Free market think tank urges privatisation of ABC

The proposed privatisation of  the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) could be an ultimate blow to Australia’s clean energy policies if it pushes through. The county’s fossil fuels think tank highly recommends the public broadcaster to be silenced by transferring its management to the private sector.

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA)  released a report this week saying that the ABC is bias against the fossil fuels industry and  is leaning towards the left with favourable reporting on  renewable energy. IPA commissioned iSentia in March to do an analysis based on ABC’s coverage of energy policy issues, including the coal-mining, coal-seam gas, and the renewable energy industries.

Privileged occasions where Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart get together. Top photo shows Gina Rinehart whispers to PM Tony Abbott while below, Murdoch is with the mining goddess.

“If bias at the ABC is systemic, only structural reform will solve it. A new board or management won’t change the culture. Privatising the ABC is the only way to ensure taxpayers’ money is not used to fund biased coverage,” IPA said in its website.

But oppositions to the fossil fuels industry are saying the contrary. Privatising the ABC would limit reporting on renewable energy policies, giving way to big-scale investments on fossil fuels. GetUp! said privatising the ABC will thwart Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy industry in favour of fossil fuels.

A speech delivered by Len Cooper, secretary of Communications Workers Union, in Wodonga on 16 June 2014 also said Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a  pre-election pledge. He promised his party, industry think tanks, and supporters to dismantle policies that are not favourable to encourage investments. Cooper added, “the IPA has over 100 policy demands it has wanted and wants the Abbott Government to implement.”

Copper revealed the guests who attended the 70th Anniversary IPA dinner in April 2013 before the federal election. She said high profile guests included mining queen, Gina Rinehart and media mogul, Rupert Murdoch who was one of the keynote speakers. Early on, Abbott assured his guests his government will repeal the carbon tax, 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.

Cooper accused the IPA 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.

ABC Friends also noted how Abbott praised his fellow keynote speakers, especially Murdoch.

Without specifying what items on the IPA’s list to radically transform Australia he would not implement, Abbott’s broad response was: “a big ‘yes’ to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me”. So what would be the result if the IPA’s policy for the ABC was implemented? Public broadcasting – gone. The ABC to be broken up and sold off, and SBS to be fully privatised.

Large-scale protests are already brewing to lambast Abbott’s leadership policies..GetUp! said “we actually had a good laugh, until we realised – this is no joke. “

GetUp! said the IPA’s report purports to have  uncovered “media bias” but the fact remains that “As we all know by now, the right-wing think tank just happens to be supported by the likes of Murdoch and Rinehart.”

Dark, thick smoke from coal-fired power plants is belched into the atmosphere. (Photo: ABC)

The scary truth is right now we are watching the IPA’s radical conservative agenda become a reality before our eyes – from the dismantling of the carbon price to a budget that elevates big business over everyday Australians. Its seemingly impossible wish list of 75 conservative items has been rapidly ticked off as our Prime Minister adopts them with abandon.

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne described the Coalition as an ‘Abbott-Murdoch-Rinehart collaboration directed and promoted by the IPA.’

Meanwhile, the Guardian said there are many indicators how to determine whether news reporting is objective or biased. But whether ABC is bias or not, “A KPMG report leaked in 2006 considered the ABC to be highly efficient and underfunded.”

A positive mention of Crikey: “The ABC provides a high volume of outputs and quality relative to the level of funding it receives … the ABC appears to be a broadly efficient organisation.”

Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Advertisements

Transfer of power to State poses threat to environment

This might be a good news for Santos, Chevron, Woodside, Shell, BHP Billiton, ExxonMobil, Origin, Ta Ann—name it—and all those other giants engaged in the business of “exploiting” Australia’s natural resources. They will have more freedom to dig and rig, build dams, or haul native logs—if the power to enforce environmental laws will be transferred from the Federal Government to the State Government.

Undated photo shows BHP Billiton running this machine at Mt Newman mine in Western Australia. (AP Photo/BHP Billiton,HO)

The Council of Australian Governments earlier this year agreed to reform controversial environmental laws. It proposes changes that would give states autonomy to take control over local environmental laws.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)  administered by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts covers the assessment and approval process of national environmental and cultural concerns. It also administers specific Acts that oversee activities relating to marine resources, importing, heritage issues, hazardous waste, and fuel quality.

State and territory environment laws apply to specific business activities and are administered by both state and local governments in the form of licences and permits.

The plan to hand over control of national environmental powers to state and territory governments has outraged the Greens. Last month, an alliance of more than 35 environmental organisations sent more than 10,000 petition signatures to Environment Minister Tony Burke to oppose the proposals.

The Wilderness Society of Australia warned that without Federal powers to override the states, places of high conservation values would be exposed to exploitation. This is the case of the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin River, the Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island, for example. If left to the State Government, they would have been destroyed, the group said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) notes that in the past, under the national environment law, the Federal Government has been able to save  the Great Barrier Reef from State Government plans to allow oil rigs.

However, the reef is still at risk from climate change, catchment run-off, coastal developments and shipping. Recent reports show it has lost 50 per cent of its coral cover since 1985.


Protestors at Franklin Dam site in 1982. In 1978, the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission announced plan to build Franklin Dam, but failed. In 1982, the Federal Government declared the area as a World Heritage Site. (Photo: Tasmania Wilderness Society/National Archive of Australia)

Lonergan Research poll in November said the vast majority of Australians, about 85 per cent, believe the Federal Government should be able to block or make changes to major projects that could damage the environment.

Last week, the plan sounded to have been resolved. The Wilderness Society thought it could sit back and relax—at least for now. In a press release dated 7 December, the Society said the Federal Government has saved business and environmental organisations from a legislative and litigation nightmare by not handing over environmental approval powers to the states.

Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders noted, “The business community has avoided a train wreck. The Federal Government seems to have recognised that our environment is essential to our national interest.”

Now is the time to put in place a robust system that guarantees the highest level protection of areas of national and international significance and for the Federal Government to continue to be the guardians of those values.

Greenpeace flashes a banner to support a UN team dispatched to assess the Great Barrier Reef in early 2012.

However, the ACF today pushed the red button: “Our federal environment laws – the last resort of protection for our precious places and species – are under attack.” Despite a concerted campaign of environmental organisations, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will put the plan on hold till next April, Chief Executive Office Don Henry said in a statement circulated by email. ACF Director of Strategic Ideas Charles Berger also noted, “the plan is not completely off the table and big business is bound to push the government to reconsider.”

You can bet big business will be pushing these changes, which would make it easier for developers and miners to irreparably damage reefs, wetlands and heritage areas by taking away the national layer of scrutiny and review.

So the fight to pressure politicians not to allow businesses to exploit the environment is expected to go on until the Government will “dump this reckless idea for good, “ the ACF said.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Greens, Sea Shepherd intensify anti-Woodside gas campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

After carbon tax, coal to power the economy

Following economists’ recent prediction of the impending end of mining boom cycle, the Federal Government is scrambling to find an alternative solution to power the Australian economy and is now turning to seam gas and brown coal projects.

New South Wales and Victoria received the green lights to go ahead with the projects, respectively – stirring rounds of uproar from local industries, farmers, consumers, and environmental groups.

Hunter Valley in NSW is home to one of the world’s finest wineries and is now under seam gas exploration threat.

In January this year, the Federal Government created the Independent Expert Scientific Committee to provide impartial advice on the environmental effects of coal mining and coal seam gas projects. But ABC’s Lateline revealed that four out of the six members have financial links with the mining industry.

  • Professor Chris Moran – director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland. In 2010 the institute received $17 million, more than half of its funding, from coal seam gas and mining giants Santos, BHP Billiton, BG Group, Rio Tinto and many more.
  • Associate Professor David Laurence – head of the University of NSW Centre for Sustainable Mining Practices. It’s funded with a $1.1 million grant by Mitsubishi Development, a Japanese-controlled coal miner with significant investments in Queensland.
  • Professor John Langford – shareholder in coal seam gas and coal companies for his self-managed superannuation funds.
  • Professor Peter Flood –  a regular consultant for the resource industry.

Affected by the coal, the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association represents stallion farms, broodmare farms, the largest equine hospital in the Southern Hemisphere.

The committee is chaired by Professor Craig Simmons who said the committee is made up of distinguished academics with long and credible public records. He rejected any suggestion that the committee’s work is influenced by industry.

Professor Gary Willgoose, a hydrologist who holds a prestigious position of Australian professorial fellow said it is virtually impossible to find an independent expert as the coal seam gas industry funds and provides the vast majority of research and consultancy work.

Larissa Walters, Federal Green Senator, however said, “These people have been appointed to scrutinise the impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining. You want to make sure that they’re not getting paid by the industry and therefore might turn a blind eye to some of the more dastardly impacts of the industry.” Read ABC TRANSCRIPT.

In Victoria, the brown coal investment is in full swing under the Ted Baillieu Government. The federal and Victorian governments today announced the creation of a $90 million fund for new brown coal projects in the Latrobe Valley.

North brown coal power station in Gippsland, Victoria. (Photo: Aaron Francis/The Australian)

The Sydney Morning Herald said each government will contribute $45 million to pay for the development and rollout of brown coal technologies, including drying for export, conversion into fuels and fertilisers, and reducing emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. The announcement comes ahead of the Victorian Government opening its controversial tender for new allocations of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley.

Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said the program will create jobs in the LaTrobe Valley region, spur economic growth, and create a sustainable source of energy for Victorian industries and households.

The Minister also said,

There is a potential for brown coal to develop into a valuable export, which would not be possible without the technological innovation that may also assist in meeting the Government’s emissions reductions targets of five per cent fewer emissions than 2000 levels by 2020.”

Victorian Energy Minister Michael O’Brien said,

Our brown coal resource has for a long time benefited all Victorians, delivering a reliable and affordable power source that has underpinned our economic growth and been a competitive advantage for the state.

There is a long term viable future for the Latrobe Valley based on the sustainable use of brown coal.’

Expressions of interests for grants will close on November 19. The governments said construction of the  first funded project will be scheduled for 2013-14.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth campaign coordinator Cam Walker released a media statement to express his group’s disappointment over the government’s sneaky plan of scrapping clean energy projects.

The Yallourn brown coal power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. (Photo: News Limited)

Last week, the Federal Energy Minister announced it will cancel the $100 grant to the proposed HRL coal-fired power plant in the Latrobe Valley. He said the announcement is devastating for the Victorian communities. The $45 million Victorian government contribution could be use to invest in clean energy technology. Walker said the announcement is a massive lost opportunity.

Instead of continuing to peddle the notion of ‘clean’ coal technologies, the government should be putting public funds into job rich renewable technology. The state government has shut off much of the state to wind energy, and refuses to listen to community concerns about coal and CSG. Having done a U Turn on climate action, it seems the government of Ted Baillieu is determined to take Victoria back into the 1950s by continuing to support the expansion of the obsolete brown coal industry.

Mining boom over, Rio Tinto announces job cuts

Barely two weeks after Deliotte Access Economics predicted the end of the mining boom by 2014 or so, Rio Tinto announced its massive job cuts in its Sydney and Melbourne offices Tuesday.

Sky News reported the Sydney office with 30 employees will shut down, while about 240 administrative staff in Melbourne will go.  Of the estimated 200 workers at the technology and innovation research centre in the Melbourne suburb of Bundoora, not a significant number will be affected. Some roles will also be relocated to operating division hubs in Perth and Brisbane.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Tom Albanese notified employees on cuts in jobs and services around the globe (Photo: Reuters)

Job cuts is the way to deal with falling commodity prices and soaring costs, a spokesperson said.

The warning came in June when Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese and Australian boss David Peever emailed their staff about plans to cut support and service costs by 10 per cent around the globe. They said they are building resilience and controlling costs during a difficult time, which includes commodity price falls and Europe’s debt crisis.

“This includes a program of reductions in service and support costs across the organisation, which have been rising sharply in recent times….Miners are complaining about rising input costs, leading in to this month’s earnings season, including wages, equipment, energy and new taxes.”

Rio’s first half net profit is tipped to fall to about $US4.9 billion ($A4.69 billion) from $US7.78 billion ($A7.44 billion) last year.

Another mining giant, BHP Billiton, is also experiencing the pinch. Its earnings have been also forecast to drop, similar with the world’s biggest iron ore miner, Vale, which posted lower than expected second quarter earnings at two year lows in the recent weeks.

Deloitte Access Economics issued the sternest warning of troubled times ahead for the mining sector. It said the boom will end in two years or so.

Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia (AFP: Emmanuel Dunand)

Access’s Chris Richardson admitted the boom significantly boosted Australia’s economic growth, “but the peak of the project pipeline is already in sight.”

Investment in resources projects – the key driver of the boom – is looking “less certain the further out you look”, Richardson said.

Access, Australia’s leading private-sector economics advisory said, “Mining companies are making it clear the current spike in investment is due to decisions taken a while back, whereas we are getting few new mining mega-projects across the line.”

Blog Link: ASIAN CORRESPONDENT