Welcome comrades, to the great big Green event, held at St John’s Hall in Mullumbimby last Saturday night.
‘It’s great to see the carpark full with so many cars,’ was one awkward welcome. And it was; the place was packed, and while not awkward all the time, there’s no doubting the earnest passion from nerdy intellectual progressives wishing that corporate powers be curtailed and social justice flourish.
Would fiscal policy be discussed? How about that ‘massive debt’ that threatens to ruin us – how will we tackle that in a post-fossil fuel age?
Sadly no, this wasn’t a night for that – this was about people power and Bentley. The event was to feature federal senator Scott Ludlam (WA), but senator Larissa Waters (Qld), NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham and Senate hopeful Dawn Walker joined the line-up.
To their credit, The Greens didn’t try to own the Bentley victory – acknowledgment was made of the two women who started the door-knocking campaign, Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, the Lock The Gate movement, the Githabul people and the Knitting Nannas. Alan Jones could have perhaps also been thanked after his attack on Metgasco and the state government, but that would have been a stretch. It would be interesting to have been privy to the recent Nationals Party meeting held in Tweed as a comparison.
What we do know is that Mullum is Greens heartland – last polls showed Mullum had the highest Greens voter turnout in Byron Shire and therefore the Richmond seat for the 2013 federal election.
Public events where policy and ideas are discussed are rare, and even rarer is the opportunity to hear firsthand how the big parliamentary chicken factories work. The crowd were told what current legislation had recently been knocked back or enacted. For example a federal ICAC bill by The Greens was rejected by both Labor and the coalition. Both parties even declined to debate it, said Ms Waters. Additionally the federal government just handed all environment laws to the states to manage, giving no national oversight to air, water and food security issues.
There were warnings to protectors too: MP Buckingham said in response to the current Maules Creek protest that the government has enacted legislation under the Crimes Act to lock up those obstructing a mine vehicle. ‘If guilty, it carries a sentence of seven years’ jail. So you really do, as a community, need to be across that.’
The night ended with a reminder about the little known Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). MP Ludlum said, ‘We only know about this because WikiLeaks has told us. This would possibly allow multinational corporations the right to sue local state and federal governments for passing laws that might impact on their future profits. If you want an example of clear and present danger of corporate rule, look to the TPP.’
Who is worse – a new NSW premier who refuses to explain un- declared donations and subsequent plum appointments, or an opposition leader who ignored the code of conduct regarding bribes and took six months to tell someone he had an offer?
Sounds complicated and boring, but all that can be said about modern NSW politics is that govcorp morons are shouting at each other from across the room over who is worse. And somehow they think the public will find that acceptable.
Can these idiots be any more insulting?
Yes – both parties also voted last week against an amendment to the Mining and Petroleum Acts to establish an Independent Expert Mine Licensing Committee, as recommended by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) following the inquiries into corruptly granted coal mining licences.
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) says they also combined to replace a broad ‘public interest power’ to cancel mining licences and replace it with a narrower ‘fit and proper person’ test.
Unlike the classic ‘corporations are people too’ line, it appears to ensure corporations are better people.
And why has this happened? Just follow the money.
According to Buckingham, ‘Since 1999, the mining sector has donated $5,753,721 to the Liberal, National and Labor par- ties and they are still not prohibited political donors.’
If any public faith is to be restored, the mining licences that were handed out by disgraced Labor MPs Eddie Obeid and Ian MacDonald need to be cancelled and re-examined by someone with integrity. Integrity? Ha!
The NSW coalition (Liberal/Nationals) suffered further embarrass- ment this week after its ‘Gateway Process,’ which assesses mining proposals on strategic agricultural land, saw two of the six panel members resign.
According to The Australian (Newscorp), the NSW Farmers Association questioned the independence of the government- appointed panel’s chairman Terry Short, a soil expert, who had to declare an interest in two of the three applications being assessed by the panel.
In addition, Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham put the boot in on fossil fuel lobbyists; he said Mr Short and his panel were forced to grant a ‘Conditional Gateway Certificate’ for a mine in the Bylong Valley west of Newcastle, despite assessing the mine as failing 12 out of 13 criteria. ‘It’s ludicrous that the Bylong mine failed 12 out of 13 criteria, and the Spur Hill mine that failed nine out of 11 criteria, are still granted a certificate and progress to the next stage of planning assessment.’
This again casts doubt over this government’s credibility and its continuous bleating of having the ‘toughest CSG regulations in the country.’ Mr Stoner’s office again offered up that rhetoric in reply to The Echo when asked what he will bring to the north coast as its minister.
In return, The Echo suggested to Mr Stoner’s office perhaps the present safeguards weren’t working given the overwhelming protests by farmers at Bentley, Leard, The Pilliga and other min- ing sites. The Echo then asked if the minister would intervene and stop Metgasco’s plans at Bentley given the public outcry.
Unsurprisingly there has been no reply – The Echo understands the Bentley land earmarked for fracking is owned by a high-profile Nationals Party member, as was the case in Glenugie.
As CEO of Metgasco, you have once again proclaimed a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards northern rivers residents.
Thank you for the clarity. A least we know your intention is to push ahead with mining this area despite deep and wide- spread public resistance, as demonstrated at the Bentley site outside Lismore.
Unfortunately, it’s a clarity that the NSW minister for the north coast, Don Page, has been unable to share. He still won’t say if he supports your activities or the farmers that will be affected.
Regardless, I do take umbrage to the false and misleading claim on Metgasco’s website that NSW is ‘running out of gas’.
Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) State of the energy market 2012 says domestic demand for the state is not increasing.
It’s tiresome to address these lies over again – if we protect the domestic supply there will be no problems other than the smoking ruin that you leave in your wake. It just goes to show how powerful the mining lobby is, huh?
I do however support one lofty ideal on your website: ‘to supply the gas to local industry in the north east corner of NSW before sup- plying gas to the broader eastern coast energy market.’
Such benevolence could extend to actually doing your toxic business elsewhere. After all, Australia is a big place and it’s quite easy to get lost in. Or better still, perhaps you could repurpose your corporation for the inevitable renewables take-over?
Anyway, the intention to mine a region that boasts world-class farm produce and tourism is simply an act of war, regardless of what- ever weak legislation and politicians are in place.
In conclusion, I will not give credibility to the insane premise that the expansion of your industry is acceptable in light of clear evidence that suggests it’s stupid.
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.
As NSW police minister I thought it important to let you know that a court case instigated by your legal team was thrown out of court and found to have wasted time and your department’s resources.
I know it may sound like a trivial matter, but it was actually a significant test case in civil liberties.
Residents who were peacefully protesting against an unwanted Metgasco CSG test site at Glenugie near Grafton on January 7 this year were arrested on questionable grounds.
It appeared like a fairly sloppy piece of legal work; charges were also changed at the last moment.
But most concerning was that magistrate David Heilpern last week suggested there may have been political interference.
He said, ‘In this case I find myself asking what could possibly be the reason for continuing on with such an innocuous charge in these circumstances?’
I think it’s in the public interest to know who was behind this.
Who pressured a police prosecutor to proceed with ‘vexatious’ charges? It’s possible you know already… but if not, maybe you can find out who it is so they can be made accountable? As you would know, such behaviour undermines the public’s confidence and the capacity of the police to keep law and order.
I believe the police force for the most part carry out their duties professionally; however, directives and the tone of any organisation come from the top. I sincerely hope that you agree that police should not act as private security guards for corporate interests and that this matter should be explained publicly.
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.
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.
I honestly can’t tell the difference between Fairfax and News Ltd any more, especially after the Herald went tabloid and Gina Rinehart’s toxic influence infected it.
Evidence could be found in a recent Chinese junket shared by both the PM’s department and mining magnate Andrew Forrest.
Crikey’s Matthew Knott revealed last week that both Fairfax and News Ltd’s expenses were paid by Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group and that payment wasn’t disclosed. And both Fairfax and News Ltd didn’t think it was a problem. Presumably Forrest innocently wanted to make a few new friends while hoping no one would mention Tibet or the Falun Gong. And it worked – having your own media tag along ensures those awkward questions are never asked.
Knott says that Mark Pearson, an expert in media law and ethics at Griffith University, told Crikey media outlets should disclose paid travel and accommodation within their stories or in a footnote at the end. ‘The mainstream media needs points of difference from the new media,’ he said. ‘They don’t do it at their peril. It’s what distinguishes them from the riff-raff.’
But why bother with a point of difference when you both control almost everything? According to The Australian Collaboration’s Democracy in Australia – Media concentration and media laws document (found at www.australiancollaboration.com. au), ‘Currently two newspaper groups (News Limited and John Fairfax Holdings) account for over 90 per cent of the circulation of daily newspapers, and Australia has only three commercial television networks.’
So Woolies and Coles own the food and if it wasn’t for the ABC, News Ltd and Fairfax would own the information.
A misconception about big media is that it behaves like any corporate organisation. It simply doesn’t. In addition to customer relationships and shareholder obligations, it has a unique role in democratic societies. The fourth estate, as it was once called, provided societies with critical analysis of those in charge.
Not any more. Given the current climate of sucking up to mining, would more media diversity just mean that Mr Forrest and the PM would have to charter more planes for overseas junkets?