Greens rally to save Tasmania’s world heritage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Bob Brown joins fight to save Sarawak rivers

Re-blogging:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Brown poses with dam activists during the IHA Congress.

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

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

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

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

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

Protesters flash banners opposing the dams in Sarawak.

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

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

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

More protesters say ‘no to dams’.

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

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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

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 

Australia’s mining tax and CIA conspiracy

The mining tax has dominated Australia’s political landscape this week.

The Senate passed the mining tax on Monday imposing a 30 percent tax on super profits generated by mining companies from coal and iron ore. The tax revenue will be used to elevate income and pension funds of the less well-off Australians and to cut tax on small businesses.

This sent shockwaves to the mining industry which could have been rejoicing over mining boom worldwide.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer hits CIA of mining conspiracy

Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer lashed out at the federal government and claimed the CIA is behind the mining tax as part of America’s conspiracy to kill Australia’s coal industry.

Palmer also accused the Greens as “tools” of the US government and the environmental activists group, Greenpeace, is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

He said he will lodge a double High Court challenge on both carbon and mining taxes.

But his accusation hits back like a boomerang.

The CIA via ABC email denied his claim prompting him to back away from inflammatory comments, Fairfax reports via SBS.

Crikey, an alternative online media said,

Now Clive Palmer again has demonstrated the eccentricity that comes from having so much money you don’t have to care what anyone thinks of you…

Palmer is doing no more than continuing Queensland’s rich tradition of conspiracy theorists, which has produced the Citizen’s Electoral Council and Pauline Hanson, to name only the most prominent of recent years. Nor is it the first time he’s accused people of being a CIA front — back in November, it was American Express who were doing the bidding of the spooks.

Palmer could probably find consolation in knowing another mining group, Fortescue Metals, confirms it has sought legal advice ahead of plans to mount a High Court challenge against the Federal Government’s mining tax, News Corp said.

Chairman Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals leads a protest against mining tax during Kevin Rudd’s time

Fortescue claimed the MRRT is a poorly designed tax, drafted by the big miners behind closed doors to minimise their tax exposure at the expense of the rest of the industry,” the company said in a statement.

The Government is also facing a revolt from Liberal-led mining states.

Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett, for one, says he will support any legal action against the tax.

Not Amused

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Bob Carr blasts Palmer’s “reckless” CIA conspiracy claims

He said the “recklessly irresponsible” claim that the CIA is sponsoring a campaign against the coal industry will trigger concern from the United States government and business community.

Carr said the comments should also make many Australians question  Palmer’s links to the Opposition. He said Palmer is very close to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Palmer is considered the largest donor to the Liberal Party.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr

Treasurer Wayne Swan has also denounced Palmer’s claims. He supported Carr’s claim the mining businessman “is in cahoots with Mr Abbott.”

Federal Greens leader Bob Brown has echoed the remarks of Carr and Swan saying Palmer is a life member and a major donor to the Queensland Liberal National Party.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn rejected Mr Palmer’s comments as “ludicrous”. He said Greenpeace would not accept money from any government, corporation or secret service.

The mining tax was initiated almost two years ago, floated by former Treasury boss Ken Henry. It originally proposed a 40 percent tax on super profits—a proposal that stirred an industry-wide opposition rocking the Labor Party’s leadership. It was the same tax proposal that ousted Kevin Rudd from prime ministership in 2010.

Rising to power, Prime Minister Julia Gillard negotiated a modified tax rate with BHP, Rio and Xstrata although smaller miners remain unhappy with the deal.

The Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) Bill 2011 and related bills are now ready for the governor-general’s royal assent. The mining tax will start from July 1 this year, Australian media report.

The federal government estimated the new tax will generate $11 billion in three years which will be used to elevate income of the less well-off Australians. It will boost compulsory superannuation contributions, infrastructure payment and a one per cent tax cut for business.

The Australian, however, is pessimistic over the tax. Its editorial page said:

While this newspaper recognises the benefit in ensuring that some of the revenue generated by the once-in-a-generation mining boom is secured for future generations, this tax will do little to drive reform in the slower sectors of the economy while the fastest-growing sector is slugged with a tax that could damage our competitiveness.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott supports Palmer

I defence of Palmer, Abbott said he was a “larger than life” character.

“I think when he says that the Greens want to stop the coal industry he’s absolutely right – of course the Greens want to stop the coal industry,” Abbott told Channel 10.

Abbott is vowing to repeal the tax if he wins the next election.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent