Mel Barnes

The Gillard government’s mining tax has raised just $126 million in its first six months, a tiny amount compared to the $2 billion it was expected to generate. Out of this only $88 million will actually benefit the federal budget, as companies who pay the mining tax pay less company tax. To put this in context, the government recently cut $700 million from welfare that was paid to single parents.
The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition (SAWC) is inviting people to join their float in this year’s Mardi Gras parade on March 2. Spokesperson Linda Pearson said: “SAWC is entering a float in this year’s Mardi Gras to raise awareness about Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and to demonstrate our solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex communities. We also wanted to offer our supporters this opportunity to take part in what will be a unique and enjoyable event.
Earthworker is a new manufacturing cooperative that aims to build renewable energy products in Australia. It is worker-owned and controlled, and committed to supporting local jobs at the same time as providing a way to reduce carbon emissions. Beginning with solar hot water systems, the aim is to eventually expand to include a full range of green technologies.
Members of dozens of local Aboriginal Land Councils protested outside the office of the NSW Land Council on January 25. The peak body of Aboriginal affairs has been criticised for applying for exploration permits for uranium and coal seam gas in areas throughout NSW. Chairperson of the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, Roy “Dootch” Kennedy, told Green Left Weekly they were protesting because of serious concerns about the effects of mining and the lack of consultation about the decision.
A “dome of heat” has settled over Australia, causing a heatwave in every state and territory and widespread bushfires. Tasmania has been the worst hit with 150 homes damaged or destroyed.
Environmental campaigners have won a reprieve from plans by the federal government to hand environmental protection powers to state governments and fast track applications for some developments. A discussion paper by the Business Council of Australia, prepared for the Commonwealth of Australian Government (COAG) meeting on December 7, made several proposals. These included:
In a spectacular workplace accident at a University of Technology Sydney (UTS) construction site on November 27, an intense fire broke out in the cabin of a crane before the arm collapsed onto scaffolding below. No one was injured, but hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby office buildings. The incident took place next to Broadway, one of Sydney’s busiest roads. The November 28 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the crane’s driver swung the arm away from the street before escaping from the fire. It is believed the fire was started from leaking diesel fuel.
Some environmentalists have justified their support for the forest peace deal — passed by Tasmania’s Legislative Assembly on November 23 — on the grounds of not letting “perfect” become the “enemy of good”. But a closer look at the details of the deal, which will allow the logging of native forests for another generation, makes clear it cannot even be called “good”.
The two-year negotiations between loggers and environmentalists, which many hoped would end the conflict over Tasmania’s forests, collapsed on October 27. The Wilderness Society, a key negotiator in the talks, blamed the collapse on the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), which represents logging companies such as Malaysian logging firm Ta Ann and, previously, Gunns Ltd.
The threat facing Western Australia’s Kimberley region received national attention on October 5 when 10,000 people attended a concert for the Kimberley in Melbourne’s Federation Square. The John Butler Trio and Claire Bowditch performed and Missy Higgins and former Greens leader Bob Brown spoke to the crowd. The concert was organised by The Wilderness Society to raise support for the protection of the iconic area.
A debate about sexism erupted when female prime minister Julia Gillard attacked the opposition leader in Australian parliament for his misogynist attitudes. It was a reminder that even after all the advances in the past 40 years, many women still face high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault, they shoulder the burden of child care and housework, in the workforce they make up most casual and underpaid jobs while earning 70% of what men earn, and battle daily with sexism in culture and relationships.
NSW Coalition Premier Barry O’Farrell has been accused of lying about his pre-election promise to protect farmland and drinking water catchments from the burgeoning coal seam gas (CSG) industry. The government finally released its Strategic Regional Land Use Policy on September 11. It outlines how the government will manage the CSG industry. After 18 months of promising to protect sensitive areas such as farms and bushland from the new industry, the policy revealed that no part of NSW has been ruled out for CSG mining and exploration.
A new report by Greenpeace says plans to double Australia’s coal exports will damage worldwide attempts to reduce carbon emissions and limit climate change. Released on September 18, Greenpeace’s report, Cooking the climate: Wrecking the reef, focused on the Galilee Basin, a coal-rich region in central Queensland. Several companies are seeking approval to build nine huge coalmines there, “five of which would be larger than any existing coal mine in Australia”.
In Port Augusta, two ageing coal-fired power stations are scheduled to retire. We have a choice: either replace them with gas-fired power stations or take the opportunity to switch to renewable energy. Research by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) shows that six solar thermal power towers and 90 wind turbines could be built in Port Augusta to generate the same amount of electricity as the current coal stations. Here are five reasons why solar is better than the gas alternative. 1. Jobs
The Australian government has bowed to public pressure and banned the supertrawler from operating in Australian waters for two years. During this time more scientific research will be completed into the effects the supertrawler would have on local fish stocks. The supertrawler, known as the Margiris before changing its name to the Abel Tasman, is the world's second-largest trawler and would have been the largest ship ever to fish in Australian waters. The 142-metre-long ship had a quota of 18,000 tonnes, which it would have caught with its 300-metre-long net.
In a remote part of Western Australia, on the Burrup peninsula near Karratha, is one of the world’s oldest and most important cultural sites. It is the world’s largest collection of rock art, dotted over an area covering 42 adjacent islands, and it is under threat from unchecked industrial development.

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