Browsing articles in "Rural australia"
Friday 4th September 2015 - 1:02 pm
Comments Off on Graziers call for a halt to giant coal project

Graziers call for a halt to giant coal project

by Alan Thornhill

Queensland graziers are calling for government intervention to block the proposed Alpha coal mine, despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing it to proceed.

And they have vowed that they will “stand firm” against the GVK Hancock project themselves, in the meantime.

A West Queensland grazier, Bruce Currie, one of three who challenged the proposed project in court, declared after the court announced its decision today that “justice had not been done.”

He said he – and other graziers – had been trying for years to reach agreement with Gina Rinehart – and her company – on the impact the proposed mine would have on their operations.

“We’ve been trying for almost three years to have an honest conversation about the billions of litres of water GVK Hancock wants to take from our country,” Mr Currie said.

“But, from the start, all they’ve given us is the run-around.”

“If this mine goes ahead, it risks draining away the groundwater that our lives and businesses depend on.

“This is our lifeblood.

“We cannot sit back and allow permanent damage to groundwater supplies and the Great Artesian Basin.”

“The agricultural industry in central west Queensland absolutely depends on groundwater.

“And the proposed Alpha coal mine is stated to remove up to 176 billion litres of water over its lifetime, depleting the groundwater table and impacting family-run, sustainable farming businesses.

“We’ve had a gutful of governments and big coal fast-tracking these massive mines without proper process, and trampling on us and farming families along the way,” Mr Currie said.

” This our life.

” We are producing high quality food off this land we love.

“We are grateful that we have a legal system in Australia that protects the country we hold dear, but today I feel like we’ve been failed.”

“It’s down to the government now to stop this mine.

“If they’re interested in the future of this country, they should protect a viable farming sector, not unviable foreign miners,” Mr Currie said.

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Wednesday 12th August 2015 - 10:35 am
Comments Off on A decisive day in politics

A decisive day in politics

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

So where does Australia stand now, on hot button issues like climate change and same sex marriage?

After just one day of debate, in the Federal parliament, the nation is looking for the “confused queue” on both issues.

Although most government MPs now recognise the threats posed by global warming, Federal cabinet decided early yesterday to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions by just 26 to 28 per cent – from 2005 levels – by 2030.

This was – quite literally – the least Australia could do – ahead of an international meeting on climate issues in Paris late this year.

And, after a five hour party meeting later in the day, Tony Abbott effectively killed off a plan to give government MPs a free vote on same sex marriage.

All thoughts of introducing a bill to legalise marriage equality, died too at that time.

The government’s own Climate Change Authority had advised the government that emissions must be cut by 40 – 60 per cent – from 2000 levels.

One critic asked the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in Parliament yesterday, why his response should not be regarded as weak, risky and dangerous.

Mr Abbott declared, in reply, that substantial cuts in emissions would involve substantial expense, that could run into billions of dollars a year.

And he said he was not prepared to risk the economy in that way.

Mr Abbott’s grip on the nation’s top job appeared to be threatened at one point yesterday.

That was when Liberal front-bencher, Christopher Pyne, warned that Mr Abbott could be accused of “branch-stacking.”

Mr Pyne did that because he was angered at Mr Abbott’s insistence that conservative National Party MPs should be in the room – along with Liberals – when the governing parties decided wether there should be a free vote on same-sex marriage.

That move was lost – and with it all thought of legalising marriage equality in the near future.

The Greens condemned this outcome.

“What a disgraceful lack of leadership from the Prime Minister, who has shown yet again that he is out of touch with the community,” Senator Janet Rice, who speaks for the Greens on marriage and related issues, said.

“Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world on marriage.

“Australians want us to catch up, but Tony Abbott is determined to hold us back, Senator Rice said.

The vote on climate change led one critic to say that the only science that interests the Prime Minister is political science.

Mark Butler, the Shadow Minister for the Environment, was equally sceptical.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, he said: “today confirms that the Prime Minister wants Australia to follow.

“He does not want Australia to lead.

“He does not want Australia even to stay in touch with the rest of the world on the issue of climate change and the enormous opportunities that are presented in investment, jobs and households’ control over their energy by the renewables revolution.

“Labor wants to keep faith with future generations on climate change.

“We want to embrace the jobs and the investment opportunities that are available in a clean energy future.”

Tuesday 11th August 2015 - 4:22 pm
Comments Off on PM defends “weak” emissions target

PM defends “weak” emissions target

by Alan Thornhill

If there is to be a significant reduction in emissions there will also a significant cost, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told Federal parliament today.

He was speaking at question time after his government had been sharply criticised over its plan to reduce emissions by 26 per cent from the 2005 levels by 2030.

Its own Climate Council had recommended 40-60 per cent cuts from the 2000 levels.

Mr Abbott was asked to explain, at one point, why his government’s controversial decision is not “weak and dangerous.”

He said the cost, at some levels, could be in the order of $3 to $4 billion a year.

Mr Abbott said that would be “a massive hit” on the economy.

Critics attacked the government’s new policy early today, even before it had been announced.

The Greens described it as “weak.”

However its decision has won support, too particularly from business which has described it as “practical.”

The government is expected to announce its decision later today.

However in a statement early today, the Climate Council said the government’s decision is “out of step with the rest of the world.”

The Council also said it would disappoint other nations attending a climate summit that is to be held in Paris in November.

The statement quoted Professor Tim Flannery, who said:” these targets are vastly inadequate to protect Australians from the impacts of climate change and do not represent a fair contribution to the world effort to bring climate change under control.”

Labor, too, has criticised the government’s decision.

In a statement early today, the Climate Council said the government’s decision is “out of step with the rest of the world.”

The Council also said it would disappoint other nations attending a climate summit that is to be held in Paris in November.

The statement quoted Professor Tim Flannery who said:”these targets are vastly inadequate to protect Australians from the impacts of climate change and do not represent a fair contribution to the world effort to bring climate change under control.”

Labor, too, has criticised the government’s decision.

Friday 31st July 2015 - 2:35 pm
Comments Off on Where “affordable” houses can still be found

Where “affordable” houses can still be found

by Alan Thornhill

Still dreaming of moving out to the country?

This might be the time to act.

New research, that the Housing Industry Association published today, confirms that homes in most capitals have become less affordable, in recent months.

That is particularly so in Sydney and Melbourne.

But it also shows that the opposite is true in the country.

In fact the situation is so diverse, across Australia, that Dr Harley Dale, the Association’s Chief Economist, says these variations simply “… expose the folly” of sweeping talk of “an Australian housing boom.”

So what, really, is going on?

The rate cut, in May, certainly raised hopes that buying a home would become more affordable.

But two other factors hit those hopes in the June quarter of this year.

Home prices rose sharply, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

And wages, mostly, were flat.

So what was the net effect?

That depends on where you are thinking of buying your new home.

Dr Dale said that most capital city buyers will find that the benefit of that rate cut was outweighed by that combination of rising prices and flat wages.

That was particularly so, for those buying in Sydney or Melbourne.

Dr Dale said he based his assessment of the price impact on affordability on research by CoreLogic RP data.

What does that show?

He said housing affordability in capital city marketshad deteriorated by 3.6 per cent, during the June quarter.

That had been driven by developments in Sydney and Melbourne.

“This was in stark contrast to a 2.7 per cent improvement for regional Australia,” Dr Dale said.

That meant talk of a national housing boom made no sense.

“That is simply not what is occurring,” Dr Dale said.

“In many parts of Australia the extremely low interest rate environment is delivering historically favourable affordability conditions.”

“It is against this backdrop that authorities have escalated their requirements for the rationing of credit to residential investors.

The risk is that this will obstruct new housing supply, aggravating affordability conditions in markets around Australia,” Dr Dale added.

Thursday 30th July 2015 - 1:08 pm
Comments Off on Fresh trade set-backs exposed

Fresh trade set-backs exposed

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s trade suffered fresh set-backs in the June quarter, with key export prices falling and import prices rising.

The Bureau of Statistics reported today that our export prices fell by 4.4 per cent in the quarter and 8.9 per cent over the 12 months to the end of June.

Our import prices rose by 1.4 per cent in the quarter and 1.3 per cent over the year.

The Bureau also reported today that home building approvals fell by 8.2 per cent in June, following a 2.3 per cent rise in May.

Industry research, published yesterday, suggested that home building starts have now peaked, at record levels, while the industry still has strong prospects ahead.

The Bureau noted that the price Australia receives for exports of inedible crude materials – except fuels – fell by 7 per cent in the June quarter, to a level 21.2 per cent below those being received 12 months earlier.

The prices Australian farmers receive for the food and live animals they export eased by 0.8 per cent in the June quarter, but rose by 6.1 per cent over the year.

The prices we receive for the mineral fuels and related materials we export fell 7.9 per cent in the June quarter and by 12.1 per cent over the year.

Friday 24th July 2015 - 1:43 pm
Comments Off on Shorten campaigns on climate change

Shorten campaigns on climate change

by Alan Thornhill

Bill Shorten was applauded by Labor delegates in Melbourne today when he outlined his plans to tackle climate change.

But – opening the party’s annual conference – the Opposition Leader said nothing about his plan to change the party’s policy on turning back asylum seeker boats.

Instead he attacked the government’s response to climate change.

” Mr Abbott’s society of flat-earthers talk a lot of nonsense about Labor policies – but they’re right about one thing,” Mr Shorten said.

“There is, absolutely, a clear-cut choice between Labor and the Liberals on renewable energy.

“This Coalition government has done everything in their power to try and destroy Australia’s share in one of the world’s fastest growing industries.”

The Opposition Leader said:” Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have fallen in this century.

“2014 was the warmest year in recorded history.

“The evidence is in, the science is settled.

“Climate change is not ‘absolute crap’, it is an inescapable fact.

“And if we take a do-nothing approach, there will be more extreme weather.

More severe storms, more aggressive fires, more dangerous floods, longer and more damaging droughts.

“Our farmers will face greater hardship.

“Our coastal homes will be invaded by rising seas.

“The infrastructure cost will be hundreds of billions of dollars.

‘”We can rebuild flooded cities once every century.

“We can rebuild fire-ravaged bushland every half-century.

“But we cannot do it every decade,” Mr Shorten said.

” The Abbott-Hockey attacks on renewables are grotesque – and the consequences have been devastating.

“Last year, around the world, investment in renewables rose by 16 per cent.

“In China alone, up by 33 per cent.

“In Australia, down by 88 per cent. ”

Mr Shorten said:”Only a Labor Government can save the renewable energy industry now.

Only Labor can restore the confidence and certainty this government has smashed.

“This is why, in our platform we must set an ambitious new goal for renewable energy.

“By 2030, our aim is for renewable energy to generate 50 per cent of Australia’s electricity. ”

Tuesday 14th July 2015 - 12:33 pm
Comments Off on PM neglecting cattle trade:Labor

PM neglecting cattle trade:Labor

by Alan Thornhill

New problems in Australia’s live cattle trade with Indonesia have left the Federal government floundering, according to Labor.

The problems began when Indonesian authorities told Australian cattle producers that Indonesia will accept only 50,000 cattle between July and September, compared with 250,000 the previous quarter.

The Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon, described this as a massive reduction in the number of cattle being exported to Indonesia and said the new cap will have a huge impact on Australian cattle producers.

And he said:”Cattle farmers are suffering while Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce are bickering.”

Mr Fitzgibbon said Mr Joyce’s silence on the subject had been deafening.

“The Agriculture Minister has not been seen nor heard since Greg Hunt whispered his Shenhua mine approval under the cover of the release of the discredited agriculture white paper,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Mr Joyce is campaigning against construction of the proposed, Chinese-owned Shenhua Watermarket coal mine in his electorate, even though it has won approval from the Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt.

So far, neither Mr Abbott nor Mr Hunt has commented on Mr Fitzgibbon’s claim.

“It’s time for Barnaby Joyce to stop sulking and stand up for cattle producers,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Wednesday 8th July 2015 - 8:10 am
Comments Off on Jay’s new tune in Canberra

Jay’s new tune in Canberra

by Alan Thornhill

Jay Weatherill is coming to Canberra today as a man with a plan.

And the South Australian Premier was prepared to speak about it, in a statement early today.

Revealing a few highlights, from the speech he will deliver at the National Press Club at noon, Mr Weatherill said:” …people across Australia want good public hospitals and schools, they want good roads and housing.

“… they care less about which level of Government is delivering it.

” Reform of our Federation is about ensuring the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States is best placed to help us build a new economy for this nation.

“…one that is open and high growth.

“It is about how we can assure the best quality of services in our community and develop a highly skilled workforce.

“It is about having a taxation system that doesn’t punish those who want to grow and invest,but also paying for high-quality services that are delivered fairly across the country.

“Today I will be focusing on the areas of health, education, infrastructure and housing, providing practical examples of how these outcomes can be advanced.”

“The Commonwealth has torn up $80 billion in health and education agreements with the States.

“Our proposals will help to fund this gap.

“But we also need to find new measures to create revenue.”

Mr Weatherill will say South Australia is willing to work constructively with the other States and the Federal Government to deliver on the vision of these reforms.

“I will always fight for South Australia’s best interests, but I believe the public has grown tired of the endless blame game between levels of government,” he said.

“That is why I am bringing constructive ideas to the table, and I will be advancing these ideas at the COAG Leaders’ Retreat later this month.”

Position papers on the four key areas will be released after the speech.

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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