Ben Courtice

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.

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

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.

Climate activists like Newcastle group Rising Tide have labelled December’s draft Energy White Paper (EWP), which charts the federal government’s plan for Australia’s future energy mix, a “black” paper. The group says the paper “plans to further expand fossil fuel extraction (both domestically and for exports) at the expense of renewable [energy]”.

Media watchers should be forgiven for a degree of confusion over statements by federal treasurer and deputy prime minister Wayne Swan in the past two weeks.

He began the month with a Press Club address, published in The Monthly’s March edition titled “The 0.01%” where he attacked “the rising power of vested interests” — naming mining magnates Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart — for “undermining our equality and threatening our democracy”.

The NSW department of planning released a set of new guidelines for wind farm developments in December last year. The department is seeking submissions from the public commenting on the new guidelines until March 14.

The new guidelines include the most stringent noise regulation in the world, with turbine noise not allowed to exceed 35 decibels. The limit is 50 decibels or more in much of Europe, and 40 decibels elsewhere in Australia.

Wind farms might appear controversial in the media, but they enjoy an overwhelming 83% support in affected communities, say several recent reports.

The only noise worth worrying about is that from the small minority who vocally oppose them. Unfortunately, that noise is drowning out other voices in the public arena.

Despite Fair Work Australia putting in place an injunction banning National Union of Workers (NUW) officials from taking part in the Baiada poultry workers’ picket line, workers and community supporters were able to hold off an attempt by riot police to break the picket late on November 11.

One man’s legs were crushed when about 80 police charged the picket. He was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

NUW members at Baiada Poultry in Laverton North voted to begin indefinite strike action on November 9 and instigated a picket line around the chicken processing plant.

The barriers to renewable energy are many. It’s not just a matter of the draconian new Victorian laws against wind farms — the legacy of government support for fossil fuels also hangs heavily over the renewables sector.

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