Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Remove $8.9 billion fossil fuel subsidies to combat climate change

Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull's announcement that all incandescent light bulbs will be banned in Australia from 2009-10 is a step in the right direction and is long overdue. However, we need to do much more than this.

The real problem is that electricity produced in Australia from fossil fuel such as coal is subsidised to the tune of an astounding $8.9 billion, so it is far too cheap. If these subsidies were removed, and a carbon tax applied to polluting energy producers, then renewable energy would successfully compete and the free market would steer us in the right direction of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This would also provide strong incentives for Australian manufacturers to produce energy efficient appliances that would be competitive in export markets. Australian appliances are lagging global standards on power consumption because electrical power is so cheap in Australia. Currently, if you want a really energy efficient fridge or dishwasher you have to buy one from a European country such as Germany or Sweden.

With renewable energy on a competitive footing, and demand for electricity greatly reduced through the use of more energy efficient appliances, we would avoid building new coal-fired power stations or going down the non-renewable and dangerous nuclear path favoured by John Howard.

It is time for our politicians to display some real leadership on climate change before we reach the looming crisis point.

Overall, this would be cheaper than funding projects across Australia such as building a barrage across the Port Phillip Bay Heads to stop rising seawater levels flooding Melbourne’s bayside regions.

Some further information:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

David Hicks should be brought home and Howard and Ruddock should step down

It is totally unacceptable that John Howard supports the continued illegal incarceration in legal limbo of David Hicks by the Bush government of the United States.

John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Alexander Downer and Peter Costello have all made public comments about their opinions on David Hicks' guilt - and that this justifies him being held without trial. The US ambassador to Australia and the US Military have also made recent allegations about Hick's actions, but they have only just laid dubious charges against him after over five years detention. If there is a compelling case against Hicks, surely he would have been charged, tried and convicted 3 years ago.

Philip Ruddock commented recently that he has "no influence over a foreign jurisdiction" so he can't ask the Bush government to release Hicks. He is wrong on both counts - Guantanamo Bay is not a foreign jurisdiction - it is outside of International law. It is a lawless prison run by the CIA and US interrogators who use CIA techniques of subjugation and degradation. The Bush government is holding him there precisely because they can do what they want and ignore international laws such a the Geneva Convention. Ruddock and Howard can of course ask the Bush Government to release Hicks - they are just choosing not to.

Like any Australian, David Hicks has basic human rights to be given a fair trial, not to be detained excessively without charge and not to be tortured. Philip Ruddock recently stated that evidence obtained from him "under coercion" will be admissable. This is unacceptable. I don't think there is a valid distinction between torture and coercion. Hicks appears to have been tortured while detained.

Malcolm Fraser and Jeff Kennett have spoken out against Hicks' detention, and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has repeated his call for David Hicks to be tried as quickly as possible. Retired Victorian judge Stephen Charles, QC has joined the attack against the US and Australian governments' treatment of David Hicks, stating he will likely "be charged and tried under procedures amounting to a kangaroo court of the most noxious kind".

David Hicks' ongoing detention is a gross breach of human rights and a complete failure of due legal process. John Howard and Philip Ruddock should both step down from office for dereliction of duty, and David Hicks should be repatriated immediately. Once David Hicks is in Australia, due legal process should then be followed.

As precedents, the United State tried one of their own citizens John Walker Lindh as an "enemy combatant" years ago, and the British asked for and got all their detainees released.

It looks like the prospect of an election this year and rising political pressure will see John Howard take action on this, rather than because it is simply the right and humane thing to do.

More information

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Use renewable energy, not more coal

Rather that planning to build new coal fired power stations which will further exacerbate global warming, the Bracks Government should address all the factors contributing to the increased use of peak electricity. Poor house design and siting with respect to the sun means that many new homes get too hot, and cheap electricity means that people buy energy-guzzling air conditioners to cool them.

The Government should amend the building code so that sensible energy efficient house designs are used. Our solar efficient house has no air conditioner.

Government subsidies for coal-fired power should also be removed and a carbon tax levied so that the consumers pay the real cost for electricity generated from burning fossil fuel.

Twenty panels on our house generates two thirds of the total electricity we consume, and we put green power back into the grid at peak times when it is needed. We don't need new power stations in Victoria, either coal fired or nuclear. We need sensibile energy policy based on truly renewable energy, and we need the political will to implement it.

Related article: Government wants air conditioners turned off