Video: Dr McInnes Climate change and the coast: evidence, projections & responses, 2022
Dr. Kathy McInnes addresses Port Phillip Conservation Council in Victoria, Australia.
Dr. Kathy McInnes addresses Port Phillip Conservation Council in Victoria, Australia.
PPCC’s forthcoming AGM is on Thursday 17th November. Our guest speaker is internationally renowned Climate Scientist Dr. Kathy McInnes, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere.
Dear friends of PPCC Inc.
Who really understands the inner workings of our “modern vibrant” economy - that finely tuned mechanism that gives everyone a fair go and preserves our way of life? Turns out it’s more like one of those classic Bruce Petty cartoons with machines with lots of levers and belching fumes at the hapless operator.
I was recently surprised to happen upon a lecture given by a real life economist who managed to make the swirling mess make sense – and nothing is at it seems. I’ll try to explain- if you are prepared to accept the opinions of someone like me, who you don’t know and will probably never meet – but hey we do that every day when we swallow the opinions of News Corporation and Fairfax media empires, don’t we?
With charm and enthusiasm, Flinders University Professor of Economics Philip Lawn comprehensively dismantles all the old chestnuts used to justify government’s obsession with debt and deficit, their absolute belief in continued growth, and their lust for scaring the pants off everyone about pesky older people, dole bludgers, and I would add lately Middle Eastern death cults and those who dare ask questions on Q&A.
In explaining government spending, Prof. Lawn refers mainly to pensions, so, for the purposes of this article, which gives my summary of what Prof. Lawn is saying in the videos below, I’ll also refer mainly to pensions, although his explanations hold true for all forms of government spending.
Here's the gist of it:
There is no budget emergency. The Australian Federal government cannot go broke. Our taxes aren’t used to fund pensions, and government has access to as much $AUD as it likes, whenever it likes.
The Federal government has access to a bottomless pit of $AUD to finance the aged pension or indeed any of its spending. Although we are encouraged to believe that pensions, Medicare, hospital and school spending is bleeding us taxpayers dry, this is not true. We aren’t paying our taxes so that we can help fund our aged and disabled pensioner incomes, or build hospitals and schools. The truth is that taxes are levied on the private sector and working population to enable the government and other purchasers to spend in a manner that is not undesirably inflationary. Taxes are just a lever, used to quell inflation.
Prof. Lawn on Currency Issuing Central Governments and some macroeconomic facts:
The Federal Government is a Currency Issuing Central Government (CICG) and is the monopoly owner and issuer of $AUD– which is a Fiat currency.
As a CICG, the Federal government does NOT have to tax, borrow or sell assets to finance its spending. Barring obstruction from a hostile Parliament, it has access to as much $AUD as it likes, whenever it likes.
You, I, State and Local governments, banks, businesses, are users of the $AUD. We do not have unlimited access to $AUD, and thus face day to day budget constraint. The Federal government does not. Its circumstances are not like that of a household, bank, businesses etc.
A deficit does not reduce government’s capacity to spend, nor does a surplus increase its capacity to spend. It taxes and sells government securities/bonds (described falsely as government borrowing) for specific purposes but NEVER to finance its spending.
A CICG NEEDS to destroy enough private sector spending power to nullify the inflationary effect of its own spending, so taxes are used to destroy private sector spending power.
Central banks – in our case the Reserve bank- sell government securities/bonds when a CICG operates a deficit in order to control interest rates.
So, CICGs spend first, then tax to the level required to nullify the inflationary effect of their own spending. Then, if required, government will sell government securities to maintain a targeted interest rate.
But- Can’t banks create $ out of nothing? ......Yes, but the money they create (financial asset) is always matched by a financial liability. However, when the Federal government creates $AUD for spending purposes it creates a financial asset but no offsetting financial liability.
Thus, the Federal government is the ONLY creator of net financial assets, which are needed for the private sector, in aggregate, to ‘net save’.
The important issues are:
- Will the real assets exist in the future for retirees (pension/super) to purchase?
- Will the basic G&S, health services, nursing homes, etc. be available for retirees to purchase with their income cheques?
And, as the population ages, and the working population shrinks, the nation’s ability to provide these real assets depends on:
- The productivity of the working population (economy’s sustainable productive capacity), and
- What proportion of the real stuff produced is made available in the form of real stuff needed and desired by retirees.
So you may be wondering, wouldn’t the Federal government’s exploitation of the bottomless pit lead to hyper-inflation a la Zimbabwe? (Called Demand–Pull inflation)
No it won’t........ well only if there is no competent management, because:
- Demand Pull Inflation occurs if net spending of the Federal government pushes Total (public and private sector) spending beyond the economy’s productive capacity (full employment level of GDP)
- If total spending is LESS than the productive capacity of the economy, there is no hyper- inflation, but there is unemployment. As has been the situation in Australia for the last 40 years!
- Ideally we want total spending to exactly equal productive capacity – full employment and minimal inflation, and there is NO REASON why the Federal government cannot manage its spending to ensure this is the case. It faces no financial constraints in doing so
This explains why the huge budget deficits of the US Federal government in 2008-2011 weren’t inflationary. Total spending in the US was still well short of the productive capacity of the economy, as proven by the official unemployment rate in the US at the time being 9-10%.
So in summary:
- A Currency Issuing Central Government can always net spend to a level that ensures total spending equals the full employment level of GDP
- It should never spend beyond this level as this would be inflationary. ....Only a fool would recommend this!
- If, once ensuring total spending equals the full employment level of GDP a CICG operates a budget deficit, so be it. It has access to the bottomless pit of $AUD. It can run deficits forever.
- Taxes paid by the working population do not finance the pension bill
- Taxes paid by working population are required merely to quell the inflationary effect of retirees spending and government spending.
- Federal government spending, including provision of the pension, is financed by creating new money and spending it into existence.
- The Federal government prevents this from being inflationary, and destabilising the economy by reducing the spending power of the working population by taxing it (i.e. it destroys some existing money)
What’s more, it is a furphy that if we get more people onto superannuation, they won’t be a drain on the poor old taxpayer, because:
- Taxes do not finance the pension. Pensions are financed by the Federal government creating new money.
- In order for retirees to spend in a way that is not inflationary, ‘spending room’ must be made available for them, by the Federal government taxing the working population. The working population still has to be taxed even if all retirees were financed by superannuation.
- If the switch to superannuation provides a higher fortnightly spending cheque for retirees, meaning they can purchase more Goods and Services, more spending room must be made available to prevent their spending becoming inflationary. .......
- Resulting in the Federal government having to tax working population more!
Are there other solutions?
- The Federal government could reduce its own spending – meaning fewer public goods and infrastructure – which Lawn believes we are witnessing now
- Increase the productivity of working population, negating the need for the Federal government to create more spending room, and negates the need to increase the tax impost on working population. By increasing productive capacity of working population:
- A smaller working population can produce same/more G&S for all citizens
- Overcomes the concerns about an ageing population
- Overcomes the need to increase tax impost on working population
- May even provide more G&S for retirees to purchase and enable the AFG to increase the pension without having to increase taxes
What really matters is if there are enough real Goods & Services for retirees to purchase with their pension/super cheques. If not, retirees will be forced to compete in the market place with the working population for G&S – which will cause inflation.
Undesirable solutions include increasing tax on the working population or reducing government spending on provision of public goods. The desirable, sustainable, sensible, ethical, call it what you like, outcome is to increase the sustainable productive capacity of the economy (i.e. increase productivity of working population), thus ensuring a smaller working population can provide the real G&S to meet the desires and needs of everyone. Ah yes, I remember when we were told that one day we’d be able to enjoy shorter working weeks and retire younger!
That sounds good, so how do we increase the sustainable productive capacity of the economy? Well, we maintain our Natural capital; improve critical infrastructure - much of which has ‘public good’ characteristics so should be supplied by government; make technological advances –which requires R&D spending; and sustain the workforce - which requires spending on education, training, preventative health etc. This is starting to look like what most people want government to do isn’t it?
So, what is undermining our ability to achieve these things?
- High population growth rate
- Increased rate of resource use and waste generation caused by growth in real GDP
- Inadequate government spending on critical infrastructure, inadequate government spending on R&D, inadequate government spending on education, training, health etc.
Hey, Lawn has just described the government ideology – mind you there’s no resistance from Mr. Short One and his limp opposition. Both sides- the Laborials as Bob Brown once called them- are promoting population growth, promoting GDP growth (even though it no longer increases per capita well being) and cutting government spending!
Indeed, our high population growth rate means a larger proportion of economic activity must be dedicated to expanding infrastructure, equipment, skills etc. Each 1% growth per annum, requires 7-10% of GDP; however government infrastructure spending has been approx. 1.85% GDP per 1% growth per annum...... No wonder we can’t get a seat on the train!
And, how are we travelling at present?
- Labour productivity increasing at a low rate compared with pre GFC years (peaked around 1998-2002 – see Chart 3 Grattan Institute Report ‘Australia’s Productivity Challenge’ Page 14 here)
- Population growth and resources throughput growth is reducing the Natural capital that provides the natural resources needed in future
- The desire for GDP growth isn’t making us better off (GDP vs. GPI Genuine Progress Indicator)
- There is already inadequate spending on R&D, education, health
- Critical infrastructure has been run down due to inadequate government spending on public goods
The Federal government could run a balanced economy if only it wanted to – it just doesn’t want to. Instead it seems hell bent on stripping us down to our underpants and reducing our standard of living and quality of life. With indecent obsession, government is doing almost everything to undermine the ability of a future Australia to cater for the very challenging future we face, and is trying to repair an unbroken and unbreakable budget.
I just can’t get my head around the morals of these people with their hands on the levers of control. There is no budget emergency and the only black hole in Canberra is the bottomless pit of $AUD. We are being encouraged to begrudge spending on essential government services and those in need, misled that our taxes are funding that spending and to top that off a good dose of suspicion and fear towards our fellow citizens. Whoever is managing this climate of fear and suspicion has the morals of an alley cat.
If you’d prefer to hear Professor Lawn direct, without being filtered through my brain, I highly recommend his YouTube (Parts 1&2) which are embedded in this article. The URLs are: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j-cqKQb1Ho and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et5Kt1NVwlQ
"Mark, I am fully aware that your job must be challenging and frustrating at times, but ignoring the elephant in the room – the increasingly obvious negative impacts of population growth - is putting EV and all who care for our environment on a never ending hamster wheel of frustration, disappointment, and ultimately hard earned campaign money down the gurgler. Unchecked population growth is having a ratchet effect, steadily increasing the pressure on the environment and reversing previous efforts to protect it. " (Jenny Warfe)
To: 'Mark Wakeham'
Subject: Population impacts
Thanks for your recent response to my concerns about Victoria’s population growth being the biggest threat to Victoria’s natural environment, and apologies for my slow reply.#1f497d"> Congratulations too on EV’s campaign on moving away from coal#1f497d">.
#fdfdfd">You made two main points
1. Population policies are largely set at the national and international level and it is a global issue
2. Solutions cover numerous issues on which you (EV) are not the experts
My response is:
1. Population policies are largely set at the national and international level and it is a global issue.
Climate change and renewable energy are National and International issues too, but EV has no problem running effective campaigns on these issues. Of course everything about climate change, energy and water use has numerous variables, but it is disingenuous to ignore absolute numbers of people as one of the most impactful variables. Melbourne’s population is currently increasing by around 2,000 people per week – over 100,000 per annum - (~ 60% of which is migration), so it is ridiculous to ignore this ever increasing, compounding, input#1f497d"> and its effect on energy and water consumption and other ecological services.
I recently gave a talk on sustainability to the Mornington Peninsula Shire and#1f497d"> made these points:
· With the current 2% annual growth, Victoria’s population will double by 2050 – mostly in Melbourne.
· Victoria has the highest population growth rate of any state.
· Costs of population growth are largely hidden, and fall disproportionately on local and State governments: roads, drainage, waste management, public facilities, schools, hospitals, etc. etc....
· This leaves less $$ to protect local biodiversity – an issue which Councils and environment groups keep saying they are concerned about.
· Academic research shows that costs far exceed the increased revenue generated by additional people1
· Australia’s growth doubled from 1% to 2% per annum in the last decade, so we must now spend an extra 7% of government revenue on infrastructure just to avoid infrastructure deficit2 – let alone what we should be spending to protect the environment and prepare for climate change.
· Expanding capacity merely to maintain level of service already provided per person provides no net gain in utility
· All this means that, contrary to the Growth lobby’s rhetoric, population growth is not an investment, it’s a recurrent cost – a drain on local and state government budgets
State and local governments, NGOs and community organisations are left to mop up the excesses of the population Ponzi scheme currently driving our economy#1f497d">. Funding for our task is hopelessly inadequate. I suggested to MP Shire that they should lobby the Victorian government with these facts, and request the Victorian government to lobby the Federal government via COAG and relevant Ministers. State and local governments#1f497d"> should also include population facts in locally produced information on biodiversity and the environment. I make that same suggestion to EV.
In our favour, I think the tide is beginning to turn on the until now unquestioned benefits of population growth. The mainstream media has run dead on the issue for a long time, no doubt to placate vested interests, but perhaps they can no longer ignore the failing infrastructure, falling living standards, housing unaffordability and appalling growth in homelessness, etc. etc. Here are just a few examples of former Growthists changing their tune:
· Professor Judith Sloan – Economist and contributing Economics Editor at The Australian (!) is starting to talk about the downside of population growth, See: Judith Sloan
· Josh Gordon state political Editor, The Age 25th October 2016 See: Josh Gordon
· John Masanauskas John Masanauskas City Editor Herald Sun October 28, 2016
· Productivity Commission Annual Report 2010-11, and its 2016 report found no economic benefit of high immigration for existing Australians and warned of many down-sides at: Productivity Commission This quote from the PC Report is relevant:
The broader impacts from any increase in Net Overseas Migration (NOM) also need to be taken into account. Increasing numbers of immigrants can adversely affect the quality of Australia’s natural and built environment unless governments take action to mitigate congestion and other pressures. Even with such action, there are additional costs for the community as environmental services have to be replaced with technological solutions. While there are various estimates of the cost of these solutions, the actual cost can be lower due to economies of scale, or higher if environmental services are currently ‘free’. Moreover, some environmental impacts, such as the recreational value of near empty beaches and the value of biodiversity, are hard to measure, let alone monetise. Yet, such considerations should be part of the broad cost-benefit assessment underpinning decisions on the long-term migrant intake. To inform this debate, the Australian Government should publish projections of the impact of varying rates of migration and population growth on the natural and built environment. This would also help to address community perceptions (as expressed by participants) that debate about the impacts of immigration is lacking
· The Grattan Institute in 2014 found that the extra money State governments are forking out for infrastructure fully accounted for their burgeoning deficits - You know, those deficits that cause them to cut social and environmental programs. See: Grattan Institute
· Commonwealth Bank. In its recent paper "How does Australia look on a per capita basis?", quoted at: Business Insider
Note the graphs of GDP per capita, per capita income, labour force participation rates, travel time index, dwelling prices etc. #1f497d">
· International media is also starting to question population ponzis. Eg: The Globalist
So, if former “economic rationalists” have even#1f497d"> started talking about the financial downsides of population growth without the usual mutterings about racism being slung at them, surely it’s time for us to talk about the ecological downsides? NGOs and community groups who care about our environment are being handed an opportunity to add ecological degradation to the growing list of down sides from population growth. The real issue is about bums on seats, not the colour of them.
Colleagues have suggested a campaign along the lines of “Canberra is the problem”. As we agree it is federal immigration policies out of Canberra driving most of the growth and we are growing by about a Canberra-worth (or maybe Canberra-worthless) of people every year, an advertising campaign could be run showing Canberra’s popping up all over a map of Australia next to already big cities, or swamping our natural attractions, habitat for other species etc. (Just this week, C7 reported on distressed kangaroos becoming common in Melbourne’s suburbs, stating that spreading suburbs are wiping out their habitat).
Indeed, the Victorian government itself has produced evidence of the negative impacts of population growth in its State of the Environment Reports 2008 and 2013 showing that population pressures were adversely affecting Victoria’s environment. So, it’s hardly fringe opinion that I am propounding. It’s time to remind government of their own#1f497d"> findings.
#fdfdfd">2. Solutions cover numerous issues on which you (EV) are not the experts. My response is:
Non experts influence public debate all the time on a vast range of issues. Politicians aren’t experts in all issues, but they happily pontificate on anything that appeals to their particular world view or party dogma. Indeed their cultural/religious beliefs, which should have no role in good government, are influencing#1f497d"> some policies which have a negative impact on the environment. Environmentalists should be naming that problem.
It is a cop out for environmentalists to pronounce that because we are not say, demographers, we cannot have a reasoned and informed position on human population impacts#1f497d"> on the environment – which we purport to care deeply about and may have spent years studying and working in. As long as we are well informed and use facts what is there to be scared of? At least we should have a go in my view.
It’s interesting too,isn’t it, that Bernard Salt is not a qualified demographer but he calls himself one, is considered an expert, and his opinions are widely publicised on a wide range of issues. Conversely, the mainstream media rarely consults Sociologists/Demographers such as Dr. Katharine Betts and Dr. Bob Birrell from The Australian Population Research Institute.
Mark, I am fully aware that your job must be challenging and frustrating at times, but ignoring the elephant in the room – the increasingly obvious negative impacts of population growth - is putting EV and all who care for our environment on a never ending hamster wheel of frustration, disappointment, and ultimately hard earned campaign money down the gurgler. Unchecked population growth is having a ratchet effect, steadily increasing the pressure on the environment and reversing previous efforts to protect it.
There is no logical end point to infinite growth with finite resources. Unless we address the (irrefutable mathematical) problem of compounding population numbers, we are sitting ducks for exhaustion, disappointment and job dissatisfaction – and of course environmental degradation. #1f497d">
Perhaps a coalition of well regarded community, planning and environment groups could support one another to really get stuck into the issue?
As Paul Ehrlich has said, "Whatever your cause, it's a lost cause if we don't stop population growth". Obviously that applies just as much in our local area as globally.
1. For example: O’Sullivan JN (2012) The burden of durable asset acquisition in growing populations. Economic Affairs 32 (1): 31–37)
2. Pers comm. Dr. J O’Sullivan Senior Research Fellow UQ. http://researchers.uq.edu.au/
Thanks for the invitation to be involved in your recent Water leadership workshop. I enjoyed the experience.
Regarding my point about population in the notes you took and have reproduced below, I think your notes play down the problem and don’t reflect the entirely of what I said.
On the current trajectory Melbourne would be 8+ million by 2050- just 34 years away. And it is irresponsible to represent the issue as having any chance of stopping there.
The current growth rate means population would double every 38 years approximately. So by 2088 Melbourne would be 16+ million, and heading for 20 million by end of this century. Should or could we still be using your suggested 100 litres pp by then?
Clearly there is no logical end point on the business as usual model we are on. It is those people that continue to promote BAU who are the dangerous radicals in my opinion. They are prepared to threaten humanity, society and community in order to pursue their ideology. Sound familiar?
We need a campaign to change Australians' view on this issue. Great campaigns have been run in the past to change Australians' views on many important public health and safety issues like smoking, drink driving, safer workplaces, asbestos regulation etc., We’ve successfully changed how we all think about people who behave in ways that threaten our health and safety. Time to use those strategies on the business and climate dinosaurs who pose threats to our very existence.
We need to dismantle the economic model that these dinosaurs have created for themselves, not just re-arrange it. Time for a steady state economy and stable population – see http://www.steadystate.org
This is what I think EV should be working towards- everything else is just tinkering with a fundamentally flawed and dangerous model. And, as I said at the workshop, we are all going to get dispirited and exhausted running endless campaigns trying to push back against every outrage that the current system will continue to produce. Where's the sense - or indeed pleasure- in that?
From: Adele Neale [...]
Sent: Friday, December 11, 2015 5:09 PM
To: warfej [...]
Subject: Thanks - Six Steps to Water Leadership workshop
Thanks so much for coming to our ‘Six Steps to Water Leadership’ workshop in Frankston last week. We had a great discussion and you raised many useful and interesting points. These are summarised in the workshop notes included below.
We will be using your feedback to strengthen the Six Steps report. We can already see key areas around education (maybe a new step!) and more on capturing and using stormwater. We will use the revised report as our submission to the State Water Plan Discussion Paper which is due out in February 2016. More on that in the New Year!
If you have any more thoughts or feedback please get in touch – Juliet, 9341 8106, [email protected].
The report is available here.
And we would love to see you at Environment Victoria's End-of-Year party on Tuesday! It will be a fun and casual event to celebrate Environment Victoria volunteers' efforts, at the rooftop garden at our office building, 60 Leicester St, Carlton, from 5.30pm. Please RSVP here so that we can provide food and drinks for everyone.
Thanks again for your great input, conversation and care for protecting our waterways,
Juliet and Adele
6 Steps to Water Leadership
Frankston workshop notes
General questions and discussion
Water grid? Pipeline, Desalination plant – how are these to be used?
Filling Victoria’s coal mines? Hydro?
Planting trees to hold water in the landscape and create more rain?
Send snail mail to politicians, ministers – they must respond.
Education - How do we get people to care about rivers?
Should be the first Step. Engage in community broadly
In schools. Currently only basic concepts in young years.
Tread lightly, care for your ecological footprint, e.g. reduce meat consumption
Large population, and growing - 8 million people to share the water. Our society is reliant on the number of houses increasing, growth model.
Reducing consumption is also important.
Focusing on Step 1 – A Murray-Darling Basin Plan that restores our rivers, wetlands and national parks
Farmers – move to growing types of food that don’t need much water
In food costs we don’t pay for environmental damage
Cover dams to prevent evaporation
Globalisation of agriculture. E.g. High Chinese demand for baby formula
Focusing on Step 2 – A statewide plan for towns and cities
Indoor as well as outdoor
A personal water use target e.g. 100 litre/person/day to be used
Encourage water tanks
Reduce added bill cost so that water use makes up bigger proportion – there are pros and cons for taking this approach
Green star ratings for buildings
Businesses and residential
Kingston City Council and schools are doing well on this (and this helps with education)
Indigenous plants – they have low water needs
Art exhibition and fundraiser
Cow on Yarra float during Moomba Festival
Culture – use Man From Snowy River
Raingardens. Slow the passage of water moving through the environment.
Focussing on Step 3 – A VEAC inquiry into freshwater ecosystems
What is VEAC? Its purpose is to provide advice to the government. It is a statutory authority. The minister decides what VEAC does work on. You can see VEAC reports are on the website. There has been nothing done on water for 20 years.
Focusing on Step 4 – Reform the Water Act
What determines entitlement to water shares?
Sustainable caps – people use 1/3, rivers get 2/3
Change the Act – no ministerial discretion in decision making
With Victoria going to the polls on Saturday, Jenny Warfe and Dr Matthew Mitchell present compelling evidence the real reason for the East West Link is not road congestion but a superfluous new port project. (Article dated 27 November 2014 republished from Independent Australia)
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine’s figurehead multi-billion dollar road project, Melbourne’s East West Link, does not make financial sense — at least, not in the way it is being presented to the public.
Even the Victorian Government’s top planners believe a rail tunnel would be a better investment. So why is Napthine pushing it so hard? It seems the East West Link is part of a much larger plan — a plan based on unsustainable growth and dubious business models.
The East West Link is part of the Napthine government’s 2013 Victorian Freight and Logistics Plan. This plan also includes the Port of Hastings development.
The plan proposes (page 17) to
‘… secure Victoria’s position as the leading State for freight and logistics.’
As part of this plan, it is expected (page 29) that the Port of Hastings
‘… once fully developed, will be the largest container port in Australia’.
The Hastings port and the East West Link projects are linked by Premier Napthine in relation to port services in his video update on the Freight Plan launch, when he says:
“The plan encompasses two of the largest investments undertaken in the state's history: the expansion of the Port of Hastings and the development of East West Link. And these are vital for the future of our state.”
The relationship of the Port and the East West road network are shown in the Freight Plan as follows:
The Plan argues that the proposal to develop both the Port and the East West Link is sustainable. However, strong evidence suggests the modelling the Plan is based on is not accurate.
For example, The Age on November 11 reported an independent study that suggested the East West Link will cost $17.8 billion:
‘A report by 10 leading transport planners and financial analysts from three Melbourne universities concludes the East West price tag will be "comparable" with the Wonthaggi desalination plant.’
But that is just cost for the road — added to that is the cost of the port development. A development that questioned by former Toll Holdings boss Paul Little (and still largest private shareholder) who was last year quoted as saying the Hastings Port option:
"… would not deliver the best outcome for Victoria, would be a financial disaster for the freight industry... the proposal is deeply flawed.
"The high cost of building a standard-gauge rail link to Hasting and the construction of suitable freeway access would be excessive and difficult, if not impossible, to justify."
A further concern in this regard is that it appears that ports in general are based on a somewhat vulnerable business model. Two of the companies involved in operating Australia’s ports ? Patrick - Asciano and DP World Australia ? almost went broke after the Global Financial Crisis, with headlines such as:
‘Price collapse makes Asciano shares virtually worthless’
And they seem to have struggled to recover since, with reports that Asciano suffered a bottom-line loss of $244 million in 2008-09, quadrupling in 2009-10 to $976 million. This ‘successful’ growth business also received $18 million from taxpayers in 2014, yet still laid off 30% of its workforce.
For its part, DP World made losses of $74 million in 2011, $32 million in 2012 and $68 million in 2013.
And these losses are on top of the fact that the most expensive port expansion projects are paid for by Victorian taxpayers — such as Channel Deepening, $1 billion; Webb Dock expansion, $1.5 billion and so on. Of course, if there is a major oil spill or contamination by exotic organisms ? something that, according to Dr Tim Lowe, costs the planet over $10 billion annually ? then costs may escalate substantially. Not to mention the pollution from both trucks and ships, which burn a particularly dirty form of fuel in our bays of coasts, producing pollution equivalent to 350,000 cars.
Finally in regard to sustainability, the Government’s proposal seems to take no account of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with shipping. Only the U.S., China, Russia, India and Japan emit more carbon dioxide than the world’s shipping fleet.
Taking into account that the Port of Hastings model depends on a massive growth projection of imports, the “sustainability” claim looks dodgier and dodgier.
The Port of Melbourne currently handles around 2.5 million containers a year. The Port of Hastings proposal anticipates handling nine million containers a year, with double the number of truck trips on Melbourne roads — thus the need for the East West Link.
This projection by the Government’s plan is also not consistent with expected population growth. The plan anticipates a 360% increase in container traffic, yet Victoria’s population growth over the same period (to 2060) is only projected to be a 62% increase.
A strange irony is that the East West Link may yet be funded by the sale of the Port of Melbourne.
So what should happen?
Well, without the Port of Hastings proposal, the case for the East West Link road seems much weaker than it already is. It is really doubtful that such a port is necessary, or that it will reach the expected freight targets.
Every state in Australia has similar plans for ports; there is no shortage of ports and port growth plans.
The problem seems to arise from the lack of a national port strategy. It may make far more sense to develop ports in the north of Australia and then rail freight containers down from there.
This is the proposal put forward by the Port Philip Conservation Council in which they suggest (PPCC Policy Statement 17):
But will any of our politicians, state or federal, explore these options?
Will they even consider the issues above? Or will they instead take the advice of the IPA on how to deal with people who raise environmental concerns?
“Let’s call them fruitcakes. Let’s call them nut—nutters …. let’s absolutely go for them.”
Let us assume that with goodwill something can, and will, be done. Then if as a nation we are going to pursue never-ending growth ? what George Monbiot calls ‘the insatiable god’ ? we need to consider the role of state government competition.
Note, such competition is not unique to ports. Water is another area where states compete with each other. In both cases state competition complicates already difficult issues.
In the case of ports, however, this has led to our overabundance of ports, all seeking to expand their traffic. Indeed, this is discussed specifically in relation to Queensland in a Centre of Policy Development 2013 report called Too Many Ports in a Storm.
So, progress on our problem with ports may require similar thinking to that applied to our river systems. And perhaps the only way to eliminate state competition is through major Constitutional reform.
Such reform has been argued for by Professor George Williams in regard to river systems.
Until we overcome the self-centred ambitions of our state governments, the negative effects can be expected to continue. These are increasingly impacting us in a variety of ways ranging from global climate change to our local roads and, finally, to our individual health.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Sustainable Population Australia, Victorian and Tasmanian branch, Annual General Meeting, 2.00pm Saturday July 12 th 2014, Balwyn Library meeting room. Guest Speaker: Jenny Warfe, spokesperson for Blue Wedges: “Politics, Population and Ports.” NOMINATIONS WELCOME - ALL POSITIONS!
Massive developments to enlarge Victoria’s port capacity are proposed by the Victorian Government.
What are the monetary and environmental costs? Who and what population levels are these developments catering for?
Hear Jenny Warfe’s analysis of how past and future port expansion projects underpin population growth; the environmental and social impacts of the shipping industry, and the infrastructure it demands.
Venue details : 336 Whitehorse Rd
Balwyn VIC 3103, Australia
Melway ref. 46E8
Contact: Jill Quirk Ph. 95097429 [email protected]
I went to the Westernport Catchment Committee meeting yesterday 18th October 2013 to hear the PoHDA CEO Mike Lean’s presentation about the proposed Hastings Port expansion. Some of his memorable (predictable ) statements included, according to my notes:
• There are no other options
• Construction phase 2018-2025
• Will serve Victoria's trade for the next 70,80 to 100 years
• It is fundamental as a gateway for the State
• Australians overwhelmingly want their children to have jobs
• Westernport highway would be upgraded to 6 lanes with dual train track in centre
• Project would also require the metro train tunnel to be built to allow for better movement of passenger trains on the Dandenong line, freeing up space for freight trains
• Shipping lines are now moving to wider container ships and steaming slower [so much for the PoMC’s Channel Deepening rationale that the Heads must be deepened because container ships would always be getting deeper and it was uneconomic for ships to wait for tide assistance]
• Container trade is growing at 5-7% compounding annually
• Planning for a minimum of 9 million containers per annum by 2060, ramping up from 2025
• Victoria is growing at 1500 people per week [it is actually 100,000 per annum at present, 60% of which is elective immigration]
• We are many years from having an outcome in the business case
• Compared with any other Australian port, Hastings has the largest amount of port related zoned land close to a port
• If you put it in a container we will move it
• Aiming for maximum automation at the port, so that flood lighting at night is not required, so that birds won’t be disturbed – might only be a few dozen people on site [so much for jobs then.]
• There will be positive impacts as well
Clearly the plan is predicated on a business as usual scenario, reliant on a doubling of the state’s population and a quadrupling of trade by mid-century and of course abundant fossil fuels to power the juggernaut.
When asked, Mr. Lean denied any knowledge of coal export through Hastings as part of the business case- although acknowledged that he had “read something about it recently.”
There was quite a bit of concern expressed in questions from the meeting and amazement at the numbers of containers, ships, trucks and trains that his “vision” would entail. .....And quite a bit of defensiveness in his replies- perhaps reverting to his former Army Lieutenant Colonel days. Prior to PoHDA, Mr. Lean was responsible for the Williamstown shipyard and the Maritime Business Unit at BAE Systems Australia working on the Air Warfare Destroyer and Landing Helicopter Dock projects.
Groups representing thousands of Australians intend seeking meetings with Federal MPs to see where they stand on population growth and are calling for a referendum on the issues.
Peak environmental and planning groups in Victoria have cooperated to create a people’s Population Charter which says to the growth lobbyists “enough!”
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria, Green Wedges Coalition, Planning Backlash, Environment East Gippsland, and the Vic/Tas branch of Sustainable Population Australia represent thousands of Victorians concerned that urban and rural amenity is being paved over as our urban open space, productive farmland and critical wildlife habitats are lost to more and more development.
The group intends to seek meetings with various Federal MPs to assess their support for action on population growth, and is also calling for a referendum to gauge the level of support for government to adopt a population policy which is responsive to the environmental carrying capacity of each region whilst also observing our international humanitarian obligations.
Acting Victorian president of Sustainable Population Australia and charter spokesperson Jenny Warfe says:
“Representative democracy is failing us. From Tecoma to Collingwood and Port Campbell to Gippsland, environmental and community groups are battling developer juggernauts, road and toll way builders. We are all having the same arguments over and over again with decision makers who don’t care what their constituents want, just what their developer mates want. And they want more of everything. It’s time to take back the decision making process about critical environmental and planning issues before unchecked population expansion rolls over all that is dear to us and critical for our future survival.”
It is fascinating to note that the bulk of the people leading and animating these groups are women, standing up to the male-dominated ideology of forced population growth in Australia.
Join us at Portsea Pier at 12 Noon Tuesday 4th December. We’ll have a bucket of money that we’ll hand back to the PoMC when Portsea beach comes back.
PoMC can have its $100 million bond back when we get our beach back!
Join us at Portsea Pier 12 NOON TUESDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2012
The Port of Melbourne Corporation is due to get its $100 million Channel Deepening Environmental bond back very soon, because all the science the Port Corporation has produced says everything is fine and there are no lasting impacts from the biggest dredging project ever undertaken in the Bay.
PoMC says problems at Portsea beach are cyclical and weather related, and that beaches come ago.
Sure – we agree that beaches come and go.
But Portsea Beach disappeared swiftly in 2009 and it hasn’t come back.
Now ocean swell regularly pounds the shore. All the shady trees and golden sands have gone - replaced with rocks and a massive sandbag wall. The once picturesque and safe family beach is just a memory.
All since deepening The Entrance and despite $millions of taxpayers dollars in “protective” works.
All the swells at Portsea 2012
So….……. If PoMC is so sure Portsea Beach will come back, how about the environmental bond stays in State coffers until the beach comes back.
That’s fair isn’t it?
When Portsea beach comes back PoMC can have its bond back.
In the meantime, the $100 million can be earning interest for us taxpayers to offset what’s been spent trying in vain to save the beach.
Join us at Portsea Pier at 12 Noon Tuesday 4th December. We’ll have a bucket of money that we’ll hand back to the PoMC when Portsea beach comes back.
On November 6, 2012 it was reported that the Victorian government was cooling on the idea of another port for Hastings and instead its planners were casting their collective beady eye in the direction of Werribee. ("Government looks west for next port development," The Age, 6 Nov., p.6.) One imagines hope springing on the Mornington Peninsula as a dark shadow turns west to cast its pall on Werribeeans instead. But do we even need one new port?
At first gasp, if you have lived down on the Mornington Peninsula under the threatening shadow of a planned port for Hastings, you might tentatively hope that the government has actually called the dogs off. Then, if you have some conscience, you might think, "But why inflict the same on Werribee?" The people who live in Werribee are our fellow citizens.
Werribee is, it is true, heavily industrialised, however the area also has extensive wetlands that nature relies on. Worse, there are documents indicating associated plans for even more elaborate destruction for the wider coastal area which is of historic cultural significance in Victorian hearts, bearing the evocative name of Avalon:
"Transport Minister Terry Mulder had been briefed on a proposed ''master plan'' for the Avalon region, including a container port, an international airport, industrial development and a formula one track."
But why are we even thinking of another port? When did state governments begin to think in terms of serial ports, one after another, in preparation for a huge increase in container traffic against a real backdrop of container traffic decline. It seems insane, unless you consider the desperation that affects people accustomed to a certain income who see the prospects of maintaining their corporate and private empires declining in a world where growth is going to become impossible to maintain. Over the past few years such people have convinced governments to use taxpayers' money to finance huge infrastructure projects - like desalination plants and massive tollways - of questionable value but involving enormous turnover for those involved. Ports are just another version of the tollways, tunnels and city apartment blocks template for raising cash from banks, investors and taxpayers. The key is to make the project sound inevitable and necessary. That's their game and the growth merchants don't have another one.
Jenny Warfe, of Blue Wedges, says,
How many ports do we really need? We have a massive port in Melbourne – with another $1.5 billion expansion planned for soon, a substantial port in Geelong, and smaller ones in Portland and Hastings."
She reminds us that all these ports occupy important, formerly publicly owned coastal assets. Every one imposes considerable negative impacts on its surrounding suburbs and waterways.
With regard to 'heavily industrialised Werribee', the greater part of the Western shoreline is largely untouched.
"The area that is being talked about for the ‘Bay West’ port is an internationally significant RAMSAR site, on which rely millions of migratory birds every year, just like Westernport," Jenny reminds us.
Only in September, Jenny compered a lecture in Melbourne from visiting US academic Richard Heinberg, who is a well-known author on the problem of oil-depletion, which many think is behind the wars we are involved in in the Middle East. Oil production or extraction is no longer keeping up with the demands of compound growth in human economic activity. Even though there is oil out there, it is harder and harder to get out of the earth, with high risks for investors and the environment. Although there is an industry for recovering oil from tar sands and even shale, what the public lack the education to understand is that the cost of extracting oil from such forms hardly leaves room for any profit and is deadly for the environment. Decline in abundant, cheap oil availability means that there won't be any new sustained 'growth' in production, trade and transport of cheap goods round and round the world. The price of production goes up as the availability of easily accessible oil goes down, so production must adjust downwards.
"In his recent Melbourne address, Heinberg warned that as we reach peak oil and peak everything else, we may not be exporting and importing so much, and surely not so much of the low cost high volume junk that fills up so many import containers at the moment, " comments Ms Warfe.
(Although 'peak oil' indicates a peak of production, where there is more oil than at any other time, there is a cliff on the other side, and that is where we are heading. In fact there are many indications that we have passed that peak.)
"Mr. Heinberg is right to be adamant that we should focus on getting population expansion and consumption levels under control and power DOWN not UP, " she says.
This is the most important message of candobetter.net and Jenny joins the dots well. There is no point in building new ports for declining trade.
Jenny suggests that these ideas for more ports are coming from old fossils in suits blowing $billions on the tired old ‘business as usual’ pipe-dream- which is this latest port proposal in a nutshell.
Instead of more of the same with the public expected to lie down and think of England, while pipe-dream addicted planners rifle through the public purse, as Ms Warfe sums up:
"We need funds and good minds with the capacity to deal with reality. We need different solutions for the very different future we and all species on Earth face."
Yes, we don't need a new port in Hastings and we don't need a new port in Werribee. They are both bad ideas. A formula one car racing track in the Avalon Region, in the light of declining oil and the need to conserve energy, is sublimely ridiculous. One can only interpret this suggestion as symbolically associated with the awful and tragic dependence of the Australian economy on the automobile industry (which also enables the suburban development industry). For anyone who had never thought of this, try ... um... driving... round some outer suburbs and you will see entire districts dedicated, not only to the sale and maintenance of new and used cars, but to marketing and retailing a range of associated paraphernalia, from deodorisers to window transfers to car brand-name wind sheeters. This is the outcome of colonial corporate thinking and the suppression of diverse local manufacturing activity. Our politicians are responsible.
Unfortunately and absurdly, even if the Mornington Peninsula is reprieved from a huge industrial port sector at Hastings, the future traffic predicted to be associated with the Port was used as an excuse to put a huge new tollway, which already scars substantial landscape and bushland. Westerfield heritage area and large parts of The Pines have been destroyed to build that road in preparation for traffic to and from Hastings (port), over years of protest by environmentalists. Even agreements to fence off predators from bandicoot areas in the Pines have since been renegged on with the special sums allocated arbitrarily diverted to other projects by Parks Victoria, according to Hans Brunner.
But do the authors of these huge projects even care, as long as someone makes a profit along the line? Costs will be borne by any investors that were counting on guaranteed tollway profits due to hugely increased volumes of traffic on the Peninsula. Such schemes are money floats for those who initiate them, but the chances of them paying down the line with oil depletion looming are minute, and the designers almost certainly knew this. They were probably taking advantage of public ignorance of resource supplies. See SEITA tollway using old data on oil prices.
At no stage either is it ever made clear to the public how closely political parties of all hues are associated with such massive land-development projects, via their business and investment arms. For an idea of how this works, look at Labor Resources, bearing in mind that this kind of activity, although on a grand scale in the Labor Party, also goes on in the other established parties with big budgets and major landed and investment assets.
There is more to these port projects than meets the eye of the casual observer.
Sheila Newman will interview Jenny live 19 April between 12 midday and 1pm at 3RPP. You can listen live here. What next? Will they sell the people off as slaves? Will the remove access to our bank accounts overnight? Will they raise the cost of electricity so high that the companies take our houses to pay for them? Our Parliamentary system is beyond democratic control. Our economic system is a bad joke. Our taxes are used to pay for educational institutions which are then set up to profit private enterprise and investors and users overseas. And now, under Ted Baillieu, there is this proposal to sell Port Melbourne... (No, this is not an April fools joke.)
"It’s insulting that Spring Street might value the Port of Melbourne at only $2.4 billion (Baillieu flags state asset sales 23/3). Taxpayer shareholders recently spent around $1 billion on channel deepening and subsequent maintenance dredging to “prepare the Port for the future”. And, it’s a small fraction of the current estimate of $10 billion to develop the Port of Hastings – a project recently identified by government as urgently needed infrastructure. Taxpayers have invested in the Port of Melbourne for over a century and now we are expected to support its hand over to the private sector and then pay again to build Hastings port. It’s time to join the dots. Dumping the Port of Melbourne and developing Hastings is about catering for Baillieu’s pet projects for Gippsland: export of brown coal, woodchips and coal seam gas it he can find it. Topped up with Ports Minister Napthine’s proposed driverless trucks trundling up the Westernport Freeway from the Port of Hastings with assorted imports and we are approaching dystopia indeed."(Jenny Warfe, Blue Wedges) Sheila Newman will interview Jenny live on 19 April between 12 midday and 1pm at 3RPP. You can listen live here.
(Originally published March 27 2012 on 3RPP as "Sale plan to pay for port."and in Western Port News, 27 March 2012.)
March 27 2012
THE state government could sell the Port of Melbourne for $2.4 billion and four water authorities to fund five priority infrastructure projects including development of the Port of Hastings.
The other four projects are the east-west tunnel (linking the Western Ring Rd and the Eastern Freeway), rail links to Avalon airport, duplication of major freight highways, and a rail tunnel from Caulfield to Footscray.
Last financial year the port paid a dividend of $13.4 million to the government and earned an after-tax profit of $39 million.
Melbourne’s four water authorities are Melbourne Water, City West Water, South East Water (which services the peninsula) and Yarra Valley Water.
The revelation of the government’s plans for possible asset sales has already drawn criticism from disparate sources including award-winning economics and public policy commentator Ken Davidson and environmentalists.
Mr Davidson wrote on Monday that it was “silly to prioritise the port at Hastings while Australia’s number one port at Melbourne has serious problems that inhibit Victoria’s development”.
Industry groups, including the Australian Peak Shippers Association, have warned the Port of Melbourne would face major bottlenecks from 2015 onwards as it reached capacity.
This has seen the government, led by Ports Minister Denis Napthine, to promise fast-tracking of Port of Hastings development (‘New port start five years away’, The News, 31/1/12).
In January Mr Napthine and Port of Hastings Development Authority board chairman Yehudi Blacher told The News Hastings was well suited to become Victoria’s second container port within 10 to 13 years.
“Container movements are estimated to quadruple over the next 30 years and it is critical that we begin planning for this growth now,” Mr Napthine said.
But Mr Davidson says development of Hastings could wait until 2035 when Melbourne’s population was expected to be five million.
Until then, the Port of Melbourne could be improved by redeveloping the Swanson/Dynon precinct, he said.
Other suggestions have included developing Webb Dock.
The pressure on Port of Melbourne has further increased following claims by government sources, port figures and shipping and automotive industry groups that the government is set to abandon its plan to move all automotive shipping from Melbourne to the Port of Geelong.
Port of Hastings has been touted as an alternative port for exporting and importing vehicles, especially with the closure of BlueScope’s hot strip mill, which saw the Iron Monarch bringing slab steel from Port Kembla weekly.
The Iron Monarch’s last voyage of slab cargo arrived at Western Port on Tuesday 4 October and the BlueScope jetty is underutilised.
Selling the Port of Melbourne and developing Hastings was about catering for Premier Ted Baillieu’s pet projects for Gippsland – exporting from Western Port brown coal, woodchips and coal seam gas, Blue Wedges Coalition president Jenny Warfe told The News on Monday.
Ms Warfe said it was insulting the government valued the Port of Melbourne at only $2.4 billion.
“Taxpayers recently spent about $1 billion on channel deepening and subsequent maintenance dredging to ‘prepare the port for the future’, as port authorities claimed,” she said.
“The current estimate to develop the Port of Hastings – a project recently identified by the government as urgently needed infrastructure – is $10 billion.
“Taxpayers have invested in the Port of Melbourne for more than a century and now we are expected to support its hand over to the private sector and then pay again to build Hastings port?
“It’s time to join the dots. Dumping the Port of Melbourne and developing Hastings is about the premier wanting to export from Gippsland brown coal, woodchips and coal seam gas, if he can find it.
“With massive trains hauling this cargo through our green wedges to Hastings – and Ports Minister Denis Napthine’s proposed driverless trucks trundling up the Western Port Freeway from the Port of Hastings with assorted imports – we are approaching dystopia indeed.”
The government last month introduced laws forcing the Port of Melbourne Corporation to pay an annual $75 million ‘’licence fee’’ that would increase each year with inflation and generated about $1 billion over the next decade.
The Port Licence Fee will add $8000 to $10,000 to the cost of bringing a ship into the Port of Melbourne.
The fee cuts both ways as the Victorian Farmers Federation says it will add $10 million to the cost of exporting Victorian farm produce. It has dubbed the fee a “tax on trade”.
Melbourne has the last publicly owned major port on the eastern seaboard following the Queensland government’s sale of the Port of Brisbane for $2.1 billion and a NSW government plan to privatise Port Botany.
Is Portsea preparing for invasion? Yes, by sea. Much of the beach has disappeared and the overhang has been sandbagged to prevent businesses from following it. Where did that $38m given to Parks Victoria go? This article also looks at Ted Baillieu's plans to continue development plans (cost $9.4b?) where Brumby left off, plus some comments from the Ex-Ports Minister, Tim Pallas.
The Department of Sustainability (DSE) and the Office of Environmental Monitor (OEM) probably had hoped their problem of disappearing iconic Portsea beach might have gone away. Well their problem hasn’t gone, but the beach has!
Sadly for them and thousands of holiday makers who once loved Portsea, the $millions of taxpayers’ funds thrown at months of beach works at Portsea have done nothing to solve the problem of the disappearing beach. In fact the supposed solutions - the sandbag wall and huge rockwall are already failing, with the sandbags nearest the pier breaking apart and slumping into the water. The DSE and OEM have been left to defend the channel deepening project long after the disappearance of its champion Mr. Brumby -who is a distant memory – leaving some unwanted legacies such as at Portsea with its sad and near useless beach and a massive sign erected by the Brumby regime spruiking how their plan to build a massive sand bag wall and dump some rocks near the pier would restore the beach.
Portsea Beach 2011, view from pier to beach looking south east. Once there was sand and trees. Fossickers with metal detectors were the only Portsea beach goers on this 2011 Summers day.
Local papers report that the damage is obvious.
Portsea businesses, including the Portsea Hotel owned juice bar claim that their takings are down 50% since the Entrance was deepened and the beach started to disappear. See: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/earth/stories/s939575.htm
Dive businesses too continue to report that tides and current speed have increased markedly whilst ocean swell now regularly pounds the beach and pier – making boat operations extremely difficult. (We recently were swamped trying to land a dingy on Portsea beach on an otherwise calm day but with a massive swell – it was like riding the rapids. Ed)
It seems electing Mr. Baillieu in the hope of a fresh approach on environmental matters might be a dismal failure. He’s been silent on the damage to Portsea – in spite of his connections to the area, and within weeks of being elected, it’s more of the same for Port expansion plans with the new Mr. B announcing that he would fast track the development of the Port of Hastings within the next 10 years … …..That’s even faster than Mr. Brumby was intending! Sadly it seems our elected representatives are merging into a coalescence of business as usual dinosaurs when what we really need is some serious planning for a very different future.
We were amazed this week to hear Tim Pallas (previously the Minister for Ports and now Opposition spokesperson for Ports) sounding the alarm on how costly it might be to develop the Port of Hastings. See: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/cost-of-hastings-container-port-put-at-94bn-20110227-1ba1l.html
Mr. Pallas warns us it would cost $9.4 billion to develop Hastings Port, suggesting that it may not be money well spent……..Mind you he was singing from a different song book when as Minister for Ports he visited Hastings in 2009 to launch his Port Strategy – we were there - to hear his “vision” for a “green” port ….whatever that is. See: http://archive.premier.vic.gov.au/newsroom/7997.html and although he didn’t actually name a $ amount for his vision back then, it involved about the same amount of road, rail and portside works as he is now warning would be a $9.4 billion folly.
The plan for Hastings Port involves it handling almost 4 million containers some time in the not so distant future….that’s TWICE the current throughput of the Port of Melbourne. At the same time it is envisaged that the Port of Melbourne would be handling up to 8 million containers by 2030….QUADRUPLING it’s current throughput. Yes- that’s almost 12 million containers per year through Victoria compared with our present approx. 2 million per year. Hastings would look, feel, sound and smell like Port Melbourne.
Note also new proposals for brown coal being mined in future from around Mirboo North. Presumably that would be shipped out through Westernport!
Where would we put all that stuff and how could we possibly afford it? Perhaps our only saviour might be skyrocketing production, shipping and trucking costs in future as oil runs out, demanding a re-think on what’s essential and what past follies can be done away with. We’ve been feeding the machine at the expense of our natural systems for way too long just to keep the creaking old system on the rails for longer than it should have been.
Anyway – a voice of reason was heard in the Victorian Auditor General’s Report "Environmental Management of Marine Protected Areas" tabled yesterday (March 2nd) in Parliament. The audit reveals just how ineffectively marine protected areas have been managed to protect biodiversity. It assessed the roles of Parks Victoria and the Departments of Sustainability and Environment and Primary Industries, finding that Parks Victoria could not show that marine biodiversity is being protected. Only 10% of the $38 million allocated to protection of marine biodiversity could be shown to have been appropriately discharged.
Just what was the rest of the money spent on then? Certainly not in protecting Port Phillip Bay from the damage we see to the Portsea coastline or protecting it from the massive unregulated toxic dump we now have in the middle of the Bay compliments of the Port of Melbourne!
The Auditor’s report can be downloaded from: http://www.audit.vic.gov.au/reports__publications/reports_by_year/2010-11/20110302_marine_parks.aspx
The report also warns that Government is failing to protect coastal waters from invasive pests and diseases, and recommends the development of a marine pest biosecurity plan. Now that’s an issue which shipping and ports have a LOT to answer for.
Port Phillip Bay with its thousands of ship visits per year currently has over 400 invasive pest species and growing, whilst Westernport Bay with its approx 200 ship visits per year has only a very small number of invasive pests – around 10 when we last checked. Ships ballast water and the hulls of ships are the main vectors for invasive marine species, but the shipping industry isn’t very interested in spending the money to address the issue. So, Mr. Baillieu’s port expansion plans would likely mean an explosion in marine pests in Westernport.
A very interesting and alarming report on ballast water is at ABC Science Show: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ss/stories/s1232619.htm and how trade facilitates the movement and impacts of invasive species at in this 2003 Earthbeat transcript at: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/earth/stories/s939575.htm
"A staggering 120 million tons of foreign ballast water is dumped into Australian ports each year - that's a quarter of the volume of water in Sydney's famous harbour. Professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff believes it's crucial that something be done, because the discharged ballast water can - and does - transport bacteria from one part of the world to another.
"[Professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff] [...] tracked the spread of nasty micro organisms around the world. Dinoflagellates, which poison shellfish, weeds, even cholera, would you believe, carried in the ballast water of shipping. The story and its implications are really incredible."
"Gustaaf Hallegraeff: There would not be a ballast water problem if for example a Japanese ship that comes now to Hobart to pick up woodchips, if that ship would for example deliver Japanese cars. Then it comes to Hobart, it picks up woodchips, changes the cargo and it takes the woodchips back. If a ship always carries cargo there is no problems, but somehow dedicated ships became designed that only pick a particular types of cargo and therefore they travel in one direction without a cargo, and that is where they need to fill up the whole tanks - sometimes up to 100,000 tonnes of seawater."
 Sources: PoMC’s Port Development Plan 2006-2035 and PoH Land Use and Transport Strategy 2009
 Royce Millar, "Baillieu coal export push," 3 Mar 2011, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/baillieu-coal-export-push-20110302-1bexa.html
After a lacklustre campaign where we were forced to watch two flies crawl up a wall (one with red hair and one in Speedos) ... the electorate has signalled that it is sick of the two major parties and the stale offerings they pedal. The newly elected Independents Mr. Andrew Wilkie and Greens MP Adam Bandt ... have been handed a mandate for change, which goes far beyond merely delivering stable government. Indeed, it is "stable" government and its business as usual approach over many years which has entrenched many of the problems we now face as a nation. The independent presence can serve as the stimulant which keeps parliament from slipping again into the stifling dominant paradigm.
Thanks to all who voted for me and our Independent radical group on Election Day, and a big thank you to those of you who helped with letter-boxing, banners on fences and handing out how-to-vote cards on the day.
According to the AEC Virtual tally room, so far we appear to have around 2700 votes, although the below the line votes are yet to be added. For all the results to date check the Virtual tally room at:
After a lack-lustre campaign where we were forced to watch two flies crawl up a wall (one with red hair and one in Speedos) what a surprise and welcome outcome. The electorate has spoken, loudly signalling that we are sick of the two major parties and the stale offerings they were pedalling.
In this vein, yesterday I wrote to the three re-elected Independents, the newly elected Independent Mr. Andrew Wilkie and Greens MP Adam Bandt to congratulate them on their comments that third parties and communities should have more direct access to the decision making process. As I outlined to you in my first newsletter, I also made suggestions to them about how community consultation could be improved by the introduction of legislation requiring MPs to consult their constituents before they vote on any substantial or contentious issues before them.
Today I also wrote to Mr. Bandt and his party leader Senator Bob Brown along the following lines:
Dear Mr. Bandt,
Congratulations on your election and the sentiments you expressed in your first address to the National Press Club on Wednesday 25th August. However I would like to raise a number of issues with you.
At least in the media, it is being portrayed that in order to deliver “stable government” you will provide a blank cheque to a Labor government based on your pre-election statement that if you found yourself in the position you are now in you would support Labor.
However, rather than merely deliver us another flawed but “stable” Labor government, you are now in a position to achieve straight away many of the policies that you and the Greens offered at the election, and which are NOT Labor policy. I urge you to focus on what you can achieve for your constituents, not what you can achieve for the Labor Party. From my perspective just some of the issues in which you could demand and achieve real and immediate change include:
· Start work immediately on restructuring the economy around renewable energy and the taxing of polluters out of existence. Again, current ALP policy is unacceptable as it translates into paying polluters to keep polluting.
· Abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. In contrast to Greens policy on this issue, Ms. Gillard’s policy to - in her words - “keep a tough cop on the beat” imposes an unjust policy exclusively on building workers and with no justification. Labor’s policy is not in accordance with Greens policy and surely not in line with how a democratic country which claims to believe in freedom should treat its workers. It would be a travesty if your actions to support a Labor government would in any way contribute to the continuation of this inequitable and draconian Labor policy.
As well as the above issues I trust you will uphold all YOUR policies, including those relating to same sex marriage, voluntary euthanasia and asylum seekers – and not those of the ALP – whose policies and 16 of their parliamentary seats were roundly rejected by voters on 21st August.
You have been handed a mandate for change, which goes far beyond merely delivering stable government. Indeed, it is "stable" government and its business as usual approach over many years which has entrenched many of the problems we now face as a nation. Instead your presence can serve as the stimulant which keeps parliament from slipping again into the stifling dominant paradigm we have tolerated for far too long.
Please don’t miss this once in seventy year opportunity for change.
"The growth lobbyists will tell us that we can solve our problems by converting to “clean coal” technologies or nuclear power, building more high rise, producing desalinated water at $10 litre (who knows?), installing “smart” electricity meters, piping water from the Northern Victoria to Melbourne, importing more food on more and bigger ships etc." Federal Candidate, Jenny Warfe writes, "I'm looking forward to a different way of 'moving forward.'"
Editor: Headings introduced by candobetter.org editor
Firstly, I believe we must honour in word and deed our international obligations to provide asylum (1) for those who seek it, especially in view of our present international military activities. What’s more, the few thousand refugees who gain Australian residency each year make no significant difference to our population growth, so are irrelevant to the following discussion.
Dick Smith’s recent ‘Population Puzzle’ (2) documentary has brought population impacts into the mainstream so now seems like a good time to discuss one of my policies:
Develop a population plan informed by best available relevant science. Migration program should focus on political and climate asylum and reunions. Remove reliance on skilled migration by re-skilling and training Australians.
As Dick Smith discovered to his amazement – there is no plan and neither major party seems capable of understanding the mathematical realities of growth.
Population growth in most developed countries is declining, but Australia’s growth rate has been rising fast. It’s currently 2% per annum - more than twice the world average and higher than most other developed or developing nation, eg: India’s 1.4% and UK’s 0.4%. At 2% per annum, Australia will almost double its population by 2050. Melbourne is set to double to 8 million in the next 50 years (3). Impacts of our growth rate are being felt in inadequate public transport services whilst tollways and freeways continue to expand; water restrictions; stresses on our coastline, oceans and waterways; loss of productive land to new suburbs; loss of marine and terrestrial biodiversity; destruction of our natural and built heritage for continuing urban expansion – and the accompanying carbon emissions and climate change. Surely the elephant in the room is the world’s inability to deal wisely with our own expansion?
Where's the logical end point to this?
I think every nation on Earth needs a plan based around some concept of carrying capacity. This might be a long way off, but a good start would be to restructure the UN as a real global government, extinguish domination by the USA and its allies, all countries to be represented equally and global defence and armaments expenditure to be significantly re-allocated to humanitarian and environmental restoration activities.
In 1994 Australia did look at its carrying capacity in the Parliamentary report: Australia's population "carrying capacity”: one nation - two ecologies (4). But – the idea has gone nowhere since - buried it seems under the rise to power of the growth lobby, including the Business and Property Council of Australia – the few faceless entities who benefit from more of everything, and ably assisted by media commentators such as Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman. The growth lobbyists will tell us that we can solve our problems by converting to “clean coal” technologies or nuclear power, building more high rise, producing desalinated water at $10 litre (who knows?), installing “smart” electricity meters, piping water from the Northern Victoria to Melbourne, importing more food on more and bigger ships etc.
Mr. Rudd was right. Responding to climate change is one of the greatest moral challenges of our time, but dealing with that challenge whilst we continue to expand will be all the harder. Until our political leadership has the guts to ignore the ramblings of Andrew Bolt et al we will be stuck in a reactive policy merry-go-round. As our natural heritage disappears it isn’t good enough to fall back on a “19th Century zoo mentality” and list yet another species as critically endangered (what’s the point if we pave over its habitat?) or propose a National Park to save a piece of our land or sea, when what we need to do for the safety of the planet and all who live on it is to reduce the impact we humans are having on the land and oceans.
It’s my view that since the industrial revolution humans have become the only species on Earth whose population numbers, at least in the “First World” are no longer prescribed by the environmental constraints that controlled us for thousands of years and other species for millions of years. Now, especially in the West we have become increasingly disconnected – both physically and psychologically – from the environment which sustains us, allowing us to consider the environment as a resource for our use and exploitation rather than our habitat. But the standards we have constructed in the West and our addiction to growth and its underpinning consumerism have come at huge cost to others on the planet. Poorer nations subsidise our wealth, providing consumer goods made with cheap labour in harsh conditions, and many such country’s lax regulations allow their environments to become degraded and their endemic species to be obliterated.
But, there is another way to organise ourselves. As even capitalism loving Dick Smith says, “capitalism can work wonderfully well without growth”.
We can get along very well in a steady state economy – indeed our quality of life, not just the quality of our possessions – might even increase. There’s quite a bit written about it, and it’s all pretty inspiring. See: http://steadystate.org/
I reckon if we don’t want to consider our population and growth impacts we aren’t being humane. Already, with 6.5 Billion people on the planet, over 1 billion can’t access clean water. With 9 billion people by 2050 how can we possibly address appalling realities like that? Sometime soon we are going to have to pay the ferryman.
I’m looking forward to a different way of “moving forward”.
(1) And on-shore processing centres
(3) The Age August 5th 2010 http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/make-plans-for-population-to-double-within-50-years-20100804-11fn5.html
(4) Australia. Parliament. House of Representatives. Standing Committee for Long Term Strategies
Along with Dr. Joe Toscano, environmental activist, Jenny Warfe, has decided to stand as a radical independent for the Federal senate in the forthcoming election. Jenny Warfe is well-known in Melbourne (along with her brother Len Warfe), especially along Port Phillip Bay, for a David and Goliath fight she led for years against the shockingly undemocratic and anti-environmentalist channel deepening in the Port. The group of friendly independents, has decided to give their preferences to The Greens. On the senate ballot paper Dr. Joe Toscano will be the lead candidate and Jenny will appear below him as the second of three radical independent candidates. Joining with Dr. Toscano and third candidate Andrew Sadauskas means that the group will be allocated a box ‘above the line’ on the senate ballot paper. Thus voters can Vote 1 above the line for them without having to number every one of the sixty or so boxes below the line.
Jenny says that she has thought about the use of the term ‘radical’ and has decided that she is comfortable with it since she sincerely believes that we do need radical thinking and radical change in order to respond effectively to the huge environmental, climate and population challenges in the 21st Century. She states that she is also happy to be a running partner with Dr. Joe Toscano whose work she greatly admires. Here is her election information page.
Dr Toscano is well known to candobetter.org through his cheerful anarchist media broadcasts. In these broadcasts he shows a strong understanding of the value of relocalisation, local democracy and public space.
Joe Toscano is a medical practitioner specialising in the care of people with spinal injuries. He often travels to see his patients by train and does not dress or act like a money-driven professional. He is loved and respected for his many years of community activism including civil liberties and Australia’s anti-terrorism legislation, Defend and Extend Medicare and the Friends of OUR ABC campaign. He is a source of information on Australian history and activism and is associated with Eureka Stockade commemorations in Ballarat.
Jenny's decision to stand for the senate was made because of years of frustration about the present parliamentary system and the apparent abandonment of any commitment from state and federal major party MPs to actually represent the majority of their community or to consult their constituents before making decisions on many contentious issues.
"In my area of experience - planning and environmental issues – many MPs have championed or at least condoned appalling destruction of our built and natural heritage. Sadly, it seems running rallies, public meetings, collecting thousands of signatures on petitions, requesting meetings with our elected representatives, letter writing campaigns, and even legal action in the Supreme and Federal Courts will not stop a government determined to wreck the environment and determined not to listen. What else can we do?"
She adds that she finds it disheartening that the marvellous efforts of so many good people in so many exhausting community campaigns have largely been ignored by the current decision makers. Instead, she says, "We have been lumbered with so many projects put up by developers/corporations who usually have no discernable commitment to our environment or way of life."
"Inappropriate, unnecessary and unwanted projects have been given unquestioning and fervent support from so many ill informed and/or compromised politicians. They have ignored what their constituents want in favour of what a handful of corporations or developers want."
After observing this repeating theme so often in recent years, Jenny has decided that
"Whatever the effort put in by so many well informed and dedicated people in the community, a perverted system of governance has allowed awful projects to just roll on and over the top of us."
In Jenny's view, the present parliamentary system has been irrevocably altered by the dismembering of what was largely a frank and fearless public service which had generally served us well for decades.
Knowledge and wisdom in many government departments has been jettisoned and instead we now have a shamble of “political advisers” on short term contracts directing decision making.
Added to the entrenched party machinery and the easy opportunities for influential and vested interest groups to purchase favour for whatever they want, our system of governance has changed dramatically.
Concerned citizens or communities are no longer of any interest to the current crop of decision makers. In 2007 Australians elected a new Federal government in large part because they wanted action on climate change. They are still waiting, and will be for some years to come it seems.
Conversely, Australians weren’t even asked their opinion on whether Mr. Rudd’s proposed super profits mining tax should be abandoned but it was, very swiftly, and just because a few billionaire miners made a fuss.
"In Victoria, the Wonthaggi De-Sal, NS pipeline, Peninsula Link freeway through heritage listed Westerfield property, changes to urban growth boundaries, multi storey developments throughout the suburbs, Port expansion, etc. etc. have all been forced on communities who don’t want them by people who don’t know or care. At best, what community input there is has become a formulaic box ticking exercise by government and developers’ consultants. Necessary for them to show that they have “consulted”, but useless for us."
Jenny observes, in her campaign letter, that,
"For the 3 or 4 years of his/her incumbency a politician has no obligation whatsoever to vote in parliament according to how she/he campaigned and was elected, or how the majority of their constituents might subsequently ask them to vote. Once an MP from either major party has been elected, the faceless lobbyists then swing into action to subvert the decisions that we voters have made. We then wait another 3 or 4 years to vote out the politician who has so bitterly disappointed us. And so it goes on."
In her opinion, at the very least, surely our elected representatives should be required to conduct statistically robust polls in their electorate to guide how they vote on any contentious issues before them in parliament. "With the resources MPs have at their disposal (all paid for by us) this should be a simple task," she explains.
She gives the example of Craig Ingram's electoral survey on a contentious question:
"Last year Independent Victorian MP Craig Ingram surveyed his electorate on the abortion reform debate. His electorate overwhelmingly supported reform so that’s the way he voted. Every other MP proceeded with a “conscience” vote without any obligation whatsoever to consult or inform their electorate. As it stands, for most of the time that is precisely what most of them do - ignore almost everyone that voted for them!
Achieving fundamental change to our system of governance is a huge task, and I don’t really expect to realise my dream for a better and fairer society on the 21st August 2010. But - I do believe that to achieve change we need to persist, perhaps for a long time and perhaps at first we won’t succeed. However, reform always comes from the minority position and change only happens when a concerned group of people ask for it. If a few brave people in history had not thought that way we would still be engaging in slavery and sending children up chimneys wouldn’t we? As Margaret Meade put it: “Never underestimate the power of a small group of dedicated people to change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
In standing for election, these radical independents hope to kick start community discussion on a new way to prepare for the very different future we face in the 21st Century. Jenny Warfe is sure many of people will agree that the dominant paradigm is not serving us well at present. For most of the time, debate is steered by the small coterie of influential industry and other corporate groups, ably assisted by a supine media.
"Under these conditions," she says, "Most politicians have become mostly irrelevant to most of us most of the time. But- at election time, there is at least a small window of opportunity to challenge the dominant paradigm, and help set a new course for spaceship Earth."
Each state has 12 senators in Canberra, see: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/senators/homepages/index.asp?sort=state. At present Victoria has Liberals 6, ALP 5 and Family First 1. That’s a pretty boring mix in my view, capable of maintaining the status quo and not much else.
Election 2010 will elect 6 senators from each state to replace the half whose term expires next year. For Victoria see: http://www.tallyroom.com.au/election-2010/vicsen2010
"Election 2010 is our chance to demonstrate that it’s time for a broader range of views from our 12 senators – and who knows, if political debate became more diverse more people might be encouraged to take an interest in the civic space".
Have a look at the attached policy issues which the three candidates have agreed upon. Although you may not agree with all their ideas, perhaps you aren’t happy with much of what the major parties have achieved in the past and are offering for our future either?
If so, take this opportunity to express your dissatisfaction with the status quo and give them your vote. It’s one of the few effective ways left to demonstrate what you really think about our current governance arrangements.
The three candidates will appear something like this, somewhere amongst 60 or so others on the (large white) Senate ballot paper:
If you don’t want to number every box on the large white senate ballot paper and are happy to just Vote 1 for change, just put 1 in the box above the line above the column with our names in it, as shown above.
Remember, if you do vote 1 above the line, your preferences will go to The Greens. If you particularly want to Vote 1 for Jenny, you will need to number ALL the sixty or so boxes below the line in the order you prefer.
So - if you are unhappy with the way things are, please consider using your senate vote to show that you think it’s time for some changes.
You may copy the radical independents' policy statement (see link below), and letterbox it or hand it out before or on Election Day.
You can also help by forwarding this article on to everyone you know in Victoria, and getting that policy statement onto any website you can, and talking about the three radical alternatives on Facebook and Twitter.
Your support may make a real difference to our future.