The speakers list at a conference entitled ‘Growth Challenge – Riding the Resources Boom to Lasting Prosperity’ had been described as “A Who’s who that’s Screwing You” (callout on Melbourne Indymedia), but in the event it was only Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson who attracted a concerted protest, courtesy of Friends of the Earth ACE collective, who brought Mr Nuke Death with them…
The turnout for the protest would have to be described as disappointing – for some time there were more police than protesters, although numbers evened up with time. The accompanying video clips show the arrival of Greens Senator Christine Milne, and the hostile reception given to the Minister, as well as part of an address by Dr Jim Green of FoE, and some other snippets …(Jim and friends providing some lively music …)
A face in the crowd:
Another face in the crowd:
And a dog in the crowd:
The following media release was issued by Friends of the Earth:
‘Dump Ferguson, not nuclear waste’
30 JUNE 2011
‘Economic and Social Outlook Conference 2011′
DUMP FERGUSON NOT NUCLEAR WASTE
Anti-nuclear activists from Friends of the Earth will join this morning’s protest outside the ‘Economic and Social Outlook Conference 2011′ at Melbourne University to voice concern against resources minister Martin Ferguson’s radioactive agenda.
FoE’s national nuclear campaigner Dr Jim Green said: “We hoped that the unfolding crisis at Fukushima would lead resources minister Martin Ferguson to reconsider his ill-informed pro-nuclear ideologies and plans. However his National Radioactive Waste Management Bill is scheduled to be debated in the Senate next week.
“The draft legislation is draconian, overriding all state laws and key Commonwealth laws. It facilitates the imposition of a nuclear waste dump on the land of Muckaty Traditional Owners despite ongoing opposition by many Traditional Owners and the NT Government. It beggars belief that Ferguson considers it appropriate to push ahead with his legislation while a Federal Court challenge against the nomination of the site, initiated by Traditional Owners, remains unresolved.
“Ferguson has consistently refused to meet Traditional Owners opposed to the nuclear dump plan. His behaviour has been disgraceful and he should be sacked.
“Ferguson should also be held to account for continuing to promote Australia’s uranium industry despite its role in the Fukushima disaster. The government and the uranium companies turned a blind eye to TEPCO’s pattern of safety breaches and data falsification and to its failure to properly address seismic and tsunami risks.
“Despite the hype, uranium accounts for a lousy 0.3% of Australia’s export revenue and an even lousier 0.03% of Australian jobs. The economic outlook for the industry has taken a nose-dive since Fukushima with Germany, Italy and Switzerland abandoning nuclear power in favour of renewables and many other countries rethinking plans to introduce or expand nuclear power.”
Friends of the Earth ACE website
Melbourne’s Anti-Intervention Collective organised a protest under the banner “Jobs with Justice, not Work for Rations”. After speeches at the State Library there was a march down Swanston Street to Federation Square, where the stage was occupied for more speakers and the formal handing over of a petition for delivery to the CFMEU in the NT…
The Melbourne anti-Intervention Collective (MAIC) and its supporters will rally Friday at 5pm at the State Library in opposition to the government’s racist intervention into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
MAIC spokesperson Liam Byrne said, “We will march today to support Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory who have been calling for an end to the Northern Territory Intervention for more than three years now. The Northern Territory Intervention is a racist project that has resulted in an apartheid system of discrimination and disadvantage becoming entrenched in the heart of Australia. Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have seen no genuine improvements in standards of health care, housing or education and have had their rights stripped away. In particular, under the Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) scheme, some Aboriginal people work for as little as $4 per hour, and quarantining of welfare payments has resulted in even greater levels of poverty and hardship for communities.
Liam Byrne continued, “Since the Northern Territory Intervention began, the gap between the rights and living standards of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal Australians has widened. Julia Gillard’s recent attempt to blame Aboriginal people for this disparity is a disgrace and an example of just how low she is prepared to go to defend her government’s complicity in this racist attack on the rights of Aboriginal people. Gillards’s comments also opened the gates to the appalling racism of Mal Brough, who last week called for draconian detention camps to be built outside Alice Springs to incarcerate Aboriginal people.”
Friday’s rally will condemn Gillard’s racism and demand equal pay, jobs with justice and equal rights for Aboriginal people.
Signatures to a petition from the Construction Forestry and Mining Union, calling on the Labor government to pay Aboriginal workers award wages and back pay Aboriginal workers who have been exploited under the CDEP scheme, will be presented to union representatives.
Long-time Aboriginal activist Robbie Thorpe provided a ‘Welcome to Country’ on behalf of the Wurundjeri people, about whom he asked – Victoria was a heavily populated area, but where now are the Wurundjeri people? ‘As rare as hens’ teeth.’ He called on people to ‘grow up’. ‘Why don’t we the people write out own constitution … decide who governs us and how?’
An unscheduled speaker was a representative of MOJO, in Australia as a guest of the MUA ‘a union that believes in fighting for social justice and human rights’. He said amongst other things that Australia had once helped lead the way towards democracy – noting the Eureka stockade and votes for women -but cases like that of Mr Ward demonstrated that htis democracy was really only a sham. He was interrupted for a time by an angry heckler apparently objecting to his being allowed to speak, but was enthusiastically welcomed by the rest of the crowd. (Note – this speaker was originally incorrectly identified here as Gerry Conlon of the “Guildford Four”. Apologies for the misunderstanding.)
Tim Gooden from Geelong Trades Hall Council talked about the Basics Card. He had seen a sticker in the Safeways saying the card was accepted there, but doubted that anyone in Geelong would know what it was about. But he had been in the NT last year and could say that it only serves one purpose, that is, to control people. ‘It doesn’t help with health, it doesn’t help with wealth distribution … ‘ He cited the case of two young women down from the territory visiting in Geelong and finding that the Basics card wasn’t accepted anywhere, was useless. ‘This is in a country where most people think that we’re equal … that we have a safe and secure welfare system that looks after everyone’s basic rights … Aboriginal people in this country today, under Australian laws … are treated as second class citizens, and are treated like shit.’
Sue Pennicuik of the Greens – The greens have always opposed the Intervention and want to see the Racial Discrimination Act restored and an end to welfare quarantining. ‘These measures are unjust, they’re discriminatory, they’re offensive, and they don’t work.’
Liam Byrne of MAIC – amongst other things in a rousing speech before the march set off, highlighted the millions of dollars spent on housing in the territory without a single house being built, and the contrast between the huge amounts paid to bureaucrats and the $4 or so per day being paid to Indigenous workers….
Also at the rally:
… and on the march:
The march halted briefly at the intersection of Bourke and Swanston:
… where Jenna from the Tiwi Islands described her experiences with the Basics card in Melbourne – see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alDnl_1I2OE
At Federation Square:
Madeline Hudson from Friends of the Earth talked about the planned imposition of a nuclear waste dump on the people of Muckaty, something she saw as paralleling the Intervention. ‘The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill overrides all fundamental tenets of our so-called democracy – the Aboriginal Heritage Act, the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act, and of course it overrides state and territory laws that oppose it … Like the Intervention it is blatantly racist.’ (Read more about the Muckaty waste dump on FoE’s ACE website
Finally, Jasmine Ali from MAIC hands over to Jacob Grech a petition with thousands of signatures calling for justice for Aboriginal CDEP workers. He undertook to pass it on to the CFMEU Construction division in the NT for delivery to the Senate….
Since the Australian Conservation Foundation launched its campaign against the proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory some 2700 signatures have been collected on the ‘Dump the Dump’ petition. (See also report on this site for 26 July 2010.) Today, Dave Sweeney, ACF nuclear free campaigner, went to Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson’s office to deliver the petition, accompanied by anti-nuclear activists including members of Friends of the Earth ACE collective, who brought a trailer loaded with drums of ‘radioactive waste’ to highlight the message. (See also Nuclear Freeways.)
The office was locked down, as seems to be the way when concerned citizens want to make contact with their Member of Parliament, and it took the good offices of a police officer to get the door opened. Even then only two people were admitted, and the door hastily closed to prevent others from following. There was also an elderly gentleman who arrived on some business to find the door locked, but he was informed his was a matter for the State member and redirected accordingly. It was not clear what would have happened otherwise. After a short while the two re-emerged, along with the accompanying police office, in proud possession of a hand-written receipt for the petition ‘addressed to Martin Ferguson’. Various plain-clothes AFP and others arrived in the meantime, but this also seems to be the way where Minister Ferguson is concerned…
Protests were held today in several centres across the country to mark BHP Billiton’s AGM in Perth. In Melbourne, members of Friends of the Earth ACE collective and activists representing the Indigenous peoples of Latin America held banners outside the company headquarters in Lonsdale Street and distributed pamphlets setting out the case against it. Probably not many of those who took the pamphlets in Melbourne would have been shareholders, but any that were were encouraged to contact BHP Shareholders for Social Responsibility to support a resolution calling for the company ‘to improve its environmental and social performance’ (email: bhpethical/at/green.net.au). Otherwise, the pamphlet contained information on issues relating to human rights abuses and labour rights, mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples, water, radioactive waste, nuclear weapons proliferation, racism and injustice regarding the company’s operations at Roxby Downs, and more, ending with an extract from a speech by Arabunna Elder Uncle Kevin Buzacott “Here you are, BHP, the biggest mining company in the world, and here we are, the oldest peoples in the world. You should be listening to us …”
(A version of this report on Melbourne Indymedia includes mp3 audio files of the main speakers.)
Melbourne’s Cross Campus Environment Network (CCEN) organised a rally on Monday outside the office of Premier John Brumby in opposition to energy company HRL’s plans to build a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley. Apart from a range of speakers condemning the plan, in the interests of fair play they also invited a representative of the company to answer objections…
Dan Musil of CCEN, the Victorian branch of ASEN, the Australian Student Environment Network, was MC, and began proceedings by acknowledging Aboriginal sovereignty. He went on summarise the reasons for the protest, plans to build a new coal-fired power station at a time when much of the existing infrastructure was reaching then end of its life, and with both state and federal governments preparing to allocate large sums of taxpayers’ money towards the project. This would lock the country into dependency on coal for decades instead of investing in renewable energy sources.
First speaker was Victoria McKenzie-McHarg of Environment Victoria, who was both delighted to see so many people present, a sign of widespread community feeling against the project, but also disappointed that there should be a need to be there at all. Climate change was recognised around the world as one of the greatest challenges humanity had ever faced; we know what is happening, and that coal is the driving force. And yet we are facing the prospect of a new coal-fired power station in Victoria. She poured scorn on the idea that a power station pumping an additional 4.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year could be described as ‘clean’. The Environment Protection Agency had been overwhelmed by 4000 submissions from the public, the vast majority in opposition.
After detailing the Brumby government’s involvement in the project, and the delays it had experienced, she went on to point out that ‘this power station, if it goes ahead, will wipe out any pollution cuts that we gain through Premier Brumby’s announcement to replace the equivalent of a quarter of Hazelwood Power Station, our dirtiest power station.’
Finally, with reference to the coming election, she suggested that not only could the people, the taxpayers, not afford this new power station, but neither could a government that was struggling to hold on the seats in inner-city Melbourne …
Next was Erland Howden of Greenpeace:
HRL and another 11 coal-fired power staions around the country were a threat to the clean, renewable-energy future that everyone present believed in. Taken together, these stations would be locking the country into 39 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions for the next 30 or more years, at the same time locking us out of a renewable-energy future. This was a failure of state and federal government. Another issue was the fact that the big 4 banks provided most of the finance for the existing coal-fired power stations, and are on the brink of providing the finance for these new ones – in fact using our money to finance this polluting form of power. Greenpeace had started a new campaign to stop these stations by cutting the finance – see http://www.greenpeace.org.au/climate/
Pablo Brait from Beyond Zero Emissions was the next speaker:
He echoed Victoria’s sentiments about the insanity of the station, seeing the project as a failure of leadership on the part of the state and federal governments alike, a failure of courage to stand up to the big polluters and to articulate the kind of future we need. He mentioned the proposal by the Bolivian government to set up a ‘climate crime tribunal’ similar to the International Criminal Court, to try business and government leaders ‘who either through action or inaction cause the climate crisis to worsen. Wouldn’t it be something if instead of us standing here protesting, with the police guarding us, we’d be standing here watching the police go into Brumby’s office and drag him away in handcuffs?’ [Loud applause] Preparing and funding of new coal-fired power stations would be pretty high up on a list of crimes that worsen the climate crisis. This decision was made all the worse because there are alternatives to coal – see http://beyondzeroemissions.org/zero-carbon-australia-2020 It was not only possible to supply all needs from renewable sources within 10 years, but doing so would also be good for jobs, would in fact double the number of people working in the energy sector – permanent jobs in addition to extra jobs in the construction stage – and still more in related manufacturing. Regarding the upcoming election, it was our task to ensure that the public are informed, and that no-one votes for a party or candidate who supports the HRL project.
“Carlo Collodi” from HRL introduced himself: ‘I’m here today to dispell the myth that you can’t polish a turd’ –
He expressed thanks to Premier Brumby for allowing him to demonstrate HRL’s coal cleaning machine in front of his office. ‘We at HRL are very good friends with Premier Brumby. In fact, so close we actually slept together last night. Now, some would call that legal prostitution [?]*; in the industry we call it lobbying.”
*[A reader of Melbourne Indymedia has suggested that what Carlo said was 'political prostitution', which certainly would make better sense.]
Here he demonstrated how ‘clean black coal’ comes out of the machine:
The coal-cleaning machine can be seen in action at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QK5O9O93-A
Brian Walters of the Greens put the question, which are we going to choose, carrying on as we have done for the last fifty, sixty or a hundred years, an unsustainable future, or are we going to choose a sustainable, carbon-positive future which creates jobs and industry which could be the envy of the world? It was not leadership, to wait for the rest of the world to act and let our renewable jobs and industry go overseas. We need to retool our economy here in Victoria for the kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren.’Coal is perfectly clean … so long as it remains in the ground. There is no such thing as clean-coal power.’ This project was costing us not only a lot of money, it was costing us our future.
Last speaker was Jasmine Ali of the Melbourne University Climate Action Working Group:
Climate change was not just an issue about future generations; the impact is wreaking havoc across the world – floods in Pakistan, fires in Russia were examples. The Australian government had done absolutely nothing, even expanding the very same technologies which had caused the problem. She raised the matter of the Solar Systems factory, the most advanced of its kind in Australia, which the Brumby government had been prepared to allow to go to waste for lack of investment capital rather than apply government funds to save it. At the federal level, since the election, all the measures that we know are needed had been quietly pushed into the background in favour of the one ‘solution’ of a carbon price, which was not going to stop the HRL plant going ahead. In this context it was encouraging that the ACTU had put a ban on the construction of a waste dump on Aboriginal land at Muckaty Station. This was an example of the way to go to stop construction of the project.
CCEN – http://ccen.wordpress.com/
Environment Victoria – http://www.environmentvictoria.org.au/
Greenpeace Australia – http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/
Beyond Zero Emissions – http://beyondzeroemissions.org/
Greens Victoria – http://vic.greens.org.au/
Video from the action:
Dave Sweeney, Nuclear Free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation, was one of the speakers at the launch of Friends of the Earth Nuclear Freeways 2010. The site chosen was the Preston office of Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, currently driving plans for a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory against the wishes of Traditional Owners (see post for 26 July). Other speakers included Greens candidate for the seat of Batman Alex Bhathal, Sharon Firebrace, Socialist Alliance candidate for the Senate, and Dimity Hawkins, long term anti-nuclear campaigner and presently Campaign Director with ICANW. MC was Cat Beaton of Friends of the Earth ACE collective and ICANW. There was theatre involving the Uranium Busters and music including Kaso’s “Don’t waste our country” courtesy of a solar powered sound system housed in a 44-gallon drum – alongside a trailer loaded with similar drums marked with radiation warnings. And last but of course not least, Ziggy the nuclear white elephant and a small police presence, including a representative of the AFP…
The tour sets off tomorrow, Saturday, to trace one of the proposed routes that would be followed by trucks carrying waste from Lucas Heights in Sydney to the projected dump at Muckaty, on the way meeting councils, indigenous nations, community groups, and emergency services organisations with a view to raising awareness of the risks and dangers inseparable from transport of this kind.
The Nuclear Freeways campaign has a new website:
More photos from the launch:
Video is in preparation.
Video added 31 July:
Also now available on EngageMedia