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

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Arctic oil wells up, Russia sends home 30 activists

Tasmania awaits the homecoming of Colin Russell, 59, one of the 30 Arctic activists detained and freed by Russian authorities.

The Russian Parliament passed amnesty laws before Christmas absolving a range of minor felons, including 30 Greenpeace activists known as the Arctic 30. As New Year draws near, the immigration department also ordered to issue exit visas so that former detainees can go home.

Colin Russell is free at last and is expected to be home in Tasmania for the New Year. (Photo: AAP)

Colin Russell is free at last and is expected to be home in Tasmania for the New Year. (Photo: AAP)

Twenty-eight Greenpeace protestors representing 18 nationalites – Americans, Canadians Britons and Australians, to name a few– and two freelance journalists were seized at the Prirazlomnoye platform on September 18 by Russian commandos. They boarded on the Arctic Sunrise to protest against drilling in the ice capped region, but were intercepted, captured, and charged of piracy, then reduced to hooliganism. If convicted, they could be locked up for at least seven years in jail.

The pardon came at a time when Russia’s first Arctic offshore field Prirazlomnoye started pumping oil in the remote waters of the Pechora Sea. Gazprom Neft announced on December 20 that oil production has begun with an average of 10.6 million barrels of oil per day, close to its current capacity. Gazprom expected an initial production of 12,000 barrels per day in 2014 and the first tanker is likely to be loaded with oil in the first quarter of next year.

Already an owner of the world’s largest natural gas reserves and a growing presence in the oil sector, Gazprom also aims to produce 6 million tons of crude per year (120,000 barrels per day) at the site by 2021.

The Arctic 30 in St. Petersburg awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism.

The Arctic 30 in St. Petersburg awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism.

Prirazlomnoye’s estimated oil reserves stand at 72 million tons — a small field that would be responsible for just 1 percent of Russia’s daily production and be depleted in about two decades, the Reuters reported.

Prirazlomnoye deposit is Russia’s first Arctic offshore exploration project, which marks the start of establishing of a large hydrocarbon hub in the region. The Prirazlomnoye oil deposit lies 60 km offshore in the Pechora Sea. The announcement also marks Russia’s long-planned effort to turn the vast oil and natural gas riches believed to be buried in the frozen waters into profits for its ambitious government-run firms. Gazprom also stressed it has rights to 29 other fields it planned to exploit in Russia’s section of the Arctic seabed.

But both Gazprom and the Kremlin view the field as a stepping stone in a much broader effort to turn the Arctic into the focus of future exploration that makes up for Russia’s declining oil production at its Soviet-era Siberian fields, according to AFP.

The Arctic region is seen as an important source of potential growth for Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, in the next decade, with global oil majors including ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil clinching deals to enter the Russian Arctic. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the Arctic offshore riches are of a strategic importance for the country.

Control over energy fields in Russia’s section of the Arctic is split between Gazprom and its state-owned rival Rosneft — an oil producer that wants to break Gazprom’s grip on the natural gas market. Rosneft is said to be partnering in the region with U.S. major ExxonMobil and has smaller deals signed with Italy’s ENI and Norway’s Statoil, the AFP report further added.

Gazprom sees overall investments into the project at about 200 billion rubles ($6 billion), of which half had already been spent with the bulk accounting for a special ice-proof platform.

Conservation groups react

Dima Litvinov, the first of the Arctic 30 to leave Russia for Finland said his freedom is not the end, but just a beginning.

Gazprom's Polarstar platform (Photo: Gazprom.ru)

Gazprom’s Polarstar platform (Photo: Gazprom.ru)

“ They (Gazprom) may have celebrated when our ship was seized, but our imprisonment has been a disaster for them. The movement to save the Arctic is marching now. Our freedom is the start of something, not the end. This is only the beginning. The oil companies are moving north, the world’s climate is changing, the biggest struggles still lie ahead of us.”

Greenpeace said all efforts to protect the last frontier of pristine resources will be exerted and the fight is not yet over. One of its campaign platforms to gather support is Save the Arctic.

Last year, the World Wildlife fund (WWF) released a joint report that seeks to find solution in the event of an oil spill in the region. It said that harsh conditions in Russia’s Pechora Sea coupled with an inadequate oil spill response plan mean that Gazprom would not be able properly respond to an oil spill in the Arctic

A comprehensive study and joint report was released last year by the WWF, Greenpeace, Hydrometcentre of Russia, SOI, AA RI, SRC Risk Informatics. The title of the report: “Simulation of the behaviour of oil spill in the course of OIRFP “PRIRAZLOMNAYA“ Operation Assessment of the possibility of emergency response related to oil spills.

The experts reviewed tens of thousands of possible scenarios and concluded that the area of possible contamination covers over 140,000 square kilometers of open water, as well as over 3,000 kilometers of coastline. The area at risk also includes three protected areas located 50-60 km from the Prirazlomnaya oil platform: the Nenetsky natural reserve, as well as two wildlife preserves, Vaigach and Nenetsky. These reserves are home to walruses and countless species of birds. Gazprom does not include any funds for animal rescue in its oil spill response plan.

 Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic (Photo: Gazprom)


Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform in the Arctic (Photo: Gazprom)

Gazprom’s Technology

Gazprom defended its Prirazlomnaya as a unique platform designed and built in Russia on Gazprom orders. In a press statement, it said it uses technology designed to work in extreme conditions, conforms to the strictest safety requirements and is capable of withstanding maximum ice pressure. Specification of the materials used are comprehensively detailed to ensure Prirazlomnaya is oil-spill-free.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

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