New Abbott gov’t heads for environmental disaster, expert warns

A day after Tony Abbott was elected as the new Prime Minister of Australia, conservation groups are already worrying about the future of environmental protection and sustainability in the country.

Under the new “management”, a term used by Abbott in his acceptance speech at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, his government will put environmental issues on the back burner to get the business back on track.

Tony Abbott (top) won the 2013 federal election to become Australia's 28th prime minister beating Kevin Rudd who conceded defeat on Sept. 7.

Abbott won Saturday’s Federal Election to become Australia’s 28th prime minister, beating Kevin Rudd in an overwhelming victory.

In a reaction to his election, however, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe from the School of Science, Griffith University said Australia’s newly elected government will be disastrous for the environment. He finds the Coalition Government’s policies on environment to be depressing, The Conversation reports.

Under the Liberal Party’s plan, Abbott will seek to abolish the carbon tax immediately, which he considers toxic and destructive for Australian businesses. The new PM also vowed to suspend the operation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Citing New South Wales as an example of bad business affected by carbon tax, Premiere Barry O’Farrell has made it clear that the state’s black coal-fired power stations will suffer a loss in value of at least $5 billion because of the carbon tax.

Abbott will also abolish the mining tax which he claims undermines investor confidence in Australia as an investment destination and as a secure “supplier of resources.” By scrapping the tax, the Coalition aims to “restore confidence, stability and security for the industry, allowing it to thrive, create jobs and contribute to the prosperity of all Australians.”

Green groups have been alarmed at the Coalition’s plan to implement a One-Stop-Shop Environmental Approvals Process. The process will cut green tape and will fast-track approvals of new mining and other projects. Once it gives  green light to the petition lodged by the Business Council of Australia, the Coalition will offer State and Territory governments the opportunity to act as a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals. The States and Territories would then administer a single approvals process including approvals under Commonwealth legislation such as the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The Environment Defenders Office has already released a report that finds the One-Stop-Shop a process to streamline the process of environmental destruction. Read related article here.

Lowe said Abbott’s  proposal will turn the clock back 30 years on environmental protection.

“Since the Hawke government blocked the proposed Franklin Dam, successive governments – ALP and Coalition – have curbed the worst excesses of growth-oriented states, which are prepared to approve irresponsible developments. Even our National Parks are no longer safe,” he said.

Other plans in the Coalition pipeline include a go for mineral exploration activities; agricultural land exploration for seam coal gas; approval of uranium exports to India; examination of the potential of thorium as an energy source for export; and a review of the former government’s White Paper on energy and resources, among other things.

Relevant links to the new government’s policies are here, including resources and energy plans.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent’s Green Journal

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Australia’s new Fairfax media to promote mining agenda?

Following Gina Rinehart’s massive share buy outs last week, Fairfax announced its long-overdue plan to go digital via paid subscription— scrapping outdated print versions of Australia’s major broadsheets, namely the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart is now one of Australia’s most powerful women (Photo: AAP)

The media company is set to shut down the printing presses of the two papers located in Chullora in Sydney’s south-west and Tullamarine in north-west Melbourne, respectively, the ABC reported.

About 1,900 jobs have to go in the next three years shocking workers at the presses.

Andrew Jaspan, former editor-in-chief of The Age and a current editor of The Conversation, also said about about 20 percent of the editorial staff, about 150- 200, are also poised to lost their jobs. He added that the media company can still produce a “premium print” edition using a few journalists.

He said the media company has been mismanaged by people who do not have direct experience in the media industry.

Fairfax announced massive job cuts (Photo: Julian Smith)

The print editions, he said, are outdated formats invented 155 years ago noting that the Internet has radically changed the nature and the way news are distributed. He said “rivers of gold” generated by advertising have been dried up.

One by one Fairfax was stripped of its classified advertising “rivers of gold”. The jobs went to Seek.com.au, Cars to Carsales.co.au, homes to Realestate.com.au.

He proposed the digitalisation of Fairfax way back in 2007 when the company’s market value was $5 billion. After five years, the value dipped to as low as $1 billion. The shareprices also collapsed from $5 per share to 60 cents which predators like Rinehart has taken advantage of, he added.

The former Fairfax editor said Rinehart will not run the media like an investor but instead she will use the media to sway public opinion.

Back in 2010 she and her fellow mining barons spent $22m to get rid of Kevin Rudd’s proposed mining tax….. And so successful was the campaign that they got rid of Rudd and saved themselves an estimated $20bn in taxes.

Rinehart’s appointment of Australia’s leading climate change sceptic, Ian Plimer, as an advisor to her mining companies is simply a taste of what’s to come. As one senior Fairfax editor remarked, expect this kind of front page once Rinehart gets control. “Exclusive: Climate Change is a Hoax”.

Activists group, GetUp, tell supporters to exposed the “truth” behind Rinehart’s Fairfax raid. (Photo: GetUp)

Rinehart grabbed nearly 19 percent of the total shareholding of Fairfax Media in two separate buy outs last week. Her company, Hancock Prospecting ,confirmed she has increased her stake at the company from 13 percent, a status which already made her the majority shareholder. She cannot hold more than 20 percent unless she bid for a takeover as stipulated under Corporations Act, the ABC said.

Related article here.

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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.

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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?

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