Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Combet must unite the science and economics of warming

Today's edition of The Age carries my letter ("Unity on warming") responding to an opinion piece by Barry Jones in yesterday's edition of the paper.

Jones made an important point about the need to link the separate economic and scientific approaches to climate change - something that, despite its progress on the climate issue, the federal government is still failing to do, including in a recent speech by climate minister Geg Combet in the week before the latest international climate talks in Cancun.

My letter makes the additional point that the two-degree "guardrail" limit to additional global warming to which Combet refers in the speech is increasingly thought unsafe by the latest research, which also considers that the measures proposed by developed nations are unlikely to achieve it anyway.

First, the published version:

Unity on warming

IT'S hard to agree with Barry Jones that it's probably too late for Australia to lead in setting stronger greenhouse targets (Comment, 7/12). But we still need him on the new federal climate committee.

His most urgent message for government is the perils of the ''two-cultures approach that separates scientists and economists''.

Climate Minister Greg Combet showed remarkable bias to economists and blindness to science in an address on November 30.

First, he claimed our weak 2020 target was comparable with international efforts on a per capita basis and given our dependence on fossil fuels. He missed the point that action needs to be distributed according to a scientifically determined global carbon budget, not by futile promises by recalcitrant nations.

Second, Combet continued to claim that Australia was committed to working towards an agreement to keep average global warming within 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels. Not only will our proposals fail as a contribution to that goal, it is a level of warming increasingly deemed unsafe.

The two cultures must come together: there can be no economic solution to climate change that is not fundamentally calibrated against the science of ''what needs to be done''.

Now, the version submitted:

It's hard to agree with Barry Jones that it's "probably too late" for Australia to lead in setting stronger greenhouse targets, but we still need him on the new federal climate committee.

His most urgent message for government is the perils of the "'two cultures' approach that separates scientists and economists" in framing climate action.

Set to depart for the latest climate talks in Cancun, climate minister Greg Combet showed remarkable bias to the economists and blindness to the science in a 30 November address at the Australian National University.

Firstly, there was his economic sleight of hand in "justifying" Australia's climate stance. Our weak 2020 target was comparable with international efforts on a per capita basis and given our dependence on fossil fuels, he claimed - missing the vital point that action needs to be fairly distributed according to a scientifically determined global carbon budget, not on the lowest common denominator of futile promises by recalcitrant nations.

Secondly, he continued to claim that Australia was committed to working towards an agreement to keep average global warming within two degrees of pre-industrial levels. Not only will our current proposals fail as a contribution to that goal, it is a level of warming increasingly deemed unsafe by the latest findings of the UK's Royal Society.

The two cultures must come together: there can be no economic solution to climate change that is not fundamentally calibrated against the science of "what needs to be done".
 Comments welcome

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Northcote won, but Labor set to lose Government

With yesterday's Victorian State election raising the prospect of a hung Parliament or, more likely, a Baillieu Coalition Government, counting is basically complete in Northcote. Fiona Richardson is set to retain the Labor stronghold - it would appear just needing those Liberal preferences that would have made things very close if they'd gone instead to the Greens.

My own result has been pretty modest, but I'm glad I had a go. I ran a stronger and more organised campaign this time around, with better media coverage - particularly in the Northcote Leader (thanks!) - as well as a lot of support from family, friends and climate campaigners - thank you to all.

From voters I managed to reach and who were therefore aware of my policies, the reception was very positive, and I was heartened by the people who were supportive of an independent running in the seat in their kind words to me on the day.

On the whole, the challenge for an independent running in Northcote is the lack of party affiliation, the inability to blanket the electorate several times over with campaign material, paid billboards and other advertisements, and the reality of being able to cover only a fraction of polling booths for a few hours each on polling day. That's the deal you agree to going in, and it's one that I accepted.

Despite Labor holding the seat, Northcote hasn't been immune from the big statewide swing against the Brumby Government, despite the resources devoted here to a largely negative Labor campaign. I put that overall swing down to arrogance, and to a string of Labor failures on key issues - myki and public transport, planning, services, and the dismissal of the community's voice - just to name a few.

Again the Greens increased their vote (well done to Anne Martinelli and her team). I would like to think this reflects community sentiment for strong action on climate change. However, a lot more work still needs to be done not only by the Greens, but by everyone in the climate change campaign community. The importance of urgent action on climate change must be an issue shared across a range of political perspectives if we are to address the threat it poses.

The challenge now will be to forge a new campaign in the context of a hung Parliament or a Baillieu Government. The Coalition's policies on climate change are not strong compared even to the weak policies offered by Labor, and the promise of some progress at the federal level must be used to argue for stronger action here in Victoria, including the rapid phasing out of coal and the replacement of Hazelwood with renewables by 2014.

I am committed to contributing further to this work and, where I can, to the broader life of the Northcote community, despite my modest result in this election. Participation by ordinary people in the democratic process is never failure.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vote 1 for an independent voice for Northcote

So tomorrow is election day, and it's time for everyone to consider very carefully how they are going to vote. For me the campaign has been about climate change, about traffic, about big developments looming over us without a say for residents, about stopping the damage from poker machines, and about many other local issues on which I have clear policies.

I've worked hard to reach as many voters as a I can, delivering as many of my flyers to your letter-boxes as I have been able to with the support of family and friends (thanks!). Now it's up to you, the voters of Alphington, Northcote, Thornbury, Fairfield and parts of Preston who together make up the Lower House District of Northcote.

If you want an independent MP who can raise important issues in the Parliament and fight for better results without being controlled by a political party, if you want to be represented directly, then please consider voting "1" for me.

In asking this, I would like you to consider that I am the only independent in this seat who has offered a clear picture of what I stand for from the very first day nominations opened on 3 November. 

My flyers include a how-to-vote card, and this shows how I will be voting myself, based on what I think of the other candidates, whether I know who they are, and on the policies they have put forward in time for me to consider them.

The order I have given is a suggestion only, and if you decide to give me first preference, I ask that you then carefully consider how you number each of the other candidates. No political party can actually "direct" preferences if voters decide the order for themselves.

Tomorrow I will be out at polling booths handing out my how-to-vote cards together with my volunteers. Please feel free to say hello and to ask me any questions you may have.

Finally, my how-to-vote cards are printed on 100% recycled paper, but there aren't that many of them. If you have received one in your letter-box, please use it again when you go to vote. If you haven't received one, feel free to print out the web version. Some will also be available at voting centres, and I ask that these be returned to the person who handed them out to you wherever possible.

That's it. It's time to let democracy take its course!

Cheers, Darren Lewin-Hill

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Northcote planning needs an independent voice

I've written a lot about climate change on this blog, but voters should know that I started campaigning back in 2003 with Save Westgarth Village to fight planning changes that were being forced through with too little community say.

Fast-forward to 2010, and the electorate of Northcote is under the same threat from big developers, and a Victorian Labor Government that has received large political donations from the industry. That's why I am calling for political donation disclosures on applications for all major developments. Voters deserve to know, and good developers will have nothing to hide.

But there's a lot more than that to the question of development in our community. As we go to the election, uncertainty looms over at least three large developments where locals have so far had only a small voice in shaping the future of their communities.

Amcor's Fairfield plant will give way to large-scale development when it closes in 2012. A development of more than 90 units and townhouses at the Northcote Bowl site is hanging over locals' heads, and the Arthurton Road site will see a massive development overshadow local residents.

A number of common themes emerge from these proposals - firstly, the lack of community say. The Northcote Leader reported that in August the Labor-dominated Darebin Council moved to exclude third-party appeal rights to VCAT for the Arthurton Road site. Why, when this will exclude the right of residents to have a proper say on a development that will profoundly affect them?

The unreliability of planning laws also features among resident concerns. As many as 12 storeys have been proposed for the Arthurton Road site, and residents are made to feel as if they should be grateful it has been scaled back to five, when even that height may well be excessive for a development of that scale.

Running through each of the proposals is the fear of locals that the traffic implications of large-scale development simply haven't been thought through. Heidelberg Road, Victoria Road and Arthurton Road are already stretched and pressured, yet the Government's approach seems to be that the traffic will look after itself.

If elected as an independent MP for Northcote, I would fight for all of these issues to be robustly addressed, and for better protections for residents living with developments that are already underway.

There is more that could be done to resolve disputes between developers and residents, and more to ensure that developers make good any impacts they impose on their way to profiting from the sale of their apartments - this includes cracking of neighbouring buildings, exposure to potential hazards during demolition, loss of solar generating capacity through overshadowing, and loss of amenity due to the presence of developers and their machinery.

It's not a choice between no development and over-development. We can achieve a balance that will meet economic, social and environmental needs by including the community's voice. No-one wants endless urban sprawl that will bring more cars (with their emissions) through Northcote from outside the city. On the other hand, no-one wants excessive development driven only by developer profits.

Voters in this election need to ask what sort of advocacy they are going to get on planning issues from Northcote MP Fiona Richardson, who is part of the Government that set the planning policies leading to such poor outcomes. An independent with sound planning policies can offer a voice that is not beholden to the development industry, or to a political party - an independent voice whose only task is to represent you in the Parliament.

Here's how to move to renewables

The Victorian Government likes to downplay the practicality of a rapid transition away from coal to renewable power generation, but has never responded in detail to the innovative Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan produced by Beyond Zero Emissions.

In short, the plan calls for a ten-year transition to 100% renewables using 60% concentrated solar thermal (CST), which can produce baseload power, and 40% wind. 

Full video is now available of the University of Melbourne launch by the Melbourne Energy Institute back on 14 July. To see it, go to the university's Live@Melbourne website.

It's a long video, but you can skip forward as needed, and to answer the question: "Who is that climate campaigner challenging the federal government to produce any sort of plan to justify the pipedream of carbon capture and storage?" (@106 mins 28 secs)

Secret ballot the answer to Labor's secret files

Yesterday's revelations in The Age that the Brumby Government is keeping secret files on citizens should be at the forefront of voters' minds when they go to the polls on Saturday. The secret files - also apparently kept by the Coalition - have no purpose in serving the public interest, but are there to protect the interests of the major political parties.

In the case of Labor, the files should be seen in the context of a Government that has already made deals to provide personal details to large corporations. It is also a Government already under fire for its dirt unit tactics against political opponents. The combination of Labor's propensity for dirty campaigning and its gathering of personal information should be distressing to anyone concerned with open, accountable democracy.

In Northcote, we have already seen smear tactics employed against a local climate campaigner by Northcote MP, Fiona Richardson, who is on Labor's campaign committee.

I would be curious to see if the campaigner recently smeared by Richardson in the Melbourne Times Weekly appears on the ALP's secret database, but we may never know.

There's a simple antidote to Labor's secret files - it's called a secret ballot, and it's coming up on Saturday.

If you like my policies, please tell your Northcote friends

Yesterday was a really busy day walking the streets of Northcote and hitting as many letter-boxes as possible before it got dark. As a result, this blog is getting quite a few hits that I am hoping are coming from within the electorate.

If you've received one of my how-to-vote cards and have come here to find out more, please take the time to tell your friends if you like what I'm offering.

As an independent without the resources of the major parties, I won't be able to reach everyone, so your help will be vital. This blog stretches back to the last State election in 2006, when I first ran for State Parliament as an independent, so my views and exactly what I stand for are very much open for everyone to see.

The main pages are the ones that tell you a bit about me, my policies about a range of local issues, and my preferences - these show how I intend to vote based on what I think of the other candidates. They're only a suggestion, however, because I believe voters shouldn't just choose who to put at number one (me, I hope), but how they should number all the other candidates on their ballot paper. No party can "direct" preferences in the Lower House against the choices voters make for themselves.

If you haven't met me, seen me walking about the place, or in the local papers, you can watch me presenting at the recent Darebin Climate Action Now Election Q and A event back on 8 November at Northcote Town Hall. Climate change is something I'm very keen to tackle, and this video shows where I stand on the issue.

If you're not sure about my position on a particular issue, please ask by emailing, or by leaving a comment on any of the posts here. I won't tel you what I think you want to hear - you'll find out what I actually believe.

Stay tuned for further posts in the lead-up to the election!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fiona Richardson climate protest tomorrow

Update: A picture from the protest at Fiona Richardson's office. There were plenty of cars "honking for real action on climate change".

Local climate groups will tomorrow morning hold a pre-election protest outside the Northcote electorate office of Labor's Fiona Richardson MP. As a climate-progressive independent candidate for the 2010 Victorian State election, I will be joining them.

At the protest, Darebin Climate Action Now and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition will send a strong signal to the Brumby Government that its weak climate measures will be swamped by emissions from the continued burning of brown coal to generate electricity. The clock is ticking before we cross irreversible climate tipping points.

Despite initiatives such as the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, which shows that a ten-year transition to renewable power generation is possible, the Brumby Government persists with the myth that a few renewables projects are enough to compensate for dirty emissions from brown coal - it just isn't true.

A good start to a more positive approach would be the total closure and renewable energy replacement of the Hazelwood brown-coal-fired power station within the next term of Government. Unfortunately, John Brumby is too committed to listening to the coal lobby.

Fiona Richardson is the local representative of Labor's climate destructive policies, so please join the protest and use your vote on Saturday to support a candidate promoting strong, science-based action that stands a chance of securing a safe climate.

Is it it coal or climate, Mr Brumby? The science says you can't have both. 

Where: 404 High Street, Northcote
(Just north of Separation Street, on the right heading out of the city)
When: 8.00-9.00am, Wednesday 24 November

For further information:

Carol Ride
Darebin Climate Action Now
0408 320 080

Telephone pole set to vote Labor in Northcote

Media release

Independent candidate for Northcote, Darren Lewin-Hill, has been shocked by the discovery that even local telephone poles are succumbing to ALP propaganda, with one Clarke Street pole stridently declaring, "I'm voting Labor".

"I've heard of telephone polls, but this is ridiculous," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

"There's no human face on the placard, so we can only assume it's the voting intentions of the pole being referred to in the message. As an independent committed to accountability, I'll get to the bottom of this - I very much doubt that that pole is on the electoral role for Northcote," he said.

The distracting signage, on a speed-limited section of the notorious traffic rat-run, covers an earlier sign featuring Northcote MP Fiona Richardson, wife of former Victorian ALP State Secretary, Stephen Newnham.

"I did stop letter-boxing for a while to try to talk the pole out of such a foolish move, explaining that in its exposed position it would be among the first to experience the impacts of severe climate change driven by the Victorian Government's disastrous climate policies, not to mention Australia's status as the world's largest exporter of coal.

"I also pointed out that the Government's mania for roads would likely see even more traffic using rat-runs through local residential streets, and it was likely the pole would be a sitting-duck. My plea fell on deaf ears, so-to-speak," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

He said the sheer prevalence of Labor propaganda had given him the brilliant idea for a "Replace a Placard" scheme, in which Labor placards would be replaced with an equivalent surface area of solar panels.

"By the end of this election, I'd say we'd have enough renewable energy to power Victoria ten times over," Mr Lewin-Hill said. "We could close the Hazelwood brown-coal-fired power station immediately."

"At the moment, emissions savings from the renewable initiatives slated by the Brumby Government would be quickly overtaken by our continued burning and likely large-scale export of brown coal. Lip-service to renewables can't compensate for the emissions from brown coal," he concluded.

He said that until his Replace a Placard scheme kicked in, it still wouldn't be a bad idea to shine a light on Labor's propaganda machine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Climate encounter at Northcote Plaza

Just a short post about a climate encounter while out leafleting at Northcote Plaza yesterday. A fellow took my flyer, went in to do his shopping, then spoke to me when he came out. Turns out he works on the coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley!

We talked about closing Hazelwood, Australia's dirtiest brown-coal-fired power station, and he agreed it had to close but there needed to be a plan to replace the generating capacity. Enter the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan! The plan uses 40 per cent wind power to complement 60 per cent concentrated solar thermal (CST) power generation.

He hadn't heard of the plan, didn't like wind power because of its intermittency, but also hadn't heard of CST power generation, which allows baseload power to be produced by using solar energy to generate heat that is stored in molten salts. That heat can then be released when needed to drive a turbine when the sun isn't shining - voila, baseload power supply.

This fellow thought it was a promising idea. He said he thought Morwell was actually dirtier than Hazelwood, though I know Morwell is quite a bit smaller (165MW and 5 turbines, versus 1600MW and 8). Maybe in emissions per MW generated it is, I'm not sure. The big thing for me was who you can bump into outside a suburban supermarket, and how they can add to your understanding. Amazing!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

State independents should back Wilkie on pokies

Media release

Independent candidate for Northcote, Darren Lewin-Hill, has backed the latest strong stand on pokies by new federal independent Andrew Wilkie, saying that, if elected as a State independent, he would pursue similar measures in the electorate, which faces an ongoing threat from problem gambling.

The Sunday Age has today reported Wilkie's call on the Gillard Labor Government to honour its post-election commitment to effective, nationwide measures to limit the damage from electronic gaming machines - including through the ability of gamblers to set binding pre-commitment levels on their losses.

The call follows a Productivity Commission report stating that there are around 115,000 problem gamblers in Australia, with a further 280,000 at moderate risk, and a cumulative social impact estimated at $4.7 billion a year.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has backed strong action on pokies, pointing to an overstatement of costs to the industry by its peak lobby group, and the likelihood that money not spent on gaming machines would have greater benefit when spent elsewhere in the economy - an important additional point to the social impact costs mentioned above.

The Sunday Age report is significant in the context of next Saturday's State election because it shows the benefits of strong action by independents to deliver public interest outcomes, including the potential to limit damage from nearly 27,000 gaming machines in Victoria.

In Darebin, this means nearly 1000 machines across 15 venues that took more than $87 million from local pockets in 2009-2010 - a large slice of which (around 40%) came from problem gamblers.

In a blog post on his campaign website, Northcote Independent, Mr Lewin-Hill welcomed recent action by Preston local, Susan Rennie, and her success  at VCAT in stopping 30 pokies that were set to be installed at a pub in Plenty Road on the boundary of the State seat of Northcote.

However, he said it shouldn't take courageous action by individuals to stop the severe impacts of problem gambling.

"It's not about stopping people having a bet; it's about reducing the excessive opportunities for people with a problem to go too far," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

He said that, if elected, he would support broad adoption of differential council rates (200%) charged on pokies venues, such as the scheme adopted by the City of Moreland, now under threat from a potential deal between pokies operators and the Victorian State Government. Mr Lewin-Hill also voiced support for the responsible gambling initiatives of the Victorian Local Governance Association.

"It's time to act on pokies," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

(See pokies policy for further information and links to Victorian Government data on gaming machines. Full election policies are also online.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Labor among the merchants of climate doubt

Kim Carr was on the money when he wrote in The Age on Thursday that we need champions of science to battle the merchants of doubt. Borrowing the powerful expression of visiting US academic Naomi Oreskes, we can say the merchants of doubt are those who argue against necessary action - especially on climate change - even as the science should compel our emergency response.

They do this by suggesting doubt about the science that doesn't exist among those most qualified to understand it - the worldwide community that carries out peer-reviewed research.

So who, exactly, are these deadly merchants among us? As Oreskes explained in her excellent talk at the State Library on Wednesday, they began as ideologically driven cold war scientists, but came to include a multitude of free-market think-tanks and their spin doctors representing vested interests. In Australia that includes the coal lobby.

Yet, some of the merchants reside within Government itself, and doubt is a powerful lens through which to understand them.

You will no longer hear any Victorian Labor politician rejecting the reality of climate change. Instead, you will hear them sew doubt over whether renewables can provide baseload power (they can), or whether we really need to supplement our smattering of renewable energy projects by replacing Hazelwood - our dirtiest coal-fired power station - in the next term of government (we do).

You won't get any detailed response from the Victorian Government substantiating such doubts, but they all serve the purpose of justifying the continuing and disastrous exploitation of brown coal at the expense of global climate impacts, and of local ones, such as an increase in the frequency and severity of catastrophic bushfires.

As the world's leading climate scientist, James Hansen, has noted: “If coal emissions are phased out rapidly ... the climate problem is solvable.” If they're not, there's no doubting we're in trouble.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Richardson's climate spin gets past the Times

In its 17 November edition, the Melbourne Times Weekly (MTW) has reported uncritically an attack by Labor MP, Fiona Richardson, on a Northcote Vote Climate campaign scorecard that rates Labor poorly on its climate commitments. Two independents, including myself, topped the ratings.

The report makes the unsubstantiated claim that the other independent, Adrian Whitehead, an Upper House candidate for the Northern Metropolitan Region, authored the Northcote scorecard being letter-boxed by Darebin Climate Action Now, giving himself a top rating. The headline of the story read "'Report card' author gives himself all As".

Climate groups have rejected the claim point-blank, defending the scoring process as independent of all candidates who were rated in every seat where the scorecards are being distributed. A retraction has been demanded from the newspaper in next week's edition, with climate groups noting the absence of any right of reply in the story itself.

Further criticisms of the campaign in the report include comments discounting the scorecard's value made by a business associate of Fiona Richardson's husband. The paper fails to declare this connection in the report itself, and on Wednesday I rang MTW calling for an acknowledgment of the link and an explanation to readers of how these comments came to be reported.

Richardson's statement that the research is "deliberately misleading" also remains unconvincing. The scorecard accurately presents party and candidate positions regarding the commitments that science says are necessary to achieve a safe climate. It notes, for example, Labor's failure to commit to the use of renewable energy to completely replace Hazelwood, Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station, by 2014.

If Richardson deems this unclear or misleading, she must explain why the call to close the power station has been endorsed by Professor David Karoly, who led the Premier's own climate change reference group.

In a more balanced report in this week's Northcote Leader, Richardson says the scorecard is misleading because a judgment has been made based on what the candidates have said, rather than on what they can deliver.

The reality is that no single MP - government or independent - can guarantee particular proposals will be implemented. However, the candidates who rated well on the scorecard have made a clear commitment to advocate in Parliament for necessary action.

Labor's position - with which Richardson has not disagreed - would only "deliver" further significant climate change, contributing, among other impacts, to more frequent and severe bushfires in Victoria, such as the catastrophic fires of Black Saturday.

The MTW report further notes that Environment Victoria's own recently launched scorecard "drew different conclusions" - without saying what they were, but suggesting the Vote Climate scorecard was somehow inaccurate. Readers may have benefited from knowing the environment group gave Labor an overall score of just 47% on its broad environmental policies, including climate.

These are the issues the paper must now address in its last edition before the State election.

Further, as MTW has implied preference-dealing among candidates with strong climate policies - and therefore ranked highly on the scorecard - it should examine Labor's preference deal with the anti-environment Country Alliance Party, including a possible link with the party in Northcote itself.

Yesterday I sent detailed information to MTW on these matters - together with a corroborating copy to an independent third party. The test of the paper's objectivity and fairness will be how it reports in the countdown to 27 November.

As for Fiona Richardson, voters can send a message to the Brumby Government by giving their first preference to a candidate with clear policies supporting strong climate outcomes.

Further information:

Darebin Climate Action Now - Election Q and A
My climate policies
Climate - ALP style

How I'm going to vote - you too, I hope

The finicky process of registering a how-to-vote card with the Victorian Electoral Commission now complete, I'm pleased to present mine here at Northcote Independent.

My tentative headline for this post reflects my thinking about preferences. You, the voters, choose exactly how to order your preferences, and no party can "direct" you how to do so. Exercising your choice for every preference - in the case of Northcote, from first down to sixth - is the best way to frustrate the preference-dealing of the major parties.

In my case, I present my preferences to you as the way I am going to vote in good conscience, based on my assessment of each candidate. If you agree with me, I invite you to follow my suggestions!

An earlier post on preferences is here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Richardson's lip-service on planning

Here's the unedited version of a letter published in today's Melbourne Times Weekly in response to a 3 November article that spoke of Fiona Richardson's muted approval of the Brumby planning approach as "dissent" ("Dissent in ALP camp not part of the plan").
Fiona Richardson's tepid defence of the Brumby Government's planning record was too lukewarm to warrant the description of "dissent" in your headline. It's easy to call for community input, but quite another thing to allow local communities to actually influence the outcome of big planning decisions.

How far do voters think Richardson will stray from the ALP party line, as Planning Minister Justin Madden evades scrutiny of the planned sham consultation on the Windsor Hotel project, and big planning decisions are made in the shadow of the election care-taker period?

With Amcor's Fairfield plant and the Arthurton Road site just two big potential developments that are up in the air as we go to the State election, voters should suspect reassuring future commitments to consultation from the Northcote representative of a Brumby planning system that too often excludes a community say.

The planning equation needs to include more than profits for developers. We need sustainable communities, where housing is more affordable and provision is made for the disadvantaged.

The way we build these communities is through the democratic participation of the people who live in them. That's not happening. Lip-service is not enough, Ms Richardson. True dissent will not come from an MP within Government.
What I might also have said is that developers have been among the biggest donors to the Victorian Labor Party. That's why I've called for developer donation disclosures as part of the planning application process for big developments.

If you're concerned about planning and live in the electorate of Northcote, please consider my planning policies (and the others!).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Voters have a free hand in numbering the ballot

Yesterday The Age reported Victorian Electoral Commission figures showing that many inner-city voters make up their own minds about the order of candidates rather than simply follow preferences on how-to-vote cards. However, there remains too little awareness that by making their own considered decision about the order of every candidate on the ballot - not just who's first - voters can frustrate any preference deal in these elections.

Talk by the major parties of "directing" their preferences undermines the democratic nature of this choice, as if the hand of a party were guiding the hand of the voter as the pencil moves over the paper to mark the vote.

In considering the how-to-vote card of any candidate, it comes down to whether voters believe it reflects the skulduggery of party preference-dealing, or only a suggestion by that candidate of how they themselves intend to vote in good conscience. Voters should challenge candidates to justify their preferencing before election day to see which is the case.

In the first, the preferences - and probably the candidate - should be rejected, and in the second, considered on their merits. Voters cannot be "directed" - they have a free hand.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Northcote climate Q & A video now available

Video is now available from a Climate Change Q & A held last Monday at Northcote Town Hall for local candidates in the 2010 Victorian State election. The event was organised by Darebin Climate Action Now, where links to all the Q & A presentations have now been published.

Climate Change Q & A - Darren Lewin-Hill from DarebinCAN on Vimeo.

The presenters included Labor's Northcote MP and 2010 candidate, Fiona Richardson, the Liberal  Northcote candidate, Steve Moran, myself, the Greens candidate, Anne Martinelli, and independent Upper House candidate for the Northern Metropolitan Region, Adrian Whitehead. 

Read the original post about the event, and, if you like, my presentation notes. There are also lots of posts about climate change available on this blog.

Of course you may then like to read Fiona Richardson's Goldilocks theory about the Victorian Government's climate action plan, or my analysis of Labor's tactics for communicating about climate change.

Finally, don't forget to read about my other policies as well!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Richardson reads Goldilocks on climate

Media release

An update of an environment scorecard just released by Environment Victoria has undermined claims by Northcote Labor MP, Fiona Richardson, that environment groups somehow applauded the Government's inadequate climate measures, according to independent candidate, Darren Lewin-Hill.

Richardson made the claims at a climate Q &A held on Monday night organised by Darebin Climate Action Now at Northcote Town Hall.

Overall the scorecard rates the party at 47%, and scored it only 50% on its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, 25% on banning new conventional coal-fired power stations, and zero for its failure to rule out new allocations of brown coal for export.

"While painting the Government's measures as 'just right', Richardson dismisses as extreme the science-based proposals calling for a rapid transition to zero emissions and the replacement of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station with renewable energy within the next term of government.

"If she thinks Labor's climate strategy is 'just right', she's read Goldilocks and the Three Bears once too often, and Victoria is set to get too hot," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

He said that Richardson's approach at the Q & A was part of a deliberate strategy by Labor to appear moderate and sensible on climate, but it failed to stand up to scrutiny. He has analysed the strategy more fully at his blog, Northcote Independent.

Richardson's appearance at the Q & A came in the wake of Morgan polling that showed Northcote has more voters concerned about global warming and climate change than any other seat (34.7%).

"It's not surprising, then, that there were a few Labor plants in the audience making pretty weak attacks on anyone calling for climate action," Lewin-Hill commented.

He said Richardson bristled at one admitted ALP member who clearly hadn't been worded up, and who criticised the party's climate policies, commenting that: "I know climate change is happening, because I'm from New Zealand, where we now see icebergs floating past our country".

Darren Lewin-Hill
0404 526 555

Northcote independent calls for developer donation disclosures

Media release

Independent candidate for Northcote, Darren Lewin-Hill, has called for donation disclosures as part of the public application process for all significant developments. The call follows a report in The Age earlier this year that developers had donated millions of dollars to the ALP in Victoria.

"This inconvenient truth seems to have been forgotten in the election debate, and I think it would add to the transparency and accountability of planning decisions in this State," Lewin-Hill said today.

Under the plan, developers would need to disclose as part of their planning application whether they had made donations to the ruling party of the day - Labor or Coalition. There would need to be further discussion regarding the amount that would trigger the disclosure requirement, but it would be there to see for any local resident who wanted to know.

"We're all familiar with the planning permit signs put up on development sites. Let's include on them just how much a given developer has handed over to the political party in power at the time. Wouldn't that be refreshing?" Lewin-Hill said.

Along with the donations to the Labor party from big developers, the Brumby Government has been short on accountability in the area of planning, with its evasiveness in the Windsor Hotel sham consultation affair hardly instilling confidence that all is well in Victorian planning.

Mr Lewin-Hill said there were a number of large developments slated for the Northcote electorate, held by Labor's Fiona Richardson by a margin of 8.5%. He said these would come to fruition in the next term of government, and local residents should be able to see whether any developer of any major site had ever been a donor to the Labor party, and at what level.

"Maybe these sites will be developed by companies with no donation history, but residents deserve to know. The disclosure of political donations of all sorts is something on which there really ought to be a crack-down over the next four years, and independents are well placed to do that," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

Darren Lewin-Hill
0404 526 555

Northcote independent backs local pokies appeal win

Media release

An independent running in the key inner-Melbourne seat of Northcote has welcomed a VCAT win against excessive pokies by a local resident fighting an application for 30 machines at a pub on the edge of the electorate.

"This application slipped through Darebin council under delegation to a council officer and shows that pokies can be approved in inappropriate numbers and locations, despite claimed controls by a Government addicted to their revenue.

"We shouldn't need VCAT action by community-spirited people like Preston resident Susan Rennie to stop these socially devastating machines, but we clearly do and we should be grateful to her," Darren Lewin-Hill said today.

"They're convenient, well located and easy to use, but they're not community services, they're nearly 1000 machines spread across 15 venues in Darebin that took more than $87 million out of local people's pockets in 2009-2010, according to Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation figures," Lewin-Hill said.

Darebin has a higher than average concentration of pokies per 1000 adults in the population (for Victoria), but it could even be lower and still do a lot of damage. It depends on where the machines are located, particularly relative to disadvantaged populations, among whom gambling is a big problem.

"The potential for adverse social and economic impacts, including proximity to public housing, was an important reason this application was knocked back on appeal of council's decision," he said.

However, media reports have suggested that numbers of machines could actually increase - even in capped areas - due to a review considering increasing population.

Mr Lewin-Hill said that wasn't good enough and the government needed to take stronger action on pokies to discourage people from gambling more than they can afford - including through tougher restrictions on machines. He also said that every member of government should be open to scrutiny, including by undertaking to appear at any future upper house gambling inquiries that might be convened.

"Grave concern over the social and economic impacts of pokies is something I share with South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and the new independent for the Tasmanian seat of Denison, Andrew Wilkie. If I am elected as a State independent for Northcote, I'll make action on pokies a priority in looking after my constituents" he said.

"With the State poll tightening and the chance of a hung parliament, the potential for independents to strongly represent constituents without the constraints of party politics is better than ever. Better representation, deeper consideration of policies, and accountability of government are valuable things that independents can contribute," he said.

Darren Lewin-Hill
0404 526 555

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Presenting on climate at Northcote Town Hall

On Monday night I presented on climate at an election Q & A at Northcote Town Hall organised by Darebin Climate Action Now. There will be more on this soon - possibly including a video - but for now, I've published my presentation notes for voters who are concerned about climate change as a key issue in the 2010 Victorian State election.

Also presenting at the forum were Upper House independent candidate, Adrian Whitehead, the Greens' Anne Martinelli, the Liberal candidate, Steve Moran, and Labor's Northcote MP, Fiona Richardson.

I'll be saying more here about the ALP's political tactics around climate, but that's it for now. Be sure to catch page 5 of this week's Northcote Leader, which has good coverage about the climate concerns of Northcote voters, and a welcome report about my decision to run as an independent in the seat.

Finally, don't forget my other policies, and there's also a page where you can read a bit more about me if you're interested.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cliffhanger election a democracy scare for Tanner

The looming cliffhanger in the State election shows a big opportunity for strengthening democracy in Victoria, despite fears of a minority government voiced by former federal finance minister and Melbourne MP, Lindsay Tanner, at a forum held yesterday at Victoria University.

As Tim Colebatch noted in a report for The Age the same day, a swing against Labor of 3.7 per cent will see it lose its majority and be forced to form a minority government. Yet the Coalition requires a swing of 6.5 per cent to win in its own right.

This gap is big enough for voters to send a message to Premier Brumby by voting for a candidate outside the major parties - such as this independent - without any big risk of voting in the Coalition.

As Professor John Zeleznikow pointed out in his opinion piece in the same edition foreshadowing the forum later that day, the minority government that could then result might well offer not only stability, but the increased accountability we are already seeing at the federal level.

In my view, the inclusion of broader political perspectives within such a government can only improve the policy debate.
The forum - on the merits of a hung Parliament - included presentations from Professor Zeleznikow, VECCI's Wayne Kayler-Thomson, Gippsland East State independent, Craig Ingram, and, of course, Tanner himself.

Today The Age reported Tanner's forum claims that the more Labor loses left-leaning MPs in elections, the more "advocates for progressive change are taken out of Labor". Translation: the more Labor moves to the right, the more seats it will lose to voters seeking progressive alternatives.

On Tanner's logic, voters should pull out all stops to save the endangered Labor progressives, and reward the right-wing Labor Unity faction that dominates the party and the Brumby Government. Is he kidding? Apparently not.

Tanner's attack on the Greens aside, and more pertinently for this candidate, Craig Ingram presented a cracking defence of the benefits independents can bring to Parliament - greater accountability and more effective policy debate among them.

As Professor Zeleznikow also noted in his presentation, the instability of minority governments is a myth, with the government led by Steve Bracks after the 1999 election in the professor's opinion one of the best for Labor, which was forced to work constructively with three independents - including Craig Ingram.

More on the forum to follow.

Comments welcome!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Northcote independent rallies to close Hazelwood

Media release

Independent candidate for Northcote, Darren Lewin-Hill, will join today's rally to close the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in a show of support for strong action on climate change.

"Today will see thousands of people devote far more time than the fraction of 90 seconds Premier John Brumby gave to climate change in his summing up in last night's leaders' debate," the candidate said.

It was disappointing that climate change rated the barest mention, when the Premier had spoken earlier on the Wonthaggi desalination plant and the Black Saturday bushfires.

"These issues ride on the back of climate change, which was very much the elephant in the room in last night's debate for voters concerned about the environment, " he said.

"The Government is making much of its proposed climate change legislation, but weak targets for the adoption of renewable energy can't compensate for the emissions from the State's continuing reliance on brown coal for energy production and proposed export on a massive scale," he said.

"What we currently have is a vague plan for the partial closure of Hazelwood, at the same time the Government is considering a new brown coal gasification plant in the Latrobe Valley and a new port at Hastings to deal with the projected volume of brown coal exports," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and is on track to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's largest exporter of carbon.

Professor David Karoly, a leading climate scientist who will speak at the rally, has estimated that, over its currently proposed lifetime, Hazelwood will produce around 920 million tonnes of carbon dioxide - the most powerful factor in dangerous global warming - unless the plant is closed.

"Existing technologies can replace Hazelwood with 100 per cent renewable energy, at the same time providing sustainable jobs for regional Victoria," Mr Lewin-Hill said.

"The issue of climate change belongs in the platform of every candidate in this State election, not just those from parties traditionally associated with concern for the environment."

The rally, organised by Environment Victoria, will commence at 1pm at the State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street.

The candidate is available for interview by phone or in person at any time today on 0404 526 555.

On Monday night at Northcote Town Hall (7-9pm), Mr Lewin-Hill will take part in a climate Q & A including Northcote MP, Fiona Richardson. The event is being hosted by the Darebin Climate Action Network (DarebinCAN).

Comments welcome!

Labor fears the loss of seats, but not in Northcote

The Age has reported on a leaked Labor strategy to save embattled seats in the forthcoming State election. Its planned campaign blitz of 31 seats at various levels of risk will see more than $1.7 million spent on campaigns to shore up the party's chances in the tightening contest. In the wake of the unjustified personal attack on Greens candidate Brian Walters in the seat of Melbourne, voters should ask just what sort of campaigning those funds will be supporting.

Of course, risk to the Labor party isn't quite the same as risk to democracy, and we should also have a closer look at the numbers in this poll. If Labor loses 13 seats and they all go to the Coalition, it will lose Government to Ted Baillieu, whose party would have a majority of just one seat, presuming the current independent, Craig Ingram, holds his.

Yet some of these seats will surely fall to independents and Greens, raising the prospect of a hung Parliament if neither of the main parties secures a majority. On the evidence of the recent federal result, that may well lead to public interest reforms and a deeper, more principled policy debate - no bad thing for democracy in Victoria.

As for the law and order and "nanny state" issues on which Labor feels exposed, these seem the traditional fare of the Coalition. An excessive focus on them will only further demonstrate that the major parties are moving closer together, and that real alternatives are needed.

Of special note for Northcote voters is that the key inner-Melbourne seat is nowhere among the 31 Labor appears to be worried about. Labor's Northcote MP, Fiona Richardson, says she doesn't take voters for granted, but the leaked strategy shows that she thinks she's already across the line in this election.

Comments welcome!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Northcote independent seeks replay of fed result in Victoria

What should an independent-minded community and climate campaigner from Northcote do but run as an independent (!) in the key inner-Melbourne seat in November's Victorian State election?

Having also run in the 2006 State poll, and as the leading independent vote-getter in Rucker Ward in the 2008 Darebin Council elections, I've been encouraged to stand based on growing support, and the rise of independents in the recent federal election.

With the State poll tightening and the chance of a hung Parliament, the potential for independents to strongly represent residents without the constraints of party politics is better than ever.

At the federal level we've seen a very considered and principled approach by the independents to reform Parliament and progress a range of issues in the public interest. There's no reason that can't happen in Victoria, starting here in Northcote.

Stay tuned for policy positions on a range of local issues that will appear very soon. In the meantime, the posts I've written here since 2006 will give you a pretty good idea of where I stand on many issues.

If, as I do, you feel strongly about climate change, you can also catch me at an election climate Q & A next Monday 7-9pm at the Northcote Town Hall, brought to you by Darebin Climate Action Network.

I'll be writing regular updates here and via NorthcoteIND on Twitter.

Comments welcome!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bracks enlisted for Richardson's Northcote ALP launch

Former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, was tonight enlisted to launch a bid to "Keep Northcote Labor" and re-elect Right faction Labor Unity MP, Fiona Richardson, who has held the State seat since her election in 2006.

Northcote is one of four inner-Melbourne seats now under threat from the Greens, and the recent federal election poses the question of whether Martin Ferguson's poor result in Batman will translate to a State political poll among a constituency shared between the State and federal seats.

Labor concern over Northcote is one reason why the popular Mr Bracks may have been called into play, but it should be remembered that his famous victory in 1999 marked the rise of the Independents in Victoria, and the federal hung Parliament may yet be echoed in the State result, to the benefit of Greens and Independents - not to mention more representative and participatory democracy.

The launch event held, at Northcote's Regal Ballroom, attracted a lively crowd, among them climate campaigners protesting the Victorian Government's addiction to brown-coal-fired electricity generation, including its current consideration of a proposal by HRL for a brown-coal-gasification plant in the Latrobe Valley.

The Brumby Government has made much noise of late about its proposed partial closure of International Power's Hazelwood plant, Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station, but the HRL proposal, if approved, would negate any emissions savings from that inadequate measure.

The Government has also focused talk of compensation for the partial Hazelwood closure on International Power, rather than workers who may be displaced by the transition to a low-emissions economy. The mooted billions of compensation to the corporate giant would also redirect vital public funds away from investment in renewable energy projects that could generate sustainable jobs in the same region.

With a string of negative issues besieging the Victorian Government - from Dirt Units to dirty coal - Labor will be sorely challenged to sanitise its image by parading Mr Bracks before Victorian voters cast their ballots on 27 November.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Brumby better than Feds, but lags behind climate science

Today The Age published my letter responding to yesterday's page one article, "Brumby plan exposes Gillard", and the paper's editorial, "State reclaims leadership role on climate". It seems the Premier has turned greener in the lead-up to the Victorian State election in November, but at the moment he's mainly looking good compared to dismal federal climate proposals by Labor and the Coalition, not in terms of the true benchmark of the climate science. The risk of his new policy is that International Power will be paid far too much to close Hazelwood, if that eventuates.

As usual, here's the letter as published, followed by the submitted version.

JOHN Brumby's 2020 emissions target (The Age, 27/7) looks good relative to the appalling federal proposals but not compared with what the science demands to achieve a safe climate. In the meantime, the danger lies in caving in to International Power on compensation for a staged closure of Hazelwood, Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station. We should not pay a massive corporation hundreds of millions of dollars not to pollute when there is the capacity identified in Brumby's policy to regulate emissions from Hazelwood to render it unprofitable if a reasonable deal to close is not achieved.

Money spent paying off International Power would not be available to invest in renewable energy, cushion the economically disadvantaged in the transition to a green economy or shield workers affected by the phasing out of fossil fuels. International Power stranded itself through an unwise investment when the threat of climate change was already well known.
Now, as submitted.

John Brumby's 2020 emissions target looks good mainly relative to appalling federal proposals, not when compared to what the science demands to achieve a safe climate. His new climate policy, while an overdue step in the right direction, will ultimately need to match the science to be truly effective and credible - an outcome that cannot be judged by a citizens' assembly convened by his federal Labor colleagues.

In the meantime, the danger lies in caving in to International Power regarding the level of compensation for any staged closure of Hazelwood, Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power station. We should not be paying a massive corporation hundreds of millions of dollars not to pollute when there is the capacity identified in the Brumby policy to strictly regulate emissions from the power station to render it unprofitable if a reasonable deal to close it cannot be achieved.

Money spent paying off International Power would be money not available to invest in renewable energy, cushion the economically disadvantaged in the transition to a green economy, or shield workers affected by the necessary phasing out of fossil fuels. International Power deserves no such treatment. It stranded itself through an unwise investment in doomed emissions-intensive power generation when the threat of climate change was already well known.

Comments welcome!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Zero emissions challenge to Australia's coal minister

Update: There's a great wrap-up of the event at Independent Media Centre Australia.

Tonight saw the launch of the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan before a packed house at the University of Melbourne. As the Australian Government sets itself to unveil a pre-election climate policy, the plan presents a realistic path to powering Australia with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

Australia's energy and resources minister, Martin Ferguson, was absent, but in the audience was Labor Senator for Victoria, Jacinta Collins, who should be able to deliver some powerful messages to the minister - if he is prepared to listen.

The plan presented viable costings for delivering solar and wind power using proven technologies at an average additional household cost of just eight dollars a week.

Dispelling popular myth, Grattan Institute CEO John Daley pointed out that the cost of doing nothing will not only continue to grow our carbon emissions, but will lead to energy price rises anyway, as finance becomes more difficult with the increasing risk of investment in carbon-intensive generation - especially coal-fired power stations. Fewer plants with increasing demand would push prices up, so why not cut emissions for a modest weekly increase by switching to renewables?
Daley also pointed out that policy support should be offered to help deliver the plan. This should include a strong price on carbon that sets a high minimum price in terms of a base carbon tax that could be topped up with a variable permit price. Without a floor in the price, Daley said that increasing renewables could lead to an excess in available permits that would then fall in price and let emissions-intensive coal-fired generators back in the game.

He also said that efficiency measures and renewable energy targets would not by themselves deliver even the modest targets so far proposed by the Australian Government.

However, a far more obvious take-home message for Martin Ferguson is that proven solutions are available that can deliver baseload power to secure our energy future without destroying the global climate. Wind power and solar thermal with storage do not require "proving up", as the minister is so fond of suggesting.

Nor is it true, as he also likes to suggest, that so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) is anywhere near the renewable technologies presented in the plan in terms of the maturity and workability of the technology.

As well as providing some clear answers about renewable technologies, the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan therefore poses a serious additional challenge to the minister: where is the comparable work that shows the viability of CCS in delivering zero emissions?

If the minister, with all the resources of government, can't put that on the table, we will be justified in thinking that CCS is only a stalling tactic to justify the continued gouging of coal from the ground while doing nothing to curb emissions, or the health and environmental impacts of exploiting fossil fuels.

If you'd like to ask the minister for his response, why not send him an email, or give him a call on (+613) 9416 8690.

Comments welcome

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gillard's "sanctuary" no defence against climate inaction

Today's edition of The Age carries my letter responding to Ross Gittin's piece in yesterday's paper, "It's time to raise the bar" (The Age, Comment & Debate, 7 July 2010, p.8; online in a slightly different version).

Gittins questions the role of the deliberate creation of green jobs in emissions reduction. He thinks the jobs will flow as we move away from fossil fuels. He's right, of course, but direct action measures, including the specific creation of green jobs, are a useful complement for a strong price on carbon.

With Labor set to frame its pre-election climate policy, the risk is that so-called direct action will be used as an excuse for a failure to implement a strong price. If that happens, Julia Gillard's "sanctuary" Australia will be no defence against climate inaction.

Here's the letter, or scroll down to "Low-carbon jobs" on The Age letters page. As usual, the published version is followed by the version submitted.
Ross Gittins (Comment, 7/7) is right that jobs will arise from the shift to a low-carbon economy as we replace fossil fuels with renewables.

While he is understandably wary of the ''direct action'' approaches to climate change pushed by Tony Abbott, and now likely Julia Gillard, it would be better to acknowledge the need for a range of approaches to tackle climate change.

A strong price on carbon - one likely to achieve the emissions reductions indicated by science - can indeed be complemented by green jobs assessed as such by their total contribution to reducing our emissions. The problem comes when so-called direct action is substituted for urgent action by governments.

We may now be swinging from a position where a weak emissions trading scheme was seen as ''the'' climate solution to one where ''direct action'' may be used in an attempt to justify inaction at a higher level.

With the world heading for double the ''safe'' warming of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, any proposed solution needs to actually do the job. The challenge for all parties is therefore to show how their proposals will help Australia and the world return to an emissions path that will achieve a truly safe climate. Anything else is political game-playing. In particular, Gillard needs to acknowledge that Australia will be no ''sanctuary'' from climate change should we fail to act.

Now for the submitted version, which has had only a slight trim by the editor.
Ross Gittins (Comment & Debate, 7/7) is right that jobs will arise from the shift to a low-carbon economy as we replace fossil fuels with renewables as our source of energy. While he is understandably wary of the "direct action" approaches to climate change pushed by Abbott and now likely Gillard, it would be better to acknowledge the need for a range of approaches to tackle climate change. A strong price on carbon - one likely to achieve the emissions reductions indicated by science - can indeed be complemented by green jobs assessed as such by their total contribution to reducing our emissions.

The problem comes when so-called direct action is substituted for the urgent action that needs to be taken by governments. We may now be swinging from a position where a weak emissions trading scheme was seen as "the" climate solution, to one where "direct action" may be used in an attempt to justify inaction at a higher level. I commend to Ross the recent Deakin lecture by British green economist, Tim Jackson, who has also written about the economics of climate change and how these approaches might be combined.

With the world heading for double the "safe" warming of two degrees above pre-industrial levels (News, p.8), any proposed solution needs to actually do the job. The challenge for all parties is therefore to show how their proposals will help Australia and the world return to an emissions path that will achieve a truly safe climate. Anything else is political game-playing. In particular, Julia Gillard needs to acknowledge that Australia will be no "sanctuary" from climate change should we fail to act.
Comments welcome!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Local Labor keen to draw Gillard link

The Northcote Leader has run with a story suggesting a close relationship between new prime minister, Julia Gillard, and local State and Federal MPs, Fiona Richardson and Martin Ferguson. I left the following comment on the story, and it will be interesting to see if it gets up:
With Martin Ferguson behind the "meteoric rise" of new prime minister, Julia Gillard, what hope do we really have either for urgent climate action or for a robust resources tax that won't be just a backdown in the face of a powerful mining lobby? After all, Martin has been on a listening tour to the mining magnates.

As for Fiona Richardson, she may well try to wring out a few votes by association with Australia's first female prime minister, but why not ask the two other women known at this stage to be running for State and Federal Parliament what it means for them to have a woman as prime minister? Could it be because they are running for the Greens?

We should also remember that the Richardson association cuts both ways - it ties Gillard to the factional apparatus of the Victorian Right. Surprise, surprise.
Comments welcome.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gillard stumbles as call for climate action sounds

Despite the rise of our plain-spoken and highly capable first female prime minister, Julia Gillard has taken little time to make her first false moves on climate.

Writing in The Age, Adam Morton relates the role of climate backsliding in the demise of Kevin Rudd as a conviction politician, but we now see Julia Gillard party to a brown coal deal with Vietnam as she “opens the door” to the mining industry and flags the need to build community “consensus” before Australia acts decisively on climate.

The consensus line comes as a new poll already shows strong concern for action on climate and a perception that the major parties are "clones" on climate policy.

An admitted party to the Rudd Government’s disastrous decision to shelve work on emissions trading, Gillard now appears to be operating on the consensus of the mining industry that it proceed full-steam ahead with the extraction of our natural resources despite the community, environmental and climate impacts, and quite possibly with a watered-down tax payment on its super profits.

The prime minister surely recalls Kevin Rudd’s 2007 election mandate to act on climate, and Australia's historic ratification of Kyoto. Julia Gillard must now acknowledge that should she ignore the scientific and growing community consensus, the climate will render self-evident its own consensus through the clear and worsening impacts of global warming. That is already happening, and further delay on climate action is no better than denial.

Comments welcome!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Truth and Lies event calls for climate action

Last Wednesday, Darebin Climate Action Now ran a great event at Northcote Town Hall about the truths of climate science, the lies of the climate denialists, and the renewable solutions that can help us to beat climate change if there is sufficient public and political will for climate action.

The report on Truth & Lies, Climate Change: Science and Solutions is now up, together with video of a presentation by Climate Code Red co-author, David Spratt, and some very interesting links and resources. Also presenting were Jenny McCracken on the impact of eating meat on climate change, Beyond Zero Emissions' Mark Ogge on the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 project, and DarebinCAN's Jane Morton on successful climate activism.

Have a read and you might just feel like joining in on some local climate action. As well as the blog link above, you can also follow Darebin Climate Action Now on Facebook and Twitter. They hold regular meetings and events in Darebin - usually at Northcote Town Hall - and welcome new members.

Comments welcome!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Julia Gillard and a consensus on climate

I was at a climate event last night when one of the presenters, David Spratt, announced to the gathering that he'd received a text to say a challenge was on for the Labor leadership. It was a bombshell, and, as we saw this morning, Julia Gillard - always potential prime minister material - fulfilled that ambition in rather sad circumstances.

This morning's press conference, with only the odd false note, was coherent, focused and eloquent. Yet there's an immediate question mark over our new prime minister's stance on the resources tax and on climate action.

On the first, I thought it was a masterful stroke to cease the resources tax campaign with the accompanying proviso that the mining industry follow suit as a sign of good faith. Though I think the ads - however poor in execution - were justified, it's good to be able to avoid the charges of political advertising, provided the mining industry isn't thereby offered free hits with the continuation of its own propaganda.

However, the test will lie in what Julia's "open door" policy for the mining industry really means. If it turns out to mean a spineless watering-down of the resources tax (as happened with the ETS), then the leadership change will rightfully be seen as a massive win for the tactics of the mining industry. If it means a sensible approach to creating a clear and workable tax that recognises the strong case for the mining industry to pay (a lot) more, then that may be a good thing.

On climate there was also cause for concern. Julia spoke of the need for a strong community consensus before a price was put on carbon. In the context of her admission that she was a party to the decision to shelve the emissions trading scheme, this statement was worrying. She clearly wasn't talking about the obvious consensus that exists on the science, but on the public will to tackle the problem.

In that sense, the pressing question is what she is going to do about achieving that consensus within a timeframe that addresses the urgency of the science. She surely can't mean only the $30 million for better climate change communication drawn from the existing funding of a climate change department expected to find savings of $200 million?

I've argued before that the justification for the resources tax campaign would also justify a campaign on climate change, but that a truthful campaign on climate would force the government to acknowledge that its currently proposed measures are totally inadequate.

As David Spratt pointed out at the climate event I attended on the fateful night, the promises on the table at Copenhagen point to four degrees of warming - easily enough to push us past catastrophic climate tipping points.

It's now up to Julia. To a powerful case for election built on workplace relations, health and education, our first female prime minister can add climate action. Kevin Rudd ratified Kyoto; Julia can finish the job - as long as she recognises science as the benchmark of her success, or failure.

Comments welcome

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Climate "Truth & Lies" event this Wednesday!

Come and hear about climate change science and solutions at Truth & Lies, a presentation by Climate Code Red co-author David Spratt at Northcote Town Hall (Rooftop), 189 High Street, on Wednesday 23 June from 7.00–9.00pm (snacks from 6.30pm, entry by donation).

We all know about the success of the climate deniers in sowing doubt about the need for urgent action on climate change. But do you know the arguments they use and do you know the truth? These days the fossil fuel industry is funding a campaign of disinformation about renewable technology to supplement their long-running campaign against climate science.

Darebin Climate Action Network is providing you with the opportunity to become well informed about the truth and lies about climate change by taking a guided look at the science and the solutions.

David Spratt, who will speak on the latest science and sceptics’ arguments, will be joined by Mark Ogge from Beyond Zero Emissions – the technology group working on a plan to repower Australia with 100% renewable energy by 2020. Their report Zero Carbon Australia 2020 is to be released next month.

There will also be brief presentations from DarebinCAN members – Jenny McCracken on “Food Truth & Lies” and Jane Morton on “Successful Activism”.

For a map showing the venue location, go to Darebin Climate Action Network.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reply to Turnbull on the RSPT and climate

Malcolm Turnbull has published on his blog the full text of last Saturday's Deakin lecture speech on the politics of climate change, where he made the copiously reported comments about Kevin Rudd's "political cowardice" over climate change.

After my Twitter exchange disagreeing with Malcolm over his "support" for climate action coupled with his rejection of the resources tax, I left the following comment on his blog post. It will be interesting to see if it stays up, and if he responds. I'd also like to see this issue dealt with on next Monday night's Q&A, where Malcolm will be a panellist. Here's my comment:
I was there for your presentation, and I have to say you had the best jokes ("Kevin has always said such nice things about me"). However, you're wrong to support climate action - if only a weak version of it that doesn't reflect the science - and not support the resources tax. I am fully aware that the RSPT is not intended as a climate tax, but the fact is that, missing from this debate is a range of unacknowledged costs of the mining industry - from environmental and climate impacts, through to health impacts on local communities. You will never hear the mining industry acknowledge these costs, because they view them as external to their own narrow commercial self-interest. Sure we don't yet have an appropriate carbon price, but I'm willing to support the RSPT as a down-payment on the day when the true costs of the industry are accounted for and the wealthy mining barons are called on to pay up (I might have said "cough up", but that is done in the Hunter Valley and elsewhere). Of course, I also support the RSPT on the basis of Australians getting a fair share of profits in the meantime. Mining royalties have been declining as a percentage of mining profits, afterall.
 Comments welcome (you too, Malcolm).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Turnbull "supports" climate action, rejects resources tax

@TurnbullMalcolm onthe RSPT

Today The Age published my letter responding to Malcolm Turnbull's remarks on emissions trading at Saturday's Deakin lecture on the politics of climate change. My response referred to Clive Hamilton's excellent opinion piece on the Resources Super Profits Tax and the newspaper's strong editorial on Australia's quest for oil in deep water in the context of the Gulf of Mexico disaster. As usual, here's the letter as published, followed by the version I submitted:

CLIVE Hamilton (Comment, 14/6) rightly identifies the mining industry as the self-interested common enemy of the resources tax and the emissions trading scheme.

Unfortunately, Malcolm Turnbull (''Calls to get ETS back on agenda'', The Age, 14/6) fails to acknowledge the common element of climate in these two vital initiatives.

I was at Saturday's Deakin lecture on the politics of climate change, where Turnbull spoke. Skirting his own party's climate denialist position, Turnbull attacked the ''political cowardice'' of the Prime Minister in failing to go to a double-dissolution election over the ETS, while decrying a resources tax he said nobody could understand.

In a later Twitter exchange with me, he claimed: ''rspt has nothing to do with climate - its [sic] just a big new tax to raise additional revenues.''

While the Rudd government is indeed guilty of cowardice for not taking science-based action on climate, or even proposing it, the resources tax would be a small down payment to address the damage wrought by the mining industry.

Mining can have a direct and catastrophic effect on the physical environment, as well as contributing strongly to carbon emissions and global warming. How Turnbull can ''support'' climate action but reject the resources tax is beyond me.

Now the very similar version submitted:

Clive Hamilton (Comment & Debate, 14/6) rightly identifies the mining industry as the self-interested common enemy of both the resources tax and the emissions trading scheme.

Unfortunately, Malcolm Turnbull (News, 14/6) fails to acknowledge the common element of climate in these two vital initiatives as he calls to get a flawed ETS back on the agenda.

I was at Saturday's Deakin lecture on the politics of climate change where he made the comments reported in your newspaper. Skirting the climate denialist position of his own party, Turnbull attacked the “political cowardice” of the prime minister in failing to go to a double-dissolution election over the ETS, while decrying a resources tax he said nobody could understand.

In a later Twitter exchange with me, he claimed: “rspt has nothing to do with climate – its (sic) just a big new tax to raise additional revenues”.

While the Rudd government is indeed guilty of cowardice for not taking science-based action on climate, or even proposing it, the resources tax would be a small down-payment to address the damage wrought by the mining industry.

As shown by your excellent editorial on Australia’s continuing quest for for oil in the face of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, mining can have a direct and catastrophic effect on the physical environment, as well as contributing strongly to carbon emissions and global warming.

How Turnbull can “support” climate action but reject the resources tax is beyond me.

Comments welcome.