1. Judge rejects coal mine
Here’s an image of a cow paddock that was going to be dug up for coal mining at Gloucester in the mid north coast of NSW::
Perhaps the most important thing that happened in Australia in the last week was that Chief Judge Brian Preston of the NSW Land Court rejected Rocky Hill mine near Gloucester, NSW, because of its impact on the town and ‘dire consequences’ of increasing emissions:
- In his judgment, Preston explicitly cited the project’s potential impact on climate change, writing that an open-cut coalmine in the Gloucester Valley “would be in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
“Wrong place because an open cut coal mine in this scenic and cultural landscape, proximate to many people’s homes and farms, will cause significant planning, amenity, visual and social impacts,” he wrote.
“Wrong time because the GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions of the coal mine and its coal product will increase global total concentrations of GHGs at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emissions. These dire consequences should be avoided. The project should be refused.”
Gloucester Resources was seeking to overturn a NSW government decision to reject an open-cut mine because of its impact on the town of Gloucester, north of Newcastle.
- The Environmental Defenders Office joined the case last April, arguing on behalf of its client, Groundswell Gloucester, that the mine’s detrimental impact on climate change and on the social fabric of the town should be considered as part of the merit appeal.
We’ll never know whether the impact on the town would have been sufficient to reject the appeal, but the judge was quite explicit that the production of greenhouse gases was a factor.
Climate scientists are pondering whether the metrics should change so that “one in 100-year” floods become “one in 50-year”. Townsville rain has broken all records in what is reckoned as a one in 500 years event, but I recall extensive floods in Katter country, that is, Northwest Qld, around 10 years ago. And in many places there has been no rain to speak of in between.
Here’s a screenshot to show how bad it was:
The mayor of Richmond, John Wharton, said there had been huge stock losses in his area, as well as McKinlay shire, and parts of Flinders and Cloncurry shires.
“This is a disaster,” Wharton said. “Cattle just couldn’t move, the water just kept rising and rising and the water broke its banks.
“There are railway lines washed away, the roads are buggered and there is a lot of cattle gone. They could not survive. It was just hell.”
Many beasts would bring more than $1000 and a stud bull can cost up to $80,000, although to be fair the average is likely less than $10,000. However, you need a few of them because the average working bull will only sire 30 calves a year for 3.5 years, making about 105 in all, whereupon you thank them for their hard work and sell them for about $1500 to be eaten.
The Federal government has offered up to $75,000 in emergency assistance, presumably to truck in feed. It would be a pittance towards repairing infrastructure, restocking etc.
I remember last time most of the grass died while inundated. Possibly it was mostly already dead this time.
Meanwhile, the usual lawyers picnic looms about the management of the Ross River Dam at Townsville.
3. War in the Democratic Party
There has been a lot of talk about Trump and China starting a war more or less by accident, but a different war looms within the Democratic Party in the USA.
Bernie Sanders lit a fire when he revealed a different kind of vision for the Democrats. He did not make it to power himself, but an outfit called Justice Democrats emerged from his supporters to pursue his vision. They assembled a slate of 12 working class candidates for the 2018 election, to shake up the Democratic Party. Only Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez succeeded in being elected. David Freelander tells the story at Politico in ‘There Is Going to Be a War Within the Party. We Are Going to Lean Into It.’
The Justice Democrats see Ocasio-Cortez:
- as just the opening act in an astonishingly ambitious plan to do nothing less than re-imagine liberal politics in America—and do it by whatever means necessary.
If that requires knocking out well-known elected officials and replacing them with more radical newcomers, so be it. And if it ends up ripping apart the Democratic Party in the process—well, that might be the idea.
“There is going to be a war within the party. We are going to lean into it,” said Waleed Shahid, the group’s spokesman.
Saikat Chakrabarti, AOC’s head of staff, was one of the founders of the Justice Democrats.
Whether this makes it more or less likely that Trump will get a second term is more than I can say.
4. Politics starts at a frenetic pace
Both major parties were quick out of the blocks in 2019, with an undeclared election campaign from the very beginning. It ended last year with parliament a funny farm, where so many were deserting the Liberal Party, and so many high-profile independents taking on Liberal-held seats, you would be forgiven for thinking Bill Shorten’s path to the Lodge was a cake-walk.
Essential Poll has come in at 52-48 TPP in favour of Labor, within the margin of error, but with the feeling that the race is tightening. Peter Lewis, who runs Essential Report, has a useful perspective:
- As I have argued ad nauseam, an iron rule of politics is that right of centre political parties are seen as better economic managers than left of centre parties – regardless of their actual performance.
- Asylum seekers – the modified Phelps bill
- The banking royal commission
- Tim Wilson chairing a parliamentary inquiry into an opposition policy, a very unusual thing to do, but it puts Labor’s franking credits policy up in lights
- Rats abandoning the ship
- Failing to do day job – the scandalous notion of having only 7 sitting days work in the next six or seven weeks before the election is called
Delivering a pre-election federal budget that trumpets a surplus and splurges a bucket of cash is exactly what a right of centre political party should be doing to maximise its chances of victory at the ballot box.
Spicing it with a loud and well-funded, albeit dishonest, scare campaign about Labor’s higher taxes is the icing on the cake. It keeps the debate on the economy and another well-established political line, that taxes are always higher under Labor.
Progressives can wring their hands all they like about how base and self-serving the attacks are, but that won’t stop them working: especially if Labor falls into the trap of attempting to respond by campaigning on their superior economic credentials. Because the other line that resonates with our polity is that left of centre parties thrive when the question is not, “how is the economy going?”, but “who is it going for?”
Renee Vellaris for the Courier Mail identifies five themes she thinks will dominate parliament’s return on Tuesday:
I’m worried Labor will cave on asylum seekers. They have said their support is subject to a security briefing. We’ve heard what the spooks think from the front page of The Australian. They appear to be as paranoiac as the Coalition.
I’m going to do a separate post on the franking credits issue, because it is probably the most blatantly dishonest scare campaign yet. Pensioners (part and full) explicitly will not be affected, yet it has been characterised as Bill Shorten coming for their money. Meanwhile the fact that Tim Wilson’s cousin’s company, in which Tim has shares, has a vested interest in the issue, will only give the lies more publicity.
5. Off with their heads!
What was Liam Neeson thinking? This week he shared that:
- decades ago, a close friend revealed she was raped by a man of color and he considered committing violence against black men in revenge.
What purpose is served by telling everyone that now? He did not actually do anything, but now stands to lose his career.
Rugby league player Ben Barba was sacked by the Townsville Cowboys before playing a match when a domestic violence incident was apparently caught on closed circuit TV at Townsville Casino. There is a criminal justice system in Australia, but in this case is it the role of the club and the NRL to mete out punishment? How does that help his partner and four daughters?
Yes, I know it’s in the fine print of his contract, and it is really about keeping the sponsorship dollars flowing.
The justice system has three main considerations in relation to the guilty. First, punishment, second, rehabilitation, and third, public safely if the perpetrator is deemed dangerous to the public.
It is particularly poor at rehabilitation, at looking after the victims of crime, and at restitution for harm done.
Barba was also unlucky because he came after several others caught in a similar way over the off-season.
In my view he needed help, not public execution, humiliation and impoverishment. Perhaps he’ll go off and play rugby union where they seem to have different standards.