Adani battles harder for Carmichael coal mine

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The caption on India’s NDTV: “Adani’s plan to build one of the world’s biggest coal mines in Australia has been hampered time and again. “

Indian energy giant Adani is all out to push for its “Asian Century” dream as it announced it will go ahead with its Carmichael mine and rail project in central Queensland as soon as possible – defying oppositions.

Intense pressure from conservation groups have been spiraling over the years, but Adani said the project will finally take off soon with no time to waste. It says it has the cash to finance the project so bank funding will not be a problem. The announcement stunned the public knowing banks from Australia and beyond have ruled out lending the company due to its unfeasibility.

Mining lobby group the Minerals Council of Australia welcomed the news. CEO Tania Constable said it will benefit the Queensland and Australian economies — creating “thousands of new regional jobs and long-term investment in the mine and rail infrastructure.” Constable also noted the mine’s construction could open up the Galilee Basin to further coal development.

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan congratulated the company liking Adani as “a little Aussie battler”. He said “so many have written it off but they just keep chugging along.”

Canavan’s statement has a seed of truth and lies. Back in India, Adani has announced the project has already got a green light from the traditional owners of land in Australia.

The Indian NDTV media said, “Adani on Saturday said its $21.7-billion coal mine project in Australia finally received authorisation by traditional land owners, which the Indian mining giant termed was a “clear mandate” that the community supports the venture.”

However, Adani Mining chief executive officer Lucas Dow said the mine will begin only on a small scale – reducing  to a capacity of 27.5 million tonnes a year — less than half the size of the approved project. ABC reports HERE.

Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani meets with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in December last year and gives an ‘iron clad’ guarantee to prioritise local workers. Picture: Cameron Laird/AAPSource:AAP

Gautam Adani with former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, right, and Martin Ferguson during a 2012 trade visit to India. Photograph: AAP

Hurdles

The Galilee Basin Traditional Owners reiterated Adani cannot go ahead without permission to dig on their ancestral lands. They said the Queensland Government has not extinguished their native title, which is crucial to the mine proceeding.

W&J Traditional Owner and lead spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said even if Adani’s announcement proves to be true, they do not have the final approvals or the financial close needed for the mine to proceed. They are also under investigation for environmental breaches on their country.

“It is a measure of Adani’s failure that they can’t obtain finance for the project they touted to our people. We rejected it when they first came to us and we reject it now, because Adani offers nothing of worth to our people and will destroy our country forever,” Burragubba said adding:

“We demand a guarantee from the Queensland Government they won’t now extinguish our native title for Adani. Queensland Labor has said they recognise that the registration of the Adani ILUA is contested and they acknowledge and respect our right to have our complaints considered and determined by a court.”

“We have an appeal before the full bench of the Federal Court. To act before this concludes would be to deny our rights and open the way for a grave injustice. Without our consent, the mine is not ready to proceed”. Read the statement HERE.

Stop Adani protest outside Kelly O’Dwyers Office, 2017. Photo: Australian Conservation Foundation

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) also released a statement opposing Adani’s announcement as it challenged elected representatives of the Australian Parliament.

Chief Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy stressed out the scientific evidence on the environmental impact of the project – not to mention the ongoing drought and bushfires in Queensland. She said, “Make no mistake. Many on both sides of politics understand burning the coal from the Adani mine and the broader Galilee Basin will be terribly damaging for our climate.”

The ACF has also lodged a challenge to Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price’s decision not to apply the water trigger in assessing water infrastructure for Adani’s proposed coal mine.

According to ACF,  Adani will take up to 12.5 billion litres of water – the equivalent of 5000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – from the Suttor River in central Queensland. Farmers and wetlands rely on the Suttor River, which floods and dries up at different times.

Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme project would supply the mine with water to wash coal, keep dust down and reduce fire hazards.

In September, an Environment Department spokesperson said: ”stand-alone proposals which involve only associated infrastructure, such as pipelines, are not captured by the water trigger because they do not directly involve the extraction of coal.”

O’Shanassy said ACF will argue the Minister made an error of law in not applying the water trigger. ACF will argue the pipeline is an essential infrastructure to service the coal mine and it would not be built at all if not for Adani’s mine. She stressed out, the water trigger should be applied.

O’Shanassy also said theACF is taking the Federal Government to court over its flawed process for assessing Adani’s plan for a water-guzzling pipeline to service its climate-wrecking coal mine.

The ACF lodged the documents with the Federal Court on December 5. ACF will be represented in court by barristers Kate Gover, Angus Scott, Neil Williams SC and the Environmental Defenders Office Queensland.

A signage at the Carmichael coal mine site. Photo: ABC

Related Stories

Federal Court overturns Adani’s Carmichael mine

Deutsche bank rebuffs Adani’s funding request

Big 4′ banks under pressure to rule out funding of coal projects

Indian groups keep stake in Abbot Point, reef dumping

Largest port to kill the Barrier Reef

 

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Penan villagers drive away logging company

The Penan community of Long Tevenga in front of their blockade on the logging road. (Photo: BMF)

Long Tevenga/Sarawak,Malaysia – Stories like this do not come too often: villagers come face to face with powerful companies to chop down trees on their forests and they drove them away.

Penan villagers from the province of Borneo demonstrated that people power has prevailed as they won their case against a logging company attempting to extract timber from their forest.

The Penans have been protesting for two years against the logging operations of Lee Ling Timber Sdn. Bhd. They have barricaded the path to the forest and in August this year, their headman Peg Megut urged to strengthen their efforts: they built a house across the road leading to the forest.

Lee Ling returned to the blockade site on October 12, along with the police and representatives of the Sarawak Forest Department. However, the Penan showed how logging activities threaten their territorial rights in the area. They presented recently- completed community maps.

Negotiations between the Penan, the logging company Lee Ling and the Sarawak authorities on October 12, 2018. (Photo: BMF)

Blocked from trespassing their ancestral territory, the Sarawak Forest Department decided to send the logging company back home and stated that Lee Ling should not proceed with further timber extraction without the consent of the Penan village.

Last year, the Penan and the Bruno Manser Fund published a set of 23 maps documenting the Penan’s traditional forest and land use.

(Source: BNF)

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An Argument of Hope – Rise for Climate

350.org Australia navy ship sails through Sydney harbour to demonstrate climate action.

Despite the doom and gloom climate trajectory, climate warriors from the grassroots up have demonstrated their resolve not to give up hope fighting for future generations against worsening climate scenarios.

Major cities in Australia and the Indo-Pacific/Asia-Pacific have joined hundreds of thousands of people in more than 90 countries that took part in demonstrations last week to protest about the failure of politicians to tackle the global environmental crisis.

More than 800 events – from marches to street theatre, acts of civil disobedience to mini festivals – were held in towns and cities amid growing frustration at the lack of meaningful political action over the emerging climate breakdown.

Rise For Climate from the Arctic.

Nick Bryer from campaign group 350.org which organised the event said: “Politicians are failing. They are still protecting the interests of the fossil fuel companies over the interests of people, despite mounting evidence of the devastation these companies and this system is causing the planet.”

He said the day of global demonstrations was about people around the world “rising up and demanding a different cause of action, a different future which puts people and a sustainable future before the interests of these huge corporations”. Read the Guardian report here.

In the US, the Rise for Climate march was spearheaded by what organizers called the largest ever climate march on the US west coast. It snaked through the heart of San Francisco, came ahead of a climate change summit in the city the following week gathered mayors and business leaders from around the world.

PacificPAWA rising

The San Francisco march, which called for California governor Jerry Brown to end fossil fuel extraction in the state, attracted around 30,000 people, organisers said.

Activists added, “We are standing up to life destructive industries, from big oil to natural gas companies, that obstruct progress toward a healthy, sustainable and just society.”

Rising for climate in San Francisco, USA.

The Rise For Climate came after the Bangkok Climate Change Conference held on 4-9 September. Negotiators in the conference are reported to have made limited progress in advancing the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) which contains the guidelines required to operationalise the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which are expected to be adopted at the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December 2018.

The Global Climate Action Summit was also held in San Francisco, 12-14 September inviting mayors globally to step up their climate action. The summit was a chance to demonstrate to the world that cities, along with businesses, investors, state and regional governments are at the forefront of working towards a climate safe, healthy, prosperous world for all.

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Is Australia’s ABC up for sale?

Members of the Liberal Party holding a vote for privatisation. (Photo: ABC)

Who can speak better for Australia’s commitment to a cleaner and more sustainable future than a reputable public broadcaster? It is no joke when neoliberal politicians have voted to sell it.

Australia’s ruling Liberal Party convened over the weekend and voted to sell the nation’s public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC).  The ABC has been labelled as “green activist”.

The move was backed by a free-market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), and has suggested the sale to a media mogul, a mining magnate or simply the “people of Australia who already owns it.”

High-profile delegates who attended the national convention in Sydney included Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Treasurer Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The motion, supported by a majority of the 110 delegates, calls for the full privatisation of the ABC, except for services into regional areas that are not commercially viable, according to media reports.

Nothing is new. It has been a long-standing plan from the right-wing politicians to privatise ABC. It came to a head in time of the upcoming federal election set for 2019.

Back in 2014, the IPA denounced the ABC as a “green activist” and has accused the broadcaster for its “bias” in reporting on fossil fuels and renewable energy. It has commissioned iSentia to conduct media analysis of ABC’s reporting on Australia’s energy choices.

The iSentia data showed that the ABC treated the renewable energy industry highly favourable, the coal industry unfavourable, and the coal seam gas (CSG) industry highly unfavourable.

See the Green Journal AU’s earlier story here.

(Image: IPA)

Backlash

The result of the vote did not come without a backlash.

The Australian Greens said in a statement the Liberal Party Council has finally opened a can of worms exposing Malcolm Turnbull’s secret plan to sell off the ABC.

Prior to the vote, Greens media spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Turnbull had a secret deal with Pauline Hanson from the One Nation Party known for its intense dislike to immigrants and refugees. Hanson-Young said Turnbull talked with Hanson to ‘whack off’ money from the ABC’s budget.

The Greens called the sale of ABC electorally toxic and completely out-of-touch with the Australian people.

“If the ABC is privatised, there will be no going back. The media landscape in Australia will be worse off, and The Greens will be fighting this move with the community every step of the way between now and the next election.

The Friends of ABC is set to march in the streets nationwide to stop the impending sale while GetUp! has re-commence a campaign to thwart any privatisation plan and it is mobilising a plan to fight back.

The Friends of the ABC are holding rallies all round Australia next month to protest the continual cutting of ABC funding, the harassment of a publicly trusted institution (which is by statute politically independent) AND this latest Liberal Party move to promote the selling off of the ABC”

ABC Friends National is calling for all Liberal Party voters to reject any sell-off of the ABC as being  both anti Australian and anti democratic.

“Australian Public broadcasting has an eighty-year history, and is supported by more than 80% of the community,” said ABC Friends National President, Margaret Reynolds adding, “It is not a plaything of the extremists who have dismissed public opinion in pursuit of their preoccupation with private profits.”

Playing Defensive

Following the vote, the Turnbull Government was scrambling to rule out privatisation of ABC. Some members distanced themselves from the vote, while Turnbull himself denied any plan to sell the public broadcaster.

“The ABC will always be in public hands. It will never be sold. That is my commitment. It is a public broadcaster. It always has been and it always will be,” Mr Turnbull told the media on Monday.

Government frontbencher Josh Frydenberg backed Saturday’s assurance from Treasurer Scott Morrison that the government had no plans for privatisation. Finance minister Mathias Cormann went further, saying the coalition will not be privatising the ABC

Nationals Leader and Deputy PM Michael McCormack has also distanced his party from the Liberal Party peak council, which voted to the privatisation.

“The Nationals does not, and has no intention of ever supporting the privatisation of the ABC,” Mr McCormack said in a statement.

IPA research fellow Chris Berg suggests options such as selling it to the stock market, media mogul, ABC staff or Australian taxpayers..Berg has co-authored a book with Sinclair Davidson why ABC has to be sold.

Early in May, IPA launched the book, Against Public Broadcasting, at the largest free market, pro-liberty conference in Asia Pacific.

Communication Minister Fifield, an IPA member quickly distanced himself from the book and tried to convince the public ABC would remain in public hands.

Promises Fulfilled

Back in 2014, it was a landmark victory for then Prime Minister Tony Abbott to abolish the carbon tax put in place by his predecessor, Julia Gillard, to tax polluters. It was his election promise. He was swift to fulfill his other promises — to abolish the climate change authority and disband the Clean Energy Fund.

The IPA claims itself as the world’s oldest right wing think tank representing big businesses with close links to the Business Council of Australia. It advocates free market economics, privatisation, deregulation, limited government, and a free market approach to environmental problems.

IPA is accused of being an instrument in forming the Liberal Party and is also a fund raiser for the party with major donors from the resource industry such as ExxonMobil, Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris, Murray Irrigation Ltd., Clough Engineering, Caltex, Shell, Esso, Electricity and Mining companies, and British American Tobacco among others.

See the Green Journal AU’s earlier story here.

Link to Asian Correspondent

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The imminent death of the Great Barrier Reef

In 2016, there was an obituary written for the Great Barrier Reef. The cause of death: climate change and ocean acidification. It died at the age of 25 million.

Australian scientists confirmed this is not far from the truth —  if drastic action to save the reef is not taken. In a media release by the James Cook University, scientists conducted a survey last year in which they recorded severe coral bleaching across huge tracts of the Reef. They completed aerial surveys along its entire length. Reports said that while bleaching was most severe in the northern third of the Reef, the middle third has experienced the most intense coral bleaching.

Orpheus Island bleaching. Image: Greg Torda

Prof. Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, who undertook the aerial surveys in both 2016 and 2017, said the combined impact of this back-to-back bleaching stretches for 1,500 km (900 miles), leaving only the southern third unscathed.

The bleaching is caused by record-breaking temperatures — even without the effects of El Niño conditions.

The aerial surveys in 2017 covered more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles) and scored nearly 800 individual coral reefs closely matching the aerial surveys in 2016 that were carried out by the same two observers.

Dr. James Kerry, who also undertook the aerial surveys, explains further, “this is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has bleached severely – in 1998, 2002, 2016, and now in 2017. Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss.”

It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”

Coupled with the 2017 mass bleaching event, Tropical Cyclone Debbie struck a corridor of the Great Barrier Reef at the end of March. The intense, slow-moving system was likely to have caused varying levels of damage along a path up to 100 km in width. Any cooling effects related to the cyclone are likely to be negligible in relation to the damage it caused, which unfortunately struck a section of the reef that had largely escaped the worst of the bleaching.

“Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts,” explains Prof. Hughes. “Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming. As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events: 1°C of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years.”

‘Ultimately, we need to cut carbon emissions, and the window to do so is rapidly closing.”

Mining and Fossil Fuels

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) blasts the mining and fossil fuels industry as well as the lack of government action. Mining and burning of fossil fuels– like coal – are warming the oceans and killing the reef, the Foundation claims.

Kelly O’Shanassy, ACF director said this is a global tragedy blaming the Australian government and coal companies for undermining action on global warming.

O’Shanassy said in order to have any chance of saving the rest of the reef, there should be a stop in digging up and burning coal and take the alternative — to rapidly repower Australia with clean energy.

“We are heartbroken, and furious. But we will not stop speaking out, showing up and holding people accountable for their decisions,” she said adding:

“The death of so much of our reef was not an accident. It was conscious choice. The government and coal companies knew this was coming yet for years they chose to undermine action on global warming. They laughed as they threw coal around Parliament.”

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How long can Japan ignore mounting international pressure to stop whaling?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after their bilateral meeting at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Australia, Jan 14, 2017. Source: Reuters/Chris Pavlich

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participates in a media conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after their bilateral meeting at Kirribilli House in Sydney, Australia, Jan 14, 2017. Source: Reuters/Chris Pavlich

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a high-profile business trip to Southeast Asian countries and Australia to strengthen trade, security, and other regional cooperation.

But while he held talks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney, ocean activists say there is something amiss in the meeting as whale hunting in the Southern Ocean was not included in the agenda.

Whaling in the Antarctic has strained diplomatic ties between Australia and Japan. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan’s whaling program is unlawful and therefore it must cease once and for all. The Federal Court of Australia also told Japan to stop its massive whaling in the region.

Environmentalists stage a rally against Japan’s whaling in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 19, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Environmentalists stage a rally against Japan’s whaling in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 19, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Despite the rulings, however, Japan ignored them and practically turned deaf ears to global condemnation.

For one thing, whaling is uniquely Japanese, a tradition that dates back since time immemorial – a cultural tradition that only Japanese can understand.

Chris Burgess wrote in The Asia-Pacific Journal an analogy comparing between Japan and whales.

He said to deny Japan from whaling is tantamount to denying Japan’s existence, an insult to its national pride and identity.

Speaking of Japanese-ness, whaling is not an isolated case that Japan has blatantly misunderstood.

Take for instance the demand for apologies for its wartime past. Japan withheld apologies and if it did, the form and content are rather ambiguous.

Japanese prime ministers have acknowledged the pains and sorrows wars have inflicted to hundreds or thousands of victims, but the nation’s officials continue to visit the Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect to war criminals.

SEE ALSO: Japan, S. Korea ‘comfort women’ feud flares amid Pyongyang missile fears

The comfort women’s issue is another thing.

Survivors have demanded apologies and compensation, but Japan strongly denied forcing women into sex slavery — besides hasn’t Germany or America done it too?

Japan has been condemned by its Asian neighbours for glossing over wartime crimes yet it continues to rewrite schools history textbooks extolling its military past. Japan claims innocence to fingers pointed at him as if Japan is simply maligned with impunity.

Simply put, Japan and whales are inseparable. Whale is a delicacy bringing back nostalgia of home and childhood, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes wrote in BBC News, Tokyo .

(File) A chunk of lean meat of a whale caught in the Antarctic is placed on a cutting board before being sliced up for a sashimi dish at whale meat restaurant Magonotei in Tokyo Thursday, June 17, 2010. Source: AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

To the Japanese, ethics and morality on meat-eating are practically relative and arbitrary the same way Australians slaughter kangaroo for its meat or how British cook adorable rabbits for a hearty meal, or how Americans make a burger out of a holy cow.

For the Japanese, meat means whale. Could there be a deep chasm between eastern and western thought in regard to being a carnivore?

What Japan might have overlooked is the scale and magnitude of its whale hunting. Japan hunts for 333 minke whales each year traversing and trespassing international waters and marine sanctuaries.

SEE ALSO: Obama urged to pressure Japan to end whaling

Following the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove (2009), which showed the brutal whale slaughter turning waters into blood red, Taiji has become ground zero for local and international activism. Taiji is a town located in Higashimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture.

The notorious whale hunt in Taiji turning water into blood red. (Pic: Supplied)

The notorious whale hunt in Taiji turning water into blood red. (Pic: Supplied)

The film brought global awareness on how fishermen round up some 1,000 dolphins a year to sell to marine parks or kill for meat.

In response to it, Megumi Sasaki produced a documentary film, A Whale of a Tale, in an attempt to shed light on the juxtaposition of contrast between Japanese and non-Japanese thoughts in regard to whale.

Her film, however, did not get as much attention as The Cove.

Japan did not sail to international waters to hunt for whales, not until 1934, eventually ending up to Antarctica. The nation’s confidence was boosted with its advancing technology including the introduction of steam ships and grenade-tipped harpoon guns. Further, whales helped keep Japanese citizens fed both during and after World War II.

Just like its display of military might in the heydays of territorial expansion, the Japanese whaling fleet commands strength and fearless dominion over international waters.

Confrontation at Sea

The Sea Shepherd has been in the media spotlight, unfazed with the Japanese fleet.

The marine conservation group has launched an annual campaign to confront and send the Japanese fleet back home minus the whales.

Dramatic confrontations like adrenaline-packed action movie have taken place in high seas. The head-on clashes, however, have been said to be illegal posing risk and danger at sea.

Nisshin Maru rams The Bob Barker in a series of clashes in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Nisshin Maru rams The Bob Barker in a series of clashes in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

The Sea Shepherd has been charged in a U.S. court for its action despite its noble cause. The U.S. arm of anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has agreed to pay AU$3.332 million (US$2.25 million) to Japanese whalers for breaching a court injunction.

But just like the Japanese, who can stop the Sea Shepherd?

This year, the group dispatched two vessels to mutually bully and harass the Japanese fleet.  Sea Shepherd Global vessels, the Ocean Warrior and the MV Steve Irwin, left Australia’s Southern Operations Base the first weekend of December carrying 51 crew members from eight countries.

Their goal is to intercept the Japanese fleet, which departed from Japan in late November, and prevent them from killing their self-allocated quota of 333 minke whales. This year’s campaign is dubbed as Operation Nemesis.

What else can be done?

Matt Collis of the International Fund for Animal Welfare suggested it is critical to maintain diplomatic pressure on Japan.

He said external pressure can only be successful if enough decision-makers in Japan understand the risks to Japan’s wider interests by continued whaling and start to question the wisdom of that decision.

He also noted that the main option for governments is to make strong diplomatic protests to Japan as 33 countries have already done so, including Australia, the U.S., Mexico, South Africa and all 28 EU member states, led by New Zealand.

The Japanese government needs to understand the changes that have taken place in the course of human history. This is the era where global awareness on the state of the planet has become more urgent than ever.

Part of the difficulty to stop Japanese whaling is rooted in its bureaucratic system. Japan’s whaling is government-run, a large bureaucracy with research budgets, annual plans, promotions and pensions.

If the ministry’s office in charge of whaling is downsized, it discredits the bureaucrats and politicians. For now, downsizing or demolishing the whaling section is not possible. As BBC noted:

“If the number of staff in a bureaucrat’s office decreases while they are in charge, they feel tremendous shame… which means most of the bureaucrats will fight to keep the whaling section in their ministry at all costs. And that is true with the politicians as well. If the issue is closely related to their constituency, they will promise to bring back commercial whaling. It is a way of keeping their seats.”

More activism

Activism has to continue to put pressure on Japan sending a message that time has changed.

Remember what the small neighbour South Korea did. Victims of comfort women protested every Wednesday without ceasing since the 2005 in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

The move was aimed at forcing the Japanese government to make public and face-to-face apology, as well as to offer individual compensation for its wartime sex crimes.

As a constant reminder, the now aged women in their 80s or 90s, supported by various civic and academic groups, put up bronze statues in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and in major cities worldwide.

The statues depict young girls who were forced to serve as comfort women for Japanese soldiers during World War II. The sight has embarrassed embassy officials. Recently, these grandmothers have stroke a breakthrough.

SEE ALSO: Japan: South Korea’s WWII ‘comfort women’ to receive $90k each

The Japanese government finally caved in to their demands for formal apology and compensation. However, there is a string-attached to the compensation package. Japan asked the South Korean government to remove the statues they have erected in front of the embassies and elsewhere.

A big whale statue might not be needed to put up in front of every Japanese embassy around the globe, but a sustained pressure can send the message across: it is sad to say goodbye to whaling, but time has changed.

It is time to set the whales free.

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Welcome to 2017!

The environmental movement keeps marching on. While events and activities have momentarily slowed down in time of scorching summer heat in the Southern Hemisphere, the Green Journal AU will update you soon.

Thanks for following this blog during all these years. However, there will be some re-directions in order to keep the issues presented here relevant.

More than ever, the global citizenry is called to take the moral responsibility to help re-wild a degraded planet not only to fight against governments and big corporations. At the core of all issues, climate change is at a critical stage.

dsc_1108

One of the slides presented by Prof Naomi Oreskes during the forum on For Thought: Hope for the Planet held at Melbourne Town Hall last year.

 

 

Climate champ Leonardo DiCaprio mired in Malaysian 1MDB scandal

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio receives his Best Actor Oscar Award 2016 for his lead role in the Revenant.

Lately, his foundation made headlines announcing US$15.6 million in grants that have been awarded for various causes including wildlife and habitat conservation, indigenous rights, climate change and solving complex environmental issues.

Grant receivers and partners are happy… but not everyone.

The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) suspects the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has received bribe money from Malaysians who are connected to the high-profile 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal, namely Riza Aziz, Low Taek Jho (“Jho Low”), Tan Kim Loong and Riza Aziz’s film production company, Red Granite Pictures.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

Leonardo DiCaprio leads the role in the Revenant.

The BMF has already written Swiss bank Julius Baer, the main bank linked to DiCaprio’s foundation and asked to provide information on their due diligence when it comes to the acceptance of donations from Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) from Malaysia.

The bank responded it expects the LDF to conduct due diligence and prevent damage to its charitable goals.  The bank subtly distanced itself from donations the foundation had received from individuals connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal. DiCaprio, however, is yet to answer questions.

Citing legal reasons, Julius Baer’s Co-Head of Marketing, Marco Perroni, said he couldn’t disclose if the bank managed accounts on behalf of the LDF. However, he stated that all transactions handled by the bank were carefully examined and that it also expected its partners to accept and handle donations with due care.

The Julius Baer Group supports charitable goals via the Julius Baer Foundation and via partner organizations.

“In case of problems, we discuss appropriate measures with our partners in order not to affect or damage the charitable goals and the beneficiaries. Naturally, we also expect from our partners to conduct due diligence and take measures. […]”

We can assure you that transactions and financial flows handled by our bank are generally subject to scrutiny with respect to their origin and use and that, in case of suspicion, reports would be made to the authorities in charge.

Last month, the BMF wrote to DiCaprio, calling for transparency on his financial ties with Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Jho Low, a key person behind the US$3.5 billion 1MDB scandal.

najib razak waving

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Pic: AP.

The BMF said it recognizes the LDF’s important role in supporting rainforest protection and indigenous rights.

However, the organization also said DiCaprio and his foundation should never have accepted funds that proceed from corruption in Malaysia.

“Our long-term experience in Malaysian Borneo, as outlined in the book Money Logging, has shown that corruption has become of of the main drivers of rainforest destruction in South East Asia,”the BMF added.

The call for transparency has been taken up by numerous media around the world, including The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Fox News, CBS News, El Pais, La Repubblica, Milliyet and others.French TV station TF1 broadcast a special eight-minute piece during its 50 minutes inside Saturday night prime time show.

The BMF has called on DiCaprio and his foundation to disclose their full financial relationship with all Malaysians connected to the 1MDB corruption scandal and to pay back all the money to the Malaysian people.

The suspicion, if true, could mar the integrity of the actor’s foundation and his advocacy.

The Guardian noted DiCaprio has joined high-caliber personalities in the fight to address climate change and various global issues.

[He became] a fixture at events focused on global challenges since 2014, dropping in at the Davos economic forum to pick up an award last January, and holding a private chat on the sidelines with Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general, on the sidelines of the Paris climate negotiations last December.

DiCaprio joined the climate march alongisde 400,000 through the streets of Manhattan and was named as a UN climate change ambassador in 2014 where he delivered an address at the UN climate summit.

He has had private tutorials in climate science from some of the world’s best researchers including Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Penn University Scientist Michael Mann.

DiCaprio’s transformation as a climate champion began with his meeting with then vice-president Al Gore at the White House in 1998. DiCaprio, who has cited that meeting as the beginning of his climate activism, set up his foundation that same year.

This year, the LDF announces through its website the foundation’s largest-ever portfolio of environmental grants, increasing the organization’s total direct financial giving to over $59 million since 1998. Additionally, after a period of increased grantmaking and a goal of expanding its global impact, the foundation warmly welcomes veteran environmental leader Terry Tamminen as CEO.

US$15.6 million in grants have been awarded to the foundation’s partners.

The grants support works which range from major environmental conservation organizations to local partners who are fighting to protect and defend vital ecosystems and species that are gravely impacted by the global environmental crisis caused by climate change.

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Great Australian Bight at risk with BP’s oil project

An aerial view of the Great Australian Bight.

An aerial view of the Great Australian Bight.

Conservation groups have been waging war against oil drilling into the vast underwater of the Great Australian Bight located in the Southern Sea, and it may take political will to stop BP Developments Australia Pty Ltd from its oil exploration project in the area once and for all.

South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced last week she will introduce a Bill to the Senate that seeks to protect the Great Australian Bight marine park from companies wanting to drill for oil and gas.

Senator Hanson-Young said Parliament needs to intervene and stop several other companies lining up to drill the underground of the marine park. She noted a marine park is useless if it is not protected from exploitation, citing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as one example of such risk.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has already advised BP that it will be taking additional time to assess the company’s environment plan proposing the drilling of the Stromlo-1 and Whinham-1 exploration wells in the Great Australian Bight. NOPSEMA will deliver its next assessment decision for the plan by Sept 29.

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“This precious marine ecosystem and numerous local industries, including fisheries and eco-tourism operators, deserve to be protected,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The Bight is an essential sanctuary for southern right whales and a feeding ground for threatened sea lions, sharks, tuna and migratory sperm whales.”

The Great Australian Bight Alliance, composed of various environmental and civic groups, has been actively campaigning to stop BP. Last month, a series of events were held led by Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel Steve Irwin which departed from Melbourne and sailed for the Great Australian Bight. This was a part of its Operation Jeedara.

Operation Jeedara showcases the treasures of the Great Australian Bight and exposes the threats to a wilderness of global significance. Much of the landscape and diversity of life in the Great Australian Bight is unknown to the world. The Sea Shepherd showed what is at risk if BP were allowed to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight .

The Great Australian Bight Alliance set up campaign events against BP. (Photo: Sea Shepherd South Australia)

The Great Australian Bight Alliance set up campaign events against BP. (Photo: Sea Shepherd South Australia)

The expedition covered the Nuyts Reef, the Isles of St Francis, Pearson Island, areas around Kangaroo Island and the Coorong Coast, to the iconic Bunda Cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain.

“The Bight is an utterly inappropriate place to be pushing to expand the oil industry. We must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to have any chance of a livable climate into the future” said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen.

Related related story HERE.

Australian environmentalist, Dr Bob Brown, has joined and supported the campaign. Greenpeace Australia Pacific is also supporting the cause and has launched its own campaign.

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Australian Senate investigates Malaysian money-laundering

Here’s a development of what has been going on in Adelaide in connection to the bribe allegations involving the former chef minister of Sarawak at Adelaide University. The Taib Mahmud Court has been defaced and renamed as Columbo Plan Alumni Court. Read story: Adelaide University renames campus plaza honoring controversial Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud

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Amid graft and corruption scandal in Malaysia involving Prime Minister Najib Razak,
green groups seized the moment to submit a Senate inquiry that will look into foreign bribery and money-laundering allegations against Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family.

Former Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud is mired in bribe alegations involding his ties with a uni in Adelaide, South Australia. scandal

Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud is mired in bribe allegations involving his ties with a uni in Adelaide.

An Australian Senate inquiry into foreign bribery will look into money-laundering allegations against the family of Abdul Taib Mahmud Sarawak, the current Governor and former Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Earlier this month, the Australian Senate Economics References Committee acknowledged receipt of a joint submission by the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund and the Australian Bob Brown Foundation that highlights the Taib family’s multi-million dollar real estate transactions in Australia and calls for tighter rules against money-laundering in the Australian real estate sector.

The submission calls for all Taib family assets held in Australia to be frozen and restituted to Sarawak. While the submission names 33 Australian companies with links to the Taib family, particular attention is given to the $55 million Adelaide Hilton hotel held by the Taibs on the South Australian capital’s Victoria Square.

The submission and its attachments, two NGO reports on Taib corruption, are protected by parliamentary privilege following their release on the Senate Committee’s website. “This means that you cannot be prosecuted or disadvantaged because of anything you have provided in evidence, or because you gave such evidence”, the Committee Secretary stated.

The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the Australian Senate’s move and calls on Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem and the Malaysian authorities to support the tracing and recovery of assets stolen by the Taib family. It is currently unclear how today’s dissolution of the Australian Parliament ahead of the 2 July election will reflect on the Senate inquiry.

Links:

Australian Senate inquiry into foreign bribery:

Terms of Reference:
http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Foreign_Bribery/Terms_of_Reference

Submissions:
http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Foreign_Bribery/Submissions