Monthly Archives: March 2017

March 25, 1995 Women and the Environment conference and the red-green problem

Environmentalists and ‘extraction’ workers (miners, forestry workers) are not ‘natural’ enemies.  And those in charge fear a coalition forming, to the extent that they’re willing to kill to prevent those links forming (think Chico Mendes, or Judi Bari, among thousands -see ‘The War on the Greens’).  In 1995 a conference in Melbourne saw yet another attempt to build/mend bridges…

Bad blood flows between the green movement and the union movement. The controversy over logging recently has led to ugly incidents between timber workers and conservationists. Ms George said she had agreed to speak at a conference on women and the environment this weekend to try to ease some of the hostility between the two groups…. The Australian Conservation Foundation’s executive director, Ms Tricia Caswell, said the ACF, Greenpeace and women’s groups had decided to host the conference at the World Congress Centre because women were often the backbone of community environment groups and were the main environmental educators to children but received little recognition.

Milburn, C. 1995. ACTU’s George Plays Peacemaker To Greens, Unions.  The Age, 24 March.

Also on this day- 

In 1997 there was a Greenhouse Challenge signing ceremony, Parliament House. The Greenhouse Challenge was the purely voluntary programme response that was used to block attempts at legislative/regulatory efforts to reduce emissions.

On this day in 2013, with the Gillard government trying to survive attacks by Rudd, attacks by the media and get itself in shape for an impending Federal election, the Australian Department of Climate Change, created with fanfare in the early days of the Rudd Government, was disbanded.   Most of its “functions were moved to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, with responsibility for energy efficiency transferred to the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.”  (sorry, can

March 24, 2004 – “Coal 21” plan launched

On this day in 2004 the Coal21 national plan was launched

It had been knocking about for a bit – see this

Hennessy, C. 2003. Future Of Coal Looks `cleaner’. The Newcastle Herald,13 September

ANY “sunset” scenario for the Hunter’s coal industry would be a cleaner one, industry leaders said yesterday.

Using Coal21, a paper put together by the state and federal governments as a starting point, panellists looked at whether the billion dollar industry had a use-by date a “sunset”.

NSW Minerals Council executive director John Tucker said many in the industry believed the move to more diverse energy sources would start to occur in big numbers in 40 to 50 years.

and was part of the whole “technology will fix it, if it is in fact a problem” mentality which is still alive and quivering in 2017, at least in the more scientifically illiterate corners of the Coalition parties and its cultural supporters.

The plan itself, which talked about a voluntary levy on coal exports to fund research into ‘clean coal’, was attacked

Day, A. 2004 Coal research `just a hand-out. Australian Financial Review, 25 March.

Taxpayers will fund half the coal industry’s initial research into greenhouse gas reduction in a move environmentalists and opposition parties say is “corporate welfare” that focuses too much on non-renewable energy sources.

Federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane said the government would pay $500,000 to the coal industry’s research into lower-cost sequestration the storage of waste carbon dioxide in saturated underground rock and other methods….

Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett said the decision to subsidise coal industry emission research as part of the government’s COAL21 project was corporate hand-out at the expense of regulatory and market-based measures.

“Low-emission coal technology cannot achieve the deep cuts that are necessary to ensure Australia is able to shoulder its share of the burden for reducing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases,” he said.

The ALP and Greens also condemned the plan as unbalanced and undermining renewable energy solutions.

and then defended

O’Neill, M. 2004. Coal industry’s plans to clean up its act should not be lightly dismissed. Canberra Times, 30 March.

And only two years later, when climate change “burst” onto the Australian public policy did that levy kick in. And even then… ah, but this is for another day…

 

Also on this day- 

1990 Federal Election – climate barely mentioned, but Libs did have stronger policy.  Not that it did them any good…

“The backlash against environmentalists began very publicly on election night. Peter Walsh launched a bitter attack on them from the tally room, attempting to deny any influence they might have had on the outcome. He was joined in later weeks and months by a number of Cabinet ministers, largely but not exclusively from the economic portfolios, but careful evaluation of that election result makes Walsh’s assertion untenable.

Malcolm Mackerras (The Australian, March 1, 1993) summarises the result well: on the primaries, the Coalition had 43.5 per cent to Labor’s 39.4 per cent, the Democrats 11.3 and others 5.8 per cent.

However, Labor’s environment second-preference strategy was so successful that the two-way party preferred vote became 50.1 per cent for the Coalition and 49.9 per cent for Labor (which just fell over the line to win in seats).”

Toyne, P. 1993. Environment forgotten in the race to the Lodge. Canberra Times, 8 March p. 11.

1995  The Australian  published (page 10) a story by Julian Cribb with the title  Greenhouse theory ‘still uncertain’. It began –

AUSTRALIA’S top science bodies say much uncertainty remains over greenhouse warming predictions despite claims by Argentinian researchers that Antarctica’s ice shelf has begun cracking up.

Current increases in global temperature cannot be linked with certainty to human action, the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering caution in a joint report released yesterday.

That report?  Simon Grose of the Canberra Times reported the following day

Grose, S. (1995) Industry seeking energy solutions Canberra Times Sunday 26 March

 

The report has the backing of a steering committee with representatives from a wide range of organisations including the Institution of Engineers and the World WideFund for Nature, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Business Council of Australia, BHP and the Department of Environment Sport and Territories.

I have a copy somewhere. Doubtless depressing-with-the-benefit-of-hindsight stuff… Oh well…

2011 legislation was “introduced for a carbon offset to create incentives for carbon avoidance projects in the land sector: The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 creates the Carbon Farming Initiative which is the first scheme of its kind globally.”

 

March 23, 2011 “Ditch the witch” rally

 

On this day in 2011, an ‘anti-carbon tax’ rally was held outside Parliament House in Canberra.  The crowd was addressed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who was in the midst of his relentless (and successful) campaign to characterise an emissions-trading scheme with an initial fixed price as a ‘tax’ (with the help of Julia Gillard, it has to be said).

Infamously, and in a move that should have been far more damaging than it was (imo), Abbott was pictured in front of a placard that declared Gillard was ‘Bob Brown’s bitch’.

Image result for bob brown's bitch

 

Labour minister Craig Emerson “wanted to vomit,” and he was not alone. Gillard told an ABC documentary that she felt this should have ended Abbott’s career.

Also on this day- 

It happens to be  World Meteorological Day . I should try to track down speeches by Australia’s first environment ambassador (Climate change and policy change : the nexus : World Meteorological Day address 1991 / by Sir Ninian Stephen) and the 1992 one by ex-science Minister Barry Jones.

Climate change, resource use and population growth: the challenge for sustainable development : World Meteorological Day address, 23 March 1992 / Barry O. Jones

2013 –  The Australian Government’s formal response to recommendations outlined in the Final Review Report (on Renewable Energy) was released on 23 March 2013  (Simpson and Clifton, 2014:129)

March 22, 2007 – Fairfax limbers up for ‘Earth Hour’

The late Ray Evans was a culture warrior of the old school. There wasn’t a rightwing pie (union bashing, opposing aboriginal land rights etc, you name it) that he didn’t have an opinion on, a finger in the pie.  In an April 2007 speech about climate change, he quoted this email from Fairfax (owners of the Sydney Morning Herald, the (Melbourne) Age and the Australian Financial Review)

Sent: Thursday, 22 March 2007 9:06 AM

Subject: EARTH HOUR – A MESSAGE TO ALL STAFF

When the lights of Sydney are turned off for one hour at 7.30pm on Saturday, March 31, we should take a moment to reflect, with pride, on the role Fairfax Media has played in Earth Hour.

For the past eight months, the Earth Hour working group has been meeting every Tuesday on Level 19 at Darling Park to plan this bold event.

Every strand of our business – management, editorial, online, commercial, marketing and production – has been involved in the planning process.

For Evans “What is important in this context is that the senior management of one of Australia’s most important media companies, Fairfax Ltd, publisher of the Melbourne Age, the SMH and the Australian Financial Review,sees no difficulty in enlisting all Fairfax staff in the prosecution of a cause which has been described by Cardinal George Pell as a manifestation of ‘pagan emptiness’.”

Also on this day-

2013 Martin Ferguson, seen by some as an unusually pro-mining Resources Minister  resigns, in the aftermath of the leadership challenge that never was.

March 21, 2007 – Unions want #climate action

Ten years ago today, with climate change on everyone’s mind and a Federal election looming, the Unions stated their case. The excellent journo Rosslyn Beeby, then at the Canberra Times,  had this story-

Beeby, R. 2007. Union pressure on climate. Canberra Times, 22 March.

The ACTU has called for sweeping national reforms across transport, mining, agriculture, construction, education and public health to tackle climate change and generate new jobs. The comprehensive green action plan will increase pressure on federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd to adopt a more radical climate change policy as Labor prepares for next month’s national conference. Reforms outlined in the ACTU’s newly endorsed climate change strategy include government subsidies for energy efficient retrofitting of buildings, new mandatory green building codes for all commercial buildings, large-scale reuse of treated effluent, improved vehicle fuel efficiency and greater use of shipping to cut national transport emissions. ACTU secretary Greg Combet described climate change as ”the pre-eminent policy challenge of our time”, and urged industry to ”face up to global warming and be accountable for investing in sustainable jobs rather than raising the fear of job losses and expecting government handouts”.

It all went horribly horribly wrong of course.

Also on this day-

In 1990 Bob Hawke spoke at the National Press Club, ahead of the Federal Election (you are never more than 2 years 11 months from a Federal Election campaign in Australia).  He warned disaffected voters “When you wake up on 25 March,” he said, “there won’t be a Democrat government or a green independent government.”

In 1994 on this day, (on the same day that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change came into ‘force’) the New South Wales  Singleton Council approved Redbank coal-fired power station. Greenpeace contested this in the courts, and lost…

In 1995, according to

Dwyer, M. 1995. Australia takes strong line against greenhouse rules.  The Australian Financial Review,  21 March.

“FEDERAL Cabinet is today expected to endorse Australia taking a tough stand – at a ministerial meeting on climate change in Berlin next week – against new measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

And indeed, Australian negotiators did got to Berlin hoping to prevent a global agreement. But that agreement – to come up with something the “developed world” would do – got through, and set the path to Kyoto… Of which more later…

March 20, 2014 – reefs, repeals and dusty days.

On this day in 2014 the Queensland Resources Council did a good cop/bad cop routine. On the one hand, there was dust reduction

“In another show of industry determination to meet community expectations over the management of dust emissions from coal trains on the rail corridor serving the Port of Brisbane, all monitoring data collected as part of the South West Coal Dust Management Plan is being published on a Queensland Government website”
(QRC press release More transparency in coal dust reporting 20 March 2014)

on the other, they were trying to tear into WWF, accusing them of lying about the state of the Great Barrier Reef…

“The Queensland mining industry has launched a blistering attack on WWF, accusing it of running an untruthful Great Barrier Reef campaign that could jeopardise the reef’s world heritage status.
Michael Roche, the chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, said he has noticed a “dramatic change in approach” from WWF since it joined the Australian Marine Conservation Society to launch the Fight for the Reef campaign.”
Milman, O. 2014. Mining industry accuses WWF of lying about threat to Great Barrier Reef. Guardian, 20 March.

Because as we know, everything is fine….

Meanwhile, in Canberra, Tony Abbott’s attempts to obliterate all of the Gillard ‘Clean Energy Future’ legislative package came up against Senate intransigence, with them voting against reading these bills a third time.

Also on this day- 

2015–  “The Climate Change Authority, established to provide arms-length, critical review of government progress on reducing emissions and recommend future emission targets, has lost its CEO Anthea Harris.”

Edis,T. 2015.  Business Spectator

“Mine is bigger than yours” – penis envy, emissions and energy storage #auspol

It’s another one of those weeks where the news cycle is dominated by climate change.  The first week of December last year saw  Josh Frydenberg announce that the impending climate policy review would consider an emissions intensity scheme  (something the Business Council now wants,  perhaps quietly regretting that they cheered on Tony Abbott as he repealed Julia Gillard’s Emissions Trading Scheme?)

Frydenberg’s words sent Cory Bernardi, Christopher Pyne and others ballistic. The very next day Frydenberg was back on the airwaves denying he had said what everyone heard him say, pouring cold water over the idea. Another backflip in the long history of backflips on climate and energy policy.  The following day, Malcolm Turnbull at the fish market, scotched the EIS idea altogether, proclaiming it to be another carbon tax.   All this before chief scientist Alan Finkel produced the first report of his review into Australian energy security.

At the beginning of February we had another intense week – Turnbull spoke at the National Press Club saying that coal would be the foundation of Australian energy generation for decades to come; followed by Resources Minister Matt Canavan talking of “clean coal” and suggesting the Clean Energy Finance Corporations rules could be changed to allow public funding (since investors clearly were not interested).  Days later ended with Treasurer Scott Morrison brandishing a lump of coal and cooing “This is coal… Don’t be afraid…  don’t be scared.” (And has since boasted about this to radio shocking jock Ray Hadley.)

As one astute  journalist wrote three years ago it’s part of

“a long campaign to redefine the stuff that comes from burning coal as a “colourless, odourless gas”, a harmless three-way cuddle between one carbon and two oxygen atoms that, happily, provides “plant food”

Morrison’s stunt was an echo of US Senator James Inhofe’s infamous snowball stunt of a couple of years previously.

A third such climate-and-energy week has ensued. Last Friday Elon Musk grabbed headlines around the world by tweeting a ‘done and dusted in a 100 days or free’ offer on 100MWh of battery storage. He had talks with both SA Premier Jay Weatherill and Malcolm Turnbull, both of which were poured over by journalists and analysts. On Tuesday the SA government announced a six point energy plan, which involved funding a new gas fired power station, a tender for battery storage, a change in royalty payments to ease gas exploration and new powers for the SA government to intervene in the National Energy Market.  This last point was predictably rubbished by the Federal Government, with Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg muttering about consulting lawyers.

Then Malcolm Turnbull, pre-empting the Finkel Review it commissioned in response to the September 2016 South Australian blackout, let alone the climate policy review (remember that?),  proposed an expansion of the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme (a nation building project from 1947 to 1974 is the largest engineering project undertaken in Australia, brought in under budget and before time), this time to ensure not additional energy production, but storage.

While Jay and Josh were having an extraordinary stoush in a suburban garage in Adelaide Malcolm Turnbull was touring that hydro scheme and could not help but say

“In one hour it could produce 20 times the 100Mwh expected from the battery proposed by the South Australian government but would deliver it constantly for almost a week (or 350,000 Mwh over seven days),”

It is almost exactly a year ago that Donald Trump assured voters that fellow Republican candidate Marco Rubio was wrong to cast aspersions about the size of his, um, hands….

In terms of childishness, well Lenore Taylor summed it up beautifully

“And sometimes the leader of the nation can join the policy discussion only by disguising his good ideas in a drizabone and bush hat, lest they be recognised for what they are by his own colleagues.”

A picture is worth a thousand words

Malcolm Turnbull tours the Tumut 3 power station while announcing the government’s plan for a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme

“Malcolm Turnbull tours the Tumut 3 power station while announcing the government’s plan for a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP.” Source: Guardian article here.

The photo accompanying the article, by  Lukas Coch of Australian Associated Press shows Turnbull, in obligatory hard hat and fluoro and wearing safety goggles pointing into the distance,  predictably flanked by two other men.  Readers with long memories and cynical dispositions may recall that in  July 2014 Senator Ian MacDonald came to parliament in a fluorojacket, provided to him by the same people who gave Morrison his lump of lacquered lump of coal, namely the Minerals Council of Australia.

This is like a thousand other photos of politicians donning similar protective garb.  These all seem like desperate claims by desperate men, who are the epitome of the political class (“out of touch”) using props to try to build to their constituents, earnestly proclaim themselves to be “real,” “tough”  and ‘authentically working class.’

Climate Change is making us all anxious (if not terrified). These claims to authenticity, ‘common sense’ and machismo, are the devices that our politicians deploy to calm us (and perhaps themselves?). It’s not so much ‘virtue signalling’ but ‘virtuoso signalling’ – a claim to competence and hard-headness to see us through the tough times ahead. Given the vicissitudes of the policy-making “process” and the super-wicked nature of the problems, such performances are unsurprising.   What is perhaps surprising that it politicians seem to think that it still works.