Category Archives: Activism

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 19, 1990- Politicians engage with #climate scientists! #notsomuchanymore

As Maria Taylor notes on page 37 of her excellent book  “Global Warming and Climate Change: What Australia knew and buried…then framed a new reality for the public”

“In the late 1980s, political leaders (Jones, Hawke and Richardson) publicly interacted with the CSIRO scientists and division advisory boards. From that advisory board, Bob Chynoweth personally briefed the prime minister, according to a Hawke speech to the division on 19 March 1990 (Hawke 1990).”

Also on this day-

On this day in 1998 the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) released a report which argues that a domestic emissions trading scheme could help Australia reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels set down in the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change agreed last December. According to the Financial  Review, the proposal, which was part of a report to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment inquiry into trading in greenhouse gases.was “greeted cautiously by industry yesterday, with some concern about whether the scheme was premature.”

 

2001 Department of Defense says it is cutting emissions

e.g. “Continue the development and implementation of a standardised Defence-wide
approach to environmental management, consistent with Commonwealth
environmental legislation, including by reducing Defence’s annual energy
consumption by at least 200 terajoules by June 30 2001, in accordance with the
Government’s greenhouse emissions strategy.”

Stevens, M. 2014. Anti-coal protests gather steam. Australian Financial Review,19 March, p.34.

“One September Sunday morning last year Lance Hockridge woke to find a group of strangers forming an angry protest outside his family home”

March 12, 2001 – $3.9m advertising campaign versus, you know, doing something…

Actually doing substantive things about climate change – like transitioning from fossil-fuel based generation of electricity and energy to renewables/efficiency etc – would cost political capital, financial capital. It would cause disruption, and piss off powerful people.  And the unborn don’t both to vote, the lazy sods.  So, we keep kicking the can down the road.  But we can’t admit that (to ourselves or anyone else).  And so, we do television adverts instead.  And on this day in 2001 a bunch of climate change adverts started on Australian Television, starring television personality Don Burke (who was not, to be clear, paid for his time).

The Federal Government is spending $3.9 million on an advertising campaign on greenhouse gases featuring celebrity gardener Don Burke, two months after criticism of its $3.6 million ad campaign on the Natural Heritage Trust.

In the ads, on prime-time television and in newspapers, Burke says: “I love greenhouses. Wouldn’t want to live in one, though … and that’s why the Commonwealth Government is doing something about it.

“They’re investing $200 million a year to lower greenhouse gases. They’re working with over 300 major companies, helping them to clean up their act.”

He goes on to introduce 10 ways Australians can make a difference including turning off the TV at the power point, instead of using the remote, washing clothes in cold water and taking shorter showers.

The Opposition’s environment spokesman, Senator Nick Bolkus, said yesterday the ad campaign was an “outrageous abuse of taxpayers’ money”.

… The Government’s Australian Greenhouse Office confirmed the full cost of the advertising campaign was $3.9 million, with the ads to run for six weeks.

2001 Clennell, A. 2001. Pitched Battle Over Don Burke Ads. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 March, p.5.

Burke responded to critics the following day –

“I knew in doing this … the Opposition would come back with various statements. As I say, I’m not an apologist for the Liberal Party.”

Anon, 2001, Greenhouse ads raise ireDaily Telegraph, 14 March, p. 20.

 

Also on this day- 

In 2002 the European Commission’s Delegation to Australia issued an unambiguous denial of the idea that Australia could trade carbon permits without, you know, ratifying the Kyoto Protocol…

“On the question of carbon emissions trading, the Kyoto Protocol clearly states that carbon trading is allowed between those Parties who have ratified the Protocol. Countries that are not Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are not eligible to participate in emissions trading under it. Nor can emission reduction projects or carbon sequestration efforts taking place in its territory be rewarded under the Protocol.20″

[Hamilton, 2004, 1st September talk]

2010 –  second Australian Climate Action Summit

March 6, 2002 – Report: sky will fall if Australia ratifies Kyoto Protocol

On this day in 2002, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, which had had its wrist slapped for excluding green groups from previous modelling, released yet another report that conservative politicians could use in their arguments against ratification of the Kyoto Protocol  (Australia had been given a very sweet deal – a 108% ‘reduction’ target and also a land-clearing loophole; John Howard would nix ratification in mid-2002).

ABARE just kept churning out these reports, and journalists – either because they agreed, didn’t know any better, were too busy or too cowed by their editors – kept faithfully stenographer-ing to power. That’s how hegemony works, ‘kay?

Reducing greenhouse emissions to levels required in the Kyoto Protocol would lift unemployment and energy prices, according to new research by Australia’s chief rural and resources forecaster.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics said the US approach to reducing world greenhouse emissions offered a more realistic chance of reducing the possibility of significant climate change….

“The consequences of Australia ratifying the Kyoto Protocol are a significant structural adjustment to the Australian economy with a severe regional impact on jobs and on several major industries,” Dr Fisher said.

In a paper to be presented today to ABARE‘s annual Outlook conference, Dr Fisher said domestic electricity prices would rise by between 37 per cent and 50 per cent by 2010 and 2015 on current projections and Australia would incur a 1 per cent loss in gross national product by 2015.

Koutsoukis, J. 2002. ABARE backs US on emissions. The Australian Financial Review, 6 March, p.4.

 

Also on this day-

2012 The mass media discover that climate change activists would quite like the export of coal to stop.  Hold the front page.

A COALITION of environmental activists has developed an extraordinary secret plan to ruin Australia’s coal export boom by disrupting and delaying key projects and infrastructure.

The strategy includes mounting legal challenges to up to a dozen key mines and exploiting the Lock The Gate movement against coal-seam gas to put pressure on governments to block mining
Hepworth, A. 2012. Coal activists’ strategy exposed The Australian 6 March

2015. BHP’s head of environment says ‘climate change is already having an impact on its Australian mining operations.

Environment and climate change vice president Fiona Wild said less and more variable rainfall linked to climate change had prompted BHP to come up with new water management programs at its Worsley Alumina refinery in Western Australia.
Dagge, J. 2015. BHP stays alert to changing climate. Herald-Sun, 6 March

Feb 3, 2010 – Tony Abbott meets Lord Monckton (no photos though!)

On this day seven years ago, the newly minted Opposition Leader Tony Abbott did some dog-whistling more subtle than his March 2011 debacle.  As Bernard Keane perceptively notes –

“Tony Abbott’s decision to meet Lord Monckton was contemptible — but smart politics. Abbott is just doing what he has been hired to do: dog-whistle to the extreme right of the party. Tony Abbott met with conspiracy theorist Chris Monckton yesterday at lunchtime, but Abbott wouldn’t allow photographers to record the meeting or publicly comment on what was discussed.”

Keane, B. 2010. Abbott to the lunatic fringe: it’s OK, I’m one of you. Crikey, 4 February.

Monckton visited again, the following year.  We’ll come back to that…

 

Also on this day –

1994 – John Daley (not Daly), not yet executive director of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, attends the ABARE ‘Outlook 94’ conference, and, in the words of Simon Grose, hack for the Canberra times, warns that  warns that

“Australia and the developing economies of the world could bear an unfairly high proportion of the costs of controls on greenhouse emissions in the event of any global agreement to adopt uniform emission-reduction targets”

Grose, S. 1994. Unfair burden’ on Australia. Canberra Times, 4 February, p.4.

1995 In the context of a probable/possible carbon tax, Senator McMullan gives a speech at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Melbourne “The levy will be dealt with on the basis of its appropriateness as a measure to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rather than on the amount of revenue it might raise…. What we need to avoid is any situation where we unilaterally place a wide range of export and import-competing industries at a competitive disadvantage without actually contributing effectively to reducing global or domestic greenhouse emissions.”

Gill, P. 1995. Official warns of small cut in gas with carbon tax. The Australian Financial Review, 7 February, p.3.

2009 At the  end of the Climate Action Summit  in Canberra, activists encircle Parliament

 

Jan 31, 2009 – Australia’s first Climate Action Summit begins…

“From January 31 to February 3, 2009, over 150 community based climate action groups and more than 500 people came together in Canberra to talk, debate, strategise and take action on climate change at Australia’s Climate Action Summit.”
You can read more about it here-
http://www.foe.org.au/australias-climate-action-summit

The context was the release in mid-December 2008  of the Rudd government’s White Paper for its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) which had been panned as a grotesquely inadequate giveaway to the coal industry.  Ross Garnaut had opined

“There is no public policy justification for $3.9 billion in unconditional payments to [electricity] generators in relation to hypothetical future ‘loss of asset value. Never in the history of Australian public finance has so much been given without public policy purpose, by so many, to so few.”

According to Simon Butler the summit

“decided that the CPRS must be prevented from becoming law.

“The Greens’ spokesperson on climate change, Senator Christine Milne, was a keynote speaker at the summit. She commended the grassroots climate movement and said that the Greens aimed to represent the movement’s aims in parliament.

“Milne received a standing ovation after her speech — an accolade received by no other speaker.

So, the activists strategised, but it all seems to have ended in tears, as it so often does. How can radical social movements sustain their passion (anger), energy, morale, resources for the long slog, when faced with external problems and internal ones… Answers on a postcard to the usual address….

Jan 15, 1990 – Liberal Party feels it got shafted

On 15 January 1990 two senior Australian opposition politicians met with a senior environmentalist, hoping that the green movement would be “neutral” in the impending Federal election.  Ooops.

Context:

On 15 January 1990, Peacock and Puplick met with ACF’s Philip Toyne for lunch at an Italian restaurant in Melbourne. This discussion has passed into Liberal folklore as a great deception. Peacock and Puplick say that Toyne told them that the ACF would not be actively advocating a vote for either of the major parties in the House. It would be supporting the Democrats and the minor parties in the Senate. Peacock and Puplick left with a misplaced optimism. The political truth is that there was no way that Labor’s investment in the greens would be denied. The entire ALP was confident that it would have the green’s [sic] backing. It is idle to think that Toyne was unaware of these realities.

Toyne said later that he told Peacock and Puplick that he personally believed the ACF should not support political parties but that he gave no promise on ACF’s behalf. Toyne’s ‘Pontius Pilate’ defence is that the decision rested with the ACF council of which he was not even a member….

The Liberals were humiliated by the greens. After Hawke called the election the ACF council voted overwhelmingly to direct its preferences towards the ALP. Peacock later told Hewson that Toyne had broken his word and that the Liberals had been misled and ‘dudded’. The Liberals were left bitter and frustrated. The ALP- green alliance, crafted by Richardson, was firmly intact for the 1990 election.

Kelly, P. (1994) The End of Certainty: Power, Politics and Business in Australia. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin page 543

 The Australian Labor Party had won the 1983 and 1987 federal elections in part thanks to the green movement (this is in the days before the Green Party). The Liberals were desperate to neutralise that threat in the 1990 election. Puplick had even managed to get the Liberals to have a stiffer carbon emissions reduction target than Labor.  It was all for nothing though….

Joan Staples, in her impressive PhD thesis on how environmental movements fared under the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments does not use this anecdote, which is curious. She does however explain very well the dilemma for environmental movements more generally. Once they are seen as being “of” a political party, they lose their bargaining power both with the other parties and the one they have aligned themselves to. What is to be done? Well, don’t get too bogged down in state processes. That is, of course, far easier said than done. And how far is too far?

Staples, J. (2012) Non-government organisations and the Australian government: a dual strategy of public advocacy for NGOs , PhD Research thesis, UNSW. Click here for PDF. 

And the follow-up

On 5th February, 1992, then Opposition Leader John Hewson wrote to the ACF, in part saying

“I see little point in meeting with you or Mr Garrett so long as the ACF leadership is driven by a partisan political agenda,” Dr Hewson wrote.

This was “so evident in the 1990 federal election when the ACF swung its support behind the Labor Party despite the demonstrably superior environmental policy of the Coalition parties,” he wrote.

Anon, 1992. Hewson snubs Conservation Foundation. Canberra Times, 6 February, p.4.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/133929200

Also on this day- 

1992 – Australian Coal Association rep at Guangzhou meeting of the IPCC tries to scupper things. Fails.

The carbon club reserved its attack on the bottom-line statement for late in the meeting. It was not Don Pearlman, but a newcomer from the Australian Coal Association, David Hughes, who fronted the bid for a home run.

“Given all the uncertainties over estimates, based on ozone depletion and sulphate aerosols suppressing warming and the rest, surely we can no longer justify this statement, Mr Chairman.”

“This form of words has been commented on by many referees,” John Houghton said stiffly.

Just like Exxon’s Brian Flannery at the key IPCC scientists’ meeting in 1990, Hughes found no support outside the carbon club.

page 76-7 of Leggett, J. (2001) The Carbon War  [As best I can tell, this would have been 15th January 1992].