Queensland slams UNESCO, defends gas on the barrier reef

UNESCO has released its damning environmental report on the Great Barrier Reef, but the Queensland State Government hits back saying the report poses an obstacle to the multi-billion dollar seam gas business.

The report came in time when the mineral boom is underway and the Queensland Government is excited about financial gains. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said his Government understands the issues raised in the report but could not accommodate some of its chief recommendations, News Corp. reports.

Newman said his government is in coal business and he is not going to see the economic future of Queensland shut down.

UNESCO sent a team of experts in March to assess the status of the reef confronted by both natural and man-made threats. While natural threats could be beyond control, the impact of the latter can be minimised if the Queensland Government can review and adopt strategic solutions.

The international body said the World Heritage listed site is under enormous pressure amid increased developmental activities, including additional port infrastructures in and around the Great Barrier Reef and ongoing management of major liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants at Curtis Island and Gladstone Harbour.

The dredging in Gladstone Harbour for the seam gas has been blamed by local environmentalists for the area’s poor water quality and a skin disease affecting marine life. Green activists say dredging has adversely affected whales and dugongs in the area.

UNESCO recommended to the State Government to stop port facilities expansions and to undertake a comprehensive review and strategic solutions to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the reef.

It warned the reef could officially be listed “in danger” if the federal Government fails to convince the international body it has improved its performance before February next year.

Whether Queensland would be able to help improve environmental conditions of the reef or not, both state and federal governments have already given mineral explorations a go. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke supports the developmental projects saying the approval of applications has been in full swing. He said there was not much he could do to prevent development applications already in progress.

Mining magnates Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart have likewise secured government’s approval of their mining ventures in Queensland. Further, the two mining lords have  been pressuring the Government to allow them to build the world’s largest coal export facility right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The facility is envisioned  to double Australia’s coal exports. The mining moguls expect to hear of Government’s decision in 36 weeks time, GetUp noted.

GetUp, an activist group, said mining billionaires are used to getting their way,” but they’re not the only ones who know how to fight.”  The group has forged a tie up with Greenpeace and BankTrack to undertake an advertising campaign in key financial market in Asia and India to warn potential investors not to invest in these projects.

It’s not just UNESCO who are against the massive expansion of coal and coal seam gas facilities. We’ve just released an opinion poll that found 79 per cent of  Australians are already concerned about the expansion of mining along the Reef’s recognised heritage area — and that was before UNESCO’s  scathing criticisms started to make headlines nationwide.

GetUp is optimistic the ad campaign will work.  It claims that  in 2009, it funded ads in the European Financial Times to discourage potential investors who were previously considering to fund Gunns’ pulp mill in Tasmania.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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Foreign workers to benefit from Australia’s mining boom

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is fighting for an equitable distribution of wealth amid the current mining boom.

Gillard visits workers who are afffected by foreign labour scheme. (Photo: Gary Ramage/ The Daily Telegraph

Gillard told mining bosses at the Australian Mineral Council last night they don’t own the nation’s resources and that she will not back down with her controversial mining and carbon taxes. She said the Government allows them to dig up the earth, but they do not own its wealth.

The AAP said Gillard told her audience the need for a tough leadership to spread the benefits of the boom.

I know that not all of you in this room are in love with the language of ‘spreading the benefits of the boom’.. .Australia needs tough leadership and I think you know by now I’m prepared to fight….

About $500 billion of investment is currently in the pipeline and Gillard said there is no better place in the world to invest in than Australia.

Australia is ready to take advantage of the mega profits and to spread the wealth through taxes. However, taxing appears to be insufficient in the face of local labour shortages.

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief Simon Bennison admitted there are many people who are not qualified triggering unrest among labour unions led by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Australian media has announced mining magnate Gina Rinehart has already applied for the Federal Government’s Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) which would allow “mega” resource projects to import temporary foreign labour.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart is the first to apply for EMA (Photo: ABC)

The EMA is another controversial scheme approved by the Federal Government without consultation from the labour sector.

Rinehart needs workers to work for the construction of her Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara region.

The EMA would allow mega resource projects to source 1715 of its 8415 workers needed during its three year construction phase from overseas. The Daily Telegraph said the foreign workers would likely come from “the UK, Europe, India, China, South Korea and the Philippines. At least 6758 Australians will be employed on construction, including 2000 trainees. ”

Bennison said huge mining projects may qualify for an EMA to allow them “to import workers, needed skilled workers ready to work, who simply did not exist in Australia.”

Bennison said the majority of workers that were needed to meet demand in the industry were tradespeople such as welders and plumbers. “Training them up takes time,” he said.

Blog Link: ASIAN CORRESPONDENT

Xstrata’s video parody backfires

Australia’s mining giant, Xstrata Coal, is reported to have written Mumbrella, an online  discussion site of “everything under Australia’s media and marketing umbrella” this week. The letter contains a threat of a legal defamation suit over a published video parody on Australia’s mining business allegedly posted by Mumbrella.

The Australian confirmed the letter to be genuine. Tom Cregan, legal counsel of Xstrata, wrote Mumbrella Editor Tim Burrows:

We therefore require that the video…..(and on any other website hosted by Mumbrella or YouTube) be removed immediately and remind you that all persons involved in the publication of defamatory material are equally liable for defamation. We also observe that the reproduction of the whole of the video taken from www.thisisourstory.com.au appears to constitute a breach of copyright.

The video has been deleted due to defamatory allegation.  It is purportedly produced and posted as a union campaign by former Chaser member Charles Firth. It was deleted from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s You Tube account in early December after a complaint from Xstrata.

As early as December, however, activist groups have put up a new site featuring a collection of parodies on Australia’s mining industry, This is the Real Story. Similar videos are also posted on You Tube, including this one:

The site comes with a Facebook page which is nearing a thousand fans.

This is the Real Story claims to be a site put up by a group of concerned satirists comprising of the Australian Satire Institute of Australia, the Chamber of Satire Studies (NSW), Queensland Satirical University, the Royal College of Japery (WA), Federal Council of Satirical Councils (Federal Branch).

“Together our member organisations comprise over 85% of all satirical output in Australia. These are the real stories about what Australian mining is doing to the economy. …These are the real stories about what Australian mining is doing to the economy,” the site claims

The main video voices over the claim of how good to do business in mining—to dig up the wealth of the earth and export it overseas. It also voices over a parody where to get mining workers– from overseas labor or indigenous which are far much “cheaper.”

The site is sponsored by the AMWU and is supported by activist groups,  GetUp! and Fair Go for Billionnaires.

The site compiles collection of video parodies about “the real stories in Mining” including that of Clive Palmer claiming the CIA to be involved in Australia’s mining conspiracy.

While mining export boom should be a good news, local workers, indigenous communities, and Green activists have been on the rise to oppose mining.

Al-Jazeera also has produced a film on the mining ventures currently being undertaken in Australia. The video claims that while natural resources are powering Australia’s economy to record highs, there is a dark side to the mining boom.

Australia is blessed with rugged beauty and a wealth of natural resources – including coal, iron, natural gas and gold. Such minerals are powering Australia’s economy to record highs. And as demand from China for more resources grows, new mines continue to open across the country. But critics say there is a dark side to this success story. Mining regions attract transient workers keen to make a quick buck, creating social and environmental problems and a rising crime rate. Mines are also draining Australia’s pool of skilled labour from other industries and driving up wages. 101 East asks: What is the cost of Australia’s mining boom?

To get involved  and get updates directly into your inbox, you can subscribe stories from the organisers.

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