Thursday, June 30, 2016

Getting clean energy, cutting pollution and protecting reefs, rivers, forest and wildlife onto the Kooyong 2016 election agenda

The long running federal election campaign is coming to an end.  Most of the action has been in marginal seats in New South Wales and Queensland where cash gets splashed and promises are made.

A safe Liberal seat like Kooyong becomes a bit of backwater.  However, this election the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society have mobilised community volunteers to door knock through the electorate and ask people to pledge they will vote for a candidate who commits to:

  • Supporting clean energy
  • Cutting pollution
  • Protecting reefs, rivers, forest and wildlife onto the Kooyong 2016 election agenda
Party candidates in Kooyong were asked to make the same pledge. Margaret D'Arcy (Labor) and Helen McLeod (Greens) both did, but Josh Frydenberg (Liberal, incumbent) did not.

Pledges and leaflets
Over 1000 people in the electorate did make the pledge.

I did some door knocking on Saturday 25 July in August with about a dozen other volunteers. I had many good conversations with voters and over 100 pledges.  One person said they couldn't pledge as they voted Liberal. When I told him that the pledge was apolitical he said he would and asked me why Josh wouldn't.  I said he would have to ask Josh about that.

I handed out copies of the scorecard (which is not a how to vote card) at the early voting (pre poll) centre in Riversdale Road.

Josh was there with his "blue army" of around 8 helpers in blue shirts.

Helen McLeod, Margaret D'Arcy and Angelina Zubic (independent) were there too.

Josh said he wasn't happy about the leaflet, even though I clarified it (and the pledge) was produced by ACF and TWS.  He said he wasn't happy with the "pledge truck" that has been around in Kooyong, so the Liberals have responded with their truck (attacking the Greens, but no mention of Liberal except in unreadable fine print).

However, Josh did say he was interested in helping get the Hawthorn to Box Hill bike trail built so I will catch up with him after the election - he is likely to be elected - to discuss how we can make some progress.

It will be interesting to see how community-based door knocking and the pledge in Kooyong will affect the outcome.  A good comparison will be Goldstein, which has a similar strong Greens vote but there was no activity with the pledge.

Kooyong is still among the top 25 green electorates in the country and the vote is growing:
  • 1998: 4%
  • 2001: 11.24%
  • 2004: 12.54%
  • 2007: 11.82%
  • 2010: 18.48% 
  • 2013:  16.58%
Josh Frydenberg responded to this environmental focus by distributing a leaflet to the entire electorate spruiking his environmental credentials.  

But Josh didn't mention his support for coal seam gas (CSG, fracking), new coal mines such and Shenhua (Liverpool Plains, NSW) and Adani (Carmichael, QLD) and increased coal exports to India

It is very clear that we need to transition of coal and other fossil fuels over the next 10 years to 100% renewable energy if we are to have any chance of retaining a safe climate.  

The Liberal-National minority government are stuck in denial of climate change; their "Direct Action" policies are ineffective and emissions have risen since Tony Abbott scrapped the effective carbon tax - this was his greatest blunder and an act of sheer vandalism.

The Labor party's climate and energy policies, while better than the LNP, are still nowhere near good enough. 

The Greens still have the strongest environmental policies, and they are the only ones to mention forest protecting during this election campaign.  If the Greens win Batman (possible) and Higgins (not so likely) in Victoria and a couple of others elsewhere they may have the numbers to form government with Labor.  Labor has churlishly ruled this out, but would they really force us to go to another general election? 

It will be interesting to see what the voters of Kooyong and across Australia do.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Please introduce a permanent ban on unconventional gas in Victoria

  • Daniel Andrews, Premier
  • Lily D'Ambrosio, Energy Minister
Dear Minister,

My name is Peter Campbell, I am an IT consultant and live in Surrey Hills.  I am writing to you to urge you to stand with the community and permanently ban onshore gas drilling.

The community has reached consensus. 73 communities have declared themselves 'Gasfield Free' , with an overwhelming majority pledging they will do whatever it takes to stop onshore gas drilling going ahead.

Onshore gasfields have inherent risks that we will not tolerate.  Water contamination, air pollution and industrialisation threaten rural communities, the health of people and animals, our environment and local economies.

Already the coalition have promised us a 5 year moratorium on all onshore gas drilling. But that does not give us enough certainty. We need your government to address community anxiety and lift the cloud from over our heads by putting in place a permanent ban on all onshore gas drilling.

Unconventional gas (UCG) production will destroy agricultural land and wilderness areas and will greatly compromise tourism in Victoria.

I hope the Andrews Labor Government will stand on the side of the community.

Renewable energy must be implemented to replace fossil fuel usage for electricity, heating and transport.


Peter Campbell

Monday, April 11, 2016

Why we need a Royal Commission into Australian banks and financial services

Calls for a Royal Commission into Australian Banks and financial services have so far fallen on deaf ears.

The reasons why a royal commission is urgently needed include:
  • Entrenched ongoing fraudulent (possibly criminal) financial advice provided by the Commonwealth bank that has resulted in the losses of tens of millions of investors money.
  • Banks rigging interest rates. Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank are all under official investigation by ASIC and have been served with official notices.
  • The Australian Senate inquiry demanded a royal commission into Commonwealth Bank and ASIC
  • The failure of "self regulated" banks and other financial services companies to deal with corrupt and illegal activities within their businesses.
Predictably, some major Australian banks oppose a Royal Commission into their conduct.  What have they got to hide?

Labor now supports a Greens move for a Royal Commission into financial services.  Some Coalition politicians such as Warren Entsch also support this.

Prime Minister Turnbull has dismissed calls for the Royal Commission, describing it as a "thought bubble".  Ministers Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton have also parroted the "thought bubble" dismissal.  

It is quite clear that Turnbull, Frydenberg and Dutton are putting a massive cover-up of corporate banking fraud ahead of the public interest.  Perhaps the large political donations that banks all make to the Liberal and National parties influence this curious response?

I don't think that the Commonwealth bank losing tens of millions of retirees and other investor money due to illegal and fraudulent practices is a "thought bubble".  Nor is collusion between banks to manipulate interest rates. 

I think it essential that the financial sector in Australia abides by laws and is held accountable and penalised for illegal activities if and when they occur.

External links

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I just signed this petition asking the Australian Senate to keep EPBC laws

I just signed this petition asking the Australian Senate to keep EPBC laws strong to protect our environment including forests and the Great Barrier Reef.

 EPBC petition

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Underground rail with a linear park is better that overhead Skyrail

The Victorian government has announced plans for "Skyrail" overhead rail along sections of the Dandenong line.  Daniel Bowen provides a good overview of the proposal.

Murrembeena Station concept drawing Source
Community consultation by the Victorian government regarding this proposal seems to be "we are providing elevated rail and we want feedback on the details".

An underground rail option is not being publicly canvassed by the government.  Underground rail would probably cost twice as much as the overhead rail so it has apparently already been ruled out.

While underground rail would cost more it would have much less long term impact. A linear park can be built above it with bike and pedestrian paths and a mix of some residential and commercial buildings. 

Cities around the world such as London, Paris, Stuttgart, Naples and Tokyo all have underground rail. 

If you want to see how overhead rail ends being a disruptive divisive eyesore visit the Canterbury Railway station or have a look at the wasteland under Flinders Street viaduct in Melbourne's CBD.

Flinders St viaduct source: Wikimedia
The "Skyrail" proposal includes:

"an extra 12 km of cycle paths will be added, linking existing sections to make a single stretch for bikes from Caulfield to Dandenong, with local councils contributing additional links to Monash University and the Gardiner Creek trial, which provides an off-road path all the way into the city."

Bike path near overhead infrastructure

However, bike paths on the surface need to cross roads like the current train line does. This is a poor outcome for cyclists, less so for pedestrians. 

Here are some pros and cons of underground versus overhead rail for grade separation.

Overhead rail
  • Achieves grade separation between roads and rail
  • Cheaper to build
  • Bike and pedestrian paths can be built under gantry that can provide overhead cover

  • Creates an eyesore
  • Divides communities
  • Propagates noise further
  • Space under the gantry has low sunlight and low amenity - three or four tracks cover a lot of area
  • No opportunity for residential buildings along rail easement
  • Bike path road crossings impede cycling

Underground rail
  • Achieves grade separation between roads and rail
  • Provide linear park above with mix of residential and commercial buildings and bike and pedestrian paths
  • Less noisy, low impact on  local communities
  • Can include bike and pedestrian underpasses in tunnels (next to rail tunnel) under busy roads.

  • Expensive to build
  • Separate overhead cover required for bike and pedestrian paths
  • Diesel fumes from regional and freight trains need to be dispersed

The Level Crossing Authority should provide the best transport outcomes for motorists, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians with all grade separation projects.

So far the track record for grade separations is appalling.  For example, feedback to provide good pedestrian and bike underpasses at Springvale and Rooks Roads was ignored even though the Box Hill to Ringwood Rail Trail was an approved project when they were planned and built.

More recently, the need for a tunnel under Burke Rd for pedestrians and cyclists during the grade separation was also ignored with the usual litany of excuses such as "there isn't room for it" and "it would cost too much".

I provided feedback that a bike and pedestrian underpass should be included during consultation for the Middleborough Road grade separation.  A pedestrian underpass was belatedly provided but bikes cannot use it.

The plans for Blackburn Road grade separation show now indication of a bike pedestrian underpass

Blackburn Road separation concept [source]
Pedestrians and cyclists are forced to use pedestrian crossings at all these locations - they must press and wait for pedestrian crossing lights that then impede the traffic - that the grade separation is supposed to have prevented!  This is an absurd outcome for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

Tunnels should be also be provided for pedestrians and bikes next to train tunnels - its is much cheaper to do this during construction.

Linear parks over underground rail with covered solar bike paths and a mix of residential and commercial buildings provide the best amenity for all users and the lowest impact on local communities.

Linear bike path in Hungary

Linear bike path concept in Sydney

Please reverse government cuts to CSIRO climate science

Open letter to:

Josh Frydenberg, Member for Kooyong, Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia

Greg Hunt, Member for Flinders, Minister for the Environment

Please reverse your government's announced cuts to CSIRO climate science.

Hectares of burnt cushion plant. Photo: Rob Blakers

More government funding is required to better understand the effects of climate change, not less.

Climate change impacts that are now apparent, many of which are exceeding worst case scientific estimates, include:
  • Dramatic increase in very severe bushfires and the extension of the bushfire season
  • Bushfires occurring in regions not adapted to burning such as Tasmania's Central Plateau, where rare plants in World Heritage areas have been destroyed.
  • Heat waves resulting in increased deaths due to heat stress
  • Sea level rises now impacting many coastal regions and communities around Australia
  • Acidification and warming of the oceans leading to coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Increased frequency and severity of tropical and sub tropical storms (such cyclones and twisters)
All these impacts require ongoing scientific measurement and modelling, not less.

Climate scientists believe Australia's obligations under the Paris climate commitments will be directly undermined by the CSIRO cutting 350 jobs.

Australian and international climate scientists in Melbourne have warned the cuts would cripple CSIRO climate research.

Please reverse your government's cuts to the CSIRO Climate Science team Oceans and Atmosphere, and Land and Water divisions.

Regards, Peter Campbell


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Tasmanian fires and damage to natural environment - enquiry is needed

To: The Hon. Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for the Environment

The Hon Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania

I note that areas in excess of 95,000 hectares have been burnt recently by out of control bushfires in Tasmania.  Many of these areas have very significant native vegetation and animals that have been destroyed.

Hectares of burnt cushion plant. Photo: Rob Blakers
I have previously visited and bushwalked in the Tarkine wilderness, the Central Plateau, The Overland Track, the South Coast and South West Cape tracks and the Denison and King William Ranges regions.

Could you please initiate an enquiry to determine:

1. Whether the Tasmanian Fire Service has sufficient resources to control bushfires in remote areas in a timely fashion in order to limit their spread.

2. Whether the federal government needs to provide resources to enhance air support, training, and resources for remote area fire fighters.

3. Whether current resourcing and fire management practices are sufficient to deal with conditions expected from the extended fire seasons that are now anticipated under climate-change scenarios

4. What restoration programs will be required after the 2016 fires, and what resources will be needed to ensure the best possible restoration of fire affected vegetation, especially high altitude mountain environments and cool-temperate rainforests.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Campbell


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Australia's continued slide to fascism

Recent observations by Andrew Wilkie in parliament.  10 characteristics of a "pre-police state".

Denying some citizens the right to access the legal system is wrong.

Incremental loss of freedoms, democracy deteriorating bit by bit.

1. Metadata retention. Govt knows where you go, what you look at, who you talk to. No warrant required

2. Media - used, manipulated, bullied

3. Manipulation of judiciary - Royal Commission

4. Secrecy - operational matters "on water"

5. Law - can be arrested on suspicion of terrorism with no evidence.

6. Some people can be incarcerated indefinitely without trial - asylum seekers

7. Complete disregard for international law and agreements - Refugee convention, rights of the child.

8. Parliament forbidden to debate or decide on important matters of state - e.g. bombing of Syria.

9. Safeguard mechanisms disregarded and people bullied - Human Rights Commissioner. Autocratic regime

10. Security agencies act beyond lawful powers. Australian Border Force operation on the streets of Melbourne - unlawful, beyond their legal power.

And Border Force now prevents people reporting brutality, rape, sexual abuse in immigration detention.

Update 28 Dec 2015.  George Williams, Professor of Law at the University of NSW writes that

An extraordinary number of Australian laws now infringe basic democratic standards, but we hardly bat an eyelid. The growing assault on our democratic rights, Sydney Morning Herald: