It’s commonly known that capitalism is a voracious over-eater.
But can anything be done to slow down or even stop habitat destruction that threatens the survival of future generations?
Laws and legislation are the framework to address it, says UK-based international environmental lawyer and author Polly Higgins, who will speak on the topic at Mullumbimby Civic Hall on Saturday March 15.
She is promoting the idea that Ecocide, or the destruction of living habitats, should be considered a crime along with genocide and war crimes. She has redrafted Ecocide legislation, which was dropped from UN’s Crimes Against Humanity list when The International Criminal Court was enacted after the Second World War.
Currently that list includes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
But given nations have always flaunted the rule of law –especially after the atrocities of WW II – how effectual would it be?
PM Abbott, for instance, embraces God as the reason to plunder the natural environment. He said as much to a forestry industry gathering last week.
Supposedly it’s what Jesus would have wanted.
Others however, would prefer to maintain the delicate and largely incomprehensible ecosystem that provides everyone on this planet with a stable climate.
But will that logic prevail since the West’s economic model depends on resource extraction and a questionable interpretation of god/s?
As futurist R Buckminster Fuller said, ‘We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.’
Doors for Ms Higgins’s event open at 6pm and it will be chaired by SCU lecturer in law, Aidan Ricketts (author of The Activists’ Handbook) and myself. Welcome to Country is at 7pm, and a Q&A will follow her talk.
The US fossil fuel industry has released an almost identical film to Gaslands, called Truthlands.
With all the folksy charm and clumsy camera work of Gaslands, it features typical rural ‘mom’ Shelly, who wants to find out the ‘truth’ after being frightened by the claims made in Gaslands.
So she takes a road trip and interviews ‘experts’ that assure her that drilling metres from your home is just tickety-boo.
Footage of gas wells was suspiciously absent, as were interviews with anyone who is adversely affected by natural-gas drilling close to their home. Their message? Gaslands is full of innuendo and misconceptions. Okay, fracking is not perfect; the companies can do better with safety, but we like our standard of living. So, boo-hoo to director Josh Fox for instilling fear into us simple folk.
Gaslands II, on the other hand, picks up where the first left off, and delves deeper into corporate ownership of politics, the effects fracking has had on right-wing leaning conservative rural families, (the nose bleeds, headaches, rashes, the plummeting property prices), the corrupt EPA publicly approving polluted drinking water in Dimock but telling residents off the record it isn’t safe… and the earthquakes. Oh and there’s allegations of gas companies using PSYOPs as part of their PR strategy. We are told this happens despite US federal law forbidding the military from using it on US civilians (PSYOPs is propaganda and psychological techniques).
As with any war, truth is an innocent bystander that is annihilated first. In Gaslands II, Lock The Gate’s Drew Hutton is named as founder of the Greens Party. Regardless, the stakes keep getting higher as industry and governments desperately hold onto the insane narrative of a fossil-fuel future. Is there any comfort that we already know this? Gaslands II will be a highlight of the Byron Bay International Film Festival, to be held from February 28 to March 9.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It’s common knowledge that to get to the front bench in modern politics, it helps to be privately educated and a lawyer. Other prerequisites may or may not include willingness to cut the throat of your opponents and sell your offspring. So, who is the biggest psychopath? Let’s find out…
TONY ABBOTT – Minister for woman’s issues and presumably the PM.
Safe electorate of Warringah on Sydney's North Shore.
Likes flat earths, God, misogyny and sport, especially bicycles and swimming.
As a Rhodes Scholar he studied politics and philosophy and got ‘a solid second’, according to The Guardian. But by most accounts he mostly played sport and honed his bullying skills at Oxford.
A Rhodes Scholar, by the way, is not such a hard gig to get. It’s part of a production line for ‘world leaders’ established by British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Toned Abbs is proof that connections are more important than ability.
Doesn’t like media, the climate, accountability, transparency, round earths, scientists, gays, fact and reason.
Ironically was a boat asylum seeker himself and wants them stopped. Abbs is clearly the worst example of a ‘leader’ this nation has ever seen.
WARREN TRUSS – Deputy prime minister, minister for infrastructure and regional development.
Electorate of Wide Bay, Queensland (includes Noosa, Gympie). Office in Maryborough
Ex-Kingaroy farmer and councillor, Truss is often mistaken for a wardrobe or hatstand. He can also easily camouflage himself against beige wallpaper, making it hard for predators to spot him. Just slashed $150,000 in Byron Shire infrastructure funding last week and it’s fair to say more is to come.
JULIE BISHOP – Foreign affairs minister.
Division of Curtin, Western Australia. North of Fremantle and Eastern beach suburbs of Perth
As a corporate lawyer in the 1980s, she represented mining company CSR and tried to stop dying asbestos victims getting compensation in what remains Australia’s greatest single industrial disaster. An estimated 1,000 people died who were living and working near the mine at Wittenoom, WA. Now minister for foreign affairs, she is contributing to the decline of Australia’s international reputation. She’s divorced, childless and the only woman in Toned Abbs’s cabinet. Nickname: ‘Token Deathstare’.
ERIC ABETZ – Minister for employment, minister assisting the prime minister on the public service.
Tasmanian senator located in Hobart
Eric Abetz was born in Germany, migrated to Tassie then studied law. After that he spent roughly ten years in obscurity before politics.
Fun fact: Eric Abetz is the great-nephew of SS-Brigadeführer Otto Abetz, Nazi ambassador to Vichy France from 1940 to 1944.
GEORGE BRANDIS QC – Attorney-general, minister for the arts.
Queensland senator based in Brisbane
The Liberals are not known for their sense of humour, empathy, imagination or love of the arts, and Brandis is no exception. But there is comedic value in that he is minister for the arts; he said on ABC TV’s Q&A last year that he doesn’t even listen to music.
He’s also a Queen’s counsel (QC), which is slightly higher up the lawyer food-chain. He developed a large law practice in the mid 1980s specialising in trade practices law, and then in 2003 made a 20-minute speech describing the Green party as Nazis.
And Brandis likes a rort: it was revealed in 2011 that he had billed the taxpayer for attending the wedding of Sydney radio shock-jock Michael Smith. Possibly dangerous, so maintaining eye contact is recommended, although staring into the soulless vacuum of psychopathy is not advised. Best to avoid.
JOE HOCKEY – Treasurer.
Treasurer Hockey is of Armenian and Palestinian decent, a Roman Catholic and a republican.
Electorate of North Sydney
Given that his heritage comes from an oppressed minority, one would expect him to have more empathy for people trying to escape persecution. Prior to public office he completed an arts-law degree, then became a banking and finance lawyer of no considerable note. This Sydney-sider has been in public office since 1996, loves rugby union and bashing the public service.
Enjoys strip-mining public assets and denying essential services for the poor and disadvantaged.
BARNABY JOYCE – Minister for agriculture.
Electorate of New England (Armidale, Tenterfield etc). Office in Tamworth
Pardon me, Joyce, is that another taxpayer-funded event you attended? This high profile Nationals MP can sometimes be mistaken for an iguana.
After he studied commerce, he became an accountant and is now minister for agriculture and public rorts.
Though never short of an opinion or colourful metaphor, I recall he didn’t want to answer my direct question on whether he supports government accreditation of the the renewable industries.
Currently, renewable industries such as solar, wind and hydro are regulated by fossil fuel companies. What could possibly go wrong?
One redeeming feature is that he’s crossed the floor 19 times (ie disagreed with his own party), but alas, he’s best mates with Gina Rinehart. Was ridiculed for his economic thesis, but told me he still stands by it.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE – Minister for education.
Division of Sturt, inland next to Adelaide
After he graduated with a diploma of legal practice he became a solicitor in 1991, but then was elected to public office in 1993.
And while that made him the youngest current member of the Australian parliament, it also makes him one with the least amount of real-life experience.
Pyne is a Roman Catholic and republican, likes ice-cream and is easily distracted by bright colours. Also a big fan on the war on drugs, Broadway musicals and the sound of his own voice.
NIGEL SCULLION – Minister for Indigenous affairs.
Nigel is a NT senator and was a fisherman before joining the Country National Party. Wait, what? Where’s the law degree? Represents Australia’s largest federal electorate boundary: The Northern Territory.
IAN MACFARLANE – Minister for industry.
Division of Groom, west of Brisbane. Includes Toowoomba
This Kingaroy-born National now lives in Toowomba and likes to drill, baby, drill.
Known for his raspy voice, ability to cut red tape and make babies cry, he relishes the job of convincing farmers that plonking drilling rigs on their property is ‘co-existing’.
KEVIN ANDREWS – Minister for social services.
Menzies electorate: City of Manningham, spreading along the Yarra River from Bulleen to Wonga Park, in Melbourne. Office in
As a former Howard government Liberal MP, Andrews has a long history of racism and bigotry. He implemented the controversial WorkChoices labour market reforms, revoked on character grounds the visa of Dr Mohamed Haneef and cut Australia’s refugee intake from African nations in 2007.
This Victorian ex-barrister is a Roman Catholic and is a member of the Lyons Forum, a socially conservative Christian faction within the God-fearing coalition. God help us.
MALCOLM TURNBULL – Minister for communications.
Division of Wentworth, eastern beach suburbs of Sydney
Bob Brown told me once, ‘there are two things you can see from outer space: the great wall of China and Malcolm Turnbull’s ego’.
And well, why not. He was far richer than anyone else in parliament until Clive Palmer and has also done much more than the rest; from representing high-profile personalities as a lawyer to inventing the internet. He’s also been a journalist, investment banker and venture capitalist.
And while he appears politically centrist, don’t be fooled.
Like his colleagues, he wants to sell Australian land and companies to overseas corporations and embraces global free market fanaticism at the expense of nation building.
He had a hard time defending his inferior broadband network, but to his credit looks awkward and uncomfortable next to everyone else in the cabinet. They’re all idiots, aren’t they, Malcolm?
Roman Catholic, republican and spoonfed.
SCOTT MORRISON – Minister for stopping immigration and border protection.
Electorate of Cook in South-eastern Sydney. Office in Cronulla
Don’t ask questions about asylum seekers or our concentration camps – I won’t be answering them.
Look over there, there’s an adorable cat on the internet. Isn’t X-Factor on?
Scott Morrison will hopefully, at one point, be tried for crimes against humanity.
Ironically his background is actually tourism – after receiving an honours degree in applied science at NSW Uni for economics and geography, he then went on to be managing director of Tourism Australia. Now contributes to Australians’ reputation as bigoted arrogant thugs.
GREG HUNT – Minister against the environment.
Division of Flinders in Victoria. Includes outer southern suburbs on the Mornington Peninsula including Dromana, Hastings and Portsea.
Enjoys wrecking the climate for future generations through rigorous debate.
Okay, so he’s another lawyer, having graduated from Melbourne Law School with first class honours as well as Yale University. Hunt was adviser to the odious South Australian Alexander Downer before being elected as member for Flinders in 2001.
He confused everyone when he said recently he uses Wikipedia to source information – high school students would be ridiculed for such stupidity.
Bravo, well played.
PETER DUTTON – Minister for health, minister for sport
Electorate of Dickson, Qld. North-western suburbs of Brisbane, including Albany Creek, Kallangur and Strathpine.
This Liberal Queenslander was a cop for nine years, working on the drug squad in Brisbane.
He then studied business in 1991 but then five years later became a pollie. And he’s just 42 years old.
BRUCE BILLSON – Minister for small business.
Electorate of Dunkley. South eastern outskirts of Melbourne; it includes the suburbs include Frankston, Frankston North, Frankston South, Langwarrin, Langwarrin South, Mt Eliza, Mornington and Seaford, and parts of Baxter and Skye.
This bureaucrat turned pollie entered politics in 1996 and was educated at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He worked at Hastings Shire Council as a ‘manager of corporate development’ before being an adviser to Victorian Minister for natural resources, and then policy adviser to the shadow minister for the environment, Rod Kemp.
ANDREW ROBB AO – Minister for trade and investment.
Electorate of Goldstein is in inner city bayside Melbourne. It extends from Elsternwick on the north, Beaumaris in the south, the Frankston railway line in the east and Port Philip Bay in the west.
Andrew was a power-broker behind the scenes before emerging as a political contender. As federal director and campaign manager for John Howard in the 1996 federal election campaign, he helped overthrow Keating and then settled us in for a 13-year run of being relaxed and comfortable.
As a youngster, Robb gained an economics and agricultural science degree from Victoria’s La Trobe University, and has sat on many corporate boards. He’s a Roman Catholic and has a history of suffering from depression, which may or may not be related.
DAVID JOHNSTON – Minister for defence.
This little-known Liberal senator from Western Australia graduated in law in 1979 and then became a barrister in Kalgoorlie and Perth. His area of expertise, according to himself, is criminal, mining, native title and administrative law. He entered politics in 2001
MATHIAS CORMANN – Minister for finance.
The WA Liberal senator and lawyer joined the party in 2007 and became an Aussie after migrating from Belgium. Roman Catholic and only 43.
Note: this article has been amended from print to include electorates and which state the senators come from.
The small spotlight that shone on fossil fuel investment by the four big Australian banks last week was a reminder that catastrophic environmental destruction is a cornerstone of western economic success.
Although from a public relations point of view, divestment campaigns make great copy.
And maybe that’s all that’s needed to get a wider movement started towards realistic renewable targets.
The latest push to divest from companies that are heavily involved with fossil fuels comes from Bill McKibben, who is the founder of grassroots climate campaigning organisation 350.org.
He told The Guardian that a recent Oxford University study claims it’s the fastest growing divestment movement in history.
The most important thing, he says, is getting the analysis out into the ‘information bloodstream’.
‘Most of the carbon in the world has to stay underground,’ he says. ‘The analysis has now spread to the point where the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and just about everybody else has said that we have to leave at least two-thirds of the carbon we know about underground.’
And while the current knuckle-dragging Liberal/National government wants big polluters to help themselves to public funds for vague climate change solutions, economists think otherwise. Fairfax Media reported last week that after a poll of 35 prominent Australian economists that they almost universally back an emissions trading scheme (ETS) over Toned Abb’s ‘direct action policy’ on climate change.
Those looking for reasons not to be cheerful could turn to the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering of representatives from the US and South Pacific countries, held last week in Bali.
A focal point was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade agreement pushed by the US that suspiciously gets little to no mainstream media attention.
While small and medium-sized businesses are spruiked as potential winners if international trade were expanded, critics have pointed out a much different agenda. Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Lori Wallach, told www.democracynow.org, ‘The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establish new powers for corporations.’
And many agree; a swag of lawyers and academics have signed an open letter to negotiators of the TPP trade talks.
As reported on www.nzherald.co.nz in May, the letter claims that before 1999, only 69 dispute cases between countries and corporations had been launched. ‘Today,’ the letter reads, ‘there are 370-plus such cases underway, an increase of 436 per cent.’ They say most cases relate to ‘challenges to governments’ natural resource and environmental policies, not to traditional expropriations.’
And Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton concurred, saying last week it would potentially make it impossible for our government ‘to place environmental and public health restrictions on some of the highest-impact developments in Australia, including coal and coal seam gas mining.’
It’s easy to paint the newly Toned Abbs government as pursuing a ‘pants-down-to-corporations’ foreign policy, but given the secrecy of our government and the US, how are we to know? For what little our federal government is prepared to say on this, see www.dfat.gov.au/fta/tpp.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
One bright note of this election, perhaps the only, was the development of fact checking organisations, one of which is run by theconversation.com.
The site examines the interesting question: ‘will scrapping the carbon price lower electricity prices?’ According to author Dylan McConnell from Melbourne University’s Energy Institute, removing the carbon tax would result in a reduction in electric- ity prices of ‘around five per cent, with an upper boundary of about 10 per cent.’ But he points to an example from Victoria
in recent years, where transmission costs went up 27 per cent, distribution by 11 per cent and retail costs by 17 per cent.
‘These components are independent of the carbon price, and account for the majority of hikes in retail electricity prices.
‘It’s worth remembering too that even without the carbon price, electricity prices are predicted to rise. Climate Change Authority research suggests that without the carbon price, the rise would with be slightly smaller, with retail electricity prices just six per cent lower.’
Additionally, ABC TV’s Australian Story recently ran a great yarn entitled ‘Corridors Of Power’ which exposed ‘gold plating’ by the NSW government owned electricity transmission company, TransGrid. Gold plating is building unnecessary projects and in this case, 330,000 volt electric power lines were earmarked for the Manning Valley in NSW as part of a large-scale state expansion.
In response to the plans, Manning Valley farmer Bruce Rob- ertson helped create the Manning Alliance and sparked a senate inquiry which backed his claims of gold plating. People power overcame corporate interests and the project was abandoned.
‘[Gold plating] was the single largest cause of the electricity price rises that consumers had experienced in Australia,’ says Robertson.
What other half truths are being presented as fact?
Hopefully in coming years, fact checking organisations will develop further and investigative journalism will continue to prevent truth being the first casualty of politics.
Below is a reply from TransGrid PR regarding the editorial on September 3, 2013.
You claim it's 'investment' whereas Mr Robertson says it's 'gold plating'. The implication that all investment should be welcomed without scrutiny is of course your right to promote as a corporation.
And while the rest of this letter goes to say what good things TransGrid is doing, my understanding is that most of those things have only come about from the senate inquiry the residents of Manning Valley pushed for. Unless I missed something, you have not refuted the claims from Mr Robertson.
Perhaps instead the letter should say, 'With thanks to the Manning Valley Alliance and the senate inquiry, TransGrid reviewed its TOR, stakeholder and consumer engagement and has sought to become more transparent in the future.'
Pictured left: NSW Forestry Corp CEO Nick Roberts
There’s been a smelly plume of unaccountability and wanton ecological destruction wafting from the NSW Forestry Corporation for many years.
The private enterprise arm of the toxic O’Farrell state government is tasked to ‘man- age’ our valuable natural assets, but instead destroys our heritage and makes a financial loss while doing it. Echonetdaily reported last May that ‘NSW taxpayers were slugged nearly $120 million last year to fund the ongoing logging’ of the state’s forests.’
And now it’s at our doorstep. Old-growth blackbutt on private property adjacent to the Whian Whian State Conservation Area, just west of Goonengerry National Park, is being logged by the Corporation.
While it’s legal to log privately owned land when requirements are met, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) claim the area is home to endangered koala habitat and at least four other species that are threatened with extinction.
This means they are acting illegally, they say. It’s just another in a long list of incidents that NEFA has reported. Around a year ago, NEFA found numerous koala scats in logged parts of the Royal Camp State Forest near Grafton. Later the Corporation was slapped with paltry fines of less than $1,000 by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) for logging a koala high-use area. Then last June, it appeared they were up to the same thing in the Koreelah State Forest near Woodenbong.
There is little doubt that the EPA needs to be strengthened to ensure better outcomes for forest protection. But like the ACCC or the Press Council, they have little bite. The Forestry Corporation’s ‘Native Forest Operations’ have no place in modern times – plantation timber can more than provide for our needs. Stop killing koalas, Nick Roberts.
It’s easy to point the finger at the US government for exercising hypocrisy on the world’s biggest budget.
Its economy is driven mainly by warfare and it has an appalling foreign affairs record. It bullies because it can and it suffers from a complete lack of transparency, as exemplified by president Obama’s hostile reaction to whistle-blowing.
But considering societies that kill and mutilate – mostly females – in the name of bronze-age religions, free-market democracy with all its faults has some appeal.
Yes, there is hope for the world’s most influential and powerful entity: consider the recent ambition by a small group of senators across party lines to restore the financial integrity which helped make the US successful in the first place.
The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 is actually a well-known topic within Occupy activist circles, but what is it? To paraphrase the HBO series Newsroom, there are two types of banks: investment and commercial. Investment banks are the gamblers (futures trading, derivatives, hedge funds, etc) while commercial banks are where general savings and cheque accounts are held.
They were separated from each other after the 1930s depression because, when combined, it proved to be unstable for the entire nation – and world. But in 1999, both banking systems were again combined under president Clinton and guess what – there was a financial crash in 2008. The Washington Post online reported on July 12, 2013 that ‘Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz, among many others, fingered 1999’s partial repeal of the [Glass-Steagall Act] law as a contributing factor behind the  financial crisis.’
Why does this matter locally? Any collapse of the US economy affects the West, as it did in the 1930s depression. In 2008, billions were wiped out globally, affecting Australia’s local governments as many held ‘toxic’ assets tied to the US.
Until we can wean ourselves from the US greenback we are stuck with their good or bad decisions.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It’s either good or bad news: the NSW Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) was thrown a cash lifeline by the federal government last week after the state government, with pressure from the mining sector and News Ltd, cut some of its funding late last year.
The EDO is a small team of lawyers, with offices in Sydney and Lismore, which examines government policy and represents and advises the public in environmental law cases.
So re-instating their operational costs is good news if you value free speech and a differing opinion.
But as reported in News Ltd’s The Australian, it’s bad news.
Its Friday July 5 headline, ‘Boost for anti-coal body shows Labor knows how to alienate its heartland,’ can be found amid stories spruiking new mining projects.
According to corporate shill journalist Chris Merritt, Hunter Valley coalminers should reject Labor because they are now funding the EDO, which ‘advises those who want to destroy their industry.’
In contrast to News Ltd, the ABC reported at the time of the funding slash that there was ‘an angry backlash in the Hunter Valley’ over the EDO cuts. So which media outlet offers less spin?
Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association vice-president, John Krey, told ABC that without the EDO’s help, mining expansions such as the Mount Thorley-Warkworth mine will continue unabated. ‘We could not, as a community group, afford to run and pay full fees for legal teams to run our case.’
Meanwhile NSW resources minister Chris Hartcher told The Australian late last year there’s a ‘left agenda to destroy the economy.’
Politics aside, if the mining industry were prevented from dictating Australia’s economic growth and we adopted best practice sources of renewable energy already available, our economy and environment would be in much better shape. Preventing the fossil fuel industry from regulating the renewable sector would be a start. It should be noted that our local NSW MP, Don Page, appeared to have no interest in fighting against his government’s cuts to the EDO.
Coca-Cola must surely represent the ultimate in corporate hypocrisy. It’s an addictive toxic substance which rewarded its makers with $48 billion in revenue in 2012. And while it sounds like the ultimate US enterprise success story, it’s only known positive use is as a degreaser.
Unsurprisingly, the Coca-Cola honchos believe they are entitled to waste without responsibility. With their mates Schweppes and Lion, they recently took the Northern Territory – ie the people – to court over an environmental incentive that reduced the amount of empty bottles ending up in landfill, drains or oceans.
The effect of sugar and caffeine addiction can be extreme: a thirty- year-old New Zealand mother of eight, Natasha Harris, died from drinking too much Coke, The Age reported on February 12. ‘Evidence at her inquest showed she drank up to 10 litres of “classic” Coke every day – equal to more than twice the recommended safe daily limit of caffeine,andalmostonekilogramofsugar.’ Thecoronerfoundthatshe died from cardiac arrhythmia, most likely caused from the high levels of caffeine. ‘She suffered from a myriad of medical conditions, including a racing heart and “absent teeth”, which her family says had rotted out from Coke consumption.’
Additionally, controversial artificial sweetener aspartame is found in Diet Coke and Coke Zero, as well as many other soft drinks.
Lastly, the India Resource Center has kept a spotlight on Coke’s groundwater extraction and heavy metal polluting practices that affects surrounding villages. Such as Mehdiganj in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
On March 7 the centre claimed that Coca-Cola ‘applied to the central and state government to increase its groundwater usage from the current 50,000 cubic metres annually to 250,000 cubic metres annually’.
It’s no wonder the Coke corporate record leaves a sour taste in the mouth, driving protesters to leave ‘out of order’ signs on the company’s vending machines. Sugar addiction, as with oil, is part of a diet which is making the planet sick.