Greens rally to save Tasmania’s world heritage

The Bob Brown Foundation gathered around 2,000 people today to help rally against removal of 74,000 hectares of forests from the World Heritage List in the Upper Florentine Valley in Tasmania. The area is part of the 170,000 hectares added into the highly protected area which was decided in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last year .

Australia’s current Government proposed the removal as it intends to use the area for logging. The proposal has been submitted to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee and the decision will be announced around June 15-25 in Doha.

The Foundation said the area is largely intact with tall eucalyptus forests and karst region (underground cave formations) besides there are other significant geomorphological features and areas of significant Aboriginal heritage.

However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott reiterates his government’s mission, first and foremost, is to get back into business especially with the historic Free Trade Agreements (FTA) he recently signed with Japan and Korea, while FTA with China is also being worked out.

Noting his address to the 2014 Forest Works Dinner in Canberra last month, Prime Minister Tony Abbott  told the timber industry that his Government is working for the removal of the 74,000 hectares of forest from the heritage listing. He said,”One of the first acts of the incoming Government was to begin the process to try to get out of world heritage listing 74,000 hectares of country in Tasmania, because that 74,000 hectares is not pristine forest. It’s forest which has been logged, it’s forest which has been degraded, in some cases, it’s plantation timber that was actually planted to be logged.”

Abbott convinced timber investors that 74,000 hectares out of the world heritage listing will “still leave half of Tasmania protected forever.” He assured that his Government respects the timber industry and that it wants the timber industry to have a vigorous and dynamic future, “We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history. That’s what this Government wants.”

The Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager Jenny Weber said, “Today’s outstanding turn out in the Upper Florentine forests clearly shows that Australians are very proud of their World Heritage forests. We are sending a strong message to UNESCO that we love our spectacular forests of outstanding universal value, and the Australian community will stand up to defend them.”
Rally speakers included Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne, Markets for Change CEO Peg Putt, Still Wild Still Threatened’s Miranda Gibson and Home and Away actor Lisa Gormley.
Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

 

 

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Abbott to acquire $12.4 billion jets

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced last week his Government will purchase new jet fighters to boost Australia’s air defence capability. Australia will spend $12. 4 billion for 58 Texan-built F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jets.

Boasting the fighter planes’ capability, the prime minister gave some specs: a top speed of 1960km/h, fire air-to-air missiles, guided bombs and a cannon using the most sophisticated avionics and sensors.

F-35 is built on the premise that “it will see first, shoot first and kill first,” according to a phrase from a US Pentagon official in charge of their development.

Abbott said Australia is sure to dominate the skies when another war breaks out. “You just don’t know what’s around the corner,” he was quoted as saying.

He defended the decision by citing Australia’s past war-readiness and military capability such as the 1990 coup d’état in East Timor, the 1999 invasion of Iraq, and the decade-long military commitment in Afghanistan from 2002.

in a joint press release, the prime minister and the Minister for Defence said Australia will purchase the fifth generation F-35 which they said is the most advanced fighter ever made anywhere in the world. Both are confident F-35 will make a vital contribution to Australia’s national security.

Along with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge. The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2020.

Australia has been working with the United States as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter programme since the Coalition joined in 2002. Acquiring F-35 aircraft will reinforce the ADF’s ability to operate seamlessly with US forces and Australia’s capacity to continue supporting our shared strategic interests under the US alliance.

The F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including in regional areas and for the local defence industry with more jobs and production for many locally-based skilled and technical manufacturers.

The total capital cost of $12.4 billion for this acquisition includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.

Around $1.6 billion in new facilities and infrastructure will be constructed, including at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.

As a result of the Howard Government’s decision to join during the development phase, Australian defence industry has been awarded over $355 million in work and stands to win well in excess of $1.5 billion in JSF-related production and support work over the life of the programme – creating long-term advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.

The F-35 will replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft. For over three decades, the Classic Hornet has been the backbone of Australia’s air combat capability. These aircraft have delivered exceptional service to Australia’s security but will be withdrawn from service by 2022.

The new 58 F-35 aircraft, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, will provide the RAAF with a total of 72 aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training squadron.

The Government will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future.

The Government remains committed to building a strong, capable and sustainable Australian Defence Force.

Anti-war activists gather in Canberra

Not everybody is happy with the announcement. A peace group gathered in the Tent Embassy in Canberra — outraged with the purchase calling it provocative and extravagant.

Anti-war group rally at the Tent Embassy in Canberra to oppose the purchase. (Photo: Supplied)

The Independent Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), an anti-war group claims more than a hundred joined their peace rally this week focussed on Australia’s defence spending. According to the group, they will collect signatures to petition against the acquisition. Around 700 signatures have been collected this week, the group said.

Justin Tutty, executive member of the IPAN said “We are supposed to be in deep financial hole – so how on earth can we afford such an extravagant military purchase?”

IPAN is convinced that in a time of peace, Australia should be investing in education and health and cutting back defence spending.

Adding the controversy is a statement coming from Pentagon. Tutty said that even the project manager at Pentagon finds the planes to be “risky, risky, business because they are unreliable and need too much maintenance”.

“No Australian Defence strategic study has said we these strike fighters. The USA buys these for foreign wars but we do not need them. They are provocative in this time of global instability, and build fear rather than security. If we want peace, we need to invest in aid to our region, not aggressive military posturing” he concluded.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Post-Easter

Australia has gone through a long weekend over Easter period and business has just resumed today.

Nonetheless, the past days had not been completely quiet. Issues on the rights of asylum seekers rage on while civic activism continues.

In NSW, residents fear about gas fracking and contamination while in Queensland, conservation groups rally against massive industrialization along the Great Barrier Reef. Tasmania Wilderness remains under threat as the Tony Abbott Government changed its mind about protecting the world heritage forested areas. There is a ray of hope in Western Australia as a result of the recently held election. However, the fight to protect the rights of sharks from culling is expected to go on.

Whales in the Southern Ocean, meanwhile, can enjoy a peaceful and safe interlude while the Japanese harpoons had lost their case in the international court. They are back home pondering what to do next and it is possible they will come back to pursue their “scientific research”.

I will resume my writing soon.

WA election: a hope for the environment

Western Australians are going to the poll on Saturday, April 5,  to elect six senators to represent the State to Federal Parliament. Environmental groups nationwide are hoping it will be a historic day to defeat  Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his power over the Upper House.

Kimberley landscape

After six months or so in office, the Abbott’s Coalition Government has been under fire from various sectors due to what their call anti-human policies. These include  uncompassionate treatment of asylum seekers detained in Manus Island, unnecessary job cuts, gay rights and bigotry, ignoring child care workers, and reckless participation in TPP, among many other issues,

Conservation groups are especially disappointed at how the Government disregards pressing issues such as environment and climate change. They accused Abbott of callousness with “unprecedented attack on the natural environment.”

Among environmental attacks include:

  • the intention to log World Heritage forests in Tasmania;
  • the anomalous approval of the world’s biggest coal port next to the Great Barrier Reef which include dredging and dumping waste into the world heritage area; and
  • the slaughter of endangered marine life such as the great white shark

Former Greens Senator Bob Brown joins the crowd to oppose the gas hub project. (Photo: Supplied)

Perth protest against shark cull. (Photo: Stu Rapley /Flickr CC)

Wilderness Society (WA) campaigner Jenita Enevoldsen reminds voters that Abbott also wants to hand environmental approval powers to the States, which are incapable of handling nationally significant environmental matters.

A reminder of the Coalition Government’s free market thinking with no regard to legality and decency, Enevoldsen brings up WA’s Barnett Government which approved to bulldoze ancestral lands in James Price Point to build a gas hub.  The courts, however, ruled the multi-billion dollar project illegal.  She warns, “WA’s beautiful south west forests are also under threat given the Prime Minister’s recent extraordinary comments about logging and national parks.”

Last month, various groups across  political parties held a huge rally nationwide in protest to the Government’s policies. March in March , for one, is a demonstration against policies that degrade the most vulnerable. ”This signifies the people’s vote of no confidence in policies of the government that go against common principles of humanity, decency, fairness social justice and equity, democratic governance, responsible global citizenship and conserving our natural heritage,”  its website reads. March in March is just a beginning. Bigger assemblies are coming up.

But before West Australians are going to the poll this weekened, the Wilderness Society and GetUp are out to thwart Abbott’s grip of power over the Senate.

A gas exploration clearing in James Price Cook (Photo: Julia Rau)

They launched a new campaign made up of a TV ad and a website to gather supporters. The TV ad targets younger voters: “Do Australia a Favour – Don’t give Tony Abbott control of the Senate.” The Wilderness Society spearheaded Thunderclap .

Sam Mclean, National Director of GetUp, said West Australians had a second chance to create balance in the Senate this weekend.

There are 77 candidates contesting for the Senate with six candidate from the Greens, four from the Australian Labor Party, and four from the Liberal.  The rest come from a diverse political parties. View list HERE

Blog LInk: The Green Journal / Asian Correspondent

 

Conservationists hail court ruling to ban Japanese whaling

International conservation groups praise the decision of the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) to drive out the Japanese from whaling in the Southern Ocean.  The Court ordered Monday the immediate revocation of special permits granted to Japanese whalers to kill and gather whales in the name of scientific research.

The International Court of Justice in Hague, the Netherlands. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Court finds the Japanese operation in the Southern Ocean not consistent with the provision of the scientific programme under Article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. It finds that “the killing, taking and treating of whales under special permits granted for JARPA II is not for purposes of scientific research within the meaning of Article 8 and that Japan thus has violated three paragraphs of the Schedule. ”

Australia filed the case against Japan in 2010. Today,  the Court announced its verdict and ordered Japan to immediately  refrain from authorizing or implementing any special permit whaling which is not for purposes of scientific research within the meaning of Article 8. It also ordered to cease with immediate effect the implementation of JARPA II; and to revoke any authorization, permit or licence that allows the implementation of JARPA II.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA and Sea Shepherd Australia (SSA) welcome the decision. Both have directly intervened against Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. Last week, SSA’s fleet under “Operation Relentless” arrived home in Melbourne from the Southern Ocean just in time of the end of another whaling season. It announced the success of its campaign in saving at least about 750 whales from the Japanese slaughter.

The Sea Shepherd sent their representatives to the court listen to the verdict,  which include Captain Alex Cornelissen, Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Global and Geert Vons, Director of Sea Shepherd Netherlands. They were also accompanied by Sea Shepherd Global’s Dutch legal counsel.

The ICJ, by 12 votes to four, said Japan hadn’t acted in compliance with its obligations under the international whaling convention. Australia had asked the 16-judge panel to ban Japan’s annual hunt on the basis it was not “for purposes of scientific research” as allowed under the international whaling convention.

Japanese vessel Yushin Maru No. 2, center, sails alongside Sea Shepherds’ The Bob Barker, left, in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. (Photo:: AP)

In Australia, SSA Chariman ,Bob Brown said  the ICJ findings ”vindicate a decade of courageous actions by Captain Paul Watson and his crews.”

“All across Australia people will be celebrating this win due to Sea Shepherd and their huge public support for protecting whales in this country that led to the Australian Government to take this legal action,” Brown said adding “Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott should tell Japan, ‘Never cross the equator again with a whale harpoon gun’.”

Jeff Hansen, SSA Managing Director also said the result “gives further credit to Sea Shepherd for not only upholding Australian Federal laws also International laws in defending the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for the whales and for future generations.”

“In the absence of law enforcement in the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd has been the only organisation upholding the law in defence of the International Whale Sanctuary, while Japan has been consistently breaking the law and this ruling now proves that,”  Hansen concluded.

Blog Link: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent