Gallery: People’s Climate Mobilisation Australia

Gallery

This gallery contains 51 photos.

Around 30,000 people, including families and their children join the People’s Climate Mobilisation March on Sunday in Melbourne. These are the photos. (Please do not copy or distribute otherwise contact the Green Journal AU for permission.)         … Continue reading

Carbon tax repeal faces hurdle

Re-posting:

When Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott won the election last year, his priority agenda included the repeal of carbon tax. Following his oath-taking, he wasted no time to abolish the Australian Climate Council. Climate-related projects introduced by the Labor Government were scheduled to be scrapped shortly.

On Monday, his Government’s plan faced a drawback. The Upper House blocked his attempt to repeal the carbon tax by rejecting the passage of a billl to abolish the Climate Change Authority.

The Labor-Green coalition knocked back the legislation to disband the authority. The authority was created during the Julia Gillard Government to oversee the implementation of the clean energy laws, which include the carbon tax.

The bill was amended by Labor Senator Louise Prat, but  defeated on the  second reading- 38 votes against 32. It can be re-introduced in three months, but a second rejection would trigger a double dissolution.

Australia’s carbon tax puts price on industrial carbon emissions.

The Greens Senator Christine Milne has already announced victory to supporters although Environment Minister Greg Hunt is unhappy about the outcome “as if an election was never held,” he mumbled.

The Abbott Government knows that any attempt to push for the carbon tax would slow down business and investments- an “industrial slow down.” Hunt had accused Labor of “blocking a tax on basic state services with hospitals, schools and police all impacted by the carbon tax.”

While environmental groups are celebrating, the Australian Conservation Foundation said the authority would now be able to continue its work until the new Senate takes over in July.  Milne said the government could bring this legislation back before the Senate in three months taking into account of the new composition of the legislative body.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne

Milne said the authority could continue to provide Australia with high quality independent advice on global warming and a rigorous review of the renewable energy target. She told reporters,“I am delighted that today the Senate has defeated Tony Abbott’s push to try and tear apart a science-based recommendation and go with his anti-science obsession.’’

The authority is mandated to govern Australia’s mitigation policies, undertake reviews and make recommendations on various issues, including emissions reduction targets and carbon budgets, renewable energy targets, the carbon farming initiative, and national greenhouse and energy reporting system.

Abbott disbanded the  Climate Council shortly after he was sworn in as the new prime minister  last year. The council was commissioned to  provide independent and authoritative climate change information to the Australian public “based on the best science available.”

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

UN raises concern on Australia’s new asylum policy

Following Australian Parliament’s passage of a bill to process asylum seekers offshore, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees held a press briefing in Geneva saying the new policy raises complex legal, protection, policy and operational issues.

UNHCR Spokesperson Adrian Edwards welcomes Australia Expert Panel’s Report as it encourages regional cooperation which the UNHRC has long supported. However, the report also emphasises on “strong deterrent elements reflected in the re-establishment of offshore processing in the Pacific raise concerns and many questions.” The briefing said,

The Government’s decision, enabled by legislation passed by Parliament, to allow offshore processing is an exception to this general practice. We do not want to see a return to lengthy delays in remote island centres for asylum seekers and refugees before durable solutions are found. We are also concerned about the psychological impact for those individuals who would be affected.

Edwards concluded the briefing saying UNHRC will study the amendment for possible discussion with the Australian Government.

Australia’s Governor-General speaks at an annual breakfast for UNHCR in Sydney as part of the World Refugee Week in 2011. (Photo: Office of the Governor-General)

Increased boat arrivals and “deaths at sea” sent the Australian Parliament in panic and railroaded the amendment to the Migration Act that officially shuts its borders from people arriving by boat in a heated deliberation Thursday.

The re-invented law tells asylum seekers to go back to third parties in the Asia-pacific region without specific time frames for legal processing. The law is now waiting for a royal assent.

The Coalition Government strongly voted the bill, 44-9 defeating the Greens into smithereens. Senator Christine Milne admitted her “shame” as a parliamentarian. She claimed she has not been provided with the details of the bill while the Government rushed its passage, SBS reported.

The public broadcaster also noted Opposition Leader Tony Abbott cheered to the new law and commended the asylum Panel the Government has appointed in June. The Panel highly endorsed the return of the landmark policy of the former Prime Minister John Howard to detain boat people in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard clenches fists alongside her Immigration Minister Chris Bowen as they meet the press. (Photo: AAP/Lucas Coch)

The Australian Parliament House has compiled statistics on the number of boat people seeking for asylum in Australia since 1976, year-by-year. It shows that the John Howard’s Pacific Solution has deterred boat arrivals in 2002-2008. But when the policy ended 2008 by Howard’s successor Kevin Rudd, massive influx of boats resumed and has dramatically increased from that time on. Latest figure during 2011-2012 shows that 7983 people have arrived in 110 boats.

The Australian Parliament House shows statistics on boat arrivals.

The massive boat arrivals in recent months alarmed the Government. Members of the Parliament have gone through lengthy and tedious deliberations in both Upper and Lower Houses to enact amendments to the Migration Act.

Following release of the asylum Panel’s 22 Recommendation on Monday, however, new boats carrying an estimated number of 200 boat people, more or less, have arrived.

Asylum seekers rallies inside a detention centre. (Photo: NTNews)

The Government has already dispatched a team to Manus Island in PNG to assess the details and magnitude of reconstruction works at detention centres. It is the same detention site used during the Howard’s Pacific Solution.

The Australian Government has recognised the magnitude of these global trends noting that the numbers of people seeking asylum in Australia are small compared to those seeking asylum in Europe and other parts of the world.

In the US, for example, it is estimated that more than 500 000 ‘illegal aliens’ arrive each year. Similarly, parts of Europe struggle to monitor and control the large influxes from Africa and the Middle East each year. In comparison, in 2010 134 boats arrived unauthorised in Australia with a total of about 6879 people on board (including crew). Though considerably more than the 7 boat arrivals in 2008 with 179 people on board, in comparison with Europe and the US this is still a small number.

The APH notes that although Australians in the past offered sympathy to displaced people, the rampant arrivals has now become a matter of concern – including border protection, rising unemployment, and selection of people who would become a member of society, among other issues.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has also launched a campaign to discourage people arriving by boats. It drumbeats a punch line: “No to People Smuggling.”

Family Deception

Safety Gear

More videos HERE.

Amnesty International

Human rights advocates react with disdain at the reincarnated Pacific Solution.

Dr Graham Thom of the Amnesty International speaks on the boat arrivals. (Photo: Alex Ellinghausen)

Dr Graham Thom, Amnesty International’s refugee spokesperson, said the Gillard-Abbott policy delineates Australia’s lack of moral obligation by sacrificing protection in favour of deterrence and punishment.

“If we outsource our international obligations in such a flagrant manner, where refugees are left to languish indefinitely – we send the dangerous message to the region that refugee protection is expendable and avoidable…”

The AIA also submitted proposals for consideration to the Panel, but said it is appalled with the Report.

In response to the offshore processing, AIA came up with an impassioned campaign against the so-called window dressing. The group said the Abbott-Gillard’s claim of “saving lives” is just a political spin.

Howard’s Pacific Solution was condemned and dismantled for a reason – it destroyed the mental health of some of the world’s most vulnerable people; leading to self-harm and suicide. It was estimated to cost taxpayers over $1 billion. It broke international law. And it even failed to “stop the boats….There is no way to dress it up. Warehousing desperate asylum seekers on tiny, impoverished islands with no adequate protection is unacceptable….Join us in telling Abbott and Gillard: your refugee policy does not represent me.

Migration Act stripped of human rights protections

President Gillian Triggs of the Australian Human Rights Commission acknowledged the efforts of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers to respond to the tragic loss of life at sea. She also welcomed the recommendation to encourage regional cooperation to help Australia in resettling refugees.

However, she admits her concern on the Parliament’s act of fast-tracking the amendments giving the High Court no opportunity to review whether the processing will be conducted according to human rights standards. She said it is alarming to note the amendment to the Migration ACT violates human rights protection and non-adherence of Australia to its international obligation.

She noted the principle of “no advantage” which could mean stripping asylum seekers of any protection while they await their fate in third countries. In addition, the new policy does not guarantee the protection of unaccompanied children.

“Australia must also be satisfied that each person transferred will have access to an effective refugee status assessment procedure and won’t be returned to a country where their life or freedom is at risk. These are core obligations under international law and should be respected,” she said.

Relevant links to Australian policies on asylum seekers and refugees:

United Nations Convention and Protocols Related to the Status of Refugees Australian Human Rights Commission

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Australia finds no deal to help asylum seekers

The Senate upheld a High Court’s decision to scrap an extra-territorial solution to  people smuggled by boat into Australia in a dramatic vote, 39 against 29.

This is a nail in the coffin of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s benchmark policy to solve human smuggling. It also puts to rest Gillard’s “Malaysian Solution”—a deal that allows Australia to take in 4,000 genuine refugees from Malaysia in exchange for the deportation and processing of 800 boat arrivals within four years.

The High Court ruled out the deal in August last year on the grounds that Malaysia has no legal obligation to protect asylum seekers, a requirement under Australia’s Migration Act.

Refugee coalition groups in Australia also noted Malaysia rejected any responsibility in the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.

In Malaysia, the Lawyers for Liberty based in Selangor earlier supported a memorandum endorsed by various organisations against Australia’s “misguided refugee outsourcing deal.”

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, wish to express our opposition to the proposed Australia-Malaysia bilateral agreement, in principle, to transfer the next 800 asylum seekers seeking asylum in Australia to Malaysia.

Although the terms of the joint agreement remain vague, we are of the view that the Australian Government is making a mistake in arranging this joint agreement with the Malaysian Government which is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (“Refugee Convention”). This proposed exchange is a misguided approach in dealing with a complex issue that will cause serious ramifications as Malaysia has a long record of abuse and mistreatment of people seeking protection. This arrangement, if implemented, may lead to the violation of the rights of transferred individuals to Malaysia.

Two boatloads of asylum seekers arrived on Christmas Island, north off Australia in just 10 days.  Media reports counted about 130 people were rescued, one body was recovered and three people went down with the vessel. Wednesday’s incident came just days after another boat capsized, with 110 people saved but an estimated 90 killed.

Toddlers are among the latest boat arrivals. (Photo: Danile Wilkins)

The twin tragedies alerted the Federal government. The Lower House convened and passed a bill on Wednesday to allow offshore processing of asylum seekers. However,  the breakthrough was immediately dashed off by the Senate on Thursday. Heated debates lasted up to the wee hours of Friday morning.

The bill authored by Independent Rob Oakeshott is called the Migration Legislation Amendment (The Bali Process) Bill 2012. It allows Australia to send asylum seekers to Malaysia and the island of Nauru in the South Pacific for processing.

The Opposition reached a compromise, but the Australian Greens were against the proposed deal and therefore voted against the bill in both houses.

The Parliament will go into a winter recess while more boats are expected to arrive within the next few weeks.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen pronounced a macabre prediction that more boat people are expected to die while politicians are having a 6-week holiday break, the SBS reported.

A boatload of people is spotted approaching Christmas Island. (Photo: Express MV Bison)

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie also said parliamentarians should not be going into recess when such an important matter remained unresolved.

“We should be sitting today, we should have continued sitting last night, we should sit next week, we should sit until we get a solution,” he told state broadcaster ABC.

“I think there is every chance in the world that more people will die during this six-week recess,” he said.

Gilliard earlier blamed the High Court for Australia’s failure to deal with human smugglers. She said the High Court-Senate is sending a message to people smugglers to load more people to come to Australia.

Amid prolonged parliamentary processes, Gillard announced the formation of a panel composed of “experts” such as former defence chief Angus Houston, former top diplomat Michael L’Estrange and refugee advocate Paris Aristotle. She said the panel will assess all asylum policy options. The “Multi Reference Group of MPs” will also work in consultation with the panel.

Since 1976, more than 27,000 people have risked their lives on boats in a desperate bid to arrive in Australia, a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Australian Greens face tough times: Abbott

While Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown is gone, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott warned the Greens- Labor Coalition would face “turbulent times” saying Brown acted more like a prime minister.

The Daily Telegraph said Brown quitted before the storm on carbon tax which will take effect in July this year. The paper said this is where the broader public may react badly to Brown’s departure, and where Gillard will become vulnerable.

Many will simply view this as Brown, a figure a majority of people believe is the quasi-deputy leader in a Labor-Greens alliance, leaving the sinking ship before it runs aground. Tony Abbott will make easy work of a perception that the man responsible for forcing the government to introduce the carbon tax doesn’t even want to stick around to see it start.

Resigned Bob Brown walks away with the party’s new leader, Christine Milne (Photo: Andrew Meares)

PM Julia Gillard accepted Brown’s resignation last week as Deputy Christine Milne took over the helm with Lower House MP Adam Bandt later voted in as her replacement. Brown will also quit as a Tasmanian Senator when his term expires in June. He will not seek for re-election.

Brown said he is happy to go after 16 years in public service taking active role at the forefront of Australia’s environmental campaigns. He turned his party an icon of “innovation.”

With Brown, the Greens became Australia’s third political party and used its heft to bargain with a minority Labor Government and gain the balance of power in the Senate, The Punch commented. The Greens have also been instrumental in the implementation of a carbon tax. Brown leaves the Greens in historically high numbers in the parliament, with a total if 10 members in the House of Representatives and Senate. Brown said:

“I am 67. I am aware that one should always make room for renewal in politics. A democracy is the healthier for the turnover of the depth of talent there is in its community,” he told reporters at a press conference in Canberra.

He added he will leave public office to enjoy his private life, but he will remain Green as long as he lives. He said one of his upcoming plans is to visit Miranda Gibson who has been perching on a tree to keep vigil on Tasmania’s forests.

The tree observer, Miranda Gibson, has been holding vigil on a makeshift house perched on a tree. This photo is taken by Brown himself.

However, Brown could not elude critics on his “untimely” resignation amid crumbling pubic support for Australia’s green projects. Oppositions to the carbon tax claim Brown is playing safe before the storm. The carbon tax passed the Senate in November 2011 and will take effect in July this year. Prices of goods and services across the nation are predicted to spiral as a result.

As a warning for the Labor-Greens coalition, the Labor Party was already massacred in the recent Queensland state election. The new Australian Liberal Party’s State Government is now dumping green schemes initiated by the former Labor premiere.

In Canberra, federal government offices are cutting budgets that may result into mass layoffs reducing the number of employees and projects in areas related to environment.

National secretary Nadine Flood said that some work in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and industry assistance programs would ”simply not be done”, the Canberra Times reported.

The same paper added, “The Community and Public Sector Union, while unable to confirm the latest job cut figures, said reducing numbers to 470 would be a massive blow for staff and would seriously damage Australia’s ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.”

At the party’s Third Annual Green Oration delivered on March 23 this year, Brown addressed the “Earthians” to get involved in finding solutions to the shrinking resources of the planet while its citizenry is growing to an unparalleled proportion beyond what the planet can sustain.

He proposed that for the Earth to be able to survive in the next millennium, a “comprehensive Earth action, an all-of-the-Earth representative democracy is required. That is, a global parliament.” He added, “So democracy – ensuring that everyone is involved in deciding Earth’s future – is the key to success. “

The Punch’s editor-in-chief reacted to the speech as out-of-this-world political ramblings.

…the phrase “Fellow Earthians” was a deep ecologist ramble across a range of themes, including the possible existence of aliens, the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the fact that Bob saw a shooting star the other night and believed it was a portent heralding a new form of participatory democracy. It has been covered at length elsewhere and should you be up for a laugh, please read it in its entirety…

Australian Greens rally at the Parliament House in Canberra in 2008 (Photo: Australian Greens)

Greens Reactions

Green organizations commended Brown’s advocacy to environment, gay marriages, refugee and asylum seekers, and other issues related to social and economic equality.

SBS noted the Wilderness Society described “Brown as an inspiring leader for the Australian environment movement and a champion of wilderness protection during the past 30 years.”

Greenpeace also said Senator Brown would be remembered by future generations for his efforts to protect Australia’s natural heritage.

“He has been a steady voice of reason in a parliament dogged by vested interests and shortsightedness,” program director Ben Pearson said in a statement.

Gay advocates have called Bob Brown one of Australia’s great gay heroes.

While Milne and Brandt take the helm of the party, the Greens are also looking for possible candidate for the June election.

A potential candidate to replace Brown would be Peter Whish-Wilson, a Tamar Valley winemaker who grew up in Karratha who claimed to have worked for BHP Billiton. He said he has experience in small business, markets and global finance which will make him a different sort of Green.

“This is the biggest opportunity for us to create jobs growth and we have to incentivise companies to do the right thing. I don’t see Tasmania just through tourism: there have to be other directions and opportunities…“I am more for opportunity than opposition,” the Financial Review quoted Whish-Wilson as saying.

The Australian said Milne will seek to establish a new political support base among rural Australians and “progressive” businesses as part of an intensified campaign against the “vested interests” of the resource-based economy.

Senator Milne has also attacked the major political parties as captives of the resources sector, and savaged the “rapaciousness” of mining companies, vowing to dedicate her leadership to hastening a transition to a low-carbon economy.

BLOG LINK: Asian Correspondent 

Defeat of QLD Labor, death of Green projects

The official tally of Queensland State Election 2012 (Photo: The Australian)

With the political massacre of the left-wing Labor Party in the recent Queensland state election, new leader from the Liberal National Party Campbell Newman ordered the demolition of environmental projects.

Newman has already directed to scrap the $1.2bn Solar Dawn solar thermal project near Chinchilla, west of Brisbane. This will stop the $75 million in state funding pledged for the scheme which the Anna Bligh government signed last February, the SMH reported.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson noted he Solar Dawn project was initially thought it would bring $60m in research funding to the University of Queensland, and provide an average of 300 jobs during the three-year construction phase, due to start in 2015. He also suggested the federal government to withdraw its own $464m contribution pledge last month.

Solar Dawn solar research and power plant at Chinchilla (Photo: SMH)

Newman is now working  to axe seven other green schemes saying the carbon tax would make them redundant. The Australian reported. These include the following:

  • $430m Queensland Climate Change Fund which provides $30m a year for climate change initiatives
  • $50m Renewable Energy Fund which supports the Geothermal Centre of Excellence
  • $50m Smart Energy Savings Program which helps businesses improve energy efficiency
  • Waste Avoidance and Resource Efficiency Fund
  • Local Government Sustainable Future Fund
  • Solar Initiatives Package
  • The Future Growth Fund set up in 2006 with the net proceeds from the sale of state-owned energy corporations

Newman assigned the demolition job to bureaucrat Greg Withers, the husband of the now defunct Queensland leader, Anna Bligh. Withers led in setting up the green energy schemes.

Coal-fired power stations in Victoria are one of Australia’s dirtiest. (Photo: Paul Jones/SMH)

Meanwhile, in Victoria, gas emitters are welcome to do business. The Ted Baillieu Government removed the cap on greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants, the SMH reported.

Energy Minister Michael O’Brien announced this development contradicting earlier government’s decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by the end of the decade. It also came as the state government released a report on future impacts of climate change in Victoria, finding average temperatures could increase by 1 to 4.2 degrees by 2070 relative to 1990.

The Coalition –Labor and Greens–  had proposed a new coal power standards that would cap emissions from new coal-fired power plants at 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide for every megawatt hour of electricity generated. They also suggested the installation of new power plants that would use clean coal technology.

Environment Victoria’s Mark Wakeham said ”polluters are welcome in Ted Baillieu’s Victoria while the government is going out of its way to make it harder to build clean energy projects”.

Baillieu is reported to have released an independent review of Victoria’s Climate Change Act that “recommends repealing the state’s 20 per cent emissions target – which the state government has agreed to – because it would have no extra environmental benefit and would only lighten the load for other states in meeting a national 5 per cent emissions target.”

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent