Bob Brown joins fight to save Sarawak rivers

Re-blogging:

Former Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown flew to Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, this week to give his backing to a large group of local communities opposing the controversial mega dam projects in the region.

Former Greens Senator Bob Brown addresses delegates to the SAVE Rivers’ alternative conference.

More than 300 local indigenous people held a rally in Kuching amid the International Hydropower Association’s (IHA) biannual conference – the IHA World Congress on Advancing Sustainable Hydropower  – which runs from May 20-25.

The congress is the world’s largest gathering of dam builders and financiers to discuss industry issues. It is also a venue to share practical experiences, policies, and solutions to climate, water, and energy challenges.

Australian-owned Hydro Tasmania (HT) is involved in the controversial dams and is also a sponsor of the event.

HT joined the project as a technical adviser to Sarawak Energy, the dam-building authority of the multi-billion Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).  The project involves 12 highly controversial dams projected to produce 28,000 MW of power.

Bob Brown poses with dam activists during the IHA Congress.

SAVE Sarawak Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers), which organised an alternative conference, said the dams would affect tens of thousands of indigenous people and flood over 2,000 square kilometres of rainforest.

The project is said to be lacking environmental impact assessments despite repeated demands from the affected communities. SAVE Rivers also says that China’s Three Gorges Corporation “began construction on the 944 megawatt Murum Dam in 2012 before its environmental impact assessment had even commenced, leaving affected communities with no option to negotiate resettlement outcomes.”

SAVE Rivers said the dams would be the energy backbone of the Sarawak government’s SCORE Initiative, the plan to rapidly industrialize the state primarily through the expansion of aluminium smelting facilities, palm oil plantations, and other commodity sectors.

Brown, accompanied by Jenny Weber of the Huon Valley Environment Centre, addressed the SAVE Rivers’ alternative conference while HT Chair David Crean and CEO Roy Adair are taking part in the IHA conference.

At the alternative conference,  indigenous communities were given a voice to oppose the dams being built on their land. On Wednesday, they arrived carrying banners saying ‘Respect Native Rights’, ‘Stop Baram Dam’, ’IHA Stop Collaborating With Corrupt Regime’, and ‘No More Dams,’ among other signs.

Protesters flash banners opposing the dams in Sarawak.

The dams are project of the Sarawak state government of Abdul Taib Mahmud who is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission after amassing a fortune of billions of dollars while in office.

Brown said in a statement: “Hydro Tasmania’s senior officers are addressing this conference of the world’s biggest dam builders on ‘sustainability’ while the indigenous people of Sarawak are protesting outside and while HT has four consultants working on these megadams which international organizations have condemned as involving gross corruption.”

In 2011, the IHA launched a voluntary auditing tool for dam builders to assess their social and environmental performance, called the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP). Zachary Hurwitz, Policy Program Coordinator at International Rivers, said  HSAP may be useful to guide dam builders and governments on sustainability. However, he admits the risk that “dam builders could use it to greenwash the worst dams, especially given such a context of heavy-handed repression and corruption.”

More protesters say ‘no to dams’.

In December last year, Peter Kallang, chairman of the SAVE Rivers group of Sarawak Indigenous leaders and James Nyurang, village headman from the Baram River Region, led a tour to Australia and called on Hydro Tasmania to pull their support out of the controversial dams. Related article HERE.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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Unusual political parties up for 2013 federal poll

“Are you a joke party? Not at all! We’re a formally registered party with the Australian Electoral Commission.”

The Pirate Party Australia (PPA) introduces itself as a party of pirates. To elaborate this, a pirate is an adorable character that steals goods from the rich and distributes them to the poor. Pirates are not bad people— they are heroes. The PPA loves to copy and reproduce digital contents–DVD, CD, MP3, computer software, and the list goes on— and wants to share them with the people they love.

Little pirates join the party to support piracy. (Photo: blacknova.com.au)

Registered with Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) early this year, this is what the party is standing for and it is now selecting candidates to contest Senate seats in four states- New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania. The 2013 federal poll is scheduled on September 14. If PPA wins, it will introduce reform bills on copyrights, patents, privacy, surveillance and all other relevant issues related to Internet use. The party said copying and reproducing contents are not crimes but an act of charity and generosity when they are shared with loved ones.

On a more serious note, Brendan Molloy, a lead candidate for NSW stated, “Australia needs strong representatives that actually stand for principles … pushing back on the encroaching surveillance state of data retention and Internet censorship, while offering positive and much needed reform for copyright, digital liberties and civil liberties.”

WLP Founder Julian Assange (Photo: AP)

The WikiLeaks Party (WLP) is also fired up in the campaign. Although registration is yet to be completed, WLP spokespersons Cassie Findlay and Sam Castro said the party  will immediately introduce a national shield law for journalists if the party wins. They said this law will be the ultimate protection for journalists and their sources from any prosecution or intimidation.

“The WLP’s ultimate aim is the constitutional enshrinement of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. We insist on these primary rights to be written into the constitutions of emerging nations, yet they still haven’t been adopted in our own constitution. This historic anomaly has to be addressed and fixed eventually.”

The spokespersons also said WLP gives unconditional support to journalists currently facing court action and severe penalties for refusing to disclose their sources. Findlay adds, “Politicians in a liberal democracy should be the principal custodians of the right to free speech and the freedom of the press.”

Citing super-rich plaintiffs such as mining billionaire Gina Rinehart using the courts to intimidate journalists for doing their job, Findlay said t is high time for the federal parliament to provide journalists with ironclad legal protection.

Meanwhile, GetUp! drew attention early this week with its list of “unheard” political parties who are aiming to run in this year’s election.

In an email, GetUp! clarifies that while some of the parties’ political agenda resonate with what GetUp has been fighting for, it is not endorsing any party.

Anti-seam coal gas rally down King Street, Newtown NSW. (Photo: Dan Himbrechts/ The Daily Telegraph)

Listed are:

  • Stop Coal Seam Gas – ”This party will work to protect communities and farmland from invasive coal seam gas mining by pressuring government to ban CSG.”
  • Single Parents’ Party – “Parenting is hard. Especially for the 950,000 single parent families living in Australia. Its becoming even harder as the government continues to cut support for single parents and their children. We will advocate to reverse the cuts that are forcing families like ours below the poverty line.”

Lamington cake for the Lamington Party

  • The Lamington Party – “For Australia… where the regional cities are connected to the capitals … our government is a case study for democracy and efficiency… and one where we all have a strong social safety net and equal opportunity to succeed in life.”
  • Voluntary Euthanasia Party – “Over four in five Australians are in favour of new legislation and we wish to allow that sentiment to be clearly demonstrated at the ballot box. The Voluntary Euthanasia Party aims to ensure dignity in the final years of life, by raising the profile of this issue in order to engender the necessary political will for change.”
  • Australian Sovereignty Party – Stand for “no carbon tax”, “no personal income tax”, and “no GST”; “no more wide open borders”, and “no treaties without referendums,” among other policies.
  • The Future Party – “The Future Party is a new movement of people who are dedicated to thinking of long term solutions to advance our society. The Future Party believes quality of life is improved primarily through technological developments, sourced through a scientific approach to knowledge in the context of democracy and peace.”
  • WikiLeaks Party – “The WikiLeaks Party stands for unswerving commitment to the core principles of civic courage nourished by understanding and truthfulness and the free flow of information.”
  • Palmer United Party – Clive Palmer’s party with policies including “Abolish carbon tax;” “ensure refugees are given opportunities;” “creating mineral wealth;” and “develop right across Australia where the wealth is.”

Clive Palmer with Jim Mclnally and Sisie Douglas announcing the United Australia Party in Brisbane, 26 April. (Photo: Mark Calleja/ goldcoast.com.au)

The Rise Up Australia Party has already got its fair share of media attention in February during its launch in Canberra’s National Press Club. It is now rallying more immigrants and voters to become more Australians. Founder Pastor Daniel Nalliah has said immigrants should “adapt” to the Australian way of life: Australia for Australians!

Full party list HERE.

Immigration minister agrees to free children from Manus?

GetUp resumes its campaign against Pacific Solution Mark II. Now the group is pressing the Federal Government to release about 34 children detained in Manus Island.

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NewsLtd

Children asylum seekers detained in Nauru. (Photo: News Ltd)

GetUp said,

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor finally pulled his head out of the sand, admitting that asylum seeker detention centres are “not only expensive, [they] take a toll on people’s mental health and wellbeing.” 1 Amen.

The announcement will mean newly arrived asylum seeker families would be eligible to be released into the community on bridging visas. Prompting the question GetUp members have been asking for months:

Why is Manus Island Detention Centre still open at all?

The condemnation of the Manus Island detention centre couldn’t be stronger, and it’s coming from all directions. A recent report from the Immigration Department found its own facility poses health risks. In an ABC Four Corners report, Dr John Vallentine said medical treatment in the centre was inadequate. The Coalition have called it a waste of money. The number of boat arrivals shows it doesn’t even work as a deterrent.

 Sign and share this petition so we can demonstrate widespread public support demanding the Manus Island detention centre be shut down once and for all.

SHUT DOWN MANUS!

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The public needs to hear of some breakthrough.

Egyptian live cattle cruelty enrages Australia

Animal Australia is distressed to see another footage of Australian cattle being slaughtered in Egyptian abattoirs.

Poster on live export over and over (Photo: ABC)

The “voice of animals” from Downunder reiterates its opposition to live exports, a major industry that generates millions of dollars in earning and employs more than 10,000 people in rural and regional Australia.

Head campaigner Lyn White said a “brave Egyptian veterinarian” has contacted her to seek the group’s help to rescue the victims of abbatoir violence in Egypt. The veterinarian is said to have witnessed horrendous abuses of Australian cattle in the country.

White said the animals are terrified “having their eyes stabbed, tendons slashed, throats brutally cut open and being butchered alive. “  The  brutality was aired on a nationwide ABC’s 7.30 program.

To the carnivores, the history of animal slaughter dates back to ancient times. It has become part of culture in many ancient civilizations. It is done as a ritual to appease the gods or simply for human consumption.

Here’s an excerpt, for example, from the Offerings of Ramses III to Amen at Medinet Habu,  Papyrus Harris, J.H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt; Part Four:

The animal was led by a rope in lieu of a nose ring, often the noose was fastened to the lower lip as well. The butchers tied a rope to one of its legs, passed it over the animal’s back and pulled it up. Then the cow was wrestled to the ground, its legs bound together, its head pulled back, and with a hand-long knife [1] its throat was cut. The blood was collected in shallow vessels…..

Much of the slaughtering went on in temple slaughter yards, where the animals offered by the rich were killed…

I multiplied the divine offerings presented before thee, of bread, wine, beer, and fat geese; numerous oxen bullocks, calves, cows, white oryxes, and gazelles offered in his slaughter yard.

Regardless of the purpose, animal advocates are appalled with the graphic images of animals being slaughtered.

White said the latest cruelty is systemic and Australia’s live export industry had purpose-built two supposed ‘state of the art’ abattoirs that were being used to abuse and brutally slaughter Australian animals.  She said the live export trade has been exposed for knowingly supplying animals to extreme cruelty.

The advocacy group is also pushing to stop factory farming, animal testing, and all sorts of animal “injustices”.

Can there be a solution to stop animal slaughter? While the Federal Government is working out for a solution, the group has an answer: vegetarianism– which is also one of its advocacy agenda.

Great examples of vegetarians circulating on Facebook

In a separate website, Animal Australia is in agreement to top scientists such as Albert Einstein who was quoted as saying, ” Nothing will benefit human heart and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

Of course, the livestock industry will not agree.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent