May 12th 2012


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Articles from this issue:

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: ASIO investigates "government-backed" anti-coal campaign

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Julia Gillard's fatally flawed judgement

DEFENCE OF MARRIAGE: More than 500 attend Perth rally to preserve marriage

EDITORIAL: French election may decide future of the EU

AS THE WORLD TURNS

CONSERVATION: Liberals blueprint to speed up environmental approvals

BANKS: Microfinance: money for the people that banks ignore

SOCIETY: Impact of internet abuse on the young

POLITICAL IDEAS: How individualism can beget totalitarianism

PHILOSOPHY: Abortion and personhood in one easy lesson

OPINION: The demise of Aboriginal self-determination

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CINEMA: A pleasant but forgettable taste

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NATIONAL AFFAIRS:
ASIO investigates "government-backed" anti-coal campaign


by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, May 12, 2012

How ironic that federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has ASIO investigating anti-coal mining campaign groups funded by federal and state governments, and which enjoy federal tax-deductibility status!

Two environmental groups behind the campaign to halt expansion of Victoria’s brown-coal deposits have received over $775,000 in federal and Victorian state government grants over the past two years. It’s part of a much wider campaign to contain, then shut down, Australia’s coal-mining industry.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) runs the Quit Coal campaign, which recently saw three of its members chain themselves together inside the offices of Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu.[1]

FoE has received:

• $81,382 from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and the Environment in 2010-11,[2] presumably in the time of the former Labor Brumby government; and

• $5,000 from the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities in April this year.[3]

Prominent among the climate-change extremists are FoE/Quit Coal.

They oppose any expansion of Victoria’s brown-coal industry, which generates 92 per cent of the state’s electricity supply. In the process, they aim to halt the building of new coal-fired power stations and the expansion of Victoria’s brown-coal export market.

Their solution is to generate all power from as yet unproven, high-cost renewable energy.

Victoria’s brown-coal deposits are among the largest in the world.

The Quit Coal campaign began in 2009 with the “Switch off Hazelwood, Switch on Renewables” campaign, which aimed at shutting down the Hazelwood Power Station in the Latrobe Valley.

According to Quit Coal, the campaign was supported by Greenpeace Australia, Environment Victoria, the Greens and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

In November 2011, Quit Coal decided to officially become a part of Friends of the Earth Melbourne and now operates as an FoE collective.

In 2011, Quit Coal was one of several groups that started a campaign against the company HRL, which plans to build a 600MW coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley.

Part of the campaign consisted of legal action to block the HRL project by taking a case before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The lawsuit was initiated by Environment Victoria Inc., Doctors for the Environment Australia Inc., Locals Into Victoria’s Environment (LIVE) Inc., and a Martin Shield from the Moreland Climate Action group.[4]

VCAT ruled in favour of the HRL power station project on March 29.

Three days later, Quit Coal occupied Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu’s office, where protester Dominic O’Dwyer said that “we are a peaceful group, but we are willing to break the law because it’s so important to ensure that we get action on climate change.”[5]

Shortly afterwards, the anti-coal alliance launched an appeal against the VCAT decision.

Environment Victoria has been another major player in the campaign to shut down Victoria’s brown-coal industry and coal-fired power stations.

It has received government funding worth $690,420 in two years, including:

• $194,000 from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and the Environment in 2010-11;[6]

• $177,000 from the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities since April 2011;[7] and

• $319,420 from the federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency in 2010-11.[8]

Environment Victoria also runs Coal Watch, a sophisticated web campaign that tracks Victoria’s coal-mining and power industry.

It says that its first two priorities are first to shut down Hazelwood Power Station — which supplies 25 per cent of Victoria’s base-load electricity and more than 5 per cent of Australia’s total energy demand — and second to stop the building of the planned HRL coal-fired power station, which would be needed to replace Hazelwood.

Coal Watch is hosted by the US-based Source Watch, which also hosts CoalSwarm.

The Coal Watch/CoalSwarm wiki (that is, a website whose users can add, amend or delete its content) describes itself as a “movement-building tool” allowing users in any country to share information, thereby providing a common resource for the worldwide citizens’ movement to replace coal with renewable energy”.

It says: “Containing over 5,300 articles on coal-related topics, this information clearing-house provides a constantly expanding body of information that anyone can utilise and contribute to. Each week, the wiki receives 60,000 page views, serving activists, journalists, workers, policy-makers, students and others.”[9]

Environment Victoria says that its “Coal Watch wiki tracks current and future Victorian coal projects, whether they are power stations, coal mines, proposals to export coal or some other inventive way of burning more coal”.

Environment Victoria also has a summary page tracking the Victorian coal and power industry and the environment campaigns being waged against these industries.[10]

FoE also runs “Rural and Urban Alliance”, a coalition of 40 organisations aimed at stopping any expansion of Victoria’s coal industry.[11]

The anti-coal campaign in Victoria is allied with a major national campaign being run by a network of radical environmental organisations aiming to halt the expansion of the Australian coal industry, and eventually to shut it down, as has been reported in News Weekly.[12]

Incredibly, many of these organisations receive substantial government funding and are among the 583 environmental groups listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations which enjoy federal tax-deductibility status.[13]

Regarding the Victorian anti-coal campaign, not only have FoE and Environment Victoria received substantial government funding, but they and Doctors for the Environment Australia, Inc., enjoy tax deductibility. These three groups have led the legal challenge to the proposed new HRL power station.

Other groups that initiated the Victorian anti-coal campaign — Greenpeace Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation — also enjoy tax-deductibility status.

Further, of the FoE’s Rural and Urban Alliance of 40 organisations,[14] nine of them have federal tax-deductibility status, including the Alternative Technology Association, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Beyond Zero Emissions, Climate Action Network Australia, Environment Victoria, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace Australia, Mount Alexander Sustainability Group, Inc., and the Wilderness Society.[15]

Four other individuals who have signed up to the Rural and Urban Alliance are Victorian federal Greens MP Adam Bandt, Victorian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, and Victorian Greens upper house members Colleen Hartland and Greg Barber.

Their support for the campaign is consistent with the statements of former Greens leader Dr Bob Brown, who has said on numerous occasions that the Greens policy is to close down the Australian coal industry.

Last year he told ABC television’s Sunday morning Insiders program that the aim of the Gillard government’s carbon tax should be to shut down the local industry. “That [mine closure] has to be the outcome. You know the coal industry has to be replaced by renewables,” Dr Brown said.[16]

Regarding the national anti-coal campaign, News Weekly (March 31 and April 14) has documented many other organisations with tax-deductibility status and government funding.

New information at hand shows that among the groups involved are:

• the Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland, has tax deductibility and has received $419,321 in grants from the federal Attorney General’s Department since 2009;[17] and

• the Nature Conservation Council of NSW is listed as having received $127,000 worth of grants from the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities since July last year,[18] and $211,000 from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency this year[19] (a total of $338,000).

It is astounding that the Commonwealth Government, on discovering how much damage these campaigns could inflict on the Australian economy, has involved ASIO to keep track of at least part of this campaign.

Yet all these campaigns have their origins in radical environmental and climate extremist groups which for years enjoyed the backing of the ALP’s partners in government, the Greens.

Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council.



Endnotes and references:

[1] Ashley Gardiner, “Anti-coal activists chained to Premier Ted Baillieu’s office end their protest after a meeting with the Premier’s staff”, Herald Sun (Melbourne), April 3, 2012.
URL: www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/anti-coal-protesters-chained-to-premier-ted-ballieus-office/story-fn7x8me2-1226317443913

[2] Victorian Government’s Department of Sustainability and the Environment: Annual Report 2011, p.187.

[3] List of grants from the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, April 2012.
URL: www.environment.gov.au/about/grants/index.html

[4] About Quit Coal.
URL: http://quitcoal.org.au/about/

[5] Ashley Gardiner, op. cit.

[6] Victorian Government’s Department of Sustainability and the Environment: Annual Report 2011, p.181.

[7] List of grants from the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, July 2011, April 2012.
URL: www.environment.gov.au/about/grants/index.html

[8] Lists of grants administered by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
URL: www.climatechange.gov.au/about/grants.aspx

[9] CoalSwarm (San Francisco), the global reference on coal.
URL: http://coalswarm.org/

[10] Environment Victoria: Coal projects on the agenda. “The Coal Watch wiki tracks current and future Victorian coal projects, whether they are power stations, coal mines, proposals to export coal or some other inventive way of burning more coal”.
URL: http://environmentvictoria.org.au/content/coal-projects-agenda

[11] Friends of the Earth Melbourne media release: “Rural and Urban Alliance calls on [Victorian] state government to ban new fossil fuel projects”, April 12, 2012.
URL: www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1124

[12] Patrick J. Byrne, “Radical green strategy to sabotage Australian coal-mines, railways and ports”, News Weekly, March 31, 2012.
URL: www.newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=5122&s=XYfBZd

Patrick J. Byrne, “Anti-coal campaign gets underway in Queensland”, News Weekly, April 14, 2012.
URL: www.newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=5140&s=WdBfVL

[13] Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities: Register of Environmental Organisations — last updated August 17, 2011, under item 6.1.1 subsection 30-55(1) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (the Act).
URL: www.environment.gov.au/about/tax/reo/index.html

[14] Friends of the Earth Melbourne media release: “Rural and Urban Alliance calls on [Victorian] state government to ban new fossil fuel projects”, April 12, 2012.
URL: www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1124

[15] Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities: Register of Environmental Organisations — last updated August 17, 2011, under item 6.1.1 subsection 30-55(1) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (the Act).
URL: www.environment.gov.au/about/tax/reo/index.html

[16]  “Coal industry has to be replaced eventually: Brown”, Insiders, ABC television, June 26, 2011.
URL: www.abc.net.au/insiders/content/2011/s3253713.htm

[17] Grants Register for the Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Government, Canberra.
URL: www.ag.gov.au/Aboutthedepartment/Grants/Pages/default.aspx

[18] List of grants from the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
URL: www.environment.gov.au/about/grants/index.html

[19] Nature Conservation Council of NSW receipt of $211,000, approved January 27, 2012, under the Climate Change Grant Program. .Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
URL: www.climatechange.gov.au/en/about/grants/2012-03.aspx




























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