea creatures in the South Indian Ocean while chasing a Nigerian-poaching vessel from the Antarctic. The crew spotted of a rare type of killer whale which was not been seen for decades.
The crew of the MY Bob Barker ship encountered “Ecotype D Orcas” while passing between the Crozet and Kerguelen archipelagos in pursuit of the toothfish poaching vessel, Thunder, in late December.
Robert Pitman, Marine Ecologist and Antarctic Orca expert from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, confirmed the whales are type D orcas based on the photographs sent by the crew. While examining the photographs, Pitman also said he believed they have never before been filmed alive.
Scientists admitted that little is known about this type of Orca, which is infrequently seen in inaccessible subantarctic waters. The last sighting of the rare whales was in 1955 on Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand.
The Type D orca is characterised by its large bulbous forehead, similar to that of the Pilot whale, and tiny post-ocular eye markings. From National Geographic:
While typical killer whales—types A, B, and C—have streamlined bodies and large, white eye-patches, type D whales have tiny eye markings and large, bulbous heads.
Researchers are said to have sequenced type D’s genome using material collected from a museum skeleton from 1955.
Bob Barker chief engineer Erwin Vermeulen recounts, ”The crew watched in awe as the 13 killer whales, including a small juvenile and a large male, used the six-metre swell to surf across the bow. For almost an hour the surf-show continued and was accompanied by bow riding, tail-slaps and breaches.”
Sea Shepherd said DNA retrieved from the 1955 stranding revealed that Ecotype D’s genetic differences point at a divergence from other Orcas about 390,000 years ago. This makes Ecotype D the second oldest Orca type, and second most genetically divergent.
Determining how many species of Orcas there are is critically important to establishing conservation measures and to better understand the ecological role of this apex predator in the world’s oceans, it concluded.
They are misunderstood as pirates, but they are not. The Sea Shepherd and its crew of volunteers are activists guarding the oceans from illegal poachers. And since the Japanese whalers cannot be spotted in the Southern Ocean this season, the crew has been all out to go against illegal hunters of Patagonian and AntarcticToothfish.
The Bob Barker ship has been in pursuit of the African vessel, Thunder, since the vessel first fled on December 17. And for five days, the Sam Simon ship chased the poaching vessel. Thunder fled leaving behind a 25-km-long gillnet with a haul of over 200 toothfish and other sea creatures. Majority of which are dead and the surviving crabs have been thrown back into the waters.
Sid Chakravarty, captain of the Sam Simon, said the retrieval of the illegally laid gillnet set, combined with the pursuit of the Thunder, Operation Icefish has achieved what it had set out to do in less than a month since it kicked-off. The operation has been unstoppable despite criticism on the legality of the ‘pirates”operation in the international waters. Read full story HERE as well as Bob Brown’s press statement on Sea Shepherd’s toothfish operation.