04 April 2007

A big thank you

There have been a great number of people volunteering their time to help the campaign behind the scenes. Many going above and behind what was asked of them.

I send you a big warm thank you.

This will be the last entry in this campaign blog. I may well open another blog to keep you posted on the happenings on Newcastle City Council.

Thanks again

Michael

The numerical results of the election

The results are now in and Jodi McKay has been elected to the seat of Newcastle.

So, what do the numbers say?

42,172 people voted formally in Newcastle on 25 March 2007. To win outright a candidate would need 21,087 votes.

1. The Greens are the second party in Newcastle
The Greens polled well becoming the party with the second largest number of voters (Labor had the greatest number of votes, the Liberals had less votes than the Greens). Overall, we polled 11.2% of the formal vote. This vote was down from last time due to the influence of the two high-profile independents running.

2. More voters didn't want Labor!
After the distribution of preferences, Labor was elected with 16,311 votes (25,861 voters did not want the Labor candidate).

3. Electoral Commission has work to do
Electors Enrolled on 5 March 2007: 47,424
Voter Turnout: 43,205 (91.1%, 4,219 didn't vote who were eligible - this is way too many!)
Informal Rate: 1,033 (2.39%)
Formal votes: 42,172

First preference votes
McKAY (ALP) 13,166
OSBORNE (GREENS) 4,729
HOLT 110
GAUDRY 8,870
TATE 10,159
BABAKHAN (LIBERAL) 4,129
LEE (CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS) 535
ARMSTRONG 168
HUTABARAT 306

Second preference votes
The Greens received a second preference vote from:
21.8% of HOLT voters
4.7% of ARMSTRONG voters
10.6% of HUTABARAT voters
3.3% of LEE (CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS) voters
5.0% of BABAKHAN (LIBERAL) voters

4. Green voters make up their own mind.
Our voters gave their second preference to:
14.2% to MCKAY (ALP)
41.9% to GAUDRY
11.6% to TATE
32.2% to no-one or HOLT, ARMSTRONG, HUTABARAT, LEE (CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS) or BABAKHAN (LIBERAL).

5. The Greens upper house vote reflects Newcastle sentiment
Almost 1 in 5 Newcastle people voted Green in the upper house vote, this is more than double the State average.

31 March 2007

Hicks Gag to Save Howard

The 12 month gag on David Hicks when he returns to Australia is to save the Howard government from embarrassing truths in the run to this year's election, Greens Leader Bob Brown said in Adelaide today.

"Most people will be relieved he is coming home and that the ordeal for his family is nearing its end. The day David Hicks walks out of jail approaches and his father, mother and other family members now have a date to look forward to. But the shame of Prime Minister Howard's failure to uphold Australian standards will go
down in history."

Senator Brown said he did not believe Hicks'statement, including his reversal claim that he was not abused in Guantanamo Bay.

"This is a plea bargain under coercion. If Hicks claimed abuse or refused the press gag he was staying in Gitmo. So he has agreed to this fabricated statement," Senator Brown said.

"This military commission farce shames Australia. The Howard government has been contemptuous of international and domestic law. But the truth will out," Senator Brown said.

Lights Out a Bright Idea

Greens MLC Ian Cohen today praised the efforts of WWF, as well as the many businesses, schools and organisations involved with Earth Hour, which will see lights switched off around Sydney for an hour tomorrow night.

“This is a great initiative which allow people to be involved in a mass symbolic gesture to show that action can be taken in response to climate change. While one hour may seem like a small step, it is important for people to act together to combat a feeling of helplessness about the enormity of climate change.” Mr Cohen said.

“I congratulate the organisers and all those who will be taking part in the event tomorrow night.

“Once people become involved in positive actions such as this one, I am sure many new ideas will be spawned on how we can all cut greenhouse gas emissions. The people are well and truly ahead of the government when it comes to this issue.

“A proposal I will be pursuing is urging providers of electricity to make Green Power the default choice for new customers. This would be a simple way to encourage greater uptake of renewable energy and would stimulate the clean energy sector.

“Today’s warnings of climate mayhem for Australia by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show just how urgent it is for us to act now to curb emissions.” Mr Cohen said.

30 March 2007

What about Stockton?

The confidential draft report of the world's leading climate scientists due for release next week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that a rise in the sea level from global warming is virtually certain to cause greater coastal inundation and erosion.

The draft report notes a model showing the beach suburbs of Collaroy and Narrabeen facing a 20-centimetre sea level rise, combined with a storm event causing up to $250 million worth of damage.

What about Stockton, Maryville, Wickham, Carrington and other suburbs of Newcastle?

When will our local, state and federal representatives get the point? We need real action to address climate change.

Another group backs action on the climate crisis

Like the Greens, Engineers Australia, representing Australia's engineering profession, has called on the Australian Government to take action on the climate crisis. Their full Policy Statement on Climate Change and Energy is on the web and reproduced below.

Policy Statement on Climate Change and Energy
Engineers Australia believes that Australia must act swiftly and proactively in line with global expectations to address climate change as an economic, social and environmental risk.

Our role has been, and will continue to be, in leading capacity building to innovate for more sustainable, eco-efficient and less polluting outcomes in engineering practice.

We believe that addressing the costs of atmospheric emissions will lead to increasing our competitive advantage by minimising risks and creating new economic opportunities.

Engineers Australia:

- Believes the Australian Government should ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

- Strongly encourages the direction of energy policy reform, recognising that there is some way to go before achieving the stated policy objectives of:
providing efficient, reliable and competitively priced energy;

responsibly developing Australia’s energy resources, technology and expertise; and

mitigating environmental impacts of energy production, transformation, supply and use.
- Strongly encourages actions to address the on-going growth in energy demand. It is essential that the rate of growth is minimised, if not reversed, and clearly linked to improvements in efficiency and demand management.

- Agrees with the position taken by the Stern Review that climate change is an economic, social and environmental problem.

- Believes that it is in Australia’s interests to move quickly to limit greenhouse gases.

- Strongly urges the Australian Government to move quickly to introduce a carbon trading scheme, including the use of appropriate penalties, so that emissions of greenhouse gases are no longer costless and that the costs of greenhouse gas emissions be borne by emitters of greenhouse gases in proportion to their relative discharge.

- Believes that energy policy should favour as wide a portfolio of measures as possible. Market forces should determine the most effective measure for particular situations in most cases. Where market forces are not a complete answer to the choice of climate mitigation options, government should assist newer options to develop their maturity through regulation and other non-market activities.

- Believes that it is vital that the potential for synergy between emerging energy options that can be deployed in Australia and the development of new export markets should be thoroughly explored.

Outsourcing refugee processing to Indonesia abhorrent

Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle condemned the government's plans to outsource refugee processing to Indonesia as abhorrent and a breach of Australia's responsibilities under the United Nations Refugee Convention.

"Minister Andrews should cancel his trip to Indonesia and abandon the idea of outsourcing refugee processing there," said Senator Kerry Nettle.

"As a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention we have a responsibility to assess asylum seekers and accept genuine refugees. Not only does this proposal shirk those responsibilities, but it actively undermines the Refugee Convention.

"Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. There can be no guarantee that asylum seekers will not be returned to places of persecution.

"This government's dirty secret is that it has contracted the International Migration Organisation (IOM) to look after hundreds of returned asylum seekers on the island of Lombok for years.

"Answers to Questions on Notice that I lodged revealed that Australia had paid IOM at least $14 million to keep people in Indonesia, many of whom were 'pushed back' to Indonesia during the months after Tampa.

"The 'Pacific Solution' seems to be morphing into the South East Asian Solution, which is a disturbing development.

"The Greens call for an end to mandatory detention and for all asylum seekers to be processed on mainland Australia while living in the community."

Major parties with their heads in the sand

Disturbing details of the projected impact of climate change on Australia have been leaked to the Australian media, in the lead up to the release next week of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) second report for 2007.

Severe water shortages; longer, harsher droughts; more intense and longer bushfire seasons; coastal inundation and an increase in heat-related mortality are some of the likely scenarios described in the IPCC report's chapter on Australia and New Zealand.

Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, told the ABC's Lateline last night that the leaked IPCC chapter contained nothing new.

If the Minister has long known of the likely impacts on Australia, why have the Liberals not implemented a climate change policy to protect the nation's future wellbeing and prosperity?

Hunter horse industry: pressure mounts on coal

Some may have read the statement I posted earlier from the Hunter Valley thoroughbred horse industry.

Greens MP and mining spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said the NSW government must confront the future of the coal industry in the Hunter Valley or see the fracturing of local communities, the environment and business interests.

"The Greens welcome the Hunter Valley thoroughbred industry's campaign against the coal sector and agree with its demands for no new coal mines and a cap on coal exports.

"With the entry of the multi-million dollar thoroughbred industry, backed by Gerry Harvey, David is growing into Goliath.

"It is irresponsible for the NSW government to stand on the sidelines and watch an ugly brawl develop between the coal industry on one side and the thoroughbred industry, local communities, environmentalists and farmers on the other.

"When Parliament resumes Greens MPs will use our Climate Futures Bill to wind back coal and fast track NSW's renewable energy manufacturing industry.

"I will also reissue my invitation to the Minister for the Hunter Michael Costa to publicly debate the future of the coal industry.

"The Greens will continue to work closely with the local Hunter community to stop the rachetting up of the coal industry.

"Direct action will be a component of the Greens locally fought campaign, because everything must be done to combat climate change.

"At a conservative estimate, there are 13 proposals for new coal mines on the table in NSW and 9 proposals to expand existing mines.

"It is high time the social, environmental and economic costs of the continued expansion of the coal industry are taken seriously by the NSW government," Ms Rhiannon said.

If the Government knew about IPCC projections, why has there been no action?

Alarming scientific projections of Australia's likely future in a warmer world are detailed in a leaked chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) second report for 2007, but it's all old news to Environmental Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne said today.

Senator Milne said the Minister is in denial, and his government fiddling while the planet burns.

"In just this past fortnight, the Government has voted against setting target for emissions, energy efficiency and renewable energy. This week, they even refused to support a Senate inquiry into the threat posed by sea-level rise across the country.

"Last night, the ABC's 7.30 Report revealed the first details of the IPCC's chapter on Australia and New Zealand. It is explicit about what we can expect over the coming decades and century. By 2050, it could be 3.4ÂșC hotter on average than it is now and almost double that increase, to 6.7ÂșC by 2080. There will be more intense and frequent bushfires and droughts, floods, landslides, heatwaves and storm surges.

"It's the kind of wake up call that you would think might spark a rapid and meaningful government response, but apparently the Environment Minister has long known all about the IPCC projections for Australia and is extremely relaxed about his government's lack of response," Senator Milne said.

Last night (29 March), Mr Turnbull told Lateline's Tony Jones:

"I mean we know about this, this has been published, the CSIRO has been writing about this for years so I'm glad that you think it's a revelation, I'm sorry to say that it isn't, it isn't, there's nothing new in that ...The IPCC report is based on peer-reviewed published science, everything in there is well known to us, we know that there is the possibility or the probability of a hotter and drier future in southern Australia."
"This begs the question; if it has known about the dire warnings and likely scenarios for so long, why hasn't the Howard Government acted decisively to implement a climate change policy that protects our future wellbeing and prosperity?

"If the Minister is well across the sea level rise projections and the devastating impacts detailed in this IPCC report, why did he make such a ridiculous statement on sea level rise to ABC RN Background Briefing on 3 February this year.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: What about rising sea levels?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well rising sea levels is an issue for design. We've got to start ensuring that - and this is essentially a State and indeed local government matter, but we have to work together to make sure that new developments take into account the prospect of rising sea levels... But you're talking about something less than a metre over 100 years. So this is not a sort of, you know, an Al Gore-type apocalypse that we're talking about ... There's a lot of very exaggerated claims and you have to bear in mind that most of our coastal population lives on the east coast of Australia and because of the geology or the typography of the east coast, you know, much of that is adequately elevated to deal with a one-metre sea rise."
"It's well past time for hot air from the Prime Minister and his ministers. They know what the scientists are saying, and they are morally obliged to act in the nation's best interest," Senator Milne said.

29 March 2007

Audit Office report slams government over endangered species

The Australian National Audit Office has slammed the government's starving of funds for identifying and protecting Australia's endangered species of flora, fauna and ecological communities.

"The Auditor-General repeatedly rounds on the government's failure to properly fund saving our nation's rare and endangered creatures," Senator Brown said.

"The Ministers for the Environment have delayed funding, failed to ensure that environmental safeguards required of projects threatening species were enforced."

"This report indicts this government as not complying with it sown environmental laws in the key area of saving Australian wildlife from extinction," Senator Brown said.

Greenhouse Howard – Think Globally, Act Locally on forests

The Prime Minister’s announcement of a plan to save the world’s forests smacks of hypocrisy while Australian forests, including those in NSW, continue to be felled at an unacceptable rate, said Greens MP and forestry spokesperson Ian Cohen.

“Oldgrowth forests and rainforests are still being logged right across Australia. In north-east NSW rainforests are being logged and threatened species habitats are being hammered. If the Prime Minister wants to save the forests, he should put pressure on state governments to protect forests here in Australia.

“Any suggestion that logging is being done in a sustainable manner is laughable. In NSW the government forest agency has signed contracts for volumes it can’t supply from public forests and has now joined the ranks of those ravaging private native forests, which are not subject to regulation, in order to meet its contractual obligations.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about forest protection he can ensure the review of the Regional Forest Agreements, scheduled for 2005 and still not started, and provide funds for those majestic forests still standing to be protected.

“A good example is the imminent and unnecessary destruction of 300,000 river red gums from the Murray river region to supply Victoria with railway sleepers. There are more sustainable alternatives. The Prime Minister can save forests in our own backyard by insisting that Steve Bracks not sign the contracts for this appalling destruction of majestic red gum forests.

“The Government is providing millions for tree planting while logging companies are awarded millions in public handouts. Intensive logging is doing irreparable damage to our water catchments and diminishing stream flows by significant amounts. It is releasing huge amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere, making our forests more flammable and reducing the survival chances of many of our unique plants and animals.

“The PM needs to stop grandstanding on the international stage in an attempt to distract from his complete lack of action on climate change and take immediate action to keeping the remaining large Australian trees in the ground.” Mr Cohen said.

Howard's forest hypocrisy - but Rudd no better

The Prime Minister's $200million plan to help reduce forest fires in South East Asia is offset by his $100million pledge to those logging and burning the world's tallest hardwood forests in South-Eastern Australia in Tasmania and Victoria, Greens Leader Bob Brown said today.

"We welcome Mr Howard responding to Sir Nicholas Stern's call for action against burning of forests in Southeast Asia. But it is rank hypocrisy from the Prime Minister to have personally signed-off Regional Forest Agreements in Australia promoting the aerial fire-bombing of logged ancient forests in Australia, injecting millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"Yesterday, 14 of these so-called regeneration burns were lit in Tasmania, using napalm-like incendiaries dropped from helicopters. Hundreds more will go up this Autumn to facilitate Gunns' export woodchip industry. These cause a devastating impact on the atmosphere and on rare and endangered species' habitats."

Labor's Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett back the same process.

"It makes no economic sense to be getting $10-12 a tonne royalty for Gunns to destroy these forests, the Southern Hemisphere's biggest living terrestrial carbon banks, when Sir Nicholas Stern estimates the price of carbon at $110 per tonne - ten times more," Senator Brown said.

"In Tasmania trees dwarfing the Sydney Opera House or Parliament House's flagpole are being blown up, then burnt in these deliberately-lit conflagrations to make way for tax-subsidised carbon-poor plantations boosted by Mr Costello's managed investment schemes as well the $100million Community Forest Agreement," Senator Brown said.

"Malcolm Turnbull says forests are the lungs of the Earth. His government is logging and burning the lungs of Australia," Senator Brown said.

In the Tasmanian forests both parties currently share the shame of supporting ongoing destruction of old growth and rain forests.

28 March 2007

State Planning Control Defeated

Greens Bid for State Planning Control over Airport Development Defeated

State Governments will have no control over non-aviation developments at their airports following Labor's decision to back the Government in blocking the Greens efforts to have such developments subject to local and State planning laws.

Federal Labor has turned its back on State Labor Premier's who wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this year demanding that the Commonwealth hand power to the States for non-aviation developments.

"Australia-wide communities are angry that while they are subject to local and state planning laws non-aviation airport developments such as golf courses, brick works and Direct Factory Outlets are not."

"The Government even refused to require all social, economic and environmental impact assessments relating to these developments be made public. How can the community make a judgement in the public consultation process if it is denied the relevant information?"

"From Brisbane, to Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and Hobart huge developments, and mega-malls are being proposed taking business from local communities. No one knows what the impact of the Big Box development in Hobart will be but it defies logic that a shopping mall full of national and multinational chains, 50% larger than the proposed for Sydney will not have an adverse economic impact on the Hobart CBD, the Eastlands Shopping Centre and other retail centres in the surrounding region.

"Only the Greens stood up for Tasmania and rights of States to control the planning in their own airports," Senator Milne said.

27 March 2007

Greens blast Rudd's forest destruction plan

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's decision to back Prime Minister Howard's destruction of Tasmania's ancient forests and wildlife has been blasted by Greens Leader Bob Brown.

"In an age of global warming, smashing down Tasmania's great forests - the biggest living carbon banks in the Southern Hemisphere - is immoral," Senator Brown said.

"That Kevin Rudd wants to match John Howard chainsaw for chainsaw is stupid and crass. This Rudd policy announcement comes as Forestry Tasmania begins its annual aerial firebombing of logged forests, dropping napalm-like incendiaries and creating mushroom clouds of greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere. Underneath, every flower, feather and fur is exterminated by clearfell loggers. It is a forest holocaust. Most Australians will have expected better of Rudd," Senator Brown said.

"When he meets Nicholas Stern in Canberra tomorrow he should ask about Stern's assessment that burning of old-growth forests globally produces more greenhouse gases than all the world's transport systems. This is a case of a new political leader, acting out of ignorance, making a major blunder. The question is will he come and see these great forests with me?" Senator Brown said.

26 March 2007

Labor, Libs clobber ACTU's climate action plan

Greens Leader Bob Brown's motion endorsing the Australian Council of Trade Unions' action plan on climate change was voted down by Labor and the Coalition in the Senate today. The Democrats abstained.

The motion reads:

That the Senate endorses the climate change action plan proposed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, including its call for:
a) government subsidies for energy efficient retrofitting of buildings;

b) mandatory green building codes

c) large-scale reuse of treated effluent

d) improved vehicle fuel efficiency

e) greater use of shipping to cute greenhouse gas emissions

f) the right to reject work which harms the environment

g) a mandatory renewable energy target of 10 per cent, as called for by the Greens in 2002
"I was shocked," Senator Brown said.

"This is a most moderate plan compared to European or Californian legislation. Labor shows it is not going to face up to the challenge of climate change this side of the election," Senator Brown said.

25 March 2007

Strong NSW vote for Greens is vote for action on climate change

The increase in support for the Greens in the NSW Upper and Lower Houses reflects a growing desire amongst voters for genuine action on climate change Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said today.

Speaking at a press conference with Greens MP elect John Kaye, Ms Rhiannon provided details of the Greens vote.

"The Greens vote is very likely to reach nine per cent in the NSW Upper House. The Greens are set to gain a record two quotas in our own right," Ms Rhiannon said.

"Our average vote across Lower House seats is also about nine per cent.

"The two party preferred vote in Balmain is Labor 54 per cent to Greens 46 per cent. In Marrickville the two party preferred vote is Labor 58 per cent to Greens 42 per cent.

"We polled over 30 per cent in two seats - Marrickville and Balmain. In three more we polled over 20 per cent - Coogee, Ballina and Peter Debnam's seat of Vaucluse - and in 10 or more we recorded over 15 per cent.

"There have been strong swings to the Greens in Heffron and Canterbury. In a number of northern Sydney seats – Pittwater, Manly and North Shore – the Greens candidate gained more votes than the Labor candidate.

"These results show that the Greens are eroding Labor's vote in an increasing number of seats. Considering Labor outspends the Greens by about 20 to one this is a pleasing outcome.

"This result lays an excellent base for the Greens federal election campaign, coming on top of last year's breakthrough with the first Greens MPs taking their seats in the South Australian and the Victorian Upper Houses.

"These results are not just a victory for the Greens but for all those who want action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"There is growing support for the Greens plan to phase out the coal industry. It is time that Labor recognised that we can both make the transition away from coal to renewable energy and have jobs growth.

"My colleagues Greens MPs Ian Cohen and Sylvia Hale and I are looking forward to working with John Kaye. As an energy and education expert he will be an excellent asset to the Greens team in parliament," Ms Rhiannon said.

24 March 2007

Greens achieve best result ever in NSW

While the votes are still being counted in Newcastle, it is clear that Novocastrian voters have voted for the Greens in the Upper House at more than twice the State average.

Greens MP and lead Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon said this election achieved the best ever result for the Greens in NSW, with increases in both houses.

"With two Upper House Greens MPs elected we have brought our numbers to four and are set to play a pivotal role in the balance of power," Ms Rhiannon said.

"The Greens vote is expected to be around 9 percent in both houses, taking into account our traditionally strong absentee and upper house below the line vote.

"In Marrickville we recorded the highest primary Greens vote in any general election in Australia ever, at 33 percent and in Balmain we gained 30% of the vote.

"In these inner city heartland seats the Greens are continuing to erode Labor's traditionally strong hold.

"Our preferences were crucial in determining the outcome in Lake Macquarie, helping an independent beat Labor.

"With Labor outspending the Greens by twenty to one, we have achieved an outstanding result.

"We polled over 30% in two seats (Marrickville and Balmain), in three we polled over 20% (Coogee, Ballina and Peter Debnam's seat of Vaucluse) and in 10 or so we recorded over 15 percent.

"The Greens identified this as Australia's first climate change election.

"In the next parliament our four MPs will place the coal industry centre stage in the climate change debate and put pressure on Labor to end its culture of secrecy.

"The Greens vote has been boosted by the hard work of thousands of members and supporters working across all 93 seats in NSW.

"Our vote is particularly outstanding considering it was achieved without the massive donations flowing into the campaign chests of the major parties," Ms Rhiannon said.

23 March 2007

Let's keep Sydney Labor honest

Greens best chance to hold a returned Sydney Labor govt to account

On the eve of the election, I urge you to vote for the Greens in the Upper House and the Lower House to provide the best chance of holding a returned Sydney Labor government to account and pressure it to take action on climate change.

The polls signal an easy win for Sydney Labor so I'm asking voters to consider how they can best use their vote.

If the Greens hold the balance of power in the Upper House we will play a responsible but critical role in scrutinising Sydney Labor's actions.

The Greens would use any potential balance of power situation to build open and accountable government and force real action on climate change.

The Opposition has been ineffectual in keeping Sydney Labor honest during its 12 years of office and has shown no sign it will do a better job if it loses this election.

The past voting pattern of the Christian Democrats shows the party has consistently acted as Sydney Labor's lapdog. In the last parliament they voted with Sydney Labor and the Coalition 97 percent of the time.

The combined vote of Sydney Labor, the Coalition and the Christian Democrats has led to the weakening of threatened species legislation, the opening up of Sydney Water and Hunter Water to privatisation and the watering down of planning laws in favour of developers.

If voters are looking to give Sydney Labor a shake up I urge them to vote for the Greens on Saturday.

Examples of the Greens record in the last parliament include:

* passage of a Greens Save the Snowy Hydro Bill through both houses of parliament

* securing the release of secret government documents, eg covering the Cross City Tunnel, Callan Park, M5 East filtration and proposed M4 East extension

* exposing the impact of political donations on the democratic process and establishment of Democracy 4 sale website

* passage of a Greens private members bill to review the NSW Freedom of Information Act in the Upper House

* successfully passed motions, eg to increase the number of ESL teachers and reconstitute the NSW Coastal Council

* adoption of hundreds of Greens amendments to government legislation

* established parliamentary inquiries on key social justice and environment issues.

Greens move to protect right to strike

At the Law and Justice forum recently (Monday 19 March) held at the Workers Club (Panthers) and sponsored by the Law Society, Sydney Labor candidate Jodi McKay said that she did not support changing the workers compensation laws to make them fairer for workers.

I certainly do support making the laws fairer for workers and I put out a media release saying so.

Meanwhile...

Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon has announced that the Greens will introduce a private members bill, the Tort Reform (Protection of Workers) Bill 2007, to overturn 'industrial torts' in NSW that allow employers to sue workers for industrial action.

"The Greens want to abolish this archaic law that allows employers to sue workers and their unions for striking or taking other industrial action. These laws must be repealed", said Ms Rhiannon.

"Greens MPs in NSW, ACT, WA, Tasmania and Victoria will act together in coming months to move bills in each state to overturn so-called industrial torts.

"In the face of Howard's unfair IR laws, state Labor governments should do as much as they can to protect the rights of working people to take industrial action to defend workplace rights.

"Industrial torts have a chilling effect on the willingness of workers and unions to take industrial action.

"For many workers, the choice to go on strike means potentially being sued, putting homes and livelihoods on the line.

"The Greens bill will abolish industrial torts in all but exceptional circumstances and only with the approval of a Full Bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. It is not possible to screen out all of the harsh penalties in WorkChoices, but this bill will make a difference.

"These torts are a hangover of ancient common law that have been dusted off and used by employers in recent decades. They need to be thrown into the rubbish bin of history.

"Industrial torts have been repealed in England and in South Australia. NSW is dragging the chain.

"The Greens bill will bring NSW laws into line with Australia's international treaty obligations protecting the right to strike.

"Ideally, Premier Iemma would commit to abolish this historical relic. The Greens would be pleased to support such moves.

"Premier Iemma should not have to be prodded to overturn this archaic law and protect the right to strike in NSW", said Ms Rhiannon

Briefing note: Greens industrial reforms

What is the current law?
There currently exist ancient common law 'industrial torts' which restrict the rights of unions and working people to strike and take other industrial action. Workers and their unions can be sued for unlimited damages, placing homes, property and livelihoods at risk.

The torts are a hangover of colonial nineteenth century English 'master and servant' law and have been repealed in England. Despite being archaic, the laws are regularly used by employers in State courts to obtain orders stopping industrial action and to bring claims for damages. Industrial torts were revived in the famous 'Dollar Sweets' case of 1985 when Peter Costello sought damages against the Federated Confectioners Union.

What are the Greens planning?
The Greens will introduce legislation in state and territory parliaments in coming months to protect the rights of unions and workers to take industrial action without being sued for damages, except in South Australia, where the torts were repealed in the 1970s. Despite having had control of State parliaments for many years, Labor governments elsewhere have failed to move to guarantee the right to strike.

The South Australian legislation does not provide protection in cases of personal injury, damage to property, theft or defamation. The Greens will now seek to substantially reflect the principles of the South Australian legislation in all jurisdictions, so that no legal action can be taken in tort in connection with industrial action without the prior approval of the Full Bench of the relevant industrial commission.

What would be the effect of the amendments?
Although state and territory governments cannot override the punitive provisions of the Federal WorkChoices legislation, they can remove unions' and workers' exposure to damages and injunctions. This would go some way to enshrining in Australia a real 'right to strike'. The details of the law would need to be adapted for each jurisdiction.

Which laws would be amended?
A Tort Reform (Protection of Workers) Bill 2007 would be introduced in each jurisdiction where the Greens have representation (NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, WA and ACT; except South Australia where similar laws already exist).

In NSW, this Bill would amend the Industrial Relations Act 1996.
In WA, this Bill would amend the Industrial Relations Act 1979.
In Tas, this Bill would amend the Industrial Relations Act 1984.
In Victoria and the ACT, the Bill would establish new legislation.

Govt hides independent report on coal loader

Why won't the Sydney Labor government release the independent report on the proposed third Newcastle coal loader before the election?

The Greens understand that the government-commissioned report was handed to the Department of Planning over a month ago. An FOI application to release this report has been refused on the grounds that releasing the information is against the public interest.

NSW planning laws require that the Director-General place such reports on the Department of Planning website for the public to access. Planning Minister Sartor is blatantly ignoring this requirement.

The Greens havecalled on the government to come clean and release this report before the election.

I can only guess that this report is being hidden because it contains many reasons why the new coal loader should be rejected. Many concerned community groups and people made submissions to the independent panel and expect to see the final report.

Newcastle is already that world's biggest coal port, shipping out about 80 million tonnes per year. A new coal loader will mean an extra 66 million tonnes every year are mined and shipped out of Newcastle.

The Government are trying to sweep the proposed coal loader and Anvil Hill mine under the carpet until after the election.

Yet again, secrecy reigns behind the closed doors of the Sydney Labor government.

Deferring these decisions is a deceptive move that shows the Sydney Labor government's lack of sincerity on climate change.

The Greens are calling on the Sydney Labor government to come clean about whether a Labor government will approve the proposed Newcastle coal loader and Anvil Hill coal mine.

Where's Wally?

Where's Wally? Costa a no-show for climate debate in Hunter

Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon said that Michael Costa's refusal to respond to her invitation to a public debate about climate change and the Hunter's economic future speaks volumes about the priority he places on the Hunter's future.

"It is disappointing that the Minister for the Hunter Michael Costa has not even bothered to respond to my invitation for a public debate in Newcastle even though the Hunter is at the coalface of climate change", said Ms Rhiannon.

"I wrote to the Minister for the Hunter on 23 February asking for a public debate on coal and climate change in Newcastle and proposed five dates before the election. I also made myself available for a public debate at any other time that was convenient to him.

"My office has followed up this letter with three phone calls but I have heard nothing in response.

"Mr Costa's silence speaks volumes about the priority he places on future directions for the Hunter in the face of climate change.

"Mr Costa is one of the last self-confessed climate change sceptics left standing and his refusal to budge is hurting the Hunter.

"Mr Costa seems to have a narrow view of the opportunities in the Hunter. The region will lose jobs if it does not get behind clean green manufacturing. Manufacturing renewable technology would provide jobs growth in the Hunter and new export opportunities.

"At budget estimates last year, Mr Costa ridiculed research from the AMWU showing that 222 jobs are leaving the NSW manufacturing sector each week. I challenged Mr Costa to set up a manufacturing council in NSW to promote job growth in this ailing sector but he refused.

"Mr Costa has walked away from a public discussion about climate change, job creation in the manufacturing industry and the impact of coal mining on the environment and tourism in the Hunter", said Ms Rhiannon.

22 March 2007

Sydney Labor registers another Newcastle first

The Sydney Labor candidate Jodi McKay seems to have registered another first for Newcastle.

We’ve been reliably informed that – for the first time – the Labor Party in Newcastle is having to pay booth workers to staff the polling booths on Saturday.

Sydney Labor smears Greens with "push poll"

Sydney Labor brings out their dirty tricks

Today, a Sydney-based call-centre (Stellar) rang up a mobile phone user who lives in the Newcastle electorate saying that they were calling “on behalf of Morris Iemma and Jodi McKay” hoping that they would have the support of the recipient in Saturday’s election, and asking if the recipient was aware that “the Greens candidate, Peter Debnam” was intending to cut 20,000 positions from the NSW public service.

Wondering whether she had heard correctly, the recipient (whose family is involved in the Greens) asked the caller to repeat the script. The caller confirmed the accuracy of her initial hearing of the message. Pressed on the matter, the caller told her that she was simply reading from a script provided by Sydney Labor.

The recipient then rang the Sydney Labor head office to alert them to the misinformation, but was given no assurance that the message would be changed.

At the very least, this is yet another example of Sydney Labor’s incompetence.

At worst, you have to wonder whether this really was a “mistake”, or a deliberate tactic by Sydney Labor to smear The Greens immediately before election day and to associate us with a policy that we have strongly opposed.

Labor has used similar smear tactics against The Greens in the past.

Even without the error, this practice (called “push polling” in the PR industry) is considered highly unethical.

Greens put greenhouse into planning approach

The Greens today launched a package to redesign the NSW planning process process for major infrastructure projects such as motorways, mining and port developments to reduce future greenhouse emissions.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said, "The Iemma government has major infrastructure projects on the table that will have devastating consequences for climate change if they proceed.

"Greenhouse emissions will only climb with projects like the desalination plant, the Anvil Hill coal mine, a third Newcastle coal loader, the expansion of Port Botany, a new coal fired power station and the construction of the M4 East and F6 motorways.

"These projects are the Achilles' heel of Labor's climate change talk. They make it unlikely NSW will meet even the government's modest targets for reducing greenhouse emissions.

"The Greens package would modify planning laws in NSW to ensure the vital job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in NSW is kept firmly in view. The government can talk until its blue in the face about climate change but real action is needed to tackle it.

The 'Greenhouse Emissions Comparison' plan implements the 2006 Anvil Hill Land & Environment Court judgement and gives new functions to the NSW Greenhouse Office. It would:

* make it mandatory for proponents of a major infrastructure project, with a market value of $10 million or more, to present to the NSW Greenhouse Office for scrutiny and approval:
a 'Greenhouse Emissions Assessment Report' detailing the greenhouse gas implications of its project

a 'Greenhouse Emissions Comparison Report' that identifies alternative proposals to achieve a similar policy outcome (for example if the development was a coal mine then options such as investing in developing renewable energy manufacturing industries like wind or solar thermal electric power technologies would be identified, and their respective greenhouse gas implications compared);
Note: Both reports must be prepared by an independent consultant chosen by the NSW Greenhouse Office but paid for by the proponent.

* require that both the 'Greenhouse Emissions Assessment Report' and the 'Greenhouse Emissions Comparison Report' be included in the environmental assessment documents released for public consultation as part of the approval process;

* require that the Department of Planning assess the climate change implications of the proposed major project, the public's response to the project and the alternatives canvassed; and

* require the Minister for Planning to reject the proponent's proposal if it is forecast to create more than 10% higher greenhouse emissions than any of the identified alternatives.
"The Greens reforms will allow the public to scrutinise the climate change implications of major infrastructure projects and participate in the debate about the future of infrastructure and sustainability," Ms Rhiannon said.

Background to the Greenhouse Emissions Comparison Package
The package is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in NSW through an overhaul of the NSW planning process for major infrastructure projects such as motorways, mining and port developments.

The package implements the 2006 NSW Land & Environment Court's Anvil Hill decision which supports a detailed greenhouse gas assessment as part of the approval process for all major projects.

This is in line with processes in WA and the NT where government guidelines require developers to include an assessment of the greenhouse gas implications of major developments in environmental impact statements.

The Greens package goes a step further by requiring the identification of alternative lower emission projects that could achieve the same policy aim as the proposal under consideration.

Former Premier Bob Carr established the NSW Greenhouse Office in 2004 and charged it with responsibility for spearheading policy to combat climate change.

The Office has concentrated on greenhouse measures which really should be tackled federally, such as emissions trading.

As a result NSW government agencies have been left unchecked to pursue projects like the desalination plant, a new coal fired power station and motorways that lock NSW into massive increases in emissions.

In February 2007 Dr Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year, told the ABC's Stateline that "if you look at emissions for the State [NSW], year after year, they've relentlessly risen, and that's a sign of failure."

Giving the Greenhouse Office new functions to scrutinise the climate change implications of major projects and alternative, sustainable visions would go some way to increasing its contribution to reducing emissions in NSW.

21 March 2007

Come clean on preference deal



Newcastle Greens
MEDIA RELEASE
21 March 2007

Come clean on preference deal

Greens candidate for Newcastle, Michael Osborne today called on ‘Independent’ candidate, John Tate to give a clear, unqualified and public commitment that if elected, he would remain an Independent for the duration of the 2007-2011 term.

Mr Osborne said: “John Tate’s preference deal with Sydney Labor raises questions about his affinity with the ALP. He needs to come clean about the degree of his real independence.”

Both the major parties have directed preferences to John Tate.

“I have been told that the only reason that Mr Tate is not the endorsed Sydney Labor candidate for Newcastle is that ALP private polling last year found his dissatisfaction rating had skyrocketed from 4% to 46% after his long dalliance with the ALP,” said Mr Osborne.

“Mr Tate has claimed that he rejected the ALP because of his heartfelt sympathy with the party rank-and-file and a desire not to deprive them of a preselection. And yet, he wasn’t concerned about the Labor Party members in Maitland when he agreed to consider Iemma’s offer of a consolation prize of Sydney Labor endorsement in that seat.

“He abandoned the Maitland idea only when Peter Blackmore announced he was standing and he knew he couldn’t beat him.

“To even consider the Maitland offer in an area he has no residency or credibility shows the ruthlessness of Tate, Iemma and the Sydney Labor machine.

“For the past 3 years, Mr Tate has been saying that the only way to get results for Newcastle was as a cabinet member. Ideology wasn’t on Mr Tate’s radar screen – just a seat in the cabinet room.

“Now he is saying that the way to influence governments is as an Independent. Just what are the voters expected to believe?” asked Michael Osborne.

Morris Iemma publicly expressed regret that Mr Tate wasn’t on his team and expressed a desire to have him as part of a future Labor team – in other words the door is open.

“My experience with Cr Tate on Council is that it is often very hard to pin him down to express a clear point of view or commitment. He wants to be elected as an Independent. The community is entitled to an unequivocal commitment that he won’t jump ship if he is elected and that he will remain a real independent.”

Pork barrelling in Newcastle

It was announced yesterday that the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) was to receive $10 million support from the State Government.

This was reported in The Newcastle Herald today.

What wasn't reported is that the chair was, until recently, Ms Jodi McKay (she is still a board member). And a previous chair was Mr David Simmons, ALP right-winger and husband of the Sydney Labor candidate's campaign manager.

The tangled web of pork barrelling.

Why didn't The Newcastle Herald report this?

It's a shame that a worthy cause such as HMRI has become entangled with politics in the week before the election - this blatant pork barrelling is just the sort of corruption that people are fed up with Sydney Labor.

It's not about open and transparent decision-making, it's about which individual does the lobbying?

How desperate is Sydney Labor in the week before the election?

If Sydney Labor really did think HMRI was worthy of funding (and not just a pet project of their candidate in Newcastle) why wasn't it announced earlier? or after Saturday?

The timing of this announcement calls into question the process of government policy decisions.

The use made of this announcement by the Sydney Labor campaign in Newcastle unnecessarily politicises a worthy cause in our community.

Vote for cycleways

The Greens will:

1. Provide free passage on public transport for bicycles;

2. Develop a safe, secure network of on-road and off-road cycling routes, bicycle parking and end trip facilities; and

3. Allocate at least 5% of the state roads budget to, and remove from control of the RTA, bicycle programs in NSW.
While other states are investing in bicycle lanes, programmes and facilities to support and promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle and transport option, successive Sydney Labor governments have reneged on promises to deliver safer and better cycling infrastructure in Newcastle and across the State.

20 March 2007

Voting recommendations for the State election

VoteClimate.ORG.AU Voting Recommendations for NSW election.

Clear cut voting recommendations for the NSW 2007 Election have been added to VoteClimate.org.au, Beyond Zero Emissions' dedicated election campaign website.

The NSW Greens came out in front as Vote Climate's recommendation for the party with the best policy on climate change due to their strong goals and high level of policy detail.

Liberal and Labor were given equal last because both parties have poor policy on climate change, and weak goals and targets. Labor was also marked down because of its poor performance in implementing serious mitigation and adaptation measures during its last term of office.

Patrice Newell's Climate Change Coalition (CCC) and the Socialist Alliance were recommended as equal second. The CCC was marked down due to its lack of clearly defined policy. Whilst the Socialist Alliance had more comprehensive range of policies they lacked detail in some areas and the issue of climate change was not always at the fore of their campaign.

The NSW Democrats were rated third coming in above Liberal and Labor. For more information see the Vote Climate website

"We were impressed by the Greens candidate Dr John Kaye, second on the Greens' upper house ticket, his extensive and vocal academic experience on the issue makes us believe he would be an asset to the NSW parliament and this improved the Greens' overall rating. We at Vote Climate hope the parliament will begin to take a non party political approach to tackling the serious threat of climate and focus on solving the problem rather than trying to buy time we don't have, through meaningless political point scoring," said Adrian Whitehead, Vote Climate analyst.

"And we are encouraged by the media attention given to the Climate Change Coalition putting the issue on the tip of every voters tongue."

The NSW State Election is taking place on Saturday March 24th 2007. Voters should make this the first "climate election" to place climate squarely on the agenda for the Federal Election later this year.

"Nikkinbah" Survival Day this Sunday Civic Park

Civic Park, Newcastle, Sunday 25 March 11am - 7pm

The local community group, Kanuguba, presents this commemoration and celebration of the Khattang Nation invasion and survival. The Khattung Nation is the name of the traditional language group which encompasses the Hunter region, which was colonised on the 25th March, 1804.

The day features indigenous artists from up & down the east coast, plenty of great music and market stalls, culminating with a candlelight vigil at dusk to pay respects for the invasion wars that happened on this land. In the words of Arthur Ridgeway, chairperson of Kanuguba and traditional Khattung Elder: "This is a day of remembrance and celebration, remembering the truths of our past and celebrating unity for the future".

Enquiries: Peta, 4955 6397.

Equinox Multifaith Service at Nobby's

For anyone interested in a bit of relevant spiritual sustenance at the dawn of election day this coming Saturday, the local Multifaith Association is holding its annual Equinox service, dedicated this year to the very germane theme "Respecting the Environment".

Gregg Heathcote, Buddhist chaplain at the Uni says: "All are very welcome to join us at 6.45 at Nobbys carpark (and believe me it's worth the early start because once you're there dawn over the ocean makes for an extra special atmosphere).

"The gathering will share inspirational multifaith material such as the Prayer of Gratitude," says Gregg.

A Prayer of Gratitude
Reader: We rejoice in all life.

We live in all things
All things live in us
We rejoice in all life.

We live by the sun
We move with the stars
We rejoice in all life.

We eat from the earth
We drink from the rain
We breathe from the air
We rejoice in all life.

We share with the creatures
We have strength through their gifts
We rejoice in all life.

We depend on the forests
We have knowledge through their secrets
We rejoice in all life.

Greens launch "Rights on High" campaign for apartment dwellers

Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon and Sydney Greens candidate Chris Harris today launched the Greens 'Rights on High' campaign for apartment dwellers.

"The Greens 'Rights on High' campaign is working to change the law to give apartment owners and long term residents protection from unfair treatment by developers, building managers and strata managers," Ms Rhiannon said.

"Apartment dwellers have very few rights at present and Labor and the Coalition show no interest in their problems. Most of the big city apartment blocks are built by developers that are bankrolling Labor and the Coalition with huge donations.

"Big developers like Meriton and Multiplex are making millions of dollars in profits out of city apartment complexes. The current strata law favours the developers and building managers so it is very difficult for owners and residents to have building defects rectified."

Mr Harris said: "Under the existing laws, an owners' corporation can be dominated by a developer and levies can be increased by 100 or 200 percent from one year to the next and owners can't do a thing about it. Owners' corporations should work in the interests of owners and residents not developers.

"Under the Greens' proposal, manager contracts will only last for one year, not a ten year arrangement with a developer mate, after which time building managers would have to apply to the owners corporation to renew their contract. This will make sure that building managers and strata managers look after residents' interests.

"The Greens 'Rights on High' campaign is informing apartment dwellers of how much developers are donating to Labor and the Coalition. This helps people understand why the major parties are not doing anything to change the law that allows developers to dodge their responsibilities.

"The Greens are asking apartment dwellers to support our 'Charter for change' which includes the creation of a Strata Ombudsman, more power for owner-occupiers, and effective dispute resolution processes.

"There are a lot of angry apartment dwellers in Sydney. I am confident that when they hear about how the law can be changed to give them more rights, we will win support for the Greens campaign.

"The Greens plan to move the Strata Schemes Management (Rights for Owner-Occupiers and Long Term Residents) Bill in the next parliament."

The Greens are calling for:

· The creation of a Strata Ombudsman who will examine all aspects of strata life, ensuring fair dealing and exposing those who are exploiting loopholes in the law to the detriment of the strata community.

· More power for owner-occupiers. The Greens propose that owner occupiers get two votes in the Owners Corporation because, unlike some absentee landlords who only consider profits, they also care about the quality of life in their block.

· A vote for long-term tenants. After a tenant has lived in a unit for two years, they should be eligible for a vote as well as the owner but only on non-financial matters.

· Forcing owners corporation members to declare any connections they may have with the developer, building manager or contractor.

· Independent assessors appointed by the government to make judgements on building defects. If the developer disagrees with the assessment they can appeal through the courts but they would be opposing the government, not owner/residents. This would mean that the legal costs of the dispute would not be borne by an individual Owners Corporation.

· All sales or transfers of management contracts to be approved at the time of transfer by Owners Corporations. (At present there is a loophole in the law whereby contracts give prior permission to such sales and the owners have no say)

· Giving Owners Corporations real power to stop units being rented out as unofficial backpacker hostels.

· The power for Owners Corporations to give permission to the council to allow council rangers to fine people who park illegally within private parking areas.

· Ensuring that residents cannot remove carpet or other insulating material from floors unless they take other measures to maintain soundproofing.

Carbon trading hides need for greenhouse tax

Energy giant's enthusiasm for carbon trading hides need for greenhouse tax

Fossil fuel giants like AGL are enthusiastic for carbon trading because it frustrates the introduction of carbon taxes which are the most effective market instruments to reduce emissions, according to Greens Upper House candidate John Kaye.

Dr Kaye, commenting on a story on p. 2 of the Sydney Morning Herald said: "The big emitters and the fossil fuel industries would much prefer a poorly designed trading scheme that creates a right to pollute and keeps the price at very low levels like $5 per tonne of CO2.

"This is a much easier life for the big polluters than being forced to pay for the damage they are doing to the climate.

"Carbon intensive industries are keen to avoid a tax. By pushing up the price of energy generated by fossil fuels, carbon taxes create a buoyant demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"Carbon taxes would also provide a substantial revenue source to fund low interest loans to start-up renewable energy manufacturers, retraining schemes and "just transitions" packages for fossil fuel industry workers, and subsidies and feed-in tariff laws to help kick start the transition to renewable energy.

"The complexities of trading schemes and the opportunities to manipulate the market allow big players like AGL to continue to operate their carbon intensive businesses with minor adjustments at the margins.

"While carbon trading is better than nothing, without proper caps on total emissions and a market operator prepared to push down on the amount of pollution allowed by the scheme, in the long run it will achieve very little.

"Neither the NSW Government nor the Coalition will take on the issue of carbon taxes. Labor is playing with a carbon trading scheme that will see not any reductions in emissions from 1990 levels until 2030 and the Opposition is still sitting on the fence.

"The Greens would introduce a carbon tax that starts at $5 per tonne next year and rises to $25 per tonne in 4 years. We estimate it would provide $1.2 billion each year for renewable energy projects and would create at least 160 thousand new jobs," Dr Kaye said.

19 March 2007

Election policy costings fail climate change test

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said today that the costings of election promises made by Labor and the Opposition are flawed and next to useless as neither takes into account the financial impact of global warming on the NSW budget.

"The Stern report issued by the British government at the end of last year detailed how global warming could shrink the global economy by 20 percent," Ms Rhiannon said.

"Premier Iemma and Mr Debnam need to factor in climate change so any economic projections take into account the cost of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Premier Iemma has stated this is a climate change election but that statement is not translating into policy.

"Promises made by Labor and Liberal will come with a much higher price tag than today's figures suggest. On the table at this election we have an energy-hungry desalination plant and plans for improving roads at the expense of public transport.

"Premier Iemma and Mr Debnam have refused to rule out the proposed Anvil Hill coal mine which according to costings in the Stern report will cause up to $58 billion worth of climate change damage in less than one generation.

"It is ridiculous to prepare a budget analysis without considering the impact climate change will have and factor in the state's planned response.

"The fact that the Premier has failed to incorporate the impact of dealing with climate change in this budget analysis throws into doubt if he understands how serious the threat is and how meaningful his government's stated responses are.

"The Stern report identified the global market for renewable energy at more than $38billion. If Premier Iemma was not so wedded to the coal industry he would be working to ensure that NSW benefits from this developing market.

"Today's budget announcement shows that the Premier has failed to understand that there is an economic benefit in having a proactive position to deal with climate change.

"The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change said action now would save about $US2.5 trillion ($A3.25 trillion) compared with doing nothing, and would help avert catastrophe.

"Today the priorities of economic stability, jobs growth and environmental care cannot be separated. That is what the next NSW Premier has to recognise and act on," Ms Rhiannon said.

Greens want NSW funding out of wealthiest private schools

The Greens today announced their plans to take away the state funding of the 64 wealthiest private schools in NSW and put the money into public education. Greens Upper House candidate and Education Spokesperson John Kaye released a list of these schools, together with the state and federal funding they receive.

Dr Kaye said: “Each year, these 64 schools receive $59.6 million from the state government in addition to $119.7 million from the Commonwealth. Kings received $5.3 million and Pymble Ladies College $5.8 million.

“This is scarce public money squandered on schools that are already exceptionally well resourced. It not only creates divisions within society but it also takes resources away from public education.

“Unlike Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd, the Greens do not shy away from the debate about funding the wealthiest private schools. This is not the politics of envy. It is the politics of equity and securing quality education for all children.

“The Carr/Iemma Government has also lacked the courage to take on this issue. In 2001 the Greens introduced legislation into the NSW Parliament to stop the funding of these very wealthy private schools. Labor failed to support it and has allowed the funding of these schools to continue to increase.

“The NSW government has failed to take into account the massive increases in the Commonwealth funding of all other private schools since the NSW government came to power. Since Labor came to power in NSW it has increased its annual funding by $189 million while the Howard government upped funding by $718 million,” Dr Kaye said.

The Greens education funding policy would:

· end the state funding of the 64 wealthiest private schools and increase the funding of public schools serving disadvantaged communities by $60 million per annum; and

· adjust State funding of all other private schools to guarantee them total public funding at 2003 levels, adjusted for inflation, thus freeing up $350 million per annum for public education.

18 March 2007

Greens plan to put lobbyists on short rein

Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon today outlined plans to bring in a private members bill to make professional lobbyists accountable to the public.

"Lobbying is an important part of the democratic process but it needs to be regulated with legislation to ensure openness and accountability," Ms Rhiannon said.

"We know that some lobbyists use underhand tactics to deliver for their client. By bringing in some rules the Greens are confident that we can get better outcomes for the public and raise the standard on lobbyists' behaviour.

"I have had talks with WA Greens MP Giz Watson about this legislation. The Greens WA are working on similar legislation in the wake of the Brian Burke controversy.

"The Greens private members bill will require all paid lobbyists to be registered with the NSW Parliament and lodge detailed returns with the Ombudsman. The lobbyists will file a return within 10 days of undertaking a lobbying activity that provides details of who they met with, for how long, the purpose of the meeting, and any agreed outcomes.

"Under the Greens bill the Ombudsman will be required to maintain a Register of Lobbying Activity that is open for public inspection in hard copy and on the internet. The Ombudsman will also have the power to investigate the activities of any lobbyist.

"We will also endeavour to include a provision to impose penalties on lobbyists for failing to register or for breaching a code of conduct.

"The bill only covers people who are paid as lobbyists or consultants to meet with and attempt to influence Members of Parliament, ministerial staff and other public officials. The Greens Bill does not apply to members of the public lobbying on their own behalf.

"We know that some lobbyists use underhand tactics to deliver for their client. By bringing in some rules the Greens are confident that we can get better outcomes for the public and raise the standard on lobbyists' behaviour.

"Lobbyists are part of our democratic process but they need to be regulated.

"Lobbyists are trying to influence the decisions of parliament for the group or business that pays them. There is nothing wrong with this but the public has a right to know what they do.

"Lobbyists can change government decisions. How they wield this power needs to be open and transparent," Ms Rhiannon said.

16 March 2007

Nanotech the new asbestos

Nanotech the new asbestos, Greens call for moratorium

In response to the release of Australia's first inventory of commercial use of nanomaterials, Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon called on Premier Iemma to put an immediate moratorium on the release of consumer products containing manufactured nanomaterials until adequate regulation is in place and to establish a regulatory body to assess the health and environmental risks of nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of materials at the atomic level.

"Nanomaterials could well be the 21st century's asbestos. The Iemma government is failing to keep up with this fast-moving technology", said Ms Rhiannon.

"Nanomaterials are already in products on NSW shelves and NICNAS report revealed that over ten thousand tonnes of nanomaterials are used in commercial production in Australia each year.

"Despite widespread commercial use, NSW has no nano-specific safety assessment process to protect workers and the environment from unsafe exposure and no labelling requirement for nanomaterials in products.

"Yet the public is none the wiser to the risks of slapping suncream or shampoos containing nanoparticles on our families and sending people off to work in factories that handle this potentially toxic technology.

"The Greens call on Premier Iemma to put an immediate moratorium on the release of consumer products containing manufactured nanoparticles and to establish a NSW regulatory body to assess the health and environmental risks of nanoparticles.

"Premier Iemma is taking a foolhardy and dangerous approach to allow nanomaterials into commercial industries in NSW with no regulatory oversight.

"Because of their very small size and higher chemical reactivity, nanomaterials can be more toxic than the same materials in bulk form. They are more readily inhaled than larger particles, can be ingested, and may even be absorbed through the skin.

"Test tube studies have shown that nanomaterials can be toxic to human tissues and cells, resulting in DNA mutation and even cell death".

"In 2004, the United Kingdom's Royal Society recommended that given their toxicity risks, nanomaterials should be subject to rigorous safety assessments prior to their commercial release, and factories and laboratories should treat nanomaterials as if they were hazardous.

"Three years later, we can buy products containing nanomaterials and there is still no regulatory oversight of nanoparticles.

"Premier Iemma has been in negotiations with the Federal government for over a year to develop a National Nanotechnology Strategy. A protracted talk-fest is not good enough when these products are already on our shelves unlabelled.

"If the Iemma government wants to avoid a repeat of the asbestos tragedy, urgent action is required before industrial use of nanomaterials expands", said Ms Rhiannon.

15 March 2007

Multiculturalism at the heart of stronger communities

The NSW Greens today launched policy initiatives in the Premier’s seat of Lakemba, that put multiculturalism at the centre of community building.

Green Upper House candidate Dr John Kaye said: "The Greens believe that multiculturalism is a vital and central foundation of a successful and cohesive society.

"The Greens will restore the Ministry for Multiculturalism and Ethnic Affairs, that was abolished in 1999.

"This is just one of a range of practical measures that The Greens will use to defend NSW’s diverse communities by ensuring that they have a dedicated voice in all government decision making," says Dr Kaye.

Senator Kerry Nettle said: "The Greens have a strong track record in supporting multiculturalism. We have defended multiculturalism when it has been attacked by John Howard and Morris Iemma.

"The Greens will end the divisive practice of using racial profiling, such as ‘Middle Eastern background’ by police to stigmatise communities and will continue to advocate on behalf of refugees," said Senator Nettle.

Bashir Sawalha, Greens candidate for Lakemba, was born and raised in Palestine, and understands the needs of migrants.

"All people in NSW must be able to access the services they need. The Greens will give interpreter and translation services the funding and resources they need," Mr Sawalha said.

Lizza Gebilagin, Greens candidate for Fairfield, of Filipino background, said she understood first-hand the importance of English language skills.

"The Greens are calling for 300 more ESL teachers in public schools who would ensure that all young people will be able to achieve their goals in education," Ms Gebilagin said.

Multiculturalism package:

* Restoration of the Ministry of Multiculturalism and Ethnic Affairs.

* 300 more ESL teachers.

* More support for language courses to increase multi-lingual skills.

* Increased resources for interpreter and translation services.

* Increased places in Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP).

Nobby's is Public Land!

The Greens on Newcastle City Council voted against the inappropriate development proposal for Nobby's Lighthouse.

Sydney Labor continues to push ahead with the privatisation of public lands.

Listen to what Mr Doug Lithgow, Freeman of the City has to say.

Greens launch womens policy

Greens launch womens policy - Maternity leave, childcare and domestic violence

Launching the Greens womens policy today, Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon called for 18 weeks paid maternity leave, free universal pre-school and increased funding to stem domestic violence.

"The Greens are calling for 18 weeks publicly funded maternity leave and for free pre-school to ease the pressures on women in NSW", said Ms Rhiannon.

"The Carr government abolished the Department of Women and women's services in NSW are now suffering death by a thousand cuts.

"You need a magnifying glass and a packed lunch to find any references to women in Premier Iemma's State Plan. In the entire 182 pages, the word 'women' is only mentioned once.

"There is a childcare crisis in NSW and many women are locked out of the workforce. Kids will have wrinkles and a walking stick by the time they get into care.

"The Greens want to see every child in NSW receive two years of universal, free pre-school.

"The Greens are also committed to hold the government to account on domestic violence.

"1 in 3 women experience physical violence in their lives and the Ombudsman found that reports of domestic violence have increased by more than 50% between 1997 – 2004.

"Iemma's knee-jerk plan to name and shame perpetrators was panned by women's groups. The Greens want to ensure that each local area police station in NSW has a full-time Domestic Violence Liaison Officer", said Ms Rhiannon.

The Greens initiatives on women include:

· Ensuring a minimum of 18 weeks of publicly funded paid maternity
leave for all women with benefits (such as superannuation) accrued during
that time.

· Funding two days per week of free pre-school for every child in
NSW, fast-track the building of new child care facilities in areas of need
and require that every new public school includes a community-based
preschool and long day care centre.

· Reinstating the Department of Women, abolished by Labor in 2004.

· Establishing a Domestic Violence Unit in the NSW Police and ensure
each local area station has a minimum of one full-time Domestic Violence
Liaison Officer; make domestic violence training a compulsory unit in all
student police training and provide education program from early primary
school on non-violent conflict resolution.

· Increasing funding for community-based women's health services and
for secure emergency housing.

Who has the courage to speak about climate change?

For more than 20 years, The Greens have been urging politicians to take the threat of climate change seriously. What will the other Newcastle candidates do about climate change?

14 March 2007

10 sleeps to go to Newcastle election

There's only 10 sleeps and 7 public forums to go...

Tonight, I attended a public forum organised by the Hunter Business Chamber and urged the Chamber to get behind calls for real action on climate change. The forum was attended by about 30 people.

On Monday night, I attended an environmental forum organised by Climate Action Newcastle and the Hunter Community Environment Centre, with support from Save Our Rail, Rising Tide Newcastle and EcoNetwork Port Stephens. That forum was attended by about 130 people.

A sign of the times?

I'll be speaking at the following events in the lead up to the March 24 election...

On Thursday 15 March 2007, I'll be opening the Green Corridor Art Exhibition at Watt Space Gallery from 7.30pm.

On Saturday 17 March 2007, I'll be speaking at the No War/Defend Civil Liberties rally at the Clocktower in Beaumont St, Hamilton from 11am.

On Saturday 17 March 2007, I'll be speaking at the "Rally for local Newcastle & Hunter residents to reclaim Planning Powers from Sydney" organised by the Newcastle Community Planning Coalition at 1pm outside Michael Costa's office at Honeysuckle (alongside the Sparke Helmore building).

On Monday 19 March 2007, I'll be speaking at a ‘Meet the Candidates’ forum on the subject of ‘law and justice’ organised by the Newcastle Law Society, in conjunction with the Newcastle Bar Association, at Club Panthers Newcastle, from 6pm.

On Tuesday 20 March 2007, I'll be speaking at Politics in the Pub about Water at the Hamilton Station Hotel from 6.30pm.

On Wednesday 21 March 2007, I'll be chairing a public forum on voluntary euthanasia to be held at the Resistance Centre, 472 Hunter St Newcastle from 7pm.

On Friday 23 March 2007, I'll be attending a vigil at the Clocktower in Beaumont St, Hamilton from 6pm.

Other forums I've spoken at since my preselection by local Greens members I listed in an earlier post.

Thoroughbred Horsebreeders support Greens cap on coal

For more than 20 years, The Greens have been urging the major parties to take the threat of climate change seriously.

Now, adding to the growing community support, the Hunter Valley thoroughbred horse breeding industry has called for:

● a moratorium on new mines in the Hunter
● a cap on coal exports from the Hunter Region
● an inquiry into the impacts of the coal industry on the long-term environmental, economic and social sustainability of the Hunter and other industries.
This follows similar resolutions from Newcastle City Council and Gosford City Council and Singleton Council.

The full statement of the Hunter Valley thoroughbred horse breeding industry is reproduced below.



The Upper Hunter thoroughbred horse industry: Jeopardised by coal mining

A statement by the Hunter Valley Thoroughbred Horsebreeders Association and the Australian Horse Industry Council (Aushorse) March 2007

Thoroughbred horse breeding is a global industry, and the Hunter Valley is one of the top three major thoroughbred nurseries in the world, along with Kentucky, USA and Newmarket, UK. The Hunter established itself at the forefront of Australian industry more than 170 years ago.

The Hunter Valley thoroughbred breeding industry has risen to international prominence because of multi-million dollar investments, particularly in major upgrades of bloodstock that has made leading international sires available in the Hunter that also stand in the best studs of America, Japan, Britain, France and Ireland. The Hunter is home of many champion horses, with three-times Melbourne Cup winner, Makybe Diva, just one of them.

There are 77 thoroughbred stud farms located in the Hunter Valley. With an Equine Research Centre and equine-related education facilities through TAFE NSW, the Upper Hunter equine cluster is a major component of the local economy. The Hunter equine cluster has a close relationship to other Upper Hunter industries, particularly winegrowing and tourism industries, both of which have indicated investments made in their industries are threatened by coal mine expansion.

The equine industry in the Hunter Valley continues to expand, going against the trend of a general slowing in economic conditions in the Hunter in 2006 . Because of its location the Hunter breeding industry is becoming a major centre of investment for the booming Asian racing industry, with average prices for Australian yearlings rising dramatically by over 130 percent in the 10 years during the 1990s.

The Hunter Valley thoroughbred breeding industry has spoken out strongly against the expansion of coal mining in the Upper Hunter, concerned that the scale of proposed expansion of new coal mines in the Upper Hunter threatens prime agricultural land, jeopardises hundreds of millions of dollars of investments, the jobs of thousands of people and the rural quality of the Region.

Water and climate change are linked critical issues affecting the thoroughbred industry. Some horse studs have direct access to water, for example from Glenbawn Dam, but the coal and coal-fired power industry has the potential to suck the whole Hunter Valley dry. There is a positive feedback loop of coal, global warming and drought, shown by CSIRO in its study of the dairy industry in the Hunter, as a potential cause of losses of stock due to heat stress as temperatures rise and the climate dries out.

The horse breeding industry needs quality grazing land in a pleasant environment with reliable water and clean air. The scale of coal mining in the Hunter, and the number of new mine proposals and mine extensions has reached such an extent that the sustainability of the Hunter thoroughbred industry is threatened and an industry that is an historic part of the Hunter’s beauty and diversity may be forced from the area.

The Hunter Thoroughbred Breeding Industry
● Approximately 10,000 thoroughbred horses were sold in Australia through public auctions alone in the first 6 months of 2006.

● The total turnover for these was in excess of $430 million.

● Of that $430 million, over half, $222 million, were horses from the Hunter Valley, sold from Hunter Valley vendors.

● Over 60% of thoroughbred studs in the Hunter Valley sell to international clients from both hemispheres.

● In a survey carried out on the top 120 thoroughbred stallions in Australia in the 2006 breeding season, 51% of the total Australian thoroughbred broodmare population was mated to stallions in the Hunter Valley.

● Australia has the second highest thoroughbred breeding population behind the USA.

● A total of 2752 race meetings were conducted in Australia during the 2005/2006 season.

● Total prize money was $414 million placing Australia 3rd behind the USA and Japan.

● Betting turnover for thoroughbred racing was $11.67 billion.

● Direct employment on the 77 Hunter Valley thoroughbred studs is increasing, having risen dramatically from 560 in 2000 to 1,065 in 2006. Thousands of other people are employed indirectly in the Hunter thoroughbred industry, as growers of lucerne, horse transport, equipment providers and maintenance.

● 60% of full time employees and 14% of part time employees live on properties where they work.

● Annual expenditure on wages by local studs is estimated at $25.8 million in 2006.

● Studs spent an estimated $246.2 million in 2006 (at least 90% of total estimated expenditure) with organisations within the Hunter Valley region, a 400% increase compared to $51.6 million in 2000.
Total value of thoroughbred horses in the Hunter Valley

Thoroughbred horses owned by Hunter Valley Studs: $267.6m (2000) $757.8m (2006)

Thoroughbred horses owned by other interests: $444.1m (2000) $894.8m (2006)

Total: $771.7 m (2000) $1.65 billion (2006)


Expansion of mines into thoroughbred breeding and wine growing areas of the Upper Hunter. Twenty mines occupy prime agricultural land of the Hunter River, and new mines or mine expansions are proposed in the yellow area (Courtesy: University of Newcastle EcoHealth Research Group at SELS project)

Local sustainability is threatened

The Hunter Valley thoroughbred industry provides an international profile to the Hunter Region which attracts high value investors from Australia and internationally and has been part of the Hunter landscape for over 170 years. Yet the scale of coal mining, and the number of new mine extensions and proposals has put a dark cloud over the future of the thoroughbred industry in the Hunter.

Most of the Hunter thoroughbred breeding operations were established when the scale of mining in the Hunter was much smaller and mostly concentrated in the Lower Hunter with only a few operations near Singleton and Muswellbrook. In the last ten years the scale of mining in the Upper Hunter has expanded enormously, particularly with the development of vast open-cut mines that cover many square kilometres. Large proposed underground mines using longwall technology pose potential threats to rivers and creeks and subsidence of land surface. New mines and new mine proposals have been proposed very close to thoroughbred breeding operations. Seven mine expansions and five proposed new mines are proposed.


Bengalla mine, one of the vast coal mines that have displaced thoroughbred breeding operations in the Hunter

Mining is a heavy industry activity, and vast swathes of the Upper Hunter have become virtual moonscapes as open cut coal mines at Mt Arthur, Bengalla and Wambo, and proposed mines at Anvil Hill., Mt Pleasant, Saddlers Creek and Moolarben flatten natural topographical features, damage creeks and waterways, increase salinity and dust, remove remnant vegetation and create huge walls of waste rock in close proximity to horse breeding operations. The dust, traffic and threats to water have forced some operators to relocate from farms they have occupied for generations.

The thoroughbred breeding industry relies on pleasant rural ambience to attract investors and buyers It co-exists with local grazing, dairy farming and winegrowing to provide a very appealing rural ambience to the Hunter that attracts a growing number of domestic and international horse buyers and tourists to the Region. The Upper Hunter horse breeding industry, like the local winegrowers, need a critical mass of operators to maintain recognition, investment, research and visitation. The expansion of coal mining into the Upper Hunter is jeopardising this critical mass, as winegrowers, horse breeders and farmers are being displaced by mining. These people are a fundamental part of the Hunter’s local history and culture, with many families having lived in the region for generations.

Drought and water quality are becoming a critical issue in the Hunter. Research on the impacts of climate change in the Hunter indicates there will be hotter drier conditions which will make water a limiting and increasingly contested resource. The average amount of water licensed to thoroughbred breeding and lucerne growing farms is 378 megalitres per annum. Mines have the capacity to buy water allocations that might otherwise go to farmers, while at the same time having poorly researched impacts on river and aquifer health and salinity.

Balanced development is also needed to maintain the economic and social diversity and ecologically sustainability in the Hunter Region. Thoroughbred breeders and other agricultural land users in the Upper Hunter need balanced development to protect their businesses and to provide security for their investments. Some horse stud operators in the Hunter have already moved to other regions because mine expansion has puts their business in jeopardy.

Regarding Anvil Hill and mine expansion

The thoroughbred breeding industry, winegrowing and tourism industries of the Upper Hunter indicated their concerns about the proposed expansion of coal mining in the Region in submissions to the NSW Department of Planning regarding the Anvil Hill mine in October 2006. Key points in their submissions include:

The Hunter Valley Thoroughbred Horsebreeders Association
“The dust and noise from a mine the size of the proposed Anvil Hill mine will lead to a deterioration of the local environment and impact upon the health and welfare of surrounding communities”.

“Water users on the Hunter River have recently had their allocations cut drastically…. This has led to the financial viability of some long-established farms being jeopardised. We simply cannot accept that at the same time, the Government can consider approving a huge new coal mine proposal….”

“The expansion of coal mines, including the proposed Anvil Hill mine, threatens the viability of [our] businesses and the families that they support to remain in the area”.

“We also implore you to initiate an inquiry into the broader issue of the expansion of the Hunter Valley coal industry, and the potential impacts of this on other industries and the region’s social, economic and environmental sustainability”.
The Upper Hunter Winemakers Association
“As much as the mining industry would like to believe that mining and wine tourism can co-exist, that is certainly not the view of the wine tourism industry… Many longstanding, sustainable agricultural enterprises will be displaced by this mine, impacting the existing communities and families that have, in some cases have been in operation for generations.”

“Water use by a mine this size is significant. Hunter River water users have recently had their water allocations reduced to 8% which will make some farms unviable and cause some farmers to leave the land. It is not acceptable that in this environment the Government is considering the approval of a coal mine with water use of this scale.”

“Our association would like to see further investigation into the cumulative impacts of any additional mining developments in the Upper Hunter with consideration given to the social, environmental and economic impacts on existing communities.”
Upper Hunter Tourism Inc
“Our Board is in no doubt the establishment of the Anvil Hill coal mine will result in a severe negative impact on the area’s Tourism Industry and will serve to destroy the hard work and resources invested in the industry to date”.

Greens to make polluters pay

A carbon tax for NSW, Greens to make polluters pay

Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon last night unveiled the Greens plan for a carbon tax in NSW. The Greens will move a private members bill to establish a price on carbon for greenhouse polluters to fast track the shift from coal to renewables.

Ms Rhiannon announced the plan at an NCC climate change forum in Sydney last night.

"The Greens will move a private members bill to phase-in a carbon tax of $25 per tonne of carbon dioxide by 2011. This will put a price on polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases and raise $1.2 billion a year over the life of the tax to put into renewable energy and energy efficiency," said Ms Rhiannon.

"A carbon tax will increase the price of energy from cheap and dirty coal and send a strong signal to power stations, transport and heavy industry to shift away from fossil fuels to solar and wind energy.

"Premier Iemma's plan for carbon trading is little more than a vague proposal that may barely scratch the surface, churning out free licenses to pollute rather than making the polluters pay.

"Premier Iemma need only look to the European trading scheme which had more holes than Swiss cheese. Caps on greenhouse emissions were set too high, big companies made billions of dollars by selling their excess permits and emissions did not significantly reduce.

"The Greens private members bill will phase-in a carbon tax for all greenhouse gas emitters, starting at $5 per tonne of carbon dioxide from 2007 and growing to $25 per tonne by 2011.

"By 2011, the carbon tax will have raised $4.8 billion in revenue which the Greens will direct to renewable energy industries and job creation.

"A carbon tax is simple, easily enforceable and does not rely on complicated drawn-out international negotiations. We will be knee-deep in seawater before Premier Iemma's trading scheme is rolled out.

"Australia is on the brink of runaway climate change and Premier Iemma is dragging his feet rather than hitting his stride to reduce greenhouse gases.

"Taxing emissions is the best way to create an energy market that gives low carbon sources a fair chance to compete against coal. If NSW fails to introduce a tax that makes greenhouse polluters pay we will see more jobs and more technologies going overseas.

"The Greens challenge Premier Iemma and Mr Debnam to stand up to the big end of town and make the polluter pay", said Ms Rhiannon