Ben Courtice

A popular argument suggests Aboriginal people always burned country so non-Aboriginal Australians should too, albeit for modern purposes, such as fuel reduction burns. Historian Bill Gammage argued this in the popular and influential book The Biggest Estate on Earth (2011).

Remarkably, the book has attracted the praise of writers from both the left wing Green Left Weekly and the far-right Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Christianity, Islam and Atheism: reflections on Religion, Society and Politics
By Micheal Cooke
Resistance Books 2014
124 pages, paperback, $15

For a time I stopped referring to myself as an atheist in public. I was intensely embarrassed by seeing ads on buses promoting atheism around the time of the World Atheist Conference in Melbourne.

For a while I simply became “not religious” for public purposes. I found it embarrassing because public evangelism is the one thing that particularly galls me about religion.

With news that the unlikely climate conscience of the Palmer United Party is holding firm, it appears that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and associated programs will not be scrapped just yet. But the uncertainty of what will happen in the long term may be enough to bring large-scale wind and solar projects to a standstill.

A new report from Friends of the Earth suggests combined pressure from habitat loss, inbreeding and disease may pose significant threats to the survival of the koala in Victoria and South Australia.

The group is calling for federal protection for key populations of the species.

About 1000 Latrobe Valley residents gathered at Kernot Hall in Morwell on March 2 to protest against government and corporate mishandling of the fire in the Hazelwood coalmine.

Residents directed their anger at government inaction and misinformation, and corporate negligence by GDF Suez, the multinational operator of the mine and power station.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley explained to the meeting the efforts and risks being taken by the firefighters.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine is living up to his new nickname, “Naptime”, as the Hazelwood coalmine fire continues its terrible impact on the town of Morwell in the Latrobe Valley.

The edge of the town is only a few hundred metres from where the fire has been burning since February 9. The plume of toxic smoke and ash from the fire has been blanketing the town.

The federal Coalition government is conducting a review of Australia's Renewable Energy Target (RET), which aims to have 20% of Australia’s energy produced from renewables by 2020.

The recent appointments of prominent climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry heavies make the review panel look more like a lynch mob for renewable energy. Dick Warburton, who will head the review, is on the public record denying climate science.

A fire burning in a coal seam at the Hazelwood coalmine in Victoria's Latrobe Valley caused the local Air Quality Index to reach nearly five times the amount considered “very poor” on February 19.

Schools and kindergartens have been closed down in the town of Morwell, which is less than 500 metres from the edge of the mine. Residents have been complaining of headaches and other problems, and many have left the area.

The Tony Abbott government has announced another Royal Commission into corruption in building industry unions.

But Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Dave Oliver said the terms of reference for this Royal Commission “are narrowly directed at unions and will not adequately deal with corruption or unlawful behaviour by businesses or employers”.

Seaspray locals have pledged to resist resources company Lakes Oil, which has applied to undertake horizontal drilling for tight gas near the Victorian town in East Gippsland.

The state government has a moratorium on fracking — hydraulic fracturing underground to release gas held in rocks or coal seams. But it does not apply to horizontal drilling, which in some cases can be enough to release gas from the rock.

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