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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
New tenancy protection for renters in a falling market is probably redundant
Topic: aust govt

We notice the letters page in today's Sydney Daily Telegraph building on coverage as per their sister paper here:

Rudd plan makes evictions harder | The Australian 22 Dec 2008

LANDLORDS could find it harder to evict tenants under a Rudd Government plan to combat homelessness.

The Government's $7.3 billion package to halve homelessness by 2020 also includes a brokerage fund to provide mortgage top-ups and extra security for victims of domestic violence.

The joint Commonwealth-state Road Home white paper, released yesterday by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, sets ambitious legislative reforms and interim targets to 2013.

It aims to reduce the rate of homelessness in 2013 from 53 to 40 per 10,000; more services and specialist workers.

"A country like this should not have this problem. As a nation we can do a lot better than that," Mr Rudd said.

About $6.1 billion of funding was previously announced but Mr Rudd and the states yesterday pledged an extra $1.2 billion over four years - which the Government said would help create up to 10,000 jobs.

A key plank is keeping people connected to family networks and in their homes.

The Government will review the impact of without-grounds termination clauses on homelessness in state legislation and the lack of legislative protection for boarders and lodgers.

Legislation in many states allows landlords to evict tenants even if they have not breached their agreement, which lobby groups argue enables retaliation and discrimination.

"Most state and territory tenancy legislation permits without-grounds termination of a tenancy agreement by a landlord," the white paper said.

"As a result, a tenant may be legally given notice and forced to leave their rented home through no fault of their own.

"In such a circumstance, people become homeless if they are unable to find other housing that is suitable or affordable."

The review has been welcomed by Tenants' Union of Queensland co-ordinator Penny Carr, who said without-grounds evictions would remain in new Queensland legislation to be enacted next year.

"We think the introduction of just-cause evictions would be a major step forward," Ms Carr said.

She denied investors would be markedly impacted by changes.

The Commonwealth and states will also jointly sponsor a brokerage fund to keep victims of domestic violence in their homes.

It will help pay for installing deadlocks, screen doors, security lighting and home alarms, plus fund short-term subsidies or mortgage top-ups.

Well the writer is a renter in Sydney for 18 years already. As a result we don't have any negative equity in a house in a falling market. We don't have any property settlement in a divorce (or a divorce for that matter) and we haven't paid one red cent in oppressive interest under the yoke of a lending institution. Though our credit card debt is another question. As one activist with terminal cancer said once - thank God I didn't waste my time with a mortgage. We also have alot of flexibility and freedom with where we live.

But the thing about this latest legislative stroke to calm the concerns of renter voters by the federal government is that it is the market above all that tends to threaten renters. And given the investment market has just hit a wall with alot less motivation to demolish/renovate and jack up rents, or just churn tenants with an increase in rent with every change over. Literally the global financial crisis, crash in the share market, super savings, and reduction in discretionary spending means that there is a seriously depressed property market. As a result renters are alot less at risk - at least that's our impression. There is significant corroboration here:

financial crisis

21 Oct 2008 Is There a Recession Brewing in Our Housing Bubble? | newmatilda.com

The next phase of the economic crisis could be a crash in Australian property prices, writes Ben Eltham

"Auctions fall despite grant boost" read the banner headline of The Sunday Age.

"Melbourne's property market yesterday suffered its worst day in at least four years, despite yesterday being the first auction day when prospective buyers had access to the increased first-home buyers grant," wrote Chris Vedelago and Peter Weekes. The Australian reported much the same thing, although there was an increase in Sydney.

Could this be the beginning of the end of Australia's house price bubble? If it is, we should all be pretty concerned.

Paul Sheehan certainly is. In a breathless article for Fairfax, he quoted BNP Paribas strategist Hans Redeker saying that the Australian current account deficit could "spiral out of control".

It couldn't happen here, could it? Well, yes actually. After all, it's happened before: in 19th Century Melbourne.

1880s Melbourne was a wonder of the world. Driven by a booming mining sector and a white-hot property bubble (sound familiar?), the southern city grew into one of the largest metropolises in the British Empire ? and for a time, one of the richest. For a few years, "Marvellous Melbourne" had the world's tallest office building and some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. This was the famous Land Boom of the 1880s, which culminated in a speculative frenzy amazingly similar to the US subprime mortgage bubble of 2002-2006.

As Michael Cannon wrote in his history of the boom, The Land Boomers, "under the loose banking and company laws of the time, [so-called Land Banks] were able to take savings deposits, issue shares, float loans, discount promissory notes and other commercial paper, and in general perform all the functions of an established bank."

Cheap money flooded in from Britain, land prices soared, while rental yields dropped to 2.5 per cent ? in other words, it would take 40 years of rental earnings to pay for a property.

Economic historians today consider the colonial Australian banking system as a model of free market deregulation. In the words of two historians from Belfast University, "it had few legal barriers to entry, no branching restrictions and ... no credible restrictions on assets, liabilities or bank capital, nor legally established price controls."

Surprise, surprise: it turns out that this was not a good thing. The Australian colonies' unregulated banking system produced a property bust and banking crisis that looks eerily familiar in our own time. As land prices plummeted, borrowers defaulted, taking banks and building societies down with them.

Between 1891 and 1892, 20 major financial institutions failed and investors lost more than L20 billion. Confidence in colonial banks collapsed. After a brief respite, a full-scale banking crisis ensued in 1893 when the Federal Bank collapsed, followed a few months later by the Commercial Bank of Australia and 10 other institutions. Of 65 building societies operating in Victoria in 1885, only three survived by 1893.

With no central bank or national government, Australia had few available policy options. The result was a devastating economic depression: Australian GDP fell 17 per cent and it took nine years for the economy to recover to 1891 levels. Some economists think the 1890s depression may have been worse than that of the 1930s.

Could it happen again? Let's hope not. But drawing on the recent experience of other nations' property sectors, a property bust and ensuing recession is all too likely.

As I have remarked here many times before, Australian house prices are highly over-valued. In 2007, house prices in cities like Sydney and Perth briefly reached an astonishing nine times median incomes ? among the most over-valued in the entire world.

You can do the figures yourself: if you're a young couple on a combined income of say $90,000, even a relatively "cheap" house in a capital city ? say $500,000 ? is still going to set you back five and a half years of your total income. Factor in tax and other living expenses and you can see why so many home buyers are experiencing what the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute calls "housing stress".

The result of this asset price bubble has been unsustainable levels of household debt. The Reserve Bank of Australia's household finance statistics tell us that Australian households now hold debts equal to 160 per cent of disposable income ? higher even than in the US. Unsurprisingly, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens thinks that consumers may be reaching their borrowing limits.

This huge debt burden is one reason why house prices must fall, and soon. Like their US counterparts, Australian households simply can't keep borrowing and spending indefinitely. Inevitably, balance sheets must be repaired as consumers begin to save again. In the long-term, this is a good thing. But in the short-term, this means much lower consumer spending ? something that Gerry Harvey says we're already seeing.

As consumer spending drops, so does growth. The economy slows, and unemployment rises. Higher unemployment eventually means more mortgage defaults.

Another looming problem is directly related to the credit crisis. Houses, remember, are nearly always paid for with mortgages. And some types of mortgages will be harder to get as the international funding sources for non-bank lenders dry up.

The RBA's 1 per cent cut in interest rates and Kevin Rudd's top-up of the first homeowner's grant will loosen the constraints somewhat, but there is already evidence that the credit crunch is constraining housing starts. The Master Builders Association's Wilhelm Harnisch recently told The Australian that "even some of our biggest building members, despite having been major clients of the big banks for many years, are now being told there is just not enough money to go around."

In the long-term, this might help prop up house prices by constraining supply. But in the short term, tight credit will depress house prices because customers who can't get a mortgage will be unable to buy homes. Perhaps this is one reason why Kevin Rudd's economic stimulus package included a special bonus for home-buyers purchasing new constructions.

As we've seen in the US, UK, Spain and Ireland, when property bubbles deflate, they can do so rapidly and damagingly. But here in Australia, the majority of property analysts still believe we will escape the fate of Florida and Nevada. Are they right?

One argument popular among real estate analysts is that there is a still a significant lack of housing supply, which means prices shouldn't fall too much. There is some validity in this point ? Australia built far fewer houses during its property boom than the US did. But even a shortage of properties won't stop house prices declining rapidly if demand drops off a cliff. And if home owners default, foreclosure sales will depress house prices. A vicious cycle can ensue, as the US experience demonstrates.

If Australian house prices do crash, we will certainly have been warned. University of Western Sydney economist Steve Keen is perhaps the most prominent property bear out there ? but not the only one.

Famous doom merchant Marc Faber said in July that an Australian house price bust "could be larger" than America's. Morgan Stanley economist Gerard Minack has been consistently pessimistic about Australian property all year. As he told Tony Jones on Lateline in March:

"You've got a lot of borrowers out there that have never seen a recession ? they always assume they can service their debt, and they've never seen house prices fall and so they think 'I can make a lot of money by buying a second house or a third house'. Once we see some job loss, once we shatter that illusion that house prices don't fall, then I think you can see substantial losses as indeed you've seen in part of Sydney already."

No wonder the housing industry is "pessimistic". Perhaps we should all be.

It appears the federal government are craftily surfing the market for voter perceptions perhaps more than substance. The one caveat we have on this interpretation is the upward pressure on rental cost of shelter from record levels of immigration in major cities like Sydney. A colourblind observer can easily demonstrate this does make significant pressure on rental accomodation.

There is a significant real politik aspect to the coverage of this issue in the letters page of the notoriously right wing small business/small minded audience of the Sydney Daily Telegraph aka Liberal Party newsletter. It's a lesson the high polling PM Rudd might like to consider - familiarity breeds contempt. Like a popular kid who becomes the butt of jokes for being so narcissistic. Ominiously Rudd was portrayed as Napoleon in a large graphic in the rival Fairfax yesterday.

Rudd is generally thought of as a younger model of ex PM Howard. It's a resonating stereotypical theme in Australian politics not least on the recent emissions trading scheme pre emptive buckle to big dirty business: Highly political, slick, cunning, scattering the critics across the divided spectrum. And maybe unifying them in disgust? One thing about Howard losing the election in November 2007 is that he went from being seen as popular to be seen as a smart arse. Australians are too keen on smart arses. Howard himself was warned about the same phenomena in 2001 about his government being seen as "mean and tricky". Too clever for their own good or ours. Too successful. Too popular. There is a grain of wisdom after all in the 'cutting down the tall poppy syndrome' for failure to grasp everyone is on someone else's shoulders. It's just another good reason why Rudd should take a holiday as superior politician and contemporary Barak Obama is shown playing golf in Hawaii in the press today.

There is a cost in rolling out a new policy every day of a holiday season. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Posted by editor at 7:45 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2008 8:27 AM EADT
Respected journo Chris Masters holds forth
Topic: big media

These holidays makes time to catch up on stuff, not just rebuild bicycles using an amalgam of 20 different makes and models.

One such will be via the abc Fora website of the speech by abc retiree and arguably crusty Chris Masters. A guy who sold us this computer reckons he knew Masters from those fraught Qld days. When, legend has it, the ruthless corrupt Nationals under Bjelke Peterson, and their murderous agents, managed to taint the ALP/Liberal Opposition with their own share? This latter aspect is somewhat of a taboo subject which deserves a bit more nuanced and determined resportage of it's own to supplement the now famous "Moonlight State" by esteemed Masters.

Our former tech knew Chris Masters but not in a happy way unfortunately. And we have lost contact with the tech now too for about 2 years now. A bit like the Cable Guy, not that we've seen the movie.

We look forward to the lecture by the miracle that is the internet. Not quite the same as being the audience but nearly as good, as here:

Chris Masters 153

Chris Masters On Being A Journalist 21 November 2008 15:00

At the beginning of this week, veteran journalist Chris Masters filed his final story for Four Corners, the ABC current affairs programme he's worked on for 25 years. In this candid conversation with the ABC's Mark Colvin, he reflects back on an illustrious and award-winning career.

Chris Masters has won many Walkley awards, including the gold for his 1985 story "French Connections", about the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, but his most famous story is probably 1987's "The Moonlight State", which blew the lid on entrenched corruption in the Queensland police force and government. This report was one of the catalysts of the Fitzgerald Enquiry into police corruption.

He has written three books, the most recent of which, "Jonestown", an unauthorised biography of Alan Jones, became a bestseller in 2006, when it was published by Allen and Unwin.

The topic reminds us of this string by media commentator Marg Simons that we dropped in on there too while crikey.com.au are in recess:

Are All Bloggers Journalists? I don?t think so?

Then we will go searching out First Australians on SBS.

Posted by editor at 5:53 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2008 6:31 AM EADT
Reflections on a grieving (?) Andrew 'Boy' Charlton, Australian swimming legend
Topic: culture

File:Boy Charlton.jpg

It's summer holiday time in Australia and that means water. Beach recreation. Boating. Even watering the vegetable garden in the cool of evening. Like most coastal Australians this writer has experienced all of these our whole life too.

Appropriately the ABC tv national broadcaster has replaced it's normal Monday night scheduling with outdoorsy shows with one about portraiture of sporting legend "Mr Charlton" , another about wild water rafting and kyaking in Butan.

Andrew i??Boyi?? Charlton

Andrew 'Boy' Charlton

Screens Monday 22 December

In the summer of 1924, at the age of 16, Andrew Charlton raced and comprehensively beat the then swimming world champion Arne Borg at Sydney's Domain Baths. A young country finally had a world sporting hero to call their own - a 'boy' wonder of the pool.

But as suddenly he had arrived at the peak of world swimming, embarrassed by the adulation, he turned his back on fame and possible fortune to become a jackeroo and realise his dream of being a man of the land.

Through family interviews, historic Newsreel footage and the intimate findings of his biographer, we will uncover the soul of this extraordinary but simple man to paint a portrait that reflects his superhuman physique, yet humble inner self.

There are some really sad aspects to the traverse of 'Boy' Charlton's remarkable life story. One that he died at 68 of a heart attack from emphysema due to a life of cigarette smoking. Another that he shunned his fame and mass media compared to the sporting "heroes" of today. In his day he held many world records. A pool in Sydney is named after him.

But the most sad we suspect was his mother's death when he was only 13 - a long illness that he witnessed. And it's this we suspect that hold's the key to 'Boy' Charlton's personality. The show last night suggested he got solace from swimming. True enough swimming laps or body surfing has the sensuous feel of a woman caressing one's body. Soft, wet, powerful, and yielding. Interesting too that dream analysts refer to the ocean as symbolic of one's emotional world.

What does seeing your mother die slowly do to a young teen? My intuition is that he felt dreadfully powerless. Also that he was grieving his whole teenage years. Poor kid. He certainly doesn't look happy.

The Bill Leak show last night dwelled for a moment on a certain expression of the youth emerging from the victorious race against Arne Borg. It's in the picture 2nd above. He was hearing no doubt the wildly cheering crowd, and his eyes are tracking the camera barrel, with not a hint of celebration or even happiness at beating the best the Old World had to offer. He's not even very puffed. Unlike in the pool in the race it was no doubt an "overpowering" public and media reaction.

Reaction to such celebrity takes many forms. It can be confronting. It can be thrilling and an ego boost. It can bring money and influence and 'friends'.

Apparently he was rowed around the pool on display. He was carried aloft on the shoulders of a crowd at Manly ferry wharf. Literally powerless in the crowd surf. Poor Andrew. A sports reporter said he was deeply embarrassed.

We do wonder if the reaction of the crowd and media may well have felt in his boyish emotional state like another overwhelming force on that scale of life changing events ..... namely loss of his mother. Was it the only other overpowering force he had the emotional equipment to compare with? By some confused cross wire of the emotions the 'joyful' experience reinforcing the grief stricken one? He was only 16 when he beat the world's best. Young men mature slower than girls at that age. If our guess is right then no wonder he never enjoyed the popularity and adulation - because the overpowering aspect bespoke a terrible loss.

So it seems he needed a situation that was in it's way big but different - like jackarooing outback, his own 10,000 hectare farm, or surf swimming - that he could still manage to control. None of the crowd or the adulation would bring back his mother. It was nothing compared to that. Medical science was a long way off yet too.

Poor bastard. It's not an entirely rational response to public acclamation but then high emotion doesn't follow orderly rules either. One hopes that at least in his private moments he felt real pride at his achievements away from the public glare when he had time to reflect on an incredible chapter in the history of the nation. And his role in it.

An aspiring youn bloke, a family friend recounted his dream to an older Mr Charlton - his dream to be an Olympic champion too: "You can't make a living from it" came Charlton's gentle response. Or did he mean: 'You can't make your mother live with it'. No indeed there are some things fame or even money just can't do. Ask the ghost of billionaire Kerry Packer RIP.

Who doubts Andrew Charlton would have traded all the world records and boat trips to Europe and celebrity and adulation in exchange for a hug from his living mother.

Here's to a sporting prodigy and man of the land Andrew Charlton, his mother's son. At least that's our interpretation of a remarkable life.

Posted by editor at 4:45 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 27 December 2008 10:19 AM EADT
Monday, 22 December 2008
Pressure likely to get up PM Rudd over emissions white paper
Topic: aust govt
Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:13 PM
Subject: Seen it yet?

Dear Tom,

The response has been incredible. Over $120,000 raised in one weekend for our new ad on climate change featuring the return of John Howard.

If we can get to $160,000 we'll be able to buy every available regional market across Australia, and if we get to $200,000 we'll be able to purchase blanket coverage across the nation - and hit Rudd's woeful climate policy for six.

If you haven't seen it yet, it's not too late to be part of this! Check it out and chip in to make waves this summer:


Our contacts in Canberra tell us this ad is pushing all the right buttons, but that we need to apply pressure in rural and regional areas. It's marginal seats in these areas that play most heavily on the minds of this Government when considering climate change.

A donation of $20, $50 or $100 can help this vital climate message reach every corner of the country. We've pencilled in new slots in Newcastle, Tamworth, the Gold Coast, Lismore, Taree, Coffs Harbour, Canberra, Wollongong, Albury, Shepparton, Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland, the Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton, Toowomba, Cairns, Bundaberg, Townsville, Mackay, Launceston and Hobart.

If we hit $160,000 they'll be ours, but the clock is ticking - we have only a few days to put this message on the lips of Australian families as they sit down to discuss the year that was. Can you chip in today?


It's moments like this when the GetUp movement is at it's best. Not so long ago there were literally only a handful of Australians who had the power and the money to air political TV ads. But together you and I can wield that power. Get behind this ad today and show Kevin Rudd that his meagre 5% climate targets just won't cut it.

If there's one match we must win next year - it's the battle to fight climate change. Help start us off on the right foot today by getting this message out to the nation.

Thanks for making this big,
The GetUp team

PS - If you missed yesterday's cricket, South Africa scored a surprise upset in the first test. This is going to be the most exciting summer cricket series in years and cricket ratings are going through the roof. Help put our ad on air when the whole nation will be watching.


GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! If you have trouble with any links in this email, please go directly to www.getup.org.au. To unsubscribe from GetUp, please click here.

Authorised by Simon Sheikh, Level 2, 294 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000tracking

Posted by editor at 4:51 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 4:57 PM EADT
Sydney press confirms climate is the thing despite federal govt's best attempts at diversion
Topic: aust govt

As much as the PM Rudd and his government roll out education, shelter for the poor, and defence announcements (no increase in soldiers to Afghanistan) it is clear from today's broadsheet press that prominent opinion continues to address the flawed Emissions Trading Scheme. No doubt the global financial crisis alters both the rate of emissions and the Australian govt priorities in terms of preserving employment but that doesn't change the reality of an irresistible political pressure to effectively address climate change and the immovable object of heavy industry intransigence.

Here are a few articles today:

* [Fairfax] Sheehan: Rudd's posturing gives polluters green light.

* [The Australian, sledging the green movement and yet still on topic] Muddle-headed greens channelling Thoreau Today's protesters see themselves as part of a noble tradition of civil disobedience, regardless of the issues.

A political discussion covering this can also be heard here:

* Saturday 20 December 2008 Political Panel Geoff Gallop Director, Graduate School of Government University of Sydney Dr Sharman Stone Member for the federal seat of Murray Shadow Minister, Immigration and Citizenship Max Walsh Deputy Chairman Dixon Associates

A perspective from business (including guy from my old firm Baker & McKenzie a long long time ago):

* Saturday 13 December 2008 The business of climate change As the UN Climate Change conference draws to a close, the Rudd government is expected to announce its emissions target for 2020 early next week. What will the emissions trading scheme planned for 2010 mean for business, and how is the global credit crunch affecting green investment?

Martijn Wilder Partner, Baker & McKenzie Responsible for the Australasian arm of the Firm's Climate Change and Emissions Trading Practice Andrew Grant Chief Executive, C02 Australia

Quality science discussions on the global warming issue can also be found on abc radio national here:

* Saturday 06 December 2008 [audio and transcript here] Solar variability and climate What do we know about the cycles of the Sun and what does that tell us about climate change and global warming? / Professor Marvin A. Geller Atmospheric Scientist Stony Brook University, New York.

[Prof Geller was brought out to Australia to address the National Conference of the Australian Institute of Physicists]

* Terrestrial Carbon Terrestrial carbon is found in trees, soil, and peat and the vast majority of terrestrial carbon emissions come from deforestation and the degradation of forests and peatlands in the tropics of developing nations.

The Terrestrial Carbon Group is working on an innovative plan to make terrestrial carbon economically appealing to these nations./

Ralph Ashton
Chair, Terrestrial Carbon Group, Further Information For a link to the Terrestrial Carbon Group, For a link to a presentation by Ralph Ashton, and Warwick McKibbin at the Lowy Institute


No doubt there is more solid science on the abc science show of recent times too:

20 Dec 2008 Steven Chu energy secretary for Obama Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner in 1997, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been chosen as President elect Obama's energy secretary. He spoke with Robyn Williams in 2007 on implications of the growing climate problem. Guest Steven Chu Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

13 Dec 2008 The question of global warming, Boost for biodiesel potential,

Posted by editor at 3:35 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 4:41 PM EADT
PM Rudd to 'halve homelessness' by 2020, as climate refugees flood Australia by say 2015?
Topic: aust govt

Whether by design or coincidence the Sunday press coverage of PM Rudd's 'white paper' on homelessness means his government sounds like Bob Hawke in 1990 making his famous and wrong claim 'no child will live in poverty' by from memory 10 years timeline. Echoes of the same egotistical assertions and hubris?

One recalls wearily that any government funding package sounds big over 12 years - in this case $6.1 billion on this social welfare policy as per page 1 Sydney SunHerald (Fairfax).

What we believe is going on, right or wrong, is that the Rudd Govt are piling on any number of potential PR announcements to offset and drown out the widespread condemnation of the emission trading scheme (ETS) policy. This was the most sensitive election related posture and will cause the most serious backlash. Both broadsheets here in Sydney - The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian - on Saturday led with the Govt's own policy architect Professor Ross Garnaut rejecting two major planks being unjustified bailouts to dirty industry, and a weak target setting a poor example to other countries. One only needs to recall that 193 other countries have similar or even smaller total emissions as Australia, and will see 5% as both pathetic, and a useful excuse too.

The great irony is that with security experts across the developed world agreeing that climate refugees will become the biggest concern in the future - imagine Shanghai or Bangladesh being swamped with tens of millions on the move - Rudd promising anything on homelessness by 2015 let alone 2020 is a tragic joke. Just last week some 70,000 PNG nationals were made homeless on the northern side of the country by big seas and king tides. That's a foretaste of the homelessness to come under dangerous climate change.

But still the Rudd Govt piles on seemingly more desperate or gimmicky PR. We notice the Naked Eye (Fairfax) yesterday column again with a "daisycutter theme" coming through. That is PM Rudd 'stealing' the limelight off Minister Penny Wong on the ETS. Of even more staff from his office and other ministerial offices bailing out as worn out cannon fodder.

It does seem that the history of politics is speeding up in this internet age. Rudd is already at the phase of NSW Premier Carr in 2003 after 8 years in government where his green credentials had turned biege, only to retire under force of devastating polls by 2005. And Bob Hawke in 1990 with his infamous and arrogant 'no child in poverty' speech after 7 years in power. Rudd has been in harness as PM for 12 months. And things are only getting harder, not easier like the climate. Just ask the insurance industry.

This is the Green Party MP Milne with some chapter and verse:

Saturday, 20th December 2008

Rudd Carbon Plan Unravelling: Urgent Review Needed

The Australian Greens say the growing discontent over the Government's
carbon trading scheme - including the Government's own advisor Professor
Ross Garnaut - now means it's imperative that an immediate review be
held of the scheme's targets and design.

Australian Greens Climate Spokesperson and Deputy Leader, Senator
Christine Milne, said today's blunt assessment by Prof. Garnaut
condemning compensation for big polluters as 'over the top', echoed
other damning assessments from economists, scientists and
"The scheme is unravelling rapidly as the experts assess the detail and
find it to be environmentally irresponsible, economically inefficient
and actually disastrous for Australia."
"When the Prime Minister announced the scheme it was not only scientists
who were aghast but economists who couldn't understand why the
government would reward the biggest polluters with 'over the top'
compensation that will end up costing taxpayers unlimited amounts into
the future."

"Australians want to know why the government has decided that
multi-nationals like Rio Tinto and Blue Scope Steel deserve this level
of corporate welfare."

"They also want to know how Woodside's Don Veolte managed to persuade
the government to be so generous to the LNG industry when, as Prof.
Garnaut says, there appeared to be no clear principles or criteria
behind the decision."

"The whole point of an Emissions Trading Scheme is to reduce emissions
by putting a price on carbon to drive a change in consumer behaviour at
the lowest possible cost. But by giving away 97% of the funds in
compensation, the government has dampened the price signal."
"To drive a clean energy revolution we need not only to roll our
renewable energy but also to strengthen the existing grid, improve its
efficiency by making it an 'intelligent grid', and to extend it to areas
where geothermal, solar thermal, large solar arrays and wind, can be
located. Under the government's scheme there is no money to transform
the grid."
"Equally concerning is that the proposed cash compensation to households
will not be a sufficient driver to boost the manufacturing of renewable
energy and energy efficiency technologies, or to encourage the hundreds
of thousands of green-collar jobs needed for this transformation."

"This flawed scheme will instead lock-in the coal industry and lock-out
the renewable energy sector until well after 2020, when it is clear that
the government is pinning all its hopes on its pipe-dream of carbon
capture and storage."

"With the Climate Institute and the Australian Conservation Foundation
joining the Greens in condemnation of the scheme, and with the growing
concern among economists, it is essential that the government admits
that it has got the scheme completely wrong and immediately review its
weak targets, and its shocking bias and generosity to the big

Posted by editor at 6:09 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 6:57 AM EADT
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Rudd Govt pull on Education Report bait and switch after caning on emissions
Topic: aust govt

Picture: This image lifted from local ABC video feed played on most commercial and public television coverage yesterday in Sydney. It echoes the profound symbolism of shoes launched at President Bush by an Iraqi journalist 2 days ago (we say journalist because though a massive departure from protocol, control of Q&A in presidential press conferences are notoriously choreographed making his action fairly arguable or provoked). Profound echo here too because ex defence minister Brendan Nelson in Australia in 2007 noted it was 'a war for oil': Fossil fuel causing global warming. Now PM Rudd won't favour being positioned as the same as oil man George Bush Jnr (junior in so many ways). Sure it's only satire but the best satire can be very dangerous to a politician's reputation.

We noticed a disjunction this morning in the ABC local radio in their always interesting political and journalism interviews. We were motivated to offer this on the topic of the now fairly stale chestnut of traditional media tension with sunrise web based media:

Fowler [abce 4 Corners] and Ryle [Sydney Morning Herald] handwringing is justified no doubt.

Cameron's adjusted agnostic tone on the value of the change is also noted.

Disaggregation is the process of democracy which the internet in large part is about. It grows because democracy is so intoxicating.

A practical example from your cross to Kieran Gilbert at Sky: No one commented that the Education Paper is a Rudd Govt controlled timing. Gillard said on [ABC AM show earlier today] she wouldn't respond till Feb or March [2009]. Clearly it was released to guillotine (!) the deep reach of the protest against the weak emission targets: My media monitoring indicates the priority and wit given to the protest of the Greens for instance especially on commercial tv and front pages would have scared the federal govt. There was some real damage to 'green' ALP [brand] yesterday.

True The Oz front page today suggests traffic both ways as [so called balanced] 'Capt Reasonable' PM Rudd claims but [big media coverage has been] mostly adverse and pro Green Party. The Govt needed a bait and switch. Cue Education paper of no real policy bite as such. Unis want more money - derr.

The fact neither Cameron or Gilbert noted this obvious Govt media manipulation - and the fact both of you are sharp observers shows the systemic bias - dependent on govt funding (abc), or access (Gilbert) for your meal ticket. This cramps your ability and skill and why the 'consumers are increasingly doing it for themselves'.

No doubt there are bigger implications for society in all this from disaggregation but it's spilt milk really.

Here is the man throwing his shoe at the President. Not recommended for media practitioners - likely to end up dead.

The fact he got his second shoe off was an even bigger breach of security and a serious failure of the president's protection services. On the other hand it all ended innocently and Bush was right to treat it like free speech as per his visit to the Australian Parliament and taking Green Party MP protests. In fact the presidential shoe thrower as he will remain for all history now has probably done the security service a big favour exposing another loose end to sort out.

Posted by editor at 10:02 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2008 10:43 AM EADT
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Coca Cola aims for 'water neutrality' as Greens similarly aim for 'carbon neutrality' in Australia
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: globalWarming

As federal Climate Change Minister Wong here quietly sledges the notion of the Australian Greens seeking carbon neutrality by say 2050, it seems a big corporation with its local headquarters a stone's throw from the Sydney Opera House is also aiming for "neutrality". Only in Coca Cola's case it is the consumption of water for its drinks products.

So who is right to claim the concept of neutrality? The corporation but not the Greens. Or are both wrong? Or both right? It's very confusing Minister!

Here is a critic of Coca Cola in correspondence to SAM recently:

Sent: Monday, December 08, 2008 5:09 PM
Subject: Coca-Cola's Latest Scam - Water Neutrality

Coca-Cola's Latest Scam - Water Neutrality
by Amit Srivastava
India Resource Center
November 25, 2008

The Coca-Cola company is up to its old tricks again.

The company, which is under fire for its mismanagement of water resources in India, has gone all out to manufacture an image of itself as a global leader in water conservation. Sections of Coca-Cola's website, for example, read like a proposal that a non-governmental organization (NGO) working on water issues may write.

Now, in an attempt to position itself as "aggressively" tackling the world's water problems, the Coca-Cola company has come up with a new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative - water neutrality.

The company has already announced that it will become water neutral in India by the end of 2009 and that it has plans to do so in its global operations as well.

Sure, it all sounds good and who could object to water conservation measures in an increasingly water scarce world?

But just what does becoming water neutral mean?

In a concept paper on water neutrality developed by the Coca-Cola company, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, World Wildlife Fund and others in November 2007, it reads:

"In a strict sense, the term 'water neutral' is troublesome and even may be misleading. It is often possible to reduce a water footprint, but it is generally impossible to bring it down to zero."

I see. Troublesome and misleading.

The concept paper also notes:

"After having done everything that was technically possible and economically feasible, individuals, communities and businesses will always have a residual water footprint. In that sense, they can never become water neutral"

In other words, becoming water neutral is impossible.

And finally, the concept paper on water neutrality offers this:

"Alternative names to 'water neutral' that have been suggested include water offset, water stewardship, and water use reduction and reuse. However none of these other terms seem to have the same gravity or resonance (inspiration) with the media, officials or NGO's as the term neutrality. For pragmatic reasons it may therefore be attractive to use the term 'water neutral', but there is a definite need to be clear about precisely what it entails if reduction of water use to zero is not possible."

Just to be clear, we want to summarize what the concept paper on water neutrality has to say on the use of the term water neutrality.

It is pragmatic to use a troublesome and misleading (but attractive) term like water neutrality i?? which is impossible to achieve i?? because it resonates well with the media, officials and NGO's.

Welcome to Coca-Cola's world.

It doesn't really matter what the facts and reality may be. As long as it sounds good, no matter how misleading or troublesome the concept, they will market it to forge public opinion with the use of their mighty public relations apparatus.

The Coca-Cola company will be announcing its "water neutrality" goals later this week in London and in San Francisco on December 2, 2008.

Little Drops of Misery

The International Campaign to Hold Coca-Cola Accountable for its abuses in India has been frustrated with Coca-Cola's increased public relations, under the guise of Corporate Social Responsibility, to respond to the crisis that Coca-Cola has created in India.

Communities living around some of Coca-Cola's bottling plants in India are experiencing severe water shortages - due to Coca-Cola's extraction of water from the groundwater resource as well as pollution by the company's plants. Located primarily in rural areas, the hardest hit have been farmers who have seen significant declines in crop production as well as women who now have to walk longer to access potable water.

A study funded by Coca-Cola - which the campaign forced it to agree to - confirmed that Coca-Cola is a significant contributor to the water crises and one of its key recommendations is that Coca-Cola shut down its bottling plant - in Kala Dera in the state of Rajasthan - where the community has been campaigning against Coca-Cola.

The study - a damning indictment of Coca-Cola's water management practices in India - concluded that the Coca-Cola company had sited its bottling plants in India from strictly a "business continuity" perspective that has not taken the wider context into perspective. It also warned Coca-Cola of worsening water conditions around its bottling plants, found an alarming increase in pollution as one got closer to Coca-Cola bottling plants and faulted the company on pollution prevention measures, among others.

In typical fashion, the Coca-Cola company has chosen to ignore the findings of the study - which it paid for and even participated in - and is now insisting that shutting down the Kala Dera plant and leaving is not an option because the responsible thing to do is to stay and solve the problem because they are "problem solvers"!

Lies and Half-Truths- Coca-Cola's CSR

Last month, the Coca-Cola company released its 2007/2008 Sustainability Review, and surprisingly, critical issues facing the company's operations in India do not find mention in the review. Needless to say, the company gives itself high marks in its sustainability report.

We can understand that mentioning the company's atrocious record in India would not look good for a company that is on a fast track towards manufacturing a green image of itself. But surely a company cannot just choose to ignore the fiercest battleground it faces when it comes to measuring Coca-Cola's sustainability?

Evidently, if you are Coca-Cola, you can conveniently choose to omit the most critical issues facing the company's use - or abuse - of water. The sustainability report must look good, and facts do not matter.

One of Coca-Cola's champion projects in India to deflect attention away from the water crises it causes is rainwater harvesting, a traditional Indian practice. Although the company started operations in India in 1993, it only had four rainwater harvesting structures in 2001 - definitely not a priority for the company.

As the community-led campaign against Coca-Cola's water abuses spread around India, so did Coca-Cola's championing of rainwater harvesting. Today, the company claims to have over 200 rainwater harvesting structures.

Along with the massive publicity of their rainwater harvesting structures (which, incidentally, the Coca-Cola funded study found to be in "dilapidated" conditions), Coca-Cola also started making fantastical claims.

In Kala Dera, for example, the Coca-Cola company claims to recharge (through rainwater harvesting) five times the water they use from the groundwater resource. In other words, they claim that they put back fives times as much water they use back into the groundwater resource. Forget water neutral, this would be water positive!

Yet, while they make this claim in a letter to the University of Michigan, they also note that they do not have any metering mechanisms in place to measure how much water is being recharged.

If you don't have measuring devices in place to measure the recharge, how can one claim that they recharge five times the amount of water they use?

If you are Coca-Cola, you just make it up. And the University of Michigan officials never even bothered to clarify this point. It sure resonates well with the media, officials and NGOs. And evidently, it seems to work.

Last month, the Coca-Cola Company extended its partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to conserve freshwater river basins around the world, except India. Announced originally with much fanfare in Beijing in July 2007 as part of their Olympics presence, the partnership with the WWF is yet another attempt to deflect attention away from the real crises that the company creates in India. The Coca-Cola company regularly highlights the partnership when responding to the issues in India. While we welcome any initiatives on water conservation, it makes no difference to the communities in India who are reeling from water shortages - courtesy Coca-Cola.

Conserving freshwater river basins in China and Guatemala do absolutely nothing to impact the depleted groundwater in Kala Dera and other Coca-Cola bottling plants in India. Water issues are local issues.

The list of Coca-Cola's initiatives to mislead the public is long and is well documented by the India Resource Center. The company has repeatedly publicized the Golden Peacock Awards that it has received for "environmental excellence" in India, for example. What the company does not tell you is that Coca-Cola is the primary sponsor of the organization that gives out the awards.

Water Neutrality - A Scam

The Coca-Cola company is now embarking on their latest initiative to mislead the public - announcing its water neutrality goals.

Becoming water neutral is impossible, and Coca-Cola is very well aware of this. But matters like that have never stopped the company from making preposterous claims, however misleading and troublesome they may be.

What is surprising, however, is the complete lack of scrutiny that Coca-Cola is subject to by the corporate social responsibility community and the media. Allowing Coca-Cola to get away with such a disingenuous plan significantly weakens the core aims of corporate social responsibility as well as objective reporting and makes CSR nothing more than an extension of public relations for companies.

If the Coca-Cola company were serious about being a good corporate citizen, it is well advised to begin by meeting the key recommendations of the study it paid for, and shutting down its plant in Kala Dera would be a positive first step.

Coming up with misleading and absurd terms like water neutrality is not going to make the difficulties of the communities in India go away. We need genuine changes in the manner in which Coca-Cola does business in India, not public relations initiatives like water neutrality.

On December 2, 2008, the Coca-Cola company and other water intensive companies will be meeting in San Francisco to ostensibly outline strategies for sustainable use of water.

Coca-Cola will be leading the session on water neutrality.

The India Resource Center has joined with The Blue Planet Project, Council of Canadians, Food and Water Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network and a host of local groups to organize a counter-conference to highlight the greenwashing efforts by Coca-Cola and other companies such as Pepsico and Nestle Waters.

Amit Srivastava is the Coordinator of India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization based in San Francisco, USA.

Posted by editor at 12:21 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 December 2008 12:57 PM EADT
Bob Walshe OAM, environmentalist, speech on 154th anniversary of Eureka Rebellion to Victorian ALP Cabinet Dec 7th
Topic: culture

Colleague and role model Bob Walshe, author and environmentalist, now 85 years old sends on this speech read for him at the above function, attended by the Victorian Community Cabinet and local worthies in Ballarat 7th December 2008. Notice the typo in the first line of the local newspaper, 154th not 54th anniversary. Bob was present at the 100th anniversary as well as indicated below held at the Sydney Domain. This event probably should have been covered by the ABC in its Fora ABC2 and web based service, and maybe it was (?).

Posted by editor at 6:35 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 December 2008 7:08 AM EADT
Monday, 15 December 2008
Australian emission target: 193 countries ranking below us, 30pc global total, note our very high per capita rate?
Topic: globalWarming

Picture: Plenary of senior panel first morning of 3 day Solar Energy Conference 25 tp 28 November 2008 in Sydney. This blurry slide is data 4 years old and shows Australia at number 4 in per capita greenhouse gas emissions behind United States, Canada, Norway and just ahead of Falkland Islands with alot of belching sheep.

The Rudd Govt in Australia has just announced some kind of '5-15% target by 2020'. Like most people we don't really understand what that means: Is it 5% reduction on emissions level as at 2000 by 2020, regardless of population increase?

Why does Australian Industry Group rep Heather Ridout argue just now on ABC radio here that it means' reduction of emission by 1 in 5 per capita' and that '15% reduction means reduction of emissions by 1 in 3'. Yes we are confused about it all. But we will digest the diverse analysis over the next few days and get back to the reader on that.

Picture: PV is photo voltaic solar energy for running household gadgets compared with solar thermal which is for water heating. An example of each is pictured below, solar thermal being the cylindrical one.

What we do find very probitive is this risposte to the old chestnut about Australia being relatively insignificant at only 1.22% (or is it 1.4%) of global emissions:

Dr Monica Oliphant (shown immediately above at 3rd from left, seated on the main senior panel day 1 Sydney Solar Conference Nov 2008) daughter in law of famous scientist Sir Mark Oliphant (both on Wikipedia) is President of the International Solar Energy Society - and an Australian by the sounds of her accent (?).

She told a big Solar conference 2 weeks ago here in Sydney that: Australia is ahead of 193 other countries with the same or less emissions [when measured as a country as compared to per capita above where we are fourth in 2004]. We trail another 15 countries which are bigger than us in emissions. So our 1.22% is a very big symbol to those 193 other mostly undeveloped countries on what we do. All up the 194 including Australia make up 30% of total emissions in the global budget.

Posted by editor at 5:45 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 15 December 2008 7:24 PM EADT

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