Wednesday 13 December 2017


What is it about Liberal–National parliamentarians and coal? Firstly, the federal treasurer gleefully fondles a lump of coal in the house, telling us it's harmless, despite the fact that inhaling smog from coal burning during the industrial revolution caused the premature deaths of millions of people across the globe. The Treasurer's 'stunt' was in support of the government's bullying of AGL to extend the life of the aging, and highly polluting, Liddell Power Station.
While the rest of the civilised world does away with coal-fired power in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our conservatives are embracing the idea of expanding coal mining and coal-fired electricity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that this is changing global climate, threatening our very existence.

More recently the NSW Planning Minister lugged a large lump of coal into question time, using it as a 'prop' to support the State Governments Bill aimed at ensuring coal supplies to the Mount Piper power plant near Lithgow. “This amazing piece of black rock keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter”, he explained.

In this instance the furore was about a successful Court of Appeal challenge, preventing the expansion of the Springvale coal mine which supplies fuel to the Mount Piper plant. The reason for that decision was that the mine expansion could threaten Sydney's drinking water. However, State Government is so wedded to coal, that it is prepared to put the drinking water for some five million people in jeopardy to ensure the mine expansion goes ahead.

All this stupidity is backed up by dubious arguments that reliance on wind and solar generators will result in power cuts this coming summer, as if that is somehow the end of the world. Power cuts may happen as a result of lightning strikes, falling trees, bushfires, and infrastructure breakdowns. A careless excavator operator, or even a traffic accident bringing down a power pole can see your power cut for hours. 

Power cuts are annoying inconvenient and potentially costly, but we deal with it. Governments need to quit investing in coal, and start investing in our future.

- John Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on November 27, 2017. 

Saturday 9 December 2017


In recent years the NSW Government has made significant changes to native vegetation and biodiversity legislation.   Despite Government assertions that there will still be adequate protection for the natural environment, many scientists and conservationists fear these new laws will result in broadscale rural land clearing and large-scale biodiversity loss.
Indeed, land clearing rates in NSW started accelerating even before the changes were passed in August.  This has led to concerns that NSW will see the same type of devastation as has occurred in Queensland where hundreds of thousands of hectares of native vegetation have been destroyed annually (e.g. 395,000 ha in 2015-16).

In an attempt to stem this destruction the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) has launched a legal challenge to the Government’s land clearing codes in the Land and Environment Court. (The NCC is the peak NSW environment body with more than 160 community organisation members from across the state.)

The NCC is being represented by public interest environmental lawyers Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO). 

The challenge is based on two grounds.

The first is the failure by the Minister for Primary Industries to get agreement from the Minister for the Environment before the Code was made, with the implied failure of the Minister for the Environment to act as custodian and guardian of the environment.

The second relates to the failure of both Ministers to have regard for the internationally recognised principles of Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD), particularly the precautionary principle, the principle of intergenerational equity and the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity.

Clearing of native vegetation has been recognised by scientists as a serious problem. It was listed by the NSW Scientific Committee as a Key Threatening Process under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.  However, as EDO Chief Executive Officer David Morris points out, “The Code allows broadscale clearing across NSW in the absence of any assessment of its likely cumulative impact on biodiversity or land or water resources.”

The outcome of this legal action will be of interest to a wide range of community members as well as the NSW Government.

            - Leonie Blain
 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 4, 2017.