Picture: From top left at University of Technology meeting of Sydney Alliance to Avert Desalination 12th Sept 2007: Vic Sims Aboriginal elder and singer of La Perouse, NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, Minister for Utilities Nathan Rees, Gary Blaschke of Botany Bay Catchment Alliance (also South West Environment Centre, No Port Enfield group), Sutherland/Kurnell community leaders.
On the weekend admirable Wendy Frew wrote up the new very big climate damaging Moolarben coal mine near Mudgee approved by the Iemma Govt. This adds to the outrageous Anvil Hill coal mine already approved by this NSW Govt.
Similarly the Iemma Govt promote a $2B desal dinosaur (DD) plant which will burn up precious renewable wind energy that should be replacing coal use not adding to energy use. The costs are likely to be much higher than the headline $1.76B as here
This huge extra energy demand, and nasty damage to Botany Bay is being ‘greenwashed’ with renewable energy as greenhouse emissions are allowed to climb higher.
Meanwhile the federal electioneering Rudd/Garrett ALP colleagues and their Climate Change Institute patronised by Bob Carr are grandstanding their climate change credentials. Not hard by contrast with Howard’s Coalition but it’s mostly a cynical wedge game. Rudd and Iemma are both all for coal mining. They reckon Greens MP Bob Brown has ‘rocks in his head’ opposing coal.
But Iemma unlike Rudd actually has to publicly approve the dangerous coal mines and extreme DD while dam capacity is at 60% (a 4 year supply). No wonder Iemma is not on the platform with Rudd these days. Indeed Sydney has 1.2 metres of rainfall a year also available to some degree for a smart government who can catch it at reasonable price (not the $6B claimed by Minister Rees). Water pipes are leaking at 1000 breaks a year in Sydney too. And so the farce of NSW governance rolls on.
It calls up the great political necessity for PR propaganda to confuse the punters something is really being done about climate change at State level while coal and DD actually rule policy.
So what do we get in the tv news 7, 9, 2 and Sunday press on Sept 16th 07? Exhortations from naked Iemma that ‘climate change is real’, and so he is supporting indefinite level 3 water restrictions: New water cuts here for decades. A climate change figleaf of responsibility for brand ALP in NSW far more interested in promoting an extra million city dwellers and business activity over the next 35 years, a time period beyond sensible forecasting. Ditto NSW Utilities Minister Nathan Rees. The figleaf is just not that big.
The embarrassment of State Labor contrasting with pro Kyoto Protocol federal Labor is acute. At both levels of team ALP they support coal and overdevelopment and federally simply want to wedge Howard’s Liberal National Coalition, like Carr did Fahey at state level in a close contest in 1995 via wilderness forests. But just like ongoing woodchipping of forests today, the ALP green is surface deep on climate protection in 2007. Hence the level 3 PR figleaf: It just became too hard to justify a $2B DD conversion of sea water and let people piss it away unrestricted.
But you can’t fool all the people all the time as demonstrated by a public meeting held at the UTS in the CBD last week. A feisty mob of 200 friends of Botany Bay from Kurnell to La Perouse, Sutherland Shire and west to Chullora campaigned against the $2B desalination boondoggle for the construction and overdevelopment sector who donate big time to the ALP in NSW.
And their case against the DD has some political dynamite of interest to the State opposition. At the meeting were leader Barry O’Farrell, MP Malcolm Kerr, upper house MP Ficara , John Kaye MLC (Greens), Professor Stuart White of Institute for Sustainable Futures, green ngo champion Gary Blaschke, and in particular local Aboriginal elder Vic Sims. Vic is a highly respected artist and was incredibly charming with anecdotes about seeing a whale shark in the Bay as a child. The apology by Gary Blaschke from the podium for "stuffing up the Bay" to Vic Simms with eye contact from the front row was a profound moment.
Other letters of protest against the DD came from Bruce Baird MP, Lord Mayor Clover Moore, as well as news that Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking into vandalism of international heritage values in the Bay. Not surprisingly responsible minister Rees also fronted the meeting for a bollocking and argued his case as best he could. Neither Premier Iemma or federal MP Peter Garrett responded to invitations.
The green groups have delivered 40,000 leaflets recently (17K by this writer) informing the public of annual increase of water bills of over $100 - an underestimate actually, more like $130 pa - to subsidise the desal project not needed for at least 4 years. Prof White pointed out with demand management and wise water restrictions between level 3 and 4, we just don’t need the dinosaur at all … unless you believe in hyper development of Sydney, controlled by developers.
As Prof White told the meeting the cost of the DD is a lot of schools and hospitals, and its funny how all round Australia Premiers are retiring after signing desal contracts. Some gold watch.