Tag Archives: labor party

Vote Climate website and scorecard released

The Vote Climate website is now live. Click on the link to inform your vote. There is a lot of spin coming from the major parties and the Labor Party in particular on climate change, but when their policies are held up to real scrutiny they don’t stack up. The climate crisis is the most pressing and important issue we face, and basing your vote and preferences on the strength of climate policy coming from the parties and candidates is a great way to help push for strong and urgent action.
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YCAN has also released our summary scorecard for the seat of Richmond:

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As you can see there is a clear difference between the two big parties and the more progressive candidates. We will be distributing these scorecards in the electorate. If you can help please click here.
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For further information Climate Action Moreland has written an excellent and detailed analysis of the Labor Party’s record on coal here in Victoria.

Brumby’s Quarry Vision

Originally published in Arena Magazine.
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John Brumby stands looking upwards into the distance, squinting and baring his nice straight teeth. Behind him is a giant octagonal configuration of mirrors reflecting the sun’s rays against a backdrop of perfect blue sky. They call this greenie porn: pictures of big shiny solutions for the energy dilemmas of our time, like this one taken at a large-scale solar power plant.
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Cashing in on the appeal in this advertisement in an inner-Melbourne local paper we read: ‘John Brumby and Labor – Leading Australia on Climate Change’. There are some dot points about making Victoria the ‘Solar State’, about spending $650 million on climate change and renewable energy programs; $10 billion on unspecified new investment and jobs; a target for emissions cuts of 20 per cent by 2020 on 2000 levels; and a staged closure of Hazelwood power station. Interesting for a state government that has overseen steady increases in greenhouse gas emissions over the eleven years it has held power.
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There is no questioning the motivation here. Following the 2010 federal election (in which Julia Gillard’s strategy on climate policy was to duck and deflect), the large swing to the Greens across the country, and especially in Victoria, resulted in that party gaining the balance of power in the Senate and claiming the lower house seat of Melbourne. Facing an election of his own on 27 November, with four seats at risk of being lost to the Greens, Brumby has made no secret that he has a different strategy in mind. On 26 July, as Abbott and Gillard’s campaigns were already in full swing, he released his Climate Change White Paper.
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This long-awaited statement of Victoria’s climate policy agenda looked fresh: first, because it was in radical contrast with the federal climate change policy vacuum; second, because it actually did reflect a new approach from the Brumby government. Previous drafts focussing almost exclusively on ‘adaptation’ had had to be pulped as carbon prices went on and off the national agenda, and Brumby finally decided emissions reductions could not be left to higher forces.
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Unfortunately, Brumby’s apparent climate policy stance has very little to do with the substance of his policies. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence of politics-as-usual, which continues to fall distressingly short of the task of altering our progress along a path to ecological disaster. It boils down to the question of how we might assess leadership on climate change. If it were a question of relativity we might have reason to congratulate the Brumby government for taking some steps forward. The problem is that they are baby steps, and can be explained more easily by a fear of losing votes to the Greens rather than any real comprehension of climate change science.
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The capacity of politics-as-usual to live up to the task of avoiding dangerous climate change has been questioned before and found wanting. In their 2008 assessment of the dramatic, widening gap between the response that climate science demands and the response actually given, David Spratt and Philip Sutton in Climate Code Red pointed to the short-term, adversarial and incremental mode of politics conventional in Western nations like ours. This mode is ‘steeped in a culture of compromise that is fearful of deep, quick change—which suggests it is incapable of managing the transition [to a safe-climate economy] at the necessary speed’. Nothing has changed, except that is, the amount of evidence in support of this statement.
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Nowhere is this more evident than in the Australian approach to coal, with politics-as-usual meaning a refusal to deviate from the ‘quarry vision’ so aptly described by Guy Pearse in his 2009 Quarterly Essay, Quarry Vision: Coal, Climate Change and the End of the Resources Boom. This is an ingrained mentality—shared by the vast majority of politicians, the business sector and many citizens: that Australia is a nation dependent both for domestic electricity and export income on digging up, shipping out and burning coal.
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While the imperative to break with this mentality could not be stronger, for reasons ranging from the moral to the pragmatic, there is no indication that this is occurring where it matters most. Witness QR National proudly boasting their coal freight activities and asking that Australians invest in the idea that this will continue indefinitely. Witness federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson feigning ignorance when presented with the prospect of the need to draw up transition plans for coal workers. Meanwhile ABARE proudly reports that Australian coal exports reached record levels in the December quarter 2009 and projects that exports will rise by 88 per cent between 2004/2005 and 2029/2030.
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But what of Premier Brumby and his latest advertisements? Should we be grateful that he did not pose next to a big pile of coal and some smokestacks? Unfortunately there is nothing to suggest that Brumby’s own quarry vision is wavering, beyond his apparent recognition that it may not be the best thing to emphasise in an election context.
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A key element of Brumby’s climate policy platform is a commitment to shutting down a quarter of production at Hazelwood—Australia’s most polluting coal-fired power station—over the next four years. Considering it was due to close in 2009 but had its life extended in 2005 by then Labor Premier Steve Bracks for an extra few decades, this is hardly a position worth celebrating. It should have gone completely off-line by now. With Victoria’s potential for baseload solar thermal power it is possible to replace all of Hazelwood’s generating capacity with renewable energy within the same four year timeframe. However as it stands under Brumby’s plan, a quarter of Hazelwood’s current output will probably be replaced with coal power from another source.
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Even worse than this, and certainly not a lead item on Brumby’s climate policy agenda, is the proposal currently waiting for approval from EPA Victoria to build a brand new 600 megawatt coal-fired power station near Morwell in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. The HRL Dual Gas proposal has the support of both the Brumby Government who have committed $50 million and the Commonwealth Government ($100 million). They claim that the use of synthetic gas (from the drying and gasification of brown coal) and natural gas at the new plant will ensure the emissions intensity is lower than any other coal plants operating in Victoria. Again, this is nothing to get excited about. While the HRL Dual Gas plant would indeed help to bring Victoria into line with other coal plants in Australia by producing emissions slightly below the level of a typical black coal power station, the emissions intensity of the plant would still be almost double the OECD average. One wonders why the Brumby Government would make their own target to reduce 20% of emissions by 2020 that much harder by committing to new coal power development that will increase emissions and lock in reliance on coal for years to come.
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Further evidence that the Brumby Government has expansion rather than curtailment in mind for Victoria’s coal industry emerged in September 2009. At that time Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor was reported to be championing a proposal by Australian-based company Exergen, to mine, dry and export 12 million tonnes of brown coal annually to India.  Confidential cabinet documents obtained the next month by The Age showed that this was only the tip of the iceberg with the Brumby Government considering a competitive tender process to sell off billions of tonnes of Latrobe Valley brown coal reserves to companies looking to open up new coal export markets overseas. Premier Brumby himself said that given Australia exports oil, gas, black coal and uranium, he saw no reason why Victoria should not export brown coal. Yet, by December 2009 the export deals had been shelved, seemingly because the run in the media and backlash from environment groups had ignited fears of broader voter disapproval. However this has not been ruled out, and one should ask whether the plan to expand coal exports might emerge again after a Labor election victory.
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Premier Brumby may not be all he is cracking himself up to be on climate change, but how much does it matter to Victorian voters? The gamble is that green message will beat the substance, which is probably a safe bet in this age of marketing supremacy. The strategy is clever enough to sway people without the time or inclination to consider the details.
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Brumby’s approach is likely to mean that NGOs, community groups and individuals concerned about climate change will have to work harder than they did during the recent federal election campaign where it was easy to show that Gillard had nothing to offer on climate issues. The task is to build public understanding so that Brumby and others in positions of power can be judged on just how far their policies are really intended to secure a safe climate future.
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Taegen Edwards is a member of Yarra Climate Action Now, an independent community group based in the inner Melbourne suburbs of the City of Yarra. She works as a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Victorian State Election – climate change candidates forum report

A candidates forum on climate change was held on 22 October in Clifton Hill. It featured the four key candidates for the seat of Richmond in the upcoming state election. Richard Wynne (Labor), Kathleen Matzahn (Green), Steve Jolly (independent/Socialist) and Tom McFeely (Liberal).
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Before we start a summary of what each candidate said, it is important to point out that the true test of climate policy is in whether it addresses what the climate science says is necessary to avoid runaway climate change. This gives a context by which to judge whether a policy is good or not. At this forum only the Greens and Socialist candidates addressed the climate science and showed an understanding of the urgency of the crisis.
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Kathleen Maltzahn (Greens), Tom McFeely (Liberal), Richard Wynne (Labor) and Steve Jolly (Socialist)

Richard Wynne – Labor
Richard began by outlining the importance of tackling the climate crisis, and his commitment to this task. He then described current Labor policy. This policy includes a legislated cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 20% by 2020 on 2000 levels (already passed through parliament), a commitment to phase out 25% of Hazelwood within the next term of government and a 5% solar energy target by 2020 on top of the federal 20% by 2020 renewable energy target.
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While to a lay-person these policies may give the impression that the Labor Party is finally taking the climate crisis seriously, as mentioned above, these policies are nowhere near sufficient to avoid catastrophic climate change – and if the whole world, or if all developed countries copied Labor’s policies, then we would still be facing runaway climate change with all its horrific impacts.
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There was also very little detail as to how the 20% emissions reductions would be achieved, with what appeared to be a heavy reliance on federal government action.
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What Richard Wynne also failed to mention, is that the Brumby Government has committed $50 million of our money towards a new coal/gas-fired power station – the HRL Dual-gas proposal. According to a staffer from the Energy Minister’s office, it is this new fossil fuel power station that will replace 25% of Hazelwood, thereby cancelling out the emissions saved.
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Kathleen Maltzahn – Greens
Kathleen began by acknowledging the urgency of the climate crisis and the fact that we only have two electoral cycles to make significant reductions in our emissions. The Greens’ policies include a 40% emissions reduction by 2020 on 1990 levels, a phase out of all coal-fired electricity generation, including replacing all of Hazelwood by 2014 with renewable energy and a significant improvement in public transport.
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Kathleen acknowledged that these emissions reductions were the very minimum that climate scientists were saying are necessary to give us a chance in avoiding runaway climate change. While this acknowledgment is good, we would like to see the Greens strengthen these policies so as to improve the odds of a safe climate future. There also needs to be far more detail in Greens policies related to how the emissions reductions will be achieved, by which date coal-fired energy will be replaced and what it will be replaced with.
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Steve Jolly – independent (Socialist Party)
Steve started off by discussing the latest climate science, which shows that there is already too much carbon in the atmosphere to avoid runaway climate change, and so we need to go from around 390 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere today, to around 300-325ppm as a matter of urgency (280ppm being pre-industrial levels). This means getting to zero emissions and taking carbon out of the atmosphere.
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In line with this his policy is for zero emissions by 2020. In the area of electricity generation, he seemed to be using the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan as a basis for how to get to 100% renewable electricity – this plan advocates a roll out of wind and baseload solar thermal, which has been shown to be capable of replacing fossil fuels. He proposed a nationalisation of electricity infrastructure and public transport in order to achieve this transition. Unfortunately there were no further details provided on how zero emissions could be achieved outside the electricity sector.
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Tom McFeely (Liberal)

Tom had only very recently been pre-selected to run for the Liberal Party, and although his lack of knowledge of Liberal Party climate policy can be forgiven, what cannot be forgiven is his obvious ignorance of the climate crisis. Tom did not add any value to the forum and was overheard by a YCAN member asking a Liberal Party volunteer what Hazelwood was. It is an insult to the voters of Richmond for the Liberal Party to put forward a candidate that knows so little about the most profound crisis currently facing humanity. We hope he makes an effort to get up to speed on it. We would gladly offer to brief him in order to improve his understanding.

YCAN’s 40th Rebranding Birthday Party!

Wednesday 3 November, 5.30-6.30pm, 112 Smith St, Collingwood.
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For the last nine months, rain, hail or shine, committed members of Yarra Climate Action Now have been “rebranding” (i.e. protesting) Richmond Labor MP Richard Wynne EVERY SINGLE WEEK!
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We would like to invite you to celebrate the 40th rebranding in a row!
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There will be live music, a big birthday cake and fun for the whole family!
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This truly epic action has been calling on the State Government to put the interests of Victorians before those of the coal industry, and they are feeling the pressure. However, with a new coal-fired power station on the cards there is still work to be done.
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To RSVP contact us.

Vote Climate

Many of us are doing what we can in our homes to cut carbon pollution and save water, and now the government must do its part.

Bush fires, floods, sea-level rises and drought — climate change is already harming us all and will get rapidly worse, unless we take urgent action.

Denial and delay are dangerous and inexcusable.

On Saturday August 21, we urge you to send a message that you want immediate and strong action on climate change.

To make your vote count for a safe climate get informed on the different policies of the parties, and pass this information on to family and friends. Below is a scorecard put together by a coalition of independent community groups, the full analysis is here (click on the scorecard to see it more clearly).

You can also check out a more comprehensive analysis looking at more issues and parties here, or the Australian Youth Climate Coalition scorecard here.

Gillard Government already disappoints on climate

Unfortunately, the Gillard Prime Ministership has gotten off to a very bad start.

Within 24 hours of her swearing in, the Federal Government was signing a deal to export brown coal – the world’s dirtiest, most greenhouse gas intensive fuel – to Vietnam.

The greenwash was coming in thick and fast from the Trade Minister Simon Crean, who said the technology used in this export deal would clean up the brown coal – when in fact it will make it as polluting as black coal – still a disaster in terms of emissions produced.

So far, Victoria has avoided the coal export curse, with all its associated health and environment impacts, which affects NSW and QLD. This deal is a step in the wrong direction. Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and this makes us one of the biggest pushers of the fossil fuel drug which is causing global warming.

We must stop exporting coal as well as burning it within our own shores. Not only will this help avoid catastrophic climate change, a transition to renewable energy will create more jobs than it destroys and in the medium and long term provide a massive boost to the Australian economy.

Luckily this grubby deal did not go unnoticed. A group of people gathered at the Southbank hotel where the deal was signed, after being given only a few hours notice. The media coverage can be see here – The Age, ABC

It is crucial that the Australian public cuts through the spin coming from the Labor Party and judges Julia Gillard on her policies.

The children of the Khapi Community in Bolivia, where glacier retreat has robbed the community of its water and its livelihood.

Politician rebranding video

A video about our weekly rebranding sessions, pressuring the Labor Party and the Brumby Government to get our of the pocket of the coal industry an start doing something real about the climate crisis – such as transitioning Victoria out of coal and to renewable energy.