Ben Courtice

In recent months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has taken to highlighting the role of state electricity utilities in pushing up power prices. Average power bills have been rising rapidly — 69% over four years in NSW.

The ALP’s capitulation to populist refugee-bashing is wrong on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin.

The underlying rationale is patently false. The Age reported: “In a major backdown from her earlier insistence on the Malaysia ‘people swap’, Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared: ‘If people want to put up banners that this is a compromise from the government: dead — in order to start saving lives.’

If the official government line is to be believed, Australia is only a minor player when it comes to our greenhouse gas emissions.

In this view, Australia is powerless to bring about international action to cut emissions. Indeed, any such efforts are only likely to amount to economic self-sabotage.

From Laggard to Leader, the new report from research group Beyond Zero Emissions, demolishes these arguments. Far from being an inconsequential emitter, Australia’s carbon footprint is immense.

A report published on July 23 calls for Australia to institute a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments as the centrepiece of a global campaign to phase out fossil fuels.

Hundreds attended the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane meetings to launch the latest report from climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), Laggard to Leader: How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity.

Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom & Australia's Future
By Paul Cleary
Black Inc., 2011
156 pages, pb, $24.95

Paul Cleary’s book Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia's Future, published last year, raises important questions, and provides much useful information for answers.

But the real elephant in the room, coal mining, is largely left untouched.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is being set up under the Clean Energy Future legislation (the carbon price package). It will provide $10 billion to support renewable and low-emissions energy.

That’s the message that most climate-concerned people have been hearing from the Labor government and the Greens.

Unfortunately, it now seems overly optimistic. The recently completed CEFC expert review shows it may give most of its support to gas projects.

On the afternoon of March 30, Friends of the Earth campaigner Cam Walker said on Twitter: “This has been the week from hell for climate change politics in Vic. There's still a few working hours, maybe a nuke power plant is next?”

Climate targets, standards abandoned

Poultry industry union delegates in the National Union of Workers (NUW) and supporters met on March 27 to launch a report outlining the basis for the union’s “Better Jobs 4 Better Chicken” campaign.

Late last year, NUW members at Baiada Poultry took strike action over conditions of employment and wages, citing widespread use of cash-in-hand work at rates well below the minimum wage.

Healesville-based group, MyEnvironment, has lost a court case it mounted against government body VicForests over the logging of Victoria’s central highlands areas that include habitat for the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum.

Justice Robert Osborn handed down his decision in the Supreme Court on March 14. He refused to order a stop to logging in three forest coupes at Toolangi, including the Gun Barrel coupe that was the scene of blockades and protests in late 2011.

The planned expansion of coalmining in Victoria has led the member for Bass, Liberal MP Ken Smith, to oppose his own party on the issue.

Bass Coast Shire Council said it “is totally opposed to new mining of coal, and to gas extraction associated with coal (unconventional gas), within the shire,” in a resolution on March 21.

The motion asked the government to exempt land within the shire from coal and unconventional gas exploration or mining licences.

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