Don’t mine the the Reef!

From Greenpeace:

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres and more than 2300 kilometres long

Who has heard of the Galilee Basin? Virtually no one. That is the problem.

We are witnessing one of Australia’s biggest environmental emergencies unfold but it is taking place out of the public eye. And it threatens one of the world’s greatest natural treasures – the Great Barrier Reef.

Watch the video HERE

The Great Barrier Reef is on the brink of being turned into an industrial zone, with huge new coal ports and shipping routes waiting to be approved. These developments are the result of plans to rapidly increase Australia’s coal exports. The coal will be mined in Queensland’s Galilee Basin and shipped overseas via the Great Barrier Reef.

Beautiful marine lives under threat (Photo: National Geographic)

A new Greenpeace investigation has revealed the damage the coal mines could have if they go ahead. The Galilee Basin mines threaten our World Heritage Reef, as well as the stability of our climate, the health of our water supply and the habitat of native wildlife.

Let our politicians know you don’t want our environment sacrificed 
- SIGN PETITION

Australia’s biggest contribution to global warming is our coal exports. As plans progress to rapidly increase our coal exports, just yesterday the Arctic ice sheet melted to its lowest point on record; the result of an increasingly warming climate.

Greenpeace’s investigative findings:

•There are nine mega coal mines proposed here, five of which would be bigger than any mine currently operating in Australia.

•If the coal from the Galilee mines is burned, it would produce over 700 million tonnes of carbon pollution a year – that’s bigger than the entire fossil fuel emissions of Australia, the UK or Canada.

•These mines are the single biggest driver of industrialising the Great Barrier Reef. A series of coal ports are planned to be built and expanded, millions of tonnes of sea floor will be dredged and up to 10 000 coal ships will travel through World Heritage Area.

•If we don’t reduce our emissions, sea temperatures will rise. If they rise by 2-3°C it would result in the annual bleaching of over 97% of the Reef. There is a growing movement of people taking action in this epic struggle to safeguard our precious Reef and the stability of our climate.

Greenpeace welcomes underwater investigation

Please join us by signing the ‘Save our Reef’ petition now.

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Greens join forces to save the Tarkine

The Wilderness Society, Tarkine National Coalition, and GetUp! joined forces in the campaign to protest the “out-of-control” mining ventures in the Tarkine in Tasmania and push for its enlistment in the World Heritage Site.

Convoluted rocks at the west coast off Tarkine. (Photo: Flickr)

Massive banners in front of a proposed Venture Minerals’ open cut mine in the Meredith Ranges have been unveiled as part of the Tarkine wilderness. Tarkine is claimed to have been recently assessed by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments to have a national and World Heritage values prompting strong community oppositions to any developmental aggression.

Here’s from the campaigners:

Liz Johnstone, Tarkine campaigner for The Wilderness Society, said many of these values, however, are under threat from new open cut mines. Some are proposed in existing conservation reserves that have been watered down to allow mining and exploration.

Venture and a range of other companies have plans to build strip and open cut mines in the region, ahead of the findings of an Australian Heritage Commission assessment of the environmental significance of the area.

Miners, Australian Workers Union join forces to support mining in the Tarkine. (Photo: ABC)

Paul Oosting, campaign director for GetUp, said the Tarkine has evolved over 40 million years to be what is now one of the few last remaining wild places on the face of the planet, yet Venture Minerals wants to go into what is currently a conservation area and strip mine it for just 2-8 years.

“Today we have seen the Tasmanian community stand up and take action to not let this happen and we know that they have the support of people from around the country who want to see this area properly protected,” Oosting said.

Vica Bayley, campaign manager for Wilderness Society Tasmania, said that the event signals an escalation of the community campaign and a counter to the provocative actions of the Australian Workers Union and the mining industry who are pre-empting the current national heritage assessment and pushing ahead with risky mining proposals.

“The AWU, the mining lobby and companies need to back off and allow due process and the heritage assessment to conclude before locking in destructive proposals that threaten the values of the area and impact on the heritage listing that previous assessments prove this region deserves,” Bayley said.

GetUp’s “Save the Tarkine” campaign

The action before Monday’s (24 Sept) Extraordinary General Meeting of Venture Minerals’ shareholders in Perth, where a decision will be made on capital raising needed to kick start its mines in the Tarkine. “The company, its shareholders and financial backers must realise that mining World Heritage value wilderness is a risk not only to the environment, but also to their investment,” Bayley said.

More info about this campaign: Tarkine National CoalitionWilderness Society Tasmania, GetUp!

Tasmanian Premiere Lara Gidding maintains that the Tarkine is insignificant, with mining representing only one per cent of the region.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Gay marriage faces an uphill battle

Legalising same sex marriage faces a big hurdle in Parliament taking into consideration the big divide in Australian society at the crossroad of conservatism and change.

More than 3,000 advoccates of gender equality march into the Victorian Parliament House to protest the 8-year ban on marriage equality. (Photo: Equal Love)

Debates on marriage equality resumed Tuesday with deliberation that went overnight through Wednesday. At noon, Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 sponsored by Labor’s Stephen Jones was defeated, 42-98, at the Lower House. Both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abott voted against the bill.  See AAP’s report who voted for and against HERE.

Four bills are before the federal Parliament – the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, the Marriage Amendment Bill (No.2) 2012, the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010.

Senator Penny Wong with partner Sophie Allouache and baby daughter Alexandra. (Photo: The National Times)

The bills seek to amend the Marriage Act 1961 allowing same-sex marriages to be recognised while placing no obligation on a minister of religion to solemnise a same-sex marriage. The Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 is sponsored by Adam Brandt from the Australian Greens and Andrew Wilkie, an Independent representative from Denison, Tasmania. The proposed amendment suggests to remove discriminatory references based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to allow marriage regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The other bill, Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 No.  2010 , sponsored by another Greens Senator Hanson-Young, is an Act to create the opportunity for marriage equality for people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and for related purposes.

The Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.

At the state level, the Tasmanian House of Assembly passed the Same-Sex Marriage Bill on August 30, 2012 and is now to be considered by the Tasmanian Legislative Council. The Premier of South Australia has declared his support for marriage equality at the state level as has the Australian Capital Region (ACT) Government.

Gillard, un-wedded and atheist, stands aloof to the issue. She once said two people can love and commit to each other without being married. Gillard, at 50, has a partner but has no wedding plans. Abbott is neither supportive to the civil union of gays and lesbians. He admitted he is old-fashioned and he, thus, believes that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman.

The Sydney Mardi Grass is the largest gay festival in Australia. (Photo: Today)

Last night, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi expressed fear that legalising same sex marriage will redefine marriage paving the way to bestiality and polygamy. He said the bills are attack to “our enduring institutions.” His remarks backfired creating furor among gay and lesbian groups and supporters. He later announced his resignation today saying ”My focus is now on directing my time and energy to representing the people of South Australia as a Liberal senator,” Fairfax Media quoted him as saying.

Pressures from gay and lesbian groups have been mounting and the Parliament cannot escape the issue. Over 3,000 gays marched in Melbourne to protest the 8-year ban on the “state-sanctioned discrimination” last week. In a demonstration of defiance, about 40 couples were wedded and officiated by a Catholic priest– Father Greg Reynolds. The priest has already gained notoriety from opening a church of dissident Catholics that welcomes ‘‘every man and his dog’’ – including gays and lesbians. Reynolds has overseen the wedding of couples who lack the legal right to marry under Australian law.

Reacting to the defeat of the Labor-sponsored bill, Equal Love Convener Ali Hogg said the voting down of the bill is an insult to to the LGBTI people.

   “The voting down of this bill is an insult. It is an indictment of both major parties, neither of which have proven themselves allies of LGBTI people. We might expect nothing better from the Liberals, who have been happy to promote lunatic bigots like Corey Bernadi through their ranks for years, but the fact that the ALP has also failed to throw its weight behind equal rights, and has instead helped to maintain homophobic discrimination as law, is nothing less than shameful.”

Equal Love has already announced a future rally to be held on November 24. “We call on all supporters of equality to continue to pressure all sides of politics to vote in favour of equality in the upcoming marriage amendment bills.”

A catholic church is Sydney now accepts gays and lesbians into its congregation. (Image: gaycatholic.com.au)

Despite the concerted efforts of the multi-sectarian groups to discourage same gender marriage, a few traditional churches have somehow managed to accept this major shift. Acceptance, for example, is a faith community supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Catholics, their family and friends. It has been running for almost four decades.

By providing a safe, spiritual and social environment, through Acceptance, many GLBT  Catholics have found reconciliation with their faith and sexuality.

Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Victoria is another peak body of a voluntary organisation in support of gays and lesbians, who meet once a month to offer support and friendship to families – particularly parents – and to members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community who may need support in coming out.

Countries that support same sex marriages (Photo: Google)

The Australian Human Rights Commission said civil marriage is a human right available to all without discrimination.

Commission President Gillian Trigg, in a statement, said the fundamental human rights principle of equality means that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The parliamentary vote on marriage equality this week gives federal Parliament the opportunity to take another step towards equality for people who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity,” Professor Triggs said.

Releasing a Commission position paper on marriage equality ahead of this week’s parliamentary vote on the issue, she said that removing the prohibition on civil marriage for same-sex couples was the next step toward legislative equality with opposite-sex couples. Read the Commission’s position paper on marriage equality HERE.  The positiion paper points out that:

Australia has legal obligations to protect and promote human rights including those encompassed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR includes the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded that the ICCPR does not prevent the recognition of same-sex marriage, rather the ICCPR does not impose a positive obligation on states to do so.

Equality is a key human rights principle. It is set out in article 26 of the ICCPR, which states that all people ‘are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law’. Article 2 of the ICCPR requires State Parties to ensure all individuals are to enjoy the rights set out in the ICCPR without discrimination.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands legalised the world’s first gay marriage in 2001. (Photo: Robin Utrech/AFP/Getty Images/Washington Post)

Canada also legalised the civil union of gays and lesbians under the Civil Marriage Act in 2005. (Photo: Phill Snel/Getty Images/ Washington Post)

The countries now fully recognising same-sex marriage include Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and several states in the USA. A marriage equality bill has passed its first reading in the New Zealand Parliament, and the Scottish and French Governments have also indicated they will introduce marriage equality bills.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Super trawler can’t super fish

Super trawler Abel Tasman could suck schools of mackerel off Australian waters (Photo: Pierre Gleizes/Greenpeace)

MV Margiris, the giant fishing vessel measuring 146-metre long, has been banned from its grand mission to fish 18,000 tons of pelagic fish off Australian waters.

Even before it reached Australian shores, more than a dozen of Green groups have already sounded the alarm bell pushing the Federal Government to block the super trawler.

Baptising it with a new name, Abel Tasman, early this month did not help the super ship either to set its past records straight. Green groups alleged the humongous vessel to have plundered the seas off the Pacific and the coasts off West Africa, among other major international waters. The vessel, longer than the Sydney Harbour Brige, can dwarf and make local fishing boats look like toys– if allowed to sail on, they said. The ship is now docked at Port Lincoln in South Australia.

Abel Tasman could be the largest fishing vessel to sail on Australian waters. (Photo: News Corp)

The Parliament said Abel Tasman cannot go ahead with its mission– banning it for two years until a comprehensive scientific research and review of the Small Pelagic Fishery Agreement has been made. Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig also announced a review of the 20 year old fisheries management legislation, in light of concerns about super trawlers devastating fish stocks.

Australian-owned, Seafish Tasmania, entered a joint venture with the Dutch-owned MV Margiris for small pelagic fishing that would net schools of Blue Mackerel, Jack Mackerel and baitfish. The MV Margiris weighing 9,499 tonnes can process over 250 tonnes of fish a day and has a cargo capacity of 6,200 tonnes.

Seafish Tasmania Gerry Green said the venture was estimated to provide jobs to about 50 people, including 45 in Devonport, Tasmania. At least, 15 of whom are likely to be from overseas. “It is going to be hard to tell these employees, some of them who were long term unemployed, that we no longer have a job for them,” SBS noted.

But the Tasmanian Times unearthed some evidence claiming the “Dutch owned, EU subsidised, Margiris Trawler, offers “no advantage to Tasmania or for that matter Australia.” If there is one beneficiary, it would be Seafish Tasmania owner Gerry Geen, the online paper said.

Pelagic or mid-water trawling is the process of deploying and towing a net at a chosen depth in the water column to catch schooling fish such as herring and mackerel. This differs from “bottom” (benthic) trawling in which a net is dragged along the ocean bottom where fish such as cod, haddock, and flounders live.

The Government's zoning of Small Pelagic Fishery. (Photo: AFMA)

Small Pelagic Fishing zones by AFMA

The Small Pelagic Fishery (SPF), managed by the Australian Fishery Mangement Authority (AFMA), is a purse-seine mid-water trawl fishery extending from Southern Queensland to Southern Western Australia. The AFMA said there are currently 71 licenses and five active vessels operating targeting several species including Jack Mackerel, redbait, Blue Mackerel, and Australian Sardine (off NSW only). Yellow Tail scud is taken as by-product.

AFMA has adopted various harvest strategy such as input and output control including limited entry, zoning, mesh size restriction, and total allowable catch limits. They are said to be based on sound science and best marine management practices.

Supernet scoops tonnes of small fish. (Photo: Greenpeace)

However, Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said, “These ships literally vacuum up entire schools of fish”

Greenpeace, GetUp, Environment Tasmania, and the 14 other conservation and fishing groups galvanised a CommunityRun! to block the giant net off Australian waters

The Fishingworld website noted:

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said the organisation had confronted the Margiris off the coast of Mauritania in March, for its role in what it says is overfishing in the North Sea and South Pacific ”to the point of plunder”.

The environmental group claims the industrial super-trawler is part of the European Association of pelagic freezer trawlers (PFA), responsible for “some of the worst fishing excesses on the planet.”

It said PFA vessels had been reponsible for jack mackerel stocks off Chile plummeting by 90 per cent.

“There has never been a trawler of this scale in Australian waters to my understanding before and that is a serious concern that we just don’t know what effect it will have on the food chain,” Greens MP Kim Booth said.

Reflagged Abel Tasman awaits fate at Port Lincoln. (Photo: Ivon Perrin)

The Sea Shepherd said,

If this super trawler is allowed to operate in Australia, it would mean huge impacts on the already critically endangered Southern Bluefin Tuna and albatross, and the tragic death of seals and dolphins through being trapped and drowned in this super trawler’s indiscriminate killing nets of death as “by-catch”.

If overfishing does not stop, the world’s fisheries will completely collapse by 2048. The reality is that the oceans that provide up to eighty percent of our oxygen are in deep trouble and allowing this super trawler to operate in Australia’s waters would be a further sealing of humanities fate.

Sea Shepherd are calling on all our supporters to please for our oceans sake and our children’s sake, please assist Sea Shepherd in stopping this super trawler.

And the drama on the super trawler continues.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Greens, Sea Shepherd intensify anti-Woodside gas campaign

Former Senator Bob Brown will be the star celebrity on Fathers’ Day when he gathers a throng of supporters to see the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin ship docked onto the Circular Quay in Sydney, Sept 2.

Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin sail for Ganthueme Point to launch Operation Kimberley Miinimbi. (Photo: Anabelle Sandes)

The ship has just arrived from its voyage to the remote coast of Kimberley in Western Australia to intervene on behalf of 10,000 or so humpback whales said to be threatened by Woodside’s Petroleum’s gas factory in the Browse Basin off western Kimberley.

Sea Shepherd is known as the champion-defender of marine animals. It goes against man-made predators including the well-known Japanese whalers in the southern oceans. In July, the Goolarabooloo people invited the marine group to help drive away Woodside and its partners from the Kimberley region.

The Browse Basin off western Kimberley is home to the Humpback Whale (Photo: Paul Souders/National Geographic)

In the letter to Jeff Hansen, Sea Shepherd Australian director, the “Senior Law Bosses” said the industrialisation project located 50km north off Broome will destroy 30 sq km of land and 50 sq km of seabed. It will destroy the Law of Culture and songcycle which provides health and vitality of the people.

Hansen responded positively, and with Brown, the Operation Kimberly Miinimbi was launched. Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin left the port of Melbourne in early August and sailed for Ganthueme Point to assess the area.

The Kimberley region is home to the world’s largest population of humpback whales. The Wilderness Society estimates the Kimberley whale population to stand at an estimate of 16,000 to 20,000 individuals. Every year the whales congregate along the Kimberley coast, an arc stretching from Broome and the Dampier Peninsula to Camden Sound where they mate, give birth and nurture and train their young. The whales then migrate south from their ‘home base’ in the Kimberley region, along the Western Australian coast, until they reach their Antarctic summer feeding grounds.

Former Senator Bob Brown, Melissa Park – Federal MP for Fremantle, and Jeff Hansen – Sea Shepherd Australia director flash a banner on the rocks of Ganthueme Point (Photo: seashepherd.org)

Other marine wildlife in area include dolphins, penguins, whale sharks, and turtles.

Brown admitted that whales are the only larger species to ever move on the planet along with the now extinct dinosaurs. The Kimberley coastline is home to the world’s biggest humpback whale nursery, the so-called Group IV humpback population.

The Sea Shepherd claims that since 1 July this year, more than 259 whales have already been recorded by scientific survey just a few kilometers south of James Price Point and 23 calf and cow (mother and baby) pairs have been sighted already, with over 70% found within 5 kilometers of the coast.

The Browse Basin lies entirely offshore north of Broome and covers about 140 000 sq km. The basin is bounded by the Leveque Shelf in the south, the Kimberley Block to the east, and the Ashmore Platform and Scott Plateau in the north, and grades into the offshore Canning Basin to the southwest. The area can be serviced from Broome, which has adequate port and air facilities. The Browse Basin is one of Australia’s most hydrocarbon-rich basins. The most significant hydrocarbon fields of the Browse Basin occur in the Caswell Sub-basin.

The breeding ground for humpback whales is under threat from the massive LNG gas development project. (Photo: wilderness.org.au)

Gas exploration in the area began in 1970. However, the Woodside’s LNG Development marks the largest ever with an investment of $45 billion within the next 30 years. The LNG development seeks to process $200 billion worth of gas and 360 million barrels of condensate from three fields in the Browse Basin, approximately 400km north of Broome off the Western Australian coast.

Woodside has the largest interest in the Browse permit areas held by the Browse LNG Development joint venture, with approximately 46 per cent working interest. The other joint venture participants are Shell Developments Australia Pty Ltd, BP Developments Australia Pty Ltd, and BHP Billiton (North West Shelf) Pty Ltd. Chevron Australia Pty Ltd, however, recently withdrew its interest in the Browse project for a swap deal with Shell.

The gas would be shipped to Asia. James Price Point will become a transmogrified industrial precinct fed by a new highway from Broome. Hundreds of tanker ships will take the processed gas to China, Japan and elsewhere.

Woodside Petroleum unveils its $45 billion LNG plan (Photo: woodside.com.au)

The Goolarabooloo people, traditional owners of the James Price Point (Walmadan) coastline, oppose Woodside’s project. However, the Kimberley Land Council, in a split vote, endorsed it after Woodside committed to paying the council $1.3 billion over 30 years, Brown told Crikey.

The Conservation Council of Western Australia warned that exploitation of this gas field will bring a major environmental impacts from drilling in sensitive marine environments, dredging and blasting of coral reefs and other sensitive marine environments for pipeline construction and construction of new ports.

The massive scale project with offshore emission facilities will produce formation water containing hydrocarbons and heavy metals and flared gas. Over 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year is also in place.

The area, to be transformed into a megaport, will significantly increase shipping movements that will potentially interfere with the migration and breeding of humpback whales and other marine life, and risking the introduction of marine invasive species.

If it go head, the Bowse Basin will cost irrepairable damage which include:

4 gas pipelines coming ashore at James Price Point; 4 oil pipelines coming ashore at James Price Point; 4 export pipelines (2 with monoethylene glycol—anti-freeze— going to Scott Reef, 2 with carbon dioxide (if Woodside decides it wants to ‘geo-sequester’ it); 8 huge LNG tanks, 4 LPG storage tanks, 4 oil tanks;  Construction camp for 3,500 – 6,000 workers;  1,000 permanent onsite staff; Desalination plant; 1000 – 1,500 LNG tanker movements year

Whales are natural attractions of Kimberley (Photo: Anabelle Sandes)

The Conservation Council of Western Australia noted that EPA Chairman Dr Paul Vogel even admitted “that turbidity from dredging, oil spills, industrial discharges, noise, light and vessel strikes could adversely affect whales, dolphins, turtles, dugong and fish. Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett is pushing ahead with gas factories at James Price Point, just north of Broome, on one of the world’s most unspoiled coastlines, even though whale deaths are inevitable.”

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent